The Second Reich 1900-14

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THE CONSTITUTION

  • 1871 - Germany became a unified country after the Franco-Prussian war
  • This new Country, established a constitution in which the component states kept their own governments but military matters were controlled by the King of Prussia - the Kaiser. 
  • Under this constitution there was a central law-making body with limited powers 
  • Otto Von Bismarck was the author of the constitution and Germany's first chancellor - his aim with the constitution was to preserve the power of the elite in Prussia. 

MAIN FEATURES OF THE CONSTITUTION

1. THE FEDERAL STATE

  • Germany included 25 states - states ruled their own governments and had different constitutions. 
  • They had wide-ranging power over domestic affairs such as education, police, justice and health care. 

2. THE KAISER

  • Kaiser was the Prussian King - reinforcing Prussian dominance. 
  • Kaiser held full control over foreign and diplomatic affairs (he had the power to make alliances, wage war, sign treaties, sue for peace) 
  • comander in chief of the armed forces of all the German states. 
  • Had a considerable influence over the government of the country
  • He appointed / dismissed the Chancellor and had the power to dissolve the Reichstag.
  • Kaiser had the responsibility to publish and oversee the implementation of federal law. 

3. KAISER WILHELM II

  • The personality of the Kaiser was of vital importance since the Kaiser held considerable powers. 
  • Wilhelm 2nd had an unhappy childhood - born with an arm and an ear damaged at birth.
  • Believed it was his responsibility to rule Germany rather than share power with the Reichstag. 
  • poor decision maker, not a hard worker, short attention span
  • Heavily influenced by the military - he turned to them for advice
  • poor opinion of democracy and the Reichstag. 

4. THE CHANCELLOR

  •  Directly responsible to the Kaiser as chief minister of the Reich. 
  • In charge of the appointment / dismissal of state secretaries who ran the government ministries. 
  • The Chancellor could ignore resolutions passed by the Reichstag. 
  • Bismarck gave the Chancellor considerable powers to manipulate both the Kaiser and the Reichstag. 
  • The Suceess of the Chancellor depended on: his political ability, his relationship with the Kaiser, composition of Reichstag. 
  • The constitution and role of…

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