World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Frankfurt Constitution

Article Id: WHEBN0017759368
Reproduction Date:

Title: Frankfurt Constitution  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Germany, Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, Frankfurt Parliament, Revolutions of 1848, Military history of Germany
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Frankfurt Constitution

German Empire
Deutsches Reich

Flag Imperial Coat of arms
The German Empire in 1849, consisted of the area of the
German Confederation.
Capital Frankfurt
Government Hereditary Monarchy
 •  1849 Frederick William IV1
Imperial Vicar
 •  1849 Archduke John[1]
Legislature Frankfurt National Assembly
 •  Revolution of 1848 1848
 •  Constitution of the German Empire 28 March 1849
 •  Frankfurt National Assembly dissolved 31 May 1849
 •  German Confederation restored 1850
1: Frederick William IV was offered the imperial crown, but refused to "pick up a crown from the gutter".[2]

The Frankfurt Constitution (German Confederation. Adopted and proclaimed by the Frankfurt Parliament after the Revolutions of 1848, the constitution contained a charter of fundamental rights and a democratic government in the form of a constitutional monarchy. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was designated head of state as "Emperor of the Germans" (Kaiser der Deutschen), a role he rejected.

The constitution is called by its more common names in order to distinguish it from the Constitution of the German Empire enacted in 1871 and initiated by Otto von Bismarck.


The 1849 Constitution was proclaimed by the Frankfurt Parliament, during its meeting in the Paulskirche church on 27 March 1849, and came in effect on 28 March,[3] when it was published in the Reichs-Gesetz-Blatt 1849, p. 101-147. Thus, a united German Empire, as successor to the German Confederation, had been founded de jure. De facto, however, most Princes on German soil were not willing to give up sovereignty and resisted it, so it did not succeed on land, with the German Confederation being restored a year later. On the other hand, this first and democratic German Empire, with its small Reichsflotte (Imperial Fleet) founded a year earlier, fought the First War of Schleswig at sea with the Battle of Heligoland. The fleet's black-red-gold war ensign was one of the first instances of the official use of the modern republican Flag of Germany.

After long and controversial negotiations, the parliament had passed the complete Imperial Constitution on 27 March 1849. It was carried narrowly, by 267 against 263 votes. The version passed included the creation of a hereditary emperor (Erbkaisertum), which had been favoured mainly by the erbkaiserliche group around Gagern, with the reluctant support of the Westendhall group around Heinrich Simon. On the first reading, such a solution had been dismissed. The change of mind came about because all alternative suggestions, such as an elective monarchy, or a Directory government under an alternating chair were even less practicable and unable to find broad support, as was the radical left's demand for a republic, modelled on the United States.

The constitution's text opens with § 1 Sentence 1: „Das deutsche Reich besteht aus dem Gebiete des bisherigen deutschen Bundes.“ (The German Empire consists of the area of the German Confederation). The Frankfurt deputies had to answer the German question, i.e. the debate whether a unified Germany should comprise those Austrian crown lands included in the Confederation's territory or not. As the Habsburg emperors would never renounce any constituent lands of their multinational state, the delegates with the designation of King Frederick William IV opted for a Prussian-led "Lesser German solution" (Kleindeutsche Lösung), though the Constitution explicitly reserved the participation of the Austrian lands.

The German people were to be represented by a bicameral parliament, with a directly elected Volkshaus (House of commons), and a Staatenhaus (House of States) of representatives sent by the individual confederated states. Half of each Staatenhaus delegation was to be appointed by the respective state government, the other by the state parliament. Sections 178 and 179 called, at one and the same time, for public trials, oral criminal proceedings, and jury trials for the "more serious crimes and all political offenses."[4] The introduction of the jury trial was followed by its adoption by the overwhelming majority of German states,[5] and continued with the German Empire Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz (GVG) of 27 January 1877,[6][7] and would last until the Emminger Reform of 4 January 1924 during the Weimar Republic.[8]



  • Jörg-Detlef Kühne: Die Reichsverfassung der Paulskirche. Neuwied 1998, ISBN 3-472-03024-0.
  • Karl Binding: Der Versuch der Reichsgründung durch die Paulskirche. Schutterwald/Baden 1998, ISBN 978-3-928640-45-9


  1. ^ elected by the Frankfurt National Assembly as Imperial Vicar of a new German Reich. The German Confederation was considered dissolved.
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Vol. 2 p. 1078.
  3. ^ Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs ("Paulskirchenverfassung") vom 28. März 1849
  4. ^
  5. ^ Casper & Zeisel 1972, p. 137.
  6. ^ Casper & Zeisel 1972, p. 138.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Casper & Zeisel 1972, p. 135.

External links

  • (German) Originaltext der Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs ("Paulskirchenverfassung") vom 28. März 1849 (auf
  • (German) Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches ("Paulskirchen-Verfassung") vom 28.03.1849 in Volltext
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.