Democracy in Imperial Germany?

Discussions on all aspects of Imperial Germany not covered in the other sections.
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Der Schwarze Ritter
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Democracy in Imperial Germany?

Post by Der Schwarze Ritter » 06 Feb 2003 01:31

Did Germany have some form of a democratic system before WWI( I'm talking about the government)?




-Daniel-

Gwynn Compton
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Post by Gwynn Compton » 06 Feb 2003 07:33

As mentioned else where in the Forum, Brit Fan, you do like taking the entire responsibility of the Forum on your shoulders :P

I've got a feeling that they did have a limited form of sufferage prior to the war, but the Kaiser still held the great majority of the power, and that the "Government" the was elected by land owners, held very little power when push came to shove.

Though I'm not 100% sure on this.

Gwynn

(edit: corrected typo)

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Post by Brit Fan » 06 Feb 2003 18:02

I don't think that Gwynn is right because the Kiaser did not run the Country and he did not know half the time what was going on and there was a government in power aswell in the Reich Stag and a kind of Parliament. He did not have control over everything in the countries if you think about it do you know how much time it takes be realistic. :)

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Mike K.
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Post by Mike K. » 06 Feb 2003 22:09

A Chancellor was appointed by the Kaiser, and technically the Kaiser had the final authority. Neither could enact legislation without the approval of the Reichstag and Bundesrat.

The Bundesrat was an assembly of aristocracy, conservative in nature and usually sided with the Kaiser, while the Reichstag was a coalition of political parties representing the people.

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Post by Gwynn Compton » 07 Feb 2003 10:15

I don't think that Gwynn is right because the Kiaser did not run the Country and he did not know half the time what was going on and there was a government in power aswell in the Reich Stag and a kind of Parliament. He did not have control over everything in the countries if you think about it do you know how much time it takes be realistic.


No Monarch could ever run a country, the state runs the country, and the monarch controls the state, thus I'm right :P

What power did the Kaiser have to control the states that made up Germany? I imagine that legislation passed on a national level could override local legislation.

Gwynn

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Post by Karl da Kraut » 14 Feb 2003 19:43

O.k., let’s clear up some things here. I’ll try to give an impression of the constitutional system of the 2nd Empire. Since constitutions are complicated matters, I’ll simplify this issue by restricting my exposition by focusing mainly on the three imperial organs of the constitution. Nevertheless, I’ll try to be moderately go into a few details, as I’ve the impression that most people here know close to nothing about this topic.

Form of government:

The 2nd Empire was a confederation. Thus it cointained federal and unitarian elements: The head of the state was the Emperor.



The Reichsverfasung (RV) – the Imperial Constitution – included three Reichsorgane (Imperial Organs).

1) Bundesrat (Federal Council - Art 6 f. RV)
2) Bundespräsidium (Federal Chairmanship- Art. 11 f. RV)
3) Reichstag (Imperial Parliament - Art. 20 f. RV)

1) The Bundesrat (monarchical-federal element)

Structure:

The Bundesrat consisted of the representatives of the federal states (22 monarchies, 3 republican city-states). These representatives were appointed by the state governments and bound to an imperative mandate, thus subject to directives of theese governments.

Competences:

- participation in legislature (majority decision of both houses – Art. 5 RV).
- sharing in several matters of foreign affairs (such as international treaties)
- a possible dissolving of the Reichstag had to meet the approval of the Bundesrat (Art. 24 RV).
- As the Imperial constitution didn’t contain a constitutional court, the Bundesrat fullfilled this function to some extent (Art. 76, 77 RV).

It is no coincidence that the Bundesrat is the first imperial organ mentioned by the constitution: the concept of the 2nd Reich was that of a !league of princes!. At least in theory it should have been the highest imperial organ, though it could never live up to these expectations.

Moreover, it should be mentioned that the federal states retained considerable rights and competences concerning legislature, administration and the legal sytem. However, the empire possesed the “competence-comptence”, which means that it could claim competences of the federal states for itself – but only if approved by the Bundesrat with a 2/3-majority.


2) The Bundespräsidium (monarchical-unitarian element)

Structure:

According to Art. 11 RV, the Bundespräsidium was held by the King of Prussia, in this function entitled German Emperor.

Competences:

- foreign affairs (Art. 11 RV)
- summoning of Bundesrat and Reichstag (Art. 12 RV)
- appointment (bound to regulations) and dismissal of the Imperial Chancellor (Art. 15 RV)
- right to propose laws (Art. 16 RV)
- issuing (!writing down!) and announcing Imperial laws (Art. 17 RV)
- dissolving the Reichstag with the approval of the Bundesrat (Art. 24 RV)
- supreme command of the armed forces at war, and at peace except for Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg

3) The Reichstag (democratic-unitarian element)

Structure:

The Reichstag consisted representatives of the people, determined in free, common, secret, and direct elections on the imperial level (Art. 20 I RV). Session: four years, since 1888 five years. The members of the Reichstag were granted parliamentary immunity and indemnity (?). Free mandate (Art. 29 RV).

Competences:

- participation in legislature (majority decision of both houses – Art. 5 RV)
- passing of the Imperial budget
- approval necessary for certain international treaties

CONCLUSION

Was the 2nd Empire a monarchy or a democracy. I’d say it was a constitutional monarchy, the monarchical elements however outweighing the democratic elements.

Was the 2nd Empire a centralized state? Definitely not! I wonder why people always think of Germany as a centralized state. She has never been one, from the Saxon kings to present-day Germany. That’s more than 1100 years…

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Post by viriato » 14 Feb 2003 22:00

Karl da Kraut thanks for your fine last post. However I'm not of the same opinion of you:

Was the 2nd Empire a monarchy or a democracy. I’d say it was a constitutional monarchy, the monarchical elements however outweighing the democratic elements.


The 2nd Reich was definitely a democracy because the the most important of all laws, the budget, had to pass in this house. And as you know democracy had its origins in the approval by the governed people of the budget. It was like this in ancient Greece, in republican Rome, in old Iceland and so on till the Modern Age. And the elections for the Reichstag could be compared favorably with any other parliament. They were one of the most democraticaly and freely contested in all world. Above all the British or even the US elections and at least on par of the French ones.

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Post by Karl da Kraut » 17 Feb 2003 19:12

Well, the simple fact that the German electoral system was "one the most democraticaly and freely contested in all world" doesn’t prove that the 2nd Empire was an outright democracy because of the limited competences of the reprsentatives of the people.

One should consider that Parliament couldn’t even elect the head of the government. The chancellor was appointed – and dismissed – by the emperor and only the emperor. Due to the strong position of the chancellor the means of the Reichstag to determine the politics of Germany were severly restricted.

The question to which degree the 2nd Empire was a democracy is quite controversally disputed over. The leading German constitutional law expert of the late 19th century, Paul Leband called the 2nd Empire "a democracy of 25, but not of 40 million members" [my translation]. In modern German history of law, the term of a "limited monarchy" is in widespread use. Maybe we could settle on the judgement of Huber, who stated the 2nd Empire was "a monarchy and a democracy at the same time" [my translation]. Actionally, there can be no doubt that the 2nd Empire was based on a "double-legitmation", combining democratical and monarchical aspects. For the reasons mentioned in my posts however, I believe the political system of the 2nd Empire leanded more towards a monarchy than towards a true democracy. Nonetheless, historically - despite of the constitutional system – the influence of the Reichstag increased steadily.

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Lord Gort
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Post by Lord Gort » 04 May 2003 22:27

It was a complete sham democracy.


Yes it looked good,

1. Universal manhood sufferage,


2. Proportional representation in the Bundesrat for states


However in reality the Reichstag was made of unpiad deputies so therefore of wealthy delgates, who had little power over the federal budgett.

The system was heavlily prussianised, she had the l;argest number of seats on the Bundesrat, her King was the German Emperor and the Minister President was Chancellor, except for one time under Chancellor Caprivi.


The Reichstag could not force the resigantion of ministers, the minister were responisble to the Chancellor and he was responisble to the Emperor alone.



regards,

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Post by Karl da Kraut » 05 May 2003 16:50

Lord Gort wrote:

However in reality the Reichstag was made of unpiad deputies so therefore of wealthy delgates [...]


Well, that's true for basically all European parliamants in the 19th/early 20th century. However, in most nations the influence of the wealthy und educated upper class was already in the process of declining. In Imperial Germany, for example, the Social Democrats became the strongest party in the Reichstag. Their representatives were paid by their party, and therefore not dependant on a personal income.

The system was heavlily prussianised, she had the l;argest number of seats on the Bundesrat, her King was the German Emperor and the Minister President was Chancellor, except for one time under Chancellor Caprivi.


German Chancellors 1871-1918:

1871-1890 Bismarck (Prussian Minister President)
1890-1894 Caprivi (Prussian Minister President 1890-1892)
1894-1909 Bülow (Hamburg/Mecklenburg; Prussian Minister President)
1909-1917 Bethmann Hollweg (Prussian Minister President)
1917-1918 Hertling (Bavarian Minister President 1912-1917, Prussian Minister President 1917/1918)
1918 Baden (crown prince of Baden)

Of course Prussia possesed a dominating position in Imperial Germany due to her overweight in terms of population, territory, economical power, and military might. Nonetheless Germany wasn't a centralized state, unlike, for example Britain and France.

Surely Imperial Germany wasn't a true democracy, since sshe possessed characteristics of both democracy and monarchy. The term "sham democracy", however, seems exaggerated.

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Post by Karl da Kraut » 05 May 2003 17:00

Ooops, I just realized a mistake in my last post. Chancellor and Prussian Prime Minister from 1894-1900 was Hohenlohe-Schillingfürst, hailing from a Franconian family. He was Minister President of Bavaria from 1866-1870. As German chnancellor, however, Hohenlohe was prtetty much influencend by Bülow, who took over formally in 1900.

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Post by Lord Gort » 05 May 2003 21:17

Hoehnloe dod pretty much what he was told, he was dismissed for I dont know what.

Caprivi gave up the Minister Presidency of Prussia hlaf way through, giving the ppst up and it ended up in the hands of a Royal favourite.

Yes, it may have been true throughout ther est of Europe. But that doesnt make it any more democratic just because everyone else didnt pay their deputies.


And the SPD did become the largest party, after dear Wilhelm tried killing socialism with kindness, but before during Bismarcks tenure their were repressive anti socialist laws created during and after the redscare.


Whislt the German constitution created in theory, a created a constitutional monarchy, in practice it was extremely authoritarian:

1. The Prussian elites dominated the Imperial government and army just as they did in the state of Prussia.


2. The Kaiser himself had extensive power including the control of foreign policy and the authority to appoint and dismiss ministers, including the Chancellor.

3. The Bundesrat represented the states but could hardly be held to represent the people as a whole.

4. The Chancellor who directed the day to day ffairs of the Empire, was responsible only to the Kaiser. If the Reichstag disapproved of the Chancellor there was nothing it could do. The members of the government did not reflect the political composition of the Reichstag.


regards,

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Lord Gort
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Post by Lord Gort » 14 Jun 2003 21:23

I forgot, members of the Reichstag were not paid, making it unlikely that working men could stand for power.






regards,

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Otto von Bismarck
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Post by Otto von Bismarck » 14 Jun 2003 21:33

Gentlemen, I hope I can provide you with some answers...

Imperial Germany was exactly that... Imperial. Ruled, traditionally by the Kaiser and King of Prussia. The Kaiser felt that the people should feel that they can take part in the government... but this is limited... as it should be. The Reichstag did not neccessarily have any absolute authority... but instead influence. The German Empire was mainly governed by the Kaiser, and his ministers. The Kaiser and his ministers would of course rely on the Prussian Junkers to carry their general outlook and will on to the rest of the populace. This form of government worked quite well... as the Prussian monarchy was extremely honourable and dutiful...

When compared to the lazy parasites that we know as the British monarchy... the Prussian seems endlessly devoted to the people... even Kaiser Wilhelm... which uninformed people usually label aloof and unaware, is very devoted...

Please take a look at this article... we may see for ourselves, the devotion of the Kaiser

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1898wilhelm2.html

I bid you adieu, gentlemen

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Lord Gort
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Post by Lord Gort » 14 Jun 2003 21:38

Otto Von Bismarck. I think it is selfevidently provocative to insult a nations head of state. Or to put it more personally, MY head of state.



When compared to the lazy parasites that we know as the British monarchy... the Prussian seems endlessly devoted to the people... even Kaiser Wilhelm... which uninformed people usually label aloof and unaware, is very devoted...


That may be your opinion, but it is not mine. Kindly refrain from these statements.




regards,

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