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The North German Confederation ( ), came into existence in August 1866 as a military alliance of 22 states of northern Germanymarker with the Kingdom of Prussiamarker as the leading state. In July 1867 it was transformed into a federal state. It provided the country with a constitution and was the building block of the German Empiremarker, which adopted most parts of the federation's constitution and its flag.

Unlike the earlier German Confederationmarker, the North German Confederation was in fact a true state. Its territory comprised the parts of the German Confederation north of the river Mainmarker, plus Hohenzollern-Sigmaringenmarker and Prussia's eastern territories and the Duchy of Schleswig, but excluded Austriamarker, Bavariamarker, W├╝rttembergmarker, Baden, Luxembourgmarker, Limburgmarker and the southern parts of the Grand Duchy of Hessemarker.

It cemented Prussian control over northern Germany, and emanated that same control via the Zollverein (Customs Union) and secret peace treaties (agreed with the southern states the day before the Peace of Prague) into southern Germany.

Although it ceased to exist after the creation of the German Empire in 1871, the federation was the building block for the German constitution adopted that year. This constitution granted immense powers to the new chancellor, Otto von Bismarck who was appointed by the President of the Bundesrat (Prussia). This was because the constitution made the chancellor 'responsible,' however not accountable, to the Reichstag. This therefore allowed him the benefit of being the link between the emperor and the people. The Chancellor retained powers over the military budget, after the constitutional crisis that engulfed Wilhelm I in 1862. Laws also prevented certain civil servants becoming members of the Reichstag, those who were Bismarck's main opposition in the 1860s.

The federation came into being after Prussia defeated Austriamarker and the other remaining states of the German Confederationmarker in the Austro-Prussian Warmarker of 1866. Otto von Bismarck created the constitution, which came into force on 1 July, 1867, with the King of Prussia, William I, as its President, and Bismarck as Chancellor. The states were represented in the Bundesrat (Federal Council) with 43 seats (of which Prussia held 17). Most notably, Bismarck introduced universal male suffrage into the confederation for elections to the Reichstag. The Bundesrat membership was extended before 1871 with the creation of the Zollverein Parliament in 1867, an attempt to create closer unity with the southern states by permitting representatives to be sent to the Bundersrat.

Following Prussia's victory over the Second French Empire and the subsequently formed Third Republic in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, Bavariamarker, W├╝rttembergmarker, and Baden (together with parts of the Grand Duchy of Hessemarker which had not originally joined the federation), unified with the states of the Federation to form the German Empiremarker, with William I taking the new title of German Emperor (rather than Emperor of Germany as Austria was not included).

Postage stamps

One of the functions of the confederation was to handle mail and issue postage stamps; for details, see postage stamps and postal history of the North German Confederation.

List of member states

References ( Archived 2009-11-01)

See also

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