Prussian House of Representatives

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Prussian House of Representatives
Preußisches Abgeordnetenenhaus
Coat of arms or logo
Facade on Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, c. 1900
Type
Type Lower house
History
Established 5 December 1848
Disbanded 15 November 1918
Preceded by Prussian estates
Prussian National Assembly
Succeeded by Prussian Landtag

The Prussian House of Representatives (Preußisches Abgeordnetenhaus) was, until 1918, the second chamber of the Prussian Landtag, the other chamber being the Prussian House of Lords. It was elected according to the three-class franchise, and had been established by the Prussian constitution of 5 December 1848. The name "House of Representatives" (Abgeordnetenhaus) was introduced in 1855.

Franchise[edit]

Palais Hardenberg, Berlin: seat of the House of Representatives until 1899

From 1849 the election of representatives within the Kingdom of Prussia was performed according to the three-class franchise system. The election procedure was indirect. In the primary election, those with the right to vote went to the ballot and – in three separate classes – chose electors, who in turn chose the representatives for their constituency. Several attempts to reform this voting procedure, which heavily favoured the Conservatives, were rebuffed by the House of Lords. The electoral law, which was one of the most progressive in Europe at the time it was introduced, thus stayed mostly unchanged until 1918. The House of Representatives itself decided to abolish it in 1918, but this became redundant through the Revolution of 1918–19 and the foundation of a republic.

The right to vote was open to every male Prussian over 24 years of age, who had been living in a Prussian municipality for at least six months and had not been stripped of his rights by a court of law, nor was in receipt of public pauper relief. Anyone could stand for election as a representative, if they were over 30, had been a Prussian for 3 years and had not been stripped of their civil rights by a court.

Legislative periods[edit]

The House of Representatives today: The building is now used by the Berlin state legislature

The legislative period at first lasted 3 years, but, as for the Reichstag, this was changed to 5 years in 1888. The House was, however, dissolved by the king prematurely several times. From 1849 to 1918 there were 22 legislative periods.

Composition[edit]

Its size was first fixed at 350 seats, which changed to 352 with the incorporation of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and Hohenzollern-Hechingen in 1849. Following annexations after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the number of seats changed to 432 after the election of 1867. In 1876, another seat for the Duchy of Lauenburg was added. In 1906, ten seats were added, bringing the number to 443 for the elections of 1908.

The members of the House received monetary compensation for their work, unlike (until 1906) the members of the Reichstag. Therefore, many Reichstag members also sat in the House of Representatives. In 1903, 110 members of the Reichstag were likewise members of the Prussian House, that is, almost half of the House of Representatives' 236 seats. After 1906, the number of dual office-holders sank significantly, to only 45 in 1913.

From 1862, there was a clear liberal majority in the House. In the Prussian constitutional crisis of 1859-1866, however, the Liberals were defeated by chancellor Otto von Bismarck. After the war of 1866, the National Liberals split from the Liberals, and the latter never regained their former strength.

The distribution of seats from 1867, at the beginning of the respective legislative period:

1867 1870 1873 1876 1879 1882 1885 1888 1893 1898 1903 1908 1913
Conservatives 123 114 9 12 106 116 134 129 142 145 143 151 149
New Conservatives (34)1 25 25
Free Conservatives 54 50 35 34 57 58 62 64 63 58 61 59 53
Centre 52 88 88 97 98 100 99 95 100 96 104 103
National Liberals 97 111 174 175 103 69 70 88 90 73 78 66 73
Liberal Union (17)2 20 433 293
Progress Party 45 48 69 67 36 37
Free-minded People's Party 14 24 24 28 414
Free-minded Union 6 12 9 8
Social Democrats 7 10
Poland party 16 19 17 15 19 18 15 15 17 13 13 15 12
Danes 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
Right centre 24
Left centre 32
Independent 39 36 13 15 13 15 7 7 4 6 7 3
Total 432 432 432 433 433 433 433 433 433 433 433 443 443

Notes: 1 Split from the conservatives; 2 Split from the National Liberals; 3 German Free-minded Party; 4 Progressive People's Party (Germany)

Presidents[edit]

Tenure Name
1849, 1862–1866 Wilhelm Grabow
1866–1873 Max von Forckenbeck
1873–1879 Rudolf von Bennigsen
1879–1897 Georg von Köller
1898–1911 Jordan von Kröcher
1912 Hermann von Erffa
1913–1918 Hans Graf von Schwerin-Löwitz

Abolition[edit]

The Prussian revolutionary cabinet, consisting of Social Democrats and Indepdendent Social Democrats, abolished the Abgeordnetenhaus on 15 November 1918. A protest by its vice-president Felix Porsch on 24 November 1918 was the last sign of life of the House of Representatives.