Prussian House of Representatives
|Prussian House of Representatives
Façade on Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, c. 1900
|Established||5 December 1848|
|Disbanded||15 November 1918|
|Preceded by||Prussian estates
Prussian National Assembly
|Succeeded by||Prussian Landtag|
The Prussian House of Representatives (German: 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.
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.
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.
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 1859–66, 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:
|Free-minded People's Party||14||24||24||28||414|
|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|
The Prussian revolutionary cabinet, consisting of Social Democrats and Independent 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.