North German Confederation Treaty
The North German Confederation Treaty (in German Augustbündnis, or Alliance of August) (also called the North German Federation Treaty and the Treaty of 18 August 1866) was the treaty between the Kingdom of Prussia and other northern and central German states that initially created the North German Confederation, which was the forerunner to the German Empire. This treaty, and others that followed in September and October, are often described as the August treaties, although not all of them were concluded in August 1866.
The treaties followed the Austro-Prussian War of Summer 1866, after which the German Confederation of 1815 was dissolved. The treaties established
- a military alliance, and
- an agreement to transform the alliance into a nation state, based on the Prussian reform plan for the German Confederation
The German states involved arranged the election of a North German parliament in February 1867. The parliament on the one hand, and the governments on the other, agreed on a constitution for the North German Confederation on 1 July 1867. This Confederation, a federal state, was expanded in 1870–71 with the south German states and became the German Empire. The August treaty of 1866, therefore, can be seen as the first legal document that established the modern German nation state.
Treaty signing and contents
The treaty was signed at Berlin on 18 August 1866, between the preliminary and the final peace treaty between Austria and Prussia, which formally ended the Austro-Prussian War. Initially, the treaty bound the parties into a military alliance and an agreement to negotiate the creation of a formal federation. The treaty specified that if no agreement on confederation had been reached by August 1867, the duty to negotiate would expire after one year.
The full name of the treaty, translated to English, is Treaty of Alliance between Anhalt, Bremen, Brunswick, Hamburg, Lippe, Lübeck, Oldenburg, Prussia, Reuss-Schleitz, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the Grand Duchy of Saxony, Schaumberg-Lippe, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, and Waldeck and Pyrmont, signed at Berlin on 18 August 1866.
The leading Prussian politician at this time was Otto von Bismarck, prime minister since 1862. While the national liberals of Prussia urged him to force a national constitution on the smaller states of Northern and central Germany, Bismarck had the intention to spare their feelings and create the new state based on formal agreements. This was also a signal to the South German states that Bismarck wanted to incorporate later. Bismarck drafted the constitution which was changed by the allied governments and by the Reichstag, the North German parliament.
Parties to the treaty
The following states signed the treaty on 18 August and submitted ratifications on 8 September 1866:
The following states submitted ratifications or accessions to the agreement at dates later in 1866:
- Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
- Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
- Grand Duchy of Hesse (northern parts only)
- Principality of Reuss-Greiz
- Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen
- Kingdom of Saxony
The Duchy of Lauenburg was not formally a member of the treaty, but it was implicated in the agreement because its duke was, from 1865, the Prussian king.
- Michael Kotulla: Deutsches Verfassungsrecht 1806–1918. Eine Dokumentensammlung nebst Einführungen. 1st volume: Gesamtdeutschland, Anhaltische Staaten und Baden, Springer, Berlin [et al.] 2006, p. 1124.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte seit 1789. Volume III: Bismarck und das Reich. Third edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [et al.] 1988, p. 644.
- The two Mecklenburgs signed a separate treaty with Prussia on 21 August 1866 which allowed them to join the Confederation. Ratifications for this treaty were exchanged on 10 September 1866.
- The Grand Duchy of Hesse signed a treaty with Prussia on 3 September 1866 whereby Hesse agreed that its northern territories be included in the North German Confederation. Ratifications of the treaty were exchanged on 12 September 1866.
- Reuss-Greiz signed a separate treaty with Prussia on 26 September 1866 which allowed it to join the Confederation. Ratifications for this treaty were exchanged on 11 October 1866.
- Acceded to the treaty on 8 October 1866.
- Acceded to the treaty on 21 October 1866.
- Clive Parry (ed), Consolidated Treaty Series (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana, 1969) vol. 133, pp. 39–48 (text of treaty in German and English).
- James Wycliffe Headlam, Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire (New York: Putnam, 1899), ch. 12.