North German Constitution

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The North German Constitution was the constitution of the North German Confederation, which existed as a country from 1 July 1867 to 31 December 1870. The Constitution of the German Empire (1871) was closely based upon it.

A Konstituierender Reichstag was elected on 12 February 1867. Its only task was to discuss and adopt the proposal for a constitution, as presented by the allied governments. The proposal was essentially written by Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian minister-president and first Bundeskanzler (the sole minister) of the country. The Konstituierender Reichstag was dominated by national liberals and moderate conservatives.

According to the theory of the time, the highest organ of the country was the Bundesrat (Federal Council). It represented the governments of the North German states. Prussia had 17 of 43 votes in the council, giving it the right of veto. By constitution, the King of Prussia (William I), was the holder of the Bundespräsidium, de facto the head of state. He installed the Bundeskanzler (Federal Chancellor), the federal executive. Besides the chancellor there were no ministers.

The Reichstag (although the country was called Bund) was the parliament, elected by all male north Germans above the age of 25. This was quite extraordinary in those times; Bismarck introduced this in the hope that it would create conservative majorities. Reichstag and council together had legislative powers, making the democratically elected Reichstag an important and powerful organ.

After the Franco–Prussian War of 1870/1871, the south German states Baden, Bavaria and Württemberg joined the confederation. It was renamed Deutsches Reich (German Empire), and the constitution of the confederation, with little changes, became the Constitution of the German Empire.

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