Reichstag (North German Confederation)

The Reichstag was the Parliament of the North German Confederation (German: Norddeutscher Bund), founded after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. It functioned until the establishment of the German Empire in 1871. Parliamentary sessions were held in the same building as the Upper House of the Prussian Landtag, the Prussian House of Lords, located at 3 Leipziger Straße in Berlin, Germany. The same location is now the home of the German Federal Bundesrat.


Legislative body of the North German Confederation
Preceded byFederal Convention
Succeeded byImperial Reichstag
Direct competitive elections
Last election
3 March 1871
Meeting place
Berlin Herrenhaus, Berlin


After the draft 1860 Constitution of Otto von Bismarck, based on a design by Lothar Bucher, the Reichstag became the official Parliament of the North German Confederation. It was specifically designed to form a counterweight to the monarchy and special interests. While the new Reichstag was significantly weaker than other federal institutions, in the Constitution it did have significant powers. In contrast to the diets of most of the Member States of Germany, it was not elected according to a census or landholder census (German: Zensuswahlrecht), but according to progressive general, equal and secret universal suffrage for men above the age of 25.

Elections of February, 1867

On the basis of the new Constitution, a constituent parliament was elected on the basis of universal suffrage on 12 February 1867. The area of the North German Confederation was divided into 297 electoral districts, where an absolute majority vote directly elected a Member of Parliament. If no candidate reached an absolute majority on the first ballot, a runoff between the top two candidates was conducted. Despite considerable criticism of the North German Confederation, especially in areas that Prussia had annexed in 1866, there were no boycotts of the election. Overall, the turnout of almost 65% was significantly higher than previous elections to the Prussian Landtag. The government tried to influence the elections, but nevertheless the results reflected the political mood of the population. A majority was formed by the National Liberal Party, the Progressive Party, and the liberal-conservative Free Conservatives (German: Freikonservativen). There were also some more liberal-minded MPs. Together the block constituted 180 of the 297 seats and formed a major block of potential support to Bismarck's policies. This was countered by 63 Old Conservatives, 13 Polish deputies, 18 Particularists and 19 members of the Progressive Party. The anti-Prussian democratically-oriented Saxon People's Party was represented by August Bebel and Reinold Schraps.


Eduard von Simson, who already held the position of President in the Frankfurt Parliament and later in the Reichstag of the German Empire, became Reichstag President (German: Reichstagspräsident). August Bebel later wrote in his memoirs that "the elite of the North German political and parliamentary luminaries" had been assembled in the Parliament. These included: Rudolf von Bennigsen, Karl Braun of Hessen-Nassau, Hermann Heinrich Becker, Maximilian Franz August von Forckenbeck, Gustav Freytag, Rudolf Gneist, Eduard Lasker, Johannes von Miquel, Gottlieb Planck, Eugen Richter, Eduard von Simson, Maximilian von Schwerin-Putzar, Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch, Karl Twesten, Hans Victor von Unruh, Franz Leo Benedikt Waldeck, Moritz Wiggers and Julius Wiggers, Ludwig Windthorst, Hermann von Mallinckrodt, Georg von Vincke, Hermann Wagener, and Mayer Carl von Rothschild. In addition there were Generals selected due to their accomplishments in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866: Eduard Vogel von Falckenstein and Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz.

Bebel also described Bismarck as a charismatic orator and ended his diary with an assessment, which was probably shared by the majority of MPs: "The time of idealism is over. Politicians must ask themselves, today more than ever, what is achievable over what is desirable."[1]

End of the parliament

In connection with the outcome of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the Reichstag voted on the accession of the states of Baden, Hesse, Bavaria and Württemberg. At the request of the Federal Council and with the consent of the Reichstag, the North German Confederation was renamed Deutsches Reich on 9 December 1870. The Reichstag of the North German Confederation was then replaced by the Reichstag of the German Empire, with new elections scheduled for March 3, 1871.


  1. Werner Pöls: Historisches Lesebuch Volume 1: 1815–1871 (Frankfurt 1966), p. 309–311.


  • Klaus Erich Pollmann: Parlamentarismus im Norddeutschen Bund 1867–1870. (Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1985) ISBN 3-7700-5130-0
  • Wolfram Siemann: Gesellschaft im Aufbruch. Deutschland 1848–1871. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1990) ISBN 3-518-11537-5, pp. 287 f. (Edition Suhrkamp 1537 = NF 537 – Neue historische Bibliothek).
  • Hans Fenske: Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte. Vom Norddeutschen Bund bis heute. (Berlin: Edition Colloquium, 1993) ISBN 3-89166-164-9, pp. 13–16
  • Hans-Ulrich Wehler: "Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte, Volume 3", In: Von der „Deutschen Doppelrevolution“ bis zum Beginn des Ersten Weltkrieges 1849–1914. (München: Beck, 1944) ISBN 3-406-32263-8, p. 303
  • Egbert Weiß: "Corpsstudenten im Reichstag des Norddeutschen Bundes. Ein Beitrag zum 130jährigen Jubiläum," in: Einst und Jetzt. Volume 42 (1997) ISSN 0420-8870, p. 9–40.
  • Thomas Nipperdey: Deutsche Geschichte 1866–1918. Volume 2: Machtstaat vor der Demokratie. (München: Beck, 1998) ISBN 3-406-44038-X p. 41–48.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.