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The United Landtag of 1847 and 1848


The United Landtag of 1847 and 1848 met only twice, first from April 11 to June 26, 1847 and then from April 2 to 10, 1848. Between the two sessions the March revolution occurred. But the Prussian crown restricted its assigned function to the narrow scope laid out at its inception. Any constitutional concessions were allowed in order to preserve or to regain the liberal bourgeoisie's allegiance, whose loyalty should assist in avoiding the revolution, or removing its sting. Thus the authorities hoped to use the United Landtag to preserve Prussia's old order. The United Landtag was credited with being both an event and a deepening element in the revolutionary crisis that had unfolded in 1847. It emerged from the corporate legislation of February 3, 1847. The "patent concerning the corporate institutions" provided that the representations of the estates existing in the eight provinces since 1823 (persons of higher nobility as well as deputies of knights, towns and rural communities) should be convened for a United Landtag if the crown in times of peace wanted to take out loans, to introduce new taxes, or to raise existing ones or if the crown desired to consider its advice and council necessary for other laws. The so-called February legislation, which included decrees on the periodic convocation of the united committee (established already in 1842), on the formation of a state-debt s deputation, as well as on the first convocation of the United Landtag on April 11, 1847, did not fulfill the promises of a constitution or a meeting of the estates of the Reich made by the King Frederick William III in 1815 and 1820. The United Landtag was neither intended to be convened periodically, nor did it possess any real competencies, such as the initiatives for law-making, budget approval, and budget control. The deputies were only allowed to discuss the laws presented to them, yet not to decide them; they were only allowed to bring the concerns of their electorate to the attention of the king and the cabinet in the form of petitions. The preponderance of nobility in existing provincial parliaments was even further increased. Higher nobility as the ruling curia conducted separate discussions from the three-estates' curia; its approval was necessary before the elected estate deputies could vote to refer the matter to the government's attention. In addition, the crown could bypass the deliberations of the Landtag by convening the united committees or the state-debts committees instead. The liberal opposition inside and outside Prussia unanimously criticized the inadequacy of the February laws, claiming that they fulfill neither earlier promises nor present needs. But there was a controversial discussion on the alternatives of "accepting or rejecting." In eastern and central provinces the predominant view was to boycott the United Landtag. By contrast, the Rheinish bourgeois liberals such as David Hansemann, Ludolf Camphausen, Gustav von Mevissen, Hermann von Beckerath preferred to use the United Landtag as a legal and public rostrum in their struggle for a real constitution. At their initiative, liberal bourgeois, rural and noble deputies of all provinces held discussions in Berlin at the beginning of April. Finally, Camphausen and Hansemann, on April 7, reached a consensus based of their offensive concept of using an approach similar to the French estates general of 1789. But the draft bills submitted by the Prussian state ministry were not at the center of attention during the sessions of the United Landtag. Except for the draft bills on the situation of the Jews and the exclusion of people with a bad reputation from estate assemblies, these bills along with the royal message on financial matters failed to gain the assembly's approval. This failure was mainly attributed to the unwillingness of the crown to compromise on the constitutional question. However, the deputies of the bourgeoisie were certain that t the government, sooner or later, would have to make such concessions in order to gain their approval of loans and new taxes. In the debate on the loan Hansemann said categorically, "In money matters, business is business, you should not be guided by emotions." Although government bills were given priority treatment, the almost six hundred deputies of the three-estate curia devoted most of their time to reminding the crown of its former constitutional promises. The liberal opposition considered these promises to be rights to be enjoyed by the assembly of the Reich constitutional address to the king on the opening of the Landtag, declaration of rights of the Landtag, rejection of the election of the United Committees and the state-debts committee by the decidedly liberal deputies). Most of the four hundred-eighty-three petitions from all parts of the monarchy which addressed a great number of matters of concern to Prussian citizens were discussed in the Landtag committees. However, the king in his farewell address to the Landtag responded only to five petitions and reaffirmed only the request for the publicity of the assemblies of town councilors. Neither the crown nor the liberal opposition fulfilled their objectives for the Landtag. Still, the effects of the assembly of estates was primarily based on the unprecedented publicity of their debates. The shorthand reports were published by the press with the indication of the names of speakers, the acclamations, and exclamations. For the first time Germans received an impression of important parliamentary discussions, allowing the liberal opposition to increase its profile and the Prussian government to continue to lose in public standing. The United Landtag accelerated the formations of both liberal and conservative parties and allowed the deputies as well as the public to gather experiences in parliamentary life. After the outbreak of the February revolution in France leading liberals who wanted to avoid the revolutionary movement's spreading to Germany, even while attempting to put through sweeping reforms, called for the renewed convocation of the United Landtag. Under the impact of the revolutionary wave approaching from southwest Germany King Frederick William IV on March 6 granted regularly occurring sessions to the Landtag, and in a patent of March 14 he held out the prospect of a second session of the Landtag for April 27. On March 18, the opening date was advanced to April 2. But convening a Landtag to avoid a revolution was not longer possible. The Camphausen-Hansemann government installed on March 29 after the March revolution tried to retain the pre-revolutionary institution of the United Landtag in defiance of protests by democratic and left liberal forces. They believed that the second United Landtag should decide an electoral law for on an assembly to be elected for the 'reconciliation' of a constitution with the crown, i.e. in disregard of the accomplished popular revolution, to retain 'continuity' from the first via the second United Landtag to a Prussian constituent body. This electoral law encompassed essential constitutional principles dear to the bourgeois-liberal government and contrary to the nobility's wishes and providing at the same time a barrier against democratic demands. Apart from a draft on government finances, the Landtag decided on the elections to the German national assembly in Prussia and on the incorporation into the German Confederation of the Grand Duchy Posen, despite its heavily Polish majority.


Helmut Asmus


Biedermann, Karl. Geschichte des ersten preussischen Reichstages. Leipzig 1847.

Bleich, Eduard (ed.). Der Erste Vereinigte Landtag in Berlin 1847. Berlin 1847. 4 vols.

Woeniger, August Theodoe (ed.). Preußens Erster Reichtag Berlin 1847. 10 vols.

Asmus, Helmut "Die Verfassungsadresse der großbürgerlich-liberalen opposition im preußischen Vereinigten Landtag von 1847" Zeitshcrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, 1974.

Hofmann, Jürgen. "Die Innenpolitik der Regierung Camphausen Hansemann und der zweite Vereinigte Landtag 1848 in Preußen" in Bourgeoisie und bürgerliche Umwälzung in Deutschland 1789-1871, Helmut Bleiber (ed.) Berlin, 1977.

Keinemann, Friedrich Preußen auf dem Wege zur Revolution. Die Provinziallandtages- und Verfassungspolitik Friedrich Wilhelms IV von der Thronbesteigung bis zum Erlaß des Patents vom 3 . Februar 1847. Hamm 1975.

Mähl, Hans. Die Überleitung Preussens in das konstitutionelle System durch den zweiten Vereinigten Landtag Munich, 1909.

Obenaus, Herbert. "Anfänge des Parlamentarismus in Preussen bis 1848," Handbuch der Geschichte des deutschen Parlamentarismus. Düsseldorf, 1984.

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