1815-1847 1849-1862

Prussia, 1848-1849

Administration . Revolution . Foreign Policy

Administration . King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. 1840-1861. Chief Minister Ludwig Gustav von Thile 1841- March 1848, Prime Minister Graf Adolf Heinrich von Arnim-Boitzenburg March 1848, Gottfried Ludolf Camphausen March-June 1848, Rudolf Ludwig Cäsar von Auerswald June-Sept. 1848, Baron Ernst von Pfuel Sept.-Nov. 1848, Graf Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg Nov. 1848-1850.

The Revolution . In Berlin, the Revolution of 1848 began on March 18th with the erection of barricades by the revolutionaries. In two days of street fighting, 216 revolutionaries were killed. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. ordered the regular troops (who had held the upper hand in the fighting) to evacuate the city. The revolutionaries thus were in control of Berlin, and the King remained in his Berlin residence, the Stadtschloss.
On March 21st he appeared in public under the German flag (black, red, golden), a symbolic act. A constitutional government was formed, headed by Ludolf Camphausen, a liberal from the Rhineland. On May 1st elections were held for the Prussian National Assembly; consultations on a liberal constitutions were begun. The Prussian National Assembly convened on May 22nd.
Prime Minister Camphausen resigned on June 25th 1848. The Revolutionaries lacked cohesion; the Prussian National Assembly became the scene of factional disputes, according to Schoeps (p.199) a Parliament of Political Dilettantes, expectations were too divergent. The lack of political organizations (parties), the lack of an established constitution, of political experience (which might have moderated radical views), the scope of problems to be dealt with contributed to the failure of the experiment, made more complex because of the German National Assembly convening simultaneously in the Frankfurt Paulskirche.
From June to September 1848, Prime Minister Rudolf Ludwig Cäsar von Auerswald lead the administration. Historical Literature emphasizes the Coup d'Etat (dissolution of the Prussian National Assembly, Dec. 5th 1848, as the end of the 1848 Revolution in Prussia; the signature of the Truce of Malmö, ending the involvement of the Prussian army in the Danish War, marks a break with the policy of the Paulskirche Assembly and a first step toward the end of the revolution. The Cologne Committee for Public Safety in September 1848 declared those representatives of the National Assembly who approved the Truce of Malmö traitors of the cause; the Prussian Army declared Cologne under siege (Sept. 26th). On October 12th, the Prussian National Assembly abolished the phrase by the Grace of God in the royal title; on October 31st the abolition of privileges of the nobility was decided upon.
Following the primi ministership of Ernst von Pfuel (Sept.-Nov.), on Nov. 2nd 1849 Friedrich Wilhelm Count von Brandenburg was appointed to that office, a conservative (conservative men opposed to the revolution had organized themselves in July 1848). The Prussian National Assembly was reconvened in the provincial city of Brandenburg, and, when refusing to approve requested taxation, dissolved on Dec. 5th. Now King Friedrich Wilhelm decreed a constitution, which still contained liberal elements; the conservatives had retaken the initiative.

Foreign Policy . In Berlin, the Revolution of 1848 began on March 18th; King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. ordered the regular troops, although victorious, to evacuate the city. A constitutional liberal cabinet was formed, elections were held for a Prussian National Assembly (May 1st); Prussians also elected representatives for the German National Assembly in Frankfurt. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. remained in Berlin, and was inconspicuous in a turbulent time.
The German National Assembly dealt with a number of issues which, from the perspective of a Prussian foreign policy, were of considerable importance. When the Paulskirche decided to offer the Imperial crown to a Habsburg, this went against Prussian interest. The matter of the fate of the Province of Posen - to be included in a future German state or not, was important, as a negative decision would, if implemented, require the break-up of the Prussian state. On July 27th the Assembly decided to include Posen in the planned German state.
The Schleswig-Holstein issue escalated into open warfare, the Paulskirche assembly ordering the Prussian army to march on Denmark in order to support the Schleswig and Holstein rebels (April 10th).

As Sweden ordered her troops to march to Denmark in order to support the latter, international diplomacy set in with the aim to avoid a war. On Aug. 26th, Prussia and Denmark signed the Truce of Malmö. Federal troops were to evacuate Schleswig and Holstein. The Paulskirche Assembly regarded the act "Treason by Prussia".
In Prussia, constitutional governments were short-lived; on November 2nd a conservative, Count Brandenburg, was asked to form a government; on Dec. 5th the Prussian National Assembly was disbanded - the short period of constitutional liberal governments was terminated. King Friedich Wilhelm decreed a constitution.
Having been offered the Imperial crown by representatives of the Paulskirche Assembly on April 3rd 1849, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. rejected (April 27th). The constitutional governments/assemblies in various German states, in April/May 1849, were dissolved; while the conservative and moderate liberals resigned in the failure of the German Revolution of 1848/1849, the radical democrats continued (Dresden Rebellion May 3rd-9th, Stuttgart Assembly May 30th-June 18th). Prussian forces were sent in order to suppress these last brushfires of the revolution; Rastatt surrendered July 23rd 1849.
On May 26th 1849, Prussia, Saxony and Hannover concluded an alliance (Three Kings' Alliance); 28 smaller and medium-size states joined, but not Bavaria and Württemberg - from Prussian side an attempt to establish a confederation of German states without Austria, under Prussian leadership. It remained of little significance, as the German Federation, under Austrian presidency, was revived (Olmütz Punctation, Nov. 29th 1850).

Articles Frederick William IV. of Prussia, Prime Minister of Prussia, Ernst von Pfuel, from Wikipedia
Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions : Prussia, Coup d'Etat; Prussia : Situation of the State, Prussian Assembly
Prussia 1815-1852 from Pleasant Valley HS
DOCUMENTS Rulers of Prussia, from World Statesmen by Ben Cahoon
Verfassung von Preussen 1848 (Constitution of Prussia 1848), posted by verfassungen.de, in German; from LWL, in German
Wahlen in Preussen 1848-1913 (Elections in Prussia 1848-1913), from Wahlen in Deutschland (Elections in Germany)
Preussen Dokumente (Prussia Documents), from Dokument Archiv, in German; many on 1848
REFERENCE Hans-Joachim Schoeps, Preussen, Geschichte eines Staates, Berlin : Propyläen 1966, in German [G]
Institut für Geschichte der Deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, ed., Deutsche Geschichte in Daten, Berlin (Ost) : Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften 1967 [G]

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First posted on May 8th 2004, last revised on October 31st 2007

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