1848-1849 1862-1871

Prussia, 1849-1862

Administration . Foreign Policy . Domestic Policy . The Economy . Demography . Cultural History

Administration King Wilhelm II. (1848-1888), prime ministers Friedrich Wilhelm Graf von Brandenburg 1848-1850, Otto Theodor Freiherr von Manteuffel 1850-1858, Karl Anton Fürst von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen 1858-1862.

Foreign Policy . 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. The alliance was intended to provide a federation under Prussian Leadership, with close ties to Austria - Prussian forces had been instrumental in the defeat of the revolution in the smaller and medium size German states, while Austria had relied on outside (Russian) assistance to restore control over her own territory.
In 1850 Austria, with Russian backing, issued an ultimatum toward Prussia, demanding the discontinuation of the union project (which had emerged out of the Three Kings' Alliance) and restoring the German Confederation under Austrian presidency. Prussia, under the new prime minister Manteuffel, caved in and signed the Olmütz Punctation (Nov. 6th 1850). The Olmütz Punctation also meant the recognition of the rule of the Danish king over Holstein, the Schleswig-Holstein situation was, for the time being, resolved in the London Protocol (May 8th 1852), of which Prussia was a signatory power. An Austrian attempt to enter the Zollverein (and contest Prussia's leadership within the latter; 1849) was blocked (1850); in 1853, Prussia and Austria signed a trade agreement which postponed the matter of Austria's entry until 1859.
In 1850 the territory of Hohenzollern, sandwiched between Baden and Württemberg, had been acquired by purchase. The expansion of the Zollverein continued; in 1854, Hannover joined. In 1853, Prussia purchased territory on the North Sea coast from Oldenburg, where the port city of Wilhelmshaven was founded. Prussia now pursued a policy of establishing a navy of importance.
During the Crimean War, Prussia declared neutrality, to the disappointment of Russia. In 1856 the population of Neuchatel became unruly and demanded the integration into Switzerland.
During the Franco-Austrian War 1859, fought over the issue of Italian Unification, Prussia mobilized her army, but remained neutral.
Prussia dispatched a naval expedition to East Asia, lead by Count Eulenburg (1859-1862), with the purpose of establishing diplomatic and trade relations with China, Japan and Siam. The expedition was to establish such relations not just for Prussia, but for the Zollverein.

The Constitution . The constitution imposed on Prussia in 1848 in the name of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. contained numerous liberal stipulations, among them universal, egalitarian adult manhood suffrage. Prussia thus had become a constitutional monarchy. In the months after the Prussian coup d'etat in Dec. 1848, conservative forces strove successfully for a revision of the constitution; an election law in 1849 introduced the Dreiklassenwahlrecht, according to which one third of the representatives in parliament were elected by the top group of taxpayers, another third by the medium group of taxpayers, and one third by the bottom group of taxpayers; the nobles and the grand bourgeoisie thus was ensured extraproportional influence. On January 31st 1850 a revised Prussian constitution was passed. Prussia was given a bicameral parliament. The Herrenhaus (House of Lords) consisted of members who had gained their right of membership by birth; the Haus der Abgeordneten or Landtag consisted of members elected according to the Dreiklassenwahlrecht.
The two chambers, together with the government, had the right to discuss and pass legislation, to approve or reject a proposed budget. In Prussia, parliamentary rule did not apply; the prime minister and cabinet were appointed by the king, represented him, not the majority in parliament.

The Formation of Political Parties In July 1848, conservative politicians became organized, their medium being the Neue Preussische Zeitung, usually referred to as the Kreuzzeitung. It was anti-nationalist; in 1851 it split into the high conservatives (Kreuzzeitung) and the liberal conservatives, the medium of whom was the Preussisches Wochenblatt zur Besprechung Politischer Tagesfragen, which leant toward grand power policy.
In 1861 the Deutsche Fortschrittspartei (German Progress Party), a purely liberal party, was founded. The name already expressed part of the program - devotion to German unification. In elections held in 1861, she became the strongest party in the Abgeordnetenhaus.

The Prussian Cabinet amd Domestic Policy. From 1850 to 1858, Otto Theodor von Manteuffel served as prime minister. He understood his office not as the manager of Prussia's policy, but as servant and councellor of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. He was succeeded by Karl Anton Prince von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1858-1862).
The police was accused of arbitrary action in her measures to suppress nationalist and democratic agitation. In 1852 an administrativce reform was introduced which strengthened the position of the Junker and reduced local autonomy. In 1854 a law was passed banning workers' associations and socialist associations. In 1858, King Friedrich Wilhelm was incapacitated; Prince Wilhelm (future Wilhelm I.) assumed the regency; he sympathized with the liberal conservatives (Wochenblatt Party). Friedrich Wilhelm IV. died in 1861. King Wilhelm I. was surprised by the election result of Dec. 6th 1861, which turned out a large liberal majority. On March 11th he dissolved the Abgeordnetenhaus; he also dismissed the cabinet and appointed a new one, which was short-lived and to be succeeded by a cabinet lead by Otto von Bismarck. Wilhelm I. did not believe in parliamentary rule.

The Economy : the Zollverein continued to be a success story; economically Germany (without Austria) grow into an integrated economic unit, with Prussia, accounting for over half of the territory and population, taking the lead. An attempt by Austria to join, and take over the leadership from Prussia, in 1849. In 1853 Prussia and Austria signed a trade agreement according to which Austria's application to join the Zollverein was postponed to 1859.

Prussian Legislation affecting the Economy An 1850 law regulated the termination of the last feudal services demanded from holders of small and medium-size farms. An 1853 factory law in Prussia banned the employment of children under the age of 12 in factories; the work of children under the age of 14 was limited to 6 hours, a rule poorly supervised.

Economic Development. The Depression (1847-1851) is succeeded by a Boom Period (1852-1857), spurred by the Californian and Australian Gold Rush, again followed by another period of depression (1857-1859). The working classes experienced costs of living (1850-1860 : 20.7 %) outgrowing the rise in wages (16.6 %). The railway system was expanded, the output of the mining industry, the steel and machinery industry grew at an extraordinary rate. In addition to output numbers, new methods and new industries (shipyard producing steel ships in Stettin 1851, begin of pottash mining in Stassfurt 1851 (to be used as fertilizer). The number of companies traded on the stock exchange rose; the first organization of entrepreneurs in Germany (mining industry on the Ruhr) was founded. In 1852, in Prussia, there were c. 680,000 factory workers, about 30 % of which lived in the Rhine Province.

Cultural History : Political Repression Marx, Heine and others continued to live in exile. Press and book censorship remained in force. Prussian teachers were forbidden to attend the Allgemeine Deutsche Lehrerversammlung (assembly of German teachers) held in Hannover 1851. In the same year, Froebel's Allgemeiner Deutscher Kindergarten was banned by the Prussian authorities.

Cultural History : Nationalism In the aftermath of the German Revolution of 1848, nationalist intellectuals can be grouped in supporters of the Greater German Solution (with Austria) and those of the Smaller German Solution (without Austria, under Prussian leadership). They also can be grouped in those whose priority was German unification and those whose priority was a liberal constitution. The Prussian administration (censorship) was more sympathetic to supporters of the Smaller German Solution and those less insisting on a liberal constitution. Historian Heinrich von Sybel fit those criteria; he published his 'History of the Revolutionary Era 1789-1800' in 1853. In 1861 he was called to the University of Bonn.
Felix Dahn, professor of legal history, began the publication of a history on the 'Kings of the Germanics' in 1861, later to be followed by historical novels in which he glorified the Germanic kings and the exploits of the Barbaric Peoples' Migration. A fervent nationalist, he viewed Germany as threatened by a potentially expansionist France (he interpreted the Franco- Austrian War of 1859 in such a way) and hoped for a Germany unified by Prussia to ban that danger.

Cultural History . In 1859, Theodor Fontane began his Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg.

Articles Frederick William IV. of Prussia, Friedrich Albrecht zu Eulenburg, Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel, Heinrich von Sybel, Felix Dahn, Theodor Fontane, Prussian Three Class Franchise (Dreiklassenwahlrecht), Prussian Thaler, Vereinsthaler, from Wikipedia
Otto Theodor von Manteuffel, from Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, posted by Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, in German, Gothic font
Das Preussische Dreiklassenwahlrecht, from DHM, in German; from Wikipedia, in German; from Preussen.de
Die preussische und die Kaiserliche Marine in den ostasiatischen Gewässern : Das militärische Interesse an Ostasien (The Prussian and the Imperial Navy in East Asian Waters : Military Interest in East Asia), by Michael Salewski, posted by DHM, in German
Friedrich Albrecht Graf zu Eulenburg, from Academicus, in German; from Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie; posted by Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, in German, Gothic font
Otto Theodor von Manteuffel, from Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, posted by Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, in German, Gothic font
Article Heinrich von Sybel, from Wikipedia; from EB 1911
Article Felix Dahn, from Wikipedia, in German
Biography of Theodor Fontane, from Fontane Seiten, in German
DOCUMENTS Rulers of Prussia, from World Statesmen by Ben Cahoon
Karl Marx, Die Lage in Preussen, 1858, from Marx Engels Archive
Karl Marx, Doie Geistesgestörtheit des Königs von Preussen, 1858, from Marx Engels Archive
Constitution of Dec. 5th 1848, posted by Verfassungen.de, in German
Constitution of Jan. 31st 1850, posted by Verfassungen.de, in German
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]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 8th 2004, last revised on October 28th 2007

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