Constitution of Prussia (1850)

The Constitution of Prussia (German: Verfassung für den Preußischen Staat) was adopted on 31 January 1850, and amended in the following years. This constitution was far less liberal than the federal constitution of the German Empire.

The government was not responsible to the Abgeordnetenhaus (lower chamber), whose powers were small and whose members were elected by a Prussian three-class suffrage system based on tax-paying ability. The Herrenhaus (upper chamber) was largely controlled by the conservative Junkers, who held immense tracts of generally poor land east of the Elbe (particularly in East Prussia). Endowed with little money and much pride, they had continued to form the officer corps of the Prussian Army. The rising industrialists, notably the great mine owners and steel magnates of Rhenish and Westphalia, although their interests were often opposed to those of the Junkers, exerted an equally reactionary influence on politics. The "potential power of the Prusso-German crown was vast" (Christopher Clarke, Kaiser Wilhelm II). For example, the monarch held the power to nominate and dismiss Prussian officials (as well as federal ones). His assent was also necessary for legislation to pass into law, as well as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and coming with this, the power to appoint or dismiss officials during peacetime. In a decree, William I of Prussia, stated that acts of the Prussian government were those of the King of Prussia, "from whose decision they originate, and who expresses his opinion and will constitutionally through them".[1]

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