North German Confederation

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North German Confederation,

1867–71, alliance of 22 German states N of the Main River. Dominated by Prussia, it replaced the German ConfederationGerman Confederation,
1815–66, union of German states provided for at the Congress of Vienna to replace the old Holy Roman Empire, which had been destroyed during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It comprised 39 states in all, 35 monarchies and 4 free cities.
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 and included the states that had supported Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War (1866). The South German states, notably Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg, and the grand duchy of Hesse, though excluded from the confederation, were nevertheless closely bound to it through their membership in the ZollvereinZollverein
[Ger.,=customs union], in German history, a customs union established to eliminate tariff barriers. Friedrich List first popularized the idea of a combination to abolish the customs barriers that were inhibiting trade among the numerous states of the German
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. Prepared in broad outline by Otto von BismarckBismarck, Otto von
, 1815–98, German statesman, known as the Iron Chancellor. Early Life and Career

Born of an old Brandenburg Junker family, he studied at Göttingen and Berlin, and after holding minor judicial and administrative offices he was elected
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, the constitution of the confederation, when adopted by the members, provided for a federal council (Bundesrat), composed of deputies from the states, and a lower house (Reichstag), elected by direct manhood suffrage. Prussia exercised predominant influence in both bodies. Executive power was vested in the president—the king of Prussia—who appointed the federal chancellor (as it turned out, Bismarck). The states retained their own governments, but the military forces were controlled by the federal government. In 1871 this constitution was adopted, with some changes, by the German Empire, which replaced the confederation.

North German Confederation


(Norddeutscher Bund), in the period 1867–70, a federal state located north of the River Main in Germany.

The North German Confederation was created after Prussia’s victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the dissolution of the German Confederation. On Aug. 18, 1866, on the initiative of O. von Bismarck, representatives of Prussia and 17 north German states signed a treaty bringing the confederation into existence. In September and October 1866, four more German states entered the confederation, giving it a total population of approximately 30 million. By its constitution, which took effect on July 1, 1867, the North German Confederation had competence over military affairs, foreign relations, the monetary system, the postal service, and railroads. The constitution conferred the presidency of the confederation on the king of Prussia, who, as president, was commander in chief during wartime, conducted foreign policy, and acted as chief executive. The post of federal chancellor (Bundeskanzler), who was appointed by the president and accountable only to the president, was placed in the hands of Bismarck. The chancellor was assisted by state secretaries, each at the head of a separate department. The Reichstag, elected by “universal” suffrage —women, soldiers, and domestic servants could not vote—had the right to ratify the budget. The Bundesrat, or federal council, which consisted of delegates from the confederated governments, could initiate and ratify legislation. It was dominated by Prussia, which had annexed the four states that had fought on the side of Austria—Hanover, Hesse-Cassel, Nassau, and the free city of Frankfurt—and which had 17 of the Bundesrat’s 43 votes. The south German states of Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden, and Hesse-Darmstadt agreed, by treaty, to place their armed forces under the control of the Prussian general staff.

The Prussian-dominated North German Confederation was an important stage in the unification of Germany “from above.” During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, the south German states entered the confederation. On Dec. 9, 1870, the Reichstag resolved that the unified state be called the German Empire; on Jan. 18, 1871, at Versailles, the German Empire was officially proclaimed.

References in periodicals archive ?
On September 15, 1874, Heinrich von Stephan, a senior postal official in the North German Confederation (an area that now forms parts of Germany, Poland and Russia), opened a conference in Berne, Switzerland, with delegates from 22 countries.
But the North German Confederation stipulated that ecclesiastical policies would be set by individual states rather than by the Confederation itself.

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