Constitutional Conflict

Constitutional Conflict


in Prussia, a conflict between the Prussian Junker-aristocratic government and the bourgeois-liberal opposition in the house of representatives of the Prussian parliament (Landtag) on the question of appropriations for the reorganization of the army.

The government plan that was set forth in 1860 provided for the prolongation of military service from two to three years and an increase in recruitment from 40,000 to 63,000, which required considerable finances. The liberal bourgeoisie, which in general supported the program to unite Germany under the hegemony of militarist Prussia and which was interested in the consolidation of Prussian military might, opposed the strengthening of the position of the king and the Junkers and turned down the plan for military reform. Then Prince William (at that time regent; from 1861, king of Prussia) dissolved the house of representatives and scheduled new elections. However, the elections were won by the party of the Progressives, which was founded in 1861, and the bill was again rejected. The situation in the country became tense. But the bourgeoisie, afraid of a revolution, did not dare to appeal to the popular masses.

In 1862, King William I appointed O. von Bismarck minister-president of Prussia; Bismarck carried out the reorganization of the army without prior legislative authority and without taking into consideration the rights of the parliament. The Progressives limited themselves to verbal protest, but after the military victory of Prussia over Denmark (1864) and Austria (1866) even that ended. In 1866 the parliament approved all the prior acts of the Prussian government.

In characterizing the constitutional conflict, Lenin emphasized that “this was the last outburst in the family quarrel. The bourgeoisie was swept off its feet by the victories of the German Army and fully contented itself with manhood suffrage, while the aristocratic and bureaucratic government retained all its powers” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 13, p. 112).


Engels, F.” Voennyi vopros v Prussii i nemetskaia rabochaia partia.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 16.
Germanskaia istoria v novoe i noveishee vremia, vol. 1. Moscow, 1970. Pages 279–86.
Engelberg, E. Deutschland von 1849 bis 1871, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1962.


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