German Confederation

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German 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. Its purpose was to guarantee the external and internal peace of Germany and the independence of the member states. In case of attack the members pledged mutual aid. Certain princes, however, were exempt from this provision. These were the king of England, as king of Hanover; the king of the Netherlands, as duke of Luxembourg; and the King of Denmark, as duke of Holstein and Lauenburg. As it was constituted, the confederation was little more than a loose union for mutual defense. Its main organ, a central diet that met at Frankfurt under the presidency of Austria, functioned as a diplomatic conference. Unanimity or a two-thirds majority was required for most decisions, and, in voting, the delegates were bound to instructions from their respective governments. The diet thus was ineffective. The strong reactionary influence of the Austrian statesman MetternichMetternich, Clemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Fürst von
, 1773–1859, Austrian statesman and arbiter of post-Napoleonic Europe, b. Koblenz, of a noble Rhenish family.
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, backed by Prussia, dominated the confederation until 1848, when the liberal revolutions that swept Germany resulted in the creation of the Frankfurt ParliamentFrankfurt Parliament,
1848–49, national assembly convened at Frankfurt on May 18, 1848, as a result of the liberal revolution that swept the German states early in 1848. The parliament was called by a preliminary assembly of German liberals in Mar.
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. The diet was resumed in 1850. By the treaty agreed upon at Olmütz (OlomoucOlomouc
, Ger. Olmütz, city (1991 pop. 105,537), E central Czech Republic, in Moravia, on the Morava River. Olomouc is an industrial city, with factories producing machinery, appliances, and food products, especially candy and chocolate.
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), Austrian leadership was temporarily restored, but the Austro-Prussian WarAustro-Prussian War
or Seven Weeks War,
June 15–Aug. 23, 1866, between Prussia, allied with Italy, and Austria, seconded by Bavaria, Württemberg, Saxony, Hanover, Baden, and several smaller German states.
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 (1866) led to the dissolution of the confederation and the establishment of the North German ConfederationNorth German Confederation,
1867–71, alliance of 22 German states N of the Main River. Dominated by Prussia, it replaced the German Confederation and included the states that had supported Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War (1866).
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 under Prussian leadership.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

German Confederation


(Deutscher Bund), an association of German states, formed on June 8, 1815, at the Congress of Vienna (1814-15).

At first, 39 states adhered to the confederation (by 1866 their number had fallen to 32), among them the free cities of Bremen, Hamburg, Liibeck, and Frankfurt am Main. In addition to the German and Austrian monarchs the members of the German confederation included the British and Dutch kings, in their capacity as rulers of Hanover and Luxembourg respectively, and the king of Denmark, in his capacity as ruler of Holstein and Lauenburg. The national assembly (the Diet), which consisted of representatives of the individual states, was established at Frankfurt am Main, with the Austrian delegate acting as president. The decisions of the assembly, in practice, were not binding on the members of the confederation. The activity of the Diet was directed toward suppressing the revolutionary and national-liberation movement. The Austrian monarchy, which played the leading role in the confederation, made use of it in the conflict with Prussia for hegemony over Germany. During the Revolution of 1848-49 the confederation fell apart, but it was restored by the Olmütz Agreement of 1850. After the defeat of Austria in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the German Confederation was abolished. In its place the North German Confederation, under Prussian domination, was created in 1867.


Protokolle der deutschen Bundes-Versammlung, vols. 1-24. Frankfurt am Main, 1817-31.


Ilse, F. Geschichte der deutschen Bundesversammlung, vols. 1-3. Marburg, 1860-62.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Our life is like a German Confederacy, made up of petty states, with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell you how it is bounded at any moment.
Our life is like a German Confederacy, made up of petty states, with its boundary forever fluctuating, so that even a German cannot tell you how it is bounded at any moment.

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