The German Revolution (5/7 – The Constitution)
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The German Revolution (5/7 – The Constitution)


On March 27th of 1849, almost a year after it had assembled for the first time, the Parliament proclaimed the constitution of the German Empire. The Constitution addressed both of the core demands of the revolutionaries by declaring that the newly founded Empire should include all territories of the German Confederation, as well as incorporating the basic rights of the German people, which had been passed in late December of 1848, thus granting the German people both national unity and the liberties they had demanded. The constitution was supposed to establish a constitutional, hereditary monarchy with an emperor as head of state who could appoint ministers and delay laws he didn’t approve of. The new German Parliament was supposed to have two chambers. The House of Commons was supposed to be elected in free, general elections, while members of the upper house were supposed to be elected by state governments and their respective parliaments. Still there was the question who would be the Emperor the new German nation. Originally, the National Assembly had voted on including Austria. However after the Austrian Prime Minister Felix su Schwarzenberg had declared that the multinational state of Austria-Hungary was Inseparable, since there are multinational politics were incompatible with the idea of a German nation-state, it was clear that Austria wouldn’t be a part of the Empire. For various reasons, like Prussia being the strongest nation within the Confederation and declarations he had made previously the National Assembly offered the crown to King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. of Prussia. The King however rejected. On April 3rd, he stated in front of the parliamentary delegation: “I am ready to prove through deeds that the men who based their trust on my devotion, my loyalty and my love to our common fatherland were not mistaken. I would not do justice to their trust, I would not conform to the wishes of the German people, if I would with offence to the holy rites and my former promises, without the free consent of the crowned heads, the princes and the free cities of Germany, make a decision that has the most decisive consequences for them and the German tribes they rule over.” Later he stated the true reason for his decision not to take the crown in a letter to the Prussian envoy in London: “Of course a Hohenzollern can wear the crown that has been worn by the Ottonians, the Hohenstaufen and the Habsburg It exuberantly honors him with the radiance of a thousand years. But the one they are talking of is a disgrace, with its pungent stench of the revolution of 1848, the most silly, most stupid, worst, albeit, thank God, not the most evil in this century. A legitimate king by God’s grace, the king of Prussia even, who has been graced to wear, maybe not the oldest crown, but the most noble, that has never been stolen, is supposed to be given such an imaginary coronet baked from dirt and potter’s clay? I will tell you frankly: If the thousand-year-old crown, that has rested for 42 years, is to be handed out again, it is I and people like me who will bestow it! And woe betide those who claim what is not theirs!” Cartoonist Isidor Popper put the refusal of the king to take up the crown into a caricature. “Should I or shouldn’t I?”

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