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Bismarck’s "Putbus Dictations" on Germany’s Future Constitution (October-November 1866)

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I do not consider the bicameral system* applicable to the federal situation. The machinery would become too cumbersome, since, aside from the large number of state parliaments [Landtage], we will not be able to avoid having the sovereigns represented in the affairs of the Reich. As a result, with the bicameral system, the Reich would have three bodies voting by majority, and in addition to them, an executive and a military high command with independent powers. A further development of the Federal Council along the lines of an upper house may perhaps evolve historically in the future; this would have to be accompanied, however, by a sharpening of the profile of the institution of Kaiser [Kaiserdom] in the place of the powers exercised by the executive and commander-in-chief.

Some elements of executive power that have previously been exercised by the Federal Assembly would already have to be transferred to our King as commander-in-chief and executive authority [Oberfeldherrn und Präsidialmacht]. Thus, apart from the purely military powers mentioned among the original essentials, this would include the power over war and peace, mobilization, the hiring of common public officials in the customs, postal, tax, and telegraph systems; it would entail, to be sure, competition from the state governments in the form of the right to make proposals, but it would nevertheless involve an oath to the Confederation as well as discipline in the hand of the executive.

* That is, with a bicameral Reichstag as well as a Federal Council – ed.

Source: “Überlegungen zur Gestaltung des Norddeutschen Bundes” [“Thoughts on the Formation of the North German Confederation”], Putbus, October 30, 1866, and “Unmaßgebliche Ansichten über Bundesverfassung” [“Preliminary Views on the Constitution”] Putbus, November 19, 1866, in Otto von Bismarck, Die gesammelten Werke [The Collected Works], ed. Gerhard Ritter and Rudolf Stadelmann, Friedrichsruh ed., 15 vols. vol. 6, nos. 615, 616, Berlin, 1924-1935, pp. 167-68, 168-70.

Original German text reprinted in Otto von Bismarck, Werke in Auswahl. Jahrhundertausgabe zum 23. September 1862 [Selected Works. Centennial Edition for September 23, 1862], ed. Gustav Adolf Rein, et al., 8 vols. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2001, vol. 4, Die Reichsgründung [The Founding of the Empire] pt. 2, 1866-1871, ed. Eberhard Scheler, pp. 7-10, with additions provided from the private papers of Robert von Keudell as published in Otto Becker, Bismarcks Ringen um Deutschlands Gestaltung [Bismarck’s Struggle to Give Shape to Germany], ed. Alexander Scharff. Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer, 1958, pp. 241-42.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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