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Prussia’s Federal Reform Proposal (April 9, 1866)

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More detailed provisions for conducting the election will be easy to arrange once the general principle of the elections has been established. Thus the Royal Government can limit itself for now to proposing the acceptance of direct voting and universal suffrage.

It has already been explained why the Royal Government deems it advisable that the German state governments do not relinquish the initiative of reform entirely to the elected assembly; therefore, it also intends to enter into immediate negotiations with its Honorable Allies about the substance of the issue.

In order to bring such talks to a successful conclusion, the restriction of the negotiations to the essential points of crucial practical importance is strongly recommended.

If the negotiations remain focused on the truly urgent interests of the nation [ . . . ], then the time between the convening of the parliament and its actual meeting will undoubtedly suffice to establish the fundamentals of a bill that may be presented to the assembly on behalf of all German governments.

The determination of an exact date for convening the parliament, however, will also offer a great guarantee to the nation that the negotiations between governments about the reform proposals cannot drag out ad infinitum.

By leaving everything else trustingly to the negotiations with its Honorable Allies, the Royal Government now proposes the motion that

The Honorable Federal Assembly may resolve that:

a parliament resulting from direct elections and the universal suffrage of the entire nation be convened on a day yet to be determined, in order to receive and debate the bills brought in by the German governments concerning the reform of the federal constitution;
in the interim, until the parliament meets, the federal assembly formulates these bills by way of mutual agreement between the governments.

Source: Protokolle der Bundesversammlung 1866 [Protocols of the Federal Assembly 1866]. 12th session, §90, pp. 102ff.

Original German text reprinted in Ernst Rudolf Huber, ed., Dokumente zur deutschen Verfassungsgeschichte [Documents on German Constitutional History], 3rd ed., revised and enlarged. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1978, vol. 2, pp. 224-25.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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