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Constitution of the German Empire (April 16, 1871)

A provisional constitution had been in effect since January 1, 1871, but it consisted of various components and required amendment after the proclamation of the German Empire on January 18, 1871. This new Imperial Constitution [Reichsverfassung] was passed on April 16, 1871, and came into effect on May 4. Based largely on the constitution of the North German Confederation from 1867, the empire’s constitution was a mixture of monarchical and democratic elements, balancing centralizing and federalist features.

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His Majesty the King of Prussia in the name of the North German Federation, His Majesty the King of Bavaria, His Majesty the King of Württemberg, His Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Baden and His Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, for those parts of the Grand Duchy of Hesse which are south of the river Maine, conclude an everlasting Federation for the protection of the territory of the Federation and the rights thereof, as well as to care for the welfare of the German people. This Federation will bear the name ‘German Reich’, and is to have the following


Section I. Territory of the Federation

Art. 1
The territory of the Federation is comprised of the States of Prussia with Lauenburg, Bavaria, Saxony, Württemberg, Baden, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Saxe-Weimar, Mecklenburg, Strelitz, Oldenburg, Brunswick, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Anhalt, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Waldeck, Reuss Elder Line, Reuss Younger Line Schaumburg-Lippe, Lippe, Lübeck, Bremen, and Hamburg.

Section II. Legislature of the Reich

Art. 2
Within this federate territory the Reich exercises the right of legislation according to the stipulations of this Constitution, and with the effect that the Reich laws take precedence of the laws of the States. The Reich laws receive their binding power by their publication in the name of the Reich, which takes place by means of a Reich Law Gazette. If the date of its first coming into force is not otherwise fixed in the published law, it comes into force on the 14th day after the close of the day on which the part of the Reich Law Gazette which contains it is published in Berlin.

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