German Confederation

German Confederation
Deutscher Bund
Coat of arms (1848–66)
Coat of arms (1848–66)
The German Confederation in 1815
  •   Member states
  •   Territory of member states outside of the confederation
Capital Frankfurt
Religion Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish
Political structure Confederation
Head of the Präsidialmacht Austria
 •  1815–1835 Francis I
 •  1835–1848 Ferdinand I
 •  1850–1866 Franz Joseph I
Legislature Federal Convention
 •  Constitution adopted 8 June 1815
 •  German Revolutions 13 March 1848
 •  Punctation of Olmütz 29 November 1850
 •  Austro-Prussian War 14 June 1866
 •  Peace of Prague 23 August 1866
 •  1815 630,100 km2 (243,300 sq mi)
 •  1815 est. 29,200,000 
     Density 46/km2 (120/sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Confederation of the Rhine
Austrian Empire
Kingdom of Prussia
North German Confederation
Austrian Empire
Kingdom of Bavaria
Kingdom of Württemberg
Grand Duchy of Baden
Grand Duchy of Hesse
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Principality of Liechtenstein
Today part of

The German Confederation ( German: Deutscher Bund) was an association of 39 German states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries and to replace the former Holy Roman Empire, which had been dissolved in 1806. [1] Most historians have judged the Confederation to have been weak and ineffective, as well as an obstacle to the creation of a German nation-state. [2]

The Confederation collapsed due to the rivalry between the Kingdom of Prussia and the Austrian Empire, warfare in the several European revolutions of 1848, the 1848–1849 German revolution, and the inability of the multiple members to compromise. In 1848, revolutions by liberals and nationalists were a failed attempt to establish a unified German state with a progressive liberal constitution under the Frankfurt Convention. Talks between the German states failed in 1848, and the Confederation briefly dissolved, but was re-established shortly after, in 1850. [3]

The Confederation fell apart after the Prussian victory in the Seven Weeks' War over Austria in 1866. The dispute over which had the inherent right to rule German lands ended in favour of Prussia, leading to the creation of the North German Confederation under Prussian leadership in 1867. A number of South German states remained independent until they joined the North German Confederation, which was renamed and proclaimed as the " German Empire" in 1871 for the now unified Germany with the Prussian king as emperor (Kaiser) after the victory over French Emperor Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.



The War of the Third Coalition lasted from about 1803 to 1806. Following defeat at the Austerlitz by the French under Napoleon in December 1805, Holy Roman Emperor Francis II abdicated, and the Empire was dissolved on 6 August 1806. The resulting Pressburg established the Confederation of the Rhine in July 1806, joining together sixteen of France's allies among the German states (including Bavaria and Württemberg). After the Jena–Auerstedt of October 1806 in the War of the Fourth Coalition, various other German states, including Saxony and Westphalia, also joined the Confederation. Only Austria, Prussia, Danish Holstein, Swedish Pomerania, and the French-occupied Principality of Erfurt stayed outside the Confederation of the Rhine. These nations would later join in the War of the Sixth Coalition from 1812 to 1814.


The German Confederation was created by the 9th Act of the Congress of Vienna on 8 June 1815 after being alluded to in Article 6 of the 1814 Treaty of Paris, ending the War of the Sixth Coalition. [4]

The Confederation was formally created by a second treaty, the Final Act of the Ministerial Conference to Complete and Consolidate the Organization of the German Confederation. This treaty was not concluded and signed by the parties until 15 May 1820. States joined the German Confederation by becoming parties to the second treaty. The states designated for inclusion in the Confederation in the 1815 treaty were: [4]

When the 1820 treaty was concluded, the following states were also included: [4]

  1. Hesse-Homburg (inherited by the grand-duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, 1866)
  2. Lübeck
  3. Frankfurt
  4. Bremen
  5. Hamburg

In 1839, as compensation for the loss of the Luxemburg to Belgium, the Duchy of Limburg (held by the Netherlands) was created and it was a member of the German Confederation until its dissolution in 1866. The city of Maastricht was not included in the Confederation.

Dissolution and Empire

The German Confederation ended as a result of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 between Austrian Empire and its allies on one side and the Kingdom of Prussia and its allies on the other. In the Prague peace treaty, on 23 August 1866, Austria had to accept that the Confederation was considered to be dissolved. [5] The following day, the remaining member states confirmed the dissolution. The treaty allowed Prussia to create a new Bundesverhältnis (a new kind of federation) in the North of Germany. The South German states were proposed to create a South German Confederation but this did not come into existence.

Prussia and its allies created the North German Confederation in 1867. Because of French intervention it had to exclude, besides Austria, the South German states Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden, and Hesse-Darmstadt. During November 1870, the four southern states joined the North German Confederation by treaty. [6]

The North German Confederation Reichstag and Bundesrat accepted to rename the North German Confederation as the German Empire and give the title of German Emperor to the King of Prussia. [7] The new constitution of the state, the Constitution of the German Confederation, introduced the new name (in spite of its title) and title on 1 January 1871. [8]

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