Frankfurt Parliament

From Academic Kids

The Frankfurt Parliament is the name of the German National Assembly founded during the Revolutions of 1848 that tried to unite Germany in a democratic way. Meeting in the city of Frankfurt am Main, the assembly was attended by 831 deputies.

The members of the Frankfurt Parliament convened in the Paulus Church, Frankfurt on May 18, 1848, when the Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, gave his consent to a German constitution.

Missing image
The Frankfurt Parliament convened in Frankfurt's Paulskirche.


Civil Rights

Sessions started in July when civil rights were discussed. An agreement about civil rights was reached in October and promulgated in December. These civil rights would form the main foundation of many democratic constitutions in the individual German states.


After the discussion about civil rights the Assembly factionalized along liberal-versus-conservative lines, as well as between monarchists and republicans.

  • On the far right side appeared the conservative federalists, who advocated a federal state with huge powers for the monarchs.
  • Not as far to the right were the constitutional federalists, who advocated a federal state with the monarch submitting to constitutions.
  • On the moderate left side appeared the parliamentary unitarists, who advocated a centralized state with a monarchy responsible to parliament.
  • On the far left, appeared the republican unitarists, who advocated a centralized republic.

The existence of so many factions, of course, made the work far more difficult.


Work was further obstructed by socialist revolts from Marxists, conservative resistance from Austria, Prussia and foreign countries and by a quarrel about Schleswig-Holstein. After difficult debates the deputies chose for the small German solution (Germany under Prussian lead, without Austria).


The Danes living in Schleswig wanted to join Denmark as they were threatened by the idea of living in Germany. As a constitution was to be adopted in Denmark an ideal opportunity to put their wished forward arose. They found a listening ear with Frederick VII of Denmark, who forced the annexation of Schleswig by Denmark. The Germans revolted and Prussia intervened on behalf of the German Confederation. An armistice was signed in August 1848 and the Frankfurt Parliament showed its first weaknesses: it had no real power to enforce laws. They had to accept the armistice.


In September revolts occurred in Frankfurt and the parliament had to call troops from the German states.

Deliberations about a constitution

In October 1848 delibrations about a constitution started. Results were presented in April 1849. The constitution meant to be a synthesis of tradition (empire, monarchy, federal state) and progress (universal suffrage, house of representatives).


After the completion of the constitution the deputies presented the crown of Germany to Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia. He refused what he called a crown "from the gutter" and caused the Prussian and Austrian deputies to leave the parliament, which was doomed to be disbanded.


The Frankfurt Parliament was the first attempt to create a unified Germany. It was given the room to operate but the parliament was weak as it had no legal power (which was in the hands of the German Confederation). Furthermore the public's strong support of the monarchy prevented a permanent backing of the revolutionary forces. The rich people sided with the political leadership and the aristocracy. The cleft between the interests of the rich people, and those of the lower classes was too wide to be bridged by a compromise agreement. The revolutionaries also lacked uniformity in terms of demands. The military and bureaucrat remained loyal to the leading classes while the assembly did not have its own military troops. Instead of representing the entire public, the parliament only reflected intellectuals. They needed so much time to finish the constitution that when they were ready the monarchy had fortified already. The revolutions on which the parliament was founded were crushed. The refusal of Friedrich Wilhelm IV to accept the crown of Germany gave Prussia and Austria an excuse to withdraw their deputies, thus crushing the last hazard of revolution. The great winners were obviously the conservatives.

See also

Further reading

  • Frankfurt Parliament by Frank Eyck, 1969 ISBN 0312303459
  • A Year of Revolutions: Fanny Lewald's Recollections of 1848 translated, edited, and annotated by Hanna Ballin Lewis, 1997. ISBN 1571810994

External links

de: Frankfurter Nationalversammlung es:Parlamento de Fráncfort


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