The Federal Presidium or Federal Presidium is a function in German constitutional history . At the time of the German Confederation , the Austrian envoy presided over the Bundestag . That is why Austria was called the “presidential power”, which essentially only meant a managerial role in the Bundestag.
In the North German Confederation of 1867, the Presidium of the Federation was an office in the North German Federal Constitution . It stood for the role of a head of state and a federal executive, even if the office was not originally intended as a federal monarch. The Federal Presidium was held by the King of Prussia . The king was also a federal general .
With the constitutional changes in the course of the establishment of the Reich in 1871, the expression was retained. The king also received the title “ German Emperor ”, which was used in most passages instead of “Federal Presidium” or “Federal General”. With the end of the monarchy in 1918, the previous function of the Federal Presidium or Emperor ended.
The term later appears in the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention on Herrenchiemsee . A minority did not want a single person as head of state, but a collective body called the “Federal Presidium”. It would have consisted of the Federal Chancellor and the Presidents of the Bundestag and Bundesrat. However, this idea has not caught on in the Parliamentary Council either.
German Confederation 1815–1866
Plans and presidential envoy in the Bundestag
On the eve of the founding of the German Confederation (1814/15) there were certainly plans to appoint a German Kaiser. With such a renewed imperial dignity Austria should be bound more closely to the rest of Germany, and such an office would have strengthened the federation as a whole. To do this, however, he would have had to have significant rights and positions of power, such as supreme command of the federal troops . However, this was not what the larger states wanted.
With this in mind, Wilhelm von Humboldt from Prussia turned against an imperial plan that Stein had brought out again: Prussia could not submit to a strong emperor. But if the office does not give the emperor additional power , he will preferentially represent the interests of his own country. The only practicable solution is a union of states without a head, in which Austria and Prussia work together as one.
The German Federal Assembly, also known as the Bundestag, became the supreme body of the German Confederation. In the Bundestag, the Austrian envoy was the "chairman". That only meant that Austria ran the business and, in the event of a tie in the Senate Council of the Bundestag, was the decisive factor. This provision from Article 5 of the German Federal Act led to the chairman submitting the federal states' proposals to the Bundestag for discussion. Commonly used were the expressions “Presidium” for the chairmanship, “Presidential power” or “Federal Presidential Power” for Austria, “Presidential envoy” for the Austrian Bundestag envoy (also in Section 39 of the Rules of Procedure of the Federal Assembly of 1854) and “Presidential vote” for the Austrian vote in the Bundestag .
In the revolutionary period of 1849–1851 it was not least about the question of a head of the Reich . In March and April 1848, the Bundestag had already considered a federal directorate with several members. The Central Power Act of June 28, 1848 and the Frankfurt Constitution of March 28, 1849, on the other hand, provided for an individual at the head of the German Empire (an imperial administrator or an emperor).
In Prussia's subsequent attempt at unification, the Erfurt Union Constitution divided the rights of the emperor: the Union Board (the Prussian King) set up the Union government and a princes' college exercised the rights in relation to legislation . Later in the North German Confederation, the Union Board became the holder of the Federal Presidium and the Princes' College became the Federal Council.
The last attempt at this time to at least partially advance German unity was made at the Dresden Conferences in 1850/1851 . But a federal reform failed because Prussia demanded the alternate: Austria and Prussia should alternately serve as presidential power.
In the years after the autumn crisis of 1850 , the relationship between Austria and Prussia remained tense, even if they were initially forced to work together. Austria wanted to strengthen its role as a presidential power and expand its power and leadership through moderate further development of the federal government. Prussia should increasingly be relegated to its second place. The Prussian Bundestag envoy Otto von Bismarck, however, vehemently opposed an expansion of the federal government. Prussia also wanted the “presidential power” to remain a mere honorary position.
North German Confederation and Empire 1867–1918
Origin and construction
After the German War in the summer of 1866, Prussia formed the North German Confederation with several other German states. In contrast to the German Confederation, this was a federal state, a federal state . The leading politician was the Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck.
The North German Reichstag wanted to see the office of an emperor established. The democratic left in Germany in particular wanted a strong state, a unitarian monarchy from which a monarchy with a parliamentary system of government could develop. Bismarck recognized this and rejected the request. The highest executive was therefore given the name "Federal Presidium". Contrary to what the expression suggests, it was not about a collegial body, but about an individual, the Prussian king. The expression avoided the republican-sounding term "President".
In the Federal Constitution it finally said in section “IV. Federal Presidium ":
"Art. 11. The Presidium of the Federation is entitled to the Crown of Prussia, which in exercising the same is entitled to represent the Federation under international law, to declare war and make peace on behalf of the Federation, to enter into alliances and other treaties with foreign states, to certify and receive envoys is. "
The constitution also otherwise assigned tasks such as a monarchical head of state to the presidium, without speaking of a federal monarch or head of state . According to Art. 15, the Presidium appointed a Federal Chancellor . This chaired the Federal Council and managed the business. The important regulation appears in Art. 17:
"Art. 17. The Presidium is entitled to draw up and promulgate federal laws and monitor their implementation. The orders and orders of the Federal Presidium are issued in the name of the Federation and require the countersignature of the Federal Chancellor to be valid, who thereby assumes responsibility. "
The last subordinate clause gave the Federal Chancellor the position of a minister who is responsible to Parliament (Reichstag) , while the monarch is inviolable. Originally, the Chancellor was supposed to be more of an official who carried out the will of the Presidium. Only a motion by the legal liberals ( Lex Bennigsen ) in the constituent Reichstag led to the Federal Chancellor in charge. In the eyes of the liberals, the original construction looked like a copy of the unloved Bundestag of the German Confederation, in the sense that the Federal Chancellor acted like the Austrian presidential envoy before and also chaired the new Bundesrat. Dietmar Willoweit judged the original construction that with this "constitutional idea, which for a large state seems almost unreal [...] the burden of parliamentary control [...] would have largely remained with the state parliaments".
According to the constitution , the Prussian king was also a " federal general ", that is, commander-in-chief of the federal troops. This title was included in the constitution in addition to the “Federal Presidium” in order to conceal the strong position of the Prussian king.
Development of the names
At the beginning of 1870, Bismarck was working on an " Kaiserplan ". Not only was the cumbersome term “Presidium of the Federation” impractical in federal diplomacy, renaming the office could have increased the status of the king and thus the reputation of the federal government. However, there is a possibility that Bismarck had more of a tactical intention with the plan, such as depriving the liberals of national interpretive sovereignty. Accordingly, he quickly dropped the plan, also because King Wilhelm did not allow himself to be warmed up. An invented, unhistorical imperial title appeared to Wilhelm as an embarrassment to the other princes.
On January 1, 1871, a new constitution came into force after the southern German states had joined the North German Confederation in the November Treaties. In the process, some national legal terms were changed, in particular the terms "Reich" and "Kaiser" were introduced. Since then it has been said about the Federal Presidium:
“Article 11. The Presidium of the Federation belongs to the King of Prussia, who bears the name of German Emperor. The emperor has to represent the empire under international law, to declare war and to make peace on behalf of the empire, to enter into alliances and other treaties with foreign states, to certify and receive envoys.
The expression “Presidium” also remained in all other places.
On April 16, 1871, a new constitution came into force again. Further names were consequently changed. The "Presidium" and the "Federal General" were unified to become "Kaiser". Section IV remained entitled “Presidium” and at the beginning of Article 11 the expression “Presidium of the Federation” remained.
Ernst Rudolf Huber sees this as more than just renaming. The Federal Constitution differentiated between three functions of the federal leadership:
- Federal Presidium (Art. 11 NBO)
- Federal General (Art. 62–65 NBA)
- King of Prussia as Commander of the Navy (Art. 53 NBV)
The constitution of April 16, 1871 united all three functions in a single office, the empire. In this respect, the empire is not identical with the north German federal presidium, because it has combined the civil and military competencies of the imperial executive.
The Presidium of the Federation and the imperial dignity were constitutionally linked to the Crown of Prussia. A person could not hold either office. For the all-German office many rules were missing, so that the Prussian rules were applied analogously, for example for acquiring and losing the office, for a regency or deputy. Crown Prince in the empire was the Crown Prince of Prussia. The emperor did not receive a civil list from the empire, i.e. a kind of remuneration for the imperial office, but only an allocation budget for office-related expenses. He had to live from what he got as the Prussian king.
Ernst Rudolf Huber emphasizes that the emperor was not originally intended as a federal monarch:
“Rather, 'Kaiser' was just the name that the King of Prussia used as the holder of the powers of the Federal President. The emperor was not ruler of the empire and not sovereign of the empire; According to the intention of the constitution, it was only the executive presidential organ of the empire with the title of emperor. The emperor was not considered to be the sovereign of the empire, but the Federal Council as the representative of the entirety of the member states. "
According to this concept, the Federal Council was regarded as the highest Reich organ. The emperor was not the head of the empire, but only primus inter pares . But the emperor developed into a real imperial monarch in the course of the empire. The King of Prussia was sovereign like others, while the Kaiser became the highest imperial organ.
The constitutions of the North German Confederation and the German Empire use the traditional expression "presidential vote". In the event of a tie in the Federal Council, she was decisive (Art. 7 BRV ). What are meant are the 17 Prussian Federal Council votes. Contemporary commentators interpreted these voices as imperial presidential rights. In fact, however, these votes were instructed by the Prussian government and cast by the Prussian Federal Council members. The so-called presidential vote was not an imperial, but a royal Prussian one.
This distinction does not seem to be very important at first, since the emperor and the Prussian king were the same person. However, it was not the king himself who determined, as the Prussian representatives voted in the Bundesrat, but the responsible Prussian government that the king installed. The Chancellor appointed by the Emperor, on the other hand, had neither a seat nor a vote in the Federal Council, although he was chairman of it.
The chancellorship itself brought little authority with it. For example, the chancellor or the emperor could not propose any new laws - such a right of initiative for the head of government was a matter of course in many nation states - and also could not dissolve parliament . The Chancellor was very interested in being both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Prussia at the same time in order to be able to instruct the Prussian Federal Council votes. Even then, the Chancellor had to work closely with the other individual states to really get a majority in the Bundesrat.
Constitutional Convention 1948
In the summer of 1948 a group of experts met in Bavaria to work out a draft for a new West German constitution. The group went down in history as the “ Constitutional Convention on Herrenchiemsee ”. The clients were the West German Prime Ministers.
The question of a head of state was dealt with in Subcommittee III. It was agreed that the head of state of the Federal Republic should have less power than the Reich President of the Weimar Republic. The majority in the committee thought that the Federal Republic should have a single person as Federal President . A minority, however, wanted to see a body made up of several people at this point, the Federal Presidium. The minority justified this with the only provisional character of the new state. Since no compromise was found in the plenary session of the Convention either, the draft ultimately contained both proposals (similar to some other places).
According to the draft of the Basic Law in the version of the minority (Section VI), the Federal Presidium should consist of:
- from the Federal Chancellor (the head of government),
- the President of the Bundestag (the highest representative of parliament) and
- the chairman of the Federal Council (the highest representative of the "Senate").
The chairmanship of the Federal Presidium changes in accordance with the rules of procedure. If a member of the Federal Presidium is unable to attend, he or she will be represented by the (usual) deputy.
The members of the Parliamentary Council finally decided on a Federal President and thus followed the majority of the committee. Even the GDR initially had a single head of state, the President of the Republic . However, it replaced the presidency in 1960 with the Council of State as a collegiate body.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber : German Constitutional History since 1789. Volume I: Reform and Restoration 1789 to 1830. 2nd edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1967, pp. 553-555.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German Constitutional History since 1789. Volume I: Reform and Restoration 1789 to 1830. 2nd edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1967, p. 555 f.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German Constitutional History since 1789. Volume I: Reform and Restoration 1789 to 1830. 2nd edition, Verlag W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1967, p. 589.
- Michael Kotulla : German Constitutional Law 1806-1918. A collection of documents and introductions. Volume 1: Germany as a whole, Anhalt states and Baden , Springer, Berlin 2006, p. 58.
- Michael Kotulla: German Constitutional Law 1806-1918. A collection of documents and introductions. Volume 1: Germany as a whole, Anhalt states and Baden , Berlin 2006, p. 807.
- Hans Boldt : Erfurt Union Constitution . In: Gunther Mai (Ed.): The Erfurt Union and the Erfurt Union Parliament 1850 . 2000, pp. 417-431, here pp. 425-427.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German Constitutional History since 1789. Volume I: Reform and Restoration 1789 to 1830. 2nd edition, Verlag W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [u. a.] 1967, pp. 131-133.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume III: Bismarck and the realm . 3rd edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1988, p. 657.
- Michael Kotulla: German Constitutional Law 1806-1918. A collection of documents and introductions. Volume 1: Germany as a whole, Anhalt states and Baden , Berlin 2006, p. 211.
- Klaus Erich Pollmann: Parliamentarism in the North German Confederation 1867–1870, Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1985, SS 201, also fn. 16.
- Dietmar Willoweit: German constitutional history. From the Franconian Empire to the reunification of Germany . 5th edition, CH Beck, Munich 2005, p. 332.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume III: Bismarck and the realm . 3rd edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1988, p. 813.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume III: Bismarck and the realm . 3rd edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1988, pp. 809-811.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume III: Bismarck and the realm . 3rd edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1988, p. 812.
- Ernst Rudolf Huber: German constitutional history since 1789. Volume III: Bismarck and the realm . 3rd edition, W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1988, pp. 813/814, 826.
- Angela Bauer-Kirsch: The Constitutional Convention of Herrenchiemsee - Pioneer of the Parliamentary Council . Diss., Bonn 2005, pp. 82, 105, 144.
- Angela Bauer-Kirsch: The Constitutional Convention of Herrenchiemsee - Pioneer of the Parliamentary Council . Diss., Bonn 2005, appendix from p. XXXIV.