German national club

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Eisenach, Gasthaus Phantasie , founding place of the national association

The German National Association was a party-like organization that emerged from a union of liberals and moderate democrats in 1859 and existed until 1867.

Tasks, goals and members

The aim of the national association was the creation of a liberal small German state under Prussian leadership with a national parliament. If necessary, they were ready to accept a temporary dictatorship by Prussia as long as it would lead to the formation of a German nation-state. The "small German" solution meant the abandonment of the German-speaking areas of Austria.

The plan was to found a national progressive party, but this failed because of differences of opinion between North German and South German representatives about Prussia's leadership role. The association rejected a revolution , only some parts of the democratic wing tried to follow this path. Instead, the focus was on following all legal routes to nation state formation. The Prussian government was to be a partner in this project, as the members of the association only trusted it to bring about a unification of Germany.

Important members of the association were Rudolf von Bennigsen , Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch , August Ludwig von Rochau and Feodor Streit . Streit was the only democrat in the management of the association and held the important post of managing director until 1865 . Lorenz Theodor Nagel was managing director from 1865 to 1867 . In the club that dominated educated middle class .


The association was formed under the impression of the New Era in Prussia and the Northern Italian War ( Sardinian War ). Preparatory work for founding the association was carried out in September 1858 at the congress of German economists in Gotha and in July 1859 in Eisenach at the meeting of the democrats and in Hanover at the meeting of the liberals. On August 14, 1859, both groups finally met in Eisenach and passed the 2nd Eisenach Declaration, which can be understood as a program of the association. There they called for the election of a national parliament, the creation of a central authority, the end of the Confederation and, if necessary, the transfer of Germany's diplomatic and military forces to Prussia. Every man should put the goal of unity before every goal of a party and support the Prussian government, if it acts for Germany, to the fullest.

Despite the fact that the association had a clear “small German orientation”, out of consideration for the southern German democrats and liberals, Austria was not mentioned negatively, which was still sharply expressed by the liberals in Hanover.

The official establishment of the association was on 15./16. September 1859 in Frankfurt am Main . After that, the association was in the organizational and programmatic structure for a while. From the goal of a nation-state, the association soon developed a tendency towards national symbols. In this context, the fleet collection is to be understood, which was decided by the association at the 1st general assembly. From now on, the association collected funds for the purchase of the German fleet from 1848 and handed these funds over to the Prussian War Minister von Roon until 1862.

From the end of the "New Era" to the end of the association

When the "New Era" in Prussia came to an end in 1861/62, but the Prussian government failed to make any attempts at German unification and in 1862 Bismarck was appointed as the new Prussian Prime Minister, the association had to change its strategy. Since cooperation with the Prussian government was out of the question after Bismarck had opened the battle over the army and constitutional conflict, the association drifted to the left in 1862. He raised the imperial constitution of March 28, 1849 to his program and declared: "It essentially contains everything." In fact, the right wing of the association could be found in the Prussian head of the constitution (in the small German version), while the left wing particularly valued the electoral and fundamental rights of the constitution.

In addition, the association increasingly put pressure on standardization. After the German Progressive Party was founded in Prussia in 1861 as an "executive branch of the National Association" (the leadership of the DFP was provided by the Prussian leadership of the National Association), progress parties were founded in German medium-sized and small states from 1862 onwards , largely initiated by the national association. The hope was that these parties would be as successful as the Prussian (it won the election in the year it was founded). It was hoped to achieve parliamentary majorities and put the governments of the states under pressure. The tactic was that the other German governments should put all pressure on the Prussian government.

From 1863 there was a crisis in the association. Due to the Schleswig-Holstein crisis , the association had given up its agitation in favor of the newly formed committee of 36 . It was hoped that the two duchies would be freed from voluntary associations and become parts of the new German nation-state. At that moment they were overtaken by Bismarck. This formed an alliance with Austria and together they conquered the duchies on the basis of international legal titles, but not on the basis of national unification. With this, Bismarck had duped the agitators of the 36 Committee.

After the Schleswig-Holstein crisis ended, efforts were made to reactivate the association, which took place in October 1864. However, from now on the club had more to struggle with than that it could have devoted itself to realizing its goals. When the German-German War broke out in 1866 and subsequently the North German Confederation , the association split and drifted to the right. Because the right wing of the club was now looking for a compromise with Otto von Bismarck and was ready to approve his indemnity bill in 1866. The left wing split off from the club. The right wing now considered itself capable of governing, if only as a junior partner. The National Liberal Party emerged from the right wing .

In 1862 the club had over 25,000 members and numerous control positions in mass organizations such as gymnastics or shooting clubs, in 1867 it had just 1,000 members. Nevertheless, the National Liberal Party that emerged from the remnants won both the elections in 1867 for the North German Reichstag and in 1871 for the All-German Reichstag.


The committee was the main organization of the association. He was democratically elected at the general assemblies and elected the board from among his number. The democratic elections were weakened by the fact that the committee had free co-option rights . According to Shlomo Na'aman , he was the “governing oligarchy” of the association. A special feature was the consequent centralized organization of the association: Each member was directly subordinate to the headquarters in Coburg (later Frankfurt).


  • Andreas Biefang (edit.): The German National Association 1859–1867. Board and committee minutes. Droste, Düsseldorf 1995, ISBN 3-7700-5188-2 .
  • Andreas Biefang: Political bourgeoisie in Germany 1857–1868. National organizations and elites (= contributions to the history of parliamentarism and political parties. Vol. 102). Droste, Düsseldorf 1994, ISBN 3-7700-5180-7 .
  • Gerhard Eisfeld: The emergence of the liberal parties in Germany 1858-1870. Study on the organizations and programs of the Liberals and Democrats. Literature and current affairs, Hanover 1969, DNB 456526994 .
  • Shlomo Na'aman : The German National Association. The political constitution of the German bourgeoisie 1859–1867 (= contributions to the history of parliamentarism and political parties. Vol. 81). Droste, Düsseldorf 1987, ISBN 3-7700-5139-4 .

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