Indemnity Act

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The indemnity law was a law of the Prussian state " ... concerning the granting of indemnity (indemnity) in relation to the management of the state budget from 1862 onwards and the authorization for state expenditure for the year 1866 from September 14, 1866 ". It was announced on September 26, 1866 (GS. P. 563).

The Prussian House of Representatives granted the Prussian government (especially Otto von Bismarck ) impunity in the constitutional conflict of 1862 before the North German Confederation was founded .


Due to the dualism between Prussia and Austria , the Prussian King Wilhelm I and the Prussian Minister of War Albrecht von Roon considered an army reform to be essential. The annual number of recruits had not increased again despite the sharp increase in population since the Congress of Vienna . The liberally dominated parliament, which had budgetary rights according to the Prussian constitution , did not speak out against such an army reform in principle and recognized the factual enlargement of the army as necessary, but refused to extend the basic military service of conscripts from two to three years and spoke are also in favor of a stronger Landwehr . As a result, the planned budget was rejected and Wilhelm I was already close to resigning in favor of his son, who was regarded as liberal. But the appointment of the ultra-conservative politician Otto von Bismarck as Prime Minister was to turn the tide again: With the political trick of the so-called gap theory , according to which the monarch as sovereign had to make the final decision in a controversy between the monarch and parliament and manor house Prime Minister the Parliament bluntly, which is why he had to face the accusation of violating the constitution in the long run.

Since the army reform was carried out without financial approval from parliament, the House of Representatives protested against Bismarck's actions and terminated the political cooperation of the Prussian king ( May address 1863 ), unsuccessfully demanded the dismissal of Bismarck and greater influence of parliament on the composition of the government. Thereupon King Wilhelm I dissolved the parliament on the charge of " illegitimate behavior". From this point on, Bismarck ruled without a budget legitimized by parliament and enforced Prussian hegemony against Austria during the German War .

In the constitutional conflict, the Prussian Chamber Opposition took the view that the government would stand outside the constitution without a properly approved budget . In contrast, Bismarck constructed his " gap theory ". On the basis of this constitutionally questionable theory , Bismarck ruled 1862-1865 without a budget passed by the House of Representatives and in fact against parliament .

The indemnity bill

After the victory of Königgrätz over the Austrian troops on July 3, 1866, relieved by his foreign policy successes and by considerable conservative votes in the chamber elections on the same day, he introduced the law on indemnity ( indemnity bill ). After the victory over Austria, Bismarck wanted to secure impunity for his actions in the dispute with the House of Representatives. It subsequently confirmed the legality of the budgets for the years 1862–1865, but at the same time explicitly granted the Chamber's budgetary rights as provided for in the constitution and thus represented an offer of reconciliation to the Liberals at a very cleverly chosen time .

Bismarck admitted to having interpreted the constitution unilaterally. In return, he was certified that he could not have acted otherwise in this exceptional situation. This attempt at reconciliation with the liberals was successful: the indemnity bill was passed on September 3, 1866 with 230 votes to 75, thus ending the constitutional conflict.

The Liberals split over the indemnity bill. While the Progressive Party rejected the proposal, the National Liberal Party , which was now being formed, subsequently approved the army reform implemented by Bismarck and turned to his course of a small German Reich unification (excluding Austria). The members of the National Liberals insisted that the early creation of a nation state would inevitably lead to parliamentarization .


On September 3, the House of Representatives accepted the indemnity bill with 230 votes to 75 and 4 abstentions and was unanimously confirmed by the Prussian mansion on September 8. The indemnity bill came into force on September 14, 1866. The army and constitutional conflict in Prussia was over.

Content (complete)

The Indemnity Act was divided into 4 articles. It was signed by the Prussian King Wilhelm and the entire Prussian cabinet.

"We Wilhelm, by God's grace King of Prussia etc. decree, with the consent of both houses of the Diet of the Monarchy, which follows:"

Article 1: “The overviews of government revenues and expenditures attached as annexes to the current law are intended for the years 1862, 1863, 1864 and 1865 instead of the constitutional budget law to be agreed annually before the start of the budget year as the basis for accounting and serve to discharge the state government. "

Article 2: “The state government is granted indemnity with regard to the administration carried out since the beginning of 1862 without a statutorily established state budget budget, subject to the resolution of the state parliament on the discharge of the state government after the annual accounts have been presented, in such a way that it takes account of responsibility the state government is to be held as if the administration had been carried out during the period mentioned on the basis of legally established and timely published state budget budgets. "

Article 3: "The state government is authorized for the year 1866 to the expenditure of the current administration up to the amount of 154 million Thaler."

Article 4: "The state government is obliged to submit evidence of the state income and expenditure of the year 1866 in the course of 1867 to the state parliament."

"Documented with our signature and the imprinted royal seal."
"Given Berlin, September 14th, 1866."


  • Rolf Helfert: Prussian liberalism and the army reform of 1860 . Holos, Bonn 1989. ISBN 3-926216-90-5 .
  • Ernst Rudolf Huber : German constitutional history since 1789 . Volume 3: Bismarck and the Reich , W. Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 1963, pp. 333-369.
  • Ferdinand Lassalle : About the constitution - speech on April 16, 1862 in Berlin (EVA speeches. Vol. 8). European Publishing House, Hamburg 1993. ISBN 3-434-50108-8 .
  • Rudolf Virchow : Speeches on the constitutional conflict in the Prussian House of Representatives in the years 1862-1866 . Buchhandlung National-Verein GmbH, Munich 1912.


  1. ^ Theodor Schieder : From the German Confederation to the German Empire . (= Gebhardt : Handbuch der deutschen Geschichte , 9th edition, vol. 15) dtv, Munich, 9th edition, 1984. p. 184.