Prussian State Council (1817-1918)

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The Prussian State Council was an advisory body in the Kingdom of Prussia from 1817 to 1848 and again from 1854 . Its members did not have the title Council of State , but were allowed to call themselves members of the Council of State .



After Prussia's defeat by Napoleon in the battle of Jena and Auerstedt in 1806, the Prussian reforms began . In many areas one orientated oneself to the changes in France . A much-noticed innovation was the founding of the Conseil d'État (German: Council of State) by Napoleon in 1798. In the states of the Rhine Confederation , councils of state were set up as advisory bodies based on this model. B. the Constitution of the Kingdom of Westphalia . Secret councils also existed in many territories in the HRR . In Prussia this was the Secret Council College until 1808 .

Even Heinrich Friedrich Karl vom und zum Stein suggested in Nassau Memorandum and its draft regulation on 24 November 1808 (which came into force never), the establishment of a State Council with consultative and legislative function before. The institution of a council of state is also contained in a decree by Karl August von Hardenberg of October 27, 1810. A de facto introduction of a State Council did not take place.

Introduction 1817

With the ordinance on the introduction of the State Council of March 20, 1817, the State Council was formed. It consisted of

  • the prince of the royal house when they are eighteen
  • Members qua office, namely
    • the State Chancellor and President of the State Council
    • the field marshals
    • the real ministers of state in charge of the administration
    • the Minister-State Secretary who keeps the minutes and reports of the State Council and is responsible for the formalities of the course of business
    • the postmaster general;
    • the chief of the high tribunal;
    • the first President of the Chamber of Accounts
    • the Secret Cabinet Council
    • the officer who gives the lecture on military matters to the king
    • the commanding generals in the provinces, but only if they are specially appointed;
    • the upper presidents in the provinces, but only if they are specially appointed.
  • from civil servants who, through the special trust of the king, receive a seat and vote in the State Council and are appointed by the latter.

The State Council formed seven committees (called departments) with five members each

  • foreign affairs
  • Warfare
  • Judiciary
  • Finances
  • Trade and commerce
  • Objects of the Ministries of the Interior and the Police
  • Cult and Public Education

The pair push of 1831

After Wilhelm von Humboldt re- entered the State Council in 1830, the climate of the deliberations changed. In particular when advising the town council for Westphalia, an opposition to the State Ministry developed, led by Humboldt. In a series of votes, Humboldt succeeded in organizing a majority against the government's conservative policies. Under the influence of the July Revolution of 1830, the king feared liberal tendencies. On July 12, 1831, the king issued a cabinet order to the government, which asked the ministers to better prepare submissions to the State Council. A little later he decreed the pair's push of 1831. The Council of State was expanded to include General von Rauch, Bishop Neander, the Secret Chief Government Councilor Bernuth, the Secret Chief Finance Councilor von Stülpnagel, the Secret Chief Justice Councilor Müller and the Secret Chief Audit Councilor Blanchard.

March Revolution and Reaction Era

After the March Revolution of 1848, the State Council was generally viewed as an outdated institution. Neither the draft constitution of the Prussian National Assembly nor the constitution imposed in 1848 envisaged the State Council as an institution. The secretariat of the Council of State was dissolved, and State Secretary Bode was put on hold on October 1, 1848.

In the era of reaction , the State Council was reactivated in 1854 at the personal request of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV . New members were appointed (the previous members remained) and the Council of State invited again for deliberations. A part of the members of the State Council formed the "narrower assembly". On July 4, 1854, the general assembly of the State Council met in the Berlin Palace and the members were introduced to their office by the King. From 1854, only meetings of the General Assembly were convened, for the other members membership in the State Council was a pure honor. Few cases have been referred to the State Council for deliberation. In October 1856 the General Assembly met for the last time, and then the body fell asleep.

Reactivation by Bismarck

At the instigation of Otto von Bismarck , the Council of State was reactivated in 1884. On June 11, 1884, the king appointed a total of 70 new members of the Council of State. Undersecretary of State Moeller was appointed State Secretary of the State Council. The basis of the work of the State Council was the regulation concerning the negotiations of the State Council. The regulation adapted the departments of the State Council to the structure of the ministries. Above all, the State Council was now subordinate to the State Ministry. The ceremonial reopening took place on October 25, 1884 in the Elisabeth Hall of the Berlin City Palace. The ministries only gave little support to the work of the State Council and again only submitted a few proposals to it. The State Council under Bismarck met for the last time in 1890.

The last meeting in 1895

After Hans von Kanitz had introduced a bill to the Reichstag to monopolize the import of grain and to introduce minimum prices for grain, Kaiser Wilhelm II surprisingly declared at the meeting of the State Ministry on January 4, 1895 that the Council of State would be convened and that this draft would be discussed . This led to intensive discussions. A constitutional problem was the participation of Otto von Bismarck. The legal question was whether his membership had expired when he left office or whether he was a member for life because of his appointment in 1854. The political question was Kaiser Wilhelm II's policy of reconciliation towards Bismarck: Chancellor Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst visited Bismarck at the request of Kaiser Wilhelm II and declared that he would become Vice President of the Council of State when he appeared (Wilhelm II himself wanted to chair the meetings). Nevertheless, Bismarck decided not to attend the meeting (which took place shortly before his 80th birthday), and Hohenlohe became vice-president. The second question was how to secure a majority for the government position. The government considered a pair push and submitted lists of names to Kaiser Wilhelm II. Instead, a "closer meeting" of the State Council was convened. The 16 members of the Council of State selected in this way, advised by 26 large agrarians and financial magnates, met from March 12 to 21, under the chairmanship of the emperor.

This was the last meeting of the State Council. It was never called up again, new members were not appointed, and the State Council was not repealed. With the November Revolution its existence ended de jure: At this point in time it consisted of only 8 members apart from the members qua office. The law on the provisional order of state authority in Prussia of March 20, 1919 no longer provided for the State Council. The Constitution of the Free State of Prussia of November 30, 1920 again provided for a State Council. However, this was not in the tradition of the old State Council, but was the representation of the Prussian provinces and was more oriented towards the Reichsrat .


The task of the State Council was to advise on legislative proposals (these laws could also be ordinances, decrees or the like). The State Council had no right of initiative, it only dealt with documents that were assigned to it. The relevant ministry handed over the documents to the Secretariat of the State Council. They had the right to request additional documents. The projects were then discussed in the committees of the State Council and later in plenary. The State Council had no decision-making authority, but gave a vote for or against the bill and was able to propose changes. Usually the monarch followed this vote. If the monarch took part in the meetings of the State Council, he left the meeting while voting in order not to influence the result. To be effective, the law passed had to be countersigned by the responsible minister and the President of the Council of State . This only concerned the laws which the State Council had dealt with. If a law was not dealt with in the State Council, it entered into force without this countersignature.

The proportion of laws submitted to the Council of State decreased rapidly. In 1818 all 16 of 16 suitable laws were discussed, in 1821 10 out of 31, in 1826 there were still four out of 30. According to a list by Duke Carl von Mecklenburg , one hundred cases had been dealt with in the State Council by March 1827 and 182 suitable cases were not submitted to him . In a cabinet order dated December 9, 1827, the King determined that the President of the Council of State had to submit to him separately all documents on which he and the government had different opinions regarding the treatment in the Council of State.

When the State Council was reorganized in 1854, the legislative process changed. Because laws were now only finally dealt with in the state parliament , the consultation of the State Council preceded the deliberation in parliament. The drafts that had passed the State Council could now be changed in the Landtag. Accordingly, the countersignature was omitted.

Meeting place

The State Council met from 1817 to 1848 in the State Council Chamber of the Berlin City Palace . The premises designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel for this purpose housed the President of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Advancement of Science from 1910 . During the Second World War , the rooms remained almost intact until they were destroyed when the castle was blown up in 1950.



For the members of the State Council, see the list of members of the Prussian State Council (1817–1918) .



  • Joachim Lilla : The Prussian State Council 1921–1933. A biographical manual. With a documentation of the State Councilors appointed in the “Third Reich” (= manuals on the history of parliamentarism and political parties. Volume 13). Droste, Düsseldorf 2005, ISBN 3-7700-5271-4 , p. 9.
  • Hans Schneider : The Prussian State Council 1817–1918. A contribution to the constitutional and legal history of Prussia. CH Beck, Munich 1952 (at the same time: Berlin, Business School, Habil.-Schr., 1939/1940).
  • Ordinance on the introduction of the Council of State of March 20, 1817

Individual evidence

  1. Christian Schmitz: The proposals and drafts for the realization of the Prussian constitutional promise 1806-1819, 2010, ISBN 9783899717914 , p. 180, digitized
  2. The regulation was drawn up by the State Ministry and put into effect by the King by decree of June 11, 1884. There was no publication.
  3. GS. P. 543
  4. On the State Council Chamber , see Goerd Peschken , Hans-Werner Klünner: Das Berliner Schloß. Classic Berlin . Propylaeen, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-549-06652-X , pp. 542-544, ill. Plate 289.