Federal Convention (German Confederation)

Palais Thurn und Taxis in Frankfurt was the seat of the Federal Convention of the German Confederation

The Federal Convention (German: Bundesversammlung or Bundestag) was the only central institution of the German Confederation from 1815 until 1848, and from 1850 until 1866. The Federal Assembly had its seat in the Palais Thurn und Taxis in Frankfurt. It was organized as a permanent congress of envoys.

The German Confederation and its Federal Assembly came into existence as a result of the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after the defeat of Napoleon. The original task was to create a new constitutional structure for Germany after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire eight years before. The princes of the German states wanted to keep their sovereignty, therefore the German Confederation was created as a loose confederation of independent monarchist states, but included four free cities as well. The founding act was the German Federal Act of June 8, 1815 (German: Deutsche Bundesakte[1]), which was part of the treaty of the Congress of Vienna.

The Federal Assembly was created as a permanent congress of envoys of all member states, which replaced the former imperial central power of the Holy Roman Empire. The Federal Assembly took its seat at the palais Thurn und Taxis in Frankfurt, where it met once a week after November 5, 1816.

The Federal Assembly was presided over by the Austrian delegate and consisted of two executive bodies: the inner council and the plenary session. Its members were not elected, neither by popular vote nor by state parliaments (which usually didn't exist in the member states of the German Confederation), but had been appointed by the state governments or by the state's prince.

The inner council consisted of 17 envoys (one seat each for the 11 larger states, 5 seats for the 23 smaller states and one seat for the four free cities). The inner council determined the legislative agenda and decided which issues should be discussed by the plenary session. Decisions of the inner circle required an absolute majority.

The plenary session had 69 seats, according roughly to the state's sizes. The plenary session was involved especially in decisions regarding constitutional changes, which required a majority of 2/3 of the plenary session.

The decisions of the Federal Assembly had been mandatory for the member states, but the execution of those decisions remained under the control of each member state. As well, the member states remained fully sovereign regarding customs, police and military.

Until the March Revolution of 1848 and again after 1850 the Federal Assembly of the German Confederation was the main instrument of the reactionary forces of Germany to suppress democracy, liberalism and nationalism. For example during 1835/36 the Federal Assembly decreeded rules for censorship, which marked the works of Heinrich Heine and other authors as illegal in all states of the German Confederation.

After the March Revolution of 1848 the Federal Assembly of the German Confederation became inactive and handed over its authority to the provisional central government and the National Assembly in Frankfurt, that tried to unite Germany in a democratic way.

After the failure of the revolution the German Confederation was restored between 1850 and 1851. The Federal Assembly was reestablished in September 1850 and was used to suppress all democratic and liberal achievements of the failed revolution.

The Federal Assembly was dissolved after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the Prussian annexation of the confederation's capital Frankfurt. The Federal Assembly was succeeded by the Federal Council of the North German Confederation and four years later by the Reichstag of the German Empire.


  1. Deutsche Bundesakte 1815 - German Federal Act, 1815


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