1863 Reform Act of the German Confederation

This is about an OTL political proposal by the Austrian government. I post it here because it seems rather unknown in anglophone AH discussions.

By 1863 it had become obvious that the liberal German national movement was a political force that could not be ignored. So Austria tried to win it over by making concessions. The intention of this was to reform the German Confederation into a closer, more powerful union. The Congress of Frankfurt was convened to debate this proposal, and after deliberation, a final version was agreed on on September 1st.
But as Bismarck convinced his king (Wilhelm I of Prussia) not to attend, it went nowhere. Officially Prussia denied its approval because the Reform Act did not create a directly elected Nationalversammlung (national assembly) as parliamentary body.

The AH possibilities are obvious.

I will not try to translate the whole document, but paraphrase the important parts.

+ The management of federal affairs is transferred to a Directorium of representatives of the sovereign princes and free cities of Germany.
Final version:
There will be six members of the Directorium: The Emperor of Austria, the King of Prussia, the King of Bavaria are the permanent first, second and third directors. The fourth director is one of the Kings of Hanover, Saxony and Württemberg in annual rotation. The fifth director is elected for three years by the rulers of Baden, Hesse-Cassel, Hesse and by Rhine, Holstein+Lauenburg (Denmark), Luxemburg+Limburg (NL), the two Mecklenburgs, Brunswick and Nassau out of their midst. The sixth director is elected by the rulers of the remaining, smaller, states and the cities.

[Austrian proposal: Five members: Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, in rotation two of three members elected by the sovereigns of the VIII. (Württemberg, Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt), IX. (Saxony, Hesse-Cassel, Nassau) and X. (Hanover, Brunswick, Holstein, Oldenburg, the Mecklenburgs) Federal Army Corps.]

The members of the Directorium can send plenipotentiaries to Frankfurt or attend in person. Presiding power is Austria, with Prussia as her deputy. Resolutions are decided by the majority of votes.
The Directorium is advised by a military committee, a financial committee, a judiciary committee and a committee for trade and tarriffs.
The Directorium is the executive organ of the German Confederation and its representative under international law. It is reponsible for the war and peacetime defense of the GC and the prevention of internal strife between member states. It has to ensure that federal legislation is implemented by the member states, if necessary by the use of force.

+ A Bundesrat (federal council) of representatives of the state governments will be created. The states have a different number of votes: Austria and Prussia three votes each, Bavaria, Saxony, Hanover, Würtemberg, Baden, Hesse-Cassel, Hesse-Darmstadt, Holstein and Luxemburg one vote each, the Thuringian Saxes one vote together, the Mecklenburgs one vote together, Brunswick and Nassau one together, Oldenburg, Anhalt and Schwarzburg one together, the Free Cities one vote together, Reuß, Liechtenstein, Waldeck, Schaumburg and Lippe one vote together.
Presiding power is Austria with Prussia as deputy.
The Bundesrat has controlling powers, as its approval is necessary for some decisions of the Directorium.

+ A Versammlung der Bundesabgeordneten (assembly of federal delegates) will have 302 members. 75 will be elected by the Austrian Reichsrath out of its members from the area of the GC, 75 by the Prussian Landtag in the same way, the other by the parliamentary assemblies of the smaller member: 27 by Bavaria, 15 each by Saxony, Hanover, Württemberg, 12 by Baden 12, 9 each by the Hesses, 5 by Holstein und Lauenburg 5, 4 by Luxemburg und Limburg, 3 by Brunswick, 6 together by the Mecklenburgs, 4 by Nassau, 3 by Saxe-Weimar, 2 each by Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Altenburg and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, 3 by Oldenburg, 2 by Anhalt, 2 by Hamburg, 1 each by the other states and cities.
The delegates are not bound to instrictions by their electing bodies. They will receive allowances and expenses.
Every three years, the Versammlung will convene in the month of May in Frankfurt. The Directorium with the approval of the Bundesrat can convoke it for extraordinary sessions. The Assembly has legislative powers regarding changes to the confederal constitution, the budget and the establishment of general guidelines for the member states concerning the press and associations, citizenship laws, emigration laws and other affairs put under its authority by resolutions of the Directorium. It also has the right to initiate legislation, just as the Directorium has.

+ After the Assembly has concluded its session, there will be a Fürstenversammlung as a congress of the sovereign princes on supreme magistrates of the Confederation. This congress will deliberate on the resolutions of the delegates' assembly and how to implement them. Some matters like the admissions of new members or changes in the number of votes/seats are exclusively decided by the princes' congress.

+ A Bundesgericht (federal court) will be established as supreme judicial court and as court of arbritration for quarrels between member states, between members of ruling houses on dynastic matters and between the ruler of a member state and his parliament.
The Bundesgericht will have its seat in Frankfurt, its 15 justices will be appointed for life by the member states and the Directorium.

The whole document (in German) can be found here:
http://www.verfassungen.de/de/de06-66/reformakte63.htm
 
The proposal is described (more sketchily) in AJP Taylor's Bismarck, the Man and the Statesman.

The $64,000 question, of course, is whether Prussia will come on board. Bismarck, by all accounts, had a terrific fight to stop Wilhelm I from going, so perhaps if he'd been drowned at Biarritz - - .

Even had Wilhelm attended, there could still have been problems over command of German military forces. However, Wilhelm was in a terrific fight with his Parliament, and seems to have believed that his throne was in danger. So he may have been willing to concede more, in return for a provision that the Confederation would assist any member state to suppress insurrection.

If Austria and Prussia are agreed, then for the lesser states it's probably a case of "Shut up and do as you're told", and the scheme goes ahead. If so, it faces an almost immediate test when the Schleswig-Holstein question blows up. Here things get uncertain. Without Bismarck, are the Danes not given that 48-hour ultimatum, and if given more time will they back down over the November Constitution? Conceivably, but I'm inclined to doubt it. OTL, Denmark refused compromise proposals even when German troops were on the Limfjord, so it doesn't sound hopeful.

So things go much as OTL. The war still goes ahead, the other powers still wash their hands, and Denmark still gets clobbered. The Germans celebrate with a slap-up Imperial Coronation in Frankfurt, with the King of Prussia placing the crown on Franz Josef's head.

One interesting point. Will Christian IX still make his offer of bringing Denmark into the Confederation, and if so, with no Bismarck around is there any chance of it being accepted? Still a longshot imho, but you never know.
 
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Part II:
How did the Reform Act (try to) reform the German Confederation?

The Directorium is a completely new institution - a smaller group of six people making the day-to-day decisions. How would it work?
Probably good as long as Austria and Prussia are on the same side. If they are not, I have the hunch that in most cases Bavaria and the other kingdom will go with Austria, and with the other two it depends, but they might go with Prussia. So there might be quite a number of stalemates.
Even if there isn't I cannot imagine that Prussia would stand beint constantly overruled. Have it happen a few times over important issues and the guns will come out. But depending on *when* that happens and if it is a well-planned affair or a spur-of-the-moment thing, the result may vary extremely.

The Bundesrat is the weakened Bundesrat of the old Bundesakte, moved down from highest institution of the CG to some sort of supervising role.

The Assembly of Delegates is a kind of parliament, but in a very indirect way. The highly non-equal voting conditions in Autria and Prussia would insure that it was far from truly representative. IOW much less than Germany had in 1848. Probably would have been a permanent point of criticism by most liberals (and, of course, socialists) who would have demanded direct and equal voting.
Plus, they would meet for one month every three years *and* most of their resolutions could be scrapped by the subsequent congress of German princes. So, a very weak concession to democratic demands. I guess that it would go on for six, perhaps nine years before some conflict started over the pointlessnes of this democracy theater.

The Bundesgericht seems to be the less problematic part of the reforms, actually.
 
Probably good as long as Austria and Prussia are on the same side. If they are not, I have the hunch that in most cases Bavaria and the other kingdom will go with Austria, and with the other two it depends, but they might go with Prussia. So there might be quite a number of stalemates.

Even if there isn't I cannot imagine that Prussia would stand beint constantly overruled. Have it happen a few times over important issues and the guns will come out. But depending on *when* that happens and if it is a well-planned affair or a spur-of-the-moment thing, the result may vary extremely.

What in particular is Prussia likely to be overruled about?

I'd have thought Austria more likely to have this problem, at least in the short term. At this point, Franz Josef was still fantasising about regaining Lombardy, and even restoring the deposed Italian Princes. In 1866 the Austrian South Army was allocated twice as much telegraph wire as North Army, indicating that deeper penetration was hoped for in Italy. FJ also made sympathetic noises about the Polish Revolt of 1863, presumably hoping to install a Habsburg King in Warsaw, though in the end he was too cautious to make a move.

Prussia, of course, had no interest in any of this, and indeed would have been downright hostile to the Polish scheme. So she will oppose action, and the smaller states will probably concur. If AJP Taylor can be believed, they normally sided with whichever of the big boys wished to do nothing.

OTOH, it's not clear that Wilhelm I was looking for anything in particular - not even Schleswig-Holstein until Bismarck put the idea of annexation into his head. So there's not too much for him to be frustrated about. In 1863 his big concern was security at home, since he greatly exaggerated the threat to his position from the liberals in the Landtag. So he'll be mainly looking for support against domestic insurrrection, and in return will no doubt be happy enough to reciprocate should the Hungarians give Franz Josef any trouble.
 
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Let us say Bismarck drowns in August 1862 and William I does attend the Congress of Princes. William would probably be shrewd enough to demand a few concessions from Francis Joseph before agreeing to any reforms. William may have asked for Austria and Prussia to be considered equals in the Confederation meaning they would share the presidencies of both the Bundesrat and the Directory. William would also probably insist that Prussia always sit (and possibly chair) any military committees. In light of the domestic problems he was having getting budget approval for the Prussian army; William may have even negotiated for a hereditary “constable” position over the federal army for kings of Prussia in the event of war. Francis Joseph would not have given Wilhelm everything he wanted, but I am confident that he would have been able to find enough common ground to get Wilhelm to approve of a reformed Confederation.

With the reformed German Confederation in place, Denmark is still going to lose Schleswig-Holstein in TTL. The difference is that in TTL, Francis Joseph and William will allow Duke Frederick VIII to rule Schleswig-Holstein and join the German Confederation as a sovereign state. Denmark still will not join the Confederation in TTL. People tend to forget with the constitution of 1849 in effect, Christian IX of Denmark would have needed the consent of the Rigsdag before joining the Confederation. As for Francis Joseph’s ambitions in Poland and Italy, Prussia and the other German states would not support him but Austria in TTL would have the option of having a more aggressive foreign policy without having to worry about fighting Prussia. Considering Francis Joseph’s personality, I do not see him starting wars against Italy, France, and/or Russia without the support of Prussia. However, with the question of German hegemony settled, I could easily see Francis Joseph reforming Hungary’s government to the benefit of the Habsburg dynasty.

In TTL, I could see Francis Joseph and William coming to a joint agreement with Alexander II of Russia over the Polish Question as well as the Balkans. Perhaps, in this TTL there would even be a version of OTL’s Three Emperors’ League. In TTL, Francis Joseph and Alexander would probably come to a formal agreement (as in OTL) concerning the Ottoman Empire, with Austria agreeing to split any potential conquests in the Balkans with Russia. In TTL, Russia and Austria will still fall out over the Balkans, because no Great Power would want Russia to control Constantinople. But Austria would still likely conquer Bosnia in TTL and I see an alliance between French Empire (No Franco-Prussian war, Napoleon III keeps his throne in TTL) and Russia against Austria and Prussia. With Francis Joseph at the head of the German Confederation, I do not see any German state aggressively seeking colonies or building a formidable navy, so in TTL I do not see Great Britain clashing with the Confederation. In fact, Great Britain (due to their numerous points of contention with Russia and France around the world) may even ally with the Confederation in TTL.
 
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