Dissolution of the Second Chamber, April 28, 1849

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Cologne, April 28. The rumour already current in the town at midday today was confirmed this evening: the King and his martial-law Government have dissolved the Second Chamber.[1]

The details can be found below, de dato Berlin. By this act the King and his martial-law Ministers have once again broken their word. According to the imposed martial-law Charter of December 5 [2] the Chambers were expressly convened “to revise the Constitution”. Only after the first Parliament convened under this Constitution had revised this botch-work was the latter to be regarded as complete and definitively valid. This is how it was imposed in December of last year.

Hence the Chambers had at least a partially constitutional mandate. So long as they had not carried out this mandate, so long as they together with the Crown had not revised the Constitution, they could not be dissolved, any more than the Assembly of blessed memory convened to agree upon the Prussian Constitution.[3]

Nevertheless it has been dispersed — this miserable Second Chamber, summoned under the sabre dictatorship and the menace of the bayonet, by means of bribery, intimidation and deception!

This is what is called “Prussian honour”, “Prussian loyalty"!

If the Ministers had waited a few more weeks, perhaps the Austro-Hungarian revolution would have spared them the trouble and dispersed both Chambers.

As for the significance of this new coup d'état, it is quite obvious.

We are going to be made to experience the rule of the sabre raised to the second power. We shall have most graciously foisted on us laws on the press, on associations, on civil disturbances, on posters etc., to such an extent that the German philistine’s eyes will fill with tears. There will be persecution, disciplinary punishment, arrests; the state of siege will be made universal and, to cap it all, finally a new Constitution will be introduced, and an electoral law with property qualifications as well as a House of Lords, a Constitution in which the present first Chamber will figure as the second.

In short, things will be pushed as far as Prussian pluck will permit.

We, for our part, wish only that Herr Manteuffel will once more convene the United Diet[4] of blessed memory.

  1. On April 27, 1849 the Prussian Government dissolved the Second Chamber because, at its sitting on April 21, it had approved the imperial Constitution drawn up by the Frankfurt National Assembly. The Chamber took this resolution on the initiative of the opposition deputies, in spite of the head of the Government’s statement that the King had definitely decided to reject the imperial Constitution
  2. The Constitution imposed (“granted”) by King Frederick William IV on December 5, 1848, dissolved the Prussian National Assembly and introduced a two-chamber system; the First Chamber was transformed by age and property qualifications into a privileged chamber of the nobility. According to the electoral law of December 6, 1848, the right to vote in the two-stage elections to the Second Chamber was granted only to so-called independent Prussians. The Constitution provided for the suspension, in case of war or disorder, of freedom of the individual, inviolability of the dwelling, freedom of the press, assembly, association and so forth. The royal authority was vested with very wide powers — the King was authorised to convene or dissolve the Chambers, to appoint Ministers, declare war or conclude a peace treaty. He was vested with full executive power, while he exercised legislative power together with the Chambers. Later on, anti-democratic revisions of the Constitution were repeatedly made on the initiative of Prussian ruling circles.
  3. The reference is to the Prussian National Assembly dissolved by the Government on December 5, 1848. For its principle of “agreement with the Crown.
    The Prussian National Assembly dissolved by King Frederick William IV on December 5, 1848, was ironically referred to by Marx and Engels as the “Agreement Assembly” (“Vereinbarungsversammlung”), because it was guided by the “theory of agreement”. According to this, the Assembly was to draw up a Constitution not on the basis of sovereign and constituent rights, but by “agreement with the Crown” (the principle formulated by the Camphausen-Hansemann Government and adopted by the majority of the Assembly). The Crown used this theory of agreement as a screen to cover up preparations for a counter-revolutionary coup d'état.
  4. The United Diet — an assembly of representatives from the eight Provincial Diets of Prussia and similarly based on the estate principle. The United Diet sanctioned new taxes and loans, took part in the discussion of new Bills and had the right to address petitions to the King. The First United Diet, which opened on April 11, 1847, was dissolved in June, following its refusal to grant a new loan. The Second United Diet was convened on April 2, 1848, after the revolution of March 18-19 in Prussia. It passed a series of laws pertaining to the principles ‘of a future Constitution and on elections to the Prussian National Assembly, and also sanctioned the loan. The United Diet session was closed on April 10, 1848.