- One of the two legislative chambers of the German Reich. The Bundesrat represented the 20 states, as well as the three free cities and held considerable power when it came to the passage of laws, the formulation of policy, and the dissolving of the Reichstag. The Bundesrat epitomized the federal element of the Reich constitution and was especially designed to guard against parliamentarianism. At its inception in 1871, the Bundesrat was the highest constitutional body of the Empire. Modeled on the constitution of the North German Confederation, the Bundesrat was intended by Bismarck as a hybrid between legislature and executive. In practice, however, its main function was to make, not to implement, laws. All legislative proposals were first introduced in the Bundesrat. Only if the upper house approved of the proposal would the bill be passed on to the popularly elected Reichstag. Apart from making law, the Bundesrat decided on a possible declaration of war as well as over constitutional quarrels among the member states of the Reich.In the Bundesrat, the otherwise obvious Prussian hegemony was disguised. Although the kingdom made up nearly two-thirds of the Empire’s population and territory, it disposed of only 17 of a total of 58 votes (61 after the reform of 1911). Next to Prussia, Bavaria had six, Saxony and Wurttemberg four, and Hesse and Bade three votes each. The other votes were distributed among the smaller states, many of them enclaves surrounded by Prussian territory. Accordingly, Prussia wielded an often overwhelming influence in the chamber.The position of both the Bundesrat and the smaller federal states was further checked by the fact that the chamber did not consist of independent deputies but of envoys who took their orders from the state governments. Because for a long time most of the legislative proposals were drafted in the Prussian state ministries and the committee chairmanships were monopolized by the Prussian envoys to the Bundesrat, Prussia marginalized the smaller German states. Only on important matters did the chancellor hold preliminary talks with some of the envoys, and this was largely confined to the representatives of Bavaria, Saxony, and of the other kingdoms. Because of ever-growing centralizing tendencies in the Reich, however, the Bundesrat as an institution increasingly lost influence to the Kaiser, to the Reichstag, and to national pressure groups.See also <
>.FURTHER READING:Boldt, Hans. Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte. vol. 2. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1993;Craig, Gordon. Germany, 1866-1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978;Fulbrook, Mary. A Concise History of Gremany. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990;Mann, Golo. The History of Germany Since 1789. London: Chatto & Windus, 1968;Nipperdey, Thomas. Deutsche Geschichte. München: Beck, 1985.ULRICH SCHNAKENBERG
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.