Constitution of the German Empire

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Constitution of the German Reich  (1871) 

The Constitution of the German Reich was the basic law of Germany from 1871 to 1919. In English, this document is generally known as the Constitution of the German Empire to differentiate it from its 1919 republican successor which had a treaty between its signatories, the North German Confederation and four southern German states, adding those states as members of the confederation, and giving the enlarged entity a new identity known as the German Reich (see Unification of Germany). The German Reich existed from 1871 to 1945, although during the pre-republican 1871—1919 period, the translated name "German Empire" was used.

The text of the constitution was heavily based on that of the Constitution of the North German Confederation (1866), which had likewise been instigated by Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck. With the enactment of this constitution in 1871, Bismarck became the first Chancellor of Germany.


His Majesty the King of Prussia, in the name of the North German Confederation, His Majesty the King of Bavaria, His Majesty the King of Württemberg, His Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Baden, and His Royal Highness the Grand Duke of Hesse and the Rhine for those parts of Grand Duchy of Hesse which are situated South of the Main, conclude an eternal alliance for the protection of the territory of the Confederation, and of the law of the same, as well as for the promotion of the welfare of the German people.

This Confederation shall bear the name of the German Empire (Deutsches Reich), and shall have the following constitution:—


Article 1

The territory of the Confederation shall consist of the States of Prussia (with Lauenburg), Bavaria, Saxony, Württemberg, Baden, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Saxe-Weimar, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Oldenburg, Brunswick, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Anhalt, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Waldeck, Reuß (Older Line), Reuß (Younger Line), Schaumburg-Lippe, Lippe, Lübeck, Bremen, and Hamburg.


Article 2

Within said territory, the Empire shall have the right of legislation according to the provision of this Constitution, and the laws of the Empire shall take precedence of those of the individual states. The laws of the Empire shall be rendered binding by Imperial proclamation, such proclamation to be published in a journal devoted to the publication of the laws of the Empire (Reichsgesetzblatt). If no other period shall be designated in public law for it to take effect, it shall take effect on the fourteenth day after the day of its publication in the Reichsgesetzblatt in Berlin.

Article 3

There is one citizenship for all Germany, and the citizens or subjects of each State of the Confederation shall be treated in every other State thereof as natives, and shall have the right of becoming permanent residents, of carrying on businesses, of filling public offices, and may acquire all civil rights on the same conditions as those born in said States, and shall also the same usage as regards civil prosecution and the prosecution of the laws.

No German shall be limited in the exercise of this privilege by the authorities of his native State, or by the authorities of any other of States in the Confederation. The regulations governing the care of paupers, and admission in to the various parishes, are not affected by the principle enunciated in the first paragraph. In the like manner those shall remain in force which have been concluded between the various States of the Confederation in relation to custody of persons who are to be expelled, the care of the sick, and the burial of deceased citizens.

With regard to the performance of military service to the various States, the necessary laws will be passed hereafter.

All Germans in foreign countries shall have equal claim upon the protection of the Empire.

Article 4

The following matters shall be under the supervision of the Empire and its Legislature:-

  1. Regulations with respect to the freedom of migration; matters of domicile and settlement; citizenship; passports; surveillance of foreigners; trade and industry, including insurance; so far as these matters are not already provided for by article 3 of this Constitution, in Bavaria, however, matters relating to domicile and settlement are herefrom excluded; and likewise matters relating to colonization and emigration to foreign countries;
  2. Legislation concerning customs, duties, and commerce, and such imports as are to be applied to the uses of the Empire.
  3. Regulation of weights and measures, and of the coinage, together with the emission of funded and unfunded paper money.
  4. Banking regulations in general.
  5. Patents for inventions.
  6. The protection of literary property.
  7. The organisation of a general system of protection for German trade in foreign countries; of German navigation, and of the German flag on the high seas; likewise the organisation of a general consular representation of the Empire.
  8. Railway matters (subject in Bavaria to the provisions of Article 46) and the construction of means of communication by land and water for the purposes of home defense, and of general commerce.
  9. Rafting and navigation upon those waters which are common to several States, and the condition of such waters, as likewise river and other water dues.
  10. Postal and telegraph affairs; but in Bavaria and Württemberg these shall be subject to the provisions of Article 52.
  11. Regulations concerning the execution of judicial sentences in civil matters, in the fulfillment of requisition of general.
  12. The authentication of public documents.
  13. General legislation with respect to the whole domain of civil law, criminal law; likewise legal procedure.
  14. The Imperial Army and Navy.
  15. The surveillance of the medical and veterinary professions.
  16. The Press, trades' unions, etc.
Article 5

The legislative power of the Empire shall be exercised by the Federal Council (Bundesrat) and the Imperial Diet (Reichstag). A majority of the votes of both bodies shall be necessary and sufficient for the passage of a law.

When a law is proposed in relation to the Army, or Navy, or to the imports specified in Article 35, the vote of the presiding officer shall decide in case of a difference of opinion in the Federal Council, if said vote be in favour of the retention of existing arrangements.


Article 6

The Federal Council shall consist of the representatives of the States of the Confederation, among whom the votes shall be divided in such a manner as that

Prussia (including the former votes of Hanover, the Electoral Hesse, Holstein, Nassau, and Frankfurt) shall have 17 votes
Bavaria  6    "
Saxony  4    "
Württemberg  4    "
Baden  3    "
Hesse  3    "
Mecklenburg-Schwerin  2    "
Saxe-Weimar  1    "
Mecklenburg-Strelitz  1    "
Oldenburg  1    "
Brunswick  2    "
Saxe-Meiningen  1    "
Saxe-Altenburg  1    "
Saxe-Coburg-Gotha  1    "
Anhalt  1    "
Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt  1    "
Schwarzburg-Sondershausen  1    "
Waldeck  1    "
Reuß (Older Line)  1    "
Reuß (Younger Line)  1    "
Schaumburg-Lippe  1    "
Lippe  1    "
Lübeck  1    "
Bremen  1    "
Hamburg  1    "
Total 58 votes.

Each member of the confederation may appoint as many delegates to the Federal Council as it has votes; nevertheless, the total of the votes of each States must be cast by only one delegate.

Article 7

The Federal Council shall take action upon:-

  1. The measure to be proposed to the Diet, and the resolutions passed by the same.
  2. The general provisions and regulations necessary for the execution of the laws of the Empire, so far as no other provision is made by said laws.
  3. The defects which may be discovered in the execution of the laws of the Empire, or of the provisions and regulations heretofore mentioned. Each member of the Confederation shall have the right to introduce motions, and it shall be the duty of the presiding officer to submit them for deliberation.

Legislative action shall take place by simple majority, with the exception of the provisions in the Article 5, 37, and 78. Votes not represented or instructed shall not be counted. In the case of a tie, the vote of the presiding officer shall decide.

When legislative action is taken upon a subject which does not affect, according to the provisions of this Constitution, the whole Empire, the votes only of those States of the Confederation interested in the matter in question shall be counted.

Article 8

The Federal Council shall appoint from its own members Permanent committees :

  1. On the Army and the fortifications;
  2. On naval affair;
  3. On duties and taxes;
  4. On commerce and trade;
  5. On railroads, posts, and telegraphs;
  6. On affairs of justices;
  7. On accounts;

In each of Committees there shall be representatives of at least four States of the Confederation, besides the presiding officer, and each State shall be entitled to only one vote in the same.

In the Committee on the army and fortifications, Bavaria shall have a permanent seat; the remaining members of it, as well as the member of the Committee on naval affairs, shall be appointed by the Emperor; the members of the other Committees shall be elected by Federal Council. These Committees shall be newly formed at each session of the Federal Council, etc, each year, when the retiring members shall again be eligible.

Besides, there shall be appointed in the Federal Council a Committee on Foreign Affairs, over which Bavaria shall preside, to be composed of the plenipotentiaries of the Kingdoms of Bavaria, Saxony, and Württemburg, and of two plenipotentiaries of the other States of the Empire, who shall be elected annually by the Federal Council. Clerks shall be placed at the disposal of the Committees to perform the necessary work appertaining thereto.

Article 9

Each member of the Federal Council shall have the right to appear in the Diet, and be heard there at any time when he shall so request, to represent the views of his Government, even when the same shall not have been adopted by the majority of the Council. No one shall be at the same time a member of the Federal Council and of the Diet.

Article 10

The Emperor shall afford the customary diplomatic protection to the members of the Federal Council.


Article 11

The King of Prussia shall be the President of the Confederation, and shall have the title of German Emperor. The Emperor shall represent the Empire among nations, declare war, and conclude peace in the name of the same, enter into alliances and other conventions with foreign countries, accredit ambassadors, and receive them. For declaration of war in the name of the Empire the consent of the Federal Council shall be required. Except in case of an attack upon the territory of the Confederation or its coasts.

So far as treaties with foreign countries refer to matters which, according to Article 4, are to regulated by the Legislature of the Empire, the consent of the Federal Council shall be required for their ratification, and the approval of the Diet shall be necessary to render them valid.

Article 12

The Emperor shall have the right to convene the Federal Council and the Diet, and to open, adjourn, and close them.

Article 13

The convocation of the Federal Council and the Diet shall take place annually, and the Federal Council maybe called together for the preparation of business without the Diet; the latter, however, shall not be convoked without the Federal Council.

Article 14

The convocation of the Federal Council shall take place as soon as demanded by one-third of its members.

Article 15

The Chancellor of the Empire, to be appointed by the Emperor, shall preside in the Federal Council, and supervise the conduct of its business. The Chancellor of the Empire shall have the right to delegate the power to represent him to any member of the Federal Council.

Article 16

The necessary Bills shall be laid before the Diet in the name of the Emperor, in accordance with the resolution of the Federal Council, and they shall be advocated in the Diet by members of the Federal Council, or by special commissioners appointed by the said council.

Article 17

To the Emperor shall belong the right to prepare and publish the laws of the Empire. The decrees and ordinances of the Emperor shall be published in the name of the Empire, and require for their validity the signature of the chancellor of the Empire, who thereby becomes responsible for their execution.

Article 18

The Emperor shall appoint the Imperial officials, require them to take the oath of allegiance, and dismiss them when necessary. Officials appointed to any office of the Empire from one of the States of the Confederation shall enjoy the same rights as those to which they are entitled in their native States by their official position, provided no other legislative provision shall have been made previously to their entrance into the service of the Empire.

Article 19

If States of the Confederation do not fulfil their constitutional duties, proceeding may be instituted against them by military execution. This execution shall be ordained by the Federal Council, and enforced by the Emperor.


Article 20

The members of the Imperial Diet shall be elected by universal suffrage, and by direct secret ballot. Until regulated by law, which is reserved by section 5 of the Election Law of May 31, 1869, 48 deputies shall be elected in Bavaria, 17 in Württemberg, 14 in Baden, 6 in Hesse south of the Main, and the total number of deputies shall be 382.

Article 21

Government officials shall not require leave of absence in order to enter the Imperial Diet. When a member of the Imperial Diet accepts a salaried office of the Empire, or a salaried office in one of the States of the Confederation, or accepts any office of the Empire or of a States involving higher rank or salary, he shall forfeit his seat and vote in the Imperial Diet, but may recover his place in the same by a new election.

Article 22

The proceeding of the Imperial Diet shall be public. Truthful reports of the proceeding of the public sessions of the Diet shall subject those making them to no responsibility.

Article 23

The Imperial Diet shall have the right to propose laws within the jurisdiction of the Empire, and to refer petitions, addressed to it, to the Federal Council or the Chancellor of the Empire.

Article 24

Each legislative period of the Diet shall last three years. The Diet may be dissolved by the resolution of the Federal Council, with the consent of the Emperor.

Article 25

In the case of dissolution of the Imperial Diet new election shall take place within a period of sixty days, and the Imperial Diet shall re-assemble within a period of ninety days after its dissolution.

Article 26

Unless by consent of the Imperial Diet, an adjournment of that body shall not exceed the period of thirty days, and shall not be repeated during the same session without such consent.

Article 27

The Diet shall examine into the legality of the election of its members, and decide thereon. It shall regulate the mode of transacting business, as well as its own discipline, by establishing rules therefor, and elect its president, vice-presidents, and secretaries.

Article 28

The Diet shall pass a resolution by absolute majority. To render the passing of a resolution valid, the presence of a majority of the statutory number of members shall be required.

Article 29

The members of the Diet shall be the representatives of the entire people, and shall not be bound by orders and instructions from their constituents.

Article 30

No member of the Diet shall at any time suffer legal prosecution on account of his vote, or on account of utterances made while in the performance of his functions, or be held responsible outside the Diet for his actions (in it).

Article 31

Without the consent of the Diet, none of its members shall be tried or punished during the session for any offence committed, except when arrested in the act of committing the offence, or in the course of the following day.

The same rule shall apply in the case of arrests for debt. At the request of the Diet, all legal proceeding instituted against one of its members, and likewise imprisonment, shall be suspended during its session.

Article 32

The members of the Diet shall not be allowed draw any salary, or be compensated as such.


Article 33

Germany shall form a customs and Commercial Union, having a common frontier for the collection of duties. Such territories as cannot, by reason of their situation, be suitably embraced within the said frontier, shall be excluded. It shall be lawful to introduce all articles of commerce of any State of the Confederation into any other State of the Confederation without paying any duty thereon, excepts so far as such articles are subject to internal taxation therein.

Article 34

The Hanseatic cities, Bremen and Hamburg, shall remain free ports outside of the common boundary of the Customs Union, retaining for that propose a district of their own, or of the surrounding territory, until they shall request to be admitted into the said Union.

Article 35

The Empire shall have the exclusive power to legislate concerning everything relate to the customs; the taxation of salt and tobacco manufactured or raised in the territory of the Confederation; concerning the taxation of manufactured brandy and beer, and of sugar and syrup prepared from beets or other domestic productions. It shall have exclusive power to legislate concerning the mutual protection of taxes upon articles of consumption levied in the several States of the Empire; against embezzlement; as well as concerning the measures which are required in granting exemption from the payment of duties, for the security of the common customs frontier. In Bavaria, Württemberg, and Baden the matters of imposing duties on domestic brandy and beer is reserved for the Legislature of each country. The States of the Confederation shall, however, endeavor to bring about uniform legislation regarding the taxation of these articles.

Article 36

The imposing of duties and excise on article of consumption, and the collection of the same (Article 35), is left to each State of the Confederation within its own territory, so far as this have been done by each State heretofore.

The Emperor shall have the supervision of legal proceedings instituted by the officials of the Empire, when he shall designate as adjuncts to the Custom or Excise Offices, and board of directors of the several States, after hearing the committee of the Federal council on customs and revenues. Notes given by officials as to defects in the execution of the laws of the Empire (Article 35) shall be submitted to the Federal Council for action.

Article 37

In taking action upon the rules and regulations for the execution of the laws of the Empire (Article 35), the vote of the presiding officer shall decide whenever he shall pronounce for upholding the existing rule or regulation.

Article 38

The amounts accruing from customs and other revenue designated in the Article 35 of the latter, so far as they are subject to legislation by the Diet, shall go to the treasury of the Empire.

This amount is made up of the total receipts from the customs and other revenues, after deducing therefrom-

  1. Tax compensations and reductions in conformity with existing laws and regulations.
  2. Reimbursements for taxes unduly imposed.
  3. The costs for collection and Administration, viz.:
    1. In the department of customs, the costs which are required for the protection and collection of customs on the frontiers and in the frontier districts.
    2. In the department of the duty on salt, the costs which are used for the pay of the others charged which collecting and controlling these duties in the salt mines.
    3. In the department of duties on beet-sugar and tobacco, the compensation which is to be allowed, according to the resolution of the Federal Council, to the several State Government for the cost of the collection of these duties.
    4. Fifteen percent of the total receipts in the departments of the other duties.

The territories situated outside of the common customs frontier shall contribute to the expenses of the Empire by paying an aversum (or sum of acquittance). Bavaria, Wütemberg, and Baden shall not share in the revenues from duties on liquors and beer, which go into the treasury of the Empire, nor the corresponding portion of the aforesaid aversum.

Article 39

The quarterly statements to be regularly made by the revenue officers of the Federal States at the end of every quarter, and the final settlements (to be made of the end of the year, and after f the closing of the account-books) of the receipts from customs, which have become due in the course of the quarter, or during the fiscal year, and the revenues of the Treasury of the Empire, according to Article 38, shall be arranged by the boards of directors of the Federal States, after a previous examination in general summaries, in which every duty is to be shown separately; these summaries shall be transmitted to the Federal Committee for Accounts. The latter provisionally fixes every three months, taking as a basis these summaries, the amount due to the Treasury of the Empire from the Treasury of each State, and it shall inform the Federal Council and the Federal States of this act; it shall submit to the Federal Council annually the final statement of these amounts, with its remarks. The Federal Council shall deliberate upon the fixing of these amounts.

Article 40

The terms of the Customs Union Treasury of July 8, 1867, remain in force, so far as they have not been altered by the provision of this Constitution, and as long as they are not altered in the manner designated in Articles 7 and 78.


Article 41

Railways, which are considered necessary for defense of Germany, or the purpose of general commerce, may be constructed for the account of the Empire by a law of the Empire, even in opposition to the will of those members of the Confederation through whose territory the railroad run, without prejudice to the sovereign rights of that country; or private persons may be charged with their construction, and receive rights of expropriation. Every existing railway company is bound to permit new railroad lines to be connected with it, at the expense of these latter. All laws granting exiting railway companies the right of injunction against the building of parallel or competitive lines are hereby abolished throughout the Empire, without detriment to rights already acquired. Such right of injunction cannot be granted in concessions to be given hereafter.

Article 42

The Governments of the Federal States bind themselves in the interest of general commerce, to have the German railways managed as a uniform network, and for this purpose to have the lines constructs and equipped according to a uniform system.

Article 43

Accordingly, as soon as possible, uniform arrangements as to management shall be made, and specially shall uniform regulations be instituted for the police of the railroads. The Empire shall take care that the administrative officers of the railway lines keep the roads always such a condition as is required for public security, and that they be equipped with the necessary rolling stock.

Article 44

Railway companies are bound to run such passenger trains of suitable velocity as may be required for ordinary traffic, and for establishment of harmony between time-tables; also to make provision for such goods trains as may be necessary for commercial purposes, and to establish, without extra remuneration, offices for the direct forwarding of passengers, and goods trains, to be transferred when necessary, from one road to another.

Article 45

The Empire shall have control over the tariff of fares. The same shall endeavour to cause:-

  1. Uniform regulations to be speedily introduced on all German railway lines.
  2. The tariff to be reduced and made uniform as far as possible, and particularly to cause a reduction of the tariff for the transport of coal, coke, wood, minerals, stone, salt, crude iron, manure, and similar articles, for long distances, as demanded by the interests of agriculture and industry, and to introduce a one-penny (pfennig) tariff as soon as practicable.
Article 46

In case of distress, especially in case of extra-ordinary rise in the price of provisions, It shall be the duty of the railway companies to adopt temporary a low special tariff, to be fixed by the Emperor, on motion of the competent committee, for the forwarding of grain, flour, vegetables, and potatoes. This tariff shall, however, not be less than the lowest rate for raw produce existing on the said line.

The forgoing provisions, and those of Articles 42 to 45 shall not apply to Bavaria.

The Imperial Government, however, has the power also, with regard to Bavaria, to establish by means of legislation uniform rules for the construction equipment of such railways as may be of importance for the defense of the country.

Article 47

The managers of all railways shall be required to obey, without hesitation, requisitions made by the authorities of the Empire for the use of their roads for the defense of Germany. In particular shall troops, and all material of war, be forwards at uniform reduced rates.


Article 48

The posts and telegraphs shall be organized and managed as States institutions throughout the German Empire. The legislation of the Empire in regard to postal and telegraphic affairs, provided for in Article 4, does not extend to those matters whose regulation is left to managerial arrangement, according to the principles which have control the North German administration of posts and telegraphs.

Article 49

The receipts from posts and telegraphs are a joint affair throughout the Empire. The expensed shall be paid from the general receipts. The surplus goes into the Treasury of the Empire. (Section 12)

Article 50

The Emperor has the supreme supervision of the administration of posts and telegraphs. The authorities appointed by him are in duty bound and authorised to see that uniformity be established and maintained in the organisation of the administration and in the transaction of business, as also in regard to the qualification of employs.

The Emperor shall have the power to make general administration regulations, and also exclusive to regulate the relations which are to exist between the post and telegraph offices of Germany and those of other countries.

It shall be the duty of the officers of the Post office and Telegraph Department to obey Imperial Orders. This obligation shall be included in their oath of office. The appointment of superior officers (such as directors, counselors, and superintendents), as they shall be required for the administration of the posts and telegraphs in the various districts; also the appointment of officers of the posts and telegraphs (such as inspector or comptrollers), acting for aforesaid authorities in the several districts, in the capacity of supervisors, shall be made by the Emperor for the whole territory of German Empire, and these officers shall take the oath of fealty to him as a part of their oath of office. The Government of the several States shall be inform in due time, by means of Imperial confirmation and official publication, of the aforementioned appointments, so far as they may relate to their territories.

Others officers required by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, as also all officers to be employed at the various stations, and for technical purposes, etc., shall be appointed by the respective Governments of the States.

Where there is no independent administration, or inland mails or telegraphs, the terms of the various treaties are to be enforced.

Article 51

In assigning the surplus if the Post-office Department to the Treasury of the Empire for general purposes (Article 49), the following procedure is to be observed in the consideration of the difference which has heretofore existed in the clear receipts of the Post Office Departments of the several territories for the purpose of securing a suitable equalisation during the period of transition below named.

Of the Post Office surplus, which accumulated in the several mail districts during the five years from 1861 to 1865, an average yearly shall be computed, and the share which every separate mail district has had in the surplus resulting therefrom for the whole territory of the Empire shall be fixed upon by a percentage.

In accordance with the proportion thus made, the several States shall be credited on the account of their other contributions to the expenses of the Empire with their quota accruing from the postal surplus in the Empire, for a period of eight years subsequent to their entrance to the Post Office Department of the Empire. At the end of the said eight years the distinction shall cease, and any surplus in the Post Office Department shall go, without division, into the Treasury if the Empire, according to the principle enunciated in Article 49.

Of the quota of the Post Office Department surplus resulting during the aforementioned period of eight years in the favour of the Hanseatic towns, one-half shall every year be place at the disposal if the Emperor, for the purpose of providing for the establishment of uniform post-offices in the Hanseatic towns.

Article 52

The stipulations of the forgoing Articles 48 to 51 do not apply to Bavaria and Württemberg. In their stead the following stipulation shall be valid for these two States of the Confederation. The Empire alone is authorised to legislate upon the privilege of the Post-office and Telegraph Departments, on the legal position of both institution toward the public, upon the franking privilege and rate of postage, and upon the establishment or rates for telegraphic correspondence into Hanseatic towns. Exclusive, however, of managerial arrangements, and the fixing of tariffs for internal communication within Bavaria and Württemberg. In the same manner the Empire shall regulate postal and telegraphic communication with foreign countries, excepting the immediate communication of Bavaria and Württemberg with their neighboring States, not belong to the Empire, in regard to with regulation the stipulation in Article 49 of the postal treaty of November 23, 1867, remains in force.

Bavaria and Württemberg shall not share in the postal and telegraphic receipts which belong to the Treasury of the Empire.


Article 53

The navy of the Empire is a united one under the supreme command of the Emperor. The Emperor is charged with its organization and arrangement, and he shall appoint the officers and officials of the navy, and in his name these seamen shall be sworn in.

The harbour of Kiel and the harbour of the Jade are Imperial war-harbours.

The expenditure required for establishment and maintenance of the navy and the institution connected there with shall be defrayed from the Treasury of the Empire.

All seafaring men of the Empire, including machinists and hands employed in ship-building are exempt from serving in the army, but obliged to serve in the Imperial navy.

The appointment of men to supply the wants of the navy shall be made according to the actual seafaring population, and the quota furnished in accordance herewith by each States shall be credited to the army account.

Article 54

The merchant vessels of all States of the Confederation shall form the commercial marine.

The Empire shall determine the process of ascertaining the tonnage of sea going vessels, shall regulate the issuing of tonnage certificates and sea-letters, and shall fix the conditions to which a permit for commanding a sea-going vessel shall be subject.

The merchant vessels of all States of the confederation shall be admitted on an equal footing to the habours, and to all natural and artificial water-courses of the several States of the Confederation, and shall receive the same usage therein.

The duties which shall be collected from sea-going vessels, or levies upon their freights, for the use of naval institutions in the harbours, shall not exceed the amount required for the maintenance and ordinary repair of these institutions.

On all natural of watercourses, duties are only levied for the use of special establishments, which serve for facilitating commercial intercourse, These duties, as well as the duties for navigating such artificial channels, which are property of the State, are not to exceed the amount required for the maintenance and ordinary repair of the institutions and establishments. These rules apply to rafting, so far as it is carried on navigable watercourses.

The levying of other or higher duties upon foreign vessels or their freights than those which are paid by the vessels of the Federal States or their freights does not belong to the various States, but the Empire.

Article 55

The flag of the war and merchant navy shall be black, white, and red.


Article 56

The Emperor shall have the supervision of all consular affairs of the German Empire, and he shall appoint consuls, after hearing the committee of the Federal Council on Commerce and Traffic.

No new State consulates are to be established within the jurisdiction of the German consuls. German consuls shall perform the represented in their district. All the new existing State consulates shall be abolished, as soon as the organisation of the German Consulates shall be completed, in such a manner that the representation of the separate interests of all the Federal States shall be recognised by the Federal Council as secured by the German consulates.


Article 57

Every German is subject to military duty, and in the discharge of this duty no substitute can be accepted.

Article 58

The costs and the burden of all the military system of the Empire are to be borne equally by all the Federal States and their subjects, and no privileges or molestations to the several States or classes are admissible. Where an equal distribution of the burdens cannot be effected in natura without prejudice to the public welfare, affairs shall be equalised by legislation in accordance with the principles of the justice.

Article 59

Every German capable of bearing arms shall serve for seven years in the standing army, ordinarily from the end of his twentieth to the beginning of his twenty-eight years; the first three in the field army, the last four years in the reserve; during the next five years he shall belong to the militia (Landwehr). In those States of the Confederation in which heretofore a longer term of service than twelve years was required time of service shall take place in such a manner as it compatible with the interests and the war-footing of the army of the Empire.

As regards the emigration of men belonging to the reserve, only those provisions shall be in force which apply to the emigration of members if the militia.

Article 60

The strength of the German army in time of peace shall be, until the 31st December, 1871, 1 percent of the population of 1867, and shall be furnished by the several Federal States in proportion to their population. In future the strength of army in time of peace shall be fixed by legislation.

Article 61

After the publication of this Constitution the complete Prussian military system of legislation shall be introduced without delay throughout the Empire, as well as statutes themselves as the regulations, instructions, and ordinances issued for their execution, explanation, or completion; thus in particular, the military penal code of April 3, 1845; the military orders of the penal court of April 3, 1845; the regulations with respect to recruiting, time of service, matters relate to service and subsistence, to the quartering of troops, claims for the damages, mobilising, etc, for times of peace and war. Orders for the attendance of the military upon religious services is, however, excluded.

When a uniform organisation of the German army shall have been established, a comprehensive military law for the Empire shall be submitted to the Diet and the Federal Council for their action in accordance with the Constitution.

Article 62

For the purpose of defraying the expense of the whole German army, and the institutions connected therewith, the sum of 225 thalers shall be placed at the disposal of the Emperor until the 31st December, 1871, for each man in the army on the peace-footing, according to Article 60.

After the 31st December, 1871, the payment of these contributions of the several States to the Imperial Treasury must be continued. The strength of the army in the time of peace, which have been temporarily fixed in Article 60, shall be taken as a basis for calculating these amounts until it shall be altered by a law of the Empire.

In determining the budget of military expenditure, the lawfully established organisation of the Imperial army, in accordance with this Constitution, shall be taken as a basis.

Article 63

The total land force of the Empire shall form one army, which, in war and in peace, shall be under the command of the Emperor.

The regiments, etc, throughout the whole German army shall bear continuous numbers. The principle colours and cut of the garments of the Royal Prussian army shall serve as a pattern for the rest of the army. It is left to the commanders of contingent forces to choose the external badges, cockades, &c.

It shall be the duty and the right of the Emperor to take care that, throughout the German army, all divisions be kept full and well equipped, and that unity be established and maintained in regard to organisation and formation, equipment, and command in the training of the men, as well as in the qualification of the officers. For these purpose the Emperor shall be authorised to satisfy himself at any time of the condition of the several contingents, and to provide remedies for existing defects.

The Emperor shall determine the strength, composition, and division of the contingents of the Imperial army, and also the organisation of the militia, and he shall have the right to designate garrisons within the territory of the Confederation, as also to call any portion of the army into active service.

In order to maintain the necessary unity in the care, arming, and equipment of all troops of the German army, all orders hereafter to be issued for the Prussian army shall be communicated in due form the commanders of the remaining contingents by the Committee on the army and fortifications, provided for in Article 8, No. 1.

Article 64

All German troops are bound implicitly to obey the orders of the Emperor. This obligation shall be included in the oath of allegiance. The Commander-in-chief of a contingent, as well as all officers commanding troops more than one contingent, and all commanders of fortress, shall be appointed by Emperor. The officers appointed by the Emperor shall take the oath of fealty to him.

The appointment of generals, or officers performing the duties of generals, in contingent force, shall be in each subject to the approval of the Emperor. The Emperor has the right with regard to the transfer of officers, with or without promotion, to positions which are to be filled in the service of the Empire, be it in the Prussian army or in other contingents, to select from the officers of all the contingents of the army of the Empire.

Article 65

The right to build fortresses within the territory of the Empire shall belong to the Emperor, who, according to the section 12, shall ask for the appropriation of the necessary means required for that purpose, if not already included in the regular appropriation.

Article 66

If not otherwise stipulated, the Princes of the Empire and the Senates shall appoint the officers of their respective contingents, subject to the restriction of Article 64. They are the chiefs of all troops belonging to their respective territories, and are entitled to the honours connected therewith.

They shall have especially the right to hold inspections at any time, and receive, besides the regular reports and announcements of changes for publication, timely information of all promotions and appointments concerning their respective contingents.

They shall also have the right to employ, for police purposes, not only their own troops, but all other contingents of the army of the Empire which are stationed in their respective territories.

Article 67

The unexpended portion of the military appropriation shall, under no circumstances, fall to the share of a single Government, but at all times to the Treasury of the Empire.

Article 68

The Emperor shall have the power, if the public security of the Empire demand it, to declare martial law in any part thereof, until the publication of a law regulating the grounds, the form of announcement, and the effects of such a declaration, the provisions of the Prussian law of June 4, 1851, shall be substituted therefor.


Article 69

All receipts and expenditures of the Empire shall be estimated yearly, and included in the financial estimate. The latter shall be fixed by law before the beginning of the fiscal year, according to the following principles:-

Article 70

The surplus of the previous year, as well as the customs duties, the common excise duties, and the revenue derived from the postal and telegraph service shall be applied to the defrayal of all general expenditure. In so far as these expenditures are not covered by the receipts, they shall be raised, as long as no taxes of the Empire shall have been established, by assessing the several States of the Empire according to their population, the amount of the assessment to be fixed by the Chancellor of the Empire in accordance with the budget agreed upon.

Article 71

The general expenditure shall be, as a rule, granted for one year; they may, however, in special cases, be granted for a longer period. During the period of transition fixed in Article 60, the financial estimate, properly classified, of the expenditures, of the army shall be laid before the Federal Council and the Diet for their information.

Article 72

An annual report of the expenditure of all the receipts of the Empire shall be rendered to the Federal Council and the Diet, through the Chancellor of the Empire.

Article 73

In cases of extraordinary requirements, a loan may be contracted in accordance with the law of the Empire, such loan to be granted by the Empire.


Article 74

Every attempt against the existence, the integrity, the security, or the constitution of the German Empire; finally, any offence committed against the Federal Council, the Diet, a member of the Federal Council, or of the Diet, a magistrate or public official of the Empire, while in the execution of his duty, or with reference to his official position, by word, writing, printing, signs, or caricatures, shall be judicially investigated, and upon conviction, punished in the several States of the Empire, according to the law therein existing, or which shall hereafter exist in the same, according to which laws a similar offence against any one of the States of the Empire, its constitution, legislature, members of its legislature, authorities, or officials is to be judged.

Article 75

For those offences, specified in Article 74, against the German Empire, which, if committed against one of the States of the Empire, would be deemed high treason, the superior court of appeal of three free Hanseatic towns at Lübeck shall be the competent deciding tribunal in the first and the last resort. More definite provisions as to the competency and the proceedings of the superior court of appeals shall be adopted by the Legislature of the Empire. Until the passage of a law of the Empire, the existing competency of the courts in the respective States of the Empire, and the provisions relative to the proceedings of those courts, shall remain in force.

Article 76

Disputes between the different States of the Confederation, so far as they are not of a private nature, and therefore to be decided by the competent authorities, shall be settled by the Federal Council, at the request of one of the parties. Disputes relating to constitutional matters in those of the States of the Confederation whose Constitution contains no provision for the settlement of such differences, shall be adjusted by the Federal Council, at the request of one of the parties, or if this cannot be done, they shall be settled by the legislative power of the Confederation.

Article 77

If in one of the States of the Confederation justice shall be denied, and no sufficient relief can be procured by legal measures, it shall be the duty of the Federal Council to receive substantiated complaints concerning denial or restriction of justice, which are to be judged according to the constitution and the existing laws of the respective States of the Confederation, and thereupon to obtain judicial relief from the confederate Government in the matter which shall have given rise to the complaint.


Article 78

Amendments of the Constitution shall be made by legislative enactment. They shall be considered as rejected when fourteen votes are cast against them in the Federal Council. The provisions of Constitution of the Empire, by which fixed rights of individual States of the Confederation are established in their relation to the whole, shall only be modified with the consent of the State of the Confederation which is immediately concerned.

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