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North German Confederation

North German Confederation, 1867–71, alliance of 22 German states N of the Main River. Dominated by Prussia, it replaced the German Confederation and included the states that had supported Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War (1866). The South German states, notably Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg, and the grand duchy of Hesse, though excluded from the confederation, were nevertheless closely bound to it through their membership in the Zollverein. Prepared in broad outline by Otto von Bismarck, the constitution of the confederation, when adopted by the members, provided for a federal council (Bundesrat), composed of deputies from the states, and a lower house (Reichstag), elected by direct manhood suffrage. Prussia exercised predominant influence in both bodies. Executive power was vested in the president—the king of Prussia—who appointed the federal chancellor (as it turned out, Bismarck). The states retained their own governments, but the military forces were controlled by the federal government. In 1871 this constitution was adopted, with some changes, by the German Empire, which replaced the confederation.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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