Deutsches Reich
German Reich

Flag of the German Empire Coat of Arms of the German Empire
Gott mit uns
God with us
Heil dir im Siegerkranz
Map of the German Empire
Government Monarchy
- 1871-1888William I
- 1888Frederick III
- 1888-1918William II
- 1867-1890Otto von Bismarck
- 1890-1894Leo von Caprivi
- 1894-1900Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst
- 1900-1909Bernhard Graf von Bülow
- 1909-1917Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg
- 1917Georg Michaelis
Legislature Reichstag
January 18, 1871Unification
November 9, 1918Republic declared
November 28, 1918Formal abdication
- 187141,058,792
Flag of Prussia Prussia
Flag of the German Empire North German Confederation
Flag of None Kingdom of Bavaria
Flag of None Kingdom of Württemberg
Flag of None Grand Duchy of Baden
Flag of None Grand Duchy of Hesse
Flag of None Alsace-Lorraine
Weimar Republic Flag of Germany (Weimar)
Republic of Alsace-Lorraine Flag of None
Danzig Flag of Danzig
Poland Flag of Poland
Klaipėda Region Flag of None
Saar Flag of the Saar Territory
Hlučín Region Flag of None
Northern Schleswig Flag of None
Eupen-Malmedy Flag of None

The German Empire (1871-1918) was a monarchy formed by the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor. Following World War I (|) Emperor Wilhem II abdicated and the state became a federal republic. Its official name was Deutsches Reich (German Realm), but also called Kaiserlich Deutsches Reich (Imperial German Realm) by historians, or rendered by the partial translation German Reich.


Constitution.The constitution of the German empire is, in all essentials, that of the North German Confederation, which came into force on the 7th of June 1867. Under this the presidency (Praesidium) of the confederation was vested in the king of Prussia and his heirs. As a result of the Franco-German war of 1870 the South German states joined the confederation:

on the 9th of December 1870 the diet of the confederatior - accepted the treaties and gave to the new confederation thc name of German Empire (Deutsche Reich), and on the 18th oi January 1871 the king of Prussia was proclaimed Germar emperor (Deutscher Kaiser) a-e Versailles. This was a change of style, not of functions and powers. The title is German emperor, not emperor of Germany, being intended to show that the Kaiser is but primus inter pares in a confederation o.f territorial sovereigns; his authority as territorial sovereign (Landesherr) extends over Prussia, not over GermaAy.

The imperial dignity is hereditary in the line of Hohenzollern, and follows the law of primogeniture. The emperor exercises the imperial power in the name of the confederated states. In his office he is assisted by a federal council (Bundesrat), which represents the governments of the individual states of Germany. The members of this council, 58 in number, are appointed for each session by the governments of the individual states. The legislative functions of the empire are vested in the emperor, the Bundesrat, and the Reichstag or imperial Diet. The members of the latter, 397 in number, are elected for a space of five years by universal suffrage. Vote is by ballot, and one member is elected by (approximately) every 150,000 inhabitants.

As regards its legislative functions, the empire has supreme and independent control in matters relating to military affairs and the navy, to the imperial finances, to German commerce, to posts and telegraphs, and also to railways, in so far as these affect the common defence of the country. Bavaria and Wttrttemberg, however, have preserved their own postal and telegraphic administration. The legislative power of the empire also takes precedence of that of the separate states in the regulation of matters affecting freedom of migration (Freizugigkeit), domicile, settlement and the rights of German subjects generally, as well as in all that relates to banking, patents, protection of intellectual property, navigation of rivers and canals, civil and criminal legislation, judicial procedure, sanitary police, and control of the press and of associations.

The executive power is in the emperors hands. He represents the empire internationally, ,and can declare war if defensive, and make peace as well as enter into treaties with other nations; he also appoints and receives ambassadors. For declaring offensive war the consent of the federal council must be obtained. The separate states have the privilege of sending ambassadors to the other courts; but all consuls abroad are officials of the empire and are named by the emperor.

Both the Bundesrat and the Reichstag meet in annual sessions convoked by tile emperor who has the right of proroguing and dissolving the Diet; but the prorogation must not exceed 60 days, and in case of dissolution new elections must be ordered within 60 days, and the new session opened within 90 days. All laws for the regulation of the empire must, in order to pass, receive the votes of an absolute majority of the federal council and the Reichstag.

Alsace-Lorraine is represented in the Bundesrat by four commissioners (Kommissare), without votes, who are nominated by the Statthalter (imperial lieutenant).

The fifty-eight members of the Bundesrat are nominated by the governments of the individual states for each session; while the members of the Reichstag are elected by universal suffrage and ballot for the term of five years. Every German who has completed his twenty-fifth year is prima facie entitled to the suffrage in the state within which he has resided for one year. Soldiers and those in the navy are not thus entitled, so long as they are serving under the colors. Excluded, further, are persons under tutelage, bankrupts and paupers, as also such persons who have been deprived of civil rights, during the time of such deprivation. Every German citizen who has completed his twenty-fifth year and has resided for a year in one of the federal states is eligible for election in any part of the empire, provided he has not been, as in the cases above, excluded from the right of suffrage. The secrecy of the ballot is ensured by special regulations passed on the 28th of April 1903. The votingpaper, furnished with an official stamp, must be placed in an envelope by the elector in a compartment set apart for the purpose in the polling room, and, thus enclosed, be handed by him to the presiding officer. An absolute majority of votes decides the election. If (as in the case of several candidates) an absolute majority over all the others has not been declared, a test election (Stichwahl) takes place between the two candidates who have received the greatest number of votes. In case of an equal number of votes being cast for both candidates, the decision is by lot.

The subjoined table gives the names of the various states cornposing the empire and the number of votes which the separate states have in the federal council. Each state may appoint as many members to the federal council as it has votes.

All the German states have separate representative assemblies, except Alsace-Lorraine and the two grand-duchies of Mecklenburg. The six larger states have adopted the two-chamber system, but in the composition of the houses great differences are found. The lesser states also have chambers of representatives numbering from 12 members (in Reuss-Greiz) to 48 members (in Brunswick), and in most states the different classes, as well as the cities and the ru~aI districts, are separately represented. The free towns have legislative assemblies, numbering from 120 to 200 members.

Imperial measures, after passing the Bundesrat and the Reichstag, must obtain the sanction of the emperor in order to become law, and must be countersigned, when promulgated, by the chancellor of the empire (Reichskanzler). All members of the federal council are entitled to be present at the deliberations of the Reichstag. The Bundesrat, acting under the direction of the chancellor of the empire, is also a supreme administrative and consultative board, and as such it has nine standing committees, viz.: for army and fortresses; for naval purposes; for tariffs, excise and taxes; for trade and commerce; for railways, posts and telegraphs; for civil and criminal law; for financial accounts; for foreign affairs; and for Alsace-Lorraine. Each committee includes representatives of at least four states of the empire.

For the several branches of administration a considerable number of imperial offices have been gradually created. All of them, however, either are under the immediate authority of the chancellor of the empire, or are separately managed under his responsibility. The most important are the chancery office, the foreign office Nai and the general post and telegraph office.

But the heads of these do not form a cabinet.

Title Chancellor of the Empire (Reichskanzier). In Africa The Prussian plenipotentiary to the Bundesrat Togoland is the president of that assembly; he is ap- Cameroon pointed by the emperor, and bears the title S.W. Africa Reichskanzler, This head official can be repre- East Africa seated by any other member of the Bundesrat named in a document of substitution. The Total in Reichskanzler is the sole responsible official, In the Pacific and conducts all the affairs of the empire, with German New G the exception of such as arc of a purely military Bismarck Archrj character, anti is the intermediary between the Caroline, Pelewa emperor, the Bundesrat and the Reichstag. All Solomon Island, imperial rescripts require the counter-signature Marshall Island of the chancellor before attaining validity. All Samoan Islands measures passed by the Reichstag require the sanction of the majority of the Bundesrat, and Total in only become binding on being proclaimed on In Asia behalf of the empire by the chancellor, which Kiao-chow publication takes place through the Reichsgesetzhlatt (the official organ of the chancellor).[1]

Government OfficesEdit

The following imperial offices are directly responsible to the chancellor and stand under his control:

  1. The foreign office, which is divided into three departments:
    • the political and diplomatic;
    • the political and commercial;
    • the legal. The chief of the foreign office is a secretary of state, taking his instructions immediately from the chancellor.
  2. The colonial office (under the direction of a secretary of state) is divided into (i.) a civil department; (ii.) a military department; (iii.) a disciplinary court.
  3. The ministry of the interior or home office (under the conduct of a secretary of state). This office is divided into four departments, dealing with
    • the business of the Bundesrat, the Rcichstag, the elections, citizenship, passports, the press, and military and naval matters, so far as the last concern the civil authorities;
    • purely social matters, such as old age pensions, accident insurance, migration, settlement, poor law administration, etc;
    • sanitary matters, patents, canals, steamship lines, weights and measures; and (iv.) commercial and economic relationssuch as agriculture, industry, commercial treaties and statistics.
  4. The imperial admiralty (Reichsmarineamt), which is the chief board for the administration of the imperial navy, its maintenance and development.
  5. The imperial ministry of justice (Reichsjustizamt), presided over by a secretary of state. This office, not to be confused with the Reiclzsgericht (supreme legal tribunal of the empire) in Leipzig, deals principally with the drafting of legal measures to be submitted to the Reichstag.
  6. The imperial treasury (Reiciisschatzamt), or exchequer, is the head financial office of the empire. Presided over by a secretary of state, its functions are principally those appertaining to the control of the national debt and its administration, together with such as in the United Kingdom are delegated to the board of inland revenue.
  7. The imperial railway board (Reichseisenbahnamt), the chief official of which has the title of president, deals exclusively with the management of the railways throughout the empire, in so far as they fall under the control of the imperial authorities in respect of laws passed for their harmonious interworking, their tariffs and the safety of passengers conveyed.
  8. The imperial post office (Reichspostamt), under a secretary of state, controls the post and telegraph administration of the empire (with the exception of Bavaria and Wurttemberg), as also those in the colonies and dependencies.
  9. The imperial office for the administration of the imperial railways in Alsace-Lorraine, the chief of which is the Prussian minister of public works.
  10. The office of the accountant-general of the empire (RechnungsIzof), which controls and supervises the expenditure of the sums voted by the legislative bodies, and revises the accounts of the imperial bank (Reichsbank).
  11. The administration of the imperial invalid fund, i.e. of the fund set apart in 1871 for the benefit of soldiers invalided in the war of 1870-71; and
  12. The imperial bank (Reichsbank), supervised by a committee of four under the presidency of the imperial chancellor, who is a fifth and permanent member of such committee.[1]


  • William I () (January 18, 1871 - March 9, 1888)
  • Frederick III () (March 9, 1888 - June 15, 1888)
  • William II () (June 15, 1888 - November 9, 1918)


  • Otto von Bismarck () (July 14, 1867 - March 20, 1890)
  • Leo von Caprivi () (March 20, 1890 - October 29, 1894)
  • Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst () (October 29, 1894 - October 17, 1900)
  • Bernhard Graf von Bülow () (October 17, 1900 - July 14, 1909)
  • Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg () (July 14, 1909 - July 16, 1917)
  • Georg Michaelis () (July 16, 1917 - December 2, 1917)
  • Georg von Hertling () (December 2, 1917 - October 5, 1918)
  • Maxmilian von Baden () (October 5, 1918 - November 9, 1918)
  • Friedrich Ebert () (November 9, 1918 - November 10, 1918)


German Polities

Neighbouring Nations


  1. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.)