Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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First Pub. Date
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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BUNDESRATH. The bundesrath is, we may say, the highest executive and administrative power in the German empire. Its principal features had been defined by the constitution of the Nord-Deutsche Bund (the North German Federation) of 1867, whose provisions on this head were, in the main, incorporated into the constitution of 1871. As forming an essential part in the government of the empire, the bundesrath is, as far as its powers and its relation to the other branches of the government are concerned, a peculiar body. It can neither be likened to our senate nor to the upper house of a bi-cameral legislative assembly; nor is it a purely executive body, although it is not altogether unlike the latter, and may, in some respects, be likened to a state council. A better idea of the bundesrath than any definition can give, is furnished by simply describing its organization and enumerating its several powers.


—1. The bundesrath is now composed of 59 members, the delegates of the several states which under the headship of Prussia compose the German empire. Prussia is represented by 17 delegates or votes, Bavaria by 6, Wirtemberg by 4, Saxony by 4, Baden by 3, Hesse by 3, Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Braunschweig by 2 each, and the rest by 1 delegate or vote.


—Each state may send as many delegates as it has votes, or it may send fewer, but in all proceedings the entire vote of each state is counted, and, when cast, must be a unit vote. The principal feature which marks the distinction between the bundesrath of the North German federation and of the German empire is, that none of its members or delegation can hamper or delay its proceedings, or force an adjournment for want of special instructions, touching the matters at issue, from the state they may represent. The bundesrath may, however, pass on a question by common consent, or by permission of its presiding officer. The presidency of the bundesrath is vested in the emperor, who has the power of appointing the chancellor of the empire the acting chairman of the bundesrath and controller of its business.


—2. The bundesrath has power to decide on the legislative measures to be proposed to the imperial diet, on the rules, regulations, and means to be adopted in the administration and execution of the laws of the empire, (const. of 1871, art. 7). As far as the proposing of legislative measures is concerned, the bundesrath resembles a council of state, while in other respects it has more of the powers of an executive. It has, also, the power of deciding on the ways and means of removing defects apparent in the execution of the laws of the empire or in the rules and regulations which govern, and the institutions which aid in the administration and execution of those laws. It is thus invested with a species of supervisory power.


—3. The several members of the bundesrath have the privilege of being present at the proceedings of the imperial diet, of expressing their opinions on the questions pending, and of otherwise taking part in the deliberations of this body. They may take the floor at any time. In case the delegates of a certain state are unable to carry a measure, in the interest of their government, in the bundesrath, they may still submit the question to the imperial diet, and claim the right to be heard before that body. The bundesrath advises on the adoption or rejection of the legislation resolved upon by the imperial diet. Again, each of the governments forming part of the empire has the right, through its delegates, to propose and advocate any measure in the bundesrath which may come within the province of the latter. In deciding a question of legislation an absolute majority is held sufficient while on questions touching constitutional amendments, or any change in the organic law of the empire, a two-thirds' majority is required. It is in the president of the bundesrath (the emperor) that the authority is vested to convene it, to adjourn it from time to time, or without day. It is also he who represents the empire in its relation to foreign governments, determines its diplomatic relations, appoints consular and other officers, etc., and enforces the execution of its laws in the several states coming within its jurisdiction.


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