German Unification- Essay
How accurate is it to say that King Fredrick William IV of Prussia was responsible for the failure of the Frankfurt Parliament?
After the 1848 revolutions in Germany, the Frankfurt Parliament was established as a result of Fredrick William IV and other princes conceding constitutions and the Vorparlament taking the first step. The reason why the Parliament failed can be debated from different viewpoints, but there were some main points that ended it. Fredrick William did have a part in the failure of the Parliament, but not as much as the lack of taking action and some other crucial problems.
The Frankfurt parliaments aim was to establish a much stronger ...view middle of the document...
The parliament was divided into three categories: the radical minority, the liberals and also a small conservative group ensuring that the central government, would not have to much control over individual states.
After the parliament had finally agreed on a constitution in 1849, the German Empire needed a ruler! They offered the crown to Fredrick William IV, who refused to receive the crown “from the gutter”. He distrusted the parliament and did not think they were in the right to offer him such a thing without any legal authority. Also, he was aware of the fact that as King of Prussia, accepting the German crown would put him under the control of the Frankfurt Parliament. In the worst case, it even meant war with Austria.
Although Frederick William was part of the reason why the Frankfurt Parliament was established and he was committed to German unification just like the members of the parliament, he wanted unification of a different sort. He wanted to re-establish the medieval German Reich made of smaller semi-sovereign monarchies under the limited authority of a Habsburg emperor. Frederick William would have only accepted the German imperial crown after being elected by the princes as a worthy candidate. Prussia and Austria, but also many other states were suspicious of any kind of new authority in Germany and wanted to preserve their sovereignty.
Apart from problems concerning constitutions and authority, the Parliament was unsure of what to call ‘Germany’ in terms of geographical and territorial extent. Parts of Prussia and Austria were included while others were not, because the parliament was not keen on including non-Germans in a united Germany. This was a problem because the overwhelming majority of the German speaking population was part of excluded provinces, while included provinces contained many Czechs and Poles. Austria was the centre of discussion, as only few Germans lived there. The Parliament was once again divided. There were members who wanted a Grossdeutschland, meaning that all German-speaking provinces of Austria would be included in a united Germany and maintain the...