Germany (Prussia) 1919 Constitution

Table of Contents


The German People, united in its racial branches and animated by the will to renew and consolidate its Empire in Freedom and Justice, to serve Internal and External Peace, and to further Social Progress, has given itself this Constitution.

PART ONE. Structure and Tasks of the Empire


Article 1

The German Empire is a Republic.

Sovereignty emanates from the People.

Article 2

The territory of the Empire consists of the territories of the German Lands. Other territories can he incorporated into the Empire by Imperial statute, if their inhabitants by virtue of the right of self-determination so desire.

Article 3

The Imperial Colors are black-red-gold. The merchant flag is black-white-red, with the Imperial Colors In the upper inner corner.

Article 4

The universally recognized rules of the Law of Nations are binding component parts of the German Imperial law.

Article 5

Sovereignty is exercised in Imperial matters by the organs of the Empire upon the basis of the Imperial Constitution; in matters of the Lands, by the organs of the Lands upon the basis of the constitutions of the Lands.

Article 6

The Empire has exclusive legislative power concerning:

  1. Relations with foreign countries.
  2. Colonial affairs.
  3. Citizenship, freedom of travel and of domicile, immigration, emigration and extradition.
  4. Military organization.
  5. Coinage.
  6. Customs, the consolidation of the customs and trade area, and the freedom of transportation of commodities.
  7. Posts, telegraphs and telephones.

Article 7

The Empire has legislative power concerning:

  1. Civil law.
  2. Criminal law.
  3. Court procedure, including infliction of criminal punishment, and also official co-operation between public authorities.
  4. Passports and police supervision of foreigners and strangers.
  5. Poor relief and vagrancy.
  6. The press, associations and assemblages.
  7. Policies as to population, care of maternity cases, nurselings, children and young persons.
  8. Public health, veterinary practice, and the protection of plants against diseases and pests.
  9. Labor law, insurance and protection of workers and employees, and also employment bureaus.
  10. Institution of vocationally representative bodies for the territory of the Empire.
  11. Care for those who have taken part in war and their surviving dependents.
  12. Expropriation.
  13. Socialization of natural resources and of economic enterprises, and also the production, manufacture, distribution and price-regulation of economic commodities for the general economy.
  14. Trade and commerce, measures and weights, issue of paper money, banking, and bourses.
  15. Dealing in articles of food and luxuries and also in articles of daily need.
  16. Crafts, industry and mining.
  17. Insurance.
  18. Navigation at sea, deep-sea and coast fisheries.
  19. Railroads, inland navigation, traffic with power-driven vehicles on land, on water and in the air, and construction of roads, in so far as general traffic and defence of the country arc concerned.
  20. Theaters and moving pictures.

Article 8

The Empire has also legislative power concerning taxes and other revenues, in so far as they are claimed in whole or in part for its purposes. If the Empire claims taxes or other revenues which heretofore appertained to the Lands, it has to take into consideration the maintenance of the vitality of the Lands.

Article 9

In so far as a need of the issuance of uniform regulations exists, the Empire has legislative power concerning:

  1. Public welfare.
  2. The protection of public peace and safety.

Article 10

The Empire can by way of legislation set up fundamental principles for:

  1. The rights and duties of religious societies.
  2. The school system, including the system of higher institutions of learning, and the scientific libraries.
  3. The law for officials of all public bodies.
  4. Land law, land distribution, settlements and homesteads, restrictions on landed property, housing, and distribution or population.
  5. Disposal of the dead.

Article 11

The Empire can by way of legislation set up fundamental principles concerning the permissibility, and method of raising, of land taxes in so far as they are requisite in order to avoid:

  1. Detriment to the revenues or trade relationships of the Empire;
  2. Double taxation;
  3. Excessive or traffic-hampering burdening of the use of public trade-routes and public facilities with tolls and fees;
  4. Tax discriminations against imported commodities in favor of their own products in the commerce between the several Lands or between parts of a Land; or
  5. Premiums on exports; or in order to preserve important social interests.

Article 12

As long and in so far as the Empire does not exercise its legislative power, the Lands retain the right to legislate. This does not apply where the Empire has exclusive legislative power.

The Imperial Government has a right of veto against Land statutes which refer to the matters of Article 7, Number 13, in so far as the welfare of the whole Empire is thereby affected.

Article 13

Imperial law supersedes Land law.

If there exist doubts or differences of opinion about whether a provision of Land law is consistent with Imperial Law, the competent Imperial or Land central authority can, in compliance with the more specific provisions of an Imperial statute, appeal to the decision of a supreme judicial court of the Empire.

Article 14

The Imperial statutes shall be executed by the Land authorities, in so far as the Imperial statutes do not otherwise provide.

Article 15

The Imperial Government exercises supervision in the matters in which the Empire has the right of legislation.

In so far as the Imperial statutes are to be executed by the Land authorities, the Imperial Government can issue general directions. It is empowered, for the supervision of the execution of the Imperial statutes, to send commissioners to the Land central authorities and, with their consent, to the lower authorities.

The Land Governments are bound, upon request of the Imperial Government, to remove defects arising in the execution of the Imperial statutes. In cases of differences of opinion, the Imperial Government as well as the Land Government can appeal to the decision of the High Court of Judicature, in so far as another court is not designated by Imperial statute.

Article 16

The officials to whom the direct Imperial administration in the Lands is confided are as a rule to be citizens of the particular Land. The officials, employees and workers of the Imperial administration are, at their request, to be employed in their home districts, in so far as this is possible and considerations of their training or demands of the service do not stand in the way.

Article 17

Every Land must have a republican Constitution. The legislative body representing the people must be elected by universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage of all Imperial-German men and women in accordance with the principles of proportional representation. The Land Government shall need the confidence of the legislative body representing the people.

The principles for the elections of the legislative body representing the people shall also apply to the communal elections, However, the right to vote can by Land statute be made dependent upon the length of residence in the Commune up to one year.

Article 18

The division of the Empire into Lands is to serve the highest economic and cultural efficiency of the people together with all possible consideration of the will of the population concerned. A change in the territory of Lands and the new formation of Lands within the Empire are brought about by a constitution-amending Imperial statute.

If the Lands immediately concerned consent, only a simple Imperial statute is requisite.

A simple Imperial statute is also sufficient, if one of the Lands concerned does not consent, but the change in territory or the new formation is demanded by the will of the population and a paramount interest of the Empire requires it.

The will of the population is to be determined by a vote. The Imperial Government shall order the vote upon demand therefor by one-third of the inhabitants of the territory to be cut off who are qualified to vote for members of the Reichstag.

For the adoption of a change in territory or a new formation three-fifths of the votes cast, and at least a majority of the qualified voters, are required. And when there is involved only the severance of a part of a Prussian Governmental District, of a Bavarian Circle, or of a similar administrative district in other Lands, the will of the population of the whole district concerned is to be ascertained. If the territory to be severed is not geographically connected with the general district, the will of the population of the territory to be severed can, by virtue of a special Imperial statute, be declared sufficient.

After the ascertainment of, the approval by the population, the Imperial Government has to lay before the Reichstag an appropriate bill for passage.

Should there arise, in connection with the union or severance, a dispute about the settlement of property rights, the High Court of Judicature for the German Empire, upon application of a party, shall decide the matter.

Article 19

In constitutional controversies within a Land in which there is no court for their settlement, and also in controversies of a non-private-law nature between different Lands or between the Empire and a Land, the High Court of Judicature for the German Empire, upon application of one of the parties to the controversy, shall decide the matter, in so far as another court of the Empire is not competent.

The Imperial President shall execute the judgment of the High Court of Judicature.