Germany in the 19th century
The Confederation of the Rhine
See also a page on the Holy Roman Empire.
The Confederation of the Rhine was created under the influence of
Napoleon, Emperor of the French, to group together the German states willing
to take sides with France against Austria and Prussia. The Confederation
was formed in July 1806, before the demise of the Holy Roman Empire, but
its very appearance precipitated the dissolution of the Empire.
The Confederation was formed by a treaty of 12 July 1806 between the
Emperor of the French (who was made "Protector of the Confederation") and
16 Princes of the Holy Roman Empire (German text):
The treaty gave the style of 'Majesty' to the two kings, 'Imperial Highness'
to the grand-duke of Berg, and 'Most Serene Highness' to all others.
king of Bavaria (king since 20 Dec 1805)
king of Württemberg (king since 20 Dec 1805)
Elector Arch-Chancelor (made Prince-Primate, with predicate Most Eminent Highness, art. 4; successor
appointed by the Protector; turned in 1810 into Grand-Duke of Frankfurt)
Elector of Baden (made Grand-Duke with royal rank, art. 5)
Duke of Berg
(Joachim Murat, by decree 15 March 1806, made grand-duke, art. 5; Napoléon Louis, nephew of Napoléon, 1809-13)
Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt (made Grand-Duke, art. 5)
Prince of Nassau-Usingen (made Duke of Nassau, art. 5)
Prince of Nassau-Weilburg
Prince of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen
Prince of Hohenzollern Hechingen
Prince of Salm (until 1810)
Prince of Salm-Kyrburg (until 1810)
Prince of Isenburg-Birstein
Duke of Arenberg (until 1811)
Prince of Lichtenstein
Count of Leyen (made Prince, art. 5)
By the treaty, 21 princes, 25 counts, 3 barons and a number of Knights
were mediatized. Of the mediatized princes, none were altfürstlich
(princes before 1586), 7 were neufürstlich (created princes
between 1586 and 1803): Orange-Nassau, Fürstenberg, Schwarzenberg,
Lobkowicz, Thurn-Taxis, Auersperg, Dietrichstein; 14 had been made
princes between 1803 and 1806.
A declaration of 31 July 1806 signed by 10 members of the Confederation
declared that the bonds between the various members of the German state
had in fact been dissolved. A note delivered by the French ambassador
to the Imperial Diet on 1 August 1806 announced that France ceased to recognize
the existence of the Holy Roman Empire (which it called 'la confédération
germanique') and recognized the 'full and absolute sovereignty' of the
16 princes of the Confederation. On August 6, the Emperor drew the
conclusions and proclaimed the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.
Other states later joined the Confederation:
25 Sep 1806: the Grand-Duke of Tuscany as prince of Würzburg, made
Grand-Duke of Würzburg (HRH the Archduke Grand-duke, art. 2)
11 Dec 1806 (Treay of Posen): the Elector of Saxony, made king (art. 3)
15 Dec 1806:
the Dukes of
Apr 1807 (Treaty of Warsaw):
the dukes of
the princes of
the princes of Anhalt-Köthen and Anhalt-Dessau (made dukes)
prince of Lippe-Detmold,
count of Schaumburg-Lippe (made prince),
prince of Waldeck
the four branches of Reuss (as two members, Reuss-Greitz and Reuss-Schleitz)
7 Dec 1807: the king of Westphalia (Jérôme, brother of Napoleon)
18 Feb 1808: the duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
22 March 1808: the duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
Among the main German states, only Prussia did not join; nor did
Denmark, Sweden, Russia for the various territories they owned in the former
Empire. Sundry remaining former members of the Empire did not
join (Oldenburg, Orange-Nassau,
Stolberg-Wernigerode, Schönburg-Waldenburg, Kaunitz, Nesselrode,
Bentinck, Grote, and the free cities of Hamburg, Bremen and Lübeck).
The duchy of Brunswick-Wolffenbüttel
was abolished on 23 Oct 1806, the Electorate of Hesse-Cassel on 4 Nov 1806,
both incorporated into the kingdom of Westphalia along with the territories
of the prince of Nassau-Orange,
the prince of Kaunitz and the count of Stolberg-Wernigerode.
The former electorate of Hanover divided between Westphalia, Prussia and French occupation.
The Teutonic Order was suppressed within the Confederation by Napoleon
on 24 April 1809, confirmed by the Treaty of Pressburg on 14 October 1809.
On 13 Dec 1810, Napoléon annexed to France Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck,
the territories of Salm-Salm, Salm-Kyrburg,
Arenberg, and Oldenburg, as well as parts of Berg and Westphalia.
The Confederation was recognized by Austria in 1806, and by Russia and
Prussia at the treaty of Tilsit of 7 July 1807.
declaration of Kalisch on 25 Mar 1813, Prussia and Russia deounced
the Confederation of the Rhine as a "trügerische Fessel" and
declared their intent to dissolve it: "die Auflösung dieses
Vereins nicht anders als in [Ihre Majestäten] bestimmten Absichten
The first members to defect were the duchies of Mecklenburg soon after;
Bavaria left on 8 Oct 1813 (treaty of Ried), followed by
Württemberg on November 2 (treaty of Fulda) and Baden,
Hesse-Darmstadt, Nassau, Saxe-Coburg, Saxe-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen,
Saxe-Hildburghausen, and the two Schwarzburgs (accessions of Frankfurt,
Nov 20, 23 and 24). The treaty of Paris of 30 May 1814 announced
the German states would be "independent" and united in a new
confirming the end of the Confederation of the Rhine.
The map of Germany was redrawn by the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
This consisted of two steps:
deciding who, of the former immediate entities of the Holy Roman Empire,
would survive as fully sovereign states
what the boundaries of the surviving entities would be.
Because so many German states had been allied with France and had
profited from the territorial changes made since 1803, relatively
little change took place in 1815.
The general principle of the Congress of Vienna was to avoid recreating
anything that had been abolished, except for the politically significant
entities. Thus, Hanover (as a kingdom), Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, the
Hesse (Hesse-Cassel), the duchy of Oldenburg, and the cities of Bremen, Hamburg
and Lübeck were recreated. The other states mediatized
in 1806 or abolished afterwards were not recreated.
On the other hand,
all members of Napoleon's Confederation of the Rhine did survive after
1815, with the exceptions of:
- the states held by Napoleon's relatives (Westphalia, Berg); the grand-duchy
of Frankfurt, held by the Primate Dalberg with reversion rights to Napoléon's
stepson Eugène de Beauharnais, survived as a free city;
- the princes of Isenburg and van der Leyen, deemed too closely allied
- Würzburg, because the grand-duke of Tuscany recovered his Italian lands;
- Salm, annexed in 1810;
- Arenberg, mediatized by Napoléon after the annexation of Holland and
various German territories surrounding those of Arenberg (11 Feb 1811).
Thus, although a few boundaries were redrawn in 1815 (notably
those of Saxony, punished for its steadfast alliance with
France), the ultimate composition
of the German Confederation of 1815 and the shape of its territories
had largely been decided by Napoleon in 1806.
Germany in the Nineteenth Century
Germany's history from 1815 to 1918 saw two distinct phases:
Deutsches Bund from 1815 to 1866, the German Confederation (Deutsches
Bund), created by the Vienna Congress. During this period, Prussia, which
was already the largest, most populated and most powerful German state,
grew in size and assertiveness. A succession of wars (against Denmark in
1864, Austria and her German allies in 1866, and France in 1870-71) led
to territorial gains for Prussia and finally the foundation of the German
Empire (Deutsches Reich) in 1871.
Deutsches Reich from 1871 to 1918, the king of Prussia was also
German Emperor (Deutsches Kaiser), in charge of foreign policy, the army
and various other national matters. The states existing in 1871 continued
to exist, each with their king, grand-duke, duke, or prince, and their
The states making up Germany varied greatly in size and importance,
although their numbers had been radically cut down when compared to the
pre-1806 Holy Roman Empire (see the table of size and
Deutsches Bund (1815-1866)
The Deutsches Bund was created by a treaty
of 8 June 1815 (Deutsche Bundesakte), which was included in the final act of the Congress
of Vienna of the next day. (See the original text in German).
The 36 founding members were:
There were very few modifications afterwards. Württemberg and Baden
joined shortly thereafter (26 Jul and 1 Sep 1815). Hesse-Homburg, previously
under sovereignty of Hessen-Darmstadt, joined 7 Jul 1817. Of the former
members of the Rheinbund that were still in existence at the time of the
Vienna Congress, only the
princes oF Isenburg and von der Leyen did not retain their sovereignty,
but became subjects of Austria (in large part because of their
relation with Napoleon).
the emperor of Austria,
the kings of
Denmark (as duke of Holstein, until 30 Oct 1864),
Netherlands (as grand-duke of Luxemburg),
Great-Britain and Hannover,
the Elector of Hesse (style adopted 28 Apr 1815),
the grand-dukes of
Sachsen-Weimar (grand-duke since 6 Apr 1815),
the dukes of
Sachsen-Gotha (extinct 1825),
Sachsen-Coburg-Meiningen (Sachsen-Meiningen-Hildburghausen after 1826),
Sachsen-Hildburgshausen (Sachsen-Altenburg after 1826),
Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha after 1826),
Anhalt-Dessau (Anhalt-Dessau-Cöthen after 1853),
Anhalt-Bernburg (extinct 1853),
Anhalt-Cöthen (extinct 1847),
the princes of
Hohenzollern-Hechingen (until 1849),
Hohenzollern-Siegmaringen (until 1849),
Reuß of senior line,
Reuß of junior line (consisting of R-Schleiz, R-Lobenstein-Lobenstein
and Lobenstein-Ebersdorff; the second became extinct 1824, the third ceded
his rights to the first in 1848),
the free cities of
Several members disappeared through extinction: Saxe-Gotha was
divided on 12 Nov 1826, Anhalt-Cöthen became extinct
on 23 Nov 1847, and the princes of Hohenzollern-Hechingen and
Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen ceded their soverignty to Prussia on
7 Dec 1849.
The count of Bentinck tried unsuccessfully to join as member by
virtue of his possession of the lordhip of Kniphausen. A compromise
reached on 8 June 1825 in Berlin with Austria, Prussia and Russia
led to the count of Bentinck being awarded sovereignty over Kniphausen
in the same relation with Oldenburg as it was with the former Empire
and Emperor; Oldenburg represented Kniphausen within the German
Bund. This partially sovereign status disappeared on 1 Aug 1854
when Kniphausen was formally ceded to Oldenburg.
In 1839, as a result of the secession of Belgium and part of Luxemburg
from the Netherlands, part of the Dutch province of Limburg was declared
to be held by the king of Netherlands as grand-duke of Luxemburg, with
reversion rights to the agnates of the house of Nassau as for Luxemburg
(treaty of London, 19 Apr 1839, art. 3: "[...] there shall be assigned to HM the king of
the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxemburg, a territorial indemnity in the
Province of Limburg"; art. 4: "...HM shall possess, either to be held by
him in his character of Grand Duke of Luxemburg, or for the purpose of
being united to Holland, those territories [etc]" which represent the modern
Dutch province of Limburg, less Maastricht; art. 5: "HM the King of the Netherlands, Grand
Duke of Luxemburg, shall come to an Agreement with the Germanic Confederation,
and with the Agnates of the House of Nassau, as to the applications
of the stipulations contained in articles 3 and 4 [...]"; see Hertslet, vol. 2, p. 983;
the Confederation ratified the treaty on 5 Sep 1839 and the agnates of the
house of Nassau signed a convention on 27 June 1839; ibid., p. 1001).
After the "War of the Duchies" Denmark lost Holstein
and Schleswig (30 Oct 1864) and effectively ceased to be a member.
The Confederation survived until it was torn apart by the conflict between
Prussia and Austria. On 14 June 1866, the Prussian government declared the
Confederation to be dissolved and declared war on Austria. The ensuing
war resulted in a rapid and crushing victory for Prussia. Austria was defeated
and signed the peace of Prague (23 Aug 1866) recognizing the end of the Confederation.
The king of
Prussia annexed Hanover, Electoral Hesse, Nassau and Frankfurt (bill submitted
to the Prussian Landtag on 16 Aug 1866, ratified by same on 20 Sep 1866).
Later, it formally annexed Holstein and Schleswig, Hesse-Homburg (whose landgraves
had become extinct in male line on 24 Mar 1866), and portions
of Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt (24 Dec 1866). Limburg returned to its former
status as integral part of the Netherlands (treaty of London, 11 May 1867).
The North German Confederation (Nord-deutsches Bund) was
formed by treaty of 14 June 1867. (See the original text in
German). It included Prussia, Saxony, Mecklenburg-Schwerin,
Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Oldenburg, Braunschweig,
Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Anhalt, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt,
Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen, Waldeck-Pyrmont, Reuß elder line, Reuß younger
line, Schaumburg-Lippe, Lippe-Detmold, Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg.
Announcements of renunciations in the Deutsche Reichsanzeiger
(from Martin Schumacher: Weimar-Index, Droste Verlag, 1988 Dusseldorf):
| Date ||ruler|| state|| issue||date|
|11/11||Heinrich XXVII||Reuß j. L.||268||12.11|
Size and Population of German states in 1867
The following table gives a sense of the relative sizes of these states
as of 1867.
|Preußen (ante 1866)
|Preußen (post 1866)
|Reuß (jüngerer Linie)
|Reuß (älterer Linie)
Prussia accounts for 62% of the German population (50% before 1864).
Prussia, Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg and the kingdom of Saxony account
for 89% of the population.
Zipf's Law and pre-unification German states
Zipf's law relates rank with frequency. Take the words of the
English language, rank them by their frequency of occurrence, and
compare that rank n with the actual frequency with which they do occur Pn. Zipf's law states that Pn ~ 1/na where a is close to 1. A general version of Zipf's law relates rank with size.
The law holds pretty well for the German states, but only for n>2.
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