Will it come from a liberal act or from an act of force? If Prussia cannot become constitutional and decentralize, will the future Germany be able to accept a reactionary Prussia at its head? And the solution of the problem dominating the German people, if the formation of a Greater Germany with the inclusion of Austria is to be considered over, will it begin with the Prussian center or the Germanic center? From Berlin or Frankfurt? Serious questions that involve complex problems and which are far from having an answer, at the beginning of the reign of Frederick William IV. However, already in recent years, events such as to move the whole people follow one another. Thus, when France, in order to make up for the defeat suffered in the Egyptian question, tries to prevent Prussia and Austria from allying themselves with the Wacht am Rhein and just a year later the Deutschland über alles -; nor without meaning are the patriotic speech of the king of Prussia on the occasion of the centenary of the erection of the cathedral of Cologne, celebrated by all Germans (1842), and the first German industrial exhibition held in Berlin in 1844 and, again, the emotion general in the face of the attitude of the king of Denmark towards the territories of Schleswig-Holstein, threatened with being denationalized (1846).
The eyes of all patriots therefore turn to Prussia, but the king, after the days of generous indulgence, is increasingly determined to reject any form of constitution. He believes he is pushing the limits of concessions by agreeing to convene the provincial diets in a single assembly in Berlin. He does not realize that this is only a principle, and while on this very occasion he reaffirms that “he would never agree that between God and his land a written sheet intrudes to govern with the clauses contained therein and replace the ancient sacred faith”, the assembled provincial diets refuse to approve the proposal for a loan necessary for the construction of the eastern railway. The votes against the same deputies of East Prussia (1847) are noteworthy.
The revolution of ’48. – The turmoil for the constitution that now pervades Prussia coincides with a revolutionary revival that runs through much of Europe. The Swiss have already broken the Sonderbund, constituted by some cantons on completely aristocratic bases; now, behold, the Italians rise up in Milan, the Hungarians struggle to break away from Austria; the Poles also rise, and the French overthrow the throne of Louis Philippe. Above all, this new French revolution has decisive influences on the German people. Almost all sovereigns yield, without resisting, to the general demands of the people, beginning by calling new liberal men to their respective governments. The Bavarians take advantage of the right moment to overthrow Louis I, who has lost the esteem of the people with the scandal raised by his passion for the dancer Lola Móntez. And on March 13 Metternich is forced to leave Vienna, where, for the moment, all order and all authority disappear. Under the Bund with permanent representation, call of the Landtag for 2 April. These concessions come too late: the people, exacerbated also by famine, epidemic diseases and social abuses, are now determined to rise up; Berlin also sees the barricades around the royal castle. But immediately after the first inevitable bloody clashes, the king does not dare to face the popular uprising.
The first National Assembly. – While Prussia prepares its constitution, decisive events for German unity follow. The issue of Bund reform has become a hot one. Even Austria is now bowing to the need for this reform, but a meeting in Heidelberg of German deputies mostly belonging to the southern states, demanding the admission of a popular representation to the Bundestag, precipitates events. The Bundestag does not dare to oppose a change in the constitution, but refers to the resolution taken at the end of March by the Vorparlament, which opened in the church of St. Paul in Frankfurt (Paulskirche), according to which a German National Assembly was to be convened to be elected by universal suffrage from all regions of the Confederation, plus Schleswig, which rose up against Frederick VII of Denmark. The Deutscher Bund is thus virtually finished, and already on May 18, 1848 the National Assembly meets for the first time (see frankfurt) with the task of laying the foundations of a free and unitary German state. The most beautiful names of liberalism belong to the Assembly: Welcher, Bassermann, H. v. Gagern, Eisermann and men of science and poets, such as Gervinus and Droysen, Germany e. W. Beseler and Dahlmann, Waitz and v. Raumer, Grün, Albrecht, Jordan, J. Grimm and Uhland. The church of St. Paul is the first German national parliament. It begins a discussion that has lasted for a very long time, on the fundamental rights of the people, during which the uncertainties and numerous conflicts favor the alliance between never-extinguished particularisms and the resistance of principles. Above all, through ultramontanism, the disagreement between north and south is revived, that between Prussia and Austria is sharpened, while, on the dominant moment over the others,
According to collegesanduniversitiesinusa, the National Assembly asks that no other constituents meet during the drafting of the constitution, but Prussia responds with the convocation of a Prussian constituent, turning the tiring and complex work of that of Frankfurt upside down. The struggle becomes dramatic. The extremists of the church of St. Paul are demanding that every single constitution be declared null and void. Then a moderate proposal prevails, approved almost unanimously, according to which all the provisions of the individual constitutions that do not agree with those of the national constitution must be considered valid only within the latter. Gagern makes an extreme attempt to prevent a particular Prussian constitution: in an interview with the king he tries to induce him to assume the imperial crown,