1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Württemberg

WÜRTTEMBERG (see 28.856). Pop. according to 1919 census, 2,518,773. During 1910-1921 the constitutional question in Württemberg passed through decisive developments. The constitution dating from Sept. 20 1819 was one of the oldest in Germany. Created by a contract between the King and the Assembly of Estates, it was based upon the people's will and could, for that very reason, be maintained almost without alteration for close upon a century.

The first alteration of any importance was made in 1906, when Württemberg introduced, before any other German state, the proportional system of election for the Second Chamber of the Diet. The result of the elections of 1906 was such that the two Liberal parties on the one side and the Catholic Centre and the Conservatives on the other were equally strong, so that the Social Democrats held the balance. The elections of 1912 brought about a fresh grouping of parties. The Conservatives and the Catholic Centre (forming together the so-called “Black-and-Blue bloc”) returned as many deputies as all the other parties together, with the consequence that very keen opposition developed between the Right and the Left. The composition of the Ministry, it is true, was not affected by the constellation of parties, as the government of Württemberg was not on the parliamentary system. The Weizsäcker Ministry remained in office and continued to conduct its policy on the liberal lines which had always been followed in Württemberg. The demand for the appointment of parliamentary ministers, which had been vigorously prosecuted by the Democratic (non-Socialist) party during the World War, was rejected by the Weizsäcker Ministry, notwithstanding its liberal tendencies, until the change in the constitution of the Empire under Prince Max of Baden's chancellorship in Oct. 1918 compelled the Württemberg Government to give way. The Weizsäcker Ministry resigned. A new Ministry was formed, containing a member of each of the four parties, the Catholic Centre, the National Liberal, the Democrats and the Social Democrats. The Democrat Liesching was made president of the Ministry. This new Ministry was going to meet on Nov. 8, but on Nov. 9 the revolution broke out in Stuttgart and on Nov. 10 the Liesching Cabinet resigned. A provisional Government was formed, consisting at first entirely of Social Democrats. The most extreme members of this Government, however, were ejected on Nov. 11, and a member of each of the three parties, the Centre, the Democrats and the National Liberals, entered the Cabinet. After the disturbances which broke out in Jan. 1919 the Independent Socialists left the Ministry, and its composition then remained unaltered until the general election of the year 1920.

The King, William II. (born 1848), had abdicated on Nov. 30 1918 and retained only the title of Duke of Württemberg. He subsequently lived mostly at Bebenhausen Castle in the Black Forest, where he died on Oct. 2 1921. The headship of the family passed to Duke Albrecht of Württemberg. The abolition of the monarchy in Württemberg was solely a consequence of the fall of the Hohenzollern monarchy in the empire. The King of Württemberg himself had enjoyed great popularity, which extended into the ranks of the Social Democrats. The democratic tendencies which had always prevailed in Württemberg had, after the revolution, the favourable effect of enabling the Territory (Land) to settle down with comparative rapidity, and the coöperation of the so-called “bourgeois” (i.e. non-Socialist) parties with the Social Democrats took place without any serious friction.

After Nov. 9 1918 Württemberg experienced no further political convulsion of a serious character. The disturbances of Jan. 1919 were quickly suppressed. The attempt of the extremists among the working classes to cause disturbances by a general strike was frustrated by the action of the railway officials in paralysing the communications with Stuttgart. The Bavarian Communist insurrection produced no effect in Württemberg; it was, on the contrary, suppressed with the aid of Württemberg troops before it could spread across the border. During the so-called Kapp “Putsch” (March 1920) the Government of the Reich and the National Assembly removed for a short time from Berlin to Stuttgart because they felt that they would be safest in the capital of Württemberg.

The provisional Government of Württemberg issued on Nov. 2 1918 regulations for the election of a Representative Assembly which should meet and vote the new constitution. The elections of Jan. 12 1919 resulted in the return of 52 Social Democrats, 38 Democrats, 31 members of the Catholic Centre, 25 Conservatives and 4 Independent Socialists. The Assembly first confirmed the Government in office and then proceeded to deal with the new constitution. It was voted on April 26 against a minority of nine by the whole of the rest of the House. Most of the Conservatives were amongst the majority; the minority consisted of a few Conservatives and the Independent Socialists. Württemberg was the second state of the Reich which deduced the consequence of the revolution by setting up a new constitution; Baden alone preceded it. The constitution of Württemberg naturally resembles that of Baden in many respects, but also differs from it in several important particulars. Moreover, the constitution which came into force on May 23 1919 was not definitive. As the constitution of the Reich had considerably restricted the rights of the separate states which composed it, a reconsideration of the constitution of Württemberg became necessary and large sections of it were eliminated. On Sept. 25 1919, exactly 100 years after the adoption of the first Württemberg constitution, the new constitution was finally voted.

The constitution of Württemberg could not fail to resemble that of the other German states, since the constitution of the Reich prescribes for all the states that they must be republics and have a parliamentary government. The powers of the state in Württemberg proceed from the people and are transferred by the people to the Diet; the people can, however, resume the powers of the state by dissolving the Diet or by giving a popular vote (Volksabstimmung) on a law. Such a vote may be passed either upon a referendum or upon a popular initiative. In contrast to Baden, there is no compulsory referendum.

The Diet transfers the executive power to the Government. At the head of the Government there is the Minister-President, who has the title of President of the State (Staatspräsident); but in Württemberg, as in Baden, there is no head of the state independent of the Diet. The Ministry is formed by the Diet's electing the President of the State, who selects the Ministry in accord with the Diet. (The same procedure is followed in Bavaria and Baden.) The administration, however, is not conducted by the Ministry as a whole, but by individual ministers. A peculiarity of the Württemberg constitution is that councils (Beiräte), formed from the different classes according to occupations (Berufsstände), are attached to the ministries. Elections for the Diet take place every four years. No provision is made for a dissolution of the Diet except that, as already mentioned, the Diet can be dismissed by a vote of the people.

The constitution of Württemberg was framed by those parties which restored order in the country after the revolution—the Social Democrats, the Democrats and the Catholic Centre. At the elections of June 1920 these parties, particularly the Social Democrats and the Democrats, were considerably weakened, while the parties to the Right and the Left of them gained. As in the Reich the result of the general elections compelled the Government to resign; the Württemberg Government took this course, although there was no absolute necessity. The new Government of Herr Hieber was composed of members of the Democratic and the Catholic Centre parties, but was nevertheless supported by the German People's Party (former National Liberals) and the Social Democrats. The change of government did not entail any essential alteration in the policy of Württemberg. (W. v. B.)