Constitution of the Kingdom of Prussia

Constitution of the Kingdom of Prussia
Frederick William IV of Prussia
Constitution of 1850

Prussia initially adopted a Constitution on December 5, 1848; a major revision, often treated as a separate Constitution, was adopted on January 31, 1850 (which is the version presented below, as amended to 1895). This Constitution ceased in its de facto operation when Wilhelm II abdicated the German and Prussian thrones on November 9, 1918. It ceased to have de jure effect upon the adoption of the Constitution of the Free State of Prussia, on November 20, 1920.


We, Frederick William, by grace of God, King of Prussia, etc., hereby declare and make known that, whereas the constitution of the Prussian State, promulgated by us on the fifth of December, 1848, subject to revision by the ordinary process of legislation, and accepted by both chambers of our kingdom, has been submitted to the prescribed revision, we have finally established the provisions of that constitution in agreement with both chambers.

We, therefore, promulgate the same as a fundamental law of the state, as follows:

Title I. The Territory of the State

Article 1: Territorial Extent

All parts of the monarchy in its present extent form the territory of the Prussian State.

Article 2: Territorial Changes

The boundaries of this territory can only be altered by law.

Title II. The Rights of Prussians

Article 3: Citizenship

The constitution and the law determine under what conditions the quality and rights of a Prussian citizen may be acquired, exercised or forfeited.

Article 4: Equality

All Prussians shall be equal before the law. Class privileges shall not be permitted. Public offices, subject to the conditions imposed by law, shall be uniformly open to all who are competent to hold them.

Article 5: Personal Freedom

Personal freedom is guaranteed. The forms and conditions under which any limitation thereof, especially arrest, shall be permissible, shall be determined by law.

Article 6: Domestic Inviolability

The domicile shall be inviolable. Intrusion and search therein, as well as the seizing of letters and papers, shall be allowed only in the manner and in the cases prescribed by law.

Article 7: Right to Lawful Trial

No one shall be deprived of his lawful judge. Exceptional tribunals and extraordinary commissions shall not be permitted.

Article 8: Nulla Poena Sine Lege

Punishments shall not be prescribed or inflicted except according to law.

Article 9: Property

Property is inviolable. It shall only be taken or interfered with from considerations of public weal, and then only in a manner to be prescribed by law, and in return for a compensation to be previously determined. Even in urgent cases a preliminary valuation and compensation shall be made.

Article 10: Civil Death, Confiscation

Civil death and confiscation of property, as punishment, shall not be permitted.

Article 11: Freedom of Emigration

Freedom of emigration can only be limited by the state, with view to military service. Migration fees shall not be levied.

Article 12: Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religious confession, of association in religious societies (Art. 30 and 31), and of the common exercise of religion in private and public, is guaranteed. The enjoyment of civil and political rights shall not be dependent upon religious belief. But the exercise of religious liberty shall not be permitted to interfere with the civil or political duties of the citizen.

Article 13: Religious Societies

Religious and ecclesiastical associations, which have no corporate rights, can only acquire those rights by special laws.

Article 14: State Religion

The Christian religion shall be taken as the basis of those state institutions which are connected with the exercise of religion without prejudice to the religious liberty guaranteed by Article 12.

Article 15: Repealed

Repealed June 18, 1875.

Article 16: Repealed

Repealed June 18, 1875.

Article 17: Church Patronage

A special law shall be enacted relating to church patronage and to the conditions on which it may be abolished.

Article 18: Repealed

Repealed June 18, 1875.

Article 19: Civil Marriage

Civil marriage shall be introduced in accordance with a special law which shall also regulate the keeping of a civil register.

Article 20: Freedom of Science

Science and its teachings shall be free.

Article 21: Education

The education of youth shall be adequately provided for by public schools. Parents and their representatives shall not leave their children or wards without that education prescribed in the public elementary schools.

Article 22: Freedom of Instruction

Every one shall be at liberty to give instruction, and establish institutions of learning, provided he shall have given proof, to the proper state authorities, of his moral, scientific and technical fitness.

Article 23: Supervision of Education

All public and private educational institutions shall be under the supervision of authorities appointed by the state. Teachers in the public schools shall have the rights and duties of public officials.

Article 24: School Affairs

In the establishment of public elementary schools, confessional differences shall be considered as far as possible.

Religious instruction in the elementary schools shall be superintended by the religious organizations concerned.

The charge of the external affairs of the elementary schools shall belong to the community. With the statutory co-operation of the community in the manner and to the extent determined by law, the State shall appoint the teachers in the public elementary schools from the number of those qualified.

Article 25: Support of Schools

The means for establishing, maintaining and enlarging the public elementary schools shall be provided by the communities, which shall, however, be assisted by the State in proven cases of pecuniary inability on the part of the community. The obligations of third parties, based on special legal titles, shall not be impaired.

The State shall accordingly guarantee to teachers in the elementary schools a steady income suitable to local circumstances.

In public elementary schools education shall be imparted free of charge.

Article 26: Educational Law

A special law shall regulate all matters of education.

Article 27: Freedom of Speech

Every Prussian shall be entitled to express his opinion freely by word, writing, print, or pictorial representation.

Censorship of the press may not be introduced; and no other restriction on the freedom of the press shall be imposed except by law.

Article 28: Offences by Word

Offences committed by word, writing, print, or pictorial representation shall be punished in accordance with the general penal code.

Article 29: Freedom of Assembly

All Prussians shall be entitled to meet in closed rooms, peacefully and unarmed, without previous permission from the authorities.

Article 30: Freedom of Association

All Prussians shall have the right to form associations for such purposes as do not contravene the penal laws.

The law shall regulate with special regard to insuring the public security, the exercise of the right guaranteed by this and the preceding article (29).

Political associations may be subjected by law to restrictions and temporary prohibitions.

Article 31: Corporate Rights

The law shall determine the conditions on which corporate rights may be granted or refused.

Article 32: Right to Petition

The right of petition shall belong to all Prussians. Petitions under a collective name shall be permitted only to public authorities and corporations.

Article 33: Inviolability of the Mail

The privacy of the mails shall be inviolable. The necessary restrictions of this right, in cases of war and of criminal investigation, shall be determined by law.2

Article 34: Military Service

All Prussians are bound to military service. The extent and character of this duty shall be determined by law.

Article 35: Composition of the Army

The army shall include all divisions of the standing army and the Landwehr. In the event of war, the king can call out the Landsturm in accordance with the law.

Article 36: Use of Military Power

The military power can only be employed for the suppression of internal troubles, and the execution of the laws, in the cases and manner specified by statute, and on the requisition of the civil authorities. In the latter respect exceptions may be made by law.

Article 37: Military Discipline

The court-martial of the army shall be restricted to penal matters, and shall be regulated by law. Provisions with regard to military discipline shall remain the subject of special ordinances.

Article 38: Military Assemblies

The military forces shall not deliberate whether in active service or not; nor shall they otherwise assemble than when commanded to do so. Thus assemblies and meetings of the Landwehr for the purpose of discussing military arrangements, commands and ordinances, are forbidden, even when they are not in active service.

Article 39: Restriction of Military Rights

The provisions of Articles 5, 6, 29, 30 and 32 shall apply to the army only in so far as they do not conflict with military laws and rules of discipline:

Article 40: Feudal Tenures

As amended on June 5, 1852

The establishment of feudal tenures is forbidden.

The feudal bond still existing with respect to surviving fiefs shall be dissolved by law.

Article 41: Crown Fiefs

As amended on June 5, 1852

The provisions of Art. 40 do not apply to crown fiefs or to fiefs situated in other countries.

Article 42: Manorial Jurisdiction

As amended on April 14, 1856

In accordance with special laws already passed the following are abolished without compensation:

  1. The right to exercise or delegate judicial power, connected with the possession of certain lands, together with the fees and exemptions accruing from this right
  2. The obligations arising from manorial or patriarchial jurisdiction, from serfage, and from former tax and industrial organization.

With these rights are also abolished the counter-services and burdens devolving upon those enjoying these rights.

Title III. The King

Article 43: Inviolability

The person of the king shall be inviolable.

Article 44: Ministerial Responsibility

The king's ministers shall be responsible. All official acts of the king shall require for their validity the counter-signature of a minister, who shall thereby assume responsibility for them.

Article 45: Executive Power

The executive power shall belong to the king alone. He shall appoint and dismiss the ministers.1 He shall order the promulgation of the laws and issue the necessary ordinances for their execution.

Article 46: Commander-in-Chief

The king shall be commander-in-chief of the army.

Article 47: Power of Appointment

The king shall fill all posts in the army, as well as in other branches of the public service, in so far as it is not otherwise ordained by law.

Article 48: War, Peace, Treaties

The king shall have power to declare war and make peace, and to conclude other treaties with foreign governments. The latter require for their validity the assent of the chambers in so far as they are commercial treaties, or impose burdens on the State, or obligations on the individual subjects.

Article 49: Pardoning Power

The king shall have power to pardon, and to mitigate punishment.

But in favor of a minister condemned for his official acts, this right can only be exercised on the motion of that chamber whence his impeachment emanated.

Only in virtue of a special law can the king suppress inquiries already instituted.

Article 50: Orders, Distinctions, Coinage

The king may confer orders and other distinctions, so far as they do not carry privileges with them.

He shall exercise the right of coinage in accordance with the law.

Article 51: Convoking and Closing the Chambers

The king shall convoke the chambers, and close their sessions. He may dissolve the two chambers together or either one. In such a case, however, the electors shall be assembled within a period of sixty days, and the chambers summoned within a period of ninety days respectively after the dissolution.

Article 52: Adjourning the Chambers

The king shall have power to adjourn the chambers. But without their assent this adjournment may not exceed the space of thirty days, nor be repeated during the same session.

Article 53: Succession

The crown is, in accordance with the laws of the royal family, hereditary in the male line of that house following the law of primogeniture and agnatic succession.

Article 54: Majority, Oath

The king shall attain his majority on completing his eighteenth year.

In presence of the united chambers he shall take the oath to observe the constitution of the monarchy steadfastly and inviolably, and to rule in accordance with it and the laws.

Article 55: Foreign Realms

Without the consent of both chambers the king cannot also be ruler of foreign realms.

Article 56: Regency

If the king is a minor, or is otherwise permanently prevented from ruling himself, the regency shall be undertaken by that agnate, who has attained his majority and stands next in succession to the crown. He shall immediately convoke the chambers, which, in united session, shall decide as to the necessity of the regency.

Article 57: Election of a Regent

If there be no agnate of age, and if no legal provision has previously been made for such a contingency, the Ministry of State shall convoke the chambers, which shall then elect a regent in joint session. And until the assumption of the regency by him, the Ministry of State shall conduct the government.

Article 58: Powers and Oath of Regent

The regent shall exercise the powers vested in the king in the name of the latter. After the establishment of the regency, he shall take the oath before the chambers in joint session to observe the constitution of the monarchy steadfastly and inviolably, and to rule in accordance with it and the laws.

Until this oath is taken, the whole Ministry of State for the time being shall remain responsible for all acts of the government.

Article 59: Annuity

The annuity drawn from the income of the forests and domains and set apart by the law of January 17, 1820, shall remain attached to the entailed fund of the crown.

Title IV. The Ministers

Article 60: Legislative Rights and Duties

The ministers, as well as the State officials appointed to represent them, shall have access to each chamber, and must at all times be heard upon their own request.

Each chamber can demand the presence of the ministers.

The ministers shall be entitled to vote in one or other of the chambers only when members of it.

Article 61: Impeachment

On the resolution of one chamber the ministers may be impeached for the crime of violating the constitution, for bribery and for treason. The decision of such cases shall lie with the supreme tribunal of the monarchy sitting as one body. As long as two Supreme Courts exist, they shall be united for the above purpose.

Further details as to matters of responsibility, procedure and punishment, are hereby reserved for a special law.

Title V. The Chambers

Article 62: Legislative Power

The legislative power shall be exercised in common by the king and the two chambers.

Every law shall require the assent of the king and of the two chambers.

Money bills and the budgets shall first be laid before the second chamber; the budgets shall either be accepted or rejected as a whole by the first chamber.

Article 63: Special Ordinances

In the event only of its being urgently necessary to maintain public security, or deal with an unusual state of distress when the chambers are not in session, ordinances, which do not contravene the constitution, may be issued with the force of the law, on the responsibility of the whole ministry. But these must be immediately laid before the chambers for approval at their next meeting.

Article 64: Right to Introduce Bills

The king, as well as each chamber, shall have the right of proposing laws. Bills that have been rejected by one of the chambers, or by the king, cannot be re-introduced during the same session.

Articles 65-68: First Chamber

As amended on May 7, 1853

The first chamber shall be formed by royal ordinance, which can only be altered by a law to be issued with the approval of the chambers.

The first chamber shall be composed of members appointed by the king, with the right of hereditary transmission, or only for life.

Article 69: Second Chamber

As amended on April 30, 1851, May 17, 1867 and June 23, 1876

The second chamber shall consist of four hundred and thirty-three members.

The electoral districts shall be determined by law. They shall consist of one or more circles, or of one or more of the larger towns.

Article 70: Primary Voters

Every Prussian who has completed his twenty-fifth year, and is qualified to take part in the elections of the commune where he is domiciled, is entitled to act as a primary voter.

One entitled to take part in the election of different communes, can only exercise his right as primary voter in one commune.

Article 71: Electors

For every 250 souls of the population, one elector shall be chosen. The primary voters shall be divided into three classes in proportion to the amount of direct taxes they pay, and in such a manner as that each class shall represent a third of the sum total of the taxes paid by the primary voters. This sum total shall be reckoned:

  1. By communes, in case the commune forms of itself a primary electoral district.
  2. By districts, in case the primary electoral district consists of several communes.

The first class shall consist of those primary voters, highest in the scale of taxation, who, taken together, pay a third of the total.

The second class shall consist of those primary voters, next highest in the scale, whose taxes form a second third of the whole.

The third class shall be made up of the remaining taxpayers, lowest in the scale, who contribute the other third of the whole.

Each class shall vote apart, and shall choose each a third of the electors.

These classes may be divided into several voting sections, none of which, however, must include more than 500 primary voters.

The electors shall be chosen by each class from the number of the primary voters in their district, without regard to the classes.

Article 72: Election of Deputies

The deputies shall be chosen by the electors.

Further details relating to the elections shall be determined by an electoral law, which shall also make the necessary provision for those cities where flour and meat duties are levied instead of direct taxes.

Article 73: Legislative Period

As amended on May 22, 1888

The legislative period of the second chamber shall be five years.

Article 74: Qualifications of Deputies

As amended on March 27, 1872

Every Prussian is eligible as deputy to the second chamber who has completed his thirtieth year, who has not forfeited his civil rights in consequence of a valid judicial sentence, and who has been a Prussian subject for three years.

The president and members of the supreme chamber of accounts cannot sit in either house of the Landtag.

Article 75: Election of New Chambers

After the lapse of a legislative period the chambers shall be elected anew, and the same in the event of dissolution. In both cases previous members are re-eligible.

Article 76: Sessions

As amended on May 18, 1857

Both houses of the diet of the kingdom shall be regularly convened by the king in the period from the beginning of November in each year till the middle of the following January, and otherwise as often as circumstances may require.

Article 77: Opening and Closing

The chambers shall be opened and closed by the king in person, or by a minister appointed by him for this purpose in a joint session of the chambers.

Both chambers shall be simultaneously convened, opened, adjourned and closed. If one chamber shall be dissolved, the other shall be at the same time prorogued.

Article 78: Credentials, Rules, Officers

Each chamber shall examine the credentials of its members and decide thereupon. It shall regulate its own order of business and discipline by its rule of order, and elect its president, vice-presidents and secretaries.

Members of the public service shall require no special permit in order to enter the chamber.

If a member of the chamber shall accept a salaried office of the State, or is promoted in the service of the State to a post involving higher rank or increase of salary, he shall lose his seat and vote in the chamber, and can only recover his seat in it by re-election.

No one can be a member of both chambers.

Article 79: Public and Private Sessions

The sittings of both chambers shall be public. On the motion of its president, or of ten members, each chamber may meet in private session at which the first motion taken up shall be the question of continuing the secrecy of the session.

Article 80: Quorum, Majority

As amended on May 30, 1855

The chamber of deputies cannot take action unless there is a majority of the legal number of its members present. Each chamber shall take action by absolute majority of votes, subject to any exceptions that may be determined by the rules of order for elections.

The house of lords shall not take action unless at least sixty members of the house holding seats and voting in accordance with the provisions of the ordinance of October 12, 1854, shall be present.

Article 81: Addresses, Petitions, Information

Each chamber shall have the separate right of presenting addresses to the king.

No one may in person present to the chambers, or to one of them a petition or address.

Each chamber can transmit to the ministers the communications made to it, and demand information of them in regard to any grievances thus presented.

Article 82: Commissions of Inquiry

Each chamber shall be entitled to appoint for its own information commissions of inquiry into facts.

Article 83: Independence of Members

The members of both chambers are representatives of the whole people. They shall vote according to their own convictions, and shall not be bound by commissions or instructions.

Article 84: Parliamentary Privilege

For their votes in the chamber they can never be called to account, and for the opinion they express therein they can only be called to account within the chamber itself, in virtue of the rules of order.

No member of either chamber can, without its assent, be had up for examination, or be arrested during the parliamentary session for any penal offence, unless he be taken in the act, or in the course of the following day.

Assent shall alike be necessary in the case of arrest for debt.

All criminal proceedings against a member of the chamber, and all arrests for preliminary examination or civil arrest, shall be suspended during the parliamentary session on demand from the chamber concerned.

Article 85: Salary of Deputies

The members of the second chamber shall receive out of the State treasury traveling expenses and a salary to be fixed by law. Renunciation thereof shall be inadmissible.

Title VI. The Judicial Power

Article 86: Judicial Power

The judicial power shall be exercised in the name of the king, by independent tribunals subject to no other authority than that of the law.

Judgments shall be issued and executed in the name of the king.

Article 87: Appointment and Tenure of Judges

As amended on February 19, 1879

The judges shall be appointed for life by the king, or in his name.

They can only be removed or temporarily suspended from office by judicial sentence, and for reasons previously prescribed by law. Temporary suspension from office, so far as it does not occur in consequence of a law, and involuntary transfer from one position to another, or to the superannuated list, can occur only from the causes and in accordance with the forms prescribed by law, and only in virtue of a judicial sentence.

But these provisions do not apply to cases of transfer rendered necessary by changes in the organization of the courts or of their districts.

In the formation of courts common to the territory of Prussia and to that of other Federal States, deviations from the provisions of Article 86, and of the first clause of Article 87, are permissible.

Article 88: Repealed

Repealed on April 30, 1856

Article 89: Organization of Tribunals

The organization of the tribunals shall be determined by law.

Article 90: Qualifications of Judges

To the judicial office only those shall be appointed who have qualified themselves for it as prescribed by law.

Article 91: Special Classes of Cases

Courts for special classes of cases, and, in particular, tribunals for trade and industry, shall be established by statute in those places where local needs may require them.

The organization and jurisdiction of such courts, as well as their procedure and the appointment of their members, the special status of the latter, and the duration of their office, shall be determined by law.

Article 92: Supreme Tribunal

In Prussia there shall be only one supreme tribunal.

Article 93: Public Trials

The proceedings of the civil and criminal courts shall be public, but the public may be excluded by a publicly announced resolution of the court, when order or good morals may seem endangered by their admittance.

In other cases publicity of proceedings can only be limited by law.

Article 94: Jury Trials

As amended on May 21, 1852

In criminal cases the guilt of the accused shall be determined by jurymen, in so far as exceptions are not introduced by a law issued with the previous assent of the chambers. The formation of the jury-court shall be regulated by a law.

Article 95: Special Court for Treason

As amended on May 21, 1852

By a law issued with the previous assent of the chambers, there may be established a special court, the jurisdiction whereof shall include the crimes of high treason, as well as those crimes against the internal and external security of the State, which may be assigned to it by law.

Article 96: Jurisdictional Conflicts

The jurisdiction of the courts and of the administrative authorities shall be determined by law. Conflicts of authority between the courts and the administrative authorities shall be settled by a tribunal indicated by law.

Article 97: Trials of Public Officials

A law shall determine the conditions on which public officials, civil and military, may be prosecuted, for wrongs committed by them in exceeding their functions. But the previous assent of superior officials shall not be required as a condition of bringing suit.

Title VII. Public Officials Not Belonging to the Judicial Class

Article 98: Protection of Such Officials

The special legal status of public officials, including advocates and solicitors not belonging to the judicial class shall be determined by a law which, without unduly restricting the government in the choice of its executive agents, shall secure to civil servants proper protection against arbitrary dismissal from their posts or deprivation of their pay.

Title VIII. The Finances

Article 99: Budget

All income and expenditures of the State shall be estimated in advance for every year, and be incorporated in the budget.

The latter shall be annually fixed by a law.

Article 100: Tax Collection

Taxes and contributions to the public treasury shall be collected only in so far as they shall have been included in the budget, or authorized by special laws.

Article 101: No Exemption for Taxation

In the matter of taxes there shall be no privileges.

Existing tax-laws shall be subjected to a revision, and all such privileges abolished.

Article 102: Fees

State and communal officers can levy fees only when authorized by law.

Article 103: Loans

The contracting of loans for the State treasury can only be effected in virtue of a law; and the same holds good of guarantees involving a burden to the State.

Article 104: Auditing

Any violation of the provisions of the budget shall require subsequent approval by the chambers.

The accounts relating to the budget shall be examined and audited by the supreme chamber of accounts. The general budget accounts of every year, including the tabular view of the national debt shall, with the comments of the supreme chamber of accounts, be laid before the chambers for the purpose of discharging the government of responsibility.

A special law shall regulate the establishment and functions of the supreme chamber of accounts.

Title IX. The Communal, Circuit, District and Provincial Bodies

Article 105: Administration

As amended on May 24, 1853

The representation and administration of the communes, circuits and provinces of the Prussian State, shall be determined by special laws.

General Provisions

Article 106: Publication of Laws

Laws and ordinances shall be binding when published in the form prescribed by law.

The examination of the validity of properly promulgated royal ordinances shall not be within the competence of the government authorities, but of the chambers solely.

Article 107: Amendment of the Constitution

The constitution may be amended by the ordinary method of legislation, and such amendment shall merely require the usual absolute majority in each chamber on two divisions, between which there must elapse a period of at least twenty-one days.

Article 108: Oath of Office

The members of both chambers, and State officials, shall take the oath of fealty and obedience to the king, and shall swear conscientiously to observe the constitution.

The army shall not take the oath to observe the constitution.

Article 109: Existing Laws

Existing taxes and dues shall continue to be raised; and all provisions of existing statute-books, single laws and ordinances, which do not contravene the present constitution, shall remain in force until altered by law.

Article 110: Administrative Authorities

All administrative authorities holding appointments in virtue of existing laws shall continue their activity until the issue of organic laws affecting them.

Article 111: Suspension of Certain Articles

In the event of war or revolution, and pressing danger to public security therefrom ensuing, Articles 5, 6, 7, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 36 of the constitution may be suspended for a certain time and in certain districts. The details shall be determined by law.

Temporary Provisions

Article 112: Educational Matters

Until the issue of the law contemplated in Article 26, educational matters shall be governed by the laws at present in force.

Article 113: Offences by Word

Prior to the revision of the criminal law, a special law will deal with offences committed by word, writing, print or pictorial representation.

Article 114: Repealed

Repealed on April 14, 1856

Article 115: Election of Deputies

Until the issue of the electoral law contemplated in Article 72, the ordinance of the thirtieth of May, 1849, touching the election of deputies to the second chamber, shall remain in force.

Article 116: Combination of Supreme Tribunals

The two supreme tribunals now existing shall be combined into one. The organization shall be prescribed by a special law.

Article 117: Permanent Appointments

The claims of State officials who received a permanent appointment before the promulgation of the constitution shall receive special consideration in the new laws regulating the civil service.

Article 118: Alteration to Conform with Federal Constitution

Should changes in the present constitution be rendered necessary by the German Federal constitution to be drawn up on the basis of the draft of the twenty-sixth of May, 1849, such alterations shall be decreed by the king; and the ordinances to this effect laid before the chambers, at their first meeting.

The chambers shall then decide whether the changes thus provisionally made harmonize with the Federal constitution of Germany.

Article 119: Date for Royal Oath

The royal oath mentioned in Article 54, as well as the oath prescribed to be taken by both chambers and all State officials, shall be taken immediately after the legislative revision of the present constitution (Articles 62 and 108) shall have been completed.

In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our signature and royal seal. Given at Charlottenburg, the thirty-first of January, 1850.

Friedrich Wilhelm
Graf. v. Brandenburg, v. Landenberg, v. Manteuffel, v. Strotha, v. d. Heydt, v. Rabe, Simons, v. Schleinitz