Erfurt Union
The Erfurt Union was a short-lived union of German states under a federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

, proposed by the Kingdom of Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

 at Erfurt
Erfurt is the capital city of Thuringia and the main city nearest to the geographical centre of Germany, located 100 km SW of Leipzig, 150 km N of Nuremberg and 180 km SE of Hannover. Erfurt Airport can be reached by plane via Munich. It lies in the southern part of the Thuringian...

, for which the Erfurt Union Parliament (Erfurter Unionsparlament), lasting from March 20 to April 29, 1850, was opened. The union never came into effect, and was dealt the fatal blow in the Punctation of Olmütz
Punctation of Olmütz
The Punctation of Olmütz , also called the Agreement of Olmütz, was a treaty between Prussia and Austria, dated 29 November 1850, by which Prussia abandoned the Erfurt Union and accepted the revival of the German Confederation under Austrian leadership....

 (November 29, 1850; also called the Humiliation at Olmütz) under pressure from the Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...


Conception of the Union

In the Revolutions of 1848
Revolutions of 1848
The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It was the first Europe-wide collapse of traditional authority, but within a year reactionary...

, the Austrian-dominated German Confederation
German Confederation
The German Confederation was the loose association of Central European states created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries. It acted as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia...

 was dissolved, and the Frankfurt Assembly sought to establish new constitutions for the multitude of German states. The effort, however, ended in the Assembly's collapse, after King Frederick William IV
Frederick William IV of Prussia
|align=right|Upon his accession, he toned down the reactionary policies enacted by his father, easing press censorship and promising to enact a constitution at some point, but he refused to enact a popular legislative assembly, preferring to work with the aristocracy through "united committees" of...

 refused the German crown. The Prussian government, under the influence of General Joseph Maria von Radowitz
Joseph von Radowitz
Joseph Maria Ernst Christian Wilhelm von Radowitz was a conservative Prussian statesman and general famous for his proposal to unify Germany under Prussian leadership by means of a negotiated agreement among the reigning German princes.-Early years:Radowitz was born to Roman Catholic nobility on ...

, who sought to unite the landed classes against the threat to Junker
A Junker was a member of the landed nobility of Prussia and eastern Germany. These families were mostly part of the German Uradel and carried on the colonization and Christianization of the northeastern European territories during the medieval Ostsiedlung. The abbreviation of Junker is Jkr...

 domination, seized the opportunity to initiate a new German federation under the leadership of the Hohenzollern
House of Hohenzollern
The House of Hohenzollern is a noble family and royal dynasty of electors, kings and emperors of Prussia, Germany and Romania. It originated in the area around the town of Hechingen in Swabia during the 11th century. They took their name from their ancestral home, the Burg Hohenzollern castle near...

 monarch. At the same time, Frederick William IV acceded to his people's demands for a constitution, also agreeing to become leader of a united Germany.

A year before the convention of the Erfurt Union Parliament, the May 26, 1849 Alliance of Three Kings was concluded between Prussia, Saxony
Kingdom of Saxony
The Kingdom of Saxony , lasting between 1806 and 1918, was an independent member of a number of historical confederacies in Napoleonic through post-Napoleonic Germany. From 1871 it was part of the German Empire. It became a Free state in the era of Weimar Republic in 1918 after the end of World War...

 and Hanover
Kingdom of Hanover
The Kingdom of Hanover was established in October 1814 by the Congress of Vienna, with the restoration of George III to his Hanoverian territories after the Napoleonic era. It succeeded the former Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg , and joined with 38 other sovereign states in the German...

, the latter two of which explicitly made the reservation of departure unless all other principalities with the exception of Austria joined. From this treaty sprung the Prussian policy of fusion, and thence the ambition of the Erfurt Union, which in its constitution abandoned universal and equal franchise in favour of the traditional three-class franchise. The constitution itself, however, was only to come into effect after revision and ratification by an elected Reichstag
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

, as well as approval by the participating governments. 150 former liberal deputies to the German national assembly had acceded to the draft at a meeting in Gotha on June 25, 1849, and by the end of August 1849, almost all (twenty-eight) principalities had recognised the Reich constitution and joined the union, due in varying degrees to Prussian pressure.

Inceptive problems

Despite this, elections to the Erfurt parliament, held in January 1850, received very little popular support, or even recognition. Democrats universally boycotted the election
Election boycott
An election boycott is the boycotting of an election by a group of voters, each of whom abstains from voting.Boycotting may be used as a form of political protest where voters feel that electoral fraud is likely, or that the electoral system is biased against its candidates, or that the polity...

, and with electoral participation below fifty percent, Saxony and Hanover exercised their reservation to leave the Alliance of Three Kings. No government in the end agreed to the constitution, and even though the document was readily accepted by the Gotha Party (incidentally narrowly defeated in the elections), it never took effect. The Erfurt parliament never materialised.

Meanwhile, Austria, having overcome its difficulties — the fall of Metternich, the abdication of Ferdinand I
Ferdinand I of Austria
Ferdinand I was Emperor of Austria, President of the German Confederation, King of Hungary and Bohemia , as well as associated dominions from the death of his father, Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, until his abdication after the Revolutions of 1848.He married Maria Anna of Savoy, the sixth child...

 and constitutional revolts in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...

 — began a renewed active resistance against Prussia's Union plan. The Saxon and Hanoverian withdrawals from their alliance with Prussia can also be attributed in part to Austrian encouragement. Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 contemplated restoration of the German Confederation
German Confederation
The German Confederation was the loose association of Central European states created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries. It acted as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia...

 recalling the German Diet, and rallied the Prussian nobility and feudal-corporate and anti-national groups around the Prussian General Ludwig Friedrich Leopold von Gerlach
Ludwig Friedrich Leopold von Gerlach
Leopold von Gerlach was a Prussian army general, adjutant to Frederick William IV of Prussia and a Protestant conservative associate of Otto von Bismarck.-Biography:...

 to increasingly successfully oppose Union policy.

In Prussia itself, a congress of princes held in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 in May 1850 explicitly decided against the merits of introducing a constitution at the point in time. Following the Prussian king's (and his ministers') weakening volition for German unification, Radowitz's influence declined. Prussia's union policy was further weakened by Austrian urges for the restoration of the Federal Assembly
Bundesversammlung (German Confederation)
The Federal Assembly was the only central institution of the German Confederation from 1815 until 1848, and from 1850 until 1866. The Federal Assembly had its seat in the palais Thurn und Taxis in Frankfurt...

 in Frankfurt
Free City of Frankfurt
For almost five centuries, the German city of Frankfurt am Main was a city-state within two major Germanic states:*The Holy Roman Empire as the Free Imperial City of Frankfurt...

 in September the same year.

Prussian humiliation

The Prussia-Austria conflict worsened by autumn that year, as disagreements over the question of federal executions in Holstein
Holstein is the region between the rivers Elbe and Eider. It is part of Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost state of Germany....

 (dispute with Denmark) and Electoral Hesse almost escalated into a military conflict. Since 1848 the Austrians had been allied with the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

; after the Berlin government refused Austrian demands at the Warsaw Conference
Warsaw Conference of 1850
The Warsaw Conference of 1850 was a conference attended by representatives of the Kingdom of Prussia, the Austrian Empire and the Russian Empire on 28 October 1850, in Warsaw, Congress Poland. The aims of the conference were to re-establish order in the German states following the revolutions of...

 of October 28, 1850, the souring relations degenerated further on Prussia's November 5 announcement that it was mobilising its army and preparing for war, in response to troops of the German Confederation
German Confederation
The German Confederation was the loose association of Central European states created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries. It acted as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia...

 advancing into Electoral Hesse. War was avoided, however, when Prussian leaders closely associated with the nobility threw their support behind Gerlach in the form of the Kreuzzeitung
The Neue Preußische Zeitung was a German newspaper printed in Berlin from 1848–1939. It was known as the Kreuzzeitung or Kreuz-Zeitung because its emblem was an Iron Cross .The newspaper was founded during the revolutions of 1848 by Herrmann Wagener to act as the voice for Prussian conservatives,...

s Partei
, which supported Austria in advocating a return to the Confederation.

Punctation of Olmütz

On November 29, 1850, the Treaty of Olmütz was concluded between Austria and Prussia with Russian participation. The treaty, seen by many as a humbling capitulation on Prussia's part to the Viennese Hofburg, saw Prussia submitting to the Confederation, reversing tack to demobilise, agreeing to partake in the intervention of the German Diet in Hesse and Holstein and renouncing any resumption of her union policy, and hence abandoning the Erfurt Union.

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