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Information bulletin
No. 145 (October 5, 1948)

Elliott, John
Constitution-making at Bonn,   pp. 7-10 PDF (2.6 MB)

Page 10

from custom duties, but for most of
its funds it was dependent upon the
states. But under the Weimar Republic,
the central government levied prac-
tically all the taxes, including income
taxes, and distributed part of these
revenues to the states, which were
therefore rendered financially de-
pendent on Berlin.
This reform, the work of the able
Center Party financial expert, Mat-
thias Erzberger, constituted what is
probably the moist important distinction
between imperial Germany and the
Weimar Republic. Bonn may witness
a bitter controversy as to whether the
future Western German government
will adhere to the Erzberger reform or
set the clock back to Bismarck's day.
S OME IDEA of what the future
constitution of Western Germany
may contain, or what the chief issues
are that will be fought out before the
Bonn convention, may be gleaned
from the majority report submitted
by the Chiemsee zonference. This was
a body of 22 men-two from each
state-appointed  by  the ministers
president to work out a draft to be
laid before the Bonn convention as a
basis for its debates. These delegates
met from Aug. 10 to Aug. 22 in the
gorgeous palace built by King Louis II
of Bavaria upon an island in the
middle of the idyllic Chiemsee.
The Chiemsee experts recommended
that the Western German state should
constitute a "state-fragment" (Staats-
Frangment), not a "full state" (Voll-
staat). This was done to stress the
provisional character of the Western
German constitution.
This solution was chosen as the best
of three alternatives. The other two
possibilities were, (1) creation of a
Western State which it was feared
would be tantamount to separation, (2)
a formation of a "German federal
republic" with claims to exerting its
authority over all Germany, even
though it was obvious that it could
not make its laws effective in the
Russian Zone. This alternative was
regarded as being too aggressive in
character and was not seriously con-
The Chiemsee majority report re-
commends that the states shall
have control over educational and
cultural affairs, but that the central
government shall have far-reaching
powers in the matter of financial legis-
lation. It specifies that the central gov-
ernment shall have exclusive legis-
lative authority to -impose custom
duties and shall have priority in regard
to legislation concerning income and
property taxes as well as sales and
consumption taxes.
It is proposed that the union shall
have a bicameral parliament. The
lower chamber shall be a "Bundestag"
representing the people, like the
American House of Representatives,
while the Upper House, the "Bundes-
rat," shall consist of representatives of
the state. Unlike the American Con-
gress, however, the delegates of the
Bundesrat shall not be elected by the
people, but shall be appointed by the
state governments, as in the Weimar
The majority report further recom-
mends that the executive branch of
the government should be headed by
a Bundespraesident. He is to be
elected by the joint votes of the two
houses of parliament just as the
French president is electe-d by the
National Assembly.
The Chiemsee experts propose that
the Western GeTman state should have
the cabinet system of government as
is common in Europe, in preference to
the American presidential system in
which the chief executive remains in
power for a fixed period of time.
The Chiemsee majority report also
suggests that the West German state
should be called the "League of
German States."
The struggle in the Bonn conven-
tion ibetween the unionists and
the federalists is foreshadowed by
two proposals concerning the text
of the preamble to the constitution.
According to one version, all con-
stitutional power emanates from the
German people, while according to
the federalist school of thought, the
source of power resides in the in-
dividual state.
Social Democratic headquarters have
made it clear, however, that they did
not consider the Chiemsee Reiport as
a document that had to be accepted
or rejected in toto. Fritz Heine, the
party's secretary at Hanover, said
that the Chiemsee paper might well
"be thrown in the wastebasket"
although  he  conceded  that somw
points from it might be incorporated
in the future German constitution. But
he declared that the SPD would never
consent to the proposal that the West
German state 'should be called a
"League of German States"-a name
that doubtless suggested to him a
Confederation rather than a Union.
Coincident with the drafting and
ratification  of  a constitution  for
Western Germany, two otherimportant
papers in accordance with the London
Agreement will be promulgated. One
is the Occupation Statute, which will
be decreed- by the three Western
Powers. This document will serve as
the Magna Carta of the people of
Western Germany, defining their rights
vis-A-vis the occupying powers.
The second will be aIteration of
German state boundaries which the
German leaders had been authorized to
make. It seems likely at present that
only one such change will be made,
namely the amalgamation of Baden
and   Wuerttemberg.  This   merger
would be a territorial reform all to
the good, since it would correspond to
the claims of both history and
tradition and would create a, well
balanced state in southern Germany
approximately equal to Lower Saxony
in respect to population.
IHE WORK of the Bonn convention
i   bids fairtobe an historic milestone
in German history. The creation of a
political  government  for  western
Germany will be an -important step
towards the ultimate unification of all
Germany. The western German state
will be a magnetic force that will tend
to attract into its orbit the part of
Germany now under Russian rule. In
this sense, the western German state
may well play the same role fOr
Germany that the kingdom of Pied'
mount did in unifying Italy in the 19th
It may be regarded as a stlikiHg
coincidence that the Bonn conventiOB
is meeting on the 100th anniversarY
of the German Revolution of 1848.
The Frankfurt Parliament that Met
that year tried to establish German
unity on the basis of liberty 8nd
democracy but failed because of t´e
political dilettanteism of many of lbe
delegates and because of the lack o
(Continued on Page 291

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