The collapse of the 1848-1849 Revolution

The Revolutions of 1848 achieved the potential for political change in the German states. However, by 1850 these hopes had been dashed. Prussia was once again subservient to Austria.

The Erfurt Parliament

Frederick William of Prussia was still determined to increase the power of his state over the rest of the German lands.

He organised a union of German leaders, many of whom were coerced to join. The proposal was that Prussia would have control over foreign policy and military matters for all member states.

A parliament for the Erfurt Union met in Erfurt for a little over a month in spring, 1850.

The union began to break down when it became clear that many of the German princes decided to support Austria. The Austrians were able to resurrect the German Confederation, which met in Frankfurt in 1850.

Rebellion in Hesse-Cassel, a Prussian ally, saw the end of Prussian domination over the German states. When the Elector appealed to the Confederation for help, there was debate whether the Austrians should send aid, or allow Prussia to help.

Map showing the position of Hesse-Cassel.  It sits to the right of the left-hand part of Prussia below Hannover.Map showing the position of Hesse Cassel

The punctation of Olmutz

The problem over what to do in Hesse-Cassel almost brought Austria and Prussia to war. However, it was clear to the Prussians that they were not strong enough to compete with Austrian military might.

Austrian and Prussian delegates met at Olmutz in November, 1850, in order to rectify the situation.

The agreement reached was a humiliation for Prussia:

  • the Erfurt Union was abolished
  • the Confederation was officially re-established
  • Prussia was not to challenge Austrian leadership
  • the Confederation was to solve the problem in Hesse-Cassel

Prussia had been brought under control. Austria continued to oppose unification of the German states.

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