May 26th in German History: The Creation of the Landtag of Bavaria

Maximilianeum, where the Lantag is held.

On May 26th, 1818, King Maximilian Joseph I of Bavaria issued a constitution that created the Landtag of Bavaria, a bicameral legislature with great power and authority for its time. The ideas and policies in the constitution stood against the conservative order that controlled Europe during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Maximilian Joseph was the first King of Bavaria, becoming king after Bavaria was elevated to a kingdom in 1806. The Napoleonic Wars resulted in a Europe hostile to liberalism and democracy. Klemens von Metternich, the Austrian foreign minister, instituted a set of policies that were aimed at preventing liberal reforms and crushing any liberal rebellion. Further, they created institutions which would help stamp out the liberal sentiment. Bavaria was a non-continuous state, and its leaders had historically opposed movement towards German unification. In order to unify his realm and ensure popular support in his opposition to the Federal Diet of Germany interfering in Bavaria’s affairs, Maximilian issued a constitution that guaranteed freedom of religion and, most importantly, created a legislature with real power and authority. This legislature would be so independent that in 1819 the King would begin to appeal to the Federal Diet to help him deal with the Landtag. However, the King’s democratic sympathies and political interest would prevent him from abolishing the Landtag altogether. 

In 1919 the Landtag would become unicameral. In 1934, it was dissolved like all other local assemblies were. In 1946, the Landtag was restored and elections were upheld. The Landtag of Bavaria has evolved from a legislature under the authority of a monarch to the sole legislative authority in Bavaria. It endured Nazi rule and the Second World War, and would become an integral part of restored German democracy.

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