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Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 11, Slice 8 "Germany" to "Gibson, William"

After being discussed in the Reichstag


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beginning had been made before the foundation of the empire; as early as 1861 a common code for trade, commerce and banking had been agreed upon by the states included in the Germanic Confederation. It was adopted by the new confederation of 1869. In 1897 it was replaced by a new code. In 1869 the criminal law had been codified for the North German Confederation, and in 1870 there was passed the _Gewerbeordnung_, an elaborate code for the regulation of manufactures and the relations of masters to workmen. These were included in the law of the empire, and the work was vigorously continued.

In 1871 a commission was appointed to draw up regulations for civil and criminal procedure, and also to frame regulations for the organization of the law courts. The draft code of civil procedure, which was published in December 1872, introduced many important reforms, especially by substituting public and verbal procedure for the older German system, under which the proceedings were almost entirely carried on by written documents. It was very well received. The drafts for the other two laws were not so successful. Protests, especially in South Germany, were raised against the criminal procedure, for it was proposed to abolish trial by jury and substitute over the whole empire the Prussian system, and a sharp conflict arose as to the method of dealing with the press. After being discussed in the Reichstag, all three projects were referred to a special commission,

which after a year reported to the diet, having completely remodelled the two latter laws. After further amendment they were eventually accepted, and became law in 1877. By these and other supplementary laws a uniform system of law courts was established throughout the whole empire; the position and pay of the judges, the regulations regarding the position of advocates, and costs, were uniform, and the procedure in every state was identical. To complete the work a supreme court of appeal was established in Leipzig, which was competent to hear appeals not only from imperial law, but also from that of the individual states.

By the original constitution, the imperial authorities were only qualified to deal with criminal and commercial law; the whole of the private law, in which the variety was greatest, was withdrawn from their cognizance. Lasker, to remedy this defect, proposed, therefore, an alteration in the constitution, which, after being twice carried against the opposition of the Centre, was at last accepted by the Bundesrat. A commission was then appointed to draw up a civil code. They completed the work by the end of 1887; the draft which they then published was severely criticized, and it was again submitted for revision to a fresh commission, which reported in 1895. In its amended form this draft was accepted by the Reichstag in 1896, and it entered into force on the 1st of January 1900. The new Civil Code deals with nearly all matters of law, but excludes those concerning or arising out of land tenure and all matters in which private law comes into connexion with public law; for instance, the position of government officials, and the police: it excludes also the relations of master and servant, which in most points are left to the control of individual states. It was accompanied by a revision of the laws for trade and banking.

Commercial reform.

Equal in importance to the legal was the commercial reform, for this was the condition for building up the material prosperity of the country. Germany was a poor country, but the poverty was to a great extent the result of political causes. Communication, trade, manufactures, were impeded by the political divisions, and though the establishment of a customs union had


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