Ever since the introduction of the National Assembly in summer 1848 the revolutionists reckoned to have achieved their political goals. After a few months however the monarchs managed to repress the radical movement by the use of their military, thus the control over the revolution shifted back to conservative sovereigns. In addition to that the delegates in St. Paul’s church could not reach an agreement in months, the discrepancy leading to the congealment of the revolutionary offensive.
Counteroffensive in Austria
Initially the troops regained power in Austria, when the royal military defeated the rebels in autumn 1848.
The secession of Hungary from Austria had been looming before hand; however this process was to be averted by all costs due to pressure exercised by the noblesse. The conservative noblesse insisted on retaining the Dual Monarchy and to quell the movement by force.
It was the first success of the counterrevolution. Now the monarchs in the German confederation gained the upper hand once more1.
Dissolution of the National Assembly
Even in Berlin the demonstrators were forced into the defensive and were gradually deprived of power by the military. Friedrich Wilhelm IV.Frederick William IV reigned as King of Prussia from 1840 to 1861. In 1849 he rejected the title of German Emperor offered to him by the Frankfurt parliament declared the Prussian National Assembly officially dissolute in December 1848. Nevertheless the delegates in the Frankfurt Parliament developed an imperial constitution until March 1849. Later on the Prussian king revoked the once promised liberal reforms and reintroduced the three-class franchiseThe Prussian three-class franchise system was introduced on May 30, 1849. Those eligible to vote were men aged over 24, divided by their direct tax revenue into three classes. It was completely abolished in 1918 in Prussia. This reversal deprived the Frankfurt Parliament of its power; however the Parliament could never have achieved serious authority as it did not command an army2.
Compromise with the noblesse
An important reason for the revolution‘s failure was the division of the liberal bourgeoisie. One part of it aimed to introduce a parliamentary state in a peaceful manner; they refrained from the use of violence and could thus not bring the revolution to a successful finish. Most liberals were also afraid of a radicalisation of the peasant revolts. If a socialist revolution had taken place (the agricultural labourers mainly focused on freeing themselves from servitude a well as receiving adequate aliments) the claims for a German national state could not have been realised. As the Frankfurt Parliament did not command a military the noblesse could withdraw all liberal reforms unrestrictedly. Thus the policy in Prussia, Austria and the German confederation was not altered. Until 1918 democracy and equal franchise was never anchored in a German constitution.