The national leaders of Germany established a Parliament, whose members were elected on the basis of universal adult franchise. The main function of this parliament was to frame a constitution for Germany.
The Parliament, consisting of nearly six hundred representatives, met at Frankfort in May 1848. It was hoped that the parliament would be able to draw up a democratic constitution, to achieve the political unity and liberty and establish a popular government in place of the government of absolute monarchs. In the words of Hazen:
“It was expected to draw up a constitution and it was also expected that this constitution would be democratic. Its aim was to achieve not only German unity but German political freedom, popular government in place of government by absolute monarchs or privileged classes.
It was hoped that a great free German state would issue from its deliberations, unity resting upon a large measure of democracy.”
The members of the parliament wasted their time in debating the controversial issues. At last, it drafted a constitution, which guaranteed civil liberty and equality before the law to every German.
The controversy arose on the issue whether Austria should be included in the new Federation of Germany or not.
At last, it was decided that only German states which were under the possession of Austria, should be included in the new German nation. It was also decided that Germany should be a hereditary empire and the King of Prussia would be the President of the new Federation.
According to the above decisions of the Parliament of Frankfort, the imperial crown of a united Germany was offered to Frederick William IV, the King of Prussia on March 28, 1849. But he refused the offer of the Parliament.
He considered it the ‘Crown of shame’ and refused to accept it. He was of the view that he should not receive the crown from the representatives of the people. If this offer would have come from his equals, the princes of Germany, he would have gladly accepted it. He clearly declared that “I do not want to be the seat of Revolution.”
Thus, the King of Prussia rejected the work of the Frankfort Parliament. The role of Austria was also inimical. Owing to the non-cooperation of Austria and Prussia, the Parliament of Frankfort utterly failed. The liberals and the nationalists were bitterly disappointed by this failure.
After the failure of the Frankfort Parliament the old confederation of German states established in 1815, was restored in 1851. Frederick William IV, the King of Prussia gladly consented to remain the member of the old confederation. By that time, the revolution of 1848 had been suppressed in almost all countries of Europe.
When the people of German states, being disappointed by the failure of Frankfort Parliament revolted, they were repressed by the Prussian army. The republicans were shot down or dispersed.
Owing to the weakness of Frederick William IV, the national movement of Germany collapsed in 1848. If he would have accepted the offer of the Frankfort Parliament, the political and national unity of Germany would have been achieved under the leadership of Prussia.