1848 to 1849
Central EuropeThe German revolutions of 1848–1849, the opening phase of which was also called the March Revolution, were initially part of the Revolutions of 1848 that broke out in many European countries. They were a series of loosely coordinated protests and rebellions in the states of the German Confederation, including the Austrian Empire. The revolutions, which stressed pan-Germanism, demonstrated popular discontent with the traditional, largely autocratic political structure of the thirty-nine independent states of the Confederation that inherited the German territory of the former Holy Roman Empire after its dismantlement as a result of the Napoleonic Wars. This process began in the mid-1840s.
The Hambacher Festival was a German national democratic festival celebrated from 27 May to 30 May 1832 at Hambach Castle, near Neustadt an der Weinstraße, in present-day Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The event was disguised as a nonpolitical county fair.
The groundwork of the 1848 uprising was laid as early as the Hambacher Fest of 1832 when public unrest began to grow in the face of heavy taxation and political censorship. The Hambacher Fest is also noteworthy for the Republicans adopting the black-red-gold colors used on today's national flag of Germany as a symbol of the Republican movement and of the unity among the German-speaking people.
In 1848, Austria was the predominant German state. After the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, which had been dissolved by Napoleon in 1806, it was succeeded by a similarly loose coalition of states known as the German Confederation at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
The events of 1848 were the product of mounting social and political tensions after the Congress of Vienna of 1815. During the "pre-March" period, the already conservative Austrian Empire moved further away from ideas of the Age of Enlightenment, restricted freedom of the press, limited many university activities, and banned fraternities.
Baden sent two democrats, Friedrich Karl Franz Hecker and Gustav von Struve, to the pre parliament. In the minority and frustrated with the lack of progress, Hecker and Struve walked out in protest on April 2, 1848.
Baden was the first state in Germany to have popular unrest, despite the liberal reforms. Baden happened to be one of the most liberal states in Germany. After the news of the February Days in Paris reached Baden.
On February 27, 1848, in Mannheim, an assembly of people from Baden adopted a resolution demanding a bill of rights. Similar resolutions were adopted in Württemberg, Hesse-Darmstadt, Nassau, and other German states.
The "March Revolution" in the German states took place in the south and the west of Germany, with large popular assemblies and mass demonstrations. Led by well-educated students and intellectuals, they demanded German national unity, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. The uprisings were poorly coordinated but had in common a rejection of traditional, autocratic political structures in the 39 independent states of the German Confederation.
In Heidelberg, in the state of Baden, on March 6, 1848, a group of German liberals began to make plans for an election to a German national assembly. This prototype Parliament met on March 31, in Frankfurt's St. Paul's Church.
In March 1848, crowds of people gathered in Berlin to present their demands in an "address to the king". King Frederick William IV, taken by surprise, verbally yielded to all the demonstrators' demands, including parliamentary elections, a constitution, and freedom of the press. He promised that "Prussia was to be merged forthwith into Germany."
Vienna had been restive and was encouraged by a sermon of Anton Füster, a liberal priest, on Sunday, March 12, 1848 in their university chapel. The student demonstrators demanded a constitution and a constituent assembly elected by universal male suffrage.
On March 13, after warnings by the police against public demonstrations went unheeded, the army charged a group of people returning from a meeting in the Tiergarten, leaving one person dead and many injured.
The revolutions spread from France across Europe; they erupted soon thereafter in Austria and Germany, beginning with the large demonstrations on March 13, 1848, in Vienna. This resulted in the resignation of Prince von Metternich as chief minister to Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, and his going into exile in Britain. Because of the date of the Vienna demonstrations, the revolutions in Germany are usually called the March Revolution.
On March 13, 1848 university students mounted a large street demonstration in Vienna, and it was covered by the press across the German-speaking states. Following the important, but relatively minor, demonstrations against royal mistress Lola Montez in Bavaria on February 9, 1848, the first major revolt of 1848 in German lands occurred in Vienna on March 13, 1848.
Emperor Ferdinand and his chief advisor Metternich directed troops to crush the demonstration. When demonstrators moved to the streets near the palace, the troops fired on the students, killing several. The new working class of Vienna joined the student demonstrations, developing an armed insurrection.
Ludwig tried to institute a few minor reforms but they proved insufficient to quell the storm of protests. On March 16, 1848, Ludwig I abdicated in favor of his eldest son Maximilian II. Ludwig complained that "I could not rule any longer, and I did not want to give up my powers".
On March 18, a large demonstration occurred. After two shots were fired, fearing that some of the 20,000 soldiers would be used against them, demonstrators erected barricades, and a battle ensued until troops were ordered 13 hours later to retreat, leaving hundreds dead.
On March 21, the King proceeded through the streets of Berlin to attend a mass funeral at the Friedrichshain cemetery for the civilian victims of the uprising. He and his ministers and generals wore the revolutionary tricolor of black, red, and gold. Polish prisoners, who had been jailed for planning a rebellion in formerly Polish territories now ruled by Prussia, were liberated and paraded through the city to the acclaim of the people.
The March Revolution in Vienna was a catalyst to revolution throughout the German states. Popular demands were made for an elected representative government and for the unification of Germany.
A Constituent National Assembly was elected from various German states in late April and early May 1848 and gathered in St. Paul's Church in Frankfurt am Main on May 18, 1848.
Frederick Engels took part in the uprising in Baden and the Palatinate. On May 10, 1848, he and Karl Marx traveled from Cologne, Germany, to observe the events of the region.
On May 18, 1848, 809 delegates (585 of whom were elected) were seated at St. Paul's Church in Frankfurt to convene the Frankfurt National Assembly. Karl Mathy, a right-center journalist, was among those elected as a deputy to the Frankfurt National Assembly.
On May 22, 1848, another elected assembly sat for the first time in Berlin. They were elected under the law of April 8, 1848, which allowed for universal suffrage and a two-stage voting system.
The citizens of Vienna returned to the streets from May 26 through 27, 1848, erecting barricades to prepare for an army attack. Ferdinand and his family fled to Innsbruck, where they spent the next few months surrounded by the loyal peasantry of the Tyrol.
Ferdinand issued two manifestos on May 16, 1848, and June 3, 1848, which gave concessions to the people. He converted the Imperial Diet into a Constituent Assembly to be elected by the people. Other concessions were less substantial, and generally addressed the reorganizing and unification of Germany.
Hermann von Natzmer was the former Prussian officer who had been in charge of the arsenal of Berlin. Refusing to shoot insurgent forces who stormed the arsenal on June 14, 1848, Natzmer became a hero to insurgents across Germany.
Democrats of the Palatinate and across Germany considered the Baden-Palatinate insurrection to be part of the wider all-German struggle for constitutional rights. Franz Sigel, a second lieutenant in the Baden army, a democrat, and a supporter of the provisional government, developed a plan to protect the reform movement in Karlsruhe and the Palatinate.
Ferdinand returned to Vienna from Innsbruck on August 12, 1848. Soon after his return, the working-class populace hit the streets again on August 21, 1848, to protest high unemployment and the government's decree to reduce wages.
In late September 1848, Emperor Ferdinand, who was also King Ferdinand V of Hungary, decided to send Austrian and Croatian troops to Hungary to crush a democratic rebellion there.
In late 1848, Marx and Engels intended to meet with Karl Ludwig Johann D'Ester, then serving as a member of the provisional government in Baden and the Palatinate. He was a physician, democrat and socialist who had been a member of the Cologne community chapter of the Communist League.
D'Ester had been elected to the Central Committee of the German Democrats, together with Reichenbach and Hexamer, at the Second Democratic Congress held in Berlin from October 26 through October 30, 1848.
On December 5, 1848, the Berlin Assembly was dissolved and replaced with the bicameral legislature allowed under the monarchist Constitution. This legislature was composed of a Herrenhaus and a Landtag.
By 1848, a large industrial working class, the proletariat, had developed, and owing to Napoleonic France, the level of education was relatively high and it was politically active. While in other German states the liberal petty bourgeoisie led the uprisings of 1848, in the Rhineland the proletariat was asserting its interests openly against the bourgeoisie as early as 1840.
By late 1848, the Prussian aristocrats and generals had regained power in Berlin. They had not been defeated permanently during the incidents of March but had only retreated temporarily.
The Revolution of 1848 failed in its attempt to unify the German-speaking states because the Frankfurt Assembly reflected the many different interests of the German ruling classes. Its members were unable to form coalitions and push for specific goals.
On March 28, 1849, the draft of the Paulskirchenverfassung constitution was finally passed. The new Germany was to be a constitutional monarchy, and the office of head of state ("Emperor of the Germans") was to be hereditary and held by the respective King of Prussia.
On April 2, 1849, a delegation of the National Assembly met with King Frederick William IV in Berlin and offered him the crown of the Emperor under this new constitution.
On 1 May 1849, a meeting of the democratic people's associations was held in Kaiserslautern. About 12,000 people gathered under the slogan, "If the government becomes rebellious, the citizens of the Palatinate will become the enforcers of the laws.
On 2 May, they decided to establish a ten-man "State Committee for the Defence and Implementation of the Constitution." They did not declare a republic, as had happened in Baden.
On 7 May 1849, Bernhard Eisenstuck, representative of the central authority for the Palatinate, legitimized the defense committee. He was dismissed on 11 May for exceeding his powers.
On May 9, 1849, together with the leaders of the uprising, Wagner left Dresden for Switzerland to avoid arrest. He spent a number of years in exile abroad, in Switzerland, Italy, and Paris. Finally, the government lifted its ban against him and he returned to Germany.
German composer Richard Wagner passionately engaged himself in the revolution in Dresden, supporting the democratic-republican movement. Later during the May Uprising in Dresden from May 3–9, 1849, he supported the provisional government.
Workers from Solingen stormed the arsenal at Gräfrath and obtained arms and cartridges for the insurgents. Frederick Engels was active in the uprising in Elberfeld from May 11, 1849, until the end of the revolt.
On May 17 through 18, 1849, a group of workers and democrats from Trier and neighboring townships stormed the arsenal at Prüm to obtain arms for the insurgents.
In May 1849, the Grand Duke was forced to leave Karlsruhe, Baden, and seek help from Prussia. Provisional governments were declared in both the Palatinate and Baden. In Baden conditions for the provisional government were ideal: the public and army were both strongly in support of constitutional change and democratic reform in the government.
In May 1849, a resurgence of revolutionary activity occurred in Baden. As this was closely connected to the uprising in the German Palatinate, it is described below, in the section titled, "The Palatinate."
Austria and Prussia withdrew their delegates from the Assembly, which was little more than a debating club. The radical members were forced to go to Stuttgart, where they sat from June 6–18 as a rump parliament until it too was dispersed by Württemberg troops.
On June 13, 1849, Engels joined an 800-member group of workers being formed as a military corps by August Willich, a former Prussian military officer. He was also a member of the Communist League and supported a revolutionary change in Germany.
The Palatine uprising was a rebellion that took place in May and June 1849 in the Rhenish Palatinate, then an exclave territory of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Related to uprisings across the Rhine River in Baden, it was part of the widespread Imperial Constitution Campaign. Revolutionaries worked to defend the Constitution as well as to secede from the Kingdom of Bavaria.
The provisional government first appointed Joseph Martin Reichard, a lawyer, democrat, and deputy in the Frankfurt Assembly, as the head of the military department in the Palatinate.
The Prussians defeated this revolutionary army, and the survivors of Willichs Corps crossed over the frontier into the safety of Switzerland. Engels did not reach Switzerland until July 25, 1849. He sent word of his survival to Marx and friends and comrades in London, England.
In the spring of 1849, the Prussian government called up a large portion of the army reserve—the Landwehr in Westphalia and the Rhineland. This action was opposed: the order to call up the Landwehr affected all males under the age of 40 years, and such a call-up was to be done only in times of war, not in peacetime when it was considered illegal.