Lesson 9 Table of Contents Lesson 11

L e s s o n 10


1. Key personalities

Carl Schurz (1829-1906). Born near Cologne, Schurz was a student at Bonn when the 1848 Revolution broke out. After arranging the sensational escape from prison of his friend Gottfried Kinkel, Schurz went to England and reached the U.S. in 1852. He served as a general on the Union side in the Civil War and was later a senator from Missouri and secretary of the interior. A notable orator in both German and English, he was the foremost spokesman of the German-Americans in his time.

Mathilde Franziska Anneke (1817-1884). The leading German-American feminist of the 19th century, Mathilde Anneke edited a feminist newspaper, Die Frauenzeitung, in both Germany and the U.S. After arriving in the U.S. with her husband, Fritz Anneke, she was a free-lance journalist and writer. For some years she ran a progressive girls school in Milwaukee.

Heinrich Boernstein (1805-1892). A man of many talents--officer

in the Austrian army, newspaper editor and theater director in Vienna. He took his actors to Paris, then fled during the Revolution from there to the U.S. In St. Louis he published and edited the important republican German newspaper, Der Anzeiger des Westens. While well known as a writer and man of the theater, he also had a hand in protecting the Union's arsenal there just before the outbreak of the Civil War. President Lincoln sent him to Bremen to prevent arms shipmements to the South.

Friedrich Hassaurek (1831-1885). A native of Vienna, Hassaurek was an active participant in the 1848 uprising there. After coming to the U.S. in 1849 he settled in Cincinnati and became a journalist. Like Anneke and Boernstein, he was the author of an urban mystery novel. He served as Lincoln's ambassador to Ecuador.

Karl Peter Heinzen (1809-1880). An intransigent radical all his life, Heinzen was forced to flee to Switzerland in 1844 but returned to take part in the Baden campaign of 1848. In the U.S. he was the publisher of the Pionier, an uncompromisingly radical newspaper. Carl Wittke has written a biography of Heinzen.

Franz Sigel (1824-1902). A professional officer in Germany, Sigel was forced to resign his commission in 1847 because of his liberal political views. He became a leading military commander on the revolutionary side during the campaign in Baden in 1848. He was a Union general during the Civil War and did much to win over German immigrants in America to the Union cause.

2. Main trends

Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo in 1815 ushered in an era of anti-democratic political repression which was to characterize the German Federation's political life between Berlin and Vienna for the next 33 years. The February Revolution in France in 1848 touched off a number of similar liberal political uprisings in the German Federation (which included Austria). Everywhere there were demands for constitutional government, but the revolutionaries also hoped to bring about a strong political union of the German states. The black-red-gold colors of the Revolution are now the colors of the German flag.

The Prussian and Austrian armies remained loyal to the crowns.

The revolutionary movement in Southern Germany was decisively defeated after Prussian troops invaded Baden to take action against a liberal government there. With the defeat of the movement thousands of Germans who had been involved in it were forced into exile. The list includes not only political radicals such as Karl Marx, but also many talented artists and intellectuals, such as Richard Wagner.

With the defeat of the Revolution, the exiles initially sought refuge in Switzerland, France, and England. In the end several thousand Forty-Eighters migrated to the U.S. In America many became outspoken supporters of the anti-slavery movement and early backers of Abraham Lincoln and the new Republican Party. Since a number of the Forty-Eighters became journalists in America, they played a significant role in mobilizing German-American public opinion in support of the Union cause during the Civil War. Carl Schurz and Franz Sigel are particularly remembered for their contributions.

Quite a few of the Forty-Eighters were journalists. Christian Esselen (1823-1859) founded a monthly journal called Atlantis which was one of the outstanding German-American periodicals of its time. Bernard Domschke became a journalist in Milwaukee and was an important local Lincoln supporter. Several Forty-Eighters distinguished themselves as writers of fiction in addition to being journalists. The novelists Rudolf Lexow, Friedrich Hassaurek, Mathilde Franziska Anneke, and Heinrich Boernstein were all journalists who wrote stories and serialized novels for newspaper publication. The satirical novelist Reinhard Solger was probably the most gifted writer among the Forty-Eighters in America. His novel Anton in Amerika is particularly well known. There were also a number of poets among the Forty-Eighters. The list includes the Wisconsin poets Rudolf Puchner, Edmund Maerklin, and Konrad Krez.

Some of the Forty-Eighters gained reputations as artists in America, among them Louis Prang, a famous lithographer, lithographic publisher and pioneer of the Christmas card. There was the artist and craftsman Adelbert John Volck. Frederick Girsch was a talented engraver who supplied illustrations for the Criminal-Zeitung, a periodical published in New York by his fellow Forty-Eighter Friedrich Lexow. Girsch is perhaps better known, however, as an engraver of bank notes.

Not exactly a Forty-Eighter himself, eight-year old Thomas Nast came with liberal parents to New York in 1846. As editorial cartoonist, he became famous for his cartoons exposing the political corruption of New York's Boss Tweed. His cartoons also established the donkey and the elephant as symbols of the Democratic and Republican parties. During the Civil War, President Lincoln, recognizing the powerful emotional impact of Nast's illustrations, called him the most important recruiter for the Union cause. And, of course, his Santa depictions made him and American Christmas inseparable.

It was inevitable that a number of the Forty-Eighters would become active in local, state and national politics. The foremost example is Carl Schurz. Caspar Butz was active in Chicago politics and became an important figure there among the radical Republicans who supported John Charles Fremont. The poet Konrad Krez was active in Wisconsin politics, and the novelist and journalist Friedrich Hassaurek was an important supporter of Lincoln in Ohio. Some of the Forty-Eighters became radical social reformers in America. Wilhelm Weitling was a labor leader and political agitator who refused to become a strict Marxist. August Willich, who was denounced by Marx as a "Communist with a heart," was another moderate social reformer and a distinguished general in the Civil War. Less moderate in his views was Karl Heinzen, the most uncompromising radical among the Forty-Eighters. The scholarly Gustav Struve, who had proclaimed the Republic in the Grand Duchy of Baden, was the editor of a labor newspaper in New York and wrote extensively on political and social issues.

Under the motto "Liberty, prosperity, and education for all!" the so-called "Louisville Platform" of 1854 offers the broadest outline of political ideas which the majority of the Forty-Eighters wanted to see realized in America. Among these ideas are: The "gradual extermination of slavery," and the adoption of the principle "that women, too, are among all men...", referring to the text of the Declaration of Independence.

The Civil War found the Forty-Eighters ready to fight for the Union. In several states, German regiments were formed. Germany's favorite revolutionary, Friedrich Hecker, organized and commanded the 82nd Illinois. Besides Schurz, Sigel and Willich, other Forty-Eighter generals included Alexander von Schimmelpfennig and Louis Blenker. All told, there were more than 5,000 German-American officers in the Union army.

3. Suggested further reading

Carl Wittke. Refugees of Revolution: The German Forty-Eighters in America. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1952.

_____. The Utopian Communist. A Biography of William Weitling, Nineteenth Century Reformer. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1950.

_____. Against the Current: The Life of Karl Heinzen, 1809-1880. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1945.

A. E. Zucker, ed. The Forty-Eighters. Political Refugees of the German Revolution of 1848. New York: Russell & Russell, 1950.

Don Heinrich Tolzmann, ed. The German-American Forty-Eighters 1848-1998. Indianapolis: Max Kade German-American Center, Indiana Univ.-Purdue Univ., 1998 [includes the "Louisville Platform"].

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Created: 4 August 1998, SEL
Updated: 17 November 2007, BAS
Comments to: Eberhard Reichmann, reichman@ucs.indiana.edu
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