The German Revolution of 1848/49

Frisch auf, mein Volk, mit Trommelschlag,

Im Zorneswetterschein!

O wag´ es doch, nur Einen Tag,

Nur Einen, frei zu sein

-Georg Herwegh-

In 1848, news spread to the German Confederation that an insurrection had overthrown the French King Louis-Philippe. As a result, a series of sympathetic, loosely coordinated protests broke out in the German states and many other European countries.

The rebellions demonstrated widespread discontent with the traditional autocratic political structure of the Confederation. Furthermore, the hard times in the late 1840s, caused by economic depression, transformed these rebellions into a full-blown revolution. The Hambach Festival of 1832 laid the groundwork for growing unrest in the face of political censorship.

 

Whereas artisans in big cities were fighting for a stable livelihood, the middle-class was committed to liberal principles. In March 1848, crowds of people gathered in Berlin to present their demands for liberal reforms in an address to the king. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV yielded to all the requests, which included:

 

 

parliamentary elections

a unified Germany with a constitution

freedom of the press and

freedom of assembly


Fearing to share the same destiny as French king Louis-Philippe, he promised them that Prussia would be merged into Germany.

 

The first free elected parliament met on March 18, 1848, inside a church, the Paulskirche, in Frankfurt am Main.

 

However, because the middle-class and working-class split, the aristocracy was able to defeat the democratic process in 1849. As a result, many Liberals were forced into exile to escape persecution. The ones who fled to the United States became known as the Forty-Eighters.