Rising Nationalism Germany 1849-1866

Germany 1848 : Revolution and the Paulskirche Assembly

While during the years of RESTAURATION, the German Federation was a rather insignificant organization and real political significance lay with it's individual member states, this suddenly changed during the Revolution of 1848. Revolutionaries in cities all over Germany took control of the city administration, in some regions beyond the city limits. A German NATIONAL CONVENT was elected, which met in the PAULSKIRCHE in Frankfurt (called the parliament of professors). They discussed both national unification and the future constitution.
Representatives came in from all regions of Germany, including Austria's German provinces, but also from German-populated areas located outside of the borders of the GERMAN FEDERATION such as SCHLESWIG and the provinces Prussia had gained in the Polish partitions.

The Paulskirche Parliament had to deal with two major issues : (a) the future constitution of a (unified) Germany, and (b) the matter of unification itself.
When the parliament first assembled, Germany's many monarchies including Prussia and Austria were paralyzed, their capitals ruled by revolutionaries. Two plans for Germany's unification were discussed : (1) the LARGER GERMAN SOLUTION (with Austria, under Austrian leadership; the plan implied that Austria would have to break up, Hungary and Galicia would have to be separated, and (2) the SMALLER GERMAN SOLUTION (without Austria, under Prussian Leadership). A CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY was striven for, and the dignity of GERMAN EMPEROR was offered first to Emperor Ferdinand of Austria, later to King Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, both of whom declined.
The matter was further complicated by areas with mixed population - the Prussian province of POSEN where the German population element was only a minority, but insisted on their province being represented in Frankfurt and being included in plans for a unified Germany (and ultimately succeeded), and SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN. Holstein, although ruled by the King of Denmark, was no matter of contention, as it's population was German. The Duchy of Schleswig, however, was part of the Kingdom of Denmark since the beginnings of the Danish state. In the middle ages, the Dukes of Schleswig had pursued a rather independent policy, Schleswig and Holstein had been united in Dynastic Union, both duchies' estates (Landtag) had merged, adopted the motto up ewig ungedeelt (unpartitioned forever) and the larger part of Schleswig's population had assimilated, over the centuries, into the German culture (there was still a sizeable Danish minority, especially in the northern part of the Duchy). In Denmark nationalism was rising, too, there were plans to establish a unified centralistic state (HELSTAT), and the German-feeling Schleswigers, together with the Holsteiners, took up arms in rebellion. The Frankfurt assembly took up the rebels' cause and ordered Prussian troops to come to the Schleswigers' aid.
This was the moment when international diplomacy set in, with the object to avoid war. The Prussian king stages a coup d'etat and recalled his forces; a war over Schleswig, for the time being, had been avoided, the Frankfurt assembly been deprived over it's control of Prussia's army.

The assembly, failing to achieve anything and having to deal with too many problems at once, broke apart. The majority of moderate delegates went home having accomplished nothing, the minority of radicals moved to STUTTGART where they opened another assembly which was dispersed by Prussian troops. A persecution set in. Many disappointed German patriots chose emigration over staying in restauration Germany; most went to the United States, among them CARL SCHURZ.

Germany's intellectuals had failed to achieve unification the democratic, peaceful way. The solidarity of European patriots, still shown at the HAMBACH FESTIVAL (1832) broke over the issue of contested territories, the assembly had provided no solution for the issue of national minorities.

The German Revolution of 1848 : a German Perspective, from Forty-Eighters
The Constitutional Conflict in Prussia, by G. Rempel
The 1848 Revolutions in Germany, from historyhelp
The German Revolution of 1848, by Robert A. Selig, from German Life
Biography of Heinrich von Gagern, from Encyclopedia of the 1848 Revolutions
DOCUMENTS Map : Staaten im Deutschen Bund, 1848 (States in the German Federation, 1848), from IEG Maps
Carl Schurz, A look back at 1848, 1907, from Modern History Sourcebook
Reichsverfassung vom 28. Maerz 1849 (Empire's constitution). from PSM - Data Geschichte
Hessen gewährt die Märzforderungen (6. Maerz 1848), from PSM - Data Geschichte
Joseph Maria Radowitz, preussischer Sonderbeauftragter in Wien, an Friedrich Wilhelm IV. (16.3.1848), from PSM - Data Geschichte
An meine lieben Berliner, Friedrich Wilhelm IV. (18.-19. Maerz 1848), from PSM - Data Geschichte
Protest der Preussischen Nationalversammlung gegen die Verlegung nach Brandenburg (10.November 1848), from PSM - Data Geschichte
Antwortschreiben des Preussischen Königs an die Frankfurter Deputation (3.April 1849), from PSM - Data Geschichte
Septemberaufstand in Frankfurt, from PSM - Data Geschichte
Erklärung des preussischen Königs vom 15. Mai 1849, from PSM - Data Geschichte
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Adolf von Menzel : The fallen March Revolutionaries lie in state, 1848; Friedrich Hecker; Paulskirche Assembly; Frankfurt Paulskirche, 1848; Insurgents lead by August von Willich, Black Forest, May 1849; German naval victory over Danes at Eckernförde, April 5th 1849; The Radicals proclaim the Republic in Lörrach, May 15th 1849; Plan of the use of Bauer's Tauchboot against the Danish Fleet; Wilhelm Sebastian Bauer's Tauchboot
14 swedish-language sources on the Revolution of 1848 in Germany and 9 on Denmark (in part also on Germany), posted by Universitet Stockholm; some sources originally in Swed., some trsl.
Die Revolution von 1848/49 in Weil am Rhein, has plenty of sourcetexts edited under "Amtliche Verlautbarungen", "Zeitgenössische Pressemitteilungen", "Augenzeugenberichte", "Revolitionäre Dekrete", in German; images under "Bildmaterialien"
Images German Revolution of 1848, posted by MGF Gymnasium Kulmbach, comment in German; 127 images
REFERENCE Revolution in the German States, pp.722-725; The Frankfurt Parliament, pp.733-737, from : John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, NY : W.W. Norton 1996
Revolution von 1848, Information zur Politischen Bildung 265, 1999 [G]
Priscilla Robertson, Revolutions of 1848, A Social History, Princeton : UP (1952) 1967 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on June 7th 2006

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