1848 Chapter 1: Dawn of Democracy
Suppressed Freedom: The 'German Confederation' and the Situation around 1848
After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the victors at the Congress of Vienna also reorganized the situation in Germany. In the „German Confederation,“ 41 German principalities, free cities and the neighboring countries of Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are united in a loose confederation. The only federal body is the „Bundestag“ in Frankfurt am Main. This prevents the emergence of a nationally united German superpower.
The great powers Prussia and Austria dominate the federation through censorship and suppression. Freedom movements are persecuted as „revolutionary activities”. But in Baden, Württemberg and Bavaria, more progressive princes enact modern constitutions. Against the reactionary policies of the Confederation – consolidated in the „Carlsbad Resolutions“ – ever louder demands for people’s rights and nation-state unity arose. Revolutions and uprisings in France and Poland in 1830 fuel the call for freedom.
Between 1815 and 1848, the population explodes from 22 to 35 million, but agricultural production does not increase sufficiently. Crop failures lead to famines. The freedom movements of the so-called „Vormärz“ now also take on a sociopolitical dimension. Around 1848, the signs throughout Europe point to revolution.
The Conditions in Constance before the Revolution
Around 1840 Constance has about 5000 inhabitants. The former further Austrian country town presents an old-fashioned picture: the cobblestones of the few paved streets are full of holes, and the alleys are littered with rubbish and manure, because many houses in the old town still keep cattle. At night it is pitch dark in the streets, only a few oil lamps illuminate the area around the harbor.
Since 1832, the young liberal Carl Hüetlin has been mayor. He tries to mediate between the strengthening group of radical democrats, early capitalist textile manufacturers and the conservative craftsmen. But the contrasts in the town, which had become part of Baden in 1806, became sharper.
The liberal zeitgeist demanded space for trade and free citizens. Most of the 27 gates and towers disappear. The manufacturing industry, especially the textile industry, which was struggling against English competition, needed better transport facilities. On their initiative, a new port is built in 1839. The railway does not reach Constance until 1863.
Around 1848, many of the guild craftsmen also fare badly; industrially manufactured mass-produced goods displace their craft. In the town’s few industrial firms Herosé, Macaire and Möglin & Vögelin, women and children in particular work under miserable conditions.
In 1847, the potato harvest spoils. Women workers, laborers and small artisans suffer: They can no longer afford the expensive bread. Public soup kitchens are set up. The state of Baden does not succeed in averting the misery of many of its compatriots.
Divided Citizenry: The Plight of the Lower Classes is growing
The town’s upper class meets in the conservative aristocratic „Casinogesellschaft“ in the new “Gesellschaftshaus” next to the Constance Cathedral. The „Bürgermuseum,“ founded in 1834, meets in the „Krone“ on the Marktstätte. This is the place of debate for the reform-minded liberal intelligentsia. In the drinking establishments, craftsmen and industrial workers give vent to their fears.
Three daily newspapers, especially the government critical „Seeblätter,“ denounce social and economic grievances. The people of Constance look longingly to republican Switzerland: „What do we need the nobility and the grand duke for if they won’t help us? Even before the outbreak of the revolution, mayor Hüetlin has parts of the old town wall demolished, with unemployed people doing publicly paid work. Ordinary people believed
that the republic would automatically bring tax exemptions and eternal prosperity. The liberal bourgeoisie defends the monarchy, but demands more political and economic freedoms.
CHARACTER: Carl Hüetlin - A Liberal Progressive
Carl Hüetlin’s worldview is liberal in the sense of the time: he is an energetic representative of the emergent middle class, which asserts its economic and political interests against the patronizing state. In his new office, the extremely industrious local politician, elected at the age of 26, unleashes an enormous reform movement: A new harbor and slaughterhouse are built, the savings bank and vocational school are established.
The radical democratic „Seeblätter“ criticize Hüetlin for serving only the economic interests of the upper class. In fact, for him, freedom does not mean the extension of political participation to the lower classes. Hüetlin is consequently against the so-called „Heckerzug“, and in 1849 he also acts as a mediator; he is not a republican. However, he is imprisoned after the revolution. When he is released, he resigns from office in protest – and leaves the city. In 1861, the people of Constance elect him as mayor again. A heart attack brings the 55-year-old’s life to an abrupt end.
CHARACTER: Joseph Fickler - The Voice of the Republic
The son of poor Tyrolean immigrants, Joseph Fickler took over the editorship of the Constance newspaper „Seeblätter“ in 1837. The autodidact pleads for freedom of the press, for the equality of Jews, for judicial reform and demands the replacement of the old feudal burdens. Economically, he was liberal, calling for freedom of trade and entrepreneurship. His masterpiece is the editorial: His widely read texts are gems of the democratic journalism of the Vormärz.
Imprisoned shortly before the start of the “Heckerzug”, Fickler is appointed to the Baden revolutionary government in 1849. A short time later he escapes to the U.S.. The former journalistic spokesman of the revolution
works in the port of New York as the landlord of the poor emigrant hotel „Shakespeare“. When he returns to Constance in 1865, seriously ill, hardly anyone wants to know him. After a few weeks, the 57-year-old dies completely alone. To this day, no monument or street commemorates him.
Baden: The Liberal 'Musterländle'
In 1806, Emperor Napoleon, the ruler of Europe, forms the new, much larger Grand Duchy of Baden out of the old margraviate and former Austrian towns and territories. Around 1840, Baden is a rural monarchy: two-thirds of the 1.2 million inhabitants work in crafts and agriculture. Only a few large industrial enterprises are harbingers of the new era. The state is headed by Grand Duke Leopold I, a liberal ruler. He joins the German Customs Union, promotes railroad construction, art and architecture.
But several bad harvests cause hunger, which the government does not satisfy. Violent uprisings break out in many places. Outdated tax payments to the nobility burden the peasants. Cheap industrial imports from England threaten the trades. The three largest industrial companies in Baden fall into a financial crisis. The bureaucratic civil service is overwhelmed by these emergencies; social revolutionary voices call for its removal from power.
CHARACTER: Leopold I - Grand Duke and 'Citizen Friend'
He was modest and affable, not a ruler like his despotic half-brother and predecessor Louis I. Grand Duke Leopold I is descended from his father’s second marriage to Luise, Countess of Hochberg. When the old male line of the Zähringers died out, Leopold succeeded him. He suffers from the gossip that the „foundling“ Kaspar Hauser is the real Zähringer hereditary prince.
Leopold studied law and history, and was preoccupied with reform ideas. In 1819 he married Sophie, Princess of Sweden. She calls him „Mutzerle,“ and the couple has eight children. When he ascended the throne in 1830, he initiated reforms. But the liberal model state of Baden comes under Prussian influence, and conservative ministers reverse the reforms.
The uprisings of 1848 cause Leopold I to make concessions. The press reviles him as a „crowned sleepyhead.“ His hasty escape from the Karlsruhe Palace in May 1849 becomes the trauma of his life. He calls on the Prussians for help. After their victory, he returns to the throne in August 1849. Deeply embittered, Leopold I dies at the age of 62.
CHARACTER: Adam von Itzstein - The Most Important Networker
The Austrian state chancellor Prince von Metternich considered Adam von Itzstein to be the „only dangerous man in the Baden opposition.“ Born in 1775, the lawyer had been a member of the state parliament since 1822. In conflict with the government, he resigned from the judicial service in Baden and retired to his Hallgarten estate in the Rheingau in 1825.
The estate becomes one of the central meeting places for progressive political forces. Itzstein promotes young, republican politicians, writes for liberal newspapers and maintains a political network. In 1831, he is re- elected to the state parliament. He organizes the Heppenheim Assembly in 1847 and the Offenburg Assembly in 1848, mobilizes candidates for the Frankfurt pre-parliament and for the constitutional National Assembly.
In the left-wing faction in the „Deutscher Hof“, Itzstein fights for unity between liberals and radicals. Until its end, he is a member of the German national parliament. When a trial for treason threatened him in 1849, he fled to Switzerland. Baden revokes his citizenship. Itzstein died at his Hallgarten estate in 1855.
The Offenburg Assembly: The Democratic Manifesto
On Sunday, September 12th 1847, history is made at the „Salmen“ inn in Offenburg: Moderate liberal deputies and radical democrats such as Friedrich Hecker and Gustav Struve gather with some 900 dissatisfied citizens, craftsmen, farmers and workers from all over Baden. The assembly adopts 13 prepared demands. These „Demands of the People in Baden“ are the first basic program of the commencing democracy movement.
The central demands are:
Self-government of the people along the lines of the U.S. Constitution Freedom of the press and freedom of speech
Freedom of movement on the „soil of the German fatherland” Freedom of faith and conscience
Abolition of the army sworn to the prince and general conscription („arming of the people“)
An all-German parliament
Equal educational opportunities
Labor protection laws against the exploitation of workers
CHARACTER: Gustav Struve - Radical Democrat and Vegetarian
At an early age, Gustav von Struve, the son of a diplomat and himself a lawyer and journalist, turned to radical democratic and early socialist positions. In 1847 he renounced his title of nobility. He is not charismatic like his companion Friedrich Hecker. After the failure of the “Heckerzug”, Struve and his wife Amalie flee to Switzerland.
In September 1848, his hour came: with a band of loyal followers, he marched into Lörrach, hoisted the red flag and proclaimed the republic. 4,000 “Freischärler”, marched towards Karlsruhe, but the Baden army broke up the march in a battle near Staufen.
Struve is arrested and sentenced. In May 1849, the revolutionary troops free him. However, the new revolutionary government is too tame for him. He founds the radical „Club of Decisive Progress.“ After the defeat, he escapes to the U.S.. He fights for the Northern states in the Civil War. In 1863, he returns to Germany. There, he becomes one of the founders of the international vegetarian movement. In 1870, Struve died in Vienna at the age of 65.
Dangerous Contraband: Printed Matter from Eastern Switzerland
In the Appenzell region, in Winterthur, Zurich and in Emmishofen near the border, publishing houses emerge around 1840 that print free-thinking literature banned in the German Confederation: Ignaz Vanotti, a lawyer from Constance, publishes, among other things, the magazine „Die Volkshalle“ in the Emmishofen „Belle-Vue-Verlag“. The German educator Julius Fröbel founds a „Literarisches Comptoir“ in Winterthur. The poems of the poet Georg Herwegh appear there.
The Appenzell book printer and publisher Johann Michael Schläpfer in Herisau is particularly inventive. As early as 1845, Prussia and Bavaria forbid the distribution of Schläpfer’s pamphlets and brochures. He then has new printing proofs pressed into supposed bales of waste paper, which are then taken apart in Leipzig and Berlin and secretly bound into pamphlets.
The writings of Schläpfer, Vanotti, Fröbel and other publishers in eastern Switzerland strengthen the democracy movement in the German lands: Their products are the intellectual ammunition of the incipient struggle for freedom.
CHARACTER: Georg Herwegh - The Voice of the Workers
Born in Stuttgart in 1817, the poet Georg Herwegh is one of the most important literary voices of the early workers‘ movement. After studying theology and law, Herwegh worked for various early socialist newspapers. He was associated with Karl Marx, Heinrich Heine, and later with Victor Hugo and other intellectuals of his time. In 1839 he fled to Switzerland, and in 1843 he bought citizenship in the canton of Basel-Land. Political reflections and poems appear in Zurich and in the Belle Vue publishing house in Kreuzlingen, making him famous throughout Europe. Together with his wife Emma he takes part in Hecker’s “Freischarenzug” with the „German Democratic Legion Paris“. In later years he is one of the prominent spokesmen for the Social Democratic Workers‘ Party (SDAP) of August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht. Herwegh dies near Baden-Baden in 1875; he and Emma were buried in Liestal, Switzerland.
CHARACTER: Ferdinand Freiligrath - From Revolutionary to Nationalist
His first collection of poems was published in 1838. In 1839 he became a professional writer. His poem „A Confession of Faith“ was published in 1844 and was a great success. In the same year he emigrated to Switzerland, where he lived near Rapperswil on Lake Zurich. He published his most famous volume of political freedom poems, „Ça ira!“ with Michael Schläpfer in Herisau in 1845. After the revolution of 1848/49, Freiligrath had to leave Germany again and became director of the London branch of the Swiss General Bank. After 1868 he became a nationalist and published anti-French texts. He died of heart failure at the „Alter Hase“ inn in Cannstatt in 1876.
CHARACTER: Johann Michael Schläpfer - A Free Spirit from Appenzell
The young printer Johann Michael Schläpfer publishes banned authors in Germany: Works by the poet Ferdinand Freiligrath sell like hot cakes. But these pamphlets are not profitable. So Schläpfer founds profitable newspapers such as the „Herisauer Wochenblatt“ and the „Freien Appenzeller,“ which attract subscribers and advertisers.
Schläpfer hired women to smuggle pamphlets across the green border into Baden and Württemberg. For years, he fights censorship, bans and criminal charges: Only after a major raid by the Saxon police, who confiscate 13,000 of his books and pamphlets in Leipzig in 1853, does the brave publisher give up his publishing business for the German market. The Appenzeller Verlag, the successor company, exists to this day.
CHARACTER: Ignaz Vanotti - Lawyer, Publisher and Revolutionary
Ignaz Vanotti, born in 1798, works as a lawyer at the court of the Lake District. In addition, he is the initiator of the Constance Steamship Company in 1830 and president of the liberal association „Bürgermuseum“. From 1839, as publisher of the Belle-Vue publishing house in Emmishofen, he publishes the political journal „Leuchtturm“, later the newspaper „Deutsche Volkshalle“.
The lawyer and writer Jakob Venedey and the poet Georg Herwegh are important collaborators of Vanotti. The well-known publicist Johann Georg August Wirth becomes the newspaper’s editorial director. But Vanotti’s publishing house remains a loss-making business. In addition, the Baden censorship forbids the import and sale of his products. After Friedrich Hecker’s “Freischarenzug”, in which he and his cousin Eduard took part, Ignaz Vanotti fled to Switzerland. Sentenced to nine years in prison for high treason, he remains in Lucerne until 1860. Amnestied in 1862, he died in Constance in 1870.
CHARACTER: Johann Georg August Wirth - Editor and Publisher in Emmishofen
As a Bavarian lawyer, Johann Georg August Wirth, born in 1798, experienced the injustices of the old legal system. In 1831, he founded his first newspaper, „Deutsche Tribüne,“ which called for national unity, freedom of the press and judicial reform. The newspaper is banned, and Wirth ends up in court. As a fraternity member, he was one of the main organizers of the great „Hambach Freedom Festival“ in 1832.
In 1833, the journalist was again charged with allegedly attempting to overthrow the government. In 1839 he fled to Emmishofen. There he became editor of the magazine „Deutsche Volkshalle“ published by the Belle-Vue publishing house. At times, Wirth voices anti-French tones. State Chancellor Metternich places an informer in the editorial office in order to be informed about their plans at all times.
In the Irsee castle in Emmishofen, Wirth, a family man plagued by financial worries, founds his own publishing house, but it does not flourish. In 1848, the „old Hambach man“ is elected to the National Assembly in Frankfurt. After six weeks there, he dies unexpectedly. The large funeral procession in his honor is a declaration of the freedom of the spirit.
The Inn as a 'Revolutionary Den'
Inns and alcohol play an important role in the revolution: passing merchants bring the latest news from other regions, and free-spirited
newspapers are available here. Beer, cider and wine loosen tongues: There are frank discussions in the inn, the democratic association and the gymnasts meet in the back rooms.
In Baden and the Palatinate, some 200 innkeepers, brewers and bakers are among the local spokesmen for the revolution. As people affected by the economic hardship themselves, they also know the hardships of the population. Well-off innkeepers function as lenders in the village. They experience the misery of many farmers and craftsmen who are their debtors.
Schiffswirt Peter Restle from Allmannsdorf, Kronenwirt Josef Guldin from Markdorf, Löwenwirt Eduard Freiheit from Hagnau and Messkirch innkeeper Johann Baptist Roder take part in the “Heckerzug”. After the revolution they are sentenced. The criminal records of the innkeeper Karl Sieber from Stetten state that his tavern was a „revolutionary den“.
In the so-called „Herrenzimmer“ of the Salem innkeeper Leopold Räfle, there is no doubt where the innkeeper stands politically: There, in the spring of 1848, to the delight of the guests, the portraits of the grand ducal couple Leopold I and Sophie von Baden hang upside down on the wall. In December 1848, the examining magistrate found that Räfle was known to be one of the „main agitators“. The innkeeper, who is only 21 years old, is sentenced to penal servitude.
CHARACTER: Ignaz Rumpelhard - Guardian of Public Opinion in Allensbach
In 1850, the Allensbach innkeeper Ignaz Rumpelhard was sentenced to eight years in prison and dispossessed. As a member of the security committee, he watched over revolutionary sentiment in the village during the second wave of the Baden Revolution in 1849. He ordered the investigation of all mail and wildly threatened with executions. The German princes were nothing but „robber chiefs,“ he boomed.
After the failure of the revolution, the guard soldier Welschinger and other villagers hastily testify against Rumpelhard, this „ragamuffin,“ as Welschinger puts it on record. The innkeeper sits in the penitentiary until
1853, before he is released early as part of a wave of amnesty. He returned to Allensbach completely penniless.
Hotbeds of Revolt: Constance Public Houses
Some of the inns that were important meeting places in 1848 still exist today: The editors of the „Seeblätter“ drink their „Schoppen“ in the „Untere Sonne“ in today’s Hussenstraße 6. Diagonally across the street, in the ballroom of the „Thurgauer Hof“, political meetings were held – today the municipal council meets here.
In 1848, the „Krone“ on the market square was home to the reading room of the liberal club „Bürgermuseum“. The „Casino“ of the local upper class and nobility is nowadays the Catholic Community Center on the Münsterhügel. The former inn garden of the „Gütle“ now serves as a playground of the children’s house „Paradies“. „Falken“ and „Hecht“ are still catering establishments.
Across the border, the Kreuzlinger „Besmer“ and the „Grüntal“ in Tägerwilen were popular gathering places. The „Besmer“ is still open, the „Grüntal“ below Castell Castle was demolished in 1984.
The Signal from Paris: Revolutions from Berlin to Sicily
Germans are electrified when news arrives from Paris in February 1848: „Revolution! King Louis Philippe has fallen!“ Moderate liberals and radical democrats believe the wave of revolution will now sweep the 38 individual German states. A large popular assembly in Mannheim demands popular armament, freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, an all-German parliament.
In Vienna, the hated state chancellor Metternich is forced to flee the city. Revolts flare up all over Europe. In several German states, the princes hastily replace their reactionary ministers with liberal heads, so-called „March Ministers.“ They grant some of the demanded reforms.
In Berlin, on March 18th 1848, a fight broke out between the military and the people in front of the king’s city palace. 300 demonstrators are killed. Barricades spring up all over Berlin. King Frederick William IV gives in, riding through the city with a black-red-gold sash. The next day, he has to bow down in front of the coffins of those killed.
Anti-Semitic Revolutionaries: Pogroms against Jews
In Alsace and parts of southern Baden, revolutionary sentiment culminates in riots against the Jewish population: houses of Jewish merchants are looted, mobs set fire to promissory notes of Jewish lenders and shout inflammatory slogans: „Liberty, equality, but the Jew ‘min umbracht si’!“
Friedrich Hecker strongly condemns the anti-Semitic attacks. Joseph Fickler had for years been a staunch advocate of equal rights for Jews and the right to settle in the cities. But the Constance municipal council and mayor Carl Hüetlin still reject the right to settle in 1847: The majority opinion is that the Jews are too much competition for the established retail trade.
In the Lake Constance area, numerous Jewish rural residents participate in the revolution: the brothers Elias Daniel and Salomon Bloch are the leaders of the Gailingen protests; they give speeches and take part in the uprisings. In Gailingen, more than 60 men join the democratic movement, 23 of them are Jews.
CHARACTER: Robert Blum - Martyr of the Democracy Movement
The Cologne-born son of a seamstress and a factory worker became the leader of the Saxon democrats in the spring of 1848. Originally a craftsman, Robert Blum made a name for himself as a journalist, publisher and founder of republican associations. The gifted orator with the reddish- blond full beard and the penetrating gaze has long been known throughout Germany as a „man of progress.“
As a member of the pre-parliament, Blum is elected to the National Assembly in May 1848. He is a representative of the left, and is appreciated as an excellent debater even by political opponents.
In the fall of 1848, the Viennese rise up. Robert Blum rushes to the aid of the insurgents, fights with them. When the barricades fall, he is arrested. The generals Prince Windischgrätz and Prince Schwarzenberg have Blum sentenced to death. On November 9th 1848, he was executed. This death makes Blum a martyr of the democracy movement.
To vote or to strike out violently? The Frankfurt Pre-Parliament
France abolished the monarchy and declared itself a republic. At the end of March 1848, there was also passionate debate in Baden about the alternatives: constitutional monarchy or democratic republic, „monarchy or rule by the people“?
High-profile political figures from all over Germany gather in Frankfurt. In the “Kaisersaal” of the Römer, 500 men – women do not yet have a political voice – discuss where the revolutionary momentum should lead. Radical democrats around Robert Blum, Gustav Struve and Friedrich Hecker propose that the „pre-parliament“ should declare itself a permanent institution. In this way, they wanted to promote the democratization and unity of Germany and accelerate the overthrow of the princes.
The Liberals, who were loyal to the monarchy and made up two-thirds of the assembly, demanded an all-German election from which a „National Assembly“ would emerge. The left splits and is defeated. Hecker is not even elected to the working body, the „Committee of Fifty.“ Disappointed, he realizes that there was nothing to be gained by parliamentary means. He decides: „We have to strike out in Baden!
CHARACTER: Karl Mathy - The Enemy of the Radicals
On April 8th 1848, Karl Mathy, a member of parliament, had Joseph Fickler, the publisher of the Constance „Seeblätter,“ arrested at the Karlsruhe train station. Mathy, who had learned of Hecker’s plans for a coup, wanted to
prevent Fickler from calling for revolution in Mathy’s constituency in Constance. This approach makes Mathy the enemy of the radical democrats.
Yet the lawyer himself had once resigned from the Baden civil service in a dispute. In 1832, he had to flee into exile to Switzerland for helping persecuted democrats to escape. He returned in 1840, became publisher of the liberal „Deutsche Zeitung“ and was elected to the Baden parliament in 1842. As a liberal, he entered the National Assembly in 1848 and became undersecretary of state in the new „Reich Ministry of Finance.“
During the second wave of the revolution in 1849, Mathy was completely on the side of the Prussian intervention forces. Later he was a banker in Berlin and Leipzig, and in 1866 he even became head of the Baden government. Two years later, at the age of 61, he died of heart disease.