Emigrants, America and An Unsuccessful
Revolution in Germany: 1848/49



In the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg the revolutionary years started with an unsuccessful liberal overture: the lecture which the chief rabbi of the Land, Bernhard Wechsler, gave in December 1846 at a session of the Association for the Education of Workers which he had co-founded shortly before. In his lecture he analysed the causes of emigration and pleaded for a Republican society. He presented the USA as an example of this. Emigration had become a political issue, a symptom of upcoming changes: "What matters is that .. the idea that conditions should not be like this becomes more and more vivid in people´s minds. People in this state are comparable to ill persons who become all the more impatient, excited, the more they are aware of what it means to be in good health." And: "America is in all those places where hands are not put  idly in one´s lap and where downheartedness and discouragement befog and paralyse the minds  ."

The complete text will be fit in here. The original text is contained in the  Landesbibliothek (state library) at Oldenburg.

As early as on 4 April 1848 German-Americans agreed on a call for solidarity which was published in Sunday´s Newspaper in Vechta, a catholic region to the south of Oldenburg, on 21 May 1848. This appeal included the promise that successful revolutionists would be given a flag of liberty; however, it seems that the flag remained with the "Queen of the West", i.e. "over the Rhine" as the German quarter beyond the dirty canal was called.

An "Address of the citizens of New York" of 20 April 1848 was delivered to the National Assembly of Frankfurt on the Main at the Paul`s Church on 6 June  1848 (Franz Wigand (ed.): Reden für die deutsche Nation 1848/49 [Addresses to the German Nation 1848/49]. Stenographischer Bericht über die Verhandlungen der Deutschen Constituierenden  Nationalversammlung zu Frankfurt am Main, [Shorthand report on the negotiations of the German Constitutional National Assembly of Frankfurt on the Main], Bd. 1, Frankfurt: Sauerländer 1848, p. 162f, Nachdruck München: Moos & Partner 1988).

On 7 December 1848 the National Assembly decided that the right to emigrate is a constitutional right (Wigard, Bd. 5, p. 3897):

On 16 March 1849 the 'law on the protection and welfare to be provided by the state for German emigrants' was discussed and settled in the Paul´s Church (Wigard, Bd. 8, 5709-31). During the debate the MP Schulz from Weilburg ("Democratic Left Party") said:

All this has become rubbish: a revolution, which once it at first bloodily utterly fails and also hesitates and resignedly is given up. A committed nationalism before the unification remained alive; the founding of the empire in 1871 satisfied many revolutionaries in America. Philipp Veit had already concealed the "Germania" in St. Paul's Church with the organ and ruled the church space, but so many speakers all the way from the left to the right.

Many revolutionists fled or emigrated to the USA. Sympathizers have also left. Jakob Julius Schlickum from Westphalia, for instance, was one of them. (Hans Dahlmanns, Voerde am Niederrhein). The teacher of agriculture (1825-1863) who had an academic training said goodbye in a very emotional way in June 1849:

Many of the emigrants were welcomed by the German-Americans in a very unfriendly way: Some of the insults were printed in "Der Oldenburgische Volksfreund" on 3 April 1850, long after it had turned out that the revolution and the negotiations in the Paul´s Church had failed:

The church paper of the old-Lutheran Missouri synod (St. Louis) reported and commented on the revolution for 5 years:

In February 1848 the 'Communist Manifest' of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels was published. .

'Society' was the governing idea of civil enlightenment - and its egalitarian radicalization became apparent in the Communist Manifest: 'an association in which the individual development of any person provides the basis for the development of all'," (Matthias Geffrath, in: Die Zeit, 5 February 1998. These were the dreams of mankind that had come to an end in bloodshed and that had been given up hesitantly and with resignation.

The Frankfurt physician Heinrich Hoffmann (a liberal-conservative revolutionist) wrote under the name of "Peter Struwwel" (Peter Shockhead) a "Little Handbook for disturbers or 'A short introduction into how to become popular in a few days' (Leipzig: Gustav Meyer publishing house). In an attached "Dictionary of popular catchwords" he explained to left republicans what the term 'republic' means:

In 1847 Hoffmann published "Struwwelpeter" (Shock-headed Peter). He presented Hans GuckindieLuft (Johnny Head-in-the-air) who watched the birds flying and fell into the water. Dripping wet and shamefaced he was pulled out of the water. Heinrich Hoffmann drastically showed what happens to naughty children. At first, as the father of the constitution of St. Paul's Church (die Paulskirche), he had more success with its ideals. Parliament member Wilhelm Friedrich Schulz, viewed by Peter Struwwel as a rummager (Wuehler), said in St. Paul's Church: "Much is certainly negotiated, little is taken into action."  ("Viel ist schon verhandelt, wenig ist gehandelt worden.")

For 70 years Germans could only dream of democracy and a republic.


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