The Men of 1848
The first half of the nineteenth century witnessed the arrival on American shores of a vast number of German immigrants, who gained a most
significant place in American history: "the Men of 1848."
Their peculiar name needs explanation. As is commonly known, all political conditions of central Europe had at the beginning of the
nineteenth century been overthrown by Napoleon Buonaparte, that great adventurer, who aimed at the erection of a Caesarean Empire, the like of which the world had not seen before. This dream was defeated in the great
battle at Leipzig by the inhabitants of the kingdoms and principalities of Germany and those of Austria. Having taken such a heroic part in this gigantic struggle for liberation, the people had hoped for the
establishment of constitutional governments, in which they might have part. But this justified expectation was sadly deceived. The rulers, forgetful that the people had saved their thrones, denied it such right, and
opened instead a long period of reaction, which manifested its triumph in dark acts of oppression and tyranny. Dissatisfied by the ingratitude of the sovereigns, many patriots, detesting violence, turned their backs on
the land of their birth, hoping to find in America new fields for their abilities. Others, unwilling to submit to the petty tyranny of the rulers, -resolved to resist and became leaders in a bitter struggle for liberty,
which, dragging along for many years, culminated in the revolutionary outbreaks of the year 1848. The symbols of that sanguinary year were chosen and denote all those Germans and Austrians, who took part in the long
struggle, though their participation dated back to earlier years. Among those men were thousands who had reached the highest pinnacle of intellectual development, men with ideal inspirations, who became in America
successful promoters of the ethical, moral and material welfare of the people, and gained also widespread influence in the direction of affairs in our federation of States.
Among the earlier arrivals, who came between 1820 to 1848, were Karl Follen, Karl Beck, Franz Lieber, Joseph Grund, Johann August Roebling, Georg Seidensticker and Max Oertel
, every one an apostle of science, art and home culture.
Among the men, who came in 1848 and the years following, were Karl Schurz, Franz Sigel, Peter Osterhaus, Friedrich Hecker, Gustav Körner, Gustav
von Struve, Karl Heinzen, Hans Kudlich, August Willich, Konrad Krez, Max Weber, Karl Eberhard Salomo, Julius Stahel, Max Weber, Hermann Raster, Johann Bernhard Stallo, Friedrich Kapp, Lorenz Brentano, Friedrich
Hassaureck, Oswald Ottendorfer, Caspar Butz, Theodor Kirchhoff, Karl Douai
and many thousand others. In all, Germany lost during the so-called "Reaktionszeit" more than one and a half million of her best citizens.
Germany's loss meant for the United States an invaluable
gain, as so many hundred thousands of highly cultured men and women came into this country. While the former German immigration had consisted essentially of farmers, workmen and traders, now scholars and students of
every branch of science, artists, writers, journalists, lawyers, ministers, teachers and foresters came in numbers. The enormous amount of knowledge, idealism and activity, embodied in these political exiles, made them
the most valuable immigrants America ever received. As they accepted positions as teachers and professors at the schools and universities, or filled public offices, or founded all sorts of newspapers and periodicals,
learned societies and social clubs, these men inspired the hitherto dull social life of America, that it gained a much freer and more progressive character.
By their able leadership the older German element
in the United States improved also greatly. Formerly without close connection and compared with an army of able soldiers but without officers, it now began to form under the leadership of the men of 1848 a community,
whose prime efforts were directed toward the welfare of their adopted country and to keep unsullied the fountains of liberty and the rights of men. That among the exiles of 1848 were characters of the same calibre as
Franklin and Washington.
Source: Rudolf Cronau's German Achievements in Amerika