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HECKER, Friedrich Karl Franz (1811-1881)

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HECKER, Friedrich Karl Franz (1811-1881)

Friedrich Karl Franz Hecker, one of the most popular of the "Forty-Eighters" and hero of the uprisings in Baden, received ajubilant welcome upon his arrival in New York by the mayor and a crowd of over twenty thousand waving black-red-gold banners. Hecker, the son of a prosperous lawyer, had been born on 28 September 1811 in Eichtersheim, had studied law in Mannheim and history in Heidelberg and Munich, where he received his doctor of law degree. Already known for his radical leanings, he was nicknamed "Red" or "Flagrant Friedrich". In 1835 he settled in Mannheim to practice law; in 1842 he was seated as a Liberal in Baden's Elective Chamber. He soon became well known throughout Germany for his jovial, free-andeasy style in public appearances, his wild and raging speeches (for example, in opposition to Schleswig Holstein's uniting with Denmark), and for his being expelled from Prussia in 1845. Hecker's political program had as its goal a form of social republic with constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press, freedom of conscience, and academic freedom. A "preliminary parliament" at Frankfurt in March of 1848 turned down the left-wing democrats' demand for the immediate proclamation of a republic without any consultation with the princes, where upon forty radicals under Hecker's leadership walked out of the assembly. They believed a democratic republic could be forced into being by means of a revolt in Baden with the assistance of Struve, Willich, Sigel, and other like-minded comrades. Hecker was enthusiastically cheered in Constance on 12 April 1848, when he called for an armed d popular insurrection. But despite the revolutionary mood which prevailed in southwestern Germany, and the widespread conviction that the slightest push would suffice to topple the already tottering rdgime, the attempt to secure a freer future by storm miscarried because the expected participation of the masses failed to materialize.

Departure from Strasbourgh on his Way to America.

Utterly disappointed, Hecker fled to Switzerland, where, unwilling to admit to mistakes in directing the revolution, he had a falling-out with his companions. In an embittered state, he emigrated to America in September 1848, where he was greeted with a rousing reception. The already existing "Hecker culv'held banquets and torchlight processions to help him raise funds for a second revolution. In 1849 he returned to Germany, but only got as far as Strasbourg. The rebellion had already been put down by the Prussians in Rastatt (where Carl Schutz made his daring escape from arrest in the bastion). Deeply grieved, Hecker went back to America, bought a farm near Belleville, Illinois, and began to raise cattle and cultivate wine. He was one of those called "Latin farmers" because of their now superfluous classical education.

In his "Reminiscences", Schutz describes paying Hecker a visit on his prairie farm, and finding him in a state of blustering wrath, plagued by intermittent fever, and a dissapointing far cry from the former "lion". Yet instead of giving way to resignation, Hecker intensively took part in public affairs in his new homeland. Like his friend Gustav von Struve, he helped found new gymnastic associations in America together with other former "Turners", the first of which was established in Cincinnati in October 1848, only a few weeks after his first arrival in the U.S. He played an active part in the founding of the Republican party, and, as many other "48ers" such as Schurz and Sigel, played a role in the vigorous growth of the German-American press. Though already in his 50s, he energetically supported preservation of the Union and abolition of slavery; when the Civil War broke out in 1861, he assembled an entire regiment of German-Americans and became commander first of the 24th and later of the 82nd Illinois Regiment. He was wounded at Chancellorsville and received his discharge from the army in early 1864.

Friedrich Hecker, who died in Saint Louis on 24 March 1881, was one of the most famous "Forty-Eighters" who bore their ideals and goals with them to America and sought to realize them there.

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