Research Blog

“But one thing we can welcome as an achievement of civilized Europe - the participation of all people in the state. - Sooner or later the victory of pure democracy must emerge from this.” With these words the first part of the two-part chronicle of the year 1848, which appeared on 1 and 7 January 1849 in the moderate-liberal "National-Zeitung" from Berlin, ends.

Constitutional debates in Germany

What the “National Zeitung” correspondent had written was a review of the previous year - a year of outstanding importance for the formation of the German nation and the creation of a first German constitution. The research project ReConFort under the direction of Prof. Dr. Ulrike Müßig at the University of Passau dealt, among other things, with the public discourse during the constitutional process. The chronicles, as part of the public debate around the National Assembly in the Frankfurt Paulskirche and the simultaneous upheavals in many other European countries, thus provide the legal research team at ReConFort a valuable insight into the complex international context of the constitutional formation and the evaluation of this by the German regional press.

In the first part of his chronicle, the author gives a detailed report of the events around 1848. In the second part he lists the most important events month by month and day by day. He not only focuses on events in the German territories such as Prussia, Hanover, Baden and Württemberg, but also broadens his view to the surrounding European countries.

The February Revolution in France

In addition to the conflicts in the countries of southern Europe such as Greece, Turkey, Switzerland and Italy, the author also reports on the events in France that were partly responsible for the revolutionary movement in the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund).

The February Revolution in France led to the abdication of the king Louis Philippe on 24 February 1848 and to the proclamation of the republic. The provisional French government eventually called for elections to the assemblée nationale constituante, the National Assembly of France.

As a result, there were also revolts in Austria, which led to the resignation of Chancellor Klemens Fürst von Metternich. Also, in Germany the calls for a constitution and the unity of the nation as part of the so-called “March demands” (Märzforderungen) became louder and louder. After two shots had been fired due to a misunderstanding, the excitement finally unleashed itself in bitter barricade fights in the streets of Berlin.

The first steps to the National Assembly

As a reaction to the demands, a pre-advisory assembly, the so-called “pre-parliament” (Vorparlament), was founded in Frankfurt am Main and was commissioned with the elaboration of an electoral law for the National Assembly.

The German National Assembly met for its first session on 18 May 1848 and appointed Heinrich von Gagern as its chairman. Following this, the members of parliament in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt discussed fundamental rights and a first German constitution. One of the greatest conflicts was the question of Austria's future membership of the German nation state (German Question). But there were also disagreements between the politically inexperienced deputies about the future form of government.

The conflict over Schleswig-Holstein and the armistice of Malmö in August 1848 put the National Assembly to the test. In the absence of its own army, the National Assembly had to make use of military assistance from Prussia. With the permission of the declaration of the armistice, the parliament lost the confidence of a large part of the German population and it came to attacks on the delegates.

The shooting of Robert Blum

The chronicle of the “National-Zeitung” ends with a report on the political events of November 1848 - including the defeat of counterrevolution in Austria and the shooting of Robert Blum.

“So we stand at the end of the year, more worried than ever. [...] The year 1848 has created many illusions”, the author concludes his review of the year and thus gives a forecast for the coming year, also with a view to the ongoing unrest in Germany's neighbouring countries. It is indeed true that the revolution finally fails. But it also provides the impetus for many other developments that will shape the formation of Germany as a nation in the long term. The constitution drafted was a guideline for the drafting of later constitutions und a first step to the “victory of pure democracy”.

If you like to read more interesting sources you’re welcome to visit our database at sources.reconfort.eu.

 ReConFort / Schrörs