Political Conditions in Germany

The founding of the German Federation in 1815 manifested the fragmentation of Germany into sovereign monarchies. The bourgeoisie possessed almost no constitutional rights, and production and trade were impeded severely by taxes and tariff restrictions on the individual states. In the countryside, the aristocratic power was still unrestricted. Oppositional initiatives were suppressed vigorously by restrictive censorship, which had been implemented by the Karlsbad Resolutions of 1819. During the 1830s however, the opposition developed to become a national movement, resulting in upheaveals throughout the country.

Situation in Germany
Barricades in front of a Berlin Town Hall

The rebellions, which spread over several German states, were facilitated by the French July Revolution of 1830. In October of the same year, Germans fought for social reform, freedom of press, abolition of tariffs and a reform of the constitution. Liberal citizens, craftsmen, peasants, students and workers joined to protest against censorship, intrusive power of the police and bureaucracy, demanding the founding of a unitarian German state. However, since there was a lack of organization, the upheavals occured mostly regionally.

Impact of French Revolution

In many states, the upper bourgeoisie allied with the aristocracy in order to defend the status quo, forming civil guard forces to repel rebelling workers and craftsmen. In a few states the protests lead to a partial lifting of censorship. In others, constitutional changes were achieved. The fact that no radical changes occured can be explained on the one hand with the local fragmentation of the movement. On the other hand the liberal bourgeoisie involved in the rebellions acted moderately, trying rather to reach compromises with aristocracy at early stages of the protests than to attain radical reforms.

In the following years social frictions deepened, as workers had to cope with extremely low wages and long working hours, and child labor. Industry replaced craftsmanship and forced many craftsmen into work as day laborers. Crop failures in 1847 led to famines which contributed to the build up of pressure necessary to provoke the European revolutions of 1848, which this time swept quickly from France to Germany.

Rising Pressure for Reforms
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This document was last updated on 01/24/98.