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The Baden Revolution and the American Civil War, a Crossover?







Conference on




Max Kade Institute, Madison March 3 to 5, 2011    



In the middle of the 18th century Europe still lived in a three class society i.e. nobility, clergy and a third class initially mostly farmers, some tradesmen but also rich bankers and businessmen. Although in the French revolution this tièrs état was swept to power their representatives were incapable of stabilizing a new order based on the majority of the people. The bourgeoisie eventually became tired of all the continuous turmoil. They called for a strong man and hailed Napoleon to power who brought order and law (his law) thus saving their assets.


Emperor Napoleon, bourgeoisie's choice
or the pendulum swung Back

Code Civil, Napoleon's order and law
for occupied Europe


In invading Europe Napoleon exported his Code Civil to the occupied countries. It was a strange situation: On the one hand the satellite states profited from the liberation of the feudal regime, on the other hand they suffered terribly from France's trade monopoly but even more so from their men's death toll. This in particular when they had to march as Napoleon's allies to Moscow and never returned. Following the Emperor's Waterloo the Vienna Congress in 1815 restored the old order on the continent but not quite. In keeping the Code Napoleon the princes back in power had to grant their subjects some say.


There were subtle differences in the German territories although. While in Prussia the king eventually imposed a constitution, the grand duke of Baden ratified a constitution that had been worked out by a team of liberal law makers. However, by the year 1848 these differences were history. 




Heinrich Heine, exiled in Paris, wrote:  



Als ich auf dem Sankt Gotthard stand,
Da hört ich Deutschland schnarchen;
Es schlief da unten in sanfter Hut
Von sechsunddreißig Monarchen.



When I stood on the Gotthard pass
I listened to Germany snoring
Sleeping in soft custody
Of thirty-six monarchs ignoring.




Indeed, the press was censored, military power was in the hands of the princes, and court decisions were taken without a jury.


Enter two of our heroes Friedrich Hecker and Gustav Struve. Both originated from Baden and had received an education as lawyers, Hecker had a doctor's degree; Struve was of lower nobility but dropped his "von" already in 1847.



Hecker with hat and blouse explaining with others listening with Struve standing left of him. Hecker is wearing the blouse or wagoner's gown, overshirt made from linen or cotton, in France the wear of the so-called working class and dress of the revolutionaries in Belgium in 1830 and in France in 1848.  Therefore it was adopted by Hecker and other republican apes. (as translated from Herders Conversations-Lexikon 1854-1857)


Hecker was politically active in Baden's Lower House and Struve as an agitator. As early as September 1847 they had sent a motion to their parliamentary colleagues demanding:


People shall be armed
and elect their officers freely,

Absolute liberty of the press,

Courts with a jury like in Britain.

And they added a fourth demand  [Haum01]:

Immediate formation of a German parliament

That Britain is mentioned here should not be misleading as from the start Hecker and Struve disapproved of a constitutional monarchy but unconditionally fought for a German Republic. The American example was always on their minds e.g. when Struve demanded the people's right according to the North American Bill of Rights of September 1789. It is obvious that taken the circumstances both opted for a middle-class republic for in Germany's Southwest in 1848 a worker's class movement was quasi inexistent. Struve although is sometimes accused of socialistic ideas and referred to as being a red socialist.


Hecker's and Struve's amateurish attempts to force a republican government in Baden - the Heckerzug in April and the Struwwelputsch in September 1848 – both aborted. Both men initially fled to Switzerland where they published as sort of a justification their memoirs in which they often allude to the United States they eventually emigrated to.


Next Page




Dr. Friedrich Hecker published in Basel 1848

Gustav Struve published in Bern 1849


How did their formation in the German bourgeoisie and their experience in the Baden revolution influence their future in their new home country? 



This page was last updated on 09 August, 2018