September Revolution 1848 - Septemberrevolution 1848

The murder of Prince Lichnowsky and General von Auerswald zu Frankfurt a. M. on September 18, 1848.

A spontaneous popular uprising in Frankfurt am Main (then Free City of Frankfurt ) is called the September Revolution of 1848 or September Unrest . In September 1848, the vote on the Malmö armistice , which was supposed to end the Schleswig-Holstein uprising , sparked a spontaneous uprising in Frankfurt. In this the displeasure of radical Democrats over this decision discharged . After the insurgents, on September 18, 1848, two right-wing liberal members of the Frankfurt National Assembly , Felix Fürst von Lichnowsky and Hans von Auerswald, murdered and erected barricades in the city center, Prussian and Austrian federal troops called for help by the National Assembly violently suppressed the uprising.

Starting position

After the constitution of the National Assembly in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt on May 18, 1848, several parliamentary groups quickly formed which named themselves after the meeting rooms in which the members of parliament met like-minded people:

  1. The “democratic left” , also known as the “whole” , was composed of the extreme and the moderate left. They gathered in the Deutsches Hof , their later splits in Donnersberg , Nürnberger Hof and Westendhall .
  2. The “liberal center” , the so-called “halves” , consisted of the left and right center. Their factions were the national liberal casino and the left-liberal Württemberger Hof as well as the later spin-offs Augsburger Hof , Landsberg and Pariser Hof .
  3. The “conservative right” made up of Protestants and conservatives called itself the Steinernes Haus or after the change of club location Café Milani .

The largest groups were the casino and the Württemberger Hof.

On June 28, 1848, the National Assembly passed the law on the introduction of a provisional central authority for Germany [1] and elected Archduke Johann of Austria as the Reichsverweser , who should head this provisional government , on the following day . On July 15, 1848, the Reichsverweser appointed Prince Karl zu Leiningen as Prime Minister.

The Schleswig-Holstein War

The new Reich government had the authority of the Paulskirche and also the consensus of the people behind it, but it had no real power. It lacked money, a functioning administration and of course an army. This became clear in the Schleswig-Holstein question .

According to the Treaty of Ripen of 1460, the two duchies of Schleswig and Holstein were to remain undivided forever. They were in personal union with Denmark , but only Holstein was part of the German Confederation , while the mixed-language Duchy of Schleswig formed a Danish fiefdom . German national liberals, together with the left, demanded that Schleswig be included in the German Confederation and that the duchy should be represented in the national assembly, while Danish national liberals wanted to incorporate Schleswig as part of a new Danish nation-state.

Prussian troops occupied Schleswig-Holstein on behalf of the German Confederation and invaded Denmark in May 1848. On June 14th, the National Assembly decided to set up an imperial fleet to oppose Danish naval rule. At the urging of Great Britain, Russia and France, however, Prussia and Denmark agreed the Malmö armistice on August 26, 1848 .

This included that the Danish and Prussian troops should withdraw from Schleswig-Holstein and the two duchies should be administered temporarily by a joint Prussian-Danish commission. In this armistice, however, the national-German interests were completely excluded. The Frankfurt central authority was disregarded, as well as the national-German expectations.

The expectation that Prussia would force the Danish recognition of the central power of Frankfurt in addition to an acceptable armistice in Malmö, which would correspond to the national-German ideas, was bitterly disappointed. Until after the ratification and the exchange of the documents, Prussia had not even informed the Paulskirche, because the agreements did not correspond to the national-German demands. In addition, Prussia had concluded the treaty in its name and in the name of the German Confederation, although it no longer existed after the dissolution of the Bundestag on June 28 and the transfer of powers to the new Reich authorities. This was seen as an affront to the German government and consequently met with fierce opposition.

On September 5th, a majority of the National Assembly of 238 votes to 221 votes rejected the Malmö Treaty at the instigation of Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann . A coalition of the left and the casino faction had a majority here.

After the defeat, the old Reich Cabinet under Karl zu Leiningen resigned. Dahlmann, who was now in charge of forming a government, did not succeed in forming a new cabinet, however, as the new majority only agreed to reject the Malmö Agreement.

In a renewed vote on September 16, parliament submitted to the facts created by Prussia and approved the ceasefire agreement with a narrow majority against the left's motion to continue the Federal War against Denmark.

During the three-day debate from September 14 to 16, the left argued mainly nationalist and idealistic, emphasizing in particular the German honor that had to be saved. The right, however, asked for more prudence in its argumentation, since the government relations were too uncertain, because Dahlmann's attempt to reshuffle the government had failed. Germany is also not capable of waging war without Prussia, since it was powerless without an army or a fleet.

The acceptance of the armistice showed the population the powerlessness of parliament and its dependence on the Prussian government, which in turn had given in to pressure from the European powers in Malmö. Not only the parliament, but also the provisional central power were not adequately equipped for a conflict with such foreign, domestic and national explosiveness.

The riot

Storming of the barricade at the Konstablerwache in Frankfurt am Main on September 18, 1848 by the Prussian military, lithograph by EG May after a drawing by Jean Nicolas Ventadour
Memorial in Frankfurt's main cemetery for the murdered MPs Hans von Auerswald, Felix von Lichnowsky and 12 soldiers killed in the uprising

After the decision of the National Assembly, on the evening of September 16, 1848, the delegates of the Monday wreath , an association of the democratic-republican association, the democratic and the workers' association founded in 1845 by the lawyer Maximilian Reinganum , met in the Nuremberg court to discuss how to do it should now proceed. There was a popular assembly for the following day on the Pentecostal meadowdecided. Consideration was given to simply trying it without parliament, since it had betrayed the “honor of the German people” by accepting the armistice. The Malmö resolution was interpreted by them as a plot to have troops available to suppress democratic tendencies in Germany and at the same time to win Russia as an ally. Republicans, who formed the majority in the assembly, feared that if action was not taken at this point, the assembly could become increasingly reactionary. At the people's assembly, which probably took place on the Pentecostal pasture with more than 10,000 participants, it was decided that the left should leave the national assembly in order to constitute itself independently. On the evening of that day, however, this decision was rejected again by the majority of the left, fearing that it would lead to a revolutionary uprising. In the angry population, especially among the Frankfurt workers and craftsmen, this was noted with disappointment and bitterness. Because those MPs who had been entrusted with representing interests had disappointed them again.

Many began to believe that the government had failed its first test due to a lack of political foresight and courage. In this general excitement one began to seriously doubt Parliament and its work, which resulted in spontaneous uprisings. The people now wanted to rely on their own strength and, if necessary, even take action against the left-wing deputies, which is why the decision was made to hold an armed people's assembly on the Roßmarkt on the morning of September 18, 1848 . Since the vigilante group had already proven to be unreliable on September 16, parliament had already recruited Prussian and Austrian federal troops from the Mainz fortress the day before .

However, when there was a commotion in front of the doors of the Paulskirche at a meeting of the National Assembly , the troops intervened and some wounds and arrests took place. This event fueled the already simmering hatred of Prussia and uproar in the crowd, because it was men from that very state that had betrayed the Schleswig-Holstein cause and now they were taking action against unarmed citizens. A barricade fight began between revolutionary workers, peasants and artisans on the one hand and the Prussian and Austrian military on the other. Most barricades were here on the Zeil , between Hauptwache and Konstablerwache , theFahrgasse , the Mainkai and the Römerberg - Neue Kräme line .

Prince Lichnowsky

Two members of the national liberal casino parliamentary group , Felix Fürst von Lichnowsky and Hans von Auerswald , were attacked and fatally wounded by insurgents while exploring in front of the Friedberger Tor . Imperial Administrator Archduke Johann had withdrawn from the city to his country house in Bockenheim .

The death of the respected Prussian general Hans von Auerswald, who had taken part in the wars of liberation, and Prince Felix von Lichnowsky, who was valued for his skills and daring, became a turning point for the uprising. Because this act made cooperation with the now completely discredited revolutionary forces impossible. Justice Minister Heckscher , who had gone to Bad Soden am Taunus , had to be arrested in Höchst am Main because of the general bitterness against him , as he feared for his life.

The uprising was suppressed very quickly, as the craftsmen, day laborers and journeymen had acted spontaneously and without a plan. Although they had erected barricades in around 40 places in the city, they failed to block important military access routes and to get support from the villages. By midnight the uprising was already crushed. 30 insurgents and 12 soldiers were killed in the fighting. Both the left and the right distanced themselves from the uprising, as it was only fueled by blind anger that had nothing to do with politics.

Effects of the uprising

Memorial to those who died in the September riots in the main cemetery

"From now on it was basically only a matter of preserving the March achievements for the democrats, a revolutionary change in state and society in the Rhine - Main area failed with the September uprising." [2] The isolated attempts from Giessen, Wiesbaden or The attempts to organize high-level volunteer corps had already failed.

The provisional central authority created an authority that was supposed to bundle the political and police powers. Associations and assemblies were banned and later only allowed again under strict observation. The state of siege was imposed in Frankfurt and lasted until the end of October. In future there was always an occupation force in Frankfurt from the large territorial states of Prussia, Austria and Bavaria. The mixed patrol was mocked on the one hand, and on the other hand it painfully reminded the citizens that the Free City of Frankfurt was no longer trusted to maintain public safety and order on its own. The traditional vigilante group was dissolved and they had to hand over their weapons.

Most citizens, however, welcomed the intervention of the military, including Arthur Schopenhauer , who gave the bereaved of the 12 fallen soldiers a will. Two monuments in Frankfurt's main cemetery commemorate the military and civilian victims of the uprising.

The National Assembly had lost its credibility since the September uprising and could no longer find any cooperation between the bourgeois-liberal and the radical-democratic camp. This early split in power was crucial to the subsequent failure of the National Assembly.


"Auerswald and Lichnowsky", by Christian Reinhold Köstlin
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  • Michael Wettengel: The revolution of 1848/49 in the Rhine-Main area , Historical Commission for Nassau, Wiesbaden 1989, ISBN 3-922244-82-3 , Zugl .: Hamburg, Univ., Diss., 1988
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Individual evidence

  1. Law on the introduction of a provisional central authority for Germany of June 28, 1848 at
  2. Wettengel, The Revolution of 1848/49 in the Rhine - Main Area, p. 273.


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