The Forty-Eighters were Europeans who participated in or supported the revolutions of 1848 that swept Europe. In the German states, the Forty-Eighters favored unification of the German people, a more democratic government, and guarantees of human rights. Disappointed at the failure of the revolution to bring about the reform of the system of government in Germany or the Austrian Empire and sometimes on the government's wanted list because of their involvement in the revolution, they gave up their old lives to try again abroad. Many emigrated to the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia after the revolutions failed. These emigrants included Germans, Czechs, Hungarians, and others. Many were respected and politically active, wealthy, and well-educated. A large number went on to be very successful in their new countries.
Germans migrated to developing midwestern and southern cities, developing the beer and wine industries in several locations, and advancing journalism; others developed thriving agricultural communities.
More than 30,000 Forty-Eighters settled in what became called the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. There they helped define the distinct German culture of the neighborhood, and in some cases also brought a rebellious nature with them from Germany. Cincinnati was the southern terminus of the Miami and Erie Canal, and large numbers of emigrants from modern Germany, beginning with the Forty-Eighters, followed the canal north to settle available land in western Ohio.
In the Cincinnati riot of 1853, in which one demonstrator was killed, Forty-Eighters violently protested the visit of the papal emissary Cardinal Gaetano Bedini, who had repressed revolutionaries in the Papal States in 1849. Protests took place also in 1854; Forty-Eighters were held responsible for the killing of two law enforcement officers in the two events.
Many German Forty-Eighters settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, helping solidify that city's progressive political bent and cultural Deutschtum. The Acht-und-vierzigers and their descendants contributed to the development of that city's long Socialist political tradition. Others settled throughout the state.
In the United States, most Forty-Eighters opposed nativism and slavery, in keeping with the liberal ideals that had led them to flee from Europe. In the Camp Jackson Affair in St. Louis, Missouri, a large force of German volunteers helped prevent Confederate forces from seizing the government arsenal just prior to the beginning of the American Civil War. About 200,000 German-born soldiers enlisted in the Union Army, ultimately forming about 10% of the North's entire armed forces; 13,000 Germans served in Union Volunteer Regiments from New York alone.
After the Civil War, Forty-Eighters supported improved labor laws and working conditions. They also advanced the country's cultural and intellectual development in such fields as education, the arts, medicine, journalism, and business.
In 1848, the first non-British ship carrying immigrants to arrive in Victoria was from Germany; the Goddefroy, on February 13. Many of those on board were political refugees. Some Germans also travelled to Australia via London. In April 1849, the Beulah was the first ship to bring assisted German vinedresser families to New South Wales. The second ship, the Parland, left London on 13 March 1849, and arrived in Sydney on 5 July 1849.
The Princess Louise left Hamburg March 26 of 1849, in the spring, bound for South Australia via Rio de Janeiro. The voyage took 135 days, which was considered slow, but nevertheless the Princess Louise berthed at Port Adelaide on August 7, 1849, with 161 emigres, including Johann Friedrich Mosel. Johann, born in 1827 in Berlin in the duchy of Brandenburg, had taken three weeks to travel from his home to the departure point of the 350-tonne vessel at Hamburg. This voyage had been well planned by two of the founding passengers, brothers Richard and Otto Schomburgk, who had been implicated in the revolution. Otto had been jailed in 1847 for his activities as a student revolutionary. The brothers, along with others including Frau von Kreussler and D. Meucke, formed a migration group, the South Australian Colonisation Society, one of many similar groups forming throughout Germany at the time. Sponsored by geologist Leopold von Buch, the society chartered the Princess Louise to sail to South Australia. The passengers were mainly middle-class professionals, academics, musicians, artists, architects, engineers, artisans, and apprentices, and were among the core of liberal radicals, disillusioned with events in Germany.
Many Germans became vintners or worked in the wine industry; others founded Lutheran churches. By 1860, for example, about 70 German families lived in Germantown, Victoria. (When World War I broke out, the town was renamed Grovedale.) In Adelaide, a German Club was founded in 1854, which played a major role in society.
Ludwig Bamberger settled in Paris and worked in a bank from 1852 until the amnesty of 1866 allowed him to return to Germany. Carl Schurz was in France for a time before moving on to England. He stayed there with Adolf Strodtmann. Anton Heinrich Springer visited France.
Albert Dulk, a dramatist, settled in Geneva after touring the Orient. He eventually returned to Germany.
Gottfried Kinkel moved to Switzerland in 1866 after living in England. He was a professor of archaeology and the history of art at the Polytechnikum in Zürich, where he died 16 years later.
Hermann Köchly first fled to Brussels in 1849. In 1851, he was appointed professor of classical philology at the University of Zürich. By 1864, he was back in Germany as a professor at the University of Heidelberg.
Johannes Scherr, novelist and literary critic, fled to Switzerland and eventually became a professor at the Polytechnikum in Zurich.
Richard Wagner, the composer, first fled to Paris and then settled in Zurich. He eventually returned to Germany.
"A large number of refugees from almost all parts of the European continent had gathered in London since the year 1848, but the intercourse between the different national groups – Germans, Frenchmen, Italians, Hungarians, Poles, Russians – was confined more or less to the prominent personages. All, however, in common nourished the confident hope of a revolutionary upturning on the continent soon to come. Among the Germans there were only a few who shared this hope in a less degree. Perhaps the ablest and most important person among these was Lothar Bucher, a quiet, retiring man of great capacity and acquirements, who occupied himself with serious political studies."
Hungarian refugee Gustav Zerffi became a British citizen and worked as a historian in London. Lajos Kossuth, a Hungarian revolutionary, toured England & Scotland and then the United States. He returned to Great Britain, where he formed a government in exile.
Ferenc Pulszky, a Hungarian politician, who joined Kossuth on his tour of the United States and England, became involved in Italian revolutionary activities and was imprisoned, and then was pardoned and returned home in 1866
^In The German Element in the United States (Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1909, Vol. II, Chapter VII, p. 369), Albert Bernhardt Faust gives the following list of 48er journalists: Carl Schurz, F. R. Hassaurek, Carl Heinzen, Friedrich Hecker, Christopher Esselen, Lorenz Brentano, Theodor Olshausen, Hermann Raster, Friedrich Kapp, Franz Sigel, Oswald Ottendorfer, Wilhelm Rapp, Kaspar Beetz, Friedrich Lexow, Carl Dilthey, Emil Praetorius, F. Raine, H. Börnstein, C. L. Bernays, Karl D. A. Douai, Emil Rothe and Eduard Leyh. He also notes: "There were strong men among the political refugees between 1818 and 1848 prominent in journalistic work, as Friedrich Münch (Missouri), J. A. Wagener (Charleston, South Carolina), H. A. Rattermann (Cincinnati). It must be conceded, however, that the great progress in German journalism in the United States came with the advent of the political refugees of 1848, and immediately thereafter. A large number of new journals were founded by these 'forty-eighters,' and as a rule they commanded a better German style and furnished a greater amount of desirable information in politics and literature. The presumption of the 'forty-eighters' in many cases offended the older class (of 1818–1848), and a journalistic warfare arose between the two parties ('die Grauen' and 'die Grünen'). The result, however, was favorable to the cause of journalism, and the Grays and the Greens, as explained before, soon united in the great struggle against secession and slavery."
Daniel Nagel, Von republikanischen Deutschen zu deutsch-amerikanischen Republikanern. Ein Beitrag zum Identitätswandel der deutschen Achtundvierziger in den Vereinigten Staaten 1850–1861. Röhrig: St. Ingbert, 2012.