THE FIRST ZOLLVEREIN CRISIS, 1848–1853
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At the beginning of 1848 there was serious political and economic unrest in Germany. There was a strong desire not only to secure political rights in various German States but also to obtain a thorough revision of the constitution of the Germanic
The existence of social-as distinct from political-unrest was hardly surprising. It has been seen that, despite the economic benefits secured by the establishment and extension of the Zollverein, there was still much economic distress in Germany. The economic crisis of 1847 showed that Germany could not escape from the periodic slumps of the kind that had afHicted British industry at fairly regular intervals in the last seventy years or so. I Some factory workers were beginning to demand a share in the profits of industry. German emigration in 1848-54 was due less to political causes than to unsatisfactory conditions in certain agricultural districts. Political revolution and reaction occurred allover Germany, yet emigration was mainly from the south-west. Here agricultural arrangements were still largely feudal. But the medieval agrarian system was being undermined by the division of common lands and the decrease of the forests. The small peasant proprietors were thus losing rights of pasture and the sources of their supply of fuel. But, on the whole, their standard of living was rising and they chafed against the game laws and other feudal disabilities. The position in 1848 was aggravated by the failure of the potato crop. Peasants were not merely short of food but had no money to pay interest on loans contracted a year or two before-when failures of commercial houses had led lenders to invest in agriculture. To add to this distress came the cholera epidemic of 1849.2
Z See M. L. Hansen, "German Emigration in the 'Fifties (1848-54)",
The revolution in Paris in February, 1848, which led to the fall of Louis Philippe and the establishment of the second French Republic, was the signal for risings in many of the German middle and small States. In Bavaria, King Ludwig abdicated and Lola Montez (his unpopular mistress) left the country. In Hesse-Darmstadt the reactionary Grand Duke had to allow Heinrich von Gagern to form a ministry and in HesseCassel the Elector was forced to grant a Liberal constitution. The Duke of Nassau tried to placate his exasperated subjects by declaring his extensive domains to be State property. In Wiirttemberg a rising was suppressed but a reformer (Friedrich Romer) was admitted to the cabinet. The obstinate King of Hanover had to grant a constitution. In Saxony reforms were promised. There were risings, too, in many of the smaller States and various concessions were granted.