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Koerner, Gustave; McCormack, Thomas J., ed. Memoirs of Gustave Koerner, 1809-1896, Life-Sketches Written at the Suggestion of His Children, Volume 1 . Cedar Rapids, IA: The Torch Press, 1909. [format: book], [genre: memoir]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=koerner1.html


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Chapter VIII. The Hambach Festival.

I have already spoken of my promotion as doctor of law — June 14, — but when I took my leave from lovely and famous Heidelberg, I did not go directly home to Frankfort. On the 26th of May the great festival at the ruins of the large Castle of Hambaeh near Neustadt was to take place.

Wirth and the Press Unions.

Dr. John G. A. Wirth had received a classical education, had studied law at Erlangen, and was pursuing his profession. He, however, quite early engaged in literary labor and published several journals of political and national-economic character. He was not what we call here a newspaper man, but a real journalist, such as Germany had not seen since Goerres in his rational days had published the "Rhenish Mercury." Wirth was a man of genius, an idealist; his language, written or spoken, was most impressive and fiery, but always chaste and noble. When he first published the "German Tribune" in Munich in 1831, at the time the Bavarian legislature was in session, his opposition to the government was moderate, and was kept strictly within legal bounds. But in criticising the reactionary measures of the government he was bold and outspoken. The singular clearness and force of his arguments at once gained for the paper a very large circulation in the heart of Bavaria and Jesuitism. The government became alarmed. His articles were sadly mutilated by the censor, and in many other ways he was much annoyed. The post-office was directed to interfere with the circulation of the paper. Wirth's remonstrances were rejected. The government papers

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made war on him in the coarsest and most scandalous way. No wonder that such a fiery soul as Wirth's could not brook such a course. His language became more decided, and finally he decided to remove his press to a more congenial region. In the winter of 1832, he published the "Tribune" in Homburg in Rhenish Bavaria, where the laws being substantially those introduced by the French after they had annexed the country to the left of the Rhine, gave far more liberty to the citizens than the laws of the rest of Bavaria. The "Tribune" soon became the organ of the Liberal party in Germany and made the governments tremble. Some of the neighboring States prohibited its circulation, and at the instance of the Bundestag, the Bavarian government from time to time confiscated the journal and prosecuted its editor and printer for what they called the abuse of the press. Wirth then, by a public address to the German people, called upon them to form patriotic unions for the purpose of supporting all Liberal papers, assisting in their circulation, raising a fund for indemnifying editors when they were fined by the courts, and printing pamphlets. A central committee for these patriotic or Press-Unions, as they were generally called, was established at Deux Ponts (Zweibruecken), consisting of the eminent lawyers and statesmen, Schueler, Savoye and Geib. Sub-committees were formed in almost every city and town in the Rhenish and Franconian provinces of Bavaria, in Wuertemberg, in Baden, in Hesse-Cassel and Hesse-Darmstadt, and in Nassau. And in a very short time, similar unions were formed in Saxony and in the dukedoms of Coburg, Altenburg and Weimar, in the Prussian Rhenish provinces, in Westphalia, in Hanover, and even in the Hansa towns and Holstein. Everybody became a member who subscribed some money every week or month, the amount of which was left to each one to fix. Even in a great many villages such societies were formed. The papers principally supported by these unions were the "Westbote," edited by a most able lawyer, Dr. Siebenpfeiffer, the "Tribune," the "Watchman on the Rhine," the "Zeitschwingen",

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the "Donau-Zeitung," and several papers published in Frankfort. The Bundestag prohibited these unions, but did not prevent their spreading all over the country. The subscribers did not need to give their names if they did not choose, but might adopt some chiffre or fictitious name.

The Hambacher Schloss Festival.

While political excitement, so much increased by the Polish exodus and the bold language of the press, thus ran very high, some thirty prominent citizens of Neustadt by the Haardt issued, at the instance of Dr. Siebenpfeiffer, an invitation for a general German festival to be held on the 27th of May, 1832, at the Hambacher Schloss, situated on a high hill, near Neustadt, now in ruins, once a beautiful castle, destroyed in the Peasants' Wars by the infuriated and downtrodden serfs. The meeting — such was the language of the invitation — was not to celebrate great and glorious events, for the Germans had no reason to commemorate such, but to express the desire and the hope to obtain legal liberty and national dignity. From every part of Germany the people were to meet for brotherly reunion and for a peaceable discussion of the common interests of their great country.

The idea of such a national confederation took like wildfire. The Liberal press at once warmly supported it. The Bavarian government took the alarm. The President of the province, Von Andrian, at once issued an order forbidding the meeting. But this was like pouring oil on the fire. The inaugurators, having obtained the opinions of distinguished lawyers, who pronounced the meeting legal according to the established constitution and laws, published a strong protest against the ordinance; the city council of Neustadt protested still stronger. All the city councils of the province followed suit, and, last but not least, the provincial delegates, a body of the most distinguished men of Rhenish Bavaria, elected by the legal voters and charged with the power of administering the local affairs of the province, being then in session, also

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insisted in the most determined manner on a repeal of the ordinance. The government, frightened, repealed the order, and refrained from sending even police or troops to the place.

Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, and perhaps some neighboring governments forbade their people to attend; but very few obeyed the mandate. The people did meet, and, according to the report of the government officials, the number, including a great many ladies, amounted to some thirty thousand persons. By others it was estimated as high as fifty or sixty thousand. That the Heidelberger Burschenschaft, as well as a good many other Burschenschaften, was fully represented, was a matter of course.

In company with an intimate friend, C. Heintzmann, I left Heidelberg on the 23rd of May, 1832, but stopped on the way at Speyer at the house of Mr. Fred Hilgard. Sophie Engelmann was there on a visit. We were hospitably received by Mr. Hilgard and his wife, Sophie's sister. Two days I passed there most joyously. There I met also Dora, a sister of Theodore Kraft, who had been with me at Heidelberg, and who was a cousin of Sophie. She was a lovely girl. In company with Miss Emma Heimberger and other friends we took pleasant walks, and spent one afternoon in a beautiful summer garden. Emma was a fascinating girl, of rather irregular features, brilliantly dark eyes and hair; of great vivacity and very beautiful. She became afterwards Mrs. Theodore Hilgard, Jr., and was for years a bright star in our German-American settlement. I made also the acquaintance, at that time, of her brother Gustav, who was a few years my elder, had studied law in Heidelberg, and came out to the United States a year before I did, with Theodore and Edward Hilgard, sons of Frederick Hilgard. He was good-natured, jovial and social, perhaps too much so; but as a companion and true friend no one could surpass him.

Mr. Fred Hilgard took us through a lovely and picturesque country in his own carriage to Neustadt, which, like the surrounding villages, already overflowed with people. We met

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at Neustadt, Theodore Engelmann and his sisters Caroline and Charlotte, who, having many friends and relations in that place, secured us comfortable lodgings. A great many distinguished leaders of the Liberals had already arrived. The streets at night were crowded. Bands paraded, serenading some of the guests. Next morning all the roads leading to Neustadt were crowded with carriages and vehicles of all kinds, thousands on horseback, and many thousands who had stopped in the near neighborhood, on foot. In the public square and adjoining streets the festival committee, supported by many marshals, arranged the procession, and its march up to the old castle was really a magnificent sight. Numerous bands of music were distributed through it. The delegations marched under their own banners, all displaying their national colors. There were sections of Poles, of French Republicans, most of these in the uniform of the National Guards, and thousands of students with banners. Even the ladies wore scarfs of the national colors, and several thousands of them graced the procession by marching along the road. On the highest tower of the castle an immense flag, black, red and gold, bearing the inscription "Resurrection of Germany" was floating. From the mountain one of the most beautiful panoramas of Germany presents itself. The green Rhine is seen in its course from Mannheim to Mayence, and also Frankfort, Speyer, Worms, Oppenheim, and numerous other towns and villages of the Rhine, Neckar and Main valleys. The background is formed by the Haardt Mountains on the west, on the north by the beautifully curved heights of the Taunus Mountains with their ruined castles, while the Bergstrasse ending at Heidelberg closes the view of this enchanting scenery.

The Speeches.

From various platforms eloquent speeches were made by Doctor Siebenpfeiffer, Wirth, Scharpff, Henry Brueggemann. and others, representing the sad condition of Germany, its insignificance in the council of European nations, its depression

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in trade and commerce, all owing to the want of national union, the division into thirty-eight States, large and small, with their different laws, different weights and measures, different currencies, and most of all to the custom-house lines surrounding every State. The orators complained of the pressure which Austria and Prussia exercised over the German Diet at Frankfort, compelling even liberal-minded princes to the adoption of unconstitutional and illegal measures. Brueggemann, whose speech was one of the most eloquent, addressed the meeting as the representative of the German youth, which, in spite of criminal persecutions, he asserted had kept the idea of the liberty and unity of the Vaterland alive. Persecuted by the government, ridiculed by the indifferent and by the organs of the government, the Burschenschaft had ever represented the union of all the German races, had obliterated State lines, and had persistently propagated the necessity of a national union throughout the land by its members. It was an exciting moment, when, at the close of his speech, he called upon the assembly to hold their hands up and to swear the oath which the delegates of the three Swiss cantons, on the height of the Rueth, swore, as given in the glorious language of Schiller in his "Tell."

"We swear to be a nation of true brothers,
Never to part in danger and in death."

"Wir wollen sein ein einzig Volk von Bruedern,
In keiner Noth uns trennen und Gefahr."

"We swear we will be free as were our sires
And sooner die than live in slavery."

"Wir wollen frei sein wie die Vater waren,
Eher den Tod, als in der Knechtechaft leben."

Thousands held up their hands, and in the most solemn manner repeated the sentences as given by Brueggemann. After a deep silence tremendous cheers arose, and Bruggemann was taken down in triumph by an electrified multitude.

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Many other speeches were made from the various stands. They differed in form and substance. But upon the whole the prevailing sentiment was that reforms in the different constitutions and in the constitution of the Bund should be brought about by force of public opinion and the support of a free press enlightening and informing the masses about their rights and duties. Some excited speakers, despairing of a peaceable solution, advised forcible resistance to illegal measures. Mr. Lucien Rey, a distinguished French journalist, from Strassburg, made a most admirable speech in French, congratulating the Germans on their endeavor to obtain constitutional freedom, and assuring the assembly that the French Republicans had no idea, even if they might fly to the assistance of their German brethren, of asking compensation by the cessions of the Rhenish provinces which at the time of the revolution had been conquered by the Republican army. This was in reply to some passages in Wirth's speech in which he insisted that Germans must rely on themselves, and not count on assistance from France, as such assistance would not be given without claims for compensation. In form and substance his speech was a masterpiece.

Speeches were made by some Polish, officers, and on the second day of the meeting by Fred Schueler, the greatest of all Liberal leaders as regards personal presence, a man of eminent legal knowledge, power of oratory and purity of character. Joseph Savoye, a distinguished lawyer and statesman, also made a speech. In fact, there were large gatherings during the three days of the 27th, 28th and 29th of May at the Hambacher Schloss. Besides the gentlemen mentioned, there were present a great many Liberal leaders of the legislatures of Bavaria, Baden, Nassau, Hesse-Cassel, Hesse-Darmstadt and Wuertemberg, and the leading journalists of the liberal papers of Frankfort, Mannheim, Carlsruhe, and Stuttgart. Numerous addresses came from the Rhenish provinces of Prussia, from the central Polish committee at Paris, and from several other cities and towns. Ludwig Boerne, whose letters from

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Paris, had just then electrified all Liberals, was also present It was the first time I saw him. He was of small, delicate stature, broken in health, and deathly pale. He showed his Jewish descent plainly, but his features were highly interesting. His brilliant black eyes gave light to his pallid face. His mouth was firmly cut; round his lips played a melancholy smile. He was very reticent, and when we Heidelbergers serenaded him and addressed him in very flattering words, he thanked us very briefly and seemed to be overcome by emotion.

Concluding Meetings, and Results.

Several meetings of the principal leaders were held in Neustadt, and many discussions took place as to what was to be done. Some were undoubtedly under the impression that a provincial government should at once be organized, and that the people should be called to arms. Of course, this chimerical view found no favor with the large majority of those present. The principal object, agitation, had been obtained. The press-unions were to be extended and supported in every nook and comer of Germany. Everyone was to strive to bring about the election of Liberal members to the various legislative assemblies. Similar meetings were to be organized, and in case the present members of the central committee of the Press-Union should be arrested, other members were designated who should take their places, and the central committee was then to be moved to Frankfort.

The meeting made a great impression on me. A greater popular demonstration I have never seen even on this side of the water. The enthusiasm was unbounded, and the feeling that the wrath of kings and princes would be visited upon a great many of us made the event still more exciting. All of this took place in one of the most lovely and interesting spots in our country, favored by splendid spring weather, amidst the shouting of patriotic songs and the smiles of thousands of fair women. It was enough even to fire the hearts of old and considerate men. How must it have worked upon us young

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men! I venture to say that no one who witnessed this popular rising, no matter how indifferent he might have been, has ever been able to obliterate from his memory the May festival at the Hambacher Schloss.

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Koerner, Gustave; McCormack, Thomas J., ed. Memoirs of Gustave Koerner, 1809-1896, Life-Sketches Written at the Suggestion of His Children, Volume 1 . Cedar Rapids, IA: The Torch Press, 1909. [format: book], [genre: memoir]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=koerner1.html
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