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Robert Blum

Robert Blum (1804-1848) belongs among the political personalities of Vormärz, who through advanced education increasingly followed an active political course. In this manner, after 1839, in close cooperation with the legislative opposition, he was one of the most engaged agitators in Saxony. Despite authorities' chicanery, by his moving speeches, skillful journalism, and a good organization of petitions, public meetings and the founding of associations, he was able to spread liberal and national ideas. He was one of the first who gave the liberal movement a strong organizational structure and linked up with like-minded groups throughout Germany. With their help in 1847 he founded his own publishing house. Above all, his advocacy of German Catholicism and his sympathy for the Polish freedom fighters advanced his political views and goals. Joining the German Catholic movement of 1844, Blum thereby underlined the significance of this confessional reform movement in coupling with the protestant Lichtfreunde as crypto-organizations of German democracy during Vormärz.

When the liberal movement in Saxony began to divide, Blum increasingly became the leader of the radical wing. His Aufruf an die Freisinnigen Sachsens, enumerated all the measures necessary to begin the democratic metamorphosis of Saxony. As the military intervened in the Leipzig August disturbances of 1845, Blum through his popularity held back the angry Leipzig population from rash behavior. Nevertheless, when the city council was elected in 1847 he was not allowed to take his seat because he was considered a radical.

With the outbreak of the 1848 revolution he joined forces with Karl Biedermann to propose liberal reforms. He founded the Vaterlandsverein, above all to educate politically the lower orders. Politicizing a greater public, he advocated mass education, freedom of the press, and the right of free assembly, his earlier objectives inspiring his joining and supporting the German Catholics as a writer since 1840. Thus he supported popular education, associations, and mass meetings; founded an oratorical society; and published a Staatslexikon für das deutsche Volk and other works. In Frankfurt he was vice president of the Preparliament and the Committee of Fifty and a member of the constitutional committee. In the national assembly he was a member of the rules committee, central electoral committee, and the committee for the Central Power. He advocated that the left be the first faction to have a standing organizational basis.

As leader of the Deutsche Hof faction he decisively influenced its tactics, for example in the Polish debate and with the rejection of the Malmö Armistice. Together with J.G. Günther and W. Schaffrath, Blum also edited their organ, the Deutsche Reichstagszeitung. Blum defended the principle of popular sovereignty and called for a republic, but only if introduced by legal means. At first he proposed that the Frankfurt national assembly alone had the competence to legislate the constitution. Later, as the left in the St. Paul's Church was progressively unable to prevail, he changed his opinion and believed that individual state legislatures should retain the right of ratification, because radicals still had more weight there. During the summer of 1848 he hoped that a war against Russia in would help establish Germany unity and drive the revolution forward.

Politically-ideologically, Blum was never entirely consistent, since his social-political ideas never advanced beyond the position of the left-liberals. On the one hand, he was too moderate for the radical left, on the other, for those further to the right he was a "red republican," so that he was always caught between the two positions. He consistently and unalterably defended majority rule and opposed any violent upheaval. He often attacked the majority when, in his opinion, they no longer expressed the will of the people. During his political participation in Frankfurt, he was progressively disappointed by the development of the revolution. On October 12, 1848, the left delegated him with Julius Fröbel to carry an address of sympathy to the Viennese rebels. Blum actually was already involved with the Viennese revolt against Windischgrätz by his speeches and articles, but disappointed in his expectations for the Viennese revolution. Thus already on October 29 he laid down his arms. Following their arrest at the beginning of November, Blum and Fröbel invoked their parliamentary immunity; nevertheless, both were called before a court martial and handed a death sentence on November 8. Blum was executed, but Fröbel rescued from his fate by a pardon. Blum's execution was a political act, because with it Schwarzenberg desired to strike the exponent of the revolutionary principle. Simultaneously, it was a conscious defiance of the Frankfurt assembly. The former Austrian general consul in Leipzig, Alexander von Hübner, a personal enemy of Blum advised Schwarzenberg in this matter. The incident awakened indignation in large sections of Germany, and the national assembly gave nearly 40,000 talers to his heirs. For the rest, Blum's execution alienated Frankfurt from those once more unconditionally empowered in Austria and provoked radicalism in the St. Paul's Church.
Helmut Reinalter


W. Boldt. Die Anfänge des deutschen Parteiwesens. Paderborn 1971.

R. Koch (ed). Die Frankfurter Nationalversammlung 1848/49. Kelkheim 1989.

S. Schmidt. Robert Blum. Weimar 1971.

S. Schmidt (ed.). Robert Blum. Briefe und Dokumente. Leipzig 1981.

H. Stangel. "Robert Blum und sein Kreis in der Paulskirche" doctoral dissertation, Erlangen 1948.

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