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Saxonians The high participation by a considerable portion of the two million inhabitants of the Kingdom of Saxony in the revolutionary events was predicted on the specifics of its social structure in the mid-19th century and on the exceptional activism of its revolutionary leaders. This land belonged to the most industrially developed regions of Germany, was the most densely settled, and had the highest rate of the population growth. Two- thirds of its inhabitants already lived in towns, whereas only one fifth was maintained exclusively by agricultural employment. The majority of the population was made up of small traders and proletarian-plebeian strata who, due to the high prices of foodstuffs and the incipient cyclic economic crisis with its drastic effects on the market situations during the past years, lived under extremely unfavorable social conditions.

At the beginning of the revolution extensive operations in the camp of the opposition was already limited by the split between liberals and democrats. The urban population of western Saxony, the Vogtland and the central Erzgebirge was the major carrier of the March revolution, which was led by Leipzig, where the petition movement originated and where Robert Blum, the leader of the petty-bourgeois democrats, had found the support of the propertied and educated bourgeoisie for his policy of a peaceful revolution. The bourgeoisie and the working people aspired - of course to a different degree - to a democratization of the country, the development of a modern parliamentary-constitutional system, and the unification of all Germany into a civil nation-state.

The democrats extracted the greatest profit from the ensuing politicalization of public life that began with the victory of the March revolution and the installation of a moderately liberal government with new dimensions. Their Fatherland Associations, (Vaterlandsvereine) founded at the end of March 1848 and merging into a state-wide association, had at first a moderate but in the course of the revolution ever stronger radical direction, and developed into the most powerful political force of the state. Predominately made up of intellectuals and mostly led by journalists, lawyers, doctors and teachers, they succeeded in mobilizing a considerable part of the male population of the country, notably the younger generation of the petty bourgeoisie, craftsmen, journeymen, and the different groups of the working classes. At its fifth general assembly held on April 22, 1849, shortly before the outbreak of the Dresden May insurrection, brought together representatives of two-hundred-eighteen Fatherland Associations with a total membership of 75,000.

The results of the two elections held during the revolution were an impressive reflection of the democrats' success. In voting during May 1848 for the Frankfurt national assembly they attained twenty of the twenty-four seats in Saxony. The results of Landtag elections in December 1848 were even more favorable, since meanwhile the Fatherland Associations had gained strong influence on small and medium peasants due to their demand for a the rescission of all feudal obligations without payment. They received 66 out of the 75 seats in the lower house of deputies and they won a similar majority in the first chamber. The members of the Saxon Fatherland Associations were mainly republicans.

The middle and upper bourgeois sectors of the population, entrepreneurs, merchants, government officials, prosperous master craftsmen and intellectuals, as far as they participated in political life, began to organize themselves into German Associations. Founded in Leipzig at the beginning of April 1848 and numbering only a fifth of the Fatherland's Associations, the German Associations supported a constitutional monarchy on a democratic basis in Saxony, but in the course of the revolution they drifted to the right due to their increasing hostility to the popular revolutionary movement and entered into agreements with the constitutional associations and Saxon Union, with the altogether less influential liberal-conservative or conservative pressure groups of civil servants, with members of the officers' corps and with the aristocratic and bourgeois estate owners. On the occasion of the parliamentary election held according to the majority vote system the German Associations polled seven seats in the lower house, with the conservative groupings polling two seats.

In view of the numerical weakness of the Saxon nobility - there were only about one thousand, though mainly noble manors - and because of the progress of defeudalization during pre-March days, peasants played only a negligible role as an independent political power factor. By the end of March/beginning of April 1848 a number of peasants, day laborers, and cottagers in some seventy estates around Leipzig, in the Erzgebirge and in Vogtland rose in protest against the remaining feudal burdens and the hardships of redemption legislation . The most significant action was the storm on the Waldenburg Castle in the vicinity of Glauchau on April 5, 1848.

In Saxony the revolution engendered an independent movement of workers and journeymen politically closely related to the Fatherland Associations; in June 1848 all Saxon Workers' Associations united, and they played an important role during the foundation and propagation of the Arbeiterverbrüderung (workers' fraternization). Leipzig was the seat of the central committee of Arbeiterverbrüderung where they published their propagandistic organ. In April 1849 Saxony boasted 57 Workers' Associations, predominantly social-reformist oriented, some members held utopian-socialist views. Some of these associations were made up of industrial workers and miners; but they all fell victim to the wave of the counter-revolution up to 1850.
Rolf Weber


Rolf Weber Die Revolution in Sachsen 1848/49: Entwicklung und Analyse ihrer Triebkräfte Berlin 1970.

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