The Prussians on the Rhine? What business did they have here? Well, their King Frederick William III may have asked himself the same question when the Congress of Vienna in 1814/1815 granted him the Rhineland and Westphalia. Yet, the Kingdom of Prussia saved our Drachenfels.
Prussian Rhine Province
There were now two different parts of the country united under one crown. The following decaces were a time of cultural splendor, but also a time of political oppression. The industrial revolution led to an economic upswing, but also to social hardships and pauperization. In spite of hardest work, many people were no longer able to earn a living for themselves and their families. King Frederick William IV in Potsdam’s Sanssouci Park didn’t care.
The great social need and pent-up anger against the restoration policy finally erupted in the March revolution. Frederick William IV formed a cabinet with the Rhineland liberals Ludolf Camphausen and David Hansemann – now a bourgeois from the Rhine Province was heading the Prussian cabinet! In Bonn, the democrats’ hopes rested on Professor Gottfried Kinkel and his student Carl Schurz. But the revolution failed.
From revolution to unification
Years of reaction followed; democrats were persecuted and harassed. Frederick William IV was followed by William I and his Prime Minister, Otto von Bismarck. Prussia increasingly challenged Austria’s supremacy in Germany. It came to war. Finally Bismarck created the German Reich, “with blood and iron”.
Germany was united, and a deeply-felt wish of many people had been fulfilled. However, 10 million Austrian Germans lived outside the Empire, and now Prussia’s dominance was overwhelming, with Bismarck being the outstanding “iron chancellor”.
Belle Epoque is the name given to these approximately 30 years around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in Europe. In the Siebengebirge, the rack railways and Drachenburg Castle were built. Finally, the Cologne Cathedral was also completed.
Wilhelmine Germany was a modern industry state, a “High Tech location” as we would say today, but also a conservative authoritarian state. As one one of the world’s leading economic powers, Germany wanted “her place in the sun”. But the political situation in the world was tense, with European powers competing over colonies.
In our region, the Grand Hotels were built along the Rhine promenade and on top of Mount Petersberg. At the same time, the extensive quarries in the Siebengebirge almost destroyed them.
But Wilhelm’s “glorious times” ended in death and destruction.
Carl Schurz, the German American
As we have said, the revolution 1848/49 failed, Schurz barely escaped alive and had to emigrate, first to England, and in 1852 to the United States where he became an important politician and almost a friend to President Abraham Lincoln. Carl Schurz loved his new homeland; here all that he had fought for back then in Germany should become reality. He was elected to the US Senate from Missouri, in 1977 President Hayes appointed him Secretary of the Interior. It was the time of the Lincoln County War and the Indian Wars in the West.
A look beyond the Rhineland
Victorian era (1837-1901). Since 1820, the number of emigrants was increasing. Hunger and despair drove many people away from their homes. In the 1830s and 1840s, communities in southwestern Germany went so far as to deport poor people in need of support to America. After poor harvests in the years 1845 and 1846 there was a great famine in 1847, and the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1850). In the years from 1845/1847 until 1855 the biggest mass emigration of the 19th century to North America occured, 80,000 people alone in 1847.