The Prussian King Bows to the Dead:
March 21, 1848
In the years following the end of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the people of the German Confederation had been fairly happy and prosperous. They had little political freedom, but that did not seem to bother most Germans very much. Liberals there were, and revolutionary types; but these did not exert a great deal of influence over much of the German population.
The late 1840s, however, were hard years for Germany. In 1845 and 1846 there had been poor harvests, and a blight destroyed the potato crop. Such disasters increased the price of goods at a time when businesses and factories in the cities were laying off workers. Just as in England, the industrial revolution was dramatically changing the lives of many people in the German cities. Workers often lived in poverty and in squalid conditions, and losing a job meant homelessness and hunger. If factories were not hiring workers, there was nowhere to turn for employment; for factories had put many small craftsmen and tradesmen out of business. It is not surprising, then, that many German workers looked to socialism and democracy for a solution to the hardships the Liberal capitalist economy had brought on them.