Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Katherine Aaslestad

Committee Member

Kenneth Fones-Wolf

Committee Member

Joshua Arthurs

Committee Member

Matthew Vester


This project interprets the Revolutions of 1848 and their ideological legacy through a transnational and transcultural context, highlighting the role of radical forty-eighters who imparted their republican messages to “Little Germanies” within the United States. Karl Heinzen serves as the primary example of the transient group that shared their radical visions with local German communities populated with political and cultural organizations, an active press and a commitment to civic engagement demonstrated through their involvement anti-slavery groups, labor reform, and improved rights for the immigrant population.

The thesis traces the politicization of Karl Heinzen in the German Confederation and his involvement in the Revolutions of 1848 in Baden. Through an examination of his publications, it reveals his radical republican political beliefs shaped by the events in 1848. Once in the United States, Heinzen, now an émigré, edited a German press in Louisville, Kentucky, a slave state. In fact, slavery inflamed most revolutionaries, including Heinzen, and galvanized their reform agenda. It was here that he and other fellow radicals composed the Louisville Platform, a document that advocated reform based on a republican world view related to the goals of the 1848 Revolution in contrast to the individualist liberal republicanism evident in the United States. The Platform pointed out the weaknesses and corruption in the American political system and called broadly for expanded and equal human rights to immigrants, women, slaves, and free African Americans. This Platform and Heinzen’s work empowering the German community challenged the popular anti-immigrant Know-Nothing leaders of the city generating growing hostility and accusations of conspiracy and danger to the American Republic through the unreserved cultural and linguistic expression of their flourishing and self-sustaining community.

As in Baden in 1848, the politicized German population of Louisville asserted their right to vote on August 6, 1855. Local Know-Nothing gangs retaliated by murdering and assaulting immigrants, as well as burning entire sections of their communities to the ground. The tragic events of this day represent fundamentally different views on the nature of the American Republic, one that highlighted human rights and another that advocated rights solely for the native born.

This thesis reveals, in the person of Karl Heinzen, the transmission of a radical republican world view that stemmed from popular opposition to a corrupt and inept monarchy and that made its way to the United States with 1848 émigrés. In the United States, such reform goals become expressed in German communities in their press, organizational life and political agendas to reveal the republican legacy that immigrants brought with them to the United States from the aftermath of the uprisings in German Central Europe. Heinzen, who sought progressive reforms and republican ideals in another country, agitated a new nativist enemy that viewed German republicanism as fundamental threat to the American way of life.