By: Glen E. Lich

Type: General Entry

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: October 9, 2019

Forty-Eighters is a collective term for supporters of the European revolutions of 1848–49, which in Germany culminated in the meeting of a constitutional parliament in March 1848 and the Frankfurt National Assembly from May 1848 through June 1849. A prominent Forty-Eighter in Germany and the first president of the National Assembly was Prince Carl of Leiningen, a half-brother of Queen Victoria and promoter of the Adelsverein, the society which directed the settlement of New Braunfels and Fredericksburg and five other colonies. In addition to thousands of Forty-Eighters like Leiningen who stayed in Europe, about 4,000 came to the United States. Of these, at least 100 moved to Texas, where many settled in Sisterdale in Kendall County (see LATIN SETTLEMENTS OF TEXAS) and others temporarily in larger German towns and in San Antonio, before they moved on to American cultural and political centers.

In Germany, the Forty-Eighters favored unification, constitutional government, and guarantees of human rights. In Texas and elsewhere in the United States, they provided the leadership to oppose nativism and to support a continental foreign policy. They almost universally opposed slavery, some arguing for immediate emancipation, even at the price of war, and other gradualists suggesting subsidies to slave holders over a longer transition to non-slavery. Several Forty-Eighters, including Friedrich Kapp, who lived briefly in Texas, supported the new Republican party. Many were subsequently prominent during the Civil War, most as Unionists and several as military leaders, and even larger numbers took active public roles during Reconstruction. Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century Forty-Eighters in the United States supported improved labor laws and working conditions. They also advanced the country's cultural and intellectual development in such fields as education, the arts, journalism, medicine, and business-notably insurance.

Forty-Eighters in Sisterdale, Texas, included Ottomar von Behr, the son of a German prime minister and a published agricultural theorist regarding Texas; Carl Daniel Adolph Douai, introducer of the kindergarten system to the United States; Julius Froebel, mineralogist and educator; Ernst Kapp, geographer and early philosopher of environment and technology); and August Siemering, writer, journalist, and editor. In addition to settling in Sisterdale, Comfort, New Braunfels, and San Antonio, Forty-Eighters dispersed as well to many other settlements in the two German population areas of Central Texas, where, after a period of activism during the 1850s, Civil War, and Reconstruction, they lived in relative obscurity as teachers, civil servants, merchants, farmers, and ranchers. A few of these wrote memoirs, most of which have apparently been identified, translated, and published. Some Texas Forty-Eighters and their sons died at the battle of the Nueces. The most vocal and prominent-and intolerant-Forty-Eighters who lived in or passed through Texas soon moved to more liberal parts of the country, where they had better prospects as educators, scientists, winters, and speakers.

Rudolph L. Biesele, The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831–1861 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1930; rpt. 1964). Glen E. Lich and Dona B. Reeves, eds., German Culture in Texas (Boston: Twayne, 1980). Carl Wittke, Refugees of Revolution: The German Forty-Eighters in America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1952). Adolph E. Zucker, ed., The Forty-Eighters: Political Refugees of the German Revolution of 1848 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1950).

  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Organizations
  • Religion
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Glen E. Lich, “Forty-Eighters,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

September 1, 1995
October 9, 2019