…..Another founding block of the Republican party, often overlooked, were German refugees from the 1848 revolutions. Their numbers in the Midwest, as much as fifteen per cent of the population in some states, were great enough to form a major voting block and to account for the change of the Midwest from Democrat to Republican between 1850 and 1860.
In other words, there were just as many state rights democrats in the Midwest in 1860 as there had been in 1850, but they could now be outvoted. Lincoln cultivated this cohort early by secretly subsidizing its newspapers and involving its leaders as activists in his behalf.
For the new Germans the predominant nativist Puritans of the North made an exception to their dislike of all non—Anglo-Saxons. In the German revolutionaries they found spiritual kinsmen.Pre-1848 German immigrants, German Catholics, and those belonging to quieter Protestant sects did not participate in Republican fervor.
Let’s understand who these German Republicans were. They were military nationalists. You can call them proto-communist or proto-fascist, it doesn’t matter. It amounts to the same thing. When the foremost among them, Carl Schurz, arrived in America he complained that the Americans were too laid-back and unideological in their politics and he vowed to change that.
These Germans believed that the unified and aggressive nation-state was the height of human existence, that progress toward it was inevitable, and that obstacles to centralization and revolution should be violently destroyed like the provincial aristocracies and petty princes of Europe.
These Germans were among the most active and aggressive of Republican orators and campaigners and motivated Union soldiers. Before they arrived, America had been marked by a regional conflict between Northerners and Southerners with contradictory interests and inclinations.
With the rise to influence of the Forty-Eighters the manageable competition of different regions became in the Northern mind an ideological class conflict.On one side was Freedom and the nation.
On the other side an evil force called the Slave Power, a deadly enemy that must be destroyed like any other obstacle to the ascent of the nation toward perfection.So that, as he records in his memoirs, General Richard Taylor of the Confederate Army, son of a President of the United States and grandson of a Revolutionary officer, when he surrendered in 1865, was lectured by a German in a federal general’s uniform about how Southerners were now going to be forced to learn the true principles of America.