The German National Question and 1848
John Breuilly looks at the attempt to create a German nation-state and how it foundered on the questions of national minorities, border disputes, shared sovereignty in a federal state and the intersection of power politics with idealism.
In 1992, the seal of the German National Assembly of 1848-49 was ceremoniously handed to the president of the Bundestag by descendants of Heinrich Simon, a radical deputy in the Assembly. With the failure of the revolution, Simon had gone to Switzerland where he pursued a successful business career. His nephew Henry Simon founded an engineering company in Manchester, where his family combined business success with philanthropy and public service. This branch of the family acquired the parliamentary seal after Heinrich Simon’s death in 1860. The re-unification of Germany seemed a fitting moment to return the seal to Germany; finally there existed that liberal and democratic nation-state which had been the objective of the national movement in 1848-49.