It should be appreciated that at this point in time the nationalists in Germany were opposed to what the conservatives and monarchists wanted for Germany: in effect they were opposed to the established order of authority. This was not to change throughout the on coming hundred years, and remained as a familiar trait of German nationalism, continuously demanding from the established government further concessions. This is evident as early as 1813, during the battle of Leipzig, where those who felt passionate enough about their nation, felt that Germany should have a collective army.
These men fought in the nationalist volunteer brigade, under a flag of red, black and yellow (which in the future would become the colours of the German national flag). Although they posed no threat to the authorities at the time, they nevertheless demonstrated a desire for, a unified military, or at least for all those who were Germans to fight in unison against a common enemy: a concept that German national-liberals only realised after the failures of 1848, and one that Bismarck flirted with and exploited in the months leading up to the Franco-Prussian war.
Another example, later on in the period would be the radical Pan- German league of the early 1900s who exercised a certain influence in pushing the authorities to implement a more aggressive foreign policy, and demanded German dominance in Europe; situations such as the Moroccan Crisis, exemplify a certain conflict with the government of the time. In the period 1815-1848, the ideas of German nationalism were very much developing.
With the development of their ideas, Metternich’s reactionary policy of repression would have effected the short term aims of the nationalists. With the declaration of the Carlsbad Decrees, the ‘authorities’ of the German Confederation began a policy of repression which proved successful in the short term, but in the long term did not really tackle the problem. After 1840, when the repressive legislation was LAXED, membership to nationalist organisations were again rapidly increasing.
For example, in the five years after 1842 membership to the Gymnasts movement increased form 300 to 90,000 demonstrating that not only did Metternich’s policy effectively fail, but that nationalism was from decline. The aims of German nationalism in this period did change as it was essentially an illegal movement, and so its immediate aims would have been to, at the least have its voice heard, and furthermore to expand its support base.
Events such as the Hambach festival demonstrated the extent to which German nationalists were discontent, however the significance of the festival should not be overstated; it should be kept in sight that German nationalism was still essentially a minority movement supported by mainly the middle and the educated classes as well as university students. It was popular with these strands of society as, the initial wave of nationalism, in 1815 was based on a feeling of kinship and was more a from of cultural nationalism; it was a very romantic movement based on the arts including poetry, folk stories and art.
This demonstrates that the aims of these nationalists were not necessarily for political unification. However, nationalism in this period was the junior partner of liberalism, and it was under this guise of national liberalism that the nationalists’ ideas began to develop and thus so too the aims began to develop. The demonstrators of the Hambach festival are most certainly likely to have a much better sense of awareness for the benefits of political unification and economic unification.
In fact there may have been many varying groups of nationalists at demonstration, as indeed, there were different variants of nationalist who all had slightly different ideals and thus varying aims. For example, the Polish and Greeks’ desire and devotion for a nation was no less valued or deemed inferior at this time, however by late Wilhelmine Germany, with the development of Darwin’s evolution theory, the ideas of German superiority were firmly embedded n the ideals of the radical German nationalist groups such as the Navy League and the Pan-German League.
Franco-phobia was another prominent element of German nationalism, throughout the time period. This was evident from as early as early as 1813, and in fact many historians, including professor Chris Clarke of the university of Cambridge, believe that it was indeed the author of German nationalism. It is no coincidence that at any time in history, when ever Germany and France’s interest were at conflict, German nationalism was always at its most vigorous. This is demonstrated in 1813, as well as in 1840, during the war scare on the Rhine crisis.