“The Legacy of 1848: Transplanted Ideas and Values in America’s Past and Present” celebrates what many historians believe to be America’s most remarkable and unique im- migrant group, the “Forty-Eighters.” After unsuccessfully fighting for freedom with pen and sword in Europe, this group of several thousand refugees arrived in the United States between 1847 and 1856. They proceeded to provide an intellectual transfusion that had a pronounced effect on the political and social history of America during one of its most critical periods.
Many of the Forty-Eighters hailing from northern Germany and Hungary chose Iowa as their adopted home. There, some of their best and brightest began using their finely honed journalistic skills to argue for the freedoms and liberties so dear to them. Ironically, these recent immi- grants’ patriotism was grounded more in the bedrock beliefs of America’s founding fathers than in many of the attitudes in the United States at the time.
Although far-reaching and profound, the extraordinary legacy of the Forty-Eighters is little understood by most Americans, many of whom are three or four generations re- moved from their own immigrant ancestors. The overarch- ing purpose of the “Legacy of 1848” conference is to identify and come to grips with the important, timeless legacy left to all us by the Forty-Eighters.
While Gitta and I feel privileged to enjoy the best of two worlds, the group of European immigrants arriving in the United States following the democratic revolutions of 1848 (the “Forty-Eighters”) were definitely the best in two worlds.