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KUDLICH, Hans (1823-1917)

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Der Bauernbefreier Hans Kudlich, a true libertarian and 1848er.

Born October 23, 1823 in Lobenstein, Sudeten-Schlesien
Died November 11, 1917 in Hoboken, NJ.

Although in 1771, Emperor Joseph II of Habsburg abolished slavery in the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, servitude, often brutal, continued.

My great-grandfather Florian Hausner, who was farming in Schwansdorf (Kreis Troppau), was forced to conform to such servitude, which was known as robot. Every spring and fall he had to go with a pair of oxen and specified farm equipment to the feudal farm estate at Meltsch for two weeks each and work without compensation.

After the Napoleonic wars the spirit of the French Revolution quickly spread eastward throughout Europe. The three monarchies of Austria-Hungary, Prussia and Russia convened the Troppau conference, from October 20th - December 30th, 1820, under Fürst Metternich in order to establish cooperative plans to prevent the spread of the anti-church and antimonarchy movements.

Hans Kudlich was born in 1823 to a farm family (Bauer) near Troppau. He observed the harsh treatment of farmers by the Feudal Masters. After his Gymnasium (High School) in Troppau, he studied law in Vienna. Early in 1848, at the age of 25, he participated in the student rebellion in Vienna and later was elected by the constituency of his region to the Reichstag (Parliament), having been the youngest ever to serve. His brother Hermann was elected to the Reichstag in Frankfurt. On September 7, 1848, Hans Kudlich introduced a bill to abolish all forms of servitude of farmers (Bauernbefreiung) which was unanimously approved.

In October of 1848, a Revolution broke out and Vienna was taken by the rebels. Emperor Ferdinand fled to Olmütz and the Reichstag (Parliament) to Kremsier. During this rebellion, the War Minister of Austria, Graf Latour, was assassinated and Hans Kudlich was unjustly implicated.

The Austrian Army crushed the rebellion and the revolutionaries either fled or were arrested, tried and severely punished. Hans Kudlich fled via Sachsen, Stuttgart to Baden, participated in the respective rebellion and later to Switzerland. There he studied medicine, married the daughter of his professor and then immigrated to the United States where he established a medical practice in Hoboken, New Jersey.

In 1854, Hans Kudlich was tried in absence by the Austrian court as a conspirator to the assassination of Graf Latour and sentenced to death.

Emperor Franz Joseph of Habsburg in 1867 pardoned Hans Kudlich and permitted him to return to his homeland.

In 1872, Hans Kudlich returned to his native Schlesien, stayed two years in the Altvater Region and in Troppau, where he wrote his autobiography and various novels pertaining to the struggle for freedom (1). However, in 1873 he returned to Hoboken, New Jersey.

Upon arrival to the U.S., Hans Kudlich and many 1848er's, found in the land of freedom the very slavery which they fought in Austria and Germany. These men, like Hans Kudlich, could not tolerate the slavery, which was throughout the plantations in the South and even the servitude contracts, which were common in the industrial region of the North. Many German language newspapers, well over 1,000, were established wherein these 1848er's attacked the slavery and servitude contracts in the U.S. Finally, the young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln got inspired by this freedom movement. He purchased the largest German language newspaper in Illinois and eventually the Republican Party became powerful. This led to the abolishment of slavery and, of course, to the Civil War.

The people of his homeland in Sudeten-Schlesien honored their son Hans Kudlich, who was better known as the Bauernbefreier (Peasant Deliberator) by erecting a 100 foot tall watchtower. The structure is known as Hans Kudlich Warte in Lobenstein and was dedicated in 1907, with his son attending and over 10,000 persons from near and far.

Hans Kudlich, and most of the other 1848er's who lived long enough, were greatly suffering when the government of the United States, under President McKinley and later President Wilson, attacked German-Americans and prepared for the entry into the Spanish American and later World War I. He was spared to see the end of it, the total destruction of the great Austrian-Hungarian Empire, because he died in 1917.

One of his ancestors, Dr. Jörg Kudlich, who lives near Munich, is deeply involved in the sincere reconciliation efforts between the Sudeten-Germans, who were in 1946 expelled, and the Czech nation.

Without the 1848'ers, slavery and contract servitude would have continued in the United States for many more decades, because even the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that Negros and Indians were sub-humans and not entitled to the principles of the Declaration of Independence. The Democratic Party, at that time Conservative, and the Southern Baptist Church, fully accepted slavery and contract servitude. In spite of the Civil War, the United States remained segregated, even the U.S. Army, well after World War II. It took a hundred years to fully implement the principles of equality and personal liberty in the United States.

Karl Hausner
28 Concord Drive
Oak Brook, Illinois 60523-1767

Bibliography:

  1. Hans Kudlich, "Rückblicke und Erinnerungen", Second Edition, Three Volumes, Verlagsanstalt "Moldavia", Budweis, 1923.
  2. Hans Kudlich, Speech "Die Deutsche Revolution des Jahres 1848", to the Deutschen Gesellig-Wissensaftlichen Verein von New York, March 24, 1898.
  3. Festschrift zum 160. Geburtstag von Hans Kudlich, Schriftenreihe des Freiheitlichen Bildungswerkes, Wien, 1983.
  4. Hans Kudlich und die Bauernbefreiung in Niederösterreich, Landesmuseum, Wien, 1983.
  5. Thorismund Matmer, Denkschrift 20 Jahre Patenschaft zwischen den Absolventenverbänden Oberhermsdorf und Landsberg am Lech an den Landwirtschaflichen Lehranstalten Landsberg am Lech, 1988.
  6. Friedrich Prinz, Hans Kudlich (1823 - 1917) Verlag Robert Lerche, München, 1962.
  7. Karl Hausner, paper presented at the Conference of the Indiana German Heritage Society, Indiana University and Purdue University Max Kade German-American Center, the Athenaeum Turners and the Indiana Chapter of the Palatines to America, April 23, to April 26, 1998.

The author is thankful to Dr. Jörg Kudlich Wörthsee, Bayern, for his support, providing original documentation. The Hans Kudlich Warte (Memorial Tower) in Lobenstein near Troppau, now Czech Republic, fell into great decay during the Communist regime and after the expulsion of all native Sudeten Germans in 1946. Efforts are being made by relatives and freedom loving persons in Austria and Germany to restore the structure and return the remains to it in honor of the great libertarian.

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