Immigrants and their children became the chief component of the U.S. working class during the nineteenth century. Bruce Levine examines the early years of this social transformation, focusing on German-born craft workers and the key roles they playedMoreImmigrants and their children became the chief component of the U.S. working class during the nineteenth century. Bruce Levine examines the early years of this social transformation, focusing on German-born craft workers and the key roles they played in the economic and political life of the wage-earning population of antebellum America.
Interweaving themes often treated separately--immigration, industrialization, class formation, and the political polarization over slavery--Levine sheds new light on the development of the working class, the nature and appeals of partisan politics, and the conflicts that led to sectional war. This study begins by carefully delineating the European background of these emigrants, especially their involvement in the economic, political, and cultural developments that culminated in the revolution of 1848.
It then follows them to the New World, where it locates them within the multi-class German-American population. The author subtly analyzes the deepening political divisions within German-America, differentiating conservative, liberal, radical-democratic, and Marxist currents. At the same time, Levine explores the distinctive role that German-American workers played in American society at large--notably, in the multi-ethnic antebellum labor movement and in popular responses to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the rise of the Republican party, and the outbreak of sectional war. Throughout, Levine stresses the way in which European memories, traditions, and values conditioned (and were reshaped by) the immigrants encounter with industrial, political, and cultural realities in their new land.
The volume concludes with a discussion of the legacy of the radicalcraftworker milieu in postbellum decades and an assessment of later attempts to ignore or minimize this aspect of German-American and American working-class history. The Spirit of 1848 offers much new information and insight concerning craftwork, the nature of the antebellum lab