A Guide to the United States’ History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, by Country, since 1776: Federal Government of Germany (1848-49)


The revolutionary year 1848 did not bypass the German states. Once news of the February 1848 revolution in Paris spread, many felt that the time was finally at hand for German unification. Rural riots broke out in Central Europe that spring and spread to the urban areas. Throughout the German states revolutionaries advocated for freedom of the press, a national militia, a national German parliament, and trial by jury. Other ideas that were championed during the heady days of 1848 were the abolition of privilege of the aristocracy, constitutions in several of the German states that still lacked such, a more fair system of taxation, and freedom of religion.

On May 18, 1848, the German National Assembly met at Frankfurt am Main, representing the first assembly to be freely elected by the German people. Yet, despite electing an imperial vice regent (Reichsverweser), the government was flawed from the beginning by its lack of a strong executive power.

In September 1848, U.S. Minister to Prussia Andrew J. Donelson presented credentials as the new U.S. Minister to the Federal Government of Germany. However, with the revolution’s disintegration and failure by the autumn of 1849, Donelson presented his notice of recall, fully terminating any relations with and recognition of the Federal Government of Germany.


U.S. Recognition of the German Federation, 1848.

On July 8, 1848, Secretary of State John M. Middleton informed the former U.S. Minister to Prussia and current Minister to the German Federal Parliament at Frankfurt, Andrew J. Donelson, that the United States was prepared to recognize any unified, de facto German Government that “appeared capable of maintaining its power.” The United States recognized the Federal Government of Germany on August 9, 1848, when Donelson was commissioned as the new U.S. Minister to the Federal Government of Germany.

Diplomatic Relations

Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, 1848.

On August 9, 1848, U.S. Minister to Prussia Andrew J. Donelson was commissioned as the new U.S. Minister to the Federal Government of Germany, reflecting the developments of that revolutionary year. Donelson presented his credentials on September 13, 1848.

Termination of Diplomatic Relations, 1849.

Donelson served as U.S. Minister until November 2, 1849, when he was recalled following the dissolution of the German revolutionary movement. This constituted full termination of diplomatic relations with the Federal Government of Germany, the U.S. having already accredited a new minister to Prussia, Edward A. Hannegan, on March 22, 1849.

Key Diplomatic Events

German Unification.

The Federal Government of Germany was an early stepping stone in the process of German unification during the mid-nineteenth century. See “Unification of German States” for greater detail.


  • John Bassett Moore, A Digest of International Law (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1906).
  • Charles I. Beavans, Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776-1949, (Department of State: Washington, DC, 1971), Volume 8.
  • Mark R. Cheathem, Old Hickory’s Nephew: The Political and Private Struggles of Andrew Jackson Donelson (Louisiana State University Press, 2007).
  • William M. Malloy, Treaties, Conventions, International Acts, Protocols, and Agreements Between The United States of American and Other Powers, 1776-1909 (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1910).
  • History of Recognition and Relations: Germany
  • History of Recognition and Relations: German Unification
  • A Century of Lawmaking: U.S. Congressional Documents, 1775-1874.