Theodor Erasmus Hilgard (1790-1873), was a respected and politically committed jurist. He was a justice of the court of appeals at Zweibrucken in the Palatinate from 1821 to 1835 and a member of the provincial assembly until 1826. Hilgard was one of those German liberals who were influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution and sympathised with the German movements aiming at political freedom and national unity. Another of these early liberal pioneers was August Follen, who emigrated in 1824.
Because Hilgard actively criticised the actions of the authorities he was regarded as ‘politically unreliable’. His name, and the names of several of his family members, were taken down in the ‘Black Book’ of the authorities at Frankfurt am Main. As a result, Hilgard emigrated, with his family, in 1835. He settled in Belleville, Illinois. For the rest of his life until he died in 1873, Hilgard had a significant political impact, on the German-American community in the United States and on his home country.
August Follen was born in 1794, a few years after Theodor Hilgard. In 1814, he fought with the Hessian Volunteers in the war against Napoleon. He became a leader of radical student movements at the universities of Giessen and Heidelberg, which got him into trouble with the authorities. He was imprisoned in Berlin from 1819 to 1821. After his release, Follen moved to Zurich in Switzerland and taught at Aarau University but, once again, he came to be regarded as a troublemaker, so he decided to emigrate to the United States. Follen taught German at Harvard University until 1835, when he was dismissed because of his strong anti-slavery views. After this, like many German emigres, such as Theodor Hilgard, Follen returned home to Switzerland. He died in Berne in 1855. His brothers, Charles and Paul, however, both remained in the United States.