At the beginning of October 1847, liberal parliamentary deputies and politicians from several states of southern Germany met in the town of Heppenheim to hammer out a common political program. Their declaration, the "Heppenheim Program" of October 10, 1847, offers a good account of liberal political thought on the eve of the revolution of 1848. Central for these liberals was the call for the creation of a united German nation-state, but they were also interested in the expansion of basic civil liberties and the rule of law, and an end to feudalism and seigneurialism. As the newspaper account of their meeting suggests, they were aware of economic issues affecting the lower classes, such as the burden of taxation, and declining standards of living, but could not reach agreement on what to do about them.
The program of the German Progressive Party, the liberal party in the Kingdom of Prussia, founded in 1861, demonstrates the demands of liberal political parties toward the end of this period. Nationalism and German national unity remained a central issue for liberals; the preservation of the rule of law and the creation of a strong and independent judiciary had become increasingly important themes. Another major item was expanding the powers of the elected House of Deputies of the Prussian Parliament against the executive branch of the Prussian government and the noble-dominated House of Lords. The burdens of taxation and questions of economic policy were also addressed, but, as in the Heppenheim program, only vaguely. Finally, we can see an emphasis on public education and the separation of church and state.
The democrats, as the more radical element in German politics of the time was often known, were at their most active and effective during the revolution of 1848-49. Gustav von Struve (1805-70) was a prominent democratic political activist in the Grand Duchy of Baden. Invited to participate in the so-called pre-parliament, the March-April 1848 meetings of liberal and democratic activists that would prepare the calling of a German National Assembly, he offered a motion encapsulating the democratic political program. Some aspects of Struve's motion reveal similarities with liberal ideas: national unity, civil liberties and the rule of law, separation of church and state, an end to feudalism and seigneurialism, but they were expressed in more vigorous and angry language. Other aspects, characteristic of the democrats, included vehement hostility to the nobility and the advocacy of a republican form of government. The program also called for social reform and measures to combat poverty, issues the liberals were more reluctant to touch. One should also note that this democratic and radical political program was hostile to government bureaucracy and called strongly for the reduction of taxes, ideas that in more recent times are associated with conservatives.