He studied law, history, natural science, and art at Halle, Munich, Freiburg, and Berlin, and traveled extensively in Europe, Canada, and the United States 1846-1847. The end of his travels in the United States found him in Cincinnati where he remained for seven months. Here he held some public presentations on "the significance of the German people in world history." Later he gathered these presentations together and published them as Geschichte und Zustände der Deutschen in Amerika (History and condition of the Germans in America; Cincinnati, 1848). As it was the first time such a book had appeared in Ohio, it made its author very popular; one passage in the book is also a likely source of the Muhlenberg legend that German almost became the official language of the United States. He left for home 2 October 1847.
On his return to Germany, he took an active part in the political uprising of 1848. He founded the Westphälische Zeitung, and was imprisoned by the government for political agitation, but was shortly afterward acquitted after a trial. In 1849 he became assessor of the court of appeal in Paderborn, and was afterward professor in the universities of Munich and Göttingen.
Among his other works are Aussichten für gebildete Deutsche in Amerika (The prospects for educated Germans in America; Berlin, 1853); and Land und Leute in der alten und neuen Welt (Lands and people of the Old and New Worlds; 3 vols., 1857-1858).