The Year of Revolutions

Louis XVIII had some sense. His gov't of 1814 sounded absolutist--the king was the sole executive--but it created 2 chambers--Chamber of Peers appointed by king, and Chamber of Deputies elected by a very limited suffrage--only 100,000 out of 30,000,000 qualified! But he tended to appoint popular ministers and granted much from revolution: equality before law and opportunity of appointments, the Code Napoléon, and even revolutionary property settlements.

Enemies the Ultras, led by Louis' brother the Count of Artois. Strengthened by revolution in Spain and assassination of the Duke of Bari, Louis' nephew. Got control of Chamber of Deputies in 1820 and gave extra weight to the 2% of richest Deputies.

Louis died 1824 and Artois became Charles X. Clever but reactionary. Favored Jesuits in school appointments and paid an annuity to compensate nobles for lost land--the same year gov't bonds fell from 5% to 3%! His coronation!

1825 Charles appoints Prince of Polignac (who had visions of the Virgin Mary) as his chief minister. The Dey of Algiers, the fly whisk, the Barbary pirates, and the beginning of France's African empire. Charles called new elections for June 1830--opponents won. He then muzzled press, heightened voting qualifications (to disenfranchise bourgeois supporters of the left) and called new elections.

Les trois glorieuses (July 27, 28, 29) barricades and revolution--the tricolor atop Notre Dame. 1,800 insurgents slain and 200 soldiers. Most were low bourgeois (like the stormers of the Bastille) led by writers and journalists like Adolphe Thiers and François Guizot.

What next? Republicans turned to Lafayette, now in his 70's, and wanted a republic with universal suffrage. But to many that meant the Terror--they wanted a safe monarchy. Perfect choice was Louis Philippe, son of Duke of Orléans who had changed his name to Philip Égalité, voted for the king's death, and himself was guillotined. Louis Philippe had fought at Valmy and later fled to England. Tricked Lafayette into endorsing him, and made king by the Chambers. As in 1791, made King of the French, and with the tricolor flag. Again restricted suffrage--only 166,000 men qualified.

Belgium and the Netherlands had been united by the Congress of Vienna, but they broke apart in 1830 in their own revolution. In 1839 Britain, France, Prussia, Austria, and Russia guaranteed the independence of Belgium--1914's "scrap of paper."

Imitation revolts in North Italy against Austria--in one of which Louis Napoleon Bonaparte participated--easily put down by Metternich. In Germany student associations--Burschenshaften--were driven underground by the Confederation, especially after 50 instructors and students tried to seize Frankfurt, the seat of the Diet, in 1833. Hundreds given stiff sentences by the Prussian courts.

East/West split. England and France support careful, liberal constitutional monarchies, as they did in Belgium. But Austria, Prussia, and Russia very reactionary and sworn counter-revolutionaries. Revolution failed in Germany because only a small minority of intellectuals cared. Germany had to develop leadership and penetrate to the grass roots--a task to be tested in 1848, "the year of revolutions."

Nationalistic aspirations increased by bad times. Irish potato blight of 1845 spread to continent and ruined grain harvest of 1846. Price of bread rose just as industrial depression hit in 1847 with a collapse of the railroad boom. In France 1/2 milion out of work. Profits of industrialists rose as the misery of the poor increased.

To demands that the suffrage be extended, Guizot answered "Enrichissez-vous!" Gov't had banned labor organizations in the 1830's and put down demonstrations in Lyons and Paris--Massacre on the Rue Transnonsin (April 1834).

Summer of 1847 constitutional monarchists and republicans led a series of banquets calling for reform. A large one announced for Feb. 22, 1848 was cancelled by the gov't and turned into a massive demonstration. 50 rioters killed or wounded and on Feb 24, 1848 Louis Philippe abdicated and fled to England. The Chamber set up a provisional gov't headed by the romantic poet Lamartine. Huge unemployment forced him to take on some socialists, like Louis Blanc, with his "right to work." Provisional gov't established national workshops in the capital for the unemployed--a relief project enrolling over 100,000 unemployed from the provinces and Paris.

Elections held April 23, 1848 for the "Second Republic"--first in European history with real universal male suffrage. 9,000,000 voted! but most Frenchmen conservative peasants who feared revolution--900 deputies elected, most monarchists or conservative republicans. Only about 100 sympathetic to Paris radicals. A radical mob invaded the National Assembly, and the right wing panicked. Arrested radicals and shut down the workshops. Result was "The June Days"--June 23-26--barricades in the city and the first large-scale uprising with overtones of class warfare in European history. Put down with great brutality by General Cavaignac, the minister of war, who became a virtual military dictator.

As a result the constitution of the 2nd republic very conservative. Property declared inviolable, and no "right to work." President chosen by popular election every 4 years, the single chamber every 3. Of course universal suffrage expected to again return conservatives! Indeed, the 3 republican candidates polled only 500,000 votes; 1,500,000 for General Cavaignac, and 5,500,000for Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the son of N's brother Louis. He stood for stability in 1848, and had been a member of the National Assembly. In 1851, with a resounding plebiscite just like his uncle's but also with a rather bloody uprising, he would make himself the emperor Napoleon III.

Copycat revolution broke out in Berlin the same year--200 workmen killed, and the "liberal" King Frederick William IV forced to salute the corpses. Terrified into summoning a constitutional convention in Frankfurt--limited franchise, mostly electors:

Hundert fünfzig Professoren!
Lieber Gott, wir sind verloren!

Big Germany vs. Little Germany. Contempt for the Poles with "less cultural content." It wrote a liberal constitution that Frederick William IV refused to accept! The eventual Prussian constitution of 1850 kept Prussia autocratic down to World War I!

In Austria counter-revolution succeeded because Germans refused to recognize the rights of Czechs and Poles, and Magyars the aspirations of Ruthenians, Croats, and Serbs. The Hapsburg gov't played one against the other. There were 4 revolutions in 1848: Italy, Hungary, Vienna itself, and Bohemia. Metternich resigned and fled to England. In Hungary the fiery orator Louis Kosuth issued the March Laws, givng Hungary political independence. The emperor Ferdinand I fled Vienna and was replaced by a revolutionary council. But in Nov. 1848 Felix Schwarzenburg became chief minister of the Hapsburg state. He forced Ferdinand to resign and replaced him with his nephew Francis Joseph (1848-1916). Hungarians fought on until August 1849 when Czar Nicholas I sent in troops to put them down. Counter-revolution won and crushed "The People's Springtime."