Progress Of Liberal Ideas
Revolutions Of 1848
Rivalry Of Austria And Prussia
Napoleon III And Italian Unity
Fall Of The Second Empire—franco-german War
The German Empire
The Third French Republic.
The Eastern Question
Decadence Of Spain
Russia's Increase In Power And Influence
Read More Articles About: Modern Europe
Progress Of Liberal Ideas
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
One people won freedom at about this time, when liberal ideas were being repressed by the powers of the Holy Alliance with the support of the old régime. The magic name of Greece aroused such sympathy among the peoples of the West that their governments were unable to resist it. Greece had been under the rule of Turkey from 1715, and the cruelty of the Sultan led to an insurrection in March, 1821, under the patriot Ypsilanti, who was later joined by Marcos Bozzaris, Constantine Kanaris and Mavrocordato names that became celebrated in song and story because of the brave fight they made against what seemed to be overwhelming odds. At first the governments condemned the insurrection even the English opposed it, because the struggle compromised the existence of Turkey, whose preservation seemed necessary to the security of the British Empire in India. "British liberalism," said Châteaubriand, "wore the liberty cap at Mexico and the turban at Athens." As for the Holy Alliance, it saw in this insurrection only a revolt, and by a strange application of the doctrine of the divine right it pretended that its principle of legitimacy imposed the obligation of protecting the chief of the Mohammedans. "Do not say Greeks," said Czar Nicholas to Wellington when the latter spoke to him of the sympathy of the English masses for the patriots. "Do not say Greeks, but rather rebels against the Sublime Porte.' I would no more protect their revolt, than I wish to see the Porte protect a rebellion among my own subjects" (1826).
A few months later, it is true, this language was replaced by contrary acts. Opinion in favor of the Greeks became irresistible even to the reactionary governments. All civilized Europe supported her cause, heroic-ally sustained for independence and national religion. Sympathy was excited even among conservatives by the magical name of Greece, and by this struggle of Christians against Mussulmans. Poetry came to the aid of the insurgents. Lord Byron, who joined them in 1823, gave them his fortune and his life. Politics allowed them the right of existence. Canning easily led England to their aid when he saw Italy yielding to Austrian influence, Spain returning to friendship with France, the East excited by the intrigues of Russia and threatened by its arms, and the Northern powers approaching the banks of the Mediterranean where began a recrudescence of trade. England had in that sea many formidable fortresses Gibraltar, Malta, and the Ionian Isles, but these were fortresses, not provinces. She did not wish to let the Czar dominate Constantinople as the Austrians ruled Naples, Rome and Milan, and the Bourbons at Madrid. To prevent armed intervention by the Russians the British minister attempted to end the war himself by making both parties accept his mediation. But the Sultan smiled and said that he could not think of it. Now in 1825 the Turks had for their general Ibrahim Pasha, son of Mehemet Ali, Pasha of Egypt, and he succeeded in taking Tripolitza, the capital of the Morea, and also Missolonghi after a brave defense by the Greeks. Lord Cochrane helped the Greeks to organize their fleet, which fought with skill. The struggle was carried on with the utmost fierceness, the Greeks resisting Turkish tyranny every bit as bravely as did their ancestors at Marathon and Thermopylae. The Turks, under their Egyptian general, killed all Christians. Chios was laid waste and 20,000 Greeks murdered in that island alone. It became apparent that the revolt of the Greeks would be suppressed sooner or later, after the slaughter of all the Greek Christians.
Then the powers decided to intervene, being led to that action by Canning who, aside from diplomatic reasons, could not resist the power of public opinion in England. The Czar agreed to help, Nicholas I having succeeded Alexander. France, as the protectress of Roman Catholics in the Levant, gave her aid, but Austria and Prussia remained on the side of divine right. The Turkish fleet was destroyed by the allied squadrons at Navarino in October, 1827, and in 1829 the independence of Greece was acknowledged by Turkey, after Czar Nicholas had invaded the Danubian provinces, crossed the Balkans and descended upon Constantinople. The Czar also forced the Sultan to grant Christian governors to Servia, Moldavia, and Wallachia, the leading provinces of the Balkans. The powers met at London and chose Otho, a Bavarian Prince, as King (1832).
He ruled as tyrannically as the Sultan could have done until 1843 when he was forced to grant a Constitution, but even then the people were dissatisfied and forced him to abdicate in 1862. Prince George of Denmark succeeded to the throne in March, 1863, and under him Greece became more democratic, the country being ruled by Parliament. The Ionian Isles were resigned by England and annexed to Greece in 1864. In 1881 the Sultan was forced to give Thessaly to Greece. Greece has always stood for freedom and in 1897 waged a heroic war against Turkey for the independence of Crete, and though she lost the war, Crete has been given the crown Prince of Greece as governor (1898) and all of the reforms demanded have been granted.
The success of Greece in achieving her independence had a powerful effect on the rest of Europe, awakening a new spirit of freedom among the peoples. The first and most important effect was on France, where it led to the revolution of July, 1830. The condition of France after the overthrow of Napoleon was miserable beyond anything which the experience of modern Europe presented. Although the defeat of Waterloo visibly closed the war and left France without means of further resistance, the armies of the allies continued their advance, and combined to humiliate the unhappy people from whose merciless hand they had endured injuries so deep. A foreign army of 150,000 men commanded by Wellington was for five years to maintain order and preserve the stability, if not the dignity of the restored dynasty; France bearing the heavy cost of this occupation. The taxes could not be collected, for the exactions of the foreigners left to the people nothing beyond the barest subsistence. The miseries of the fallen nation were deep, abject, unutterable. Yet France, with that wonderful power of recovery which has always been the marvel of the world, in three years became fairly prosperous, increasing her trade. Still the French could not forget the fact that the presence of the Bourbons on the throne was a symbol of humiliation and disgrace. Louis XVIII governed according to a Constitution, granted in 1814, of which the chief provisions were, that there should be two representative bodies, a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies; that the King's ministers should be responsible to the Chambers; that personal property and personal freedom should be secured to all; that all civil and military posts should be open to all French citizens. Reactionary views and attempts, held and made by those who surrounded a weak, well-meaning sovereign, caused great discontent in France, and secret societies were formed. Even during his reign the mob of Paris, disapproving of certain government measures, waged incessant war with the troops. In the provinces there occurred insurrections which were quelled with bloodshed greatly more copious than their importance seemed to warrant.
Louis XVIII died in 1824, and was succeeded by his brother Charles X, who had always headed the party of despotism. The new King showed great favor to the Jesuits and the clergy, and to supporters of the old régime, and issued an ordonnance, or decree, dissolving the National Guard at Paris. A crisis came soon after the Prince de Polignac, a reactionist, obtained power as chief Minister in 1829. He persuaded the King that the people were contented and that the discontent existed only in the columns of the newspapers. Charles, remembering ho*, as it had seemed to him, concession after concession had ruined his brother and led him to the scaffold, determined that no similar weakness should endanger his restored throne. He made himself dictator, and on July 30 prepared ordonnances or decrees, which dissolved the Chamber of Deputies before it had even met; which modified the electoral law and suspended the liberty of the press. The people of Paris rushed to arms, and in and after the glorious Three Days of July (27th-29th) defeated the troops, dethroned the King, expelled the Bourbon line, reorganized the National Guards throughout France, and set up, as a constitutional sovereign, the Duke of Orleans (formerly the Duc de Chartres, a son of Philippe Egalité of the Revolution), who took the title of Louis Philippe I, King of the French. Freedom was now restored, and the new ruler started on his career in high favor with the bourgeoisie or middle classes, who called him the "Citizen-King."
France may be said to have been the leader in the fight for liberty during this period; and so the news of the Revolution of July aroused lovers of liberty every-where. First to feel its effects were the Belgians. Belgium had been given to Holland by the Congress of Vienna without pretense of consulting the Belgians in the matter. The idea was to make a state on France's border that would be strong enough to prevent French aggression and would aid England. It would prevent a repetition of the old wars in Flanders that had so often disturbed the peace of Europe. But the union of the Austrian Netherlands with Holland by the Congress of Vienna soon proved to be a mistaken policy. The Southern Netherlands formed an agricultural and manufacturing country, and most of the people were Roman Catholics. Holland was commercial and maritime, and most of her people were Lutherans in religion. In the Parliament three different languages were spoken, Dutch, German, and French, and the members could not understand each other readily in debate. Thus there was a divergence of material and religious interests, along with practical and administrative difficulties, and the people of the South desired separation. The use of the French language in the schools was prohibited, and writers and journalists were thrown into prison' for opposing the wishes of the Hollander King. Efforts were made to secure reforms from King William by peaceful means, such as the sending of respectful petitions. But these failing, the revolution of July in Paris showed the way to gain freedom. In August, 1830, a few days after Charles X had been deposed at Paris, a revolt broke out. The volunteers of Liége, Mons, and Tournay were saluted by the Flemish insurgents as "Belgians," according to the ancient name of Caesar's day, and this was taken as the patriotic designation of the people in all the southern provinces. At a congress of the powers assembled in London, it was decided to support the separation. An incident of the struggle was the taking of the citadel of Antwerp, for the Belgians, from the Dutch troops, by a French force under Marshal Gérard, a hero of Austerlitz. The place was forced to surrender by the fearful effect of a vertical shell-fire from enormous mortars, which made the interior a mere shambles for the men holding it. The Crown of the new country was given to Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, formerly husband of the Princess Charlotte, of England, and he reigned over Belgium for thirty-four years of prosperity and progress, during which the Belgians became a united and patriotic community. Arts, manufactures, and commerce have greatly flourished, and Europe does not contain a Nation more esteemed and respected by her fellows. At the French Revolution of 1848 the wise Leopold strengthened his position and outwitted the Republican element by declaring his willingness to resign the Crown if his subjects desired it. He was succeeded in 1865 by his son Leopold II, who has ruled in his father's prudent and constitutional way. In 1893 electoral reforms increased the number of voters from 140,000 to 1,350,000
Holland has also prospered since the separation; under the rule of William II, who died in 1849, William III, who reigned until 1890, and the girl Queen, Wilhelmina, who, coming to the throne in 1890 at the age of ten, on August 31, 1898, became Queen in reality as well as in name. She said then that she hoped Holland would be great in all things that a small state may become truly great, and that ambition seems to be fulfilled. Revisions of the constitution in 1848 and 1887 have gradually increased the rights of the people, and in 1896 a law granted the right to vote to all Dutchmen over twenty-five years of age.
Switzerland in 1815 had been constrained t0 obey the Holy Alliance. Her principal industry was the hiring of soldiers to Rome, Naples, Spain, France, and Holland. Until 1830 she was therefore deferential to the powers. On the demand of foreign Ministers she con-strained the freedom of the press and restricted the right of asylum which was sought by refugees of all countries in her territory. On the news that France had escaped the political reaction nearly all the cantons demanded freer institutions, but only by legal means and the pressure of public opinion. Austria having massed troops in the Vorarlberg and the Tyrol to intimidate the Liberals, thé Diet decreed a levy of 60,000 men and 100,000 armed themselves. The sovereigns, menaced by the Belgian Revolution, and by the ever increasing agitation in Italy and Germany, hastened to send assurances of peace. Left to themselves the aristocratic governments of Switzerland crumbled to pieces. The Patricians lost their political immunity and Switzerland brought about a revolution without shedding a drop of blood. Later there were some disturbances and violent deaths at Neuchâtel, whose inhabitants rose against the King of Prussia, their Sovereign, and at Basle, where the burghers of the city attempted to preserve some privileges to the detriment of the rural communes. The Swiss Government was made a federation and since, by the establishment of the initiative and referendum, the power of originating, accepting, and rejecting legislation has been placed in the hands of the people.
Denmark had not even these slight disturbances. The King of his own accord instituted four provincial assemblies for Iceland, Jutland, Schleswig, and Holstein (1831). Later, in 1849, he gave to the whole Kingdom a general diet. Sweden was still more patient. Laboring since 1830 with liberal ideas, she waited until 1840 to reconstruct her Government, with two elective chambers, Ministerial responsibility, and abolition of hereditary rights of the nobles, although maintaining the distinctions of orders.
Of the same nature were the peaceful reforms affected in Great Britain.
England had given Europe the first example of a free Government, but the parliamentary reforms of Pitt (1782), Catholic Emancipation (1780-1804), and other measures, were checked by the excesses of the French Revolution, and the wars provoked by it. The progress of reform was retarded for nearly half a century. But after the fall of Napoleon, and the peace which ensued, these measures were slowly resumed. Canning allied himself with the Whigs in their demand for political reforms, whilst Huskisson commenced economic reforms. The Duke of Wellington, the victor of Waterloo, obstinately defended the old Constitution of England, but after his appointment as Prime Minister, in 1828, he was forced to yield to the movement started by Canning, which the premature death of the generous Minister had failed to arrest. He accepted the repeal of the Test Act, May 9, 1828, which had prevented Non-conformist Protestants from entering the municipal corporations or the magistracy. The serious question of Catholic Emancipation was next solved. Toleration was triumphing in Europe, and England could not retain, in the Nineteenth Century, the severe laws that had been passed in the Seventeenth Century, particularly since a large part of the United Kingdom—Ireland was still Roman Catholic, and a powerful agitator, O'Connell, was stirring up the people. Robert Peel, member of a Tory Cabinet, accepted the Liberal demand; thanks to his efforts, the Ministry agreed to pass the Emancipation bill, and persuaded the King and the Lords to accept it. The Commons passed it on March 30, 1829 an important act, which ended a great injustice by granting the rights of citizenship to Roman Catholics.
The July Revolution in France led to the fall of the Tories and the triumph of the Whigs. The Whig leader, Lord Grey, formed a Ministry, which included Lords Holland, Althorp, John Russell, and the celebrated Brougham. On March 1, 1831, the new Cabinet laid the reform bill before the House of Commons.
In the Middle Ages the deputies of the towns and boroughs assembled with the knights of the counties, who represented the less wealthy portion of the aristocracy. But the Kings had not granted the right of electing deputies to every city, and as the time added to the importance of many of them, the inequity became more striking. Some formerly obscure towns had become the centers of the great industrial movement, but•were still unrepresented in Parliament; others fallen from their greatness had retained this privilege. A few hovels, the ruins of ancient boroughs, sent members to Parliament, whilst Manchester had no representative there. The right of election had thus passed into the hands of the poor inhabitants of the old boroughs, who sold their votes freely; or into the power of a wealthy landowner, who, thanks to a rotten borough situated on his estate, could either give the seat to any one he pleased or keep it himself. The bill of March 1, 1831, bore the character which distinguishes all English reforms, it modified the system of election without destroying it: A property qualification, £50 in the towns, £100 in the counties, became the basis of the franchise. Fifty-six rotten boroughs lost their privileges; thirty-one others, less utterly fallen, were only allowed to send one member to Parliament. Liverpool, Manchester, and a few important cities obtained a representative in the House of Commons. London and some new counties nominated a few extra members. By lowering the franchise the bill extended the right of election to a larger number of citizens than the French laws at the same date: The Tories struggled for a whole year to prevent it from passing. The Ministers appealed to the country, Parliament was dissolved, the elections were favor-able to the Whigs, and the new House adopted the reform bill. The Tories then rejected it in the House of Lords; the Whigs obtained permission from the King to create a sufficient number of new Peers to change the majority, and after some sharp debates, which aroused the indignation of the populace, the Whigs forced the Upper House to pass the reform bill (June 4, 1832).
Two years after the Parliamentary Reform Bill, England abolished Negro slavery throughout her Colonies. Lord Melbourne, the Whig leader, who had succeeded Lord Grey, had the honor of passing the Negro Emancipation Bill (August 28, 1833).
Another and equally important reform distinguished Lord Melbourne's administration, the settlement of the poor laws. Pauperism is one of wealthy England's open sores. In the Sixteenth Century cruel laws against beggars and vagabonds were passed with the hope of checking it. In the commencement of the Seventeenth Century Elizabeth published laws which made the parishes responsible for the maintenance of the poor, and established a poor-rate for their relief. This assistance frequently rendered the pauper's lot preferable to that of the laborer, and it thus became an encouragement to idleness. A new law, passed on April 14, 1834, retained the poor-rate, but regulated the collection of it, and confined its distribution to local councils (boards of guardians). The administration of the poor laws was directed and controlled by three superior officials. Outdoor relief was suppressed almost entirely; paupers unable to work were received, and capable paupers were compelled to, work, in the workhouses.
In the South, where passions are ardent, there were armed insurrections and revolutions. At Madrid Ferdinand VII was a Prince that satisfied the absolutists. He had from the first refused to recognize the new King of France. But during the pregnancy of the young Queen, Maria Christina, whom he had married in December, 1829, he exhumed a secret declaration by which Charles IV had in 1789 revoked the law of pragmatic sanction of Philip V, which forbade the succession of women in place of heirs male to the throne. This declaration was a return to the ancient law of succession, which had formed the greatness of Spain by the union of Aragon and Castile under Isabella,* the Catholic, and which had given the crown to Charles V. The King besides had no scruples at dispossessing his brother, Don Carlos, who had twice tried to dethrone him. Maria Christina having given birth to a daughter, Isabella, this infant became Queen on the death of Ferdinand (September, 1833), under the guardianship of her mother. The "apostolics," forgetful of their National traditions and faithless to the divine right of Kings, took part with Don Carlos, who, sword in hand, laid claim to the throne. The result was that the Queen, to save the crown of her daughter, was forced to seek the support of the Constitutional party. Thus a family quarrel restored the Spanish Government to the Liberal party. Yet a civil war of seven years followed in the peninsula. The leading powers of Europe acknowledged the infant Queen and her cause was maintained by the central and southern provinces of Spain. The strength of the Carlists lay in the north, especially in the Basque provinces and in the skill and daring of their famous leaders, Zumalacareguy and Cabrera. Volunteers from England and France helped the cause of Isabella, whose chief Generals were Espartero and the Irishman, O'Donnell. The Carlists were at last subdued in 1840.
During the Peninsular War, Portuguese troops fought well in conjunction with the English forces under Wellington, and the Nation looked for renewed prosperity, when complete peace was restored to Europe on the downfall of Napoleon. These hopes were for a time disappointed. In 1815, indeed, the Inquisition was abolished, and the Jesuits were expelled; but the sovereign (John VI) and the court were in Brazil, and much public discontent existed at what was virtually making a European Nation a dependency of a South American throne. Political freedom was eagerly desired, and in 1820 a revolution was peacefully carried out in favor of constitutional government. The King then returned from Brazil, under an oath to observe the new Constitution adopted. As in Spain, much evil was caused in Portugal by the efforts of a despotic party at court. The Queen, a Spanish Princess, and her son, Dom Miguel, caused a counter-revolution in 1823, and the Cortes dissolved itself, with a solemn protest against the new tyranny. Brazil now had become independent, and John VI, as King of Portugal alone, died in 1826. The throne passed to his son, Dom Pedro, already Emperor of Brazil; but he at once abdicated the Portuguese sovereignty in favor of his daughter, Maria da Gloria, on condition of her marrying his brother (her uncle), Dom Miguel, who was charged with the government as Regent. The despotic party in Portugal claimed the throne for Dom Miguel as an absolute monarch, and he became King in 1828. In 1831, Dom Pedro resigned the crown of Brazil, returned to Europe, and, with the aid of English partisans, over-threw Dom Miguel, restoring the crown to Maria in 1833. In 1836 constitutional government was restored, and Maria reigned peacefully, with the help of her husband, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, brother of Albert, Prince-Consort of England, till her death in 1853. Her son and successor, Pedro V, ruled as a purely constitutional Sovereign till his death, in 1861, when King -Louis I, came to the throne. Under his rule, much improvement took place in financial management; monopolies were abolished, and railways largely constructed. His wise policies have been continued by his son, Carlos I, who came to the throne in 1889.
Thus Northern Europe and all of the West took part in the movement begun by the fall of Charles X, and the return to what there was of wisdom in the ideas of 1789. Other countries would have wished to follow this example, but they found themselves restrained by cords too strong to be broken. The consequences of the revolution of July did not make themselves felt, at least ostensibly, in the two great German monarchies. Austria's and Prussia's rulers had at their backs strong armies, the Church, and the support of the. numerous nobility, with its device, "God and the King," together with the political reserve of a flourishing middle class. It was not the same in the smaller states. Brunswick, the two Hesses, Saxony, Hanover, Oldenburg, and Bavaria were agitated by movements which dethroned several Princes, and 'obliged others to concede charters and reforms. Italian patriots were still terrorized by their experience of a decade before, when the Austrian armies had massacred and imprisoned the patriots. Metternich had kept close watch upon the small States, and the Secret Society of the Carbonari, which dreamed of the unity of Italy, agitated in vain. Only in isolated regions, as in the States of the Church (in 1830) did the people rise against their masters, and these petty insurrections were quickly suppressed by the force of Austrian arms.
In Eastern Europe a most formidable insurrection began. Poland, which had been given to Russia by the Congress of Vienna, rose as one man. It had been made a Constitutional Kingdom, attached to Russia, with an administration of its own; its name and language were preserved, and a charter was granted containing a large measure of freedom for the people. The Constitution, however, was not carried out. The rude, energetic, and cruel Grand Duke Constantine, brother of the Emperor Alexander, was Military Governor. The greatest cruelty, extortion, and peculation were practiced by the Russian officials, and the accession of Nicholas as Czar (1825), a stern wielder of despotic authority, did not mend matters. The Poles were driven to madness, and in November, 1830, an insurrection began with the students of the Military School at Warsaw. The students of the University joined them, the citizens and Polish troops followed, the arsenal was seized, with an ample supply of arms, the Russians were driven from Warsaw, and in January, 1831, the throne of Poland was declared to be vacant, and a government was organized under Adam Czartoryski. In the battles which ensued the Poles fought with great courage, but the Russian troops were in overwhelming numbers, and Warsaw surrendered to General Paskievitch in September, 1831. The Constitution of 1815 was then formally abolished, the Polish army disbanded, the people disarmed, a strong citadel built in Warsaw, and every effort made to Russianize the country. The unhappy Poles were treated with the utmost cruelty, and the Austrian and Prussian Governments drove back over the frontier the fugitives who had crossed into their territories. Numbers of victims were executed, others were flogged to death or sent to Siberia; the language of Poland was officially suppressed, and Russian officials were put into all public employments.
A last effort was made by Poland for freedom in January, 1863, which was carried on under Langiewicz, who gained some successes, but he was soon defeated and killed in action. The rising, which never had any chance against the enormous power of Russia, was sup-pressed in March, 1864, after great losses to the insurgents in fighting, and by banishment to Siberia. By measures afterward adopted the name "Poland" has been dropped, and the Russian language imposed for sole use in schools. The murder of a Nation has been completed, and the people whose King, John Sobieski, delivered Vienna from the Turks, vanishes from history's checkered and blood-stained page.