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
Revolutions Of 1848
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Early agitations followed the accession of Louis Philippe to the throne 0f France, but they were quickly suppressed, and prosperity followed during the eighteen years of his reign. It was, however, a prosperity of the middle classes the bourgeois, who ruled France instead of the nobles. The middle class was rapidly accumulating wealth, and was satisfied. But wages were low, and the working population did not appear to participate in the prosperity of their employers. The small owners of land forming, with their families, about one-half of the population were so heavily burdened with taxation and debt that they obtained with difficulty the means of a scanty and precarious existence. In Paris trade combinations were formed, which resulted in extensive strikes. Numerous arrests took place, for by French law it was a criminal offense for a number of men simultaneously to desist from work.
The population of France was then 34,000,000, and the privilege of the political franchise was invested exclusively in those who paid, in direct taxes, the sum of not less than $40. This class numbered little more than 200,000. It was a class whose interests were held to be antagonistic to those of the great mass of the people, and was not, therefore, in any sense representative of those who were excluded from political influence. The chamber elected did not enjoy the confidence of the people, and most of the members sold their support to the Government in exchange for places or for direct bribes. Corruption was more widespread and more shameless than before the first French Revolution. In the scarcely exaggerated language of Lamartine, the Government had "succeeded in making of a Nation of citizens a vile band of beggars."
It was obvious that reform must come through a reform of the law-making body, and it was at first pro-posed merely to extend the suffrage, but Louis Philippe opposed that suggestion. It was a "malady of the age," he said, and would soon pass away. But it did not pass away, and the general discontent increased. In 1847 many evidences of shameful corruption came to light. A Cabinet Minister was found guilty of accepting bribes; the Ministry was accused of having sold peerages, and an arsenal was burned down to conceal the delinquencies of certain officials. The provisions supplied to the army and navy were adulterated. Crops failed in 1845 and 1846, and prices rose to famine point, so that the Municipality of Paris borrowed $5,000,000 and expended it in artificially reducing the price of bread. The Chief Minister, Guizot, who had come into office in 1847, always opposed reform, and openly advocated oppression and corruption. The King denounced the reformers in 1847 in his speech from the throne.
The immediate cause of an outbreak was the attempt of the Government, in February, 1848, to prevent the holding of a certain reform banquet, at which the state of affairs was to be discussed. The appearance of the prohibitory cards on the walls of Paris was the signal for an insurrection of the Democratic party on February 22d, 1848. The next day Guizot resigned, but it was too late. Insurrection had become revolution; the National Guard sided with the people; the King abdicated and fled to England; the Tuileries palace was taken and plundered, and a Republic was set up on the old basis of "liberty, equality, and fraternity." The chief men of the crisis were Lamartine, Ledru Rollin, Crémieux, General Cavaignac, Louis Blanc, and the workman Albert. In June, 1848, a terrible outbreak of the Red, or extreme, Republicans caused three days' desperate fighting in the streets of Paris, with the loss of many thousands of lives, including that of the Arch-bishop of Paris, who was sacrificed in his endeavor to mediate between the enraged combatants.
Upon the reestablishment of order, Louis Napoleon appeared on the scene. In 1836 this young man son of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland, and Hortense, step-daughter of the great Emperor relying on the attachment to the name Napoleon, made an adventurous attempt to get himself proclaimed Emperor at Strasburg. He failed, but in 1840 repeated the attempt at Boulogne. There he was captured and condemned t0 imprisonment for life, but managed to escape. The King, anxious as far as possible to conciliate the sentiment which surrounded the name of Napoleon, had had the remains of the great Emperor brought from Saint Helena, and they were solemnly interred under the dome of Les Invalides. Louis Napoleon appeared on the scene as soon as Louis Philippe had fallen, and to the magic of his uncle's name he owed his election as President of the newly established Republic, which had provided for a president and an assembly, both elected by universal suffrage. Louis Napoleon was chosen President by a majority of nearly three to one, and the task of carrying out the Constitution was intrusted to him. But for three years he endeavored to throw discredit upon it, at last destroyed it by a coup d' etat, and on December 2, 1852, a year later, was proclaimed Emperor, this time, as before, by an overwhelming majority of the plebiscite. France once more swung violently from extreme liberty to extreme submission.
The Revolution of 1848, like the other revolutions in France, was the signal for other outbreaks, and Continental thrones were again shaken. The smaller despotisms of Germany, smitten with fear by the tidings of the revolution in Paris, yielded instantly to the demands of their people. The Kings of Saxony and Wurtemberg made haste to grant constitutions. The King of Bavaria was troubled at this inopportune moment by an insurrection, whose object was to expel the fascinating but unworthy Lola Montez. Encouraged by the news from Paris, the insurgents widened the scope of their movement, and exacted from their reluctant King liberty of the press and a Parliamentary Government. A crowd of less considerable Princes entered with equal haste and equal reluctance upon the work of erecting Republican institutions. Even in Prussia, which had previously resisted the introduction of reforms, and whose ruler had been a party to the now ineffectual Holy Alliance, the wave of reform was felt. Frederick William IV announced numerous liberal measures, and indicated a purpose of shortly increasing their number and scope. But the King's sudden liberalism did not command the support of the people. On the day after the royal proclamation (March 18, 1848), a bloody conflict raged for hours in the streets of Berlin between the populace and the troops. Barricades were erected within sight of the palace; numerous dwellings were sacked and burned. Next day a new and more liberal Ministry was appointed, and the King's asseveration of his ardent desire to secure the liberty of his people became more emphatic than ever.
His majesty proposed household suffrage as the basis of the new Constitution, and it was accepted. But not even a concession so extreme restored harmony between the Government and the people. The Assembly fell into debate regarding trivial details of the Constitution. They eliminated from the royal title the words, "By the Grace of God," leaving it to be understood that his majesty ruled merely by the will of his people. They abolished the nobility. Their profitless discussions paralyzed commerce and roused the passions of the populace. Employment could not be found. Multitudes of workmen, idle and hungry, roamed the streets of Berlin. Destructive riots were of frequent occurrence, but the Assembly continued its profitless debates. It was then that Berlin was filled with troops and the Assembly forcibly dissolved, the President being carried out and deposited in the street. A new Constitution was adopted, by which every Prussian who had attained his twenty-fourth year was allowed to vote. But the voters were ranked in three classes, according to the amount 0f taxes paid. By the method thus adopted the small minority of persons who are rich are equal in an election to the vast majority of workingmen and others who pay inconsiderable amounts. This principle still regulates the electoral system of Prussia.
In Austria the revolutionists of 1848 were strong enough to bring about the downfall of Prince Metternich, the man who had done more than anyone else to increase the power of the reactionaries. Under his rule the Austrian Government had made no concessions. although the desire for free institutions had spread deep and wide among the people. Discussion of politicai questions was forbidden, and every amelioration, even of admitted evils, was delayed. The cities were full of secret societies. The Slav population claimed that they were unfairly treated. The Hungarians wanted a separate Kingdom. The news that France had once more conquered a tyrant King summoned the people of Austria to battle. A few days passed of increasing excitement, and then, on March I, 1848, the mob sacked the palace of Prince Metternich, and were driven away by the soldiers, not without bloodshed. A new Ministry was appointed, and the Government announced con-cession after concession, including even liberty of the press and universal suffrage. The Emperor fled from Vienna, and some weeks after his flight an Assembly of the States met at Vienna. The Emperor returned to the quieted city, but in October there was another insurrection in Vienna, while the Slays in Bohemia and Silesia took up arms. Prince Windischgrätz suppressed, but with extreme difficulty, the Slavonian revolt. Jellachich, with 70,000, bombarded Vienna, which was not surrendered until the frightful slaughter of its defenders rendered further resistance impossible. The Emperor, hopeless now of being useful to his people or tolerable to himself, abdicated in favor of his nephew, Franz Joseph, then a lad of eighteen.
The Italian States and Hungary were still in arms. A desire for union and independence existed in the hearts of the people of Italy, and the Governments at Naples, Rome, and other centers of tyranny were in continual conflict with the secret political societies such as that whose members were called Carbonari that had been formed. Insurrections in Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia were followed by the establishment of a yet more rigorous despotism in 1821. The secret societies then became more active, and great cruelties were practiced by the Governments in Naples, Sicily, and Modena against suspected persons, as denounced by the Jesuits and the secret police. Less stringent measures were adopted in the States of the Church, and the Austrian dominions in the North of Italy. After the French Revolution of 1830, risings of the patriots in Modena, Parma, and Bologna were put down by Austrian troops. It was about this time that Giuseppe Mazzini, a native of Genoa, of high education and attainments, formed the organization of patriots called "Young Italy," and in his journal (which, from his headquarters at Marseilles, he contrived to circulate in Italy) called for a popular insurrection and the union of all the separate States into one powerful nationality, avowing its own preference for a republican form of government. Expelled in turn from France and Switzerland, and taking refuge in England, Mazzini carried on his work from 1833 to 1848 in the European press and by secret correspondence with Italy, and in the end contributed much to the liberation of his country.
In 1846 Pius IX became Pope, and it was believed that an era of reform had arrived. Liberal measures, opposed by the Governments of Naples and Austria, were adopted in the Papal States, Tuscany and Sardinia, and universal hatred was felt against the absolutism and domination of Austria. The French Revolution of 1848 brought a crisis. The population of Lombardy, Venetia, Parma, and Modena took up arms and drove the Austrian troops in retreat to Verona. Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, then declared war against Austria, and was at first successful, but his forces were severely defeated in July by the aged Austrian, Field Marshal Radetzky, and in March, 1849, the fatal day of Novara, where Radetzky routed the Sardinans, put an end at once to the hopes of the Italian patriots and to the reign of their champion. Charles Albert of Sardinia resigned the throne in favor of his son (the late King of Italy), Victor Emmanuel, who pursued a steady course of liberal reform and development of his country's resources. Lombardy and Venetia were again under Austrian rule, and a severe tyranny was the result of the attempts made at liberation.
Meanwhile the Pope had been driven from Rome, and a Roman Republic had been established, ruled by Mazzini, the head of "Young Italy," and the famous Garibaldi,* the leader of the volunteer bands of Italian patriots. The French Republic, in order to gain favor with the priestly party in France, sent an army to the Pope's assistance, under General Oudinot. After a bloody and determined resistance, Rome was captured by the French in July, 1849, and the Pope returned and resumed his power in April, 1850, under the protection of French bayonets, the old absolutism being now restored.
In Sicily and Naples all attempts at revolution were also crushed, and Sardinia was the only part of Italy where, in 1852, constitutional government existed. The secret societies resumed their operations; the arbitrary Governments exercised martial law and persecuted the Liberal party; brigandage was rife, especially in Central and Southern Italy. In Naples, especially, the most odious cruelties were exercised on political prisoners, guilty of nothing except their opinions, and were fully exposed by Gladstone in his masterly letters to Lord Aberdeen, written in 1851. The ruler of the Kingdom of Naples, Ferdinand II ("King of the Two Sicilies"), was one of the most hateful tyrants in history, and earned for himself, as a brand of lasting infamy, the nickname of "King Bomba," by bombarding the wretched people 0f his capital from the forts which commanded it. Great Britain and France withdrew their Ministers from Naples, to mark their disgust at the doings of the Government.
In the year 1847 a movement for constitutional freedom had gained great power in Hungary, under the leadership of Louis Kossuth, Francis Deak, and other patriots. In 1848 the Hungarians had set up a Republic, but their cause was weakened by the jealousy of the Croatians and Transylvanians, who even attacked the Magyars (Hungarians) with armed force. In December, 1848, when matters had been quieted in Vienna, a great Austrian army invaded Hungary, and met with a heroic resistance from the National forces under Görgei, General Bern, and other leaders. The Hungarians utterly defeated the Austrian Field Marshal, Prince Windischgrätz, in battle after battle, and drove his forces from the country (April, 1849). The independence of Hungary was now declared by her Diet, and Kossuth was appointed Governor. If the victorious Magyars had at once marched on Vienna, the Empire must have succumbed; but time was lost in capturing Buda, and meanwhile the victory of Novara had set free a large part of the Austrian army of Italy. The Austrian Government also called in the help of Russia, and in June, 1849, the two imperial armies entered Hungary on all sides. General Haynau commanded the combined forces, but in a desperate battle of several days could not beat the inferior Magyar army, and was then defeated in an attack on their intrenched camp near Komorn. Numbers, however, prevailed at last, and in August the Hungarian leader Görgei, surrendered with his whole force to the Russians. Bem, Kossuth, Guyon, and others fled to other lands. The Austrian Government behaved with merciless cruelty to the fallen Hungarians, intrusting vengeance to the infamous Haynau, who brought to the scaffold some of the greatest statesmen and soldiers 0f Hungary.