Causes of the Revolution of February 1848

Causes of the Revolution of February 1848:

There were a number of causes of the Revolution. Nobody was happy with Louis’s rule. The chief causes are discussed below:

(1) Neglect of Catholicism- Louis did not grant any special facilities to Catholics so they were angry with him. He took education away from their control and started government schools for imparting primary education. Therefore the Catholies were frustrated with his rule.

(2) Opposition of Political Parties- Louis had to face opposition from the French political parties also. The constitutional Monarchist Party supported the heirs of Charles X. They considered Louis had abducted the throne, and he had deceptively grabbed the crown of the Bourbon dynasty. The real heir to the throne was Chambord, the grandson of Charles X. The Republicans also opposed him because he paid more attention to providing facilities to the bourgeoisie. He did not follow the liberal nationalist policy.

(3) Labor Movement- The Industrial Revolution had spread by the time of the July Monarchy. With it was born the socialist party which attracted people’s attention to the sad plight of workers. There were several socialists writers such as St. Simon, Louis Blanc, Charles Fourier, Proudhan, etc. who infused the spirit of unity and organization among the workers.

(4) Louis’s Indifference Towards the Masses- Louis’s rule was the rule of rich capitalists. Only the rich had the right to vote. The masses had no say in the administration. He did not try to fathom what the people wanted. These things gradually prepared the masses for revolution.

(5) French Newspapers- According to the laws of 1835 freedom of speech and writing had been strictly banned in France, but some leftist papers of opposition parties such as the National and the Reform continued drawing public attention to the corruption rampant under his rule. L’ Atelier, the newspaper published by the workers demanded improvement in the condition of workers. Thus the newspapers played an important role in arousing public opinion against his rule.

(6) Weak Foreign Policy- One important cause of the revolution of 1848 was Louis Philippe’s weak foreign policy. His policy had failed in Poland and Egypt. Due to his weakness, he lost all his friends in Europe. Everyone hated the July Monarchy. Hence the revolution of 1848 is also called the Revolution of Contempt.

(7) Repressive Policy of Guizot- Guizot remained the de facto leader of the council of ministers from 1830 to 1848. He endorsed the principles of Louis, he was anti-progressive. He believed that all necessary reforms had been introduced by the Revolution of 1830 and nothing more was needed now. He considered political equality a sham and was against the right of voting. According to him, it was not the duty of the state to make laws for the improvement of the workers’ condition. He did not favor any reform or change. His declaration of December 1847 was a freak of his mind.

These causes prepared the background for the revolution. The discontent of the people of France was at its zenith. As ill luck would have it agricultural produce was less because of bad weather in several parts of northern and western Europe in 1846-47, consequently, the prices of food grains rose very high. This caused a slump in industries and unemployment began to expand. The French government had to face an economic crisis. The Reformists demanded reforms and in 1847 Louis declared ‘Constitutional monarchy is meeting all the needs of France, therefore no reforms are necessary’. This declaration excited all the opposition parties and they planned to win over the people’s support. The plan included sending a memorandum with people’s signatures and to arrange a Reform Banquet in one place so that the people might gather there to put their signatures on the memorandum. Important national leaders addressed these banquets, criticized the government, and demanded reforms.

One such large Reform Banquet was held on February 22, 1848, in Paris, but the government banned it. So the banquet could not be held but a large procession of students and workers had gathered there. They demanded reforms and the dismissal of Guizot. The next day the government called the National Guard to maintain peace but they refused to take up arms against the demonstrators. Some members of the national guards raised the slogan ‘long live the reforms’ ‘Down with Guizot’. Considering the gravity of the situation, Louis dismissed Guizot on February 23, 1848, and assured the public of reforms. He invited Mole and then Thiers to form the new council of ministers. Perhaps the revolution of 1848 would have ended here because the reformists had achieved success and the king had bowed down to the wishes of the people, but the revolutionaries were still demonstrating in the eastern part of Paris. They gathered in front of the foreign ministry. Someone shot at the national guard and in retaliation, the soldiers started firing. 20 persons were killed and 50 wounded. This incident excited the people in Paris. The Republicans took full advantage of the situation and instigated the people for revolution. On February 24, the mob became rebellious and took up positions on the roads and streets of Paris. The rebels who had been shouting ‘Long Live Reforms’ a day earlier now began shouting ‘Long Live Republic’. An excited crowd of revolutionaries attacked the royal palace of Nuellery. The army refused to defend Louis Philippe. In this helpless condition, he declared his grandson Count de Paris King of France and fled to England with his wife incognito.

Important Links:

Intellectual Enlightenment
Political Causes of the French Revolution
Economic Causes of the French Revolution
Beginning of the French Revolution
Functions of the Constituent Assembly
Unsuccessful Attempt of the Royal Family to Flee the Country
Phases of the French Revolution
Role of Philosophers in the French Revolution
Nature of the French Revolution
Correlation Between the Objectives and Achievements of the French Revolution
Do you agree that the French Revolution achieved far less than what it intended to achieve?
Importance of the French Revolution
French Revolution of 1848
The Foreign Policy of Louis Philippe
French Revolution– Wikipedia