French Revolution of 1848

French Revolution of 1848:

The Revolution that broke out in France in 1789 left a deep impact not only on France but on the people in many other European states. The French Revolution stood for three ideals liberty, equality, and fraternity. The spirit of nationalism pulsated a new life in the people. Democracy was replacing monarchy. People talked ‘The state belongs to the people, franchise should be universal, and the authority of the king depends on the will of the people’. These feelings were generated by the French Revolution. All the alliances that were formed against France between 1792 and 1815 opposed these feelings and thought that the welfare of Europe lay in crushing them. These alliances wanted to suppress the Revolution and re-establish monarchy. When these alliances succeeded in achieving their objectives and defeated France, they attempted to decimate these feelings forever and bring back the old regime. The light of the new age had penetrated England and Prussia, but the rulers there well knew that their well-being lay in crushing these tendencies with the help of Russia and Austria. Now the first question before the states that had defeated Napoleon was what should be done to wipe out the tendency to revolution from the world.

After Napoleon’s defeat, the victorious nations took several decisions in the Congress of Vienna in 1815 which aimed at bringing back the old system and putting an end to the spirit of revolution. Matternich was the most powerful person at the Vienna Congress. He thought that the Revolution was a disease that needed treatment. It was a volcano that must be suppressed. He said that the kings were entitled to decide the fate of their subjects. They were accountable to God only and not to the people. He considered the aim of his life was to defend the declining organization of the world and to uproot new tendencies and the spirit of revolution once and for all.

But these revolutionary tendencies again came to the forefront. Just five years after the Vienna Congress, symptoms of revolt and revolution appeared everywhere. The conflict between the old and the new tendencies in Europe continued for a century. The history of the coming years in the Western world is the history of the struggle between these tendencies. Finally, the spirit generated by the French Revolution prevailed. The history of Europe between 1820 and 1848 is replete with the description of the appearance and bursting out of new tendencies. After Matternich’s fall in 1848, these tendencies began to succeed everywhere. There were uprisings in France in 1830 and 1848, and the revolutions of 1837 in Spain and 1834 in Portugal achieved success, and wars of independence were fought in Italy, the Balkan Peninsula, Greece, etc.

The Revolution of 1848:

As a result of the Revolution of July 1830 in France, Charles X abdicated the throne in favor of his grandson Duke of Bordeaux, and left France. On August 7, 1830, the Legislative Assembly declared Louis Philippe the King of the French people. The new ruler assured to govern according to the constitution. Thus in France began the experiment of constitutional monarchy which lasted 18 years. The reign of Louis Philippe is also known as July Monarchy or Orleans Monarchy.

The Moderate Policy of Louis Philippe:

Louis Philippe wanted to reconcile all his opponents. He wanted to rule like a conservative constitutional monarch. His policy was neither progressive nor extremist, it was a moderate policy. He adopted the constitution of 1814 with some necessary changes. The members of the House of Peers in France enjoyed life-long membership. With the king, both houses could put up proposals. Election rules were also amended. The age for the membership of the Legislature was reduced from 40 to 30. Franchise was extended by lowering the qualifications of the members. Till now only those could vote who paid 300 francs as direct tax but now voting rights were granted even to those who paid only 200 francs as taxes. This raised the number of voters to 2 lakh 42 thousand. But this move did not benefit the general people, it rather offended their sense of equality.

To placate the Bonapartists he sent his son to St. Helena to bring the last remains of Napoleon Bonaparte to Paris. He built him a grand mausoleum near the cemetery of Bourbon kings. To win over the support of the republicans he reinstituted the tricolor of Revolution. To please the people with revolutionary tendencies he had the Palace of Versailles decorated with pictures of chief events of the Revolution and opened it to the public. He lifted all bans on freedom but failed to satisfy any class. When Louis Philippe started his life his supporters comprised people of two streams of thought. One was the Party of Movement which wanted to introduce some more reforms after the Revolution and have an aggressive foreign policy. This progressive party was led by Lafet, Laffayet, and Dupont de L’Eure, etc. Then there was the Party of Resistance which believed that it was not necessary to amend the constitutional system established after the Revolution. They wanted to adopt a peaceful and compromising foreign policy. The leaders of this party were Casimir Perier and Guizot, etc.

Louis Philippe adopted a policy of the just mean between the two streams of progressives and conservatives. In short, his policy was of no return to the old and decayed principles of the elite as well as not moving forward in the direction of democracy but to preserve the system that had been established by the amended charter of 1830. Louis Philippe said, ‘People may do what they like but they shan’t prevent me from driving my coach’.

Opposition of Louis Philippe and Revolution:

During the reign of Louis Philippe trade and industry in France progressed but the condition of workers deteriorated. They lived at the mercy of the industrialists. They were paid less and had to work for long hours. According to the Rules of 1835 Labor Unions were banned. In this helpless condition, the workers suppressed their discontent and rage for some time. At this time new socialist ideas were being propagated among the workers. Socialist leaders like St. Simon, Charles Fourier, and Louis Blanc put forward several proposals to reform the condition of workers. They held the bourgeoise government of Louis Philippe responsible for the miseries of the workers. They wanted to nationalize the resources of the country. Their ideas influenced the workers who formed their organizations and began to present their demands to the government. They held strikes in large industrial towns in France and took out processions, but the government of Louis Philippe did not pay any heed to their sad plight. This incensed the discontent of the workers and they began to form secret societies.

Thus Louis Philippe started his rule in an atmosphere of widespread opposition. He faced several uprisings in the first five years of his reign. The first uprising of the supporters of Nyadhyata took place in 1832 under the leadership of the Duchess of Berry, mother of Prince Chambord. But in the absence of public support, it was easily put down. The uprisings of Republicans in 1832 and 1834 were very fierce but they were also repressed. An attempt to murder Louis Philippe was made in 1835.

Repressive Measures Taken by the Government, 1835:

In the face of this continuous opposition, Louis Philippe framed repressive laws in September 1835 and banned the meetings and committees of the Republicans. Their newspapers were closed and the editors were heavily fined. No public meetings could be held without the permission of the government. Criticism of the state and talks about an alternative system of government were prohibited. Special courts were formed to punish those who violated these laws. Through these laws, he strictly crushed all opposition and made it impossible for them to work openly. The supremacy of the King and his capitalist supporters was fully established and freedom of the individual became a meaningless term.

Thus till 1839 Louis Philippe ruled like an autocrat and remained the real dispenser of the state policy.

The Foreign Policy of Louis Philippe:

Louis Philippe followed a peaceful compromising foreign policy. To please the European states, he announced at the beginning of his rule that he would faithfully carry out the decisions……. Read Here.

The Last Days of Louis’s Rule and the Revolution of 1848:

The people of France turned against Louis. The supporters of the principles of Nya-dhyata considered his authority unjust, the republicans dubbed his rule reactionary, the socialists considered him a patron of capitalists, the Catholics criticized him as anti-Christain and immoral, the patriots thought he was indifferent towards national glory and hated him for his subordination to England. The masses were also discontented. They had no spirit of revolution but had become indifferent to the fate of Louis. The reactionary policy of Guizot, corrupt administration, and failure of the foreign policy had weakened his position. In this period Lamartine remarked ‘France is bored’. Truly speaking, Louis Philippe and Guizot were in the same position in which Charles X and his minister Vilel had been before the revolution of 1830.

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