Revolt and Reaction to 1840 | Revolutions in 1848 | Revolutions Lost |
Reversals for Italians, Czechs, Hungarians and German Liberals
Economic Recovery, Political and Social Change, 1848-50
Cosette sweeping, an engraving for Victor Hugo's Les Miserables (The Poor Ones),
made into a musical about rebellion in Paris is the early 1830s
In 1823, Austria, Russia and Prussia authorized French troops to enter Spain to re-establish conservatism there. France's king, Louis XVIII, sent an army of 100,000 into Spain and put Ferdinand VII back on his throne. Britain was concerned because it was benefiting from the independence movement in Latin America, and Britain hinted that war would follow if France invaded Portugal or if it became involved in Latin America.
By 1825, Tsar Alexander's religious sentiments had intensified. He left his Polish mistress of thirteen years and returned to his wife, Elizabeth. In August he took Elizabeth to southern Russia for her health and better weather, with the nation believing that he was going south to put himself at the head of the Russian forces gathered at the border of the Ottoman Empire. Elizabeth would die in 1826. She outlived Alexander, who died in December, 1825, at the age of forty-eight, followed by a persistent rumor that the victor over Napoleon was just tired of being tsar and was living as a hermit.
In Russia, the old problem of succession reappeared. Officers who had been with the Russian forces occupying France had been exposed to the Enlightenment, and they hated what they had found when returning to Russia: corruption, censorship, rigid control over higher education and serfdom. They disliked the military's resort to gross brutality in attempting to instill military discipline among soldiers. They asked themselves whether all this was why they had liberated Europe. Around three thousand of them joined together in St. Petersburg's main square, hoping to replace authoritarian rule with a representative democracy. They took no control of anything strategic and were supported by no general rising. Their naiveté became known as the Decembrist Rising, and they were crushed by forces loyal to Alexander's twenty-nine year-old brother, Nicholas.
Fear of contact by Russian officers in contact with the liberal West was to reappear again with Joseph Stalin. Meanwhile, Nicholas I was hardened in his conservatism by the Decembrist Rising. He feared the masses, the nobility and intellectuals. He extended the use of secret police, and, in Russia, fear of informers, arrest and arbitrary police procedures increased.
In the early 1820s, the French were enjoying economic prosperity. In 1824, Louis XVIII died, and he was succeeded by his brother, the Count of Artois, who became Charles X. Then came a bank crash in Britain in 1825. That was followed by a bad harvest in France 1826 and hard winters in 1828-29 and 1829-30. People were burdened by high food prices. Charles believed in absolute monarchy and the divine right of kings, and he appointed a premier, Jules de Polignac, who believed that he could converse with the Virgin Mary, while parliament (Chamber of Deputies) was filled with anti-clerics – not a good mix. Charles responded to parliament's dislike of de Polignac by dismissing it, and in the parliamentary elections of 1830 more liberal-leftists were elected than was pleasing to Charles. Before the new parliament could meet, he dissolved parliament. Then he reduced the number of people allowed to vote, imposed censorship on the press and called for new elections. Politically it was about as shrewd as his failed attempt to take power from Napoleon back in 1804. On July 27, 1830, barricades went up in the streets of Paris. On July 28, clashes between people in the streets of Paris and agents of authority were triumphant for the people, a clash depicted in Delacroix's painting "Liberty Leading the People." Charles X abdicated and at the end of July went into exile, back to Britain.
With middleclass moderates at the head of the rising against Charles, a constitutional monarchy was chosen rather than a republic. Parliament elected the new king, Louis-Philippe, 57, who was proclaimed "Citizen King." Louis-Phillipe was one of the more progressive members of France's Bourbon family. He had been in sympathy with the change, as had been his father, the Duke of Orleans, who had been guillotined in 1785.
With communications still slow in Europe, it was August 4 before news of the overthrow of Charles X reached Metternich in Austria. It is claimed that he fainted dead away, and it is reported that when he revived he said that his life's work had been undone. Metternich viewed the reign of Louis-Phillipe as a return to France's constitutional monarchy of 1792 and expected that France would continue downhill in giddy revolutionary politics. Princess Sophia, influential wife of the brother of the Habsburg king in Austria, agreed that the new monarch in Paris was illegitimate, and she prayed for the divine destruction of revolutionary Paris.
In France, censorship was abolished and trial by jury guaranteed. The middleclass (bourgeoisie) was still afraid of the lower classes, and parliament and Louis-Phillipe resisted instituting universal manhood suffrage, but the number of people who could vote was increased slightly. Louis-Phillipe was known also as the bourgeois king. Karl Marx, in Germany, was twelve-years-old in 1830, but in the coming years, during the reign of Louis-Philippe, young Marx would gather significance for the word bourgeoisie.
In Belgium, on August 25, following a performance of La Muette de Fortici -- an opera with appeals to liberty – people went on a rampage. The Belgians spoke either Flemish (a dialect of Dutch) or French, and unlike the Dutch they were mostly Roman Catholic. They resented rule by the Protestant Dutch, and some wanted to join France. Before the year was over, the Belgians created a provisional government and declared Belgium independent. The Prussians were prepared to restore Belgium to the rule of the Dutch king, William I. The French were willing to wage war on the side of the Belgians, and Metternich wanted to avoid war. The British and French summoned a conference that began in November, 1830, in London and was to last through much of 1831. At the conference it was decided that Belgium would be independent and ruled by Prince Leopold – uncle of the twelve-year-old future Queen of England, Victoria. (Leopold was from Saxe-Coburg, one of the many small duchies around Saxony and Thuringia.) In August 1831, the Dutch invaded Belgium, and in a ten-day campaign that had the approval of the London Conference, the French drove the Dutch back to their Netherlands.
Meanwhile, in November 1830, Polish soldiers in Warsaw revolted. Crowds took control of the city of Warsaw and were backed by aristocrats, intellectuals and young army officers. The Poles declared independence from Russian rule. Austria and Prussia agreed on joint action to put down the revolt. The rebellion sought help from France, and freedom for Poles was popular in France as well as Britain. Britain was not about to send troops that would clash with the Russians or Austrians, and the French government ignored the call, while some French veterans of the Napoleonic wars joined the Polish combatants. In September, 1831, Nicholas I, who considered himself both the Tsar of Russia and King of Poland, sent troops into Poland that overwhelmed the rebellion.
In 1830, uprisings occurred across Germany. People were annoyed by military conscription and higher food prices. In Prussian-ruled Westphalia, rent, tax and military records were burned. Authorities addressed people as children and asked what they really wanted, and people replied: "Bread and jobs!" [note] In Brunswick, Grand Duke Karl fled, and a liberal constitution was created. The king of Saxony felt forced to grant his subjects a liberal constitution. In Hesse-Kassel, feudal dues were weighing down the peasantry and customs duties between the petty domains within the state were a burden on commerce. There people rioted for bread. Peasants destroyed manorial records, and a constitution and a unicameral legislature were created. But industrialization in Germany was hardly more than it had been in 1800, and Germany did not have as much of a middleclass as Britain for a liberal movement. Conservatives commented that people were worse off where states had liberal constitutions, and by the mid-thirties a Metternich inspired reaction in Germany brought an end to liberal constitutions, and it brought persecution of teachers, suspension of professors and the banning of writings, including the works of Heinrich Heine.
In 1830, British workers were organizing and pushing for political reform, including universal male suffrage. In 1831, a reform bill passed in Britain's House of Commons, but the bill was defeated in the House of Lords, which was dominated by conservatives (Tories), and riots followed in various cities. The following year, conservatives suffered an electoral defeat, and a new Liberal government engaged in anti-Tory rhetoric, imposed more taxation on landowners and the ability of the Tories to veto legislation. The Tories relented and helped pass the Reform Act. The legislation ended "rotten boroughs" – a system by which a very small electorate could gain unrepresentative influence within Parliament. The Act granted seats in the House of Commons to cities that had risen during the Industrial Revolution, and Parliament gave suffrage to select members of the middle class, but blue-collar workingmen had gained nothing, and agitation began for complete manhood suffrage.
In Prussia in 1833-34, King Frederick William III began cracking down on dissents. His regime was afraid that intellectuals were turning the idea's of the celebrated German philosopher Hegel (who died in 1831) into a belief that change would eventually bring an end to the status quo in Prussia. Monarchy and the liberal ideology of businessmen were in conflict. The king remained adamantly opposed to the ideas of liberty that were a part of the French Revolution, and government officials wanted to weed ideological enemies from educational institutions.
In Britain in 1834 the Factory Act became law. It regulated child labor in textile factories. No child under nine was to be employed, and children under twelve were to work no more than 48 hours per week. That year a strike paralyzed much of Lancashire for sixteen weeks, and in other places troops clashed with the working poor, and the working poor burned down the "workhouses" that had been built for them.
In 1836, the London Working Men's Associate formed. In 1837, cotton spinners were out on strike for three months, and Victoria, recently turned eighteen, became queen. By law, Hanover could not accept the succession of a woman, and the crowns of Britain and Hanover were separated, ending 123 years of union between Britain and Hanover, the kingship of Hanover passing from William IV to his brother, the duke of Cumberland, Ernest Augustus.
In 1839, working people presented to Parliament a "Charter" of political reforms. Conservatives in Britain saw reform as antagonistic to their economic ideology of laissez faire. Parliament rejected the reforms and riots followed in cities such as Glasgow, Newcastle, Birmingham, and in Wales.
Britain's cities were increasing in population, with people together with hardly any park or open spaces, with many houses for common people built wall to wall, without yards, often with six to ten persons living in one room, without sewer pipes or running water. With water scarce, common people in the cities became indeed the unwashed, some people not bathing at all and adjusting to the smell. Excrement ran down the middle of unpaved streets, often clogged with garbage. As many as a couple hundred people might share a single outhouse. Excrement sometimes piled up in basements and dung hills piled up outside homes. A British reformer, Edwin Chadwick, championed the idea of a program of iron pipes carrying clean water into homes and sewage away from homes. The removal of sewage, he calculated, would cost one-twentieth of the current method – removing it by hand – and gains would be made in disease abatement. He was opposed by Britain's upper-bourgeoisie, who exercised their attachment to laissez-faire economics, their lack of imagination and their opposition to tax-and-spend politics.
In 1840 in Prussia, Frederick William III died and was succeeded by his son, Frederick William IV, age forty-five. He was more removed the struggle with the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte than his father had been, and he was looked upon as intelligent. The business class (bourgeoisie) looked to their new king for political reforms that would match the economic advances they believed they had produced for his realm. They wanted a constitutional government and an ability to express their interests to government so that Prussia and neighboring German states could advance economically similar to England.
Frederick William IV made some token gestures for the capitalists but otherwise ignored their requests for reform. He kept members of the nobility in positions of power in government and the military. He remained opposed to a constitution, and he didn't trust the common people, who were poor. From propertyless working people there were new murmurs of revolt. They didn't feel as blessed as did the middleclass. Among them religious reverence was weak, there were questions the monarchy's claim about God favoring status quo.
Copyright © 2002-2011 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.