(REFORM and REVOLUTION in EUROPE to 1850 – continued)

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REFORM and REVOLUTION in EUROPE to 1850 (3 of 5)

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Revolutions Lost

In Vienna, workers issued demands for universal voting rights, a ministry of labor, a minimum wage and a ten-hour work day, and Vienna's bourgeoisie did not like it. Another disturbance to the bourgeoisie was the newspapers that sprang up with the new press freedom. These papers were competing with each other for readership and resorting to sensationalism similar to the vitriolic newspapers that sprang up in France in the 1780s. The most successful of these was published by Leipold Höfner. His paper attacked bureaucrats, priests, aristocrats and others, and the commerce class saw it as stirring up lawlessness. There were in Austria discomforting disturbances such as physical assaults against monasteries and Church properties. People were demonstrating with mock serenades at night against priests, shopkeepers they considered to be overcharging customers, tavern keepers not sufficiently generous in dispensing free drinks, employers and landlords – with landlords the most frequent target. By late April, many in Vienna were afraid of mob violence and attacks on private property, and they wanted an end to disorder in the streets.

The liberal nobility and the bourgeoisie who had been enthusiastic about political change in early March were satisfied with the constitution that Emperor Ferdinand issued on April 25. But some who still wanted change complained among other things about the emperor's veto power over legislation.

Among the dissatisfied were university students. In late May they rebelled against a move to disband their armed units. With their allies on the left they built barricades – a second rising to defend the first rising. They did not have the support they had had in the first rising, and they appeared to be a threat to the emperor and his family, who fled to their palace at Innsbruck in Austria's alpine west. This troubled a lot of Viennese, many of whom looked upon their king as a protecting father. They feared that without their emperor Vienna would fall into ruin. Those leading this second rising were surprised by the coldness with which the common Viennese responded to them. The second-wave revolutionaries applied pressure on the government and the government began public works projects. Then, in mid-June, men working on government projects rioted. They wanted higher pay and threatened to join anti-government forces if their demands were not met. The government targeted this revolt and arrested its leaders.

Emperor Ferdinand remained in Innsbruck, while the second-wave revolutionaries continued as an out-of-office governing force – with no majority in Vienna supporting the kind of reforms that they wanted. Both the second-wave revolutionaries and the liberals in government were ignoring that which was necessary to maintain the political changes that had followed Vienna's March rising: control over the military. Austria's army was still in the field outside Austria, defending the Habsburg Empire and not committed to the revolution.

Meanwhile political change in France was also running into obstacles.

Setback in Paris

In March, 1848, France's provisional government had given in to leftist demands for universal manhood suffrage and the creation of public works. And the government had also abolished the slavery that had remained in France's colonies. The government remained divided between those supporting aspirations of the commerce class (the bourgeoisie) and those who favored programs for the working poor, including reduced working hours and the total abolition of unemployment. To meet the need for more money to pay for public works the government raised taxes, which upset small farmers – the majority of France's taxpayers. Universal manhood suffrage then proved other than helpful for the left. In late April, small farmers swung an election for representatives to a constituent assembly. Of its 880 seats, about 500 went to moderate republicans, about 300 went to constitutional monarchists and only 80 went to the radicals representing the interests of urban workers.

France's economy was still depressed, and leftist Parisians in early May were protesting against the new Constituent Assembly's lack of enthusiasm for reform. In mid-May a mob invaded the assembly and proclaimed another revolution – a defiance of the will of the majority expressed in the recent elections. The National Guard defended the government and arrested leaders of the disturbance.

In June, the Constituent Assembly moved to disband what it considered the un-economical public works program. Workers and their student supporters built barricades again. The government prepared to do what Louis-Philippe had chosen not to do: to send the army against the barricades. It empowered a leading general, Louis Eugene Cavaignac, for this task – Cavaignac a man with a past in revolution and republicanism. Those supporting the people at the barricades saw the government as having turned against workers. That the government had the support of an overwhelming majority of the French nation did not matter to them. The people at the barricades were trying to make revolution against the will of the nation as a whole – not a formula for success. An army man who had sympathies for those at the barricades, General Bréa, went to persuade people at the barricades that they were making a mistake. He and his chief of staff were invited inside the barricades and assassinated. That same day, the Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor Affre, went to the barricades and he too was murdered. The people at the barricades were uninterested in discussion. They had rejected the politics of patience, persuasion, tolerance and reform. They wanted to fight.

Using artillery as Napoleon had against Parisians in 1795, and also using riflemen, Cavaignac's army of 40,000 easily crushed the rebellion. Approximately 1,500 were killed at the barricades. Twelve thousand were arrested, and the streets were cleared once again and another revolution had ended.

Little noticed meanwhile was the publication in Paris of the Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and his friend Friedrich Engles. Marx had returned to Paris with his family in early March following the February uprising. Marx pulled out of Paris in August. Switzerland refused him permission to move there, so for Marx, his wife and four-year-old daughter, it was back to liberal Britain.

German Radicalism versus Conservatism

In Frankfurt, a self-appointed Vorparlament (preliminary parliament) had been in session, attended by men who favored a united Germany and a liberal constitutional monarchy. They organized elections to nominate delegates to a National Assembly for all of Germany, and the elections were held across Germany. The 585 elected delegates to the National Assembly opened their first meeting in Frankfurt, on May 18, 1848. Most of the delegates were professors or men with a university education, and the assembly was dubbed the professors' parliament.

But enthusiasm for reform in Germany was dying. Viewing the upheaval in Paris, Germans were thinking that if political agitation and pretty speeches resulted in violence and disorder such as appeared in Paris perhaps reforms should be slowed.


Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.