Although the revolutions of 1848 were simultaneous and inspired by a common ideology, yet they were isolated phenomena. There was no international revolutionary organisation and the political refugees gathered together in France, Belgium, Switzerland and England were not the instigators of the revolutions in their countries. There was no plot and the revolutions were not concerted. Problems which were analogous in general took different forms in each state and produced conflicting results; the same vocabulary, the same programme, concealed dissimilar situations.
At the beginning of 1848 no one believed that revolution was imminent; yet the situation in many parts of Europe was such as precedes revolutions. In Italy the advent of Pius IX in June 1846, the general amnesty which he declared and the promises which he uttered, had created an atmosphere of wild excitement. There was unrest in Lombardy-Venetia which led to the declaration of a state of siege, there was the Sicilian insurrection of 12 January, and there was the grant or promise during February of constitutions at Turin, Florence and Naples. To a lesser degree a pre-revolutionary situation also existed in France. In the campaign of banquets to demand parliamentary and electoral reform the coalition of opposition parties had allowed the leadership to pass to the republicans, and Guizot’s ministry barely survived the debate on the address on 12 February. In Germany liberal and radical party congresses had drawn up definite programmes of reform. In Ireland, general agreement had been reached on a programme of independence, and the supporters of Smith O’Brien and John Mitchel differed only on the means of attaining this end—by political agitation or by resort to force. In Switzerland the brief civil war had, by December, given the radical centralist party complete power over the Catholic cantons of the Sonderbund. In Hungary the coalition of opposition parties was successful in the 1847 elections for the Diet, with a programme of minimal reforms. Furthermore, the famine of spring 1847 had almost everywhere led to ‘hunger riots’ and at the end of the year an economic crisis which involved large-scale unemployment, though unaccompanied by disturbances, affected almost all industrial districts.
Now were a revolution to break out at this juncture it would at once find a programme ready to hand, deriving ideologically from two sources—the political situation and the social situation. But the varied opposition to the existing order, though provoked by concrete realities, confined itself to speculation; it was theoretical rather than practical; it did not reach the people. Indeed the 1848 revolutions were not revolutions of the masses; their leaders and instigators were intellectuals devoid of political experience, not men of action. Hence their extremist ideas and policies; imbued with the idealism of a generation that had grown up in a romantic atmosphere, they took little account of facts. Apart from a few exceptions in Hungary, Poland and Piedmont, they were bourgeois by origin; for the aristocracy, which in the eighteenth century supported policies of reform, had broken with liberalism after the French Revolution and linked its interests, and devoted its services, to monarchical conservatism. Their inspiration came not from America, which was little known and whose civilisation was regarded as materialist, nor from England, which was influential only with economic doctrines and was discredited in continental eyes because of the power of its aristocracy and the wretchedness of its working classes, but from the teachings given to Europe by France. These consisted of three elements. There were, firstly, the fertile political schools of the Restoration, especially that of the individualist Benjamin Constant, whose theories were particularly welcomed in Switzerland and Germany, and of the doctrinaires, the teachers of the bourgeoisie of Spain, Germany and Italy. Secondly there was Lamennais, who with his liberal Catholicism and L'Avenir exercised a profound influence in Belgium, the Rhineland and Bavaria. Thirdly there was the Messianic republicanism which attracted so many republicans and young men after 1840 and led them to impose as a dogma the belief that France had a mission and a duty to spread and sustain liberty and nationality throughout Europe (cf. ch. IX, p. 218). The French republicans, for the most part, carried their doctrines to the point of demanding universal suffrage and a ministry answerable to parliament; absolute freedom of the press and of association; compulsory primary education and a tax on income. The political republicans and their organ, Le National, went no farther than this. But the social democrats who wrote in La Reforme also proposed social reforms, aiming at the organisation of labour, the establishment of producers’ co-operatives and associations, and the nationalisation of the principal industries, including insurance and railways.
From all this the European liberals had derived a simpler programme. It involved guarantee of the freedom of the individual, the reform of legal procedure and the introduction of the jury, freedom of the press, representative assemblies, a National Guard and the abolition of the confessional state and of the police regime. In addition some radicals affirmed that the representatives of the people should have full constituent powers and proclaimed the idea of the brotherhood of man.
Such, with nuances that differed according to different schools, were the programmes put forward by the Germans of the west and south and by the Italians, the one being more speculative in character, the other more matter-of-fact.
A further aspect of current political ideology was represented by the movement of nationalities (cf. ch. IX). There were two theories of nationality running parallel to each other; they were not yet in conflict, for their differences had not yet been made manifest. The French conception, deriving as it did from the rationalist doctrines of the eighteenth century and the Revolution, saw the nation as a spiritual community formed by the voluntary association of free men. The German conception, on the other hand, deriving from Herder’s philosophy, from romanticism and from the philological, historical and legal studies of the universities, saw the nation as a natural, primitive organism, endowed with specific genius that found expression in language, customs and history. Spreading across western Europe, the French conception had inspired Italy and Ireland, just as it had inspired Poland and Greece. The German conception was successful in quite different regions, namely Germany and the Austrian empire, and where the young men attended German universities. The French was linked with the idea of and the claim to political liberty, the German inspired a will to power which might find fulfilment through means other than those of liberalism. In Germany in particular the two movements were so far distinct that liberalism, inspired by the French example, was virtually a counterpole to nationalism which was nurtured primarily on hatred of France. When, therefore, the liberal and nationalist demands reached their full development in 1848, they brought the whole structure of the European states into question and suggested an entirely new formula.
The social problem was less immediate, but because it concerned the masses possessed overwhelming significance. In three-quarters of Europe, where the feudal regime had not been abolished under Napoleonic rule, it affected peasants rather than working men. It involved the restriction of landed property to the nobility, the limitation of personal and property rights, the maintenance of tithes and forced labour service. The two necessities were to free the individual and to free the land. In Prussia the Patent of 1817 had halted Hardenberg’s social reforms and in Germany in general the introduction of sugar-beet and agricultural machinery had sharpened the competitive struggle between the great landowners and the peasantry. In the three Polish territories the proletarianisation of the peasantry had proceeded apace since the beginning of the century. In the Austrian empire the landowning nobles who stood to gain by the increased demand for com and meat had by legislation and economic measures sought to restrict the amount of free land and to substitute crippling rents for the former tenures. Everywhere, the growth of population that followed the Napoleonic wars aggravated the peasant’s plight and forced him to seek to supplement his income by work in industry. In this way industry had its repercussions on the countryside.
But industry was still mainly represented, as in former days, by scattered craftsmen. The modem industrial regime with its machinery, its rapid transport, capitalist organisation and liberal laws scarcely existed. England alone had gone through an industrial revolution. On the Continent industrial concentrations existed only in Belgium, in a few regions of France and Germany (the Rhineland, Thuringia, Saxony, Silesia and Berlin), and within the Austrian empire in Bohemia and Vienna. Such agglomerations of the proletariat were therefore exceptional, and nowhere save in England did they display the characteristics denounced by Engels. But this does not mean that the situation of the workers was not deplorable, for they had lost the protection of the old corporate state but could not yet benefit from the strength that lies in numbers and organisation. The many ‘socialist’ remedies put forward by theorists who, apart from Proudhon and some German communists, were intellectuals of bourgeois origin, lacked precision and showed little sense of reality or knowledge of economics.
These problems acquired an insistent urgency with the agricultural crisis of 1846, the financial crisis of early 1847, which checked investment and dried up credit for the whole year, and the industrial crisis and accompanying distress which followed in the autumn. The demands of serfs and unemployed workers for social reform were to come flooding through the breach which the political revolution was to open in the old structure.
The Paris Revolution of 24 February arose out of an incident that was, if not arranged in advance, at least deliberately exploited. In February neither the political and parliamentary leaders nor the republican journalists thought that they stood on the brink of a revolution. But a group of men, some young, all zealous, were determined that a revolution should be brought about. After organising a campaign against the regime through democratic banquets, they decided that a popular procession should accompany the guests to the final banquet held by the parliamentary opposition on 22 February. Though the government banned the meeting and the deputies withdrew their support, the organisers nevertheless let the demonstration go forward. Then on the 23rd, while the king, who had been disturbed by the readiness with which the bourgeois National Guard embraced the cause of reform, dismissed Guizot, they sustained the disturbances throughout the day in various eastern quarters of the city, and in the evening formed a long procession of demonstrators along the boulevards. When the anger of the people had been fanned by a bloody encounter between the mob and the troops outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they exploited it to the full, raised the suburbs of Saint-Honore, Saint-Martin and Saint-Antoine during the night, and armed the people by urging them to raid the gunsmiths’ shops and mairies. By the morning of the 24th Paris was in revolt. The insurgents surrounded the central districts with barricades. While the palace and the politicians elaborated complex ministerial changes and issued conflicting orders that robbed Marshal Bugeaud, who was in command of the troops, of any chance of effective intervention, the rebels bore down on the Tuileries; and at halfpast twelve the king, losing heart, meekly abdicated and made good his escape down the Champs-Elysees. An hour later the palace was taken and pillaged, while at the same time a few resolute men seized control of the main public services—the mairie of Paris, the Prefecture of Police, the Post Office. At the end of the morning the republican leaders were still closeted in the offices of Le National, seeking to give the riot a particular target and a central command—this, at a time when it had already won the day. But at least they were skilful enough to seize their opportunity in the Chamber. Brushing aside any discussion of a regency for the child Comte de Paris, they asked the crowd who had invaded the Chamber to assent by acclamation to the formation of a provisional government of seven ‘radical’ deputies, of whom the most important were Lamartine, Dupont de L’Eure, Ledru-Rollin and Marie. About five o’clock this government took possession of the Hotel de Ville; about seven o’clock they were joined by four delegates from the advanced group linked with La Reforme; these included Louis Blanc and a workman, who were invited to participate in the government.
Thus in a few hours the Paris masses had swept away both the regime and the dynasty. If they had no more leaders than in 1830, they did far less damage, for the few outbreaks of violence were not serious. There was a further difference from 1830: they had no intention of allowing their victory to slip out of their hands. During the night they obliged the new government to proclaim the Republic without waiting for the nation’s ratification. The next day they steered the republican regime in a social direction by extracting from the government a promise to ensure that all working men should get a living from their work and to guarantee employment to all citizens. Then, two days later, a ‘Government Commission for Workmen’ was formed. Before agreeing to join this commission the workers required that their working day should first be reduced by an hour and a half. Louis Blanc was the spokesman and formulator of these confused demands, but the same sincere desire to improve the lot of the working classes animated the entire government. Its deliberations were conducted under pressure from the people and before their eyes; processions, deputations, manifestations followed one another for some weeks. In this way, by one decree after another, a republic was gradually improvised based on universal suffrage, absolute freedom of the press and of association, and the abolition of the death penalty for political offences, of slavery, and of the debtor’s prison. It was a republic that undertook social experiments of all kinds in order to regulate the organisation of labour— every description of workmen’s trade unions, national workshops to occupy the unemployed in Paris and the principal cities, labour commissions in every department and in Paris at the Luxembourg, where Louis Blanc turned between six and eight hundred members—employers’ representatives, workmen’s representatives (twice the number), economists of every school—into a virtual parliament. There was not a breath of opposition. The provinces accepted the Paris Revolution without a murmur, even with delight; the clergy ostentatiously rallied to the new regime; the Legitimists were exultant.
One question occurred to every mind: what would be the effect on Europe? Would France now embark on the programme of disseminating freedom, which represented the gospel of republicanism? Lamartine and his colleagues feared the revolutionary chaos that would result from war, and the difficulty of establishing the regime if it were at odds with the coalition that the tsar and the king of Prussia were already endeavouring to establish. Lamartine put an end to this danger by giving Palmerston every assurance of his desire for peace (cf. ch. X, p. 261). He explained France’s position in a manifesto that was approved by his colleagues on 2 March and published on the 5th. In this France proclaimed the principle of the sovereignty of the people and the right of each nation to determine its own fate, refused to recognise the peace treaties of 1815, declared herself the ally of every people who aspired to the same ideal, but accepted provisionally the present state of Europe and stressed her peaceful intentions. There were two other practical reasons that encouraged moderation: a disorganised army and an empty treasury. Indeed the revolution had turned the economic crisis into a catastrophe: panic ensued; bank deposits were withdrawn; the bourse slumped; all credit was stopped, and as a result workshops and factories were shut; the Treasury was exhausted and the Bank of France was threatened with liquidation. Overriding all questions of principle the emergency demanded that paper money should be forced into circulation and a moratorium declared on all bills (18 March), discount banks be established to deal in commercial stocks and to advance loans on goods, the nine departmental banks be absorbed a little later into the Bank of France and the latter be given the monopoly of uttering paper money. Disaster was averted, but the financial and economic crisis, remaining acute until the summer, paralysed government initiative.
The news of events in Paris provoked an immediate upsurge of liberalism in those neighbouring countries which were a seed-bed for French ideas. In Italy the Paris Revolution justified and strengthened the process that was already under way, without setting new forces in motion (cf. ch. XXI, p. 562). In Piedmont the Statuto was promulgated on 5 March. The pope appointed a ministry with a lay majority on n March and granted a constitution on the 15th. These two constitutions, like those of Tuscany and Naples, represented a practical application of doctrinaire ideas and an adaptation of Louis Philippe’s charter; nowhere did the masses intervene and nowhere did the reforms attain to democracy. In western Germany, from 1 to 12 March, following the example of the Grand Duchy of Baden, manifestations by bourgeois belonging both to the intelligentsia and the business world, coupled with great gatherings in the streets, led to the formation of parliamentary ministries and the concession of certain rights—in Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Kassel, Nassau, Frankfurt, Wurttemberg, Brunswick and Thuringia. In the Hanseatic towns of the north peaceful revolutions turned the patrician regimes into democratic republics. In the Prussian Rhineland and Westphalia a vast petition was organised for representative institutions, and the bourgeoisie seized control of the municipalities and formed National Guards. Thus the contrast was sharpened between western Germany and the rest of the country. An apparent revival of the Peasants’ Revolt, however, started a rising in the Neckar valley, the Black Forest and Odenwald—a splutter of age-old hatred and suffering, quickly suppressed by regular troops. Lastly, the question of national unity became so urgent that the Diet itself and the governments of Prussia, Bavaria and Wurttemberg, in late February and early March, began to consider a reform of the Confederation. On the initiative of a few liberals, some fifty politicians and writers met on 5 March in Heidelberg. They launched an appeal for the formation of a body representing all Germany, and a delegation of seven of them convoked everyone who had ever sat in a Diet or Chamber in order to fix an electoral law in a preparatory assembly. In all these movements in Italy and Germany there was no show of violence (apart from the peasant rising in the Neckar valley); they owed their success to the unanimous support of public opinion, their simultaneity, and the unreasoning fear of their governments, which were taken by surprise.
The revolution in central Europe came from another source, the very heart of the conservative system, Vienna itself. The Paris Revolution made itself felt by a collapse of the bank, aggravation of the industrial crisis in Bohemia and Vienna, an intensification of political intrigues in the court, and a general feeling of exaltation. This feeling was expressed in Vienna and Prague by a number of petitions from bourgeois and students, and in Pressburg, where the Hungarian Diet was meeting, by speeches demanding the suppression of the poll-tax and duty-labour and the formation of a government for Hungary based on national representation. The crisis culminated on 13 March, when the Lower Austrian Diet was to meet. As in Paris, peaceful demonstrators, consisting of bourgeois and students, clashed with the troops, and there followed an uprising in the suburbs. The court gave way in fear. Mettemich fled. But the agitation continued till the 15th, when the emperor quietened it by promising a constitution, granting freedom of the press and forming a Council of Ministers. At Pressburg a passionate speech by Kossuth, in which he made much of events in Vienna and warned it against revolution, decided the Diet to approve the liberal programme, which was then taken by a delegation to Vienna for confirmation. A coalition ministry led by Count Batthyanyi was formed, and the state undertook to indemnify landowners for the abolition of feudal rights. During the three weeks that followed, the Diet initiated a number of laws that were to comprise the Statute of Hungary. In Prague the petition organised by bourgeois and students acquired a wider scope, receiving working-class support and taking on a more national character. A delegation that was sent to Vienna on 19 March and returned on the 22nd to voice its demands more vigorously, obtained a rescript on 8 April, which created a representative Diet for the three united Czech provinces, granted political liberties, put the different languages on an equal footing and abolished seignorial administration of justice. The ‘Charter of Bohemia’ was to be defined and completed by the Austrian Parliament. In Prague and Budapest a group of young men and radicals had tried to enlarge this programme of moderate liberalism, but the group had been rapidly absorbed and had dissolved of itself. Apart from skirmishes in Vienna, the revolution had come about without violence, and neither in Bohemia nor in Hungary did the nationalist movements involve separatism. Its results, however, were to be seen more as promises than as achievements.
The moral effect was none the less immense. The fall of Mettemich’s regime entailed the immediate collapse of Austrian hegemony in Italy and the end of absolute monarchy in Prussia (cf. ch. XXI, pp. 562-3). As soon as news arrived, late on the 17th, of what had happened in Vienna, there was an outburst of fierce hatred against the Germans in Milan. Overriding all efforts at compromise, displaying a boldness that verged on folly, the people, despite their lack of arms, managed with the help of the neighbouring towns to drive out Radetzky and the Austrian garrison in five days of furious fighting. While the garrison took refuge on 31 March in the Quadrilateral, a provisional government took over the administration of Lombardy. Venice achieved its liberation with less effort: released from prison by the mob, Manin gave heart to his people by recalling the republic of St Mark, and secured by intimidation the surrender of the arsenal, the departure of the fleet and the capitulation of the governor. In a few days all the cities of Venetia, like those of Lombardy, had driven out the troops. On 21 and 26 March the three duchies similarly effected their liberation.
In the great industrial city of Berlin, where there was a serious wave of unemployment, the news from Vienna arrived on the 16th and provoked an agitation that grew swiftly in size as it was countered by military precautions. The brutality of the soldiery turned it into an insurrection on the 18th. Here the movement was spontaneous and violent. Rising against the army, the people seized control of the city and forced the king into humiliating surrenders, wringing from him successive political concessions by which he sought to assuage their anger. First he granted freedom of the press and the convocation of the Landtag, then the right of the Landtag to fashion an electoral law, then the principle of ministerial responsibility and the formation of a ‘Rhine ministry’ of liberals. His attempts to divert attention towards German unity succeeded only in committing him to a path along which he would be led much farther than he wished. Berlin’s example provoked a burst of liberalism in all the towns of Prussia and a series of bloodless revolutions in all the monarchies of central Germany, Saxony and Hanover, from 17 to 30 March. At the same time a further step towards radicalism was marked by the emergence in western Germany of a republican party which, because of unemployment, gained support among the working class and expressed itself in a kind of municipal anarchy.
On the borders of Germany, Poles flocked into Posen, applauded by German public opinion, or waited for an invasion of Russian Poland. But Poland had rendered herself powerless as a result of the abortive rising of 1846, and the conflicting nationalism of Poles and Prussians soon broke up the unity of the liberal movement (cf. ch. IX, p. 228). No later than the middle of May, to the loud approval of these self-same Germans, the king of Prussia incorporated the Polish territories into his kingdom and thus into the confederation. On the other hand, the revolution carried the day in the Danish duchies, which proclaimed their independence on 18 March and chose a prince. German volunteers and the Prussian army flew to their assistance. At the end of April the Danish troops were thrown back across the Eider.
Taken all in all, these revolutions had been achieved at small cost. Violence had been limited to a few exceptional cases; it had been swift and merciful in Paris and Vienna, bloody and menacing in Milan and Berlin, the masses being aroused by some chance incident or an explosion of passionate hatred. Everywhere else, no more had been needed than bourgeois manifestations, sometimes supported by street demonstrations. In general, aims were moderate, and often results were incomplete or ill-defined. But in the few following weeks these revolutions consolidated their position. In Paris the republic, though struggling against the twin difficulties caused by revolutionary pressure and the economic crisis, strengthened its hold. Extremists, such as Blanqui and Barbes, who were the leaders of socialist clubs, had tried to prolong the questionable regime of direct government by the people of Paris and to obtain the postponement of elections by organising a ‘journee’ on 16 April. But the government stood firm. The parties who were to fight the electoral campaign had taken shape. There were the conservatives, who invoked social order and religion; the democrats centred on the clubs and a central committee formed by Louis Blanc from the delegation of workers at the Luxembourg, who demanded a ‘social republic’; and the republicans of Le National, who prided themselves on what had already been achieved and advocated liberalism in the widest sense. The elections were held on 23 April according to scrutin de liste, in an atmosphere that varied from calm to enthusiasm; and the results justified the hopes of the third group. Against the other two groups, who mustered about 180-200 deputies, they received a heavy majority out of the 900 seats.
In Italy the victory over the Austrians whetted nationalist feeling, and all over the country, even in Naples and Rome, legions of volunteers were formed to help the Lombards and Venetians. At first Charles Albert hesitated; he feared revolution and distrusted France; but on 25 March, borne on the tide of public opinion, he declared war on Austria, then crossed the Ticino and entered Milan. But so dilatory was his conduct of operations that it was not till early April that he made contact with the Austrians, winning a battle at Goito on 10 April.
The Berlin Landtag voted universal suffrage on 8 April. The governments opposed no obstacles to the meeting of deputies for the preliminary Parliament, which opened at Frankfurt on 31 March. It declared that all citizens, whatever their religion or social status, should vote in the election of the Constituent Assembly; but on 3 April it separated without attempting, in spite of the efforts of a few republicans, to sketch the first draft of a constitution; it merely nominated a committee of fifty to work to this end. In the second fortnight of April or the beginning of May elections were held everywhere, either for the National Assembly or for new Chambers.
In Austria, the imperial government, after some show of resistance, accepted on 11 April the Hungarian Statute that conferred autonomy on the kingdom of St Stephen, with a unitary, liberal and parliamentary constitution. A fortnight afterwards it published the constitution for the rest of the empire, which had been promised on 15 March and was modelled on the Belgian Charter. On 9 May, yielding to the protests of the classes excluded by a restricted suffrage, it extended the vote to all citizens. Then, on 15 May, after a public manifestation had presented a ‘Storm Petition’ (Sturmpetition), it conceded constituent power to the future Chamber and granted Bohemia a National Council.
By the end of April a new Europe, which sought to organise itself according to the principles of democracy and nationality, had been bom.
Yet by summer 1848 the tide had already begun to ebb. Though remaining liberal, Europe repudiated socialism and disorder. Here, too, it took its example from France. For in France the social experiment had been a disappointment and the advanced parties had shown themselves rash and maladroit. The Constituent Assembly, which met for the first time on 5 May, reorganised the government, entrusting executive power to a commission which appointed to its ministries men of the provisional government excluding the socialists. The socialists, angry at losing all share in power and relying on the clubs and the Workers’ Committee from the Luxembourg, attempted a second revolution by a sudden attack on the Assembly on 15 May. They failed and were obliged to relinquish what posts they still held, such as the Prefecture of Police. Their leaders, Raspail, Blanqui, Barbes, Albert, were arrested. By this attack on national sovereignty democratic ideas themselves forfeited some credit. The persistent economic and financial crisis paralysed any democratic reform of taxes and the measures of nationalisation planned by Garnier-Pages; it brought to nothing the trade unions and thwarted the national workshops, Emile Thomas, the director of the latter, had introduced welfare services and a club for civic education, and wished to incorporate the workshops into a vast scheme of industrial planning. But they had been disproportionately swollen by the growing number of unemployed and the continual influx of provincials. The total of workmen exceeded 115,000. There was insufficient work in Paris for a labour force of this size, and idleness led to demoralisation. Either the labour schemes were useless like those of the Minister of Public Works, or they demanded too lengthy preliminary study like those of the Department of Roads and Bridges (Ponts et Chaus-sees), or they raised political problems like Garnier-Pagds’ repurchase of the railways. The Assembly grew uneasy at the heavy, futile expense. Moreover, the revolutionary parties looked to the workshops for an army, the lack of which had led to the fiasco of 15 May, and subversive propaganda of all kinds began to circulate. The conservatives, and the deputies who were opposed in principle to radical solutions for social problems, found it easy to denounce the danger; the government itself took alarm. It was planned to purge the workshops by sending home the provincials who had been improperly enrolled, and to reduce the number of workers in Paris by sending many of them to departments where great work-yards could be opened, as in Sologne. An attempt was made to select names and to form them into the necessary groups; but when, on 21 June, the young workers were informed that they must either leave for the provinces or, if they preferred, join the army, but that in any case they were dismissed from the workshops, the result was that revolt broke out the next day. It was a revolt not so much of men from the workshops (for the majority stood aloof), but of the mass of Parisian workers who were fighting for their ideal of a social republic and the organisation of labour, and, of course, of all the revolutionary elements. The civil war, conducted with relentless cruelty on either side, lasted from 22 to 26 June; the number of dead, though certainly large, cannot be computed. The repressive measures that followed involved the arrest, deportation or imprisonment of many thousands. Because of the crisis, all powers had necessarily been concentrated in the hands of General Cavaignac, and there was no return to the easy-going government that France had known before the ‘June Days’. The executive power was reconstituted in the form of a President of the Council responsible to the Assembly. He closed down the clubs and the revolutionary papers and purged the civil service. The provinces, which had everywhere hastened to support the army of the forces of order, were relieved to feel themselves once more in the hands of a firm government.
The effect on Europe was tremendous. France’s example had spurred on the social movement in industrial countries; now the victory of authority decided governments everywhere to attempt a reaction. In Germany the working-class movement had assumed many guises. Its first and most natural expression lay in the formation of political clubs for working men in Berlin, Breslau and Cologne; as the economic crisis deepened, their fortunes throve. Moreover, thanks to the new freedom of association, trade unions multiplied rapidly, and the idea of forming a central organisation occurred to some of their members; on 19 April the Central Committee of Working Men was founded in Berlin; imitated in Hamburg and Leipzig, it had as its mouthpiece the Sozial-politische Zeitung; it appealed for the support of all working-class communities and it organised meetings. A far more original step was the attempt—curiously enough first made by artisans—to form a class organisation. As a result of an appeal which the working men’s corporations of Leipzig launched on 22 April, meetings were held far and wide, issuing petitions against free enterprise. Then a Preparatory Congress in Hamburg (2-6 June) convoked a ‘Social Parliament’, which held sittings in Frankfurt from 15 July to 5 August and drew up a ‘Charter for Artisans’. It demanded the organisation of trades on the basis of obligatory membership of corporations, with provincial Chambers and a general Chamber for all the trades of Germany; it also required that the number of trades should be limited and that privileges should be restored to the masters. Delegates and petitions came particularly from the textile centres of Silesia, Brandenburg and Westphalia. As a counterblast to this method of organising labour by returning to the medieval system, the factory workers in their turn arranged a ‘General Congress of Workers’ at Frankfurt in August, attended by 300 trade-union delegates, including Viennese, Hungarians and Bohemians. They adopted the principle that a workmen’s league should be founded and that the social problem should be solved by the workers themselves. In this way the working class achieved representation independently of the political bodies, but this representation was characterised, and therefore weakened, by the two types of industrial economy into which Germany was divided. Moreover, just when the movement brought its dual claim before the Frankfurt Parliament, the credit of the working-class movement was compromised in the eyes of the Parliament by its connection, through another branch of the movement, with the revolutionary idea. As in France, the socialists, theorists and men of action could not conceive of the possibility of a social revolution without the accompaniment of a political revolution, and the communist group in Cologne in particular, which founded the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in June, sought to spur the working class on towards this goal. Against the bourgeois Parliament of Frankfurt a congress of the democratic committees that had been formed for the elections was set up under the presidency of a socialist. On 14 June it assembled 234 delegates from 66 towns, establishing a hierarchy of local committees and provincial congresses, with a central committee and a general congress set above them. Its programme entailed a democratic republic to ensure universal happiness, and the fraternity of all peoples. But authority no longer went in fear and trembling. Everywhere the local governments and the federal government suppressed popular agitation, in Berlin in June, in Silesia in July, and above all in Frankfurt and the west in the middle of September. As for the Frankfurt Parliament, it ignored the programmes of these proletarians and artisans. A few working men from Austria had given their support to the Germans, but they counted for little. Before the revolution they had neither attempted nor contrived to achieve any form of organisation; apparently they did not even understand the opportunity offered by this revolution in which they were taking part. They were content with unemployment relief and the public works which the government established. When the ministry, uneasy at the expense and encouraged by the outcome of the ‘June Days’ in France, cut down the wages paid for public work on 19 August, the Viennese workmen attempted to negotiate. Brawls on 23 August provided the occasion for bitter fighting in which they were overwhelmed by the National Guard.
In Austria (ch. xx, pp. 523-9), moreover, the struggle took place on the political, rather than the social, plane. The government was too weak to resist both popular demands and English pressure; for England, anxious to restore peace as soon as possible in Italy, persuaded it to cede Lombardy, under English mediation, to Piedmont in order to retain Venetia. Meanwhile conservative resistance centred in certain court circles and the army, in which the spirit of the old monarchy had taken refuge. From its ranks, without or in spite of the orders of the government, came the first movement towards a restoration of the old order. It was put into effect almost simultaneously by Windischgratz in Bohemia and Radetzky in Italy. Yet Bohemia, which was still patiently awaiting its statute from the imperial parliament, had proved its loyalty by refusing to send its representatives to the Frankfurt Parliament and by holding a congress of delegates from the various Slav peoples on 2 June (cf. ch. IX, pp. 232-3). This congress, while it proclaimed the solidarity of the Slavs and their desire for freedom and equality, represented a declaration of independence as against both Germany and Russia. On 12 June Windischgratz’s soldiers managed to provoke skirmishes with the Prague population, thus enabling the Marshal to overwhelm bourgeois, students and workers in a five-day battle and to establish a state of siege.
In Italy Austrian interests were served by the steady decay of the national movement. In an allocution of 29 April the pope had condemned the war. The enthusiasm of the volunteers came up against the apathy of the country people, the inertia of the authorities who did not bother to supply them, and the semi-hostility of the Piedmont army which did not trouble to embody or use them and abandoned them to local operations in which they gradually ceded Venetian territory before the technical superiority of the Austrians. They lost heart and deserted. King Charles Albert, a very mediocre strategist, pursued private ambitions. He neglected every suggestion made by the other sovereigns for the formation of a military alliance, and in spite of his undertakings he obtained the vote of the local populations for their annexation in June to Piedmont. Finally on 10 July he accepted the results of English mediation. But while he remained motionless, Radetzky was reorganising his troops and on 10 June seized Vicenza, refusing to heed his orders to obtain an armistice and ignoring the concessions that his government made as a result of English intervention. Then, while the smaller towns of Venetia fell one after the other, he took the offensive on 23 July. He routed the Piedmontese army at Custoza on the 25th and, reaching the Adige before its broken remnants, forced Charles Albert to abandon Milan on 5 August in spite of his formal engagements and to sign an armistice on the 9th, by which Lombardy, Venetia and the Duchies were evacuated. Apart from the fact that Venice, though blockaded, still held out, the situation that had existed before March was now restored. In Lombardy-Venetia Radetzky introduced a rule of iron, and occupied Ferrara. The king of Naples profited by this to prorogue the newly elected Chamber on 15 June, until such time as street-fighting with the Neapolitan workers should enable him—as it did in September—to restore power to the army and to a purged civil service. Hopes of a united Italy faded; the domain even of political liberty shrank to central Italy and Piedmont.
A similar drama had involved the Hungarian nation (ch. XX, pp. 523-9). The March movement had inspired the nationalists of other races who owed allegiance to the crown of St Stephen—Serbs from the borders, Roumanians from Transylvania, Slovenes from Carinthia, and especially Croats. At first these movements were in no way separatist, and in April their delegates had hoped that by negotiating with the autonomous government of Budapest they would obtain recognition of their political existence. But they found the Hungarians adamant, and in May their movement therefore took on a democratic, anti-Magyar complexion— the democratic trend being particularly marked with the Serbs and the Roumanians. In their assemblies at Karlovitz, Blassendorf and Zagreb they demanded and proclaimed their autonomy; they would be directly connected with Vienna, feudal rights would be abolished, and large properties would be broken up. The Croats, who knew from long experience how stubborn the Hungarians could be, supplied a leader for their joint enterprise, an officer from the frontier named Jellacic, who had been appointed Ban of Croatia by Vienna and on whom the Zagreb Assembly now conferred dictatorial powers (9 July). He organised Croatia into a separate province. Meanwhile the Hungarian Chamber, which differed little in its social composition from the former Diet, had met on 4 July and begun, on Kossuth’s instigation, to build up a national army. Civil war was imminent. Vienna would have no difficulty in playing off these nationalist movements against one another. Victorious over the Italians, Vienna annulled the laws which had been voted by the Hungarians, who also lost the support of the Reichstag. Early in September the struggle began. From south-east, south and west, the Slav armies of the empire invaded the Hungarian provinces. Kossuth assumed the presidency of a ‘Committee of Defence’; he enforced laws that lacked the emperor’s approval; so that Hungary acted as though she were an independent state. When, on 23 September, the crowd murdered the Imperial High Commissioner, the possibility of conciliation faded. It was rendered still more remote by a further complication in Vienna. The radicals and workers planned to oppose the departure of troops for the Hungarian front, and as the result of an insurrection that broke out on 6 October, the Minister of War was assassinated and the emperor and his ministers fled to Olmutz. But these popular elements could not stand against the army unaided. Windischgratz marched on Vienna and in three days (29-31 October) he restored authority and subjected the city to a frenzy of repression. The submission of Hungary was only a matter of weeks.
In the international domain diplomacy reasserted its rights. England, for whom the freedom of the Sound was both a necessity and a tradition, could not allow German control at this point; she reacted vigorously to the Prussian action, mediated and imposed an armistice that forced Prussia to withdraw her troops and to submit the dispute to an international conference, held on 30 August (cf. p. 265).
Thus by the end of summer 1848 the revolution had everywhere been halted and often beaten back. Social revolution had been averted, and the advanced parties defeated. Public authority had been restored and sometimes—in the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, in Vienna and Prague—even assumed by the military. The last months of the year were everywhere taken up in the elaboration of constitutions. Though liberal concessions were not yet repudiated, the experience of these critical months had led the constituent assemblies to organise the executive power on a firm footing. The French constitution was drawn up with care and discussed at length. Protracted debates examined in detail the great political problems, which were solved not so much by practical experience as by principles. The resulting Constitution of 14 November 1848 was entirely democratic in spirit: popular sovereignty was expressed in the election, by universal suffrage, both of the single Legislative Assembly and of the President of the Republic; all the rights of the individual and all freedoms, including freedom of education, were ensured and guaranteed; ministerial responsibility entailed a parliamentary regime, and the payment of parliamentary expenses meant that each and every man could become a representative. But after the experience of the ‘June Days’, decentralisation was abandoned for fear of anarchy, and the right to work for fear of socialism. The makers of the constitution had wished to establish a strong government and hoped to avoid all danger of personal power by limiting the President’s functions to four years and by preventing his immediate re-election. The Assembly, deferring to the rights of the nation, put the new constitution into operation as soon as possible. The presidential election was immediately set under way; it took place on 10 December. The results were astounding. The progressive candidates received only a small number of votes—Raspail, the socialist, 40,000, Ledru-Rollin, the democrat, 400,000. The real fight was between General Cavaignac, the republican candidate, and Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, a nephew of the great Napoleon. The prince who was unknown by the country and yet, thanks to the name he bore, had been elected deputy by several departments in June and September, received five-and-a-half million votes, while Cavaignac received less than a million and a half. Bourgeois, peasants, workers, had all voted for Louis Napoleon; the conservatives, who had made a pact with him for the defence of order and religion, supplied a ministry composed of men who were not Bonapartists, led by Odilon Barrot and Falloux. France, who nine months earlier had acclaimed the Republic, now entrusted her destiny to non-republicans. The Assembly, weakened and discredited, dared not continue with its task; it hurriedly passed a few laws and on 9 February decided to dissolve in the spring. The prince’s election, which throughout Europe was regarded as an emphatic victory for the forces of order, spurred on governments to take resolute measures.
In Germany by contrast constitution-making was a novelty. Organic laws had to be given not only to the different states of the centre and the north, but to the German Federation, and often this task was carried out in an inconsistent and contradictory manner.
In the west, where the bourgeoisie was already familiar with the working of parliamentary government, the problem was easy: the regime had only to be guided towards democracy. In the centre and the east, on the other hand, the feudal and monarchical structure still stood firm and the state had always belonged to aristocratic classes who were determined to defend their interests. The Prussian Assembly met on 22 May. The left-wing parties were predominant. Popular agitation, which in June culminated in several days of insurrection, drove the Assembly to undertake democratic measures and to build the new state by demolishing the ideas and institutions of the ancien regime. But by July the right wing was reorganising its forces—the great landowners, Lutheran clergy, royal entourage and army, all deliberately looking for support in the countryside. The conflict broke out over the Chamber’s desire to expel from the army those officers who were hostile to the new regime. Heartened by the example of Windischgratz, the king entrusted the command of his Berlin troops to a determined general named Wrangel, who harshly suppressed the working-class agitations in September. Then he replied to a motion of sympathy with the Viennese, which was voted on 31 October, by appointing a reactionary ministry led by von Brandenburg and by transferring the Assembly to the provinces in the middle of November. The populace did not stir, and public opinion seemed favourable. The king therefore went further. On 5 December he pronounced the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and himself granted a constitution guaranteeing these basic rights—equality before the law, universal suffrage, two legislative chambers, with the right of dissolution residing with the king, and the principle of permanent taxation. This constitution fulfilled the wishes of the country, as was shown by the January elections. The other German monarchies fell into line. Liberalism, if it had triumphed, triumphed only at the expense of democracy and popular sovereignty.
The Frankfurt Parliament, which opened on 18 May, was an assembly of about 800 members. It was in no way representative of the lower classes but was principally composed of intellectuals, who combined a conscientious earnestness and rigidity of purpose with a complete lack of political experience. Their complicated procedure still further delayed their work, which was held up by endless debates, at a time when the essential condition of success was to exploit immediately the nation’s enthusiasm and the government’s confusion. The Assembly broke up into a number of shifting parties. Not till 30 June did it decide to entrust the provisional government to an Imperial Vicar, the Archduke John, who did not in fact take over his functions till the end of July. The Assembly then began to publish its aims, formulating a policy which it lacked the means to put into practice. It wished to create a German army and fleet, to annex to the empire all countries where German was spoken, to exercise control over the separate governments, and by centralisation to give uniformity to the national institutions and economy. Only after this, on 19 October, did it begin to discuss those very institutions whose formation was its real purpose. The fundamental rights that would constitute the German common law were quickly decided on and promulgated at the end of the year without being submitted to the states for their approval. On 27 October the Parliament, carried away by its own nationalist fervour, declared that no part of the German empire could be joined to another state except by personal union. But in the meantime the victory of authority in Austria and Prussia meant that they had no intention of being either ousted or mastered, and was calculated to strengthen the resistance of governments whose attitude towards popular movements had already hardened. The imperial government in Vienna was in fact consolidating its position (cf. ch. XX, pp. 525-6). Troops from Moravia, Styria and Galicia, under Windischgratz’s command, flung back the Hungarians on 15 December, reoccupied Budapest on 4 January 1849 and won a final victory on 26 February. Meanwhile Prince Felix Schwarzenberg had, on 21 November, formed a ministry of men of real ability, such as Stadion and Bach. On the 27th he laid before the Reichstag his programme for the reconstruction of the state on a unified, though liberal, basis, and on 2 December he replaced the feeble emperor by young Francis Joseph. Like the king of Prussia, his government was confronted with a Reichstag which since 22 July had been prudently working its way towards the establishment of a federative, democratic constitution. Like the king, too, the government transferred the Reichstag from the insurrectionary capital, Vienna, to Moravia, and then pronounced its dissolution, granting a constitution on 4 March 1849 based at one and the same time on the unity of the empire, national equality and a form of representation. It was supplemented by decrees that regularised the abolition of feudalism, created municipalities and reformed the judicial system. At the same time the government made sure of Russia’s diplomatic support.
Thanks to an unfortunate decision by Charles Albert, the Austrian government gained a further triumph in Italy. Incited by the democrats, the king of Piedmont had denounced the armistice on 12 March and recommenced hostilities. But the single battle of Novara on the 24th was enough to defeat his armies, force his abdication and impose a new armistice whose severity was only slightly mitigated by the efforts of French diplomacy.
In these conditions the Frankfurt Parliament was hardly likely to make its decisions unimpeded. The work of constitution-making, as it proceeded, raised the question of how the territory of the Reich should be defined and consequently whether all or part of Austria should be included. In February the parties regrouped into ‘great Germans’ and Tittle Germans’. The majority resented the authoritarian tendencies shown by Austria, the negotiations that had already been begun with her by the governments of Bavaria and Wurttemberg, and her avowed intention of dominating the new Germany as she had dominated the old.
The great decisions on the country’s institutions were taken at the end of January 1849 and in February, and on 27 March the constitution was completed. On 28 March King Frederick William was elected emperor of Germany by the votes of 290 out of the 538 deputies present. Prussia’s supporters had won the day, exploiting a sudden catastrophe that seemed to overwhelm Austria. Galvanised by Kossuth, inspired with new vigour, the Hungarians had driven back the Austrians on three fronts, beaten Windischgratz on 7 April and liberated their territory in a month. On 14 April the Chamber announced the deposition of the Habsburgs and proclaimed Hungarian independence. The whole recovery of Austria was in danger. Schwarzenberg did not hesitate; he appealed to the tsar. On 1 May he was able to make an official announcement of Russian support and in the course of the month three Russian armies marched into the empire. In Germany, too, Austrian fortunes had happily been restored: on 27 April Frederick William, faced by the choice between German liberalism and the Prussian tradition, had scornfully refused the crown offered him by the Frankfurt Parliament, dismissed his own Parliament and revised the electoral law.
All these simultaneous events—the election of a conservative majority in France, the rejection by the king of Prussia of the German crown, Schwarzenberg’s appeal to the tsar, the collapse of Piedmont, the landing of French troops in the Roman state—showed that the revolution was on the wane. In some countries a few weeks were enough to mark its end. The Frankfurt Parliament emptied rapidly. First the Austrian deputies, then the Prussians, were recalled by their rulers, and the liberals returned home in discouragement. There remained only the republican minority, which vainly tried to put into operation a constitution that had been rejected by a king. Ever since the end of the year the democratic party had been forming ‘March associations’; it now sought to enforce republican unity by means of a new revolution. But the risings in Saxony, the Palatinate and the Grand Duchy of Baden (early May) were crushed by the Prussian army, and the Parliament, which had taken refuge in Stuttgart, was dispersed on 18 June.
In Italy the disappointment of the nationalists and the inability of the liberal governments to grapple with the economic crisis had stirred the revolutionary movement to new life at the end of the year (cf. ch. XXI, p. 564). In Piedmont the electoral victory of the radicals had brought to office the governments of Gioberti and Rattazzi and resulted in the disastrous renewal of the Austrian war. In Rome a genuine revolution had led to the assassination of Rossi, the President of the Council, on 15 November 1848, and the pope, faced by further disorders, fled to Gaeta on the 24th. In Tuscany, while the radicals, with Guerrazzi, took over the reins of government, the grand duke similarly decided on flight. From all sides Mazzini’s supporters flocked to this island of democracy in central Italy; they attempted to organise a common Constituent Assembly and finally proclaimed a republic in Rome and Florence. But the doom of these democracies was sounded at Novara. The Catholic powers discussed how best to restore the pope, while the latter appealed to Austria, which was beginning to occupy the Legations. Resolving to forestall and restrict Austrian action, the French government sent out an expeditionary corps, which reached Civita-Vecchia on 25 April. A premature offensive by General Oudinot ended in failure, and Rome fell only on 1 July, after a three months’ siege. Reinstated by Oudinot, the cardinals exacted reprisals which the French government was unable to mitigate. The Tuscan republic had been overthrown by Austrian troops at the end of May while the king of Naples reconquered Sicily in April and early May. The political revolution, like the nationalist, was over in Italy. Only Piedmont remained liberal. Shortly afterwards Hungary succumbed. The Russian and Austrian troops needed a campaign of only two-and-a-half months to bring about Kossuth’s downfall and an unconditional surrender at Vilagos on 13 August. Venice, after being blockaded for six months and bombarded for a month and a half, yielded on 22 August. This series of victories enabled Schwarzenberg to drop the mask of liberalism: the Austrian constitution was suspended.
In France and Germany the revolution had come to a standstill. After lively disagreement with the government, the French Constituent Assembly had separated. The financial and economic crisis was over and the problem of unemployment had been solved, but business was still slack and would remain so till 1852. The republican party, bearing the responsibility for all these misfortunes, was severely defeated in the elections of 13 May: the party of order, which represented a coalition of conservatives, monarchists and Catholics, won 450 out of 750 seats. But the government party also lost ground to the left. In order to fight the presidential campaign the democratic elements had united to form a ‘Mountain’ party, which remained in existence and whose propaganda Barrot’s ministry was unable to check. Receiving all the left-wing votes, they mustered about 200 seats in the new Chamber. In Paris they had been particularly successful; and encouraged by this result, their leaders were unwise enough to think that another ‘journee’ in Paris would bring them back to power, and incautious enough to attempt a coup de force on 13 June. The people did not rise; the party was virtually decapitated by numerous arrests; Ledru-Rollin, Considerant and Felix Pyat joined Louis Blanc in England. Repressive laws followed as a matter of course—the suspension for a year of the right of association and the definition of new press offences. Shortly afterwards, on 31 October, the president freed himself from monarchist tutelage by forming a ministry composed of his own men; and, while sedulously keeping alive his popularity with the people and the army, he worked swiftly to secure the reins of government in his own hand (cf. ch. XVII, p. 444).
Meanwhile, with the Loi Falloux (15 March 1850) the majority realised one of the principal points in their programme—freedom of education. This meant not so much a liberal reform, as that the church gained effective control of primary education and received a number of privileges in secondary education. The law combined with universal suffrage to give the clergy a political importance of the first order. Alarmed by the success of the Mountain party in the by-elections of March and April, the Assembly severely restricted universal suffrage: the law of 31 May 1850, by imposing rigorous residential conditions, reduced the number of electors by three million—or a third, and a press law of 16 July reintroduced caution-money and stamp-duty for newspapers. But the majority, though united in their struggle against the republicans, could not agree on the restoration of a monarchy. Louis Philippe’s death on 26 August 1850 prepared the way for a reconciliation or ‘fusion’ between the two royal families, but the Comte de Chambord refused to grant any concession to liberal principles, and reconciliation was therefore postponed. Henceforward, what with Legitimists, Orleanists, Republicans and the growing party of the president, there was no effective majority. The comprehensive democratic regime of 1848 thus reverted to a regime of supervised liberty.
In Germany the initiative had passed from peoples to governments (ch. XIX, pp. 498-503). In Prussia the elections of August 1849 gave the right sufficient power to enable the king to alter the constitution at the end of the year and to re-establish entailed properties, and then, in 1850, to change the Upper House into a House of Lords. The organisation of municipalities, the recall of the provincial estates and a law on ministerial responsibility also marked a return to tradition. Following Bavaria’s example, the other sovereigns prorogued or suspended their parliaments in order to have their hands free in dealing with the question of national organisation. Partly out of ambition and conviction, partly out of a desire to rally the support of his subjects, Frederick William was in fact trying to discharge on a governmental level the task that had defeated the representatives of the people. Strengthened by his vigorous repression of the ‘Constitutional Campaign’, he signed an agreement with Saxony and Hanover on 26 May, known as the Three Kings’ Alliance. It laid before the other governments a plan for national unification that contained a number of the ideas of the Frankfurt Parliament, but in which princes and states replaced the executive and the second chamber. Bavaria and Wurttemberg, which were already conducting negotiations with Schwarzenberg, declined at once; the rest accepted in August; the heads of the liberal parties had given their support in June.
It was essential to act quickly in order to reap advantage from Austria’s difficulties; but it was not till 15 October that the Administrative Council of the Union convoked the electors for 31 January 1850, in order to elect an assembly to which the constitution drafted on 20 March would be submitted. Austria was thus given time to prepare her riposte. She agreed with Bavaria and Wurttemberg to consider other suggestions for the reform of the Confederation; she organised a ‘Munich Convention’ on 27 February 1850; and she attempted to undermine Prussian influence with the other princes. In this way she gained the breathing-space necessary for her own internal reorganisation; debating-time was occupied by arranging for the Imperial Vicar to be replaced by a provisional Austro-Prussian commission, which took over its duties in December 1849. When elections to the Union Parliament were mooted, first the king of Saxony (on 25 October) and then the king of Hanover refused and withdrew from the Union. The Parliament, when it met, consisted merely of representatives of Prussia and twenty-six small satellites, and even then the constitution was not agreed on till late in April. Frederick William did not dare put it into operation. Profiting by these hesitations, Schwarzenberg went forward; he convoked according to ancient custom a plenary session of the Confederation and organised a ‘Limited Committee’ of the Diet until such time as it was reformed. The question suddenly became one of practical urgency on 1 September 1850, when a revolution in Hesse-Kassel brought about the expulsion of the elector from Kassel. The king of Prussia was by law entrusted with the task of restoring order to this state of the Union; the Diet Committee, on the other hand, decreed federal execution and requested Bavaria to undertake it. It seemed as though civil war were imminent. Schwarzenberg, relying on energetic Russian support and that of the other four German kings, presented Prussia with an ultimatum, and Frederick William had to suffer the cruel humiliation, at Olmutz on 29 November 1850, of accepting the evacuation of Hesse and Holstein and the dissolution of the shrunken Union. Austria consented only to discuss the reform of the Confederation at conferences of the princes which were held at Dresden from 23 December 1850 to 15 May 1851. As no results were reached, all agreed to revive the old institutions. The Diet recommenced its sittings on 23 August 1851. The German governments, freed from the fear of revolution, wished to hear no more of national unity.
By this date the French Republic, which was already the only survivor of the revolution, had only a few more months to live (ch. XVII, pp. 444-5). A conflict between the president and the Assembly, which had been latent since autumn 1850, was intensified in January 1851, when the president withdrew the command of the Paris troops from General Changamier, a nominee of the royalist majority. With some skill the President had publicly accused the Assembly of impotence and reactionary tendencies. Public opinion, fearing a return to anarchy, was agreed that the president should be kept in power, but the Assembly refused on 19 July 1851 to revise the constitution in such a way as to allow for his re-election. From that moment Louis Napoleon’s mind was made up: he would maintain his position by force. He got ready his weapons in the autumn, cleverly putting the Assembly in the wrong by proposing the restoration of universal suffrage, which it rejected on 13 November. During the night of 2 December 1851 a presidential decree dissolved the Assembly, provided for the arrest of its principal leaders, and submitted to the country a plebiscitary formula that gave him power to revise the constitution. In theory the Republic was to last until the proclamation of the Empire on 2 December 1852. But in fact, with the coup d'etat and the constitution of 14 January 1852 it had already perished.
Sooner or later, in every country and in every respect, the revolution encountered failure. Yet the turmoil, brief though it had been, left the Europe of 1851 very different from the Europe of 1847.
Among the countries where the political question alone had arisen, the most obvious benefit was reaped by those states which did not undergo a revolution: Belgium gained a reduction of property qualifications for the franchise to their constitutional minimum and an administrative reform; the Netherlands gained a constitution reinforced by provincial autonomy; and both countries achieved a parliamentary regime. The monarchies of northern Europe became constitutional, Denmark by the constitution of 1849, Sweden by the transformation of the Diet in 1851. While keeping her title of Helvetic Confederation, Switzerland had become a federal state; memories of the civil war swiftly faded away, public opinion united in resisting foreign undertakings, and economic development was launched on an international scale: her national independence was thereby strengthened (cf. ch. IX, pp. 223-4). Switzerland had found a compromise solution between the democratic freedom of the cantons and the wider extension of the central power; she was to become a kind of laboratory for political experiments. Even in France, though the coup d'etat of 1851 and the constitution of 1852 marked a step back from the liberal parliamentary regime of the July Monarchy, permanent gains were represented by universal suffrage and the principle of popular sovereignty. As for England (ch. XIII), the crushing of Chartism and of Irish agitation emptied the political arena; John Russell’s efforts to bring about electoral reform were met by indifference, both among the public and in his own party; the country was absorbed by its economic, social and religious transformation. Throughout Europe political evolution was marking time; an aura of impropriety seemed to hang about the system of personal freedom and parliamentary government; everywhere the churches and the faithful had rallied to conservatism.
In the countries where the political question was complicated by nationalism, the results of the revolution varied.
In the Italian peninsula, the memory of a first concerted effort at liberation combined with accumulated hatred of the ‘Tedeschi’ to foster the myth of national unity. Clearly it was necessary to reconstitute the unsuccessful ideologies on new foundations, but the newly won experience was hard to assimilate, and Mazzini’s ideas were destined for some time to be at odds with the aims of the Risorgimento. Political reaction was triumphant: in Naples, where it assumed a grotesquely cruel form, it relied on its own resources; in the Duchies and the Legations it was supported by Austrian garrisons; in Rome it was slightly tempered by the presence of French troops; and in Lombardy-Venetia it issued in military reprisals. Only in Piedmont, where Victor Emmanuel II had maintained the Statuto, did freedom find refuge. Piedmont became, in fact, the asylum for patriots and liberals; it was embarking on a period of economic modernisation; and, a fact of decisive importance, Cavour entered the ministry in May 1850. But these were still no more than hints of what the future had in store.
In Germany the national movement, after all its vicissitudes, died down until after the Crimean War (cf. ch. XIX). But unity had existed, and the memory of unity remained. It was plain, too, that unity might be achieved by other than parliamentary means, and certain circles of the Prussian army, humiliated by the capitulation of Olmutz, thought wistfully of unification centred on Prussia. All the states had become constitutional, and all recognised universal suffrage. But the principal novelty was that with the constitution of 1848 and 1850—a constitution that had been voluntarily granted from above—Prussia had ceased to be an absolute monarchy. She set an example in another respect: she limited the workings of universal suffrage by a class system and used the principle of a permanent tax cunningly to counterbalance the rights of Parliament. This system was imitated by the rest of Germany: by abolishing fundamental rights in December 1848 the Diet restored to governments the right to amend legislation and to set up exceptional courts; reaction had discovered a politico-religious philosophy.
The Austrian empire underwent still greater changes (cf. ch. XX). By its victory over Prussia and the support it received from the southern states, its external influence on Germany seemed to have increased considerably, while in Italy it possessed a strong hold on the centre of the country. Moreover, Austria was strengthened by her new internal structure. The constitution granted on 4 March 1849 had abolished natural as well as historic rights. Then the army was made directly dependent on the emperor’s Cabinet, the ministers became responsible to the sovereign alone and, on 31 December 1851, the constitution was suspended. Schwarzenberg and his team had constructed a centralised state. It had a uniform administration based on Circles, which divided up the provinces and were dependent on ministries, and upon village municipalities. It could boast a uniform judicial system, which was independent of the civil service and was publicly administered. It was strengthened by its close understanding with the church, which received formal expression in the concordat of 1855. In short, it was a modern state such as Joseph II had dreamed of. Unfortunately Schwarzenberg, who had created it and could have given it permanence, died on 5 April 1852.
The positive results of the revolution in the social field were far more considerable. But the situation of the working class showed little improvement. Fear of socialism had checked the policy of social reform, while the transformation of the economic regime had not yet gone far enough to reveal its effects and the dangerous disequilibrium that would ensue. On all sides everything that might indicate or encourage socialism had been swept away; thus in France the right to work had, in particular, been eliminated. A policy of public assistance (that is, cheap accommodation, charitable societies, loans to trade unions) replaced a social policy. In Germany the Frankfurt Parliament was unable to provide a sequel to the two Labour Charters. In England a first piece of social legislation, the Ten Hours’ Bill, had been passed in 1850. But the question-mark loomed up everywhere: inquiries were opened on working conditions in France and in England; Napoleon III was to give special thought to the position of the workers. The communists put forward the class struggle as their explanation and solution; but as yet they met with no response. The revolutionary legislation, however, had everywhere freed workers from the bondage of tradition; the corporations were destroyed; economic individualism, with the blessing of the law, would supply the new industrial regime with its necessary human material. In short, the 1848 revolution either set in motion or hastened the proletarianisation of the masses.
But the agrarian problem concerned a much larger number of men, and here the effect of the revolution was deeper and more beneficial. The different assemblies had abolished the feudal system, and the forces of reaction dared not return to it. This affected half Europe, for Russia remained apart. In Germany the reform was first established in the west and then, spreading to the centre and the east, was brought about almost automatically by the indemnification of landlords according to conditions determined by local laws. In Prussia the law that allowed for the cession and transfer of Silesian tenures did away with feudal dues. In the Austrian empire (p. 530) the task was the greater because it had not already been begun as in Prussia. No compensation was owing for personal servitude, and the indemnity for the redemption of dues from land was handled differently according to the separate provinces, though everywhere in a liberal manner. In Hungary, where the indemnity had been charged to the state by the revolutionary government, this charge was upheld. In Galicia money had been advanced by the province; in the rest of the kingdom the law of 4 March 1849 settled the principles of valuation and the method of payment; forced labour service was calculated as a third of a working day, while payments in kind were worked out on the land-survey assessment—half to be paid by the peasant and half by the province. No doubt the land problem—the dividing up of large properties into small peasant holdings—remained to be settled, in the Austrian empire, in central and southern Italy and especially in Brandenburg and Prussia. But at least the individual had been set free. 1848 did for Europe what 1789 had done for France. The abolition of serfdom and of all checks on individual freedom enabled both worker and peasant to move about at will; and emigration was now to become a perennial relief both against chronic over-population and temporary crises. Such was the beginning of that dissemination of Europeans which was to change the face of the earth.
If the 1848 revolution is considered in the light of these results, its meaning in the evolution of Europe becomes more easily comprehensible. It brought about the end of a world. Being the practical application of an ideology that sprang from the French Revolution and the First Empire, it can be said, by its failure, to have exhausted that ideology. Thus it is an end rather than a beginning, for subsequent events were the fruit of different ideas. To connect its convulsions with the later evolution of Europe is artificial and arbitrary. We must wait for the 1914-18 war before we see a Europe fashioned according to its plan of republican and parliamentary freedom and the universal principle of nationalities, and before we witness some attempt at that brotherly league of free peoples of which it dreamed. After the lapse of a generation Europe reassumed, by means of its legend, the role of guide and exemplar.
It would be false to attempt a systematic explanation of so complex a phenomenon, the survey of which has shown so many contradictions. An explanation that is purely political and ideological can account for the ideals that were pursued, the motives of those who began the revolution, and the reasons for its failure. But such an explanation is too narrow; it looks on social upheavals as surges of revolutionary extremism; it fails to take into consideration the huge social and economic structure that underlies political parties and is sometimes visible beneath all their commotions. An economic theory that explains everything by mass movements and places the revolution in the trough of a wave of depression, with its normal accompaniment of popular suffering, cannot tell us why countries like England and Belgium, where social reasons for revolution were strongest, had no revolution at all; it obscures the peculiar individual character of each revolution. Finally the Marxist doctrine, which conceives of the 1848 revolution as a first experiment in the class war and a first effort by the proletariat to cast off the bourgeois yoke, gives too general an interpretation to untypical, localised events (the ‘June Days’ in France, the Peasants’ Revolt in Baden and the ‘Constitutional Campaign’ of 1849); it forgets that the revolution was everywhere the work of bourgeois intellectuals; above all, it anticipates future conditions by postulating an industrial proletariat, which in fact existed only in England and did not exist in Paris, which was the centre and source of the revolution. History cannot be content with systems; it demands richer, more complex patterns. A simple explanation is too simple to be true. To disentangle all the complex strands of the past, we need varying approaches, flexible attitudes, diverse analyses.