The Revolutions of 1848 in France

From Academic Kids

The Revolutions
of 1848
Revolution in France
Revolution in Habsburg areas
Revolution in Germany
Revolution in Italy
Revolution in Poland
The Revolution of 1848 in France
Up to 1848 in France

As 1848 began, liberals awaited the death of King Louis Philippe, expecting revolution after his death. As it happened, he died naturally in 1850 after the expected post-mortem revolution had burned itself out.

As a quid pro quo for the return of the Bourbons after the Battle of Waterloo, the people had been given a charter of liberties, now dubiously maintained. Even though France had a free press and trial by jury, only landholders were permitted to vote. This alienated the middle class from the ruling class.

Alexis de Tocqueville had observed, "We are sleeping on a volcano . . . A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon." Lacking the property qualifications to vote, the middle classes were about to erupt, tired of hearing Prime Minister Guizot say, "Get rich, then you can vote." Corruption stretched from the Prime Minister to small shopkeepers with dishonest weights.

The French middle class watched the changes in Britain with interest. When Britain's Reform Act of 1832 extended enfranchisement to anybody paying £10 or more per month (previously the vote was restricted to landholders), France's free press took interest.

While the working class was perhaps slightly better off than Britain's, nominal laws against child labor were routinely flouted; unemployment threw skilled workers down to the proletariat level.

The year 1846 saw a financial crisis and bad harvests. The year 1847 saw a depression. A poor railroad system hindered aid efforts. Peasant rebellions were bloodily put down. Perhaps a third of Paris was on the dole. "Dangerous" writers proliferated such as Louis Blanc ("The right to work") and Pierre Joseph Proudhon ("Property is theft!", "God is evil"); secret societies sprung up.

A banquet was planned for Paris's 12th arrondissement (the restive Left Bank), moved to the right bank with a price increase, first set for Sunday, February 20 1848, moved to the next Tuesday so the working people could not watch, surrounded by walls.

The planned crashing of this party was canceled. Law and order would prevail, though the students prepared for battle, with firearms. Still, nothing happened that Tuesday. But revolution was inevitable.

In February, Prime Minister Guizot resigned. Soon after, King Louis Phillipe abdicated.

Upon hearing the news of Guizot's resignation, a large crowd gathered outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. An officer ordered the crowd not to pass, but people in the front of the crowd were being pushed by the rear. The officer ordered his men to fix bayonets, probably wishing to avoid shooting. In what is widely regarded as an accident, a soldier discharged his musket, which resulted in the rest of the soldiers firing into the crowd. Fifty two were killed.

Paris was soon a barricaded city. Omnibuses were turned into barricades; thousands of trees were felled. Men made lead balls. Fires were set. Angry citizens began converging on the royal palace.

The King escaped to England. Compared to 1789, it wasn't that bloody.

The provisional government, called the Second Republic, was wildy disorganized. After roughly a month, conservatives began to oppose the new government, using the rallying cry order, which the messy new republic admittedly lacked.

In the year 1848, 479 newspapers were founded. There was also a 54% decline in the number of businesses in Paris, as most of the wealthy had left; there was a corresponding decline in the luxury trade and credit was unobtainable. National workshops of the "Right to Work" were set up, which failed to prevent further social disorder.

The government set out to establish an economy and provide social services. New taxes were passed on the landed class, peasants, and small farmers, with the taxes intended to pay for social services for the unemployed in the cities. The taxes were widely ignored, and the new government lost the support of rural France. Hard-working rural farmers did not want to pay for unemployed city people and their new "Right to Work," which ballooned the population of Paris with far more job seekers than there were jobs. Some jobs were provided, such as building roads and re-planting trees, but it was clear the demands of government were far more pressing than the revolutionaries had forseen.

The National Workshops and the "Right to Work" were later abandoned. Some enraged workers picked up guns, later leading to the "June Days Uprising." Before, workers and petit bourgeoisie had fought together, but now, lines were tighter.

Universal male suffrage was enacted on March 2, giving France nine million new voters. Like all other European nations, women did not have the right to vote.

But, as in 1830, the republican-socialist party had set up a rival government at the Hotel de Ville, including L Blanc, A Marrast, Flocon, and the workman Albert, which bid fair to involve discord and civil war. But this time the Palais Bourbon was not victorious over the Hotel de Ville. It had to consent to a fusion of the two bodies, in which, however, the predominating elements were the moderate republicans. It was doubtful what would eventually be the policy of the new government. One party, seeing that in spite of the changes in the last sixty years of all political institutions, the position of the people had not been improved, demanded a reform of society itself, the abolition of the privileged position of property, the only obstacle to equality, and as an emblem hoisted the red flag. The other party wished to maintain society on the basis of its ancient institutions, and rallied round the tricolore.

The beginnings of counter-revolution

The coalition finally splintered as the people's revolution turned against the people it liberated. A people's banquet was planned in late May; its planners were promptly arrested. The Assembly declared that National Workshops were to be dropped, and rumors of a worker rebellion later led to police action and over 1,400 killed (The June Days uprising). Many survivors were sent to the French colony of Algeria. To the propertied classes, the June Days uprising was something of a red scare. Others felt differently. Karl Marx saw the "June Days" uprising as strong evidence of a class conflict. Many of the participants were of the petite bourgeoisie, outnumbering the worker classes about two to one. In contrast, some workers were represented disproportionate to their population in society.

The end of the Revolutions in France

Politics continued to tilt to the right, and the end of the Revolution in France. Louis Napoleon's family name of Napoleon rallied support, and after sweeping the elections he returned to the old order, purging republicans and returning the "vile multitude" to its former place.

A coup in 1851 was crushed. Cells of resistance surfaced, but were put down, and the Second Republic wasévolution française de 1848 Next: The Habsburg areas


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