Analyse the causes of the 1848 revolution in France Essay
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Analyse the causes of the 1848 revolution in France.
With the ascension of Louis-Phillipe to the throne in July 1830, after the abdication of Charles X he appeared to have many factors in his favour that would seem to warrant a successful monarch and long standing regime. However, after 14 years the monarch, Louis-Phillipe, felt forced into a position where he had to abdicate, why then did the regime collapse so suddenly and unexpectedly? Especially after it had overcome so many early difficulties to establish itself in the minds of the French as an acceptable form of government.
I believe the answer lies in a number of factor/causes.
Long Term Causes
Notably, one of the greatest weaknesses of the monarchy was the fact that Louis-Phillipe could claim no right to the throne of France. The French Tradition concerning the crown was that of heredity right, and had occurred so for centuries, being based, it was claimed, on the will of God. Therefore, although disliked no one could dispute the right of the Bourbons to occupy the throne of France. Louis-Phillipe had no such divine right as there was no belief that the legitimate monarch should be replaced by one of his relatives if he became unpopular. On what basis, then, was he king? There only appear to be three basis’s for a regime; hereditary right, the will of the people or the force of arms. Louis-Phillipe fulfilled none of these criteria. Indeed, the Orleaninst Monarchy was merely a useful compromise clutched at by desperate land owners who feared for their welfare in context of the future. The only way such forms of government can survive is if they manage to continue convincing their nation that they have the moral right to be in power and in so doing inspire confidence in their supporters.
Other long-term causes of Louis-Phillipe eventual downfall can be traced to his policies, both foreign and domestic. What must be remembered is that for the previous five hundred years France had been the most powerful nation in Europe, a heroic and glorious past in which the French placed great importance in. This had ended with napoleons defeat at the hands of the fourth coalition of European powers who had felt that their safety had been placed in question. This, napoleons final defeat, had occurred fifteen years previous and sufficient time had lapsed for the French people to yearn a return to their glorious past and a reinstatement of their empire.
However, Louis-Phillipe thought differently, ignoring his past (as a young man he was a refugee abroad which led him to view active/aggressive foreign policy with suspicion) and his natural caution and desire for peace, one has to take into account the fact that the other major European Powers were determined not to let France endanger the security of the other European states again. The king realized that it was likely that any provocation the Powers would attempt to impose their will upon France as they had done in 1815. He recognised the precarious position he was in therefore his highest priority was to avoid a general European war where he was sure to be opposed by Austria, Russia, Prussia and Britain. Evidence of this opinion came in the form of the Belgium question.
Belgium previously of the French empire had been annexed to the Netherlands in an attempt to create a buffer to future French expansion. The Belgium’s were not happy with this situation and so rebelled. They were successful. There was general fear throughout Europe that France would then again annex Belgium, but this did not happen. France did not intervene even though Louis-Phillipe’s son was offered the crown. Instead, France worked closely with Britain to ensure the independence of Belgium. Later in Spain there was a power struggle, an area considered to be Frances sphere of influence, but again Louis-Phillipe tried to gain no unfair advantage in the area. This behaviour of the French king was abnormal in the eyes of the French and wholly disappointing as again and again he refused to gain international advantage.
In the late 1830’s a foreign crisis emerged that would make the French people feel more than disappointment. The Ottoman Empire was an empire that was struggling. The only way it managed to maintain its control was by establishing local rulers who had relative freedom as long as they respected the suzerainty of the Sultan in Constantinople. However, one leader emerged, Mehemet Ali of Egypt that had almost as much power as the Sultan himself. This pleased the French as Ali was a client of theirs using a lot of their technology and intelligence. The European powers were displease with this and wanted to limit Ali’s powers. Thiers, the leading minister, began an obstructionist policy hoping that Ali would resolve matters in his own way, Thiers even implied it would be an issue that France would go to was over.
Unfortunately Britain called Frances bluff as Britain and Russia forced Ali to accept their terms. Louis-Phillipe was humiliated as he wasn’t prepared to risk a war with Britain and Russia; he dismissed Thiers and had to accept national humiliation. This specific incident led to enormous displeasure and discontent among the French people. They felt that in backing down Louis-Phillipe had acted dishonourably and had humiliated the country. Furthermore, the subsequent friendship that evolved with Britain (a situation which Louis-Phillipe felt would be favourable to his position in Europe) added more salt to the wounds. France was playing a junior partner to Britain, the traditional enemy. Louis-Phillipe was in a position where he could do no right. He wasn’t in the position to adopt an aggressive foreign policy (that is aside from the fact that he didn’t want to) which disappointed his subjects and in the scenario where he did become active he adopted positions that led to even more humiliation than inactivity would have bestowed.
Another aspect of Louis-Phillipe’s reign that could of led to his downfall can be rooted in his domestic policy. Again here inactivity was favoured by the king. Once the regime was established and certain basic rules changed to the kings liking the king’s view was that everything was working well so there was no use in tampering with it. Almost, that the system was beyond improvement. Unfortunately for the king, this was not a widely shared view. The main bone of discontent was concerning the current voting system. Many hankered for a reform especially as there was emerging a new class, a group of men who considered themselves to be part of the social elite and yet who didn’t have the right to vote. Their cause was championed by the Legislative assembly (with Thiers an ardent supporter) a situation which made life more difficult for the king and his government.
Another reason for the eventual collapse of the July monarchy can be traced back to the actual person of the king. By 1843 the king had reached his 70th birthday and although fit and alert he was, decidedly old and traits that he had exhibited earlier on in life became more pronounced. His talkativeness became something to be endured, he avoided making decisions altogether being satisfied with the current situation, His public appearances became less which meant he couldn’t create and maintain personal loyalties, significantly he stopped reviewing the National Guard in 1840, what Louis-Phillipe couldn’t see was that he was leaving a vacuum that could easily be filled be someone else on the occasion of a crisis. However these weren’t his only problems for the king one of his other problems was that he failed to play the part of the grand and great king that was traditional in France. He dull and boring, to be honest, he lived like a bourgeoisie merchant doing much for himself, wandering through Paris unattended; he was not the inaccessible monarch of previously. He looked and dressed in an undistinguished manner. This led to the claim that the king was insufficiently different from the ordinary man to be worth having as king.
Short Term Causes
One of the major problems that surrounded the Revolution of 1848 was the current economic depression. Due to Industrial Revolution Paris had grown considerably which, even when the economy was healthy, created problems of poverty and poor living conditions. By 1846 there was widespread unemployment; tens of thousands of people were living in poverty or near starving. Also, around the same time a social conscience had begun to develop among the upper classes and the opinion was that something must be done. The king responded with his usual stoicism and stubbornness in that he felt that nothing could be done. This isolated some of his natural supporters and disillusioned those who thought that the July monarchy would be a flexible and responsive regime.
There were many opponents of Guizot in Parliament, many of whom wanted to see him ousted form power. (NB. They wanted to achieve power for themselves not overthrow the king) One way which the felt effective was the organization of banquets to champion the cause of electoral reform. They arranged a series of local meeting to whip up popular support. Instead the reformers lost control as they were taken over by extreme republicans who desired the overthrowing of the regime.
Consequently the meeting were banned and made illegal. There was one due to take place in Paris on 22 February 1848 but subsequently it was illegal. A march took its place. When Louis-Phillipe then called on the National Guard he recognized their reluctance and realized he judged the general mood wrongly. He lost his nerve. He dismissed Guizot in order to mollify the opposition but this instead gave hope to the agitators. The next day troops then fired on a good natured crowd killing 80. The Republicans used this to whip up anger and mobilize a mob in Paris. On 24 February 1848 Louis-Phillipe abdicated.
In a situation as complex as that of the Revolution of 1848 with so many interdependent causes it is foolish to attempt to satisfy such a wide ranging issue with one simple answer. There was a fundamental weakness in the July Monarchy in that it seemed to have no right to the throne what was unfortunate for Louis-Phillipe was that there were already alternative forms of government available if the current one became unpopular. Furthermore, his changing personality was leaving a vacuum that could easily be filled be someone else on the occasion of a crisis. These both led to the king’s support being considerable diminished at a time when it was most need.
Moreover The king’s lifestyle contributed to the widespread feeling that the July monarchy had outlived its usefulness: it was not that Louis-Phillipe’s lifestyle and personality turned friends into enemies; rather, they contributed to the slump n moral which left the way open to those who passionately wanted change. As well as this his both unsuccessful domestic and foreign led to a more hostile general feeling towards the king as well as contributing to the internal upheaval that eventually led to the kings unseating. In the immediate events leading to the king’s abdication Louis-Phillipe’s “senile imbecility” (A. de Tocqueville) had a large part to play.
His loss of nerve lost many of his last supporters, he failed to stand firm and weather a modest storm. His handling of the situation and especially his failure to call the army which might well have saved him eventually led to his downfall. He allowed a small molehill to become a mountain for no strong reason. It is difficult to assess which of these factors played the greatest role, for, all of the long term factors appear of equal importance, on a par also with the backdrop of economic depression and social consciousness that was concurrent at the time however the questions still remains whether these on their own would have been enough to make a successful revolution and if whether the king had acted correctly and strongly, he would not have fallen It seems it was the kings inactivity that pervaded every part of his professional and personal life (foreign and domestic policy, personality and lifestyle and ultimately in the last days leading up to his abdication) that eventually led to his downfall.
(Felt that this wasn’t a satisfactory conclusion, found it hard to articulate here, how could I improve it, there seemed to be so many possibilities)
Use ready made alternative forms of govment in conclusion to show why fist point was important.
Domestic policy – if their had been an electorate reform the regime would have won the cative support of the ‘new group’
Personality- he was lifestyle- they
Hort term- Louis-Phillipes lack of stubbornessdismayed his supporters who say this as an indication that the end was near and nobody wants to support a lost acuse
. Louis-Phillipe was still in the position to use the army and stand strong but the lack of support shown by the National Guard seemed to have b