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Modern Western Civilization
Class 18: 1848: The Course of Events and 19th-Century Liberalism
1848 saw a series of revolutions throughout Europe. The
first time a revolution had happened spontaneously throughout
Liberalism and Nationalism both implicated in these events.
Compare with 1989 revolutions - boucing around Europe, with news
of one affecting developments elsewhere.
New classes - Middle Class and working class.
Growth of liberal and nationalistic ideals.
Food shortages and unemployment
A. Inflexible governments
in France, Austria and Germany (cf. Britain)
B. Growth of classes excluded from power by the governments
after 1815 (and even after 1830)
The Middle class in Germany and Austria generally lacked
political power. (also excluded were national groups in
The working class in France. The most revolutionary section
was not the factory workers - in 1848 still not a major group
in Europe - but artisans, who as a group prospered in the
In Britain, where middle class were given a say, no
revolution in 1848 - Chartism, a working class movement
was a real threat.
In Russia, where there were no important new groups,
there also was no revolution.
C. Liberal and Nationalistic ideals throughout Europe.
The liberal middle classes were still willing to work with
working class groups to pressure governments.
Political liberals were the most dynamic force in 1848,
not working class groups.
Nationalism was allied with liberalism outside of France.
D. Food shortages and unemployment provided immediate causes
for discontent in 1848.
A. Louis Philippe's regime refused any electoral reform.
B. Working class agigitation - rising food prices - again
they take to the streets.
C. 1848 a revolt in Paris (February 22-24 1848)
Led to the establishment of a Provisonal Assembly which
granted universal male suffrage and other reforms.
Liberals wanted a republican constitution. The working
class groups wanted social and economic reforms.
Workers led by Louis Blanc - had place in the Cabinet.
D. National Workshops were a compromise between the socialists
demand for work for all and the moderates' determination to
only temporary relief for the massive unemployment.
E. The revolutionary coalition cound not agree on a common
programme as the liberal republicans split with the
F. New National Assembly - April 23 1848
Universal Male suffrage.
Dominated by moderates and conservatives since peasants,
the majority of voters, were now a conservative group.
G. Fear of socialism led to a clash of classes.
The language of class conflict comes from the bourgoisie, not
H. June Days
The closing of the workshops led to a violent uprising
-The June days (June 1848) - Social reformers were attacked
by (liberal) government troops - 400 killed.
Social Reform would have to wait.
New form of class warfare was perceived as starting.
I. Presidential Elections in 1848
A split between radicals led to the election of Louis
Napoleon in 1848. He was to use the plebiscite to gain more
power - eventually got himself made Emperor Louis Napoleon
III 1852 (1808-1873).
[Another Napoleon or proto-Hitler?]
The Napoleonic Legend
Among peasants who had voted. They believed it was
Napoleon who had given them their land. [some thought
Louis Napoleon was Napoleon I]. Encouragment of this idea
under Louis Philippe. This Napoleonic myth mixes up ideas
of romanticism, nationalism, and peasant desires.
A. Revolution in France led to popular upheaveals throughout
Europe, especially in the Austrian Empire - most illiberal
and anti-nationalist state in Europe. At least 12
B. Hungarian nationalism resulted in a revolution against the
Austrian overlords. Leader Louis Kossuth (1802-94) -
March 3 1848 - called for independant Hungary.
C. March 13 1848 Student led riots in Vienna - in support
of Magyars. Workers provided the riot-power. Metternich
forced to resign. The Emperor flees to Salzburg. The
whole structure fell down in just a few days.
D. The peasants, the vast majority of the population in Austria,
were not part of the revolution. They were in fact a
conservative group. After radicals procured release from
feudal dues (the robot) in 1848, the peasants supported the
E. The alliance between the working and middle classes in
Vienna soon collapsed. Many middle class people never
supported the revolts. The working class was important
in revolts in Vienna, but did not exist outside that city.
There were very few cities in Austria in any case.
F. Hungarians wanted to dominate other nationalities.
Conflict among the different nationalities (Hungarians against
Croats, Serbs and Romanians, Czechs against Germans) weakened the
Croats in particular fought for the Habsburgs.
G. In general there were many competing groups in Austria, but
no one group strong enough to enforce its will. The result
was the Hapsburgs were able to regain control. Policy of
Divide and Conquer.
H. Conservative aristocrats crushed the revolution. The military
force available to the government remained loyal - enabled
Habsburgs to crush opposition. New Emperor Franz Josef
I. The Russian Army helped defeat the Hungarians.
J. Austria remainded conservative, but in the long run the blows
dealt in 1848 to the concept of Austria were to prove fatal.
V. Prussia and Germany
A. Many politically active middle class Prussians wanted to
create a unified liberal Germany.
B. Inspired by events in France, the working people of Prussia
sought and got a liberal constitution.
March 18th 1848 - riots in Berlin. Got a constituent Assembly
from Frederick William IV. FW4 - seemed to have capitulated.
There were also revolts in Wurttemburg, Saxony, Hanover,
C. The Prussian Assembly lasted - but was ignored and then
restructured by the King.
All men had the vote - but the top 5% of taxpayers elected
1/3 of the seats.
D. The Frankfurt Assembly of May 1848 was a middle
class liberal body that began to write a constitution for
a unified Germany. In reality it had to always depend on
existing states - it had no power of its own.
Further worker demands for suffrage and socialist reforms
caused fear amongst the Middle classes. The Assembly actually
called in troops in Sept 1848 to put down a workers revolt.
The Assembly was thus hated by Conservatives, and by the
But the split between liberals and workers continued for
rest of century - gave conservatives the power to govern.
E. There was also dispute over grossdeutsch or kleindeutsch
F. The Assembly becomes irrelevant - it offered a crown to
FW4 - but he refused it. Germany was to be united by Prussia,
not by liberals.
A. Italy divided - but nationalist ideals spread there also.
Many nationalists looked to Piedmont/Sardinia - in fact had
war, lost, vs Austria in 1848.
Pope Pius IX (1846-78) was seen as a liberal, and some
looked to him.
B. November 1848 Rome - Popular demonstrations.
Pope flees to Naples.
Roman Republic proclaimed 1848 - radicals and Nationalists,
inc Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-72) and Giuseppe Garibaldi
(1807-1882) flock to Rome.
Piedmont fails to help after it is defeated by Austria at
Novara in 1849. [succession of Victor Emmanuel II (1849-78)]
C. Louis Napoleon intervenes on behalf of the Pope - June 1849
Rome is beseiged and falls. The pope is henceforth protected
by French troops unitil 1870.
D. Pio Nono Secondo- The Church in the 19th Century.
Pius IX - renounced liberalism. Papcy now opposed to
all forms of liberalism and Italian Nationalsism.
Beginnings of modern Papacy - appeals for popular support,
of appointments to dioceses.
VII. Where the 1848 Revolutions a Failure?
A. Initial success of 1848 was stunning - downfall of French
other monarchies badly shaken.
B. None achieved their aim of a liberal state. In many
countries conservative groups took the initiative.
C. But in all the countries where revolution happened the
middle class and even the working class are taken into
D. However, the middle class were scared by the threat of
worker' power - after 1848 the middle class ceases to be
revolutionary - it becomes concerned to protect its
E. Ideas of nationalism and liberalism now predominate
absolutely in the middle class and amongst almost all
Nationalists now more hard-headed - saw need for guns as
well as ideals.
Also workers and socialists now know not to trust liberals.
turn to trade unions and political parties.
F. In the next class we are going to take a look at
Nationalism, but for the remainder of this class we are
going to be looking at what is exactly this "Liberalism"
we have been talking about.
VIII. Liberal Politics and Economics
A. Early Origins
John Locke - Individual Liberty and Rights
Rousseau - Sovereignity comes from the people
Enlightenment and French Rev.
- Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789
B. Idea of Liberty
To do what you want with the minimum of state interference
Liberty is political freedom, which consists in the absence
of external restraint.
C. Early Political Goals
To replace elitist and aristocratic societies and states,
with governments based on constitutional principles: Legal
Equality, religous toleration, and freedom of the press.
To gain some say in government for the people who called
themselves Liberals - that is, in general, educated
members of the middle class - this was to be through
institutions such as parliaments.
As long as most governments were conservative or
aristocratic, Liberals confined the political activities
to achieving the kind of constitutional meritocratic state
they wanted. They wanted to repeal laws that were for the
of a small landed aristocracy.
D. Economic Goals
Liberals wanted the removal of control over the economy,
whether from the government or guilds. Adam Smith supported
this idea. In Britain especially they wanted to get rid of
the corn laws.
They did not really consider wider social change. Or
have a social programmme. They made arguments about
majorities etc, with themselves in mind. It was something
of a shock when they had to consider the workers. Their
arguments and activity was directed at the traditional
enemy of the Middle Class, the landed aristocracy.
E. Utilitarianism and Bentham (in a Pickle)
Once grasped the idea of Liberty does not need any great
philosophy to back it up, but in fact there was an attempt
made to create a liberal philosophy.
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) a leading proponent of
He was and atheist. Founder of University of London.
[kept there in a pickle jar!].
His arguments was as follows - Nature has placed man
between the two sovereign masters of pain and pleasure,
therefore actions should be judged right or wrong simply
according to whether they increased pain or pleasure -
summed up in the Utility Principle:-
The greatest happiness of the greatest number
-also known as the greatest happiness principle.
This is the most famous ethical philosophy ever outlined
in the English speaking tradition.
There was a whole school known as Philosophical Radicals,
It was a philisophy which emphasied eduction, and did work
for practical gains - eg the Great Reform Act, and
improvement in factory conditions.
But it could seem soulless - eg. arguement that food in
UK depended on imports, which depended on profits, which
depended on cheap labour, therefore children should be
employed in factories.
Problems with Utilitarianism
1. it is difficult to know what will produce the greatest
happiness - who decides.
2. It is unfair - the happiness of the majority might best
be served by sacrificing the innocent - eg in slavery,
[or with kidney transplants]
3. It is odd to see morality purely in terms of actions, and to
ignore motives or intentions.
F. Classical Economics and Ricardo
As well as a moral philosophy there were also liberal or
Built on Adam Smith - Govt should not interfere with
competition in the market. Society concieved of as full
of atomistic individuals. Govt should maintain sound
currency and defence. =Lassiez faire economics.
David Ricardo (1772-1823) Principles of Political
Iron Law of wages - wages will always be low, as
more money means more children and so more poverty.
Confirmed employers in keeping wages low. Also provided
arguments to oppose trade unions.
Also lead to the British Poor Law - Workhouses - blaming
the poor for being poor.
Classical economics had less impact in Germany where
government intervention was what brought about industrial
G. Social Make-Up of Liberals
Educated middle class - not factory owners at first, as
liberal ideas emerged before the Industrial Rev.
But as Ind. Rev took hold in England and then Europe, many
of the new manufacturing class supported Liberal ideas -
They could see that they were making an important
contribution to the country but were excluded from its
As factory owners they abhorred restrictive trade practices
that limited their markets. For similar reason they opposed
Trade Unions. In some areas Liberalism and Free Trade
become almost synonymous - Manchester.
You get what might seem odd to modern users of the word,
but in England, it was the Tories, such as Lord Shaftesbury,
and later Benjamin Disraeli, who promoted laws to protect
and increase factory workers rights, as the liberals opposed
things that affected the factories they owned.
Tories sometimes acted out of paternalism, to use the
working class to attack the powerful middle class.
H. 1848 and Change in Liberalism
From 1830 in France, 1832 in England Liberals in some power.
In other Areas - Austria, Germany - Liberals first get taste
This changes liberalism
The basic problem is what does a political philosophy that
has been based on getting rid of aristocrats in government
do when its supporters are actually in power.
Liberals had to face social realities of power. A state must
have power over its members. Liberals had spent all their
time opposing excessive power. Now they had to face the
question what are the proper limits for individual
and collective action.
The Liberals who took power, eg in GB after 1832, did not
believed in democracy, rather that an elite of wealth and
talent, not of birth, should rule. They had used the
utility principle - action and government, should be for
the greatest good of the greatest number to justify
But as soon as the Liberals obtained their goals they faced
the workers using the same principle to make their claims.
The important factor to realise is that after 1848,
Liberals were also aware of the workers, and their demands
for political and economic power. But the view of many
liberals was that workers were unfit for power, and the
Liberal m/c interest in preserving its own wealth, led
after 1848 to a real split between the liberals and the
urban and rural working classes.
I. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
Brought up by a strict utilitarian father. He could read
Greek at age 4. A Genius.
Later on he became more open to feelings and had a life long
affair, eventually leading to marriage with Mrs. Harriet
One of most important Liberal thinkers. He is at the
transition stage between old individualist Liberalism and
the later Liberal parties which took the utility principle
and used it to promote social welfarism.
On Liberty (1859) is his most famous political work. In
it he outlined three fundamental freedoms:-
of Taste and pursuits,
of Uniting with others.
But he also discussed the rights of society as he saw
individual actions have social consequences.
Sometimes the interests of the community must come first.
IX. Liberalism in Later 19th Century
The Liberal response was either to emphasise individual
liberty above all - even when workers could only be powerful
collectively, or to move, as the British Liberal party did
o welfarism - but that was to lose the manufacturing class
to the new type of conservative parties.
Mrs. Thatcher was a 19th C. Liberal in many of her ideas, and
so was George Bush.
X. French Third Republic
Louis III Napoleon
The Mexico Fiasco
1870 - War with Prussia
XI. Britain Under Gladstone and Disreali
A. Whigs and Tories
B. Split of Peelites from Tories
C. New Conservative Party under Disraeli
D. The issue of Ireland
Old Whigs leave Liberal Party and become Unionists.
E. In later 19th C. increasing suffrage given - under
conservative government on occasion.
F. Britain becomes a democracy, without a revolution.