The Failed Revolutions of 1848 Several European nations were swept by revolutions in the 19th century and, although enjoyed limited success, generally failed.
What ultimately ends these upheavals is the difference in philosophies. To simplify, there were conservatives, moderates, and radicals, and they were not necessarily compatible with each other, ultimately fueling disunity. Conservatives were people of the monarchical family or aristocracy with privileges and believe in a very traditional society. Liberalists and nationalists were more on the moderate side, in opposition to socialists, which were seen as radical at the time.
Liberalism was an attraction to high-class business owners, and essentially the bourgeoisie. Nationalism was essentially a group of people believing in a similar cultural identity based on religion, language and culture. With these conflicting ideologies, the conservatives crush all revolts and end up ultimately regaining power. The first revolution began in Paris, France in the 1840’s when the people began to demand reforms such as a rise in income and administration contributing jobs to the people, only to see the government providing little to no help. As crop failures and depression swept the town, the middle class united with the working class building barricades and protesting the streets on February 22, 1848.
Louis Philippe, the king at the time, fled, leading to revolutionaries building a ten man executive committee and France’s Second Republic. It granted equality, freedom, liberty, and abolishing not only slaves but the death penalty as well. Where the revolution began to deteriorate is when moderate liberals viewed these rights as too extreme, while radical liberals wanted more reforms.
Louis Blanc, a socialist, wanted workshops created, and although moderate disagreed, they were set up with over 100,000 people joining over time. France then set up a Constituent Assembly of 900 people, with over half being monarchs and a minority being radicals. With peasants now on the conservative side due to the providing of jobs via workshops, radicals believed the only solution was to invade the Assembly and claim a revolution on June 15, 1848. As patience began to decrease among the working people, they fought against the upper classes as well as the peasants and the government in the streets known as “The June Days”. Thus, the revolution failed as the class system could not agree on one ideology best for society. In Central Europe, upheavals began to rise as liberals demanded changes in society, but as we see again the revolution fails due to disunity among the classes. In March of 1848, nationalists of Hungary demanded national autonomy and universal male suffrage.
The Monarchy denied their wishes and students along with workers barricaded the streets of Vienna. Emperor Ferdinand I not only granted reforms and a liberal constitution but abolished serfdom. With that being done, peasants no longer cared for political or social reforms, as they were set free. As classes argued over universal rights, the radicals pushed an extremely liberal constitution. They also wanted to unite Hungary as one nation, but the minority groups refused as they wanted independence and self-autonomy. Once again, the people could not unite leading to Princess Sophia as well as her son Francis Joseph organizing a plan to crush revolts. On June 17, they battled working-class protesters and later took down another revolt in October. The Austrian aristocracy regained power and took back the city of Vienna.
In Prussia, an economic crisis struck the country and demands were quickly made by liberals. Workers and middle-class liberals in Berlin rioted and on March 21, 1848, Frederick William IV granted Prussia a liberal constitution. Again, we see the working class wanting more radical reforms and the middle class disagreeing, leading to the authoritarians planning a counter-attack.
When parliament met in Frankfurt, the wealthy businessmen, officials, and lawyers called for reforms benefiting only the social elite, dismissing reforms of the radicals. Parliament planned to unify Germany into a “Greater Germany” by drafting a constitution but failed to maintain the agenda within the classes. In 1849, parliament elected Frederick William as Emperor, and with reasserting his authority, he denied all requests made by revolutionaries.
The revolutions of 1848 were generally short-lived and unsuccessful. France and Austria along with Prussia all wanted reform. However, the difference in ideologies between the classes ultimately drove them to failure. In the beginning of every revolt, the people unite and take control. The inability to maintain that power, though, is how they do not ever execute their plans.
When conservatives are too conservative, the moderates part ways. With more power given to radical reformers, they become too radical, in which moderates go back to conservative, essentially ending up in failure.