From 1789 to 1870, the history of France was the history of the revolutions. Three important revolutions broke out in France during this period. The first two Revolutions of 1789 and 1830 erupted against the autocratic rule of the Bourbons while the third took place in the year 1848 against the failures of Louis Philippe, the Duke of Orleans.
These revolutions had a great impact on the political, social and economic setup of Europe. In 1815 efforts were made by the diplomats at Vienna to re-establish the old dynasties in the countries of Europe and, as such, they did not recognise the changes introduced in the continent as a result of the French Revolution of 1789.
Consequently, the House of Bourbons was restored in France in 1815. But both the rulers -Louis XVIII and Charles X proved utter failures in satisfying the people of France. Hence, the second revolution known as the July Revolution broke out in 1830.
After the downfall of Charles X, constitutional monarchy was established and Louis Philippe was made the king of France. He ruled up to 1848 and was a failure in the internal and external affairs. Wearied at his rule, the people of France, for the third time, had to choose the path of revolution in February, 1848.
Thus two revolutions broke out in France after the Congress of Vienna. Both of them were of great significance. Many similarities and dissimilarities are found between them with regard to their objects, nature and results. These are given as follows :
1. The aim of both the revolutions was to abolish monarchy in France and other countries of Europe. The July Revolution of 1830 broke out against the absolute monarchy of Charles X. In the same way, Revolution took place in 1848 to root out the monarchical government of Louis Philippe.
2. Both revolutions began in France and had their repercussions all over Europe very soon. The political condition of almost all countries of the continent was greatly affected by these revolutions.
3. Both revolutions collapsed in the same manner. None of them could achieve full success. In 1830, the revolutionists could achieve success in Belgium only, where the constitutional monarchy was established with the help of England and recognition was given to the new government of Belgium by France, England and some other countries.
Except for Belgium, the revolutions were mercilessly put down by the autocratic rulers of the respective states. In the same way, the revolutionists achieved success in Prussia and Sardinia where liberal constitutions were framed and the constitutional monarchy was established.
But this success of the liberals and the revolutionists was not due to the dynamic leadership and the popular appeal of agitation only, but the main reason of the success was the liberal attitude of the rulers of those states who gladly accepted the demands of the revolutionists and granted constitutional government to the people.
Excepting Prussia and Sardinia, the revolutions of other states were suppressed by the rulers with the help of the military.
4. Both the revolutions failed due to the lack of dynamic leadership and organisation. There was no leader of undisputed personality, who could organise the revolution vigorously and impart momentum to it.
The revolutionists were divided into different groups and parties, being led by various leaders. Thus, they could not be united and so failed in achieving their goal. Both the revolutions were easily suppressed by the rulers due to the lack of uniformity and the apathy of leaders.
5. The people of Paris largely took part in both the revolutions. The people of the provinces and the rural areas were quite indifferent. In this way, the consequences of revolutions remained confined to the big cities only.
6. The results of both the revolutions brought hope to the people of the middle classes. They were most benefited as a result of these revolutions, while the patriots and liberals could extract no advantage from them. In spite of their effective role in the revolutions, the results of both the revolutions were quite against their expectations.
In spite of the above similarities, there are some points of basic difference between the revolution of 1830 and that of 1848. These are described as follows:
1. The main causes leading to the outbreak of July Revolution in 1830 were the political and social unrest, and inequality. The rich people and the feudal lords of France were enjoying special privileges under the rule of Charles X because he was the leader of the Ultra Royalists and was not prepared to concede any political right or social privilege to the common people.
Therefore, he had established in France “a government of the priests, by the priests and for the priests.” The nobles, lords and priests of France had established their own organisations; and all of them were known as the Ultra Royalists.
They, with the help of Charles X, determined to end the systems and changes which were introduced in the society as a result of the French Revolution of 1789. In order to oppose this policy, the people of France rebelled against the Bourbons in 1830.
Thus, the main aim of the revolutionists in 1830 was to re-establish the political and social systems in France which were being destroyed by the reactionary powers.
On the contrary, the outbreak of the Revolution in 1848 took place mainly because of economic unrest. The circumstances had considerably changed in France and other countries due to the Industrial Revolution.
Many new industries were established in which production was carried on, on a large scale with the help of the new machines. Owing to the use of machines, many labourers were thrown out of employment.
Thus, on the one hand, the Industrial Revolution proved helpful in raising the prosperity of the country; on the other hand, the economic status of the working men was adversely affected by it.
The labourers had to live from hand to mouth, and had to work in the mills under subhuman conditions. All this helped in increasing the discontent against the existing ruling power.
Unfortunately, some socialistic leaders propagated new doctrines regarding the reorganisation of society and industries so that economic equality might be established. In this way, the rising economic discontent was the main reason for the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848.
2. As a result of the July Revolution of 1830, the constitutional monarchy was established in France. The autocratic rule of the House of Bourbons was ended and another branch of that House known as the Orleans was enthroned.
In this way, the monarchy could not be overthrown in 1830; only the theory of the Divine Right of Kings was put to an end. Louis Philippe, the Duke of Orleans was made the king of France by the people of the country.
Prof. Hayes supports the above view as follows: “The July days of 1830, with slight bloodshed, put an end to Divine Right Monarchy in France.”
But the revolutionists achieved success in 1848 in establishing the republican government in France. The people of upper middle class tried again to establish monarchy in 1848, but they failed to do so.
The patriots of France were in high spirits and they refused the proposal of the supporters of Monarchy. Lamartine, a prominent leader of the Revolution of 1848, declared the establishment of republic in France, which was called the Second Republic. He said:
“Royalty is abolished, Republic is proclaimed. The people will exercise their political rights.”
3. The principle of social equality was established in France as a result of the July Revolution of 1830, whereas the Revolution of 1848 established political equality too. After the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Ultra Royalists had tried to re-establish the ancient regime in France.
This activity of the Ultra Royalists had posed a danger for the principle of social equality propagated and established by the French Revolution of 1789. That danger was removed in 1830 when the despotic rule of Charles X was put to an end and social equality was re-established in France.
In spite of this achievement, the revolutionists failed to establish political equality in 1830. As a result of the July Revolution, the voting right was given to the people of upper middle class.
Hence, the government of Louis Philippe was called the government of the rich. The common people could not be benefited by this new government established after the July Revolution.
But a revolutionary change was introduced in 1848 in the field of political democracy. The franchise was so extended that every adult citizen of France could get the voting right. In this way, the common people got the right to take part in the administration of their own country.
The political monopoly of the capitalists was abolished. Thus the Revolution of 1848 was a significant event in the history of the political democracy of France. It ushered in a new era in which franchise was conferred upon the whole nation. Prior to this, it was the monopoly of the rich middle class.
As a result of the Revolution of 1848, the socialistic principles, such as, ‘the right to work’ and ‘the nationalisation of the industries’ and others came into practice for the first time. These principles were beyond human imagination in 1830.
In this way, the Revolution of 1848 occupies a more prominent place than the July Revolution of 1830 in the history of the economic democracy.