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Effects of the French Revolution - Europe


Effects of the French Revolution - Belgium - King Leopold's Speech - Dispatch of Lord Palmerston to the English Minister at Madrid- Reply of the Duke de Sotomayar - Dismissal of Sir H. Bulwer from the Spanish Court - Carlist Insurrection in Spain - The Revolutionary Movement in Germany - The Germanic Confederation - The Diet - The Federal Army - The National Assembly - John, Archduke of Austria, appointed "Vicar of the German Empire, and installed at Frankfort - The Imperial Crown declined by the King of Prussia- War against Denmark - Failure and Dissolution of the National Assembly - The Revolution at Baden, Cologne, Wiesbaden, and Düsseldorf - Permanence of Democracy - Hesse Cassel - Bavaria - Lola Montez - Riots at Munich - Abdication of the King - Monster Meeting at Heidelberg - Riots at Frankfort - Battle between the Troops and the People - Shocking Assassinations - Prussia - Frederick William IV.; his Character and Policy; Despotic Tendencies - Popular Discontent and Distrust - The United Diet - The King's Speech - The Address of the Diet in reply - Second Meeting of the Diet - The King heads the Revolutionary Movement - Joy of the People - Collision with the Troops - Royal Concessions - Liberal Cabinet - Liberation of the Polish Political Prisoners - Triumphal Procession - The King appears in German Colours - His Address to the Students of the University; he sinks the Name and Nationality of Prussia in the German Empire - The Brandenburg Administration - The Royal Speech to the Diet - Its demand of Free Institutions - It refuses to merge the Prussian Monarchy in German - The King backs out of his position as German Leader - New Electoral Law - The Constituent Assembly - The Opening of the National Assembly by the King in Person - The King's Speech - The Draft of the New Constitution - Discussion in the Assembly concerning the Outbreak of the 18th of March ("Was it a Revolution or a Transaction i ") - Popular Demonstrations - Motion in the Assembly to have a proper Guard for its Protection - Appointment of Von Wrangel to the Command of the Troops - The King takes Measures of Repression - The General's Address - Debate on the Title of the King - Appointment of the Count Brandenburg as Prime Minister - Deputation to the King - Decree of the King proroguing the Assembly - Resistance of the Assembly - Sitting in Permanence - The Chamber surrounded by Military - The Members expelled - The King's Proclamation - Martial Law proclaimed in Berlin - The Chamber meets again, and votes the levying of Taxes by the Government illegal - The Burgher Guard disarmed - The Prussian Assembly dissolved - Its Proceedings condemned by the Frankfort Assembly - Deplorable State of Berlin - State of Siege continued - The King's Address to the Army - He grants a New Constitution - The Frankfort Parliament offers the Imperial Crown to the King of Prussia, who declines the Honour - Collision between the Government and the Prussian Chamber - Dissolution of Parliament - Excitement at Berlin - Resignation of the Regent of Germany - Triumph of Monarchy in Germany.
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The downfall of the French monarchy was the cause, more or less directly, of a series of Continental revolutions, the records of which will always form some of the most exciting and instructive chapters in European history. We shall first rapidly notice the movements of minor importance, reserving the glorious struggles in Hungary and Italy for a more copious narrative, which, in the latter case, will connect itself with great and stirring questions of universal interest.

It was natural to expect that Belgium would have been seriously disturbed by the French Revolution of 1848. These two countries are so nearly akin in blood, religion, and language, that it must be very difficult for the smaller nation to avoid following the changes of revolutions in the greater; but the kingdom of Belgium was saved, because it was under a real constitutional monarchy. Had King Leopold been deceitful, dishonest, and artfully despotic, like Louis Philippe, his dynasty also would have been swept away by the torrent of revolution. The contrast is instructive. It proves that if the people are fairly and faithfully dealt with by their rulers, they will, in their turn, be loyal and peaceful.

The King of Belgium, therefore, reaped the reward of his integrity and wisdom in the tranquillity of his kingdom in 1848. There was no physical barrier between France and Belgium, but the tide of revolution flowed only to the Belgian boundary, and there, by an invisible power, its proud waves were stayed. On the 26th of June the session of the Belgian Chambers was opened by the King in person, who might well feel a just pride in making the following statement: - "In presence of the agitation which so deeply excites Europe, Belgium has remained calm, confiding, and strong. The changes in the political state of several nations have not in any way altered our good international relations. Our official relations with the French republic have been established on terms of mutual good will. From all parts we have received testimonies of sympathy and esteem.... By means of the financial measures voted last session, our patriotic army has been maintained on a respectable footing of defence; we have sustained employment; the public treasury has been able to fulfil faithfully all its obligations, and the burden of the floating debt has ceased to press on credit. The future will recompense the sacrifices of the past.... We are passing through a period of difficulty for European society. Belgium will not allow herself to be diverted from the sure path in which she has entered. By happy union she has been enabled to reconcile stability with progress, and order with the practices of liberty in every shape."

The French Revolution was also without effect on Holland, whose king conscientiously consulted the feelings of his people; and the opening of 1848 found him recommending a revision of the constitution, in order to its more perfect adaptation to the wants and wishes of the nation. Spain was less affected by the flight of the monarch who had exerted so baneful an influence upon its policy and its royal family, than might have been anticipated. Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer was then our minister at Madrid, and Lord Palmerston was oui Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He evidently expected another revolution in Spain, as appears from a remarkable dispatch which he addressed to Sir Henry. Its tone was certainly rather dictatorial, and it is not much wonder that it fired the pride of the Spanish Government. The noble lord wrote as follows: - " Sir, - I have to recommend you to advise the Spanish Government to adopt a legal and constitutional system. The recent downfall of the King of the French and of his family, and the expulsion of his ministers, ought to indicate to the Spanish Court and Government the danger to which they expose themselves, in endeavouring to govern a country in a manner opposed to the sentiments and opinions of the nation; and the catastrophe which has just occurred in France is sufficient to show that even a numerous and well-disciplined army offers only an insufficient means of defence to the Crown, when the system followed by it is not in harmony with the general system of the country. The Queen of Spain would act wisely, in the present critical state of affairs, if she were to strengthen her executive Government, by widening the basis on which the administration reposes, and in calling to her councils some of the men in whom the liberal party places confidence."

The irritation which this note caused was increased by the fact that before it was communicated by Sir H. Bulwer to the Spanish minister, the Duke de Sotomayar, a copy of it had got into print in one of the opposition journals. In replying to it the Duke reminded our representative that when Lord Palmerston sent the dispatch in question the Spanish Cortes were sitting, the press was entirely free, and the Government had adopted a line of conduct admitted to be full of kindness and conciliation. He asked, therefore, what motive could induce the British minister to make himself the interpreter of the feelings and opinions of a foreign and independent nation in regard to its domestic affairs, and the kind of men that should be admitted to its councils. The Spanish Cabinet, which had the full confidence of the Crown and the Cortes and had been acting in conformity with the constitution and the laws, could not see " without the most extreme surprise the extraordinary pretensions of Lord Palmerston, which led him to interfere in this manner with the internal affairs of Spain, and to support himself on inexact and equivocal dates, and the qualification and appreciation of which could not, in any case, come within his province." They declined to give any account of their conduct at the instigation of a foreign power, and declared that all the legal parties in Spain unanimously rejected such a humiliating pretension. And, he triumphantly asked, " What would Lord Palmerston say if the Spanish Government were to interfere in the administrative acts of the British Cabinet, and recommend a modification of the régime of the State; or if it were to advise it to adopt more efficacious or more liberal measures to alleviate the frightful condition of Ireland? What would he say if the representative of Her Catholic Majesty in London were to qualify so harshly as your Excellency has done, the exceptional measures of repression which the English Government prepares against the aggression which threatens in the midst of its own states? What would he say if the Spanish Government were to demand, in the name of humanity, more consideration and more justice on behalf of the unfortunate people of Asia? What, in fine, would he say if we were to remind him that the late events on the Continent gave a salutary lesson to all governments, without excepting Great Britain? And that, consequently, the administration of the state should be given up to the illustrious Peel - to the skilful man who, after having conciliated the general opinion of his country, has known how to merit the sympathies and esteem of all the governments of Europe? He would say what the Spanish Government has a right now to say, That he does not recognise the right of any power to offer observations which he rejects as offensive to the dignity of a free and independent nation. Animated by sentiments suitable to Spanish dignity, and to every government which respects itself, the Cabinet of Her Catholic Majesty cannot avoid protesting against the contents of the dispatches of Lord Palmerston and of your Excellency. And considering that it cannot retain them without being wanting in dignity, it returns them enclosed; and at the same time declares that if your Excellency should at any other time, in your official communications on points of international rights, go beyond the bounds of your mission, and interfere in the particular and private affairs of the Spanish Government, I shall consider myself under the painful necessity of returning your dispatches without further remark. "

Further correspondence on the subject did not heal the wound that had been inflicted on the pride of the Spanish Government, but rather inflamed it; and oil the 19th of May, the English ambassador received a peremptory order to quit the kingdom within forty-eight hours. In dismissing him, the Duke de Sotomayar administered to him a very sharp rebuke. " Your conduct," he said, " in the execution of your important mission has been reprobated by public opinion in England, censured by the British press, and condemned in the British Parliament. Her Catholic Majesty's Government cannot defend it, when that of Her Britannic Majesty has not done so." Sir H. Bulwer accordingly departed, Mr. Otway, the principal attaché, remaining to transact any necessary business connected with the embassy. Diplomatic relations were not renewed for some time, and, it must be admitted, that the insult that had been offered to England was in a great measure provoked.

During the year, Spain was disturbed by a Carlist insurrection, which was headed by Cabrera. The pretext for this outbreak, which commenced in the northern provinces, was the Spanish marriages, which were referred to in a proclamation issued by the above- named chief, when vainly summoning all Spaniards to the flag of Carlos Louis de Bourbon.

The immense phlegmatic mass of the German population - amounting to 43,000,000, spread over 246,000 square miles, and divided into thirty-five sovereign states - was powerfully moved by the shock of the French Revolution. Those states existed under every form of government, from absolutism to democracy. They were all united into a Bund or confederation, the object of which was the maintenance of the independence of Germany, and of its several states. The Confederation consisted of a Diet, composed of the plenipotentiaries of all the states. This Diet was no bad emblem of the German mind and character - fruitful in speculation, free in thought, boundless in utterance, but without strength of will or power of action; feeble in the presence of the actualities and exigencies of life. The plenipotentiaries could act only in accordance with the special instructions of their respective sovereigns, without any executive to carry their resolutions into effect. The sovereignties were in some cases so complicated, that there were only seventeen votes to be divided among the thirty-five states; but when important fundamental changes were to be considered, when peace or war was to be made, the Diet became a general assembly or plenum, in which seventy votes were originally distributed among the members in classes - Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Hanover, and Würtemburg having each four; five others having three each, three haying two each, and a number of the smallest haying one each. The Diet held its sittings at Frankfort-on-the-Maine, a city which became famous during the revolutionary years of 1848 and 1849. The Federal army consisted of about half a million men, in ten divisions, of which three belong to Austria and three to Prussia, both comprising more than half the total number. The Confederation had no effective power to dispose of those armies. Its action was paralysed by the multitude of counsellors and the conflict of rights. "When, therefore, the Germans were roused and excited by the French Revolution of 1848, the Diet was found incapable as an organ of the national will. It was accordingly superseded by a National Assembly, which met at Frankfort, and assumed the sovereign powers. This Assembly confirmed the appointment that had been made by the Diet of the Austrian Archduke John as vicar or regent of the empire, till the election of an emperor of Germany. They offered the Imperial crown to the King of Prussia, which, under other circumstances, he would no doubt have gladly accepted, as he had been competing with the Emperor of Austria for the hegemony or leadership of the Confederation; but owing to the mutual jealousies and irreconcilable pretensions of the two great powers, the King of Prussia was compelled to decline the honour.

The National Assembly met at Frankfort on the 18th of May. The Federal Diet expressed a wish to act in friendly unison and co-operation with the representatives of the nation. Weeks were spent in considering the nature of the central authority that should be established. The result was the appointment of a provisional regent or vicar. The Archduke was selected; and the Diet, as instructed by their respective Governments, immediately confirmed the appointment. The Archduke was accordingly installed with all due formality as vicar on the 12th of July. In the meantime, the National Assembly had been busily at work framing a constitution with two chambers - the Upper composed of the sovereigns, or their deputies, and comprising 200 members; the Lower consisting of representatives of the people, freely chosen, one-third of the members to retire every two years. The Kaiser, or Emperor, was to rule by the advice of ministers responsible to the legislature; but he was to have the disposal of the army, and the right of concluding treaties and making peace and war. Free municipal institutions were to be established; the right of public meeting was to be guaranteed; a national guard was to be instituted; and there was to be absolute freedom of religion, education, science, and the press.

Theoretically considered, nothing could be finer than the constitutional arrangements made by this body; but they soon got involved in interminable discussions, which could be brought to no practical conclusion. In May, 1849, the assembly split into two parties, one of which transferred its sittings to Gotha, and the other to Stuttgart. The Vicar resigned his empty dignity in December. The princes recovered their sovereignties, and the Bund returned to the statu quo established in 1815. But such was the force of the national sentiment while it. lasted, and the desire for German unity, that they made war upon the King of Denmark, for the purpose of wresting from him the Duchies of Holstein and Schleswig. They were defeated in the war, and a reaction having commenced, all their grand projects proved utterly abortive.

This general view of German affairs will prepare the reader to follow the course of revolution in the several German states. It was first manifested in the south-west. On the 29th of February the Grand Duke of Baden received a deputation from his subjects, demanding liberty of the press, trial by jury, and the establishment of a national guard. He wisely yielded to the popular feeling, granting all that was asked, and making the most trusted of the liberal leaders a member of his Government. During the month of March, similar demonstrations took place rapidly at Cologne, Wiesbaden, and Düsseldorf. The prevalence of democratic principles may be inferred from the demands made by the insurgent masses. At Cologne they required universal suffrage, the sovereignty of the people, liberty of the press and of speech, the abolition of the standing army, State education for all children, the protection of labour, and a guaranteed supply of all the necessaries of life for the workmen. They also required the general arming of the population. At Hesse Cassel, the people rose and sent a deputation to the palace of the Elector, proposing demands to this effect, and allowing three days for an answer. In anticipation of a refusal, they erected large barricades in the principal streets, composed of wagons, trees, stones, and ploughshares, fastened in the barriers with the points turned out. The people at the same time armed themselves, determined to effect a revolution at all hazards. The Elector, however, yielded with a good grace; the hostile demonstration was converted into a peaceful and triumphal procession; and such was the joy of the people, that all the towns and villages in the electorate were illuminated.

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