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Effects of the French Revolution - Europe page 2


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The revolution in Bavaria was accompanied by an entertaining episode. The old King, Charles Louis, now in his dotage, had formed an infatuated attachment for the notorious Lola Montez. This remarkable adventuress was an Irish girl, a native of the County Wexford, who was brought home from school, at the age of fourteen, to marry an old man, to whom she had a great repugnance. She made known her distress to a young captain, named James, with whom she eloped. They got married, and went out to India. There he deserted her, having eloped one morning with the young wife of an old gentleman, in whose house they were residing. Mrs. James, instead of being overwhelmed with grief, laughed heartily at the fun of the incident and the inconsolable grief of the bereaved husband, returned to Europe, and went on the stage; and it was as an actress, under the assumed name of Lola Montez, she won the heart of the old King of Bavaria, with whom she lived openly as his mistress.

He made her a Bavarian countess, by the title of Gräfinn de Lansfeldt, and lavished upon her all sorts of favours. This glaring court scandal so disgusted the people of Munich, that riots broke forth on various occasions. These proceedings were generally excited and conducted by students, which provoked the King so much, that he ordered the university to be closed for a year, and the expulsion from Munich, within forty- eight hours, of every student, not being a townsman. This order, however, was soon revoked; and at length he was induced, in the beginning of February, to dismiss Lola Montez, the cause of all his troubles. She went to Stahrenberg, about nine miles from Munich; but she returned in a few days, and reappeared in the city dressed in male attire, with a body-guard of ten or twelve students, by whose assistance she endeavoured to get into the royal palace. The storm of popular indignation, against which her royal lover had in vain endeavoured to shelter her, now broke forth again with increased fury; and in all probability her life would have been sacrificed, if Prince Wellerstein had not caused her to be arrested by gendarmes, placed in a post- chaise, and conveyed to Switzerland. On leaving the city she said - "The king will abdicate and follow me into exile." Her subsequent career is well known. She went to the United States of America, where she spent some years. In 1859 she delivered public lectures in London, Dublin, and other parts of the United Kingdom. She then returned to the United States, and died in New York, January 17, 1861. She was one of the most remarkable specimens in modern times of a " strong-minded woman;" who smoked cigars, dressed in bloomer costume, was ready to fight duels with editors, and to horse-whip any one of the male sex who incurred her resentment.

The departure of this heroine from Munich did not save the King. On his refusing to convoke the Chambers, the citizens rose in arms, on the 4th of May; and having taken possession of the arsenal after a short struggle, 6,000 men, armed with-muskets, sabres, lances, halberds, and hatchets, marched against the royal palace. At the market-place the troops were commanded to fire upon the insurgents, but they positively refused, and cries of "The Republic for ever!" resounded on every side. At this critical moment the King yielded. His brother, Prince Charles, rode up and assured the people, on his word of honour, that all their demands should be conceded. They then returned the arms to the arsenal, and quietly dispersed. But the population still distrusting, fresh riots occurred; and on the 21st of March, the King announced his resignation in favour of his son, the Crown Prince Maximilian. He declared in a proclamation that he had governed twenty-three years in strict accordance with the constitution; that his life had been dedicated to the welfare of the people; that he had administered the public property and the public funds as if he had been a republican officer; and that he could boldly encounter the most scrutinising eye. On the following day, the new King, Maximilian II., opened the Chambers with a speech that was received with great applause, promising popular institutions, full representation of the people, trial by jury, open courts, a national guard, liberty of the press, and emancipation of the Jews.

In Saxony the monarchy was saved by bending before the storm of revolution. A new administration was appointed, which at once issued a programme of policy so liberal that the people were satisfied. Even the King of Hanover yielded to the revolutionary pressure, and called to his councils M. Hubé, a liberal deputy, who had been imprisoned several years for resisting an unconstitutional act of the crown. On the 20th of March he issued a proclamation, in which he stated that, in compliance with the many representations addressed to him, he had abolished the censorship of the press, granted an amnesty and restoration ol rights to all who had been condemned for political offences, and that he was willing to submit to changes in the constitution, based upon the responsibility of ministers to the country. The General Assembly of the estates of the kingdom took place early in April. In replying to their address, the King stated that he would energetically carry out all that he had promised; but that if demands were made upon him incompatible with his honour, he was determined to resign. On the 30th of March a meeting was held at Heidelberg, where 30,000 Germans assembled round the ruins of its magnificent castle, when powerful speeches were delivered on the state of Germany, and the course she ought to pursue in that crisis. They pointed to France as a warning, and to England as an example. One of the speakers (Welcker) said, "Do not mistake licence for liberty, nor suppose that because much must be remodelled, all must be overturned. Far be such a thought from us. Let us progress, but steadily and thoughtfully; let us lay the foundation of our freedom - a national parliament; let us be citizens of one united country. But do not think such an object can be ' attained by proclaiming a republic. Look to France. She now, for the second time, possesses that form of government in which alone, according to some, true freedom is to be found. What has she gained by it? What is her present condition? What her future prospects? To say the least, they are not encouraging; and I am delighted that among my own countrymen no desire has been expressed to follow in her steps. But regard the present condition of England" - here the speaker was interrupted by thunders of applause - "let her be our model. She has long enjoyed free institutions; she alone now remains unshaken by the storm which is howling around; and it is to her we must look as our model and our guide."

It was not without necessity that such appeals were addressed to the German people. At Frankfort, while the Assembly were occupied in framing a most liberal constitution, the republican party in the Chamber appealed out of doors to the passions of the multitude, and excited them to such a pitch, that barricades were erected, and the red flag planted in the streets. The occasion of the outbreak was the recognition by the Assembly of the Malmo armistice, which had been agreed to between the Federal and Danish armies, but which the Red Republicans denounced as treason against the majesty, liberty, and honour of the German people. Warned by the threats of revolt, the Government ordered detachments of Austrian, Prussian, and Bavarian troops to march into Frankfort. On the 18th of September a riot broke forth, commencing in the Church of St. Paul's, where the Assembly held its meetings. The troops were attacked with stones; the pavements were torn up and piled in large packing cases to form barricades, of which thirteen were erected in the principal streets. A regular fight commenced between the troops and the people at three o'clock. The troops were at first compelled to retire, owing to the terrible sharp-shooting from the windows of the houses. A flag of truce was then seat to the barricades - an armistice of an hour was agreed upon. The insurgents required as a preliminary to negotiation that the troops should be withdrawn. The answer to this requisition was the proclamation of martial law, and the planting of artillery, by which the barricades were soon shattered, and their defenders compelled to fly in every direction. By midnight the struggle was over, and tranquillity everywhere restored. The day was signalised by two deplorable assassinations. Prince Nichnowski, one of the most distinguished members of the Assembly, and Major Auerswald, were endeavouring to make peace by reasoning with the rebels, when they were both shot. A bullet having passed through the major's head, he was pulled from his horse, and died almost immediately. The prince was found in the dust still breathing. He had been shot through" the body, and his arms were barbarously hacked with a hatchet. Next day the Regent of the Empire issued a proclamation, in which he said - " The criminal excesses at Frankfort, the intended attack on the parliament, the street riots, for the suppression of which an armed force was required, the shocking assassinations, the menaces and violence which some members of the parliament have suffered, have plainly exposed the views and means of action of a party, who desire to involve their country in the horrors of anarchy and civil war."

Prussia, it might be supposed, would escape the invasion of revolutionary principles in 1848. Great hopes had been excited on the accession of Frederick William IV. to his father's throne. The Crown Prince had been known for his kindness of disposition, his gentle manners, and his varied accomplishments, not the least of which was his brilliant power of speech. He was an admirer of English institutions, and it was expected that the spirit of the British constitution would be permitted, as far as possible, to pervade the Government, when he ascended the Prussian throne. In some respects the anticipations of the public were not disappointed. Practical reforms were effected. Manufactures, trade, commerce, navigation, internal communication - all the arts of peace and industry - were encouraged and promoted. Railway companies, and other associations for encouraging various branches of industry, were spread over the country, and there were all the outward appearances of national prosperity and social progress. Yet it was evident to close observers of the signs of the times, that a spirit of sullen discontent was brooding over the population. There was a feeling that their amiable and accomplished sovereign had disappointed them. He proved to be excessively sensitive ho the slightest infringement of his prerogative, and he abhorred the idea of representative bodies, who might oppose constitutional barriers to his own absolute will. Hence, there grew up sensibly a mutual feeling of distrust between him and the people, and the natural effect on his part was a change from the leniency and liberality of his earlier years to a more austere temper, while a tedious, inactive, and undecided course of policy wore out the patience of those who expected a more constitutional system. ^Consequently, although the administration of the country was free from any taint of corruption, and was, on the whole, moderate and just, the revolutionary earthquake of 1848 shook the kingdom of Prussia to its very foundations.

Indeed, we shall not be surprised at this state of things if we look deeper into its causes. The people were educated, and well understood the nature of constitutional government, of which they saw in England an example that excited their unbounded admiration. They had their own provincial diets, it is true; but they were nothing as organs of the national will as compared with the British parliament. And even when in 1847 the King was pleased to establish, by a royal ordinance, the United Diet, in which all their powers were concentrated, it was quite evident, from the purport of the King's speech at the opening of its first session, that he did not mean it to be a true parliament; and that he betrayed the strongest repugnance to anything like a real representation of the people. Indeed, his speech on that occasion, which was nearly as long as the message of an American president, was little more than an eloquent defence of the royal prerogative, and an impassioned appeal to the loyalty of his people to support his throne against the encroachments of democracy. The opening of the Diet took place on the 11th of April, in the Salle Blanche of the palace. The King was attended by the officers of the royal household, the dignitaries of state, the ministers of the crown, and the Protestant and Roman Catholic bishops. The Queen and the Princesses of Prussia were also present. The King entered the hall, preceded by three generals, bearing respectively the crown, the orb, and sceptre, and by other officers, who carried various insignia of royalty. On his entrance the princes, lords, and deputies rose and remained standing until he took his place on the throne, having the Prince of Prussia on his right hand and the ministers of state on his left.

A few points in this remarkable speech will indicate the spirit and policy of the Prussian monarch. Referring to the provincial Diets as the "noble creation" of the King his father, he said that it had been for many years his firm determination to fuse them together in one united Diet. "It is formed," he said. "I have recognised your claims to all the rights flowing from that law, and far beyond - yes, far beyond all the promises of the King of blessed memory; I have given you, within certain necessary limits, the right of granting taxes - a right, gentlemen, the responsibility of which weighs far more heavily than the honour which accompanies it." He reserved to himself the right of imposing taxes in times of war, the expenditure to be afterwards accounted for to the diet. A portion of the press, he said, demanded outright from him and his Government a revolution in Church and State; and many very worthy men would look for the safety of the country in the conversion of the natural relation between prince and people into a conventional existence, granted by charters and ratified by oaths. But he prayed that the example of " one happy country " - meaning England - whose constitution had been made, not by sheets of paper, but by centuries, and by hereditary wisdom without parallel, might not be lost upon Prussia. But he made it quite plain, as he proceeded, that his constitution was wholly and essentially different from the British constitution. The King said, " I speak out boldly, gentlemen. As in the camp, unless in cases of the most urgent danger or grossest folly, the command can only be rested in the will of one, so can the destinies of this country, unless it is to fall instantly from its height, only be guided by one will; and if the King of Prussia would commit an abomination were he to demand from his subjects the subserviency of slaves, so would he commit a far greater abomination were he not to demand from them the crowning virtue of freedom - sincere obedience, for the sake of God and conscience. Whoever is alarmed at the tenor of these words, him I refer to the development of our laws for a century back, to the edicts of the orders, and, finally, to this assembly and its rights. There he may find consolation, if he will. Noble lords and trusty orders, I am forced to the solemn declaration, that no power on earth will ever succeed in moving me to change the natural and imperatively necessary relation between prince and people into something merely conventional or constitutional, and that, once for all, I will never suffer a written sheet of paper to force itself in, as it were a second Providence, between our Lord God of heaven and this people, in order to rule us with its paragraphs, and to replace by them our ancient and time-hallowed trusty reliance on each other. Between us be truth." After a great deal more to the same effect, the King made the following vehement appeal to his people: - "Therefore, hear this well, my lords and faithful states, and may all the country hear it through you. From all the indignities to which I and my Government have been exposed for some years, I appeal to my people! From all evils which, perhaps, are still in reserve for me, I appeal beforehand to my people! My people know my heart, my faith, and love to it, and adhere in love and faith to me. My people do not wish the association of representatives in the Government, the weakening of rank, the division of sovereignty, the breaking-up of the authority of its kings, who have founded its history, its freedom, its prosperity, and who alone can protect its dearest acquisitions - and will protect them, God willing, as heretofore."

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