Revolutions of 1848

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The Revolutions of 1848 were a series of European political revolutions caused by prior social revolutions. Capitalism was a new phenomenon at the time and industry destroyed feudal conditions. Tensions between workers and capitalists because of extreme centralization of wealth brought by industry and the development of the distinctly revolutionary proletariat coincided with the development of the capitalist class. [clarification needed] Both of these classes' agendas were hindered by the ruling feudal powers of the era.


Advocates of Italian unification celebrated the election of Pope Pius IX in 1846. An alliance between the Pope and King Charles Albert of Sardinia filled the minds of Italian revolutionaries. Neither of these men were revolutionary themselves but both desired freedom from Austrian interference. Sardinan citizens themselves were agitating for everything from constitutional monarchy to a radical republic. Italian nationalists in Austria fell squarely into the camp of the republican radicals. The majority of Italians in Austria were less inclined towards nationalism and more towards reformism. Actions led by the reformists led to riots after police intentionally antagonized those boycotting cigars. Sicilians still lived under a politically backwards Bourbon king ruling from Naples. A combination of economic crisis and crop failure had pushed the kingdom to the brink in 1847. Citizens of Palmero erected barricades and chanted constitutionalist slogans on the birthday of King Ferdinand II. The unrest allowed Sicilian gangs to take over the city and proclaim a provisional government while total lawlessness spread across the island. King Ferdinand attempted to crush the uprising with a force of around five thousand men previously stationed in Naples. This small group of well trained men was promptly slaughtered by the masses of Sicilian rebels, leaving no troops to maintain order in the entire area around Naples. Peasant militias influenced by the Carbonari quickly began forming to demand a constitution. A horde of twenty five thousand peasants surrounding the capital convinced the king to introduce a constitution based on the French constitution of 1814. This constitution satiated the peasants but did not meet the demands of the Sicilian rebels.


Various attempts to reform the French July Monarchy of 1830 had resulted in the parliamentary opposition drafting a bill which would reduce the poll tax and double the French voting base to two hundred twenty thousand. Another bill proposed by members of parliament proposed banning the appointment of parliamentarians to government managerial positions. Both of these bills were defeated by a comfortable margin, raising doubts about the parliamentary strategy among reformers. The French opposition had been traditionally divided into two factions, the dynastic left and the radical republicans. Members of the dynastic left were fine with monarchy, so long as parliament held the real power. Republican radicals were totally opposed to the monarchy and any feudal artifacts which would remain after universal suffrage. Both groups had seen parliamentary work fail and now agreed to work together on the shared issue of electoral reform. Bringing the issue to the attention of the public was now the most pressing issue. A series of banquets was planned to allow the masses to listen to speeches without technically participating in an illegal political club.

It was the final banquet which drew the attention of the French government. Admission prices to previous banquets had been higher to prevent radical workers from attending. The organizers of the final event were radical republican national guardsmen planning to hold the event in a neighborhood full of workers and student radicals. Authorities looked over the application to hold the event and quickly rejected it imagining heavily armed national guardsmen marching with the poor. Deputies in parliament were asked to appeal the decision but the calls went unheard. Now joined by thousands of intellectuals who had been denied a permit for another event, the organizers managed to get a deputy to question the minister of interior about the lawfulness of prior banquets. The minister replied that all prior banquets had merely been tolerated. This response angered the constitutionalists and pushed them to participate in the upcoming banquet. Differences between the left arose immediately after the dynastic faction took control of the planning of the banquet. The banquet was now to take place in the middle of a Tuesday to prevent and radical poor from attending. Even the events location had been moved to an upper class part of town. The event had been almost totally robbed of revolutionary potential and reduced to a walk around the block which would end with the national guard allowing the march into the banquet hall.

Despite the agreements between the police and the parliamentarians, the monarchy decided to shut down the assembly. Misconceptions about the intent of the gathering had drove the decision. Advertisements for the march had mentioned the National Guard attending, making it seem to the authorities that a heavily armed group had defected. In reality, the National Guard were there to keep the peace in a show of solidarity with the marchers.


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