Nations of Europe and the Great War - Charles Morris

The Revolution of 1830

Its Disintegrating Effect on National Conditions


The work of the Holy Alliance outside of Greece had been measurably complete. Revolution, wherever else in Europe it ventured to show its head, had been ruthlessly put down. But though complete in the countries concerned, it was destined to prove temporary. The blessing of liberty, once enjoyed, could not so easily be taken away.

The people merely bided their time. The good seed sown could not fail to bear fruit in its season. The spirit of revolution was in the air, and any attempt to rob the people of the degree of liberty which they enjoyed was very likely to precipitate a revolt against the tyranny of courts and kings. It came at length in France, that country being the ripest among the nations for revolution. Louis XVIII, an easy, good-natured old soul, of kindly disposition towards the people, passed from life in 1824, and was succeeded by his brother, Count of Artois, as Charles X.

Reaction Under Charles X

The new king had been the head of the ultra-royalist faction, an advocate of despotism and feudalism, and quickly doubled the hate which the people bore him. Louis XVIII had been liberal in his policy, and had given increased privileges to the people. Under Charles reaction set in. A vast sum of money was voted to the nobles to repay their losses during the Revolution. Steps were taken to muzzle the press and gag the universities. This was more than the Chamber of Deputies was willing to do, and it was dissolved. But the tyrant at the head of the government went on, blind to the signs in the air, deaf to the people's voice. If he could not get laws from the Chamber, he would make them himself in the old arbitrary fashion, and on July 26, 1830, he issued, under the advice of his prime minister, four decrees, which limited the list of voters and put an end to the freedom of the press. Practically, the constitution was set aside, the work of the Revolution ignored, and absolutism re-established in France.

"Down with the Bourbons"

King Charles had taken a step too far. He did not know the spirit of the French. In a moment Paris blazed into insurrection. Tumult arose on every side. Workmen and students paraded the streets with enthusiastic cheers for the constitution. But under their voices there were soon heard deeper and more ominous cries. "Down with the ministers!" came the demand. And then, as the throng increased and grew more violent, arose the revolutionary slogan, "Down with the Bourbons!" The infatuated old king was amusing himself in his palace of St. Cloud, and did not discover that the crown was tottering upon his head. He knew that the people of Paris had risen, but looked upon it as a passing ebullition of French temper. He did not awake to the true significance of the movement until he heard that there had been fighting between his troops and the people, that many of the citizens lay dead in the streets, and that the soldiers had been driven from the city, which remained in the hands of the insurrectionists.

Then the old imbecile, who had fondly fancied that the Revolution of 1789 could be set aside by a stroke of his pen, made frantic efforts to lay the demon he had called into life. He hastily canceled the tyrannical decrees. Finding that this would not have the desired effect, he abdicated the throne in favor of his grandson. But all was of no avail. France had had enough of him and his house. His envoys were turned back from the gates of Paris unheard. Remembering the fate of Louis XVI, his unhappy brother Charles X turned his back upon France and hastened to seek a refuge in England.

France has long been the seed bed of revolution. That strenuous and excitable people, who had won liberty by striking for it with all their strength in 1789, were not to let it be torn from their grasp by an aged imbecile. As the effect of the Revolution of 1789 was to stir up all Europe and make itself felt over half the world, the same was the case with the two subsequent revolutions which had their starting point in Paris, those of 1830 and 1848. With the former of these we are here concerned.

It might be supposed that the citizens of Paris, on getting rid of their incapable king, would have decided that they had had sufficient experience of that kind of gentry and have re-established the republic which Napoleon had set aside. But such was not the event. A meeting of prominent citizens was called, and after deliberating on the situation, they decided that Charles X should be deposed and his heirs declared ineligible to the throne, but that another king should be selected to replace him, the crown being offered to Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans.

Louis Philippe on the Throne

There had been a Louis Philippe concerned in the Revolution of 1789 and its succeeding events, a radical member of the royal house of Bourbon, who joined the revolutionists under the title of Egalité, took part in many of their movements and voted with the revolutionary tribunal for the death of Louis XVI. Yet the fact of his connection with the hated royal family could not be overlooked and in the end he shared the fate of his royal kinsman, having his own head cut off by the guillotine.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


He left a son, who as a young man served in the army of the Revolution and had been one of its leaders in the important victory of Jemmapes. But when the Terror came he hastened from France, which had become a very unsafe place for one of his blood. He had the reputation of being liberal in his views, and was the first man thought of for the vacant crown. When the Chamber of Deputies met in August and offered it to him, he did not hesitate to accept. He swore to observe and reign under the constitution, and took the throne under the title of Louis Philippe, king of the French. Thus speedily and happily ended the second Revolution in France.

But Paris again proved itself the political center of Europe. The deposition of Charles X was like a stone thrown into the seething waters of European politics, and its effects spread far and wide beyond the borders of France. The nations had been bound hand and foot by the Congress of Vienna. The people had writhed uneasily in their fetters, but now in more than one locality they rose in their might to break them, here demanding a greater degree of liberty, there overthrowing the government.

Holland and Belgium Divide

The latter was the case in Belgium. Its people, as already stated, had suffered severely from the work of the Congress of Vienna. Without even a pretence of consulting their wishes, their country had been incorporated with Holland as the kingdom of the Netherlands, the two countries being fused into one under a king of the old Dutch House of Orange. The idea was good enough in itself. It was intended to make a kingdom strong enough to help keep France in order. But an attempt to fuse these two states was like an endeavor to nix oil and water. The people of the two countries had long before drifted apart from each other, and had irreconcilable ideas and interests. Holland was a colonizing and commercial country, Belgium an industrial country; Holland was Protestant, Belgium was Catholic; Holland was Teutonic in blood, Belgium was a mixture of the Teutonic and French, but wholly French in feeling and customs.

The Belgians, therefore, were generally discontented with the act of fusion, and in 1830 they imitated the French by a revolt against King William of Holland. A tumult followed in Brussels, which ended in the Dutch soldiers being driven from the city. King William, finding that the Belgians insisted on independence, decided to bring them back to their allegiance by force of arms. The Powers of Europe now took the matter in hand, and, after some difference of opinion, decided to grant the Belgians the independence they demanded. This was a meddling with his royal authority to which King William did not propose to submit, but when the navy of Great Britain and the army of France approached his borders he changed his mind, and since 1833 Holland and Belgium have gone their own way under separate kings. A limited monarchy, with a suitable constitution, was organized for Belgium by the Powers, and Prince Leopold, of the German house of Saxe-Coburg, was placed upon the throne.

Popular Movements in Germany and Italy

The spirit of revolution also extended into Germany and Italy, but there with smaller results. Neither in Austria nor Prussia did the people stir, but in many of the smaller German states a demand was made for a constitution on liberal lines, and in every instance the princes had to give way. Each of these state gained a representative form of government, the monarchs of Prussia and Austria alone retaining their old despotic power. It was a step towards popular government, but only a step.

In Italy there were many signs of revolutionary feeling; but Austria still dominated that peninsula, and Metternich kept a close watch upon the movements of its people. There was much agitation. The great secret society of the Carbonari sought to combine the patriots of all Italy in a grand stroke for liberty and union, but nothing came from their efforts. In the States of the Church alone the people rose in revolt against their rulers, but they were soon put down by the Austrians, who invaded their territory, dispersed their weak bands, and restored the old tyranny. The hatred of the Italians for the Austrians grew more intense, but their time had not yet come; they sank back in submission and awaited a leader and an opportunity.

There was, however, one country in which the revolution in France called forth a more active response, though, unhappily, only to double the weight of the chains under which its people groaned. This was unfortunate Poland; once a great and proud kingdom, now dismembered and swallowed up by the land-greed of its powerful neighbors. It had been in part restored by Napoleon, in his kingdom of Warsaw, and his work had been in a measure recognized by the Congress of Vienna. The Czar Alexander, kindly in disposition and moved by pity for the unhappy Poles, had re-established their old kingdom, persuading Austria and Prussia to give up the bulk of their Polish territory in return for equal areas elsewhere. He gave Poland a constitution, its own army, and its own administration, making himself its king, but promising to rule as a constitutional monarch.

Poland in Arms

This did not satisfy the Poles. It was not the independence they craved. They could not forget that they had been a great power in Europe when Russia was still the weak and frozen duchy of Muscovy. When the warm-hearted Alexander died and the cold-hearted Nicholas took his place, their discontent grew to dangerous proportions. The news of the outbreak in France was like a firebrand thrown in their midst. In November, 1830, a few young hot-heads sounded the note of revolt, and Warsaw rose in insurrection against the Russians.

For a time they were successful. Constantine, the Czar's brother, governor of Poland, was frightened by the riot, and deserted the capital, leaving the revolutionists in full control. Towards the frontier he hastened, winged by alarm, while the provinces rose in rebellion behind him as he passed. Less than a week had elapsed before the Russian power ceased to exist in Poland, and its people were once more lords of their own land. They set up a provisional government in Warsaw, and prepared to defend themselves against the armies that were sure to come.

What was needed now was unity. A single fixed and resolute purpose, under able and suitable leaders, formed the only conceivable condition of success. But Poland was, of all countries, the least capable of such unity. The landed nobility was full of its old feudal notions; the democracy of the city was inspired by modern sentiments. They could not agree; they quarreled in castle and court, while their hasty levies of troops were marching to meet the Russians in the field. Under such conditions success was a thing beyond hope.

Yet the Poles fought well. Kosciusko, their former hero, would have been proud of their courage and willingness to die for their country. But against the powerful and ably led Russian armies their gallantry was of no avail, and their lack of unity fatal. In May, 1831, they were overwhelmed at Ostrolenka by the Russian hosts. In September a traitor betrayed Warsaw, and the Russian army entered its gates. The revolt was at an end.

Nicholas the Czar decided that these people had been spoiled by kindness and clemency. They should not be spoiled in that way any longer. Under his harsh decrees the Kingdom of Poland vanished. He ordered that it should be made a Russian province, and held by a Russian army of occupation. The very language of the Poles was forbidden to be spoken, and their religion was to be replaced by the Orthodox Russian faith. Those brief months of revolution and independence were fatal to the liberty-loving people. Since then, except during their brief revolt in 1863, they have lain in fetters at the feet of Russia, nothing remaining to them but their patriotic memories and their undying aspiration for freedom and independence. Not until 1914 was any hope of regaining their nationality held out to them, when a later Nicholas offered them an autonomous government as a reward if they would give him their loyal aid in the war then prevailing.

Prosperity In Great Britain

The effects of the revolution in Paris did not confine themselves to the continent of Europe. They crossed the British Channel and made themselves felt in the island kingdom beyond. Before speaking of what took place here a few words on the political and industrial conditions then existing in that country will be of interest.

Great Britain, small as it was, had grown, by the opening of the nineteenth century, to be the leading power in Europe. Its industries, its commerce, its enterprise had expanded enormously. It had become the great workshop and the chief distributor of the world. The raw material of the nations flowed through its ports, the finished products of mankind poured from its looms. London became the great money center of the world, and the industrious and enterprising islanders grew enormously rich, while no equal steps of progress and enterprise showed themselves in any of the nations of the continent.

It was the one power in Europe that persistently defied Napoleon and escaped the fury of his assaults. It has been shown in former chapters what part it took in the Napoleonic wars, how the final fall of the mighty conqueror was due to a British army, and how his career ended in an island prison under British rule.

It cannot be said that the industrial prosperity of Great Britain, while of advantage to her people as a whole, was necessarily so to individuals. While one portion of the nation amassed enormous wealth, the bulk of the people sank into the deepest poverty. The factory system brought with it oppression and misery which it would need a century of industrial. revolt to overcome. The costly wars, the crushing taxation, the oppressive corn-laws, which forbade the importation of foreign corn, the extravagant expenses of the court and salaries of officials, all conspired to depress the people. Manufactures fell into the hands of the few, and a vast number of artisans were forced to live from hand to mouth, and to labor for long hours on pinching wages. Estates were similarly accumulated in the hands of the few, and the small land-owner and trader tended to disappear. Everything was taxed to the utmost it would bear, while government remained blind to the needs and sufferings of the people and made no effort to decrease the prevailing misery.

Thus it came about that the era of Great Britain's greatest prosperity and supremacy as a world-power was the one of greatest industrial oppression and misery at home, a period marked by rebellious uprisings among the people, to be repressed with cruel and bloody severity. It was a period of industrial transition, in which the government flourished and the people suffered, and in which the seeds of revolt and revolution were widely spread on every hand.

An Intolerable Situation

The situation, in fact, had grown intolerable. Parliament continued blind to the condition of the working people. Certainly it showed no indication of alertness to the fact that the political condition had grown desperate. Yet the feeling was widespread that something must be done. If affairs were allowed to go on as they were the people might rise in a revolt that would widen into revolution. A general outbreak seemed at hand. To use the language of the times, the "Red Cock" was crowing in the rural districts. That is, incendiary fires were being kindled in a hundred places. In the centers of manufacture similar signs of discontent appeared. Tumultuous meetings were held, riots broke out, bloody collisions with the troops took place. Daily and hourly the situation was growing more critical. The people were in that state of exasperation that is the preliminary stage of insurrection. The two things especially demanded were, reform in Parliamentary representation and repeal of the Corn-Laws. Just what is meant by the former must be told at some length, as it referred to a condition of affairs which had long been outgrown. Representation of the people, in truth, once a fact, had long since become a fiction, one so far removed from the needs of the times as to have become a subject for ridicule.

Representation in Parliament

The British Parliament, it is scarcely necessary to say, is composed of two bodies, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The former represents the aristocratic element of the nation. In effect, it represents simply its members, since they hold their seats as a privilege of their titles, and have only their own interests to consider, though the interests of their class go with their own. The latter body is supposed to represent the people, but up to the time with which we are concerned it had never fully done so, and did so now much less than ever, since the right to vote for its members was reserved to a few thousands of the rich.

In the year 1830, indeed, the House of Commons had almost ceased to represent the people at all. Its seats were distributed in accordance with a system that had scarcely changed in the least for two hundred years. The idea of distributing the members in accordance with the population was scarcely thought of, and a state of affairs had arisen which was as absurd as it was unjust. For during these two hundred years great changes had taken place in England. What were originally mere villages or open plains had become flourishing commercial or manufacturing cities. Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, and other centers of industry had become seats of great and busy populations. On the other hand, once flourishing towns had decayed, ancient boroughs had become practically extinct. Thus there had been great changes in the distribution of population, but the distribution of seats in Parliament remained the same.

As a result of this state of affairs the great industrial towns, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, and others, with their hundreds of thousands of people, did not send a single member to Parliament, while places with only a handful of voters were duly represented, and even places with no voters at all sent members to Parliament. Land-holding lords nominated and elected those, generally selecting the younger sons of noble families, and thus a large number of the "representatives of the people" really represented no one but the gentry to whom they owed their places. "Rotten" boroughs these were justly called, but they were retained by the stolid conservatism with which the genuine Briton clings to things and conditions of the past.

Lord Russell's Great Speech

The peculiar state of affairs was picturesquely pointed out by Lord John Russell in a speech in 1831. "A stranger," he said, "who was told that this country is unparalleled in wealth and industry, and more civilized and enlightened than any country was before it—that it is a country which prides itself upon its freedom, and which once in seven years elects representatives from its population to act as the guardians and preservers of that freedom—would be anxious and curious to see how that representation is formed, and how the people choose their representatives.

"Such a person would be very much astonished if he were taken to a ruined mound and told that that mound sent two representatives to Parliament; if he were taken to a stone wall and told that these niches in it sent two representatives to Parliament; if he were taken to a park where no houses were to be seen and told that that park sent two representatives to Parliament. But he would be still more astonished if he were to see large and opulent towns, full of enterprise and industry and intelligence, containing vast magazines of every species of manufacture, and were then told that these towns sent no representatives to Parliament.

"Such a person would be still more astonished if he were taken to Liverpool, where there is a large constituency, and told, 'Here you will have a fine specimen of a popular election.' He would see bribery employed to the greatest extent and in the most unblushing manner; he would see every voter receiving a number of guineas in a bag as the price of his corruption; and after such a spectacle he would be, no doubt, much astonished that a nation whose representatives are thus chosen, could perform the functions of legislation at all, or enjoy respect in any degree."

Effect of the 1830 Revolution

Such was the state of affairs when there came to England the news of the quiet but effective French Revolution of 1830. Its effect was a stern demand for the reform of this mockery miscalled House of Commons, of this lie that claimed to represent the English people. We have not told the whole story of the transparent falsehood. Two years before no man could be a member of Parliament who did not belong to the Church of England. No Dissenter could hold any public office in the kingdom. The multitudes of Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and other dissenting sects were excluded from any share in the government. The same was the case with the Catholics, few in England, but forming the bulk of the population of Ireland.

This evil, so far as all but the Catholics were concerned, was removed by Act of Parliament in 1828. The struggle for Catholic liberation was conducted in Ireland by Daniel O'Connell, the most eloquent and patriotic of its orators. He was sneered at by Lord Wellington, then prime minister of Great Britain. But when it was seen that all Ireland was backing her orator the Iron Duke gave way, and a Catholic Relief Bill was passed in 1829, giving Catholics the right to hold all but the highest offices of the realm. In 1830, instigated by the revolution in France, the great fight for the reform of Parliamentary representation began.

The question was not a new one. It had been raised by Cromwell, nearly two hundred years before. It had been brought forward a number of times during the eighteenth century. It was revived in 1809 and again in 1821, but public opinion did not come strongly to its support until 1830. George IV, its strong opponent, died in that year; William IV, a king more in its favor, came to the throne; the government of the bitterly conservative Duke of Wellington was defeated and Earl Grey, a Liberal minister, took his place; the time was evidently ripe for reform, and soon the great fight was on.

The people of England looked upon the reform of Parliament as a method of restoring to them their lost liberties, and their feelings were deeply enlisted in the event. When, on the 1st of March, 1831, the bill was brought into the House of Commons, the public interest was intense. For hours eager crowds waited in the streets, and when the doors of the Parliament house were opened every inch of room in the galleries was quickly filled, while for hundreds of others no room was to be had.

The Struggle for Reform

The debate opened with the speech by Lord John Russell from which we have quoted. In the bill offered by him he proposed to disfranchise entirely sixty-two of the rotten boroughs, each of which had less than 2,000 inhabitants; to reduce forty-seven others, with less than 4,000 inhabitants, to one member each; and to distribute the 168 members thus unseated among the populous towns, districts, and counties which either had no members at all, or a number out of all proportion to their population. Also the suffrage was to be extended, the hours for voting shortened, and other reforms adopted.

The bill was debated, pro and con, with all the eloquence then in Parliament. Vigorously as it was presented, the opposing elements were too strong, and its consideration ended in defeat by a majority of eight. Parliament was immediately dissolved by the premier, and an appeal was made to the people. The result showed the strength of the public sentiment, limited as the suffrage then was. The new Parliament contained a large majority of reformers, and when the bill was again presented it was carried by a majority of one hundred and six. On the evening of its passage it was taken by Earl Grey into the House of Lords, where it was eloquently presented by the prime minister and bitterly attacked by Lord Brougham, who declared that it would utterly overwhelm the aristocratic part of the House. His view was that of his fellows, and the Reform Bill was thrown out by a majority of forty-one.

Instantly, on the news of this action of the Lords, the whole country blazed into a state of excitement and disorder only surpassed by that of civil war. The people were bitterly in earnest in their demand for reform, their feelings being wrought up to an intense pitch of excitement. Riots broke out in all sections of the country. London seethed with excitement. The peers were mobbed in the streets and hustled and assaulted wherever seen. They made their way to the House only through a throng howling for reform. Those known to have voted against the bill were in peril of their lives, some being forced to fly over housetops to escape the fury of the people. Angry debates arose in the House of Lords in which even the Bishops took an excited part. The Commons was like a bear-pit, a mass of furiously wrangling opponents. England was shaken to the center by the defeat of the bill, and Parliament reflected the sentiment of the people.

On December 12th Russell presented a third Reform Bill to the House, almost the same in its provisions as those which had been defeated. The debate now was brief, and the result certain. It was felt to be no longer safe to juggle with the people. On the 18th the bill was passed, with a greatly increased majority, now amounting to one hundred and sixty-two. To the Lords again it went, where the Tories, led by Lord Wellington, were in a decided majority against it. It had no chance of passage, unless the king would create enough new peers to outvote the opposition. This King William refused to do, and Earl Grey resigned the ministry, leaving the Tories to bear the brunt of the situation.

How Suffrage was Gained

The result was one barely short of civil war. The people rose in fury, determined upon reform or revolution. Organized unions sprang up in every town. Threats of marching an army upon London were made. Lord Wellington was mobbed in the streets and was in peril of his life. The maddened populace went so far as to curse and stone the king himself, one stone striking him in the forehead. The country was indeed on the verge of insurrection against the government, and unless quick action would be taken it was impossible to foresee the result.

William IV, perhaps with the recent experience of Charles X of France before his eyes, gave way, and promised to create enough new peers to insure the passing of the bill. To escape this unwelcome necessity Wellington and others of the Tories agreed to stay away from Parliament, and the Lords, pocketing their dignity as best they could, passed the bill by a safe majority, and the reform demanded was attained. Similar bills were passed for Scotland and Ireland, and thus was achieved the greatest measure of reform in the history of the British Parliament. It was essentially a revolution, the first great step in the evolution of a truly representative assembly in Great Britain, and its beneficial effect has been seen in the legislation since that time.

We may fitly deal here with some later steps taken in the same direction. In 1867 the subject of the extension of the suffrage became the great issue. The demand for it was strenuous, and the Tories, under Disraeli, their leader, were obliged to bring in a bill for this purpose, one which gave the privilege of voting to millions previously disfranchised, making it almost universal among the commercial and industrial classes. Nearly twenty years later, in 1884, another extension of the suffrage was made, this applying to the agricultural laborers. This ended the great struggle so far as the male element of the population was concerned. Many years were to pass before a great crusade would arise with the purpose of giving the Parliamentary franchise to women as well as to men. This is very actively in progress, with no clear indication as to how it will result. It is pursuing a military method which is as yet not promising of favorable results.

The Corn-Laws Repealed

We must deal more briefly with the second great reform demanded by the people, that for the repeal of the Corn-Laws.

For centuries commerce in grain had been a subject of legislation. In 1361 its exportation from England was forbidden, and in 1463 its importation was prohibited unless the price of wheat was greater than 6s. 3d. per quarter. As time went on changes were made in these laws, but the tariff charges kept up the price of grain until late in the nineteenth century, and added greatly to the miseries of the working classes.

The farming land of England was not held by the common people, but by the aristocracy, who fought bitterly against the repeal of the then existing Corn-Laws, which, by laying a large duty on grain, added materially to their profits. But while the aristocrats were benefited, the workers suffered, the price of the loaf being decidedly raised and their scanty fare correspondingly diminished.

More than once the people rose in riot against these laws, the apostle of the crusade against them being Richard Cobden, one of Britain's greatest orators. He advocated their repeal with a power and influence that in time grew irresistible. He was not affiliated with either of the great parties, but stood apart as an independent Radical, a man with a party of his own, and that party Free Trade. For the crusade against the Corn-Laws widened into one against the whole principle of protection. Backed by the public demand for cheap food, the movement went on, until in 1846 Cobden brought over to his side the government forces under Sir Robert Peel, by whose aid the Corn-Laws were swept away and the ports of England thrown open to the free entrance of food from any part of the world.

With the repeal of the duties on grain the whole system of protection was dropped and in its place was adopted that system of free trade in which Great Britain stands alone among the nations of the world.