Revolution's Lasting Legacy

Revolution's Lasting Legacy

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“The eighteenth century [was], in spite of all the battles won over Frenchmen by Germans and Englishmen, a preeminently French century, even before that crowning French Revolution, the result of which we outsiders, in England as well as in Germany, are still trying to acclimatize” (Engels 12). Engels certainly recognized the impact of the French Revolution, and the fact that it still affected him even in 1892, over a century after the storming of the Bastille. The events of the French Revolution influenced all the major thinkers of the nineteenth century, who freely admitted to the effect it had on them. The last legacy of the French Revolution can be traced from Edmund Burke’s conservatism to socialism, both the utopian of Flora Tristan and the scientific of Frederick Engels.

“Reflections on the French Revolution” by Edmund Burke is interesting because he wrote it in 1790, three years before the start of the Terror. Burke was less than pleased by what he saw in France, and his writing brings this out in full force. A major counter-revolutionary document, Burke’s “Reflection on the French Revolution” was very influential in Europe (Burke Introduction).

Burke was a conservative he loved tradition. The French Revolution, which sought to completely break from the past, was repulsive to Burke. Burke’s idea of freedom differed from the revolutionaries in that he defined freedom only in order, in which the rights of the individual are subject to the state. Burke also romanticized the role of the aristocracy, and saw it as essential to the state.

Burke’s idea of community has similarities to socialism, which would later appear as a result of the French Revolution. Burke was no Karl Marx, but he did see the responsibility of the rich to care for the poor. Burke was also a strong believer in corporatism.

Despite Burke’s protest however, the revolution in France continued, and the impact it had on the coming generations was noticeable. Socialism, though its goals were in many ways different from that of the revolution, is a product of the French Revolution. It took the principle of equality, which was one of the major emphases of the French Revolution, and expanded it to refer to more than just equality under the law but economic equality as well.

Flora Tristan is an example of a utopian socialist. She wrote about forty years after the French Revolution but she obviously did not consider it an event in the distant past. Flora Tristan was both a citizen of France and a product of the French Revolution. Her mother had been a refugee from the Revolution who could not return to France until 1802 (Beik X). Tristan was proud of the French Revolution, but considered it unfinished. She wished not only to revive the democratic principles that had existed during the revolution, but also to make them international (Beik XX).

Tristan recognized that class struggle had not gone away with the overthrow of the aristocracy but rather had intensified. However, she did not preach violent revolution, as did the revolutionaries before her and Engels after her. Instead, Tristan wished to build on the achievements of the French Revolution. She encouraged the workers to claim their rights which the document, “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” established in 1791 (Tristan 108).

In “Worker’s Union”, Tristan saw the bourgeois class as having used the proletariat during the Revolution. She described the bourgeoisie as the head of the Revolution, the proletariat as its arms. Although the proletariat contributed the muscle, the bourgeoisie grabbed all the rights for themselves. In this way, the granting of rights to the proletariat through utopian socialism would be the continuation of what the French Revolution never finished. Tristan further emphasized the incompleteness of the French Revolution when at the end of “Worker’s Union” she made a plea for the equality and unity of all humanity. She ended by saying, “Sons of 󈨝, that is the work that your fathers have bequeathed to you!” (Tristan 122).

“The Tour of France” repeated many of the same themes. Tristan took the three themes of the Revolution of 1789, and corresponded each to a social concern in 1844: “(1)-Equality-the first right, to work, (2)-liberty-second right, to bread, (3)-fraternity-third right, to education” (Tristan 169).

Utopian socialists of the early nineteenth century gave way to scientific socialists, such as Engels and Marx. In contrast to the romanticism of utopian socialism, scientific socialists were materialists at heart. They rejected religion. Marx went as far as to call religion the opiate of the masses. This was in contrast to the radical religious ideals of the utopian socialists.

The belief of scientific socialists, that the only way to improve conditions for the proletariat would be a violent revolution, reflected the spirit of the radical stage of the French Revolution. The scientific socialists believed that history was progressive. Thus the French Revolution, in which the bourgeois class overthrew the aristocracy, was a necessary stepping stone to the eventual triumph of the proletariat.

Frederick Engels in his book “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific” took a unique view on the French Revolution. He traced the beginnings of the bourgeoisie take over to the Reformation. According to Engels, the development of the bourgeoisie was incompatible with feudalism. Unfortunately, the center of feudalism was the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, all of the bourgeois struggles against feudalism prior to the French Revolution had to take on a religious disguise. However, it was science that Engels credits as starting the revolution. Since the bourgeoisie needed science for industrial production, they had no choice but to join in its rebellion again the church. Engels shared the view of Tristan, that the peasants helped the revolution but received nothing in return from the victorious bourgeois. Engels also declared that the Revolution was inevitable in order for the bourgeois to claim the fruits that were ripe for picking (Engels 18).

Engels saw the French Revolution as throwing off the religious cloak that had dominated the struggle until then. The bourgeoisie destroyed their opponents this time. The bourgeoisie took the opportunity to break from the past, including religion. Engels pointed out however that they have not been able to remain in control long, the monarch shortly afterwards returning to France. Engels claimed that America is the only nation where the bourgeoisie have been able to stay in control but only because it had no memory of feudalism to return to. The proletariat was ready to take over in both America and the continent (Engels 24-25). Only too late did the bourgeoisie realize the importance of religion. According to Engels, the bourgeoisie use religion to keep the proletariat in check. When the bourgeois rejected religion, they did not realize the ill they were doing to themselves, paving the way for the eventual proletariat revolution (Engels 28).

The ideals of the French Revolution also influenced Engels. The principles of equality, as well as his skepticism of religion, both have precedent in the revolution. Like Tristan, Engels also attributed materialism as a factor in the French Revolution, and was a materialist by his own admission. However, unlike Tristan, Engels regarded the French Revolution with scorn. While Tristan tended to think of the French Revolution as a good idea that did not go far enough, Engels saw it as a set back in the living conditions of the proletariat. “The society based upon reason had faired no better. The antagonism between rich and poor, instead of dissolving into general prosperity, had become intensified by the removal of the charitable institutions of the church” (Engels 34). In this respect, Engels can be seen as similar to Burke, who also maintained that conditions in France were worse as a result of the Revolution.

Instead of seeing the proletarian dominance as a completion of the Revolution, as Tristan did, Engels saw it as the solution of it. The proletarian revolution is a “solution of the contradictions” brought on by the French Revolution (Engels 74).

Although all three of these writers differed from the goals of the French Revolution, and from each other, it nevertheless had an impact on them. The French Republic might not have outlasted Napoleon, but the ideals produced by the Revolution had a tremendous affect on the intellectuals of the nineteenth century. These same ideas produced three very different responses, and yet all three can be traced back to the same event despite their differences with each other. The French Revolution had an impact that outlasted its immediate results.

Professor’s Comments: Joel, this is a very fine paper. It is clear, well-organized, and you chose wonderful quotations to illustrate your point. You also integrate lecture material well. You not only suggest connections, you demonstrate them.
My biggest criticism is about language. You write well, but you can write even better. Some of you constructions are too wordy, or better put, not as direct as they could be. What you should do is to begin to edit out those phrases. I made a number of stylistic suggestions, just to give you an idea of what I mean. My purpose is not to be needlessly picky, but to encourage you to think about ways to improve your writing, because you have the ability to become an excellent writer.
Also, in the second half of the course, please contribute more to class discussions. You have good ideas share them with the rest of us!
Good work.

Partner event: Bolshevik Revolution - A hundred years of lasting legacy

In October 2017 we will remember the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik coup in Russia. What at the time looked like a hopeless putsch by a small group of ideological extremists, soon acquired remarkable historical significance which, for some, represented a culmination of human advancement. For others, the event represented a dark spectre that descended on humankind.

The Bolshevik ideology developed to reflect the imposition of revolutionary Marxism on the imperial autocratic tradition of Russia. It changed from a concept of proletarian internationalism, to that of "socialism in one country", and then to the justification of a new Russian empire. Over decades, the Soviet reign of terror imposed by a bureaucratic dictatorship developed into a global power willing and capable of cleaving the world system into two antagonistic camps and influencing the politics of five continents.

Most importantly, however, many believed that the Soviet regime had a tremendous impact on human nature by creating the so-called Homo Sovieticus - a term used for the distinct approach to real life's situations of people in the former communist countries.

This represents an important context which is often forgotten or downplayed in understanding the course of transition many post-communist countries underwent despite its significant impacts on the process. In daily politics as much as in daily social practices, Homo Sovieticus continues to hover over on-going attempts at transforming socio-political life.

The main goal of this Conference is to better understand our today’s world against this lasting legacy. To this end, the following questions - among others - could be structuring the debate:

  • What is the continuous legacy of Homo Sovieticus?
  • Is there a link between the Cold War era, post 89’ failures and the ongoing challenges faced by the European Union?
  • Is neo-imperial Russia the most perilous legacy of Soviet Communism?
  • Is it possible to link today’s Communist states with the Soviet past?

14:00 Registration & Welcome Coffee

Manfred Weber, Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament

Taja Vovk van Gaal, Creative Director, House of European History

Moderator: Sandra Kalniete, Vice-Chair of the EPP Group in the European Parliament

David Feest, History Researcher at Nordost-Institut, University of Hamburg

Marie Mendras, CNRS - Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs

Aude Merlin, Chargé de cours, political science, Université libre de Bruxelles

Christopher Walker, Vice President, Studies & Analysis, National Endowment for Democracy

Discussion with Members and participants

Miriam Lexmann, Director of the EU Office of the International Republican Institute

"Age of Delirium: The Dramatic Story of the Late Years of the Soviet Union" by David Satter

Rise of Napoleon

On Aug. 22, 1795, the National Assembly approved a new constitution that established a representative system of government with a bicameral legislature similar to that in the U.S. For the next four years, the French government would be beset by political corruption, domestic unrest, a weak economy, and ongoing efforts by radicals and monarchists to seize power. Into the vacuum strode French Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte. On Nov. 9, 1799, Bonaparte backed by the army overthrew the National Assembly and declared the French Revolution over.

Over the next decade and a half, he could consolidate power domestically as he led France in a series of military victories across much of Europe, declaring himself emperor of France in 1804. During his reign, Bonaparte continued the liberalization that had begun during the Revolution, reforming its civil code, establishing the first national bank, expanding public education, and investing heavily in infrastructures like roads and sewers.

As the French army conquered foreign lands, he brought these reforms, known as the Napoleonic Code, with him, liberalizing property rights, ending the practice of segregating Jews in ghettos, and declaring all men equal. But Napoleon would eventually be undermined by his own military ambitions and be defeated in 1815 by the British at the Battle of Waterloo. He would die in exile on the Mediterranean island of St. Helena in 1821.

Castro’s legacy: how the revolutionary inspired and appalled the world

Children in red neckerchiefs scampering to free schools, families rationing toilet paper in dilapidated houses, pensioners enjoying free medical treatment, newspapers filled with monotonous state propaganda: all in some way bear the stamp of one man.

Historians will debate Castro’s legacy for decades to come but his revolution’s accomplishments and failures are on open display in today’s Cuba, which – even with the reforms of recent years – still bears the stamp of half a century of “Fidelismo”.

The “maximum leader” was a workaholic micro-manager who turned the Caribbean island into an economic, political and social laboratory that has simultaneously intrigued, appalled and inspired the world.

“When Fidel took power in 1959 few would have predicted that he would be able to so completely transform Cuban society, upend US priorities in Latin America and create a following of global proportions,” said Dan Erikson, an analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue thinktank and author of The Cuba Wars.

The most apparent downside of his legacy is material scarcity. For ordinary Cubans things tend to be either in short supply, such as transport, housing and food, or prohibitively expensive, such as soap, books and clothes.

These problems have persisted since Fidel handed the presidency to his brother Raúl in 2008. Despite overtures to the United States and encouragement of micro businesses since then, the state still controls the lion’s share of the economy and pays an average monthly wage of less than £15. This has forced many to hustle extra income however they can, including prostitution and low-level corruption. The lucky ones earn hard currency through tourism jobs or receive dollars from relatives in Florida.

Cubans are canny improvisers and can live with dignity on a shoestring, but they yearn for conditions to ease. “We want to buy good stuff, nice stuff, like you do in your countries,” said Miguel, 20, gazing wistfully at Adidas runners on a store on Neptuno street.

Castro blamed the hardship on the US embargo, a longstanding, vindictive stranglehold which cost the economy billions. However, most analysts and many Cubans say botched central planning and stifling controls were even more ruinous. “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work,” goes the old joke.

Thanks to universal and free education and healthcare, however, Cuba boasts first-world levels of literacy and life expectancy. The comandante made sure the state reached the poorest, a commitment denied to many slum-dwellers across Latin America.

Idealism sparkles in places such as Havana’s institute for the blind where Lisbet, a young doctor, works marathon shifts. “We see every single one of the patients. It’s our job and how we contribute to the revolution and humankind.”

Castro continued to hold a place in people’s hearts and minds despite largely withdrawing from public life in the last decade of his life. Increasingly infirm, he mostly tended his garden in Zone Zero (the high security district of Havana), rebutted frequent premature rumours of his death with photographs showing him holding the latest edition of the state-run newspaper Granma, and wrote the occasional column, including grumpy criticism of Cuba’s drift towards market economics and reconciliation with the United States.

Pope Francis meets Cuba’s Fidel Castro, as Castro’s wife Dalia Soto del Valle looks on, in Havana in 2015. Photograph: Alex Castro/AP

But his influence was clearly on the wane. Although he met Pope Francis in 2015, he spent a lot more time with his plants than with national and global power brokers. Even before his death, he had become more of a historical than a political figure.

“Fidel was the dominant figure for decades, but Raúl has been calling the shots,” observed a European diplomat based in Havana, who predicted the death would have more symbolic than political significance. “Has his presence been a block to reforms? Possibly. There could be an impact on young Cubans, but we won’t see a huge shift of Cuban politics after Fidel’s death. More significant would be if Raúl dies because he put his leadership on the line for reform.”

Cuba had already begun the move away from Fidel’s era in a similar series of gradual steps to that taken in China after the the death of Mao Zedong or Vietnam after the demise of Ho Chi Minh.

Under the Economic Modernisation Plan of 2010, the state shed 1m jobs, and opened opportunities for small private business, such as paladares – family-run restaurants – and casas particulares, or home hotels. Farmers have been given more autonomy and price incentives to produce more food. The government has eased overseas travel restrictions, loosened pay ceilings, ended controls on car sales and tied up with overseas partners to build a new free-trade zone at the former submarine base in Mariel. The biggest changes have been in the diplomatic sphere, where Cuba strengthened ties with the Vatican and signed a historic accord with the United States to ease half a century of cold war tension.

But this is still an island shaped more by Fidel Castro than any other man. Wander up the marble steps at the centre of Revolution Square and stand where Castro used to give his marathon orations to an audience of more than a million and you can still see just how much the revolution he led reshaped the country. On one side are the giant profiles – illuminated at night – of his two lieutenants: Che Guevara on the ministry of the interior and Camilo Cienfuegos across the facade of the communications ministry.

In the distance, you can see the tower blocks that were formerly the headquarters of major US corporations such as ITT and General Electric but were nationalised under Castro, and hotels such as the Havana Libre, which were once owned by US mobsters but later turned over to the state.

Part of Cuba’s charm for tourists – and the curse for many locals – is that it is all too easy to remember what life here was like in the early days of the revolution because the city has barely move on in the subsequent half century. Thanks to the economic embargo imposed by the United States, Castro’s Cuba became a time capsule. Despite a partial facelift ahead of Pope Francis’s visit in 2015, many streets are still lined by crumbling colonial facades and potted by holes that look like they have been there for decades.

The former mafia hotels have had little more than a lick of paint since they were frequented by mobsters like Meyer Lansky and Charles “Lucky” Luciano. And, of course, classic cars from the 1950s – Buicks, Chryslers, Oldsmobiles and Chevrolets – still cruise the Malecón.

Close to Revolution Square is the run-down La Timba neighbourhood, where a young Fidel Castro cut his teeth as a lawyer defending the local community of shanty-home dwellers against eviction by developers. Juvelio Chinea, an elderly resident, said the changes brought by the revolution in his own life had been modest, but his sons and grandsons had been able to attend university – the first generations in their family to be able to do so.

Chinea recalls hearing the comandante’s speeches from inside his home. The 21-gun salute used to crack the walls and shake the cutlery. There would be singing and shouting from the crowd, then a hush as Castro started speaking. “Some speeches were better than others,” he remembers. “I wish he could have stayed in power longer.”

Not everyone is so sure about that. At the law department in Havana University, where Castro studied from 1945, there is admiration for the country’s former leader, but many believe he held back development.

“The best thing Fidel did for Cuba was to give us free healthcare at the level of a first world nation,” said one student. “The worst thing is that economic change has been delayed. If Fidel and Raúl had acted earlier, many of today’s problems would already have been solved.”

The student dreams of starting his own private law firm but that is not yet possible, he says, “because the government prefers to keep lawyers and courts under control” so he is thinking of joining his brother, who moved recently to the United States. Nonetheless, he is proud of his country’s and his university’s history. “It’s great that this school was where an icon like Fidel studied.”

Members of the Cuban delegation wave flags beneath portraits of the South American libertor Simón Bolívar and the Cuban national hero José Martí at the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2006. Photograph: Fernando Llano/AP

That many still feel affection for “El Jefe Máximo” despite his ruinous economic policies is because he is judged more for his nationalist triumphs than his communist failures. Castro’s main inspiration was not Karl Marx, but José Martí, the 19th-century Cuban independence hero. While the latter fought to eject Spanish colonisers, Castro ended US neo-imperialist rule by kicking out US corporations and gangsters. The former banana republic is now proudly sovereign.

Camilo Guevara, the son of Castro’s comrade-in-arms Ernesto “Che” Guevara, said these achievements were secure despite the recent overtures from Washington.

“The revolutionaries changed the status quo and established a base for this nation that is independent, sovereign, progressive and economically sustainable. That’s how we got where we are,” he said at the Che Guevara Institute, which is dedicated to maintaining the ideological legacy of his father’s generation.

The message is driven home at the Museum of the Revolution, where the trophies of the early Castro era are prominently displayed outside the building that was once the presidential palace. Here you find the Granma yacht, on which Castro and 81 fellow revolutionaries sailed from Mexico in 1956 to begin the war against the US-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Here too is the engine of the US U-2 spy plane that was shot down in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis. Inside, the exhibits and photographs ram home how this small island, under Castro’s leadership, defied the Yankee superpower despite the threat of nuclear annihilation.

For many elderly Cubans, that was a terrifying, thrilling time to be alive and they remain grateful to Castro for guiding them through it. Frank López, a retired teacher, speaks fondly of that early era under the comandante. “It was frightening. The US jets would fly low and fast above the city, shattering the windows with their noise. We were all trained to use rifles and machine guns and would have to do drills every night. But in the end, nothing happened and we all went back to school. People should stand up to the US more often.”

But he is not dewy-eyed about Castro. Although he admires the early healthcare and education reforms, he also recalls the economic hardships and the intrusive, suspicious state security apparatus. At one point, he was placed under surveillance for six years because a friend had plotted against Castro. These days, a bigger problem is making ends meet in the face of shortages of basic foodstuffs. “We must all do other work to get by. It’s been like that for more than 20 years,” he says. “So while we say thank you to the revolution for the education and healthcare, we also ask how much longer we have to keep saying thank you.”

While Castro became a figurehead for revolutionary armed struggle throughout and beyond Latin America, the former guerrilla was far from universally popular in his home country once he turned his hand to government. Property appropriations, restrictions on religion and crackdowns on suspected enemies left many, particularly in the old middle class, hating him – a sentiment that has spanned the generations.

As a child, Antonio Rodiles said he rebelled after learning his mother’s property had been confiscated and a cousin executed as a suspected CIA agent. “They used to tell me ‘Fidel is your daddy’. I replied ‘No, he’s not’. I hated them for forcing me to do things. As I grew up I realised this kind of system is not natural,” he recalls. Today, he heads the opposition group Citizen Demand for Another Cuba and is often arrested and beaten. “Fidel has left a shadow over Cuba. His legacy is terrible. He destroyed families, individuals and the structure of society.”

Rosa María Payá. Photograph: Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images

Similarly, Rosa María Payá grew up watching her father fight against and suffer from a system that tolerated little dissent. Oswaldo Payá was a leading campaigner for free elections who was imprisoned first for his religious beliefs and then for his political campaigns. He died in a car accident in 2014. Rosa María believes he was forced off the road by the government agents who were following him. She said the Castros have left a legacy of tyranny that is unchanged despite the cosmetic reforms and diplomatic deals of recent years.

“The Cuban people haven’t had a choice since the 1950s,” she says. “My father spent three years in a forced labour camp because he was Catholic. Others were imprisoned with him because they were homosexuals or dressed the ‘wrong’ way. The reality is that you can’t be alternative to the line of Fidel and Raúl.”

From the 1960s onwards, the Intelligence Directorate intrusively monitored opponents, many of whom were beaten by police or spent years in jail. Despite the release of dozens of political prisoners in the wake of the 2014 Cuba-US agreement, many activists were detained or harassed ahead of visits by Barack Obama in 2016 and Pope Francis the previous year.

Yet, compared with the past, there is a little more scope for criticism, a lot more opportunity to travel, and slightly less of a sense of crisis. Cuba may still be more closely aligned to Venezuela than the United States, but it is clearly hedging its bets more than it used to do under Fidel. Today the country is different from the one that confidently erected a now-fading plaque on Avenida Salvador Allende with a quotation from Chile’s socialist leader: “To be young and not to be revolutionary is a contradiction, almost a biological one.”


The revolutions arose from such a wide variety of causes that it is difficult to view them as resulting from a coherent movement or set of social phenomena. Numerous changes had been taking place in European society throughout the first half of the 19th century. Both liberal reformers and radical politicians were reshaping national governments.

Technological change was revolutionizing the life of the working classes. A popular press extended political awareness, and new values and ideas such as popular liberalism, nationalism and socialism began to emerge. Some historians emphasize the serious crop failures, particularly those of 1846, that produced hardship among peasants and the working urban poor. [ citation needed ]

Large swaths of the nobility were discontented with royal absolutism or near-absolutism. In 1846, there had been an uprising of Polish nobility in Austrian Galicia, which was only countered when peasants, in turn, rose up against the nobles. [6] Additionally, an uprising by democratic forces against Prussia, planned but not actually carried out, occurred in Greater Poland. [ clarification needed ]

The middle and working classes thus shared a desire for reform, and agreed on many of the specific aims. Their participation in the revolutions, however, differed. While much of the impetus came from the middle classes, much of the cannon fodder came from the lower classes. The revolts first erupted in the cities.

Urban workers Edit

The population in French rural areas had risen rapidly, causing many peasants to seek a living in the cities. Many in the bourgeoisie feared and distanced themselves from the working poor. Many unskilled laborers toiled from 12 to 15 hours per day when they had work, living in squalid, disease-ridden slums. Traditional artisans felt the pressure of industrialization, having lost their guilds. Revolutionaries such as Karl Marx built up a following. [7]

The liberalization of trade laws and the growth of factories had increased the gulf between master tradesmen, and journeymen and apprentices, whose numbers increased disproportionately by 93% from 1815 to 1848 in Germany. Significant proletarian unrest had occurred in Lyon in 1831 and 1834, and Prague in 1844. Jonathan Sperber has suggested that in the period after 1825, poorer urban workers (particularly day laborers, factory workers and artisans) saw their purchasing power decline relatively steeply: urban meat consumption in Belgium, France and Germany stagnated or declined after 1830, despite growing populations. [8] The economic Panic of 1847 increased urban unemployment: 10,000 Viennese factory workers were made redundant and 128 Hamburg firms went bankrupt over the course of 1847. [9] With the exception of the Netherlands, there was a strong correlation among the countries that were most deeply affected by the industrial shock of 1847 and those that underwent a revolution in 1848. [10]

The situation in the German states was similar. Parts of Prussia were beginning to industrialize. During the decade of the 1840s, mechanized production in the textile industry brought about inexpensive clothing that undercut the handmade products of German tailors. [11] Reforms ameliorated the most unpopular features of rural feudalism, but industrial workers remained dissatisfied with these reforms and pressed for greater change.

Urban workers had no choice but to spend half of their income on food, which consisted mostly of bread and potatoes. As a result of harvest failures, food prices soared and the demand for manufactured goods decreased, causing an increase in unemployment. During the revolution, to address the problem of unemployment, workshops were organized for men interested in construction work. Officials also set up workshops for women when they felt they were excluded. Artisans and unemployed workers destroyed industrial machines when they threatened to give employers more power over them. [12] [13]

Rural areas Edit

Rural population growth had led to food shortages, land pressure, and migration, both within and from Europe, especially to the Americas. Peasant discontent in the 1840s grew in intensity: peasant occupations of lost communal land increased in many areas: those convicted of wood theft in the Rhenish Palatinate increased from 100,000 in 1829–30 to 185,000 in 1846–47. [14] In the years 1845 and 1846, a potato blight caused a subsistence crisis in Northern Europe, and encouraged the raiding of manorial potato stocks in Silesia in 1847. The effects of the blight were most severely manifested in the Great Irish Famine, [15] but also caused famine-like conditions in the Scottish Highlands and throughout continental Europe. Harvests of rye in the Rhineland were 20% of previous levels, while the Czech potato harvest was reduced by half. [16] These reduced harvests were accompanied by a steep rise in prices (the cost of wheat more than doubled in France and Habsburg Italy). There were 400 French food riots during 1846 to 1847, while German socio-economic protests increased from 28 during 1830 to 1839, to 103 during 1840 to 1847. [17] Central to long-term peasant grievances were the loss of communal lands, forest restrictions (such as the French Forest Code of 1827), and remaining feudal structures, notably the robot (labor obligations) that existed among the serfs and oppressed peasantry of the Habsburg lands. [18]

Aristocratic wealth (and corresponding power) was synonymous with the ownership of farm lands and effective control over the peasants. Peasant grievances exploded during the revolutionary year of 1848, yet were often disconnected from urban revolutionary movements: the revolutionary Sándor Petőfi's popular nationalist rhetoric in Budapest did not translate into any success with the Magyar peasantry, while the Viennese democrat Hans Kudlich reported that his efforts to galvanize the Austrian peasantry had "disappeared in the great sea of indifference and phlegm". [19]

Role of ideas Edit

Despite forceful and often violent efforts of established and reactionary powers to keep them down, disruptive ideas gained popularity: democracy, liberalism, radicalism, nationalism, and socialism. [20] They demanded a constitution, universal manhood suffrage, press freedom, freedom of expression and other democratic rights, the establishment of civilian militia, liberation of peasants, liberalization of the economy, abolition of tariff barriers and the abolition of monarchical power structures in favor of the establishment of republican states, or at least the restriction of the prince power in the form of constitutional monarchies.

In the language of the 1840s, 'democracy' meant replacing an electorate of property-owners with universal male suffrage. 'Liberalism' fundamentally meant consent of the governed, restriction of church and state power, republican government, freedom of the press and the individual. The 1840s had seen the emergence of radical liberal publications such as Rheinische Zeitung (1842) Le National and La Réforme (1843) in France Ignaz Kuranda's Grenzboten (1841) in Austria Lajos Kossuth's Pesti Hírlap (1841) in Hungary, as well as the increased popularity of the older Morgenbladet in Norway and the Aftonbladet in Sweden. [21]

'Nationalism' believed in uniting people bound by (some mix of) common languages, culture, religion, shared history, and of course immediate geography there were also irredentist movements. Nationalism had developed a broader appeal during the pre-1848 period, as seen in the František Palacký's 1836 History of the Czech Nation, which emphasised a national lineage of conflict with the Germans, or the popular patriotic Liederkranz (song-circles) that were held across Germany: patriotic and belligerent songs about Schleswig had dominated the Würzburg national song festival in 1845. [22]

'Socialism' in the 1840s was a term without a consensus definition, meaning different things to different people, but was typically used within a context of more power for workers in a system based on worker ownership of the means of production.

These concepts together - democracy, liberalism, nationalism and socialism, in the sense described above - came to be encapsulated in the political term radicalism.

Every country had a distinctive timing, but the general pattern showed very sharp cycles as reform moved up then down. [23]

Spring 1848: Astonishing success Edit

The world was astonished in spring 1848 when revolutions appeared in so many places and seemed on the verge of success everywhere. Agitators who had been exiled by the old governments rushed home to seize the moment. In France the monarchy was once again overthrown and replaced by a republic. In a number of major German and Italian states, and in Austria, the old leaders were forced to grant liberal constitutions. The Italian and German states seemed to be rapidly forming unified nations. Austria gave Hungarians and Czechs liberal grants of autonomy and national status. [24]

Summer 1848: Divisions among reformers Edit

In France bloody street battles exploded between the middle class reformers and the working class radicals. German reformers argued endlessly without finalizing their results. [25]

Autumn 1848: Reactionaries organize for a counter-revolution Edit

Caught off guard at first, the aristocracy and their allies plot a return to power. [25]

1849–1851: Overthrow of revolutionary regimes Edit

The revolutions suffer a series of defeats in summer 1849. Reactionaries returned to power and many leaders of the revolution went into exile. Some social reforms proved permanent, and years later nationalists in Germany, Italy, and Hungary gained their objectives. [26]

Italian states Edit

Although few noticed at the time, the first major outbreak came in Sicily, starting in January 1848. There had been several previous revolts against Bourbon rule this one produced an independent state that lasted only 16 months before the Bourbons came back. During those months, the constitution was quite advanced for its time in liberal democratic terms, as was the proposal of an Italian confederation of states. [ citation needed ] The revolt's failure was reversed 12 years later as the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies collapsed in 1860–61 with the Risorgimento.

France Edit

The "February Revolution" in France was sparked by the suppression of the campagne des banquets. This revolution was driven by nationalist and republican ideals among the French general public, who believed the people should rule themselves. It ended the constitutional monarchy of Louis-Philippe, and led to the creation of the French Second Republic. The new government was headed by Louis-Napoleon, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, who in 1852 staged a coup d'état and established himself as a dictatorial emperor of the Second French Empire. [27]

Alexis de Tocqueville remarked in his Recollections of the period, "society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy, and those who had anything united in common terror." [28]

German states Edit

The "March Revolution" in the German states took place in the south and the west of Germany, with large popular assemblies and mass demonstrations. Led by well-educated students and intellectuals, [29] they demanded German national unity, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. The uprisings were poorly coordinated, but had in common a rejection of traditional, autocratic political structures in the 39 independent states of the German Confederation. The middle-class and working-class components of the Revolution split, and in the end, the conservative aristocracy defeated it, forcing many liberal Forty-Eighters into exile. [30]

Denmark Edit

Denmark had been governed by a system of absolute monarchy (King's Law) since the 17th century. King Christian VIII, a moderate reformer but still an absolutist, died in January 1848 during a period of rising opposition from farmers and liberals. The demands for constitutional monarchy, led by the National Liberals, ended with a popular march to Christiansborg on 21 March. The new king, Frederick VII, met the liberals' demands and installed a new Cabinet that included prominent leaders of the National Liberal Party. [31]

The national-liberal movement wanted to abolish absolutism, but retain a strongly centralized state. The king accepted a new constitution agreeing to share power with a bicameral parliament called the Rigsdag. It is said that the Danish king's first words after signing away his absolute power were, "that was nice, now I can sleep in the mornings". [32] Although army officers were dissatisfied, they accepted the new arrangement which, in contrast to the rest of Europe, was not overturned by reactionaries. [31] The liberal constitution did not extend to Schleswig, leaving the Schleswig-Holstein Question unanswered.

Schleswig Edit

The Duchy of Schleswig, a region containing both Danes (a North Germanic population) and Germans (a West Germanic population), was a part of the Danish monarchy, but remained a duchy separate from the Kingdom of Denmark. Spurred by pan-German sentiment, the Germans of Schleswig took up arms to protest a new policy announced by Denmark's National Liberal government, which would have fully integrated the duchy into Denmark.

The German population in Schleswig and Holstein revolted, inspired by the Protestant clergy. The German states sent in an army, but Danish victories in 1849 led to the Treaty of Berlin (1850) and the London Protocol (1852). They reaffirmed the sovereignty of the King of Denmark, while prohibiting union with Denmark. The violation of the latter provision led to renewed warfare in 1863 and the Prussian victory in 1864.

Habsburg Monarchy Edit

From March 1848 through July 1849, the Habsburg Austrian Empire was threatened by revolutionary movements, which often had a nationalist character. The empire, ruled from Vienna, included Austrians, Hungarians, Slovenes, Poles, Czechs, Croats, Slovaks, Ukrainians/Ruthenians, Romanians, Serbs and Italians, all of whom attempted in the course of the revolution to achieve either autonomy, independence, or even hegemony over other nationalities. [ citation needed ] The nationalist picture was further complicated by the simultaneous events in the German states, which moved toward greater German national unity.

Hungary Edit

The Hungarian revolution of 1848 was the longest in Europe, crushed in August 1849 by Austrian and Russian armies. Nevertheless, it had a major effect in freeing the serfs. [33] It started on 15 March 1848, when Hungarian patriots organized mass demonstrations in Pest and Buda (today Budapest) which forced the imperial governor to accept their 12 points of demands, which included the demand for freedom of press, an independent Hungarian ministry residing in Buda-Pest and responsible to a popularly elected parliament, the formation of a National Guard, complete civil and religious equality, trial by jury, a national bank, a Hungarian army, the withdrawal of foreign (Austrian) troops from Hungary, the freeing of political prisoners, and the union with Transylvania. On that morning, the demands were read aloud along with poetry by Sándor Petőfi with the simple lines of "We swear by the God of the Hungarians. We swear, we shall be slaves no more". [34] Lajos Kossuth and some other liberal nobility that made up the Diet appealed to the Habsburg court with demands for representative government and civil liberties. [35] These events resulted in Klemens von Metternich, the Austrian prince and foreign minister, resigning. The demands of the Diet were agreed upon on 18 March by Emperor Ferdinand. Although Hungary would remain part of the monarchy through personal union with the emperor, a constitutional government would be founded. The Diet then passed the April laws that established equality before the law, a legislature, a hereditary constitutional monarchy, and an end to the transfer and restrictions of land use. [35]

The revolution grew into a war for independence from the Habsburg Monarchy when Josip Jelačić, Ban of Croatia, crossed the border to restore their control. [36] The new government, led by Lajos Kossuth, was initially successful against the Habsburg forces. Although Hungary took a national united stand for its freedom, some minorities of the Kingdom of Hungary, including the Serbs of Vojvodina, the Romanians of Transylvania and some Slovaks of Upper Hungary supported the Habsburg Emperor and fought against the Hungarian Revolutionary Army. Eventually, after one and a half years of fighting, the revolution was crushed when Russian Tsar Nicholas I marched into Hungary with over 300,000 troops. [37] As result of the defeat, Hungary was thus placed under brutal martial law. The leading rebels like Kossuth fled into exile or were executed. In the long run, the passive resistance following the revolution, along with the crushing Austrian defeat in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War, led to the Austro-Hungarian Compromise (1867), which marked the birth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Galicia Edit

The center of the Ukrainian national movement was in Galicia, which is today divided between Ukraine and Poland. On 19 April 1848, a group of representatives led by the Greek Catholic clergy launched a petition to the Austrian Emperor. It expressed wishes that in those regions of Galicia where the Ruthenian (Ukrainian) population represented majority, the Ukrainian language should be taught at schools and used to announce official decrees for the peasantry local officials were expected to understand it and the Ruthenian clergy was to be equalized in their rights with the clergy of all other denominations. [38]

On 2 May 1848, the Supreme Ruthenian (Ukrainian) Council was established. The Council (1848–1851) was headed by the Greek-Catholic Bishop Gregory Yakhimovich and consisted of 30 permanent members. Its main goal was the administrative division of Galicia into Western (Polish) and Eastern (Ruthenian/Ukrainian) parts within the borders of the Habsburg Empire, and formation of a separate region with a political self-governance. [39]

Sweden Edit

During 18–19 March, a series of riots known as the March Unrest (Marsoroligheterna) took place in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. Declarations with demands of political reform were spread in the city and a crowd was dispersed by the military, leading to 18 casualties.

Switzerland Edit

Switzerland, already an alliance of republics, also saw an internal struggle. The attempted secession of seven Catholic cantons to form an alliance known as the Sonderbund ("separate alliance") in 1845 led to a short civil conflict in November 1847 in which around 100 people were killed. The Sonderbund was decisively defeated by the Protestant cantons, which had a larger population. [40] A new constitution of 1848 ended the almost-complete independence of the cantons, transforming Switzerland into a federal state.

Greater Poland Edit

Polish people mounted a military insurrection against the Prussians in the Grand Duchy of Posen (or the Greater Poland region), a part of Prussia since its annexation in 1815. The Poles tried to establish a Polish political entity, but refused to cooperate with the Germans and the Jews. The Germans decided they were better off with the status quo, so they assisted the Prussian governments in recapturing control. In the long-term, the uprising stimulated nationalism among both the Poles and the Germans and brought civil equality to the Jews. [41]

Romanian Principalities Edit

A Romanian liberal and Romantic nationalist uprising began in June in the principality of Wallachia. Its goals were administrative autonomy, abolition of serfdom, and popular self-determination. It was closely connected with the 1848 unsuccessful revolt in Moldavia, it sought to overturn the administration imposed by Imperial Russian authorities under the Regulamentul Organic regime, and, through many of its leaders, demanded the abolition of boyar privilege. Led by a group of young intellectuals and officers in the Wallachian military forces, the movement succeeded in toppling the ruling Prince Gheorghe Bibescu, whom it replaced with a provisional government and a regency, and in passing a series of major liberal reforms, first announced in the Proclamation of Islaz.

Despite its rapid gains and popular backing, the new administration was marked by conflicts between the radical wing and more conservative forces, especially over the issue of land reform. Two successive abortive coups weakened the new government, and its international status was always contested by Russia. After managing to rally a degree of sympathy from Ottoman political leaders, the Revolution was ultimately isolated by the intervention of Russian diplomats. In September 1848 by agreement with the Ottomans, Russia invaded and put down the revolution. According to Vasile Maciu, the failures were attributable in Wallachia to foreign intervention, in Moldavia to the opposition of the feudalists, and in Transylvania to the failure of the campaigns of General Józef Bem, and later to Austrian repression. [42] In later decades, the rebels returned and gained their goals.

Belgium Edit

Belgium did not see major unrest in 1848 it had already undergone a liberal reform after the Revolution of 1830 and thus its constitutional system and its monarchy survived. [43]

A number of small local riots broke out, concentrated in the sillon industriel industrial region of the provinces of Liège and Hainaut.

The most serious threat of revolutionary contagion, however, was posed by Belgian émigré groups from France. In 1830 the Belgian Revolution had broken out inspired by the revolution occurring in France, and Belgian authorities feared that a similar 'copycat' phenomenon might occur in 1848. Shortly after the revolution in France, Belgian migrant workers living in Paris were encouraged to return to Belgium to overthrow the monarchy and establish a republic. [44] Belgian authorities expelled Karl Marx himself from Brussels in early March on accusations of having used part of his inheritance to arm Belgian revolutionaries.

Around 6,000 armed émigrés of the "Belgian Legion" attempted to cross the Belgian frontier. There were two divisions which were formed. The first group, travelling by train, were stopped and quickly disarmed at Quiévrain on 26 March 1848. [45] The second group crossed the border on 29 March and headed for Brussels. They were confronted by Belgian troops at the hamlet of Risquons-Tout and defeated. Several smaller groups managed to infiltrate Belgium, but the reinforced Belgian border troops succeeded and the defeat at Risquons-Tout effectively ended the revolutionary threat to Belgium.

The situation in Belgium began to recover that summer after a good harvest, and fresh elections returned a strong majority to the governing party. [44]

Ireland Edit

A tendency common in the revolutionary movements of 1848 was a perception that the liberal monarchies set up in the 1830s, despite formally being representative parliamentary democracies, were too oligarchical and/or corrupt to respond to the urgent needs of the people, and were therefore in need of drastic democratic overhaul or, failing that, separatism to build a democratic state from scratch. [ citation needed ] This was the process that occurred in Ireland between 1801 and 1848. [ citation needed ]

Previously a separate kingdom, Ireland was incorporated into the United Kingdom in 1801. Although its population was made up largely of Catholics, and sociologically of agricultural workers, tensions arose from the political over-representation, in positions of power, of landowners of Protestant background who were loyal to the United Kingdom. From the 1810s a conservative-liberal movement led by Daniel O'Connell had sought to secure equal political rights for Catholics within the British political system, successful in the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829. But as in other European states, a current inspired by Radicalism criticized the conservative-liberals for pursuing the aim of democratic equality with excessive compromise and gradualism.

In Ireland a current of nationalist, egalitarian and Radical republicanism, inspired by the French Revolution, had been present since the 1790s – being expressed initially in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. This tendency grew into a movement for social, cultural and political reform during the 1830s, and in 1839 was realized into a political association called Young Ireland. It was initially not well received, but grew more popular with the Great Famine of 1845—1849, an event that brought catastrophic social effects and which threw into light the inadequate response of authorities.

The spark for the Young Irelander Revolution came in 1848 when the British Parliament passed the "Crime and Outrage Bill". The Bill was essentially a declaration of martial law in Ireland, designed to create a counter-insurgency against the growing Irish nationalist movement. [46]

In response, the Young Ireland Party launched its rebellion in July 1848, gathering landlords and tenants to its cause.

But its first major engagement against police, in the village of Ballingarry, South Tipperary, was a failure. A long gunfight with around 50 armed Royal Irish Constables ended when police reinforcements arrived. After the arrest of the Young Ireland leaders, the rebellion collapsed, though intermittent fighting continued for the next year,

It is sometimes called the Famine Rebellion (since it took place during the Great Famine). [ citation needed ]

Spain Edit

While no revolution occurred in Spain in the year 1848, a similar phenomenon occurred. During this year, the country was going through the Second Carlist War. The European revolutions erupted at a moment when the political regime in Spain faced great criticism from within one of its two main parties, and by 1854 a radical-liberal revolution and a conservative-liberal counter-revolution had both occurred.

Since 1833, Spain had been governed by a conservative-liberal parliamentary monarchy similar to and modelled on the July Monarchy in France. In order to exclude absolute monarchists from government, power had alternated between two liberal parties: the center-left Progressive Party, and the center-right Moderate Party. But a decade of rule by the center-right Moderates had recently produced a constitutional reform (1845), prompting fears that the Moderates sought to reach out to Absolutists and permanently exclude the Progressives. The left-wing of the Progressive Party, which had historical links to Jacobinism and Radicalism, began to push for root-and-branch reforms to the constitutional monarchy, notably universal male suffrage and parliamentary sovereignty.

The European Revolutions of 1848 and particularly the French Second Republic prompted the Spanish radical movement to adopt positions incompatible with the existing constitutional regime, notably republicanism. This ultimately led the Radicals to exit the Progressive Party to form the Democratic Party in 1849.

Over the next years, two revolutions occurred. In 1852, the conservatives of the Moderate Party were ousted after a decade in power by an alliance of Radicals, Liberals and liberal Conservatives led by Generals Espartero and O'Donnell. In 1854, the more conservative half of this alliance launched a second revolution to oust the republican Radicals, leading to a new 10-year period of government by conservative-liberal monarchists.

Taken together, the two revolutions can be thought of as echoing aspects of the French Second Republic: the Spanish Revolution of 1852, as a revolt by Radicals and Liberals against the oligarchical, conservative-liberal parliamentary monarchy of the 1830s, mirrored the French Revolution of 1848 while the Spanish Revolution of 1854, as a counter-revolution of conservative-liberals under a military strongman, had echoes of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte's coup against the French Second Republic.

Other European states Edit

The Island of Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, the Russian Empire (including Poland and Finland), and the Ottoman Empire did not encounter major national or Radical revolutions over this period. Sweden and Norway were also little affected. Serbia, though formally unaffected by the revolt as it was a part of the Ottoman state, actively supported Serbian revolutionaries in the Habsburg Empire. [47]

Russia's relative stability was attributed to the revolutionary groups' inability to communicate with each other. [ citation needed ]

In some countries, uprisings had already occurred demanding similar reforms to the Revolutions of 1848, but little success. This was case for the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which had seen a series of uprisings before or after but not during 1848: the November Uprising of 1830–31 the Kraków Uprising of 1846 (notable for being quelled by the anti-revolutionary Galician slaughter), and later on the January Uprising of 1863–65.

In other countries, the relative calm could be attributed to the fact that they had already gone through revolutions or civil wars in the preceding years, and therefore already enjoyed many of the reforms which Radicals elsewhere were demanding in 1848. This was largely the case for Belgium (the Belgian Revolution in 1830–1) Portugal (the Liberal Wars of 1828–34) and Switzerland (the Sonderbund War of 1847)

In yet other countries, the absence of unrest was partly due to governments taking action to prevent revolutionary unrest, and pre-emptively grant some of the reforms demanded by revolutionaries elsewhere. This was notably the case for the Netherlands, where King William II decided to alter the Dutch constitution to reform elections and voluntarily reduce the power of the monarchy. The same might be said of Switzerland, where a new constitutional regime was introduced in 1848: the Swiss Federal Constitution was a revolution of sorts, laying the foundation of Swiss society as it is today.

While no major political upheavals occurred in the Ottoman Empire as such, political unrest did occur in some of its vassal states. In Serbia, feudalism was abolished and the power of the Serbian prince was reduced with the Turkish Constitution of Serbia in 1838.

Other English-speaking countries Edit

In Britain, while the middle classes had been pacified by their inclusion in the extension of the franchise in the Reform Act 1832, the consequential agitations, violence, and petitions of the Chartist movement came to a head with their peaceful petition to Parliament of 1848. The repeal in 1846 of the protectionist agricultural tariffs – called the "Corn Laws" – had defused some proletarian fervour. [48]

In the Isle of Man, there were ongoing efforts to reform the self-elected House of Keys, but no revolution took place. Some of the reformers were encouraged by events in France in particular. [49]

In the United States, opinions were polarized, with Democrats and reformers in favor, although they were distressed at the degree of violence involved. Opposition came from conservative elements, especially Whigs, southern slaveholders, orthodox Calvinists, and Catholics. About 4,000 German exiles arrived and some became fervent Republicans in the 1850s, such as Carl Schurz. Kossuth toured America and won great applause, but no volunteers or diplomatic or financial help. [50]

Following rebellions in 1837 and 1838, 1848 in Canada saw the establishment of responsible government in Nova Scotia and The Canadas, the first such governments in the British Empire outside Great Britain. John Ralston Saul has argued that this development is tied to the revolutions in Europe, but described the Canadian approach to the revolutionary year of 1848 as "talking their way. out of the empire's control system and into a new democratic model", a stable democratic system which has lasted to the present day. Tory and Orange Order in Canada opposition to responsible government came to a head in riots triggered by the Rebellion Losses Bill in 1849. They succeeded in the burning of the Parliament Buildings in Montreal, but, unlike their counterrevolutionary counterparts in Europe, they were ultimately unsuccessful. [51]

Latin America Edit

In Spanish Latin America, the Revolution of 1848 appeared in New Granada, where Colombian students, liberals, and intellectuals demanded the election of General José Hilario López. He took power in 1849 and launched major reforms, abolishing slavery and the death penalty, and providing freedom of the press and of religion. The resulting turmoil in Colombia lasted three decades from 1851 to 1885, the country was ravaged by four general civil wars and 50 local revolutions. [52]

In Chile, the 1848 revolutions inspired the 1851 Chilean Revolution. [53]

In Brazil, the "Praieira Revolt," a movement in Pernambuco, lasted from November 1848 to 1852. [ citation needed ] Unresolved conflicts from the period of the regency and local resistance to the consolidation of the Brazilian Empire that had been proclaimed in 1822 helped to plant the seeds of the revolution.

In Mexico, the conservative government led by Santa Anna lost Texas, California and half of the territory to the United States in the Mexican–American War of 1845-48. Derived from this catastrophe and chronic stability problems, the Liberal Party started a reformist movement. This movement, via elections, led liberals to formulate the Plan of Ayutla. The Plan written in 1854 aimed at removing conservative, centralist President Antonio López de Santa Anna from control of Mexico during the Second Federal Republic of Mexico period. Initially, it seemed little different than other political plans of the era, but it is considered the first act of the Liberal Reform in Mexico. [54] It was the catalyst for revolts in many parts of Mexico, which led to the resignation of Santa Anna from the presidency, never to vie for office again. [55] The next Presidents of Mexico were the liberals, Juan Álvarez, Ignacio Comonfort, and Benito Juárez. The new regime would then proclaim the 1857 Mexican Constitution, which implemented a variety of liberal reforms. Among other things, these reforms confiscated religious property, aimed to promote economic development and to stabilize a nascent republican government. [56] The reforms led directly to the so-called Three Years War or Reform War of 1857. The liberals won this war but the conservatives solicited the French Government of Napoleon III for a European, conservative Monarch, deriving into the "Second French intervention in Mexico". Under the puppet Habsburg government of Maximilian I of Mexico, the country became a client state of France (1863-1867).

We have been beaten and humiliated . scattered, imprisoned, disarmed and gagged. The fate of European democracy has slipped from our hands.

Historian Priscilla Smith Robertson argues that many goals were achieved by the 1870s, but the credit primarily goes to the enemies of the 1848 revolutionaries:

Most of what the men of 1848 fought for was brought about within a quarter of a century, and the men who accomplished it were most of them specific enemies of the 1848 movement. Thiers ushered in a third French Republic, Bismarck united Germany, and Cavour, Italy. Deák won autonomy for Hungary within a dual monarchy a Russian czar freed the serfs and the British manufacturing classes moved toward the freedoms of the People's Charter. [58]

Democrats looked to 1848 as a democratic revolution, which in the long run ensured liberty, equality, and fraternity. For nationalists, 1848 was the springtime of hope, when newly emerging nationalities rejected the old multinational empires. But the end results were not as comprehensive as many had hoped.

Many governments engaged in a partial reversal of the revolutionary reforms of 1848–1849, as well as heightened repression and censorship. The Hanoverian nobility successfully appealed to the Confederal Diet in 1851 over the loss of their noble privileges, while the Prussian Junkers recovered their manorial police powers from 1852 to 1855. [59] [60] In the Austrian Empire, the Sylvester Patents (1851) discarded Franz Stadion's constitution and the Statute of Basic Rights, while the number of arrests in Habsburg territories increased from 70,000 in 1850 to one million by 1854. [61] Nicholas I's rule in Russia after 1848 was particularly repressive, marked by an expansion of the secret police (the Tretiye Otdeleniye) and stricter censorship there were more Russians working for censorship organs than actual books published in the period immediately after 1848. [62] [63] In France, the works of Ledru-Rollin, Hugo, Baudelaire and Proudhon were confiscated. [64]

In the post-revolutionary decade after 1848, little had visibly changed, and many historians considered the revolutions a failure, given the seeming lack of permanent structural changes. More recently, Christopher Clark has characterised the period that followed 1848 as one dominated by a 'revolution in government'. Karl Marx expressed disappointment at the bourgeois character of the revolutions. [65] The Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Manteuffel declared that the state could no longer be run 'like the landed estate of a nobleman'. In Prussia, August von Bethmann-Hollweg's Preußisches Wochenblatt newspaper (founded 1851) acted as a popular outlet for modernising Prussian conservative statesmen and journalists against the reactionary Kreuzzeitung faction. The revolutions of 1848 were followed by new centrist coalitions dominated by liberals nervous of the threat of working-class socialism, as seen in the Piedmontese Connubio under Cavour. [66] [67] [68]

Governments after 1848 were forced into managing the public sphere and popular sphere with more effectiveness, resulting in the increased prominence of the Prussian Zentralstelle für Pressangelegenheiten (Central Press Agency, established 1850), the Austrian Zensur-und polizeihofstelle, and the French Direction Générale de la Librairie (1856). [69]

Nevertheless, there were a few immediate successes for some revolutionary movements, notably in the Habsburg lands. Austria and Prussia eliminated feudalism by 1850, improving the lot of the peasants. European middle classes made political and economic gains over the next 20 years France retained universal male suffrage. Russia would later free the serfs on 19 February 1861. The Habsburgs finally had to give the Hungarians more self-determination in the Ausgleich of 1867. The revolutions inspired lasting reform in Denmark, as well as the Netherlands.

Reinhard Rürup has described the 1848 Revolutions as a turning point in the development of modern antisemitism through the development of conspiracies that presented Jews as representative both of the forces of social revolution (apparently typified in Joseph Goldmark and Adolf Fischhof of Vienna) and of international capital, as seen in the 1848 report from Eduard von Müller-Tellering, the Viennese correspondent of Marx's Neue Rheinische Zeitung, which declared: "tyranny comes from money and the money belongs to the Jews". [70]

About 4,000 exiles came to the United States fleeing the reactionary purges. Of these, 100 went to the Texas Hill Country as German Texans. [71] More widely, many disillusioned and persecuted revolutionaries, in particular (though not exclusively) those from Germany and the Austrian Empire, left their homelands for foreign exile in the New World or in the more liberal European nations: these emigrants were known as the Forty-Eighters.

The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

The civil rights movement was a heroic episode in American history. It aimed to give African Americans the same citizenship rights that whites took for granted. It was a war waged on many fronts. In the 1960s it achieved impressive judicial and legislative victories against discrimination in public accommodations and voting. It had less complete but still considerable success in combating job and housing discrimination. Those best able to take advantage of new opportunities were middle-class blacks—the teachers, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals who had served as role models for the black community. Their departure for formerly all-white areas left all-black neighborhoods segregated not only by race but now also by class. The problem of poverty, compounded by drugs, crime, and broken families, was not solved by the civil rights movement.

The process of school integration begun by the Brown decision of 1954 is viewed by some as a failure because many schools remain segregated by race as blacks and whites still, mostly, live in distinct neighborhoods. But no longer does the law assign blacks to separate schools. Although Brown dealt only with discrimination in education, it effectively sounded the death knell for the whole Jim Crow system of second-class citizenship. That is its greatest significance. However, it took the efforts—and in some cases the lives—of many men and women, black and white, to finally conquer Jim Crow.

Inequality remains. The average income of black families is still well below that of whites. Even college-educated blacks earn less than their white counterparts. The civil rights movement did not achieve complete equality, but greater equality. It brought the reality of Virginia closer to the promise articulated by Virginian Thomas Jefferson when he wrote "that all men are created equal."

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The French also awakened nationalism in 19th century Europe. They were a vivid example of what nationalism meant and they inspired nationalism in defeated nations as the hated conquerors and oppressors. Europe would never be the same.

He brought an end to the violence of the French Revolution while preserving many of its core ideals. He was extraordinarily popular with the French people, a figure larger than life who made the common man proud to be French. However, during his reign as Emperor, individual rights were suspended. There was little freedom in France.

He became the model of the autocratic, popular leader who takes absolute power with the will of the people. Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet and others consciously followed his path.

Tyrant or Hero? Perhaps a bit of both.

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Legacy of the French Revolution

At its core, the French Revolution was a political movement devoted to liberty. But what that liberty actually was and what was required to realize it remained open questions during the Revolution, as they have ever since. Some historians have suggested that what the revolutionaries’ liberty meant in practice was violence and a loss of personal security that pointed to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. This negative view had its roots in the ideas of many counter-revolutionaries, who criticized the Revolution from its beginning. These ideas gained new popularity during the period of reaction that set in after Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815, when the monarchy and its counter-revolutionary allies were restored to power.

However, the majority of Europeans and non-Europeans came to see the Revolution as much more than a bloody tragedy. These people were more impressed by what the Revolution accomplished than by what it failed to do. They recalled the Revolution’s abolition of serfdom, slavery, inherited privilege, and judicial torture its experiments with democracy and its opening of opportunities to those who, for reasons of social status or religion, had been traditionally excluded.

One of the most important contributions of the French Revolution was to make revolution part of the world’s political tradition. The French Revolution continued to provide instruction for revolutionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries, as peoples in Europe and around the world sought to realize their different versions of freedom. Karl Marx would, at least at the outset, pattern his notion of a proletarian revolution on the French Revolution of 1789. And 200 years later Chinese students, who weeks before had fought their government in Tiananmen Square, confirmed the contemporary relevance of the French Revolution when they led the revolutionary bicentennial parade in Paris on July 14, 1989.

Along with offering lessons about liberty and democracy, the Revolution also promoted nationalism. Napoleon’s occupation provoked nationalist groups to organize in Italy and Germany. Also influential was the revolutionaries’ belief that a nation was not a group of royal subjects but a society of equal citizens. The fact that most European countries are or are becoming parliamentary democracies, along the lines set out by the French Revolution, suggests its enduring influence.

Socially, the Revolution was also important. Clearly, society in France and to a lesser extent in other parts of Europe would never be the same. Once the ancient structure of privilege was smashed, it could not be pieced together again. The Revolution did not fundamentally alter the distribution of wealth, but that had not been the intention of most of the revolutionaries. Insofar as legal equality gradually became the norm in France and Europe, the revolutionaries succeeded.

The cultural impact is harder to assess. The Revolution did not succeed in establishing the national school system it envisioned, but it did found some of France’s elite educational institutions that have produced some of that nation’s greatest leaders. Its attack on the church had profound repercussions, making the status of the church a central political issue, which even today divides France politically and culturally.

As for economic development, the Revolution probably hurt more than it helped. In the long term, the liberation of the economy from royal controls, the standardization of weights and measures, and the development of a uniform civil law code helped pave the way for the Industrial Revolution. But the disruptive effects of war on the French economy offset the positive effects of these changes. In terms of total output, the economy was probably set back a generation.

The American Revolution

Chapter 1. Introduction: The End of the Revolution [00:00:00]

Professor Joanne Freeman: Okay. Wow. So this is my last true confession to you, my class, and it’s a true — I always give you true confessions. I never lie to you, my class, but this is a truly true confession because the fact of the matter is, I actually really couldn’t figure out how to end the course. [laughs] I couldn’t figure out what this last lecture was supposed to be, and I really wondered about it, agonized over it. It’s the last lecture. There’s all this pressure. Several of you have e-mailed me and said, “Looking forward to the last lecture.” [laughs] How can I live up to the expectation?

So I decided that I would do two things in the lecture, and the first thing that I’m going to do is talk about the end of the American Revolution, which is not an easy thing to do, and I’m not going to be so good as to actually put my finger on the moment when the Revolution ends, but I’m at least going to suggest a couple things about that. And then at the end you’ll see I’m going to come back around and hopefully magically just tie the whole course together by the end of the lecture. You will for sure notice that some of the things I’m talking about now have references to things I talked about way at the beginning of the course. So I’m trying for symmetry — course symmetry.

And if you think back in the distant ages of time when this course started I talked on that first — I think the very first lecture — I did — I used a quote from John Adams and I used a quote from Benjamin Rush. Those are the quotes that are on the top of the syllabus. And both of them talk about when the Revolution supposedly began. So Adams, writing in 1815, said that he thought the Revolution began “in the Minds of the People, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen Years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington.” So he says the war, quote, “was no part of the Revolution.” And then the other quote I read was Rush, who in 1776 basically agreed that the war and the Revolution were two different things but then says, “The American War is over: but this is far from being the case with the American Revolution.” “We have changed our forms of government, but it remains to effect a revolution in our principles, opinions, and manners, so as to accommodate them to the forms of government we have adopted.”

Chapter 2. Change and Acceptance of Revolutionary Principles between the 1770s and 1790s [00:02:21]

Okay. So when I quoted those at the very beginning of the course, I basically was quoting them to kind of shake up your assumptions about what the American Revolution actually was. If the Founders can’t even agree, that kind of opens things broadly for us to really talk about what the Revolution was. Today I’m mentioning them because I actually do want us to think a little bit about, if that — if there’s all that confusion about when it starts, what can we say about when a Revolution ends?

And there’s definitely a hint about how to discuss that question in both of those quotes, even though they don’t necessarily agree, because both men in one way or another saw the revolution as being fundamentally about what Rush called “principles, opinions and manners” and Adams called a “change in the minds of the people.” So in a way they’re both saying that a real Revolution, a full revolution, involves some kind of a fundamental change in principles. And, as both men suggest, obviously this isn’t something that happens instantly like a declaration of war or a surrender on a battlefield, that it’s a process and it takes place over years, maybe even over decades.

Now obviously if you think about what a revolution is, formally speaking, it’s a change of forms of government more than anything else. So it involves some kind of a large-scale transfer of power after some kind of a struggle between competing groups. Right? So it’s a major shift in sovereignty of some kind. But for the struggle and the instability of the Revolution to come to a close, obviously there had to be some kind of a shared agreement about the nature of whatever this new regime was going to be, about what its ideals were, about what its shape was going to be. And without that kind of shared agreement on those kinds of things, this new regime would really stay in a state of flux and would be vulnerable to all kinds of continued dramatic and potentially revolutionary change. So in a sense, what I’m saying here is that revolutions involve both deconstruction and reconstruction, and that basically it’s one thing to rebel against something, and it’s quite another thing to construct something in its place that manages to get some kind of general acceptance. And a revolution can’t be said to have ended until both parts of that equation have been met.

And I think if you think back over the course of the semester, you can see that during the semester we’ve looked at both parts of that equation, in a sense. We’ve looked, at the very beginning of the course when we were getting toward the beginning of the war, we’ve seen how Americans generally agreed about what they protesting against, but the 1770s, 1780s, 1790s revealed they weren’t necessarily in agreement about what they were fighting for they didn’t necessarily agree about what the most desirable outcome would be. And we’ve watched this over the course of the semester. We’ve seen people basically just figuring out what this new regime is going to be. So, we looked at the 1770s, we saw how people tried to create constitutions that would reflect whatever this new regime was going to be, and we saw how those constitutions pretty much distrusted centralized power.

Unfortunately, the 1780s revealed that that first wave of reform wasn’t quite right, that there were some pretty important problems that weren’t solved, that there were some new problems that seemed to be erupting that maybe hadn’t been anticipated before, and then we’ve seen the result. We’ve watched Continental Army officers sort of vaguely threatening some kind of coup and saw the mighty power of George Washington’s glasses. We saw soldiers sticking their bayonets through the windows of the Pennsylvania state house to demand their pay from the Confederation Congress. We saw indebted farmers in Massachusetts joining in protest to close down the courts, and then of course we saw the Independent Republic of Vermont and my favorite, the State of Franklin.

So clearly there was some pretty widespread discontent, and some of the elite also, as we heard, were not particularly happy. Many of them wanted some kind of economic stability. Some of them were none too pleased about what they saw as this sort of widespread social instability. So in one way or another, all of these groups felt that the promise of the Revolution wasn’t really being fulfilled, and the political system that had been put into place during the Revolution not only was incapable of dealing with the problem, but in many ways it was fueling the problem.

Now of course everything in one way or another added up to lead to the Constitutional Convention, which we discussed. And as we discussed in the course, a new Constitution was by no means a done deal, and in fact there was some pretty fervent debate over whether or not some individual states even wanted to participate in the whole Convention at all. And we’ve seen some of what people were scared of in those debates about whether or not to go to the Convention. A stronger government or even just a new government might open the door to things like an established aristocracy, monarchy, tyrannical centralized power, the rise of a privileged few over an impoverished many.

So in essence, these people are seeing that there might be a big change happening, they don’t know what the change is going to be, and anything seems possible, and all of those things obviously would represent going back on what the Revolution had just gone forth for. So in essence, you see people who had absolutely no sense of political stability or permanence, no sense of what was going to come, no real consensus about the best way to fix things.

Now following the 1780s came a period that obviously we don’t cover in this course. My other lecture course covers it, and that’s the 1790s, which saw yet another wave of reform and this time it has to do with the rise of the Federalist party. And the Federalists in one way or another were largely about centralizing power even more, and strengthening the national government even more, and controlling and channeling the protests and politicking of the populace they’re not all that comfortable with ongoing popular politicking.

And here again, in the 1790s with this sort of counter-wave, you also see more instability, more of a sense that there’s some kind of potentially drastic change that might be happening just around the corner. So throughout the 1790s, people have things in their letters, throwaway lines like: ‘If this government lasts another five years, here’s what I think we should do.’ You can almost feel in some of these letters how frightened, in a sense, some of these people were who were stepping onto the stage of a new government in this sense of amazing instability.

I’m going to offer three quotes because it’s amazing to me how similar they are. They all use the same image. It’s almost like they went into a room and said, ‘How shall we describe being scared in 1789? Oh, I know.’ So James Madison says in 1789, “[W]e are in a wilderness without a single footstep to guide us.” George Washington in 1790: “I walk on untrodden ground.” And good old Pennsylvania senator William Maclay, who offered us that quote way at the beginning of the course, sitting next to Virginians at dinner and saying that all they talked about was alcohol and horses. Maclay says, “The whole world is a shell, and we tread on hollow ground every step.” Now that’s kind of interesting to me, that all of those quotes are all saying the same thing, which is basically all of these guys literally are saying, ‘Wow. I’m on this really unstable ground and I have no idea where I’m supposed to be going or what a safe path is going to be.’ So throughout the 1790s, the Federalists countered their sense of social disorder by trying to legislate and administrate their way into order and control. And the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which I’m sure you probably studied in high school, are two of the most extreme examples along those lines.

This brings us to Thomas Jefferson and the presidential election of 1800. Now significantly, for the purposes of this class, Jefferson years later, very modestly called his own election to the Presidency, quote, “the Revolution of 1800.” Right, not modest at all: ‘ah, yes, when I came to power it was the Revolution of 1800.’ And not only that — he said it was “as real a revolution in the principles of our government as that of 1776 was in its form.” Okay. He’s talking serious revolution ‘my rise to power was just as significant as 1776.’ Thank you, Thomas Jefferson. But you can kind of see that, given what was happening in the 1790s — in my amazingly quick and dirty, frighteningly condensed version of the 1790s that I just gave you — given what the Federalists seemed to represent, you could see why Jefferson would have thought that his rise to the Presidency was some kind of a return to core principles, or Revolutionary principles.

Now this change of principles wasn’t easy, and actually I think it was the whole intensity of the experience of that 1800 election that led Jefferson to experience and describe his election as a revolution that was fought and won. His rise to the Presidency came after a seemingly deadlocked tie vote in the Electoral College that was thrown into the House of Representatives to decide. So deadlocked was the election and so extreme were the fears and expectations on all sides that if the wrong person got the office, the entire nation would come crashing to ruin, that two states — in two different states — and in one state I believe the governor was in on it — people were stockpiling arms because they were going to march on Washington and take the government for Jefferson. That’s amazing. That’s America, in a sense, on the brink of some sort of civil war — if the people are marching on the government to take it for the person who they think should be President.

Massachusetts Federalist Fisher Ames, at that time, thought about this and believed that he understood why this was happening. And I’ll mention here only because it’s been a continuing theme in our course: we’ve seen lots of crying guys over the semester. Washington’s really good at reducing people to tears apparently. And I have to mention here — partly because I just really like Fisher Ames, because he’s sort of an intriguing character who always says quotable things. But he also — he was in Congress in the 1790s and the thing that he’s most known for is he made a speech about the Jay Treaty and everybody started to cry. So he reduced Congress to tears, which to me is kind of a terrifying image, Congress crying.

So Fisher Ames, mighty orator, reducer to tears. Here’s what he says in 1800, when he’s looking around and he’s trying to figure out what this all means.

“The fact really is, that … there is a want of accordance between our system [of government] and the state of our public opinion. The government is republican opinion is essentially democratic. … Either, events will raise public opinion high enough to support our government, or public opinion will pull down the government to its own level. They must equalize.”

That’s really interesting. So here, watching what’s happening in 1800, Ames is kind of confirming what Adams and Rush were suggesting in the quotes that I started out by discussing. For a revolution to end, forms and public opinion have to equalize in some way, and before they do, things remain unstable.

So in a way, what all of these guys are saying, is that revolutions end when public opinion conforms with new post-revolutionary forms of governance, and until that happens, revolutionary change is still entirely possible. Once that happens, once the sort of new car smell has dissipated from a new government and the government can be taken for granted as kind of the normal state of affairs and it’s endorsed by a majority, then it becomes much harder to stage some kind of full-scale revolution from outside of the government. So in essence, revolutions end when the public mind declares that they do it’s up to the public.

Chapter 3. Gauging Change in Public Opinion and Acceptance of New Governance: Eyewitness Accounts [00:15:01]

Now that’s a nice, big, broad general discussion about defining the bounds of the American Revolution, but what does that really mean? What are we really saying here and how could we show it? How do you actually show public opinion changing and eventually conforming with a new government? Well, one way that you can begin to do this is to find a wonderful primary source that includes all kinds of eyewitness testimony about one person’s ideas and how they changed over time.

So I bring to you today the recorded recollections of George Robert Twelves Hughes, a New England shoemaker. I know he’s popped up once or twice in one or two of the books we’ve read. And he’s popped up once or twice for good reason, because it’s hard — it’s harder to find comments from people who are not lofty Founders. It’s hard to find recollections and memories and thoughts about the Revolution in a broad sense from average Americans because, number one, they don’t spend a lot of time often sitting down and musing on paper, and number two, their papers don’t get saved as often as an elite politician’s papers get saved.

So people always quote George Robert Twelves Hughes because he’s there and he’s thoughtful and he actually went back and talked about his entire life, and his life spans this entire period. He was born in 1742. He dies in 1840, so he lives a really long time. And he ended up being one of the last surviving veterans of the Revolution, or at least that people knew about. So because of that, in the 1830s, he was interviewed so that he could talk about his recollections, things of his life that he saw as being significant.

So let’s look for a minute at what Hughes can show us. For one thing, you can see in some of the stories that he told and the way that he tells them some kind of subtle but actually pretty significant changes in the public mind that were unleashed by the Revolution. So for example, one of Hughes’s earliest memories was of having to bring a pair of shoes to John Hancock. And as he recalled the occasion all these years later, he was terrified, and he says he’s first ushered into the kitchen where his type of person belongs — and then Hancock says, ‘No, no. Actually, I’d like to thank this guy personally,’ so then he’s ushered into the sitting room, and he mumbles a little speech. He didn’t quite know what he was supposed to say or how to say it, and he’s really embarrassed, and then Hancock actually asked him to sit down, which terrifies him even more. And then worst of all, Hancock says, ‘Let me drink to your health’ — and wants to do the whole glass-clinking thing, and Hughes said, ‘I’ve never done the glass-clinking thing. [laughs] I didn’t know what I was doing. We did the glass-clinking thing.’ And then he basically ran away as soon as he could without being rude.

Now, Hughes’s memory of this whole episode, even all of these years later, shows really sort of colonial era deference at work. Right? This is not someone who’s just respectful of John Hancock. This is someone who’s scared of interacting with someone who’s that above him in society.

Now Hughes lived in Boston in the 1760s and 1770s. This is very handy for us obviously, because then he offers us eyewitness testimony about other kinds of sort of floating-in-the-air opinions that were developing at the time. So he — certainly, you can see when he’s talking about his experiences — shared the feelings of many of his neighbors in Boston in the 1770s. In his later years, he remembered how much he really hated the British soldiers that were occupying Boston. He actually remembered that one of them had a pair of shoes made and then never paid for them, so it’s a really specific I-hate-the-British memory. He also remembers watching an eighteenth-century mugging in which a soldier knocked a lady down and stole her bonnet and stole her muff. So he remembers ugly-British-soldier moments from Boston.

And then on March 5, he says that when he heard noise in the street he ran to see what was happening, and he saw British soldiers firing on American civilians, and his response really says something, because he immediately ran home to arm himself. He grabbed a cane and he ran back to the uproar, and when a soldier tried to grab the cane out of his hands, Hughes insisted that he had a right to carry whatever he pleased.

Now that’s really interesting, because here you see Hughes — He’s defending his fellow Bostonians literally and physically, and he’s clearly — I suppose in insisting that he has a right to hold on to that cane — defending his rights too. But what you see is that he’s taken action almost instinctively. It’s not like he saw what was happening and said, ‘This is a Revolutionary moment. I must go home and grab my club so that I can say I was there at the beginning phases of the American Revolution.’ He just sees what’s happening in the street, he’s upset, it’s his neighbors, it’s people from Boston who are getting shot at, and he instinctively is just drawn in to what’s happening. So clearly, his sense of involvement in unfolding events is growing, particularly given that he next took part in the Boston Tea Party. Obviously, that’s a very deliberate choice to take part in a protest. And then he fights as a soldier during the Revolution, which I guess is the ultimate way in which you show that you’re part of a cause. And then he went back to being a shoemaker, and then he became an aged veteran of the Revolution.

Oh — and one thing I can’t help mentioning, only because whenever I talk about George Robert Twelves Hughes I always mention this, because I just love the fact that it exists: He had, I think — Well, actually I know, he had fifteen children. But what’s wonderful about that fact is that his eleventh son was named Eleven [laughter] and his fifteenth son was named Fifteen [laughs] and I just love the guy. George Robert Twelves Hughes has the humor. I don’t know if his sons were really thrilled about being named Eleven and Fifteen, [laughter] but I just love the fact that he did that and that we know that. That makes me even happier.

Okay. So what does Hughes show us besides very bizarre naming habits? For one thing, his recollections offer a great example of the ways in which the Revolution inspired average Americans to become politically active. He was literally drawn into the action, first defending his neighbors and his town, but over time obviously feeling like he was taking part in some kind of a larger cause. So in essence, he helps us see how the Revolution could politicize someone. And you kind of see this in action.

Obviously, with the Hancock story, you can see what a real sense of pre-revolutionary deference felt like. Now of course, the Revolution didn’t just stamp out deference, but a politicized public was a public that understood that it had rights and that it could demand them. And eventually, the American people would not show that kind of fear and trembling before a member of the supposed elite, so basically, eventually the American public would find their voice. And this idea that the public had a voice and had a right to express it is the sort of general changing of public opinion that would ultimately connect to the nation’s new form of government. So basically, you see the sort of beginning of a chain reaction that might actually lead to the end of the Revolution. You can see patterns unfolding that represent pretty major changes over a long stretch of time.

Now obviously, it’s not just average American citizens who are being shaped by the Revolution. The elite were profoundly affected by it as well. And for one obvious thing — suddenly, they were presented with this opportunity to create and shape a new government for a new nation, and they knew that this was a pretty rare opportunity. So even as they’re doing it, they know that this is not something that happens very often. Just listen to how John Adams discussed what he felt like was the change that he experienced over the course of his life. And this is in one of the letters — I mentioned this at the beginning of the course — these great letters they write to each other in their old age. So here, writing to Jefferson, Adams says,

“When I was young, the Summum Bonum [or the sort of ultimate height] in Massachusetts, was to be worth ten thousand pounds Sterling, ride in a Chariot [a carriage], be Colonel of a Regiment of Militia and hold a seat in His Majesty’s Council. No Mans Imagination aspired to any thing higher beneath the Skies.”

So Adams is thinking back, and he’s here basically suggesting that the Revolution and its aftermath expanded the horizons of an entire generation. Now, he’s talking about the elite, but you could expand this to include the American citizenry as well, because in a variety of ways the Revolution shook things up, and in doing so it expanded people’s horizons.

Now I use the word “citizenry” — and I did that really deliberately, because all Americans did not have their horizons expanded during the Revolutionary war, and this is something clearly we talked about in class and we’ve talked about in sections that’s linked to some of the discussions that we’ve been having about how radical the Revolution was or wasn’t. So the elite, like everyone else, were profoundly affected by the Revolution, but of course they’re not the people who get to decide the fate of the Revolution. It’s the American public who gets to make that decision. It’s their opinions of the new government that are going to either make or break the government and the Revolution. And during the period covered by this course we’ve seen the beginnings of a long period during which public opinion would continue to change, sometimes really dramatically, concerning just what this new government and this new nation was supposed to be.

Chapter 4. Reconstructing and Remembering the American Revolution: The Founders’ Reflections [00:24:30]

Now, I’m not going to end by continuing here to talk about the end of the Revolution, because it isn’t just the events of the Revolution that mattered, even when they’re ending. It’s actually how we remember them that matters, because the way that we remember history obviously really determines its meaning and its impact. So basically, history — and how we understand our history — can have a profound effect on the here and now. In a way, this is what Jefferson referred to — I think a couple lectures back — I’ve talked about the dead hand of the past Jefferson wanting to — every nineteen years, ‘let’s make a new constitution.’ That’s kind of linked to that Jeffersonian idea of the dead hand of the past — and since history could have that impact on the present, depending on how you understand it. And that dead hand of the past can be a pretty heavy hand.

At this point, basically I need — I need to tell you an anecdote. I actually do need to tell you an anecdote. As I was writing the lecture this morning, I was writing about the dead hand of the past, and I guess whenever I use that phrase, I think of this one particular letter I found — which actually is relevant, so I’m not being completely random. It does have something to do with the dead hand of the past and history. It actually also has nothing to do with the American Revolution, but it really shows you how the past can have an enormous weight on the present. And it’s also just an amazing little piece of paper that I found.

And it has to do with this letter that I found when I was rummaging through the Adams family correspondence, which is indeed what it’s called: the Adams family. So the John Adams family correspondence — and I found this letter from John Quincy Adams. I wasn’t looking for it, but I found this letter. And he was overseas when his father was running for President and he — clearly he really wants to know if his father won. And it takes a long time for news to make it across the ocean, so what I found was first one letter in which he’s writing, ‘Do you know what happened in the election?’ And then I found a lot of them. He’s writing to people and writing to people saying, ‘Do you know? Do you know? Has my father won the election? Who’s won the election? What’s happened in the election?’ So, I can’t help it. Now I’m following the trail, because I have to find the letter where he finds out. Right? And you would assume — I assumed — that when I found that letter, he would say something like, ‘Oh, this is a great day for America’ or — I don’t know — something, something lofty and visionesque, sort of looking out — ahh — sort of John Quincy Adamsesque.

So finally I find the letter, and I’m going to paraphrase it with my own bad paraphrasing here, but the point will be true. He basically says, ‘Oh, God. I’ll never live up to this.’ [laughter] It is like — the first thing he thinks is: now I’m going to have to be President too. [laughter/laughs] That was amazing to me. I really felt for John Quincy Adams. You suddenly got a quick flash of what it felt like to be an Adams, [laughs] or particularly — the Adams family had a habit of picking one Adams per generation and then dumping all of their expectations on that one Adams. Clearly, John Quincy Adams is this generation’s guy, so it certainly gives you a sense of — I want to say dead hand of the past I guess it’s the live hand of the past, because it’s his father, this poor guy. Anything his father does he’s clearly like: ‘oh, damn, [laughs] now I have to be President to’ [laughs] — which is amazing, but concrete — a concrete example of what I’m talking about here. And it certainly shows how the next generation beyond the Founding generation really felt like they had to live up to the achievements of what had gone before them.

Now, as far as the people who had gone before them, as far as the Fathers are concerned, they knew that they were becoming history, and so they thought about the making of history and the writing of history a lot. To me, the most concrete example of people becoming history is something that happened to poor Thomas Jefferson in his old age. I wonder if any of you have ever seen a life mask. You know there’s death masks and life masks. Death masks are obvious, but there do exist life masks as well.

So again, in Jefferson’s old age, someone went to Monticello and they wanted to make a life mask of him. I don’t know who this guy was, but he wasn’t good at his job, so whatever he did he did it wrong. And his daughter later said she came into the room to see the guy with a hammer and chisel trying to chip the plaster like: ‘oh, my God, I killed him.’ [laughs] The plaster hardened and they couldn’t get it off [laughter] so Jefferson’s basically thinking, this is so bad [laughs] this is really bad. He really was terrified that that was the end for him. He literally almost became history. He was history. He was gone. [laughter] Luckily, they got the plaster off and he survived.

But aside from the fact that he almost melted into plaster, obviously that whole cohort of people had really strong feelings about the story of the Revolution, about how that story should be told, and they were not in love with the whole idea that the Founding period is some kind of golden age of patriotic perfection. They did not see the Revolution as some kind of divine strike of providence they did not see themselves as demigods.

And here I’m going to turn to John Adams, which always makes me happy — who did a really good job in his old age of answering letters from strangers who wanted to know: ‘Tell us about the Revolution. What really happened?’ And in answering, he did a great job of basically popping bubbles of myths. He basically said over and over again in one way or another, ‘You know, the Revolution wasn’t some kind of golden, wonderful moment.’ Now, like the other Founders — He actually lived to be ninety, so unfortunately he had a lot of these letters. I think Jefferson — I think — I was about to say Jefferson, I think got more, which obviously would make Adams really mad. Like: ‘even now [laughter/laughs] they’re thinking about him more than me’ — but I think all of these guys were getting these letters from people, basically in one way or another saying, ‘Tell us. What was it really like? What was it like? What happened you signed the Declaration? What happened? What was it really like?’

Jefferson in particular was driven crazy. Jefferson doesn’t normally emote on paper in a deep kind of sincere, he’s-not-thinking-hard way. You always get a sense he’s thinking really carefully about how he expresses himself, but when he’s writing to Adams in their old age, he really sort of vents about this whole strangers-writing-letters-and-asking-about-history thing. So he says — he complains: “From sunrise to one or two o’clock, and often from dinner to dark, I am drudging at the writing table. And all this to answer letters into which neither interest nor inclination on my part enters and often from persons whose names I have never before heard.” And in this letter, Jefferson estimates that in 1822 he got 1,267 of these letters from people — just strangers: ‘tell us about the Declaration.’ He called it “the burthen” of his life.

And then at one point in this letter [correction: from a letter in 1822 the quote above is from 1817] — and this is where I felt like he really hit Jeffersonian bottom — he’s whining and whining and he’s going on, ‘I hate this. I hate this. Will they stop?’ Probably Adams was thinking, ‘send some to me [laughter] I have something to say.’ But finally at this point in the letter, Jefferson just writes: “Is this life?” [laughter] I just thought — that’s so weirdly modern. That’s like something we have probably all said at one point: Is this life? Please stop writing me the letters.

His life actually got worse on this front. You got to — You’re feeling bad for the Founders here. People didn’t just deluge him with random letters. Strangers made pilgrimages to Monticello. It became like a tourist attraction and he was still living in it. And so strangers would come and just swarm around Monticello, peering in the windows [laughter], like: ‘oops, I broke the glass’ — [laughter] like trampling the garden. [laughter] He got so overwhelmed by this that he basically after a while left Monticello and lived in one of his other homes for a while, like: ‘I just can’t take it. [laughs] I’m abandoning my house to the strangers I’m going to go live in my other house for a little while.’

And that’s why, actually those of you who have been to Monticello and you’ve seen his little sanctuary — There’s a little area that’s really his and he has sort of all his books and his bed and it — really there are doors that can lock it off to everything, which is really there for a real reason, because that was — that literally was his sanctuary. That was like: the swarms are outside, lock, lock, lock, lock, like, you’re not coming in. So, I think it wasn’t fun being a Founder basically. I think that’s what Jefferson is showing us here.

But whether or not they were happy old Founders, the Founding types who were answering these letters were really trying to shape the telling of the history of the Revolution. And different Founders I’m sure had different messages, and some were probably happier than others or more optimistic than others. I think James Madison was optimistic to the end. Adams, as I said before, spent a lot of time sort of punching holes in myths about the Revolution, that already were circulating in the 18-teens and the 1820s. So over and over and over again, he told people that there had not been some kind of unanimous patriotic, glorious moment, as it seemed to have been, looking from the distance of time.

So in response to one letter, he insisted that the Revolution was not a big wave of unanimous patriotism. As he put it, “Every measure of Congress from 1774 to 1787 inclusively, was disputed with acrimony, and decided by as small majorities as any question is decided these days” — actually saying, ‘It’s not we were like, yes, independence!’ He’s saying, ‘Sometimes it’s one or two votes that we decided this, and it goes out into history and all that people know is we voted yes and it seems unanimous, and it really wasn’t.’

Even iconic revolutionary moments, he thought, should not be viewed as the sort of glorious moments of triumph. He — In one letter, he recalled what he was thinking as he watched people, his fellow congressmen, sign the Declaration of Independence. And he said, “I could not see their hearts, … but, as far as I could penetrate the intricate foldings of their Souls, I then believed, and have not since altered my Opinion, that there were several who signed with regret, and several others, with many doubts and much lukewarmness.” So he’s saying, ‘Okay. Even while they’re signing the Declaration, I don’t think some of these people actually really wanted to be signing it at all. And some of them, I think, kind of wished they were somewhere else not signing it’ — which is not the image that’s floating around at this point about what the Revolution was. So people were disagreeing, he’s saying, back in the Revolutionary era. They caved to the majority. They weren’t sure about what they were doing. They didn’t even like what they were doing sometimes, and their decisions weren’t always good.

He of course had something to say about that as well, so he said in a different letter, “I say we do not make more mistakes now than we did in 1774, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.” He’s clearly making a point here. When I was copying this I was like: how many more years? “80, 81, 82, 83.” I get your point. [laughs] We made a lot of mistakes through the whole Revolution, he’s saying. “It was patched and piebald … then, as it is now, … and ever will be, world without end.”

Nor were battlefields any more sacrosanct. As Adams put it, “We blundered at Lexington, at Bunker’s Hill. … Where, indeed, did we not blunder except Saratoga and York[town], where our Tryumphs redeemed all former disgraces?” So Adams is insisting, much of the time: we weren’t all that great. We made mistakes back then. We didn’t always entirely believe what we were doing. It wasn’t that different from how it is now. The Revolution was not some golden age of perfection.

And Adams summed all of this up in a letter that I like, because in some way — I don’t know — it seems a little more direct than some of these other letters, and I suppose — well, you’ll hear the way he phrases it. He wrote this letter in 1811, and he said to this one correspondent — who said, ‘I revere the Fathers. I want to be like them. Ahhh.’ — all the things he’s getting in all of these letters. And he says, “I ought not to object to your reverence for your fathers… . But, to tell you a [very] great secret, as far as I am capable of comparing the merit of different periods, I have no reason to believe we were better than you are.” He was being really straightforward about this.

Now, all of those quotes of course are from the sort of lofty Adams, the far-seeing Adams, the sage Adams. They’re not from the Adams I was just referring to a few minutes ago, which is the I-don’t-get-any-respect John Adams, and he’s there too. Both of those things are there at the same time, which also tells you something. When you read the correspondence of his old age, he’s sort of veering back and forth between: I am a lofty Founder. Why won’t anyone recognize me as a lofty Founder? I am a lofty Founder. Please, someone recognize me. He has all these letters where he’s like: ‘no one will ever make a monument to me, John Adams’ [laughter] — like: so, so sorry. But my point here is that, to Adams and to many others, you’re not supposed to look at history at this sort of golden, perfect moment that’s drastically different, in that sense, from everything since.

In a sense, to these people, worshipping the founding era, or worshipping the American Revolution, as a golden age actually did more harm than good. The Revolution had been all about beginnings, about beginning traditions and patterns of governance, about beginning new constitutions, but these beginnings were actually supposed to go someplace. They were supposed to lead to something that actually would survive and be shaped by future generations. So I think to this whole generation, this idea of sort of worshipping the Founding era as a golden age made it seem as though the time for that kind of work had ended — as though there was a glorious, wonderful creative moment when things could really be done, and now that time is gone.

And you could see that in Adams’ letters too — that he says often about the future: ‘Well, maybe it’ll be a brighter page or maybe it’ll be a darker page. I don’t know. It’s up to you.’ But he assumes — obviously — that what they’ve been doing isn’t some dead-end moment at which who knows what’ll happen next. He actually assumes they started something that in one way or another they assume is going to continue. So clearly, the time for that kind of creative political work hadn’t ended whenever the random date is that we decide the American Revolution ended, and in a sense it hasn’t ended.

As the Founding generation well knew, American citizens are always responsible for their government. They control its destiny. Right? They decide when revolutions start. They decide when revolutions stop. They control the destiny of the aftereffect of revolutions.

Chapter 5. Revolution Runs in the People: A Conclusion [00:39:27]

So I guess in a sense — And this is where I was really struggling this morning. I was like: what would be the ultimate message I give to you? It’s so hard when you teach courses on the Founding period because everything you say has weird resonance in the present — as I’m kind of saying here — and I don’t want to have weird resonance in the present [laughs]. I just want to sort of give something to you guys. So related to what I’m saying here, maybe the ultimate message, the sort of ground-level message of this course is: your opinions matter and your actions out there in the world politically and otherwise are going to matter too. That’s in essence what these Founders are saying, when they’re saying, ‘Don’t treat us like demigods, like we’re some lofty population that will never come again. We set something in motion and the whole point of the thing that we set in motion is that you’re supposed to make it run.’ Right? It’s actually about you. We may be memorable guys. I might want to be a more memorable guy than I am, but it’s all about you it’s all about you.’ That’s what’s supposed to keep it running in the end.

Okay. I want to first of all thank you for laughing at my jokes all semester. [laughter] Obviously, one of my favorite things to do is to tell stories, and lecture courses are moments where you’re completely my hostage and I get to — Sometimes as I’m writing a lecture, as today, I’m like: oh, this isn’t related but I’ll find a way to rope it in to the lecture so then I can give it to you. So, I have greatly enjoyed myself this semester. You’ve been wonderfully receptive. You asked — When I went to sections you asked wonderful questions. You engaged with the material. After lectures you guys kept coming up to me and asking good questions, which was impressive and doesn’t always happen in a lecture course. So I want to thank you because it makes me really happy if you guys are really engaged with what I’m talking about here. So, thank you very much. [applause]

Watch the video: Η επανάσταση του 1821 (October 2022).

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