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1830-1848 - July Monarchy

As often happens in reigning families the Orleans branch, the younger branch, was always in a state of rivalry with the elder branch of Bourbons. Since 1789 the duke of Orleans had supported the revolutionary party; whilst his cousins were amongst the emigres, he, a member of the convention, having given up using his title and assumed the name of Philippe Egalite, voted in favour of the death of Louis XVI. His son, duke of Orleans in 1792, had fought under the tricolour with Dumouriez at Jemmapes. Though he had emigrated afterwards, yet on the Restoration he had again declared himself a liberal. The family has always maintained this variable attitude, sometimes supporting, sometimes deserting the revolutionary party.

The new King Charles X had never shared his brother's distrust of Due d'Orleans, and one of the first acts of his reign had been to raise him and all the members of his family to the rank of Royal Highnesses. This conciliatory attitude towards the head of the younger branch was warmly approved of by the Liberals. After 1815 the duke of Orleans was sometimes a prince of the blood, sometimes the hope of the revolutionists. He alternately claimed the largest share of the indemnity paid to the emigres, or openly took the part of Beranger and General Foy; he at one time obtained from Charles X the title of Royal Highness, and at another would pose as a citizen-prince.

The July Revolution was an unexpected, impromptu affair. Not dreamed of July 25, it was over a week later. One king had been overthrown, another created, and the Charter had been slightly modified. Parliamentary government had been preserved; a return to aristocracy prevented. The fighting continued amid the fierce heat of July. On Charles, seeing that all was lost, abdicated in favor of his nine year old grandson, the Duke of Bordeaux, son of the murdered Duke of Berry, and fled to England with his family. What was the future government to be, now that triumphant revolution had swept for the second time a Bourbon monarch from his throne? No serious consideration was given to the claims of Bourbon of the little Duke of Bordeaux, unimpeachable from the or the point of view of monarchical theory and practice. He was the legitimate sovereign of France but he was quietly ignored by a people who were tired of the legitimate monarchy. His was a strange destiny. He, whom the royalists called Henry V, was only to reign for one day.

Those who had done the actual fighting undoubtedly wanted a republic. But the journalists and deputies and the majority of the Parisians were opposed to such a solution, having vivid and unpleasant mem ories of the former republic, and believing that the proclamation of the republic would embroil France with monarchical Europe. They favored Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans, who represented a younger branch of the royal family, a man who had always sympathized with liberal opinions. With such a man as king, it was said, there would be no more attempts to reenthrone the nobility and the clergy, but the government would be liberal, resting on the middle classes, and the Charter would be scrupulously observed. The final decision between monarchy and republic lay in the hands of Lafayette, the real leader of the Republicans. He finally threw Louis his influence in favor of Louis Philippe.

Louis Philippe, the new monarch of the French, was already in his fifty-seventh year. He was the son of the notorious Philippe Egalite, who had intrigued during the Revolution for the throne occupied by his cousin, Louis XVI, had, as a member of the Convention, voted for the latter's execution, and had himself later perished miserably on the scaffold. Returning to France on the fall of Napoleon he was able to recover a large part of the family property, which, though confiscated during the Revolution, had not been actually sold. During the Restoration he lived in the famous Palais Royal in the very heart of Paris, cultivating relations that might some day prove useful, particularly appealing to the solid, rich bourgeoisie by a display of liberal sentiments and by a good-humored, unconventional mode of life.

Few Sovereigns have been confronted with greater difficulties than Louis XVIII, at his restoration. The spectacle of a gouty, elderly gentleman, weighing some eighteen stone, arriving at his capital in the wake of foreign armies and laboriously ascending the throne of the great Emperor, necessarily savoured of the ridiculous. Besides this inartistic opening to his reign, Louis suffered from the disadvantage of being completely unknown to the great mass of his new subjects. His legal title to his position was very weak. He was invited to ascend the throne by only 219 members of the Chamber of Deputies out of 430, a bare majority. Moreover, the Chamber had never been authorized to choose a king. The first part of the reign was troubled. It was very doubtful whether it could long endure. As the people were never asked whether they wished Louis Philippe as their king, his rule always lacked any popular sanction, such as Napoleon's had always possessed. It had many enemies who denied its right to exist.

The republicans and Lafayette had expected that the new government would adopt a broad, liberal, national policy, would consider the interests of all sections of the population, and would favor a democratic evolution of the country. Instead, they saw rapidly set up a narrow class system, which opposed democracy as it opposed aristocracy. The July Monarchy early asserted that its policy would be that of the "golden mean," neither conservative nor radical, but moderate. At the beginning the suffrage was broadened, of the by a reduction of age and property qualifications, so that "slden the electorate was doubled and there were now about 200,000 voters, where there had formerly been 100,000. This might have been tolerable as a mere beginning in the right direction. But the government soon made it manifest that it was not only the beginning but the end, that there would be no further enlargement of the electorate.

The July Monarchy was liberal, in one way. It was an assurance that there should be no return toward the Old Regime, no attempt to restore, more or less, directly or indirectly, the aristocracy No return and the clergy to their former position. The July Monarchy was the reign of the upper c'-mocracy middle class, considered now, by itself, the only safe depository of power. No reversion to outworn, aristocratic ideals, no gradual progression toward democracy, but the steady maintenance, without further change, of the system established by the Charter as revised in 1830, such was the policy of the July Monarchy from which it never deviated.

The parliamentary history of France during the ten years from 1830 to 1840 was marked by instability. There were ten ministries within ten vears. But from 1840 to 1848 there was only one Ministry, that of Guizot. Louis Philippe began to reveal his real purpose of being monarch in fact as well as in name. He had no intention of following the English theory that, in constitutional as distinguished from absolute monarchies, the king reigns but does not govern. He now found in Guizot a man who sympathized with his views of kingship, and who did not believe that the monarch should be simply an ornamental head of the state.

The July Monarchy was a government of the bourgeoisie, of the well-to-do, of the capitalists. They alone possessed the suffrage. Consequently, the remainder of the population was, in a political sense, of no importance. The legislation enacted during these eighteen years was class legislation, which favored the bourgeoisie and which made no attempt to meet the needs of the masses. Yet the distress of the masses was widespread and deep and should have received the careful and sympathetic attention of the government.

The amount of discontent with the government of France was great and growing. Yet it could accomplish nothing because the ministry was steadily supported by the Chamber of Deputies and that Chamber was elected by the two hundred thousand voters. On examination it was seen that Guizot obtained his never-failing majority by corrupt methods. The electoral assemblies which chose ministry and the deputies were so small, frequently consisting of not parliamentary more than two hundred members, many of them office holders, that they could be bribed, in one way or another, to elect deputies pleasing to the ministry. Then within the Chamber the same methods would be used. About two hundred of the four hundred and thirty deputies were at the same time office holders. The ministry controlled them.

On the night of February 21-22, 1848, a vast crowd congregated, of students, workingmen, and others. They had no leader, no definite purpose. The crowd committed slight acts of lawlessness, but nothing serious happened that day. But in the night barricades arose in the workingmen's quarters of the city. Some shots were fired. The Government called out the National Guard. It refused to march against the insurgents. Some of its members even began to shout, "Long live Reform!" "Down with Guizot!" The King, frightened at this alarming development, was willing to grant reform. The Republicans now entered aggressively upon the scene, resolved to arouse the excited people against Louis Philippe himself and against the monarchy. They marched through the boulevards and made a hostile demonstration before Guizot's residence. Some unknown person fired a shot at the guards. The guards instantly replied, fifty persons fell, more than twenty dead. This was the doom of the monarchy. Finally, on February 24th, the King abdicated in favor of his grandson, the little Count of Paris, and, under the incognito of "Mr. Smith" finally reached England. Guizot followed, as did Metternich somewhat later for reasons of his own.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:57:58 ZULU