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10 THE FALL OF LIBERALISM BY THE END OF I 848 the bourgeoisie of Europe was in retreat before the forces of a revived conservatism. It was symptomatic of the altered political situation that everywhere the moderate heroes of the spring uprising were being displaced by the leaders of the far left and the far right. Lamartine was now only a mediocre poet who had once dabbled in affairs of state, Robert Blum died before a firing squad in Brigittenau, and a sad pontiff was meditating on his errors in the exile of Gaeta. The men of the hour were the Kossuths, Mazzinis, and Bakunins whose impassioned visions reflected the feverish state of Continental radicalism in extremis. Here and there the curtain fell even before the year was out. From the Hofburg in Vienna a new emperor and a new prime minister began to pursue legitimist policies in the tradition of the Holy Alliance. In France a tired and frightened nation entrusted its fortunes to Louis Napoleon, a sphinx without a riddle. And Frederick William IV renounced his parliamentary faith with the same romantic fervor with which he had embraced it a few months before. For Germany developments in Prussia determined the outcome of the Revolution. The secondary states, which even under the Restoration had rarely dared defy the wishes of the two leading powers of Central Europe, lost their last illusions of independence after the spring uprising. Commanding neither the armies nor the resources of the Habsburgs or the Hohenzollerns, they were helpless before the triumphant bourgeoisie. Once Austria and Prussia made peace with constitutionalism , there was no course open to them but surrender . The petty princes, waiting until the new order had become sufficiently enervated to make a counterrevolution [ 173 ] PART TWO: REVOLUTION possible, watched in dismay, as parliamentarians overrode their wishes, dismissed their favorites, curtailed their prerogatives , and reduced their incomes. A measure of comfort awaited them on December 2 in the news of the abdication of Ferdinand I of Austria, for it was obvious that the emperor was being retired on account of the pledges he had made to liberalism. His youthful successor Francis Joseph did not disappoint them, and with his accession the Hofburg adopted a program of undisguised reaction . But the vigorous resistance of the Magyars to Habsburg centralization absorbed all the energies of the new government for almost a year. Not before r 850 was it able to turn its full attention to affairs in the north, and by then its ..!nemy was no longer the liberal nationalism of Frankfurt but the conservative nationalism of Berlin. Hungarian troops fighting along the Danube enabled Prussia to pursue an independent policy in Germany for the first time since the days of Frederick the Great, and during about twelve months Frederick William IV was in a position to determine the fate of Central Europe. Those who had watched him ride through the streets of his capital after the March days had seen only a frightened, middle-aged figure on horseback, pathetically eager to please the world with his political conversion. The army was demoralized , the aristocracy grumbled and sulked, the bureaucracy could only whine. Never before had a Hohenzollern suffered such mortification at the hands of his subjects. All the historic props of the dynasty had suddenly toppled, and the monarch was left to the mercy of his opponents. In the chaotic atmosphere of the spring uprising all thoughts of stemming the tide seemed not only quixotic but dangerous, and the bewildered king could think of nothing to do but drift with the current. There was one statesman, however, who saw the situation in clearer perspective. For Radowitz the Revolution was more ( 1 74 J THE FALL OF LIBERALISM than an unmitigated disaster. It was also the opportunity for a political reorganization of Germany under Prussian auspices and the introduction of a conservative program of social reform . Liberalism with its narrow outlook and shopkeeping philosophy could not in the long run satisfy the needs of a modern nation. While the spring uprising had created a serious danger for legitimate rulers, it had also removed the obstacles to a reconstruction of their states on a sounder foundation . For the time being they must accept the new order, but only until it had alienated the masses by its inevitable inequities . When the right moment came, the princes were to overthrow the tottering system of constitutionalism and establish in its place a monarchism of civic justice and economic welfare...


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