The February Revolution in France 1848

[ 1848 ]

Like the French revolution of 1830, a conservative minister was the focus of resentment in France in 1848, but this later revolt also included working-class members angry at the government's failure to relieve the depression of 1846-47. The offending minister was Francois Guizot (1787-1874); the unpopular monarch was King Louis-Philippe (1773-1850). France's opposition parties, forbidden direct campaigning for a forth-coming election, instead wittily held a "banquet campaign"; when their most important gathering, slated for February 22 in Paris, was forbidden by the king and Guizot, the Parisians gathered in force at the banquetting place, and street fighting erupted. At its worst on February 23, 1848, when some government troops opened fire while others laid down their arms or joined the rebels, the revolution forced the dismissal of Guizot and, the next day, the abdication of Louis-Philippe. A provisional government, the Committee of Public Safety, guided by Alhonse de Lamartine (1790-1869), was established by the Chamber of Deputies; it declared the Second Republic and tried to meet all demands, setting up national workshops, declaring a right-to-work law, and calling for national elections. The revolution had been generally local; the French national response was predominantly moderate. An executive committee, again including Lamartine, replaced the provisional government and attempted to meet the new public resentment (May 1848). It dissolved the national workshops... It also produced a very democratic constitution. In new elections, the French Assembly changed its balance again, monarchists outnumbering radicals five to two and moderates six to one. The revolution was now defunct, and the republic was soon to wither. Prince Louis Napoleon (1808-73), long a Bonaparte claimant and a conservative, was elected president in December 1848.

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