It was in vain that beneath the inflated haute bourgeoisie which speculated in railways and solidly supported the Church, behind the shopkeeper clique who still remained Voltairian, who enviously applauded the pamphlets of Cormenin on the luxury of the court, and who were bitterly satirized by the pencil of Daumier and Gavarni, did the thinkers give voice to the mutterings of an immense industrial proletariat, which were re-echoing throughout the whole of western Europe.
In face of this tragic contrast Guizot remained unmoved, blinded by the superficial brilliance of apparent success and prosperity. He adorned by flights of eloquence his invariable theme: no new laws, no reforms, no foreign Guizot’s Foreign Policy. complications, the policy of material interests. He preserved his yielding attitude towards Great Britain in the affair of the right of search in 1841, and in the affair of the missionary Pritchard at Tahiti (1843-1845). And when the marriage of the duc de Montpensier with a Spanish infanta in 1846 had broken this entente cordiale to which he clung, it was only to yield in turn to Metternich, when he took possession of Cracow, the last remnant of Poland, to protect the Sonderbund in Switzerland, to discourage the Liberal ardour of Pius IX., and to hand over the education of France to the Ultramontane clergy. Still further strengthened by the elections of 1846, he refused the demands of the Opposition formed by a coalition of the Left Centre and the Radical party for parliamentary and electoral reform, which would have excluded the officials from the Chambers, reduced the electoral qualification to 100 francs, and added to the number of the electors the capacitaires whose competence was guaranteed by their education. For Guizot the whole country was represented by the “pays légal,” consisting of the king, the ministers, the deputies and the Campaign of the banquets. electors. When the Opposition appealed to the country, he flung down a disdainful challenge to what “les brouillons et les badauds appellent le peuple.” The challenge was taken up by all the parties of the Opposition in the campaign of the banquets got up somewhat artificially in 1847 in favour of the extension of the franchise. The monarchy had arrived at such a state of weakness and corruption that a determined minority was sufficient to overthrow it. The prohibition of a last banquet in Paris precipitated the catastrophe. The monarchy which for fifteen years had overcome its adversaries collapsed on the 24th of February 1848 to the astonishment of all.
The industrial population of the faubourgs on its way towards the centre of the town was welcomed by the National Guard, among cries of “Vive la réforme.” Barricades were raised after the unfortunate incident of the firing on The Revolution of Feb. 24, 1848. the crowd in the Boulevard des Capucines. On the 23rd Guizot’s cabinet resigned, abandoned by the petite bourgeoisie, on whose support they thought they could depend. The heads of the Left Centre and the dynastic Left, Molé and Thiers, declined the offered leadership. Odilon Barrot accepted it, and Bugeaud, commander-in-chief of the first military division, who had begun to attack the barricades, was recalled. But it was too late. In face of the insurrection which had now taken possession of the whole capital, Louis Philippe decided to abdicate in favour of his grandson, the comte de Paris. But it was too late also to be content with the regency of the duchess of Orleans. It was now the turn of the Republic, and it was proclaimed by Lamartine in the name of the provisional government elected by the Chamber under the pressure of the mob.
This provisional government with Dupont de l’Eure as its president, consisted of Lamartine for foreign affairs, Crémieux for justice, Ledru-Rollin for the interior, Carnot for public instruction, Gondchaux for finance, Arago for The Provisional Government. the navy, and Bedeau for war. Garnier-Pagès was mayor of Paris. But, as in 1830, the republican-socialist party had set up a rival government at the Hôtel de Ville, including L. Blanc, A. Marrast, Flocon, and the workman Albert, which bid fair to involve discord and civil war. But this time the Palais Bourbon was not victorious over the Hôtel de Ville. It had to consent to a fusion of the two bodies, in which, however, the predominating elements were the moderate republicans. It was doubtful what would eventually be the policy of the new government. One party, seeing that in spite of the changes in the last sixty years of all political institutions, the position of the people had not been improved, demanded a reform of society itself, the abolition of the privileged position of property, the only obstacle to equality, and as an emblem hoisted the red flag. The other party wished to maintain society on the basis of its ancient institutions, and rallied round the tricolour.
The first collision took place as to the form which the revolution of 1848 was to take. Were they to remain faithful to their original principles, as Lamartine wished, and accept the decision of the country as supreme, or were they, Universal suffrage. as the revolutionaries under Ledru-Rollin claimed, to declare the republic of Paris superior to the universal suffrage of an insufficiently educated people? On the 5th of March the government, under the pressure of the Parisian clubs, decided in favour of an immediate reference to the people, and direct universal suffrage, and adjourned it till the 26th of April. In this fateful and unexpected decision, which instead of adding to the electorate the educated classes, refused by Guizot, admitted to it the unqualified masses, originated the Constituent Assembly of the 4th of May 1848. The provisional government having resigned, the republican and anti-socialist majority on the 9th The Executive Commission. of May entrusted the supreme power to an executive commission consisting of five members: Arago, Marie, Garnier-Pagès, Lamartine and Ledru-Rollin. But the spell was already broken. This revolution which had been peacefully effected with the most generous aspirations, in the hope of abolishing poverty by organizing industry on other bases than those of competition and capitalism, and which had at once aroused the fraternal sympathy of the nations, was doomed to be abortive.
The result of the general election, the return of a constituent assembly predominantly moderate if not monarchical, dashed the hopes of those who had looked for the establishment, by a peaceful revolution, of their ideal socialist state; but they were not prepared to yield without a struggle, and in Paris itself they commanded a formidable force. In spite of the preponderance of the “tricolour” party in the provisional government, so long as the voice of France had not spoken, the socialists, supported by the Parisian proletariat, had exercised an influence on policy out of all proportion to their relative numbers or personal weight. By the decree of the 24th of February the provisional government had solemnly accepted the principle of the “right to work,” and decided to establish “national workshops” for the unemployed; at the same time a sort of industrial parliament was established at the Luxembourg, under the presidency of Louis Blanc, with the object of preparing a scheme for the organization of labour; and, lastly, by the decree of the 8th of March the property qualification for enrolment in the National Guard had been abolished and the workmen were supplied with arms. The socialists thus formed, in some sort, a state within the state, with a government, an organization and an armed force.
In the circumstances a conflict was inevitable; and on the 15th of May an armed mob, headed by Raspail, Blanqui and Barbès, and assisted by the proletariat Guard, attempted to overwhelm the Assembly. They were defeated by the bourgeois battalions of the National Guard; but the situation none the less remained highly critical. The national workshops were producing the results that might have been foreseen. It was impossible to provide remunerative work even for the genuine unemployed, and of the thousands who applied the greater number were employed in perfectly useless digging and refilling; soon even this expedient failed, and those for whom work could not be invented were given a half wage of 1 franc a day. Even this pitiful dole, with no obligation to work, proved attractive, and all over France workmen threw up their jobs and streamed to Paris, where they swelled the ranks of the army under the red flag. It was soon clear that the continuance of this experiment would mean financial ruin; it had been proved by the émeute of the 15th of May that it constituted a perpetual menace