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Europe to 1831: Conservative Dream Challenged

On the European continent, opposition to the established order remained. There were Italians, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Czechs, Poles, Romanians and other nationalities who wanted a better life and freedom from rule by distant emperors.

The Greeks wanted to free themselves from rule by the Turks. They had been under Ottoman rule since the mid-1400s. The French Revolution had inspired at least a few of them. A revolt against Ottoman rule by Serbs and Serbia in 1813 winning autonomy from the Turks was also inspirational, while conservative leaders of the Congress of Vienna, Prince Metternich of Austria and others, remained opposed to the anti-empire implications of Greek nationalism. Tsar Alexander would shock his fellow Russians with his opposition to rebellion by Greeks — fellow Eastern Orthodox Christians — against the Islamic Ottoman Empire.

Exiles to a Greeks community in Russian-ruled Odessa worked for a rebellion that broke out on the Peloponnese Peninsula in 1821. Like many risings it was murderous. Christians smote Muslim they perceived as their enemies without mercy. Greek leaders emerged who advocated restraint, but they had little effect. Greek peasants armed with scythes, clubs and slings, grabbed what valuables they could and killed wherever possible. Of the estimated 50,000 Muslims living on the Peloponnese Peninsula in March 1821, an estimated 20,000 were killed within a few weeks – men, women and children. By May, north of the peninsula, in Athens, Muslims were defending themselves from the Acropolis. By 1822 the Greeks captured Athens, Thebes and the Aegean islands. They declared their independence. But the Ottoman authorities in what today is Turkey got organized and struck back. The poet Lord Byron fought on the side of the Greeks at the town of Missolonghi. The fighting there had become a symbol of Greek defiance against Ottoman power. Its fall to the Turks created new support for the Greeks across Europe, with the idea that Greece had to be saved for European civilization. Britain, France and Russia to naval action, and they destroyed the Turkish fleet at the Battle of Navarino Bay — last naval battle of sailing ships.

In 1832 a conference of Brits, French and Russians at London, decided to establishment a kingdom in Greece and put a Bavarian Prince on its throne: King Otto. It wasn't exactly self-determination for the Greeks. Under King Otto the Greeks would be taxed more than they had been under the Ottoman Turks. The Greeks were displeased also by Otto's Roman Catholicism. Orthodox Greeks considered him a heretic.

Meanwhile in 1820, just five years after the Old Order had their Congress of Vienna, Europe's conservatives were challenged also by other uprisings. In the kingdom that included Sicily and Naples there were uprisings against Ferdinand I, who responded with a promise of a constitutional monarchy. In Spain, an army colonel led a mutiny and demanded a liberal constitution. In Portugal a military insurrection with liberal intentions swept the country.

In Russia, military men who had served in France had been exposed to the Enlightenment. They had hated what they found when returning to Russia. In St. Petersburg's main square, around three thousand of them tried to overthrow the tsarist government. They took no control of anything strategic and were supported by no general rising. Their naiveté became known as the Decembrist Rising. They were crushed by forces loyal to the Romanov monarchy.

Reaction also won, for awhile, in Italy. An Austrian army entered Naples and allowed King Ferdinand to regain his full powers. Reaction won also in Spain. An alliance consisting of Britain, France, Russia, Prussia, and Austria gave France, under the conservative Louis XVIII, a mandate to intervene and restore the Spanish monarch's absolute authority.

But the reactionaries could not restore Spain's conservative rule in Latin America. More than a few people there had been influenced by the Enlightenment and by the American and French revolutions. Traders born in the Americas dislike Spain's restrictions on trading with people outside the Spanish realm, or restrictions against growing crops that would compete with crops grown in Spain, and restrictions on making goods that would compete with goods made in Spain. Taxes imposed by Spanish authorities were also annoying. In Latin America the families of Spain's officials enjoyed their authority and their higher status. They tended to be haughty toward those of Spaniards born in Latin America – the Criólles.

Across Spanish Latin America, local rebel armies defeated the Spanish armies from afar. This included rebel armies in Mexico. In September 1821 three rebel armies entered Mexico City. Mexico's first constitution was crated in October 1924.

The Portuguese also were caught up in the change. A member of Portugal's royal family, Prince Pedro, chose to stand with the Portuguese in Brazil. He declared Brazil's independence from Portugal in September 1822. A month later, Pedro was declared the first Emperor of Brazil. A people's war for independence was spreading through Brazil's northern and northeastern regions and in Cisplatina province. With the last Portugal's soldiers surrendering in March 1824, Portugal's government officially recognized Brazil as indpendent on 29 August 1825.

Next, rebellion was to appear again in France. Louis XVIII had preserved some of what had been won during the French Revolution, namely a constitution that provided for a parliament. (But, under Louis XVIII, voting for members members of parliament was restricted to the wealthiest of men.) Then in 1824, Louis XVIII died. He was succeeded by his brother, Charles X. There were bad harvests in 1826 and hard winters in 1828-29 and 1829-30. People in France were burdened by high food prices. King Charles was displeased with parliament and he suspended the constitution as allowed during an emergency. He imposed censorship on the pres and called for new elections. He was disheartened by the return of people to the barricades. The following day, July 28, 1830, there were clashes between people in the streets of Paris and agents of authority (a clash to be depicted in Delacroix's painting "Liberty Leading the People.") Business in Paris came a complete standstill. Troops were deserting. Crowds were rushing through the streets, and shouts could be heard: "Down with the king!" and "to the guillotine!" Charles X was almost 73 and left his palace in Paris for what he thought would be the safety of his palace at Versailles. There his Swiss guards at the Louvre had run away rather than face the crowds swarming toward them. They didn't want to be torn apart like their predecessors had been back in 1792. Learning that there was no safety, Charles X abdicated in favor of his grandson Henry, Duke of Bordeaux, who was not yet ten years old.

Instead, parliament elected Louis-Philippe, 57, as the new king. He was, let us say, a liberal. His father had supported the Revolution but had been guillotined during the Reign of Terror. He was one of the more progressive members of France's Bourbon family, and people proclaimed him the "Citizen King."

Prince Metternich saw Louis-Philippe as a return to France's constitutional monarchy as bad stuff, and he expected that France would continue downhill with giddy politics. Within Austria's Habsburg royal family, in the person of Princess Sophia, the new monarch in Paris was viewed as illegitimate, with Sophia praying for the divine destruction of revolutionary Paris.

There was an uprising also in Belgium. People there resented rule by the Dutch. The Dutch were mostly protestant, the Belgians mostly Roman Catholic. The Belgians created a provisional government. They declared independence, and Catholic France was willing go to war on their behalf. Prince Metternich wanted to avoid war. The British and French summoned a conference that began in November, 1830, and lasted through much of 1831. At the conference it was decided that Belgium would be independent and ruled by Prince Leopold, who was from a duchy around Saxony and Thuringia. (He was uncle of the twelve-year-old future Queen of England, Victoria.) In August 1831, the Dutch responded by invading Belgium, and in a ten-day campaign that had the approval of the British, the French drove the Dutch back to their own Netherlands.

By 1831, just fifteen years since the new conservative order had been declared, what then was considered conservatism appeared to be losing a war with history. And their biggest fight against change was about to take place, between 1848 and 1850.


PLEASE CONTINUE: Bad Tactics and Failed Revolutions, 1848-49

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Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.