The French Revolution of 1848 differed from revolutions in Germany, Italy, and Hungary in respect that it was fundamentally social. The point is that revolutions in other countries revolved around nationalist issues, whereas the French revolution was the workers’ attempt to stand up for their rights. The second significant difference lies in the fact that, in the Italian Peninsula and the Germanic states, revolutions were meant to suppress conservative forces so as to establish democracy and unification, whereas a liberal constitutional monarchy already existed in France after its unification in 1830. Despite these differences, both the Hungarian and German revolutions share some similar features. They arose from the growing dissatisfaction with the existing regime and were doomed to failure.
The liberal constitutional monarchy allowed the unified France to force Charles X to abdicate the throne and institute Louise Phillip as a new monarch. Despite the fact that his power was considerably limited due to the People’s Charter, ordinary citizens still could not enjoy their supposed rights. As a matter of fact, the working class was virtually excluded from the government since the right to vote belonged exclusively to the rich. Workers have hardly gained any benefits from the revolution of 1830.
One of the major factors that contributed to the French revolution was the poor economy. This factor is especially acute if one considers the fact that France was a predominantly rural country in the 1840s (75.6% of the Frenchmen lived in the countryside). Farmers have constituted a significant part of the population, and they would sell the goods they produced in excess to buy what they needed and pay debts. That is why there is no wonder that the rural community was primarily concerned with such political issues as low taxes and cheap credit, which was the only possibility for people to survive. Rural French workers had to pay two kinds of taxes: a salt tax and a tax grounded on land possessions. The latter was viewed as particularly unfair by rural farmers who controlled many possessions, but were not wealthy.
Furthermore, the Industrial revolution and mechanization caused massive unemployment within the French working class. Poor harvest of 1846 was the major cause of the consequent economic depression in 1847. Sharply increased food prices made bread an unaffordable luxury, which resulted into people’s alarming physical exhaustion. The abovementioned conditions could not but arose workmen’s dissatisfaction and indignation. To make the matters worse, Guziot and Louise Phillip continued rebuffing socialist reforms, in 1847. As a form of protest against the regime, a banquet would be organized; one of such banquets had to take place on February 13, but the government banned it. Radicals neglected the ban and held a mass demonstration on February 22. This was the beginning of an unexpected revolution, which made Guziot and the king flee to exile.
The working class suffered the most from the ruthless conservatism of Louise Phillip and Guziot. The workers cherished ardent hopes for the outcome of the February Revolution. That is why the first steps of a provisional government were the reforms aimed at the working class’ welfare. A right to work was declared essential; foreign workers were expelled from the country, and machinery was destroyed. Furthermore, universal suffrage was granted to every male aged over twenty, which opened the government to a considerable number of Frenchmen. Louise de Blanc also created National Workshops that were meant to decrease the unemployment rate.
Nonetheless, these workshops were too expensive to be held in rural areas, as a result of which the government was compelled to introduce new taxes. The latter were severely criticized by the rural working class, who believed that the taxes were meant to help the needy in some urban areas as well as in Paris. Besides, the urban working class neglected other urgent rural workers’ problems such as a change of the tax and credit system. It can be reasonably claimed that the French Revolution of 1848 was doomed to failure because the socialist government favored exclusively the Parisian working class, disregarded the rural workers’ claims and, consequently, failed to gain unified workers’ support throughout the whole country (Hill, 2005).
The Hungarian Revolution of 1848 was profoundly nationalist in essence. It was the practical embodiment and culmination of a liberal nationalist doctrine that had been gaining strength in Hungary since 1825. The doctrine aimed at achieving national autonomy and creation of a liberal constitutional Hungary that could develop and modernize freely. The revolution erupted on March 15, in Pest, when students and radicals attacked the Buda fortress. The emperor could not but yield to revolutionary demands on March 16, therefore a liberal national government was established (onwar.com).
Hungary’s social, economic, and political life was considerably changed by the so-called April laws. Independent ministries of finance and defense were created, and currency could be issued through the governmental central bank. Guilds were deprived of privileges; the nobles were obliged to pay taxes. Tithes, the corvee, and entail were abolished. Some peasants were granted land possession they worked on, freedom of the press was proclaimed, and the assembly was created. Nonetheless, even less than half of peasants were emancipated from feudalism. The suffrage depended on one’s wealth, which implied that peasants and the middle class took no part in political life. The reform package also established a Hungarian national guard and brought Transylvania under Hungarian dominion (onwar.com).
The nationalist spirit of the new Hungarian government was perceived as dangerous by non-Hungarian nationalities. Since the non-Magyar ethnic groups were not granted the same rights as the Magyars, Transylvanian Germans and Romanians protested against unification with Hungary. In September 1848, the Croatians invaded Hungary. In December 1848, the imperial army moved against the Hungarians but was met with the resolute resistance. The revolutionary government moved to Debrecen and proclaimed Hungary a sovereign state. In June, however, Franz Joseph asked Czar Nicholas helped to subdue the Hungarians, and the Magyar army capitulated on 11 of August, 1849.
After the Magyar revolution was defeated, Franz Joseph divided the former Hungary into four definite areas: Vojvodina, Hungary, Transylvania, and Croatia-Slavonia. The government was run by Bohemian and German administrators. German became the language of higher education and administration. The non-Hungarian minorities hardly got any benefits from the support of Austria in the revolution. As a Croat would tell a Hungarian, “We received as a reward what the Magyars got as a punishment”.
Taking into consideration all the above mentioned facts, the French and the Hungarian revolutions of 1848 are characterized by the following most significant differences and similarities. The two different types of revolutions (social and national-democratic respectively) predetermined people’s different demands, and it was easier for the unified France to dethrone the monarch. Apart from these differences, both the Frenchmen and the Hungarians (especially the middle class and peasantry) had no suffrage, which neglected their roles as social members. Economic, political, and social influence was an exclusive “privilege” of the wealthy, who typically did not care about the needs of the poor. Likewise, both revolutions were put down. Hungarian revolutionaries had no enough forces to stand up for their rights for a long time, and socialism could not satisfy the needs of the conservative French rural working class.