It is no secret that during the late 18th century through the 19th century, France underwent a serious of painful revolutions. Starting with the infamous Reign of Terror France embarked into a period of order, disorder, and change.
Upon the death of King Louis XVIII, Charles X became king of France in 1824. It must be known that Charles X was not a classical liberal in any sense of the word. This is very important because in 1827 most government officials who came into office on account of recent elections were in fact classical liberals. Although the government was turning more and more liberal every year, Charles ignored the change. Likewise, The people started to become indignant to Charles’s socialistic policies.
In 1830, the Chamber of Deputies returned a vote of no confidence in the government. More and more elections resulted in classical liberal thinkers in office. To counteract the growing hatred to his rule, Charles started limit the already limited freedom of the press. He dissolved the Chamber of Deputies among other outrages bursts of socialistic government policies.
This was no way to counteract the people’s liberal way of thought. Protesters started to fill the streets making their voices heard by Charles. Eventually, it came to the point where the people had had just about enough of Charles’s shenanigans. From the 26th to the 29th of July in the year 1830, the people fought to overthrow Charles. This revolution is known as the July Revolution. It was now that the people finally forced their will onto the government. Charles was deposed resulting in Louis Philippe I to come to power. Louis ruled in a conservative manor. However, even though his policies were classically liberal his reign would end shortly and France would return to its life of governmental change.
During the 18th century there arose a new wave of people who based their beliefs on the ancient period in western civilization. Since they focused on cultures such as Greece and Rome the movement is referred to as Neoclassicism. The main characteristics of Neoclassicism included a key focus on simplicity, order, and rationality. One of the best ways to identify these characteristics in Neoclassicism is to study the art and architecture produced by artists of the movement.
The Oath of the Horatii is a painting by Jacques-Louis David. It is one of the best-known examples of Neoclassical art and is currently on display in Louvre. Elements of Neoclassicism can be seen in how the painting is separated into three character groups resulting in the perfect usage of the rule of threes. Also every aspect of this painting point to the center figure creating simplicity and order two characteristics that were praised by Neoclassicists.
Neoclassical architecture has influenced many architects to this day. Their work can be seen in the United States Capital building. Here obvious Neoclassical themes can be observed. The symmetrical lines, the focus on the top of the dome, and the similarities to Greek and Roman architecture all point to Neoclassicism.
In 1850 Frederic Frédéric Bastiat published The Law, his most famous political writing. Influenced by John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, Bastiat criticizes government for their usage of what he called legal plunder. His argument here focuses on the difference between thievery and thievery preformed by the government. If a man has his private property taken against his will by another person everyone will call that theft. On the other hand, if people vote to have property reapportioned from one man to another group against that man’s will it is considered a legal tax. That is the reason Bastiat calls it legal plunder. It is thievery presented as law by the governing officials. This book is considered to be a major political critique in the world of classical liberalism. The link can be seen in Bastiat’s emphasis on private property and his attacked and a strong centralized government. It is a fantastic book that is worth a read.
Before the year 1814 in Europe, the land had been plagued with numerous wars and strife. Mainly, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars were of major concern. To ensure long lasting peace in Europe many ambassadors of all the world powers were sent to Vienna where they held the Congress of Vienna. The key ideas that they focused on were this,
- France after all of their recent shenanigans must be made to feel like they were being treated like every other nation.
- No one country should control too much power in Europe. There should be an equal balance of power in Europe to ensure that another nation like France cannot rise up and cause unrest.
- Also the countries that were affected by recent disturbances would also be compensated.
These were the main principles driving the congress. The most interesting out of the three in my opinion is the first. It was France that had caused most of the problems for Europe in the last hundred years, yet when all was said and done they were accepted back into the same status they had had before with all the other nations. In fact, France was sent to put down a revolution in Spain in 1822. This country that had been known for being stocked full of revolutions and wars was now the very actor in putting them down.
In contrast to the first key principle of the Congress of Vienna we can look to the Treaty of Versailles. Here the Allied Powers pushed Germany away from a seat at the table. Making demands that many Germans thought violation of honor. Because of this there was an eruption in the next twenty years known as the Nazi Party. And while after the Treaty of Versailles was passed the next hundred years were plagued with war the same cannot be said for the Congress of Vienna. The Congress of Vienna was a brilliant way to settle the uproar in Europe at in that time causing peace for the next hundred or so years.
Until its abolition in the 19th century slavery was a grotesque yet primary part of not only western civilization but also the entire world. It wasn’t until 1833 when England realized the moral and economical disadvantages that came with slavery that they final abolished it all together. This monumental step in western civilization sparked a movement throughout the entire world to abolish slavery. However, an action so towering as this one had to be brought about by years of opposition to the slave trade. It was the hard work of people like the Levelers, the Quakers, John Locke, and William Wilberforce. Although the Levelers and the Quakers did contribute the major factors were Locke and Wilberforce.
John Locke pressed the issue of human rights. In Chapter four of his Second Treatise on Civil Government Locke writes,
The •natural liberty of man is
to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of men but to be ruled only by the law of nature.
The liberty of man •in society is
to be under no legislative power except the one established by consent in the commonwealth; and not under the power of any will or under restraint from any law except what is enacted by the legislature in accordance with its mandate.
It was Clearly Locke’s opinion that every man should be subject to no one unless he makes a contract, which puts another figure in authority over him.
William Wilberforce attacked slavery in Britten politically. The manner in which he did this is truly worth a read. Instead of trying to abolish slavery in one radical movement, Wilberforce made it his duty to in its place abolish the slave trade. If he tried to get rid of slavery altogether he was afraid his position would be to radical and his movement would be shoved away completely. Therefore, embarked on a journey that encompassed a long portion of his life. In 1807 the Slave Trade Act was passed in England abolishing the slave trade. And it wasn’t until 1833 that the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in England one year after Wilberforce’s death.
When talking about the Industrial Revolution people usually speak of the standard of living debate. This debate used to be on whether during the Industrial Revolution people acquired more economic growth than in previous centuries. There is only one conclusion to this debate. It wasn’t called the Industrial Revolution for nothing; clearly there was the implement of technological advancements such as the spinning jenny, steam engines, and locomotives. All of these improvements provided business the ability to create factories, which provided jobs for more people.
The debate that people converse over today is when did people start to experience an increase in the economical living. The real answer to this debate is that throughout the entire Industrial Revolution people experienced economical growth. It is true that working conditions in factories are far below than that of today, however there is a good reason why men, woman, and children alike flocked to work at these factories. It is because it was the best place to earn a dollar people worked at factories. Without the wages people earned at the factory they would not have the equity required to feed them, in other words the factories saved them from starvation. Nicholas Francis Robert Crafts (Professor of Economics and Economic History at the University of Warwick) pointed out that from 1760 to 1860 the lowest people saw there income increasing by was 65% while the highest being 70%. Even though these people are poor in the eyes of people today they were significantly better off than that of years before since the start of the Industrial Revolution to the end.
From September 1793 to July 1794 there arose an incredible amount of bloodshed in midst of French revolution. What was known as the committee of public safety decided that all enemies of revolution should be put to death by any means necessary. The committee assigned the job of carrying out this duty to Maximilien de Robespierre. Due to the travesties that Robespierre brought upon the French people his actions are known today as The Reign of Terror. The primary instrument of The Reign of Terror was the guillotine, which Robespierre gracefully renamed the “National Razor”. It is calculated that 16,594 people lost their heads to the Razor of which 2,639 fell to their fate in the city of Paris.
However, if someone were to think that the guillotine was the only form of execution they would be very wrong. In the city of Nantes, Robespierre put a man named Jean-Baptiste Carrier in charge executions. The means by which Carrier followed Robespierre’s orders are completely bone chilling. Carrier ordered the deaths of noblemen, women, children and clergymen and more by drowning. They executioners’ would put them into boats that had holes, which had been boarded up. Before the executioners’ disembarked off of the boats they would remove the boards, thus allowing the boats to fill with water and sink. Over 4,000 people lost their lives. These events are known as the Drowning’s at Nantes.
It was in this time that Robespierre had in essence become a dictator. However, the French people were now disgusted with his actions and on July 27, 1794 they revolted against his rule. The very next day Robespierre was executed, thus putting an end to his Reign of Terror.
Enlightened absolutism was a phenomenon in the eighteenth century concerning European absolutist rulers, who embraced certain enlightenment ideals. Many of these rulers were personally acquainted with prominent enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire and embraced some of their ideas. These ideas focused on rationality and a break from the common grounds of tradition. Two absolutist rulers who exemplified prominent thoughts of the enlightenment are Catherine the Great of Russia and Joseph II of Austria. These leaders showed their enlightened absolutism through certain policies
For instance, the previous mentioned monarchs extended a large amount of religious toleration that had not been seen for a while if not ever in their respected countries. Catherine allowed Catholic and Orthodox churches to live side by side in Russia. Likewise, Catherine allowed the entry of Jewish people into Russia while Joseph lifted many restrictions on his Jewish population. It can be clearly seen here that Russia and Austria were trying to break away from the traditional ground of religious skepticism.
Moreover, enlightened monarchs focused on reforming their judicial system. It was their contention that their punishment for certain crimes was out dated therefore they instituted new reforms. In Austria, if an upper-class citizen was found guilty of a crime Joseph II would contrive something so demeaning as sweeping the streets, which was a big deal and extremely humiliating for a wealthy socialite. The idea here is that joseph was focusing on the enlightenment idea of rationality. His goal was to find the most rational punishment for the Austrian criminals.
Hence, the major ideas that steered absolutist thought in eighteenth century were a focus upon rationality and a break from tradition through means, such as religious toleration and legal reforms.
Adam Smith, the famed Scottish economist has presented the world with some intriguing theories. Perhaps his most well known theory is the invisible hand. The invisible hand is a metaphor for the self-regulating behavior of the marketplace. The primary idea is that people can make a profit and maximize it without government intervention. For example, imagine a society with a free market economy. In this society there is a man who is the owner of a clothing store. This man decides that if he lowers the cost of his wear he will have an advantage over his competitors. As our storeowner lowers his prices, other clothing businessmen catch on to his idea and start to lower their prices to attract attention to their stores instead of his. While these entrepreneurs’ war with each other’s businesses by way of low prices, quality of material, and advertising: the consumer is left with low priced but quality clothing.
Before Europe’s scientific revolution many people held the Ptolemaic Aristotelian view of the universe. The contention of this theory is that the earth was at the center of our solar system instead of the sun. Also, all planets and all of the heavenly bodies would be perfectly spherical. Moreover, all these planets would orbit in a perfectly circular course at a fixed speed. This view is now known as the Geocentric Theory.
However, with the rise of scientific understanding men such as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton were able to shed some much needed light on this issue. Although their theories were not entirely truthful to scientific fact, they certainly were headed in the right direction. For instance:
- Copernicus proved that instead of the earth being at the center of the solar system it was in fact the sun that was at the center. Therefore all planets would revolve around the sun and not the earth.
- Kepler showed that planet orbit was elliptical and not circular. Also, the speed at which a planet would orbit is not constant. It was Kepler’s contention that depending on the distance from the planet to the sun a planet would orbit at different speeds.
- Galileo through his magnificent telescope confirmed that planets were not perfectly spherical. he was able to see that on numerous planets and on the moon that there were craters and hills, therefore disproving people’s previous view.
- Newton delved into the complex world of gravity. He showed that every material thing in the universe has a gravitational force and the larger the item the greater the force. Hence, the reason why people, trees, and buildings (to name a few) stick to the ground and are not flying around all over the place is because the earth’s gravitational force keeps us on the ground.
With the discoveries of these four men various other scientists have come along to add their findings, until the sound current Heliocentric Theory was formed.