Following the ousting of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814, the Allies restored the Bourbon Dynasty to the French throne. The ensuing period is called in French the Restauration, characterized by a sharp conservative reaction and the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic church as a power in French politics.
The Fall of the Restoration, 1827-1830
There is still considerable debate among historians as to the actual cause of the downfall of Charles X. What is generally conceded, though, is that between 1827 and 1830, a series of economic downturns combined with the rise of a liberal opposition within the Chamber of Deputies ultimately felled the conservative Bourbons.
Between 1827 and 1830, French urban centers and provincial France faced an economic downturn, possibly worse than the one that sparked the Revolution of 1789. A series of progressively worsening grain harvests pushed up the prices on various staple foods and cash crops. In response, the rural peasantry throughout France lobbied for the relaxation of protective tariffs on grain in order to ease their economic situation. However, Charles X, bowing to pressure from wealthier landowners, kept the tariffs in place. He did so based upon the Bourbon response to 1816-1817, during which Louis XVIII relaxed tariffs during a series of famines, caused a downturn in prices, and incurred the ire of wealthy landowners, the traditional source of Bourbon legitimacy. Thus, peasants throughout France between 1827 and 1830 faced a period of relative economic hardship and rising prices.
At the same time, international pressures combined with weakened purchasing power from the provinces led to decreased economic activity in urban centers. This industrial downturn contributed to rising poverty levels among Parisian artisans. By 1830, then, multiple demographics had suffered from the economic policies of Charles X.
While the French economy faltered, a series of elections brought a relatively powerful liberal bloc into the Chamber of Deputies. The 17-strong liberal bloc of 1824 grew to 180 in 1827, and 274 in 1830. This liberal majority grew increasingly dissatisfied with the policies of the centrist Martignac and the Ultra-Royalist Polignac, seeking to protect the limited protections of the Charter of 1814. They sought the expansion of the franchise, and more liberal economic policies. They also demanded the right, as the majority bloc, to appoint the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
Also, the growth of the liberal bloc within the Chamber of Deputies corresponded roughly with the rise of a liberal press within France. Generally centered around Paris, this press provided a counterpoint to the official government's journalistic services, and to the newspapers of the right. It grew increasingly important in conveying political opinions and the political situation to the Parisian public, and can thus be seen as a crucial link between the rise of the liberals and the increasingly angitated and economically suffering French masses.
Thus, by 1830, the Restoration government of Charles X faced difficulties on all sides. The new liberal majority clearly had no intention of budging in the face of Polignac's aggressive policies. The rise of a liberal press within Paris that outsold the official government newspaper meant that political opinions within the capital were shifting decidedly towards the left. And yet, Charles' base of power was certainly on the right, as were his own political views. He simply could not yield to the growing demands from within in Chamber of Deputies. The situation would soon come to a head.
The Four Ordinances
Technically, the Charter of 1814 made France a constitutional monarchy. While the King retained extensive power over policy-making and sole power of the Executive, he was nonetheless reliant upon the Parliament to accept and pass his legal decrees. The Charter also fixed the method of election of the Deputies, their rights within the Chamber of Deputies, and the rights of the majority bloc. Thus, Charles X in 1830 faced a significant problem. He could not overstep his constitutional bounds, and yet, he could not preserve his policies with a liberal majority within the Chamber of Deputies. Stark action was required. A final no-confidence vote by the liberals in March 1830 spurred the king into action, and he set about to alter the Charter of 1814 by decree. These decrees, known as the Four Ordinances, included:
- Dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies
- Restriction of the Press Laws
- Restriction of the franchise to only the wealthiest within France
- Immediate new elections based upon the new electorate.
Word spread quickly of the king's intent. On July 10, 1830, before the King had even made his declarations, a group of wealthy, liberal journalists and newspaper proprietors, led by Adolph Thiers, met in Paris to decide upon a strategy to counter Charles X. It was decided then, nearly three weeks before the Revolution, that in the event of Charles' expected proclamations, they would publish vitriolic criticisms of the King’s policies in an attempt to mobilize the masses (this is the assertion of H.A.C. Collingham, and may require more explanation or elaboration). Thus, When Charles X made his declarations on the 25th of July, 1830, the liberal journalism machine mobilized, publishing articles and complaints decrying the despotism of the King’s actions.
The urban mobs of Paris also mobilized, driven by patriotic fervor and economic hardship, assembling baracades and attacking the infrastructure of Charles X. Within days, the situation escalated beyond the ability of the monarchy to control it. As the Crown moved to shut down liberal publications, the radical Parisian masses defended them. They also launched attacks against pro-Bourbon presses, and paralyzed the coercive apparatus of the monarchy. Seizing the opportunity, the liberals in Parliament began drafting resolutions, complaints, and censures against the King.
The king finally abdicated on July 30, twenty minutes later, his son Le Duc d'Angouleme also abdicated. The Crown feel upon Charles X's grandson, the would-be Henri V. Instead, the newly-empowered Chamber of Deputies declared the throne vacant, and elevated Louis-Philippe, Duc de Orleans, to power. Thus, the July Monarchy began.
Louis-Phillipe and the House of Orleans
Louis-Philippe ascended the throne on the strength of the July Revolution of 1830, and ruled, not as "King of France" but as "King of the French," an evocative difference among contemporaries. Most historians treat the resulting July Monarchy, 1830 - 1848, as a separate period in French history.
Following the ousting of the last king to rule France in 1848, the Second Republic was formed after the election of Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte as President (1848-1852), who subsequently had himself declared Emperor Napoleon III of the Second Empire from 1852 - 1871.
Collingham, H.A.C. The July Monarchy: A Political History of France, 1830-1848. (London; New York: Longman, 1988).
Pilbeam, Pamela. The Economic Crisis of 1827-32 and the 1830 Revolution in Provincial France. The Historical Journal, Vol. 32, No. 2 (June, 1989).
Rader, Daniel L. The Journalists and the July Revolution in France. (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973).