Restauration : Neoabsolutism

At the VIENNA CONGRESS in 1913-1815, Europe's monarchs had adopted a new political order for Europe. It was to last, with a few moderations, until 1914.
The monarchs regarded liberalism as a part of the popular movement that, in the course of the French Revolution, had created the havoc it had taken years to overcome. While many patriots regarded themselves as citizens and hoped for the adoption of a liberal constitution; the monarchs were opposed to granting such a document, which only limited their power.
The HOLY ALLIANCE was founded to safeguard every individual monarch's sovereignty, even in case a revolution broke out in his country. The monarchs sought to continue to rule absolute, as before 1789; the ANCIEN REGIME was to be restored (changes implemented by the revolution, which were in their favour, such as the abolition of many privileges, territorial border corrections etc. were accepted). There was a widespread suspicion regarding democrats and, in nations politically divided, such as Germany, Italy, Poland, against patriots (nationalists). SECRET POLICE and PRESS CENSORSHIP were used to keep the populace under control.

During the period of restauration, neoabsolute policy pursued a number of goals :
(1) preserve the Royal prerogative to rule absolute
(2) keep up the privileges of nobility and clergy
(3) in order to protect the revenues of landowning noblemen, keep up protective tariffs, especially on grain (CORN LAWS)
(4) prevent political associations potentially endangering the state from being formed; meetings of clubs were observed by police agents

These goals were mostly oriented on the past; with the ongoing, accelerating industrialization neoabsolutist policy more and more came into conflict. Everywhere monarchs met the popular demand for a liberal constitution. Sometimes monarchs reluctantly granted constitutions presented to them; in other cases they stubbornly refuses to do so. In 1830 and again in 1848 revolutions broke out, beginning in Paris, and spreading fast to other European capitals and cities. The monarch's system of collective security only partially succeeded in suppressing them; in 1848 most monarchs granted constitutions, ending the phase of Neoabsolutism.

There were exceptions - Great Britain had a strongly entrenched parliamentary tradition, and parliament in the late 18th century had established it's claim to suggest a suitable prime minister for the king to appoint. In Sweden the new king, Frenchman Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, had been called in by his populace and was not in a position to rule absolute. In Russia, absolutism had never been seriously challenged; there was thus no justification for the prefix neo-.
On the other hand, republican Switzerland in 1848 went through the phase of a civil war, indicating that the political turmoil of 1848 was not exclusively caused by neoabsolutism style of government.

Austria Savoy France


This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on February 20th 2002

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