Liberalism promoted the maintenance or introduction of the achievements of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, i.e. equality in front of the law, freedom of assembly, of opinion, of religion, of the press, the abolition of privileges, protection of property, freedom of trade, a laissez-faire policy toward the factories, the abolition of import and export tariffs, separation of church and state, civil registry, state control over schools, a centralized state, and, most of all, a written constitution based on liberal principles and a permanent parliament, authorized to pass legislation.

In England the liberals (Whigs) competed with the conservatives (Tories) for seats in parliament, for the premiership. In France and Belgium, since 1830, liberals were actively involved in the political process.

When Sicily and Spain introduced liberal constitutions (both in 1820), the Holy Alliance, on the Congresses of Laibach (1820) and Verona (1822) decided to authorize Austrian respective French forces to intervene and restore the previous situation; both constitutions were abrogated.

In most other European countries, the monarchs held on to the principles of the Ancien Regime; liberals were regarded as suspicious elements, potential revolutionaries. In Germany, an economic counter-model to Free Trade was developed by economist Friedrich List; the Zollverein created a German common market without internal tariff barriers, but with protective barriers to the outside.

DOCUMENTS Modern History Sourcebook : Liberalism
Baden Constitution of 1818, from Badnerland, in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on September 28th 2003, last revised on November 16th 2004

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