Ch 11 The Industrial Revolution

CH.11-THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

Hits: 1791

CHAPTER XI:THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

 SECTION 4: THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

 

IN 1789, FRANCE HAD BEEN IN DECLINE FOR A DECADE WITH UNBALANCED BUDGETS, A BANKRUPT TREASURY, AN ILL-TRAINED AND IRREGULARLY PAID ARMY AND NAVY AND AN OVERTAXED PEASANTRY SUFFERING FAMINE CAUSED BY RUINOUS HARVESTS.

THE ‘THIRD ESTATE’ WAS IN CONFLICT WITH THE CROWN AND FORCED INTO THE PATH OF REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE.

HUNGRY PEOPLE BURNED AND LOOTED CHATEAUS, AND, ON JULY 4TH, THE BASTILLE WAS STORMED. PARISIANS MARCHED ON VERSAILLES AND ARRESTED THE KING.

TO THE FOREIGNER, IT APPEARED FRANCE WAS SINKING INTO ANARCHY, WHICH COULD BE IGNORED UNTIL THEY REALISED THE DANGERS OF THIS SPREADING THROUGHOUT EUROPE.

IT WAS IN ENGLAND THAT THIS REALISATION FIRST FOUND EXPRESSION. THE BOURGEOISIE HAD NO SYMPATHY FOR THE REVOLUTION IN FRANCE, AND, AS IT BECAME MORE VIOLENT AND POPULAR, THEIR FEAR INCREASED.

JACOBINISM MEANT AN ATTACK ON PRIVILEGE.

BRITAIN WAS NOT DIRECTLY THREATENED FOR GEOGRAPHICAL REASONS. IT WAS LAST TO JOIN THE COUNTER REVOLUTIONARY WAR AND CONSPIRACY INVOLVING THE EMPEROR OF AUSTRIA AND THOUSANDS OF NOBLES, INCLUDING BROTHERS OF LOUIS XVI WHO HAD FLOWN FRANCE.

THE WILLINGNESS OF EUROPEAN SOVEREIGNS TO GET INVOLVED ENCOURAGED THE SPREAD OF REVOLUTIONARY IDEAS AMONG THEIR OWN SUBJECTS.

IN ENGLAND, TOM PAINE AND BURKE”S ‘REFLECTIONS’ CREATED A SENSATION.

THE WAR OF 1792 WAS NOT MERELY AN ATTACK BY REACTIONARY POWERS ON REVOLUTIONARY FRANCE.LIBERTY EQUALITY & FRATERNITY’ WAS AN EXPLOSIVE SLOGAN WITH UNIVERSAL APPEAL, WHICH CARRIED EASILY ACROSS BORDERS.

WAR WAS PRECEDED BY A MANIFESTO IN WHICH THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT PROMISED ASSISTANCE TO ALL NATIONS THAT SHOULD REVOLT AGAINST THEIR OPPRESSORS.

THE INITIAL DISASTERS OF THE RAW NEW FRENCH ARMY WERE OVERCOME, AND BELGIUM WAS INVADED WILLINGLY, WHICH STARTED A REVOLT AGAINST AUSTRIAN OCCUPATION. BUT IT WAS THE CONQUEST OF BELGIUM THAT BROUGHT REVOLUTIONARY FRANCE INTO DIRECT CONFLICT WITH BRITISH INTERESTS THERE.

IN 1793, BRITAIN JOINED AUSTRIA, PRUSSIA, SPAIN AND PIEDMONT TO FORM A COALITION, BUT BY THEN RADICAL AND REPUBLICAN AGITATION HAD EMERGED IN ENGLAND.

TORY MOBS WITH THE CONNIVANCE OF MAGISTRATES LOOTED AND BURNED THE HOUSES OF DISSENTERS IN BIRMINGHAM AND ELSEWHERE. THE WHIG PARTY SPLIT, AND ONLY FOX PERSISTED IN DEMANDS FOR REFORM.

SMALL THOUGH HIS GROUP WAS, IT FORMED THE NUCLEUS OF THE FORERUNNER TO THE LIBERAL PARTY. FOX AND FOLLOWERS WERE ARISTOCRATS, BUT THE PERIOD ALSO SAW THE FIRST DEFINITE WORKING CLASS POLITICAL ORGANISATION, THE ‘CORRESPONDING SOCIETY’.

ITS OFFICIAL PROGRAMME WAS UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE AND ANNUAL PARLIAMENTS, BUT MOST OF ITS MEMBERS WERE REPUBLICANS AND DISCIPLES OF TOM PAINE, WHO HAD FOUGHT IN THE AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE AND PRODUCED THE DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAN.

“GOVERNMENT WAS ONLY TOLERABLE IF IT SECURED TO THE WHOLE PEOPLE LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.”

THE WEAKNESS OF THE MOVEMENT LAY IN ITS LIMITED CHARACTER AND IN BEING CONFINED TO LONDON. IT HAD NO ROOTS IN THE INDUSTRIAL TOWNS OF THE NORTH.

THESE PLACES WERE FULL OF MISERY AND DISCONTENT, BUT THE DISPOSSESSED PEASANTS AND RUINED DOMESTIC WORKERS WHO WERE CROWDED THERE WERE NOT CABABLE OF POLITICAL THOUGHT OR ACTIVITY.

THEIR PROTEST TOOK THE FORM OF DESPERATE ACTS OF VIOLENCE AND DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY. IT WAS ONLY WHEN PITT BEGAN TO CRUSH THE MOVEMENT FOX HAD CREATED WITH THE RADICALS OF THE NORTHERN CITIES THAT CONTACTS WERE MADE WITH THE NEW INDUSTRIAL PROLETARIAT. THESE CONTACTS CAME TOO LATE TO BE IMMEDIATELY FRUITFUL.

IN 1794, PITT SUSPENDED ‘HABEAS CORPUS’, WHICH HAD LASTED FOR EIGHT YEARS. THE RIGHTS OF MAN WERE BANNED AND PAINE ESCAPED TO FRANCE. THE CORRESPONDING SOCIETY AND OTHER RADICAL ORGANISATIONS WERE DECLARED ILLEGAL, BUT WHEN THOMAS HARDY, A SHOEMAKER, AND OTHERS WERE PUT ON TRIAL FOR TREASON, THEY WERE ACQUITTED BY A LONDON JURY.

IN THE YEARS THAT FOLLOWED, OPEN EXPRESSION OF RADICAL VIEWS WERE IMPOSSIBLE, BUT FREQUENT STRIKES, BREAD RIOTS AND MACHINE WRECKING KEPT THE GOVERNMENT IN A STATE OF FEAR.

BARRACKS WERE SET UP EVERYWHERE. INDUSTRIAL AREAS WERE TREATED ALMOST AS A CONQUERED COUNTRY IN THE HANDS OF AN ARMY OF OCCUPATION.

TROOPS WERE USED TO SUPPRESS DISORDER, BUT THEY WERE UNRELIABLE AND OFTEN FOUND TO BE IN SYMPATHY WITH THE CROWD THEY WERE ORDERED TO ATTACK.

A NEW BODY OF YEOMANRY WAS ESTABLISHED, DRAWN FROM THE UPPER AND MIDDLE CLASSES. THEY WERE USELESS FROM A MILITARY POINT OF VIEW BUT WERE INTENDED TO BE A CLASS BODY IN SUPPRESSION OF JACOBINISM. IN THIS THEY WERE ENTHUSIASTICALLY BRUTAL AND UNIVERSALLY HATED.

IN SCOTLAND, RADICALISM WAS STRONG TOO AND REPRESSION MORE SEVERE. ‘THE SOCIETY OF THE FRIENDS OF THE PEOPLE’ INCLUDED THE MIDDLE CLASSES AND WORKERS.

IN 1792, A NATIONAL CONVENTION IN EDINBURGH REPRESENTED 80 AFFILIATED SOCIETIES AND WAS ATTENDED BY 160 DELEGATES.

IN 1793, THOMAS MUIR WAS TRIED FOR SEDITION.  PITT BECAME INVOLVED, DEMANDING HIS DEATH, BUT MUIR WAS SENTENCED TO 14 YEARS TRANSPORTATION. HE WAS LATER RESCUED AT BOTANY BAY BY AN AMERICAN SHIP AND TAKEN TO FRANCE WHERE HE TRIED TO PERSUADE THE ‘DIRECTORY’ TO INVADE SCOTLAND.

SIMILAR TRIALS FOLLOWED, BUT A BODY CALLED THE ‘UNITED SCOTSMEN’, BASED ON AN IRISH MODEL, REMAINED. IT WAS SUPPRESSED IN 1799.

CONFUSING REVOLUTION WITH JACOBINISM WAS A PROBLEM FOR THE PROTESTORS, YET THE FRENCH REVOLUTION LEFT MANY PERMANENT GAINS: ABOVE ALL, THE DIVISION OF THE GREAT FEUDAL ESTATES OF FRANCE AND THE SMASHING OF ALL RESTRAINTS ON DEVELOPMENT OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY.

THE WAY WAS OPEN FOR ‘CODE NAPOLEON’, THE PERFECT LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR BOURGEOIS DEVELOPMENT. THE SETTLEMENT OF THE AGRARIAN QUESTION GAVE A FIRMER BASIS FOR ANY GOVERNMENT OPPOSED TO THE RETURN OF THE BOURBON AND NOBILITY.

 WOLFE TONE REMARKED IN 1796 THAT “IT IS IN THE ARMIES THAT THE REPUBLIC EXISTS.” THE REVOLUTION HAD CREATED AN ARMY THAT HAD NO EQUAL IN EUROPE. THEY MARCHED AND FOUGHT AT A QUICK STEP OF 120 PACES TO THE MINUTE, WHILE OPPONENTS COULD ONLY MANAGE 70 PACES.

FURTHERMORE, THE POVERTY OF THE YOUNG REPUBLIC MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE TO PROVIDE FOR ARMIES IN THE CUSTOMARY WAY OF VAST BAGGAGE TRAINS, SO THEY WERE FORCED TO LIVE OFF THE COUNTRYSIDE THEY PASSED THROUGH, IN SMALLER SELF CONTAINED UNITS.

THIS STRATEGY OF ADAPTING TO THE ACTUAL SITUATION TRANSFERRED WEAKNESS INTO A SOURCE OF STRENGTH. THE LINE FORMATION IN BATTLE WAS ABANDONED FOR THE COLUMN COVERED BY SHARPSHOOTERS WHO MOVED AHEAD TO DISORGANISE THE ENEMY.

AGAINST UNWILLING CONSCRIPTS OF THE EUROPEAN DESPOTS, THESE TACTICS WERE INVINCIBLE.

CARNOT AND NAPOLEON ACCEPTED THE FRENCH ARMY FOR WHAT IT WAS AND ALLOWED IT TO ATTAIN ITS OWN PERFECTION.

NAPOLEON’S VICTORIES WERE BASED ON RAPID MOVEMENTS BEFORE THE ACTUAL BATTLE, AND IT WAS ONLY AS THE REVOLUTIONARY IMPETUS FADED THAT HE LOST HIS ELASTICITY AND BECAME MORE DEPENDENT ON MERE MASS RATHER THAN MOTION.

THE FRENCH NAVY NEVER REACHED GREAT HEIGHTS, PARTLY BECAUSE ENTHUSIASM IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR DISCIPLINE.

FROM HOWE’S VICTORY OF THE 1ST JUNE 1794, BRITAIN HAD NAVAL SUPREMACY. BRITAIN HAD 158 SHIPS COMPARED TO FRANCE’S 80, BUT, BY THE END, THE BRITISH HAD 202 AND THE FRENCH 39.

THIS MARKED INFERIORITY OF THE FRENCH NAVY WAS ITSELF A REASON FOR NAPOLEAN CONCENTRATING ALL HIS EFFORTS ON LAND OPERATIONS.

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