19th Century Liberalism
19th Century liberalism was a very complicated and abstract idea first brought upon in the 16th and 17th century by political thinkers like John Locke, Voltaire, and Montesquieu as well as many others. The ideals of Liberalism were captivated in the political and social turmoil of the 19th century. Liberalism in the 19th century was a political viewpoint or ideology associated with strong support for a broad interpretation of civil liberties for freedom of expression and religious toleration, for widespread popular participation in the political process, and for the repeal of protectionist legal restrictions constraining a free market society (Reeve 1). The idea that society has the right to autonomy, and property will in turn will induce free markets and spark innovation and will create overall prosperity and enrichment for society was becoming adapted by countries citizens. Although liberalism wasn??™t a huge success in the 19th century for European Liberals, The French Revolution and the Revolutions of 1848, helped show the manifestation of 19th century Liberalism throughout Europe and other parts of the Western Hemisphere.
During the 19th century society in Europe was always under some form of hierarchy rather it be an aristocracy, absolute monarch, or dictatorship. The majority of people in one way or another have always been oppressed. Society truly never had equal representation for the majority of people so people would need to create new forms of government and representation while still maintaining order. Political thinker??™s set forth the beliefs that society could never prosper under tough regimes which restrict free will and other necessary freedoms. Harsh rulers, political inequality as well as the enlightened ideology of liberalism gave rise to the reform movement of the 19th century.
As an ideology and in practice Liberalism became the leading reform movement in Europe during the 19th century (Riley 2). Its affluence and political backing varied with the conditions within each country. The oppression of dictators, the rise of middle classes, the struggles of peasants, food shortages, even religion played part in how liberalism would grow or wouldn??™t grow. The idea took off with other cultural turmoil causing political upheaval and the fall of regimes but government establishment advocating and governing it did not follow. It also had strong opposition and criticism with it. Critics like Edmund Burke argued that Liberalism wouldn??™t work because nature has a social hierarchy and the strongest would govern the rest (O??™Conner). Others would argue that it wouldn??™t work because change which goes against tradition causes political instability (O??™Conner 4). Another factor which opposed Liberalism was the lack of political instability after the Revolutions in the 19th century.
Although the French Revolution later lead to the French spreading total war and violence throughout Europe, it did manifest liberalism??™s ideals and a strong basis for man??™s inalienable rights. The French Revolution was able to demand respect for the individual, and insisted that society and the state have no higher duty than to promote the freedom and autonomy of the individual (Perry 479). However, Liberalism did have a much weakness and failure in Europe after the Revolutions. The overall ideas were expressing into great ideals and created the spark for deprived citizens to reform their leaders for the future (Perry 549). However, Liberalism never unified the masses to govern their beliefs. Liberals??™ inability to unify the German states in the mid-19th century can be attributed to Prussia and the influence of Austria (Courtland 1). The liberal-inspired unification of Italy was delayed by Napoleon III of France and by the opposition of the Vatican (Halsall 1).
Liberalism in Continental Europe often lacked support because it was unplanned combination of broad popular support and a powerful liberal party that it had in Britain. In France the Revolutionary and Napoleonic governments pursued liberal goals in their abolition of feudal privileges but still maintained direct control without democracy and total war (Perry 488-489). After the fall of Napoleon and the Bourbon Restoration in 1815, French liberals were faced with the decades-long task of securing constitutional liberties and enlarging popular participation in government under a reestablished monarchy.
Although the revolutions that instilled Liberalism as their ideals they failed to establish an immediate government that allowed stability and upheld their values. Yet, throughout Europe and in the Western Hemisphere, 19th century liberalism inspired nationalistic aspirations to the creation of unified, constitutional states with their own governments and laws. The most successful promoters of this liberal ideal were the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.
19th century Liberalism in the Western Hemisphere was truly a transforming force. Liberalism allowed for justification of 19th century actions. The feudal system fell, a greedy aristocracy lost its privileges, and monarchs were challenged and replaced. Laissez-faire economics came to be known and increased wealth of society. Because liberals set about limiting the power of the unjust governments, they created the ideal of constitutional government, accountable to the people through representations into a reality. Although none of these actions happened immediately in the 19th century. Liberalist ideals manifested not only on the European continent but throughout the Western Hemisphere.
19th Century Liberalism