1848 in France, a set of documents

Below you will find ten translated documents on the 1848 Revolution in France. These documents are from the collection 1848 in France, edited by Roger Price (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975). We will discuss these documents in class. As you read them, think about how each document fits into the "story" of the 1848 Revolution presented in the textbook. Also, be sure to answer the study questions at the bottom of this page.


Document 1. From La Gazette de France, 16 January 1848.

There is great disquiet in Paris. The [stock MH] funds are falling every day. In politics, people have stopped being reasonable. They are overcome by the consequence of their principles and dragged along in the wake. Now it is events that speak loud. For seventeen years, efforts have been made to stop revolution breaking out in France, and now revolution is feared everywhere. (Price, p. 52)


Document 2. From Le National (a newspaper closely connected to the new Provisional Government), 26 February 1848.

The French republic has an obligation to organize society on a totally new basis…Nobody can raise any objection to so just a duty. The classes that for so long have been deprived of their birthright are entitled to work, education and a life that includes all the advantages of civilization. (Price, p. 64)


Document 3. Government decision of 25 February 1848.

The provisional government of the French Republic undertakes to guarantee the workers’ livelihood through work.

It undertakes to guarantee work for every citizen.

It recognizes that workers should form associations [unions MH] so that they may enjoy the proper profits arising from their toil. (Price, p. 68)


Document 4. From the newspaper Le Constitutionnel, 29 February 1848

When as a result of abnormal conditions large numbers of workers lose their normal jobs, the opening of temporary national workshops appears a natural expedient both as a means of helping those in misfortune and of maintaining order in society. It is a measure that has always been turned to in times of public disturbance. (Price, p. 68)


Document 5. From the daily journal (diary) of Joseph Bergier, a member of the middle class in the city of Leon, written on 24 March 1848.

Despite all the patience and gentleness of the authorities toward the workers, I think that stern measures will be needed, and perhaps fighting, too, eventually. The workers abuse their position to bring in completely arbitrary laws, and everybody is getting tired of backing down all the time on everything. (Price, p. 80)


Document 6. From the anarchist newspaper Le Peuple Souverain, 26 March 1848.

Where is the madman…who claims that liberty of the people can be assured without the reorganization of property? What produces civil and political liberty, what makes it a real thing…is property. It follows that all men must be made property-owners or that property must be socialized in such a manner that no citizen depends materially on any other. There is no other road to salvation…. (Price, p. 76)


Document 7. A petition signed by the workers of the 19th brigade of the national workshops; undated, but most likely around 4 June 1848.

We are not asking for charity. The republic promised work to provide a livelihood for all its children…. So give us work so that we may live like free men….

Do not forget, Monarchists, that it was not so that we could remain your slaves that we brought about a third revolution….. (Price, p. 104)


Document 8. From Le National, 29 June 1848.

The struggle these last few days [the June uprising in Paris MH]… has been clearly and forcefully delineated. Yes, on one side there stood order, liberty, civilization, the decent Republic, France; and on the other, barbarians, desperados emerging from their lairs for massacre and looting, and odious partisans of those wild doctrines that the family is only a word and property is [nothing MH] but theft. (Price, p. 117)


Document 9 From Le Constitutional, 5 December 1848.

What we--the moderates, the immense majority of Frenchmen--need is the Republic and order [emphasis in the original, MH].  That is to say, no more [political] clubs that stir up and deprave the people day after day...  The Republic with a system of taxes that will not ruin the rich or well-to-do citizens--a ruin detrimental to the poor because it makes it impossible for the rich to employ them--and that will not cause the disappearance from our country, together with all wealth, of our luxury industries which are the staple of our export trade. (Price, 127)


Document 10. Declaration of the chamber of commerce of the city of Gray, 10 December 1851.

When, as a result of these steps [Louis Napoleon Bonaparte’s coup MH], security is solidly re-established, the funds which have been hoarded out of fear will come back into circulation. Credit will be re-established; speculation will dare play its role again; big business will pick up; long-term operations will start upon again because there is no longer any uncertainty about the future. Production will increase, and building will start again, The activity of one industry will have good effect upon the next and this one on the next. Thus business activity will become general. (Price, p. 179).                                                 


Study Questions: 

1.  What does the evidence tell you about differences in the ways different groups of people understood the meaning of the 1848 revolution in France?  Did everyone understand the "promises made" by the revolution in the same way?  Be sure that you can explain what you mean and give specific examples.

2.  Define the main difference between viewpoints represented in these documents on the question of the national workshops (and workers' rights/demands).  How do those differences seem to reflect social class tensions?  How do those differences seem to reflect different political beliefs?  Be sure that you can explain what you mean and give specific examples.

3.  How did the so-called "moderates" and the business community define what was in the people's interests (what was "good" for the country) in December 1848 and in December 1851?  In what ways did that reflect a major shift in thinking when compared to statements from February 1848?  Be sure that you can explain what you mean and give specific examples.