1815-1830

Bourbon Restoration and revolt

The 1814 Restoration of the Bourbon dynasty in the figure of Louis XVIII and his reinstatement after Waterloo saw the near disappearance of the French left. Accounts of the egalitarian ideals of the Revolution were kept alive by handfuls of teachers, defrocked priests and former revolutionaries. It was only in the late 1820s that historical studies of the French Revolution started to be published.

In April 1814 Louis XVIII, brother of the executed Louis XVI, rejected a constitution drafted by the provisional government set up after Napoleon’s first abdication. The Charter of 1814 he then imposed was only implemented after foreign troops again occupied Paris after the June 1815 battle of Waterloo. The Charter reaffirmed the idea that the French King was the central authority by divine (birth) right.  Nevertheless, it also endorsed some of the elements introduced since 1795.

The 1815 Constitutional Charter was a decree issued by Louis XVIII. It declared that all French men are equal before the law and that their individual freedom is guaranteed, including the right to religious choice – while declaring France’s state religion to be Roman Catholic.  It offered to overlook the opinions and votes given before the Restoration (excepting those of the Regicides who had voted to executive Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette).

The Charter left in place most of the administrative and legal changes introduced by Napoléon.

The new constitution closely and consciously mimicked the British monarchical structure. Louis XVIII shared legislative power with a Chamber of Peers made up of aristocrats nominated by the King, and a Chamber of Deputies.

The Chamber of Deputies was made up only of men aged over 40 who paid over 1,000 francs a year in direct tax, and who were elected by men aged over 30 who paid over 300 francs a year in tax. Just 15,000 very rich Frenchmen were eligible to become deputies and only about 94,000 wealthy Frenchmen were enfranchised (out of a French population of approximately 35 million).

Opposition to the authoritarian regime came from both republicans and Bonapartists. In 1821 the poet songwriter Pierre-Jean Béranger was jailed in Sainte-Pélagie prison for three months for publishing political song lyrics.

In 1822 four soldiers who were allegedly members of the French Carbonari were executed for plotting to overthrow the king.

In 1824 Louis XVIII died and his younger (67-year-old) and still more reactionary brother, Charles X, became king. Still a firm believer in the divine right of kings he claimed the right to rule by decree whenever he felt it necessary.

In 1827 Parisian protests became more frequent. Demonstrations took place against the growing influence of the Jesuits, for greater press freedom and when the opposition to Charles X won a majority among the Paris deputies. Blanqui was wounded three times that year.

Pierre-Jean de Béranger, the most popular song-writer/poet of the period, was jailed for 9 months in La Force prison after publishing his fourth volume of songs in 1828.

In 1829 Béranger was jailed again for nine months, this time in La Force prison, for publishing songs advocating freedom of speech.  

To try and win nationalistic support Charles X ordered his army to seize Algeria on July 5 1830. At the same time, refusing to respond to growing pressure for political influence from the few wealthy voters, his government issued four new decrees on July 26 1830.

Charles X banned freedom of the press, dissolved parliament, halved the numbers of deputies and gave the richest 25% of electors in each constituency a veto over which deputies would actually sit in parliament. The July Revolution broke out the next day.