In addition to the conservative ruling class of Europe, conservative ideas appealed to peasants, who wanted to preserve traditional ways.

Conservatives of the early 1800s wanted to return to the way things had been before 1789. They had benefited under the old order. They wanted to restore royal families to the thrones they had lost when Napoleon swept across Europe. They supported a social hierarchy in which lower classes respected and obeyed their social superiors.

Conservatives also backed an established church—Catholic in Austria and southern Europe, Protestant in northern Europe, and Eastern Orthodox in eastern Europe.

Conservatives believed that talk about natural rights and constitutional government could lead only to chaos, as in France in 1789. If change had to come, they argued, it must come slowly. Conservatives felt that their own interest in peace and stability benefited everyone. Conservative leaders like Metternich opposed freedom of the press, which could spread revolutionary ideas. Metternich urged monarchs to crush protests in their own lands and help others to douse the flames of rebellion wherever they erupted.

Cartoon of a pole with signs pointing in two different directions: one towards monarchy, and one towards freedom and progress. An angry mob stands in the monarchy area, holding anti monarchy signs, blocked by a military officer with a sash labeled Metternich digging his heels in the ground.

Analyze Political Cartoons

A determined Prince Metternich stands firm, with an angry crowd behind him. Who does the crowd represent, and what do they want?

Liberalism and Nationalism Spur Revolts

Challenging the conservatives at every turn were the liberals. Liberals embraced the ideas of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Their goals, and the rising tide of nationalism, ignited revolts across Europe.

Liberals Defend Natural Rights

Because liberals spoke mostly for the bourgeoisie, or middle class, their ideas are sometimes called “bourgeois liberalism.” Liberals included business owners, bankers, and lawyers, as well as politicians, newspaper editors, writers, and others who helped to shape public opinion.

Liberals wanted governments to be based on written constitutions and separation of powers. They opposed the old notion of the divine right of monarchs and the tradition of a ruling aristocracy. Liberals called for rulers elected by the people and responsible to them. Thus, most liberals favored a republican form of government over a monarchy, or at least wanted the monarch to be limited by a constitution.

Illustration of a street where a carriage is being attacked by people on the street, the carriage servants dodging thrown pieces of fruit and rocks.

Compare

After the Congress of Vienna, liberals repeatedly protested and rebelled against the conservative order. How do the liberal protesters in this image differ in appearance from the image of the conservative leader Metternich in the previous text?

Liberals defended natural rights such as liberty and equality. They stood for property rights and freedom of religion. Liberals of the early 1800s saw the role of government as limited to protecting these basic rights.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments