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2 - Lamartine, the Girondins and 1848

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 March 2021

Jonathan Beecher
Affiliation:
University of California, Santa Cruz
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Summary

This chapter argues that Lamartine’s role in 1848 is best understood with reference not to his shallow and hastily written History of 1848 but to his earlier History of the Girondins. Lamartine’s goal was the creation of a moderate republic. His History of the Girondins was not a celebration but a critique of the Girondins whom he saw as revolutionary rhetoricians for whom politics was a matter of public gesture and private intrigue. By contrast with the Girondins’ failures, Lamartine indicated the steps to be taken by the leader of a future moderate revolution. What is remarkable is that for three months Lamartine did play the role for which he had prepared himself. His apotheosis came on April 23 when he received 1.3 million votes in the elections for the National Assembly. But he failed to understand that he owed his success to the fears of conservatives who regarded him as a restraining influence on radicals. These fears were greatly reduced by the overall conservative victory. After April 23 conservatives no longer needed Lamartine, whose fall was as rapid as his rise had been. While he tried to present himself as a conservative in his History of 1848, he was attacked by the right as “the man who taught revolution to France.”

Type
Chapter
Information
Writers and Revolution
Intellectuals and the French Revolution of 1848
, pp. 48 - 80
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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