Republicanism: Radicals and Realists
“La France est à nous, à nous tous." At the heart of the French Republican movement of 1848 was a philosophical debate over to whom France belonged; for the Republicans, the unequivocal answer was that she belonged to her people. In their political campaigns, they sought to at once expose the corrupt tyranny of monarchy while expounding the moral righteousness of republicanism. The Republicans railed against anachronistic institutions and oppressive conditions, and called for wide-ranging reforms. In the posters below are captured the fears, hopes, demands, and dreams of people who knew that while they could not create a perfect nation, they could at least save it from greater evils: "J’accepte franchement la République et toutes ses conséquences” — “I accept the Republic and all its consequences”.
This poster strongly criticizes monarchical institutions and especially divine right theory, stating that France is not the property of one person or one family, but of all French people - “mon Dieu à moi qui est l’humanité”. This encapsulates the central political and philosophical stance of French republicans, who disliked monarchy for their previous corruption, tyranny, and “betrayals”, but categorically rejected its legitimacy on ideological grounds.
This poster criticizes the tax on the traffic and retail of wine and spirits, denouncing it as a relic from anti-revolutionary (i.e. monarchical) governments. It argues that the tax is overly burdensome, the collection mechanism is fraught with corruption, and it is degrading to citizens’ dignity. By pronouncing the liquor tax as “incompatible with the new political and social institutions” of France, republicans make it clear that establishing a republic is not enough to expunge the taint of monarchy – the institutions of government must also be overhauled.
This poster is promoting government reform for salaried employees of the state including teachers, public servants, politicians and soldiers. It advocates for pay to be doled out as a percentage of state revenue, thereby giving officials a “vested interest” in increasing public wealth. It also calls for an increase in pay for military officers, stating that this would remove the “aristocratic line of demarcation” that plagued the army. While this poster seeks to dismantle monarchical institutions, it also takes an economical approach to “rule by the people”, where citizens become stakeholders in a national corporation.
This poster reflects the profound intensity of the 1848 political debate, which for many was not a question of mere government structure but the survival of transcendental principles such as equality, justice, and liberty. It declares that rioters are being unfairly labelled as “anarchists” by the government, and that the violence will not end until a republic is declared. The stakes and acute passions of the political movements of this era are palpable in this poster, which declares: “Qui n’est pas avec nous est contre nous” – those who are not with us are against us.