A New Government for Germany and Austria’s Defiance: May 18, 20, 1848
This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. It continues the story of the 1848 revolutions in Europe. To see the four previous installments of this series, please see posts for March 1, March 8, March 15, and March 22. For ordering information on our books, please go here.
On March 14, 1848, the day following Metternich’s resignation, the [Austrian] government agreed to form a National Guard — which, like the Paris National Guard during the French Revolution, would be entirely under the control of the revolutionaries. The next day, the government suggested forming a central committee of all the local diets in the empire, but this did not please the revolutionaries. Nor did they like a constitution the Council of State suggested in late April, because it gave the imperial government too much control over the making of laws.
Impatient with the government, students and national guardsmen began forming revolutionary committees. On May 15, 1848, these committees joined to form a Central Committee to organize all revolutionary activities and to direct the city government of Vienna. The Council of State at first refused to recognize the revolutionary committee; but when students and workers again took to rioting, the ministers gave in. They recognized the Central Committee as legal and agreed to call a National Convention or Reichsrat (imperial assembly) to draw up a constitution for all of the Austrian Empire, except Hungary and Lombardy-Venezia. Delegates to the Reichsrat would be elected by universal manhood suffrage.