Also in that same year, gold was discovered in California. Thousands of eager adventurers flocked thither, and thus the vast wilderness that Mexico had lightly surrendered had hardly become United States territory ere it was filled with people, not listless semi-savages, but eager, energetic men, resolute and resourceful. The West joined the march of progress; it doubled the wealth and prowess of the East. [Footnote: See Discovery of Gold in California.]
THE UPRISING OF THE PEOPLES
Important indeed was that year of 1848, noteworthy above most in the story of mankind. In Europe it witnessed the greatest of all the outbursts of democracy. The common people, easily suppressed by the armies of the Holy Alliance in 1820, had been subdued with difficulty in 1830. Now in 1848 they rose again. Their gradual accumulation of power and passion would soon be irresistible. Even the petted armies of autocracy became possessed with the new belief in mankind’s brotherhood.
This time the outburst began in Italy. Mazzini, the celebrated founder of the political society “Young Italy,” inspired his countrymen with something of his own ardent devotion to the cause of liberty and Italian union. Then in 1846 Pius IX, last of the heads of the Roman Church to possess a temporal authority as well, ascended the throne of the Papal dominions. The new Pope was in sympathy with the democratic spirit of the times, and he established in his own States a constitutional government, granting to his people more and more of power as he judged them fitted for it. Soon, however, the most radical elements asserted themselves in the new Government. All that the Pope could find it in his heart to grant, seemed to them not half enough. The mighty spirit which he had let loose broke from his control. Before the close of 1848 there were riots, fighting in the streets; the Pope’s chief counsellor was murdered, and he himself had to flee by night in secrecy, a fugitive from Rome. [Footnote: See The Reforms of Pius IX: His Flight from Rome.]
Ere matters had reached this pass, the sudden impulse given by Rome to democratic government had spread like wildfire over the whole of Europe. Thrones everywhere seemed crumbling to the dust. In January, 1848, the people of Sicily revolted against their tyrant king and formed a republic. Southern Italy, which had been part of the same kingdom, compelled the sovereign to grant a constitution. Other Italian States followed the example of rebellion. All Europe apparently had been but waiting for the spark. In France, dissatisfaction with the “tradesman-King,” Louis Philippe, had long been bitter. In February, 1848, there was an open rebellion, Louis abdicated, and a provisional government was formed, which proclaimed the land a republic. [Footnote: See The Revolution of February in France.]