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The French Revolution And Conservative Ideas

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The French Revolution was not heartily welcomed by everyone in the 18th century. Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, and Klemons von Metternich were thinkers at this time who wrote documents that showed their dislike for the ideas that stemmed from this revolution. The main idea that they wanted to combat was the elimination of the old basis of society, through taking religion out of the education system. Additionally, they believed that man could not create a written constitution. These ideas were thought to be dangerous because if religion was eliminated, then evil times would come. The loss of ancient opinions was very great and the government would lose direction in how to govern the people. Von Metternich wanted to combat these ideas by implementing stricter rules for universities, creating a commission group of investigators, and enacting printing laws in order to oversee what was published.

In the first place, the dangerous ideas that these thinkers wanted to combat were the elimination of the old basis of society; taking religion out of the education system; the creation of the constitution; and the freedom of the press. Since the revolutionaries removed the old basis of society and started over by ignoring the past for referencing, then the older opinions were no longer applicable which left the revolutionaries with no sense of direction. The old basis of society included the religious aspect, but also the morals, laws, and customs. If there is nothing to look back on, it makes it difficult for the government to rule, as they do not have the experience needed. The law would have been created centuries earlier and would have been updated and adjusted as the government had to deal with certain issues. When the revolutionaries disregarded the old laws, they had to make new ones. This would have been a difficult task because they had no precedents to rely on.

Religion connects and refines a nation. The revolutionaries took religion out of the education system. The church used to educate students, but now it had no influence over what was taught. De Maistre wrote that if education did not return to how it was previously, then evil would come to everyone. De Maistre also wrote that no man could write a proper constitution. He argued that since man was always growing, then the law could never be effective in governing. He wrote that laws could not be written from denoting reason from a theoretical deduction, rather it needed to be written based on observation. The idea of a new constitution was dangerous because the revolutionaries wanted to create their own laws and ignore everything in the past. If they ignored the past, the same issues could happen again. The past is a useful benchmark because it can be used to avoid similar situations in the future.

Concerning the thinkers’ issues with the freedom of the press, it was thought to be dangerous because the revolutionary ideas would be able to spread at a remarkable speed. The thinkers did not like the new revolutionary ideas, and they wanted to suppress them from spreading further. Freedom of the press allows any person to publish what they would like. The revolutionaries may have liked this freedom, thinking that it would help their cause, but it could also hinder them.

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Consequently, the Carlsbad Decrees offered some practical measures to work against the French Revolutionary ideas. The first idea was to implement strict rules for universities. This was achieved by sending out an agent from each state, who was a representative of the ruler, to one university to keep track of what was being taught in that institution. The agents had many responsibilities. They were sent to a university to enforce the laws and disciplinary regulations; observe the professors; promote morality, and have some beneficial influence on the instruction. The reason the agents were sent out was to see that the future leaders of the country would be educated properly and to eliminate the revolutionary ideas from becoming too popular with the students. If instructors were shown to be unsuitable for their position by teaching doctrines above their curriculum or by abusing their influence over the students, then they were to be removed from their position. If this occurs, they could not be appointed to the same position in any public institution in any other state of the union. For the students, they were not allowed to be a member of a secret association because it would encourage communication between the universities. This is crucial because if students can talk to other students in universities, it is difficult for the agent to watch what is happening, and they could plan to revolt against the agents. If a student is found to be a part of a secret association, they would not be permitted to have a position in a public office. If students were expelled from their university because of disobeying some rules or attempting to bypass expulsion, they were not to be received by other universities.

The second idea to combat the revolution was to enact press laws. Press laws are rules which dictate what documents can or cannot be published. If a person wanted to publish articles concerning daily issues or larger topics, they needed to be approved by the state officials first. This is a critical measure because if there was freedom of the press, revolutionary ideas could spread extremely quickly. Von Metternich hoped that by restricting the press, the ideas would not spread too far, and everyone would be better off without knowing about the revolutionary ideas.

The third suggestion that von Metternich gave was to create a commission, whose main goal was to investigate any facts relating to the origins of the revolutionary plots aimed against the existing constitution. This commission had to report back to the Diet about any information they found. If the origins of the revolutionary plots were found, they could fight back against the people or ideas that wanted a constitution. The practical ideas that were presented by the Carlsbad Decrees were to enact strict university laws, press laws, and create a commission of investigators.

In conclusion, Burke, de Maistre, and von Metternich wrote that they wanted to combat the ideas concerning the removal of the old basis of society, the writing of a constitution, and the dismissal of religion as a part of the education system. These ideas were dangerous because the revolutionaries wanted to ignore the past cultural patterns; they needed to write a new constitution, and religion was something that united nations and if eliminated from the education of students, the nation would start to crumble. The Carlsbad Decrees offered three practical solutions to these revolutionary ideas which were to create rigorous university laws, press laws, and establish a commission of investigators.

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The French Revolution And Conservative Ideas. (2022, February 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“The French Revolution And Conservative Ideas.” Edubirdie, 26 Feb. 2022,
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