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The Mountain (1849)

The Mountain (French: La Montagne), with its members collectively called Democratic Socialists (French: Démocrate-socialistes), was a political group of the French Second Republic.

The Mountain

La Montagne
LeaderAlexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin
Founded1849; 170 years ago (1849)
Dissolved1852; 167 years ago (1852)
HeadquartersParis, France
IdeologyChristian socialism
Democratic socialism
Utopian socialism
Political positionLeft-wing
Colours     Red

The group drew its name from The Mountain, a group active in the early period of the French Revolution. Standing on a republican platform, its main opposition was the conservative Party of Order.

The Mountain achieved 25% of the vote, compared to 53% for the Party of Order. It was led by Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin, one of the members of the Second Republic's early provisional government.


Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin led The Mountain of 1849

After 1849, the Odilon Barrot's Party of Order-backed government sought to repress protests against alcohol excises and the 45 centime as well as demand for cheap credit and other grievances. The Democratic Socialists clandestinely organized this dissent in the face of press censorship, restrictions on political meetings and harassment. The Mountain's broader strategy was to prepare for the 1852 legislative and presidential elections by continuing to espouse its utopian Christian socialist message alongside attempts to politicize the three million voters who had been disenfranchised in 1850 despite the Republic's constitution proclaiming universal manhood suffrage. Karl Marx again found cause for criticism, accusing The Mountain of impotently "prophesying future victories".[1]

The causes behind The Mountain's success amongst particular demographics are disputed. Ted Margadant, Peter McPhee and John M. Merriman have argued that the peasant vote signalled an acceptance of modernization whilst Max Weber, Peter M. Jones and Alain Corbin have argued that peasant support was typical, even if the provincial rivalries and support for negative demands such as low taxation present were cloaked in urban political lexicon. Robert Tombs has pointed out that the demands of voters were expressed in a number of different ways and that support was fleeting (wine growers were also prepared to back Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte or the Bourbons to get excise duties cut) and that peasants in the south-west and Massif Central who backed The Mountain also accepted Bonaparte after his coup d'état of 1851 and the end of the Second Republic.

For the remainder of the Second Empire, Bonaparte found the core of his support lay in the peasantry. Resistance to the coup d'état was most strongly present in the normally republican regions, again suggesting continuity. When in the most widespread popular uprising of the 19th century they organized protests against the coup d'état that numbered 100,000 strong, it was in mainly Protestant areas that The Mountain derived its most cohesive support.


The Mountain stood on a platform of low taxation, which made it popular with peasants, especially in industries that were suffering, such as agriculture and forestry. France sustained steady economic growth during the latter part of the Restoration and the July Monarchy, although the late 1840s witnessed a downturn, which was one of the factors behind the 1848 Revolution.

The National Workshops proved unpopular with the peasantry and despite being formed by urban left-wing politicians The Mountain was particularly successful in rural areas such as central France and the western and central départments in and around the Massif Central. The Mountain promised to end the land tax of 45 centimes used to finance the National Workshops, reform military service and develop education.

Traditionally pro-revolutionary, left-wing and Protestant areas of the south, affected by a slump in the wine trade, also backed The Mountain in 1849. Friedrich Engels and later Marx attributed the relative lack of support for The Mountain in the urban proletariat to distrust engendered by Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin's involvement in and refusal to condemn the suppression of the June Days uprising.[2][3]

Later in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Marx cited The Mountain's formation in the Second Republic as one of the many instances in this regime of history repeating itself "as farce".[4]

Notable membersEdit

Electoral resultsEdit

National Assembly
Election year No. of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
No. of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1848 705,180 (3rd) 9.1
80 / 880
Louis Auguste Blanqui
1849 1,955,000 (2nd) 29.6
180 / 705
Alexandre Ledru-Rollin


  1. ^ Karl Marx (1852). "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Chapter III". Die Revolution, 1852, New York. Retrieved 30 August 2009. Source: "[B]ased on the third edition, prepared by Engels (1885), as translated and published by Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1937".
  2. ^ Friedrich Engels (December 1848). "The French Working Class and the Presidential Elections". Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Retrieved 29 August 2009. Source: MECW Volume 8. p. 123. First published in Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe, Abt. 1, Bd. 7.
  3. ^ Karl Marx (21 June 1849). "The 13th of June". Der Volksfreund. Retrieved 29 August 2009. Source: MECW Volume 9. p. 477. First published in Der Volksfreund. No. 26. 29 June 1849.
  4. ^ Karl Marx (1852). "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Chapter I". Die Revolution. New York. Retrieved 30 August 2009. Source: "[T]ranslated by Saul K. Padover from the German edition of 1869".