Throughout Europe successive crop failures from 1845, and severe industrial depression in the towns in 1847 increased the likelihood that the common people would stand behind the mutinous educated classes. On 22 February 1848, revolution broke out in Paris: by 25 February Louis Philippe was heading for exile in England.
This event provided the stimulus for protest all over Central and Eastern Europe. On 3 March Kossuth, who had been seeking for a means to break the party stalemate in the Hungarian diet, now carried the Lower House for his programme of constitutional reform. On 9 March the Viennese Leseverein petitioned the emperor for the abolition of censorship, judicial reform and more representative provincial diets. On 11 March leaders of Czech and German life in Prague formulated similar requests, with an additional plea for equality for the Czech and German languages in Bohemia. Anxiously the Prussian king beseeched the tsar to move troops to his western frontier to overawe the Poles.
But nothing could avert the eruption of social and national desires, least of all regimes which in large measure had lost confidence in their own policies. The meeting of the Lower Austrian diet in Vienna on 13 March was turned into a demonstration by the waiting crowd. Faced by a throng of malcontent bourgeois, students and workers and by the Civil Guard’s refusal to restore order, the court accepted the advice of the mayor of Vienna and the university rector and acceded to popular demands. Metternich was forced to resign, and press freedom and a constitution for the monarchy were held in prospect. Meanwhile responsibility for the maintenance of order passed to a National Guard and an Academic Legion representative of the middle class and intelligentsia. Hearing the news, the Hungarian Upper House dropped their opposition to Kossuth’s proposals and a deputation set sail along the Danube to