Revolution of March 1848: Scene depicting the events of March 13,1848 in front of the Lower Austrian diet. Chalk lithograph by J. Albrecht (Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien).
March Revolution, the first in a series of risings generally referred to as the Austrian Revolution of 1848. Crowds of people spontaneously protested against the oppressive regime enforced by Metternich in Vienna during the Vormärz. In the first days of March 1848 the Lower Austrian Association of Tradesmen sent a petition to the imperial government in which they asked for a democratization of the system. This petition was followed by a number of others framed by the Vienna Association of Publishers, the "Juridisch-politischer Leseverein" (an association of liberal minded, educated members of the upper middle classes), by the citizens themselves and by students (on March 12, 1848). People demanded participation in government matters, the administration of justice in open court, trial by jury, municipal self-government, a full emancipation of the peasants (which included a clear title to their land without obligation of service to their lords), the stipulation of the fundamental rights of Austrian citizens, the abolition of censorship, freedom of the press, freedom of teaching, freedom of learning, the expulsion of the Jesuits and equal treatment of the members of all denominations. Since the imperial government did not react to these petitions, students and university professors decided to take to the streets on March 13, the day when a session was held by the representatives of the Estates. The students forced their entry into the Lower Austrian Landhaus in Vienna. The physician A. Fischof addressed the assembly and negotiated with the representatives of the Estates. Workers from the suburbs courageously joined the students in their rising. On the afternoon of March 13, the Commander of the Vienna Army, Archduke Albrecht, ordered his soldiers to crush the revolt, which led to bloodshed and claimed numerous victims among the insurgent masses. Thereupon people armed themselves and erected barricades; they set fire to factories in the suburbs and destroyed machinery. This time the crown reacted at once to the demands of the population. Metternich was forced to resign and had to flee abroad in disguise. On the next day the citizens of Vienna formed a National Guard while the students founded the Akademische Legion; members of these two paramilitary forces formed a joint committee which represented the revolutionary democratic power in the months to follow. Forced to calm his subjects, the emperor abolished censorship, passed liberal laws concerning the press and promised the drafting of a liberal constitution. The Police Minister, J. Sedlnitzky and the Mayor of Vienna, I. Czapka, had to resign; the mortal remains of the victims of March 13 were appropriately buried (sermon held by the army chaplain, A. Füster; memorial set up in the Vienna Zentralfriedhof cemetery). The Vienna revolution of March 13 triggered off similar risings at Venice (March 17) and Milan (March 18), as well as the Sardinian War. Revolts in Austria were limited to the territory around Vienna (except for some small risings at Graz).
Literature: A. Becher, Album der Märzereignisse in Wien, 1848; W. Häusler, Von der Massenarmut zur Arbeiterbewegung, 1979; G. Pfeisinger, Die Revolution von 1848 in Graz, 1986.