General Ioan Emanoil Florescu Founder and Organizer of the Romanian Army jpeg

General Ioan Emanoil Florescu Founder and Organizer of the Romanian Army

📁 HISTORIA in English
Autor: Ion Florescu

Iordache Florescu’s children, and in particular Dumitru, Costache and Luxita, had enthusiastically embraced the 1848 revolution, which had been plotted in the basement of their Bucharest house.  Luxita had become Nicole Balcescu’s confidant and lover, whilst her two brothers had actively participated in the uprising.  All three were to suffer in exile after the revolution was repressed, with Costache having to endure many years of harsh imprisonment in Russia.  But not all members of the extended Florescu family shared their revolutionary zeal, and one in particular was in a very difficult situation.  He shared the revolutionaries’ national aspirations, but, as a military man, he owed the ruling Prince Gheorghe Bibescu, an oath of allegiance and, besides, he was his son-in-law.

Ioan Emanoil Florescu was a cousin of Dumitru, Costache and Luxita, his father Manolache being Iordache’s brother.  Iordache and Manolache, who were both children of the Great Vornic (Governor) Ionita Florescu (1742-1801), had taken refuge in Transylvania after the failed Philike Hetairi and Tudor Vladmirescu uprisings of 1821.   Ioan Emanoil was born in 1819, shortly before this period of exile, and on the family’s return to Wallachia, he had attended the famous Saint Sava School, which was to pollinate the seeds of Romanian national sentiment in a number of young boyars.  At Saint Sava, he excelled in mathematics and science, but also developed a keen interest in literature, tried his skills as an actor in various Romanian and French plays, and translated a number of works of literature into Romanian from French, a language he spoke to perfection from a very early age.

Young Emanoil Florescu
Young Emanoil Florescu

Young Emanoil Florescu

Florescu’s early life coincided with important developments in the re-birth of the Wallachian army.  Although Wallachia had had its own army – the “people-in-arms – ever since the state’s foundation in the thirteenth century, during the Phanariot period the army had degenerated into no more than a glorified Princely bodyguard, made up of mainly Greek, Serbian and Albanian mercenaries.  It was only after  Phanariot rule ended, and in particular during the period of Kiseleff’s “Reglement Organique”, that the idea of establishing “national” armies in Wallachia and Moldavia was enacted into law, although this was mainly limited to a “very strict number of guards to man the quarantine station, to watch over the security of the borders, to preserve order in the cities and villages, and respect laws and regulations”, as had been specified in article 5 of the Adrianople Convention of 1829.   In other words, the Russian occupiers never conceived of the possibility of the Principalities having a fighting force in the modern sense of the word, but rather saw the army as essentially a police force charged with defending the country against banditry, and a border guard mainly tasked with enforcing the strict quarantine conditions needed to prevent the spread of cholera from the Ottomans’ directly-ruled neighbouring provinces. 

But Romanians had never abandoned the idea of re-creating a real territorial army, and the two great revolutionary figures of Tudor Vladimirescu and Nicolae Balcescu had looked back at the achievements of Michael the Brave for inspiration, and had become been obsessed with the need for an army to support their revolutionary goals.  Indeed the early nineteenth century Princes appointed with Russian support, such as Alexandru Ghica (1834-42), Gheorghe Bibescu (1842-48), and Barbu Stirbey (1849-53) in Wallachia, and Mihai Sturdza (1834-1849) and Grigore Ghica (1854-56) in Moldavia, had also sought to secretly militarize the scope of the local armies, in terms of organization, training, number of recruits and strategic goals.  This had led to the formation of embryonic national militias made up of 4, 700 men in Wallachia and 1, 554 in Moldavia, with officers appointed by the Prince from exclusively the boyar class. An Army Council was already functioning by the Prince’s side in 1849.

Prince Gheorghe Bibescu prom court
Prince Gheorghe Bibescu prom court

Prince Gheorghe Bibescu prom court

The above developments were to prove crucial for Ioan Emanoil Florescu.  In 1833, at the tender age of fourteen, he enthusiastically enrolled in the Wallachian army which had only just been properly re-stablished two years beforehand, and was given the officer rank of “Junker” (a word borrowed from the German).  Two years later, his grandmother Alexandrina, who was the sister of Prince Alexandru Ghica, was at a reception at the Prince’s Palace when she noticed him on guard outside.  She invited him in, and introduced him to the daughter of the future Prince Gheorghe Bibescu, whom he was to marry.  At the age of sixteen, Prince Ghica promoted him to the rank of “parcuciuc” (officer cadet) and sent him to study in Paris, in spite of Russian pressures to send army officers to learn their trade in St Petersburg, or at least Berlin, France being considered dangerously liberal.  In Paris, Ioan Florescu attended the prestigious Ecole Louis le Grand, followed by four years at the Saint Cyr military academy.  He then enrolled in the French army where he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 1838, a rank which he kept when he returned to Bucharest in 1842. 

By the time of his return to Wallachia, Ioan Florescu’s chief interests had been formed:the army, literature and education.  In 1834, he had produced a progressive play written by Florian, entitled The Twins of Bergam, together with some colleagues, and in 1845 he was to become a member of the Romanian Literary Association.  In 1842, his grandmother Alexandrina Ghica gave him a mansion on Mogosiaia Bridge (today Calea Victoriei), a place he was to use as a centre for his cultural activities until 1850.  But he also was very keen on the education of young army officers, and started translating French military treatises to make them available to his Romanian colleagues.  In 1847, at the age of 26, he was appointed a member of a new commission in charge of the formation of an officer’s school.  But although he held progressive views on literature and education, and he was a determined Romanian nationalist, Florescu did not share the radical aspirations for social reform of some of the 1848 revolutionaries, including the more liberal members of his own family.  On the contrary, his overriding philosophy was governed by a belief in prudence, gradual reform, and military discipline.  The fact that he was not trusted by the 1848 revolutionaries is clear from a letter written by Dumitru Bratianu to his brother Ion, where he warns him not to confide in Florescu, because he is not “one of us”. 

1842 was also the year when Prince George Bibescu replaced Prince Gheorghe Ghica on the Wallachian throne, in an election where he defeated both Ioan’s father Manolache Florescu and his uncle Iordache.  Ioan Florescu was made Prince Bibescu’s military aide, and he duly accompanied him to Constantinople for his official inauguration.  It was on that occasion that he brought back to Bucharest three cannons offered by the Sultan to the Romanian army, which mark the beginnings of a Romanian artillery force.  Two years later, Ioan Florescu married Prince Bibescu’s daughter, Ecaterina.  In 1846, he was commissioned to the rank of major, and then, in 1848, colonel, when he was also made the Governor of the Wallachian Prisons.

Emanoil Florescu in 1848
Emanoil Florescu in 1848

Emanoil Florescu in 1848

The revolutionary events of 1848 put Florescu in an extremely difficult situation.  He sympathized with some of the progressive ideas of the revolutionaries, and in particular their nationalist aspirations, but as a military man (and the ruling Prince’s son-in-law), he felt he could not break his oath to Prince Bibescu.  Accordingly, not only did he not participate in the revolutionary events, but he also asked the Russian General Duhamel to head a commission to punish those officers who had broken their oath of allegiance to the Prince.  For this reason, when a revolutionary government replaced Prince Bibescu’s rule, Ioan Florescu was discharged from the army.  At that point, like many members of the Florescu family beforehand during a moment of crisis, he crossed the border into Transylvania.  But rather than wait out until events took a turn for the better, he controversially joined the Russian army, keeping the rank of colonel, and working as an aide to General Luders, who was busy suppressing the Hungarian revolution.  Later on, he justified this decision on the grounds that Kossuth’s Hungarian revolution had overlooked the rights of the Romanian peasants in Transylvania.

This was undoubtedely true, but in the eyes of the radicals, Florescu had collaborated with the forces of reaction in Europe.  Furthermore, when the revolutionary government was disbanded in Wallachia, and the Russians imposed the more repressive regime of Prince Barbu Stirbey, Florescu, who had been decorated by the Russians, was re-instated to all his positions, and was also made Minister of Communications.  Finally, when the Crimean War broke out in 1853, even more controversially, Florescu resigned his commission from the Wallachian army and re-joined the Russian army, again acting as General Luders’ aide-de-champ.  Whilst this undoubtedly gave him valuable exposure to a real military conflict amongst the great powers, it was even more difficult for General Florescu to justify this decision at a time when many liberals were keen to join the French and British side in what they saw as a struggle against a reactionary and autocratic Russia.

Emanoil Florescu in 1860
Emanoil Florescu in 1860

Emanoil Florescu in 1860

It was only after the defeat of Russia in 1856, and the resulting Congress of Paris, that General Florescu had a change of heart, and resigned his commission from the Russian army.  This allowed him to play a crucial role in the subsequent unification of Wallachia and Moldova.   The key issue was the election of new Princes in the two divans of Wallachia and Moldova.   In Moldova, although the more conservative elements coalesced around the candidacy of Sturdza, a nationalist faction led by Mihail Kogalniceanu, Costache Negri and Vasile Alecsandri managed to elect the relatively unknown Alexandru Cuza, who came from a small boyar family but had distinguished himself in the 1848 revolution.  In Wallachia, the conservative elements of the boyar assembly were divided by the rival candidacies of Stirbey and Bibescu, whilst the nationalists were predominantly in favour of electing the 1848 revolutionary Golescu as Prince.  Needless to say, Florescu initially lobbied for the candidacy of his father-in-law Bibescu.   But when news of Cuza’s election in Moldova reached Bucharest, he had a change of heart and managed to persuade a sufficient number of conservatives to support Cuza, resulting in his joint election to the Moldavian and Wallachian thrones.  Europe was presented with the fait accompliof the same Prince in both principalities, paving the way for their de factounification. 

As was reported at the time by the Bucharest newspaper “Steaua Dunarii”, Florescu’s decision to switch his support from his own father-in-law to Alexandru Cuza had been crucial in getting Cuza elected, a fact which was also recognized by the radical Ion C. Bratianu, who, although no friend of Florescu, acknowledged his support by embracing him after the election.   It is difficult to understand what made Ioan Florescu switch sides, the only plausible explanation being that, after Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War, the inherently prudent army man must have felt that Cuza’s dual election presented a unique opportunity for achieving the unification and eventual independence of the two principalities.  The fact that he was prepared to vote against his own father-in-law is an indication of the strength of his convictions.

Florescu was made a General in 1860, and Cuza’s election ushered in the most productive years of his life, which were to last from 1860 to 1866.  During this period, he concentrated all his efforts towards unifying the rather embryonic and disjointed armies of Wallachia and Moldavia into a single modern national army, capable of defending the principalities’ borders, and of active participation in an armed conflict to secure their complete independence.  Initially, Cuza was prudent and, not to ruffle too many feathers, his first step towards unifying the army was to appoint the Wallachian General Florescu as Minister of War in Moldavia, and the Moldavian Colonel Gheorghe Adrian as Minister of War in Wallachia.  But shortly afterwards, tensions with the great powers following Austria and Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cuza’s joint election made him abandon these sensitivities, and he duly appointed General Florescu as his sole Commander-in-Chief and Minister of War.  Thus, the army became the first governmental institution to be unified before a unitary state was officially established in 1862. 

Cuza, who recognized Florescu’s superior military knowledge and experience, had given him a free hand to create a unified modern Romanian army, a task which he performed with enormous dynamism, devotion and attention to detail, as General Rossetti later explained in a lecture delivered in 1936:

“There is no chapter in our military formation which does not bear the marks of Florescu:the union of the armies, the creation of the General Staff, the union of the military schools in Iasi and Bucharest, sharing the new flags that bear the arms of the united country, the organization of the Upper Staff of the Ministry of War, the foundation of the permanent Council in charge of training the army, the intendancies and the administrative officers corps, setting up the new army corps, the artillery regiment, field troops, the corps of engineers, the establishment of the sanitary service, the creation of an ammunition factory, the armory and powder mills, its personnel;the cavalry, the army children;fencing, gymnastics and target practice schools;the unification of the navy and the  military courts, the reorganization of the administration, the firemen, dorobantiand graniceridepartments;all those reforms were accomplished if not under the initiative of Florescu while he was Minister of War, at least with his complete collaboration.”

In doing so, Florescu often had to fight the indolence of his colleagues, and he often seemed alone in the herculean task he was given.  As Prince Cuza’s secretary Baligot de Beyne wrote in a letter to Iancu Alecsandri, Cuza’s diplomatic agent in Paris:  “Florescu is the only genuine military man”.

Florescu’s reforms under Cuza had three main themes:one was the creation of a single army by the unification of procedures, rules and uniforms down to the smallest detail;another was the expansion of the size of the army by the creation of a number of new regiments, and the third was the struggle to endow the army with proper equipment.  The unification started with mutual visits by the Wallachian army to Iasi and then by the Moldavian army to Bucharest, which had a symbolic significance.   Then, a united command was eventually set up in Bucharest, under a General Staff made up of the senior officers from both principalities.  Subsequently, the administration of the army was progressively homogenized over 1859-61, with a mixed Moldavian-Wallachian committee appointed in 1859.   In 1860, a major effort was made to grow the size of the army, with the number of infantry regiments increasing from two to seven, and two additional cavalry squadrons as well as a mountain corps battalion being created.  In order to further increase the size of the army, military service became compulsory for all citizens, four years in regular service and two years in the reserves.   Then the focus shifted towards securing appropriate weaponry.  Whilst, as Cuza explained in a letter to Napoleon III, “on my accession to the throne…the army possessed only four or five thousand Russian rifles dating back to the days of Empress Catherine of Russia’s rule and about ten worthless Russian and Austrian cannons.  We could not fire one shot without their permission”, weapons soon started to arrive.  In 1859, 25, 000 rifles arrived by barge from France, together with sufficient cannons for two artillery batteries, and swords for the cavalry.  Eventually, Florescu built an arsenal to accommodate the new supplies, and three munitions factories were also developed, thereby laying the foundations of a domestic armaments industry.  Florescu also succeeded in buying additional imported weapons, not just from France but also from Germany, as he recognized the superiority of Krupp artillery pieces.  In total he secured 13, 093 chassepot rifles with percussion caps for the infantry, 30, 000 for the cavalry, 6, 298 for the Alpine troops, 700 pistols, 4, 314 swords for the cavalry, 1, 998 sabers for the infantry, and 46 bronze artillery pieces.

From the very start, Prince Cuza’s rule had been unstable, wedged as he was between those conservative forces who were suspicious of his commitment to some form of agrarian reform, whilst for the liberals his ambitions for reform were too limited, and his commitment to constitutional government questionable.  In any event, many considered him just a stop-gap solution until a suitable foreign Prince was found who would enhance the principalities’ standing abroad and assure their complete independence.  Throughout these pressures, Florescu remained loyal to Cuza.  In 1860, when various clashes took place outside the Assembly due to the radicals agitating for land reform, the army under Florescu’s leadership intervened on behalf of the government, resulting in various casualties, and some of the peasant leaders were arrested.   And in 1864, when Prince Cuza decided to appeal to the masses by holding a plebiscite to endorse his far-reaching reforms to end serfdom, break up the large aristocratic estates and secularize the Greek monastic foundations, General Florescu remained loyal to the Prince and supported these initiatives, even though he no longer served as Minister of War in the more liberal government headed by Kogalniceanu which had been appointed to enact the reforms.  Throughout this period, Florescu remained Commander-in-Chief of the army.

Kogalniceanu was eventually dismissed in 1865 and replaced by a more conservative cabinet.  General Florescu was appointed Minister of the Interior, Public Works and Agriculture, and interim President of the Council of Ministers, while his friend General Manu became Minister of War.  Shortly afterwards, whilst Cuza was abroad in Germany, a number of plotters  set fire to the Bucharest City Hall and threw the City archives in the Dimbovita river.  General Florescu together with General Manu ordered the troops to fire on the rebels, resulting in twenty casualties and many arrests.  On his return from Germany, Cuza tried to appease the insurgents, by dismissing Generals Manu and Florescu.  Rather than placate them, the dismissal of Cuza’s two leading generals was taken as a sign of weakness by the liberals, and Cuza himself was  eventually forced to abdicate in 1866. 

Throughout these events, Florescu’s over-riding concern as a military man was for order to be maintained within the state, as he himself had explained in a letter to Cuza:  “it is absolutely necessary for the state to take strong action with the help of its armed forces so as not to be reduced to powerlessness in moments of anarchy”.  He remained loyal to Cuza even after his downfall, and he and General Manu led a group of officers who petitioned the newly-installed Prince Carol I of Hohenzollern to punish those officers who had broken their oath of allegiance to the Prince, but to little avail.  He also regularly corresponded with the exiled Prince up until Cuza’s death in 1873. 

1871 was the year when Florescu’s second career in politics was to start in earnest. After more than five years of Liberal government, King Carol named a Conservative Government under Lascar Catargiu, and General Florescu returned to the Ministry of War, a position he was to hold until 1876, the longest tenure in the history of that office in modern Romania.  He was also due to serve two brief spells as Prime Minister during his remaining years in office.  To many who considered Florescu to be essentially Cuza’s man, Prince Carol’s appointment of Florescu came as a surprise.  But as Prince Carol explained in a letter to his father, he appreciated the principled way Florescu had been loyal to Cuza: 

“General Florescu was criticized in 1866 because he was loyal to Cuza.  The officers who were loyal to Cuza are precisely the ones I can count on because they were faithful to a principle and not a person”.

Furthermore, Carol appreciated Florescu’s dynamism and his human qualities, as he further explained:

“General Florescu is a dynamic man whose attractive martial looks exercise a fascination with is doubled by his elegant manners. He is a good musician, very touched by beauty in all forms.  He loves his work and has initiative and pride”.

But General Florescu’s relationship with Carol was quite different from his relationship with Cuza, for whilst Cuza had generally avoided interfering in military matters, acknowledging Florescu’s superior knowledge and experience, Carol was a former soldier with a first rate training in the Prussian army, and his own very clear ideas on military affairs.  There was also a constant tension due to their divided loyalties, with Carol leaning towards Germany, his country of origin, whilst the General remained a devoted francophile throughout his life, often insisting on retaining French military advisers (to which Carol generally complied).  But Florescu had also observed the effectiveness of the Prussian fighting machine, especially after Prussia’s defeat of Austria in 1866 and of France in 1870-71, and he secured artillery pieces not only from France, Austria and Belgium, but also from Germany in the form of the latest Krupp steel-barrel cannons.

General Florescu’s main achievements during his second period as Minister of War, essentially involved preparing the Romanian army for the War of Independence which was to take place in 1878.  His reforms included the introduction of promotion by merit, the creation of a consultative war council, a one-year officer school, compulsory military service for all able-bodied 21 year-olds (eliminating the system of conscription by lot, whereby wealthy young men could pay peasant recruits to serve in their place) and the creation of a territorial army in addition to the permanent army of 30, 000 troops, with the militia reserve eventually making up one third of the entire army during the War of Independence.  Between 1872 and 1876, the General also prepared Romania for war by organizing annual maneuvers aimed at mobilizing the army and simulating the conditions of actual warfare.  1872 was the first time the army mobilized from every region of the country, and in 1874, 18, 000 men, including territorials, participated in the exercise.

However, as had been the case during Cuza’s reign, his ambitions were continuously frustrated by lack of resources, with his Liberal foes in Parliament often blocking his requests for more funds.  Furthermore, he became the target of ferocious personal attacks by the Liberals, who accused the General of ordering useless equipment in excess of the army’s needs, and unnecessary belligerence in mobilizing men during the harvest period, when they were needed on the fields.  Pressure from the Liberals mounted in 1875, when they tried to have the King replace Lascar Catargiu’s Conservative government.  But Carol resisted, and he ended up replacing Catargiu with Florescu as Prime Minister, whom he wanted in charge of the nation during the Bosnia-Herzegovina crisis of that year, which threatened to develop into a fully blown war.  But the pressure from the Liberals was relentless, and shortly afterwards a coalition of various forces in Parliament passed a motion in Parliament signed by 60 deputies, calling for the former members of the Catargiu government to be indicted for “violating the constitution, wasting public funds and abusing their power.”  The motion was put down by an overwhelming majority, including some of Florescu’s own political enemies, such as Epureanu and Kogalniceanu, but it was a terrible blow to the General, and attacks continued in the liberal press and in radical pamphlets, eventually forcing the King to appoint a new Liberal government under Bratianu in June 1873.  Needless to say, General Florescu was dismissed from the War Ministry, but remained a Member of Parliament.

Bratianu was to rule for a full twelve years, and doubtless the cruelest blow for General Florescu was his refusal to appoint Florescu to any command during Romania’s successful War of Independence of 1878.  Thus, the General, whose life’s work had been to prepare the Romanian army for that war, had to watch it from the sidelines, whereas in fact he was the natural choice for Commander-in-Chief.   As the poet Vasile Alecsandri was to lament in a “Letter Poem” addressed to the General:

“Because you made this army so lively, brave and young

Under the rules of Cuza and that of King Carol,

You should have had the honor to lead us in the battle

As you are the organizer, the man who made it happen”

In spite of this blow, Florescu could not but feel elated at the successful outcome of the war, declaring, with tears in his eyes, that this was the “most beautiful day in my life”. 

Throughout the remaining years of Bratianu’’ premiership, Florescu continued to oppose him vigorously and, in the late 1880’s, he joined a new Liberal-Conservative coalition aimed at removing Bratianu from office.  When Bratianu eventually fell, Florescu was elected President of the Senate, and then named Prime Minister for the second time in 1891.  But his government only lasted a few months, most likely because General Florescu opposed the renewal of Romania’s alliance with Germany, Austria and Italy, which King Carol had signed in 1883.  His government was replaced by a new conservative cabinet headed by Lascar Catargiu, who was more sympathetic to Germany.

The dismissal of Florescu’s cabinet by the King marks Florescu’s definitve exit from politics.  He devoted the rest of his life to taking care of his properties at Vizuresti and Salcuti Odobesti, where he proved to be a fair and compassionate landlord.  He also pursued his cultural and educational activities as a Member of the Romanian Atheneum, and as President of the Society for the Education of the Romanian People.  He delivered a number of lectures on Army matters, and wrote a number of books and articles.  His friendship with King Carol was to grow towards the end of his life, and he accompanied the King to Sigmaringen to witness the wedding of Prince Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, to Princess Marie. 

At the of his life, Florescu was made a Grand Officer of the Legion d’Honeur, and when he became ill in 1882, it was natural for him to go to France, his second fatherland, for treatment.  He died there in 1893 at the age of 74.  Appropriately, he had two funerals:one in France which was attended by the President of the French Republic and the French Ministers for War and for External Affairs.  Two infantry battalions, two squadrons of the naval artillery and a battery rendered military honours, after which his body left for the Gare de L’Est, from which it was taken to Bucharest.   

The newspaper Timpulhas given a detailed description of the General’s second funeral in Bucharest:

“On the platform of the North Station there were family members, government representatives, active and reserve officers from the Capital’s garrison, secretaries of the Ministry of War, a delegation of the Conservative Club, students of the ‘Pedagogical School for the Education of the Romanian People’, the Patriarch’s representative surrounded by the local clergy...Carried by officers, soldiers and students, the coffin was set on a gun carriage, covered with a tricolor flag, on top of which were the sword and the cap of the deceased together with a garland made of laurel and oak leaves bearing the words ‘General Florescu’s army.’ The carriage was pulled by eight black horses wearing a yellow harness led by gunner-conductors under a sergeant’s command informal dress. A military carriage bedecked with crowns of flowers followed...”   

General Lahovary delivered a speech:

“We have darkened our flags, our swords and our hearts because we have lost the leader who loved us most. Yes! He loved us with an endless love, he loved us and he educated us the leaders of his beloved army! He was never happier than when he was at the head of his troops! When he rode his horse with his medals on his chest accompanied by music he shouted:‘Bless you my children!’ We all felt that his cry was happy and cheerful;we felt loved by him and our young hearts beat loud in our chest. At that moment we had the vision of a great Romania! He was the first to teach us how to lead the troops in the complicated maneuvers of our small army at a time when the great armies of the world hat not as yet begun such training.’’ 

Apart from his turbulent political and military career, the General also had a complicated family life.  His first wife Ecaterina Bibescu had died unexpectedly, leaving him four daughters and a son.  He remarried Alina Stirbey, the daughter of Prince Bibescu’s successor to the Wallachian throne, but he was known to be susceptible to the charms of younger women, and his second wife publicly accused him of adultery, and the marriage ended in a fiery divorce.  Florescu eventually had a child with his mistress, Iuliana Visoreanu, but his family did not allow him to marry her.  In a twist of fate, the child was eventually adopted by Bonifaciu Florescu, who was himself the illegitimate son of Luxita Florescu by Nicolae Balcescu.  Needless to say, Luxita was a political opponent of General Florescu, and she never forgave him for his behavior during the 1848 revolution.

Throughout his career, Florescu had been neither a visionary nor a reactionary opponent of change.  Rather, he had aimed to steer a middle ground during a period of intense developments.  He was a traditional liberal who believed in a programme of national unification and moderate social reform, but his outlook was essentially paternalistic, and his belief in the power of education epitomized his view that power was something which should be bestowed from above, and not obtained from below. 

During the events of 1848, he had chosen to stand by the forces of law and order rather than sympathize with the revolutionaries, and he had even helped the Russians suppress Kossuth’s revolution in Transylvania.  But he was far from a reactionary, and as an army reformer he abolished restrictions on non-boyars becoming officers, and introduced the concept of promotion by merit.  After the defeat of Russia in the Crimean War, national unification became his overriding objective, and he played a crucial role in getting the revolutionary Cuza elected joint Prince of Wallachia and Moldova.  Once Cuza was elected, he remained loyal to him throughout his reign, even when his radical agrarian reforms went against Florescu’s interests as a representative of the great landowning class.  After Cuza’s agrarian reforms were enacted, he became a life-long Conservative, fighting the more radical aspirations of the Liberal Party.   Fundamentally, his vision was for a Romania dominated by a paternalistic landowning class, tied to the interests of the country by ownership of land and the Orthodox faith.  As such, it was very far from the Romania that the Liberals were to create, which was to be based on a centralized bureaucratic state dominated by party affiliation rather than land ownership. 

Florescu’s greatest achievement, which was undoubtedly the creation of the modern Romanian army and its preparation for the 1878 War of Independence, was organizational rather than political.  His dedication to this task was life-long, and he accomplished it down to the tiniest detail with supreme energy, skill and dedication.  After his death, a bust of the General was placed in the Hall of the Romanian Atheneum and then moved to the Military Museum where it resides to this day.  A statue commemorating him and the other leaders who accomplished national unification under Cuza stands in the Union Square of Ias.  But the greatest tribute to the General is perhaps the long “Letter Poem” addressed to him by the Romanian national poet Vasile Alecsandri, which includes the following lines:

“By hard work and long years of diligence

Your strong belief has born the fruits of perseverance.

A stately and proud army comes to life today

And it is meant to surpass what the world may say

It throws itself in fire and conquers even more

Than the glorious feats of the times of yore…”Cumpără acum