What was Romanticism?
Romanticism is a philosophy, particularly influenced by Jean Jacques Rousseau, that became a movement predominantly during 1780 to1850 in France; other European intellectuals were influenced by Romanticism as well.
Enlightenment had been the popular philosophy of the day, stressing order, achievement and rules for living. The Romantics believed that the self was all and believed Enlightenment blocked the free flow of creativity and emotion.
The Romantics were believers in self awareness and freedom of expression, questioning the rules and the church, and wanted to be free of all the rules, politics, and traditional ways of being.
Rousseau wrote, "Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains," which summed up the Romantics worldview and what they desperately wanted to change. Romanticism was self consciousness at its most basic form, not shyness or embarrassment, rather the literal consciousness of self, looking inward and following your desires.
Romantics and The Revolution
During the French Revolution, Romanticism flourished as a philosophy.
Just as the people of France were looking to break free from the Monarchy and established society, the romantics had many of the same goals. But Romanticism was a philosophy, and while Robespierre, a leader of the French Revolution, was a follower of Rousseau, the practical matters of the Revolution were a touch beyond what the Romantics were about. The Revolution brought about change, which satisfied the Romantic philosophers, since they sought to alter society as well.
Romanticism and Non-Conformity
With Napoleon Bonaparte becoming Emperor, the Romantics were all but through with the goals of the Revolution.
To them, the new order was no better than the old, since the prime belief of the Romantics was about individualism. It is entirely possible that all political movements and structures would never be in line with the views of the Romantics. No government can exclusively provide for individualism and perfect individual freedom.
Eventually, through war and conquest, the French people felt confident in the Emperor, and people, particularly youth, looked up to him as a symbol of conquest and power.
Individualism and self-expression now turned to nationalism and citizenship for the good of the country. And while the philosophy lives on with the study of Rousseau, in many ways the French Revolution put the Romantics to the test; it seems that no version of order and government could really ever exist within the framework of Romantic Philosophies.