This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
In June of 1848, France experienced a revolution careening out of control. The French National Assembly voted to abolish an idea proposed by French Socialists and held dear by the organized working class of Paris: The National Workshop, a guaranteed job for every man. Within hours after the declaration abolishing the National Workshops. the streets of Paris were filled with 20,000 workers throwing up barricades and arming for civil war. The government declared martial law and unleashed the regular army on the working class sections of Paris. In three days of savage street fighting known as the “Bloody June Days,” the army suppressed the revolt. French society had a taste of class warfare in the Marxist sense of the term and the results were a shock to everyone: 10,000 people, including the archbishop of Paris were killed. The army commander General Cavaignac also decided to punish the ringleaders of the trouble by deporting a further 11,000 men to hard labor in Algeria. The government restored order but it would be an expensive victory because French society was bitterly divided along class lines. The workers were confirmed in their hatred of the middle class—it was during this period that words like “Capitalist,” “Proletarian,” and “Communist” entered everyday usage. As the editor of one Parisian newspaper put it: “Every Proletarian who does not see and feel that he belongs to an enslaved and degraded class is a fool” On the other hand the propertied classes were more impressed by the specter of revolutionary violence. One Parisian factory owner wrote: Every manufacturer lives in his factory like the colonial planter in the midst of his slaves, one against a hundred. The barbarians who menace society are neither in the Caucasus nor the steppes of Tartary; they are in the suburbs of our industrial cities.
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (18181873)
It was a traumatized, polarized, and frightened nation that went to the polls in December of 1848 to elect a new President of France, the first ever to be elected under the principle of Universal Manhood Suffrage. The winner of the election was Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (18181873). Many shocked political observers concluded that Louis Napoleon was a nonentity whose electoral success was simply a matter of name recognition. He was supported by some moderate politicians who believed he could be used; in the words of one, “a cretin whom we will manage.” Louis Napoleon was unfortunate in his enemies as well: Victor Hugo called him “Napoleon le Petit,” Otto von Bismarck called him “a sphinx without a riddle,” and Karl Marx wrote in his sneering and perceptive way, “Just because he was nothing he could signify everything.” For millions of French voters, casting a ballot for Louis Napoleon would be their first political act. In fact Louis Napoleon was the first leader of a major country, outside the United States, to be elected by Universal Manhood Suffrage. In other words, in the words of E.J. Hobsbawm, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte’s France, “became a sort of laboratory of a more
religion. he carefully planned and executed a coup d'état. national dignity. [that anticipated] later forms of political management. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the bourgeoisie does not have the will to rule directly. authority. Alexis de Tocqueville doubted that Louis Napoleon would ever return to private life and tried to dissuade him from establishing a “bastard monarchy.000 political opponents were rounded up and imprisoned.2 modern kind of politics. This is only a stop on the way. the people's wellbeing; abroad. pp. and many began to suspect that Louis Napoleon had no intention of giving up office.. but it does not let them have any share of political power. religious and financial organization of the Empire. “I don't mind being baptized in the water of universal manhood suffrage. order. 778) He was popular with the peasantry and with the Church and with those people who wished a strong “Law and Order” government. 99100) In reality. the great political scientist. On December 2. the first of a new breed of Conservative leaders. In some ways.” he joked. Liberals in Great Britain and Germany denounced Louis Napoleon as a modern tyrant and newspaper editors and historians termed him a new Caesar.” (Spielvogel. this dictatorship is itself forced to adopt in turn the bourgeoisie's material interests against its will. As Friedrich Engels commented in 1866: Bonapartism is the true religion of the modern bourgeoisie. p.” (Hobsbawm. In private. a terrace where we may rest a moment to gaze at the horizon. At the same time. judicial. For three years he worked to win popularity and to gain the support of the Catholic Church and the French army. Since France has carried on for fifty years only by virtue of the administrative. Louis Napoleon was a clever politician. “ but that is no reason for living in the water. who used liberal and nationalist ideas to bolster their own authoritarian regimes. 778) Louis Napoleon believed that he was destined to govern France.” Many French democrats and radicals tried to oppose Napoleon's Coup and he responded by a wave of arrests—nearly 27. and so a Bonapartist semidictatorship is the normal form. It wants to say at home. why should she not also adopt the political institutions of that period?” (S. He told one Spanish friend that he drew a distinction between election as the “source of power” rather than as the “habitual basis” of government. An acquaintance.” When the national assembly rejected his proposal to revise the constitution and allow him to stand for reelection. He told a friend shortly after his election that the presidency of the republic was only a beginning: “We are not at the summit yet. Louis Napoleon summed up his program in these words: “The name of Napoleon is in itself a whole program. 1852 Parisians awoke to find troops loyal to Napoleon occupying government buildings and newspaper offices and the city was plastered with sheets announcing that the assembly had been dissolved and that universal suffrage was restored and that the French people were invited to the polls to endorse or reject Louis Napoleon's actions. military. The great material interests of the bourgeoisie carry this through. he admitted his cynicism. He liked to portray himself as the opponent of both left wing and right wing extremists. Louis Napoleon was a transitional figure along the way towards democratic politics. even against the bourgeoisie's own wishes. The Constitution provided for a single term presidency. He kept his promise and compelled the French . p.
What France really wanted was stable government. Napoleon organized an economic policy that anticipated State Socialism. who wish our country's success. canals to dig. all of you. the French people agreed to Louis Napoleon's actions. Only he could introduce legislation and conduct foreign policy. Henry Kissinger used to say that the French electorate talk like communists and vote like conservatives—Napoleon III recognized this contradiction and based his government upon it. and international respect. Louis Napoleon’s economic advisors raised the capital to build the Suez Canal. As chief of state. There was a body called the Legislative Corps elected by the nation. Napoleon used to joke that he was “The Socialist Emperor. His government floated public bond issues to finance great construction programs. All of this economic expansion stimulated the demand for iron and coal and labor and unemployment disappeared as a political problem and a potential source of .” The basis of Imperial economic policy was a program of easy credit. railroads to complete. The steady rise in prices contributed to a booming stock market. the result was guaranteed. French engineers actually completed the project although Great Britain reaped most of the benefits. His new government. called the Second Empire was clearly authoritarian in a Bonapartist sense. 7. In some ways. the Emperor controlled the armed forces. but it had no real authority; in fact it was the first of a long line of “rubber stamp parliaments” to enact a sham of constitutional government to adorn the regime of a dictator. Napoleon III realized the importance of diverting “the attention of the French from politics to economics. you are my soldiers. his government anticipated the tactics of Charles de Gaulle in the twentieth century.” In 1852. But Napoleon III was no ordinary dictator.” Napoleon's policies did contribute to the economic boom. “but the people would have voted as it has without this. and harbor construction. By an overwhelming majority. As a young man he was influenced by the ideas of the Socialist Henri de SaintSimon (17601825) a leading advocate of state economic planning and general prophet of technocracy. With opposition voices silenced or in exile and fear of reprisals in the air. Louis Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor of the French and held another plebiscite to confirm the people's support. This time he won with a 30 to 1 margin of approval. and the civil service.” wrote the novelist George Sand to the Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini. economic prosperity.000 no votes. but rather a subtle politician who recognized that the great mass of the French people really cared very little about the specific form of the Constitution. police. rivers to make navigable.3 people to vote yea or nay in a plebiscite. installation of gaslighting in French cities. The first five years of his reign were also a time of spectacular growth in the world economy and the French people shared in the great economic boom. “There has been terror. Napoleon boasted to the French people: We have immense territories to cultivate. provided state guarantees for governmentsponsored credit companies like the Crédit Mobilier to promote large scale industrial expansion: railway building. The discovery of gold in California in 1849 and in Australian brought about an increase in the money supply. Napoleon III was also fortunate in his timing. harbors to deepen. Such are the conquests I contemplate; and you. roads to open.5 million yes votes to 640. which had a mildly inflationary effect. encouraged by his genuine popularity. That is how I interpret the Empire.
Napoleon felt so secure in his personal popularity that he began to experiment with a liberalization of the system. the former leader of the radical opposition as Chief Minister. the medieval face of Paris was transformed into the broad boulevards of modern Paris.” Paris received a gaslight system to illuminate its streets.4 revolutionary agitation. department stores like the Bon Marché. the great new Opera house. French foreign trade tripled. But by then. Napoleon also proposed measures legalizing Limited Liability Corporations. a city known for fashion. and even signed a free trade treaty with the old enemy Great Britain. for tourists who enjoyed a more risqué form of entertainment. During the nineteenth century. The regime decided to try and attract the support of radicals and socialists. Just about everyone. By 1860.” in the words of one critic. the savings of the French people was one of the great sources of worldwide investment capital. “Liberté. cavalry. The New Paris The centerpiece of this great boom was Napoleon's rebuilding of Paris. French Silkworm disease and the attack of the phylloxera plant louse damaged the French silk and wine industries (most French grapevines were destroyed and replaced by new plants from California). underground sewers and public services like clean water. The Empire was founded on credit. and. In 1868. Under the direction of Baron Haussmann. and infantry. Napoleon decided to try to attract a new political base. he allowed the Legislative Corps to debate the Imperial address. Those broad boulevards made it all the more difficult for revolutionaries to throw up barricades. capital and labor alike profited. Since the French population was in decline. and he even submitted the national budget for approval. The threat of war brought on by Napoleon's foreign policy adventures helped to dry up credit. Napoleon relaxed the censorship of the press and allowed criticism of the regime. As one banker put it. Stock speculators and bankers made enormous fortunes and about one Parisian worker in five was employed in construction. He offered a political amnesty to his enemies in exile. In the first decade of the Second Empire. The legislature regarded the army as a tool of repression with good reason. The American Civil War and the Union blockade deprived the French textile industry of the raw cotton in needed and made Napoleon III a lukewarm supporter of the Confederacy. The economic boom was showing signs of collapse. Napoleon boasted that he found Paris smelling of excrement and left it smelling like a rose. egalité has been replaced by artillery. But the worst problem facing the regime was a financial crisis. and the economic downturn attacked the political basis of the regime. cracks were appearing in the facade of the Second Empire." One result of the economic downturn as well as retreat from the Bonapartist dictatorship was the fact that the emperor was powerless to enforce a modernization program for the army to match the recent modernization of the Prussian army. As Karl Marx put. “The Attila of the straight line. Ollivier was instructed that the Emperor wanted his assistance in "organizing liberty.” The collapse of the Crédit Mobilier and the Suez Company also indicated that bankers were beginning to lose faith in the government. The . The emperor called in Emile Ollivier. and cut the military budget every year during the 1860s. “the economy was deprived of 100 million francs that went on strike. legislation granting labor unions the right to organize and go out on strikes. the newly opened Folies Bergère. this new wealth was not simply swallowed up by more mouths. fraternité. Paris began to be the city of light.
there simply was not enough money for both.” It really came down to this: who would be the chief beneficiary of the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. Napoleon III calculated that the British would be willing to fight Russia and accept France as an ally to keep the Russians out of Constantinople. he committed French troops to fight the Austrians in the name of a unified Italy. The Austrians wanted more land in the Balkans. where his uncle had failed militarily; that is in making France the arbiter of Europe. Napoleon realized that if he were to gain the glory associated with the name Napoleon and if he planned to break the diplomatic restrictions imposed on France by the treaties of 1815. Other European nations not only feared Russian ambitions in the area but had ambitions of their own. British fears of the mere name of Napoleon were echoed elsewhere in Europe. it seemed that he had succeeded diplomatically. unsolved diplomatic questions of the nineteenth century was what came to be known as the “Eastern Question. As Turkish control of Southeastern Europe waned. Napoleon had to choose between the ambitious public works projects and the need to modernize the army. on the other hand. Great Britain and France declared war on Russia. Russia’s proximity to the Ottoman Empire and the religious bonds between the Greek Orthodox Christians and the Russian Church gave the Russian state an excuse to demand a special sphere of influence over the entire area. most of which were fought for questionable purposes. equipped with new percussion rifles shot the Russian formation to pieces.5 army was equipped with an effective new breech loading rifle. but initially. the Chassepot. The British and French landed a large army on the Crimean peninsula where it was allowed practically to starve to death because of inadequate supply support. if he chose his targets carefully. War erupted between the Russians and Turks in 1853 over the question of Russia’s right to protect Christian shrines in Palestine. he believed that it might be possible to make some bold foreign policy moves. European governments began to take an active interest in Balkan affairs. Because of this. When the war began to go against the Turks. Napoleon III: Foreign Policy Napoleon's foreign policy would eventually lead to disaster. The French and British victory over Russia in the Crimean War revealed that Russia was now truly a backward nation unable . He believed that fear of Russia probably overshadowed fear of France among the states of Europe. The task might have been insurmountable if Napoleon had not been fortunate in his timing. but there was no money to modernize the artillery. he would have to improve relations with Great Britain and somehow reduce the power and influence of Russia. He chose to make his move in the east. and he sent a French army to Mexico to establish Maximillian. as Emperor of Mexico. The British in particular wished to see that Russia remained backwards and bottled up in the Black Sea without access to the Mediterranean. while France and Great Britain wanted commercial opportunities and Naval bases. He declared war on Russia. One of the great. during the 1850s. The French army. The war itself is remembered largely for incredible incompetence on both sides. His desire to live up to the Napoleonic image undoubtedly led him to commit the French to a number of conflicts. brother of the Austrian Emperor. The British Prime Minister Palmerston feared that Napoleon might be planning “to strike a stunning blow”—perhaps even invade Britain.
Napoleon announced in 1854. The Russian Czar Alexander II was forced to sue for peace. Napoleon III announced to the world that he recognized the forces of nationalism and that he intended to pursue a foreign policy that would champion national movements. In 1870. Napoleon mismanaged a diplomatic crisis with Prussia over the issue of whether a Prussian prince should be allowed on the throne of Spain. she is quietly gathering her forcesRussia will be back. Perhaps he wished to establish a French zone of influence in the western hemisphere and take advantage of the American Civil War to do so.6 to compete with the modern.” (Rich) France was the nation that gained the most: the international system of 1815 was broken and the French Second Empire had supplanted Russia as the most important nation in Europe. 1870. Although the Prussians initially met French demands. but he was wrong. Napoleon gave in to public opinion and declared war on Prussia. Russia adopted an isolationist policy for the next two decades. Perhaps he wished to curry favor with French Catholics by overthrowing the revolutionary regime of Benito Juarez.” said the French monarchist Adolphe Thiers. surrendered. The entire army. (Osgood) The breakdown of the Concert of Europe opened a new phase of international relations and prepared the way for the Italians and the Germans to establish unified national states. His humiliation was complete when his French Empire in Mexico collapsed and Juarez's troops executed Maximillian in 1867. would be France. “We go to war with a light heart. At Sedan. Paris finally capitulated and a peace treaty was signed that forced France to pay a huge . It was a stinging blow to Russian power and prestige. the French army was no match for the Prussian forces. The collapse of his army led to Civil War within France at the very moment that the German army surrounded and bombarded Paris. (Spielvogel) Napoleon III and the Concert of Europe The Crimean War broke up the Concert of Europe: Russia and Austria. the two chief powers intent on maintaining the Status Quo and harnassing in France in the first half of the nineteenth century were now enemies because of Austria’s unwillingness to declare war on France. including Napoleon III. by causing everywhere the rule of law and justice to prevail. The Crimean War also seemed to indicate that France could once again claim the status of the most modern and powerful military nation in Europe. Poorly led and poorly equipped. and cannot return; for it is not by extending her territorial boundaries that a nation in our days can be honored and powerful; it is by placing itself in the lead of generous ideas.” The war was national disaster. on September 2. “There are no mistakes left to commit. industrialized nations of western Europe on the new technological battlefield of the midnineteenth century. the United States forced Napoleon to withdraw French forces from Mexico. the French army was pounded to pieces by German artillery. At the end of the Civil war. in words that anticipated Woodrow Wilson: The era of conquests is over. Even now it is hard to imagine what he wanted to accomplish by this Mexican adventure. The big loser ultimately. The French Prime Minister Ollivier remarked. The Russian Foreign Minister Prince Gorchakov explained: “Russia is not sulking. Napoleon lived out the remaining three years of his life in exile dying of kidney stones and prostate cancer.
the victorious Prussians declared the German Empire. He was horrified by the results of the battles he fought to secure his reputation—he was not a militarist or aggressive although his regime did annex Nice and the Riviera for France. In the words of Victor Hugo. and his decision to intervene in Italian affairs led directly to Italian unification. you aim high. Italy and Germany on its borders. Not everyone who wishes to be a monster attains his wish. “Monsieur Louis Napoleon. helped to break down the old Metternich system. before his time the program of the Liberals.7 indemnity (5 billion francs or one billion dollars) and cede the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. p. populist. 102) . It would be a mistake to see his foreign policy as an unbroken record of failurecertainly contemporaries did not regard him in that light. but he was Napoleon's student in the art of domestic politics as German liberals found. new harbors and beautified Paris—and with two new great powers. “Many politicians of the twentieth century nationalist.” Napoleon III should be remembered as a transitional figure along the road to democracy even if his regime ended up on the scrapheap of governments tried and discarded by the French. Theodore Zeldin has written. On January 18. Napoleon pioneered a new form of mass politics in which authoritarian politicians could employ nationalist and populist tactics. His diplomacy placed France in the forefront of international relations. “The Liberal Empire was an attempt to break the vicious circle of revolution and reaction in which France had been caught since Louis XVI. to achieve genuine popularity. and in the most dangerous form. Otto von Bismarck may have got the best of him in the arena of diplomacy. in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles.” ( Hobsbawm. you are ambitious. revealed the weakness of the Russian empire. The historical consensus about his foreign policy is that Napoleon III was outmaneuvered by both Cavour and Bismarck and his attempts to live up to the Napoleonic image led him down the road to the bizarre Mexican adventure. fascist—were to rediscover the sort of relationship which he pioneered with the masses.” Modern scholars have been more impressed by Napoleon's particular form of political manipulation. You are but a rascal. Louis Napoleon is among the most ambiguous figures in French history. Napoleon III left France with better railroads. but you must be told the truth.