History of France During Louis XVIII to Napoleon III!
After the abdication of Napoleon in 1814 and his departure for the Island of Elba, Louis XVIII was put on the throne of France. He was the brother of Louis XVI.
At the time of his succession to the throne, he was 59. He was corpulent and gouty and was unable to sit on horse-back. Both intellectually and by character, he was well qualified to be a king.
He had a lot of commonsense and realised the fact from the very beginning that it was impossible to put the hands of the clock back.
1. Louis XVIII (1814-24):
After the abdication of Napoleon in 1814 and his departure for the Island of Elba, Louis XVIII was put on the throne of France. He was the brother of Louis XVI. At the time of his succession to the throne, he was 59. He was corpulent and gouty and was unable to sit on horse-back. Both intellectually and by character, he was well qualified to be a king. He had a lot of commonsense and realised the fact from the very beginning that it was impossible to put the hands of the clock back.
Like Charles II of England he was not prepared to go on his travels again and he stood for a policy of compromise and reconciliation. He wrote in 1818: “The system which I have adopted and that which my ministers are perseveringly pursuing, is based upon the maxim that it will never do to be the King of two peoples; and to their ultimate fusion—for their distinction is only too real—all the efforts of my government are directed.”
2. The Charter of 1814:
On 4 June 1814, Louis XVIII issued a liberal charter. That was partly due to the influence of Czar Alexander I. This Charter embodied the constitution of France up to 1848. Its Preamble ran: “It is our duty according to the example of the kings, our predecessors, to appreciate the results of the constantly increasing progress of enlightenment, the new relations that this progress has introduced into society, the direction impressed upon opinion for half a century, and the important alterations which have ensued; we have recognised that the wish of our subjects for a constitutional Charter was the expression of a real need, but in yielding to this wish we have taken every precaution that this Charter should be worthy of us and of the people whom we have to rule.”
The king was to be head of the State and he was given the power of making all appointments, issuing ordinances, declaring war, making treaties of peace, alliance and commerce, commanding the army and navy and initiating and sanctioning laws. Provision was made for a legislature of two houses, viz., a Chamber of Peers and a Chamber of Deputies.
The Chamber of Peers was to have a number of members who were to be nominated by the king either for life or as hereditary members. It was to sit in secret and also act as a High Court of Justice. It was to try impeachments of the ministers. The Chamber of Deputies was to be elected by those persons who paid 300 francs annually as direct taxes. Its tenure was five years and one-fifth of its members were to retire every year.
It was to meet once a year. It could request the king to introduce legislation on a particular subject. The Roman Catholic Church was established but religious freedom was given to others also. Both the nobility of Napoleon and that of the Ancient Regime were restored on an equal footing.
Liberty of the press was guaranteed. Provision was made for trial by jury. Every citizen of France was entitled to have employment under the State. Persons in possession of confiscated property were assured that it would not be taken away from them.
The importance of the Charter lies in the fact that it accepted the work of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic regime. This is clear from the recognition of personal equality; eligibility for office, religious toleration, the Code Napoleon, the Concordat, etc. The Charter was also not inconsistent with the principle of Divine Right of Kings. It was not imposed by the people on the king.
On the other hand, it was given by the king to the people as a matter of grace. According to Chateaubriand, “The Charter is a treaty of peace between the two parties into which France has been divided, a treaty by which both parties yield some of their pretensions in order to work together for the glory of their country.”
Talleyrand was one of the cleverest men produced by France. He acted in various capacities throughout the French Revolution, under Napoleon and after the Restoration. He played many roles in life. He belonged to the nobility. He was a member of the church.
He was employed by Napoleon in very many difficult tasks. He was clever and cunning. He knew how to play the fox and change sides as circumstances of demanded.Napoleon consulted him on all difficult matters. In spite of that, Talleyrand deserted him towards the end and joined hands with the Austrians. It was through his cleverness that he played an important part in the deliberations of the Congress of Vienna.
He coined the doctrine of legitimacy and thereby saved his country. Although France was defeated, it was through his influence that she was not deprived of her territories. Talleyrand was not an attractive personality. Napoleon once described him as “a mass of filth in a silk stocking.” Again, “You are a devil of a man. I cannot help telling you of my affairs or prevent myself liking you.”
4. Political Parties in France:
There were two parties in France and those were the Moderates who were the upholders of the Charter of 1814 and the Ultra-Royalists. The Ultra-Royalists stood for absolutism and privileges. They wanted an alliance between the altar and the throne.
They wanted the church to control education. They stood for censorship of the press and the restoration of the confiscated property of the nobles. Louis XVIII followed a policy of moderation and consequently did not pay any heed to the demands of the Ultra Royalists.
He also failed to win over the peasants and the army. According to Wellington, “A king of France is no king without the army.” The result of the alienation of the peasantry and the army was that when Napoleon returned from Elba, he was joined by the army and the people. However, Louis XVIII was restored after the Hundred Days.
5. White Terror:
As soon as the news of the defeat of Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo reached France, the Ultra-Royalists created a reign of terror in the country. The Royalist mobs attacked the Bonapartists. The Protestants were attacked by the Catholics. There were outrages and murders everywhere, and the movement was called by the name of “The White Terror” It was in this atmosphere of intimidation and violence that elections were held and no wonders the Royalists were able to sweep the polls.
Talleyrand and Fouche were dismissed. Richelieu was made the head of the new ministry and his chief lieutenant was Decazes. The newly-elected Chamber of Deputies showed itself “more royalist than the king,” and came to be known as the Chambre Introuvable (1815-16).
Although the king, his ministers and the Chamber of Peers stood for a policy of moderation, the Chamber of Deputies under the leadership of the Count of Artois, the brother of Louis XVIII, who became king of France in 1824, demanded revenge against the enemies. Marshal Ney, “the bravest of the brave,” was shot as a traitor. Thousands of Bonapartists were either imprisoned or exiled. Some of them were executed and many of them were dismissed from their posts. In September 1816, the Chambre Introuvable was dissolved.
6. Moderates in Power:
New elections were held in 1816 and the Moderates were returned in a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. They remained in power up to 1820. In 1818, the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle decided to withdraw the Allied Army of Occupation from the French soil as France had paid the whole of war indemnity.
In 1817, a new electoral law in favour of the Moderates was passed. In 1819, a new press law was passed by which censorship was abolished and press offences were allowed to be tried by the juries. In February 1820, the Due de Berri was assassinated by a fanatic named Louvel. The duke was the son of the Count of Artois and was considered to be the hope of the Bourbons. Although the murder was the work of an isolated fanatic, the Ultra-Royalists attributed it to the policy of moderation of the king.
Different motives were attributed to the murder. According to one, “I saw the dagger that pierced the Due de Berri; it was a liberal idea.” According to another, “Either Decazes must retired before the reigning dynasty or the race of our king must retreat before him.” Decazes himself remarked. “We have been killed with the duke.” Decazes was dismissed and the Ultra-Royalists came to power.
Richelieu was once again made the head of the ministry in 1820 and he continued up to 1821. The era of reaction started during his regime. The censorship of the press was restored. The electoral law was changed. The secret ballot was abolished, franchise was narrowed. Double vote was given to the landed interests. Richelieu was succeeded by Villele who was an able and cautious statesman but a pronounced reactionary. He held office up to 1827. In 1822, the censorship of the press was made more rigorous.
The church was given control over education for religious and monarchical propaganda. High tariffs were imposed on imports to favour the landed proprietors and manufacturers. In 1823, French troops were sent to Spain to restore the Bourbons to absolute power. New peers were created to overthrow the liberal majority in the Chamber of Peers. By means of the Septennial Act, the life of the Chamber of Deputies was extended to seven years instead of five.
7. Estimate of Louis XVIII:
About Louis XVIII, Grant and Temperley observe that although he consented to give a charter to the people of France, he tried to retain as much power as he could. He was wiser than his ministers but incurably indolent.
Hence, the policy of the Clerical and Absolutist ministers (usually called the Ultras) tended to prevail. He showed un-wisdom in all directions. They cut down the army. They gagged or bribed or intimidated the press.
They committed all sorts of mistakes. They abolished the tri-colour. The worst of all they shot Marshal Ney after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. The people were indignant that a man, who was a heroic soldier and not a politician, should have been condemned by dubious methods and shot under circumstances of peculiar atrocity. It was openly said with some truth that he was executed at the dictation of the Allies. Some have said that the bourbons owed their fall to the execution of “the bravest of the brave.”
8. Charles X (1824-30):
After the death of Louis XVIII in 1824, Charles X became the King of France. At the Court of Artois, he had acted as the leader of the Emigres. During the reign of Louis XVIII, he was the leader of the Ultra-Royalists. He was a man of prejudices and convictions. It was said about him that he “had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.”
He took pride in the fact that both he and Lafayette had not changed at all in spite of the change of times. He stood for the supremacy of the church and was prepared to sacrifice even his throne for the sake of the church. According to Wellington, he set up “a government by priests through priests and for priests.” He has rightly been compared with Philip II of Spain.
France gained some prestige by a vigorous foreign policy, Algiers was conquered and France joined hands with the British who helped the Greeks against the Turks. When the Turkish fleet was destroyed in the Battle of Navarino in 1827, the French fleet also took part in it. Although France withdrew from the Greek War of Independence, she cooperated with England to lessen the influence of Russia in the Balkans.
Villele continued to be the head of ministry up to 1827. As the press was opposed to the church policy of the king, it was decided to make the press a creature of the executive. No newspaper was to appear without the sanction of the king.
The contents of the newspapers were to be censured by the government. The writer of any article or the designer of any illustration which outraged or turned into ridicule the religion of the State or which excited contempt or hatred of any class was to be punished with a heavy fine of imprisonment for seven years.
An attempt was made in 1827 to pass a new law by which the liberty of the press was to be completely ended. Although there was opposition from all quarters, the Chamber of Deputies passed the law but the Government was forced to rescind it on account of the opposition from the Chamber of Peers.
In 1825, a law was passed to indemnify the Emigres for the loss of their lands during the days of the French Revolution. This was done by lowering the rate of interest on the public debt 5 per cent to 4 per cent. It must have annoyed the middle classes because they suffered on account of the lowering of the interest. Religious communities for women were re-established under certain restrictions.
An attempt was made to revive the law of primogeniture, but it failed due to the opposition of the Chamber of Peers. A law of sacrilege was proposed which would have punished by death theft of sacred vessels from a church.
Those who were guilty of the offence of desecration of the Host were also liable to get their hands cut off. The law was passed with certain amendments, but was never enforced on account of opposition. In 1827, the National Guard was disbanded. That was due to the fact that while returning from a review held by the king, the members of the National Guard shouted the slogans of “Down with the Ministers” and “Down with the Jesuits.” The people of Paris were offended by the disbandment of National Guard and its result was fatal.
Villele was succeeded by Martignac who remained in power from January 1828 to July 1829. He was a man of ability, moderation, and experience and he followed a policy of compromise. The Jesuits were deprived of their control over education. The censorship of the press was stopped. Franchise was extended in the provincial assemblies. A large measure of local self- government was proposed. The reactionaries were furious and Martignac resigned.
The view of Charles X was that “concessions ruined Louis XVI” and therefore he decided not to give any concession. To quote him, “There is no way of dealing with these people: it is time to call a halt.” Prince Polignac, a fanatical reactionary and an Emigre, was made the head of the ministry. He did not possess any majority in the Chamber of Deputies.
There was a lot of criticism of the government all over the country. However, Charles X addressed the Chamber of Deputies in March 1830 in these words. “The Charter has placed the liberties of France under the guarantee of the rights of the Crown. These rights are sacred and it is my duty to hand them over intact to my successor.
I do not doubt that you will help me to realize my good intention; that you will repel shameful insinuations which malevolence has sought to spread abroad. Should conspiracies admit to impede my government, such as I do not wish to anticipate, I will find the means to remove the obstacles, firm in my own determination to maintain the public peace, in just confidence in the people of France, and in their avowed love for their King.” This speech of the king was considered to be a challenge to the people. Men like Thiers came forward to resist the reactionary politics of the king.
The Polignac ministry was defeated. To begin with, the king prorogued the Chamber of Deputies and later on dissolved it. New elections were held in June and July 1830, but their only result was that the opposition was strengthened.
On 25 July 1830, Charles X issued four ordinances and attached to them the following explanation. “A turbulent democracy is endeavoring to supplant the legal authorities. It dominates the elections by means of newspapers and associations; it endeavors to fetter the rights of the Crown and to dissolve the Chamber. A government that has not the right to take measures for the safety of the State cannot exist.
That right, older than the laws, exists in the nature of things. An imperative necessity demands its application; the moment has come to take measures which, if they overstep the ordinary methods of legislation, are undoubtedly in accord with the Charter. By means of four ordinances, Charles X suspended the freedom of the press, dissolved the newly-elected Chamber of Deputies, reduced the life of the legislature from seven years to five years and ordered new elections under a restricted franchise.
The ordinances were a challenge to the people and it was accepted by them. Barricades were constructed in the streets but they were demolished by the government. However, the National Guard and the regular troops joined the people who became the masters of Paris on 29 July 1830.
Thiers, Guizot and Talleyrand offered the throne to Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans and the offer was accepted by him. Charles X abdicated in favour of his grandson, Henry, Duke of Bordeaux, better known as Count of Chambord. However, nobody bothered about him and consequently Charles X and his family left for England. It was in these circumstances that the July Revolution took place in France in 1830.
Importance of July Revolution:
The July Revolution of 1830 was of great importance in the history of France. It brought about a change in the ruling dynasty. The Bourbons were replaced by the Orleanists. The monarchical system was continued in spite of the protests of the Republicans. Minor changes were made in the constitution of France which were embodied in the Charter of 1814. The king was deprived of his power of making ordinances in times of emergency or otherwise.
The Chambers were given the power to initiate laws. Catholicism was to be the official religion of France. The freedom of the press was restored. The franchise was extended. It was on the basis of one out of 280 although promise was given for universal suffrage. The Charter was “accepted” but not “granted.” The king was to rule by the will of the people and not by Divine Right. He was to be known as the “King of the French.”
The principle of legitimacy which had played an important part in 1815 was rejected and that is why the Bourbons were replaced by the Orleanais’s. The Ultra-Royalist party, with its programme, disappeared with the Bourbons from the French scene. The revolution of 1830 was the complement of the Revolution of 1789.
It granted equality, liberty, secularisation of property, etc. The Charter of 1814 became the right of the nation and not the free gift of the king who was forced to do so. Those tax-payers who could pay for their uniforms were to form the National Guard which was to maintain the Charter.
The view of Grant and Temperley is that the July Revolution was largely due to Lafayette and Talleyrand. Their plan was a constitutional monarchy of the British type with Louis Philippe as a good solid bourgeois and constitutional king. With comparatively little difficulty, the public was persuaded to try the experiment.
The choice of Louis Philippe was not a bad one and the event impressed Europe a good deal. The Revolution in France was bloodless and it set up a solid constitutional monarchy. It seemed to hail the approach of the millennium when all nations would have their parliaments and carry the Magna Carta written on their hearts.
12. Louis Philippe (1830-48):
Louis Philippe was the son of the “Egalite” Orieans who played not a mean part in the Revolution of 1789. As a young man, he fought with the forces of the French Republic at Valmy. After that, he ran away from France and visited various parts of the world including Southern Europe, Sicily, the United States, England and Switzerland.
He worked as a tutor in Switzerland. After the Restoration of 1814-15, he came back to France and recovered the family estates and entered the Chamber of Peers. He associated himself with the middle classes and the workers of Paris. Although he was prosperous yet he was genial and accessible.
The result was that the people came to believe in his professions of democratic and republican principles. During the crisis of July 1830, Charles X began to realise slowly that the crisis “was not a revolt but a revolution.” He then withdrew the ordinances and dismissed Polygenic, but the concession came too late and Louis Philippe was put on the throne of France.
Louis Philippe ruled for 18 years and the middle class remained supreme during his regime. He was called the “citizen” king. He was to “reign but not to rule.” He gave up the symbols of the ancient monarchy. The crown and the sceptre were set aside. He began to use a white and hat and green umbrella. He sent his children to the ordinary schools and went to the streets to do the shopping himself. He gave up the side of “King of France and Navarre” and took up the title of “King of the French.”
The qualifying phrase “by the grace of God” was supplemented with the words “and by the will of the nation.” The tricolor was restored as the national flag. Titled aristocrats were removed from public offices and their places were taken by commoners. The government was proclaimed parliamentary and representative.
According to De Tocqueville, “He (Louis Philippe) had most of the qualities and defects which belong more particularly to the subaltern orders of society. He had regular habits and wanted those around him to have them too.
He was orderly in his conduct, simple in his habits, his tastes were tempered; he was a born friend of the law, an enemy of all excesses, sober in his ways except in his desires. He was human without being sentimental, greedy and soft.
He had no flaming passions, no ruinous weakness] no striking vices, and only one kingly virtue courage. He was extremely polite, but without discrimination or greatness, the politeness of a merchant rather than of a prince. He hardly appreciated literature or art, but he passionately loved industry.
His memory was prodigious and capable of retaining the minutest detail. His conversation was prolific, diffuse, original and trivial, anecdotal, full of small facts, of salt and significance….He was enlightened, subtle, flexible because he was open only to what was useful, he was full of proud disdain for the truth, and he believed so little in virtue that his sight was darkened….He was an unbeliever in religion like the eighteenth century, and sceptical in politics like the nineteenth; having no belief in himself, he had none in the belief of others.”
The view of Grant and Temperley is that Louis Philippe was a shrewd man though not very much scrupulous. He was fully conscious of the fact that he was merely a constitutional king. He was tolerant in religious matters although his predecessors were not. Ha did not believe in the divine right of kings. He sent his sons to the ordinary schools. He walked about the streets with an umbrella under his arm.
He was anxious to represent himself as the heir of all the historic tendencies of France. As a Bourbon, he claimed to embody the historic past. As the son of Egalite and the soldier of Jemmappes, he claimed to have shared in the glories of the Revolution. He restored the tricolour and the National Guard. He did not refuse to recognise Napoleon and it was during his reign that the body of Napoleon was brought from St. Helena by a son of the Royal house and laid in the most magnificent of resting places at the Invalids.
In the beginning of the regime of Louis Philippe, the industrial capitalists and economic liberals like Laffitte and Casimir-Perier were in power and no wonder that his government was liberal and bourgeois. The French Government was similar to the government established in England after the First Reform Act of 1832. Casimir-Perier defined his policy as that of the just mean. He followed a policy of evolution.
He aimed at the development of the foreign trade of the country and the establishment of friendly relations with other States. After his death, Guizot and Thiers held office at different times. Both of them belonged to the middle class and were ambitious, aggressive and were great writers.
Guizot was a Huguenot and was the Minister of Public Instruction from 1832 to 1839 and Chief Minister from 1840 to 1848. He believed in a policy of peace at any price. He was prepared to go to any length to maintain peace.
He was corrupt to the extreme and it was through his corrupt methods that he was able to manage the legislature for eight years. Thiers was a free thinker and an opportunist. He got a lot of money by marriage and was trained in politics by Talleyrand.
Although he had risen from the masses, he distrusted them. He was, however, attached to the liberal philosophy of the 18th century and opposed the arbitrary rule of Louis Philippe. He was a great writer and was one of the persons responsible for the overthrow of Charles X. He believed in a vigorous foreign policy and was the leading minister from 1832 to 1836 and Prime Minister in 1840. He was dismissed in that year because he insisted on helping Mehmet Ali even at the risk of a war with England.
The regime of Louis Philippe was bourgeois in action, in purpose and in personnel. Industries were encouraged. Machinery was imported from England and factories were set up in France. A large number of railways were planned and some of them were actually constructed.
Private companies were encouraged to execute works of public utility. He did not do anything which could be called “socialistic.” He stood for private initiative and individual thrift. Like a good middle-class person, the king invested the income of his family in stocks and shares.
Agitation was carried on for the establishment of free trade in the country. However, it was realised that the infant industries of France were not in a position to compete with British industries and consequently the policy of protection was continued.
No legislation similar to that of the repeal of the Com Laws in England was enacted in France. However, Bastiat, a merchant and economist, organised a Free Trade Association in France in 1846. As a result of the growth of Industrial Revolution in the country the condition of the workers became very unsatisfactory but, with one minor exception, no labour legislation was enacted.
In 1841 was passed a Factory Act which prohibited the employment of children less than eight years of age, limited the working days of children under 16 years to 12 hours and prescribed a minimum of schooling for children under 12. This Act had practically no effect as no provision was made for its enforcement.
Under the guidance of Guizot, a law was passed in 1833, concerning education. The Church was left free to conduct elementary schools. However, the control of the government over secondary and higher schools was strengthened. All educational institutions were required to teach “internal and social duties.” Although the number of schools was increased, attendance was not made compulsory.
In matters of religion, the government tried to follow a policy of neutrality. The Concordat with the Pope was continued and the government continued to nominate the bishops and pay the salaries of the Catholic clergy. The Government treated all religions alike and in 1831 it put Judaism on an equal footing with Christianity. It began to pay the salaries of the Jewish rabbis in the same way as it paid the Protestant pastors and Catholic priests.
This reign was the great age of Romanticism in France. In 1830, Victor Hugo’s play Hernani was first produced. Chateaubriand and Mme de Stael led the way for the new movement which Lamartime, Victor Hugo, Alfred de Vigny, and Alfred de Musset revealed in verse and Balzac, George Sand and Dumas revealed in romance proper. There was a struggle between classical and romantic art and we have the natural and colourful painting of Gericault and Delacroix.
The “School of 1830”, was the great school of paysagistes led by Corot, Dupre and Theodore Rousseau. In sculpture, the reign saw the greatest work of Rude notably that of the Arc de 1′ Etoile, one of the greatest achievements of French sculpture. It was also the great age of French historical writing which owed a lot to the inspiration from Chateaubriand. Best examples of historical writings are those of Thierry, Michelet, Guizot Mignet and Thiers. Thus, this reign saw the appearance of a large number of masterpieces of French literatiire and art.
13. The Revolutionary Tradition:
The first five years of the reign of Louis Philippe were marked by revolts, strikes and demonstrations. These were largely due to the feeling among the Republicans that they had been cheated in 1830. At Lyons, wages were very low and there had been experiments in collective bargaining with the employers for minimum wage scales.
In November 1831, the silk workers at Lyons broke out into open insurrection and the immediate cause for it was that 104 out of 1,400 manufacturers in the area refused to observe the agreements with their workers and threatened to close down.
The Government was afraid that the revolt may not spread and consequently had stepped in and not only crushed the rising but also declared collective bargaining illegal. The result was that the working class lost faith in the Government and began to look to the secret Republican societies for help.
There were a large number of such societies and they ranged from fairly open associations like the Society of the Rights of Man to the traditional type of conspiracy such as the “Families” or the “Seasons.” Even the Rights of Man aimed at a Republic in which economic inequalities would be less. The societies influenced by Philippe Buonarroti or Auguste Blanqui were more frankly and thoroughly socialistic or communistic in their aims.
Auguste Blanqui was one of the most outstanding of the professional revolutionaries who haunted Paris under the July Monarchy. He inherited the role and many of the ideas of Buonarroti who died in 1837.Blanqui was the son of a Napoleonic official and was born in 1805. He joined the Carbonari as a student. He was awarded a medal by the new Government for his part in the rising of 1830. He spent nearly half of his long life in 15 different prisons and much of that time was spent in solitary confinement.
In April 1834, the Government passed a law restricting the right of association. There were protests against the new law and there was bitter fighting for 6 days. Another rising was planned by the Society of the Rights of Man in the eastern districts of Paris. The rising was suppressed by Adolphe Thiers.
Thiers was hated by the Republicans for what came to be known as the “massacre of the Rue Transnonian.” Blanqui set up a new secret society which was powerful enough to secure political ends but secret enough to evade police espionage.
The result was the Society of Families which was modelled on the principles of the Carbonari. Its immediate object was military action. A unit of 6 members was called a family. Five or six families under one chief, constituted a Section.
Two or three Sections made up a Quarter. It was so organised that its leaders would remain unknown until the moment came for action and orders were issued by a Central Committee of unknown membership. By 1836, it numbered some 1,200 people. It had infiltrated into regiments of the garrison for Paris. It owned dumps of arms and a factory for making gunpowder. It had to be dissolved to avoid the police.
Immediately another organisation called the Society of the Seasons was set up. Each group of six of this society was known as a week and was commanded by Sunday. Four weeks formed a month under the orders of July.
Three months formed a season and were led by spring. Four seasons formed a year and were directed by a special agent of the Central Committee. This society was led by Blanqui, Martin Bernard and Armand Barbes. The spring of 1839 was fixed for the rising. The Society published secret newspapers and organised working class support in Paris, Lyons and Carcassonne.
On account of economic distress, the membership of the society increased. On Sunday mornings, its members marched in formation but were not observed by the police because they mingled skillfully with the Sunday crowds. However, they were “reviewed” by Blanqui from some secluded spot.
On 12 May 1839, they were summoned to action stations. It was hoped that the police would be busy in controlling the crowds at the races at the Champs de Mars. The forces of the conspirators concentrated themselves around the gunsmiths’ shops and stores in the Paris districts of Saint Denis and Saint Martin. The stores were raided and barricades were thrown up.
The Palais de Justice and the Hotel de Ville were occupied and the republic was proclaimed. The mob shouted the Marseillaise. A few soldiers were killed. The National and Municipal Guards were called out. The military garrisons stood to arms. The insurgents were driven back behind the barricades in the working class districts. By nightfall, they were completely routed and most of their leaders were captured.
Blanqui himself was caught after 5 months of living in cellars, attics and sewers and was sent to prison for the next eight and a half years. It was the revolution of 1848 that made him free again. The conspirators failed because they had relied upon the readiness of the mass of the people of Paris to support them once the revolt was started. This discredited the men and methods of the secret societies.
The result was that the Government became free from the standing threat of insurrections. This does not mean that the revolutionaries did nothing in their prisons. That was due to the fact that all kinds of people were put in jails and prison life became one of the main breeding grounds for republican propaganda and socialist ideas. However, as the working classes were without leaders working with them for long periods, there was no touch between them and their leaders.
14. Foreign Policy of Louis Philippe:
On the whole, Louis Philippe followed a policy of peace in foreign affairs, although he could not ignore altogether the French desire for La Glorie. He was on very good terms with Queen Victoria, although that was not true of Palmerston.
Efforts were made to follow a policy which was in harmony with that of England. Although he desired to have a hand in the affairs of Belgium when the latter revolted against Holland, he later on agreed to follow in the footsteps of England in allowing the people of Belgium to have their independence and their own king.
He helped the new State of Greece to find a liberal monarch. He was not prepared to allow Russia to increase her influence in the Balkans. There stood for a vigorous foreign policy independent of England. In 1836, he was in favour of sending a French army to Spain to suppress an insurrection against Queen Isabella II but he was dismissed from office by the king. In 1840, there was a possibility of war between England and France.
That was due to the fact that Thiers, who was the Prime Minister at that time, was determined to help Mehmet Ali, the Pasha of Egypt. Palmerston, the Foreign Minister of England, was determined to crush the growing power of Mehmet Ali and help Turkey against him. Great Britain was supported by Russia and Austria. If Louis Philippe had allowed Thiers to have his way, a war with England was a certainty.
At that time, Thiers was dismissed and thus the war was avoided. Guizot was appointed in his place as the Prime Minister and he also believed in a policy of peace. The result was that Mehmet Ali had to surrender Adana and Syria and he was accepted as the “hereditary governor” of Egypt.
In the time of Charles X, the city of Algiers had been occupied by the French troops and its Dey or the ruler was exiled. For many years, Louis Philippe could not make up his mind as to the policy to be followed by him with regard to Algeria.
There were three alternatives before the government, viz., to conquer the whole country, occupy only a part of the country or to evacuate the country altogether. The Liberals were in favour of complete withdrawal. Between 1834 and 1939, the French Government continued its occupation of Algiers and a few coastal towns.
However, the king gradually allowed penetration into the interior of the country. The things changed in 1839 when Abd-el-Kader declared a Jehad or Holy War against the French. The king was forced to send General Bugeaud with an army of one lakh of men to crush Abd-el-Kader and conquer the whole of Algeria.
The struggle was a long one and involved a lot of destruction. However in 1847, Abd-el-Kader was captured and Algeria was pacified. About 40,000 French colonists settled in the country. This was the beginning of the French colonial empire.
Louis Philippe was very keen to further the interests of his family. One of his daughters was married to King Leopold I of Belgium and another to the King of Wurtemberg. In 1846, he married one of his sons to the sisters of Queen Isabella II of Spain.
15. Causes of the Revolution of 1848:
By 1846, however, the middle-class monarchy of Louis Philippe became very unpopular with all sections of the people. The Legitimists regarded Louis Philippe as a usurper because in their eyes, the Count of Chambord, the grandson of Charles X, had a better title to the throne than he himself had.
They also considered his government as revolutionary and bourgeois. The Republicans aimed at the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a republican government in the country. They stood for universal manhood suffrage and were completely dissatisfied with the bourgeois monarchy of Louis Philippe.
The Socialists also condemned the bourgeois government of Louis Philippe. The lot of the working men was unsatisfactory and the government had done practically nothing to improve it. As a matter of fact, it had used force to crush meetings of workers and passed laws to stop the formation of their organizations.
The important French socialists were Saint-Simon, Fourier, Cabet, Louis Blanc and Proudhon. Saint-Simon stood for a co-operative State directed by scientists and engineers. His disciples established a socialist humanitarian cult near Paris and were a source of nuisance to the government during the 1830s. Fourier was in favour of the establishment of co-operative communities called Phalanxes.
He had some following in France during the 1830s and 1840s. Louis Blanc was a popular agitator who demanded that the State must guarantee a living wage to all workers. To quote him, “To the able-bodied citizens the State owes work; to the aged and infirm it owes aid and protection.
This result cannot be obtained except through a democratic power. A democratic power is that which has the sovereignty of the people for its principle, universal suffrage for its origin and for its goal the realization of the formula Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” Proudhon was a radical revolutionary.
He stood for the destruction of private property and authoritarian government and the establishment of a new order on the basis of voluntary co-operation. The followers of Proudhon were small in number but they were determined to destroy rather than to construct anything. The socialist propaganda did a lot to add to the discontentment of the people.
The Catholics of France were not happy with the corrupt politics of Guizot who was a Huguenos. They also did not approve of the liberal policy of the government in matters of religion. They condemned the undemocratic nature of July monarchy and demanded legislation in the interests of the working class. The Patriots condemned the submissive foreign policy of Louis Philippe. They were not prepared to subordinate their foreign policy to that of England.
They stood for national honour and national glory. They condemned the king for dismissing Thiers who stood for the honour of the country. Thiers became the leader of the Patriots against the Guizot administration.
The Patriots were helped by the growth of the Napoleonic Legend during the regime of Louis Philippe. While the shortcomings of Napoleon were forgotten, his achievements were glorified. He was considered to be the personification of national glory. He was regarded as a hero and regenerator of society. Louis Philippe completed the Napoleonic Arch of Triumph which commemorated the achievements of Napoleon Bonaparte. He allowed streets to be named after the battles of Napoleon.
He persuaded the British Government to allow the dead body of Napoleon to be brought from St. Helena to Paris where it was buried with great ceremony. The Napoleonic Legend also gained in popularity on account of the writings of Louis Napoleon who was the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The result of the Napoleonic legend was that the government of Louis Philippe became all the more unpopular with the people who compared his achievements with those of Napoleon Bonaparte and found practically nothing.
The Reformers also condemned the government of Louis Philippe. That was because in spite of their moderate demands for reforms like the broadening of franchise and the eradication of corruption, Guizot and Luois Philippe refused to move in the matter and continued to follow a policy of “do nothing.” They depended upon the use of the police, censorship of the press, and the banning of meetings.
In 1847, the liberal reformers began to arrange banquets in which questions of reforms were discussed and efforts were made to mobilize the public opinion. On some occasions, glasses were raised “to the amelioration of the lot of the working classes.” On one occasion, Lamartine predicted the fall of monarchy. The Reformers fixed “a monster banquet” for 22 February 1848, but the government banned the same and that precipitated matters. On the appointed day, workers and students assembled and shouted for reforms.
The Marseillaise was sung and bonfires were lighted in the streets. On 23 February 1848, the National Guards were ordered to restore order, but instead of doing so they joined the people.The people shouted “Down with Guizot” and the king asked Guizot to resign. The affairs might not have taken a serious turn had not a detachment of soldiers guarding the residence of Guizot fired on the demonstrators and 23 of them were killed and 30 were injured.
The demonstrators put the dead bodies on a wagon and displayed the same to the people of Paris in the glaring torch-lights. The result was a revolution. Barricades were put up in the streets of Paris and placards with the following contents were fixed up in all parts of the city, “Louis Philippe massacres us as did Charles X; let him go to join Charles X.” Louis Philippe tried to handle the situation but failed. Ultimately he abdicated in favour of his grandson, the Count of Paris, and left for England as Mr. Smith.
The manner in which the Revolution of 1848 took place has been described thus : “I had not yet completed my fourth year when one morning my mother took me out of bed, and my dear Father, who had put on his National Guards’ uniform, embraced me tenderly.
He had on his shako, with a golden cock and a red tuft. The call to arms sounded from the street and the gallop of horses echoed from the pavement. Now and then we heard the sound of shouting, and, in the distance, of the crackle of musketry. My father went out. My mother went to the window, lifted the muslin curtains, and burst into tears. It was the revolution.” (Anatole France, Le Petit Pierre).
Louis Philippe fell because he failed to win over all the sections of the country. He merely depended upon the support of the middle class which was very small in number and which had no moral or historical right to control the government which was hated by the aristocracy and the masses.
If Louis Philippe had made reforms in the social and political fields, there is every reason to believe that he would have been able to win over the support of the people, but he did not do so. He could have appealed to the patriotism of the French people by following a vigorous foreign policy, but even that was not done by him. The result was the fall of the July monarchy.
16. Comparison of Revolution of 1830 and 1848:
The Revolution of 1830 was essentially a middle-class revolution. The bourgeoisie were hit hard by the policy of Charles X and it is they who brought about the July Revolution. In 1825, an indemnification bill was passed by means of which the Emigres, whose lands had been confiscated during the French Revolution, were to be given as compensation. Unfortunately, the compensation was given at the cost of the middle-class by lowering the rate of interest on the national debt from 5 per cent to 4 per cent.
The people also resented the Sacrilege law that prescribed barbarous punishments in modem times. The character of Charles X also alienated the middle-class. He was a staunch Catholic and believed in the propagation of his faith.
According to Prof Hayes, “The principles he had and cherished were union of the altar and throne; revival of the institutions of the old regime, political, religious, social and intellectual, detestation of revolutionary doctrines.” To quote Charles X himself, “It is only Lafayette and I who have not changed since 1789.”
Such a person was not fit to rule the people of France who were profoundly influenced by the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity. No wonder, there was a stiff opposition to his measures. The people were not prepared to allow the Jesuits to be in charge of education in the country. They wanted to give secular education to their children. The censorship of the press was resented. Nothing could be published without the approval of the king.
The government of Charles X raised the property qualifications of the voters and consequently the control of the middle-class over the government was lessened. The secret ballot was abolished and the double vote was given to the landed interests in France.
In 1827, the National Guard was disbanded. This was resented by the middle-class because they dominated the National Guard. In short, the acts of omission and commission of Charles X resulted in the opposition of the middle class and ultimately to his overthrow in 1830.
The Revolution of 1830 was essentially a middle-class revolution but that of 1848 was essentially a socialist revolution. The socialists played the most important part in its overthrow. The progress of the Industrial Revolution in France had led to the creation of a class-conscious proletariat. As the government refused to do anything to improve the lot of the workers, the socialist leaders got an opportunity to exploit the situation to their advantage.
The philosophy of St. Simon, Fourier, Proudhon and Louis Blanc created a stir among the workers and there was a demand for social and political reforms. The workers shouted Bread or lead. As the government of Louis Philippe refused to move in the matter in spite of the protests of the people, the discontentment began to grow and ultimately led to the February Revolution.
The immediate causes of the two revolutions differed. In the case of 1830, the immediate cause was the issuing of four ordinances by Charles X, but in the case of 1848, the immediate cause was the banquet of 22 February and the shooting of the demonstrators.
If the uncompromising character of Charles X was responsible for the July Revolution, the unpopularity of Louis Philippe was responsible for his overthrow. There was none to raise his finger in his defence. The dismissal of Thiers and the corrupt regime of Guizot from 1840 to 1848 alienated all sections of the people. According to Prof Heamshaw, “No one had wanted him few respected him; only a small middle-class minority continued to support him.”
In both cases, the people of France wanted the government to follow a vigorous foreign policy and the refusal of the government to do so was partly responsible for the failure. In the case of Charles X, Algiers was conquered in 1830 but the news of its fall did not come in time to save him.
The people of France were sick of the policy of inaction followed by Louis Philippe. In his own words, he was determined to “to crush twelve Chambers rather than make war.” He directed his foreign policy more in the interests of his own family than that of his country. He did not help the people of Northern Italy or of Poland. When Thiers wanted to help Mehmet Ali against the Sultan of Turkey, Louis Philippe dismissed him and came to terms with Palmerston.
Guizot consistently followed a pacific policy. His ideal was “Preservation of peace in all places, at all times.” Lamartine retorted that “a stone post could carry out this policy.” A member of the French Parliament enquired thus in 1847 “What have they done in seven years? Nothing, nothing, nothing.”
While the July Revolution was due to the pro-Catholic policy of Charles X, the February Revolution was due to the anti-clerical policy of Guizot. The Huguenot Prime Minister showed favour to the anti-clerical university. He also gave religious toleration, but that was resented by the Catholics.
While the July Revolution put another bourgeois king on the throne that of 1848 established a republic. In 1830, the grant of universal suffrage was promised, but in 1848 it was actually given. The Revolution of 1830 did not upset the social order and the disturbances caused by the July Revolution were short-lived. Order was restored with the placing of Louis Philippe on the throne.
However, in the case of February Revolution, France had to face the bloody massacre of June 1848. The Revolution of 1830 overthrew the Divine-right monarchy, but that of 1848 uprooted the middle class limited monarchy and set up a republic which lasted for four years.
According to Prof Hayes, “The February Revolution of 1848 was not basically different from the July Revolution of 1830. Both the revolutions were chiefly Parisian affairs, both were essentially political and only incidentally social both were primarily ‘liberal.’ One, it is true, set up a monarchy, with a restricted franchise, while the other established a republic, with universal manhood suffrage. But both recognized the principle of popular sovereignty, both employed the Tricolor and the Marseillaise, and, much more significant, both eventuated in the triumph of property-owners and the adoption of policies which reflected the wishes of property owners.”
17. The Provisional Government:
After the overthrow of Louis Philippe the second Republic was proclaimed on 26 February 1848. To quote Lamartine, “Royalty is abolished. The Republic is proclaimed. The people will exercise their political rights.” Again, “National workshops are opened for those who are without work.” The provisional government consisted of Lamartine, a Liberal Catholic leader, Ledru Rollin, a Jacobin republican, Louis Blanc, the Socialist leader and Albert, a working man.
Lamartine regarded the republic as an end in itself but Louis Blanc considered it as a mean to an end. A decree drafted by Louis Blanc provided. “The provisional government engaged themselves to guarantee the existence of the workmen by means of labour.
They engaged themselves to guarantee labour to every citizen.” A decree of 27 February 1848 provided that “the provisional government decrees the establishment of national workshops. The Minister of Public Works is charged with the execution of the present decree.”
Louis Blanc was appointed the president of a commission whose function was “to examine the claims of labour and to ensure the well-being of the working-class.” He was installed at the Palace of the Luxembourg. Louis Blanc at the Luxembourg became a serious rival to the authority of the provisional government and more than once an attempt was made to supersede the provincial government and to establish a committee of public safety.
The four demands of the Luxembourg Commission were a ten-hour working day, prohibition of sub-contracting, abolition of piece-work and legal minimum wage. A large number of schemes were discussed by the Luxembourg Commission but there is only one achievement which stands to the credit of the commission or its president and that was the impulse given to the idea of co-operative production. It is stated that about one hundred co-operative societies were set up by tailors, saddlers, spinners and other craftsmen.
The provisional government had to face a great danger from the violence of the Paris mob. On three occasions, viz., 17 March, 16 April, and 15 May, attempts were made to overthrow the provisional government which was suffering from internal dissensions. One group was led by Lamartine and the other by Louis Blanc and Albert.
The general elections took place on 23 and 24 April 1848, and the National Assembly met on 4 May 1848. It was elected on the basis of manhood suffrage but the extremists were eliminated altogether. An overwhelming majority of the elected members were Moderates. The provisional government resigned all its authority into the hands of the National Assembly and the latter elected an executive committee on which neither Louis Blanc nor Albert found a place. They were not appointed to the ministry.
The National Assembly had to tackle the problem of national workshops. The provisional government had accepted the principle of national workshops on 25 February 1848, and a decree of 27 February had ordered their immediate establishment. There were no workshops as such and only a few thousand persons were given jobs.
The number of those who demanded work went on increasing and the result was that the government was forced to pay without work. Not only the people of Paris demanded work but all kinds of persons from the countryside came to Paris to demand work. The number became so large that there was a serious danger to public order and the National Assembly did not know what to do.
It was in these circumstances that Emile Thomas was appointed the director of the national workshops. Although Thomas could not give work to all the unemployed, yet he was able to create order out of chaos. He set up a labour exchange. He centralized the distribution of doles and gave some sort of training to the unemployed.
The chances of fraud and disorder were lessened. It is stated that on 16 April 1848, the number of persons enrolled was 66,000 and before the end of May, the figure had risen to 1, 20,000. On 15 May, a mob of about one lakh of persons rushed to the National Assembly and set up a new provisional government. However, Lamartine and Ledru-Rollin were equal to the task. With the help of the army, they were able to defeat and disperse the mob and arrest the rebel leaders. Preparations were made to deal with the menace created by the national workshops. General Cavaignac was appointed the Minister of War and a large number of troops were recruited.
The government made radical changes in the national workshops. It was decreed that all workmen, who could not prove that they had resided in Paris for at least six months, were to be sent away from the capital under a passport.
Task work was to be substituted for day work. Registration offices were to be opened for employers who wanted workmen. All workmen who refused to work under private employers and all unmarried workmen between the ages of 18 and 25, who refused to enlist in the army, were to be immediately dismissed from the workshops.
The government tried to enforce the decrees on 22 June 1848, and that brought forth opposition from the workers. The cry was raised, “Down with the Executive Commission.” On 23 June, there was a serious trouble in the whole of the city. Barricades were set up in the streets. General Cavaignac was put in charge of the troops to deal with the situation. From 24 to 26 June 1848, there was Bitter Street fighting in Paris.
There was much bloodshed and about 4,000 rebels were sent to penal colonies overseas. Socialism as an organized movement was stamped out. Louis Blanc was threatened with prosecution and he escaped to England. Proudhon was imprisoned. However, by destroying socialism, the provisional government destroyed itself.
Although General Cavaignac surrendered the dictatorial powers given to him, the National Assembly elected him as the President of the Council. Till the election of the President of the Republic in December 1848, he was virtually the ruler of France. However, he was loyal to the Republic and tried to save it from the Bonapartists, Legitimists and the Communists. The national workshops were abolished. The mischievous clubs were closed down. Some journals were suppressed. The command of the National Guard was given to Changamier.
After a lot of discussion, the National Assembly was able to frame a republican constitution in October 1848. A provision was made for a single legislative chamber consisting of750 paid members who were to be elected by departments and colonies on the basis of universal suffrage.
The voting was to be direct. It was to be dissolved after three years. Provision was also made for a Council of State to be elected by the Assembly for the drafting of bills. France was to have a President who was to be elected directly by the people on the basis of universal franchise. He was to appoint his own Ministers although the latter were to be responsible to the Legislature.
Both the President and the Ministers were to be answerable to the High Court of Justice. The President was to have a suspensive veto on legislation. He was to be elected for four years and a bar was put on his re-election. M. Grevy opposed the provisions with regard to the President is these words: “Are you sure that an ambitious man raised to the throne of the Presidency will not be tempted to perpetuate his power? And if this man is a scion of one of those families which have reigned over France….will you ensure that this man, this man of ambition, will not end by overthrowing the Republic?” In spite of the opposition of Grevy, the French Constituent Assembly accepted the proposal and thereby gave a death blow to the Republic.
Elections were held under the new constitution and Louis Napoleon was elected the President. He got 5,434,226 votes, Cavaignac got 1,448,107 and Lamartine got only 17,910. With the coming of Louis Napoleon, a new chapter started in the history of France.
18. Rise of Louis Napoleon:
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1808 in Paris. He was the son of Louis Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon I, and the King of Holland and of Hortense Beauhamais, daughter of Josephine from her first marriage and the step-daughter of Napoleon I. No wonder. Napoleon I inscribed his name in the family register of the Bonapartes at the time of baptism. When the Allies occupied Paris in 1814, King Frederick William of Prussia brought his children to play with the children of Hortense and that was the first meeting of Louis Napoleon and the future German Emperor.
After the Battle of Waterloo, Hortense and her children took refuge in Switzerland. At the time of the Revolution of 1830, the young princes were in Rome and they joined the Carbonari. The elder brother of Louis Napoleon died in Italy and in July 1832 “Napoleon 11”, the son of Napoleon I from the Austrian Princess, also died. After that, Louis Napoleon was considered to be the heir to the claims of the Bonapartists.
In 1836, Louis Napoleon asserted his claim for the first time. He appeared at Strasburg, which was garrisoned by the strongest Bonapartist regiment in the French army and asked them to help him to reestablish the Napoleonic Empire. However, he was, arrested in less than three hours but instead of taking action against him, Louis Philippe merely sent him to the United States. In 1840, he landed at Boulogne and declared that the bones of Napoleon I should rest only in a “regenerated France.”
However, he was arrested, sentenced and shut up in the fortress of Ham. Even in prison, Louis Napoleon continued his agitation. By 1839 he had written a book called Napoleonic Ideas in which he propounded his own political views. According to him, “The Napoleonic empire was the perfect realization of the principles of 1789.
It rested upon the foundations of national sovereignty. It employed universal manhood suffrage to determine its chief policy. In the field of foreign affairs, it aimed at a confederation of the national state. It was solidified, directed and rendered glorious by its Caesarism.”
While still in prison he wrote in 1841 Fragments Historiques to refute the parallel drawn by Guizot between the English Revolution of 1688 and July Revolution of 1830 in France. In 1844, he wrote The Extension of Pauperism in which he put forward a plan for the relief of unemployment, and the material prosperity of France. He maintained that it would be his business to assist capitalists opening up new fields of industrial enterprise and to help peasants by encouraging agriculture.
Everybody was to be provided under the national democratic empire and poverty was to disappear altogether. To quote him, “The triumph of Christianity abolished slavery; the triumph of the French Revolution abolished serfdom; the triumph of democracy will abolish Pauperism.” In 1845, he wrote History of Artillery. In May 1846, Louis Napoleon managed to escape from the fortress of Ham and reached England where he stayed for two years.
When there was a revolution in France in February 1848, Louis Napoleon went to Paris and offered his sword and services to the second Republic. However, both of them were rejected and he was ordered to leave France within 24 hours. When the elections to the National Assembly took place in April 1848, he did not stand for election. However, his supporters carried on propaganda in his favour continuously.
When by-elections took place in June 1848, he was elected in his absence from four departments. Louis Napoleon wrote thus to the National Assembly from London. “My name is the symbol of order, nationality and glory and it would be a great grief to me to see that it is used to increase the troubles which are rending our country.” However, he added, “Should the people impose duties on me, I should know how to fulfill them.”
The National Assembly was upset but Louis Napoleon resigned his seat and the matter ended there. During the bloody days of June 1848, Napoleon was away from the scene and consequently his name was not associated with the massacres. In September, he was re-elected from five constituencies and he took his seat in the National Assembly on 26 September 1848. When the elections for the Presidency took place in December 1848, he was elected by an overwhelming majority.
19. Napoleon as President (1848-52):
As the President of the Second Republic of France from 1848 to 1852, Louis Napoleon followed a policy which aimed at adding to his personal popularity with the people of France. He praised the workers in the factories. He prevailed upon the Assembly to pass in 1850 a law which provided for a scheme of voluntary old age insurance.
He tried to please the Catholics and the bourgeoisie. He also tried to encourage the industries of France. A French military expedition was sent to Rome in 1849 to restore the Pope. The Falloux Law of 1850 restored the privileges which the Catholic clergymen exercised in the time of Charles X over the education of French children.
The Assembly which was elected in 1849 had only a handful of Bonapartists. Out of 750 members, 500 were Monarchists. The Republicans were in a minority. There was no party as such in the Assembly and that proved to be advantageous to Louis Napoleon. By following a reactionary policy, the Assembly played into his hands.
Public meetings were prohibited and censorship was imposed on the press. Members of the Assembly were to be paid. A law was passed in 1850 by which no one was allowed to vote who had not lived and paid taxes for three years in one and the same district. The result of this law was that the workers, who had to move from one place to another in search of employment, were disfranchised completely. Out of the total of 9 million voters, 3 million were removed by the law.
Against this there were protests from the cities particularly from Paris. Louis Napoleon took advantage of this position and declared that as the elected representative of the people, he was entitled to prevent the Assembly from disfranchising Frenchmen.
The conflict between the President and the Assembly continued for more than a year. When the Assembly declared open war upon him, he dismissed General Changamier, who was the Commander of the National Guard and the Paris Garrison in January 1851.
The dismissal of Changamier precipitated a crisis. The prestige of the Republic was sinking in the country and that of Napoleon was increasing. There were many persons in France who started thinking in terms of setting up a monarchy or a dictatorship.
To quote one, “If there could be anything absolutely new under the sun, it would be the spectacle which France offers to the world today. It is filled with Monarchists who cannot establish a monarchy and who groan under the weight of a Republic which has no Republicans to defend it. In the midst of this confusion only two personages remain standing, Louis Napoleon and the Mountain, two things only are possible, a new revolution or a dictatorship. It is evident to me that force must bring about a solution.”
The Assembly passed a vote of no-confidence against the Ministry and forced it to resign. However, the President refused to appoint another. Instead, he reappointed the Ministry which had been censured by the Assembly. The Assembly refused to increase the allowances of the President.
A revision of the Constitution was proposed and carried by a large majority but the majority was not such as was required by law to amend the Constitution. However, as time passed, the demand for the amendment of the Constitution began to increase.
In November 1851, Louis Napoleon gave to the Assembly an ultimatum that it must re-establish universal suffrage at once and when the Assembly refused to do so, the President decided to act. His secret was shared by Saint Amaud, Maupas, Momy, Persigny, Flahaut and Mocquard. On the midnight of December 1-2, 1851, the opponents of the government were arrested in their beds and when the people of Paris woke up in the morning, they found the walls of the city covered with placards which contained two proclamations addressed to the people and the army and the decree.
The decree declared that the Assembly was dissolved, universal suffrage was restored and a promise was made that the people should be given an opportunity to express by plebiscite their approval or disapproval. Troops were posted at all the important points and all opposition was put down. The coup d’ etat of 1851 was a success. There was no serious disorder in the country and the people seemed to have submitted. With popular leaders like Thiers, Cavaignac and Changamier out of the picture, the plebiscite, took place on 20 December 1851, and the President was empowered to prepare a new Constitution for the Second Republic.
New Constitution (1852):
On 14 January 1852, the President promulgated a new Constitution. The life of the President was extended to ten years. He was given the power of sanctioning all laws and decrees. The Ministers were to be responsible to him alone.
A Council of State was to be nominated by him and it was to draft laws on the initiative of the President. The Legislature was to consist of two Houses. The Senate was to consist of the Marshals, Admirals and Cardinals ex-officio, and 150 other members nominated by the President.
The Corps Legislative was to consist of 261 members. The Corps Legislative was given the power of veto but it was not to have the power to initiate or amend legislative projects. The new Constitution was commended to the people as “the only Constitution adapted to the social and administrative institutions of modem France and calculated to secure the liberties of France and the maintenance of Napoleonic principles.” Universal manhood suffrage was also provided.
During the year 1852, France was on the way to the empire. Although nominally Louis Napoleon was the President, he put his own effigy on the national coins. He restored to the army and national buildings the gilt eagles.
He made a tour of the country and made speeches with a view to winning over all sections of the people. In November 1852, a plebiscite was held by which the people approved the transformation of the Presidency into a hereditary empire. On 2 December 1852, Louis Napoleon was proclaimed emperor as Napoleon III. He ruled France as emperor from 1852 to 1870.
20. Napoleon III as Emperor (1852-70):
The two aspects of the reign of Napoleon III are his home policy and foreign policy. He had already outlined his programme in his Bordeaux address of October 1852. He said, “There is a fear to which I ought to reply. In a spirit of suspicion some people say the Empire is war. I say, the Empire is peace….yet I confess that I, like the Emperor, have many conquests to make. I wish, like him, to conquer, the irreconcilable warring factions and to turn back again into the great popular river the angry side-currents which are likely to lose themselves without profit to anybody.
I wish to conquer to religion, to morality, to prosperity, that part of the population still so large, which in the midst of a country of faith and belief, are scarcely acquainted with the precepts of Christ, which, in the bosom of the most fertile country in the world, can scarcely procure for themselves the bare necessaries of life. We have immense tracts of waste lands to bring into cultivation, roads to open, harbours to deepen, canals to complete, rivers to render navigable, a network of railways to link up.
Facing us, opposite Marseilles, we have a vast reality to assimilate to France. We have all our great ports of the West to bring near to France by developing the rapid means of communication which are still lacking. On all sides we have ruins to restore, false gods to overthrow, truths to make triumphant. This is how I should understand the Empire, if the Empire is, indeed, to be restored. Such are the Conquests I contemplate, and all you who surround me, who desire, like myself the welfare of our country, you are my soldiers.”
21. Home Policy of Napoleon III:
Napoleon III tried to fulfill the promises made to the people. The forces of anarchy were suppressed. Social order was restored. Industry was encouraged. Means of communication were improved. Roads, canals and harbours, were constructed. The railway system of France was completed from north to south and from west to east. Credit was provided for agriculture, industry and commerce.
Two great central banks known as the Credit Foncier, and the Credit Mobilier were established. Land banks were set up in Paris and in the provinces. The improvement of the means of transport added to the prosperity of the peasants.
The government took keen interest in the vineyards and wheat fields of the peasants. The number of agricultural societies was increased. Encouragement was given to the breeding of horses. Marshes were drained and land was brought under cultivation.
Paris was rebuilt and made more spacious, more sanitary, more splendid, and more defensible. Broad boulevards and magnificent public buildings were constructed in Paris. Under the supervision of Baron Haussmann, an attempt was made to make Paris the most beautiful and most attractive city in the world.
Napoleon III tried to impress upon the workers that he was one of them. He went about in engine cabs with locomotive engineers. He talked on the roads with artisans and labourers. He drank to the health of the masons, carpenters and plumbers. Subsidies were given to their organisations. Subsidies were given to the in-keepers to guarantee cheap bread to the labourers. Holidays were given to them.
Schemes were promoted for the provision of dwellings to the workers, and their insurance against accidents and old age. Labour associations were legalized. A law of 1863 allowed the labourers to form co-operative societies for collective buying and selling. The right of the workers to strike was recognized by a law of 1864. A law provided for voluntary insurance of the workers against death and industrial accidents.
The government followed a liberal policy in the industrial field. The control of the government over private business was gradually lessened. Facilities were provided for the introduction of machinery and the organisation of industrial corporations. Savings banks were established. Tariffs were gradually lowered.
In 1860, France entered into a commercial treaty with England by which trade between the two countries was facilitated. In 1855, a Grand International Exhibition was held in Paris and its object was to impress the people with the material progress and prosperity of the country.
Napoleon III consistently followed a policy of keeping the Catholics in good humour. In 1849, he sent the French troops to Rome to restore the Pope. He strengthened the hold of the clergymen upon the universities and public schools in France. One of the reasons why Napoleon stopped in the middle of his Italian campaign in 1859 was the fear of the opposition of the Catholics of France.
The Empress Eugenie gave a lot of charity to the Catholic Church. Napoleon III intervened in the Crimean War to support the cause of the Catholic monks in Palestine. He posed as the champion of Catholicism in the world.
At least up to 1860 Napoleon III was practically a dictator of France. He exercised all control in the country. The press was rigorously controlled. The secret police were employed to watch and check the activities of the people. He controlled the legislature by paying the expenses of the ‘official candidates’ from the national exchequer while the other candidates had to meet their own expenses.
The electoral machinery was practically in the hands of the emperor. An Act of 1858 provided that every candidate was to take an oath of fidelity to the emperor. Another law of the same year allowed the government to intern political offenders in France or Algeria or to exile them without any formality of a trial.
This state of affairs continued up to 1860 when the Constitution was revised and the government was liberalized. The Senate and the Legislative Body were allowed to debate and vote an annual address in reply to the speech from the throne. Verbatim reports of parliamentary debates were to be published. The executive was required to keep the legislature informed of its activities.
In spite of these concessions, the Republicans swept Paris in the general elections of 1863. Jules Simon, Thiers, Ferry and Gambetta were returned. Although the government got a majority on account of the influence of the prefects, the opposition was strong enough to give headache to Napoleon III.
In 1866, Olivier founded a party to support the idea of a liberal empire. In 1867, the emperor announced “the crowning of the edifice created by the will of the nation.” The press censorship was relaxed. A limited right of public meetings was allowed. The Ministers were to sit in the Legislature to answer questions and take part in the debates.
After the general elections of 1869, Olivier was asked to form the Ministry. The new Ministry was liberal in complexion and responsible to Parliament. The Legislature was given complete freedom of debate, to control public finance and legislate without any restriction. To quote Olivier, it was “the most truly liberal Constitution which France has enjoyed since 1789.”
In his speech from the throne on 29 November 1869, Napoleon III referred to the attacks on the empire and pointed out to the solidarity of the French empire which was based on universal suffrage. He declared that France “evidently desires liberty but liberty united with order.” “I will answer for order; assist me, gentlemen, to save liberty.” The emperor outlined a further programme of reforms. Authority was to be decentralized. Mayors were to be selected from the councils of the communes.
The councils were to be elected by the people. Cantons were also to have their councils too. Free primary education was to be improved. Child labour in factories was to be regulated. Savings banks were to be set up on the countryside for the good of the people. These reforms were submitted to the people and were approved of by them by a great majority. However, Napoleon III was defeated in the Battle of Sedan in 1870 and surrendered. That led to the abolition of the second empire and the proclamation of the Third Republic in France in September 1870.
22. Foreign Policy of Napoleon III:
Both as the President of the French Republic and Emperor of France, Louis Napoleon professed to stand for peace, but actually he followed a vigorous foreign policy which involved France in many wars. His aggressive foreign policy was due to many causes. Louis Napoleon was a nationalist and he sympathised with the people of Italy, Germany and Poland who were fighting for their freedom and unification.
It was his nationalism which attracted the French masses to him. It was the name of Napoleon that was responsible for his election as President in 1848 and also his popularity later on.He could justify that name only by following in the footsteps of his uncle which meant war Napoleon also felt that he could carry with him all the people of France by following a vigorous foreign policy as the people of France yearned for glory.
He was also the centre of intrigues and the object of constant appeals for active help to the oppressed nationalities of Europe. The Patriots of Europe looked up to him for assistance. Napoleon himself hoped to get compensation in the form of territories and thereby add to the national pride and prestige.
In the colonial field, Napoleon annexed the whole of Algeria to France and it became a great prosperous dependency. He joined hands with England in a military demonstration against China and many Chinese ports were opened for trade to the Europeans. In 1851, he sent punitive expeditions to Annam and Cochin-China. In 1863, he established a French protectorate over Cambodia.
23. Napoleon III and Rome:
In 1849, Louis Napoleon sent French troops to Rome to overthrow the republican regime and thereby restore the Pope. The republic was defeated and the Pope was restored. The French troops remained in Rome from 1849 to 1870. He intervened in Rome with the object of winning over the goodwill of the Catholics of France who wanted the Pope to be restored to his former position.
24. Napoleon III and Crimean War:
Napoleon III intervened in the Crimean War in 1854. The relations between Napoleon and Czar Nicholas I was very bitter. The Czar considered Napoleon III as an upstart and Napoleon III Would like to have revenge for the French humiliation of 1812. Businessmen, Liberals and Catholics of France hated Russia on various grounds.
There arose certain quarrels between the Catholic and Orthodox monks in Palestine. Czar Nicholas I asked Turkey to recognise the right of Russia to protect the Christians of the Turkish Empire. Napoleon III asked the Sultan to resist the Russian “aggression”. The Sultan of Turkey did as he was asked to do and war was declared between Turkey and Russia. Both France and England joined hands to preserve the territorial integrity of the Turkish Empire, Both the French and the English did not do well in the beginning and their troops suffered terribly.
However, things changed for the better after the death of Nicholas I and on Palmerston’s becoming Prime Minister of England in 1855. Russia was defeated and peace was made by the Treaty of Paris of 1856. Napoleon satisfied his vanity by presiding over the Congress of Paris. That also raised his prestige.
25. Napoleon III and Italy:
Napoleon interfered in the affairs of Italy to help the cause of the unification of the country. He himself had been in his youth a member of the Carbonari which was a secret society working for the expulsion of Austria from Italy and unification of the country. The Bonapartes had Italian blood in their veins. A war with Austria for Italian unification was likely to be popular with the Liberals of France.
There was also the possibility of Napoleon getting some compensation. In spite of these factors, Napoleon hesitated to intervene in Italy. He felt that a war with Austria was a risky affair on account of the strength of Austria and her prestige in Italy.
A united Italy might become a serious rival of France in the Mediterranean. The Catholics of France were bound to oppose French intervention to help Italian unification on account of the peculiar position of the Pope in Italy. No wonder Napoleon was on the horns of a dilemma.
However, his indecision was ended when an attempt was made on his life in 1858 by Orsini, an Italian patriot. Napoleon decided to remove the grievances of the potential Italian assassins and cater to the liberal patriots of France. He decided to risk the reproaches of the Pope and the French Catholics.
It was agreed between Napoleon III and Cavour at Plombieres in 1858 that Napoleon III was to help Piedmont to drive out the Austrians from Lombardy and Venetia. He was to get Nice and Savoy as his reward. In April 1859, the Austrian Government gave an ultimatum to Sardinia demanding immediate demobilization.
As that was refused, Austria declared war against Sardinia-Piedmont. As Austria was the aggressor. Napoleon III came to the help of Sardinia-Piedmont and their combined armies won the battles of Magenta and Solferino. After the battle of Solferino, Napoleon III stopped the war all of a sudden and made an armistice with Austria which was ratified by the Treaty of Zurich.
When the Austrian troops evacuated Lombardy according to the Treaty of Zurich, the people of Parma, Modena and Tuscany revolted and turned out their kings. They also voted their union with the Sardinia-Piedmont. By the Treaty of Turin, Napoleon III recognized the annexation of Tuscany, Parma, Modena and Lombardy by Piedmont and he himself got Nice and Savoy.
According to Taylor, “The annexation of Savoy was a turning point in the history of the second empire. Until then it had been plausible to argue that Napoleon was seeking glory by liberating others, not by the direct aggrandizement of France; now he had taken up the revolutionary policy of the natural frontiers, which seemed to lead directly to a French hegemony of Europe. The British Government could not oppose by war a course of events that was helping in the unification of Italy; but they never recovered the faith in Napoleon III which they lost in March 1860.”
Although Napoleon III got Nice and Savoy, he was not a gainer on the whole. Russia was already an enemy and he added Austria to that list. The nationalists of Italy did not forgive him on account of the betrayal of their cause at the most crucial stage. Great Britain began to suspect the designs of Napoleon III. Napoleon III found himself isolated and earned for himself a reputation for dishonesty.
The Italian intervention split up the Nationalist Party of France. The French Catholics blamed Napoleon for going too far and the French Liberals condemned him for not going far enough. The differences between the two began to widen and Napoleon III failed to keep them together. He had to liberalize his government in 1860 to win over the Liberals.
Many reasons have been given for the sudden stoppage of war by Napoleon III after his victory at Solferino. It is pointed out that Napoleon III was a coward at heart and he could not tolerate the sight of bloodshed which he saw at Solferino.
He was also suffering from kidney trouble and his health could not stand further strain. He also felt that if the whole of Italy became one, there would be no place for the Pope in Italy and he had not bargained for such an eventuality.
If he had allowed the Pope to be driven out by the Italian nationalists, he would have found himself in a difficult position on account of the Catholic criticism in France. The Austrian armies were firmly established in Venetia and there was every possibility of the French troops being defeated there. There was also the possibility of a danger from Prussia which was mobilizing her forces along the Rhine River.
26. Napoleon III and Rumania:
Napoleon III gained some prestige by championing the cause of Rumania. In 1856, Moldavia and Wallachia were given autonomy in their affairs. Two years after, Napoleon secured for them the right to have their own princes and Parliaments. Three years later, he prevailed upon the Powers to allow the two provinces to the united under one Prince. In this way, he helped the cause of Rumanian unification.
27. Napoleon III and the Poles:
Napoleon III had the united support of the French people to help the Poles in their efforts to liberate themselves from the subjection of Russia. The Liberals of France stood for Polish independence. The French Catholics wanted Napoleon to help the Poles because the Poles were Catholics.
However, when the Poles actually revolted in 1863, Napoleon III did not help them because he was afraid that Prussia and Austria would help Russia and in that case a war with Russia was bound to be suicidal for France. The result was that the Poles were ruthlessly crushed and consequently both the liberals and Catholics of France were disappointed.
28. Napoleon III and Mexico:
Mexico became independent in 1823 but she was unfortunate in not having any stable government. In 1861, Juarez became the President of Mexico. Mexico owed money to the creditors of many nationalities, particularly of France, Spain and England. In 1861, Juarez suspended the payment of interest to the creditors for two years. The creditors appealed to their Governments for help. The United States was involved in the civil war and she could not be expected to invoke the Monre Doctrine against the outsiders.
Napoleon III decided to exploit the situation in Mexico. He thought of establishing in Mexico a state under the control of some European Power which would act as a bulwark against the Anglo-Saxons, ‘this aggressive people which, if it be not stopped, will cover all America and then the whole world. Even if this state were not in French hands, it might be used to win valuable alliances for France.
A new chapter in the history of the world might open.’ The result was that a joint French, Spanish and British expedition sailed for Veracruz, hoping to exercise pressure which would produce the payment of the required interest on the Mexican debt. Later on, it was found that it would be necessary to conquer the country.
On one ground or the other, Great Britain and Spain withdrew and France was left all alone. The work of conquest proved to be a difficult one. The people of Mexico offered successful resistance to the invaders and it was with great difficulty that the city of Mexico was captured in the summer of 1863.
In 1864, Napoleon III made Maximilian, the brother of the Austrian Emperor, Francis Joseph, the ruler of Mexico. Maximilian was a traveler and a scientist of distinction and was believed to hold liberal views on politics. Napoleon hoped to get from this move the friendship and perhaps the alliance of Austria. Maximilian accepted the offer after some delay and against the advice of Francis Joseph and of Great Britain.
He was supported by the French General Forey and an army of 23,000 men. He was received with an appearance of enthusiasm in the city of Mexico. Unfortunately, his supporters were divided and his opponents were determined. The United States Isept quiet so long as the civil war was going on but as soon as the war was over, she applied the Monre Doctorine and asked France to quit Mexico.
Napoleon III was now weary of the project. It was bringing constant disappointment and expense. Under these circumstances, Napoleon decided to withdraw the French forces in February 1867. Napoleon hoped that Maximilian would also retire but he refused. He decided to fight against his enemies. The result was that in June 1867 he was forced to surrender to native forces at Queretaro and was shot in the courtyard of that town.
It is obvious that the Mexican enterprise proved to be an utter failure. It acted like a boomerang against Napoleon III. The death of Maximilian alienated Austria. On account of the absence of the French troops in Mexico, Napoleon III was not able to intervene effectively in the Austro-Prussian war of 1866.
According to Hazen, “A most expensive enterprise for the French emperor, it had prevented his playing a part in decisive events occurring in Central Europe in 1864-66, in the Danish war, and the Austro-Prussian war, the outcome of which was to alter so seriously the importance of France in Europe by the exaltation of an ambitious, aggressive, and powerful military State, Prussia. It had damaged him morally before Europe by the desertion of his Protegest to an appealing fate before the threats of the United States. It had lessened his prestige at home.”
29. Napoleon III and Austro-Prussian War (1866):
There was a war between Austria and Prussia in 1866 which lasted for only seven weeks. The Austrian forces were defeated in the Battle of Sadowa and Austria made peace with Prussia. The rapidity and completeness of the Prussian victory upset all the calculations of Napoleon III.
His expectation was that a war between Austria and Prussia would be a long one and he would be in a position to intervene effectively in the war. Napoleon III also thought that Prussia would be defeated and Germany would become hopelessly weak.
However, the Austrian defeat at Sadowa completely upset everything. It was the traditional policy of France to keep Germany divided and weak, but the victory of Prussia and the unification of Germany created a great danger for France. The military success of Prussia was considered to be a challenge to France and even a threat to her security. It was rightly pointed out that it was France that was defeated at Sadowa. Napoleon III would like to have revenge for his diplomatic defeat. War between France and Prussia became inevitable.
30. Napoleon III and Franco-Prussian War (1870-71):
In 1865, Napoleon III had an interview with Bismarck at Biarritz. On that occasion, Bismarck gave an undertaking to Napoleon III that the latter could have compensation towards the Rhine-perhaps Belgium or Rhineland. After the war of 1866, Napoleon III tried to get compensation for France. He asked for Belgium but in vain. He also failed to get the Rhinish Palatinate. Then he tried to buy Luxemburg.
The King of Holland was willing to sell, but Bismarck objected. As Napoleon III was not prepared for war, the matter had to be referred to a conference of the powers who had signed the treaties of 1815. The settlement was made in London in 1867 and Luxemburg was made an independent State, neutralised and guaranteed by all the Great Powers. Anyhow, Napoleon failed to get Luxemburg also.
The people of France were getting fed up with the policies of Napoleon III. After 1867, many Frenchmen began to think in terms of restoring the Bourbons or the Orleanists. Many middle-class liberals including businessmen and professional men began to think of setting up a republic in France. The growth of the royalist and republican tendencies in France must have weakened the position of Napoleon III.
The parliamentary elections of 1869 returned 50 royalists and 40 republicans. Napoleon III felt that concession must be given to maintain his position. Consequently, he reduced the rigour of press censorship. He promised to give up the practice of paying the election expenses of official candidates for the legislature. The ministers were to be responsible to the legislature and not to the emperor.
He appointed Olivier, a liberal royalist, as his prime minister. A new liberal constitution was drafted for the second empire in 1870. It contained all the concessions given by Napoleon 111 in 1869. In addition to that, provision was made for a second chamber which was not to be under the influence of the emperor. These reforms might have conciliated partially the liberal royalists, but they did not satisfy the legitimists or the republicans.
In France, there was a lot of anti-Prussian feeling. The liberals of France detested Prussia as a reactionary State. The Catholics of France disliked Prussia as an intolerant Protestant State. The patriots of France hated Prussia because that was a source of danger to their country. The French would like to have revenge for the diplomatic defeat of 1866. Undoubtedly, a war against Prussia would have been popular.
However, Napoleon III had no stomach for a war with Prussia. He was already broken in health. Russia had not forgotten the part which France had played in the Crimean War against her and no wonder she was pro-Prussian and anti-French. The Emperor of Austria also had not forgotten the humiliation in Italy at the hands of Napoleon III.
The people of Italy had no love for France as Napoleon III had betrayed them at the most crucial stage in their war of liberation. The stationing of French troops in Rome annoyed the Indian patriots as without Rome unification of their country could not be completed. The British statesmen and public opinion suspected the designs of Napoleon III.
The southern States of Germany had been won over by Bismarck by a policy of conciliation. No wonder. Napoleon III felt that under the circumstances, a war with Prussia was suicidal. In spite of it, Napoleon III decided to fight against Prussia because there was no other alternative. In the event of a war, there was every possibility of combining all the Frenchmen and also gain some prestige.
Bismarck also believed that a war with France was inevitable because unification of Germany could be completed only after the defeat of France. No wonder, he worked for such a war day and night. A stage came when he was ready to give a blow to France. All that wanted was an excuse to start the war and that was given by the question of the Spanish Succession.
The Spanish throne had already been offered twice to Leopold, a Hohenzollern prince related to the royal family of Prussia, but had been rejected. On the intervention of Bismarck, the throne was once again offered to Prince Leopold and Bismarck tried to make the best of the new invitation.
There was a lot of criticism in France of the new move which was described as a threat to the very existence of France which was between Spain and Prussia. Napoleon III sent protests to Prussia and Spain and it was announced in Spain that the prince had cancelled his acceptance of the throne.
The matter might have ended there, but the French emperor was pressed by his advisers to utilize the occasion to administer an open diplomatic rebuff to Prussia. The French ambassador in Berlin Benedetti was instructed to obtain from the king of Prussia a solemn public promise that he would never allow a Hohenzollern to become a candidate for the throne of Spain. The interview of Benedetti with the Prussian king at Ems was indecisive.
It is stated that Benedetti got instructions from France “to obtain from the king revocation of the acceptance of the prince of Hohenzollern….otherwise it is war.” William I, the Prussian king, was friendly, reasonable and favourable to a peaceful solution.
Benedetti got urgent messages to demand a definite and speedy answer. William I wired to Spain and France that the acceptance had been withdrawn but Gramont and the French military party, who stood for war, were not satisfied. A draft letter of apology to be got from the Prussian king was also forwarded to the French ambassador. Benedetti pressed for pledges that the throne would never be offered again but the king of Prassia put an end to the interview.
Bismarck was not happy at the prospects of peace on account of the withdrawal of the acceptance of the Spanish throne. However, he got an opportunity when he got the Ems’ telegram regarding the interview between Benedetti and the Prussian king. He decided to publish the telegram in a shortened form to the press.
To quote Bismarck, “If I do this, it will have the effect of red rag upon the Gallic bull.” Bismarck, Roon and Moltke were happy at the prospect of war. To quote, Roon, “Our God of old lives still, and will not let us perish in disgrace.” To quote Moltke, “If I may live to lead our army in such a war, then the devil may come directly afterward and fetch away the old carcass.”
The telegram was shortened in such a way that to the French it appeared that their ambassador had been insulted and to the Prussians appeared that their king had been insulted. As regards France, there was a general demand for a war against Prussia. Three Cabinet meetings were held to decide the issue of war or peace. Gramont insisted that, “If you mention a Congress again, I shall throw my resignation at your feet.” The result was that France declared war against Prussia. To quote Gramont, “Guarantees we cannot bring you, but we bring you war.”
The war was welcomed in both the countries. France was considered to be the aggressor. The southern States of Germany joined Prussia against France. Everywhere in Germany, the songs of the war of liberation were revived and united Germany marched to the front to the strains of Die Wacht Am Rhein. While the Germans shouted “Nach Paris!” the Parisians cried out “A Berlin!” The Marseillaise was sung again.
Marshal Le Boeuf proclaimed “that the soldiers of Jena are ready to the last gaiter button.” However, the French troops had not even the most necessary articles. They had no artillery or baggage, ambulance or magazines. Their training was deficient. Their officers were inefficient and insufficient. Railway accommodation was inadequate and intelligence service was poor.
The French had more maps of Germany which they were going to invade than those of France which they were forced to defend. France did not get help from any quarter. Bismarck had already won over Russia by allowing that country to violate the Black Sea clauses of the Treaty of Paris of 1856.
Italy was friendly towards Prussia because the latter had helped her to get Venetia in 1866 and Italy also expected to occupy Rome only if France was defeated in the war. Great Britain under Gladstone followed a policy of neutrality.
The Germans started the offensive and defeated the French in the Battles of Weissenburg, Spicheren, Worth, Gravelotte and Sedan. The victory of Sedan was a decisive one and after that the French army surrendered and Napoleon III was made a prisoner. This led to the fall of the second empire in France and the proclamation of the Third Republic in September 1870. Bismarck was not satisfied with this and he pressed on to Paris which put up a stiff resistance but after a long siege the city surrendered. The war was ended by the Treaty of Frankfurt of 1871.
It is clear from above that the foreign policy of Napoleon III, after a striking beginning, proved to be an utter failure. Success was essential to keep hold over France after 1860 and success evaded him. He could not out-manoeuvre the enemy, nor hold firm the ally. Neither the Danish nor the Polish nor the Austrian Question brought him credit. The attempt to find a Latin Catholic Empire in Mexico, in which he wasted good years of the sixties while Prussia was going strong, ended in disastrous failure.
The strong Anglo-French Alliance of the Crimean War dwindled away by 1864. The rapprochement with Russia which Napoleon III cultivated after the Congress of Paris was destroyed by his sympathies with the Polish revolt of 1863. When Bismarck performed a service, he secured a friend. Napoleon III gave great gifts to Italy, but forfeited her gratitude. The annexation of Savoy wiped out Magenta.
The support of the Papacy lost to him the alliance of Piedmont-Sardinia. In 1866, he alienated Prussia without winning Austria to his side. However, his policy was not as self-seeking as of many other statesmen of Europe of his time. He stood for international peace.
He sympathised with national aspirations although those were accompanied by an innkeeper’s bill. He puzzled rather than guided Europe and consequently was neither understood nor trusted. His policy was inconsistent and unreliable. To quote him, “I never form distant plans; I am governed by the exigencies of the moment.” It has rightly been paid that “Napoleon le Petit” had not the genius of “Napoleon le Grand.”
About Napoleon III, David Thompson says that he was always a dreamer and intriguer rather than a practical statesman. He combined a nostalgic faith in the destinies of his family with a genuine concern for the welfare of the poor and of the French people as a whole. Napoleon III has been called “Saint Simon on horseback” and there is no reason to doubt either the sincerity of his desire to improve material conditions or the reality of the benefits his rule conferred.
Politically, his policy vacillated as he sought to appease now the Catholics, now the Liberals, now the Socialists and always the demands of the populace as a whole. His efforts to govern with the masses led to a series of disasters in foreign policy because he believed that the masses wanted glory and were intensely nationalistic.
However, his failures should not obscure the more positive material gains that France derived from his rule. Victor Hugo dubbed him as “Half-pint Napoleon”. Judged in terms of military glory or original achievement, the second Empire in France under Napoleon III was merely a pale shadow of the First, but it has considerable importance for the material development of France and the shaping of modem Europe.
About Napoleon III A. J.P. Taylor says that he was neither a revolutionary nor a war-monger. He wanted to accomplish a revolutionary foreign policy without calling on the spirit of revolution and to remodel Europe without a war.
His favourite dream was a “general congress of the great Powers of Europe” which should settle every question in dispute by peaceful agreement. He was a mixture of the idealist and the conspirator. He was consistent only in one thing and that was he could never resist the temptation to speculate.
He plunged in politics in the same way as contemporary capitalists plunged in railway ventures. It is true that he hated war and feared its risks but in the last resort he always came down on the side of action. His feeling was that while doing so he was interpreting the French sentiment, but that was merely the urge within himself. Napoleon III is stated to have told Hubner, the Austrian minister, “there is an urge for expansion in France which must be reckoned with.”
According to Seaman, One of the most interesting exercises in what might be termed comparative biography is to study the similarities and dissimilarities between Louis Napoleon and Adolf Hitler. In many respects their careers run on parallel lines and a study of it either helps to illuminate one’s understanding of the other. They rose to power in a remarkably similar defiance of the laws of probability.
The performance, the same function of first restoring and then destroying the power of the countries of their adoption, and each destroyed the international foundation on which the Europe of their time was built. In lesser things as in important ones, they are strangely alike. Both were strangers to the people they chose to lead. Hitler spoke German with an Austrian accent. Louis Napoleon spoke French with a German accent.
Each had his abortive putsch and consequent imprisonment. Strasbourg and Boulongne were to Louis Napoleon what the Munich rising of 1923 was to Hitler. And if Landsberg meant much less to Hitler than Ham did to Louis Napoleon.
The Extinction of Pauperism combined with the Memoirs of the first Napoleon bore much the same relation to the origin of the second empire as Mein Kempf did to the rise of the Third Reich. They were both essentially speedy characters and proclaimed it by their looks.
Hitler’s un-kept hair and his belted raincoat produced an inescapable effect of back-street vulgarity, and nothing can prevent Louis Napoleon from looking, in some of the less flattering photographs of him, like a shady Italian waiter recently dismissed from service in a fourth rate hotel. And if the eyes of Louis Napoleon were rarely visible and those of Hitler inescapable, Louis Napoleon’s eyes seem while remaining half-shut, to have hypnotized the men of his generation almost as effectively as did those of Hitler which were almost always wide open.
Both had a gang. Both manoeuvred into power with the connivance of politicians who underestimated their abilities. Both sought to divert the gaze of the masses from politics by a concentration on material prosperity and by a calculated encouragement of public pageantry.
The early propaganda of both reveals an adroit use of the device of stealing the slogans of the rival political forces of their day and pretending that they had found the secret of reconciling what the politicians had made irreconcilable.
Thus, Hitler stole the nationalist label from his dupes and the socialist lebel from his enemies and persuaded both sides he was their ally. Louis Napoleon likewise offered France both ‘democracy’ and ‘order’, both social welfare and social discipline. He came promising universal suffrage to the masses, imperial glory to the army.
Catholic liberties to the clericals, and an open field for profitable investment to the businessmen; just as Hitler simultaneously claimed to be liberating Germany from the monopolistic multiple stores while making it safe for the Ruhr industrialists. Finally one might observe that it was for not dissimilar reasons that the one built boulevards and railways and the other built autobahnen.
“Yet there is an essential difference between Louis Napoleon and most other dictators and usurpers. Hitler included, which it clearly understood, provides the key to his character. Most men of this sort combine great ruthlessness with a daemonic possession. This was not true of Louis Napoleon.
He had none of that fire in the belly that makes a man of action such as Napoleon I or Hider, or even a Mussolini. He had neither drive nor organising ability, nor the gift of steady application to routine administration such as characterized his uncle, or Frederick the Great, or Louis XIV; and has lack of the ability to come to a clear-cut decision about anything is the most pronounced feature of his character. Whenever decision was at last grudgingly and uncertainly wrung from him he could only with difficulty be persuaded from going back on it.
The coup d’etat, the entry into the Crimean War and into the Italian war, the decision to take no action in 1866, and to take action in 1870-he regretted them all as soon as they were made, and endeavored to go back on all of them, except for the decision of 1870, which proved fatal.”