France after 1815



Louis XVIII and the Bourbon Restoration

The Bourbon Restoration, which restored the pre-Napoleonic monarchy to the throne, was marked by conflicts between reactionary Ultra-royalists, who wanted to restore the pre-1789 system of absolute monarchy, and liberals, who wanted to strengthen constitutional monarchy.

Learning Objectives

Define the Bourbon Restoration and its goals

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Bourbon Restoration was the period of French history following the fall of Napoleon in 1814 until the July Revolution of 1830.
  • After Napoleon abdicated as emperor in March 1814, Louis XVIII, the brother of Louis XVI, was installed as king and France was granted a quite generous peace settlement, restored to its 1792 boundaries and not required to pay war indemnity.
  • On becoming king, Louis issued a constitution known as the Charter which preserved many of the liberties won during the French Revolution and provided for a parliament composed of an elected Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Peers that was nominated by the king.
  • A constitution, the Charter of 1814, was drafted; it presented all Frenchmen as equal before the law, but retained substantial prerogative for the king and nobility and limited voting to those paying at least 300 francs a year in direct taxes.
  • After the Hundred Days, when Napoleon briefly returned to power, Louis XVIII was restored a second time by the allies in 1815, ending more than two decades of war.
  • At this time, a more harsh peace treaty was imposed on France, returning it to its 1789 boundaries and requiring a war indemnity.
  • There were large-scale purges of Bonapartists from the government and military, and a brief ” White Terror ” in the south of France claimed 300 victims.
  • Despite the return of the House of Bourbon to power, France was much changed; the egalitarianism and liberalism of the revolutionaries remained an important force and the autocracy and hierarchy of the earlier era could not be fully restored.

Key Terms

  • Napoleonic Code: The French civil code established under Napoléon I in 1804. It marked the end of feudalism and the liberation of serfs where it took effect. It recognized the principles of civil liberty, equality before the law, and the secular character of the state. It discarded the old right of primogeniture (where only the eldest son inherited) and required that inheritances be divided equally among all children. The court system was standardized; all judges were appointed by the national government in Paris.
  • White Terror: Following the return of Louis XVIII to power in 1815, people suspected of having ties with the governments of the French Revolution or of Napoleon suffered arrest and execution.
  • biens nationaux: Properties confiscated during the French Revolution from the Catholic Church, the monarchy, émigrés, and suspected counter-revolutionaries for “the good of the nation.”
  • House of Bourbon: A European royal house of French origin, a branch of the Capetian dynasty, who first ruled France and Navarre in the 16th century and by the 18th century, also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma.

The Bourbon Restoration was the period of French history following the fall of Napoleon in 1814 until the July Revolution of 1830. The brothers of executed Louis XVI of France reigned in highly conservative fashion, and the exiles returned. They were nonetheless unable to reverse most of the changes made by the French Revolution and Napoleon. At the Congress of Vienna they were treated respectfully, but had to give up all the territorial gains made since 1789.

King Louis XVI of the House of Bourbon had been overthrown and executed during the French Revolution (1789–1799), which in turn was followed by Napoleon as ruler of France. A coalition of European powers defeated Napoleon in the War of the Sixth Coalition, ended the First Empire in 1814, and restored the monarchy to the brothers of Louis XVI. The Bourbon Restoration lasted from (about) April 6, 1814, until the popular uprisings of the July Revolution of 1830. There was an interlude in spring 1815—the “Hundred Days”—when the return of Napoleon forced the Bourbons to flee France. When Napoleon was again defeated they returned to power in July.

During the Restoration, the new Bourbon regime was a constitutional monarchy, unlike the absolutist Ancien Régime, so it had limits on its power. The period was characterized by a sharp conservative reaction and consequent minor but consistent civil unrest and disturbances. It also saw the reestablishment of the Catholic Church as a major power in French politics.

First Restoration

Louis XVIII’s restoration to the throne in 1814 was effected largely through the support of Napoleon’s former foreign minister, Talleyrand, who convinced the victorious Allied Powers of the desirability of a Bourbon Restoration. The Allies had initially split on the best candidate for the throne: Britain favored the Bourbons, the Austrians considered a regency for Napoleon’s son, François Bonaparte, and the Russians were open to either the duc d’Orléans, Louis Philippe, or Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, Napoleon’s former Marshal, who was in line for the Swedish throne. Napoleon was offered to keep the throne in February 1814 on the condition that France return to its 1792 frontiers, but he refused.

The Great Powers occupying Paris demanded that Louis XVIII implement a constitution. Louis responded with the Charter of 1814, which included many progressive provisions: freedom of religion, a legislature composed of the Chamber of Deputies, and the Chamber of Peers, a press that would enjoy a degree of freedom, and a provision that the Biens nationaux would remain in the hands of their current owners. The two Chambers’ role was consultative (except on taxation), as only the King had the power to propose or sanction laws and appoint or recall ministers. Voting was limited to men with considerable property holdings, and just 1% of people could vote.

Louis XVIII signed the Treaty of Paris on May 30, 1814. The treaty gave France its 1792 borders, which extended east of the Rhine. The country had to pay no war indemnity, and the occupying armies of the Sixth Coalition withdrew instantly from French soil.

Despite the return of the House of Bourbon to power, France was much changed from the era of the Ancien Régime. The egalitarianism and liberalism of the revolutionaries remained an important force and the autocracy and hierarchy of the earlier era could not be fully restored. The economic changes, which were underway long before the revolution, had been further enhanced during the years of turmoil and were firmly entrenched by 1815. These changes saw power shift from the noble landowners to the urban merchants.

Many of the legal, administrative, and economic reforms of the revolutionary period were left intact; the Napoleonic Code, which guaranteed legal equality and civil liberties, the peasants ‘ biens nationaux, and the new system of dividing the country into départments were not undone by the new king. Relations between church and state remained regulated by the Concordat of 1801. However, in spite of the fact that the Charter was a condition of the Restoration, the preamble declared it to be a “concession and grant,” given “by the free exercise of our royal authority.”

After a first sentimental flush of popularity, Louis’ gestures towards reversing the results of the French Revolution quickly lost him support among the disenfranchised majority. Symbolic acts such as the replacement of the tricolore flag with the white flag, the titling of Louis as the “XVIII” (as successor to Louis XVII, who never ruled) and as “King of France” rather than “King of the French”, and the monarchy’s recognition of the anniversaries of the deaths of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were significant. A more tangible source of antagonism was the pressure applied to possessors of biens nationaux by the Catholic Church and returning émigrés attempting to repossess their former lands.

Hundred Days

On February 26, 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped his island prison of Elba and embarked for France. He arrived with about 1,000 troops near Cannes on March 1. Louis XVIII was not particularly worried by Bonaparte’s excursion, as such a small number of troops could be easily overcome. There was, however, a major underlying problem for the Bourbons: Louis XVIII failed to purge the military of its Bonapartist troops. This led to mass desertions from the Bourbon armies to Bonaparte’s. Furthermore, Louis XVIII could not join the campaign against Napoleon in the south of France because he was suffering from gout.

Louis XVIII’s underestimation of Bonaparte proved disastrous. On March 19, the army stationed outside Paris defected to Bonaparte, leaving the city vulnerable to attack. That same day, Louis XVIII quit the capital with a small escort at midnight. Louis decided to go first to Lille, then crossed the border into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, staying in Ghent.

However, Napoleon did not rule France again for very long, suffering a decisive defeat at the hands of the armies of the Duke of Wellington and Field Marshal Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18. The Allies came to the consensus that Louis XVIII should be restored to the throne of France.

Second Restoration

Talleyrand was again influential in seeing that the Bourbons reigned, as was Fouché, Napoleon’s minister of police during the Hundred Days. After the Hundred Days, a harsher peace treaty was imposed on France, returning it to its 1789 boundaries and requiring a war indemnity. Allied troops were to remain in the country until it was paid.

Louis XVIII’s role in politics from the Hundred Days onward was voluntarily diminished; he resigned most of his duties to his council. He and his ministry embarked on a series of reforms through the summer of 1815. The king’s council, an informal group of ministers that advised Louis XVIII, was dissolved and replaced by a tighter knit privy council, the “Ministère de Roi.” Talleyrand was appointed as the first Président du Conseil, i.e. Prime Minister of France. On July 14, the ministry dissolved the units of the army deemed “rebellious.” Hereditary peerage was reestablished to Louis’s behest by the ministry.

In August, elections for the Chamber of Deputies returned unfavorable results for Talleyrand. The ministry wished for moderate deputies, but the electorate voted almost exclusively for ultra-royalists. Talleyrand tendered his resignation on September 20. Louis XVIII chose the Duke of Richelieu to be his new Prime Minister. Richelieu was chosen because he was accepted by Louis’s family and the reactionary Chamber of Deputies.

Anti-Napoleonic sentiment was high in Southern France, and this was prominently displayed in the White Terror, the purge of all important Napoleonic officials from government and the execution of others. The people of France committed barbarous acts against some of these officials. Guillaume Marie Anne Brune (a Napoleonic marshal) was savagely assassinated and his remains thrown into the Rhône River. Louis XVIII deplored such illegal acts, but vehemently supported the prosecution of marshals that helped Napoleon in the Hundred Days. The White Terror claimed 300 victims.

The king was reluctant to shed blood, which greatly irritated the ultra-reactionary Chamber of Deputies, who felt that Louis XVIII was not executing enough people. The government issued a proclamation of amnesty to the “traitors” in January 1816, but the trials in progress were finished in due course. That same declaration banned any member of the House of Bonaparte from owning property in or entering France.

In 1823, France intervened in Spain where a civil war had deposed King Ferdinand VII. The British objected as this brought back memories of the still recent Peninsular War. However, the French troops marched into Spain, retook Madrid from the rebels, and left almost as quickly as they came. Despite worries to the contrary, France showed no sign of returning to an aggressive foreign policy and was admitted to the Concert of Europe in 1818.

Louis XVIII died on September 16, 1824, and was succeeded by his brother, the comte d’Artois, who took the title of Charles X.

A painting of a large group of people surrounding the royal court. In the center it shows Louis XVIII, in royal attire, including a crown, lifting up a falling woman, symbolizing France.

Allegory of the Return of the Bourbons on 24 April 1814: Louis XVIII Lifting France from Its Ruins : A painting by Louis-Philippe symbolizing the Bourbon Restoration as “lifting France from its ruins.” It shows the newly appointed king, Louis XVIII, lifting up a falling women, who symbolized France after the Napoleonic Wars.

Charles X and the July Revolution

In 1830 the discontent caused by Charles X’s conservative policies and his nomination of the Ultra prince de Polignac as minister culminated in an uprising in the streets of Paris, known as the July Revolution, which brought about an end to the Bourbon Restoration.

Learning Objectives

Evaluate why the July Revolution occurred

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Charles X of France took a far more conservative line than his brother Louis XVIII.
  • He attempted to rule as an absolute monarch in the style of Ancien Régime and reassert the power of the Catholic Church in France.
  • His coronation in 1824 also coincided with the height of the power of the Ultra -royalist party, who also wanted a return of the aristocracy and absolutist politics.
  • A few years into his rule, unrest among the people of France began to develop, caused by an economic downturn, resistance to the return to conservative politics, and the rise of a liberal press.
  • In 1830 the discontent caused by these changes and Charles X’s authoritarian nomination of the Ultra prince de Polignac as minister culminated in an uprising in the streets of Paris known as the 1830 July Revolution.
  • Charles was forced to flee and Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, a member of the Orléans branch of the family and son of Philippe Égalité who had voted the death of his cousin Louis XVI, ascended the throne, beginning the more liberal July Monarchy.

Key Terms

  • July Revolution: This uprising of 1830 saw the overthrow of King Charles X, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who after 18 precarious years on the throne would be overthrown in 1848. It marked the shift from one constitutional monarchy, the Bourbon Restoration, to another, the July Monarchy.
  • Ancien Régime: The monarchic, aristocratic, social, and political system established in the Kingdom of France from approximately the 15th century until the latter part of the 18th century (“early modern France”) under the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties.
  • ultra-royalist: A political part in 19th century France who wished for a return to the Ancien Régime of before 1789, with a view toward absolutism: domination by the nobility and “other devoted Christians.” They were anti-republican, anti-democratic, and preached Government on High by a marked noble elite. They tolerated vote censitaire, a form of democracy limited to those paying taxes above a high threshold.

Compared to his brother Louis XVIII, who ruled from 1814-1824, Charles X of France took a far more conservative line. He attempted to rule as an absolute monarch and reassert the power of the Catholic Church in France. Acts of sacrilege in churches became punishable by death, and freedom of the press was severely restricted. Finally, he tried to compensate the families of the nobles who had had their property destroyed during the Revolution.

In 1830 the discontent caused by these changes and Charles X’s authoritarian nomination of the Ultra prince de Polignac as minister culminated in an uprising in the streets of Paris, known as the 1830 July Revolution (or, in French, “Les trois Glorieuses,” the three glorious days of July 27-29). Charles was forced to flee and Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, a member of the Orléans branch of the family and son of Philippe Égalité who had voted the death of his cousin Louis XVI, ascended the throne. Louis-Philippe ruled not as “King of France” but as “King of the French” (an evocative difference for contemporaries). It was made clear that his right to rule came from the people and was not divinely granted. He also revived the tricolore as the flag of France in place of the white Bourbon flag that had been used since 1815, an important distinction because the tricolore was the symbol of the revolution.

Charles X (1824–1830)

The ascension to the throne of Charles X, the leader of the Ultra-royalist faction, coincided with the Ultras’ control of power in the Chamber of Deputies; thus, the ministry of the comte de Villèle was able to continue, and the last “restraint” (i.e., Louis) on the Ultra-royalists was removed. As the country underwent a Christian revival in the post-Revolutionary years, the Ultras saw fit to raise the status of the Roman Catholic Church once more.

On May 29, 1825, Charles was crowned in Reims in an opulent and spectacular ceremony that was reminiscent of the royal pomp of the coronations of the Ancien Régime. Some innovations were included upon request by Villèle; although Charles was hostile towards the 1814 Charter, commitment to the “constitutional charter” was affirmed with four of Napoleon’s generals in attendance.

While his brother had been sober enough to realize that France would never accept an attempt to resurrect the Ancien Régime, Charles had never been willing to accept the changes of the past four decades. He gave his Prime Minister, Jean-Baptiste de Villèle, lists of laws that he wanted ratified every time he opened parliament. In April 1825, the government approved legislation proposed by Louis XVIII but implemented only after his death, that paid an indemnity to nobles whose estates had been confiscated during the Revolution (the biens nationaux).

The law gave government bonds to those who had lost their lands in exchange for their renunciation of their ownership. This cost the state approximately 988 million francs. In the same month, the Anti-Sacrilege Act was passed. Charles’s government attempted to re-establish male-only primogeniture for families paying over 300 francs in tax, but the measure was voted down in the Chamber of Deputies.

On May 29, 1825, King Charles was anointed at the cathedral of Reims, the traditional site of consecration of French kings; it had been unused since 1775, as Louis XVIII had forgone the ceremony to avoid controversy. It was in the venerable cathedral of Notre-Dame at Paris that Napoleon consecrated his revolutionary empire, but in ascending the throne of his ancestors, Charles reverted to the old place of coronation used by the kings of France from the early ages of the monarchy.

That Charles was not a popular ruler became apparent in April 1827, when chaos ensued during the king’s review of the National Guard in Paris. In retaliation, the National Guard was disbanded but as its members were not disarmed, it remained a potential threat.

Downfall of the Bourbons

There is still considerable debate among historians as to the actual cause of the downfall of Charles X. What is generally conceded, though, is that between 1820 and 1830, a series of economic downturns combined with the rise of a liberal opposition within the Chamber of Deputies ultimately felled the conservative Bourbons.

Between 1827 and 1830, France faced an economic downturn, industrial and agricultural, that was possibly worse than the one that sparked the Revolution of 1789. A series of progressively worsening grain harvests in the late 1820s pushed up the prices on various staple foods and cash crops. In response, the rural peasantry throughout France lobbied for the relaxation of protective tariffs on grain to lower prices and ease their economic situation. However, Charles X, bowing to pressure from wealthier landowners, kept the tariffs in place.

While the French economy faltered, a series of elections brought a relatively powerful liberal bloc into the Chamber of Deputies. The 17-strong liberal bloc of 1824 grew to 180 in 1827 and 274 in 1830. This liberal majority grew increasingly dissatisfied with the policies of the centrist Martignac and the Ultra-royalist Polignac, seeking to protect the limited protections of the Charter of 1814.

Also, the growth of the liberal bloc within the Chamber of Deputies corresponded roughly with the rise of a liberal press within France. Generally centered around Paris, this press provided a counterpoint to the government’s journalistic services and to the newspapers of the right. It grew increasingly important in conveying political opinions and the political situation to the Parisian public and can thus be seen as a crucial link between the rise of the liberals and the increasingly agitated and economically suffering French masses.

July Revolution

Protest against the absolute monarchy was in the air. The elections of deputies on May 16, 1830, had gone very badly for King Charles X. In response, he tried repression but that only aggravated the crisis as suppressed deputies, gagged journalists, students from the University, and many working men of Paris poured into the streets and erected barricades during the “three glorious days” (French Les Trois Glorieuses) of July 26-29 1830. Charles X was deposed and replaced by King Louis-Philippe in the July Revolution. It is traditionally regarded as a rising of the bourgeoisie against the absolute monarchy of the Bourbons. Participants in the July Revolution included Marie Joseph Paul Ives Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette. Working behind the scenes on behalf of the bourgeois-propertied interests was Louis Adolphe Thiers.

The July Revolution marked the shift from one constitutional monarchy, the Bourbon Restoration, to another, the July Monarchy; the transition of power from the House of Bourbon to its cadet branch, the House of Orléans; and the replacement of the principle of hereditary right by popular sovereignty. Supporters of the Bourbon were called Legitimists, and supporters of Louis Philippe Orléanists.

The Revolution broke out on July 27, 1830. Throughout the day, Paris grew quiet as the milling crowds grew larger. At 4:30 pm, commanders of the troops of the First Military division of Paris and the Garde Royale were ordered to concentrate their troops, and guns, on the Place du Carrousel facing the Tuileries, the Place Vendôme, and the Place de la Bastille. To maintain order and protect gun shops from looters, military patrols throughout the city were established, strengthened, and expanded. However, no special measures were taken to protect either the arm depots or gunpowder factories. For a time, those precautions seemed premature, but with the coming of twilight, the fighting began. According to historian Phil Mansel, “Parisians, rather than soldiers, were the aggressor. Paving stones, roof tiles, and flowerpots from the upper windows… began to rain down on the soldiers in the streets.” At first, soldiers fired warning shots into the air. But before the night was over, 21 civilians were killed. Fighting in Paris continued throughout the night.

On day two, Charles X ordered Maréchal Auguste Marmont, Duke of Ragusa, the on-duty Major-General of the Garde Royale, to repress the disturbances. Marmont’s plan was to have the Garde Royale and available line units of the city garrison guard the vital thoroughfares and bridges of the city and protect important buildings such as the Palais Royal, Palais de Justice, and the Hôtel de Ville. This plan was both ill-considered and wildly ambitious; not only were there not enough troops, but there were also nowhere near enough provisions. At 4 p.m., Charles X received Colonel Komierowski, one of Marmont’s chief aides. The colonel was carrying a note from Marmont to his Majesty:

Sire, it is no longer a riot, it is a revolution. It is urgent for Your Majesty to take measures for pacification. The honour of the crown can still be saved. Tomorrow, perhaps, there will be no more time… I await with impatience Your Majesty’s orders.

On day three, the revolutionaries were well-organized and very well-armed. In only a day and a night, over 4,000 barricades had been thrown up throughout the city. The tricolore flag of the revolutionaries – the “people’s flag” – flew over buildings, an increasing number of them important buildings. By 1:30 pm, the Tuileries Palace had been sacked. By mid-afternoon the greatest prize, the Hôtel de Ville, had been captured. A few hours later, politicians entered the battered complex and set about establishing a provisional government. Though there would be spots of fighting throughout the city for the next few days, the revolution, for all intents and purposes, was over.

The revolution of July 1830 created a constitutional monarchy. On August 2, Charles X and his son the Dauphin abdicated their rights to the throne and departed for Great Britain. Although Charles had intended that his grandson, the Duke of Bordeaux, would take the throne as Henry V, the politicians who composed the provisional government instead placed on the throne a distant cousin, Louis Philippe of the House of Orléans, who agreed to rule as a constitutional monarch. This period became known as the July Monarchy.

Liberty Leading the People is a painting by Eugène Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled King Charles X of France. A woman personifying the concept and the Goddess of Liberty leads the people forward over the bodies of the fallen, holding the flag of the French Revolution – the tricolour flag, which remains France's national flag – in one hand and brandishing a bayonetted musket with the other. The figure of Liberty is also viewed as a symbol of France and the French Republic known as Marianne.

Liberty Leading the People is a painting by Eugène Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled King Charles X of France. A woman personifying the concept and the Goddess of Liberty leads the people forward over the bodies of the fallen, holding the flag of the French Revolution – the tricolour flag, which remains France’s national flag – in one hand and brandishing a bayonetted musket with the other. The figure of Liberty is also viewed as a symbol of France and the French Republic known as Marianne.

A painting by Eugène Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled King Charles X of France. A woman personifying the concept and the Goddess of Liberty leads the people forward over the bodies of the fallen, holding the flag of the French Revolution – the tricolore flag, which remains France’s national flag – in one hand and brandishing a bayonetted musket with the other. The figure of Liberty is also viewed as a symbol of France and the French Republic known as Marianne.

The July Monarchy

The July Monarchy (1830–1848) is generally seen as a period during which the upper-middle class (haute bourgeoisie) was dominant. It marked the shift from the counter-revolutionary Legitimists to the Orleanists, who were willing to make some compromises with the changes of the 1789 Revolution, but maintained a conservative regime marked by constant civil unrest.

Learning Objectives

Contrast the July monarchy with the reign of Charles X

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In 1830, the discontent caused by Charles X’s authoritarian policies culminated in an uprising in the streets of Paris known as the 1830 July Revolution.
  • Charles was forced to flee and Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, a member of the Orléans branch of the family and son of Philippe Égalité who had voted the death of his cousin Louis XVI, ascended the throne, marking the beginning of the July Monarchy, so named for the Revolution.
  • Louis-Philippe ruled not as “King of France” but as “King of the French,” which made clear that his right to rule came from the people and was not divinely granted.
  • Despite this and other such gestures (for example, reviving the tricolore as the flag of France in place of the white Bourbon flag that had been used since 1815), Louis-Philippe remained conservative, and reforms mainly benefited the upper-class citizens.
  • Because of the conservative character of Louis-Philippe’s regime, civil unrest remained a permanent feature of the July Monarchy, with riots and uprising continuing throughout his rule.
  • In February 1848, the French government banned the holding of the Campagne des banquets, fundraising dinners by activists where critics of the regime would meet (as public demonstrations and strikes were forbidden).
  • As a result, protests and riots broke out in the streets of Paris. An angry mob converged on the royal palace, after which the hapless king abdicated and fled to England; the Second Republic was then proclaimed, ending the July Monarchy.

Key Terms

  • haute bourgeoisie: A social rank in the bourgeoisie that can only be acquired through time. In France, it is composed of bourgeois families that have existed since the French Revolution. They hold only honorable professions and have experienced many illustrious marriages in their family’s history. They have rich cultural and historical heritages, and their financial means are more than secure. These families exude an aura of nobility that prevents them from certain marriages or occupations. They only differ from nobility in that due to circumstances, lack of opportunity, and/or political regime, they have not been ennobled.
  • Louis Philippe I: King of the French from 1830 to 1848 as the leader of the Orléanist party. His government, known as the July Monarchy, was dominated by members of a wealthy French elite and numerous former Napoleonic officials. He followed conservative policies, especially under the influence of the French statesman François Guizot from 1840–48.
  • campagne des banquets: Political meetings during the July Monarchy in France that destabilized the King of the French Louis-Philippe. The campaign officially took place from July 9, 1847, to December, 25 1847, but in fact continued until the February 1848 Revolution during which the Second Republic was proclaimed.

The French Kingdom, commonly known as the July Monarchy, was a liberal constitutional monarchy in France under Louis Philippe I, starting with the July Revolution of 1830 (also known as the Three Glorious Days) and ending with the Revolution of 1848. It began with the overthrow of the conservative government of Charles X and the House of Bourbon. Louis Philippe, a member of the traditionally more liberal Orléans branch of the House of Bourbon, proclaimed himself Roi des Français (“King of the French”) rather than “King of France,” emphasizing the popular origins of his reign. The king promised to follow the “juste milieu”, or the middle-of-the-road, avoiding the extremes of the conservative supporters of Charles X and radicals on the left. The July Monarchy was dominated by wealthy bourgeoisie and numerous former Napoleonic officials. It followed conservative policies, especially under the influence (1840–48) of François Guizot. The king promoted friendship with Great Britain and sponsored colonial expansion, notably the conquest of Algeria. By 1848, a year in which many European states had a revolution, the king’s popularity had collapsed, and he was overthrown.

Louis Philippe I

The July Monarchy (1830–1848) is generally seen as a period during which the haute bourgeoisie was dominant. It marked the shift from the counter-revolutionary Legitimists to the Orleanists, who were willing to make compromises with the changes brought by the 1789 Revolution. Louis-Philippe’s taking of the title “King of the French” marked his acceptance of popular sovereignty, which replaced the Ancien Régime ‘s divine right. Louis-Philippe clearly understood his base of power: the wealthy bourgeoisie carried him aloft during the July Revolution through their work in the Parliament, and throughout his reign, he kept their interests in mind.

During the first several years of his regime, Louis-Philippe appeared to move his government toward legitimate, broad-based reform. The government found its source of legitimacy within the Charter of 1830, written by reform-minded members of Chamber of Deputies upon a platform of religious equality, the empowerment of the citizenry through the reestablishment of the National Guard, electoral reform, the reformation of the peerage system, and the lessening of royal authority. Indeed, Louis-Phillippe and his ministers adhered to policies that seemed to promote the central tenets of the constitution. However, the majority of these were veiled attempts to shore up the power and influence of the government and the bourgeoisie, rather than legitimate attempts to promote equality and empowerment for a broad constituency of the French population. Thus, though the July Monarchy seemed to move toward reform, this movement was largely illusory.

During the years of the July Monarchy, enfranchisement roughly doubled, from 94,000 under Charles X to more than 200,000 by 1848. However, this represented less than one percent of population, and as the requirements for voting were tax-based, only the wealthiest gained the privilege. By implication, the enlarged enfranchisement tended to favor the wealthy merchant bourgeoisie more than any other group.

The reformed Charter of 1830 limited the power of the King – stripping him of his ability to propose and decree legislation, as well as limiting his executive authority. However, the King of the French still believed in a version of monarchy that held the king as much more than a figurehead for an elected Parliament, and as such, he was quite active in politics. One of the first acts of Louis-Philippe in constructing his cabinet was to appoint the rather conservative Casimir Perier as the premier. Perier, a banker, was instrumental in shutting down many of the Republican secret societies and labor unions that had formed during the early years of the regime. In addition, he oversaw the dismemberment of the National Guard after it proved too supportive of radical ideologies.

The regime acknowledged early on that radicalism and republicanism threatened it by undermining its laissez-faire policies. Thus, the Monarchy declared the very term republican illegal in 1834. Guizot shut down republican clubs and disbanded republican publications. Republicans within the cabinet, like the banker Dupont, were all but excluded by Perier and his conservative clique. Distrusting the sole National Guard, Louis-Philippe increased the size of the army and reformed it in order to ensure its loyalty to the government.

Louis-Philippe I, seated in a chair

Louis-Philippe, 1842: King Louis-Philippe I, the liberal and constitutional King of the French, brought to power by the July Revolution.

Unrest in the July Monarchy: Revolution of 1848

Louis-Philippe, who had flirted with liberalism in his youth, rejected much of the pomp and circumstance of the Bourbons and surrounded himself with merchants and bankers. The July Monarchy, however, remained a time of turmoil. A large group of Legitimists on the right demanded the restoration of the Bourbons to the throne. On the left, Republicanism and later Socialism, remained a powerful force.

Civil unrest continued after the July Revolution, supported by the left-wing press. Louis-Philippe’s government was not able to end it, mostly because the National Guard was headed by one of the Republican leaders, the marquis de La Fayette, who requested a “popular throne surrounded by Republican institutions.” The Republicans then gathered themselves in popular clubs in the tradition established by the 1789 Revolution. Some of those were fronts for secret societies, which requested political and social reforms or the execution of Charles X’s ministers. Strikes and demonstrations were permanent.

Despite the reforms made by Louis-Philippe’s regime, which targeted the bourgeoisie rather than the people, Paris was once again rocked by riots on February 14-15, 1831. Riots and protests continued throughout his reign, including the Canuts Revolt, started on November 21, 1831, during which parts of the National Guard took the demonstrators’ side.

Late in his reign, Louis-Philippe became increasingly rigid and dogmatic. For example, his President of the Council, François Guizot, had become deeply unpopular, but Louis-Philippe refused to remove him.

Around this same time, there was another economic downturn, which especially affected the lower classes. There was an increase in workers’ demonstrations, with riots in the Buzançais in 1847. In Roubaix, a city in the industrial north, 60% of the workers were unemployed. At the same time, the regime was marred by several political scandals (Teste–Cubières corruption scandal, revealed in May 1847, and Charles de Choiseul-Praslin’s suicide after murdering his wife, daughter of Horace Sébastiani).

Since the right of association was strictly restricted and public meetings prohibited after 1835, the opposition was paralyzed. To sidestep this law, political dissidents used civil funerals of their comrades as occasions for public demonstrations. Family celebrations and banquets also served as pretexts for gatherings. This campaign of banquets (Campagne des banquets), was intended to circumvent the governmental restriction on political meetings and provide a legal outlet for popular criticism of the regime. The campaign began in July 1847. Friedrich Engels was in Paris from October 1847 and was able to observe and attend some of these banquets.

The banquet campaign lasted until all political banquets were outlawed by the French government in February 1848. As a result, the people revolted, helping to unite the efforts of the popular Republicans and the liberal Orleanists, who turned their backs on Louis-Philippe.

Anger over the outlawing of the political banquets brought crowds of Parisians flooding into the streets at noon on February 22, 1848. The crowds directed their anger against the Citizen King Louis Philippe and his chief minister for foreign and domestic policy, François Pierre Guillaume Guizot. At 2 p.m. the next day, Prime Minister Guizot resigned. Upon hearing the news of Guizot’s resignation, a large crowd gathered outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. An officer ordered the crowd not to pass, but people in the front of the crowd were being pushed by the rear. The officer ordered his men to fix bayonets, probably wishing to avoid shooting. However, in what is widely regarded as an accident, a soldier discharged his musket, which resulted in the rest of the soldiers firing into the crowd. Fifty-two people were killed.

Paris was soon a barricaded city. Omnibuses were turned into barricades, and thousands of trees were felled. Fires were set, and angry citizens began converging to the royal palace. King Louis Philippe abdicated and fled to the UK.

The Second French Republic

On February 26, 1848, the liberal opposition from the 1848 Revolution came together to organize a provisional government, called the Second Republic, which was marked by disorganization and political ambiguity.

Learning Objectives

Break down some of the challenges faced by the Second French Republic

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The 1848 Revolution in France ended the Orleans monarchy (1830–48) and led to the creation of the French Second Republic.
  • Following the overthrow of King Louis Philippe in February, a provisional government (Constituent Assembly) was created, which was disorganized as it attempted to deal with France’s economic problems created by the political upheaval.
  • Frustration among the laboring classes arose when the Constituent Assembly did not address the concerns of the workers, leading to strikes and worker demonstrations.
  • Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was elected president on December 10, 1848, by a landslide; his support came from a wide section of the French public.
  • Because of the ambiguity surrounding Louis Napoleon’s political positions, his agenda as president was very much in doubt.
  • The 1850 elections resulted in a conservative body, which renewed the power of the Church, especially in education.
  • As 1851 opened, Louis-Napoleon was not allowed by the Constitution of 1848 to seek re-election as President of France; instead he proclaimed himself President for Life following a coup in December that was confirmed and accepted in a dubious referendum.

Key Terms

  • French Revolution of 1848: Sometimes known as the February Revolution, one of a wave of revolutions in 1848 in Europe. In France the revolutionary events ended the Orleans monarchy (1830–48) and led to the creation of the French Second Republic.
  • French Second Republic: The republican government of France between the 1848 Revolution and the 1851 coup by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte that initiated the Second Empire.
  • National Workshops: Areas of work provided for the unemployed by the French Second Republic after the Revolution of 1848. The political issues that resulted in the abdication of Louis Philippe caused an acute industrial crisis adding to the general agricultural and commercial distress which had prevailed throughout 1847. It greatly exacerbated the problem of unemployment in Paris. The provisional government under the influence of one of its members, Louis Blanc, passed a decree (February 25, 1848) guaranteeing government-funded jobs.

The French Revolution of 1848 had major consequences for all of Europe; popular democratic revolts against authoritarian regimes broke out in Austria and Hungary, in the German Confederation and Prussia, and in the Italian States of Milan, Venice, Turin and Rome. Economic downturns and bad harvests during the 1840s contributed to growing discontent.

In February 1848, the French government banned the holding of the Campagne des banquets, fundraising dinners by activists where critics of the regime would meet (as public demonstrations and strikes were forbidden). As a result, protests and riots broke out in the streets of Paris. An angry mob converged on the royal palace, after which the hapless king abdicated and fled to England. The Second Republic was then proclaimed.

The revolution in France brought together classes of wildly different interests. The bourgeoisie desired electoral reforms (a democratic republic); socialist leaders (like Louis Blanc, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, and the radical Auguste Blanqui) asked for a “right to work” and the creation of national workshops (a social welfare republic) and for France to liberate the oppressed peoples of Europe (Poles and Italians). Moderates (like the aristocrat Alphonse de Lamartine) sought a middle ground. Tensions between groups escalated, and in June 1848, a working class insurrection in Paris cost the lives of 1,500 workers and eliminated once and for all the dream of a social welfare constitution.

The constitution of the Second Republic, ratified in September 1848, was extremely flawed and permitted no effective resolution between the President and the Assembly in case of dispute. In December 1848, a nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte, Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, was elected as President of the Republic, and pretexting legislative gridlock, in 1851 he staged a coup d’état. Finally, in 1852 he had himself declared Emperor Napoléon III of the Second Empire of France.

Founding of the Second Republic

The French Second Republic was the republican government of France between the 1848 Revolution and the 1851 coup by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte that initiated the Second Empire. It officially adopted the motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. The Second Republic witnessed the tension between the “Social and Democratic Republic” and a liberal form of Republic, which exploded during the June Days Uprising of 1848.

On February 26, 1848, the liberal opposition came together to organize a provisional government. The poet Alphonse de Lamartine was appointed president. Lamartine served as a virtual dictator of France for the next three months. Elections for a Constituent Assembly were scheduled for April 23, 1848. The Constituent Assembly was to establish a new republican government for France. In preparation for these elections, two major goals of the provisional government were universal suffrage and unemployment relief. Universal male suffrage was enacted on March 2, 1848, giving France nine million new voters. As in all other European nations, women did not have the right to vote. However, during this time a proliferation of political clubs emerged, including women’s organizations.

Naturally, the provisional government was disorganized as it attempted to deal with France’s economic problems. The conservative elements of French society were wasting no time in organizing against the provisional government. After roughly a month, conservatives began to openly oppose the new government, using the rallying cry “order,” which the new republic lacked.

Frustration among the laboring classes arose when the Constituent Assembly did not address the concerns of the workers. Strikes and worker demonstrations became more common as the workers gave vent to these frustrations. These demonstrations reached a climax when on May 15, 1848, workers from the secret societies broke out in armed uprising against the anti-labor and anti-democratic policies being pursued by the Constituent Assembly and the Provisional Government. Fearful of a total breakdown of law and order, the Provisional Government invited General Louis Eugene Cavaignac back from Algeria in June 1848 to put down the worker’s armed revolt. From June 1848 until December 1848 General Cavaignac became head of the executive of the Provisional Government.

Additionally, there was a major split between the citizens of Paris and citizens of the more rural areas of France. The provisional government set out to establish deeper government control of the economy and guarantee a more equal distribution of resources. To deal with the unemployment problem, the provisional government established National Workshops. The unemployed were given jobs building roads and planting trees without regard for the demand for these tasks. The population of Paris ballooned as job seekers from all over France came to Paris to work in the newly formed National Workshops. To pay for these and other social programs, the provisional government placed new taxes on land. These taxes alienated the “landed classes”—especially the small farmers and the peasantry of the rural areas of France—from the provisional government. Hardworking rural farmers were resistant to paying for the unemployed city people and their new “Right to Work” National Workshops. The taxes were widely disobeyed in the rural areas and the government remained strapped for cash. Popular uncertainty about the liberal foundations of the provisional government became apparent in the April 23, 1848 elections. Despite agitation from the left, voters elected a constituent assembly which was primarily moderate and conservative.

Election of Napoleon III and a Short-Lived Republic

The election was keenly contested; the democratic republicans adopted as their candidate Ledru-Rollin, the “pure republicans” Cavaignac, and the recently reorganized Imperialist party Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. Unknown in 1835 and forgotten or despised since 1840, Louis Napoleon had in the last eight years advanced sufficiently in the public estimation to be elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1848 by five departments. He owed this rapid increase of popularity partly to blunders of the government of July, which had unwisely aroused the memory of the country with recollections of the Empire, and partly to Louis-Napoléon’s campaign carried on from his prison at Ham by means of pamphlets of socialistic tendencies. Moreover, the monarchists, led by Thiers and the committee of the Rue de Poitiers, were no longer content even with the safe dictatorship of the upright Cavaignac, and joined forces with the Bonapartists. On December 10 the peasants gave over 5 million votes to Napoléon, who stood for order at all costs, against 1.4 million for Cavaignac.

Louis Napoleon’s support came from a wide section of the French public. Various classes of French society voted for him for very different and often contradictory reasons; he encouraged this contradiction by “being all things to all people.” One of his major promises to the peasantry and other groups was that there would be no new taxes.

The new National Constituent Assembly was heavily composed of royalist sympathizers of both the Legitimist (Bourbon) wing and the Orleanist (Citizen King Louis Philippe) wing. Because of the ambiguity surrounding Louis Napoleon’s political positions, his agenda as president was very much in doubt. For prime minister, he selected Odilon Barrot, an unobjectionable middle-road parliamentarian, who had led the “loyal opposition” under Louis Philippe. Other appointees represented various royalist factions.

In June 1849, demonstrations against the government broke out and were suppressed. Leaders were arrested, including prominent politicians. The government banned several democratic and socialist newspapers in France; the editors were arrested. Karl Marx, who was living in Paris at the time, was at risk so he moved to London in August.

The government sought ways to balance its budget and reduce its debts. Toward this end, Hippolyte Passy was appointed Finance Minister. When the Legislative Assembly met at the beginning of October 1849, Passy proposed an income tax to help balance the finances of France. The bourgeoisie, who would pay most of the tax, protested. The furor over the income tax caused the resignation of Barrot as prime minister, but a new wine tax also caused protests.

The 1850 elections resulted in a conservative body. As 1851 opened, Louis-Napoleon was not allowed by the Constitution of 1848 to seek re-election as President of France. Instead he proclaimed himself President for Life following a coup in December that was confirmed and accepted in a dubious referendum.

The cartoon shows two men struggling to hold up Louis Napoleon with a caption: "Messieurs Victor Hugo and Emile de Girardin try to raise Prince Louis upon a shield [in the heroic Roman fashion]: not too steady!"

Prince Louis Napoleon: “Messieurs Victor Hugo and Emile de Girardin try to raise Prince Louis upon a shield [in the heroic Roman fashion]: not too steady!” Honoré Daumier’s satirical lithograph published in Charivari, December 11, 1848.

Napoleon III

The Second French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, an era of great industrialization, urbanization (including the massive rebuilding of Paris by Baron Haussmann), and economic growth, as well as major disasters in foreign affairs.

Learning Objectives

Summarize the reign of Napoleon III and his efforts to recreate his uncle’s empire

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In 1851, Louis Napoleon was not allowed by the Constitution of 1848 to seek re-election as President of the Second Republic of France; instead, he proclaimed himself President for Life following a coup in December and in 1852 declared himself the Emperor of France, Napoleon III.
  • The structure of the French government during the Second Empire was little changed from the First under Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Despite his promises in 1852 of a peaceful reign, the Emperor could not resist the temptations of glory in foreign affairs.
  • Napoleon did have some successes; he strengthened French control over Algeria, established bases in Africa, began the takeover of Indochina, and opened trade with China.
  • In Europe, however, Napoleon failed again and again; the Crimean war of 1854-56 produced no gains, in the 1860s Napoleon nearly blundered into war with the United States in 1862, and his takeover of Mexico in 1861-67 was a total disaster.
  • In July 1870, Napoleon entered the Franco-Prussian War without allies and with inferior military forces; the French army was rapidly defeated and Napoleon III was captured at the Battle of Sedan.
  • The French Third Republic was proclaimed in Paris, and Napoleon went into exile in England, where he died in 1873.

Key Terms

  • reconstruction of Paris: A vast public works program commissioned by Emperor Napoléon III and directed by his prefect of the Seine, Georges-Eugène Haussmann, between 1853 and 1870. It included the demolition of crowded and unhealthy medieval neighborhoods; the building of wide avenues, parks, and squares; the annexation of the suburbs surrounding Paris; and the construction of new sewers, fountains, and aqueducts. Haussmann’s work met with fierce opposition and was finally dismissed by Napoleon III in 1870, but work on his projects continued until 1927. The street plan and distinctive appearance of the center of Paris today is largely the result of Haussmann’s renovation.
  • Napoleon III: The only President (1848–52) of the French Second Republic and, as Napoleon III, the Emperor (1852–70) of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I. He was the first President of France to be elected by a direct popular vote. He was blocked by the Constitution and Parliament from running for a second term, so he organized a coup d’état in 1851 and then took the throne as Napoleon III on December 2, 1852, the 48th anniversary of Napoleon I’s coronation. He remains the longest-serving French head of state since the French Revolution.
  • Franco-Prussian War: A conflict between the Second French Empire of Napoleon III and the German states of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. The conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to extend German unification and French fears of the shift in the European balance of power that would result if the Prussians succeeded. A series of swift Prussian and German victories in eastern France, culminating in the Siege of Metz and the Battle of Sedan, saw Napoleon III captured and the army of the Second Empire decisively defeated.

The constitution of the Second Republic, ratified in September 1848, was extremely flawed and permitted no effective resolution between the President and the Assembly in case of dispute. In 1848, a nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, was elected President of France through universal male suffrage, taking 74% of the vote. He did this with the support of the Parti de l’Ordre after running against Louis Eugène Cavaignac. Subsequently, he was in constant conflict with the members of the National Assembly.

Ascension to Power

Contrary to the Party’s expectations that Louis-Napoleon would be easy to manipulate (Adolphe Thiers had called him a “cretin whom we will lead [by the nose]”), he proved himself an agile and cunning politician. He succeeded in imposing his choices and decisions on the Assembly, which had once again become conservative in the aftermath of the June Days Uprising in 1848.

The provisions of the constitution that prohibited an incumbent president from seeking re-election appeared to force the end of Louis-Napoleon’s rule in December 1852. Not one to admit defeat, Louis-Napoleon spent the first half of 1851 trying to change the constitution through Parliament so he could be re-elected. Bonaparte traveled through the provinces and organized petitions to rally popular support but in January 1851, the Parliament voted no.

Louis-Napoleon believed that he was supported by the people, and he decided to retain power by other means. His half-brother Morny and a few close advisers began to quietly organize a coup d’état. They brought Major General Jacques Leroy de Saint Arnaud, a former captain from the French Foreign Legion and a commander of French forces in Algeria, and other officers from the French army in North Africa to provide military backing for the coup.

On the morning of December 2, troops led by Saint-Arnaud occupied strategic points in Paris from the Champs-Élysées to the Tuileries. Top opposition leaders were arrested and six edicts promulgated to establish the rule of Louis-Napoleon. The Assemblée Nationale was dissolved and universal male suffrage restored. Louis-Napoleon declared that a new constitution was being framed and said he intended to restore a “system established by the First Consul.” He thus declared himself President for Life, and in 1852, Emperor of France, Napoleon III.

France was ruled by Emperor Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870. During the first years of the Empire, Napoleon’s government imposed censorship and harsh repressive measures against his opponents. Some six thousand were imprisoned or sent to penal colonies until 1859. Thousands more went into voluntary exile abroad, including Victor Hugo. From 1862 onward, he relaxed government censorship, and his regime came to be known as the “Liberal Empire.” Many of his opponents returned to France and became members of the National Assembly.

Legacy

Napoleon III is best known today for his grand reconstruction of Paris, carried out by his prefect of the Seine, Baron Haussmann. He launched similar public works projects in Marseille, Lyon, and other French cities. Napoleon III modernized the French banking system, greatly expanded and consolidated the French railway system, and made the French merchant marine the second largest in the world. He promoted the building of the Suez Canal and established modern agriculture, which ended famines in France and made France an agricultural exporter. Napoleon III negotiated the 1860 Cobden–Chevalier free trade agreement with Britain and similar agreements with France’s other European trading partners. Social reforms included giving French workers the right to strike and the right to organize. Women’s education greatly expanded, as did the list of required subjects in public schools.

An impressionist painting of Boulevard Montemartre (Paris) filled with horse-drawn carriages and pedestrians

The Reconstruction of Paris: One of the Haussmann’s Great Boulevards painted by the artist Camille Pissarro (1893)

Foreign Policy

In foreign policy, Napoleon III aimed to reassert French influence in Europe and around the world. He was a supporter of popular sovereignty and nationalism. Despite his promises in 1852 of a peaceful reign, the Emperor could not resist the temptations of glory in foreign affairs. He was visionary, mysterious, and secretive; had a poor staff; and kept running afoul of his domestic supporters. In the end he was incompetent as a diplomat. Napoleon did have some successes: he strengthened French control over Algeria, established bases in Africa, began the takeover of Indochina, and opened trade with China. He facilitated a French company building the Suez Canal, which Britain could not stop. In Europe, however, Napoleon failed again and again. The Crimean war of 1854–56 produced no gains, although his alliance with Britain did defeat Russia. His regime assisted Italian unification and in doing so, annexed Savoy and the County of Nice to France; at the same time, his forces defended the Papal States against annexation by Italy. On the other hand, his army’s intervention in Mexico to create a Second Mexican Empire under French protection ended in failure.

The Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck provoked Napoleon into declaring war on Prussia in July 1870, beginning the Franco-Prussian War. The French troops were swiftly defeated in the following weeks, and on September 1, the main army, which the emperor himself was with, was trapped at Sedan and forced to surrender. A republic was quickly proclaimed in Paris, but the war was far from over. As it was clear that Prussia would expect territorial concessions, the provisional government vowed to continue resistance. The Prussians laid siege to Paris, and new armies mustered by France failed to alter this situation. The French capital began experiencing severe food shortages, to the extent that even the animals in the zoo were eaten. As the city was bombarded by Prussian siege guns in January 1871, King William of Prussia was proclaimed Emperor of Germany in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Shortly afterwards, Paris surrendered. The subsequent peace treaty was harsh. France ceded Alsace and Lorraine to Germany and had to pay an indemnity of 5 billion francs. German troops were to remain in the country until it was paid off. Meanwhile, the fallen Napoleon III went into exile in England where he died in 1873.

Painting of French soldiers assaulted by German infantry in a snowy forest during the Franco-Prussian War, 1870.

Painting depicting the Franco-Prussian War: French soldiers assaulted by German infantry during the Franco-Prussian War, 1870, which led to the defeat of Napoleon III and the end of the Second French Empire.

Structure of Second French Empire

The structure of the French government during the Second Empire was little changed from the First. But Emperor Napoleon III stressed his own imperial role as the foundation of the government. If government was to guide the people toward domestic justice and external peace, it was his role as emperor, holding his power by universal male suffrage and representing all of the people, to function as supreme leader and safeguard the achievements of the revolution. He had so often, while in prison or in exile, chastised previous oligarchical governments for neglecting social questions that it was imperative France now prioritize their solutions. His answer was to organize a system of government based on the principles of the “Napoleonic Idea.” This meant that the emperor, the elect of the people as the representative of the democracy, ruled supreme. He himself drew power and legitimacy from his role as representative of the great Napoleon I of France, “who had sprung armed from the French Revolution like Minerva from the head of Jove.”

The anti-parliamentary French Constitution of 1852, instituted by Napoleon III on January 14, 1852, was largely a repetition of that of 1848. All executive power was entrusted to the emperor who as head of state was solely responsible to the people. The people of the Empire, lacking democratic rights, were to rely on the benevolence of the emperor rather than on the benevolence of politicians. He was to nominate the members of the council of state, whose duty it was to prepare the laws, and of the senate, a body permanently established as a constituent part of the empire.

One innovation was made, namely that the Legislative Body was elected by universal suffrage, but it had no right of initiative as all laws were proposed by the executive power. This new political change was rapidly followed by the same consequence as of Brumaire. On December 2, 1852, France, still under the effect of Napoleon’s legacy and the fear of anarchy, conferred almost unanimously by a plebiscite the supreme power and the title of emperor upon Napoleon III.

The Legislative Body was not allowed to elect its own president, regulate its own procedure, propose a law or an amendment, vote on the budget in detail, or make its deliberations public. Similarly, universal suffrage was supervised and controlled by means of official candidature by forbidding free speech and action in electoral matters to the Opposition and gerrymandering in such a way as to overwhelm the Liberal vote in the mass of the rural population.

For seven years France had no democratic life. The Empire governed by a series of plebiscites. Up to 1857 the Opposition did not exist. From then till 1860 it was reduced to five members: Darimon, Émile Ollivier, Hénon, Jules Favre, and Ernest Picard. The royalists waited inactively after the new and unsuccessful attempt made at Frohsdorf in 1853 by a combination of the legitimists and Orléanists to recreate a living monarchy out of the ruin of two royal families.