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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Napoléon III, born Charles Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (20 April 18089 January 1873) was the first President of the French Republic from 10 December 1848 to 2 December 1851, then again from 2 December 1851 to 2 December 1852. He became the third Emperor of the French under the name Napoléon III from 2 December 1852 to 4 September 1870. He was the last monarch of France.

Early life
Louis-Napoléon lived in the United Kingdom until the revolution of February 1848 in France deposed Louis-Philippe and established a Republic. He was now free to return to France, which he immediately did. He ran for, and won, a seat in the assembly elected to draft a new constitution, but did not make a great contribution and, as a mediocre public orator, failed to impress his fellow members. Some even thought that, having lived outside of France almost all his life, he spoke French with a slight German accent (Encylopaedia Britannica, 1911).
However, when the constitution of the French Second Republic was finally promulgated and direct elections for the presidency were held on 10 December 1848, Louis-Napoléon won in a landslide, with 5,454,000 votes (around 75% of the total); his closest rival, Louis Eugène Cavaignac, received 1,448,000 votes. Louis-Napoleon had no long political career behind him and was able to depict himself as "all things to all men". The monarchist right (supporters of either the Bourbon or Orleanist royal families) and much of the middle class supported him as the "least worst" candidate, as a man who would restore order, end the instability in France which had continued since the overthrow of the monarchy in February, and prevent a socialist revolution. A good proportion of the industrial working class, on the other hand, were won over by Louis-Napoleon's vague indications of progressive economic views. His overwhelming victory was above all due to the support of the non-politicized rural masses, to whom the name of Bonaparte meant something, as opposed to the other, little-known contenders. Louis-Napoléon's platform was the restoration of order after months of political turmoil, strong government, social consolidation, and national greatness, to which he appealed with all the credit of his name, that of France's national hero, Napoléon I, who in popular memory was credited with raising the nation to its pinnacle of military greatness and establishing social stability after the turmoil of the French Revolution
Despite his landslide victory, Louis-Napoléon was faced with a Parliament dominated by monarchists, who saw his government only as a temporary bridge to a restoration of either the House of Bourbon or of Orléans. Louis-Napoleon governed cautiously during his first years in office, choosing his ministers from among the more "centre-right" Orleanist monarchists, and generally avoiding conflict with the conservative assembly. He courted Catholic support by assisting in the restoration of the Pope's temporal rule in Rome, although he tried to please secularist liberal opinion at the same time by combining this with peremptory demands that the Pope introduce liberal changes to the government of the Papal States, including appointing a liberal government and establishing the Code Napoleon there, which angered the Catholic majority in the assembly. He soon made another attempt to gain Catholic support, however, by approving the Loi Falloux in 1850, which restored a greater role for the Church in the French educational system.
In the third year of his four-year mandate, President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte asked the National Assembly for a revision of the constitution to enable the president to run for re-election, arguing that four years were not enough to implement his political and economic program fully. The Constitution of the Second Republic stated that the Presidency of the Republic was to be held for a single term of four years, with no possibility of re-election, a restriction written in the Constitution for fear that a President would abuse his power to transform the Republic into a dictatorship or a sort of life-Presidency. The National Assembly, dominated by monarchists who wished to restore the Bourbon dynasty, refused to amend the Constitution. The National Assembly had also changed the electoral law to place restrictions on universal male suffrage, imposing a three-year residency requirement which would have prevented the large proportion of the lower class, which was itinerant, from voting. Although he had originally acquiesced to this law, Louis-Napoleon used it as a pretext to break with the Assembly and his conservative ministers. He surrounded himself with lieutenants completely loyal to him, such as Morny and Persigny, secured the support of the army, and toured the country making populist speeches condemning the assembly and presenting himself as the protector of universal male suffrage.
After months of stalemate, he staged a coup d'état and seized dictatorial powers on 2 December 1851, the 47 anniversary of the famous Battle of Austerlitz (hence another of Louis-Napoleon's nicknames: "The Man of December", "l'homme de Décembre"). The coup was later declared to have been approved by the French people in a national referendum whose fairness and legality have been questioned ever since. The coup of 1851 definitely alienated the republicans. Victor Hugo, who had hitherto shown support toward Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, decided to go into exile after the coup, and became one of the harshest critics of Napoléon III.

Napoleon III President of the French Republic

Emperor of the French
New constitutional statutes were passed which officially maintained an elected Parliament and reestablished universal male suffrage. However, the Parliament now became irrelevant as real power was completely concentrated in the hands of Louis-Napoléon and his bureaucracy. Exactly one year later, on 2 December 1852, after approval by another referendum, the Second Republic was officially ended and the Empire restored, ushering in the Second French Empire. President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte became Emperor Napoléon III. In a situation that resembles the case of Louis XVIII of France, the numbering of Napoléon's reign treats Napoléon II, who never actually ruled, as a true Emperor (he had been briefly recognized as emperor from 22 June to 7 July 1815). That same year, he began shipping political prisoners and criminals to penal colonies such as Devil's Island or (in milder cases) New Caledonia.
The emperor, hitherto a bachelor, began quickly to look for a wife to produce a legitimate heir. Most of the royal families of Europe were unwilling to marry into the parvenu Bonaparte family, and after rebuffs from Princess Carola of Sweden and from Queen Victoria's German niece Princess Adelaide von Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Napoléon decided to lower his sights somewhat and 'marry for love', choosing the young, beautiful Countess of Teba, Eugénie de Montijo, a Spanish noblewoman of partial Scottish ancestry who had been brought up in Paris. On 28 April 1855 Napoléon survived an attempted assassination. In 1856, Eugenie gave birth to a legitimate son and heir, Napoléon Eugène Louis, the Prince Impérial. On 14 January 1858 Napoléon and his wife escaped another assassination attempt, plotted by Felice Orsini.

Authoritarian empire
Until about 1860, Napoléon's regime was definitely authoritarian, using press censorship to prevent the spread of opposition, manipulating elections, and depriving the Parliament of the right to free debate or any real power. In the 1860s, however, Napoléon III made more and more concessions to placate his liberal opponents, beginning with allowing free debates in Parliament and free reports of parliamentary debates, continuing with the relaxation of press censorship, and culminating in the appointment of the Liberal Émile Ollivier, previously a leader of the opposition to Napoléon's regime, as (effectively) Prime Minister in 1870. This later period is known as the Liberal Empire.

Liberal empire
The French economy was rapidly modernized under Napoléon III. Napoleon III wanted to be known mainly as a great social engineer. The industrialization of France during this period helped satisfy both the business interests and the working classes. Downtown Paris was renovated with the clearing of slums, the widening of streets, and the construction of parks. Working class neighborhoods were moved to the outskirts of Paris, where factories utilized their labor. Some of his main backers were Saint-Simonians that referred to him as their "socialist emperor." Saint-Simonians at this time had founded a new type of banking institution, the Credit Mobilier. The Credit Mobilier sold stocks to the public and then used the money raised from stocks to invest in industrial enterprises in France. This sparked a period of rapid economic development.
As it turned out, this time period was very favorable for expansion. The gold rush in California, and later Australia, increased the European money supply. The steady rise of prices caused by the increase of the money supply encouraged company promotion and investment of capital. The mileage of railways in France increased from 3,000 to 16,000 kilometers during the 1850s. The growth of railways allowed mines and factories to stay busy. The 55 smaller rail lines of France were merged into 6 major lines. Wooden ships began to be replaced by iron steamships. Between 1859 and 1869, a French company built the Suez Canal.

In a speech in 1852, Napoleon III famously proclaimed that "The Empire means peace" ("L'Empire, c'est la paix", directly translated reads 'The Empire, This is the peace'), reassuring foreign governments that the new Emperor Napoleon would not be an aggressor as the previous one had been. However, the promise proved illusory; Napoleon III involved France in a series of conflicts throughout his reign. He was thoroughly determined to follow a strong foreign policy to extend France's power and glory. He was also driven by vague dreams of re-casting the map of Europe, sweeping away small principalities to create unified nation-states, even when this seemed to have little relevance to France's interests. In this he remained influenced by his youthful liberal-nationalist politics as a member of the Carbonari in Italy. These two factors led Napoleon to a certain adventurism in foreign policy, although this was sometimes tempered by pragmatism.

Foreign policy
Napoleon's challenge to Russia's claims to influence in the Ottoman Empire led to France's successful participation in the Crimean War (March 1854–March 1856). During this war Napoleon successfully established a French alliance with Britain, which continued after the war's close. The defeat of Russia and the alliance with Britain gave France increased authority in Europe. This was the first war between European powers other than wars solely between the Ottoman Empire and Russia, it marked a breaking down of the peace system which had held for nearly half a century after the Napoleonic Wars.[EDIT: As written this last sentence is patently untrue. Does the author mean the first such war after the Congress of Vienna?]

The Crimean War
Napoleon took the first steps to establishing a French colonial influence in Indochina. He approved the launching of a naval expedition in 1858 to punish the Vietnamese for their mistreatment of French Catholic missionaries and force the court to accept a French presence in the country. An important factor in his decision was the belief that France risked becoming a second-rate power by not expanding its influence in East Asia. Also, the idea that France had a civilizing mission was spreading. This eventually led to a full-out invasion in 1861. By 1862 the war was over and Vietnam conceded three provinces in the south, called by the French Cochin-China, opened three ports to French trade, allowed free passage of French warships to Cambodia (which led to a French protectorate over Cambodia in 1867), allowed freedom of action for French missionaries and gave France a large indemnity for the cost of the war. France did not however intervene in the Christian-supported Vietnamese rebellion in Bac Bo, despite the urging of missionaries, or in the subsequent slaughter of thousands of Christians after the rebellion, suggesting that although persecution of Christians was the prompt for the intervention, military and political reasons ultimately drove colonialism in Vietnam.
In China, France took part in the Second Opium War along with the United Kingdom, and in 1860 French troops entered Beijing. China was forced to concede more trading rights, allow freedom of navigation of the Yangzi river, give full civil rights and freedom of religion to Christians, and give France and Britain a huge indemnity. This combined with the intervention in Vietnam set the stage for further French influence in China leading up to a sphere of influence over parts of Southern China.
In 1866, French Navy troops made an attempt to colonize Korea, during the French Campaign against Korea. In 1867, a French Military Mission to Japan was sent, which played a key role in modernizing the troops of the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, and even participated on his side against Imperial troops during the Boshin war.

East Asia
As President of the Republic, Louis-Napoleon sent French troops to help restore Pope Pius IX as ruler of the Papal States in 1849 after there had been a revolt there in 1848 (although as a Carbonaro he had been involved in plotting a similar revolt in the Papal States during his youth in Italy). This won him support in France from Catholics (although many remained supporters of the Bourbon monarchy at heart). Yet at the same time he had sent an emissary to negotiate with the revolutionary Italian nationalist Mazzini. The Catholic Encyclopedia observes: "In this way the difficulties of the future emperor reveal themselves from the beginning; he wished to spare the religious susceptibilities of French Catholics" and yet to support "the national susceptibilities of the Italian revolutionists -- a double aim which explains many an inconsistency" in his policy.
Napoleon remained attached to the ideal of Italian nationalism which he had embraced in his youth, and wished particularly to end Austrian rule in Lombardy and Venice (he always nursed a dislike for Austria as the incarnation of conservative, legitimate monarchy and the great barrier to the reconstruction of Europe on nationalist lines, again traceable back to his Carbonari days). As Emperor, Napoleon dreamed of doing this, and thus satisfying his own inclinations and winning over liberal and left-wing opinion in France (which was passionately in favour of Italian unification) while at the same time supporting the Pope in Rome and thus maintaining conservative and Catholic support in France. These contradictory desires were evident in his policy in Italy.
In May–July 1859 Napoléon made a secret deal with Cavour, Prime Minister of Piedmont, for France to assist in expelling Austria from the Italian peninsula and bringing about a united Italy, or at least a united northern Italy, in exchange for Piedmont ceding to France Savoy and the Nice region (which was destined to become the so-called French Riviera). He went to war with Austria in 1859 and won a victory at Solferino, which resulted in the ceding of Lombardy to Piedmont by Austria (and in return received Savoy and Nice from Piedmont as promised in 1860). After this had been done, however, Napoleon decided to end French involvement in the war. This early withdrawal, however, failed to prevent central Italy, including most of the Papal states, being incorporated into the new Italian state. This led Catholics in France to turn against Napoleon. Napoleon tried to redress the damage by maintaining French troops in the city of Rome itself, which prevented the Italian government seizing it from the Pope, a policy which Napoleon's devoutly Catholic wife Eugenie fervently supported. However, Napoleon on the whole failed to win back Catholic support at home (and made moves to appeal instead to the anti-Catholic left in his domestic policy in the 1860s, most notably by appointing the anti-clerical Victor Duruy Minister for Education, who further secularised the schooling system). Nonetheless, French troops remained in Rome to protect the Pope until the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

In the beginning of the 1860s, the objectives of the Emperor in foreign policy had been met: France had scored several military victories in Europe and abroad, the defeat at Waterloo had been exorcised, and France was regarded again as the largest military power in Europe.
During the American Civil War, Napoleon III brought France to the fore of the pro-Confederate European powers. For a time, Napoleon III inched steadily towards officially recognizing the Confederacy, especially after the crash of the cotton industry and his expedition in Mexico. It is also said that he was driven by a desire to keep the Union split. Through 1862, Napoleon III entertained Confederate diplomats, raising hopes that he would unilaterally recognize the Confederacy. The Emperor, however, could do little without the support of the United Kingdom, and never officially recognized the Confederacy.

United States of America
Napoleon's adventurism in foreign policy is aptly demonstrated by the French intervention in Mexico (January 1862–March 1867). Napoleon, using as a pretext the Mexican Republic's refusal to pay its foreign debts, planned to establish a French sphere of influence in North America by creating a French-backed monarchy in Mexico, a project which was supported by Mexican conservatives tired of the anti-clerical Mexican republic. The United States was unable to prevent this contravention of the Monroe Doctrine because of the American Civil War, and if, as Napoleon hoped, the Confederates were victorious in that conflict, he believed they would accept the new situation in Mexico.
The monarchy was established under the Habsburg prince Maximilian, with the support of Mexican conservatives and French troops, in 1863. However, former President Benito Juarez and his Republican forces retreated to the countryside and fought against the French troops and the Mexican monarchists. The Mexican monarchist/French forces won victories up until 1865, but then the tide began to turn, partly because the American Civil War had ended and the U.S. government was now able to give practical support to the Republicans, supplying them with arms and establishing a naval blockade to prevent French reinforcements arriving from Europe. Napoleon withdrew French troops from Mexico in 1866. This left Maximilian and the Mexican monarchists doomed to defeat in 1867. Despite Napoleon's pleas that he abdicate and leave Mexico, Maximilian refused to abandon the Mexican conservatives who had supported him, and remained alongside them until the bitter end, when he was captured by the Republicans and then shot on 19 June, 1867. The complete failure of the Mexican intervention was a humiliation for Napoleon, and he was widely blamed across Europe for Maximilian's death, having induced Maximilian to accept the Mexican throne on the understanding he would always have French support and then abandoning him when the situation became difficult.

A far more dangerous threat to Napoleon, however, was looming. France saw its dominance on the continent of Europe eroded by Prussia's crushing victory over Austria in the Austro-Prussian War in June–August 1866. Due in part to his Carbonari past, Napoléon was unable to bring himself to ally with Austria, despite the obvious threat that a victorious Prussia would pose to France.

Napoléon III paid the price for his failure to help defend Austria from Prussia in 1870 when, goaded by the diplomacy of the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck, he began the Franco-Prussian War. This war proved disastrous for France, and was instrumental in giving birth to the German Empire, which would take France's place as the major land power on the continent of Europe until the end of World War I. In battle against Prussia in July 1870 the Emperor was captured at the Battle of Sedan (2 September) and was deposed by the forces of the Third Republic in Paris two days later.
Napoleon spent the last few years of his life in exile in England, with Eugenie and his only son. He died at Frognal House,Chislehurst (Kent), on 9 January 1873. He was haunted to the end by bitter regrets and by painful memories of the battle at which he lost everything; it is said that his last words, addressed to the doctor standing by his deathbed, were: "Were you at Sedan?" ("Etiez-vous à Sedan?") [1]
He was originally buried at St. Mary's, the Catholic church in Chislehurst. However, after his son also died in 1879 (fighting in the British Army against the Zulus in South Africa), the bereaved Eugenie decided to build a monastery, to house monks driven out of France by the anti-clerical laws of the Third Republic, which would provide a suitable resting place for her husband and son. Thus in 1888 Napoleon III's body (and that of his son) was moved to the Imperial Crypt at Saint Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, Hampshire, England. Eugenie, who died many years later in 1920, is now buried there with them.
Napoléon stayed at No. 6 Clarendon Square, Royal Leamington Spa between 1838-1839. The building is now called Napoleon House and has a 'Blue plaque' put up by the local council.

An important legacy of Napoléon III's reign was the rebuilding of Paris. Part of the design decisions were taken in order to reduce the ability of future revolutionaries to challenge the government by capitalizing on the small, medieval streets of Paris to form barricades. However, this should not overlook the fact that the main reason for the complete transformation of Paris was Napoléon III's desire to modernize Paris based on what he had seen of the modernizations of London during his exile there in the 1840s. With his characteristic social approach to politics, Napoléon III desired to improve health standards and living conditions in Paris with the following goals: build a modern sewage system to improve health, develop new housing with larger apartments for the masses, create green parks all across the city to try and keep working classes away from the pubs on Sunday, etc. Large sections of the city were thus flattened down and the old winding streets were replaced with large thoroughfares and broad avenues. The rebuilding of Paris was directed by Baron Haussmann (18091891; Prefect of the Seine département 18531870). It was this rebuilding that turned Paris into the city of broad tree-lined boulevards and parks so beloved of tourists today.
With Prosper Mérimée, Napoleon III was the first to seek the preservation for numerous medieval buildings in France, which had been left disregarded since the French revolution. With Viollet-le-Duc acting as chief architect, many buildings were saved, including some of the most famous in France : - Notre Dame Cathedral, Mont Saint Michel, Carcassonne, Roquetaillade castle and others.
Napoléon III also directed the building of the French railway network, which greatly contributed to the development of the coal mining and steel industry in France, radically changing the nature of the French economy, which entered the modern age of large-scale capitalism. The French economy, the second largest in the world at the time (behind the United Kingdom), experienced a very strong growth during the reign of Napoléon III. Names such as steel tycoon Eugène Schneider or banking mogul James de Rothschild are symbols of the period. Two of France's largest banks, Société Générale and Crédit Lyonnais, still in existence today, were founded during that period. The French stock market also expanded prodigiously, with many coal mining and steel companies issuing stocks. Although largely forgotten by later Republican generations, which only remembered the non-democratic nature of the regime, the economic successes of the Second Empire are today recognized as impressive by historians. The emperor himself, who had spent several years in exile in Victorian Lancashire, was largely influenced by the ideas of the Industrial Revolution in England, and he took particular care of the economic development of the country. He is recognized as the first ruler of France to have taken great care of the economy; previous rulers considering it secondary.
His military adventurism is sometimes considered a fatal blow to the Concert of Europe, which based itself on stability and balance of powers, whereas Napoleon III attempted to rearrange the world map to France's favor even when it involved radical and potentially revolutionary changes in politics.


Napoléon III, to this day, has not enjoyed the prestige that Napoléon I enjoyed. Victor Hugo portrayed him as "Napoléon the small" (Napoléon le Petit), a mere mediocrity in contrast with Napoléon I "The Great", presented as a military and administrative genius. In France, such arch-opposition from the age's central literary figure, whose attacks on Napoléon III were obsessive and powerful, made it impossible for a very long time to assess his reign objectively. Karl Marx mocked Napoléon III by saying that history repeats itself: "The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." Napoléon III has often been seen as an authoritarian but ineffectual leader who brought France into dubious, and ultimately disastrous, foreign military adventures.
However, in the later part of the 20th century historians have moved to reconsider the image of Napoléon III. The diplomatic, and above all, the economic achievements of the reign are now recognized (although diplomatic blunders must also be admitted - most noticeably, he was no match in diplomatic shrewdness for Bismarck). Historians have also emphasized his attention to the fate of working classes and poor people. His book Extinction du paupérisme ("Extinction of pauperism"), which he wrote while imprisoned at the Fort of Ham in 1844, contributed greatly to his popularity among the working classes and thus his election win in 1848. Throughout his reign the emperor worked to alleviate the sufferings of the poor, on occasion breaching the nineteenth-century economic orthodoxy of complete laissez-faire and using state resources or interfering in the market. Among other things, the Emperor granted the right to strike to French workers in 1864, despite intense opposition from corporate lobbies.
The Emperor also ordered the creation of three large parks in Paris (Parc Monceau, Parc Montsouris, and Parc des Buttes Chaumont) with the clear intention of offering them for poor working families as an alternative to the pub (bistrot) on Sundays, much as Victoria Park in London was also built with the same social motives in mind.
For his combination of these economic ideas with monarchical pomp and an active foreign and military policy, Napoléon III has been called a "socialist on horseback".


Napoleon III drew an analogy between the politics of Julius Caesar and his own (and his uncle's); like Caesar, he liked to portray himself as a democratic dictator, a monarch who was chosen by popular election, who was supported by the lower classes and who protected and embodied the masses.

Les Idees Napoleoniennes - outline of Napoleon III's opinion of the best course for France, written before he became Emperor
History of Julius Caesar, a historical work he found time to write during his reign. Publications

Thompson, J.M. Louis Napoleon and the Second Empire. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965. Further reading

Leon Ames played him in Suez (1938), although Loretta Young as Eugenie is much more highlighted.
Claude Rains shows him in Juarez (1939) as a weak man ready to betray Maximilian in Mexico.
Jerome Cowan plays Napoleon III in The Song of Bernadette (1943). In fiction

History of France
Second French Empire
Historic Farnborough

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