Second French Empire

French Empire

Empire Français
1852–1870
Motto: Liberté, égalité, fraternité
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
Anthem: Partant pour la Syrie
"Departing for Syria"
Second French Empire in 1862
Second French Empire in 1862
CapitalParis
Common languagesFrench
Religion
Roman Catholicism, officially established
Calvinism
Lutheranism
Judaism
GovernmentUnitary Constitutional Monarchy
Emperor 
• 1852–1870
Napoleon III
Cabinet Chief 
• 1869–1870
Émile Ollivier
• 1870
Charles de Palikao
LegislatureParliament
Senate
Corps législatif
Historical eraNew Imperialism
2 December 1851
14 January 1852
19 July 1870
1 September 1870
4 September 1870
CurrencyFrench franc
ISO 3166 codeFR
Preceded by
Succeeded by
French Second Republic
French Algeria
Nguyễn Dynasty
French Third Republic
German Empire

The Second French Empire (French: Le Second Empire Français), officially the French Empire (French: Empire Français), was the regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.

Many historians disparaged the Second Empire as a precursor of fascism. By the late 20th century some were celebrating it as leading example of a modernizing regime.[1][2] Historians have generally given the Empire negative evaluations on its foreign-policy, and somewhat more positive evaluations of domestic policies, especially after Napoleon liberalized his rule after 1858. He promoted French business, and exports. The greatest achievements came in material improvements, in the form of a grand railway network that facilitated commerce and tied the nation together and centered it on Paris. It had the effect of stimulating economic growth, and bringing prosperity to most regions of the country. The Second Empire is given high credit for the rebuilding of Paris with broad boulevards, striking public buildings, and very attractive residential districts for upscale Parisians. In international policy, Napoleon III tried to emulate his uncle, engaging in numerous imperial ventures around the world as well as several wars in Europe. Using very harsh methods, he built up the French Empire in North Africa and in Southeast Asia. Napoleon III also sought to modernize the Mexican economy and bring it into the French orbit, but this ended in a fiasco. He badly mishandled the threat from Prussia, and by the end of his reign, Napoleon III found himself without allies in the face of overwhelming German force.[3]

History

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Coup of 1851

On 2 December 1851, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, who had been elected President of the Republic, staged a coup d'état by dissolving the National Assembly without having the constitutional right to do so. He thus became sole ruler of France, and re-established universal suffrage, previously abolished by the Assembly. His decisions were popularly endorsed by a referendum later that month that attracted an implausible 92 percent support.

At that same referendum, a new constitution was approved. Formally enacted in January 1852, the new document made Louis-Napoléon president for 10 years, with no restrictions on reelection. It concentrated virtually all governing power in his hands. However, Louis-Napoléon was not content with merely being an authoritarian president. Almost as soon as he signed the new document into law, he set about restoring the empire. In response to officially inspired requests for the return of the empire, the Senate scheduled a second referendum in November, which passed with 97 percent support. As with the December 1851 referendum, most of the "yes" votes were manufactured out of thin air.

The empire was formally re-established on 2 December 1852, and the Prince-President became "Napoléon III, Emperor of the French". The constitution concentrated so much power in his hands that the only substantive changes were to replace the word "president" with the word "emperor" and to make the post hereditary. The popular referendum became a distinct sign of Bonapartism, which Charles de Gaulle would later use.

Early reign

The official declaration of the Second Empire, at the Hôtel de Ville, Paris on 2 December 1852.

With almost dictatorial powers. Napoleon III made building a good railway system a high priority. He consolidated three dozen small, incomplete lines into six major companies using Paris as a hub. Paris grew dramatically in terms of population, industry, finance, commercial activity, and tourism. Napoleon working with Georges-Eugène Haussmann spent lavishly to rebuild the city into a world-class showpiece.[4] The financial soundness for all six companies was solidified by government guarantees. Although France had started late, by 1870 it had an excellent railway system, supported as well by good roads, canals and ports.[5]

Napoleon, in order to restore the prestige of the Empire before the newly awakened hostility of public opinion, tried to gain the support from the Left that he had lost from the Right. After the return from Italy, the general amnesty of August 16, 1859 had marked the evolution of the absolutist or authoritarian empire towards the liberal, and later parliamentary empire, which was to last for ten years.

Religion

The idea of Italian unification – based on the exclusion of the temporal power of the popes – outraged French Catholics, who had been the leading supporters of the Empire. A keen Catholic opposition sprang up, voiced in Louis Veuillot's paper the Univers, and was not silenced even by the Syrian expedition (1860) in favour of the Catholic Maronite side of the Druze–Maronite conflict.[6]

Ultramontane Catholicism, emphasizing the necessity for close links to the Pope at the Vatican played a pivotal role in the democratization of culture. The pamphlet campaign led by Mgr Gaston de Ségur at the height of the Italian question in February 1860 made the most of the freedom of expression enjoyed by the Catholic Church in France. The goal was to mobilize Catholic opinion, and encourage the government to be more favorable to the Pope. A major result of the ultramontane campaign was to trigger reforms to the cultural sphere, and the granting of freedoms to their political enemies: the Republicans and freethinkers.[7]

The Second Empire strongly favored Catholicism, the official state religion. However it tolerated Protestants and Jews. There were no persecutions or pogroms. The state dealt with the small Protestant community of Calvinist and Lutheran churches. Their members included many prominent businessmen who supported the regime. The emperor's Decree Law of 26 March 1852 led to greater government interference in Protestant church affairs, thus reducing self-regulation. Catholic bureaucrats both misunderstood Protestant doctrine and were biased against it. The administration of their policies affected not only church-state relations but also the internal lives of Protestant communities.[8]

Police

Napoleon III manipulated a range of politicized police powers to censor the media and suppress opposition. Legally he had broad powers but in practice he was limited by legal, customary, and moral deterrents. By 1851 political police had a centralized administrative hierarchy and were largely immune from public control. The Second Empire continued the system; proposed innovations were stalled by officials. Typically political roles were part of routine administrative duties. Opponents exaggerated the increase of secret police activity and the imperial police lacked the omnipotence seen in later totalitarian states.[9]

Freedom of the press

Napoleon began by removing the gag which was keeping the country in silence. On November 24, 1860, he granted to the Chambers the right to vote an address annually in answer to the speech from the throne, and to the press the right of reporting parliamentary debates. He counted on the latter concession to hold in check the growing Catholic opposition, which was becoming more and more alarmed by the policy of laissez-faire practised by the emperor in Italy. The government majority already showed some signs of independence. The right of voting on the budget by sections, granted by the emperor in 1861, was a new weapon given to his adversaries. Everything conspired in their favour: the anxiety of those candid friends who were calling attention to the defective budget, the commercial crisis and foreign troubles.[6]

The Union libérale

Napoleon again disappointed the hopes of Italy, allowed Poland to be crushed, and allowed Prussia to triumph over Denmark regarding the Schleswig-Holstein question. These inconsistencies let opposition leaders to form the Union libérale, a coalition of the Legitimist, Liberal and Republican parties. The Opposition gained forty seats in the elections of May–June 1863, and Adolphe Thiers urgently gave voice to the opposition parties' demands for "necessary liberties".

It would have been difficult for the emperor to mistake the importance of this manifestation of French opinion, and in view of his international failures, impossible to repress it. The sacrifice of Persigny minister of the interior, who was responsible for the elections, the substitution for the ministers without portfolio of a sort of presidency of the council filled by Eugène Rouher, the "Vice-Emperor", and the nomination of Jean Victor Duruy, an anti-clerical, as minister of public instruction, in reply to those attacks of the Church which were to culminate in the Syllabus of 1864, all indicated a distinct rapprochement between the emperor and the Left.[6]

But though the opposition represented by Thiers was rather constitutional than dynastic, there was another and irreconcilable opposition, that of the amnestied or voluntarily exiled republicans, of whom Victor Hugo was the eloquent mouthpiece. Thus those who had formerly constituted the governing classes were again showing signs of their ambition to govern. There appeared to be some risk that this movement among the bourgeoisie might spread to the people. As Antaeus recruited his strength by touching the earth, so Napoleon believed that he would consolidate his menaced power by again turning to the labouring masses, by whom that power had been established.[6]

Assured of support, the emperor, through Rouher, a supporter of the absolutist régime, refused all fresh claims on the part of the Liberals. He was aided by international events such as the reopening of cotton supplies when the American Civil War ended in 1865, by the apparent closing of the Roman question by the convention of September 15, which guaranteed to the Papal States the protection of Italy, and finally by the treaty of October 30, 1864, which temporarily put an end to the crisis of the Schleswig-Holstein question.[6]

Social mobility

France was primarily a rural society, in which the social depended on family reputation and extent of land ownership. A limited amount of upward mobility was feasible, thanks to the steadily improved educational system. Students from all levels of society were granted admission to public secondary schools, thus opening a ladder to sons of peasants and artisans. However few working-class families took advantage or wished to see their sons move up and out of the class of origin. Very few sons of poor families sought admission to the 'grandes écoles.' The elite maintained their position while allowing social ascent the professions for ambitious sons of wealthy farmers and small-town merchants.[10]

Mobilization of the working classes

The Ultramontane party were becoming discontented, while the industries formerly protected were dissatisfied with free trade reform. The working classes had abandoned their political neutrality. Disregarding Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's impassioned attack on communism, they had gradually been won over by the collectivist theories of Karl Marx and the revolutionary theories of Mikhail Bakunin, as set forth at the congresses of the International. At these Labour congresses, the fame of which was only increased by the fact that they were forbidden, it had been affirmed that the social emancipation of the worker was inseparable from his political emancipation. The union between the internationalists and the republican bourgeois became an accomplished fact.[6]

The Empire, taken by surprise, sought to curb both the middle classes and the labouring classes, and forced them both into revolutionary actions. There were multiple strikes. The elections of May 1869, which took place during these disturbances, inflicted upon the Empire a serious moral defeat. In spite of the revival by the government of the cry of the "red terror", Ollivier, the advocate of conciliation, was rejected by Paris, while 40 irreconcilables and 116 members of the Third Party were elected. Concessions had to be made to these, so by the senatus-consulte of September 8, 1869 a parliamentary monarchy was substituted for personal government. On January 2, 1870 Ollivier was placed at the head of the first homogeneous, united and responsible ministry.[6]

Plebiscite of 1870

The republican party, unlike the country, which hailed this reconciliation of liberty and order, refused to be content with the liberties they had won; they refused all compromise, declaring themselves more than ever decided upon the overthrow of the Empire. The killing of the journalist Victor Noir by Pierre Bonaparte, a member of the imperial family, gave the revolutionaries their long desired opportunity (January 10). But the émeute (uprising) ended in a failure.[6]

In a concession to democratic currents, the emperor put his policy to a plebiscite on May 8, 1870. The result was a substantial success for Bonaparte, with seven and a half million in favour and only one and a half million against. However, the vote also signified divisions in France. Those affirming were found mainly in rural areas, while the opposition prevailed in the big towns.[11]

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Tē-jī Tè-kok
français: Second Empire
Bahasa Indonesia: Kekaisaran Kedua Prancis
Bahasa Melayu: Empayar Perancis Kedua
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Drugo Francusko Carstvo