Napoleon III

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Napoleon III

(Louis Napoleon Bonaparte), 1808–73, emperor of the French (1852–70), son of Louis Bonaparte (see under BonaparteBonaparte
, Ital. Buonaparte , family name of Napoleon I, emperor of the French. Parentage

Napoleon's father, Carlo Buonaparte, 1746–85, a petty Corsican nobleman, was a lawyer in Ajaccio.
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, family), king of Holland.

Early Life

The nephew of Napoleon I, Louis Napoleon spent his youth with his mother, Hortense de BeauharnaisBeauharnais, Hortense de
, 1783–1837, queen of Holland (1806–10), daughter of Alexandre and Josephine de Beauharnais and wife of Louis Bonaparte. She was the mother of Napoleon III and—by her lover, the comte de Flahaut—of the duc de Morny.
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, in Switzerland and Germany and became a captain in the Swiss army. Animated by a mixture of liberalism and Bonapartism, he indulged (1830–31) in revolutionary activities in Italy. In 1836 he attempted a ludicrous military coup at Strasbourg and was exiled to the United States by the government of Louis PhilippeLouis Philippe
, 1773–1850, king of the French (1830–48), known before his accession as Louis Philippe, duc d'Orléans. The son of Philippe Égalité (see Orléans, Louis Philippe Joseph, duc d'), he joined the army of the French Revolution,
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. He managed to return to Switzerland, but French protests at his proximity finally caused him to depart (1838) for England.

In 1840 he again attempted an insurrection, this time at Boulogne-sur-Mer. He was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment. Detained in the fortress of Ham, Somme department, he wrote letters, pamphlets, and books, among them a mildly socialistic work on the extinction of pauperism. He made an easy escape in 1846, walking out disguised as a laborer, and went to England.

A Myth Fulfilled

After the February RevolutionFebruary Revolution,
1848, French revolution that overthrew the monarchy of Louis Philippe and established the Second Republic. General dissatisfaction resulted partly from the king's increasingly reactionary policy, carried out after 1840 by François Guizot, and partly
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 of 1848 Louis Napoleon returned to France. He gathered a following, was elected to the national assembly, and in Dec., 1848, defeated Louis Eugène CavaignacCavaignac, Louis Eugène
, 1802–57, French general. He participated in the French conquest of Algeria and was promoted to general in 1844. After the outbreak of the February Revolution in 1848, he became governor-general of Algeria.
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 in the presidential elections by an overwhelming majority. Although assisted by Cavaignac's unpopularity with the working classes, Louis Napoleon's success was largely due to his name. He vaguely promised support to all interests, and he evoked French nostalgia for past Napoleonic glory. As president of the Second Republic, he was limited by law to one term. He soon began to strengthen his position and took special care to conciliate the powerful conservative forces. The strong Roman Catholic opposition was allayed by allowing (1849) a French army to restore Pope Pius IX to Rome and by assenting (1850) to an education bill, presented by Frédéric de Falloux, which greatly favored the church.

After the defeat in the assembly in July, 1851, of a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the president to serve for more than one term, Louis Napoleon began plans for a coup. The masterly coup of Dec. 2, 1851, was largely engineered by Louis Napoleon's half-brother, the duc de MornyMorny, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph, duc de
, 1811–65, French statesman; illegitimate son of Hortense de Beauharnais and the comte de Flahaut de La Billarderie. After an army career (1830–38) during which he fought in North Africa, Morny entered politics and was
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. The legislative assembly was dissolved and its meeting place occupied by the army, universal suffrage was established, and a plebiscite authorizing the revision of the constitution was announced. An attempted uprising was brutally repressed. To assure a majority in the plebiscite Morny used tactics of intimidation and strict electoral management.

Victory would, in any case, have been the probable outcome. The Bonaparte name promised glory, order, and a possible solution of France's political division. The plebiscite registered overwhelming approval. The new constitution (Jan., 1852) gave the president dictatorial powers and created a council of state, a senate, and a legislative assembly subservient to the president. Subsequent decrees barred republicans from the ballot and throttled the press.

Emperor of the French

In Nov., 1852, a new plebiscite overwhelmingly approved the establishment of the Second Empire, and Louis Napoleon became Emperor Napoleon III. For eight years he continued to exercise dictatorial rule, tempered by rapid material progress. Railway building was encouraged; the rebuilding of Paris and other cities brought a construction boom; and the first French investment banks were authorized. Napoleon's foreign ventures were successful at first. The Crimean WarCrimean War
, 1853–56, war between Russia on the one hand and the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain, France, and Sardinia on the other. The causes of the conflict were inherent in the unsolved Eastern Question.
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 (1854–56) and the Congress of Paris (see Paris, Congress ofParis, Congress of,
1856, conference held by representatives of France, Great Britain, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), Sardinia, Russia, Austria, and Prussia to negotiate the peace after the Crimean War. In the Treaty of Paris (Mar.
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) restored French leadership on the Continent.

Napoleon then turned toward Italy. A long-time supporter of Italian nationalism, he met the Sardinian premier Camillo CavourCavour, Camillo Benso, conte di
, 1810–61, Italian statesman, premier (1852–59, 1860–61) of the Kingdom of Sardinia. The active force behind King Victor Emmanuel II, he was responsible more than any other man for the unification of Italy under the house of
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 at Plombières and secretly agreed on a joint campaign by France and Sardinia to expel Austria from Italy and to establish an Italian federation of four states under the presidency of the pope; France was to be compensated with Nice and Savoy. War broke out in 1859 (see RisorgimentoRisorgimento
[Ital.,=resurgence], in 19th-century Italian history, period of cultural nationalism and of political activism, leading to unification of Italy. Roots of the Risorgimento
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). However, after the costly victory of the French and Sardinians at SolferinoSolferino
, village, Lombardy, N Italy, near Mantua. There, on June 24, 1859, the French and Sardinians fought a bloody battle with the Austrians (see Risorgimento). Although the battle resulted in no clear decision, the Austrians withdrew to their strategic fortresses.
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, Napoleon suddenly deserted his Italian ally and made a separate peace with Austria at Villafranca di VeronaVillafranca di Verona
, town (1991 pop. 27,036), Venetia, NE Italy. In 1859, Napoleon III and Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria met there after the Austrian defeats at Magenta and Solferino and signed a preliminary peace treaty, which was formalized the same year by the Treaty
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. His act was partly motivated by the opposition of the French clerical party to a policy threatening the independence of the papacy at Rome.

The Liberal Empire

Having lost much popularity, the emperor inaugurated a more liberal domestic policy, widening the powers of the legislative assembly and lifting many restrictions on civil liberties. During the "Liberal Empire" (1860–70) such opposition leaders as Jules FavreFavre, Jules
, 1809–80, French statesman. At first a partisan of the July Monarchy, he joined the republican opposition to King Louis Philippe. After the February Revolution of 1848 he was one of the leaders of the provisional government.
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, Émile OllivierOllivier, Émile
, 1825–1913, French statesman, a leading figure in the "Liberal Empire" of Napoleon III. Widely known as a brilliant lawyer, he was elected to the legislature in 1857.
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, and Adolphe ThiersThiers, Adolphe
, 1797–1877, French statesman, journalist, and historian.

After studying law at Aix-en-Provence, Thiers went (1821) to Paris and joined the group of writers that attacked the reactionary government of King Charles X.
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 were outstanding figures. A commercial treaty (1860) with Great Britain opened France to free trade and improved Franco-British relations. Imperialistic expansion was pushed by the French-British expedition (1857–60) against China, the acquisition of Cochin ChinaCochin China
, Fr. Cochinchine, historic region (c.26,500 sq mi/68,600 sq km) of Vietnam, SE Asia. The capital and chief city was Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). Cochin China was bounded by Cambodia on the northwest and north, by the historic region of Annam on the
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, and the construction of the Suez CanalSuez Canal,
Arab. Qanat as Suways, waterway of Egypt extending from Port Said to Port Tawfiq (near Suez) and connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez and thence with the Red Sea. The canal is somewhat more than 100 mi (160 km) long.
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. Less fortunate was Napoleon's intervention (1861–67) in the affairs of MexicoMexico
, Span. México or Méjico , officially United Mexican States, republic (2005 est. pop. 106,203,000), 753,665 sq mi (1,952,500 sq km), S North America.
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; the French troops finally withdrew upon the demand of the United States, leaving Emperor MaximilianMaximilian,
1832–67, emperor of Mexico (1864–67). As the Austrian archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, he was denied a share in the imperial government by his reactionary brother, Emperor Francis Joseph.
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 to his fate.

Napoleon remained neutral in the Austro-Prussian WarAustro-Prussian War
or Seven Weeks War,
June 15–Aug. 23, 1866, between Prussia, allied with Italy, and Austria, seconded by Bavaria, Württemberg, Saxony, Hanover, Baden, and several smaller German states.
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 of 1866, underestimating Prussian strength. The rise of Prussia under the leadership of Otto von BismarckBismarck, Otto von
, 1815–98, German statesman, known as the Iron Chancellor. Early Life and Career

Born of an old Brandenburg Junker family, he studied at Göttingen and Berlin, and after holding minor judicial and administrative offices he was elected
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 revealed a new rival for European power. To regain prestige Napoleon, at the behest of advisers, took an aggressive stand regarding the candidature of a Hohenzollern prince to the Spanish throne. This gave Bismarck the opportunity to goad Napoleon into war (see Ems dispatchEms dispatch,
1870, communication between King William of Prussia (later German Emperor William I) and his premier, Otto von Bismarck. In June, 1870, the throne of Spain was offered to Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a relative of King William.
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).

The Franco-Prussian WarFranco-Prussian War
or Franco-German War,
1870–71, conflict between France and Prussia that signaled the rise of German military power and imperialism. It was provoked by Otto von Bismarck (the Prussian chancellor) as part of his plan to create a unified German
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 (1870–71) brought ruin to the Second Empire. Napoleon himself took the field, leaving his empress, EugénieEugénie
, 1826–1920, empress of the French (1853–70), consort of Napoleon III. Born in Spain, she was christened Eugenia María de Montijo de Guzmán and was the daughter of the Spanish conde de Teba and of a woman of Scottish descent.
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, as regent, but he early devolved his command to Achille BazaineBazaine, Achille François
, 1811–88, French army officer. He served in Algeria, Crimea, Lombardy, and Mexico, and in the Franco-Prussian War he was given (Aug., 1870) the supreme command by Emperor Napoleon III.
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. He was caught in the disaster of Sedan (Sept. 1, 1870), captured by the Prussians, and declared deposed (Sept. 4) by a bloodless revolution in Paris. Released after the armistice (1871), he went into exile in England, bearing defeat with remarkable dignity. His only son, the prince imperial (see under BonaparteBonaparte
, Ital. Buonaparte , family name of Napoleon I, emperor of the French. Parentage

Napoleon's father, Carlo Buonaparte, 1746–85, a petty Corsican nobleman, was a lawyer in Ajaccio.
..... Click the link for more information.
, family), was killed while serving in the British army.

Assessment

Napoleon III was a complex figure. He combined traits of genuine idealism and liberalism with authoritarianism and ruthless self-aggrandizement. Although much less impressive than his mighty uncle, he was shrewd enough to capitalize on the Napoleonic image and to govern capably, albeit dictatorially. His downfall came when he encountered the far more canny Bismarck.

Bibliography

See studies of the Second Empire by P. de La Gorce (7 vol., 1894–1905, in French), E. Ollivier (18 vol., 1895–1918, in French), P. Guedalla (2d ed. 1928), and J. M. Thompson (1954, repr. 1967); F. A. Simpson, The Rise of Louis Napoleon (new ed. 1925, repr. 1968) and Louis Napoleon and the Recovery of France (3d ed. 1951); A. Guérard, Napoleon III (1943); D. H. Pinkney, Napoleon III and the Rebuilding of Paris (1958); J. P. T. Bury, Napoleon III and the Second Empire (1964); B. D. Gooch, The Reign of Napoleon III (1969); W. H. C. Smith, Napoleon III (1972).

Napoleon III

 

(Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte). Born Apr. 20, 1808, in Paris; died Jan. 9, 1873, in Chislehurst, near London. French emperor from 1852 to 1870.

The son of Hortense de Beauharnais, the stepdaughter of Napoleon I, and Napoleon’s brother Louis Bonaparte, Louis Napoleon lived in exile after 1815. After the death of the Duke of Reichstadt (Napoleon I’s son) in 1832, the Bonapartists considered Louis Napoleon the “legitimate” pretender to the French throne. In 1836 in Strasbourg and in 1840 in Boulogne he tried to raise military revolts and seize power in France. In 1840 he was sentenced by the French government to life imprisonment in the castle of Ham. While in prison he wrote a pamphlet on the struggle against pauperism.

In 1846 he fled to Great Britain. He returned to France after the February Revolution of 1848. Taking advantage of the intensification of class conflicts, the peasants’ discontent with the tax policy of the Second Republic, and the big bourgeoisie’s desire to establish a dictatorial regime, he was elected president of the Republic on Dec. 10, 1848. With the help of the military, he staged a counterrevolutionary coup d’etat on Dec. 2, 1851. The legislative assembly was dissolved, and all power was transferred to the president.

On Dec. 2, 1852, Louis Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor Napoleon III. He ruled in the interests of the big bourgeoisie, establishing a harsh dictatorship characterized by police terror. The leaders of the First International were persecuted. The emperor flirted demagogically with the workers and pursued the typical Bonapartist policy of maneuvering between one side and the other. Frightened by the increasing revolutionary activity of the masses in the early 1860’s, Napoleon III tried to carry out several liberal reforms—for example, the law of 1864, which ended the ban on strikes, and the introduction of partial freedom of assembly in 1868. However, these concessions could not halt the growth of social discontent.

Napoleon III’s government waged many wars of aggression, entering the Crimean War (1853–56) and the war against Austria (1859) and intervening in Indochina (1858–62), Syria (1860–61), and Mexico (1862–67). The foreign policy failures of the Second Empire, especially the failure of the Mexican expedition, weakened Napoleon III’s position in France and abroad. His half-measures to liberalize the regime could not prevent the empire’s collapse, which was hastened by the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71). On Sept. 2, 1870, the emperor was taken prisoner by Prussian troops in battle near Sedan. The revolution of Sept. 4, 1870, in Paris removed him from the throne. After the conclusion of the Treaty of Frankfurt (1871), he was released from captivity. He spent the rest of his life in Great Britain.

REFERENCES

Marx, K. “Vosemnadtsatoe briumera Lui Bonaparta.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 8.
Zhelubovskaia, E. A. Krushenie Vtoroi imperii i vozniknovenie Tret’ei respubliki vo Frantsii. Moscow, 1956.

V. A. DUNAEVSKII

Napoleon III

full name Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, known as Louis-Napoleon. 1808--73, Emperor of the French (1852--70); nephew of Napoleon I. He led two abortive Bonapartist risings (1836; 1840) and was elected president of the Second Republic (1848), establishing the Second Empire in 1852. Originally successful in foreign affairs, he was deposed after the disastrous Franco-Prussian War
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