The third revolution was intended to bring down the Conservative government supported by the monarchy. The working classes and the Paris proletariat fought against the reactionary forces with the riots of February and June. In December of 1848 Luis Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, was elected to the presidency of the Republic.
Napoleon’s empire ended with the defeat of Waterloo. The victorious powers imposed the return of the absolute monarchy to France. In 1814 Louis XVIII, brother of the guillotined Louis XVI, was appointed king. During the hundred days of Napoleon, the king took refuge abroad, to return to Paris with the final defeat of Bonaparte. Between 1815 and 1830 there were years of fierce restoration. All the social benefits, that the French had obtained during the first revolution and the Napoleonic period, were dismantled.
In 1830 the people of Paris, tired of widespread poverty and the privileges that the bourgeoisie achieved at the expense of the people, rebelled for the second time. It was “second revolution“. In the three days of 27, 28 and 29 July, called by the French “Trois Glorieuses“, Charles X, the last of the Bourbon dynasty, succeeded Louis XVIII died in 1824, was replaced by Louis Philippe, a member of the hated dynasty Orleans, that Bourbon considered traitors because of the vote in favor of the death penalty to Louis XVI, that the father of Charles, Louis Philippe II of Bourbon-Orleans, expressed as a member of the National Assembly.
The reign of Louis Philippe was marked by a government whose policy turned authoritarian, with an economy which favored businesses and professions at the expense of workers. The workers had abolished their rights obtained by the second revolution. Prime Minister Francois Guizot was an expression of the financial bourgeoisie. A bourgeoisie that was enriched at state expense, they subscribed significant portions of debt issued by the government to cover public financial needs. The interests that the state handed out to his creditors were above those currents, effectively creating an extra income that favored the parasitic bourgeoisie. Society was so much a bankrupt system that categories of entrepreneurs and merchant, which at first had supported this policy, found themselves in the discontent with the difficult access to the credit market, doped by financial policy. The privileges of the new bourgeoisie, rich without risk, was the reason for which the Louis Philippe reign was called the “bourgeois monarchy.”
Attempts to broaden the electoral base, which was selected for wealth, failed miserably. It was increased from 100,000 to 240,000 voters after the revolution of 1830. This increase still held out to any political practicability large sections of the working population, the agricultural class to the artisan and laborer.
The abolition of the “Ateliers“, active in the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic period, did get into poverty hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers. Ateliers were created during the first revolution to offer to the most deprived citizen the opportunity to job on the construction of public work. These initiatives had virtually canceled unemployment and eliminated the deepest poverty throughout France.
The monarchy of Louis-Philippe d’Orleans was opposed by the majority of the population. The workers and artisans opposed its for the widespread unemployment and poverty. The merchants, the industrial and the agricultural classes opposed its for dominance of the financial bourgeoisie represented in the government by Prime Minister Francois Guizot. The opposition, which did not enjoy the freedom to express themselves through the press, under government control, began its propaganda campaign through the civic banquets. The “civic banquets” were created at the time of the revolution and served to celebrate anniversaries or events in common. They were active even after the restoration. They consisted of a trip made by a group of more or less large people, which began with a procession through the streets of Paris, accompanied by a small orchestra, and ends in the gardens of the city or the surrounding countryside with a lunch of all the participants. In the months prior to the third revolution there were 70 of these trips.
All the opposition parties, the Socialists, Liberals and Republicans attended in this semi-clandestine propaganda. Also Orleanists, who were part of majority, joined the banquets for the discomfort in the government. The prefect of Paris forbaded these meetings on February 14, 1848. On February 22 was organized another banquet with meeting in Place de la Madeleine. The banquet could not give because of the threat of the authorities to involve the army. This was the last straw of the revolution, initiating the riots of February 1848.
The February riots
On the morning of 22 February a mob of insurgents, about 3,000, mostly students and workers, headed for Bourbon Palace, seat of the Assembly of Deputies, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Guizot and his government. The assembly of elected representatives rejected the motion of censure to the government tabled by a member of the opposition. In the afternoon a state of siege was declared. The army is deployed on the streets with 30,000 soldiers. The 40,000 men of the National Guard, which had had its origin in the revolution, were hesitant to take a stand against the people.
The night between 22 and 23 spent with the insurgents committed to building barricades in the streets. More than 1,500 barricades were erected. Meanwhile detachments of the National Guard took a stand with the insurgents while others National Guard detachments were between the crowd and the army preventing direct confrontation between demonstrators and soldiers. In the evening the irreparable happened. An army unit opened fire on civilians as a result of insurgent provocations. 52 dead were counted. On the night parades of citizens carried in the streets of Paris the bodies of civilians killed.
On the morning of February 24 protesters attacked the royal palace. King Louis Philippe abdicated in favor of his nephew Louis Philippe Albert d’Orleans nine years of age. His mother, Helen of Mecklenburg Duchess of Orleans, appointed rengent in haste because of the minority of her son, went to Bourbon palace to be proclaimed regent. The elder Louis Philippe, after the abdication, embarked for England with his wife. The prime minister resigning Guizot and some members of his government accompanied him inn the flight. Orléanists, despite having a majority in the Assembly of palace Bourbon, were not able to proclaim the regency because of the violent opposition of other political forces. At the end of the third day of riots more than 350 dead and 500 injured were counted.
February 25 members of palace Bourbon elected a provisional government inspired by the liberal poet Alphonse de Lamartine (author of the poem “Graziella”, sited in Procida isle). It were led by Elder Dupont de l’Eure and were consisted of ministers from all opposition forces. The Assembly decided to transform France into a republic, but it decided to proclaim the republic only after the election of a Constituent Assembly. It decided to add a red rosette on tricolor flag.
The “Ateliers Nationaux”
The same day of the appointment, the new government decided to restore the old “Ateliers Nationaux” to occupy the unemployed citizens in public utility projects. Ateliers came to employ more than 100,000 workers. Freedom of the press was also re-established, severely impaired by the initiatives of the Restoration governments which, with the increase of taxes and improper charges, had made impossible for the survival of small newspapers, promoting the great publishing groups aligned in power. The death penalty was also abolished with slavery was still practiced in the colonies. The new government also instituted universal suffrage, open to all men, were excluded women, bringing the electoral body about 9 million people.
The economic situation of the state appeared threatened by sabotage carried out by the financial bourgeoisie, which withdrew all of its capital from banks. The government was forced, to regain the confidence of investors, to pay in advance the interest on state debt, announcing at the same time the forced currency of paper money. It instituted the “45 cent tax”. The citizen had tu pay a surtax of 45 cents for every franc paid by taxpayers for property tax, securities tax, doors and windows tax and business tax. The establishment of this tax broke the unity between the peasant classes, particularly affected by this tax, and the working class, concentrated in Paris, that instead benefited largely of state aid through the “Ateliers”.
In April the people was voting for the Constituent Assembly in which many of the so-called Republicans the next day was elected: monarchists, Bonapartists and conservatives. Three representatives of the Bonaparte family were with Bonapartist: Jerome Napoleon, son of Jerome Bonaparte, the youngest of Napoleon’s brothers, Peter Napoleon, son of Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon Luciano Murat, son of Joachim Murat. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, who was the head of the family, chose not to stand for election at the time, considering that his presence could give rise to a feeling contrary to his person, jeopardizing his political future.
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, future Napoleon III
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was the son of Louis Bonaparte, the younger brother of Napoleon, and of Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Napoleon’s wife Josephine, and her first husband Alexandre de Beauharnais. All the members of the Bonaparte family had to exile after the defeat of Waterloo. Hortense de Beauharnais with her son Louis Napoleon moved to Switzerland and then in Germany, where the young Louis completed his studies. Then the little family moved to Rome. Louis Napoleon was introduced to politics by his tutor Philippe Le Bas, of republican ideas. He was able to complete his training with the friendship that linked him with Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand in Rome.
In 1831 Hortense and Louis Napoleon returned to France getting permission to stay at home by King Louis Philippe. Being alive the Bonapartist party, Luigi soon was involved in attempts to restore a Bonaparte at the head of the nation. In 1836 he was again banished from France and found himself in the United States. In 1838 he moved to London where he resumed his political maneuvers to return to France and to take charge of the Bonapartist movement.
In 1840, Luis Napoleon, with sixty armed revolutionaries, landed at Boulogne with the hope of a general uprising of the people that would allow him to march on Paris. The people was not upraised. Louis Napoleon and his few men were immediately overwhelmed by the local military garrison. Bonaparte was imprisoned in the fortress of Ham, where, however, he was treated with every consideration, enough to keep his mistress Eleonore Vergeot and have two children. He devoted himself to writing books about politics in prison. In 1846, tired of that life, taking advantage of poor surveillance, escaped from the fortress embarking on a ship to London. Shortly after his father Luigi died. He became consequently the head of the Bonaparte family.
The Second Republic
A government was born after the official proclamation of the republic, which took place on May 4, 1848. It was an expression of the forces present in the constituent assembly. The majority of the government was made up of ministers from conservative forces, although badly disguised as revolutionary. Ministers represented the financial bourgeoisie that had already led France to the second and third revolution. The government began to dismantle all the social achievements made by citizens during the February riots. “Cahier de doléances” were abolished, letters of complaints and denunciation, established during the first revolution, that the committees sent, as representatives of citizens, national assembly to inform and ask measures.
After disorders caused by the non-intervention of France in favor of the Polish insurgents, the government had Republican opposition leaders arrested and, taking its revolutionary masks off, it decreed the closure of the “Ateliers Nationaux” with the false reason for the exorbitant costs borne by the state. The total cost of the “Ateliers” accounted instead of one per cent of the total expenses of the state budget.
The workers of the Ateliers remained unemployed. The government suggested that they go to work in the excavation of an artificial waterway in the Sologne, south-west of Paris. Alternatively, it was proposed to join the army. At this point Louis Napoleon Bonaparte interjected who, in an open letter to the French people sent from London where he lived, became a proponent of the “Extinction du pauperisme“, the end of poverty.
Revolt of 23, 24, 25 and 26 June
On June 23, following the decision to delete the Ateliers, only opportunity of the Paris proletariat, insurgent groups began construction of the barricades in the eastern part of the city inhabited by the proletarian classes. All the armed forces present in Paris were used against insurgents. The army and the National Guard attacked the barricades from the west. The incident, that sparked the fiercest fighting between the two sides, came at Rue de Clery. A barricade, attacked by the National Guard, was abandoned by its defenders. Seven men and two women stood in defense of the same. The first of these, a beautiful, well-dressed and courageous tailoring’s girl braced the red flag of revolution and advanced to the National Guard. She was gunned down by soldiers. The second girl rushed to the companion and, seeing her dead, braced in turn the flag and began furiously throwing stones against the murderers of her friend. She fell to the ground, struck down by the shotguns of the guards.
The army used artillery, bombarding the barricades and the houses around the bridge of the Ile de la Cite, where Notre Dame is found. The cavalry attacked after the bombings to have a clean sweep of the insurgents. The barricades resisted in the Place de la Bastille and the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
On the morning of June 24 the army resumed bombing. General Cavaignac was appointed dictator of Paris with full powers. At noon the army recaptured the railway station. However the insurgents were able to conquer the key positions in the city. They completely controlled the left bank of the Seine. Cavaignac attracted army reinforcements and the National Guard from all nearby cities. In the evening the situation of the insurgents had become critical. Still they controlled the most popular districts, but the determination with which the army, with artillery and cavalry, the National Guard and the Mobile Guard attacked the insurgents, making massacres without any hesitation, feeble resistance of many revolutionaries.
On 25 June, the situation for insurgents appeared compromised throughout the city. Around 40,000 revolutionaries were on the barricades, while government forces, with the received reinforcements, could count on 150,000 men. The artillery bombarded the barricades. The archbishop of Paris Denis Affre, wanting to put an end to the carnage, proposed himself as a mediator for a peaceful solution. He was hit by a shot of army soldiers. Seriously injured, he died after two days.
June 26, the fighting ended with the surrender of the insurgents. There were 1,550 deaths in government forces and 5500 in insurgents. The revolutionaries arrested were 19,000, of which 4,000 were deported to Algeria.
In the days following the General Cavaignac was appointed head of government. The progressive party were dissolved and freedom of the press was compressed. The conquests of the workers, including the working day of 10 hours, were canceled. The Cavaignac government proved a restorer of the old powers of the financial bourgeoisie.
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, who had not got involved in the revolution of June, ran for election of representatives to the National Assembly of September 1848, being elected with more than a hundred thousand votes. In December of that year the direct election of the president of the republic was called to which Louis Napoleon ran.
He promised order but also social reforms in favor of the people, he was supported by Bonapartist, mostly veterans of the Napoleonic campaigns. His main opponent, General Cavaignac, counted on the fact that Louis Napoleon did not achieve 50 percent of votes necessary for the direct appointment. In that case the National Assembly would be to choose the president between the two that had the most votes. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte won with 74 percent of the vote, being elected president of the republic without the need of the vote of the National Assembly.
Karl Marx, Il 18 brumaio di Luigi Bonaparte, Roma, Editori Riuniti 1997.
Fenton Bresler, Napoleon III: A Life, Londra, HarperCollins, 1999
Alfred Cobban, A History of Modern France: Volume 2: 1799-1871, Londra, Penguin, 1965