Between and it went through six editions and was one of the bestsellers of the century.
The Revolutionary Century? Revolts in Nineteenth-Century France
Napoleon presented himself as a national hero and powerful ruler, but he also stressed that he bridged the gap between the old regime and the Revolution. Above all he claimed to be a man of the people, essentially liberal in his intentions. Even more amazing, he claimed he had been forced into repeated war by the aggression of other states. From the s, numerous histories of the Revolution elaborated aspects of this legend.
Napoleon - Wikipedia
Adolphe Thiers — , then a young liberal journalist, first in his history of the Revolution and later in his twenty-five-volume History of the Consulate and Empire — , which sold a million copies, although critical of his dictatorial ways of ruling, defended Napoleon's reputation as the hero who secured the gains of the Revolution.
By , Bonapartism had absorbed some of the conflicting republican memories of the first revolution. When revolution came again in , many of the leading liberals, in the provinces as well as in Paris, shared Bonapartist and republican sympathies. However, Napoleon's young son, often referred to as the "little eagle," was not considered as a replacement for Charles X r. Instead the majority liberal deputies gave the throne to the king's cousin, Louis-Philippe r.
Aware of the extent of Bonapartist feeling and hoping to gain reflected glory for himself, and encouraged by Thiers—now a government minister—the new king refashioned the royal palace at Versailles, and Paris itself, to Napoleon's memory. The Arc de Triomphe , which honored Napoleon's victories, was completed between and Louis-Philippe transformed Versailles into a Napoleon museum — , commissioning numerous massive portraits of the emperor's battles. At this time France was fairly prosperous, and Bonapartism an increasingly sentimental memory from which most republicans, now committed to democracy, were divorced.
The emperor's nephew, Louis-Napoleon, tried to imitate his uncle's "Flight of the Eagle" in abortive risings in the military garrisons of Strasbourg and Boulogne The first time he was deported, the second he was imprisoned in the fortress of Ham. No one, especially the Bonaparte clan, thought of him as the obvious Bonapartist heir. In he escaped from Ham and made his way to London. Rather contradictorily, he also briefly joined a volunteer battalion fighting against the Chartists in London.
A totally unknown quantity, universal male suffrage, helped turn a virtual comic opera character into the major political player. After the February revolution in , Louis-Napoleon was elected to the Constituent Assembly by four constituencies in the June by-election, but the government would not allow him into France to take his seat.
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In by-elections in September he was elected by five constituencies. He was elected on his uncle's name, reinforced by a Bonapartist propaganda campaign in the press and by mass circulation of small Bonapartist memorabilia such as matchboxes and ribbons. Louis-Napoleon was presented as a republican, a democrat, and, like his uncle, a man of the people.
When he made his maiden speech in the Assembly, members were reassured that he posed no threat to the republic. He spoke French diffidently with a thick German accent. The deputies were sufficiently confident that Louis-Napoleon would never command mass support that they decided that the new president of France should be elected by universal male suffrage. Louis-Napoleon was elected president with 5.
Nightmares of the violent conflicts of the June Days and Louis-Napoleon's assurance that he was the only candidate who could unite all factions, but above all Bonapartist sentiments, secured him the votes, including those of a large proportion of the peasants and workers. Thiers, confident that Louis-Napoleon was an insignificant donkey who would be led by elite politicians, organized his Party of Order behind Louis-Napoleon, which gained him useful press backing.
Within three years, Louis-Napoleon had fought against republicans and dismantled the parliamentary republic in a military coup 2 December However, he was careful to surround his revived empire a year later with democratic illusions, manhood suffrage, and plebiscites. Aware that he had totally alienated republicans and that Bonapartism was a dream ticket rather than a concrete political reality, he constructed his regime on a combination of social reforms intended to appeal to workers, the cultivation of traditional elites, and populist military adventures in Italy, the Crimea, Mexico, and finally and disastrously against Prussia in Bonapartist sentiment, plus fear of socialism, gained him the presidency, but he never ruled in association with a Bonapartist party, merely an uneasy coalition of members of traditional elites driven by negatives.
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