The term Second French Empire refers to a period of time in the history of France that includes the period between 1852 and 1870 .
This regime had the official name of the French Empire, the word “second” is currently coined to differentiate it from the First Empire of France that was established at the beginning of the 19th century by the then general Napoleon Bonaparte .
How did the Second French Empire originate?
In 1848 the first elections were held in France through universal suffrage by male vote. In these he participates, being his father Luis Bonaparte and supposedly nephew of Napoleon I (recently it was shown by DNA tests that this statement is false). This achieves an overwhelming victory that makes him the first president of what is known as the Second French Republic , thanks especially to the support offered by the peasants who professed Catholicism .
Outstanding laws of the mandate of Carlos Luis Napoleón Bonaparte
Throughout the three years that Carlos Luis’ mandate lasts , he exercised a variety of laws. Among them was the freedom of teaching, which fails to satisfy fanatical Catholics since it gives the state university the power to grant degrees.
He also established the electoral law that, despite not violating universal suffrage, harms workers, since to have the freedom to vote in a municipality it was necessary to have a residence of no less than three years.
Another law that was put into practice was the press law, which placed limits on freedom of opinion.
The Second French Empire is forged
The problem for Carlos Luis occurs at the end of his term, because he cannot be reelected. As a result, on the second day of December 1851, he executed a coup d’état requested by the population to establish the second French Empire.
How did the Second French Empire develop?
The emerging empire is admitted by a plebiscite. From this moment a strong repression was unleashed on the opponents. Similar to the first empire, the second was contested by much of the public opinion. Maintaining it required more authority, due to this Napoleon III turns his government into an authoritarian one that was based on the support that the army gave him. The latter had already lost a large part of the liberal ideas and only expected titles, good salary, compensations, perks, etc.
The bourgeoisie also supported the government because it valued the new established social order and the economic prosperity resulting from the international situation. The church became another support as it saw that a new alliance would translate into budget improvements for clergy as well as religious schools.
In the course of the second French Empire there was a marked development in the area of transport, an economic bonanza also emerged. The banking network increased and a free trade agreement was signed with England in 1860. This favors international trade.
Stages of the Second French Empire
Authoritarian Empire (1852-1860)
Until the year 1860 Napoleon III governed without the presence of any opposition group, mainly due to press censorship and police control; in addition to the economic improvement that France was experiencing. His foreign policy triumphs also strengthen the emperor’s policy .
Liberal Empire (1861-1868)
After a transition stage, when the traditional support of the bourgeoisie and the church failed, the government turned to the left seeking new support. Among the decisions framed in liberal policy were the initiative of Parliament (1860) and the control of budgets in the hands of the Chambers (1861). In 1864 the right to strike and association was granted.
After 1867, the malaise caused by foreign and domestic policy forced the licenses of the regime. For that same year, the right of interpellation and ministerial responsibility before the Chambers is offered to the Legislative Body. As well as the press laws, cancellation of prior authorization and suppression of prior censorship and assembly are loosened.
Parliamentary Empire (1868-1870)
For the final elections of 1869, the opposition advanced clearly. Reforms are accentuated, modifications are made to the Constitution, parliamentarism is strengthened and the constitutional powers belonging to the imperial couple are cut back. All the reforms are corroborated in a plebiscite held in May 1870.
Decline and fall of the second French Empire
The fall of the second French Empire began in 1870 due to internal policy measures. Despite having the support of workers and republicans, the same could not be said with the financial bourgeoisie and the evangelicals. On the other hand, foreign policy suffered major failures. It is believed that the empire began to crumble since an expedition to Mexico began, since it suffered the first military defeat in Puebla. With this event, France becomes the laughingstock of the whole of Europe.
Napoleon III surrenders in battle
The military scope was not the same, problems occur in Italy, the defeat with Mexico culminates with the emperor Maximilian I executed. In the Franco-Prussian War, Napoleon III is completely defeated. The defeats occurred due to not having a prepared army or sufficient allies, and also due to political contradictions of Napoleon III. As a result, Napoleon surrenders at the Battle of Sedan in 1870 and is taken prisoner.
From this moment on a provisional government established by legal authorities of the Empire is established, however the republican sector breaks into the Assembly and makes the proclamation of the Third French Republic .
Napoleon III was married to the Countess of Teba, Eugenia de Montijo, a Spanish noblewoman of Scottish descent. Together with her he had a son named Eugenio Bonaparte, who when he died became head of the family and was called Napoleon IV by his supporters.