Skip to main content

Full text of "Napoleon III A Great Life In Brief"

See other formats


7 G929n 
Gnerard $2.50 
Napoleon III. 



Keep Your Card in This Pocket 

Books will be issued only on presentation of proper 
library cards. 

Unless labeled otherwise, books may be retained 
for two weeks. Borrowers finding books marked, de- 
faced or mutilated are expected to report same at 
library desk; otherwise the last borrower will be held 
responsible for all imperfections discovered. 

The card holder is responsible for. all books drawn 
on this card. 

Penalty for over-due books 2c a day plus cost oi 

Lost cards and change of residence musi be re- 
ported promptly. 

Public Library 

Kansas City, Mo. 



196? .1, :/: 


A New Series of Biographies 



HENRY FORD by Roger Burlingame 
MAHATMA GANDHI by Vincent Sheean 
ALEXANDRE DUMAS by Andre Maurois 
JULIUS CESAR by Alfred Duggan 
JAMES J. HILL by Stewart Holbrook 
ELIZABETH I by Donald Barr Chidsey 
NAPOLEON III by Albert Querard 
GILBERT STUART by James Thomas Flexner 

Published by ALFRED A. KNOPF in New York 


Napoleon III 


Albert Guerard 

New York ALFRED A. KNOPF 1955 

L. C. catalog card number: 55-5618 



Copyright 1955 by Albert Guerard. All rights reserved. No part 
of this book may be reproduced in any form 'without per?nis- 
sion in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who 
may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a maga- 
zine or newspaper. Published si?nultaneously in Canada by 
McClelland & Stewart Limited. Manufactured in the United 
States of America. 




T O 


Merciless Critic 

Beloved Daughter 

I [ 


fc Joscpftfru 


tvlffifa Itynicfwo (iffl-i&j6)t 







A GREAT life? The man whom Victor Hugo branded 
as Napoleon the Little had greatness thrust upon him: 
without the magic of his name, he would never have 
become, and have remained for twenty years, the mas' 
ter of France and the arb^cr^of Europe. Yet he was not 
merely, as his enemies called him, "Napoleon's cocked 
hat with no brains under it." He had to achieve great" 
ness: an adolescent dream slowly matured, realized at 
last not through luck alone, but through pertinacity, 
shrewdness, and daring. The dream was not ignoble; in- 
deed, it was more generous than the sheer love of personal 
power which impelled Napoleon I. There must have 
been greatness, however warped, in the man's very soul. 
To his contemporaries, he was a mystery; to pos" 
terity, he remains an enigma. For thirty years after his 
downfall, his figure was veiled in a dark legend: all the 
iniquities of an insolent generation were heaped upon 
his head. In our own century, all reputable historians 
have striven to do him justice. But the traditional pic" 
ture the elderly rake, with waxed mustaches, heavy 
lids, and lackluster eyes, who swindled his way to the 
throne and collapsed at the stern touch of reality that 
sinister caricature survives in popular imagination. After 
one hundred years, history still hesitates. His career, 
glittering and tragic, was a picaresque romance on an 
^qMCwScale; but under the succession of sharply defined 
episodes, we find nothing but ambiguities at the core. 


These ambiguities I shall not attempt to solve. I have 
pondered over them from my first book to the present 
one a span of more than forty years. I have ventured 
my guesses. Here my sole purpose will be to relate, as 
simply as I can, what actually happened. The reader, 
however, cannot shirk his responsibility. He must be 
aware that a straight story cannot tell the whole story. 
In a historical character we find a human being, with 
all his confused yearnings and his pathetic flaws. But 
we find also a symbol, the incarnation of collective 
hopes and fears. Not only is the myth far more potent 
than the man: paradoxically, it is also more definite. 
Later ages will find Nazism a clear-cut entity, compared 
with the turbid welter that was Hitler's mind. The Cru" 
sades, the Reformation, the French Revolution, are 
more substantial than any crusader, reformer, or revo^ 
lutionary. Communism dwarfs every communist. Like 
a true epic, history on the proper scale depicts a com' 
bat between gods: we may call them idols, we may 
call them ideals. Had Napoleon III been Monsieur 
Dupont, a private citizen, ambitious, unscrupulous, and 
sensual, he might, after a couple of bankruptcies, have 
climbed to a high position, amassed a fortune, married 
a beauty, and died a broken man. Such a Monsieur 
Dupont would bear a curious resemblance to the Na-* 
poleon we know; yet we are aware that he would not 
be quite the same. 

We shall descry, flitting in the background, vast 
phantoms Caesarism, democracy, socialism, national^ 
ties which in {act were- closer to the heart and soul of 
Napoleon III than his accomplices Persigny and Morny. 
We shall keep these abstractions in the background: 
this is the story of a man, not an essay in political phi-' 

ON THE THRESHOLD: 1808-1830 5 

losophy. But a biography such as this cannot be severed 
from general history. For one moment at least, on De^ 
cember 10, 1848, the man and the France of his day 
were in unison. The clashing desires that swayed the 
country were his also. He was the Common Man or 
the Common Denominator. The moment was fleeting: 
soon Napoleon had to make a constant, groping effort 
to remain at the focal point. But the memory of that 
miraculous instant was not wholly effaced at the end of 
twenty-two years. In May 1870 the Emperor was not 
a tyrant ruling by force, and he was not a gilded figure' 
head. Precariously, fugitively, as we know, but im" 
pressively, he still was France. In his case, symbol and 
reality, biography and history, almost coincide. If we 
understand this one man, his time will become more 

His time, and our own. For the modern world be' 
gins in 1848, and the problems of that fateful year are 
still harassing us. In 1848 authority and liberty, de-* 
mocracy and socialism, nationalism and peace, science 
and religion, were tugging at men's minds even as they 
are today. The pamphlets and speeches of that era could 
be reprinted almost without a change and be used as 
weapons in our present controversies. This book is not a 
Tract for the Times. But if, incidentally, it compels the 
reader to question, purify, and thereby strengthen his 
own convictions, we shall return thanks to Napoleon III 
in his forgotten grave. 

The one fixed star that guided Napoleon IIFs top* 
tuous course- was his belief in Caesarian democracy: the 
' will of the people, which is the will of God, incarnated 
in one man. This was expressed in the very title he was 


to assume : Emperor of the French by the Grace of God 
and the Will of the People. It was applied through his 
favorite institution, the plebiscite. It achieved the dig- 
nity of a doctrine in his youthful works, Political Rever* 
ies, On 'Napoleonic Ideas, and, at the summit of his 
career, in the Preface to his Life of C&sar. Before we 
follow in plain sequence the events of that arresting and 
tormented existence, I should like to draw attention 
upon two episodes that focused the Caesarian doctrine 
in his mind. They might be called his baptism and his 
confirmation in the Napoleonic faith. 

The first occurred on June i, 1815. Of the Hun' 
dred Days that Fate had allotted to the first Napoleon's 
last gamble, eighty had inexorably gone by. In a splen- 
did ceremony, the new regime, the restored Empire, 
was to be solemnly proclaimed. Twenty thousand dele- 
gates, the Imperial Guard, the National Guard, deep 
masses from the capital, filled the vast sandy waste of 
the Champ-de-Mars. The strains of a Te Deum arose 
from an improvised altar. The results of the plebiscite 
confirming Napoleon on the throne were announced to 
the blare of martial music. New flags the tricolor of 
Austerlitz, Jena, Wagram were blessed by the clergy 
and presented to the regiments. When the Emperor 
asked the troops to swear allegiance to ruler and coun- 
try, a formidable clamor arose and roared wave after 
wave: "We swear it!" It was a spectacle of undescrib- 
able grandeur, one of those mystic moments when it 
would seem that a whole people is conscious of a single 
soul. The Empress and the King of Rome were not 
present: Austria had claimed them as her own. But 
Queen Hortense, Napoleon's stepdaughter and sister- 
in-law, was there with her two sons. The younger, the 

ON THE THRESHOLD: 18081830 7 

future Napoleon III, was then just over seven years 
old, an age which, in the eyes of the Church, marks 
the beginning of responsibility. The child could not 
understand the misgivings and jealousies, the weary im- 
perceptible shrugs, the despairing will-to-make-believe, 
the histrionics and the hysteria so apparent to a disen- 
chanted observer like Fouche, who at that very mo- 
ment was serving the Emperor only to betray him. For 
the sensitive boy, the scene must have been a revela- 
tion as though the heavens had opened: between the 
Napoleonic idea and the heart of France, a dark, pro- 
found, and indissoluble unity existed. 

Sixteen years of obscurity followed. Louis-Napoleon 
is a young man of twenty-three. He has just escaped 
from the bullets of the Papal troops and the clutches 
of the Austrian police. Against the law that condemns 
his race to banishment, he is in Paris incognito, with 
his mother, Queen Hortense. The day is May 5, 1831, 
the tenth anniversary of the Emperor's death. From his 
window on the Place Vendome, Louis-Napoleon 
watches with what wild surmise! the crowd flock- 
ing to the bronze column, trophy of his uncle's vic- 
tories. The Parisians, so often accused of fickleness and 
levity, come reverently to the monument, as if to an 
altar. Once again Louis is made to feel the identity be- 
tween the soul of the people and that of the martyred 
titan. Romantic nonsense, perhaps, but no less a poet 
than Victor Hugo was to voice it with religious fervor: 
"Napoleon, that god whose priest thou shalt be . . /* 
On the morrow, mother and son are notified by the po- 
lice to leave the country. They comply; but the young 
prince remains stirred to the depths by this renewed 
sacrament. What if a sly and stodgy Citizen-King has 


been whisked onto a shaky throne by a handful of jour- 
nalists and financiers? Louis-Philippe has the money- 
bags: the hearts are still Napoleon's. The young man's 
faith is now indestructible. Twice he acts upon it, and 
fails: he does not despair. On December 10, 1848 a 
tidal wave makes him the ruler of France: he feels justi- 
fied. For him the imperial idea was not a racket, as 
Victor Hugo and Kinglake would have it: it was a 

April 2o y 1808, rue Cerutti (now Laffitte), in 
Paris. In the early hours Her Majesty the Queen of 
Holland had been delivered of a son. The birth was 
premature and the child was frail: he had to be bathed 
in wine and wrapped in cottonwool. But he was well 
constituted, and survived to be Emperor of the French. 

Imperial Paris showed proper elation: this was the 
first Bonaparte to be born a prince. Napoleon, then 
poised on the Spanish border, was overjoyed: he had 
triumphal salvos fired all along the frontier. Without 
legitimate issue of his own, he considered the sons of 
his brother Louis as his destined heirs. 

By 1808 the Empire had reached, not its fullest ter- 
ritorial extent, but the point of its greatest power and 
glory. The Treaty of Tilsit had removed the Russian 
menace. The consequences of the Berlin decree, clos- 
ing the Continent to British commerce, were not yet 
calamitous. Napoleon's worst blunders his quarrel 
with the Pope, his high-handed treatment of Spain 
were only in their incipient stage. For a brief season the 
new Charlemagne seemed secure as Emperor of the 

In contrast with this splendor, the private life of the 

ON THE THRESHOLD: 1808-1830 9 

imperial circle offered a mass of ill-smothered scandals 
and raucous squabbles. The hatred of the Bonaparte 
clan for the Empress Josephine and her brood reached 
the fierceness of a Corsican vendetta. They had disliked 
the intruder from the first: Napoleon's ardent devotion 
to her relegated them to a secondary position; her Old 
World graces made them look and feel like parvenus. 
They knew the whole world knew that she was 
flighty. Soon after the death of her first husband, Gen- 
eral Alexandre de Beauharnais, guillotined "to encour- 
age others," she had become one of the merry widows 
of the Thermidorian reaction. Barras was her close 
friend and protector: Barras, a Terrorist who had tripped 
Robespierre in self-defense, well aware that the Dic- 
tator of Virtue had a short way with profiteers; Barras, 
who, in that age of corruption, had attained a phospho- 
rescent pre-eminence^ It was with the blessing of Barras 
that the granae dame of an equivocal regime and the 
young Corsican adventurer were united. Even during 
the Italian campaign, their honeymoon barely over, 
Josephine was not above reproach. When Napoleon 
was away in Egypt, she made liberal use of her free- 
dom. The Bonapartes in a body wanted the returning 
hero to cast her aside; and he would have done so but 
for the tears of his stepchildren, Eugene and Hortense 
de Beauharnais, whom he sincerely loved. 

It was only then that Josephine began to appreciate 
the swarthy undersized husband, "Puss in Boots/' 
whose passion she had at first accepted with amused tol- 
erance. She mended her ways; only her incurable ex- 
travagance betrayed the whilom cocotte. She was nearing 
forty, and Creole^beauties facie early. She knew that 
the Bonapartes had not disarmed; she attempted to pro- 


tect herself and her children by means of a second con- 
nection with her husband's family. She had her way: 
in 1802 her daughter, Hortense, married his brother 

The young pair was well assorted in age: he was 
twenty-four, she nineteen. Both were great favorites 
with the Master. Louis had been educated under the 
eyes and at the expense of Napoleon. No light burden 
on a lieutenant's pay: the elder brother had been forced 
to deny himself every luxury. He felt well rewarded: 
Louis, who followed him in Italy and Egypt, promised 
to become an able and conscientious officer. Hortense, 
after a checkered childhood, had gone through the fash- 
ionable school of Madame Campan, which was intended 
to revive the delicate manners of the ancient regime. 
She did not possess her mother's beauty, but she had 
many accomplishments and a great deal of charm. 

But this |dyljn high places was deceptive. In Italy, 
Louis had been stricken with that dread disease which 
is one of the hazards of occupation forces; later his 
troubles were ascribed, less convincingly, to rheumatism 
contracted in Egypt. This vengeance of Venus profaned 
was his ruin. All his life he remained a valetudinarian 
and a hypochondriac, harassed with constant ailments, 
obsessed with morbid fancies. On the other hand, Mad- 
ame Campan's school had not smothered Hortense's 
zest for life. Louis turned into a morose martinet; in the 
words of Napoleon, he attempted to discipline his 
sprightly young bride as he would drill a regiment. 
There never was any deep love between them to alleviate 
these tensions. Their hearts had been given elsewhere: 
his to Emilie de Beauharnais, a niece of Josephine; hers 
to Duroc, one of the most devoted lieutenants of Na- 

ON THE THRESHOLD: 18081830 n 

poleon. Their union was what the French, with cruel 
irony, call a marriage of convenience. 

The relentless Bonapartes took advantage of these un' 
happy circumstances. When a son was born to Louis 
and Hortense, the First Consul offered to adopt him as 
his heir; but his sister Caroline Murat spread the atro' 
cious slander that the child was in fact Napoleon's and 
had been conceived with the connivance of Josephine. 
A second son was born in 1804, but the incompati- 
bilities between the parents were not allayed. 

In 1806 Napoleon decided to turn the Batavian Re' 
public, already a satellite of France, into a vassal King' 
dom of Holland under his brother Louis. Their royal 
honors brought no happiness to Louis and Hortense; 
indeed, they proved an added source of embittertnent. 
Husband and wife adopted antagonistic policies, Louis 
made a commendable effort to become a good Dutch 
ruler and to protect the interests of his new subjects. 
Hortense remained a Frenchwoman at heart, and would 
never challenge the will of the Emperor. Their hostility 
became a public scandal. Louis drew up a formal treaty 
of peace, in eight articles, but after pious admonitions 
to forget and forgive, to love and to cherish, it sternly 
insisted upon full obedience on the Queen's part, and 
high'Spirited Hortense refused to countersign her own 

In 1807 their first child, the Prince Royal of Hoi' 
land, died of jgrgjiBu, Grief brought the parents together 
at last. The Queen needed a change of scene, and found 
it in the Pyrenees, particularly at Cauterets. The King 
followed her and insisted upon a reconciliation, which 
was effected at Toulouse. But after a few weeks at the 
imperial court Louis desired to return to Holland, and 


Hortense, pleading the state of her health, refused to 
follow him. She did eventually join her royal consort 
at Amsterdam; and even after his abdication they were 
to meet a few times. Their separation was formalized 
only many years later (March 8, 1815), not without 
bitter litigations. But after 1807 the breach between 
them was irremediable. 

A shadow therefore hangs over the cradle of the child 
born on April 20, 1808. In spite of the Toulouse recon" 
ciliation, the enemies of Hortense cast doubts on his 
legitimacy. He might be the son of Admiral Ver Huel, 
a Dutch collaborationist who was to end his days as a 
Peer of the French Realm under Louis-Philippe; or per- 
haps of another Ver Huel; or of Charles Bylandt, HOP 
tense's Dutch chamberlain; or of Decazes, a young 
magistrate who was attached to the cabinet of King 
Louis, and was to have a vertiginous ascent to the pre' 
miership and a dukedom under Louis XVIII. A letter 
from Louis to the Pope, in which he disclaimed father-- 
hood/ is held to be a forgery, but many years later 
Prince Napoleon, son of Jerome, asserted that he had 
seen irrefutable documents to the same effect. In such a 
delicate matter we must be satisfied with the cautious 
Scots verdict: not proven. There was no physical re" 
semblance between King Louis and his son the future 
Emperor. But the argument is not decisive: there was 
no resemblance either between King Louis and the 
other Bonapartes. On the other hand, the two surviv 
ing sons of Hortense were strikingly alike; and the le* 
gitimacy of the elder never was impugned. The attitude 
of King Louis himself was unequivocal: it was stern 
at times, but always fatherly. His letter sending his 
blessing to his son on the occasion of his first communion 

ON THE THRESHOLD: 1808-1830 13 

is solemn and touching. When the young prince got 
into bad scrapes, Louis disapproved, but interceded in 
his favor. He left him his entire fortune; and Louis was 
not the man to^di^^pojy^for three decades in order to 
spare the reputation of Queen Hortense. 

At any rate, no suspicion seems to have entered the 
mind of LoinVNapoleon. He felt himself a Bonaparte 
through and through, both by blood and in the spirit. 
Alfred Neumann, in his inaccurate but very able ro" 
mance Another Csesar, holds that his passionate Na* 
poleonic faith was a defense mechanism, a secret way 
of overcoming his own doubts as to his birth. The hy 
pothesis is arresting, but it is not to be confused with 

While Louis and Hortense were snarling at each 
other, the Empire was pursuing its splendid, disastrous 
course. In 1814, after a masterly but foredoomed cam' 
paign to defend France herself and his capital, Ha* 
poleon was forced to abdicate. Hortense had remained 
loyal to him without illusions as long as there was 
any hope. But when all was lost, she did not choose to 
cast her lot with the Bonapartes. Most decisively, she 
refused to obey her husband's command to follow him. 
In spite of their long association with the Republic and 
the Empire, the Beauharnais had their roots in the past: 
for them, the Bonapartes were off ^gious^ upstarts. So 
Josephine, Eugene, Hortense, were ready to accept the 
change; and the Allies dealt very generously with them. 
Josephine entertained the Tsar. She lived but a few 
weeks, however, to enjoy the new turn of affairs. In the 
treacherous Parisian spring, she wore too ^di^h^iiaus* a 
dress at a reception for Alexander, caught cold, and died 


at La Malmaison on May 29. Eugene, who might have 
roused Italy, pledged his neutrality. Hortense obtained 
from the restored Bourbons the title of Duchesse de 
Saint'Leu, with a princely income. She duly waited on 
Louis XVIII to express her gratitude. Her frail, erratic 
bark had reached safety at last. 

While the Congress was dancing in Vienna, Na- 
poleon escaped from Elba. "The eagle, flying from 
steeple to steeple, came to rest on the towers of Notre" 
Dame." Hortense and her friends, Flahaut, Lavallette, 
Caulaincourt, were, she admits, "astonished and un" 
easy." All of them had served the Emperor loyally, but 
with their eyes open. They knew that his egomania was 
verging on madness. They were aware that, barring a 
miracle, the mad adventure must fail. And yet ... 
They had seen miracles before. The very flight from 
Elba, the march on Paris with a handful of soldiers, the 
enthusiasm of the people: were these not miracles? La" 
fayette, the obstinate champion of freedom; Carnot, the 
republican Organizer of Victory; Lucien, who had stead" 
fastly opposed the Empire and the Emperor; Benjamin 
Constant, friend and confidant of Madame de Stael 
all these rallied to the new regime. Could the chastened 
conqueror learn the ways of liberty and peace? 

We may add that the royalists had suspected Hor- 
tense of Bonapartist activities: when Napoleon's escape 
was announced, she had to hide from the Bourbon po" 
lice. For these, and who knows for what other motives? 
she bravely turned her coat again and rallied to Na" 
poleon. He received her coldly at first: he could not 
condone what he must call her treason of 1814. But he 
could not afford to be squeamish; he had to accept ev" 
eryone ready to serve him, even Fouche. And he was 

ON THE THRESHOLD: 1808-1830 15 

fond of her as the daughter of Josephine and for her 
own sake. During the few weeks of that tremulous re" 
gime, Hortense almost filled the role of Empress by 

I have alluded to the great ceremony at the Champ' 
de-Mars on June i, the official proclamation of the re' 
newed Empire. On June 12 Napoleon left Paris for 
Belgium. Ten days of intolerable suspense: salvos of 
artillery announced victories in which no one quite be- 
lieved. Life went on, commonplace and unreal. On 
June 20 Benjamin Constant was reading to Hortense 
his short novel Adolphe, the most pitiless of all psy- 
chological dissections. All were in tears, even the cynical 
author. Then Savary, Duke of Rovigo, brought news 
of the disaster: on the i8th the army had been routed. 
On the 2 ist, at eight in the morning, Napoleon sneaked 
back into his capital. 

The confused events of the next eight days are not 
part of our story. Napoleon, who abdicated for the sec- 
ond time on June 22, could have fought a political bat" 
tie for his son's Empire or he could have fled; but, de- 
serted by his "star/ 3 he seemed stricken with paralysis 
of the will. He retired from the Elysee to La Malmaison 
and bade Hortense join him. No romancer could devise 
a more poignant setting for those last days of freedom. 
La Malmaison had been his favorite country residence 
in the happy days of the Consulate. Summer was at its 
best; he and Hortense wandered in the delightful gar" 
dens in a sort of drugged, nostalgic peace. The jjjjaith 
of Josephine still haunted the place. "My good Jose" 
phine, a woman through and through, the most charm" 
ing person I have ever met!" "Ah, how sweet La Mai- 
maison is! Surely, Hortense, we should be very happy 


if only we were allowed to remain here/' On the zgth, 
Napoleon left for Rochefort, hoping to sail for America. 
He had waited too long, and he tarried unduly on the 
way. The trap was closing: on July 15 he surrendered 
to Captain Maitland on board H.M.S. Bellerophon. 

Hortense's participation Jn the Hundred Days was to 
affect profoundly the career of her son. First of all, it 
mad^er^aj^gutcast: anjdjm^xikl her coat could not be 
neatly turned a third time^ She was thus committed, 
willy-nilly, to Napoleonism as she had never been be- 
fore. Fond of romance as she was, she would give her 
political attitude a sentimental tinge: the last days at 
La Malmaison, so tragically sweet, effaced the stiffness, 
the coldness, at times the cruelty, from which she had 
suffered when the Emperor had been at the height of 
his power. Her Napoleon was the Napoleon of the 
Hundred Days not the conqueror, not the despot, but 
the champion of the people's cause. "He, the Messiah 
of the people's interests, with his power, his strength 
of will, the prestige of his glory, he had called the na- 
tions to their share in the riches of this world, he had 
obtained for them their portion of earthly happiness. As 
Christ had rescued them from moral slavery, he had 
freed them from the bonds that prevented all but a 
privileged few from enjoying those positions and honors 
which, for centuries, certain classes had jealously pre- 
served as their own. His imperial rule had firmly es- 
tablished the supremacy of merit over noble birth. . . , 
Was there any class in society, I asked myself, that had 
not benefited by his presence? Although his chief pur- 
pose had always been to uplift the masses ... at the 
same time those rich and titled men who had plotted 
his downfall were also indebted to him for their very 

ON THE THRESHOLD: 18081830 17 

lives, for having made peace between them and the 
working classes, and for the sense of security and pros' 
perity which resulted from such a peace." x These were 
prophetic words. They gave a boldly distorted view of 
Napoleon's actual rule, but they were in harmony with 
the legend he was deliberately creating at that time in 
St. Helena. Napoleon the Messiah of the Masses: in 
that faith her son Louis was to live and die. Jt was Hor- 
tense wh4l?H wit! 1 ?J5 ur Pkingly furm hand the outline 
of the Second Empire.^ 

1815, which saw Hortense's political hopes shat' 
tered, also marked the devastation of her private life. 
In March the final separation between her and Louis 
was pronounced by the French courts, and Louis secured 
custody of his elder son. But for the preceding five years 
Hortense had considered herself morally free. She had 
contracted with Count de Flahaut, a dashing officer 
and the natural son of Talleyrand, a liaison that might 
almost be called a jg^jgaaajUk marriage. The fruit of 
that "open secret" affair was a certain "Demorny/* 
whom, under a slightly improved name, we shall find 
again in 1851, on the eve of the Coup d'Etat. Flahaut 
was perhaps too handsome to be faithful; he certainly 
was too shrewd to tie himself to a fallen queen. His 
ardent flirtation with the great actress Mademoiselle 
Mars was forgiven, but Hortense nobly released him, 
so that he could marry into the high British aristocracy. 
Henceforth Hortense adopted an elegiac^ attitude of 
gentle and pious melancholy. Religion filled the void in 
her heart; she filled her household with priests and 

1 Memoires de la Reine Hortense (Paris, 1927), Vol. Ill, 
pp. 48-9. 


pined away by imperceptible degrees for twenty" 
two years. 

Hortense had been ordered to leave Paris. Metternich 
provided her with an escort, Count Woyna. Woyna, 
"as handsome as a hero of romance/' may have been as- 
signed the same task with her as Neipperg had performed 
with Marie-Louise: Metternich was wily, and found 
uses for^jrens of both sexes. But Flahaut was still in un- 
disputed possession of Hortense's heart. Geneva refused 
to harbor her; Savoy discouraged her stay; Baden could 
provide only a temporary refuge. But her brother Eu- 
gene had become a loyal and much-appreciated Bavarian 
duke. Thanks to him, she was allowed to buy a house 
at Augsburg and a summer home at Arenenberg, in the 
Swiss canton of Thurgau. She traveled extensively, but 
Arenenberg was her fixed abode until her death, in 1837. 

There, in that gemutlich Alamannic atmosphere, 
Louis-Napoleon grew to adolescence and young man- 
hood: slow, affectionate, and gently stubborn. In spite of 
Hortense's new religiosity, the priest who had charge of 
his education was dismissed as too lax in his methods, and 
Philippe Lebas was appointed as his tutor (18207). 
A puzzling choice: Lebas was the son of a prominent 
Jacobin, one of Robespierre's inner circle, and he had 
remained faithful to his father's austere republicanism. 
He prescribed and enforced a rather formidable schedule. 
Fortunately, the boy's fondness for sports (he excelled 
in most) relieved the excessive tension. It is difficult to 
trace the extent of Lebas's influence: certain it is that 
Louis-Napoleon became neither a Jacobin nor a paragon 
of the sterner virtues. Lebas found his pupil docile, but 
not brilliant; the lad, in return, had more respect than 
affection for his mentor. Still, it was not indifferent that 

ON THE THRESHOLD: 1808-1830 19 

for seven years the prince should be associated with a 
man who had a sense of discipline and a conscience. 

The frequent visits and voyages that Lebas deplored 
were in fact a much-needed corrective to his own pedan- 
try. The elder son spent some time at Arenenberg, and 
the reunited brothers became fast friends. In exchange, 
Louis-Napoleon visited his father at Marienbad, Leg- 
horn, and Florence. He also became intimate with his 
cousins in Munich and Baden. Especially, there were 
winters 1823, 1824, 1826 spent in Rome. Thanks 
to the generosity of the Holy See, Rome had become the 
rallying-point of the Bonapartes. Madame Letizia, Na- 
poleon's mother; her half-brother Cardinal Fesch; Lu- 
cien, perhaps the ablest of them all, were permanent resi- 
dents. The whole clan repeatedly gathered there. 

But the most solid part of Louis-Napoleon's education 
came from the Gymnasium or high school at Augsburg. 
His record there was honorable: handicapped by his ir- 
regular training, he started near the bottom of the class, 
but his progress was steady. The influence of Augsburg 
was pervasive rather than dramatic; he seldom referred 
to it in later years, probably because he took it for 
granted. At any rate, although he spoke French at home, 
he became thoroughly Germanized in speech and 
thought. He was fonder of German poetry than of 
French; he was particularly steeped in Schiller, and, a 
prisoner after his lamentable failure at Boulogne, he 
found solace in translating Die Ideale. If His Smugness 
Albert the Good, Victoria's Prince Consort, and the 
slightly ^ffish^Emperor of the French had a thoroughly 
good time together at Saint-Cloud, it was because they 
could swap old German songs and exchange students' 
memories. Albert's brother Ernest II, Duke of Saxe- 


Coburg-Gotha, wrote: "Sometimes during a quiet chat, 
when he would sit in his armchair smoking cigarette after 
cigarette like a man in a dream, he gave me the impres' 
sion of a German^^a^^am^rather t ^ ian ^ a sovereign of 
France. On such occasions he would recite whole poems 
by Schiller and would pass suddenly from French to 
German in his talk/' Even in middle life Louis-Napo- 
leon would show traces of a German accent. The opposi" 
tion railed at him mercilessly on that score. Once, as we 
shall see, it served him well: the Assembly could not 
imagine that a man with such a thick Teutonic tongue 
could ever be dangerous in France. As Napoleon III he 
once congratulated Bismarck on his perfect French: "I 
have never heard a foreigner speak our language as you 
do/' The future Iron Chancellor retorted: "Sire, I can 
return the compliment: I have never heard a Frenchman 
speak his language the way Your Majesty does/' (When 
he spoke with deliberation, however, Napoleon Ill's 
French was not merely flawless; it was impressive.) It 
was said of Remain Holland, so anxious to soar "above 
the strife/' that "he spoke Swiss with a strong Esperanto^ 
accent." This gibe, in which there is a reluctant element 
of praise, could be applied to Louis'Napoleon^Of Corsi* 
can and Creole descent, a Dutch prince at birth, always 
an Italian at heart, a German in thought, thoroughly at 
home in British society, married to a Spaniard, he was 
far more European than French^ 

"War is the sport of kings" no princely education is 
complete without at least the rudiments of military train" 
ing. Many princes merely dabble at the martial game: 
Louis'Napoleon's schooling was modest but effective. 
He enlisted as a volunteer in the military academy at 
Thun, created and commanded by Colonel Guillaume' 

ON THE THRESHOLD: 1808-1830 11 

Henri Dufour. Dufour was no^bj^dk^warrior. He had 
gone through the great Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, 
seen service as an engineer in Corfu, and won a cap' 
taincy in the French army during the Hundred Days. 
With him, at any rate, the Bonaparte name would be no 
handicap. For several summers the prince went through 
maneuvers. If he did not strike his fellow cadets as a 
genius (even at Magenta and Solferino, he was not an 
inspired leader), he commanded their respect for his 
willingness and his good humor. Like the family god, 
he was an artillerist. He was to write a creditable treatise 
on the subject, which he sent, with his compliments, to 
a number of French officers. Even in this technical field, 
uncle and nephew showed their radical divergences. Ha* 
poleon I was a virtuoso who made the best immediate 
use of available instruments, in this case the eighteenth" 
century jg^nary^uof Gribeauvali, Napoleon III stumbled 
at times because he looked too far ahead: against a bu' 
reaucracy attached to the good old ways, he favored the 
breechloader, the Chassepot rifle, the machine gun. He 
retained his professional interest in artillery to the very 
enclMn 1867, at the great Paris Exposition, he examined 
the steel cannon of Krupp with the attention of an expert. 
Incidentally, in the country of the fabulous marksman 
William Tell, he won prizes as a sharpshooter. All this 
is merely creditable: he never was a soldier at heart, 
while Napoleon I never was anything else. But when 
later he donned a French uniform, he was not a mere 

The dynastic order imposed by the treaties of Vienna, 
so absurdly praised by some modern historians, did not 
last fifteen years. The first crack came with the rising of 
the Greeks against their Turkish masters in i8zi. Eu- 


rope was already aglow with romanticism: here was a 
movement at the same time national and religious, with 
the fabled East as a background, and distant echoes of 
the Crusades. Byron, the idol of the younger generation, 
had ^g&u^d the Hellenic cause and died at Missolon- 
ghi. Every generous soul was eager to fight. Russia, most 
deeply interested in the conflict, remained hesitant. Re' 
ligiously as well as politically, Turkey was the traditional 
foe; the rivalry of the Christian powers was Islam's 
strongest bulwark. Still, the Sublime Porte was part of 
that status quo which it was Russia's mission to defend. 
The Greeks were insurgents, rebels, subversives. They 
stood for the freedom of a people: ominous words! The 
dynasts could not make up their minds whether Navarino 
was a glorious victory or an "untoward incident." Finally, 
and with misgivings, Russia drifted into war. 

Louis"Napoleon desired to fight the infidel under the 
Russian flag: a noble cause to serve, experience to be 
gained, prestige to be won; how stale and unprofitable 
were the summer camps at Thun in comparison! Queen 
Hortense herself was a romanticist. She had composed a 
vapid Crusader's song, "Departing for Syria/' which 
became the French national anthem under the Second 
Empire. She found it hard to resist her son's jobjuxgg: 
jions: she gave a half "consent. In January 1829 Louis" 
Napoleon asked his father's permission. King Louis, less 
imaginative than his estranged wife, interposed his abso" 
lute veto. The young prince chafed, but obeyed. 

This^abo^ejDut significant episode evokes a host of 
companion pictures. The great Napoleon too had dreamt 
of epic deeds in the gorgeous Orient. A quarter of a cen" 
tury later, in 1854, the would'be crusader found himself 
at war with Russia and in alliance with the Turk. An" 

ON THE THRESHOLD: 1808-1830 23 

other quarter of a century: another Louis-Napoleon, the 
Prince Imperial, was to seek experience and glory under 
a foreign flag and die in Zululand. Still another Louis- 
Napoleon, the grandson of King Jerome, was to become 
a general in the Russian service. History is a weird ka- 

We are compelled to note that, at an early age, the 
son of Hortense, the grandson of Josephine, sought other 
pleasures than reading Tacitus with Lebas, learning by 
heart the odes of Schiller, and drilling under Colonel 
Dufour. If chastity be virtue, Louis-Napoleon never was 
a virtuous man. In this respect neither the Bonapartes 
nor the Beauharnais were immaculate. The French have 
long shown great indulgence for the sins of Henri IV, 
Louis XIV, and even Louis XV; the British look with 
pride on the Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square with- 
out giving a thought to Lady Hamilton. Perhaps Robes- 
pierre alone could cast the first stone. In this chronicle, 
I shall not indulge in prurient gossip; neither shall I con- 
ceal or condone affairs which, involving the head of a 
state, were far from harmless. 

We have reached the year 1829; the prince has just 
come of age; he is barely on the threshold of history. The 
picture we have of him at that time is nebulous. He is 
gentle, well-mannered, shy; yet, with young compan- 
ions, he can be as mad as the rest. He is far from hand- 
some: he had been a pretty child, and in middle life he 
achieved a style that is still remembered. But in his 
twenties and thirties his short stature a long torso on 
top of inadequate legs his nose already prominent, his 
scraggly mustache, made him, if not unprepossessing, at 


least insignificant. There was a curious opacity in his eyes 
of undefinable hue: what the world would later call 
mystery then appeared only as dullness. His position was 
no less indefinite than his appearance. Although the Na<- 
poleonic cult was spreading, there was no strongly OP 
ganized Bonapartist movement. If there had been, he 
could by no means have claimed to be its leader. He was 
only fifth in line: the King of Rome was still alive; his 
uncle Joseph, his father, Louis, had prior claims that 
they had not formally renounced; he had a brother ahead 
of him, more attractive than himself. Thus he was not 
obviously marked by destiny. It would take a great up" 
heaval and several accidents to give him his chance. It 
would take also his unconquerable faith and his obscure 
tortuous genius to turn a slender opportunity into a major 
historical fact. 



IN* the summer of 1830 Louis-Napoleon was engaged 
as usual in his military training at Thun when he received 
news of the revolution in Paris. In "three glorious days/ 3 
the capital had thrown off the Bourbons; and on the 
dome of the Tuileries the tricolor of the Republic and 
the Empire had replaced the white flag studded with 
golden lilies. The European order imposed by the Vi- 
enna settlement was tottering, and the Bonapartes, who 
had been its first victims, saw new vistas opening before 

The clan gathered again in Rome in December 1830: 
Louis, Hortense, Jerome, and their children. Out of this 
family council came the firm decision to do nothing. The 
immediate heir of Napoleon, the King of Rome, was in 
the hands of Metternich. The former kings of Holland 
and Westphalia, never overbold, took a sober view of 
their own prestige. But if the middle-aged Bonapartes 
were realistic, those of the new generation were thrilled 
with hopes. The two sons of Louis, and their cousins 
Jerome's elder son, barely sixteen, and Pierre, son of 
Lucien, even younger dreamed of a sensational stroke. 
As a start, they would simply capture the Vatican. Plot 
or prank, the madcap adventure was frustrated. The 
adolescents, Jerome and Pierre, were quietly restrained. 
The elder princes, who ought to have known better, 
were allowed to slip away. The whole plan was pre- 
posterous unless the young men had actually joined the 


Carbonari and were expecting their support. This has 
not been proved beyond cavil. At any rate, they were in 
sympathy with the aims of that secret order: the libera- 
tion of the peoples, and, first of all, of Italy. 

In February 1831 an insurrection broke out in Ro- 
niagn3) the northern province of the Papal States. In 
Florence, Menotti, a noted Italian patriot, had already 
approached the princes. With a high sense of filial duty, 
they refrained from consulting their parents, so as not to 
have to disobey them, and joined the rebels. They were 
hailed with enthusiasm and given responsible commands: 
there was magic in the Napoleonic name. 

The young men, twentyseven and twentythree, en-* 
joyed themselves hugely, and did well at first with the 
little army of from three thousand to five thousand men. 
The elder repelled a body of Papal troops. The younger 
was preparing with coolness and skill for an assault on 
Civita Castellana which might have opened the road to 
Rome. There it was that Count Felice Orsini died in 
the ranks of the revolutionists. Twenty-seven years later 
his son was to remind Napoleon III of his duty to Italy 
by hurling a bomb at him: "He missed his body and 
reached his soul/ 3 

A victory over the pontifical troops was not out of the 
question. But the skirmishes in Romagna were minor 
incidents on the European scene. The insurgents had 
hoped that the new France, the France of the Tricolor, 
would come to their support. On the contrary, the very 
presence of the Napoleonic princes gave the new King, 
Louis-Philippe, an excellent excuse for not intervening. 
So the young men were told by the revolutionary gov- 
ernment at Bologna that their services had become em- 
barrassing. Bitterly humiliated, they retired to Forll. 

THE CONSPIRATOR: 1830-1848 27 

There the elder died on March 17 after a three'day bout 
with a pernicious fever. Such, at any rate, was the offi" 
cial version. If, as others chose to believe, he had been 
shot by a malcontent, perhaps by a rival, there seems no 
reason why the story should have been kept a secret. 

Hortense, who in the whole affair showed admirable 
devotion and energy, had rushed to the help of her sons. 
The Vatican might have treated them with paternal 
leniency, but the Austrians had now entered upon the 
scene, and they had decreed death against all foreign 
volunteers. Hortense had great difficulties in tracing the 
princes. When they were located at last, she found one 
dead and the other stricken with measles no light dis" 
ease in an adult. All frontiers were closed to the outlaws. 
Hortense fooled the Austrians into believing that she 
had already sailed for Corfu, while, with forged papers, 
she remained at Ancona. Fate, fond at times of old" 
fashioned, well'contrived plots, would have it that the 
Austrian official in command should pick out for his resi" 
dence the very palazzo in which she was hiding her son. 
She pretended to be sick, was allowed to retain a few 
rooms, managed to keep the invalid invisible and in" 
audible, and nursed him into convalescence. Early on 
Easter morning, under pretext of hearing Mass at Lo" 
retto, she moved out, with the prince in the character of 
a valet. To pass from the Papal States into Tuscany and 
from Tuscany, through Massa and Genoa, into France, 
required the Queen's utmost resourcefulness. The law 
exiling the Bonapartes from France had not been re-- 
pealed, but it had lost its moral force with the downfall 
of the Bourbons. So mother and son proceeded unham- 
pered to Paris, with definite hopes of a favorable ar- 
rangement with King Louis'Philippe. 


Louis"Philippe did receive Hortense with courtesy 
and kindliness, but under conditions of extreme secrecy. 
The King was in a quandary; indeed, he was to spend 
the eighteen years of his reign in a quandary. It is un- 
comfortable to be, not the representative of a clear-cut 
principle, but, avowedly, a compromise, a stopgap, a 
makeshift. He was a royal prince and "the best of re" 
publicans"; ruler by the grace of the barricades and the 
defender of order; King of the French or at least of the 
happy few who were the heaviest taxpayers. He was, 
and knew it only too well, the most experienced, the 
shrewdest of French politicians, and he was assigned the 
role of a mere figurehead. 

The Citizen'King was humane. He had tasted the 
bitterness of exile, and he did not want to inflict it upon 
adversaries. He had no prejudice against the Bonapartes. 
He had already started capitalizing on the Napoleonic 
legend, rife throughout France and Europe. He was sur- 
rounding himself with survivors of the Empire, "illustri" 
ous swords" like Marshal Soult, decorative civil servants 
like Maret, Duke of Bassano, and Savary, Duke of Ro" 
vigo. In 1840 he was to stage most successfully the grand 
pageant of Napoleon's second burial, "the Return of the 
Ashes." This was not sheer Machiavellism. He was con" 
scious that the Napoleonic regime and his own, antip" 
odal as they seemed, had a deep purpose in common: 
to reconcile with the principles of 1789 the stability at" 
tached to the monarchical tradition. It would therefore 
have suited his book to grace his court with the Em" 
pero/5 family; and Hortense was ready to play her part. 
But ... 

Metternich held the trump card: the Duke of Reich" 
stadt, Napoleon II. But Napoleonic sentiment at that 

THE CONSPIRATOR: 1830-1848 29 

time had assumed a democratic tinge: could not a Re- 
publican'Bonapartist coalition, upset Louis'Philippe's 
wobbly throne? So the King remained noncommittal: 
"Sometime, perhaps, but not yet/ 3 And he ordered Hor- 
tense and Louis out of the kingdom. Pleading Louis's 
state of health, they lingered; and the King was informed 
that the young prince was meeting republican leaders. 
It was then, on May 5, that Louis saw Parisian crowds, 
with unwonted reverence, fill the Place Vendome. The 
precarious equilibrium that Louis-Philippe was attempt- 
ing to maintain could be upset at any moment. So the 
royal police became peremptory: Hortense and Louis 
had to leave at once. 

They went to England, and stayed there, mostly in 
London, for about three months, officially ignored, pri- 
vately well received. By the end of August 1831 they 
were again at Arenenberg. Louis had barely reached that 
haven when a delegation of Polish patriots urged him to 
lead their insurrection. A flattering tribute to his impor- 
tance, but he had just been scalded, and he sensibly de- 
clined the honor. He was well advised, for on Septem- 
ber 8 "order reigned in Warsaw/ 3 For the next five 
years he was to be more Swiss than ever. 

At any rate, he turned into a model Swiss. He wrote 
a serious treatise : Political and Military Considerations 
on Switzerland, which was favorably received. He was 
granted civil rights in the canton of Thurgau, and was 
made an honorary citizen of the republic. In 1834, the 
canton of Berne made him a captain of artillery; and his 
Artillery Manual was highly commended by the great 
Dufour. This quiet Swiss period is often overlooked. It 
proved at least that Louis was no mere gambler. Nor did 
he rely blindly on the "star" of his race. Very different 


from the Legitimist pretender, he was a fatalist who be' 
lieved that Providence demands our active cooperation. 
Constantly we shall find in him the alternation, the co" 
existence, of a bold imagination, of a secretiveness that 
looked like apathy, but with no lack of conscientious 
practical work. 

In the meantime his position in the Bonapartist world 
had greatly changed. His elder brother was dead. Now 
his cousin, Napoleon II, the Duke of Reichstadt, died 
on July zz, iSsz, to remain buried, a Habsburg prince, 
in the crypt of the Capuchin Church in Vienna until 
Adolf Hitler chose to return his remains to France. At a 
family council held in London in i83Z, it was made evi" 
dent that his uncle Joseph and his father, Louis, would 
never move a finger to assert their claims. So Louis-' 
Napoleon could feel himself, in spirit and in fact, al" 
though not yet according to the letter of the law, the sole 
representative of all imperial hopes. 

In 1835 there came to him, with a letter of intro" 
duction from King Joseph, a fiery young journalist of 
his own age, Victor Fialin, self-styled Viscount de Per- 
signy. Persigny was a character out of Balzac: Rastignac, 
Vautrin, Philippe Bridau, would have acknowledged the 
kinship. Having joined the army, he had reached non" 
commissioned rank in the hussars when the stormy days 
of 1830 made him dissatisfied with his humdrum mili" 
tary existence. His revolutionary attitude led to his being 
discharged, and he became a very minor journalist in 
Paris. He seems to have flirted with the Legitimists, but 
he was caught in all sincerity by the romantic wave of 
Napoleonic sentiment. He was an adventurer, no doubt; 
his political intelligence was none too subtle; his energy 
was mostly bluster; but he was filled with a single pur- 

THE CONSPIRATOR: 1830-1848 31 

pose, and he remained obstinately loyal to his Bona" 
partist ideal. It is difficult to appraise his influence on 
Louis. I am inclined to believe that the pretender did 
not need so coarse an instrument. Persigny was to follow 
Napoleon for nearly forty years, a devoted, ambiguous, 
slightly sinister shadow; and the Emperor was to pay 
him a double-edged tribute: "Among all the people 
around me, there is but one true Bonapartist Per- 
signy and he is 

On the evening of October 31, 1836 the "aerial tele' 
graph" brought to the Tuileries this puzzling message 
from Strasbourg: "This morning October 30 about six, 
Louis'Napoleon, son of the Duchesse de Saint-Leu, who 
had in his confidence Colonel Vaudrey of the Artillery, 
went through the streets of Strasbourg with . . /* This 
aerial telegraph was an elaborate semaphor system de^ 
vised by Claude Chappe in 1792. In fair weather it 
cut the transmission of dispatches from days to minutes. 
But this was late autumn; a fog arose, blurred the part 
italicized, and obliterated the end. 

Guizot, the ablest statesman of the reign, has left us 
a sober, dignifie'd, yet profoundly dramatic account of 
that night of suspense. The men who gathered at the 
Tuileries had served many regimes; they had no deep 
faith in the OrleanSst compromise. They eyed one an' 
other with misgivings and wondered whether their coats 
could stand being turned once more. Morning brought 
relief: the alarm was over, the prince a prisoner. 

It was a near thing, as Wellington said at Waterloo. 
The plot had been well contrived. There were demo-- 
cratic and Napoleonic sympathies in Strasbourg. Colonel 
Vaudrey, at the head of two artillery regiments, had been 


won over. Fialin de Persigny had provided, among other 
arguments, a vivid siren, Eleonore Gordon, nee Brault, 
swordswoman and concert singer, whom the gallant 
colonel found irresistible. General Voirol, commanding 
the garrison, had not committed himself, but was under- 
stood to be a sympathizer. The first moves went accord-' 
ing to plan. The prince met the assembled regiments in 
the dimness of early dawn; he addressed them and placed 
himself at their head, and they followed him. Whither? 
Did he himself know, or did he trust to the inspiration 
of the moment? There was some fumbling, some delay. 
Voirol, hastily aroused, stopped the show. Louis wanted 
no bloodshed; he and his accomplices were arrested with' 
out a fight. Persigny alone managed to escape. 

All then was for the best in the best of bourgeois 
monarchies; but Louis-Philippe, when VoiroFs reassur" 
ing message reached him at last, may have cast a quiz" 
zical glance at his cc&irtiers. He affected to consider the 
plot as a mere extravaganza; He shipped the young hot" 
head on the frigate Andromede: she was to cruise slowly 
as far as Brazil, then turn north and drop the prince 
where adventurers rightly belonged, in the United States. 
The King even gave him 15,000 francs (about 
$3,000) as pocket money, a surprising gesture on the 
part of so thrifty a monarch; but 200,000 francs had 
been found on the prince, and duly confiscated, so the 
royal exchequer was not the loser. 

Through a "strange blunder, the government prose- 
cuted the accomplices after pardoning the chief character. 
The result was disastrous for the regime. Although the 
accused struck a defiant attitude, they were acquitted by 
a Strasbourg jury, and the whole city rejoiced in the 
verdict. A hastily scribbled biography of the pretender 

THE CONSPIRATOR: 1830-1848 33 

sold by the thousands. Louis had gained in stature by 
this abortive attempt. Charged to the advertising ac- 
count, his money had not been spent in vain. 

On March 30,, 1837 Louis landed at Norfolk, Vir- 
ginia, and proceeded to New York. He had hoped for 
letters of introduction from his uncle Joseph, who had 
spent years in America as Count de Survilliers. The 
nominal head of the family snubbed him, but Louis was 
already a celebrity in his own right. He was lionized in 
New York by society and the literary world. Some 
thought him "as mad as a March hare" because he would 
say with perfect gravity: "When I am Emperor of the 
French . , " But he was writing observations on 
America which were singularly sensible, and at times 
prophetic. He was planning extensive travels in the 
country, if not permanent residence, when he received 
news of his mother's severe illness. He hurried to her 
bedside. In spite of the obstacles placed in his path by 
the French government, he reached Arenenberg on 
August 4 and was with Hortense until the end, on 
October 9. In their checkered and at times question' 
able lives, their mutual devotion had been the one fixed 

The prince had accepted deportation, but he had 
given no pledges in exchange for leniency. Louis-Phi- 
lippe, however, chose to consider his return to Europe 
as a breach of faith, and he brought pressure to bear 
> upon Switzerland to expel his political enemy. Count 
Mole, who, like all weak men, was not averse to safe 
bullying, massed troops on the frontier. Louis, as we 
have seen, had behaved admirably as a guest of Switzer- 
land, and had in fact become an adopted son.^The Swiss, 
jealous of their independence, proud of their traditional 


hospitality, refused to be co^d by Mole's bluster. 
While the federal government delayed its reply, canton 
after canton pronounced itself in favor of Louis-Napo- 
leon. The Swiss could indulge in that heroic attitude with 
a comfortable mixture of righteousness and security: 
they had been assured that the prince intended to leave 
of his own accord. He went over to England: the wrath 
of Louis-Philippe could threaten to cross the Jura, but 
not the Channel. The conflict had greatly enhanced the 
importance of Louis-Napoleon throughout Europe: The 
Times made constant references to him in its weighty 

For nearly two years Louis-Napoleon moved with 
surprising ease in the best circles of London society. Ex- 
elusive clubs, mansions, and country houses were gen" 
erously opened to him. His name and his adventures had 
made him a celebrity. His being persona non grata with 
Louis-Philippe was a strong point in his favor, for the 
Entente cordiale of those days had reached its most acrv. 
monious stage. He was affluent with Hortense's inherit-' 
ance; his dinners and his stable were beyond praise; his 
breeding was faultless; he was an excellent shot; and he 
sat his horse well.CHe offered then, as he did on the 
throne, a mystifying combination of flamboyancy and 
restrainh>If in August 1839 he was one of the Knights 
in the fabulous Eglinton Tournament, an elaborate and 
ruinous medieval pageant that evoked not a little criti- 
cism, men of British blood bore a much heavier responsi- 
bility. If his taste in waistcoats was a trifle florid^this was 
no damning offense in the days of Count d'Orsay, Bul- 
wer Lytton, and Disraeli. In small things as well as in 
great, the future Earl of Beaconsfield and the future Em- 
peror of the French were kindred spirits. Both had in 

THE CONSPIRATOR: 1830-1848 35 

them more than a dash of the adventurer; both had 
powers of bold and constructive statesmanship. In 1880 
Disraeli, in his last romance, Endymion, was to describe 
'Trince Florestan" in Carlton Terrace with genuine ad- 
miration and sympathy. 

Louis-Napoleon's display of his imperial pretensions 
met with courteous reticence. No one took it amiss that 
his carriage should be emblazoned with imperial arms, 
or that he appeared at the opera with two aides-de-camp 
in attendance. He could manage to be the reverse of 
unassuming in the quietest, most gentlemanly manner. 
These happy months in England were to bear fruit. His 
city-planning was inspired in part by the London squares, 
It was in England that he acquired the sense of the in- 
dustrial age. And it became a cardinal principle of his 
policy to remain on friendly terms with England. 

At this point two echoes of chronique scandaleuse 
may find their place in our history. The first is a mere 
episode, an absurd duel with an absurd personage. Na- 
poleon I, wanting to establish that he could procreate 
children, had performed a scientific experiment with me** 
ticulous care. The chosen laboratory was Eleonore De- 
nuelle de la Plaigne, a school friend of Caroline Murat; 
the result was Count Leon. Leon, like his half-brother 
Walewski, and unlike the King of Rome, was the living 
image of his imperial father. His feelings may be imag- 
ined when he saw a mere nephew, and a dubious one 
at that, pose as the legitimate heir while he, Napoleon's 
undoubted flesh and blood, was naught but an eccentric 
and disreputable gambler. He went to London with the 
express purpose of challenging his "little cousin," and 
the prince consented to a duel. The would-be fighters 
fussed so long over the choice of weapons that they gave 


the sloW'footed British police time to intervene. The af' 
fair attracted little attention and was soon forgotten. L6on 
attempted to play a political part in 1 848, as did several 
of his recognized cousins. Although the Second Empire 
had no prejudice against the bar sinister, Leon was kept 
out of court circles. He died obscurely in 1881. 

Far more significant was Louis'Napoleon's connection 
with Miss Elizabeth Ann Haryett, who had assumed the 
name of Miss Howard. She was a lady of determination, 
charm, and wealth; how that wealth had been acquired 
need not be investigated. She was not merely Louis" 
Napoleon's mistress : she became one of the most ardent 
and most generous of his supporters, and we shall find 
her again in December 1851. Incidentally, she may 
have been the cause of Kinglake's damaging account of 
the Coup d'Etat, in his monumental and spirited Inva* 
sion of the Crimea: fifteen years before, the historian had 
been the unsuccessful rival of the pretender. "Et cest 
ainsi quon ecrit Thistoire" 

But the greatest event in those two very active years 
was the publication, in 1839, of Des idees napoleoni 
ennes. In this book, the earlier Reveries politiques 
(iSsz) were brought into sharper focus. Caesarian de^ 
mocracy assumed the dignity of a doctrine and the defi" 
niteness of a manifesto. To understand its full impact, we 
must remember the dismal squabbles among the parlia" 
mentary oligarchs of the July monarchy. Louis'NapO' 
leon's message was a call to greatness and decision. The 
response was gratifying. Lamartine, an anti'Bonapartist 
himself, speaks of its running to 500,000 copies. This 
is no doubt a romantic exaggeration, but the book did 
find a vast audience. 

THE CONSPIRATOR: 18301848 37 

There had so far been so much method in Louis' 
Napoleon's madness that the next move comes as a sharp 
surprise. The Strasbourg venture, though it failed, had 
not been ludicrous. In the four years that followed, the 
pretender seemed to have grown in experience, dignity, 
and intellectual maturity. Yet we now find him engaged 
in an enterprise that looks like a clumsy farce. It is one of 
the many enigmas in that mysterious career. 

At nine o'clock in the morning on August 4, 1840, 
the small steamer Edinburgh Castle, chartered for a 
month, left the wharf at London Bridge, ostensibly for 
a pleasure cruise. Members of the "party" were picked 
up at Greenwich, Gravesend, Margate, and Ramsgate, 
which last was not reached until dawn on the following 
day. Landing at Boulogne by daylight would have 
greatly added to the risk; remaining in harbor might have 
aroused suspicion. So the Edinburgh Castle put out again 
and cruised aimlessly all day long. Many readers may 
have had unpleasant experiences of the Channel when 
it was smooth: on that day it was rough. The new Ar- 
gonauts fought seasickness with alcohol. Their condition 
may be imagined when they reached Wimereux, some 
three miles north of Boulogne, shortly after midnight. 
But their valor was adequate to the kind of fighting they 
would have to face. 

Among the fifty-six members of the expedition, the 
majority were Frenchmen; a few were Poles. Some were 
personal servants of the prince; the rest had been re- 
cruited at a hundred francs a head in the "Little Alsatia" 
of Soho. They were issued uniforms with the regimental 
number 40. When told of the enterprise ahead, they 
cheered. It might turn into an epic; at any rate, it was 
a lark. 


To cap the absurdity, rumor (echoed three decades 
later by Rochefort and Gambetta) had it that a tame 
eagle was to hover over the prince's head, attracted by 
a strip of bacon concealed in his Napoleonic hat. History 
admits that there was a queer bird in the affair: some 
say a vulture, the pet of the sea captain. As there was 
only one boat, landing the little troop was a long process. 
A pair of coast guards were put off with a cock-and-bull 
story; and the expeditionary force was duly met by the 
prince's accomplice, Lieutenant Aladenize, of the 4 2nd. 

Thus the brave company marched to the regimental 
barracks in the lower part of Boulogne. Thanks to the 
presence of Aladenize, the sentry post presented arms. 
In the yard, Louis-Napoleon granted promotions to a 
few deserving veterans, while silver coins were thrown 
to the small crowd that had gathered outside. So civilians 
as well as military took up the cry: "Vive VEmpereur!" 
The affair was unrolling pleasantly enough when, as at 
Strasbourg, the commanding officer, hastily buttoning 
his tunic, burst upon the scene. It was Captain Col" 
Puygelier. Persigny would have killed him, but was 
restrained by Aladenize. In the scuffle, the pretender 
fired a pistol and wounded a soldier. Col-Puygelier had 
little trouble in rallying his men. Still, he allowed the 
invaders to retire, and simply locked the gates after them. 

It was six in the morning. Instead of retiring to the 
beach after the obvious failure of this commando raid, 
Louis-Napoleon went to the upper town within its old" 
world ramparts and attempted to force a gate. Unable 
to break through, he led his little troop to the Column 
of the Grand Army, commemorating the immense prepa" 
rations made in 1805 for a descent on the English 

THE CONSPIRATOR: 1830-1848 39 

coast. As a final gesture, the imperial flag was planted 
atop. Meanwhile, most of the fifty-six had fled, only 
to fall singly into the hands of the regulars and of the 
National Guards. The faithful remnant tried to reach 
an empty lifeboat. A volley was fired at them: one was 
shot dead, another drowned, the prince himself wounded. 
The boat capsized, and the soaking greatly impaired the 
dignity of the Emperor's nephew. In that bedraggled 
condition he was jailed in Boulogne Castle. Soon he 
was taken over to the fortress of Ham in Picardy. 

Such an abject failure, I repeat, was not in character, 
for Louis'Napoleon in 1840 was a very different per- 
sonage from Hitler at the time of the Bierhalle Putsch 
in Munich. Two explanations could be advanced. The 
first is that Louis-Napoleon was relying on support that 
did not materialize. Among the men whom his agents 
approached was General Magnan, in command at Lille. 
After the fiasco, Magnan swore that he had indignantly 
rejected the offers. Some thought that he protested too 
much. The Prince did not betray any of his accomplices. 
But in 1851, at the time of the Coup d'Etat, Magnan 
was placed at the head of the army in Paris. Cautious 
even in this rash venture, he refused to act except upon 
definite orders from his superior, the Minister of War. 
But act he did, and his services were rewarded with a 
marshal's baton. Had Col'Puygelier lost his nerve, the 
Army of the North, under Magnan, might have been 
found ready to follow the pretender's eagles. Conversely, 
had a Col-Puygelier been on hand at Cannes in March 
1815, France and Europe might have been spared the 
costly episode of the Hundred Days. If Magnan or 


others had given a nod or a wink that a Bonapartist agent 
could misinterpret as approval, it would have left no 
trace in history. 

Imponderables may be weightier than documented 
facts: that is why history can never be scientific in exactly 
the same manner as chemistry. In this instance the mights 
est of imponderables was the Napoleonic Legend. Thiers, 
the devoted historian of the Consulate and the Empire, 
Prime Minister in 1840, whipped up Napoleonic 
memories so as to revive the spirits of France in a severe 
diplomatic crisis. Louis-Philippe, after Thiers's policy 
had led to a humiliating setback, fostered the Legend 
with might and main as a glittering mask for his own 
drab and sensible attitude of peace-at-anyprice. So the 
chronology of this crucial year 1840 is instructive. On 
May 12 the Chambers decreed the return of Napoleon's 
remains from St. Helena. On August 5 Louis'Napoleon 
made his attempt at Boulogne. On October 6 he was 
sentenced by the Chamber of Peers. On October 16 
Napoleon's body was taken aboard the French frigate 
quaintly named The Beautiful Chicken (La Belle 
Poule*), under command of Joinville, "the Sailor Prince/ 3 
third son of Louis-Philippe. On December 15, with 
perhaps the most impressive ceremonies in the long an" 
nals of France, the Emperor's body was laid down at 
the Hotel des Invalides, according to his wishes, "on 
the banks of the Seine, amid that French people he had 
loved so well." And on August 15, 1841 a bronze 
statue was placed on that very Column of the Grande 
Armee at Boulogne at which, almost exactly a year be' 
fore, the nephew's bid for power had come to such a 
sorry end. 

Louis-Napoleon's error, shared by many historians to 

THE CONSPIRATOR: 1830-1848 41 

the present day, was to take the Legend far too seriously. 
It was, to a large extent, make-believe; and Thackeray, 
who witnessed "the Second Funeral," had some justifi- 
cation for his ironical account of the affair, France, like 
all other countries, is both Don Quixote and Sancho 
Panza. As Ximenes Doudan put it so well, the French 
bourgeois is eager to "bestrew with his corpse" all the 
battlefields of Europe while toasting his toes by his cozy 
fireside. This duality was perfectly understood by shrewd 
Louis-Philippe, whose secret motto was: "France's busi- 
ness is Business." So on December 15, 1840 the royal 
family was hailed with deafening applause while few 
gave even a passing thought to the Emperor's heir, a 
prisoner for life. This demonstrates as neatly as anything 
can be demonstrated in history that the future rise of 
Louis-Napoleon was not owing entirely to the Legend, 
ft or 1840 saw both the zenith of the Legend as a ro- 
mantic myth and the nadir of Bonapartism as a political 

After what seemed an ignominious fall, Louis'Na- 
poleon, undaunted, started dreaming and working again. 
First of all, he used his trial to excellent purpose. He did 
not appeal for mercy or even for leniency: his defense 
was a challenge. Louis-Philippe was aware that he could 
not trust a common jury; so he had the conspirators 
brought before the Chamber of Peers as a high court 
of political justice. Many of the peers had started their 
careers under the Empire. Out of 312 members, only 
152 voted the final condemnation. Count de Flahaut 
and Admiral Ver Huel very properly excused them- 

Louis-Napoleon had a case. He was no mere agi- 


tator: he stood for a principle. And that principle was 
the very foundation of democracy: government by con" 
sent of the governed. France, in his eyes, had created and 
ratified the power of Napoleon through a series of pleb" 
iscites in 1800, 1802, 1804, 1815; and had deposed 
him only through the force of foreign bayonets. Louis-- 
Philippe on the contrary had been called to the throne 
by a small cabal and endorsed by a rump plutocratic 
Parliament. Louis-Napoleon had come, not to assert his 
own dynastic claims, but to demand that the people be 

These principles he stated with singular force, for he 
could at times reach eloquence. It was no mere chance 
that Berryer had consented to be his counsel, Berryer, 
the greatest orator of the time, was a Legitimist. He too 
had never ceased to consider the Orleans as usurpers. 
A government should rule by the grace of God, as did 
the Bourbons of the elder branch. In default of that 
blessing, it could derive from the will of the people a 
kind of pragmatic legitimacy. Louis-Philippe could ad" 
vance neither claim. 

But the peers who voted, and even those who ab" 
stained, were hand-picked profiteers and servitors of the 
regime. So their verdict was inevitable. Louis-Napoleon 
was sentenced to perpetual incarceration, in a fortress. 
With his enigmatic smile, he queried: 'How long is 
perpetual?" There was no popular revulsion of feeling 
in his favor: as we noted, no shadow fell on the great 
pageant of December 15. Yet his condemnation was no 
moral victory for the Bourgeois King. 

Ham was a dismal fortress in the swampy upper 
reaches of the river Somme, sixty miles or so north of 

THE CONSPIRATOR: 18301*848 43 

Paris. Modern alterations had ruined its medieval pictur- 
esqueness without adding to its comforts. It was damaged 
beyond repair during the First World War. Louis" 
Philippe was not vindictive; above all, he was too sen" 
sible to turn another Napoleon into a martyr. The prince 
was given a fairly commodious apartment: a large study 
in a round tower, with a small bedroom attached. Damp' 
ness had made these quarters unsightly, but this was soon 
remedied. Louis^Napoleon had with him two of his 
most faithful followers: Conneau, Hortense's doctor, a 
dear family friend who never abandoned him; and Gen" 
eral de Montholon, who had closed the Emperor's' eyes 
in St. Helena. He had also his personal servants, in pap 
ticular his confidential valet, Thelin. He had a garden, 
and he was allowed to ride along- the ramparts The ma" 
terial conditions, including the climate, were actually 
worse than at St. Helena, where Napoleon I had been 
allowed to keep a veritable little court. But the spirit 
was different; perhaps because Louis was not disposed, 
like his uncle, to make capital out of petty grievances; 
perhaps because prisoners and turnkeys were all of them 
French; above all, because Demarle, the commanding 
officer, was no Sir Hudson Lowe. It is pleasing to think 
of the chief warden and his charges chatting over a 
friendly hand of whist under the soft light of an oil 

Louis was not denied other satisfactions, which, from 
early youth to premature old age, his temperament 
seemed to require. Women were allowed to visit him. 
One, blooming and prompt to laughter, took away and 
brought back his laundry. She was known as La Belle 
Sabotiere, the fair daughter of the clogmaker. Her two 
sons received estates and titles under the Second Empire, 


and must have ended their days as honored country 
squires. History knows them no more. 

Louis accommodated himself to the routine of his cap" 
tivity. It affected his health : he was to show long traces 
of anemia. But it failed to break his spirit. On the con- 
trary, it gave him a chance to complete his education. 
Those six studious years were for him, as he liked to 
put it, "the University of Ham." People were astounded 
later at the range and seriousness of his information: the 
Duke of Saxe'Coburg-Gotha noted that there was in 
him something of a German savant. He sent letters and 
occasional articles to many newspapers, "on all things 
knowable, and a few others besides." He composed a 
pamphlet on the proposed Nicaragua Canal; in later 
years he was a great promoter of public works, and it 
was thanks to his support that Lesseps was able to create 
the Suez Canal. He had previously reached definite con- 
clusions on political principles; so he went on to social 
problems. As a Caesarian democrat, he was concerned 
with the interests of the common people; so he became, 
without any affiliation to any particular school, a socialist 
in the spirit. The Second Empire, under his guidance, 
was to have a Saint'Simonian tinge, technocracy with a 
faint religious aura. 

Above all, he was in close touch with the thought of 
Louis Blanc. They corresponded; Louis Blanc went to 
visit him and was astounded to find in him such an apt 
disciple. Karl Marx has made it the fashion to brand all 
socialists before him as "utopians." The name does not 
fit Louis Blanc any more than it fits Robert Owen. 
Blanc, an excellent historian and a competent politician, 
had very definite and very practical ideas. He realized 
that the bourgeoisie of the Louis'Philippe era was too 

THE CONSPIRATOR: 1830-1848 45 

selfish and too timorous to understand the industrial revo" 
lution. So he conceived of large-scale enterprise pro" 
moted, owned, and managed by the state: this is what 
he meant by National Workshops. Louis-Napoleon's 
short book On the Extinction of Pauperism is true to the 
Louis Blanc spirit, without seeking to supplant the capi" 
talistic system. His "reserve army of labor" was some" 
what akin to the CCC and the PWA of the New Deal, 
as well as to the EPIC plan of Upton Sinclair. The book 
had a wide circulation. Again, if Louis had been just 
Monsieur Dupont or Monsieur Durand, his position 
among social planners would not be an outstanding one. 
But he was a pretender. The contrast was glaring be" 
tween the sweep and generosity of his thought and the 
purblind petty realism of the Louis-Philippe world. 

King Louis was living in Florence, a lonely and bit" 
ter man. His health, long precarious, was fast breaking 
down. He had taken spasmodic interest in his only sur" 
viving son. Now he approached Louis-Philippe's gov" 
ernment with a request for Louis-Napoleon's release. 
The prince himself, on Christmas Day 1845, wrote to 
the Minister of the Interior, and, on January 14, 1846, 
directly to the King. He pledged his word that he would 
return to prison as soon as he had performed his filial 
duties. The French government wanted more: the formal 
abandonment of his claims. These claims were his reli" 
gion: no compromise could be found. Thereupon Louis" 
Napoleon made up his mind to escape. 

He might have had chances before, and he probably 
had accomplices within his jail. But there is no proof 
that Louis-Philippe nodded in advance at his proposed 
move. The King had a keen sense of his own interests: 


if he had resolved to set the prisoner free, why should 
he forgo the political benefit of his magnanimity? The 
simple plot, as it did succeed, makes good comedy. At 
any moment it might have taken a tragic turn: if caught, 
the prince was determined not to survive. 

The fortress was undergoing repairs; the prince him" 
self had some alterations made at his own expense. Work" 
men from the outside moved to and fro under a scrutiny 
that was to prove conveniently lax. Thelin, the prince's 
valet, had procured a workman's outfit: rough shirt, 
blouse, apron, blue trousers, thick'soled wooden shoes to 
raise his height. The prince shaved his heavy mustache, 
rouged his sallow cheeks, put on a long-haired black 
wig. Then, a clay pipe in his mouth, a long shelf on his 
shoulder, he sallied forth into freedom. 

No one in the yard paid any attention to him. At the 
gate the sergeant on duty raised his eyes from a letter he 
was reading and nodded. The prince dropped his pipe 
and, with a gesture of annoyance, picked up the pieces. 
Just as he was leaving, he came across two workmen; 
they glanced at him and vaguely thought he was one of 
them: Bertrand (or Bertron, or Berthoud). 

He was out of the citadel, but he was a long way 
from the frontier. Had the countryside been alerted, 
his chances would have been slim. Luck was with him: 
Major Demarle, suffering from rheumatism, did not 
make his morning inspection. To delay discovery, Dr. 
Conneau used farcical but effective means. He gave out 
that the prince was sick and had been dosed with castor 
oil; and the ingenious doctor concocted convincing re" 
suits with coffee, sops of bread, and nitric acid. Demarle 
came around twice, and did not insist. After dinner, how" 
ever, before writing his daily report, he had to see his 

THE CONSPIRATOR: 1830-1848 47 

prisoner in person. Considerate to the last, he did not 
want to break the patient's uneasy slumber, and waited 
in the study. Then, thinking he heard the prince move, 
he entered the inner room. "Why, he is not breathing!" 
he cried. In sudden panic, he walked to the bed and 
shook the body. It was a dummy with a bandanna hand" 
kerchief round its head. "When did he escape?" he 
asked Conneau. "This morning, about seven." "I am 
disgraced!" said the major. With marvelous efficiency, 
he had the alarm sounded, the drawbridge raised, the 
gates bolted. The stable was safely locked, and the horse 
was far away. 

In the meantime Thelin had met the prince with a car' 
riage. Before reaching Saint-Quentin the fugitive shed his 
disguise. From Saint'Quentin a postchaise took the two 
men to Valenciennes. They arrived at two; the train for 
Brussels was due at four. At the station they were asked 
for their papers. Those of Thelin were in order; the 
prince's passed muster. A railway man, who had been 
a guard at Ham, recognized Thelin and asked him 
about his master. But their luck held. They boarded the 
train; there was no difficulty at the frontier. From Brus" 
sels they hurried to Ostend and thence to London. 

Without delay, Louis'Napoleon made efforts to join 
his father. To no avail: the French government worked 
against him, and the Grand Duke of Tuscany refused 
his consent. King Louis died on July 26, 1846. He left 
his not inconsiderable fortune to his son. 

The prince, now thirtyeight, was more than ever an 
exile, more than ever a pretender. How did he stand? 
He had matured. For the historians, his books On Na- 
poleonic Ideas and On the Extinction of Pauperism were 
assets that balanced the blank failure of Strasbourg, the 


ridiculous fiasco of Boulogne. Contemporaries, from 
1846 to 1848, thought otherwise; or rather they did 
not think at all: Louis-Napoleon was the Forgotten 

Louis-Philippe had allowed King Jerome and his son, 
Prince Napoleon, to return to France; he was consider- 
ing granting them a pension. Politically and finan" 
dally he could well afford it. This, to his mind, was 
the epitaph of Bonapartism: there was not a spark of 
life left in the cause, and the Emperor's family was but a 
harmless historical monument. At the end of 1847 ^ 
police reported on the activities of Legitimists and repub" 
licans; Bonapartism was not mentioned. 

Never had Louis-Napoleon's goal seemed more unat" 
tainable. It would take two revolutions, one five months 
after the other, to give him his chance at last.<Q3ut, we 
must repeat, it would take also his obstinate faith and 
his uncanny capacity for catching every political wind)* 




THE GERMANS called 1848 "the mad and holy year"; 
it was a time of apocalyptic hopes and fears. Anything 
might happen; everything did happen; everything failed, 
leaving the world sadder and not appreciably wiser. 
1848 saw the last fireworks of expiring romanticism and 
the drab gray dawn of realism. This year of upheaval 
changed the destiny of Louis-Napoleon. So far he might 
be described as a minor character obstinately attempting 
to force his way to the center of the stage, and shoved 
back with scant courtesy. In 1848, given his cue, he 
strode boldly to the footlights. Without metaphors: in 
January he was an obscure pretender without a party; in 
December he was President of the French Republic by 
an overwhelming vote. 

We must admit once again that mere biography can 
never grasp the whole truth. There are two extreme 
conceptions of history, the anecdotic and the philosophi- 
cal, and we are condemned to hover between the two. 
The first will see only men of flesh and blood and the ac^ 
tual events in which they played a part. The second at' 
tempts to trace those immense trends which no individual 
can hope to start or deflect. The difference is mostly one 
of chronological scale. From day to day, from year to 
year, perhaps even from decade to decade, the bio* 
graphical approach is right: personalities and incidents 
are the undeniable realities. In the perspective of cen^ 


turies, they fade and even vanish. If they survive at all, 
it is as legends or symbols. 

Because we are indulging for a moment in reflections 
of a general nature, we must note that there may be a 
discrepancy between events of dramatic significance and 
their apparent causes. It is possible for great decisions to 
go by default: in the lull before a revolution or a war, 
we frequently find not grim unanimous determination, 
but only passive, anxious bewilderment. Given time, 
the people may come to believe, retrospectively, that 
they have firmly willed their destiny. Given more time, 
they may discover that this was a delusion. What we 
call history unrolls itself on three planes. There is the 
drama in which the actors, in full limelight, strut on the 
stage and mouth their lines. In the background, there is 
the atmosphere, the Zeitgeist as our fathers loved to call 
it, the collective state of mind, which even in ages of 
unity and faith is a welter rather than a philosophy, and 
which is likely to change with disconcerting suddenness. 
Then there are those obscure powers, spiritual and physi- 
cal, which work in vast cycles, and sweep emperors with 
their empires away, as floating debris is carried by a 
swift-running flood. 

As 1848 dawned, there seemed to be nothing radi" 
cally wrong about the eighteen^yeapold regime of Louis-' 
Philippe. A few annoying scandals in high circles, but 
the royal family was above reproach, Marshal Soult's 
looting days had long been over, and Guizot, the great 
man of the reign, was a fine example of the Huguenot 
conscience. There had been economic strains, poor crops, 
a sharp recession in 18467, with the dull resentment 
that such conditions inevitably create. But the constitU' 

THE PRESIDENT: 1848-1852 51 

tion could not be blamed for these minor ills, and on the 
whole the country, in a cautious, unspectacular fashion, 
had been prospering under the July monarchy. No wars, 
and after 1840 no rumors of war. For those who found 
"peace in our time" unpalatable, there was the consola- 
tion of the Napoleonic Legend. For those eager to play 
soldiers, there were the colorful campaigns in Algeria. 
Only yesterday, one of the King's sons, d'Aumale, had 
captured the Smalah, or family and treasure, of the Emir 
Abd-el-Kader, and the Arab chieftain, defeated by Bu- 
geaud, had surrendered to Lamoriciere. A new France 
was opening up south of the Mediterranean. Already the 
stay-at-home bourgeois could assert with pride: "The 
Sahara is a French desert." 

So the French throne seemed as solid as the other 
constitutional monarchies of northern Europe. The rot 
at the core was more insidious: disenchantment, listless- 
ness, tedium. Even industry was timid. Tbfers, the -em- 
bodiment of bourgeois common sense, was sneering at 
the newfangled railways. Every prospect was dull: 
"France was bored." No remedy could be found for 
such an undefinable complaint because the men in power 
were so absolutely right in their own conceit. Guizot, 
the great doctrinaire and historian of civilization, was 
convinced that the middle class had been divinely ap" 
pointed to follow the middle road, without which there 
was no salvation. He commanded a safe majority among 
the representatives of the wealthy: this was the country 
as defined by law, le pays legal, and he was satisfied. 
Only heavy taxpayers were shareholders in the great 
firm called France. When pressed for a change, Guizot 
shrugged his haughty shoulders: "If you want a vote, 
get rich!" This was not cynicism on his part: was not 


wealth the test of solid worth, the natural reward of 
enterprise and thrift? 

Others, not radicals merely, republicans and social" 
ists, but a moderate, loyal, "dynastic" opposition, were 
not so easily pleased. They wanted a reform within the 
Parliament: no more government officials in the Cham' 
her, at the mercy of their superiors if they did not t9e 
the line. And they wanted an electoral reform: the 
franchise should be extended to men of good education 
and respectable standing, but of moderate means. In 
those days political meetings were not allowed, but 
public banquets were. Frugal feasts of cold veal and 
salad were capped with heady oratory. And no man 
could provide a richer brand than Lamartine: Lamar" 
tine the romantic poet and even more romantic historian; 
Lamartine who, spurning the bourgeois Right and the 
bourgeois Left, had declared that in the Chamber he 
would sit "on the ceiling"; Lamartine, who claimed to 
stand for "the c^t^en.q^of the ideal/* He threatened 
the narrow materialists in power with "the revolution of 
the public conscience, the revolution of contempt." 

A banquet had been scheduled in Paris for February 
22, 1848. The moderate opposition was of two minds: 
there were elements in the capital that could easily turn a 
legal demonstration into a riot. The government adopted 
a "middle-of-the-road" attitude in the literal sense of that 
absurd expression: it did not know which way it was 
going. The banquet was forbidden, reluctantly author- 
ized, and forbidden again, but with the proviso that the 
matter would be taken before the courts. In fact, the con" 
flict was no longer a tussle between two parliamentary 
groups: it had become a battle between the people, mv 

THE PRESIDENT: 1848-1852 53 

enfranchised and conscious of its natural rights, and the 
King, determined not to be bullied into submission. 

In those tense hours, with mobs and patrols alter" 
nately sweeping the streets, peace was at the mercy of 
an incident. An isolatecTshot was fired; the soldiers, be" 
lieving themselves attacked, responded with a volley. 
There was a number of dead; their corpses were carried 
through the city in tumbrils, rousing the masses to fury: 
"They are massacring Ihe people! 5 * 

Louis'Philippe, aware at last of the peril, yielded, 
grudgingly, by inches, and always a minute too late. He 
sacrificed Guizot and called in Mole, his personal fa' 
vorite a futile move. Then Thiers, whp had led the 
progressives; Odilon Barrot, head of the loyal opposi' 
tion; Marshal Bugeaud, Duke of Isly, glorious and pop' 
ulajr with his Algerian victories. But the flood kept rising 
beyond Mole, Thiers, Barrot, and Bugeaud. 

In those days a few overturned buses, a few paving 
stones thrown into a heap, sufficed to barricade the nar" 
row twisting lanes of the old city and turn whole dis" 
tricts into formidable fortresses. Cavalry and artillery 
could not be used effectively, and the insurgents, firing 
from the windows, had a definite advantage. The cc king 
by the grace of the barricades" hesitated when barricades 
arose against him. His last hope was in the National 
Guard, composed of those bourgeois who had been the 
mainstay of his regime. He mounted his horse and 
passed the Guard in review. Instead of shouting: TLong 
live the King!" they cried: "Hurrah for the Reform!" 
The moral basis of the July monarchy had collapsed. 

Louis-Philippe understood it all too well. It would 
have been possible, as Bugeaud advised, to withdraw 


from Paris, appeal to the country, and reconquer the 
capital. This is what Louis XVI had planned to do in 
the tragic flight that ended at Varennes; and it is what 
Thiers actually did in 1871 against the Commune. 
Louis-Philippe lacked neither physical courage nor de* 
termination. But he was in all sincerity a man of peace. 
He knew how slender his claims had been, and he did 
not want to start a civil war to maintain them. So he 
fled, rather hastily, without the sullen deliberation that 
had given the retreat of Charles X a character of somber 
majesty. As "Mr. Smith" he found refuge in England. 

His sons, Joinville the Sailor Prince, and d'Aumale, 
so popular with the army, understood the lesson and 
offered no resistance. Had his eldest son, the Duke of 
Orleans, been alive, the revolution might have been 
averted; for the prince had been known to be liberal as 
well as capable. But he had died in an accident six 
years before. The heir, the Count of Paris, was a child 
of ten; the regent would have been his mother, a Ger" 
man princess. Their claims were disregarded as those of 
Chambord had been in 1830: fate is oddly fond of 
poetic justice. 

The moderate reformers like Thiers and Barrot were 
in consternation. Their campaign for cautious progress 
had let loose a revolution. The shock troops were the 
radical elements in Paris: members of the secret societies, 
students more enthusiastic than responsible, workingmen 
who had not forgotten 1793, and the inevitable mob. 
This was 1830 over again; but this time the radicals 
were determined not to be tricked out of their victory. 
No more Errata-Republic, even if there had been a 
venerable Lafayette to give it his blessing. So they pro' 
claimed at once a Democratic and Social Republic; 

THE PRESIDENT: 18481852 55 

they had "the right to a job" affirmed as one of its es" 
sential principles; National Workshops were created; 
and Louis Blanc was soon to head a commission for the 
study of social problems. In three days (February 24-6) 
France jumped more than one hundred years ahead into 
uncharted regions: for the Fourth Republic is far more 
conservative than was the Second. 

The miracle is that this sudden transformation was 
accepted at first without demur, and even with a certain 
degree of confidence and hope. The profit motive may 
be sensible, but it is not inspiring: few, even among the 
bourgeois, shed tears over the defunct July monarchy. 
The dull were accustomed to follow the fashions from 
Paris; the selfish were stunned, and held their peace. 
The opposition parties under Louis'Philippe, the Legiti" 
mists, the Republicans, the Socialists, as well as the J" 
chqateJNapoleonic sentiment, had different ideals: but 
they had this in common: that they stood for a faith, not 
for selfish gain. So there was a brief moment of commun- 
ion among all men of good will. The clergy blessed the 
trees of liberty that were solemnly planted in every vil* 
lage square, and which, prophetically, refused to take 
root. France at that hour was indeed "the constituency 
of the ideal/ 3 and Lamartine became, as it were by natu" 
ral right, the head of the provisional government. 

/*We are not forgetting Louis"Napoleon in his London 
exile, for the events just related determined his course 
and permitted his rise. I have mentioned that Bona' 
partism and Orleanism had the same goal: to bring into 
harmony, as the Bourbons had been unable to do, the 
monarchy and the Revolution. But the methods were 
different. Orleanism stood for the golden mean with 


accent on the mean; Bonapartism had a sense of gran- 
deur, which at its worst is the grandiose, and at its best 
is greatness. It seems as though Louis-Napoleon had 
constantly before his eyes the warning: "Above all, not 
to be a Louis-Philippe." When he did become a Louis- 
Philippe, in January 1870, the end was neary 

Louis-Napoleon hastened from London to Paris while 
Louis-Philippe was still on French soil. He came, he 
said, as a free French citizen rallying to the flag of his 
liberated country. The government, at that time, took 
him neither tragically nor even seriously. But it hinted 
that it had more pressing problems on hand than the 
legal status of the Bonapartes, and that he would serve 
France best by quietly returning to London. This he 
did, with a clever letter in which he advertised his name" 
without revealing his full ambition. He felt it wiser to 
wait until the smoke of battle had cleared, or until con- 
fusion had grown worse confounded. 

There was in Lamartine a remarkable blend of gen- 
erous idealism and cool-headed moderation. It was 
thanks to him that the incredibly unstable combination of 
February lasted until June; and thanks to him especially 
that the general elections held on April 23 were a victory 
for liberal, well-meaning republicans. They won 500 
seats, and the extreme Left only 100. The Orleanists 
had 200 deputies; the Legitimists 100. A Murat and a 
Bonaparte were elected, but as republicans. The prince 
himself had not been a candidate. 

But uneasy makeshifts veiled by lofty oratory could 
not indefinitely defer the crucial test. It was the radical 
elements in Paris that had made the Revolution and cre- 
ated the Republic in their own image; but the bourgeoisie 
in the cities, and the rural masses, after a moment of 

THE PRESIDENT: 1848-1852 57 

stunned acquiescence, reasserted their essential conserv 
atism. The Parisian leaders felt that their Republic was 
slipping away from them. They tried to reaffirm the 
sacred rights of the mob, which they equated with the 
people's will. Radical demonstrations on March 17 and 
April 1 6 miscarried, leaving the government weaker and 
France more perturbed. 

Had Louis-Napoleon been in the capital in those 
days, there is little doubt that he would have sided with 
the forces of order. Bonapartism as he conceived it was 
to combine bold progressivism with strict discipline: 
Napoleon III has been defined as "a cop with a dream." 
On April i o, in London, when the conservative classes 
dreaded a monster demonstration of the Chartists, Louis- 
Napoleon took on the badge of a special constable and 
actually stood on duty. It was a great good fortune for 
him to be absent from Paris in those hours of confusion: 
he was not committed either to revolution or to repres* 

His luck held out: but for the fumbling of the provi- 
sional government, he might have been in Paris during 
the tragic days of June. By-elections had been held on 
June 4, and he had been elected by four constituencies; 
but the government threatened to have him arrested if he 
set foot in France; and although the Assembly voted to 
admit him as a member, he preferred, in the interests of 
peace, to tender his resignation. That was on June 1 5 : 
eight days later, Paris was aflame. 

We have seen that on February 26, National Work" 
shops had been created. The name was borrowed from 
Louis Blanc; and the new institution was supposed to 
implement the "right to a job/' which had just been pro- 
claimed. But the organization of the Workshops was 


entrusted to a man who was a rabid antisocialist. A bold 
program of public works could have made them effec- 
tive; instead they were considered merely as emergency 
relief and given nothing to do. Paris has always been a 
great center of the luxury trades, which are the first to 
suffer in a crisis. So the hordes of the unemployed were 
mounting; they were sent to dig out the Champ-de-Mars 
and then to fill it up again. Too old to find much pleas- 
ure in sand piles, the men downed their tools, lit their 
pipes, and talked politics. So, while the financial burden 
was becoming unbearable, a veritable army of subversion 
was being assembled at the gate of Paris. 

The government did not muster courage enough to 
make the National Workshops a reality, but it found 
courage enough to suppress them with a clumsiness and 
a brutality that appeared intentional. For republican 
Paris, this was the test: if the "right to a job" was to go, 
the revolution of February had been fought and won in 
vain. So the working quarters rose again. The insurrec- 
tion was far more formidable than the impromptu riots 
against Louis-Philippe. But this time the bourgeoisie, 
forewarned, did not mean to capitulate. Lamartine's elo" 
quence could not cope with such a crisis. His govern- 
ment was swept away, and a soldier hardened through 
Algerian campaigns, General Godefroy Cavaignac, was 
entrusted with dictatorial powers. 

The fight was the most savage Paris had ever wit- 
nessed. Monseigneur Affre, archbishop of Paris, was 
killed as he was attempting to utter a message of peace. 
After three days of implacable struggle Cavaignac's vic- 
tory was complete. He had "saved Society," but he had 
killed the "Social and Democratic Republic" of Febru- 
ary, and with it the liberal Republic of Lamartine. The 

THE PRESIDENT: 1848-1852 59 

repression was pitiless: Cavaignac, an austere, high- 
minded republican, remained branded as "the Butcher of 

On September 16, in new complementary elections, 
Louis'Napoleon was returned by five districts. This time 
there was no question of keeping him out. On the 24th 
he arrived in Paris, and again chose rooms within sight 
of the Vendome Column. On the z6th he quietly took 
his seat in the National Constituent Assembly, an oddly 
unimpressive presence. 

On October 9 a decisive debate took place on the 
method of electing the president. Many members were 
in favor of having him chosen by the Assembly: this 
would have resulted in the victory of General Cavaignac, 
who had been confirmed as Chief of the Executive 
Power. In an impassioned speech Lamartine favored di- 
rect election by the whole people. He may have thought 
that his own popularity, immense in February, had been 
veiled but not destroyed by the tragedy of June, But 
there is no reason to believe that he was not disinterested 
and sincere. There was a mystic side to his democratic 
faith. He accepted in earnest the dictum: Vox populi 
vox Dei. We should remember also that the political 
prestige of the American Republic ran high. Tocque" 
ville, the author of Democracy in America, was a promi" 
nent member in the constitutional commission. Even 
Thiers had said: "In 1830 we crossed the Channel 
[i.e., we borrowed English precedents]; in 1848 we 
must be ready to cross the Atlantic/' 

Republicans who had watched with misgivings the 
rightist trend after the days of June wanted to bar from 
the presidency members of the families that had ruled 
over France. Representative Thouret offered an amend-' 


ment to that effect. Louis-Napoleon knew that such a 
measure was directed chiefly against him: no Legitimist 
and no Orleanist prince at that time appeared as a likely 
candidate. He rose, went to the rostrum, spoke a few 
words in his strange German-Swiss accent, closed 
abruptly, and slouched back to his seat. Thouret, with 
contemptuous irony, withdrew his amendment: in an as- 
sembly that reveled in oratory, a tongue-tied pretender 
could hardly be considered a danger. This awkward 
performance served Louis-Napoleon so well that he has 
been accused of playing a part. It would have been a 
dangerous game. The plain fact is that the prince, who 
had a sonorous voice, a command of stately French, and 
even, when conscious of his power, an impressive coun- 
tenance, was a poor improviser. In this atmosphere which 
was uncongenial and even hostile, he was quite naturally 
at his worst. 

On November 4 the constitution was carried. On the 
2$th, as a broad hint to the nation, the Assembly voted 
that "General Cavaignac had deserved well of his father- 
land." On December 10 the election was held; on the 
zoth the results were officially proclaimed. Louis- 
Napoleon had received more than 5,300,000 votes; 
Cavaignac, 1,400,000; Ledru-Rollin, the radical, 370,- 
ooo; Raspail, the Socialist, 36,000; and Lamartine, 
harmonious Lamartine, once the idol of the nation, 
17,000. The prince took his constitutional oath; and 
this time in well-chosen words and with an assured voice 
made a brief appeal for concord. Cavaignac resigned 
his power. He was perhaps too earnest to be a good 
loser: he refused to shake hands with his successor. 

The election on December 10, one of the decisive 
events in modern French history, was difficult to inter- 

THE PRESIDENT: 1848-1852 61 

pret at the time, and the difficulty has increased with the 
years. The verdict was emphatic, its sincerity indubitable. 
There could be no suspicion of force or fraud, and what 
official pressure was brought to bear worked in favor of 
the incumbent, General Cavaignac. Propaganda, at times 
of a rather blatant type, there certainly was. Persigny, 
who managed the campaign, must have reveled in the 
portraits, songs, broadsheets, in the clay pipes, jars, and 
knives bearing the candidate's effigy, with which he 
flooded the country. But flooded is an exaggeration; 
Louis'Napoleon's resources at that time were not un" 
limited, and his credit was none too good. And there 
was no lack of propaganda on the Cavaignac side, 

Two obvious explanations should be, not Ughtlyjlis? 
missed, but examined with critical care. The iirsiLJlAat 
tHe^election of a Napoleon^ sight unseen, was simply the 
Legend. It can hardly be denied that 


without the prestige of his name tEe prince would have 
had rio chance. Bu| we must not forget that the high" 

it .had 
i Emperor's nephew from ignominious fail' 

ure. Least of all was there in 1848 any popular clamor 
for martial glory. A^ that time it was tbe^ radicals Jghb 
were urging a democratic crusade on behalf of Poland 
France shuddered at the_prQSpec 

The second explanation is that the triumph of Louis" 


Thiers, a liberal frightened out of his wits by the threat 
of a social revolution. The monarchical Committee of 
the rue de Poitiers, not daring to put up a candidate of 
its own, endorsed the prince as the lesser of two evils: 
Cavaignac, a convinced republican, would have con-' 
solidated the Republic. Those astute politicians knew, or 


thought they knew, that the pretender was a <lolt. In the 
presjdential chairjiejwould be theirjpuppet; wherTtHe" 
time came~to get rid of him, he could be removed as 
easily as he had been arrested at Strasbourg and at 
Boulogne. Some German conservatives, including a 
number of wealthy Jews, played the same Machiavellian 
game with Adolf Hitler. 

If such was the hope of Thiers and his friends, they 
fooled themselves with remarkable thoroughness. I must 
speak with caution, for the record is not clear. T^jowo. 
interpretation is that Louis'Napoleon would have won 
withputthe support of the organized monarchists. They 
je, at the same time popular and conservative, 


that suddenly surged in his favor. They attempted to ride 
If that interpretation be valid, their move 
They did manage to create a confusion; 

they could without absurdity claim that the President 
was their man. To use current slang again, they "muscled 


We pardonably desire clear-cut answers to definite 
questions, but history refuses to oblige. Tfa M %<ft great 
cause of Louis'Napoleon's success was negative: every 
other party had been engulfed in failure. The Restora- 
tion had never been popular, even in its wan heyday; by 
1848 Legitimism was the creed of a few respectable fos' 
sils, country squires, and unworldly priests. Orleanism 
had crashed only ten months before. The idealistic re- 
public of Lamartine had proved a flimsy hope. The Reds 
had been crushed in June. Louis'Napoleon alone, mi" 
raculously kept out of harm's way, was untried and 
therefore unsullied. In the political vacuum he suddenly 
loomed enormous. 

THE PRESIDENT: 1848-1852 63 

Butjthere was a more positive cause., for which he 
it. Thanks to his publications, his 

name was^a program, and that program had something to 
offer to all the, classes. To the lesser bourgeoisie and the 
peasant proprietors, who between them formed the solid 
masses of the country, Bonapartism meant a strong 
police .state that would maintain material order, repress 
any "share^the^wealth" nonsense (les partageux*) and 
exorcise "the^Red Specter." But the same conservative 
classes dreaded a return to the ancient regime: Napo" 
leon I, in their eyes, had been a sovereign of democratic 
origins, attached to "the immortal principles of 1789.'* 
Even some of the Reds distrusted the new Caesar less 
than they hated Cavaignac, "the Butcher of June/* Was 
not Louis-Napoleon a disciple of Louis Blanc, and had 
he not written On the Extinction of Pauperism'} In the 
confusion and frustration of the hour he alone stood 
clearly for the motto of the Positivist Auguste Comte, 
which Brazil was to adopt as its national device: Order 
and Progress. If Louis-Napoleon was thus all things to 
all men, it was not out of unscrupulous eclecticism: 
'Tell me what you want, and I'll promise it to you/' 
It was because, for a moment at least, his inner com' 
plexities had reached a precarious balance, and that they 
matched exactly the complexities of the national mind. 
In the most literal sense, be was the Man of the HOUIV 

Louis-Napoleon began his term of office with un^ 
impeachable correctness. No trumpets of jubilee an" 
nounced a new era or even a new deal. To be sure, he 
was no mere bourgeois executive: he was styled Prince" 
President, wore the uniform of a general in the National 
Guard, and introduced an unobtrusive but semi-regal 


etiquette in his residence, the Elysee. He picked out as 
Premier an unobjectionable middle-road parliamentarian, 
Odilon Barrot, who had led the "loyal opposition" under 
Louis'Philippe. On January 29, the new President 
showed quiet efficiency in quelling incipient disorder. 

The Roman expedition is often cited as proof of a 
bargain between Louis-Napoleon as a candidate and the 
reactionary group known as the Groupe de la rue de 
Poitiers. The facts are more complex. The Roman prob' 
lem had already worried the Cavaignac administration. 
Rome had rebelled against the absolutism of the Pope, 
Pius IX, who, frightened by the murder of his 'minister 
Rossi, had fled to Gaeta on November 25, 1848. On 
February 9, 1849 a Roman Republic had been pro" 
claimed. On March 30 the French Assembly (still the 
old Constituent, which, its task long accomplished, was 
tenaciously clinging to life) had authorized sending an 
observation corps to Civita Vecchia to forestall Austrian 
intervention, and, as the Premier, Odilon Barrot, put it, 
"for the protection of liberal institutions/' Louis-Philippe 
had set a precedent when, for the same purpose, he had 
sent troops to occupy Ancona, 

The Constituent Assembly, with its bewildered and 
discouraged Lamartinian majority, dissolved at last. In 
the elections to the Legislative Assembly (May 13 ), the 
moderate Republicans shrank from 500 to 80; the ex" 
treme Left increased from 100 to 180. The Party of 
Order, in aggressive mood after the events of the previous 
year, won a sweeping victory, with 460 seats. There 
was no presidential party: it was the aim of Louis-' 
Napoleon to stand above the strife as the representative 
of national interests. A few personal friends were known 

THE PRESIDENT: 1848-1852 65 

as the group of the Elysee. Oddly enough, Victor Hugo 
was mentioned among them. 

Stillji_cprrect executive,, the President jidnot attempt 
to gP-Xg 3 :? : jyiHli* *k e overwhelming majority oFlhe 
Q^mberTTEe "Roman expedition, through a series of 
misunderstandings rather than through a decisive shift in 
policy, changed its character: it was now frankly aimed 
at the destruction of Mazzinfs Republic, and at the 
restoration of the Pope's temporal power. Even then, in 
a letter which was made public, Lqujsj^apoleon ex* 
pressed the hope that thej3ontiff Woul3nfetTorn as 'a 
liberal sovereign.^. An abortlve^revolutidn "In" Paris on 
June 13 frightened the conservatives into repressive 
measures: the Reds should be put down in France as 
they had been in Rome. This reactionary turn did not 
originate with the President, but neither did he oppose 
it. He was not the wholehearted ally of the conserva-* 
tives; he seemed rather to be their prisoner. 

Odilon Barrot no longer represented a workable com" 
promise between President and Assembly. He was dis" 
missed on October 31, 1849. But instead of forming a 
rightist cabinet, Louis-Napoleon appointed a lackluster 
administration of practical men: d'Hautpoul, Achille 
Fould, Eugene Rouher. This marked without bluster the 
change from a parliamentary to a presidential govern" 
ment. The executive and the legislative were now going 
each its own way; and it might take them very far apart. 

The French constitution of 1848 had not provided 
for such a contingency. Neither, for that matter, has the 
American. The result of this ambiguity is that America 
has in fact two unwritten constitutions: under a strong 
popular executive a Jackson, a Lincoln, a Theodore 


Roosevelt, a Wilson, a Franklin Roosevelt the pre- 
dominance of the executive is manifest. If opinion is 
evenly divided, or if the executive is not a command" 
ing personality, the regime becomes almost pure parlia- 
mentarism. The American Constitution has stood the 
strain; the French did not. The difference is not owing 
to some purely technical flaw or to the political temper 
of the two peoples. America never was seriously threat- 
ened either by a revolution of the Right or by a revo- 
lution of the Left: the France of 1850 was imperiled 
by lx>th. 

faithful to his principle, and to the origin of his 
power, the President took the matter to the people as 
the supreme arbiter. He remained strictly within the 
framework of the constitution; but he seized every op- 
portunity public works, national festivals, military re- 
views to travel in every part of the country, to be seen 
and to be heard. "The man who has been elected by six 
million voters/* he said (rather generously rounding the 
figure), "carries out the will of the citizens, and does not 
betray them/ 5 Some thought that this enigmatic sentence 
was a promise that there would be no coup d'etat. It 
meant, more obviously, that if the President, in har- 
mony with the great majority of tie people, was com- 
pelled to act against the Assembly, and even against the 
letter of the constitution, he would feel justified^ 

Everywhere, even in the cities known for tlieir leftist 
sympathies, such as Lyon and Strasbourg, the President 
was received with an enthusiasm that no official claque 
could have produced. France was weary of /political 
squabbles, and there was a mounting dread of an up- 
heaval in 1852. It was palpable that neither the Right 
nor the Left had any love or respect for the ailing Re- 

THE PRESIDENT: 1848-1852 67 

public. The conservatives wanted to make their present 
advantage permanent through a monarchical restora- 
tion. They were aware that this would mean bloodshed, 
for the great cities were ardently republican. But they 
affirmed their determination "to reach the Promised 
Land even though they had to cross the Red Sea." The 
radicals felt that the crest of the reactionary wave was 
over; they would have had a good chance of winning at 
the polls in 1852 if the conditions were equitable. But 
the conservative majority had rigged up an electoral law 
that disfranchised nearly three million voters, one third 
of the electorate, most of them workingmen and repub' 
licans. So the Left, convinced that their republic had 
been stolen from them, swore that they would recon^ 
quer it, if need be through another revolution. 
/The two major parties were thus openly preparing 
civil war. In that situation the President was the only 
symbol of unity and the only guarantee of peace. His 
powers were to expire in i8$z, and he could not be 
re-elected. An amendment to the constitution on this 
point was proposed, and seventy-nine departmental 
councils endorsed it, only six voicing oppositionlJn the 
Assembly the more reasonable conservatives, realizing 
the urgency of the situation, were ready to vote for' it. 
In the final ballot, there were 446 ayes to 278 noes; but 
in this case a three-fourths majority was required (534 
to 181 ), and the motion was lost. So the system could 
neither work nor be mended; and there was no legal 
means of brushing it out of the way. 

England has not had a violent change of government 
since the end of the seventeenth century; America none 
since the end of the eighteenth. But in France, within 
the memory of living men, seven governments had met 


a violent death: in 1792, 1799, 1814, twice in 1815, 
in 1830, and only three years before, in 1848. The im" 
minence of a sudden stroke was an open secret: the date 
and the method remained uncertain. 

/The Assembly, seeing its defenses crumble, stood re" 
semful but helpless. The Right had counted on Gen" 
eral Changarnier, whom Louis'Napoleon had placed in 
command both of the National Guard and of the regu" 
lar troops in Paris. Changarnier was a bluff, jovial sol" 
dier with a healthy sense of his popularity and impor" 
tance. He thought of himself as indispensable, but he 
could not quite make up his mind to whom. He had 
scant respect for the Prince"President, whom he called 
the phrase was apt "a melancholy parrot." He boasted 
that if the need were to arise, he could imprison Louis" 
Napoleon in the fortress of Vincennes. Suddenly, on 
January 3, 1851, the President dismissed him. He was 
within his constitutional rights, and Changarnier did not 
dare to challenge the decision. The most prominent 
members of the conservative party waited on the Presi" 
dent, urging him to change his mind. He was, as Hor" 
tense had described him in his childhood, gently obsti" 
nate. And Thiers gloomily prophesied: "The Empire 
is made! 33 

One last open move, and a very shrewd one. On No" 
vember 4, 1 85 1 jheJPresident asked the Assembly to 
repeal the obnoxious electoral law of Maj^jTT 1850, 
whicE had deprived threFlSMon^^ 
The Assembly fell into the 

sal. So he could pose asjhe champion of universal 
manhood) suffrage, one of the essential cojiquests of 


THE PRESIDENT: 18481852 69 

Meanwhile, Louis-Napoleon was quietly maturing 
his plans. This time he did not indulge in a wild gamble. 
First of all, he needed money. Always a lavish spender, 
he had long ago dissipated Hortense's heritage, a loan 
from the eccentric Duke of Brunswick, and the moder- 
ate fortune of King Louis. The Assembly had refused to 
increase his presidential stipend. But his staunch sup- 
porter Achille Fould was wealthy. The Spanish Am" 
bassador, Marshal Narvaez, Duke of Valencia, was will- 
ing to take a risk. And Miss Howard still believed in 
him: she had some hope of becoming, if not an Em* 
press Theodora, at any rate a modern Pompadour. 

With money in his purse, Louis-Napoleon was or- 
ganizing his task force. He alone was the master mind: 
the members of the team were his chosen instruments. 
Leroy de Saint-Arnaud was picked out as a vigorous 
soldier without squeamishness. A campaign in Kabylia 
furnished a pretext for promoting him, and he was made 
Minister of War. The army of Paris was placed under 
Magnan. Maupas, credited with an iron fist, became pre* 
feet of police. The faithful Persigny, of course, was on 
hand. For the key position, the Ministry of the Interior, 
Louis-Napoleon picked out Count de Morny. 

Morny was the son of Queen Hortense and Count de 
Flahaut, himself the natural son of Talleyrand. He was 
proud of his origin. On his coat of arms he had an eagle 
rising out of a bush of hortensias (hydrangea), with the 
device: Tace sed memento (Be silent, but remember). 
Until the Revolution of 1848 the half-brothers had 
never met. Louis-Napoleon was among the few who did 
not know the secret of Morny's birth. He was shocked 
at first, for his filial love had a touch of veneration (he 
went so far as to believe in the virtue of the Empress 


Josephine). There was a marked physical resemblance 
between the two men. Both were adventurers who had 
to carve their way. But Louis-Napoleon had a faith, and 
Morny had none. In their association, interest and af- 
fection became curiously mingled. Morny alone could 
address Napoleon III in the unconventional form: "My 
dear Emperor." 

After a brief career as an officer in Algeria, Morny 
had made his fortune in Paris under Louis-Philippe. His 
father, Flahaut, had an honored place in society; the 
young man became the personal friend of the Orleans 
princes; he remained an Orleanist at heart even when he 
became the second personage in the Second Empire. He 
played admirably, because sincerely, the part of the aris- 
tocrat who toys with finances, politics, and the arts, but 
remains superior to place, money, fame and principles. 
He was a Count d'Orsay with a genius for business; a 
gambler at the same time reckless and cool; an epicure 
with a will of steel. Compared with him, Persigny was 
crude and honest. 

The Elysee, December i, 1851. The regular Mon- 
day evening reception. The President calls aside Colo- 
nel Vieyra, of the National Guard: "Can you hear a 
secret and not give a twitch?" "I can." "Well, it is for 
tonight/ 3 The colonel bowed: in the night, every drum 
in the Guard was stove in so that the alarm could not 
be sounded: a small instance of conspiratorial thorough- 
ness. At ten thirty, six men gathered in the Presidents 
study: the prince himself; Mocquard, his confidential 
secretary; the inevitable Persigny; Morny, Maupas, 
Saint-Amaud. The prince opened a bundle of papers 
marked "Rubicon/' The last directions were given. The 

THE PRESIDENT: 1848-1852 71 

proclamations were sent to the National Printing Shop. 
Soldiers were to keep close watch over the workmen so 
as to prevent any leak. 'We are risking our skins/* 
Morny remarked airily. "Mine is old, and not worth 
much/ 5 Mocquard replied. And the prince, as if to re' 
buke their levity, concluded: "Have no fear: I am wear" 
ing my mother's ring, with the word Hope." Eleven, 
and the Elysee was asleep. 

Between five and six o'clock Paris was placarded with 
white posters: white in France is reserved for official 
documents. There was a Presidential Decree, a Prock" 
mafion to the Army, an Appeal to the People. By die 
decree, the^ , AssemBly was dissolved and a master 
stroke^jmyraal_ t sufege restored. The acts oTlhe 
President would be submitte3"toHie"people as a whole. 
/AiT outline of the proposed constitution was given: it 
was closely modeled on that of the Consulate. Before 
dawn some seventy political leaders were arrested, Thiers 
among them, and the generals whose prestige and inde" 
pendence might have endangered the success of the 
move: Cavaignac, Bedeau, Changarnier, Lamoriciere. 
Colonel Espinasse occupied the Palais-Bourbon, seat of 
the Assembly. Three notes on the bugle were sounded, 
announcing that everything had proceeded without a 

In the dismal light of a winter morning, early risers 
were gazing at the white posters. There was no indigna" 
tion, but some shrugs: "It had to come!" some smiles: 
"Well played!" At ten, a cavalcade of officers sallied 
forth from the filysee: old King Jerome, Magnan, Saint" 
Arnaud, and their stafl. At the head, alone, unprotected, 
rode the President. There was no tumultuous applause, 


but^there was no ominous silence either. Paris admired 
the^daring and the skill of the stroke, and was not un- 
friendly; but it remained reserved. 

Of legal resistance there was practically none. Du- 
pin, chairman of the Assembly, refused to act. The ar- 
rested deputies were not harshly treated, and they were 
soon released. The masses refused to rise: the Assembly 
stood for confused, half-hearted reaction, and had no 
friends. Perfunctory barricades arose, and were aban- 
doned at first sight of the troops. Victor Hugo and a 
few radicals went from one district half to another, pass- 
ing resolutions, pasting soul-stirring and pitiful little 
handbills on the walls. They had to recognize with 
anger and shame that Paris was indifferent: it simply 
refused to recognize the Assembly as the sole rampart 
of democracy <^So the 2nd of December could be con- 
sidered as a success for the President, although there 
was no surge of enthusiasm^ 

The 3rd was a sullen, indecisive day. The President 
was strongly advised not to venture again in the streets: 
a stray bullet, and the whole elaborate scheme would 
collapse. A rumor spread that General Neumayer, with 
an army loyal to the Assembly, was marching on Paris. 
The activities of Hugo and his friends, although they 
could not nerve the people to heroic resistance, had at 
any rate created misgivings. A few barricades went up 
again. But the masses remained indifferent. Dr. Baudin, 
a representative, was attempting to rouse the onlookers. 
He was answered with a shrug and a jeer: "Get our- 
selves killed so that you will draw your twenty-five 
francs a day? Guess again!" "Citizens," Baudin replied, 
*T11 show you how one dies for twenty-five francs." He 
mounted the barricades and was shot dead. Like most 

THE PRESIDENT: 1848-1852 73 

historical words, these may be apocryphal. The episode 
is part of French folklore: the one thing it proves is that 
the worker^jlec^djofight 

" S^tTangeTy7tEe^ay^^mcades were built without seri" 
ous interference on the part of police or troop : Maupas 
and Magnan had withdrawn their men from the areas 
of disturbance. This looked like hesitancy, and the re" 
publicans took heart. It was no retreat, however, on the 
part of the President's forces, but a strategic move. 
Among the chief agents of the Coup d'Etat, some were 
not satisfied with their half -success: they wanted a show 
down and a clear-cut victory. On the 4th the troops 
came back in force and reduced the barricades with little 
difficulty. Perhaps Magnan and Maupas, small men 
without scruples, were eager to magnify their share in 
the enterprise. In the dim background we feel the pres" 
ence of Napoleon's .chief lieutenant, Morny. He knew 
the democratic and even socialistic propensities of his 
brother, and the ambivalent character of his policy. "So" 
ciety had to be saved," and the new government must 
give evidence that it could be tough. 

The eloquent resistance of Victor Hugo, materially 
so futile, and the brutal display of force on December 4, 
changed the character of the Coup d'Etat. From a bold 
and generous appeal to the people, it was turned into a 
victory for "order," the existing order, the citadel of 
economic privilege, and into a disaster for the "sub' 
versives/ 3 the believers in the social and democratic Re" 
public of February 1848. 

This new aspect, not foreseen and not desired by 
Louis-Napoleon, was emphasized by two accidents. The 
troops were marching along the boulevards. A well" 
dressed crowd, women and children among them, 


watched them without hostility or fear. Again, as in 
February 1848, a shot was fired. Again the soldiers, 
made nervous by three days of tension and fatigue, fired 
back at random, without orders. Unit after unit, heap 
ing the fusillade, caught the panic and fired in its turn. 
It took long minutes to restore discipline; when the brief 
spasm was over, the sidewalks were littered with 
wounded and dead. 

The second accident for genius is an accident, a 
lusus nature is that Victor Hugo, who had morally 
led the fight, was to tell the story; and Hugo was the 
greatest poet of his time; at any rate, the most obviously 
great. He had worshipped Napoleon I; he had been 
the friend of his nephew, and a welcome guest at the 
Elysee. Now he could, with a clear conscience, strike a 
magnificent attitude of defiance. The results were Na- 
poleon the Little, Chastisements, History of a Crime: 
when the Empire fell, the indictment was ready in words 
of undying fire. Woe to the ruler who provokes a mod- 
ern Ezekiel. 

Destiny played a crooked game with Napoleon III, 
who, for his part, was not the mirror of rectitude. No 
victory of his was ever unequivocal and final. He ex" 
pected the Coup d'Etat to be an apotheosis,_ and a few 
days later (December 20-1), an enormous popular 
vote, 7,440,000 to 646,000, was to ratify his action. 

^Ht^IiSliL^ Ljpuis; 

Napoleon sincerel^JieJiei^.liJmaelf .to ' 

the gracej)fjjgd jmd the jwiU ^fjhe, jpeo' 
A, sardonic addition could not be silenced: "not 
to mention fraudand force^ Morny and Saint- Arnaud." 




IN 1800, when the text of the Consular Constitution 
was placarded on the walls of Paris, one citizen was non" 
plussed by its apparent complication. Another reassured 
him: "It is all very simple: there are only two words 
that matter, Napoleon Bonaparte." In this respect as 
in so many others, the constitution ratified on Decem- 
ber 20 i, 1851 by an overwhelming plebiscite re" 
^sembled its Consular model. Behind the elaborate legal 
phraseology, there was only one stark fact, Cassarism. 
The constitution was not officially proclaimed until 
January 14, 1852. But already on New Year's Day the 
President had leftjthe unassuming Elysee for the Tuiler" 
ieSijhejmci^^ < 

day^oO^Igeoiy^ ~"~ ~~ 

jThe constitution provided for a president elected for 
ten years by the people, and responsible only to the 
people. No cabinet in the parliamentary sense: the minis' 
ters were merely the president's secretaries. He was to_be 
advised by an elite of technicians, the m ff ouncil of State : 
an excellent insHmBoirwith roots deep in the royal past, 
it had received its final form, not substantially altered 
to this day, under the Consulate. It was the Council of 
State that had elaborated, with Napoleon's active pap 
ticipation, the famous Civil Code, of which he was 
prouder than of any of his victories. 

4 Senate, composed of life members, was to bring 
most illustrious personages in France/* 


Its duties were mostly honorific: the^Senate was to^cpn- 
sider petitions from the people, and to act as the guard" 
ian" of the 'Tundamelifal:Pact." ThrHanieTiad^prestige,, 
the stipend waTfiandsdnieTthe work was light. Aseatin 
theSenate was a fit reward for those faithful followers 
oftEe prince who preferred not to engage in more strenu" 



ast and least came a Legislative Body elected by 
manfiood suffrage. Its initiative was strictly limited; jts 
debates were reported in barest outline. To discourage 
the streams of eloquence which had been the glory and 
the plague of the constitutional monarchy, each mem' 
ber was to speak, not from the rostrum, but from his 
own seat. 

There was a slight flutter among the President's clos-- 
est followers when, on January 23, 1852, he confiscated 
by decree certain properties of the Orleans family and 
turned over the proceeds to social works. This was not 
a tyrannical whim, and not a personal vendetta against 
the fallen regime: Louis'Napoleon's act had some color 
of justification. According to immemorial tradition, the 
personal domains of a new king were merged with those 
of the crown, for the crown and France were one. Louis' 
Philippe, immensely wealthy in his own right as Duke 
of Orleans, had failed to follow that precedent. Modern 
kingship is a precarious business, and the new sovereign 
was shrewd enough in 1830 to have some 

of 1848. So, before ascending the throne, he divested 
himself of his property in favor of his children. His fore' 
sight proved only too accurate, and we can hardly blame 
him for it. Louis'Napoleon, of a more reckless temper, 
never appreciated that kind of cleverness. He was only 

THE EMPEROR: 1852-1 70 77 

too willing to merge his estates that is, his debts 
with the national treasury. Above all, he wanted to 
prove that although the monarchists obstinately rallied 
to him, he was not their servant. It was, on a more hu" 
mane level, his Duke of Enghien affair. Several of his 
ministers Rouher, Magne, Fould resigned; and even 
his second in command in the great adventure of the 
Coup d'Etat, his own brother, Morny. All of them 
eventually returned to the fold. 

It was a sign of Louis-Napoleon's great personal 
popularity that their gesture did not weaken his hold on 
the country. The elections that took place a month later 
(February 29, 1852) were a landslide in his favor. 
Out of 261 members, 253 were docile, one might say 
automatic, in their loyalty. Posters of official white -had 
indicated that they were the President's choice: the elec" 
torate, firmly guided by the prefects, had meekly foP 
lowed their leader. Such unanimity invariably arouses 
suspicion. But even a leftist historian like Charles Sei' 
gnobos admits that the elections gave a fair picture of the 
public mind, perhaps artfully but discreetly touched up. 
After all, "the Red Specter" was a reality in those days, 
and in our free America the Reds do not hold even a 
single seat. Of the dissenters, the three Legitimists and 
the three Republicans sat in helpless and taciturn re' 
proof. Only one voice was heard in the muffled hall, 
that of the Catholic orator Montalembert, cc a penitent 
Christian, an impenitent liberal/ 3 Frightened by the 
prospect of a social revolution, he had approved of the 
Cottp d'Etat; but he was unwilling to accept its conse^ 
quences. He could never forget that God had fashioned 
him to speak eloquently, and the Assembly he addressed 
was willfully and congenitally deaf. All through the Em" 


pire, spurned by the Left as undemocratic, rejected by 
his fellow Catholics as tainted with liberalism, he was to 
waste his undeniable talent in ambiguous controversies. 

In spite of Thiers's dire prophecy early in 1851: 
'The Empire is made!" Louis-Napoleon seemed in no 
hurry to change his title. For years he had quietly 
prophesied: "When lam Emperor of the French . . ."* 
but it was still as President that he made a triumphal 
tour of central and southern France. He had the reality 
of power, but the name was not without significance. 
For one thing, it would be a reparation due to his 
uncle's memory: twice the Empire had been destroyed 
by the victors. This Diktat rankled, just as after 1919 
the guilt clause rankled in the German mind; France 
would not feel herself free until the last traces of the 
hated Vienna settlement had been effaced. A crown is 
but a bauble; but to the earnest believer, a bauble may 
be a revered symbol, and the imperial crown was the 
sign of alliance between the Grace of God and the Will 
of the People. What burned in Louis-Napoleon's 
heart with religious intensity was also felt by the masses 
in a looser, but still very real, way. Obviously they had 
not elected and confirmed a Napoleon as head of the 
State in order to have a mere president. Many were con- 
vinced that the Empire alone could bar the way to the 
two flags France dreaded almost equally, the red and 
the white. 

So Louis'Napoleon was not surprised when every 
where he heard the crowds shout: "Long live the Em- 
peror!" By the time he reached Bordeaux, he felt so 
sure of his ground that, on October 9, in a notable 
speech, he gave out the program of his future reign. To 

THE EMPEROR: 1852-1870 79 

modern ears, there is a Mussolinian ring about his prom- 
ises of efficiency and prosperity. There were marshes to 
be drained in both countries a realistic plan with sym- 
bolic overtones. The Extinction of Pauperism, the 
moral and material welfare of the most numerous and 
poorest classes these were the implied promises. The 
Empire was not to be merely "the field freely open to 
all the profiteers/ 5 There was in the public mind one 
great objection to a restored Empire: if it openly chal- 
lenged the treaties of Vienna, would it not revive the 
era of armed conflicts? Louis'Napoleon, with the same 
sincerity as Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, 
pledged his word that he would keep France out of 
war: "UEmpire, cert la paix." 

The Senate, on a nod from the master, decided that 
the people should be consulted about this amendment 
to the Fundamental Pact. On November zi a plebi- 
scite approved the restoration of the Empire by 7,824- 
coo to 253,000. On December i, at Saint'Cloud, the 
President was officially notified of the result. His reign 
began the next day, December 2. Thus were com- 
memorated the first Napoleon's coronation (1804), his 
most brilliant victory, Austerlitz (1805), and the Coup 
d'Etatoi 1851. 

In his Napoleonic Ideas the prince had forecast a 
head of the state with the title of Emperor, but elected 
for ten years only. What the plebiscite had re-established 
was the hereditary, the dynastic Empire. We cannot 
help wondering what the place of the two Napoleons 
would have been in history if the first had governed from 
1799 to 1809, and the second from 1851 to 1861. 

It was inevitable that the new sovereign should be 
called Napoleon III: there actually had been a Na- 


poleon II. He had been proclaimed on June 22, 18 1 5, 
according to a constitution ratified by a plebiscite. At 
the origin of many monarchies the Roman Empire it" 
self, its interminable shadow, the Holy Roman Empire 
of the German Nation, and even the French Capetian 
line we nc l fh e same willful confusion between he- 
redity and popular choice. A dynasty remains legiti- 
mate that is, representative as long as it keeps true 
to its original principle. ^Tapoleon III believed himself 
to be, not merely an heir, but a second Founder; by 
making the Caesarian democracy of Napoleon I explicit, 
he had given it a new life. He considered that his claims 
were based, not on his imperial blood alone, but on his 
spontaneous and triumphal election on December 10, 
1848. A new street in the center of Paris, symbolically 
leading from the Stock Exchange to the Opera, was 
called rue du Dix'Decembre. It is now rue du Quatre" 
Septembre, in commemoration of the day when the Em- 
pire f 

A republic has one tremendous advantage: France 
does not have to worry about the uncles and cousins of 
President Coty. But in 1852, when she made Napoleon 
an emperor, she saddled herself with the whole Bona- 
parte clan. It was a large and interesting connection, 
with a full quota of black sheep; one of them, Pierre 
Bonaparte, endangered the regime in 1870. Some were 
of a decent neutral tint: an ornithologist, a Basque 
scholar, a cardinal. The only one with any claim to 
brilliancy was far from lovable. On the whole, they were 
a doubtful asset to ruler and country. Napoleon III rec- 
ognized this fact at least twice. His stormy cousin, 
Prince Napoleon, the son of King Jerome, once taunted 

THE EMPEROR: 1852-1870 81 

him: "You have nothing in common with the great Em" 
peror!" and he replied: "Alas! I have his family." And, 
proclaiming to the people his choice of an empress, he 
mentioned as a crowning grace: "And she has no rek" 
tives to be provided for." 

There were at least two sons of Napoleon I alive in 
1852. We have already come across Count Leon: he 
was paid a pension and kept at arm's length. The Vien" 
nese historian August Fournier mentioned three more: 
Count Walewski; a certain Devienne, who had van" 
ished altogether; and John Gordon, who died in San 
Francisco in 1885. We have a photograph of this GOP 
don, dated 1871: his resemblance to his alleged father 
is indeed remarkable. But, as he was born five or six 
years after Napoleon's death, the resemblance must be 
purely coincidental. The Count of Chambord, posthu" 
mous son of the Duke of Berry, and last scion, of the 
elder Bourbon line, was called "the Child of the Mira" 
cle"; the John Gordon miracle would have been of far 
greater magnitude. 

Walewski, on the other hand, stands in the full light 
of history, and he stands surprisingly well. In 1809 
Countess Walewska sacrificed herself, as she thought, 
in the interest of her country, Poland; Alexander Co" 
lonna Walewski was the child of that patriotic gesture. 
Napoleon played fast and loose with the hopes of the 
Poles, but he sincerely loved Marie; she was perhaps, 
apart from Josephine, the only woman he did love. In 
1814 she took the boy on a visit to Elba; in 1815 
mother and son bade Napoleon farewell after Waterloo. 

Brought up as a Polish patriot, loyal to his country, 
and to the man whose name he bore, Walewski left 
Poland in order to avoid serving in the Russian army. 


He returned at the time of the first great uprising 
( 1830-1 ). When it was crushed, he became a French 
subject, served in Algeria, and, as the protege of Thiers, 
played a secondary but creditable part in diplomacy. 
His countenance betrayed his origin, which he acknowl- 
edged in proud silence. His cousin Napoleon III made 
him his special envoy to London, and his Minister of 
Foreign Affairs. This was the highest point in his career: 
in 1856, as French Plenipotentiary, he presided over 
the Congress of Paris. His other functions and honors 
Senator, Minister of State, President of the Legislative 
Body, Duke were but wreaths commemorating that 
one great moment. 

So handsome, so successful, so dignified a personage 
would inevitably be accused of conceit. We are rather 
surprised, on the contrary, to find so much serious worth 
under the impressive mask and the gilded uniform. He 
had been more than a dabbler in literature, and his salon 
was noted for intellectual and artistic distinction. Per- 
haps his faultless and aloof dignity was but a carapace 
for the protection of his wounded pride. He was sensi- 
tive enough to realize the hollowness of his splendid po- 
sition: even when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs, 
he never was in the full confidence of Napoleon III. It 
was whispered that the Emperor was far more intimate 
with Countess Walewska, a handsome and vivacious 
Florentine; "only/* it was said in mock extenuation, "in 
order to follow his uncle's example." 

The imperial court was not in the least hampered by 
"legitimist" prejudices: better be the natural son of a 
strong and clever man than the legal offspring of a dul- 
lard. Morny, grandson of Talleyrand, son of Flahaut 
and Hortense, looked upon his origin as princely. We 

THE EMPEROR: 18521870 83 

have caught a glimpse of him as the chief instrument 
of Louis-Napoleon's Coup d'Etat. He sulked for a 
while when the President confiscated the Orleans do* 
mains, but he re-entered public life as a magnificent and 
most successful Ambassador to Russia; then he was, un- 
til his death, President of the Legislative Body. His po- 
litical services were unobtrusive, but essential. In the 
brilliant but slightly erratic course of the regime, he was 
both a balance wheel and an ornament. His official resi- 
dence, le Petit Bourbon, gave the tone to society more 
than the vast nondescript court at the Tuileries, or the 
Palais-Royal of King Jerome and Prince Napoleon. 

It is fascinating to compare the two sons of Hor- 
tense: they had much in common, for good and for evil. 
But it was the error of Victor Hugo, Kinglake, Roche- 
fort, to consider Napoleon as merely another, and per- 
haps a lesser, Morny. In essentials, they were poles 
asunder. Morny, for all his sophistication and savoir" 
faire, was obvious. Subtract from Napoleon's enigmatic 
personality the undeniable, the very large Morny ele- 
ment, and what remains is, not the key to the mystery, 
but the mystery itself. 

Even physically there was a striking likeness between 
them. Both became bald early; but Morny's baldness 
was patent, almost d'Annunzio-like; Napoleon's was 
concealed with long locks artfully waved over his fore* 
head. Both had prominent noses; but Napoleon's was 
exaggerated, and could be likened to a parrot's bill. Both 
had drooping lids and eyes that told no tales. But Mor- 
ny's were wary, with a touch of superciliousness; Na- 
poleon's gentle gravity was impenetrable. Morny was a 
little taller, longer-legged. He had none of that shuffling 
gait which Anatole France compared with the waddling 


of a great sea-bird. Morny was seen at his best in a 
drawing-room, with faultless evening dress; Napoleon, 
in uniform, on horseback. 

./Both, if adventurers, were born aristocrats: their 
manners were exquisite, Morny's with a dash of eight-' 
eenth'century impertinence, inherited from Talleyrand, 
Napoleon's with the simplicity that becomes an acknowl' 
edged prince. They had to carve out for themselves, 
through daring and cunning, a destiny commensurate 
with their origin: bourgeois scruples had little weight 
with them. Not cruel at heart, they could be ruthless. 
In the hour of danger they kept a cool head. Fate had 
made them gamblers: Morny in the crudest sense the 
card table, the races, the Stock Exchange Napoleon 
for higher stakes a throne, the reconstruction of Eu- 
rope, the shaping of a new society. Aristocrats though 
they were, they yielded to the temptation of display, the 
gambler's gloating over his gains: in a sense, they were 
j>arvenus. Morny affected to give deeper thought to the 
details of his luxury than to his official duties. He was 
something of a connoisseur; his picture gallery was as 
notable as his stable and his cuisine. Under the name of 
Monsieur de Saint-Remy, he wrote bright little farces, 
one of which, Monsieur Choufleury will Be at Home, 
kept its sparkle for a season. Napoleon's mind dwelt on 
other things. In the decoration of life, he paid the bills, 
uncritically. He had very little interest in art or literature; 
much in archaeology. He devoted his spare moments to 
a monumental Life of Caesar^ 

In St. Petersburg, Morny won as his bride a Princess 
Troubetzkoy, of no great wealth, but of ancient lineage. 
Unconventional, yet thoroughly conservative in her out- 
look, she despised the motley court of the Tuileries. She 

THE EMPEROR: 1852-1870 85 

added to her husband's splendid establishment an elfin 
note of fantasy, half exotic, half childlike. The Petit 
Bourbon, with its priceless art treasures, with its famous 
Chinese drawing-room, with its large cage of monkeys, 
was too well appointed to be called bohemian, but it was 
^ -whimsical almost to the point of self -irony. Its atmos" 
'phere hovered between Louis Quinze refinement and 
the hectic gaiety of an Offenbach operetta. Morny was 
genuinely fond of his wife, but in a grand seigneur, Tal" 
leyrand-like fashion. For last point of resemblance 
both sons of Hortense played ardently, in advancing 
years, the treacherous game of chance that the French 
call I 9 amour. At fifty, Morny, a fast liver, wanted to live 
even faster; he drugged himself in a haphazard and disas" 
trous fashion. He died exhausted at fiftyfour. At the 
last moment the brothers were left alone. What thoughts 
passed between them, what silent deathbed confessions, 
not even a Proust or a Musil could validly surmise. 

The Empire gave the duke, as he had become, a 
funeral of princely magnificence; many felt the chill of 
death passing over the regime. No one thought of Morny 
as a great man, and least of all as a good man; but he 
had been a pleasant associate, and had managed to play 
down rancor. So he was universally regretted, at court, in 
financial circles, in society. Even his wife mourned for 
him: she cut her long tresses and had them buried in his 
bier. But she did not weep for long: he had not been 
thorough enough in the destruction of his private COP 
respondence, and the bereaved duchess understood him 
at last. Three years later, she was Duchess of Sesto. Of 
his role in the evolution of the regime, I shall have a few 
words to say later. 


At the summit of the imperial family stood Napo" 
Icon's uncle, King Jerome, and his two children, Prin- 
cess Mathilde and Prince Napoleon. King Jerome, the 
youngest brother of the great Emperor, was the last link 
with the first Empire. He was treated as a precious relic: 
Governor of the Invalides, and thus guardian of his 
brother's tomb; Marshal of France; President of the 
Senate, with the Palais'Royal as his residence, and a 
princely income. He had been, next to Canova's lovely 
model, Pauline Borghese, the most amiable and the 
least responsible of the Bonapartes. As Konig Hierony 
mus in the puppet Kingdom of Westphalia, he had left 
the memory of a merry and particularly incompetent 
monarch. In the Russian campaign he had proved an in" 
efficient corps commander, and even Davout had been 
unable to retrieve his blunders. His one great merit was 
his docility: he allowed his all-powerful brother to quash 
his American marriage and arrange for a more suitable 
one with Princess Catherine of Wurttemberg. In 1815 
he rushed to the support of the returned Emperor. But 
thereafter he showed little interest in dynastic claims. As 
early as 1830 he would have been delighted to play the 
easy and profitable role of "historical monument/' which 
he achieved only in 1 848, He thought that his nephew's 
harebrained escapades spoiled the chances of his coming 
to profitable terms with Louis-Philippe, and he did not 
conceal his anger. But he was ready for a gamble; just as 
he had backed the precarious regime of the Hundred 
Days, he came out in favor of the Coup (FEtat when its 
success was still uncertain: of his own accord, he rode 
behind his nephew on the fateful morning of Decent 
ber 2. Napoleon III invariably spoke of the old sport, 
the Prodigal Uncle, with affection and respect. He 

THE EMPEROR: I 852-1 #70 87 

would praise his mature experience, his never-failing 
sanity. So the "sterling qualities" of King Jerome, along 
with the "virtues" of the Empress Josephine, came to 
be accepted at the Tuileries as familiar and polite fie" 
tions. With a very slight effort, the courtiers managed 
to keep a straight face. 

Mathilde, born in 1820, had been a handsome and 
spirited young girl; she attained, in her middle years, 
an ample Juno4ike beauty. Louis'Napoleon's cousinly 
affection for her burst into love before she was sixteen, 
and a marriage between them was seriously considered. 
But King Jerome, furious at the Strasbourg adventure, 
broke off the romance. The union of his daughter with 
Prince Anatole Demidoff suited his book and his 
pocketbook considerably better. But if the Russian 
prince was of immense wealth, he was also of a disrepu" 
table character. After five years (184045), Mathilde 
obtained from the Tsar a separation, with a very hand' 
some settlement. 

When her cousin became President, she did the 
honors of the filysee for him; but their idyl did not re" 
vive. Many have regretted it: in looks and spirit, she 
would have made a very fine empress. She was a born 
extrovert; perhaps her zest for life would have assuaged 
his obstinate melancholy. But in all likelihood the union 
would have been a stormy one. Once she said: "How I 
wish I could break his head, to find out what goes on in" 
side!" Historians echo the wish: Napoleon III is a hard 
nut to crack. For national and dynastic reasons with a 
slight admixture of personal pique she vehemently op" 
posed her cousin's marriage with "the Spaniard," 

She found consolation in an alliance, unofficial but 
tacitly acknowledged, with handsome Count de Nie" 


werkerke. Thanks to her, he became Superintendent of 
Fine Arts a position to 'which Louis-Napoleon's old 
friend Count cTOrsay had been appointed a few days 
before his death. There Mathilda was in her element: 
she loved the society of artists and writers. They in re- 
turn liked her company, and not purely for snobbish rea- 
sons. Sainte-Beuve's correspondence with her (published 
as Letters to the Princess, as though she alone bore that 
title) is an illuminating document. There was no glam- 
our about Sainte-Beuve: not a brilliant creative writer, 
a rancorous soul in a graceless frame. But she under- 
stood the supreme gift of intelligence in the disen- 
chanted old critic. She forced him into the Senate (Na- 
poleon III did not even know to which paper he was 
contributing his famous Monday Talks'); in that dig- 
nified mausoleum he alone with Merimee and Prince 
Napoleon let in a scandalous whiff of independent 
thought. For all her modern ideas, Princess Mathilde 
remained pardonably a devotee of Napoleon I. She 
left a card pour prendre conge on her valued friend 
Taine because, in his Origins of Contemporary France, 
he had deviated from the strict Napoleonic orthodoxy. 
In that simple faith she died in 1904. 

Mathilde's brother, Napoleon, was called Plonplon 
in his childhood. The nickname was revived by his 
soldiers in the Crimea; with no touch of affectionate 
familiarity, for he was far from popular. The opposition 
took up the absurd name: Plonplon he remained to the 
end, just as Napoleon III, for obscure reasons, remained 

Louis-Napoleon, the elder by fourteen years, always 
felt for his volcanic young cousin an affection that was 
fraternal and quasi-paternal. He had helped the boy with 

THE EMPEROR: 1852-1 870 89 

his lessons; when he reached power, he gave the young 
man unlimited opportunities. At twenty-seven Prince 
Napoleon was Ambassador to Spain; at thirty-two he 
commanded a division. He was commissioner general of 
the great Paris Expositions in 1855 and 1867; he 
headed an army corps in Italy; he was editor in chief of 
the first Emperor's enormous correspondence; he was en' 
trusted with the ministry for Algeria and the colonies. 
This was not sheer nepotism on the Emperor's part: he 
was sincerely convinced of his cousin's outstanding abil" 
ities, and he wanted to train for leadership the reckless 
young man who might be his successor. 

The sentiments of Prince Napoleon toward his im* 
perial cousin were, to put it charitably, ambivalent, and 
ambivalence is a perilous state of mind. Perhaps the 
curse of Plonplon's career is that he shared with John 
Gordon, the San Francisco watchmaker, a striking re" 
semblance to the great Napoleon. Even earlier than his 
uncle's, his features lost their Caesar-like sharpness: he 
was described as "a Napoleonic medal with a smear of 
German lard." With the features came almost auto- 
matically the expression: Plonplon was imperious, and 
felt himself imperial. He mistook his savage temper for 
energy, and his lack of inner discipline for independence. 
After a brilliant start, he would grow weary of every 
task entrusted to him and drop it with a shrug of con" 
tempt. He could not work with others, because he was 
not, like his uncle, in exclusive command. A splendid 
alibi: it gave his unsteadiness an imperial mask. Mean" 
while there was one who had the full authority that 
Plonplon coveted; and that one was, in his manners and 
speech, slow, gentle, dreamy. Plonplon despised him in 
his heart and spoke of him with unmeasured bitterness. 


Yet we feel and Napoleon III felt that there were 
depths of affection and respect under that angry bluster. 

This fundamental loyalty did not exist, of course, so 
far as the Empress was concerned: Plonplon, and 
Mathilde as well, hated Eugenie as an intruder, a for- 
eigner, a reactionary. The feud never was assuaged. 
Eugenie affected to believe that Prince Napoleon might 
turn into a Richard III. The battle went on after the 
deaths of the Emperor and the Prince Imperial: Eu" 
genie's final victory was to win over to her side Prince 
Napoleon's son, Victor, so that he stood as a pretender 
against his own father. 

The personal frustration and spite that embittered 
Plonplon's life were aggravated by an ideological con" 
flict. The most striking aspect of Bonapartism is Cas' 
sarian democracy; Prince Napoleon affected to put all 
the stress on democracy. It was as a republican of the 
Left that he was elected to the National Assembly; in 
the course of his embassy to Spain, he gave vent to the 
most radical ideas. At the end of his career the Appeal to 
the People was more than ever the core of his creed. He 
did not realize the absurdity of his position. His uncle 
Lucien also had remained a republican at heart, but he 
had accepted no favor from his imperial brother. Plon- 
plon all too willingly took as his due his title as First 
Prince of the Blood, his Palais'Royal residence, his vast 
income, a dynastic marriage with the King of Italy's 
daughter. He lived in the naive faith that democracy 
could not fail to choose a Napoleon; and that, among the 
Napoleons, it should pick out the one who looked most 
Napoleonic. As a matter of fact, the democrats never 
took him seriously. When his name was mentioned on 
September 4, 1870, it evoked only a sneer. When in 

THE EMPEROR: 18521870 91 

the 1 880*5 there was in France a vague and turbulent 
fascist movement, it selected as its leader not Prince Na- 
poleon, but a plebeian second-rate general, Boulanger. 

What Plonplon did not realize is that Bonapartism 
means balance. No reaction, no revolution. Order first of 
all, but order as the condition of progress. Democracy, 
and even social democracy, unlimited, but with the 
vested interests reassured. It would have been excellent 
for the Empire if the two tendencies in Bonapartism had 
been clearly represented in the imperial family: the Em- 
peror's cousin on the left, the Emperor's wife on the 
right. Unfortunately, both were narrow in their respec- 
tive creeds because both were narrow of heart: haughty, 
spiteful, and far less clever than they imagined. So their 
contrast became a violent conflict. Instead of enriching 
the regime, it exposed it to violent jerks, 

Yet this damaging portrait of the "outcast Cassar/ 3 as 
his friend the brilliant journalist Edmond About called 
him, would be a caricature if we did not recognize that 
there were elements of greatness in the man. They were 
marred, not, as he thought, by unjust outward circum- 
stances, but by an inner flaw. In everything he under- 
took, he showed spasmodic ability. He shook the sleepy 
Senate with his uncouth but undeniable eloquence. Like 
his sister, he sought the society of artists and writers. He 
even corresponded with P. J, Proudhon, the great so- 
cialist thinker, perhaps the greatest of them all, who had 
been called "a one-man Terror." He won a certain de- 
gree of consideration from George Sand, whose heart 
was ardent for all generous causes, and whose mind, 
when the romantic storm was over, was surprisingly clear. 
His greatest title to our respect is that he was accepted as 
a member in good standing in the Magny dinner group, 


which comprised such men as Sainte-Beuve, Taine, and 

Each of the characters sketched above had some defi- 
nite contact with the Emperor. From these contacts We - 
may hope to discern, if not his figure, at least his shadow. 
And in that indirect approach, feminine figures may be 
of commanding importance. 

Cherchez la femme is not the key to the Second Em- 
pire, and I have no desire to indulge in chronique 
scanddeuse. But it is a fact that the most sedate Jiistorians 
cannot ignore r^Napoleon III was an inveterate amorist. 
His list of conquests is paltry compared with that of 
Don Juan Tenorio. But it is remarkable in its range, 
from an actress of genius like Rachel and a great lady 
like Countess Walewska to a mere grisette-like Mar- 
guerite Bellange^ 

It is not my purpose to exculpate Jiim: I am merely 
writing a historical footnote to the Kinsey report. Re- 
alistically that is, cynically it is a fact that chastity 
is not the first virtue in a sovereign: Henri IV was a 
better king than Louis XVI. We must add that, as a 
rule, Napoleon III kept his love affairs and his political 
endeavors on strictly separate ledgers, j^iss Howard 
helped him, but he was not influenced by her. Cavour 
sent him the Countess de Castiglione to be an agent for 
the Italian cause. She was a magnificent young beast of 
prey, shameless, rapacious, and stupid. Napoleon, noth- 
ing loath, pocketed the handsome bribe; but it did not 
deflect him in the least from his own line of action, 
which, ironically, happened to be the same as CavourV 
The only fault of Napoleon III as a statesman in his re- 
lations with women was the same as Louis XVFs: his 

THE EMPEROR: 1852-1 70 93 

uxoriousne$s.>The worst of husbands from the private 
pojint of view, he was^also too good a husband for the 
best interests of France: in the last years of his reign he 
gave the Empress a share in the counsels of the state for 
wEIcB ^^ sEe^^s'congenitally unfit. That was, to a great 
extent, the ransom of his manifold sins/Sc^ indirectly , by 
giving Eugenie a grievance, and thereby enhancing her 
power, Marguerite Bellanger and her likes contributed 
to the decline of the Empire^- 

The prolonged Howard episode might well tempt a 
romancer. She and the prince met in London, it seems 
through Count d'Orsay. She was a lady with a past of 
impenetrable shadiness. When Louis'Napoleon knew 
her, she liad climbed from the depths of the under- 
world to the sunniest reaches of the demimonde. Catering 
to the quality trade, she had already amassed a fortune. 
She was a rarely acknowledged phenomenon under 
Victoria's reign a Jietaira like the Aspasia of Pericles, a 
courtesan whose wit and practical sense matched her 
beauty. Louis'Napoleon squandered his money on her, 
but it proved a sound investment. She had listened to 
his tales of imperial grandeur as Desdemona listened to 
Othello. She believed in him, and at the right moment 
she backed him with the utmost generosity/No one will 
ever know to what extent the tainted gbld of Miss 
Howard helped the French make up their minds in 
1848 and iSsiTj? 

She expected her reward: if not a throne, at least the 
position of an official favorite. During the journeys of 
the Prince-President throughout France, she accom- 
panied him as a carelessly kept secret. Her hour sounded 
when Eugenie appeared. Less than a week before the 
imperial marriage she received the estate and title of 


Countess de Beauregard. Thereafter she ceased from 
troubling not without assistance from the police. She 
died of cancer in 1865^ 

The new Emperor was forty-four. For the two pre- 
ceding decades there had been many matrimonial rumors 
concerning him: with his cousin Mathilde, with Queen 
Maria of Portugal, with maidens of the British upper 
class. He probably had in mind, like his uncle, a dynastic 
union. There were not a few eligibles in the first and 
second parts of the Almanack de Qotha. Through Eu- 
gene and Stephanie de Beauharnais, through Jerome, 
through Bernadotte, the Bonaparte connection had al- 
ready many links with the most illustrious houses: after 
all, Napoleon I was able to refer to the Emperor of 
Austria as "Papa Francis/' and to Louis XVI as "my 
uncle." It was therefore with consternation that the im- 
perial circle heard of Napoleon IIFs engagement to Eu- 
genia de Monti jo. 

Frankly, he had been caught. Not, as his family 
broadly hinted, by the wiles of cosmopolitan adven- 
turesses: the term would not quite fit the Countess de 
Montijo y Teba, and even less her daughters. It is true 
that, flitting from pleasure resort to pleasure resort, they 
displayed an aristocratic freedom that the more sedate 
elements in French society found suspicious. It is true 
that the old countess was a colorful character; she was too 
vivid even for the gaudiest of empires, and was not al- 
lowed permanently to grace the Tuileries. But their titles 
were genuine enough: a long list of them, including 
three grandezas of Spain. And although Eugenie, much 
traveled and twenty-six, was hardly a naive debutante, 
her conduct had been, and was to remain, above re- 
proach. She admired the Emperor: so did Elizabeth 

THE EMPEROR: 1852-1870 95 

Barrett Browning. His vertiginous ascent had made him 
the most romantic figure of the time. She was deeply 
flattered by his marked attentions. But she did not de- 
liberately plan to force herself upon him. 

Napoleon III was caught in a trap of his own making. 
He had reached that noonday of life in which a devil 
lurks (a demonio meridlano libera nos, Dornine}i it is 
the late, the last hour for a consuming and rejuvenating 
passion. He had no thought at first but of a spirited flirta' 
tion, at most of an affair. Eugenie was an aristocrat, a 
pious Catholic, of a cold temperament, and with experi' 
ence enough to play her cards well: a formidable array 
of defenses. Her refusal even to understand Napoleon's 
advances struck him as evidence of the rarest virtue. The 
court and, above all, the imperial family saw the peril. 
Their open hostility offended Eugenie, who haughtily 
prepared to retire. This move challenged Napoleon's 
sense of chivalry: a pure girl had been insulted under his 
roof and through his fault. It roused also his resentment 
against interference: after all, was he not the master? 
And her beauty was without a peer in that golden age 
of fair women: chroniclers gloated, and scholars dry as 
dust still gloat, over the pure oval of her face, her eyes 
of sapphire, her Venetian hair, and those sloping shoul' 
ders she so generously displayed. On January 30, 1853 
they were married at Notre'Dame, in a gorgeous cere" 
mony that amounted to a coronation. 

In those miraculous years it looked as though Na" 
poleon could do nothing wrong. Against the dire fore' 
bodings of his family, his very rashness increased his 
popularity. A self 'made Emperor who marries for love: 
this perfected a career that had been sheer romance. And 
in the imperial pageant the Empress played her part 


well: she took lessons from Rachel, as Napoleon I had 
taken lessons from Talma. If Princess Pauline Metter- 
nich, the ugliest, merriest madcap in the hectic days of 
the regime, refused to recognize Eugenie as "a real em- 
press/ 5 it is striking that Victoria and her consort, Albert 
the Good, accepted her at once as an intimate friend. 

She was,, of course, a model of lavish elegance : Eu- 
genie styles are still periodically revived. But she was 
more than the most gorgeous mannequin in the capital 
of haute couture. She could show simple courage. She 
visited the sick during a cholera epidemic. When Orsinfs 
bombs killed and wounded men of her escort, and her 
dress was bespattered with blood, she did not flinch. In 
the first years of her reign she took no part in politics, 
and was by no means committed to reaction. Sincerely 
pious, she had not been reared in a somber clerical at" 
mosphere. Her father had been an afrancesado, one of 
those Spanish liberals who had rallied to King Joseph be- 
cause they hoped that the Napoleonic system would turn 
Spain into a modern nation. Among her mother's friends 
were Prosper Merimee and "Monsieur Beyle/ 5 better 
remembered as Stendhal Both had been kind to the little 
Spanish girls, the future Duchess of Alba and the future 
Empress of the French; and Eugenie felt for both a life- 
long respectful affection. It is odd to think of her reading 
a lesson in tolerance to an imperial tribunal; yet when 
Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil was condemned in 1857, 
she offered to pay his fine. The sum was trifling, but the 
gesture was elegant. She was, in those early years, neither 
la femme futile nor la femme fatale that her enemies were 
so fiercely to denounce. 

To her intimates, however, she was known to be 
vivacious rather than clever; incapable of sustained think- 

THE EMPEROR: r 852-1 870 97 

ing; dropping every book after a cursory glance; an 
exceeding worshipper of her own beauty; capricious and 
quick to anger, with a cold sharpness in her irritation 
which wounded her well-wishers. She commanded re- 
luctant admiration from the very first; and in her intermi- 
nable widowhood she attracted universal respect. But I 
have seen no sign in contemporary correspondences 
(even Merimee's) or in family traditions that she could 
inspire tenderness, that odd spontaneous tribute which 
the people's heart denied Marie Antoinette and gave so 
gratuitously to Josephine. 

These were the closest associates of the Emperor. 
Faults and virtues, he had much in common with them. 
There is a period style that blurs individual traits: these, 
and the sovereign at their head, were all Second Empire. 
Yet we are aware of a difference: a difference so pro- 
found that it sets him wholly apart. And that quality, so 
strange in his sophisticated, cynical, glittering world, was , 
deep, modest, unremitting kindness. Of this we have 
testimonies from men who were not blinded by Bona- 
partist faith Merimee, Victor Duruy, the historian, 
fimile Ollivier, a leader of the republican opposition, 
and most striking of all, perhaps, Louis Pasteur. That 
man who lived among the superb, that man who was so 
far from good, whose formal faith was so mottled and 
hard to define, that man had the one essential Christian 
virtue, misericordia. What baffles history is this: that 
the innermost truth about Napoleon III should at the 
same time be so plai :ageously paradoxical. 



THE BASILICA of St. Genevieve, in Paris, became 
the Pantheon in 1790, St. Genevieve again in 1814, the 
Pantheon once more in 1830, St. Genevieve for the 
third time in 1851, the Pantheon (until further notice) 
in 1885, Its decoration mirrors these vicissitudes. It is 
at the same time patriotic and religious. The visitor can 
see St. Denys picking up his severed head, St. Genevieve 
watching over the sleeping city, St. Joan of Arc in her 
martyrdom. But instead of an altar, there is a monument 
to the Revolution. Back of it, in the apse, we find a vast 
composition by Edouard Detaille: On to Qlory! a 
cavalry charge storming the very heavens, or, for the 
Voltairian scoffer, a circus parade in excelsis. The mind 
of Napoleon III was such a Pantheon: Catholic and 
monarchical tradition leading up to the Revolution; and, 
in the most conspicuous place, the apotheosis of military^ 

This, of course, gives a distorted view both of 
French history and of the Emperor's mind. He was pro' 
foundly, as he professed to be, a man of peace. A Saint" 
Simonian in spirit, he aspired to be a Captain of In' 
dustry, not a brutal conqueror. He had had some military 
training, but not a military career. When, in the Italian 
campaign, he saw for the first time the horrors of the 
battlefield, his humane heart rebelled. But he was a 
French sovereign: the military tradition Louis XIV, 
the Revolution, Napoleon had taken hold of him and 

THE ARBITER OF EUROPE: 1854-1859 99 

would not let him go. It may be obvious to us that the 
age of Louis XIV was great for its cultural achievements, 
and that its bellicose ventures were flaws in its glory; 
that the Principles of 1789 outshone and outlasted the 
marvelous triumphs of the republican armies; that Na" 
poleon's conquests were but a phantasmagoria, while his 
Civil Code was a reality. But the epic romance of war 
has an indestructible appeal. In the popular mind, there 
is no substitute for victory. 

.^The Second Empire was an industrial regime with 
military trappings^- In this respect, Bismarckian Gar' 
many^apei Napoleonic France. But with a difference: 
the Germansrtook their war pageantry with deadly ear" 
nestness, and army-worship became their national sin. 
France's affection for her soldiers was tempered with a 
smile. A hundred years ago war was still a romance of 
bravery and adventure, but as a tournament rather than 
as a quest. If the armed forces were cheered, it was as 

CC 1 A3 

the team. 

Clemenceau was guided by his recollection of the 
Second Empire when he said: "War is too serious a 
thing to be entrusted to the generals." This, of course, 
must be accepted as it was uttered, with a grin. We 
should not exaggerate the frivolousness of the military 
under Napoleon III. Pelissier was probably a match for 
any of the marshals of Napoleon I except Massena and 
Davout, Mac-Malion, Canrobert, Bosquet, were de" 
voted to their profession, modest at heart, heroically 
brave, and adequate to any task except independent . 
command. Niel was a forward-looking organizer. Even 
the men whose shadows darken the beginning and the 
end of the regime Saint'Arnaud and Bazaine had 
their brief hour of deserved success. But compared with 


the financiers, the engineers, the scientists, the philoso- 
phers, the poets, the artists, of that truly brilliant era, 
they were second-rate. Under a genius, they might have 
been adequate instruments, ffiut Napoleon III, con- 
scientious and well informed in military matters, did not 
possess the mastery of details, the flash of intuition, the 
power of immediate decision, which enabled his uncle 
to win six campaigns out of twelv>When, at Magenta, 
Frossard brought him the news: "Sire, what a glorious 
victory!" the ingenuous victor confessed: "A victory, 
is it? And I was going to order a retreat!" If, in actual 
command, he did win the Battle of Solferino his 
glorious hour it was chiefly thanks to his opponent, 
Francis Joseph. 

The armies of the Second Empire were perhaps the 
last to have style. There was in them something of the 
Froissart glamour: the shining armor, the pennon,_and 
the plume. There was also a blend of humor and ele- 
gance, of bravado and faultless courage, a U Cyrano, 
a la d'Artagnan: an afterglow of gay romance in an age 
of dingy realism. Of this Second Empire Beau Sabreur 
type, there is no better model than the Marquis de Gal" 
Met, a wit of pungent, Gallic raciness, the hero of duels 
and affairs, fancy-dress balls and theatricals, the tireless 
leader of counter-guerrillas in Mexico, and, at Sedan, the 
man who, hurling his Algerian light horse against the 
Prussian lines, wrenched from King William the cry: 
"Oh! The brave men!" 

But it is exceedingly dangerous for adult nations to 
play soldiers. The military parade of the Second Empire 
filled Europe with misgivings. From the day of the 
Coup tffitat to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, 
England lived in dread lest Napoleon should seize 

THE ARBITER OF EUROPE: i 54-1 859 101 

Belgium, and Prussia feared for her Rhine provinces. 
Even if the clangor of arms and the blare of trumpets 
had not made Europe uneasy, it would have encouraged 
in France the most dangerous temptation that can assail 
a country: a craving for prestige. France, under the 
Second Empire, was good-humored, with a touch of 
irony, sociable, hospitable: none of that grim unhuman 
mask that the Nazis imposed upon Germany. But still, 
France was "the Great Nation," the strongest military 
power on earth, and her Jiat was law. From 1866 to 
1870 it was the opposition that taunted the government 
for its lack of spirit; the war that engulfed the regime 
was started on the merest question of prestige. It is very 
ancient wisdom that "pride goeth before destruction, and 
a haughty spirit before a fall." 

/Here we find most clearly expressed the first con" 
traaiction inherent in the Second Empire. Napoleon III 
had poured into the Napoleonic Legend a totally new 
conception, far more generous than anything that ever 
crossed his uncle's mind: still, he was the heir of the 
Legend, and the Legend is inseparable from power and 
glory. The shade of the Great Emperor was constantly 
at his elbow, tempting him: "With the principles of 
1789 as your guides, the Great Nation solid behind 
you, a well-disciplined army in your hand, who could 
stand against you? 

Napoleon III did resist the most obvious temptations. 
In 1840, before the Chamber of Peers, and again in his 
speeches as President, he had stood against the Vienna 
Diktat, so bitterly resented by the French. Thus he chal" 
lenged the established order, dear to the Metternich' 
Guizot type of mind, and this challenge carried a threat 
of war. But on his accession he made it plain that he 


did not intend to start a crusade against the whole 
Vienna settlement. The restoration of the Empire, and 
his assuming the title of Napoleon the Third, sym- 
bolically destroyed the hated treaties: he was satisfied. 
There was in him no spirit of petty revenge. It was Eng- 
land that had finally humbled Napoleon at Waterloo, 
England that had caged him in St. Helena, but a firm 
and cordial alliance with England was the core of his 
foreign policy. The French felt the martyrdom of Po- 
land as a personal wrong. In 1848, riotous mobs had 
urged a war for the immediate liberation of Poland. This 
feeling remained strong during the next two decades. It 
was perhaps the only point on which the Empress and 
Prince Napoleon saw eye to eye. Even without the ac- 
tive support of England, if all the oppressed peoples 
throughout Europe had been called to arms, victory over 
Russia, Austria, and Prussia combined was not un- 
thinkable. But the risk was enormous and the cost ap- 
palling. With a heavy heart, Napoleon III refused to 

<s^hat frightened Europe about Napoleon III was 
that he had a dynamic faith. His motto was not Quieta 
non movere in plain English, Let sleeping dogs lie 
but Injustices need not be eternal. He had been brought 
up in an atmosphere of romantic democracy: the *na' 
tions are "not thrones and crowns, but men." The peo- 
ples have a right to assert themselves against masters not 
of their own choosing whether privileged classes or 
foreign oppressors. In the thirties and forties, nationalism 
and democracy were one, and both had a religious 
tinge. "God save the People!" sang Ebenezer Elliott, 
the Corn-Law Rhymer; "God and the People," said 
Mazzini, and this was the very formula of Napoleon's 

THE ARBITER OF EUROPE: 1854-1859 103 

power: Emperor by the Qrace of Qod and the Will of 
the People. He was sincere in repudiating any thought 
of conquest: it was France's mission to liberate, not to 
enslave. Self "determination, ascertained through a pleb" 
iscite, was his goal; then free nations could live as happy 
neighbors. The kinship between his "doctrine of national' 
ities" and Wilsonism is undeniable, although Woodrow 
Wilson never acknowledged so embarrassing a fore* 

But here we find another contradiction in that 
strangely compounded regime. Napoleon's policy was 
democratic. As such, it menaced not merely the terri-* 
torial statics quo and the tremulous balance among the 
European powers: it imperiled the even Inore tremulous 
balance between the classes and the masses, it was "an 
appeal to the people," and that, in the eyes of all the 
autocrats, the Pope as well as the dynasts, meant revo- 
lution. For certain minds, it is the nature of all holy 
causes to be subversive; for others, revolution means the 
stirring of turbid depths. Now Napoleon III, a revoke 
tionary at heart, had "saved Society," "stemmed the Red 
tide," restored Order, bolstered Property. The Tsar and 
the Catholic hierarchy had heartily approved of the 
Coup d'Etat. 

According to all "realistic" historians, Napoleon III 
wks "woefully disinterested"; and they blame him 
roundly for preferring the golden haze of principles to 
the plain facts of national interest. He welcomed the 
idea of a united Italy, a united Germany, although it 
would jeopardize France's predominance in continental 
Europe: the moral gain, to his mind, would more than 
compensate for the material loss. He wanted no privilege 
for France. But he believed that France, no less than 


other nations, was entitled to her rights. And unfor- 
tunately those rights> for him and for three generations of 
Frenchmen, implied the so-called "natural frontiers/' the 
Alps and the Rhin^ 

By imperceptible degrees the French had worked 
themselves up into the delusion that for a thousand years 
they had yearned and travailed for these "lost" natural 
frontiers. That ideal a curious case of false memory, of 
an artificially induced tradition triumphed against the 
advice of Carnot in 1795. Then the Rhine became "the 
frontier of liberty." Half a century later Victor Hugo 
was urging Germany to restore to France "what God 
Himself had given her, the Rhine." How easy, how 
tempting it is to forge God's signature! And it was long 
before the reign of Napoleon III that Becker and Al- 
fred de Musset had hurled at each other angry and ex- 
tremely mediocre poems about the Qerman Rhine. 

It must be remembered that a hundred years ago the 
notion of a French left bank of the Rhine was not so 
absurd as it was in 1919, or as it may seem today. The 
Rhinelanders had been tolerably well satisfied under 
French rule from 1795 to 1814, and their Prussian 
"liberators" complained of their extreme coolness. There 
was no actual "Germany" to command loyalty; the Em- 
peror in Vienna was more remote, more shadowy, less 
enlightened than the Emperor in Paris. The upper 
classes spoke French by choice. As for Belgium, when 
seceding from the Netherlands in 1830, it had desired 
incorporation with France; it was only the pressure of 
Europe, and particularly of England, that had imposed a 
compromise solution, neutrality and independence under 
a Saxe'Coburg'Gotha, who married a daughter of 

THE ARBITER OF EUROPE: i 54 1859 105 

Louis-Philippe. French opinion did not fully realize 
that, in a few decades, a great change had taken place: 
by 1852 the Belgians felt themselves Belgians, the 
Rhinelanders Germans. The historical spirit should be 
the sense of constant, and at times rapid, evolution. 
From the German point of view, the Second Empire 
was coveting, not merely Luxembourg or Sarrebruck, 
but Treves, Mayence, Cologne. There could be no 
genuine peace until that nightmare was exorcised. 

/Thus the man whose principles were so lofty, and 
whose temper was so kind, turned into a disturbing ele- 
ment, a universal menace, all the more pervasive be' 
cause of its vagueness. To his fellow rulers, the im- 
penetrable eyes of the French Emperor became lakes 
of unfathomable deceit. His opportunistic tacking was 
interpreted as deviousness. When he spoke in clearest 
tones, he was not believed: his words were scanned for 
their hidden implications. When he remained silent, it 
proved that "the Sphinx of the Tuileries" was nursing 
mysterious designs. Queen Victoria, who liked him per- 
sonally, was never able to trust him. In such an am- 
biguous position, even the bluntest, most straightforward 
man would appear as a baleful schemer. After all, he had 
been a conspirator until he ascended the throne: why not 
a crowned conspirator? By the dispassionate historian, 
the Coup d*tat may be accepted as the legitimate con- 
sequence of his popular election in December 1848; but 
it was none the less a technical breach of the law, an act 
of force prepared in secrecy. Conservation? Democracy? 
Personal ambition? Bluster? No one knew what Na- 
poleon would do next, or why. So the sovereign who 
in the depths of his being was a Woodrow Wilson, only 

io6 NAPOLEON in 

less smug and of a warmer heart, created the impression 
of a Hitler^, 

In 1812 Russia had "saved Europe" from Napo" 
Iconic Jacobinism; the Holy Alliance was the prolonged 
shadow of that victory. In 1849 Russia had rescued 
Austria, citadel of conservatism in central Europe. Tsar 
Nicholas I believed himself to be the divinely appointed 
defender of order, and in that capacity he had nodded 
approval of the Coup d*tat. But he balked at the res" 
toration of the French Empire: for that meant the 
destruction of the Vienna settlement, that charter of 
the Counter-Revolution. So he haggled over his recog- 
nition of the new regime. Finally he saved his face by ad" 
dressing the French Emperor as "his good friend" in" 
stead of "his brother/' Napoleon smiled courteously: 
"Brothers are given to us; but we pick out our friends." 
This slight friction left no trace: there was little vanity 
and no rancor in the Emperor's character. 

But there was an issue deeper than the terms of rec" 
ognition, deeper than the letter of the treaties of 1815: 
Europe would never breathe freely until the formidable 
pressure exerted by Russia was removed. This did not 
mean war, not even a cold war. But it meant a contest 
for influence. It would have been easy for Napoleon to 
join a Continental block of reactionary empires: some 
of his advisers urged him in that dkection./He chose 
Western liberalism, because he was a progressive at heart, 
and because he knew, liked, and trusted England^ 

Conservatism, for the Tsar, did not necessarily mean 
preserving the territorial status quo. He believed in ex" 
panding the area of order that is, his own dominions 
at the cost of the Ottoman Empire. It was then that the 

THE ARBITER OF EUROPE: i 854-1 59 107 

Turk was first called "the sick man of Europe/ 3 and 
Russia hinted to England that it would be well to divide 
the spoils ahead of the inevitable collapse* England, 
thinking first of all of her supremacy in the Mediter" 
ranean and of the roads to India, demurred. So the Near 
Eastern problem flared up once more, as it had in 
18279 and in 1840; as it was to break out again in 
18778, 1897, 1913. Even in the middle decades of 
the twentieth century, whatever degree of peace prevails 
in that troubled region is but a fragile film. 

The specific origin of the crisis that confronted the 
new Emperor of the French was insignificant enodgh: 
obscure squabbles between Latin (Catholic) and Greek 
Orthodox monks about the custody of certain holy places 
in Jerusalem. But back of this minor problem stood a 
much larger issue. If Russia intervened in support of the 
Greek Orthodox, she might ultimately claim a protec" 
torate over them throughout the Ottoman Empire; then 
the greater part of the Balkans would turn into Russian 
satellites and the rule of the Turks in Europe would be" 
come purely nominal. 

This issue was forced by the Tsar. In February 1853 
he sent Prince Menshikov as his special envoy to Con" 
stantinople. With an escort so impressive as to give a 
foretaste of invasion, Menshikov attempted to cajole or 
coerce the Sublime Porte into agreement. So far, both 
England and France had played a very cautious hand. 
England, as a Protestant power, cared very little about 
the ecclesiastical aspect of the problem, but she balked 
at the enormous expansion of the Russian claims. After 
more than three months, Menshikov had to retire baffled, 
uttering vague threats. The Tsar thought that it was 
time to "discuss from a position of strength," and in" 


vaded the Danubian principalities, Moldavia and Wai- 
lachia. Thereupon the British sent war vessels to the 
Dardanelles, and a French force joined them. 

No one in France, from the sovereign to the most 
humble peasant, had the slightest desire for war. There 
was among the French no hatred of Russia, no deep- 
seated pro-Turkish sentiment, no enthusiasm for the 
British alliance. Napoleon, well aware of this state of 
mind, was still doing his best to avert an open conflict. 
It was the opposition, now in exile, that was bellicose: 
Victor Hugo poured contempt on Napoleon's "coward-' 
ice/ 3 Even Prince Albert, so elaborately "good/ 5 in a 
private letter to his friend Stockmar, denounced the 
"appeasement" policy of the French government. Again 
it was Russia's aggressiveness that ended the long incer- 
titude. A Russian fleet found the Turkish navy at Sinope 
in the Black Sea and destroyed it utterly. Unless England 
and France made a decisive move, Russia would be 
supreme, not in the Balkans merely, but in the whole 
Levant. Even then there were a number of hesitant steps. 
It was not until March 12, 1854 that England and 
France allied themselves with Turkey; and the formal 
declaration of war came only on March 28. Thus the 
Christian West was uniting with the Infidels against 
Orthodox Russia: Clio is a ironic muse. Napoleon IIFs 
sole consolation, in asking the legislative" body for war 
credits, was to reaffirm his forward-looking principles in 
very noble terms, which are still valid today^ 

The war into which great nations had stumbled was 
conducted on every side with incredible incompetence. 
The British revealed once more that genius for muddling 
of which they are so inordinately proud, and in the first 
months the French were hardly better off. In the second 

THE ARBITER OF EUROPE: 1554-1859 109 

year, however, thanks to a large extent to Florence 
Nightingale, the supplies and sanitary equipment of the 
British became less inadequate, while the French could 
show no comparable improvement. Of the hundred 
thousand lives lost in that absurd campaign, actual fight" 
ing accounted for only ten thousand. No wonder Rich' 
ard Cobden, when his little boy asked him: "What do 
those letters OR'I-M>E'A mean?" answered with in- 
tense conviction: "My son: A CRIME/ 5 There were 
heroic episodes, but two famous phrases sum them up: 
Tennyson's admission: "Some one had blunder 3 d," and 
General Bosquet's dubious praise: "It is magnificent, 
but it is not war." Seldom has mankind offered a purer 
example of conspicuous waste. 

An old diplomatic cliche describes the eternal contest 
between Russia and England as "the duel of the ek" 
phant and the whale." It was impossible for Russia to 
strike at the Western allies; she could only wait for their 
attack, and endeavor to hurl them back into the sea. The 
allies could not reach any vital part of the Russian Em" 
pire: amphibian operations in the Baltic were merely a 
diversion. But the vast distances that were Russia's best 
protection were also her chief handicap. Paradoxically, 
it was more difficult for Russia than for the allies to sup" 
ply their respective troops in the Crimea: the sea af" 
forded a much better highway than could be found in 
the quagmires of central Russia. So, by tacit consent, the 
fate of the war was linked with that of a single city, the 
naval base of SebastopoL 

Saint" Arnaud had died heart and cholera; Canro" 
bert had failed, and remained as a divisional commander; 
Pelissier, with fine soldierly indifference for mere human 
lives, ordered the final assault. At one moment the tre" 


mendous conflict narrowed down to the possession of 
one key position, the Malakoff Tower, captured by 
Mac'Mahon. When the Russians could no longer de^ 
fend the crumbling walls, they scuttled the ships, blew 
up the ammunition dumps, set the city on fire, and re" 
tired in good order (September 8, 1855). 

Had Nicholas lived, his fanatical pride would not 
have accepted this local defeat as final. But he had died 
on March 2, and Alexander II was less unbending. Aus' 
tria, "astounding the world with her ingratitude/ 5 had 
already joined, although not as a belligerent, the ene' 
mies of Russia, that Russia which had saved her only 
six years before. When Austria presented a peace offer 
as an ultimatum, the Tsar agreed to preliminary condi' 
tions, which were ratified in Paris on March 30, 1856. 

This dismal tale of diplomatic and military blunder- 
ing is part of European history, and not primarily of Na- 
poleon's personal life. For many months he kept champ" 
ing at the bit. What the campaign needed was a single 
command, with a daring leader; and who was better 
qualified than the hero of Strasbourg, Boulogne, and the 
Coup d'Btati The thought appalled the officers in the 
field: it was bad enough to have Prince Napoleon at 
the head of a division. England was horrified: if the 
Emperor assumed command, the British would be re' 
duced to the position of auxiliaries. The Emperor was 
told that his life was too precious, and the regime as yet 
too frail, to run such a tragic risk. The sovereign was 
the prisoner of his own greatness. So, twirling his right 
mustache and chewing the left, he submitted to safety 
and comfort. 

Napoleon III, in the first decade of his reign, was 

THE ARBITER OF EUROPE: 1854-1859 in 

miraculously lucky. This war, so patently useless and so 
unpopular, strengthened his regime: nations rally to the 
flag, even in a questionable cause. Actual conditions in 
the trenches were squalid; but the Orient still had a ro- 
mantic glamour although this time the crusaders were 
on the wrong side. France, in spite of temporary eco- 
nomic difficulties, felt that she had entered upon an era 
of prosperity; the Paris Exposition of 1855 was an un- 
qualified success. Sovereign and people were brought 
closer together than they had been under the Restora- 
tion or Louis-Philippe^ 

Above all, the war turned England from a critical 
and acrimonious neighbor into a full-fledged ally. This 
collaboration was sealed by state visits: Prince Albert 
at Boulogne (September 5, 1854), Napoleon and Eu- 
genie at Windsor and in London (April 1855), Vic- 
toria and Albert at Saint-Cloud and Paris (August 
I 855). Unexpectedly, the royal and imperial pairs 
took to each other at once. Albert was delighted with 
the German aspects of Napoleon's baffling personality: 
they swapped poetical quotations and students 5 ditties. 
Victoria was won over by his gentleness and courtesy. 
Beneath the obvious charm of the Empress, the Queen 
discerned womanly qualities that were not fully revealed 
to the outer world until her downfall and exile. In spite 
of her inveterate pro-Germanism and her strong disap- 
proval of the Emperor's methods, Victoria remained 
loyal to the memory of those halcyon days; and she was 
a close friend of Eugenie to the very last. The French 
people were far less Anglophilic than their sovereign: 
veterans of Waterloo wondered what "the Other," the 
Uncle, would feel about this junketing with "perfidious 


Albion/' But the royal pair were hailed by the Parisian 
crowds with a courtesy that was a very tolerable substi- 
tute for enthusiasm. 

So the monumental blunder of the Crimean War 
ended preposterously, in a triumph. The Peace Con" 
gress, to which many neutrals had been invited, met in 
Paris from February 25 to March 30, 1856, and was 
imperially entertained. There was no Diktat, no "un- 
conditional surrender": the spirit was that of honorable 
opponents shaking hands as soon as the contest is over. 
The war left no rancor: Morny, as Ambassador to the 
court of St. Petersburg, removed the last traces of ill 
feeling. Russia had suffered a setback; but, as early as 
1870, the disabilities imposed by the Treaty of Paris 
were removed. 

Napoleon III attempted to turn the Peace Congress 
into his favorite device: a Council of Europe. He 
sounded England about the possibilities of peaceful ter- 
ritorial readjustments. England, always practical-minded, 
believed that wars could best be averted in the approved, 
time'honored way: by miHdUng into them. On two 
points Napoleon's desire for constructive action was 
satisfied. An International Commission was created to 
supervise navigation on the Danube, and principles of 
maritime law were adopted: privateering was abolished, 
the rights of neutrals were reaffirmed, the conditions of 
a valid blockade defined. 

^Perhaps it was a fluke, perhaps a fleeting vision of 
a happier age, but in March 1856 the humanitarian 
Emperor, trusted rather than feared, stood as the arbiter 
of Europe. On the i6th of March, Palm Sunday, the 
Empress was delivered of a son. A salute of one hun- 
dred and one guns announced the birth of the Prince 

THE ARBITER OF EUROPE: 1854-1859 113 

Imperial, and Paris was delirious. So swiftly, so inevi- 
tably had the prisoner of Ham and the exile in London 
ascended to the pinnacle 1 .- 

It was a principle with Napoleon III that nationali- 
ties, ethnic groups with a common language and a com' 
mon tradition, had the right to become nations. In the 
case of Italy this conviction assumed the ardor of a pep 
sonal faith: he was an Italian patriot. So were, one hun- 
dred years ago, a number of very loyal Englishmen. 
Patriotism is not necessarily jealous and exclusive: there 
were many ardent "Polish patriots" among the French 
throughout the nineteenth century. 

Why was Napoleon III such a good Italian? Per- 
haps because his uncle Eugene had been a very accept-' 
able Viceroy of Italy; perhaps because Rome was the 
gathering-point of the exiled Bonapartes. We have seen 
that, in 1831, the two sons of Louis had taken part in 
an insurrection ultimately intended to liberate the whole 
of Italy. So, in this case, principles and sentiments were 
in accord; and they were not in manifest antagonism 
with French interests. A united Italy would be, not a 
rival, but a steadfast ally. l^jap&lsonJ^ mirsed y among- 
his^vaguer dreams, the idea of a 'XatitLjLJnioii." The 
hegemony j^^i^Jn jud^a^j^gional undjsrjsiaadJng 
was at that time^eyondj:hallenge. 

No romantic explanation therefore is needed to ac' 
count for Napoleon IIFs determination: neither a se' 
cret oath he might have sworn as a youthful carbonaro 
nor Orsini's bomb (January 14, 1858) nor the dazzling 
young charms of Countess de Castiglione. Napoleon 
simply believed in the Italian cause, and he thought 
that Providence expected his co-operation. 


Austria was the obstacle. She held the Lombard-- 
Venetian kingdom outright; she controlled the duchies 
of Tuscany, Parma, and Modena; her influence was 
great at the Papal court, although it was French troops 
that were guarding the Holy City. It was plain that 
Austria, proudest of the old dynasties, would brook no 
curtailment of her dominant position. Oppressive force 
would have to be removed by force. 

The indispensable instrument was Piedmont (tech- 
nically the Kingdom of Sardinia). During the Crimean 
War, Napoleon had welcomed a Piedmontese contin- 
gent, so that the country might be assured of a place at 
the council table. He had hinted at the possibility of 
broaching the Italian question at the Paris Congress, but 
he had been rebuffed. Now he quietly prepared for 

On July 20, 1858, at Plombieres, a .spa. in eastern 
France, he had a secret interview with a bespectacled 
gentleman by the name of Giuseppe Benso, better 
known to history as Count Camillo Cavour, Premier 
and Minister of Foreign Affairs for H. M. Victor Em' 
manuel II. On December 10 a formal, but still secret, 
treaty was agreed upon between the two countries, On 
January i, 1859, Napoleon III publicly expressed re- 
gret that the relations between Austria and France were 
not satisfactory. On January 30 Prince Napoleon mar- 
ried Princess Clotilde of Savoy, daughter of the King, 
a visible sign of the still occult alliance. The crowd 
hailed the bridal pair with shouts: "Down with Aus- 
tria!" In Paris a pamphlet inspired by the Emperor, 
and a sibylline jpeech, gave an inkling of his intentions. 
The reaction in official circles was far from favorable. 
The ministers, and even the army leaders, advised 

THE ARBITER OF EUROPE: 15541859 115 

against a war. The conservatives, particularly the Catho' 
lies, and the Empress most of all, were ardently hostile. 
German opinion rallied behind Austria. England ed' 
dies of the Orsini affair had just caused a wave of Gallo' 
phobia considered the Emperor a firebrand. 

For all his apparent sluggishness, Napoleon III was 
extremely sensitive to public opinion. He 

beneath^th^official surface: his prefects and^his district 
attorneys^regularly reported to him the statgjofjnind^of 
the^population. He hesitated, to the great despair^of 
VictorJEmmanuel ancTCavour. Last-minute efforts"were 
made. Gorchakov, the Russian Chancellor, prompted 
by Napoleon, proposed a European congress. England 
and Prussia subscribed to the idea without enthusiasm: 
a congress implied the recognition that the problem ex' 
isted. Even Austria, however, accepted the proposal, 
but with drastic reservations. Then, on April 20, Aus' 
tria herself cut the knot: a strongly worded ultimatum 
to Sardinia amounted to a declaration of war; and the 
Franco-Piedmontese alliance came into action. This time 
it was the Emperor's war: no one could prevent him 
from heading his own troops. And it was a revolutionary 
war: when he left for the front, Napoleon III was hailed 
with enthusiasm by the Parisian workingmen. For the 
moment, the Coup cFEtat was pardoned. 

/In all its civil activities the Second Empire was re> 
markable for its efficiency. The navy too was progressive 
and well managed: so progressive that at one time the 
first seagoing ironclad, La Qloire, could have romped 
through a whole British squadron. The army, the show 
piece of the regime, was in lamentable disarray from the 
Crimea to Sedan.^ 

For this strange contradiction, three causes may be 


adduced. The first was that the army lived in the aura 
of Napoleon's glory: if France had succumbed in the 
end, it was under the combined effort of all Europe. 
This was the Grand Army of the Great Nation: what 
else was needed? Such a spirit had led the successors 
of Frederick the Great to Auerstadt and Jena. The second 
was that the commanders under the Second Empire had 
received their training under Louis-Philippe in Algerian 
warfare: a second lieutenant's paradise, in which reck' 
less courage counted for more than strategy or logistics. 
The third was that Napoleon III and France wanted 
peace: it was impossible to prepare, thoroughly and os- 
tensibly, for war. When the Emperor assumed com- 
mand in Italy, the army was in perfect chaos. American 
veterans would describe its conditions in the pungent 
phrase snafu. 

Had the Austrians boldly marched on Turin, they 
might have scored a brilliant and easy victory. But, true 
to their immemorial tradition, they hesitated, crawled 
forward, and hesitated again. At Magenta no one com- 
prehended the situation: the Austrians had already re' 
ported victory, Berlin as well as Vienna was illuminaf 
ing, when it was discovered that the French had won 
after all to their infinite surprise. As a result, Napo" 
leon III and Victor Emmanuel II entered Milan in tri' 
umph on June 8. 

But the situation, so brilliant in the official -dispatches, 
was in fact extremely dark. Prussia was arming, and 
France had no troops left to face a menace on the Rhine. 
It was urgent to end the war. But how? The French 
could hardly retire as long as, nominally at least, they 
were victorious. On the other hand, they could not 
impose peace on the strength of a confused battle like 

THE ARBITER OF EUROPE: 1854-1859 117 

Magenta. Not far behind the Austrian lines stood a 
formidable array of fortresses to be reduced, the famous 
Quadrilateral: Mantua, Peschiera, Legnago, Verona. 
Fortunately, the Austrians again played into the hands of 
the French. They accepted another major contest at Sol- 
ferino (June 23). It was almost as chaotic as Magenta: 
full of "alarums and excursions/* But at the right mo- 
ment Napoleon III did launch the Guard in the right 
direction. It was decidedly a victory, although very far 
from a decisive victory. 

This enabled Napoleon to extricate himself from the 
Italian trap with all the appearances of magnanimity. 
Diplomacy had been fumbling in the dark: he addressed 
himself directly to Francis Joseph. On July 9 a cease- 
fire order was agreed upon. On July 10 the two sover- 
eigns met at Villafranca. The interview was not merely 
correct: it was cordial. Preliminaries of peace were ar- 
ranged, which were confirmed by the Treaty of Zurich 
on November 10. The settlement was frankly a com- 
promise. Francis Joseph "had lost a game and paid with 
a province." Lombardy was ceded to France, which 
was free to turn it over to Piedmont. But Austria re- 
tained Venetia. The fate of the rest of Italy was left 

Victor Emmanuel and especially Cavour were furi- 
ous at this "betrayal": had there not been a resounding 
promise to set Italy free from the Alps to the Adriatic? 
Victor Emmanuel, statesmanlike in spite of his prepos- 
terous mustaches, accepted the situation: half a loaf . . . 
Cavour resigned in a rage. Italian opinion turned sud- 
denly against the halting Liberator: portraits of Orsini 
were displayed in windows. When Napoleon III went 
through Milan again, he was greeted with icy silence. 


Yet it was Napoleon who could have complained 
of a betrayal. He had been betrayed by England, pro- 
Italian on the whole, but so jealous of the Emperor's 
prestige that she refused him her diplomatic support. He 
had been betrayed by Piedmont, and particularly by 
Cavour. For the Italy Napoleon III envisaged was to 
be free and united, but not unitary: a federation of Ital- 
ian states, Piedmont inevitably predominating, but with 
the Pope as nominal head. Wkat C^nnr had in mind 
\^asthe conquest of all Italy by Piedmont, sujdjijcgn- 
traBzed monarchy on the Frenchmodel. Napoleon III 
was probably right: the federal solution, adopted by 
Germany in 1871, might have been the best for Italy. 
But a French sovereign could hardly complain if a 
neighboring country paid France the compliment of 
imitating her institutions. 

At Plombieres, Napoleon and Cavour had under" 
stood themselves, but not each other. Foreshadowing 
disagreement, they had thought it wiser, like Franklin 
Roosevelt, to ask no iffy question and to cross no bridge 
until they came to it. To govern is to foresee. Napoleon 
had not foreseen the nature of Cavour's ambition. Ca- 
vour had not foreseen that the French ruler might under- 
stand him in time and leave him in the lurch. 

But in spite of partial frustration the desperate gam- 
ble had turned out well. For Victor Emmanuel II: Tus- 
cany, Parma, Modena, Romagna, voted their union 
with Piedmont; and in a colorful epic Garibaldi gave 
him Sicily, Naples, half of the Papal States. For Na- 
poleon III: Cavour, returning to power in January 
1859, paid the price: Savoy and Nice. Savoy, although 
the cradle of the dynasty, was in culture a province of 
France. Nice, the birthplace of Garibaldi, was on the 

THE ARBITER OF EUROPE: i 854-1 59 119 

French side of the Alps. In accordance with Napoleon's 
principles, plebiscites were ordered. The people voted, 
almost unanimously, for joining France. 

So Napoleon had taken the decisive step toward the 
liberation of Italy, scored hollow but resounding vie" 
tories, avoided a general war, won two provinces. And 
again he had achieved the rarest success: a settlement 
that left no bitterness. At Villafranca, the two emperors 
had met as friends, and friends they remained until the 
end of the regime. The Austrian Ambassador, Prince 
Richard Metternich, and especially his wife, Princess 
Pauline, were great favorites in Parisian society. 

The end of the war was marked by rejoicings such 
as France had not seen for fifty years, and was not to 
know again until 1918. On the 14$! of August 1859, 
the veterans of the Italian campaign marched in triumph 
down the boulevards, the Emperor at their head. When 
they reached the Place Vendome, Napoleon saluted the 
Empress with his sword, took his little son on his sad" 
die, and watched the tattered regiments as they passed 
in review. Most wildly acclaimed were the Zouaves, 
who, with their Algerian uniforms, their dash, their cool 
tenacity, had become heroes of legend. For another seven 
or eight years prosperity was to grow even more 
dazzling; prestige, on the surface, would remain unim- 
paired; but this was the summit of the reign. Napo* 
leon III wanted to mark his triumph by an act of recon" 
ciliation. The next day, August 1 5, the national holiday 
under the Empire, all exiles were amnestied without 
conditions; most of them returned. The military estab" 
lishment was reduced: at last, "the Empire was to mean: 





AGAINST the main front of the Paris Opera stands Cap 
peaux's wonderful group The Dance: a ring of laugh' 
ing bacchants, drunk with music and motion, and in the 
cenici uic Haunting figure of a Genius, tense, mephis- 
tophelian^yet with the wistfulness of higher things. 
When the statuary_ was unveiled, a puritan hurled an 
ink bottle at one of the whirling nymphs. It was the 
same gesture as Martin Luther's three and a half cen- 
turies before; in both cases there was no appreciable re" 
suit: the devil thrives on ink. 

Charles Garnier's Opera is often considered as the 
typical monument of the Gaudy Empire, and Car- 
peaux's group as the aptest symbol of the period and of 
the regime. To the dispassionate art critic, the building 
seems particularly functional: an Opera is not a Quaker 
meeting house, and there should be richness and gaiety 
about a temple of luxurious pleasure. At any rate, Gar- 
nier's masterpiece has been pastichec[ in every clime, 
from exuberant Sao Paulo aridTST de Janeiro to Cal- 
vin's holy city, Geneva. The patina of age has merci- 
fully toned down the dazzling whiteness of the stone, 
softened the vivid polychromy. of the marbles, mellowed 
the aggressive splendor of the gildings. The proverb 
that the Opera best illustrates might well be: "All is not 
tinsel that glitters. 3 ' 

It would of course be unfair to consider the Opera 
as the master key to the Second Empire. Many churches 

THE GLITTER AND THE GOLD: 1 8 $2-1 870 121 

were built at that time, some of them not without taste. 
Napoleon III had given orders that work on the Opera 
should be kept behind the reconstruction of the Hotel- 
Dieu, the great general hospital on the island of the City. 
Baltard's central market, Les Halles, remains a monu- 
ment of spare and elegant adequacy, and it too was imi- 
tated throughout the world. But a caricature, exaggerat- 
ing a single feature, may be cruelly true, Cyrano de 
Bergerac was not a nose with a human being appended; 
still, he was afflicted with a memorable nose. The Em- 
pire was by no means all garishness,' but the garishness 
was undeniable. 

^Prosperity was the characteristic of the Second Em- 
pire, as glory had been of the First. That prosperity was 
different from the drab and cautious well-being which 
was the goal of the Constitutional Monarchy. It was 
sudden, and on an unprecedented scale. It seemed even 
more miraculous after the years of turmoil and uneasi- 
ness of the Second RepublkyThis made it assertive and 
blatant. The profiteers did not quite believe in their 
good fortune, and they had to give themselves tangible 
proofs of its reality. England was well ahead of France 
in the industrial and financial transformation that marked 
the third quarter of the century, and there was at least 
as much conspicuous waste north as south of the Chan- 
nel: virtuous as were the Royal Pair, the Albert Memo- 
rial can hardly be called a model of chaste design. But 
in Britain there were enough families of ancient wealth 
and breeding to temper the crudity" of the new rich. That 
element was lacking in French society. The old nobility, 
staunch in their Legitimist faith, had gone into social 
mourning. Their chateaux had become fortresses again, 
in which they defied the vulgarity of modern progress. 


Their quarter in Paris, the faubourg Saint-Germain, 
turned its back on Parisian life. To the casual visitor it 
offered an array of dingy silent streets: only the initiated 
could be aware of the old-world gardens and of the 
tasteful salons behind the flaking gray walls! The sub- 
stantial bourgeoisie long lines of landowners and mag' 
istrates deprecated the fever and the tumult of the new 
age. Politically, the conservative classes voted for Na- 
poleon III with misgivings. Socially, they went into 
a self-imposed exile. Their places could be filled only 
by parvenus. In the proclamation announcing his mar- 
riage, Napoleon III defiantly called himself a parvenu 

He wanted a court. Not out of sheer vanity, but in 
order to prove that France had triumphantly emerged 
from the stodginess of the Louis-Philippe era and to 
demonstrate that the old aristocracy was not indispensa- 
ble, even as an ornament. The court was to set the social 
tone. Its luxury was to be a national advertisement and 
a national asset. On a hint from Persigny, the Emperor 
was given a fabulous civil list, five million dollars a 
year, twice as much as he had expected. Out of this 
vast sum he could afford lavish personal charities. He 
secretly pensioned, for example, the poet Leconte de 
Lisle, who was a political enemy. He took care of the 
national palaces:, the Louvre and the Tuileries were 
completed at last, and Viollet-le-Duc was given perhaps 
too free a rein in the restoration of ancient edifices. But 
Napoleon had a handsome balance to play with, and he 
spent it conscientiously. At the Tuileries, at Saint-Cloud, 
at Compiegne, at Fontainebleau, he entertained on a 
magnificent scale. Gone were those court functions to 
which the thrifty haberdashers of the rue du Sender 

THE GLITTER AND THE GOLD: 1852-1870 123 

would repair in an omnibus. Court dress and uniforms 
were now de rigueur. For the stag hunts at Fontaine- 
bleau, eighteenth-century costumes were revived. 

The court of the first Napoleon too had been re-* 
splendent; but it was stiff, frigid, and intensely boring. 
The autocrat, although he could produce at will a most 
charming smile, remained the martinet; he would pass 
in review the ladies of his court with the glare, the 
frown, and the imperial brevity of a top sergeant./Under 
Napoleon III, court life was elaborately dignified: that 
means that it could be tedious at times. The "orgies of 
the Tuileries" may be dismissed as a mere phrase, not 
even a myth. Yet between the official world and the 
world of pleasure, there were no impassable barriers and 
no radical difference in tone. The Empress was virtuous, 
and far less flighty than her heroine Marie Antoinette: 
there was not even a^Fersen in her life. But the Emperor 
had acquired her as "the crown's most precious jewel." 
He wanted her to assume the leadership of fashion, and 
we know that she required very little urging. In these 
triumphs, however, she was barely keeping ahead of 
those ladies fair and frail who were such a feature of 
imperial Paris, Cora Pearl, Anna Deslions, Juliette Ba- 
rucci, La Paiva, a quaint fauna of "lionesses, does, and 
cranes 35 ("lionnes, biches et grues"*). Vaudeville artists 
like Theresa performed even in aristocratic homes and 
mingled freely with the guests. In fancy-dress balls, the 
social strata were willfully fused. The Empress was ever 
on the watch for any alluring mask who might attract 
the attention of her susceptible consort.V 

In this respect the imperial circle and the most ques" 
tionable aspects of la vie parisienne became inseparable 
in the public mind. The very highest, the Emperor him- 


self, Morny, Prince Napoleon, were notorious for their 
freedom from bourgeois prejudices. 

ciety wasjiotlig&c^^ 
Frendiy; whichjneans that it was cosmopolitan, even 
more cosmopolitan than the Paris of the Pompadour 
era. NapoleonJIII, it will be remembered, could J>e 

^ escr ^j^jl^ffl le " tnan Uftfed J^^ ons> The Empress 
had roamed the"~whole oI^uropeTTrincess Mathilde, 
Prince Napoleon, were half Wiirttemberg; she wedded 
a Russian prince, he an Italian princess. The Countess 
de Morny was a Russian. Walewski was a Pole, his 
wife a Florentine. With a slight twist, the old gibe 
would serve: "There is but one Frenchman in the 
whole lot, Persigny; and he is mad." If we were to 
pick out the most nearly perfect representatives of im- 
penal Paris, our choice would go to Princess Pauline 
Metternich, the Austrian Ambassadress, and to Jacques 
Offenbach, the composer of scandalously tuneful oper- 
ettas. She came from Vienna, he from Cologne. 

Here we must guard against a confusion hoary with 
age three centuries at least and apparently inde- 
structible. The word libertin in French first meant a 
freethinker, and then, as if by a natural consequence, a 
man of dissolute life. It might be thought that the moral 
laxity of the Second Empire was linked with the progress 
of unbelief. This is far from the truth. In the main, 
Bonapartism and clericalism were close allies. Priests 
were as welcome at the Tuileries as generals. The Em- 
peror, in his unaccountable way, was actually pious. 
When he went incognito through Paris, inspecting "the 
public works in which he was so passionately interested, 
he would stop at a church and, unnoticed except by his 
confidential attendant, kneel in prayer. Morny had the 

THE GLITTER AND THE GOLD: 1852-1870 125 

proper attitude of the grand seigneur and the profiteer: 
never wrestle with religious problems, for fear of hav- 
ing to take them seriously. Prince Napoleon alone was, 
ostensibly, both a scoffer and a rake : but he was not held 
up as a pattern to the imperial world. On the other hand, 
the skeptics so virulently denounced by the Catholic 
journalist Louis Veuillot were actually men of irre- 
proachable integrity, like Taine and Renan, or even 
"secular saints" like the Positivist Littre. 

There is one respect in which the Second Empire 
stood for "free thought" in every sense of that elastic 
term. For the first eight years at least, it was a police 
state, pitiless to agitators, not tender even to honest crit' 
ics: it was hardly safe to attack the Emperor, except 
under the pseudonyms of Soulouque and Tiberius. But 
even at its worst it did not attempt to stifle convictions 
or crush ideas. This was not owing purely to the secret 
gentleness of the Emperor: the regime itself was too 
much of a hybrid, the society over which it ruled was 
too hopelessly divided, for an orthodoxy to be strictly 
imposed. The statutes and the moresjot a country may 
tell different stories. According to the letter of the law, 
no country at that time was freer than England. But, as 
Hilaire Belloc remarked, there existed in Victorian so* 
ciety "a sort of cohesive public spirit [which] glued and 
immobilized all individual expression. One could float 
imprisoned as in a stream of thick substance, one could 
not swim against it." The public spirit of the Second 
Empire was not cohesive: that is why it was so intensely 
alive. P. J. Proudhon, who had said: "Property is theft" 
and "God is evil," could write undisturbed to the end, 
and remain on friendly terms with the first prince of 
the blood. Catholics and Protestants of all shades, hu- 


manitarians, freethinkers, Voltairian rationalists, Saint' 
Simonians, Positivists, mystics, devil-worshippers, sci- 
entists, anarchists, socialists, believers in art for art's sake, 
all could fearlessly voyage to the end of their thought. 
The important point is not that, in one egregious year, 
both Flaubert and Baudelaire were haled before a court 
of justice the one to be acquitted, the other sentenced 
to an insignificant fine; it is that Madame B ovary and 
The Flowers of Evil could be written. On a solemn 
occasion Napoleon III said, with the hand on the hilt 
of his sword: "Material order is my responsibility/' and 
critics shook their doleful heads: "Ah! a purely ma" 
terialistic regime!" No: a regime aware that certain 
things are Caesar's, and first of all order in the streets; 
and that other things pertain to the spirit. 

cf We must admit/' Taine wrote in his Travel Notes 
(1863-5), "tha* Acre is in this country a sudden ex- 
pansion of public prosperity, similar to the upsurge that 
marked the Renaissance or the times of Colbert. 'This 
year, two thousand miles of railroads were built. The 
Emperor understands France and his century better than 
any of his predecessors." Taine was no blind supporter 
of the regime; the verdict was unanimous; the opposition 
could only spurn material progress, not deny its reality. 
A whole generation after Sedan, when I was a school- 
boy, the "good times" of the Empire survived in the 
popular mind as a golden memory. 

Like all legends, this is not "the humble truth" of the 
naturalists, but an epic amplification. All was not for the 
best in that glittering paradise. The masses, urban and 
rural, lived under conditions that the hard-pinched 
Fourth Republic would not tolerate. The Empire had 

THE GLITTER AND THE GOLD: 1 852-1 870 127 

to face constant difficulties not of its own making. In 
the early years, floods, crop failures, a near-famine, an 
epidemic of cholera, darkened the economic scene; for 
the first time in the century, the years 1854 and 1855 
were marked by a deficit of births. Then there was a 
disease of the silkworm; and at that time France was 
producing much of the raw material woven in the capi- 
tal of that trade, Lyon. The oidium first, and a' transat- 
lantic blight, the phylloxera, attacked the vines, an an" 
cient source of wealth. Tne American Civil War played 
havoc with the cotton interests. The three great wars, 
the Crimea, Italy, Mexico, drained resources without 
compensation. Yet there was steady progress in the teeth 
of these stubborn obstacles. 

Some countries have been noted for their fantastic 
luxury for the privileged and hopeless destitution among 
the masses: such was the case with the India of the ra- 
jahs, and with colonial Mexico. Not so with the France 
of Napoleon III. There was splendor, some of it mere- 
tricious; there was squalor, some of it heart-rending; 
but there was no abyss between the many and the few. 
The great majority were neither paupers nor spend- 
thrifts, but hard-working common men. The lot of the 
most modest was improving, and the road to wealth was 
open to the ambitious. Most of all, there was a sense of 
expansion, of illimitable hope, that was truly exhilarat- 
ing. The Empire was a state of mind rather than an- 
array of statistics. That state of mind should be familiar 
to us: it has been ottrs from the very beginning, and has 
scarcely suffered an eclipse. It faded from France after 
Sedan, and it has never been fully recovered. 

The economic brilliancy of the Second Empire was 
not a delusive flash, like the Mississippi Bubble under 


the Regency, Calonne's hectic flare of wild spending on 
the eve of the Revolution, or the phosphorescence of the 
Thermidorian reaction and the early Directoire. Because 
it spread deep, that prosperity proved enduring. It out" 
lasted the eighteen years of the reign. The catastrophes 
of 18701 the collapse of the imperial armies, the 
reckless and hopeless efforts of Gambetta's National De" 
fense, the Commune, the five billion francs exacted by 
Prussia failed to dissipate the solid wealth of the couiv 
try. Bismarck had expected that France would be bled 
white for a generation: within two years the unprece" 
dented indemnity was paid off. The reserves that made 
the settlement easy had not been created by Adolphe 
Thiers, who got credit for the operation; they had been 
accumulated under Napoleon III. 

It may be contended that Napoleon III simply hap" 
pened to reach power at the right moment. It was not 
he who had started the financial revolution, the creation 
of modern capitalism: it had been under way in Hol- 
land and England since the seventeenth century, well 
ahead of the machine age. Here we find once more the 
two conceptions of history confronting each other, the 
personal and the collective. I have already expressed my 
conviction that, in a certain perspective, the course of 
human events dwarfs all individual endeavor: the evo" 
lution of Europe could be traced without Luther, Cal' 
vin, or Rousseau; without Louis XIV, Frederick the 
Great, or Napoleon I; without Newton, Kant, Hegel, 
Darwin; without Adam Smith or Karl Marx. A great 
name is invariably a symbol rather than a cause. But if 
we deal in decades rather than aeons, personalities make 
a difference. Within the vast cycles of obscure anony 
mous efforts, the foresight and determination of actual 

THE GLITTER AND THE GOLD: 1852-1870 129 

leaders, or their obstinacy and frivolous ignorance, can 
be of vital importance. There were railroads in France 
from the early days of Louis-Philippe, and inventors 
like Marc Seguin had made most valuable contributions 
to their development. But Adolphe Thiers, eminently 
practical, neither dull nor flippant, the incarnation of 
sound common sense, could only sneer at those elabo- 
rate "toys"; Lamartine, the poet, saw their future. In 
many respects Napoleon III stood far closer to Lamar- 
tine than to Adolphe Thiers; both had a largeness of 
heart and vision which made them scorn petit bourgeois 
timidity. It is not a matter of indifference that France 
before 1848 and after 1870 was almost invariably gov- 
erned, not by the elite and not by the masses, but by 
the qongeners^of Thiers, the lower middle class. 

Ify a statesman professes to serve at the same time two 
antagonistic tendencies, he is accused either of confusion 
or of duplicity: as if in mechanics a component of forces 
were not an elementary conception. Men who adopt 
what they think is a merciful attitude toward Napo- 
leon III praise the generosity of his "dreams" and de- 
plore their vagueness. Vagueness? The record of his 
reign gives a totally different impression. There is noth- 
ing vague about Napoleon IIFs policies; we have_J:o 
cfeaTneither with a Utopian nor with a doctrinaire^ but 
with a realist who had a purpose and a method, 'Ipxe 
purpose was the service of the whole people: he was a 
democrat oFHie ^^ 

Tls~not the purpose of a government to foster 
private interests, but to harmonize those interests for 
the general good. The state is a great co-operative; its 
first duty, in the words of Saint-Simon, is to promote the 
material and moral welfare of the most numerous and 


poorest elements. The first condition of progress, let 
this never be forgotten for a moment, is order; but in 
an atmosphere of calm and confidence, all classes could 
contribute to the prosperity of the common wealth. This 
idea had been expressed by Queen Hortense in her 
Memoirs with surprising clarity, and had been ascribed 
by her to Napoleon I. From that ideal, with a gentle 
obstinacy that puzzled theorists and fanatics, Napo- 
leon III never swerved^ 

Oddly, the social character of Napoleon's rule was 
implicit in the title that the conservatives had bestowed 
upon him: if he had "saved Society/ 5 it must have been 
for Society's own good, not for the benefit of a few. In 
a more literal sense, he was an avowed socialist. His 
little book, hardly more than a pamphlet, On the Ex- 
tinction of Pauperism, was a rudimentary but practical 
statement of his principles. On the strength of it he was 
hailed by Louis Blanc and George Sand as one of their 
company. His scheme the working of unused land by 
a reserve army of labor, self-governing, but directed by 
the State implied the central idea of 1848: the right 
to a job. The Emperor redeemed the pledge of the 
publicist. He insisted that public works should be di- 
rectly authorized by himself, and as soon as he was in 
full power, in 1852, he started a program of public 
works in the spirit of his proposals of 1 844. He turned 
Louis Blanc's tfe National Workshops," so woefully, so 
willfully sabotaged in 1848, into successful realities. 
In Sologne, in the Dombes, he drained marshes; in the 
Landes, he carried out a long-neglected plan, and the 
shifting sand dunes were fixed by plantations of pines. 
There is hardly any rural district in which some modest, 
useful work was not done. At the summit of these ubi- 

THE GLITTER AND THE GOLD: 1852-1 70 131 

quitous activities we find the great spectacular enter- 
prises, railroads, canals, ports, city improvements, and, 
most sensational of all, the reconstruction of Paris. Such 
a policy is the stock-in-trade of all dictators Musso- 
lini, Hitler, Huey Long and it is one of the reasons 
why, in spite of their obvious perils, dictatorships have 
such an appeal: things get done. It was not wrong of 
Napoleon III or Mussolini to drain marshes. Let 
party politicians demonstrate that they have the same 
large views and the same efficiency as the dictators, and 
liberty will be considerably safer. 

Napoleon III was the elect of small farmers, and he 
did his best for them. But his heart was not in the land: 
like his contemporary Baudelaire, 'Tie could not wax 
lyrical about vegetables." He looked into the future, and 
he could see that in France the prospects of agriculture 
were limited: the land had been cultivated for cen- 
turies, and modern methods would only reduce the need 
for human labor. The dream of Marshal Petain, a 
France predominantly rural, attached to an economy of 
small peasant proprietors, would have admirably served 
the purposes of Hitler, for its destiny would have been 
irremediable decadence. Napoleon Ill's chief interest 
was industry. 

"That interest was not intellectual merely, but inti- 
mate. Napoleon III never was fully convincing as a 
soldier; perhaps even less as a prince of the Renaissance, 
a patron of the arts; and he could not, like David Lloyd 
George, don the corduroys of the country squire and 
find pride and joy in raising prize- winning hogs. His 
very hobbies were mechanical: he was compared with 
the gentle'eyed White Knight of Lewis Carroll, sur- 
rounded with gadgets "all of his own invention/' In his 


last days, he was working on an economical stove for 
the poor. There was in him a Jules Verne or, more ob- 
viously, an H. G. Wells: a romanticist whose dreams 
were of the future, not of the past, and translated them- 
selves into terms of engineering. Even when he dabbled 
in archaeology, it was Caesar's war machines that fas- 
cinated him. 

For at least half a millennium, France had been great 
in the arts and crafts: the eighteenth century marked the 
apex of that exquisite tradition. The good artisan, who 
loves his trade and his tools, who creates a personal piece 
of work for a personal and competent customer, is still 
with us; and the spirit that made him great in his limited 
field may be transferred to industrial design. But we 
must admit that the bulk of our goods has to be machine- 
made; and the machine demands new methods and a 
new ideology. This is not always realized, even by 
responsible leaders: the cultural lag is not an empty 
phrase. In England, businessmen proudly assume feudal 
titles, or pose as gentlemen farmers. In America, great 
engineers cling to the economy of The Village Black" 
smith. Napoleon III, as Taine put it, understood his 
century; his handicaps were those of the forerunner, not 
of the fossil. He realized quite simply that modern in- 
dustry is, by its very nature, collectivistic. The co- 
operation of the many is needed to supply the wants of 
the many. Communism is conceivable without machine 
production: the religious orders prove the point. But it 
is impossible to imagine an industrial age founded on 
sheer individualism. 

Hardly more than a century ago, sturdy Auvergnats 
brought water up to Parisian apartments for a few cents 
a pail, a model of free enterprise and rugged individual- 


ism. When water was piped from central reservoirs, the 
individual carrier was doomed. The new service had to 
be collectivistic, whether managed by a private com-' 
pany, by a semi-public authority, or by the city itself. 
It is the change in technique that killed the old-fashioned 
free competition. The revolution was not in the laws or 
in the minds: it was in the pipes. 

Napoleon III, as defender and promoter of the com- 
mon interest, accepted this indispensable collectivism 
of modern life. But he did not commit himself to any 
exclusive doctrine. He encouraged and subsidized the 
co-operative system. But the customers failed to respond: 
even in England, co-operative societies have remained a 
secondary factor. He was not afraid of state capitalism, 
or direct management by the government. Since offi- 
cials could be entrusted with such "big business 35 as the 
armed forces, the postal service, great public works, 
there was no reason why they could not as well run a 
mine or a railroad. But he accepted also, as a genuine 
form of collectivism, the corporation, which, if it per- 
formed a public service, should be authorized and super- 
vised by the State in the interests of the community. 
From the capitalistic point of view, nothing could be 
more orthodox than the corporation. Yet it marks a 
definite deviation from strict private property, jus utendi 
et abutendi, "I can do what I please with my own/* It 
is a property that is shared, and that entails social respon- 

Napoleon IIFs pragmatiu attit^e is wejl fllmtrated 
by his railroacT^olicy. The iictiorT thaY railroads could 
beleft entirely to private initiative and unlimited com- 
petition resulted in sluggish construction and feverish 
speculation, for it is only on paper that any one can 


start a railroad. Even in modern America, railroads are 
treated as public services. The managing companies 
cannot open or close a line or alter a tariff without the 
consent of some government agency. In cases of emer- 
gency war or threat of strike they are taken over by 
the State. Under Napoleon III, innumerable rival lines 
were consolidated into six regional systems, with a 
ninety-nine'year franchise, a minimum dividend guar- 
anteed by the State, and definite responsibilities to the 
State. From these six semi-public corporations, the tran- 
sition was easy to a "National Company/' still capital- 
istic in form. As in the case of the water supply, it was 
the change in technique, the creation of the railroads 
themselves, that brought about the collectivistic revolu- 
tion; the method of financial administration was a sec- 
ondary matter. 

P. J. Proudhon, a critical and very intelligent ob- 
server, described this policy as "a new feudalism/ 3 He 
meant it as a term of reproach: feudalism had lost its vi- 
tality even before the close of the Middle Ages, and its 
fossilized remains had to be swept away by the Revolu- 
tion. But in theory the system (in so far as it ever was 
a system) was superior to the anarchic conception of ab- 
solute individual ownership. In feudal doctrine, no one 
possessed anything outright. Authority and property were 
closely bound together; both were merely delegated; 
they conferred privileges, but they entailed obligations. 
A concessionnaire is indeed a vassal, and he may have 
sub-vassals in his turn. He swears fealty to his suzerain; 
that is to say that he promises to observe the terms of his 
franchise. The profit motive is not ignored, but it is 
subordinated to the common good, of which the sover- 

THE GLITTER AND THE GOLD: 1852-1870 135 

eign, whatever his title may be, stands as the symbol 
and supreme guardian. 

Large-scale and long-range enterprise, characteristic 
of the Second Empire and of the modern world as a 
whole, demands planning. This, in the France of one 
hundred years ago, required in its turn a revolution in 
finance, forward-looking credit emphasized instead of 
mere day-byday saving. For ages, the ideal of the peas- 
ant and of the petit bourgeois had been to spend a little 
less than he earned; with the pennies thus hoarded in 
the traditional "woolen stocking/ 3 he could buy another 
field, another house, another government bond. Thrift 
was the only recognized key to wealth. Under all sys- 
terns, saving remains the indispensable basis; and we 
do not deny the admirable qualities of hard work and 
self-denial which went with the old French state of 
mind. But as a result, investors were struck with con- 
genital timidity: their pauvres petits quatre sous, their 
pennies so painfully saved, the fruit of such long toil and 
constant privation, could not be risked in distant ven- 
turesome investments. Credit was gambling, and gam- 
bling was sin. John Law, early in the eighteenth cen- 
tury, had revealed the magic of credit; but in the eyes 
of the safe and sane, his Icarus fall was a well-deserved 

/There was very little of the French bourgeois^bout 
Napoleon III: he was a cosmopolitan adventurer. I 
have called him a gambler for the highest stakes; he had 
lost two fortunes on his way to power. But he was not 
a mere gambler, and his reign was not a fabulous Monte 
Carlo. He was an industrialist, not a financier; a builder, 
not a profiteer. "Enterprise" means pioneering, opening 


new paths, and some of these may lead to disaster: Les- 
seps won against the sands of Suez, but lost against the 
mosquitoes of Panama. Among the many daring ventures 
in which France engaged under the Second Empire, 
some went bankrupt. But on the whole, considered as 
a great economic campaign, the regime was a success. 
After the disasters of 1870-1 diplomatic, military, 
political the State, the great cities, the banks, private 
business, were all in good financial health. 

Credit is another word for speculation; and specula- 
tion, when isolated from production, means the enrich' 
ment of the profiteer. The important point is that under 
the Second Empire production remained the essential 
element, speculation a mere gilded fringe; whereas at 
the time of John Law the economic basis of his dizzy 
"System" had been perilously slender. No doubt the 
profiteer was a conspicuous element in Second Empire 
life. The most daring, the most ruthless, the most urbane 
of them all was Morny, half-brother of the Emperor, 
co-founder of the regime, and one of its most brilliant 
ornaments. A whisper: "Morny is in it," sufficed to 
bring forth an approving nod: "Then it must be a good 
thing." But even Morny was more than the king of 
gamblers: he had sound business sense. The only great 
venture of his that ended disastrously (not for himself, 
but for France) was his getting an interest in the Jecker 
Bonds: a preposterous debt that a Swiss banker was at- 
tempting to collect from Mexico. 

It happened that Haussmann, prefect of the Seine, 
repeatedly bought property that soon afterwards was 
condemned for the opening of a new thoroughfare. But 
although the opposition jeered at "Haussmann's Fan- 
tastic Accounts" (a punning allusion to Hoffmann's Fan- 

THE GLITTER AND THE GOLD: 1852-1870 137 

tastic Tales*), he was first of all a most efficient public 
servant. The existence of the profiteer under Napo- 
leon III cannot be denied. The type belongs to the 
ages; oddly enough, it had been most vividly described 
by Balzac, who died in 1850, and by Lesage, whose 
Turcaret was performed in 1709. Literature is prophecy 
as well as chronicle. But the Second Empire was not 
run by and for the profiteers. 

With his concern for the common good, Napo' 
leon III attempted to "nationalize" credit. Hitherto, half 
a dozen great bankers had held the whole market in fee: 
the French branch of the Rothschilds served as the sym- 
bol of that oligarchy. Now state and municipal bonds 
were offered directly to the masses : thus there could be 
a state capitalism on the grandest scale, without a special 
class of capitalists. The great loans of the Empire were 
financial plebiscites: direct expressions of popular con^ 
fidence. They were invariably oversubscribed: the peas- 
ant supported the regime not merely with his vote, but 
with his woolen stocking. Thus were reconciled and 
profitably associated the national virtue of thrift and the 
Napoleonic or American quality of daring. 

Most typical of the Empire were credit institutions of 
a semi-public nature. The charter of the Bank of France 
was renewed; its association with the State was made 
closer; and branches were opened in every department. 
The Credit Foncier (1852) was a national building 
loan association, lending on mortgages to departments, 
cities, and private owners. The Credit Mobilier (1852) 
financed railroads, ports, public utilities, navigation com- 
panies. The Credit Industriel was created in 1859, & e 
Credit Lyonnais in 1863, the Societe Generale pour 
Favoriser le Developpement du Commerce et de 


dustrie en France in 1864: the cumbrous name might 
serve as a subtitle for the Empire itself. All but one of 
these survived into our own days. They were the finan^ 
cial armature of the Third Republic; and the Fourth, 
carrying out the intentions of Napoleon III, made them 
in fact organs of the State. They have been honestly, 
efficiently, and successfully managed. Only the Credit 
Mobilier, which, under the Pereire brothers, played a 
great part in the activities of the reign, became a victim 
to excessive daring and the jealousy of its rivals: in 1867 
bankruptcy could be averted only through a drastic re- 
organization that involved heavy losses to the general 

\he most lasting, the most impressive monument of 
the Second Empire was the reconstruction of the cities. 
This was not limited to Paris: Marseille, in particular, 
owes more to the eighteen years of Napoleon III than 
to the preceding twenty-five hundred. The transforma- 
tion of Paris, naturally, stands apart on account of its 
magnitude and of its magnificencer> 

In the public mind the work is usually connected 
with the name of Baron Haussmann. For all the flaws of 
his temper and of his taste, the great prefect of the Seine 
was no doubt an admirable servant of the State. But he 
was an instrument: Napoleon III had conceived the 
plan himself. On the wall of his study he had a large 
map of Paris with the proposed improvements drawn 
with his own hands, in blue, red, yellow, and green, 
according to their urgency. He found his first prefect, 
Berger, too timid; so, in the early months of the Empire, 
he cast about for a man of greater daring and energy. 
He selected Haussmann, who had shown great vigor 
in the administration of Bordeaux. 

THE GLITTER AND THE GOLD: 1852-1870 139 

Haussmann firmly believed in a strong executive. He 
was in full harmony with his sovereign and enjoyed his 
confidence: in his department he had practically carte 
blanche. There was no elected municipal council to 
play ward politics and obstruct far-seeing measures: only 
an appointed commission, as still is the case with Wash- 
ington, D.C. When the Empire veered toward liberal- 
ism, Haussmann was exposed to fierce attacks; when, in 
1870, the regime turned into a constitutional monarchy, 
Haussmann resigned. 

To rebuild a great historic capital is a gigantic task; 
like all great enterprises, it was not the working out of 
a single idea. All the explanations that have been of- 
fered are right, provided not one of them is considered 
as exclusive and self-sufficient. The most obvious is the 
strategic interpretation: Napoleon III, guardian of ma- 
terial order, wanted to prevent the recurrence of those 
insurrections which in 1827, 1830, 1832, 1834, 
1839, four times in 1848, in 1849, in 1851, had 
shaken or destroyed the national government. Wide, 
straight avenues surrounded or slashed through the old 
workingmen's districts. They could be swept by cavalry 
charges or raked by artillery fire. For twenty years there 
was no menacing disorder in the streets. Ironically, these 
elaborate preparations proved a Maginot Line: the Em- 
pire fell without a single shot. Most of the improve- 
ments, however, cannot be explained on that score. 
Dangerous areas were still untouched by 1870; and 
impressive works had been carried out in the west, where 
no insurrection was to be feared. 

Autocratic governments revel in showy public works: 
they are advertisements on a gigantic scale. "The glory 
is remembered when the cost is forgotten." The com- 


pletion of the Louvre might fall into that category, but 
it simply fulfilled at last the dream of two centuries and 
more. The Opera is obviously a case in point: it was a 
jeweled crown on the brow of the city, and, like most 
crowns, a costly bauble. But the greater part of the work 
done in Paris was not intended to be spectacular. If the 
Auteuil Viaduct, for instance, has a truly Roman dig' 
nity, it was none the less functional at the time. The 
greatest municipal achievement of the Second Empire 
was the work of Belgrand. The sewer system of old 
Paris, so admirably described in Les Miserables, was 
sheer chaos, and the water supply was inadequate. Bel" 
grand created both services on truly modern lines and 
on the proper scale. Had the regime lasted, Belgrand 
might have carried out his plan for a ship channel from 
Paris to the sea. 

No doubt the great public works throughout France, 
and particularly those in Paris, were intended as an iiv 
surance against unemployment. They were in line with 
Napoleon's own little book: On the Extinction of 
Pauperism. They were meant also to "prime the pump/ 3 
The proverb ran: "When the building trades thrive, 
everything thrives." But the whole scheme was not pri' 
marily devised to serve some other purpose. The most 
direct explanation is the most adequate: Napoleon 
wanted these improvements because he believed them to 
be improvements. They were simply part of his Saint- 
Simonian program: the common welfare. 

He was well acquainted with the West End of Lon' 
don; he had admired the wide streets, the dignified fa' 
cades, the many leafy squares; and he was not satisfied 
with picturesque squalor. He wished to reconstruct 
Paris, as he wished to reconstruct Europe, because he 


was persuaded that man-made ills could be cured by 
human foresight and energy. He stood, not for uncon- 
scious haphazard growth, the alibi of the lazy-minded, 
but for determination and planning. 

New districts, new cities, had been designed before: 
Versailles, St. Petersburg, Washington. Paris offered an 
infinitely more delicate problem: to recast an ancient 
metropolis, heavy with the riches and the grime of age, 
without destroying its spirit and its charm. From the 
practical point of view, the work was brilliantly success- 
ful. Although the plans of Napoleon and Haussrnann 
slowed down almost to a standstill after Sedan, they re- 
mained adequate for half a century. The actual formula 
of Haussmann is now antiquated; but the spirit of Hauss- 
mann of Napoleon III would be needed if we were 
boldly to grapple with our present problems. 

From the aesthetic point of view, the work is not free 
from blemishes. Some delightful aspects of old Paris 
were unnecessarily sacrificed. Many of the new build- 
ings, private and public, were manifestly mediocre. It is 
fashionable to deplore the "devastations" wrought by 
the Emperor and his prefect. Yet in the eyes neither of 
foreign visitors nor of the Parisians themselves has the 
city lost its magic appeal. It is easy to grow sentimental 
about the rue de la Huchette, a slum forgotten within 
a stone's throw of Notre-Dame, but we remain thankful 
that Paris is not a maze of malodorous lanes. What 
strikes us on the contrary about the work of Napo- 
leon III, in all domains, is that, although so bold, it was 
at the same time profoundly conservative. No radicalism 
a la Le Corbusier, who would raze the whole of central 
Paris and erect on the site a stiff array of cruciform^sky- 
scrapers. In scale, spirit, and style the newT^aris was 


not different from the old. The best features of the royal 
tradition were not discarded or ignored, but extended. 
The boulevard Malesherbes resembled the boulevard 
des Capucines; the Pont de FAlma, a robust and elegant 
stone bridge, was in harmony with the Pont de la Con- 

<rlere we have to face a puzzling situation. Napo- 
leon III kept Paris employed, made it healthier, more 
prosperous, more brilliant; yet from first to last, Paris 
on the whole remained hostile to the regime. We can 
understand this attitude on the part of the "liberal" 
bourgeoisie: although its prosperity had increased, the 
class as such had lost something of its prestige. Above 
all, it had been robbed of its favorite pastimes, parlia- 
mentary eloquence and the political game. But, except 
for a brief period during the Italian campaign, the Pari- 
sian masses were inflexibly anti-Bonapartist. For twenty 
years France offered the paradox of a leader endorsed by 
those who understood him least, the rural population, 
and rejected by those whom he was most eager to bene- 
fit, industrial labor. 

The cause of this apparent absurdity is that, a cen- 
tury ago, Paris thought in political, not in economic or 
social terms. In 1863 Paris g ave 4 votes to labor 
candidates, 153,000 to the bourgeois opposition, led 
by the royalist Thiers, hater of "the vile multitude/' 
The workers were democrats rather than socialists; it 
might even be said that they were republicans rather 
than democrats, for they never accepted the peasants as 
their equals, and the tremendous majorities piled up by 
Napoleon III impressed them not at all: rural votes are 
not valid votes. All they chose to remember was that 

THE GLITTER AND THE GOLD: 1852-1870 143 

Napoleon had destroyed a parliamentary republic, al- 
though that republic was antidemocratic at the time. 
To govern without the assent of Paris, in their eyes, 
was a crime of lese-majeste against the spirit. The Com-' 
mune was the last flare of that mystic belief in the mes- 
sianic character of Paris; a romantic myth, preached by 
Victor Hugo and even by Alfred de Vigny, it now re- 
poses in the dim Pantheon of dead gods. At any rate, 
Paris could neither be bribed by imperial prosperity, se- 
duced by imperial splendor, nor coerced by the imperial 
police. This stubborn resistance for the sake of an ideal 
may not have been very wise. At any rate, it could not 
be called ignoble^ 





WE have left Napoleon III, on the i4th and i$th of 
August 1859, at the pinnacle of his glory. He had re- 
turned victorious from a brief and popular campaign, 
which he had commanded in person. He had magnani- 
mously granted an amnesty to his political enemies. To 
be sure, there were, even then, discordant voices proph- 
esying his decline and fall. Victor Hugo did not waver 
for a moment in his inexorable hatred. We know the 
end of the story, and we may delude ourselves into the 
belief that Sedan was inevitable, as it was not avoided. 
Whatever is, is right: this kind of fatalism, although 
endorsed by Alexander Pope and Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 
is repugnant to the Western mind. There are ineluctable 
laws in nature: but within these laws, blind chance and 
the will of men, not mechanical determinism alone, 
shape the course of human events. The career of\Na- 
poleon III is a drama because at every step several pos- 
sibilities were open. It is idle to speculate on what might 
have been; but if we want to recapture the spirit of a hun- 
dred years ago, we must never forget that even the most 
astute among the contemporaries could not know for 
certain what was to happen next. The death of an in- 
dividual is an accident: Billault and Morny need not 
have died so soon; another Orsini might have taken a 
better aim. 

A regime with a sensational beginning must lose 
something of its magic as soon as the first surprise is over. 

THE SULTRY YEARS: 1860-1867 145 

After a few years conservative France took material or- 
der and prosperity for granted. True, with us, the mem- 
ory of the Great Depression and the fair promises of the 
New Deal soon faded away. But the Second Empire 
was not static; it did not live on the prestige of a single 
moment; it was capable of change and growth. The 
prosperity of the age never became humdrum: the gov- 
ernment was constantly seeking new lines of develop- 
ment/It might be said that the Napoleonic regime was 
founded on two ideas, Order and Progress, so antagonis- 
tic that the attempt to reconcile them was bound to fail)> 
But such a contradiction is inherent in every govern- 
ment: it might better be met by constant adjustment 
than by a series of jolts. The difficulties of the i86o's 
were not radically different from those of the *5o's. Had 
Napoleon III remained equal to himself, he would have 
been equal to the problems of the second decade. 

^The Second Empire was a personal regime, and its 
deterioration was that of its ruler. In essentials Napo- 
leon III did not change: at fifty and sixty he was gently 
stubborn as he had been in his youth, profoundly kind, 
reticent, with an unswerving faith in his destiny, yet 
with an odd streak of humility. The more dangerous 
aspects of his character at times the most attractive 
survived also: he was secretive, a Utopian, an adven- 
turer, a conspirator to the end. He had not grown stale; 
but he had turned weak^ 

{The first cause of this weakness was physiological^ 
For most men, the fifties are still the prime of life. But 
Napoleon aged beyond his years. He had recovered 
from the anemia induced by his years of imprisonment, 
and his many minor ailments were mere annoyances. 
But soon after 1860 he suffered increasingly from a 


stone in the bladder. He bore his suffering stoically: in 
the last campaign, he remained for hours in the saddle 
when every moment was torture. But the pain had a 
numbing effect. Even intermittent, even dulled by seda- 
tives, that pain would sap the magnificent self-assurance 
indispensable to a leader. Napoleon III had hours and 
days of surcease, and brief revivals of the old quiet 
energy. His mind was not clouded; his good will was 
unimpaired; but his will power was damaged. The Na- 
poleon of 1852 could make full use of a Rouher: he 
would not have allowed, out of sheer lassitude, such a 
coarse instrument to become a Vice-Emperor. 

His conduct was affected by his devotion to his only 
child, the none too robust little Prince Imperial. All 
hopes of a long and strenuous career for himself had to 
be abandoned: his one thought was to transmit, at the 
earliest possible moment, a steady throne to his heir. The 
dynastic principle, which he had rejected in his program- 
matic book Napoleonic Ideas, became his Neitiesis:, It 
blurred his political sense. It made him more conservative 
at a time when his sensitive intelligence was tellihg him 
that the way out was forward. It made him less daring, 
but, alas, not invariably more prudent. Had the throne 
been elective, he could have retired as soon as he dis- 
covered that infirmities were sapping his vigor. But he 
could not abdicate: he knew that the Empress, as regent, 
would have been capricious and unpopular. He had to 
wait until his son could be declared of age, in 1874. As 
late as midsummer 1870 this did not seem an unreason- 
able hope. 

This ardent love for their son was the one great bond 
between the Emperor and the Empress. When the 
prince was concerned, both parents were "legitimists/ 5 an 

THE SULTRY YEARS: 1860-1867 147 

absurd attitude in a sovereign who claimed to rule, not 
by the right of birth, but "by the will of the people/ 5 
But this parental affection was not the only cause of 
Eugenie's increasing influence. Napoleon had loved her 
passionately; he still loved her deeply. He was all the 
more reluctant to oppose her wishes, as he was conscious 
of his repeated marital transgressions. He made up to 
the Empress for his manifold sins against the wife. Not 
for the country's good. Persigny, who had conjugaL 
troubles of his own, and whose fanatical devotion to the 
Bonapartist cause excused the roughest candor, could 
tell his sovereign, as man to man: "No; femmes nous 
content cher" ("Our wives are a heavy burden"). And 
we surmise that Napoleon took silent refuge behind his 
impenetrable stare. 

Eugenie had elected Marie Antoinette as her heroine 
and pattern. She too was, all too eagerly, the refulgent 
queen of fashion. She too came to despise in her heart 
her gentle consort: with far less justification, for Na^ 
poleon III was not a Louis XVI. She grew impatient 
when he silently attempted to unravel a political prob' 
lem. She had spirit, like a thoroughbred; but spirit is not 
a safe substitute for mind. In public affairs, she believed 
in a haughty, truculent attitude, which she mistook for 
firmness and energy; and she used the same forcible 
methods in private life. The Tuileries resounded at 
times with her angry voice a courtier or a flunky be*- 
hind every door. She threatened, and caused, scandal: 
she rushed away in a rage, once as far as Scotland in the 
wrong season, once to Schwalbach near Wiesbaden. 
Napoleon could face physical danger, without bravado 
but with stolid courage; he found it harder to face 
jugal scenes. 


The Empress was regent three times: during the 
Italian campaign, during Napoleon's triumphal visit to 
Algeria (1865), and during the Franco'Prussian War. 
This official status justified her in bursting in upon cabi' 
net meetings. But apart from these spasmodic activities, 
she exerted an insidious, incessant pressure upon the Em' 
peror. There t is no definite act, not even the declaration 
of war in 1870, for which she can be made solely re' 
sponsible. But her influence was great, and steadily on 
the reactionary side. In the strictest sense of the term 
she was not a clericale, as were so many Spaniards and 
Mexicans in her days: she did not follow blindly the 
dictates of certain priests. But she was an ardent Catho' 
lie, and supported to the end the temporal power of the 
Pope. The party she favored in Mexico was that of the 
extreme conservatives, whose sole thought was to restore 
the property, privileges, and absolute domination of the 
Church. She resented as a personal affront the halting 
evolution of the Empire toward liberalism. She did not 
want the Emile Ollivier experiment to succeed: it seemed 
to her that it would whittle down the prerogatives of her 
son. She was among those who favored "a spirited atti' 
tude" in 1870: she trusted that a military victory would 
enable the Empire to sweep away all liberal nonsense. 
After the first defeats, she, against all competent authori' 
ties, opposed the return of the Emperor to Paris: she 
placed the prestige of the dynasty above the interests of 
the nation. 

Fifty years of dignified mourning blunted the resent' 
ment of the French: by treating her with deepening 
respect, public opinion apologized indirectly to the whole 
regime, so long unjustly damned without remission. But 
she never understood the true nature of the Empire: 

THE SULTRY YEARS: 18601867 149 

democratic Csesarism. She did not realize that if Na* 
poleon III used autocratic and repressive methods, it' was 
in the pursuit of a progressive policy. 

Unfortunately, there was no one within the imperial 
circle whose influence was capable of counterbalancing 
that of Eugenie. I have already alluded to the oft'quoted 
saying ascribed to Napoleon III, too neat to be authentic, 
but strikingly accurate: "How .can you expect the Em- 
pire to run straight? Eugenie is a Legitimist; Morny is 
an Orleanist; my cousin Napoleon is a Republican; I 
am a Socialist; there is but one Bonapartist in the lot, 
Persigny; and lie is mad. w Morny, in so far as he was 
anything, was an Orleanist: his ideal was a constitutional 
monarchy run by the wealthy for the benefit of the 
wealthy; the first and greatest commandment is: "En* 
jichissez vow!" And, in spite of his manifest gifts, 
Prince Napoleon could not lead the left wing within the 
imperial regime: his deplorable private life, his violent 
temper, his irresponsibility, his rabid anticlericalism, 
were insuperable disqualifications. Among the republi- 
cans, he never commanded confidence or respect. It is 
highly to the credit of Napoleon III, enfeebled as he 
was, that in the 1860'$ the Empire managed to steer its*- 
appointed middle course without catastrophic reversals. 
But for international problems, home difficulties might 
have been surmounted: the Emperor won a great politi- 
cal victory as late as May 1 870. 

The first of these home difficulties came, not from 
the radical opposition, but from those economic inter- 
ests Napoleon III had served so well: the industrialists. 
Ever since the days of Colbert, France had been fiercely 
protectionist. The Emperor was inclined to free trade. 
Not for doctrinaire reasons, but because he had seen 


free trade in England increase the well-being of the 
common man; because in his eyes free trade served the 
cause of world peace; and because he wanted to 
strengthen the ever precarious entente with England. A 
Saint-Simonian whom he respected and liked, Michel 
Chevalier, induced Richard Cobden to visit Paris. Se- 
cret negotiations were carried on at Saint-Cloud an 
economic Plombieres. Then, early in 1860, a formal 
treaty was signed, and in a very fine letter to Achille 
Fould the Emperor expounded his liberal program. The 
terms of the treaty were extremely moderate, but the op- 
position of the protectionists was bitter. Some industrial 
establishments did suffer: England, with her wealth in 
coal and her century-long experience in large-scale in- 
dustry, had assets that France could hardly match. But 
on the whole, and in spite of constant difficulties, French 
industry went on expanding; and at the great Exposition 
of 1867 it could show remarkable achievements/ In this 
case Napoleon III had proved that dream of the Philo* 
sophes: the Enlightened Despot^ 

Mere allusions must suffice for those distant activities 
of the Empire which add little to our understanding of 
the sovereign. France joined England in a punitive ex- 
pedition against China. Punitive? But for the looting and 
burning of the Summer Palace near Peking by the troops 
of the civilizing powers there was no ^ondigrt punish- 
ment ( 1860 ). France alone, but as the mandatory of the 
powers, conducted a brief police expedition in "Syria, 
where the Druses^had massacred the Christian Maronites. 
In both cases France acted as the protector of the 
Church, the Temporal Sword in the service of Him who 
had condemned the sword. Cochin China and Cam- 
bodia became French possessions in 1862 the begin- 

THE SXTLTRY YEARS: 1860-1867 151 

ning of that vast Indochinese Empire which the Fourth 
Republic was to find it so difficult either to relinquish or 
to defend. By methods of peaceful penetration, Paid-' 
herbe was turning a few trading posts in Senegal into the 
nucleus of a vast West African dominion. About Algeria, 
Napoleon III had saner views than many of his succes" 
sors. He proclaimed himself "the Emperor of the Arabs 
as well as of the French/* He desired the peaceful co-* 
existence of the various elements, without subjection, 
without forcible assimilation: in this he was the fore" 
runner of Lyautey. He liberated Abd-el'Kader, the hero 
of Algerian independence, and later made him Grand 
Cross of the Legion of Honor. In an admirable portrait, 
Hippolyte Flandrin painted Napoleon III peering into 
the future: for the forward-booking, generosity is wisdom. 

<e Never has Liberty been able to build a lasting politi- 
cal structure; when time has consolidated the edifice, 
Liberty crowns it." These words of Napoleon III, when 
he opened the legislative session of 1853, were a blunt 
assertion of authority; but they were also a promise. 
When would the edifice be ready for its crown in 
years, decades, or centuries? Under the Third Republic, 
the opportunist faith was summed up in two articles: 
(i) "We must wait for the opportune moment/ 3 (2) 
'The opportune moment may be tomorrow: it never is 
today/ 9 Was the Bonapartist faith of the same slippery 

^En 1860 Napoleon III decided, not to establish a 
liberal regime outright, but to start moving, by cautious 
steps, in the direction of liberty. This evolution, during 
the next ten years, was very real; but, like everything 
else under that puzzling reign, it was ambiguous. It might 


be considered as a sign of strength: the Empire was at 
the height of its power; in the elections of 1857, only 
five opponents had been returned. It could be considered 
as an admission of bewilderment: the political problems 
at home and abroad were getting beyond the grasp of 
the ruler, and the misgivings of the people could no 
longer be silenced. And both interpretations had their 
measure of trutRv 

^econd ambiguity: by liberalism, the bourgeoisie un- 
derstood parliamentary rule, the free competition of par- 
ties, the omnipotence of an elected assembly. Even 
today, rare are the minds free from such a confusion. To 
Napoleon III, the rule of assemblies, as under Louis- 
Philippe, was abomination: it meant the squabble of 
factions, the chaos it was his mission to curb. Adolphe 
Thiers thought that "liberty" meant the government of 
Monsieur Thiers, under King or Emperor Log: Na- 
poleon honestly believed that liberty meant liberation 
from Monsieur Thiers and all the pettiness of which he 
was such a perfect representative. Between the two con- 
ceptions there could be no sincere agreement. Even in 
1870, when in weariness Napoleon III accepted a "con- 
stitutional" that is, a parliamentary regime, he re- 
served the principle of a direct appeal to the people, 
the possibility of a legal coup d'etat against the hucksters 
and the prattlers. And the people responded as they had 
in 1851. The ambiguity was never dispelled^ 

By the decree of November 24, 1860, the two 
houses were allowed to discuss the terms of an address 
in response to the speech from the throne. Thus, at the 
opening of each session, there would be a survey of all 
the problems that the country had to face. Proposed leg- 
islation would be presented and defended before the legis- 

THE SULTRY YEARS: 1860 1867 153 

lative body by "ministers without portfolios/ 3 as spokes- 
men for the government; and the debates of the two 
assemblies would henceforth be published in full. No 
ministerial responsibility, the keystone of the parliamen- 
tary system: but there is none in America either. There 
were at first three Ministers without Portfolios: Baroche, 
Magne, Billault. 

The elections of 1863 were hotly disputed. The gov- 
ernment had a sweeping majority: six million against 
two, very much the same figures as in the triumphal elec- 
tion of December 10, 1848. But Paris voted heavily 
against the Empire, and Thiers, the arch-opponent of 
the regime, was returned. Napoleon III was no 
Charles X: he knew when to trim his sails. Persigny the 
heavy-fisted was sacrificed, with a dtical coronet as a 
parting gift. Duruy, a liberal historian, ^fhom Napoleon 
had found a congenial collaborator in his study of Csesar, 
became Minister of Public Education, almost a direct 
challenge to the clerical party. Billault alone, as Minister 
of State, remained the authorized mouthpiece of the Em- 

The choice was excellent: Billault, a sincere sup- 
porter of the Empire, but no fanatic, had a cultured and 
delicate mind, rich experience, and no lack of vigor. He 
and Morny between them could give parliamentary de- 
bates at least a dignified semblance of activity without 
endangering the principle of the regime: the Emperor 
as full representative of the whole people. Unfortunately, 
Billault died in October 1863, and Napoleon III pro- 
moted his assistant Eugene Rouher to be his successor. 

Eug&ne Rouher, a stocky, sturdy Auvergnat, had 
done creditable work in high positions. No great orator, 
he was a lucid, fluent, and at times all too forcible 


speaker. His constant readiness and his indefatigable 
vigor were, for the ailing and weary sovereign, a great 
relief and a great temptation. Why not leave all the talk" 
ing to Rouher? Napoleon III preserved the prerogative 
of his imperial silence. So by degrees Rouher became, 
not merely in the daily routine of affairs, but in matters 
of high policy, the Vice-Emperor, and so he remained 
for six fateful years. He was no fool, but his mind was 
rough, and his temper bordered on vulgarity. The great 
dreams, the far-lighted plans, the inveterate kindness of 
the ruler were lost upon him. Because he had been given 
jpasjraipreme power, he believed in authority more than 
the Emperor himself; in this he stood close to the Em- 
press, who also enjoyed and defended jealously a posi- 
tion she had not created. Above all, Rouher had the 
fundamental weakness of the lawyer and the politician: 
he thought primarily of winning his case, from day to 
day. A tactician, not a strategist. For all generous plan' 
ning, he might have invented the term of contempt, 

ee j 


Napoleon III at times chided him gently. When on 
December 5, 1867 Rouher declared that never would 
France allow Italy to enter Rome, the Emperor told 
him: "In politics, Monsieur Rouher, one should never 
say never." The master did as a rule preserve his fiery 
agent from irreparable indiscretions, but the agent was 
incapable of returning the same service. It was Rouher 
who called the lamentable Mexican adventure "the 
deepest thought of the reign/* 

Three problems, which overlapped and merged in- 
extricably, beset the Empire in its second decade: the 
Roman question from 1848 to 1870; the Mexican 

THE SULTRY YEARS: 1860-1867 J S5 

embroilment from 1861 to 1867; the menace of Prus- 
sian hegemony in Germany and in Europe from 1864 
to 1870. Each, complex in itself, was made worse con-' 
founded by the violent clashes of opinions at home. 
Only totalitarian dictatorships can impose apparent una- 
nimityiQMapoleon^ rule was dictatorial at times, it never 
was totalitarian. Division is the badge, the glory, and the 
peril of real freedom^ 

We have seen that in 1849 a French expedition de- 
stroyed Mazzini's Roman Republic and restored the 
Pope. A determined show of force may veil hopeless 
ambiguities. For the French republicans arid they still 
controlled the National Assembly the move was meant 
to checkmate Austria, whose intervention would have 
been the clear-cut triumph of reaction. According to the 
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Drouyn de Lhuys, if the 
Pope was to be restored, it was as a liberal ruler. And 
the Prince-President upheld the same policy in a letter 
to his friend Colonel Edgard Ney. But the murder of 
his minister Rossi and the insurrection against his own 
paternal rule had made "liberalism 53 in any form abhor" 
rent to Pius IX. Henceforth he was to be the standard' 
bearer of Christian society against the Red menace to 
God, Legitimacy, and Property. The French conserva- 
tives, who had helped elect the President, and who came 
to full power on May 28, 1849, were in complete ac- 
cord with the Pope. They considered the Roman expedi- 
tion their triumph. The temporal power of the Papacy 
became the symbol of conservatism throughout Europe. 
What France needed was "a Roman expedition at 

For ten years the situation remained at the same time 
tense and dormant. Then came the Italian campaign. 


Napoleon III, a genuine Italian patriot, hoped for the 
liberation and unification of the whole peninsula, but in 
the form of a federation, with the Pope, retaining his 
own territories, as its president. Between modern and 
liberal Piedmont on the one hand, the Two Sicilies and 
the Papal States on the other, no close association was 
possible: they belonged to different centuries. Napo- 
leon's far'sighted and peaceful plan was rejected by 
unanimous tacit consent. So the minor principalities freely 
united with Piedmont, the northeastern provinces of the 
Papal States seceded, Garibaldi conquered Sicily and 
Naples. The Pope was now besieged in his woefully 
reduced domain, under the protection of French arms. 

This was a great victory for the liberals, the Reds, the 
enemies of God and of society the terms were then 
interchangeable. And the Emperor had done nothing 
to stop this sacrilegious spoliation; he may even have 
nodded approval. The French conservatives, for many 
years the faithful supporters of the Empire, were in" 
furiated. The bishops uttered, or rather .fulminated, 
their most solemn warnings. If the Empire was not to 
forfeit their loyalty, the French army must remain in 

On September 15, 1864 Napoleon III came to a 
reasonable compromise with the new Kingdom of Italy. 
Rome would be respected. Florence was to be the capi' 
tal. The French army would be withdrawn within two 
years. The Pope considered this agreement as a betrayal 
of his sacred rights, as a victory for the revolutionary 
spirit. On December 8 he replied with a virulent denun' 
ciation of all liberal tendencies, in two great documents, 
the encyclical Quanta Cura, and the Syllabus of the 
Errors of Our Age. The eightieth and last proposition 

THE SULTRY YEARS: 1860-1867 157 

of the Syllables is a memorable challenge: "Anathema 
on him who should ever maintain: that the Pontiff can 
and must be reconciled and compromise with progress, 
liberalism, and modern civilization/' 

**We must constantly repeat that for Napoleon III, 
order was not an ideal per se, and was not identical with 
conservatism: it was a condition of progress. Thus the 
Syllabus was condemning the policy of the Emperor 
root and branch. He met the attack with the same vigor" 
ous methods he had used against his opponents of the 
Left: the publication of the Syllabus in France was for" 
bidden, and Catholic newspapers felt in their turn the 
weight of censorship. The battle was engaged on every 
plane: in the realm of ideas, in diplomacy, in home 
politics. But the three"cornered fight was extraordinarily 
confused. Napoleon III still considered himself a good 
Catholic and the protector of the Church; so he was con" 
sidered by many believers; and he was denounced for 
this very reason by the anticlericals, his cousin Napoleon 
in the leact^ 

In December 1866, in accordance with the agree" 
ment, the last French troops were withdrawn from 
Rome. The Pope did not rely for his security entirely 
on the good faith of the Italian King. During the two 
years' respite, the Papal army had been reorganized. It 
drew volunteers from the whole Catholic world, and 
was placed under the command of a French general 
a bitter opponent of the Empire Lamoriciere. But on 
October 27, 1867 the irrepressible Garibaldi attacked 
what remained of the Papal States. The French had pre" 
pared for such a contingency: immediately they landed 
again at Civita Vecchia. On November 3 they de" 
feated Garibaldi at Mentana. This victory was a day of 


shame and mourning for the French liberals. They were 
not comforted by the report that "the new Chassepot 
rifles had done wonders/ 5 As the Kingdom of Italy had 
been unable to restrain the great condottierg, the French 
stayed in Rome. They were still, there" when the Franco" 
Prussian War broke out. 

Napoleon III then dispatched his cousin Prince Na- 
poleon on a mission to his father-in-law, Victor Em- 
manuel II. The Italian King did not refuse to honor the 
terms of the alliance, but he named his price: Rome, 
The Empress haughtily rejected the proposal. She was 
a conservative and could not abandon a key position. 
She was a Catholic, and the Pope was her son's god- 
father. When his offer was rejected, Victor Emmanuel 
felt greatly relieved: Prussia too had been his ally, and 
more recently than France. On August 19 the French 
left Rome at last. On September 4 the Empire fell. On 
September 20 the Italian troops entered Rome, meet" 
ing only with a token resistance. On October 20 the 
Vatican Council closed after having proclaimed the 
dogma of Papal infallibility. 

The Mexican adventure has been described as a grab 
that failed. While the police were fighting among them" 
selves, the imperial burglar attempted to loot a helpless 
country. When the police returned to duty, he dropped 
the <wag^ and slunk away. 

This picture is another caricature; like all caricatures, 
it has a painful element of truth. Again, reality offers an 
infinitely complex blend: greed and noble dreams, far" 
sighted plans and sheer gambles, the whole smothered in 
blundering. The affair began in a commonplace way- 

THE SULTRY YEARS: i 60-1867 159 

In 1 86 1 the Mexican government had to suspend pay" 
ment on its foreign obligations. By the Treaty of Lon' 
don, on October 31, France, Great Britain, and Spain 
decided to act jointly for the protection of their inter- 
ests; on December 17 they occupied Vera Cruz. 

Napoleon III would not have moved single'handed. 
But the entente among the three powers did not last 
long. Some of the French claims (the Jecker Bonds, with 
the backing of Morny) were outrageous. England was 
averse to any intervention of a political character. The 
Spanish representative, General Prim, a soldier with il- 
limitable ambitions, expected to have command of the 
allied forces; when this was denied him, he withdrew. 
France was left alone. 

Her aims were ill'defined. Officially, she was still 
pursuing (manu million) a purely financial understand- 
ing with President Juarez. By agreement, the occupa- 
tion troops had been allowed, while discussions were 
proceeding, to camp inland, away from the fever-ridden 
marshes of the coast, A ticklish situation: minor conflicts 
were hard to avoid. The French general, Lorencez, ill 
advised by Mexican conservatives and by a war-minded 
diplomat, Dubois de Saligny, advanced to the gates of 
Puebla. On May 5, 1862 he was checked by the 
juaristas and compelled to fall back upon Orizaba, 

France so far had not been aware that she was en* 
gaged in a serious contest in Mexico. The opposition, 
ably led by Jules Favre, warned the government of the 
dangers. But, according to the deplorable tradition of 
military prestige, it was impossible to withdraw after a 
defeat: the humiliation of Puebla must first be avenged. 
Credits were voted, and a veritable army was shipped to 


Vera Cruz under General Forey. Billault, the Minister 
of State, spoke only of the honor of the flag: no men" 
tion was made of a proposed Mexican Empire. 

But the thought had already entered the minds both 
of the Emperor and of the Empress. Only it was two 
different empires they had in view. The only point the 
two had in common was that neither had a basis in ac* 
tual facts. 

Eugenie had been won over by the Mexican exiles, 
Gutierrez de Estrada, Hidalgo, Almonte, Monsignor 
Labastida. They were radically opposed to the whole 
reforma movement, and particularly to the measures that 
had curbed the power and cut down the possessions of 
the clergy. They claimed that in Mexico, an ardently 
Catholic country, the agitators who had disturbed the 
social edifice were but a handful. The merest show of 
force would rally the oppressed or deluded masses to 
the righteous cause. 

Napoleon III caressed the idea of an empire in the 
image of his own: a regime that would restore order so 
as to foster progress. He was a democrat in his own 
fashion: he was not a republican. Republics had failed 
in France, as they were failing everywhere in Latin 
America. Even in the United States the Civil War was 
making it plain that republican institutions were not a 
panacea. The only American country that was develop* 
ing in peace was Brazil, under an enlightened Emperor. 
^Napoleon III considered himself as the appointed leader 
of the "Latin" world. He wanted to strengthen that vast 
area against the "colossus of the North," which, four' 
teen years earlier, had wrested from Mexico half of its 
territory. The North American reader may be pardoned 
for viewing events in a different perspective. But Na-* 

THE SULTRY YEARS: i 60-1867 161 

poleon IIFs conception had no lack of consistency. In 
our own days the Mexican Jose Vasconcelos, a brilliant 
mind, recognized its merits:* 

Empress and Emperor agreed upon a candidate: 
Archduke Maximilian, brother of Francis Joseph. Both 
wanted to compensate the Habsburgs for their loss of 
prestige in Italy, Napoleon moved by his inveterate de" 
sire for the healing of wounds, Eugenie, because she 
had a predilection for Austria as the ideal Catholic and 
legitimist state. Maximilian was young, handsome, not 
inexperienced: he had done well as Viceroy in Milan, 
and he was eager to prove his mettle, His wife, Chap 
lotte, daughter of Leopold, King of the Belgians, was 
even more dazzled by the prospect of an imperial crown 
in a land of exotic romance. Maximilian, however, set 
conditions that were extremely sound: that he be called 
by the manifest desire of the Mexican people; and that 
he be assured of the support, not of France merely, but 
of England and Spain as well. 

Meanwhile Forey, after staying in winter quarters at 
Orizaba, had marched upon Puebla in March 1863. 
The siege was protracted and costly; when the French 
fought their way into the battered city, they found the 
"liberated*' population unresponsive and even sullen. A 
different reception, however, awaited them in Mexico 
City, from which Juarez had fled. On June 10 they 
entered the capital "on a carpet of flowers" amid the 
joyous ringing of the bells and the acclaim of the popu' 
lace. Deluded by this brave show, Forey hastened to 
turn over the government to a junta of conservatives. 
They in their turn picked out an Assembly of Notables, 
all of the same persuasion. It was this highly misrepre" 
sentative body that offered the crown to Maximilian. 


The archduke and the French Emperor must have 
known that this was no honest plebiscite. At one time 
Napoleon hesitated on the brink; at another, Maximilian. 
But each held the other to his promise, and both ac- 
cepted the calculated risk: if this was not yet the spon- 
taneous wish of the Mexican people, the presence of an 
Emperor might be a decisive element. It almost came to 
pass: when Maximilian reached Mexico City on June 
io, 1864, a year after the French troops had entered it, 
he and his consort were wildly acclaimed. 

Forey returned to France with a marshal's baton; 
Bazaine succeeded him. With far fewer soldiers than 
Lyautey, half a century later, had in Morocco, he "paci- 
fied" the vast country in little over one year. Juarez was 
driven to El Paso; only guerrillas kept up the resistance. 
Maximilian felt justified in considering them as bandits: 
if caught in arms, they were to be summarily shot. 

The political situation, however, was hopeless. Wher- 
ever they went, the imperial pair was cheered, and 
Maximilian may have had vaguely liberal ideas, al- 
though he was far more interested in court etiquette. But 
he found himself the prisoner of the ultra-reactionaries, 
who had not called him from Miramar Castle to be a 
crowned Juarez. The intelligent middle class a very 
scant element in the Mexico of the last century when 
not outright pro-Juarez, was discouraged by the clerical 
tinge of the governing circles. Harassed and bankrupt, 
Mexico had no funds to spare for a vast program of 
public works. 

The decisive blows, however, were not struck in 
Mexico itself. As soon as the Civil War was over, the 
United States insisted on the withdrawal of the French 
troops: intervention may wear different colors, and 1865 

THE SULTRY YEARS: 18601867 163 

was not "i 778. Napoleon, harried by fierce opposition 
at home, had to face menacing European problems. He 
understood. On January 15, 1866 he notified Maxi- 
milian that he would recall his army. There was ample 
time for the Mexican Emperor to retire: a mistaken 
sense of honor and duty, the dread of creeping back de- 
feated to an ironical Europe, bade him remain. He and 
Charlotte even thought that they would at last find their 
way to their people's hearts, now that the overbearing 
and ruthless Bazaine was leaving. They soon realized 
their pathetic impotence. Charlotte rushed to Paris, 
pleaded in vain, scolded, raged, and finally took refuge 
in madness, not to be released until death, sixty years 
later. On March 12, 1867 Bazaine left Vera Cruz. On 
June 19 Maximilian was shot at Queretaro, 

^Napoleon III was "a man of '48," much closer to 
Mazzini than he was to Bismarck. He had hoped for a 
Europe in which problems could be settled by inter-- 
national congresses in the light of far-lighted and gen- 
erous principles. That hope was waning. Nationalism, at 
first a gospel of fraternity, was turning into a tribal spirit, 
fierce and exclusive. Science, far from bringing "sweet- 
ness and light," was spreading materialistic darkness, 
Darwinism was interpreted as "struggle for life." This 
was called "realism" in philosophy, art, and politics, and 
Bismarck, the master of Realpolitik, was soon to pro- 
claim that international problems were to be settled 
through blood and irony 

In the case of Poland, Napoleon III was sadly im- 
pressed with the impotence of his ideal. Like most 
Frenchmen, he felt that as long as the martyrdom of 
Poland endured, Europe was in a state of mortal sin. 


When an insurrection broke out in 1863, all hearts were 
with the Polish patriots: for once, Napoleon and the 
Empress were on the same side. The Emperor was 
urged to intervene. But what could he do? England re- 
fused to support even his most cautious diplomatic 
moves* Mere diplomacy would have been futile; a war 
of the liberal West against Poland's three jailers would 
have caused more sufferings than it could have relieved. 
The sole results of Napoleon IIFs- velleities were a 
sense of frustration and the cooling of Franco'Russian 

In 1864 the problem of the duchies broke out again. 
Schleswig and Holstein were in an ambiguous position. 
They were under the Danish crown, but they were also 
part of the vague Germanic confederacy. A large pro- 
portion of the population spoke German. Austria and 
Prussia waged war on hapless Denmark. This time Eng- 
land wanted some action: her sympathies were with the 
royal Danish house. Moated by the sea, she was in" 
vulnerable: all the perils of a conflict with the Central 
Powers would have fallen upon France. Napoleon III 
sadly shook his head. He could only get into the peace 
treaty a stipulation for a plebiscite, his favorite device. 
This promise was not redeemed until 1920, when North 
Schleswig was returned to Denmark. 

Austria was the traditional head of the Germanic 
Confederacy, tenuous shadow of the shadowy Holy Ro' 
man Empire. Her supremacy had been rudely chal" 
lenged by Frederick the Great in the eighteenth century. 
After the War of Liberation ( 1 8 1 3-5 ) , Prussia, 
stretching from Memel to Malmedy, could no longer 
be held in subordination. Austria was a multinational 
empire; she was Catholic rather than German; and her 

THE SULTRY YEARS: 1860-1867 165 

rule, especially under the interminable Metternich re" 
gime, had been frankly antagonistic to progress. Even 
the Frankfurt Parliament had found it hard to define the 
place of Austria in the Germanic body. 

(The struggle for supremacy came to a head in 1866. 
It was startlingly brief: after seven weeks Austria was 
decisively defeated at Koniggratz (Sadowa). Napo" 
leon III had expected a protracted struggle. In case of a 
stalemate, his mediation would have been welcome: 
once more he would have been the arbiter of Europe. 
The swift and absolute triumph of Prussia destroyed 
that flattering possibility^ 

When the news of Sadowa reached Paris, the first 
reaction was favorable. Austrians were well liked in 
France, but Austria was an inveterate enemy. France 
still wanted to follow Richelieu's injunction: "Humili" 
ate the House of Austria." The liberals far preferred 
modern, efficient, scientific Prussia. Bismarck, huge, 
handsome, bluff, and witty, a thorough diplomat under 
his artful bluntness, had been very popular at the Tuiler" 
ies. It must be noted that Napoleon had encouraged 
Victor Emmanuel to ally himself with Prussia: he 
wanted, in fulfillment of his pledge in 1859, Italy to 
have Venice. So a number of people in Paris, spon* 
taneously, lighted Chinese lanterns as a time'honored 
sign of rejoicing. 

Their reaction was not unsound: had France fully 
accepted the situation, the unity of Germany under Prus" 
sian leadership would have offered no threat to her 
essential interests. Although some Germans had been 
clamoring for Alsace since 1813, Bismarck was not com- 
mitted to that policy. Then the mood changed from 
cheerful equanimity to sullenness, as though a word had 


been passed: Sadowa appeared as an intolerable humili" 
ation for France. The opposition, of course, played that 
card. Sadowa undeniably involved a loss of prestige: 
the Prussians, those upstarts, had dared to conquer with" 
out consulting France. And their victory shattered the 
hope of settling once for all, in a manner acceptable to 
French pride, the eternal problem of the Rhine frontier. 
In 843, by the Treaty of Verdun, Charlemagne's em" 
pire had been partitioned among his three grandsons. 
And for one thousand years France and Germany, as 
they slowly grew into national consciousness, had been 
wrestling for the amorphous zone between them, the 
share of Lothair: Lotharingia. Had Austria been vie" 
torious, a buffer state, thoroughly German but friendly 
to France, might have been created in the Rhineland. 

Napoleon III had no cause and no desire to fight the 
victor who had just demonstrated his marvelous effi" 
ciency. But the ultra-Bonapartists and the opposition 
harped so much on France's loss of prestige that the Em" 
peror felt compelled to seek some compensation. His 
mediation was accepted, but only after the terms of 
peace had been incorporated in the armistice. Venice 
was yielded to him, and he generously turned it over 
to Italy. But Europe smiled incredulously, and Italy, 
smarting under her defeats at Custozza and Lissa, re" 
sented the slur that this indirect cession implied. In Oc" 
tober 1865 Napoleon had conducted secret negotiations 
with Bismarck at Biarritz; it was expected that some 
agreement had resulted from this other Plombi&res. But 
the discussions had proved abortive. Napoleon III had 
reached the point of mental fatigue when he could not 
think clearly of bridges ahead, and when he came to the 
river of decision, there was no bridge at all. 

THE SULTRY YEARS: 1860-1867 167 

After Sadowa, he hinted at modest compensations: 
Mayence? The Palatinate? The Sarre? At least those 
few cities in the Sarre that had remained French until 
1814, and had not been wrenched from her until after 
Waterloo? Bismarck scornfully called these hesitant 
overtures "begging for a tip." The victor saw no reason 
to yield an inch of German soil for services not rendered. 
These minor rebuffs rankled. France was confirmed in 
the belief that Sadowa had been a great national disas" 

A last chance came. The King of the Netherlands 
was willing to sell to France the Grand Duchy of 
Luxemburg, which was his personal possession. A pleb" 
iscite would probably have ratified the transaction: the 
upper classes were to a large extent Frenchified; the 
common people, speaking a local dialect, had no na- 
tional German feeling; and the France of 1867, in spite 
of recent rebuffs, still enjoyed incomparable glamour. 
Unfortunately, the city of Luxemburg happened to be 
a federal German fortress. Its transfer to France would 
have been a humiliation for a nation "in process of be" 
coming/ 5 and bursting with pride and hope. It was im- 
possible for Bismarck not to interpose his veto. For a 
while the situation was threatening. Ultimately a com- 
promise was reached. The duchy was made independent 
and neutral; it would Join the North German Zollverein, 
or customs union; the fortress was to be dismantled. A 
wan and weary peace might still be nursed back to 



"We shall give the Emperor a happy old age' 3 

OXJR last chapter must have left with the reader an im- 
pression of unmitigated gloom. This could hardly be 
avoided: in such a brief sketch as this, it is difficult to 
render all the dissolving lights and shades. In 1867, 
many observers saw no reason to believe that the Em- 
pire was doomed. Its prestige had suffered, but prestige 
is an elusive thing. It may vanish with dramatic sudden- 
ness and never return; it may survive many checks and 
rebuffs; it may even revive after an eclipse. The moral 
leadership of America went through feverish rises and 
falls during the decade that followed the end of the 
Second World War, The prestige of Byzantium, that 
of the Holy Roman Empire, that of Spain, had an in- 
terminable twilight. In the nineteenth century, Austria 
suffered repeated humiliations; yet it remained, not only 
a going concern, but an impressive great power. As late 
as 1914, it still had a chance of creating and leading a 
Danubian Federation, 

On more practical ground than prestige, France in 
1867 had enjoyed fifteen years of order and prosperity. 
Not without shadows and misgivings, to be sure. But 
the wealth of the country was no dream, and no perma- 
nent loss of momentum was perceptible. The economy 
of France was still dynamic. 

IN DUBIOUS BATTLE: 1867-1870 169 

Finally, although the Emperor had lost his aura of 
miraculous luck, although the deterioration of his health 
and will power was known to a few and surmised by 
many, it was felt that the regime, just because it was a 
hybrid, was capable of renovation. With dimmer sight 
and enfeebled hand, the Emperor was still attempting 
to discern the state of public opinion and to shape his 
course according to its trend. There had been recessions 
on several fronts, but no irretrievable loss. 

In the year 1867 splendor and anguish offered a 
tragic and baroque contrast. The reconstruction of Paris, 
the most sensational achievement of the Empire, was in 
its main lines completed. The great Exposition, ad' 
mirably planned by the Catholic sociologist Le Play, 
was immensely larger and more brilliant than that of 
1855. I* ^vealed the industrial development of the age; 
and in quality if not in bulk, France could hold her own 
against England or Germany. Princes, kings, emperors, 
entertained three and five at a time, seemed to pay court 
to their overlord. Napoleon's ingrained desire for recon- 
ciliation was satisfied: the King of Prussia came and was 
well received. Never had the glamour of Parisian life 
enjoyed such a universal appeal. Aristocrats, wits, and 
philosophes flocked to the eighteenth'century salons in 
their hundreds; but now farmers and merchants, athirst 
for a more brilliant and freer life, came in their myriads 
from the ends of the world. 

No doubt there was a meretricious aspect to this pleas* 
lire rush. The Brazilians and Moldo'Wallachians who 
booked theater seats months in advance did not wish to 
see Polyeucte or Aihalie, but La Vie Parisienne, and 
Hortense Schneider in La Qrande'Duchesse de Qerol* 
stein. It was Theresa the irreverent gaming whom they 


wanted to hear, not Renan or Claude Bernard. Luxury 
and power were evident everywhere, with a glow of 
intelligence and a gloss of taste that saved them from 
utter vulgarity. But there were hints of decay, as in a 
golden autumnal landscape. The new Paris was impres" 
sive, but its energetic creator, Haussmann, was under 
bitter attack. If the Exposition was a breath-taking epit- 
ome of man's efforts, it offered a fringe of pleasure re- 
sorts which made material progress seem vain and even 
perilous. If the playboys lions and cocodes had their 
fling, the temper of many old families, the mainstay of 
France, was critical and even sullen. Everywhere, by 
the side of vigor and confidence, there could be felt a 
sense of uneasy satiety, of restless torpor, of undefinable 
dread. Ernest Hello, the Catholic mystic, wondered 
prophetically why the Tuileries were not yet ablaze and 
why the Barbarians should so long delay their coming. 
In my own youth the splendors of 1867 were still un- 
forgotten; to many thoughtful contemporaries they 
seemed entrancing and oppressive, like some gorgeous 
and feverish dream. 

These contrasts may be summed up in one scene. On 
June 30 the imperial family was to preside over the dis- 
tribution of prizes at the Exposition. Two historical 
stagecoaches, all crystal and gold, straight from the land 
of Cinderella and the Trianon Museum, with eight 
horses apiece, carried the Emperor, the Empress, the 
Prince Imperial, and the guest of honor, the Sultan, 
Among those present was the Prince of Wales. The 
Prince Imperial, eleven years old, gave out the prizes 
as nominal President of the Exposition and mascot of the 
regime. His playing the star role gave a touch of senti- 
ment to a very humdrum and fatiguing occasion: the 

IN DUBIOUS BATTLE: 1867-1870 171 

vast audience was sweltering in that magnified hothouse, 
the Palace of Industry. Hardly had the twelve-hundred- 
piece orchestra struck up an anthem by Rossini when an 
aide handed the Emperor a telegram. The sovereign re- 
mained impassive, went on with the show, gave a speech 
on peace, progress, good will. But the Austrian Ambas- 
sador and his staff quietly withdrew. The message con- 
firmed the news of Maximilian's death. 

Napoleon III was not blind to the Prussian menace. 
More than prestige was at stake. The advent of Bis- 
marck was a portent: resurgent barbarism ("blood and 
iron") with all the resources of modern technique. It 
was no longer a question of conquering the left bank of 
the Rhine, but of preserving the integrity and dignity of 

To meet that threat, two means were necessary: a 
network of alliances, and a larger, more efficient army. 
The Emperor addressed himself to both tasks; in both 
he came tantalizingly near success. 

He had always sought the friendship and co-operation 
of England at times against the grumblings of his fol- 
lowers. By 1867 he had long been aware that he could 
never count on full-hearted British support. Queen Vic- 
toria had been won by the strange personality of Napo- 
leon III, and especially by his unexpected gentleness, 
but politically she never was a friend. Her origins were 
German; her beloved Albert had been the quintessence 
of Germanism; her daughter was Crown Princess of 
Prussia. Protestant England disliked Napoleon as the 
protector of the Pope, and felt in sympathy with Lu- 
theran North Germany. Pro-Germanism assumed a viru- 
lent form in Carlyle, who was considered by many as a 


genius and a major prophet. The best that could be ex* 
pected of Russia was frigid neutrality: the Polish prob" 
lem created a gulf between Russia and France, a bond 
of complicity between Russia and Prussia. Austria and 
Italy alone offered serious chances of support. 

Napoleon III did his best to win their friendship. No 
easy task. Austria, herself in the throes of reorganization, 
could hardly be brought into the same camp as Italy, 
with whom she had fought twice in seven years. And 
between Italy and France the Roman question was a 
constant source of distrust and enmity. Above all, both 
Austria and Italy had been impressed by the scientific 
efficiency of the Prussian army. Nations are shy of link- 
ing their fate with a power doomed to defeat: like Mus" 
solini in 1940, they prefer rushing to the assistance of 
the victor. So Austria and Italy would consider an alii" 
ance with France only if two conditions were fulfilled: 
that the regime should offer guarantees of stability, and 
that its military establishment be greatly improved. 

The key even to the diplomatic situation therefore 
was army reform. In September 1866 France had under 
arms 288,000 men: a third of them stationed in Rome, 
Algeria, Mexico. No organized reserves. The Germanic 
Confederation could bring into line 1,100,000 trained 
soldiers. The French army was theoretically based on 
universal military duty, but not on universal military 
service. The contingent, determined every year, was far 
less than the number of young men coming of age. Lots 
were drawn; those who had an unlucky number had to 
serve seven years; the rest were completely released 
from further obligations. And this was the crux of the 
whole problem if a young bourgeois was drafted, he 
could purchase a substitute. The rich therefore were 

IN DUBIOUS BATTLE: 1 867-1 870 173 

never found in the ranks. They could choose a military 
career as officers; or they could keep out of the army 
altogether. This privilege they were determined to de- 
fend with heroic obstinacy. 

In October and November 1866 Napoleon III con- 
vened a special commission composed of the marshals, 
a few high-ranking generals, his right-hand man Rouher, 
and some cabinet ministers. He proposed effective uni- 
versal service for a limited term. Prince Napoleon alone 
supported him. The generals were not enthusiastic. 
Trained reserves disguised civilians did not appeal 
to them. If you want a larger army, said the Minister 
of War, Randon, why not raise the term of service from 
seven to nine years? All, especially Marshal Vaillant, a 
political-minded soldier, warned the Emperor that his 
scheme would encounter implacable hostility in the 
Chamber. Napoleon knew that even a referendum on 
the subject would turn against him. Discouraged, he ac- 
cepted the compromise plan of Marshal Niel, whom he 
then made his Minister of War: all Frenchmen to serve 
for six years, with the colors or in the reserve; as a goal, 
1,200,000 trained or in training; 400,000 on active 
service, 400,000 in the reserve, 400,000 in the terri- 
torial guard. 

Marshal Niel, long Napoleon's confidential adviser, 
was an excellent choice. Not a beau sdbreur, but a seri- 
ous student of military problems, he was intelligent, firm 
and not intransigent. But public opinion was almost 
unanimous against his plan. The prefects reported wide- 
spread discontent; by-elections showed sudden gains in 
opposition votes. Even loyal Bonapartists vowed that 
if they had to vote for the law in deference to the Em- 
peror's wishes, they would see to it that it was sabotaged. 


Everyone hated the thought of a sharp increase in the 
military burden. The bourgeois would not give up their 
cherished prerogative not to serve. The republicans were 
only too glad to oppose the government on any issue. 
Besides, they were pursuing most sincerely a lofty ideal 
of peace and disarmament, of which Victor Hugo was 
the pontiff. What if France herself were invaded? Then 
they would call la levee en masse, all Frenchmen rising 
invincibly to the defense of the sacred soil, as in 1793. 

To accept NieFs plan had been a first capitulation. 
Now Niel had to capitulate in his turn before the fierce 
opposition of Chamber and country. The worst elements 
of the old system were retained: the contingent to be 
fixed every year, men for active service to be chosen by 
lot, the rich still able to buy themselves off. The terri" 
torial guard (Qarde Mobile^) remained merely a name. 
The sole important change was that the term of service 
was reduced from seven years to five. Instead of being 
enlarged and revitalized, the French army actually lost 
some of its striking power. 

This might have been wisdom, if public opinion had 
pursued a determined policy of peace. But all parties 
had united in upbraiding the Empire for loss of prestige 
and lack of spirit. Throughout the reign the republicans, 
apostles of peace, had clamored for democratic crusades, 
for tearing up the Diktat of Vienna, for reconquering the 
""natural and historical frontiers/ 3 As for the middle class, 
I must quote again Doudan's pungent remark: "The 
French bourgeois wants to 'bestrew with his corpse' all 
the battlefields of Europe, while toasting his toes by his 
cozy fireside." In a more modern phrase, he wanted but- 
ter first of all, but also the prestige and power that de* 
mand the backing of big guns. 

IN DUBIOUS BATTLE: 1867-1870 175 

Napoleon III drew the lesson: if the French had no 
desire to rearm, then they should be resolved not to 
fight. He adopted a passive line of conduct, well in ac" 
cord with his own fatigue. "What does it matter?' 5 he 
answered in 1 870, when they proposed Gramont as For' 
eign Secretary; "he or some other, since we have decided 
to do nothing? 55 He, the Man on Horseback, the heir 
of the Napoleonic Legend, was thus forced into the at" 
titude of Louis'Philippe: make as good a show as you 
can, but pursue a policy of peace-at-any-price. If two 
had played at that game, it would have been safe enough. 
But Bismarck had his own aims and his own methods* 

1867 had been a year of violent contrasts: the 
Franco-Prussian conflict tense to the breaking-point, 
peace preserved without dishonor, the splendors, both 
glitter and gold, of the Exposition; the humiliation and 
the remorse of Maximilian's death. 1868 was a year of 
dull, unrelieved, mounting irritation. The Exposition 
had left a hangover: it had raised the cost of living, it 
had not created permanent sources of prosperity. Now 
the crops were poor and business was stagnant. The 
government attempted to assuage this discontent by ac' 
celerating the liberal reforms. The press laws were to be 
greatly relaxed; public meetings, even of a purely po" 
litical nature, were to be made much easier. The Bona" 
partists of the Old Guard grumbled; Persigny, now in 
ducal retirement, foresaw the inevitable end: what is 
Bonapartism if not a government with a grip? The 
Empress was dismayed by this yielding to the forces of 
subversion. Anticlericalism in particular was rife, as the 
occupation of Rome was the weakest point in the Em-* 
peror's policy; and Eugenie associated in her mind God, 


the Pope, and the Empire. Even the Vice-Emperor 
Rouher disapproved of the trend. He offered to retire; 
Napoleon III, dreading too radical a ^change, induced 
him to remain. Rouher, a retained advocate, did defend 
before the Chamber the proposed measures, and on one 
occasion, at least, he defended them well. But his heart 
was on the other side. 

These concessions were wise; indeed, they were long 
overdue. But they could not retrieve the popularity and 
increase the strength of the regime. What the people 
really wanted was not so much the right to voice their 
discontent as positive remedies for their uneasiness. A 
show of dynamism on the part of the government would 
have helped far more than any "liberal" law. But the 
men in power had nothing to offer in that line: no for- 
eign adventure, no Mexico with illimitable prospects; 
even public works, railroad-building, city improve- 
ments, had leveled off and were beginning to offer di- 
minishing returns. The Suez Canal was nearing com- 
pletion, but it provided employment only for a handful 
of French engineers. The opposition, either clerical, or 
bourgeois Orleanist, or republican, had no constructive 
program to offer either. So the new liberties could be 
used for destructive purposes only, to criticize more bit- 
terly the existing regime. 

The immediate result was a great increase in viru' 
lence; that is to say, in vulgarity. The imperial censor- 
ship had at least imposed a degree of decency in tone. 
Even the Five, the able and courageous republican mi- 
nority in the lower house since 1857, had spoken with 
studied moderation. Now the flood gates of scurrility 
were open. Hundreds imitated Victor Hugo's apocalyp- 
tic vehemence, without the least shadow of his all- 

IN DUBIOUS BATTLE: 1867-1870 177 

absolving^genius. Modem readers may well be astounded 
at the tremendous success of Rochefort's weekly pam- 
phlet, La Lanterne (from May 30, 1868). An impov- 
erished aristocrat, the Marquis Henri de Rochefort- 
Lugay, had written chatty columns, at the same time 
bright and vapid, for the more frivolous smart'set papers. 
He saw his chance, and turned his methods personal 
insults spiced with wisecracks to the destruction of the 
regime. The response was prodigious. 

In July 1868 Eugene Tenot published his Paris en 
Decembre 1851. It exposed the acts of Brutality which 
had marked and marred the Coup d'Etat; its success 
was another blow to the Empire. In its pages, the re- 
publicans rediscovered a forgotten hero, Dr, Baudin. 
Delescluze opened a subscription for a monument to the 
man whom the Parisian workers had refused to follow. 
The subscription was going none too well, when the 
government committed the blunder of prosecuting Deles- 
cluze. He was defended by Leon Gambetta. The trial 
gave the bohemian young lawyer a splendid opportunity 
to display his impassioned southern eloquence. Jules 
Favre was aging, Ollivier ready to turn his coat; Gam- 
betta, ardent, untrammeled^untried, appealed to the new 
generation. Overnight, the hero of Left Bank cafes 
found himself a national leader; and, miraculously, there 
was a statesman's mind back of the turgid words. Napo- 
leon III himself remarked: 'This Gambetta is a man of 
great talent/ 3 just as Leo X had said of Luther: "Brother 
Martin has genius." 

The general elections of May 23-4, 1869, the 
fourth since Napoleon had assumed full power, were 
held after a campaign of unlimited freedom and incredi- 
ble violence. The first returns were appalling: at the 


Tuileries, Emperor and Empress were struck with con" 
sternation. All the great cities, Paris in the lead, had de- 
clared themselves against the Empire. The final results, 
when the solid rural masses had been counted, mitigated 
the gloom: 4,438,000 had voted for the government, 
3^3 55; against. Under a parliamentary regime such 
a majority would have been counted a substantial vie- 
tory. The aim of the Empire, however, had been to 
unite all Frenchmen on essential issues: a divided vote 
meant a return to the party system, in abeyance for eight" 
een years. 

Caesarism had lost its magic. Yet it was impossible for 
the Emperor to quit. Technically, he had scored a vie- 
tory. He could not turn the government over to an op- 
position that was not even a loose coalition. Legitimists, 
Orleanists, moderate Republicans, Radicals, Socialists, 
had nothing in common but their distrust of the imperial 
regime. Once more Napoleon had to seek the compo- 
nent of these many divergent forces. A delicate task, for 
the Bonapartists were hardly less divided than their op- 
ponents. Rouher and the Empress still advocated strong- 
arm methods. Persigny, the earliest and most active of 
Napoleon's lieutenants, had finally learned his lesson, 
and publicly gave excellent advice: "Let the Emperor 
persevere in the ways of liberalism. But let him seek 
support among the new generations. The men of De- 
cember 2nd, like myself, are through." 

There came vaguely into existence a "third party/" 
professing loyalty to the regime, but definitely parlia- 
mentary in spirit. Napoleon was reluctant to give up 
Rouher, who, for all his shortcomings, was vigorous and 
devoted. Still the lesson of May 24 was unequivocal, 
and Rouher was not the man for the new policy. So the 

IN DUBIOUS BATTLE: 1867-1870 179 

Vice-Emperor himself read to the Chamber the list of 
reforms that the sovereign was planning; then he sent 
in his resignation. With the proper sense of humor, Na- 
poleon III did not make him a duke (July 13). 

A colorless transitional cabinet was formed, headed 
by Forcade la Roquette. The obvious candidate for the 
premiership was Adolphe Thiers. France evidently de' 
sired to try the parliamentary method again, and Thiers 
was the Grand Old Man of that system. Although an 
Orleanist, he had closely collaborated with the Republi- 
cans in 1863 and 1869. And as early as 1864 he had 
manifested his willingness to work with the Empire, if 
only "the five indispensable liberties" were secured. But 
we should never forget that Thiers stood for everything 
that Napoleon had sought to curb or destroy: the party 
spirit, the sanctity of private greed, the unquestioned 
rule of the propertied middle class. Napoleon believed 
in social democratic Cassarism, Thiers was a hater of 
"the vile multitude," To accept him would have been 
for Napoleon III not merely capitulation, but treason. 

Besides, Thiers was seventy-two; he had been in ac- 
tive politics since 1830; and Napoleon heeded Per- 
signy's advice: govern with the new generation. The 
coming man was Emile Ollivier, forty-four years of age, 
in the fullness of his powers. He was untried, but not 
inexperienced: thanks to his father, Demosthene Olli- 
vier, he had held public office as early as 1848. An ar^ 
dent Republican, he had become one of the famous Five 
(Favre, Ollivier, Henon, Darimon, Picard) who had 
courageously represented the opposition in the Cham" 
ber. But as early as 1860 Morny had discerned in him 
an opportunist or pragmatist democrat who, without 
sacrificing his convictions, could be brought to co-operate 


with the Empire, After the "liberal" decrees of 1860, 
Morny asked him: "Are you satisfied?" and Ollivier 
answered: "If you mean to go no farther, you are lost; 
if this is just a beginning, you are saved," The death of 
Morny, the ascendancy of Rouher, retarded Ollivier's 
hour. At the end of 1866 Walewski unofficially of" 
fered him a ministerial post, which he declined. By 
1869, the old Republicans, like Carnot, Favre, Raspail, 
and the new radical generation, like Gambetta, were 
aware that, without any formal break, he was no longer 
one of them, 

Ollivier was eloquent, but no windbag: he was ca-- 
pable of serious study and steadfast work. He was a 
man of culture, at home in literary and artistic circles: 
his first wife was the daughter of Liszt and the Countess 
d'Agoult. Of a kindly and cheerful disposition, he could 
not, like Hugo, be one of God's angry men. He had 
never hated Napoleon III; when he came to work with 
him, bonds of genuine affection were created between 
the two men. Ollivier was known to address his sovet" 
eign, against all etiquette, as "My dear Sire." Morny, 
with better rights, had called him "My dear Emperor." 
Thiers, in the eyes of Napoleon III, would have meant 
a relapse; Ollivier was something of an adventure. And, 
racked with disease or numb with opiates, the inveterate 
imperial gambler was glad to play a new card. 

While negotiations were afoot in Paris for the forma" 
tion of the new ministry, the Empire was enjoying, two 
thousand miles away, its most brilliant and best'deserved 
hour of triumph. On November 1619 & e Suez Canal 
was inaugurated. It had been almost wholly a French 
enterprise, carried out against the indifference and even 
the hostility of England. The Emperor could not be 

IN DUBIOUS BATTLE: 18671870 181 

spared from his political duties; so it was the Empress 
who represented the country. This was particularly ap- 
propriate, as Ferdinand de Lesseps was a cousin of hers, 
and she had supported him in moments of desperate 
difficulties. As at the Congress of Paris in 1856, as 
during a golden week in 1867, the Empire appeared 
in a position of friendly and courteous pre-eminence. 
The Khedive of Egypt a lavish host the Emperor of 
Austria, the Prince Royal of Prussia, the Prince and 
Princess of the Netherlands, the Emir Abd-el-Kader, 
a dazzling array of ministers and diplomats, an elite of 
writers, artists, scientists, journalists, seemed to form the 
retinue of the French sovereign, who, still strikingly 
beautiful in her full maturity, was radiant with pride and 
happiness. The imperial yacht UAigle led the long pro- 
cession from Port Said to Suez. The canal had been one 
of the dreams of those very practical Utopians, the dis- 
ciples of Saint-Simon; and Napoleon III, "Saint-Simon 
on horseback," had willed and helped its realization. 

The new constitution created by the reforms of 
1869 for although it still preserved the 1852 facade, 
it was new in its spirit came very close to the English 
ideal of parliamentary government. There were traces 
of personal rule: officially there was no prime minister, 
and the cabinet members were responsible to the Em- 
peror alone. The old Caesarian leopard was proud of his 
spots, and extremely reluctant to change them. The Sen- 
ate, long a luxurious Home for the Loyal and Illustri- 
ous Aged, became an upper house, with the same rights 
as the Chamber. At last the stopgap administration of 
Forcade la Roquette was swept aside. On December 27, 
1869 Napoleon formally asked Ollivier to form a 


cabinet "faithfully representing the majority." On the 
2nd of January 1870 that cabinet officially came into 
being. Ollivier was Minister of Justice (Keeper of the 
Seals). Daru was entrusted with Foreign Affairs, Buffet 
with Finances: two very sound, respected men. Un* 
fortunately Marshal Niel had died, and the portfolio of 
War went to Le Breuf, who was vastly inferior. On the 
whole, the new government was Left Center, or, as 
Franklin D. Roosevelt put it, "just left of center/ 3 

It was, above all, "the Ministry of Good Intentions/' 
Ollivier kept repeating: "We shall give the Emperor a 
happy old age/ 3 and it looked as though all parties con- 
curred in that amiable sentiment. A handful of Legiti- 
mists, a small cabal of dictatorial Bonapartists, and a 
spirited band of radical Republicans stood out. But all 
the rest united in wishing to give the renovated regime 
a chance. Ollivier's official receptions at the Place Ven- 
dome were thronged with men who represented all 
shades of opinion: Prevost-Paradol, a brilliant, scholarly, 
and redoubtable polemist^ was there, as were the ven- 
erable fossils of the Louis^Philippe era: Guizot, the im- 
pregnable rock of conservatism; Odilon Barrot, once' the 
hesitant leader of the Dynastic Left. The French 
Academy had kept up a mild, dignified warfare against 
the regime; it adopted in its turn a policy of appease- 
ment, and elected Emile Ollivier. After three years of 
bitterness the winters of our discontent there was in 
France a tremulous spring of good will. 

Within eight days of its start, that fair promise was 
nearly destroyed by a stupid accident. Prince Pierre- 
Bonaparte, son of Lucien, had led a life of reckless ad- 
venture. A conspirator at fifteen in Italy, a major in the 

IN DUBIOUS BATTLE: 18 67-1 70 183 

Colombian army, half insurgent, half bandit in the Ma- 
remma, imprisoned in the Castel Sant 3 Angelo, killing 
three men in the wilds of Albania, leaving an unsavory 
reputation in New York and London, he had turned up 
in France in 1848 as a Red republican. He joined the 
Foreign Legion, was transferred to the regulars, but for 
mysterious reasons was cashiered just before the siege of 
Zaatcha, an Algerian oasis. Napoleon III made him a 
prince, with a handsome allowance, but kept him at 
arm's length. Pierre remained tolerably quiet, lived with 
a workingwoman, honorably married her, and devoted 
some of his energy to composing mediocre literature* 
The Reds were viciously attacking the Bonaparte fam- 
ily: out of Corsican clannishness, Pierre engaged in a 
violent press controversy with Rochefort and Paschal 
Grousset. The latter sent him his seconds, Ulrich de 
Fonvielle and Victor Noir. In the course of the discus- 
sion, Noir, a mere lad, slapped the prince in the ^face, 
and Pierre shot him dead (January 10). 

A Bonaparte murdering a republican! What a wind- 
fall for the radicals! The funeral of Victor Noir, on 
January 12, offered a tempting opportunity for an up- 
rising. The government was ready. The ceremony took 
place at Neuilly, in the west of Paris, miles from the in- 
flammable workingmen's districts. Troops were massed 
in the Champs-Elysees. The Emperor himself was in 
uniform, ready to mount his horse. Rochefort, whom 
chance had turned from a wit to a demagogue, was at 
any rate no blind fanatic: he refused to unleash an in- 
surrection that would have been crushed in blood. A 
special court exonerated Pierre on the plea of self- 
defense, but condemned him to pay heavy damages to 


the victim's family. Ollivier had handled the situation 
well; this brief and violent storm did not weaken his 

Rouher had been relegated to what seemed a gilded 
sinecure, the Presidency of the Senate. It was he who 
proposed that the sweeping changes made in the consti- 
tution should be submitted to a popular vote. His mo- 
tives are hard to probe. He was too loyal a Bonapartist 
(he had remained the personal friend of the imperial 
family) to wish the government to suffer a defeat, but 
he was too staunch a conservative to want the liberal 
trend endorsed by the whole people. The Emperor, 
whose only thought was for peace and quiet, was dis- 
mayed at the risk. But Rouher had good Bonapartist 
and Rousseauistic doctrine on his side: the Social Con" 
tract, the Fundamental Pact, should be passed upon by 
all citizens, Ollivier, as a democrat reconciled with Cae- 
sarism, supported Rouher. The Emperor yielded. Per- 
haps there was still in him, after so many buffets, some 
spark of his old faith in his destiny. A plebiscite was or- 
dered: the nation was asked to ratify "the liberal reforms 
introduced by the Emperor since 1860." 

This artful wording produced curious results at both 
ends of the political line: the Republicans rejected the 
liberal trend, the authoritarian Bonapartists approved of 
it. No one was deceived: the actual question was une- 
quivocal: "Do you want Napoleon III to remain on the 
throne, or do you want a totally new regime?" The men 
who were most definitely against any kind of plebiscite 
were the orthodox parliamentarians. They did not like 
the constant possibility of "a legalized coup d'etat" su- 
perseding their authority, "a trap door that might at any 
moment spring open under their feet/ 3 Daru and Buffet 

IN DUBIOUS BATTLE: 1867-1870 185 

resigned from the cabinet; and Daru, alas, was replaced 
at the Foreign Office by Gramont. 

On May 8, 1870 the plebiscite was taken. Its sin- 
cerity never was challenged. Consistently, Paris voted 
No; and so did the other large cities. But the provinces 
had shuddered at the progress of the Reds. They rallied 
overwhelmingly to the Empire. The final count was 
7,336,000 for, 1,560,000 against. After twentyone 
years at the head of the state, with a new generation of 
voters, Napoleon III was endorsed by a handsomer ma" 
jorky than he had received on December 10, 1848. 
The Emperor could tell the future Napoleon IV: "This 
is your coronation/ 3 

On the 25th of May the results were solemnly pro- 
claimed in the Salle des fitats, part of the vast construc- 
tions which, under Napoleon III, finally linked the 
Louvre and the Tuileries. Few ceremonies under the 
Empire were so impressive. No one imagined it would 
be the last. "The Empire is stronger than ever; we are 
out for another twenty years/ 3 Gambetta and Jules Favre 
somberly acknowledged. The Emperor himself seemed 
rejuvenated. There was a deep undertone of joy in his 
firm, even voice. What France had approved was not a 
mere set of legislative changes, but the very principle of 
the reign: order as the first condition of liberty and prog- 
ress. "Between revolution and the Empire, the country 
has been challenged to choose, and has chosen. . . . 
My government shall not deviate from the liberal line 
it has traced for itself. . . . More than ever, we may 
envisage the future without fear/ 3 





"MORE than ever, we may envisage the future without 
fear" these words of proud serenity were uttered on 
May 25. On June 30, proposing a reduction of 10,000 
in the number of draftees, Emile Ollivier proclaimed: 
"At no time has peace been more secure." On July 2 
came the thunderbolt: the candidacy of a Hohenzollern 
prince to the uneasy throne of Spain. 

In the Franco-German conflict, the responsibility of 
Bismarck has long been uncontrovertible. We have, not 
his admission merely, but his gloating revelation of the 
way in which he trapped France into war. From the na- 
tionalistic point of view, he had every reason to act as 
he did when he did. If France could be branded as the 
aggressor, the alliance between the German states would 
come into action, and could easily be turned into a more 
permanent bond. Conversely, even if France's tentative 
agreements with Austria and Italy had been more defi- 
nite, they would have been imperiled or even nullified 
if France assumed the offensive. Above all, the Prussian 
army was ready, and the French was not. The opportu- 
nity might never occur again. Everything went accord" 
ing to plan. The masterly realism of Bismarck has been 
admired ever since by all tough-minded historians, whose 
sole criterion is immediate material success. It gave Eu- 
rope two generations of cold war, called at that time 
armed peace, and ultimately two conflagrations that 

NEMESIS: 1870 187 

reached the end of the world: for William II and Hitler 
simply carried out into disaster the principles of Bis- 
marck; and these principles have not been fully exorcised 
from the German mind even today. 

But if we must acknowledge the responsibility so 
proudly assumed by the Iron Chancellor, this does not 
turn the France of 1870 into an unspotted victim like 
Belgium in 1914, Denmark or Holland in 1940. Bis- 
marck's deceit was only the bait: the trap was of France's 
own making. That trap was the old policy of prestige, 
power, hegemony, leadership, grandeur, glory and vain- 
glory: it has many shades and many names. It was at 
least as ancient as Francis I, and it had twice reached a 
splendid climax, with Louis XIV and with Napoleon I. 

The cause of the quarrel vanished before hostilities 
broke out, and was soon utterly forgotten. Here are the 
facts. In 1868 Queen Isabella of Spain, whose policies 
and private life were equally objectionable, was removed 
from the throne. Marshal Serrano became regent, Prim 
head of the ministry. They cast about for a constitutional 
and liberal sovereign. The Duke of Montpensier, son of 
Louis-Philippe, was ruled out as unacceptable to Na- 
poleon IIL Many candidates were considered; several 
were approached, and declined. Finally, Prim's choice 
fell on Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. 
A chance word of Prim's would seem to indicate that the 
initiative came from Bismarck. 

Europe is sick with ill-digested history; and every na- 
tion lives in dread of encirclement. French schoolboys 
had been taught that the empire of Charles V should 
never be allowed to rise again, just as British schoolboys 
were taught that no first-class power should be in control 
of the Low Countries. When the news of the Hohen- 


zollern candidacy reached Paris, the ghost of Charles V 
rose menacingly. 

It was a very tenuous ghost. John Lemoinne sensibly 
pointed out in Le Journal des Debats that family con- 
siderations were not decisive in international affairs. The 
Hohenzollern'Sigmaringen, or Swabian, branch, had 
been separated for centuries from the Franconian, later 
Prussian, branch. Another Hohenzollern'Sigmaringen 
had become Prince of Romania, with the full approval 
of Napoleon III. But public opinion did not want to 
reason out these dynastic niceties. The mere name Ho" 
henzollern was a red rag to a bull. And the Empire, even 
in its authoritarian days, was swayed by public opinion. 

What is "the Phantom Public"? Messrs. Malcolm 
Carroll and Lynn M. Case have established that France 
as a whole was not "grimly determined" to make war. 
But it desired a spirited policy: the humiliation of 
Sadowa and Luxemburg rankled. To use frankly ana" 
chronistic phrases, no more appeasement, not another 
Munich! The time had come for a policy of contain" 
ment, even of rolling back. The opposition was particu- 
larly bellicose. The very men who had proposed the 
abolition of standing armies were now clamoring for 
a fight. For Jules Favre, this move of Bismarck's was a 
casus belli; Gambetta urged all Frenchmen to unite in a 
national war; Jules Simon, the quiet, humdrum, smiling 
philosopher, wrote that unless France vetoed the can" 
didacy of Prince Leopold, she would forfeit her security 
and her dignity. Legitimists, Orleanists, Republicans, 
authoritarian Bonapartists, Edmond About, and the 
friends of Prince Napoleon, all breathed the same mar" 
tial ardor. The still small voice of good sense was there, 
but it was inaudible. As Francis Magnard wrote in Le 

NEMESIS: 1870 189 

Figaro for July 7, "Seldom have we seen such an accord 
among the organs of the different parties/ 5 

The King of Prussia, far wiser than his Chancellor, 
was averse to war. He would not give his distant cousin 
any formal order to desist, but he made his desire plain. 
Prim himself had not intended to start a European crisis: 
he sent an emissary to Prince Leopold, suggesting that 
he should withdraw. The Spanish crown was no tempt" 
ing prize: a few months later, Prim, the kingmaker, was 
assassinated; and Amadeo of Savoy, who accepted the 
thankless honor of ruling unruly Spain, was to abdicate 
after two years of misery. Prince Anthony, father of 
Leopold, announced that the project had been aban^ 

The English press had agreed with the French in con- 
sidering the whole affair a clumsy provocation on the 
part of Bismarck. Now the conflict was over: it had 
been merely a minor flutter, far less threatening to peace 
than the Luxemburg crisis. Its happy solution was a 
moral victory for France. 

But in Paris the jealous defenders of national prestige 
were not satisfied. They felt that Bismarck, embittered 
by his failure, would seek his revenge. He should be 
defeated decisively, now that they had him on the run. 
So the French Ambassador to the court of Prussia, Ben-' 
edetti, was instructed to wait on King William, then at 
the health resort of Ems, and to request from him a 
guarantee that he would not permit Leopold to be a 
candidate again. The King refused to be dragged pep 
sonally into this quarrel. He had received notification of 
Leopold's withdrawal, and approved of it. Any further 
developments would have to be taken through consti" 
tutional channels, with the Prussian government in Ber- 


lin (July 13). The next day William left Ems. Bene" 
detti went to present his respects at the station; the King 
bade him adieu with his wonted courtesy. Thanks to 
BenedettTs skill he had tempered the trenchant .xie- 
mands dictated by Gramont that new threat to peace 
had been averted. It still looked as though "the Trojan 
war would not take place." 

This would not have suited the war party at Saint" 
Cloud and in Paris. It certainly was a bitter disappoint" 
ment to Bismarck. He was dining with Moltke and 
Roon when he received from his agent Abeken the re" 
port of the conversations between the King and Bene" 
detti. He asked Moltke: "Would there be any gain in 
postponing the conflict?" The great strategist replied: 
"None whatever. It is our interest to hasten it" There" 
upon Bismarck touched up the message and made it read, 
in substance: "His Majesty has refused to see again the 
French Ambassador, and, through the Aide on duty, has 
notified him that he had nothing further to say." Sup" 
pressio veri, suggestio falsi: not quite a forgery, but cer" 
tainly a moral lie. The doctored text was wired at once 
to the Prussian embassies and to the press. That same 
night, crowds vociferated in unison, a thousand miles 
apart: "Nach Paris!" and "A Berlin!" 

Even at this very last hour, war was not inevitable. 
The masses of the French people did not want it; the 
Emperor did not want it. Thiers, "as eager as anyone 
to obtain reparation for Sadowa," thought the occasion 
ill chosen, counseled cool'headedness, demanded com" 
munication of the official dispatches. In vain did he 
strain his shrill voice: he was hooted down as a traitor. 

The man who was technically responsible for the 
disastrous turn was the Foreign Secretary, Gramont: 

NEMESIS: 1870 191 

nervous, irritable, insanely proud, he felt that he (and 
in his own eyes he was France) had received a slap in 
the face and, as a gentleman, must draw the sword. Had 
Daru remained at the Foreign Office, common sense 
might have won a precarious victory. Not for long: 
Thiers's own words reveal the delusion that made peace 
such a desperate cause. The Chamber was quasi- 
unanimous; so was the Paris press; and the Paris mob 
seemed, by divine right, to voice the will of the nation. 
Emile Ollivier assented; and he added words which 
were to follow him to his grave, forty-three years later: 
"with a light heart/ 3 Napoleon III yielded, with death 
in his soul. 

/He was the elect of the deep rural masses, and they 
wanted peace. Why did he not resume his moral die" 
tatorship, curb Parliament, curb the press, curb the mob, 
as he had done in 1851? Here we find the unanswerable 
arraignment against all personal regimes. He could not 
act because he was sick; and a man who assumes the 
formidable responsibility of dictatorship has no right to 
be sick. He could not act because he was thinking of the 
dynasty; and a dictator should have no thought but for 
his country. Above all, he could not act because peace 
would have been called "peace at any price/' the craven 
peace of a Louis'Philippe; and he was the heir of the 
epic military Legend, and he had long basked in its 
prestige. So phantoms from the past, Louis the Great, 
Napoleon the Great, arose to strangle the humanitarian 
ruler who had usurped their trappings^ 

War was declared on July 19. The alliances were 
airy castles; the army was a rope of sand; the Emperor 
was a living corpse. 


On the ist of July, as the Emperor was in great pain, 
a consultation was held at the Tuileries. The doctors 
were an illustrious group: Nelaton, Ricord, Fauvel, G. 
See, Corvisart. Their diagnosis, written on July 3, was 
fully confirmed by the English specialists who, two years 
later, attempted to save Napoleon. Both kidneys and 
the bladder were affected; his urine was pus and blood. 
The disease went back fully ten years: the autopsy was 
to show that the stone had reached enormous propor- 
tions. This report was entrusted to Dr. Conneau, Na- 
poleon's intimate friend since the days of Arenenberg. 
Through a tragic scruple of "thoughtfulness," he failed 
to communicate it to the government and even to the 
Empress. Had the truth been known, the course of the 
next two weeks might have been different. On the z8th, 
Napoleon III and the Prince Imperial left Saint-Cloud 
for the front. 

The one chance for the French, outnumbered as they 
were, was a swift offensive that might throw the pon- 
derous Prussian machine off balance. Moltke expected 
such an advance and had already marked the point where 
it would be checked. The French were denied even such 
a brief and illusory success. The first battles Wissem- 
bourg, Worth, Forbach were fought on the frontier, 
and France was at once invaded. Under the Emperor's 
supreme command, the two main armies were entrusted 
to Mac-Mahon, Duke of Magenta, and to Bazaine, 
whom the opposition, because he was not a favorite at 
court, chose to extol and called "our glorious Bazaine." 
After the first disastrous shock, Mac-Mahon retreated as 
far as Chalons, and Bazaine sought refuge in Metz. 

"The Ministry of Good Intentions 3 ' was swept away 
by this storm. Under the Empress as regent, the direc- 

NEMESIS: 1870 193 

tion of affairs went to General Cousin-Montauban, who 
was officially known by the title he had won in China, 
Count Palikao. At Chalons, it was decided that Mac- 
Mahon would retire farther, so as to cover Paris; the Em" 
peror would at once return to the capital. Whatever the 
strategic merits of the plan, it was a confession of defeat. 
So it was vetoed by the Empress and Palikao. Napo- 
leon III should remain with his troops, and march to the 
relief of Bazaine. 

Here we have a very shadowy might-have-been. The 
events of the next fortnight would seem to indicate that 
every move would have been futile: the imperial armies 
were outclassed and already doomed beyond redemption. 
The detailed story of the campaign by the German Gen- 
eral Staff, however, gives a different impression. To quote 
again Wellington's words after Waterloo, "It was a near 
thing/* much nearer than the ultimate result would show. 
We must not forget, either, the way in which Gam- 
betta's improvised armies held their own for nearly four 
months. Had a sounder strategy been adopted, no 
Valmy, no Miracle of the Marne could have been ex- 
pected: it was impossible for France to win this hope- 
less war. But the front could have been stabilized. This 
achieved, the friendly neutrals, Austria and Italy, might 
have helped France secure honorable terms. 

In his first moves from Chalons, Mac-Mahon had 
succeeded in eluding the Germans, But, through an in- 
discretion of the press, his position was revealed, and he 
had to fall back on Reims. When, in obedience to or- 
ders from Paris, he advanced again with Verdun and 
Metz as his objectives, he was forced northward and all 
but trapped near the Belgian frontier, at Sedan. There 
was still a chance of escaping to Mezieres. Mac-Mahon, 


severely wounded, turned his army over to Ducrot. That 
excellent officer might have saved at least part of his 
forces. But General de Wimpffen had just arrived from 
Paris with an order appointing him commander of the 
army in case Mac-Mahon was disabled. He asserted his 
right, canceled Ducrot's plan for a retreat, and made a 
desperate attempt to break through. The hours wasted 
in this confusion were fatal. The encirclement was now 
complete. From every height, the German artillery 
mercilessly pounded the confused masses huddled in the 
valley. The wild charges of Galliffet were magnificent 
and futile. Someone had blunder'd. 

Wimpffen still refused to understand. He proposed 
a last effort, which would have been mass suicide. Na- 
poleon III had himself sought death, obstinately: staff 
officers by his side were killed or wounded. But a sol- 
dier's death rejected him. A grand gesture of despair 
would have been an epic page, somber and splendid, a 
Qotterddmmerung that might have remained in the an" 
nals of mankind/But Napoleon III felt that he had no 
right to have brave men massacred for the sake of a 
prestige in which, in the secret of his heart, he had never 
fully believed. He resumed command only to surrender. 
He had the white flag raised and ordered the cease-fire. 
Eighty thousand men were caught in the nefc> 

A last temptation was before him. Fof all his re- 
splendent uniforms, Bismarck was first of all a diplomat, 
not a military man. He would have been glad to stop 
the campaign and arrange for terms of peace on the bat- 
tlefield, as Napoleon III had done after Solferino. The 
terms would have been harsh, for the defeat was un- 
precedented, but not so crushing as they were to be four 
months later. If an insurrection broke out in Paris, it 

NEMESIS: 1870 195 

could be quelled by the liberated troops. (Bazaine con' 
fusedly entertained a plan of that kind at Mete, and it 
explains his prolonged inaction; and it was exactly such 
a plan that Thiers, with Mac'Mahon's army, was to 
carry out against the Commune. ) The regime, although 
wounded, would survive. When responsibilities were 
investigated, it could easily be proved that they did not 
fall on the Emperor alone. Napoleon III brushed aside 
the hinted offer. It was his personal sword, not that of 
France, that he was giving up to "his brother/ 3 the King 
of Prussia. He was simply a prisoner of war. His sur" 
render implied total renunciation. 

In Paris nothing was known about the situation of the 
armies; there even were rumors of a great victory. On 
September z, by six p.m., the facts in their stark horror 
reached unofficially, through Brussels, certain members 
of the government. On the 3rd the news was spreading, 
still uncertain, through the capital<^On the 4th the truth 
was known at last, and the Empire disappeared!^ 

^This, in the eyes of Victor Hugo, was the hour of 
expiation he had so long prophesied. France, duped and 
enslaved for eighteen years, was set free at last. This in' 
terpretation, official in French schools for thirty years or 
more, does not tally with the fact that, only four months 
before, the country had endorsed the regime by a free 
and overwhelming majority. The revolution of the 4th of 
September was not purely and simply God's judgment 
made manifest through the people's holy wrath. It was a 
historical fact, as stupid as most facts, following closely a 
well-known pattern, but under unique and tragic cir* 

The pattern: in 1789, 1792, 1830, 1848, certain 


elements in Paris sincere liberals, professional agitators, 
the more ardent and the more excitable among the work-- 
ing people had forced their will upon the capital and 
upon the nation. The extreme centralization of France, 
both material and spiritual, created a temptation and a 
peril: capture Paris, and the whole land is yours. On the 
4th of September the mob invaded the Assembly. Under 
its pressure the Empire was swept away and a provi' 
sional government was formed. 

It must be noted that this pattern was not invariably 
successful. Barbes and Blanqui spent their lives starting 
insurrections that were repressed with ludicrous ease. In 
June 1848 the movement was formidable, but it failed. 
In March May 1871 it was to fail again. An uprising 
becomes a revolution only when the government in 
power is weak: blind to realities, infirm of purpose, para-- 
lyzed by a bad conscience. 

Now, on September 4, the Empire did not move a 
finger to fight back. The Empress as regent was nomi' 
nally in control: but the utter vanity of her political role 
appeared in the hour of peril. She had thought herself 
determined when she was only willful; she had no popu" 
larity and no authority; when she had toyed with power, 
people shrugged their shoulders. As for Palikao, he was 
merely an exotic name. In politics and in the army he had 
been only a secondary character. And he had been at 
the helm for barely three weeks. Only one man could 
have rallied the forces of the government: General 
Trochu, commanding the army of Paris. Trochu was in' 
telligent, well-meaning, not actively disloyal to the 
regime that had appointed him. He had promised the 
Empress to die in her defense with the resounding words: 
"Remember that I am a Breton, a Catholic, and a sol-' 

NEMESIS: 1870 197 

dier." But he had a tortuous jnind, at the same time hesi> 
tant and ambitious. THeT Paris deputies, who had led 
the movement against the Empire, offered him a chance 
to head., not a permanent republic, but a government of 
National Defense. It seemed the one chance to restore 
order, and he accepted. 

The essential fact was that the Bonapartists, like all 
other Frenchmen, were stunned. This was a paralyzing 
blow, worse than Waterloo, worse than Pavia, where 
honor at least had been saved. Even Thiers was unable 
to see a way out: urged by Merimee to take action, he 
could only wail: "After such a disaster, there is nothing 
that can be done." In this moment of utter collapse it 
was easy for a determined group to seize power. Their 
success is no proof that they represented the nation's will 
or the verdict of history. 

This is no arraignment of Jules Favre, Gambetta, and 
their followers. They were not taking advantage of a 
national catastrophe to advance the interests of their 
party. They were not defeatists, as the Bolsheviks openly 
were in 1917. They had no thought of giving up the 
fight: they earnestly believed that the Republic meant 
victory. Here we encounter one of those myths which 
in history are so much more potent than men of flesh 
and blood: the Volunteers of 1792, the Country in 
Danger, the rising of all Frenchmen in their might, the 
Marseillaise leading the charge, and the despots put to 
flight. The men of September 4 did not realize that 
1870 was not 1792; that faith may move mountains, 
but cannot improvise guns, ammunition, transport, sup- 
plies; and that, even in 1792-3, military and diplo- 
matic events were far more confused than they appeared 
in the grand saga of the Revolution. These lessons Gam- 


betta was to learn in the next four months, at France's 
cost; Victor Hugo never learned them at all. I myself 
was brought up in republican orthodoxy: sixty years 
later, I have come to consider the 4th of September as 
a historical accident rather than as a unanimous and final 




ON the 4th of September 1 870, Paris was in a mood of 
elation rather than vindictiveness. However, a mob was 
massing before the Tuileries, howling: "Down with 
Badinguet!" (the republicans* name for Napoleon III), 
and, more ominously: ec Death to the Spanish woman V 9 
Eugenie passed through the long and splendid galleries 
from the Tuileries to the Louvre. Before Perrault's col-' 
onnade, an old cab was jogging along. This chance ve' 
hide took the Empress to her American dentist, Dr. 
Evans. She spent the night at his house. The next day 
he escorted her to Deauville. A small cutter yacht, 
Qazelle, was in the harbor. The owner, Sir John Bur' 
goyne, gave asylum to the fallen sovereign. The next 
morning the frail craft sailed through a stormy sea. It was 
late at night when they reached the Isle of Wight. The 
small party landed at Ryde. Two days later the Empress 
met her son at Hastings: he and his tutor Augustin 
Filon had managed to escape through Belgium. 

By September 20 they had settled in their new home, 
Camden Place, at Chislehurst, a pleasant residential 
suburb in Kent, some twelve miles from London. 
Camden Place was no lordly seat, but a large Georgian 
country house, which the owner, Mr. Strode, had re' 
decorated in French style, with Gobelin tapestries and 
paneling from the chateau of Bercy. When he saw it, 
Admiral Duperre naively exclaimed: "Splendid! Looks 
like a cafe!" 


One political incident marked these first days in Eng- 
land. A busybody, M. Regnier, volunteered to negotiate 
an agreement between Bazaine, still holding out in Metz, 
and the Empress. Claiming to each party that he was 
authorized by the other, he managed to get a number of 
people involved, including Augustin Filon and Gen" 
eral Bourbaki. The Empress brushed the scheme aside. 
The irrepressible Regnier was later to concoct schemes 
for a Balkan settlement, and for a reconciliation between 
Quirinal and Vatican. He ended his imaginative career 
managing a laundry at Ramsgate. 

Meanwhile Napoleon III had been taken to Wil- 
helmshohe near Cassel, once a residence of his uncle 
Jerome, the operetta King of Westphalia. There, on 
October 30, the Empress visited him. On March 19, 
1871 he was liberated, and joined his family at Chisle- 
hurst. On March 27 he was invited to Windsor; on 
April 3 Queen Victoria returned the visit. For two years 
he was to lead a very quiet life, although not that of a 
recluse. He could walk, leaning on his wife's arm: suffer- 
ing had revived and purified the profound affection that 
the stormy years attacked but could not kill. He read, 
dabbled in modest experiments, wrote under a pseu- 
donym a pamphlet that passed unnoticed, was working, 
like Benjamin Franklin, on an economical stove for the 
poor. Above all, he was perfecting his great project for 
an International Council, with legislative and judicial 
power. <tle was still the man portrayed by Hippolyte 
Flandrin, peering into the future: peering for his sue" 
cessors, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and 
others still unknown^ 

But the political embers were warm still, the sense of 


a mission had not disappeared; nor the dream of an im- 
perial crown for his son. The final defeat of France had 
discredited the republicans; the Commune had fright" 
ened the bourgeoisie; the ferocity of the repression had 
seared the soul of the working class; the restoration of the 
Legitimist pretender was an imminent threat: in every 
respect, the situation resembled that which followed the 
days of June 1848, but with more tragic intensity. Once 
more Caesarian democracy order and progress could 
be the solution. There were high-placed observers in 
England and Germany who believed that if France could 
freely express her choice, she would again endorse the 

Prince Napoleon was ready to work with the Em" 
peror. General Bourbaki, military governor of Lyon, 
could be trusted. But the Man on Horseback must be 
able to sit a horse. So Napoleon decided to submit to an 
operation lith^qtritj^fully aware of its dangers at his 
age and in his condition. It was his last gamble. On 
January 2, 1873 the first operation was performed; a 
second followed on the 6th. Both went well. The third 
was scheduled for the gth. On the eve, they gave the 
patient jchloral^He slept heavily, barely recovered con" 
sciousness, and at eleven a.m. on January 9 he was at 

On March 16, 1874 a g reat ra % was ^ e ^ at 
hurst, to celebrate the coming of age of the Prince Im* 
perial. The general stafi of Bonapartism was there, ex* 
cept Prince Napoleon. The young man gave an able 
speech prepared by Rouher, and he spoke it well, with 
authority and charm. On June i, 1879 the prince, a 


lieutenant in the British forces, was killed in Zululand. 
Father and son rested at Chislehurst until 1887, when 
their remains were transferred to Farnborough. The Env 
press lived to see Sedan avenged by the Treaty of Ver" 
sailles. She died on July n, 1920, in the ninetyfifth 
year of her age. 



A MAN who was for twentytwo years the ruler of a 
great country and who for fifteen appeared as the arbiter 
of Europe is inevitably the center of an enormous litera^ 
ture. A molehill compared with the paper mountain 
erected in memory of Napoleon I; still, a molehill that 
no scholar can hope to conquer even in a long lifetime. 

In my Napoleon III: an Interpretation (Cambridge, 
Mass.: Harvard University Press; 1943), an essay in 
political philosophy rather than a biography, the reader 
will find a "Bibliographical Essay" (pp. 31523), 
which need not be duplicated here. This was intended, 
not as an exhaustive inventory, but as a guide. It can 
easily be brought up to date by consulting the various 
historical reviews. Interest in the Second Empire has not 
waned in the last decade. Professor Franklin Charles 
Palm, of the University of California, has been directing 
research work on the subject for a number of years, and 
his students have prepared a whole library of mono- 
graphs, available in typescript. Professor Palm's own 
contribution is England and Napoleon III: A Study in 
the Rise of a Utopian Dictator (Durham, N. C.: Duke 
University Press; 1948). 

French Opinion on War and Diplomacy during the 
Second Empire, by Professor Lynn M. Case (Phila- 
delphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; 1954), is of 
commanding interest. It shows how, in spite of curbs on 
the press and political meetings, the Second Empire at' 
tempted to ascertain public opinion, by methods rather 
less crude than the modern polls. Professor Lane's pre" 


vious studies: Franco-Italian Relations (18601865): 
The Roman Question and the Convention of Septem 
her (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; 
1932) and French Opinion on the United States and 
Mexico, 1860-1867 (New York: D. Appleton^ 
Century Co.; 1936), are also extremely valuable. 

Among the best purely biographical monographs in 
recent years, I should like to mention Ivor Guest: Nd- 
poleon III in England (London: British Technical & 
General Press; 1952). 

The above will serve as rough indications for the 
professional student. The general reader who would like 
further information about the man, the regime, the pe* 
riod, will find a wealth of books available in English. 
It will be noted that, although the "Black Legend" 
about Napoleon the Little lingers in the popular mind, 
all reputable historians in this century are on the whole 
favorable to that enigmatic character. 


BINKLEY, ROBERT C.: Realism and Nationalism, 
I 52 i 71 (The Rise of Modern Europe, edited 
by William L. Langer, Vol. XVI; New York: 
Harper & Brothers; 1935). The "Bibliographical 
Essay/ 3 pp. 307-30, is very useful. 


AUBRY, OCTAVE: The Second Empire (Philadelphia: 
J. B. Lippincott Co.; 1940). Aubry started in the 
field of romanced history, and has several books of 
that ambiguous kind about the Second Empire (Phan- 
tom Emperor; Eugenie, Empress of the French*). But 
he gradually turned into a very conscientious historian, 
and his studies of The King of Rome and St. Helena 


were based on extremely serious work. The book 
here listed is packed with encyclopedic information 
on society and culture as well as politics. A good in" 
troduction and a handy reference book. 
GUEDALLA, PHILIP : The Second Empire (New York: 
G. P. Putnam's Sons; 1922) is entertaining, and 
not devoid of historical qualities. Guedalla, although 
a coruscating wit, was no mere jester. But in order to 
preserve his lightness of touch, Guedalla chose to 
ignore the serious aspects of the regime. 


JERROLD, BLANCHARD: The Life of Napoleon III. 
4 vols. (London: Longmans, Green & Co.; 1874- 
82). Partisan; remains valuable for the wealth of 
documents supplied by the imperial family. 

SIMPSON, F. A.: The Rise of Louis-Napoleon (Lon^ 
don: Longmans, Green & Co.; 1909, 1925). Louis* 
Napoleon and the Recovery of France (London: 
Longmans, Green & Co.; 1923). Simpson was a 
pioneer among English scholars in treating Napo- 
leon III with sympathy and respect. Well informed, 
well composed, well written, in the traditional gentle^ 
manly manner. 

D'AuvERGNE, EDMUND B.: Napoleon III, a Biogra- 
phy (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co.; 1929). Brief 
and well-balanced. An unpretentious and excellent 

SENCOURT, ROBERT: The Life of the Empress Eu- 
genie (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons; 1931). 
Napoleon 111, the Modern Emperor (New York: 
D. Appleton-Century Co.; 1933). Sencourt, as the 
"official" biographer of the Empress, had access to 
many family documents. Valuable and entertaining. 
Sencourt, however, is frequently careless in details; 


and his style exaggerates to the point of caricature the 
Gibbon tradition of courtliness and academic wit. 

RHEINHARDT, E. A.: Napoleon and Eugenie, the 
Tragicomedy of an Empire, translated from the Ger^ 
man (New York: Alfred A. Knopf; 1931). Read' 
able and dramatic. 

JOHN, KATHERINE: The Prince Imperial (New York: 
G. P. Putnam's Sons; 1939). 

Great literature is a distorting mirror; mediocrity is 
frequently more reassuring. However, the works of Vic- 
tor Hugo and Emile Zola cannot be neglected by any 
serious student of the Second Empire. Hugo's view of 
Napoleon the Little became official after Sedan, and re- 
mained unchallenged for at least a quarter of a century. 
It is possible to admire both the genius of the poet and 
the sincerity of the citizen (in spite of grandiloquent 
poses and phrases) without accepting his judgment as 
well'balanced and final. The books that have a bearing 
on Napoleon III are: Napoleon le Petit (1852); 
Histoire d'un Crime (1852, published 1877); Les 
Chdtiments (1852 seq.); L'Annee terrible (1872); 
Actes et paroles (1872 seq.), particularly "Pendant 
Textl"; Choses vues (Vol. I, 1887; Vol. II, 1899), 
interesting notes on Louis'Napoleon when poet and 
President were friends; Les Annees funestes (1897), 
in the same vein as Les Chdtiments and L'Annee terrible, 
but vastly inferior. These will be found in all the 
standard editions of Hugo's complete works. 

EMILE ZOLA: Les RougonMacquart, Histoire natU" 
relle et sociale d'une famille sous le second Empire, 
20 vols., 1871-93. English translation by E. A. Vize- 
telly, 20 vols., 1885-1907. Apart from his pseudo- 
scientific claims (for him, a naturalist was a natural sci" 
entist) and from the epic deformation that gives some 
of his works a weird romantic grandeur, Zola was an 


actual witness of the age he described, and a gifted as 
well as a conscientious observer. 

ALPHONSE DAUDET'S The Nabob offers a good 
picture of imperial Paris, and particularly a searching 
portrait of Morny. 


Abd-el-Kader, Emir, 51, 151, 181 
About, Edmond, 91, 188 
Adolphe (Constant), 15 
Affre, Denis Auguste, 58 
Agoult, Marie Catherine Sophie, 

Countess d', 180 
Albert, Prince Consort of Eng- 
land, 19, 96, 108, in- 12, 171 
Alexander I, Tsar of Russia, 13 
Alexander II, Tsar of Russia, 

Algeria, 51, 58, 70, 82, 89, 116, 

119, 148, 151, 172, 183 
Amadeo, King of Spain, 189 
America, 59, 65-6, 67, 132, 137, 

153, 160, 162 
Amsterdam, 12 
Ancona, 27, 64 

Another C&sar (Neumann), 13 
Arenenberg, 18, 19, 29, 33, 192 
Artillery Manual (Napoleon 

III), 29 

Augsburg, 1 8, 19 
Augustus, Prince of Saxe-Co- 

burg-Gotha, 104 
Aumale, Henri Eugene d'Orleans 

d'> Si, 54 

Austerlitz, 6, 79 

Austria, 6, 27, 64, 102, 106, no, 
114, 115, 116, 117, 155, 161, 
164-6, 168, 172, 186, 193 

Baltard, Louis Pierre, 121 
Balzac, Honore de, 30, 137 
Baroche, Pierre Jules, 153 
Barrot, Odilon, 53, 54, 64, 65, 

Baudelaire, Charles Pierre, 96, 

126, 131 

Baudin, Dr., 72, 177 
Bazaine, Achilla, 99, 162, 163, 

192, 193, 195, 200 
Beauharnais, Alexandre de, g 
Beauharnais, fimilie de, 10 
Beauharnais, Eugene de, Duke of 

Leuchtenberg, 9, 13, 14, 18, 94 
Beauharnais, Stephanie de, 94 
Beauharnais family, 13, 23 

Becker, Nikolaus, 104 
Belgium, 15, 101, 104, 105, 187 
Bel grand, Marie Francois Eu- 
gene, 140 

Ballanger, Marguerite, 923 
Belloc, Hilaire, 125 
Benedetti, Comte Vicente, 189- 


Berlin, 8, 116, 190 
Bernadotte, Jean Baptiste Jules, 


Bernard, Claude, 170 
Billault, Auguste, 144, 153, 160 
Bismarck, Prince Otto Leopold 

von, 20, 99, 128, 163, 1657, 

171, 175, 186-7, 189, 190, 

Blanc, Louis, 44-5, 55, 57, 63, 

Bonaparte, House of, 9, 11, 13, 

14, 19, 23, 25, 27, 28, 56, 80 i, 

94, 113, 183 
Bonaparte, Jerome, King of 

Westphalia, 12, 25, 48, 71, 76, 

80, 83, 86-7, 94, 200 
Bonaparte, Joseph, King of 

Naples, 24, 30, 33, 96 
Bonaparte, Count Leon, 35-6, 81 
Bonaparte, Lucien, Prince of 

Canino, 14, 19, 25, 90, 182 
Bonaparte, Maria Letizia Ramo- 

lino, 19 
Bonaparte, Princess Mathilde, 

86, 87-8, 90, 91, 94, 124 
Bonaparte, Napoleon-Louis, 6, 

n, 12, 24, 25-7, 30 
Bonaparte, Prince Pierre, 25, 

80, 182-4 

Bonaparte, Prince Victor, 90 
Bonapartism, 55-6, 63, 90, 91, 

124, 147, 149, 151, 166, 173, 

175, 178, 182, 184, 188, 197, 


Borghese, Pauline Bonaparte, 86 
Bosquet, Pierre Jean Francois, 

99, 109 
Boulogne, 379, 48, 62, 110, 



Bourbaki, Charles Denis Sauter, 

Bourbon, House of, 25, 27, 42, 

Brazil, 32, 63, 160 

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, 


Brussels, 47, 195 
Buffet, Louis-Joseph, 182, 184-5 
Bugeaud de la Piconnerie, 

Thomas Robert, 51, 53 
Bylandt, Charles, 12 
Byron, George Gordon, Lord, 22 

Csesarism, 4, 5, 36, 75, So, 90, 

91, 129, 132, 149, 153, 178, 
179, 201 

Calonne, Charles Alexandra de, 

Cambodia, 150 

Canrobert, Francois Certain, 99, 

Carlyle, Thomas, 171 

Carnot, Lazare Nicolas Mar- 
guerite, 14, 104, 1 80 

Carroll, Malcolm, 188 

Case, Lynn M., 188 

Castiglione, Countess de, 92, 113 

Catherine of Wiirttemberg, Prin- 
cess, 86 

Caulaincourt, Marquis Armand 
Louis de, 14 

Cavaignac, General Godefroy, 
58-9, 60-1, 63-4, 71 

Cavour, Conte Camillo Benso di, 

92, 114, 115, 117-18 
Chalons, 192-3 

Chambord, Henri Charles, Comte 

de, 54, 8 1 
Changarnier, Nicolas Anne 

Theodule, 68, 71 
Charles X, King of France, 54, 

Charlotte, Empress of Mexico, 


Clemenceau, Georges, 99 
Clementine, Princess of Saxe- 

Coburg-Gotha, 104 
Clotilde, Princess of Savoy, 114, 


Cobden, Richard, 109, 150 
Cochin China, 150 
Cologne, 105, 124 
Col-Puygelier, Captain, 38-9 
Comte, Auguste, 63 


Conneau, Doctor, 43, 467, 192 
Constant de Rebecque, Benjamin 

14, *5 

Corfu, 21, 27 
Cousin- Montauban (Count Pa- 

likao), Charles Guillaume, 

193, 196 

Crimea, 88, 115, 127 
Crimean War, 108-12, 114 

Daru, Napoleon, 182, 184-5, 191 
Darwin, Charles, 128, 163 
Davout Louis Nicolas, Due 

d'Auerstaedt, 86 
Decazes, Due filie, 12 
Demarle, Major, 43, 46 
Demidoff, Prince Anatole, 87 
Democracy in America (Toc- 

queville), 59 
Denmark, 164, 187 
Disraeli, Benjamin, Earl of Bea- 

consfield, 34-5 
Doudan, Ximenes, 41, 174 
Drouyn de Lhuys, fidouard, 155 
Ducrot, Auguste Alexandre, 194 
Dufour, Colonel Guillaume- 

Henri, 19-20, 23, 29 
Duruy, Victor, 97, 153 

Egypt, 9, 10 

Elliott, Ebenezer, 102 

Endymion (Disraeli), 35 

England, 8, 23, 29, 34-7, 54, 67, 
100, 102, 104, 106 ii, 115, 
118, 121, 123, 132, 133, 150, 
159, 161, 164, 169, 171, 180, 

189, 2OO-2 

English Channel, 34, 37 

Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Co- 
burg-Gotha, 1920, 44 

Espinasse, Charles Marie, 71 

Eugenie, Empress of France, 87, 
90, 91, 93, 94-6, 102, in, 112, 
123, 124, 146-9, 158, 160-1, 
164, 170, 175, 178, 181, 192, 

193, 196, 199, 200, 202 

Faidherbe, Louis Leon Cesar, 

Favre, Jules, 159, 177, 179, 180, 

185, 188, 197 

Fesch, Cardinal Joseph, 19 
Figaro , Le, 188-9 
Filon, Augustin, 199, 200 
Flahaut de la Billardie, Comte 


Auguste de, 14, 17, 18, 41, 

69, 70, 82 

Flandrin, Hippolyte, 151, 200 
Flaubert, Gustave, 126 
Florence, 19, 45, 156 
Flowers of Evil (Beaudelaire), 

96, 126 

Fontainebleau, 1223 
Forcade la Roquette, Jean-Louis, 

179, 181 

Forey, filie Frederic, 161, 162 

Fouche, Joseph, 7, 14 

Fould, Achilla, 65, 69, 77, 150 

France, Anatole, 83 

Francis Joseph I, Emperor of 

Austria, 94, 100, 104, 117, 

Franco-Prussian War, 100, 148, 

158, 175, 186, 191-5 
Frederick the Great, King of 

Prussia, 116, 128, 164 
French Revolution, 4, 99 
Frossard, Charles Auguste, 100 

Gallifret, Marquis Gaston Alex- 

andre Auguste de, 100, 194 
Gambetta, Leon, 38, 128, 177, 

180, 185, 188, 193. 197-8 
Garibaldi, Giuseppe, 118, 156, 


Gamier, Charles, 120 
George, David Lloyd, 131 
Germany, 99, 101, 103, 104, 105, 

115, 118, 155, 164, 166, 169, 

171, 186, 201 
Gorchakov, Prince Alexander 

Mikhailovich, 115 
Gordon, John, 81, 89 
Gramont, Antoine Alfred de, 

i75> I 8s> 190-1 
Greece, 212 
Guizot, Francois Pierre Guil- 

laume, 31, 50, 53, 101, 182 

Habsburg, House of, 30, 161 

Ham Fortress, 39, 42-3 

Haussman, Baron George Eu- 
gene, 136-7, 138-9, 141, 170 

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 

Helene Louise Elisabeth, Prin- 
cess, 54 

Henri IV, King of France, 23, 92 

Hitler, Adolf, 4, 30, 39, 62, 106, 
131, 187 


Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, An- 
thony, Prince of, 189 

Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Leo- 
pold, Prince of, 186-9 

Holland, n, 187 

Holy Roman Empire, 164, 168 

Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen 
of Holland, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10-18, 
22, 23, 25, 27, 28-9, 33, 34, 
43, 68, 69, 82, 130 

Howard, Miss (pseudonym of 
Elizabeth Ann Haryett), 36, 
69, 92-4 

Hugo, Victor, 3, 7, 8, 65, 72, 73, 
74, 83, 104, 108, 143, 144, 
174, 176, 180, 195, 198 

Hundred Days, The, 6, 16, 21, 
39, 86 

Ideale, Die (Schiller), 19 

India, 107, 127 

Invasion of the Crimea (King- 
lake), 36 

Isabella II, Queen of Spain, 187 

Italy, 9, 10 14, 26, 61, 89, 103, 
113, 117-19, 127, 142, 148, 
*54 *55- 8 > 161, 165-6, 172, 
186, 193 

Jackson, Andrew, 65 

Joinville, Francois Ferdinand 

d'Orleans, Prince de, 40, 54 
Josephine, Empress of France, 

9-1 1, 13, 15, 23, 70, 81, 87, 


Journal des Debats, Le, 188 
Juarez, Benito Pablo, 159, 161-2 

Kant, Immanuel, 128 
Kinglake, Alexander William, 8, 

Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul du 

Motier, Marquis de, 14, 54 
La Malmaison, 14, 15, 1 6 
Lamartine, Alphonse Marie de 

Prat de, 36, 52, 55 56, 58-60, 

62, 129 
Lamorciere, Louis Christophe 

Juchault de, 51, 71, 157 
. Lanterne, La (Rochefort), 177 
La Valette, Antoine Chamans, 

Comte de, 14 
Law, John, 135, 136 
Lebas, Philippe, 18-19, 23 


Leconte de Lisle, Charles Marie, 


Ledru-Rollin, Alexandra Au- 

guste, 60 
Legitimists, 55, 56, 60, 62, 

77, 121, 149, 178, 182, 188, 


Le Play, Pierre Guillaume, 169 
Lemoinne, John, 188 
Lesseps, Ferdinand Marie, Vi- 

comte de, 44, 136, 181 
Letters to the Princess (Sainte- 

Beuve), 88 
Life of Cesar (Napoleon III), 

6, 84 

Liszt, Franz von, 180 
Littre, Maximilien Paul fimile, 

Lombard- Venetian Kingdom, 

114, 117 
London, 29, 30, 47, 55, 56, 57 > 

93, in, 140, 183, 199 
Lorencez, Charles Ferdinand, 

Cpmte de, 159 
Louis XIV, King of France, 23, 

54, 98-9, 128, 187 
Louis XV, King of France, 23 
Louis XVI, King of France, 92, 

94 147 

Louis XVIII, King of France, 
12, 14 

Louis Bonaparte, King of Hol- 
land, 8, 11-13, 22, 24, 25, 29, 
30, 45, 69 

Louis-Napoleon, Prince Imperial 
of France, 23, 26, 112, 146, 
170, 185, 192, 199, 201 

Louis-Philippe, King of France, 
8, 12, 26, 27-9, 32, 34, 40-3, 
44, 45-6, 48, 50, 54, 5S> 56, 
58, 64, 70, 76, 86, 105, in, 
116, 122, 129, 152, 175, 182, 
187, 191 

Luther, Martin, 120, 128, 177 

Luxemburg, 105, 167, 188, 189 

Lyautey, Louis Hubert Gon- 
zalve, 151, 162 

Mac-Mahon, Count Edme Pa- 
trice, Duke of Magenta, 99, 
no, 192-5 

Madame B ovary (Flaubert), 126 

Magenta, 100, 116 117 

Magnan, Bernard Pierre, 3940, 
69, 7i, 73 


Magnard, Francis, 188-9 
Magne, Pierre, 77, 153 
Mainland, Captain, 16 
Maria, Queen of Portugal, 94 
Marie Antoinette, Queen of 

France, 123, 147 
Marie Louise, Empress of 

France, 6, 18 
Mars, Mile, (pseudonym of 

Anne Franchise Boutet), 17 
Marseille, 138 
Marx, Karl, 44, 128 
Maupas, Charlemagne Emile de, 

69, 70, 73 

Maximilian, Archduke of Aus- 
tria and Emperor of Mexico, 

161-3, 171, I7S 
Mayence, 105, 167 
Mazzini, Giuseppe, 65, 102, 155, 

Memoires de la Reine Hortense, 

17, 130 
Menshikov, Prince Alexander 

Sergeevich, 107 
Merimee, Prosper, 88, 96, 97 
Metternich, Prince Klemens 

Wenzel Lothar von, 18, 25, 28, 

101, 165 
Metternich, Princess Pauline, 

96, 119, 124 

Metternich, Prince Richard, 119 
Metz, 192-3 
Mexico, 100, 127, 136, 148, 154, 

158-63 172, 176 
Mexico City, 161-2 
Milan, 116, 117, 161 
Miserables, Les (Hugo), 140 
Mocquard, Jean Francois Con- 
stant, 70-1 
Modena, 114, 118 
Mole, Louis Mathieu, Comte, 

33~4, 53 
Moltke, Count Helmuth von, 190, 

Montalembert, Charles Forbes, 

Comte de, 77 
Montholon, Charles Tristan, 

Comte de, 43 
Montpensier, Antoine Louis 

d' Orleans, Due de, 187 
Morny, Charles Auguste Louis 

Joseph, Due de, 4, 17, 6971, 

73, 77, 82-5, 112, 124, 136, 

144, 149, 153, I5 
Morocco, 162 


Murat, Caroline, Countess Lip- 

ona, u, 35 
Murat, Napoleon Lucien Charles, 

Prince, 56 

Musset, Alfred de, 104 
Mussolini, Benito, 131, 172 

Naples, 1 1 8, 156 

Napoleon I, Emperor of the 
French, 3, 6-9, n, 13, 14, 15- 
17, 21, 22, 25, 35, 40, 4.2, 43, 
63, 74, 75, 79, 80, 81, 88, 89, 
94, 96, 98, 99, 101, 102, in, 
123, 128, 130, 187, 191 

Napoleon II, Duke of Reichstadt, 
King of Rome, 6, 2$, 28, 30, 

Napoleon III, Emperor of 
France: appearance, 3, 23-4, 
834 ; ambitious, unscrupu- 
lous, 4, 48, 78, 105; politi- 
cal and social philosophy, 5, 
6, 44-5, 57, 63, 66, 78-80, 103, 
129-31, 133-4, 148, 151-2, 
200; birth, 8, 12; parentage, 
8, 10 ii ; relationship with 
father, 12-13; youth in Swit- 
zerland, 1 8; youthful charac- 
ter, 1 8, 23 ; excellence in 
sports, 18; education, 18-20; 
German influence in education, 
1920, 23, in ; military train- 
ing, 20i, 22, 25, 98 ; self- 
confidence and opportunism, 
24, 29-30, 48, 78, 105 ; early 
military exploits in Italy, 
26-7 ; banished from France, 
to England, then Switzerland, 
29 ; writings, 29, 36, 45, 47, 
63, 130, 140, 146; imaginative 
and adventuresome, 30, 105, 
135, I45J practical, 30, 100; 
secretive, 30, 87, 105, 145 ;. re- 
turn to France and banish- 
ment, 32-3 ; stay in England, 
34-5 ; love of display, 34-5, 
84 ; friendly towards England, 
35, 171 ; connection with Miss 
Howard, 36, 69, 92-4; publi- 
cation and popularity of On 
Napoleonic Ideas, 36 ; return 
to France, 37-9; jailed, 39, 
43 ; trial and sentence to life 
imprisonment, 414 ; study and 
writing in jail, 445 ; escape 

Napoleon III (continued') 

to England, 46-7; return to 
France, 56 ; election to French 
Assembly, 59 ; popularity, 61, 
77, 95 ,' elected President, 60 ; 
arrest of political leaders, 71 ; 
restoration of Empire, 79 ; 
courtship of Princess Mathilde, 
87 ; relationship with Prince 
Napoleon, 88-90, 173; mar- 
riage to Eugenie, 95 ; kindness, 
lack of vanity or rancor, 97, 
98, 105, 106, 145; Crimean 
War, 108-112; birth of 
Prince Imperial, 112-13; in- 
terest in Italian unity, 113 
19 ; prosperity and artistic 
activity in France, 1256, 
150; love of gadgets, 1312, 
200 ; activities as industrialist 
and builder, 135-8 ; rebuild- 
ing of cities, public works, 
138-42, 169; illness, 1456, 
154, i So, 191 ; devotion to son, 
146-7; loyalty to Eugenie, 
147; belief in free trade, 149 
50; Mexican War, 154-5, 
158-63; liberalism, 151, 154, 
156-7; fall from popularity, 
176-7; popular vote against 
Empire, 178; Empire re- 
strengthened, 185 ; Franco- 
Prussian War, 18795; taken 
as prisoner of war, 195; up- 
risings of 1871, 195-9; Em- 
press and son go into exile, 
199 ; reunion with family in 
England, 200 ; death, 201 

Napoleon, Joseph Charles Paul, 
Prince, 12, 48, 80, 83, 86, 88, 
91, 102, 114, 124, 125, 149, 
158, 173, 188, 201 

Napoleon the Little (Hugo), 3, 

Narvaez, Ramon Maria, Duke 

of Valencia, 69 
National Workshops, 45, 55, 

57-8, 130 
Nazism, 4 

Neumann, Alfred, 13 
Neumayer, General, 72 
Newton, Sir Isaac, 128 
New York, 33, 183 
Ney, Col. Edgard, 155 
Nice, 118-19 


Nicholas I, Tsar of Russia, 103, 

^106-7, no 

Niel, Adolphe, 99, 1734, 182 
Niewerkerke, Count de, 87-8 
Nightingale, Florence, 109 
Noir, Victor, 183-4 

Offenbach, Jacques, 124 
Ollivier, Smile, 97, 148, 168, 

177, 179-80, 182, 184, 1 86, 

On Napoleonic Ideas (Napoleon 

III), 6, 36, 47, 79, 146 
On the Extinction of Pauperism 

(Napoleon III), 45, 47, 63, 

130, 140 
Origins of Contemporary France 

(Taine), 88 
Orizaba, 159, 161 
Orleanism, 55, 56, 60, 62, 70, 

149, 176, 179, 188 
Orleans, House of, 42, 76, 83 
Orleans, Ferdinand Philippe, 

Due d', 54 
Orsay, Alfred Guillaume, Comte 

d', 34> 70, 88, 93 
Orsini, Felice, Count, 26, 96, 

113, 115, 117, 144 
Ostend, 47 
Ottoman Empire, 106-7 

Panama, 136 

Papal States, 26, 27, 118, 156, 

Paris, Louis Philippe Albert, 

Comte de, 54 

Paris en Decembre (Tenot), 177 
Paris Opera, 120-1, 140 
Parma, 114, 118 
Pasteur, Louis, 97 
Pelissier, Jean Jacques, Due de 

MalakorT, 99, 109 
Persigny, Jean Gilbert Victor 

Fialin, Due de, 4, 30-1, 32, 

38, 61, 69, 70, 122, 147, 149, 

153. 175, 178 
Petain, Marshal Henri Philippe, 


Piedmont, 114, 117-18, 156 
Pius VII, Pope 8, 12, 27 
Pius IX, Pope, 64-5, 103, 1 1 8, 

148, 155-8, 171, 176 
Plaigne, Eleonore Denuelle de 

la, 35 
Plombieres, 114, 118, 166 


Poland, 61, 81, 102, 163-4, 172 

Political and Military Considera- 
tions on Switzerland (Napo- 
leon III), 29 

Political Reveries (Napoleon 
HI), 6, 36 

Prevost-Paradol, Lucien Ana- 
tole, 182 

Prim y Prats, Gen. Juan, 159, 
187, 189 

Proudhon, Pierre Joseph, 91, 
125, 134 

Prussia, 100, 101, 102, 116, 128, 
155, 158, 164-7, 171, 172, 189 

Puebla, 159, 161 

Pyrenees, n 

Quanta Cura (Pope Pius IX), 

Queretaro, 163 

Rachel (pseudonym of lisa 
Felix), 92, 96 

Raspail, Francois Vincent, 60, 

Renan, Joseph Ernest, 92, 125, 

Republicans, 55, 59, 77, 149, 
178, 180, 182, 184, 188 

Rhine, 101, 104 

Robespierre, Maximilien Fran- 
cois, de, 9, 18, 23 

Rochefort, Victor Henri, 38, 83 

Rochefort-Lugay, Marquis Hen- 
ri de, 177, 183 

Romagna, 26, 118 

Rome, 19, 25, 26, 64-5, 114, 154, 
156-8, 172, 175 

Roosevelt, Franklin Delano, 66, 
79, 118, 182, 200 

Roosevelt, Theodore, 656 

Rossi, Pellegrino, Count, 64, 155 

Rossini, Gioacchino Antonio, 171 

Rouher, Eugene, 65, 77, 146, 
153-4, 176, 178-80, 184, 201 

Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 128 

Russia, 8, 22-3, 84, 86, 102, 
1069, **2j 172 

Sadowa, 165-7, 188, 190 
Sahara Desert, 51 
Saint-Arnaud, Armand Jacques 

Leroy de, 69, 70, 71, 99, 109 
Saint-Cloud, 19, 79, m, 122, 

150, 190, 192 


Sainte-Beuve, Charles Augustki, 

88, 92 

St. Helena, 40, 43, 102 
Saint- Simon, Claude Henri de 

Rouvroy, Comte de, 44, 98, 

129, 150, 181 
Sand, George (pseudonym of 

Aurore Lucie, Baronne Dude- 

vant), 91, 131 
Savary, Jean Marie Rene, Due 

de Rovigo, 15, 28 
Savoy, 1 8, 118 

Schiller, Johann Christoph Fried- 
rich von, 19, 20, 23 
Schleswig-Holstein, 164 
Sebastopol, 109 
Sedan, 100, 115, 126, 127, 141, 

c' 14 ^' *?? 
Segum, Marc, 129 

Seignobos, Charles, 77 
Senegal, 151 

Serrano y Dominguez, Fran- 
cisco, 187 
Sicily, 1 1 8, 156 
Simon, Jules, 188 
Smith, Adam, 128 
Socialists, 55, 149, 178 
Solferino, 100 
Soult, Nicolas Jean de Dieu, 28, 

Spain, 8, 90, 96, 148, 159, 168, 

186-7, 189 
Stael, Anne Louis Germaine, 

Madame de, 14 
Stendhal (pseudonym of Henri 

Beyle), 96 
Strasbourg, 31-2, 37, 38, 47, 62, 

66, 87, no 
Suez Canal, 44, 136, 176, 180, 


Switzerland, 18, 33 
Syllabus of the Errors of Our 

Age (Pope Pius IX), 156-7 
Syria, 150 

Taine, Hippolyte Adolphe, 88, 

92, 125, 126, 132 
Talleyrand-Perigord, Charles 

Maurice de, 17, 69, 82, 84 
Talma, Frangois Joseph, 96 
Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, 109 
Tenot, Eugene, 177 


Thackeray, William Makepeace, 


Thelin (valet), 43, 46, 47 
Thiers, Louis Adolphe, 40, 53, 

54, 59, 61, 68, 71, 78, 82, 

128, 129, 142, 152, 153, 179, 

180, 190, 195, 197 
Thun, 20, 22, 25 
Tocqueville, Alexis Charles 

Clerel de, 59 

Travel Notes (Taine), 126 
Trochu, Louis Jules, 196-7 
Troubetzkoy, Princess, 84-5 
Turkey, 21-2, 107, 108 
Tuscany, 27, 114, 118 

Vasconcelos, Jose, 161 

Venice, 165-6 

Vera Cruz, 159, 160, 163 

Verhuel, Carel Hendrik, 12, 41 

Veuillot Louis, 125 

Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, 
90, 114, 116, 117, 118, 158, 

Victoria, Queen of England, 19, 
93, 96, 105, in-12, 171, 200 

Vienna, 14, 30, 104, 116, 124 

Vienna, Treaties of, 21, 25, 78, 
79, 101, 102, 174 

Vigny, Alfred de, 143 

Villafranca, 117, 119 

Viollet-le-Duc, Eugene Emman- 
uel, 122 

Walewska, Marie, Countess, Si, 

82, 92, 124 
Walewski, Alexander Florian 

Colonna, Comte, 35, 812, 124, 

Waterloo, 31, 81, 102, in, 167, 

193, 197 

Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, 
Duke of, 31, 193 

William I, King of Prussia, 189- 

William II, Emperor of Ger- 
many, 187 

Wilson, Woodrow, 66, 79, 103, 
105, 200 

Wimpffen, Emmanuel Felix de, 


This book was set on the Linotype in a face called EZ- 
dorado, so named by its designer, WILLIAM ADDISON 
DWIGGINS, as an echo of Spanish adventures in the 
Western World. The series of experiments that cul- 
minated in this type-face began in 1942; the designer 
was trying a page more "brunette" than the usual book 
type. "One wanted a face that should be sturdy, and yet 
not too mechanical. . . . Another desideratum was that 
the face should be narrowish, compact, and close fitted, 
for reasons of economy of materials/ 5 The specimen that 
started Dwiggins on his way was a type design used by 
the Spanish printer A. de Sancha at Madrid about 1774. 
Eldorado, however, is in no direct way a copy of that 
letter, though it does reflect the Madrid specimen in the 
anatomy of its arches, curves, and junctions. Of special 
interest in the lower-case letters are the stresses of color in 
the blunt, sturdy serifs, subtly counterbalanced by the 
emphatic weight of some of the terminal curves and 
finials. The roman capitals are relatively open, and 
winged with liberal serifs and an occasional festive touch. 
This book was composed, printed, and bound by The 
Plimpton Press, Norwood, Massachusetts. Paper mami- 
factured by S. D. Warren Company, Boston. The typog- 
raphy and binding were designed by the creator of its 
type-face W. A. Dwiggins.