French coup d'état of 1851: Launch of a frigate at Neuilly
Antique wood engraved print, 1851
Caption below picture: 'Launch of a frigate at Neuilly '
French coup d'état of 1851
The French coup d'état on December 2nd, 1851, staged by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (at the time President of the Second French Republic), ended in the successful dissolution of the French National Assembly, as well as the subsequent reestablishment of the French Empire the next year. Louis-Napoléon, nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte, reclaimed his uncle's throne as Emperor of the French (taking the regnal name Napoléon III) and reestablished universal suffrage (previously abolished by the Assembly). His decisions and the extension of his mandate for 10 years were popularly endorsed by referendum.
In 1848, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was elected President of France through universal suffrage, taking 74% of the vote. He did this with the support of the Parti de l’Ordre after running against Louis Eugène Cavaignac. Subsequently, he was in constant conflict with the members (députés) of the Assemblée Nationale.
Contrary to the Party’s expectations that Louis-Napoleon would be easy to manipulate (Adolphe Thiers had called him a "cretin whom we will lead "), he proved himself an agile and cunning politician. He succeeded in imposing his choices and decisions on the Assemblée, which had once again become conservative in the aftermath of the June Days Uprising in 1848. He broke away from the control of the Parti de l’Ordre and created the “Ministère des Commis”, appointing General Hautpoul as its head, in 1849. On 3 January 1850, he dismissed Changarnier, a dissident in the Parti de l’Ordre, thereby provoking an open conflict within the party. He also actively encouraged the creation of numerous anti-parliament newspapers and acquired the support of 150 members of Parliament, the "Parti de l’Elysée".
The provisions of the constitutions that prohibited an incumbent president from seeking re-election appeared to force the end of Louis-Napoleon's rule in December 1852. Not one to admit defeat, Louis-Napoleon spent the first half of 1851 trying to force changes to the constitution through Parliament so he could be re-elected. Bonaparte travelled through the provinces and organised petitions to rally popular support. Two-thirds of General Council supported Louis-Napoleon’s cause, but in the Assembly, supporters of the Duke of Orléans, led by Thiers, concluded an alliance with the far left to oppose Louis-Napoleon's plans. In January 1851, the Parliament voted no confidence in the Ministère des Commis. On 19 July, it refused the constitutional reform proposed by Louis-Napoleon, also scrapping universal suffrage in an effort to break popular support for Bonaparte.
The Coup of 2 December 1851
On the morning of 2 December, troops led by Saint-Arnaud occupied strategic points in Paris, from the Champs-Elysées to the Tuileries. Top opposition leaders were arrested and six edicts promulgated to establish the rule of Louis-Napoleon. The Assemblée Nationale was dissolved, and universal suffrage restored. Louis-Napoleon declared that a new constitution was being framed and said he intended to restore a “system established by the First Consul”.
Reacting to this coup, parliamentarians took refuge in the mayor’s office of the 20th Arrondissement and 220 of them voted to oust Louis-Napoleon from power. Most prominent among these were liberals like Remusat and moderates like Pascal Duprat, who were arrested soon after. A Parisian insurrection led by the likes of Victor Hugo and Victor Schoelcher erupted despite tight control by the Army. The insurgents were soon defeated. On 3 December, parliamentarian Alphonse Baudin was killed and on 4 December, 200 more people fell victim to the revolution. By evening, the revolt of Paris was suppressed and the city returned to normal.
The Constitution of France underwent a modification. The new constitution bestowed executive power on a President, elected for a period of 10 years. He was also vested with the power of legislative initiative, thereby reducing the scope of the Parliament. This succeeded in concentrating power in the hands of an authoritarian executive.
In less than a year, the Second Republic transformed into the Second Empire, established by a referendum on 7 November 1852. President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, elected by the French people, officially became Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, from the symbolic and historic date of 2 December 1852.
DATE PRINTED: 1851
IMAGE SIZE: Approx 16.5 x 22.5cm, 6.5 x 8.75 inches (Medium)
PROVENANCE: Illustrated London News
TYPE: Antique wood engraved print
VERSO: There are images and/or text printed on the reverse side of the picture. In some cases this may be visible on the picture itself (please check the scan prior to your purchase) or around the margin of the picture.
CONDITION: Fair: Spotting. The image shown may have been scanned from a different example of this print than that which is offered for sale: Any flaws described in this statement may not be visible on the scan but will be present on the print you receive. Please note any other blemishes on the scan prior to purchasing this picture. This print has been scanned in black and white, however any foxing or spotting highlighted in this statement may appear brown on the actual print. Virtually all antiquarian maps and prints are subject to some normal aging due to use and time which is not obtrusive unless otherwise stated. I offer a no questions asked return policy - see below.
AUTHENTICITY: This is an authentic historic print, published at the date stated above. I do not offer reproductions. It is not a modern copy. The term 'original' when applied to a print means that it was printed at the first or original date of publication; it does not imply that the item is unique. 'Print' means any image created by applying an inked block to paper or card under pressure by any method including wood engraving, steel engraving, copperplate, wood cut and lithography.
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