H 202: 19th C. French politics
|Events and periods||Type of government||Dominant political groups|
1814-30: the Bourbon Restoration
1814: Napoleon defeated. The victorious allies restore the monarchy: Louis VIII (heir to Louis XVI who was overthrown in the French Revolution) becomes king. He tries to follow a moderate policy.
(The "100 Days": 1815: Napoleon returns to France and resumes power. The war begins again: he is defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and sent into exile on St Helena.)
|The King was theoretically absolute, but granted a "Charter": he agrees to rule with a parliament of two chambers, one representing nobles and one representing commoners (on a property franchise which restricted voting rather narrowly). Most of the Napoleonic settlement (law, admistration etc) is left intact.||Legitimists, conservatives|
1824: Louis XVIII dies, Charles X
becomes king. He follows more "reactionary" policies which seemed
to seek to reverse many aspects of the Revolution.
1830: Parliament seeks reform on issues of censorship, the franchise etc. Charles X resists and tries to restrict the franchise further.
|Government continues under the Charter, but with "Reactionary" policies, e.g. compensation for nobles who had lost land in the Revolution, at the expense of (bourgeois) holders of government bonds.||Reactionaries|
|1830: the July Revolution: Charles X overthrown.The Duke of Orleans (a junior member of the royal family) becomes king, under the name Louis-Philippe. He accepts the principle of constitutional monarchy.|
|1830-48: the Orleanist Monarchy (also called the July Monarchy)||Parliamentary government, franchise wider but still restricted to landowners and bourgeoisie. The government is identified with the bourgeoisie (hence "the Bourgeois King").||Conservatives, liberals|
1848-52: the Second Republic
February 1848: Revolution of 1848. Louis-Philippe overthrown. A republic is declared with a "Provisional Government" (i.e. a temporary government until elections.)
|Provisional government: self-appointed committee||Liberals, radicals, socialists|
April: universal male suffrage elections to Constituent Assembly:
conservatives (including secret monarchists) do well. Radicals in
Paris were very disappointed.
June Days: A popular uprising in Paris, leading to six days of fighting in Paris. The government wins.
November: new constitution agreed. December: election for President, won by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte.
May 1849: elections for parliament.
|Parliamentary republic, parliament elected by universal male suffrage.||Conservatives, liberals|
|Parliament split between left and right, with right dominant. Parliament restricts franchise.By 1851, conservatives planning to restore Orleanist monarchy.||Under the 1848 constitution, a republic with a separate President and Legislature (on American model).||Conservatives, liberals|
2 December 1851: coup d'état by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, who becomes dictator.
1852-70: The Second Empire
2 December 1852: Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte becomes emperor, as Napoleon III.
|Authoritarian Bonapartist government. A Legislative Body is elected by universal male franchise, but is dominated by "official candidates" backed by the government. In the 1860s the regime becomes more liberal.||Bonapartists, conservatives, liberals (in later phases)|
1870: France defeated in Franco-Prussian War; revolution in Paris.
1871: conservatives do well in elections; radicals in Paris disappointed. Revolution in Paris by the Commune; violently suppressed by the government.
1871: The Commune
(N.B.: this was confined to Paris)
|Revolution (especially but not exclusively working-class) in Paris against conservative trend of Republic. Apparently favoured some type of loose federation which would allow Paris to follow its own path||Socialists, radicals|
|1870-1940: Third Republic||Parliamentary republic, universal male franchise||Conservatives, liberals (monarchists initially in majority in parliament)|
The Second Empire of Napoleon III had been discredited by defeat, but the Republican government which then took power was also discredited by its failure. The Commune made the French bourgeoisie very suspicious of radicalism. In these circumstances the royalists predominated in the initial years of the Third Republic, and planned to restore the monarchy. They lost their opportunity due to failure to resolve the Legitimist/Orleanist split and the unrealistic and extreme views of the Legitimist candidate for the throne. Subsequent Bonapartist advances led the Orleanists to combine with the moderate Republicans against them, and the constitution of the Third Republic was settled in 1875.
The Third Republic was a compromise arrangement, a parliamentary republic in which governments changed frequently. There is a sense in which the various political movements of the 19th century can be seen as "alternative endings to the unfinished story of the French Revolution": the Legitimists rejecting the Revolution, the Orleanists perhaps wishing it had stopped in 1791, the Republicans endorsing the First Republic, and the Bonapartists looking to the legend of Napoleon.
The deep divisions of Left and Right had not, however, been resolved. Sections of the Right never really accepted the Third Republic, and in 1940 they seized their chance. It is perhaps only with Charles de Gaulle's Fifth Republic that a stable national consensus on the regime has been reached.
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Copyright © 2000 B. S. Bennett
Last updated 11 September 2000