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BETWEEN 1830 and 1848 the idea of political democracy had made steady progress throughout Europe among both the workingmen and the middle class until in the eventful days of 1848 it had thrown the whole Continent into turmoil. That it had not produced immediate results commensurate with its aims and purposes was due in part to the fact that certain peoples of Europe divided their allegiance between the idea of political democracy and the notion of patriotic nationalism. A little reflection upon the national and racial movements in the Habsburg dominions will furnish concrete examples of the way in which a sense of nationality could fatally choke an aspiration for democratic government. It appeared as if the patriotic instinct was more primitive and more powerful than the democratic ideal, and that in many instances the forces of reaction might rely upon the former to thwart the latter. The point was, of course, that in most countries democracy was the program of but particular classes, while patriotism provided a spacious platform on which an entire nation could stand shoulder to shoulder. Consequently, in the period from 1848 to 1870, the bulk of Europeans seemed to rest from agitation for liberal constitutions and other paraphernalia of democracy, exhausted, as it were, by the chronic factional tumults which, throughout the Era of Metternich, and down to the domestic upheavals of 1848, had stirred every state, and to expend their energies more unitedly upon colossal attempts at nation-building. To be sure, democracy continued to make some headway between 1848 and 1870, but it was dwarfed in historical significance by such achievements as the national unifications of Italy and Germany...
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Copyright © 2016 by Carlton Hayes
Published by Perennial Press
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THE GROWTH OF NATIONALISM
LOUIS NAPOLEON BONAPARTE AND THE ERECTION OF THE SECOND FRENCH EMPIRE
THE POLITICAL UNIFICATION OF ITALY
THE DECLINE OF THE SECOND FRENCH EMPIRE, 1860–1870
THE POLITICAL UNIFICATION OF GERMANY
BETWEEN 1830 AND 1848 THE idea of political democracy had made steady progress throughout Europe among both the workingmen and the middle class until in the eventful days of 1848 it had thrown the whole Continent into turmoil. That it had not produced immediate results commensurate with its aims and purposes was due in part to the fact that certain peoples of Europe divided their allegiance between the idea of political democracy and the notion of patriotic nationalism. A little reflection upon the national and racial movements in the Habsburg dominions will furnish concrete examples of the way in which a sense of nationality could fatally choke an aspiration for democratic government. It appeared as if the patriotic instinct was more primitive and more powerful than the democratic ideal, and that in many instances the forces of reaction might rely upon the former to thwart the latter. The point was, of course, that in most countries democracy was the program of but particular classes, while patriotism provided a spacious platform on which an entire nation could stand shoulder to shoulder.
Consequently, in the period from 1848 to 1870, the bulk of Europeans seemed to rest from agitation for liberal constitutions and other paraphernalia of democracy, exhausted, as it were, by the chronic factional tumults which, throughout the Era of Metternich, and down to the domestic upheavals of 1848, had stirred every state, and to expend their energies more unitedly upon colossal attempts at nation-building. To be sure, democracy continued to make some headway between 1848 and 1870, but it was dwarfed in historical significance by such achievements as the national unifications of Italy and Germany.
As the nineteenth-century theory of political democracy was derived mainly from the revolutionary French doctrines of “liberty” and “equality,” so contemporaneous nationalism drew its inspiration from “fraternity.” And as “fraternity” under the great Napoleon had meant nations in arms,—the marshaling and fighting of hosts of men,—so now, in the cause of national unifications, the international peace which had attended the supremacy of Metternich gave place to a new series of wars.
One other mark of the period from 1848 to 1870 was the fitting fact that its most conspicuous personage was another Napoleon Bonaparte, who, as politician and adventurer, rivaled even the first emperor of the French. The picturesque career of this second Bonaparte merits somewhat detailed consideration on account of the enduring influence which it has exerted upon the fortunes of present-day France, Italy, Germany, and Austria-Hungary.
LOUIS NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, THE SON of Louis Bonaparte, erstwhile king of Holland, and of Hortense Beauharnais, was born in the palace of the Tuileries at Paris in 1808. His uncle, the Emperor Napoleon, then at the very height of his power, stood sponsor for him at baptism and inscribed his name in the family register with a right of succession. Exiled from France, along with all Bonapartes, by the Ultra-Royalists in 1816, he passed his youth in Switzerland, Savoy, and southern Germany. He attended a gymnasium at Augsburg and was put through a thorough course in military science under an able Swiss general, but the credit for his excellent liberal education was due primarily to the devotion of his intellectually gifted mother; and it was from her also that he learned his pet axioms : “With a name like his, he would always be something”; “He ought to know how to amuse the royalist and republican crowds”; “All means of ruling are good, legitimate, and sufficient, provided only that material prosperity is ensured.”
Brought up to regard the tradition of his family as identical with that of the Revolution, Prince Louis Napoleon accounted himself from the outset a born leader of Liberalism, a predestined custodian of the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Had not the bourgeois government of Louis Philippe been formed too quickly, he would have gone straight to Paris in 1830 and there claimed the fruits of the overthrow of Charles X and the other reactionaries. As it was, he joined in Italy the revolutionary society of the Carbonari and participated in the insurrection of 1831 against the pope, but he soon fell into the hands of the Austrians, and was released only through his mother’s tears. Then he intrigued simultaneously with French republicans and with Polish rebels, but the watchfulness of Louis Philippe on one hand, and the firm action of the Russian tsar on the other, reduced the Bonapartist prince to the necessity of wielding the pen rather than the sword.
In a series of writings which culminated in the Napoleonic Ideas (1839), he set forth his political theories. The French Empire, he maintained, had been the perfect realization of the principles of 1789. It had rested upon a foundation of national sovereignty; it had recognized universal manhood suffrage in its domestic affairs, and in its foreign relations it had upheld the cause of separate nationalities; it had been solidified, directed, and rendered glorious by its Cæsarism, that is, by entrusting power to an emperor whose absolutism was conditioned only by his ability to promote public prosperity and to retain popular support. Such, according to Louis Napoleon, had been the aims of the first Napoleon and such would be his aims in endeavoring to reestablish the empire in France.
We know now that these writings of Louis Napoleon presented a very falsely idealized picture of the First Empire, but they fitted in. very nicely with the “Napoleonic Legend,” which, spun on sea-girt St. Helena by the great Napoleon himself, already had obtained sentimental credence in many a French cottage. And circumstances of the reign of Louis Philippe (1830–1848) tended to exalt the legend and incidentally to feed the ambition of Prince Louis Napoleon. The French monarchy which owed its erection to the July Revolution was, as we have seen, a bourgeois compromise between Bourbon reaction and Republican liberalism, and the very concessions which it was obliged to make to the latter were fuel to the Bonapartist flame. Thus the tricolor again supplanted the white flag as the national ensign, and had not the tricolor been the banner of Napoleon? Thus, too, the detested fleur-delis atop the Vendôme column was replaced by an iron statue of the Little Corporal, and had not that column been cast from cannon which Napoleon himself had captured from the Austrians? The completion of the monumental arch of triumph in Paris (1836) in commemoration of the military exploits of Napoleon brought the ignominious foreign policy of the bourgeois king into glaring contrast with the glorious victories of the emperor; and Louis Philippe paid the crowning tribute to Bonapartism when he had the bones of the emperor brought back from St. Helena (1840) to repose under the stately dome of the Invalides, just as the exile had willed, “on the banks of the Seine among the people whom he had so dearly loved.”
Twice during the reign of Louis Philippe, Louis Napoleon made premature attempts to take advantage of the growing Bonapartist sentiment in France and to reestablish the empire. The first time, in 1836, raising his standard at Strassburg and being speedily arrested, he was released on condition that he emigrate to America. The second time, in 1840, landing at Boulogne with the declaration that the emperor’s bones should rest only in a “regenerated France,” he was condemned to imprisonment for life, and the next six years he spent in the fortress of Ham. It was during this period of captivity that Louis Napoleon added a mild variety of Socialism to his other political theories. He readily perceived that the government of Louis Philippe existed primarily in the interests of the bourgeoisie and that the body of French workingmen, whose numbers and misery the Industrial Revolution was then rapidly increasing, were its most natural enemies. His humanitarian impulses and his sense of “good politics” led him forthwith to espouse the cause of the workingmen. From prison he corresponded with Louis Blanc, the Socialist, and with Proudhon, the Anarchist, and he wrote another book, the Extinction of Pauperism, that promised, as the cornerstone of his projected regime, the material prosperity of all classes. It would be his business, he said, to assist the capitalists by opening up new fields of industry; the peasants, by stimulating the cultivation of the land through the aid of governmental grants; and the industrial proletarians, by providing work in abundance and so increasing their power of purchase. In this way work would be found for the unemployed, a demand would be created for every product, and poverty would eventually disappear. “The triumph of Christianity abolished slavery; the triumph of the French Revolution abolished serfdom; the triumph of democracy will abolish pauperism.” And, of course, democracy, so far as France was concerned, was a cryptogram, to which Prince Louis Napoleon alone had the key.
Louis Napoleon was lucky. In 1846 he managed to escape from the prison of Ham, in the guise of a workingman, curiously enough, and to make his way to England. Two years elapsed and he was recalled with open arms by all France. The year 1848 marked the first success in the Great Adventure.
As soon as news reached him in February, 1848, that a joint uprising of bourgeois Republicans and Socialist workingmen had effected the deposition of Louis Philippe, Louis Napoleon crossed over to Paris. The radicals welcomed him, but the more moderate members of the provisional government were insistent that he should leave the country forthwith. It was wonderfully fortunate for him that he obeyed instructions and again withdrew to England, because in that way he was absent from France when the bourgeois Republicans and the Socialist workingmen fell to fighting, and thus he escaped the opprobrium which the latter heaped upon the former for the horrible bloodshed of the June Days. At the same time, the offer of his services to the aged duke of Wellington, then gallantly overawing the British Chartists, gave guarantees to the middle class of France, the lovers of law and order, that his radicalism was not of the dangerous sort.
It was thus that the name of a Bonaparte presented itself to all Frenchmen as a pledge of peace and security. In the midst of most unseemly quarrels between Socialists, bourgeois Radicals, Moderate Republicans, and Catholics,—each faction interpreting “liberty” and “equality” after the desires of its own heart,—Louis Napoleon stepped in and with the charming word “fraternity” stilled the tumult,—“fraternity,” the memory of the proudest achievements of French nationality, the single foundation on which all factions might unite. In June, 1848, Prince Louis Napoleon was elected to the Assembly, and in December he was raised to the presidency of the republic by an overwhelming popular majority. At the close of 1848 he took the oath “to remain faithful to the democratic republic; … to regard as enemies of the nation all those who may attempt by illegal means to change the form of the established government.” Henceforth, for twenty-two years the history of Louis Napoleon is the history of France.
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