The FRENCH COUP D\'éTAT of
2 December 1851 was a self-coup staged by
Napoléon Bonaparte (at the time President of the French
Second Republic ). It ended in the successful dissolution of the
French National Assembly and the subsequent re-establishment of the
French Empire the next year. When he faced the prospect of having to
leave office in 1852, Louis-Napoléon (nephew of
Napoléon Bonaparte )
staged the coup in order to stay in office and implement his reform
programs; these included the restoration of universal suffrage
(previously abolished by the legislature). His political measures, and
the extension of his mandate for 10 years, were popularly endorsed by
constitutional referendum . A mere year later, the Prince-President
reclaimed his uncle's throne as Emperor of the French under the regnal
* 1 Causes * 2 Preparations for the coup * 3 The coup of 2 December 1851 * 4 Revolt in other places * 5 Peace returns * 6 Consequences * 7 Further reading * 8 External links
In 1848 , Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was elected President of France through universal male 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 constitution 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 the 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 male suffrage in an effort to break popular support for Bonaparte.
PREPARATIONS FOR THE COUP
The coup d'état was meticulously planned from 20 August 1851.
Preparations and planning for this coup took place at
Among the conspirators were
Persigny , a loyal companion of
Louis-Napoleon, the Duke of Morny , and General Jacques Leroy de Saint
Arnaud . On 14 October,
Louis-Napoleon asked the Parliament to restore
universal male suffrage but the request was turned down. His request
for a reconsideration of the constitutional reform proposal was also
turned down on 13 November. Prepared to strike, Louis-Napoleon
appointed General Saint-Arnaud as the Minister of War and a circular
was issued reminding soldiers of their pledge of "passive obedience".
Followers of the President were appointed to various important
positions: General Magnan as the Commander of the Troops of Paris, and
Maupas, Prefect of
Haute-Garonne as Prefect of Police of
THE COUP OF 2 DECEMBER 1851
D\'Allonville 's cavalry in the street of
On the morning of 2 December, troops led by Saint-Arnaud occupied
strategic points in Paris, from the
Reacting to this coup, parliamentarians took refuge in the mayor's
office of the 20th arrondissement of
REVOLT IN OTHER PLACES
The coup triggered revolts in other places across France. On 5
December, rebellions were reported in big cities, small towns and
rural areas in the south-west of France. The department of
Basses-Alpes even declared itself administered by a "Committee of
Resistance" but the army, still loyal to the President, succeeded in
quelling the rebellion. A total of 32 departments were put under a
state of alert from 8 December and the rebellious areas were
controlled in a few days. Opponents were arrested and some were forced
The Bonapartists were finally assured of a victory. Generals Vaillant and Harispe became Marshal of France on 11 December. A new constitution was being drafted. A referendum was organised to ratify the new order and the coup was portrayed as a security operation.
On 20 and 21 December, the French population were recorded as having
voted for acceptance of the new regime by an overwhelming majority of
7,145,000 to 600,000, although the official tally and free nature of
the vote were questioned by dissidents like
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Following a referendum in December 1851, a new constitution was adopted in January 1852 . It dramatically expanded the powers of the president, who was elected for a period of 10 years with no term limits. He not only possessed executive power, but was vested with the power of legislative initiative, thereby reducing the scope of the Parliament. Louis-Napoleon was automatically reelected to a fresh term as president. For all intents and purposes, he now held all governing power in the nation.
The authoritarian republic proved to be only a stopgap, as
Louis-Napoleon immediately set about restoring the empire. In less
than a year, following another referendum on 7 November 1852, the
Second French Empire was proclaimed. On the symbolic and historic date
2 December 1852 (the anniversary of the
Coronation of Napoleon I in
Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte became
* Margadant, Ted (1979). French Peasants in Revolt: The Insurrection of 1851. * John Burt Halsted, ed. (1972). December 2, 1851: contemporary writings on the coup d'etat of Louis Napoleon. Anchor Books. * Hugo, Victor (1852).