Second French Republic

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République française
French Republic
Flag of France.svg Great Seal of France.svg
flag coat of arms
Motto : Liberté, égalité, fraternité
( French for "freedom, equality, brotherhood")
Constitution The Constitution of the French Republic
Official language French
Capital Paris
Form of government
- 1848 to 1851
- 1851 to 1852
Semi- Presidential Republic
Dictatorial presidential republic
Form of government Semi-presidential parliamentary system on a limited democratic basis
Presidential system on an autocratic basis
Head of state , also head of
Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (1848-1852)
currency French Franc
Beginning 1848
The End 1852
National anthem Le Chant des Girondins
The Second French Republic 1848

The Second French Republic ( French : Deuxième République française ) emerged from the February Revolution . It began on February 25, 1848. After a brief period of coexistence between left and liberal forces, the moderate liberals prevailed, especially after the June uprising in 1848. When Louis Napoleon Bonaparte won the presidential election in December 1848 , the anti-revolutionary tendencies intensified again. After December 2, 1851 and far-reaching constitutional changes in favor of the president, the republic only existed on paper before the second empire was proclaimed on December 2, 1852 .

The emergence of the republic

Louis Blanc

The regime of the citizen-king Louis Philippe had ultimately failed because of the solution to the social question and because it had not met the demand for political participation. The regime weathered the famines of 1846 and 1847 comparatively well, and the government even won the elections in 1846. The main reason for failure was the unyielding stance on the electoral law issue. There was also political immobility. This displeasure took off in the February Revolution. Louis Philippe's attempt to accommodate the revolutionaries with the appointment of Adolphe Thiers failed . He therefore had to abdicate on February 24, 1848 and go into exile.

In the first phase of the revolution and republic up to the meeting of a national assembly on May 4, 1848, there was a provisional government under Alphonse de Lamartine , in which all opposition forces from the republican liberals to left democrats (radicals) to the socialists participated were. From the beginning the development was marked by the contrast between the bourgeois liberals on the one hand and the socialists supported by workers and small artisans on the other. The government immediately introduced a ten to eleven hour day and allowed trade unions to be formed . Above all, the socialist minister Louis Blanc ensured the establishment of national workshops for the employment of the unemployed, especially in Paris , which corresponded to the proclaimed "right to work" (droit de travail) . However, this was not connected with the establishment of corporations, as the socialists wanted, but rather the compromise within the government consisted in financing public, mostly unproductive labor measures. Private property was thus not in question.

The measures themselves were not very effective. The number of unemployed continued to rise and costs led to inflationary tendencies.

Election to the National Assembly and June uprising

Barricade fight in Rue Soufflot, Paris, June 25, 1848 ( June Uprising )

The left prevailed more strongly on the issue of voting rights. With a declaration of March 4, 1848, universal suffrage for men was introduced as the first country in Europe. The number of those entitled to vote rose from 250,000 to 9 million.

The elections to the National Assembly on April 23, 1848 showed that the majority rejected the monarchy , but advocated a more moderately liberal course and not a socialist republic. About half of the 900 seats went to the moderate supporters of the republic, only about 200 to the radical democrats and socialists. There were also another 200 MPs for the Orleans dynasty and another 40 legitimists , i.e. supporters of the older Bourbon line .

After the election, the provisional government dissolved. An executive commission took their place. The fact that the social conflicts had not been resolved became apparent after the National Assembly disbanded the cost-intensive national workshops. This led to the June riots between June 23 and 27, 1848, when workers and artisans protested against it. They culminated in the building of barricades and street fighting. The liberal government had the army , through War Minister Louis-Eugène Cavaignac, suppress the unrest with all possible force. More than 3,000 people lost their lives and 5,000 were wounded. In addition, leaders were executed and more than 15,000 people were deported. Until the presidential election, Cavaignac exercised executive power with almost dictatorial powers.


The constitution, promulgated on November 4, 1848, declared France a democratic republic in the preamble and committed itself to the principles of the French Revolution : " Freedom, equality, fraternity ." In addition, the abolition of the death penalty was proclaimed and free primary education was guaranteed. Wars of conquest were rejected. In addition to these emancipatory elements, the constitution contained rather conservative elements with the declaration of family, work, property and public order to be the basic principles of the republic. However, neither the right to work nor a progressive tax system was adopted.

The parliament consisted of only one chamber. Both Parliament and the President were elected for four years by equal universal and direct suffrage for men. The ministers' competencies and responsibilities remained unclear. The directly elected president, on the other hand, had extensive powers. However, re-election was not possible.

The Conservative Republic

In the presidential election of December 10, 1848, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte prevailed clearly against Cavaignac and other applicants. Bonaparte owed the victory above all to voters from rural areas and to the still lingering nimbus of Napoleon I. The fact that the republic ordered an army expedition to Rome in March 1849 to defeat the pope, who had been driven out by the revolutionaries of the Roman republic , speaks for a turn to the right Pius IX reinstall. After the siege of Rome, the defenders had to surrender on June 30th. In the French National Assembly, motions against this approach did not find a majority.

On May 13, 1849, the elections to the legislative assembly took place. The turnout was low at 60%. The losers in the election were the moderate Republicans, who only got 70 seats. Socialists and radical democrats came to 200 MPs. The various supporters of the monarchy, i.e. Bonapartists , Orleanists and Legitimists, formed the majority with 60%. On June 13, 1849, the struggle against the Roman Republic led to renewed unrest on the political left. After the military crackdown on this unrest, the opposition press was suppressed and leading opponents of the regime were driven into exile. The penal laws were also tightened afterwards.

At the end of October Bonaparte dismissed the government, which still consisted of members of parliament, and replaced it with men who were dependent on him. A conservative school law was introduced in early 1850; it strengthened the influence of the clergy. Symbols of the revolution like the trees of freedom had to be removed.

In May 1850 the right to vote was also restricted. The number of potential voters fell to 6.8 million and thus by a third. Large sections of the working population and small farmers were particularly affected.

Coup of December 2, 1851

President Louis Napoleon Bonaparte

Bonaparte soon began to prepare a revision of the constitution in order to renew the empire again. By traveling through the provinces he tried to increase his popularity with the population and especially with the army at the expense of parliament. He was supported in this by the Bonapartist associations. A commission was charged with preparing a revision of the constitution that would allow re-election.

After extensive deliberations in July 1851, these proposals did not find the required two-thirds majority in parliament. Thereupon Bonaparte decided on a coup d'état after he had secured the support of leading military.

The coup d'état of December 2, 1851 took place on the emblematic anniversary of the Battle of Austerlitz and the imperial coronation of Napoleon I. On that day, strategic points in Paris were occupied by the military and senior members of the legislative assembly were arrested. In addition, the state of siege for Paris was declared, the parliament dissolved and a new constitution announced. It announced the reintroduction of universal suffrage. At the head of the republic should be a president elected for ten years and with great powers. The legislature should consist of a State Council, a Legislative Body and a Senate.

Some of the parliamentarians tried to discuss legal countermeasures in parliament. But the meeting was dissolved and the MPs arrested. An extra-parliamentary popular uprising was triggered by the decidedly republican side on December 3, which hit Paris and some neighboring areas. Since the number of those involved fell well short of the barricade fighting of 1830 and 1848, the unrest could be put down quickly. The fighting cost the republic another 400 dead and even more wounded.

The revised constitution and the transition to the empire

Since then the republic has only existed on paper. In a referendum, Bonaparte, who was now called “Prince-President”, legitimized the coup in December 1851. In January 1852 the new constitution was presented. This envisaged an extremely strong president who was only responsible to the people. With referendums he was able to ignore parliamentary decisions. The ministers were not responsible to parliament either, only to the president. The State Council was appointed by the President alone. The Legislative Assembly was elected for six years. By giving preference to official candidates, the government reserved the right to influence. Parliament had no right of initiative for laws or the budget, but could only approve or reject proposals. The Senate was unable to counterbalance this. Its members were also appointed or sat on this body through their office as high officers, clergy or similar. The Senate was intended as a protective mechanism in order to be able to reject possible decisions of the parliament that the government would not like. He was also able to amend and amend the constitution through senate consuls.

In view of the already secured power, the acceptance of the imperial title as Napoleon III. by Senate consultation on November 7th and a referendum only a matter of form. 7.8 million voted yes, 200,000 no and 65,000 were invalid.

See also


  • Heinz-Gerhard Haupt : From the French Revolution to the end of the July monarchy . In: Ernst Hinrichs (ed.): Little history of France. Federal Agency for Political Education, Bonn 2005, ISBN 3-89331-663-9 , pp. 255-310.
  • Charlotte Tacke: From the Second Republic to the First World War. In: Ernst Hinrichs (ed.): Little history of France. Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2005, ISBN 3-89331-663-9 , pp. 311-360.
  • Eric Anceau: Napoléon III, un Saint-Simon à cheval , Paris, Tallandier, 2008.
  • Francis Choisel: La Deuxième République et le Second Empire au jour le jour. Chronology érudite détaillée, Paris, CNRS Editions, 2015.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Haupt, p. 307
  2. Tacke, p. 314 f.
  3. ^ German Historical Museum
  4. Tacke, pp. 316f.
  5. ^ Tacke, p. 317.
  6. see also en: French presidential election, 1848
  7. Tacke, p. 318f.
  8. Page no longer available , search in web archives: Decree of December 2, 1851 ( 2Template: Toter Link /
  9. Tacke, p. 319 f.
  10. ^ Text of the constitution of 1852 in French ( Conseil constitutionnel ) and in German (
  11. Tacke, p. 322f.