|Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon III|
|Born||20 April 1808 Paris, French Empire|
|Died||9 January 1873 (aged 64) Chislehurst, Kent, England, UK|
|Spouse||Eugénie de Montijo|
|Father||Louis I of Holland|
|Mother||Hortense de Beauharnais|
“Louis Napoleon’s accomplishments benefited all humankind. Yet, so unobtrusively did he accomplish he is mission that his works are scarcely mentioned by historians. Like his famous uncle, he maintained a passionate support of universal suffrage. Louis Napoleon stabilized the nation of France after more than thirty years of despotism and mobocracy. He implemented the Code of Napoleon, written by his uncle, which was based upon republican principles. It was this code that awoke France to the industrial revolution.” 1
Life Sketch from The Other Eminent Men of Wilford WoodruffCopyright © Taken from the book: The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Special thanks to Vicki Jo Anderson. Please do not copy. Emperor of France 1808-1873 Louis Napoleon’s accomplishments benefited all humankind. Yet, so unobtrusively did he accomplish he is mission that his works are scarcely mentioned by historians. Like his famous uncle, he maintained a passionate support of universal suffrage. Louis Napoleon stabilized the nation of France after more than thirty years of despotism and mobocracy. He implemented the Code of Napoleon, written by his uncle, which was based upon republican principles. It was this code that awoke France to the industrial revolution. His support was sought by the patriots of Italy in their fight for independence. He responded personally by leading a large French army to their aid. With the help of the French, Italy defeated the ruling Austrians, and for the first time in over a thousand years Italy began to be reunited as a country. For his efforts on behalf of Italy he was offered vast parcels of land but he declined the gift. Louis Napoleon was also one of the first heads of state to respond to the Turks’ plea for help in the Crimean War. His premier policy was peace and he proposed a number of treaties in an attempt to establish permanent peace in Europe.
“The triumph of Christianity had destroyed slavery; the triumph of the French Revolution has put an end to serfdom; the triumph of democratic ideas has caused the extinction of pauperism.” – Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon IIICharles Louis Napoleon III is not to be confused with his famous uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte. For the purpose of this chapter Charles Louis Napoleon will be referred to as Louis Napoleon, as he was commonly called by his family and friends. Not long after taking the leadership of France he was able to forge a strong alliance with England. Realizing that laborers had been overworked, contributing to the mobocracy, he issued the following edict relating to the Sabbath: The repose of Sunday is one of the essential bases of that morality which constitutes the force and consolation of the nation… [It] is necessary for the health and the intellectual development of the working-classes. The man who labors incessantly, and does not set apart any day, … sooner or later becomes a prey to materialism; and the sentiment of dignity is weakened within him…. Consequently I invite you to give such orders, that for the future, … public work shall cease on the Sabbath and on holy-days.2 In a effort to rid the country of old prejudices he ordered a splendid ball given in honor of the market-women of Paris. No effort was spared to make this ball as beautiful and elegant as ever seen in this city of past grandeur. The ball began with a grand march led by the head of police, with the assistance of a graceful and excellent woman who supplied the market with mushrooms. Persons of the most elevated stature danced with those of the most humble and the most humble workers danced with the most elevated officials. The Minister of Interior danced with a seller of vegetables. The Chief of Division danced with a dealer in butter. To those of past hereditary titles this event was an outrage and a debasement of power and authority,3 and Louis Napoleon was severely criticized for this action. However, such peace and acceptance were conducive to the prosperity of the French culture and talent. Paris became the cleanest and most beautiful city of all of Europe. People began coming from all over to worship at Lourdes and to admire at the Louve. The sciences in particular received Louis’ personal support, the most noted among the French scientists of the time being Louis Pasteur. As a young man Louis studied and researched extensively. His collected writings fill eleven volumes, the study of which is essential in order to truly understand the intent of the man. His first pamphlet, “Political Reveries,” was printed when he was twenty-four. In it he outlines his basic philosophy of government. The fundamental principles of government, he felt, were based in the right of the people to change it when necessary. He called for three powers of State; the people, the legislative corps, and the executive. The people should have elective power and the power of sanction, the legislative corps should have power of proposing and making laws, and the executive should executive power. Unlike the United States the French people, he felt, still desired some form of a monarchy, based on their tradition, therefore he called for a republican monarchy. There is a supreme judge on this earth, said Louis, for all governments no matter in what form it exists who will sooner or later pass judgment, and that judge is the people.4 Louis also wrote “Ideas of Napoleon,” a treatise on the principles of the Code of Napoleon I. It went through four editions and was translated into all the languages of Europe. Some of the elements he elaborated on were the protection of religion, the rights of families to insure the freedom of public worship and education, and the protection of property being basic to the stability of a nation. His public and personal writings reveal that early in his life, he became fixed with a determination to fulfill his uncle’s dream. He often reassured his friends that some day he would sit at the head of France and implement The Code of Napoleon I. He never wavered in this belief.
Louis Bonaparte’s AncestryLouis Napoleon’s destiny was imbued in him while he was a young child and was often reinforced by his family and friends. His father, Louis Bonaparte, was the younger brother of Napoleon I and his mother, Hortense Beauharnais, was the daughter of Josephine, the wife of Napoleon I. The father of Hortense and first husband of Josephine had been held in prison and murdered by the revolutionary government. Josephine had also been held in prison, but the day before she was conducted to the scaffold, there was a new revolution: Robespierre the philosophical leader of the revolution was guillotined, and Josephine, the future empress, was liberated. Josephine remarried Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor of France, and her daughter Hortense was raised as if she were his own child. Louis Napoleon looked upon his uncle as a beloved grandfather. The French revolution, ignited by the desire for freedom of the people, dislodged one of he most ancient, and at that time disabled, ruling houses in Europe. Deliberate ignorance of the ancient rule of “law and order” led revolutionary leader s to a complete state of anarchy. Tyranny reigned without check throughout France. The rulers of its surrounding countries–England and Austria, as well as other parts of Europe–fearing the spread of the revolutionary spirit, joined together and marshaled their vast armies to crush the French “king killers.” It is important to understand that faced with tyranny from within and destruction from without, France turned to the man who led them in their great military victories, Napoleon Bonaparte, who later became known as Napoleon I. In light of the facts, Napoleon I did not, as often stated, usurp the crown of France–the people freely gave it to him. Utmost discipline and order had to be enforced to gain control over the mobs in the street. Therefore, complete authority was given to Napoleon to accomplish this task. In return, the will of the people became his first priority. They clamored for religion, which had been cut off by the revolution; for universal suffrage wherein all had a right to vote; property rights; and economic stability. All these Napoleon attempted to give them. At a time when the United States granted suffrage to white males only, Napoleon I became the first in modern times to grant universal suffrage. This act enraged the monarchs of Europe, increasing their determination to punish the French people. Napoleon I felt the only way to meet such great odds was to launch an offensive against the allied invaders. This he did to keep them off French soil. Thus ensued the great Napoleonic wars. In spite of the great drain and demand the war made on Napoleon I, he continued to implement republican principles, and France progressed greatly during his fifteen-year reign. Because of the war, he was unable to install many of the reforms he felt beneficial, however, his goal was to old off the invaders long enough for the fresh breath of freedom and progress to be felt by the people. His progressive ideas were also felt and experienced by many of the lands he conquered. A feeling of change was beginning to wave over Europe. The kings knew it and did all in their power to suppress it. The Allies finally succeeded in removing Napoleon I, and the foreign armies once again submitted the people of France to the yoke of a king. They restored the “divine right” of kings while suppressing the more divine rights of the people. Exiled from France, the Bonapartes were threatened with death should they return. During the following years France passed through three tumultuous reigns of three King Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Louis Philip. Each was eventually driven out by the French people themselves. Each reign was accompanied by endless rioting and revolts. When Napoleon I was re-elected emperor, a grand coronation was held. The emperor ascended the elevated platform, dressed in imperial robes, and by his side was young Louis Napoleon. The soldiers roared their deafening pledges of support, and the crowds filed the air with “Vive l’empereur.” Louis Napoleon and his older brother were presented as future heirs to the throne and the crowd enthusiastically cheered. Though he was but seven years old the scene must have produced a profound impression upon young Louis’ reflective mind.
Early LifeLouis Napoleon spent much of his early life in the palace with his famous grandparents where he was affectionately called little “Oui-oui.” He charmed all who came and went with his love of people and of life itself. While tending Louis Napoleon, his grandmother Josephine wrote to her daughter, Hortense, that one day they took a walk in the woods, and when they arrived he threw his hat into the air and shouted, “Oh, how I love beautiful Nature!”5 Upon the edict of exile by King Louis XVIII, Louis Napoleon’s family settled in Switzerland on the southern shores of the lake Constance on the beautiful Arenemberg estate. It was an ideal place for his physical, moral and intellectual training. He studied the ancient classics, modern languages, and the sciences, His mother devoted herself to the education of her son, never allowing him to forget the name he bore or the political studies where the fine arts and the languages, a number of which he spoke with fluency. As a young boy Louis Napoleon was observed one day coming from the town mill. It was a cold winter day yet he was barefoot and in his shirt-sleeves. Skipping from spot to spot, he was obviously trying to avoid both detection as well as the freezing cold pockets of mud and snow. When he was stopped and asked to give a report of his dress and behavior, he reported that while at the town mill he had seen a family pass by whose poverty and misery so touched him that before he gave it another thought he took off his shoes and gave them to one child and gave his coat to another.6
Military and EducationAs he grew he was enrolled in the military camps in Switzerland and had advanced schooling in Germany. Reflecting later on these educational experiences Louis Napoleon remarked that having lived on foreign soils had taught him a better understanding of nations and given him and appreciation of their cultures. Having been a boy without a country he felt in some respects a citizen of the world. After finishing his formal schooling, he continued to study and write at Arenemberg. Refusing the comfort of the mansion there, he had built a small, spare room in the garden. Here his studies for a time took a decidedly military turn. Hearing of the attempted insurrection in Italy in 1830, Louis Napoleon left his comfortable surroundings and traveled to Italy, joined by his brother, and as a simple soldier he began to fight in a war that had little of chance of success. However it provided the great prologue to the later and more successful insurrection that led to Italy’s independence. A fever passed through the battle field and Louis Napoleon became terribly ill; his brother died. Upon hearing of her son’s condition, his mother traveled immediately to Italy and by disguise took her son back to Switzerland to heal. As he recuperated, Louis observed the great discontent in France. It was the right time, he felt, for an insurrection. In collaboration with some friends, he led the group to storm the walls of the Fort Strasburg. Their efforts failed and he was captured. A trial was held and he was deported to South America. After a short time in Brazil and the United States, Louis received word that his mother was dying in Switzerland. In spite of the threat of arrest upon his return, he made it to his mother’s bedside in time to receive her dying words. “We shall meet again–shall we not?–in a better world, where you [may] come to join me at late as possible…. I am very calm and resigned…. The will of God be done.”7 Louis Napoleon moved to England and quietly continued his studies. In 1840, he again felt it was right to return to his land an that the popularity of Napoleonic spirit at that time would carry them to the capital. Like Strasburg this attempt also failed. His small party attempted to return to their ferry but their rowboat capsized and many were shot and killed as they swam. An English gentleman hearing the commotion rushed to the shore. He saw a soldier take aim one of the fugitives who was half drowned in the water, only a few yards from shore. Striking the barrel of the gun and calling the soldier a coward to shoot in such a situation, the Englishman then assisted the drowning fugitive only to discover that he had saved the life of Louis Napoleon.8
Elected President of FranceLouis Napoleon never again attempted to set foot on French soil in such a manner although he never wanned in his personal belief that he would one day stand as head of France. Patiently he waited until the people of France drove King Louis Philip from his throne. Elections were held and Louis Napoleon was elected representative from four separate districts. As he entered France, the Assembly, feeling threatened by his presence, sent word to remind him of the edict of exile. A wiser and more mature man, he withdrew from France and the election. He said: “They will come to me without any effort of my own…. Though fortune has twice betrayed me, yet my destiny will none the less surely be fulfilled. I wait.”9 Soon the demand of the people became so great the exile edict was repealed, and in 1848 he was elected by popular acclaim president of France. Louis Napoleon’s popularity began to grow among the people. The Assembly had not ceased to fear his potential power, and jealous members of the Assembly began to plot his overthrow and even his death. At the same time, the Assembly was guilty of various abuses of the constitution as well, perhaps the greatest of which was arbitrarily removing the right to vote from a large segment of the population. Feeling that there was no other recourse, Louis Napoleon, with the support of the national guard staged a ‘’coup de etat’’. Arresting the plotters, he held new elections, and the people called for an assembly to write a constitution. This assembly wrote a new constitution based on the code of Napoleon. Hastily written, it was nevertheless a beginning. The new constitution called for a vote for the executive office and the people voted for Louis Napoleon. The exiled nephew of Napoleon I was elected president of France by a margin of three million votes. (Later, the people voted him the title of Emperor.) His own identity was os closely allied with the man who he knew as “grandfather,” Napoleon I, that his agenda was the same agenda as Napoleon I. In expressing his feelings he said: “I [was] called to the throne by Providence and the will of the French people, but trained in the school of adversity.”10
France and MexicoIt was in the area of foreign affairs that he made his biggest mistake. Possessing such a largeness of heart, Louis was very open to helping others. He had seen his efforts in helping the Italians bear fruit, so when he was approached by the intellectual elite of Mexico to come to their aid, he wanted to be of assistance. All knew that Mexico had been engaged in one revolution or another for nearly fifty years. Louis Napoleon was inclined to help but insisted that he would only help if that was the desire of the people pf Mexico. A vote was taken in Mexico of a hastily gathered assembly of friends of the intellectually elite and the vote submitted to Louis Napoleon. However, the vote was deceptive. Louis ordered his troops to Mexico, and the expedition was a complete failure, ending in the death of many, including Maximilian, a good man who was sent to rule Mexico. Nevertheless, the impact of the French upon the Mexicans was such that for the first time since the departure of the Spaniards, enough of them were able to unite to form the first stable Mexican government in modern times. Because the French army was so weakened by the Mexican experience, upon their return they were easily defeated by the conquering Prussians under Bismark. Louis Napoleon now in his later years, and with a diseased body, rode with his troops. He observed the great losses with a broken heart; gladly would he have taken a fatal bullet alongside his soldiers.
DeathOne of the survivors taken captive, Louis was exiled once again to England where he died shortly thereafter. Despite his final defeat, however, due to his influence, France has never since turned her back on republican principles and continues to be a world power. Copyright © Taken from the book: The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Special thanks to Vicki Jo Anderson. Please do not copy. 11
- The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Special thanks to Vicki Jo Anderson. Please do not copy.
- Abbott, John S.C. The History of Napoleon III. Boston: B.B. Russell, 1869, p. 73.
- See ibid., p. 497
- See ibid., p. 28.
- Ibid., p. 136
- See ibid., p. 171
- Ibid., p. 128
- See Encyclopedia Britannica. 11th ed. 1911, 19:213
- Abbott, p. 280
- Abbot, p. 613.
- Anderson, Vicki Jo. (1994). The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff. Cottonwood, AZ: Zichron Historical Research Institute.