- NAME: Napoleon III
- OCCUPATION: Military Leader, Emperor
- BIRTH DATE: April 20, 1808
- DEATH DATE: January 09, 1873
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Paris, France
- PLACE OF DEATH: Chislehurst, London, England, United Kingdom
- AKA: Louis-Napoleon
- AKA: Napoleon III
- Originally: Charles-Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte
- AKA: Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte
- AKA: Louis Bonaparte
Best Known For
Napoleon III, the nephew of Napoleon I, was emperor of France from 1852 to 1870. His downfall came during the Franco-Prussian War, when his efforts to defeat Otto Von Bismarck ended in his capture.
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According to the new constitution of 1848, Louis-Napoleon's term would end in May 1852. The constitution also prohibited elected officials from running for a second term. Thusly, Louis-Napoleon, in the third year of his four-year mandate, sought an amendment to allow him to serve a second term as president, arguing that one term was not enough to implement his political and economic programs.
Despite his convictions, the National Assembly,
fearful that longer terms would lead to abuse of the presidential office and power, refused to consider amending the constitution. Louis-Napoleon subsequently began touring the country in an attempt to garner popular appeal for himself, his policies, and the idea that his presidential term should be extended beyond four years. Despite his widespread appeal, the Assembly's opinion would not be swayed, so, on December 2, 1851, Louis-Napoleon seized dictatorial powers, claiming the right to do so as a referendum on his universal popularity.
Louis-Napoleon then dissolved the Assembly and declared a new constitution, which was soon approved by a plebiscite. He held another plebiscite in November 1852 and was confirmed as emperor, becoming Napoleon III, and thereby officially ending the Second Republic and ushering in the Second French Empire.
Although one of Napoleon III's points of strategy was to always be ahead of public opinion, and he took great pains to study and influence it by means of propaganda, he also did, in fact, implement plans to appeal to virtually every segment of the populace. Napoleon III vowed "to take the initiative to do everything useful for the prosperity and the greatness of France," a vague goal to be sure, but he promoted public works, the construction of railroads, and other means of furthering industry and agriculture. He also took a personal interest in the rebuilding of modern Paris and was a ardent supporter of French inventors. Additionally, he ensured a lower price for bread, promoted the construction of sanitary housing for workers, and established boards of arbitration.
As he did on the domestic front, Napoleon III hit the ground running on foreign affairs, and he ended up dabbling in policy that would touch every corner of the globe. His overarching goal was to make France a great power once again by breaking up the European system created by the Congress of Vienna of 1815, which had also humiliated the French a great deal. Stating that the "successes of armies were only temporary" and that it was, as he had always contended, "public opinion which always gained the final victory," he planned to effect change in the region with "noble ideas," the principle of nationality being of utmost importance.
The Crimean War (1854-56) offered Napoleon III a chance to form a long-sought alliance with Great Britain, culminating with a successful effort in stopping Russian expansion toward the Mediterranean. More important in the end, the defeat of Russia and the alliance with England gave France increased influence in Europe, and the Paris Peace Conference of 1856 represented a high-water mark for the emperor in foreign affairs, as the ideas he set out in "Des idées napoléoniennes" came to fruition.
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