Speech at Bordeaux
Louis Napoleon Establishes the Second Empire
Chapter 28

Before the expiration of his four years term, Louis Napoleon, by the coup d'etat of December, 1851, secured an extension of his presidency for ten years. He was not satisfied, however, until he had won the title of Emperor. In September, 1852, he undertook a tour through the southern provinces in order to test public opinion. Many suggestions had reached him encouraging him to assume the imperial crown, and frequently on his journey he was received with the cry, "Long live the emperor!" In his speech at Bordeaux, October 9, 1852, he definitely announced his belief that France was ready for the abolition of the second republic.

The purpose of this journey, as you know, was to see for myself our beautiful provinces of the south and familiarize myself with their needs. It has, however, given rise to a much more important result. Indeed, --and I say it with a candor as far removed from arrogance as from false modesty,-- never has a people testified in a manner more direct, spontaneous, and unanimous, the longing to be freed from anxiety as to the future by concentrating in a single person an authority which shall accord with their desires. They realize now both the false hopes with which they have been deluded and the dangers which threaten them. . . .

France to-day encompasses me with her sympathies because I do not belong to the group of dreamers. In order to benefit the country it is not necessary to resort to new systems, but, above all, to establish confidence in the present and security for the future. This is why France seems to wish to revert to the empire.

There is, nevertheless, one apprehension, and that I shall set at rest. A spirit of distrust leads certain persons to say that the empire means war. I say, the empire means peace. France longs for peace, and if France is satisfied the world is tranquil. Glory is rightly handed down hereditarily, but not war. . . .

I concede, nevertheless, that, like the Emperor, I have many conquests to make. I would, like him, conquer, for the sake of harmony, the warring parties and bring into the great popular current the wasteful and conflicting eddies. I would conquer, for the sake of religion, morality, and material ease, that portion of the population, still very numerous, which, in the midst of a country of faith and belief, hardly knows the precepts of Christ; which, in the midst of the most fertile country of the world, is hardly able to enjoy the primary necessities of life. We have immense uncultivated districts to bring under cultivation, roads to open, harbors to construct, rivers to render navigable, canals to finish, and our network of railroads to bring to completion. . . .

This is what I understand by the empire, if the empire is to be re-established. These are the conquests which I contemplate, and all of you who surround me, who, like myself, wish the good of our common country, you are my soldiers.

From J.H. Robinson, Readings in European History, Vol II, New York: Ginn and Company, 1906, pp. 563-564. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.


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