Who can tell what might have happened if war had not brought this experiment in liberalization to a dramatic and premature end? In a famous speech at Bordeaux on 9 October 1852, Napoleon had sought to re-assure both his compatriots and the European powers by insisting that L’Empire, c’est la paix. Subsequently, in a memoir addressed to Comte Walewski (22 January 1859), he, however, maintained that he had not intended to commit himself to avoiding conflict where ‘national honour’ or the ‘true interests of the country’ were at stake. In the case of the war with Austria, he had weighed up the potential for internal and international opposition and concluded that the risks were small, particularly if public opinion was carefully prepared. Moreover, referring to the first Napoleon’s commentaries on Julius Caesar, he pointed out that in the aftermath of revolution an external war was often a ‘necessary’ means of promoting national unity. For Napoleon III, military greatness was a central feature of Bonapartism. He intended to ‘restore’ France ‘to its true place’ as the preeminent European power by destroying the 1815 peace treaties, securing the natural frontiers on the Alps and Rhine, and reconstructing Europe on the basis of its major nationalities, assembled, as in the case of Italy and Germany, in loose (con)-federal structures, too weak to challenge France, rather than as unitary states.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- War and Revolution
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number