How Successful was Napoleon III’s Domestic Policy? Essay Sample

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The domestic policy of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte throughout the Second Empire achieved many succeeded and suffered few failures. Significantly, the work of Haussman in Paris which laid the foundations of a more modern renovated France. Despite several flaws in his domestic policy, on balance, the social and economical changes outlined in his book “The Extinction of Pauperism” that were acheived during the Second Empire can show that his Domestic Policy was a Success.

The creation of a new railways system in France could be seen as a very successful aspect of Napoleon III’s domestic policy. Unlike Louis-Phillippe, who hadn’t thoroughly developed a railway system at a time when other countries such as Great Britain had, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, who was inspired by saint simonists believed the way forward was through “dirigiste”, modernisation through industrialisation and so he created a railway system which enabled people and goods to be transported around France cheaply, safely and with speed. Louis Napoleon started with 3,248 km of railway tracks in 1851 and by 1869 he had managed to increase that to 16,465 km by 1869. Additionally to the arrival of a revolutionary form of transport, there were increases in other industries whilst the railways were being built, there was a six percent increase in growth p.a in the Iron industry and there was also increased demand for steel and other raw materials. The successful creation of railways in France and subsequent increases in demand in other markets supports the case for Louis-Napoleon’s domestic policy being very successful.

Another aspect of Napoleon III’s domestic policy that could be considered to be a success is the establishment of new banks which enabled entrepreneurs to obtain loans for new businesses, a luxury that was previously only for the privileged rich conservative families who were definitely able to pay back the money. This new risky establishment provided the capital for many projects and gave the impression of rapid economic advancement.As well as this, the free trade ‘Chevalier Treaty’ in 1860 made it easier for French people to internationally trade. It was the arrival of banks such as the Crédit Mobilier (opened in 1852) that funded such important projects such as the building of railways which linked together the whole of France. The arrival of new French banks that were available for the whole population must be considered to be significant in laying the foundations of the development of Modern France and therefore furthering the case that Napoleon III’s domestic policy was successful.

In terms of Political survival it could be argued that the fact that Napoleon III remained in power for 18 years is a considerable achievement in itself, Napoleon III managed to retain popular support (at least from the peasants who represented the majority of the electorate). Despite Napoleon III’s fairly undemocratic becoming of an Emperor (which he justified by claiming he had a mandate from the 1851 plebiscite), Napoleon III was a more liberal democratic leader. Napoleon sought to advance his belief in free trade, cheap credit, and the need to develop Infrastructure as ways of ensuring progress and prosperity through government policy.

Napoleon III had a series of political reforms throughout the timing of his empire, including much modifying on the constitution, he weakened the powers of the Legislative assembly and allowed free debates in parliament to be held and for them to be published. In 1860/61 Napoleon III allowed more concessions to placate liberal opponents, and of course, appointed a liberal Prime Minister Émile Ollivier in 1869. It could be said that Napoleon realised the importance of changing the French political system to liken it to the ever changing contemporary France, he reduced restrictions on the Roman Catholic Church and even allowed Catholic control over education (Loï Falloux) and relaxed press censorship rules during the period of the Liberal Empire. This constant changing of the Political system and the reality that he did manage to maintain a support base all gives evidence to the case that Napoleon III’s domestic policy was a success.

Arguably the most important factor that supports the case for Napoleon III’s domestic policy being a success is the rebuilding of the whole of Paris, the work of Haussman which rapidly modernised the whole of France. Baron H, who was actively supported by the Emperor, renovated the centre of Paris, widened the streets of Paris, cleared out the slums and moved the working class neighbourhoods to the outskirts of Paris, nearer to the factories where the factories then utilised Labour. It was in fact the work of Baron H that truly showed rapid advancements in France, After the works on Paris, one could truly say that there was a new modernised France under Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the rebuilding of Paris was a remarkable achievement which added greatly to the stature of the Empire as well as providing a huge amount of employment for the urban working class.

The work of Baron H was a substantial milestone in the development of Modern France and the project benefitted both the working class and middle class in terms of social and economic attributes, better living standards were available for the French people, even the poorest through the ‘trickle down effect’ in the economy, meaning everyone has more wealth. The work of Baron H in France laid the foundations and energised a series of developments towards a more contemporary modern France and for that it can be shown that Napoleon III’s domestic policy was successful.

However the Successes of the Domestic Policy of Napoleon III must be contrasted with the failures. Critics of Louis-Napoleon’s domestic policy would say that Napoleon III has no real aim except to stay in power, the only real aim he had was to make sure that his son, the Prince Imperial took over his regime. It could be said that from the surface the domestic policy seemed successful but ultimately they were flawed plans. Critics support the statement with examples such as the rescuing of the Crédit Mobilier in 1867 and the failure of the sewage system in Baron H’s renovated France, the sewers couldn’t take “night soil” and so it still had to be carted away, a fundamental flaw in such a prominent project. Critics also argue that Napoleon III failed as economic woes increased in the late 1860’s and that if his Domestic policy was truly very successful then he would have lasted much longer than 18 years. Despite the overall success of the Domestic Policy of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, these failures must be taken into account when evaluating how successful it was.

In conclusion, The Domestic Policy of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte can be viewed as successful. Despite several lapses such as the rescuing of the Crédit Mobilier, the Domestic Policy provided many projects which positively contributed towards the rapid economic and social development of France. The building of the railways and renovation of Paris under Baron H proved to be very beneficial for a new France and Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte made appropriate political decisions and concessions in order to appease the electorate and maintain a strong supportive base, thus concluding that Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte’s domestic was overall a success as the benefits overruled the lapses made in the process.

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