Napoleon III, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (20 April 1808 – 9 January 1873) was the only President (1848–52) of the French Second Republic and, as Napoleon III, the Emperor (1852–70) of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I. He was the first President of France to be elected by a direct popular vote. He was blocked by the Constitution and Parliament from running for a second term, so he organized a coup d'état in 1851 and then took the throne as Napoleon III on 2 December 1852, the forty-eighth anniversary of Napoleon I's coronation. He remains the longest-serving French head of state since the French Revolution.
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- In politics evils should be remedied not revenged.
- Napoléon III, Des Idées napoléoniennes, edited by Henri Colburn, London (1839), chapter 3, p. 39: En politique il faut guérir les maux, jamais les venger.
- Translated by James A. Dorr, in: Napoleonic Ideas, Appleton & Co, New York (1859), p. 41
- Etiez-vous à Sedan?
- Were you at Sedan?
- Sometimes reported as his last words, as quoted in Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898) by E. Cobham Brewer, these were among his final comments to Dr. Henri Conneau.
- Were you at Sedan?
- Usually, it is man who attacks; as for me, I defend myself, and I often capitulate.
- On his numerous mistresses, as quoted in The True Story of the Empress Eugénie (1921) by Guy Jean Raoul Eugène Charles Emmanuel de Savoie-Carignan Soissons, Ccomte de Soissons
- Variant translation: It is usually the man who attacks. As for me, I defend myself, and I often capitulate.
- As quoted in The Mistresses : Domestic Scandals of the 19th-Century Monarchs (1966) by E. Cobham Brewer
Quotes about Napoleon III
- Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historical facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
Napoléon le Petit (1852)
- "Napoleon the Little " or "Napoleon the Small" — a pamphlet by Victor Hugo opposing the monarchial politics of Napoleon III
- All eyes were turned towards this man. A pallid face, its bony emaciated angles thrown into bold relief by the shaded lamps, a nose large and long, moustaches, a curled lock of hair above a narrow forehead, eyes small and dull, and with a timid and uneasy manner, bearing no resemblance to the Emperor, — this man was Citizen Charles-Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte.
During the murmurs which greeted his entrance, he remained for some instants, his right hand in the breast of his buttoned coat, erect and motionless on the tribune, the pediment of which bore these dates: February 22, 23, 24; and above which were inscribed these three words: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
- The President, functionary and servant, swore fidelity to the sovereign people. Bending before the national majesty, manifest in the omnipotent Assembly, he received from the Assembly the Constitution, and swore obedience to it. The representatives were inviolable, and he was not. We repeat it: a citizen responsible to all the citizens, he was, of the whole nation, the only man so bound. Hence, in this oath, sole and supreme, there was a solemnity which went to the heart. He who writes these lines was present in his place in the Assembly, on the day this oath was taken; he is one of those who, in the face of the civilized world called to bear witness, received this oath in the name of the people, and who have it still in their hands. Thus it runs: —
"In presence of God, and before the French people, represented by the National Assembly, I swear to remain faithful to the democratic republic, one and indivisible, and to fulfil all the duties imposed upon me by the Constitution."
The President of the Assembly, standing, read this majestic formula; then, before the whole Assembly, breathlessly silent and attentive, intensely expectant, Citizen Charles-Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, raising his right hand, said, in a firm, loud voice:
"I swear it!"
- In less than three years after this memorable day, on the 2nd of December, 1851, at daybreak, there might be read on all the street corners in Paris, this placard:—
"In the name of the French people, the President of the Republic:
"Article 1. The National Assembly is dissolved.
"Article 2. Universal suffrage is re-established. The law of the 31st of May is repealed.
"Article 3. The French people are convoked in their comitia.
"Article 4. A state of siege is decreed throughout the first military division.
"Article 5. The Council of State is dissolved.
"Article 6. The Minister of the Interior is charged with the execution of this decree.
"Done at the Palace of the Élysée, December 2, 1851.
- Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte."
- At the same time Paris learned that fifteen of the inviolable representatives of the people had been arrested in their homes, during the night, by order of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte.
- Those who, as representatives of the people, received, in trust for the people, the oath of the 20th of December, 1848, those, especially who, being twice invested with the confidence of the nation, had as representatives heard that oath sworn, and as legislators had seen it violated, had assumed, with their writ of summons, two duties. The first of these was, on the day when that oath should be violated, to rise in their places, to present their breasts to the enemy, without calculating either his numbers or his strength, to shelter with their bodies the sovereignty of the people and as a means to combat and cast down the usurper, to grasp every sort of weapon, from the law found in the code, to the paving stone that one picks up in the street. The second duty was, after having accepted the combat and all its chances to accept proscription and all its miseries, to stand eternally erect before the traitor, his oath in their hands, to forget their personal sufferings, their private sorrows, their families dispersed and maltreated, their fortunes destroyed, their affections crushed, their bleeding hearts; to forget themselves, and to feel thenceforth but a single wound — the wound of France to cry aloud for justice; never to suffer themselves to be appeased, never to relent, but to be implacable; to seize the despicable perjurer, crowned though he were, if not with the hand of the law, at least with the pincers of truth, and to heat red-hot in the fire of history all the letters of his oath, and brand them on his face.
He who writes these lines is one of those who did not shrink, on the 2nd of December, from the utmost effort to accomplish the first of these two great duties; in publishing this book he performs the second.