The coup d'etat of 2 December 1851

The coup d'etat of 2 December 1851

  • Poster for the referendum of December 1851.

  • Rally of the National Guard during the coup d'état of 2 December 1851.

    LACOSTE Pierre-Eugène (1818 - 1908)

  • Illustration for "Histoire d'un crime" - Fourth day: Victory.

    DARGENT Ernest

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Title: Poster for the referendum of December 1851.

Author :

Creation date : 1851

Date shown: 02 December 1851

Dimensions: Height 61 - Width 46

Technique and other indications: Printed

Storage location: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

Picture reference: 06-502223 / 2005.22.1

Poster for the referendum of December 1851.

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

To close

Title: Rally of the National Guard during the coup d'état of 2 December 1851.

Author : LACOSTE Pierre-Eugène (1818 - 1908)

Creation date : 1852

Date shown: 02 December 1851

Dimensions: Height 42 - Width 58

Technique and other indications: Oil on wood

Storage location: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

Picture reference: 06-506242 / 2005.32.1

Rally of the National Guard during the coup d'état of 2 December 1851.

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette

To close

Title: Illustration for "Histoire d'un crime" - Fourth day: Victory.

Author : DARGENT Ernest (-)

Date shown: 02 December 1851

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Victor Hugo House website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bullozsite web

Picture reference: 06-500495

Illustration for "Histoire d'un crime" - Fourth day: Victory.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Bulloz

Publication date: December 2007

Historical context

Second Republic, Second Empire

On December 2, 1851, the President of the Second Republic, democratically elected in December 1848, seized power in a coup d'etat. This is the second time in less than a century that a republic born out of revolution has succumbed in this way.

However, the revolution of February 1848 sounded the death knell for any monarchical regime in France. But this ballot also led to the surprise election of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte by 5.4 million voters - even as he presented himself as the heir of Napoleon, the gravedigger of the First Republic.

In the meantime, the days of riot of June 1848 condemned the republic in the eyes of part of the French, who fear a democratic drift. A Bonapartist party is also formed; the President is playing the card of order with populist overtones meant to secure popular support.

Considering himself hampered in his power by the Assembly, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte decided to overthrow the republic on December 2, 1851 - the anniversary of Napoleon I's victory at Austerlitz, in 1805. We can better understand the care taken by the President to secure the support of the army.

Image Analysis

A coup d'etat against the people

At the time, the poster proclamation was the fastest way to reach the population as a whole. At dawn on December 2, 1851, two posters were plastered on the walls of the capital, one addressed to the population, the other to the army. In order to attract the attention of passers-by who can read, the composer of the appeal has placed three words at the top of the sheet, in bold, which give the document solemnity, personality and legality. It's in the name even of the French people who elected him as the President of the Republic decreed the provisions listed in the six articles. But two images tell a different story.

Pierre-Eugène Lacoste's painting shows the rallying to the coup d'état of the National Guard, which has been responsible for the defense of the Assembly since February. Groups of soldiers are seen holding the proclamation in their dark tones. In the upper part, the dark night reigns, barely lit by white spots of clouds and yellowish windows. In the lower section, the National Guard in full uniform and in close ranks gazes intently at the two central figures, lit below by a campfire. The first, dressed in civilian clothes and from the front, stands out from the rest of the crowd by the clearness of his facial features. On the contrary, the second turns its back to the spectator and merges into the crowd. Only his cocked hat, a recognizable symbol among all, identifies him.

The engraving entitled "4th day - the Victory", executed by Ernest Dargent for the series "Histoire d'une crime", illustrates the theme of this title without ambiguity. This time, it is in broad daylight, from the front, in glory, that the new emperor appears, touching the sky with the point of his scepter. The upper third of the design, structured by regular lines, reveals the "alliance of the saber and the bottle brush" which founds the imperial order. Only, the throne in imbalance calls the gaze and forces it to follow the oblique of the President's sword, pointed at a heap of corpses. There, in the lower two-thirds, the chisel cut is deeper, the black ink of the blood coagulates in a chilling conclusion ("Victory") which contrasts with the white innocence of the victims of the coup: women , children, old people, young republicans.

Interpretation

Louis Napoleon Bonaparte's 18th Brumaire

The Emperor's immaculate halo in the engraving actually represents the specter of the Reaction which has once again triumphed over the People. The poster announcing the plebiscite testifies as much to the preparation of the coup as to its suddenness. The brevity of the articles underlines the urgency, the imperative indicates an irrevocable decision. The Imprimerie Nationale was occupied on the night of December 1 to 2 so that it could be printed in the greatest secrecy by typographers whose power was suspicious. The appearances of legality are saved - Napoleon III will be approved by a large majority on December 20. Bonapartism, the current of the French right studied by René Rémond, was well and truly born.

However, most of the action takes place in the streets of Paris and on the country lanes, which remain barely visible in pictorial representations, but will feed one of the strongest passages of The Fortune of the Rougons, the initial novel in the Emile Zola saga. Lacoste expresses the capital rallying of the Republican Guard by waving hats echoing the raised arms of the civilian and the general. This central image gives the sensation of movement: the civilian acting in the open and starting to raise his arm turns into a victorious military leader, but conspiring in the shadows.
The contrast is total with the famous painting by François Bouchot where Napoleon bursts with power in the midst of the representatives of the people. This is also the observation made by Karl Marx in Louis Napoleon Bonaparte's 18th Brumaire : “Hegel makes the remark somewhere that all great events and historical figures are repeated, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as a tragedy, the second time as a farce. "

  • bonapartism
  • Second Republic
  • Napoleon III
  • propaganda
  • Second Empire
  • Marx (Karl)
  • Rebellion

Bibliography

Maurice AGULHON, 1848 or the Learning of the Republic, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. "Points Histoire", 1973. Karl MARX, The 18th Brumaire by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, written in 1852, revised in 1869.René RÉMOND, Rights in France, Paris, Aubier Montaigne, 1982. Jean-François SIRINELLI (dir.), The French rights, from the Revolution to the present day, Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Folio History", 1992.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The coup d'état of December 2, 1851"


Video: FRÉQUENCE HISTOIRE Date-clef: 2 décembre 1851, le coup dÉtat de Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte