An Assessment of Whether Napoleon Bonaparte or Louis Napoleon Had More Significant Reforms in France Both Napoleon Bonaparte and his nephew Louis Napoleon Bonaparte were important rulers of France. They ruled with great power and control, they implemented many sweeping reforms and laws that greatly changed the course of French and European life. Napoleon Bonaparte and Louis Napoleon, also referred to as Napoleon III, each directed France through many reforms under their rule.
However, the leader with the more significant reforms and impact on France was Napoleon III. Napoleon III had longer lasting reforms in the likes of rebuilding and modernizing Paris, constructing the French railway and heading a strong French foreign policy that included the unification of Italy. He also led France through a period of prosperity and industrialization. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was elected the president of France at age 40, and capped a quite remarkable, and unlikely rise to power. Cavendish, 1998, para. 1). Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, named after his uncle Napoleon I, had never held a government position, nor had he even shown any sort of political capability, he rose to power solely through widespread support in France that he was the rightful heir to Napoleon I. (Cavendish, 1998, para. 1,2). In essence, Louis Napoleon rode into control of France on the coattails of his uncle and then he took his uncle’s rule and furthered the reforms and French power.
Louis Napoleon campaigned that he would return France back to the glory that they had once had under the first Napoleon, and that he, as a ruler, was destined to bring France once again to the top of Europe. (Cavendish, 1998, para. 5). His strategy successfully swept him into the office of President of France’s Second Republic. The Professional Politicians in France couldn’t believe that Louis Napoleon had won, and they were even more shocked when he did away with them.
But this didn’t satisfy the ambitious ruler and he quickly took advantage of an economic slump in 1851 and posed himself to be the man that the French needed, not as president but as emperor. (Cavendish, 1998, final paragraph). Louis Napoleon Bonaparte can now be called Napoleon III, for in 1852 he declared himself the perfect fit for the job to keep France from collapse and socialism, the Emperor of the second French Empire. (Cavendish, 1998, final paragraph).
The citizens of France, so scared of anarchy, and still believing in the “Napoleonic Ideals” that Napoleon I had left behind, overwhelmingly accepted Louis Napoleon as their new Emperor. The new parliamentary constitution that Napoleon III set up gave him the executive powers; it allowed him to nominate the members of the law-making council of state and the senate. (“France History-Second French Empire” n. d. , para. 1). Now that Louis-Napoleon had full control of France, he could freely implement actions and reforms that he couldn’t have easily achieved as President.
One of Napoleon’s keen interests was in architecture, and it was his desire to make Paris a new modern city that ultimately turned Paris from an overcrowding, ancient, disease-ridden cluster of districts into the thriving beauty it is today. (Kirkman, 2007, para. 2). Napoleon’s interest was the foundation that would produce the plans for a rebuilding of Paris’s streets, its sewers, and all other aspects of urban planning. It would change the sight of Paris to something unlike anyone had seen. (Kirkman, 2007, para. 2).
For hundreds of years, certain areas hadn’t been improved, and the daunting task of a renewal of Paris was laid on Baron Haussmann. Haussmann was a big time planner and was an advocate for beautiful sights, perfect balance and exactness. (“Paris” pg. 18). Haussmann’s desire of linear symmetry surfaced in his first step, which was to put Paris on a grid. He added streets to Paris that ran east and west, and north and south. These new streets were also wider, allowing for more public safety and safer traffic engineering. (Kirkman, 2007, para. 4).
The rapid population growth mixed with fierce industrialization made some changes to Paris an absolute necessity. An example of this was shown in the growing demand for water closets, which directly led to the need to funnel the human waste effectively into the sewers. (Kirkman, 2007, para. 6). The old ways of dumping the waste in the rivers was rejected, and it was now an objective to keep the clean and dirty water separate. This new practice allowed for cleaner water, cleaner streets, cleaner people, and a much-improved healthy environment. (Kirkman, 2007, para. , and final paragraph). Under Napoleon’s constant input and watch Haussmann unified Paris with visual themes and facades that generated all around in the city. The horizontal style of Haussmann can be seen throughout Paris. (Kirkman, 2007, para. 7). Perhaps the most unifying aspect that Paris received during its makeover was the improvement of the transportation systems. The railroads underwent massive modernization as train stations were constructed in strategic locations to connect Paris with the rest of France and to the rest of Europe. (Kirkman, 2007, para. 10).
These new train stations benefitted agriculture, industrial growth, international markets, employment opportunities, and they represented the overall feeling of a more modern city and nation that could be envied from surrounding countries. (Kirkman, 2007, para. 10). Napoleon III exemplified the prosperity and excellence of the time period by this complete rebuilding of Paris. With the help of grand scale designer Baron Haussmann, Paris “slashed boulevards through tangles of slums, began the modern sewer and water systems” and set the standard high for the beautiful city that still thrives today. “Paris” pg. 18) Napoleon III didn’t just focus on the improvement and his influence inside of France. Napoleon III headed a strong French foreign policy that occurred in the Second Empire. Particularly important was Napoleon III’s indispensible role in the Italian unification process. Count Camillo di Cavour was the prime minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia, most commonly known as Piedmont, and it was his revolutionary ideals and actions that pushed Italian unification forward. But Cavour needed the help of a strong ally in order to achieve is goals; this ally came in the form of Napoleon III and France. Oracle ThinkQuest, n. d. , Section III para. 2). Napoleon III always had a specific future planned out for Italy, he even once pushing for his cousin to rule there. (Geddes, 2010, para. 2). Napoleon III attempted to influence these rising movements of unification in Italy following the Revolutions of 1848. Whatever Napoleon’s intentions were for Italy, whether it was to use Italy as an asset to serve France in the future or if it was to genuinley support the Italian unification, Napoleon saw himself as one that was obligated to be the leader of these “free peoples of Europe. ” (Geddes, 2010, para. ). Without the help of the Frech army and the support of Napoleon III, Piedmont would have had no chance to unify Italy. Napoleon III’s influence in this unification process was so extensive he alone put all of Italy together, and kept Rome out of it so as to keep the support of the Catholic church. (Geddes, 2010, final paragraph). There is also an argument that Napoleon I, Napoleon Bonaparte, had the more significant reforms in French history as opposed to Napoleon III. Napoleon I led the French, the the most powerful army in Europe, across the continent in conquerring much of Europe. History, n. d. , opening paragraph). Napoleon’s reforms included the new ‘Napoleonic Law Code’ that he implemented in France and in the countries he conquerred, a stronger army, a renewed relationship with the pope, banking and education improvements, and support for the arts and sciences. (History, n. d. The Coup of 18 Brumaire section para. 3). But Napoleon I’s reforms were self destructed when Napoleon made several key mistakes that ultimately doomed his reforms and his plan to establish stability back into the post-revolutionized France. History, n. d. The Coup of 18 Brumaire section para. 3). One miscue included the flop of the continental system, or Napoleon Bonaparte’s attempt the ruin the British economy but in backlash it only ruined the French economy. Another mistake was the catastrophic invasion of Russia. The Russian army destroyed French supply lines and Napoleon abandoned his army in the Russian winter where they attempted to retreat. Only 100,000 of the original 600,000 French survived. (History, n. d. Napoleon’s Downfall section para. 1). The French momentum was killed, and so was Napoleon I’s popularity. Napoleon I was then forced to abdicate the throne by the combined powers of Britain, Prussia, Russia, and Austria and he was exiled to Elba. Those same powers, in order to ensure that France wouldn’t try to do the same thing again all but eliminated what Napoleon I had long been working for and France was sent back to square one. (History, n. d. Napoleon’s Downfall section para. 2,3).
Therfore, although both Napoleon Bonaparte and Louis Napoleon implemented great reforms in France, Napoleon III had the more significant reforms. Napoleon III’s reforms had more of a long-lasting effect on France and Europe. Some of these long lasting reforms included the modernization and rebuilding of Paris, improving the French railroads, and influencing the unification of Italy. Thus it is Louis Napoleon Bonaparte that deserves the credit for achieving the more significant reforms in France.
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