The French Second Empire: An Anatomy of Political Power

By Roger Price | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Preserving public order

The conservative Republic and the Empire saw increasingly effective attempts to come to terms with the problems of an under-policed society undergoing complex processes of industrialisation, commercialisation, and urbanisation. If the preservation of social order is generally regarded as the primary role of government, this was particularly so in the aftermath of a period of intense political unrest, when crime and political protest were often assimilated as forms of moral deviance. In this situation winning elections and policing society must have seemed inseparable objectives, whilst the regime's legitimacy was reinforced by its claim to be defending the vital interests of all its citizens.


THE ORGANISATION OF POLICING

The effectiveness of political surveillance obviously depended on the workings of the police system. Substantial efforts were made to improve its efficiency. In terms of the organisation of policing, the law of 28 Pluviôse of the Year VIII (17 Feb. 1800) had provided for a coordinating Ministry of General Police and for prefectoral supervision of local policing. On the abolition of the ministry in 1818 its responsibilities had been transferred to the Ministry of the Interior. Its re-establishment in January 1852 represented a renewed effort to improve co-ordination and particularly the collection of political intelligence. The unscrupulousness of Maupas, the new minister, immediately provoked friction within the bureaucracy and especially bitter rivalry with Persigny, the Interior Minister.1 As a consequence of this bureaucratic infighting and its negative impact on efficiency, the police super-ministry was again abolished in June 1852. Responsibility for policing was restored to the Interior Ministry, although effective co-ordination of the collection and

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1
See e.g. Emsley, Gendarmes, p. 126.

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