Merchants and Capitalists: Industrialization and Provincial Politics in Mid-Nineteenth Century France

Merchants and Capitalists: Industrialization and Provincial Politics in Mid-Nineteenth Century France

Merchants and Capitalists: Industrialization and Provincial Politics in Mid-Nineteenth Century France

Merchants and Capitalists: Industrialization and Provincial Politics in Mid-Nineteenth Century France

Excerpt

In the spring of 1869 the government of the Second Empire faced its greatest crisis since its establishment. Nowhere was this threat more evident than at St. Etienne, the nation's most important center of heavy industry, where the May elections promised to return diehard republicans to the Corps législatif. Popular hostility to the imperial government had been growing in this city, as in many others, for years, so that the prefect was unable to persuade any of the local notables to risk a humiliating defeat by standing as the government's candidate. Both the prefect and the procureur général sadly predicted the victory of "red republican demagogues," and the conservative press warned of a revolutionary threat unknown since the June days of 1848. Yet when the election was over, Frédéric Dorian, a millionaire steel manufacturer, emerged as the easy winner and unrivaled arbiter of local political fortunes, and the middle-class coalition he headed enjoyed more genuine popular support than any group of notables since the days of the July Monarchy. Dorian subsequently became one of the most popular figures in the capital, and middle- class republicans easily weathered the challenge of a short-lived commune at St. Etienne. The 1869 election thus did indeed bring about a major shift of local political power, but to the profit of members of the industrial bourgeoisie and their allies. More important the elections demonstrated the spread of republican sentiments among industrialists both here and elsewhere in France and their ability to win popular support on the basis of a moderate republican program. Accepting some of the reforms associated with the Second Republic, they were frequently able by the last years of the Second Empire to become the most popular political figures in their localities.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.