The French Second Empire: An Anatomy of Political Power

By Roger Price | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Constructing moral order

Whilst improving its capacity for repression, the regime engaged in a considerable effort to improve 'moral order' by means both of negative measures of press, literary, and theatrical censorship, and more positive attempts to develop primary instruction.


CONTROLLING THE PRESS

Social and political unrest during the Second Republic had frequently been blamed on the outpouring of cheap printed materials which had followed the February Revolution. The establishment of effective control over the press would become a major preoccupation of government. In the aftermath of the coup d'état, Morny (decrees of 6 and 13 December 1851) had empowered prefects to suspend or suppress newspapers, virtually at will: 'No newspaper should appear without your authorisation. You will not tolerate any discussion of the legality of recent events. Neither will you allow articles whose effect is to weaken the authority of the government'. Page proofs would have to be submitted before publication.1 A subsequent decree, on 17 February 1852, borrowing heavily from previous legislation, required official approval for the establishment of a newspaper or for a change of ownership or editor. Newspaper proprietors were required to deposit caution money — 25,000f in towns with over 150,000 inhabitants, 50,000f in the three departments of the Paris region and in Lyon and Marseille. Higher than ever before, this was intended to guarantee the payment of fines and added to the substantial investment necessary to establish a newspaper. It was hoped that only men of means, likely to be conservative, would be able to acquire the capital. The re-imposition of stamp duty by increasing the cost of a newspaper to potential readers was intended to reduce circulation.

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1
Documents pour servir, p. 19.

-171-

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