The French Second Empire: An Anatomy of Political Power

By Roger Price | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
The forms of opposition: (2) Legitimism

Liberalism represented a more substantial form of opposition. Most liberals remained monarchists. They included a minority of Legitimists, with such prominent figures as Montalembert, Falloux, and Berryer, and especially the Orleanist supporters of Louis-Philippe and his sons. In general liberals accepted the principles of 1789 — equality before the law, civil liberty, the rule of law, and parliamentary monarchy — as the most effective means of securing the protection of individual freedom, private property, and social order. This was the fundamental line of demarcation between counter-revolutionary conservatism and the Orleanist/liberal tradition. Most liberals, including such eminent figures as Thiers and Charles de Rémusat, regarded democracy with distaste, afraid that it might lead to socialism. Others were more confident in the capacity of educated elites to provide leadership and were prepared to accept manhood suffrage. Increasingly, loyalty to the Orleans family took second place to a more diffuse insistence on principles which were compatible with a variety of constitutional systems. A study of the allegiances of departmental councillors in 1870 identified 157 of these local notables with Orleanism and 248 with liberalism. The former tended to be more intransigent in their opposition to the Empire. They were primarily landowners, professionals, and successful businessmen or bureaucrats who had commenced their careers under the July Monarchy. The personal or family wealth of the likes of the Duc d'Audiffret-Pasquier in the Orne, of the Perier family in the Isère, of the textile entrepreneur and ferocious protectionist Pouyer-Quertier in the Eure, provided them with opportunities for exerting influence over a dependent clientele of tenants, labourers, and factory workers. However, this influence was dispersed geographically. Orleanism lacked a powerful regional or popular base. The liberals were close in terms of origins and ideas but included a significantly higher proportion (10 per cent) of professionals. They were also generally younger men who had not participated in public life

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