QUATRE SEPTEMBRE, overthrow of the Second Empire, 4 September 1870. On the afternoon of 1 September, recognizing the impossibility either of defending the besieged city of Sedan or of escaping from it with his army, Napoleon III ordered the raising of a white flag. The next day he met with the Prussian king, William I, and his chief minister, Otto von Bismarck, and signed the instrument of surrender. The first word of this disaster reached Paris by telegraph about 6 P.M., 2 September, and was conveyed to the regent, Empress Eugénie. The Corps Législatif met at 3:30 P.M. the following day. The chief minister, Charles Guillaume, comte de Palikao ( 1796-1878), adopting an optimistic tone, admitted to a defeat at Sedan but concealed its full extent. Nevertheless, Jules Favre, speaking for the Left, hinted at a forthcoming motion that would proclaim the fall (déchéance) of the dynasty and call for transferring power to General Louis Jules Trochu ( 1815-1896), the military governor of Paris. At 4:30 P.M. the Corps Législatif adjourned. Shortly after, a telegram from Napoleon III was received, confirming the events at Sedan. Meeting for over two hours immediately after, the Council of Ministers was unable to agree on a course of action beyond informing Paris of the situation and calling the Corps Législatif to convene at noon on 4 September. Thus was lost by the essentially right-wing government whatever chance might still have existed of saving the Liberal Empire by an agreement with the moderate opposition.
By the time the Council of Ministers had adjourned, crowds were gathering in various parts of the city. Unwilling to wait until the following day, the Corps Législatif assembled under its president, Eugène Schneider, at midnight. Palikao confirmed that Napoleon III was a prisoner but insisted that the government must have more time to prepare its proposals. Before the Corps Législatif could adjourn, however, Favre presented, for consideration at the next sitting, the Left's proposal that in view of the déchéance of the dynasty, a commission be elected by the Corps Législatif to exercise power. Only Pierre Ernest Pinard spoke to defend the Empire.
At 1:30 A.M., 4 September, Parisians learned from government placards of the events at Sedan. Meeting at 8 A.M., the Council of Ministers decided to propose that the Corps Législatif elect a five-member conseil de régence, presided