Louis Napoleon and the Second Empire

By J. M. Thompson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
THE LIBERATOR (1856-1859)

Witness this army of such mass and charge
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit with divine ambition puff 'd
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death and danger dare,
Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find honour in a straw
When honour's at the stake. Hamlet, IV, iv


I

NAPOLEON, though he ordered a palace there for his son, never entered Rome. His nephew never returned there after his expulsion by the Papal Government in 1831. But to them both it was a visionary place of adventure, and a lure to disaster. If Napoleon had lived there as a young man he might have so fatally misunderstood the character of the Papacy and underestimated the expectation of life of the Temporal Power. Louis' weakness was that, having been brought up in 'the most corrupt spot in Europe' (it was Gregorovius, and none with closer knowledge, who called it so), he understood these things too well. Where Napoleon had imposed a bookish theory upon a protesting Curia, Louis read the Pope a lesson from the actual state of Italy: a lesson which he appreciated, but would not apply. Napoleon by persecuting Pius VII re-established the Temporal Power: Louis by protecting Pius IX destroyed it. As with England, so with Italy Louis took credit for reversing the Napoleonic pattern: but because he was not his own master, and because Europe had changed, the new policy was as fatal to the Second Empire as the old policy had been to the First.

Paléologue's Cavour opens with a story so ὰ propos to the history of 1859 that it cannot be omitted. One day in the early years of the present century Victor Emmanuel III was driving a foreign prince round the sights of Rome when they passed a big building bearing the name Caserna Cavour. 'Why Cavour?' asked the prince; and then brightly added: 'I can guess; it must be the name of the architect.''You are right,' the king replied: 'He was an architect, and a celebrated one: he built Italy.'

-167-

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Louis Napoleon and the Second Empire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xii
  • Chapter I - THE HEIR (1808-1831) 1
  • Chater II - THE PRETENDER (1831-1840) 30
  • Chapter III - THE OUTLAW (1840-1848) 63
  • Chapter IV - THE PRESIDENT (1848-1852) 97
  • Chapter V - THE EMPEROR (1852-1856) 137
  • Chapter VI - THE LIBERATOR (1856-1859) 167
  • Chapter VII - THE ADVENTURER (1859-1869) 196
  • Chapter VIII - THE LIBERAL (1860-1869) 224
  • Chapter IX - THE GAMBLER (1863-1869) 255
  • Chapter X - THE FATALIST (1869-1870) 287
  • EPILOGUE 314
  • Notes 323
  • Index 339
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