Louis Napoleon and the Second Empire

By J. M. Thompson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE ADVENTURER (1859-1869)

Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well
When our deep plots do pall; and that should teach us
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will. Hamlet, V, ii

THE Italian question was by no means settled by the terms of Zürich. It was to drag on for another ten years, embarrassing alike all the participants in the struggle of 1859; and leading to two more European wars, which set the stage for the world war of 1914. The liberation of Italy could not be complete until Austria was entirely excluded from the peninsula; nor its unification until the Papal regime in Rome was replaced by that of Piedmont, and it became, as no other place could be, by geography, history, or sentiment, the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. But Victor Emmanuel was in no position to expel Austria by his own efforts; and the intransigence of Pio Nono was reinforced by the presence at Rome of a French garrison, which Louis was prevented from withdrawing by his dependence on the Catholics and by his apprehension of a (not merely liberated, but) united Italy, a new power in the Mediterranean -- a prospect as welcome to his European rivals as it was unwelcome to himself.

So now, from 1859 onwards, Louis' course was to be as tossed and twisted as an upland stream that plunges into a rocky gorge. His purpose in life, though still sometimes hearing the original voices, and recovering the old poise, was losing its unity, its initiative, its idealism. The biographer may rightly suspect that this change was natural enough, once the two master-impulses were satisfied -- when Lombardy was liberated, and France restored to predominance in Europe -- in a character too easily the victim of flattery, indolence, and easy living. But it was also due to Louis' un-kingly kindness, which allowed too much licence to old friends and to his ministers of the moment; to his love of popularity -- it is all up with a sovereign, Napoleon had said, when he is called a Good Fellow; and to his confidence in his intuitions, his 'little ideas', and his astuteness. Napoleon had designed -- and that with immense attention to detail -- the first moves in a campaign, and had left the later steps

-196-

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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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