France 1830-1848
Foreign Policy
France 1870-1890
Foreign Policy

France 1848-1870 : Foreign Policy

During the SECOND REPUBLIC (1848-1852) public interest in France was focussed on domestic developments. NAPOLEON III., just crowned, asked the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to transfer the keys of the hitherto Orthodox CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE in Jerusalem to the Catholic community (which France "protected"). The Sultan complied, but the Russian Czar, himself claiming to be the protector of the Orthodox christians living within the Ottoman Empire, declared war; the Russians easily defeated the Ottoman navy. In alliance with the British, France declared war on Russia (the CRIMEAN WAR, 1853-1856).
The view of French troops marching through Paris, Lyon, Marseille caused nationalist euphoria in a country where social rifts had characterized domestic policy for years, revolutions had been frequent and fear of yet another revolution permanent. Napoleon III. regarded the political map established by the VIENNA CONGRESS as directed against France, wanted to reestablish French glory and strove for territorial gain. In addition, a successful foreign policy seemed to heal wounds in France's society.
After the Crimean War, Napoleon III. entered into a secret alliance with PIEMONT-SARDINIA, directed against Austria. When war broke out between the latter two in 1859, France joined Piemont-Sardinia; the Austrians were defeated in the BATTLE OF SOLFERINO. Austria ceded Milan to France in the TREATY OF VILLAFRANCA; France ceded Milan to Piemont-Sardinia, which ceded SAVOY and NICE to France (1860). When Garibaldi conquered the Kingdom of Naples in 1860 and threatened to invade the PAPAL STATE, French troops occupied LATIUM while Italian (Piemontese) troops occupied the Marches.
France pursued a policy of COLONIAL EXPANSION. It established a foothold in Southeast Asia (COCHINCHINA, a protectorate over CAMBODIA). Frenchman FERDINAND DE LESSEPS organized the construction of the SUEZ CANAL (1859-1869).
In 1862 Napoleon III. decided to intervene in the MEXICAN CIVIL WAR; he suggested the Mexican conservatives (who had requested his aid) to elect MAXIMILIAN OF HABSBURG Emperor and dispatched a French expeditionary force. Yet over time French support was reduced, then withdrawn, the Republican side won, Maximilian was executed in 1867.
In 1866, Prussia had defeated Austria. In the peace negotiations, France served as mediator. Prussia's intention to unify the smaller German states under her lead (economically already a reality in the ZOLLVEREIN) was resented by Napoleon III., who, refering to old French alliances with BAVARIA, WUERTTEMBERG, BADEN, was only willing to accept a Northern German Confederation under Prussia's leadership, the Main river being the border.
Napoleon wanted to gain LUXEMBURG for France (and Bismarck had originally been willing to make such a concession). Negotiations with the King of the Netherlands, for the purchase of the Grand Duchy, went underway, but the affair arose national emotions in Germany and Luxemburg (which was a member of the Zollverein) and Bismarck laid Prussian troops into the fortress of Luxemburg city (1867). France and Prussia (Germany) were heading for a conflict.
French troops undertook an expedition to Syria (1859), in cooperation with the British, two expeditions to China (1857, 1860), an expedition against Korea in 1866.
When Queen Isabel II. of Spain was deposed, the Spanish throne was vacant. There were two candidates, a Bourbon and a Hohenzollern. Napoleon III. insisted that King Wilhelm II. of Prussia, in the name of his relative, withdrew the candidacy - Wilhelm III. complied. Then Napoleon insisted that King Wilhelm, as the head of the house of Hohenzollern, would renounce any claim on the Spanish throne for any Hohenzollern in the future - Wilhelm refused and sent Bismarck a copy of the French demand. Bismarck published an abridged version in the press - the EMS DISPATCH - an embarassment for the French government, to which it responded by declaring war. The smaller German states France claimed to be allied with (Bavaria, Wuerttemberg, Baden) immediately declared war on France ( FRANCO-GERMAN WAR, in English language publications often referred to as the Franco-Prussian War). German troops won easy victories; Napoleon III. himself, with his army, was taken prisoner at Sedan. The THIRD REPUBLIC was proclaimed.

Biography of Ferdinand de Lesseps, from Suez Historique
17 novembre 1869 : Inauguration du canal de Suez, from Jours d'Histoire, in French
Maximilian of Mexico, from K.R.J. Tattersall
Biography of Napoleon III., from Catholic Encyclopedia
Timeline French Foreign Policy : Second Republic, 1848-1852, Second Empire, 1852-1870, from France Diplomatie
DOCUMENTS Medals issued during the Second Empire, from Numismatique - Monnaie
France and England before Europe in 1851, from The International magazine of literature, art, and science, Vol.5, No.1, p.131, 1852; France and the East, 1852, from : The Living Age Vol.35 No.448 pp.575-576, G. Reynolds, The French Struggle for Naval and Colonial Power, The Atlantic Monthly Vol.12 No.72, pp.626-637, 1863, posted by Cornell Digital Library
REFERENCE Maurice Agulhon, The Republican Experiment 1848-1852, (Fr. Or. 1973, Eng. Trsl. 1983) Cambridge UP 1999, KMLA Lib. Call Sign 944.07 A 284r
Alain Plessis, The Rise & Fall of the Second Empire 1852-1870, (Fr. Or. 1979, Eng. Trsl. 1985), Cambridge UP 1989, KLMA ib. Call Sign 944.07 P726r

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 9th 2004

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