The Birth of the Third Republic and the Story of the Paris Commune. www.educationforum.co.uk. What destroyed the 2 nd Empire?.
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The 2nd Empire was destroyed by war not by internal opposition, although internal opposition had been growing in the form of republicanism and socialism – (see Magraw pages 187-196 for detailed evaluation of all factors)
When news came to Paris of Napoleon's capture and defeat at Sedan the Paris Mob took to the streets and the Empress and her family fled to England
The Legislative Chamber proclaimed itself to be a Provisional Government and pledged to fight on against the Prussians
Republicans in the assembly knew that if a Republic was to be successful and accepted it must expel Prussian troops from France – a regime associated with humiliation and defeat would be doomed to failure
Thousands flocked to join the swelled ranks of the National Guard in Paris (nearly 400,000)
However Bismarck had occupied nearly all of the rest of France – After 4 months of siege Paris fell and an armistice was agreed in January 1871
Republicans in Paris were deeply politically hostile to the new assembly in Versailles
This was made worse by 2 decisions by Thiers
He demanded immediate repayment of rent and debt arrears which had been suspended during the war
He refused to continue to pay the expanded National Guard and tried to disarm them – the Generals and troops sent to disarm the national Guard were captured and hanged – Paris was about to separate from France!
Thiers now withdrew all government departments and officials from Paris leaving the National Guard as essentially the only official body in the city
The Central Committee of the national Guard then called for an election for a city government called the ‘Commune’
Around 70% of the 250,000 Paris population voted and returned and radical and left wing collection of socialists, republicans, liberals, anti clerics and radicals who swiftly introduced a radical programme of improved wages, free secular education and reduced working hours