Posts Tagged ‘Louis Napoleon’

Cinco de Mayo

Posted in General, On This Day on May 5th, 2011 by Eugene Finerman – 3 Comments

May 5, 1862:  The French Army Has a Faux Pas

Imagine that you have been mugged 47 times but once managed to fight off an attacker.  Wouldn’t you have a holiday to commemorate your token triumph?  Perhaps you wouldn’t but Mexico does.  On this day in 1862, a threadbare, outnumbered Mexican force thwarted a French attack on the town of Puebla. 

But what were the French doing there in the first place?  Napoleon III–unlike Hamlet–admired his uncle and tried to be a world conqueror, too.  Mexico had defaulted on its international debts, and  France decided to collect the entire country.  America’s Monroe Doctrine would have opposed France’s invasion, but we were somewhat preoccupied with the Civil War.  Besides, Napoleon III could tell that the South was going to win; so why worry about the former United States. 

Of course, the battle of Puebla was an embarrassment to the French but hardly a decisive defeat.  The rebuffed invaders  simply awaited reinforcements; the next battle of Puebla would be a French victory.  So was the battle of Mexico City.  With much of the country under their control, in 1864 the French established a puppet government with the affable and very gullible Austrian Archduke Maximilian as the “Emperor of Mexico”. 

Mexican patriots, rallying around President Benito Juarez, remained defiant if not particularly intimidating.  But in 1865, the American government was prepared to offer Juarez more than sympathy:  General Grant and an army of 50,000 were ready to enforce the Monroe Doctrine.  And suddenly the French decided to leave.  Unfortunately, the Emperor Maximilian did not.  He was certain that the Mexican people would like him once they got to know him.  He might have been right; but that evidently wasn’t the case with his firing squad. 

(The humiliated French would attempt to take out their frustration on the Prussians.  Any idea how well that worked out?  I wonder if Juarez sent Bismarck a complimentary sombrero.)

So today Mexico celebrates doing to the French what it wished it had done to us.  

Great Moments in Stupidity: July 19, 1870

Posted in General, On This Day on July 20th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

On July 19, 1870 France declared war on Prussia, starting the Franco-Prussian War.

Louis Napoleon evidently had his own Neo-Conservatives who guaranteed that the French army would Can-Can its way to Berlin.

In fact, the Emperor decided to lead the chorus line himself. Unfortunately, the charming bumbler had delusions of competence; he inherited the name Bonaparte but none of his uncle’s military genius. His army of 120.000 soldiers never got further than Sedan, where the entire force was captured by the Germans. And this French army was supposed to be rescuing another French army that was trapped at Metz.

To Bismarck’s amazement, the French weren’t getting the hint. Having lost the Emperor, the French government now proclaimed itself a republic and vowed to continue the war. The French raised five more armies, which meant that the Germans had to take the trouble to crush four more of them. (The fifth army survived by fleeing to Switzerland.) Paris fortified itself and withstood a siege for three months; before the Parisians finally surrendered, they ate the animals in the city zoo.

Bismarck certainly was making the best of the situation. He had used the war to coalesce the German states into one unified–under Prussian hegemony–empire. The new Kaiser was vacationing at Versailles, while Bismarck was enjoying even more luxury as the uninvited guest at the Rothschild estate outside of Paris. Bismarck himself had turned down Versailles, quipping “Why live like a King when you can live like a God.”

And the Chancellor was keeping a running tab of the expenses, and he had every intention of making France pay. Had France surrendered along with its hapless Emperor, Bismarck would have been satisfied with minor border adjustments. But after 10 months of war, Bismarck now demanded Alsace and Lorraine and a staggering indemnity of 6 billion gold Francs.

Although the unwelcomed guest of the French Rothschilds, Bismarck generally was more deferential to the family. Their man in Berlin, Gerson Bleichroder, was Bismarck’s banker and financial advisor. As you would gather from his name, Gerson was not exactly an Aryan aristocrat. Bleichroder played a role in the negotiations between a vanquished France and a vindictive Prussia. When informed of Germany’s demand for six billion gold Francs, the head of the French delegation protested, “If we started counting from the time of Jesus Christ, we would not reach such a sum.” Bismarck retorted–in French–“That’s why I have Bleichroder. He started counting long before Jesus Christ.”