By David Thomson
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Alas, no: by bad luck the Constituent Assembly had saddled us with such an absurd constitution, so contrary to all the rules of good sense and prudence, that to try and condemn the country to remain with it would, almost certainly, lay it open to all the hazards of a revolutionary cataclysm. To give some idea of the dangers which the country was forced to run through the imprudence of this constitutional system, and which surpassed the bounds of reason, suffice it to say that, not content with leaving two powers each stemming from universal suffrage face to face for two years, with no legal means of settling their differences, our constituent members had carefully arranged that these two powers should come to an end at an interval of three weeks from each other, one on April 28, the other on May 10, 1852, so that we should have had to renew the whole political machine all together, and the country would have remained for these three weeks completely without a government.
By taking this course, and by ourselves helping him to get eight million votes which would raise him to a position in which he would have at his disposal an army of five hundred thousand men and all the resources of executive power, none of us could pretend that he would not try to make use of this combined force and popularity to place on his head the crown to which he felt entitled through his birth and all the memories which were connected with his name. I do not think that any of us doubted that he would try to become Emperor, least of all would I insult M.
One succeeded only in giving society the alternative of either submitting to an Empire or again running all the risks of a revolutionary venture. It was the fear of being caught in this dilemma, between absolute power resuscitated in the person of a nephew of the first Napoleon, having neither his glory nor his genius, or the return of 40 THE STATE AND ITS FOUNDATIONS anarchy from which we had just emerged, which suggested the idea to a whole section of the majority of the Assembly that by trying to make a better Constitution than the one which had been bequeathed to us, we could at least stem the torrent which we could not stop completely.
France: Empire and Republic, 1850–1940: Historical Documents by David Thomson