Presidential Propaganda: The Election of 1848

Napoleon III (1852), first President of France

Louis-Eugène Cavaignac, the Moderate Republican Party candidate 

Following a period of Assembly-sanctioned dictator rule by Louis-Eugène Cavaignac in 1848 and the adoption of the Constitution the same year, the Assembly called for an election for the newly created position of the French President. The 1848 French presidential election brought the ideological battles of the past couple years into the field of public politics and was the first presidential election in French History. Many of the political factions had a presidential candidate, including for Cavaignac himself the Moderate Republican Party, Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin for the Democratic Socialists, and Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte for the Bonapartists. France's first direct election, it would be decided by the popular vote. Held on 10 December 1848, the resulting winner was Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte with a commanding 74% share of the popular vote. Wishing to emulate his uncle, Louis-Napoléon would transition from the very first President in French history to the first Emperor of the Second French Empire, later styling himself as Napoleon III. The first presidential election in French History ultimately paved the way for Napoleon III to revert the country back to an imperial system.


This poster, from the political faction of the Mountain, comments on the distrust of the position of president, and signed from noted leftist political figures part of the Mountain from this era, including Félicité de La Mennais, Félix Pyat, and Mathieu de la Drôme. Concerns over the role of the presidency seemed to be a common concern for the group, as a position with that much political power could be prone to corruption and the degradation of the republic at large. Ultimately the group concludes that if they had to support a candidate then the will support Ledru-Rollin, citing that a dedicated ‘republican’ is the only candidate to be trusted with preserving the sanctity of the republic. (car il faut conserver, développer et compléter la République, car il faut qu'elle vive quand même, qu'elle porte enfin ces institutions démocratiques et sociales sans lesquelles elle ne serait plus qu'une forme et qu'un mot)

This poster from a certain Emile Lambert running for the National Assembly is dedicated to the future President in the upcoming election. It outlines the history of past French rulers to draw lessons for the future President to abide by. It describes asks the reader to alter oneself to experience philosophical thought and the moralities in human behaviour. “Nothing is absolute, neither good nor evil, this eternal and sublime struggle gives us the right measure of our greatness, teaches us that life is a struggle, teaches us patience in movement, long-term improvement, and selfless courage in the victories of the future!”

This poster is a call to dissuade the protest some leftist voters had against the election by trying to explain that abstaining from votes will only give more power to the votes of the candidates they are against. They warn that one candidate (Cavaignac) is an enemy of socialists as a bourgeoise sympathizer (menace le TRAVAIL, au nom de la Féodalité financière) and that the other major candidate (Louis-Napoleon) is an enemy of the people and equality as an aristocrat (menace l'EGALITÉ, au nom de l'Aristocratie impériale et royale). The poster calls for the voters to vote for ‘equality’ and ‘workers’ and to vote for Ledru-Rollin. Posters like these would often target the sensibilities of certain factions by capitalizing on their fears stemming from opposing candidates.