Candidacy in the Second French Republic

“Sauvons la France, Sauvons la Liberté!” This desperate plea to “save France” from the tyranny of monarchy comes with the implicit suggestion that only a Republic could ensure liberty. For this republic to succeed, however, it needed competent and virtuous leaders. These posters — either written by the candidates themselves or on their behalf  — reflect the burgeoning desire for experienced, honest, morally upright and capable leaders elected by an informed voter base. Essentially, the republican system was only as good as the men in charge. The 1848 revolution had transformed the divine right of the monarchy to rule over the people into a sacred duty to govern on behalf of the people. Thus, a new age of technocratic bureaucracy was born.


This poster is a statement of candidature for the National Assembly by a man named Alleye de Cyprey. He argues that his long diplomatic career makes him qualified but suggests that it is his virtuous conduct that makes him deserving of election. This reflects the two principal themes of republican candidacy in the 1848 revolution: competence and morality. Unlike the other posters, which were printed, this one is handwritten, reflecting vestiges of medieval scribal culture with the use of medial “s”.


This poster formally endorses a man named Cavaignac for election to the office of President of the Republic. It contains religious undertones, suggesting that he can “shoulder the burden” or execute the “sacred duty” of republican government, which the poster calls a “holy ark”. Furthermore, it emphasizes Cavaignac’s competence as a leader and bureaucrat, and states that his election will end the “brutal despotism of anarchy” (i.e. rioting) that has defiled Paris as the “centre of civilization”. Essentially, a candidate should be a competent and moral leader, but also one that can unify the nation.


This poster is an endorsement for a slate of candidates to be elected to the National Assembly by a priest and “ardent republican”, Father Duchène. He supports their policies – progressive taxation and job creation – but also comments on their moral character, saying they will be able to “obtain holy reforms and bury tyranny”. Father Duchène also urges voters to exercise their rights, framing universal suffrage as a “weapon” against power-hungry royalists. In other words, a successful republic needs good candidates, but also engaged voters.


This poster is an endorsement for election to the National Assembly of citizen Constant Hilbey by a “democratic club”. While endorsing Hilbey’s capabilities and moral uprightness, it also argues that tyranny occurs when voters lack information, and they are “dazzled by the brilliance of reputation, which is not the result of private virtues or patriotism”. Candidates should promote themselves on posters not simply for their own success, but to create an informed voter base. It is this above all, the poster argues, that will expunge the most “vile corruption” from government.

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