Louis Napoleon and Fould

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written April 1850

Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 10, p. 342;
Written: between late March and mid-April 1850;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-Ökonomische Revue No. 4, 1850.
Keywords : Aristocracy, France, Paris

Note from MIA:

Marx wrote this article as an addendum to The Class Struggles in France, based on information from the French socialist and democratic paper, La Voix du peuple, which quoted from La Patrie in which Marx saw corroboration for his view of hte connection between President Louis Bonaparte and the stock exchange.

Our readers will recall that in our previous issue we showed how the finance aristocracy in France regained power. We took the opportunity to refer to the association of Louis Napoleon and Fould in the execution of profitable coups on the Stock Exchange. It has already been noted that since Fould joined the Cabinet Louis Napoleon’s unceasing demands on the Legislative Assembly for money have suddenly stopped. Since the recent elections, however, facts have been divulged which shed a glaring light on President Bonaparte’s sources of income. Just one instance.

In our account we shall be drawing mainly on La Patrie, the respectable newspaper of the Union électorale, [1] whose owner, the banker Delamarre, is himself one of the most important stock-exchange gamblers in Paris.

A large-scale speculative operation à la hausse [in a rising market] was organised with an eye to the elections of March 10. M. Fould was the ringleader of the plot, the most prominent of the Friends of Order participated in it, and M. Bonaparte’s camarilla had large cash interests in it, as did he himself.

On March 7 the 3 per cent bonds rose 5 centimes and the 5 per cent, 15 centimes; you see, La Patrie had made known the result of the preliminary election of the Friends of Order. This rise was too small for our speculators, however; a “boost” was needed. So La Patrie of March 8, which came out the previous evening, indicates in its stock-exchange bulletin that there is not the remotest doubt about the victory of the party of Order. It states among other things:

“We will certainly not blame the capitalists for their restraint; if, however, there ever existed situations in which scepticism was inadmissible, this is one of them, after the results obtained in the primary election.”

In order to evaluate the influence of the stock-exchange bulletin and the information in La Patrie in general on the Stock Exchange, one must know that it is the de facto ‘official’ gazette of the present government and receives official news before the Moniteur itself. Nevertheless, the coup failed this time.

On the 8th several army votes favourable to the red party became known and share prices immediately fell. A panic terror appeared to seize the speculators; it was now necessary to mobilise every means available. La Patrie’s stock-exchange bulletin stuck to its guns; every one of the Union électorale’s newspapers was ordered to the firing line; a few irregularities in connection with insignificant votes were discussed with great emphasis; one paper headlined the votes of a regiment which had voted monarchist; the republican papers were finally forced to publish some official denials, which a few days later proved to be just so many lies.

On the 9th these united endeavours succeeded in producing a small rise in state bonds at the opening of the Exchange, which did not last long, however. Until a quarter past two prices were rather low, but from that moment on they rose steadily until the close of business.[2] The causes of this sudden reversal were blurted out by La Patrie itself as follows:

“We are assured that some speculators with a large stake in an upswing made considerable purchases towards the close of business in order to create a positive mood in the provinces at the time of the election, and by the confidence roused in the provinces to bring about new purchases which would lead to a still higher rise.”

This operation amounted to several millions, its success lay in the rise of the 3 per cent bonds by 40 centimes and of the 5 per cent by 60 centimes.

This much is clear: there were speculators with a stake in the upswing who therefore made new purchases of a significant size at the critical moment in order to bring about a new rise. Who were these speculators? Let the facts provide the answer.

On the 11th there was a fall in prices on the Exchange. All the endeavours of the speculators were powerless against the uncertainty of the election results.

On the 12th a new, significant fall, since the result of the election was practically known, and it was as good as certain that the three socialist candidates had an imposing majority. The speculating bulls now made a desperate effort. La Patrie and the Moniteur du Soir published, under the heading of official telegraphic despatches, election results from the provinces which were pure inventions. The manoeuvre succeeded. In the evening, at Tortoni’s,[3] there was a slight rise. So it was only a matter of still further “boosting”. The following news item was printed in La Patrie:

“According to the votes known so far, Citizen de Flotte only has a lead of 341 votes on Citizen F. Foy. This election result can still he decided in favour of our candidate by the votes of the mobile gendarmerie. — We are assured that the government will tomorrow lay before the Assembly two laws, on the press and on electoral assemblies, and demand that they he treated as a matter of urgency.”

The second item was false; only after long hesitation, after lengthy discussions with the leaders of the party of Order and a change in the Cabinet did the government decide to propose these laws. The first item was an even more brazen lie; at the very moment it was being published in La Patrie, the government sent a telegram to the départements stating that de Flotte had been elected.

Nonetheless, the stratagem succeeded; the bonds rose, by 1 fr. 35 cts., and our gentlemen speculators realised between 3 and 4 millions. Surely, one cannot take it amiss of ‘the “Friends of Property” if they seek to gain possession of as much of their fetish as possible in the interests of order and society.

As a result of this successful dodge the speculators became so bold that they immediately made new purchases on the grandest scale, thus inducing a number of other capitalists to buy also. The rise was so pronounced that even the conjectural profits on this transaction were already being traded yet again. Then, on the morning of the 15th, came the crushing blow of the proclamation of Carnot, de Flotte and Vidal as representatives of the people; stock prices fell suddenly and irresistibly, and the defeat of our speculators could not be avoided by any further lying news reports or telegraphic fictions.

  1. The Union électorale was a bloc of monarchist groups in the by-elections for the French Legislative Assembly of March 1850, uniting Orleanists, Legitimists, Bonapartists and Catholics, and led by the Party of Order
  2. Dealing on the Paris Bourse began at 1pm and closed at 3pm
  3. The Café Tortoni on Boulevard des Italiens. When the Bourse closed, transactions were carried on here and around the café, which became know as the “small stock exchange