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French presidential election, 1848

French presidential election, 1848
10 December 1848 1873 →
  Adolphe Yvon - Portrait of Napoleon III - Walters 3795.jpg Cavaignac.jpg Alexandre Ledru-Rollin.jpg
Candidate Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte Louis-Eugène Cavaignac Alexandre Ledru-Rollin
Party Bonapartist Republican Montagnard
Popular vote 5,434,226 1,448,107 371,431
Percentage 74.44% 19.65% 5.08%

President before election

Louis-Eugène Cavaignac
(acting head of state)

Elected President

Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte

The French presidential election of 1848 was the first ever held. It elected the first and only president of the Second Republic. The election was held on 10 December 1848 and led to the surprise victory of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte with 74% of the vote.


The constitution only included provision for one round, and in the absence of a majority for any candidate, the National Assembly would have decided the victor.[1] Louis-Eugène Cavaignac seemed certain to win, and the Assembly would have most certainly elected him in the absence of an absolute majority.

Bonaparte had no long political career behind him and was able to depict himself as "all things to some men". The Monarchist right (supporters of either the Legitimist or Orléanist royal households) and much of the upper class supported him as the "least worst" candidate, as a man who would restore order, end the instability in France which had continued since the overthrow of the monarchy during the February Revolution earlier that year, and prevent a proto-communist revolution (in the vein of Friedrich Engels). A good proportion of the industrial working class, on the other hand, were won over by Louis-Napoleon's vague indications of progressive economic views. His overwhelming victory was above all due to the support of the non-politicized rural masses, to whom the name of Bonaparte meant something, as opposed to the other, little-known contenders.[2]


Two boys, one holding a poster for Louis-Napoléon and the other for Cavaignac, fighting
Presidential Election of 10 December 1848
Candidate Political Party Popular Vote Percent
  Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte Bonapartist 5,434,226 74.44%
  Louis-Eugène Cavaignac Moderate Republican 1,448,107 19.65%
  Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin The Mountain 371,431 5.08%
  François-Vincent Raspail Independent Socialist 36,964 0.49%
  Alphonse de Lamartine Independent Liberal 17,914 0.28%
  Nicolas Anne Théodule Changarnier Legitimist ~3,800 0.06%
Total 100%

Bonaparte received a plurality or majority in all departments except the Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Morbihan, and Finistère, all four of which were won by Cavaignac. Thus did Bonaparte become the second president in Europe (after Jonas Furrer of Switzerland) and the first French president to be elected by a popular vote.


  1. ^ Alexis de Tocqueville, Souvenirs (chap. XI), Robert Laffont, Paris, 1986, pp. 831-834.
  2. ^ []