CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1At first glance, the basis for this article appears to be a historical footnote: François-Vincent Raspail’s candidacy for the 1848 presidential election in France, even though the Republican and club leader had been in prison since May of that year. This election is well known: it was the first presidential election with “universal” suffrage, following the February Revolution (1848) that had granted voting rights to all adult French males. [1] The election is also remembered for its outcome: Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the nephew of Napoléon I, an adventurer who was almost unknown in the spring of 1848 and a complete outsider with regard to the revolutionary events, was elected in the first round with 74.3% of the votes. He beat the incumbent party candidate, Louis-Eugène Cavaignac (19.45%) and the democratic socialist Alexandre Ledru-Rollin (5%). François-Vincent Raspail came in a distant fourth place, with 36,964 votes (0.5%).

2Despite this paltry result, Raspail’s candidacy possessed two traits that constituted – or at least signalled – a critical moment in the history of French Republicanism. First, he was the very first national candidate to campaign on a socialist and proletarian vision of the Republic, relying on the support of workers’ organisations. Second, this candidacy was presented by its champions as an “impossible” endeavour [2] designed to protest against the very question posed: electing a president of the Republic. With the 1848 election was thus born the tradition of what we might call “impossible candidates”, a practice that stems from the subversion of the presidential election for protest purposes. In other words, an impossible candidate does not run to be elected, but to protest against the presidential institution itself. [3]

3The Raspail candidacy and the controversies it engendered thus illustrates the tensions surrounding the implementation of Republican institutions at the time, in particular the question of political representation. While today the 1848 Revolution is remembered for establishing universal manhood suffrage, [4] focus on the latter has often obscured the conflict the revolution provoked regarding how best to represent the sovereign people. Oppositions between Republicans were at fever pitch during the springtime and until the June Days Uprising, but they did not simply vanish after that point. [5] While beaten at the ballot boxes in April and on the streets in June, the champions of a democratic and social Republic, the “démocrates-socialistes” (democratic socialists) as they began to be called in the fall, nevertheless continued to promote their specific vision of the Republic and of political representation. This vision notably included the rejection of a president of the Republic elected by direct universal suffrage (seen as monarchical) – a criticism that could at first blush seem paradoxical, since universal suffrage was, on the contrary, supposed to be the main characteristic of democratic and Republican elections.

4Two lines of inquiry thus stem from an analysis of Raspail’s “impossible candidacy”. The first line of inquiry concerns the conception of political representation developed by the democratic socialists. Why did they not believe that universal suffrage guaranteed the true representation of the people? How were the forms of representation implemented via the election of the head of the executive branch by universal suffrage not compatible with the Republic? Why, under such conditions, did the democratic socialists wish to present an impossible candidate, and what form of representation did this candidacy entail? This necessarily brings us to the question of identifying who the actors supporting Raspail’s candidacy were, in what context they positioned their critique of the presidential office, and against which vision of the Republic and of representation they fought. Likewise, what were the reasons that drove these actors to choose Raspail over everyone else? [6] What traits made Raspail a “good” impossible candidate? What was his position as compared to that of other potential democratic socialist candidates? Since his candidacy was based on rejecting a certain form of political representation, what kind of representative was he? The question lying at the crossroads between these two lines of inquiry represents the crux of this article: what does the choice of Raspail as an impossible candidate reveal regarding the democratic socialists’ relationship to political representation?

5In order to answer this question, we shall first examine the emergence, in the spring of 1848, of a specific notion of the Republic that was social and democratic, championed by Raspail among others, and which arose in opposition to the moderate Republic that triumphed after the thwarted June Days Uprising. Second, we shall look at how protests against the presidency were elaborated in the fall of 1848, examining both the actors involved and the arguments they deployed. Finally, we shall also analyse how the Raspail candidacy was implemented and defended as an “impossible campaign”, including by studying its reception among democratic socialists and the electorate at large.

Prologue to a candidacy: Raspail and the revolutions of 1848

6The December 1848 election marked the outcome of two overlapping processes. On the one hand, it belonged to the new phenomenon of inventing and establishing Republican institutions in the wake of the February Revolution of 1848. On the other hand, it represented a turning point in the development of the political arena, as it had candidates representing different parties compete against each other. [7] The two processes were linked: it was in large part during the struggle to establish Republican institutions that partisan positions were formed. To understand what was at stake in the December 1848 election, including the significance of Raspail’s candidacy, it is thus necessary to examine these processes. To this end, we shall describe Raspail’s own trajectory and activity during the events of the spring of 1848.

The February Revolution and its consequences

7The revolution that took place on 24 February 1848 was the result of a campaign in favour of electoral reform, the so-called “campagne des banquets” (“banquet campaign”). [8] During this mobilisation, the opposition proposed a platform: every citizen must be a national guard, and every national guard must be able to vote. On 24 February 1848, a series of circumstances led to a triumphant insurrection, as the existing regime was supported by almost no one, and certainly not by the National Guard. The memory of the July Revolution in 1830, which had enabled Louis-Philippe to gain power, was everywhere; for both the insurgents and the parliamentary far-left wing, the main goal was preventing the revolution from “being coopted” (“escamoter”) once again. [9] A provisional government was established, composed of seven radical deputies (Marie, Garnier-Pagès, Crémieux, François Arago, Ledru-Rollin, Dupont de l’Eure, Lamartine), the editors of the two largest Republican newspapers, Le National (Marrast) and La Réforme (Flocon), as well as a socialist (Louis Blanc) and a secret society, working-class member (Albert). As a result of the 24 February coup, members from different parties opposing the July Monarchy thus came to power. However, against them, and still up in arms, were the people of Paris.

8As he had done in 1830, Raspail also participated in the 1848 struggle (see Box 1). The day after the uprising’s victory, on 25 February, he joined thousands of Parisians in front of the Hôtel de Ville, where the new provisional government had set up its headquarters. He forcefully entered the Hôtel de Ville accompanied by workers, went into the room where the provisional government was in the midst of working and threatened to come back with armed men if they did not immediately recognise the Republic. Then, in front of the gathered crowds, he himself simply proclaimed the Republic’s existence, and was followed a few hours later by the members of the provisional government. [10] Although the provisional government had declared the existence of the Republic under pressure from the people, it still needed to be defined, which was all the more difficult as there was no consensus regarding what constituted a Republic. Under the July Monarchy, the actors who had reintroduced the concept of the Republic had added specific provisions regarding workers to the country’s revolutionary heritage (which was itself subject to different interpretations). After the November 1831 uprising in Lyon, Republicans from the Société des Amis du Peuple (Society of the Friends of the People) and then the Société des droits de l’homme (Society of the Rights of Men) had particularly tried to mobilise workers, relying on the fact that the 1830 Revolution had been a catalyst for numerous labour struggles. [11] In 1848, “yesterday’s Republicans” (“républicains de la veille”), who had fought for the Republic under the fallen regime, saw the Republic as promising the rule of the people, in an irreducibly social and political sense: by including citizens in decision-making processes and bettering their living conditions (especially workers’ conditions). But the question of how best to realise this agenda was still unanswered in 1848. The springtime’s events, as well as the co-existence of different institutions and varying interpretations of institutional roles gradually put these Republican ideas to the test, resulting in a number of conflicting solutions.

Box 1: François-Vincent Raspail during the Parliamentary Monarchies

Raspail was born in 1794 in Carpentras, to a royalist mother and a patriotic father, a restaurant owner who died in 1795. After the fall of the Empire, Raspail was a victim of the Second White Terror and left the south of France for Paris, where he became a schoolteacher. He collaborated on publications opposing ultra-royalism, which ultimately cost him his job. At the beginning of the 1820s, Raspail joined the Charbonnerie, a secret society seeking to overthrow the Bourbons. The conspiracy failed in 1822. Raspail dedicated himself to the natural sciences and published many works, in which he gradually developed a new biological theory.
During the 1830 Revolution, Raspail fought on the barricades and was wounded. He hoped to obtain an institutional position as a scientist; this was to no avail, however. This professional failure pushed him to join the Republicans, becoming a member of the Société des Amis du Peuple, and subsequently its president. In this position he was on the receiving end of a number of lawsuits, which he used as political pulpits, and of numerous stints in prison. In 1834, he founded a newspaper, Le Réformateur, but was again incarcerated in 1835 and his newspaper ceased publication shortly thereafter.
When Raspail was released from prison at the end of 1835, he devoted himself to chemistry. In 1840, he participated as a scientific expert for the defence in the highly publicised trial of Marie Lafarge, which brought him great popularity. Starting in 1838, Raspail also began holding regular medical consultations at his house in Montsouris. In 1843, he published his Histoire naturelle de la santé et de la maladie (Natural History of Health and Disease), wherein he juxtaposed scientific theories with personal hygiene guidelines. In 1845, he published an abridged, pocket-format version of this work under the title Manuel annuaire de la santé (Annual Manual of Health), which, as its title implies, was updated annually (cf. note 4, page 16). This work was a great success, selling 200,000 copies over five years, and ensured Raspail a comfortable living. The same year, he opened up a clinic on Rue des Francs-Bourgeois; the consultations he offered there were free of charge. He gained a reputation as a doctor to the poor, and his method of self-treatment began to gain popularity.

9Contrary to what happened during the 1830 Revolution, all of the representative institutions of the previous regime were dissolved this time. In the interim, a number of new institutions were implemented, either as the direct result of the revolution, or through the transformation of pre-existing mechanisms. First of all, a provisional government was established to represent the different Republican affiliations. The majority, represented by Lamartine, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, favoured organising elections as quickly as possible to form a constituent assembly. But the minority, headed by Ledru-Rollin, the Minister of the Interior, believed that organising an election without having first “republicanised” the country – meaning streamlining its administration and enlightening the people – carried the risk of putting the former notables back in power. Finally, Louis Blanc and Albert argued that the provisional government should use its popular sway to undertake social reform. A democratised National Guard was the second institution to be established, composed of all adult male citizens who elected their own leaders. [12] Third, the Luxembourg Commission was established following the demands of Parisian workers on 28 February and presided over by Louis Blanc and Albert. This was a true parliament of labour, an assembly of workers’ delegates representing all the main trades. [13] Finally, alongside these institutions, but more informally, hundreds of political clubs and newspapers were rapidly created. [14] Parisians attended club meetings in droves (around 100,000 in total, or one-third of the total adult male population of the city). The club movement sought to play an important role in monitoring and influencing the provisional government. Among all the clubs, a handful quickly acquired such influence, often grouped around an important figure such as Barbès, Blanqui, Cabet, or Raspail.

Raspail: a leading figure in the club movement

10In the days that followed the revolution, Raspail founded a newspaper that he called L’Ami du peuple en 1848 (The Friend of the People in 1848), a title that simultaneously alluded to the Société des Amis du Peuple that he had headed from 1831-32, and to Marat’s L’Ami du Peuple (The Friend of the People) published during the French Revolution. As both a fellow doctor and an intransigent Republican, Marat was a figure that Raspail greatly admired. [15] And most importantly, in March, Raspail founded the Club des Amis du Peuple, whose first meeting took place on 23 March. [16] This was the capital’s most popular club, attracting around 5,000 individuals – mostly workers, and a large contingent of women, which was otherwise rare – to each meeting, open to the public for the affordable price of 10 centimes. The club was first and foremost an opportunity for Raspail to give political speeches, but certain sessions were also devoted to discussing candidates for the constituent assembly, whose election was scheduled for 23 April. Unlike the majority of other large clubs, whose leaders practised sometimes rigorous pre-selection, Raspail invited all potential candidates to come and present themselves to the public during one of the club’s meetings. Consequently, the number of candidates heard was impressive. Raspail and his friend Kersausie were applauded, but other candidates also received the support of members: workers (unknown or famous, like the reformer Agricol Perdiguier), bourgeois, radical democrats (including Alphonse Esquiros), the communist Étienne Cabet and even some nobles (the legitimist La Rochejacquelin, who rallied to the cause of the Republic, and the Prince de la Moskowa). Moreover, the club did not draw up a list of candidates for whom it recommended voting – unlike Raspail’s newspaper, which used a union list negotiated between club leaders and delegates from the Luxembourg Commission. [17] This choice reveals the role that Raspail wished to play: his club served to educate the people, and let them hear the candidates, but he did not intend to guide the people’s choice directly.

11Moderate Republicans gained a large majority in the constituent assembly elections (around 400 deputies), conservatives and reactionaries achieved an important position (200 seats), with the radical Republicans condemned to the minority, with 100 or so seats. Raspail consequently denounced this assembly, which he argued had been elected via a type of ballot that confused the people, and refused to accept it as a sovereign assembly. [18] On 27 April, in a speech given to the Club des Amis du Peuple, Raspail thus declared that “this assembly cannot be called truly national, but must be provisional like the government, from whose electoral manipulations it stemmed.” [19] On the day of the election (23 April), he had already laid out his convictions regarding political representation before the club:


“Note this down, and don’t forget it – in a Republic, the governing are the subjects of the governed, they are there to do the latter’s business and nothing more. It would be rather unseemly for a businessman to be offended if he were asked to account for his actions.” [20]

13This notion, according to which representatives were the servants of the represented, was antithetical to the position held by the newly elected Assembly. The Assembly sought to assert its greater legitimacy over and against the National Guard, the clubs and workers’ committees, as it was the only organisation able to claim that it represented the country’s will, as reflected at the ballot box. [21]

14As a result, during the first two months of the new regime, two different conceptions of the Republic were gradually developed. According to the first, only the Assembly, elected by universal suffrage, could represent the people, and thus held all the power. Once it was elected by the universality of citizen electors, the people no longer had to act directly; the Assembly monopolised political power, in an exclusive interpretation of political representation. But a second conception of the Republic, rooted in the July Monarchy’s Republican movement, instead emphasised the plural system which emerged from the barricades, and sought to recognise the sovereign peoples’ right to act directly, in clubs, the National Guard, newspapers and workers’ committees, and in particular to exercise control over its representatives – in other words, embracing an inclusive interpretation of representation. [22] Raspail was firmly in the latter camp, and he played a major role in an event that would lead to a confrontation between these two visions of the Republic: the demonstration of 15 May 1848 in support of the Polish insurgency, which turned into an invasion of the Assembly and an unfruitful attempt to instate a new provisional government. [23] The protests marked a turning point in the events of the 1848 Revolution, since they led to the arrest of many club leaders, including Raspail, and signalled the victory of those who championed the Assembly’s absolute power over those who wished to establish the right of those represented to intervene in public affairs.

The failure of the democratic and social Republic

15By the evening of 15 May, Raspail was in prison, most of the clubs had been shut down, the Luxembourg Commission had been dissolved, the army was once again stationed in Paris, the head of the National Guard, Courtais, had been arrested, and the prefect of police, Caussidière, was relieved of his duties. In the weeks that followed, the unrest of Parisian workers increased, the latter fearing that the National Workshops, founded at the beginning of the regime to create jobs for tens of thousands of unemployed individuals, would be dissolved. This dissolution would also mean the automatic enrolment of workers into the army, or their being sent out to various départements, according to the project outlined by the Assembly’s conservatives, who wished to rid themselves of the constant threat posed by armed workers on the streets of Paris. The fear that the events of 1830 would be repeated all over again led workers to defend the idea of a democratic and social Republic as the only viable option. Dozens of newspapers were created, whose tone was clearly more radical and aggressive than those published in the immediate wake of the February Revolution. [24] The radicalisation of Parisian workers matched that of the Assembly, where the conservatives gained increased power and declared that they wanted to “be done with it all” (“en finir”).

16Finally, faced with persistent rumours regarding the upcoming dissolution of the National Workshops, representatives from the latter asked to be seen by the government on 22 June. Far from seeing their fears assuaged, the representatives were vilified and sent packing, the government even issuing warrants for the arrest of dozens of representatives. The next morning, after gathering at the Bastille, thousands of workers climbed the barricades and the uprising of June 1848 began: three days of fighting that would leave thousands dead. Cavaignac, a former Algerian general, used methods against the workers that had been tested out during the colonial conquest, [25] was granted plenary power and emerged from the struggle as the new regime’s strongman. He was appointed as president of the Council for as long as the siege lasted – and it would last for months. As for socialist, working-class Republicans, they emerged from the fighting defeated and bled dry. In the weeks that followed, new legislation re-asserted control over the press and the clubs, and the political boundaries of the previous regime were more or less restored; namely, politics was almost exclusively focused on the Assembly and excluded any direct citizen participation. The Assembly drafted and voted on a Republican constitution, but only granted a limited role to social and democratic aspects. And, after many discussions, it also made provision for the head of the executive branch to be a president, elected by direct universal suffrage. [26]

Refusing the presidency: Democratic socialists confront the electoral challenge

Democratic socialists and the presidential election

17This was thus the background against which the December 1848 presidential election was organised. The first candidates to declare themselves were unsurprising. Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, who had stayed out of the fray in the springtime, had been elected deputy in June in a by-election but had ultimately refused to serve his mandate. He was elected once again in a September by-election; this time, however, he did not step down; his supporters, especially the conservatives from the Rue de Poitiers faction, began to prepare for his presidential campaign. Among the moderate Republicans, Cavaignac, the president of the Council, was the natural candidate. For radical Republicans, the situation was more complicated. In fact, during parliamentary debates on the Constitution, they had taken a strong stance against a presidential office subject to direct universal suffrage.

18In the discussions that began on 5 October of the articles concerning the organisation of executive power, Félix Pyat was the first to speak. He was a man of letters, a journalist, famous for his theatrical works, and one of the main orators among the representatives of the Mountain (La Montagne), the democratic socialist Republicans affiliated with Ledru-Rollin. According to Pyat, the presidency was to be rejected – that is, the existence of an independent executive, separate from and independent of the Assembly – in the name of the necessary unity of sovereignty. This was the same argument that had led Republicans to fight (successfully) for a single chamber during debates on the legislative branch. In support of this notion, Pyat highlighted the indivisible and absolute nature of the people’s sovereignty:


“In a Republic, there is only one law, the law of the people; one king, the people itself, represented by an elected assembly, the National Assembly. This Assembly must therefore be as sovereign as the people it represents. It encompasses all powers, it rules and governs according to the will of the people, it is absolute like the former monarchy and it can also say: I am the State – except that it can lawfully say this, because it is speaking on behalf of the people.” [27]

20As we can see, this argument in favour of a parliamentary regime did not necessarily stem from an inclusive view of representation; first and foremost, the main issue was asserting the Assembly’s absolute power. Responding to Pyat, Alexis de Tocqueville defended the election of a president by direct universal suffrage and derided those who saw it as a danger to the Republic, deftly recalling the Convention. However, Pyat also elaborated a second argument, wherein the issue of representation played a central role:


“The presidency […] would thus encompass, concentrate and absorb all the power, representing, personifying, embodying the people, thus turning the Republic into a veritable monarchy.” [28]

22This was a key question for Republicans at the time: while representation, in the parliamentary sense, was not rejected but instead embraced, even in its most exclusive aspects, on the other hand representation as embodiment was viewed with great mistrust. During the debates, examples of parliamentary monarchies and others drawn from the time of the Empire were regularly invoked as deterrents to embodied power, even if the latter were the result of elections. Jules Grévy further elaborated upon this dimension of the Republican argument on 6 October, when he defended his amendment stipulating that the executive branch be entrusted to a president of the Council, elected by the Assembly. Voting with the Left, Grévy was not strictly speaking a member of the Mountain. His argument, though less radical than Pyat’s, sought to defend the advantages of a parliamentary regime, and especially to caution against the dangers of “a popular election [that] would give the president of the Republic excessive power”. [29] According to Grévy, the fact that this power was “temporary and elective” rather than hereditary made it even “more dangerous for liberty”, as there was a high risk that an elected president would refuse to give up power at the end of his mandate (which, according to the legislation presented by the Constitutional Commission, was non-renewable). Grévy concluded his speech by arguing, like Pyat, that the only Republican means of having a strong government was for the latter to draw its power exclusively from the Assembly: “The power shall reside in an Assembly. In a democracy, it cannot reside elsewhere.” [30] On 7 October, the discussion surrounding Grévy’s amendment continued, in turn examining an amendment proposed by Ferdinand Flocon and Médéric Leblond in favour of the Assembly electing the president of the Republic. The Grévy amendment won 168 votes out of 801, the Leblond amendment 211 out of 813. The socialists, the Montagnards (members of La Montagne) and a segment of the moderate Republicans voted for both amendments, erecting a Republican front in support of a parliamentary regime. Several direct electoral systems were proposed on 8 October, but to no avail, and Article 43 was ultimately adopted by 627 votes against 130 (once again, the opposition being composed of left-wing Republicans, the Montagnards and the socialists).

23It thus becomes clear why the radical Republicans’ situation was especially delicate after the Constitution was adopted – the Mountain abstained and certain socialists, like Proudhon, voted against it. During the debates, they not only emphasised the need for a strong parliamentary regime, but also explicitly took a stand against the notion of representation-asembodiment inherent to the election of a president by direct universal suffrage. As the socialist newspaper La République noted on 20 November in an article titled “De l’élection du président” (“On the election of the president”), it could seem that the radical Republicans, “opposed in principle to the very institution of the presidency”, were going to “stay out of the elections”. [31] However, this was not the choice the Mountain made. Immediately after the Constitution was voted through, on 7 November, the Montagnards launched a newspaper called La Révolution démocratique et sociale and an association, La solidarité républicaine. Charles Delescluzes, a close affiliate of Ledru-Rollin, was the editor-in-chief of the newspaper and the secretary-general of the association. On 8 November, La Révolution démocratique et sociale published an article on the presidency. While continuing to reiterate his rejection of the institution, Delescluzes maintained that “if they are revolutionary, then democratic socialists neither can nor should abstain in the presidential election”; on the contrary, they must “act as a single man, to direct their votes towards the citizen that they believe to best merit the vote of France as a whole”. [32] Once elected, however, the new president’s first duty would be to obtain a constitutional amendment to eliminate the presidency. On 9 November, several newspapers, including La Révolution démocratique et sociale, published a “Déclaration au peuple” (“Declaration to the People”) signed by 56 deputies from the Mountain, which was also posted in the streets, a veritable manifesto declaring the unity of power and the subordination of executive functions to the Assembly. [33] On 10 November, finally, the “Taitbout meeting”, so called after the street where the Montagnards held their meetings, published a declaration that reiterated the rejection of the presidential office and called for voters to support Ledru-Rollin who “was the first, with the people, to declare the existence of the Republic and who organised universal suffrage” when he was a member of the Provisional Government and the Minister of the Interior. [34] La Réforme, a paper founded in 1843 as the main voice for radical Republicans, stated that it wished to back “an opponent to the presidency” and immediately supported Ledru-Rollin, hailing the latter as “the founder of the democratic and social Republic”. [35] The democratic socialists’ electoral machine was thus set in motion: around the notion of the democratic and social Republic, Ledru-Rollin’s supporters, acting as political entrepreneurs, sought to rally all democratic socialist Republicans to his candidacy. [36]

The need for a different candidate

24But this coalition was never formed. Raspail was put forward as a candidate by the “pure socialists” (“socialistes pures”), [37] who defined themselves as the authentic defenders of the democratic and social Republic, in opposition to Ledru-Rollin. The candidacy was the result of a process that involved not only Raspail, but a host of other actors from clubs and workers’ committees. During this process, a specific conception of representation was developed, breaking with both the vision implemented in the new Republican institutions and the one supported by the Mountain.

25Like Ledru-Rollin’s candidacy, Raspail’s relied on the support of an association, the Conseil central électoral des républicains démocrates et socialistes (Central Electoral Council for Democratic Socialist Republicans), which had formed in the run up to the by-elections on 17 September as a result of the Parisian democratic socialist electoral meetings, [38] and on the newspaper Le Peuple, founded on 2 September. The association and the paper were closely linked: it was in the newspaper’s offices that the electoral committee held its meetings in September. [39] When Le Peuple was launched in September 1848, it was intended to be a meeting point for socialist deputies, former members of radical clubs, and workers’ committee delegates. As Rémi Gossez explains, the newspaper “interpreted the opinion of the workers”. [40] It was the newspaper most read by the working class (printing around 20,000 copies) and, more importantly, it was directly connected to workers’ representative bodies, largely because its manager, Georges Duchêne, had represented typographers at the Luxembourg Commission and had in September become a member of the standing committee of workers’ delegates, thus making Le Peuple the workers’ “unofficial platform”. [41] In addition to Duchêne, the Le Peuple staff also included Pierre-Joseph Proudhon as editor-in-chief, one of the few socialists elected to the constituent Assembly. At the time, he occupied a privileged position among the socialists: not only was he a deputy, but he was also a writer for Le Représentant du peuple, one of the few workers’ newspapers that had survived the June Days Uprising, but which was ultimately prohibited in August. In July, he had been the first to publicly defend the June insurgents, asserting that they were entitled to revolt once the Assembly had betrayed the promises made in February. [42] The other founders of the paper were Charles Fauvéty, the former director of Le Représentant du peuple, and the future theoretician of direct communalist government; [43] Jules Vinçard, a Saint-Simonian artisan and songwriter, the director of the working-class newspaper La Ruche populaire; Alfred Darimon, Proudhon’s secretary; Philippe Faure, a journalist close to Pierre Leroux; Jérôme Langlois, a journalist friend of Proudhon’s; and finally Louis Vasbenter, a typesetter from Lyon, the former manager of Le Représentant du Peuple. The newspaper was thus established around a core of typographers and friends of Proudhon, but was also open to other socialist movements.

26Like Ledru-Rollin’s supporters, these individuals radically rejected the very principle of the presidency. At the beginning of November, an article by Proudhon was published. He was one of the few parliamentarians to have refused to vote on the Constitution and now took a vehement stand against the presidency, declaring that if the people were asked to choose a president, they would name a king, thus predicting Bonaparte’s massive victory. [44] However, he did not in the end call for abstention, and his article finished as follows:


“God forbid that I incite the people to disdain, or to riot, on account of this slip of paper that is called a Constitution today. And since we are forced, politically, to take a stand on this ridiculous presidency issue, since our hands are tied, god forbid that I advise citizens to do nothing!… Politics has decided this: we must vote! Let us vote, then, not to choose a candidate, but out of protest.” [45]

28The seed of a protest vote was thus planted. That is why Ledru-Rollin was ultimately not a good candidate: even if the Mountain was officially against the presidency, it had put forward its own leader as candidate, thus displaying the same kind of presidential logic that Le Peuple condemned as monarchical. The paper’s editors wanted to use this event to propagate their ideas, but they also wanted to emphasise their rejection of the whole process, thus developing a new, specific use for elections:


“Carried away, despite ourselves, by partisanship, in choosing a candidate we thus wanted to give a different meaning to our votes: we wanted our candidate, an impossible candidate, to symbolise everything we did not want, as well as all of our hopes.” [46]

30For these political entrepreneurs of a kind of socialism that was markedly different from that adopted by Ledru-Rollin and his disciples, the solution was therefore to present a candidate who was a non-candidate; a candidate whose very candidacy would be a protest against the office of the presidency. While La Révolution démocratique et sociale rooted for Ledru-Rollin to win, in order to later reform the institution of the presidency, Le Peuple sought to nominate an impossible candidate. In an article published on 29 November, Proudhon pushed the paradox a long way:


“How can people not understand that we are not voting for the presidency, but AGAINST the presidency? That consequently, if we thought we might get the majority of the vote, instead of voting, instead of presenting a non-candidate, we would suggest abstaining?” [47]

32As a result, the “non-candidacy” willed by Le Peuple was not only valuable because it was led by people opposed to the presidency – as this was also the case for deputies belonging to the Mountain – but also because, by being impossible, it was itself an act of propaganda against the presidency. Le Peuple refused to play the institutional game and subverted its rules, which was an attitude completely different from that held by the Montagnards, who wished to master the institutions so that they could later transform them.

33The opposition between the two candidacies can thus be traced back to a fundamental issue: the role of political action with regard to the emancipation of workers. [48] For the Mountain, politics was more important than socialism: the key thing was first conquering power, and then proceeding to social reforms. Conversely, for the staff of Le Peuple, the social revolution had to take precedence over the political revolution. Consequently, in terms of strategy, it was urgent to organise workers. This was the objective that emerged from the Manifeste électoral published by Le Peuple – a seminal text in the history of French socialism, since the autonomous organisation of the proletariat was defined therein as both the means and the ends of socialism. [49] The manifesto presented the rejection of the presidency in the broader context of rejecting “the government of man by man”: in other words of the state as a governing power for the benefit of “democratically organised workers’ associations” which were to become the tools of social revolution. This opposition on principle did not mean that personal considerations regarding the candidate did not play a role in the pure socialists’ (as opposed to those who specifically defined themselves as “political” democratic socialists) refusal to rally around Ledru-Rollin. Quite to the contrary, the staff of Le Peuple criticised the latter for never having stopped playing the political game, whether he was part of the Provisional Government, at the Ministry of the Interior, or on the Executive Committee of the Constituent Assembly, which meant that he had been part of all the repressions against workers (16 April, 15 May, 23 June). The candidate that Le Peuple wished to support, on the other hand, should embody a different principle, whose very name would signify the radical rejection of institutions. To this end, Le Peuple socialists wished to use representation-as-embodiment, but by inverting the principle behind it: since the election of a president by direct universal suffrage was based on a candidate’s ability to embody, the candidate should be an anti-presidential “symbol”. According to the logic behind the institutions of representative government, a good representative is elected to govern. In this case, however, the candidate should be non-elected in order to not-govern, to embody the principle of the rejection of government. The main problem for the editors at Le Peuple was therefore finding a candidate who could single-handedly represent opposition to the office of the presidency. This impossible candidate would be Raspail.

Raspail as paradoxical representative

Why Raspail?

34The choice of Raspail was made at the same time as Ledru-Rollin’s campaign was being launched. Raspail’s candidacy was officially announced during a public meeting on 11 November 1848, following the demand of the Conseil central électoral de républicains démocrates et socialistes. [50] In the days leading up to this event, this electoral committee had contacted a certain number of individuals in the hope of choosing a presidential candidate: Pierre Leroux, Étienne Cabet, François Raspail, Auguste Blanqui, Armand Barbès, Louis Blanc, Albert, Ledru-Rollin, Marc Caussidière and Théophile Thoré. The committee asked each of them if they would agree to run as the candidate for the democratic and social Republic and, failing that, if they would endorse the candidate chosen by the committee. Pierre Leroux, Barbès, Blanqui, Albert, Caussidière and Thoré “declined the honour”, while Ledru-Rollin “refused to adhere to the desistance condition”. This left Cabet, Raspail and Louis Blanc in the ring; the committee ultimately chose Raspail. The press release stated that “this name was greeted with applause: the committee’s decision was thus ratified by unanimous approval”. In the articles that were subsequently written in favour of Raspail’s candidacy, the process was frequently mentioned, especially to highlight that Ledru-Rollin had ostracised himself from the true democratic socialists by refusing to adhere to the common rule, which was the sign of an attachment to personal interests that was incompatible with the democratic and social Republic and the rejection of the presidency.

35The reasons behind choosing Raspail over the two other potential candidates also hint at the meaning that the electoral committee wished to confer to this candidacy. Raspail was a long-standing Republican, he had been at the heart of the spring 1848 events and was currently imprisoned – which had not prevented him from being elected deputy in September with 70,000 votes in Paris (he also won some 30,000 votes in Lyon). [51] After his election, Raspail remained in prison as a result of the Assembly’s decision, which ruled that the election was valid but also authorised legal proceedings to continue and thus for Raspail to remain incarcerated. [52] Very early on, he adopted a position against the presidency: or rather, for his vision for an explicitly anti-monarchical presidency. On 12 March 1848, he had thus written:


“The Republic that we dreamt of (and our dream shall become a reality) will not be a Republic of honorary appointments and sinecures. The positions shall be responsibilities and not honours […]; and the President, just another gear in the administrative machine, will often say to someone more well-off than himself: ‘Do you want my place?’” [53]

37As the “Electoral Manifesto” published by Le Peuple on 15 November stated, Raspail’s presidential candidacy was “a living protest against the presidency”. [54] However, to a certain extent this rationale could also have applied to Cabet, who had always remained at a distance from governmental institutions. On 15 October, Cabet likewise rejected the notion of a president of the Republic, saying that the latter would be “a sort of monarch”; he also highlighted the importance of planting “the flag of the democratic and social Republic […] in the middle of the general election”. [55] Similarly, Louis Blanc, in exile in London when he was contacted by former Luxembourg delegates to become a candidate, expressed a position that was completely in agreement with the electoral committee’s ideas:


“My dear friends,
In the candidacy that you offer me, I gratefully accept this mark of favour that touches my heart. But, like me, I imagine, you all believe that there should be no president of the Republic […]. If, to you, my name seems appropriate to use as protest against the title and functions of the presidency of the Republic, I gladly give it to you, and am happy that you have chosen me to represent our big Luxembourg family.
Fraternal salutations, Louis Blanc.” [56]

39Raspail was therefore not the only one who could have become the ideal protest candidate. During the banquet held on 3 December 1848 to support his candidacy, signs were placed on the tables to recall “the names of the people’s most beloved banned guests”: Raspail’s name could indeed be found on these signs, but so could those of Blanqui, who symbolically presided over the banquet, as well as those of Louis Blanc, Barbès, and Albert, likewise all victims of repression. [57] The absence of these important guests, due to exile or incarceration, including Cabet’s voluntary exile to found an Icarian colony in the United States, could well symbolise the rejection of the presidency.

40Justification for the choice of Raspail, rather than Cabet or Louis Blanc, can be found in the explanation given by Le Populaire, the Icarian newspaper, alongside its reluctant rejection of Cabet as candidate:


“The Icarians wished to propose citizen Cabet, and they were sufficiently numerous and influential to have a chance with this candidacy; at least, it was a form of protest that they believed to be incredibly useful. But as some socialists argued that it would be political suicide to nominate a sect and movement leader, especially when the latter had announced his upcoming departure, the Icarians were prompt to sacrifice their interests and desires to the altar of unity, and supported Raspail. Raspail was then unanimously nominated as the socialist candidate, while Ledru-Rollin persists in his personal campaign supported by former political democrats, who have created a second electoral committee.” [58]

42The reason put forth for Cabet’s rejection, which can also be applied to Louis Blanc, was that both were the leaders of organised movements, of socialist “sects”, to use the contemporary expression. Not only did their candidacy risk meeting with opposition from other sect leaders, but they also imperfectly represented the anti-governmental principle, while Raspail had never belonged to any party. On the contrary, what can be seen in his activity in 1848 is the constant refusal to become a party leader, even when this option was presented to him. Raspail did found a club, but he was not in charge of its board and did not participate in attempts to centralise Parisian clubs. He even refused to put forward a list of election candidates and allowed all citizens, even reactionaries, to present themselves before his club’s audience. Moreover, he had explicitly been against the governmental principle for a long time. As early as 28 February 1848, he wrote:


“In 1848, the sovereign people came of age to exercise their sovereignty in the fullness of their rights and power: let no one dare to become their guardian.” [59]

44This anti-governmental view of representation did not originate in 1848. It was at the heart of Raspail’s arguments during the July Monarchy, and even of his medical practice, which was based on notions of hygiene and self-treatment. [60] Raspail wished to educate the people solely so that they could become masters of themselves, in the same way that they should receive medical treatment only so that they could learn to be their own doctors – as Raspail expressed numerous times, he sought to teach his patients to “do without me”. [61] This overlap between Raspail the political figure and Raspail the doctor frequently recurs in the calls to vote for him, as for example in the manifesto published on 17 November by the Lyon newspaper Le Peuple constituent:


“Let us listen to the voice of The Friend of the People, to the encouragement that, while a prisoner, forgetting his own distress, Raspail offered to his patients, whom he never forgot while in prison, and for whom he worked ceaselessly: for he is dedicated to the cause of humanity, and despite the ill-will of the old medical guard, his immense work will survive and will one day destroy this academic discipline that is incapable of healing. […] This school of medicine, led by people like Fouquier and Orfila, knows full well that F.-V. Raspail […] will soon have dethroned the charlatans and supporters of the Empire, much as he dethroned the royal charlatans. Yes, let us turn our eyes to that part of Paris called Vincennes; for, weary of looking upon the mire, we are pleased to rest our gaze on probity and political devotion, on honour and virtue. And as sincere democrats, on the day we are called to vote, let us not forget FRANÇOIS-VINCENT RASPAIL, the friend and defender of the People!” [62]

46The parallel between Raspail the doctor and Raspail the political figure, fuelled by the contrast between his virtue and the charlatanism of his enemies in various camps, paints a picture of Raspail as a representative par excellence of the values of dedication and probity, in all aspects of his life. Similarly, Le Peuple highlighted not only his political characteristics, but also his professional position:


“The central electoral committee has unanimously decided to nominate citizen Raspail as its presidential candidate. Elected by 66,000 votes in Paris and 35,000 votes in Lyon, Raspail is a democratic socialist, implacably denouncing political smokescreens, and his work in the art of healing has raised him to the rank of benefactor of humanity.” [63]

48As an elected official, doctor to the poor, and political truth-speaker, Raspail thus enjoyed legitimacy on a number of counts, while always remaining on the outside of politics and power. Unlike Louis Blanc and Cabet, therefore, he embodied the anti-governmental principle, as clearly evidenced in Le Peuple’s “Electoral Manifesto”:


“We accept Raspail as a living protest against the principle of the presidency! We present him to the popular vote, not because he is, or believes himself to be, a possible candidate, but indeed because he is impossible; because with him, the presidency, an image of royalty, would be impossible.” [64]

50Ultimately, Raspail was not just an impossible candidate because he was unelectable, but also because his anti-governmental image directly contradicted the image of royalty. [65]

Raspail, the embodiment of the democratic and social republic

51The symbolic logic of representation-as-embodiment was thus fully in play here: Raspail was indeed a symbol, but according to a principle that was opposed to the type of monarchical embodiment introduced by the presidential election. [66] This last point is crucial for understanding the goal of the democratic socialists affiliated with Le Peuple: it was not merely a matter of protesting against the presidency (for then abstention would suffice), but of turning the election against the regime, by subverting the principle of embodiment to other ends. While Raspail’s candidacy was indeed a protest campaign, it was not devoid of purpose. It was part and parcel of a revolutionary agenda that sought to constitute a vast socialist workers’ organisation, centred on Le Peuple, which could play a driving role in the direct, autonomous emancipation of workers. In a certain sense, it was not Raspail who was using Le Peuple, but Le Peuple that was using Raspail for the benefit of the democratic and social Republic.

52In fact, elections – and especially elections based on the principle of embodiment – are not just about choosing someone to govern: something else occurs that belongs to the realm of representation, a symbolic relationship between a candidate and the voters, and the establishment of voters as a subjective entity. As Pierre Bourdieu has emphasised, “…it is the spokesperson that makes the group. It is because the representative exists, because he represents (symbolic action), that the represented or symbolised group exists and then in return brings into existence its representative as representative of the group.” [67] What Raspail did was not only provide an audience for democratic socialist ideas, but also create a new political subject; in other words, through his position as spokesperson, he accomplished an act of subjectivation. Those who voted for Raspail accomplished more than just buying Le Peuple and its ideas: they positioned themselves as citizen-electors and thus became integral parts of a political subject that was against the presidency and for the democratic and social Republic. This comes across in a 9 November article:


“But it is not enough to just put forward the social idea: we must work towards its realisation. We do not wish for so much energy exerted in this freedom-destroying fight for the presidency to be lost for the socialist cause. Let others celebrate that their candidate has won; for us, we must not forget that under the guise of a man’s name, we are only glorifying an idea. Workers, by voting for Raspail, you are pledging allegiance to the socialist cause; swearing hatred for exploiters and tyrants; you are pledging yourselves, like the knights of the Middle Ages, to help one another; you form a defensive and offensive alliance against poverty. By voting for Raspail, you promise to serve, with all your means, the democratic and social cause: otherwise, what would be the point of voting, since you do not wish to see a presidency established?” [68]

54Voting for Raspail, therefore, meant explicitly supporting the idea that he represented – the democratic and social Republic – a call to arms that, thanks to the majesty of the electoral act, could act as an oath of allegiance. It is evident that Raspail’s candidacy was not merely used to reject the election: on the contrary, the principle of representation underpinning it was diverted from its purpose – granting the Republic a president – in order to establish a new political subject. This creation was not just symbolic, moreover, as it took concrete form in a call to found a new association:


“Let each one of you, after having dropped your ballot in the box, write on a register prepared to this end by the electoral committee, your name, occupation, domicile, size of household, and number of workers, apprentices or journeymen employed therein. Let this census be the basis for our new democratic and social organisation […]. Citizens, vote for Raspail, and immediately enrol in the holy crusade. We shall inform you of our general battle plan.” [69]

56The call to arms was as clear as day: Raspail’s candidacy created a unified political subject that was accounted for, organised and ready for battle (and as large as possible).

57Raspail was thus a good impossible candidate, for he combined three traits that were crucial for realising the goals of those who championed the democratic and social Republic: he could not be elected, he embodied an anti-governmental principle, and yet he was popular enough to rally all the socialists to his name and thus, following a principle of symbolic representation, to embody a collective revolutionary subject. His candidacy strove to exploit the effects of subjectivation of the relationship of representation, but in the service of rejecting the governmental aspects of the relationship of representation as established by the institutions of representative government. For this reason, the actors rallying around Raspail – radical Republicans, socialists, organised labour – chose him to accomplish their political project: on the one hand, to compete with Ledru-Rollin’s attempt to appropriate the socialist identity; and on the other, to create an organisation that would seek to bring about the emancipation of workers without waiting to seize state power.

The reception of Raspail’s candidacy

58Raspail’s candidacy did not meet with unanimous approval, however, even among socialists and organised labour. The debate first emerged in the press. As we saw above, the Icarian communists endorsed his candidacy, while reiterating their preference for Cabet:


“Everywhere in France, as in Paris, the Icarians wished to make an Icarian protest by choosing citizen Cabet as their candidate for president of the Republic, and this choice was supported by a large number of voters. However, our usual feelings of personal abnegation, the certainty that Raspail would obtain a greater number of votes, the desire to avoid all division among socialists, and our resolve to leave in the near future, have all convinced us to urge our friends to vote for Raspail; he has our support and our hopes.” [70]

60However, the same democratic socialist need for unity would drive part of the press to take a radically contrary position, despite belonging to the same general movement. The workingclass newspaper L’Atelier, which shared the moderate Republican views of Le National, and for whom the greatest threat was Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, urged its readers to vote for Cavaignac. However, this was a relatively rare position among socialist and working-class publications. Many newspapers called for their readers to support Ledru-Rollin, in particular the Fourierist paper Démocratie pacifique:


“The Republic is the final culmination of all political revolutions […]. Let us put aside, therefore, the monarchical candidate; drive back Napoléon Bonaparte […]. By voting for any other candidate, you are voting for the Republic, for the order and dignity of France […]. All of the Republican candidates, however, are not equal in our opinion. Democratic socialists cannot vote with dignity for men that repudiate them and offer them up for sacrifice to the rest. The name of Ledru-Rollin seems the right one to rally all democratic socialists, the movement striving today to assess its strength. We strongly urge all not to abstain.” [71]

62While Démocratie pacifique did not say much about the presidency, [72] Ledru-Rollin’s supporters, in particular La Révolution sociale et démocratique, took a firmer stance and dedicated a significant amount of column space to combatting Cavaignac and Raspail. A very heated debate took place from mid-November between La Révolution sociale et démocratique and Le Peuple, specifically because Proudhon had presented the deputies from the Mountain as reactionaries and false socialists; he was in turn denounced as “the Republic’s worst enemy”. [73] Aside from criticising Proudhon, La Révolution sociale et démocratique frequently highlighted the fact that the electoral committee that had nominated Raspail was very limited in scope and only included Parisians, in contrast to the electoral committee that they themselves later assembled. Issue after issue, the paper contained calls to support Ledru-Rollin from the press, departmental electoral committees, workers’ committees and eminent democratic socialists.

63At the same time, La République sociale et démocratique criticised other democratic socialist newspapers, in particular La République and La Réforme, for not coming out firmly in support of Ledru-Rollin. [74] While La Réforme, in the name of rejecting the presidential office and of the need to unite democratic socialists, eventually came out in support for Ledru-Rollin, La République maintained a balanced position until the end, asking its readers to vote for either of the two candidates protesting against the presidential office. In the last issues leading up to the election, the paper published the following profession of electoral support on the front page every day:


The Central electoral council of the democratic socialist Republicans has made the decision to PROTEST against the institution of the presidency, by presenting citizen F.-V. RASPAIL as a candidate. The National electoral congress of the democratic socialist Republicans has made the decision to PROTEST against the institution of the presidency, by presenting citizen LEDRU-ROLLIN as a candidate. Democratic socialist Republicans who vote for either of these candidates will be protesting against the institution of the presidency, in the name of the Democratic and Social Republic.
Long live the Democratic and Social Republic”! [75]

65The democratic socialist press was thus divided, despite sharing the same support for the democratic and social republic and rejecting the presidency – but this rejection was not, as we have seen, based on the same reasons, nor did it have the same implications.

66Similar discrepancies could also be observed during the public meetings that took place in November and December. During this period, banquets were a frequent occurrence, much like opposition campaigns during the July Monarchy. On 13 November, a fraternal banquet for the Luxembourg delegates took place; on 15 November, a socialist banquet for the 2nd arrondissement; also on the 15th, a banquet for socialist women and a banquet for the democratic and social press; on 3 December, a democratic and social banquet for Paris schools and one for socialist workers, etc. As had been the case under the parliamentary monarchies, these events – which often attracted more than a thousand guests – allowed for legislation regarding association and assembly to be circumvented, the laws having become much stricter following the 15 May protests and the June Days Uprising. Notable figures would be invited to make toasts that were in fact disguised political speeches. Although some of these meetings were exclusively devoted to supporting a democratic socialist candidate, others welcomed speakers from both camps, united in their defence of the democratic and social Republic. The same was true for the clubs that managed to survive the purge following the springtime’s events. To take one example, the Club de la Révolution, which had played a key role under Barbès’ presidency from March to May 1848, appeared divided in support between Ledru-Rollin and Raspail, which led its management to conclude that “even if fusion cannot be achieved, the supporters for either candidate will always present a stunning demonstration of socialist opinion, since all of them, regardless of which candidate they follow, follow the banner of the democratic and social Republic”. [76] Ultimately, local democratic socialist electoral committees in Paris and elsewhere came out in support of one candidate or the other, depending on their preferences, or left voters with the choice, or even picked one at random. Thus, a meeting organised at Fontenay-sous-Bois in the “La Redoute” neighbourhood on 2 December 1848 and designed to “have all democratic socialist voters agree on a single candidate for the presidency of the Republic” voted on a tripartite democratic socialist agenda (abolition of the presidency, support for oppressed nationalities, and the emancipation of workers through the availability of free credit), then proposed selecting at random between Ledru-Rollin and Raspail, the two candidates who would accept such an agenda. [77]

Electoral failure

67Ultimately, however, the voters came down heavily on the side of Ledru-Rollin. He obtained 371,431 votes overall, compared to Raspail’s 36,964, [78] the latter thus obtaining, on the national level, two times fewer votes than he had obtained in September in the Seine département alone, though that had been a plurinominal ballot. [79] Raspail thus only obtained around 9 per cent of the total 408,395 democratic socialist votes cast. This national result masks vast local disparities, however (cf. Appendix 1). In fact, the votes obtained by Raspail were highly concentrated: more than two-thirds came from only two départements, Seine (43% of his votes at the national level) and Rhône (26%). [80] The geography of the Raspail vote was therefore highly specific, and different from the distribution of the Ledru-Rollin vote, which revealed the existence of rural democratic socialist Republicanism. This phenomenon would in turn be confirmed during the May 1849 legislative elections, which illustrated the existence of a very persistent “left-wing” vote in the rural areas of the Centre region, the Saône and Rhône valley, and certain Mediterranean and Alsatian départements. [81] Consequently, while Ledru-Rollin obtained more than 20% of the vote in the Allier, Bouches-du-Rhône, Lot-et-Garonne, and Pyrénées-Orientales départements, Raspail only won 0.01%, 0.19%, 0.01% and 0.04%, respectively. It is evident that the voting determinants for Raspail were not the same as those for Ledru-Rollin. To explain this, we need to to analyse the results at the local level.

68In this perspective, special attention must be paid to the results from the Seine département, which encompassed the twelve Parisian arrondissements and eight suburban constituencies (cf. Appendix 2). Raspail won 15,871 votes in the Seine département. Compared to the total number of voters (341,829), this figure seems low, representing only 4.64% of the total. But this result was in fact ten times better than the score Raspail achieved at national level, and these votes accounted for 43% of his total. If we limit ourselves to Paris proper (i.e. excluding the suburban constituencies), this score goes up to 5.31%. In the Vincennes area of the département, Raspail achieved his worst score, but was nevertheless still above his national average (0.59%). In Paris’s 4th arrondissement (now the 1st arrondissement, and a workingclass neighbourhood at the time), Raspail obtained 10.9% of the vote. Most notably, the power relations within the democratic socialist community were very different in the département than at the national level. While globally Raspail obtained 9.07% of left-wing votes, this percentage rose to 37.33% for the Seine département; Raspail even surpassed Ledru-Rollin in the Sceaux and Villejuif cantons – doubtless due to his local implantation in Montsouris, in the southern suburbs. In the 4th arrondissement, where democratic socialists obtained their best scores, Raspail won almost half of all the votes. Nonetheless, there was no direct correlation (in either direction) between the democratic socialist result and Raspail’s proportion of the vote with regard to this result: in the very bourgeois 1st arrondissement surrounding the Champs-Élysées, which only gave 7.83% to the democratic socialists, Raspail won 41.25% of the left-wing vote. From this point of view, it was not the democratic socialists’ result that was exceptional in the Seine département (12.44% compared to 5.57% at the national level, which put it in 12th position among the départements voting for the left), but rather the proportion of the Raspail vote within this result, four times higher than the national level.

69In this respect, the Lyon result was even more extreme (cf. Appendix 3). In the Rhône département, democratic socialists obtained 8.55% of the vote; within this score, however, almost 80% was for Raspail, who obtained 6.72%, compared to Ledru-Rollin’s 1.84%. If we only look at Lyon, Raspail obtained 14.78% and Ledru-Rollin only 2.75%. And finally, if we focus on the seven sections of Croix-Rousse, which spanned the 3rd and 4th cantons of Lyon, Raspail obtained 28.61% and Ledru-Rollin 2.63% (cf. Appendix 4). The Raspail vote was therefore not only an urban vote, but also particularly concentrated in working-class neighbourhoods and most specifically in Croix-Rousse, where Lyon’s silk workers had led uprisings in 1831 and 1834. Raspail achieved (relative) success in Paris and Lyon, in the bastions of organised skilled labour that had begun to construct a specific identity and political agenda following the 1830 Revolution. [82] Although the Ledru-Rollin vote (like the democratic socialist vote in 1849) was a popular vote, which included a proportion of the urban labourers and small independent farmers from the centre and the south of the country, the Raspail vote reveals the embryonic outline of a class-based vote, if we define class not only as individuals united by their similar positions in the relations of production, but also the group that results from “symbolic unification”. [83] From this perspective, Raspail’s candidacy, far from being a complete failure, can be seen as a necessary step in the symbolic construction of the working class.

70What then became of the protest character of Raspail’s candidacy? Was it transmitted to voters, or did a vote for Raspail become a vote of support, in this case support for the potential unification of the working class? Since we do not have access to voters’ motivations, quantitatively analysing the results does not provide an answer to these questions. It is especially difficult to determine what weight to grant to Raspail’s impossible candidacy with regard to blank votes and abstentions. Between the April and December 1848 elections, participation dropped from 83.4% to 74.8% of registered voters; however, it would be inappropriate to attribute this result to the work of the democratic socialists, especially since participation in the May 1849 legislative elections dropped even further to 69%. It is more likely that the drop in participation rates from April to December was due to a gradual disaffection that was unrelated to the nature of the presidential election. With regard to blank votes, it is difficult to establish quantitative comparisons, due to the great variety of ballot counting methods across different constituencies. [84] How, then, should we differentiate between votes that were rejected because they designated Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte as “prince”, “emperor” or just “Napoléon”, and those that were a form of protest against the presidency? [85]

71While the majority of invalid ballots in the Seine département were not included in the written records or were simply lost, the 14th bureau of Paris’s 8th arrondissement attached a series of 22 invalid ballots to the results, contained in an envelope that has been preserved, on which the following was written: “Having been consulted regarding each of the ballots enclosed, the bureau has unanimously decided that they shall not be counted towards the candidates whose names figure on the ballots, and that they shall additionally be included in the minutes.” [86] Examining these ballots proved very informative (cf. Appendix 5). The 8th arrondissement included the very working-class Faubourg Saint-Antoine neighbourhood: it voted 12.6% for Ledru-Rollin and 6% for Raspail, and the results of the 14th bureau did not seem much different, giving 12.6% to Ledru-Rollin and 7.6% to Raspail. On the other hand, with 22 invalid ballots out of 1,400 ballots cast, it appears to have had an exceptional rate of rejected votes (1.55% compared to 0.34% for the arrondissement overall and 0.28% for the département), even if this result was perhaps due to different counting methods. Of these 22 ballots, 11 marked a clear protest against the presidency, either by linking this rejection to Ledru-Rollin (“Ledru-Rollin/protest against the presidency”; “I’m voting for Ledru-Rollin to protest against the presidency”; “Right to work. Socialism/Ledru-Rollin/Protest against the presidency/Long live the democratic & social Republic”; “Ledru-Rollin/In the name of the democratic and social Republic and against the institution of the presidency/Long live the democratic and social Republic/live or die”; “Ledru-Rollin/No presidency”) or to Raspail (“Raspail the elder/I’m protesting against the institution of the presidency”; “No president/ F.-V. Raspail/Long live the democratic, social and universal Republic/Long live the Mountain”; “No president/François Vincent Raspail”; “F.V. Raspail/No presidency”), or to neither (“No president”; “No president/Right to work”, to cite two examples). Two other rejected ballots referred to Raspail without explicitly mentioning a rejection of the presidency (“Citizen F.-V. Raspail/Long live the democratic and social Republic/Down with the executioner of Saint-Jean”; “Raspail/I wish for him to climb to the presidency/and for you, grrrreat cavaignac, to see you on the gallows”). [87] While it is impossible, given the sources, to determine the extent of this use of the ballot as protest, we may nevertheless conclude that such usage was not limited to the 14th bureau of the 8th arrondissement. Such ballots demonstrate that, for a number of electors, a link had been established between a vote for one of the democratic socialist candidates and the rejection of the presidency.

72Raspail’s candidacy, which partially relied on the paradoxical embodiment of the democratic and social Republic, thus possessed two inherently interrelated traits. On one hand, his was a negative protest candidacy, rejecting a certain kind of electoral game and the primacy of politics. On the other hand, Raspail’s candidacy was also the assertion of a specific relationship to the Republic, strongly tied to a labour identity and the possibility of the autonomous emancipation of workers. How it was received reveals deep and persistent cleavages among democratic socialists, which translated into the mobilisation of geographically and socially different electorates.

73* * *

74Although Raspail’s poor results in the election have led his candidacy to be largely overlooked by historiography, analysing its genesis, implementation and reception has proven to be highly informative, in particular from the perspective of the historical sociology of politics. First, the notion of an impossible candidacy was created, and became part of the socialist and workingclass repertoire of action. It reappeared during the Second Empire, in 1864, in particular through the endorsement of the eccentric Adolphe Berton, who ran as a “human candidate”, [88] by a sizeable number of socialist and working class Republicans, largely at the instigation of Georges Duchêne, a typographer and the former manager of Le Peuple who had been elected to the Luxembourg Commission in 1848. This option was in turn seriously considered by organised Parisian labour in addition to the workers’ candidates – championed by Tolain and the signatories of the Manifeste des soixante – and the option of active abstention recommended by Proudhon. After 1848, impossible candidates appeared as one of the tools available to protest against the election, or against the post that the election was supposed to fill. [89]

75However, Raspail’s candidacy went beyond the inauguration of a practice that has ultimately remained rather limited. His candidacy challenged the very institutions of the Republic and the relationship that the budding labour movement had with the latter – with, on the horizon, the question of defining the nature of politics. In fact, Raspail’s candidacy marked the intersection of three, longer-term movements. First, the victory of the election model and the institutions of representative governance among radical Republicans; the failure of Raspail’s candidacy in comparison with Ledru-Rollin’s marked the (incomplete) victory of those for whom socialism was compatible with electoral participation, including when it was a question of electing a monarch. Though it is often forgotten, the origins of the “Republic’s apprenticeship”, [90] when “modern politics” was developed [91] and acculturation to Republican institutions occurred can be found in the widespread Republican (including democratic socialist) adoption of institutions stemming or adapted from parliamentary monarchies. In the Republic’s lengthy history, the failure of Raspail’s candidacy was part of the process that rejected and buried the perspective, rapidly abandoned, that there existed a specifically Republican conception of politics, distinct from that of representative government. [92] Second, functioning as the flipside of this process, Raspail’s candidacy marked a step in the gradual disengagement of a segment of the socialists from institutional politics: Raspail embodied a rupture, in the service of a strategy of autonomy and investment in another realm, which would come to be called the social movement. After 1848, the “pure socialists”, heirs to the democratic and social Republic and the June Days Uprisings, explored autonomous organisation rather than elections as a means to achieve emancipation. In the immediate aftermath, they met with little success: the project of creating a unified organisation, based on Le Peuple, failed rapidly, Proudhon being incarcerated in early 1849 and refusing to see the project continue without him. In the years that followed, other organisations appeared, but each one was subject to repression; the 1851 coup d’état then put an end to such attempts for quite a while. [93] Despite all of this, however, it was this rupture with the other democratic socialists and the rejection of institutional politics that could later be observed, under various guises, in the French section of the International Workingmen’s Association, the Paris Commune, and revolutionary union movements. Raspail’s candidacy thus belongs to a series of events that transformed 1848 into a key moment in the history of the French labour movement.

76Finally, this candidacy was part of a longer struggle between opposing conceptions of political representation. First crystallised during the spring of 1848, opposition between the moderate Republic and the democratic and social Republic was honed, refined and nuanced during the presidential election and the concept of representation-as-embodiment that it involved. Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte’s dramatic entrance onto the political scene opened the eyes of moderate Republicans with regard to their mastery of forms of representation, even though after June 1848 the majority of them supported a strong and independent executive. As for the democratic socialists, they were divided on the issue of how to continue promoting the concept of the Republic as developed during the July Monarchy and the spring of 1848. By agreeing to accept the rules of the presidential election, while claiming to refuse its principle, the Mountain and Ledru-Rollin’s supporters helped complete the conversion to institutional and electoral politics that had been initiated months earler. Nevertheless, for a long time the election’s results and the subsequent coup d’état convinced these individuals of the dangers of representation-as-embodiment, and of the importance of retaining parliamentary control over the executive branch. On the other side, supporters of Raspail’s candidacy employed a diametrically opposite strategy: they used representation-as-embodiment to express their rejection of institutions and call for the establishment of a different kind of politics, one that was separate and based on the concept of representation and citizenship that had failed in June. This election was thus, if not the birthplace of Republicanism and perhaps of the left, at least a constitutive element in the development of two of its different strains. [94]

Box 2: Presentation of Sources

This article continues the work begun in a thesis on the question of political representation during the spring of 1848, available online at (<>). All interested readers should refer to the presentation of sources provided therein for issues regarding the general context of the 1848 Revolution. Concerning Raspail and his candidacy specifically, I drew on three types of sources. First, the written texts published by Raspail: his books and the newspapers that he ran, Le Réformateur (October 1834-October 1835) and L’Ami du Peuple (February-May 1848). Second, printed sources that connected more widely to the Republican and socialist movements, especially the minutes of various political proceedings and democratic socialist and working-class newspapers published in 1848, in particular L’Atelier, La Démocratie Pacifique, Le Peuple, Le Populaire, La Réforme, La République and La Révolution démocratique et sociale. These newspapers were exhaustively analysed for the period October-December 1848. Finally, the archives listed below were consulted regarding Raspail and the December 1848 presidential election:
– The documents collected in the Raspail section of the Val-de-Marne departmental archives. An exhaustive presentation of this private collection (series 69 J) of 1,572 files is provided in Alain Nafilyan, Claire Berche, Les archives Raspail. Répertoire numérique de la sous-série 69 J (Créteil: Archives départementales du Val-de-Marne, 1994). Of particular interest for this article are Raspail’s personal papers, his library and his collection of newspapers.
– Raspail’s private correspondence, found in the Pierrefitte-sur-Seine National Archives in collection 250 AP, titled “Raspail collection”, in particular the file “Hommes politiques”, 250 AP 1.
– Various documents on the 1848 Revolution found in the Pierrefitte-sur-Seine National Archives in the Duméril collection (AB/XIX/680-689), in particular AB/XIX/ 682, file 13, “Publications relatives aux candidats à la présidence de la République en 1848”.
– The archives of the Ministry of Justice concerning Raspail in 1848, in particular file BB30 333 on the political affairs of 1848-49.
– The archives of the Constituent Assembly concerning Raspail, in particular circa 15 May and the ensuing legal proceedings, stored at the National Archives C//908.
– The minutes of electoral results of the December 1848 presidential election, classified by département, in the National Archives, B II 958-1046, in particular boxes B II 1025 (Rhône) and B II 1029 (Seine).
Appendix 1

The democratic socialist vote in France, December 1848

tableau im1
Département Voters Ledru-Rollin Raspail All Left% Ledru-Rollin% Raspail Raspail/Left Ain 83,301 1,258 191 1.74% 1.51% 0.23% 13.18% Aisne 135,243 1,905 264 1.60% 1.41% 0.20% 12.17% Allier 60,953 14,104 8 23.15% 23.14% 0.01% 0.06% Basses-Alpes 24,692 3,792 6 15.38% 15.36% 0.02% 0.16% Hautes-Alpes 23,558 201 20 0.94% 0.85% 0.08% 9.05% Ardèche 60,115 3,703 4 6.17% 6.16% 0.01% 0.11% Ardennes 76,984 837 45 1.15% 1.09% 0.06% 5.10% Ariège 45,029 1,842 23 4.14% 4.09% 0.05% 1.23% Aube 73,197* 885 59 1.29% 1.21% 0.08% 6.25% Aude 63,369 6,537 4 10.32% 10.32% 0.01% 0.06% Aveyron 80,189 1,703 107 2.26% 2.12% 0.13% 5.91% Bouches-du-Rhône 80,315 19,361 155 24.30% 24.11% 0.19% 0.79% Calvados 109,845 957 66 0..93% 0.87% 0.06% 6.45% Cantal 36,200 1,318 9 3.67% 3.64% 0.02% 0.68% Charente 95,027 1,011 8 1.07% 1.06% 0.01% 0.79% Charente-Inférieure 116,226 1,306 27 1.15% 1.12% 0.02% 2.03% Cher 62,066 4,448 58 7.26% 7.17% 0.09% 1.29% Corrèze 55,388 4,051 6 7.32% 7.31% 0.01% 0.15% Corse 48,308 298 4 0.63% 0.62% 0.01% 1.32% Côte-d’Or 100,459 11,782 28 11.76% 11.73% 0.03% 0.24% Côtes-du-Nord 113,859 896 10 0.80% 0.79% 0.01% 1.10% Creuse 53,124 720 52 1.45% 1.36% 0.10% 6.74% Dordogne 105,089 6,595 39 6.31% 6.28% 0.04% 0.59% Doubs 61,043 1,324 139 2.40% 2.17% 0.23% 9.50% Drôme 71,112 3,430 12 4.84% 4.82% 0.02% 0.35% Eure 106,150 1,980 134 1.99% 1.87% 0.13% 6.34% Eure-et-Loir 69,322 1,535 270 2.60% 2.21% 0.39% 14.96% Finistère 106,067 1,581 14 1.50% 1.49% 0.01% 0.88% Gard 82,660 12,251 9 14.83% 14.82% 0.01% 0.07% Haute-Garonne 97,810 15,852 92 16.30% 16.21% 0.09% 0.58% Gers 72,572* 9,125 12 12.59% 12.57% 0.02% 0.13% Gironde 133,964 8,488 41 6.37% 6.34% 0.03% 0.48% Hérault 81,820* 13,461 20 16.48% 16.45% 0.02% 0.15%
tableau im2
Ille-et-Vilaine 111,794 514 35 0.49% 0.46% 0.03% 6.38% Indre 55,355 7,514 39 13.64% 13.57% 0.07% 0.52% Indre-et-Loire 76,784 1,684 239 2.50% 2.19% 0.31% 12.43% Isère 139,321 2,533 308 2.04% 1.82% 0.22% 10.84% Jura 69,211* 1,868* 128* 2.88% 2.70% 0.18% 6.41% Landes 54,179 1,235 3 2.29% 2.28% 0.01% 0.24% Loir-et-Cher 58,233 2,931 63 5.14% 5.03% 0.11% 2.10% Loire 78,717 3,702 285 5.06% 4.70% 0.36% 7.15% Haute-Loire 42,867 1,262 2,538 8.86% 2.94% 5.92% 66.79% Loire-Inférieure 84,269 5,405 76 6.50% 6.41% 0.09% 1.39% Loiret 74,216 996 176 1.58% 1.34% 0.24% 15.02% Lot 64,185 4,086 21 6.40% 6.37% 0.03% 0.51% Lot-et-Garonne 82,600 18,815 6 22.79% 22.78% 0.01% 0.03% Lozère 24,810 420 0 1.69% 1.69% 0.00% 0.00% Maine-et-Loire 112,328* 1,255 27 1.14% 1.12% 0.02% 2.11% Manche 102,371 1,193 6 1.17% 1.17% 0.01% 0.50% Marne 89,354 673 277 1.06% 0.75% 0.31% 29.16% Haute-Marne 67,746 920 13 1.38% 1.36% 0.02% 1.39% Mayenne 76,088 718 20 0.97% 0.94% 0.03% 2.71% Meurthe 98,724 953 54 1.02% 0.97% 0.05% 5.36% Meuse 76,800* 1,384 15 1.82% 1.80% 0.02% 1.07% Morbihan 75,405 1,863 8 2.48% 2.47% 0.01% 0.43% Moselle 96,794 941 30 1.00% 0.97% 0.03% 3.09% Nièvre 69,483 2,896 343 4.66% 4.17% 0.49% 10.59% Nord 208,267* 14,441 38 6.95% 6.93% 0.02% 0.26% Oise 100,383 945 345 1.29% 0.94% 0.34% 26.74% Orne 99,261 1,152 40 1.20% 1.16% 0.04% 3.36% Pas-de-Calais 143,066 1,848 69 1.34% 1.29% 0.05% 3.60% Puy-de-Dôme 113,466 2,426 43 2.18% 2.14% 0.04% 1.74% Basses-Pyrénées 75,060 3,100 8 4.14% 4.13% 0.01% 0.26% Hautes-Pyrénées 50,749 1,579 2 3.12% 3.11% 0.00% 0.13% Pyrénées-Orientales 30,291 8,771 12 29.00% 28.96% 0.04% 0.14% Bas-Rhin** 113,612 4,575 19 4.04% 4.03% 0.02% 0.41% Haut-Rhin 88,846 3,867 13 4.37% 4.35% 0.01% 0.34% Rhône 141,649 2,602* 9,513 8.55% 1.84% 6.72% 78.52% Haute-Saône 74,962 2,452 20 3.30% 3.27% 0.03% 0.81% Saône-et-Loire 114,455 114,455 64 13.69% 13.64% 0.06% 0.41%
tableau im3
Sarthe 107,727 10,037 33 9.35% 9.32% 0.03% 0.33% Seine 341,829 26,648 15,871 12.44% 7.80% 4.64% 37.33% Seine-Inférieure 171,882 5,938 172 3.55% 3.45% 0.10% 2.82% Seine-et-Marne 88,992 1,205 248 1.63% 1.35% 0.28% 17.07% Seine-et-Oise 119,893 1,658 612 1.89% 1.38% 0.51% 26.96% Deux-Sèvres 68,022 725 211 1.38% 1.07% 0.31% 22.54% Somme 140,761 1,264 48 0.93% 0.90% 0.03% 3.66% Tarn 79,619 6,167 22 7.77% 7.75% 0.03% 0.36% Tarn-et-Garonne 53,715 3,898 4 7.26% 7.26% 0.01% 0.10% Var 64,224 11,349 1,076 19.35% 17.67% 1.68% 8.66% Vaucluse 51,457 7,950 674 16.76% 15.45% 1.31% 7.82% Vendée 57,994 747 0 1.29% 1.29% 0.00% 0.00% Vienne 67,350 2,239 19 3.35% 3.32% 0.03% 0.84% Haute-Vienne 59,989 1,737 882 4.37% 2.90% 1.47% 33.68% Vosges 88,063 619 143 0.87% 0.70% 0.16% 18.77% Yonne 93,505 3,139 22 3.38% 3.36% 0.02% 0.70% Total Metropolitan 7,475,779 372,984 36,869 5.48% 4.99% 0.49% 9.00% France Official Results 7,449,461 371,431 36,964 5.48% 4.99% 0.50% 9.05%
* Uncertain result, contradictory or illegible sources.
** Result from La Presse, corrected for Raspail by using the results for each arrondissement found in the National Archives, BB II 1 023.
Source: National Archives, BB II 958-1046, La Presse (13-20 December 1848).
Appendix 2

The democratic socialist vote in the Seine département, December 1848

tableau im4
Place Voters Ledru-Rollin Raspail Left% Ledru-Rollin% Raspail% Raspail/Left 1st arrondissement, 25,384 1,168 820 7.83% 4.60% 3.23% 41.25% Paris 2nd 23,846 1,968 1,155 13.10% 8.25% 4.84% 36.98% 3rd 14,570 1,415 825 15.37% 9.71% 5.66% 36.83% 4th 10,869 1,257 1,185 22.47% 11.57% 10.90% 48.53% 5th 21,265 2,760 1,397 19.55% 12.98% 6.57% 33.61% 6th 23,458 3,455 1,465 20.97% 14.73% 6.25% 29.78% 7th 15,333 1,920 1,023 19.19% 12.52% 6.67% 34.76% 8th 22,543 2,841 1,344 18.56% 12.60% 5.96% 32.11% 9th 14,890 1,106 691 12.07% 7.43% 4.64% 38.45% 10th 36,536 1,603 883 6.80% 4.39% 2.42% 35.52% 11th 17,409 1,615 866 14.25% 9.28% 4.97% 34.91% 12th 18,797 1,666 1,345 16.02% 8.86% 7.16% 44.67% Paris Total 244,900 22,774 12,999 14.61% 9.30% 5.31% 36.34% Saint-Denis 6,411 321 84 6.32% 5.01% 1.31% 20.74% (Courbevoie) Saint-Denis 18,164 1,022 951 10.86% 5.63% 5.24% 48.20% (Neuilly-sur-Seine) Saint-Denis 11,171 594 387 8.78% 5.32% 3.46% 39.45% (Saint-Denis) Saint-Denis (Pantin) 17,116 838 443 7.48% 4.90% 2.59% 34.58% Sceaux (Vincennes) 9,848 181 58 2.43% 1.84% 0.59% 24.27% Sceaux (Villejuif) 13,098 305 342 4.94% 2.33% 2.61% 52.86% Sceaux (Sceaux) 13,389 370 445 6.09% 2.76% 3.32% 54.60% Sceaux (Charenton) 7,732 243 162 5.24% 3.14% 2.10% 40.00% Seine Total 341,829 26,648 15,871 12.44% 7.80% 4.64% 37.33%
Source: National Archives, B II 1029.
Appendix 3

Democratic socialist vote in the Rhône département, December 1848

tableau im5
Place Voters Ledru-Rollin Raspail Left% Ledru-Rollin% Raspail% Raspail/Left 1st canton, Lyon 6,367 168 699 13.62% 2.64% 10.98% 80.62% 2nd 7,665 332 1,020 17.64% 4.33% 13.31% 75.44% 3rd 10,501 281 1,984 21.57% 2.68% 18.89% 87.59% 4th 8,267 273 1,663 23.42% 3.30% 20.12% 85.90% 5th 4,295 90 430 12.11% 2.10% 10.01% 82.69% 6th 6,852 209 993 17.54% 3.05% 14.49% 82.61% 7th 13,649 232 1,721 14.31% 1.70% 12.61% 88.12% Lyon Total 57,596 1,585 8,510 17.53% 2.75% 14.78% 84.30% Military sections 7,663 39 51 1.17% 0.51% 0.67% 56.67% Arbresle 4,117 5 50 1.34% 0.12% 1.21% 90.91% Condrieu 2,274 86 9 4.18% 3.78% 0.40% 9.47% St. Genis Laval 5,201 46 190 4.54% 0.88% 3.65% 80.51% Givors 3,791 24 380 8.76% 0.63% 8.12% 92.77% St-Laurent de-Chamousset 3,218 29 2 0.96% 0.90% 0.06% 6.45% Limonest 5,280 13 52 1.23% 0.25% 0.98% 80.00% Mornant 2,474 6 40 1.86% 0.24% 1.62% 86.96% Neuville-sur-Saône 5,600 85 184 4.80% 1.52% 3.29% 68.40% St-Symphonien 2,495 1 1 0.08% 0.04% 0.04% 50.00% sur-Coise Vaugneray 4,887 5 25 0.61% 0.10% 0.51% 83.33% Ville-franche 5,391 445 3 8.31% 8.25% 0.06% 0.67% Anse 3,202 14 32 1.44% 0.44% 1.00% 69.57% Beaujeu 4,211 22 1 0.55% 0.52% 0.02% 4.35% Belleville 3,641 65 5 1.92% 1.79% 0.14% 7.14% Bois d’Oingt 4,032 3 2 0.12% 0.07% 0.05% 40.00% Lamure 3,705 13 5 0.49% 0.35% 0.13% 27.78% Monsols 2,119 7 1 0.38% 0.33% 0.05% 12.50% Tarare 6,253 29 42 1.14% 0.46% 0.67% 59.15% Thizy 4,499 80 0 1.78% 1.78% 0.00% 0.00% Total 141,649 2,602* 9,513 8.55% 1.84% 6.72% 78.52%
* The official total recorded was 2,670, which was due to a calculation or reporting error.
Source: National Archives, B II 1 025.
Appendix 4

The democratic socialist vote in La Croix-Rousse, December 1848

tableau im6
Place Voters Ledru-Rollin Raspail Left% Ledru-Rollin% Raspail% Raspail/Left 3rd canton, Lyon, 1st section Croix-Rousse 1,084 36 316 32.47% 3.32% 29.15% 89.77% 3rd canton, Lyon, 2nd section Croix-Rousse 894 15 281 33.11% 1.68% 31.43% 94.93% 3rd canton, Lyon, 3rd section 847 13 238 29.63% 1.53% 28.10% 94.82% Croix-Rousse 3rd canton, Lyon, 4th section Croix-Rousse 1,115 27 290 28.43% 2.42% 26.01% 91.48% 4th canton, Lyon, 1st section Croix-Rousse 1,101 33 323 32.33% 3.00% 29.34% 90.73% 4th canton, Lyon, 2nd section Croix-Rousse 990 29 280 31.21% 2.93% 28.28% 90.61% 4th canton, Lyon, 3rd section Croix-Rousse 774 26 219 31.65% 3.36% 28.29% 89.39% Total 6,805 179 1,947 31.24% 2.63% 28.61% 91.58%
Source: National Archives, B II 1 025.
Appendix 5

Invalid ballots from the 14th committee of Paris’s 8th arrondissement

tableau im7
tableau im8
Source: National Archives, B II 1 029.


  • [1]
    For an overview of the events leading up to and during the 1848 Revolution, cf. Maurice Agulhon, 1848 ou l’apprentissage de la République. 1848-1852 (Paris: Seuil, 2002 [1st edn 1973]); Philippe Vigier, La vie quotidienne en province et à Paris pendant les journées de 1848. 1847-1851 (Paris: Hachette, 1982); Sylvie Aprile et al., La révolution de 1848 en France et en Europe (Paris: Éditions sociales, 1998); Jean-Luc Mayaud (ed.), 1848. Actes du colloque international du cent cinquantenaire, tenu à l’Assemblée nationale à Paris, les 23-25 février 1998 (Paris: Créaphis, 2002); Maurizio Gribaudi, Michèle Riot-Sarcey, 1848, la révolution oubliée (Paris: La Découverte, 2008). On the 10 December 1848 election, the main reference remains André-Jean Tudesq, L’élection présidentielle de Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, 10 décembre 1848 (Paris: Armand Colin, 1965).
  • [2]
    “Manifeste électoral du Peuple”, Le Peuple, 15 November 1848.
  • [3]
    It is useful to compare this tradition with other protest practices associated with elections, in particular the protest vote (Cyril Gispert, Fabien Nicolas, “La mutation du vote protestataire. Partis tribuniciens, partis de gouvernement et sentiment antiparti”, Pôle Sud, 24(1), 2006, 139-54) and the blank vote (Adélaïde Zulfikarpasic, “Le vote blanc. Abstention civique ou expression politique?”, Revue française de science politique, 51(1), 2001, 247-68; Yves Déloye, Olivier Ihl, L’acte de vote (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2008), 227-76). Cf. also regarding abstention, Céline Braconnier, Jean-Yves Dormagen, La démocratie de l’abstention. Aux origines de la démobilisation électorale en milieu populaire (Paris: Gallimard, 2007).
  • [4]
    On 1848 in the broader history of universal suffrage, cf., based on three different analytical methods: Raymond Huard, Le suffrage universel en France, 1848-1946 (Paris: Aubier, 1991); Pierre Rosanvallon, Le sacre du citoyen. Histoire du suffrage universel en France (Paris: Gallimard, 2001 [1st edn 1992]); Alain Garrigou, Histoire sociale du suffrage universel en France, 1848-2000 (Paris: Seuil, 2002).
  • [5]
    See Samuel Hayat, 1848. Quand la République était révolutionnaire. Citoyenneté et représentation (Paris: Seuil, 2014); and “The Revolution of 1848 in the history of French Republicanism”, History of Political Thought, 36(2), 2015.
  • [6]
    Numerous works have focused on François Raspail, including: Georges Duveau, Raspail (Paris: PUF, 1948); Dora B. Weiner, Raspail. Scientist and Reformer (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968); Yves Lemoine, Pierre Lenoël, Les avenues de la République. Souvenirs de F.-V. Raspail sur sa vie et sur son siècle, 1794-1878 (Paris: Hachette, 1984). Regarding Raspail’s political thought, cf. also Ludovic Frobert, “Théorie cellulaire, science économique et République dans l’œuvre de François-Vincent Raspail autour de 1830”, Revue d’histoire des sciences, 64(1), 2011, 27-58. However, none of the aforementioned works accords particular importance to Raspail’s December 1848 candidacy. Also very useful is the exhibition catalogue on Raspail held by the Bibliothèque nationale, primarily written by Simone Raspail and Louise Dubief: François-Vincent Raspail (1794-1878) (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1978).
  • [7]
    As Pierre Rosanvallon observes, “[the word party] did not at the time refer so much to an organisation as an opinion. In a relatively vague manner, it designated all sorts of groups with poorly defined socio-political boundaries. […] The concept of a party more resembled a clan, a pressure group or a public opinion movement, with no particular structure assigned.” Pierre Rosanvallon, Le peuple introuvable. Histoire de la représentation démocratique en France (Paris: Gallimard, 1998), 227-8. The word “party” also referred to a political leaning, often embodied by a newspaper (Le National for the “moderate” Republicans, La Réforme for the “radical” Republicans), or even a meeting location (the Rue de Poitiers Committee for the conservatives, the Rue Taitbout for the Mountain). Cf. Raymond Huard, La naissance du parti politique en France (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 1996).
  • [8]
    Peter Amann, “Prelude to insurrection. The Banquet of the People”, French Historical Studies, 1(4), Fall 1960, 436-44; John J. Baughman, “The French Banquet Campaign of 1847-48”, The Journal of Modern History, 31(1), 1959, 1-15. For a more general introduction to the role of banquets as political instruments during the first half of the nineteenth century: Vincent Robert, Le temps des banquets. Politique et symbolique d’une génération, 1818-1848 (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2010). Cf. also Emmanuel Fureix, “Banquets et enterrements”, in Jean-Jacques Becker, Gilles Candar (eds), Histoire des gauches en France. Vol. 1: L’héritage du 19e siècle (Paris: La Découverte, 2004), 197-209.
  • [9]
    Cf. for example the posters reprinted in Les murailles révolutionnaires. Collection complète des professions de foi, affiches, décrets, bulletins de la république (Paris: J. Bry aîné, 1856), 237 and 642.
  • [10]
    This episode was also linked in various ways with the rejection of the red flag and the adoption of the decree of the right to work, according to different witnesses and actors. The importance assigned to Raspail helped to present him as a Republican hero. Cf. for example the hagiographical pamphlet published in the fall of 1848 by Charles Marchal, Biographie de F.-V. Raspail, représentant du peuple (Paris: Imprimerie A. Henry, 1848), 12-13 (also the author, on 27 September 1848 of a “Lettre à F.-V. Raspail”, National Archives (NA), AB/XIX/680). Among Raspail’s personal papers can also be found his account of the events, which he says took place between noon and 1 p.m. His proclamation of the Republic is also included: “In the name of the French people, I declare the Republic to be one and indivisible; as of today, the death penalty awaits anyone who would conspire to establish a monarchy. Long live the Republic” (Val-de-Marne, département archives (DA) 69 J 6).
  • [11]
    For an introduction to the French workers’ movement in the nineteenth century, cf. William Hamilton Sewell, Work and Revolution in France: the Language of Labor from the Old Regime to 1848 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980); Jacques Rancière, La nuit des prolétaires. Archives du rêve ouvrier (Paris: Fayard, 1981); Gérard Noiriel, Les ouvriers dans la société française. 19e-20e siècle (Paris: Seuil, 1986); Alain Dewerpe, Le monde du travail en France. 1800-1950 (Paris: Armand Colin, 1989); Roger Magraw, A History of the French Working Class. Vol. 1: The Age of Artisan Revolution, 1815-1871 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992).
  • [12]
    Louis Hincker, Citoyens-combattants à Paris, 1848-1851 (Villeneuve d’Ascq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2007).
  • [13]
    Françoise Bruand, “La Commission du Luxembourg en 1848”, in Francis Démier (ed.), Louis Blanc. Un socialiste en République (Paris: Créaphis, 2006), 107-31.
  • [14]
    Suzanne Wassermann, Les clubs de Barbès et de Blanqui en 1848 (Paris: É. Cornély, 1913); Peter H. Amann, Revolution and Mass Democracy. The Paris Club Movement in 1848 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); Anne-Claude Ambroise-Rendu, “Les journaux du printemps 1848. Une révolution médiatique en trompel’œil”, in the issue titled “Aspects de la production culturelle au 19e siècle”, Revue d’histoire du 19e siècle, 19, 1999, 35-64; Jean-Claude Caron, “Les clubs de 1848”, in J.-J. Becker, G. Candar (eds), Histoire des gauches en France, vol. 1, 182-8.
  • [15]
    In fact, in his Nouvelles études historiques et philologiques, in 1864 Raspail published an “Impartial study on Jean-Paul Marat the scientist and Jean-Paul Marat the revolutionary” (“Étude impartiale sur Jean-Paul Marat le savant et Jean-Paul Marat le révolutionnaire”) which he dated as “(1836-1863)”, thus certainly indicating that he had begun writing this article during the July Monarchy. François-Vincent Raspail, Nouvelles études historiques et philologiques (Paris: Chez l’éditeur des ouvrages de M. Raspail, 1861-1864), 243-86.
  • [16]
    On this club, cf. Daniel Stern, Histoire de la révolution de 1848 (Paris: Charpentier, 2nd edn 1862), vol. 2, 8-10; and Suzanne Wassermann, “Le club de Raspail en 1848”, La Révolution de 1848, 5, 1908, 589-605, 655-74 and 748-62. On the meetings themselves, the best sources are the (incomplete) minutes published in L’Ami du Peuple.
  • [17]
    On this list, which marked an important step in the alliance between radical democratic socialists and the representatives of workers’ committees, cf. P. H. Amann, Revolution and Mass Democracy, 117-43.
  • [18]
    The elections took place in plurinominal majority ballots by département: each département had a certain number of seats according to its population, and each département voter drafted and deposited a list of candidates who were competing for those seats. On the social and technical construction of this voting method, cf. Y. Déloye, O. Ihl, L’acte de vote, 69-105.
  • [19]
    L’Ami du Peuple, 4 May 1848.
  • [20]
    L’Ami du Peuple, 30 April 1848.
  • [21]
    For reflections on the history of universal suffrage in France, see Albert O. Hirschman, Shifting involvements: private interest and public action (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982).
  • [22]
    Cf. Samuel Hayat, “La représentation inclusive”, Raisons politiques, 50, 2013, 115-35.
  • [23]
    On the protests of 15 May and Raspail’s role therein, cf. Procès des accusés du 15 mai 1848. Attentat contre l’Assemblée nationale (Paris: Imprimerie des Ouvriers-Associés, 1849); as well as the account given by Louis-Antoine Garnier-Pagès, Histoire de la révolution de 1848 (Paris: Pagnerre, 1869), vol. 9; see also D. Stern, Histoire de la révolution de 1848, 229-78. The most important contemporary study on the subject is still Peter Amann, “A ‘Journée’ in the Making. May 15, 1848”, The Journal of Modern History, 42(1), 1970, 42-69.
  • [24]
    Rémi Gossez, “Presse parisienne à destination des ouvriers, 1848-1851”, in Jacques Godechot (ed.), La presse ouvrière, 1819-1850. Angleterre, États-Unis, France, Belgique, Italie, Allemagne, Tchécoslovaquie, Hongrie (Buressur-Yvette: Société d’histoire de la Révolution de 1848, 1966), 123-90. Cf. especially the Tocsin des travailleurs, the Saint-Simonian paper founded on 1 June by Émile Barrault, François Delente, Gabriel Gauny, Bergier and Désirée Gay, and the Journal des travailleurs, founded on 4 June by the former deputies of the Luxembourg Commission and edited by Pierre Vinçard, the former president of the Commission’s bureau.
  • [25]
    Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, Coloniser, exterminer. Sur la guerre et l’État colonial (Paris: Fayard, 2005), 308-34.
  • [26]
    On the constituent process and the Constitution itself, cf. Piero Craveri, Genesi di una costituzione. Libertà e socialismo nel dibattito costituzionale del 1848 in Francia (Naples: Guida, 1985); La Constitution du 4 novembre 1848, l’ambition d’une république démocratique. Actes du colloque de Dijon, 10-11 décembre 1998 (Dijon: Éditions Universitaires de Dijon, 2000); Arnaud Coutant, 1848, quand la République combattait la démocratie (Paris: Mare & Martin, 2009).
  • [27]
    Compte rendu des séances de l’Assemblée constituante (Paris: Imprimerie de l’Assemblée nationale, 1848), vol. 4, 651.
  • [28]
    Compte rendu des séances de l’Assemblée constituante, 652.
  • [29]
    Compte rendu des séances de l’Assemblée constituante, 671.
  • [30]
    Compte rendu des séances de l’Assemblée constituante, 673.
  • [31]
    La République, 20 November 1848.
  • [32]
    La Révolution démocratique et sociale, 8 November 1848.
  • [33]
    NA, AB/XIX/680.
  • [34]
    La Révolution démocratique et sociale, 11 November 1848.
  • [35]
    La Réforme, 8 November 1848. This support was reiterated on 10 November, drawing on the Mountain’s manifesto.
  • [36]
    Regarding the concept of the political entrepreneur and its link with the emergence of electoral campaigns separate from networks of notable figures, cf. Alain Garrigou, Le vote et la vertu. Comment les Français sont devenus électeurs (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 1992), 205-40.
  • [37]
    Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Idées révolutionnaires (Paris: Garnier frères, 1848), 122. Blanqui used this expression during his toast at the banquet organised on 3 December 1848 in Paris in support for Raspail’s candidacy; Banquet des travailleurs socialistes. Président Auguste Blanqui détenu à Vincennes (Paris: Page, 1849).
  • [38]
    The committee had campaigned for Cabet, Thoré and Raspail. See, for example, the poster “Au peuple. Vive la République démocratique et sociale!” (NA, AB/XIX/680). In November 1848, the electoral committee was led by Edmond d’Alton-Shée, a former peer of France who had converted to revolutionary ideas and supported Ledru-Rollin in the spring, and by its secretary François Pardigon, who had participated in the June Days Uprising.
  • [39]
    Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Les Confessions d’un révolutionnaire pour servir à l’histoire de la Révolution de Février (Antony: Tops/Trinquier, 1997 [1st edn 1849]), 164.
  • [40]
    R. Gossez, “Presse parisienne…”, 176.
  • [41]
    R. Gossez, “Presse parisienne…”, 178.
  • [42]
    Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, “Au rédacteur en chef du Représentant du peuple”, Le Représentant du Peuple, 6 July 1848.
  • [43]
    Charles Fauvéty, Charles Renouvier et al., Gouvernement direct. Organisation communale et centrale de la République (Paris: Librairie républicaine de la liberté de penser, 1851). The 1851 movement in favour of direct government, based on a scaling-up of the criticisms made of exclusive forms of representation in 1848, went far beyond the pure socialists alone. Cf. Pierre Rosanvallon, La démocratie inachevée. Histoire de la souveraineté du peuple en France (Paris: Gallimard, 2003), 155-79.
  • [44]
    Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, “La présidence”, Le Peuple, 2, n. d.
  • [45]
    P.-J. Proudhon, “La présidence”, Le Peuple, 2.
  • [46]
    Le Peuple, 9 December 1848.
  • [47]
    Le Peuple, 24 November 1848.
  • [48]
    On this topic, cf. the “Manifeste électoral du Peuple”, Le Peuple, 15 November 1848; Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, “Argument à la Montagne”, Le Peuple, 21 November 1848; Entre Ledru-Rollin et Raspail. Appel aux sentiments de l’Unité démocratique et sociale (n.p. n.d., Val-de-Marne DA, 69 J 8). Here we can glimpse the beginnings of a fundamental cleavage in the workers’ movement between those who supported economic action and those for political action. For an introduction to the debates of the First International (to which many members of Le Peuple’s staff would ultimately belong), cf. Mathieu Léonard, L’émancipation des travailleurs. Une histoire de la Première Internationale (Paris: La Fabrique, 2011).
  • [49]
    “Manifeste électoral du Peuple”, Le Peuple, 15 November 1848.
  • [50]
    The announcement was made in a press release published by the Conseil central électoral des républicains démocrates et socialistes, signed by Pardigon, and reprinted in Le Populaire, 12 November 1848.
  • [51]
    On this topic, cf. the “Lettre du Citoyen F.V. Raspail, Représentant du Peuple, Aux Citoyens Électeurs de la Seine, Merci!”, which incited workers to organise and engage in non-violent actions (NA, AB/XIX/680).
  • [52]
    Compte rendu des séances de l’Assemblée nationale, vol. 4, 279-96. Raspail filed an appeal to “be taken each day to the National Assembly, in order to carry out his mandate as representative of the people”, which was refused by the Minister of Justice. (NA, BB30 333). His mandate was revoked in May 1849 after his trial before the High Court of Justice in Bourges; on this revocation, cf. NA, C//908.
  • [53]
    L’Ami du peuple, 12 March 1848 (emphasis in the original).
  • [54]
    Le Peuple, 15 November 1848.
  • [55]
    Le Populaire, 15 October 1848.
  • [56]
    Letter from 15 November 1848, reprinted in La République, 15 November 1848 (emphasis in the original).
  • [57]
    Banquet des travailleurs socialistes, 3. Note that Blanqui and Raspail were long-standing friends: Blanqui even asked Raspail (who he addressed informally) to be a witness at his wedding on 9 August 1833 (NA, 250 AP 1).
  • [58]
    Le Populaire, 19 November 1848. The “second electoral committee” mentioned refers to the National Electoral Congress created by Ledru-Rollin’s supporters to demonstrate that this candidacy had been authorised by a formal process, to use the vocabulary employed by Hanna Fenichel Pitkin, The Concept of Representation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972 [1st edn 1967]).
  • [59]
    L’Ami du Peuple, 28 February 1848.
  • [60]
    Jacques Poirier, Claude Langlois (eds), Raspail et la vulgarisation médicale (Paris: Vrin, 1988).
  • [61]
    This expression can be found in all the editions of Manuel annuaire. Cf. for example François-Vincent Raspail, Manuel annuaire de la santé ou médecine et pharmacie domestiques (Paris: Chez l’éditeur des ouvrages de M. Raspail, 1846), 109.
  • [62]
    Le Peuple constituant, 17 November 1848.
  • [63]
    “Manifeste électoral du Peuple”, Le Peuple, 15 November 1848.
  • [64]
    Le Peuple, 15 November 1848.
  • [65]
    This image of a political outsider, which Raspail and his supporters played up, led to significant misinterpretations of his activity and of the reception of his successive candidacies in 1848. For historian Francis Démier, “a vote for Raspail expresses the rejection of the political cleavages exacerbated by the 1848 Revolution” and Raspail is “a defender of the ‘Republic of the illusions’ of the 1848 Revolution” (“Démocratie politique et démocratie culturelle chez Raspail de la révolution de 1830 à la révolution de 1848” in J. Poirier, C. Langlois (eds), Raspail et la vulgarisation médicale, 51-2).
  • [66]
    On representation-as-embodiment and symbolic representation, cf. Yves Sintomer, “Les sens de la représentation politique. Usages et mésusages d’une notion”, Raisons politiques, 50, 2013, 13-34. The symbolic dimensions of representation have been much more widely studied in Germany than in France; cf. in particular the work of Gerhard Göhler, for example “Politische Repräsentation in der Demokratie”, in T. Leif, H.-J. Legrand, A. Klein (eds), Die politische Klasse in Deutschland. Eliten auf dem Prüfstand (Bonn: Bouvier, 1992), 108-25.
  • [67]
    Pierre Bourdieu, “Délégation et fétichisme politique”, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 52-53, 1984, 49-55(49).
  • [68]
    Le Peuple, 9 December 1848.
  • [69]
    Le Peuple, 9 December 1848.
  • [70]
    Le Populaire, 3 December 1848.
  • [71]
    Démocratie pacifique, 10 December 1848.
  • [72]
    Jonathan Beecher, Victor Considerant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).
  • [73]
    La Révolution démocratique et sociale, 7 December 1848. Tensions were extremely high at this point between Proudhon and the Mountain, even leading to a duel with pistols on 1 December between Proudhon and Félix Pyat.
  • [74]
    Cf. especially La Révolution démocratique et sociale, 18 November 1848.
  • [75]
    La République, 10 December 1848 (emphasis in the original).
  • [76]
    La République, 19 November 1848.
  • [77]
    Val-de-Marne DA, 69 J 8.
  • [78]
    These are the official figures provided by Le Moniteur on 22 December 1848, but do not account for the Algerian vote. They are notably different from the numbers I compiled based on the département records: 372,984 votes for Ledru-Rollin and 36,869 for Raspail. The official figures were used for national results, while the département figures were used for local calculations.
  • [79]
    I used the National Archives series titled “Élections et votes”, shelf number B II 958-1046 to compile the results of Raspail’s candidacy. The results published in the contemporary press or by the public authorities, generally used by historians today, are not sufficient to obtain an exact tally of votes for Raspail, as these were often too few by département to have been published. I used La Presse as a source to verify or complete missing or illegible results in the archives.
  • [80]
    The third département where Raspail performed well was Haute-Loire (he obtained 2,538 votes, or 5.94%, representing 6.9% of his national total). This result was almost entirely due to exceptional support from the Brioude canton, which gave Raspail 1,918 votes out of 3,374 voters (56.85%), in particular in the first section, with 1,289 votes out of 1,860 (69.3%). This was the only canton in France where Raspail won the majority, even though there is no obvious explanation for this, Raspail likely having no direct link with Brioude. This situation was mentioned, though without being analysed in “L’élection présidentielle de 1848 dans l’arrondissement de Brioude”, Almanach de Brioude et de son arrondissement, 1947, 59-60. It should be contextualised with regard to Brioude’s politically exceptional position within the département; the canton was a “red sector” in a majority conservative département. See Auguste Rivet, La vie politique dans le département de la Haute-Loire de 1815 à 1974 (Le Puy: Éditions des Cahiers de la Haute-Loire, 1979), especially 72 and 500-11. In an attempt to explain this massive support for Raspail, the local historians contacted often noted the likely role played by Jules Maigne, the mayor during May-June 1848, and especially by Amédée Martinon de Saint-Ferréol, the leader of the Brioude club, both of whom were Republican and anti-clerical. In his memoires, the latter cited a long manifesto, signed “Au nom des démocrates de Brioude, Moulin, cultivateur; Amédée St-Ferréol, membre du conseil général; Béraud, ouvrier; Quintin, ancien soldat de l’empire” (“In the name of Brioude democrats, Moulin, farmer Amédée St-Ferréol, member of the general council; Béraud, worker; Quintin, former Empire soldier”). This manifesto unambiguously urged voters to choose Raspail, “a Republican who will kill the presidency” (Amédée Saint-Ferréol, Mes Mémoires, (Brioude: Imprimerie D. Chouvet, 1888), v. II, 145-9). Unlike the results in Paris or Lyon, votes for Raspail in Brioude were not the sign of a burgeoning class vote, but the reflection of the local influence of a prominent communist who made the exceptional choice of supporting Raspail rather than Ledru-Rollin.
  • [81]
    Jacques Bouillon, “Les Démocrates-Socialistes aux Élections de 1849”, Revue française de science politique, 6(1), 1956, 70-95. The expression “left-wing” vote is used to describe all the votes going to members of the far left (in this case, Ledru-Rollin and Raspail). The transition from the left as a parliamentary position to the left as political identity is analysed by Marc Crapez, “De quand date le clivage gauche/droite en France?”, Revue française de science politique, 48(1), 1998, 42-75.
  • [82]
    Bernard H. Moss, The Origins of the French Labor Movement, 1830-1914: The Socialism of Skilled Workers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976).
  • [83]
    Luc Boltanski, “Les systèmes de représentation d’un groupe social. Les ‘cadres’”, Revue française de sociologie, 20(4), 1979, 631-67 (633).
  • [84]
    If we look only at the Seine département, across twenty constituencies, nine lumped all the invalid ballots in one category; two added a category for “unconstitutional” ballots; one constituency added the category “reserved”; two differentiated between null, blank and unconstitutional votes; one between blank, null and reserved; one between blank and reserved; and finally four constituencies did not count invalid ballots at all (NA, B II 1029).
  • [85]
    The ballots that were rejected because they referred to Bonaparte with a title of nobility were largely rejected as unconstitutional and added to the minutes of the elections in each département. Does this mean that only null votes justified this treatment, or only the ballots deemed sufficiently contrary to Republican principles? It is impossible to know from the sources as they are. These ballots, as well as the results, are contained in the National Archives “Élections et votes” series, shelf numbers B II 958-1046.
  • [86]
    NA, B II 1029.
  • [87]
    NA, B II 1029.
  • [88]
    Gustave Lefrançais, Souvenirs d’un révolutionnaire (Brussels: Temps nouveaux, 1902), 265-8.
  • [89]
    For an overview of some of these candidates, cf. Bruno Fuligni, Votez fou! Candidats bizarres, utopistes, chimériques, mystiques, marginaux, farceurs et farfelus (Paris: Horay, 2007). The book’s approach – a series of portraits – avoids the question of the strategic use of these candidacies, a question that should nevertheless be at the centre of an analysis of impossible candidacy over the longer term. Cf. also Frédéric-Joël Guilledoux, Tous candidats! Le poids des petits dans la présidentielle 2007 (Paris: Fayard, 2006); Grégory Bozonnet, “L’exclusion des comiques professionnels du champ politique. Critique de la théorie bourdieusienne du champ politique à travers les candidatures à l’élection présidentielle de Pierre Dac, Coluche et Dieudonné”, Master’s thesis in political sociology, Lyon, Université Lyon II, 2008.
  • [90]
    M. Agulhon, 1848 ou l’apprentissage de la République.
  • [91]
    Christine Guionnet, L’apprentissage de la politique moderne. Les élections municipales sous la monarchie de Juillet (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1997).
  • [92]
    Michèle Riot-Sarcey, “La république en formation. 1848 en France: une interprétation plurielle de l’idée républicaine”, in Claudia Moatti, Michèle Riot-Sarcey (eds), La République dans tous ses états. Pour une histoire intellectuelle de la république en Europe (Paris: Payot, 2009), 57-78.
  • [93]
    On these different projects, cf. Rémi Gossez, Les ouvriers de Paris. 1: L’Organisation, 1848-1851 (Paris: Société d’histoire de la Révolution de 1848, 1968), 27-64.
  • [94]
    Thanks to Paula Cossart and the reviewers of the Revue française de science politique for their comments on previous versions of this text.

The democratic socialists were beaten in the ballot box in the spring of 1848, but they intended to make themselves heard during the presidential election in December. While all democratic socialist parties refused the principle of the presidency, they were divided on strategy. Some of them, grouped around the newspaper Le Peuple, sought to promote an impossible candidacy that would embody their protest. They chose François-Vincent Raspail, a club leader, a scientist and a doctor to the poor, who was then in prison. This candidacy led to a controversy during which two conceptions of politics clashed. Despite his poor result at the national level, Raspail was the focal point for a class vote, making his candidacy a step towards the construction of the French working-class movement.

Samuel Hayat
Samuel Hayat is a post-doctoral fellow at the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts) (HT2S laboratory, History of techno-sciences in society). Combining theoretical, sociological and historical approaches, he works primarily on nineteenth-century revolutions and socialist and labour movements, as well as on political representation. A member of the French Political Science Association’s Groupe de Project sur la Représentation Politique (GRePo – Working Group on Political Representation), with Yves Sintomer he recently co-edited an issue of Raisons politiques on political representation. He has published a book based on his doctoral thesis: 1848. Quand la République était révolutionnaire. Citoyenneté et représentation (Paris: Seuil, 2014).
(CNAM, 292 rue Saint-Martin, 75003 Paris).
Translated by
Sarah-Louise Raillard
Uploaded on on 09/09/2015
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