Immediately after the deposition of the emperor a third Republic of France was proclaimed. A temporary government was set up under the direction of MM. Favre, Gambetta, Simon, Ferry, Rochefort, and others of pronounced republican tendencies.
This was speedily superseded by a National Assembly elected by the people, with M. Thiers acting as its executive head.
During the siege of Paris an internal enemy had appeared, more dangerous, and proving in the end far more destructive to the city than the German army which occupied it.
What is known as the Paris Commune was a mob of desperate men led by Socialistic and Anarchistic agitators of the kind which at intervals try to terrorize civilization to-day.
The ideas at the basis of this insurrection were the same as those which converted a patriotic revolution into a “Reign of Terror” in 1789, and Paris into a slaughter-house in 1792-93.
Twice during the siege had there been violent and alarming outbreaks from this vicious element; and now it was in desperate struggle with the government of M. Thiers for control of that city, which they succeeded in obtaining. M. Thiers, his government, and his troops were established at Versailles; while Paris, for two months, was in the hands of these desperadoes, who were sending out their orders from the Hotel de Ville.
When finally routed by Marshal MacMahon’s troops, after drenching some of the principal buildings with petroleum they set them on fire. The Tuileries and the Hotel de Ville were consumed, as were also portions of the Louvre, the Palais Royal, and the Palais de Luxembourg, and the city in many places defaced and devastated.
The insurrection was not subdued without a savage conflict, ten thousand insurgents, it is said, being killed during the last week; this being followed by severe military executions. Then, with some of her most dearly prized historic treasures in ashes, and monuments gone, Paris, scarred and defaced, had quiet at last; and the organization of the third republic proceeded.
The uncertain nature of the republican sentiment existing throughout France at this critical moment is indicated by the character of the Assembly elected by the people. More than two-thirds of the members chosen by France to organize her new republic were monarchists!
The name monarchist at that time comprehended three distinct parties, each with a powerful following, namely:
The LEGITIMISTS, acting in the interest of the direct Bourbon line, represented by the Count of Chambord, the grandson of Charles X., called by his party Henry V.
The ORLEANISTS, the party desiring the restoration of a limited monarchy, in the person of the Count of Paris, grandson of Louis Philippe.
The BONAPARTISTS, whose candidate, after the death of the Emperor Louis Napoleon in 1873, was the young Prince Imperial, son of Napoleon III. [Napoleon II., the Duke of Reichstadt, had died in 1832.]