From the Elysee to the Tuileries (1848-52)
First, however, Louis Napoleon had a good opportunity to consolidate his credibility with conservatives over an issue of foreign policy, namely that of how France should react to the revolutionary events which had been taking place in the Italian peninsula. By the spring of 1849 challenge of the Italian patriots to Habsburg rule in the north had been repressed by the military might of Austria. Only the Roman Republic, estab lished in February 1849 after the flight of Pope Pius IX to Gaeta, remained as a symbol of hope for Jacobins in Italy and abroad. But when the Pope appealed to the Catholic powers of Europe to restore him to his throne, the dilemma for French policy became acute. Successive foreign ministers of the Second Republic, acting in concert with Palmerston, had successfully sought to limit the damage inflicted on Piedmont by the victori ous Austrians, but the question of the Roman Republic was more intractable. Louis Napoleon, hostile to the extension of Austrian influence in the peninsula and sympathetic to Italian nationalist aspirations in the Papal States, had no wish to see
the Pope restored by force of Austrian arms. O n the other hand, as a champion of order, he could not risk alienating his con servative supporters by encouraging Italian Jacobins. In par ticular, he could not alienate Catholic opinion in France at a time when prominent Catholic leaders such as Montalembert and the abbe Dupanloup were urging him to restore Pius IX to the throne of Peter. Louis Napoleon did the only thing possible in the circumstances. He equivocated.