Even the eyes of those who had been slow to credit the corruption of the government, were at last opened by the trial of two ex-ministers, Cubicres and Teste, for bribery, and the desire for reform became universal. An order of the government for the suppression of reform dinners, founded, as they pretended, on a law passed at the beginning of the first revolution (1790), and especially an attempt on the part of the police to prevent by force the holding of a reform banquet at Paris, provoked the opposition party, headed by Odillon Barrot, to propose the impeachment of ministers, a motion which was carried in the chamber of deputies after a stormy debate. The national guard and some of the troops of the line having re fused to act against the people who had taken up arms on the 22d of February, Louis Philippe dismissed the Guizot ministry on the 23d, and tranquillity seemed to be completely restored; but on the evening of the same day fresh disturbances broke out, in consequence of some troops stationed in front of the foreign office having fired on the unarmed populace. Throughout the whole of that night the inhabitants of Paris were occupied in constructing barricades, and making preparations for active resistance on. the morrow. Meanwhile, however, the king, alarmed at the increasing disaffection of his troops, and fearing an attack on the Tuileries, had abdicated in favor of the Comte de Paris, and quitted his palace, which was immediately plundered by the populace.
The Duchess of Orleans, accompanied by her two sons, having proceeded to the chamber of deputies for the purpose of obtaining their recognition of the Comte de Paris as king, and herself as regent, an armed multitude burst into the hall, and compelled the deputies to sanction the establishment of a provisional government, which proclaimed a republic at the Hôtel de Ville, and again on the Place de la Bastille, subject to the approbation of the great body of the people.
The provisional government commenced its proceedings by calling together the electoral colleges and constituent assembly. The elective franchise was extended to all Frenchmen who had attained their twenty-first year, and all above twenty-five years of age were declared eligible as deputies, of whom about 900 were returned to the chamber. The constituent assembly having met on the 4th of May, and the republic having been again proclaimed, the provisional government dissolved itself, and was succeeded by an executive commission composed of five of its members, Arago, Gamier, Pages, Marie, Lamartine, and Ledru Rollin. The most formidable opponents of these commissioners were the workmen and the leaders of the communists Barbes, Blanqui, Louis Blanc. The revolutionists of February had pronounced it to be the duty of the state to provide employment for the citizens, and had followed up this declaration by the establishment of national workshops, with a view to the 'organization of labor.' The failure of this impracticable scheme produced great discontent among the workmen; and after a fruitless attempt on their part to overthrow the government and extort contributions from the wealthier classes, the workshops were closed, and the men sent into the provinces. A sanguinary struggle ensued, in the course of which the Archbishop of Paris was shot, whilst addressing words of peace to the insurgents from one of the barricades. After four days' hard fighting the malcontents were utterly defeated by General Cavaignac, formerly governor of Algiers. The city of Paris was then declared in a state of siege, and the powers of the executive commission transferred to Cavaignac, who immediately formed an administration, of which he declared himself president. More than 4000 of the insurgents were banished to the French settlements beyond seas, the national workshops suppressed, and the public clubs placed under the surveillance of the police.
By the new Constitution, France was declared to be a democratic republic, one and indivisible. The legislative authority was committed to a single assembly of 750 members, elected by all Frenchmen who had attained their twenty-first year. All citizens above twenty-five years of age were eligible as representatives, with the exception of paid government functionaries. The executive authority was vested in a President of the Republic,' who was required by the constitution to be thirty years old, and a native of France. Louis Napoleon was chosen for four years, by the direct suffrages of all the electors, on the 10th of December 1848.