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of the plan of campaign then developed . . . Then, he, in his
turn, spoke — ^at great length — with a quietness and moderation,
with a broadness of view, that contrasted with the rather artifi-
cial enthusiasm and the overbold suppositions on which the hope
of success for armed resistance had been based. He first con-
tested the idea of there being any serious danger of a cotkp d*Hai,
but that in which he showed his superiority to his interlocutor was
his exposition of what he considered to be a duty in case of such
eventualities. As President of the Chamber, even as an ordinary
deputy, he would never give the signal for a civil war ; as long


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as regular powers existed it was to regular means of resistance
that recourse should be taken. Insurrection against the law
once openly ignited, apart from our influence, we should then, as
ordinary citizens, be free to act as might seem best to us. * But
I maintain,' he said, ' that no one has the right to use his public
oflfce in the fray and make of it the brand of civil war. The
very thought of this is repugnant to me ; I will never lend myself
to this.'

" These words, pronounced with a deep feeling unusual in the
speaker, the justice of his arguments and their bearing of true
patriotism, struck me so much as to bring every detail of this
moving incident vividly to mind. Gravy's language made a
deep impression on the meeting, which was also, on the whole,
but little inclined to adopt ill-considered and extreme resolutions,
and which felt the weight of the responsibility imposed on it by
the confidence of the Chamber. We were each closely questioned,
and it was finally decided that no steps should be taken on the
initiative given by Gambetta, but that the right of further
deliberation should be reserved, should the projects supposed
to exist in the Elys6e ever come to a more tangible form."

M. Gr6vy had seen the Marshal ; his fine under-
standing of human nature had probably read the
real attitude of the President. He fully realised
that in him material ^' for a dictator " was not to
be expected.

Besides this, the Marshal had no great confi-
dence in the attitude of the army. It is said that
at the sitting of the Higher Council of War, presided
over by General de Rochebouet, the ex-chairman.
General de Cissey, had cut short the discussion by
remarking : '* This is all very well. I admit the
possibility of success. But what next ? '*

^^ Certain regiments, as the 9th, did not
Laborddre seem surc. The presence in Paris of
Incident g^j^gj-^jg j^^^ ^^ ^^^y there causcd surprise.

One incident excited great comment. At Limoges,
December nth, an ofl&cer of the 14th of the Line,


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Major Labord^re, interpreted an order given in case
of disturbance in the town as a political measure.

" None of us/' he wrote, " could doubt but that it signified a
coup d'tiat, and that arms were to be taken up that very night.
I raised my voice and said to Colonel Billot : ' Colonel, a amp
d*6tatisa,cTime, I will be no accomplice. I am an honest man,
I will not play the part demanded of me in this criminal attempt/
The Colonel replied : * You have no right to argue the matter ;
your duty is to obey.' " ^

M. Batbie imagined he had reached the goal.
M. Pouyer-Guertier, to whom he offered the con-
trol of Finance, was present at a meeting in the
Elys^e at twelve in the morning. Then, however,
M. Pouyer-Guertier vigorously protested against
the extreme methods, and advised the summons of
M. Dufaure. The Due d'Audiffret-Pasquier was
called to the Elys^e ; he met M. Batbie and had
a hot debate. The President of the Senate took
his colleague aside, reproaching him with following
the policy of Ducrot and Miribel, and for wishing
to ignite a civil war, which would be an act of
criminal folly. M. Batbie was so roughly attacked
that there was question of a duel.

At foiu* o'clock there was a council of the Ministers.
General de Rochebouet again pressed the Marshal
to a declaration, resistance or submission, but things
must be brought to a decision. M. de Banneville
explained the complications that the policy of re-
sistance might bring about abroad. (Plevna had
just succumbed ; Pius IX was ill, and a conclave
might be inraiinent.) The Marquis de Banneville

^ In consequence of this, on December 31st, Major Laborddre
was suspended. General de BressoUes, who had given the
order wrongly that the Major refi^d to obey, was placed on the
reserve list. Later on Major Laborddre was recalled; he
ultimately left the army and entered Parliament.


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afi&rmed that he was in possession of dispatches
which pointed to grave interventions on the part
of Germany should the crisis be prolonged. Admiral
Roussin had already left the Ministry. It was a
breaking up.

The Marshal Every One reverted to the same name —
y"«^ that of Dufaure. The Marshal had a hard
struggle with himself ; he preferred resignation.
At last, hardly pressed by his Ministry, with " tears
in his eyes," he yielded, and announced his intention
of appealing to M. Dufaure. General de Rochebouet
returned to the Ministry for War greatly relieved.
The following day, Thursday, 13th, he sent tele-
graphic orders to the conunanders of the army
corps coimtermanding the military measures. At
the same time he telegraphed to Bordeaux : " Kandly
tell the quartier-ginSral in confidence to stop all
preparations for departure. I shall probably re-
assume the command of the i8th Corps.*'


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I. — Constitution of the Second Dufanre Cabinet — Presidential
Message — Change in the administrative staff — ^The muni-
cipal elections — General session of 1878 — Public works —
The Terminal Three per cents — ^The economic question.

II. — Parliamentary work — ^The Senatorial majority — ^The Bud-
get of 1878 — ^Vote of anmesty at the Senate.

III. — ^Death of Victor Emmanuel and of Pius IX — Projected
interview between Prince Bismarck and Gambetta — ^Visit
of Gambetta to Rome — Election of Leo XIII.

IV — Continuation of the General Session of 1878 — Various Bills
and Acts — ^The Universal Exhibition.

IN his agreement to retain the Presidency
,^,,, of the Republic, Marshal MacMahon

th^i^shaa^^^ yielded to the objurgations of his per-
sonal friends and of his usual political ad-
visers. His first reply to the suggestion of calling on
M. Dufaure had been Never ! He had already drawn
up his formal resignation. At the close of the last
Ministerial council, when General de Rochebouet
had openly insisted on the Marshal's definite pro-
nunciation, and when M. de BanneviUe had expressed
the imeasiness as to peace caused by the simultaneous
resignation of the Marshal, the surrender of Plevna
and the illness of the Pope, Marshal MacMahon
said-: —

You have unanimously told me that I have still a duty to per-
form. I am compelled to believe you ... I would rather be
shot than decide as you wish me to decide. You ask of me my
honour. Well, then, I give it to you. May you never reproach
me for so doing t


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He uttered some bitter words upon the Ministry
of May i6th, then relapsed into silence. The dagger
remained within his heart ; from thenceforth his face
took on a strained expression, his movements became
more abrupt, deep mutterings of wrath often uncon-
sciously escaped him, and were noted by visitors to
the Elys6e.

His ultimate decision was influenced to some
extent by the hope of possible support in the sena-
torial majority. This majority was, on the whole,
conservatively-minded; harmony existed between
** two of the powers." All, therefore, was not abso-
lutely lost before the approaching triennial renewing
of the high assembly.

The Marshal had no personal prejudice against M.
Dufaure. He valued his straightforwardness and
influence, and did not object to his somewhat brusque
manners. It was sufficiently reaUsed by his immedi-
ate associates that from the moment of yielding the
constitution of the Dufaure Cabinet became a means
of escape from a Cabinet which would necessarily
be headed by Gambetta.

M. Dufaure had his staff already sununoned. M.
L6on Say, M. Teisserenc de Bort, were with him.
The help of M. de Marc6re was sought for the Ministry
for the Interior. The guiding principle of this new
Cabinet, a principle which Dufaure had annoimced
from the beginning in a letter to the Marshal, con-
sisted in absolute Ministerial responsibiUty and in-
tegrity, with non-ability on the part of the President
to select the Ministers for War, Navy, and Foreign
Affairs. It was with great resistance that the
Marshal had been compelled to yield to this.

There had been some difl&culty in finding a Minister
for Foreign Affairs ; the choice finally devolved upon


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M. Waddington, senator for Aisne, and an old
colleague of M. Thiers. General Borel, who had
served under Marshal MacMahon as head of the Etat-
Major, was made Minister for War. The Cabinet
was thus composed : —

The Justice, and as President of the Council:

Dufaure J. Dufaure.

Interior : M. de Marc^re, deputy.

Foreign Affairs : M. Waddington.

Education : M. Bardoux, deputy.

War : General Borel.

Navy : Vice-Admiral Pothuau, senator.

Finance : L6on Say, senator.

Agriculture and Commerce ; Teisserenc de Bort,

Public Works : Ch. de Saulces de Freycinet, sena-
The Pre- ^^^ evolutiou, it might be called the
sidentiai political rcvolution, thus accomplished, and

^^^^^ afiirmed by the complete liberty given to
the leader in the formation of the Cabinet, was to
be finally acknowledged by a Presidential Message.
Submitted to the Chambers and by them accepted,
it would have the authority of a compact, and would
define, once for all, the interpretation of the con-
stitutional attributes of the President. The Message
thus became an act of abdication for the Septennat.
M. Dufaure had a private interview with the Marshal,
and submitted to him the proposed form, of which
the principal part is here given.

* Four Under-Secretaries of State were nominated : To the
Ministry of Justice, M. Savary; for Education, M. Jean
Casimir-P^rier ; for the Interior, M. Lepftre ; for Commerce and
Industry, M. Girerd. A little later M. Cochery became Under-
Secretary of State for Posts and Telegraphs, connected with the
Blinbtry for Finance.

2ZO '

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In obedience to Parliamentary conditions, I have formed a
Cabinet selected from the two Chambers, composed of men deter-
mined to defend and maintain Republican institutions by the
loyal use of constitutional laws. . . . The exercise of the right
of dissolution is but a method of supreme appeal to a final court,
and should not be looked upon as a system of government. I con-
sidered it advisable to use this privil^e, and I conform to the
reply of the nation. . . . The constitution of 1875 has foimded
a Parliamentary Republic in establishing my irresponsibility,
while affirming the responsibility, general and individual, of the
Ministry. Our respective rights and duties are thus determined ;
the independence of the Ministry is the condition of their responsi-
bility. ...

The rest of the Message was an appeal for concord
and for confidence.

During the private interview between the Marshal
and Dufaure, the former made use of some expres-
sions on which the President of the Council eagerly
seized ; then the sitting of the Council began. The
Marshal entered, " red of face, agitated, and humi-
hated in demeanour. His expression was that of a
soldier called upon to yield his arms. His salute
was cold and brusque, and he seated himself."

He said that " he formed the Cabinet, constrained
and forced ; that possibly he ought to have retired
with the men who, with him, had done the action of
May i6th, that his not doing so was caused by a
conviction of duty, that he felt that his presence at
the head of the Government was useful to France
from the point of view of foreign pohcy."

The Ministers, M. Dufaure in particular, were
troubled by the almost miserable condition in which
they saw the Marshal. M. Dufatu-e read out the
progranune with an agitated voice, and as if he were
endeavouring to soften the nasality of his pronun-
ciation. A silence followed, " then the Marshal
clutched the paper, roughly seized a pen, then hesi-


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tated again. His face coloured suddenly, his eyes
filled with actual tears, then, after a moment, he
dashed down his signature and threw the pen on the
table with the exclamation, ' There, then ! If it must
be so ! ' He got up at once and escaped out of the
hall like a man choked with anger who can bear no
more." ^

Immense relief was felt throughout the Republican
party and the whole of the coimtry. The Press of
the Right evinced anger, hmnour, disdain or irony
according to their characteristics. The Gaulois
remarked : " The Marshal has taken his part ; let us
see to it that we take ours.'* The Defense said :
'* We are defeated and dissatisfied.'* The Roman
Catholic papers were disappointed and bitter ; the
Univers published the article by Louis Veuillot :
"The Marshal has yielded simultaneously with
Plevna ! ''

The Republican party, inadequately assured of
so long disputed a victory, maintained some re-
serve. The new roads were slowly used ; there was
hesitation over activity in the Government. A
pioneer was sought for, and, in needlessly violent
demeanour, there was something embarrassed and

The Cabinet alone was calm. The Liberal party
considered that matters were at length satisfactorily
adjusted, and that the present solution was definite

* See V. de Marcdre's Le Seize Mai (p. 228).

* See a letter from M. Clamageran, dated December 20, 1877 :
" What is most amusing, or most sad, is that they who were
trembling a fortnight ago, and declaring resistance to be impossible,
are now exclaiming that too much conciliation has been shown
and that the abdication of the Marshal should have been insisted


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for all time upon the tablets of History — "France is
the Left Centre.'*

On December 14, the Message was read to the
Senate and to the Chamber, and was heard with
applause by the Lefts, in silence by the Rights. Then
business was begun.

The Chamber had held in reserve, as the parlia-
mentary weapon par excellence, the voting of the
Budget. The last hours of 1877 had come, and the
resources of 1878 were not yet arranged. The Cham-
ber of Deputies had unanimously voted, on Decem-
ber 15th, two-twelfths provisionally on the Budget of
1878— and this on the proposal of the Minister of
Finance. No more, however ; there was still distrust
abroad. In the Senate-House, M. Lucien Brun, in the
name of the Right, reserved the financial authority
of the high assembly, and his suggestion met with

The liquidation of May i6th was begun by a Govern-
mental project of December 18 th, offering anmesty for
all delinquencies of the Press ; also by a proposal
from MM. Marcou and Bonnet as to the repression
of official candidature. Since the beginning of the
session, that is to say, since November 7th, the Cham-
ber had validated 414 of its members, among these
M. Jules Gr6vy, twice elected — ^in Paris and in Dole.
Seven deputies of the Right had been invalidated ;
it remained to test the powers of 107 deputies.

The extraordinary Session closed on December 18.
The most urgent question, together with the inquiry
on the acts of May i6th, was on the subject of the
Ministerial staff. M. de Marc^re, before accepting the
charge of Home Affairs, had demanded carte blanche.
The compromised functionaries, armed with the fine
declarations showered upon them by former CabinetSi


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with the signature of the Marshal, had only to pack
up their belongings and were left without illusions.
The Broglie-Fourtou Cabinet had given the example
of coupes sombres. They felt the effects of the law
dictated by their friends.

The first prefectorial change was recorded in the
Officiel, December 19 : 46 prefects were recalled,
7 put on the reserve list ; 27 had foreseen the
change and given in their resignation, some rather
aggressively. The rest followed : Sub-prefects,
general secretaries, councillors, agents ; it was a
new hecatomb.

M. Dufaure, on his side, reinstalled the juges de
paix displaced by de Broglie. He deposed or pen-
sioned off several magistrats des parquets who had
taken part too ostensibly in the political struggle.

In the diplomatic service important changes were
made. M. Fournier was made ambassador to Con-
stantinople, in place of the Marquis de Vogiie, who
had resigned. In BerUn, M. de Gontaut-Biron was

j^ ^^ obliged to leave the Embassy. For some

Gontaut- mouths past he had been regarded with
disfavour by Prince Bismarck. The Prince,
whose moods ruled Prussia, Germany, and, generally
speaking, Europe as well, met with Uttle resistance,
except in the court and family of the Emperor Wil-
ham, and this resistance emanated from the Empress
Augusta and the Crown Princess — both known to him
as the '* EngUshwomen.'' M. de Gontaut-Biron,
whose diplomatic skill and clearsightedness were only
equalled by his dignity and tact, had a privileged
position in these groups. Through these channels he
had acquired important information on various
occasions, and in measure as Bismarck felt and knew
this, his hostiUty openly increased. " The Empress,"


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he remarked one day to the English ambassador, Odo
Russell, " is the real Minister for Foreign Affairs in
this empire, and M. de Gontaut is our sovereign's
adviser. This must come to an end or else I must
retire/' When this was repeated to M. de Gontaut-
Biron he replied : " I did not think myself so power-

The crisis of May i6th, sweeping off as it did so
many influential personages, did not spare M. de
Gontaut-Biron. He had taken no active part in the
struggle, but his monarchical tendencies were well
known. The Due Decazes was no longer in the
Ministry; it might well be asked whether the con-
tinuance in office of an ambassador in open rupture
with the dictator of Europe might not prove a source
of danger for his country. M. de Gontaut-Biron, did
not, like many of his colleagues, think it necessary to
offer his resignation, but he sent his son to Paris.
The Marshal could but obey necessity. M. Wad-
dington explained the exigencies of poUtics, and M. de
Gontaut-Biron left Berlin with dignity and quiet, and
accompanied by general esteem.

He was succeeded in Berlin by the Count de Saint-
Vallier — a finished diplomatist, a colleague in the
Senate of M. Waddington, and whose post with Mar-
shal von Manteuffel had gained appreciation at the
time of the liberation of the land.

In Paris M. Voisin was replaced by M. Albert
Gigot as Pr6fet de Police. M. Petitjean was elected
as first President of the Cour des Comptes, and
Senator Humbert was made Procureur-G6n6ral.

The Government prepared the parliamentary in-
quiry upon the acts of Mayi6th. Ministerial notices
removed the penalties imposed on republican offi-
cials. Several speeches indicative of the new order

VOL. IV. 225 9

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of things were made by the Ministers on the occasion
of the New Year receptions. These can be sum-
marised in the words of de Marcere : " We desire to
go as far as not only Legality, but Liberty will permit
us/' \<t;n«

Municipal On January 6th elections were held
Elections throughout France for the integral renewing
of the municipal councils. These elections had a poli-
tical bearing, since through them the character of the
senatorial elections of January, 1879, would be de-
cided. It was another step forward for the Republic.
She was consolidating her forces and feeling herself
mistress of the future. At the same time, she felt
those first dissensions, natural, it is true, to all human
society, but whose excess is specially dangerous to
peoples only recently be-freed and of strong cen-
tralisation. France has often had to yield to personal
questions, and has often been a prey to petty am-
bitions. The legal parties, by the most deceptive of
errors, watch these crises in the hg/pe of letting them
work out to their end ; they practise the policy of
" the excess of evil,'' and the country suffers both
from the violence of faction and the mediocrity of
calculation. Under the play of passion and ambition,
the tide of democracy, however, rises. A strong
undercurrent absorbs the surface waves, and if this
powerful tide were not felt to be growing, the story
of these stagnant years would hardly deserve to be

M. Louis Blanc spoke on January 5th — as the
expounder of the new r^me : —

The victory ought also to have done away with Marshal Mac-
Mahon. The most pressing duty of the moment is the revision of
that Constitution which the clerically-minded M. Wallon and his
collaborators of the Right Centre have used as a strait-jacket


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for the Republic. The army, too, must be watched : the worst
danger for a Republic lies in the presence of a standing army in
its midst.

The army chiefs, by their notorious participation
in the ccmp d'6tat, had lent themselves to these
reproaches. On January 9th, General Ducrot was
relieved of his functions as commander of the 8th
Army Corps at Bourges and made a member of the
General Commission for PubUc Works.

On the 7th Gambetta spoke at Marseilles as the
" opportunist " : —

I have greatly feared the intoxication of success. We must
make a halt among the positions we have conquered in order to
fortify them for ourselves. For the senatorial elections of 1879
we must make no mistakes, not be over-bold and have no dis-
sensions amongst us.

M. L6on Renault, on assuming the presidency of
the Left Centre, January 8th, spoke as the *' moder-
ate '^—

"The Dufaure Cabinet must avoid two stumbling-blocks —
one is the hostility of the Senate towards the Republic, the other
is the impatience of the Republicans. Reform must be put off
until the Republican party has a majority within the Senate-

Dissolution Upou thcsc threefold lines proceedings
comi^ttee werc developed. On January nth, the Com-
of Eighteen mittcc of Eighteen spontaneously dissolved ;
the former organisation was reverted to. Any under-
understanding between the Republican groups would
be made henceforth, if necessary, by the various
bureaux. It was a reply to Gambetta's appeal for no
dissensions. Against him personally the cry again
was raised of *' No dictatorship ! "

The Cabinet devoted itself to business, and of
business there was no lack.


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The Chambers re-assembled on January 8. The
Due d'Audiffret-Pasquier was elected President of
the Senate by 172 voices. MM. Duclerc, Rampon,
General de Ladmirault and Audren de Kerdrel were
vice-presidents. Jules Gr6vy was elected President
of the Chamber by 355 voices ; MM. Bethmont,
Rameau, Henri Brisson, and de Durfort de Civrac
vice-presidents. M. Wilson, a particular friend of
M. Jules Gr6vy, was made Rapporteur-G6n6ral of the
Commission of Finance in place of M. Coch^ry, a
familiar of the President of the Chamber, who was
made Under-Secretary of State for Posts and Tele-
graphs. The play of influences becomes apparent.
M. Jules Gravy's speech advised a moderate policy,
conciliatory, just, respecting everybody's rights ; he
laid stress on the value of " necessary agreement
between the great powers." The politeness was
significant for the Senate.

A bill, brought forward by M. Bardoux, Minister
for Education, marks the philosophy of the new era ;
it was a request for credits relating to the enlarge-
ment of the Sorbonne and to the construction
of a special building for the Faculty of Science in

M. de But now came something still more mo-
Freydnet meutous for the Future. There appeared
in the Ministry for Public Works a man of no con-
ventional parliamentary standing, — a born adminis-

Online LibraryGabriel HanotauxContemporary France → online text (page 17 of 48)