Copyright
Walter F Lonergan.

Forty years of Paris online

. (page 6 of 25)
Online LibraryWalter F LonerganForty years of Paris → online text (page 6 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


has taken a place among the benefactors of humanity.
He received all the honours that his country could
give, his work was appreciated and applauded abroad
as well as at home, and his death caused universal
regret.

Not long after my first meeting with M. Pasteur in
the Rue d'Ulm, I was brought very close to M.
Clemenceau, who now, in his old age, is regarded as
the strongest statesman of the time. I used to hear
him in the Chamber of Deputies tearing Jules Ferry's
policy to pieces in his usual trenchant and sardonic
way. By a mere chance I came face to face with him
in his editorial snuggery at the offices of the Justice, in



70 FORTY YEARS OF PARIS

the Rue Montmartre. That paper, notable only for
the leading articles of M. Clemenceau and M. Pelletan,
has been many years dead. It never had any news,
and no one ever saw anybody connected with it except
the two writers whom I have just mentioned. Camille
Pelletan, son of a famous father, Eugene Pelletan,
who was one of the most strenuous adversaries of the
Second Empire, was then known as the "lieutenant of
M. Clemenceau." He played second fiddle to his
leader in the Chamber and in the columns of the
ponderous and gloomy Jttstice. Pelletan has nearly
equalled his old leader since then, and was the most
entertaining Minister of Marine that the world has
ever beheld. He was at one time currently reported
to be under the rigid rule of an exacting mistress, but
he surprised everybody by marrying a simple and
unsophisticated school-teacher while he was head of
the Naval Department. The couple spent their honey-
moon cruising about the Mediterranean on a battleship,
which Pelletan, in his capacity as Minister, borrowed
from the State, and was duly denounced by his enemies
for having done so.

Both M. Clemenceau and M. Pelletan started a
ferocious campaign in the Justice in 1887, when
President Grevy wanted to form the Rouvier-
Fallieres Cabinet with the co-operation of Baron
de Mackau, the Due de La Rochefoucauld, and
other Conservatives, who were to receive com-
pensation for their services. The whirligig of time
has brought about a notable change, for in 1906
Messrs. Pelletan and Clemenceau supported the
Rouvier Cabinet and backed the candidature of
M. Fallieres for the Presidency of the Republic.



FORTY YEARS OF PARIS 71

Before I record my impressions of M. Clemenceau
on coming into close quarters with him for the first
time, I must transcribe a brief passage concerning
him when he was editor of the Justice first, and
of the Aurore afterwards. It is from that im-
petuous writer, M. Urbain Gohier, once a Royahst,
then an ardent defender of Alfred Dreyfus, and since
an independent, who lashes ferociously the men with
whom he co-operated in the tempestuous campaign
for the liberation of the prisoner of Devil's Island.
M. Urbain Gohier had far better opportunities of
knowing M. Clemenceau than I or any other foreign
correspondent in Paris, including even the clever and
indefatigable Mrs. Emily Crawford.

Says Gohier : " The first time that I saw M.
Clemenceau closely was in the offices of the Justice
one evening when there was a financial crisis. I
found myself in a dark hole where a lot of shady-
looking persons were whispering to one another
mysteriously. From a neighbouring room I could
hear sounds of voices. I imagined myself to be
in the house of Bancal while Fualdes was having
his throat cut. I subsequently learned how far my
sinister impression was just. ..." I cannot give
any more of M. Gohier's passage at this point, as
he hints darkly at a case of assassination of the
mediaeval kind. Of M. Clemenceau at the Aurore,
Gohier says : "At the Aurore, where I was the
neighbour of M. Clemenceau, his personality in-
terested me deeply. With all his vices, he was very
superior to the crowd of mob-orators and back-of-
the-shop lot. Nothing equals his haughtiness,
his audacity, the cynicism of his ingratitude, and



72 FORTY YEARS OF PARIS

his egotism. He was doing work for Dreyfus. I
was trying to utilise circumstances and to bring on
the necessary revolution. We might have lived
side by side indefinitely, but money began to fail.
M. Clemenceau walked out of the office within the
twenty-four hours rather than agree to any reduction
of his fees, and the other 'copy merchants' walked
out after him." This expression '' marc hands de
copie'' is also sometimes '' marc hands de prosed

My first impressions of M. Clemenceau were not
of the sinister cast. I was introduced to the office
of the Justice by Mr. Randall Cremer, M.P., who
was over in Paris with Mr. Thomas Burt and others
of the Peace Arbitration Society. I had been
attending their meetings in the Tivoli - Vauxhall,
a music and dancing saloon near the Place de la
Republique. Mr. Cremer told me that he and his
friends were going to meet M. Clemenceau in his
editorial offices, and he asked me to accompany
them. It was on a Sunday evening, about half-past
ten o'clock. The interior of the bureaux was un-
doubtedly dark, as M. Gohier says, but I have
seen darker and more sinister-looking newspaper
offices in France and England.

On ascending the stairs I met Mr. Cremer, who
ushered me into M. Clemenceau*s sanctum. The
great man had not yet arrived from the country,
where he had been enjoying what is known in the
twentieth century as a "week-end." Inside the
sanctum were Mr. Cremer's colleagues of the Peace
Arbitration Society and on a lounge sat Mrs. Emily
Crawford, then acting, with her husband, for the
Daily News,



FORTY YEARS OF PARIS 73

M. Clemenceau was just as I had seen him before
in the Chamber of Deputies — alert, dapper always, but
not aggressive. He put down his cigar on the table
at which he sat, and listened while Mr. Cremer spoke
a few words about the Peace Arbitration Society, its
objects, and its prospects. M. Clemenceau then stood
up and replied to Mr. Cremer in English such as I
have heard very few Frenchmen command. Although
he must have learned it when he was in New York,
living chiefly by giving lessons in French, there was
no trace of the American accent. Every word came
out clearly, every sentence told. M. Clemenceau
was at heart with the peacemakers, but he reminded
Mr. Cremer and his colleagues that France had to
keep her frontiers in a state of defence, and that a
standing army was as necessary for her as the bread
of life for her sons. He said practically the same
thing at a provincial banquet only recently in 1906.

After his excellent speech in English, the dapper
man with the cannon-ball head and the brush-like
moustache turning grey sat down and chatted
amiably with those around him. I came away from
the Justice offices most favourably impressed by
the Radical leader, his excellent English, which was
a surprise to me, ringing in my ears. And now, M.
Clemenceau — the homme sinistre of the Royalists,
the Vendean of the nouveau bocage, whose father
was a Jacobin and was arrested at the time of Louis
Napoleon's coup cC^tat ; the former disciple of Blanqui,
whose motto was " Ni Dieu, ni maitre " ; the man
who saluted Gambetta as the rising hope of Re-
publicanism, and afterwards abandoned and attacked
him ; who discovered General Boulanger, and who



74 FORTY YEARS OF PARIS

was for years under a cloud owing to his connection
with Cornelius Herz — is Prime Minister of France,
with General Picquart, the strenuous champion of
M. Dreyfus, as his War Minister.

The event coincided with the partial conquest of
the air by M. Santos Dumont, the Brazilian aeronaut,
who won the Archdeacon prize. The Brazilian may
fly higher still, and so may M. Clemenceau. If this
latter arriviste retains his robust health he may
reach the Elys6e, like Thiers, Casimir-Perier, Loubet,
and Fallieres, who were also Presidents of the
Council. M. Clemenceau has seen exactly forty-
two Cabinets formed and overturned since the 4th
of September, 1870. He overturned not a few of
these Cabinets himself, and it has to be seen now
how long he will be able, or be allowed, to last. He
has a formidable rival in M. Jaures. The two had
an oratorical duel in the Chamber over the strikes
in June, 1906. M. Clemenceau's sentences clicked,
as always, like pistols and cut like rapiers. M. Jaures
was not so rhetorical, florid, and flamboyant as usual.
He was easily beaten, however, by his calm, scientific,
and satirical opponent, and he will not forget it.
Other and more serious opponents than M. Jaures
are in waiting, and M. Clemenceau will need all
his ability as a statesman to face them. For these,
trenchant satire, acid aphorisms, biting epigrams, and
those verbal " darts flung by a dexterous and ever-
youthful hand," as M. Jaures said in the debate just
referred to, will not suffice. The new French Presi-
dent of the Council must use against his more
formidable adversaries much stronger and more effec-
tive weapons. Why, it may well be asked, was not




Photo]



Jkan Jaukes.



[P'l- i Picture Agency



To face p. 74.



FORTY YEARS OP PARIS 75

this commanding man, this master of phrases such
as the French love, this versatile artist, a Minister
before 1906? Why had he to wait not twenty, but
twenty-five years (for he ought to have been in the
" great Ministry " of Gambetta) for a portfoHo ? A
reason given by his opponents is that M. Clemenceau
was feared too much by his own party. He was too
clever, too sharp in his criticism, too destructive for
them. For twenty years he was the acknowledged
leader of the Radical party in the Chamber of
Deputies. But he did not in reality lead — he spoke.
His mere words pulled down Cabinets. He uttered
frequently commonplace ideas, such as were and are
still current in Jacobin and Socialist circles, but he
uttered them with an intensity and a vivacity of
expression which was purely personal and has never
been equalled.

By this intense and terrible vigour of expression
M. Clemenceau overturned Cabinets nearly every
six months. Nobody could stand before the hissing
of his verbal bullets.

It is no wonder that his party feared this man who,
like Lord Salisbury of old, is a " master of flouts
and jibes and sneers." I well remember some eigh-
teen or nineteen years back, when M. Clemenceau
was at the zenith of his parliamentary omnipotence
as a smasher of Cabinets, and when he became
suddenly ill. He was for weeks in the hands of the
doctors for sore throat, and his life was at one
moment despaired of. He rallied and recovered,
to the regret of his numerous enemies, and, it must
be added, to the regret also of some members of
his party.



76 FORTY YEARS OF PARIS

That party had allowed others to advance to the
front before their able spokesman. They enabled
nonentities to pass before him. It was not that they
had what J. S. Mill said of the English, "a sottish
and sneering depreciation of every demonstration
above their own level." Nor would what Stendhal
said, " Notre soci^t6 tend a aneantir tout ce qui s'^leve
au dessus du mediocre," apply to them. But it is cer-
tain that, as M. Clemenceau's Conservative adversaries
say, the party allowed such a man as Charles Floquet
to pass before him.

Charles Floquet was sometimes compared to an
English judge, owing to his personal appearance,
and sometimes to Saint- Just. His oratory was as
pompous and imposing as his aspect, but it was
hollow and empty. He was a mediocrity who was
persistently represented by his foes as "learned in
Larousse." He had borrowed his erudition from
the encyclopaedias, and nothing that he ever said
told, except, perhaps, his famous apostrophe to
General Boulanger : "At your age, monsieur, the
first Napoleon was dead " — an obvious bull, but it
hit hard.

There was a time, however, when M. Clemenceau
might have had a portfolio had he wished to take one.
It was after the scrutin de liste ejections of Allain-
Targe in 1885. M. de Freycinet became President
of the Council when these elections were over, and
in his Cabinet, formed on the 7th of January, 1886,
General Boulanger, protected by his distant relative,
M. Clemenceau, advanced to the front for the first
time. M. de Freycinet was reproached at the time
for neglecting to offer a portfolio to M. Clemenceau.



FORTY YEARS OF PARIS 77

It was not M. de Freyclnet, however, who over-
looked M. Clemenceau, but M. Jules Gr6vy, President
of the Republic, who had also been afraid of
Gambetta.

M. Gr^vy, his son-in-law, M. Daniel Wilson, and
their intimates at the Elysee, were among those
who feared and hated M. Clemenceau. M. Gr^vy
said at the time : '* Never shall that man (Clemenceau)
enter the Elysee while I am alive." M. Grdvy meant
by this that he would never have M. Clemenceau as
a Minister attending Cabinet Councils in the national
palace.

Soon after that M. Gr6vy was obliged to have
recourse, but in vain, to the prestige and the influ-
ence of M. Clemenceau. It was when the scandals
about the ** decorations " burst. M. Daniel Wilson
was implicated in the ugly commercial transactions
relative to the sale of the rosettes and ribbons of the
Legion of Honour, with General Caffarel, a little
weazened warrior whom one would think incapable
of anything in the shape of a sharp " deal," to use a
word applicable to the case.

Leagued with M. Wilson and the General was an
adventuress — Madame Limousin, a person just as
commonplace and as out-of-date as General Caffarel.
The two had admission to the Elysee, and Madame
Limousin kept a veritable office for all sorts of pur-
poses, but chiefly for the " decoration " traffic.



CHAPTER VII

More about M. Clemenceau — M. Clemenceau and M. Grevy —
A smasher of Cabinets — The numerous Ministries of the
Republic — Rise of General Boulanger — The present German
Emperor and Boulanger — My meetings with the General —
Events and episodes of the Boulangist period — Boulanger's
flight and fall — His Boswell, Charles ChinchoUe — the king
of reporters — Fictionist first, journalist after — The Opera
Comique fire — Pranzini's execution — Close to the guillo-
tine.

TERRIFIED by the approach of the storm of
scandal referred to in the preceding chapter,
M. Grevy tried to rally around him all his old friends
and supporters. It was the case of the rats deserting
the sinking ship, however. All the former parasites
and sycophants slunk away from the Elysee. Old
friends were deaf and obdurate, even including the
once faithful Madier de Montjau, a Republican of the
old Jacobin type, and another of the florid orators of
the Left. Madier de Montjau was deaf physically ;
he was morally so when M. Grevy implored him to
stand by. Not a single one of the President's old
cronies would undertake to form a Cabinet, intended
not so much to administer the affairs of the nation
as to save M. Grevy from the storm whereof the
ominous premonitory clouds were gathering over his
head.

78




Photo']



Due DE Broglie.



[Petit



To face p. 79.



FORTY YEARS OF PARIS 79

In his difficulty and despair M. Grevy sent for
M. Clemenceau and asked him to form a Ministry.
The Radical leader refused, to the surprise as well
as to the disappointment of the tottering President.
When M. Grevy went into retirement, he often spoke
about this refusal of M. Clemenceau. He used to
refer to him as '' ce Clemenceau^' and once remarked :
" He (Clemenceau) actually refused to enter the
Cabinet the first time that he was asked to do so.
Why, he could have become President of the Council.
He will never have such a chance again. The man
will never be a Minister."

Notwithstanding the prediction of " Pere Grevy,"
M. Clemenceau becomes not only President of the
Council, but practically master of the destinies of
France in 1906. This is so momentous an event
that I cannot help recording here the list of the
Cabinets of the Third Republic, or at least the names
of their chiefs, none of whom equalled M, Clemenceau
in ability, although among them were Thiers, the
Due de Broglie, both of whom were great writers as
well as statesmen, Gambetta, Ferry, and Jules Simon.

The Republic began in September, 1870, as the
Government of the National Defence, under General
Trochu, who died at Tours in 1896. M. Thiers,
nominated Chef du pouvoir ex^cutif diVid. then President
of the Third Republic, was head of the Cabinet from
February, 1871, to May, 1873, when he was succeeded
by the Due de Broglie. The latter, twice President
of the Council, was followed by General de Cissey in
May, 1874. Then came M. Buffet, March, 1875;
M. Dufaure, March, 1876; M. Jules Simon,
December, 1876; the Due de Broglie again,



80 FORTY YEARS OF PARIS

May 17, 1877; General de Rochebouet, November,
1877 ; M. Dufaure again, December, 1877 ; M.
Waddington, February, 1879; M. de Freycinet,
December, 1879; M. Jules Ferry, September, 1880;
M. Gambetta, November, 1881 ; M. de Freycinet
again, January, 1882; M. Duclerc, August, 1882;
M. Fallieres, January, 1883; M. Jules Ferry again,
February, 1883; M. Henri Brisson, April, 1885;
M. de Freycinet again, January, 1886; M. Goblet,
December, 1886; M. Maurice Rouvier, May, 1887;
M. Tirard, December, 1887; M. Floquet, April,
1888; M. Tirard again, February, 1889; M. de
Freycinet again, March, 1890; M. Emile Loubet,
February, 1892 ; M. Ribot, December, 1892 ; M.
Ribot again, January, 1893; M. Dupuy, April, 1893;
M. Casimir Perier, December, 1893; M- Dupuy
again, May, 1894; M. Ribot again, January, 1895;
M. L^on Bourgeois, November, 1895 J ^- Meline,
April, 1896; M. Henri Brisson again, June, 1898;
M. Dupuy again, November, 1898; M. Waldeck-
Rousseau, June, 1899; M. Emile Combes, June,
1902; M. Maurice Rouvier, January, 1905; M.
Sarrien, March, 1906. M. Georges Clemenceau
attains Cabinet rank in October, 1906, saluted as a
sort of saviour by his adulators, and positively howled
at as an agent of destruction to whom M. Fallieres
has delivered up France, by his numerous and
unrelenting adversaries.

Leaving this remarkable man, I must now go on
to the Boulangist period and its various and exciting
episodes, of which I was generally a front-rank
spectator.

Ernest Boulanger, or " Emperor Ernest," as we




J'hnto]



Ai^jrAxD Fallieres



fPiioii



To face p. 80.



FORTY YEARS OF PARIS 81

learn from the Holienlohe revelations he was called
facetiously by Kaiser Wilhelm, was quite forgotten
in his own country as well as elsewhere until the
monumental " Denkwurdigkeiten," which have en-
lightened and entertained the world, appeared in
October, 1906. That jogged our memories, to use
a common phrase, and the ghost of Boulanger
glimmered through the voluminous pages of the
Teutonic revealer of revelations who has been
unjustly stigmatised as a mere " shirt-cuff recorder."
Whether mere shirt-cuff jotter or recorder, Fiirst
Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfiirst deserves
immortality. Writes Chlodwig about Boulanger, in
recording a family supper at the Schloss on the Spree
on January 23, 1889: "The present Emperor,
speaking of France, expressed the opinion that
Boulanger would certainly succeed. He looked
forward to seeing Boulanger pay a visit to Berlin
as the ' Emperor Ernest.' He was going to appoint
Radziwill and Lehndorff to be in attendance on him."
Poor Emperor Ernest ! He never went to Berlin as
a distinguished visitor, but ended his meteoric career
in obloquy and in want. The man had actually been
living on the revenues of his mistress, Madame de
Bonnemain, for whom he discarded a prosaic but
generous-hearted wife. Madame Boulanger, who had
some private means, had offered to keep her husband
in his old age, but he went on living with the other
lady ; and when she died of phthisis in the gloomy
Hotel Men^elle in Brussels, he shot himself over her
grave in the cemetery of Ixelles in October, 1891.

The recent revival of the gossip about differences
between Bismarck and the present German Emperor,

7



82 FORTY YEARS OF PARIS

and notably the Inkpot incident, recalls also an
episode in the life of Boulanger. He was once at a
Cabinet Council in the Elysee over which M. Gr6vy
presided. Boulanger was War Minister, and had
been storming about the Schnoebele incident and the
doings of the Germans in Alsace and Lorraine, which
nearly brought about a conflict in 1887. Boulanger
was angered over the temporising and procrastinating
attitude of the peace-loving M. Grevy, so he flung
his portfolio on the ministerial table, overturning the
contents of an inkpot on the spotless white waistcoat
which the President was wearing, the season being
the late spring.

The first time that I saw Boulanger was in the
Chamber of Deputies shortly after the formation of
the Freycinet Cabinet of January 7, 1886. M. de
Freycinet was constantly referred to at that time by
the absurd phrase "the little white mouse of the
Luxembourg." He was supposed to be full of low
cunning, but the Germans thought a good deal of
him, as we also learn from the " Denkwiirdigkeiten."
It was current gossip that Boulanger was foisted on
M. de Freycinet by M. Clemenceau, to whom the
General was supposed to be related. That Cabinet
included, besides the chief, M. de Freycinet, who
was also Minister for Foreign Affairs, and General
Boulanarer, who was at the War Office, M. Sarrien
as Minister of the Interior, M. Sadi Carnot as
Minister of Finance, M. Goblet as Minister of Public
Instruction, M. Baihaut as Public Works Minister,
while M. Lockroy held the portfolio of Commerce.

Of these Ministers one, M. Carnot, was President
of the Republic, helped to obliterate Boulanger, and



FORTY YEARS OF PARIS 83

fell a victim to the dagger of the assassin. Another,
M. Baihaut, came to great grief, and was for a time
in prison. Boulanger's fate was also tragic. The
General, as I said, I first saw in the Chamber. He
stood up to speak on some question concerning his
department, and had hardly begun when a lunatic in
the Strangers' Gallery fired a shot from a revolver.
The bullet whizzed over Boulanger's head and went
into the wall. The lunatic, who had adopted that
lively method of calling attention to his alleged
grievances against the Government, was hustled out
of the gallery by the ushers and carried to the
dungeons of the Palais Bourbon, whence he was sent
to the central police station.

Boulanger remained calm in the rostrum and
continued his speech. He was then the wearer of
an ordinary moustache, and had not assumed the
dark-brown beard which subsequently gave him the
appearance of that more celebrated and more historic
character. General Prim. After that incident in the
Chamber, comparatively little attention was paid to
Boulanger until the memorable episode of July 14,
1886. That day President Grevy drove out to
the military review at Longchamps on the occasion
of the national fete. The President and the Ministers
were all in their sombre official dress. Boulanger, on
the other hand, captivated the crowd by his smart,
soldier-like appearance on a superb black charger,
newly saddled and caparisoned for effect. He even
had the audacity to make the charger prance and
curvet before the central seat or " tribune " wherein
sat the President, a crowd of ladies, including the wives
of the ambassadors, and some foreigners of distinction.



84 FORTY YEARS OF PARIS

Paris then went wild over Boulanger, and Paulus,
the " comic lion " and wine-merchant, sang for months
with immense success the stirring " En revenant de la
Revue." The more sensational events of Boulanger's
career have filled volumes. I propose, therefore, just
to give succinctly the political events leading up to
his exclusion from the Administration and to his fall.

The beginning of the year 1887 was the most
momentous in the history of the Third Republic.
M. Goblet, who had succeeded M. de Freycinet in
December, 1886, with Boulanger still at the War
Office, was harried from all sides. Both he and
Freycinet believed in Boulanger, who was hotly
opposed by Ferry, Ribot, and Clemenceau. Then
came the Schnoebele incident already referred to,
an incident subsequently arranged on a juridical basis
when M. Flourens was at the Foreign Office. In
May, 1887, the whole of the Senate and four-fifths
of the Chamber agreed that Boulanger was the danger
and that he should be got rid of. M. Goblet was
then defeated by an anti-Boulangist coalition, but
on, ostensibly, a finance question, and a new Cabinet
was formed by that remarkable emergency man,
M. Maurice Rouvier. Into this combination entered
Messrs. Fallieres, Spuller, Mazeau, and Barbey, all
staunch friends of Jules Ferry. The War portfolio



Online LibraryWalter F LonerganForty years of Paris → online text (page 6 of 25)