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GAMBETTA 




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GAMBETTA 



BY 



PAUL DESCHANEL 

President of the French Republic 



NEW YORK 

DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY 

1920 






GIFT 

PUSUSHER 



Pvinted in Great Britair.. 



FOREWORD 

When M. Louis Battifol asked me for a book on 
Gambetta, and expressed a desire that its publication should 
coincide with the signing of Peace, I felt it impossible to 
decline the honour. I wrote these pages during the rare 
moments of leisure allowed to me by my duties in the 
Chamber; and thus, in a certain sense, I lived through the 
two wars at one and the same time. 1 disregarded all pane- 
gyrics, all pamphlets, all legends, whether flattering or not : 
1 sought the truth alone — and no homage could be greater. 
I have ignored the enthusiasms and hot-headed passions of 
our youth, and even the claims of gratitude — for it was 
Gambetta who launched me on the life of politics. In this 
book, only one passion is to be found : the passion for France. 
He loved her ardently. He gave his whole life for her. He 
will live in history as the personification of the nation's resist- 
ance in 1870. His ideal was always the regeneration of 
his country. His memory is for ever associated with the 
restoration of justice. P. D. 



CONTENTS 

PART I 

BEFORE THE WAR (1838-1870) 

CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

HIS CHILDHOOD AND EARLY CAREER 3 

CHAPTER II 

THE BAUDIN CASE AND GAMBETTA'S ELECTION AS A DEPUTY . 21 

CHAPTER III 

THE QUARREL WITH PRUSSIA 34 

PART II 

THE WAR (1870-1871) 

CHAPTER IV 

NATIONAL DEFENCE 47 

CHAPTER V 

GAMBETTA AT TOURS 66 

CHAPTER VI 

THE DELEGATION OF TOURS AND THE MILITARY OPERATIONS . 78 

CHAPTER VII 

THE END OF THE DELEGATION 99 

CHAPTER VIII 

WAR A OUTRANGE Ill 



CONTENTS 
PART III 

THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND THE ESTABLISHMENT 
OF THE REPUBLIC (1871-1875) 

CHAPTER IX ^^„ 

THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY I37 

CHAPTER X 

THE NEW REPUBLIC I52 

CHAPTER XI 

THE FALL OF THIERS ! MARSHAL MACMAHON .... 169 

CHAPTER XII 

GAMBETTA AND THE CONSTITUTION 184 

CHAPTER XIII 

THE SPIRIT OF THE 1875 CONSTITUTION 200 

PART IV 

THE EARLY STAGES OF PARLIAMENTARY REPUBLIC 

(1876-1882) 

CHAPTER XIV 

GAMBETTA'S ideas 211 

CHAPTER XV 

THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY . . 226 

CHAPTER XVI 

GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK : THE PRESIDENCY OF THE CHAMBER 246 

CHAPTER XVII 

" THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE " : " THE DICTATORSHIP " 27I 

CHAPTER XVIII 

THE GRAND MINISTRY . . 297 

CHAPTER XIX 

DEATH 312 



Bibliography 



331 



Index 333 

viii 



PART I 

BEFORE THE WAR 

(1838-1870) 



CHAPTER I 

HIS CHILDHOOD AND EARLY CAREER 

Montfaucon and Cahors — Student Life (Jan., 1857-June, 1861) — Intellectual 
Development — The Young Lawyer (June, 1861) — The Buette Case (July, 1862) 
— The Young Friend of the Five — An Unelected Deputy (1868). 

Among the glories of the Gulf of Genoa, on the lowest slope 
of the Apennines, between Savona and Varazze, a little town 
looks out upon the sea from the shelter of two headlands. 
It is Celle in Liguria, the cradle of the Gambettas. From 
Celle Baptiste Gambetta, Leon's grandfather, sailed to the 
coast of France with the produce of his own coast, sweet oil, 
macaroni, vermicelli and pottery; then, from Cette, the 
Languedoc Canal took him to Toulouse, and he explored the 
tributaries of the Garonne in search of fresh markets. In 
18 18 he arrived at Cahors, and, liking the place, he settled 
down there with his three sons, Paul, Michel and Joseph, and 
started a crockery and grocery business in the Place du 
March6. In 1824 the statesman's father, Joseph, in accord- 
ance with the custom in such families, made a voyage to Chili 
as a ten-year-old cabin-boy, in a sailing-vessel from the 
Genoese Riviera : a vessel that carried as passengers — so it is 
said — Garibaldi and the priest Mastai, afterwards Pope 
Pius IX. In his old age Baptiste returned to Celle to die, 
taking with him his eldest son and leaving the two others 
at Cahors. When their success in business was assured they 
began to trade independently. Joseph opened the Genoese 
Bazaar in the Place de la Cathedrale, and on July 25, 1837, 
at the age of twenty-three, married a girl of twenty-two 
named Marie Magdeleine Massabie, the daughter of a chemist 

3 B 1 



GAMBETTA 

at Moli^res, in Tarn-et-Garonne. Of this marriage was born, 
on April 2, 1838, on the second storey of a house in the Rue 
du Lycee, the future Minister of National Defence. 

Genoese, Gascon and Cahorsin — such was Gambetta. 
Genoa gave him adaptability, charm and talent; Gascony 
gave him dash, daring and natural eloquence ; Cahors gave 
him his tenacious will. The Genoese Riviera evokes visions 
of stormy achievement, of great lives of adventure, of 
Columbus, Sixtus IV., Julius II., Mazzini, Garibaldi; Cahors 
recalls scenes of bitter struggle and fierce, tenacious resis- 
tance to besieging foes; thus the orator's eloquence at times 
was like Bessieres or Murat charging the enemy. There was 
in him something akin to those practical doges who succeeded 
in founding the firmest of governments amid the distractions 
of civil strife. The people of the Ligurian coast have deeper 
emotions, more violent and unbridled desires, and more im- 
perious wills than ours. It was natural that he should dare 
greatly, that he should seize Fate as she passed and force her 
to follow him. 

When he was four years old his father placed him in the 
Petits-Carmes, at Cahors. When he was eight his life was 
endangered by an internal complaint that made him ill for a 
month. He was believed to be dying : the same malady 
troubled him all his life, and finally killed him at the height 
of his powers, both mental and physical. His next school 
was the little college at Montfaucon. At the age of ten he 
was a republican, writing to his father : " Vive Cavaignac ! " 
(sic), " Down with Bonaparte! " A year later an accident 
cost him his right eye. During the holidays he was in the 
habit of visiting one of his father's neighbours, a cutler by 
trade. One day a workman was drilling a hole in a knife- 
handle of horn. The child, in his anxiety to watch the work 
at close quarters, hid beneatTi the bench, then suddenly sprang 
out from his hiding-place. At the same instant the drill 
passed beyond the edge of the bench and struck the eye of 
the boy, who fainted away, and was drenched with blood. 

When he was fourteen he entered the Lycee at Cahors. 
His professor of rhetoric, M. Arnault, a man well versed in 

4 



HIS CHILDHOOD AND EARLY CAREER 

the humanities, divined his abilities. A speech that pur- 
ported to be addressed by fi'tienne Marcel to the States- 
General of 1356, but was signed L^on Gambetta, went the 
round of the Lyc6e. He already loved Rabelais. He knew 
the Olynthiennes by heart, and never forgot them; and seven 
years later, when in the country with Clement Laurier, the 
young lawyer one evening recited a speech of Demosthenes 
with an imaginative fervour that won the admiration of 
Villemain. 

At the age of eighteen he was admitted to the degree of 
Bachelor. The boy had long been dreaming of Italy, of 
Celle in Liguria; and his father took him there as a reward. 
His beautiful letters to his mother during these first travels 
were full of enthusiasm. He wrote of Montpellier, Lunel, 
Aigues-Mortes : "At Aigues-Mortes I saw the sea for the 
first time; it is much the most magnificent sight among the 
finest that Nature gives us"; of Nimes and its arenas; of 
Marseilles — *' Marseilles is at our feet, and in the distance is 
Corsica, an enchanting and intoxicating picture that gives 
one a glimpse of the wonders of Italy"; of Italy itself; of 
Nice, where he was fated to lie in his last sleep, in ground 
that was no longer Italian, but French ; and of the splendour 
of the Genoese Riviera, where every turn of the Corniche 
reveals new beauties. In every drop of his blood was a 
passionate love for that Latin sea, whose son indeed he was. 

At last he came to Celle and its pretty late-Renaissance 
church, with the rare marbles, and the pictures by Raphael's 
beloved pupil, Perino del Vaga, and the rich embroideries 
given by the Queen of Naples. Here he found his grand- 
father, with " the most adorable old head anyone ever saw, 
and magnificent hair, soft as that of a boy but whiter than 
snow, and a skin whiter than his hair, and a smile on his little 
pink lips, and his whole face lit up by a pair of still brilliant 
little black eyes"; and here, too, were friends, sailors and 
fishermen, honest, serious folk, inured to hard work, " with 
something in them still of the rocks and mountains," as Dante 
said. Here, in a narrow, climbing street, a commemorative 
tablet shows the simple house with a two-windowed frontage, 

5 



GAMBETTA 

where Joseph was born when imperial France encroached on 
Lombardy. There I once saw Gambetta's cousin, Angelina 
Ghersi, a net-maker, whose mother was Joseph's sister : a true 
Gambetta, with the same profile, the same colouring, the 
same vivid, alert, magnetic glance, the same fire in eye and 
speech, despite her seventy-seven years. She told me secrets. 
" When Leon was here," she said, " he lived on the shore. 
He wanted to marry my sister, who was better-looking than 
I, but his father was against it because she had no dowry." 

The Saracen origin of these people is evident. All along 
this coast the Phoenician type, dark colouring with the nose 
arched, can be distinguished from the Ligurian type, chestnut 
hair and light eyes. Gambetta has been called a Jew. The 
Gambettas have been Catholics for generations, and strict 
Catholics, moreover; several of Leon's uncles were priests. 

After Celle the travellers visited the battlefield of Monte- 
notte : "It was there that Bonaparte performed his wonders, 
and won glory and Italy. Before seeing this country one 
regards Bonaparte as a great tactician, but when once one has 
seen his battle-grounds one begins to say ' He was the God 
of War!'" 

Next came Genoa the Superb, and her palaces. He who in 
later years could discourse so understandingly of Memling, 
Van Eyck and Reynolds, of Turners, Corots and Millets (he 
never liked music : it actually repelled him), would no doubt 
have described to his mother the incomparable Titians of the 
Palazzo Rosso, and the alluring vv^oman whom the painter 
loved, if the galleries of these great houses had at that time 
been open to such humble visitors. 

They returned by way of Turin, the Alps, Savoy, Grenoble 
and Lyons. He came back to his home dazzled and 
enchanted, with a heart eager for further adventures, other 
delights and other dreams. 

His father, who had worked long and hard, and knew the 
value of money, feared the unknown for his son ; he wished 
to make a sound merchant of him and keep him in the 
counting-house. But the women — his mother, sister and 
aunt — foresaw a different sort of future for him. The mayor 

6 



HIS CHILDHOOD AND EARLY CAREER 

of the town, M. Achille Bessi^res, who had his eye on the 
boy, came to their aid. The father yielded at last, and sent 
him to Paris to study law. He was then nineteen. His 
wings were spread and his star was in sight : in ten years' 
time he was to conquer Paris — and fame. 

Then followed the life of a poor student in the Quartier 
Latin. He slept under the roof in biting cold, "feasted on 
eighteen sous a day," and wrote by the light of a street-lamp. 
He hoped, with the help of one of his former masters at Mont- 
faucon, to find some pupils, but " Fortune is so full of caprice, 
especially in her dealings with young men, as Charles V. 
said ! " In order to buy some winter clothes he arranged to 
correct Greek proof-sheets for a printer during the vacation. 

His father was at first disturbed and irritated, but said 
nothing. To reassure him and win him over, the boy made 
a joke of his hardships, showing not only deep respect but 
also considerable skill in his dealings with a parent who loved 
him truly, but seemed harsh because he knew the cruelty of a 
struggle with poverty, and because he feared Paris. It 
required constant diplomacy on the boy's part to secure the 
modest supplies that enabled him to live while he was climb- 
ing the ladder. When once his studies were finished, he 
felt, he could decide whether to follow his father's trade or to 
attempt a legal career. His letters, which overflow with 
gratitude and tender feeling, give evidence of a heart of gold 
and an immense craving for love. They reflect perfectly the 
virtues of the French family : hard work, economy, mutual 
devotion, and — though these sons of the people must count 
every franc and even every copper— the greatest delicacy of 
feeling, the greatest moral refinement. Every word in them 
is innocent, refreshing and wholesome. 

In his cold lodging he sees, mentally, the " red and green " 
waters of the Lot, the narrow valleys with their rough yellow 
soil and dark grass, " the rugged landscape where, between 
two mountain sides, is hidden the house which shelters certain 
heads that are dearer than the daylight ' ' ; and he breathes 
the scent of the orange-blossoms and verbenas that make that 
southern landscape sweet. And these fragrant scenes are 



GAMBETTA 

illuminated here and there by the great hope that is dawning 
on the horizon and gilds the mountain-tops: "France is 
awakening. The time is near. You will smile, perhaps ; it 
is true that I am too impetuous; but the people's sufferings 
are so great that a moment of enthusiasm m.ay well be for- 
given ! " (June 9, 1857.) 

In his twentieth year he was present at the trial of Orsini. 
On the one side was Chaix d'Est-Ange, and on the other were 
Jules Favre, Cremieux and Liouville. " I have been pre- 
paring my heart, my ears, and my memory for a week. 
O Fate! when shall I be preparing my words? " He prac- 
tised on a funeral oration by Bossuet, and speeches by 
Mirabeau, Vergniaud and Danton, trying to imitate the 
different orators by varying the intonation, inflexions and 
rhythm. 

On October 29, 1859, during the vacation, he made at the 
mairie at Cahors the declaration imposed by law upon all 
children born in France to foreign fathers. Thenceforward 
he was French. 

At the age of twenty-two he passed all his examinations 
with brilliant success. "The high road lies open before us; 
we must take it resolutely, head in air, and fight well. I am 
quite ready. . . . Oh, how I am longing to speak. My 
tongue is on fire. / am afraid of being afraid, as Montaigne 
said. When will that grand day come ? I read and re-read 
the masters of speech ; I learn all I can by going to the 
theatre and the courts; I look everywhere for lessons and 
models. Why should I hide it from you, dear father ? I am 
devoured by ambition. But, after all, ambition is not a 
crime ! Pride is a force, and, with work for a lever and 
necessity to spur him on, what cannot be achieved by an 
enthusiastic and honest youth, who has his father's whole 
life for an example? " (February 27, i860.) 

His instructors urged him to try for a fellowship and a 
professor's career, but this time it was his fate to fail. He 
was called to the Bar, and took the oath on June 8, 1861. 

His father wished him to practise at Cahors, but the women 
of the family insisted on his being left in Paris. His father 

8 



HIS CHILDHOOD AND EARLY CAREER 

consented on one condition : that the young lawyer's aunt, 
Jenny Massabie, should join him there and preside over his 
modest establishment. To the last Gambetta gave a son's 
love to this aunt, who devoted herself to him with single- 
hearted adoration : " I shall always be deeply grateful to her 
for her striking proof of affection in sacrificing her whole 
future to my happiness ; for I know very well that her presence 
will change me completely, and that study will become my 
daily bread, instead of being, as hitherto, carried on by fits 
and starts." 

For his contemporaries he became a centre, a rallying-point, 
a leader : he attracted them in Paris as he had attracted them 
at Cahors. And he talked, and talked, and talked ! Every 
chair was his rostrum. This group of ardent youths met of 
an evening at the Caf^ Procope, in the Rue de I'Ancienne- 
Com^die, as once Piron, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques, Diderot, 
d'Alembert and d'Holbach had been wont to meet, and 
Danton and his friends, and as Verlaine and Mor6as met 
afterwards. There he practised his art, attacking, retorting, 
improvising on every kind of subject with magnificent assur- 
ance and the fury of one possessed — but the sort of fury that 
knows what it is aiming at and stops when it chooses — ^in a 
voice of thunder and a strong provincial accent, overflowing 
with life, bursting with energy, all fire and keenness, all 
impetuosity and magnetism. 

Soon the left bank of the Seine no longer satisfied him, and 
he crossed the bridges. In the cafes of the boulevards he 
met and became intimate with SpuUer, H6brard, and the 
editors of the leading journals of the opposition : h'Avenir 
national, he Journal de Paris, h'Opinion, he Reveil, he 
Steele, he Temps, ha Tribune, etc. Meanwhile he worked in 
the chambers of M. de Jouy, a nephew of the dramatist. 

On the death of Cavour he wrote " An Address to Young 
Italy," which was published in all the papers : ** Cavour has 
died of patriotism, a glorious and devouring disease that 
attacks none but the great-hearted. Nations that aspire to 
greatness must, like heroes, be educated in the school of 
misfortune." 



GAMBETTA 

His self-confidence and enthusiasm increased day by day. 
On August 15, 1861, he wrote : " My dear father, I am taking 
advantage of this fete-day, when all the people are in the 
streets and all the lawyers in the country, to chat with you 
fora moment. The town is full of noises, and they all go on 
under my windows. I am thankful to escape for an instant 
from this tumultuous life, and to fly in thought to the calm- 
ness of the family circle, where happiness seems to consist in 
silence fraught with emotion. Yet it is of my emotions that 
I am going to talk to you. I am going to make my debut on 
Thursday; my heart is beating fast, but it is with courage. 
I am longing to experience the baptism of the Bar ; I shall 
never be so happy again ; the first steps of a career have the 
glamour of mystery. During the past three months I have 
been listening to all the lawyers in the Courts, and, I say it 
without pride, my hopes are twice as high as before. Six 
months ago I trembled to think of opposing the great men 
at the top of the tree ; now, I am full of a feeling that has a 
strong resemblance to audacity ; but it is an appropriate 
moment to quote Danton's version of the words of Christ : 
' The audacious and the violent shall inherit the earth ! ' " 

He was successful, and afterwards spoke every week. 
La Gazette des Trihunaux reports his first speech in the assize- 
courts, in a case concerned with false coin. 

The dossiers filled him with delight : " From all these ivory- 
yellow papers there emanates, like an acrid scent, a troubled 
sort of consciousness that mounts to my brain and gives me a 
fever for work. It is almost grasping the palm with one's 
hand, to desire it so intensely ! " (October 31, 1861.) 

He was introduced to Ernest Picard, Emile Ollivier and 
Jules Favre ; and in December was admitted to the Conference 
Mole, over which he was soon to preside. The junior Bar 
entrusted him with the composition of an address to Berryer, 
to celebrate the latter 's fiftieth year of legal practice. 

On December 30, 1861, he wrote : " Thanks to you and all 
your efforts and sacrifices, dear father, I am at the dawn of a 
beautiful day ! When noontide comes I shall go to you, and 
with my arms round your neck I shall say : Father, you made 

10 



HIS CHILDHOOD AND EARLY CAREER 

my happiness, and I can best show my gratitude by bringing 
it to be shared witli you." 

When he lost a certain case in which Nicolet was his oppo- 
nent, he avenged himself so thoroughly in the lawyers' con- 
ference that he was congratulated by Jules Favre and 
Cremieux. " Cr^mieux came up and pressed my hand and 
embraced me; he wanted to know my name, my age and 
whence I came. He foretold the most splendid future in the 
world for me, and invited me to go and see him regularly. I 
had tears in my eyes, I was drunk with joy." (February 14, 
1862.) 

These joyous fireworks on the part of ambitious youth were 
modified by a steady presentiment that a crisis was approach- 
ing : " The political situation grows blacker every day. One 
hears ominous cracking sounds. Who knows whether the 
time is not at hand, as Christ said ? The minds of the public 
are greatly disturbed : the debates in the Chambers, the 
industrial crisis, the financial crisis, and the general difficulties 
that beset the country have darkened the horizon profoundly. 
It is a time for heaving the lead, to find out where we are and 
v/hither we are going. Towards a change, that is certain ; 
God grant it may be a useful change and a good one! " 
(February 25, 1862.) 

" In the Conference des Avocats," he writes in the follow- 
ing month, " I was cheered, and almost carried aloft in 
triumph. So many mouths congratulated me all at once, so 
many hands were held out to mine in gratitude for the 
pleasure I had given — so their owners declared — that I was 
wild with delight, and so I am still as I write to you. I am 
in a state of rapture, and I send you my success and joy as 
the finest bouquet for your birthday ! " 

He was just twenty-one when he wrote, on April 12 : " How 
can I describe my successes to you ? They fulfil all m}^ 
wishes. Yesterday I secured a favourable verdict that gave 
me great pleasure. A poor old woman was prosecuted for 
causing the death of a little child who had been placed in her 
care ; her advanced age, her poverty and her innocence, in 
which I believed, filled me with the keenest sympathy for her. 

II 



GAMBETTA 

I defended her with all the ardour at my command, and had 
the happiness of procuring her acquittal. Oh ! as you will 
easily believe, there is no amount of money that can give us 
such delight or move us so profoundly. I shall have one of 
these performances ready for you some day, when I have you 
safe in Paris." 

At Clement Laurier's request he wrote an unsigned sketch 
of Lachaud for La Cour d Assises of May lo, 1862, in which 
his description of the " grand avocat des passions " was vir- 
tually a portrait of himself, of his own opinion and vision of 
himself — himself as he fain would be — untrammelled, spon- 
taneous, natural, the impetuous debater, shattering the 
armour of his foe. " His speech is sudden as the lightning. 
When carried away by anger, he growls, like a lion tearing 
his prey. His natural vivacity fascinates and dominates his 
audience, leading them whither he will. He sees everything, 
grasps everything, guesses everything, and all in the space of 
a few minutes. He looks his opponent in the lace, and it 
would seem as though that opponent was forced to provide 
him, on the instant, with the means of his own undoing. In 
a moment the full strength of his greatest gift bursts forth : 
that sovereign gift of speech, excited by the heat of debate. 
For it is on the spot, in the court, that he creates and con- 
ceives, moulds and gives life to his work. . . . There is no 
preparation, no arrangement of ideas : note-books are not for 
such as he ! His memory is not a mere retention of phrases 
and words, but rather an acutely sensitive consciousness which 
retains every impression it receives, and in a moment can find 
all the ideas that have struck it, reviving them more than 
recollecting them." This anonymous portrait, drawn by him 
at the age of twenty-four, gives us an accurate sketch of him- 
self in later years. 

His activities were many : he devoured everything that 
came his way. His delight in Rabelais persisted, and he 
could recite Grandgousier's letters to Gargantua by heart. 
He loved the sense of reality, the sense of proportion, the 
"expedient"; he loved, too, the excitements of the vivid 
language that, in the burning desire to prove and convince, 

12 



HIS CHILDHOOD AND EARLY CAREER 

breaks into tongues of flame, or, in a positive orgy of reason, 
rolls on and on like the rising tide. In after years it was his 
boast that he possessed the famous copy of Pantagruel that 
the Regent used to read at Mass. He recited Hugo's poems, 
too : La Legende des Siecles, and hes Chdtiments'. 

He was an admirer of Richelieu and Mirabeau, having the 
same conception of government and the same taste for diplo- 
macy. The notes in which Mirabeau points out to the Court 
the necessity for reorganising the administration and re-estab- 
lishing a strong Government, and the letters to the Comte 
de la Marck, especially appealed to him. He liked neither 
Rousseau nor Robespierre. Danton, on the other hand, 
attracted him; but in Danton's tragic greatness there was 
always a hint of the petty bourgeois ; whereas in Gambetta 
there was a plebeian element, mingled with his artistic in- 
stincts and his professional tastes. Proudhon was his daily 
bread : " There is no more virile mind in our day, nor one to 
whom I owe so much as to him." Auguste Comte exercised 
a great and ever-increasing influence over him— Comte, who 
would have sacrificed progress to order, and hated instability, 
and desired a strong central authority; who preached the 
glorification of science and the necessity for depending upon 
reason, and took as one of his formulae, " the immanence of 
justice." 

In these things we see the man's growth. We see, too, the 
marked difference between him and the republicans of his day. 
He believed that the nation's sovereignty should be exercised 
through a strong Government. He had a taste and feeling 
for authority, combined with a natural tendency towards 
argument and compromise. 

In March, 1862, the police invented a plot against the safety 
of Europe, and arrested about fifty persons, among whom was 
one Louis Buette, a mechanic. Though he was only twenty- 
two, his employers had already made him a foreman. He 
would not employ a counsel; he had no wish to defend him- 
self ; his only desire was to use the trial as a means of express- 
ing his ideas and influencing public opinion. His sister 
appealed to Jules Favre, at that time Bdtonnier [Treasurer of 

13 



GAMBETTA 

the Benchers], to save her brother. Jules Favre sent her to 
M. le Chatelier, who referred her to M. de Sal, who in his 
turn suggested Gambetta. " I will defend your brother as 
though he were my own ! " he cried. He hurried to Mazas. 
Buette, in his surprise, at first refused help, but his extempore 
counsel won him over, and a friendship was begun that was 
only ended by death. Buette revealed to him the working- 
man's world : his sufferings and aspirations, his thirst for 
justice and his large-hearted idealism. There, in the little 
cell at Mazas, Gambetta for the first time came in contact with 
the proletariat ; it was there that he learnt to know and love 
the generous, enthusiastic hearts of the people. 

Two days later the fifty-four conspirators were brought to 
trial. The counsel for the defence included the cream of the 
Republican Bar : Cr^mieux, Emmanuel Arago, Jules Ferry, 
Charles Floquet and the younger men who were the hope of 
the party, Leon Renault, Spuller, Cresson, de Sal, Laurier, 
C16ry and Durier. Gambetta began to speak, throwing back 
his long black hair, and, with his eyes starting from his head, 
described in his resonant voice the laborious and blameless 
life led by Buette. But soon he passed from the defensive to 
the attack : " And you call yourselves a strong Government ! 
.You are only a Government by accident ! " He quoted the 
trial of Jesus, paraphrasing the words of the Gospel, "thou 
art not Caesar's friend " ; he recalled the Passion, and pointing 
to the figure of Christ that hung above the judges, cried : 
" Insidiatores! Spies ! Yes, they were spies who nailed Him 
to the Cross ! ' ' 

Buette was condemned only to three months' imprison- 
ment. Cremieux, introducing Gambetta to his friends, said : 
"This is M. Gambetta, the great success in the trial of the 
fifty-four." He made him his secretary. " It will be a great 
pleasure to me to see your ability developing under my eyes. 
We shall have good cause to be very proud of it some day, if 
you combine persistent work with your natural gifts." 
(October i6, 1862.) 

He owed much to Laurier's efforts. It was Laurier who 
introduced him to Cremieux, and took him to see Villemain, 

14 



HIS CHILDHOOD AND EARLY CAREER 

the permanent secretary of the Academie Fran9aise. " I am 
in the seventh heaven ! " he declared. 

Since fees were now coming in, he left the Rue Vavin for 
the Rue Bonaparte. The little table of his new dwelling was 
surrounded on Sundays by the faithful Pephau, Fieuzal, 
Cendre and SpuUer, who discussed his old wine from Cahors 
and tasted the excellent dishes of his own country. " If for- 
tune continues to smile on me," he says, " I shall soon be able 
to leave off burdening my family ; indeed, who knows whether 
I might not be useful to them ? I long for nothing so much 
as the day when I can show my gratitude for the sacrifices 
they have made for me." 

On January i, 1863, he writes to his mother : " How can I 
express to you, my sweet mother, all that I feel deep down in 
my heart ? What words can make you understand my grati- 
tude and love ? Are you not the bravest of mothers and most 
devoted of wives? Ought I not tO' be the most loving, the 
most dutiful and the proudest of sons? I will see to it that 
the rest you have so well deserved shall some day be a glorious 
rest, happy and undisturbed. Courage ! the goal is 
near. . ." 

To his father he sajs: "I am getting into my stride! 
People are beginning to take note of me, and I greatly hope 
that before many years are gone I shall be able to say, as I 
kiss the two persons to whom I owe everything : ' This is 
what I am, this is what I am worth : it is your work, and it is 
my joy to bring it to you! ' . . ." Then, alluding to a 
"little disagreement" on a question of philosophy, he goes 
on : " Our little quarrel only arose from a misunderstanding. 
It is not possible that you could have doubted my heart or my 
intelligence, or could have believed any casual rumour that 
was going about, with regard to my opinions and philosophi- 
cal ideas. As for religious ideas, and the great idea of God, 
I am too rational, both in politics and ethics, to give it up. 
Moreover, as you very justly said, it is one of the most valu- 
able resources of eloquence. So you may make your mind 
easy; to that I am still faithful." (March g.) 

From thit time forward he was associated with all the most 

^5 



GAMBETTA 

influential men of the Republican party. He was a member 
of the committees formed to draw up the lists of candidates 
for the legislative elections of 1863. In the Quartier Latin, 
Adolphe Gu6roult, editor of L'Opinion Nationale, one of the 
principal organs of the Democratic party, was opposed by 
Pr^vost-Paradol, the brilliant product of the ficoles Normales, 
the champion of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary 
liberties, and the favourite of Orleanist salons. Gambetta 
believed that the Empire could receive no harder blow than 
the election of the young and mordant controversialist of the 
Journal des Debats -^ he alone, of the Republicans, entered the 
lists on behalf of Prevost-Paradol. This first act of his public 
life is the key to many others. He was exuberant, enthusias- 
tic and vehement, it is true, but political expediency had the 
last word with him. He weighed, he measured, he calculated. 
Was it not he who said: " What is needed for governing 
France is violence in speech and moderation in action"? 
From the very beginning, as we have seen, the complexity of 
his temperament was apparent. 

But there was another and a more profound reason that led 
him to support Prevost-Paradol against Gu6roult : his views 
on the progress of European affairs coincided, from this time 
forward, with those of the former, and were opposed to those 
of the latter. Like the whole democratic school since 181 5, 
Gu^roult had, in the name of the principle of nationalities, 
embraced the cause of " Protestant and Liberal " Prussia, in 
opposition to " ultramontane and despotic" Austria. Three 
years later Gu^roult's paper, L'Opinion Nationale, with all the 
organs of the Left, rejoiced over Austria's defeat at Sadowa. 
Paradol and his friends, on the contrary, considered that two 
nations were defeated in that battle, Austria and France. 
Gambetta was of that opinion, and was in this respect far 
more in sympathy with Thiers and the Orleanists than he was 
with the Republicans. His letters and intimate conversations 
leave no doubt on that subject. But in this year 1863 he was 
still obscure and unknown ; his opinion was of no account. 

This year was marked by a serious crisis in the history of 
the Second Empire. The party of the Opposition, which 

16 



HIS CHILDHOOD AND EARLY CAREER 

since 1857 had boasted of only five members, Jules Favre, 
Ernest Picard, Emile Ollivier, H^non and Darimon, was 
increased to thirty-five, among whom were Thiers and 
Berryer. 

During this summer Gambetta appeared in a variety of 
cases : in Lorraine, Belgium, Alsace, Burgundy and Berry. 
" Ovations," he reports. " The future is at last growing 
bright. It is going to be radiant." In the autumn he was 
made much of at L'Epineau, Laurier's home. 

On his return to Paris he constantly visited the Chamber. 
Though not yet a Deputy himself, he knew all the Deputies, 
and followed public affairs closely. One day, when the hall 
was full and there was not a seat left, a Deputy approached 
the President, the Due de Morny, and begged for a corner 
for the young friend of the Five. " M. Gambetta shall be put 
into my tribune," answered Morny. " I have heard a great 
deal of him, and shall not be sorry to see him." And, raising 
his glasses, the President proceeded to inspect the young 
barrister. 

Thiers said of him : " If he does not warp his judgment in 
private discussions, his qualities will soon become conspicu- 
ous." " An atmosphere of political genius surrounds him," 
said another. 

He appeared in some literary lawsuits, which brought his 
name before the world of writers. " The audience," he writes 
on November 8, 1863, "was adorned by some of the most 
eloquent tongues in Paris, from the editors of the Figaro and 
the Nain Jaune to the solemn secretaries of two Academies. 
I enjoyed a good hour of vivacity and inspiration. This little 
success went the round of Paris." 

In February of the next year he says : " Fortune smiles 
upon me. I agree with Mazarin : I believe in Fate ! One 
always worships the gods that favour one. I have been 
successful everywhere beyond my hopes ! " And in August : 
" Forward! That is my battle-cry ! " 

He was retained, with Jules Ferry, in the trial of the 
Thirteen, and played a brilliant part in several cases connected 
with the Press. In his defence of the Revue du Progres, 

17 C 



GAMBETTA 

which had been denounced in a charge by the Bishop of 
Orleans, Mgr. Dupanloup, he attacked the Solicitor-General. 
The editor of the review, Xavier de Ricard, who was present, 
describes the scene thus: "All the enthusiasm of the audi- 
ence, which was numerous, was directed upon Gambetta, who, 
as he beat the bar furiously till its destruction seemed immi- 
nent, and withered the judges with his terrible one-eyed stare, 
took the Empire — so to speak — by the scruff of the neck and 
hauled it over the coals for all to see. The Empire had found 
its prosecutor." In this is foreshadowed the Baudin case, 
four years before it took place. 

" Something must happen soon," he writes on March 30, 
1865, " the present regime has now been in existence for 
thirteen years, and its Constitution and origin are still being 
discussed as though it dated from yesterday. This is a grave 
symptom of approaching death." 

About this time he visited La Gironde and the Landes, to 
sound the feelings of certain constituencies ; and in June of 
the same year he went with Laurier to Twickenham, to see 
the Comte de Paris. His enemies afterwards took him to task 
for this visit ; but no doubt his motive in making it was the 
same that led him to support Prevost-Paradol. On both occa- 
sions his first words were, " I am a Republican "; but he 
knew that the Empire could only be overthrown by the union 
of the Legitimists, Orleanists and Republicans. 

In the following spring he writes : " The political situation 
grows more acute; the Government is losing ground every 
day; its adherents are falling away on all sides; everyone 
believes that its imminent, ruin is inevitable, and i86g will be 
a d<3cisive date for the Empire, as 1852 once was for the 
Republic . Meanwhile I am redoubling my efforts and my 
studies, that I may be prepared to take an active and worthy 
part in the coming events. I am keeping myself well 
informed in all affairs. ..." In the summer he travelled 
with Laurier in Italy and Greece. 

On May 26, 1867, he says : " I have been suffering a great 
deal with both my eyes. My injured eye had become decom- 
posed, and was having a very bad effect upon the good one. 



HIS CHILDHOOD AND EARLY CAREER 

After much serious thought, thanks to my excellent friend 
Dr. Fieuzal, I was introduced to an eminent oculist, 
Dr. Vecker, who has removed my right eye and will replace it 
with a false one, which I have already tried, and which suits 
me so well that anyone would think it was real. So for the 
future I shall be safe from all ills, and my left eye will lose 
none of its strength." 

By June ii he had recovered, and wrote : " During the last 
few days we have had a delightful meeting with Favre and 
Berryer. I was publicly embraced by my chief, Jules Favre, 
before everyone, as the representative of the younger men." 

With Jules Favre he was briefed in a case at Cahors, and 
the famous counsel arrived at the Law Courts with Gambetta's 
sister on his arm. The grocer's son was unknown in his 
native town; but it learnt to know him now. 

In June, 1868, Challemel-Lacour founded the Revue poli- 
tique et litteraire, which continued to appear until February, 
1869. For three months Gambetta contributed to it, his first 
article being on the subject of political economy. " The theory 
of free trade between all the markets of the world," he said, " is 
not an inflexible dogma, to be applied rigorously and instantly 
to all communities, whatever their social conditions or their 
form of government." Next, he produced some masterly 
pages on General Grant, whom he presented in a new guise, 
foreseeing both the military leader in him and the future guide 
of a free democracy. " By democratic institutions genius is 
inevitably doomed to be virtuous. Grant is not yet forty-six, 
and he has for ever associated his name with the sublimest 
form of glory : he has saved his country. General Grant, for 
all his halo of glory, is but the servant of Congress, the sub- 
ordinate of the law." This was followed by other articles on 
various topics : the administration of Haussmann, Prefet of 
the Seine, the budget, and the session of 1 867-1 868. 

In August of the same year he set out with Laurier to 
Rumania, with an introduction from Thiers to Prince Nicolas 
Bibesco : " Saint-Germain, August 4, 1868. — M. Gambetta, to 
whom I am giving this letter for you, is what we call in France 
a Republican. But he has more intellect and sound sense and 

19 c 2 



GAMBETTA 

true wisdom than many of the most enlightened Conserva- 
tives, and I only wish that most of the party leaders had as 
much. No one knows the inside of Paris better than he, or 
could give you fresher and more accurate news of it. He is a 
very distinguished member of the junior Bar, and is using 
the vacation to educate himself by travel. Pray help him to 
bring home correct ideas of your country. In return, he will 
refresh the ideas that you took away about ours." 

On his return the young barrister was more assiduous than 
ever in visiting the Legislative Assembly, and seemed almost 
to belong to it by right. The Deputies of the Left treated 
him as a colleague. He had a gift, a real genius, for politics 
— all that was needed was a spark to set it alight. It was the 
Baudin case that set fire to his fame — and to the Empire. 



20 



CHAPTER II 

THE BAUDIN CASE AND GAMBETTA's ELECTION AS A DEPUTY 

The Baudin Case (14th Nov., 1868) — Gambetta is elected to the Legislative 
Assembly (23rd May, 1869) — His Maiden Speech — His Speech on the Plebiscite 
(April 5th, 1870) — The Students' Banquet (April 19th). 

EugI:ne T^not, in his book Paris en decemhre 1851, had 
recently reminded his readers how, on December 3, 
certain members of the Assembly had gone unarmed to the 
barricades to prevent the violation of the law. The youngest 
of them, Baudin, Deputy for the Ain, had been struck by a 
bullet and killed. When the story was told seventeen years 
later his grave was sought out, and found in a corner of the 
cemetery at Montmartre, neglected and smothered in grass. 
On All Souls' Day — the Day of the Dead — a number of men 
who had suffered for their opinions, and a few students, 
brought some flowers to this grave, and after making a few 
speeches in subdued tones, visited the tomb of Cavaignac. 

Challemel-Lacour's Revue politique, the Reveil of Deles- 
cluze and Peyrat's Avenir national opened a subscription list 
with the object of raising a monument to Baudin. The list 
was headed by Berryer, who on December 2, in the Mairie of 
the tenth Arrondissement, had drawn up a decree deposing- 
Louis Bonaparte, which was signed by 220 Deputies. 
Pr^vost-Paradol's name figured there, with Victor Hugo's, 
Edgar Quinet's and Louis Blanc's. 

On November 14 Delescluze was haled before the Tribunal 
Correctionnel on a charge of " exciting hatred and contempt of 
the Government." Within these walls that were still vibrat- 
ing with the echoes of Berryer's voice Gambetta approached 

21 



GAMBETTA 

the bar, straightened his massive frame, and fixed the Bench 
with his strange stare. It was no defence that followed : it 
was an indictment — nay, it was an assault. The Empire, far 
from being the prosecutor, was placed in the dock. It was 
Baudin who was the prosecutor. The Solicitor-General tried 
to interrupt, but Gambetta silenced him with an unanswerable 
appeal to the judges: "You who are our judges, you 
who are entrusted wath the enforcing of the law, you owe 
protection to us who defend it ! " 

" Has a case such as this," he asked, " ever been argued 
at any period of the world's history ? No — never ! Not in 
the days of Athens, nor in the days of Rome, was there ever 
to my knowledge such a duel as this, between justice and 
despotism, between law and force. ... It seems to me that a 
court of law is the last place in which such outrages should be 
encouraged, for here the law, and nothing but the law, should 
speak and gain a hearing." 

He attacked not merely the flaws in the Empire, but its very 
source. " On December 2, I say, there were gathered round 
a pretender a group of men of whom France until that moment 
had never heard — men of no talent, or honour, or rank, or 
position, the kind of men who in all ages have been the accom- 
plices of despotic acts of violence, men to whom one might 
apply Sallust's description of the rabble that surrounded Cata- 
lina, or Caesar's own portrait of his accomplices, the ever- 
present scum of orderly communities, 

j^re alieno obruti et vitiis onusti, 
or, as Corneille translates it, 

Un tas d'hommes perdus de dettes et de crimes. 

" It is with the help of such characters as these that institu- 
tions and laws have been overthrown through all the 
centuries, while the conscience of humanity is helpless, despite 
the long line of great thinkers and martyrs — Socrates, 
Thraseas, Cicero, Cato — who have raised their protests in the 
name of the religion that has been overthrown, the morality 
that has been injured, the justice that has been crushed beneath 
a soldier's boot ! " The orator calls them to his aid; he bids 

22 



BAUDIN CASE AND GAMBETTA'S ELECTION 

them add their voices to his, as he cries upon conscience and 
morality to revolt. 

France, it was boasted, had been saved. " There is an 
unfailing test of the truth or falsity of such a statement. 
When a country is really passing through an acute crisis, and 
the very foundations of society are felt to be rocking, do you 
know what happens ? Those whom the nation is accustomed 
to regard as its leaders, because they are distinguished by 
their powers of mind and character, come forward to save it. 
Now, when I appraise and analyse the worth of the men who 
profess to have saved the country on December 2, I cannot 
find among them one single man of mark ; whereas, on the 
other side, I see, coming to the country's aid, such men as 
Michel de Bourges and Charras, both now dead — Ledru was 
already in exile — and many others of the very flower of ai< 
parties ; such as, for example, our Berryer, the great man who 
lies dying, and only yesterday sent us a letter dictated by a 
noble heart, a last bequest of indignation, a proof that all 
parties are eager to support the claims of morality. 

" Where were Cavaignac, Lamorici^re, Changarnier, Le 
Flo, Bedeau, and all the leaders, all the honour and pride of 
our army? Where were M. Thiers and M. de Remusat, and 
the authorised representatives of the Orleanist, Legitimist and 
Republican parties ? They were at Mazas and Vincennes, 
these men who defended the law ! They were on the way 
to Cayenne, or starting for Lambessa, these despoiled victims 
of an ambitious frenzy ! That, gentlemen, is how France was 
saved ! After that, do you think those who boast of saving 
society have any right on their side, when all they have done 
is to aim a blow at the country ? On which side were genius, 
and morality and virtue? All crushed by violence ! " 

The president of the tribunal, Vivien, a converted Orleanist, 
thought he had allowed things to go far enough and it was 
his duty to intervene. But Gambetta spoke on. "Listen ! 
For seventeen years now you have been the absolute, ' dis- 
cretionary ' masters of France — it is your own word. We will 
say nothing of the use you have made of her resources, of 
her blood, of her honour and her renown ; but there is one 

23 



GAMBETTA 

fact that is your most complete condemnation, because it is 
the measure of your own remorse : you have never dared to 
say, ' We will celebrate December 2 as one of the solemn 
festivals of France, we will make it a national anniversary.' 
And yet all the successive forms of government in this country 
have honoured themselves by honouring the day of their 
nativity. July 14 and August 10 Avere made festivals; the 
fateful days of July, 1830, were also celebrated, as well 
as February 24. Only two anniversaries, the i8th of 
Brumaire and December 2, have never been raised to 
the rank of solemn commemorations, for you know 
that if you tried to place them there they would be 
rejected by the conscience of the nation ! Well, that anni- 
versary that you have disregarded is claimed by us ; We take 
it for our own, and we shall celebrate it always, unceasingly, 
every year ; it shall be the festival of our dead, until the day 
when the country shall once more be master, and shall subject 
you to a great national expiation in the name of liberty, 
equality and fraternity." 

Then, addressing the Solicitor-General, he said : "Ah, you 
shrug your shoulders ! *' 

"Well, this is not argument ! " 

"Do not imagine," retorted Gambetta, "that I am afraid 
either of your scorn or your threats. Yesterday, at the close 
of your address, you said : ' We shall take precautions.' 
What ! do you— Solicitor-General, an officer of the Crown, a 
man of law— dare to say 3fou will take measures? What 
measures will you take ? Is that not a threat ? Well then, 
listen ! this is my last word : You can strike us, but you can 
never dishonour us nor beat us down ! " 

And the orator, breathless like his audience, Mnth streaming 
forehead, dishevelled hair and rumpled gown, fell exhausted 
into his seat. Then the hall shook with an outburst of cheers. 
The president tried to suppress them, but they only increased 
to the point of frenzy, and the crowd, who had not been 
admitted to the building, added their applause from without. 

After three hours of discussion the tribunal sentenced 
Delescluze to six months' imprisonment, a fine of six thousand 

24 



BAUDIN CASE AND GAMBETTA'S ELECTION 

francs, and the suspension of his civic rights for the term of 
his confinement. But the Empire had also received its 
sentence. Baudin, brought to life again, had rallied round 
him all the enemies of the Government, from Berryer to 
Delescluze. Gambetta suddenly found himself famous. The 
whole generation that the Empire had mown down arose again 
in his person. The dream that he had cherished so long was 
fulfilled in an' instant. He burst headlong into history — the 
history that for fourteen years was to resound with his name. 
Thenceforward, like a soldier in battle, he would clutch at 
every bush, every stone, every wrinkle in the soil that could 
help him to advance, and fight, and win. "The opportunity 
is there," says Goethe; "it is your part, Faust, to seize it ! " 

Delescluze appealed, and on December 12 Gambetta again 
defended him. 

In March of the next year he defended the journal 
L' Emancipation at Toulouse. "He is not merely a man," 
exclaims one who heard him on this occasion; "one is face to 
face with a force. We listened half stupefied; our hearts 
stood still. The audience was beside itself. We lost all 
consciousness of our surroundings." 

After a visit to Italy with Laurier, Gambetta stood for 
Belleville against Hippolyte Carnot; and, Berryer's seat being 
vacant owing to his recent death, he also opposed Thiers and 
Lesseps at Marseilles, under the auspices of Barb^s, as the 
candidate of the "irreconcilable Opposition." He accepted 
the Radical programme, which included the " separation of the 
Churches and the State " and the "suppression of standing 
armies." Before taking Tiis seat it was as obligatory upon 
him to accept this programme as to take the oath : a formality 
to which certain very sensitive consciences were never able 
to submit. Later on, when he was reproached for having 
demanded the suppression of standing armies on the eve of 
1870, he explained that he had intended them to be "re- 
placed by national armies." It is certainly better to avoid 
the necessity for explanations of this kind : such ambiguities 
may cost the country very dear : but everyone at this time 
was in a false position. The standing army was considered 

25 



GAMBETTA 

to be propping up the Empire, and every Republican believed 
that the Empire was incompatible with the sovereignty of 
the nation. 

I have before me an unpublished speech that Gambetta 
delivered in the Theatre Musset at Marseilles ; the first rough 
sketch of his more finished discourses, a year later, in the 
Legislative Assembly and at the students' banquet, on the 
subject of the plebiscite. "Universal suffrage," he says, "can 
do everything except commit suicide. ... It was not possible, 
in one day, to dispose of the country's future. ... As the 
generations succeed one another they come to claim their 
rights, they come forward to protest against a decision in 
which they had no voice. It is in the name of national 
sovereignty that they claim their share of authority, for the 
true authority is the democracy." And here is an idea that was 
to become one of his favourite themes. Having expressed his 
respect for those who came before him, he goes on : " The 
democracy of to-day has entered upon a better and stronger 
phase. The benefit of the personal government beneath which 
our necks have been bowed, wounded and bleeding, is that it 
forces the democracy to ask itself frankly why it has failed 
where it ought to have triumphed, and why its cause, which 
is the cause of all, should once have been betrayed by the 
people. ..." "The scientific spirit," he says, "should be 
introduced into the conduct of affairs." " Instead of vague 
propositions" we need "a definite method and system." 
Gradually his abstract Republicanism became more and more 
practical. 

He was elected both in Paris and at Marseilles (May 23 
and June 6, 1869), and decided in favour of the latter. 
Edgar Quinet wrote to him from Geneva: "The awakening 
of conscience in the soul of a great people — that is what your 
election demonstrates. This event makes the name of 
Gambetta one of the most powerful symbols of justice." 

He was suffering from an internal malady as well as from 
his throat, and in July he visited Ems. In September he 
went to Montreux, but on October 12 he wrote to Laurier : 
"I can stay here no longer. I want to attend the meetings 

26 



BAUDIN CASE AND GAMBETTA'S ELECTION 

announced by Jules Ferry in the Steele. It will be high time 
to force that Left into governing public opinion. That is 
the serious complaint that is brought against us (for I do 
not dissociate myself from these just reproaches). We have 
never yet succeeded in leading, in dominating the public. 
That is the secret and well-deserved reproach that everyone 
aims at us, though they may not express it openly. The 
official authority being in its death-agony, the country is 
looking for a guide, and finds none. The third party, the 
Left Centre, and the Left, seem equally incapable of govern- 
ing and of obeying. We shall be running the most serious 
risks unless this state of anarchy can be ended. The Left 
must decide to take the helm ; it must appear as the visible 
successor — reassuring, prepared for anything — of the existing 
state of things which will so soon be in the past." He 
returned to Paris and installed himself at No. 12, Rue 
Montaigne, in November, 1869. 

On January i, 1870, he wrote : " My dear father, there is 
hardly any need to wish you a happy New Year, for you have 
already achieved the fulfilment of all your wishes : a pleasant 
retreat in charming surroundings on the borders of your native 
land, the most robust health, and the certainty of enjoying for 
many a year all the advantages that your merits and labours 
have earned for you. For my part, my hopes also run high ; 
if I continue to regain my strength I shall soon make up for 
the time I have lost. However, I am beginning to be im- 
patient of my long inactivity, and I feel I must shortly break 
silence. I am preparing to do so." Joseph Gambetta and 
his wife had recently retired to Nice, where they had a little 
house on the Villefranche road. 

The elections had more than doubled the Republican 
minority in the Legislative Assembly. Cr^mieux, Grevy and 
Jules Ferry had been elected, and the ** third party" was 
increased by fifty members. The Rouher Ministry had fallen, 
and the Empire was aspiring to transform itself into a Con- 
stitutional Monarchy with the help of the Cabinet formed by 
fimile Ollivier on January 2, 1870. 

Gambetta ascended the rostrum for the first time on 

27 



GAMBETTA 

January lo to ask a question of General Le Boeuf, Minister of 
War, with regard to two soldiers who had been sent to Africa 
for taking part in an electioneering meeting. The General 
returned a biting answer; and £mile Ollivier, with a view to 
smoothing matters, said that the legal opposition and the new 
Government must confine their discussions to questions " con- 
cerned with measures." Gambetta replied that the question 
between the Government and the Opposition was one, not of 
measures, but of principle. " What we are demanding," he 
said, " is that the Monarchy should be replaced by a series of 
organised institutions consistent with universal suffrage and 
the sovereignty of the nation ; that we should be given, peace- 
ably and without a revolution, the form of government whose 
name you all know : a Republic." 

He repudiated any desire to employ force ; his ideal was to 
be realised by legal and persuasive means. " In the light 
thrown from this rostrum the conscience of the country will 
become more and more confident and convinced, and the 
moment will come, nor is it far distant, when the majority 
that will supplant you without any disturbance or disorder, 
shall be borne along by the irresistible force of logic to another 
order of things. You are but a bridge between the Republic 
of 1848 and the RepuHlic of the future, and over that bridge 
we shall pass ! ' ' 

He spoke again on several occasions, notably in connection 
with an application for a warrant against Henri Rochefort 
after the murder of Victor Noir, on the subject of the strikes 
at Le Creusot and on the freedom of the Press. But 
it was on April 5, 1870, that he really began his career in 
the Assembly, with a speech that placed him by universal 
consent in the first rank. 

The Emperor, in the difficulties that beset him, had resolved 
to appeal to the country. After Grevy, Thiers, Ernest Picard 
and Jules Favre had addressed the Assembly on this subject, 
Gambetta rose. Repeating the ideas he had so often ex- 
pressed in conversation, intimate letters, and electioneering 
speeches, and drawing inspiration from a recently published 
pamphlet called L' Empire parlementaire est-il possible? by 

28 



BAUDIN CASE AND GAMBETTA'S ELECTION 

Gustave Chaudey (afterwards a victim of the Commune), he 
spoke for two hours. For the space of two hours, before a 
majority who shuddered at the very name of a Republic, lie 
expounded with the utmost moderation the entire Republican 
doctrine. 

After pointing out the failure of the Constitution of 1852, 
he showed that a plebiscite, as the word implies, is " the ex- 
pression of a people's knowledge and beliefs with regard to a 
political fact"; that the people, therefore, should only inter- 
vene after discussion by their representatives, and public 
debates ; that without these tests the country is in no condition 
to pass judgment, and the plebiscite is but a snare and a delu- 
sion. He seemed to be defining an appeal to the country 
similar to that which is practised in England after a dissolu- 
tion — though the likeness was unacknowledged and indeed 
involuntary, since at that time he was dominated, like the 
whole Republican party, by memories of the Revolution and 
of 1848, and was still in favour of a single Chamber. He 
pointed out to the Monarchists who supported the Empire the 
danger to monarchical doctrines of putting the hereditary 
principle to the vote every time that the fundamental compact 
was threatened. He skilfully provoked interruptions by the 
Bonapartists, making them say that for them the doctrine of 
divine right meant the sovereignty of the people, and that 
the moment the people declared a Republic to be necessary 
they would bow to the decision. " I ask nothing better ! " he 
said. 

He carried his argument to its logical end: " Experience 
will show us that a parliamentary Monarchy is incompatible 
with universal suffrage. National sovereignty can only exist 
when the Parliament, having been elected by all the citizens 
of the nation, holds the command and has the last word in 
the treatment of political affairs. If a power exists that can 
keep Parliament in check, the principle of sovereignty is 
violated." 

Then, as though foreseeing and prophesying the terrible 
events of a few months later, he went on : "I will suppose that 
the country desires peace and the executive power desires war. 

29 



GAMBETTA 

It the Constitution is to respect the sovereignty of the nation 
t'le last word must lie with the electors; otherwise the national 
sill is thwarted, the national sovereignty is violated, and the 
nation is defeated." Thus, step by step, he forced the 
Empire to observe the consequences of the method of election 
on which it was founded and from which it professed to draw 
its strength ; he took from it, one by one, all its titles to exis- 
tence. A Monarchy must, on pain of death, surround itself 
with monarchical institutions; universal suffrage contains the 
germ of a Republic, and will sooner or later bring it forth by 
a natural process of development. 

To the politics founded on Holy Writ, " the code of the 
ancient Monarchy " so magnificently expounded by Bossuet, 
he opposed the new political code : " the politics founded on 
universal suffrage." 

Finally he showed that the so-called responsibility of the 
Emperor had no existence in fact. " If you do not organise 
responsibility, there is someone who, in fateful moments, will 
not hesitate to appropriate it without any previous organisa- 
tion : that someone is called Revolution." 

War and revolution ! The success of the speech, however, 
was considerable. The Empire seemed so solid ! This 
academical discourse was of no consequence ; there was no 
danger in enjoying this masterly eloquence, seasoned as it was 
with a hint of quite unreal catastrophe. And besides, at the 
heart of things, there was another point : the imperialist 
Right, without perhaps admitting it to itself, was the orator's 
confederate, and was not sorry that the new Ministry should 
be told : " You see whither your concessions lead ! " There 
is nothing so useful for an orator as to win the approbation, 
whether secret or avowed, of his habitual opponents ; they 
can do more for him than his own party, which contains his 
true rivals. The speaker's youth, his fatigue — ^for he had 
hardly recovered from his illness, which affected his powerful, 
earnest voice — his mingled strength and charm, the curious 
blending in his delivery of persuasiveness and vehemence, the 
maturity of his thought and language, his daring and his 
prudence, the moderation that tempered his ruthless logic — 

30 



BAUDIN CASE AND GAMBETTA'S ELECTION 

all these qualities combined to produce, within the Chamber 
and without, a unanimous outburst of admiration for this 
master of eloquence, this member of the most advanced 
opposition who none the less preached the need for govern- 
ment. The Baudin case had won him recognition as a 
lav^^yer; it was his speech on the plebiscite that made him 
recognised as a political orator. 

It is said that Guizot, after reading this speech, solemnly 
declaimed an answer to Gambetta's arguments, with no 
audience but his own son. , 

A few days later the students of the Schools entertained 
him at a banquet, the organisers being Etienne Lamy, 
Camille Pelletan and M. Jules Cambon. To understand 
aright the originality of his speech and the effect produced 
by it, we must recall the history of the Republican party 
between the years 1814 and 1848. Under the Restoration, 
with all the memories of the Terror on its shoulders, it had 
existed only in the obscurity of secret societies ; under the 
Monarchy of July it had lived through insurrections, revolts, 
riots, imprisonment and exile; then, in 1848, came the inva- 
sion of the Assembly on May 15, followed by the insurrection 
of June; and in 185 1 a fresh series of death-sentences, im- 
prisonments and banishments to Brussels, London, Lau- 
sanne, Lambessa or Cayenne. The Republicans had behind 
them half a century of persecution and suffering. And now, 
here was this young man, face to face with other young men, 
saying openly to them : " The heroic age of the Republican 
party is at hand." He would have nothing to do with vio- 
lence, nor force, nor with any of the old methods of con- 
spiracy, riots and plots. The convulsions of childhood were 
over, he announced, and the maturity of Republicanism was 
at hand. Every man, he said, must devote himself to a life- 
long apostleship ; a new method must be adopted — the educa- 
tion of the people to acquire authority by regular means, to 
discuss affairs soberly, to persuade public opinion, and so 
deserve to govern the nation. In these days, when the very 
word Republic was still associated in many minds with 
memories of the Terror and of the June insurrection, and 

31 



GAMBETTA 

when Orsini's attempt was still recent, the interest and sur- 
prise aroused by such unexpected w^ords can easily be 
imagined. 

And, after all, had he not In his veins the blood of Italy, 
the blood of brilliant, splendid Genoa? Was he not the 
child of the sunshine and the blue sea ? He had done with 
sterile, grey-toned theories. He was essentially a politician 
and a diplomatist : he was also a lawyer and a constructive 
citizen ; can one picture him within the mildewed walls of a 
prison, or in the mefanchoiy loneliness of exile ? He was an 
artist, born to enjoy all the pleasures of earth, and flinging 
from him the dust of the past, he determined to eat freely of 
the golden fruit that hangs on the evergreen tree of life. 

The Republicans, because they wished to put an end to 
monarchical authority, were opposed to all authority ; and 
were opposed to the army, because the army supported autho- 
rity. This was how Gambetta unravelled their sophistry : 
'* I protest against those who attack the institutions of our 
Government because they are in the hands of a man who 
makes a bad use of them, and forget that in a democratic com- 
munity the Government would consist of ourselves. Not that 
the Government should overstep its proper limitations. No, 
no ! I have too much respect for the individual, too much con- 
fidence in the mutual development of the liberated powers and 
united energies of our citizens to require of the State anything 
resembling constraint. . . . But neither do I wish to over- 
throw this organisation that keeps society in a state of equili- 
brium. We need a Government. We need our Govern- 
ment ! " Here we may recognise the views of Auguste 
Comte. For the first time the mind of a politician was guid- 
ing universal suffrage towards an organised democracy. And 
he boldly hazarded this profound phrase, which led him far 
and was always — perhaps wilfully — misunderstood: "To be 
right is to cease to be a party." 

The electoral committees were convoked for May 8. 
Gambetta signed the Manifesto of the Opposition : " The 
people of France intend to replace personal government by 
the government of the country by the country. The new 

32 



BAUDIN CASE AND GAMBETTA'S ELECTION 

Conslitulion on wliich you are summoned to give an opinion 
does not establisli the government of the country by the 
country, but merely an imitation of it. The personal govern- 
ment preserves intact its most dangerous prerogatives, the 
right of making treaties and of declaring war, rights which, 
during fifteen years, it has exercised with such disastrous 
results to the country. Finally, the new Constitution leaves 
to the individual initiative of the head of the State a right 
that essentially belongs to every free nation, the right of 
reforming, when it considers it necessary, its fundamental 
institutions." 

The result of the appeal to the country was 7,350,142 ayes, 
1,538,825 noes and 112,975 blank voting-papers. Less than 
three months later war broke out. 



I> 



CHAPTER III 

THE QUARREL WITH PRUSSIA 

The Causes of the War — ^The Growing Menace of Prussia — Napoleon III. and 
Bismarck ( 1 862-1870) — The Ems Telegram. 

The mother of history is geography. The poHcy of a 
State is the result of its physical conditions. France has 
three strong frontiers — the sea, the Pyrenees and the Alps — 
and one that is weak, on the north-east. Hence her struggles 
with her eastern neighbours, formerly with Austria and to-day 
with Germany. The eternal task of her diplomacy has been 
to guard against the dangers threatening her on that side. 

In 1862 the frontier of France, from Switzerland to the 
Palatinate, was the Rhine. She was separated from the rest 
of Germany by Luxemburg, the Palatinate and the Grand 
Duchy of Baden, and touched Prussia only at one point, near 
Sarrelouis. Prussia was cut in two by Hanover, Hesse and 
Nassau. 

On September 23, 1862, Bismarck became head of the 
Ministry. His ambition was to unite the whole of Germany 
under the dominion of Prussia; and by one of the most extra- 
ordinary paradoxes in history he set out to accomplish his 
design by seeking the support of the very man who should 
have opposed it, the Emperor of the French. 

This surprising circumstance needs explanation. 

Napoleon I. said at vSt. Helena: "One of my greatest 

dreams was the agglomeration, the concentration of peoples 

who are geographically united, but have been disintegrated 

and torn asunder by revolutions and political events. Thus, 

in different parts of Europe there are more than thirty millions 

34 



THE QUARREL WITH PRUSSIA 

of French people, fifteen millions of Spaniards, fifteen million 
Italians and thirty million Germans : I should like to have 
made each of these peoples into a single, united national body. 
The agglomeration of the thirty millions of French was 
already accomplished. As for the fifteen million Italians, 
their agglomeration was in a fair way to be achieved. The 
agglomeration of the Germans would have been a slower 
matter. How is it that no German ruler has ever perceived 
the natural conditions of his nation, or at least has never 
profited by them? This agglomeration will take place 
sooner or later through the force of circumstances ; the initial 
impetus has been given, and now that I have fallen I do not 
think there is any balance of power possible in Europe apart 
from the agglomeration and confederation of the great 
peoples." {Memorial, November ii, 1816.) 

Napoleon III. came into power with his head full of his 
own youthful dream and his uncle's views, which he had 
already expounded in 1839 in Les Idees napoleoniennes. 
Here we may find both the opinion expressed at St. Helena 
and the whole programme of his future reign. 

On becoming President of the Republic in 1850 he con- 
fided his scheme for the aggrandizement of Prussia by an 
alliance with France to his Minister for Foreign Affairs, 
Tocqueville, and to the Prussian Minister, Hatzfeld. " Have 
not France and Prussia," he said to the Prussian diplomatist, 
" the same kind of culture, the same Ideal of enlightened 
liberalism, the same interest in emancipating and unifying 
nations and races? " And when, in October, 1850, the duel 
between Austria and Prussia — which was only to be fought 
out in 1866 — seemed on the point of beginning, Louis 
Napoleon, who was awaiting the conflict as a good oppor- 
tunity to intervene in Germany, called 40,000 men to arms 
and despatched them to the fortresses of the North and East, 
to be ready for events. The submission of Prussia at Olmiitz 
made these preparations labour lost. 

During the Crimean War he confided to Palmerston and 
Prince Albert his design to weaken Austria by emancipating 
the Germans, Italians and Poles. 

35 D 2 



GAMBETTA 

Austria, at the moment, was seeking an alliance with 
France. Drouyn de Lhuys, Minister for Foreign Affairs, 
said to the Emperor: " Any policy except the Austrian alli- 
ance would be fatal." To stand aloof from Austria was to 
take the side of Prussia, whose credit in Germany was fed by 
the weakness of her rival. On May 5, 1855, the Emperor — 
without consulting his Minister, who immediately resigned — 
rejected the Austrian proposals. 

At the conclusion of the Crimean War the Emperor, in 
spite of Walewski — for he, too, desired to keep in Austria's 
good graces — insisted that Cavour should be admitted to the 
Congress " on a footing of perfect equality." In July, 1858, 
he received him at Plombi^res, and this interview resulted in 
the Italian War. 

It was foreseen by all intelligent people that the course of 
events beyond the Alps would lead to a fresh conflict between 
Austria and the growing power of Piedmont, while to humble 
Austria was to play Prussia's game. And it is certainly a 
fact that the Italian affair produced, or rather revived, the 
Danish affair. Napoleon, in order to serve Italy's designs 
against Austria, secured the connivance of Prussia by allow- 
ing her to take the Duchies. Profiting by the difficulties in 
which France had involved Austria, the potentate of the 
Mark of Brandenburg began the series of acts of violence by 
which, in the course of seven years, he defeated Denmark, 
Austria and France, established the dominion of Prussia over 
the rest of Germany, and made Germany the strongest Power 
in Europe. 

Drouyn de Lhuys, now once more in office, pressed 
Napoleon III. to accept England's offer of support, to honour 
the signature that he had himself affixed to the Treaty of 
London in 1852 as a guarantee of the integrity of Denmark 
and to help the Brave nation that had so loyally defended 
France during the wars of the First Empire. The integrity 
of Denmark was bound up with the rights of all European 
nations and the general interests of civilisation. How could 
the great highways of commerce, and the keys and gateways 
of the seas be allowed to pass into the hands of a State power- 

36 



THE QUARREL WITH PRUSSIA 

ful enough to close them at will ? Was Prussia, as mistress 
of the port of Kiel, thenceforward to command the North Sea 
and the Baltic? 

France, most disastrously, did not interfere, and this act of 
violence paved the way for the others : 1864 was, so to speak, 
the first rough sketch of the fatal year 1866, and of that most 
terrible year, 1870. 

After engaging in a war with Austria as an ally, Bismarck 
next stirred up a war against her. In dragging her into his 
unscrupulous adventure he created the circumstances that 
made it possible to turn and rend her. He was employing 
the tactics that he affected all his life — making the tool of one 
day the victim of the next. 

In October, 1865, he went to Biarritz, to sound the 
Emperor. He saw that Napoleon's mind was obsessed with 
one idea : to give Venetia to the Italians. He said to Nigra 
on his way through Paris : " If Italy did not exist we should 
have to invent it." Armed with Napoleon's approval, he set 
to work without delay, and negotiated an alliance with Italy. 
Prussia promised Italy to give her Venice : Italy guaranteed 
to Prussia an equivalent gain in Germany. 

A certain misguided section of the French nation continued 
to support Prussia, but all politicians of any insight under- 
stood that danger had changed sides, and that opposition to 
Austria had become an anachronism. They made ceaseless 
efforts to persuade the Emperor of his fatal misapprehension, 
and of the danger of trying to restrain Austria by nourishing 
a Power whose only object in subduing her was to take her 
place. 

Their warnings, however, were thrown away; and when, 
on May 3, 1866, Thiers delivered in the Legislative Assembly 
the finest speech of his whole parliamentary career, prophesy- 
ing German unity under the rule of the Hohenzollerns, it was 
already too late. On April 8 Piedmont had signed a secret 
treaty with Prussia, under the Emperor's auspices. The 
Austrians, surprised between two fires, were defeated at 
Sadowa, and the newspapers of the Opposition vied with 
those of the Government in rejoicing over Prussia's victory. 

37 



GAMBETTA 

" The Revolution," said one of them, " has defeated Feudal- 
ism." Alas! France, without entering the field, had suffered 
tlie most serious blow that she had received since Waterloo. 

William I. said: "Napoleon could and should have 
attacked the Prussian Army in the rear." And Bismarck 
pointed out what Napoleon should have done to prevent 
Prussia from completing the conquest of North Germany. 
*' A small contingent of French troops on the Rhine, com- 
bined with the numerous forces of South Germany, would 
have obliged us to cover Berlin." It is true : a mere demon- 
stration on the Rhine at that supreme moment might yet have 
made the Emperor of the French master of the situation. 

On July 5, 1866, a Grand Council was held at Saint-Cloud. 
"This was the most decisive day of the whole reign," says 
M. Pierre de la Gorce, in his Histoire du Second Empire. 
The Ministers, and especially Drouyn de Lhuys, implored 
the Emperor not to miss this last chance of intervening. 
They succeeded at first in obtaining an order to mobilise : 
Marshal Randon, Minister of War, promised 80,000 men at 
once and 250,000 in twenty days' time. But the arguments 
of the Minister of the Interior, La Valette, changed the 
Emperor's mind, and made him fear so great an undertaking 
immediately after the Mexican expedition. The Italian party, 
and Napoleon III.'s own weakness for Germany, dissuaded 
him from hindering the triumphs of Prussia. 

The Queen of Holland, a woman of considerable intellect, 
who was devoted to the Emperor and his family, wrote to 
him on July 18, 1866 : " You are deluding yourself strangely ! 
Your prestige has suffered more during this last fortnight 
than in all the rest of your reign. You are allowing the weak 
to be trodden down and permitting the insolence and brutality 
of your nearest neighbour to pass all bounds. I am sorry 
that you fail to see the danger of a powerful Germany. . . ." 
Magne, Persigny and many other faithful servants of the 
Empire shared her opinion. 

William I. and his generals, as the price of their victory 
at Sadowa, claimed a portion of Austria's territory. But 
Bismarck foresaw that he would need the neutrality of 

38 



THE QUARREL WITH PRUSSIA 

Austria in a struggle with France. He said to Karl Schurz, 
formerly American Ambassador in Spain : " Now it is 
France's turn. We shall have war, and it will be the Em- 
peror himself who will bring it about. His hand will be 
forced by the necessity of maintaining his prestige. The war 
will break out in two years' time. We shall win. Germany will 
be united, to the exclusion of Austria, and Napoleon will fall." 

Bismarck, to spare Austria, withstood his sovereign and 
the military party with desperate energy. He even suggested 
resigning. Finally the King yielded; and Prussia, being 
now certain of her ascendency in Germany, left Austria intact 
as a precaution for the future. 

While Bismarck thus avoided wounding Austria too 
grievously and throwing her into the arms of France, with 
a view to a possible renewal of friendly relations with her, 
the Prussian Minister in Paris, Goltz, sought an interview 
with Drouyn de Lhuys, and asked him in Bismarck's name 
for some fragments of Saxony, Hesse and Hanover — that is 
to say, 300,000 souls. Drouyn de Lhuys refused the request. 
Goltz hastened forthwith to Saint-Cloud, and persuaded the 
Emperor to give him Hanover, Hesse, Nassau and Frankfort 
— 4,500,000 souls. He then returned to the Quai d'Orsay 
and informed the amazed and horrified Drouyn de Lhuys of 
the Emperor's decision. " There is nothing left for us to do 
now," said Drouyn de Lhuys to his private secretary, 
Chaudordy, "except to weep." 

This is a striking example of the essential weakness in the 
diplomacy of the Second Empire. Napoleon himself nego- 
tiated directly with foreign Ministers and ambassadors, a 
practice which Louis XIV. had been very careful to avoid, 
in order always to leave his agents a line of retreat, and which 
even Napoleon L had considered unwise. It is true that 
William I.'s policy, too, was one of personal authority; but 
at least the Prussian Monarch never negotiated behind his 
Minister's back and in opposition to his opinions. When 
Bismarck disagreed with his King, his first care was to 
convert William to his point of view, either by persuasion or 
by threatening to resign. 

39 



GAMBETTA 

Immediately after this crisis Napoleon made the situation 
public in a circular signed by La Valette, who was tem- 
porarily acting as Minister for Foreign Affairs. "The 
growth of Prussia insures the independence of Germany. 
France should take no umbrage at it. When once Germany's 
national sentiment is satisfied, her various hostilities will 
cease. A more accurate demarcation of frontiers, by render- 
ing Europe more homogeneous, will guarantee the peace of 
the Continent. An irresistible Power — need we regret it ? — 
is forcing peoples to unite together in great agglomerations 
and causing secondary States to disappear. Perhaps it is 
inspired by a sort of providential prevision of the world's 
future destiny. . . ." It was thus that this monarch trans- 
formed the principle of nationalities into the theory of " great 
agglomerations." A]\ the efforts of the Monarchy had been 
directed towards the disintegration of Germany : all the 
efforts of the Empire tended to unify her. Some time after- 
wards, in his speech from the throne. Napoleon III. quoted 
the very words used by his uncle at St. Helena. Napoleon III. 
has often been called a dreamer. A dreamer he may have 
been, but he was one with an idee fixe. 

After playing Bismarck's game in the name of the principle 
of nationalities, he continued to do so by violating that prin- 
ciple himself. In trying to redeem his faults he made them 
worse. To compensate for the Prussian annexations he 
asked for the left bank of the Rhine, as far as Mainz. It was 
too late : Bismarck refused to comply. Then Napoleon, 
since he could obtain no German territory, fell back upon 
Belgium and Luxemburg. Bismarck, with the example of 
Frederick in his mind, begged the French Ambassador, Bene- 
detti, to make his request Tn writing ; and the document was 
useful to him later on in securing the neutrality of England, 
who was disturbed by our covetous designs on the shores of 
the North Sea. Finally, after passing from one concession 
to another, the Emperor ended "by confining his ambitions to 
Luxemburg — and even here he was outwitted by his terrible 
adversary. 

During these sad years the death of the Emperor Maxi- 

40 



THE QUARREL WITH PRUSSIA 

milian put a tragic end to the Mexican expedition. Marshal 
Niel, the Minister of War, was obstinately opposed in his 
schemes of military organisation, both by the Legislative 
Assembly and the public at large. Various men of light and 
leading said : " Put an end to the army, and you put an end 
to war." In all ages there have been those who thought that 
war could be avoided by making no preparations for it, and 
extended to the army, the instrument of war, the hatred they 
felt for war itself. In spite of the warnings of Rothan, 
Stoffel and Ducrot ; in spite, too, of the fact that King 
William and his Minister, disregarding- the Chamber, were 
considerably enlarging the Prussian Army, the Imperial 
Government proposed to reduce our forces. 

As regards the rest of Europe, England professed to be 
indifferent to Continental matters, and Russia was alienated 
from us by the Crimean War and the affairs of Poland. The 
only two alliances that remained open to us were with Austria 
and Italy. Since 1867 there had been conversations and cor- 
respondences with Vienna and Florence, but no precise agree- 
ment or definite compact had resulted. Between France 
and Italy was Rome, which Victor Emmanuel coveted, but 
which Napoleon, false to his favourite principle, would not 
give up. Austria, before committing herself, wished to 
finish her military preparations and watch the course of 
events. 

On July 3, 1870, Paris received the news that Prince 
Leopold of Ilohenzollern had ascended the throne of Spain. 
This was a re-constitution of the Empire of Charles V. for 
the benefit of Prussia. In the case of a European war France 
would have no security on her Pyrenean frontier. The 
French Government protested. On July 12, on the advice 
of the Czar, Alexander II., the candidate retired. The inci- 
dent was apparently closed, to the benefit of France and of 
the cause of peace, when a secret meeting was held at Saint- 
Cloud, with neither fimile Ollivier nor any other Minister 
present, except the Due de Gramont, Minister for Foreign 
Affairs. As the result of this meeting Gramont addressed a 
despatch to the French Ambassador in Prussia, Benedetti, 

41 



GAMBETTA 

demanding an assurance from the King of Prussia that he 
would not again authorise Leopold's candidature. (July 12.) 

On the following day, at Ems, an aide-de-camp came from 
the King to inform Benedetti that Prince Leopold had 
renounced the throne of Spain, and that His Majesty regarded 
the incident as completely closed. The Ambassador 
demanded another audience. The aide-de-camp returned 
with the King's assurance that he approved of Prince Leo- 
pold's renunciation ; as for promises regarding the future, 
His Majesty could only repeat his previous statements. 
Benedetti still insisted. The answer came : it was a refusal — 
not discourteous, but quite definite. The King had said his 
last word in the morning, and regretted that he could add 
nothing. 

At this moment Bismarck appears upon the scene. The 
telegram relating these facts reached him in Berlin. Moltke 
and Roon were dining with him. The tragic scene is familiar 
to us : those who took part in it never forgot its overwhelming 
effect. They deciphered the message, which indicated 
strained, but not ruptured relations, and left a loophole for 
peace. Even the chance of such a prospect filled the Minister 
and generals with consternation. "My guests," wrote 
Bismarck afterwards, " were so crushed that they forgot to 
eat and drink." 

And then, according to his own confession, he committed 
the action that will blacken his memory more and more as the 
world advances in wisdom and morality. By a flagrant sup- 
pression of facts he gave, to a telegram that was merely a 
diplomatic announcement, the character of a call to arms. 
" I neither added nor expunged anything," he wrote cyni- 
cally, " but I suppressed a few things." He sent this 
Spurious document to the Press, representing the King's 
answer, by which no slight was intended, as an insult to the 
French Ambassador. He sent telegrams to the same effect 
to all our embassies. " It will act down there on the Gallic 
bull," he said to his guests, " like a red rag." The three 
men returned to the dinner-table. They suddenly recovered 
their zest for food and drink, and the conversation was quite 

42 



THE QUARREL WITH PRUSSIA 

gay, even Moltke, usually so self-contained, becoming expan- 
sive and garrulous. " If it be granted me," he cried, "to 
live to command our army in such a war as that, my old 
carcass may go to the devil as soon as it's over ! " 

Meanwhile Benedetti, after paying his court to the King at 
the station at Ems, and telegraphing the story to his own 
Minister, arrived in Paris. The Government therefore heard 
the truth from him, as he told it afterwards in his book on his 
mission in Prussia, and as the Due de Gramont confirmed it 
in 1 87 1 before the Committee of Inquiry appointed by the 
National Assembly. 

On the 13th England had pointed out to the Imperial 
Government that it was assuming a heavy responsibility 
in failing to declare itself satisfied by Prince Leopold's 
renunciation. 

Such was the state of affairs when the matter came before 
the Corps L^gislatif. 



43 



PART II 

THE WAR 

(1870-1871) 



45 



CHAPTER IV 

NATIONAL DEFENCE 

The Declaration of War— Gambetta believes in Victory for France— First Defeats— 
The 4th September— The Government of National Defence— Gambetta becomes 
Minister of the Interior— The Tours Delegation (September 8th-October 9th). 

On July 15 the sitting of the Legislative Assembly opened 
at one o'clock. The Government briefly described the recent 
negotiations, and announced that, having made every effort 
to avoid war, it would now prepare for it, leaving the respon- 
sibility to Prussia. Thiers, amid tumult and invective, made 
his protest : " Remember May 6, 1866. You silenced 
me when I pointed out to you the dangers that were immi- 
nent. That memory, if nothing else, should make you listen 
to me now." Gambetta intervened. " You are making the 
whole of this grave, this terrible question hang upon a 
telegram sent without your knowledge to all the Cabinets of 
Europe. I maintain that you should lay before the Chamber 
no mere extracts or allusions, but some direct and authentic 
communication. It is a question of honour, you say; well, 
we must know in what terms they have dared to speak of 
France." Jules Favre demanded the publication of the 
despatches, and especially of the one in which the Prussian 
Government informed the foreign Governments of its resolve. 
Buffet supported the motion, but it was defeated by 153 votes 

to 84. 

The sitting was resumed at half-past nme that evenmg. 
Talhouet, Recorder of the Committee that examined the legis- 
lative measures proposed by the Government, read his state- 
ment. Later on, he sadly acknowledged its mistakes. 

47 



GAMBETTA 

Gambetta entered the tribune. His speech shows his 
peculiar position in the party of the Left. On the one hand 
— with the majority — he supported the vote of credit for the 
army, from motives of patriotism, though ten members of 
the Left, including" Favre and Grevy, voted against it, and 
seven abstained from voting. On the other, he maintained 
that the Imperial Government was false to its policy of 1864 
and 1866; he demanded reasons for so great a change, and 
asserted that even if the progress of Prussia had made this 
necessary there was no need to resort to "wretched make- 
shifts." " For my part I was expecting that, when eighty- 
four members of this i\ssembly had demanded the produc- 
tion of the document on which you ground the whole cassis 
belli, you would communicate it directly, fully, and in its 
integrity to the Committee. You call upon France to give 
you men and money, you plunge her into a war which will 
mean, perhaps, that the end of the nineteenth century w'ill 
be devoted to settling the question of supremacy between the 
German and French races, yet you will not make an authen- 
tic, definite statement of the origin of this immense enter- 
prise, so that France and all Europe may know which side 
perpetrated the unjust outrage and which side is making a 
legitimate defence. In this discussion I am concerned w'ith 
one thing only, which should be as interesting to you as it 
is absorbing to me : to find out whether the decisions that 
you are trying to make final will win the assent of Europe, 
and more especially of France. Well, when you have drawn 
the sword it will only be on one condition that you can count 
on the needful sympathy, the indispensable support of 
Europe : your explanations must prove that you have suffered 
a profound and real outrage. Now, I am as sensitive as any 
man, and speaking for myself, if the choice had been left to 
me by the Government of my own party, I beg you to believe 
that I should not have resorted to such wretched makeshifts 
to find decisive reasons for such conduct. I am not suspect, 
therefore, and I beg you to listen to me when I say that you 
have given no adequate satisfaction to the public in the 
quotations and documents that you have produced." Finally 

48 



NATIONAL DEFENCE 

he stated that the Ems telegram, which in the eyes of the 
Government was the cause of the quarrel, had been sent with 
Benedetti's knowledge and had given him no uneasiness, and 
that the French Ambassador had not uttered a word of protest 
against the attitude of the Prussian Government. 

It is plain that what he condemns is not so much the 
rupture with the policy of 1864 and 1866, as the manner of its 
accomplishment. He w-as, at heart, quite convinced that the 
policy of 1866 could not be maintained, that it was high time 
to put a stop to the encroachments of Prussia, and indeed 
that this should have been done sooner. In a letter to his 
father from Ems, dated July 25, 1869, he spoke of " the hatred 
he had vowed to the victors of Sadowa." He knew that 
sooner or later the struggle must come, but he wished the 
motive to be irreproachable, the outrage undeniable, and the 
action of France clearly proved to be just, in the eyes of the 
world. 

A Bonapartist Deputy congratulated him publicly on voting 
for the Army supplies. " There is no need to congratulate 
me," answered Gambetta (and his words ^were published at 
once) ; " I could not hesitate. It will be all the better for your 
Emperor if he can wash away December 2 in the waters of the 
Rhine, and can profit by his victory, which I desire with all 
my heart. The Republic will profit by it later on." 

fimile OUivier, in his book on the Liberal Empire, which 
abounds in interesting remarks, says that at a meeting in the 
Rue de la Sourdi^re Gambetta used very "bellicose" lan- 
guage. We have seen what this amounted to.; The truth is 
that Buette — at that time a member of his comite — and others 
of his friends thought that he was going too far. Gambetta 
was much nearer to the Republicans of the Restoration and 
the July Monarchy, who dreamt of restoring the military 
greatness of France and the frontiers of the First Republic, 
than to his own party in the Legislative Assembly, who 
thought the profession of arms incompatible with democracy, 
and feared that in strengthening the army they would 
strengthen the Empire. They did not believe in the German 
menace. It was of this that Jules Ferry was thinking, when 

49 E 



GAMBETTA 

examining his conscience later on, as he spoke of "those 
dangerous and deceptive Utopias"; and we know of 
Micheiet's noble remorse after the disaster. Always, genera- 
tion after generation, we see the same eternal mistake. The 
humanitarians and cosmopolitans of 1790 became, the moment 
their country was invaded, the ferocious patriots of 1792 and 
1793. But the mistake was less excusable in 1868 and 1869; 
in the first place because the past should have served as an 
object-lesson, and also because the foreign policy of the 
Republican Democracy was founded on the principle of 
Nationalities and was therefore inconsistent with its military 
policy. To aim at the remodelling of Europe and then oppose 
the first steps necessary to the scheme was too glaring a con- 
tradiction. Gambetta was keenly alive to this situation. In 
the preceding year, when Marshal Niel's projects were under 
discussion, Lavertujon had published in the Gironde some 
rather trenchant articles criticising the attitude of the Left, 
and Jules Simon had been stung into complaining " I have 
just read your article on military law : I think you sacrifice 
us a little to your own reputation as a politician. As for me, 
I am not afraid of being called a Utopian. You know there is 
one of our reasons that we shall not give : namely, that a 
standing army is an instrument of Caesarism." Jules Favre 
spoke in the same sense: "A concern for military affairs 
points to schemes hatched in the interests of the dynasty." 
Now it was these very articles that led Gambetta to pay a 
visit of congratulation to Lavertujon, to make a friend of him, 
and support him in the election of 1869. 

We see, then, that there were many points of difference 
between Gambetta and the Left party as a whole. He did not 
share the opinions of his Republican colleagues with regard 
to Prussia, or Sadowa, or the Army. Nor did he share their 
views on the organisation of the State. In their wish to 
abolish the Empire, they would also have destroyed the State 
on which the Empire was founded. The State, like the Army, 
was confused in their thoughts with the Imperial regime 
whose downfall they desired. He, on the contrary, whose 
mind was saturated with Mirabeau and Comte, identified the 

50 



NATIONAL DEFENCE 

State with the Democracy. The State, he said, is ourselves; 
universal suffrage means ourselves ; authority means our- 
selves, in virtue of the nation's sovereignty. Authority must 
be strong, then, since it speaks in the name of the nation; 
the State must be powerful and active, since it is the main- 
spring of the people's progress. This idea never left him, 
and later on, long after the fall of the Empire, it created 
serious trouble between him and a section of the Republican 
party. So we see, even when he first entered the Chamber 
at the age of thirty-one, how independent was his character, 
how original his mind. 

On July 19 came the declaration of war. On the 24th the 
session of the Chambers closed, and Gambetta set out for 
Switzerland with Lavertujon. The final goal of their journey 
was the Chateau des Cretes, near Clarens, but they first 
travelled about Switzerland in easy stages. Not for one 
moment did he doubt of victory. Whenever his companion 
allowed any feelings of uneasiness to become apparent he 
would cry, gaily and confidently : " We shall beat them ! " 
The despatch from Wissembourg on August 5 left him calm. 
Then news of Reichshoffen and Forbach reached them. 
"We must pack," said he, and returned to Paris; 'but he 
gave no sign of anxiety. 

On August 8 the Chambers were convoked. The Legis- 
lative Assembly met on the gth. In the name of the Left 
Jules Favre proposed that a committee of fifteen members 
should be appointed, with full powers to save the country from 
invasion. Clement Duvernois moved the following order of 
the day: "The Chamber, having resolved to support a 
Cabinet that is capable of organising the country's defences, 
passed to the order of the day." £mile Ollivier announced 
that the Cabinet did not accept it. The members of the 
Chamber passed it without leaving their places, and the 
Cabinet at once resigned. Then the Chamber rejected, by igo 
votes to 53, the appointment of a Defence Committee. " You 
will come to it yet ! " cried Gambetta. And Jules Favre 
added : " By the time you come to it, it will be too late ! " 
The question was raised again on the 13th. "We must 

51 E 2 



GAMBETTA 

know," said Gambetta, "whether we have made our final 
choice between saving our country and saving a dynasty." 
In a secret Committee of the whole Chamber the new Presi- 
dent of the Council, General de Palikao, opposed Jules 
Favre's motion, which was rejected. If, at that time, the 
Corps Legislatif had appointed the Defence Committee 
demanded by Jules Favre, Thiers and Gambetta, that 
"most imprudent and least strategical" march which, as 
Napoleon lil. himself admitted in his letter of October 29, 
1870, to Sir John Burgoyne, vv^as prompted by "political con- 
siderations "—namely, the march on Sedan 'from Chalons- 
would certainly never have t^ken place. 

The next day Gambetta appeared in the tribune with a 
newspaper from Nancy called L'Esperance du Peuple, which 
contained the news that, on the 12th, four Prussian soldiers 
had taken possession of that town. Sorrow wrung from him 
the cry: "Our protectors are useless! " A few days later 
he read aloud an article from the Progres de la Marne 
announcing that five Prussian horsemen had occupied 
Chalons. 

By x\ugust 22 the Empire had practically ceased to exist. 
Lord Lyons wrote to his Government : " I do not know if the 
news of a victory would save the dynasty." The members 
of the Left believed that the Empire was lost, but were in no 
mind to see the Republic inheriting its troubles. They hoped 
that the Chamber would avoid revolution by taking the reins 
into its own hands and forming a Government for the dura- 
tion of the war, even if they themselves should have no place 
in it. Thiers and General Trochu were regarded as probable 
leaders; and later, when the war was over, a Constituent 
Assembly could institute a Republic. It was the most" ardent 
wish of the Republicans that there should be no disorder, 
that the law should be respected. When, on August 9, some 
rioters scaled the garden-wall of the Corps Legislatif at the 
corner of the Rue de Bourgogne, Jules Ferry's determined 
attitude made them retire : and when, on the 14th, some of 
Blanqui's followers tried to seize the firemen's barracks at 
La Villette and to steal their muskets, with the result that 

52 



NATIONAL DEFENCE 

several men were killed, Gambetta from the rostrum scourged 
those who made civil war in the face of the enemy, and 
demanded an inquiry. There was nothing that the Left 
dreaded so much as riots in the streets, which, while aggra- 
vating the troubles of the country before the eyes of the 
world, would have further compromised the Republican 
cause in the future. But the official majority and Palikao's 
Ministry dared not subscribe to the election of a Government 
by the Chamber, which would have meant the recognition of 
the Empire's collapse. Their evasions and delays brought 
about what they most feared : a revolution. 

Meanwhile Gambetta and his friends were vainly clamour- 
ing to be told something of the military situation, and of the 
defences of Paris. It was known that the Metz Army was 
engaged ; the battles of Gravelotte, Rezonville and Mars-la- 
Tour had been fought in the middle of August ; but the Minis- 
ter of War did not dare to give definite information. It was 
known, too, that MacMahon's Army was marching away 
from Paris, but its movements were not published, and the 
sense of torture grew day by day, since every day's delay 
was a fresh chance of disaster. 

At last, on September 3, came the news of the catastrophe 
at Sedan. At four o'clock a telegram from the Emperor to 
the Empress confirmed the fact of the capitulation. The 
Council of Ministers published a proclamation ; numbers of 
Deputies hastened to the Palais Bourbon to demand a night 
sitting. Opposite the Pont de la Concorde Gambetta 
addressed the crowd, begging them to retire and leave the 
Assembly to discuss the situation undisturbed. The sitting 
opened at one o'clock in the morning. General de Palikao, 
amid profound silence, announced that the Army had 
capitulated and that the Emperor was a prisoner. Jules Favre, 
representing the Left, proposed a motion to the effect that 
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and his dynasty were deposed an'' 
that a Defence Committee should be nominated. Instead of 
settling the question at once the Chamber adjourned at noon. 
When the sitting opened on the 4th, General de Palikao 
brought forward a measure appointing a Committee of 

53 



*^ 



GAMBETTA 

Regency and National Defence, and Thiers moved a resolu- 
tion signed by forty-seven Deputies of all parties: ''The 
Chamber appoints a Committee of Government and of 
National Defence. A Constituent Assembly will be elected 
as soon as circumstances permit." The three motions were 
sent to the bureaux, and the sitting was suspended, only to be 
resumed at two o'clock. 

Meanwhile the crowd that had been gathering in the 
approaches to the building since noon was swelling minute 
by minute. At last the grille yielded to the pressure, and the 
Strangers' Gallery was invaded. 

Most of the Deputies of the Left took their seats, and 
Gambetta, urged by several of his colleagues, entered the 
tribune and spoke to the public in the Strangers' Gallery : 
"The first condition of the people's emancipation," he said, 
' ' is order ; and I know you are resolved to respect it. You 
desire to give an energetic expression of your wishes ; your 
wish is in the depths of every Frenchman's heart, it is on the 
lips of your representatives, it is the subject of their dis- 
cussion : to depose " 

"Yes! " cried many voices from the Strangers' Gallery; 
and several added : 

"Deposition, and the Republic! " 

"What I am asking of you," continued Gambetta, "is 
that you should feel, as I do, the intense gravity of the situa- 
tion, and should forbear to disturb us with your cries, even 
if they be cries of applause " 

He was interrupted by prolonged shouting. " We want 
a Republic! Vive la Republique! " 

"Pray be calm! " said Gambetta. " Order must be ob- 
served. We are the representatives of the nation's sove- 
reignty. I beg you to respect that title, which we hold from 
the people. It is incumbent on the men who occupy these 
benches to recognise that the power which has brought upon 
the country all these deplorable evils has fallen; but it is 
equally incumbent upon you to see that the declaration which 
will shortly be made should not appear to be made under the 
pressure of violence. We have two things to do : first, to 

54 



NATIONAL DEFENCE 

resume our sitting and act in accordance with the authorised 
forms; and secondly to give the country an example of real 
union. In the name of our country and of political liberty — 
two things which will never be separated in my mind — I call 
upon you to remain calm while your representatives return 
to their seats." 

The calm, however, was short-lived. At half-past two 
President Schneider entered and took the chair. The 
Strangers' Gallery was packed with a constantly increasing 
crowd, and the tumult became greater than ever. The butt- 
ends of muskets battered loudly on the entrance-door of the 
Pas-Perdus; panels burst in noisily, and there were crashes 
of broken glass. Cremieux tried to speak, but his voice was 
drowned in the uproar. Gambetta again appealed for order 
and silence : " There is a solemn pledge that you must give 
us : you must allow the deliberations that are about to take 
place to proceed in perfect freedom." 

President Schneider then added his entreaties: " M. 
Gambetta," he said, " whom none of you can suspect, and 
whom I for my part regard as one of the most patriotic 
men in the country, has just appealed to you in the name 
of that country's interests. Believe me, at this moment 
the Chamber is called upon to discuss a situation of the 
greatest gravity. It can only be done in a spirit appropriate 
to the needs of that situation; if it were otherwise M. 
Gambetta would not have begged you to give us support by 
your conduct." 

Sounds of approbation mingled with complaints came from 
the gallery. 

" And I count upon it, citizens ! " cried Gambetta. 

President Schneider continued: "Like M. Gambetta, I 
cannot express to you too strongly that there is no true liberty 
that is not accompanied by order " 

Still the excitement grew. Gambetta made a last effort to 
preserve legal forms : " It is necessary that all the Deputies 
now in the lobbies, or in the committee-rooms where they 
have been discussing the Emperor's deposition, should return 
to their benches and take their places before the measure can 

55 



GAMBETTA 

^be passed. And you also, citizens, must wait in seemly and 
dignified calm-ness while your representatives enter the hall 
and take their seats. They are being- summoned. I beg you 
to preserve a solemn silence till they return " 

At that moment — it was three o'clock — the door above the 
semi-circle, opposite to the tribune, was burst open and the 
crowd swarmed into the Deputies' benches. 

" Since discussion is impossible under these conditions," 
said the President, '* I close the sitting." 

An uproarious and excited crowd invaded the semi-circle, 
the steps of the tribune, and the President's chair. Gambetta 
forced his way through it, and cried from the tribune : 
" Come, come, citizens, the precincts must be treated with 
respect ! Be calm ! In less than a quarter of an hour the 
Act of Deposition will be parsed and made public. Come — 
leave us ! Have you no confidence in your representatives? " 

"Yes, yes, we have confidence in you!" "Well, 

then, leave us when I ask you, and rest assured that we are 
going to pass the Act of Deposition I " 

" And what about the Republic? " 

A scene of wild confusion followed, during which he left 
the tribune and spoke to some of his colleagues of the Left. 
Then, again entering the tribune, he said : 

" Listen, citizens! Since the country is in danger, since 
sufficient time has been given to the representatives of the 
nation to pass an Act of Deposition, since we constitute 
to-day the authority sanctioned by universal suffrage, we 
declare that Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and his dynasty have 
for ever ceased to reign over France." 

This announcement was greeted with prolonged cheers; 
but demands for a Republic continued none the less. 

"Do you or do you not," cried Jules Favre, "wish for 
civil war? " 

" No, no ! Not civil war, but war against the Prussians ! " 

"Then," said Favre, " we must immediately form a Pro- 
visional Government. ... I entreat you, do not let us have 
any bloodshed : do not force brave French soldiers to turn 
their arms against you ! Their arms should only be used 

56 



NATIONAL DEFENCE 

against the foreigner. Let us all be united in a single 
thought, the thought of patriotism and democracy ! " 

" Vive la Republique! " cried the people. 

" This is not the right place for proclaiming a Republic ! " 

"Yes, yes! Vive la Republique! '' 

"Yes!" agreed Gambetta. '^ Vive la Republique! 
Citizens, let us go and proclaim it at the Hotel de Ville ! " 

Surrounded by countless hordes they set out to the Hotel 
de Ville : Jules Favre and Jules Ferry by the right bank of 
the river, and Gambetta, Ernest Picard, Pelletan and Glais- 
Bizoin by the left bank. In the radiant sunshine the town 
wore a festal air. It seemed to the people that since they 
were saved from the Empire they were also saved from the 
Prussians. They hoped that the country would soon find 
new troops, and new opportunities for saving everything. 
No weapons were to be seen, no blood was shed, no resistance 
was made. The movement was the work of circumstances 
rather than of men. A tidal wave, it seemed, had swept away 
the remnants of the Empire; and the Republic appeared like 
an impersonal Government that commanded the support of all 
because all had but one task. The Empire, as it fell, handed 
France over to the Republic, 

In a letter that has often been quoted Gambetta described 
this famous day, four years later, to Mme. Adam: "The 
memories of this tragic anniversary always clothe my soul in 
mourning. In spite of the deliverance that marked the day, 
I cannot chase away the cruel thought that we did not over- 
throw the Empire with our own hands, but watched it sinking 
under the blows of a foreign foe. I can remember, with all 
the bitterness of that first day, that as I walked to the Hotel 
de Ville along the quays of the Seine, with the people of 
Paris shouting and cheering round me, I said to the man who 
was beside me : ' The cheers and raptures of these people 
make me so sad that I could die ! The poor souls do not hear 
the tramp of the German armies in the distance ! ' I hated 
the glorious sunshine, which seemed to be illuminating, as 
though for a last holiday, the fall of a great people. France 
was rushing towards the abyss in perfect unconsciousness." 

57 



GAMBETTA 

These were words written after the event, under the burden 
of defeat. At the time, his imperturbable optimism had by 
no means forsaken him. When, on hearing of the defeat 
at Sedan, Lavertujon had cried : " This time we have reached 
the bottom of the abyss ! " Gambetta broke in with : " Don't 
talk such nonsense! " 

They reached the Hotel de Ville at about four o'clock, and 
found that Milli^re, a leader of the Revolutionary party, who 
had hastily returned from the Legislative Assembly, was 
already there with his followers. He had quickly drawn up 
lists of members for a Provisional Government, and was 
throwing them to the people from the windows : they bore 
the names of Blanqui, Delescluze, Flourens, Felix Pyat and 
Rochefort, with those of Jules Favre and Gambetta. A voice 
cried : " The Deputies for Paris must be members of the 
Government! " Upon this such an outburst of acclamation 
followed that all competition was impossible. The Govern- 
ment therefore included all the Deputies for Paris except 
Thiers, who had refused ofifice beforehand. Gambetta, 
Ernest Picard and Jules Simon were regarded as Deputies for 
Paris, though they had chosen to represent the Bouches-du- 
Rhone, L'H^rault and the Gironde. 

But the revolutionaries were on the alert. They must win 
the army, and to win the army they must have the support 
of the Governor of Paris, General Trochu. Civil war was on 
the horizon, and this danger decided him to accept the 
presidency of the Provisional Government. 

Jules Favre was made Vice-President, and Minister for 
Foreign Affairs ; Gambetta received the portfolio of the In- 
terior, being elected to the post in opposition to Ernest Picard, 
who went to the Ministry of Finance. Cr^mieux became 
Minister of Justice, Le Flo Minister of War, Fourichon 
Minister of Marine, Jules Simon Minister of Public Instruc- 
tion and Ecclesiastical Affairs, Dorian received the portfolio 
of Public Works, and Magnin that of Commerce. 

On September 5 the Government thus addressed the army : 
" We are not the Government of a party : we are a Govern- 
ment of National Defence. We have but one aim and one 

58 



NATIONAL DEFENCE 

desire : the salvation of our country by the army and the 
nation, rallied round that glorious symbol before which 
Europe fled eighty years ago. To-day, as then, the Republic 
stands for the close union of army and people, in the defence 
of our country." 

Three days later the Government of the Defence prepared 
to appeal to the country. " It must be irrefutably proved 
before the eyes of Europe that the whole country is with us. 
The invader must find his advance checked, not only by an 
immense city that is determined to perish rather than yield, 
but also by an entire people— alert, organised and governing 
through their representatives — by an Assembly, in short, that 
can keep the country's heart alive everywhere and despite all 
disasters." The Government then convoked the electoral 
assemblies for October i6, to elect au scrutin de liste^ a 
" Constituent Assembly" of 750 members. 

At this moment MacMahon's Army was imprisoned in Ger- 
many, while Bazaine's was surrounded in Metz, and General 
Vinoy was returning to Paris with fifteen or twenty thousand 
men. To oppose 700,000 Germans we had 94,000 regular 
troops, 49,000 sailors, 13,000 marine infantry and artillery, 
and 34,000 gendarmes, custom-house officials and foresters. 
The Corps Legislatif had, as a matter of fact, ordered a general 
mobilisation ; but the cadres were incomplete, there was a lack 
of generals, and arms were very scarce. Our most important 
supplies were in Strasburg and Metz. The Prussians were 
marching on Paris; and it was believed that the capital con- 
tained only enough food for forty-five days. The enemy was 
counting on a riot. 

It was to the interest of the Government to hasten the elec- 
tion, for the sooner it took place the more Republican would 
its result be ; and moreover it gave the Ministry an oppor- 
tunity of escaping the dangers into which the necessity of 
saving the country had plunged them. 

On September 15 they decreed the number of deputies to 
be elected by each department, and on the following day 

^ That is, a ballot in which the elector votes for all the deputies or senators of a 
department. — Translator's note. 

59 



GAMBETTA 

fixed the elections of the municipal councils for September 25 
and changed the date of the legislative elections to October 2. 

In the meantime they were seeking to establish a delegation 
in the provinces, to represent them and act for them during 
the siege. On September 9 they all agreed that the town 
should be Tours; but the selecting of the men was a harder 
matter, since not one would consent to go. 

It has often been repeated that at this time Gambetta 
insisted on the danger of keeping the Government in Paris. 
Later on he himself, when giving evidence before the Com- 
mittee of Inquiry of the National Assembly, on November 13, 
1872, referred to the subject in these words : " From the very 
beginning I declared that the whole Government ought to 
leave Paris. It seemed to me incomprehensible that a town 
that was about to be besieged and blockaded, and con- 
sequently reduced to a purely military and strategical role, 
should continue to be the seat of Government. Among all 
the weaknesses possible in the circumstances, that was the 
most fatal ; affairs would have turned out quite differently if 
the Government, instead of being blockaded, had been out- 
side." It was indeed a mistake of the first importance to 
leave the Government in Paris; but that this was not so 
obvious at first can easily be deduced from the notes taken 
day by day during the sittings of the Council, by Dr^o, 
secretary to the Government of National Defence. 

On September 7 and 9 the Council decided that " the head 
of the Government " should remain in Paris, but should send 
some of the members to the provinces with the title of dele- 
gates ; and on the 9th, that Cremieux should go to Tours but 
that the Ministers for Foreign Affairs should not. On the 
evening of the same day Gambetta described the gravity of 
the situation in Lyons, and the theories of over-decentralisa- 
tion that were winning their way in several of the large 
towns. He expressed the opinion that, if dismemberment 
were to be avoided, an energetic Government must be estab- 
lished outside Paris. There was some discussion on the 
number of members to be sent as delegates to Tours. Favre, 
Rochefort and Glais-Bizoin advised that two members should 

60 



NATIONAL DEFENCK 

accompany Cremieux, but in the end he was sent alone. On 
the 13th Gambetta wrote to Magnin : "I beseech you to 
render an inestimable service to your country and our cause. 
1 cannot myself go to Tours; my presence in Paris is con- 
sidered indispensable, and I think that view is not without 
foundation. Nothing less than a prevailing belief to that 
effect could have prevented me from going; but you will 
understand how indispensable it is for me, therefore, to have 
at the head of my department a man who is safe, well known, 
popular in the province, and absolutely worthy of my con- 
fidence. You are the very man. Consent to go to Tours, I 
implore you." 

On the 15th he a^ain referred to the tendency in some of 
the departments to form themselves into independent groups, 
and urged that a " real," strong Government should be set 
up at Tours. Garnier-Pag^s suggested that Cremieux 
should be supported by four other members ; but Jules Simon, 
Jules Favre, Glais-Bizoin and Gambetta thought three dele- 
gates would be enough, provided they were well-known and 
inf uential. The same evening Jules Favre's insistence on the 
need for reinforcing Cremieux resulted in the appointment 
of Glais-Bizoin and Admiral Fourichon, who was Minister of 
Marine and at the same time Minister of War for the depart- 
ments. This rough sketch of a Government — so to speak — 
seemed sufficient, because the convocation of the Constituent 
Assembly was expected at an early date, and no one foresaw 
a long siege. 

In the middle of September, then, there was no question of 
transferring the seat of Government to the provinces : the 
Council was chiefly concerned with the political situation in 
certain departments, and the friction between the civil and 
military authorities. Gambetta thought it was his duty to 
remain in Paris. It was only when he was at Tours, two 
months later, that he recognised the full danger of this situa- 
tion from the point of view of national defence, and insisted 
upon it to the besieged Government in his despatch 
of November 9. But by that time it was too late. 

Hardly had they arrived at Tours before the delegates saw 

61 



GAMBETTA 

the impracticability of calling an election. The whole of 
Eastern France was occupied by the Prussians, while in the 
rest of the country most of the electors were on active service. 
Moreover it would involve breaking, in the face of the enemy, 
the truce between the different parties. On September i8 
Cremieux wrote to Gambetta opposing " this terrible domes- 
tic conflict." Gambetta insisted, however, on keeping to the 
whole programme — first the municipal elections, and then the 
political elections. It was of the first importance, he main- 
tained, to legalise the revolution of September 4, to remove 
every pretext for the hostility and the schemes of the pro- 
vinces, " to have no appearance of forgetting in power the 
principles professed in opposition "—this was written on 
September 17 — "and to show Europe that the Republic has 
the sanction of the nation." The delegates were obliged to 
give way, and convoked the electors. 

But Bismarck put an end to these projects. Already, on 
September 13, he had sent a circular to the diplomatic agents 
of Prussia, laying down as a condition of peace "the push- 
ing back of the German frontier so as to give Germany, as 
defensive ramparts, the fortresses that enabled France to 
menace her." On September 20, at Ferrieres, he demanded 
Alsace and Lorraine of Jules Favre, and also, as the prelimxi- 
nary condition of an armistice for the forming of a Constituent 
Assembly, the surrender of Strasburg, Pfalzburg and 
Toul, and the occupation of Mount Val6rien. That is to say, 
the Assembly was to carry on its deliberations at the cannon's 
mouth. On such terms as these, it was impossible to convoke 
the Assembly. Later on, when General Trochu related these 
facts to the National Assembly, on June 2, 187 1, he ended 
with these words: " The Government of the Defence made 
a great effort to give the country, in its agony, the support of 
an Assembly. Had not the Prussian Chancellor introduced 
dishonour between us and that Assembly, it would have 
assumed the direction of the country's affairs." 

The Government, then, was forced to adjourn the elections. 
" Dates will be fixed anew," it said, on September 23, "as 
soon as circumstances allow." And Gambetta telegraphed to 

62 



NATIONAL DEFENCE 

the prefects: "Publish, in all the communes of France, a 
brief report of Favre's interview with Bismarck . . . Paris is 
maddened, and swears to resist d outrance. The depart- 
ments must be roused ! " 

The whole of France, indeed, was enraged by the outrage. 
Never, since the Treaty of Br^tigny, had she heard such 
insulting language. From every corner of the country came 
the same cry of protest. All parties, the " blue " and the 
"white" alike, had flocked to the tricolor even before 
Bismarck's insolent demands were published. Already 
Cathelineau had raised his volunteers in the West, and 
Charette had hastened from Rome with his Pontifical 
Zouaves. Here was no war of La Vendue ! There was no 
repetition, now, of the melancholy scenes of 1814 ! At the 
end of this September of 1870 France sprang to arms as one 
man, shaking with anger : not a man in the whole country 
would have dared to speak of peace, not one ! The Comte de 
Chambord wrote : " At all costs the honour and the territory 
of France must be kept intact." Napoleon III., from his 
captivity at Wilhelmshohe, wrote : " What Government 
could demand such conditions, and then hope to live on any 
kind of terms with a nation that had been so outraged ? 
France would never resign herself to such a humiliation." 
Guizot declared for war a outrance, and opposed the idea of 
surrendering Alsace and Lorraine before showing France 
and the world that everything possible had been done to save 
them. The Prince de Joinville sought active service, and the 
Due de Chartres joined the forces under the name of Robert 
Le Fort. Taine spoke in no uncertain tones. " If there be 
men who are French in heart and desire," he wrote, "they 
are the compatriots of Kleber and Uhrich. To demand that 
they should be torn from their country, should be made the 
subjects of another, and should enter Prussian regiments, to 
fire on the French, perhaps, later on, is a most enormous 
injustice. . . . To impose such a sacrifice upon France is to 
demand of a mother the surrender of one of her children : it 
is contrary to Nature and to morality. The lips that should 
stammer such a compact under the constraint of force would 

63 



GAMBETTA 

retract it in a whisper, and would vow that such a criminal 
promise should never be sealed with a still more criminal 
resignation. . . . On this subject the voice of history — in 
default of feeling — speaks loudly enough : our enemies have 
only to consult their memories of 1807 and 1813 to learn that 
the oppression they suffered produced their retaliation, and 
that the fruits of Wagram and Jena were Leipzig and 
Waterloo." 

For every Frenchman, then, the continuation of the war at 
that time was a matter of plain duty. There was not a man, 
whatever his past, his party, or his beliefs, who hesitated. It 
was a moment of magnificent unanimity on a point of honour. 

Meanwhile, at Tours, there was no real leader. The dele- 
gates were assisted by a consulting committee composed of 
representatives of each of the Ministerial departments. The 
Ministry of the Interior was represented by Clement Laurier, 
with Durangel and Jules Cazot under him; the Ministry of 
Finance by Roussy ; Foreign Affairs by the Comte de 
Chaudordy; Public Instruction by Silvy; Public Works by 
Franqueville, and Commerce by Dumoustier de Fr^dilly. 
The delegates often sought the opinion, also, of Steenackers, 
Director-General of Telegraphic Communications, and of 
Jules Lecesne, President of the Committee of Armament. 

It would be unjust to ignore the good work achieved by 
the delegates and their colleagues before Gambetta's arrival. 
He himself fully recognised it. Admiral Fourichon restored 
the discipline that was so much shaken. Colonel Thoumas 
began the reorganisation of the artillery. Through the dele- 
gates' efforts a fund of fifty millions was placed at the disposal 
of the Committee of Armament, which had been formed in 
Paris on September 9 and had immediately put itself into 
communication with all parts of the world where arms were 
manufactured. At Tours the Delegation had found General 
Lefort, who, in the capacity of Under-Secretary in the 
Ministry of War, had been deputed to form a relieving army 
on the Loire. With a naval brigade, some reserves from 
Africa, a corps of militia, and the remnant of Sedan, the 
nucleus of an army was created in a few days. 

. 64 



NATIONAL DEFENCE 

On October 2 Admiral Fourichon, owing to a disagreement 
with his two colleagues, resigned his post as delegate of the 
Ministry of War, while remaining Minister of Marine. 
General Lefort was selected as Admiral Fourichon 's suc- 
cessor, but his health obliged him to decline the post, and 
the Ministry of War was left with no real head. A variety 
of substitutes were suggested, among them a managing- 
committee of five members ; but this was never actiiallv 
form.ed. 

It was on September 19 that Paris was invested. During 
the two preceding days the Diplomatic Corps had left the 
capital for Tours. On the 21st Gambetta issued a proclama- 
tion that breathed something of the spirit of Danton. " On 
this day, seventy-eight years ago, our fathers founded the 
Republic, and — while the foreign invader was profaning the 
sacred soil of their country — vowed to live free or to die fight- 
ing. They kept their vow ; they defeated the foreigner ; and 
the Republic of 1792 lives in the memory of men as the symbol 
of heroism and national greatness. . . . May the spirit of 
power that inspired our forefathers breathe into our own souls, 
and we, too, shall conquer ! . . ." 



CHAPTER V 



GAMBETTA AT TOURS 



Gambetta leaves Paris in a Balloon — How he became Minister of War — Gambetta 
and Freycinet at the Ministr)' of War. 

During the night of September 27 the Prussians destroyed 
the cable that passed under the Seine, with the result that com- 
munications were cut off between Paris and Tours. And hour 
by hour bad news was arriving from other quarters : the 
fall of Toulon on the 23rd, the fall of Strasbourg on the 28th, 
the invasion of Orleanais, the threat of danger to Tours itself, 
trouble in the Ligue du Midi, increasing friction between pre- 
fects and generals. These things gave the delegates a sense 
of helplessness, and having, only a fortnight earlier, declared 
an election to be impossible, they now regarded it as a neces- 
sity. *' We must have some kind of support," said Cremieux, 
"and nothing but an Assembly can give it to us." Laurier 
was of the same opinion. " Remember," he said on Octo- 
ber 3, " that the greatest achievement of our national history 
was the work of the Convention. Give us some similar 
support, for without it we can do nothing, either at home or 
abroad." The Delegation convoked the electoral meetings for 
October 16, and informed the Government in Paris of their 
action, by means of carrier pigeons. This change of front, 
which revealed their vacillating and uneasy condition, made 
a bad impression in Paris. The objections previously insisted 
on by the delegates themselves, the practical impossibilities 
arising from the invasion of the country and the demands of 
the war, were far more marked than before, while Bismarck's 
claims at Ferri^res and the excitement they had aroused, left 

66 



GAMBETTA AT TOURS 

no choice but to continue the struggle a. outrance. On 
October i the Government in Paris passed this decree : 
" Since the new decision of the Delegation can only be the 
result of a misapprehension . . . since it is physically impos- 
sible that it should be carried out in twenty-three of the depart- 
ments, and since it must of necessity be incompletely enforced 
in the others, it is decreed that the adjournment of the elec- 
tions should remain in force until such time as they can be 
held in all parts of the Republic." 

There then arose a question of sending another member of 
the Government to Tours, and Gambetta was suggested by 
several of his colleagues. He refused to go. " He regarded 
Paris as the post of the greatest danger and therefore of the 
greatest honour," says Jules Simon in his Souvenirs du 
Quatre-Septembre ; it seemed to him that, being young, he 
ought to be nearer to the enemy. For a long time he resisted 
his colleagues' wishes." The whole of the 3rd was occupied 
in discussions, yet nothing definite was settled. Jules Favre 
and Gambetta persisted in their refusal. The matter was then 
put to the vote, and the choice falling on Gambetta, he 
declared himself ready to submit. After a long discussion, 
his powers were thus defined: "M. Gambetta's instructions 
are to express and carry out the wishes of the Government. 
He will strive to maintain the unity of action that is essential 
to success. He will consult with his colleagues, and will 
have a casting vote. In concert with them he will enforce the 
execution of the decree by which the elections to the Con- 
stituent Assembly are adjourned until the conditions of the 
war shall make it possible to consult the country. As Minis- 
ter of the Interior he is invested with full powers to recruit, 
assemble, and arm all the national forces which it may be 
necessary to raise for the defence of the country. In all 
matters concerning the organisation and movements of the 
army, the decisions of the Delegation shall be executed by the 
Minister of War and Marine." 

Gambetta had no illusions with regard to the almost insur- 
mountable difficulties that lay before him, but he did not 
despair of overcoming them. He had not sought the power 

67 F 2 



GAMBETTA 

that was thrust upon him ; but his whole soul was filled with 
the sacred ambition to save his country, and in the intensity 
of his desire he believed he had the strength to fulfil it. "I 
shall come back with an army," he said to Jules Favre, " and 
if I have the honour of saving France I shall ask no more of 
fate." 

At eleven o'clock in the morning of October 7 two balloons, 
the Armand Barbes and the George Sand, rose from the 
Place Saint-Pierre at Montmartre. In the first was Gambetta, 
and v/ith him the intimate friend who was his chief confidant, 
Spuller — as well as the fortunes of France. The balloons, 
borne by a very gentle south-easterly breeze, left Saint-Denis 
on their right, but hardly had they crossed the line of forts 
when they were attacked, not only by a fusillade from the 
Prussian advanced-guard, but also by artillery fire. The 
balloons were at a height of less than two thousand feet, and 
the travellers could hear the whistle of the bullets. They 
therefore rose to an altitude that put them out of danger; 
but, owing to some accident or mismanagement, the balloon 
that was carrying the Minister of the Interior began to 
descend rapidly, and finally alighted in a field that had been 
crossed only a few hours earlier by some of the enemy's regi- 
ments, and was but a short distance from a German post. On 
some ballast being thrown out, the balloon rose and went 
safely on its way ; but it had barely reached a height of 600 ft. 
when, near Creil, it was again attacked, this time by some 
Wiirtemberger troops, and Gambetta's hand was grazed by 
a bullet. Finally, he alighted near Montdidier, and reached 
Amiens in the evening. 

He wrote to Paris: "The country is rising in every 
direction. The Government of National Defence is applauded 
everywhere." At Rouen he was presented with an address. 
" There is abundance of enthusiasm, but a lack of energy and 
leadership. Be in the provinces, as you have been in Paris, 
energy and leadership personified, and the enemy will be 
beaten back, France will be saved, the Republic will be finally 
and permanently established ! " 

" Let us sink all individual interests," he answered, "and 

68 



GAMBETTA AT TOURS 

sacrifice all personal sentiments to the one thought of the 
country's salvation ! " On reaching Tours he hastened to 
the Council. Thanking the crowd for their welcome, he said : 
" Neither you nor I have a moment to lose : this is no time 
for demonstrations. We must work : at this moment to work 
is to fight. Every man should be at his post." He then 
informed the departments of his arrival, and described to them 
the magnificent effort that was being made by Paris. " The 
situation lays great duties on your shoulders. The first duty 
of all is to concern yourselves with nothing whatever that is 
not the war — war a outrance. We must make the most of all 
our resources, and they are immense. The Republic calls 
upon every individual to play his part. It is a tradition with 
the Republic to love young leaders : we will make some ! . . . 
No, it is not possible that the genius of France should be per- 
manently eclipsed, or that this great nation should be robbed 
of her place in the world by an invasion of five hundred 
thousand men !" 

His first care was to urge General Lefort to accept the port- 
folio for War (Actes du Gouvernement de la Defense 
nationale, deposition du general Lefort, vol. VI., p. 36). The 
general, whose health was still very bad, was firm in his 
refusal. It was then that Gambetta — who saw in the scheme 
a means of putting an end to the growing friction between 
the prefects and generals — suggested entrusting the two port- 
folios to the same hand. Cr^mieux and Glais-Bizoin opposed 
the idea, but Fourichon voted with Gambetta, whose casting 
vote settled the matter. The Minister of the Interior, there- 
fore, became also Minister of War, to the great surprise of 
the Government of Paris, and curiously enough without a 
Decree. Later on, before the Commission of Inquiry, he 
stated the fact, but laid no stress on it : " I do not wish to 
contradict my colleagues on questions of no importance. I 
gave Admiral Fourichon the opportunity of keeping the port- 
folio for War, but he declined it ; he said he had had enough 
of it."^ 

1 November 13th, 1872. Cf. Trochu, Commission of Inquiry and Lc Siige de Paris ; 
Ernest Picard, Commission of Inquiry ; Glais-Bizoin, Dictature de cinq mois, etc. 

69 



GAMBETTA 

General Lefort gave an account of the situation to the new 
Minister, and told him the number of regiments that were 
ready to take the field. " General," said Gambetta, " we 
will put the state of affairs in writing, so that there may be no 
doubt as to what you have done and where we stand." And 
he sent a despatch to Jules Favre. "There really exists an 
Army of the Loire, numbering 110,000 men, all well 
armed and well equipped," he said. Here he was certainly 
exaggerating, but none the less much had been achieved. 

The central administration of the Ministry of War was in 
an embryonic state. Only a quarter of the Ministerial 
bureaux had been sent to Tours. There were no archives, 
and no maps. Gambetta appointed M. Charles de Freycinet 
as his " deputy in the department of War," instructing him 
to "direct the affairs of that department in his name and 
place, within the limits that would be laid down for him by 
the Minister." 

M. de Freycinet, once a pupil at the Polytechnic School, 
was a mining engineer who, while still quite young, had for 
four years directed the development of railways in the South. 
He had carried out various administrative missions and 
written several scientific essays; and when, on September 6, 
he was made prefect of his native department, Tarn-et- 
Garonne, he sent to the Delegation a memorandum that he 
and Jules Lecesne had written together on the best means of 
saving France from her perilous position. Having read this 
paper, Gambetta determined to make him his colleague. He 
was then forty-two, an indefatigable worker, clear-headed, 
quick, shrewd, imperturbable, a spring always stretched to its 
utmost limit, yet of fragile appearance. In a despatch to 
Jules Favre, Gambetta, after describing how he had trans- 
formed the Ministry of War, "since that was inevitable," 
added : " I have had the good fortune to find colleagues who 
are both enterprising and prudent ; and I cannot pass over in 
silence the most able of them all, my Deputy in the Ministry 
of War, M. Charles de Freycinet, whose zeal and striking- 
abilities are equal to the solving of all difficulties and the 
overcoming of all obstacles." 

70 



GAMBETTA AT TOURS 

M. de Freycinet's first undertaking was the organisation 
of the chief administrative departments in the War Ministry. 
It has been complained that in his choice of officials the mili- 
tary element was not sufficiently prominent. But there was 
a great lack of officers, and those that were left were needed 
for the army : he was forced to appoint engineers and the 
higher railway officials. " There were many who eagerly 
offered their services," he said, " but often their patriotism 
was greater than their capacities." 

In a short time, thanks to the efforts of a distinguished 
officer of Marines called Jusselain, the generals and staffs were 
provided with good maps. In spite of great difficulties, the 
telegraphic service was well organised under Steenackers : an 
entirely new department for investigation and inquiry was 
created by M. Cuvinot ; and a committee for studying methods 
of defence, with Colonel Deshorties as chairman, was 
employed to discriminate between useful and worthless 
inventions. 

The Department that was at first in the hands of General 
de Loverdo and then under General Haca sent 600,000 
infantry and cavalry mto the field in less than four months — 
" troops that were too raw," said Gambetta, but fought with 
great courage. The Ordnance Department was separated 
from that of the Engineers, which was placed under General 
V^ronique, and in the same space of time Colonel Thoumas — 
promoted to General in December for his special services — and 
his admirable coadjutors, Colonel de Reffye at Nantes and 
General Demolon at Rennes, sent out 1,400 guns, that is to 
say, two batteries a day, fully equipped and manned. None 
of the armies lacked munitions ; indeed, Chanzy said that his 
gunners enjoyed a positive orgy of them. Only Bourbaki 
ran short of them at the end of the campaign in the east, but 
that was owing to difficulties of transport. 

During the first half of November some engineers of the 
Survey Department erected some fortifications at Orleans, 
which gained much approval from the generals, especially 
General d'Aurelle de Paladines. M. de Freycinet, therefore, 
created a corps of civil engineers which, by the end of the 

71 



GAMBETTA 

war, numbered 52, with the addition of 200 section 
commanders. 

At the time of Gambetta's arrival all the army supplies 
were supervised By one Assistant-Commissary. He was 
replaced by M. Ferot, at one time general traffic manager of 
the railways of the west. Between October 15, 1870, and 
January 31, 1871, the army received 779,200 blankets, 677,400 
great-coats, 957,200 pairs of trousers, 714,500 tunics and 
jerseys, 1,813,700 pairs of shoes, 697,000 haversacks, 
17,000,000 rations of biscuits, 40,000,000 rations of rice, 
11,000,000 of lard, 35,000,000 of salt, and 35,000,000 of sugar, 
coffee, etc. This considerable achievement did not make 
itself felt at once, nor in every place; it often happened that 
officers in command had to complain of insufficient supplies 
of clothing and equipment. In the middle of October, for 
instance, one of the two corps composing the Army of the 
Loire was fairly well equipped, but the other was still in want 
of many things; and in January there were certain corps of 
the Army of the East that had not enough equipment or 
clothing. Committees of officers and expert civilians were 
formed to superintend the buying of food, clothes, equipment 
and camp furniture. Sanitary arrangements were amply 
provided for. 

The cadres were incomplete. It was necessary to double 
the strength of each company, at the risk of injuring the 
quality of the troops, in order to reduce the number of 
captains by half. Non-commissioned officers and even 
private soldiers received commissions. The Decree of 
October 13 suspended the ordinary rules of promotion for the 
duration of the war, which enabled officers like Billot, 
de Sonis and Loysel, lieutenant-colonels in October, to be in 
command of army corps in December. The Decree of Octo- 
ber 14, following the example of the United States during 
the War of Secession, created an Auxiliary Army. This 
decree was much criticised : it was pointed out that if the 
21 millions who composed the Federation of the North took 
four years to defeat the six millions of the Confederation of 
the South, this was owing to the inexperience of untrained 

72 



GAMBETTA AT TOURS 

officers. M. de Freycinet himself recognised that some of 
these provisional appointments were not very fortunate, but 
it was thanks to this decree that Generals Bonnet, 
de Polignac, Pelissief, Cremer, Garibaldi, Bossack and 
Ochsenbein were in command of divisions, that Lipowski, 
Cathelineau, Keller, Bouras and Carayon-Latour distin- 
guished themselves in leading the volunteers, and that our 
glorious sailors, Jaur^guiberry, jaur^s, Penhoat, Payen, 
Bruat, Gougeard and others, won renown on the field of battle 
side by side with their brothers of the army. "If it be 
thought," said M. de Freycinet, "that the Auxiliary Army, 
notwithstanding its immense services, did not shine like that 
of the United States, let it be remembered that in America 
the war lasted for several years, while in France it was over 
in four months ; it was only after being beaten for three years 
by the regular organisation of the South that the improvised 
generals of the North learnt to win in th<5ir turn. . . ." 

One of the greatest anxieties of the new Government was 
the scarcity of arms and munitions. The chassepots^ manu- 
factured under the Empire, which were superior to the German 
rifles, had been captured by the enemy or were in besieged 
towns. The State factories only produced between 15,000 
and iS^ooo a month. The Armament Committee, which was 
connected with the Ministry of Public Works, had exhausted 
the rather limited English market, as appears from a despatch 
of September 28 from our Consul Tissot, and was now turn- 
ing to America. In the three months that followed, it spent 
200 millions in arms and munitions. In February the number 
of rifles supplied to the troops, irrespective of about 300,000 
chassepots, amounted to more than 1,200,000. As they were 
of very varying types, the question of cartridges was a serious 
complication. 

By a decree of November 3 each department was obliged 
to supply, at its own expense, within a period of two months, 
one completely equipped battery for every 100,000 inhabitants. 
The time allowed was too short, but the result was not to be 

^ The French breech-loading rifle of 1 866-1 874, called after its inventor, and first 
used in action at the Battle of Mentana {1867). — Translator's note. 

73 



GAMBETTA 

despised. The Committee appointed on February 19, 1871, 
to estimate the military resources of the country reported to 
the National Assembly that there were, at that time, 57 com- 
pletely equipped batteries, with their full complement of men 
and horses, and 41 batteries complete as regards materiel 
only. 

Finally, on November 25 — the decree of November 2 
having made all able-bodied men under forty eligible for the 
army — the Minister of War created eleven local camps to 
facilitate their training. The Government intended these to 
be permanent, and to form a basis for future military reforms ; 
but here, too, time failed, and the measure did not achieve all 
that was expected of it. 

The work to be done, however great the inevitable over- 
sights and mistakes, was a gigantic undertaking. In 1914 
an unfavourable critic ^ of the Delegation of Tours and Bor- 
deaux maintained that, if the Government of National 
Defence was able to send armies into the field, this was 
thanks to the measures taken between August 10 and Septem- 
ber 4 by the Comte de Palikao, Minister of War. Now 
Le Boeuf and Palikao themselves have shown this statement 
to be incorrect. On the declaration of war the army num- 
bered 250,000 men. This figure should have been increased 
to 340,000 by the calling-up of the reserves on July 14; 
"but," said Le Boeuf to the Committee of Inquiry, "there 
was a very considerable deficiency : great numbers had been 
granted leave, and the civil hospitals were full." He esti- 
mated the effective forces at 300,000, of whom 250,000 were 
in the armies of the Rhine and of Chalons. The law of 
August 10 called up every man between the ages of twenty- 
five and thirty-five, but could not be carried out, since the 
depots could neither hold, clothe, nor train so many. On 
September 4 the Militia comprised 120,000 at the most, with 
the addition of the 1869 class, who had been incorporated with 
it at the end of August and numbered 75,000; but they were 
neither clothed, nor equipped, nor formed into corps. 
The 1870 class was only to be called up on January i, 

^ Dutrait-Crozon, Gamhetta et la Difetise Nationale, 

74 



GAMBETTA AT TOURS 

1 87 1. As for the artillery, the Due d'Audiffret-Pasquier, 
President of the Contracts Committee, informed the National 
Assembly on May 22, 1872, that there were, when war was 
declared, 2,058 field-guns fit for use. But the loss of those 
captured at Sedan, and of those shut up in Metz and Paris, 
left the Delegation without a single complete battery at their 
disposal : they had nothing but the equipment necessary to 
form eighty. And in his book, Un minister e de la Guerre 
de vingt-quatre jour&, Palikao declares that 600,000 new rifles 
were required, and that though he had passed contracts for 
458,000, no more than 38,432 were delivered by the end of 
March, 1871. This shows us how much truth there is in the 
belief that the Palikao Ministry created the defensive forces 
of France in 1870. 

General Borel, referring to the Delegation of Tours and 
Bordeaux, said to the Committee of Inquiry of the National 
Assembly : " Everything that was physically possible to be 
done, it did." Its work left the achievements of 1792 far 
behind. The men of '92, moreover, had much more time 
before them. The labours of M. Gambetta, M. de Freycinet 
and their colleagues earned them the undying gratitude of 
their country. 

Gambetta restored the nation's self-confidence. The 
people's hearts were stirred by his glowing, forcible eloquence 
and his enthusiastic faith ; their imagination was fired by the 
daring novelty of his perilous journe}^ in the air. His pro- 
clamations thrilled them. France felt that she had a leader, 
and took heart again.' He infected her with the energy and 
sparkle of youth. He had faith, when so many had none. 
Everything that he touched reflected the flame within him. 
It was in this — in this above all — that his greatness consisted. 
He was, and will always be in the eyes of posterity, the per- 
sonification of that national, unanimous outburst of hostility 
to Germany that followed on the insult at Ferri^res. To 
France, and to the whole world, he will always appear as the 
hero of the country's defence — of her resistance to the attacks 
of force and guile combined, and to the barbarities of the 
conqueror. The more hideous Bismarck's crime of falsifying 

75 



GAMBETTA 

the Ems telegram grows in the eyes of civilised humanity, 
the finer will appear the figure of the man who did his utmost 
to repair the evil. 

But at the moment the most urgent need was a sw^ord, a 
military leader. Neither the lawyer of thirty-two nor the 
civil engineer of forty-two was capable of commanding an 
army : how could they have been ? No art can be practised 
without training — and that art least of all. "What would I 
not give to be a soldier! " cried Robespierre in 1793 to the 
Committee of Public Safety, when he heard Carnot speaking 
of these things as one who understood the subject. And 
later on, when Gambetta sang the praises of Hoche, it was 
plain that he, too, had suffered from this longing. Gambetta 
and M. de Freycinet have been accused, not without reason, 
of interfering in the conduct of military operations. But 
they had first done everything in their power to find generals. 
Of those who had attained to distinction under the Second 
Empire, only Trochu and Bourbaki had escaped being taken 
prisoner at Sedan or besieged in Metz. Trochu, who was held 
fast in Paris, advised Gambetta to employ Bourbaki. " Keep 
Bourbaki at all costs, '"^ he wrote on October 19. " He will 
save the provinces as we shall save Paris." 

Bourbaki at that time was fifty-six years of age. His career 
had been brilliant. He was a major at thirty, a colonel at 
thirty-six, and a general only a few days later. He had 
covered himself with glory in Africa and the Crimea, and 
finally had commanded the Imperial Guard. Having been 
deceived by false reports in Metz, he had followed the 
Empress to England, m.uch to her surprise ; then, instead of 
returning to Metz, he arrived at Tours on October 14 to put 
his services at the disposal of the Delegation. Gambetta at 
once offered him the command of the Army of the Loire. 
" Since France has need of your sword, and since I am not here 
to meddle with politics, I shall ask you no questions about 
your secrets, if you have any." And he used every effort 
to persuade him. But Bourbaki answered that " he did not 
feel equal to fulfilling all that the public expected of him," 
and would only consent to organise the forces of the north. 

76 



GAMBETTA AT TOURS 

He had always been in command of picked troops — the Afri- 
can Light Infantry, the Zouaves and the Imperial Guard. 
He believed only in seasoned troops, and of these France had 
no more; he distrusted the "scratch collection of .men" 
that were being turned into soldiers, and thought it would be 
wiser to conclude peace, 

"A scratch collection of men!" And yet it was with 
such " scratch collections " that the Convention saved France 
in 1793, and that Prussia defeated Napoleon in 1813. And we 
know the tone that Napoleon took in 18 14, when Angereau, 
whom he had made Duke of Castiglione, complained that he 
could do nothing with " conscripts without cartridge- 
pouches," and "miserable National Guards." " Really this 
is too ridiculous ! " said Napoleon. " You are to set out within 
twelve hours of receiving these orders, to enter upon the cam- 
pagn. If you are still Augereau de Castiglione, keep the 
command; if your sixty years weigh too heavily on you, 
hand it over to the senior general officer under you. The 
country is in danger; it can only be saved by audacity and 
goodwill, and not by foolish dallying. Be the first in the 
field! On with your boots and your resolute will of 1793! 
When our men see your plume at the outposts, and see you 
are the first to face the enemy's fire, you will be able to do 
what you like with them." 

Gambetta, however, contented himself with saying to the 
hero of Inkerman : " You will change your opinion." He 
was too optimistic. 



77 



CHAPTER VI 

THE DELEGATION OF TOURS AND THE MILITARY OPERATIONS 

The Army of the Loire — Coulmiers — Beaune-la-RoIande — Loigny — Evacuation of 
Orleans (November 20-December 4)— Who was Responsible ? 

Of all the forces organised by the Government of National 
Defence, the Army of the Loire played the most important 
part. It was, as Colmar von der Goltz said, "the Grand 
Army of the Republic." 

The 15th Army Corps, the first to be formed, was driven 
south of the Loire on October lo and ii, and the Germans 
occupied Orleans. Gambetta, who reached Tours at about the 
same time as the news of this repulse, removed General de la 
Motterouge,^ who was in command, and replaced him by 
General d'Aurelles de Paladines. 

General d'Aurelle, who was sixty-six and had been in the 
Reserve since 1869, had fought in Africa and the Crimea as 
a colonel of Zouaves. He was a good soldier and one of un- 
doubted courage, with an aptitude for training and disposing 
troops, but he had never commanded more than 10,000 men. 
Very wisely he declined the full powers that Gambetta offered 
him; he only accepted the command of the 15th and i6th 
Army Corps, and retired to Salbris — whence he covered 
Vierzon and Bourges — with a view to organising his forces 
there. Several days passed, during which — save for the 
splendid defence of Chateaudun, where a handful of heroes 
gave a noble example to the open towns — the 20,000 
Bavarians of Von der Tann and 100,000 Frenchmen faced one 
another without engaging. 

^ Etienne Lamy explained the reasons for the removal of Motterouge in the 
Correspondant of June 25, 1903. 

78 



DELEGATION OF TOURS 

There then arrived some urgent despatches from the Govern- 
ment in Paris, with the news that a sortie by way of the lower 
Seine had been organised by Generals Trochu and Ducrot. It 
seemed to Gambetta and Bourbaki that, since there was then 
no organised force in Normandy, the project of ihese generals 
could only be seconded by moving the troops beyond the Loire 
from Bourges towards Rouen. A flanking movement of this 
kind, carried out on so long a line by young, untried troops, 
under the eyes of the hostile forces that were now being massed 
in the neighbourhood of Chartres, must be fraught with the 
greatest danger. Gambetta therefore desired, while the 
German forces were concentrated round Paris and Metz, to 
take the offensive against Von der Tann while he was twenty 
leagues from his base, and drive him back, thus raising the 
blockade of Paris. But to do this, it was first necessary to 
retake Orleans. On October 24 a conference was held at 
Salbris between M. de Freycinet and Generals d'Aurelle, 
Martin des Pallieres, Pourcet, and Borel; and the next day 
they met again at Tours, with Gambetta presiding, to arrange 
the details of the enterprise. At the last moment, on the 
evening of the 28th, the Delegation learnt that the expedition 
would not take place. They were informed by General 
d'Aurelle that the weather was bad, the roads out of order, the 
equipment of a section of the militia defective, and that it 
would not be prudent in the circumstances to venture on so 
bold a movement. In the face of this despatch the Minister 
of War felt it impossible to issue to the general in command 
an order that might result in defeat. He simply answered : 
" Your hesitation, and the fears you express in your despatch 
force me to renounce a plan of whose value my opinion has not 
changed. The movement, therefore, must be stopped." 
On the following day came the terrible news : Bazaine has 
surrendered. 

The cry of rage and despair wrung from Gambetta by the 
fall of Metz will echo down the centuries : 

" Men of France, bestir yourselves, and brace your spirit to 
meet the appalling perils that are overwhelming your country ! 
It rests with us still to wear down the evil fortune that pursues 

79 



GAMBETTA 

us, and show the world the greatness of a nation that refuses to 
be crushed. . . . 

" Metz has surrendered. 

" A general in whom France trusted, even after the events 
in Mexico, has robbed our country in her danger of more than 
a hundred thousand of her defenders. ..." 

'* The French army," he added, "despite the heroism of 
the troops, has been involved in the country's disasters through 
the treachery of its leaders ! . . ." (October 30.) 

It is clear that these words, " the treachery of its leaders," 
were meant to apply to Bazaine only. Certain officers, how- 
ever, even though appointed by Gambetta himself, felt them- 
selves insulted; and he therefore tried to reassure them in a 
proclamation addressed to the army on the following day. 
" You have been betrayed, but not dishonoured. . . . Now 
that you are rid of leaders unworthy of you and of France, 
are you prepared, under generals who deserve your confidence, 
to wash away in the invaders' blood the insult that has been 
hurled at the ancient name of France ? " This time the mean- 
ing was plain enough ; yet some of the generals continued to 
misinterpret it, and it was only a new proclamation on 
November 12, after the Battle of Coulmiers, that finally cleared 
up this disastrous misunderstanding. 

The immediate consequence of the surrender of Metz was 
that the 180,000 men under Prince Frederick-Charles were set 
free to serve elsewhere. They might be expected to arrive 
about November 16 or 18; it was essential, therefore, at all 
costs, to take the first step. 

Gambetta determined to employ the 15th and i6th Army 
Corps in the recapture of Orleans. General Chanzy, who had 
distinguished himself at the head of a division, was promoted 
to the command of the i6th Army Corps. General d'Aurelle 
conducted the operation. On November 9 the Army of the 
Loire advanced upon the plain of Coulmiers in perfect order ; 
and Von der Tann, who had only 20,000 men and no guns, 
against 60,000 men and 150 guns, was outflanked. The 
French generals, Peytavin and Barry, dashed forward at the 
head of their troops, like their forerunners of the Revolution, 

80 



DELEGATION OF TOURS 

inspiring their men to follow. Admiral Jaur^guiberry, said 
the soldiers, navigated his little horse as skilfully as a ship in 
a gale. At four o'clock Von der Tann evacuated Orleans and 
fell back on Artenay. 

The French army fought valiantly; our men, each and all, 
showed splendid courage and dash ; our artillery fire was un- 
erring. But unfortunately General Reyau, who should have 
turned the enepiy's right with his cavalry, fell back when he 
saw Lipowski's riflemen in the distance, taking them for 
Germans; and Martin des Palli^res, who was coming up by 
the right bank of the Loire with 30,000 infantry, 44 guns and 
800 horse, did not arrive in time. He was carrying out his 
orders, be it said, but so rapid an advance was unexpected. 

These circumstances detracted considerably from the effects 
of the victory of Coulmiers. Yet it was an undeniable victory 
which, in the words of the general in command, " strengthened 
the morale of the troops tenfold " and made a deep impression 
both in France and abroad. It was our greatest success of the 
whole war, and seemed to promise a change in our fortunes. 
The Army of the Loire had come gloriously through its 
baptism of fire, and was apparently to be the instrument of 
our approaching revenge. 

The surprise of the Germans was extreme. A Bavarian 
officer wrote to his family : " It was said that the Army of the 
Loire had ceased to exist, and that the enemy's forces were 
worn out, and now suddenly there springs up a well-organised 
corps, with formidable artillery, admirably mounted cavalry, 
and infantry that have shown us what they can do. The 
situation has changed, and in a most disquieting way for us." 

Gambetta addressed a proclamation to the army. " Your 
courage and exertions," he said, " have at last brought us the 
victory that has been denied to our arms for three months. 
France in her mourning owes you her first consolation, her 
first ray of hope. . . . Under leaders whose vigilance and 
devotion are worthy of you, you have recovered discipline and 
strength. You have restored Orleans to us, and overpowered 
veteran troops who have long been accustomed to victory. 
. . . You are the advanced-guard of the entire country, and 

81 G 



GAMBETTA 

to-day your feet are on the road to Paris. . . . Paris awaits 
us : our honour is at stake : she must be rescued from the 
barbarians' clutches. . . . With such soldiers as you the 
Republic will rise triumphant from her present trials : having 
organised her defences she can now avenge the nation. ..." 

The Germans expected that the French army would at once 
follow up the victory of Coulmiers by marching to Paris. 
This fear can be detected in the telegrams sent by King 
William on November 9, 10, and even 11 to Queen Augusta, 
to explain the defeat and reassure her with regard to its 
consequences. He laid great stress on the fact that the 
French, instead of advancing towards the capital, were 
securing the positions they had won. Moltke wrote on the 14th 
to General von Stiehle, Chief of Staff to Frederick-Charles : 
"The Army of the Loire has failed to recognise its own 
capacity to push on to Paris, fighting as it advances : yet that 
is its only hope of success. Apparently it dares not make an 
attack. A strong offensive by the enemy would be no less 
dangerous for us from the West than from the South. It is 
possible that the Army of the Loire will confine itself to a 
passive defence of Orleans, but that is very unlikely, since 
Gambetta knows for certain that Paris cannot hold out unless 
the blockade be raised. We are very grateful to His Royal 
Highness (Prince Frederick-Charles) for hastening his march : 
it helped us out of a kind of crisis." Then, alluding to the 
" movements of the Army of the Loire, of which we un- 
fortunately know so little," Moltke adds that they must expect, 
on the 15th, a sortie of the Paris garrison " on a larger scale 
than those hitherto attempted." 

Thus, from November 12 to 14, the situation caused real 
uneasiness at the German General Headquarters. Moltke 
faced the possibility that the blockade of Paris might be raised, 
and recognised on the 14th that a sort of strategical crisis had 
occurred. 

And indeed, according to the statistics in the archives of the 
Ministry of War, the French troops within sixty kilometres 
of Toury amounted to 150,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry, 
against whom the Germans were only able to bring 35,000 

82 



DELEGATION OF TOURS 

infantry and ii,ooo cavalry. The army of Frederick-Charles, 
which had reached the Troyes-Vandeuvre-Chaumont line on 
the loth, was too far away to support the Grand Duke of 
Mecklenburg with an army corps before November i6, or 
with his entire force before the 21st. We had at least three 
days at our disp>osal after the 13th to deal with the Grand 
Duke before the arrival of Frederick-Charles. Moreover, the 
German General Staff could not draw upon the troops 
investing Paris, since a sortie on a large scale was expected. 

Such was the situation when Gambetta and M. de Freycinet 
went to Villeneuve-d'Ingr6 on the 12th, to congratulate the 
generals, thank the troops, and bestow rewards. They found 
there Generals d'Aurelle, Borel, and des Palli^res, the officers 
in command of the Artillery and Engineers, and the Prefect 
of the Loire with his secretary. 

With regard to what passed at Villeneuve-d'Ingr6 on this 
occasion, neither eye-witnesses nor historians are agreed. I 
questioned M. de Freycinet on the subject, and this was his 
answer : " It was not a Council of War, in the proper meaning 
of the term. We had come, Gambetta and I, to congratulate 
the generals and ask them for information. In the course of 
the interview I put this question to D'Aurelle : ' What do you 
think of doing? Do you think you can march on Paris?' 
D'Aurelle merely uttered an exclamation. Borel said : * We 
must first find out the strength and positions of the enemy.' 
D'Aurelle declared that the troops were tired out, and the 
matter was dropped as far as that meeting was concerned. 
There was no definite suggestion made, nor was there any 
discussion. It was understood that the troops would remain 
at Orleans for the time being, awaiting news from Paris." 

M. de Freycinet's statements agree with his account of the 
occasion in the Souvenirs he published in IQ12. He says 
there : " General d'Aurelle opposed the idea of a march on 
Paris, which seemed to be suggested as a possibility in 
General Borel's explanations." 

D'Aurelle, in his book La Premiere armee de la Loire, says 
that a march on Paris would have been "a mad attempt." 
He thought the good effects of the Battle of Coulmiers might 

83 G 2 



GAMBETTA 

be undone if recently formed troops of little training and little 
experience were sent out to the relief of Paris. He did not 
know, moreover, the exact numbers and positions of the 
Germans, and he considerably exaggerated their strength. 
Being a person of discretion, he kept his counsel {La Premiere 
armee de la Loire, page 130), but he had firmly decided to 
entrench his troops before Orleans in carefully chosen and 
prepared positions, and there to await the shock of the com- 
bined German forces — Prince Frederick-Charles from Metz, 
the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg from D'Angerville, and 
von der Tann, who joined the Grand Duke near Loury, seven 
or eight leagues from Coulmiers, and was placed under his 
orders on the loth. 

Before the Committee of Inquiry of the National Assembly, 
General Borel was asked by a member if the Commander-in- 
Chief had had serious reasons for failing to pursue the enemy 
after his victory. The witness unhesitatingly answered, 
"Yes, certainly"; and explained that, since the Bavarians 
had been able to retire in good order, the pursuing troops 
would have been obliged to engage in a second battle, and 
might have found the enemy considerably reinforced. No 
doubt, he said, a pursuit would have rendered the retreat less 
orderly, but the French could not have fought their way to 
Paris with the means at their disposal. 

General Chanzy added his evidence in La Deuxieme armee 
de la Loire (p. 35) : "If the Government at Tours had been 
less preoccupied with the position at Orleans, which it wished 
to make the base of future operations, and if the general in 
command had thought the Army of the Loire sufficiently com- 
plete and equipped to continue its advance, it might perhaps 
have been possible, by taking advantage of the enthusiasm 
roused by the victory of the 9th, to reach and defeat General 
von der Tann's Army before it was reinforced by the Grand 
Duke's, and then to attack the latter, thus dealing with the 
Germans separately before the arrival of Prince Frederick- 
Charles." 

And, in trying to grasp the situation, we must not forget 
that, while the Battle of Coulmiers was being fought. 

84 



DELEGATION OF TOURS 

Trochu and Ducrot were making their final preparations for 
the sortie by the lower Siene. They only heard of the victory 
at Coulmiers on November 14, and were obliged to change all 
their plans. It would therefore have been difficult to time 
their movement towards Ofleans so as to coincide with an 
advance by the Army of the Loire. 

One thing is certain : the Commander-in-Chief received no 
orders at Villeneuve-d'Ingre to march on Paris. It is also 
evident that, if Gambetta and M. de Freycinet had firmly 
believed at that time in the possibility of an immediate pursuit, 
they would at least have taken the precaution of leaving some 
record of their opinion, since a decision on one side or the 
other was likely to involve very serious consequences. Gam- 
betta thought of it : that is proved by the question put by 
Freycinet to D'Aurelle. But when the Commander-in-Chief 
rejected the idea it was agreed by all, on that occasion, that 
the army should remain at Orleans. 

There was this difference, however, between the views of 
the Minister of War and those of the general in command. 
The former regarded Orleans as a base for further offensives, 
to be promptly undertaken ; while the latter proposed to wait 
there for the enemy's attacks. Gambetta's plans were depen- 
dent on sorties from Paris, which could not be long delayed, 
while D'Aurelle's design was merely to help Paris by means 
of a powerful diversion. His project might perhaps have 
been the better of the two, had Paris not appealed for support. 
It was a plan that meant a long war. By waiting on the 
defensive for the enemy, and taking the time to organise 
troops with the triple advantage of numbers, supplies and 
arms, it might have been possible eventually to secure the last 
word. But there was Paris in the case — and Paris was 
issuing orders. A choice had to be made between the two 
schemes; and to ask D'Aurelle to carry out a plan he thought 
impracticable was to court dangerous complications. 

Meanwhile Frederick-Charles was approaching from Metz 
by forced marches. On November 20 he reached Pithiviers 
with 14,000 infantry, 1,200 cavalry and 84 guns. The 
9th Army Corps had preceded him in the direction of Fon- 

85 



GAMBETTA 

tainebleau, to cover Paris on the south. On the 17th the 
Prince had thus expressed his view of the situation. " It 
seems to me not impossible that the enemy at this moment 
may mass all the available French troops near Orleans. The 
next few weeks will be interesting; they will decide the fate 
of Europe for a long-time to come." 

Three days later he judged the numbers of the French 
forces to be 120,000 or 150,000. " I think the destruction of 
the Army of the Loire," he said, " or even its mere repulse, 
would largely contribute to the end of the war. After all, 
the immense exertions of France can only inspire respect, and 
it would be dangerous to the last degree not to take them 
seriously. ... I am going in search of the enemy in the 
direction of Artenay as soon as the loth Army Corps is suffi- 
ciently rested to join me." He postponed his offensive, 
which had been previously fixed for November 21, in order 
to make the attack with all his forces united and in good 
condition. 

In the meantime the Ministry of War was doing its utmost 
to reinforce the two army corps that had fought at Coulmiers. 
By November 19 three new army corps, though far from com- 
plete, had gone to the front: the i8th and 20th to the right 
wing, near Nevers and Gien, under Billot and De Crouzat, 
and the 17th to the left, under Durrien, who was soon displaced 
by De Sonis. The i6th Army Corps, which comprised only 
two divisions, was reinforced by a third on the Chateaudun 
road. 

D'Aurelle, faithful to his plan, still considered his first duty 
to be the completion of his entrenched camp. " Not until all 
these works are finished," he wrote to the Minister of War 
on November 18, " and these batteries mounted, will the 
Army of the Loire be free to act." 

Gambetta urged the Government in Paris to attempt a 
sortie, and at the same time charged D'Aurelle (on 
November 19) to " make his position into a Sebastopol." 

Up to this time, then, he thought it rested with the garrison 
of Paris to take the offensive. But in the afternoon of the 
same day his opinion was changed by the latest news from 

86 



DELEGATION OF TOURS 

the capital — the food supplies must infallibly come to an end 
by December 15. That night M. de Freycinet requested the 
Commander-in-Chief to draw up a plan of operations that 
should bring the army closer to the capital. "We cannot 
stay at Orleans for ever ; Paris is hungry, and needs our help. 
So find out the best route to bring you into touch with 
Trochu, who will march to meet you with 150,000 men, at the 
same time that a diversion is attempted in the north. We, 
too, are working at a plan here. As soon as you have made 
up your mind on this serious matter, let me know; we will 
meet at Tours or at your headquarters to discuss it." 

The next day the general answered : " Before I can make 
a plan for meeting General Trochu I must be fully 
informed of the course of events in Paris and of the intentions 
of that officer. As for your own plan, I will consider it as 
soon as you are good enough to submit it to me." 

" Pray think of a plan of operations," answered Gambetta, 
"with Paris for its main objective. I cannot admit that, 
before you can do so, you must know General Trochu 's 
designs. We have no news : it is only by chance, and quite 
intermittently, that we can obtain any : this gives us another 
unknown quantity in our problem. . . . After all, it is 
enough to suppose that Paris knows of our presence in 
Orleans, and that therefore the Parisians will infallibly move 
in the arc of the circle of which Orleans is the central point. 
I am presuming that you would take into consideration the 
general, but certain, information upon which we must act." 

On the following diay, the 21st, M. de Freycinet's secretary 
arrived at Villeneuve-dTngr6 with these instructions for 
General D'Aurelle, written hastily on a sheet of notepaper:^ 

" ist. Des Palli^res to set out towards Pithiviers on the 
23rd inst., with about thirty thousand men ; 2ndly, Pithiviers 
to be occupied by the same officer on the 24th. A formal 
order will be sent in the course of the 22nd to General 
d'Aurelle to carry out the above-mentioned movement. The 
whole of to-morrow to be occupied in a detailed examination 
of the district." M. de Freycinet further gave direct orders 

* Archives hiHoriqties du ministire de la Guerre, carton D. 6. 
87 



GAMBETTA 

to General Crouzat to proceed on the 22nd to Les Bordes with 
his whole army-corps, the 20th. On the 22nd he telegraphed 
to D'Aurelle to send the ist Division of the 15th Army 
Corps, on the 24th, to a point between Juranville and Beaune- 
la-Rolande. 

What were the Government's reasons for making these 
sudden decisions, when only the day before the Commander- 
in-Chief had been instructed to "think of a plan of opera- 
tions"? The Grand Duke of Mecklenburg's victorious 
march from Dreux on Nogent-le-Rotrou had brought a threat 
of danger to Le Mans, and even to Tours. " We tried to 
meet the danger," wrote M. de Freycinet, " by making on the 
enemy's left, in the direction of Pithiviers, a diversion that 
would oblige him to turn back his troops towards the north- 
east." But at that moment it was precisely towards the 
east that the Grand Duke was moving, in response to a 
summons from Frederick-Charles on the 21st. Moreover, 
the effective forces of the Germans were greatly over-estimated 
at Tours. 

Hearing that the sortie from Paris would not take place for 
several days, the Minister of War fixed upon the 24th 
and 25th for the offensive. General d'Aurelle, though 
"desperate," gave the necessary orders, but felt it his duty 
to express his views on the subject to the Minister. 

" Saint-Jean-de-la-Ruelle, 2^rd November, 1870, 2 o'clock 
in the morning. Having made all my arrangements for the 
execution of your orders, I have still one duty to perform, 
namely, to tell you my frank opinion on the subject of the 
operation you demand, and the consequences it may entail." 
He explained that, since Pithiviers was within the concentra- 
tion-zone of a Prussian Army, "seventy or eighty thousand 
strong," the suggested movement would provoke a general 
engagement, within one day's march of fortified positions. 
" Instead of remaining in our own lines we should be seeking 
out the enemy in his, at the risk of our guns being stuck in 
the mud and being perfectly useless to us, since it is impos- 
sible to move them on roads that are not metalled. In such 
conditions as these, the operation you have ordered me to 

88 



DELEGATION OF TOURS 

undertake on Pithiviers does not seem to me to present a 
sufficient chance of success to be attempted. If it were a 
failure it migKt place us in a very serious position." 

And on the same day, answering a letter that Gambetta 
wrote to him on the 20th, he said : " You instruct me to think 
of a plan of operations with Paris for the chief objective. 
The solution of that problem is not the least of my labours. 
To solve it, one must have co-operation and mutual under- 
standing between the Government and the Army, represented 
by the generals to whom you have given your confidence. 
As far as I am concerned, you can count on my absolute 
ffdelity. May God make my powers equal to my devotion ! " 

Gambetta having gone to Le Mans, M. de Freycinet 
answered: " To your objections, the import of which I per- 
fectly understand, I will simply reply : If you were to bring 
me a better plan than mine, or even a plan of any kind, 
I might give up my own and revoke my orders ; but you have 
now been twelve days in Orleans, and in spite of reiterated 
requests from both M. Gambetta and myself, you have not 
proposed any sort of plan. As M. Gambetta and I have 
already explained to you, Paris is hungry cmd asks for help. 
It is not in our power, therefore, to leave you for the whole 
winter in Orleans. I say the whole winter, because there is 
no chance, for the next three or four months, that the weather 
will become less severe or the enemy less numerous all round 
you. Now the numbers of the Prussians on the one hand, 
and the wet state of the ground on the other, are the objec- 
tions you put forward. These conditions will persist, I repeat, 
for a much longer time than Paris will have food to eat. We 
must therefore put an end to the state of passivity from 
which the supreme need of our country forces us to rouse our- 
selves. I can only, then — save for some slight changes, intro- 
duced in consequence of your letter of to-day — adhere to the 
orders already given for the movement to be carried out by 
Des Palli^res and De Crouzat, and I send you a copy of my 
despatch of this evening, which I now confirm. This move- 
ment, I may say, was planned in concert with M. Gambetta, 
and has his full approval." (November 23.) 

89 



GAMBETTA 

Even on the very morning of the 25th D'Aurelle criticised 
the plans arranged for that day by the War Ministry, and 
seemed ready to accept the idea of a general offensive later 
on, "See how our forces are scattered," he said, "though 
they are expected to aim at the same goal, and it would be 
greatly to our advantage to be concentrated." 

To this M. de Freycinet answered : " I have discussed the 
matter with M, Gambetta, and this is the reply I have to trans- 
mit to you. . . .' We admit the bad state of the roads, and 
the scattering of the forces that is entailed by a simultaneous 
movement towards Montargis, Beaumont and Pithiviers; but 
every plan has its risks, and we must believe that the risks 
in this case are no greater than in others, since no other plan 
has been proposed to us by you, and yet a plan of some kind 
is absolutely indispensable in view of the urgent circum- 
stances of which you know. This is the first we have heard 
of your plan of attacking in all directions, with all your forces 
assembled at Orleans; and whatever may be its intrinsic value, 
you must see that it is now too late to adopt it, since our 
movement has made considerable progress.' " 

Thus, despite the representations of the general in com- 
mand, the Government did not give up the design of making 
a diversion at Pithiviers, but only consented to carry it out 
less hastily, at the same time reserving the right of issuing 
further orders from Tours. M. de Freycinet expressly says, 
in his book La Guerre en Province : " The operations began 
in the morning of the 24th, according to the plan laid down. 
They had this special character, which was shared by no 
other undertaking between October 10 and February 10 : they 
were conducted directly by the Ministry of War." 

It seems rather inexplicable that General d'Aurelle de Pala- 
dines did not send in his resignation at this juncture. He 
gave the most honourable reasons for not doing so : his 
loyalty to discipline, for instance, and his noble desire to 
serve his country to the end. There have been notable 
examples, however, of a different point of view. Cond^, 
Turenne and Luxembourg all stood firm against Louvois, 
and in this very war, at this very time, Moltke refused, in his 

90 



DELEGATION OF TOURS 

Memorandum to the King on November 30, 1870, to submit to 
Bismarck's interference. 

This was Napoleon's opinion in the matter : " Any general 
in command who undertakes to carry out a plan he considers 
bad, is blameworthy. He should give his reasons, and insist 
on the plan being changed; and finally send in his resigna- 
tion rather than be the instrument of his army's destruction." 

Von der Goltz, and others with him, declared: "There 
were two courses : either to leave the Commander-in-Chief 
free to act as he thought best, or to replace him." Certainly, 
if Chanzy had replaced D'Aurelle at this moment, the issue 
of the war might have been changed ; but on November 23 
Chanzy was not yet in a position to be awarded the chief 
command. Nor was it possible to remove the general who 
had won the only victory of the war. Neither the country 
nor the army would have understood such a measure. 
Dilemmas of this kind are more easily stated after the event 
than solved at the moment ! 

Be this as it may, on this November 2^ the enemy had only 
two bodies of troops to bring against us, the Grand Duke's 
Army of 46,000 men, and the Army of Frederick-Charles, 
which numbered 55,000. They were separated from one 
another by a distance of about a hundred and twenty kilo- 
metres — the distance, that is to say, between the Grand 
Duke's headquarters at Theil and the Prince's headquarters 
at Pithiviers. We, on the other hand, had about 180,000 
men between Laigle and Gien. It is easy to imagine a 
manoeuvre that would have enabled the Army of the Loire to 
defeat these two forces successively before marching on Paris. 
What happened was exactly the reverse of this : the Army of 
the Loire, instead of attacking in mass, only engaged the 
right wing, which was repulsed on the 28th. Four days later 
the left was engaged, and defeated for the same reasons. 

On the 24th, Martin des Palli^res' Division and the 20th 
Army Corp under Crouzat marched on Pithiviers — Des 
Palli^res by way of Chilleurs, and Crouzat by Beaune-la- 
Rolande. Near Neuville, Des Palli^res repulsed a Prussian 
reconnoitring party, but Crouzat met two of the enemy's 

91 



GAMBETTA 

brigades, who barred his way to Ladon and Maizi^res. The 
movement was checked ; the 25th, 26th and 27th were wasted ; 
and Frederick-Charles gained some valuable time. On the 
28th the offensive was resumed. Crouzat opposed 60,000 
men to 10,000 Germans, who, from eight-thirty in the morning 
to three in the afternoon, held back our troops. All the 
attacks on Beaune-la-Rolande by the 20th Army Corps were 
failures, in spite of the courage of our men, who, as the enemy 
said, "fought with a sort of savage enthusiasm that recalled 
the splendid days of the first Revolution." The i8th Army 
Corps, under Billot, broke the enemy's first line in the Juran- 
ville-Lorcy-Corbeille region, but failed to join the 20th Army 
Corps in time. On the arrival upon the battle-field of a divi- 
sion hastily despatched by Frederick-Charles, Crouzat was 
forced to fall back on Nesploy, Nibelle and Chambon. 

This first encounter, then, in which the Army of the Loire 
had engaged only its right wing, and the iSth and 20th Army 
Corps had fought independently of one another, was not a 
success. Gambetta, however, at first received inaccurate 
news of the battle, and wrote to Jules Favre : " Our conscripts 
of the 18th Army Corps have beaten, at Beaune-la-Rolande, 
the loth Prussian Army Corps, commanded by Frederick- 
Charles himself." Such was his belief at the time, and he 
hoped this excellent news would hasten the sortie of the troops 
in Paris. 

The news of the victory at Coulmiers had reached Paris on 
November 18, whereupon the Government had immediately 
made arrangements for a sortie on a large scale towards the 
south. A plan had been ready by the 20th, and on the 24th 
Trochu telegraphed to the Delegation at Tours : '* On 
March 29 the outer garrison, commanded by General Ducrot, 
the most energetic of our generals, will attack the enemy's 
fortified positions, and if he carries them will push on towards 
the Loire, probably in the direction of Gien." But, by one 
of the fatalities that so often occurred in this war, the Govern- 
ment in Paris had entrusted the telegram to one balloon only. 
On the 25th this balloon reached the ground in Norway, at a 
spot a hundred leagues north of Christiania : it was four days 

92 



DELEGATION OF TOURS 

later when the aeronauts reached the French Consul, who 
telegraphed to Tours at once, that is to say, on the 29th ; but 
when the message was received by the delegates on the 30th 
the sortie had (already taken place on the previous day. 
Gambetta was distracted. He instantly sent off five messen- 
gers to meet General Ducrot, and assure him that the Army 
of the Loire would march to join him. A hundred and twenty 
thousand men, followed by a reserve corps, set out towards 
Fontainebleau in two columns, one by Pithiviers and the 
other by Beaumont. At the same time D'Aurelle was 
instructed to " prepare a vigorous offensive." The general 
suggested marching at once upon fitampes, or else upon 
Rambouillet, and asked to be informed without delay what 
his objective was to be, and what troops he was to take. M. 
de Freycinet answered : " I will explain to you in person what 
we want you to do, and we will discuss it together." (Novem- 
ber 30, 3.35 p.m.) At nine o'clock the deputy of the Minister 
of War reached headquarters at Saint-Jean-de-la-Ruelle, and 
a Council of War was hefd at once, with Generals d'Aurelle, 
Chanzy and Borel present. 

"The generals," says M. de Freycinet in La Guerre en 
Province, "did not for a moment hesitate to go to meet 
General Ducrot. They made no secret, however, of the draw- 
backs that would ensue from so hasty a departure. They 
approved of the general conception of the enterprise, the 
march on Fontainebleau by way of Pithiviers and Beaune-la- 
Rolande, and the co-operation of the five army corps under 
the supreme command — from the morrow onwards — of 
General d'Aurelle." 

D'Aurelle and Chanzy give rather a different account of 
the matter. They admit that they accepted the principle of 
the design, but claim to have made definite reservations with 
regard to its execution, explaining that the operation would 
[be very dangerous if the enemy were concentrated round 
Pithiviers, and that the first thing to be done was to defeat 
the enemy's troops near Janville, using the 15th and 17th 
Army Corps for the purpose. 

In La Deuxieme Armee de la Loire Chanzy says that when 

93 



GAMBETTA 

M. de Freycinet had explained the plan drawn up at Tours 
the generals pointed out that the operation would be full of 
danger, seeing that all the enemy's forces were massed round 
Pithiviers, and the sortie from Paris was still a matter of 
uncertainty. But the plan was enforced, as being a definite 
order from the Government. " It was decided," he adds, 
" that the i6th Army Corps, which formed part of the left 
wing, should march in the direction of Janville and Toury the 
next day; that the 17th should follow it and serve as its 
reserve; and that, on December 2 the 15th, i8th and 20th 
Army Corps should advance towards Pithiviers in their turn, 
by means of a concentric movement." 

D'Aurelle, for his part, says in La Premiere armee de la 
Loire: " M, de Freycinet maintained that Chanzy's troops 
were more than sufficient to beat the Duke of Mecklenburg, 
and ended by declaring that the plan proposed was irrevoc- 
ably decreed by the Government at Tours." The Com- 
mander-in-Chief answered: "If Chanzy's Army Corps (the 
i6th) be left to carry out this movement alone, it will be in 
danger of extinction." 

The operations began in accordance with the plan laid 
down. On December i our arms were successful. Chanzy 
captured Guillonville and defeated the enemy at Villepion. 
The next morning a proclamation by Gambetta was read in 
every corner of France. After describing the principal 
phases of the fight under the walls of Paris, he exclaimed : 
" The genius of France, which for a moment was hidden, has 
again appeared ! Thanks to the exertions of the whole 
country, victory has returned to us, and as though to make 
us forget the long series of our misfortunes, is favouring us 
at nearly every point. . . . Our troops from Orleans are 
advancing with all speed. Our two great armies are march- 
ing to meet one another. . . . Who can doubt, then, the final 
issue of this gigantic struggle ? " But the next day came the 
news that, despite prodigies of valour, the troops from Paris 
had been forced back within the walls : the blockade was in 
no way relieved. And while the sortie from Paris was 
repulsed at Champigny, on the same day, December 2, after 

94 



DELEGATION OF TOURS 

a battle at Loigny which lasted from nine o'clock in the 
morning to six in the evening, the i6th Army Corps and the 
17th under Sonis, which Chanzy had called to his aid, were 
completely overpowered. 

At half-past one in the afternoon of the 2nd, Frederick- 
Charles received a message from the King to " march directly 
upon Orleans and deliver a decisive attack without delay." 
The Prince at once gave orders to his troops, and to those of 
the Grand Duke, to converge on Orleans. Passing our right 
wing — the i8th and 20th Army Corps, which were separated 
from the scene of action by a distance of over forty kilometres 
as the crow flies — he hurled all his forces upon our centre. By 
the morning of the 3rd the French Army was in full retreat. 

At four o'clock on that same night the Commander-in-Chief 
wrote that the defence of Orleans had become impossible. 
This news was greeted at Tours with horror and despair. 
D'Aurelle received orders to concentrate all his forces, but 
replied that there was not time enough for the purpose. 
Gambetta then summoned his colleagues of the Delegation, 
and it was decided to leave the general to choose his own 
method of retreat. But meanwhile D'Aurelle had reached 
Orleans, and the arrival of Des Pallieres with his division 
had given him fresh confidence and changed his view of the 
situation. He brought the i6th and 17th Army Corps to 
Orleans, and summoned the i8th and 20th. The Delegation 
expressed great satisfaction to the general, adding : " M. 
Gambetta sets out for Orleans in half an hour." 

A few hours later D'Aurelle, as he looked at the streets of 
Orleans, thronged with a confused mass of disorganised 
troops, again felt convinced that any attempt at resistance was 
vain. At four o'clock he ordered his forces to withdraw from 
the town, and informed the Delegation that his efforts were of 
no avail, and Orleans would be evacuated during the night of 
the 4th. The train in which Gambetta was travelling to 
Orleans was stopped at La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin by the 
fire of some German patrols, and sent back to Beaugency. 
There Gambetta was told of the disaster, upon which he 
returned to Tours. 

95 



GAMBETTA 

"As soon as we rose on the morning of the 5th,'^ says 
General Thoumas, "we went to M. de Freycinet's house, 
where we found Gambetta, who had spent several hours of 
mortal weariness waiting at the station of Beaugency. He 
had heard of the evacuation of Orleans, and had returned to 
Tours in despair. When I saw him during the morning of 
the 5th his eyes were swollen and red with weeping : he gave 
my hand a fervent clasp of intense feeling, and kept silence 
for several moments. Whatever may be said of the man, I 
must bear witness, after seeing him on this and several other 
occasions, that he loved his country passionately, and his 
intense patriotism completely effaces, in my opinion, any 
mistakes he may have made." 

"Thus befell," says M. de Freycinet, "the greatest 
disaster of the second period of the war, the disaster that 
decided the fate of France." To say the least, the enormous 
achievements of Gambetta and his eminent colleague had 
been very largely neutralised. 

An immense amount of argument has been expended on the 
causes of this disaster. The civil administration held the 
Commander-iuf-Chief responsible;; the Commander-in-Chief 
blamed the civil administration. The initial cause is clearly 
apparent : everything was subordinated to the relief of Paris. 
The civil authorities at Tours were merely delegates of the 
Central Government, to whose will they were subservient in 
making this their main object. Whenever Paris seemed to 
offer them a chance they expended all the fervour of their 
patriotism in trying to take advantage of it. Had the matter 
been left to the Commander-in-Chief, he would first have 
seasoned and organised his troops; he thought the best way 
of aiding Paris was to await the enemy under the walls of 
Orleans ; he did not regard Paris as his most immediate objec- 
tive, whereas in the eyes of the delegates at Tours the relief 
of the capital before it was forced to surrender was the first of 
all considerations. The presence of the Government in Paris 
— that was the great blunder that dominated this period of the 
war. 

96 



DELEGATION OF TOURS 

But, when once the offensive had been undertaken, who 
was responsible for the reverse that followed? 

On the evening of November 30 the German front measured 
about sixty-five kilometres in length, and formed a barrier of 
nearly unvarying width between Paris and the Army of the 
Loire. A force of 80,000 infantry and 18,000 cavalry, with 
472 guns, had been concentrated in order to take part in the 
impending 'battle. The French Army was disposed in a 
curve measuring about seventy-five kilometres. The outposts 
of six of our divisions were in contact with those of the 
enemy : the ist Division of the i6th Army Corps, the three 
divisions comprising the 15th, one division of the 20th, and 
one of the i8th ; that is to say, about 100,000 men. Why was 
it that not one-third of these forces were ever combined to 
deliver a decisive attack ? 

" Because," said D'Aurelle, " it was not until the 2nd that 
I received the command of the right wing, that is to say, of 
the i8th and 20th Army Corps, which until then had been in 
the hands of the Minister of War. They were at so great 
a distance when they received their orders that before they 
were on the march the Prussian Army was already at the 
gates of Orleans." 

The despatch from the Minister of War on which D'Aurelle 
bases this statement was written on December 2, at 4.55 in the 
afternoon. " It is understood,'' it runs, " that from this day 
forward you will give your strategical instructions directly to 
the 15th, i6th, 17th, i8th and 20th Army Corps. Until yester- 
day I issued their orders to the i8th and 20th, and occasionally 
to the 17th : henceforward I shall leave this duty to you." 
This despatch was a confirmation of orders already sent on the 
preceding day. As a matter of fact the Commander-in-Chief 
had issued instructions to these army corps on the ist, and 
even as early as the evening of the 30th. 

Certain military critics have maintained that, since our out- 
posts were in contact with those of the enemy on a very wide 
front, our various army corps, separated though they were, 
might have advanced simultaneously. It is conceivable tliat 
a general of suificient daring, had he followed this plan, and 

^7 M 



GAMBETTA 

converged all the forces of his right wing upon the enemy on 
December i, might have won a victory. This is the opinion 
which Colonel V. Dupuis, head of the historical section of the 
General Staff, supports in his book, La Direction de la Guerre 
(1912). But this plan was not that adopted at Saint-Jean-de- 
la-Ruelle : the five army corps were ordered to advance in suc- 
cession, and no concerted action was arranged until the 2nd. 

There was, moreover, another fact that was greatly to the 
enemy's advantage. The German troops were well 
acquainted with their leaders, whereas the French generals in 
several cases were appointed at the last moment. Son is 
received the command of the 17th Army Corps on Novem- 
ber 22, and since D'Aurelle was unable to dispose his forces, 
as a whole, until December i, it was only on the 3rd that 
Bourbaki arrived post-haste to command the right wing. 
And the mutual suspicion, the constant skirmishes between 
the chief military command and the civil administration, 
neither of whom knew very much of the enemy's movements, 
were a bad preparation for a decisive battle, which demanded 
unity both in will and action. 

Such were the days between November 24 and December 4, 
1870. Sad days they were — of hopes that died early, of 
heroism and sublime martyrdom, of mingled sorrow and 
glory : days when Chanzy and Jaur^guiberry won endless 
renown, when Sonis, Charette and Bouill6 covered themselves 
with honour, and the untried troops of France fought with 
marvellous courage : yet days for ever accursed, for once 
again, on these days, the fortunes of France were shamefully, 
and most cruelly, hazarded and lost. 

It was at this moment that Bismarck proposed to Austria 
an alliance with Prussia. His first suggestions on the sub- 
ject apfjeared in a despatch of December 14. Until then, 
Austria had observed great reticence with regard to Prussia's 
exactions. Her attitude thenceforward was modified, and a 
few months later Bismarck's overtures ended in the Austro- 
German Alliance that was destined to weigh so heavily on the 
politics of Europe, and to bring, in years to come, such terrible 
consequences on the whole world. 

98 



CHAPTER VII 

THE END OF THE DELEGATION 

The Delegation at Bordeaux— The Eastern Campaign— Denfert-Rochereau at Belfort 
— Faidherbe in the North— (December 8, 1870-February, 187 1)— The Armistice 
— Gambetta's Resignation— (January 29-February 6, 1871). 

The Army of the Loire was now cut in two : the 15th, i8th, 
and 20th Army Corps were in retreat on the southern side of 
the river, the i6th and 17th, also retreating, were on the right 
bank. From these scattered forces the Delegation formed two 
armies, giving the command of one to Bourbaki and of the 
other to Chanzy. Tours being now in danger, the delegates 
themselves retired to Bordeaux on December 8, with the 
exception of Gambetta, who first spent some time with the 
army. His resolution and courage were unshaken. " I will 
make head against the storm," he wrote to Jules Favre. " Not 
for an instant have I dreamt of despair." 

Two days after the defeat at Orleans Chanzy was in a con- 
dition to face Frederick-Charles upon the plains of Josnes. 
There Gambetta joined him. " I found everything here in 
perfect order," he says, " thanks to General Chanzy 's deter- 
mination and unconquerable energy." Chanzy was at that 
time forty-seven years of age : " an officer," Gambetta says of 
him, " whose influence with his troops, military experience 
and decision of character are his most striking qualities." 
At Coulmiers and in the subsequent battles Chanzy had given 
evidence enough of his penetrating sagacity and strength of 
will. His temperament was calm and yet energetic, and, 
above all, he believed in ultimate victory. Whether victorious 
or not, those who have believed in France's destiny have 
always won her faithful devotion. 

99 H 2 



GAMBETTA 

Chanzy now embarked upon the series of battles that at 
least delayed the final success of the enemy. He asked 
Bourbaki for his support. Moltke feared the junction of the 
two armies, and the War Office strongly urged this step. 
But a distance of a hundred kilometres now lay between 
them, for Bourbaki had been forced to retire, by snowy, 
ice-bound roads, as far as Bourges. His troops were 
greatly exhausted, and Gambetta, who made an expedition 
to Bourges to inquire into the situation, telegraphed from 
thence to Bordeaux : " The i6th, i8th, and 20th Army Corps 
are in a state of positive collapse : they are the saddest sight 
I have ever seen." (December 12.) 

From the time of the capture of Orleans until December 16, 
the line from Gien to Orleans was held by a narrow belt of 
German troops, who would have been quite unequal to re- 
sisting any determined movement on the part of Bourbaki's 
army. The latter remained inactive till the 19th, Meanwhile 
Frederick-Charles, being aware of Bourbaki's intentions, left 
the Loir and reached Orleans by forced marches on the 17th. 
Thenceforward the conditions were completely changed. 

Bourbaki's headquarters had already been moved to Baugy, 
when M. de Freycinet despatched to Bourges a certain 
engineer named De Serres, in whom he placed great con- 
fidence, to suggest a new plan to Gambetta : namely, the 
removal of Bourbaki's army to the east of France by rail, to 
raise the blockade of Belfort and to cut the enemy's lines of 
communication. 

Serres laid the scheme before Gambetta. The Minister of 
War hesitated ; but consented to an interview between Serres 
and Bourbaki, and promised that, should the general approve 
of the plan, he himself would raise no objection. Serres then 
went to the Commander-in-Chief and, having pointed out 
the dangers of an advance in view of the Germans' rapid 
approach, found no difficulty in convincing him. That same 
evening Bourbaki wrote to Gambetta that he was prepared to 
carry out the operation, and thus the affair was settled. 

The idea of an expedition to the east of France, which 
General Le F16 had advocated as early as the previous Sep- 

100 



THE END OF THE DELEGATION 

tember, had more than once been entertained by Gambetta. 
On November 14 he had telegraphed to Freycinet to inquire 
into the practicability of an offensive in the east. 

On January 2, as soon as Chanzy at Le Mans heard of the 
new plan, he wrote to dissuade Gambetta from it, and pro- 
posed another : that the three armies — of the Loire, of the 
East, and of the North — should converge on the capital. But 
by this time the Government in Paris had already sanctioned 
the advance eastwards, and Bourbaki had set out. 

The general was more than ever convinced that resistance 
was useless. M. de Freycinet in his fear that this depressed 
attitude of mind would have a bad effect, sent De Serres with 
the expedition in the capacity of special Commissioner. In 
his pocket was the general's recall. 

The success of the campaign was endangered from the first 
by the delays in transport : the journey occupied a fortnight 
instead of six or seven days. 

Bourbaki had good reason to complain that two promises 
made to him were not fulfilled. He was led to expect the 
support of 100,000 militia from the south, whereas only 18,000 
arrived; and he was promised supplies from Besan9on. He 
was further disappointed in having no covering- troops either 
on his flank or at the rear, and there were no facilities for 
organisation. 

The operations began, however. Bourbaki advanced on 
Vesoul, and on January 9 captured Villersexel. The march 
was not resumed till the 13th. On the 15th, twenty-five 
days after the departure from Bourges, 45,000 Germans 
and 120,000 French joined issue in the battle known as that 
of Hericourt, the battle that was to decide the fate of Belfort. 
On the i6th our troops were no more than two leagues distant 
from that town. 

But the rest of the army did not advance. On the 17th a 
general attack was repulsed. A temperature of eighteen 
degrees of frost benumbed the troops, while their provisions 
ran short : many of the men were too much exhausted or 
too ill to fight. The horses, too, fell in harness. Bourbaki 
lost heart, and retired on Besan^on on January 22. 

lOI 



GAMBETTA 

In the meantime Moltke had despatched Manteuffel to the 
scene of action. He reached Gray on the 19th, with the 
intention of barring Bourbaki's way and trapping him in 
the Jura. He marched towards the Doubs without the 
smallest effort being made to stop him ; partly because the 
Ministry of War was receiving inaccurate news of his move- 
ments from Dijon, where Garibaldi was on the alert, though 
ill ; and partly because Bourbaki always believed that the 
forces opposed to him were stronger than his own. 

What was he to do? On the 24th he held a Council of 
War. All his officers were agreed that he should fall back on 
Pontarlier, and towards Pontarlier, accordingly, he marched, 
with the intention of skirting the Swiss frontier in the direction 
of the Rhone Valley. But Manteuffel had already reached 
Salins. The trap was closing. In his despair Bourbaki 
pointed a revolver at his forehead and pulled the trigger. The 
bullet flattened on his skull, but it failed to kill him. 

At the same moment he was relieved of his command. The 
retreat was continued by Clinchant, his successor, who found 
himself trapped between Werder and Manteuffel. Even then 
he thought he was saved by the armistice that Jules Favre had 
just signed at Versailles, being unaware that the extent of 
country covered by the treaty was not to be defined, as far as 
the east was concerned, until the military situation was accu- 
rately known. Moltke telegraphed to Manteuffel that the 
truce, as yet, did not include the departments of the Cote-d'Or, 
the Doubs, or the Jura. Clinchant, in his ignorance of this 
clause, had checked his retreat, with the result that he was 
completely hemmed in, and forced to escape into Switzerland. 
On February 2 he and his 80,000 men crossed the frontier. 

While these events were taking place in the east, General 
Faidherbe, in the north, was bravely upholding the honour 
of our flag. ** He is a man who can think, and can look 
ahead," said Gambetta, " and that is a man rarely found in 
these days of ours." On January 3 he drove the enemy from 
Bapaume; but on the 19th the bitterly disputed Battle of 
St. Quentin resulted in favour of the Germans. Gambetta 

ICll2i 



THE END OF THE DELEGATION 

went to Lille, where he found the inhabitants greatly dis- 
couraged. "The war is horrible," he cried, "and every one 
of us should hate it, but it is a necessity in the circumstances. 
Do not forget that peace means the mutilation of our country. 
Have we any right to sacrifice three millions of French men 
and women to that greedy Germany? Should we not feel 
ashamed to surrender thousands of Alsatians? It would be 
a violation of the rights of us all, to think that a part of our 
country could be given up as a man gives up a part of his 
flocks and herds. France is the common property of the whole 
French nation, and every clod of earth that France covers 
with her flag is owned by every one of us. This sense of 
solidarity is the basis of our policy — our policy of resistance 
a outrance. . . . No weakness, then ! If we do not give way 
to despair, we shall save France yet. When that happy day 
comes it will be seen that, if I am possessed by a passion of 
patriotism that cannot endure a foreign invasion, I am also 
deeply inspired by the republican faith, which has a horror of 
dictatorship ! " (January 22.) 

On the morning of January 29 he received, at Bordeaux, 
this telegram from Jules Favre : " Versailles, January 28, 
1871, 1 1. 15 in the evening. — We have signed to-day a treaty 
with Count Bismarck. — An armistice of twenty-one days has 
been arranged.— An Assembly is convoked at Bordeaux for 
February 15. — Publish this news in every part of France; see 
that the armistice is carried out, and convoke the electors for 
February 8. — A member of the Government is starting for 
Bordeaux." All officers in command of troops at once 
received orders to cease hostilities. 

The whole of the 29th was spent at Bordeaux in the expecta- 
tion of further news. On the 30th, Gambetta telegraphed to 
Jules Favre, complaining of this silence. " The country is in 
a fever," he said, "and will not be content with those three 
lines of yours. Nothing has been heard as yet of the member 
of the Government whose arrival here you mention, but whose 
name you have not told us. Meanwhile it is impossible, 
beyond the mere fulfilment of the armistice by the troops, to 
which we have attended, to take the proper measures for 

103 



GAMBETTA 

summoning the electors, without further explanations from 
you, and without knowing the fate of Paris." 

It was Bismarck who received this telegram. He did not 
transmit it to the Government in Paris until the following day ; 
but he answered Gambetta himself. " Versailles, January 31, 
12.15 in ih^ morning. — Your telegram to M. Jules Favre, who 
has just left Versailles, will be given to him to-morrow morn- 
ing in Paris. By way of information I have the honour to 
communicate the following facts to you : The armistice that 
was concluded on the 28th will end on February 19. The line 
of demarcation between the two armies starts from Pont- 
I'Eveque in Calvados, crosses the department of the Orne, 
leaves to the German army of occupation ihe departments of 
the Sarthe, Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher, Loiret, and Yonne, 
enters obliquely the region of the Cote-d'Or, the Doubs, and 
the Jura, and leaves the north, with Pas-de-Calais and Havre, 
intact. . . • Hostilities will continue before Belfort, and in the 
departments of the Doubs, the Jura, and the Cote-d'Or, till 
some further agreement has been made. The National 
Assembly is to be convoked. All the fortifications of Paris are 
to be surrendered. The troops in Paris are prisoners of war, 
except such as are necessary for maintaining order in the city. 
The National Guard will not be disarmed. The German 
troops will not enter the city during the armistice. Paris will 
be re-victualled. Freedom of movement is to be allowed for 
the elections. I may add that ihe forts have been occupied 
to-day by our troops, and I think the elections are fixed for 
the 8th, and the meeting of the Assembly at Bordeaux is to 
be held on the 12th. Food has absolutely come to an end in 
Paris, and the population is living on the supplies of the 
German army. The Assembly will decide the question of 
the war, or fix the conditions of peace." 

To Gambetta and his colleagues this despatch was a thunder- 
bolt. The Army of the East, then, was excluded from the 
armistice, the lines of demarcation had been arranged at 
Versailles, and Jules Favre had said no word on the subject ! 

A few hours later Gambetta received from Chanzy, to 
whom it was given by Prince Frederick-Charles, the actual 

104 



THE END OF THE DELEGATION 

text of the treaty. Gambetta at once telegraphed to General 
Clinchant, and to Garibaldi to continue hostilities. But 
Manteuffel, for his part, had no intention of interrupting his 
march : he had refused Clinchant's request for a suspension of 
hostilities for thirty-six hours. On January 29 Clinchant had 
still thirty hours left in which to cross the Jura and approach 
the Bresse; but those thirty hours were simply thrown away. 
The Army of the East, obeying orders, had remained 
stationary, whereas Manteuffel had been told to carry on his 
operations "until they produced a decisive result." Before 
the armistice the campaign had failed, but the army had not 
been annihilated : it was the armistice that gave the final blow. 

Bismarck — treacherous as always, and proud of it — had set a 
trap for Jules Favre. In Paris there were still hopes of 
Bourbaki's success; and it was to avoid interrupting his 
advance that the French plenipotentiary consented to leave the 
Army of the East out of the treaty for the time being. His 
precautions served him ill. 

As for the lines of demarcation in the other invaded depart- 
ments, Bismarck insisted that they should be fixed at Ver- 
sailles and nowhere else. Now. in the case of an armistice, 
it is usual to leave these matters to be settled by the officers 
commanding the belligerent forces at the places in question. 
On this occasion especially the rule should have been observed, 
since the person acting as negotiator had been in a besieged 
city for four months, and could not know how the armies 
outside Paris were situated. The line of demarcation defined at 
Versailles in these circumstances cost us two arrondissements 
in Calvados, half of Indre-et-Loire and of the Loiret with the 
valleys of the Cher and the Vienne, half of the Yonne and 
part of Morvan, and the whole of the left bank of the 
Seine, with Saint- Valery-en-Caux, Bolbec, Lanquetot, and 
Lillebonne. 

When Gambetta at last heard of these stipulations his in- 
dignation and grief were deep and bitter, for it had always 
been understood that the Government in Paris should treat for 
Paris alone and not for the whole of France. — In a despatch 
he had sent to Paris on January 27 he said : " To capitulate 

105 



GAMBETTA 

as a Government you have neither the power nor the right. 
Indeed, having been surrounded in Paris for the past four 
months, and forced by famine to open the gates to the enemy, 
you can only negotiate for the town, and merely as the repre- 
sentatives of the town. It is Paris that has been reduced, in 
short, not France, and any inclusion of other territory will 
end in your giving the enemy advantages that he is very far 
from having won. Anything you may do, over and above 
your care for the interests of Paris itself, will be null and void. 
. . . As for us — the central authority, and ihe actual Govern- 
ment since the capitulation — our way is clear. We must 
continue the war till we are rid of the enemy — that is the task 
before us." 

At that time the Government in Paris was of Gambetta's 
opinion. Jules Ferry wrote to him on December 15, 1870: 
" If the enemy should subdue Paris by famine it shall be made 
quite plain that Paris is not France ; and he will find no one — I 
will swear to that — willing to make terms with him for France. 
Some one will take you our last will and testament ; but we 
shall bequeath France to you to defend, behind the Loire or 
the Garonne, in Toulon or in Cherbourg, as though Paris 
did not exist." Jules Favre, too, said on January 9, 1871 : 
*' It would be horrible if Paris were to fall on the very eve 
of deliverance. However that may be, France will not yield, 
and whatever our fate we should feel we had a share in her 
defence. . . . France will not sheathe her sword until her 
cause shall have triumphed." On the 14th, General Trochu 
wrote to Gambetta : " I think with you that, should Paris yield 
to the pressure of hunger, France and the Republic should 
only increase their exertions and carry on their glorious 
struggle to the death." And when Jules Favre, on the 21st, 
forty-eight hours after the Battle of Buzenval, was writing to 
say that the time had come to capitulate, he added : " I do not 
know what the conditions will be. If Prussia will consent not 
to occupy Paris I will give up a fort, and I shall ask that Paris 
may only be subjected to the payment of a subsidy. If these 
proposals be rejected we shall be forced to surrender at 
discretion. In that case it is probable, supposing we are not 

106 



THE END OF THE DELEGATION 

killed in the threatened riots, that we shall go to some fortress 
in Pomerania, where our imprisonment will serve to encourage 
the country in its resistance." 

Thus, twenty-four hours before asking Bismarck's permis- 
sion to go to Versailles, and there negotiate the surrender of 
Paris, Jules Favre — having heard on the previous day of 
Chanzy's defeat at Le Mans — was picturing himself in 
Pomerania, encouraging, to use his own words, the country's 
resistance by his imprisonrnent. Gambetta had just received 
this despatch when he heard the news of the armistice. 

In Le Gouvernement de la Defense nationale Jules Simon 
has described to us how the Government in Paris, after a long 
debate, was led to modify its views. At first all were agreed 
that only Paris was concerned, that neither the country nor 
the Delegation must be involved. But then arose the ques- 
tion, — supposing the enemy were to refuse this condition, what 
should be done? Must it be upheld, at the cost of sur- 
rendering Paris itself unconditionally ? It was recognised 
that this was impossible : an attempt must first be made to 
limit the armistice, and if the enemy should refuse, the point 
must be yielded. There next arose a doubt whether the 
limitation of the armistice were really desirable. A treaty 
thus limited would enable the powerful army then investing 
Paris to march against such of the French troops as were still 
in the field. These were already exhausted, and quite in- 
capable of contending with new enemies. Moreover, an 
Assembly was necessary. This last consideration convinced 
the generals and the whole Council that the armistice must 
apply to the country at large. 

On January 31 Gambetta was still without news of the 
member of the Government in Paris who was to bring him, 
according to the telegram of the 28th, instructions with regard 
to convoking the electors. Feeling he could remain passive 
no longer, he published this proclamation : " An armistice has 
been signed without our knowledge, and without a word of 
warning or consultation. Belated information has reached us 
of the culpable weakness with which departments occupied by 
our troops have been delivered into the hands of the Prussians, 

107 



GAMBETTA 

while we are pledged to remain inactive for three weeks. Being 
the delegates of the Government we felt it right to obey, as a 
guarantee of moderation and good faith, and to carry out 
the rule of conduct that bids us remain at our post till we are 
relieved. No one has come from Paris, however, and action is 
imperative." 

This proclamation was followed by a Decree arranging the 
formalities of the coming elections, and disqualifying as 
deputies all who had accepted, between December 2, 1851, 
and September 4, 1870, the office of Minister, senator, coun- 
cillor of state, or prefect, or the title of official candidate. 
This measure was not prompted by the impulse of the moment. 
Repeatedly since September, 1870, whenever there was any 
question of convoking an Assembly, Gambetta had stoutly 
maintained that every man who had made his mark under the 
Empire should suffer some form of humiliation, however tem- 
porary, at the hands of universal suffrage. This Decree, which 
was not only despotic but futile — since of the 768 deputies 
elected an enormous proportion were Bonapartists — roused 
a storm of protest. Bismarck seized the opportunity to meddle 
in the domestic affairs of France. According to the terms of 
the armistice the Assembly was to be " freely elected." Bis- 
marck forthwith telegraphed to Gambetta: " In the name of 
the liberty for which the armistice stipulates in the elections, I 
protest against the measure published in yov.r name for 
depriving large classes of French citizens of the right to be 
elected to the Assembly. Elections carried out under the 
pressure of tyrannical force cannot confer the same rights as 
are allowed by the terms of the armistice to deputies elected in 
freedom." 

Gambetta informed the country of Bismarck's telegram in 
these terms: "The insolent claims of the Prussian Minister 
to interfere in the constitution of a French Assembly is a most 
striking justification of the measures taken by the Government 
of the Republic. The lesson will not be thrown away on those 
who have any sense of national honour." (February 3.) 

Meanwhile, on February i, Jules Simon, the envoy from 
Paris, arrived at Bordeaux. He brought with him a Decree 

108 



THE END OF THE DELEGATION 

passed on the 29th by the central Government, defining eligi- 
bility for the Assembly in accordance with the Law of 1849, 
and thus making Gambetta's measure ineffectual. Jules 
Simon, in the name of the sovereign principle of universal 
suffrage, demanded the suppression of the disqualifying clause. 
The Delegation refused to comply. He then declared that, 
in virtue of the full powers with which he was invested, he 
would annul the offending Decree. He drew up a proclama- 
tion, but the delegates intercepted it and prevented it from 
being published. 

On the 4th a meeting was held at the Grand Theatre, with 
the object of appointing Gambetta to the office of Dictator. 
He refused to attend the meeting, and expressed the 
strongest disapproval of its objects. Above all things, civil 
war was to be avoided. 

Jules Simon summoned three other members of the Govern- 
ment in Paris — Garnier-Pag^s, Emmanuel Arago, and 
Eugene Pelletan — to insure a majority on his own side. 
They arrived at Bordeaux on the 6th ; upon which Gambetta 
addressed a circular to the prefects, maintaining his views on 
the disqualifying clause, but advising them to proceed with the 
elections. " These measures," he said of the action taken by 
the Government in Paris, "amount not only to strong dis- 
approval, but to the virtual dismissal of the Minister of the 
Interior and of War. The divergence in opinion, on domestic 
and foreign affairs alike, is so plain as to leave no room for 
doubt. It is my duty to resign my position as a member of a 
Government with whom I am no longer in accord, either in 
ideas or aspirations. I have the honour to inform you that I 
have sent in my resignation to-day." 

He felt the parting with his colleagues very deeply. General 
Thoumas has described the scene in Paris, Tours, Bordeaux. 
" Before parting from you, let me thank you for the devoted 
support you have so consistently given me," he said. " As for 
me, I have played my part : there is nothing for me to do now 
but to retire." " Then he came up to each of us separately, 
and, pressing our hands, thanked us agam most warmly. 
Such was Gambetta's farewell. He had shown immense 

109 



GAMBETTA 

energy and patriotism, but unfortunately did not know enough 
of the machinery he had to work. I have seen him since then 
in very different circumstances. I always heard him speak 
of some future day of reckoning as the supreme goal of his 
aspirations and hopes. But I always picture him on that cold 
January day when, calm outwardly, but in a voice choked 
wilth suppressed sobs, he bade us a despairing farewell. I 
confess I loved that man, and in this I was not alone ! " 



no 



CHAPTER VIII 

WAR A OUTRANGE 

Gambetta's Domestic and Foreign Policy during the War— The Admiration of the 
Enemy— The Prolonged Resistance did not Aggravate the Terms of Peace— It 
paved the Way for the Future. 

Gambetta once said at Tours : '* I should feel I was robbing 
the country if I were to take one hour, or even one minute, 
from the affairs of national defence, and devote it to domestic 
policy." But the maintenance of unity in the country is a 
matter of national defence. On arriving at Tours he had 
found the authority of the Government treated with scant 
respect at several places, notably at Lyons and Marseilles. At 
Lyons the municipal council had voted the imposition of a tax 
on capital, but a threat of dissolution from Gambetta soon 
reduced it to submission. At Marseilles the republican 
municipal council was held in awe by a departmental com- 
mittee of anarchical tenets. Esquiros was wavering. Gam- 
betta, who on September 4 had ordered the removal of the red 
flag that adorned the prefecture, telegraphed to him: " Re- 
member, I beseech you, that the policy of the Government is 
national defence, and nothing but defence." And when 
Esquiros imprisoned twelve priests, expelled the Jesuits, 
sequestrated their property, and proposed to apply the same 
treatment to other communities, Gambetta wrote : " It is with 
the deepest regret that I see people neglecting the question of 
defence in favour of other matters. As regards religious com- 
munities do not forget that, though it may be possible in 
extreme cases to find points of law opposed to the spirit of 
federation — which it is the part of a Republic to encourage — 
and permitting the expulsion of Jesuits, it is absolutely neces- 

III 



GAMBETTA 

sary to respect the personal liberty of individuals. As for 
foreigners enrolled in the Order of Jesuits, they can go ; but 
in the case of Frenchmen, the moment the community is dis- 
solved your power over them ceases, and indeed they have 
every right to count on your protection." 

La Gazette du Midi having published a manifesto by the 
Comte de Chambord and a letter from the Prince de Joinville, 
the paper was suppressed by Esquiros. " I hear," wrote 
Gambetta, "that the office of the Gazette du Midi has been 
raided and the publication of the paper stopped. Acts of 
violence against liberty and property cannot possibly be 
allowed to go on. I count on you to take prompt measures to 
safeguard the liberty of the Press. Of course, if the editors 
or proprietors of the paper v/ere to commit any act contrary 
to the laws of the Republic, you should take energetic 
measures and report the matter to me." Esquiros stood to 
his guns ; and Gambetta answered : "The Republic owes it to 
itself to stand firm amid all the strife of parties, and to insist 
on the laws being respected, but on nothing more. Firmness 
has nothing in common with tyranny. ... It is out of the 
question to suspend the publication of a paper. If individuals 
make plots, deal severely with them, but leave their organ free. 
It is a question on which I cannot yield." (October 14.) 

Esquiros sent in his resignation ; and Gambetta published 
two Decrees. 

" Touching the Decree suppressing the Gazette du Mili," 
ran the first: "Whereas the Government of the Republic 
cannot permit newspapers and writers to suffer penalties save 
for deliberate violation of the law ; Whereas, on the other 
hand, it must be shown that the Republic is the only form of 
government that can preserve the liberty of the Press in its 
entirety, and since it is not for those who have always de- 
manded that liberty when in opposition to limit or mutilate it ; 
it is decreed : The Order issued by the Administration of the 
Bouches-du-Rhone suppressing the Gazette du Midi is 
annulled, and the paper is authorised to appear henceforward." 

The second was as follows : — 

"Touching the prefect's order expelling the members of 

J12 



WAR A OUTRANGE 

unauthorised religious communities, and sequestrating their 
property : Whereas, though the community may be legally 
dissolved, the personal liberty of the French citizens who 
compose it cannot be infringed, nor their right of residence in 
France violated ; it is decreed : All orders of expulsion apply- 
ing to any French member of an unauthorised religious 
community are null, void, and not to be enforced." 

Great was the excitement in Marseilles. The Ligue du 
Midi extended the order dissolving the local community of 
Jesuits to all the communities in the department. Violent 
demonstrations took place, and pressure was brought to bear 
on Gambetta from every quarter. ** I am receiving one depu- 
tation after another," he wrote to Jules Favre; "but I shall 
not yield in a matter of principle." And he appointed Gent to 
succeed Esquiros. 

Like Danton, whom the horror of invasion and the contact 
with grim reality transformed into a statesman and a patriot, 
he sought for unity before all things, and condemned every- 
thing that tended to discord. He refused to countenance 
contentions of any kind, either religious or social. 

His policy in the matter of municipal councils was entirely 
dictated by the needs of national defence. On September 7 he 
addressed a circular to the prefects. "Above all," he told 
them, "you should make it a rule, as far as you can, to 
preserve the existing town-councils, and turn them to the best 
possible account in the cause of national defence." Very few 
changes were made in these councils. 

The departmental and district councils were treated in the 
same way, until the decree of dissolution was passed on De- 
cember 25. By that time the difficulties arising from the war had 
greatly increased, party-spirit had grown aggressive, and there 
was less possibility of combating it. Gambetta took drastic 
measures. He called upon his colleagues to " use the knife 
ruthlessly," and to " sweep away these creatures of the fallen 
Monarchy, who are openly conspiring against the Republic 
and the safety of France." 

He has been blamed for forbidding the Prince de Joinville 
to serve in the Army of the Loire. The question arose on the 

113 1 



GAMBETTA 

very morrow of the fall of the Empire, and the Government 
was unanimous in its refusal : it was impossible for Gambetta 
to override, in December, the decision made four months 
earlier by the Government he represented. 

Immediately on the fall of the Empire, while the enemy's 
troops were pouring into the country, he had been obliged to 
organise the prefectorial administration in every corner of 
France. Men were suddenly thrust into positions that are 
usually only attained after long apprenticeship in lower grades. 
Not all his appointments, certainly, were above criticism ; 
there were cases of excess in zeal, failure in tact, and lack of 
experience ; there were ardent partisans who thought more of 
their own aims than of the public interest. It may be noted, 
however, that among the prefects he appointed there were 
many men who afterwards filled the highest offices of the 
State : Sadi Carnot, Challemel-Lacour, Antonin Dubost, 
De Freycinet, Paul Bert, Ricard, Allain-Targe ; Tirman, who 
became Governor-General of Algeria; Massicault, afterwards 
Resident General in Tunisia ; Camescasse, who became Prefect 
of Police; Edmond Valentin, the intrepid Prefect of 
Strasburg; Anatole de La Forge, the gallant defender of 
St. Quentin ; Alphonse Gent, who restored order in the South, 
and a great number of men who have since represented in our 
Assemblies the departments whose affairs they then ad- 
ministered. Ranc was at the head of the Police. With few 
exceptions, every man was worthy of his office, and played his 
part in maintaining order. 4 

When Gambetta arrived at Bordeaux on December 30 he 
said with some pride : " It will always be held greatly to the 
credit of the Government of National Defence that it had both 
the will and the power to grant a remarkable amount of liberty, 
in the midst of the most overwhelming crisis that a nation 
has ever endured." On the following day he again pro- 
claimed " respect for liberty— liberty even to slander and 
insult." And a few years later, v/hen he was again in 
Bordeaux, on January 13, 1876, he cried : "It was here- 
driven back and held at bay by the enemy, with forty-three 
departments invaded and ravaged, with the capital besieged 

114 



WAR A OUTRANGE 

and blockaded, with Europe hostile or at best contemptuous, 
with party-spirit raging round it — that the Government of 
National Defence held its own. And with what weapons? 
The rights of the public. For not a single liberty of the 
public, neither the liberty of the Press, nor the right to hold 
meetings, nor the right to form associations — not one of them 
was ever attacked or violated. So much for dictatorship ! " 

This testimony that he bore to the justice of his own 
domestic policy during the war has long been echoed by all 
parties, and by all the most eminent and impartial witnesses, 
with regard to his foreign policy at the same time. 

In September and October Thiers had begged the Govern- 
ments of other countries to intervene, but, for reasons we have 
already given, he met with the same answer everywhere : in 
London, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Florence. The foreign 
Governments treated him with the most perfect courtesy, but 
firmly declined to take action. 

On October 29 Prince Gortschakoff took advantage of the 
European situation to evade some of the results of Russia's 
defeat in the Crimea. He instructed all the diplomatic agents 
of Russia to repudiate the treaty of 1856, and especially the 
clause by which the Black Sea was made neutral. The various 
Chancelleries exchanged views on the subject, and it was 
decided that a conference should be held in London to settle 
the question. Bismarck, fearing that the conflict between 
France and Germany would be brought into the discussion 
by the French envoys, stipulated that the conference should 
concern itself with nothing but the navigation of the Black 
Sea. 

Jules Favre had sent to Tours, to superintend foreign affairs, 
the Comte de Chaudordy, formerly private secretary to 
Drouyn de Lhuys, a keen, shrewd, able negotiator, educated in 
the best school of diplomacy. Chaudordy took with him some 
assistants of notable talent, among them a young secretary who 
afterwards became a famous historian, Albert Sorel. Gam- 
betta perceived Chaudordy's diplomatic ability, and gave him 
his entire confidence. The part that France might play at the 

115 I 2 



GAMBETTA 

conference was clearly apparent to these two men : it was an 
opportunity for her to escape from her terrible teie-d-tete with 
Prussia. Chaudordy, in the name of the Delegation, wrote 
repeatedly to Jules Favre, urging him to go to London. 

Jules Favre, at first, failed to see any reason for attending 
the congress. To leave Paris at the height of the bombard- 
ment, and forsake his friends in their hour of most acute 
danger, would surely be an act of the basest desertion ! He 
told no one of Chaudordy's first letters, and consulted none 
of his colleagues. 

Gambetta then tried his own powers of persuasion. In a 
despatch of December 31, which reached Jules Favre on 
January 9, he said: " It rests with you to enlarge the very 
limited programme of the conference ; and no one will dare to 
stop you when you speak of Paris, and the war with France. 
No protest from Prussia will have any power to stop 
you. . . ." And again on the i6th : "You can do it, and 
you should. I attach the same importance, in its own way, to 
your presence in London as to an immediate sortie from the 
capital by General Trochu. After all, in both cases it is the 
country's salvation that is at stake." 

When some more letters from Chaudordy reached Paris on 
the 17th, Jules Favre laid them before the Council, and it was 
decided that he should be present at the conference. But 
various incidents, in which Bismarck's hand was apparent, 
led the Government to change its opinion : Paris was at the 
end of its resources, and its fate would be decided before the 
French envoy could reach England. 

If we ask whether France would have met with any support 
in London, we may find the answer to our question in Lord 
Granville's despatch of February 4 to Lord Lyons: "If the 
French plenipotentiary were to introduce the question of a 
peace at the conference, I should have no choice but to call him 
to order ; but if, at the end of the conference, or after one of the 
sittings, he should wish to take advantage of the plenipoten- 
tiaries' presence to lay any particular questions before them, 
there would be no need for me to interfere : each plenipoten- 
tiary would have to act as he thought right, or in accordance 

116 



WAR A OUTRANGE 

with his instructions; for myself, I should not fail to pay 
attention to anything that might be said to me by the French 
plenipotentiary." It is obvious that a clever diplomatist or 
a skilled orator might turn this suggestion to excellent account. 
In any case the attempt must be made : anything was better 
than absence or isolation. Failing Jules Favre, Gambetta and 
Chaudordy had thought of Thiers, and even of Guizot. It is 
possible that Gambetta had Chaudordy himself in his mind. 

On December i6 Chaudordy requested England and the 
other powers to support one or other of these three proposals : 
either an armistice and the re-victualling of Paris, to enable 
the general elections to take place ; or the conclusion of peace 
without the cession of any territory ; or the meeting of a 
congress that might prevail on France to make greater sac- 
rifices and thus end the unequal struggle. Lord Granville at 
once laid these proposals before Bismarck, but on the 19th 
the Chancellor answered that public feeling in Germany 
forbade him to consent to any of these suggestions.^ 

In recording Chaudordy's principal diplomatic activities 
we must on no account forget his protest, on November 29, 
against the German atrocities. The horrors committed by the 
Germans in 1870 were less numerous than those of 1914, 
because the war was shorter and extended over a smaller area, 
but their nature was the same. In 1870 there was, indeed, 
an even more serious crime. The German generals, pro- 
fessing to forget that in 1813, in obedience to a Prussian order 
of April 23, " the Landsturm wore no uniforms or special 
badges, since these uniforms or badges would cause them to be 
recognised by the enemy," announced at the opening of hos- 
tilities that "our francs-tireurs would be shot without trial." 
This practice continued throughout the war. An official 
proclamation was published in the Ardennes on December 10, 
1870, by General Senden, Chief of Staff. "Any individual," 
it ran, " who is not a member of the regular army nor of the 
militia, and is found carrying a weapon, whether a franc-tireur 
or known by any other name, will, if taken in any act of 

1 Correspondence respecting War between France and Germany, 1870-1871, No. 
317, No. 320. 



GAMBETTA 

hostility against our troops, be regarded as a traitor and 
hanged or shot without further trial. Whenever francs-tireurs 
appear in a commune the Mayor must inform the commandant 
of the nearest Prussian contingent. . . . Houses and villages 
sheltering franc s-tireurs will, if the troops be attacked, be 
burned or bombarded." 

Chaudordy scourged the Germans before the eyes of the 
whole world for their shameless exactions, both in money and 
kind, their summary executions of harmless citizens, their 
barbarities, their willing adoption of the most savage methods 
of warfare in order to terrorise the population. He gave a 
long list of authenticated facts proving that the enemy had 
been guilty of violence and devastation in all their most odious 
forms : robbery, pillage, rape, murder, massacre and mutila- 
tion of hostages, of the wounded, of doctors, old men, women 
and children. At Chateaudun, for instance, sick persons were 
shot, and some even burnt alive in their beds and pulled out 
of the flames blackened and charred; hundreds of people of 
every age and condition, invalids, old men, and lads, were 
seized at random and sent as prisoners to Germany ; 235 houses 
were drenched with oil and burnt. 

To these examples must be added the bombardment of 
cathedrals, as at Strasburg, of museums, libraries, schools, 
ambulances, hospitals — the Val-de-Grace, the Salpetri^re, 
the Charity, and others — and the burning of open towns. 
It was always the same "system of terror," always the same 
justification of Goethe's words : " The German is born cruel, 
but civilisation will make him ferocious." And Chaudordy 
closed his indictment with this accusation: "These horrors 
will make the present war the disgrace of our century." 

The Germans have never made war in any other fashion. 
They were equally ferocious in 1814 and 1815. Their military 
methods, like their diplomatic methods, have remained the 
same through all the ages. But each time France, in her 
generosity, has forgotten. 

And now let us estimate, as far as possible, the part played 
by Gambetta in this war. 

118 



WAR A OUTRANGE 

As Minister of War he accomplished, with the help of 
Freycinet, in the course of four months, a work so colossal 
that it is one of the great achievements of history. Finan- 
cially, France already had the advantage : these men made her 
superior also in numbers and means of defence. They would 
have won the war for her, had not Germany possessed more 
seasoned troops and more experienced generals. Moreover, 
there never lived a more inspired orator : his daring, and his 
deeply moving pathos could work miracles, could rouse the 
soul of an entire people. It was France herself who spoke 
with his lips. Nothing can rob him of this double title to 
fame and honour. 

The passage of time was not needed to win him recognition 
abroad — and there is a famous saying which describes the 
foreigner as " a sort of contemporary posterity." 

Five days after the surrender of Metz, Moltke wrote to 
General von Stiehle : " We must do justice to the great re- 
sources of this country, and to the patriotism of the French. 
After seeing her entire army taken prisoner, France has con- 
trived in a very short time to put into the field a new army 
that is deserving of our whole attention." And in December 
he wrote : ^' The German army, by operations of unparalleled 
success, captured the whole of the forces that the enemy put in 
the field at the beginning of the war. France, none the less, 
found means to create, within a period of barely three months, 
a new army that was still larger than the first. The resources 
of the enemy's country, which are apparently almost in- 
exhaustible, might make the rapid and decisive success of our 
arms a matter of doubt, but for the fact that on our side the 
country's effort is no less strenuous." The records of the 
Prussian General Headquarters show signs of his surprise on 
every page. " This conflict has given us so many causes for 
amazement from the military point of view," he says, "that we 
shall have to devote long years of peace to the study of the 
subject." 

In 1874 Colmar von der Goltz, at that time Chief of the 
Staff, published an account of Gambetta and his armies in the 
Preussische Jahrbucher. "Gambetta," he said, "had given 

119 



GAMBETTA 

evidence of the most brilliant qualities as an organiser : in a 
short time he had united all parties, aroused the masses, and 
used his immense will-power to direct all the forces at his 
command towards a single goal, war a outrance. No 
one can deny that in these circumstances he showed 
great courage and a very uncommon degree of moral 
force. The immense army he raised, armed, clothed, and 
organised, speaks volumes for his genius. He accomplished 
this gigantic task in a shorter time than any organiser before 
him has ever required. ... It is unjust to accuse him of 
obtaining these results by sacrificing quite disproportionate 
sums of money : for the finances were most ably administered 
at Tours and Bordeaux, and, if the circumstances be taken 
into account, by no means extravagantly. ... As for the 
attacks and suspicions to which Gambetta's personal honour 
has sometimes been subjected, they are not worth considering. 
In this he only shared the fate common to fallen greatness 
everywhere. When the giant is overthrown, the pygmies can 
fearlessly trample on his body. Anyone who has seen, if but 
for a moment, this man's nature reflected in his open counten- 
ance will know that he was incapable of saving a sack of gold 
from the shipwreck of his country. . . . 

" History will bring his greatness to light and will wipe 
out the shadows and stains. Two claims to immortal fame 
will be allowed him. The first is that he restored France to 
a sense of her own power immediately after a fall so great as 
hers. The second is that he paved the way for a moral re- 
generation, of which one cannot deny the results in France 
to-day, by forcibly impelling his compatriots towards an ideal 
goal. If ever — which God forbid I — our country should suffer 
a defeat such as France suffered at Sedan, I trust there may 
be a man like Gambetta to inspire her with the spirit of 
resistance carried to its utmost limit." 

Louis Schneider, William I.'s biographer, writes thus in his 
Aus meinem Leben, which the monarch himself read and 
annotated: "The Emperor always listened with special in- 
terest to any account of Gambetta's marvellous activity, and 
on several occasions spoke of him, as well as of Generals 

120 



WAR A OUTRANGE 

Chanzy and Faidherbe, with great respect. Later on, I was 
one day showing him at Berhn a collection of illustrations 
which very strikingly applied the best known passages of 
Schiller's Jungfrau von Orleans to the war with France, when 
I came to the line : ' Can I make armies spring from the earth 
by stamping on the ground?' 'All the same,' said the 
Emperor, * I know some one who can do that — and that 
is Gambetta.' And one day he remarked to the Crown 
Prince: "Remember, my son, that if by the grace of 
God our successes in the great war astounded the world, there 
were, none the less, times when not even all our good fortune 
saved me from doubts of the final result.' " 

On the other hand, Gambetta received more than one tribute 
from his political opponents at home. On December 3, 1870, 
Guizot wrote these words to the Government of National 
Defence. "Many people are not as grateful to you as you 
deserve. You believed — though nearly all the world was 
sceptical — that Paris would make an heroic defence, and that 
in the provinces there would be an outburst of patriotic 
enthusiasm. You have carried on the war without any appeal 
to revolutionary passions, and while advocating peace, pro- 
vided it were neither shameful nor futile, you have rallied all 
the available forces of the country and produced armies that 
have proved their efficiency. You have behaved like men of 
fine feeling and like good citizens." 

It was at a later date that the Due Albert de Broglie wrote : 
" In the matter of patriotic energy the France of 1870 was in 
no way inferior to her predecessor of 1792. The France of 
our day was indeed superior in one respect to the France 
whose glory she inherited : her resistance was unanimous. 
Political, social and religious animosities, which cut so 
deeply athwart the first ordeal, on the second occasion were 
silent in the presence of the enemy. Therefore the genera- 
tion that will soon have passed away will have a place in 
history by the side of the generation that preceded it. The 
Greek orator swore by the memory of the warriors of Plataea 
and Marathon that Athens had been worthy of herself at 
Chasronea, and we, too, can say that those who fell at 

121 



GAMBETTA 

Jemmapes and Fleurus found worthy successors in the heroic 
dead of Loigny and Champigny." 

Albert de Mun has recorded, not without pathos, the 
enthusiasm and emotion of the officers of the Metz garrison, 
when they heard at Mainz, on their way to captivity in Ger- 
many, that the struggle was not over. "Suddenly we pic- 
tured the whole country under arms, convulsed in one gigan- 
tic effort. Paris stood firm, the provinces were arming. How 
it comforted our bleeding hearts ! Whose were the hands 
that kept the flag flying ? We did not care to know, since 
at least it was flying still, though ours were captured. Only 
those who experienced, after the horrible nightmare, the over- 
powering reaction of this unexpected awakening, can measure 
the depth of our emotion. We yielded to it almost proudly, 
and while we felt no confidence in victory the hope arose in us 
of some future resurrection." 

The great lack in this war was a military leader. Chanzy 
was not in command of an army sufficiently early : by the 
time he appeared on the horizon of our misfortunes the right 
moment had gone by. At the trial of Bazaine, Bourbaki thus 
expressed himself: '* The moment I arrived at Tours I told 
the Government how useless I considered their efforts. I 
was the better judge, I said, because fighting was my pro- 
fession ; and they would add to the misfortunes of France by 
being beaten almost disgracefully." 

Was Bourbaki, then, the only one whose profession was 
fighting ? What of Chanzy, Faidherbe, Jaureguiberry, 
Jaur^s, Gougeard, De Sonis, De Colomb, Cremer, Clinchant, 
Lecointe, Derroja, Rebillard, Du Bessol, Borel, Billot, Sere 
de Rivieres, Du Temple, Pallu de la Barri^re, Penhoat, 
De J^vigny, Saussier, Denfert-Rochereau — all the generals and 
admirals who fought, not only with the valour of the soldier, 
but with the faith of a leader ? And can it be said that the 
troubles of France were increased by those who, though not 
soldiers by profession, placed their hearts' blood at the 
disposal of France — Cathelineau, Bouill^, Charette? 

But at Sedan and Metz we were bereft of many officers, and 

122 



WAR A OUTRANCE 

Gambetta complained that the new officers were inadequate 
in numbers and had no power over their men. In a decree 
of January i6 he taxed them with not living the soldier's life 
as much as they should. 

The troops fought bravely enough, but had neither the 
endurance nor the hardihood that time alone can give. Gam- 
betta thought they were lacking in strength and staying- 
power; he likened them to a hastily made piece of clockwork 
that will only act once, and must be wound up and set going 
again at regular intervals. Old regiments were very scarce. 
Individual courage does not take the place of collective 
strength, which nothing but time can produce. Victories are 
won in times of peace as much as in war. After Sedan our 
superiority in numbers was sometimes enormous, as at 
Beaune-la-Rolande, where we were six to one ; but we had 
none of the previous training and organisation, nor yet the 
able leadership, that constituted the enemy's strength. " If," 
said Bismarck to Jules Favre, " you could make a soldier by 
arming an ordinary citizen, it would be folly to devote the 
greater part of the public funds to the maintenance of a stand- 
ing army. In that lies the real advantage, and you are 
defeated because you failed to recognise it." 

And yet — and yet — in spite of all these disadvantages, 
France was not without her victories in those days, and her 
arms were not altogether inglorious at Coulmiers, at Chateau- 
dun, at St. Quentin, at Josnes, at Vendome, at Pont-Noyelles, 
at Bapaume, and at Villersexel ! And of the defence of 
Belfort and other fortified towns she may well be proud ! 

These successes, moreover, were won in spite of the evil 
fate that dogged us so relentlessly, and turned every oppor- 
tunity into a mishap : the capitulation of Bazaine at a time 
when only a few days' delay would have enabled the Army of 
the Loire to raise the blockade of Paris before the arrival of 
Prince Frederick-Charles; the blunders that nullified the vic- 
tory at Coulmiers ; the delays after that battle : the defeat at 
Orleans, which might have been avoided if the plans for the 
sortie had been entrusted to more than one balloon, and the 
news had arrived in time for the Army of the Loire to prepare 

12;; 



GAMBETTA 

and concentrate its forces and all the army corps had made 
a determined advance simultaneously ; the long delays of the 
eastern campaign in difficult country and a peculiarly hard 
winter ; the deplorable terms of the armistice ; the obligation 
of the delegates of the Government in Paris to subordinate 
everything to the deliverance of the capital ; the disagreement 
between the Delegation and the Commander-in-Chief; and 
the intervention in critical moments of the civil authorities, 
though even they could not, at an hour's notice, supply the 
strategical science of a Moltke. And added to all these cir- 
cumstances was the indifference of the European Powers, 
who only considered their immediate interests, and failed to 
see that by permitting the growth of an ambitious and greedy 
neighbour, intoxicated with success, they were making ready 
for themselves a most terrible awakening. 

It would be easy enough to fill a pamphlet with the mistakes 
of the civil authorities. Indeed, it has been done. It cannot 
be maintained, as Gambetta maintained before the Committee 
of Inquiry of the National Assembly, that they did not inter- 
fere in the military operations; that is refuted by his own 
despatches and by M. de Freycinet's narrative. The inter- 
ference was not always fortunate. It would be easy to adduce 
instances of excessive confidence, and even — why shrink from 
saying it?— of presumption. Richelieu at Arras refused to 
answer the marshals, when they asked him questions on 
matters outside his province. But, after all, if these men had 
been less assured of themselves, would they have achieved 
so much in so short a time ? It is easy to blame them for their 
mistakes, and their political opponents have not failed to do 
so, but their mistakes should not blind impartial eyes to the 
greatness of their work. Posterity forgets the former, and 
remembers only the latter ; but contemporaries stand too near 
to see clearly. Facts alone do not make history. In the 
physical world distance diminishes the apparent size of objects 
and men, but in the moral world it makes them bulk larger. 
History sees only the wide views and the great high roads. 
As time passes on its way the dust settles and the air clears. 
Moreover, the leaders of nations are not only what they are, 

124 



WAR A OUTRANGE 

but also what they seem. Truth is not realism ; truth is a 
compromise between the real and the ideal. A mere repro- 
duction of the real may be a great injustice, nay, a betrayal. 
One feature may suffice for the portrait of a man, but it may, 
on the other hand, give a very inaccurate idea of him. A 
detail that gives one man's character in a single stroke is quite 
insignificant in another man. The kodak reproduces move- 
ments that the eye cannot see, and thereby destroys the har- 
mony of the whole picture. But in the end the true outline of 
a man's character is revealed to the minds of the people. 
This is what Renan called the psychological miracle ; and this 
synthetic reconstruction in the popular mind, far more than 
any analysis, produces a complete whole. The passing 
generations credit men with all that their own imagination, 
and hopes, and faith have brought to them ; they kneel at the 
shrines of great memories : fame is a religion. 

In any case, there are complaints that can be definitely met 
and refuted. It has been said, for instance, that Gambetta 
aspired to the office of dictator. It was he, on the contrary, 
who urged the election of an Assembly rather than the 
appointment of a Delegation at Tours. Up to the last 
moment he refused to leave Paris. And his first action, on 
reaching Tours, was to offer the Ministry of War to a soldier. 

It has been asserted that the protraction of the war rendered 
the terms of peace more severe. Thiers, and several his- 
torians after him, maintained that if negotiations had followed 
immediately on Sedan, Lorraine might have been saved. ^ 
This contention is not supported by the facts. 

Ever since 1814 Alsace and Lorraine had been the objects of 
Germany's desire : the war had no other aim. On August 21, 
twelve days before the capitulation at Sedan, the Cabinet 
issued an order, dated from Pont-^-Mousson and published 
in both languages, that the arrondissements of Sarrebourg, 
Chiteau-Salins, Sarreguemines, Metz and Thionville should 
no longer be subjeci to the administrative authorities of 
Lorraine, but to those of Alsace. And it was careful to add 
that these districts were not, thenceforward, under the 

^ See M. de Lacombe in the Correspondant of June lo, 1903. 



GAMBETTA 



oJbM do 'fa, JtnTcd a "^ cUrnmal^ri HO ^^Wafrvi^ 

dcuM fed ytUMUjft. ctt^t ^oico CciiaciuicO hj>ua oL'cJ«f^ . 

do Tiike, dou ftuT ^ fa jiwa*!c ^**jritnu> <jLtO >i**^ 
rUuJfAno tu>it\d do f^£> ^'^i •»/• UjtU) JfCrote, do 

t)uH a Ia 0<ihi( ds^ 7iFf9 /owwu, fCoftmmeot 



126 



' ' ' 



WAR A OUTRANGE 













GAMBETTA 




The representatives of Alsace and Lorraine, prior to all negotiations for peace, have laid 
before the National Assembly a manifesto expressing, in the most positive manner, ia the 
name of these provinces, their desire and their right to remain French. 

Thrust under a foreign yoke, in defiance of all justice and by a hateful abuse of power, 
we have a last duty to perform : we once more declare null and void the compact that 
disposes of us without our consent. 

The vindication of our rights will always remain open to us, individually and collectively, 
in such form and degree as our conscience shall dictate. As we leave these precincts, where 
our dignity will not allow us to retain our seats, and in spite of the bitterness of our grief, 
the supreme thought that permeates every fibre of our being is a feeling of gratitude towards 
those who for ten months past have never wavered in our defence and of unswerving 
devotion to the country from which we are violently wrenched. 

In our hearts we shall follow you, and with an entire confidence in the future, we shall wait 
until a regenerate France once more treads the path of her glorious destiny. 

Your brethren of Alsace and Lorraine, severed for the time being from the great family, 
will maintain a filial love for the France that is absent from their homes, until the day when 
she shall come back there to resume her riglitful place. 

BORDEAUX, March i, 1871. 

128 



WAR A OUTRANGE 

sovereignty of the French Empire, in which respect they 
differed from those of Nancy, Toul, Luneville and Briey— a 
clear indication that the former were to be kept and the latter 
restored. The new Governor-General, Bismarck-Bohlen, 
confirmed this arrangement in a proclamation dated from 
Haguenau on August 30. 

On September 2 at Sedan, at a conference that preceded the 
capitulation, Bismarck declared that Prussia had a very 
definite intention of demanding Strasburg and Metz, Alsace^ 
Lorraine and four thousand million francs.'^ 

On September 7 the Times published this official despatch 
from Berlin : "A portion of Lorraine having been placed 
under the Prussian administration of Alsace, that adminis- 
tration now includes all the districts whose cession will prob- 
ably be demanded by the Cabinet of Berlin on the conclusion 
of peace. . . . The territory demanded by Prussia, then, 
would include, in addition to the whole of Alsace, these dis- 
tricts of Lorraine : Sarrebourg, Sarreguemines, Metz, 
Thionville and Chateau-Salins." 

On September 15 Bismarck traced the future frontier (the 
frontier of the Treaty of Frankfort) upon a map that hung on 
the wall of Senator Larabit's house at Buzancy. Simul- 
taneously the same map was published in Berlin by the geo- 
graphical and statistical department of the General Staff. 
This was the famous map "with the green border" which 
figured, in February, 187 1, in the negotiations for the 
preliminaries of peace. 

At the same moment Bismarck unmasked his batteries. 
On September 13 from Rheims, and on the i6th from Meaux, 
he issued circulars to the Prussian representatives abroad, 
informing them that Strasburg and Metz had been annexed, 
as being necessary for the safety of Germany. 

On the 19th, at Ferri^res, he demanded of Jules Favre, not 
only Alsace, but Sarrebourg, Chateau-Salins, Sarreguemines, 
Metz and Thionville. On September 27 and October i he 
informed the confederated princes and the German ambassa- 

^ See Sedan, by General de Wimpffen, p. 242 ; and La Joiirnee de Sedan, hy 
General Ducrot, p. 62. 

129 K 



GAMBETTA 

dors of these exactions; and on October 17 Jules Favre 
acknowledged the accuracy of his statements. 

On November i Bismarck told Thiers at Versailles that he 
would have no elections in Alsace, nor in the German portion 
of Lorraine, and that the annexation of Alsace and Metz— 
which had fallen on October 27— was simply a question of 
safety for Germany/ He said to Gortschakoff on January 29 : 
" We must keep to the programme we communicated to 
St. Petersburg five months ago. Its fulfilment is indispens- 
aible to our safety, and Germany would not tolerate for a 
moment that one iota of it should be changed. We must 
have Metz and Lorraine." He spoke in the same sense to 
Thiers on February 21 and 22, 1871.^ 

Thiers, then, seems to have founded his assertion that we 
could have obtained easier terms after Sedan on very slight 
evidence — on nothing more, indeed, than a word or two from 
Bismarck on November 4. 

This is what passed between them. 

Said Thiers : " If we offered to treat with you at once, what 
would you demand? " 

"Alsace," answered Bismarck, "and something incon- 
siderable round Mets.*' 

"And what of Metz?" 

" If you treat with us at once / promise to do my best to 
persuade the King to restore it to you.'^'^ 

That was all. Thiers' report of November 9 mentions no 
concession on the part of Bismarck.* Now the object of this 
interview was to procure an armistice, and it was to the 
interest of both parties to skate lightly over very thin ice. 
Bismarck had no desire to discuss the question of Metz that 
day.-*^ It is not likely that he should have seriously contem- 
plated surrendering Metz on the very morrow of its fall. He 
wished to gain time. As Chaudordy pointed out with his 
usual penetration, he preferred to postpone any definition of 

* Thiers, Notes ti Souvenirs, pp. 77, 79. » Ibid., pp. 115, iiS. 

' Notes et Souvettirs, pp. 95, 96. * See the fouiiial Officiel of December and. 

* Busch, Bismarck utid seine Lcute. 



WAR A OUTRANGE 

his peace-terms " until the armistice was arranged, when it 
would be almost impossible to induce the country to resume 
hostilities."^ 

Thiers wrote his Notes at a later date, and they were pub- 
lished in 1903 without revision. After the incidents at Bor- 
deaux, and his attack on Gamhetta and the war a outrarice, 
he had reason enough for trying to persuade the public — and 
indeed for persuading himself — that if his overtures had been 
successful he would have saved France from some of the 
concessions that were wrung from her. 

There is no doubt that, at the Prussian Court, there were 
moments of hesitation on the subject of Metz. Now and 
then, after the war, Bismarck assumed a very innocent air : 
he would have had France regard him as a simple, well- 
meaning creature, whose hand was forced by the military 
party. William II., in the same way, said later on : "It was 
no wish of mine." But neither Bismarck, nor the King, nor 
Moltke, nor the General Staff, nor any German professor, or 
historian, or poet, or writer — from 1814, from Gorres, Gagern 
and Gentz, to Becker and Arndt in 1840, and to the Liberals 
of 1843 (who further demanded Schleswig for Prussia and 
Lombardy for Austria), and to Ad. Schmidt, Adolph Wagner, 
Mommsen and the " young democratic party of the German 
universities" in 1870 — nor any German who ever lived 
thought it possible to defeat France without annexing Alsace 
and Lorraine. 

And there is one fact that has not been sufficiently empha- 
sised by the historians who favour Gambetta and his Govern- 
ment. In September, 1870, it was Bismarck's opinion that 
Germany should annex the whole of Alsace, that is to say, 
the entire departments of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin. The 
Gap of Belfort has always been considered very important 
from a strategical point of view, and the German military 
party, whom Bismarck used as a kind of screen behind which 
to establish his position firmly, by no means undervalued it. 
It may be regarded as certain, then, that the Germans would 
not have given up this territory if the prolongation of the war, 

^ EnquSte de fAssembUe Nationale, vol. II, p. 4. 

131 K 2 



GAMBETTA 

due to Gambetta's exertions, had not enabled Colonel Denfert 
to hold Belfort until the war was over. The territory which 
the Prussians seem to have demanded and obtained in Lor- 
raine, in the neighbourhood of Briey, would doubtless have 
been demanded by them in September, since the frontier 
traced on the map used at Versailles, when the preliminaries 
of peace were signed, was the same as that determined by the 
Treaty of Frankfort, and, as we have seen, this map was 
printed in Berlin in September, 1870. These facts refute 
Thiers' assertion to the National Assembly on June 29, 
1871 : " Had not the war been prolonged, we should have 
lost less territory." 

Our resistance, then, improved rather than aggravated the 
conditions of peace. Above all, it made reparation possible 
in the future. A nation that is still rich and still powerful 
has no right to surrender any of her sons till all her resources 
are exhausted : she is pledged, to them and to her forefathers 
and to posterity, to shed the last drop of her blood in defence 
of her children. In the eyes of France there are greater 
things than success : there is duty, and there is honour. 
Gambetta, by assuming his splendid but terrible role, by 
keeping the flag flying to the very end, gave his country a 
last chance. His name will always be associated with the 
honour of the Republic and the faith of a patriot. A people 
to whom, after overwhelming disasters, heroic resistance was 
still possible, might hope great things for the future; and the 
organiser of the nation's defence will always be the 
personification of that great hope. 

Even after the capitulation of Paris he wished to continue 
the war. This was what the Germans feared most : pro- 
longed resistance. Gambetta was supported by Chanzy and 
Faidherbe. "Not only," said Chanzy, " do I believe that 
resistance is possible, but I think it could not fail to be 
successful if the country truly desired it and would accept all 
its obligations and consequences. We could obtain better 
terms if we showed ourselves quite determined to resume the 
struggle rather than submit to a humiliating peace." He 
then enumerated the country's resources : 222,000 infantry, 

132 



WAR A OUTRANGE 

20,000 cavalry, 33,960 gunners, 1,232 pieces of ordnance, with 
242 rounds of ammunition for each, 4,000 transport wagons ; 
an unorganised reserve of 354,000 men in the territorial 
forces, the depots and Algeria; 132,000 recruits of the 1871 
class; 12,000 horses that the remount department had 
promised to deliver in six weeks; 443 guns that had no 
carriages but were otherwise equipped, with 398,000 shells 
and 1,200 carriages in the arsenals; 98 batteries of 4, 7 and 12 
guns furnished by the departments; while our factories were 
producing 25,000 chassepots a month and 2,000,000 cartridges 
a day, and arms and ammunition were arriving from abroad 
continuously. Moreover, we still had a rich country, with 
25,000,000 inhabitants, wherein the enemy had not yet set his 
foot. 

Chanzy's figures are nearly the same as those of the com- 
mittee charged by the National Assembly to enumerate the 
military resources of France. This committee included 
Admiral Jaureguiberry, eight generals, three colonels and 
several retired officers. 

Chanzy declared that in any case France must be prepared 
for war, since the only two alternatives were war a outrance 
or peace at any price ; and those who desired peace would find 
war the only sure way of securing better terms. 

France was rich — much richer than Germany — and she 
could pay for peace. She was too deeply disillusioned to go 
on fighting. Having grown used to conquest in the Crimea 
and in Italy, she could not recover from her surprise. The 
fall had been too swift and too immense. She was weary. 
The capitulation of Paris robbed her of her last hope : she 
could do no more. 



^33 



PART III 

THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AND THE 
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE REPUBLIC 

(1871-1875) 



135 



/ 



CHAPTER IX 

THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 

Cambetta Elected by Ten Departments — Spuller's Wise Advice — Gambetta's Speech 
i at Bordeaux : Principles of Conduct — The Monarchists, to prove that the 
I Assembly possesses the Constituent Authority, Vote for the Republic. 

The elections to the National Assembly began on Feb- 
ruary 8, 1871, and were carried out by departments and 
au scrutin de liste. The east, north and centre of France 
were occupied by 600,000 hostile troops, and were under the 
rule of German prefects; while 420,000 Frenchmen were 
prisoners in Germany. The number of Deputies was fixed 
at 768. Some of the candidates were elected by several con- 
stituencies : Thiers by twenty-six departments, and Gambetta 
by ten — Bas-Rhin, Bouches-du-Rhone, Haut-Rhin, Meurthe, 
Moselle, Seine, Seine-et-Oise, Var, Alger and Oran. His 
choice fell upon Bas-Rhin. 

According to the terms of the armistice the Assembly was 
to " decide whether the war should be continued, or fix the 
conditions on which peace should be made." It was on this 
question, then, that the country voted. Paris and most of the 
towns, with Gambetta and the leaders of the Democratic 
party, were in favour of continuing the war; the country dis- 
tricts voted for peace. The parties hostile to the Empire — 
Legitimists, Orleanists and Republicans — who for twenty 
years had been repressed and excluded from public affairs, 
reappeared in the persons of their most eminent members. 
The Republican Deputies numbered about two hundred. 
The other two-thirds of the Assembly were composed of Legi- 
timists and Orleanists, the latter being the more numerous , 
But there was no need to make any profession of political 

137 



GAMBETTA 

faith : the electors chose their representatives chiefly for their 
social position, or their moral qualities, or because they were 
in favour of peace. At heart, the majority of the voters had 
two ruling passions : hatred of the Empire, which had 
engaged in the war, and hatred of the " Gambettist dictator- 
ship," which favoured its continuance. These two points of 
view, while appearing almost identical, were leagues, and 
worlds, and centuries apart. 

The Assembly met at Bordeaux on February 13. On the 
i6th it elected Jules Gr^vy as its President, in accordance with 
Thiers' advice. 

Louis Philippe's former Minister, while writing the history 
of the First Empire, had not neglected to point out the mis- 
takes of the second, and the dangers that threatened us. His 
speeches in 1866 and 1867 were prophetic; he had done his 
utmost to avoid the war; quite recently he had pleaded the 
cause of France with the Governments of Europe. His con- 
duct in these matters had won oblivion for a political past 
which had often given food for comment. His age was 
seventy-three, but his activity and enthusiasm were only 
equalled by the lucidity of his mind and the youthfulness of 
his point of view. Even before he was placed at the head of 
affairs it seemed to be his natural position. 

On the 17th a Declaration by the Deputies for Alsace- 
Lorraine was read by Keller, Deputy for Haut-Rhin. 
" Alsace and Lorraine vehemently protest against the cession 
of any territory. France cannot consent to it, Europe cannot 
sanction it. We shall regard as null and void all acts and 
treaties, votes and plebiscites, which favour the surrender to 
foreigners of all or of any part of our provinces. We declare 
that the right of Alsatians and Lorrainers to remain members 
of the French nation is for ever inviolable. And we swear, in 
our own name and in the name of our constituents, our chil- 
dren, and their descendants, to uphold this right to all time 
and by all means, in the face of all usurpers." 

This moving protest was a cry of sheer pain, prompted by 
the purest patriotism. It would have been wise to let the 
matter rest there. To put the question to the vote was im- 

138 



THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 

prudent, since the Assembly could not associate itself with the 
protest without preventing the peace it was convoked to con- 
clude, while on the other hand to refuse its adoption would 
be playing into the hands of the enemy. 

And indeed when the Assembly declared Keller's motion to 
be urgent, Thiers at once intervened: " I share M. Keller's 
sentiments in every respect," he said; "but we must know 
how far we intend to back our words. Have the courage of 
your opinions : is it to be war or p^ace ? Let us go to the 
bureaux and say at once what we think." 

The Committee charged to discuss the motion produced the 
following resolution : " The National Assembly, while deeply 
sympathising with the sentiments expressed in the Declara- 
tion of M. Keller and his colleagues, has complete confidence 
in the wisdom and patriotism of the negotiators." Thence- 
forward Bismarck can have had no doubts with regard to the 
wishes of the Assembly, or the amount of resistance to be 
expected from our plenipotentiaries. 

A few moments later the Assembly almost unanimously 
placed Thiers at the head of the executive power. '* Of the 
French Republic " were the words added at his own request. 

On the following day the extreme Left adopted an address 
declaring that neither ** the National Assembly nor the entire 
French nation had the smallest right to make a single Alsa- 
tian or Lorrainer a subject of Prussia." This address was 
signed by Victor Hugo, Louis Blanc, Edgar Quinet, Victor 
Schaelcher, Charles Floquet, Edouard Lockroy, Alphonse 
Peyrat, Sadi Carnot, Edmond Adam, Henri Brisson, 
Arthur Ranc — and Georges Clemenceau, who was destined 
to play so prominent a part in our history, and to be our 
representative on the great day of reckoning in 19 18. 

On the 19th Thiers laid before the Assembly the names of 
the new Cabinet : Dufaure, Jules Favre, Ernest Picard, Jules 
Simon, Pouyer-Quertier, De Larcy, Lambrecht, General 
Le F16 and Admiral Pothuau. While France was awaiting 
her fate there was a truce between parties. Thiers made an 
appeal to the whole House to work for the restoration of the 
country. " At this moment there is only one policy possible, 

139 



GAMBETTA 

or even conceivable : to work for peace, to reorganise, to 
restore' our credit and revive industry. This is a policy for 
which any sensible, honest, enlightened man may work 
worthily, whatever his views on the Monarchy or the Repub- 
lic. When we have raised the stricken Titan we call France 
from the ground where she lies, and have healed her wounds, 
we will restore her to herself; when her mind is once more at 
liberty she will tell us how she would fain live." He then 
set out to Versailles, to negotiate with Bismarck. 

On the 28th he returned with the preliminaries of peace. 
On March i Bamberger, Edgar Quinet, Victor Hugo, Louis 
Blanc, George, Brunet, Millifere, Emmanuel Arago, Keller 
and Langlois spoke against the treaty. " If this thing that 
they call a treaty becomes an accomplished fact," cried Victor 
Hugo, "the peace of Europe will be at an end." "The 
surrender of Alsace-Lorraine," said Edgar Quinet, "means 
an endless war behind the mask of peace." Thiers, Vacherot 
and General Changarnier maintained that France was in a 
dilemma from which there was no escape. Buffet declared 
that four Deputies for the Vosges, in their sorrow at parting 
from their colleagues of Alsace-Lorraine, would abstain from 
voting. On an attempt being made by Conti to defend the 
Empire there was an outburst of agitation, and the Assembly 
almost unanimously voted the deposition of Napoleon IIL 
and his dynasty, declaring him to be " responsible for the 
ruin, the invasion and the dismemberment of France." The 
treaty was adopted by 546 votes to 107. Twenty-three 
members abstained from voting. 

Then Jules Grosjean, Deputy for the Haut-Rhin, read the 
immortal protest whose every word, for forty-four years, has 
been ceaselessly falling on our hearts as the earth falls on a 
coffin. Tears flowed freely as the representatives of Alsace- 
Lorraine left the hall. Gambetta resigned his position as 
Deputy for the Bas-Rhin. And that evening the Mayor of 
Strasburg, Kiiss, a Deputy for the Bas-Rhin, died at Bor- 
deaux, broken-hearted. At his funeral Gambetta used these 
words : " By force we are being parted, but only for a time, 
from Alsace, the traditional cradle of French patriotism. Our 

140 



THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 

brethren of that unhappy country have done their duty nobly, 
and they, at least, have done it to the end. They must com- 
fort themselves with the thought that France henceforward 
will have no policy but their deliverance ! To achieve that 
result. Republicans must be closely united in one thought — 
the hope of a day of reckoning that shall be a protest of right 
and justice against force and infamy ! " Cries of Vive 
r Alsace! greeted this appeal. 

The next day he set out for San Sebastian. He was ill, 
and worn out. " I am broken down," he wrote to a friend, 
" by all the troubles that have befallen us. Before the odious 
cession to the enemy which the Assembly has just sanctioned 
I can only retire; I shall wait for Republican France to find 
herself again." 

Germany, in 1815, had mutilated our frontier by taking 
Sarrebriick, Saint-Jean, Sarrelouis and the coal-mines of the 
Sarre. This time she robbed us of Alsace, Metz, the iron- 
mines of the Moselle and a population of 1,597,228 — thus 
depriving us of the power to initiate an offensive, and secur- 
ing that advantage for herself. She further obtained the 
chief essential for her mineral-works, namely, iron (29,000,000 
tons, which by 1913 had become 36,000,000 tons), with the 
hope of some day taking from us the mines of the Basin of 
Briey and Verdun ; for with Germany every treaty is but a 
truce, or a stage on her onward journey, every frontier is 
merely provisional, every annexation paves the way for the 
next. Thiers had succeeded in saving Belfort, but the 
indemnity was fixed at five thousand million francs. 

The Assembly of 1871 voted the preliminaries of peace with 
a knife at their throats, in order that their country's martyr- 
dom might be curtailed and Paris saved from occupation by 
German troops. The Treaty of Frankfort, offspring of the 
criminal falsification of the Ems telegram, affected Europe 
like a poison for forty-four years, and brought untold torment 
to many a human soul. 

It next became necessary to choose a place for the sittings 
of the Assembly. The majority were alarmed by the idea of 

141 



GAMBETTA 

Paris, and on Thiers' suggestion the choice fell on Ver- 
sailles. 

At the same time he made a declaration of loyalty towards 
all parties. " I give you my word as a man of honour that 
when the country is reorganised not a single matter that has 
been temporarily set aside shall be altered through any 
disloyalty of ours." This was what is known as "the Pact 
of Bordeaux." 

The Assembly was to meet at Versailles on March 20. 
On the 1 8th the rising of the Commune broke out. Gam- 
betta's enemies have often blamed his inaction during the 
civil war, and spoken mockingly of " the orange-trees of 
San Sebastian." He was no longer a Deputy, and he was 
ill. And what, in any case, could he have done? Every 
possible attempt was made to reconcile the two camps, but 
all was in vain from the moment when the first blood was 
shed, and Generals Lecomte and Clement Thomas were killed. 
At first the Mayors, the Deputies for Paris, Colonel Langlois, 
Commandant of the National Guard, and after him Admiral 
Saisset, made every effort to prevent a rupture ; and later on 
the Ligue des droits de Paris, with Schaelcher, Edmond 
Adam, Ranc, Lockroy, Floquet and Clemenceau, tried in vain 
to intervene. If Gambetta had still been a Deputy during the 
Commune he would have remained in the hall of the 
Assembly with Louis Blanc, Edgar Quinet and Henri Martin. 
In March 20 the Deputies and Mayors of Paris made a final 
supreme effort to move the Central Committee. " You are 
insurgents," said Louis Blanc, " against an Assembly elected 
under conditions of the utmost freedom. We, who are regu- 
larly elected representatives, cannot have any dealings with 
insurgents. We would gladly prevent civil war, but we cannot 
appear as your associates before the eyes of France." During 
these terrible days one dominating idea inspired these great 
Republicans : they desired above all things to avoid a revolu- 
tion in the presence of the enemy : they feared everything that 
would imperil the unity of the nation. 

The excitement spread to Lyons, Saint-Etienne, Toulouse, 
Narbonne, Marseilles and Limoges. Many towns, in their agi- 

142 



THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 

tation, sent protests to Versailles against any attempt to 
restore the Monarchy. To save the country, they said, 
national unity must be preserved, and the sole means of pre- 
serving national unity was to preserve the Republic. Thiers 
went about repeating: "It is the form of government that 
divides us the least." On March 27 he said in the Assembly : 
"There are enemies of law and order who assert that we are 
preparing to overthrow the Republic. I absolutely deny it. 
I shall not destroy the form of government that I am now 
employing for the restoration of order." And he assured 
the representatives of the town-councils who came to tell him 
of their uneasiness that if a plot should be formed for the 
restoration of the Monarchy, he would take no part in it. 

An attempt at co-operation between the elder and younger 
branches of the House of Bourbon was, however, being made 
under the auspices of Mgr. Dupanloup, Bishop of Orleans. 
In March, at Dreux, the Due d'Aumale declared to the repre- 
sentatives of the Legitimist party that, if France desired a 
Monarchy, the Princes of Orleans would advance no claim to 
the throne, and that they were willing to be reconciled to the 
Comte de Chambord. 

A series of hitherto unpublished letters, written from San 
Sebastian by Gambetta to Barth^lemy, French Consul at 
Southampton, shows how great were his perplexity and 
distress. 

March 26. — " What is to become of us? All this can only 
end in a catastrophe ; the September massacres or the White 
Terror must soon be repeated, or perhaps both. There is 
only one possible means of saving the situation : to declare 
the Republic an established institution, to take the three or 
four radical measures that would give it free play, to pass an 
electoral law, dissolve the Assembly, and convoke a new 
Chamber in Paris, at the same time announcing in advance 
the legislative programme it proposed to carry out : then to 
return boldly to the capital and address the people in language 
worthy of France and of the population of the great city." 

He puts his finger on one of the cruellest wounds inflicted 
by the defeat. "Not the least disgraceful feature of the 

143 



GAMBETTA 

present situation is that all parties alike are trying to make 
capital out of the enemy's threats and demands. . . . Ah, 
how wretched we are ! " 

June 5. — " I am much perplexed with regard to the coming- 
elections. My own feelings are still against being a member 
of an Assembly I regard as finished with, and as having 
exhausted its mandate. In any case I shall be obliged to 
explain my position." 

June 14. — " I am entirely of your opinion : it is time to 
speak. As for the question of the legislative mandate, I am 
inclined to think that it would be best to refuse. I am expect- 
ing SpuUer to-morrow. I must discuss the matter with him, 
and I will write to you my final decision. ..." 

Spuller's visit to San Sebastian took place, and Gambetta 
decided to return to public life. 

Spuller, from his retreat at Sombernon in Cote-d'Or, had 
written to Gambetta at San Sebastian some letters of remark- 
able wisdom and clearness of vision. The Commune, he said, 
was doomed to failure. The Monarchy " would fall to pieces 
at the last moment." There was a great role to be filled, 
so great a role that it almost frightens me." "You are 
regarded as the right man to deal with a situation that cannot 
fail to result from this terrible crisis. . . . You are being kept 
for future needs." He urges him to make frequent speeches 
in the country, and to travel from town to town like English 
statesmen. " Until the Republic has been finally proclaimed 
and established, the proper role for you, it seems to me, is 
that of a republican O'Connell." What was needed was not 
so much a programme of reforms as a programme of conduct, 
a " declaration of the duties " of the Republican party. " It 
is you, more than anyone else, who must undertake the 
arduous task of uniting the party's scattered forces, of 
reviving hope and soothing resentment, of consoling the 
sorrowful and reconciling these two French peoples who are 
fighting one another." The Assembly was not constituent, 
it was true, but the sovereign power was vested in it. It 
would remain in authority, and one must act accordingly. 
When Thiers declared himself willing to maintain " the 

144 



THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 

accomplished fact of the Republic," he hurled the most bitter 
invectives at Gambetta and those who had prolonged the war. 
Their policy, he said on June 8, was that of "a raving 
maniac." "A raving maniac! " Alas, he was mad with 
love for France, for her honour and renown, mad with despair 
that she should be outraged and mutilated by the enemy ! 
This was the climax of her sorrows, this hour when the greatest 
of her servants struck at one another above her bleeding heart ! 
Spuller tried to heal Gambetta's wound by pointing out that 
Thiers had a very strong motive for a public attack on one 
section of the Republican party, since it enabled him to praise 
another section, and served as some extenuation of his present 
attitude in the eyes of the majority. In explaining the 
injustice he half excused it. The best answer to the insult 
would be some calm expression of confidence. " The more 
violently you have been treated, the easier it will be for you 
to be moderate; and the more moderate you are, the more 
certainly your plans will succeed." 

He then points out to his friend the dangers of his absence. 
" Had you been present, this attack would not have occurred. 
The feelings that exist between you and M. Thiers would 
have been differently expressed, and that would have been 
better for everyone. It is not good for a man who has played 
the most brilliant part in contemporary history to have his 
actions and motives misrepresented for too long : the public 
soon forms a wrong opinion, which it takes a vast amount of 
pains to efface. Come back to the Chamber. When once 
you are there no one will ever dare to say, without fear of 
contradiction and criticism, that your policy of honour and 
courage was not the only course worthy of the Republic and 
of France." 

These letters from Sombernon are greatly to Spuller's 
credit. And the seed fell on ground that had long been pre- 
pared to receive it. As appeared in his speech to the students 
in 1870, Gambetta was naturally inclined to these ideas. His 
speech at Bordeaux on June 26, 187 1, gave fresh expression 
to them, and formed the starting-point of his new career. 

He began with a reference to the plebiscite and all the 

145 L 



GAMBETTA 

disasters that followed it. Did France desire, he asked, to 
forswear her privileges again, or to constitute herself a free 
country? The "raving maniac" agreed with Thiers that 
" authority should be in the hands of the wisest, the noblest, 
the most capable." He would fain transform universal 
suffrage, or the force of numbers, into a power enlightened 
by reason. The Revolution must be effected without vio- 
lence, and the Republican party, hitherto accustomed to being 
in opposition and defiant of authority, must become the 
governing party. He called upon all parties, and upon the 
masses who were of no party, to support the Republic. Then 
he turned to those who held other views : " Do you wish to 
rule the Republic ? Well, we ask only one thing of you — to 
recognise it first. When once you have recognised it, we 
shall be perfectly ready to admit you to the conduct of affairs." 
He expressed the social problem thus: " How is it possible 
that men whose only contact with society is exasperating to 
them, who only know it through effort and labour, and labour 
that is inadequately paid . . . should fail to be embittered by 
their poverty, and should not at last break out before the 
world in a fury of passion unspeakable ? . . . There will be 
no peace and no order until all classes of society shall have 
been given a share in the benefits of civilisation and science, 
and can regard their Government as the legitimate offspring 
of their own sovereign power, rather than as an exacting and 
greedy master. Until that day, if we pursue our present fatal 
path, you will drive the ignorant to support coups d'etat at 
one moment, and swell the forces of street rioters at the next, 
and we shall be left exposed to the pitiless fury of irresponsible 
mobs. . . . trying to avenge themselves by looting among 
the ruins . . ." And he quoted the words of Channing : 
" Societies are responsible for the catastrophes that occur 
within their borders, as ill-governed towns, where carrion is 
left to rot in the sun, are responsible for an outbreak of 
plague." 

To the peasant he offered a meed of admiration. The 
blood and bones of France, he said, must be re-made. The 
reorganisation of the army was the first work to be accom- 

146 



THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 

plished. Military education should begin at school. Of the 
man of the future he said : " I would have him able, not only 
to think, read and reason, but also to act and fight. Every- 
where we must have, side by side with the schoolmaster, the 
athlete and the military instructor." These two forms of 
education " must be carried on side by side. Otherwise your 
schools will turn out literary men, but never patriots. The 
whole world should be made to understand that when a French 
citizen is born, he is born a soldier. ..." This was the 
Republican tradition, the tradition of the law passed by the 
Convention on the 27th of Brumaire, year III., which decreed 
that civil and military education should proceed hand in hand. 

This appeal reassured the country and paved the way for 
the demonstration of July 2, 1871, which placed the Republic 
on a firm footing. There were iii Deputies to be elected, 
of whom 21 were for the Department of the Seine. Forty-six 
departments were called upon to vote, and Gambetta, who 
was elected for the Seine, Var and Bouches-du-Rhone, chose 
to represent the Seine. Twenty-five departments had to find 
a substitute for Thiers, who had been elected for twenty-six 
constituencies and had chosen the Seine. Only three of the 
twenty-five were Conservatives. 

It was at this moment that the Comte de Chambord arrived 
in France and announced his intentions with regard to the 
flag. On July 5 his manifesto appeared. " I shall not allow 
the standard of Henry IV., Francis I. and Joan of Arc to be 
torn from my hands. It flew above my cradle, its shadow 
must fall on my grave. Henry V. cannot surrender the flag 
of Henry IV." 

Gambetta seized the first opportunity, after his return to 
the Assembly, to give his support to Thiers. When the 
Italians entered Rome a certain number of bishops had 
addressed petitions to the Assembly for the restoration of the 
Pope's temporal power. The Assembly nominated a com- 
mittee who favoured this object. " The deed is done," said 
Thiers; " Italy is united; I am not the author of her unity, 
and there is no one who can be held less responsible than 
myself. We must not be forced into a policy that would end 

147 L 2 



GAMBETTA 

m the very thing you are most anxious to avoid — a war. 
When all Europe has to reckon with Italy, would you have 
me enter into relations with her that might compromise us in 
the future? " He added that he would defend the interests 
of religion and do his utmost to secure the independence 
of the Holy See. He accepted a resolution containing 
these words: "The Assembly, confident of the patriotism 

and prudence of the head of the executive power " and 

at once Gambetta took the opportunity it offered him. 
" After such clear and decided statements concerning our 
relations with Italy and the Holy See, statements that have 
equal regard for their liberties, for the claims of conscience, 
and for the peace of Europe, we will gladly give our support 
to the resolution that has been accepted by the head of the 
executive power." 

Then Keller, representing the party of the Right, made 
this announcement: "From the moment that the resolu- 
tion is also approved by M. Gambetta, its significance is 
changed," and he declared that his friends could no longer 
support it. Thiers sprang to his feet. " I seek no man's 
support," he said, "but neither do I refuse it when it is 
offered to me. You would be setting a disastrous example, 
and one that would lead to perpetual discord in the country, 
if you were, virtually, to make this statement : ' Since our 
colleague So-and-So, with whose sentiments we do not at this 
moment agree, accepts the same form of words as ourselves, 
we will have none of it.' " He deeply regretted that 
M. Keller should have allowed such unfortunate words to 
escape him, for, said he, " if Discord had a voice, those are 
the words she would use." 

The Assembly passed the vote of confidence, but returned 
the petitions to the Minister for Foreign Aflfairs. Jules Favre 
resigned, and was replaced by Charles de Remusat. 

The Vicomte de Meaux, a Legitimist member of the 
National Assembly and Montalembert's son-in-law, who left 
some very valuable Souvenirs of the years 1871-1877, gives 
us his view of this first encounter between Thiers and the 
Right. " The bishops asked the Assembly to pass a resolu- 

148 



THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 

tion that would have embroiled us with Italy ; some measure — 
I do not know what, and no more did they — in favour of the 
Pope's temporal power. What could M. Thiers do, and what 
could any of us do at that time? Did the bishops wish to 
provoke a quarrel with Italy, which Germany would certainly 
have encouraged? Assuredly they did not; and when they 
protested their peaceable intentions they were as sincere as 
they were illogical. But they did not feel themselves 
responsible for the country at large; and, without inquiring 
whether they were pushing us over a precipice or forcing us 
into a retreat, they were content to satisfy themselves and 
their immediate circle." 

On August 12 Thiers' friend Rivet proposed this motion : 
"M. Thiers will fulfil, under the title of President of the 
Republic, the functions that were assigned to him by the 
Decree of February 17 last. He will hold this office for three 
years. ..." Gambetta, in the bureaux,^ opposed this 
motion. He held that the true cause of the country's disquiet 
was the divisions in the Chamber : the remedy, in his opinion, 
lay in a Constituent Assembly. 

Rivet's motion gave the Assembly an opportunity to 
declare itself constituent, and on August 28 the committee 
laid this resolution before the Chamber: "The National 
Assembly, considering that it has a right to use the constituent 
power, an essential attribute of the sovereignty with which it 
is invested, hereby decrees : ' The head of the executive power 
will assume the title of President of the French Republic, and 
will continue to exercise, under the authority of the National 
Assembly until its labours shall be at an end, the functions 
assigned to him by the Decree of February 17, 1871. . . .' " 

Rivet's motion, then, was amended in one essential matter : 
Thiers' powers, instead of being limited to three years, were 
to end only with the dissolution of the Assembly. Gambetta 
and his friends were placed in a dilemma : to adopt the reso- 
lution was to recognise the right of the Monarchist majority 
to settle the destiny of the country, to reject it was to increase 

1 i.e., the offices in which committees of the Assembly meet.— Translator's 

NOTE, 

149 



GAMBETTA 

the difficulties of Thiers' position. Gambetta, to whom the 
restoration of royalty was the worst thing that could happen, 
opposed the assumption of the constituent power by the 
Assembly. " It was only elected," he said, " to rid us of the 
invader. When a form of government is to be established, 
whether it be a Monarchy or a Republic, the chief aim of 
those who have to found it is to build a fortress that can be 
defended against any malcontents who attack it, rather than 
a tent or shed that is open to all the winds of heaven and can 
be overturned by any passer-by. That is what you will be 
doing if you draw up a Constitution in your present state of 
incompetence. I am regarding the matter from the monarchi- 
cal point of view as much as from the Republican." And he 
went so far as to use these rather bold words : "If from this 
Assembly there should emanate a Republican Constitution 
I should not feel, I honestly declare, sufficiently strongly 
armed to deal a blow at anyone who dared to attack it." 

This statement, to which later events so strikingly gave the 
lie, had an effect that the speaker was far from anticipating : 
it reconciled the Right with Thiers, and won them to the 
cause of the Republic, for the Monarchists, in their anxiety 
to show they possessed the constituent power, set up, at least 
provisionally, the form of government they dreaded the most. 
By 434 votes to 225 the Assembly declared itself constituent ; 
by 491 votes to 94 it endowed the head of the executive power 
with the title of President of the French Republic. Thiers, in 
expressing his gratitude, drove the nail home : " The honour 
that the Assembly has done me in appointing me first 

magistrate of the Republic " 

Thus, by a curious paradox, the Left, who repudiated the 
constituent power, believed that Rivet's motion, as soon as it 
was adopted, would have the force of a constitutional law ; 
while the Right, who were so vociferously demanding the 
constituent power,, considered themselves to be passing an 
ordinary bill — nay, a mere resolution that could easily be 
revoked. There may have been some, perhaps, who were not 
averse from the idea of saddling the Republic with the respon- 
sibility of the Peace Treaty. Those who had opposed the 

150 



THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY 

measure rejoiced in its adoption, those who voted for it were 
dissatisfied. Those who desired the restoration of the 
Monarchy were strengthening Thiers' hands and setting the 
Republic on a firm basis. Gambetta and his friends were 
clamouring for the dissolution of an Assembly that was 
destined to give them, after a few years of struggle, an estab- 
lished Government of the form they desired. This Chamber, 
to which they would fain have denied the constituent power, 
was in the end^ — prompted and inspired by them — to give 
France her Republican Constitution. But there was a pro- 
found reason for this paradox : the divisions among the 
Monarchists, and the mutual hatred that kept them apart. 
The Comte de Chambord, in shattering his crown, shattered 
with the same blow the younger branch of his House : he 
avenged himself for 1830. The Monarchists were obliged to 
choose one among several possible sovereigns, whereas the 
Republic, being an impersonal Government, could change its 
form if necessary and adapt itself to every circumstance. 



151 



CHAPTER X 

THE NEW REPUBLIC 

La Ripublique Fran^aise established — A Political Campaign — Gambetta and the 
Army Bill — Speech at Versailles (June 24th)— Journey to Savoy and Dauphine : 
" A new social stratum " — The Due de Broglie. 

Towards the end of 1871 a dream that had long been 
cherished by Gambetta was at last fulfilled. As early as the 
year 1868 he had discussed, with Lavertujon and SpuUer, a 
scheme for starting a newspaper. Dubochet, the owner of the 
Chateau des Cretes, was to supply the funds for the initial 
outlay. The paper was to be called Le Suffrage universel. 
During his visit to San Sebastian he referred to the scheme 
in his letters to Barth^lemy. At last, in November, 1871, 
with the help of his friends Arnaud de I'Ari^ge, Dorian, and 
that fine spirit Scheurer-Kestner, he produced La Refublique 
frangaise. Challemel-Lacour — whose talents increased with 
every year that passed — Spuller, Ranc, Dionys Ordinaire, 
Charles Floquet, and Gaston Thomson were to write on the 
subj'ect of domestic policy; Antonin Proust, Gabrial Hano- 
taux, Camille Barri^re and Marcellin Pellet on foreign aflfairs ; 
Allain Targe on finance, Freycinet on war and public works, 
Paul Bert on public education, Berthelot on science, and 
Lannelongue and Broca on hygiene and medicine. Gustave 
Isambert was the editor. Joseph Reinach began his 
career in this paper, and later on Albert Grodet contributed 
to it. The aim of the founder was to make La Repuhlique 
frangaise an organ and a nursery of the Government. 
It was an educative paper, moderate and serious in 
character, and its leading articles gave the Republican Party 

152 



THE NEW REPUBLIC 

their cue. Nearly every evening Gambetta visited tiie office, 
and in the course of conversation conveyed to his friends, in a 
rough form, the principal features of the articles that were to 
appear. One of his colleagues gives us a picture of Gambetta 
in an almost unknown aspect— revising the first page, wel- 
coming with genial charm the help, and even the advice, of 
the humblest and youngest writers, describing to his editors 
the sittings of the Assembly, and then writing a letter on a 
corner of the table. " It was an indescribable force, a focus; 
there is nothing to be compared with it ! " 

He asked the help of his Alsatian friends. Fie wrote to the 
men who had formerly represented Alsace-Lorraine in the 
National Assembly: ''Until we have restored to France the 
territory that belongs to her, we have no right to feel satisfied. 
I am firmly persuaded of that." The publication of the paper 
was announced in Alsace-Lorraine by means of a circular. 
" I wish to make it a platform from which the whole of Europe 
may hear us clamouring, day by day, for our rights and our 
stolen provinces. France is at the mercy of Germany. We 
are in a state of latent war; neither peace, nor liberty, nor 
progress is possible in Europe." 

At the same time he engaged in a republican and patriotic 
crusade all over the country. He undertook the education of 
the masses. His progress, amid enthusiastic crowds, was 
marked by one successful skirmish after another. He 
prophesied the coming triumph of the Republic, hinted that 
France would some day be avenged, left hope behind him 
everywhere, and with his ardent words created the new 
democracy as miraculously as he had created armies. 

On November i6 he spoke at St. Quentin, to celebrate the 
anniversary of the town's defence and to honour the memory 
of those who fell there : " What was lacking," he said, " was 
what all nations lack when they have allowed themselves to be 
kept too long in servitude — faith in themselves and sufficient 
hatred for the enemy. France must resume her true role in 
the world. Let us never speak of the enemy without making 
it plainly understood that we are always thinking of him. 

153 



GAMBETTA 

Then some day our turn will come." He explained what he 
meant by laicisation : respect for liberty of conscience. The 
Church teaches faith ; the school should teach scientific 
methods. He tried to win the country clergy, of whom he 
spoke with feeling and respect. (The distinction between the 
clergy of the people and the clergy of the aristocracy, and be- 
tween the secular and the regular clergy, was a subject as often 
on his lips as it had been on those of Mirabeau.) Finally 
he demanded that France should be free to dispose of herself, 
and he called upon the whole nation, after the series of 
disasters that monarchical governments had brought upon it, 
to support the Republic. " It may perhaps be granted us — I 
cannot refrain from expressing this hope even on so sad 
an occasion — to have a share, together with all our fellow- 
citizens, in the founding of the great national Republican 
Party, whose sole ambition is to seal the union of the whole 
French people by the recognition and amalgamation of the 
rights of all. Then the nation, being united and free, can 
gather up all its forces, and, turning its attention to Europe, 
can exact the restoration of its property and the place that 
is its due." 

The Assembly, being disappointed by the failure of the 
coalition, and disturbed by the progress of the Republican 
Party, was more than ever divided, yet hesitated to break 
with Thiers, whose sympathies were growing more and more 
Republican. " Believe me," he said, " you who wish to make 
trial of a Republic, — as you are right in wishing, — you must 
make it loyal. I am speaking especially to those to whom 
the Republic is a constant subject of thought, and I am one of 
them." (December 26.) A few days later, on January 7, 
1872, twelve out of seventeen local elections resulted in 
Republican returns. 

On January 20 Thiers, being defeated on a measure for tax- 
ing raw materials, handed in his resignation ; but the Assem- 
bly, pointing out that a vote on an economic question could 
not be regarded as one of want of confidence, refused to accept 
it, and the President thereupon withdrew it. The Right were 
making ready for another possible crisis in connection with 

154 



THE NEW REPUBLIC 

the President's office. Negotiations were in progress, and the 
Comte de Paris had announced his wilUngness to visit the 
Comte de Chambord at Antwerp. The point at issue was the 
nomination of tlie Due d'Aumale in place of Thiers. The 
Comte de Chambord took the matter very ill. On January 25 
he made an attack on what he called " barren coalitions " in a 
new manifesto, and once more proclaimed his devotion to the 
Avhite flag. "Nothing will shake my resolution," he de- 
clared, " nothing will wear out my patience, and no one, on 
any pretext whatever, will induce me to become the legitimate 
King of the Revolution." Thus, every time that the 
monarchists made any attempt at union and resurrection, the 
representative of the legitimate line replaced their tombstone 
firmly on their heads. The Bonapartists tried to profit by 
this occasion. On February 11 Rouher was elected in 
Corsica. He began an energetic propaganda in France, and 
created in the Assembly " a group in favour of appealing to 
the people." 

The Assembly was prorogued on March 29 for three weeks. 
During the vacation Gambetta visited Angers and Havre in 
response to invitations from the Republicans of those towns. 

Speaking at Angers on April 7, in the heart of a district 
that had returned Royalist Deputies, he tried to reassure the 
people, and inspire them with confidence in the wisdom of the 
Republican Party. To those who made distinctions between 
Paris and the provinces, he preached the importance of unity. 
He laid stress on the divisions that existed in the Right, while 
the Republican Party, on the contrary, was supporting the 
established Government, and devoting itself to the highest 
interests of the nation and the maintenance of peace and 
order. The minority in the Assembly was th^^ majority in the 
country at large. The speaker proceeded to uphold respect 
for property, liberty of conscience, and religious liberty ; and 
ended with this graceful allusion to the President of the Re- 
public : "He knows that there is a finer thing than having 
written the annals of the French Revolution, and that is to 
accomplish it." 

At Havre, on April 18, he said : "If, amid our misfortunes, 

155 



GAMBETTA 

the Republican form of government has appeared the only 
one possible, it is because no other was in a position to con- 
front the danger. At the time of the catastrophe there was no 
thought of any other Government. Where were the claimants 
to the throne? "• He returned to the problem of education. 
The State can have no kind of authority nor power in matters 
of dogma and philosophical doctrine. It must know nothing 
of such things, or it will become arbitrary. When he was 
mockingly described as a commercial traveller, a commis 
voyageur, he accepted the title proudly. " That is true 
enough," he said. " I travel for the democracy: I hold a 
commission from the people. If I believe any Government 
but a Republic to be fatal for my country it is my bounden 
duty to say so ! That is my mission ! I will fulfil it, come 
what may !" 

Incidentally he let a word drop which led to much argu- 
ment. " Never let us deny the poverty and suffering of a sec- 
tion of the democracy. But let us also beware of the Utopias 
of those who believe that a panacea or a formula can make 
the world happy. There is no social remedy, because there 
is not one social question, but a whole series of problems to 
be solved and difficulties are to be overcome. These problems 
must be solved one by one and not by means of any single 
formula. There is no panacea." He did not say : " There is 
110 social question." He said : " There is not one social ques- 
tion " — not a single social question, nor a single solution. 
His formulas must be thoughtfully considered : they are 
composed with a care that amounts to an art. They may lead 
one astray. Even Challemel-Lacour misunderstood him in 
this case, and was amazed that his friend, who had defined 
the social question in such moving terms at Bordeaux, should 
now, to all appearance, deny its existence. Louis Blanc made 
the same mistake, and protested with some vigour. This, no 
doubt, was exactly what Gambetta desired : to oppose the 
Socialists without cutting off communications with them. He 
seized his opportunity. La Republique frangaise published 
an answer to Louis Blanc, whom Gambetta at heart disliked, 
as became more apparent later. Louis Blanc was right when 

156 



THE NEW REPUBLIC 

he said there was a social problem, the problem of the relations 
between capital and labour. But this problem mvolves a 
host of others, and Gambetta affirmed an equally obvious 
truth when he said that there was no remedy, no panacea. 

Finally he urged that a new Assembly should be convoked 
in Paris, " Paris, the cradle of our civilisation, the buckler of 
our public liberties, the teacher and guide of the national 
genius, Paris that may be made a mark for the imbecile hatred 
of a few rustic boors, but can never be downtrodden nor dis- 
honoured." He asked for the support of the new converts. 
"It has been said that our party is closed to newcomers. It 
is not true ! " Thus, while breaking away from the socialists, 
he identified himself at the same moment with the reconcilia- 
tion with Paris. And he proclaimed the Republic open to all. 

On May 9 a great number of Alsatians came to present him 
with a bronze. "Tenacity is one of the characteristics of your 
race," he said to them. " It is for that reason that our dear 
Alsace was especially necessary to French unity ; it represented 
that unquenchable energy which exists among us, side by side 
with a fickleness and levity which at times, unfortunately, 
mar our national character. Until Alsace comes back into 
the family circle there will be no France and no Europe. Let 
us not speak of revenge,^ let us utter no rash word, let us think 
over the matter calmly and soberly. For my part, 1 have no 
other ambition than faithfully to observe the mandate you 
have given me, a mandate that 1 look upon as my greatest 
honour, the ruling principle of my life." He continued to be 
the representative and the mouthpiece of the exiled provinces. 

The Assembly met again on April 22. The Right aimed 
at compromising Gambetta by a debate on war contracts. 
Members had already talked loudly of scandals in connection 
with these ^contracts, and some startling disclosures were 
expected. Rouher launched out into an attack on the National 
Defence Government and a defence of the Empire. The Due 
d'Audiffret-Pasquier replied to him in ringing tones : 

^ Revanche, as applied to the Franco- Prussian quarrel, has various shades of mean- 
ing according to the context ; sometimes it merely means "return match," at other 
times " revenge," " retribution," or " requital." — Translator's note. 



GAMBETTA 

" 'Varus, give us back our legions! '^ Give us back the 
glory that was our fathers' ! Give us back our pro- 
vinces ! " " Mexico has you in its grip," cried Gambetta. 
" Mexico is dogging your heels. Mexico, through the eternal 
Nemesis of events, has already wreaked a just vengeance on 
all who have risked the honour and the greatness of their 
country in that nefarious enterprise! " Among all the con- 
tracts of September 4 the only one that gave rise to serious 
comment was a purchase of guns in America by the ** Survey 
Commission." Gambetta shielded the Commission; some 
letters incriminating the lieutenant-colonel who was its presi- 
dent were read out to the House, and the Assembly sent back 
the report to the Ministers concerned in the matter. The 
attack had missed fire. 

Throughout these lively debates, Thiers was carrying on 
the negotiations for the evacuation of the occupied territory 
and the vote on the new army bill. France's rapid recovery 
had begun to inspire the Emperor William and Bismarck 
with misgivings. The Comte de Gontaut-Biron, our am- 
bassador in Berlin, wrote: "The preparations for our army 
bill, the threats of revenge that seem likely to materialise 
through Gambetta's activities, and the rumours of an under- 
standing between him and Thiers for the reorganisation of the 
army have created a profound and disturbing impression on 
the Emperor's mind." Thiers wrote back in answer: "We 
want peace. As for our so-called armements (' armaments ') ; 
it is not correct French to describe them by that term." Then 
he set forth his aims as regards army reconstruction : no com- 
pulsory service, but a professional army; a reversion to the 
Act of 1832, which limited its effective strength to 400,000 
men. He was compelled, however, to bow to the will of the 
Assembly, which, yielding in its turn to the pressure of public 
opinion, intended henceforth to summon to the colours all 
citizens capable of bearing arms. Thiers, fearing an aggres- 
sion on Germany's part — the military clique were busily 

^ The Emperor Augustus, after the defeat of the Romans under Varus by the 
G ermans under Arminius (Herrmann), is said to have exclaimed to the unfortunate 
eneral : " Varus, give me back my legions ! " — Translator's note. 



THE ^NEWJREPUBLIC 

whispering their schemes in the Emperor's ear, and Bismarck 
was beginning to growl— insisted on a five years' term of 
service, threatening to resign if this were not enforced. We 
should thus be enabled to call up two or three classes imme- 
diately on the outbreak of hostilities (we had as yet no 
reserves). On June lo the Right tried to compass his down- 
fall by voting an amendment which would reduce the term of 
service to four years. It was through Gambetta's support that 
the venerable statesman carried the day. The Assembly 
passed the five years' service clause, to the signal discomfiture 
of the German Government and General Staff. Gambetta 
shares with Thiers the credit of having reorganised our 
military system after 1870. 

The discussion on the army bill had ended ; the negotiations 
over the evacuation of our territory were nearing their close : 
the Right considered that the hour had struck for laying their 
terms before the President. A deputation of nine members; 
mcluding the Due Albert de Broglie, who had just returned 
to France from his post as ambassador in London, the Due 
d'Audiffret-Pasquier and General Changarnier, proceeded to 
his house on June 20 and implored him " to rely on the Right 
as his mainstay in the fight against RadicaHsm." Thiers 
replied that he had not failed in his duty, that his Ministry, 
drawn from Republicans and Monarchists alike, had 
triumphed over the Commune, and that, having accepted the 
stewardship of the Republic, he would not be justified in 
opposing the election of Republican candidates. He added 
that the rifts within the Monarchist party made a restoration 
of the Monarchy impossible and that they must now accept 
as existing de jure a Republic which already existed 
de facto. "By wise enactments," he said, "let us entrust 
the legislative authority to two Chambers; let us invest. the 
Upper House and the Executive with the power of dissolving, 
by a common agreement, the Chamber of Deputies : under 
these conditions, the Government will be strong enough to 
defy the leaders of the mob to do their worst." As for the 
Radicals, he expressed his disapproval of their principles and 
their campaign; he deplored Gambetta's attacks on the 

159 



GAI^IBETTA 

Assembly. If the country voted for this party, it thereby 
gave proof of its desire to set the RepubHc on a firm 
foundation, by supporting those candidates who proclaimed 
their attachment to the institutions now in force. Moreover, 
the Assembly was the sovereign body ; it could, if it thought 
fit to do so, declare for a Monarchy. " Seeing that you are in a 
majority, why don't you yourselves propose that the kingship 
be restored?" The "Council of Nine" issued a Report 
which wound up with the following words : " Regretting their 
inability to come to an understanding with the President of the 
Republic as to the proper form that a Conservative Republic 
should assume, the delegates were compelled to withdraw, but 
their views are unchanged, and they reserve the full right of 
upholding those opinions." It was a definite breach. One 
could feel that the storm was gathering. The Assembly was 
prorogued from August 3 to November 11. Gambetta, deter- 
mined to make the most of this respite, went off to spread the 
gospel of the new Republic throughout the length and breadth 
of the country. 

At Versailles, on June 24, he celebrated Hoche's birthday. 
Henceforth this became every year a sort of pilgrimage for 
the Republican party, at which Gambetta, the loyal guardian 
of the army, the inaugurator of its renewed greatness, and now 
in some indefinable way the mouthpiece of the nation in arms 
and the tribune of the soldiers, sought to imbue France with 
love for the flag and with the cult of discipline and of law. 
" A man's first duty is to fight for his country," he declared. 
Those who call him a demagogue may well ponder over these 
sermon-like trumpet-calls to military and patriotic duty. He 
sets up as a model the young hero who writes : "In this 
country you will have no peace or repose in the future without 
religious toleration." He went one better than upholding this 
principle with tongue and pen ; he put it into practice. It was 
in his eyes the only real means of avoiding internal discord. 
To such men as he we must pay that supreme homage which 
Tacitus recommended in the case of great citizens — the 
homage, not of praise, but of faithful imitation. He preached 
further that after civil w^ar we should let bygones be bygones, 

160 



THE NEW REPUBLIC 

reminding his hearers how Hoche had proclaimed an amnesty 
on the very day after his victory. The rules of politics are 
eternal, because they are based on morality ; there can be no 
true, efficient, fruitful statesmanship where might violates, 
even if only for the moment, the laws of justice and humanity. 

On July 14, at La Fert^-sous-Jouarre : "The unity that 
was attained on July 14, 1789, must be restored. Every effort 
has been made to sow divisions between peasant and artisan, 
between artisan and bourgeois; these elements must once more 
be welded together." He urges the Republicans to exhibit 
their principles in the full light of day: "Let your fields, 
your religious festivals, your meetings, your markets, 
your fairs, serve as opportunities for political discussion and 
education." 

To the workers of the Loire Department : " Wherever there 
is a French mother, she should bring up her children to show 
a religious love for France. If there is anything to console us 
amid the sorrow and shame of our bereaved country, it is the 
thought that the mothers and the patriots of France will supply 
her future champions and avengers. But before we think of 
the future we must make sure of the present, and establish 
once and for all a Government founded on justice and equalit}^, 
not an envious and grudging equality, but that equality of 
rights and duties which recognises no other distinctions 
between man and man than those arising from character, 
intelligence and energy in the battle of life." 

At Chamb^ry, the Prefect having refused to authorise the 
banquet that had been arranged to celebrate the anniversary of 
the First Republic, Gambetta received the guests at his hotel 
in successive batches. Each of these constantly changing 
audiences was met with a fresh stream of eloquence. These 
days in Savoy remind us of that day in February, 1848, when, 
on the steps of the Hotel de Ville, Lamartine. for hours at a 
stretch, had confronted the successive waves of popular fury 
with all the resources of his clear intellect and dauntless 
courage. In the case of Gambetta, however, the crowd were 
wilHng listeners. " The Republic should not mean the privi- 
leged rule of a few; it should be a tool that all may handle." 

161 u 



GAMBETTA 

He advocated caution and patience. " Let us shelve the dis- 
cussion of theories and keep for the time being to questions ot 
conduct, let us tend the Republic with all possible care while 
It is still in the bud, let us watch over the young tree with 
loving devotion." 

Always he impresses them with the need for a sense of 
proportion. "Let us draw up a well-defined programme, let 
us put the most urgent problems in the forefront, not all at 
once, but one after another. We must learn not to get the 
threads entangled, or we shall risk losing everything." This 
is the golden rule of Descartes: "In order to solve diffi- 
culties the more readily, split them up into as many parts 
as is possible or necessary." 

And always he harps upon the frontier : " France has seen a 
portion ot her inheritance wrested from her ; she must recover 
her loss. That is the work we have to do : let us think of it 
always, but speak of it— never ! " Yet he did speak of it, for 
all that. 

At Albertville he reverts to the religious quesdon. " Go 
into your places of worship, believe, affirm, pray. What I 
demand is liberty, an equal liberty for you and for me, for 
my philosophy and for your religious beliefs. We are not 
the foes of religion ; we want to see it set on a firm basis, free 
and inviolable." 

At Grenoble, on September 26, in the course of a speech that 
was destined to have far-reaching effects and to produce its 
reactions in the Assembly, he hails the advent of democracy : 
"What do you expect? Even now, after five-and-forty 
years, certain sections of society cannot bring themselves to 
acquiesce, not merely in the Republic, but in the results it has 
entailed. And it is to this want of resolution in a considerable 
section of the French bourgeoisie that I attribute all that is 
flaccid, unstable and invertebrate in the politics of the day. 
We are really inclined to ask ourselves how these people can 
shut their eyes to a phenomenon that ought to be glaringly 
obvious. Have they not seen, since the fall of the Empire, 
the rise of a new generation, keenly intelligent, showing an- 
aptitude for affairs and a proper regard for the rights of every 

162 



THE NEW REPUBLIC 

citizen ? Have they not seen men of this stamp gaining an 
entry into municipal councils, raising themselves, step by step, 
into positions on the other elective councils of the country, 
claiming and making good their claim to play their part — an 
ever grow^ing part — in the electoral contests ? Have we not 
seen this working-class element carve their way into the 
political world ? Is it not a sign of the times that the country, 
after testing several forms of government, now at last would 
fain apply to another social stratum in order to make a trial 
of the Republican form ? Yes, I feel it in the air, it is coming, 
it is already here — that new social stratum which has had a 
share in political affairs for nearly eighteen months past, and 
which is certainly no whit inferior to its predecessors." 

On September 29, at Thonon, a deputation of Alsace- 
Lorrainers came from Geneva to pay Kim their compliments. 
At this very moment, on the other side of the new frontier, 
our country's wounds were being ripped open by some painful 
incidents. It was decreed that after October i all Alsace- 
Lorrainers who had not chosen to remain French citizens 
should be regarded as Germans, and that all who made that 
choice should be compelled to leave the country. Then began 
a pitiable exodus : during the second fortnight of September, 
nearly 200,000 Alsace-Lorrainers migrated to France. Gam- 
betta, heart-broken at these expulsions, which left the country 
entirely in the hands of Germans, tried to speak: " Ah, they 
never trafficked in their blood, those two beloved provinces : it 
was their children whose breasts were the first to be pierced ! 
Noble provinces, always heart and soul for France, always 
looking towards her flag.—* Yes, we suffer,' they said, * but it 
is for our country's sake that we suffer, the very life-blood of 
the nation courses through our veins! . . .' Gentlemen, I 
cannot go on, I cannot. ... It is . . . those provinces 
..." and utterly spent, his voice choked with tears, he 
stopped, and flung himself into a seat. His hearers were 
deeply moved ; the sob was more impressive than any speech 
could have been. 

A member of the departmental council having said that if 
the kmgship were restored in France, Savoy would unite her- 

1^3 M Si 



GAMBETTA 

self with Switzerland, because " where liberty is, there is our 
country," the sensitive patriotism of Gambetta burst into 
angry flame. " It is well to weigh our words carefully when 
we speak of France's heritage. France, as you say with 
justice, will be all the more attractive when her destinies are 
controlled by all her citizens, and not swayed by the caprice of 
one. Yes, France in all her glory, France, under the auspices 
of the Republic, once more at the head of civilisation, offering 
to the world her legions of artists and workmen, of peasants, 
traders and professional men — yes, it is worth while to belong 
to such a France as that, and there is no man who would not 
then be proud to say, in his turn, ' I am a French citizen ! ' 
But there is another France that I cherish no less, another 
France just as dear to me — the France that has been van- 
quished, overwhelmed, humbled in the dust. Yes, I adore 
that France as a mother; it is to that France that we must 
sacrifice our lives, our love of self, our personal enjoyment ; it 
is of that France that we must say, ' Where France is, there is 
our country ! ' " 

At the very moment when the severance was becoming even 
wider and more cruel, the youthful orator, in all the fervour 
of his filial love, proclaimed with ever increasing energy his 
sacred ideals : French unity, eternal remembrance of the lost 
provinces, the religion of patriotism. He Loved France 
passionately and tenderly, as one loves a living creature. 

His growing successes made no little stir among the 
Monarchists. Above all, the phrase coined at Grenoble, "the 
new social stratum," caused much fluttering in the dovecotes. 
On October lo, the permanent committee of the Assembly 
proceeded to acquaint Thiers with their gloomy forebodings. 
The President replied that the speech in question was " deeply 
regrettable, ill-advised, very ill-advised. There are no class 
divisions in the nation. If any such theory had been put 
forward in Parliament, it would have been strenuously opposed 
by the Government." Thiers was wrong, or perhaps he mis- 
quoted intentionally. Gambetta in his Grenoble speech had 
not referred to "classes." He had always and everywhere 
scouted the idea of class divisions ; before and after, he never 

164 



THE NEW REPUBLIC 

ceased to advocate the union of the proletariate and the 
middle class; he was ever anxious to effect a combination 
between artisan and bourgeois, peasant and townsman. What 
he had said was " a new social stratum." It was a fact, a fact 
that such men at Chateaubriand, Royer-Collard, De Serre, 
Montalembert, Tocqueville and Prevost-Paradol had long 
since proclaimed in far bolder language, a fact that has per- 
sisted throughout the whole of our history as a very law of our 
corporate life. We see, even in the Middle Ages, the 
emergence of an intermediate caste between the villeins and the 
nobles — the men of trades and crafts, the burgesses; then, the 
continual advance of this Third Estate, gaining in the 
sixteenth century an undisputed influence over the monarchy, 
reigning supreme under Louis XIV. in politics and in the 
army, in letters and in arts; finally, under the Revolution, 
seizing the reins of Government. Behind the Third Estate 
and below it we see another social layer, the one that under 
Louis XIV. provoked Fenelon, Vauban and Boisguillebert 
to cries of pain and revolt, those sons of grooms, coopers, 
stonemasons, lackeys and stable-hands, who were destined to 
win laurels for Revolutionary France on the battlefield and 
save her from the clutches of the European coalition. And 
when the vote by property qualification gave place to universal 
suffrage, which Guizot called a " dark and immeasurable 
ocean," how could this new force fail to thrust the popular 
element into the local councils and the political assemblies ? 

The son of a grocer at Cahors rising to be the administrative 
chief of France — is it not a downright scandal ? In the eyes 
of the Parliamentary Right, it was something akin to the 
invasion of the Roman Empire by the barbarian hordes. 
Under Louis XIV. the Due de Saint-Simon, furious at being 
a political nonentity and at witnessing the success of "men 
who did not count," like Colbert, secretly vented his wrath 
against " this long reign of the vile middle class." 

Tocqueville had gone much further, as regards not only the 
advent of democracy but also the Concordat and the rights of 
property. Pretexts had to be found, however; nothing was 
exempt from attack. It was essential to drive Thiers into 

165 



GAMBETTA 

a corner, by laying on him the blame for the growing 
diffusion of revolutionary and subversive doctrines. To the 
Right, the Republic was merely a recrudescence of the crises 
of 1793 and 1848, in more fixed and enduring form. They 
dreaded universal suffrage, although they themselves had 
been elected under that system, had appealed to it, and were 
destined in the end to preserve it: this vital contradiction 
proved a source of embarrassment and weakness for their 
party. Gambetta, on the other hand, did not kick down the 
ladder by which he himself had risen. Instead of seeking to 
rebuff the newcomers whom universal suffrage brought into 
public life, he gave them a warm welcome and did his utmost 
to enlighten them by his superior knowledge. 

As soon as the House resumed its sittings on November 13, 
General Changarnier gave notice of a question to be asked 
by him concerning Gambetta's tour through Savoy and 
Dauphine. The Assembly resolved that the debate should 

take place on the i8th. 

/ 

The Dut Albert de Broglie had just left the London 
Embassy in order to lead the campaign against Thiers. He 
was now fifty-one years of age. A grandson of Madame de 
Stael and a son of the Minister who held office under the July 
Monarchy, he brought into the political arena all the resources 
of a varied and exquisite culture allied to an intellect of great 
natural keenness, a lofty pride and an indomitable courage. 
He had inherited, among other things, the virtues of his 
father, "sincerity of feeling, frankness of speech, and a con- 
tempt for the arts of winning popularity with the masses or 
favour among the great." ^ Like his father, too, he exhibited 
a certain shyness of manner, a certain native awkwardness, 
which drew around him a barrier of reserve. This shyness 
made him seem a trifle supercilious. He was charged with 
stiffness in intercourse ; his friends called him absent-minded, 
and he was indeed absent-minded when it suited his purpose. 
He was far from inattentive to men and things that seemed 

* From Albert de Broglie's foreword to his father's book, Vues sur le gouvernemeni 
de la France. 

166 



THE NEW REPUBLIC 

to merit his attention, but he did not concentrate on anything 
that seemed unworthy of the effort. His religious preceptor, 
X. Doudain, who really belonged in spirit to the eighteenth 
century, had no liking for the somewhat undemocratic 
Liberalism of the circles in which his pupil moved. Doudain 
had sounded him to the core, and had tried to warn him 
against developing an excessive conceit of himself and 
assuming an air of infallibility. He wrote to Albert de Broglie 
when the latter was a young man of twenty-four : " May God 
preserve you from pride, from vanity, from insolence, from 
scorn of your fellow-men, from being wedded eternally to your 
own opinions, from a mocking and dictatorial attitude, in 
short, from all the vices that intellectual superiority brings in 
its train, and especially from the worst vice of all, the vice of 
flattering yourself that you do not make others too conscious 
of your superiority. In a word, my dear son, I wish you 
what you can never attain." (July 22, 1845.) 

The Due Albert de Broglie tiad a distrust for democratic 
fickleness, which to his way of thinking did not harmonise 
with a policy of foreign alliances. He held that parlia- 
mentary government, void of all hereditary tradition, could 
not take firm root in our country, and that the elective prin- 
ciple was out of keeping with Presidential irresponsibility. 
He hit the mark when he observed that the form which the 
executive should take in a parliamentary republic and in a 
centralised State is the crucial problem. But, as regards the 
possible solutions, he proved more uncompromising than his 
father, who had foreseen the coming of parliamentary institu- 
tions, whether under a monarchical or under a republican 
regime. He had framed for himself a theory of French society 
and of the conditions necessary to its existence, and thought 
it beneath him to modify that theory in any particular. 
Imprisoned of his own free will in a world where social 
conventions rank so high and are the very keystone of the 
arch, he utterly ignored the stresses and surges of popular 
feeling ; he would not admit that any reforms could be success- 
ful in France save those that had already gained a secure 
foothold among other nations, and even in monarchical 

167 



GAMBETTA 

countries. Within certain narrow limits, he would have been 
a great Minister under an absolute or even a constitutional 
mpnarchy. He looked upon democracy as vulgar, and 
frankly told it so; democracy looked upon him as insolent, 
and told him so with equal frankness. He found balm for his 
wounds by honouring French literature and becoming an 
excellent historian. Whatever one's general views might be, 
the burning question of the hour was whether a revival of the 
kingship was feasible, and, seeing that this monarchist 
Assembly had no monarch at its head, whether France 
could be left in a perpetual state of interregnum. 



168 



CHAPTER XI 

THE FALL OF THIERS : MARSHAL MacMAHON. 

Effect of Gambetta's Speeches on the Assembly-The Barodet Election-Fall of 
Thiers-Marshal MacMahon's Presidency (May 24th, i873)-Gambetta and the 
Marshal— Final Attempt to Restore the Monarchy. 

In Thiers' opinion, the system under which France was then 
administered, namely, a single and sovereign Assembly with 
an executive drawn from its midst and responsible to it, could 
not last. A continuation of this system, he held, could be 
desired only by the extremists on either wing : by the extreme 
Left, because a single and sovereign Chamber was in keeping 
with its political doctrines; the extreme Right, because it 
hoped to find in the weakness of a provisional Government an 
opportunity for restoring the Monarchy. Thiers regarded it 
as his duty to warn the Assembly that by leaving behind it an 
administrative machinery in imperfect working order it was 
pursuing a course fraught with danger to the country. He 
thought that he was thereby aiding the cause of true Con- 
servatism. It was not, we must confess, a revolutionary idea ; 
but on the other hand it was not a step towards the monarchy, 
and hence to the Monarchists it spelt treason. 

On November 13, 1872, he read out his message, the most 
important and decisive message of his Presidential career : 
" The Republic exists, it is the Government of the country 
by law established : to aim at any other form of government 
would be a fresh revolution, and the most appalling revolution 
of all. The country has entrusted you with the task of securing 
for it, in the first place, peace ; after peace, order ; with order, 
the recovery of its former power, and finally a regular Govern- 
ment. The last-named is the most momentous duty; and 

169 



GAMBETTA 

when, on the date that you shall determine, you have selected 
from amongst you the men who are to consider the means of 
carrying it out — then, if you require our advice, we shall give 
it you loyally and without flinching." The Left were loud in 
their applause, but the Right gave vent to indignation, and 
proposed to nominate a committee of inquiry with reference 
to the message. Next day La Repuhlique frangaise issued 
the following comment: " Yesterday marks an epoch in the 
history of France. M. Thiers has cut the painter. He has 
broken with the Monarchy. He has proclaimed the Republic 
as the sole form of government that is henceforth suitable for 
our country. Happy the man who, at certain moments 
of his life, can thus act as interpreter for a whole nation ! 
M. Thiers yesterday introduced our young Republic to old 
Europe." 

On the 1 8th General Changarnier put his question on Gam- 
betta's tour, entreating the President of the Republic to sever 
all connection with a firebrand who was ready to set the whole 
country by the ears. The Due de Broglie asked the Presi- 
dent to repeat the statements of policy he had made before 
the permanent committee. "It is an insult," replied Thiers, 
" to demand in this House that I should make a profession of 
faith, when forty years of political activity have made the 
world familiar with my principles. If anyone shows signs of 
distrusting me, I have a right to find out from the House 
whether I possess its confidence. I request that a vote may 
be taken forthwith." 

Changarnier accused him of "senile ambition." "Yes," 
said Thiers in reply, "I feel offended, and with good reason. 
After all that I have done within the last two years, even a 
hint of distrust is, I make bold to say, an act of ingratitude. 
M. Gambetta may have been the ostensible target for this 
question, but in reality it was aimed at me." Then, instead of 
accepting a simple vote of confidence, he inserted the following 
amendment : " The Assembly, confident in the energy of the 
Government, and repudiating the doctrines voiced at the 
Grenoble banquet ..." The extreme Left voted against the 
Government ; a large section of the Left abstained from voting ; 

170 



THE FALL OF THIERS 

only 379 votes were recorded, 263 for the Government and 116 
against. Thiers was cut off both from the Left and the Right ; 
this was just what the Due de Broglie wanted. 

Thiers carried a resolution to appoint a committee of thirty 
members for the setting up of a proper administrative 
machinery. A vast number of petitions were organised 
throughout the country to request that the Assembly might 
be dissolved. A debate on these petitions was opened on 
December 14. Gambetta maintained that the Assembly had 
received only a limited mandate, that it was out of touch with 
public opinion, and that the electors should be consulted with- 
out delay. Dufaure, Keeper of the Seals, protested against 
these views, and declared that it rested with the Assembly 
alone to define its mandate. The Right, regarding this 
speech as an attempt to counteract the Presidential message, 
voted that it should be posted up all over the country. The 
position of Thiers between the cross-fires of Left and Right 
was becoming more and more difficult. 

This complete change of front on the part of the Government 
was mainly due to the external situation, to the frame of mind 
prevailing at Berlin. Gambetta's triumphal progress was a 
thorn in the flesh of the Berlin Government. The Comte 
de St. Vallier, the representative of the French Government 
attached to the Commander-in-Chief of the German Army, 
wrote: " M. Gambetta is still the chief bugbear: the very 
mention of his name is becoming more and more distasteful 
to them." In order to reassure Berlin, Thiers wrote back : 
"Gambetta will not be my successor. Things are moving 
towards democracy in France as all over Europe (and 
particularly in Germany, but not towards mob-rule." 

At Versailles the Assembly made furious onslaughts on 
Gambetta and his friends. Challemel-Lacour, brought to 
book for the contracts granted at Lyons during the war, 
defended himself with scathing eloquence, and charged the 
Contract Commission with having set itself "to afford France 
pretexts for disparaging herself." The Assembly passed a 
vote of censure on the revolutionary acts of the Lyons city 
council, which had substituted the red banner for the national 

171 



GAMBETTA 

flag. Challemel-Lacour had fought the city council at the 
peril of his life, so that this attack on the National Defence 
Government over the question of contracts led to a unanimous 
condemnation of the red flag. 

Thiers, indefatigable as ever, wished to complete the libera- 
tion of the occupied territory ; he had already shortened by 
two years the period anticipated. " I need not trouble about 
the rest," he remarked, "for as soon as the convention is 
signed the majority will declare, in a beautifully-worded 
decree, that I have deserved well of my country, and will then 
put me on the shelf.'"* 

On February 19, the committee proposed that the Assembly 
should not rise without having come to a decision regarding 
the machinery of the legislature and the executive, the creation 
of a Second Chamber, and the assignment of its functions 
and the electoral bill. The Orleanists, in view of the Comte de 
Chambord's unbending attitude, had parted company with 
the Legitimists ; from now onwards they were to help in 
moulding the Republic. The Due de Broglie, having been 
appointed to draw up a report, read out his report on the 21st. 
Questions of principle were for the time being set aside. They 
confined themselves to fettering the activities of Thiers. It 
was suggested that when he wanted to speak in the Assembly, 
he should ask the permission to do so through a message ; the 
debate would be suspended and the President w^ould be heard 
on the following day; the House would adjourn after the 
President's speech and the debate would be resumed at a 
later sitting, at which the President would not be present; 
questions would be addressed, not to the President, but to 
Ministers. 

Gambetta condemned this " elaborate and futile cere- 
monial." In accordance with the Radical tenets of the day, 
he opposed the formation of a Second Chamber, " a Chamber 
of obstruction," " the outcome of an unnatural combination," 
"an everlasting cause of strife," "a breakwater against 
universal suffrage." Furthermore, pointing to the results of 
the by-elections, he once more demanded an appeal to the 
country. 

172 



THE FALL OF THIERS 

The Due de Broglie replied that the scheme of the Thirty 
did nothing towards solving the problem, "Republic or 
Monarchy?" Thiers endeavoured to restore the Govern- 
ment's balance between Left and Right. On March 13 the 
scheme, so far as its general lines were concerned, was adopted 
by 411 votes to 234. Every effort was made to muzzle the 
foremost orator of the Republic; but at the same time the 
Assembly, unintentionally, and in the hope that they were 
not committing themselves for the future, had begun to give 
statutory expression to Republican principles. 

Three days later it was announced in an official note that 
the treaty for the evacuation of our territory had just been 
signed by Germany. The last milliard of the indemnity was 
to be paid in four equal instalments on June 5, July 5, August 5 
and September 5, 1873. In return for this, the departments 
of the Vosges, the Ardennes, the Meuse, Meurthe-et- 
Moselle and Belfort were to be evacuated from July i, the 
evacuation not to take longer than four weeks. Verdun alone, 
as a pledge for the two instalments which would still have 
to be paid after July 28, would remain under occupation until 
September 5. The news was received with rapture all over 
the country. 

R^musat, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, read out the 
Treaty to the House. As soon as he had finished his state- 
ment the Left rose as one man, and after three rounds of cheer- 
ing several of its members cried out over and over again, 
"Long live the Republic!" while "Long live France!" 
was shouted from the benches of the Right. The President 
of the Left Centre, Albert Christophle, put forward a resolu- 
tion in the following terms : " The National Assembly declares 
that M. Thiers, President of the Republic, has deserved well 
of his country." The Right immediately moved a counter- 
resolution : " The Assembly, receiving with patriotic satisfac- 
tion the statement that has just been made to it, and glad to 
have thus accomplished a vital portion of its task, decrees a 
formal vote of thanks to M. Thiers, President of the Republic, 
and to the Government." In the end, after a not very 
edifying debate, a motion combining the two resolutions was 

173 



GAMBETTA 

passed with only a few dissentient votes. Grevy, the President 
of the Chamber, rose and said : " I am fortunate in having to 
proclaim, by virtue of my office, this resolution of the 
Assembly. A nation displays true moral greatness when, 
showing a gratitude commensurate with the services rendered, 
it can proffer to the men who serve it a reward worthy both 
of the donors and the recipients." These words were received 
with thunderous applause by the Left. 

A few days later, on April i, the Right had its revenge. 
The presence of Gr6vy in the Speaker's chair was a stumbling- 
block that tended to thwart the designs of the Right against 
Thiers. A coup was arranged. In the course of a debate on 
a proposal to alter the constitution of the Lyons city council, 
Le Royer, after enumerating the main arguments of the 
Vicomte de Meaux's report, wound up with the comment : 
"That is the Commission's bag of tricks!" Vociferous 
clamours from the Right ensued. "A piece of impertinence ! " 
cried the Marquis de Grammont. The President of the 
Chamber called him to order. The uproar grew louder than 
ever. Grevy offered to resign, and declared the proceedings 
closed. Next day, Grevy obtained 344 votes and Buffet 251. 
Gr^vy, although re-elected, persisted in his decision to resign, 
in spite of warnings from Thiers, who was not blind to the 
danger involved. A fresh ballot was taken, and Buffet was 
elected President of the Chamber by 304 votes to 285, the 
latter being given by the Left to Martel. " It was the first 
time," observed the Comte de Meaux, " that the majority in 
the Assembly agreed upon an appointment that was a direct 
challenge to M. Thiers; this agreement presaged his fall, 
M. Buffet being used as a weapon to strike him down. With- 
out Buffet, the attack that was to overthrow Thiers would 
have had no chance of success, and it was, no doubt, with this 
idea in his mind that the Due de Broglie had pressed for the 
election." 

On the following day these incidents were a topic of 
discussion at the Cabinet council. Jules Simon said to the 
President, in a bantering tone : " You see now, your work is 
done ; you must sing your nunc dimittis." " But they haven't 

174 



THE FALL OF THIERS 

got anyone," Thiers objected. " Oh, yes, they've got Marshal 
MacMahon." " MacMahon ? I can answer for him — he'll 
never accept ! ' ' 

The House adjourned from April 7 to May 10. By-elections 
were due for April 27, notably in Paris. Thiers pushed 
R^musat's candidature; he felt sure that on the morrow of 
the treaty that secured the liberation of our territory the capital 
would give him proof of its gratitude. Many Republicans 
however, were in angry mood : Lyons found itself shorn of 
its municipal liberties by a recent vote of the Assembly : and 
to read the Assembly a lesson, they backed the candidature of 
Barodet, a former Mayor of Lyons, who had once been a 
schoolmaster. 

The party was divided. The Left and the Centre supported 
the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Gr^vy took the same line. 
Gambetta, anxious not to split up his left wing, also declared 
for Barodet. His intervention turned the scale. His friends, 
with Louis Blanc, addressed the Paris electors in a proclama- 
tion which stigmatised R^musat as the "official" candidate 
and urged them to vote for his rival. The Right put 
forward Colonel Stoffel. Thiers was caught between two fires, 
Barodet got in by 180,045 votes, as against 135,028 for 
Remusat and 26,644 ^or Stoffel, while 11,290 electors did not 
go to the polls. 

Ranc, in his book De Bordeaux a Versailles, maintains that 
the fall of Thiers was a foregone conclusion before the elec- 
tion. This is true; but the election furnished his opponents 
with a new pretext and helped to precipitate the crisis. As 
was only to be expected, the Right waxed eloquent over the 
weakness of the Government and the victory of mob-rule. 
They decided to bring matters to a climax. On May 17, the 
Dues de Broglie, d'Audiffret-Pasquier and Decazes paid a 
visit to the Due d'Aumale, asking him to stand for the Presi- 
dency of the Republic. On the following day, however, a 
meeting, attended by certain members of the Right, was held 
at the Due de Broglie's house, and Lueien Brun, speaking on 
behalf of the Legitimists, raised objections. The Due de 

175 



GAMBETTA 

Broglie admitted the fdrce of their arguments, and, owing to 
this unforeseen hitch, Marshal MacMahon was accepted as 
candidate. (This incident formed the subject of a corre- 
spondence in 1903 between M. Hanotaux and one of the Due 
d'Aumale's executors.) 

The Assembly resumed its sittings in the full flush of the 
excitement caused by the Paris election. Thiers made the 
famous speech in which he said, in reply to the Due de Broglie, 
who had taunted him with sheltering under the wing of the 
Radicals: " And you, you will shelter under the wing of a 
protector from whom your father, the old Due de Broglie, 
would have recoiled in horror : you will shelter under the wing 
of the Empire ! " The vote of censure having been passed by 
360 ayes to 344 noes, Thiers and his Cabinet tendered their 
resignation. The Assembly at once appointed Marshal 
MacMahon as his successor. 

Thiers had fallen ; but, thanks to him, France was already 
set on her feet again. The Monarchists overturned him in 
the hope of steering clear of the Republic, yet they themselves 
were to give France a Republican constitution. 

Marshal MacMahon, in his inaugural message, promised 
on his word of honour as a soldier to show deference to 
existing institutions. He entrusted the Due de Broglie with 
the task of forming the Cabinet. (May 25.) 

Scarcely had the House reassembled when Gambetta 
flourished before it a confidential despatch from the Home 
Secretary to the departmental Prefects, asking them for a 
report on such newspapers as were Conservative or might 
come over to the Conservative side, their financial standing, 
what consideration they would expect for a whole-hearted 
support of the Government, and so forth. As the Right 
broke in with noisy interruptions, Gambetta thundered out : 
" You have been charged with sheltering under the wing 
of the Empire — why, you are taking a leaf out of its 
book!" 

On June 24, the celebration of Heche's birthday gave him 

176 



THE FALL OF THIERS 

an opportunity of setting forth his attitude towards the new 
Government. By a clever touch, he deliberately ignored the 
Ministers and addressed his remarks to the eminent soldier, 
the incorruptible great man whom the Assembly had raised 
to the highest office in the Republic. He did not doubt 
MacMahon's word, he relied on his straightforwardness. He 
spoke in glowing terms of the Army, of its loyalty. He 
proceeded to point out that the working of the constitutional 
machine had enabled a new President to be appointed without 
any jolt or jar; that while the men were different, circum- 
stances remained the same ; that France had not changed her 
intentions, that the administrative functions had not changed 
their names, that the reign of law still prevailed ; pow-er had 
been transferred to other hands, but the order of things had 
not been altered, since power was impersonal. 

Marshal MacMahon had always done justice to Gambetta's 
effort during the war. The Vicomte Emmanuel d'Harcourt, 
who had not left the Marshal's side at Sedan, nor 
even when they were prisoners at Wiesbaden, has re- 
marked: "Whenever an opportunity offered, the Marshal 
stood up for Gambetta. On one occasion he wrote to him 
expressing ' my keen appreciation of your endeavours and my 
earnest wishes for your success.' " 

Under the leadership of a soldier, France was now for the 
first time to embark upon the experiment of a parliamentary 
Republic. Thiers, in virtue of the powers confided to him, 
had directed affairs in person from his place in the House; 
Marshal MacMahon, outside the Assembly, was to act up to 
the maxim : '* The President presides, but does not govern." 
The Republic was to change its character, and to exhibit 
that pliancy, that elasticity which had recently been claimed 
for it by Gambetta at the Versailles banquet. 

On August 5, 1873, Nancy, for two years past the head- 
quarters of the German army of occupation, was delivered 
from its thraldom. General von Manteuffel issued marching- 
orders to his troops, and amid scenes of indescribable emotion 
the French flag was once more flown from every window. By 
September 5, a year before the date at first assigned, France 

177 N 



GAMBETTA 

had paid her indemnity to the uttermost farthing. On the 13th 
the Germans cleared out of Verdun, and on the i6th the last 
soldiers of the invading army crossed the new frontier. After 
three years of occupation^ our territory was entirely free from 
the German yoke. 

The Monarchists now put forth a final effort towards uniting 
the two branches of the Bourbon House. M. Gabriel 
Hanotaux, in his admirable book Histoire de la France 
conteviporaine, has told the story of its curious ups 
and downs: the journey from Chesnelong to Frohs- 
dorf, the illusions that were harboured and the ultimate 
defeat. 

The Left, growing restive, began to marshal its forces. 
Thiers made overtures to Gambetta. At Perigord, on 
September 28, and at La Borde, near Chatellerault, on 
October 3, the latter called for a union of all Republicans, 
declaring that a reactionary policy would lead to the most 
appalling of revolutions. 

On October 18, the Due d'Audiffret-Pasquier, with the 
consent of the Due de Broglie, revealed to the Right the draft 
of a resolution for the re-establishment of the Monarchy, with 
the Comte de Chambord and the tricolor. Everything was 
in readiness for the coming of the King : the costumes, the 
decorations, the carriages, the horses and their trappings, 
and the line of route. The Republicans protested more 
vigorously than ever. The deputies for the Seine department, 
Gambetta and his friends addressed a manifesto to the 
electors : " It is no longer a question merely of upholding a 
form of government, but of guarding those civil, political and 
religious liberties which our fathers have won and which are 
essential to the very existence of the Republic. Your repre- 
sentatives will stoutly oppose any measures likely to entrap 
the country into restoring a system that it profoundly 
disapproves." 

On October 27, however, the Comte de Chambord wrote his 
famous letter to Chesnelong : " I am expected to sacrifice my 
honour. I have nothing to retract from what I have said in 
the past. It is the fashion to contrast the supple dexterity of 

178 



THE FALL OF THIERS 

Henry V.^ with the steadfast determination of Henry IV. I 
claim to be no whit inferior to him in this respect ; but I should 
like to know what he would have said, before his decision to 
change sides, if some rash person had urged him to disown the 
principles for which he fought at Arques and at Ivry ! I mean 
to stick to my guns, without swerving an inch. ..." 

Glittering words ! but Henry IV. would have spoken to a 
very different tune. The letter drove members of the Right 
to despair, and gladdened the hearts of Republicans and 
Bonapartists. All seemed lost for the Monarchy. The 
Prince, however, did not give up hope. He took a clan- 
destine trip to Versailles and asked for an interview with the 
Marshal, but met with a polite and dignified refusal. The 
scion of kings, in his gloomy apartments at the Comte de 
Vanssay's house, waited in vain for a fresh turn of Fortune's 
wheel, while a stone's-throw away, in the historic palace of 
Louis XIV., the Republic was being brought into the world. 
(November 10-22, 1873.) 

The Due de Broglie then fell upon his " line of retreat," as 
he called it, the prolongation of the Marshal's term of office. 
He aimed at assigning to it a definite period, and making the 
Presidential powers independent of the Assembly, and above 
all of future Parliaments. He thus sought to invest the 
supreme authority in a single man, since he could not incor- 
porate them in a dynasty, and then, around this temporary 
rulership, to build up parliamentary institutions. There was 
in his eyes no other way of escape from mob-rule and 
Ccesarism. 

This view was shared by the Comte de Paris, who on 
November 11 wrote to one of his friends: " We must give 
France a guarantee of stability. This guarantee is not to be 
found in a constitutional monarchy. Seeing that we cannot 
have a monarchy, we must set up a constitutional government 
with an executive raised above the clash of party strife, 
exempt from the hazards of parliamentary debate. I cannot 

^ The title given to the Comte de Chambord by his followers. The later reference 
is to Henry IV. 's conversion to Catholicism for the sake of gaining the French throne, 
after winning victories for the Huguenot cause at Arques and Ivry. — Translator's 

NOTE. 

179 N 2 



GAMBETTA 

make out why there should be any qualms about calling this 
government a Republic, so long as we keep that name on 
coins and elsewhere. Nor do I see any other means of remov- 
ing that name than to put that of king — or emperor — in its 
place. And that solution is the one that I wish to avoid at all 
costs." — This letter explains all that was to follow. 

The Comte'de Chambord's ruling passion was his fear of the 
Orleans Princes ; the ruling passion of the Orleans princes was 
their fear of the Empire. It was this fear of the Empire that 
was destined to make Orleanists combine with Republicans. 
Rouher upheld the appeal to the nation ; he saw clearly the 
results that an extension of the President's tenure would 
entail, and pointed them out to the Royalists : " We shall at 
once have a President of the Republic and two Republican 
Chambers. The Republic will come. And the Royalists 
will prove to have been its founders ! ' ' 

The Assembly prolonged the President's tenure to a period 
of seven years and appointed a committee of thirty ;o elaborate 
the framework of the constitution. On May 15 the Due de 
Broglie set forth his proposals : an irresponsible President 
with a Cabinet responsible to Parliament; two Chambers; the 
President to have the right of dissolving Parliament, with the 
consent of the Senate or "Grand Council"; the Grand 
Council to consist of members elected by the departments, of 
legal members and of life-members nominated by the Presi- 
dent. After listening to this pronouncement, Gambetta said : 
" If the Right has the good sense to accept this scheme, it will 
remain in power for fifty years." But the Right would not 
hear of it. "At the very moment when he (Broglie) put for- 
ward the plan he had thought out," remarks the Vicomte de 
Meaux in his Souvenirs, " those who stood to gain most by it 
drove him from office." The Broglie Cabinet was overthrown 
by a coalition of Legitimists, Bonapartists, and Republicans 
on May 16, 1874. 

Thus the Comte de Chambord, through his hatred of 
Orleanism, had made a restoration of the monarchy out of the 
question, and now his followers were sending the Due de 
Broglie to the right-about and wrecking his schemes for a 

180 



THE FALL OF THIERS 

constitution. The Right was perishing from internal feuds. 
The Assembly had pulled down Thiers, seeing in him the 
obstacle to a revival of the monarchy, and at the end of a year 
it found itself back at the point whence it had started. Hence- 
forth the die was cast : after the legitimate kingship, a con- 
stitutional monarchy was also ruled out, and the same applied 
even to a constitution not based on a hereditary throne, but 
calculated to work against democracy and pave the way for a 
return to the monarchical system. All parties, whether they 
would or no, must resign themselves to setting up a Republic. 

At the beginning of the year the German elections had been 
held. The annexed provinces had been called upon for the 
first time to choose their representatives for the Reichstag, 
On the whole, they were in favour of absenting themselves 
from the polls. Gambetta advised them not only to vote, but 
to return Catholic priests, who, being accustomed to preach in 
German, would find it easier to speak in the Reichstag 
(Auguste Lalance : Mes Souvenirs). The ballot of 1874 
showed a no less determined front than that of 1871, and the 
members sent to the Parliament of Berlin, like those sent to 
the Parliament of Bordeaux, went only under protest. In 
agreement with Gambetta, Teutsch introduced a motion re- 
questing that the inhabitants of the annexed provinces should 
be consulted as to their incorporation in the Empire. His 
voice was drowned by shouts and derisive laughter. 

Bismarck's aim was threefold : to hold France down under 
a provisional regime and deny her the opportunity of forming 
a stable government; to sow discord in her midst; and to 
prevent her from gaining allies. He set his face against a 
Monarchy, but was equally opposed to Gambetta. What he 
wanted was a "disintegrating" Republic, a Republic "with 
troubles to keep it occupied at home." As early as 1871 he 
had told Graf von Arnim, his ambassador in Paris, that 
Gambetta was the only potential leader dangerous to Ger- 
many, and that she would not tolerate his accession to power. 
He was quite willing that his views on the subject should, 
if the need arose, be divulged. These were his demands, as 
toned down by von Arnim : " Neither a setded Republic, for 

181 



GAMBETTA 

it would become Radical, Gambettist, and the Chancellor 
did not want a Republic after the Danton pattern; nor a 
Monarchy, because such a Government would soon become 
capable of procuring- allies for France." The dilemma he 
implied was obvious enough. Was France drifting towards a 
Republic ? That way lay anarchy. Was she drifting towards 
a Monarchy ? That would mean war. He wished to persuade 
the Royalists that the Republicans were leading them in the 
direction of mob-rule, and the Republicans that the Royalists 
were leading them into risky adventures. The unfortunate 
thing was that both parties, in the relentless fury of their 
conflicts, were to show themselves at times too ready to be 
persuaded and to accept these blasting accusations against 
their opponents. 

On November 21, 1873, Pope Pius IX. had issued an 
encyclical in which, lamenting over the recent misfortunes of 
the Church and the Holy See, he depicted in the gloomiest 
colours the position of the Catholics in Italy, Switzerland and 
Germany. The Swiss Government had broken off diplomatic 
relations with him. The Italian Government, on January i, 
1874, had addressed to the Powers a circular confirming its 
enactment with regard to the guarantees. In France a large 
number of prelates had responded to the Vatican's appeal. 
In various episcopal rescripts, Bismarck's policy was con- 
demned. The Bishop of Nimes wrote: "The German)'^ of 
Bismarck has thought fit to carry on the tradition of mean- 
ness and immorality." The Due de Broglie deplored these 
rash utterances : " It is easy to see," he remarked, pathetically, 
"that these bishops are not weighted with responsibilities 
such as ours." On December 26 the Cabinet had issued a 
circular reminding the community that nations, in com- 
menting on each other's acts, must observe a certain mutual 
forbearance. 

Bismarck, who wished to expand the military forces of 
Germany, lost no time in turning these indiscretions to 
account; he made capital out of them at Rome and, in order 
to alarm Italy, pretended to be alarmed himself. He told our 
ambassador, Gontaut-Biron, that the circular was not enough, 

182 



THE FALL OF THIERS 

that the French Government - had more effective weapons at 
its disposal for putting an end to this campaign. If driven 
to extremities, the German Government would have recourse 
to the French Act of 1819, which empowered it to prosecute 
such offenders in person, before the French courts of justice. 
" For us it is a question of security. Certain persons are 
stirring up revolt in our midst, within the Empire. Very 
well, we shall be compelled to declare war upon you before 
the clerical party, seizing the reins of power, declares war 
upon Germany." 

In the Assembly, the Right fulminated against the weak- 
ness of the Cabinet. Du Temple, a deputy of the extreme 
Right, begged leave to put a question. The new Reichstag- 
met ;i the Government asked for an emergency vote on the 
army bill, designed to ensure the pre-eminence of the German 
army. The Due Decazes, Minister for Foreign Affairs, 
replied to Du Temple on January 20 : " France will continue 
to regard the Sovereign Pontiff with a dutiful respect, with 
a tender and filial solicitude ; but, in all good faith, she will 
maintain peaceful and friendly relations with the Italian State 
as at present constituted." 

The Reichstag met on February i, 1874. ^" ^^^ speech 
from the throne, the Emperor demanded an immediate vote 
on the draft of the army bill. Moltke was insistent : " A wild 
cry for revenge assails our ears from beyond the Vosges ; we 
might be called upon to face enemies on two fronts, both 
East and West." The bill was passed on May 2. At the 
end of the year Prince von Hohenlohe, who had just suc- 
ceeded Graf von Arnim as ambassador in Paris, discussed 
Gambetta with Bismarck. ** We have nothing to fear from 
that quarter," said the Chancellor, "even if he knits France 
together as firmly as you think he will. We are always a 
match for France, even for a France that is strong. The 
danger lies in a coalition, but the Republic will never manage 
to form a coalition against us." — Bismarck was right as 
regards Gambetta, who did not live long enough to forge the 
alliances that he contemplated ; but he was wrong as regards 
France and the Republic. 

183 



CHAPTER XII 

GAMBETTA AND THE CONSTITUTION 

Gambetta advises the Left to acknowledge the Constituent Power of the Assembly — 
The Constitution — " The Grand Council of the French Communes" — End of the 
National Assembly. 

The Comte de Paris, whose path was blocked by the Comte 
de Chambord, now urged his friends, from fear of the 
Empire, to support a Republican constitution. Gambetta, 
on his side, after having refused to admit the constituent 
power of the Assembly, soon came round to the opposite way 
of thinking, and advised his friends to acknowledge that func- 
tion. From this double change of front the Constitution was 
to be born. 

The Due de Broglie having fallen, and the Legitimists 
being at variance with the Orleanists, Gambetta saw that the 
moment was favourable for the advancement of his plans. 
He said to himself that perhaps, after all, something could be 
done with this Chamber. And now we shall witness the 
triumph of that policy of adjustments, of compromises, of 
middle courses which his adversaries will call " opportunism." 

It is interesting to trace, in the letters and memoirs of 
adherents of the Right, their successive phases of opinion 
with regard to Gambetta. At first he is something of an out- 
sider; no one quite ventures to commit himself with this 
" Bohemian," this " demagogue," this *' pot-house and 
street-corner orator." They find him vulgar. What ! Is this 
the great tribune of the people, this man with the husky 
voice (he already suffered from intermittent attacks of ill- 
health, and his speech was at times indistinct), slovenly of 
attire, theatrical in his gestures, shallow in his mental out»- 
look ? It was not long, however, before they realised the 

184 



GAMBETTA AND THE CONSTITUTION 

subtlety, the adroitness that lay underneath this Southern 
rehemence. The gulf was bridged ; soon he won their esteem ; 
in the end his sway was complete. He had the same irre- 
sistible quality of fascination, the same inborn gift for 
attracting and dominating that had graced the personality of 
Mirabeau. The Vicomte de Meaux, in his Souvenirs, speaks 
of the ** bitter disappointment " he felt when listening for the 
first time to the quondam ** dictator " ; then, little by little, he 
was caught in the toils, like the others. In spite of them- 
selves, they come under the spell of his ascendancy, his 
magnetism; even the most stubborn become victims of the 
lure. At the very last, in an article in the Correspondant, this 
same M. de Meaux dwells upon this '* glamour," which even 
after his death will continue to affect generations yet unborn. 

The breach between the Legitimists and the Right Centre, 
and their successful attack on the Due de Broglie, gave 
Gambetta his cue. He began to coquet with them and to win 
them over to the side of the Republic. At the funeral of the 
Comte d'Alton-Sh^e, a former peer of France who had turned 
Republican, he said : ** Let us prove to those who revile us 
that we are not intolerant; let us show that this Republic, 
which we are bound to establish sooner or later, can offer a 
cordial welcome to all loyal recruits, and, above all, to those 
enligHtened sons of the aristocracy who espouse our cause 
heart and soul. The old aristocracy is an essential part of 
France, and is still capable of doing her service. If our 
patricians have the good sense to rally to the new France, to 
the France of hard work and scientific research, they will, by 
their lofty patriotism and their exquisite polish, help to confer 
on her that bloom of refinement and distinction which will 
make the French Republic in the modern world what the 
Athenian Republic was in the ancient." 

At Auxerre, on the other hand (June i, 1874), he hails the 
Left Centre as ** head of the column, almost the vanguard." 
He reminds his hearers of the vigorous action taken by this 
group when the plot was being hatched for the restoration of 
the Kingship by divine right. The Left Centre, he avers, will 
be no less staunch against Bonapartism, He harks back to 

185 



GAMBETTA 

the famous Grenoble speech, which is never-endingly being 
cast in his teeth : *' I said new strata, not classes — an undesir- 
able term, which I never use. It is not a Republic of a 
partisan character that our Republican democracy calls for, 
nor an exclusive Republic, a Republic of close corporations ; 
but a Republic of all, a Republic of ten million electors, 
without a single exception, representing as a whole the 
sovereignty of the nation." 

The Bonapartist party once more raised its head. Gambetta 
suggested an inquiry into its acts. A violent scene with 
Rouher ensued. Gambetta, on his way back from Versailles, 
had his face punched by Rouher at the St. Lazare Station. 

He persuaded the Republican Left group and — this was not 
altogether plain sailing — the majority of his own group, the 
Republican Union, to make a formal statement that they no 
longer disputed the constituent power of the Assembly and 
would support the draft scheme for Republican institutions 
that had been put forward by the Left Centre (June 13, 1874). 
He thereby gave a decisive wrench to the tiller. " The next 
thirty years," says M. Hanotaux, "are the offspring of that 
day." We shall see how Gambetta evolved a Republic from 
a Monarchist Assembly and a Senate from a Republican party 
that did not want one. 

The extreme Left, with Louis Blanc, Edgar Quinet, and 
Ledru-RoUin, could not make up its mind. It dreaded a 
Republic bearing the Royalist trade-mark, and still advocated 
the election of a Constituent Assembly. The view was shared 
by Gr^vy. 

On June 15, Casimir-Perier, the friend of Thiers, the son of 
the Minister under the July Monarchy, and the brother-in-law 
of the Due d'Audiffret-Pasquier, proposed that the committee 
dealing with laws for the constitution should take the two- 
Chamber system as the foundation for its structure. The 
emergency measure was passed by 345 votes to 341. It was a 
victory for the Centre. Broglie protested, delivering a general 
attack on the Republic, on all Republics, the Convention of 
1792, the Directory, the Republic of 1848, engulfed by 
anarchy and Caesarism, and those for which Gr^vy, Gambetta, 

186 



GAMBETTA AND THE CONSTITUTION 

and Louis Blanc were sponsors. Dufaure asked that what was 
done at all times, for all countries, might be done for France — 
that a name and a fixed principle might be assigned to the 
Government under which men had to live. General de Cissey, 
Vice-President of the Council, opposed the motion, which was 
thrown out by 374 votes to S33- The Assembly was 
prorogued for a period of four months, despite Gambetta, who 
said to the Right: "The Republic is bound to come, and 
you will have to accept it, not as party men, or as men swayed 
by mere sentiment, but as true statesmen. You should set to 
work in a resolute spirit, and realise that a distinct place is 
allotted to you in this free democracy; you have a part to 
play, and no mean part, one to which you are entitled by 
virtue of your high social position, your antecedents, your 
ample leisure. The Conservatives have found by experience 
that a restoration of the kingship is impossible ; it is a political 
blunder on their part, perhaps an irreparable blunder, to reject 
an alliance with the democracy that would bear abundant 
fruit. What ! you imagine that a coalition of three or four 
hundred deputies is going to undo the work of the French 
Revolution ? Do you believe it, or do you not ? If you do 
not, you must come to some decision. Take a holiday for a 
month, and think matters over. If you are capable of estab- 
lishing a monarchy, you will establish one ; if you conclude 
that a Republic alone is feasible, you will set up a Republic, 
and you will set up a strong Government, powerful enough to 
revive, as we all so ardently desire, the glory and the honour 
of France." 

On July 23, he writes to Ranc (unpublished letter) : " We 
don't want a Government created solely for the majority. 
There is a difference between the welfare of the community 
and the welfare of the greatest number." 

The Assembly was convened again on November 30. At the 
elections held during the recess, the successful candidates, 
though of varying shades of opinion, had been Republicans 
to a man. The Assembly, shrinking from the debate, post- 
poned it to January. This 1875 session was fated to decide the 
future of France. The Moderates of the Right, more than any 

187 



GAMBETTA 

other section, viewed the prospect of an Empire with alarm. 
The extreme Left continued to propose a dissolution. Thiers, 
who since his fall had lost all interest in the framing of a 
constitution, and Jules Gr6vy demanded the same course. 
There was nothing for it but to achieve a definite result — or 
quit the scene. 

On January 5, the Marshal, in a message to the Assembly, 
conjured it to debate forthwith upon the Bill relating to the 
Senate. On the 25th the Chairman of the Committee spoke in 
favour of a Second Chamber — " a barrier against the revolu- 
tionaries." The first reading of the Bill was passed by 498 
votes to 173. There was a majority for the setting-up of a 
Second Chamber. The Extreme Right, the Bonapartists and 
Gambetta, with a section of his group, voted against the 
measure. The form under which the proposed Second 
Chamber had been ushered in was not one likely to reconcile 
the Republicans to this institution. The Legitimists, through 
their unremitting hostility, paved the way for an alliance 
between the Right and Left Centre. 

And now, from amidst this seething whirlpool of emotions, 
we see the emergence of a mature and dispassionate type of 
mind : men of the lecture-room and the study, men who had 
read widely and pondered deeply, men primed with historical 
lore. They had examined all the political systems, and had 
come to the conclusion that we cannot swerve with impunity 
from certain indispensable rules that have stood the test of 
experience. 

The critical days, January 28, 29 and 30, had now arrived. 
The Left Centre proposed the following clause: "The 
Government of the Republic consists of two Chambers and 
one President." The chairman, Edouard Laboulaye, upheld 
the clause. This distinguished professor, steeped in the 
history of the United States, saturated with the ideas that 
inspired the founders of the American Constitution, Hamil- 
ton, Madison, Jay, and that admirable miscellany, The 
Federalist, now gave the House the benefit of their precepts of 
liberty and wisdom; but he knew that the American Con- 
stitution is applicable only to a Federal State. His object 

188 



GAMBETTA AND THE CONSTITUTION 

was not to demonstrate the comparative merits of a monarchi- 
cal and a republican system, but simply to point out that the 
sphere of action was growing narrower and that the iron laws 
of necessity were coming into play. "The external danger 
is close upon us; France is perhaps on the eve of another 
war. Nor is the danger less menacing at home. With the 
Republic, you can have a Government. If you will not put 
up with it, you will not have a Government at all. If we do 
not frame a Constitution, our mandate is at an end, and it is 
our duty to appeal to the country. The worst of this course 
is that, before a new Assembly can be got together, 
the whole Parliamentary system may break down and in- 
volve France in its ruin." He wound up his speech 
with this exhortation: '^Yes, seeing the plight that we 
have reached, it is not too much to address you with 
a solemn prayer, to entreat you to consider what our 
position will be to-morrow. The eyes of all Europe are 
upon you, France implores you, and as for us, we 
earnestly conjure you, we say to you : ' Do not take upon 
yourself so terrible a responsibility ! Do not leave us in 
suspense ; and, to sum it up in a few words, have pity on our 
unhappy country ! ' " 

The House was stirred to its depths by this moving appeal. 
Louis Blanc rose to speak, but was silenced by cries of protest 
from the Left. Backed by the Right, he insisted on being 
given a hearing ; he stated that he and his friends could never 
vote for the creation of a Second Chamber. The following 
day La Republique frangaise published a violent tirade upon 
him : " M. Louis Blanc's speech was diametrically opposed 
to the wishes of his whole party. Intent only on parading 
his own personal views, he failed to see what was going 
forward in the ranks of the Republic's enemies. He gave 
them time to lay their heads together, to re-form their battle 
array, to adopt a line of action. He has assumed a grave 
responsibility, which we are content to leave entirely upon his 
shoulders." 

" Two theories, two systems, two methods confronted each 
other," says M. Hanotaux. '* The seed of future Republican 

189 



GAMBETTA 

disagreements was cast into the very soil from which the 
Republic itself was to spring." 

On January 29 came the vote in the House on the clause 
advocated by Laboulaye. Louis Blanc, Edgar Quinet, 
Madier de Montjau, Peyrat and Marcou held aloof. Only 
five votes were wanted to secure the passing of the amend- 
ment. Peyrat rushed into the library, where Louis Blanc 
and Marcou were ensconced. " It needs five more votes to 
bring in the Republic," he shouted; "come along!" A 
crowd gathered round them, and begged them to change their 
minds. " We let ourselves be hustled into the Chamber," 
writes Louis Blanc, " and one after the other we dropped our 
voting-papers into the ballot-box, amid general emotion and 
to the sound of uproarious cheers, which struck like daggers 
into our hearts ! " By 359 votes to 336 the clause was thrown 
out. 

Wallon, a painstaking historian, thereupon suggested the 
following provision : " The President of the Republic is 
elected, through the suffrages of the majority, by the Senate 
and by the Chamber of Deputies convened in the National 
Assembly. He is appointed for seven years, and may be 
re-elected." It is no longer a case of " the Marshal." This 
time, by a majority of 353 to 352, the amendment was 
accepted, to the loudly expressed delight of the Left. All the 
members of this section, including the five members of the 
extreme Left, had voted for the amendment, while the entire 
Right took the opposite line. In the Centre, a slight shifting 
of votes determined the majority. 

L6on Say writes, on February i, 1875 : " The carrying of 
the Wallon amendment by a margin of one vote will lead to 
some astonishing results. Already we can count upon a 
majority of sixty for passing, as a whole, a bill which, intro- 
duced in an anti-Republican garb, will go forth into the 
world stamped with a purely Republican hall-mark. The first 
member I spoke to at the time when this majority of one was 
announced was the Prince de Joinville. He said to me : 
* Your party has won the day, and I am very glad to see it. 
My personal position compelled me to vote on the other side, 

190 



GAMBETTA AND THE CONSTITUTION 

but nothing could have given me greater pleasure than our 
defeat.' Pasquier told me that he and his friends accepted 
unreservedly the situation created by this margin of one. We 
may therefore assume that the Act to establish a constitution 
will be passed. M. de Broglie consoles himself with the 
thought that, in spite of all appearances, there is no need to 
fear the worst. This is a strange delusion on his part, and 
his friends are beginning to talk in a very different tone." 

M. de Vinols informs us that he met Gambetta on the 
evening of the day when the Laboulaye amendment was 
carried, and could not help noticing his air of depression. 
" I saw him again on the day when the Wallon amendment 
was passed; he was wild with joy, and hardly seemed the 
same man as the Gambetta of the evening before." 

The next question was to determine the composition of the 
Senate. The Right hoped for a new lease of life as members 
of this body. The committee proposed three classes of 
senators: legal experts, nominees of the President of the 
Republic and the rest appointed by election. Pascal Duprat 
moved that the senators should be chosen by universal 
suffrage. The Legitimists held aloof, the Bonapartists voted 
in favour and the clause was carried by 322 votes to 310. The 
Marshal interposed, and through the medium of General de 
Cissey declared that the Government could not accept this 
result. The Assembly bowed to his will. Henri Brisson 
moved a dissolution, and asked that the matter might be put 
to the vote at once. Raoul Duval supported him, and so did 
Thiers. Gambetta observed to the Cabinet : " Thanks to the 
jarring note that has been introduced, the whole issue is at 
stake. We have voted for the principle of the Senate, we 
have swallowed our scruples, and now you come and tell us 
that you want a Senate entirely of your own making ! This 
sort of thing cannot go on. Since matters have reached this 
stage, let us dissolve, let us appeal to the country! " The 
emergency vote on dissolution was rejected. Wallon asked 
the Chamber to adjourn until February 15. The Marshal 
was urged to form a new Cabinet based on the majority of 
May 24, and including the Bonapartists. MacMahon sum- 

191 



GAMBETTA 

moned the Due de Broglie. The latter maintained that " the 
task of framing laws for the constitution must not be given 
up." He reproduced the views of the Comte de Paris in the 
following phrase : " An alliance with the Bonapartists is out 
of the question." Furthermore, he advised the Marshal to 
send for Buffet. 

The Right carried on their negotiations under the aegis and 
under the roof of Casimir-Perier and his brother-in-law, 
D'Audiffret Pasquier. On February 19 the printed form of a 
clause signed by Wallon was distributed among the 
Assembly : " The Senate consists of 300 members, 225 elected 
by the Colonies and Departments and 75 by the National 
Assembly. . . . The senators elected by the National 
Assembly are irremovable.'' Frantic demonstrations from the 
extreme Right. The Right Centre accepted the draft. 
Among the Left, only one Deputy opposed it, to wit Gr^vy. 
Of the Republican Unionists, Edgar Quinet, Louis Blanc and 
Madier de Montjau also fought the proposal ; the unity that 
had been lately re-established was in danger of impairment. 
Gambetta sprang into the breach and rallied his scattering 
forces. He was no longer merely the orator, the party chief ; 
he was the wary negotiator, the far-seeing diplomat, who could 
appeal with equal force to the intellect and to the emotions. 
It was an impressive scene when the Republicans, in order to 
save France from a dictatorship, threw their traditions and 
their personal preferences overboard. Through the supple 
genius of Gambetta, realities took the place of bloodless 
abstractions, and the spirit of rigid formalism yielded to the 
spirit of enlightened statecraft. The clause was passed. The 
minority comprised the Right and the Bonapartists, the 
majority, the Left, the Right Centre and some stray 
adherents of the Moderate Right. Gr6vy refrained from 
voting. The Due de Broglie, after shilly-shallying up to the 
eleventh hour, decided to record his vote. The Extreme Left, 
Louis Blanc, Madier de Montjau and Edgar Quinet, did not 
vote. They were deaf to Gambetta 's entreaties. Louis Blanc 
remarks, with reference to Edgar Quinet : " He, too, stood 
his ground, but at what a cost ! I can still see the grand old 

192 



GAMBETTA AND THE CONSTITUTION 

man collapsing into his seat, so overwrought that the tears 
were trickling down his cheeks ! " The composition of the 
Senate was settled; the Republic was an accomplished fact. 
(January 25, 1875.) 

Thus the new French State system was the outcome of a 
series of compromises between the Constitutional Monarchists 
and the Republicans, between the representatives of the 
bourgeoisie and of the democracy. The vanquished were the 
champions of royalty by divine right and the partisans of the 
Empire. It was in the teeth of their opposition that the work 
of 1875 was achieved. 

On March 3 Gambetta wrote to Ranc (unpublished letter) : 
" The Republic, which we wish to build up on a rock-bottom 
foundation, will be thrown open to all in that it ceases to be 
directed by a single faction. . . . Whatever the merits or 
drawbacks of the Constitution, our aim should be, not to 
weaken the structure, but to cement it more firmly. It is a 
work of peace-making and bridge-building, which has 
afforded the Republicans a unique opportunity of displaying 
to the country their apparent harmony. We have done 
well to break for a while with the intractable element. 
In this respect I don't quite see eye to eye with you, 
who are forming a phalanx of the Left against reaction. 
Our new-born infant should make for unity, and ac- 
cordingly for patriotism. At last the country will see 
its dream come true — the achievement of a combina- 
tion which, if it had been brought about sixty, forty 
or even thirty years earlier, would have turned the 
wheel of the revolution round full circle. The statesmanship 
that paved the way for such a triumph is the only one that 
can properly develop its results." 

On March 1 1 Buffet was called upon to take office. He had 
neither the breadth of view nor the literary gifts of the Due 
de Broglie, but he was a man of sincere convictions, energetic, 
strong-willed; his outspoken address and his solid reasoning 
made a deep impression on the Assembly. No one was better 
versed in budgets and tariffs. In the economic and financial 
sphere he was a tough fighter and a redoubtable opponent. 

193 O 



GAMBETTA 

Moreover, his lofty moral bearing earned him universal 
respect. 

On the 29th Gambetta delivered a funeral oration over 
Edgar Quinet. He paid tribute to the memory of Michelet 
and of Ledru-Rollin, who had both recently died. He 
recalled Quinet 's prophecies with regard to Germany : " This 
scholar and poet saw invasion looming up behind the cloudy 
and pedantic theories that were being spun in the German 
universities." Then, turning to the benches of the Extreme 
Left : " There are certain rifts within the lute, but our agree- 
ment on fundamentals is proof against all attempts to destroy 
it. We follow in the footsteps of our predecessors. Their 
principles are ours. It is only the methods of upholding 
them that have changed. Democracy, in assuming control, 
is faced with great dangers. Power brings with it knotty 
problems to be solved. When we are in the majority, we 
must govern what we have won, we must show ourselves 
worthy to keep. Therefore we must school ourselves to discip- 
line and patience, and learn the art of pulling together. Let 
us combine prudence with strength. Let us beware of listen- 
ing to the counsels of hotheads. We are on the right track. 
We have only to go on as we have begun ! " 

At M^nilmontant, on April 23, he made a speech that ranks 
among the most memorable and important of his career. 
Never had he shown more political insight, more clearness of 
vision, more daring originality. " Does the compact still hold 
good? " he asked his constituents. Cries of " Yes I Yes I " 
were heard from all sides. Then, for a space of several hours, 
before the keen scrutiny of this huge popular audience, he 
proceeded to take to pieces, bit by bit, the whole mechanism 
of the new regime. 

What a masterly feat was this sort of lecture in constitu- 
tional law to a gathering of labourers, factory hands, artisans 
and shopkeepers ! At these mass meetings one finds a 
remarkable degree of shrewdness, of penetration, of intellec- 
tual curiosity ; the people have a sense for the finest shades 
of meaning, they are aglow with eagerness to learn, they are 
all warmth and fire. Such encounters do equal credit to a 

194 



GAMBETTA AND THE CONSTITUTION 

public quick to grasp both the beauties of oratory and the 
force of ideas, and to a speaker who can touch the right 
intellectual and emotional chords and temper the passion of 
the multitude with wisdom. 

From a horror of Csesarism, he explains, we have deter- 
mined to end a dangerous interregnum; we have framed a 
Constitution. "If we are willing to take this Constitution 
to our bosom and use it as our own, above all to study it 
thoroughly so that we can put it into practice, it may well 
prove to have furnished the Republican democracy with the 
best instrument of freedom ever placed into its hands." 

First, the President of the Republic. Since his authority 
no longer springs from the direct suffrage of the nation, there 
can be no further question of setting up the guardian of the 
laws as superior to their makers, the representatives of the 
country. His position, though modest, is still dignified 
enough to ensure that, with the powers allotted to him, he 
shall be a worthy first magistrate of France and a worthy 
executor of the laws committed to his charge. 

Then he dealt with the Senate. Those who first hit upon 
the idea of having a Senate had intended to provide ' ' a sort 
of last refuge for those rejected at the polls." Their concep- 
tion had merely been one of establishing a check upon the 
popular will. It remained to be seen whether those who 
cherished this idea fully realised what it meant, whether in 
seeking to create a stronghold of reaction they had not set 
up an organism essentially democratic in its origin, its ten- 
dencies and its future career. What a contrast between the 
Upper Chamber that stood for birth, wealth, the Church, the 
great landed estates — the Due de Broglie's Senate, appointed 
by the President or by a narrow body of privileged electors — 
and the Senate that had finally emerged from the struggles of 
the Assembly. " We must look upon it as the sheet-anchor 
on which the safety of the good ship ' State ' depends. Why ? 
Because it is the handiwork of the Communes.^ The most 

* The commune (originally a borough which had obtained self-governing rights by 
charter from the feudal lord) is now a territorial division administered by a mayor and 
municipal council. — Translator's note. 

195 O 2 



GAMBETTA 

royalist of Assemblies, having to institute a Second Chamber, 
has actually fixed as its starting-point— what ? The most 
democratic thing in the country, the communal spirit, the 
thirty-six thousand communes of France ! What is going 
to issue from the ballot-boxes ? A Senate ? No— the Grand 
Council of the French Communes." And, with a presentiment 
of the crisis of 1889, he adds : " It is in the Senate that the 
last battle will be fought I " 

*' Rest assured that, once you have tried this experiment, 
you will not let it drop. Political institutions nearly always 
lead men further than they anticipate, and this institution is 
no exception to the rule. The circumstances and the men 
that have shaped it are not altogether worthy of their creation. 
You must give it a trial, and your labour must be a labour of 
love." 

These were decidedly novel ideas for the Republicans of 
those days. They had hitherto drawn their sole inspiration 
from the revolutionary theories of 1 789-1 793 and 1848. As 
for the Presidency, the men of the Revolution, taking their 
stand against kingship, had never desired a single supreme 
authority at the head of the State, These points had not been 
gained without wailing and gnashing of teeth. Gambetta, by 
inducing the French democracy to accept these institutions, 
became the founder of the parliamentary Republic. 

The Assembly was re-opened on November 4. This was 
the last phase. 

The constitution had now been passed and a parliamentary 
regime set up. What is the meaning of a parliamentary 
regime ? It means the existence of a compact majority as the 
basis for a strong, enduring Government, which is to carry 
out a fruitful and vigorous policy. That, indeed, is what 
Gambetta demanded and did his best to secure. Things, 
however, did not move so fast as he had expected. He would 
allow of no halting-places; he was too eager to quicken the 
pace. The difficulties of parliamentary life are tremendous. 
It needs an uncommon force of character to hold out, to resist 
the current, to keep one's head above water, '* to rule over the 
mob of petty men who aspire to rule," as Thiers said in 

196 



GAMBETTA AND THE CONSTITUTION 

speaking of Pitt. Yet these very difficulties lend that life its 
greatest charm. 

In Gambetta's opinion, the best method of evolving a 
majority was to have the most comprehensive ballot-system, 
the one that gave prominence to ideas rather than personali- 
ties, the scrutin de liste.^ Not that he saw in it a cure for all 
ills — the electoral system is an affair of tactics rather than of 
principles — but he subordinated everything to his main 
design : " We must create a Governmental majority," he 
said, "and put an end to our internal feuds. The policy 
that we should strive after is one of pacifying and reconciling. 
What would our plight be to-morrow if, after approving these 
institutions, explaining them to the country and getting them 
into working order, we still offered to the world, not a picture 
of vigorous and concerted action, but a sorry exhibition of 
futile wrangling and anarchical chaos? " Then, with a touch 
of prophetic sadness : " You smile when I speak of modera- 
tion. Well, we shall see a good deal of each other yet; and 
unless I am struck down by an untimely death, I hope to give 
you fairly conclusive proofs that when I claim a spirit of 
moderation, it is no idle boast. Alas ! he died before reaching 
the goal. He had the last word before the tribunal of history, 
but not in his lifetime. The formation of that Governmental 
majority was now inevitable, it was only a matter of time ; but 
he was to vanish from the scene before he could attain the 
object of his unswerving pursuit. 

He had a foreboding, by the way, of the difficulties that 
strewed his path. "One sometimes hears of 'steam-tug' 
candidates," he remarked on one occasion. Naturally, he 
had a fellow-feeling for such candidates! "We may treat 
this electoral delusion with the contempt it deserves. In the 
first place, a nation would have no cause for complaint if it 
were favoured with a large number of men capable of acting 
as ' steam-tugs.' This would prove that the parties contained 

1 In the scrutin de liste the elector votes for all the Deputies and Senators of the 
Department ; in the scrutin cf arrondissement (see below) he votes for one representa- 
ive only (in his own arrondissement). The order of territorial divisions is depart- 
ment, arrondissement, canton and commune; the two latter are local, not parliamentary. 
— Translator's note. 



GAMBETTA 

some exceedingly brilliant personalities, and the richer France 
was in personalities of this stamp, the more surely could she 
rely on a constant succession of statesmen at the helm to save 
her from running on the rocks of reyolution — and the more 
cause she would have, I think, to congratulate herself! " A 
statement that many will dispute 1 

From this time on he has one overmastering impulse, one 
ideal that he will pursue vainly to the very last, and he puts it 
into these words: "In the present plight of France and 
Europe, the noblest task a man can compass is to build up a 
Government that shall be really strong, with power to mould 
public opinion, not only in France, but throughout Europe as 
well. In a country like France, the function of the statesman 
is quite different to-day from what it was in times gone by. 
When a nation's material forces are still intact, when the 
circle of its frontiers is unbroken, there may be scope for dis- 
cussing questions of political philosophy ; but in a country 
that has been partly shorn of its territory, such a course is 
nothing short of criminal and sacrilegious. And as you are 
trying to find a reason for what was done on February 25, 
and for the policy of harmonising and pacifying, I will give it 
you : look at the gap in the Vosges ! " 

Amid the din and clatter of warring parties, he sought to 
come as a peace-maker, to bring order and discipline into the 
Republic. However large parties may be, they are, as their 
very name denotes, partisan and parts of a whole. If Par- 
liament is the mirror of the nation, it is a mirror shattered into 
fragments. What a labour of Hercules, to produce from the 
motley concourse of parties a national policy ! England had 
succeeded in the task. Gambetta was fired by the most 
glorious ambition to which a lofty soul can aspire : he sought 
to become leader of a democracy, to govern a free country, 
not by force, but by persuasion, by reasoned eloquence, and 
thus to win back for it some day its former territory and its 
former greatness. 

Buffet advocated the scrutin d'arrondissement, which was 
adopted by 388 votes to 322. 

First of all the Assembly had to nominate the 75 irremov- 

198 



GAMBETTA AND THE CONSTITUTION 

able senators. Gambetta, by dint of a compact between 
Republicans, Legitimists and Bonapartists, ousted the 
Orleanists. He thus continued to make the Republic reap 
the benefit of the institutions which its enemies had devised 
for its undoing. " This is no majority," cried the Due 
de Broglie, " it is a coalition of hatreds! " Alas, there was 
hatred in every camp ! 

The Assembly had lived its allotted span. It had been 
elected for the purpose of concluding peace. When once 
peace was concluded, was it its duty and had it the power to 
give place to another assembly? But our territory was still 
under enemy occupation. When once the territory was set 
free, was it its duty, had it the power, to let the voice of the 
country make itself heard? The Republicans favoured this 
step, for they feared lest the Assembly should set up a king. 
The Royalists clung obstinately to their hopes. These hopes 
dashed, they resigned themselves to shaping a Republic. 
The Assembly was far from showing a dead level of medio- 
crity. No party was without men of conspicuous talent, and 
these, when taken together, formed a notable array of intelli- 
gence and patriotism. This Parliament had made peace, 
restored order, improved the financial position, passed impor- 
tant measures, Army acts, acts dealing with the county coun- 
cils, the protection of children and girls under twenty-one 
working in factories, the protection of lads employed as 
errand-boys, newsvendors and the like, the prevention of 
cruelty to young children, the drink question, and the tax on 
transferable securities; it had established new chairs in the 
universities, instituted an inquiry into the condition of the 
workers, and so forth. When it went to Bordeaux, the 
country was at its last gasp. When it dissolved, five years 
later, France was raised to her feet again, the Army and the 
finances were rehabilitated ; France had as yet no allies, it is 
true, but she was no longer isolated in Europe; in short, a 
sound political fabric, created by the force of circumstances 
and destined to endure, had been built up. This Assembly, 
though handicapped by the burden of the past, had laid the 
foundations of the future. 

199 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE SPIRIT OF THE 1 875 CONSTITUTION 

Gambetta and the Bicameral System — The President of the Republic — Gambetta felt 
certain that this Constitution would last. 

The Constitution of 1875 can already boast a life of four- 
and-forty years — a longer spell than any of its precursors since 
the French Revolution. How has this come to pass? 
Gambetta, with remarkable insight, had shadowed forth some 
of the reasons. 

In the first place, he realised the essential niche that the 
Senate might fill in the Republic. Where the Royalists of 
the National Assembly had originally seen nothing more than 
a guarantee for their survival, a means of counteracting the 
effects of universal suffrage, Gambetta saw a potential weapon 
for foiling the endeavours of reactionaries and would-be 
autocrats. The trend of events during the Boulanger crisis 
proved his contention up to the hilt. Instead of being a 
citadel of resistance to the Republic, the Senate became a 
tower of strength for its defence. 

It was also quite on the cards that the Senate, in face of a 
Chamber that had no majority, might prove a factor making 
for Republican stability. The 1885 Chamber, for instance, 
elected amid the throes of an economic crisis, and following 
close upon Lang-Son's fiasco in Tonkin, was split up into three 
sections, two of which combined against the third to prevent 
it from governing. Suppose that at this moment the Assembly 
had been the sole administrative body, and the Cabinet crises 
had developec into Presidential crises, how far might the 
Boulangist movement not have carried us? Between 1875 
and 19 19, France has had fifty-three Cabinets. Had the Presi- 

260 



THE SPIRIT OF THE 1875 CONSTITUTION 

dency changed hands as often as this, how could the Republic 
have outlasted such a regime ? 

Gambetta's conversion to the two-Chamber system was 
gradual, and not achieved without effort. Certain of his 
friends, M. de Freycinet in particular, had done a good deal 
towards bringing him over. The Republicans had hitherto 
looked upon the Republic and single-Chamber Government 
as synonymous terms. The division of the legislative power 
between two Assemblies seemed in their eyes a return to the 
period of reaction, to the year 1791, to Louis XVIII., the 
July Monarchy and Louis-Philippe. They were not altogether 
awake to the signs of the times abroad ; they often overlooked 
the fact that all the important States of the day had bicameral 
Parliaments. To maintain a single Assembly was scarcely 
practicable, implying as it did either that the President, if 
chosen by that body, would always be at the mercy of caprice 
and might at any moment be overthrown as Thiers was 
overthrown in 1873; or that, if chosen by the people, he was 
in danger of coming into conflict with the representatives of 
the nation, as had been the case with Louis-Napoleon 
Bonaparte in 1851. 

As regards the Presidency, indeed, the lesson of 1848 had 
not been lost on the Republicans, and Gambetta reminded 
the country that if the First Magistrate was appointed by the 
people, he might easily ride rough-shod over the Assembly. 
Some theorists, on the other hand, holding that a President 
who was a creation of the Chambers was liable to become 
their victim, turned their eyes towards the United States. Now 
if the architects of the American Constitution had invested 
the President of the United States with ample authority, it was 
only because in the beginning that authority was exercised 
over a somewhat narrow domain. The Federal Constitution 
was to serve only as a useful connecting-link — especially for 
the purpose of foreign relations — between the various political 
units that had sprung up on North American soil. The 
individual States were given virtually unlimited control over 
their internal affairs. It is among the outstanding portents of 
history that this mechanism has never failed to suit the 

201 



GAMBETTA 

expanding needs of a vast empire, whether in foreign, colonial 
or military policy. If we strove to apply such a system to 
our over-centralised France, what would be the result? For 
a space of four years (since the term of the President's office 
would inevitably be reduced) we should have the undisputed 
sway of the dominant party, a minority utterly cowed by the 
majority, and, in consequence, less stability and less freedom. 
The American plan presupposes a federated State, a country 
in an advanced stage of decentralisation. 

In France, the President of the Republic enjoys a high 
privilege, which has not been wielded by the British Sovereign 
since the days of George I., and which is regarded with no 
little astonishment by our neighbours across the Channel : he 
takes the chair at Cabinet Councils. This function is some- 
thing more than a mere formality ; it may involve the play of 
character, the expression of an individual will. Such a 
President as Jules Gr^vy, for instance, who had never held a 
Cabinet post, contrived to exert a commanding influence at 
meetings of the Council. He would first allow Ministers to 
have their say, without interposing a single comment; then, 
under plea of winding up the discussion, he would summarise 
the leading points and stealthily introduce his own opinion, 
with such flawless tact and such cogent reasoning that in the 
end he generally succeeded in making it prevail. 

" The President of the Republic, acting on the concurrent 
advice of the Senate, may dissolve the Chamber of Deputies 
before the legal expiry of its mandate." From the very outset, 
from the day after the Constitution was approved, this maxim, 
as we shall see later, was doomed to be infringed. In 
England, ministerial responsibility has no meaning apart from 
a consultation of the people. The dissolution of the House of 
Commons is a process essential to the working of the demo- 
cratic machine, the regular form in which an appeal to the 
country is clothed. This appeal is not one that involves a 
mere answer "yes" or "no" — a snare and a delusion — or 
the acceptance or rejection of some individual leader — a 
frequent means of avoiding a straight issue — but is based upon 
some legislative proposal or some question of policy, upon 

202 



THE SPIRIT OF THE 1875 CONSTITUTION 

the general administration of affairs. In our case, the dissolu- 
tion of the Chamber is nothing more than a ministerial 
decree, since every Presidential decree has to be countersigned 
by a Minister. In striking contrast with the English practice, 
the 1875 Constitution, from distrust of personal power, 
requires for a dissolution the consent of the Senate — a provi- 
sion that only complicates matters, since it implies a previous 
discussion. Finally, when the maximum term of life for 
Parliament is four years, the exercise of the right to dissolve 
is beset with difficulties; it would be well to fix a somewhat 
longer term, as in England. " The power to dissolve Parlia- 
ment," Waldeck-Rousseau has remarked, " is not a menace, 
but a safeguard, for universal suffrage." It has been 

provided, not in the interest of Governments, but in the 
interest of the community at large. 

The 1875 Constitution did not emerge fully armed from the 
brain of any one man ; it was not the offspring of fine-spun 
theories that owed nothing to practical experience. It was the 
child of circumstances, slowly and painfully brought to birth 
from the womb of reality, and a long series of struggles, a 
clash of hostile forces, went to the moulding of its character. 
These warring elements, which might have proved its weak- 
ness, turned out to be a source of strength, just as the stones 
of an arch, while seeming to drag it towards its fall, serve to 
buttress it up. In the same way the American Constitution 
was the outcome of a compromise between the advocates of 
federation and the champions of State autonomy. Like ours, 
it was a bargain, a compact, a peace treaty. It was the joint 
work of opponents who had resigned themselves to the in- 
evitable and of partisans who were to some extent sceptical as 
to the merits of the government they were about to set up. 
There, too, it was only after a long process of give-and-take 
that the advocates of State separatism on the one hand, and 
the admirers of English institutions on the other, found their 
common measure in a document which did not give entire 
satisfaction to either side. And perhaps it is just because 
the United States' Constitution was not hatched in a 
day from the brain of an individual or the doctrines 

203 



GAMBETTA 

of a school, but was created by the force of events, by 
historical necessity— perhaps it is for this very reason that 
it has worn so well and adapted itself, with amazing 
elasticity, to the most unlooked-for phases in the growth of 
this Titanic democracy. 

In America as in France, rare self-denial was shown by 
some who from their great services might well have claimed 
the right to a more stubborn attitude. For Franklin, as for 
Gambetta, the new dispensation was not good enough; he 
would have liked something on more democratic lines. 
Hamilton, on the other hand, protested that it went too far. 
Nevertheless, both men voted in its favour. Washington 
doubted whether it would work. No one was sanguine as to 
its chances of success, but no one cared to risk the juin of the 
country by opening the sluice-gates to anarchy. " Let us 
give the Constitution a trial," said Franklin, in a noble 
speech ; " if we bring good will to bear on it, we shall contrive 
to amend its faults. For my part, I accept it, since I can 
hope for nothing better. For the sake of the- public weal I 
will smother my opinion as to its defects. I have never 
uttered a word on the subject outside this Assembly. Within 
these walls my doubts took rise, within these walls they shall 
be buried." 

The Versailles Assembly saw men surrender their convic- 
tions with no less honour and no less regret. And what, after 
all, was this heart-racking compromise but the climax of a 
century of abortive experiments, of kaleidoscopic changes, of 
endless revolutions ? What was it but the outcome of a series 
of conflicting systems, tried and found wanting by our 
country throughout the past hundred years ? How long a life 
had the Constitution of 1791, which endeavoured to combine 
the authority of a single Chamber with the royal veto, un- 
checked by ministerial responsibility, which never said the 
last word on anything and which provoked Washington to 
exclaim : " If I know anything of the French nation, there 
will be plenty of bloodshed, and a despotism will arise more 
oppressive than the one that she boasts of having swept 
away ! " ? How long a life had the Constitution of 1793, 

204 



THE SPIRIT OF THE 1875 CONSTITUTION 

which resulted in the tyranny of committees, in government 
by local Assemblies, in plebiscites and in revolt? Or the 
Constitution of 1795, a political cross-breed, engendered by 
fear, a tangle of baffling complexities ? Or that of the year 
VIII. of the Revolution, with its three Consuls? Or the 
Consulate ? Or the Napoleonic dictatorship ? Or the Con- 
stitution of April 6, 1 8 14, restoring the monarchy, or that of 
June 4, with a suffrage based on property qualification ? Or 
the Additional Act of April 22, 1815, which also let the ques- 
tion of " the last word " hang over — as was clear enough in 
1830? Or the Charter of 1830, with the property qualification 
again? Or the Constitution of 1848, that formidable tete-a- 
tete (in Tocqueville's pithy phrase) by which an Assembly 
endowed with right confronted a President endowed with 
might, with the inevitable result that the representative of 
might triumphed over his rival? Or the Constitution of 
1852, under which the Emperor was responsible to the nation 
in name but not in fact, and the Legislative Body, if it wanted 
to change its policy, could not change the Ministers, the 
upshot being that the will of one man directed everything and 
could land the whole country in disaster? Or, last of all, 
the Liberal Empire? From all these ill-fated ventures the 
1875 Constitution had learnt its lessons. 

Two books issued under the Second Empire had a marked 
influence on the decisions of the National Assembly : Vues 
sur le gouvernement de la France, by the Due Victor de 
Broglie, and La France nouvelle, by Prevost-Paradol. 
De Broglie's book was written in 1861, but after a few copies 
had been run off the press it was seized by the police, and did 
not appear till 1870. Prevost-Paradol's was published in 
1868. It was to these fountain-heads that the generation 
destined to fashion the 1875 Constitution resorted for its 
schooling. Neither work lays stress on the nature of that 
regime. Let us listen to Victor de Broglie : ** Frankly speak- 
ing, the choice for lovers of freedom lies between two alter- 
natives — a republic bordering on a constitutional monarchy, 
and a constitutional monarchy bordering on a republic and 
differing from one only in the composition and tenure of the 

205 



GAMBETTA 

executive. Any other kind of republic means a Convention,^ 
any other kind of monarchy means an Empire.' ' He adds : 
** It would be wise to choose a republic rather than civil war." 
He was the first to give some hint, as early as 1 86 1, of a view 
much developed by Thiers : " For us it would be the form of 
government that causes fewest cleavages." He particularly 
set his face against a Legitimist restoration : " The worst type 
of revolution," he says, '* is a restoration." 

And Prevost-Paradol : " We are trying to discover institu- 
tions that can adapt themselves equally well to a monarchical 
form or a republican form, to preserve liberty within the 
framework of democracy." Again: "The preponderant 
influence (or, if you will, the last word in every dispute) being 
granted to the popular Assembly, with the sole reservation 
that the right to dissolve Parliament is confined to the execu- 
tive, this influence will be exercised in three ways : through 
the vote on the Estimates, through the vote on legislative 
measures, and through the re-modelling of Ministries." Thus 
he claimed, for a legislative Assembly chosen directly by 
popular sufifrage, what he called ' ' the privilege of the last 
word." 

Democratic, Liberal, parliamentarian, the representative 
system cast into the mould of universal suffrage — these were 
the conceptions revived by Thiers in 1871, epitomised by 
Casimir-Perier in his scheme, later by Laboulaye (who himself 
had championed them in 1863, in his book La Partie liberale 
and in the third volume of his Histoire des Etats-Unis), and 
Wallon, finally by Gambetta and the Republicans who helped 
to pass the statutes regarding the Constitution. Dread of 
Bonapartism, which was beginning to raise its head again, 
the memory of disasters, and a loathing for dictatorship in 
all its forms, were the chief motives at the back of their minds. 
For these disappointed Constitutional Monarchists and these 
Republicans who had ceased to kick against the pricks, the 
main object was to forestall the ever-threatening dangers of 
personal rule, and to safeguard political freedom. In approv- 

* I.e., the efficient but tyrannous National Convention of 1792. — Translator's 

NOTE. 

206 



THE SPIRIT OF THE 1875 CONSTITUTION 

ing the Constitution of 1875, the National Assembly sought 
to prevent a repetition of the misfortunes in which it had been 
cradled. A division of the legislative functions ; cohesion and 
responsibility in the executive ; at the apex of the pyramid, a 
ruler with sole authority (a thing that the Revolution had tried 
to avoid), but not hereditary ; at the base, universal suffrage, 
from which the National Assembly itself derived its power; 
the two-chamber system, as in England, in America, in all 
the great States, whether monarchical or republican; minis- 
terial responsibility, collective in some cases, individual in 
others ; an appeal to the country in the event of disagreement 
between Cabinet and Chamber — thus was the edifice rebuilt 
after that long succession of earthquakes. Incidentally, the 
Constitution was no cast-iron fabric, but was always amenable 
to revision. 

Gambetta was almost alone at the time in believing that this 
charter — a compact, not merely between constitutional theories 
that were pitted against each other in the Assembly, but 
between constitutional systems that had been pitted against 
each other in France for well-nigh a century — was of the stuff 
that would endure. His faith was justified by results. But 
he did not foresee that the very persons on whom would fall 
the duty of putting it into practice would modify its principles. 
The difficulties under which France was to labour for forty 
years to come — imprimis, fluctuations in the Cabinet : what 
human undertaking can prosper when subject to incessant 
changes ? — were not all due to evils inherent in the Constitu- 
tion ; on the contrary, they often arose from breaches of the 
Constitution in the letter or in the spirit. 

Modern democracies, up to the present, have hit upon two 
methods of self-government, and two only : in federalised 
States the American system, in centralised States the par- 
liamentary regime, but a parliamentary regime with its indis- 
pensable laws, its essential rules of procedure. The ensuing 
chapters will illustrate the truth of this maxim. After forty- 
four years of experience, France will have to investigate by 
what means — fresh interpretation of the existing laws, fresh 
legislation, or both— she may, through delimiting functions 

207 



GAMBETTA 

more wisely, redress abuses and restore whatever elements of 
good have been suffered to lapse. The task will have to be 
carried out with great foresight, care and knowledge. We 
shall be compelled to guard against incompetence, against 
hastily devised makeshifts, against abstract dialectics and 
theories divorced from practice (such as have already cost us 
so dear), and against a spirit of reckless adventure. In any 
case, the most scrupulously worded documents will not be 
enough ; we shall need the moral principles, the good sense, 
the reasoning faculty of living men. 

Gambetta, like Mirabeau, was an impassioned orator and a 
sturdy realist; but Mirabeau said (February 14, 1790): "It 
fills me with dismay to think that I shall have done no more 
than contribute towards a vast upheaval." Gambetta, on the 
other hand, could justly claim to have achieved constructive 
work, to have played his part in rearing the new order. If 
the institution of a Second Chamber has ceased to be an exotic 
in Republican France, it is he, before all men, to whom the 
credit is due. And if the Republic has managed to survive, 
it is thanks to the establishment of a Second Chamber. He 
had seen clearly the various causes that had kept the Repub- 
lican idea from prevailing in the past ; instead of theories and 
abstractions, he brought a practical, effective statesmanship 
to bear upon the situation. His great achievement was to 
make this new departure acceptable, in the teeth of intellectual 
and moral prejudices, of a scepticism almost universal. After 
the Republic of 1792 and that of 1848, which had lived for so 
brief a span, he founded a Republic which has lasted for close 
on half a century and has withstood the mightiest cataclysm 
that history records. By this feat he has earned a unique 
place in the annals of French political thought. 



>o8 



PART IV 

THE EARLY STAGES OF PARLIAMENTARY 
REPUBLIC 
(1876-1882) 



S09 



CHAPTER XIV 



GAMBETTA S IDEAS 



Gambetta's Ideas on Home and Foreign Policy — The 1876 Elections— Gambetta 
leads the Campaign : his Speeches, his Ideas — Gambetta as Chairman of the 
Budget Committee — His Views on Foreign Policy, as recorded in Unpublished 
Letters. 

The elections to the Senate were fixed for January 30, those 
of the Deputies for February 20. The Buffet Ministry was 
divided, Dufaure and L^on Say leaning towards the Left, 
Buffet towards the Right. He began by prohibiting public 
meetings and banquets. 

Gambetta, at Aix, on January 18, spoke in praise of the 
Constitution : it might well be the best, since it was the most 
practical yet devised for our country. The Senate, which 
some had hoped would act as the scowling and suspicious 
gaoler of democracy, would become the enlightened guardian 
of internal peace. He tells the Republicans once more : *' It 
is the Senate that will be your refuge and your sheet-anchor. 
You greeted this institution with distrust and reserve, but you 
are beginning to associate with it on rather more friendly 
terms. You can take it from me that when a few more years 
have rolled by we shall all be going out of our way to stand 
up for the Senate." 

He traces the broad outline of a " Conservative " pro- 
gramme : We are Conservative if we want a society that 
knows no privileges, such a society as was organised by the 
Civil Code ; we are Conservative if we want liberty of con- 
science, on the lines laid down by the Civil Code ; we are 
Conservative if we want freedom of thought, freedom of 
worship, consideration for the child, for the father and mother, 
under the aegis of equal laws for all, if we desire that every 

211 p 2 



GAMBETTA 

Frenchman shall share both the burdens and the advantages, 
the guarantees of citizenship. Once more he summons those 
who should gather under the flag : ' ' You have a chance of 
playing a momentous part in the republic, for education, social 
weight and the leisure of wealth are yours. Join our side, 
and we can assure you a rank, a prestige and an influence 
that will enable you to use your capacities for the public 
good." Finally, he turned to the Marshal and exerted him- 
self to reassure him, to bring him over as well : " They try 
to persuade the First Magistrate that we are apostles of revolu^ 
tion. We shall confound our detractors yet. A day will 
come when it will have to be recognised on all hands, and 
especially in the most exalted governing circles, that those 
who cast a slur upon individuals and communities devoted to 
the Republican ideal run the risk of ignoring a national 
force." 

After the elections, the Senate was made up of the following 
elements : Left Centre, 84 ; Republican Centre, 50 ; Extreme 
Left, 15; Constitutionalists, 17; Right Centre and Moderate 
Right, 81; Extreme Right, 13; Bonapartists, 40. And now 
for the elections to the legislative Chamber ! 

Thiers being debarred by age, Gambetta alone took the 
field. He scoured the country, with unerring vision and an 
eloquence that nothing could tire, to preach confidence and 
self-restraint. 

At Lille, on February 6, after calling up the memory of 
Faidherbe, he maintained that the Senate had come out of the 
recent elections with flying colours. " Some may think that 
it is not progressive enough. For my part, I see every reason 
to be satisfied. It will fulfil its true mission, that of curbing 
any abuse of political power." We must now crown the vie- 
tory by sending Republicans, champions of democracy, to the 
Chamber of Deputies: "The genuine democrat will not 
merely acknowledge men as equal, he will make them equal." 
Let us be Liberals. " By a ' Liberal ' I mean one who is 
pledged to liberty of conscience in all its forms, one who 
prizes all religions alike, while reserving for himself the free- 
dom to profess any one of them or to reject them all, one who 

212 



GAMBETTA'S IDEAS 

will not trample on the ministers of the various cults. By a 
" Liberal " I also mean one who has made up his mind to 
prevent any clerical faction from becoming a force in the politi- 
cal world. I propose that the Church shall remain the 
Church. There lies the peril, not merely for France, but for 
Europe." Finally, he comes back to the great idea, though 
here he expresses himself in guarded language: "For the 
sake of the balance of Europe and the triumph of justice, I 
hope that some day, merely through the prevalence of right, 
the brethren now sundered from us will return to the fold." 

On February 9 he is at Avignon. At Cavaillon stones are 
thrown at him : he is refused a hearing. On the 13th he is at 
Bordeaux, where he recalls to the minds of his audience the 
tragic days of 1870 and his own programme of 1871 : for 
already the history of contemporary France seems to be 
identifying itself with the history of this man's brief career. 
He shows that the separation of Church and State, the 
income-tax, the freedom of the Press, the unfettered right to 
hold public meetings and form trades-unions, have already 
been introduced elsewhere. Nevertheless, he does not 
demand that all these reforms shall be effected at once : " Far 
be it from me to guarantee that your representatives will carry 
them out during their four years of legislative activity; I 
don't believe it, and to speak quite frankly, I should be sorry 
if they did." 

On February 15, in Paris : " The period of danger is over; 
the period of difficulties has begun. Victors in the electoral 
conflict, with a majority in the Assemblies, we are now going 
to be asked — as indeed is only reasonable — for the proof that 
we know how to govern. From now onward we shall have 
to keep a close watch on ourselves and never venture on a 
single step without having thoroughly tested whether the 
ground is firm, without having made sure of our rear. This 
policy, the policy of results, is the only one suited to the 
interests of the democracy. I belong to a school that refuses to 
dogmatise, that believes in analysis, in observation, in the 
study of facts, to a school that takes account of environment, 
of tendencies, of prejudices, even of hostilities, for one must 

213 



GAMBETTA 

take account of everything ; paradoxes and sophisms have no 
less influence than truths on the conduct of men." 

Certain Republicans began to complain that this style of 
speaking was not bold enough. Alfred Naquet, Gambetta's 
rival at Marseilles, called for a single Assembly, with power 
to dismiss the Executive whenever it thought fit, a direct 
appeal to the people as in 1793, elective judges, and the aboli- 
tion of standing armies. " Gambetta and his friends," he 
said, " have fallen into the rut of Constitutionalism, let them 
stay there ; we must form, outside their circle, a group that will 
fight in the van, the warriors of democracy." 

On February 20, out of 533 seats the Republicans gained 
300 (40 went to the Left Centre, 180 to the Left and 80 to the 
Extreme Left) ; the Constitutionals, 20 ; the Orleanists, 45 ; the 
Legitimists, 20; and the Bonapartists, 50. In 105 constitu- 
encies there was a second count. The Centres had suffered a 
landslide. The leaders of the Right, Due Decazes, Target, 
Baragnon, De Carayou-Latour, Casenove de Pradine, were 
nearly all rejected. Buffet, the Premier, was defeated in all 
the four constituencies for which he successively stood ; Gam- 
betta was returned in Paris, Marseilles, Lille and Bordeaux, 
Thiers in Paris. Among the new Republican members were 
Georges Clemenceau and Charles Floquet (who had handed in 
their resignation in 187 1), Spuller, Lionville, Albert Joly, 
Dev^s, Antonin Proust, Allain-Targe, Emile Deschanel, 
Menier, Jean-Casimir Perier, Raspail, Marcellin Pellet, 
Constans, Emile Loubet and Armand Falli^res. The Con- 
servative chiefs held a consultation. Buffet advised resis- 
tance, but the Due de Broglie was of a different opinion ; it 
was better, he thought, to give the Chamber rope enough to 
hang itself. This view prevailed. 

On the 28th, between the two ballots, Gambetta again 
warned the public that the danger of foreign complications 
must not be overlooked. The clericals were naturally a pillar 
of the Conservative Party — an ominous connection for both. 
The religious problem must be looked at from a European 
standpoint. Bismarck, now in the thick of the Kultiirkampf 
and Italy, fresh from the triumph of achieving unity, were not 

214 



GAMBETTA'S IDEAS 

anxious to see the Right carry all before it in France. " We 
have nothing to hope for from the spirit of internationalism 
and of proselytism at all costs. It is the policy of the Second 
Empire that we have to thank for the unenviable position 
that we hold among the Powers to-day. We must see to it 
that the French Republic becomes recognised, not merely by 
the peoples but by the Governments of Europe, as a force 
making for peace and general security." 

A further appeal at the Elysee^ : "At home, France has 
done her best to secure a majority that shall not be a majority 
for obstruction but a majority for government. The Presi- 
dent of the Republic may rest assured that it will not be the 
Republicans who will call in question the authority granted 
to him under the fundamental pact. We want the Constitu- 
tion, the whole Constitution. It is our safeguard, our 
strength. ..." He grows more moderate than ever, rousing 
the Conservatives again and again, imploring them to assume, 
in the new order of things, the place which is theirs by right 
of tradition, of culture and of influence. "Just because we 
are the stronger, we must not go to extremes. The statesman- 
ship of to-morrow must be the statesmanship that has made 
the Constitution. We must not be too hard on the Liberals 
who have clung obstinately to the political creed of the 
governing classes. If they come to us, we must give them a 
welcome, open our ranks to them and say to them : * That's 
better ! Now you will have a chance of playing the part that 
you deserve. When you are at grips with your opponent, when 
you are struggling to gain the position that is your due, then 
you are justified in letting your passion run riot ; but as soon 
as the victory Is won, you must keep a closer watch upon your- 
self than ever, for as some ancient sage has observed, there 
is something more difficult to bear than adversity, and that is 
good fortune." 

At the re-counts, 49 seats went to the Conservatives and 56 
to the Republicans. All told, the Chamber contained 340 

* The residence oi the President of the Republic ; the term is often used meta- 
phorically for "Presidential policy" and the like, cp. our "Downing Street." — 
Translator's note. 

2J5 



GAMBETTA 

Republicans, of whom 98 belonged to the Extreme Left, 
194 to the Left, 48 to the Left Centre and 22 to the 
Constitutionalists. 

On March 8 the seals of office were handed over. Jules 
Grevy was elected President of the Chamber, and the Due 
d'Audiffret-Pasquier, President of the Senate. 

The victory of the Republican party did not blind Gambetta 
to the peril from without. On March 3, 1876, he writes to 
Ranc, who had taken refuge in Brussels after being sentenced 
to death by default (unpublished letter) : "I must confess I 
am driven to distraction by our everlasting squabbles over 
personal matters, the perpetual clash of private interests. 
How can I do anything for my country's good when my 
hands are tied like this ? What a time for petty wrangling ! 
We are in a state of utter chaos; everything is at sixes and 
sevens All this time, Germany is growing stronger and 
Bismarck has the whip-hand. You will notice, too, that every 
time he cracks his whip it is just after some piece of diplomatic 
bungling on our part. We are always at the mercy of some 
' incident.' What would become of us if we had not learnt to 
dodge these blows, if we were as innocent as when we fell 
into the trap of the forged telegram from Ems ? 

" Here is another trap that the Chancellor is preparing to 
spring upon us ! He is putting out feelers through the jour- 
nalist Muller, his factotum, who in various newspaper articles 
and other published writings has outlined a scheme for the 
abolition of war among the Powers. To think that Bismarck 
should launch this project of eternal peace and goodwill 
among the nations is simply staggering — especially when you 
consider that all the time the German schoolmaster in Alsace- 
Lorraine is running the anti-French campaign for all it is 
worth, impressing it upon the young idea of Germany that the 
youth of France are detestable, immoral, ought to be wiped 
off the face of the earth, to be crushed out of existence as the 
hereditary foe. Germany has a friendly feeling for the young 
men of every country except France. 

" As far as I can see — since we cannot arm ourselves to the 
teeth— there is only one thing to be done if we wish to avoid 

216 



GAMBETTA'S IDEAS 

the terrible conflict that is brewing : that is, to let the people 
have full details of this pacifist scheme, which of course is 
only a ruse of the Chancellor's. There may yet prove to be 
something stronger than that will of iron : the will of the 
masses. . . . Will the other nations rise up in revolt against 
this barbarism ? ' ' 

Duclerc tried to bridge the gulf between Gambetta and 
MacMahon, but the soldier had his orders : he was not to let 
the " Radicals " pass through, and for him it was a question 
of honour. At De Broglie's instance he sent for Dufaure as 
successor to Buffet, Dufaure was not a man whom people 
cared to fall foul of : a regular wild boar, who could deal 
shrewd blows with his tusks ; he was now seventy-eight, but 
well qualified for office by his sane and robust eloquence, his 
merciless logic and his undisputed probity. 

Gambetta issued a clarion-call for the massing of all the 
Republican forces. They had been united when he led them 
to battle ; he wished them to remain united in the hour of vic- 
tory. "Parties are made by ideas," he wrote to Ranc, 
"groups by interests." A different view, however, found 
acceptance through the agency of Jules Ferry. In order to 
maintain unity, he alleged — a real, not a sham unity — they 
should keep up their distinctions ; this did not imply that the 
party would be divideB, it would be strengthened through 
being classified; discipline, without which the parliamentary 
system is mere anarchy and chaos, could only be acquired 
and preserved by means of separate, well-defined, homo- 
geneous groups ; the extremes could only be brought together 
through the action of the intermediate elements. This meant 
proceeding by stages and going slow where Gambetta urged 
the need for rapid advance. 

At this moment Gambetta perhaps did not make enough 
allowance for the obstructiveness of men and things. Genius, 
in politics, is an infinite capacity for biding one's time, but 
his fortunes had been such that he had not learnt this lesson . 
Whether to act or not to act, whether to speak or not to speak, 
when one should wait and be silent — all this hardly lay within 
his ken. Everything had turned out well for him, even his 

217 



GAMBETTA 

defeats. Since he led the movement, since his was almost the 
only voice that was heard, since he was hailed as the leader 
and was fast becoming the leader of the majority in the 
country, he already saw himself leader of the majority, a solid, 
compact majority, in Parliament, propelling the Republic into 
action, driving her under full steam. Such was the future as 
he mapped it out. But how many obstacles were still to be 
overcome ! The road was not clear ; in this great Republican 
party there were colours that refused to blend, divergences of 
origin and of temperament, ambitions and egotisms that 
would not be denied, and finally that longing to be '* different 
from the rest " which is so ineradicable a trait of certain public 
men. There was Thiers, whose ambition was whetted by 
age. There was Gr6vy, as cold and reserved to outward 
appearance as Gambetta was fiery and demonstrative. There 
was Jules Ferry, who had no intention of letting himself be 
merged. There were the members of the Extreme Left, for 
whom Gambetta was becoming too much of a lime-server. 
There was the Senate, in which the National Assembly was 
enjoying a new lease of life, not only in the person of its 
President, D'Audiffret-Pasquier, a sort of tribune of the aris- 
tocracy, impatient of control, all nerves and quicksilver — not 
only in the Right, but also in the Left, led by Jules Simon, 
supple, wheedling, cat-like, with his claws always ready to 
scratch. There was the Elysee, looking on with a suspicious 
eye: the Marshal as " faithful watchdog of the Conservative 
interests," still prompted by the Due de Broglie; a world in 
which the Left were treated as intruders, and felt like fish out 
of the water. Gambetta now showed his hand too clearly. 
He was not used to contrary winds, and here were reefs and 
breakers. He could not always keep his temper, and too often 
gave his enemies a handle for attack. 

At this time he was not as yet truly representative of average 
opinion in the country. His influence, though much dis- 
cussed, carried no decisive weight ; he was not so strong as he 
was to become a few months later, when his adversaries, by 
pitting him against the Marshal, had added to his prestige 
and revived his popularity. In vain did he do his utmost to 

218 



GAMBETTA'S IDEAS 

appear moderate, pliable, accommodating ; his programme, in 
which the separation of Church and State still figured, at any 
rate as a likely contingency, was too advanced for the bulk of 
the community and for the Republican party. It was a pro- 
gramme that had to wait, as he himself was forced to recog- 
nise ; it could not be carried out at once. 

For the time being he had to be satisfied with the Presi- 
dency of the Budget Committee (April 2). The tribune, 
scoffed at by his enemies as an empty windbag, all rant and 
rhetoric, was now to handle affairs, to deal with realities, to 
gain a mastery of detail. He lost no time in getting into 
touch with military problems, working hard to secure better 
conditions for officers, N.C.O.s and men, and becoming the 
most prominent figure in Army debates. Furthermore, he 
induced the Committee to approve a scheme for an income- 
tax. 

He chafed, however, at his inability to act, especially in the 
sphere of foreign policy. Bismarck's retort to the framing of 
the Constitution, the establishment of the Republic on a 
firmer basis, and the proposal for increasing the Army cadres 
had taken the form of a new threat ; England and Russia had 
parried the blow. The cloud had lifted for the moment. The 
Emperor William complained: "It's exasperating to see 
Thiers joining forces with Gambetta, one simply can't under- 
stand it." Gambetta was anxious to take advantage of the 
respite, to abandon the haphazard course that had hitherto 
been followed and march straight ahead. France's absorp- 
tion in her internal struggles, her utter failure to grasp the 
situation, nearly drove him to despair. His eyes were always 
riveted on Europe. An active, far-seeing diplomacy was 
what he craved. 

As early as 1874, ^^ ^ letter to Mme. Adam, he had outlined 
the future of the Jugo-Slav peoples. " A day will come when 
we shall have to grapple with the German monster and im- 
prison him within a ring of Latins and Slavs. It is by join- 
ing hands with the Southern Slavs and those of the Lower 
Danube that we shall lay the foundations for a victory over 
the motley Germanic Empires. Those sturdy Serbs are 

219 



GAMBETTA 

getting ready to play their part as the Piedmontese of the 
Near East. . . . When once the South Slavs are welded 
together into a State, the Prussian dictatorship of Europe will 
be a thing of the past." 

At the same time, before the scare of 1875 and the Tsar's 
intervention in favour of France, he was glancing at Austria. 
He had hopes of persuading her to break loose from Prussia. 
" You believe in Russia," he wrote to Ranc (an unpublished 
letter. May 3, 1874);, " you favour an alliance with her. Well, 
between ourselves, let me tell you what I have in mind, some- 
thing quite different : to see whether we cannot disengage 
Austria from the bonds that are tightening between her and 
Prussia." 

As regards the principle of nationality, which, if strictly 
applied, would resolve such nations as Belgium and Switzer- 
land into their component parts and saddle us with an Empire 
of a hundred million souls on our frontiers ; his views have 
not changed since 1863 : " Believe me, we must let twenty 
years elapse before we allow free play to the principle of 
nationality, with all the results that it entails. . . . This prin- 
ciple cannot but serve to upset the balance of Europe, to 
entangle and perplex still further the relations between the 
Powers. ... I prefer the European balance as conceived by 
diplomatists at the end of the eighteenth century before the 
Revolution. . . . We shall have to educate public opinion 
towards an alliance between France and Austria." As far 
back as 17 15, Louis XIV. had hinted at this idea to the Comte 
de Luc, his Ambassador in Vienna, and it had been taken up 
again by Choiseul. " Austria might be reminded of her 
rivalry with Prussia throughout the wars of the Revolution 
and of the Empire, and induced to forget the alliances, the 
treaties and the common interests by which the two Powers 
are linked together." 

He went on to remark, in another letter that has not been 
published : " There is springing up in Austria a party which, 
in order to break away from Prussia, shows sympathetic lean- 
ings towards France. It cuts me to the quick to see our states- 
men turn aside with scorn from this path of safety. A 

220 



GAMBETTA'S IDEAS 

Franco-Austrian alliance might quite conceivably prevent 
war, and would in any case be the only effective means of 
resistance to the grasping designs of Prussia. ... It will be 
our own fault if we find ourselves attacked by an Austro- 
Prussian combination ! I have the gloomiest forebodings for 
the future, for the generations that we want to save from 
these horrors." 

The following year, when the scare was at its height, he 
wrote to Ranc : " The forger of the Ems telegram is planning 
another treacherous stroke. Our coolness, our self-posses- 
sion will keep us from falling into the trap as we did in 1870. 
. . . Bismarck has managed to transform a weak and dis- 
united Germany into a strong and well-ordered Empire. Less 
judicious, both for him and for us, was his policy of insisting 
on the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, a policy fraught with 
the seeds of destruction for his work. At the stage of civilisa- 
tion which we have reached, it is impossible to conquer 
nations against their will. Material victory has never been 
followed by moral dominance. And there, in Alsace- 
Lorraine, the populations torn from our side, moulded by all 
that is most chivalrous and most alluring in French culture, 
refuse to be wooed by the charms of Germanisation, 
'charms' of brutality, of ignominious serfdom, 'charms' 
that they fail to appreciate. The more the superiority of 
Greater Germany is dinned into their ears, the more do they 
sigh for what they have lost. Germany has struck a cruel 
blow at the very heart of Europe. Until she has atoned for 
this crime, no one will sheathe the sword. The peace of the 
world, so vital a necessity for every nation, will constantly 
remain at the mercy of any untoward incident." 

The attitude of Austria, now that she was more and more 
becoming Germany's vassal, led him to gravitate towards a 
Franco-Russian connection. Moreover, looking far ahead, 
he hoped that the gulf between England and Russia might be 
bridged : 

" Russia's political aims seem likely to be impeded by 
Austria, who has already begun to assume a hostile front. 
She is bringing Roumania within the orbit of her influence. 

221 



GAMBETTA 

Can you see all this culminating in an alliance between 
Austria, Roumania, and Turkey against Russia ? What a 
conflict that would mean ! To the Prince of Wales, how- 
ever, the prospect seems by no means remote. He does not 
share the anti-Russian feeling displayed by a certain section 
of his countrymen. He throws all the weight of his youthful 
authority into the scale against any step that might prove 
harmful to Russia's interests. In my opinion, he has the 
makings of a notable statesman. He condemns the too widely 
prevalent attitude towards the Chancellor who, for his part, 
treats all alike with the same high-handedness as ever. I 
want to see our enemies become Russia's enemies as well. 
It is clear as daylight that Bismarck is angling for an alliance 
with Austria. I think that before long England and Russia 
will be on our side, if only we adopt a suitable policy at 
home." 

He already points out the signal importance of the Rou- 
manian question : " It is impossible to understand the succes- 
sive phases of the Eastern Question, on which perhaps the 
solution of the Franco-German problem may some day 
depend, without paying special attention to the Roumanian 
question. The Roumanian question is one of European 
significance." 

On June 2, 1875, he writes to Ranc (unpublished letter) : 
" The Austrians are growing more and more irksome to the 
inhabitants of the occupied regions. It seems as if they were 
secretly conscious that their occupation is only an encamp- 
ment, and that they will soon be driven out. They squeeze 
the country dry; their armies, as they retire, make a wilder- 
ness of the districts they abandon. It is the Hungarians who 
are creating a Roumanian question by their oppressive 
methods of government. Magyar Chauvinism is the root of 
the trouble. A constant factor in the evolution of the Eastern 
Question, on whatever lines it may proceed, is the danger to 
Roumania, in any Balkan War, either of a Russian invasion 
if Austria-Hungary holds to her neutrality, or of an Austro- 
Hungarian occupation. The Eastern Question cannot there- 
fore be considered apart from the Roumanian problem." 

222 



GAMBETTA'S mEAS 

To Ranc, on March 20, 1876 (unpublished) : ** Roumania 
is on the high road towards concluding a military pact with 
Russia. It is our duty to have a finger in this pie, and to 
express to both nations our secret sympathy with an under- 
standing that is not yet public property. But who is there 
in France that bothers his head about foreign politics ? Yet 
to follow Russia in the future and Roumania at the present 
juncture is for us a matter of supreme moment. I can con- 
template, in Eastern Europe, a revision of frontiers which 
would unite all the Roumanians in the Roumanian Kingdom. 
By ' all the Roumanians ' I mean those of Bukovina, of 
Hungary, of Serbia, and of Macedonia as well.'' 

He points out the blunders of European diplomacy with 
regard to Hungary and the danger of Budapest's drawing 
closer to Berlin: ** From the dawn of its history, Hungary 
has been governed in its own peculiar fashion. The Estates 
that administered the country had more real control than the 
Kings. They deeply resented the German yoke. They 
would eagerly have seized the opportunity of shaking it off, 
but they ought not to have had a foreign monarch thrust upon 
them. If Napoleon had guaranteed the Hungarians their 
independence, it would have been safe to let them alone; they 
would have secured their emancipation themselves. And 
then, no doubt, we should never have had 1870, and we should 
be free from the menace of the colossal war that is looming on 
the horizon. . . ." 

To the same correspondent, on May 25 (unpublished 
letter) : " How shall we get the Republicans to realise that 
these internal struggles prevent us from settling the frontier 

question ? Even X and Z cannot see further than the 

end of their noses. It is useless to ask them about anything 
outside their ordinary political routine. What allies are we 
trying to win ? What do we do in the way of making 
approaches towards Russia and England ? " 

In September he takes a trip to Germany. He comes back 
convinced that the German army is stronger and more for- 
midable than ever: "We must keep calm," he says, "and 
pay the utmost attention to the military and naval Estimates." 

223 



GAMBETTA 

He writes to Ruiz, his correspondent in Rome, on Novem- 
ber 2, 1876 : " Bismarck's main idea is to make tiie Danube 
Austria's centre of gravity." 

To Ranc, on February 10, 1877 (unpublished letter) : " A 
note of the Prussian Chancellor's, which I will let you have 
in a verbatim copy as soon as possible, aims at pushing back 
the Hapsburg dynasty into the Slav territories, in order to 
bring them into active contact with Russia. This gives i>s our 
cue : to work hand in hand with Russia, to associate ourselves 
with her schemes, and to modify them if the need arise. On 
the other side, Germany will remain the predominant partner 
in the alliance with Austria until the day comes — as I hope it 
will come — when the grinding weight of her brutality provokes 
a reaction. To bring it home to the Hapsburgs that the 
Hohenzollerns are using them to strengthen the fabric of 
German unity — what man in France is equal to such a task? 
How I long to realise my ambition for the greater glory of our 
country: to bring about a Franco-Russian agreement; to 
break up the Hapsburg-Hohenzollern alliance; to draw Italy 
nearer to France ! The chief business is to isolate that appal- 
ling menace, the Hphenzollern dynasty. The Hapsburgs 
accept the HohenzoUern yoke with a smile on their lips, but 
with bitterness in their hearts. In Roumania there is nothing 
but hatred for the Hungarian, the Magyar. In spite of this 
feeling, Roumania will swing to and fro between the Ger- 
manic Powers and Russia. Are we merely to be lookers-on at 
the drama that is unfolding? " 

A little later he adds (unpublished letter) : "The Chancellor 
has managed to persuade Italy that her interests are identical 
with Germany's. It lies within our power to open Italy's 
eyes. From now on, Germany will thwart her every attempt 
to realise her aims. Italy will resent this. We shall then be 
able to take advantage of her resentment and lure her away 
from the Germanic Powers. A league of the Latin races 
might even now be formed, with three centres, Rome, Paris, 
and Madrid." 

On January 17, 1878, he writes to Ruiz (unpublished) : 
"So far as we are concerned, peace remains our guiding 

224 



GAMBETTA'S IDEAS 

principle. A day will come when Fortune will play into our 
hands. We shall not venture again upon external action 
except for the purpose of restoring order in Europe and setting 
right once more on its throne. Till then, it will be enough 
for us to preserve unity among the sister races and to develop 
our strength." 

To sum up then : the forecast that sooner or later Europe 
was certain to be set ablaze ; Germany's need of using Austria 
as a tool in her schemes of penetration, peaceful and warlike ; 
a probable understanding between Austria and Turkey; on 
the other side, an inevitable alliance between France, England 
and Russia; the importance of the Eastern Question, on 
which perhaps the solution of the Franco-German quarrel will 
come to depend; a welding together of the Latin peoples — 
France, Italy, Spain, Roumania — and of the Slav races; a 
strenuous effort to sever the bonds between Vienna and 
Berlin — such is the programme, as mirrored in private con- 
versations and letters with Chaudordy, that Gambetta, during 
those months of 1876 and 1877, confides to his friends; a pro- 
gramme of singular insight and wisdom, dictated alike by 
geography and by history, but utterly ignored by all around 
him, since France was wrapped up in her internal disputes. 
It was the great political combination which the logic of events 
was destined to effect forty-four years later. We shall see 
how in his public utterances he was compelled to weaken his 
programme and to make concessions that were not always 
understood. 

At the same moment several members of the Left, at the 
risk of blasting all hopes for a revival of our strength, pro- 
posed that the term of military service should be cut down. 
Gambetta, in agreement with Thiers, combated this move. 
His prime concern, since 1870, had been to restore France to 
her former rank in Europe ; hence his stubborn determination 
that our people should be induced to make the necessary sacri- 
fices for the improvement of the army. 



225 



CHAPTER XV 

THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY 

The Jules Simon Ministry— The 363— The Battle— Death of Thiers— Elections of 
October 14th, 1877 — Fall of Broglie — Leonie Leon. 

The Dufaure Cabinet, caught between the devil of the 
Chamber and the deep sea of the Senate, had fallen; the 
Marshal had sent for Jules Simon. A general meeting of the 
Catholic committees was to be held on April 3. The Govern- 
ment announced that it would not sanction this meeting, 
which at the time was illegal (there was as yet no Dis- 
establishment Act to grant Bishops and Catholics in general 
the right to hold meetings without let or hindrance). This 
Government ukase was not considered valid, and an Address 
was sent to the Pope in the following terms : " Your Holiness, 
in claiming the independence of his ministers, will be up- 
holding the cause of all Catholic peoples and especially that 
of France, the eldest daughter of the Church." A petition 
to the various public authorities was then drawn up: "In 
view of the grave plight in which the Papacy now finds itself, 
the undersigned request you to use every means in your power 
to ensure that the independence of the Holy Father shall be 
respected," etc. The Bishop of Nevers urged the Marshal to 
" break off all connection with the Italian revolution," and sent 
an official rescript to the mayors and justices of the peace in 
his diocese, asking them to endorse his attempt to "make 
these views prevail in the councils of the nation." Jules 
Simon condemned the petitions and the episcopal rescripts. 

On May i an interpellation was made by all the groups of 
the Left. Jules Simon defended the action of the Italian 
Government : " The statement that the Pope is a prisoner is 

226 



THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY 

inaccurate. These repeated assertions are, shall I sa} 
' false ' ? shall I say * mendacious ^? I will go no further than 
to say ' seriously exaggerated.' " He proceeded to read out 
the text of the law of guarantees. 

Gambetta replied (May 4) : "The question is not a religious 
but a political one ; in the name of religion the whole State 
syst' m is being attacked. Those who lead this assault upon 
our institutions are at the head of the Catholic leagues." He 
quotes a Papal brief granting a prelate, the Chancellor of Lille 
University, the power " to confer degrees and even to depute 
this right." He demands the observance of the acts put in 
force by M. de Vatimesnil, by Mgr. de Frayssinons, by 
Charles X.'s Government, by that of Louis Philippe, by the 
Empire. " Show the courage of your convictions, and say 
outright that it is only the Republic that should not have the 
privilege of defending itself!" Then comes the famous 
peroration, the rallying-cry to battle : " There is one thing no 
less abhorrent to this country than the old regime, and that is 
to see clericalism in the saddle. I am only voicing the senti- 
ments of the French people when I repeat what my friend 
Peyrat once said :' Clericalism, there is the enemy ! ' " By 
clericalism he means the interference of the clergy in political 
struggles, that often ill-timed activity whfch, as we have seen 
in the course of this narrative, gave even partisans of the Right 
grounds for complaint. How often Gambetta himself had 
drawn a distinction between religion and clerical meddling 
in political affairs ! How often he had proclaimed his respect 
for freedom of conscience, for Treedom of worship, for the 
national priesthood ! But in these great battles, words and 
blows often carry men beyond their objective and may even 
injure non-combatants. Parties always find it to their advan- 
tage to overdraw the picture, whether for praise or for blame. 
The Conservatives, hard pressed, declared that their opponents 
had flung down the gauntlet to the Church. The enemies of 
faith were not averse to this interpretation, and the orthodox 
were able to assume an air of martyrdom. Thus, as so often 
in our country, extremes were drawn to each other by a sort of 
magnetic pull, and fanned each other's passions. 

227 2 



GAMBETTA 

An article was published in Mgr. Dupanloup's Defense 
alleging that Jules Simon had received instructions to 
break with the Left, and next day in the House a certain 
deputy brought the matter to the Prime Minister's notice. 
" My honour is at stake," was Jules Simon's comment, 
** since the writer of the article labours under the impression 
that when I came down to the House to speak, it is not with 
the motive of expressing my own views, but in obedience to 
a command that has been laid upon my tongue and my con- 
science. This person simply does not know an honest man 
when he sees one " — here he tore up, threw down and stamped 
upon the copy of the Defense which he had in his hand — " if 
he casts aspersions on the honour and the truthfulness of a 
man who for forty years has spoken his mind without reserve 
on every possible occasion, and has told the truth according 
to his lights, without regard to the consequences." Then, 
seeking to remain in the good books of the Elys^e : "The 
honoured name of the President of the Republic has been 
brought into this article. So there is a slander on him as well 
as on me. The profound esteem which, in spite of political 
disagreements, I have always felt for the President's character 
has only increased since I have had the honour to come into 
closer contact with him, and I welcome this opportunity of 
saying that his political conduct fills me more and more every 
day with respectful admiration." 

The Left moved the following resolution: "That this 
House, maintaining that the Ultramontane activities, whose 
renewed outbreak may jeopardise the internal security of the 
country, are a flagrant breach of the State laws, calls upon the 
Government to employ all the legal means at its disposal for 
the repressing of this unpatriotic agitation. ..." The word 
"confidence" was not inserted in the text. The resolution 
was supported by Gambetta. Jules Simon tried to have a 
vote of confidence embodied in the resolution, but was un- 
successful. The resolution was carried by 346 votes to 114. 

The Pope took exception not so much to Gambetta as to 
Jules Simon, and not so much to Jules Simon's speech as to 
his reply. On May 11 he remarked to a party of French 

228 



THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY 

pilgrims who had come to Rome : " Whichever way we look 
in Europe, the prospect is far from hopeful. What reason 
have we for hope, indeed, when in official quarters the truth 
of the Pope's words is flatly denied and he is called a liar?" 
(this was a direct allusion to Jules Simon's epithet, " m-en- 
dacious"). "Such language is altogether unseemly, and a 
disgrace to a Catholic Government." 

A few days later the Ultramontane newspaper Germania 
spoke in no uncertain tones : " The French Prime Minister 
has given the lie direct to the Pope, and his Holiness cannot 
swallow this insult. He has made up his mind to act. The 
Papal Nuncio has received orders to inform Marshal 
MacMahon that the Vatican has decided to break off all rela- 
tions with France, if M. Jules Simon remains in the Cabinet." 
The newspaper added : " The Pope has issued his orders, and 
he has been obeyed." As a matter of fact, there had been an 
exchange of letters on the subject between the Vatican and the 
President. 

The President was exasperated. His satellites could wait no 
longer. The municipal councils in all the boroughs and half 
the general councils in all the departments and arrondisse- 
ments had to be renewed in this very year 1877, and a third 
of the Senate a little later. They had weapons in their hands, 
there was nothing for it but to use them. The first pretext 
that offered itself would be seized. 

On May 5 came the debate on the municipal reform bill. 
The main stress was laid on the publication of reports of 
council meetings, which was approved. Jules Simon was ill, 
and did not take part in the debate. On the 15th the bill 
for the regulation of the Press was discussed. The Right 
upheld the principle that misdemeanours of the Press should 
be subject to police-court proceedings. It called upon Jules 
Simon for an explanation ; he made a discreet reference to the 
embarrassing position in which he was placed by the Marshal's 
attitude. The bill was thrown out by 377 votes to 55. 

Kext day, Jules Simon received the famous letter from the 
President reproaching him for not having fought against 
these two measures : "In view of this inaction on the part of 

229 



GAMBETTA 

the leader of the Cabinet, the question arises whether he still 
has enough influence in the House to make his views prevail. 
An explanation is urgently needed; for I am not, like you, 
respyonsible to Parliament; I am responsible to France, and 
this responsibility was never more pressing than it is to-day." 

Jules Simon went to the Marshal to tender his resignation. 
" We have come to the parting of the ways, you and I," said 
MacMahon. " I would rather be turned out of office than con- 
tinue to take my orders from M. Gambetta." And he decided 
to appeal to the country, asking the Senate for a dissolution. 

The act of May i6, 1877, if not illegal, was undoubtedly 
against the spirit of the Constitution, for the blow was struck 
at a Cabinet which had a majority in the two Chambers, and 
the President's letter was not countersigned by a responsible 
Minister. A hole had been torn in the Constitution at the 
very outset. Instead of a normal appeal to the country, in 
accordance with the English plan, France was confronted 
with an exercise of personal authority which had certainly not 
been foreseen when the new vState system was devised. 

Many years later, Jules Simon, in the course of a witty and 
spirited eulogy of Marshal MacMahon, wrote: '* I have a 
grievance against him. When he dismissed me on that 
sixteenth of May, he sinned against the rules of Parlia- 
mentary procedure and the rules of courtesy. I can forgive 
him for the second offence, which to me is still inexplicable." 

A stranger to the world of statecraft, Marshal MacMahon 
had brought into political life all the loyalty of his nature and 
all the virtues of his profession. Under the Empire, returning 
from Italy in a blaze of glory, he had spoken in the Senate 
against the General Security Act.^ He was a Gallican. But 
the hero of Malakoff and Magenta was more fitted to handle an 
army than a political machine. A soldier at the head in civil 
affairs, civilian interference in matters of strategy — these are 
two fatal mistakes. 

Thus, at the moment when the Republicans were already 

1 A sort of "Defence of the Realm Act," passed after Orsini's attempt to assassinate 
Napoleon III. in 1858, and bestowing upon the Home Secretary somewhat vague and 
elastic powers to deport political suspects. — Translator's note. 

230 



THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY 

beginning to split up, the Opposition came to their rescue 
and forced them to close their ranks again. 

In face of the danger that threatened, the united front which 
Gambetta had vainly counselled in the previous year formed 
itself spontaneously. He emphasised the need for keeping 
cool, and carried a resolution which recalled men's minds to 
the true maxims of Parliamentary government. That very 
evening he wrote: "War has been declared; they have 
challenged us to the fray. Our position is impregnable; we 
occupy the high ground of the law." 

Next day, in the Chamber, there was no Ministry. A note 
informed the House that the Marshal " had resolved to take 
strong measures against Ultramontane intrigues." "Why, 
that's just what we want! " exclaimed Gambetta. He then 
paid a tribute to the President's loyalty and patriotism : " Do 
not turn your back on the Constitution, do not listen to the 
sinister promptings of advisers who will not help you to cope 
with the havoc that they themselves will have wrought. 
Beware lest, behind these schemes for a dissolution, the 
country should scent other designs, and should cry : * The 
dissolution is a prelude to war ! ' Criminal indeed would be 
those who worked for it in that spirit ! " 

" The dissolution as a prelude to war ! " For this phrase he 
was severely taken to task. Nor was the censure undeserved, 
for it is always a misguided policy to drag the foreigner into 
our internal quarrels. Unfortunately, it was not the first time 
in our history that this course had been pursued, and it had 
been condemned by Gambetta himself. These deplorable 
feuds have broken out in all ages and in all countries. Parties 
are merciless. The truth is that Bismarck, involved in a fight 
to the death against the Catholics and the Papacy, dreaded 
the establishment in France of a regime which would have 
given them support. Italy was in like case; King Victor 
Emmanuel's journey to Berlin had been determined upon 
the very day after the Frohsdorf interview. Alarm was 
naturally felt in Rome at every sign that augured for the 
restoration of the temporal power. On May 19 the prefect of 
the Alpes-Maritimes department drew attention to a massing 

231 



GAM6ETTA 

of troops and war material at Ventimiglia, and the official 
Press beyond the Alps announced that a great artillery park 
was being formed at Piacenza and that Spezzia was being 
fortified ; these statements were bluff, perhaps, but could not 
be altogether disregarded. 

The Marshal once more summoned the Due de Broglie, and 
the sittings of the Chamber were suspended for a month, which 
gave the Republicans time to organise their forces. "Keep 
to the path of legality," was the advice given to the Chamber 
by its President, Grevy, "keep to it with wisdom, with 
firmness, with confidence." 

The Left laid their heads together. " It must be made 
known to the world," said Gambetta, " that we are the whole 
Republican party united in defence of political freedom." 
A member: "Like the 221 ! "^ "In reminding us of the 
Restoration period," replied Gambetta, " this gentleman has 
hit the mark, for w^e are faced with arrogant claims much like 
those of Polignac." Spuller drew up a manifesto: "In 
five months at the outside, the voice of France will be heard. 
The country will not go back upon its former decision. The 
Republic will emerge from the ordeal of the polls stronger 
than ever." The manifesto was signed by s^3 members. 

On May 21 Gambetta writes to Ruiz, in Rome (un- 
published) : " We may have as much as five months to waste, 
but there is a consoling feature : the Marshal is losing three 
years of power. Looking upon his fall as a foregone con- 
clusion, I think that we may well see the Congress appoint 
his successor within a few months from now. My mind is 
made up ; in order to checkmate the schemes of my opponents, 
who fancy that it is a master-stroke on their part to raise the 
dilemma of choosing between the Marshal and me, I have 
decided that, when the favourable moment comes, I shall put 
forward Grevy as a candidate. I shall thus have the advan- 
tage of holding serenely aloof from the struggle, of guiding 
public opinion to\vards an impersonal solution and, if I 

* The 221 Liberal deputies who in March, 1830, addressed a sort of "Grand 
Remonstrance " to Charles X., and demanded^the dismissal of the reactionary Polignac 
Ministry .—Translator's notb. 

232 



THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY 

succeed, of putting an end to military control and ensuring 
\hat the civilian spirit shall prevail in the counsels of the 
State. What we have to fear is not some violent coup — this 
I consider, for several reasons, out of the question — but the 
foreigner, who is watching us closely and may profit by our 
political and military disorder. I cannot gauge Germany's 
designs from here, but I am afraid that she is capable of 
anything. The spirit of ambition that has become the very 
breath of her being might lead her to embark in all 
recklessness upon some terrible adventure." 

Abroad, the step taken on May i6 met with a good deal of 
adverse criticism, especially in Germany and Italy. Nor was 
it hailed with any great enthusiasm by the Comte de Paris, 
the Prince de Joinville, the Due d'Aumale and their associates, 
the Due d'Audiffret-Pasquier and the rest. The Bonapartists 
were working for a revolution. One day, when the question 
of attempting some bold stroke was being discussed in the 
presence of the Comte de Paris, he exclaimed : " If necessary, 
I shall take up a rifle to defend tEe Constitution, and the 
liberties of my country!" (Souvenirs d'Estancelin et de 
M. de Limbourg). The more clear-sighteH did not believe that 
the manoeuvre would succeed. Taine wrote: " The more I 
think over the Marshal's latest action, the more injudicious 
does it appear. It is like the charge at Reichshoflfen^ after the 
battle was lost. The elections will send him back a Chamber 
just as Radical as the present one, or even worse. He will 
find himself forced to resign. I can see Gambetta becoming 
President of the Republic four months from now." (May 21.) 

The Government made arrangements for the official can- 
didatures throughout the country, removed the administrative 
and judicial personnel as from May 24, threatened with 
dismissal the lesser functionaries suspected of devotion to the 
Republic, enforced a supervision of restaurants and public- 
houses, withdrew the licences for newsvending, called upon 
the courts of justice to take proceedings against the 
Republican Press, forbade the representatives of the army to 

1 MacMahon commanded an army corps in this battle (August, 1870). — Trans- 
lator's NOTE. 



GAMBETTA 

attend the Hoche celebration banquet, and endeavoured to 
thwart the propaganda of the Left in speech and in writing. 

Gambetta got together the political directors of the great 
Paris newspapers, Emile de Girardin, Adrien H^brard, 
Jourde, Jules Bapst, Edmond About and Auguste Vacquerie, 
and organised with them a committee for opposition and 
propaganda. Mme Adam's drawing-room became a head- 
quarters thronged by the veterans of the Republic and the 
new party that had gathered in their wake. There he met 
Edmond de La Fayette, Lasteyrie, Duclerc, De Marc^re, 
Lesseps, and a number of foreign politicians. 

He now took the field for action. On June 9 he spoke at 
Amiens, where men's hearts could still be stirred by memories 
of the invasion. "The country is sure of itself, but there is 
no self-confidence in those who started this enterprise ! Every 
trader, every manufacturer, every business man was at once 
amazed and indignant, and asked himself whether these would- 
be Conservatives were not the fomenters of perpetual dis- 
order ! " 

On June 10, at Abbeville, he calls attention to a most 
ominous symptom : the spectre of personal power rising up 
with the Republican Constitution. He hurls anathema at 
those who are working for a coup d'etat : "Who are these 
people who dare to implicate the name of the Army and the 
sacred interests for which it stands in Heaven knows what 
infamous conspiracy? " 

On June 16 the Marshal addressed to the Senate a message 
demanding a dissolution. In the Chamber Fourtou, the Home 
Secretary, took the offensive. After reading Gambetta's 
declaration of faith in 1869, he added: "We should have 
either to throw the country into confusion or to break our 
word : those are the alternatives before us ! It is the 
Marshal who, by forestalling a Convention, is saving the 
Constitution. We are the France of 1789, ranged in battle 
order against the France of 1793. You have been lavish 
with your promises to the country : where is your perform- 
ance?" But an unlucky phrase was to stem the current of 
this impassioned oratory. "You have gone so far as to 

234 



THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY 

assert,'* he went on, *' that the Act of May i6 was a menace 
to external peace, forgetting that the men who are in the 
Government to-day were returned at the polls in 1871, that 
they were members of that Assembly which, we may say, 
brought peace to the country and deliverance to the occupied 
regions. ..." At these words Gambetta sprang up, and, 
pointing with outstretched forefinger, cried out in a resonant 
voice that filled the whole Chamber : " There is the deliverer 
of the occupied regions!" The Left rose from their seats 
and repeated his gesture and his words. From two-thirds of 
the benches the deputies leapt to their feet. The cry was re- 
echoed again and again, the Ministerial benches cheered, even 
the Strangers' Gallery joined in the uproar. Gr^vy, the 
President of the Chamber, motionless, looking towards 
Thiers, seemed to be paying him the same compliment. 
Thiers remained in his seat among the benches of the Left ; 
his head bent, his eyes half-shut and moist with tears, his 
hands crossed over his chest, he accepted this sudden ovation, 
while at the rostrum Fourtou, though betraying no emotion, 
seemed completely tongue-tied. "The deliverer of the 
occupied regions! " He whom they had called "Raving 
maniac ! " had paid off old scores. 

Gambetta replied. In the midst of an indescribable din he 
wrestled with his foes for three hours. He was never in better 
form than when the fray was at its hottest. He argued that 
they showed little respect for the Marshal in pitting him, 
Gambetta, against the President of the Republic. The excite- 
ment was at its highest pitch when he spoke of the situation 
in Italy. " You have no right to bring the foreigner into 
our discussions!" someone shouted. Gambetta flashed out 
in retort: "We have the right and the duty to make it 
known beyond the Alps that if by a temporary mishap the 
government of France should fall into dubious hands, the 
nation would disown such rulers ! " And, as a parting shot : 
" We shall go out 363, we shall come back 400 ! " A resolu- 
tion of want of confidence in the Ministry was carried by 
363 votes to 158. 

In the Senate the Due de Broglie spoke in favour of a 

235 



GAMBETTA 

dissolution: "The electors will have to choose between 
Marshal MacMahon and the dictator of Bordeaux, the orator 
of Belleville/ who can barely hold in check the seething mobs 
of Radicalism and the upward movement of new social 
strata." It was thus that his adversaries, by their very 
taunts, enhanced his reputation. 

The more moderate Senators opposed a dissolution. " You 
have deliberately arranged this game, and you will lose it," 
Rene B^renger protested. "You are playing into the hands 
of the extremists, and the moderates cry out in anger that 
you are ruining their work." " A plebiscite will be held," 
said Laboulaye. " The people will be asked to decide between 
the Marshal and the Republic. The word ' Marshal ' will 
signify all that the Republic does not stand for. You are 
bound to fail. Who will take up the cudgels for a Govern- 
ment that has no name, no general policy ? Such an idea is 
mere moonshine. . . . You live in a world of society 
drawing-rooms. Society drawing-rooms are the worst possible 
sources of inspiration, a sort of irresponsible clubs, remote 
from all actualities. You will have failed, and you will have 
placed the Marshal on the horns of a dilemma : to eat 
humble-pie or to abdicate." By 149 votes to 130 the Govern- 
ment was authorised to dissolve the Chamber. On June 22 
Grevy, before announcing the decree of dissolution to the 
House, addressed it in these words: " The country to which 
you must now make your appeal will say that this Parlia- 
ment, in its all too brief career, has never ceased for a single 
day to deserve well of France and of the Republic." 

Gambetta wrote to Ruiz (unpublished) : " The position is 
clear. The Marshal has been driven into a blind alley; he 
must either yield or vanish from the scene. I fancy they are 
already regretting their crazy enterprise. Our adversaries 
show obvious signs of preparing for a climb down. You can 
hear them reiterate, in every key, that in all this they have 
had no other end in view than to uphold the Constitution, 

1 Belleville, Gambetta's constituency, is a rougn quarter of Paris ; the famous 
Limehouse " taunt which used to be levelled at Mr. Lloyd George is somewhat 
similar. — Translator's note. 

236 



THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY 

to preserve peace and (save the mark !) freedom of thought. 
They are feeling their way, they dare not take the plunge. 
The extremist sections are already dissatisfied, and the 
Cabinet is splitting up. There are those who would like to 
proceed to any lengths, who do not shrink from violence; 
there are those who would like to make terms, to patch up 
the quarrel, and to escape the terrible reckoning that is at 
hand. Whatever happens, the ultimate issue is not in doubt ; 
we shall emerge victorious from the ordeal." 

The clash of arms began. Gambetta proclaimed that the 
Republicans were united under one standard, from Thiers 
and Dufaure to Victor Hugo and Louis Blanc. At Lille, on 
August 15, he prophesied that one of two things would 
happen. (As a matter of fact, both events came to pass, one 
after the other.) " When the sovereign voice of France has 
spoken, they will have either to give in or give up." He 
was always ready in this way with some arresting phrase, 
some trenchant epigram, which summed up the situation, 
became a rallying-cry, and was not easily forgotten. Lamar- 
tine says of Mirabeau : "His ringing phrases became the 
proverbs of the Revolution." One might say of Gambetta 
that his ringing phrases became the proverbs of the Republic. 
Never had this great leader of men displayed such energy. 

The Government decided that judicial proceedings should 
be taken against Gambetta for insults to the Marshal. Le 
Soleil^ the Orleanist organ, protested: "The trial will do us 
just as much harm as the speech did ; it will only give him 
a splendid advertisement." Gambetta was sentenced by 
default to three months' imprisonment and a fine of 2,000 
francs. But he managed to drag the affair out so skilfully 
that the new Chamber met, and his immunity as a Member 
of Parliament came to his rescue before the sentence could 
be carried into effect. 

Thiers was drawing nearer and nearer to Gambetta. He 
now entertained the idea of summoning him to office as soon 
as he himself was reappointed President, and of " introducing 
him to Europe." On September 3, however, his plans were 
cut short by death. 

237 



GAMBETTA 

Gambetta was horror-struck at the news : " When I think 
of all that this frightful calamity may lead to, I need all the 
confidence that I feel in France's firmness to refrain from 
shuddering. It is a bolt from the blue. I had been expect- 
ing M. Thiers at five o'clock this evening ; he sent me word 
that he was ill, and at half-past six he was dead! "... 
Paris gave her former President a magnificent funeral. 
" Never should I have dared to hope for so dazzling a 
triumph. I have witnessed the most imposing ceremony of 
a century which has seen so many splendid pageants. Those 
who took part in it are determined to ensure the victory of 
our cause. It has revealed the impotence of those who dream 
of a revolution, and proved to them that they will soon get 
their marching orders. What could be at once more unex- 
pected and more reassuring than that enthusiastic Paris 
crowd, riddled and raked by M. Thiers' gunfire six years 
ago, and now showing enough discernment and patriotism 
to forgive the victor and enrol him among the immortals?" 

The drawing up of the list of official candidates was a 
long and arduous process. The "white ticket" candidates 
included 240 Bonapartists, 98 Legitimists, and 27 Orleanists. 
On September 19 the Marshal issued a manifesto: "Hard- 
fought elections would serve to embitter the conflict. My 
duties would grow more onerous as the danger increased. I 
can neither become the tool of Radicalism nor desert the 
post assigned to me by the Constitution. I shall remain, to 
uphold the Conservative interests with the support of the 
Senate." 

The elections were fixed for October 14. The clergy threw 
themselves into the fray. The Government was compelled to 
urge them to suppress their activities through the medium 
of the prefects (Circulars of October 3 and 6). Six hundred 
and thirteen municipal councils were dissolved; 1,743 mayors 
and 1,334 deputy mayors dismissed; 344 clubs, societies, and 
leagues broken up; 2,067 public-houses closed; 4,779 civil 
servants suspended and 1,385 dismissed; 421 prosecutions 
were instituted for Press misdemeanours, 849 for unlicensed 
newsvending, 216 for booksellers' offences, 170 for seditious 

238 



THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY 

utterances; the sentences, fines and costs amounted to 
1,034,353 francs and 46 years, 3 months and 16 days' impri- 
sonment. Fourtou was sanguine of victory. Broglie said : 
"The silence of the country is terrifying." This son and 
grandson of enemies of the Empire was led by fear of the 
democracy into applying Empire methods. But on that road 
one must either go to the journey's end or fall by the 
wayside. 

In face of this "administrative running amuck" (John 
Lemoine, Journal des Debats), Gambetta, the advocate of 
legal resistance, the masterly tactician, organised the defence 
of the Republic as he had organised that of the nation. 
Presence of mind, fertility of resource, a versatile and persua- 
sive tongue — he had all the gifts, he imparted to all around him 
something of his own fire, he stirred the country to its depths. 
At the same time he set an example of discipline and unsel- 
fishness. At the Chateau-d'Eau circus, before an audience of 
7,000 electors, he backs Gr6vy*s candidature for the Presidency 
of the Republic: "This man so rightly respected for his 
unblemished past, his sterling integrity, a pattern of modera- 
tion and wisdom, of loyalty and honour. ..." He girds at 
those who, in speaking of the ex-President of the Chamber, 
declare that he is an unknown figure to the country at large. 
"In that exalted post he is the first man in France ; the 
national sovereignty is entrusted to his keeping. Set the seal 
upon your victory by appointing him to the supreme magis- 
tracy of France." He, the leader, is generously prepared to 
play second fiddle to the great Republican whom he classes 
as his superior : "I remain in the ranks, not wishing to raise 
myself above men who have devoted a whole lifetime to the 
service of our party." 

On October 14, 317 Republicans were returned to the polls, 
293 of them having been among the 363 of the late Parlia- 
ment ; igg Conservatives, including 99 Legitimists, 44 Bona- 
partists, and 56 Orleanists. In the Journal des Debats the 
Comte de Montalivet singled out the features of resemblance 
between the election of the "221 " and that of the "36s"; 
similar blunders on the part of the Government — faithfully 

239 



GAMBETTA 

adhering, by the way, to the letter of the Constitution — and 
a similar response from the country. 

On October 26 Gambetta said at Chateau-Chinon : " We 
can imagine what the elections would have been like had 
there been no obstacles in the way, no pressure brought to 
bear." He made an appeal to the eight million farmers who 
held the fate of the country in the hollow of their hand : "It 
was not we who started France upon the path of reckless 
adventure; it is not we who dream of absolutism under a 
single ruler." Then the familiar refrain on religion and the 
clergy, an echo from five or six years back, from the speeches 
in Picardy, at St. Quentin and in Savoy : " It is alleged that 
we have invented the clerical bogey. Now I have never 
attacked the Church or its ministers when they confined 
themiselves to their religious and moral sphere. What I have 
attacked, and always shall attack, is the men who try to make 
the Church a lever for political power and mastery, when its 
true function is to help and console." 

After the re-counts the Chamber consisted of 326 Repub- 
licans and 207 deputies of the Right. The Republicans lost 
37 seats, so that their majority had dropped to 119. 

The Marshal, realising his defeat, wished to resign, and 
Fourtou was for following suit. Broglie dissuaded them ; 
he knew that the game was up, but he was valiantly deter- 
mined to face the final encounter. 

The Left proposed the appointment of a Commission of 
Inquiry into Ministerial acts. Here were Broglie and Gam- 
betta at grips, and with them two worlds, two epochs. A 
superb and impressive hand-to-hand struggle between the 
aristocracy and the democracy ! Broglie, pluming himself 
upon his high lineage, with his haughty air, his disdain for 
the rabble, his polished diction, but hard in manner, his 
voice unsympathetic, without warmth or grace ; the other, all 
flame and fury, bubbling over with plebeian vitality, scornful 
of conventions, prone to sweeping gestures and outbursts of 
wrath and sarcasm : whatever opinion one may have of the 
men and the times, such combats between opponents of such 
mettle are a credit to an age and a nation. 

240 



THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY 

Broglie would not hear of an inquiry. He could not regard 
"a new Committee of Public Safety " as qualified to pass a 
verdict. He felt that the battle must be fought with a due 
sense of its importance, and that there must be no hitting 
below the belt. He took up the challenge : the Sixteenth of 
May meant war. "To make our neighbours uneasy as 
regards France's plans, and then to intimidate. France with 
the threat of the foreign peril, that is the manoeuvre in a nut- 
shell. I blush for my country ! " 

Gambetta was no less ready to assume a lofty tone. This 
mighty argument had been degraded into a sort of personal 
conflict between the Marshal and him: "No, no, such a 
plebiscite could not be allowed. I want neither the honour 
nor the disgrace attached to it. . . .^ ' Scorn matched scorn : 
"You are behind the times, M. le Due; you are, and you 
always have been, an enemy of the democracy, an aristocrat; 
you come here, with your air of patrician elegance, to dazzle 
us with your carefully studied epigrams; but you have not 
told us how it is that M. le Due de Broglie, formerly the 
sworn foe of the official candidate system, is carrying out the 
will of the Bonapartist Party, borrowing from that party its 
most odious methods, trying to make himself a name among 
the most skilful election agents of the later Empire ! " 

The Due de Broglie sought to resist, to rely upon the 
Right in the Senate against the majority in the Chamber. 
But the President of the Senate, the Due d'Audiffret-Pasquier, 
maintained that an interpellation regarding an act of the 
Chamber was unconstitutional ; the Orleanists had little 
inclination for resistance ; the Comte de Paris and the Due 
d'Aumale, who had never been greatly in favour of the 
Sixteenth of May coup, were anything but anxious to coun- 
tenance a new adventure. On November 20 the Ministry 
handed in their resignation. Then the Marshal, after trying 
an extra-Parliamentary Cabinet, with General de Rochebouet 
at its head, a Cabinet with which the Chamber refused to 
have any dealings, gave up the struggle and sent once more 
for Dufaure. 

On January 7, at Marseilles, Gambetta repeated his declara- 

241 R 



GAMBETTA 

tions of 1869 : "I am a Government man, not an Opposition 
man ; for one year of power bears more fruit than ten years 
of heroic opposition. In January, 1880, we shall have to 
get past the danger zone of the Senatorial elections; till then, 
no rashness, no quarrelling, no mistakes ! Let us call a halt 
and pitch our camp on the positions we have conquered." 

In February Pope Pius IX. breathed his last. In a letter 
to an intimate friend Gambetta writes: " To-day will be a 
red-letter day, a peace offer from Berlin and perhaps a com- 
plete reconciliation with the Vatican. They have chosen the 
new Pope : the urbane and subtle-minded Cardinal Pecci, 
Bishop of Perugia, the Cardinal of whom old Pius IX. was 
so jealous that shortly before his death he tried to rob him of 
the tiara by making him Chamberlain. This Italian, more 
diplomat than priest, has had a hand in all the intrigues of 
the Jesuits and the foreign clergy in Rome ; now he is Pope, 
and the name that he has assumed — Leo XIII. — seems to me 
a most auspicious omen. I feel sure that we may expect 
great things from this appointment. He is not openly aban- 
doning the traditions and the expressed views of his pre- 
decessor; but his conduct, his acts, his dealing with other 
Powers count for more than his speeches, and if he does not 
die too soon we may look forward to more sensible relations 
with the Church." 

Gambetta was well aware that the Concordat of 1801, whose 
repeal he had demanded in 1869 and again in 1872, could 
not last for ever, that in this respect Bonaparte's work must 
be set aside by the Republic. He had, however, too much 
regard for authority not to be in favour of maintaining the 
influence of the clergy to a certain extent. He knew that even 
under a system of disestablishment there are several points 
of contact, both internal and external, between Church and 
State. He realised that the religious conflict, even if it kept 
his own party together, was bringing about a split in the 
nation, and that for the supreme cause the unity of the nation 
was a vital need. He therefore contemplated the prospect of 
a new settlement with Rome. He dreamt of coming to terms 
with Leo XIII., as he had come to terms with the Orleanists 

242 



THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY 

in order to make the Republic, as he had come to terms with 
the more old-fashioned Republicans in order to make them 
accept the Senate, as he had come to terms with the 
Legitimists, and even the Bonapartists, in order to eject the 
Orleanists from the permanent Senatorial seats, as he was 
now coming to terms with his Belleville constituents in order 
to make them accept the middle way in French policy. He 
was a born diplomat, a past-master in the art of treaty- 
making, of compromise, of combination. He was complex; 
at times there appeared in him even a vein of trickery. 
•' What a profession ! I have to deceive them all so that I 
may serve them better ! ' ' 

The letter concerning Leo XIIL was addressed to a woman 
with whom he had been deeply in love for several 
years past, and who had linked her life with his. 
Before the war he had seen her among the spectators 
at the Corps Legislatif, and soon after the war he 
had seen her again at the National Assembly. L^onie 
Leon was the second daughter of an officer who had 
served at Strasburg under the Due d'Orleans. She was a 
devout Catholic withal. She asked for nothing more than to 
live unknown, in the shadow of her lover and for him alone. 
This did not mean, however, that she renounced her own 
personality, that she merged it entirely in his. She knew 
how to warn him, to calm his transports, to hold him back. 
In him it was a love of the heart and of the mind, in which 
the strands of passion and reason were interwoven. He wrote 
to her every night a full and frank recital of his thoughts and 
actions during the day. He listened to her advice, asked for 
her approval in all that he said or did. Keen-witted, gentle, 
and strong-willed at once, she contrived to exert an ever- 
growing influence over Gambetta's conduct. 

A number of his letters have been published in the Revue 
de Paris (December i and 15, 1906, January i, 1907). Those 
of 1882, on the eve of his death, are no less ardent than those 
of 1873 (the correspondence begins in February, 1873). The 
whole series of letters form a romance that throbs witlt 
passion. Here are some characteristic passages : 

243 R 2 



GAMBETTA 

1874. — " O^'" souls were never in more comiplete harmony, 
and I drink deep draughts of a love such as the most exalted 
types of the human race have dreamed of. You alone among 
women have succeeded in lifting me to these dazzling heights 
of passion and soul-communion." 

August 17, 1875. — *' For me you are always the steady and 
clear-sighted mentor; however deeply I probe the various 
phases of my life since Fate brought us together, I always 
come upon you as the source of inspiration for my best 
actions, and I love you as in days of old the enlightened 
Greeks must have loved their tutelary genius, their own 
personal Minerva. How many mistakes you have saved me 
from ! What words of wisdom you have often put in my 
mouth ! How often you have taught me not to betray anger 
or impatience ! For all this gracious influence I bless you 
from the depths of my heart." 

March, 1876. — " I owe you the greatest of my triumphs, 
and I feel in every fibre of my being that I cannot fully 
achieve them, cannot follow them up, save under your wing." 

May 23, 1876. — " You are my moral and intellectual home. 
I have got so much into the habit of consulting the oracle that 
I must now always have it close at hand. There is in my 
love a strong element of fetish-worship, which I must put up 
with as best I can." 

July 2, 1876. — " Where you are so potent, so divine, is in 
this : that you hold me to my duty, recall me to action, and 
it is in these renewals of my courage that I fathom the 
sincerity and the worth of your devotion." 

Often there is a profoundly human note, a glimpse of those 
complex emotions that throw such a revealing light upon his 
life : * ' He who has not known the intoxication of love has 
never really tasted the sweets of political triumph. What an 
abundance of strength, of courage, of power I draw from you 
as from some inexhaustible mine of moral wealth ! In the 
manifold struggles of my career I can spend what I will, with 
an open hand, never counting the cost, from the hoarded 
reserve of my brain; through mere contact with you I am 
sure to replenish the store. In the words of the Galilean, 

244 



THE SIXTEENTH OF MAY 

thou art the fountain of my life, my fair Samaritan ! " If 
Paradise can be defined as enjoyment without satiety, this 
woman opened its gates to him. 

February 23, 1875. — ** Your advice is the surest and wisest 
guide for my own thoughts, and in the love which I have 
vowed you an ever-growing share of reason and judgment 
plays its part." 

February 22, 1879. — " I know not how to thank you for 
all the dignity and beauty that you confer every day upon our 
mating. It is in this way that I have always passionately 
longed to love and to be loved. To meet such a woman, to 
devote my life to her, to unlock for her the most hidden 
recesses of my soul, to be admitted in my turn into the inner- 
most shrine of her heart, to fill every corner of that heart as 
a lord always ready to obey : my dream has come true, and 
she whom I have won has become the lodestar of my life, 
the secret arbiter of my fortunes." 

Other letters are extant; let us hope that, if they are 
published, the work will be done with discrimination. In 
matters of this sort, a great deal of tact is needed. It is an act 
of treachery to a public man to reveal him in a moment of 
disgust, bitterness or rage ; posterity will always see him 
under that aspect and will judge him by that moment, though 
he himself had soon forgiven and forgotten. 

Gambetta wished to give his name to one whom he already 
looked upon as his wife. With her usual high-mindedness 
she refused, fearing to blight his great political future and 
unable to face a marriage unblessed by the Church. 



245 



CHAPTER XVI 

gambetta and bismarck 
The Presidency of the Chamber 

Plans for an Interview between Gambetta and Bismarck — The Congress of Berlin — 
Resignation of Marshal MacMahon and Presidency of Jules Grevy (January 30 
1879) — Gambetta President of the Chamber (January 31). 

In 1871, in the course of the peace negotiations, Bismarck 
had introduced to Thiers a financier of his acquaintance, 
Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck, who had been Governor of 
Metz during the war. Graf von Donnersmarck had married 
the Marquise de Paiva, who owned the chateau of Pontchar- 
train. In their town house in the Champs-Elysees they used 
to give famous dinners, at which well-known artists and 
literary men were frequent guests. Gambetta was among those 
invited. "One can reconnoitre only in the enemy's country," 
he was fond of saying. On October 17, 1877, Von Donners- 
marck wrote to Bismarck informing him of his relations with 
Gambetta and offering to place at his disposal whatever he 
might glean from the French statesman. "I am on such an 
intimate footing with Gambetta that he comes to see me at 
my place in the country. He has all the Southerner's gift of 
the gab, so that one has more scope for listening than for 
talking oneself. Apart from this, Gambetta is the only 
Frenchman who has trustworthy and accurate information 
about what is going on in Germany. He has acquired this 
knowledge through repeated visits to our country in the 
course of the last few years, during which visits nothing of 
importance has escaped his notice. If a man who knows how 
to keep in the background and is devoted heart and soul to 
your service can be of any use to your Excellency in this 
matter, let me assure you that I am entirely at your disposal." 

246 



GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK 

Bismarck at first turned a deaf ear to this suggestion. On 
October 30 Graf Herbert von Bismarck, speaking on behalf 
of his father, wrote in answer to Von Donnersmarck : " We 
must show some consideration for the good name of a French 
statesman, and be careful not to compromise him through any- 
flagrant dealings with the Chancellor." At the end of Decem- 
ber, Henckel replied : " I undertake to send Gambetta to you 
at Varzin, either publicly or in secret, whichever you prefer." 
Bismarck, however, still could not see his way to accept the 
proposal. He again declared that Gambetta ought not to 
endanger his reputation: "The interests that he stands for 
must be scrupulously guarded." 

Gambetta left for Rome, saw the King, the Prime Minister 
Depretis, and Crispi, the Home Secretary. Still relying on 
his lucky star, he seemed quite ready to proceed, by way of 
Vienna, to Berlin. 

The war between Russia and Turkey was drawing to a 
close. The Russians were at the gates of Constantinople, and 
the Turks were asking for an armistice. On February 19 
Bismarck spoke in the Reichstag and announced that a Con- 
gress would be held. Gambetta wrote to his confidante : " I 
have read the ' Monster's ' speech. I am delighted beyond 
words; it is just what I wanted, just what I was waiting for, 
without daring to count upon it as a certainty. Under the 
cloak of an indirect allusion, he shows that we are a force to 
be reckoned with. He outlines in masterly fashion the balance 
and distribution of power on the continent. It is indeed 
more than we could have hoped for from the capricious and 
turbulent spirit of the adventurer of genius who has welded 
the new Germany by fire and steel. The radiant dawn of 
Right is beginning to peep forth in his soul. It is for us to 
take time by the forelock, to profit by conflicting ambitions, 
so that we may squarely assert our legitimate claims and, in 
concert with hini, lay the foundations of the new order. Thus 
I have reached the pinnacle of my desires : peace assured for 
many years to come, the exhibition no longer in danger of 
being abandoned, the Powers in a fair way to draw closer to 
France if they wish to act, and even if they merely wish to 

247 



GAMBETTA 

deliberate and keep things as they are. To-day will be a 
red-letter day." 

In this first impression there was no little self-delusion, 
as the "wise Minerva" grasped at once; in reading Bis- 
marck's speech, she had not been moved to the same enthu- 
siasm. Spuller said of his friend, later : *' He was too good- 
natured. He did not judge mankind by critical standards." 
But at this moment Gambetta felt that the period of intolerable 
strain for France, a period that had lasted seven years, was 
over, and that she was once more taking her place as a Great 
Power in the councils of Europe. 

Was it incumbent on France to go to Berlin, if invited to do 
so? At the moment when Bismarck was minded to recast 
his religious policy; when Russia, though victorious, was 
worn out by the struggle ; when a new reign was beginning in 
Italy ; when a new Pope was ascending the pontifical throne ; 
when the Universal Exhibition was on the point of opening, 
should France remain absent, mute, isolated, or was it in her 
interest to take her place once more at the European council- 
board? Gambetta at first was for holding aloof (La Repub- 
lique frangaise, cf. his speech of February 21, 1878, in the 
Chamber), suggesting that France, in a conference whose 
trend was one of opposition to Russia, would hazard an 
estrangement from the very Power that she ought henceforth 
to look upon as a prospective ally. After an interview with 
Waddington and Freycinet, however, he changed his opinion, 
and asked : Could we, who have been among the signatories to 
the Treaties of 1856 and 1871, allow them to be revised without 
our co-operation ? 

Ought he, before the Congress, to see the man who was to 
preside over it, "squarely assert our legitimate claims," get 
to the bottom of his real intentions? — " We must either fight 
or make terms," he used to say, and he knew that as yet 
France could not fight. The Universal Exhibition was about 
to open, and France was to display there her renascent 
vigour. He had just returned from another visit to Germany, 
he had inspected her army, he had gauged its strength, he 
knew it to be far superior to ours both in numbers and organ- 

248 



GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK 

isation. We had no allies. The only thing for us to do, he 
held, was to maintain courteous relations with Germany for 
the time being and to profit by them, if we could. For more 
than two years past he had secretly harboured the idea that 
some agreement might be reached, some scheme of barter 
devised. The letters he addressed to Ranc from the end of 
1875, now published for the first time, betray scruples of 
conscience which are all to his credit and disprove certain 
imputations that have been cast upon his character. 

September 20, 1875. — " If by an act of diplomacy we could 
avert from our own heads the conflict that is in the making, 
or at least postpone it, or, best of all, stave off altogether the 
orgy of bloodshed that we see as in a vision, you and I, ought 
we not to put forth our best endeavours, How, you ask ? By 
means of the colonies ! With you I can be perfectly candid : 
which ought we to think more of — our oudying dependencies 
or our future generations? Let us boldly face this painful 
alternative : either the lives of young Frenchmen, or slices of 
our dominions overseas. Should we not take advantage of 
that roving spirit, of the German fondness for colonies? 
They have no colonies, and they want some. We have what 
they want, and have so far craved for in vain. Surely this is 
a chance not to be missed, if only we know how to grasp it. 

X can tell you a good deal about our diplomacy that never 

rises to the occasion, our home policy that wrecks our position 
abroad ! How can we save ourselves from the coming 
deluge ? From you I will not hide my uneasiness, my waver- 
ing moods, my perplexities and my gloomy forebodings. 
Whom else can I confide in ? Who else is there among my 
friends and yours, who would not stab me in the back? 
Would they understand the mental agony I am going 
through? They seem to have forgotten 1870! " 

December i, 1875. — " An unlooked-for opportunity is mine, 
if I care to take it. The Chancellor is coming to Paris ; he is 
trying to make the visit impressive, and says he wants to have 
a talk with one or two French notabilities. Ought I to wash 
my hands of the business ? Should I be doing my duty as a 
Frenchman ? But there, you know that he has visions of a 

249 



GAMBETTA 

colonial future for his country, that his country is strong, 
perhaps invincible. Should we not save our rising genera- 
tion from having to offer a noble, but useless sacrifice? Ii 
they disappear, France will be crippled for ever." 

On April 4, 1878, Von Donnersmarck once more suggested 
the interview to Bismarck. This time the Chancellor con- 
sented, and the meeting was fixed for the 30th, in Berlin, 
where he had to go for the session of the Reichstag. On the 
1 8th, however. Von Donnersmarck received the following note 
from Gambetta : "Man proposes. Parliament disposes. 
'When I hastened to accept your invitation yesterday, I had 
reckoned without my host. The questions that concern the 
War Office have suddenly become extremely urgent. I 
cannot desert my Parliamentary post. Consequently I am 
compelled to postpone the scheme for the present." A 
mere pretext : he was backing out, at heart only too 
glad to break his appointment. It was a snub from the 
vanquished to the victor, to the man at whose nod all Europe 
trembled. 

This projected meeting, when the news leaked out later on, 
gave rise to much angry comment and to controversies which 
have not yet died down. It became a bone of party conten- 
tion. All its features were magnified and distorted, according 
to the dictates of interest or passion. The Royalists, at the 
time when they thought it was a service to their cause to assail 
the memory of Gambetta, made the most of Von Donners- 
marck's correspondence with Herbert von Bismarck. One of 
them, the shrewd and discerning M. Jacques Bainville, who 
has since written a remarkable book, Histoire de deux Peuples 
[France and Germany], translated this correspondence under 
the title Correspondance Secrete de Gambetta et de Bismarck. 
Another issued a pamphlet entitled La Republique de Bis- 
marck. M. Henri Galli has replied to these Monarchists: 
"You denounced Gambetta in his lifetime as a prophet of 
war and revenge, and now, after his death, you denounce him 
for making overtures to Bismarck ! " 

To assert that Gambetta, in going to see Bismarck, was 
writing off Alsace and Lorraine as a loss, is sheer nonsense. 

250 



GAMBETTA AND BISIMARCK 

On the contrary, it was for the sake of Alsace and Lorraine 
that he planned the journey. 

No more proof is needed than the letter we have quoted 
above: "It is for us now squarely to assert our legitimate 
claims and lay the foundations of the new order/' Where he 
was wrong was in adding: "in concert with him" (Bis- 
marck), and when, crediting the great forger with his own 
sentiments, he exclaimed: "You see how the radiant dawn 
of Right is beginning to peep forth in this man's soul." 

One might have thought that on the eve of the Congress of 
Berlin Gambetta intended to discuss the Mediterranean with 
the Chancellor. As the event proved, this topic might well 
have given food for intetesting conversations and profitable 
arrangements. No, his mind was wholly concentrated on the 
Treaty of Frankfort. It was certainly a strange delusion on 
his pari to imagine that the conqueror would have been 
inclined to discuss this subject. Either Bismarck would have 
cut him short — as William II. always did when French poli- 
ticians tried to raise the question — or he would have reminded 
him of Jena and of Germany's need for guarding against an 
attack. A little later, in an interview with Baron von Hol- 
stein, reported by Blowitz, Bismarck, in alluding to the possi- 
bility of a meeting with Gambetta, is said to have laid down 
the condition that there must be no talk about the provinces; 
if the discussion should become public property, he would 
thus be able to give his word of honour that the question of 
the annexed provinces had never been mooted. 

In order to understand why Gambetta was so hopeful, we 
must remember the amazing triumphs of the man who had 
marched from success to success, who knew his own powers of 
fascination ; we must try to picture ourselves in that world in 
which Hohenlohe, Von Donnersmarck and Bismarck's 
agents were ceaselessly burrowing ; we must not forget that 
Thiers had openly declared himself in favour of a reconcilia- 
tion with Germany ; that Emile de Girardin, an intimate 
friend of the Donnersmarcks, deliberately led by them and 
by Hohenlohe on to a false track, was continually striving 
towards the same end in a sensational Press campaign. 

251 



GAMBETTA 

Finally, as M. de Freycinet has pointed out in his Souvenirs, 
Gambetta was at this time coming under the spell of another 
influence. A friend of Gambetta's at San Remo was neigh- 
bour to the Crown Prince Frederick, already stricken by the 
disease that was to carry him off. This prince, married to the 
English princess whom Bismarck hated, had always given 
evidence of a pacific temper. He unbosomed himself to 
Freycinet as regards his conciliatory attitude towards France 
and his desire to find some day a modus vivendi that would 
be acceptable and honourable for both nations. Gambetta 
hoped that the reign of this prince would bring about a change 
of policy. " Who knows? " he said to Freycinet, " the all- 
pervading justice of Providence has great surprises in store 
for us ! " Here, too, he was mistaken ; even if Frederick HI.'s 
reign had lasted longer, he would never have agreed to give 
up a portion of Alsace-Lorraine. 

Why did Bismarck, after repudiating Von Donnersmarck's 
first suggestions at the end of 1877, change his mind a few 
months afterwards ? Was he not sorely tempted to embroil 
France with Russia over the 1856 Treaty, with England over 
Egypt, with Italy over Egypt ? What attractive topics for a 
discussion ! The interview might have opened up alluring 
vistas for French statesmanship,. Public opinion, however, 
would not have understood, and above all the Alsace- 
Lorrainers might have misconstrued the affair. Evil tongues 
would have described as a renunciation what in Gambetta's 
mind was the Very opposite. This is precisely what happened 
later to Jules Ferry when, to prevent Tunis and Bizerta from 
falling into the hands of Italy (who was leaning towards the 
Triple Alliance), he had first to explore the state of feeling on 
the point in Berlin. It was for the same reason that certain 
French politicians declined to return the artful leads of 
William II.; they could not endure the thought that they 
might cause pain or misgivings to a single Alsace-Lorrainer. 
Once more the astute Spuller intervened to guide his friend 
into the paths of prudence. The idea of a parley was 
dropped, never to be resumed. Bismarck, whose pride was 
wounded, always denied these plans for a meeting — here he 

252 



GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK 

has been given the lie direct by his secretary, Busch— and 
treated Gambetta to the end as an enemy. 

Gambetta's opponents, and certain sensitive and perfervid 
patriots, taxed him with having altered the whole course of 
his policy, with having abandoned the idea of revenge, with 
having intended to work for an understanding with Germany. 
If he had wished to bring France nearer to Germany, would 
he have made the entente with England the central feature of 
his programme? He is also taken to task for having con- 
certed with Bismarck to substitute St. Vallier for Gontaut- 
Biron as our Ambassador in Germany. The truth of the 
matter is that after the elections of 1877 Gontaut, who had 
always been scheming for a restoration of the Monarchy, had 
become impossible. He was as impossible in Berlin as 
Von Arnim in Paris, and for the same reasons. 

In our own day, the spirit of Gambetta's former enemies has, 
reappeared to frame, with more justice, a general indictment. 
I can imagine one of those great Monarchists, high-souled 
and upright, who are the ornaments of their party, loyally 
searching his own conscience and asking : Was Gambetta 
to blame, were the Republicans to blame if, in 187 1, after the 
manifesto of July 4 on the white flag, the Royalist majority 
created the title and functions of the President of the Republic 
and decreed that the Republican system should last as long 
as their majority held together; if in 1873, after the reading 
of the letter of October 27 on the white flag, it decided that 
Marshal MacMahon should retain for seven more years the 
magistenal office with which he had been temporarily 
invested? Were the Republicans to blame if the Monarchist 
Assembly was without a monarch ; if the pretenders succes- 
sively compassed each other's downfall ; if the Comte 
de Chambord, in rejecting the tricolor, buried the Legitimist 
kingship with his own hands ; if a section of the Right frus- 
trated the Due d'Aumale's candidature for the Presidency ; 
if the Comte de Paris, from fear of the Empire, encouraged 
his followers, first to found, then to maintain the Republic ? 
'Were the Republicans to blame if the Conservative party, in ^ 
turning out a Cabinet which had a majority in both Cham- 

253 ' 



GAMBETTA 

bers, tampered with the Constitution and the parliamentary 
system at the very outset, clogged up and destroyed the safety- 
valve and discredited the appeal to the country, the supreme 
safeguard of national sovereignty ? And could he not add 
to-day : Were the Republicans to blame if the Conservatives 
did their share towards upsetting more than fifty Ministries in 
forty-four years ? Could he not, finally, re-read the pages of 
M. Denys Cochin (Louis Philippe, 1918, pp. 77, 78) on the 
emigres, who " by contagion with the world " did '* incalcu- 
lable harm to the king," and those of M. Jacques Bainville 
(Histoire de trois generations, pp. 36, 37) on the " ultras " 
of the Restoration (" no one thought he had made his mark 
unless he demolished something "), their " levity " and their 
"mania for destruction," those "ultras" who "gleefully 
mingled their ballot-papers with those of the Left, in order to 
overthrow the Ministers whom their king had chosen " ? The 
fundamental trait in all these malcontents was a "delight in 
making havoc," and " instinct for anarchy." Ah, if only the 
French Conservatives had displayed as much wisdom in 
politics as they have displayed courage on the battlefield ! 

We have seen how Gambetta entrusted Ranc with his most 
important secrets. Arthur Ranc was always one of his best 
friends, one on whom he could unfailingly rely. He had no 
Genoese suppleness, and he was not the man who would have 
made the speech on the Athenian Republic. He was shy at 
bottom, taciturn, a stubborn fighter in debate, but a thorough 
gentleman, honourable and trustworthy. He seemed to us a 
sort of Alceste^ in politics. He professed a keen appreciation 
of Blanqui. He was a first-rate journalist. Ranc did outpost 
duty for Gambetta in the lines of the Extreme Left, just as 
Spuller did in the lines of the Moderates and Liberals. He 
was the Jacobin Gambettist, just as Spuller was the Girondin 
and Feuillant Gambettist. His hatred of the Empire had 
proved a bond between him and the young barrister 
De Delescluze. Like him, he thought that the mingling of 

* The leading figure in Moliere's Misanthrope, distinguished for his bluntness of 
speech and cynical views of his fellow-men. — Translator's note. 



GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK 

politics with religion did no good either to religion or to 
politics. He was too astute not to see that certain men who 
clamour for free thought are impelled, in their heart of hearts, 
by instincts of the confessional; but his own attachment to 
these principles was free from any such alloy. He was a 
robust gladiator, full-blooded, a trifle rough; but he had a 
political brain ; that is why he loved Gambetta and Gambetta 
loved him, though all the while fearing him and striving to 
keep him in check. 

The Chamber resumed its sittings from April 29 to June 11. 
Gambetta, re-elected chairman of the Budget committee, was 
everywhere at once. He secured the voting of a credit which 
enabled the territorial force to be summoned for the first 
time to the colours. 

Great public works, canals, harbours, railways, undertaken 
at the instance of M. de Freycinet, who had become Senator 
of the Seine department in 1876, afterwards Minister of 
Works ; an inquiry into the economic condition of France ; 
schools built : the Republican party and the community as 
a whole had every reason to be satisfied. On May i the 
Exhibition was opened. It seemed as if the dark days were 
over, as if France were once more raising her head. 

On May 24, at the Cirque Am^ricain, Gambetta exclaimed : 
" The more I review the actions and the progress of the 
French nation, the more do I feel that nothing can resist or 
impede the onward sweep of this movement, a movement 
which by drawing all Frenchmen close together, leaves no 
further loophole for division, for anarchy, for violence, for 
corruption, for internal feuds; the more do I feel that we are 
on the verge of that blessed, thrice-blessed moment when 
there will be only one creed, one party, one flag, one 
France ! " In this cry from the heart, the very pith and 
marrow of the man is revealed. And the famous saying, so 
often quoted, which to-day appears to us a truism, but which 
then was a symbol of the revived national unity : " As for me, 
I am broad-minded enough to be at once a worshipper at 
the shrine of Joan the Maid and an admirer and disciple of 
Voltaire! " 

255 



GAMBETTA 

June 3 saw the first meeting of the Congress of Berlin. 
Bismarck barred the way to Russia, installed Austria- 
Hungary in Bosnia-Herzegovina and laid the train for 
Teutonic penetration into the Balkans. England gained 
the Sultan's reluctant assent to her occupation of Cyprus: it 
was the price of Austria-Hungary's occupation of Bosnia- 
Herzegovina, and for Lord Beaconsfield it meant fulfilment 
of the dream he had toyed with as early as 1847 in Tancred. 
For France it was a slap in the face. Our chief mouthpiece, 
Waddington, was indignant, and told Lord Beaconsfield 
that France had no other course open to her than to leave the 
Congress. Lord Salisbury, who expected something of the 
sort, at once turned the talk upon Egypt and Syria, and said 
abruptly to Waddington, " You can't leave Carthage in the 
hands of the barbarians." As regards Egypt, Waddington ^ 
wanted no more than a statement confirming the equal rights 
and equal influence of the two Powers, but, alas ! we know 
the value of these dual controls, a hotbed of eternal disputes, 
in which one of the two parties is inevitably a dupe. On 
Tunisia Lord Salisbury added : " There you can do whatever 
you think fit. It is no concern of ours." This line he took 
up by arrangement with Bismarck. 

Our plenipotentiaries, Waddington, St. Vallier and 
Desprez, fully alive to the advantage of having England's 
proposals ratified by the Congress, made out a draft for a 
resolution and sent it to Paris for the Government's approval. 
The Cabinet, however, fearing a trap, refused to commit itself. 
After the Congress, however, Waddington secured Salis- 
bury's backing for his suggestions as to Egypt and Tunisia. 
" His Majesty's Government," said the British Minister, 
" has expressed its keen appreciation of the success that has 
attended France's experiments in Algeria, and of the great 
civilising work that she has undertaken in that country. The 
presence of France on the North African coast must result in 
enabling her, whenever she thinks fit, to exert an effective 
pressure upon the Tunisian Government. The contingency 
is one that the British Government has long regarded as 
inevitable." 

256 



GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK 

This exchange of letters throws a vivid light on what is to 
follow. But if the Chancelleries knew it, France was com- 
pletely in the dark. She was not privy, either to England's 
overtures to our representatives, or to the correspondence 
between the two Cabinets. She only knew the announcement 
made by Waddington in the Senate during the Budget debate 
of 1879, when he congratulated France on " having remained 
free from commitments." In truth, it was no policy of empty 
hands. Yet who to-day would blame our representatives? 
They would deserve censure if they had acted otherwise. 
And, in our opinion, the refusal of the Government to concur 
in their suggestions can only be deplored, Italy's resentment 
would have been less acute, and we should not have furnished 
her with a pretext — or a motive — for allying herself with the 
Central Powers. 

After the Congress, Gambe'tta granted to the Times an 
interview in which, commending the idea of closer relations 
between England and France, he added: " An alliance with 
Russia resting upon absolutism is unthinkable." It was con- 
sidered safe to infer from this pronouncement that Gambetta 
set his face against the scheme of a Franco-Russian alliance ; 
[but the unpublished letters cited above show that he did 
nothing of the sort. The fact of the matter is that he was 
addressing the English public, just after the Anglo-Russian 
dispute and at the moment when the Mediterranean question 
was coming to the fore. He took care, by the way, to win 
Russia's good graces by saying : " I think that Russia did 
a great service to the ideal of public law when, despite the 
lack of cohesion then prevailing in Europe, she agreed to 
submit the San Stefano Treaty in its entirety to the approval 
of the Powers." He went on to observe, regarding the Triple 
Alliance of 1873: "France has the right to ask herself 
whether the Congress of Berlin has left the Triple Alliance 
of 1873 standing where it did. It would be difficult, I think, 
to answer this in the affirmative. The position assumed by 
Austria in the new Slav States, of which Bosnia-Herzegovina 
is justly regarded as the centre, makes that Power anything 
but an ally of Russia. . . . The Congress of Berlin has com- 

257 ^ 



GAMBETTA 

pletely altered the basis on which the entente of 1873 rested, 
and France has every reason to be gratified at the change in 
a combination designed to leave her friendless, if not to attack 
her point-blank." 

Bismarck, after successively defeating Denmark, Austria 
and Russia, had worsted victorious Russia without coming to 
blows; he had linked Austria-Hungary to Germany and 
widened the sphere of Teutonic influence in the Balkans. The 
Congress of Berlin bore within it the seed of future Balkan 
wars and of the world-war; but it gave a free hand to England 
and France in the Mediterranean. 

About this time Collectivist Socialism began to make its 
appearance in France. At the end of 1877 M. Jules Guesde 
had issued the first number of L'Egalite. In a Labour Con- 
gress held at Lyons from January 28 to February 8, 1878, 
the disciples of Collectivism had tried to force their views 
upon the rest, but the effort had failed. The Exhibition was 
seized upon as an opportunity for attempting to convene an 
International Labour Congress. Jules Guesde was at the head 
of the movement. The organisers were arrested (September 4), 
prosecuted and found guilty. Jules Guesde appeared in court 
on October 22 and pleaded for his fellow-defendants. He 
demanded the establishment of an " equalitarian " society in 
place of the " feudal " society of to-day. 

At the Exhibition, on November 8, Gambetta said to the 
working-men's deputation from the Aveyron : " Those who 
imagine that it is the duty, or that it lies within the power, of 
the Government to secure the happiness of all, are pursuing a 
mirage. Strictly speaking, there is only one thing that a 
Government owes to all, and that is, justice. Every man 
being his own master, it rests with him to make himself happy 
or unhappy by using his freedom to good or bad purpose. 
The State does no more than guarantee an equality of rights 
to everyone, be he rich or poor, high or low. What we want 
is not an aristocratic or a middle-class or a proletarian 
Republic, but a national Republic." A rather limited social 
programme — ^the programme of a generation that had played 

258 



GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK 

its part under the Commune ! The problems still remained 
and cried out for a solution. Collectivism, with its slogan 
"the rich always getting richer, the poor always getting 
poorer" — a theory which even the followers of Marx, such 
as Bernstein, admitted later on to be a fallacy — the class- 
struggle, destined to culminate one day in Bolshevism, 
should have been combated with a programme of bold and 
far-reaching reforms; but other questions were cropping up 
at the moment. Three years later, when Gambetta came into 
power, his Ministers were to introduce measures dealing with 
trades-unions, old age pensions and accident insurance. 

In September, Gambetta went on a tour in the Dauphin^, 
where his voice had not lost its power to thrill. At Valence, 
his reception was enthusiastic. Old Madier de Montjau was 
at once delighted and alarmed : delighted because his young 
friend's triumphs were all to the good of the Republic; 
alarmed because in a democracy such idolatry has its 
dangerous side, especially for the idol himself. He smiled, 
yet could not repress a frown. He administered to the con- 
quering hero a discreet warning; he drank "to the health of 
the Republic ! " Gambetta wittily played up to the veteran 
warrior : " We must be on our guard against the spell of 
personality; nothing can do greater harm than to make any 
man the object of blind adoration. ..." He urged the need 
of unity among the Republicans :" If there are differences 
between us, they are differences of form and degree, not of 
kind. And in these disputes we can always appeal to an 
arbiter who will give us his casting vote — I mean, public 
opinion. It is only a trained army that can win victories." 

At Romans, on the i8th, flowers were strewn in his path; 
his audience of six thousand were in a jovial mood. Yet he 
seemed far from well. His intimate letters tell us something 
of this growing sense of fatigue. He dealt with the possibility 
that Marshal MacMahon, after Senatorial elections in favour 
of the Republicans, might feel in duty bound to resign. There 
was nothing to fear, he held, as regards an interregnum ; if 
the situation seemed likely to become acute, less than an hour 

259 S 2 



GAMBETTA 

would elapse bet\v-een the abdication of the old chief and the 
accession of the new. He hoped, however, that this crisis 
would not arise, for it was in the public interest that the 
Constitution should be respected, and the President should 
exercise his mandate up to the last moment. 

With the career of the monarchy for the past hundred years 
— throughout which, except for the case of Charles X., the 
sceptre had never been handed on in regular fashion to a suc- 
cessor — he contrasted the Republican organism, the stability 
ensured by the unbroken rule of law. " And when you can 
say that a President who owes his position to your opponents 
and is certainly, in his heart of hearts, no passionate admirer 
of our new system — when you can say that such a President 
has fulfilled his mission, and that at the expiry of his term of 
office the nation has found itself passing quite smoothly from 
one Presidency to another, then you will have vindicated our 
movement, not only for France but for the world, in the only 
possible way : you will have taken a step forward." 

Knowing all the while how many weak joints there are in 
the Ministry's armour, he remains *' a staunch Ministerialist." 
He sings the praises of the army, which must remain the 
Republicans' first care. He reminds his hearers of the recent 
review at Vincennes, where our reservists appeared for the 
first time :" On that day I saw many an eye grow wet with 
tears, I heard many remarks that were passed, and I realised 
that no interest was more vital to the nation than that of the 
army; for it is the faithful representative of France, it 
should no longer do service but for her honour and her 
independence." 

On religion, he strikes the familiar note : " No, we are not 
the enemies of religion. On the contrary, we pay willing 
homage to freedom of conscience, we respect every form of 
religious or philosophical opinion. I acknowledge no man's 
right to choose, in the name of the State, between one creed 
and another, between two theories on the origin of the world 
or upon an after-life. For the ministers of every Church I 
have the profoundest esteem. They have duties to perform 
towards their fellow-men, but they also have duties towards 

260 



GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK 

the State, and what I require is that they shall carry out those 
duties. ..." His remarks are always aimed at the official, 
not the secular, clergy : ** The laws must be enforced, and no 
one must be specially favoured." 

This is perfectly sound. The State cannot determine what its 
citizens are to believe or not. Philosophical tenets lie outside 
its sphere. If the State attempted to impose any particular 
doctrine, it would become a Church, that is to say, a corpora- 
tion of men professing the same compulsory beliefs. That 
is why Mirabeau said: "Religion can no more be national 
than conscience." The State can neither ordain nor condemn 
any form of faith. The monarchy tried the experiment, and 
failed, and the same fate befell Napoleon. 

The Romans speech wound up with an allusion to the 
amnesty : " Then a France that has recovered her calm, a 
France sure of herself, solely engrossed in developing her 
ample resources, a France that is restored, and relies on a 
truly national army, will be able to stand before the world free 
from the toils of her enemies, having, I hope, by mercy and 
indulgence gathered all her children under her wing, and to 
say, " I am strong, I am invulnerable, because I uphold 
liberty and peace." 

At Grenoble (October lo) he sets forth the programme for 
the approaching Senatorial elections : *' It is essential to have 
a Senate which shall be a school of Government, a friend and 
a mentor to the Chamber of Deputies, ' an Assembly of 
control, not of conflict. . . .' " 

In order to recruit his flagging energies, he looked for a 
place in the neighbourhood of Paris where from time to time 
he might be able to enjoy a brief respite, with the woman who 
had now become his inseparable companion. On the boun- 
dary between Sevres and Ville d'Avray he had found a modest 
abode, Les Jardies, once occupied by Balzac's secretary. He 
was beginning to feel the limitless depression that sometimes 
arises from the sight of crowds ; what he wanted now was the 
trees that do not chatter, the waters that sleep, and more than 
ever, the woman who could make him forget the world and its 
troubles. " How I revel in the unaccustomed delights of soli- 

261 



GAMBETTA 

tude, in this great soothing silence, in the kindly shelter of 
the woods, in these unruffled, slumbering pools set in masses 
of fragrant heather, and above all in the power to commune 
with myself, to think things out at leisure, beyond the reach 
of the jostling, jeering multitude. It is not my body but my 
soul that here gains freedom, peace, the healing balm of rest." 
(July 28, 1878.) And on November 3, on his return from a 
speech-making campaign in the Dauphin^ : " I asked Testelin 
to stay to dinner. He sat in your place at table. He rounded 
off the meal with a toast that went straight to my heart. He 
drank a glass of Cape wine to the honour of the fair wood- 
nymph who under the trees of Ville d'Avray has brought me 
back to health, to my future.'' 

The Chamber reassembled on October 28. There was an 
acrimonious debate on the subject of disputed elections. The 
ex-Minister of the Interior, Fourtou, defended himself by 
attack. Dufaure flung down his famous challenge to the 
heroes of the Sixteenth of May affair : " You who speak and 
ask me what I stand for, will you be good enough to tell me 
what views you stand for? Yes, there is a party without a 
name ! " An interruption from Gambetta led to a bloodless 
duel with pistols between him and Fourtou. 

On January 5 came the Senatorial elections. There were 82 
seats to be filled. Sixty-six Republicans were returned, this 
assuring the Left a majority of some 40 to 50 votes. The 
Republic had the upper hand in both Assemblies. 

On January 28 nine army corps commanders, who had ex- 
ceeded the legal period of their command, were relieved of 
their duties. To the Marshal, this was the last straw : out of 
a fellow-feeling for old comrades-in-arms he handed in his 
resignation. Jules Gr^vy was at once elected in his stead. 
Waddington became Prime Minister, while retaining the 
position of Foreign Secretary; L^on Say remained at the 
Treasury, Freycinet at the Public Works, while Jules Ferry 
became Minister for Education (February 4, 1879). 

Waddington, a scholar, an expert on coins and archaeology, 
a member of the Academic des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 
a devotee of book-lore, Anglo-Saxon in his bearing and his 

262 



GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK 

mentality, seemed to have studied ancient rather than modern 
history, but as a matter of fact he was well versed in both, and 
was to prove it before long. He was, however, less at home 
in the Chamber, less familiar with the intricacies of the 
Parliamentary chess-board. 

Ardent admirers of Gambetta, such as M. Joseph Reinach 
and M. Gabriel Hanotaux, maintain that Gr^vy, when he 
became President in 1879, ought to have offered the Premier- 
ship to Gambetta, the real leader of the majority. This view 
does not find favour with all Gambetta's partisans : some hold 
that at this juncture, the Senate being at odds with the 
Chamber, Gambetta would have worn himself out uselessly in 
the ensuing conflicts. He, himself, by the way, thought that 
his hour had not yet struck : he offered himself for the 
Presidency of the Chamber and was elected on January 31, 
by a majority of 314 out of a total of 405, He took his seat in 
the Presidential chair on February 6. On this occasion he 
spoke most flatteringly of Grevy : " I am succeeding to the 
great citizen, the great statesman whom the French electorate, 
without a moment's hesitation, have summoned to the Presi- 
dency of the Republic. In that office he will enjoy the reso- 
lute support of France, the unswerving loyalty of Parliament, 
and the esteem of the world at large. If he is to-day the head 
of the nation, he remains our teacher and our model." Then, 
in words destined to mark a decisive stage in his thought : 
" We should all feel now that the Governments whose watch- 
word was destruction have had their day. Our Republic, 
having at last emerged victorious from the party fray, must 
enter upon an epoch of organising and creating." 

Under a parliamentary regime, the President of the 
Chamber must be independent of parties and of the Govern- 
ment. This independence is the very basis of his authority. 
He speaks, he acts in the name of the Assembly as a whole. 
No other conception of the Presidency is compatible with the 
existence and the rights of a responsible Ministry. In the 
United States, the representative system, under which the 
Ministers are not members of the Legislature and are depen- 
dent on the President of the Republic, has led to different 

263 



GAMBETTA 

results. The legislative power, unless firmly organised, ran 
the risk of being crippled by the executive, and accordingly the 
threads of legislative action were concentrated in the hands of 
the official who presides over Congress, the official known as 
" the Speaker." But for the name, he has nothing in common 
with the English Speaker of the House of Commons. Origi- 
nally he was able to propose Bills, resolutions and amend- 
ments. Even to-day, he is not merely the chairman of the 
deputies, he is to some extent their chief. At times he has 
even thwarted the President of the United States. This posi- 
tion of the Speaker is closely bound up with the whole repre- 
sentative system of the country ; it is an extreme consequence 
of the careful separation of functions, and is quite in keeping 
with the spirit of the American Constitution, which is designed 
to prevent any authority from absorbing the others and to 
maintain the whole structure in a state of perfect balance. To 
disturb the equipoise of functions would be to strike a blow at 
the very vitals of the Republic. 

In the nature of things, there can never be any parallel 
between the Presidency of the United States Congress and 
the Presidency of the French Assemblies. With a constitu- 
tional Chief of State and a responsible Cabinet, a political 
Presidency of the Chamber (by which I mean that of one who 
remains a party man) is an absurdity. If ever the party spirit 
should raise its head in this office, the parliamentary regime 
would be vitiated in its first principles. 

A President of the Assembly must keep in touch with all the 
essential business of the House ; but a President who comes 
down from his chair to cross swords in the party fray, to 
support or oppose a Government, to dictate a policy or to 
defend one — all this, from the standpoint of parliamentary life, 
is sheer anarchy. Such fumbling experiments might, at a 
pinch, be excusable where a Republic was still in its infancy 
and had just begun learning to walk, but fhey are quite 
unworthy of a mature democracy. The Republic, five years 
after the enactment of the Constitution, would have had to be 
vigorous indeed to survive such a distortion of its principles. 
In France, throughout all our revolutions and changes of 

364 



GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK 

government, we have had in the Chamber types of Presidents 
rather than a type of Presidency. We have had more than 
one President who was a party man, even a fighter, which 
shows that in the practical working of parliamentary 
institutions we are centuries behind the English. 

Dupin, in the Legislative Assembly, led from his chair a 
daily campaign against the Mountain, ^ and thus indirectly 
paved the way for the coup d'etat. In the same way as 
Sauzet's weakness had contributed towards the fall of the 
July Monarchy, Dupin's pugnacious temperament contributed 
to the fall of the Second Republic. 

The early stages of the Third Republic, on the other hand, 
were favoured by a fortunate event. We have seen how, at 
Thiers' advice, Jules Gr^vy was elected President of the 
National Assembly by the Royalists as well as by the Repub- 
licans. Gr^vy had the essential virtues of a President of the 
Chamber : clarity of vision, self-possession and fairness. The 
honour thus paid to him by his political opponents lent his 
Presidency a unique weight from the very outset. Not that 
a President elected by members of his own party alone cannot 
attain to the same degree of fairness ; but it is obviously more 
easy for this functionary to hold his own against antagonists 
who have already acknowledged his title to respect : better 
equipped for keeping them in check, he also is under a 
stronger obligation to humour them and to ensure that their 
rights shall not be disregarded. 

Gambetta presided over the Chamber with tact, kindliness 
and good humour. But, at the time when he took his seat in 
the chair, he had become the unquestioned leader of the 
Republican party; in the eyes of his friends, his real place 
would have been on the Ministerial benches ; he alone could 
have staved off, if not prevented altogether, the disruption of 
the Republican forces. As it turned out, he was frequently to 
come down from the presidential chair to reappear at the 
rostrum and endeavour, at critical moments, to direct his party. 

^ The name originally given to those members of the 1792 Convention who occupied 
the topmost benches in the Chamber, and were always in favour of violent measures. 
-Trat^slator's note. 

265 



GAMBETTA 

The Republicans, in nominating him, marked him out as the 
potential head of the Cabinet. 

Now the practice of making the Presidency of an Assembly 
the stepping-stone to the Premiership is one that could be 
resorted to in the early days of a new system, when the rules 
were as yet not clearly defined ; but in normal times it is an ill- 
advised practice, putting the Cabinet in a false position, 
forcing it to meet its liabilities before they fall due, and 
placing it at the mercy of its successor. The influence that 
the President of an Assembly can wield over those who 
depend upon its goodwill is already great enough, and there 
is no need to entice him by the bait of future leadership to 
assert it over the Executive. From this point of view, the 
Presidency of the Senate has always conformed with the true 
maxims of parliamentary government, whereas at first the 
Presidency of the Chamber did not observe them as it should 
have done. 

Moreover, the qualities and virtues essential to a President 
of the Chamber are not those of a Prime Minister. Often 
they are very opposite. One who has presence of mind in the 
chair may have none at the rostrum, and vice versa. The two 
positions are entirely different, and each needs special 
capacities. The fire and vehemence that are a source of 
strength at the rostrum are a source of weakness in the chair. 
They marred the Comte de Serre's Presidency under the 
Restoration, and they proved more serviceable to Gambetta 
at the rostrum than in the chair. 

Jules Gr^vy had shown himself a model holder of the post, 
first in the National Assembly and then in the Chamber. At 
the time of his appointment to the Presidency of the Republic 
he was sixty-one. By one of those paradoxes that occur so 
frequently in history, and not least in ours, he became the 
watchdog of a Constitution which he himself had not desired, 
which he had fought against with might and main, clinging 
stubbornly to the ideal embodied in his amendment of 1848, 
which had made his name : a single Assembly, and a Prime 
Minister charged with the executive power and dismissible 
at a moment's notice. Later, Gr^vy had reappeared in the 

266 



GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK 

Corps Legislatif. He had refused to join the National 
Defence Government, for he would recognise no government 
that had not a legal basis. A fine type of our middle class at 
its best, he was much addicted to letters, knew Horace and 
Racine by heart and would quote them at length, as Gambetta 
used to quote Rabelais and Mirabeau. When my father intro- 
duced me to him at the Elys^e — I had then just entered 
Parliament — he was at pains to show off his literary attain- 
ments, and after discoursing eloquently on Hugo, Lamartine, 
De Musset and De Vigny, he recited to us, straight off the 
reel, the hundred and fifty verses of Les Etoiles, from the 
Secondes Meditations [of Lamartine]. In his cult for 
Lamartine, who had not yet quite retrieved his unmerited 
disgrace, I seemed to detect a certain resentment at the rather 
coarse popularity with which Hugo's glory was then alloyed ; 
but one felt, from his manner of delivery, that the veteran 
jurist, the terse and lucid orator, admired in Lamartine the very 
reverse of what so many people have seen in him, those touches 
of faithful and vivid realism, the clear light which the skies of 
Milly had brought to the eyes and the soul of the young poet, 
and which he compared to that of Attica. Besides being 
devoted to letters, Gr^vy was learned in the law, and also, 
when he went to Mont-sous- Vaudrey, a capable sportsman 
and a crafty peasant, with a keen sense of the value of land, of 
men, and of money. His speeches were cold and laconic, and 
every word of them told ; his reasoning was vigorous and 
subtle; he was wary, reserved, always courteous and dignified. 
His geniality was always tinged with prudence, he never let 
himself go, never painted in flamboyant colours. A striking 
contrast to Gambetta, the man of the people, with his ardent, 
generous nature, his impetuous flow of language ! The 
mountaineer from the Jura could feel no real sympathy with 
the child of the sun-bathed Mediterranean shores. He found 
him too noisy, too effervescent. Himself like a sealed book, 
he had no love for one who wore his heart upon his sleeve. 
His eyes could not stand the glare of that mighty flame, his 
soul was oppressed by that formidable popularity. He had 
been informed of the plans for the interview with Bismarck, 

267 



GAMBETTA 

and scented danger in the proposal. Then, too, Gambetta 
wanted a solid, compact majority, with a strong executive 
at its head, and himself at the head of that executive, for a 
drastic policy at home and abroad. Gr^vy, on the other hand, 
was no enthusiast for action, he shrank from adventures, he 
saw everything from the angle of home politics, and after the 
fevers and shocks of the past decade he preferred a quiet life, 
men and Ministries that would let sleeping dogs lie. He was 
a President for a convalescent France. (See his conversation 
with Scheurer-Kestner on Alsace-Lorraine in July, 1871, 
Publications of the Gambetta Society.) After Gambetta's 
d;eath, his legal knowledge and his self-possession stood 
France in good stead at the time of the Schnaebel^ incident. 

The tribune's fair helpmate, living quietly amid the shady 
bowers of Les Jardies, who a short while before had been less 
favourably impressed than he by Bismarck's speech, was 
again none too well pleased at his appointment to the Presi- 
dency of the Chamber. He might think, she suggested, that 
it was merely a temporary side-tracking, since Gr^vy did not 
wish to summon him to office ; but was he certain that he was 
not being driven down a blind alley ? And was it a position 
that suited him ? He writes to his wood-nymph, trying to 
reassure her : " It seems to me that, at a distance, you pass a 
stern, a bitter judgment on what is done and cannot be undone. 
Your vision is distorted by love. I should like to explain to 
you the reasons for being glad, to prove to you that I have 
chosen the better part, the nobler way. . . . From now 
onward, the terrible campaign that has lasted eight years is 
over so far as I am concerned. I shall be able to proceed to 
the second programme, to external action, and, keeping above 
and outside the party turmoil, to choose my time, my path, 
my methods. ..." Thus the Presidency of the Chamber 
was, in his eyes, a post for listening and waiting, a stepping- 
stone : " I shall be able to proceed to external action," " I 
shall be able to choose my time." But he was not time's 
master I 

On July 14, 1879, the first review of the remodelled army 

268 



GAMBETTA AND BISMARCK 

took place. He wrote to Les Jardies : " As soon as I set eyes 
on our young soldiers, I felt my loftiest and most sacred 
hopes stirring in my soul, and those great designs which I 
can never abandon. I came away from the spot with my mind 
braced and invigorated. On my return to town, I found once 
more my beloved Parisian populace. They gave me a right 
royal welcome, they cheered themselves hoarse, but at heart 
I regard these ovations only as a means of attaining the 
patriotic goal I have set before me, never as a mere personal 
tribute. From such triumphs I always come back better, 
stronger, more confident." 

Always he shows optimism, not without a touch of 
braggadocio, but a fervent patriotism, a passionate devotion 
to the army. Never does he lose sight of his exalted hopes, 
his supreme design, fixed and unalterable. How has anyone 
brought himself to say that his heart had changed, that his 
ideal was no longer the same ? He still harbours in his breast 
that ambition which he cannot avow, or cannot avow without 
veiling it under the name of " right." 

On November 27, the Chambers were opened. From that 
time forward, he received at the Palais Bourbon all the nota- 
bilities of the country, soldiers and diplomats, writers, 
financiers, captains of industry and commerce. All came 
under his spell, but they found that this great talker knew how 
to listen, and welcomed talent in others. He was always 
ready to learn. Everywhere he had correspondents. One 
day he lunched with the Prince of Wales, another day he 
dined with Renan. At this period, Goncourt [in his Journal] 
notes the following remark made by a politician : The only 
tables in Paris to which foreign statesmen resorted and where 
the hosts dominated the whole company to an amazing extent 
were those of Girardin and Gambetta; Gambetta's lunches, to 
which every man of mark was invited sooner or later, were the 
real cause of his popularity all over Europe ; it was in this way 
that he came into close touch with members of the Parliaments 
of England, Italy, Hungary, Greece. . . . 

He liked the society of artists, and himself spoke as an artist 
at the unveiling of Corot's statue. He fascinated the men of 

269 



GAMBETTA 

letters, even the most recalcitrant, even those who affect a 
lordly disdain for politics, as if action were not the highest of 
the arts ! Flaubert, then on intimate terms with George 
Sand, who in 1870 had displayed a rabid antipathy to the 
Government of Tours and Bordeaux, wrote to her: " Gam- 
betta (since you ask me my opinion on the gentleman in 
question) seemed to me at first grotesque, then sensible, then 
amiable, and finally charming (the word is not too strong). 
We chatted together without outside interruption, for twenty 
minutes, and now we know each other as if we had met a 
hundred times. What I like about him is that he does not 
indulge in threadbare platitudes, and I think he is human." 
(The gradation is very characteristic.) Alphonse Daudet, who 
had penned a very scathing article on the provincial campaign, 
declared that he would cut it out of his published works, and 
wrote some very moving and graceful pages after his meeting 
with Gambetta in the shady retreat of Les Jardies : " Gam- 
betta, I was glad to admit, read everything, saw everything, 
always showed himself an expert judge and a man of fine 
literary perceptions. It was a delightful visit. ..." {Les 
Debats d'un homnie de lettres.) 

He was lovable, and success made him still more lovable. 
But it was not everyone about him who found him attractive 
in an equal degree. There were some who were proof against 
his charm. He was blamed for being hard on the Govern- 
ment : how could he have been otherwise ? His friends 
chafed ; they regarded themselves as being victims led to the 
altar. They accused Grevy of having infringed the rules of 
parliamentary procedure, in not conferring power on the real 
leader of the majority. Cliques were being formed apart from 
the main body, new men were coming along and passing over 
the heads of well-tried veterans ; there was general unrest and 
confusion. 

On December 27 the Waddington Cabinet, disunited, 
impotent, seeming only to live in the shadow of the President 
of the Chamber, tendered its resignation. 



270 



CHAPTER XVII 

" THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE " : " THE DICTATORSHIP " 

The Freycinet Ministry— The Amnesty— The Cherbourg Speech (August 9)—" The 
Hidden Hand "—The Journey to Cahors : "the Dictatorship ! "—The Belleville 
Programme (August 12, 1881) — The Tunisian Affair. 

Gr6vy did not send for Gambetta, but for the Minister of 
Public Works, M. de Freycinet. The latter was given, besides 
the Premiership, the portfolio of the Foreign Office, and kept 
Jules Ferry and the bulk of the old Cabinet. This practice 
of forming Cabinets with elements of former Ministries was 
contrary to the principle of ministerial solidarity laid down in 
the Constitution, and was destined to prevent it from working 
on regular lines for a long time to come. The President of 
the Republic, in his inaugural message, announced that he 
would "faithfully obey the great law of the parliamentary 
system," but his performance did not altogether tally with his 
promise. Possibly, if his attention had been called to the 
fact, he would have answered that the parties were not yet 
well-marked or organised enough to enable this law to be 
rigorously carried out, and that the survival of the unconstitu- 
tional Opposition was a stumbling-block to the application of 
the rule observed in England. 

M. de Freycinet, besides the brilliant qualities that he had 
displayed at the War Office in 1870, a luminous intelligence, 
a capacity for hard work, ingenuity and coolness, had won his 
spurs as a dexterous, persuasive speaker, finding a path into 
the hearts of the most refractory, gliding adroitly past every 
rock and shoal. He seemed frail, yet had the toughness of 
steel. His thin voice, like his personality, was all-pervasive, 
wormed its way into men's minds, broke down every barrier, 

271 



GAMBETTA 

and swept away every obstacle. In a style peculiarly his own 
he was a great debater and a consummate political speaker. 
" Since Thiers," says one who has portrayed French society of 
that day, "no such captivating oratory has been heard in the 
House. It is an intellectual treat to listen to M. de Freycinet 
when he has an unpopular cause to plead. His voice, 
melodious as a flute, carries to the furthest corner of a vast 
building. His periods, full but not redundant, each contain 
an argument, and never say too much or too little. Politics, 
for this great man of science, consist in solving a series of 
equations, in co-ordinating an infinite number of curves, for 
which circumstances supply the elements. He takes them as 
they come, and his calculations lend themselves to every 
combination. But sometimes there are jolts that upset the 
mathematician's table." {La Societe de Paris, 1888, by the^ 
Comte Paul Vasili.) 

M. de Freycinet had recently identified himself with the 
programme of public works which were giving a fresh impetus 
to the economic life of the country. His personal opinion was 
that the President of the Republic had no longer any valid 
reason for not offering Gambetta the Premiership ; he looked 
upon himself as a means to this end and as merely holding the 
reins until his old chief of the National Defence should take 
them over. Gravy's real idea was : "A majority with a 
Parliamentary leader, that would be all very well if only it were 
not for Gambetta!" The man was too powerful. He 
weighed on the Government like an incubus. He threw the 
Ministers and the President of the Republic into the shade. 
Democracies are always suspicious. Ours was particularly 
so, just after the disasters caused by absolute rule. Many 
Republicans dreaded its revival, even under Parliamentary 
forms. Gambetta took up too much room, he trespassed, he 
overflowed. If France was committed to an unassuming 
policy, why all this commotion ? Grevy, himself a quiet man, 
liked to have quiet men about him. To put it in a nutshell, 
he lacked confidence. As a rule, under a parliamentary 
system, when a party carries its chief to power it stands by 
that chief and remains united. It is easy to see why events 

272 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

took a different turn in our case from the very first days of the 
Third RepubHc. 

Gambetta was re-elected President of the Chamber, but only 
by 257 votes out of a total of 308; 40 ballot-papers were 
blank. At the previous ballot he had obtained 314 votes. 
Here was already a warning, but he had to let things take 
their course. He was blamed for hanging back, but nothing 
had been offered him. As a matter of fact, however much 
his friends wanted it, he himself had no wish to be summoned 
to office. 

The Government was for a postponement of the general 
amnesty. In June, however, one Trinquet, who had been 
deported under the Commune, was elected borough councillor 
in the P^re-Lachaise ward, as against the candidate supported 
by Gambetta. The latter, fearing to lose Paris at the 
approaching elections and wishing to break with the advanced 
wing of the Left, convoked the members of the Left Centre in 
the Senate and the Chamber to a meeting in M. de Freycinet's 
room at the Foreign Office. He pleaded for a general 
amnesty, a measure which he, who could bear no malice, had 
always desired. The proposal was a timely one, inasmuch as 
the arrangements for the Fourteenth of July festivities and the 
distribution of new colours to the army were at hand. He 
won the Government over to his way of thinking : a Bill was 
drafted and came up for debate on June 21. Freycinet ex- 
plained why the Government had changed its mind: " We 
considered that amnesties are peculiarly suited to special occa- 
sions." (Cries of " Oh ! oh ! " from all parts of the House.) 
Gambetta realised that he was called upon to speak. Never 
was his declamatory skill more in evidence, his ascendancy 
over the Chamber more pronounced. " In asking the House 
kindly to give me a hearing, I have yielded to an overpower- 
ing sense of duty. It is as President of the Chamber, as the 
mouthpiece of the majority — on that score and on no other — 
that I have been consulted. I am not above the Government. 
I know my rank and my place. I remain at the post which 
you have entrusted to my charge; but I should be failing to 
grasp its full responsibilities if, when the moment has come 

273 T 



GAMBETTA 

for passing a verdict on the timeliness of a Government 
measure, I could bring myself to hold selfishly aloof, and to 
look on at what the rest were doing, without contributing my 
share to the work." Yet he was the very man who had 
brought pressure to bear on the Ministry and on the Senators 
in order to win them over to his views ! 

He admits that France " shows no warmth or enthusiasm " 
on the point in question, but ~' she has another feeling, one of 
weariness. She is tired of hearing an endless series of debates 
upon the amnesty, and she says to her administrators and 
members of Parliament: "When will you sweep away this 
miserable relic of the Civil War? " 

Finally, the moving, impassioned appeal to the coalescence 
of all the popular forces, in one great impulse to forgive and 
forget : " I, who am the oldest soldier of extreme democracy, 
and its loyal spokesman, have nothing to learn about its weak- 
nesses or its reckless outbursts of feeling. But there is one 
thing that I insist upon, and that Is the unfettered right to 
form my own judgment. They know, those men of the ad- 
vanced wing, that I have never toadied to them, never misled 
them. Yesterday, they made a mistake" (referring to the 
Trinquet election) ..." Did you imagine that you could 
prevent this propaganda from succeeding ? Don't you realise 
that you can nip such ill-advised movements in the bud ? . . . 
It has been said, and with justice, that the Fourteenth of July 
is a national festival, a meeting-place where the army, which 
the country properly regards as its pride, will for the first time 
find itself face to face with the powers that be, where it will 
recover those colours, alas ! so shamefully thrown away. ..." 
I was present in the House, and can still see the great orator, 
with his head bowed, as if overwhelmed by the defeat and the 
treachery, his voice failing him : " Yes, on that day, in the 
face of the country, in the face of authority, in the face of the 
nation as represented by its faithful stewards, in face of that 
army, ' ever first in our hearts, ' as was saFd by a poet who, in 
other precincts, before the whole world, had pleaded the cause 
of the vanquished — on that day you must close the book of the 
past decade, and rear a tombstone of oblivion over the crimes 

274 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

and the last remaining traces of the Commune, and you must 
say to all, to those whose absence we shall all deplore, to those 
whose feuds and disagreements we sometimes regret, that 
there is but one France and one Republic ! " Amid rousing 
cheers, the Bill was passed by 312 votes to 1 16. 

In the Senate, Jules Simon replied: " I prefer a Cabinet 
which applies its own theories to a Cabinet which applies the 
theories of others, and adopts the methods of its adversaries 
for fear that they may supplant it ! " Thanks to an amend- 
ment excluding from the amendment those guilty of crimes of 
arson and murder, the Bill was carried in the Senate. 

After this new and resplendent victory, Gambetta appeared 
more than ever as the chief, by the side of and above the 
official Government. The country pinned its faith on him, 
and he waited for it to act. But in Parliament, such a state 
of affairs could not but lead to collisions, to conflicts, by 
creating a general impression that the Cabinets were only pro- 
visional, and lived always on the brink of a precipice. The 
Presidency of the Republic was no less trammelled than the 
Presidency of the Chamber. In the lobbies and the Press, the 
phrase " power behind the throne " was freely bandied about, 
and malicious tongues whispered "dictatorship ! " 

On July 14 the ceremony of distributing the new colours 
to the army took place. Gambetta was greeted with up- 
roarious applause. In the evening he gave a splendid 
reception at the Palais Bourbon. He loved the army, and 
the army loved him in return. The rooms were crammed 
to overflowing with generals and other officers. Pie spoke to 
them again of his anxiety to promote the strength, the glory, 
the well-being of the army. He knew well enough that 
France could not regain her old position save through 
alliances, and that she would only find allies in proportion 
as she waxed stronger : " I have never lost hope of the future : 
you should look forward to it with confidence, as I do. Can 
we be forbidden to hope, when we have men at hand who will 
know how to defend our soil against every onslaught? I 
will only add this, ' Let us never forget! ' " Old Marshal 
Canrobert, with tears in his eyes, embraced him. At the 

275 T 2 



GAMBETTA 

dinner given on July 17 to the generals from all the garrisons 
of France, the menu bore the dates, 1880-18—, a significant 
blank, to remind them of their duty. 

But as his popularity advanced, so the danger was height- 
ened. The army had been granted its colours on July 14 : it 
was decided that the navy should receive its colours on 
August 10. The President of the Republic and those of the 
Senate and Chamber proceeded to Cherbourg. .Gambetta 
proposed the health of the President of the Republic, " whose 
name is graven on the heart of every Frenchman, whose 
signal services are appreciated as they deserve." 

After the official banquet, while the President of the 
Republic was paying a visit to the headquarters of the naval 
division, Gambetta went off to a reception given in his 
honour at the "Traders' and Manufacturers' Club." Owing 
to a misunderstanding, only a few people were present. But 
the speech was ready : "I have never forgotten who I am, 
whence I come and whither I am going. I know that I am 
sprung from the most humble ranks of the democracy of 
workers, and that I am bone of their bone, flesh of their 
flesh. In those fatal days that you all remember, I never 
aspired to the dictatorship, and I do not aspire to it now. I 
wish to be nothing more than a servant of the democracy, to 
serve it in my proper station, in my due place. When I came 
to Cherbourg ten years ago — I may as well mention it, since 
we have spoken of that tragic period — I came to fulfil a sacred 
duty. Fortune turned her back on us. In all those ten years, 
we have not let slip one word of rashness or vainglory. ..." 
Then came those famous words : " We may have a full resti- 
tution if it be based upon right; we or our children can look 
forward to it, for no power on earth can say to any man, 
' Thou shalt not hope ! ' It has sometimes been alleged that 
our adoration for the army, that army in which to-day all the 
national forces are centred, amounts to a cult. Yet it is no 
sabre-rattling spirit that inspires and enforces that cult : it is 
grim necessity. We, who have seen France fall so low, must 
raise her to her feet and restore her to her rightful place in the 
world. If our hearts beat, it is to reach this goal, and not to 

276 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

pursue an ideal of blood and slaughter ; it is to ensure that 
not one jot of the France that remains shall be lost ; it is to feel 
that we can count upon the future, to know whether, here 
below, there is an immanent justice in things that will come 
on its appointed day and at its appointed hour ! " 

No bellicose speech this: "We are not striving after an 
ideal of blood and slaughter." " We may have a full resti- 
tution if it be based upon right." How far he was sincere 
has been revealed in his private correspondence. Neverthe- 
less, his opponents began to exclaim : " Gambetta spells 
war!" — drawing down upon themselves the just reproach 
that they themselves had so often appealed to him to bring 
the foreigner into our quarrels. And long after his death, 
with palpable inconsistency, they accused him of having by 
this speech renounced the idea of action and, through holding 
out hopes of a peaceful retribution, weakened the moral fibre 
of France. M. Charles Maurras, whose attitude towards 
Gambetta has always been severely critical, could still write 
in 1916 that his patriotism was " purely moral and legal," 
"cared little for territory, and recked nothing of history." 
(Quand les Frangais ne s^'aimaient pas.) Gambetta's 
patriotism was indeed moral and legal, but it is not true to say 
that it cared little for territory and recked nothing of history ; 
and it certainly throbbed with passion. Only, Gambetta was 
compelled to gain time, and this explains his conduct and his 
language after 1875. 

A week later, Gr^vy, in passing through Dijon station on 
his way to Mont-sous- Vaudrey, read a lesson to " men of 
personal ambitions": "To-day," he said, "it is no in- 
dividual, whatever be his station, who should be praised, it is 
France as a whole, France that is so sensible, so wise, so keen 
a judge of her own interests. Let us go on being wise, let us 
not be driven into the sins of impatience, of exaggeration or of 
violence." 

Not a month elapsed before M. de Freycinet handed in his 
resignation. His Cabinet, lacking unity, melted away like 
the Waddington Cabinet. 

Seeing that the Waddington and Freycinet Cabinets had 

277 



GAMBETTA 

lasted less than a year, was Grevy going to send for Gam- 
betta? The controversies to which the Cherbourg speech had 
given rise were not calculated to incline him towards this 
step. Attempts to persuade him were met with a blank 
refusal. "No," he declared, "I am keeping Gambetta in 
reserve." And he sent for Jules Ferry. Jules Ferry had 
made great strides at the Ministry of Public Instruction. Solid 
and uncompromising, this robust Vosgian seemed at first a 
little rugged, li5e the flint of his native mountains; but, 
beneath a chilling exterior, he w^as good-natured and tactful, 
and his soul was ardent and courageous. He kept almost the 
same Cabinet, wfth Barthelemy St. Hilaire, a former hench- 
man of Thiers, at the Foreign Office, and Sadi Carnot at the 
Public Works. 

On December 12, at the Sorbonne, Gambetta proclaimed 
his adherence to the Positivist school and described Auguste 
Comte as " the most powerful thinker of the age." Already, 
in 1873, at the dinner given in Littre's honour to celebrate 
the completion of his Dictionary, He had evinced his leanings 
towards Positivism : " There will come a day when statecraft, 
restored to its true functions, no longer a profession for 
dexterous wire-pullers, no longer a field for disloyal and 
treacherous manoeuvres, for corrupt practices, for all those 
tactics of hypocrisy and evasion, will become what it should 
be, a moral science and a standard ol justice for human 
societies." 

We sometimes hear of Gambetta's " philosophy." He 
scarcely gave a thought to metaphysics, he did not indulge (as 
has been aptly remarked) in "that habit of restless question- 
ing which we cultivate under the name of philosophy." In 
his younger days fie had been a Deist, and had expended no 
little rhetoric on the subject. The teachings of Auguste 
Comte had at this time a widespread influence. They corre- 
sponded pretty closely to the views held by most men of 
science, especially by those who were experimentalists before 
everything and distrustful of theory. Some of them have 
shown that this Positivism was over-simplified, and ought to 

278 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

be extended by a more searching analysis. Comte declared 
that the chemical composition of the heavenly bodies was for 
ever unknowable; a few years later spectral analysis was 
invented. Other men of science have pointed out that there 
are certain fundamental problems which science can never 
solve. Gambetta, for his part, did not go so far ; he cried a 
halt at the unknowable, and at "relativity" in philosophy 
as in politics. For him, science was the last word in wisdom. 

His enemies banded together to attack him. A pamphlet 
entitled " Gambetta Spells War ! " ran into a hundred thou- 
sand copies. The involuntary author of this unrest, he now 
became its victim. He was hard pressed on the one side by 
the impatience of his friends, on the other by the hatred of 
his foes. He could not repress a sense of irritation and 
disgust. What public man has not known such moments? 
He writes; "All our guests were enchanted with your beau- 
tiful flowers. You know what I still want to fill the cup of my 
happmess— your presence at these entertainments and the 
good that you always find an opportunity of doing on these 
occasions. You have only one word to say, one sign to give 
(before the Mayor,^ it is true); but it is brief, if heroic, 
and we shall enter into the Promised Land— mark you, 
promised! " (Feb. 13, 1881.) 

In January he was re-elected President of the Chamber by 
262 votes out of a total of 307. Foreign suspicions having 
been hinted at, he tried to blunt the edge of controversy : 
"France," he said, "harbours no secret designs or adven- 
tures." Yet his finger was traced in every pie; he was 
charged with having influenced the Government's policy over 
the affairs of Greece. Bismarck, astonished at the Cherbourg 
speech, had said: "Gambetta, at the head of the French 
Mmistry, would act upon the nerves of Europe Ifke a man 
beatmg a drum in a sick-room . ' ' Jules Ferry and Barthelemy 
St. Hilaire feared complications; they were anxious not to 
make it look as if they were obeying the will of another. In 

1 This refers to the civil marriage ceremony (see the close of Chapter XV ) — 

1 KANSLATOR S NO TE. 



GAMBETTA 

the debates in the Chamber, Gambetta was put on his 
defence; and he "takes upon himself the right to speak," 
pointing out that he has not been called upon to declare 
himself. " As for the policy of the Government, I put my 
trust in it, but I have to do so with my eyes shut. I am not 
bound to say whether I have a policy or whether that policy 
would differ from that of the Government. I have my own 
feelings, my own views, about foreign affairs, and I can bide 
my time." — The position was becoming more and more false 
for everybody. 

He' went on to explain his Cherbourg speech: "For a 
whole week after my speech at Cherbourg, no one noticed in 
it any threatening or provocating language, any criminal 
design. An interval was needed, until the comments upon it 
should be warped by passion or prejudice. And when the 
comments were made, the word was passed round, and these 
charges were made to appear the general verdict of the 
country. My speech at Cherbourg was no more bellicose 
than the one delivered at the same time and under the same 
circumstances by the President of the Republic." 

It was not for the President of the Chamber to say whether 
he trusted or distrusted the Government. What sort of a life 
would a Cabinet have when the President of the Republic 
kept the sword of Damocles hanging over it : "7 can bide my 
time " ? 

In order to put an end to his period of expectancy, he 
needed the comprehensive ballot, the one that admits of 
agreements, compacts and reconciliations between individuals 
and between the various shades of opinion within the party. 
The Ministers were not at one. Jules Ferry declared that 
the Government would remain neutral. The Elys^e started 
a campaign for the maintenance of the scrutin d'arrondisse- 
ment} On May 19, 1881, Gambetta once more came down 
from the chair, and in all the fulness of his talent, with all the 
wealth of his oratorical resources, made one of his most 
famous speeches. First of all, he repudiated the idea that he 
was thinking, in his own interest, of multiple or " plebis- 

* See note, p. 196. 
280 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

citary " candidatures, that might *' impair the authority and 
prestige of the Executive.'' In speaking of the Republican 
elections of July, 1871, to 1875, elections which "fully ex- 
pressed the voice of the whole country, and not that of a mere 
arrondissement, he ventured on the famous simile: "a sort 
of shattered mirror in which France would not have recognised 
her own image." With the 363, it was the unified liste that 
had triumphed. They could not hope to establish a 
republican Government, capable of discharging its duties, 
without placing the consultation of tGe country on the broadest 
possible basis. When it was a question of representing 
France, in other words the highest moral entity in the world, 
they might well ask themselves whether those chosen would 
represent a hundred thousand electors, or six thousand. And 
how could they deal with the larger issues, administrative, 
judicial, military and economic? "Certain principles have 
made you what you are, and you cannot depart from those 
principles. The future lies in your hands; it depends upon 
you whether a party fit to hold the reins of government shall 
come into being, a party that is solid and sincere, to lead 
France to the end of her glorious destinies. Surely you have 
no wish to incur the reproach of the Roman poet : ' To save 
their life, they threw away all that makes life worth living ' : 
Propter vitam vivendi perdere causas." 

The scrutin de liste was approved. Gambetta had 
triumphed ; the road was clear. . . . But now the wind was 
to veer round once more. 

He had promised to be present at the unveiling of a monu- 
ment erected in his native city to the men of the Lot 
department who had fallen in the war. He was given an 
enthusiastic reception. He let Himself go, launched out into 
a patriotic harangue, and sang the praises of President Gr^vy. 
" Another good tug at the rope of universal suffrage, and we 
shall have all this aggregation of effort and goodwill placed 
under a free and stable government." He gave his hearers 
to understand that if the Senate passed the scrutin de liste, 
It would obviate a revision of the Constitution such as had 
already been proposed in the Chamber. " This country has 

281 



GAMBETTA 

now enjoyed a Constitution for five years. True, it is no 
law of the Medes and Persians ; it is open to improvement ; 
it will be improved, and in a democratic direction; but we 
must not be in a hurry, and until the house is secure, until 
it has properly settled, we must do notliing to disturb any of 
its courses. Let us not raise objections to everything at once, 
let us not say ttiat this Constitution, our saviour and our 
shelter, a rallying-point for all Republican France, needs to be 
recast out of hand. I only as^ you to wait until the powers 
set up by this Constitution have completed their circuit." 

He could not contain himself; he cried out : " I have never 
seen anything to touch this ceremony ; the very earth and sky 
are taking part in it, and it is the most splendid affair of the 
kind that anyone has been privileged to witness on his 
native heath." (May 26, 1881.) But this time he goes too 
far ; the cup overflows. One is reminded of Louis Napoleon's 
tours in 1851. ThFs is indeed the "dictatorship " ! 

On June 3, in the Senate, Waddington, in introducing the 
Bill, points out the danger of ** a partial plebiscite, department 
by department." The same difficulty had risen in the case of 
Thiers, in 1871; but in 1871 Thiers stood by himself; now, 
there were established authorities, tlie President of the 
Republic, the Senate, the Cabinet. There was reason to 
apply to Gambetta what had been said earlier of Lamartine : 
" He is a comet whose orbit no man can calculate." Wad- 
dington exposed the danger of multiple elections, which 
throw the machinery oT the Constitution out of gear, upset 
the balance of power and reduce the Presidency of the 
Republic to a cipher. " How can you expect that the Presi- 
dent, confronted by the nominee of a million or a million and 
a half voters throughout a large number of departments, 
should remain free to pick and choose his ministers? " (The 
truth of this was seen later in the Boulangist crisis, and the 
system of multiple eleclions was then abolished.) The 
Senate refused to proceed to a discussion of the separate 
clauses. 

The very next day, Gambetta, exasperated at this, made a 
right-about turn and declared himself in favour of revising 

282 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

the Constitution, the only way, he maintained, of battering 
down the resistance of the Senate. It must be admitted that 
such abrupt changes of front were apt to shake the people's 
faith in the merits of the institutions that they had been so 
often called upon to admire. They seemed to betray, not 
merely in the Government, but in the whole constitutional 
system, that instability with which the Republic had been so 
often taunted by its enemies. Jules Ferry said, with his 
robust common sense : " You don't pull up a tree to see if it 
has taken firm root." Many Republicans thought that this 
Tours speech looked too much as if it had been composed on 
the spur of the moment. It showed too great an eagerness 
to take short cuts. J. -J. Weiss, with all the zeal of a convert, 
wrote, by way of apology for Gambetta : " Repulsed by the 
Right, he was compelled to fall back upon the Left." A 
very weak argument. Tactics of this kind are not permissible 
in politics. The point at issue was not whether the consti- 
tutional changes he proposed for the Senate were good or bad 
in themselves; an equality of suffrage for each commune, 
with regard to its population, and the irremovability of 
Senators were two principles difficult to maintain in an 
equalitarian democracy and certain to disappear sooner or 
later. What did call for censure was the suddenness of the 
manoeuvre, quite out of keeping with his recent pronounce- 
ments and his whole political theory. Some sage observers 
looked upon his action as an outburst of ill-temper against the 
Senate, a sort of revenge on the part of a spoilt child of 
fortune, who would not be baulked of his will in any particular. 
Jules Ferry, swept off his feet, was obliged in his turn to 
reverse his judgment and support the plan of a revision ; the 
position of his Ministry had become critical. 

The elections were fixed for August 21. The twentieth 
arrondissement of Paris, which had elected Gambetta four 
times, was now, owing to the growth in its population, split up 
into two constituencies. Gambetta offered himself in both. 
There was a spice of personal vanity, blended with shrewd- 
ness, in his notion of keeping Belleville while conquering 
France. On August 12 he held his first meeting at the Elys^e- 

283 



GAMBETTA 

Menilmontant. Here he was '^!ace to face with that other 
Monster, more massive and harder to tackle than the Monster 
of Varzin." Faithful to his word, he had had no intention, 
he said, of coming forward anywhere else. He protested 
against the outrageous calumny that he was exercising a 
"dictatorship." "They don't speak of my dictatorship of 
May 24 and May 16 ! " They have found a new name for his 
policy — "a misbegotten compound of Latin and Greek"— 
" opportunism." " If this barbarous word means an astute 
policy, which never fails to take time by the forelock, to make 
the most of favourable contingencies, but never leaves any- 
thing to chance, never allows free play to the spirit of violence 
— then they may apply to my policy, as often as they like, this 
ill-sounding and not even intelligible epithet; but I will only 
say that I know no other, for it is the policy of sound sense, 
and, I may add, the policy of success." 

He warms up to his work, recalling the bloody defeats of the 
old Republican party, the excesses followed by reactions, and 
the alarm shown by the "governing classes" of the bour- 
geoisie. " All these things induced me to break with the 
past, and say to myself : ' You will give up your life to 
diverting the spirit of violence which has so often led the 
democracy astray. You will warn democracy to beware of 
dogmatising. You will guide it towards the study of facts, of 
concrete realities. You will reveal yourself as a sort of 
mediator between the interests of both sections, and if you 
succeed in bringing about that alliance of the people with the 
bourgeoisie, you will have set the Republican order upon an 
unassailable foundation." 

After dwelling on the work that has already been achieved, 
he glances at the future. He has no intention of changing 
his method : " My method is, not to cope with all The 
problems at once, not to make a frontal attack along the 
whole line or, if I may put it differently, to bring all the bricks 
for the house at one load, but to approach questions one after 
another, in their proper order." Reforms in the judicature; 
the reduction of the term of military service to three years, 
compulsory for all, without any exemptions, and with full 

284 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

cadres of N.C.O.s (this makes three stages— in 1872 it was he 
who had helped Thiers to get the five years' term, in 1876 it 
was he who caused it to be retained, and now in 1881 he lays 
down these essential conditions for a reduction in the term of 
service); legislation on trades-unions and mortmain; a strict 
enforcement of the Concordat; an income-tax. He puts his 
finger on the weak spots : " We are living under a democracy, 
not under a system of privilege. When I uphold the 
independence of the Government, I maintain that I am more 
Liberal, more democratic than those who want everything to 
be left at the mercy of rivalries, of backstair intrigues, of 
parliamentary chicane." A believer in political centralisa- 
tion, he demands administrative decentralisation; he would 
like to see each municipality enjoying its full rights, with 
powers to administer its property, to borrow, to mortgage 
its risks and to be undisputed master in the sphere of its local 
interests. 

In foreign affairs, there is only one thing that he asks for : 
that we should be firm and dignified, keeping our hands clean 
and not letting them be tied ; to show no special favour to any 
individual Power in Europe, but to be on good terms with 
all alike. In a letter of June 5, 1875, he writes : " Our role is 
to be, like the Sosie in Moli^re ['s Amphitryon], a friend to all 
the world, free in our movements, and to avoid the collision 
as long as possible." He reverts to the theme of the Cher- 
bourg speech : " Who would make bold to say that there will 
not come a day of mutual agreement on a basis of justice in 
our old Europe? ... I do not think I am passing beyond 
the bounds of political prudence when I express a desire that 
my Government, my Republic, shall be attentive, watchful, 
always courteously asserting her right to interpose in affairs 
that concern her throughout the world, but never giving way 
to the spirit of incendiarism, of conspiracy and of aggression. 
And I hope I shall see the day when, through the ascendency 
of law, of truth and of justice, we shall be once more united 
with our lost brethren." 

By this warm, sincere and heartfelt utterance he recovers 
and retains his grip on his party; he tames the most rebel- 

285 



GAMBETTA 

lious; he is homely, ironical, vehement by turns; he allays 
their fears, quells their murmurs, and, while handling the 
driest problems for a space of several hours, amuses th^m and 
makes them laugh. A strange and moving sight : this one 
man, alone, confronting a vast assemblage whose feelings 
have been wrought upon and who, with the memory of his 
great services still fresh in their minds, none the less begin 
to doubt, begin to ask themselves whether to-day his policy 
is not too slow, too time-serving. 

On the other hand, such phrases as " not letting our hands 
be tied," "on good terms with all alike," caused no little 
astonishment to those of his friends who shortly before had 
heard him, in his private intercourse, advocate an understand- 
ing with England and an alliance with Russia. In reality, 
he had not changed his mind — his first acts as Foreign Minis- 
ter were soon to prove this — but he feared that he might give 
offence to Bismarck by any public statement of his real views; 
that the Chancellor, who dreaded nothing so much as these 
alliances, might thus be induced to draw closer to St. Peters- 
burg; and that his own designs, if announced to the world, 
might come to grief. He might speak in an undertone of his 
desire for an alliance with Russia; but would it be wise to 
proclaim it from the house-tops? He thought that Russia 
would become an ally for offensive purposes, but that demon- 
strations of Franco-Russian friendship would only serve to 
irritate Germany and make her threats more dangerous. 
Even M. de Freycinet, who was amazed at the Belleville pro- 
nouncement, points this out in his Souvenirs, a mine of price- 
less information for the history of this period : " Germany," 
Gambetta told him, " would like to attract us into her orbit 
and wean us away from England and Russia ; let us maintain 
a correct attitude ; let us keep the alliance with those two 
Powers as a reserve for the future." (July 28, 1881.) ** We 
must not neglect our friends in Russia and England. But 
there must be no alliance just yet; it would be dangerous. 
Bismarck is watching us; let us give him no handle." (Sep- 
tember 2.) And he remarked to Jules Hansen (L' Alliance 
franco-russ^e) : " France is condemned to play an insignifi- 

286 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

cant part in Europe, and must keep very quiet until she has a 
really strong army. The task that lies before us at present is 
to create that army. . . . When this weapon is fit for use, we 
shall find allies, I have no fears on that score ; and then, like 
you, I shall be in favour of an alliance with Russia. I have 
often discussed this prospect iwith Ge\neral Skobeleff, for 
whom 1 have a great liking and respect." 

M. de Freycinet himself, by the way, had taken up this very 
line at the Quai d'Orsay. Waddington, when giving him the 
portfolio, had said : " Russia is disposed to make a compact 
with us, but Prince von Bismarck has his eye on us. The 
menace of a Franco-Russian treaty might decide him to open 
hostilities. Read St. Vallier's despatches; they are very 
instructive." (Freycinet, Souvenirs, II., no.) 

It seemed to Gambetta that any public statement in favour 
of a Franco-Russian agreement would at this moment arouse 
the suspicions, not only of Germany, but even of England. 
Then, too, an alliance with Russia, if it was tO' bear full fruit, 
must be manipulated with great discretion. If ever it became 
an excuse for noisy demonstrations to serve the interests of 
home politics, Germany would clearly exert herself to the 
utmost in order to deflect its course. And an alliance with 
no firm guiding hand, one that was allowed to drift, one in 
which the savings of French thrift, instead of being used to 
our advantage, would be turned against us — to Gambetta, no 
doubt, such an alliance would have been meaningless. It 
may plausibly be conjectured that, if he had lived, we should 
not have lost twelve years in coming to terms with Russia, 
and twenty years in coming to terms with England. For 
such an alliance, handled with firmness and discretion, the 
time was not yet ripe. That is why, from 1876 to 1881, he 
was far more reticent on the subject of alliances in his speeches 
than in his private letters, so that some imagined that he was 
less eager to form them and others that he was bent upon 
avenging 1870. 

Four days later, on August 16, another public meeting was 
held in another constituency, at Charenton. It was in the 

287 



GAMBETTA 

Rue St. Blaise, an enclosure walled round by canvas, partly 
covered, badly lighted ; there were no seats, and much over- 
crowding and jostling ensued. It was raining. Eight thou- 
sand persons were packed into this space. His first words 
were interrupted by shouts. He tried to go on, but the shout- 
ing increased. Sides were taken for and against him. 
Whenever he came forward, the uproar started again. In the 
rare intervals of calm, struggling for over an hour, Gambetta, 
exhausted, indignant, hurled forth, in a raucous voice, his 
famous invectives: "Are you the people of Paris? ... I 
only ask you to hear me. . . . What, when I have come 
here . . . What, you are powerless to restore order ? . . . You 
accuse me of being a dictator ! Do you know what you are ? 
Do you know ? You are drunken slaves, not responsible for 
your actions ! . . . The ballot of true and loyal citizens will 
atone for this infamous treatment ! . . . Yes, mark what I 
say, I shall manage to track you down to your innermost 
lairs ! . . ." He would have done them too much honour ! 

He secured an absolute majority in the first constituency, a 
relative majority in the second, and announced that he would 
remain Deputy for the first. A trivial incident, a mere mole- 
hill of which his opponents made a mountain. His popularity 
in the country as a whole was unimpaired. 

At his left, the uncompromising brigade were led by M. 
Clemenceau, already known as a keen polemical journalist, 
the wielder of a caustic pen, sharp as a scalpel, with his 
brilliant staff of La Justice, Camille Pelletan, Georges 
Laguerre, Stephen Pichon, Alexandre Millerand, who were 
also destined, each after his own fashion, to cut a conspicuous 
figure in Parliamentary debates and in the affairs of the 
country. On an intermediate plane between Clemenceau and 
Gambetta were now to be found old friends of the latter, such 
as Henri Brisson and Charles Floquet, for even they thought 
him too slow-moving, too conciliatory. Thus, while he was 
steadily drawing nearer to supremacy, he felt the ground 
caving in beneath his feet. He was taxed with having 
flinched from his position on the disestablishment of the 
Church, with having altered his attitude on standing armies, 

288 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

on the Single-Chamber system, and on the Presidency of the 
Republic, and with playing fast and loose over the income- 
tax. How far he was now from 1869! His adversaries 
branded these inconsistencies with the all-embracing name of 
"opportunism." Yet how many of those who flung this 
taunt at him were to find it recoil upon their own heads ! 
Things wear a totally different aspect according as men are 
in opposition or in power. Unfortunately, the country has 
to pay dear for these training-courses in political wisdom. 
In France, on the other hand, the past is soon buried, so that 
public men can afford to make light of their mistakes. The 
Frenchman forgets everything, never looks ahead, and lives 
for the moment. All that is expected from those who, in 
perfect good faith, have changed their mind, is that they shall 
show some indulgence for others who, while they saw what 
was coming, have had no reason to shift their ground and 
have been able to make their conclusions tally with their 
premises. 

The ballot of 188 1 sent to the Palais-Bourbon 467 Repub- 
licans and 90 Conservatives. The Right lost some sixty 
seats. Jules Ferry and Gambetta commanded a majority of 
400. The gains of the Extreme Left amounted to 40. 

The country had marked out Gambetta for office. Early in 
September he went on a tour in Normandy, and at Neubourg 
delivered a speech on State policy. Peaceful Normandy, the 
proverbial " land of the canny " (pays de sapience), with its 
shrewd, calculating spirit, its distaste for adventures and 
reckless innovations, was an admirable field for displaying a 
policy of moderation and prudence. The issue before the 
electors here was not the personal programme of Gambetta, 
the candidate for Belleville, but the national programme of 
Gambetta, the French statesman. The Chamber would have 
to carry out ' ' the modicum of reform demanded by the 
country." It would be extremely hazardous to go too far in 
advance of public opinion. He wanted " a Republic bent 
upon reforms, but not a Republic of levellers or Utopians." 

He seemed now to aim at dissociating himself from the 
campaign for the scrutin de liste and even from the campaign 

289 u 



GAMBETTA 

for a revision of the Constitution. His idea is to make the 
path smoother for the two Assemblies — for the Senate, which 
the threat of a revision kept on tenterhooks, and for the Cham- 
ber, whose members owed their seats to the scrutin 
d' arrondissement. He reassured the newly elected Deputies 
by declaring that it would not be wise to revive the question 
of the ballot system at the outset of the new Parliament's 
career, and that the matter must be shelved until the expiry of 
its term, adding the reservation: "or until the Constitution 
is remodelled, if that step is ever undertaken." 

Thus he shelves the question of the ballot system and looks 
upon a revision of the Constitution merely as a possible con- 
tingency. The country regarded the latter course as prema- 
ture. When speaking at Tours, he had still been smarting 
under the Senate's adverse vote and the disappointment it 
caused him; now, he was quite willing to gain time. 

He expressed a hope that the Chamber would manage to 
suppress the rivalries, the personal vendettas, even the most 
lawful ambitions in its midst, in order to give the country a 
solid, steady majority, assuring the Government no less 
weight than the Republic itself possessed. He had every con- 
fidence, he declared, in the nominees of universal suffrage. 

At Honfleur he dwelt upon the mercantile marine, public 
works and the seamen's voting registers ; at Pont I'Eveque, on 
the breeding of live-stock. He took another trip to Germany, 
visiting Bremen, Hamburg, Lubeck and Stettin. He went to 
Friedrichsruhe, Bismarck being away at the time; on seeing 
the table, removed from Versailles, on which the peace pre- 
liminaries had been signed in 1871, he remarked: "I shall 
not be satisfied until I have that piece of furniture in my 
study." 

On his return (October 25) he spoke at Le Havre, setting 
forth the conditions for an economic struggle against Ger- 
many : an improvement in our industrial plant ; (speaking at 
Pont-Audemer) a development of our natural resources 
"along that magnificent stream which is better than the 
Thames, for it runs between an ocean that washes 1,200 miles 
of our xoast-line and a city that is the capital of ihe civilised 

290 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

world." He likes to parade the fact that he knows all about 
local matters, that he is as solicitous of material as of moral 
progress, that he has a keen eye for business ; he sets up as 
the champion of the farming, manufacturing, trading and 
shipping interests. 

The Chambers met again on October 28. Gambetta, 
appointed interim President by 317 votes out of a total of 
364, waived all idea of standing for the regular Presidency ; 
in other words, he kept himself at the disposal of the Presi- 
dent of the Republic and the majority. 

At the Congress of Berlin Bismarck, in the course of his 
first interview with Lord Beaconsfield, had said: "You 
ought to come to an understanding with Russia : let her have 
Constantinople and take Egypt. France would be given 
Tunisia or Syria by way of compensation." We have seen 
how the British Ministers took Cyprus and offered us Tunisia, 
and how the French Government had not thought it right to 
respond to England's overtures. Waddington had not made 
public the despatches which had passed between him and 
London. Some weeks later, a rumour having appeared in 
the Press to the effect that Bismarck had offered Tunisia to 
Italy, Waddington directed our ambassador in Rome, the 
Marquis de Noailles, to warn the Italian Government: "It 
is absolutely essential that the Italian Government should 
clearly understand that Italy cannot cherish dreams of con- 
quest in Tunisia without coming into collision with France's 
will and risking a conflict with her." Italy thus had a fair 
warning. She knew, too, the attitude of the British Govern- 
ment ; a Deputy announced in the Italian Chamber, on 
July 21, 1879, that " England would give France a free hand 
in Tunis." 

The Bey's Government was tottering ; the Regency was 
menaced by financial collapse, by famine and by revolt. The 
Italian consul, Maccio, and the French consul, Roustan, 
backed by Chanzy, the Governor-General of Algeria, were 
openly at daggers drawn. Since the Congress of Berlin, the 
question of the country's future had been under discussion. 
Had the hour come for reaping the fruit of the advantages 

291 u 2 



GAMBETTA 

gained at the Congress, for guaranteeing the security of 
Algeria, and stabilising our position in the Mediterranean, 
opposite Toulon ? 

Nearly a year elapsed. Albert Grevy, brother of the Presi- 
dent, who had succeeded Chanzy as Governor-General of 
Algeria, wrote letter upon letter asking the home authorities 
to settle the business once and for all. At last there occurred 
an incident which compelled France to act. The Government 
was informed that the lailway from Goletta to Tunis — 
the only line then existing in the country — had just been 
bought from the Bey's Government by the Rubattino Com- 
pany, whose steamers plied between Goletta and Palermo, 
in order to monopolise the whole foreign trade of the Regency 
for Italy's benefit. Rubattino was a brother-in-law of Crispi. 
The deed of purchase had been signed at the German Con- 
sulate by the Italian Consul. The affair was all the more dis- 
concerting in that the Algerio-Tunisian frontier was 
completely uncovered. 

Everything now depended on Gambetta ; he alone could 
exert pressure, for or against, on public opinion and Parlia- 
mentary circles. He had too much feeling for national tradi- 
tion, too firm a grip on the realities of history, merely to con- 
sider France's interests without calculating the chances of 
success. He knew, as well as anyone, the difference between 
the Algerian and the Tunisian peoples, between our military 
resources in 1830 and in 1869, and also between an annexed 
dependency and a protectorate. It was with these points in 
mind that he said to Father Charmetant, who had been sent by 
Cardinal Lavigerie to find out what was going on in the 
Regency: *' You see, Crispi 's newspaper is attacking Car- 
dinal Lavigerie and your missionaries; it is doing them an 
honour by these attacks, for they are worth an army corps to 
France in Algeria." And when Father Charmetant made a 
note of this statement, remarking that it "sang a different 
tune from the old battle-cry, Gambetta retorted, with some 
heat : " That was a question of home politics; anti-clericalism, 
you know, is not one of our exports." The advice of the 
Baron de Courcel, then Director of Political Affairs at the 

292 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

Foreign Office, turned the scale. " I had no difficulty," said 
the Baron, "in overcoming his objections, especially so far 
as Italy was concerned. From that moment I found it all 
plain sailing. Everywhere I was conscious of his influence, 
his energy, his radiation, and at the same time of his solici- 
tude, his foresight, his wonderful mastery over men. . . . 
M. Jules Ferry, in his turn, came to the same decision. He 
did not appear on the scene till near the end, but his part was 
essential to the piece ; he shouldered the final responsibilities 
with a firmness that has deservedly won him lasting credit." 
On March 31, 1881, it was reported that certain Tunisian 
tribes from the Kroumirie Mountains had leagued together 
and had made their way into the province of Constantine and 
had there killed some French soldiers. A few days later, 
these raiding parties had swollen into a host of several thou- 
sands. Roustan proposed to the Bey concerted action on the 
frontier by our troops and his, but the Bey, at the promptings 
of Maccio, refused. On April 4, Jules Ferry announced the 
matter to the Chambers and proclaimed his intention of 
restoring order. He asked them to give him 6,000,000 francs 
for an expeditionary force. These credits were voted by the 
entire Chamber, with a few dissentient voices, and by the 
Senate unanimously. Turkey protested, but her advances 
met with no response from the Powers. Bismarck informed 
our Ambassador, St. Vallier, that " no obstacles would be put 
in the way of our action, whatsoever form it might take, even 
if an annexation were the result." It undoubtedly suited the 
Chancellor's plans that France's policy should gravitate 
towards the Mediterranean, as that Austria's should gravitate 
towards the Danube ; but as a matter of fact, so far as Berlin 
was concerned, we had from that time onward nothing to fear. 
England had pledged herself to support us. Without 
England, Italy could do nothing. She was under no delu- 
sion as to the true state of affairs. In 1880, General "Cialdini 
had been despatched by the Prime Minister Cairoli to explain 
to M. de Freycinet that if France established herself in 
Tunisia, Italy would feel herself entitled to some offset. " In 
May, 1 88 1," Jules Ferry observes, " Cairoli was disappointed 

293 



GAMBETTA 

and surprised, but he wd*s not deceived." The credits had 
been approved on April 8. On May ii the French Army 
(ii,ooo men, 8,000 of them from Algeria) was before the city 
of Tunis, and a French squadron entered Bizerta. The Bey 
accepted the terms oftered him by General Breart, but he 
obtained the further concession that the French troops should 
not occupy Tunis. On the following day, May 12, the Cham- 
bers reassembled. Jules Ferry disclosed the Treaty of 
Bardo, setting up a protectorate modelled on that of England 
in the Native States of India. The Act sanctioning the 
Treaty was passed in the Chamber on May 23 by a majority 
of 430 to I, and in the Senate on the 27th without a single 
adverse vote. 

Gambetta, as soon as the news that the Treaty had been 
signed reached Paris, had written to Jules Ferry : " My dear 
friend, I thank you for your note and congratulate you with 
all my heart upon this speedy and admirable result. Our 
carping critics will have to recognise it now, with the best 
grace they can — France is rising again to her old rank as a 
Great Power. Once more, my heartfelt congratulations. 
Friday, the 13th (do you believe in omens?)." 

Never had so fruitful a campaign been carried through with 
such rapid strokes. It will earn for Jules Ferry and his col- 
leagues in the work the undying gratitude of France, but at 
the moment it earned him nothing but murmurs, calumnies 
and insults. Paris jeered. A section of the Press came to 
the conclusion that the number of the troops despatched to 
the Regency was too large, and clamoured for their repatria- 
tion ; the Government reduced the army of occupation to 
15,000 men. An initial blunder had been made in yielding 
to the Bey's request and not occupying his capital, and a 
second blunder was made in giving way to the demands of an 
ill-informed Press. The South of the Regency was in a 
state of utter chaos. Sfax and Gabes were occupied. Jules 
Ferry cut short the session of the Chambers (Juh^ 29) and 
fixed the polls for August 21. 

The very day after the elections 50,000 men were sent to 
Tunis, under the command of General Saussier. Kairouan 

294 



THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE 

was occupied (October 26, 1881). By the end of the year 
peace was restored throughout the whole Regency. Parlia- 
ment opened on October 28. General Saussier's despatch 
announcing the occupation of Kairouan was received by the 
Chamber. One Deputy shouted : " The comedy has missed 
fire! " 

Jules Ferry stated that he was determined to resign, but 
first he had to say whdt was on his mind : "To hear people 
talk one would really think that some national disaster had 
jusi befallen us ! The Right and Left are never tired of 
telling us that the Tunisian expedition is a dire misfortune, 
that it has caused us to lose allies in Europe, that it has dis- 
organised our army, that it must be placed on the same foot- 
ing as the ever regrettable expedition to Mexico." They 
allege that France has been rushed into the war without time 
for reflection ; he asks them not to lose sight of realities. 
*' Our real enemy is not the native or the foreigner, it is the 
apparent uncertainty that prevails as to the true intentions of 
the French Government. In this debate, two great interests 
confront each other — a great military interest and a great 
political interest. These two things should always be sacred 
to us in the midst of all our discussions. Lay no profane 
hands on France or on the Army ! . . . Some say : " In the 
event of a European war, would not the position of the mili- 
tary chessmen be altered? " My answer is that it would, but 
to our advantage, since we are shutting a door through which 
our territory might be entered." 

In all these feverish debates the Chamber's main concern 
was home politics. The majority tried to come together, and 
the opposition did its best to prevent this concentration. After 
four days* wrangling, they were no further than when they 
started. Twenty-three resolutions had been tabled. Many 
demanded a formal indictment of the Cabinet, others a court 
of inquiry; but both schemes were rejected, and the House 
had no opportunity of expressing either its censure or its 
confidence. 

Finally, amid all this tumult, Gambetta appeared on the 
scene. " France has appended her signature to the Treaty 

295 



GAMBETTA 

of Bardo. I ask the Chamber to declare, in an unequivocal 
fashion, that the terms of this treaty shall be carried out, 
honestly and wisely, but without any qualification. I there- 
fore propose the following motion : ' The Chamber, deter- 
mined that the treaty endorsed by the French nation on 
May 12, 1 88 1, shall be faithfully carried into effect, proceeds 
to the resolution.' " — This was passed by 355 ayes to 68 noes. 

That same night he wrote : "At last we have settled that 
interminable Tunisian affair. About 9 p.m. all was over, 
thanks to a fit of indignation which drove me to the rostrum 
after eighteen successive resolutions had been mooted. I 
felt unable to endure that France should humble herself in the 
dust before the whole of Europe, and that is why I interfered. 
I made them ratify a policy in which the national honour was 
involved. But my intervention pledges me up to the hilt; I 
am now compelled to have an interview with the President ol 
the Republic, if he is willing to submit to the ' dictatorship,' 
since dictatorship it is." 

On November 10 Jules Ferry tendered the resignation of 
the Cabinet, and Gambetla was called upon to form the new 
Ministry. 



296 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE GRAND MINISTRY 

Gambetta crowns Jules Ferry's Work in Tunisia — The Egyptian Affair — The Bills for 
a Revision of the Constitution and a Scrutin de Liste — Fall of the Ministry 
(January 26, 1882). 

It was not a month since Gambetta, on his return from 
Germany, had seen the President (October 13). He was 
marked out for office by the votes of the Chamber, and the 
time for raising objections was past. On October 22 Daniel 
Wilson, Under-Secretary of State at the Treasury, had 
become Jules Grevy's son-in-law ; he was a sworn foe of 
Gambetta. Among Gambetta 's opponents there was a spon- 
taneous outburst of glee when they saw that he " could not 
get out of taking Cabinet honours." The bull was coming 
into an arena already bristling with picadors. '* Now for 
the Grand Ministry ! " was the significant cry. It was an 
understood thing that there would be a combination of five 
parliamentary Presidents : Gambetta, Freycinet, Jules Ferry, 
Leon Say, President of the Senate, Henri Brisson, ex-Presi- 
dent of the Chamber. Public opinion welcomed the idea; it 
seemed a guarantee of unity and strength. Gambetta, too, at 
first thought he ought to try the experiment. Jules Ferry, 
however, had suffered defeat, and was opposed to the scrutin 
de liste. L6on Say insisted on the formula: " Neither con- 
version nor borrowing nor redemption," and Gambetta did 
not wish to commit himself so far. He had seen M. de 
Freycinet on September 16, and had told him that he was 
anything but anxious to take office, that his health would not 
allow him to bear the burden very long, but that on the other 
hand he could not back out altogether. He had asked his 
own fellow-worker to help in the task of Cabinet-making:. 

297 



GAMBETTA 

" It will be our joint product," he added, " and the manage- 
ment of it I will leave to you, for I don't want to remain in 
harness for more than a few months; after that I shall have 
to retire, to take a rest and travel about Europe. You will be 
given the War Office portfolio and act as my right-hand 
man." On November ii Gambetta paid another visit to M. 
de Freycinet, and again asked for his co-operation, but by 
now some changes had been made in the proposed list of 
Ministers. The names of Jules Ferry and Leon Say had been 
struck off, and Freycinet was to become Minister for Foreign 
Affairs instead of for War. Most of the new men who were 
ultimately to be members of the Cabinet were now included. 
After taking a night to think things over, M. de Freycinet 
wrote to Gambetta saying that he did not feel capable of 
adequately filling the post which the future Prime Minister 
had allotted to him, and requesting that he might be allowed 
to keep his seat in the Senate, where he would always remain 
a loyal and devoted friend. 

Gambetta's intention was to assume the Premiership with- 
out portfolio. Henceforth, the Prime Minister alone would 
communicate with the President of the Republic. The latter 
would no longer take the chair at Cabinet meetings. It was 
a startling reversal of constitutional practice. The Premier, 
as in England, would become the real and sole head of the 
Government. It is not hard to imagine how Grev}^ looked 
upon these innovations — Grevy, who had always managed to 
keep his Cabinet meetings well under control. 

The days were slipping past, however, and matters could 
be delayed no longer. Gambetta had a notion that the 
refusals he was encountering were part of a pre-arranged plan, 
and shrewdly suspected that the ifilysee had a hand in the 
business. On November 8 he writes to Les Jardies : " I got 
your letter, and I am answering it before going to rack my 
brains over that abominable Cabinet problem. Yes, it would 
be much pleasanter to be at Zuppat, or, better still, at 
Sorrento. There is still time. Do you feel like eloping? I 
am ready, and I — or rather we — can run away. One word, 
one little ' yes,' and we are free for ever ! . . ." 

298 



THE GRAND MINISTRY 

On November 15 the Journal Ojficiel [Gazette] published 
the names of the new Cabinet. Gambetta was to take the 
Foreign Office with the Presidency of the Council [Premier- 
ship], and was assigning the Ministry of Justice to Jules 
Cazot, that of the Interior to Waldeck-Rousseau, that of War 
to General Campenon, that of Marine to Captain Gougeard, 
that of Public Instruction and Worship to Paul Bert, that of 
Finance to Allain-Targ^, that of Public Works to Raynal, 
that of Commerce and the Colonies to Rouvier, that of Agri- 
culture to Deves, that of Fine Arts to Antonin Proust, the 
Under-Secretaryship of Foreign Affairs to Spuller, that of the 
Colonies to Felix Faure, etc. The list was at once greeted 
with contempt: "A Ministry of Government clerks! " "A 
Cabinet of nonentities ! " Gambetta had had to take a firm 
stand before he could include young Waldeck-Rousseau, a 
fluent speaker, excelling in the frigid style of oratory, though 
inwardly of a fiery temperament. The only senatorial 
member was Cazot, and this exclusion of senators was not 
likely to find favour with the Luxembourg. Two new Minis- 
tries were created, and the Chambers had to be asked for the 
necessary credits. 

The Ministerial announcement of policy — a limited revision 
of the Constitution, a cutting down of military expenditure, 
a strict enforcement of the Concordat, etc. — met with a chilling 
reception in both Assemblies. (November 15.) 

A " limited revision '' : here was the field for the coming 
battle : the senators feared a diminution of their powers, the 
Deputies trembled for their very existence. Barodet intro- 
duced a proposal for "unlimited" revision. He asked for 
an emergency vote. This was opposed by Gambetta, and 
then supported by Clemenceau. Gambetta replied, and 
carried the day. 

On December 8 the supplementary credits for the two new 
Ministries and Under-Secretaryships were discussed. Under 
the Waddington Cabinet, a Decree of February 5, 1879, insti- 
tuting a Postmaster-General, had evoked no criticism. The 
committee, however, expressed a desire that in future no new- 
Ministerial post should be created without the previous con- 

299 



GAMBETTA 

sent of both Houses. This was tantamount to a censure. 
Gambetta asked the Chamber to repudiate the suggestion. 
M. Ribot, with a skill and adroitness which foreshadowed 
the great part he was to play, succeeded in getting it retained. 
Gambetta was under no illusion ; he saw that he would not 
be able to govern with a majority thus torn by dissensions. 
He knew that he was expected to work miracles, and he also 
knew that to work those miracles was beyond his capacity. 
We needed superior military strength, and this — as he had 
once more found out by personal observation — Germany still 
possessed : we needed alliances, and the time for those 
alliances was not yet ripe. He cherished the same dream as 
every statesman worthy of the name, the vision of a France 
united, reconciled, massing all her forces for a great external 
action — the vision that was to become a reality thirty-three 
years later, under the impact of a fresh German assault, when, 
if he had lived, he would have been sixty-three. But he had to 
deal with furiously warring parties, with political and religious 
animosities skilfully fanned by the victor, with Assemblies 
that shivered at the slightest puff of wind. The man of 1870 
bore 1914 in his soul; but the man of 1870 was not destined 
to be the man of 1914. Fortune, which had showered on him 
all her gifts at thirty, was to desert him at forty. 

Physically he was not up to the mark. That feverish, 
wearing existence, " unbalanced," as he used to call it, that 
constant delirium of passion, the excitement of the war and of 
Parliamentary struggles, that portentous career had aged him 
before his time; he was tired. He was beginning to be 
affected, too (though he would never openly admit it), by the 
calumnies and insults which his enemies relentlessly heaped 
upon him — a cup of bitterness that he was to drink to the last 
minute, to the last drop. 

When someone suggested that he should refuse the burden, 
he had replied : " And what of all those who are reckoning 
upon me?" Yet he did nothing to win over the majority. 
Quite the contrary ! Waldeck-Rousseau was so bold as to 
write to a prefect [chief magistrate of a department]: "A 
system of Government resting on the notion that the opinion 

300 



THE GRAND MINISTRY 

of a prefect counts for nothing, and that the recommendation 
of a Deputy is everything, would be a system fatal alike to 
the independence of the electorate and to that of Ministers." 
Scandalous! Gambetta had said at Tours :"The adminis- 
tration is the steward of the democracy ; if you lay a finger on 
any of its prerogatives, you undermine the whole structure." 
And at Belleville : " The administration is no longer master 
in its own house, the executive ceases to control its agents, 
when they are no longer left in undisputed exercise of their 
functions." The Republicans were too near to the Empire, 
to the Twenty-fourth of May, to the Sixteenth of May, not to 
distrust what was known as a "strong" Government. The 
difference between a solid and enduring parliamentary autho- 
rity and personal rule had not yet taken clear shape in men's 
minds. The Parliamentary Republic had not yet found its 
level ; for the Government, direction and action ; for Parlia- 
ment, deliberation and control. The body politic had not yet 
recovered from the recent ordeals of despotism and oppression. 
The mentality of its leading men was still littered with 
wreckage. 

General de Miribel, who on May i6 had been instructed, 
with Ducrot, to prepare for a mobilisation of the Army in the 
event of a second dissolution, was appointed Chief of the 
General Staff ; Marshal Canrobert, then a Bonapartist Senator 
for the Dordogne Department, and General Gallifet, who had 
suppressed the Commune, were placed upon the Army Coun- 
cil; J.-J. Weiss, an Alsatian in origin and in spirit, who had 
been Broglie's Councillor of State, was appointed, in default 
of Albert Sorel, Director of Political Affairs at the Foreign 
Office, in succession to Baron de Courcel, who became ambas- 
sador in Berlin ; Floquet went to the prefecture of the Seine 
Department, Magnin to the Banque de France, and so on. In 
technical matters, Gambetta ranked competence as more 
important than political views. " For government, you want 
a party," he used to say; "for administration, capable men, 
irrespective of party." The same course had been pursued by 
Danton, when he entrusted the War Ministry and that of 
Foreign Affairs to men who had served under the Monarchy. 

301 



GAMBETTA 

It was difficult, however, even on these grounds, to accept 
Weiss and Miribel ; and many Republicans felt qualms at the 
selection of such inveterate foes ere the noise of battle had yet 
died down, and thought that it boded ill for the maintenance 
of existing institutions. 

A question was put to the Minister of War concerning the 
appointment of General de Miribel : " You place the Repub- 
lic," exclaimed Clovis Hugues, "at the mercy of those who 
have always tried to deal it its death-blow ! ' General Cam- 
penon had already spoken once, and was about to return to 
the charge; the Prime Minister pointed out that, where a ques- 
tion was concerned, the rules of procedure would not permit 
of this reply. " Don't speak," cried Henri Marot to the 
General. " Caesar forbids ! " Gambetta : " Why don't you 
talk French! " Maret : "Very well, I won't say 'Caesar,' 
I'll say ' Vitellius! '" 

All the time, too, the agony raged within. The cruel exer- 
tions of public life were telling upon him more than ever. He 
wTote to his beloved : " I had a bad night, and all the solace 
that you brought me, the moral balm that you applied to my 
soul, the hope that you had roused in me had not worked 
enough reaction to banish the wretched fever!" (Novem- 
ber 29.) " Believe me, my dear child, you can save us both; 
yes, save us, for without you my life is empty and desolate, 
has no more value or charm." (December 7.) "A new year 
will soon dawn for us ; we are still at liberty to change our 
lot. . . , You have drained the cup of sorrow to the dregs; 
and I, without losing my calm or balance, have known the 
dizziest heights of happiness, all that is conventionally called 
the sweets of power and fame. Yet I count this as nothing 
without you, without your love, your presence, your requital 
for an unkind destiny. Let us open a new stage of 
life together; come to my heart and stay there. . . ." 
(December 9.) 

Nevertheless, he did not turn aside from the path of duty 
He confirmed the Treaty of Bardo, thus crowning Jules 
Ferry's work in Tunisia. In the Senate, the Due de Broglie 
picked holes in the treaty, asked for " more effective territorial 

302 



THE GRAND MINISTRY 

guarantees," and professed to see certain dangers for France 
in having Turkey as a neighbour. Gambetta's reply was 
marked by restraint and good humour, and showed perfect 
deference towards the Senate; he obtained his credits by a 
unanimous vote. (December lo.) 

At St. Petersburg Alexander III. had succeeded his father, 
Alexander II., who had been assassinated on March 13, 1881. 
Increasing symptoms of a desire for a Franco-Russian under- 
standing were noted. Katkoff was the trusted adviser of the 
new Tsar. Skobeleff, who made no concealment of his hatred 
for German supremacy, was preparing to visit Paris. Gam- 
betta appointed as Ambassador in Russia his favourite agent 
Chaudordy. He had ideas of sending the Due d'Aumale, as 
Envoy Extraordinary of the Republic, to Alexander III.'s 
coronation. He has often been credited with the phrase : 
" Leaning on London and on St. Petersburg, we shall be 
invincible." If he never said it, at any rate he thought it, 
and he put the maxim into practice. 

The Egyptian question, however, was to give a new trend 
to the policy of France and of Europe. 

France and the Nile share the honour of having made 
Egypt. Our scholars, our soldiers, our engineers, our manu- 
facturers, our traders, our jurists had wrought the prosperity 
of the country. It was France that had set up courts of justice 
and an educational system. There were then in Egypt 18,000 
Frenchmen, among them being representatives of our leading 
industries. All the Government departments were run by 
French agents. The Suez Canal was the achievement of a 
Frenchman. Egypt was France's adopted daughter. Eng- 
land, however, had bought the Khedive's holding in the 
Canal. In December, 1875, Gambetta had vainly besought 
the Due Decazes, Minister for Foreign Affairs, to purchase 
the 176,000 shares which the Khedive offered us for sale. He 
promised that the entire Left would support the operation. 
There had then been introduced, in 1879, the dual control by 
England and France. It bound England as it bound us; it 
ensured us a share of control strictly on a par with that of 
England. Thanks to this system, the national debt had been 

303 



GAMBETTA 

reduced, taxation lightened, and usury put down. In Gam- 
betta's eyes, the condominium in the Nile Valley was the 
cornerstone of the Anglo-French entente. Thiers had warned 
him : " Whatever you do, never let go of Egypt ! " 

An anti-foreign agitation had recently broken out among 
the officers in Cairo. On September lo, 1881, Colonel Arabi 
had invested the Khedive's palace, demanding that the 
notables should be convened, a Constitution drawn up, and 
the Army effectives (which had been reduced to 4,000) should 
be raised to 18,000. The Khedive had been forced to submit. 
The Dual Control was badly shaken. Turkey took advantage 
of this, and made an attempt to recover her ancient heritage ; 
the Sultan sent Turkish emissaries to Cairo. The Paris and 
London Cabinet agreed to have them watched by two battle- 
ships, one French and the other British, detached to 
Alexandria. 

On December 14 Gambetta, in his first conversation with 
Lord Lyons, the British Ambassador, revealed himself as a 
staunch advocate of the entente : ' * Would it be wise for 
France and England to let themselves be caught unawares by 
some catastrophe ? The two Governments should come to 
an agreement as regards the most suitable means, either of 
averting a crisis, if the explosion can be prevented, or of 
applying remedies, if it is unavoidable." 

The British Government, however, had no wish to see 
1^ ranee taking control in the affair. This was amply proved 
by the remarks passed at the Congress of Berlin, and by a 
note from Lord Granville to Sir Edward Malet, Consul- 
General at Cairo, on November 4, 1881, the contents of which 
were communicated to the Cabinet in Paris. It was couched 
in guarded terms. On December 23 Lord Lyons replied to 
Gambetta: " Her Majesty's Government is of opinion that 
the cordial understanding that exists on the subject of Egypt 
must assuredly be made manifest, but that there is room for 
mature consideration to determine the conduct to be adopted 
in the event of a fresh outbreak of the disturbances." 

Gambetta, seizing hold of Lord Granville's statement that 
" the cordial understanding that exists on the subject of 

304 



THE GRAND MINISTRY 

Egypt must be made manifest," insisted that '* the attachment 
between the two Powers should not remain merely at the 
Platonic stage." Anxious that "a clear-cut and definite 
object should be pursued by both in common," he proposed 
that the two Governments should instruct their representatives 
to give Tewfik Pasha positive assurance of the sympathy and 
support of France and England, and to encourage His 
Highness to maintain and strengthen his own authority." 

On January 6 Lord Lyons wrote to Gambetta : "Her 
Majesty's Government concurs in the recommendations set 
forth in your Note of December 30, on the strict understand- 
ing that it must not be regarded as thereby committing itself 
to any particular mode of action, should action prove 
necessary." 

The plan of a joint note was thus accepted, but the questions 
of "action " and "mode of action " were held over. Lord 
Granville remarked to our Ambassador, Challemel-Lacour : 
" The most important thing is, not that France and England 
should really work in harmony, but that they should appear 
to do so." Challemel-Lacour left no doubt as to the half- 
hearted attitude shown by Lord Granville. He wrote on 
January 17 that " if the London Cabinet had considered the 
possibility of effective action, it was only to reject the idea." 

The initiative taken by the two Western Powers had given 
umbrage to the Porte and the other Cabinets. They saw or 
professed to see in it an encroachment upon their rights and 
a breach of the statute which had been granted to Egypt 
under their guarantee. Gambetta, in order to learn their 
intentions, made inquiries of our charge d'affaires in Berlin, 
the Comte d'Aubigny. The latter replied on January 10 that 
if fresh troubles should arise, Germany, Russia, Austria and 
Italy would not sanction the landing of Anglo-French forces 
on the banks of the Nile ; the only way to cut the knot, in their 
opinion, would be "the despatch of Turkish regiments after 
a previous understanding between the Porte and the Cabinets 
of London and Paris, supplemented, if need were, by a naval 
demonstration on the part of those two Powers." Further, 
on the 17th : " According to information which reaches us 

305 X 



GAMBETTA 

from a trustworthy source, England has consuhed Prince 
von Bismarck; the Chancellor, in his answer, expressed the 
fear that Russia, Italy and Austria could not look on unmoved 
at the intervention of France and England. The Prince's 
view was that a concerted military action by England and 
France in Egypt should be avoided at all costs." (On the 
31st he wrote again, to the same effect.) On the 24th, 
Challemel wrote to Gambetta : " I am afraid that Lord Gran- 
ville is not disposed to accept the intervention of any other 
Power." The British Ambassador in Berlin, with the object 
of getting us evicted, was exerting all his influence both upon 
Bismarck and upon our representative. Bismarck, for his 
part, was trying at one and the same time to consolidate 
Germany's position at Constantinople and to cause a rift 
between France and England. We shall see how he 
succeeded. 

At home, Gambetta had left nothing out of the reckoning. 
In this Chamber, the forces against him were too strong; he 
came to office too late or too soon ; why wear himself out, why 
row laboriously in the teeth of adverse winds ? No, his hour 
had not struck, and he knew it. And he, he who had said to 
wise Normandy that it would be " childish " to ask the Cham- 
ber to change the method of ballot that had brought it into 
being, now drew his sword once more from the scabbard and 
held it to Parliament's throat. He or the Chamber : did he 
think that it would offer no resistance ? 

On January 12, 1881, he writes : " The storm is gathering, 
the clouds are massing ; there is little reason to doubt that the 
deluge will burst upon my head in a few days' time. I shall 
put the question fairly and squarely, I shall lay all my cards 
on the table : double or quits ! Either they will pass under /the 
Caudine Forks,^ or I shall let them wallow in their hopeless 
impotence. I feel, not only free, but more determined. Fate 
will decide." "Double or quits! " Yes, that summed up 
the position. He would either triumph or perish, but perish 
only to rise again, in full strength, at a later day. 

^ A pass through which the defeated Roman army was forced by the Samnites to 
march ui\der the yoke, 321 B.C. — Translator's note. 

306 



THE GRAND MINISTRY 

On the 14th he brought forward his scheme for constitu- 
tional revision. His idea was that the Constitution should 
lay down the system of ballot for the Chamber, as it already 
did for the Senate. For the election of Senators, he wished 
to make the number of delegates from the boroughs propor- 
tional to the number of their inhabitants ; for the irremovable 
Senators elected by the Senate, he substituted Senators elected 
for a term of nine years by both Assemblies; finally, in 
matters of finance, he was for giving the first and the last 
word to the Chamber. 

The committee charged with examining the scheme was 
almost entirely hostile. " Gambetta wants to reign supreme in 
the Chamber," said one Deputy; "we must choose between 
the Chamber and him." " The President of the Republic," 
said Wilson, the moving spirit of the coalition, " is opposed to 
the project." 

On January 19, Gambetta writes : " So at last the clouds are 
dispersing and I am face to face with my opponents of every 
stamp. We shall fight in broad daylight. What a splendid 
battlefield they have just provided for me ! It is no longer 
political methods, texts and constitutional law, public rights 
and electoral rights that are at stake, but a higher issue : 
Shall there, or shall there not, be a Government worthy of the 
name ? I owe them a debt of gratitude for having opened the 
debate, and having assured it, at this critical hour, all the 
prestige, all the importance it deserves. I am glad to think 
I can throw myself into a final and glorious struggle, and,, 
come what may, can once more find an opportunity of telling 
the truth to the country. And then, then I shall cry, like the 
Prophet, Liberavi animam meant, I have set free, I have 
delivered my soul ! I shall rush into the fray with a light 
heart; for if I win, I have them in the hollow of my hand; if 
I lose, I am once more my own master ! ' ' 

On January 24, M. Louis Andrieux, ex-Prefect of Police, 
witty, mordant, with an " indefinable something " in his 
intellect, like the Cardinal de Retz, read out his report to the 
Chamber : " To embody the scrutin de liste in the Constitu- 
tion," he said, " is to condemn our origin and our principles, 

307 X 2 



GAMBETTA 

to endanger at once the credit and the moral authority essen- 
tial to every Chamber; it would reveal the campaign for 
a dissolution, naked and unashamed, and bring it to a 
head." 

The matter was brought up in the House on January 26. 
From the very first crossing of the foils Gambetta lunges out 
and uncovers his guard. "This is what they say: 'We 
recognise the full jurisdiction of the Congress; we recognise 
the absolute ompetence of each member of the Senate and 
the Chamber 10 raise any question whatsoever; but there is a 
band of political outcasts in whom we acknowledge neither a 
right nor a capacity to broach any question — that is, the 
Ministers." 

He attacks the Extreme Left: "I know that a single 
Chamber, with no counterpoise or brake, with nothing to 
restrict its movements, is an ideal that still finds favour in the 
ranks of the democracy. What I also know is that this theory 
is becoming more and more discredited in the light of 
events, by the experience of every day. The experience of 
the past fortnight, for instance, proves how useful, how 
vitally important it is for a democracy to have an Upper 
Chamber, if only because it gives everyone time to think 
things over„" 

Always i)ut on his defence, forced to explain himself, to 
interpret his meaning, he keeps nothing back, he bares his 
tortured soul : "Of all the afflictions that can befall one in 
political Hie — and God knows that I have had my share ! — 
there is one that I cannot endure in silence : namely, to be held 
up to the Republican party as one who is trying to break 
away from it, to forswear his allegiance. Will anyone dare 
to stand up in this House and say that I am animated by 
some vile ambition, graced with the name of ' dictatorship,' 
which would make me the laughing-stock of the world if I 
ever sank so low as to cherish so paltry an aim? ..." The 
phrases clash and jostle against one another and are lost in 
the swirling flood. He reminds them of the perils he and 
they have faced together and shows them the danger of 
irreparable fissures. "You know me; you know my faults, 

308 



THE GRAND MINISTRY 

and, I make bold to say, my passionate devotion to the service 
of the Republic. What have I done? Side by side with 
you, I fought in the open against the enemies of the Republic. 
We have got rid of our foes; what is left to us now is to 
govern ourselves, to combat the endless discords that beset 
us, to overcome our obsession with personalities and keep our 
eyes riveted on the cotintry. Finally, a sweeping survey of 
the whole present and the whole future — the future, safe and 
assured, the clear road to the mountain-tops; later on, at 
any rate, if they do not wish to open the track now. The 
advice has been given me : ' Change your hidden power into 
a real authority.' My answer was : ' Change the electoral 
laws, and I am ready. I am convinced that, in resisting you, 
I am acting in the essential interests of State policy. All 
that I can bring forward, to counteract your fears, is my 
loyalty, the plans we have prepared together, in a word my 
whole past career, and I appeal to your sense of right and 
wrong. At any rate, it will be without bitterness, without 
feeling a vestige of wounded self-esteem, that I shall bow tc 
your verdict; for there is something that I rank above all 
ambitions, and that is my trust in the Republicans, without 
which I can never accomplish what is — I surely have some 
right to say so — my task in public life, the rehabilitation of 
our country ! " He was loudly cheered. The Chamber was 
still dominated by the spell of his oratory, it was still proud 
of him. Naturally, however, it thought of its own safety 
first. 

M. Andrieux replied. Confidence must be mutual : unless 
the Government had confidence in the Chamber, it could not 
ask members for a token of their confidence. No Government 
could assume office in face of an Assembly with which it 
thought that it could not work hand in hand. He recalled the 
recent pronouncements of Gambetta at Le Neubourg. A 
Chamber which, at its very outset, condemns the source from 
which it sprang, is stricken with decay and doomed to an 
early dissolution. 

Gambetta was defeated by 268 votes to 218. The Ministers 
at once trooped out of the Chamber. Early on the following 

309 



GAMBETTA 

day he wrote to Les Jardies : " So my forecast has come true 
to the very day — the blessed day of deUverance ! I was 
already hailing it with delight at heart, that dawn of freedom. 
Everything that happens must serve as an object-lesson for 
the future. I don't complain, for I feel instinctively that the 
country will know better where it stands, and, in a few years' 
time, will be able to do me justice and return to its genuine 
traditions. Yesterday evening I tasted the first-fruits of 
vengeance, although that appetising dish has to be eaten 
cold. The victors looked very glum ; I leave you to imagine 
whether I showed my mirth too openly ! ' ' 

The Gambetta Ministry had lasted sixty-three days. It 
fell under the blows of a coalition in which the Extreme Left, 
the Right, and the friends of the!£lys6e joined hands. Yet 
its chief remained the loftiest embodiment of the Republic, 
and, for a large number of Frenchmen, the man of the future. 

The Extreme Left were indignant at the abandonment of 
the old Republican programme, the programme of 1869, a 
single Chamber, disestablishment of the Church, and so forth. 
They did not want any colonial expeditions, and Gambetta's 
imperious manner made them restive. The Right was pursu- 
ing the course which it was to maintain for thirty years. As 
for President Grevy, apart from the fact that Gambetta's popu- 
larity was not altogether to his liking, and that the journey 
to Cherbourg still rankled with him, he did not favour 
revanche ideas. Neither the home nor the foreign policy of 
Gambetta was calculated to please him, and he now felt easier 
in mind. 

Gambetta went off to Nice and from there to Italy. He 
took up his quarters in Genoa, enjoying its pure, health-giving 
air, its expanse of silver sea. The blood of his forbears 
thrilled in his veins. We may give a typical extract from 
his letters: "I have a sense of excessive loneliness in this 
great city of marble, where I am always reminded that it was 
my cradle. I breathe more freely here than anywhere else, 
and so far from feeling that I am in a strange country, its 
whole history comes back to me like a family tradition. I 
abandon myself to dreams of the past, I forget my own 

310 



THE GRAND MINISTRY 

troubles in musing over that wonderful venture of Columbus, 
those daring maritime raids of Doria, Spinola's great sword- 
strokes, the gilded fantasies of the Doges; though a good 
Frenchman, I am conscious of a sort of ancestral yearning 
when I look once more upon these mighty emblems of the 
proud Republic of Genoa in its palmy days, a Republic where 
strength and dignity walked hand in hand with popular 
liberty." (February 13, 1882.) 



311 



CHAPTER XIX 

DEATH 

The Second Freycinet Cabinet (January 30, 1882) — Bombardment of Alexandria — 
Gambetta's Last_S peach (July i8) — Resignation of the Freycinet Cabinet — Death 
of Gambetta. 

On January 30 the new Cabinet was installed, with M. 
de Freycinet, its head, at the Foreign Office, L6on Say at the 
Treasury, Jules Ferry as Minister of Public Instruction, 
Admiral Jaur^guiberry as Minister of Marine. 

It has been seen how, before the fall of the Gambetta Minis- 
try, the Powers had rejected the scheme of exclusive action 
by England and France in the Egyptian affair. Even if 
Gambetta had remained in office, he could not have pursued 
the policy outlined in his note of January 7, namely, joint 
action ; England was backing out. A week after the crisis, 
on February 2, Germany, Austria, Russia and Italy assured 
the Ottoman Government that the status quo in Egypt, in the 
form established by the Firmans of the Sultans and by various 
European settlements, could not be modified without a 
previous understanding between the Powers and the suzerain 
State. England having come round to this view, the Frey- 
cinet Ministry was of one mind in thinking that we should 
have to make approaches to the other Governments. On 
February 7, the British Cabinet discussed the prospect of a 
mandate given to England and France in the name of the 
European Concert. Bismarck approved of this course. He 
said to our ambassador, Baron de Courcel : " Should the two 
maritime Powers feel inclined to take action, and should the 
other Powers give them a mandate to do so, this solution is 
one that I might countenance." A few days later, on 

312 



DEATH 

March I, Busch, the Under-Secretary of State, repeated the 
Chancellor's suggestion in more explicit terms: "The 
German Chancellery," he observed to M. de Courcel, " would 
be ready to admit the two Powers as Europe's mandatories for 
restoring order in the valley of the Nile." As for the Russian 
Government, it not only accepted this mode of action, but 
spoke warmly in its favour, as having proved its value in i860. 
On May 11 M. de Freycinet announced in the Chamber that 
he would act in harmony with the Powers, that the "pre- 
dominant and privileged status of France and England was 
recognised by them and regarded as beyond dispute." This 
was the right plan : joint action, in virtue of a European man- 
date. It was in strict accordance with the Treaty, and a 
reasonable compromise between France's interests and 
Europe's claims. Here was solid ground, where we ought to 
have been able to keep our feet. Why did we fail to do so ? 
Why, in the space of a few days, did we completely ,lose grip 
of the situation ? 

On the day after making this announcement in the Cham- 
ber M. de Freycinet sent our new ambassador in London, 
Tissot, a telegram which was to be communicated to Lord 
Granville : ** France and England would each send six men- 
of-war light enough to enter Alexandria Harbour. In the 
event of a landing, we should have recourse to Turkish troops, 
under the control of the two Powers." Why this calling in 
of Turkish troops, which, despite their control by the two 
Powers, entirely altered the aspect of affairs ? The following 
explanation is given by M. de Freycinet in his book, La 
Qtiestion d'Egypte (1915) : ** Bismarck, without positively 
refusing his adherence to the mandate, laid great stress on the 
advantages of using Turkish troops," and England, " fear- 
ing, perhaps, that our force would be superior in numbers, 
had made representations to the same effect." Bismarck was 
anxious to please the Sultan, in order to promote German 
influence at Constantinople. He had expressed this latest 
view in conversations ; it was not recorded in any written note. 
The change of policy was a serious blow lo France's 
privileged position. 

313 



GAMBETTA 

Since the Khedive's security was still threatened, M. 
de Freycinet on May 23 gave notice of his intention to propose 
a Conference, and in agreement with the London Cabinet 
actually did so on June 2. A lively scene ensued in the 
Chamber. M. de Freycinet, being plied with questions, dis- 
claimed any idea of adventures, of a French expeditionary 
force. To calm the apprehensions of the Chamber, he dis- 
creetly hinted at the possibility that troops other than French, 
in other words Turkish, would be employed. 

Gambetta interposed. " When I heard it stated that, not 
content with having thrown away the special and peculiar 
position allotted to France and England in Egypt by tradition 
and by Firmans of fhe Porte ; not content with entrusting the 
Concert of Europe (in other words, the opponents of this state 
of things) with the adjudication and settlement of a dispute 
in which the question is not one of dismembering the Ottoman 
Empire, but merely one of upholding the status quo regulated 
by treaties — when I heard it had been determined beforehand, 
once and for all, that under no circumstances whatsoever 
would France embark upon military intervention, then I 
remembered how one day Berryer had taken his stand at this 
rostrum on a similar occasion and exclaimed : ' You must not 
speak like that! We don't speak like that of France!'" 
M. de Freycinet protested: "What I said and what I still 
say is that we shall not rely on our isolated judgment in the 
Egyptian question. We shall go to the Concert of Europe 
and settle the question by common agreement." — Gambetta: 
" You have just betrayed to Europe the secret of your weak- 
ness. All they need do is to bully you, and they will get your 
consent to anything." — The Cabinet, and France as well, 
emerged from this debate with distinct loss of strength. 

The affair dragged on. The Conference did not meet in 
Constantinople until June 23. The French Government 
opened the ball by proposing and securing the acceptance of a 
protocol which declared that "while the Conference lasted, 
the Powers would abstain from any isolated action in Egypt." 
England at once had these words added : " Except in a case 
of force majeure, such as the necessity of protecting the lives 

314 



DEATH 

of their nationals." The Conference then decided upon 
Turkish intervention. (July 6.) 

On June ii, however, a riot had broken out in Alexandria. 
More than forty Europeans had been killed and sixty-six 
wounded. Towards the end of June the Egyptians reinforced 
the batteries commanding the entrance to Alexandria harbour. 
England had not waited for the murders nor even for the 
opening of the Conference before arming herself for action. 
She had already mustered considerable naval forces between 
Malta and Alexandria. On June 15, Salisbury said in the 
House of Lords: " Some suggest that Europe may take it 
amiss; England knows that she is free to attain her political 
ends by herself, if she cannot do so in company with the other 
Powers." 

A rumour got abroad that the passes of the harbour were 
going to be blocked. Admiral Seymour, afraid for his ships, 
warned the Egyptians that at the slightest sign of anything 
untoward he would proceed to a bombardment. At the same 
time he invited the French admiral who had been sent into 
Alexandrian water in concert with the British division to take 
such measures as were needed for the security of both detach- 
ments. On July 4 Lord Lyons communicated to M. 
de Freycinet the orders given to Admiral Seymour and asked 
him whether we were going to issue similar instructions to 
Admiral Conrad. M. de Freycinet declared to Lord Lyons 
that " if Admiral Seymour ventured on a bombardment, we 
could not join him in that enterprise." Our squadron 
received orders to weigh anchor and proceed to Port Said. 
On the nth, the British ships opened fire, and Lord Gran- 
ville telegraphed to Lord Dufferin, ambassador in Constan- 
tinople, that, so far as Her Majesty's Government could see, 
a resort to force was the only means of putting an end to a 
state of things that had become deplorable." On the 15th 
the British landed troops and seized the reins of government. 

The French Cabinet then proposed an occupation of the 
Suez Canal, in concert with the English, and on July 18 
asked for a credit of 8,000,000 francs on behalf of the Ministry 
of Marine. Gambetta mounted the rostrum for the last time : 

315 



GAMBETTA 

** Let not France be shorn of her heritage ! The more 
ancient it is, the more sacred! " "A Bismarckian trap! " 
someone interrupted. " One must give that statesman his due — 
he who is as firm and self-restrained as he is daring at certain 
moments ; he never troubles his head about anything that is 
not closely bound up with German interests. It is absurd 
to see Prince Bismarck's finger in every plan and every action. 
Do nothing without mature consideration of your own 
interests. 

** Some have spoken of the ' national Egyptian party,' of 
* Egyptian nationality ' ; they have found out that this people, 
which has been in bondage for forty centuries, is on the eve 
of creating or re-discovering the principles of 1789 in the sub- 
terranean vaults of the Pyramids ! ... It is not for the sake 
of Egyptian nationality or the Egyptian national party that 
we ought to go to Egypt ; it is for the French nation. Unfor- 
tunately there are people who have come to the conclusion 
that Arabi Pacha is a very formidable power, and that the 
Egyptian army needs at least 50,000 Frenchmen to disperse 
it!"^" 

The Anglo-French entente must be preserved at all costs, to 
meet any situation that may arise : "I know no other policy 
that would be any help to us in the most terrible crisis that 
we might have to face. What I say to you to-day, I say with 
a deep sense of insight into the future : never break off the 
alliance with England. I am a sincere friend of the English, 
but not to such an extent that I would sacrifice French 
interests on their behalf. Besides, you may rest assured 
that the English, like the good statesmen they are, will think 
well only of allies who can make themselves respected, who 
do not lose sight of their own interests. What I dread more 
than anything is that you may hand over to England, for 
good and all, territories, rivers and rights of way where your 
title to live and to trade is no less valid than theirs. That 
is the spirit in which I shall vote for the credits. I give you 
the money ; I think the sum is inadequate ; but I shall give it 
you with the assurance that what the Chamber is ratifying 
to-day is not a matter of credits, but a matter of future policy : 

316 



DEATH 

the Mediterranean remaining a theatre for French activities, 
and Egypt being torn from the grasp of Moslem fanaticism, 
sheltered from these raids of a barrack-room soldiery, to come 
once more within the ambit of European politics. That is 
why I give you the money, and that is why my friends can 
associate their vote with mine," 

I witnessed this sitting from the Strangers' Gallery. I can 
picture the scene as if it were yesterday. The great orator 
began slowly, in a low, solemn tone; such was Mirabeau's 
way. The mighty engine, just as it was getting ready to 
start, seemed to be straining itself, to be summoning from its 
innermost vitals the forces it was about to unchain. Little 
by little, the movement grew faster ; at last he burst forth into 
flame, a flame that seared and devoured all that lay in its 
path. The speaker had to face that coalition of extremist 
sections which was to become a stock feature of the parlia- 
mentary game for more than thirty years; and at the same 
time he had against him the friends of the Elys6e. Under 
the pitiless light of that glass-roofed hall, I saw that hostile 
throng, their eyes glaring distrust, waiting to pounce. At 
times, his words swept over the shuddering Assembly like a 
gale, and their heads bowed beneath the blast like ears of 
corn. It was a natural force, a cyclone. Every note was 
struck, from mournful irony and savage indignation to the 
swelling organ-roll of glorious memories and the magic 
clarion-call of hope. When he spoke of " the doctors of the 
law around the mosque of El-Ahzar," it was as if one were 
looking at a picture by Delacroix. And all through the inci- 
sive reasoning of the man who had lately held office and knew 
to a nicety how far we had to reckon with the factor of military 
revolt and Arabi's power of resistance, one was conscious of a 
scorn that he did not trouble to disguise for the blind infatua- 
tion of ignorance and frivolity which, from age to age, fly 
in the face of experience and wisdom. A young hothead, on 
the Extreme Left, had ventured on a misguided interruption : 
" Don't jeer at the dawn of the Egyptian 1789 ! " (just as, in 
after days, others believed in the " Liberalism " of the Young 
Turks, etc.). Gambetta nailed him to his seat with an Olym- 

317 



GAMBETTA 

pian retort. Obviously, he took a malicious delight in play- 
ing with the difficulty; with something of an artist's joy in 
his craft did he use his power to infuriate his opponents. In 
speaking of the English, after remarking that he wanted to 
be their friend, not their dupe, and that they only respect 
those who can hold their own with them, he pointed out the 
differences in their colonising methods, according as they have 
to govern peoples of their own race and standard of civilisa- 
tion, or peoples who for centuries have lived " under the 
lash." " Under the lash! " At these words, as at a blow 
from a whip, more than one generous and humane soul 
winced. 

Throughout this great ffghting speech there ran as a refrai,n 
the cries of the patriot, the moving accents of the Republican 
deeply wounded by unjust suspicions, the appeal to painful 
memories : "I have the right to say that both before and 
after 1870 my chief and most abiding care has been for the 
security of France ; that I should loathe myself, should deny 
myself the honour of ever addressing my country again, if I 
could bring myself to throw anything in the scale against her 
future and her glory ! " When he exclaimed, in a peroration 
that still rings in our ears : "I give you the money, but on 
one condition : the Mediterranean remaining the theatre of 
French action," the style was certainly a little slipshod : a 
"sea" that remains a "theatre" of "activities" would 
hardly commend itself to one who chooses his words carefully ; 
but we saw the blue sea, crowded with sails, the great French 
lake conquered for civilisation by our fathers, all France's 
achievements in the East, her glory, her prestige for centuries 
past, since the Crusades. There was in this picture a 
wizardry of vivid presentation, a colour that could never fade 
from our minds. In the ardour of our twenty years we were 
fairly carried away. This man, still so young and so fascinat- 
ing, who embodied a tragic page in our history, also incar- 
nated in our eyes that which is dearest to every heart — hope. 

While he was speaking, his mother lay dying at St. Mande. 
As he stepped down from the rostrum, his friends hurried 
him away. While bending over his mother on her deathbed, 

318 



DEATH 

he heard the newsboys shouting " Gambetta's Speech! " — 
the speech that left him still aglow with passion. He had his 
dead mother taken to Nice: " All alone, I am escorting my 
poor mother to her last resting-place, down there, facing the 
sea, beneath the sun and the flowers, near her beloved sister." 
Alas, how soon he was to join her I 

Meanwhile, in London, the Cabinet voted a credit of 
;^2, 280,000. In Paris the Senate, by 205 votes to 5, granted 
the 8,000,000 francs demanded for the protection of the Suez 
Canal; almost the entire Right abstained from voting 
(July 25). In the Chamber, on the 29th, M. Clemenceau 
opposed intervention in any shape or form : " Europe is 
swarming with soldiers, everyone is waiting. The Powers 
reserve their liberty for the future; let us reserve that of 
France." M. de Freycinet advocated intervention on a 
limited scale, the eventual protection of the Canal. He got 
no more than 75 votes. Gambetta's friends voted against the 
proposal. M. de Freycinet's supporters took him to task, 
maintaining that a half-hearted intervention was worse than 
none at all. It was, indeed, not a little strange to censure the 
Government for not doing its utmost, and at the same time 
not even allow it to do the least that could be done. But 
after all, even if Gambetta's friends had backed the Cabinet, 
it would not have had a majority. France's day was over in 
that land which her genius had fertilised. After being all in 
all there for fifty years, she was in one hour reduced to a 
cipher. Our refusal to occupy the Suez Canal shut us out 
from Egypt for ever. The Freycinet Ministry resigned 
(July 30). On September 13, at Tel-el-Kebir, the Egyptian 
army was put to rout by General Wolseley in the space of 
twenty minutes. 

The Mediterranean, together with the Rhine, has always 
been tlie great object of France's aspirations. For centuries 
it was a Prankish sea. At every period of political turmoil 
and religious disputes our influence in the East has undergone 
a crisis. Our greatest kings, our greatest Ministers, 
Henri IV. and Richelieu, for instance, managed to promote, 
side by side, our forward drive on the Eastern marches and 

319 



GAMBETTA 

in the Southern sea. Could we, after 1870, remain both on 
the Vosges and in the Mediterranean ? Jules Ferry and 
Gambetta thought we could, and the present writer, who was 
then just entering upon the stage of public life, shared their 
view. To-day, history has given her verdict. In the most 
terrible war of all, the possession of a vast colonial empire, 
very much larger than the one that was then in question — for, 
besides Tunisia, it includes the Soudan, the Congo, Madagas- 
car, Indo-China and Morocco — so far from proving a source 
of weakness to France, has turned out to be a tower of 
strength, notably increasing her resources both in men and 
material. We can all see this now, after the event. At that 
time, however, the country had barely emerged from ill-fated 
ventures and military disasters. The difficulties of the 
Algerian conquest, the Mexican fiasco and memories of the 
invasion still weighed on our souls like an incubus. Every- 
where we expected to find obstacles in our path, to be thrown 
off our track, to be enmeshed in snares. Men, gold, perhaps 
blood, would be needed; we were inclined to hoard what we 
had left. Many Frenchmen felt that it was foolhardy to 
divert French troops and French money to remote enterprises, 
while her flank was exposed to the enemy. We did not care 
to dismantle the frontier; we still dreaded some Bismarckian 
thrust; we asked ourselves apprehensively whether, in going 
so far afield, we should not be playing into Germany's hands. 
France, though already on the upward path, lacked self- 
confidence; she still bore the burden of the vanquished and 
the weak. 

There were some who held that in continuing to act in con- 
cert with England in Egypt we ran the risk of falling out 
with her. Even if the worst had come to the worst, there is 
one thing that the French forget too often and the English 
never lose sight of — the value of guarantees. Once they have 
seized hold, they never let go. On any assumption, to aban- 
don our rights, our position in Egypt, without getting any- 
thing in return was unutterable folly. We ought to have 
been on the spot. 

Throughout all this period of our history, France seems to 

320 



DEATH 

live under the brooding shadow of the foreigner's will. 
Always Bismarck has a finger in our quarrels, always he 
inflames and exploits our dissensions. Prussia had been the 
cancer of Germany; Bismarck was the evil genius of Europe 
and the scourge of France. Accursed be defeat, not only for 
piling ruin upon ruin, but for leaving so many faint hearts 
and feeble hands in its trail ! A conquered nation is never a 
nation of the free. Our children, at any rate, will not have to 
endure the agonies that we went through long after the date 
at which our present story ends down to the eve of the war of 

1914 J 
At the time when these events were unfolding, public 

opinion, for the most part, as always happens in such cases, 
had no inkling of their significance. We were not told the 
details, we did not know what was going on behind the 
scenes. Gambetta had been under a delusion as to the atti- 
tude of the British Government. He had wanted to bind it 
irrevocably, and had thought that it was already amenable to 
his wishes. The British Ministers, knowing that his position 
was somewhat shaky, had refused to commit themselves very 
far. Even before the fall of his Ministry, Europe had wished 
to haye a voice in the* matter, and as soon as he was over- 
thrown the London Cabinet came round to the views of the 
other Powers. Bismarck, who in February and even at the 
beginning of March had acquiesced in the intervention of 
England and France in the name of the European concert, 
some days later advanced the claims of Turkey. The Frey- 
cinet Ministry, compelled to rely on the elements that had 
brought about Gambetta's downfall, was set the difficult task 
of satisfying England, Germany and the Chamber. The 
whole period of French history that we are studying is domi- 
nated by the German terror. We cannot really understand 
the conflicts of the National Assembly, the crisis of 1877 and 
the Tunisian and Egyptian affairs, unless we bear in mind 
the perpetual menace of Bismarck. The disaster of 1882 in 
the Mediterranean was the direct outcome of our defeats in 
1870 on the Continent. 

We may now form an estimate of Gambetta as an orator. 

321 Y 



GAMBETTA 

He ranks with Mirabeau, Vergniaud and Danton as among 
the greatest speakers of France since the Revolution. Like 
Berryer, however, he will hardly bear reading, he had to be 
seen and heard. 

His style is as a rule unwieldy, copious, loose-knit. He 
can write well when he lays himself out to do so ; witness the 
portrait of Lachaud, sketched when he was twenty-four. His 
speech on the plebiscite in 1869 is a more compact piece of 
work than his popular harangues of 1873 and 1874, which 
he delivered off-hand, heedless of form ; and naturally his 
fighting speeches were less elaborate than those in which he 
expounded his doctrines. At first he writes them out in full, 
but it is not long before he contents himself with making out 
a skeleton — exordium, middle and peroration — and this he 
submits to a friend for approval. If ever he wanders from 
the track thus marked out, his friendly critic sets him right. 
In a later phase he tests his arguments beforehand in private 
conversations, in gatherings of intimates. As he goes on, he 
prepares and revises less and less. He almost invariably 
uses too many words ; he has not or will not take the time to 
be brief. Like Bismarck and Cavour, he recked nothing of 
literary polish ; all he cared about was the result ; all he aimed 
at was to grip his audience, to convince it, to lead it whither 
he would. It is true that a political speech is primarily a 
weapon, not a work of art, but there is no reason why it 
should not be both. In order to be great in action, a man 
need not be a poor speaker; Demosthenes is a case in point. 
Oratory should not smell of the lamp, but on the other hand 
it should not fall outside the province of literary criticism. 
We may grant, indeed, that a superabundance of words, 
which enables the improviser to see his sentences coming, is 
often very attractive to the ear, though it repels the reader. 
In writing, reiteration is a weakness, in speaking it is a source 
of strength. But the effect thus produced is evanescent; 
nothing remains except a few memorable phrases, a few 
bright coins from the speaker's mint, the rest dies with him. 
There is no law that forbids us to address posterity as well, 
and only injudicious admirers will hold up as a merit what 

322 



DEATH 

is certainly a defect. Style counts for little in a man's politi- 
cal achievements, but without it his reputation for eloquence 
cannot live. Nor are we here girding at commonplaces or 
irregularities. Commonplaces are the orator's daily bread; 
political audiences are soon nettled by a speaker who sees 
further than they; if his ideas are in advance of theirs, they 
are baffled and disconcerted; hence the lack of harmony 
between the spirit of the Assemblies and the intuitive genius 
of a poet like Lamartine, or the profound calculations of a 
political philosopher like Tocqueville. As for irregularities, 
they may sometimes invest a speech with singular charm. 
No, we are thinking of the vagueness of language which 
arises from looseness of thought, illogical constructions, 
mixed metaphors, nay, even solecisms which the Tribune- 
great lover of letters though he was— helped to introduce into 
the currency of the language, but which would not be found 
in any writer of the seventeenth or eighteenth century; yet 
for all that, with his impetuous outbursts, his flashes of fire 
and enthusiasm, his sweeping eagle-flights, the cries that 
spurt forth from the very depths of his being, his gestures 
that bespoke now the wrath of the insurgent democracy, now 
the anguish of invaded France, that blend of suppleness and 
strength, of audacity and gentleness, of familiarity and 
vehemence, he must be reckoned as one of the most amazing 
oratorical forces of our time. He was a volcano that belched 
forth slag and turbid smoke together with burning lava. 

On August 13 Freycinet had been succeeded by Duclerc. 
When the Chambers reassembled, Gambetta resumed his old 
position as Chairman of the Committee for Army Affairs. 
He now went on working at his plan and pulling his various 
strings in Europe. Skobeleff, the very day after he set 
foot in France, secured an introduction to him. It was 
arranged that the general and the statesman should dine 
together in private, in order that they might chat at their 
leisure. "We met at six o'clock in the evening," said 
Skobeleff, " and did not part company till two in the morning. 
His bright, sparkling eyes had in them a humorous, kindly 
twinkle which lent a peculiar charm to his talk. When he 

323 Y 2 



GAMBETTA 

grew excited, his nostrils would dilate, his lips wore a disdain- 
ful curve, his eyes flashed superbly and his whole cast of 
features assumed an air of majesty. He had a wonderful 
instinct for military matters, and adored the army. The army, 
strangely enough, seeing that he was not a member of its 
caste, had claimed him for its own ; it relied upon him, if not 
to lead it, at any rate to shape its future." 

His friends had just founded, under his patronage, the 
" Patriots' League," with Alfred Me^zi^res, F61ix Faure, Paul 
Deroulede, Ferdinand Buisson, fidouard Detaille, Antonin 
Merci6, AlphonSe de Neuville, Jules Massenet, Joseph 
Reinach, Sansboeuf and others. The League had for its 
object '* the revision of the Treaty of Frankfort and the 
restoration of Alsace-Lorraine to France, and for its task the 
fostering of military and patriotic education and propaganda. 
Henri Martin was its president. *'To accept a first mutila- 
tion," said the venerable historian, "is to court a second 
dismemberment.' ' 

Gambetta's health, however, was more seriously under- 
mined than ever, and his fits of despondency were growing 
more and more frequent. On July 6, after upholding before 
the Committee his ideas regarding the army, he exclaimed : 
" It seems to me a paltry proceeding to deny myself my true 
happiness merely in order to follow the unsatisfying mirage 
of political renown. Two days ago, however, I was able to 
achieve something fairly useful ; I had my scheme for military 
reconstruction approved by the committee. By this last shred 
I still cling to the interests of our country ; I shall enter upon 
this final conflict, and if I fail I can face with equanimity the 
prospect of no longer wearying my purblind contemporaries 
with my designs for a national revival." 

As if with a presentiment that the end is near, he opens his 
heart to his friends and already, in some way, to posterity : 
" I regret nothing, for I have never acted but in the higher 
interests of my party. Sooner or later, the day will dawn 
when men will do me justice. Even if it does not come till 
after my death, I shall not grieve. I pin my faith upon his- 
tory. If we can abide the supreme verdict of history, the 

324 



DEATH 

arrows of slander and calumny fly past us without even 
grazing our skin." Yet they did wound him, for all these 
brave words. To be hated is always depressing. He had to 
taste, until the bitter end, the dregs of base credulity and the 
gall of ignoble souls. If he did not answer his traducers, if 
he begged his friends not to answer them, he could not bring 
himself to ignore any of their accusations. In fact, they 
seemed to afford him a sort of grim and poignant pleasure. 
Just before his death he had read to him the articles which 
made mock of his approaching end. (Ranc, Souvenir s.) He 
consoled himself by calling to mind the famous scene of 
Richelieu's farewell to Father Joseph : the Capuchin monk 
with the shadow of death already upon him, and the Cardinal 
bending over his old confessor and announcing to him — the 
traveller to that unknown country where no news of this 
world ever penetrates — the latest victory of his army in 
Alsace : " Father Joseph ! Father Joseph ! Brisach is ours ! " 
And now at last he is to realise his fondest dream, the 
marriage that he had been planning for so long : ** As soon 
as you wish it, my dear L^onie, we will take advantage of the 
dispensations of our civil code, here or beyond the frontier, 
whichever you choose. I shall not be satisfied at heart until 
the day when you become in name, as you already are in fact, 
my inseparable and eternal partner." His mother was dead, 
he had fallen from power, and she who loved him now con- 
sented to become his wife. On September 21 he writes from 
Les Fretes : " I feel sure that you are already settled at Ville 
d'Avray and that, as is only right, you will act as mistress of 
the house, thus preparing yourself, as quickly as possible, for 
the part you are destined to play." In this happiness, so 
eagerly craved, he is to find balm for his stricken soul : "1 
feel more and more assured that I am going to be happy. I 
am glad to have hit upon so ideal a companion, and I shall 
very soon be joining her who alone can now bring sunshine 
into my life, soothe my troubles and give me the infinite joy 
of owning a pearl beyond price. It is this perfect concord of 
our souls that links us so divinely in a union such as few can 
ever know.'' 

325 



GAMBETTA 

At the beginning of October he returned to Les Jardies. 
The announcement of his marriage was communicated to his 
father and to a few intimate friends. He lengthened his stay 
in the country, and was still there when winter came on. On 
November 27, about eleven o'clock in the morning, he was 
wounded in his right hand by a bullet from a revolver which 
he was incautiously handling. In a few days' time he seemed 
to have recovered. " In January," he said, " I shall make 
my reappearance with a good-humoured speech, a speech of 
reconciliation." Towards the middle of December, however, 
he began to feel acute pain in his right side. Appendicitis, 
followed by perityphlitis, set in. An operation might perhaps 
have saved him, but the doctors did not care to risk it. Intes- 
tinal perforation brought on death on December 31, a few 
minutes before midnight. He was then aged forty-four years, 
eight months and nineteen days. A woman kissed him on 
the forehead and he vanished into the darkness, for ever. 

Paris and France honoured Gambetta with a splendid 
funeral, a national and intensely human ceremony. In that 
tomb France was interring a part of her own life. The body 
was taken to Paris and placed in the Palais Bourbon. For 
three days deputations from all over the country came to pay 
their respects to the dead. Among the visitors was Victor 
Hugo, with his grandchildren. An innumerable throng filed 
through the room, day and night. The funeral took place on 
January 7, 1883. The hearse bore on its pall the heraldic 
crown of the city of Thann. Behind his coffin marched a 
representative gathering from the length and breadth of 
France, not the France of the Treaty of Frankfort, stripped by 
fraud and violence, but the real France, France in her entirety, 
Alsace and Lorraine at the head. Strasburg, Metz and 
Colmar were among the leaders ; the procession was headed 
by men from the captured cities. Gambetta In death passed 
by the statue of Strasburg in mourning. Was not this a 
triumph in the grave, a harbinger of victories to come ? 

The Pere-Lachaise cemetery was not reached till nightfall. 
Brisson, Peyrat and Billot, the War Minister, made speeches. 
Henri Martin lamented "the Fate that had cut short, after 

326 



DEATH 

fourteen crowded years, a career of three phases, each of them 
alone enough to win a man imperishable glory." He repeated 
what a famous royahst had said of a famous revolutionary : 
" He was magnanimous." Darkness was now coming on 
apace. Paul Bert had no time to express all the warm and 
passionate devotion that a noble heart had inspired in other 
noble hearts: " They have celebrated your fame, they have 
extolled your patriotism, your matchless eloquence, your 
ardent spirit and your ever-active brain, your genius that has 
saved the life of the Republic and the honour of our country. 
They have told us of your dreams for the future, your uncon- 
querable hope, of the open wound of France that was an open 
wound in your own heart. But for us all this is not enough. 
We must tell the world what you were for your friends day 
by day, we must speak of your wondrous, unrivalled charity, 
your kindliness and seductive grace, your never-varying good 
humour, your infectious outbursts of friendly or joyous emo- 
tion, all that full-blooded vitality that Death, as if grudging 
it, has so cruelly quenched. Where are now your winning 
smile, your firm, affectionate clasp of the hand, your gentle 
look, your frank, hearty laugh ? How you gripped us all, 
how happy we all were to be yours ! What words of ours 
can convey the brightness of your intellect, the warmth of 
your heart ? For it is that heart we loved above all things ; 
it was by your heart that you held us in thrall. For us, it 
always stood wide open, a fountain at which we drank with- 
out stint. It was open even to your enemies, for you never 
knew how to hate; it was open even to those whose treason 
broke it in the end ! Let all men know, at least, how dearly 
you were loved, how dearly you loved in your turn I It is no 
detraction from your glory to say that you were not merely 
great ! " 

Yes, it is with the heart that great things are done. The 
older we get, the more inclined we are to put goodness first, 
then common sense, then talent and intellect last of all. 

" The crowd went down the hill again and scattered into 
the night, bearing with it the sorrow and, as it were, the 
remorse for this career so soon lopped off." (Hanotaux.) It 

327 



GAMBETTA 

did not know that this stormy and splendid hfe, wholly given 
up to the loftiest causes— patriotism, freedom and justice— 
had also been a great life of love. For France, this death was 
a defeat ; for Germany, a deliverance. 

His ashes were conveyed to Nice, to join those of his 
humble forefathers, near the azure sea and the mountains of 
snow and golden sunshine whose radiance and harmony had 
entered into his soul. In the evening, as day faded, Spuller, 
distraught with grief, bade him the last farewell. 

The death of Gambetta closes the first period of the Third 
Republic. Throughout those thirteen years he had been 
among the leading actors, at times the protagonist, in the 
most momentous events : the fall of the Second Empire, the 
war with Germany, the 1875 Constitution and the fall of the 
Parliamentary Republic, the Sixteenth of May, the Tunisian 
and Egyptian affairs. His part in these epoch-making crises 
had been now important, now decisive. He had been 
glorious in war and glorious in peace. 

His work, which some of his contemporaries thought 
ephemeral, has endured. If France, after the disasters of 
1870 and the suicide of the Monarchy, has succeeded in 
founding a system of government that can live, if, after so 
many revolutions and ill-fated experiments, the Republic has 
won its battles both within and without, it is to him, more 
than anyone, that the credit is due. 

The question has often been raised, what his part would 
have been if he had lived. In these rather artificial attempts 
at conjectural history, the various sections of the Republican 
party have contrived to claim his policy for their own, because 
his aim was to uphold the unity of the party by means of 
compromises and mutual concessions, and to flit from one 
wing to another of his army in order to lead it, as a compact 
force, to the conquest of power and then, when the victory was 
won, to consolidate the conquest. This explains why, on 
certain paramount questions, he put forward different views 
at different times, always pursuing, though by divergent 
paths, the same grand design : at home, the triumph of the 
Republic, abroad, the regeneration of France. And just as 

328 



DEATH 

in 1877 he did not follow the same policy as in 1869, so in 
1 88 1 he did not follow the same policy as in 1877 : 

" Eacli shares in him, all have him as a whole." 

A sort of cult, a fervent and passionate cult, has sprung 
up around his memory. Every year a stream of faithful 
pilgrims wends its way to the little house of Les Jardies, the 
resting-place of his heart, adorned with the coat-of-arms of 
every town in Alsace and Lorraine, with these two mottoes : 
In clade decus ; spes in luctu (" Honour in defeat, hope in 
mourning ") ; and the following inscription carved by Alsace- 
Lorrainers : " Our hopes are still bound up with his memory, 
as they were linked with his life." Others have come, in a 
never-ending throng, to kindle their souls at this flame. Even 
during the great war, on April 6, 1916, we were at Les Jardies 
with M. de Freycinet — who, once more a Minister of the 
Republic and of the new national defence, still hale and 
upright in his green old age, recalled that other war — and 
with those who have distinguished themselves by an unswerv- 
ing loyalty, Antonin Dubost, Gaston Thomson, Joseph 
Reinach, Pephau, fitienne — fitienne who every year, for 
thirty-eight years past, has gone to Nice and placed a wreath 
upon his tomb. 

Gambetta was dearly loved in his lifetime, and is still loved 
no less dearly. His name is a part of France's religion : 
what more glorious dream could a great soul cherish ? In 
the blaze of that sunlight, his faults, his mistakes, his incon- 
sistencies disappear from view. France no longer sees aught 
but this — that when everything had crashed into ruin, when 
all seemed lost, there arose one man who bore up the flag, 
with indomitable faith, to the end. She loves him vanquished 
no less than if he had been victorious. Vanquished, do I 
say ? Nay, he is victorious. Yes, he is victorious to-day by 
our side. It is because he held out in 1870 that France did 
not lose the world's esteem or her own self-respect, that she 
kept her rank in the human family, that she raised herself 
and fulfilled the destiny that he had planned. There can be 
no great nation or great man without a great idea. A nation 
like France does not own itself finally beaten because of three 

329 



AMBETTA 

defeats : that is what he felt, that is what he proclaimed with 
irresistible force, with deathless eloquence. From 1914 to 
1918 his soul fought in company with our heroes. His ideal, 
the union of all Frenchmen in a victorious Republic, has 
proved a reality. In the hour when France signed the peace 
of Right he was present in our midst and took part in the 
ceremony. 

On December 9, 1918, when we entered Strasburg, we read, 
on a house in the Grand-Rue, the following scrawl, an artless 
and touching effusion of popular feeling: "Sleep in peace, 
Gambetta ! At last the glorious dawn of the day you dreamed 
of has arisen for us ! " 

France, Alsace and Lorraine have always given themselves 
freely to those who loved them well and never doubted that 
they were sound. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

I believe I have consulted all that has been published with 
regard to Gambetta. I have chiefly made use of the 
following- : — 

Parliamentary papers, the National Assembly's Inquiry 
into the War of 1870-71 and the French and German works 
on that campaign and on the National Defence Government. 

M. Joseph Reinach's Discours et plaidoyers politiques de 
Gambetta; le Ministere Gambetta; la Vie politique de 
Gambetta. 

M. de Freycinet's La Guerre en Province; Souvenirs ; Le 
Question d'Egypte. 

M. Gabriel Hanotaux's Histoire de la France contem- 
poraine; the Vicomte de Meaux's Souvenirs; M. Henri 
Grain's Gambetta ;et V Alsace-Lorraine; M. P.-B. Ghensi's 
Gambetta per Gambetta. 

My warmest thanks are due to Colonel V. Dupuis, chief of 
the historical section of the General Staff, for plans, etc., 
of military operations; to M. Georges Delahache, for papers 
relating to the negotiations of 1871 ; to Mme. Arthur Ranc, 
who has kindly entrusted me with a number of unpublished 
letters from Gambetta to her husband; to Mme. Marti, 
daughter of Jules Grosjean, who has forwarded to me the 
original text of the protest from the iYIsace-Lorraine Deputies, 
read by her father to the National Assembly; to MM. £mile 
Boutroux and Alfred Rebellian, for the unpublished speech 
delivered by, Gambetta at Marseilles, in the Musset Theatre, in 
1869, and for the unpublished letters written to Barthelemy, 
from St. Sebastian, in 1871 ; and to M. P.-B. Ghensi, for 
unpublished letters from Gambetta to Ruiz. 



331 



INDEX 



About, Edmond, 234. 

Adam, Edmond, 139, 142. 

Adam, Mme., 57, 219, 234. 

Albert, Prince Consort, 35. 

Alembert, D', 9. 

Alexander XL, Tsar, 41, 303. 

Alexander III., Tsar, 303. 

Allain-Targ^, 114, 152, Z14, 299. 

Alton-Shee, Comte d', 185. 

Andrieux, M. Louis, 307, 309. 

Arabi, Colonel, 304, 316, 317. 

Arago, Emmanuel, 14, 109, 140. 

Axi^ge, Amaud de 1', 152. 

Arnault. M., 4. 

Amdt, 131. 

Amim, Graf von, i8r, 183, 253. 

Aubigny, Comte d', 305. 

Audiffret-Pasquier, Due d', 75, I57, 159, 175, 

178, 186, 192, 216, 218, 233, 241. 
Augereau, 77. 
Aumale, Due d", 143 i55, i75, 176, 233, 241, 253, 

303- 
Aurelle des Paladines, General d', 71, 78-80, 83. 

85-88, 90, 91. 93-95, 97, 98- 

Bainville, M. Jacques, 250 254- 

Balzac, 261. 

Bamberger, 140. 

Bapst, 234. 

Baragnon, 314. 

Barb6s, 25. 

Barodet, 175, 299. 

Barriere, CamiUe, 152. 

Barridre, PaUu de la, 122. 

Barry, Genera 80. 

Barth61emy, 143, 152. 

Baudin, 18, 20-22, 25, 31. 

Bazaine, 59. 79 122, 123. 

Beaconsfield, Lord ,256, 291 

Becker, 131. 

Bedeau, 23. 

Benedetti, 40, 41-43, 49 

B6renger, Ren6, 236. 

Bernstein, 259. 

Berryer, 10, r? 19 21, 23, 25, 314. 322. 

Bert, Paul, 114 152 299, 327. 

Berthelot, 152. 

Bessiferes, 4. 

Bessol, Du, 122. 

Bibesco, Prince Nicholas, 19. 

Billot, 72, 86, 92, 122, 326. 

Bismarck, Graf Herbert von, 347, 248, 250. 

Bismarck, Prince von, 34, 37-40, 42, 63, 66, 75, 
91, 98, 103-105, 107, 108, 115-117, 123, 
129-131, 139, 140, 158, 159, 182, 183, 
216, 218, 221, 224, 231, 246 247-249, 
251-253, 256, 258, 267, 268, 279, 284, 
286, 287, 290, 291, 293, 306, 312, 313, 316, 
320-322. 

Bismarck-Bohlen, 129. 

Blanc, Loiiis, 21, 139, 140, 142, 156, 186, 187, 
190, 192, 237. 

Blanqui, 52, 58, 284. 

Blowitz, 251. 

Boisguillebert, 165. 

Bonnet, General, 73. 

BcH-el, General, 75. 79, 83, 84, 93, 122. 

Bossack, General, 73. 

Bossuet, 8, 30. 

Bouill^, 98, 122. 

Boulanger, 200. 

.Bouras, 73. 

Bourbaki, 71, 76, 99-102, 105, 122 

Bourges, Michel de, 23. 

GAMBETTA 



Br6art General, 294. 

Brisson, Henri, 139, 191, 288, 397, 336. 

Broca, 152. 

Broglie, Due Albert de, 121, 159, i65, 167, 170- 
176, 178-180, 183, 184-186, 190, 192, 
193, 195, 198, 214, 217, 2i8 232, 235, 
240, 241, 301, 302. 

Broglie, Due Victor de, 205. 

Bruat, 73. 

Brun, Lucien, 175. 

Brunet, 140. 

Buette, Louis. 13, 14, 49. 

Buffet, 47, 140, 174, 192, 193, 198, 3IO, 2r4, 317. 

Buisson, Ferdinand, 324. 

Burgoyne, Sir John 52. 

Busch, 313. 

Caesar, Julius, 23. 

Cairoli, 293. 

Cambon, Jules, 31. 

Camescasse, 114. 

Campenon, 299, 302. 

Canrobert, Marshal, 275, 301 

Carayon-Latour, 73, 314. 

Camot, 76. 

Camot, Hippolyte, 35. 

Camot, Sadi, 114, 139, 378 

Casenove de Pradine, 214. 

Casimir-Perier, 186, 192, 306 214. 

Catalina, 32. 

Cathelineau, 63, 73, 133. 

Cato, 22. 

Cavaignac, 4, 2r, 23. 

Cavour, 9, 322. 

Cazot, Jules, 64, 299. 

Cendre, 15. 

ChaUemel-Lacour, 19, 21, 114, 152, 156, 171. 173. 

305, 306. 
Chambord, Comte de, 63, 113, 143, 146, i47 

151, 155, 178, 180, 184, 253. 
Changamier, General, 23, 140, 159, 166, 170. 

Channing, 146. 

Chanzy, 71, 80, 84, 91, 93-95, 98-101 104, 107, 
121, 132, 132, 133, 291, 392. 

Charette, 63, 98, 133. 

Charles V., Emperor, 7. 

Charles X., 227, 260. 

Charmetant, Father, 393. 

Charras, 23. 

Chartres, Due de, 63. 

Chateaubriand, 165. 

Chatelier, M. le, 14. 

Chaudey, Gustave, 29. 

Chaudordy, 3, 9, 64, 115-118, 130, 223, 303. 

Choiseul, 320. 

Christophle, Albert, 173. 

Cialdini, General, 293. 

Cicero, 23. 

Cissey, General de, 187, 191. 

C16menceau, Georges, 139, 142, 214. 288, 319. 

Clery, 14. 

Clinchant, 103, 105, 133. 

Cochin, M. Denys, 354- 

Colbert, 165. 

Colomb, De, 123. 

Columbus, 4, 311. 

Comte, Auguste, 13, 33, 50, 378, 379' 

Cond6, 90. 

Constans, 314. 

Conti, 140. 

Comeille, 22. 

Corot, 6, 269. 

Courcel, Baron de, 292, 393, 301, 312, 3i3- 

Cremer, General, 73, i33. 



333 



INDEX 



Cr6mieux, 8, ir, 14, 37, 55, 58 60-62, 66, 69. 

Cresson, 14. 

Crispi, 247, 393. 

Crouzat, 86, 88, 89, 91, 93. 

Cuvinot, 71. 

Dante, 5. 

Danton, 8, 9, 13, 65, 113, 301, 322. 

Darimon, 17. 

Daudet, Alphonse, 270. 

Decazes, Due, 175, 183, 214, 303. 

Delacroix, 317. 

Delescluze, 21, 24, 25, 58, 254. 

Demolon, General, 71. 

Demosthenes, 5, 322. 

Denfert-Rochereau, 122, 132. 

Depretis, 247. ' 

D6roul6de, Paul, 324. 

Derroja, 122. 

Descartes, 162. 

Deschanel, Emile, 214. 

Deshorties, Colonel, 71. 

Desprez, 256. 

D^taille, Edouard, 324. 

Devds, 214, 299. 

Diderot, 9. 

Donnersmarck, Graf Henckel von, 246-8, 251. 

Doria, 311. 

Dorian, 58, 152. 

Doudain, Xavier, 167. 

Dr6o, 60. 

Dubochet, 152. 

Dubost, Antonin, 114, 329. 

Duclerc, 217, 234, 323. 

Ducrot, 41, 79, 84, 92, 93. 

Dufaure, 139, 171, 187, 211, 217, 226 237, 241, 

262. 
Duflferin, Lord, 315. 
Dupanloup, Mgr., 18, 143, 228. 
Dupin, 265. 
Duprat, Pascal, 191. 
Dupuis, Colonel V., 98. 
Durangel, 64. 
Durier, 14. 
Durrien, 86. 
Duval, Raoul, 191. 
Duvernois, C16ment, 51. 

Esquiros, 111-113. 
Est-Ange, Chaix d', 8. 
Etienne, 329. 
Eyck, Van, 6. 

Faidherbe, General, 102, 121, 122, 132, 212. 

FalliSres, Annand, 214. 

Faure, Felix, 299, 324. 

Favre, Jules, 8, 10, 11, 13, i7, 19. 28, 47, 48, 

50-53, 56-58, 60-63, 67, 68, 70, 92, 103- 

107, 113, 115-117, 123, 129, 130, 139, 148. 
F6nelon, 165. 
F^rot, 72. 
Ferry, Jules, 14, 17, 27, 49, 52, 57, 106, 217, 

218, 252, 262, 271, 278-80, 283, 289, 

293-298, 302, 312, 320. 
Fieuzal, 15, 19. 
Flaubert, 270. 
F16, Le, 23, 58, 100, 139. 

Floquet, Charles, r4, 139, 142, 152, 214, 288, 301. 
Flourens, 58. 

Forge, Anatole de la, 114. 
Fourichon, 58, 61, 64, 65, 69. - 

Fourtou, 234, 235, 239, 240, 262. 
Francis I., 147. 
Franklin, 204. 
Franqueville, 64. 
Frayssinous, Mgr. de, 227. 
Frederick, Crown Prince (Frederick III.), 252. 



Frederick the Great, 40. 

Frederick-Charles, Prince, 80, 82-85, 91, 92, 95, 
99, 100, 104, 123. 

Fr^diUy, Dumoustier de, 64. 

Freycinet, M. de, 70, 71, 73, 75, 76, 79, 83, 85, 
87-89, 90, 93-95, 100, loi, 114, 119, 124, 
152, 201, 248, 252, 255, 362, 271-3, 277, 
286, 287, 293, 297, 298, 312, 314, 315, 
319, 321, 323, 339. 

Gagem, 131. 

Gain, M. Henri, 250. 

Gallifet, 301. 

Gambetta, Baptiste, 3. 

Gambetta, Joseph, 3, 6, 27. 

Gambetta, Michel, 3. 

Gambetta, Paul, 3. 

Garibaldi, 3, 4. 

Garibaldi, General, 73. 

Gamier- Pagds, 61, 109. 

Gent, 113, 114. 

Genz, 131. 

George I., 202. 

Ghersi, Angelina, 6. 

Girardin, Emile de, 234, 269. 

Glais-Bizoin, 57, 60, 61, 69. 

Goethe, 25, 118. 

Goltz, 39. 

Goltz, Colmar von der, 78, 91, 119. 

Goncourt, 269. 

Gontaut-Biron, Comte de, 158, 182, 253. 

Gorce, Pierre de la, 38. 

Gorres, 131. 

Gortschakoff, Prince, 115, 130. 

Gougeard, 73, 122, 299. 

Grammont, Marquis de, 174. 

Gramont, Due de, 41, 42. 

Grant, General, 19. 

Granville, Lord, H7, 304, 305, 3i3, 315- 

Gr6vy, Jules, 27, 28, 48, 138, 174, 186, 188, 193, 
202, 216, 2r8, 232, 235, 236, 239, 363, 
265, 266, 268, 270-273, 277, 278, 281, 
292, 297, 398, 310. 

Grodet, 152. 

Grosjean, 140. 

Gu^roult, Adolphe, 16. 

Guesde, M. Jules, 258. 

Guizot, 3r, 63, 117, 131, 165. 

Haca, General, 71. 

Hamilton, 188, 304. 

Hanotaux, Gabriel, 153, 176, 178, 1S6, 189, 263, 

327- 
Hansen, Jules, 286. 
Harcourt, Vicomte de, 177. 
Hatzfeld, 35. 
Haussmann, 19. 
H6brard, Adrien, 9, 334. 
H6non, 17. 

Henry IV., 147, 178, 319. 
Hoche, 76, 160, 161, 176. 
Hohenlohe, Prince von, 183, 351. 
HohenzoUern, Prince Leopold of, 41, 42, 43. 
Holbach, D", 9. 
Hoktein, Baron von, 251. 
Horace, 267. 

Hugo, Victor, 13, 31, 139, 140, 237, 367, 326. 
Hugues, Clovis, 302. 

Isambert, Gustave, 152. 

Jaur6guiberry, Admiral, 73, 81, 98, 122, 133, 31^. , 

JuarSs, Admiral, 73, 122. 

Jay, 188. 

J6vigny, De, 122. 

Joan of Arc, 147, 255. 

Joinville, Prince de, 63, 113, 113, 190, 233. 



334 



INDEX 



Joly, Albert, 214. 
Joseph, Father, 325 
Jourde, 234. 
Jouy, M. de, 9. 
Julius II., 4. 
Jusselain, 71. 

Katkoff, 303. 

Keller, 73, 138, 140, 148. 

Kleber, 63. 

Kiiss, 140. 

Laboulaye, Edouard, 188, 190, 191, 206, 236. 

Lachaud, 12, 322. 

La Fayette, Edmond de, 234. 

Laguerre, Georges, 288. 

Lalance, Auguste, 181. 

Lamartine, 161, 237, 267, 282, 323. 

Lambrecht, 139. 

Lamoriciere, 23. 

Lamy, Etienne, 31. 

Langlois, 140, 142. 

Lannelongue, 152. 

Larabit, 129. 

Larcy, De, 139. 

Lasteyrie, 234. 

Laurier, Clement, 5, 12, 14, 17-19, 25, 26, 64, 66. 

Lavertujon, 50, 51, 58, 152. 

Lavigerie, Cardinal, 292. 

Le BcBuf, 28, 74- 

Lecesne, Jules, 64, 70. 

Lecointe, 122. 

Lecomte, General, 142. 

Ledru, 23. 

Ledru-RoUin, 186, 194. 

Lefort, General, 64, 65, 69, 70. 

Lemoine, 239. 

Leo XIII., 242, 243. 

L6on, L6onie, 243, 262, 263, 268, 325. 

Lesseps, 25, 234. 

Lhouys, Drouyn de, 36, 38, 39, 115. 

Lionville, 8, 214. 

Lipowski, 73, 81. 

Littre, 278. 

Lockroy, E., 139, 142. 

Loubet, Emile, 214. 

Louis XIV., 39, 165, 179, 220. 

Louis XVIII., 201. 

Louis-Philippe, 138, 201, 227. 

Lou vols, 90. 

Loysel, 72. 

Luc, Comte de, 220. 

Luxembourg, 90. 

Lyons, Lord, 52, 116 304, 305, 315 

Maccio, 291. 

MacMahon, Marshal, 53, 59, 175-177, 188, 191, 

212, 217, 218, 229-232, 234 236-238, 

240, 251, 253, 259, 262. 
Madison, 188. 
Magne, 38. 
Magnin, 58, 301. 
Malet, Sir Edward, 304. 
Manteuffel, ro2, 105, 177. 
Marcel, Etienne, 5. 
Marcere, De, 234. 
Marck, Comte de la, 13. 
Marcou, 90. 
Marot, Henri, 302. 
Martin, Henri, 142, 304. 
Marx Karl, 259. 
Massabie, Jenny, 9. 
Massabie, Marie-Magdeleine, 3. 
Massenet, Jules, 324. 
Massicau't, 114. 
Mastai (Pius IX.), 3. 
Maurras, M. Charles, 277. , 



Maximilian, Emperor, 4a, 

Mazarin, 17. 

Mazzini, 4. 

Meaus, Vicomte de, 148, 175, 180, 185. 

Mecklenburg Grand Duke of, 83, 84, 88, 94 

Memling, 6. 

Menier, 214. 

Merci6, 324. 

M6zi6res, Alfred, 324. 

Mi'chelet, 50, 194. 

MiUerand, Alexandre, 288 

Millet, 6. 

Milli^re, 58 140. 

Mu-abeau, 8, 13, 50, 154, 183 208, 237, -261, 367, 

317, 322. 
Miribel, General de, 301, 303. 
Moliere, 285, 

Moltke, 42, 43, 82, 90, 102, 119, 124, 131 183. 
Mommsen, 131, 
Montalembert, 148, 165. 
Montalivet, Comte de, 239. 
Montjau, Madier de, 190, 192, 259. 
Morias, 9. 
Morny, Due de, 17. 
Motterouge, 78. 
Muller, 216. 
Mun, Albert de, 122. 
Murat, 4. 
Musset, De, 267. 

Napoleon I., 4, 6, 34, 39, 77, 91, 205, 223, 242, 

261. 
Napoleon III., Louis Bonaparte, 31, 35-41, 53, 

53, 56, 63, 140, 201, 282. 
Naquet 214. 

Neuville, Alphonse de, 334. 
Niel, Marshal, 41, 50. 
Noailles, Marquis de, 291. 
Noir, Victor, 28. 

Ochsenbein, General, 73. 

O'Connell, 144. 

Ollivier, Emile, 10, 17, 27, 28, 41, 49, 51. 

Ordinaire, Dionys, 152. 

Orleans, Due d', 243. 

Orsini, 8, 32. 

Paiva, 246. 

Palikao, 52, 53, 74, 75. 

Pallidres, Martin des, 79, 81, 83, 87, 89, 91, 95, 

Palmerston, 35. 

Paris, Comte de, 18, 155, 179, 184, 193, 233, 241, 

253- 
Payen, 73. 

Pelissier, General, 73. 
Pellet, Marcellin, 152, 214. 
Pelletan, Camille, 31, 57, 288. 
Pelletan, Eugene, 109. 
Penhoat, 73, 122, 
Pephau, 15, 329. 
Persigny, 38. 

Peyrat, 21, 139, 190, 327, 326. 
Peytavin, 80. 

Picard, Ernest, 10, 17, 28, 57, 58, 139. 
Pichon, Stephen, 288. 
Piron, 9. 

Pius IX., 182, 226, 228, 229, 242. 
Polignac, Due de, 232. 
Polignac, General de, 73. 
Pothuau, Admiral, 139. 
Pourcet, 79. 
Pouyer-Quartier, 139. 
Prevost-Paradol, 16, 21, 165, 205, 306. 
Proudhon, 13. 
Proust, Antonin, 214, 299. 
Proust, Gabriel, 152. 
Pyat, 58. 



335 



INDEX 



Quiaet, Edgar, 21, 26, 139, 140, 142, 186, 190, 
192, 194. 

Rabelais, 5, 12, 267. 

Ranc, Arthur, 114, 139, 142, 152, 175, 187, 193, 

216, 217, 220-234, 248, 254. 325- 
Randon, Marshal, 38. 
Raphael, 5. 
Raspail, 214. 
Raynal, 299. 
Rebillard, 122. 
Refiye, Colonel de, 71. 
Reinach, Joseph, 152, 26^, 324, 329. 
R^musat, Charles de, 23, 148, I73. i75- 
Renan, 124, 269. 
Renault, L^on, 14. 
Retz, Cardinal de, 307. 
Reyau, General, 81. 
Reynolds, 6. 
Ribot, 300. 

Ricard, Xavier de, 18, 114. 
Richelieu, 13, 124, 319, 325- 
Rivet, 149, 150- 
Rividres, Ser^ de, ?:22. 
Robespierre, 13, 76. 
Rochebouet, General de, 241. 
Rochefort, Henri, 28, 58, 60. 
Roon, 42. 
Rothan, 41. 
Rouher, 27, I57, 186. 
Rousseau, 9, 13. 
RoQssy, 64. 
Roustan, 291, 293- 
Rouvier, 299. 
Royer, Le, 174. 
Royer-CoUard, 165. 
Rubattino, 292. 
Ruiz, 224, 232, 236. 

Saint-Hilaire, Barthelemy, 278, 279- 

Saint-Simon, Due de, 165. 

Saint-VaUier, Comte de, 171, 253, 250, 287, 293. 

Saisset, Admiral, 143. 

Sal, M. de, 14. 

Salisbury, Lord, 256, 315. 

Sallust, 22. 

Sand, George, 270. 

SansboBuf, 324. 

Saussier, General, 122, 294, 295. 

Sauzet, 265. 

Say, L6on, 190, 211, 262, 297, 29S, 312. 

Schaelcher, Victor, i39i i42- 

Scheurer-Kestner, 152, 268. 

SchUler, 121. 

Schmidt, Adolph, 131. 

Schneider, 55, 120. 

Schurz, Karl, 39. 

Serre, De, 100, roi, 165, 266. 

Seymour, Admiral, 315- 

Silvy, 64. 

Simon, Jules, 50, 58, 61, 67, 107-109, I39, i74, 

2x8, 226, 228-230, 275. 
Sixtus IV., 4. 

Skobeleff, General, 287, 303, 323- 
Socrates, 22. 

Sonis, De, 72, 86, 95, 98, 102. 
Sorel, Albert, 115, 301. 
Spinola, 311. 
Spuller, 9, 14, 15, 144, 145. 152, 214, 232, 248. 

252, 254. 299- 
Stael, Mme. de. 166. 
Steenackers, 64, 71. 



^ 



Stiehle, Geoeral von, 82, 119. 
Stoffel, Colonel, 41, 175. 

Tacitus, 160. 

Taine, 63, 233. 

Talhouet, 47. 

Tann, Von der, 78-81, 84. 

Target, 214. 

Temple, Du, 122, 183. 

Tenot, Eugene, 21. 

Testelin, 262. 

Teutsch, 181. 

Tewfik Pasha, 305. 

Thiers, 16, 17, 19, 23, 25, 28, 37, 52, 54, 115, "6, 
130- r32, 138-142, 144-151, 154, 158, 159, 
164-166, 169, 170-176, 178, 181, 186, 191, 
206, 218, 225, 235, 237, 238, 372, 278, 282 
285, 304. 

Thomas, 142. 

Thomson, Gaston, 152, 329. 

Thoumas, 64, 71, 95, 109. 

Thrasea, 22. 

Tirman, 114. 

Tissot, 73, 313. 

Titian, 6. 

Tocqueville, SS.I^S, 205, 323- 

Trinquet, 273, 274. 

Trochu, General, 52, 58, 62, 76, 79, 84, 87, 98, 
106, 116. 

Turenne, 90. 

Turner, 6. 

Uhrich, 63. 

Vacherot, 140. 

Vacquerie, Auguste, 234. 

Vaga, Perino del, 5. 

Valentin, Edmond, 114. 

Valette, La, 38, 40. 

Vannsay, Comte de, 179. 

Varus, 158. 

Vasili, Comte Paul, 272. 

Vatimesnil, M. de, 227. 

Vauban, 165. 

Vecker, Dr., 19. 

Vergniaud, 8, 322. 

Verlaine, 9. 

V^ronique, General, 71. 

Victor Emmanuel, King, 41, 231. 

Vigny, De, 267- 

ViUemain, 5, 14. 

Vinols, M. de, 191. 

Vinoy, 59. 

Vitellius, 302. 

Vivien, 23. 

Voltaire, 9, 255. 

Waddington, 248, 256, 257, 262, 270, 277, 282,. 

287, 291. 
Wagner, Adolph, 131. 
Waldeck-Rousseau, 203, 299, 300. 
Wales, Prince o£ (Edward VIL), 222, 269. 
Walewski, 36. 
Wallon, 190, 191, 192, 206. 
Washington, 204. 
Weiss, J.-J., 283, 301, 302. 

Werder, 102. 1 

William I., Emperor, 38, 39, 41, 42, 82, 158, 219.1 
Williamll., Emperor, 131,251,252- | 

Wilson, Daniel, 297, 307. , 

Wolseley, General, 319. , 



PRINTEB IN GREAT BRITAIN BY R. CLAY AND SONS, VCV., 
BRUNSWICK STREET, STAMFORD STREET, S.E. I, iVND BUNGAY, SUFFOLK 



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