The French Laic Laws (1879-1889): The First Anti-Clerical Campaign of the Third French Republic

The French Laic Laws (1879-1889): The First Anti-Clerical Campaign of the Third French Republic

The French Laic Laws (1879-1889): The First Anti-Clerical Campaign of the Third French Republic

The French Laic Laws (1879-1889): The First Anti-Clerical Campaign of the Third French Republic

Excerpt

In the decade after the adoption of a constitution for the Third French Republic, the moderate republicans who were in control of the government devoted a great part of their energies to the passage of a number of "laic laws," which secularized French institutions and restricted the privileges which the Catholic Church had enjoyed. In the following pages the origins, nature, and significance of these measures will be studied. Hitherto they have been treated in a partisan spirit, anti-clerical or Catholic. The point of view of the present author is that of a Protestant who believes that the civil and religious liberty of those of every faith should be preserved. Certain aspects of the anti-clerical movement have been discussed in biographies and in histories of French politics, education, laicism, and religion, but no unbiased, liberal, and integral synthesis has yet been written. The subject is one of contemporary interest in a period when nationalistic, totalitarian states are crushing civil and religious liberties and substituting the worship of the Fatherland for that of a benevolent Deity. This study should contribute, moreover, to an understanding of the disintegration of the Third French Republic and of the religious policy of the Vichy government.

It is difficult to acknowledge adequately the encouragement and assistance which numerous friends and members of my family have given me. I am deeply grateful to Professor C. J. H. Hayes, under whose direction this work was carried on, for his penetrating insight into the significance of the subject and wise counsel. I am likewise indebted to Professors Jacques Barzun, Jean-Albert Bédé, Shepard B. Clough, Charles W. Cole, Charlotte Muret, and Leo J. Wollemborg, who read the manuscript carefully and gave me the benefit of their suggestions. Professor Isaac Kandel of Teachers' College and Professor Donald McKay of Harvard University discussed various aspects of the question with me. My research was made possible by the grant of the Alice Freeman Palmer Fellowship from Wellesley College.

NEW YORK, 1941 . . .

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