Clemenceau and the Third Republic

Excerpt

The story of Clemenceau's life is inseparable from that of France throughout sixty crucial years. From the birth of the Third Republic to within a decade of its death he played a central part in every public crisis. When the Prussians were besieging Paris and the revolutionary Commune was proclaimed he was mayor of Montmartre; when Bismarck's peace-terms were being discussed he was a member of Parliament, opposing capitulation; when France was repairing the ravages of defeat and civil war he was president of the Paris Municipal Council. During the formative years of the new Republic he was leader of the unofficial Radical opposition in Parliament -- from 1876 to 1893 -- and during the moral crises of the last years of the century he was at the centre of the Boulanger, Panama and Dreyfus affairs. When industrial strikes and German menaces intensified in 1906 he became head of a ministry which lasted longer than almost any other in the Third Republic. When defeat at the hands of Germany seemed imminent in 1917 he became Prime Minister again and led France to victory. He was chairman of the Paris Peace Conference and principal author of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1920, in his seventy-ninth year, he resigned, but even then his public work was not over, for in 1930 his last book was published forecasting the ruin that was to come upon France and indicating a way to salvation.

In more senses than one Clemenceau was the central figure of the Third Republic. His most courageous battles were fought for a middle path. Members of the general public are so used to associating a middle path with weak conciliation and boneless compromise that they often fail to recognize a positive central policy when they see one. Clemenceau was anything but conciliatory and he hated compromise. At the peril of his life he strove for a middle way between the revolutionaries of Paris and the bourgeois of Versailles, between the socialists and . . .

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1962

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