Georges Clemenceau: A Political Biography

By David Robin Watson | Go to book overview

2

THE COMMUNE

I THE SIEGE OF PARIS

Clemenceau's political prospects were to be transformed by the declaration of war on Prussia in July 1870. Within two months the shattering

French defeats, culminating in the surrender of the Emperor himself at the head of one of his armies, led to the fall of the Empire and the proclamation of the Republic. Some of his father's friends were prominent actors in these dramatic events, and Clemenceau was at once thrust into political action. But at the outbreak of the war he did not envisage such an outcome and was plunged into despair. A French victory, which would restore the prestige of the Empire, was just as abhorrent to him as the thought of defeat. He wrote to Scheurer‐ Kestner on 23 July:

I am more disheartened than I can say at everything I see, hear and read. Whatever happens, this war will be a terrible disaster. For my part, I never expected such a prostration of public opinion. Even Delescluze is trying to convince himself and others that the enemy of European liberty is to be found at Berlin, and that we will carry the revolution on our banners. 51

Clemenceau never wavered from the position he had adopted in 1863 when the possibility of intervention on behalf of the Polish rebels was mooted. To him a victory for the Empire was a defeat for republicanism

____________________
51
Clemenceau to Scheurer-Kestner, 23 July 1870, Bib. Nat., NAF, 14114, fol. 514. Clemenceau must have been reading Delescluze's article in Le Réveil of 18 July, in which this Jacobin republican began with many reservations about Imperial policy, but ended with a ringing call for support of the government, as his patriotism overcame his hatred of the Empire. M. Dessal, Un Révolutionnaire Jacobin, pp. 275-6.

-34-

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Georges Clemenceau: A Political Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Georges Clemenceau - A Political Biography *
  • Contents 5
  • Illustrations *
  • Acknowledgements 11
  • Part One - Childhood, Youth and the Commune I84i-1871 *
  • 1 - Childhood and Youth 15
  • 2 - The Commune 34
  • Part Two - The Radical Attack I87i-1889 *
  • 3 - Challenger from the Left 59
  • 4 - Clemenceau versus Ferry 81
  • 5 - Boulangism 101
  • Part Three - Defeat and Resurgence I889-1906 *
  • 6 - Panama 117
  • 7 - The Dreyfus Affair 138
  • Part Four - The First Ministry I906-1909 *
  • 8 - Minister of the Interior 167
  • 9 - Clemenceau as Premier 183
  • 10 - Clemenceau as Strike-Breaker 200
  • 11 - Foreign Policy 215
  • Part Five - Opposition I909-1917 *
  • 12 - In Opposition before the War 237
  • 13 - Opposition in Wartime 249
  • Part Six - Pere-La-Victoire I9i7-1918 *
  • 14 - Second Ministry: Domestic Politics 275
  • 15 - Military Strategy 293
  • 16 - Russian Intervention and Victory 315
  • Part Seven - The Peace Settlement and after I9i8-1929 *
  • 17 - The Versailles Treaty 331
  • 18 - The Middle East and Russia 366
  • 19 - Domestic Politics and Last Years 380
  • Part Eight - Conclusion *
  • 20 - Conclusion 397
  • Appendices Sources and Bibliography Index *
  • Appendix I 411
  • Appendix II 414
  • Appendix III 416
  • Appendix IV 417
  • Appendix V 424
  • Appendix VI 428
  • Appendix VII 434
  • Sources and Bibliography 438
  • Index 455
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