Boulanger, Georges Ernest

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Boulanger, Georges Ernest

Georges Ernest Boulanger (zhôrzh ĕrnĕst´ bōōläNzhā´), 1837–91, French general and reactionary politician. He served in North Africa and Indochina, and in the Franco-Prussian War. Later, he was briefly commander of French troops in Tunisia. A protégé of Georges Clemenceau, the radical republican leader, he was appointed minister of war in 1886. Appealing to the French desire for revenge against Germany, he attracted the disparate elements hostile to the Third Republic. Boulanger's personal ambition soon alienated his republican supporters, who recognized in him a potential military dictator. Although he was forced from his ministry in 1887 and later deprived of his army command, Boulanger's ardent nationalism increased his mass appeal. Numerous royalists gave him financial aid, although Boulanger saw himself as a future dictator rather than a restorer of kings. Many times elected a parliamentary deputy, he was ineligible for the post until the government retired him from the army (1888); nevertheless, he built up wide electoral support and was overwhelmingly elected in Paris in Jan., 1889. A coup seemed probable, but Boulanger failed to act. Shortly afterward the French government issued a warrant for his arrest for treasonable activity. Boulanger fled to Belgium. After his flight support for him dwindled, and the Boulangists, as his followers were called, were defeated in the general elections of July, 1889. Two years later, while still in exile, he committed suicide.

See studies by J. Harding (1971) and W. D. Irvine. (1988).

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