The Last Crisis
NOW SURELY WAS THE TIME for Clemenceau to retire from public life. He was seventy-eight. For two years he had worked as few men have ever worked; he was sick and tired and had deserved well of his country. Surely he should retire in peace, to the books and leisure that were waiting for him in his little Vendée.
Yet there was the question of the peace -- the création continue, as he had always called it. If Clemenceau were to resign, his place would be taken by Millerand, a man of limited vision and no extraordinary ability. What unity could Millerand induce in France? What effort would he be able to extort from the people in their present mood of mixed hedonism and lassiture? And in foreign affairs, how would he deal with Lloyd George, whose language, literally and metaphorically, he could not speak, and with the Americans who had not yet ratified the Treaty?
Clemenceau did not resign. Confident that the country was behind him and would excuse him from attending too closely to Party politics, he devoted all his energies to the Peace Conference, which was still in session in Paris. The country was no doubt behind him in so far as it was behind anyone, but elections were pending and it is Party politics that decide elections. Thanks to a law passed in the turmoil of July 1919, France had a new electoral system. Instead of ten old single-member constituencies, the département was to be the unit of representation. A group of candidates was to be returned for each, and if any one list of candidates got a majority of the votes polled, that list won all the seats for the département. Obviously this gave the advantage to the most disciplined Party-group, and it so happened that in 1919 all the discipline was on the Right. The Right-wing groups and others who agreed with them in putting anti-Germanism