Today’s installment concludes Third French Republic Established,
our selection from Government of the National Defense by Jules Favre published in 1875. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of two thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in Third French Republic Established.
We assured him of this.
“Upon that condition,” said he, “I am with you, providing you make me head of the Government of National Defense. It is indispensable for me to occupy this post. As Minister of War or as Governor of Paris I should not control the army; and if we wish to defend Paris, the army must be in our hands. I am not a statesman; I am a soldier; I know the sentiments of my comrades; if they do not see me at your head, they will leave you, and your task cannot be fulﬁlled. It is not ambition that dictates to me this course; it is the conviction that unless it is followed nothing can be done. If we are to reach success, we can accomplish it only by concentrating all power in the hands of one man. As military commander, my authority must be without limit. I shall not in any way interfere with you in the exercise of civil power; but its action must be in cooperation with that of the defense, which is our supreme duty. Nothing that concerns this double movement can be ignored by me; it is a question of responsibility and of safety.”
The frankness of this unexpected declaration did not displease one among us. We were not blind to the responsibility and the danger of the burden which our country’s disasters had imposed upon us. It was impossible that we should hesitate to share it with an illustrious, courageous, and popular general, and even to leave the heaviest share of the load to be borne by him, who, in the terrible situation to which we were reduced, had evidently the largest stake at issue. We accepted his conditions, and he departed to take possession of the War Office.
The Government constituted at the Hotel de Ville was com posed of nine deputies from the Seine, of M. Picard and M. Jules Simon, named also for Paris, and of General Trochu, accepted by us in the terms I have already given.
That same evening the Government nominated its Ministry, which was composed of the following members: M. Picard, Minister of Finance; M. Gambetta, Minister of the Interior; M. Crémieux, Minister of Justice; Général Leﬂo, Minister of War; Admiral Fourichon, Minister of the Marine; M. Simon, Minister of Public Instruction; M. Favre, Minister of Foreign Affairs; M. Dorian, Minister of Public Works; M. Magnin, Minister of Agriculture and Commerce. Five members of the Government — MM. Trochu, Garnier-Pages, Pelletan, Emmanuel Arago, and De Rochefort — received no portfolio.
These measures were adopted without debate, except in the case of the Ministry of the Interior, upon which a vote had to be taken. M. Gambetta had a majority of two votes over M. Pi card. At the same time the Government announced its accession by three short proclamations addressed to the nation:
“Frenchmen: The nation has taken precedence of the Chamber, which hesitated. In order to save the country from danger, it has demanded a republic.
“It has placed its representatives not in power, but in peril. “The Republic saved the country from invasion in 1792. Another republic is proclaimed. The revolution is effected in the name of public safety.
“Citizens, watch over the city, which is conﬁded to you; tomorrow you, aided by the army, will be the avengers of the country.”
The following was addressed to Paris:
“Citizens of Paris, the Republic is proclaimed. A Government has been appointed by a unanimous vote. It is com posed of the following citizens [giving the names as above]. General Trochu is invested with full military power for the National Defense. He is appointed head of the Government. The Government urges all to be calm. The people will not forget that they are in the face of the enemy. The Government is above all a Government of National Defense.”
Finally the Government appealed to the National Guard:
“Those men upon whom your patriotism has just imposed the formidable duty of defending the country, thank you from their hearts for your courageous devotion. To your resolution is due the civic victory that has restored liberty to France. Thanks to you, this victory has not ‘cost a drop of blood. The personal power exists no longer. The entire nation again takes up its liberty and its arms. It has arisen ready to die for the defense of our territory. You have restored its life, which despot ism had suffocated. You will maintain with ﬁrmness the execution of the laws, and, rivalling our noble army, together you will show the way to victory.”
M. Etienne Arago was appointed Mayor of Paris. M. Emile de Kératry became Prefect of Police.
After prescribing those measures that seemed necessary to the maintenance of public tranquility, we left M. Jules Ferry and M. Etienne Arago at the Hotel de Ville.
Paris never had been more peaceful; and although at that late hour many shops were still open and many passengers in the streets, although at every step were armed men, neither disputes nor violent words were to be heard. No one thought of the possi bility of resistance to the great movement that had been just accomplished. And how could it have been suspected? There had been neither conspiracy nor combat. The Empire had not been overthrown by a sudden blow. Its fall was only the natural and inevitable consequence of a series of faults, equivalent to crimes, which irrevocably condemned it. It had accomplished its own ruin; and if Paris had not risen against the Empire, the monarchy would none the less have disappeared. In several towns the Republic was proclaimed on the morning of September 4th. This time France was not inﬂuenced by the capital. France preceded Paris, and resolved of itself to provide for its honor and safety. Thus there was nowhere the shadow of conﬂict. All those numerous champions of the dynasty, who were so much spoken of, all those docile functionaries, disappeared as by an act of magic, without one of them dreaming of risking himself by an act of fidelity or devotion to the fallen monarch. This was not from lack of courage, still less from calculated defection; it was the instinctive acknowledgment of a superior force which it would have been madness to oppose; this force was no other than that of the human conscience, awakened at length by misfortune, and manifesting itself in the unanimous reprobation of the man and of the system that had ruined France.
This ends our series of passages on Third French Republic Established by Jules Favre from his book Government of the National Defense published in 1875. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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