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Georges Clemenceau


In office
25 October 1906 – 24 July 1909
President Armand Fallières
Preceded by Ferdinand Sarrien
Succeeded by Aristide Briand

In office
16 November 1917 – 20 January 1920
President Raymond Poincaré
Preceded by Paul Painlevé
Succeeded by Alexandre Millerand

Born 28 September 1841
Died 24 November 1929 (aged 88)
Political party Radical
Profession Physician, newspaper publisher

Georges Benjamin Clemenceau[1] (French pronunciation: [ʒɔʁʒ klemɑ̃so]; 28 September 1841 – 24 November 1929) was a French statesman, physician, and journalist. He served as the prime minister of France from 1906-1909 and 1917-1920. For nearly the final year of World War I he led France, and was one of the major voices behind the Treaty of Versailles. He is commonly nicknamed "le Tigre" (the Tiger) and "le Père-la-Victoire" (Father Victory) for his determination as a wartime leader.

Contents

Biography

Early years

Clemenceau was born at Mouilleron-en-Pareds, Vendée, France. In Revolutionary times the Vendée had been a hotbed of monarchist sympathies but now it was fiercely republican. This town would also be famous as the birthplace of another famous politico-military figure in Frence history: Jean de Lattre de Tassigny.

Clemenceau's mother Sophie Eucharie Gautreau (1817 - 1903) was from a Huguenot family. His father Benjamin Clemenceau (1810 - 1897) was the village physician who hoped that his son would follow in his footsteps. A fervent republican despite being the grandson of the nobleman Seigneur du Colombier, the elder Clemenceau fought in 1830 in the revolt against Charles X and later against Louis Phillippe. Arrested on the orders of Emperor Napoleon III after his attempted assassination by Felice Orsini, Clemenceau had been sentenced to exile in Algeria but was set free in Marseilles before the deportation order was carried out.

After his studies in the Nantes Lycée, Georges received his baccalaureat of letters in 1858. He then decided to enroll in medical school like his father. During his first few years in the Nantes school, as he himself pointed out, he was disruptive. He opposed the infatuation other students and faculty had with religion and the imperial ideals.

Journalism and exile

In 1861 Clemenceau left for Paris to pursue his studies where he began frequenting artistic and Republican circles in the Latin Quarter. He co-founded a weekly newsletter in December called Le Travail along with some friends. On February 23, 1862 he was arrested by the police for having placed posters summoning a demonstration. He spent 77 days in the Mazas prison.

In the midst of all of this he became a doctor on 13 May 1865 even though he took part in founding several magazines and writing many articles, most attacking the Imperial regime of Napoleon III. It soon became advisable to leave when the Imperial agents began cracking down on dissidents (sending most of them to Devil's Island). On 25 July of that year he set sail for the United States, perfecting his English along the way.

He took a post teaching French and horseback riding at a girls' school in Stamford, Connecticut. He later married in New York City, New York, on 23 June 1869 one of his students, Mary Elizabeth Plummer (1850 - 1923), daughter of William Kelly Plummer and wife Harriet A. Taylor, with whom he had three children before the marriage ended in divorce. During this time he joined French exile clubs in New York opposing the imperial regime.

The beginning of the Third Republic

He returned to Paris after the fall of the regime with the defeat at Sedan. He took part in the Paris Commune but was there to establish the third Republic. His political career began in earnest at this time.

He was elected to the Paris municipal council on 23 July 1871 for the Clignancourt quarter, and retained his seat till 1876, passing through the offices of secretary and vice-president, and becoming president in 1875.

Chamber of Deputies

In 1876 he stood again for the Chamber of Deputies, and was elected for the 18th arrondissement. He joined the far left, and his energy and mordant eloquence speedily made him the leader of the Radical section. In 1877, after the Seize Mai crisis, he was one of the republican majority who denounced the de Broglie ministry, and he took a leading part in resisting the anti-republican policy of which the Seize Mai incident was a manifestation. His demand in 1879 for the indictment of the de Broglie ministry brought him into particular prominence.

Georges Clemenceau by Cecilia Beaux (1920).

In 1880 he started his newspaper, La Justice, which became the principal organ of Parisian Radicalism. From this time onwards, throughout Jules Grévy's presidency, his reputation as a political critic and destroyer of ministries ("le Tombeur de ministères") who yet would not take office himself grew rapidly. Leading the Far Left in the National Assembly, he was an active opponent of Jules Ferry's colonial policy (which he opposed on moral grounds and also as a form of diversion from the “Revenge against Germany”) and of the Opportunist party, and in 1885 it was his criticism of the Tonkin disaster which principally determined the fall of the Ferry cabinet.

At the elections of 1885 he advocated a strong Radical programme, and was returned both for his old seat in Paris and for the Var, selecting the latter. Refusing to form a ministry to replace the one he had overthrown, he supported the Right in keeping Freycinet in power in 1886, and was responsible for the inclusion of General Boulanger in the Freycinet cabinet as War Minister. When Boulanger showed himself as an ambitious pretender, Clemenceau withdrew his support and became a vigorous opponent of the heterogeneous Boulangist movement, though the Radical press and a section of the party continued to patronize the general.

By his exposure of the Wilson scandal, and by his personal plain speaking, Clemenceau contributed largely to Jules Grévy's resignation of the presidency in 1887, having himself declined Grévy's request to form a cabinet on the downfall of Maurice Rouvier's Cabinet. He was also primarily responsible, by advising his followers to vote for neither Floquet, Ferry, or Freycinet, for the election of an "outsider" (Sadi Carnot) as president.

The split in the Radical party over Boulangism weakened his hands, and its collapse made his help unnecessary to the moderate republicans. A further misfortune occurred in the Panama affair, as Clemenceau's relations with Cornelius Herz led to his being included in the general suspicion. Although he remained the leading spokesman of French Radicalism, his hostility to the Russian alliance so increased his unpopularity that in the 1893 election he was defeated for his Chamber seat, having held it continuously since 1876.

Dreyfus Affair

After his 1893 defeat, Clemenceau confined his political activities to journalism. His career was further overclouded by the long-drawn-out Dreyfus case, in which he took an active part as a supporter of Emile Zola and an opponent of the anti-Semitic and Nationalist campaigns.

On 13 January 1898 Clemenceau, as owner and editor of the Paris daily L'Aurore, published Émile Zola's "J'accuse" on the front page of his paper. Clemenceau decided that the controversial story that would become a famous part of the Dreyfus Affair would be in the form of an open letter to the President, Félix Faure.

In 1900 he withdrew from La Justice to found a weekly review, Le Bloc, in which Clemenceau was practically the sole contributor. Le Bloc lasted until 15 March 1902. On 6 April 1902 he was triumphally elected senator for the Var, although he had previously continually demanded the suppression of the Senate, considered a strong-house of conservatism. He sat with the Radical-Socialist Party and moderated somehow his positions, although he still vigorously supported the Combes ministry, who spearheaded the anti-clericalist Republican struggle. In June 1903 he undertook the direction of the journal L'Aurore, which he had founded. In it he led the campaign for the revision of the Dreyfus affair, and for the separation of Church and State, which was implemented by the 1905 Act [2].

In cabinet

In March 1906 the fall of the Rouvier ministry, owing to the riots provoked by the inventories of church property, and the Radicals' victory during the 1906 legislative election, at last brought Clemenceau to power as Minister of the Interior in the Sarrien cabinet. On a domestic level, Clemenceau reformed the police forces and ordered repressive policies towards the workers' movement. He supported the formation of scientifical police by Alphonse Bertillon, and founded the Brigades mobiles (French for "mobile squads") led by Célestin Hennion. These squads were nicknamed Brigades du Tigre ("Tiger's Brigades") after Clemenceau himself.

The miners' strike in the Pas de Calais after the disaster at Courrieres (more than a thousand victims), leading to the threat of disorder on the 1st of May 1906, prompted him to employ the military; and his attitude in the matter — as well as the repression of the wine-growers' strike in the Languedoc-Roussillon — alienated the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) socialist party, from which he definitively broke in his notable reply in the Chamber to Jean Jaurès, leader of the SFIO, in June 1906.

This speech marked him out as the strong man of the day in French politics; and when the Sarrien ministry resigned in October, he became premier. During 1907 and 1908 his premiership was notable for the way in which the new Entente cordiale with England was cemented, and for the successful part which France played in European politics, in spite of difficulties with Germany and attacks by the Socialist party in connection with Morocco (First Moroccan Crisis in 1905-06, settled by the Algeciras Conference).

Clemenceau was defeated however on 20 July 1909 in a discussion in the Chamber on the state of the navy, in which bitter words were exchanged between him and Théophile Delcassé, former president of the Council whom Clemenceau had helped in his downfall. Clemenceau refused to respond to Delcassé's technical questions, and resigned after his proposal for the order of the day vote was rejected. He was succeeded as premier by Aristide Briand, with a reconstructed cabinet.

Between 1909 and 1912, Clemenceau dedicated his times to travels, conferences and also to the treatment of his sickness. He went to South America in 1910, traveling to Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina (where he went as far as Santa Ana de Tucuman in the North-West of Argentina). There, he was amazed by the influence of French culture and of the French Revolution on local elites [3]. In 1912, he was operated on because of a problem of the prostate.

He published the first issue of the Journal du Var on 10 April 1910, before creating L'Homme libre (The Free Man) newspaper, based in Paris, on 6 May 1913, in which he published daily his editorial. In these tribunes, Clemenceau focused more and more on foreign policy, and condemned the Socialists' anti-militarism. When World War I broke out, his newspaper was one of the first to be censored, being completely suspended from 29 September 1914 to 7 October. In response, Clemenceau changed its name to L'Homme enchaîné (The Man in Chains), and criticized both the lack of transparency of the government and its inefficacity, while defending the patriotic Union sacrée against the German Empire.

World War I

When World War I broke out in 1914 Clemenceau refused to act as justice minister under the French Prime Minister.

1917

In November 1917 Clemenceau was appointed prime minister. Unlike his predecessors, he immediately halted disagreement and called for peace among senior politicians.

When Clemenceau became Prime Minister in 1917 victory seemed to be a long way off. There was little activity on the Front because it was believed that there should be limited attacks until the American support arrived. At this time, Italy was on the defensive, Russia had virtually stopped fighting – and it was believed they would be making a separate peace with Germany. At home the government had to combat increasing resentment against the war. They also had to handle increasing demonstrations against the war, scarcity of resources and air raids – which were causing huge physical damage to Paris as well as damaging the morale of its citizens. It was also believed that many politicians secretly wanted peace. It was a challenging situation for Clemenceau, because after years of criticizing other men during the war, he suddenly found himself in a position of supreme power. He was also isolated politically. He did not have close links with any parliamentary leaders (especially after years of criticism) and so had to rely on himself and his own circle of friends.

Clemenceau's ascension to power meant little to the men in the trenches at first. They thought of him as "Just another Politician", and the monthly assessment of troop morale found that only a minority found comfort in his appointment. Slowly, however, as time passed, the confidence he inspired in a few began to grow throughout all the fighting men. They were encouraged by his many visits to the trenches. This confidence began to spread from the trenches to the home front and it was said "We believed in Clemenceau rather in the way that our ancestors believed in Joan of Arc."

Clemenceau was also well received by the media because they felt that France was in need for strong leadership. It was widely recognised that throughout the war he was never discouraged and he never stopped believing that France could achieve total victory. There were sceptics, however, that believed that Clemenceau, like other war time leaders, would have a short time in office. It was said that "Like everyone else … Clemenceau will not last long- only long enough to clean up [the war]."

1918: Clemenceau's crackdown

As the situation worsened in early 1918, Clemenceau continued to support the policy of total war – "We present ourselves before you with the single thought of total war" – and the policy of "la guerre jusqu'au bout" (war until the end). His 8 March speech advocating this policy was so effective it left a vivid impression on Winston Churchill. Clemenceau's war policy encompassed the promise of victory with justice, loyalty to the fighting men, and immediate and severe punishment of crimes against France.

Joseph Caillaux, a German appeaser and former French prime minister, adamantly disagreed with Clemenceau's policies. Caillaux was an avid believer in negotiated peace – which could only be achieved by surrendering to Germany. Clemenceau believed that Caillaux was a threat to national security and that if France were to be victorious, his challenge had to be overcome. Unlike previous ministers, Clemenceau was not afraid to act against Caillaux. It was decided by the parliamentary committee that he would be arrested and imprisoned for three years. Clemenceau believed, in the words of Jean Ybarnégaray, that Caillaux's crime "was not to have believed in victory [and] to have gambled on his nations defeat".

It was believed by some in Paris that the arrest of Caillaux and others was a sign that Clemenceau had begun a Reign of Terror. This was only really believed by the enemies of Clemenceau, but the many trials and arrests aroused great public excitement, one newspaper ironically reported "The war must be over, for no one is talking about it anymore". These trials, far from making the public fear the government, inspired confidence as they felt that for the first time in the war, action was being taken and they were being firmly governed. Although there were accusations that Clemenceau's "firm government" was actually a dictatorship, the claims were not supported. Clemenceau was still held accountable to the people and media and he relaxed censorship on political views as he believed that newspapers had the right to criticize political figures - "The right to insult members of the government is inviolable". The only powers that Clemenceau assumed were those that he thought necessary to win the war.

In 1918, Clemenceau thought that France should adopt Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, despite believing that some were utopian, mainly because one of the points called for the return of the disputed territory of Alsace-Lorraine to France. This meant that victory would fulfill one war aim that was very close to the hearts of the French people. Clemenceau was also very sceptical about the League of Nations, believing that it could succeed only in a utopian society.

As war minister Clemenceau was also in close contact with his generals. Although it was necessary for these meetings to take place, they were not always beneficial as he did not always make the most effective decisions concerning military issues. He did, however, mostly heed the advice of the more experienced generals. As well as talking strategy with the generals he also went to the trenches to see the Poilu , the French infantrymen. He wanted to talk to them and assure them that their government was actually looking after them. The Poilu had great respect for Clemenceau and his disregard for danger as he often visited soldiers only yards away from German frontlines. These visits to the trenches contributed to Clemenceau's title Le Père de la Victoire (Father of Victory).

1918: the German spring offensive

On 21 March the Germans began their great spring offensive. The Allies were caught off guard as they were waiting for the majority of the American troops to arrive. As the Germans advanced on the 24th of March, the British Fifth army retreated and a gap was created in the British/French lines - giving them access to Paris. This defeat cemented Clemenceau's belief, and that of the other allies, that a coordinated, unified command was the best option. It was decided that Foch would be appointed to the supreme command.

The German line continued to advance and Clemenceau believed that they could not rule out the fall of Paris (see appendix 2.0). It was believed that if "the tiger" as well as Foch and Pétain stayed in power, for even another week, France would be lost. It was thought that a government headed by Briand would be beneficial to France because he would make peace with Germany on advantageous terms. Clemenceau adamantly opposed these opinions and he gave an inspirational speech to parliament and "the chamber" voted their confidence in him 377 votes to 110.

1918: the Allied counter-offensive and the Armistice

As Allied counter-offensives began to push the Germans back, with the help of American reinforcements, it became clear that the Germans could no longer win the war. Although they still occupied allied territory, they did not have sufficient resources and manpower to continue the attack. As countries allied to Germany began to ask for an armistice, it was obvious that Germany would soon follow. On 11 November an armistice with Germany was signed – Clemenceau saw this was Germany's admission of defeat. Clemenceau was embraced in the streets and attracted admiring crowds. He was a strong, energetic, positive leader who was key to the allied victory of 1918.

Versailles and after

It was decided that a peace conference would be held in Versailles, France. On 14 December Woodrow Wilson received an enormous welcome. His 14 points and the concept of a league of nations had made a big impact on the war weary French. Clemenceau realized at their first meeting that he was a man of principle and conscience but narrow minded.

It was decided that since the conference was being held in France, Clemenceau would be the most appropriate president. He also spoke both English and French, the official languages of the conference.

The Conference progress was much slower than anticipated and decisions were being constantly adjourned. It was this slow pace that induced Clemenceau to give an interview showing his irritation to an American journalist. He said he believed that Germany had won the war industrially and commercially as their factories were intact and its debts would soon be overcome through ‘manipulation’. In a short time, he believed, the German economy would be much stronger than the French.

Rhineland and the Saar

When Clemenceau returned to the council of ten on 1 March he found that little had changed. One issue that had not changed was a dispute over the long running Eastern Frontier and control of the German province Rhineland. Clemenceau believed that Germany’s possession of the territory left France without a natural frontier in the East and so simplified invasion into France for an attacking army. The issue was finally resolved when Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson guaranteed immediate military assistance if Germany attacked without provocation. It was also decided that the Allies would occupy the territory for 15 years, and that Germany could never rearm the area.

There was increasing discontent among Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson about slow progress and information leaks surrounding the Council of Ten. They began to meet in a smaller group, called the Council of Four, Vittorio Orlando of Italy being the fourth, though less weighty, member. This offered greater privacy and security and increased the efficiency of the decision making process. Another major issue which the Council of Four discussed was the future of the German Saar province. Clemenceau believed that France was entitled to the province and its coal mines after Germany deliberately damaged the coal mines in Northern France. Wilson, however, resisted the French claim so firmly that Clemenceau accused him of being ‘pro German’. Lloyd George came to a compromise and the coal mines were given to France and the territory placed under French administration for 15 years, after which a vote would determine whether the province would rejoin Germany.

Although Clemenceau had little knowledge of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, he supported the causes of its smaller ethnic groups and his adamancy lead to the stringent terms in the Treaty of Trianon which dismantled Hungary. Rather than recognizing territories of the Austrian-Hungarian empire solely within the principles of self-determination, Clemenceau sought to weaken Hungary just as Germany and remove the threat of such a large power within Central Europe. The entire Czechoslovakian state was seen a potential buffer from Communism and this encompassed majority Hungarian territories.

Reparations

Clemenceau was not experienced in the fields of economics or finance, but was under strong public and parliamentary pressure to make Germany’s reparation bill as large as possible. It was generally agreed that Germany should not pay more than it could afford, but the estimates of what it could afford varied greatly. Figures ranged between £2000 million which was quite modest compared to another estimate of £20,000 million. Clemenceau realised that any compromise would anger both the French and British citizens and that the only option was to establish a reparations commission which would examine Germany’s capacity for reparations. This meant that the French government was not directly involved in the issue of reparations.

Clemenceau's First Ministry, 25 October 1906 - 24 July 1909

  • Georges Clemenceau - President of the Council and Minister of the Interior
  • Stéphen Pichon - Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Georges Picquart - Minister of War
  • Joseph Caillaux - Minister of Finance
  • René Viviani - Minister of Labour and Social Security Provisions
  • Edmond Guyot-Dessaigne - Minister of Justice
  • Gaston Thomson - Minister of Marine
  • Aristide Briand - Minister of Public Instruction, Fine Arts, and Worship
  • Joseph Ruau - Minister of Agriculture
  • Raphaël Milliès-Lacroix - Minister of Colonies
  • Louis Barthou - Minister of Public Works, Posts, and Telegraphs
  • Gaston Doumergue - Minister of Commerce and Industry.

Changes

  • 4 January 1908 - Aristide Briand succeeds Guyot-Dessaigne as Minister of Justice. Gaston Doumergue succeeds Briand as Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts. Briand remains Minister of Worship. Jean Cruppi succeeds Doumergue as Minister of Commerce and Industry.
  • 22 October 1908 - Alfred Picard succeeds Thomson as Minister of Marine.

Clemenceau's Second Ministry, 16 November 1917 - 20 January 1920

  • Georges Clemenceau - President of the Council and Minister of War
  • Stéphen Pichon - Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Louis Loucheur - Minister of Armaments and War Manufacturing
  • Jules Pams - Minister of the Interior
  • Louis Lucien Klotz - Minister of Finance
  • Pierre Colliard - Minister of Labour and Social Security Provisions
  • Louis Nail - Minister of Justice
  • Georges Leygues - Minister of Marine
  • Louis Lafferre - Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
  • Victor Boret - Minister of Agriculture and Supply
  • Henry Simon - Minister of Colonies
  • Albert Claveille - Minister of Public Works and Transport
  • Étienne Clémentel - Minister of Commerce, Industry, Maritime Transports, Merchant Marine, Posts, and Telegraphs
  • Charles Jonnart - Minister of Liberated Regions and Blockade.

Changes

  • 23 November 1917 - Albert Lebrun succeeds Jonnart as Minister of Liberated Regions and Blockade.
  • 26 November 1918 - Louis Loucheur becomes Minister of Industrial Reconstitution. His office of Minister of Armaments and War Manufacturing is abolished.
  • 24 December 1918 - The office of Minister of Blockade is abolished. Lebrun remains Minister of Liberated Regions.
  • 5 May 1919 - Albert Claveille succeeds Clémentel as Minister of Merchant Marine. He remains Minister of Public Works and Transport, while Clémentel remains Minister of Commerce, Industry, Posts, and Telegraphs
  • 20 July 1919 - Joseph Noullens succeeds Boret as Minister of Agriculture and Supply.
  • 6 November 1919 - André Tardieu succeeds Lebrun as Minister of Liberated Regions.
  • 27 November 1919 - Léon Bérard succeeds Lafferre as Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts. Louis Dubois succeeds Clémentel as Minister of Commerce, Industry, Posts, and Telegraphs.
  • 2 December 1919 - Paul Jourdain succeeds Colliard as Minister of Labour and Social Security Provisions.

Other information

  • On 19 February 1919, during the Paris Peace Conference, he was shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by anarchist Emile Cottin. Clemenceau often joked about the "assassin's" bad marksmanship – “We have just won the most terrible war in history, yet here is a Frenchman who misses his target 6 out of 7 times at point-blank range. Of course this fellow must be punished for the careless use of a dangerous weapon and for poor marksmanship. I suggest that he be locked up for eight years, with intensive training in a shooting gallery.
  • After relaxing censorship laws he was asked by the chief censor if he would abolish all censorship. Clemenceau replied acidly, "I am not a complete idiot".
  • He was so angry like many Allied military and political leaders over what he perceived as General John J. Pershing's refusal to allow the US troops to be used as replacements for depleted Allied divisions that he attempted to have Pershing relieved of command [4]
  • France's diplomatic position at the Paris Peace Conference was repeatedly jeopardized by Clemenceau's mistrust of David Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, and his intense dislike of French President Raymond Poincaré. When negotiations reached a stalemate, Clemenceau had a habit of shouting at the other heads of state and storming out of the room rather than participating in further discussion.
  • James Douglas, Jr. bought an apartment in Paris for his friend Georges Clemenceau in 1926, for his retirement home. This building later became the Musée Clémenceau. [5]
  • The French aircraft carrier Clemenceau was named after Georges Clemenceau.
  • Clemenceau's famous line "War is too important to be left to the generals" is quoted by the character General Ripper in the movie Dr. Strangelove.
  • Clemenceau was a very sharp-tongued man. On general Lyautey, a well-known homosexual, he said "he's a remarkable man whose got bollocks between the legs, unhappily they don't belong to him".

See also

  • List of people on the cover of Time Magazine: 1920s - 4 Jan. 1926

Notes

  1. ^ Clemenceau's name is spelled with an ‹e› and not with the ‹é› that is normally required in French for the pronunciation /e/.
  2. ^ See the 30 September 1906 discourse in La Roche-sur-Yon (French)
  3. ^ G. Clemenceau, Notes de voyage dans l'Amérique du Sud, Hachette, 1911
  4. ^ [Yanks, John S. D. Eisenhower]
  5. ^ Musée Clémenceau

References

  • Holt, E., The Tiger: The Life of Georges Clemenceau 1841-1929, (London : Hamilton, 1976);
  • Georges Clemenceau, La France devant l'Allemagne, (Paris: Lumet & Martet, 1916);
  • Cochet, A., Clemenceau et la Troisieme Republique, (Paris: Denoel, 1989).

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.

Georges Clemenceau (28 September 184124 November 1929) was a French journalist, physician and statesman. He served as Prime Minister from 1906 to 1909 and from 1917 to 1920.

Contents

Sourced

A man who waits to believe in action before acting is anything you like, but he’s not a man of action.
  • It was I who gave the title "J'accuse" to Zola's letter.
    • Letter (19 June 1902), in which he claims to have chosen the headline title for Émile Zola's famous open letter on the Dreyfus affair, as quoted in Clemenceau (1974) by D. R. Watson, and Brewer's Famous Quotations : 5000 Quotations and the Stories Behind Them (2006) by Nigel Rees
  • In the distance huge trees were still blazing, around us was a waste of ashes and of half-consumed boughs, and the falling rain seemed only to quicken the dying conflagration. In some of the great green boles were fearful gaping wounds through which the sap was oozing, while some tall trees still stretched to heaven their triumphant crown of foliage above a trunk all charred that would never sprout again. The Brazilians contemplate spectacles such as this with a wholly indifferent eye, and, indeed, even with satisfaction, for they see in the ruin only a promise of future harvests. To me the scene possessed only the horror of a slaughter-house.
  • Politique intérieure, je fais la guerre; politique extérieure, je fais la guerre. Je fais toujours la guerre.
    • My home policy: I wage war. My foreign policy: I wage war. All the time I wage war.
    • "Discours de Guerre" [Speech on War] Chambre des Députés, Assemblée Nationale, Paris (8 March 1918)
War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.
  • War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.
    • Statement to Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference (12 January 1919), as quoted in The Macmillan Dictionary of Political Quotations (1993) by Lewis D. Eigen and Jonathan Paul Siegel, p. 689
  • His poor marksmanship must be taken into account. We have just won the most terrible war in history, yet here is a Frenchman who misses his target 6 out of 7 times at point-blank range. Of course, this fellow must be punished for the careless use of a dangerous weapon and for poor marksmanship. I suggest that he be locked up for eight years, with intensive training in a shooting gallery.
    • Arguing against seeking the death penalty for the anarchist who had attempted to assassinate him on 19 February 1919, shooting at him seven times and hitting him only once in the chest, as quoted in A Time for Angels : The Tragicomic History of the League of Nations (1975) by Elmer Bendine, p. 106
  • There are only two perfectly useless things in this world. One is an appendix and the other is Poincaré.
    • Referring to his rival Raymond Poincaré, as quoted in Paris 1919 : Six Months That Changed the World (2003) by Margaret MacMillan, p. 33
  • Il est plus facile de faire la guerre que la paix.
    • It is easier to make war than make peace.
    • "Discours de Paix" [Speech on Peace] Verdun (20 July 1919)
  • Oh, to be seventy again!
    • Exclamation to a friend on his 80th birthday (1921) as an attractive young woman passed them while walking down the Champs-Élysées, as quoted in Ego 3 (1938) by James Agate. Similar remarks have also been attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. ie: "Oh, to be eighty again."
  • La guerre! C’est une chose trop grave pour la confier à des militaires.
    • War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.
    • Variant translation: War is too important a matter to be left to the military.
      • As quoted in Soixante Anneés d'Histoire Française (1932) by Georges Suarez
    • War is too serious a matter to leave to soldiers.
      • As quoted in Clemenceau and the Third Republic (1946) by John Hampden Jackson, p. 228; this has also become commonly paraphrased as: War is too important to be left to the generals.
All that I know I learned after I was thirty.
  • My son is 22 years old. If he had not become a Communist at 22, I would have disowned him. If he is still a Communist at 30, I will do it then.
    • On being told his son had joined the Communist Party, as quoted in Try and Stop Me (1944) by Bennet Cerf
    • A statement similar in theme has also been attributed to Clemenceau:
      • A young man who isn't a socialist hasn't got a heart; an old man who is a socialist hasn't got a head.
        • As quoted in "Nice Guys Finish Seventh" : False Phrases, Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations (1992) by Ralph Keyes.
      • W. Gurney Benham in A Book of Quotations (1948) cites a statement by François Guizot as the earliest known expression of this general idea, stating that Clemenceau merely adapted the saying substituting socialiste for republicain:
N'être pas républicain à vingt ans est preuve d'un manque de cœur ; l'être après trente ans est preuve d'un manque de tête.
Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.
Variations on this general idea have also been attributed or misattributed to many others, most commonly Winston Churchill, who is not known to have actually made any similar statement.
  • America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization.
    • Attributed to Clemenceau by Hans Bendix, in "Merry Christmas, America!" The Saturday Review of Literature (1 December 1945), p. 9; this appears to be the earliest reference to such a remark as one by Clemenceau, though earlier, in Frank Lloyd Wright : An Autobiography (1943) there is mention that "A witty Frenchman has said of us: 'The United States of America is the only nation to plunge from barbarism to degeneracy with no culture in between.'" Similar remarks are sometimes attributed without a source to Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw.
    • Variants:
    • America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to decadence without the usual interval of civilization.
    • America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between.
Mr. Wilson bores me with his Fourteen Points; why, God Almighty has only Ten!
  • The Germans may take Paris, but that will not prevent me from going on with the war. We will fight on the Loire, we will fight on the Garronne, we will fight even in the Pyrenees. And if at last we are driven off the Pyrenees, we will continue the war at sea.
    • As quoted in Clemenceau and the Third Republic (1946) by John Hampden Jackson.
  • Mr. Wilson bores me with his Fourteen Points; why, God Almighty has only Ten!
    • As quoted in The Hero in America: A Chronicle of Hero-worship (1941) by Dixon Wecter, p. 402
    • Variant: Fourteen? The good Lord had only ten.
      • As quoted in Clemenceau and the Third Republic (1946) by John Hampden Jackson
      • Original French, as quoted in The End of an Age, and Other Essays (1948) by William Ralph Inge, p. 139: Quatorze? Le bon Dieu n'a que dix.
  • All that I know I learned after I was thirty.
    • As quoted in And Madly Teach : A Layman Looks at Public School Education (1949) by Mortimer Brewster Smith, p. 27
A man's life is interesting primarily when he has failed — I well know. For it's a sign that he tried to surpass himself.
  • Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.
    • As quoted in The Unlawful Concert : An Account of the Presidio Mutiny Case (1970) by Fred Gardner.
    • Unsourced French: Il suffit d'ajouter "militaire" à un mot pour lui faire perdre sa signification. Ainsi la justice militaire n'est pas la justice, la musique militaire n'est pas la musique.
      • It suffices to add "military" to a word for it to lose its meaning. Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.
  • Americans have no capacity for abstract thought, and make bad coffee.
    • As quoted in The Europeans (1984) by Luigi Barzini, p. 225
  • There is no passion like that of a functionary for his function.
    • As quoted in The Wordsworth Dictionary of Quotations (1998) by Connie Robertson, p. 86

Clemenceau, The Events of His Life (1930)

Clemenceau, The Events of His Life as Told by Himself to His Former Secretary, Jean Martet (1930) as translated by Milton Waldman
  • A man who waits to believe in action before acting is anything you like, but he’s not a man of action. It is as if a tennis player before returning a ball stopped to think about his views of the physical and mental advantages of tennis. You must act as you breathe.
    • Conversation with Jean Martet (18 December 1927), Ch. 11, p. 167.
  • When a man asks himself what is meant by action he proves that he isn't a man of action. Action is a lack of balance. In order to act you must be somewhat insane. A reasonably sensible man is satisfied with thinking.
    • Conversation with Jean Martet (1 January 1928), Ch. 12
  • A man's life is interesting primarily when he has failed — I well know. For it's a sign that he tried to surpass himself.
    • Conversation with Jean Martet (1 June 1928), Ch. 30

Unsourced

  • The graveyards are full of indispensable men.

Quotes about Clemenceau

  • He had one illusion — France; and one disillusion — mankind, including Frenchmen.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GEORGES CLEMENCEAU (1841-), French statesman, was born at Mouilleron-en-Pareds, Vendee, on the 28th of September 1841. Having adopted medicine as his profession, he settled in 1869 in Montmartre; and after the revolution of 1870 he had become sufficiently well known to be nominated mayor of the 18th arrondissement of Paris (Montmartre) - an unruly district over which it was a difficult task to preside. On the 8th of February 1871 he was elected as a Radical to the National Assembly for the department of the Seine, and voted against the peace preliminaries. The execution, or rather murder, of Generals Lecomte and Clement Thomas by the communists on 18th March, which he vainly tried to prevent, brought him into collision with the central committee sitting at the hotel de Tulle, and they ordered his arrest, but he escaped; he was accused, however, by various witnesses, at the subsequent trial of the murderers (November 29th), of not having intervened when he might have done, and though he was cleared of this charge it led to a duel, for his share in which he was prosecuted and sentenced to a fine and a fortnight's imprisonment.

Meanwhile, on the 10th of March 1871, he had introduced in the National Assembly at Versailles, on behalf of his Radical colleagues, the bill establishing a Paris municipal council of eighty members; but he was not returned himself at the elections of the 26th of March. He tried with the other Paris mayors to mediate between Versailles and the hotel de Tulle, but failed, and accordingly resigned his mayoralty and his seat in the Assembly, and temporarily gave up politics; but he was elected to the Paris municipal council on the 23rd of July 1871 for the Clignancourt quartier, and retained his seat till 1876, passing through the offices of secretary and vice-president, and becoming president in 1875. In 1876 he stood again for the Chamber of Deputies, and was elected for the 18th arrondissement. He joined the Extreme Left, and his energy and mordant eloquence speedily made him the leader of the Radical section. In 1877, after the Seize Mai (see France: History), he was one of the republican majority who denounced the Broglie ministry, and he took a leading part in resisting the anti-republican policy of which the Seize Mai incident was a symptom, his demand in 1879 for the indictment of the Broglie ministry bringing him into particular prominence. In 1880 he started his newspaper, La Justice, which became the principal organ of Parisian Radicalism; and from this time onwards throughout M. Grevy's presidency his reputation as a political critic, and as a destroyer of ministries who yet would not take office himself, rapidly grew. He led the Extreme Left in the Chamber. He was an active opponent of M. Jules Ferry's colonial policy and of the Opportunist party, and in 1885 it was his use of the Tongking disaster which principally determined the fall of the Ferry cabinet. At the elections of 1885 he advocated a strong Radical programme, and was returned both for his old seat in Paris and for the Var, selecting the latter. Refusing to form a ministry to replace the one he had overthrown, he supported the Right in keeping M. Freycinet in power in 1886, and was responsible for the inclusion of General Boulanger in the Freycinet cabinet as war minister. When Boulanger (q.v.) showed himself as an ambitious pretender, Clemenceau withdrew his support and became a vigorous combatant against the Boulangist movement, though the Radical press and a section of the party continued to patronize the general.

By his exposure of the Wilson scandal, and by his personal plain speaking, M. Clemenceau contributed largely to M. Grevy's resignation of the presidency in 1887, having himself declined Grevy's request to form a cabinet on the downfall of that of M. Rouvier; and he was primarily responsible, by advising his followers to vote neither for Floquet, Ferry nor Freycinet, for the election of an "outsider" as president in M. Carnot. He had arrived, however, at the height of his influence, and several factors now contributed to his decline. The split in the Radical party over Boulangism weakened his hands, and its collapse made his help unnecessary to the moderate republicans. A further misfortune occurred in the Panama affair, Clemenceau's relations with Cornelius Herz leading to his being involved in the general suspicion; and, though he remained the leading spokesman of French Radicalism, his hostility to the Russian alliance so increased his unpopularity that in the election for 1893 he was defeated for the Chamber, after having sat in it continuously since 1876. After his defeat for the Chamber, M. Clemenceau confined his political activities to journalism, his career being further overclouded - so far as any immediate possibility of regaining his old ascendancy was concerned - by the long-drawn-out Dreyfus case, in which he took an active and honourable part as a supporter of M. Zola and an opponent of the anti-Semitic and Nationalist campaign. In 1900 he withdrew from La Justice to found a weekly review, Le Bloc, which lasted until March 1902. On the 6th of April 1902 he was elected senator for the Var, although he had previously continually demanded the suppression of the Senate. He sat with the Socialist Radicals, and vigorously supported the Combes ministry. In June 1903 he undertook the direction of the journal L'Aurore, which he had founded. In it he led the campaign for the revision of the Dreyfus affair, and for the separation of Church and State.

In March 1906 the fall of the Rouvier ministry, owing to the riots provoked by the inventories of church property, at last brought Clemenceau to power as minister of the interior in the Sarrien cabinet. The strike of miners in the Pas de Calais after the disaster at Courrieres, leading to the threat of disorder on the 1st of May 1906, obliged him to employ the military; and his attitude in the matter alienated the Socialist party, from which he definitely broke in his notable reply in the Chamber to Jean Jaures in June 1906. This speech marked him out as the strong man of the day in French politics; and when the Sarrien ministry resigned in October, he became premier. During 1907 and 1908 his premiership was notable for the way in which the new entente with England was cemented, and for the successful part which France played in European politics, in spite of difficulties with Germany and attacks by the Socialist party in connexion with Morocco (see France: History). But on July loth, 1909, he was defeated in a discussion in the Chamber on the state of the navy, in which bitter words were exchanged between him and Delcasse; and he at once resigned, being succeeded as premier by M. Briand, with a reconstructed cabinet.

Clemencin, Diego (1765-1834), Spanish scholar and politician, was born on the 27th of September 1765, at Murcia, and was educated there at the Colegio de San Fulgencio. Abandoning his intention of taking orders, he found employment at Madrid in 1788 as tutor to the sons of the countess-duchess de Benavente, and devoted himself to the study of archaeology. In 1807 he became editor of the Gaceta de Madrid, and in the following year was condemned to death by Murat for publishing a patriotic article; he fled to Cadiz, and under the Junta Central held various posts from which he was dismissed by the reactionary government of 1814. During the liberal regime of 1820-1823 Clemencin took office as colonial minister, was exiled till 1827, and in 1833 published the first volume of his edition (1833-1839) of Don Quixote. Its merits were recognized by his appointment as royal librarian, but he did not long enjoy his triumph: he died on the 30th of July 1834. His commentary on Don Quixote owes something to John Bowle, and is disfigured by a patronizing, carping spirit; nevertheless it is the most valuable work of its kind, and is still unsuperseded. Clemencin is also the author of an interesting Elogio de la reina Isabel la CatOlica, published as the sixth volume of the Memorias of the Spanish Academy of History, to which body he was elected on the 12th of September 1800.


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Georges Clemenceau
File:Georges Clemenceau


In office
25 October 1906 – 24 July 1909
President Armand Fallières
Preceded by Ferdinand Sarrien
Succeeded by Aristide Briand

In office
16 November 1917 – 20 January 1920
President Raymond Poincaré
Preceded by Paul Painlevé
Succeeded by Alexandre Millerand

Born 28 September 1841
Died November 24, 1929 (aged 88)
Political party Radical
Profession Physician, newspaper publisher

Georges Benjamin Clemenceau (September 28, 1841 – November 24, 1929) was a French statesman, physician, and journalist.








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