Great figure of the Third Republic, Georges Clemenceau has enjoyed an exceptionally long political career. Talented with rhetoric and not devoid of humor, the one who will be nicknamed "the Tiger" then "the Father the victory" ardently defended his vision of society, a combination of social justice and republican order. At the head of government in the last phase of the First World War, he is uncompromisingly leading a policy aimed at "win the war to win the peace". He will play a decisive role in the negotiations which will lead to the Treaty of Versailles.
Georges Clemenceau: radical and secular
Born September 18, 1841 and from a family of doctors in Vendée, Georges Clemenceau naturally began medical studies, before moving towards law studies in Paris, where he befriended Claude Monet. Quickly, he turned to politics, influenced by the Republican and progressive ideas of his father. Elected mayor of Montmartre (18th arrondissement of Paris), he tried in vain to meddle between the government of Versailles and the Communards. After taking part in the fall of the Second Empire, he was elected deputy for the Seine in the National Assembly at the age of thirty (February 8, 1871).
With his talents as a speaker, he quickly gained a reputation as a “ministerial slayer” as well as the nickname of “tiger”. He notably contributed to the fall of Gambetta (1882) and Jules Ferry (1885), whose colonial policies he denounced in the name of the patriotism of "revenge" against Germany. Reelected in 1876, 1877 and 1885, he became a prominent figure of the republican and anticlerical left, the nucleus of the future radical party. He supported General Boulanger for a while, who then passed for a very republican, before turning away from it.
On June 4, 1888, in the midst of the legislative campaign and at a time when Boulangism was becoming a powerful and formidable political force, Georges Clemenceau addressed the deputies. Succeeding from the tribune of the hemicycle to General Boulanger himself (who has just defended the constitutional revision), he praises the parliamentary regime during which, summoning a century of revolutionary and republican history, he justifies the need to face the anti-parliamentarianism of nationalist currents which then flourish and threaten the stability of the Third Republic. He was re-elected deputy in 1889 against the Boulangist candidate Baillière.
A fierce opponent of the colonialist policy of Jules Ferry, Clemenceau poses as a slayer of poverty: "It is the State which must intervene directly to resolve the problem of poverty, under penalty of seeing social war break out on day one. ". It was he who secured the election of Sadi Carnot against Jules Ferry for the presidency of the Republic in 1887.
Panama scandal and the Dreyfus affair
On January 29, 1891, in a famous speech, he defended the revolution, not hesitating to fight physically with the nationalist deputy Deroulède who accused him of serving the "International of the rich" (December 22, 1892 ) and to be an agent of England. These opponents will not hesitate to involve him in the panama scandal to tarnish his reputation. He was defeated in the 1893 election.
Removed from Parliament for nine years, he seemed a finished man, but he faced adversity with a stubbornness that ultimately saved him. He was despised but continued to fear him and the Dreyfus affair gave him the opportunity to come back to the fore. He passionately and passionately engages in this famous affair, denouncing its anti-Semitic character. He will be the author of the title of the famous article by Émile Zola "Jaccuse ,,,".
Georges Clemenceau first cop in France
In 1902 he was elected senator for Var, a department he represented in the Assembly until 1920. He entered the government for the first time in March 1906, as Minister of the Interior (he proclaimed himself "first cop of France "), then as President of the Council. A somewhat authoritarian republican, he brought the policy of separation of Church and State to an end and showed himself resolved to break down social unrest by force (wine crisis in the Midi, spring 1907; bloody incidents in Draveil- Vigneux and Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, May and July 1908; postal workers' strike, March 1909). Partisans and adversaries alike nicknamed him "the Tiger".
This policy sparked heated debate in the Chamber, where the incisive virulence of Clemenceau clashed with the warm eloquence of Jaurès; it brought about Clemenceau's rupture with the Socialists, without reconciling the moderates, hostile to the income tax advocated by his Minister of Finance, Caillaux, to the President of the Council. Confronted with violent social movements and a quasi-insurrectionary situation, he became an ardent defender of the republican order, even if it meant sending the troops and acquiring a reputation of "strikebreakers" which alienated him from part of the left.
From crossing the desert to "Father victory"
Outsourced in July 1909, Clemenceau began a “desert crossing”, devoting himself to journalism and travel. Although he has never been 'vindictive', he is concerned about the threat to peace posed by Germany's aggressive foreign policy: "we want peace (...) But (...) if we are forced to war, we will be found ". At the beginning of 1914, he founded The free man which becomes, after the declaration of war, The Chained Man. This sheet earned him great popularity with combatants.
Having become very popular again because of his uncompromising patriotism and his energetic action as president of the senatorial commission of the Army, he resuscitated during the war the great Jacobin tradition by calling for all the sacrifices and all the rigors with a view to victory. .
On November 16, 1917, driven by his moral strength and his desire to achieve a military victory over Germany, he again became President of the Council, at the call of President Raymond Poincaré. With indomitable will, he does not hesitate to bring the "defeatist" MPs Caillaux and Malvy to the high court. Aged 76 and leaning on his cane, he tirelessly visits the trenches, encouraging the hairy.
During the last and terrible German offensive which reached Château-Thierry on June 2, 1918, he defended and covered in front of the Chamber Foch, the general-in-chief he appointed on March 27, 1918. Soon, on July 18, the great offensive will corner Germany with the armistice, November 11, 1918. He makes the Germans sign, in the Hall of Mirrors, the Treaty of Versailles, which imposes heavy repairs on the vanquished. Enjoying immense popularity, he is nicknamed "Father Victory".
Political retirement and death of Clemenceau
Clemenceau resigned in January 1920 and retired from political life after being severely beaten in the presidential election. He then isolated himself in a proud retirement, made great trips to the United States (1922), Egypt, India, and devoted his last years to literature: Demosthenes (1926), Claude Monet (1929), The grandeur and misery of a victory (1930).
A great figure of the Third Republic, Georges Clemenceau died in Paris on November 24, 1929, after having occupied the political scene for nearly half a century: " For my funeral, I only want the bare minimum, that is to say me ". Even today, many politicians regularly refer to him.
To the extent that a simple mortal can embody a great country, Georges Clemenceau was France (Churchill).
- Clemenceau, biography of Michel Winock. Perrin, 2017
- The World According to Clémenceau: Murderous Formulas, Trait d'Humour Speeches and Prophecies, by JeanGarrigues. Text, 2017
- Clemenceau: Portrait of a free man, biography of Jean-noel Jeanneney. Editions Menges, 2014.