Deputy, President of the Senate, Minister, President of the Republic, Gaston Doumergue is a character with an incredible destiny, cumulating the high functions without ever asking or doing anything to obtain them! He was never a party man and yet in 1924 left and right agreed to appoint him President of the Republic! He was even affectionately nicknamed "Gastounet" by his peers and by the Nation, thanks to his affable courtesy, his legendary smile and his "art and his way of doing".
Doumergue, a Protestant in secular school
Gaston Doumergue was born in Aigues-Vives in the Gard on August 1, 1863, to a Protestant peasant father. Sent to the municipal school contrary to the practices of the Protestants of the time, he was a very good student, often rewarded and entered on the honor roll. In July 1881, the bachelor in letters enrolling in law in Paris obtained a doctorate and then became a lawyer at the Nîmes bar in 1885, substitute in Indochina in 1890, and finally justice of the peace in Algiers in 1892.
Returning to the south of France, he applied for the legislative elections of December 1893. It was then that the Gard deputy Emile Jamais died on that date: Gaston Doumergue was "sought" who had not asked for anything and he was elected Radical deputy in Nîmes. A year later, he realized the seriousness and the dangerousness of the exercise of power when he attended the banquet where President Sadi Carnot was stabbed in Lyon, in June 1894!
Deputy, Senator, Minister
During his function as deputy of the Gard from 1893 to 1910, he worked in Commissions such as that relating to the justices of the peace in 1894, the budget in 1896, investigation into the Panama affair in 1897, also assuming the role as rapporteur for the Colonial Commission during budget debates, opposing in particular the abolition of the privilege of distillers in 1900, asking for the institution of weekly rest, inaugurating schools in the Gard region in 1904, as well as a railway line in 1909. The Gard being a bullfighting region, Doumergue is alone against the entire commission to stand up and make triumph the law authorizing bull races with killing in the South of France.
Senator of the Gard from 1910 to 1924, vice president of the National Assembly in 1905, he became Minister of the Colonies for the first time from 1902 to 1905 where he created and reorganized the treasury in Indochina in particular. As Minister of Trade, Industry and Public Instruction from 1906 to 1910, he opposed the trade treaty with Russia and succeeded in creating the management of the merchant marine, of which he would also become President in 1920, passed a law on school attendance and denounced the procedures of opponents of secular schools; Still interested in the colonies, he recorded additional funds for military operations in Morocco in 1912.
Appointed President of the Council on the eve of the First World War by Raymond Poincaré in 1913, he defends the law raising military service to three years and supports the income tax project, which he gets the vote, not without difficulty. Having become Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1914, then again Minister of the Colonies until 1917, he actively maintains negotiations between allied nations in order to decide in particular England to accept military cooperation in Congo and Cameroon; it also takes care of the security of our colonies and recruits native troops; he represents France at a major conference in Russia, negotiating personally with the Tsar for a peace treaty, which unfortunately will not succeed due to the October Revolution. He ended his legislative career by being elected President of the Senate in February 1923.
Gaston Doumergue: President of the Republic
Finally, on June 13, 1924, Gaston Doumergue was elected President of the Republic. The thirteenth president in office, he took decisions such as that of eliminating for reasons of economy the royal teams for travel, contenting himself with five simple vehicles and a ceremonial car or to attend the final of the cup. of France football, a decision that continues to this day.
During his seven years in office, Gaston Doumergue was a model President, accomplishing his representative and protocol tasks brilliantly, as during his trips to London in 1927, to Brussels in 1929, to Algeria and Morocco in 1930, to Tunisia in 1931. Desiring religious peace, he maintains good relations with the nuncios, receives legates and honors cardinals. Partisan of a policy of firmness vis-à-vis Germany, he had to face several crises as in July 1926: considering that France was on the verge of bankruptcy, he called Poincaré to finance, set up a government " national union ”restoring confidence and restoring the financial situation.
A hardened single, he is one of the first Presidents of the Republic to marry during his mandate: in fact, twelve days before leaving the Elysee Palace, on June 1, 1931, at the age of 68 he discreetly married his partner and love of childhood Jeanne Gaussal, fifty-year-old teacher, Ariège and widow. But at the end of the ceremony, they are greeted and applauded by the staff of the Elysee ... warned by the British Embassy!
End of career
They withdrew near Toulouse but Gaston Doumergue was recalled in February 1934 to the post of President of the Council, in the midst of the Stavisky affair… He then formed a government of national unity to overcome the political and financial crisis which threatened to turn into a crisis of regime, and surrounded himself in particular with Édouard Herriot, André Tardieu, Louis Barthou and Marshal Pétain. Eager to fight the omnipotence of Parliament which paralyzed any government initiative, he drew up a project giving the government the right to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies without the authorization of the Senate, and giving the executive more important powers in financial matters. . Abandoned by his radical ministers who accused him of authoritarian temptations, he had to submit his resignation in November 1934.
“I was brought out of power; I urge all my fellow citizens to keep the calm which is necessary to resolve the present difficulties in the best interests and security of the homeland ... Those responsible for the policy which culminated in the riots in February and the deaths of veterans who marched unarmed Place de la Concorde do not want at any price to have to answer for this policy before the people before a long delay has elapsed ", while being very acclaimed on November 11, during the demonstrations of the sixteenth anniversary of the armistice where the crowd shouted "Vive Doumergue"!
He ended his life in Tournefeuille, with his wife, but "Gastounet" as the Gardois affectionately called him, died on June 18, 1937 in his native village of Aigues Vives, of a heart attack at the age of 74 years. Important funerals are organized in Nîmes.
- Gaston Doumergue: His life and his destiny, by Pierre Lafue. Plon, 1933.
- The Third Republic, by Pierre Miquel. Fayard, 1989.