Joseph Caillaux

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Joseph Caillaux
75th Prime Minister of France
In office
27 June 1911 – 11 January 1912
Preceded by Ernest Monis
Succeeded by Raymond Poincaré
Personal details
Born Joseph-Marie–Auguste Caillaux
(1863-03-30)30 March 1863
Died 22 November 1944(1944-11-22) (aged 81)
Political party Radical Party

Joseph-Marie–Auguste Caillaux (French pronunciation: ​[ʒɔzɛf kajo]; 30 March 1863 Le Mans – 22 November 1944 Mamers) was a major French politician of the Third Republic.


After studying law and following lectures at the École des Sciences Politiques, he entered the civil service in 1888 as an inspector of finance, and spent most of his official career in Algiers. Standing as a Republican candidate in the elections of 1898 for the department of the Sarthe, in opposition to the Duc de la Rochefoucault-Bisaccia, he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies by 12,929 votes to 11,737. He became Minister of Finance in the Waldeck-Rousseau Cabinet, and after its fall it was not until the Clemenceau Ministry of 1906 that he returned to office again, once more with the portfolio of Finance.[1]

In 1911 he became prime minister. The leader of the Radicals, he favored a policy of conciliation with Germany during his premiership from 1911 to 1912, which led to the maintenance of the peace during the Second Moroccan Crisis of 1911. He and his ministers were forced to resign on January 11, 1912, after it was revealed that he had secretly negotiated with Germany without the knowledge of President Armand Fallières.[2]

Nevertheless, thanks to his undoubted qualities as a financier, he remained a great power in French politics. He fought the Three Years' Service bill with the utmost tenacity; and although that measure became law, it was he who finally, on the financial aspect of that bill, brought about the downfall of the Barthou Ministry in the autumn of 1913.[1]

While the Entente Cordiale was in effect, it was impossible for Caillaux to return to the position of prime minister, but he joined the succeeding Doumergue Cabinet as Minister of Finance. As a financial expert, he had long identified himself with a great and necessary reform in the fiscal policy of France — the introduction of the principle of an income tax. Throughout the winter of 1913, he campaigned for this principle. His advocacy of an income tax, and his uncertain and erratic championship of proletarian ideas, alarmed all the conservative elements in the country, and throughout the winter he was attacked with increasing violence from the platform and through the press.[1] Those attacks reached their highest point of bitterness in a series of disclosures in Le Figaro of a more or less personal nature.

Cover of "Le Petit Journal" illustrating the assassination of Gaston Calmette, the editor of "Le Figaro"

In 1914, Le Figaro started the publication of letters addressed by Caillaux to Henriette Caillaux, the second Madame Caillaux, while he was still married to the first. In March 1914, Madame Caillaux in turn shot to death Gaston Calmette, the editor of Le Figaro newspaper, and Caillaux resigned as Minister of Finance. In July 1914, Madame Caillaux was acquitted on the grounds that she committed a crime passionel.[1]

Caillaux became the leader of a peace party in the Assembly during World War I. After a mission to South America, he returned in 1915, and at once began a lobby campaign: He financed newspapers, and did everything he possibly could behind the scenes to consolidate his position. He became acquainted with the Bolos and the Malvys of political and journalistic life. By the spring of 1917, he had become in the eyes of the public “l'homme de la défaite,” the man who was willing to effect a compromise peace with Germany at the expense of Great Britain. The advent of Clemenceau to power killed all his hopes. This led to his arrest and trial for treason in 1918.[3] After long delay, he was tried on a charge of high treason by the High Court of the Senate, and sentenced to three years' imprisonment, the term he had already served, and to the prohibition of residence in French territory for five years and deprivation of civil rights for ten years.[1]

Again rehabilitated after the war, Caillaux served at various times in the left wing governments of the 1920s.[4]

Joseph Caillaux is interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

His political collaborators included the Nord region journalist and politician Émile Roche.

Caillaux's Ministry, 27 June 1911 – 11 January 1912[edit]

See also[edit]




  1. ^ a b c d e  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Caillaux, Joseph-Marie-Auguste". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
  2. ^ J. F. V. Keiger, Raymond Poincaré (Cambridge University Press, 2002) p126; "Political Chaos France's Peril", New York Times, January 12, 1912
  3. ^ "An Ex-Premier of France Facing a Treason Trial," The Literary Digest, December 29, 1917.
  4. ^ "Caillaux's Political Resurrection," The Literary Digest, May 2, 1925.

Further reading[edit]

  • Binion, Rudolph. Defeated leaders; the Political Fate of Caillaux, Jouvenel, and Tardieu, Columbia University Press, 1960.
  • Cooke, W. Henry. "Joseph Caillaux, Statesman of the Third Republic," Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, Sep., 1944.
  • Gibbons, Herbert Adams. "The Case Against Caillaux." In France and Ourselves: Interpretative Studies, Chap. VIII, The Century Co., 1920.
  • Hamilton, Keith A. "The 'Wild Talk' of Joseph Caillaux: A Sequel to the Agadir Crisis," The International History Review, Vol. 9, No. 2, May, 1987.
  • Johnston, Charles. "Caillaux's Secret Power Through French Masonry," The New York Times, February 24, 1918.
  • Latzarus, Louis. "Joseph Caillaux: A Character Sketch," The Living Age, December 6, 1919.
  • Lauzanne, Stephane. "A Lost Force: M. Joseph Caillaux," The Forum, January 1923.
  • Raphael, John. The Caillaux Drama, Max Goschen Ltd., 1914.
  • Seager, Frederic. "Joseph Caillaux as Premier, 1911-1912: The Dilemma of a Liberal Reformer," French Historical Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2, Autumn, 1979.
  • "The Road to Peace: An Interview," The Living Age, March 8, 1924.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ernest Monis
Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by
Raymond Poincaré