Léon Bourgeois

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Léon Bourgeois
Bourgeoi.jpg
64th Prime Minister of France
In office
1 November 1895 – 29 April 1896
Preceded by Alexandre Ribot
Succeeded by Jules Méline
Personal details
Born (1851-05-21)21 May 1851
Paris
Died 29 September 1925(1925-09-29) (aged 74)
Épernay
Political party None

Léon Victor Auguste Bourgeois (French: [leɔ̃ buʁʒwa]; 21 May 1851 – 29 September 1925) was a French statesman. His ideas influenced the Radical Party regarding a wide range of issues. He promoted progressive taxation such as progressive income taxes and social insurance schemes,[1] along with economic equality, expanded educational opportunities, and cooperatives. In foreign policy, he called for a strong League of Nations, and the maintenance of peace through compulsory arbitration, controlled disarmament, economic sanctions, and perhaps an international military force.

Biography[edit]

Bourgeois was born in Paris, and was trained in law. After holding a subordinate office (1876) in the department of public works, he became successively prefect of the Tarn (1882) and the Haute-Garonne (1885), and then returned to Paris to enter the Ministry of the Interior. He became prefect of police in November 1887, at the critical moment of Jules Grévy's resignation from the presidency. In the following year he entered the Chamber, being elected deputy for the Marne, in opposition to General Boulanger, and joined the Radical Left. He was under-secretary for home affairs in Charles Floquet's ministry of 1888, and resigned with it in 1889, being then returned to the chamber for Reims. In the Pierre Tirard's ministry, which succeeded, he was Minister of the Interior, and subsequently, on 18 March 1890, Minister of Public Instruction in the cabinet of Freycinet, a post for which he had qualified himself by the attention he had given to educational matters. In this capacity, he was responsible for some important reforms in secondary education in 1890.

He retained his office in Émile Loubet's cabinet in 1892, and was Minister of Justice under Alexandre Ribot at the end of that year, when the Panama scandals were making the office one of peculiar difficulty. He energetically pressed the Panama prosecution, so much so that he was accused of having put wrongful pressure on the wife of one of the defendants in order to procure evidence. To meet the charge, he resigned in March 1893 but again took office and retired only with the rest of the Freycinet ministry.

In November 1895, he formed his own cabinet, distinctively radical, which fell as the result of a constitutional crisis arising from the persistent refusal of the Senate to vote supply. He was an eminent Freemason[2][3] and eight of his cabinet members were Freemasons.[4]

The Bourgeois ministry seemed to think that popular opinion would enable them to override what they regarded as an unconstitutional action on the part of the upper house. However, the public was indifferent and the Senate triumphed. The blow damaged Bourgeois's career as an homme de gouvernement. As Minister of Public Instruction in the Brisson cabinet of 1898 he organized courses for adults in primary education. After this short ministry he represented his country with dignity and effect at the Hague Peace Convention, and in 1903 was nominated a member of the permanent court of arbitration.

He held somewhat aloof from the political struggles of the Waldeck-Rousseau and Combes ministries, travelling considerably in foreign countries. In 1902 and 1903, he was elected president of the Chamber. In 1905, he replaced the duc d'Audiffret-Pasquier as senator for the department of Marne, and in May 1906 became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Sarrien cabinet. He was responsible for the direction of French diplomacy in the conference at Algeciras. He was delegate to both Hague Conferences held on 1899 and 1907. Bourgeois also became delegate to Paris Peace Conference and strongly supported the Japanese Racial Equality Proposal as "an indisputable principle of justice".[5]

Following World War I, he became President of the Council of the League of Nations and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in 1920.

A social republican, Leon Bourgeois sought a middle ground between socialism and capitalism which he termed “solidarism,” where the better off had a social debt to the poor which they should pay by the income tax, thus providing the state with the necessary revenue to finance social measures for those living in poverty. However, the Senate opposed his proposal and opposition grew until his resignation as prime minister.

Bourgeois's Ministry, 1 November 1895 – 29 April 1896[edit]

Changes

  • 28 March 1896 – Bourgeois succeeds Berthelot as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Ferdinand Sarrien succeeds Bourgeois as Minister of the Interior.

External link and references[edit]

  1. ^ J. E. S. Hayward, "The Official Philosophy of the French Third Republic: Leon Bourgeois and Solidarism," International Review of Social History, (1961) 6#1 pp 19-48
  2. ^ Edward A. Tiryakian (2009). For Durkheim: Essays in Historical and Cultural Sociology. Ashgate. p. 93. 
  3. ^ He was initiated at "La Sincerité", lodge of Grand Orient de France (Paul Guillaume, « La Franc-maçonnerie à Reims (1740-2000) », 2001, p. 333)
  4. ^ Jean-Marie Mayeur; Madeleine Rebirioux (1988). The Third Republic from Its Origins to the Great War, 1871-1914. Cambridge U.P. p. 164. 
  5. ^ Conférence de paix de Paris, 1919–1920, Recueil des actes de la Conférence, "Secret," Partie 4, pp. 175–176. as cited in Paul Gordon Lauren (1988), Power And Prejudice: The Politics And Diplomacy Of Racial Discrimination Westview Press ISBN 0-8133-0678-7 p.92
Political offices
Preceded by
Ernest Constans
Minister of the Interior
1890
Succeeded by
Ernest Constans
Preceded by
Armand Fallières
Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
1890–1892
Succeeded by
Charles Dupuy
Preceded by
Louis Ricard
Minister of Justice
1892–1893
Succeeded by
Jules Develle
Preceded by
Jules Develle
Minister of Justice
1893
Succeeded by
Eugène Guérin
Preceded by
Alexandre Ribot
Prime Minister of France
1895–1896
Succeeded by
Jules Méline
Preceded by
Georges Leygues
Minister of the Interior
1895–1896
Succeeded by
Ferdinand Sarrien
Preceded by
Marcelin Berthelot
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1896
Succeeded by
Gabriel Hanotaux
Preceded by
Alfred Rambaud
Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
1898
Succeeded by
Georges Leygues
Preceded by
Paul Deschanel
President of the Chamber of Deputies
1902–1905
Succeeded by
Paul Doumer
Preceded by
Maurice Rouvier
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1906
Succeeded by
Stéphen Pichon
Preceded by
René Renoult
Minister of Labour and Social Security
1912–1913
Succeeded by
René Besnard
Preceded by
Gaston Doumergue
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1914
Succeeded by
René Viviani
Preceded by
Minister of State
1915–1916
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Étienne Clémentel
Minister of Labour and Social Security
1917
Succeeded by
André Renard
Preceded by
Minister of State
1917
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Antonin Dubost
President of the Senate
1923–1924
Succeeded by
Gaston Doumergue