Raymond Poincaré

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Raymond Poincaré
Poincare larger.jpg
10th President of France
In office
18 February 1913 – 18 February 1920
Prime Minister
Preceded by Armand Fallières
Succeeded by Paul Deschanel
Co-Prince of Andorra
In office
18 February 1913 – 18 February 1920
Served with Juan Benlloch i Vivó
Jaume Viladrich i Gaspa
Preceded by Armand Fallières
Succeeded by Paul Deschanel
Prime Minister of France
In office
23 July 1926 – 29 July 1929
President Gaston Doumergue
Preceded by Édouard Herriot
Succeeded by Aristide Briand
In office
15 January 1922 – 8 June 1924
President Alexandre Millerand
Preceded by Aristide Briand
Succeeded by Frédéric François-Marsal
In office
21 January 1912 – 21 January 1913
President Armand Fallières
Preceded by Joseph Caillaux
Succeeded by Aristide Briand
Minister of Finance
In office
23 July 1926 – 11 November 1928
Preceded by Anatole de Monzie
Succeeded by Henry Chéron
In office
14 March 1894 – 25 October 1894
Prime Minister Ferdinand Sarrien
Preceded by Pierre Merlou
Succeeded by Joseph Caillaux
In office
30 May 1894 – 26 January 1895
Prime Minister Charles Dupuy
Preceded by Auguste Burdeau
Succeeded by Alexandre Ribot
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
15 January 1922 – 8 June 1824
Preceded by Aristide Briand
Succeeded by Edmond Lefebvre du Prey
In office
14 January 1912 – 21 January 1913
Preceded by Justin de Selves
Succeeded by Charles Jonnart
Minister of Education
In office
26 January 1895 – 1 November 1895
Prime Minister Alexandre Ribot
Preceded by Georges Leygues
Succeeded by Émile Combes
In office
4 April 1893 – 3 December 1893
Prime Minister Charles Dupuy
Preceded by Charles Dupuy
Succeeded by Eugène Spuller
Personal details
Born (1860-08-20)20 August 1860
Bar-le-Duc, France
Died 15 October 1934(1934-10-15) (aged 74)
Paris, France
Political party Democratic Republican Alliance
Religion Roman Catholicism

Raymond Poincaré (French pronunciation: ​[ʁɛmɔ̃ pwɛ̃kaʁe]; 20 August 1860 – 15 October 1934) was a French statesman who served three times as Prime Minister, and as President from 1913 to 1920. He was a conservative leader, primarily committed to political and social stability.[1]

Trained in law, Poincaré was elected a Deputy in 1887, and served in the cabinets of Dupuy and Ribot. In 1902, he co-founded the Democratic Republican Alliance, the most important center-right party under the Third Republic, becoming Prime Minister in 1912 and President in 1913. He was noted for his strongly anti-German attitudes, and twice visited Russia to maintain strategic ties. At the Paris Peace Conference, he favoured re-occupation of the Rhineland, which he was able to carry out in 1923 as Prime Minister.

Early years[edit]

Born in Bar-le-Duc, Meuse, France, Raymond Poincaré was the son of Nicolas Antonin Hélène Poincaré, a distinguished civil servant and meteorologist. Raymond was also the cousin of Henri Poincaré, the famous mathematician. Educated at the University of Paris, Raymond was called to the Paris bar, and was for some time law editor of the Voltaire.

As a lawyer, he successfully defended Jules Verne in a libel suit presented against the famous author by the chemist Eugène Turpin, inventor of the explosive melinite, who claimed that the "mad scientist" character in Verne's book Facing the Flag was based on him.[2]

Early political career[edit]

Poincaré had served for over a year in the Department of Agriculture when in 1887 he was elected deputy for the Meuse département. He made a great reputation in the Chamber as an economist, and sat on the budget commissions of 1890–1891 and 1892. He was minister of education, fine arts and religion in the first cabinet (April – November 1893) of Charles Dupuy, and minister of finance in the second and third (May 1894 – January 1895).

In Alexandre Ribot's cabinet Poincaré became minister of public instruction. Although he was excluded from the Radical cabinet which followed, the revised scheme of death duties proposed by the new ministry was based upon his proposals of the previous year. He became vice-president of the chamber in the autumn of 1895, and in spite of the bitter hostility of the Radicals retained his position in 1896 and 1897.

Along with other followers of "Opportunist" Léon Gambetta, Poincaré founded the Democratic Republican Alliance (ARD) in 1902, which became the most important center-right party under the Third Republic. In 1906 he returned to the ministry of finance in the short-lived Sarrien ministry. Poincaré had retained his practice at the bar during his political career, and he published several volumes of essays on literary and political subjects.

"Poincarism" was a political movement, 1902–20. In 1902 it was used by Clemenceau to define a young generation of conservative politicians who had lost the idealism of the founders of the republic. After 1911 the term was used to mean "national renewal" when faced with the German threat. After the First World War, "Poincarism" refers to his support of business and financial interests.[1]

First premiership[edit]

Poincaré became Prime Minister in January 1912, and began pursuing a hardline anti-German policy, noted for restoring close ties with France's ally Russia.

Presidency[edit]

Official portrait of Poincaré by Pierre Carrier-Belleuse.

Poincaré won election as President of the Republic in 1913, in succession to Armand Fallières. He attempted to make that office into a site of power for the first time since MacMahon in the 1870s. He generally managed to continue to dominate foreign policy, in particular. He went to Russia, for the second time (but for the first time as president) to reinforce the Franco-Russian Alliance.

He became increasingly sidelined after the accession to power of Georges Clemenceau as Prime Minister in 1917. He believed the Armistice happened too soon and that the French Army should have penetrated Germany far more.[3] At the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, negotiating the Treaty of Versailles, he wanted France to wrest the Rhineland from Germany to put it under Allied military control.[4] Poincaré wrote a memorandum for the conference, saying that after the Franco-Prussian War Germany occupied various French provinces and did not leave until it received all of the indemnity, whereas France wanted reparations for damage caused. He further claimed that if the Allies did not occupy the Rhineland and at a later date found that they would need to do so again, Germany would label them the aggressors:

And, further, shall we be sure of finding the left bank free from German troops? Germany is supposedly going to undertake to have neither troops nor fortresses on the left bank and within a zone extending 50 k.m. east of the Rhine. But the Treaty does not provide for any permanent supervision of troops and armaments on the left bank any more than elsewhere in Germany. In the absence of this permanent supervision, the clause stipulating that the League of Nations may order enquiries to be undertaken is in danger of being purely illusory. We can thus have no guarantee that after the expiry of the fifteen years and the evacuation of the left bank, the Germans will not filter troops by degrees into this district. Even supposing they have not previously done so, how can we prevent them doing it at the moment when we intend to re-occupy on account of their default? It will be simple for them to leap to the Rhine in a night and to seize this natural military frontier well ahead of us. The option to renew the occupation should not therefore from any point of view be substituted for occupation.[5]

Ferdinand Foch urged Poincaré to invoke his powers as laid down in the Constitution and take over the negotiations of the treaty due to worries that Clemenceau was not achieving France's aims.[6] He did not, and when the French Cabinet approved of the terms which Clemenceau obtained, Poincaré considered resigning, although again he refrained.[7]

Second premiership[edit]

1923 caricature of Poincaré

In 1920, Poincaré's term as President came to an end, and two years later he returned to office as Prime Minister. Once again, his tenure was noted for its strong anti-German policies, with Poincaré justifying these by saying: "Germany's population was increasing, her industries were intact, she had no factories to reconstruct, she had no flooded mines. Her resources were intact, above and below ground... [i]n fifteen or twenty years Germany would be mistress of Europe. In front of her would be France with a population scarcely increased".[8]

Frustrated at Germany's unwillingness to pay reparations, Poincaré hoped for joint Anglo-French economic sanctions against Germany in 1922, opposing military action. In April 1922, Poincare was greatly alarmed by the Treaty of Rapallo, which he saw as the beginning of a German-Soviet challenge to the international order established by Versailles, and was disturbed that the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George did not share the French viewpoint, instead almost welcoming Rapallo as a chance to bring Soviet Russia into the international system.[9] Poincaré came to believe by May 1922 that if Rapallo could not convince the British that Germany was out to undercut the Versailles system by whatever means necessary, then nothing would, in which France would just have to act alone.[10] Further adding to Poincaré's fears of Germany was the world-wide propaganda campaign started by Germany in April 1922 to blame France for World War I as a means of disproving Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles, which would thereby undermine the French claim to reparations.[11]

In early 1922, what the British historian John Keiger called a:

"a lavishly funded propaganda campaign by Germany, but also the Soviet Union bent on discrediting its tsarist predecessors, which had a considerable effect on "Anglo-Saxon" and neutral countries, contributing in the postwar era to the image of France, and Poincaré in particular as Germanophobe, bellicose, militaristic and intent on restoring French hegemony to the European continent"[12]

In the German-Soviet propaganda of the 1920s, the July Crisis of 1914 was portrayed as Poincaré-la-guerre (Poincaré's war), in which an insanely militaristic and revanchist Poincaré put into action the plans he had allegedly negotiated with Emperor Nicholas II in 1912 for the dismemberment of Germany.[13] The French Communist newspaper L'Humanité ran a front-page cover-story accusing Poincaré and Nicholas II of being the two men who plunged the world into war in 1914.[14] The Poincaré-la-guerre propaganda proved to be very effective in the 1920s, and to a certain extent Poincaré's reputation has still not recovered.[13] Keiger argued that:

France was an excellent scapegoat on to whom the blame could be shifted. Because in a war with Germany in 1870 she had lost the two provinces of Alsace-Lorraine, it was suggested that for virtually the next half-century she had prepared for a war of revanche against Germany to regain the lost territories. Because from 1912 France's new leader Raymond Poincaré, who was a Lorrainer in the bargain, was determined to apply resolute policies and to strengthen the links with France's allies, particularly with Russia, it was suggested that he had plotted a war of revanche against Germany...Poincaré was charged with having encouraged Russia to begin the conflict. The idea of Poincaré-la-guerre gained currency. It was picked up and used to all ends. In France, it was to political use when Poincaré's political opponents wished to stop him returning to power in 1926. In the end when the argument subsided, because facts had been manipulated and evidence distorted, inevitably confusion had resulted and some of the mud stuck.[13]

Keiger further argued that Poincaré was "a victim of his own success. In peacetime he had prepared relentlessly for any eventuality and worked for national unity", so when the war started in 1914 "the crisis had been well managed. Critics could not forgive a Lorrainer this coincidence".[15]

Throughout the spring and summer of 1922, Poincaré grew more and annoyed that the British continue to spurn his offers of an alliance with Britain, a feeling further enhanced by the fact that the French had broken the British diplomatic codes and thus Poincaré could and did read the disparaging comments made about him by Lord Curzon.[10] British officials like Curzon took the view that with Germany defeated, the main danger to British interests was now France, and thus British foreign policy should tilt towards Germany to counterbalance French power.[16] The British strongly objected to Poincaré's plan to seize the Ruhr as a way of forcing reparations payments, arguing, says Maisel, that this “would only impair German recovery, topple the German government, lead to internal anarchy and Bolshevism, without achieving the financial goals of the French.”[17]

Poincaré for his part while arguing that the French right to collect reparations was non-negotiable, did not want a break with Britain, and was prepared to compromise on German reparations, albeit highly reluctantly if the British were willing to offer security guarantees and a reduction in French war debts.[11] Despite Poincaré's best efforts to work out an Anglo-French plan for Germany to pay reparations, the British continued to insist that the French lower their reparations demands on Germany, asking in July 1922 that the French accept a voluntary two-year moratorium on collecting reparations from Germany while at the same time insisting that they would accept no reduction in French war debts, even if the French were to reduce reparations on Germany.[18] By the summer of 1922, a vicious circle had been created with the more Germany defaulted on reparations, the more the British pressed for reductions in reparations, which in turn led to further defaults by the Germans out of the hope that reparations might be cancelled altogether.[19] Poincaré was greatly offended by the British demand that the French cancel all reparations for two years, which he saw as rewarding Germany for its repeated defaults and feared that once the reparations were stopped, they would never start again.[19] On August 10, 1922 Lloyd George told his cabinet that Britain should not "give in to the tender mercies of M. Poincaré and the French militarists" for that mean that Britain had "yielded up control of Europe not to France, but to M. Poincaré and his chauvinistic friends".[20] It was British policy to encourage Germany to default on reparations out of the hope that this might force the French to occupy the Ruhr in response.[20] In November 1922, the British member of the reparations commission Sir John Bradbury told the American Colonel James Logan that the British government wanted "to let M. Poincaré try out his policy in the face of their sulky disapproval in the hope that, when M. Poincaré had gone a little way in his independent policy, the French people, feeling consequently the weakening of the franc, increased taxation, etc, would raise in their wrath and oust M. Poincaré before too much harm had been done".[20] By December 1922 he was faced with British-American-German hostility and saw coal for French steel production and money for reconstructing the devastated industrial areas draining away. Poincaré was exasperated with British failure to act, and wrote to the French ambassador in London:

Judging others by themselves, the English, who are blinded by their loyalty, have always thought that the Germans did not abide by their pledges inscribed in the Versailles Treaty because they had not frankly agreed to them... We, on the contrary, believe that if Germany, far from making the slightest effort to carry out the treaty of peace, has always tried to escape her obligations, it is because until now she has not been convinced of her defeat... We are also certain that Germany, as a nation, resigns herself to keep her pledged word only under the impact of necessity.[21]

Poincaré decided to occupy the Ruhr on 11 January 1923, to extract the reparations himself. This, according to historian Sally Marks, "was profitable and caused neither the German hyperinflation, which began in 1922 and ballooned because of German responses to the Ruhr occupation, nor the franc's 1924 collapse, which arose from French financial practices and the evaporation of reparations".[22] The profits, after Ruhr-Rhineland occupation costs, were nearly 900 million gold marks.[23] During the Ruhr crisis, Poincaré received a message from Édouard Herriot, who had been in close contact with the Soviet Foreign Commissar Georgy Chicherin that the Soviet Union wished to establish diplomatic relations with France.[24] Poincaré, despite his anti-communism was interested in the Soviet offer as it offered a way of perhaps severing the Soviet Union from Germany, but insisted that the Soviets would have to honor all of the Russian debts the Soviet government had repudiated in 1918, plus pay the interest on the debts that had been accumulated since 1918 and offer compensation to French businesses for all of their assets that the Soviet regime had nationalised.[25] Poincaré's conditions proved to be unacceptable to the Soviets.[25] Poincaré lost the 1924 parliamentary election "more from the franc's collapse and the ensuing taxation than from diplomatic isolation".[26]

Hall argues that Poincaré was not a vindictive nationalist. Despite his disagreements with Britain, he desired to preserve the Anglo-French entente. When he ordered the French occupation of the Ruhr valley in 1923, his aims were moderate. He did not try to revive Rhenish separatism. His major goal was the winning of German compliance with the Versailles treaty. Though Poincaré's aims were moderate, his inflexible methods and authoritarian personality led to the failure of his diplomacy.[27]

Third premiership[edit]

A 1932 electoral leaflet supporting Raymond Poincaré's achievements

Financial crisis brought him back to power in 1926, and he once again became Prime Minister and Finance Minister until his retirement in 1929.

As early as 1915, Raymond Poincaré introduced a controversial denaturalization law which was applied to naturalized French citizens with "enemy origins" who had continued to maintain their original nationality. Through another law passed in 1927, the government could denaturalize any new citizen who committed acts contrary to French "national interest".

He died in Paris in 1934.

Family[edit]

His brother, Lucien Poincaré (1862–1920), a physicist, became inspector-general of public instruction in 1902. He is the author of La Physique moderne (1906) and L'Électricité (1907). Jules Henri Poincaré (1854–1912), a much more distinguished physicist and mathematician, belonged to another branch of the same family.

Ministries[edit]

First ministry, 21 January 1912 – 21 January 1913[edit]

Changes

Second ministry, 15 January 1922 – 29 March 1924[edit]

Changes

  • 5 October 1922 – Maurice Colrat succeeds Barthou as Minister of Justice.

Third ministry, 29 March – 9 June 1924[edit]

Fourth ministry, 23 July 1926 – 11 November 1928[edit]

Changes

  • 1 June 1928 – Louis Loucheur succeeds Fallières as Minister of Labour, Hygiene, Welfare Work, and Social Security Provisions
  • 14 September 1928 – Laurent Eynac enters the ministry as Minister of Air. Henry Chéron succeeds Bokanowski as Minister of Commerce and Industry, and also becomes Minister of Posts and Telegraphs.

Fifth ministry, 11 November 1928 – 29 July 1929[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b J. F. V. Keiger, Raymond Poincaré (Cambridge University Press, 2002) p126
  2. ^ A letter which Verne later sent to his brother Paul seems to suggest that, though acquitted due to Poincaré's spirited defence, Verne did intend to defame Turpin.
  3. ^ Margaret MacMillan, Peacemakers. The Paris Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War (John Murray, 2003), p. 42.
  4. ^ MacMillan, p. 182.
  5. ^ Ernest R. Troughton, It's Happening Again (London: John Gifford, 1944), p. 21.
  6. ^ MacMillan, p. 212.
  7. ^ MacMillan, p. 214.
  8. ^ Étienne Mantoux, The Carthaginian Peace, or The Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes (London: Oxford University Press, 1946), p. 23.
  9. ^ Keiger, John Raymond Poincaré , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002 page 288.
  10. ^ a b Keiger, John Raymond Poincaré , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002 page 290.
  11. ^ a b Keiger, John Raymond Poincaré , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002 page 291.
  12. ^ Mombauer, Annika The Origins of the First World War, London: Pearson, 2002 page 95.
  13. ^ a b c Mombauer, Annika The Origins of the First World War, London: Pearson, 2002 page 200.
  14. ^ Mombauer, Annika The Origins of the First World War, London: Pearson, 2002 page 94.
  15. ^ Mombauer, Annika The Origins of the First World War, London: Pearson, 2002 page 103.
  16. ^ Keiger, John Raymond Poincaré , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002 page 287.
  17. ^ Ephraim Maisel (1994). The Foreign Office and Foreign Policy, 1919-1926. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 122–23. 
  18. ^ Keiger, John Raymond Poincaré , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002 pages 291-293.
  19. ^ a b Marks, Sally The Illusion of Peace, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003 page 53
  20. ^ a b c Keiger, John Raymond Poincaré , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002 page 293.
  21. ^ Leopold Schwarzschild, World in Trance (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1943), p. 140.
  22. ^ Sally Marks, '1918 and After. The Postwar Era', in Gordon Martel (ed.), The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered. Second Edition (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 26.
  23. ^ Marks, p. 35, n. 57.
  24. ^ Carley, Michael Jabara "Episodes from the Early Cold War: Franco-Soviet Relations, 1917-1927" 1275-1305 from Europe-Asia Studies, Volume 52, Issue #7, November 2000 pages 1278-1279
  25. ^ a b Carley, Michael Jabara "Episodes from the Early Cold War: Franco-Soviet Relations, 1917-1927" 1275-1305 from Europe-Asia Studies, Volume 52, Issue #7, November 2000 page 1279
  26. ^ Marks, p. 26.
  27. ^ Hines H. Hall, III, "Poincare and Interwar Foreign Policy: 'L'Oublie de la Diplomatie' in Anglo-French Relations, 1922-1924," Proceedings of the Western Society for French History (1982), Vol. 10, pp 485-494.

Further reading[edit]

  • Philippe Bernard, Henri Dubief, and Thony Forster (1985). The Decline of the Third Republic, 1914–1938. (Cambridge History of Modern France). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Keiger, J. F. V. (1997). Raymond Poincaré. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-57387-4. 
  • Jean-Marie Mayeur, Madeleine Rebirioux, and J. R. Foster (1988). The Third Republic from its Origins to the Great War, 1871–1914. (Cambridge History of Modern France). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Gordon Wright (1967). Raymond Poincaré and the French presidency. New York: Octagon Books. OCLC 405223. 
  • Sisley Huddleston (1924). Poincaré: A Biographical Portrait, Little, Brown & Company.
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Dupuy
Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
1893
Succeeded by
Eugène Spuller
Minister of Worship
1893
Preceded by
Auguste Burdeau
Minister of Finance
1894–1895
Succeeded by
Alexandre Ribot
Preceded by
Georges Leygues
Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
1895
Succeeded by
Émile Combes
Preceded by
Charles Dupuy
Minister of Worship
1895
Preceded by
Pierre Merlou
Minister of Finance
1906
Succeeded by
Joseph Caillaux
Preceded by
Joseph Caillaux
Prime Minister of France
1912–1913
Succeeded by
Aristide Briand
Preceded by
Justin de Selves
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1912–1913
Succeeded by
Charles Jonnart
Preceded by
Armand Fallières
President of France
1913–1920
Succeeded by
Paul Deschanel
Preceded by
Aristide Briand
Prime Minister of France
1922–1924
Succeeded by
Frédéric François-Marsal
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1922–1924
Succeeded by
Edmond Lefebvre du Prey
Preceded by
Édouard Herriot
Prime Minister of France
1926–1929
Succeeded by
Aristide Briand
Preceded by
Anatole de Monzie
Minister of Finance
1926–1928
Succeeded by
Henry de Chéron
Academic offices
Preceded by
Augustine Birrell
Rector of the University of Glasgow
1914–1919
Succeeded by
Andrew Bonar Law
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Eugene O'Neill
Cover of Time Magazine
24 March 1924
Succeeded by
George Eastman