Jules Grévy

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Jules Grévy
Portrait of Jules Grévy.jpg
Grévy photographed by Nadar
President of France
In office
30 January 1879 – 2 December 1887
Prime MinisterJules Armand Dufaure
William Henry Waddington
Charles de Freycinet
Jules Ferry
Léon Gambetta
Charles de Freycinet
Charles Duclerc
Armand Fallières
Jules Ferry
Henri Brisson
Charles de Freycinet
René Goblet
Maurice Rouvier
Preceded byPatrice de MacMahon
Succeeded bySadi Carnot
President of the National Assembly
In office
16 February 1871 – 2 April 1873
Succeeded byLouis Buffet
President of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
13 March 1876 – 30 January 1879[1]
Succeeded byLéon Gambetta
Personal details
Born15 August 1807
Mont-sous-Vaudrey, French Empire
Died9 September 1891(1891-09-09) (aged 84)
Mont-sous-Vaudrey, French Republic
Political partyModerate Republican
Spouse(s)Coralie Grévy
RelativesAlbert Grévy (brother)
Alma materUniversity of Paris

François Judith Paul Grévy (French pronunciation: ​[ʒyl ɡʁevi]; 15 August 1807 – 9 September 1891) was a French lawyer and politician who served as President of France from 1879 to 1887, and was one of the leaders of the Moderate Republican faction. Given that his predecessors were monarchists who tried without success to restore the French monarchy, Grévy is considered the first real republican President of France.[2][3]

Born in a small town in the Jura Mountains, Grévy initially followed a legal career in Paris before turning to republican activism. He began his political career as a deputy during the French Second Republic, and became noted for his opposition to Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III) and as a supporter of lesser authority for the executive power. After Bonaparte's 1851 coup d'état, he left political life.

He returned to prominence following the latter's fall and the reestablishment of the republican regime. After occupying high offices in the country's National Assembly, Grévy was elected president of France in 1879. Elected for a second term in 1885, he was compelled to resign two years later due to a political scandal involving his son-in-law, even though Grévy himself was not implicated. His nearly nine years as president are seen as the consolidation of the French Third Republic.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Grévy was born at Mont-sous-Vaudrey in the department of Jura, on 15 August 1807, in a château bought by his grandfather. He was born into a republican family, and his father Hyacinthe Grévy[5] was a retired Chief of battalion and 1792 volunteer of the French Revolutionary Army.[6] At age 10 he started attending school at the nearby town of Poligny, and continued his studies in Besançon, Dole, and finally at the Faculty of Law of Paris. He became a lawyer at the Paris bar in 1837,[6] distinguishing himself at the Conférence du barreau de Paris. Having steadily maintained republican principles under the July Monarchy, he began his political activity in 1839 as a defendant in the trial of Philippet and Quignot, two accomplies of revolutionary Armand Barbès in a failed republican insurrection on 12 May.[6]

Second Republic[edit]

Grévy as a deputy of the Second French Republic, in 1848

With the Revolution of 1848 and the creation of the French Second Republic Grévy was appointed Commissioner of the Republic in the department of Jura.[7] In April 1848 he was elected by that department for a seat in the National Constituent Assembly. On the signed declaration for his candidacy, Grévy demanded a "strong and liberal Republic, that makes itself loved for its wisdom and moderation, that attracts and pardons all parties...".[6] Foreseeing the rise of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte in that years' presidential election he began to advocate a weak executive,[4] and became famous during the debates on the drafting of the Constitution for his opposition to electing the president by universal suffrage, instead proposing that the executive power should be vested on a "President of the Council of Ministers", who was to be appointed and dismissed by the directly elected National Assembly.[6] The "Grévy Amendment", as it became known, was dismissed, and in December 1848 Bonaparte was elected president of France.

Grévy was elected Vice-president of the National Assembly in April 1849.[7] The same month he protested against the president's decision to send an expedition against the revolutionary Roman Republic, a liberal state created as part of the First Italian War of Independence,[8] but the invasion went on and ultimately succeeded in restoring Papal rule. In 1851, his fear that Bonaparte intended to perpetuate himself in power was proven true, when the president seized power with a coup d'état on 2 December, in which Grévy was arrested and imprisoned in Mazas Prison. He was released shortly afterwards but retired from politics in the Second French Empire, under now emperor Napoleon III, and returned to practicing law.[7]

Third Republic[edit]

Grévy resumed his political career in the last years of the Empire. In 1868 he was elected to the Corps législatif, where he quickly emerged as a leader of the liberal opposition. Along with Adolphe Thiers and Léon Gambetta he opposed the declaration of the Franco-Prussian War, in 1870, and condemned the socialist insurrection of the Paris Commune. Following the death of Thiers, in September 1877, Grévy became the head of the Republican Party.[7]

After the fall of the Empire, Grévy was elected as representative of the departments of Jura and Bouches-du-Rhône to the National Assembly of the new Third French Republic in 1871.[8] He served as president of the Assembly from February 1871 until April 1873,[7] when he resigned on account of the opposition of the Right, which blamed him for having called one of its members to order in the session of the previous day. On 8 March 1876 Grévy was named president of the Chamber of Deputies, a post which he filled with such efficiency that upon the resignation of the legitimist Marshal de MacMahon he seemed to step naturally into the Presidency of the Republic (30 January 1879), and was elected without opposition by the republican parties.

President[edit]

Grévy by Léon Bonnat, 1880

Throughout his presidency, Grévy sought to minimize his powers, instead favoring a strong legislature.[4] On 6 February 1879, shortly after taking office, he made a speech before the Chambers where he explained his vision of the role of President: “Subject with sincerity to the great law of the parliamentary regime, I will never enter into battle against national wishes expressed by its institutional bodies”. This interpretation of the office's limited power influenced most of the later presidents of the Third Republic.[7] In external policy he strove for peaceful relations, particularly with the German Empire, resisting revanchist demands for a retribution over the disastrous French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, and opposed colonial expansion.[4] Among internal policies his presidency was marked by anti-clericalist reforms, particularly under the government of his prime minister Charles de Freycinet.[7]

On 28 December 1885, Grévy was elected for another seven years as president of the Republic. Two years later however, in December 1887, he was compelled to resign due to a political scandal that started after his son-in-law, Daniel Wilson, was found to be selling awards of the Legion of Honour. Although Grévy himself was not implicated in the scheme, he was indirectly responsible for the misuse his relative had made of the access to the premises of the Elysée.[9] Under pressure of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, Grévy resigned from office on 2 December and adressed a last message to the two chambers, which he ended by saying "my duty and my right would be to resist, wisdom and patriotism command me to yield".[6] This political matter was the first to feed anti-Masonic opinion in France.[10]

He wrote a two-volume Discours politiques et judiciaires ("Political and Judicial Speeches") in 1888.[4] Grévy died in his hometown of Mont-sous-Vaudrey on 9 September 1891, following a pulmonary edema. His state funeral was held on 14 September.

Personal life[edit]

Portrait of Grévy as a billiards player from the 12 July 1879 issue of Vanity Fair, by Théobald Chartran

Grévy married in 1848 to Coralie Frassie, the daughter of a tanner from Narbonne.[7] They had one daughter, Alice (1849-1938), who married Daniel Wilson in 1881.[11]

Initiated at the masonic lodge "La Constante Amitié" in Arras,[12] his masonic activity was inseparable from his policies,[13] especially in the ensuing struggle for separation of church and state that marked the beginning of the Third Republic and MacMahon's resignation.

In private life, Grévy was an ardent billiards player, and was featured as one in a portrait published in the Vanity Fair magazine in 1879.

Grévy's zebra is named after him.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jules, François, Paul Grévy". Assemblée nationale. 2017.
  2. ^ Bennett, Heather Marlene (2013). Long Live the Revolutions: Fighting for France's Political Future in the Long Wake of the Commune, 1871-1880. Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. University of Pennsylvania. p. 263.
  3. ^ "Jules Grevy". World Presidents DB. 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Jules Grévy". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  5. ^ "Un président franc-comtois, Jules Grévy". Ville de Besançon. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Robert, Adolphe; Cougny, Gaston (1891). Dictionnaire des parlementaires français (in French). Paris. p. 254.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Jules Grévy 1879 - 1887". Élysée. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  8. ^ a b Johnson, Alfred S., ed. (1892). "Necrology - September". The Cyclopedic Review of Current History. Detroit: The Evening News Association. 1: 465.
  9. ^ Rochefort, Henri. "The Adventures of My Life, vol. 2" pp315-318
  10. ^ Dictionnaire universelle de la Franc-Maçonnerie (Marc de Jode, Monique Cara and Jean-Marc Cara, ed. Larousse, 2011)
  11. ^ Palmer, Michael B. (2021). The Daniel Wilsons in France, 1819–1919. Routledge. p. 236.
  12. ^ Dictionnaire de la Franc-Maçonnerie (Daniel Ligou, Presses Universitaires de France, 2006)
  13. ^ Dictionnaire universelle de la Franc-Maçonnerie (Marc de Jode, Monique Cara and Jean-Marc Cara, ed. Larousse , 2011)
Political offices
Preceded by
Eugène Schneider
as President of the Corps législatif
President of the National Assembly
1876–1879
Succeeded by
Louis Buffet
Preceded by
Gaston Audiffret-Pasquier
as President of the National Assembly
President of the Chamber of Deputies
1879–1887
Succeeded by
Léon Gambetta
Preceded by
Patrice de MacMahon
President of France
1879–1887
Succeeded by
Sadi Carnot
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Patrice de MacMahon
Co-Prince of Andorra
1879–1887
Served alongside:
Salvador Casañas y Pagés
Succeeded by
Sadi Carnot