Boulanger - 19th Century Encyclopedia Entries



Meyer 1885-1892, Nordisk Familjebok 1904-1926


Meyer's Konversationslexikon 1885-1892,
no entry
corresponding page in German, posted by Retro Bibliothek

Nordisk Familjebok 1904-1926, Article : Boulanger (1905)
Boulanger, Georges Ernest Jean Marie, French military officer and politician, born on April 29th 1837, became underlieutenant in Algeria in 1856. He gained the reputation of an unusually capable officer, and was quickly promoted. In 1861 he participated in the French expedition in Cochinchina, where he stayed three years, and at the time of the outbreak of the Franco-German War in 1870 he was battalion chief in Paris, in 1880 brigadeer general at the recommendation of the Duke of Aumale, to whom he on that occasion in flattering language expressed his gratitude. He represented France in the United States at the centennial of the surrender at Yorktown. Because of his extraordinary organisation talent shortly after for a while he was director of infantry in the war department, where he found the opportunity to have himself talked about and admired as a potential reformer of the army. In 1884 instead he was dispatched from Paris as division general and commander of the French expeditionary force in Tunisia, but enering into a conflict with France's political agent there, he was recalled the year after.
After this, Boulanger's career as a politician began, which did not contribute to raise his reputation for the afterworld. He joined Clemenceau and the Radicals, and because of their influence became minister of war in the cabinet Freycinet on January 7th 1886. He began his new activity by having the Orleanist princes taken off the army payroll and in this context got involved in a duel detrimentary to his reputation, as he publicly denied his patron, the Duke of Aumale, and therefore was branded a liar. In the meantime he achieved cheaply gained popularity by in regard to Germany making himself continually a spokesperson of the concept of revenge, and a more truthful fame for various reforms, which aimed at providing the soldiers and lower ranking officers with more freedom and better treatment, and a more up to date equipment of the army : the Lebel Rifle was introduced, an improvement in the preparation of their food was ordered, military clubs ("cercle militaire") for officers were established etc. Boulanger therefore stayed on as minister of war in the cabinet Goblet, but did not succeed in using the "Schnäbel Affair" (April 1887) for a war with Germany. Goblet's successor Rouvier sent Boulanger to Clermont as the commander of the 13th Army Corps. Fascinated by the favour [he enjoyed in the eyes] of the people, and dissatisfied with his former party colleagues, he now threw himself completely into politics, repeatedly showed himself disobedient to the new minister of the army, and because of this was dismissed, and at the decision of a jury composed of five generals, struck from the army payroll in 1888.
So began the last act in the drama of the "courageous general". He began a campaign against the republic, which seemed to threaten its existence. Elected by Departement Nord with overwhelming majority, under his name he rallied the open and secret enemies of the republic, from the Legitimists, whose leader, the Count of Paris, did not hesitate to support the man responsible for expelling the royal princes from the army, to the radical opponents of the parlamentary republic, who, such as Deroulede, supported a form of government based on plebiscites. Boulanger's program was a revision of the constitution, and for a short time he became the focus of the country's political life; "for Boulanger" or "against Boulanger" became the motto of the day which separated the [political] camps. But in the Chamber of Deputees he made no progress with his speeches, or as reformer of the way the state was administrated, and he was severely wounded in a duel with the then council president Floquet (July 1888). Since Boulanger after his event laid down his mandate, with great majority he was reelected by three depoartements, and in 1889 in a partial election to the Chamber of Deputees he gained the votes of the city of Paris, where his supporters, the Boulangerists, had raised political passions to the boiling point. Fearing a coup d'etat, which a leader more energetic than Boulanger might have succeeded in, the government decided to intervene, and the energetic minister of the interior, Constans, succeeded in finding a way to scare him, so that to the great amazement of his supporters he suddenly fled to Brussels (April 1st 1889). So Boulanger had played out his role. He later was accused in front of the Senate, as the supreme court, for high treason, since various cases of embezzlement which he had committed in his days as minister of war became public, and he was condemned to deportation "in contumaciam" [in absentia]. Since Boulanger lived in part on Jersey, in part in Brussels. There he shot himself on September 30th 1891 on the grave of his lover, Madame de Bonnemains, the motive for which in part has to be sought in economic difficulties caused by his wasteful lifestyle. The political movement he caused in France, Boulangerism, which for a time after Boulanger's flight occasionally became apparent, gradually ebbed down; as its successor one may, to a degree, regard the present "Nationalists".
See : Verly, "Le general Boulanger et la conspiration monarchique" 1893, and article France

source in Swedish, posted by Project Runeberg





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First posted on June 16th 2009

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