Grevy - 19th Century Encyclopedia Entries

Nordisk Familjebok 1876-1899, Meyer 1885-1892

Nordisk Familjebok 1876-1899, Article : Grevy (1882)
Grevy, François Jules Paul, French president, born on August 15th 1813 in Mont-sous-Vaudrey (Jura), studied law in Paris and enrolled in 1837 among the advocates of Cour Royale. He soom became known as one of Paris' most skilled advocates, and especially became known as the defendant of two of Barbes' co-culprits. In 1848 he was called upon to represent his hometown in the Constituant National Assembly, in which he joined the Republican Left. He soon proved to be one of the most outstanding men of the Democratic Party. "I love", he has said, "the republic only because it seems to me the safest guarantee for complete freedom, and that it is the only form of government, which is suited for modern democracy." In order to prevent the danger for the existence of the republic, which lay in the law for the election of the president by plebiscite, he proposed an amendment to the constitution, containing that the National Assembly should charge with the executive power a deposable "president in the council of ministers". The proposal was rejected by the majority of the assembly. Elected into the Legislative Assembly, Grevy constantly defended the republic, but when the Bonapartist dictatorship took the place of the republic in December 1852, he withdrew from political life and resumed his career as an advocate. In 1868 he was chosen batonnier (foreman) of the advcates of Paris. In a by-election in the same year, as well as in the general election in 1869 to the Legislative Body Grevy defeated the official candidates in the Departement Jura. His opposition against the government was resolute, but polite and always focussed on the matter, not on the person. Without permitting to let himself be fooled by Napoleon's turnabout in 1869 in favour of a more constitutional form of government, he resolutely spoke against the reintroduction of the plebiscite, explaining that it only would serve to "concentrate power in the hands of the Emperor" and "sentence the people to inactivity or revolution". In 1871 he was elected into the National Assembly (in Bordeaux), which chose him as its president. One of his first measures was to present a proposal signed by himself and six other representants, that Thiers should be named chef of the executive power. When the right in 1873 protested against one of her members having been called to order by him, he reigned his authority to lead the session. Against the monarchist intrigues, Grevy in the same year published the pamphlet "Le gouvernement necessaire", in which he defended his political principle that the form of government necessary for France was "the democratic or republican" one. In the night between November 19th to 20th in a longer speech he argued against the introduction of the Septennate, as it were "an intrusion, thick with dangers and calamities". When the newly elected Chamber of Deputees joined on March 8th 1876, it chose Grevy as its president, and this post of honour he held until the dissolution of the chamber in June 1877. In the reelected chamber, Grevy reoccupied the president's chair, which he vacated on January 30th 1879 to take the supreme power as the president of the republic.
Grevy's election to this office was welcomed everywhere in France, and the hopes invested in him already were confirmed in Grevy's address to the chambers of February 6th that year. He expressed that he never would act against the will of the people, that the concern of the government foremost should be the army, the administration and the maintenance of good relations with other powers. As president he attempted to realize the parlamentary government system, of which he always had been a supporter. He chose his ministers from the party prevailing in the National Assembly, and had it determine the character of government. Only in more important questions did he sometimes interfere. He lacked the fire, which characterizes French statesmen, but has instead been steadfast in his views, polite, calm, selfless and free from all lust for honour. With justification the French say that he is the physical representation of the law, and that it is because of his respect for the law, that he is better suited than anybody else to be president in a republic where the parties always in their struggle think about the survival of the law. He is one of the best speakers of France. Without appealing to sentiment or using a rich and passionate language he wins the attention of his listeners by his logically sharp and precise expression.

source in Swedish, posted by Project Runeberg

Meyer's Konversationslexikon 1885-1892, Article : Grevy
Grevy, Jules, French statesman, son of an estate owner, born on August 15th 1807 in Mont sous Vaudrey (Jura), studied law in Paris, participated in the fights of the July Revolution, took up residence in Paris as an advocate, where he made a name for himself by skillful conduct of his business. By political conviction he was a strict republican. Sent into his native community by the Provisional Government in February 1848, by a combination of justice and mildness he gained general respect and was elected almost unanimously to member of the National Assembly. He did not join any party, but almost always voted with the left. His amendment to the constitution of the republic, which determined the election and deposability of the president by the National Assembly, on October 7th 1848 was rejected by 643 votes against 158, and the appointment of the prersident by universal franchise decided, which helped Louis Napoleon to victory. Grevy remained loyal to the moderate republic, also in the Legislative Assembly, and after the coup d'etat withdrew from political life. As advocate of large companies he gained a considerable fortune. He remained unshakeably faithful to his political convictions and expressed them without prosaic vanity, but fearless, where necessary. In 1868 he became batonnier (foreman) of the Paris advocates. In the same year he was victorious in a by-election to the Legislative Body in the Department Jura with a large majority over the government candidate; even more votes he received in 1869 in the general elections. His opposition to the Imperial government was firm, but moderate, and always focussed on matters. He spoke energetically against the comedy of plebiscites. On September 4th 1870 he spoke out against the establishment of a dictatorship and for the maintenance of legal forms. He demanded first of all the convention of a people's representation. Twice elected into the National Assembly in February 1871, he was chosen for the important office of president of the assembly, and until 1873 always reelected with a large majority of the votes. He exercised his office with calmness and impartiality. When on April 1st 1873 the right protested against a call to order issued by him, which concerned the deputee Grammont, he resigned his office and did not accept his reelection, as it had been decided with too narrow a majority. Since, Grevy belonged to the left in the National Assembly. Against the monarchist intrigues he wrote "Le gouvernement necessaire" (1873) and he also spoke out against the Septennate. He rejected an election into the Senate in 1875 and in 1876 he joined the Chamber of Deputees as member, which on March 14th chose him as [chamber] president. After the death of Thiers he became the head of the Moderate Republican Party, and after the resignation of Mac Mahon on January 30th 1879, by 563 to 99 votes he was elected president of the republic for 7 years. As head of the state he showed a genuinely constitutional restraint, lived a simple life with his family, wife and only daughter, who since 1881 is married to Wilson, known as a politician, and exercised his office on public occasions in modest dignity. Although he often was criticized for his inactivity and thriftyness, the National Congress on December 28th 1885 reelected him as president of the republic for another 7 years, as no statesman of his stature was available.
His biography was written by Barbou (Paris 1879).

source in German, posted by Retro Bibliothek


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First posted on June 19th 2009

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