Lesseps - 19th Century Encyclopedia Entries



Meyer 1902-1909, Nordisk Familjebok 1904-1926


Meyer's Konversationslexikon 1902-1909, Article : Lesseps
Ferdinand Vicomte de Lesseps, French diplomat and engineer, born on November 19th in Versailles, died on December 7th 1894, in 1825 began a diplomatic career, in April 1848 was appointed minister plenipotentiary in Madrid. Early in 1849 he was sent in an extraordinary mission to Rome. At the invitation of Viceroy Said Pasha in 1854 he went to Egypt, where he developed the plan of a canal across the isthm of Suez, and in a separate publication ("Percement de l'Isthme de Suez", several editions) he explained and supported it. In 1856 he was placed in charge of the canal project. Despite diplomatic difficulties put up by England [!] in 1858 called on investors to acquire stocks, in France he collected 200 million Francs, and, returned to Egypt in February 1859, had works on the canal begun, which, after another sum of 100 million Francs had been acquired, on August 15th 1869 were brought to a happy conclusion (see Suez Canal). He published "Lettres, journal et documents relatifs a l'histoire du canal de Suez" (1875?1881, 5 vols.). In 1879 he took on the construction of the Panama Canal (see there); in 1885 he became member of the Academie Française and published his memoires "Souvenirs de quarante aus, dedies a mes enfants" (1887; in German, Berlin 1887). In 1890 the Panama Association, because of wasteful spending during construction, declared bankrupcy, and Lesseps himself in 1891 was sued. It turned out that large sums of company money had been used to bribe leading politicians and financers. The investigation was extended and the latter included, Lesseps' son Charles also was arrested, and together with his father, accused because of betraying the stockholders. On February 9th 1893 both were sentenced to five years of prison and a fine of 3,000 Francs each, but the sentence was lifted by the court of cassation on June 15th 1893. Charles de Lesseps had to serve the sentence of one year imprisonment passed on him on March 11th 1893 because of bribery. In the last years of his life Ferdinand de Lesseps was noy in control of his senses and not responsible for his actions.
A bronze statue of Lesseps (by Fremiet) was erected in 1900 in the port of Port Said. See : Bertrand und Ferrier, Ferdinand de Lesseps, sa vie, son oeuvre (Paris. 1887); G. B. Smith, Life and enterprises of Ferdinand de Lesseps. (2nd ed., London. 1895); Bridier, Les De Lesseps (Paris 1900).

source in German, posted by Zeno

Nordisk Familjebok 1904-1926, Article : Lesseps (1912)
Lesseps, Ferdinand de, Vicomte, French diplomat and canal constructor, born on November 19th 1805 inVersailles, died on December 7th 1894 on his estate at Chesnaye, was French consul general in Alexandria 1834-1838, where he especially distinguished himself during the great plague of 1834-1835. Later he was reassigned to Spain, where he gave foreigners effective protection during the bombardment of Barcelona in 1842. In 1848 Lesseps became French ambassador in Madrid, but left the following year, after which he was sent on a special mission to Rome with the object to reconcile the young republic with France, while France secretly worked toward the destruction of the Roman Republic. Invited to Egypt by Said Pasha in 1854, he began to devote himself to the implementation of the ancient plan to cut a canal across the Isthmus of Suez, and wrote a publication on the matter, "Percement de l'Isthme de Suez, expose et documents officiels" (1856), which got him a concession from the viceroy. With unstoppable energy he started and completed the project, which was begun on April 23rd 1859, despite a number of political, technical and economical difficulties. It was completed with a grand opening on November 16th to 18th 1869 and by then had cost 437 1/2 million Francs (see further under Suez). In 1887 he succeeded in the neutralization of the Suez Canal.
In 1879 he was chosen as the head of the Panama Canal project, but the exorbitant costs caused him in 1888 to ask for the International Canal Association to be placed under administration [declared bankrupcy]. After the association was dissolved in 1889, he was accused for his management of the latter in 1892, because of certain dubious financial transactions, which resulted in Lesseps in February 1893 being sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of 3,000 Francs. The sentence, which never was communicated to him because he, by age and work, had lost his senses, was cancelled in June that year by the court of cassation.
Lesseps even planned the reshaping of the Sahara to an inland lake, the construction of a central Asian railroad Orenburg-India, and the construction of a canal through northern Malacca. Lesseps has been given many distinctions for his life's work, the Suez Canal. In 1870 he became honorary citizen of the City of London, in 1873 member of the French Academy of Sciences, in 1885 H. Martin's successor in the Academie Française.
Of his other publicationd are to be listed : Lettres, journal et documents pour servir a l'histoire de 1¡¯isthme de Suez (4 vols, 1875-79; awarded with a prize by the Academie Française) and Souvenirs de quarante ans, dedi?s a mes enfants (2 vols, 1887). Lesseps' statue was erected in Port Said in 1900.

source in Swedish, posted by Project Runeberg





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First posted on June 20th 2009

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