Thiers - 19th Century Encyclopedia Entries

Nordisk Familjebok 1876-1899, Meyer 1885-1892

Nordisk Familjebok 1876-1899, Article : Thiers (1892)
Thiers, Louis Adolphe, president of the French Republic, author, born in Marseille on April 16th 1797, was son of a merchant who was ruined by the French Revolution. He sudied law at the faculty of Aix and became advocate in 1820. But soon he gave up the practice of law to devote himself to historical and political studies, and he moved to Paris in 1821, where he became co-editor of "Le Constitutionel", a moderate liberal oppositional newspaper, which was wide-spread among the bourgeoisie. His elegant style and lively observation soon made him a rather popular author. His "Salon de 1822" and "Les Pyrenees" (a description of his journey in the Pyrenees in November - December 1822) won great applause. In the fall of 1823 the first two volumes of his voluminous "Histoire de la Revolution Française" were published (completed in 8 parts in 1827; in summary translated by V. Tham, "Franska revolutionens historia", 2 vols. 1845). More than 150,000 copies of his history of the revolution were printed, and later several further editions printed. An unsurpassed art to report lively and dramatically, a highly liberal and tolerant opinion, and a manly love of the truth give this work an unfading value, even if the author occasionally lacks criticism and pais too much homage to a fatalist view of history. In January 1830 Thiers, with A. Carrel, and with the friend since their youth, Mignet, established the newspaper "Le National", the main editor of which he became. After having fought the cabinet Polignac for seven months in this newspaper in an energetic and enlightening way, he actively participated in the July Revolution. It was him, who wrote the famous protest against Charles X. unlawful ordinnances of July 26th, which was signed by Paris' foremost liberal publicists, and which became the signal for the revolution. He also participated in the intrigues and negotiations, which lead to the elevation of the Duke of Orleans, Louis Philippe, onto the throne.
In reward for his services, Thiers in August 1830 was appointed conseillier d'etat and general secretary in the ministry of finances. In November he became undersecretary of state, and at the same time he was elected by Aix into the Chamber of Deputees. When the Liberal cabinet Laffitte was toppled in March 1831, Thiers too resigned. Soon after he broke with Laffitte and got closer to the Doctrinaires, supported Casimir Perier and on October 11th 1832 was appointed minister of the interior. As such he showed great energy, ended the rebellion in the Vendee and had the Duchess of Berry arrested. Not less energetic he acted as minister for trade and public works to which he was appointed on December 25th 1832. In April 1834 he again became minister of the interior and as such suppressed several workers' revolts; after Fieschi's assassination attempt on July 27th 1835 he spoke for and pushed through the so-called September Laws. After a lengthy cabinet crisis, Thiers became president of the council and simultaneously minister of foreign affairs in a cabinet leaning on the left center, which was formed on February 22nd 1836, but which already was toppled in August that year. He now was one of the leaders of the opposition in the Chamber of Deputees, until, after the fall of Mole, he again became president of the council and minister of foreign affairs in the coalition cabinet which was formed on March 1st 1840. His energetic policy won the applause of the Chamber of Deputees, but his bold foreign policy threatened to bring France in a conflict with the other four European great powers, which on July 15th 1840 concluded a Quadruple Alliance to support the Sultan of Turkey in his conflict with Viceroy Muhammad Ali of Egypt, who was supported by France. Thiers pushed through the decision that Paris should be fortified, and in order to raise patriotism, the mortal remains of Napoleon were returned to Paris from Saint Helena. But as King Louis Philippe no longer was willing to give his approval for the continuation of a policy which could lead to war with half of Europe, Thiers resigned on October 29th 1840. He now became the leader of the opposition in the Chamber of Deputees against Guizot's doctrinary conservative policy, but dedicated most of his time to his opus planned on a large scale, "Histoire du consulat et de l'empire" (20 volumes, 1845-1862, "Napoleon. Konsulatets och kejsardömets historia", 13 parts, 1845-1863, in stylistic respect a superior work, but suffering from lack of strict historical criticism.
When the February Revolution broke out in 1848, in the night from February 23rd to 24th Thiers was called to the Tuileries and was asked, together withy Odilon Barrot, to form a Liberal cabinet. Thiers ordered that the excitement immediately had to stop, and on the morning of February 24th issued a proclamation which promised liberty and reforms. But these concessions came too late. The revolutionaries were masters of Paris. Thiers had to step down, the Republic was proclaimed the same day. As member of the National Assembly, Thiers became one of the leaders of the right, he first supported Cavaignac and later Prince Louis Napoleon, but in 1851 was one of the opponents of the latter's plans of a coup d'etat. Arrested in the morning of December 2nd 1851, Thiers was brought to the Mazat prison, and from there to the German border, but already in August 1852 was granted permission to return to France.
After having occupied himself mainly with the completion of the history of Napoleon I. for a decade, at the general elections of 1863 Thiers had himself elected into the legislative body, in order to fight against Napoleon III. With shining, persuasive eloquence did he attack the Empire's wasteful financial policy, its weakness vis-a-vis Prussia, its overconfidence in Mexico, all flaws in its foreign policy. He even was opposed to the official candidacies and the plebiscite of 1870. When Napoleon III. in July 1870 declared war on Prussia, it was Thiers who most forcefully and eloquently protested in the legislative body against this measure.
After the fall of the Empire Thiers on September 13th 1870 departed from Paris to go to London, Vienna, Petersburg and Florence in order to try induce the governments of England [!], Austria, Russia and Italy to intervene on behalf of France. His mission unaccomplished, he returned to Tours on October 21st, after which he was charged by the Government of National Defense with negotiations for a truce with Bismarck in Versailles. But even these negotiations, which extended from October 30th to November 6th, were fruitless. After the fall of Paris, in the general election of February 8th 1871, in Departement 26 Thiers was elected with a large majority, as a member of the National Assembly. At this time he was France's most popular man, an the fact that the National Assembly in Bordeaux on February 17th 1871 elected him Chef of the Executive Power caused satisfaction everywhere in Europe. After he appointed a cabinet on February 19th, which included the Republicans Jules Favre, Ernest Picard and Jules Simon, the Orleanist Dufaure and the Legitimist Larcy, on February 21st Thiers travelled from Bordeaux to Versailles to negotiate with Bismarck over peace. By his prudent and determined appearance in this time he achieved to gain the concession from the winner that France would hold on to the fortress of Belfort. Already on February 26th the preliminary peace was concluded, on the following day Thiers returned to Bordeaux, where, after a masterly speech often disrupted by tears, caused the National Assembly to accept the harsh peace conditions. At the suggestion of Thiers the National Assembly decided to hold its deliberations in Versailles. A week later did the terrible Paris Commune break out in Paris, which after a bloody struggle was crushed at the end of May. Already before, on May 10th, the peace with Germany had been signed in Frankfurt / Main.
Thiers, who on August 31st 1871 was given the title President of the French Republic, spent the following two years to repair the immense losses with admirable energy, which Empire and Commune had cost France. The five billion were paid to Germany by the means of large state loans, which were oversubscribed manifold, and which greatly increased France's credit. The army was reorganized, and the republican constitution was maintained, despite the opposition of the majority of the National Assembly. But when on May 18th 1873 a cabinet was appointed, all members of which were Republicans, the Right in the National Assembly on May 23rd pushed through, with 360 against 344 votes, a vote of no confidence against the cabinet. In consequence of this parlamentary defeat, on May 24th Thiers resigned as president, after which the National Assembly elected Marshall Mac Mahon President of the French Republic.
Thiers maintained his seat in the National Assembly, where he joined the left center. He hardly ever participated in the debates, but exercised a great influence in the Republican Party. After the acceptance of the constitution of the new republic, in 1876 he was elected by the territory of Belfort as senator and by the 9th arrondissement of Paris as member of the Chamber of Deputees. He accepted the election as deputee, but held a speech only once in the Chamber of Deputees. When the reactionary cabinet Broglie in June 1877 dissolved the Chamber of Deputees, Thiers did all in his power to cause the various factions of the Republican Party to concordially join during the general elections, which had been scheduled for October 14th. But already before the election was held, Thiers suddenly died of a heart attack, on September 3rd 1877 in Saint Germain-en-Laye. His burial, with took place on the cemetery of Pere Lachaise in Paris on September 8th , provided the incentive for large Republican demonstrations. Statues of Thiers have been set up in Nancy (1879) and Saint Germain-en-Laye (1880). His large grave monument was dedicated in 1887.
Thiers was married to Elise Dosne (died December 12th 1880), the daughter of a wealthy landlord, which brought him a dowry of a couple of million Francs. She spent his last years, in cooperation with Senator Calmon, to edit a complete edition of Thiers' speeches. The marriage was childless.
In his testament Thiers made a considerable donation to the construction of a building (built by Passy) to provide free housing for a period of three years for pennyless students, who also are given a certain sum to pay for other expenses.
Among Thiers' publications, in addition to the aforementioned, stand out "Law et son systeme des finances" (1826), "La monarchie de 1830" (1831), "Du driot de propriete" (1848), "Du communisme" (1849) and "Congres de Vienne" (1853). Further he published a large number of articles in "Le Constitutionel", "Les Tablettes historiques", "Le Globe", "L'Encyclopedie Progressive", "Le National", "Revue Française" and "Revue des deux mondes".

source in Swedish, posted by Project Runeberg

Meyer's Konversationslexikon 1885-1892, Article : Thiers
Thiers, Louis Adolphe, French statesman and historian, born on April 15th 1797 in Marseille as the son of an advocate, studied law in Aix, settled there in 1820 as an advocate, in September 1821 together with his friend Mignet he went to Paris to use his talents as a journalist. At first he wrote for "Le Constitutionel", the leading organ of the Liberal Party, and except for a publication on Jean Law [John Law] (1826, new edition 1878) in 1823-1827 he published his "Histoire de la Revolution française" in 6 volumes (15th edition 1881, 10 volumes; in German by Jordan, Leipzig 1854), which established his reputation as a historian. When Charles X., by appointing the cabinet Polignac, declarted war on the Liberal Party, the latter under the guidance of Thiers, Armand Carrel and Barrot in January 1830 established the "National", which by the force and boldness of its polemics soon gained great influence. The masses were especially electrified by the phrase created by Thiers : "Le roi regne, mais ne gouverne pas" [the king rules, but he does not govern]. When the infamous ordinnances were issued on July 26th 1830, the editors of all liberal journals assembled in the bureau of the "National" and, under the leadership of Thiers, issued a protest against this government measure. After the victory of the revolution, Thiers lead the negotiations with the Duke of Orleans, who on July 31st in city hall accepted the repeated offer by a deputation headed by Thiers to ascend to the throne. When order was restored, on August 11th Thiers was appointed counselor of state and secretary general, then early in November by Laffitte was appointed undersecretary of state for finances. At the same time elected by the city of Aix into the Chamber of Deputees, he soon developed into an orator, whose preceision and skill gained him a reputation. By this and his administrative talent recommended to the governing circles, after the death of Perier on October 11th 1832 he was appointed minister of the interior, on December 25th 1832 minister of trade and of public works. When the cabinet was reshuffled on April 4th 1834, he again took over the ministry of the interior. While the severity he showed in the suppression of democratic unrest in Paris and Lyon forever distanced himself from his old Republican friends, he became more and more irreplaceable for the court, and held on to his post despite several changes of ministers 1834-1836, successfully arguing the case of a "policy of resistance". In February 1836 he was given the presidency in the cabinet and the portfolio of foreign affairs, but already on August 26th 1836 he had to resign, as the king refused his approval to an interference in Spain in favour of Liberalism, which already had been decided upon. Now for two years he stood and the head of the opposition. Since December 13th 1834 he also was member of the Academie. On March 1st 1840 again placed at the head of the cabinet as minister of foreign affairs, he brought about the transport of Napoleon's mortal remains from Saint Helena to Paris, and the fortification of Paris. His plan to support the Viceroy of Egypt against the Quadruple Alliance of July 15th, and in the ensuing way to regain the Rhine border, failed because of the peaceful intentions of the king. Therefore Thiers resigned on October 21st and resumed his earlier plan to write the history of Napoleon I., for the purpose of which in 1841 to 1845 he visited the latter's battlefields in Germany and Italy. In the chamber he rejoined the opposition, without becoming her leader, despite severely criticizing the government in the matters of the regency (1842), of the Jesuits (1845) and of the rights of the university (1846). When the February Revolution of 1848 forced the king to dismiss the cabinet Guizot, Thiers was to form a new one with Barrot, by the means of which Louis Philippe wanted to calm the storm. But this cabinet did not come into being, and Thiers regarded it advisable to leave Paris. He remained an Orleanist, and in the National Assembly he maintained a central position. He worked against the plans of Napoleon, during the coup d'etat of December 2nd 1851 he was arrested and then espelled from the country. In 1852 he was permitted to return to France, where he stayed away from politics for 11 years and dedicated himself to his activities as an author. The results were "Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire" (1845-1863, 20 vols., index 1869, in German by Bülau Leipzig 1845-1862, 20 vols., by Burckhardt and Steger Leipzig 1845-1860, 4 vols.). In 1863 Thiers by Paris was elected into the Legislative Body, and here became the leader of a small, but influential opposition. In eloquent speeches ("Discours prononces au corps legislatif" Paris 1867) he attacked false constitutionalism and the Empire's foreign policy, both in questions of customs, as well as in regard to the intervention in Italy, which resulted in Italian unification, and its action in 1864-1866 in the German question, which resulted in Sadowa. In order to maintain the legitimate French hegemony, he pushed for the maintenance of a strong standing army according to the old system, as he rejected mandatory military service and the armament of the people. Even more energetically on July 15th 1870 he opposed the hasty declaration of war and declared with an insight later confirmed by events that France was not prepared for it. After the fall of the Empire he undertook a tour of the courts of the great powers, in order to persuade them to interfere on behalf of France, but he returned at the end of October without having achieved his objective, and now on behalf of the government he began negotiations over a truce with the German headquarters, which ended with as little success as the former. In the elections to the National Assembly he was elected deputee of the 20th departement, and, as all parties trusted in him, already on February 17th 1871 the assembly elected him chief of executive power. His first task was to bring about a peace treaty with Germany; he personally conducted negatiations with Bismarck, and at least was able to save Belfort. On March 1st he pushed through the acceptance of the peace in the National Assembly, and on March 10th convinced it to relocate its seat to Versailles. The rebellion of the Paris Commune on March 18th got Thiers into the greatest difficulty, and only because of his courage, confidence and his indefatigable energy these were overcome, and simultaneously on May 10th a definitive peace with Germany was concluded. Now followed successful measures to acquire the necessary sums of money. On August 31st 1871 he was appointed president of the republic for three years. Now the difficulties of the party machinery in the National Assembly began. The monarchist parties were disappointed in their hope for Thiers' energetic support, and took revenge by hateful attacks and intrigues, despite the fact that he usually gave in to clerical demands. When Thiers, who was convinced that the restoration of the monarchy in France, most of all the Orleanist monarchy, was an impossibility, and the republic the only possible form of government, on November 11th 1872 demanded the National Assembly to definitely constitute the republic, the clerical-monarchist majority decided, when the payment of the war indemnity to Germany and the evacuation of French territory had been secured by the treaty of March 15th 1873, to topple Thiers. On May 19th the right brought in an interpellation in regard to the new cabinet which had been formed by Thiers in order to implement his plans regarding his contitutional proposals for the republic. After a vivid debate on May 23rd a move of no confidence against the cabinet was passed by a majority of 360 over 344 votes, and when Thiers handed in his resignation, it was accepted with 368 against 338 votes. Thiers again withdrew from public life and only participated in important decisions in the Chamber of deputees. After the coup d'etat of May 16th 1877 again the hopes of all Republicans rested on Thiers as the head of a moderate republic, but he suddenly died on September 3rd 1877 in St. Germain-en-Laye of a stroke, and was ceremoniously buried on the 8th in Paris. In 1879 a statue of him was erected in Nancy, in 1880 another in St. Germain-en-Laye. Thiers, small by stature, but with sharply cut, vivid features, was one of the most important statesmen of France in the 19th century and in any case the most popular. His doctrine was that of a constitutional system, in which the enlightened, prosperous bourgeoisie saw the best safeguard for its spiritual and material goods, and which Thiers had hoped to have realised in the July Monarchy. Therefore he hated the military democracy of a Napoleon III. But above all these doctrines, for Thiers, stood his nation. To add to its glory and greatness was his highest aim, as he was a real Frenchmen, with all virtues and weaknesses of this nation, he had indefatigable energy, refined, noble education, a sharp observation, a sanguine elasticy of spirit and genuine patriotism, but also naive egoism and vanity. As historian he glorified the ideas of freedom of the French Revolution, and Napoleon I.'s military glory, in eloquent language and glowing description, but not always true to the facts and impartial. Possessed by the idea that France's legitimate supremacy would require a balance of powers in Europe, and that the small states in Germany and Italy were necessary for this supremacy, he was a strong opponent of the Italian and German movements toward unification, and, despite being a Voltairian, he was a protector of the Papal State. Thiers' "Discours parlementaires" were edited & published by Calmon (1879-1883, 15 vols.).
See : Laya, Etudes des historiques sur la vie privee, politique et litteraire de M. Thiers 1830-1846 (Paris 1846, 2 vols.); Laya, Histoire populaire de M. Thiers (Paris 1872); Richardet, Histoire de la presidence de M. Thiers (Paris 1875); Eggenschwyler, Thiers' Leben und Werke (Bern 1877); Jules Simon, Le gouvernement de M. Thiers (Paris 1878, 2 vols.); Jules Simon, Thiers, Guizot, Remusat (Paris 1885); Mazade, M. Thiers (Paris 1884); P. de Remusat, A. Thiers (Paris 1889).

source in German, posted by Retro Bibliothek

DOCUMENTS Article Louis Adolphe Thiers, from EB 1911

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 13th 2009

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics