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Art. 16.-FRANCE AFTER THE WAR: M. CLEMENCEAU
AND M. DESCHANEL.
1. Clemenceau : The Man and His Time. By H. M.
Hyndman. Grant Richards, 1919. 2. La Question Sociale. Par Paul Deschanel. Paris :
Calmann Lévy, 1898. 3. L'Organisation de la Démocratie. Par Paul Deschanel.
Paris : Charpentier, 1910. 4. Gambetta. Par Paul Deschanel. Paris : Hachette, 1920.
And other works by M. Deschanel. IF, in this era of plebiscites, it had been possible to alter the mechanism of the French Constitution of 1875, and to consult the French people directly as to their choice for the Chief Magistracy of their country, the result would have corresponded to the expectations of public opinion all over the world, and M. Clemenceau would be throned to-day in the Elysée. Given the overwhelming suggestion of appearances in France, it required exceptional perspicacity-and even M. Clemenceau himself, with all his knowledge of French things and his philosophic detachment, failed pathetically of this insight—to doubt that in M. Clemenceau the French had at last found the 'man' they had been longing for, and whom, having found, they would jealously conserve. After Sedan, fear of a 'man' became perhaps the most prevalent prejudice of republicanised France. This was the inevitable lesson of the experiment of the Second Empire. Yet, a whole set of deep-ingrained instincts had hitherto impelled Frenchmen to admit, as both natural and convenient, the notion of a strong Government relieving them from civic responsibility. Centuries of monarchical rule had developed this trait as a second nature. The influence of Louis Napoleon was to modernise and democratise this tendency, by introducing the idea of the plebiscite, in virtue of which he was able to declare himself an Emperor-President. indeed, a sort of Jeffersonian camouflage' adapted to France. But Sedan was a formidable shock, and it left behind it a tragic disillusion.
Glory for glory's sake ceased in a night to allure; and Frenchmen decided to pause before running further
risks at the heels of uncontrolled ambition. Their regret, nevertheless, was immense. Millions of reluctant but resigned citizens of the Third Republic still felt homesick for the Old Regime. Yet, for political reasons, the fear of a 'man' was artificially cultivated by the men in office, while the longing for an epoch when some saviour could legitimately appear without risk for French society became more and more widespread. Thus, it was not irrational to believe that it would be M. Clemenceau's privilege singularly to reconcile this fear and this longing. And the conclusion was logical. To lift M. Clemenceau by acclamation to the Elysée would be to render the happy fusion of these two emotions, in a fine French blend, approximately complete. Was it not M. Jules Cambon who had said at the Academy on taking his seat among the Immortals : Comme
pour mieux marquer la Communion française, la gloire a été réservée à celui qui fut l'adversaire de Gambetta et de Ferry, de réaliser leur pensée la plus chère. Ainsi l'union sacrée s'est faite par delà les tombeaux'?
What mattered it that M. Clemenceau had presided over the Government that was responsible for that Agreement of 1909 with Germany which had created a potential Franco-German economic condominium in Morocco, an arrangement which logically produced the Caillaux policy, with the Treaty of 1911, and was itself the inevitable consequence of M. Rouvier's action in cringing to the menaces of Germany and in sacrificing one of the greatest of French statesmen, M. Delcassé ? These were errors of judgment which the later Clemenceau had magnificently corrected. In spite of all that could be adduced to accumulate distrust of M. Clemenceau, it was natural that men should impute to the French, as a foregone conclusion, the desire and determination that the Grand Old Gaul' who had sprung to the breach in 1917 should be eternal, and that his world-wide prestige should be utilised to the end. It was so unquestionably he who, after Galliéni and Joffre, and before Foch, had saved France ! How could the Great Man be spared in the impending anxious aftermath of the War, when just such vigilance as his would be more than ever needed ? Was he not the man whom the French Senate, bestowing
Vol. 233.—No. 463.
on him an unprecedented honour, had acclaimed by unanimous resolution as follows: Georges Clemenceau, President of the Council and Minister of War, and Marshal Foch, General in Chief of the Allied Armies, have well deserved the gratitude of the country'? Yet, to the astonishment of the world, when the fatal hour arrived to choose a successor to M. Poincaré, the hero of France' fell like a meteor. M. Clemenceau was defeated, and another Frenchman was preferred. Men are still talking of this mystery. Yet it is no mystery.
In the effort to answer these questions : Why was M. Clemenceau defeated, and why was M. Deschanel preferred in the elections for the Presidency of the Republic? ' rumour and gossip have recklessly run riot. They have thus far confused and silenced all sober reply. Certain German organs have maliciously gone so far astray as to suggest that M. Deschanel's victory over M. Clemenceau was a sign of the revival of Caillautism, implying a return to a policy of cordial understanding with Germany. It has even been represented as the result of a deep-laid plot concocted by Socialist-Radicals, the vengeance of unforgiving political foes, Malvyists and Caillautists, martialled, for the nonce, by M. Briand. Certain French organs have blundered, likewise, in ascribing the event to a coalition of Extremists, to an unholy alliance between the reactionary France and the Anti-Patriots of the Internationale, bent on taking a last revenge against the ironic old gentleman whose bitter sarcasms have so often stung them to the quick.
None of these assumptions corresponds to the facts. They are based on an inadequate acquaintance only with France and the French, but above all with the essential facts of the world since Nov. 11, 1918. When, on Thursday, Jan. 22, 1920, M. Millerand went to the tribune of the Chamber and began his ministerial declaration with an exordium in honour of the great patriot who incarnates before the world la Victoire,' even superficial observers, whether sincere or malicious, might have seen at once how mistaken was their judgment. Almost the entire House broke out in cheers, whereas the passage on the Society of Nations' fell amid a grim and even pathetic silence; yet the allusion to the necessity for France loyally to maintain her alliances was roundly applauded.
There were, no doubt, several plausible minor factors which were bound to suggest to this or that individual citizen, and even to more than one political group in the Congress, the prudence of rejecting M. Clemenceau. There were some who could plausibly hesitate because of M. Clemenceau's great age. Members of Parliament might well demur to be influenced even by the national sentiment of gratitude felt towards M. Clemenceau as the saviour of France, and through France of the world, when they reflected on the probability that, before the close of his legal term of office, he must either die or be incapacitated. Again, many of the Congressional electors sincerely held that, while M. Clemenceau has magnificent qualities, those qualities are over-shadowed by serious defects, some of which might entail great inconvenience at the Elysée. Serenity and judicial calm, lofty detachment-such detachment as M. Poincaré showed by his noble choice of M. Clemenceau, his calumniator and insulter, to be Prime Minister, at the darkest period of the War-are, after all, outstanding requirements of the Presidential rôle; and no admirer of the Gallic Grand Old Man, known as Père la Victoire,' has ever attributed to him these characteristics. Finally, there were deputies and senators who were sincerely concerned as to the possible ravages at the Elysée, on the arrival there of a certain ambitious and irresponsible clique, a bodyguard whose disinterestedness was not above. suspicion.
But, no one of these reasons, nor yet all combined, carried sufficient weight to determine the decision of the National Assembly to ignore the generous pressure of French popular opinion in favour of M. Clemenceau. The real cause of his rejection was of quite a different order. And, from the standpoint of international relations, it is of extreme importance that that cause should be clearly understood. The election at Versailles has a definite olitical sense. That election was an unmistakable proof offered to the world that France is anxious and dissatisfied. She is dissatisfied and profoundly irritated, owing to the kind of Peace which has been offered her by the very man on whom she counted to
establish her own notions of a sane solution of the problems raised by the World-War.
Indeed, what took place at Versailles on Jan. 17 is, in a way, the pendant of what has been going on at Washington during the last six months. American public opinion is mystified by the surprising consequences of what it almost unanimously holds to be an abuse of confidence on the part of a Chief Magistrate who has strained the sacrosanct American Constitution to the point of rupture. French public opinion is likewise mystified, and talks of imposture; but it feels above all that its interests have been inadequately defended.
France is aware, even if others have forgotten, that she has been the couverture de civilisation' against a race of brigands. And she perceives with anguish that, what with a precipitate armistice and the flimsiness of the guarantees offered her against a repetition of her martyrdom of the last five years, she may have again to assume this sublime but sinister obligation before the world. Infinitely grateful to M. Clemenceau for having saved them from disaster in the crisis of the struggle, Frenchmen were profoundly apprehensive lest the schemes and methods he had allowed to be adopted during the Peace Conference might wreck the future of their country. The French Congress feared that it might compromise the interests of France if, from sheer gratitude and sentiment, it were to lift Clemenceau to the pagoda of the Elysée as an idol to be worshipped.
It is not too much to say that the members of that Congress stoically strove to harden their hearts against what they felt to be the seduction of the popular appeal. In so doing they believed themselves to be sober, reflecting legislators. This was the mood of the immense majority of the responsible citizens of the nation. The purely malicious manoeuvres of M. Clemenceau's personal and political enemies, the Malvyists and the Socialists, and the Leninists—and those mancuvres were real-could never of themselves have determined so effective a cabal against him. The mood of the majority in question was, in a word, accurately expressed in the exclamation of a certain deputy: 'I vote for Deschanel to the cry of Vive Clemenceau.' It was felt that a new man was needed, a Deschanel or another, and that the only League of