Georges Clemenceau

Georges Clemenceau

Georges Clemenceau was born in Mouilleron-en-Pareds, France, on 28th September, 1841. His mother, Sophie Eucharie Gautreau (1817-1903) was from a Huguenot family. His father, Benjamin Clemenceau (1810-1897) was a supporter of the 1848 Revolution and this ensured he grew up with strong republican views.

With a group of fellow students Clemenceau began publishing Le Travail. It was seized by the police and Clemenceau spent 73 days in prison. On his release he started a new journal, Le Matin, but this also got him into trouble with the authorities.

After finishing his medical studies he went to live in New York. He was impressed by the political freedom enjoyed by the people of the United States and considered settling permanently in the country. He found work as a schoolteacher in Stamford, Connecticut and eventually married one of his former students.

Clemenceau returned home in 1869 and established himself as a doctor in Vendée. When Germany defeated France in 1870 Clemenceau moved to Paris and once again became involved in radical politics. In February, 1871, Clemenceau was elected as a Radical Republican deputy in the National Assembly. He voted against the peace terms demanded by Germany and became involved in the insurrection known as the Paris Commune. After being re-elected to the National Assembly in 1876, Clemenceau emerged as the leader of the Radical-Republicans. As a result of his aggressive debating style, Clemenceau was given the nickname, 'The Tiger'.

In 1902 Clemenceau became a senator and four years later, at the age of 61, was appointed minister of home affairs. Now a right-wing nationalist, Clemenceau ruthlessly suppressed popular strikes and demonstrations. Seven months later Clemenceau became France's prime minister. His period in office (1907-10) was marked by his hostility to socialists and trade unionists.

On the outbreak of the First World War Clemenceau refused office as justice minister under the French prime minister, Rene Viviani. As editor of L'Homme Libre, Clemenceau became an outspoken opponent of Joseph Joffre, chief of general staff in the French Army. Clemenceau also accused the interior minister, Louis Malvy, of being a pacifist when it became known that he favoured a negotiated peace.

In November 1917 the French president, Raymond Poincare appointed Clemenceau as prime minister. He immediately clamped down on dissent and senior politicians calling for peace, such as Joseph Caillaux and Louis Malvy were arrested for treason. In a speech on 20th November 1917 Clemenceau said: "We promise you, we promise the country, that justice will be done according to the law. Weakness would be complicity. We will avoid weakness, as we will avoid violence. All the guilty before courts-martial. The soldier in the courtroom united with the soldier in battle. No more pacifist campaigns, no more German intrigues. Neither treason, nor semi-treason: the war. Nothing but the war. Our armies will not be caught between fire from two sides. Justice will be done. The country will know that it is defended."

Clemenceau, who also became minister of war in the government, and played an important role in persuading the British to accept the appointment of Ferdinand Foch as supreme Allied commander. He also insisted that the exhausted French Army led the offensive against the German Army in the summer of 1918.

At the Versailles Peace Conference Clemenceau clashed with Woodrow Wilson and David Lloyd George about how the defeated powers should be treated. Lloyd George told Clemenceau that his proposals were too harsh and would "plunge Germany and the greater part of Europe into Bolshevism." Clemenceau replied that Lloyd George's alternative proposals would lead to Bolshevism in France. At the end of the negotiations Clemenceau managed to restore Alsace-Lorraine to France but some of his other demands were resisted by the other delegates. Clemenceau, like most people in France, thought that Germany had been treated too leniently at Versailles.

Clemenceau's failure to achieve all his demands resulted in him being rejected by the French electorate in January 1920. After retiring from politics Clemenceau wrote his memoirs, The Grandeur and Misery of Victory. In the book Clemenceau warned of further conflict with Germany and predicted that 1940 would be the year of the gravest danger.

Georges Clemenceau died in Paris on 24th November, 1929.

When I am told that we should live in peace with our neighbours, I agree, but let us not forget that it needs two to make peace. The great mistake of the revolutionary Socialists is to think themselves superior to the rest of mankind because they are not prepared to bend their ideology before the irreducible realities of human nature.

The hour of grave resolutions has come: it is a question, for France, of life or death. There, on the other side of the Rhine, is a strong and great nation that has the right to live, but not to crush all independent life in Europe. Russia has the choice of suicide or resistance. Our case is no different. If Russia, standing alone, is beaten, it will only be a matter of time before France is despatched: then England's turn will come.

Briand, though not popular in the Chamber, and though his conduct of affairs is much criticized there, manages to keep himself in office, partly by his Parliamentary skill and his persuasive eloquence, and owing to the non-existence of a suitable successor, and no combination of parties constituting a majority in the Chamber being able to agree on the choice of substitute. Clemenceau, who not very long since was thought of, has from his continual but unreasoning attacks in his newspaper on M. Briand and the authorities generally, and his recent defeat in the Senate, rendered himself impossible. Poincare made advances to him for a reconciliation but was unsuccessful.

Thomas and his particular friends in the Socialist party are determined to wreck any ministry in which they do not have a representative, unless they can exercise a predominant influence in such a cabinet. They have vetoed a Clemenceau ministry, and a portion of the Radical Socialist party would be strongly opposed to such a ministry. There is, however, in the middle classes and the people generally, a strong feeling in his favour. He might soon be outvoted in the Chamber but I believe that in such event he might be capable of bringing a Corps d-Armee to Paris to maintain order, and that the people generally would welcome the momentary suppression of the violent Socialists.

The Tiger (Clemenceau) arrives; he is fatter, and his deafness has increased. His intelligence is intact. But what about his health, and his will-power I fear that one or the other may have changed for the worse and I feel more and more the risk of this adventure. But he has all patriots on his side, and if I do not call on him his legendary strength would make any alternative cabinet weak.

Mistakes have been made; do not think of them except to rectify them Alas, there have also been crimes, crimes against France which call for a prompt punishment. We promise you, we promise the country, that justice will be done according to the law. The country will know that it is defended.

Within the council chamber his domineering manner, his brusqueness of speech, and his driving methods of conducting business disappeared. He showed patience and consideration towards his colleagues and seldom spoke until the others had expressed their views. It was only on rare occasions that he abandoned his suavity of address and allowed his emotions to affect his utterances. It was then only that one caught a glimpse of the ferocity of The Tiger.

Today Clemenceau is angry with the English, and especially with Lloyd George. "I won't budge," he said, - I will act like a hedgehog and wait until they come to talk to me. I will yield nothing. We will see if they can manage without me. Lloyd George is a trickster. He has managed to turn me into a "Syrian". I don't like being double-crossed. Lloyd George has deceived me. He made me the finest promises, and now he breaks them. Fortunately, I think that at the moment we can count on American support. What is the worst of all is that the day before yesterday, Lloyd George said to me. "Well, now that we are going to disarm Germany, you no longer need the Rhine". I said to Clemenceau: "Does disarmament then seem to him to give the same guarantees? Does he think that, in the future, we can be sure of preventing Germany from rebuilding her army?" "We are in complete agreement," said Clemenceau; " it is a point I will not yield."

In the last three days, we have worked well. All the great issues of concern to France are almost settled. Yesterday, as well as the two treaties giving us the military support of Britain and the United States in case of a German attack, I obtained the occupation of the Rhineland for fifteen years, with partial evacuation after five years. If Germany does not fulfil the treaty, there will be no evacuation either partial or definitive. At last I am no longer anxious. I have obtained almost everything I wanted.

There never was a greater contrast, mental or spiritual, than that which existed between these two notable men. Wilson with his high but narrow brow, his fine head with its elevated crown and his dreamy but untrustful eye - the make-up of the idealist who is also something of an egoist; Clemenceau, with a powerful head and the square brow of the logician - the head conspicuously flat topped, with no upper storey in which to lodge the humanities, the ever vigilant and fierce eye of the animal who has hunted and been hunted all his life. The idealist amused him so long as he did not insist on incorporating his dreams in a Treaty which Clemenceau had to sign.

It was part of the real joy of these Conferences to observe Clemenceau's attitude towards Wilson during the first five weeks of the Conference. He listened with eyes and ears lest Wilson should by a phrase commit the Conference to some proposition which weakened the settlement from the French standpoint. If Wilson ended his allocution without doing any perceptible harm, Clemenceau's stern face temporarily relaxed, and he expressed his relief with a deep sigh. But if the President took a flight beyond the azure main, as he was occasionally inclined to do without regard to relevance, Clemenceau would open his great eyes in twinkling wonder, and turn them on me as much as to say: "Here he is off again!"

In the view of the Allied and Associated Powers the war which began on August 1st, 1914, was the greatest crime against humanity and the freedom of peoples that any nation, calling itself civilised, has ever consciously committed. For many years the rulers of Germany, true to the Prussian tradition, strove for a position of dominance in Europe. They were not satisfied with that growing prosperity and influence to which Germany was entitled, and which all other nations were willing to accord her, in the society of free and equal peoples. They required that they should be able to dictate and tyrannise to a subservient Europe, as they dictated and tyrannised over a subservient Germany. Germany's responsibility, however, is not confined to having planned and started the war. She is no less responsible for the savage and inhuman manner in which it was conducted.

Though Germany was herself a guarantor of Belgium, the rulers of Germany violated, after a solemn promise to respect it, the neutrality of this unoffending people. Not content with this, they deliberately carried out a series of promiscuous shootings and burnings with the sole object of terrifying the inhabitants into submission by the very frightfulness of their action. They were the first to use poisonous gas, notwithstanding the appalling suffering it entailed. They began the bombing and long distance shelling of towns for no military object, but solely for the purpose of reducing the morale of their opponents by striking at their women and children. They commenced the submarine campaign with its piratical challenge to international law, and its destruction of great numbers of innocent passengers and sailors, in mid ocean, far from succour, at the mercy of the winds and the waves, and the yet more ruthless submarine crews. They drove thousands of men and women and children with brutal savagery into slavery in foreign lands. They allowed barbarities to be practised against their prisoners of war from which the most uncivilised people would have recoiled.

The conduct of Germany is almost unexampled in human history. The terrible responsibility which lies at her doors can be seen in the fact that not less than seven million dead lie buried in Europe, while more than twenty million others carry upon them the evidence of wounds and sufferings, because Germany saw fit to gratify her lust for tyranny by resort to war.

The Allied and Associated Powers believe that they will be false to those who have given their all to save the freedom of the world if they consent to treat this war on any other basis than as a crime against humanity.

Justice, therefore, is the only possible basis for the settlement of the accounts of this terrible war. Justice is what the German Delegation asks for and says that Germany had been promised. Justice is what Germany shall have. But it must be justice for all. There must be justice for the dead and wounded and for those who have been orphaned and bereaved that Europe might be freed from Prussian despotism. There must be justice for the peoples who now stagger under war debts which exceed £30,000,000,000 that liberty might be saved. There must be justice for those millions whose homes and land, ships and property German savagery has spoliated and destroyed.

That is why the Allied and Associated Powers have insisted as a cardinal feature of the Treaty that Germany must undertake to make reparation to the very uttermost of her power; for reparation for wrongs inflicted is of the essence of justice. That is why they insist that those individuals who are most clearly responsible for German aggression and for those acts of barbarism and inhumanity which have disgraced the German conduct of the war, must be handed over to a justice which has not been meted out to them at home. That, too, is why Germany must submit for a few years to certain special disabilities and arrangements. Germany has ruined the industries, the mines and the machinery of neighbouring countries, not during battle, but with the deliberate and calculated purpose of enabling her industries to seize their markets before their industries could recover from the devastation thus wantonly inflicted upon them. Germany has despoiled her neighbours of everything she could make use of or carry away. Germany has destroyed the shipping of all nations on the high sea, where there was no chance of rescue for their passengers and crews. It is only justice that restitution should be made and that these wronged peoples should be safeguarded for a time from the competition of a nation whose industries are intact and have even been fortified by machinery stolen from occupied territories.

On the afternoon of the third day of the private meetings of the premiers two French newspaper men came in to the American press room at the Hotel Crillon. There were only a few American correspondents there. It was teatime, as the Frenchmen remarked in some surprise, and no tea; they did not know that tea is an English, not an American, institution. We were working when they marched in like a couple of gendarmes, but I rose to meet them, and others came up to make them welcome. They were polite for a few moments; then they said that they had come to verify a bit of news. Had we heard of a little scene at the meeting of the president and the premiers? We looked at one another, we Americans, and I said, "No, nothing. Why? What had they heard?" They exchanged glances, and one of them spoke for them both.

"We heard - but only from French sources, and we can't use it unless we get American confirmation of it - we heard that M. Clemenceau challenged M. Wilson to make a permanent peace. Have you heard anything about the scene?"

"No," I said for myself, and the other Americans present nodded no. "Tell us about it," I urged. "Describe the scene."

Then one of them told how, when the president and the premiers sat down at the table that morning and were about to proceed to business, M. Clemenceau, who was fiddling with his gray silk gloves, said, "One moment, gentlemen. I desire before we go any further to be made clear on one very essential point." The French reporter was entering into his story; he mimicked Clemenceau, drawing tight and smooth his little silk gloves, and bowing sweetly and smiling sardonically. And the reporter acted the parts he quoted.

The president and the premiers halted and looked up expectantly at M. Clemenceau, who said: "I have heard something about a permanent peace. There has been a great deal of talk about a peace to end war forever, and I am interested in that. All Frenchmen would like to make permanent peace. But I would like to know-all the French would like to know-whether you mean it, the permanent peace."

He looked at his colleagues and they nodded.

"So," Clemenceau said, "you really mean it! Well, it is possible. We can do it; we can make the permanent peace. And we French need, we very much need, the permanent peace. Every time you, our neighbors, get into a fight, France is the battlefield, and our population, our armies, do not increase. If there is not an end of wars we French may be all wiped out some day. So, you see, it is we French more than you remote Americans, Mr. President, more than you safe islanders, Mr. Lloyd George, who require the security of the real peace. But we French cannot quite believe that you, our friends, neighbors, allies-that you really mean what you say. Do you, Mr. President?"

Mr. Wilson did.

"And you, Mr. Premier?"

Mr. Lloyd George did.

And the Italians did, of a certainty, yes.

"Very important," M. Clemenceau muttered, as if convinced, as if the whole prospect were changing, and his whole policy. "Very important. We can make this a permanent peace; we can remove all the causes of war and set up no new causes of war. It is very, very important what you say, what you have been so long saying, Mr. President. We here now have the opportunity to make a peace that shall last forever, and the French people, diminishing, will be safe. And you are sure you propose to seize this opportunity?"

Georges Clemenceau

Georges Clemenceau was the senior French representative present for the Treaty of Versailles. Georges wanted the terms of the treaty to demolish Germany, which was a view quite different from that of Britain’s David Lloyd George. Lloyd George wanted a less emotive approach to Germany’s punishment in a bid to leave them strong enough to fight back against a strengthening Russia, while Clemenceau (known as ‘The Tiger’) wanted the total destruction of Germany.

Georges Clemenceau was born in 1841, settling down in Montmatre before being appointed mayor of the town in 1870. From 1876 to 1893, he was member of the Chamber of Deputies, and eventually became senator for Var from 1902 to 1920.

In March 1906, Georges Clemenceau was appointed Minister of Home Affairs and it was just seven months until he took the role of Prime Minister in France. He lasted in his post for almost three years, which was the second longest in the history of the Third Republic. Between the start of World War One and 1917, Clemenceau was a critic of the country’s military ‘incompetence’, and when appointed Prime Minister once more in 1917 he led the French delegation at the peace talks at the Versailles Palace.

During these talks, he mirrored the views of the French people by taking a ‘no mercy’ approach to Germany, calling on the country to be broken into a state that prevented them from waging war again. He also made it clear that he was incredibly critical of Woodrow Wilson’s beliefs about the future of Europe.

With other people present at the Versailles Peace Treaty hoping to water down the attack on Germany, it was greeted with much disapproval across France. Despite his matching views, he was ultimately held responsible for the outcome of the treaty.

By 1920 Georges Clemenceau was 79 yers old. However, he continued to speak outwardly about his concerns that Germany would rise once more. He also made his feelings about European diplomacy very clear in his memoirs “The Grandeur and Misery”. However, he passed away in 1929, ten years before his fears came to light.

The Paris Peace Conference 

The Paris Peace Conference opened on January 18, 1919, a date that was significant in that it marked the anniversary of the coronation of German Emperor Wilhelm I, which took place in the Palace of Versailles at the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Prussian victory in that conflict had resulted in Germany’s unification and its seizure of Alsace and Lorraine provinces from France. In 1919, France and its prime minister, Georges Clemenceau, had not forgotten the humiliating loss, and intended to avenge it in the new peace agreement. 

War Without End 6 : Fixing The Blame

16 Tuesday Jan 2018

Lloyd George knew all about the deteriorating situation in Germany from War Cabinet meetings he had chaired throughout February 1919. [1] Hoover’s outburst [2], even if it was true, was not news to the British prime minister, but dislodging the French from their obstinate position proved difficult. On 8 March, at a joint meeting of the Allied leaders, discussions were heading towards the accustomed stalemate when, with a theatrical flourish which suggested a stage-managed prearrangement, [3] a sealed message was delivered to the British prime minister from the afore-mentioned General Plumer. In fact the telegram had been sent at the prime minister’s request. [4] Lloyd George read it aloud despair had plummeted to such depths in Germany that ‘people feel that an end by bullets is preferable to death by starvation … I request that a definite date be fixed for the arrival of the first supplies …’ [5] The French finance minister, Klotz, attempted to ignore the message, but Lloyd George turned on him with unrestrained venom, pouring contempt on his miserly attitude while women and children were starving. [6] The dam broke. The French conceded that Germany’s gold could be used for food, but relief was not instant. Some further headway was made on 14 March when an agreement was reached in Brussels allowing Germany to import 370,000 tons of food and 70,000 tons of fat per month. In April all blockade restrictions were removed on European neutrals, which was expected to facilitate an increased flow of food into Germany. [7] In theory that should have happened, but in practice, every nation affected by the blockade had endured great hardship and either consumed the produce themselves or offered them for export at exorbitant prices which Germany could no longer pay. [8]

But the cruelty did not end there. For the remainder of the Armistice period the bickering between the Americans, led by Hoover, and the Allied decision-makers, continued to thwart the lifting of the entire blockade on Germany. Even when it was perfectly clear that the Weimar government would sign the Versailles treaty, the die-hards refused to move. And though the Allies agreed to lift the remainder of the blockade on European neutrals on 25 June, they remained stubbornly obtuse until they had proof that the Germans had fully ratified the Versailles Treaty on 12 July 1919. [9] It was as miserable as it was petty.

The formal process of agreeing a peace treaty, predicated on the bitter Armistice, began in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles on 18 January 1919. From January to June, 1919, Paris was the capital of the world. [10] Complex discussions on how to punish the defeated nations involved diplomats from more than 32 countries and nationalities, but behind the scenes the true manipulators of power influenced the key decisions which determined a chain of events which go well beyond our time-scale.

History records the major outcomes from Versailles as the creation of the League of Nations the five peace treaties with the defeated states, [11] the awarding of German and Ottoman overseas possessions as ‘mandates’, chiefly to Britain and France reparations imposed on Germany, and the drawing of new national boundaries. Critically, section 231 of the Versailles Treaty, stated that the first world War had been caused ‘by the aggression of Germany and her allies.’ [12] Blaming Germany and Austria was a political necessity an absolute requirement for the Secret Elite and the establishment in Britain and America in particular. If the blame had not be squarely laid at the door of the Kaiser and his associates, the populous would have quickly turned on the politicians close to home who had lied so vehemently, had insisted that the war would save civilisation, had repeated the lie that the inhuman sacrifice was both worthy and necessary. Evidence had to be manufactured.

A Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of War was tasked with the official investigation on behalf of the victors and its conclusions were exactly as required by the allied governments. [13] Essentially its findings declared that war had been premeditated by the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary, and their allies, Turkey and Bulgaria, and was the result of actions deliberately committed to make war unavoidable. There is now a large body of evidence to the contrary, championed firstly by Harry Elmer Barnes, the renowned Professor of Historical Sociology at Smith College and teacher of history at Columbia University from 1918-29. The Commission of course, ignored the multitude of false claims and dates made by French President, Poincare, of complete misrepresentations made to the British parliament by foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey and the lies reported to Czar Nicholas by his equivalent counsellor, Sazonov. But why should you be surprised. Did you imagine that false news is a twenty-first century phenomenon?

Perhaps the most disgraceful falsification was made by the American duo who nominally headed the Commission, Secretary of State, Robert Lansing and U.S. Lawyer J.B. Scott. Secretary Lansing’s impartiality ought to have been absolute, but he and J.B. Scott stand accused of concocting a claim that the Austrians knew of Serbia’s ‘utter innocence’ of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in July 1914. They chose to focus on an early brief telegram to the Austrian foreign minister which was quickly corrected by its author, the Austrian investigator, Dr. von Wiesner as more evidence became available. As Professor Barnes put it, the brief passage from the Wiesner report ‘was torn from the context by James Brown Scott and Robert Lansing and gives the impression that Wiesner believed Serbia utterly innocent in 1914.’ [14] It was an atrocious lie. We know this now, but it was used to great effect to damn Germany and Austria, by the very people who ought to have been the guardians of truth and impartiality.

Some historians and commentators have simply accepted that Germany caused the war, and the proof was self-evident. The German government accepted Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty. Think hard. What else could Germany have done under the circumstances? Barnes famously described it in the following terms:

Germany occupied the situation of a prisoner at the bar, where the prosecuting attorney was given full leeway as to the time and presentation of evidence, while the defendant was denied counsel or the opportunity to produce either evidence or witnesses. Germany was confronted with the alternative of signing the confession at once or having her territory invaded and occupied, with every probability that such an admission would ultimately be extorted in any event. [15]

By the time they imposed Article 231, Germany was no longer in any position to resist. Her weapons and navy had been surrendered as per the Peace Treaty conditions. Do not forget that the blockade continued until the Germans signed the document which blamed them for causing the world war. Starve or sign a false testament. That was a the option Germany faced. It was a travesty of truth a cancerous lie which would reap an awful vengeance within twenty years.

The ‘Big Four’ politicians who strutted this stage were the Georges Clemenceau, prime minister of France David Lloyd George, the British prime minister the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, and the prime minister of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando. They met together informally 145 times, fought for their own agendas and agreed all the major decisions which Germany had to accept in 1919. Paris became the corporate headquarters of international decision-makers, the wheelers and dealers who acted as judge and jury in a kangaroo court through which new countries were created and a new order established.

The British economist John Maynard Keynes, himself present at the Versailles Peace Conference, watched the malevolent manipulators with angry contempt. The blame-shapers who knew that both the neutral countries and the German people had been shamefully damaged, pointed damning accusations at the French, at Marshal Foch for his hard-line armistice conditions, at President Clemenceau for demanding unmanageable German reparations, at finance minister Klotz for his insistence that German gold reserves could not be used to buy food, at their delaying tactics, their constant referrals to dubious committees and their unwillingness to end the hunger. Keynes was not fooled. He moved in circles whose prime motivation was to crush Germany crush the German economy restore British predominance in trade and industry and promote the Rhodes/Milner ideals. Unaware of the depth of their complicity, he personally blamed the intransigence of the admiralty in Whitehall, sarcastically implying that since they had just perfected the blockade system which had taken four years to create, they did not want to dismantle it. [16] Keynes called the British admiralty representative, Admiral Browning, ‘an ignorant sea-dog … with no idea in his head but the extirpation and further humiliation of a despised and defeated enemy.’ [17]

Keynes had considerable sympathy for the Germans. His intimate friendship during the peace talks [18] with the German financial advisor, Carl Melchior, helped find solutions to the many obstacles which blocked food for Germany. Melchior had since 1900, been senior counsel to, and later a partner in, the Warburg Bank in Hamburg. He became Germany’s representative on the Reparations Committee as was described as the country’s financial director. [19] Carl Melchior was the only non-Parliamentary member of the main German Peace Delegation. His role in the Bank of International Settlements and his later chairmanship of the Financial Committee on the League of Nations is highly significant. [20] Keynes dined with Melchior and Paul Warburg, whom he described as ‘a German-American Jew, but one of the leading financiers of the United States, and formerly chief spirit of the Federal Reserve Board.’ [21] Given the bond between Melchior, the Warburgs and the Kuhn Loeb bank in New York, we need hardly ask why he was in Paris. Indeed, why were so many important bankers from the United States who were intimately linked to the Rothschilds and the Secret Elite, hovering like vultures above a stricken Europe?

George Clemenceau Biography

Georges Clemenceau (September 28, 1841 – November 24, 1929) doctor, journalist, and politician. He was born in Mouilleron-en-Pareds, Loire, Paris. He was one of the most influential men in French politics at the end of the 19th century. He grew up in a humble family. The anti-clerical and progressive influence of his father, Benjamin, allowed him to know the ideals of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. At age twelve he entered the Liceu de Nantes. During his time as a student, he met notable men of radical republicanism, such as the great historian Jules Michelet.

In 1861 he studied medicine in Paris. There he joined the young republicans of the avant-garde association Agis comme tu penses. Together with some of his colleagues, he founded the newsletter Le Travail. He had several problems with the authorities after publishing a booklet commemorating the anniversary of the 1848 Revolution. Then, he founded a new newspaper, Le Matin, which was closed shortly after.

He moved to the United States, in the heat of the Civil War. During the next four years, he entered the progressive political and intellectual circles and was fascinated by the freedom of expression American democracy flag. He worked as a war correspondent for the Paris Temps newspaper and at the end of the contest, was employed as a French and horse riding teacher at a college for young ladies in Stamford (Connecticut). One of his students became his wife: Mary Plummer, with whom he would have three children.

A few days after his wedding he moved to France and worked as a doctor in La Vendée. In July 1870 Napoleon III declared war on Prussia by Chancellor Bismarck. Clemenceau joined the demonstrations that assaulted the Palais-Bourbon and proclaimed the Third Republic. He was elected mayor of the Parisian district of Montmartre. He opposed the signing of the peace treaty imposed by Bismarck, which he considered degrading to France. His work was very important because he became the mediator between the communal rebels and the National Assembly, which had moved its headquarters to Versailles for the signing of the peace treaty. On March 27, he was frustrated and decided to give up his seat in the Assembly.

In 1876, his eloquence and political cunning made him the main spokesman for the radical faction. Soon, he led the parliamentary opposition against President Patrice MacMahon’s attempt to steal the government from his responsibility before the House of Representatives.

La Justice was the newspaper that inaugurated and became the main organ of the radicals. Clemenceau developed a relentless opposition to the management of successive governments. He based his opposition on attacks against the colonial policy in Africa and Asia, which he considered counterproductive for the country’s internal development. In 1885 he overthrew the government of Jules Ferry.

Clemenceau made General Georges Boulanger Boulangerismo the new target of his attacks. To nullify his influence, he formed the League of Human Rights to promote progressive social reforms. Subsequently, the accusations made against him damaged his prestige, and in the elections of 1893, despite conducting a brilliant campaign, he was defeated.

Clemenceau started a new direction in journalism. This activity allowed him to display his excellent skills for political analysis, his vast culture and his closeness with intellectuals of the time such as, Jean-François Rafaëlli, Auguste Rodin and Claude Monet, for whom he organized a large exhibition in the Tuileries after the First World War. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec contributed the illustrations of his book on the history of the Hebrew people, At the foot of the Sinai. In 1902, he gave the first speech before the Upper House vigorously defending freedom of expression and conscience, as well as the complete separation between the Church and the State, opposing the interference of the Vatican in French affairs and the state monopoly of education.

After the dispute between France and Germany, caused by the French government trying to consolidate its supremacy over Morocco, he dedicated himself to travel in South America, where he gave lectures on democracy. He returned to the Senate and during World War I focused on winning the war. Despite his efforts to inflate a spirit of victory in French, the prolongation of the war left the country dejected and in crisis. The pacifism that the radical left adopted became the new target of Clemenceau’s attacks.

Clemenceau was then 76 years old when he managed to convince Britain and the United States to establish a unified command. Together with British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and President Wilson, he was one of the protagonists of the Paris Peace Conference (1919). In this way, he got the return of Alsace and Lorena, and the payment of exorbitant war reparations.

He left the headquarters of the Council of Ministers after losing the elections to the presidency of the Republic. This meant his retirement from political life. He left Paris and moved to live in Bel-Ebat, devoted himself to reading and writing his latest works: Demóstenes and Au Soir de la pensée. His Memories: Greatness and misery of a victory.

Georges Clemenceau died in his Parisian apartment on November 24, 1929, at the age of 88. He was honored for his effort that led France to triumph over the Axis powers and played an essential role in the peace talks that concluded in the Treaty of Versailles, is one of the most relevant figures in French politics.

Georges Clemenceau - History

Georges Clemenceau 1841-1929

They called him The Tiger.

Le Tigre was French, energetic, and eloquent. Georges Clemenceau was premier from 1906 - 1909 and again 1917 - 1920, which made solving World War I part of his job description.

When Georges Clemenceau was walking the earth, the French were having their Third Republic. Let's see what that means in its context:

Second Empire (Emperor Napoleon III)
1852 - 1870

Third Republic
1870 - 1940

For the complete list see Governments of France .

When Georges Clemenceau was born, France still had an emperor.

A student of medicine, Georges Clemenceau was close to his father, who didn't like the empire and didn't have a problem voicing his views. Georges felt the same way and, in 1848, was arrested for making his opinion known. Clemenceau Senior was equally lucky and spent some jail time in 1858.

Georges Clemenceau went to the States 1865 - 1869 where the American Civil War was quite the eye opener for him. People actually had a say in how the country was run.

For a while, Georges Clemenceau worked as a teacher in Connecticut. Fife days after marrying one of his pupils in 1869, he packed knapsack and new wife and went back to France to be a doctor.

The lucky student, by the way, was Miss Mary Plummer, who was to have three little tigers soon after, and a separation from the big tiger seven years later.

In July 1870, Emperor Napoleon III declared war on Germany. This was to become the Franco-German War 1870 - 1871 . France lost the war and the Third Republic was declared. The opponents of monarchy wore party hats. Among them, of course, Georges Clemenceau.

Georges Clemenceau moved on in politics and held a few jobs for the French government. The German peace terms at the end of the Franco-German War were frustrating to him, but there was not much he could do about it there and then. His time would come.

Meanwhile, Georges Clemenceau was busy criticizing his country's government. For this, he established his own newspaper, as he did several times earlier in his life.

Ever the critic, Clemenceau accumulated a number of enemies himself. This closed most doors for possibly getting a job in politics, so he decided to become a journalist on the subject.

Finally, in April 1902, the great breakthrough. He was back in politics, this time as senator.

After having been premier twice, Georges had his hands full with the composing of acceptable peace terms after World War I.

In 1920, Georges Clemenceau was hoping to become president. After all his hard work for his country, he certainly deserved consideration. However, the people around him claimed they didn't like his solo performances in the past and didn't elect him. That was is for Clemenceau, he quit.

Georges Clemenceau was now 80 years old and in retirement. But there was no thought of slowing down. Clemenceau went on a trip to India and Singapore - tiger hunting among other things - and he visited Woodrow Wilson in the US.

Georges Clemenceau died in Paris.

Georges Clemenceau wrote many many things, even a play. Some of his works are still available.

In the evening of my thought

Grandeur and misery of victory

The surprises of life

American Reconstruction, 1865-1870

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Who's Who - Georges Clemenceau

Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929) was French prime minister twice, in 1906-09 and from November 1917-20.

Nicknamed "The Tiger", Clemenceau's staunch republicanism brought him into early conflict with Napoleon III's government. Although trained as a doctor he travelled to the U.S. where he remained for several years as a teacher and journalist, returning to France in 1869.

Following the 1870 overthrow of Napoleon III, Clemenceau became mayor of Montmartre in Paris. A member of the chamber of deputies from 1876 as a Radical Republican, he failed to win re-election in 1893 after being implicated in the Panama Canal scandal, and unjustly accused of being in Britain's pay.

For the following nine years he concentrated on his journalism, penning daily articles for La Justice and founding Le Bloc in 1900.

In 1902 Clemenceau was elected senator, and in 1906 became minister of the interior and then premier. During his first tenure as prime minister he forged closer ties with Britain and settled the Moroccan crisis.

In 1909 Clemenceau's government fell and Aristide Briand succeeded him as prime minister. In the following years Clemenceau vigorously attacked Germany and argued for greater military preparedness in the event of war.

Clemenceau succeeded Paul Painleve as premier in November 1917, having been appointed by President Raymond Poincare, and remained in the post until 1920. Having become prime minister for the second time he formed a coalition cabinet, serving as minister of war himself.

Clemenceau worked to revive French morale in the country at large, and persuaded the Allies to agree to a unified military command under Ferdinand Foch he energetically pursued the war until its conclusion in November 1918.

At the Paris Peace Conference Clemenceau insisted upon the complete humiliation of Germany, requiring German disarmament and severe reparations France also won back Alsace-Lorraine. Even so, he remained unsatisfied with the Treaty, often coming into conflict with U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, whom he viewed as too idealistic.

In the presidential elections of January 1920 Clemenceau was defeated, ironically after facing charges that he was too lenient in his treatment of Germany at the Treaty.

Following his retirement from politics Clemenceau wrote his autobiography, In the Evening of my Thought (1929). He predicted a renewed war with Germany by 1940. He died on 24 November 1929 in Paris.

Click here to read Clemenceau's reaction to news of a major Italian defeat at Caporetto in October 1917 click here to read the urgent appeal issued by the Prime Ministers of France, Italy and Britain to President Woodrow Wilson for additional troop supplies in early June 1918 click here to read Clemenceau's opening address at the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919.

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Negotiation of the Peace

The armistice signed by the defeated Germans on November 11, 1918, proved him right and brought him, the last survivor of those who had protested at Bordeaux in 1871 against the harsh terms imposed on France, the satisfaction of seeing Alsace-Lorraine returned to France. Clemenceau found that building the peace was a more arduous task than winning the war. He wanted the wartime alliance to be followed by an indefectible peacetime alliance. He presided with authority over the difficult sessions of the Paris Peace Conference (1919).

The Treaty of Versailles was in preparation, and this necessitated strenuous days of work and delicate negotiations. Clemenceau made it his task to reconcile the interests of France with those of Great Britain and the United States. He defended the French cause with enthusiasm and conviction, forcing his view alternately on the British prime minister, David Lloyd George and the United States president, Woodrow Wilson. He also took care to see that Germany was disarmed. With his desire for poetic justice, he insisted that the Treaty of Versailles be signed (June 28, 1919) in the Hall of Mirrors of the Versailles palace where, in 1871, William I had had himself proclaimed German emperor.

Meanwhile, the French Assembly began to grow restless, for it saw itself put to one side in the peace negotiations. It no longer regarded Clemenceau as indispensable. A new Chamber of Deputies was elected on November 16, 1919, and Clemenceau imagined that he would have its support, since many of its members were former servicemen. But the politicians could not forgive him for having excluded them not only from the conduct of the war but also from the negotiation of the peace. He also had to face hostility from the clerical party on the extreme right and from the pacifist element on the extreme left. Defeated in the presidential election of January 17, 1920, he then, as was customary on the election of a new president, resigned the premiership. He also gave up all other political activities.


It is conceivable that only two names from the history of France in the twentieth century will be remembered—General Charles de Gaulle, because he was the symbol of the Resistance after France's 1940 defeat during World War II, and Georges Clemenceau, because he was the symbol of France's victory in World War I. Clemenceau was not destined to be a military leader, however.

Born in 1841 in Vendée, which was a "White" region, that is, deeply royalist and Catholic, Clemenceau belonged to a bourgeois "Blue" (republican and atheist) family. He began studying medicine under the Second Empire, during which he forcefully displayed his republican sentiments, thereby earning himself several weeks in prison. Fresh out of medical school, he left for the United States because he could no longer tolerate living in imperial France—and also because he had recently suffered a serious disappointment in his love life. He lived in the United States from 1865 to 1869 and learned to speak English, a skill that was uncommon in France at that time. Also while in the United States, he married a young American woman with whom he had three children and whom he divorced in 1892.

Clemenceau's political career began in 1870 after the fall of the empire, when he was named mayor of the Parisian district of Montmartre—a title he continued to hold when the revolutionary Commune movement broke out there. Although he was not lacking in sympathy for some of its ideas, such as its commitment to social progress and its refusal to accept France's defeat at the hands of Germany in 1870, he could not sanction its use of violence. In March 1871 he was elected deputy but resigned in protest when Alsace-Lorraine was handed over to Germany.

This was not the end of his political career, however, which was to last for nearly another fifty years—one of the longest France has ever known. It began on the far left: though a republican himself, Clemenceau was a fierce enemy of republican moderates and orchestrated the end of numerous ministers' careers. Throughout his life he was feared for his tongue—he was one of the great orators of his time and never hesitated to cut down even his friends with epigrams—his sword, because he loved to fight duels, and his pen. Indeed he was one of the most incisive journalists of his time and dearly loved to write.

Because Clemenceau was not always careful about the company he kept, attempts were made to compromise him in the Panama affair, in which French politicians were bribed to support the canal project. The scandal lost him his seat as deputy for the Var in the 1893 elections, and he did not return to parliament until 1902, as senator for the same department. His years away from the legislature, however, proved to be among the most important of his life because he was one of the most vocal supporters of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who had been unjustly convicted of treason. He wrote thousands of articles arguing for the captain's rehabilitation. Although he considered himself to be on the far left, and though he had a more heightened social consciousness than most politicians of his time, Clemenceau was never a follower of socialism. In a famous speech of 1884, as this current was gaining strength, he clearly stated that he was opposed to it. Furthermore, when this "radical" (who did not want to join the Radical Party when it was founded in 1901) became a minister for the first time in 1906 at the age of sixty-five, then premier from 1906 to 1909, he devoted a considerable portion of his energy to suppressing social movements. Dubbed the "strikebreaker," this man of the left was hated by leftist workers at the time and would remain so for the rest of his life. As a self-styled patriot, however, he was much more cautious when the international politics of the day were at issue. In truth, he was not among France's greatest government ministers and was headed for retirement in 1914, when war broke out.

Refusing to take part in the coalition government known as the Sacred Union because he held both its members and the president of the Republic, Raymond Poincaré, in low esteem, and convinced of Germany's total responsibility for the war (he remained unequivocal on this point until his death), Clemenceau called for will and determination to win the war and condemned those he suspected of weakness, pacifism, and defeatism. When the situation became critical in 1917, especially in terms of morale, Poincaré reluctantly called upon Clemenceau to take charge of the government. From 16 November 1917 onward, the "fearsome old man" (he was seventy-six) infused the country with his energy and led it to victory. He became immensely popular as a result but securing the peace proved vastly more difficult. Although more moderate than he was reputed to be (unlike Marshal Ferdinand Foch, he quickly renounced the idea of dismembering Germany) and having little belief in the Wilsonian ideas of perpetual peace and the League of Nations, he advocated measures intended to shield France from future aggression. Also contrary to what was frequently reported, he managed to find areas of compromise with President Woodrow Wilson as the months of negotiations ran on. The resulting treaty, however, was dealt a severe blow when the United States Senate refused to ratify it.

He ran for president of the Republic in 1920, wishing to oversee the enactment of the Treaty of Versailles, but many Catholic politicians refused to vote for an elderly man with a history of anticlericalism, and numerous other enemies he had made during his political career also withheld their support. Thus removed from political life, Clemenceau devoted his time to travel (though never in French colonial territories, because he had always been a staunch enemy of France's colonial enterprises) and to writing. In 1922 he returned to the United States to defend the Treaty of Versailles and the need for its adoption. He enjoyed an enthusiastic reception but failed to convince. His last book, Grandeurs et misères d'une victoire (Grandeur and Misery of Victory), was published posthumously in 1930. In it, he engages in polemical defenses of his own work, against the recently deceased Marshal Foch. Clemenceau died in Paris on 24 November 1929 at the age of eighty-eight and was buried in his native region of Vendée. His statue on the Champs-Elysées in Paris is one of the city's most prominent memorials.

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