Charles de Freycinet

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Charles de Freycinet
Freycinet, de Saulces de, Charles, Nadar, Gallica.jpg
Freycinet (ca.1880) by Nadar
Minister of War
In office
1 November 1898 18 February 1899
Prime Minister Charles Dupuy
Preceded by Charles Chanoine
Succeeded by Camille Krantz
In office
3 April 1888 10 January 1893
Prime Minister Charles Floquet
Pierre Tirard
Émile Loubet
Alexandre Ribot
Preceded by François Logerot
Succeeded by Julien Loizillon
Prime Minister of France
In office
17 March 1890 27 February 1892
President Marie François Sadi Carnot
Preceded by Pierre Tirard
Succeeded by Émile Loubet
In office
7 January 1886 16 December 1886
President Jules Grévy
Preceded by Henri Brisson
Succeeded by René Goblet
In office
30 January 1882 7 August 1882
President Jules Grévy
Preceded by Léon Gambetta
Succeeded by Charles Duclerc
In office
28 December 1879 23 September 1880
President Jules Grévy
Preceded by William Waddington
Succeeded by Jules Ferry
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
28 December 1879 3 December 1886
Prime MinisterHimself
Henri Brisson
Preceded by Paul-Armand Challemel-Lacour
Succeeded by Émile Flourens
Minister of Public Works
Prime Minister Jules Dufaure
William Waddington
Preceded by Michel Graeff
Succeeded by Henri Varroy
Member of the French Senate
for Seine
In office
30 January 1876 11 January 1920
Succeeded by Louis Dausset
Personal details
Born(1828-11-14)14 November 1828
Foix, Ariège, France
Died14 May 1923(1923-05-14) (aged 94)
Paris, France
Political party Republican Union (1871–1885)
Union of the Lefts (1885–1894)
League of Patriots (1894–1923)
Jeanne Alexandrine Bosc
(m. 1858;died 1923)
Education École Polytechnique
Profession Engineer

Charles Louis de Saulces de Freycinet (French:  [ʃaʁl də fʁɛjsinɛ] ; 14 November 1828 – 14 May 1923) was a French statesman and four times Prime Minister during the Third Republic. He also served an important term as Minister of War (1888–93). He belonged to the Opportunist Republicans faction.

The Moderates or Moderate Republicans, pejoratively labeled Opportunist Republicans, were a French political group active in the late 19th century during the Third French Republic. The leaders of the group included Jules Ferry, Jules Grévy, Henri Wallon and René Waldeck-Rousseau.


He was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences, and in 1890, the fourteenth member to occupy a seat in the Académie française.

French Academy of Sciences learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research

The French Academy of Sciences is a learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research. It was at the forefront of scientific developments in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, and is one of the earliest Academies of Sciences.

Académie française Pre-eminent council for the French language

The Académie française is the pre-eminent French council for matters pertaining to the French language. The Académie was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. Suppressed in 1793 during the French Revolution, it was restored as a division of the Institut de France in 1803 by Napoleon Bonaparte. It is the oldest of the five académies of the institute.


Early years

Freycinet was born at Foix (Ariège) of a Protestant family and was the nephew of Louis de Freycinet, a French navigator. Charles Freycinet was educated at the École Polytechnique . He entered government service as a mining engineer (see X-Mines). In 1858 he was appointed traffic manager to the Compagnie de chemins de fer du Midi, a post in which he showed a remarkable talent for organization, and in 1862 returned to the engineering service, attaining in 1886 the rank of inspector-general. He was sent on several special scientific missions, including one to the United Kingdom, on which he wrote a notable Mémoire sur le travail des femmes et des enfants dans les manufactures de l'Angleterre (1867).

Foix Prefecture and commune in Occitanie, France

Foix is a commune, the former capital of the County of Foix. Today it is the Préfecture of the Ariège department in southwestern France in the Occitanie region. It is the second least populous administrative centre of a department in all of France, the least-populous being Privas. Foix lies south of Toulouse, close to the border with Spain and Andorra. At the 2009 census, the city had a population of 9,861 people. It is only the second city of the department after Pamiers which is one of the two sub-prefectures. Foix is twinned with the English cathedral city of Ripon.

Ariège (department) Department of France

Ariège is a department in the Occitanie region of southwestern France named after the Ariège River. Its capital is the town of Foix and the INSEE and Postal code is 09. The inhabitants of the department are known as Ariègeois or Ariègeoises.

Louis de Freycinet French navigator

Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet was a French navigator. He circumnavigated the earth, and in 1811 published the first map to show a full outline of the coastline of Australia.

Government service

Franco-Prussian War

In July 1870 the Franco-Prussian War started which led to the fall of the Second French Empire of Napoleon III. On the establishment of the Third Republic in September 1870, he offered his services to Léon Gambetta, was appointed prefect of the department of Tarn-et-Garonne, and in October became chief of the military cabinet. It was mainly Freycinet's powers of organization which enabled Gambetta to raise army after army to oppose the invading Germans. He revealed himself to be a competent strategist, but the policy of dictating operations to the generals in the field was not attended with happy results. The friction between him and General d'Aurelle de Paladines resulted in the loss of the advantage temporarily gained at Coulmiers and Orléans, and he was responsible for the campaign in the east, which ended in the destruction of the Armée de l'Est of Charles Denis Bourbaki.

Franco-Prussian War significant conflict pitting the Second French Empire against the Kingdom of Prussia and its allies

The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the War of 1870, was a conflict between the Second French Empire and later the Third French Republic, and the German states of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. Lasting from 19 July 1870 to 28 January 1871, the conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to extend German unification and French fears of the shift in the European balance of power that would result if the Prussians succeeded. Some historians argue that the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck deliberately provoked the French into declaring war on Prussia in order to draw the independent southern German states—Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt—into an alliance with the North German Confederation dominated by Prussia, while others contend that Bismarck did not plan anything and merely exploited the circumstances as they unfolded. None, however, dispute the fact that Bismarck must have recognized the potential for new German alliances, given the situation as a whole.

Second French Empire government of France under Napoleon III, from 1852 to 1870

The Second French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.

Napoleon III French emperor, president, and member of the House of Bonaparte

Napoleon III was the first elected President of France from 1848 to 1852. When he could not constitutionally be re-elected, he seized power in 1851 and became the Emperor of the French from 1852 to 1870. He founded the Second French Empire and was its only emperor until the defeat of the French army and his capture by Prussia and its allies in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. He worked to modernize the French economy, rebuilt the center of Paris, expanded the overseas empire, and engaged in the Crimean War and the war for Italian unification. After his defeat and downfall he went into exile and died in England in 1873.


In 1871 he published a defence of his administration under the title of La Guerre en province pendant le siège de Paris. He entered the Senate in 1876 as a follower of Gambetta, and in December 1877 became Minister of Public Works in the cabinet of Jules Armand Stanislaus Dufaure. He passed a great scheme for the gradual acquisition of the railways by the state and the construction of new lines at a cost of three milliards, and for the development of the canal system at a further cost of one milliard. He retained his post in the ministry of William Henry Waddington, whom he succeeded in December 1879 as Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. He passed an amnesty for the Communards, but in attempting to steer a middle course (between the Catholics and the anti-clericalists) on the question of the religious associations, he lost Gambetta's support, and resigned in September 1880.

The Freycinet Plan was an ambitious public works programme, launched in 1878 by the Minister of Public Works Charles de Freycinet, principally for the construction of railways, but also for canals and maritime ports. In its initial codification – which very largely was superseded – the plan foresaw the hypothecation of 3 billion francs to the railway lines, 1 billion to the canals and 500 million to the ports.

In January 1882 he again became Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. His refusal to join Britain in the bombardment of Alexandria was the death-knell of French influence in Egypt. He attempted to compromise by occupying the Isthmus of Suez, but the vote of credit was rejected in the Chamber by 417 votes to 75, and the ministry resigned. He returned to office in April 1885 as Foreign Minister in Henri Brisson's cabinet, and retained that post when, in January 1886, he succeeded to the premiership.

Bombardment of Alexandria

The Bombardment of Alexandria in Egypt by the British Mediterranean Fleet took place on 11–13 July 1882.

Alexandria Metropolis in Egypt

Alexandria is the second-largest city in Egypt and a major economic centre, extending about 32 km (20 mi) along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country. Its low elevation on the Nile delta makes it highly vulnerable to rising sea levels. Alexandria is an important industrial center because of its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez. Alexandria is also a popular tourist destination.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

He came to power with an ambitious programme of internal reform; but apart from settling the question of the exiled pretenders, his successes were chiefly in the sphere of colonial extension. In spite of his unrivalled skill as a parliamentary tactician, he failed to keep his party together, and was defeated on 3 December 1886. In the following year, after two unsuccessful attempts to construct new ministries, he stood for the Presidency of the Republic; but the radicals, to whom his opportunism was distasteful, turned the scale against him by transferring the votes to Marie François Sadi Carnot.

Minister of War

In April 1888 he became Minister of War in Charles Floquet's cabinet — the first civilian since 1848 to hold that office. His services to France in this capacity were the crowning achievement of his life, and he enjoyed the conspicuous honour of holding his office without a break for five years through as many successive administrations — those of Floquet and Pierre Tirard, his own fourth ministry (March 1890 – February 1892), and the Émile Loubet and Alexandre Ribot ministries. The introduction of the three-years' service and the establishment of a general staff, a supreme council of war, and the army commands were all due to him. His premiership was marked by heated debates on the clerical question, and it was a hostile vote on his bill against the religious associations that caused the fall of his cabinet. He failed to clear himself entirely of complicity in the Panama scandals, and in January 1893 resigned the Ministry of War.

In November 1898 he once again became Minister of War in the Charles Dupuy cabinet, but resigned office on 6 May 1899.

Prime Minister of France

Freycinet by Guth in Vanity Fair, April 1891 Charles de Freycinet Vanity Fair 18 April 1891.jpg
Freycinet by Guth in Vanity Fair, April 1891

1st Ministry

  • 17 May 1880 – Ernest Constans succeeds Lepère as Minister of the Interior and Worship.

2nd Ministry

3rd Ministry

  • 4 November 1886 – Édouard Millaud succeeds Baïhaut as Minister of Public Works

4th Ministry


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    Political offices
    Preceded by
    Michel Graëff
    Minister of Public Works
    Succeeded by
    Henri Varroy
    Preceded by
    William Waddington
    Prime Minister of France
    Succeeded by
    Jules Ferry
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Succeeded by
    Jules Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire
    Preceded by
    Léon Gambetta
    Prime Minister of France
    Succeeded by
    Charles Duclerc
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Preceded by
    Jules Ferry
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    Succeeded by
    Émile Flourens
    Preceded by
    Henri Brisson
    Prime Minister of France
    Succeeded by
    René Goblet
    Preceded by
    François Auguste Logerot
    Minister of War
    Succeeded by
    Julien Léon Loizillon
    Preceded by
    Pierre Tirard
    Prime Minister of France
    Succeeded by
    Émile Loubet
    Preceded by
    Charles Chanoine
    Minister of War
    Succeeded by
    Camille Krantz
    Preceded by
    Minister of State
    Succeeded by