Jules Ferry

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Jules Ferry
President of the French Senate
Member of the French Senate for Vosges
In office
24 February 1893 17 March 1893
President Marie François Sadi Carnot
Preceded by Philippe Le Royer
Succeeded by Paul-Armand Challemel-Lacour
36th Prime Minister of France
In office
21 February 1883 30 March 1885
President Jules Grévy
Preceded by Armand Fallières
Succeeded by Henri Brisson
In office
23 September 1880 10 November 1881
President Jules Grévy
Preceded by Charles de Freycinet
Succeeded by Léon Gambetta
Minister of Public Education and Fine Arts
In office
21 February 1883 20 November 1883
Prime Minister Jules Grévy
Preceded by Jules Duvaux
Succeeded by Armand Fallières
In office
30 January 1882 29 July 1882
Prime Minister Charles de Freycinet
Preceded by Paul Bert
Succeeded by Jules Duvaux
In office
4 February 1879 10 November 1881
Prime Minister William Waddington
Charles de Freycinet
Preceded by Agénor Bardoux
Succeeded by Paul Bert
Member of the French Chamber of Deputies
for Vosges
In office
8 February 1871 6 October 1889
Preceded by Louis Buffet
Succeeded by Ernest Picot
10th Mayor of Paris
In office
15 November 1870 5 June 1871
Preceded by Étienne Arago
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Jacques Chirac (1977)
Member of the French Legislative Body
for Seine
In office
8 June 1869 8 February 1871
Preceded by Émile Ollivier
Succeeded by Charles Floquet
Personal details
Jules François Camille Ferry

(1832-04-05)5 April 1832
Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, Vosges, Kingdom of France
Died17 March 1893(1893-03-17) (aged 60)
Paris, Seine, French Republic
Political party "Close" Republicans
Opportunist/Republican Left
National Republican Association
Eugénie Risler
(m. 1875;his d. 1893)
Profession Journalist, lawyer

Jules François Camille Ferry (French:  [ʒyl fɛʁi] ; 5 April 1832 17 March 1893) was a French statesman and republican. He was a promoter of laicism and colonial expansion. [1]



Early life

Born in Saint-Dié, in the Vosges department, France, he studied law, and was called to the bar at Paris in 1854, [2] but soon went into politics, contributing to various newspapers, particularly to Le Temps . He attacked the Second French Empire with great violence, directing his opposition especially against Baron Haussmann, prefect of the Seine department. A series of his articles in Le Temps was later republished as The Fantastic Tales of Haussmannlaxupa (1868). [2]

Political rise

Jules Ferry, by Nadar Jules Ferry Nadar.jpg
Jules Ferry, by Nadar

Elected republican deputy for Paris in 1869, he protested against the declaration of war with Germany, and on 6 September 1870 was appointed prefect of the Seine by the Government of National Defense. [3]

In this position he had the difficult task of administering Paris during the siege, and after the Paris Commune was obliged to resign (5 June 1871). From 1872 to 1873 he was sent by Adolphe Thiers as minister to Athens, but returned to the chamber as deputy for the Vosges, and became one of the leaders of the Opportunist Republicans. When the first republican ministry was formed under W. H. Waddington on 4 February 1879, he was one of its members, and continued in the ministry until 30 March 1885, except for two short interruptions (from 10 November 1881 to 30 January 1882, and from 29 July 1882 to 21 February 1883), first as minister of education and then as minister of foreign affairs. A leader of the Opportunist Republicans faction, he was twice premier (1880–1881 and 1883–1885). [3] He was an active Freemason initiated on July 8, 1875, in "La Clémante amitiée" lodge in Paris the same day as Émile Littré. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] He became a member of the "Alsace-Lorraine" Lodge founded in Paris in 1782. [9]

School reforms

Two important works are associated with his administration: the non-clerical organization of public education, and the major colonial expansion of France. Following the republican programme, he proposed to destroy the influence of the clergy in universities and found his own system of republican schooling. He reorganized the committee of public education (law of 27 February 1880), and proposed a regulation for the conferring of university degrees, which, though rejected, aroused violent polemics because the 7th article took away from the unauthorized religious orders the right to teach. He finally succeeded in passing his eponymous laws of 16 June 1881 and 28 March 1882, which made primary education in France free, non-clerical (laïque) and mandatory. In higher education, the number of professors, called the "Republic's black hussars" (French: hussards noirs de la République) because of their Republican support, doubled under his ministry. [3]

The education policies establishing French language as the language of the Republic have been contested in the second half of the 20th century insofar as, while they played an important role in unifying the French nation state and the Third Republic, they also nearly caused the extinction of several regional languages. [10]

Colonial expansion

Andre Gill's cartoon on Ferry, where he eats a gingerbread priest (1878) La Petite Lune - 42.jpg
André Gill's cartoon on Ferry, where he eats a gingerbread priest (1878)

After the military defeat of France by Prussia in 1870, Ferry formed the idea of acquiring a great colonial empire, principally for the sake of economic exploitation. [3] In 1882 Jules Ferry, as Minister of Public Instruction, decided to create a mission to explore the Regency of Tunisia. [11] The expedition was headed by the botanist Ernest Cosson and included the botanist Napoléon Doumet-Adanson and other naturalists. [12] In 1884 a geological section under Georges Rolland was added to the Tunisian Scientific Exploration Mission. [13] Rolland was assisted by Philippe Thomas from 1885 and by Georges Le Mesle in 1887. [14]

In a speech on the colonial empire before the Chamber of Deputies on 28 March 1884, he declared that "it is a right for the superior races, because they have a duty. They have the duty to civilize the inferior races." [15] Ferry directed the negotiations which led to the establishment of a French protectorate in Tunis (1881), prepared the treaty of 17 December 1885 for the occupation of Madagascar; directed the exploration of the Congo and of the Niger region; and above all, he organized the conquest of Annam and Tonkin in what became Indochina. [3]

The last endeavor led to a war with Qing dynasty China, which had a claim of suzerainty over the two provinces. The excitement caused in Paris by the sudden retreat of the French troops from Lạng Sơn during this war led to the Tonkin Affair: his violent denunciation by Clemenceau and other radicals, and his downfall on 30 March 1885. Although the treaty of peace with the Chinese Empire (9 June 1885), in which the Qing dynasty ceded suzerainty of Annam and Tonkin to France, was the work of his ministry, he would never again serve as premier.

The desire for a monarchy was strong in France in the early years of the Third RepublicHenri, Count of Chambord having made a bid early in its history. A committed republican, Ferry proceeded to a wide-scale "purge" by dismissing many known monarchists from top positions in the magistrature, army and civil and diplomatic service.

In the 1890 decade he visited Algeria and provided a critic report. He predicted that Algeria could not escape a conflict between Indigènes and Europeans: [16]

Agreements with Germany

Portrait of Ferry by Leon Bonnat JulesFerryBonnat.jpg
Portrait of Ferry by Léon Bonnat

The key to understanding Ferry's unique position in Third Republic history is that until his political critic, Georges Clemenceau became Prime Minister twice in the 20th century, Ferry had the longest tenure as Prime Minister under that regime. He also played with political dynamite that eventually destroyed his success. Ferry (like his 20th century equivalent Joseph Caillaux) believed in not confronting Wilhelmine Germany by threats of a future war of revenge. Most French politicians in the middle and right saw it as a sacred duty to one day lead France again against Germany to reclaim Alsace-Lorraine, and avenge the awful defeat of 1870. But Ferry realized that Germany was too powerful, and it made more sense to cooperate with Otto von Bismarck and avoid trouble. A sensible policy – but hardly popular.

Bismarck was constantly nervous about the situation with France. Although he had despised the ineptness of the French under Napoleon III and the government of Adolphe Thiers and Jules Favre, he had not planned for all the demands he presented the French in 1870. He only wished to temporarily cripple France by the billion franc reparation, but suddenly he was confronted by the demands of Marshals Albrecht von Roon and Helmut von Moltke (backed by Emperor Wilhelm I) to annex the two French provinces as further payment. Bismarck, for all his abilities regarding manipulating events, could not afford to anger the Prussian military. He got the two provinces, but he realized it would eventually have severe future repercussions.

Bismarck was able to ignore the French for most of the 1870s and early 1880s, but as he found problems with his three erstwhile allies (Austria, Russia, and Italy), he realized France might one day take advantage of this (as it did with Russia in 1894). When Ferry came up with a radically different approach to the situation and offered an olive branch, Bismarck reciprocated. A Franco-German friendship would alleviate problems of siding with either Austria or Russia, or Austria and Italy. Bismarck approved of the colonial expansion that France pursued under Ferry. He only had some problems with local German imperialists who were critical that Germany lacked colonies, so he found a few in the 1880s, making certain he did not confront French interests. But he also suggested Franco-German cooperation on the imperial front against the British Empire, thus hoping to create a wedge between the two Western European great powers. It did as a result, leading to a major race for influence across Africa that nearly culminated in war in the next decade, at Fashoda in the Sudan in 1898. But by then both Bismarck and Ferry were dead, and the rapproachment policy died when Ferry lost office. As for Fashoda, while it was a confrontation, it led to Britain and France eventually discussing their rival colonial goals, and agreeing to support each other's sphere of influence – the first step to the Entente Cordiale between the countries in 1904.

Later life

Ferry remained an influential member of the moderate republican party, and directed the opposition to General Boulanger. After the resignation of Jules Grévy (2 December 1887), he was a candidate for the presidency of the republic, but the radicals refused to support him, and he withdrew in favour of Sadi Carnot.

On 10 December 1887, [2] a man named Aubertin attempted to assassinate Jules Ferry, who later died from complications attributed to this wound on 17 March 1893. The Chamber of Deputies gave him a state funeral.

Ferry's 1st Ministry, 23 September 1880 – 14 November 1881

Ferry's 2nd Ministry, 21 February 1883 – 6 April 1885


See also


  1. A History of Western Society, Seventh Edition. John Buckler, Bennett D. Hill, John P. McKay
  2. 1 2 3 Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Ferry, Jules François Camille"  . Encyclopedia Americana .
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ferry, Jules François Camille". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  4. Histoire de la Franc-Maçonnerie française (Pierre Chevallier - ed. Fayard - 1974)
  5. Dictionnaire universelle de la Franc-Maçonnerie (Marc de Jode, Monique Cara and Jean-Marc Cara, ed. Larousse, 2011)
  6. Encyclopédie de la Franc-Maçonnerie (ed. Livre de Poche, 2000)
  7. Dictionnaire de la Franc-Maçonnerie (Daniel Ligou, Presses Universitaires de France, 2006)
  8. Jules Ferry (Jean-Michel Gaillard, ed. Fayard, 1989)
  9. Denslow, William R. and Harry S. Truman, 10,000 Famous Freemasons from A to J Part One, p. 44, Kessinger Publishing, 2004
  10. 1998 report from Bernard Poignant, mayor of Quimper, to Lionel Jospin (in French)
  11. Ducloux 1913, p. 241.
  12. Burollet 1995, pp. 111–122.
  13. Burollet 1995.
  14. Tawadros 2011, p. 38.
  15. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 August 2006. Retrieved 16 May 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. https://www.persee.fr/doc/rhmc_0048-8003_1963_num_10_2_2848
  17. https://www.persee.fr/doc/rhmc_0048-8003_1963_num_10_2_2848
  18. https://www.persee.fr/doc/rhmc_0048-8003_1963_num_10_2_2848
  19. https://www.persee.fr/doc/rhmc_0048-8003_1963_num_10_2_2848

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Political offices
Preceded by
Agénor Bardoux
Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
Succeeded by
Paul Bert
Preceded by
Charles de Freycinet
Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by
Léon Gambetta
Preceded by
Paul Bert
Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
Succeeded by
Jules Duvaux
Preceded by
Armand Fallières
Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by
Henri Brisson
Preceded by
Jules Duvaux
Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
Succeeded by
Armand Fallières
Preceded by
Paul-Armand Challemel-Lacour
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Charles de Freycinet
Preceded by
Philippe Le Royer
President of the Senate
Succeeded by
Paul-Armand Challemel-Lacour