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HIST 276: France Since 1871
- Centralized State and Republic
Despite various attempts at reform, France remains the most centralized state in Europe. The organization of the country around the Parisian center was originally a consequence of the French Revolution, which gave birth to the departmental regions. These regions have retained an oppositional relationship towards the metropolitan center. In 1875, an enduring republic was formed despite the competing claims of the Comte de Chambord and the Orleanists. This republic owed its founding largely to support from workers and peasants in the various non-Parisian departments.
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France Since 1871
HIST 276 - Lecture 3 - Centralized State and Republic
Chapter 1. Paris: The Importance of the Capital in a Centralized State [00:00:00]
Professor John Merriman: Okay, today I want to do two things. I’m going to talk about the centralization of the French State and the question of why Paris — and that’s kind of fun to talk about — and the role of Paris in centralization, and the particular role of Paris in French economic, political, social and cultural life. And, then, in the last twenty minutes I’ll talk about why this sort of strange man, the former “miracle baby,” as he was called after his birth, the Comte de Chambord, did not become King of France, Henri V, and why France ended up a republic, and how; and, that has something to do with the centralization of the French State. Now, anyone who’s ever spent any time in France at all, who’s ever waited in line in a prefecture in Privas, or Agens, or Paris, God forbid, we wait for hours, will realize that the role of Paris and the role of the centralization of the French state is unique in — at least in Western European history, over the long run, and it still is.
Despite all of the — Mitterrand’s plans for decentralization, and the creation of regional councils, basically France remains the most centralized state in Western Europe, and the role of Paris in French life does not have an equivalent in other European countries. Now, let me think about that; let’s think out loud about that other statement. Think of other countries. In Spain, obviously Madrid, Madrid is the capital but Barcelona is terribly, terribly important, and was always a much more economically important city than the kind of command economy that was Madrid. Or, if you think of Berlin, you think of Germany, a unified Germany or in the Federal Republic before German unification, Berlin was terribly important. It is now again the capital but Berlin is balanced off by Munich and by Frankfurt in some important ways.
So, if you take a little country like Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow are two major cities. Or, if you take England, for example, people came to care in very major ways what people in Manchester thought because Manchester becomes the capital essentially of the north and the economic center of production. Or, if you take Russia, Moscow was always the religious core. Nicholas II just hated Moscow, it represented all those values that he thought were Russian, but St. Petersburg, Petrograd — Leningrad became a major, major city and because of the residence of the czar that’s where it was. Or, if you take almost anywhere else — the Austro-Hungarian Empire, before it broke up, Vienna was now this over-sized capital that — in a very, very small country, but it was balanced off by Budapest. In Italy, obviously, Milan and Turin were terribly important cities, and Rome, which is just sort of a sleepy, ecclesiastical capital full of tourists and clergy. But France is unique.
The role of Paris in French life is unique and that has been accentuated over the centuries, particularly the last century and a half, by some of the things that I want to talk about. In 1947, about, there was a book called Paris and the French Desert that looked at this sort of unusual thing, that where else but in France would, then, ninety-seven percent of the population be considered provincials in a very derogatory, a very pejorative sense, and Paris would be the place that all of the Rastignacs of France would try to go, because of the economic, political, social and cultural domination of the capital. A Rastignac was — it was before this course, but was the central figure, or one of them, in Balzac’s novel Old Goriot, Père Goriot, and he’s a sort of a somewhat poor noble from the Charente in the west of France who’s going to hit the big time, and wants to sleep with all the right ladies and become wealthy without doing any work, and he became sort of a symbol for this aggressive, provincial, in this case a sort of poor noble who has to get to Paris to make the big time, because the big time could only be there.
Now, I mean in almost any domain you can think of — one exception, this is not the time for me to talk about it, though I would love to do that, is gastronomy, because although Lyon is considered — Lyon is not the capital of any region, it was the second most important city in France, and still is, even though it’s slightly smaller now than Marseille, if you just count the city. Lyon became the capital of French gastronomy and not Paris; but, that’s almost the exception. And, one of the reasons why the role of the dominance of Paris is so great is precisely because of the centralization of the French state. In my memory, as a young guy hanging out and drinking a cheap wine in Paris when I was doing my thesis, you could only hear on the news people with Parisian accents, giving the news — only.
And then, before the news they had this little thing they called Actualité Régionale, where if you lived in Auvergne there would be — you would have a fifteen minute program talking about local events and you might have somebody who had an Auvergnat accent; or, if you lived in Marseille or in Nice you might have somebody with a southern accent giving the news about local schools, and having pictures of young women presenting flowers to some corrupt politician, and it would be like that. But, basically, the news was always given by people with a northern accent, either a Loire Valley accent, and they’re very proud, they think they speak the best French, but a Parisian accent.
But, that’s all changed, but the reality of the situation, that Paris is overly dominant, has not changed at all. And Balzac, to go back to Balzac, he put it the way Parisians view the provinces, and this is still the case. He described provincials as being dominated by routine and monotony in their small towns, that they’re all the same, he wrote, which is obviously not the case. He says, “provincials are like mold, burrowing in their little plots, or frogs at the bottom of their puddles, engaged in sordid, trivial rivalries, moved by petty jealousies, avarice and material interests. Since they do not think about the things that are serious, they get excited by tiny things.” Now, you used to have — there was a very famous cover of The New Yorker in which you had a map of the United States as seen from New York, and where you had New York, and then you had this sort of large ditch that finally — then, Los Angeles was half a football throw away, and everything in the middle was just sort of desert, basically.
And, certainly, the way that provincial people — including myself, and we’re legally residents of France, and we live in Ardeche and I’m proud of it — view Parisians is often with that same kind of contempt that the Parisians look at us. And, I mean, for example in France — and if this ever disappears I’m going to be one unhappy guy — the license plates, the last numbers of the license plate tells you where people are from. So, if you have a sixty-one you’re from the Ain, and if you have a sixty-two you’re from the Pas-de-Calais, or if you have a sixty-three you’re from the Puy-de-Dôme. And you can amuse yourself as you’re driving along, saying, “well, that guy from Châteauroux is off to visit his cousin in Besançon.” That’s the way I get by driving long rides; but, during the vacation seasons in July and August, when all of us down here are inundated with tourists, when people see those seventy-fives, which is the license plate for Paris or — and this is not on the test — or, if they see seventy-seven, seventy-eights, ninety-one, ninety-two, ninety-three, ninety-four, ninety-five, they know it’s Paris, in the Paris region, and they know that there’ll be certain expectations, often condescending expectations, that will be in the way that Parisians and people from the la region parisienne present themselves vis-à-vis we poor struggling frogs in our little ponds.
Now, that has changed, for sure; but, the centralization of the French government and the domination of Paris over the life of the nation is very difficult to change, over a long period of time. Now, and I guess one of the key kind of indicators of what’s going on in terms of economics, the dominance of the Paris region in terms of the economy, is that Lyon, which was always France’s second city, first in gastronomy, as I said earlier, that the Bank of Lyon, the Crédit Lyonnais, that is, the Lyon Bank, in the 1860s moves its headquarters to Paris and not in Lyon, as if it’s sort of given up. And, people, for example, who follow the Lyon opera always say, “well, our opera is fine but it’s nothing, of course, like Paris, where all the resources are poured into Paris.” How did it get this way?
Chapter 2. Centralization over Centuries: France from 1500 to Present [00:09:59]
I mean, just thinking over the long run, how did France end up so centralized? All states centralized, became larger and centralized their ability to extract resources from their population. If you take Europe in 1500, the year 1500, there were about 1500 territorial states and they ranged from big, consolidated monarchies like Spain and England and France to bishoprics such as Trier, in Germany, that were hardly bigger than the gardens of the archbishops who ran them. But, over a long period of time, state-making is one of the essential processes in European history, the creational of more powerful monarchical states and eventually of national states with a variety of political outcomes — the unification of Italy, to the extent Italy’s ever been unified, the unification of Germany in 1871, and Italy in the 1850s and ’60s.
But, in the case of France, if you go to the sixteenth century, if you go to these chateaux around the Loire, and you see all of the beautiful furniture that’s been made by skilled artisans, one you always see is you see this big case with handles on it, and they were — that’s where the king’s documents and the Minister — well, le Garde des Sceaux, the Chief Financial Officer and Justice Officer, where all their papers were, because the monarchy really didn’t have a capital. The monarchy was wherever the king was. And it’s in the sixteenth century that Paris becomes the capital. Paris is not in the middle of France, as you can clearly see, but you’re not going to have a capital in Montluçon or something like that. And, so, you have the kings there; and the whole process of absolutism, which you don’t have to know about. But, it’s in the seventeenth century that European rulers expand their power vis-à-vis their enemies, land-grabbing — that’s how France ends up with Alsace — and, as I said before, increasing their ability to extract resources, that is to take money from very ordinary people.
And, so, Louis XIV, who liked to call himself the Sun God, a modest megalomaniac, he sends out officials into the provinces to enforce his will, and these dudes are called intendents — but that doesn’t matter, you don’t have to remember that. But, they are out there and they go through a process of negotiation with local elites, with nobles and with law courts; but, in the end, the only thing that matters is that this increases the power of the state, that it’s during the period of absolute monarchy that armies become enormous. And, if you travel around France, you’ll see all the fortifications of Vauban, who was a military genius, Vauban, and fortresses, Papillion, and along the Pyrénées there and up in Lille; and up along here you’ll see these fabulous fortresses, and these fortresses had to be maintained by people who were going to test the guns, the canons, to make sure they worked, and to be there all the time; and, thus you have this enormous increase in standing armies.
Now, and then here comes the French Revolution, and what does the French Revolution want to do? Well, it wants to rationalize the administration of France — it wants to do other things, too, but that’s not this course. And, so, instead of having where before you had something like one-hundred tolls you had to pay on the Loire River, if you’re transporting some goods, they eliminate all those tolls, they try to create uniformed weights and measures, and that’ll take one-hundred years before that really works. But, what they do is they increase the power of the center, of the government. And, in order — because their arch-enemies are the nobles, who are high-tailing it toward Germany, and toward England and everywhere else, and trying to launch wars against the revolution — what they say is, “we will undercut the authority of the church and the nobles in the provinces by creating what they call departments, départements.”
And, so, they create the departments that become part of this administrative system, so that every department — and this sounds boring but it’s actually interesting — every département in France, most of them are named after rivers, and some after mountains or proximity to the sea, will have the same officials, and that these strings that reach out into now ninety-five departments in France, including Corsica, all lead to Paris. And, that where someone once said that Gaul was divided into three parts, now what happens is people living in any region in France, the three parts that they see are the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of War, and the Ministry of the Interior. So, you have these départements, and these are created in 1790, and they still exist. The only big change came in 1960 when they consolidated the ones around Paris, because of the growth of the Paris region, as you can see there.
So, if you take number one — but we don’t have to go through them all and I assure you we won’t — if you take number one, the Ain, a-i-n, it’s named after a river; or if you take number two, the Aisne, a-i-s-n-e, it’s named after a river; and how many hundreds of thousands of people died along there in World War One; or, you take number three, the same thing, Allier. They’re named after rivers and they don’t all — they’re not all the same size. The biggest physically is Dordogne, which has probably grown because so many British live there, something like 8,000 full-time residents. I’m pointing toward the Charonne, that doesn’t do any good, but anyway — because, when I get close sometimes I can’t see. And, then, the smallest is the Pyrénées-Orientales; Roussillon, which is French Catalonia. That doesn’t matter.
The point is that the revolution, in order to defeat its enemies, further centralizes the state, and then along comes the little corporal, the little general, the little megalomaniac, Napoleon, N One. And, he of course pushes centralization even further, where he liked to brag — it’s one of these famous lines you find in textbooks, but — that he could look at his watch and see what all the kids in the lycées that he’d created, the high schools, were studying at any one time. And he makes state centralization even more important. And, then, in the Second Empire, 1852/1870, his nephew, who some wag once called the hat without the head, Napoleon III, what he does is he uses centralization as a tool of the state to consolidate his own power and that of the Empire, and that is to undercut the residual influence of the nobility.
If you wanted something, and this is still true in France today, it doesn’t do any good to go to the local notable, like you did in the eighteenth century and say, “hey, monsieur, the little guy, it would be great if we had a school.” It doesn’t do any good at all, and he realizes that. And, so, the patronage of the Empire is that he can provide railroads, he can provide money for things, and that further centralizes the state. And, so, you’ve got these processes in the nineteenth century, economic processes that you find all over Europe that consolidate the power of the French State, centralized in Paris. Railroads is a good example — and sometimes I’ll throw out examples, you’re not responsible for them, it’s just kind of hopefully interesting for you to think about.
If you think of two towns down here, Brive, b-r-i-v-e, famous for its rugby, and Tulle, t-u-l-l-e, which is a capital. I mentioned it the first day because that’s where lots of people were hung. They were the same size in the 1850s, but Brive gets the railroad and not Tulle, the railroad from Paris. And, so, that centralization is — also there are mountains there, it’s easier to build in Brive. But, the state can make or break regions with their economic patronage. And one of the reasons why France ends up with a republic, and not a monarchy, is because these prefects who represent the Republic can go into conservative regions and say, “hey, we didn’t really like the way the elections came out last time; your municipal council, uh-uh-uh, a lot of monarchists there. You would like a bridge across your river, wouldn’t you?” And that was the case in our village because there wasn’t a bridge across the river, and there was a little boat would take people across this awesome, swirling, dangerous river. And, you want your bridge, well, let’s see how the elections go next time.
The State can provide these services. And the evolution of banking in the nineteenth century further consolidates power. There was sort of an economic takeoff in the 1850s and ’60s in Paris because the State banks are in Paris, the State financial institutions are in Paris, and they can make or break investment in all these places. Now, the railroad, even in our day, maybe not in your day but in — well, yes, still in your day. I was on the TGV the third day it opened which was — it opened on September twenty-eighth, 1981, and I was there on September thirtieth, taking a trip to Lyon, though it only went fast when it really got to a certain point here. Now, but the railroads, if you look at the map of the railroads in France, at any time you want including now, all roads lead — all tracks lead to Paris. So, for example, now if you want to go from — say you’re in Lyon and you want to go to Bordeaux, you’re going to be broke. The reason — unless you can take about eight hours to do it — because, the way you’re going to do it is you’re going to take a train that goes one hour and fifty-eight minutes to Paris, and then you’re going to take another train that zips down here in about four hours to Bordeaux, but you’re paying by kilometer. So, it’s going to be terribly expensive.
When I was commuting between Limoges and Paris, that was still a long trip then, there was no TGV; it was about four hours. And, when I once took the train over to Poitiers, it took three hours, because if you go across the lines it’s not good. Now, how do trains — ? An obvious reason how trains reinforce the predominance of Paris. Take my business, the teaching profession, is that the domination of Paris is such that you have this phenomenon in France, which they still call it that — they call it turbo-prof; and a turbo train was a fast train before the TGV, the first ones went to Normandy to carry the wealthy Parisians to Dorvillier [ph?]. And a turbo-prof is somebody who lives in Paris, and whose dream is to teach at Paris, particularly at Paris I. French universities are named very poetically, Paris I, II, III, IV, V, VI, all the way through XIV, which is a real hole, or XIII is probably the worst. But, the turbo-prof will be somebody who is assigned to Reims, and who takes the train there every day, or to Tours; but to Lyon also since this is only two hours, this is four-hundred kilometers.
Two hours, you can be on a damn train to New York City and you’ll be lucky if you get eighty miles in two hours, or an hour and fifty minutes. So, you’ve got people who live in Lyon who teach in Paris; or, friends of mine that teach in Lille and live in Paris — or, I teach in Rouen frequently — who live in Paris in teach in Rouen. Now, this is bad because what it does is sort of sucks local university life out, and it means that this phenomenon of the turbo-prof has been accentuated by the fast train — the fast train, by the way I keep referring to it, is called the TGV, the Train à Grand Vitesse, because ça roule, it goes fast. So, the nineteenth century accentuates all of this, and the result is that still by 1947 when Gravier wrote this book called Paris and the French Desert — if you look at an encyclopedia, the definition of provincial, somebody who’s provincial, was still provincial, someone who is gauche, and that’s not politics, who’s kind of a bumpkin, kind of a pluke, kind of a day late and a dollar short, who lacks the distinction — I’m reading this right out of the Larousse dictionary.
For example, to have — to give the impression of being provincial with — like you just arrived at the train from Brittany in Gare Montparnasse, and you’re just so totally out of it you can hardly find a place to buy crêpes, and then that’s all you want to do, and you’re sort of clueless. And, so, the departments, along with the railroads and along with better roads also, and the banking network, increases the centralization of the French State. And, I can remember, this is about twenty years ago, but there was big demonstrations from people in Brittany because of — there’s always these boats crashing ashore, and oil slicks all over the Breton coast; or, people that produce artichokes, the price of artichokes, because of the méventes, the prices are so low there that they’re always rushing down to the prefecture and dumping artichokes in the prefecture and protesting.
And, I remember there’s one amazing photo from the Place de la Concord, which is a big place in Paris, a big square, where you’ve got these Breton mayors who are wearing their sashes, their tricolor sashes, red, white and blue, and the police are using — the CRS, which are the military police; they’re a little less vicious than they used to be, but I was in a demonstration against Sarkozy in mid-May, and the police were, the CRS, which is sort of carte blanche now, were fairly aggressive. But, anyway, these police were wrestling to the ground these mayors who were protesting, using their tri-color sashes, threatening to strangle them with their own sashes of their authority. Only in France would this be possible. And, so, every government that comes to power, they say, well we’re going to do something about this. De Gaulle said let — no he didn’t really say that, it was Mao — but, “let the hundreds of thousands of flowers bloom.”
But De Gaulle, who we’ll talk about later, De Gaulle said, how in the hell can you run a state in which there are four-hundred and forty different kinds of cheese? There are a lot more than that. And he believed that it was insidious, in order to have these sort of regional cultures. I’ll give you an example. It was illegal — it’s still illegal in France to name a baby a name that is not officially approved, absolutely — or even to adopt one. There was a famous case in the 1970s or ’80s, there was a family called Trognon, and a trognon is a cigarette butt, and when they tried to adopt a baby, it would be called, let’s say Jean-Philippe Trognon, they said, “oh, no, that baby would be damaged by having such a last name; you don’t have the right to adopt this baby.” And there were cases where Bretons tried to name their children Breton names and the French State said, uh-uh, pas possible, because it wasn’t officially French.
Well, De Gaulle has been dead for a very long time, and there has been progress, but what has not changed is still the power in Paris, in these ministries, to dictate the life of schools, of almost everything else. And a lot of the strikes that you see in high schools and in — I better get to my lecture, but — you see in high schools and even in middle schools, have to do with the State, somebody saying, well we’re going to take away two-hundred teachers in your department, or we’re going to maintain a curriculum that doesn’t seem to make any sense. My son, when he was in Seconde, which is the first year of French high school, they were out blocking traffic until some angry driver rolled over the foot of a protestor and then everybody kind of went off and ate pizza. But, these were reactions against what the State was trying to do. Or, in the 1980s, when there were huge demonstrations by people favoring the Catholic Church as an institution vis-à-vis education, it was the same thing, with reacting against the kind of dictates or dictates coming down from Paris. And when Gambetta, whom you can read about, whom I mentioned the other day, when he said, “clericalism, there’s the enemy”; and, then you had this sort of campaign against the church, particularly the teaching aspect of the church that’s fascinating, which I’ll talk about later.
So, France ends up like that. Many people saw themselves as administrés, that is, people who were administered, who are governed, but in the sense of having people passing papers back and forth, and having to sign every damn thing you could ever imagine — it’s just unbelievable — before they ever thought of themselves as being citizens. And, certainly there is no other country in the post-communist world in which so many people work for the state. Now, having said that, let me just say as an addendum — and this is my opinion, you could ignore it — that things work in France. And, it used to be that twenty or thirty years ago you’d say nothing in France works, and everything works in the U.S, and now it’s just the opposite, totally the opposite. And, if you’re going to be sick, and unless you’re wealthy, you’re better off being sick in France than you are here, because the system really works and there are abuses, but the Social Security System which encompasses more than just what we mean by Social Security, the secu, which involves healthcare, is one of those things that really works, as annoying as the whole structure, and the taxes and all of that.
And, of course, the challenge — so this is the latter part of the course — is what do you do with this and Europe? Europe, which is going to erase these license plates and are going to take away part of what it means to live in France. And that’s why I would’ve voted against the Constitution, I encouraged people to vote against the Constitution, and I know almost nobody, except professors in Paris and Lyon, who are for that Constitution that was defeated a year ago May twenty-ninth — so, there. Anyway, now, how did this all happen that given the fact in February of 1870 you had a Monarchist dominated Assembly elected in which rural regions, particularly, but not necessarily just Brittany and Normandy and Auvergne — these are big, still Catholic regions, as we’ll see later, that they wanted the restoration of a monarchy. Why does that not happen?
Chapter 3. Comte de Chambord: The “Miracle Baby” [00:29:01]
How does this country end up being a Republic, the Third Republic, which has been castigated or been denounced because it seemed to fumble along? But, it was the longest republic and it lasts from, depending on when you start it — and you can read about that — whether you start it in 1875 or 1877, or when there really was a Republic, the early ’80s — it lasts until May, June 1940. So, how did all that happen? Now, here we move into a history that is the kind of old style history. It’s the story of decisions taken by individual people. There was a pretender to the throne, and this man was — his life got off to an interesting start. He was dubbed the “miracle baby,” for reasons that I will explain. The Comte de Chambord was a Bourbon, he was part of the Royal Family of — that was Louis XIV, and Louis XVI, and in 1820 his father was assassinated by a Liberal, a man called Louvel, and he’s at the opera, he gets kind of bored and he walks out, they leave the opera, and this guy Louvel comes up and he stabs, puts a knife right through him. And, it was not just a random act, he wanted to extinguish this royal line. And the Bourbons had been restored in 1815 to 1830. Again, this your old style history.
So, France goes into great mourning. The church bells ring very, very slowly, all over the place, because there is — the heir to the French throne is dead. And there’s a huge campaign against the Liberals, because of that. And then, lo and behold it turns out that his widow, to whom he confessed various infidelities before expiring, was pregnant; indeed, he was the father. They didn’t run DNA tests or anything, but he was the father. And as France held its breath, because they wanted a boy, this miracle baby was born, l’enfant du miracle. And the unfortunate thing is that he was sort of a sad sack,un pauvre type. It’s tough being the pretender to the throne, the would-be Henri V, and your name recognition is such that in Royalist towns in the West of France, like Nantes, that somebody in the middle of the night would scribble graffiti, Long Live Henri V, and that people would get together in church on January twenty-first, the date that Louis XVI was executed, and they would pray for the restoration of the Bourbon throne.
But, there’s also another family of pretenders, and that is the Orleanists, the Orléanists, but Orleanists — I just wrote it there in English. And these people — this is kind of boring — but these people were in government between 1830 and 1848, and King Louis-Philippe, who was chased from the throne in February of 1848, was seen as progressive, he was seen as the bourgeois monarch but he was perfectly noble. He’d gone to Kentucky and drunk lots of Bourbon once, he carried an umbrella, that sort of middle class symbol of protection, and he is chased from the throne in 1848. But, he’d helped modernize the economy, and he did not restore the church to its old power. And the Orleanists were extremely clever, where Chambord was thick as a brick, and spent most of his time telling anti-Semitic jokes and playing cards with his cronies in the Austrian capital, or mountains near Vienna — or maybe it was near Salzburg, I guess it was near Salzburg, the Orleanists had a bunch of sons of Louis-Philippe who were pretty clever. One of them, by the way, just about ten years ago, the Orleanist family suffered kind of an embarrassing reversal when one of the Orleanists, sort of the third in line if there was ever an Orleanist restoration of the throne, was arrested for burglary, as being an accessory for burglary in the Pyrénées-Orientales.
But, anyway, so when France collapsed after the war, and when the Commune comes along, it seems to Royalists, that is, the people who wanted a restoration of the monarchy, that their ship had come in. So what’s going to happen? Now, it’s easy to make fun of Chambord, who was a pauvre type, a sad sack, in many ways. But, the history of Royalism is not — it goes beyond that, and there was a strong Royalist movement, as I’ve already suggested, and it wasn’t just people looking backwards. Indeed, he said in his various pronouncements written for him by someone else that he didn’t want to be a king of the old regime, he did not want to turn the clock back to 1788, and that you could combine a modernity with monarchy. But, there was never any doubt that if he was restored to the throne that he would rule. And you have to imagine him after the commune, after the slaughter and the buildings are still burning, or at least smoldering, that he comes to Paris. And he’d never, rather like Louis-Napoleon, had hardly ever been in Paris before; he really hadn’t, I don’t think, ever.
So, he gets a carriage, he rents a carriage, and he goes around as a tourist, and he goes to Notre Dame, and he goes to Sainte-Chapelle, and he goes to pay homage at what they thought were the remains of his departed ancestors. And he had bone fragments of what they thought — or, at least, ashes of Marie Antoinette that he had with him in his room all the time. And, so, but it’s not — he has his entourage, he has his posse, he has his entourage. But, there also are these strong traditions of popular Royalism, of ordinary people and peasants who believe fervently in the monarchy. You found them in very odd places. There’s a strong tradition in Nîme, one of my favorite places, of popular Royalism, and also of course in Brittany — I keep giving Breton examples, I’ll pick other ones. So, and also because of the close association of the monarchy, and particularly the Legitimists, they’re called Legitimists, the Bourbons with the church — you’ve got fertile ground in areas that were still practicing religion, and we’ll talk more about that another time. He makes clear that he is going to restore the church to its, what he considered rightful place of privilege in France; and, possibly, he could benefit from the wave of religious revival that occurs in France in the 1870s.
Chapter 4. Royalism and Religious Revival [00:36:06]
Now, every time there’s a big time political disaster, from the point of view of the Catholic Church in France, it’s followed by a period of religious revival. After the French Revolution and Napoleon, and Napoleon makes peace with the church, there is, all of a sudden, a revival with people forming religious confraternities, of people paying to rebuild churches that have been vandalized during the Revolution, where they’re melting down church bells to use as cannon and things like that. The famous beautiful, fabulous, fabulous Monastery Church of Cluny is up near Mâcon, right here, had been destroyed and they tried to — they restored a couple of the remaining towers. And, as Chateaubriand said, the writer, “I don’t know what we must believe but we must believe in something,” and he gets down on his knees and prays. The same thing happens in the 1870s, there’s a revival of that old time religion, and it’s helped by various miracles and that kind of thing, but which I’ll talk about in the lecture on religion, which is kind of fun — it’s fun to do.
And, for example, when you go to any town or any village in France you will see what they call Mission Crosses. You’ll see these crosses that are stone crosses. The first ones were put up during the counter-reformation, or the Catholic reformation, in the seventeenth century, to try to win back areas that had become Protestant, that is, around Lyon. You find some that are put up, not surprisingly, after 1815, and the others are in the 1860s or the 1870s, and then never again. And these are big crosses that are put out, usually outside the villages. And, sometimes the crosses were destroyed during the revolutions — there was a huge one in Reims destroyed in the Revolution of 1830; but, most of these crosses, you can read them. This is an iconography of belief, and you can see the dates because they’ll put the date, like 1868. There’s about ten of them in our village. Some of them there are just little stumps left, but it’s kind of fun to walk around and look at them; but, here these proliferate wildly, and so there’ll be missions.
And, I remember when I went to Jesuit high school in Portland, Oregon we had to have these retreats or revivals, and the priest would — these missionaries would come in, and for three days thunder at you and then people would go off and go to Confession; and I didn’t have much to confess, I often wish I had had. But, in those days in high school — but anyway, there we go — you’d go and do these things, and it would be a big sort of public spectacle, a spectacle. And, so, Henri V could capitalize on that because there were lots of people that would be very happy to see him come back because of their belief. But, it’s hard, if you’re fourty-seven years, your job is a pretender to the throne, it’s difficult. He had a hard time getting around. He’d had a very royal accident, he’d broken his leg falling off a horse, and he had a terrible limp. And, also, because he just sat around and played cards all the time and ate and drank, he became quite a large man, and occasionally he would get up and go and look at the relics of Marie Antoinette, and then he’d go back and play cards for big stakes; he was a big-time gambler. Because he wasn’t a very good card player his posse took him for fairly sizable amounts of money. But, he viewed “hereditary monarchy” as the unique port of salvation — that’s a very religious image — that could save France. And he talked about strong authority underplaying judicious liberty, for example. And the key to his strength, besides the church, are the nobles.
Now, having a noble title didn’t do a hell of a lot of good after the French Revolution, and it’s easy to give this sort of stereotype of nobles as being just letting their nails grow very long and drinking nice wines and chasing each other’s mistresses and wives around the gardens, in Versailles or anywhere else. In fact, many nobles became chairmen of the boards of various companies, and they still had these atavisms, these throwbacks to the old regime where it was said near Toulouse that if the noble announced after mass that it’d be good to have a little firewood, that he could look out from the ponderosa and see peasants, obedient peasants carrying large stacks of wood up to the big house; and, maybe they’d get a little something on Easter from the big guy.
But, basically the State was winning the battle against the nobles, and you could still be the Count of anywhere, or the Duke of anywhere, and you can’t mobilize goodies to give to local people except on a very local scale. And the state is winning out. Now, Gambetta, who was a smart guy who dies very young, he said that France became a republic because most of the people wanted a republic and they didn’t want a monarchy, and that’s all there was to it. And the elections in the early 1880s would certainly make this clear. Now, there was even a group of nobles who believed that they could be elected, that if you had an election people would actually vote to restore the monarchy. These were kind of the popular royalists of places like Nîmes. By the way, I should write these things down, Nîme. See, in the old regime there would’ve been an “s” there, and that’s why you’ve got this little chapeau up there. Anyway, but that wasn’t going to happen because most people in France ultimately did not want a monarchy.
But, what about old Chambord? When disaster came he was not ready. He issued poorly constructed manifestos in order to espouse, quote, “the freedom of the church as the prime condition of the peace of spirit and order in the world, and to protect the Pope with the honor of our country in the most incontestable cause of its glory among nations,” et cetera, et cetera. But, there was a big problem, that for all of his failings, human failings, and there were indeed many, and his intellectual limitations which were daunting, he was a man of faith and loyalty to his principles, for better or for worse, in this context. And, in 1789 when the Revolution came and then executed old Louis XVI, the white flag of the Bourbons, plain white flag of the Bourbons, sometimes with a fleur-de-lys on it, and all that, was replaced by the red, white and blue flag, the three colored flag, the tricolore, which was a combination of adding the color white for the Bourbons in 1789, to the red and blue that were the colors of Paris, of the city of Paris.
And, in the end he refused to compromise when his advisors say, look, we can pull this off if you agree to accept the three colored flag of revolution, of the French Revolution, which had killed his family members; and, he refused to do that. And they tried to make a deal with the Orleanists, and the Orleanists produced children, one after another. But Chambord had no children. And, so, upon his death who is going to follow him, if he’s going to be king? And, so, they proposed a deal, why don’t you be king until you croak — they didn’t put it quite like that — and then the Orleanists will take over with the red, white and blue flag? And he said, to his credit, “no, without my principles I am just” — as he put it rather indelicately and cruelly about himself — “a fat man with a big limp.” And he went back to his castle, anti-Semitic jokes and card-playing buddies.
Chapter 5. Birth of the Third Republic [00:44:31]
And, so, France lurched into a period called The Moral Order, the Republic of the Moral Order. You can read the details of this, which are not fascinating, but we’ll get through this and move onto more interesting things.
In 1875 there’s an amendment to the Constitution that essentially — voted by one vote, or approved by one vote, by the Assembly — that essentially transforms France into a Republic. In 1877 a general called Mac-Mahon, who had fought in the 1870/71 war — you may think that that’s not a very French name; there’s a strong Irish influence around Bordeaux. In fact, one of the great Bordeaux wines is called Lynge Barge, lynge as in lynch, which is an Irish name. But, Mac-Mahon was French, and that he is a general and becomes president of the State, and he tries in 1877, on the sixteenth of May, to overthrow the government, and basically a question of responsibility to whom — it’s not interesting — he fails to do that, and France in the early 1880s, you have this sort of rooting of the Republic, and a rooting of the Republic because most people in France wanted one. It seemed to be the regime that divided France least, what Gambetta called thenouvelles couches, or the new social strata, the new social strata, the middle classes, the petty bourgeois.
Workers obviously didn’t want a monarchy; but, in many areas of France, particularly in the south, lots of peasants did want a republic, and France becomes a republic. And, this republic is strongly identified with Paris, and if, because of the fear of Caesarism, the fear of another Napoleon, or another Robespierre before that, or another Napoleon III, they create executive authority that’s extremely weak. Power is in the Chamber of Deputies, in the Assembly, and the President is a convener; he tries to get people to do the right things, and it’s a political club. They all tutoyer each other, even if they hate each other’s politics, and they call each other by the informal name.
And, even though it’s decentralized, it does not mean that the State is not strong, and that the State will not be making decisions that will affect the lives of ordinary people. And the most controversial of those decisions will ultimately be in 1905 — if you exclude going to war and getting all these millions of people killed — was the separation of church and state. And, that is the work of a strongly centralized government, centered in Paris, as I’ve said over and over again, but imposing its will, for better or for worse, on the provinces; and, in doing so, following train tracks, following the roads, following these centralized sort of vines, going out from Paris into the provinces, as a way of exerting its will, its influence, and its patronage. And, in conclusion, the state becomes the new ways that patronage, economic, financial, cultural, political, is dispensed. It replaces the nobility, the local nobles, it replaces the church, and it replaces the monarchy that most people in France did not want. Next time let’s talk about identity, and let’s talk about one of my favorite topics, the role of the schools in towns and in villages. See ya.
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