Georges Clemenceau

1841-1929
Portrait of Georges Clémenceau. Source: www.netmarine.net

 

Born on the 28th September 1841 in Mouilleron-en-Pareds (Vendée), Georges Clémenceau, after a typical Vendeen childhood, followed in his father's footsteps to become a doctor, studying first in Nantes then in Paris in 1865. He had already begun to show a fledgling interest in politics in the Latin Quarter. At 24, he became a doctor of medicine and subsequently left for the United States to study the American Constitution. He stayed there for five years where he married. On returning to France, he participated in the Parisian uprising against the imperial regime. Elected mayor of Montmartre at thirty years old, followed by a post as deputy for the Seine region, he also held office as a Parisian city councillor, as president of the city council in 1875, and as deputy of the Var region in 1880.

The Tiger

Clémenceau, who was head of the extreme radical left from 1876, violently opposed the colonial politics of Jules Ferry and was responsible for the fall of several governments, hence his nickname of ?Tiger?. Defeated in the elections of 1893, he subsequently returned to his first love, writing, and in particular, journalism. He worked on various newspapers including the Aurore in which he was responsible for publishing the article ?J'accuse? written by Emile Zola in favour of Dreyfus.

Elected senator of the Var region in 1902, he was to become Minister for Interior Affairs followed by President of the City Council from 1906 to 1909. He created the Ministry for Work and passed laws on weekly rest days, the 10-hour working day(!), worker retirement?he also harshly repressed strike action, however. When he was voted out of office, he joined the opposition and founded a new newspaper: ''The Free Man'' which became ''The Chained Man'' in 1914 due to censorship.

The father of victory

On the 20th November 1917, Poincaré appointed him as President of the City Council once again. He took some unpopular measures, however he made himself popular by fighting in the trenches, cane in hand (at 76 years old!). He completely trusted Foch's judgement, against the advice of his deputies. After the Armistice, acting as Chairman of the Peace Conference, he showed himself to be unmoveable with Germany. He was never completely satisfied with the treaty however, finding fault within it. Clémenceau ran as candidate for the President of the Republic in 1920, but was beaten by Deschanel. He then retired to his little fisherman's house in Saint Vincent sur Jard in the Vendée, where he continued to write, voicing his dismay at the rearmament of Germany. He passed away on the 24th November 1929, at his home in rue Franklin in Paris.