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Charles Louis de Saulces de Freycinet

Charles Louis de Saulces de Freycinet (November 14, 1828 - May 14, 1923), French statesman, was born at Foix[?].

He was educated at the École Polytechnique, and entered the government service as a mining engineer. In 1858 he was appointed traffic manager to the Compagnie de chemins de fer du Midi, a post in which he gave proof of his remarkable talent for organization, and in 1862 returned to the engineering service(in which he attained in 1886 the rank of inspector-general).

He was sent on a number of special scientific missions, among which may be mentioned one to England, on which he wrote a notable Mémoire sur le travail des femmes et des enfants dans les manufactures de l'Angleterre (1867).

On the establishment of the Third Republic in September 1870, he offered his services to Gambetta, was appointed prefect of the department of Tarn-et-Garronne, and in October became chief of the military cabinet. It was mainly his powers of organization that enabled Gambetta to raise army after army to oppose the invading Germans. He showed himself a strategist of no mean order; 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 Orleans, and he was responsible for the campaign in the east, which ended in the destruction of Bourbaki's army.

In 1871 he published a defence of his administration under the title of La Guerre en province pendant le siege de Paris. He entered the Senate in 1876 as a follower of Gambetta, and in December 1877 became minister of public works in the Dufaure cabinet. He carried 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 Waddington, whom he succeeded in December 1879 as president of the council and minister for foreign affairs. He passed an amnesty for the Communists, but in attempting to steer a middle course on the question of the religious associations, lost the support of Gambetta, and resigned in September 1880.

In January 1882 he again became president of the council and minister for foreign affairs. His refusal to join England 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 the Brisson cabinet, and retained that post when, in January 1886, he succeeded to the premiership.

He came into power with an ambitious programme of internal reform; but except that he settled the question of the exiled pretenders, his successes were won 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 December 3 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 M. Sadi Carnot.

In April 1888 he became minister of war in the Floquet 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 Tirard, his own fourth ministry (March 1890-February 1892), and the Loubet and Ribot ministries. To him were due the introduction of the three-years' service and the establishment of a general staff, a supreme council of war, and the army commands. 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 more became minister of war in the Dupuy cabinet, but resigned office on May 6, 1899.

He has published, besides the works already mentioned:

  • Traité de mécanique rationnelle (1858)
  • De l'analyse infinitesimale (1860, revised ed., 1881)
  • Des pentes économiques en chemin defer (1861)
  • Emploi des eaux d'égout en agriculture (1869)
  • Principes de l'assainissement des villes (1870)
  • Traité d'assainissement industriel (1870)
  • Essai sur la philosophie des sciences (1896)
  • La Question d'Egypte (1905)
  • some remarkable Pensées contributed to the Contemporain under the pseudonym of "Alceste."

In 1882 he was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences, and in 1890 to the French Academy in succession to Émile Augier.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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