The Boulangist Movement 1888
Source: Le General Boulanger, depute du Nord Chef du Parti National. Paris, [n.d. 1888] [n.p.];
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2009.
As for me, more a patriot than a soldier, I ardently wish for the maintenance of the peace, so necessary for the march of progress and the happiness of my country. It is for this that, disdaining certain attacks and strong in my feeling of duty, I tirelessly pursue the preparation for war, the sole guarantee of lasting peace.
I summarize, messieurs: for a nation there are two kinds of peace: The peace we ask for and the peace we impose through a firm and dignified attitude. The latter is the only that suits you and I thank you, educators of this proud youth, I thank you, valiant young men for assisting the government in assuring for France its benefits.
(Speech by General Boulanger at the Gymnastic societies of France, October 1886.)
Universal suffrage has just responded with a grandiose acclamation to the appeal of an odiously persecuted, cowardly slandered honest man. His sovereign voice has just paid off the long delayed debt of reprisals that he owed the politicians who were stirred up against one of the must illustrious figures of our army. The general, deputy from the Nord, made his triumphal, entry into the Palais Bourbon escorted not only by the 400,000 votes he obtained in various elections, but the good wishes of all patriots. The latter bravely supported him without allowing themselves to be intimidated by the oligarchy that governs us. But let us not be ungrateful, and let us recognize that his enemies did what needed to be done to ensure his success.
It is now necessary that the example given by the voters of the Aisne, the Dordogne, and the Nord be faithfully followed from one end of the territory to the other. It is necessary that this patriotic agitation grow without let up until the country has once again taken ownership of itself. This moment is near. Significant symptoms announce virile resolutions in the heart of the nation. Will the unrepresentative parliament finally understand that all that is left to it is to retire from the stage?
The noble and sympathetic face of General Boulanger is one of those we don’t forget after having seen it. The portrait published in this biography faithfully traces its delicate and expressive lines. Many today know this energetic and distinguished physiognomy, with its ever mobile gaze, the overall effect of which so easily seduces. His size is a bit over the average, and this robust Breton body is full of vigor and activity.
His lively intelligence and great capacity for work early on rendered him precious to his hierarchical chiefs. To his brilliant qualities, his intelligence joins marvelous faculties for organization and administration, which we were convinced of during his too brief passage at the ministry of War. The taste for serious studies united with the most amiable gifts is the privilege of elite natures. General Boulanger’s comrades have always found in the hardworking officer the wide awake spirit, full of enthusiasm and good humor that neither the harsh tests of war nor the foolish vexations of this last period have altered.
He who the masses love to call “the brave general,” two words naively joined which mean affability, bravery, and honesty, is also an accomplished gentleman [in English in the original] of great distinction and an irreproachable correctness. We should add that this infantry general is a brilliant horseman, always ready to charge the enemy, both at the head of a squadron and at the head of a battalion of soldiers of the line. What distinguishes him from many others is that in order to stop him in his tracks it would suffice to place before him a group of disarmed men, of women and children. He is not a member of the school of those who massacre. It is for this that we love him deeply and bow down low before him.
At the moment when a brutal decree has just retired the young division leader who, despite it all, remains the dearest hope of the fatherland, an immense protest is rising from the entire country, foiling the perfidious calculations of his persecutors and uniting all French hearts around the patriotic general.
Georges-Ernest-Jean-Marie Boulanger, born in Rennes April 29, 1837 entered [the military academy at] St Cyr January 15, 1855. Among his classmates were Generals Begin, Bichot, Rozier du Linage, Caillard and Faverot. Upon leaving the school he was named Sub-Lieutenant of the First Regiment of Algerian Tirailleurs in Blidah (October 1, 1856). This was a good setting for a beginner. This regiment had been gloriously decimated the previous year in Crimea on the battlefields of Alma, Inkerman, Chernaia, and Balaclava. The young sub-lieutenant arrived in Blidah at the right moment to receive his baptism of fire. At the time Marshal Randon was in command of the expedition to greater Kabylia. He sent the First Regiment of Tirailleurs to attack the almost inaccessible crests of Djurjura, which lasted from July 10-15, 1857. Sub-Lieutenant Boulanger comported himself bravely, and he has never since forgotten those horrible nocturnal climbs that the vigilance of the kabyles made so fearsome for our soldiers. When Marshal Randon left his command he addressed warm congratulations in his order of the day to the First Regiment of Algerian Tirailleurs.
In 1859 Sub-Lieutenant Boulanger took part in the Italian Campaign. His regiment participated in the fierce combat that took place June 3 of that year between Robeccheto and Turbigo. The young officer had his breast pierced by a ball. He was thought to be doomed. His lungs had been lightly wounded. He only survived by a miracle. His mother, who had rushed to his bedside, felt two joys: that of seeing her son saved and that of seeing the Croix d’Honneur shine on his chest. Returned to Africa in 1860, he was named Lieutenant in the selection of October 28 of that year.
The First Regiment of Algerian Tirailleurs took part in all events. A detachment that Lieutenant Boulanger was part of embarked for Cochin China at the beginning of the following year. It was composed of 300 men, two thirds of whom were never to see the homeland again. Barely arrived, our lieutenant received another wound at the battle of Tray-Dan (a lance blow to the left thigh). He was promoted to captain July 21, 1862 and after distinguishing himself in several affairs he brilliantly terminated that campaign February 15, 1863 by taking, at the head of his company, the fortress of Winh-Toi. On his return he had to cross the pestilential swamps near Binh-Long. Captain Boulanger was touched, like most of his soldiers, by the horrible fever, but he triumphed over the illness thanks to his robust constitution.
In 1866 he was detached to the school at St Cyr as captain-instructor. His severity became proverbial there, but his well-known spirit of impartiality made him loved by all the students. When he left St Cyr in 1870 he took with him the reputation of an outstanding instructor and the unanimous regrets of the school.
Named Battalion Chief July 17, 1870 he fought in the Paris campaign. Wounded for the third time, and seriously, at the battle of Champigny (November 30) twenty days after his promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel of the 114th of the line, he was carried in his men’s arms to the thickest of the fight, wanting, as he said, to see the end of so glorious a day.
Barely recovered from his wound, he returned to the fire January 27, 1871 to wear for the first time his epaulettes as colonel of the same regiment, and was wounded a fourth time. He was mentioned in the order of the day of the army, and named commander of the Legion of Honor.
The brave officer was 34.
After the conclusion of the peace, the commission for the revision of ranks, which believed it its duty to take at least one stripe from those who had earned four, believed that the 34 year old colonel could not be up to the level of his task. If Hoche and Marceau had appeared before these revisionists they would have been demoted to simple sergeants because of their youth. Colonel Boulanger had watered with his blood each of his rapid promotions, as well as the events to which he owed them. They doubtless invoked some old regulation, and the commission stuck in its routine rut re-assigned him as lieutenant colonel to the 109th regiment of the line.
His rank was only returned to him November 15, 1874. He was placed at the head of the 70th infantry regiment first, then the 133rd on garrison duty in Belley (Ain). It was there that his nomination to the rank of brigadier general found him (May 4, 1880). At his request, he obtained the command of a cavalry brigade in Valence (July 21, 1880) and peremptorily proved that the excellent infantry instructor was also a brilliant cavalryman.
August 13, 1882 General Boulanger was sent by France on a mission to the United States to represent the country at the festivities celebrating the centenary of American independence. We recall the warm reception given the head of the French mission upon his arrival in New York.
M. Barbou the author of an excellent military biography of General Boulanger cites in this regard the following lines excerpted from the Yorktown brochure, written by the Marquis de Rochambeau:
“In the United States the general personified the French army in the happiest of fashions. Men admired the subtlety of his appreciations and the breadth of his knowledge; women his elegant and martial appearance, the grace of his manners. It is certain that France could not have had a better representative on the other side of the ocean.”
We have not forgotten that a painful incident occurred on the occasion of that ceremony, and a satisfactory solution for France was reached thanks to the tact and firmness that General Boulanger was able to deploy.
M. Blaine, Secretary of State, who was always one of Bismarck’s most complacent flatterers, had hoisted on an official ship an immense German flag that completely hid our tricolor flag. This amiable Yankee wanted at any cost to cross the two flags, on the pretext that at the time of the war of independence the French army, which had aided the American, included some German mercenaries. General Boulanger told him that if the German colors weren’t immediately removed from the proximity of our flag the French mission would have no choice but to leave. The intervention of President Arthur was necessary to overcome the stubbornness of his Secretary of State.
Nevertheless, this serious incident was quickly forgotten, and the citizens of the United States in no way reproved the energetic attitude of the French general, who continued to receive unequivocal marks of esteem and sympathy everywhere in his travels. Arrived in Canada, on this soil where the French imprint seems ineffaceable, the French mission and its chief were profoundly touched by the affection he was surrounded by on the part of the population.
On April 16, 1882 General Boulanger was charged by General Billot, minister of War, with the important functions of director of the infantry. There he revealed his admirable qualities as administrator and, above all, his patriotic vigilance, his unfailing devotion, his decisiveness, the correctness of his point of view. With his active support the Prytanée Militaire, the schools at St Maixent and the Enfants de Troupe were reorganized. We owe him the rewriting of the regulations on infantry maneuvers, the organization of instruction platoons, the considerable development given firing instruction, the generalization of combat fire in all infantry corps, the adoption of the 1882 model sack, etc...
Three ministers of War had the good sense to keep him at the head of that important service. The army lost nothing in this.
We know what virile enthusiasm, what unshakeable confidence was felt by all hearts when hearing the patriotic allocutions of the young general during his inspections. The eloquent speech he gave at la Flèche in 1882 drew tears from the veterans and students of the Prytanée Militaire who said with emotion: “No one ever spoke to us this way before.”
“Work, young men, work more, keep working so that your families will be proud of you; work so as to render useful service to the republic that is waiting for your young generation with the greatest confidence.
“For you are all, or almost all of you, sons of officers or state functionaries, towards whom you have contracted a commitment of honor. And if we seek you out from among French youth, it’s not so much to come to the assistance of your parents, as because we know we will find in you young souls habituated from childhood to all the sacrifices, as well as to all the nobility of our military poverty.
“Bring within these walls the gentle lessons learned in your families; make yourselves worthy of them through your delicate and elevated sentiments. Renounce, children of the end of the nineteenth century, the quasi-barbarous habits that have been born in these rude times, where force seemed superior to right, and where it was necessary to break the child in order to train the man through the harsh bullying of despotism.”
Another time, as delegate to the school of St Maixent, he cried out before the statue of Colonel Denfert Rochereau:
“As for the true community of origin, I say to you, officer cadets of St Maixent, as I will say to the officer cadets of St Cyr, our forefathers proclaimed it in the face of the world in 1789, and they cemented it by their blood shed in common on all the glorious and painful roads passed over by France in the last hundred years.”
Promoted General of Division February 18, 1884, General Boulanger was immediately called to the command of the division of occupation in Tunisia (February 21). His task was that of a pacifier and organizer; he applied himself to this with a zeal and self-abnegation beyond praise. It was known in the division how much work and fatigue the intrepid general absorbed. A tireless horseman, he brought two ordinance officers with him and travelled stages of 20 to 25 leagues amid arid solitudes in temperatures varying between 45 and 50 degrees centigrade. The rare incidents of the route were carefully noted and pointed out to the attention of his companions. Here was a Roman road, elsewhere the last vestiges of an aqueduct or encampment, further on ruins to be photographed. And barely arrived at the end of his ride, they went right into the middle of the natives, whose complaints had to be heard, whose mistrust had to be calmed. And while showing himself to be just and benevolent towards the populations, it was indispensable to demonstrate before their eyes the prestige of our army by surrounding the least military solemnities with a certain pomp (orders of the day and distribution of rewards to soldiers.) In a word, they had to find inspiration ion the strong and intelligent motto of Bugeaud: Ense et aratro.
An incident that occurred in Tunis during the month of June 1856 cast a light on the firmness of the general and the jealous care with which he protected the honor of the flag and the army. Here is the tale as we find it in the book by M. Barbou, according to an eyewitness:
“One evening, at the Théatre Italien in Tunis a young French officer threw a bouquet on the stage to a singer. The latter disdainfully pushed this homage away with her foot and, with ostentatious bad taste, placed in her décolletage a flower that a young Italian had tossed at the same time.
“Rendered indignant by this ridiculous insult, the officers present, who were joined by navy officers from the squadron stationed at La Goulette, loudly protested and made such a racket that the curtain had to be lowered. The entire hall rose in tumult, and since the audience was made up of spectators of different nationalities, the most lively words were exchanged. At the exit an Italian named Tessi, hidden behind a door, threw himself on a lieutenant of the Chasseurs and in a cowardly way, before the latter knew what was happening, punched him in the face with his two fists. Our officer was going to kill him when the Zouaves, coming from their posts, took away the aggressor.
“The next day the French tribunal, which had jurisdiction over all foreigners, condemned the Italian to a light sentence; six days of imprisonment.
“Before a serious insult so insufficiently avenged, the entire garrison was enraged. Not only every one of our soldiers felt the insult, but it became certain that following this repression, which was the equivalent of an acquittal, they would see reproduced daily the aggressions that our men had received during the Regency at the beginning of the occupation.
“General Boulanger, foreseeing this result, sharing in the legitimate discontent of those he commanded, and wanting to both protect their honor and ensure their safety, published an order of the day saying in substance that our officers and soldiers, if they were provoked in the future and violently attacked, had the obligation to use their arms in self defense.
“There are people who call themselves French and who dare condemn this order of the day.
“A presidential decree removed the patriotic general from the command of his troops to give the position to which officer? M. Cambon, the Resident General.”
After an initial outburst of indignation which had him write a letter in which he demanded his immediate discharge, General Boulanger, a soldier above all, suppressed his feelings of revolt and obeyed the orders of the minister of War, who enjoined him to remain in his post so as not to reveal in the face of the foreigner so serious a conflict between the civil and the military powers. General Campenon allowed the commander of the occupying corps to hope that that iniquitous decree would be repealed. The announced and awaited reparation not occurring, General Boulanger, after a month of vain waiting, embarked at La Goulette and unexpectedly returned to Paris in the first days of August 1885. The officer sacrificed to the obsequious policies of the ministry had at least had the consolation of receiving from his comrades, as well as from the principal native leaders, an ovation worthy of him.
His repose in Paris did not last long. He was needed. On January 8, 1886 he entered the Freycinet cabinet. From that date until March 31, 1887, date of the arrival of the louche Rouvier ministry, he dedicated his every instant to the patriotic task he had accepted. He immediately showed himself to be the implacable enemy of routine, coteries, and the wasting of funds. Defeating the calculated inertia of the war bureaus, putting a halt to old abuses, putting an end to scandalous preferential treatments, and carrying out salutary reforms: these were the constant themes of his labors. He knew how to choose his collaborators, and brought on as his assistant an indefatigable worker like himself, Colonel Jung, who mightily assisted him in his work.
General Boulanger’s enemies have joked about some of his minor reforms, like the authorization of beards, the painting of guardhouses in the three national colors, the designation of barracks with the names of illustrious warriors of France, replacing names like Pepinière, Minimes, Chateau-d’Eau..., but they have willfully closed their eyes to the capital reforms of this intelligent organizer: his proposed military law (adoption of three years of service instead of five and suppression of exemptions), the reorganization of the command of our fortified places, the adoption of the Lebel rifle, the suppression of preliminary instruction for corps chiefs before grand maneuvers, and finally, the most important reform of all, the replacement of defensive tactics with offensive tactics, more in conformity with the national genius. “Only the offensive allows the obtaining of decisive results; the troop does not exist that can hold out against a Frenchman when he’s enthused.” These are his very words. The general is not unaware of this saying of a tactician: “War is a cumbersome guest that it is good to lodge in the enemy’s house.”
Is it necessary to recall his constant concern for the health of his men, for the improvements to be introduced to their nourishment, their clothing, their barracks? And the suppression of the Sunday review, which leaves the soldier a whole day of liberty, and vacations granted at fixed periods to those whose conduct has been good (five days for the new year, eight at Easter), and finally the unifying of payment?
He suppressed many routine errors and unjustifiable measures, notably the rule by the terms of which no one can be named to or promoted within the Legion of Honor if he hadn’t held his military rank for at least two years. You can now be nominated or promoted the day after the one on which you obtained a new rank.
The minister neglected no detail, had his eye on everyone. He visited the schools at St Cyr, Fontainebleau, Val-de-Grâce and the societies founded with a patriotic end; and as always, his honest and incisive word, his patriotic encouragements comforted the country.
As the school in St Cyr he said to the First Battalion of France:
“Never forget, young men, that armies have a heart, as they have a head, and that the education of the soldier must be intimately connected to his education.
“Open your spirits wide to the ideas of your century; allow yourselves to be penetrated by the wind of progress which will carry your privileged generation so far and high.
“Prepare yourselves for this high mission of the army of today, which gathers around it, for the fatherland, all the good will and all the devotions of our generous country. “
And further on, in speaking of the flag:
“It will find again those days of glory; I am more firmly convinced of this than ever since I have seen your elevated feelings of patriotism, since I have read in your eyes the noble motto that should guide every officer truly worthy of the name Frenchman: EVERYTHING FOR FRANCE!”
The government, presided over by M. Freycinet, forced to take rigorous measures against families having ruled in France, a decree appeared June 22, 1886 that forbade heads of these families and their direct heirs in the order of primogeniture the territory of the republic, and authorized the government to apply this measure to other members of these families. Article Four of this decree forbade any of them from exercising command in the armies of land and sea.
In this circumstance, the minister of War simply performed his duty.
The Duke d’Aumale having been removed, like the others, from the controls of the army, wrote the president of the republic an offensive letter, and was immediately requested to cross the border. In similar cases the former monarchy did better: it didn’t put its adversaries out, it locked them in.
There then began what has been called the “war of the letters.” The Orelanists thought it clever to publish the letters sent by General Boulanger to the Duke d’Aumale on the occasion of his promotion to brigadier general. The jesuitry of the Orleanist agents was clear for all to see. The first letter, which was apocryphal, was disavowed by the general as soon as it was published. But immediately after this disavowal, and unknown to its author, they published a second one, this time authentic, and conceived in quite other terms. They shamelessly applied to this new letter the disavowal of the general that applied to the first, and in this way it was easy to dupe the public for 24 hours. They thus managed for a day or two to have it believed that the general had denied his signature.
A clear and loyal explanation had become necessary. The following letter, written by the general to M. Limbourg and reproduced by the entire press, clearly reestablished the facts and accompanied them with commentaries too instructive to be kept silent:
“Paris, August 3, 1886
The newspapers published four letters signed with my name and addressed to the Duke d’Aumale.
Since the first was manifestly false I could not recognize the authenticity of the text of the others until the originals were produced. I remained silent.
Today, I declare authentic the last three letters, those which the Duke d’Aumale charged you with publishing.
I am ready to do you the honor of not judging your master’s act, nor the task you accepted.
Nor do I deign to give you, on the content of your letters, any explanations. You could not understand them. You were prefect of the republic so as to better it; I an minister of the republic in order to serve it.
I serve it against you and yours.
I deserved your hatred, I desire nothing so much as continuing to render myself worthy of it.
When the Duke d’Aumale, without taking into account military regulations, sought to unite around himself, under the pretext – and with a goal which appears clearly today – of a witch hunt against offciers, many of whom were unknown to him, I was charged with bringing him the representations of the then minister of War; I obeyed.
When the princely conspiracy put me in the position of choosing between my former chief and the republic, I remained faithful to the republic.
Once the law was voted I carried it out. And if it should occur to your seditious friends to pass from words to acts, the author of the letters to the Duke d’Aumale will simply, but very energetically, carry out his duties against the Duke d’Aumale’s friends.
We know that this question of princes brought M. de Lareinty and General Boulager to the dueling ground. This pistol duel took place at Chalais, near Meudon July 16, 1886. The conditions of the combat made the encounter very dangerous, the adversaries having to fire at 25 paces. The results were null. The general, abandoning his rights as the offended party, left the choice of arms to his adversary. These two men, of an equally chivalrous character, cordially shook hands on the field.
The same day the inauguration of the Military Circle of the Army and Navy took place, installed in the former Splendide-Hotel, at the corner of avenue de l’Opera and rue de la Paix. A happy innovation, which proved that the minister concerned himself with the well-being of the army at all levels of the military hierarchy. Officers find lodging and meals there at a moderate price. The establishment contains a library, several work rooms, fencing halls, etc...
A great and sympathetic ovation was given that evening to General Boulanger, as much by the officers as from the crowd gathered on the Place de l’Opera and all the neighboring avenues and streets. The day before, the minster of War had been promoted Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor.
November 4, 1886, he went to preside at la Bossière, near Rambouillet, at the inauguration of an orphanage founded by Commandant Henriot to receive the orphans of non-commissioned officers and soldiers.
In a speech worthy of that philanthropic work, the minster thanked, in the name of the country, the generous benefactor who had made such noble use of his fortune.
April 21, 1887, Paris and the provinces were in a state of excitement. The Schnaebelé incident had just aggravated an already tense situation. We were inches from a complete break with Germany. Amid the universal confusion, the minister of War felt firm and awaited events without flinching. In the ministry, only M. Goblet took a clearly firm and patriotic position at the general’s side. The dispute was able to be settled diplomatically, but the alert had been lively, and the loudmouths of the Palais Bourbon remained quiet for more than a week. In order to take their revenge on a ministry that had stood up to Bismarck, they overthrew it May 17, 1887, and in exchange obtained the Rouvier ministry. The dignity of the country was sold short in the bargain.
On June 29, 1887 General Boulanger was named to the command of the 13th army corps in Clermont-Ferrand.
We will never forget the popular and spontaneous demonstrations that took place along the path of the general and at the Gare de Lyon upon his departure from Paris on July 8, 1887. More than 100,000 persons took part in it. We also know what a brilliant reception was given in Clermont. The enthusiasm and the sympathy overflowed from these crowds. In Clermont nothing less was spoken of than the raising of triumphal arches. “Save them,” he said, “for the generals who will defeat our enemies.”
Upon arriving at his new post the commander of the 13th Corps laid out in simple terms he past and future line of conduct:
“When I was minister of War I carried out republican policies, as was my duty; here I am no longer a minister, I am a soldier, and I am only here to act as a military man.”
General Boulanger immediately dedicated himself to his task with the ardor, activity, and energy he had given so much proof of in Tunisia. In the course of the inspections he had to carry out in various points of his command, the love and the confidence of the army were respectfully demonstrated, to the furthest limits tolerable under military discipline. But the populace, held to less discretion, didn’t spare him their outspoken sympathy.
A short while later M. Jules Ferry had the bad idea of showing off at the expense of the commander of the 13th Corps. Without delay he received the unexpected visit of two of the general’s friends: Count Dillon and General Faverot. These gentlemen had come to offer the deputy of the Vosges, on the part of the new marshal Saint-Arnaud, an exchange of shots at 25 paces in an indeterminate number, continuing until one of the two adversaries was touched, or the exchange of a single shot. M. Jules Ferry objected that these distances were a bit short and he made known to the general that it would have to wait for another time.
All the incidents that followed little by little dug a deep ditch between the opportunists and the general who was partisan of radical reforms. His enemies took advantage of everything to discredit him in the mind of the masses. All weapons were good to hinder his ever growing popularity. The coarsest traps, the most perfidious machinations were used against him. The most unreasonable projects were attributed to him. The specter of dictatorship, the phantom of war was brandished before the country. The Rouvier cabinet didn’t fail to participate in this repugnant task.
But the more his enemies gave themselves over to movement, the more the general enclosed himself in his military role. This disdainful silence didn’t please the politicians who had sworn to destroy him. Their attacks became so violent that the commander of the 13th Corps had to defend himself in speech and writing. But he had doubtless forgotten a phrase of Laubardemont’s, whose worth his enemies knew:
“Give me two lines of a man’s writing and I’ll see to it that he’s hung.”
This entire disgusting comedy performed around a loyal soldier and an honest man could not but end with having the 30 day arrest applied to him by minister Ferron for having declared (which, incidentally, no one any longer doubts) that in the Caffarel affair the goal pursued by the government was to implicate General Boulanger at whatever cost.
His arrest completed, he immediately left for Paris where he took part in the labors of the Higher Commission for the Classing of Officers. Entirely dedicated to his task, the general fled as much as he could from the demonstrations the crowd prepared for him on all occasions, and he returned to Clermont without having provided his enraged enemies the least complaint against him.
But a factor more powerful than ministers, more powerful than the senate and the Chamber suddenly joined in: the country, which demands something other than ministerial crises and financial scandals; the country, increasingly disgusted with the sterile parliamentarianism that ruins and dishonors it and which so loudly manifested its exhaustion and its disgust. The 54,000 voters of February 26, who inscribed on their ballots the name of the commander of the 13th Army Corps had less obeyed a call than a sentiment of spontaneous reprobation against a government and two obsolete assemblies lacking in prestige. The partisans of the opportunist oligarchy, who get fatter daily at the expense of the taxpayers, felt an increasingly disagreeable sensation before these threatening votes. Powerless to muzzle universal suffrage, they resolved to suppress the man these preferences honored. It was in vain that the commander of the 13th Army Corps, called out despite himself by his voters, denied any initiative in this electoral movement and addressed the following letter to the ministry of War:
“Clermont-Ferrand, March 3
Initiatives have just been taken concerning me on the subject of this month’s legislative elections.
My formal desire being, by reason of the situation I occupy and particularly the epoch we are passing through, to exclusively dedicate myself to my military duties, I have the honor of asking you, in order to put an end to the demonstrations that have just occurred and which tend to be renewed around my name, either to please publish the present letter or to authorize me to write and publish one in which I will ask my friends to not waste on me votes I cannot accept.
But his enemies still did not lay down their arms.
The country was witness to a broad witch hunt against the general. Police harassment, calumnies, removal from active duty, placing him in retired status while perhaps waiting for his being placed outside the law!
The voters of the Aisne, of the Dordogne and the Nord have already answered in their manner to these imprudent provocations. Others still will come give their votes to this patriot, this simple citizen whose popularity holds in check an entire discredited and contemptible parliament; to this good man who, without any resources other than his civic virtues and his military past, spread disarray in the spheres where they so happily use the public, in the high underworld of finance, in the offices where everything is bought, sold and adulterated, except the sovereign will of the millions of voters who are going to come on stage.
– Louis de Jonquières