in a girls' school in Stamford, Connecticut, and married one of
his pupils, Mary Plummer, in 1869. Three children were born of the
marriage, but the couple separated after seven years.
in France, he adopted medicine as his profession. He settled in
Montmartre in 1869. After the revolution of 1870, he was sufficiently
well known to be nominated mayor of the XVIIIe arrondissement
of Paris (Montmartre) - an unruly district over which it was a
difficult task to preside. On
8 February 1871, he was elected as a Radical to the National Assembly
for the Seine département, and voted against the peace
murder of Generals Lecomte and Clement Thomas by the communards
on 15 March, which he vainly tried to prevent, brought him into
collision with the central committee sitting at the hotel de ville.
The committee ordered his arrest, but he escaped; he was accused,
however, by various witnesses at the subsequent trial of the murderers
(29 November) of not having intervened when he might have done
so. Although he was cleared of this charge, it led to a duel,
for which he was prosecuted and sentenced to a fine and a fortnight's
20 March 1871, he had introduced a bill in the National Assembly
at Versailles, on behalf of his Radical colleagues, proposing
the establishment of a Paris municipal council of eighty members;
but he was not reelected at the elections of 26 March. He tried
with the other Paris mayors to mediate between Versailles and
the hotel de ville, but failed, and accordingly resigned his mayoralty
and his seat in the Assembly, and temporarily gave up politics.
was elected to the Paris municipal council on 23 July 1871 for
the Clignancourt quartier, and retained his seat till 1876, passing
through the offices of secretary and vice-president, and becoming
president in 1875.
1876 he stood again for the Chamber of Deputies, and was elected
for the 18th arrondissement. He joined the extreme Left, and his
energy and mordant eloquence speedily made him the leader of the
Radical section. In 1877, after the Seize Mai, he was one of the
republican majority who denounced the de Broglie ministry, and
he took a leading part in resisting the anti-republican policy
of which the Seize Mai incident was a symptom. His demand in 1879
for the indictment of the Broglie ministry brought him into particular
In 1880 he started his newspaper, La Justice, which became the principal
organ of Parisian Radicalism. From this time onwards, throughout
Jules Grévy's presidency, his reputation as a political critic
and destroyer of ministries who yet would not take office himself
grew rapidly. He led the Extreme Left in the Chamber. He was an
active opponent of Jules Ferry's colonial policy and of the Opportunist
party, and in 1885 it was his use of the Tonkin disaster which principally
determined the fall of the Ferry cabinet.
the elections of 1885 he advocated a strong Radical programme,
and was returned both for his old seat in Paris and for the Var,
selecting the latter. Refusing to form a ministry to replace the
one he had overthrown, he supported the Right in keeping Freycinet
in power in 1886, and was responsible for the inclusion of General
Boulanger in the Freycinet cabinet as war minister. When Boulanger
showed himself as an ambitious pretender, Clemenceau withdrew
his support and became a vigorous combatant against the Boulangist
movement, though the Radical press and a section of the party
continued to patronize the general.
his exposure of the Wilson scandal, and by his personal plain
speaking, Clemenceau contributed largely to Grévy's resignation
of the presidency in 1887, having himself declined Grévy's
request to form a cabinet on the downfall of Maurice Rouvier's
Cabinet. He was also primarily responsible, by advising his followers
to vote for neither Floquet, Ferry, or Freycinet, for the election
of an "outsider" (Carnot) as president.
split in the Radical party over Boulangism weakened his hands,
and its collapse made his help unnecessary to the moderate republicans.
A further misfortune occurred in the Panama affair, as Clemenceau's
relations with Cornelius Here led to his being involved in the
general suspicion. Although he remained the leading spokesman
of French Radicalism, his hostility to the Russian alliance so
increased his unpopularity that in the 1893 election he was defeated
for his Chamber seat, after having held it continuously since
his 1893 defeat, M. Clemenceau confined his political activities
to journalism. His career was further overclouded by the long-drawn-out
Dreyfus case, in which he took an active and honourable part as
a supporter of Emile Zola and an opponent of the anti-Semitic
and Nationalist campaigns.
13 January 1898, Clemenceau, as owner and editor of the Paris
daily L'Aurore, published Emile Zola's J'accuse on the front page
of his paper. Clemenceau decided that the controversial story
that would become a famous part of the Dreyfus Affair would be
in the form of an open letter to the President, Félix Faure.
1900 he withdrew from La Justice to found a weekly review, Le
Bloc, which lasted until March 1902. On 6 April 1902 he was elected
senator for the Var, although he had previously continually demanded
the suppression of the Senate. He sat with the Socialist Radicals,
and vigorously supported the Combes ministry. In June 1903 he
undertook the direction of the journal L'Aurore, which he had
founded. In it he led the campaign for the revision of the Dreyfus
affair, and for the separation of Church and State.
March 1906 the fall of the Rouvier ministry, owing to the riots
provoked by the inventories of church property, at last brought
Clemenceau to power as Minister of the Interior in the Sarrien
cabinet. The miners' strike in the Pas de Calais after the disaster
at Courrieres, leading to the threat of disorder on the 1st of
May 1906, obliged him to employ the military; and his attitude
in the matter alienated the Socialist party, from which he definitively
broke in his notable reply in the Chamber to Jean Jaurès
in June 1906.
speech marked him out as the strong man of the day in French politics;
and when the Sarrien ministry resigned in October, he became premier.
During 1907 and 1908 his premiership was notable for the way in
which the new entente with England was cemented, and for the successful
part which France played in European politics, in spite of difficulties
with Germany and attacks by the Socialist party in connection
20 July 1909, however, he was defeated in a discussion in the
Chamber on the state of the navy, in which bitter words were exchanged
between him and Delcassé. He resigned at once, being succeeded
as premier by M. Briand, with a reconstructed cabinet.
he served as the forceful wartime premier of France from 1917
to 1920. Nicknamed Le Tigre (The Tiger) and Le Père la
Victoire (The Father Victory) he was a major contributor to the
Allied victory in World War I. As a framer of the postwar Treaty
of Versailles, he opposed leniency toward Germany after WWI. Since
most people believe the effects of his decision contributed to
the events that lead to World War II, Clemenceau's historical
reputation can be argued to have suffered as a result.
was an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency of the Third
French Republic. Embittered by his defeat, he dismissed the office
as being 'as superfluous as a prostate gland'.
died in Paris on 24 November 1929, aged 88, from natural causes,
and was buried in Le Colombier, Vendée, Mouchamps.