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Clemenceau, George Eugene Benjamin (1841-1929)
Clemenceau was born in Mouilleron-en-Pareds, in Vendée.In his early years in Paris, he was a political activist, publishing what was seen by the government of Emperor Napoleon III as radical material. Clemenceau then traveled to the United States, where he lived from 1865 to 1869. He was impressed by the freedom of discussion and expression he witnessed, which was unknown in France during the reign of Napoleon III, and he had great admiration for the politicians who were forging American democracy. 

He taught 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.

Back 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 preliminaries.

The 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 imprisonment.

On 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.

He 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.

In 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 prominence.

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.

At 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.

By 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.

The 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 1876.

After 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.

On 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.

In 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.

In 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.

This 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 with Morocco.

On 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.

Later 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.

Clemenceau 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'.

He died in Paris on 24 November 1929, aged 88, from natural causes, and was buried in Le Colombier, Vendée, Mouchamps.

 
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