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Jules Ferry

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Collection: 1832 Births, 1893 Deaths, 19Th-Century French Diplomats, Ambassadors of France to Greece, Anti-Clericalism, Atheism Activists, French Atheists, French Foreign Ministers, French Freemasons, French People of the Franco-Prussian War, French Senators of the Third Republic, Mayors of Paris, People from Saint-Dié-Des-Vosges, People of the Sino-French War, People of the Tonkin Campaign, Politicians of the French Third Republic, Presidents of the Senate (France), Presidents of the Senate of France, Prime Ministers of France
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Jules Ferry

Jules Ferry
49th Prime Minister of France
In office
21 February 1883 – 6 April 1885
Preceded by Armand Fallières
Succeeded by Henri Brisson
In office
23 September 1880 – 14 November 1881
Preceded by Charles de Freycinet
Succeeded by Léon Gambetta
Mayor of Paris
In office
15 November 1870 – 5 June 1871
Preceded by Étienne Arago
Succeeded by Office abolished
Jacques Chirac, when the office was restored in 1977
Personal details
Born (1832-04-05)April 5, 1832
Died 17 March 1893(1893-03-17) (aged 60)
Nationality French
Political party Independent
(Opportunist Republican)
Religion Roman Catholicism (Laïcité)

Jules François Camille Ferry (French: ; 5 April 1832 – 17 March 1893) was a French statesman and republican. He was a promoter of laicism and colonial expansion.[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Major works 2
  • Ferry's 1st Ministry, 23 September 1880 – 14 November 1881 3
  • Ferry's 2nd Ministry, 21 February 1883 – 6 April 1885 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Born in Saint-Dié, in the Vosges department, France, he studied law, and was called to the bar at Paris in 1854,[2] but soon went into politics, contributing to various newspapers, particularly to Le Temps. He attacked the Second French Empire with great violence, directing his opposition especially against Baron Haussmann, prefect of the Seine department. A series of his articles in Le Temps was later republished as The Fantastic Tales of Haussmann (1868).[2] Elected republican deputy for Paris in 1869, he protested against the declaration of war with Germany, and on 6 September 1870 was appointed prefect of the Seine by the Government of National Defense.[3]

In this position he had the difficult task of administering Paris during the siege, and after the Paris Commune was obliged to resign (5 June 1871). From 1872 to 1873 he was sent by Adolphe Thiers as minister to Athens, but returned to the chamber as deputy for the Vosges, and became one of the leaders of the republican party. When the first republican ministry was formed under W. H. Waddington on 4 February 1879, he was one of its members, and continued in the ministry until 30 March 1885, except for two short interruptions (from 10 November 1881 to 30 January 1882, and from 29 July 1882 to 21 February 1883), first as minister of education and then as minister of foreign affairs. A leader of the Opportunist Republicans faction, he was twice premier (1880–1881 and 1883–1885).[3] He was an active Freemason initiated on July 8, 1875, in "La Clémante amitiée" lodge in Paris the same day as Émile Littré.[4][5][6][7][8] He became a member of the "Alsace-Lorraine" Lodge founded in Paris in 1782.[9]

Major works

Jules Ferry, by Nadar

Two important works are associated with his administration: the non-clerical organization of public education, and the major eponymous laws of 16 June 1881 and 28 March 1882, which made primary education in France free, non-clerical (laïque) and mandatory. In higher education, the number of professors, called the "Republic's black hussars" (French: hussards noirs de la République) because of their Republican support, doubled under his ministry.[3]

The education policies establishing French language as the language of the Republic have been contested in the second half of the 20th century insofar as, while they played an important role in unifying the French nation state and the Third Republic, they also nearly caused the extinction of several regional languages.[10]

After the Annam and Tonkin in what became Indochina.[3]

The last endeavor led to a war with Clemenceau and other radicals, and his downfall on 30 March 1885. Although the treaty of peace with the Manchu Empire (9 June 1885), in which the Qing dynasty ceded suzerainty of Annam and Tonkin to France, was the work of his ministry, he would never again serve as premier.

The desire for a monarchy was strong in France in the early years of the Third RepublicHenri, Count of Chambord having made a bid early in its history. A committed republican, Ferry proceeded to a wide-scale "purge" by dismissing many known monarchists from top positions in the magistrature, army and civil and diplomatic service.

The key to understanding Ferry's unique position in Third Republic history is that until his political critic, Joseph Caillaux) believed in not confronting Wilhelmine Germany by threats of a future war of revenge. Most French politicians in the middle and right saw it as a sacred duty to one day lead France again against Germany to reclaim Alsace-Lorraine, and avenge the awful defeat of 1870. But Ferry realized that Germany was too powerful, and it made more sense to cooperate with Otto von Bismarck and avoid trouble. A sensible policy – but hardly popular.

Bismarck was constantly nervous about the situation with France. Although he had despised the ineptness of the French under Napoleon III and the government of Adolphe Thiers and Jules Favre, he had not planned for all the demands he presented the French in 1870. He only wished to temporarily cripple France by the billion franc reparation, but suddenly he was confronted by the demands of Marshals Albrecht von Roon and Helmut von Moltke (backed by Emperor Wilhelm I) to annex the two French provinces as further payment. Bismarck, for all his abilities regarding manipulating events, could not afford to anger the Prussian military. He got the two provinces, but he realized it would eventually have severe future repercussions.

Bismarck was able to ignore the French for most of the 1870s and early 1880s, but as he found problems with his three erstwhile allies (Austria, Russia, and Italy) he realized France might one day take advantage of this (as it did with Russia in 1894). When Ferry came up with a radically different approach to the situation and offered an olive branch Bismarck reciprocated. A Franco-German friendship would alleviate problems of siding with either Austria or Russia, or Austria and Italy. Bismarck approved of the colonial expansion that France pursued under Ferry. He only had some problems with local German imperialists who were critical that Germany lacked colonies, so he found a few in the 1880s, making certain he did not confront French interests. But he also suggested Franco-German cooperation on the imperial front against the British Empire, thus hoping to create a wedge between the two Western European great powers. It did as a result, leading to a major race for influence across Africa that nearly culminated in war in the next decade, at Fashoda in the Sudan in 1898. But by then both Bismarck and Ferry were dead, and the rapproachment policy died when Ferry lost office. As for Fashoda, while it was a confrontation, it led to Britain and France eventually discussing their rival colonial goals, and agreeing to support each other's sphere of influence – the first step to the Entente Cordiale between the countries in 1904.

Ferry remained an influential member of the moderate republican party, and directed the opposition to General Boulanger. After the resignation of Jules Grévy (2 December 1887), he was a candidate for the presidency of the republic, but the radicals refused to support him, and he withdrew in favour of Sadi Carnot.

On 10 December 1887,[2] a man named Aubertin attempted to assassinate Jules Ferry, who later died from complications attributed to this wound on 17 March 1893. The Chamber of Deputies gave him a state funeral.

Ferry's 1st Ministry, 23 September 1880 – 14 November 1881

Ferry's 2nd Ministry, 21 February 1883 – 6 April 1885


  • 9 August 1883 – Alexandre Louis François Peyron succeeds Charles Brun as Minister of Marine and Colonies
  • 9 October 1883 – Jean-Baptiste Campenon succeeds Thibaudin as Minister of War.
  • 20 November 1883 – Jules Ferry succeeds Challemel-Lacour as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Armand Fallières succeeds Ferry as Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts.
  • 14 October 1884 – Maurice Rouvier succeeds Hérisson as Minister of Commerce
  • 3 January 1885 – Jules Louis Lewal succeeds Campenon as Minister of War.

See also


  1. ^ A History of Western Society, Seventh Edition. John Buckler, Bennett D. Hill, John P. McKay
  2. ^ a b c  Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Ferry, Jules François Camille".  
  3. ^ a b c d e  
  4. ^ Histoire de la Franc-Maçonnerie française (Pierre Chevallier - ed. Fayard - 1974)
  5. ^ Dictionnaire universelle de la Franc-Maçonnerie (Marc de Jode, Monique Cara and Jean-Marc Cara, ed. Larousse, 2011)
  6. ^ Encyclopédie de la Franc-Maçonnerie (ed. Livre de Poche, 2000)
  7. ^ Dictionnaire de la Franc-Maçonnerie (Daniel Ligou, Presses Universitaires de France, 2006)
  8. ^ Jules Ferry (Jean-Michel Gaillard, ed. Fayard, 1989)
  9. ^ Denslow, William R. and Harry S. Truman, Famous Freemasons from A to J Part One10,000 , p. 44, Kessinger Publishing, 2004
  10. ^ 1998 report from Bernard Poignant, mayor of Quimper, to Lionel Jospin (French)
  11. ^


  • Taylor, A. J. P. Germany's First Bid For Colonies, 1884–1885: A Move in Bismarck's European Policy (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc. – the Norton Library, 1970), p. 17–31: Chapter 1. Bismarck's Approach to France, December 1883 – April 1884.

External links

  • Lettre aux Instituteurs, Jules Ferry, November 1883, online and analyzed on BibNum (for English version, click 'Télécharger')
Political offices
Preceded by
Agénor Bardoux
Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
Succeeded by
Paul Bert
Preceded by
Charles de Freycinet
Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by
Léon Gambetta
Preceded by
Paul Bert
Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
Succeeded by
Jules Duvaux
Preceded by
Armand Fallières
Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by
Henri Brisson
Preceded by
Jules Duvaux
Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts
Succeeded by
Armand Fallières
Preceded by
Paul-Armand Challemel-Lacour
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Charles de Freycinet
Preceded by
Philippe Le Royer
President of the Senate
Succeeded by
Paul-Armand Challemel-Lacour
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