Léon Victor Auguste Bourgeois (French: [leɔ̃ buʁʒwa]; 21 May 1851 – 29 September 1925) was a French statesman. His ideas influenced the Radical Party regarding a wide range of issues. He promoted progressive taxation such as progressive income taxes and social insurance schemes, along with economic equality, expanded educational opportunities, and cooperative solidarism. In foreign policy, he called for a strong League of Nations, and the maintenance of peace through compulsory arbitration, controlled disarmament, economic sanctions, and perhaps an international military force.
|49th Prime Minister of France|
1 November 1895 – 29 April 1896
|Preceded by||Alexandre Ribot|
|Succeeded by||Jules Méline|
|Born||21 May 1851|
|Died||29 September 1925 (aged 74)|
|Alma mater||Université de Paris|
Bourgeois was born in Paris, and was trained in law. After holding a subordinate office (1876) in the department of public works, he became successively prefect of the Tarn (1882) and the Haute-Garonne (1885), and then returned to Paris to enter the Ministry of the Interior. He became Prefect of Police in November 1887 at the critical moment of Jules Grévy's resignation from the presidency. In the following year, he entered the Chamber, being elected deputy for the Marne, in opposition to George Boulanger, and joined the Radical Left. He was undersecretary for Home Affairs in Charles Floquet's ministry of 1888 and resigned with it in 1889, being then returned to the chamber for Reims. In Pierre Tirard's ministry, which succeeded, he was Minister of the Interior, and subsequently, on 18 March 1890, Minister of Public Instruction in the cabinet of Charles Louis de Saulces de Freycinet, a post for which he had qualified himself by the attention he had given to educational matters. In this capacity, he was responsible for some important reforms in secondary education in 1890.
He retained his office in Émile Loubet's cabinet in 1892, and was Minister of Justice under Alexandre Ribot at the end of that year, when the Panama scandals were making the office one of peculiar difficulty. He energetically pressed the Panama prosecution, so much so that he was accused of having put wrongful pressure on the wife of one of the defendants in order to procure evidence. To meet the charge, he resigned in March 1893 but again took office and retired only with the rest of the Freycinet ministry.
In November 1895, he formed his own cabinet, distinctively radical, which fell as the result of a constitutional crisis arising from the persistent refusal of the Senate to vote supply. He was an eminent Freemason and eight of his cabinet members were Freemasons.
The Bourgeois ministry seemed to think that popular opinion would enable them to override what they regarded as an unconstitutional action on the part of the upper house. However, the public was indifferent, and the Senate triumphed. The blow damaged Bourgeois's career as an homme de gouvernement. As Minister of Public Instruction in the Brisson cabinet of 1898, he organized courses for adults in primary education. After the short ministry, he represented his country with dignity and effect at the Hague Peace Convention, and in 1903 was nominated a member of the permanent court of arbitration.
He held somewhat aloof from the political struggles of the Waldeck-Rousseau and Combes ministries, travelling considerably in foreign countries. In 1902 and 1903, he was elected president of the Chamber. In 1905, he replaced the duc d'Audiffret-Pasquier as senator for the department of Marne, and in May 1906, he became Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Sarrien cabinet. He was responsible for the direction of French diplomacy in the conference at Algeciras. He was delegate to both Hague Conferences held in 1899 and 1907. Bourgeois also became delegate to Paris Peace Conference and strongly supported the Japanese Racial Equality Proposal as "an indisputable principle of justice".
A social republican, Bourgeois sought a middle ground between socialism and capitalism which he termed "solidarism". He believed that the rich had a social debt to the poor which they should pay by the income tax, thus providing the state with the necessary revenue to finance social measures for those living in poverty. However, the Senate opposed his proposal, and opposition grew until his resignation as prime minister.
Bourgeois's Ministry, 1 November 1895 – 29 April 1896Edit
- Léon Bourgeois – President of the Council and Minister of the Interior
- Marcellin Berthelot – Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Godefroy Cavaignac – Minister of War
- Paul Doumer – Minister of Finance
- Louis Ricard – Minister of Justice
- Édouard Locroy – Minister of Marine
- Émile Combes – Minister of Public Instruction, Fine Arts, and Worship
- Albert Viger – Minister of Agriculture
- Pierre-Paul Guieysse – Minister of Colonies
- Edmond Guyot-Dessaigne – Minister of Public Works
- Gustave Mesureur – Minister of Commerce, Industry, Posts, and Telegraphs
- 28 March 1896 – Bourgeois succeeds Berthelot as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Ferdinand Sarrien succeeds Bourgeois as Minister of the Interior.
- J. E. S. Hayward, "The Official Philosophy of the French Third Republic: Leon Bourgeois and Solidarism," International Review of Social History, (1961) 6#1 pp 19-48
- Edward A. Tiryakian (2009). For Durkheim: Essays in Historical and Cultural Sociology. Ashgate. p. 93.
- He was initiated at "La Sincerité", lodge of Grand Orient de France (Paul Guillaume, « La Franc-maçonnerie à Reims (1740-2000) », 2001, p. 333)
- Jean-Marie Mayeur; Madeleine Rebirioux (1988). The Third Republic from Its Origins to the Great War, 1871-1914. Cambridge U.P. p. 164.
- Conférence de paix de Paris, 1919–1920, Recueil des actes de la Conférence, "Secret," Partie 4, pp. 175–176. as cited in Paul Gordon Lauren (1988), Power And Prejudice: The Politics And Diplomacy Of Racial Discrimination Westview Press ISBN 0-8133-0678-7 p.92
- France since 1870: Culture, Politics and Society by Charles Sowerine.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Léon Bourgeois.|
- About Leon Victor Auguste Bourgeois
- Works by or about Léon Bourgeois at Internet Archive
- Newspaper clippings about Léon Bourgeois in the 20th Century Press Archives of the German National Library of Economics (ZBW)