Jules Claude Gabriel Favre - Encyclopedia

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JULES CLAUDE GABRIEL FAVRE (1809-1880), French statesman, was born at Lyons on the 21st of March 1809, and began his career as an advocate. From the time of the revolution of 1830 he openly declared himself a republican, and in political trials he seized the opportunity to express his opinions. After the revolution of 1848 he was elected deputy for Lyons to the Constituent Assembly, where he sat among the moderate republicans, voting against the socialists. When Louis Napoleon was elected President of France, Favre made himself conspicuous by his opposition, and on the 2nd of December 1851 he tried with Victor Hugo and others to organize an armed resistance in the streets of Paris. After the coup d'etat he withdrew from politics, resumed his profession, and distinguished himself by his defence of Felice Orsini, the perpetrator of the attack against the life of Napoleon III. In 1858 he was elected deputy for Paris, and was one of the "Five" who gave the signal for the republican opposition to the Empire. In 1863 he became the head of his party, and delivered a number of addresses denouncing the Mexican expedition and the occupation of Rome. These addresses, eloquent, clear and incisive, won him a seat in the French Academy in 1867. With Thiers he opposed the declaration of war against Prussia in 1870, and at the news of the defeat of Napoleon III. at Sedan he demanded from the Legislative Assembly the deposition of the emperor. In the government of National Defence he became vice-president under General Trochu, and minister of foreign affairs, with the onerous task of negotiating peace with victorious Germany. He proved to be less adroit as a diplomat than he had been as an orator, and committed several irreparable blunders. His famous statement on the 6th of September 1870 that he "would not yield to Germany an inch of territory nor a single stone of the fortresses" was a piece of oratory which Bismarck met on the 19th by his declaration to Favre that the cession of Alsace and of Lorraine was the indispensable condition of peace. He also made the mistake of not having an assembly elected which would have more regular powers than the government of National Defence, and of opposing the removal of the government from Paris during the siege. In the peace negotiations he allowed Bismarck to get the better of him, and arranged for the armistice of the 28th of June 1871 without knowing the situation of the armies, and without consulting the government at Bordeaux. By a grave oversight he neglected to inform Gambetta that the army of the East (80,000 men) was not included in the armistice, and it was thus obliged to retreat to neutral territory. He gave no proof whatever of diplomatic skill in the negotiations for the treaty of Frankfort, and it was Bismarck who imposed all the conditions. He withdrew from the ministry, discredited, on the 2nd of August 1871, but remained in the chamber of deputies. Elected senator on the 30th of January 1876, he continued to support the government of the republic against the reactionary opposition, until his death on the 10th of January 1880.

His works include many speeches and addresses, notably La Liberte de la Presse (1849), Defense de F. Orsini (1866), Discours de reception a l'Academie francaise (1868), Discours sur la liberte interieure (1869). In Le Gouvernement de la Defense Nationale, 3 vols., 1871-1875, he explained his role in 1870-1871. After his death his family published his speeches in 8 volumes.

See G. Hanotaux, Histoire de la France contemporaine (1903, &c.); also E. Benoit-Levy, Jules Favre (1884).

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