Maurice Rouvier - Encyclopedia

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MAURICE ROUVIER (1842-), French statesman, was born at Aix on the 17th of April 1842, and spent the early years of his manhood in business at Marseilles. He supported Gambetta's candidature there in 1867, and in 1870 he founded an anti-imperial journal, L'Egalite. Becoming secretary general of the prefecture of Bouches-du-Rhone in 1870-71, he refused the office of prefect. In July 1871 he was returned to the National Assembly for Marseilles at a by-election, and voted steadily with the Republican party. He became a recognized authority on finance, and repeatedly served on the Budget Commission as reporter or president. At the general elections of 1881 after the fall of the Ferry cabinet he was returned to the chamber on a programme which included the separation of Church and State, a policy of decentralization, and the imposition of an income-tax. He then joined Gambetta's cabinet as minister of commerce and the colonies, and in the 1883-85 cabinet of Jules Ferry he held the same office. He became premier and minister of finance on the 31st of May 1887, with the support of the moderate republican groups, the Radicals holding aloof in support of General Boulanger, who began a violent agitation against the government. Then came the scandal of the decorations in which President Grevy's son-in-law Daniel Wilson figured, and the Rouvier cabinet fell in the attempt to screen the president. Rouvier's opposition in his capacity of president of the Budget Commission was one of the causes of the defeat of the Floquet cabinet in February 1889. In the new Tirard ministry formed to combat the Boulangist agitation he was minister of finance. This portfolio he retained consecutively in the Freycinet, the Loubet and the Ribot cabinets, 1890-93. His relations with Cornelius Herz and the baron de Reinach compelled his retirement, however, from the Ribot cabinet at the time of the Panama scandals in December 1892. Again, in 1902, he became minister of finance, after nearly ten years in exclusion from office, in the Radical cabinet of M. Combes; and on the fall of the Combes ministry in January 1905 he was invited by the president to form a new ministry. In this cabinet he at first held the ministry of finance. In his initial declaration to the chamber the new premier had declared his intention of continuing the policy of the late cabinet, pledging the new ministry to a policy of conciliation, to the consideration of old age pensions, an income-tax, separation of Church and State. Public attention, however, was chiefly concentrated on foreign policy. During the Combes ministry M. Delcasse had come to a secret understanding with Spain on the Moroccan question, and had established an understanding with England. His policy had aroused German jealousy, which became evident in the asperity with which the question of Morocco was handled in Berlin. At a cabinet meeting on June 5th it is said that M. Rouvier reproached the Foreign Minister with imprudence in the matter of Morocco, and after a heated discussion M. Delcasse gave in his resignation. M. Rouvier himself took the portfolio of foreign affairs at this anxious juncture. He, after critical negotiations, secured on July 8th an agreement with Germany accepting the international conference proposed by the sultan of Morocco on the assurance that Germany would recognize the special nature of the interest of France in maintaining order on the frontier of her Algerian empire. Lengthy discussions resulted in a new convention in September, which contained the programme of the proposed conference, and in December M. Rouvier was able to make a statement of the whole proceedings in the chamber, which received the assent of all parties. M. Rouvier's government did not long survive the presidential election of 1906. The disturbances arising in connexion with the Separation Law were skilfully handled by M. Clemenceau to discredit the ministry, which gave place to a cabinet under the direction of M. Sarrien.

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