The World at War


Edouard Herriot

French Statesman

Born: July 5, 1872 at Troyes
Died: March 26, 1957 at Lyon

Premier of France:July 14, 1924 - April 10, 1925
July 19 - 21, 1926
June 3 - December 14, 1932

     Like a number of intellectuals of his era, Herriot joined the Radical-Socialist Party in the wake of the Dreyfus Affair. He began his political career as a local councilor and was elected Mayor of Lyon in 1905, a post he held for the next half century.

     He was elected to the Senate from Rhone in 1912, served as Minister of Public Works and Supply 1916-'17 and entered the Chamber of Deputies in 1919 where he remained until 1940.

     Herriot became Premier after the victory of the Cartel des gauches (coalition of the Left) in 1924. His government evacuated the Ruhr, recognized the Soviet Union and made disarmament a top priority but was unable to fashion an acceptable solution to the and overthrown in April 1925.

     Herriot served as Minister of Public Instruction in the conservative government of Raymond Poincare from 1926 to '28.

     He was appointed Premier for a second time in June 1932. His cabinet was overthrown by the deputies in December when Herriot insisted on paying an installment on the war debt to the United States.

     Herriot supported the Radical-Socialists adherence to the Popular Front though his own positions had shifted somewhat to the Right after the 1934 riots. He was elected President of the Chamber of Deputies following the Front's victory in 1936. He opposed the Munich Pact, supported the war, opposed the armistice and supported Reynaud's proposal to continue the war from North Africa but prevailed upon Petain to declare Lyon an open city when it was threatened with destruction on June 18, 1940.

     Herriot abstained from the vote that gave full powers to Petain on July 10, 1940. He continued as Honorary President of the bureau that represented the Chamber after its dissolution. He protested Vichy's award of decorations to the Legion des volontaires francais by returning his own Legion of Honor medal in August 1942. Petain retaliated by closing the consultative bureau and putting Herriot under house arrest. He was turned over to the Germans and interned at Mareville after the Normandy landings.

     Herriot was summoned to Paris just prior to the city's liberation to discuss the possibility of reconvening the National Assembly. Laval and German ambassador Otto Abetz were concocting a scheme to forestall the installation of de Gaulle's Provisional Government and thought the Americans might still prefer to treat with the elected representatives of France. Herriot refused to front for them and was returned to Mareville for the duration of the war.

     Herriot returned office as deputy and Mayor of Lyon after the war. He opposed de Gaulle's efforts to increase the constitutional powers of the President at the expense of the Assembly.

     Herriot was elected to the Academie Francaise in 1946.

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