The World at War


Raymond Poincare

French Statesman

Born: August 20, 1860 at Bar-le-duc, Lorraine
Died: October 15, 1934 at Paris

President of the Republic:February 18, 1913 - February 18, 1920
Premier of France:January 14, 1912 - January 21, 1913
January 15, 1922 - June 1, 1924 (2nd & 3rd cabinets)
July 23, 1926 - July 26, 1929 (4th cabinet)

     Poincare was elected to the Chamber of Deputies as a moderate Republican and supporter of secularization in 1887. A lawyer by training, he opposed the condemnation of Captain Dreyfus on legal and judicial grounds. He entered government as Minister of Public Instruction in 1893 at age 33 making him the youngest minister in the history of the Third Republic. He moved on to the Finance ministry before leaving the Chamber to take a seat in the Senate.

     Poincare regarded war in Europe as inevitable. He became Premier and Foreign Minister in January 1912 and worked to consolidate French alliances with Russia and Great Britain. He was elected President of the Republic in January 1913 overcoming the objections of Clemenceau and the Left. He called on all parties to form a union government, L'Union Sacree, at the beginning of World War I and appointed his life long enemy, Georges Clemenceau, Premier in 1917.

     Poincare was a strong proponent of the war guilt and reparations clauses at the Versailles Conference. He considered the terms of the Treaty too lenient in their treatment of Germany. He refused to run for reelection and returned to the Senate in 1920 in protest.

     He was appointed Premier for a second time in 1922 and took a firm stance on payment of reparations. He sent troops to seize the industries of the Ruhr in January 1923. The German government ordered workers to strike and factory owners to close their businesses. Poincare sent in French workers to run the mines and factories. They extracted $91 million in reparations before the Germans agreed to negotiate and the French withdrew in September. Poincare resigned following the victory of the Left in the 1924 elections.

     He returned for a final term as premier in 1926. The country was in the midst of a financial crisis. Poincare raised taxes and closed the public deficit but inflation was curbed only after the franc lost four fifths of its value against the dollar. The devalued franc poincare hurt the lower middle class who had most of their savings in government bonds and was a major factor in undermining their support for the republican regime. Poincare retired for health reasons in 1929.

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