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A brief outline of the French political situation shortly before World War I.

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Introduction

A brief outline of the French political situation shortly before World War I o In 1871, the Third French Republic was born out of the French defeat at the hands of Prussia. There was no specific constitution by which the Republic was governed and so it was difficult to pin down when something was against the 'Spirit of the Republic'. o The President had considerable powers in theory. He could dissolve the 'Lower House/Chamber' but in reality, he needed approval of the 'Upper House/Senate' to do this. He was generally seen as a figurehead to represent the country rather than a complete ruler. For example, he also could not veto legislation. o January 13th 1875: The presidency came under fire and the post of 'President' was only kept by a majority of one vote from the Upper House/Senate. Popular opinion (outside of Parliament) wanted the old Monarchy back by a slim margin. This showed that the French themselves thought that the President was almost superfluous. This weakened the President's position in foreign policy and negotiations. o The Boulanger Crisis: 1. ...read more.

Middle

o Superficially, another big problem was that hardly anyone knew what party most of the politicians were in anyway. Many of the politicians were, in fact, members of more than one party and it was only possible to tell who was with whom at what time by the way in which they voted and even THEN, it was mostly guesswork. o This is not as bad as it seems. There was, in fact, a solid core of able politicians who had had years of experience in French Politics, much of the time even more than the President. This lent French Politics and underlying stability that is not immediately apparent. The disadvantage to this is that - from the outside - this was not immediately obvious, making France seem weaker than it really was. o Armed Socialist riots were also relatively commonplace and President Carnot was even assassinated by a student activist in 1894, showing that many Frenchmen wanted a different way of government. To a greater or lesser extent, the same was true in most countries of Europe, though. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Anti-Dreyfusards thought that the greatness of France was more important than the rights of a single man while the Dreyfusards thought that the Republic should stand for equality of man and the end to descrimination based on class or race. Since Dreyfus was a Jew, this became of particular importance. o The Results of the Dreyfus Affair: The Dreyfus affair showed that much of France was of different opinion and very right wing while much of the rest of French population was far more left-wing in its outlook. This highlighted a great flaw in the French civilisation but was also a good thing in the long run. It forced many Frenchmen to think about these issues in ways they never had done before and actually discuss this with people. In the end, a compromise between the two apparently opposing sides and France was all the stronger for it. o In the short term, however, it was a major destabilising factor and rocked confidence in the Third Republic, which was already badly shaken by the Panama Scandal and the 'weak' way in which they acted against Boulanger. These issues were eventually mostly resolved, however, but it did offer another insight into the weaknesses of France for France's opponents. ...read more.

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