Childhood & Early Life
Clemenceau was born on 28, 1841, at Mouilleron-en-Pareds in Vendee, Western France to Sophie Eucharie Gautreau and Benjamin Clemenceau.
His father Benjamin, a non practicing physician, was a political activist. Popular as a devotee of the 1789 Revolution, he was responsible for shaping his son’s inclination towards Revolution and Catholic detest.
In 1858, post his education in the Nantes Lycee, he got his French baccalaureate of letters.
In November 1861, he was taken to Paris by his father to study medicine where he came in contact with the youth who were leading the republican opposition through an association called Agis Comme Tu Penses (Act as You Think).
Clemenceau initiated a journal entitled Le Travail (“Work”) in December 1861. It covered his further course of action in the political sphere but it was seized by the police.
On 23 February, 1862 he was imprisoned for an advertisement he made to celebrate the 14th anniversary of the Revolution of 1848.
Post his release after 73 days he came up with a newspaper, Le Matin (“Morning”) which also faced seizure.
He finished his medical education in 1865 and shifted to United States for four years. During this time, the Civil War was at its peak.
Although he set up his medical office in New York, he spent majority time on literary work against the rule of Napolean III and worked as a political journalist for a Parisian newspaper.
Witnessing the freedom of speech and expression, he was deeply influenced by the American Democracy and developed respect for the politicians promoting the same.
When his father denied him financial support, he started working as a French teacher and riding instructor in a girls’ school in Stamford, Connecticut.
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He returned to Paris in 1870 after the French defeat at the Battle of Sedan during the Franco-Prussian War and the fall of the Second French Empire. After his return, he became the mayor of Montmartre and was elected to the National Assembly for the 18th arrondissement.
His efforts to settle a compromise between the radical leaders, the commune and the French Government after the power seizure by the Paris Commune in March 1871 could not be successful.
He had to forego the Mayor post due to pressure from the Commune as being non authoritative on legal grounds.
He tried his luck with the Paris Commune Council but remained unsuccessful. It was only after the fall of the Commune in 1871 that he secured a position in the Paris Municipal council on 23 July 1871 in the Clignan court quarter. He remained in service till 1876 as the secretary, vice-president and finally a President.
He held membership of the chamber of deputies as a Radical Republican from 1876 .The following decade saw Clemenceau’s major focus on journalism.
He published his newspaper, La Justice in 1880 which was considered as the main weapon of the Paris Radicalism.
In spite of becoming unpopular on grounds of being a political critic, he continued to be in the forefront when it came to French Radicalism.
Well-known for his disparaging criticism, he won the tag of the “Tiger” for having disrupting cabinets such as the Ferry Cabinet in 1881 on Tunisian issue, Freycinet Cabinet for interfering in Egypt and the Ferry Cabinet of 1855 in the Indo-Chinese upheaval.
His detest for the Russian alliance was so evident that he lost on contesting again for the Chamber of Deputies in 1893 on grounds of being accused of involvement in Panama Canal scandal and unreasonably blamed for being in British pay.
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His career was further disturbed by his participation in the Dreyfus case which opposed the anti-Semitic and nationalist campaigns. Nonetheless his publications did not stop and reached a total of 665 for Dreyfus defend.
After the withdrawal of his newspaper La Justice, je initiated a weekly, Le Bloc in 1900 which continued for two years till 15 March, 1902.
He was elected as the Senator for the Var, district of Draguignan on 6th April 1902. In 1906, he became the minister of the interior and following which became the premier. He made all efforts to foster congenial relations with Britain sort the Moroccan crisis.
After the end of his government in 1909, Clemenceau concentrated his efforts mainly on military preparations in the face of war.
He is credited for the Journal du Var which was first published in 1910. Foreign policies, defaming the Socialist anti- militarism were major issues emphasized in this publication.
In 1913, post becoming the member for the senate commissions for foreign affairs and for the army, Clemenceau came up with a newspaper L'Homme Libre (The Free Man). It emphasized mainly on weaponry and German threat.
L'Homme Libre although faced criticism from the Government leading to suppression in 1914, it was re –published as L'Homme Enchainé (The Enchained Man) which later talked majorly about promoting French triumph and bringing to light all in competencies in the war front.
He became the premier again in November 1917 through the appointment of President Raymond Poincare and remained in power till 1920.
This time he took the responsibility of ministry of war. He concentrated his actions majorly at restoring the French morale in the country and propagated his policy as "Je fais la guerre" (I wage war).
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His efforts to form a consolidated military command under Ferdinand Foch and his importance in remaining in war till November 1918 were evident and commendable.
During the Paris Peace Conference, he was a senior French representative. Clemenceau’s main emphasis was on German disarmament and humiliation as well as the return of the territories of Alsace-Lorraine (lost in the Franco-Prussian War) to France.
He had differences with the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson mainly due to the latter’s too idealistic approaches which resulted in Clemenceau’s discontentment with the Treaty.
Faced with charges of being too lenient when it came to the German treatment at the Treaty of Versailles, Clemenceau lost the presidential elections of January 1920 at the age of 79.
Personal Life & Legacy
Clemenceau was a very old friend and confidant of the impressionist painter Claude Monet. He played a major role in getting his donation to the French state of Les Nymphéas(Water Lilies) paintings, now displayed in Paris' Musée de l'Orangerie.
Deeply influenced by Auguste Comte, J. S. Mill, and Charles Darwin ideology, liberation and usual rights were of prime importance to Clemenceau.
It was during his in teaching career in Stamford, he got married on 23 June 1869 to Mary Eliza Plummer, one of his pupils at school.
He had three children with Mary Plummer, two daughters and a son but their marriage ended with a divorce after 7 years.
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Clemenceau wrote his autobiography ‘In the Evening of my Thought’ (1929) after his retirement from politics
During his last few years he divided his time between Paris and the Vendée and spent majority time in writing as evident in a two-volume philosophical testament, Au soir de la pensée (In the Evening of My Thought) he managed to complete in 1927.
He passed away on 24 November 1929 in Paris.
Grandeurs etmisères d'une victoire (Grandeur and Misery of Victory), which is the memoir of the war and Paris Peace settlement, was published post his death in 1930.
James Douglas, Jr named Clemenceau, Arizona, USA in the honor of Georges s Clemenceau in 1917
Mount Clemenceau (3,658m) in the Canadian Rockies and the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau was named after Clemenceau.
Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau, a station on lines 1 and 13 of the Paris Métro in the 8th arrondissement have been named after him.
A street in Beirut is named after Georges Clemenceau as Rue Clemenceau.
Clemenceau Avenue, a street in Singapore, has been named in the honor of Georges Clemenceau.