Jules Ferry, a politician of the early Third Republic, is famous for his strategy of secular education and the fruitful extension of France as a colonial empire. He served as the Prime Minister of France for two terms. At that time the French imperial expansion started. Although criticized, he had a considerable influence on the French Parliament and the country’s policy. As an excellent speaker, he was eager to debate his ideas on the necessity of colonies and present arguments for his imperialistic intentions.
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Need of France for Colonies
In “Speech Before the French Chamber of Deputies, March 28, 1884” (as cited in Halsall, 1998), Ferry explains his plan for the colonial expansion. He states that it is connected with “economic ideas; the most far-reaching ideas of civilization; and ideas of a political and patriotic sort” (as cited in Halsall, 1998, para.2). He presented the statistics which proved that the necessity of colonial expansion was urgent. One of the reasons was the industrialization of European society. He underlined the particular status of France as “rich and hardworking country” (as cited in Halsall, 1998, para.3). As the result of industry development, the country needed a place for exporting the produced goods. The neighboring countries like Germany were limiting exports. The United States of America also protected their markets. Besides, those countries started interfering the French market as well. Thus, because of rising competition and the establishment of the trading laws, it became difficult to export goods. Consequently, he presented colonies as the way to develop economics and a perfect export market.
Arguments Against Ferry’s Imperialism
Jules Ferry was famous for his imperialistic views and was criticized because of them. During his speech at the Berlin Conference in 1884-1885, he declared that “the superior races have a right vis-a-vis the inferior races” (Fitzmaurice, 2012, p. 125). The audience was indignant of him speaking so about the “country where the rights of man were proclaimed” (Fitzmaurice, 2012, p. 125). Stull, his response was that “the superior races have a right because they have a duty. They have a duty to civilize the inferior races” (Fitzmaurice, 2012, p. 125). He was also accused of abandoning the principles of 1789 and 1848 Revolutions. It was the sign that the autocratic rule could be returned. It was one more reason for the criticism.
Non-Economic Arguments in Favor of Imperialism
Ferry presented some arguments in favor of imperialism that were not connected with the economics. He spoke of the changed naval warfare circumstances. The ships needed locations where they could be provided with coal or food, and where they could find a safe shelter in case of necessity. Thus he approves the need in Tunisia, Saigon, Madagascar or Indochina and appeals never to leave these places (as cited in Halsall, 1998). Ferry also refers to the fact that the enemies were appearing around with the developed armies both in Europe and the rest of the world. Thus, he claimed it would have been a way to decline.
Despite the discrepancies in economic and social matters with the other Republican radicals, Jules Ferry has much influence in France of that period. His introduction of secular education had the impact on the reforms that followed. Still, he is more known for his policy of colonial expansion. It certainly affected the development of economic, political and social spheres of the country.
Fitzmaurice, A. (2012). Liberalism and Empire in nineteenth-century international law. The American Historical Review, 117(1), 122-140.
Halsall, P. (Ed.). (1998). Jules Ferry (1832-1893): On French colonial expansion. Web.
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