The vassals of the republic

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The vassals of the French Third Republic

This article describes the attitude of the Third French Republic (1870-1940) toward protectorates. As a republic, it generally was more comfortable with colonies. To allow the existence of protectorates within its jurisdiction somewhat clashed with its republican principles; moreover, most, if not all, of these protectorates were absolute monarchies.The article condenses information about the formation and abolition of the protectorates during the Third Republic and focuses on the relations between the local rulers and the French authorities.

Historic background

By 1870, there were two tiny European principalities, subject to French influence: Andorra and Monaco.

Andorra, situated in the Pyrenées, in the Franco-Spanish border, was aprincipality since the Middle Ages, in which power was shared by two co-princes: the bishop of Urgel (Spain) and the count of Foix[1]. Monaco, situated in the Mediterranean coast near Nice, was also a principality since the Middle Ages, ruled by the Grimaldi family. After the upheaval caused by the French Revolution of 1789 and the Napoleonic Empire, both principalities were returned to theirpre-revolution status in 1814. The Treaty of Vienna (1815) confirmed the King of France as co-prince of Andorra and the Grimaldi as princes of Monaco, but placed Monaco under the protectorate of the King of Sardinia.

In 1860, Napoleon III, Emperor of France, received Nice and Savoie from the King of Sardinia in exchange for French help to the King to become King of Italy. Pursuant to theagreement, Sardinia withdrew its troops from Monaco on July 18, 1860, thereby ending its protectorate. Under a treaty of February 2, 1861, France recognized the sovereignty of Monaco, and Monaco promised France not to cede all or part of the principality to any power other than France. Charles III of the Grimaldi family, who was prince of Monaco since 1856, somehow placed his principality under Frenchinfluence.

Regarding Andorra, in 1866 Guillem de Plandolit i d’Areny, a nobleman and rich landowner, headed the ‘Nova Reforma’, that granted limited suffrage: the Consell General would be composed of 24 councilors, elected by the syndics. The reform was accepted by the Bishop Josep Caixal i Estradé on April 14, 1866, and ratified by the other co-prince, Emperor Napoleon III, in 1869.

By the endof the Second Empire, France had several small colonies scattered all over the world, almost all under the administration of the French Navy. It had Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana in the Caribbean, Saint-Pierre & Miquelon near Newfoundland, the coastal part of Algeria in the Mediterranean, the coastal part of Senegal in West Africa, Réunion and Mayotte in the Indian Ocean, five cities inIndia, Cochinchina in Southeast Asia, and New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean. The only exceptions to this structure of direct administration were Tahiti, where Queen Pomare IV had accepted the French protectorate in 1842, and Cambodia, where King Norodom had accepted the Protectorate of the French Empire in 1863.

The French Third Republic was proclaimed in Paris on September 4, 1870, when thenews of the defeat of the French armies, commanded by Emperor Napoleon III himself, before the Germans, reached the French capital. Although the French Provisional Government tried to revert the ghastly situation of France, in 1871 the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck imposed the Peace of Frankfurt. France lost the left bank of the Rhine, with Alsatia and Lorraine, and had to pay 5 billionfrancs to Germany.

The republic, after 5 years of debates in the National Assembly, finally took a definitive form in the 1875 Constitutional Laws (collectively called the 1875 Constitution). The Republic did not change the administrative structure of France, which prided itself of its centralized and uniform administration. France was divided in about 90 departments, each of which was ruled by a...
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