The Political Pattern II: the Government of Moral Order

  • Guy Chapman


It is usual to speak of MacMahon as an honest, honourable simpleton. There are many comic stories at his expense, some, to be sure, invented during the electoral campaign after the Sixteenth of May (1877). It is true that he was unversed in politics: he had not sought office; he was, to borrow an American term, drafted. Had he been less simple, he would probably have withstood Buffet’s pressure; but those who chose him, knew that they would not appeal in vain to his sense of loyalty to France and his duty to the highest authority in the land, the Assembly. All things considered, he was a good President in an extremely difficult period. He had a certain natural shrewdness; he understood something of men, witness his recommendation to Broglie not to take the Ministry of the Interior himself. His complete honesty could call forth a like response. He trusted the duke, and Broglie gave him in return both affection and loyal support, even, it may be thought, to his own political ruin. Dufaure, also, he trusted, and Dufaure too gave him complete loyalty. On the other hand, for those who took advantage of his slowness of apprehension, such as Decazes, he had no forgiveness; yet he resisted the attempts of Thiers to replace Decazes by Jules Simon in 1877.1 His chief faults were primarily his dislike of politics and political manipulation — probably his biggest error was his refusal to have anything to do with Gambetta. And, secondly, his lack of panache, his inability to play the public figure, the hero of the Malakoff Redoubt. How he disliked crowds! he even disliked being recognised in the street. His virtue lay in his sense of duty, which held him so long in office, in spite of the many merciless attacks on him, at a time when scarcely another man could have filled the position.


Moral Order Electoral College Executive Power Public Power Universal Suffrage 
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Copyright information

© Guy Chapman 1962

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guy Chapman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeedsUK

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