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HistoryThe big dates

1875 Birth of the 3rd Republic



30 January 1875

After 4 years of uncertain gestation, the 3rd Republic was definitively proclaimed at Versailles in 1875. It was a triumphant defeat over the divided monarchists.

Proclaimed on 4 September 1870 after the defeat at Sedan, the 3rd Republic got off to a difficult start. The period was very unfavourable. France was invaded by Germany and there was widespread social and political agitation.

Since September 1870, the government of National Defence had been trying to make peace. But Bismarck would agree to negotiate only with a government appointed from an elected assembly. Elections were held in February 1871 which consecrated the triumph of the monarchist right-wing parties (Legitimists, Orleanists, Bonapartists). Gathered in Bordeaux, the new assembly appointed Thiers as “Head of the Executive”. It did not yet dare to use the term “President”! Thiers signed the peace treaty in Frankfurt in May.

Following the German invasion of Paris, the Commune uprising broke out in March 1871. The National Assembly decided to move to Versailles, where it stayed until January 1879. The elected members slept in the Hall of Mirrors. To keep warm, they burned the wood panelling kept in the storerooms. They debated in the Royal Opera House. Thiers used the troops who had remained faithful, known as the “Versaillais”, to put down the insurrection in May. The situation reinforced the establishment of the Republic. With the return of peace and social calm, it no longer frightened people. Further elections confirmed it. In July 1871, the Comte de Chambord, head of the Legitimists, ensured the failure of the return of the monarchy over the question of the national flag: he preferred white to the tricolour. Because of the internal disputes among the monarchists, the Republic appeared as the issue that caused the least division.

It was definitively established in January 1875. After a first attempt on 28 January, Henri Wallon, a moderate Catholic, presented on the 29th an amendment on the election of the President of the Republic for 7 years by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, meeting in a National Assembly, and allowing his re-election. On the 30th, the amendment was adopted by 353 votes against 352! The 3rd Republic was proclaimed thanks to one vote! Three further amendments were adopted to complete the Constitution of 1875. It remained in force until 1940. A parliamentary Chamber was built in 1875 by Edmond de Joly in the central courtyard of the Southern wing. The “National Assembly” room under the 3rd Republic became the “Congress Room”. All the presidents were elected here until 1958.

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