1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ollivier, Olivier Émile

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OLLIVIER, OLIVIER ÉMILE (1825–), French statesman, was born at Marseilles on the 2nd of July 1825. His father, Demosthenes Ollivier (1799–1884), was a vehement opponent of the July monarchy, and was returned by Marseilles to the Constituent Assembly in 1848. His opposition to Louis Napoleon led to his banishment after the coup d'etat of December 1851, and he only returned to France in 1860. On the establishment of the short-lived Second Republic his father's influence with Ledru-Rollin secured for fimile Ollivier the position of commissary-general of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône. Ollivier was then twenty-three and had just been called to the Parisian bar. Less radical in his political opinions than his father, his repression of a socialist outbreak at Marseilles commended him to General Cavaignac, who continued him in his functions by making him prefect of the department. He was shortly afterwards removed to the comparatively unimportant prefecture of Chaumont (Haute-Marne), a semi-disgrace which he ascribed to his father's enemies. He therefore resigned from the civil service to take up practice at the bar, where his brilliant abilities assured his success.

He re-entered political life in 1857 as deputy for the 3rd circumscription of the Seine. His candidature had been supported by the Siècle, and he joined the constitutional opposition. With Alfred Darimon, Jules Favre, J. L. Henon and Ernest Picard he formed the group known as Les Cinq, which wrung from Napoleon III. some concessions in the direction of constitutional government. The imperial decree of the 24th of November, permitting the insertion of parliamentary reports in the Moniteur, and an address from the Corps Législatif in reply to the speech from the throne, were welcomed by him as a first instalment of reform. This acquiescence marked a considerable change of attitude, for only a year previously a violent attack on the imperial government, in the course of a defence of Étienne Vacherot, brought to trial for the publication of La Démocratie, had resulted in his suspension from the bar for three months. He gradually separated from his old associates, who grouped themselves around Jules Favre, and during the session of 1856–1867 Ollivier formed a third party, which definitely supported the principle of a Liberal Empire. On the last day of December 1866, Count A. F. J. Walewski, acting in continuance of negotiations already begun by the duc de Momy, offered OUivier the ministry of education with the function of representing the general policy of the government in the Chamber. The imperial decree of the 19th of January 1867, together with the promise inserted in the Moniteur of a relaxation of the stringency of the press laws and of concessions in respect of the right of public meeting, failed to satisfy Ollivier's demands, and he refused office. On the eve of the general election of 1869 he published a manifesto, Le 19 Janvier, in justification of his policy. The seenatus-consulte of the 8th of September 1869 gave the two chambers the ordinary parliamentary rights, and was followed by the dismissal of Rouher and the formation in the last week of 1869 of a responsible ministry of which M. Ollivier was really premier, although that office was not nominally recognized by the constitution. The new cabinet, known as the ministry of the 2nd of January, had a hard task before it, complicated a week after its formation by the shooting of Victor Noir by Prince Pierre Bonaparte. Ollivier immediately summoned the high court of justice for the judgment of Prince Bonaparte and Prince Joachim Murat. The riots following on the murder were suppressed without bloodshed; circulars were sent round to the prefects forbidding them in future to put pressure on the electors in favour of official candidates; Baron Haussmann was dismissed from the prefecture of the Seine; the violence of the press campaign against the emperor, to whom he had promised a happy old age, was broken by the prosecution of Henri Rochefort; and on the 20th of April a senatus-considte was issued which accomplished the transformation of the Empire into a constitutional monarchy. Neither concessions nor firmness sufficed to appease the "Irreconcilables " of the opposition, who since the relaxation of the press laws were able to influence the electorate. On the 8th of May, however, the amended constitution was submitted, on Rouher's advice, to a plebiscite, which resulted in a vote of nearly seven to one in favour of the government. The most distinguished members of the Left in his cabinet—L. J. Buffet, Napoleon Daru and Talhouet Roy—resigned in April on the question of the plebiscite. OUivier himself held the ministry of foreign affairs for a few weeks, until Daru was replaced by the due de Gramont, destined to be OUivier's evil genius. The other vacancies were filled by J. P. Mege and C. I. Plichon, both of them of Conservative tendencies.

The revival of the candidature of Prince Leopold of HohenzolIern-Sigmaringen for the throne of Spain early in 1870 disconcerted OUivier's plans. The French government, following Gramont's advice, instructed Benedetti to demand from the king of Prussia a formal disavowal of the Hohenzollern candidature. Ollivier allowed himself to be gained by the war party. The story of Benedetti's reception at Ems and of Bismarck's manipulation of the Ems telegram is told elsewhere (see Bismarck). It is unlikely that Ollivier could have prevented the eventual outbreak of war, but he might perhaps have postponed it at that time, if he had taken time to hear Benedetti's account of the incident. He was outmanoeuvred by Bismarck, and on the 15th of July he made a hasty declaration in the Chamber that the Prussian government had issued to the powers a note announcing the rebuff received by Benedetti. He obtained a war vote of 500,000,000 francs, and used the fatal words that he accepted the responsibility of the war "with a light heart, "sajang that the war had been forced on France. On the 9th of August, with the news of the first disaster, the OUivier cabinet was driven from office, and its chief sought refuge from the general rage in Italy. He returned to France in 1873, but although he carried on an active campaign in the Bonapartist Estafettc his political power was gone, and even in his own party he came into collision in 1880 with M. Paul de Cassagnac. During his retirement he employed himself in writing a history of L' Empire liberal, the first volume of which appeared in 1895. The work really dealt with the remote and immediate causes of the war, and was the author's apology for his blunder. The 13th volume showed that the immediate blame could not justly be placed entirely on his shoulders. His other works include Democralie et liberie (1867), Le Minislere du 2 Janvier, mes discours (1875), Principes et conduite (1875), L'Eglise et I'Etat au concile du Vatican (2 vols., 1879), Solutions politiques et sociales (1893), Nouveau Manuel du droit ecclesiastique franqais (1885). He had many connexions with the literary and artistic world, being one of the early Parisian champions of Wagner. Elected to the Academy in 1870, he did not take his seat, his reception being indefinitely postponed. His first wife, Blandine Liszt, was the daughter of the Abbe Liszt by Mme d'Agoult (Daniel Stern). She died in 1862, and Ollivier married in 1869 Mile Gravier.

Ollivier's own view of his political life is given in his L'Empire liberal, which must always be an important "document" for the history of his time; but the book must be treated with no less caution than respect.