Frederic Alfred Pierre Vicomte de Falloux Du Coudray
Statesman; b. at Angers, March 7, 1811; d. there Jan. 6, 1885
Falloux du Coudray, FRÉDÉRIC ALFRED PIERRE, VICOMTE DE, b. at Angers, March 7, 1811; d. there January 6, 1885. Two persons are largely responsible for the moulding of his character, his mother, who was at the court of Louis XVI, and Madame Swetchine, whose “Life and Letters” he later published. The first works by which he drew attention to himself revealed the future statesman as a man of unyielding principles. His “Histoire de Louis XVI” (Paris, 1840) exhibits him as a staunch monarchist; in it he maintains that the needed reforms could have been accomplished by the monarchy without the Revolution. His “Histoire de Saint Pie V” (Paris, 1844) ably sustains the traditional thesis that the Church may use coercion to prevent the spread of heresy. Nevertheless, in less than ten years this partisan of monarchy took office under President Louis Bonaparte; this defender of the coercive authority of the Church was ranked among “Liberal Catholics”. To take advantage of opportunities was henceforth de Falloux’s maxim as a practical statesman.
Under the monarchy de Falloux was elected (1846) deputy for Segre on a legitimist platform; in 1848 he was chosen a member of the Constitutional Assembly to represent Maine et Loire, on a platform which supported the social aspirations of the time as compatible with Christian ideas. It was at his suggestion that the Catholic members helped to elect Buchez president of the assembly. To de Falloux, as mouthpiece of the committee charged with the question of investigating the “national workshops”, was assigned the perilous duty of proposing their abolition; this measure was followed by the bloody insurrection of June. Those who blame him for this action overlook the fact that he was neither the first nor the only one to insist on this inevitable measure and unjustly attribute to him a Machiavellian scheme by which, in the interest of his religious policy, he sought to goad the advanced parties to compromise their cause by disorder and rioting. As a matter of fact the sight of these excesses brought home to Thiers the necessity of moral restraint as a part of education, and thus led him to collaborate with de Falloux in promoting the educational projects of the latter. Minister of Education from December, 1848, until October 31, 1849, de Falloux immediately determined to push vigorously against the educational monopoly of the university the campaign which Montalembert had begun during the last years of the July monarchy. As early as January 4, 1849, de Falloux appointed an extra parliamentary commission to further this scheme in the legislature and in June, 1849, while the advanced parties were still smarting under the sense of defeat, he strongly advocated the passage of a law establishing liberty of education. The assembly, however, voted against it, since the bill had not the approval of the Council of State. It was only during the ministry of 1850, in which de Falloux had not a seat, that on March 15 his successor Parieu, with the help of Thiers and Dupanloup, and despite the opposition of Victor Hugo, succeeded in having the law passed. Though de Falloux could not take part in the proceedings on account of ill-health, the law bears his name, and rightly, for it was his work.
The aim of this law was twofold. It dealt with both primary and secondary education. In the first case, to conduct a primary school, a Frenchman had to be at least twenty-one years of age, with three years’ experience in an elementary school, or a certificate from a commission appointed by the Minister of Education. For members of religious congregations in girls’ schools the lettres d’obedience took the place of this certificate. In the second case the law required the candidate to be twenty-five years of age, to have had five years of experience, and a degree of Bachelor of Letters, or a diploma from a ministerial commission. The new council of the university represented the leading philosophical opinions of France; besides a commission composed of university men proper it included 3 bishops, 1 rabbi, 1 Protestant minister, 3 councillors of the high court of appeals (cour de cessation), 3 councillors of state, 3 members of the institute, and 3 members of the board of free education. In two years’ time 257 free schools sprang up, and it is from this law, the last remnants of which the French Parliament is now (1908) preparing to abrogate, that dates the development of the Catholic teaching orders in France. In a consistorial address (May 20, 1850) Pius IX praised it as a measure of progress. Those Catholics who opposed, as a matter of principle, all State education were disappointed at the passage of the law, and their views found an ardent exponent in
Louis Veuillot. In the Constituent and in the Legislative Assembly, as minister and as deputy, de Falloux always maintained that France was obliged to protect Pius IX as a temporal ruler; he was one of the prime movers of the expedition de Rome. During the Second Empire, he withdrew from public life. In 1856 he was elected to the French Academy. In the discussions which took place in royalist circles during the early years of the Third Republic, de Falloux invariably declared in favor of the national flag (the tricolor) and in an article in the “Correspondant” (1873) he insisted that neither as a policy nor as a party cry should the monarchists put forth the idea of a counter-revolution. Spuller, however, declared that because of his conspicuous ability as a statesman de Falloux was one of the most dangerous opponents the Revolutionary party had to encounter during the nineteenth century. It was on the basis of liberty that de Falloux desired to combat the false principles of the Revolution. He believed that politics should take into consideration not only the “thesis” or principle, but also the “hypothesis” or actual conditions, and that certain too extreme formulas or too exacting claims were sure to prejudice rather than help the cause of the Church and the monarchy. The posthumous publication of his “Memoirs” in 1888 revived earlier controversies between the “Correspondant” and the “Univers” and provoked a sharp reply from Eugene Veuillot.