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"France is my mother": the subject of universal education in the French Third Republic.

In 1880, Jules Ferry presented a series of bills to the French Parliament designed to establish a system of nationwide primary education for the children of the popular classes that would be "obligatory, free and laic." These reform laws were meant to ensure the long-term survival of the still very-much-embattled Third Republic by creating a nation of loyal republican citizens no longer subject to the dictates of the Catholic Church and the monarchy it supported. The regeneration of the nation was to be effected by teaching the masses to exercise their reason through the study of the sciences and Kantian rationalist morality. Through learning this universally shared 'independent morality,' they would become free citizens capable of exercising sovereignty over themselves and the democratic nation, rising above the constraints of natural determinism. The rhetoric of saving the homeland (pattie) from 'anarchy' through regeneration thus dovetailed perfectly with the logic of rational universalism. But in order to have a real effect on the children of scarcely literate peasants and workers, the new curriculum was designed to subjectify the relation of the pupils to the republican State. To moral education, the Opportunists added a civic instruction whose goal was to inspire the children's respect, gratitude, and obedience toward the Republic by depicting it as their mother. The rhetoric of regeneration here was a metaphorical process of transference in which the natural mother was replaced by the national mother of the patrie. The unity of the nation was thus purchased at the expense of splitting the subject of universal education: rhetoric was now pitted against logic, and while the demand was for universalism, freedom, and autonomy, the desire was for nationalism, obedience, and dependence.

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In the years 1880-1882, Jules Ferry, then Minister of Education and President of the Council (akin to Prime Minister), presented a series of laws to the French Parliament designed to establish a system of nationwide primary education for boys and girls that would, according to the political slogans of the ruling 'Opportunist' party, be "obligatory, free and laic." At the same time, he vigorously defended the bill introduced by his close collaborator, Camille See, instituting a nationwide network of public secondary schools for girls. With these actions he raised a firestorm of controversy pitting Catholics against proponents of lay education that would embroil the nation for the ensuing thirty-five years, and whose effects are still felt even today. In fact, the school system is the only institution of the Third Republic that has remained basically intact until the present time. Moreover, in the eyes of many scholars it is the schools that allowed France to be the only Catholic democracy in the world until the 1950s, and they remain an essential guarantee of civil liberties in France today (Milner, De l'ecole).

These reform laws were meant to serve a political purpose first and foremost, that of ensuring the long-term survival of the still very much embattled Third Republic, whose main political enemy was the alliance of the Church, the old aristocracy, and an important segment of the traditional bourgeoisie, a coalition that lasted well beyond Pope Leo XIII's encyclical in 1892 enjoining the French church to "rally" to the Republic. The Ferry legislation was designed to give the republicans a foothold in every village and rural area in the land, essential to combating the influence of the local priest and thus to attaining political power in a regime of universal male suffrage.

In order to safeguard the life of the Republic in the era of mass enfranchisement, the Ferry laws strove to create something new in the world, a large body of loyal republican citizens who would no longer be susceptible to the dictates of the Church or to the seductions of authoritarian dictatorship. (1) For that reason, disputes over education produced a kind of ideological bigamy in which, as Ozouf so happily put it: "la pedagogie se marie au droit, a la politique, a l'economie, a la metaphysique, a la morale" [pedagogy was married to law, politics, economics, metaphysics, morals] (18). What might have seemed at first sight to be narrow questions of pedagogy, such as curriculum or teaching methods, therefore became entangled in what might be called the first experiment in postmodern performativity, a complex effort on a hitherto unprecedented scale, to transform the identity of a modern nation by using education to create the republican subject.

If a significant portion of the public became receptive to the fundamental ideas for these reforms in the first decade of the Republic, it was because so many of the country's leaders attributed the disastrous outcome of the war against Prussia in 1870-71 to the superiority of the German school system (Digeon, esp. Ch. VII "La nouvelle Universite et l'Allemagne"). On June 26, 1871, scarcely a month after the bloody repression of the Paris Commune, when the ink was barely dry on the treaty ceding Alsace-Lorraine to Prussia, and when republicans were still a minority in the National Assembly of the self-proclaimed "Third Republic," Leon Gambetta, the prime mover of what was soon to be known as the 'Opportunist' movement, rallied his troops in a key political speech with the assurance that republicanism alone among all other factions and regimes was capable of regenerating the French nation (Discours 61-80). Promising to heal the wounded self-esteem of the nation as well as to slake its thirst for revenge, the rhetoric of regeneration had a powerful appeal in the atmosphere of discouragement, humiliation, and disarray that reigned in France at the rime. In his speech, Gambetta attributed the fall of the Second Empire to its moral degeneration and its criminal origins in the coup d'etat that destroyed the Second Republic, whereas republicanism stood for "ce respect du merite et de la moralite" [the respect for merit and morality] that would revitalize the nation in its rime of need (64-65). (2)

In fact, the regeneration of the nation and of humanity in general through education had been a leading theme of the left at least since Rousseau, as can be seen in the writings of novelists, thinkers, and social reformers such as Saint-Simon, Fourier, Leroux, and Sand, among others. It was hot from these socialist offspring of Romanticism that Gambetta or Ferry adopted the call for regeneration, however; on the contrary, for the liberal Opportunists that impulse must be based on the principles and prestige of modern science. Auguste Comte, an early disciple of Saint-Simon and the father of positivism, had argued in his writings of the 1840s that the progressive evolution of "positive philosophy" would counteract the "anarchy" currently dividing the French nation as a result of the simultaneous presence within it of the three stages of humanity, the theological (= Catholicism, monarchy), the metaphysical (= rationalism, the French Revolution) and the scientific (= empiricism, positivism). His stated goal was to lead this development to its perfection, precisely in order to bring about the "regeneration" of society (Legrand 17).

Now, for Comte as for the majority of his followers in the latter part of the century, the essential instrument for realizing this aim was education. By combating what they variously termed the "mental anarchy," "spiritual anarchy and selfishness," or "individualism" of present-day society, and thus preventing "intellectual anarchy" from leading to "social anarchy," positivist education would demonstrate the necessary subordination of the individual to the social body, and by giving "identical instruction" to all social classes, it would instill in every citizen "the same convictions, the same tendencies, the same desires, the same affections." In short, positivism asserts that social problems derive from moral problems, that moral problems derive from intellectual problems, and therefore that "common education alone can produce the common ideas and even feelings necessary for the preservation and development of any society" (Legrand 47-48). In order to regenerate society, one must change the way people think and feel; in modern terms, one must change their identity.

Gambetta attributed the plight of France in 1871 to the constant oscillation between "despotism and demagogy" that had plagued the country for almost a century. The solution was therefore to "faire disparaitre le mal, cause de tous les maux: l'ignorance, d'ou sortent alternativement le despotisme et la demagogie. Pour combattre ce mal, (le meilleur remede) ... est l'education de tous [do away with the evil, cause of all evils: ignorance, from which despotism and demagogy mise in turn. [The best way] to combat this evil ... is education for all] (66). And by "all," he meant primarily the peasantry, and to a lesser extent the workers who, he argued, know nothing about principles and care only for self-interest, due to their lack of education (68). What is needed in order to restore France's "grandeur, power and genius" are "des paysans eclaires et libres, aptes a se representer eux-memes" [enlightened and free peasants who are capable of representing themselves] (69). Only when the great mass of peasants has received the moral emancipation that comes with enlightenment, as well as the benefits of material progress, will they understand that the State is an emanation of themselves and therefore maintain it rather than letting themselves be misled into supporting coups d'etat or participating in street violence; only then will they sec that in exchange for the satisfactions of their self-interest that come from society they have duties toward that society (69).

For these reasons, it is in the best interests of the upper classes to lavish education on the popular classes--"l'interet vital des classes superieures, si l'on veut refaire la patrie" [the vital interest of the upper classes, if we want to rebuild our homeland] (69)--thus reversing the age-old policy of allowing the Church to keep them in ignorance through its control of primary education if not of denying them access to education altogether, as had been the strategy of the aristocrats and the traditional bourgeoisie throughout the centuries, and in particular since the Falloux laws of 1850, passed in response to the popular riots of the Second Republic. He therefore makes education, and scientific instruction in particular, the most urgent priority of republican government:
 Le jour ou il sera bien entendu que nous n'avons pas d'oeuvre
 plus grande et plus pressante a faire, que nous devons laisser
 de cote, ajourner toutes les autres reformes, que nous n'avons
 qu'une tache, instruire le peuple, repandre l'education et la
 science a flots, ce jour, une grande etape sera marquee vers
 notre regeneration. (69)

 [The day we understand that we have no greater nor more
 urgent task to accomplish, that we must leave aside, put off
 all other reforms, that we have only one job to do, to instruct
 the people, to spread torrents of education and science, on
 that day we shall have taken a great step forward toward our
 regeneration.]


The logic, and the rhetoric, of Gambetta's speech thus operates on two levels: to the members of his party and the bourgeoisie in general he emits an emotional appeal to come to the aid of the patrie in danger, a plea that was also quite rational under the circumstances prevailing in France in 1871. To accomplish this goal, he offers the peasants and workers an educational program designed to arouse within them a subjective sense of gratitude and solidarity toward the republican state. Ignorance, he claimed, had led to France's military defeat, ignorance had led to the oscillation between internal disorder and the excessive order of despotism, ignorance had led to the poverty, despair, and lack of moral principles that breed hostility to the State and indifference to the general welfare. The path to national regeneration must therefore lead through education, which will produce free citizens ("de libres et complets citoyens" 68), whose intelligence and talents will be cultivated in order to increase the material prosperity of the nation, whose newly inculcated moral principles will induce them to support and defend a stable government, who will recognize that the Republic is the form of government that "convien[t] [le] plus a la nature, a la dignite, au bonheur de l'homme ..." [is most suitable for the nature, dignity and happiness of mankind] (74), and who will therefore identify themselves with their government. This was the wedding contract for the bigamous marriage of education with politics, science, economics, and morals.

As to metaphysics, that member of the wedding party makes only a cameo appearance in the ceremony, in Gambetta's use of the word "dignity." Jules Ferry, however, made dignity the cornerstone of his famous "Discours sur l'egalite d'education" [Lecture on Equal Education] (reprinted in Legrand, 217-37), delivered in the Salle Moliere in Paris on April 10, 1870, several months before the French defeat at Sedan that marked the end of the Empire. As a leader of the republican opposition to the Empire, Ferry took as his primary theme the establishment of democracy, whose raison d'etre is to secure the dignity of all citizens. It is this dignity that will form the nucleus of the new republican identity and inspire the republican subject to identify with the State.

For the bourgeois lawyer, "L'egalite des droits est ... le fond meme et l'essence de la democratie" [equal rights are the essence and the very foundation of democracy] (220). As a result, "la creation de moeurs vraiment democratiques" [the creation of truly democratic modes of behavior] requires replacing relations of inferior to superior by relations of equality (221); each person must take turns commanding and obeying, according to a contract that accords to each his rights and duties, in order that each may retain his dignity (221-22). In taking the dignity of the person as the fundamental concept of democracy, Ferry was espousing the ideas of a long tradition of republican thinkers dating back to Kant and the Enlightenment--Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Etienne Vacherie, Alexander Missal, Charles Remover, Claris Cogent. In their theories, the dignity of the person, along with the concomitant duty to treat people as ends in themselves rather than as means, derives from the uniquely human capacity to use reason in order to rise above the constraints of the determinism that rules the natural world, which includes the sensuous nature of human beings that determines our passions and self-interest. True freedom requires giving oneself and then obeying a law mandated by rational deliberation; in short, acting in accordance with the categorical imperative of the moral law (understood in the singular) as deduced by Kant in his Critique of Practical Reason (100-101). Dignity, equality, reason, morals, and liberty are thus bound together in an inextricable nexus, in which all rive tan be realized only through an act of emancipation, of overcoming a nature conceived of as the domain of blind necessity and bloody struggle (Cogent, La morale independent 28-29).

In his Salle Moliere lecture, Ferry attributes to education the power to free people from the "natural" differences due to birth as well as to physical constitution that prevent them from enjoying the equal rights essential to democracy. He assimilates inequalities due to birth, by which he means the distinctions of fortune and social class, to another binary opposite of reason, chance, and he asserts that if knowledge (science) were strictly a matter of the chance (le hasard) distribution of fortune, we would have a return to the old regime of castes (221). The implication is that the Republic is the regime of rationality, whereas the "caste system" of the Old Regime and its nineteenth-century successors is a simple extension of the state of nature, in which the stronger dominate the weaker. As evidence of this contention, he points out that each of the earlier French republics had eliminated une form of inequality due to birth: France abolished inequality in the right to work under the First Republic and inequality in the right to vote (for men) under the Second Republic. Now out job is to eliminate the last remaining inequality due to birth, the right to education, for "avec l'inegalite de l'education, je vous defie d'avoir jamais l'egalite des droits, non l'egalite theorique, mais l'egalite reelle" [with inequality of education, I defy you ever to have equal rights; not theoretical equality, but real equality] (220). Freedom requires the suppression of class distinctions, and the only way of creating "une nation egalitaire, une nation animee de cet esprit d'ensemble et de cette confraternite d'idees qui font la force des vraies democraties" [an egalitarian nation, a nation motivated by that spirit of cooperation and that confraternity of ideas that constitute the strength of true democracies] is to mix rich and poor in school (222).

Ferry draws the plan for the educational system he recommends from Condorcet, the Enlightenment thinker whose proposais were adopted in principle by the First Republic and in practice, according to Ferry, by contemporary schools in the United States. Condorcet gave education the scientific basis required by modern, republican society (224). Like other reformers of the eighteenth century, his aim was to regenerate humanity through the exercise of reason (227), "to form men and citizens" rather than "dialecticians and preachers," (225), and to that end he advocated teaching the sciences in place of rhetoric and the classics, including both the hands-on teaching of "object lessons" and "les sciences morales" (225) [human sciences and morals], since for him morality was based on natural sentiments and reason. The terms "men and citizens" here indicate people whom society has raised above their natural condition of fatality and inequality, and for both Condorcet and Ferry, they explicitly include women.

For Ferry also demands equality of education of the sexes (233). Referring to Mill's famous essay on "The Subjection of Women," he asserts that no one tan tell whether the present subservience and low intellectual level of women is not due to their upbringing and their lack of education rather than to their supposed nature. "Par consequent, dans l'ignorance ou nous sommes des veritables aptitudes de la femme, nous n'avons pas le droit de la mutiler" [As a result, ignorant as we are of women's true aptitudes, we do not have the right to mutilate them] (234). And, as a matter of fact, the many women doctors and teachers in the United States prove that women can develop their minds when they have the opportunity to do so.

But when Ferry asks himself what good all this women's education will be, his answer is not that it will help women to reach the same state of emancipation, enlightenment, and happiness as men, but that they will then be able to raise children as good citizens of the republic. Even more important to him is that these newly educated women will also "raise their husbands" and thereby reconstitute the unity of the family (235). Today most marriages lack a "unity of souls," because, while they may be united in their common interests, husbands and wives have different opinions, tastes, and feelings (236). Here Ferry is adopting the reasoning of Comte (Legrand 40) and of the republican thinker and historian, Jules Michelet, who argued in Le pretre, la femme, la famille (1845) that there was a terrible discord between French husbands and their wives. While men were generally proponents of enlightenment, progress, science, and democracy, their wives' minds, controlled by the priests who acted as their confessors, were hostile to the modern spirit of liberty and the future (4). Moreover, Ferry continues, this dissension is both symptomatic of and instrumental in the hidden war that is tearing French society asunder and producing the "anarchy" republican education is designed to eliminate:
 Aujourd'hui, il y a une lutte sourde, mais persistante, entre
 la societe d'autrefois, l'ancien regime avec son edifice de
 regrets, de croyances et d'institutions qui n'accepte pas la
 democratie moderne, et la societe qui procede de la
 Revolution francaise; il y a parmi nous un ancien regime
 toujours persistant, actif, et dans cette lutte, qui est le fond
 meme de l'anarchie moderne, quand cette lutte intime sera
 finie, la lutte politique sera terminee du meme coup. (236)

 [Today there is a hidden but persistent struggle between the
 society of former rimes, the Old Regime with its edifice of
 regrets, beliefs, and institutions, which does not accept modern
 democracy, and the society that derives from the French
 Revolution; there is among us an Old Regime that is still
 persistent and active, and in this struggle, which is the very
 basis of modern anarchy, when this internal struggle has ended,
 the political struggle will have ended at the same rime.]


Unless we educate women, they will remain on the side of the Old Regime.
 C'est pour cela que l'Eglise veut retenir la femme, et c'est
 aussi pour cela qu'il faut que la demoeratie la lui enleve; il
 faut que la democratie choisisse, sous peine de mort; il faut
 choisir, Citoyens: il faut que la femme apparrienne a la
 science, ou qu'elle appartienne a l'Eglise. (237)

 [It is for that reason that the Church wants to keep its hold
 over women, and it is also for that reason that democracy
 must remove them from its grip. Under pain of death,
 democracy must choose; Citizens, you must choose; women
 must either belong to science, or else they must belong to the
 Church.]


Despite his traditionally reductive vision of women as mothers and wives rather than as persons whose dignity must be preserved, but also because of it, Ferry thus comes to the rather startling conclusion that women's education is a life and death matter for the Republic, whose very existence will depend not on men but on women. For it is precisely through their maternal function, toward their husbands as well as toward their children, that women control the future of the country in the form of the new generation of republican citizens whose scientific education will have separated them from the inequalities of nature and regenerated the nation through the power of reason.

The rhetorical appeal of Ferry's speech is similar in broad outline to that of Gambetta, in that he too paints the need for education as a means of saving the patrie in peril, and he too ascribes to education the power to regenerate the nation by having its members identify with the republican State. But here, before the war with Prussia, the danger Ferry waves before his countrymen is the 'anarchy,' that is, the divisiveness caused by the influence of the Catholic Church, and his remedy is to ensure the unity of the family and of the nation; and the subjective relation to the State will depend hot on the material benefits the citizens receive from it or their sense of participation in its government, but on the protection of their dignity and the guarantee of equal rights. If women hold the key to this transformation, it is because they control the earliest education of the child, they exert a constant influence on their husbands, and they act as conduits of the anti-republican and anti-enlightenment politics of the Church.

The difference in emphasis between Ferry and Gambetta is not as great as it might appear from this comparison, for Gambetta also attacked Church education as the source of national discord. In a speech reported in his newspaper, La Republique Francaise on November 25, 1871, he claimed that in the eyes of the Church hierarchy, religion should be the master in aU aspects of life, dominating education as well as society as a whole. It will join any regime in order to further this goal--the Empire or a revival of the Old Regime. "La religion ainsi entendue est la cause la plus profonde de perturbation qu'il y ait au coeur de notre societe" [understood in this way, religion is the deepest cause of the disruption at the heart of our society], and the Congregationist schools are the instrument of this political faction:
 Elles sont faites pour travailler en ce sens l'esprit des enfants.
 Ce qui distingue leur morale de la morale laique, ce n'est pas
 l'ensemble des dogmes sur lesquels on l'appuie; c'est que
 tout y est calcule pour apprendre aux enfants a detester les
 lois sous lesquelles ils doivent vivre, l'Etat moderne, la libre
 recherche, la science, la tolerance, l'humanite. Si cet
 enseignement reussissait completement, il y aurait toujours en
 France un peuple pret a devorer l'autre.

 [They [the Congregationist schools] are designed to shape the
 children's minds along these lines. Their moral doctrine
 differs from laic morality not in the set of dogmas on which it
 is based, but by the fact that everything in it is calculated to
 teach the children to hate the laws under which they must
 live, the modern State, free inquiry, science, tolerance,
 humanity. If this teaching were completely successful, there
 would always be one nation within France ready to devour
 the other.]


If the Catholic Church was using moral instruction to sow dissension and foment rebellion against the government (the Republic had been proclaimed the previous year, on December 4, 1870), the logical response was to promote the teaching of secular morality in the public schools; and in fact, when Ferry presented his educational reform bills to the Senate a decade later, it was the question of "independent morality" that took center stage in the ensuing debates. The term "independent morality" has a marvelous ambiguity that republican rhetoricians had been exploiting ever since Condorcet, in 1792, had opposed morality to the "principles of any particular religion" and used this opposition to call for the separation of religious and secular national education (Rapport sur l'organisation de l'instruction publique). "Independent" here has the sense of "universally valid," used as a club to particularize, if not to condemn outright, the moral teachings of Catholicism. As such, it served under the Third Republic as under the First, as a weapon in the political battle to wrest control of education, and thereby of the allegiance of the population, from the clutches of the Church and the monarchy it supported. In L'enseignement du peuple (1850), a pamphlet that Ferry referred to as his "breviary," Edgar Quinet expands on this argument, pitting the particularity of the Catholic religion against the need for national unity. In a society composed of several religions, the tenets of any one of them will appear as a form of particularity when measured against the whole. The only way to guarantee the continued existence of such a society is to transmit its basic spirit from generation to generation through a laic education that eschews any "particular dogma" that would "manifest the spirit of sectarianism" (119-20). When it comes to teaching morality, the lesson must be of a "social morality" that is independent of the dogma of any specific religion, one that insists on "the alliance of [all] churches in a single society" (122).

In Comte's positivism, Ferry found another reason for tarring Catholicism with the brush of particularism: as opposed to the universality of true, i.e. positivist, morality, it teaches selfishness in the form of concern for one's individual salvation (Legrand 182). While insisting on the universality of social morality, like Quinet, positivism also added another acceptation of the independence in independent morality: autonomy. Comte and his followers asserted that morality does not depend on metaphysical or theological beliefs, nor does it derive from a transcendent source or need a transcendent sanction; on the contrary, it is a natural phenomenon, already round in embryonic form among the animals. Morality is a spontaneous human attribute, derived from an immanent, natural, and hence universal "social feeling" (sentiment) that acts as the primordial social bond, counteracting selfishness and uniting mankind. As such, it is the perfect instrument for ensuring social peace and cementing national unity. In the latest version of his theory, Comte insisted nevertheless that, in order to become effective, this social feeling must be cultivated in children by parents, teachers, and civic leaders, (3) an argument Ferry repeated in his speech to the Freemasons in 1875 (Legrand 238-40). He spelled out these claims in a second Freemason speech the following year:
 Pour le positivisme, la morale est un fait essentiellement
 humain et distinct de toute croyance sur le commencement et
 sur la fin des choses. La morale est un fait social, qui porte en
 lui-meme son commencement et sa fin; et la morale sociale
 devient ainsi par-dessus tout une question de culture, non pas
 seulement la culture que donne l'education primaire ou
 superieure, mais celle qui resulte des legislations bien faites,
 et aussi de la pratique intelligente de l'esprit d'association.
 (245)

 [For positivism, morality is an essentially human fact, distinct
 from any belief about the beginning or the end of things.
 Morality is a social fact that bears within itself its beginning
 and its end; and social morality thus becomes above all a
 question of culture, not only of the culture provided in
 primary or higher education, but of that which results from
 well made legislation and also from the intelligent practice of
 the spirit of association.]


Quinet locates the combination of universalism and autonomy in the domain of science, which "exists by itself, independent and free. It is the general, universal, absolute religion" (119). Having its own certainty within itself, science has no need of religion's seal of approval. But Quinet attributes an even greater importance to science, while adding another connotation to the notion of "independence"--freedom. Liberty is the fundamental political value of the modern state, he tells us, but political freedom cannot exist without freedom of thought (la liberte d'examen). Science is the result of this freedom and thus the intellectual basis of modern society. There is, therefore, an inextricable contradiction between secular and religious education, for political freedom is possible only in countries where freedom of thought and conscience are protected, while the Catholic Church prohibits both.

Ferry will reiterate these claims before the Senate on November 22, 1880 when defending the teaching of independent morality in the new secondary schools for girls:
 Ce que vous voulez, ce que veut le parti theocratique auquel
 vous appartenez, c'est la science asservie! ... c'est, comme on
 le disait au moyen age, la science servante de la theologie.
 Depuis trois siecles, l'humanite a fait du chemin: elle a
 conquis pour l'esprit humain la liberte, elle a conquis
 l'independance de la science.... qui est l'independance et la
 liberte meme de la raison humaine. (Robiquet 15)
 [What you want, what the theocratic party to which you
 belong wants is subservient science! ... As they used to say in
 the Middle Ages, "science is the servant of theology." In the
 past three centuries, humanity has come a long way: it has
 conquered liberty for the human mind, it has conquered the
 independence of science.... which is the independence and the
 very freedom of human reason.]


With the interpretation of independence as freedom of thought, we have come full circle, to the notion of the dignity of the person who is capable of attaining freedom from the determinism of nature by giving himself his own law through the exercise of reason. For Ferry and his Opportunist colleagues, this notion of freedom as rational self-government spans the gap between science and morals, between the individual and the state, between morality and politics. "L'homme [aujourd'hui] est son propre legislateur. La grande vertu de notre temps, c'est le gouvernement de soi-meme" [{Today} man is his own legislator.

The great virtue of our times is self-government] (Coignet, De l'education dans la democratie viii). Construed in this way, independent morality became the basic principle of republican politics, both as the freedom of thought that justifies the autonomy of the voter, and as the foundation of sovereignty understood as national self-rule.

The bill on primary schools Ferry's government brought before Parliament in 1879-80 sought to inculcate this link between the private and the public into the minds of the French working classes by requiring not simply the teaching of "la morale" [morals] but explicitly giving pride of place in the new curriculum to "l'instruction morale et civique" [moral and civic instruction] (Ferry, cited in Reclus 213). On the most evident level, civic instruction was a matter of creating an informed electorate capable of exercising the vote in a mature way (to use Kant's term for the enlightened person). Thus Paul Bert, a pupil of the renowned physiologist Claude Bernard and a member of Gambetta's editorial team on La Republique Francaise, sounded the theme of regeneration when he contrasted republican enlightenment with monarchical and dictatorial benightedness in introducing the Opportunist law on universal primary education to the Chamber of Deputies in his speech of December 6, 1879:
 Si, en effet, nous devons d'abord, dans l'ecole, former des
 hommes et des femmes dont l'ame, fortement trempee, ne
 subordonne pas l'idee de la morale aux croyances religieuses
 ... notre premier souci doit etre ensuite d'y former des
 citoyens.... A part quelques banalites ... l'enfant [a l'ecole
 aujourd'hui] n'entend jamais parler de son pays, de la
 constitution qui le regit, des droits qu'il sera appele a y
 exercer, des devoirs correlatifs a ces droits.... Une pareille
 ignorance peut convenir a un regime despotique qui ne veut
 que brutalement ou hypocritement imposer ses volontes; elle
 serait en contradiction flagrante avec un regime de liberte, de
 discussion, d'elections libres. (Instruction civique 5-6)

 [If, indeed, our first task in the schools is to fashion men
 and women whose powerfully tempered souls do not
 subordinate the idea of morality to religious beliefs ... our
 first concern must then be to create citizens.... Aside from a
 few platitudes ... the child {in today's schools} never hears a
 word about his country, the constitution that governs it, the
 rights he will be called upon to exercise in it, the duties
 corresponding to those rights.... Such ignorance may be
 fitting under a despotic regime whose only desire is to impose
 its wishes brutally or hypocritically; but it would be in
 flagrant contradiction with a regime of liberty, of discussion,
 of free elections.]


Moving from the individual to the collectivity, Bert went on to stress that the rationale for the new civics curriculum was to inspire national unity, the threat to that unity being, of course, the "anarchy" fomented by the anti-republican teachings of the Church. The goal now is to create a unified collective subject--the republican citizen:
 Une nation n'etant pas une simple juxtaposition d'individus
 relies par des interets materiels et des lois de police, mais une
 individualite collective ayant ses raisons d'existence et ses
 principes de vie, il lui appartient, comme droit et comme
 devoir, de veiller a ce que les citoyens soient eleves avec la
 connaissance et dans le respect de ces principes memes; sans
 quoi l'education publique ne serait qu'une preparation de
 l'anarchie. (L 'instruction civique 7)

 [Since a nation is hot a simple juxtaposition of individuals
 linked together by material interests and laws enforcing
 public order, but a collective individuality having its own
 reasons for existing and its life principles, it is incumbent
 upon it, by right and by duty, to ensure that its citizens are
 raised with knowledge of and respect for those same
 principles; otherwise, public education would only be a
 preparation for anarchy.]


And he was quick to add that this instruction is especially necessary since many schools nowadays--meaning the Congregationist schools of course--teach just the opposite. Ferry himself was not so subtle when responding in the Chamber on December 20, 1880 to charges from the right that a "school without God would be a school against God." Claiming that the notion of laic schools implies only that they will be non-sectarian, he argued that the purpose of this measure was to protect the security of the republican state. We must safeguard the primary school system from falling into the hands of the "prelates who have declared that the French Revolution is a deicide ... [and] that the principles of '89 are the negation of original sin" (Robiquet 126).

In keeping with the goal of fashioning the republican subject, Bert subtly shifts the rhetorical emphasis once again, when he comes to list the benefits of the new republican regime to be included in the new civics course curriculum:
 La souverainete et l'indivisibilite de la nation, l'egalite devant
 la loi, le respect de la liberte individuelle, l'egale participation
 aux charges sociales, l'egale accession aux emplois publics,
 le suffrage universel, le vote libre de l'impot, et, par-dessus
 tout peut-etre, la liberte de conscience: toutes ces conquetes
 de la Revolution francaise devront etre enseignees a l'enfant
 avec respect, avec reconnaissance. (L'instruction civique 6)

 [The sovereignty and indivisibility of the nation, equality
 before the law, the respect for individual liberty, equal
 sharing of the tax burden, equal access to public employment,
 universal suffrage, voting free of taxes, and, above all
 perhaps, freedom of conscience. All these conquests of the
 French Revolution must be taught to the children with
 respect, with gratitude.]


No longer is it a simple matter of learning about one's rights and duties as a citizen of a democracy. Now the aim of civic instruction is to subjectify the children's relation to the Republic by arousing their feelings of respect and gratitude, while giving them the sense of participating vicariously in a heroic battle of liberation. Indeed, from the start, by his contrast between the despotisms of yore and the dawning republic, Bert has intimated that enlightenment is a process of struggle. Now he openly invokes the Revolution as the historical and ideological matrix of that conflict, whose victory has allowed it to bestow upon its citizens the priceless gifts of national sovereignty and unity, as of individual equality and liberty. He implicitly portrays the present republic as the dutiful heir of that Revolution and explicitly characterizes it as the worthy object of its children's respect and gratitude.

Two years later, in his defense of this law before the Senate, Ferry would make the same connection between the Third Republic and the Revolution.
 Vous voulez nous defendre de lui la l'enfant] apprendre a
 aimer cette societe moderne fondee en 1789, ces principes de
 1789 qui ne sont plus aujourd'hui dans la melee des partis,
 qui constituent notre morale civique, et l'ame meme de notre
 patrie! Parler aux enfants de ces choses, messieurs, c'est leur
 fournir un objet de meditations, a la fois les plus hautes et les
 plus salutaires qu'on puisse imaginer. (Robiquet 148)
 [You want to forbid us to teach [children] to love this modern
 society founded in 1789, those principles of 1789 that are no
 longer open to partisan strife, which make up our civic
 morality and the very soul of our homeland! To speak to our
 children about these matters, gentlemen, is to provide them
 with an object of meditation that is both as lofty and as
 salutary as tan possibly be imagined.]


Presumably the loftiness of the children's object of contemplation would inspire the same respect of which Bert had spoken, while the beneficial effect of these meditations must be, as in Bert's speech, to arouse the children's gratitude. Moreover, Ferry goes a step farther than Bert here, not only making the Third Republic the beneficiary of the Revolution but identifying it with the homeland.

While morality and democracy dovetailed nicely in theory as guarantees of the freedom and autonomy of both the individual and the state, in fact, as pupils of positivism the Opportunists were well aware of the potential conflict between individual freedom and social responsibility.

The "moral and civic instruction" they proposed was therefore intended to furnish the necessary compromise between the two. If they insisted so strongly on arousing the respect and gratitude of the children of the working classes--peasants, artisans, factory workers, and low-level shop and office employees--who would attend the new primary schools, it was because they knew that the latter might very well use their newfound freedom and skills in critical thinking to attack the Opportunist Republic, its leaders, its institutions, and its obvious bias toward the interests and values of the bourgeoisie.

At this point, therefore, the rhetoric and the logic of regeneration began to go their separate ways. Despite all the lofty talk about the autonomy of the moral person, the thrust of the new moral and civic education was to teach the children of the people resignation to their lot in life and obedience to authority (Prost 10; Katan 436). Charles Renouvier, the leading French neo-Kantian and ideologist of the Third Republic, began lais Petit traite de morale a l'usage des ecoles primaires laiques, designed as a textbook for the new primary schools, with a lesson on obedience to one's parents, the obedience, respect, and gratitude imposed on us as duties owed to repay the debt we incurred by being bore and taken care of; the second lesson is obedience to one's teachers, and the third is obedience to the state (published in installments in the Revue Philosophique he edited, starting in the September 9, 1875 issue and appearing regularly until the fall of 1876). Justice and duty are the two principal concepts, respect for the person, tolerance, nonviolence, honesty are derived from them. But you may look high and low in this text without finding any lessons on freedom! And indeed, in Kant's ethics freedom and obedience are equivalent terms; or rather liberty arises only from obedience, to the law of reason that we give to ourselves. But in the schools of the Third Republic, the 'we' in question was clearly and explicitly the authorities--parents, teachers, government officials--and the "reason" to be obeyed was, as La Fontaine happily put it, that of the stronger, the governing class. The new republican subject was thus put into conflict with himself, promised freedom and autonomy, yet indoctrinated to obedience and subservience.

The justification for the new civics lessons was thus structured by a series of metonymical and metaphorical substitutions: the Revolution becomes the name of the Third Republic (which of course came to power not through revolution but thanks to a military defeat followed by a series of proclamations and votes, and which confirmed its existence by crushing the revolutionary Commune), and the Republic that of France (when the country was still divided fairly evenly between republicans and anti-republicans); at the same rime, the Republic was equated to the beneficent parent to whom its citizens owed their very existence (as free men and citizens) as well as a host of other blessings that make life worth living, and to whom they owe in return gratitude, obedience, respect, and ultimately a love whose supreme proof is the willingness to sacrifice their very lives.

In a final synecdoche, the whole edifice of rhetorical exchanges is crowned by the image of the Republic as the patrie, the homeland. The significance of this maneuver is developed at length by Coignet in the detailed program of moral education for girls she describes in her article, "Instruction secondaire des jeunes filles." The capstone of her system, after the years spent on practical experience, theory, and history, is the course on the politics of morals, to be given in the eighth and final year of girls' secondary school, as she envisioned it (in reality the number was reduced to rive years). The culmination of eight years of moral education was to be the insight that only members of free countries really have a homeland (patrie), because as citizens they exercise governing functions and make sacrifices for the nation.
 Or, rien n'attache comme l'activite qu'on exerce et les
 sacrifices qu'on fait de soi-meme a la chose publique. Aussi
 les citoyens des pays libres sont-ils seuls veritablement
 citoyens. Seuls, ils ont une patrie, ils sont eux-memes la
 patrie vivante. Ses dangers et ses miseres sont leurs miseres et
 dangers; sa gloire est leur gloire; son honneur leur honneur.
 (81)

 [Now nothing creates attachments like the actions one
 takes and the sacrifices one makes of oneself for the nation.
 Thus citizens of free countries are the only true citizens. They
 alone have a homeland, they are themselves the living
 homeland. Its dangers and its misfortunes are their
 misfortunes and dangers; its glory is their glory; its honor
 their honor.]


Here she presents the girls with the 'choice' of accepting the Republic as their home or of remaining homeless. And she clearly and unequivocally links republican citizenship and autonomous morality to the citizen's sense of identity. While many sorts of government can take care of the various functions of public life, only a democracy can be a true home [-land] to its citizens, because only such a state can stir the deep emotional ties that are aroused by attachment to one's home. Like the family, the free state becomes the ideal object of both self-love and altruistic love, for, as with the family, the members of a democratic state both have it and are it at the same time. The patrie is not simply France, then, but the Republic, for in it alone personal identity and national identity can coalesce.

The goal of the imagery deployed in civics instruction was to persuade future citizens to identify themselves with the republican homeland by offering them the strongest emotional enticements possible. The equation of moral autonomy and political self-government held out to the individual the promise of the power to control his own destiny through participation in the legislation of the state. In Renouvier's 1848 Manuel republicain de l'homme et du citoyen, the teacher informs his pupil that under the [2nd] Republic, due to democracy and universal (male) suffrage, "[a present] aucun homme n'est sans pouvoir sur les autres hommes et sur les lois qui les regissent" [nowadays no man is without power over other men and over the laws that govern them] (72) and goes on to define the citizen as "un homme qui vit dans une Republique et qui y prend sa part de souverainete" [a man who lives in a Republic and who has his share in its sovercignty] (80). That same participation will confer upon him the satisfaction of working with his fellow citizens toward a common goal and thus a sense of belonging to a community. Moreover, contrary to the theories of social Darwinism or the protestations of conservatives in the tradition of Burke and reactionaries in that of de Maistre, the principles of 1789--autonomy, liberty, inalienable rights of individuals and of peoples, the rule of reason and of moral law in both domestic and foreign affairs--not only form part of the historical identity of France, they constitute the source of her uniqueness among the peoples of the world and the very essence of the nation, without which she would be dispossessed of herself ("Le credo politique de la France et des races latines" 71-72). Now the network of identifications extends beyond the union of the autonomous individual and the democratic state to include the people considered as a collective entity as well (Bert, L'instruction civique 7). To these attributes, Coignet adds the unique capacity of the Republic to be the home, that is, to provide that sense of origination, protection and possession that make for the complete identification of individuals with the family in which the group is felt to be an extension of the self, the individual a smaller version of the group.

The keystone of this rhetorical structure is the assimilation of the Republic to the patrie, a word that of course means the "land of the father" and as such clearly connotes the mother. The best way to ensure that the new republican citizens would obey the government was to instill in them the conviction that in doing so they were manifesting their love for their second mother (and implying that if they did not do so, they would not only betray their mother, they would also be left out in the cold of total isolation). There is in fact a striking similarity between the emotions the Republic was supposed to awaken in its children and the obedience, gratitude, and respect toward their parents that the primary school textbooks on morality aimed to inculcate in their pupils. Strange as it may seem, the notion that you can induce people to love by teaching them why they should do so was a commonplace in both the civics instruction and the ethics lessons on children's attitudes toward their parents in the school texts of the times (reinforced by the concomitant implied threat of emotional devastation for those who fail to do so) (Renouvier Petit traite (September 30, 1875) 129). Indeed, the idea of deriving feelings from universal moral principles, rather than the reverse, was consistent with Kant's doctrines and was also symptomatic of the more general enlightenment belief in the power of reason to inform and reform not only people's conduct but their very, being. But the primary reason why the idea of teaching people to love was unquestioningly presupposed by the authors of laws and textbooks, and so easily accepted by the public, was that it was a simple restatement of traditional Catholic teachings, particularly the catechism, with the reasons for loving the Republic and acknowledging its authority to be legitimate replacing those for loving God and obeying His commandments.

The Opportunist leaders completed the parallel with sentiments of filial piety when they capped their rationale for civic instruction by adding love to the equation. The child, Bert argued in his speech to the Chamber, must know why he should love France so that he will give himself to it entirely, so that he will defend the patrie and the "principes dont le triomphe a fait de lui un homme libre et un citoyen" [principles whose triumph have made of him a free man and a citizen] (6). The first lessons in Bert's civics textbook treat the virtues of the army and the duty of military service, explaining that the patrie is a great family, telling the children in direct address that it is "your mother." In another textbook, Livre de lecture et de morale, Emile Devinat has the children recite the following lesson entitled "Vous aimez votre patrie": "J'aime la France, mon pays, parce que ses habitants sont mes freres, enfants de la meme race, ayant meme sang et memes ancetres.... La France est ma mere: dans mon coeur il n'y aura jamais rien au-dessus d'elle" [You love your homeland: I love France, my country, because its inhabitants are my brothers, children of the same race, with the same blood and the same ancestors.... France is my mother: in my heart there will never be anything above her] (83).

The regeneration of the French people through universal education is thus a second birth, a metaphorical process of transference in which the natural mother is replaced by the national mother. (4) At the same time it is the substitution of mother homeland for mother nature that constitutes the wellspring of human history, according to Michelet's famous Tableau de la France (1833). (5)
 La societe, la liberte ont dompte la nature, l'histoire a
 efface la geographie. Dans cette transformation merveilleuse,
 l'esprit a triomphe de la matiere, le general du particulier, et
 l'idee du reel. L'homme individuel est materialiste, il
 s'attache volontiers a l'interet local et prive; la societe
 humaine est spiritualiste, elle tend a s'affranchir sans cesse
 des miseres de l'existence locale, a atteindre la haute et
 abstraite unite de la patrie.

 Plus on s'enfonce dans les temps anciens, plus on s'eloigne de
 cette pure et noble generalisation de l'esprit moderne. Les epoques
 barbares ne presentent presque rien que de local, de particulier,
 de materiel. L'homme tient encore au sol, il y est engage, il
 semble en faire partie. L'histoire alors regarde la terre, et la
 race elle-meme, si puissamment influencee par la terre. Peu a peu
 la force propre qui est en l'homme le degagera, le deracinera de
 cette terre. Il en sortira, la repoussera, la foulera; il lui
 faudra, au lieu de son village natal, de sa ville, de sa province,
 une grande patrie, par laquelle il compte lui-meme dans les
 destinees du monde. L'idee de cette patrie, idee abstraite qui doit
 peu aux sens, l'amenera [sic] par un nouvel effort a l'idee de la
 patrie universelle, de la cite de la Providence. (351-52)

 [Society, liberty have tamed nature, history has erased geography.
 In this marvelous transformation, the spirit has triumphed over
 matter, the general over the particular, the idea over the real.
 The individual is materialistic, he becomes readily attached to
 private and local interests; human society is spiritualistic,
 constantly tending to free itself from the miseries of local
 existence, to attain to the lofty and abstract unity of the
 homeland.

 The more you plunge down into ancient times, the farther you move
 from this noble and pure generalization of the modern spirit.
 Barbarous eras offer almost nothing but that which is local,
 particular, material. Man is still tied to the soil, he is immersed
 in it, he seems to be a part of it. In that period, history
 involves the earth, and the race itself, so powerfully influenced
 by the earth. Little by little the innate force that dwells within
 mankind will extricate him, will uproot him from the earth. He will
 emerge from it, push it away, tread upon it; instead of his native
 village, his town, his province, he will need a great homeland
 through which he too will play a role in the destiny of the world.
 The idea of this homeland, an abstract idea that owes little to the
 senses, will lead him, with an additional effort, to the idea of
 the universal homeland, of the city of Providence.]


Here Michelet depicts the entire course of human history as the story of the dramatic victory of freedom over nature and the collectivity over the individual. In the first paragraph, he gives a rhetorical expansion of the basic contrast between freedom and nature by listing the series of parallel terms that constitute the battle of binary oppositions subtending human history: spirit/matter, general/particular, idea/reality. That all these contraries are not strictly equal, however, the historian indicates by prefacing the word "freedom" with that of "society," and in the following sentence by giving the unobtrusively placed opposition between the general and the particular command over the entire series, expanding it into the contrast between society and the individual, the difference between abstract unity and concrete diversity, and ultimately the superiority of the homeland over the locality.

This latter opposition begins to apply a spatial dimension to the conflict, both horizontal, through the contrast between the locality and the homeland, and vertical, thanks to the loftiness attributed to abstract unity. The temporal contrast between barbarous and modern times is itself rendered in the spatial and intensely physical terms of downwards immersion in the soil and the struggle to climb up out of the earth into the ethereal dimension of noble generalization. Dimly visible in the background of this graphic depiction of mankind's efforts to emerge from the grip of nature in order to realize his latent, spiritual identity is the fantasmatic image of an infant emerging from its mother's womb. For the republican ideologist, however, the separation from the original mother that constitutes liberation from nature is only the first step toward finding mankind's true mothers, the nation and then the universal patrie of humanity, which is an idea rather than a sensuous, material object. And in this fantasy of self-origination, it is the child rather than the mother whose force accomplishes this second birth.

That regenerative force is reason, is knowledge, the capacity to understand oneself and the world, to generalize, to use abstract thought to overcome the limitations of space and materiality. It follows, then, that education, the development of the latent potential to use reason, should be the logical means to effect this "marvelous transformation" from the state of nature to the state of civilization. The Opportunists, however, wanted to halt the process before it got out of hand, preferring the State they governed to the universal patrie of humanity. This intense effort to instill a vital sense of patriotism in the younger generation was not surprising in the revanchist atmosphere of the aftermath of the defeat of 1870, and it pervaded the French leadership of almost all classes and political allegiances. But it did contradict the philosophical bases of the Opportunist ideology, whether Michelet's humanitarianism, the positivists' worship of Humanity, or the Kantian respect for the humanity that constitutes the universality of the moral person. To many, this rejection of cosmopolitanism and its frequent corollary of international class solidarity, generally associated with the ideology of the Second Republie, was a matter of satisfaction. In an 1883 survey the philosopher Emile Boutroux conducted for a pedagogical journal, he found that all the primary school textbooks, whatever their other differences, displayed the same high level of patriotism. They all had broken with the "demoralizing" (dissolvantes) doctrines of the fraternity of peoples. Not one "n'enseigne ou n'insinue que nos freres veritables sont, non pas nos concitoyens, mais ceux qui partagent nos opinions"; [teaches or insinuates that our true brothers are, not our fellow citizens, but those who share our opinions] (Revue Pedagogique, April 1883; cited in Ozouf 112). Another journal for teachers, La Tribune des lnstituteurs et des lnstitutrices, proudly announced in 1884:

Nous tous, instituteurs fi'ancais, nous savons profiter de toutes les occasions pour inspirer a nos eleves un vif amour de la patrie et "l'idee humanitaire" dans ce qu'elle a d'exagere n'a jamais trouve d'apotres parmi nous. (Cited in Ozouf 114)

[All of us French primary schoolteachers know how to take advantage of every opportunity to inspire in our pupils an intense love of the homeland, and the exaggerated notion of "humanitarianism" has never found any apostles among us.]

The unity of the nation was thus purchased at the expense of splitting the subject of universal education, the new republican citizen: the rhetoric of love for the unique nation was pitted against the logic of the universal reason of humanity, and while the demand was for universalism, freedom, and autonomy, the desire was for nationalism, obedience, and dependence. By putting the motherland into the place of mother nature, the Republic strove to construct an "imagined community" characteristic of modern nations, not only in Anderson's sense of a group created by the discourse of the nation spread primarily in the unified languages made possible by the print media; but also and above all "imaginary" in Lacan's meaning of the term, a process designed to make the individual dependent for his identity, his very being, on the Republic conceived as a transcendent Other who guarantees that identity and that being in return for sacrificial devotion. The effectiveness of this maternal rhetoric tan be measured by the countless French soldiers who paid the ultimate price of filial love in the Great War.

Indiana University

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1983.

Bert, Paul. L "Instruction civique a l ecole. Paris: Picard-Bernheim, 1882.

Bougle, Celestin. "L'Education morale et l'ecole." Encyclopedie Francaise. Vol. 15, 1939. 10-12.

Burke, Peter. The Fabrication of Louis XZV. Yale UP, 1992.

Calhoun, Craig, ed. Social Theory and the Politics of Identity. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.

Coignet, Clarisse. La Morale independante dans son principe et dans son objet. Paris: Germer Baillere, 1869.

--. "Instruction secondaire des jeunes filles." La Revue Politique et Litteraire (Revue Bleue) 24 (1880).

--. De l'education dans la democratie. Paris: C. Delagrave, 1881. Condorcet. Rapport et Projet de decret sur l'organisation generale de l'instruction publique, presentes a l'assemblee nationale, au nom du Comite d'instruction publique. Paris: Assemblee nationale de la [Premiere] Republique, 1792.

Devinat, Emile. Livre de lecture et de morale. Paris: Larousse, 1894.

Digeon, Claude. La crise allemande de la pensee francaise (1870-1914). Paris: Presses Universitaires Francaises, 1959.

Gambetta, Leon. Discours et Plaidoyers choisis. Ed. Joseph Reinach. Paris: Charpentier, 1886.

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Practical Reason. Tr. Lewis White Beck. New York: Macmillan, 1993.

Katan, Yvette. "L'Enseignement de la morale et de l'instruction civique de la IIIe republique jusqu'en 1914." Etudes dediees a Madeleine Gravitz. Paris: Dalloz, 1982. 419-37.

La Republique Francaise, 25 November 1871.

Laville, Beatrice. "L'Education et ses enjeux a la fin du dix-neuvieme siecle: 'La Verite' D'Emile Zola." These de doctorat. Universite de Paris III, 1991.

Legrand, Louis. L'Influence du positivisme dans l'oeuvre scolaire de Jules Ferry: les origines de la laicite. Paris: Marcel Riviere, 1961.

Mayeur, Jean-Marie. La Vie politique sous la troisieme republique. Paris: Le Seuil, 1984.

Mayeur, Jean-Marie, and Madeleine Reberioux. Les Debuts de la troisieme republique. Paris: Le Seuil, 1973.

Michelet, Jules. Le Pretre, la femme, la famille: Les Jesuites. Paris: Flammarion, 1845.

--. "Tableau de la France." Histoire de France. 1833. Ed. Claude Mettra. Vol. 1. Geneva: Edito-service, 1987. 291-352.

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Notes

(1) Several scholars have pointed out that it was only in modern republics, in democratic regimes, that the government had to worry about imposing a national identity; under the old regimes, e.g. the Ottoman Empire or Austro-Hungary, the government was concerned only with avoiding overt hostilities among ethnic groups. As long as each lived in its own enclave, the rulers left them alone, since the latter were independent of the different groups, at least in principle; whereas in a democracy, it is the will of the people as a whole that supposedly legitimizes government. (See for instance Craig Calhoun, Social Theory and the Politics of Identity; Peter Burke, The Fabrication of Louis XIV.)

(2) In the early years of the Republic, monarchists and conservatives also blamed the defeat on the luxury, excesses, and corruption of the Empire, seeing it as a punishment from God and calling for a regime of penitence and moral austerity in order to regenerate France and its army (Mayeur and Reberioux Ch. 1). Many pro-republic intellectuals--one might think of Zola in this context, as well as French neo-Kantians such as Charles Renouvier--repeated the same reproach and the same call for moral renewal, but instead of begging God for forgiveness through processions, miracles, and pilgrimages, on the contrary they identified Catholicism with the decadent Empire and blamed it for the defeat (Digeon 333-36).

(3) This was a change from his earlier position in the Cours de philosophie positive where he argued that it was unnecessary to teach morality in a separate course, since it would result naturally from the eventual victory of positivism in the public mind and from the teaching of sociology (Legrand 29-30).

(4) It is perhaps of some interest to note that Ferry was an orphan, lacking his mother (Legrand 184).

(5) Historians of education have long argued that "in the laic schools the homeland played the role reserved for God in the Catholic schools" (Ozouf 114), and that the Republic elevated patriotism into a veritable religious cult (Bougle 11; J.-M. Mayeur 83; Laville 332-34). The purpose of my essay is not to gainsay this view, which indeed I fully endorse elsewhere, but to add another dimension to the traditional picture of the republican patrie.
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