to Mr. Evarts.
Paris , January 31, 1879. (Received February 17.)
Sir: The telegrams to the American press will have informed you in detail of the change in the French Presidency long before this dispatch reaches Washington.
The marshal, greatly dissatisfied with the demand of his ministers that certain changes should be made in the command of several of the corps d’armie, refused to sign the decrees therefor when submitted to him by the ministry, and as the temper of the majority in the chamber of deputies had been clearly manifested recently in the debate and vote on the declaration of confidence in the ministers, it was impossible for them to recede. The decrees proposed were regarded as measures carrying out the engagement made by the ministry in accepting the conditional vote of confidence.
Mr. Dufaure and the whole cabinet continuing firm, it only remained [Page 333] for the marshal to yield or resign. He chose the latter alternative. At a quarter past three o’clock yesterday afternoon his resignation was read to the senate, and at the same moment to the chamber of deputies, addressed in each case to the presiding officer, as follows:
Versailles, January 30, 1879.
Mr. President: At the opening of the session the ministry presented a programme of measures which appeared, while giving satisfaction to public opinion, of a nature to be adopted without danger to the security and good administration of the country.
Setting aside all personal feeling I gave it my entire approval, because I did not sacrifice any principle to which my conscience engaged me to remain faithful.
At the present moment the ministry, believing that it responds to the opinion of the majority in the two chambers, proposes to me, relative to the chief commands, general measures which I regard as opposed to the interests of the army, and consequently to those of the country.
I cannot give my consent to them. In presence of this refusal the ministry retires.
Any other cabinet selected from the majority of the assemblies would impose on me the same conditions.
I therefore think it my duty to shorten the duration of the mandate which was confided to me by the national assembly. I give in my resignation as president of the republic.
In quitting power I have the consolation of thinking that, during the fifty-three years which I have devoted to the service of my country as a soldier or a citizen, I have never been guided by other feelings than those of honor and duty, and of absolute devotedness to the country.
I request you, Mr. President, to communicate my decision to the senate.
Accept the expression of my high consideration.
Marshal De MACMAHON,
Duke de Magenta.
At half past four the two houses, in conformity with the constitutional provision, met in national assembly to elect a president to succeed Marshal MacMahon, 776 senators and deputies being present. Mr. Jules Grévy received 563 votes, including all the republicans, and, it is understood, many of the Bonapartists; 99 votes were cast for General Chanzy; 63 members did not vote. Mr. Grévy was at once proclaimed president of the republic for seven years, by Mr. Martel, president of the senate, who presided over the national assembly.
While this important event was regarded with the profoundest interest, there was no inordinate excitement and no disturbance of any kind. The bourse remained strong; the rentes rose to a higher figure than has been reached for a long time. Mr. Grévy’s well-known views on public questions, his moderation, his deep convictions as a republican, his calm strong character, and his eminent public services made the transition easy and natural from the presidency of the chamber of deputies to the presidency of the republic. There is a general expression of satisfaction and even relief that the entire government is now in the hands of the republicans, and all parts will work together peaceably and harmoniously. There will undoubtedly be numerous changes in the various departments of the government in the direction demanded by the people, as expressed in the recent elections and formulated by the chamber of deputies in the conditional declaration of confidence in the ministry.
It is uncertain whether the present ministry will remain intact or not; probably a majority of its members, and possibly all of them, will retain their positions; meanwhile all goes on calmly and smoothly, the regularly organized machinery of the constitution having done its work so quietly and so well, that this people, accustomed for a century to see changes accomplished only by armed force and blood, or by revolutionary struggles, congratulate each other as they meet, that they can scarce feel that any change has taken place.
I have, &c.,