No. 374.
Mr. McLane to Mr. Bayard.

[Extract.]
No. 575.]

Sir: With a view of dispelling any misunderstanding with reference to the Boulanger incident, I sent you on the 19th instant a telegram to the effect that the Boulanger incident had been considerably exaggerated by the public press, that the Government would be amply sustained in its determination to rebuke him, and that the tendency of the incident was to augment the dissensions already apparent among the Republicans of France.

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The press continued to exaggerate the original incident itself, and gave to it an exclusively partisan character, the Government being strongly urged to inflict further punishment upon General Boulanger, and if the political agitation connected with his name was continued, to strike him from the army rolls. To these counsels the Government yielded an apparently cordial consent, and summoned what is called a “couseil d’énquête,” somewhat similar to our military courts of inquiry, to which was submitted two principal points of inquiry, to wit, whether the publication of his confidential letter to the minister of war and his leaving the headquarters of the army corps, from the command of which he had been relieved, without the permission of the minister of war, were not violations of military discipline. All other grounds of complaint against him were withheld, and the court of inquiry rendered a prompt judgment in the affirmative by a unanimous vote. The effect of such judgment under existing laws authorizes the President to retire him from active service, the law leaving him, however, with his pension, and subject to the call of the Government for military service at any time during the next five years.

Although the Chamber of Deputies was well-nigh unanimous in sustaining the Government in its original action against General Boulanger, it was manifest that a large section of the Republican party, while it condemned General Boulanger’s violation of military discipline and the encouragement he gave to those who sought a popular demonstration in his behalf at the off elections, nevertheless desired to protect him against the severity of the Government and of that section of the chamber to which it was specially allied, known as the “opportunists,” of which Mr. Ferry is the recognized chief.

This sympathy has greatly increased since the judgment of the court of inquiry was rendered, and although General Boulanger may not immediately profit by it, and though he may still continue to direct a political agitation before the country independent of all parties, the ministry itself will find it impossible to remain in power. At least two hundred members of the chamber are now engaged in conference to organize a parliamentary assault upon it as soon as the vote is taken on the annual appropriation bill called the “budget.” It seems to me that this assault will be successful, and the dissension in the Republican party in and out of the chamber to which I referred in my telegram will be complete, for the assault upon the ministry will have reference not only to its policy in the administration of the Government but to proposed reforms in the constitution itself. Such an agitation in the chambers will be accompanied by a greater agitation in the country at large by the “reformers” of the Republican party, as they already call themselves, and I think these latter will be closely associated with the friends of General Boulanger, and the general himself seems well disposed to direct such an agitation. It is my opinion that he is far more likely to pursue this policy and maintain his association with the Republicans than to yield to either monarchical or imperial solicitations. Meanwhile the anticipations of my telegram as to the dissension in the Republican party are more than realized, and I know no one of any party at this moment who pretends even to foresee its effect upon those who are in possession of the Government.

I am, etc.,

Robert M. McLane .