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Jean-Marie Antoine de Lanessan

Jean Mabie Antoine de Lanessan was born in the Oironde on July 13, 1843, died November 9, 1920. A French naturalist and politician, he studied medicine and natural sciences. He served as a physician in the navy during several years, and visited most of the French colonial possessions. After that he devoted himself to medical investigation and to the study of natural sciences, and published a number of works in those fields that were highly regarded. In 1879 he entered upon a political career first becoming a member of the municipal council in Paris, and later (1881) being elected to the Chamber of Deputies. He was a specialist in colonial questions, having brought to them a vast amount of personal experience. He was governor of IndoChina, 1891-94, and Minister of the Navy in the cabinet of Waldeck-Rousseau, 1899-1902. He was editor of L? Knvcil, 1881-82, and the political director of the Siècle.

His writings include: Du protoplasme vegetal (1876); Manuel d'histoire naturelle médicale (1879-81); Etudes sur la doctrine de Darwin (1881); Traité de so0logie and Protozoaires (1882); La botanique (1882); Le transformisme (1883); Flore de Parts (1884); Introduction à la botanique and Le sapin (1S85); La Tunisie (1887); L'Expansion coloniale de la France (1888) ; L'Indo-Chine française (1880); La colonisation française en- Indo-Chine (1895); Princepes de colonisation (1897)"); La lutte pour l'existence et l'évolution des sociétés (1003); La morale des religions (1905); L'Etat et les églises en France depuis les origines jusqu'à la séparation (1906); Les missions et leur protectorat (1007); La morale naturelle (1008; new ed., 1012); Le bilan de notre marine (1909); La lutte contre le crime (1010); Nos forces navales (1911); Nos forces militaires (1913); Histoire de l'Entente Cordiale Franco-Anglaise (1916).

J.-L. DE. LANESSAN in La Crise de la Republique (1914) made an argument for the two-party system. He made concrete proposals which are based upon analysis of prevailing conditions. He hoped to see the numerous parties consolidate into two organizations - the "authoritarian" Left and the "liberal" Right, the latter seeking to protect personal liberty and property rights.

M. de Lanessan, a Paris deputy, was sent on a mission in the course of 1887 to make himself acquainted with the government and the court of Hue. The French colonial administrators were hampered by the control of the authorities and a prey to intrigues in Paris, where the situation was entirely misunderstood. The heads of the colonial Government succeeded each other in Saigon and Hanoi like the figures of a shadow pantomime. Between December, 1884, and November, 1887, there were ten Residents-General of Tongking - an average service of about three months. It was the merest farce of supervision.

De Lanessan realized that the pacification of the country depended upon harmonious relations being established between the general government and the court. De Lanessan was appointed Governor-general of Tonquin with the fullest powers on the aist of April 1891. The whole administration was to undergo modification. M. de Lanessan was invested with the widest powers, and, by his nomination, was declared depository of the powers of the Republic, having sole right to correspond directly with the Home Government, and with the nomination of all civil functionaries, with the exception of a few specially named, and these were only to be named on his recommendation, and were subject to his dismissal.

M. de Lanessan's first care was to regain the confidence and restore the prestige of the mandarins, who were the natural accepted rulers of the people ; to allay the violent jealousies of the civil and military departments, and to put a stop to the continual aggressions upon the central province of Assam by the French authorities in Cochin China and Tongking, which in fact are not separate or rival states, but provinces of the Annamite Empire. He attributed to this rational and conciliatory policy the remarkable increase of revenue during the four years. He approved generally the principle of a protectorate as compared with annexation ; the employment of native functionaries is economical, and the margin of revenue thus saved can be employed in public works.

In examining the papers of the director of the Paris newspaper, charged with extorting money, the magistrate came upon letters transmitted by M. de Lauessan, the Governor-General of the Indo-Chinese territories, and the post arriving after the director's arrest brought further papers addressed to him from the same source. These papers for the most part were duplicates of the official reports, simultaneously addressed to the Minister for the Colonies, and were of an especially confidential nature, and grave suspicions were aroused that the representative of France in the extreme East was stimulating a fierce campaign against the Government at home. On this occasion the Ministry showed no lack of decision, M. de Lanessan was dismissed (29 December 1894) by telegram, and ordered to return to France immediately.

As M. de Lanessan pointed out in his work [L 'Expansion coloniale de la France. Par J. L. DE LANESSAN, depute de la Seine. Paris, Felix Alcan ; New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1886. - 8vo, 1006 pp.] on the colonial expansion of France, the French possessions in and about Madagascar "command the route of all ships sailing upwards from the Cape of Good Hope towards the Indian Ocean or the Pacific, and assure to France incontestable preponderance and authority upon the east coast of Africa." Britain could not safely run her trade through the Mediterranean if France were hostile, and should be driven to make use of this very Cape route which M. de Lanessan proved to be commanded also by French establishments, the chief of which had been occupied after a costly war undertaken, it would seem, for the purpose of securing this dangerous point of menace to British trade.

M. de Lanessan showed in another portion of his book that "the bay of Diego Suarez is rivalled in size only by those of Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, and Sydney. It is one of the finest in the world, and one of those which could render the greatest service to our navy as a port for repair, and would be the most sure and impregnable of war ports." The French had a small garrison at Diego Suarez, had removed thither the administration of their colony of Nossi-Be, and were engaged in making there a military port. In another passage, again (for he returns to it in all parts of his work on account of its importance), M. de Lanessan said that by basing its operations upon this "impregnable" port, "an East African fleet would be able to worry the advance of an enemy's fleet forced to go by the Cape to the help of Australia or of India." The "enemy" meant must obviously be Great Britain, inasmuch as Great Britain alone could need to go to the help "of Australia or of India."

M. de Lanessan concluded his whole view of the subject by saying of the occupation of portions of Madagascar : "The new establishments which we have just founded in the East African seas are of advantage to France not only from the resources which they will furnish to her trade and industry, but also from the strength which they add to her naval power." When he discusses the position of France in "Indo-China" he again points out that the French fleet, acting at once from "Indo-China" and from Madagascar, would, in the event of war "between the two greatest naval powers in the world," "put an end to all commercial relations between England and India, Hong -Kong, and China, and even menace India herself."

By June 1899 Waldeck-Rousseau was in power, after a long absence from active service in politics, and he had General the Marquis de Galliffet, another most interesting man, as his War Minister. M., or rather Dr., de Lanessan, his troubles in the question of Siam and his quondam connection with Portalis and Canivet being forgotten, becomes Minister of Marine; M. Millerand, the Socialist "Baron," was at the head of the Department of Commerce ; and M. Caillaux was Chancellor of the Exchequer. M. Delcasse", who seemed immovable, remained at the Foreign Office.

In 1901 a development in French naval policy carried out by M. Lanessan consisted of establishing two Flying Squadrons. In each ocean the French Minister of Marine placed a fleet which exceeded in power either of the squadrons maintained by Great Britain. Wherever either of the two French squadrons, in the Atlantic or the Pacific, may appear during their periodical cruises, it is the French fleet and not a local and isolated British squadron which will be the supreme force.

In November 1901 M. de Lanessan (marine minister) abolished compulsory attendance at mass, and prohibited the substitution of the religious service flag for the tricolor in the navy. This was part of the process of "dechristianization" - the word was that of Andre, Pelletan and Lanessan, Ministers of War and Marine.




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