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Etienne Lamy

Etienne Lamy, author and secretary of the French Academy, was born at Cire, Jura, on 02 June 1845, and died on 09 January 1919. He studied under the Dominicans at Sorrèze, and later at the Collège Stanislas. Subsequently he won his doctorate of law with a thesis on the Bourse in ancient, medieval, and modern days. In his youth inspired by Père Lacordaire he took the resolution, which he carried out in later manhood, of serving France through the religion of Christ.

At the close of the fatal Franco-Prussian war he was sent up to the National Assembly, which was to try to reconstitute France, by his native department of the Jura. Nominated to the National Assembly at the age of twenty-five, he voted against the peace with Germany in 1871. He believed in the Republic and against Thiers, carried through a demand for a reform of all public services. Against MacMahon he was one of the 363 Republican deputies returned after the dissolution of Parliament.

The navy was assigned him, and his election to the French Academy was the result of his studies of several years. Lamy produced a far-reaching report on the naval budget of 1879 in which he praised Aube's ideas and argued that battleships were too expensive:

"The construction of battleships is so costly, their effectiveness so uncertain and of such short duration, that the enterprise of creating an armored fleet seems to leave fruitless the perseverance of a people. In renouncing warfare between battle fleets, a nation does not abdicate if it can produce, after having ensured the defense of its coasts, ships with powerful engines and strong artillery, able to remain at sea for an extended time, and destined for commercial war."

By his gift of eloquence and especially by his remarkable Report on the Navy Budget, 1878, he established his position as a parliamentarian of first rank and seemed to assure his early inclusion in the Cabinet. But this was not to be. Lamy was a Catholic. The Republic, advancing on its Radical way, soon broke and banished him from political life.

In fact, with all his Liberal Catholicism and the close relations in which he stood to Leo XIII, M. Lamy had always been a Republican, and had suffered for his political as well as for his religious faith. He was a pupil of Lacordaire's school, which did so much to unite - unavailingly, as it seems in France - the old and the new in Liberal thought and action. By the way, like Barros, Jules Lemaitre, Renan, and even Anatole France and Waldeck-Rousseau, he was an example of those masters of literary style that seemed to issue from the Church schools more readily than from the State Lycees.

Lamy stood for the liberty of higher education and so fought the anti-Catholic monopolistic school law of Jules Ferry in 1879. He refused to accept the famous Article VII of Jules Ferry, with its wholesale suppression of religious schools. In 1881 he was defeated for re-election. This gave him the leisure for historical studies of the Second Empire and the National Defence, and of France in the Levant, and for the desperate effort to unite men of his own kind in consistent action for a Liberal Republic. Thereafter he fought his fight for Christian France in the literary field. He became editor of "Le Correspondant" and wrote for the "Journal des Débats," "La Revue des Deux Mondes," and won a great literary reputation.

Lamy was elected to the French Academy 08 June 1905, was perhaps known outside France only to the readers of the Revue des Deux Mondes. As far back as 1883 Taine, after reading an article of M. Lamy on the Republic, declared : "If that author presents himself at the Academy he shall have my vote." His books were known for their pure, manly, crystal-clear French and upright, Liberal ideas. Of course he was chosen by the "party of the dukes" [the opposition to the Republic] but by a respectable majority. His only serious competitor was Maurice Baires, who was also a Conservative, not to say Nationalist, in politics, and far more resplendent with literary glory before a vain universe. All the members of the Academy were present, including the now un-Pansian Rostand, excepting Anatole France and Henri Lavedan. The former, since the Dreyfus affair launched him on a passionate sea of anarchism, noticed the Academy only to blast it with the anathema maranatha of his new religion ; the latter is son of the famous editor of the Catholic review Le Correspondent, whose place M. Lamy had taken.

On the death of Thureau-Dangin Lamy succeeded as perpetual secretary of the French Academy. Startled by the increasing decline in French natality conse- quent on the spread of non-Catholic principles of morality, he enabled the French Academy tnrough his generosity to offer annually the two Etienne Lamy prizes of 10,000 francs each, for large families.

On 01 September 1918 an impressive ceremony took place on the Belgian front in commemoration of the burning of Louvain and the Louvain Library. Among those present were the King and Queen of the Belgians and their son, General Roqueril, head of the French mission, and a considerable number of French and Belgian officers and men. M. Etienne Lamy, Secretary of the Académie Française, said it was the German desire to destroy everything that was not the product of their own so-called culture.




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