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1861-1887 - French Conquest of Indochina

It was in the reign of Louis XVI in 1787 that Annam for the first time came into contact with France. Gialong, of the dynasty of the Nguyen, had been desperately struggling to recover his crown, usurped by the three brothers Tay Son. Not succeeding in this exploit, he followed the advice of the Bishop of Adran, and sent an embassy to France demanding protection. With the help of the French officers Olivier, Chaigneau, Vannier, and Dayot- King Gialong reconquered all his lands.

Ming-Mang, broke off all connection with Europe, in order to gain the support of China, from whom he accepted investiture. Tu-Duc made several attacks on the Christians, whom he massacred in great numbers with their European missionaries. The Spanish and French interfered, and Saigon was taken by Admiral Rigault de Genouilly in 1861. In the following year, Tu-Duc, finding himself besieged in his own capital, was obliged to give up Lower Cochin-China to France. The rest of Cochin-China became French territory in 1867. The King of Cambodia, Norodom, had placed himself under the protection of the French in 1863. The provinces of Angkor and Batambang have been lately given back by Siam, during the reign of Sisowah, in consequence of the happy negotiations of Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard.

The conquest of Tonking required far greater efforts on the part of the French troops, because of Annam's alliance with China, and more especially because the politics of France were uncertain and confused. The French of the metropolis were themselves opposed to it, and it was only through the genius and skill of Jules Ferry that this colony was added to the mother-country, one might almost say against her will.

On two several occasions Tonking was taken and lost, first by Francis Gamier and then by Commandant Riviere. Both attempts, though extraordinarily audacious, failed through want of support at the right moment. A new start had to be made. Admiral Courbet directed the expedition. The French now had to face not only the Annamese, but numerous bands of pirates and the regular troops from the Chinese frontier provinces of the Quan Si and Yunnan. Some splendid feats of arms took place, the capture of Son-tay and Bac-Ninh, the battles of Bac-Le- and Kep, the defence of Tuyen-Quang by the Commander Domine" (1884-85). The cause appeared to be won. The army of the Yunnan was destroyed, that of Quan-Si had been driven beyond the frontier, and from the fort of Lang-Son the movements of the enemy could be carefully kept in view. At sea, after the bombardment of Fou-Tch^ou, Admiral Courbet received orders to take Formosa. He was unsuccessful, and had to be content with merely forming a blockade. Later he took the islands of Pescadores. China was on the point of coming to terms, when the panic of Lang-Son took place (March 28, 1885). It created considerable excitement in Paris: the Ferry Ministry fell. Tonking, in spite of all, was finally conquered; a treaty with China recognised the sovereignty of France.

The military operations in Annam, started by Admiral Courbet in 1883, had the following political results: Recognition of the French Protectorate, restoration of the control of the finances and customs, and the permanent occupation of the forts of Thuan-An and the lines of Vung-Khiona. After the settlement of Tonking, the French wished to consolidate their position in Annam. General de Courcy entrenched himself in the citadel of Hue. There he was suddenly attacked by superior numbers, but put them to rout (July 1885). The King of Annam, Nam Nghi, who had escaped from Hue, was deposed and replaced by Dong-Khan, whose name means " Union of the Two Nations." One of the regents had been captured and sent into captivity, the other followed the fortunes of the King NamNghi, who had been driven into the Moi country. Thus there were two Kings in Annam, and two large factions. The Christians, suspected of friendliness to the foreigner, were massacred by the orders of NamNghi to the number of 20,000. The question of Tonking-Annam, which had caused the fall of the Ferry Ministry, was brought once more before the French Parliament. It was only by a majority of four votes that it was decided not to relinquish it.

A short time after Paul Bert was appointed Governor. He died at his task. His successors, Constans, Richaud, Picquet, de Lanessan, and Rousseau, effected the pacification of the country and its reorganisation.

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Page last modified: 05-08-2011 20:03:20 ZULU