Joseph Caillaux

Joseph-Marie–Auguste Caillaux (French pronunciation: [ʒɔzɛf kajo]; 30 March 1863 Le Mans – 22 November 1944 Mamers) was a French politician of the Third Republic. He was a leader of the French Radical party and minister of finance, but his progressive views in opposition to the military alienated him from conservative elements. He was accused of corruption, but was cleared by a parliamentary commission. This political weakness strengthened the right wing elements in the radical party.[1]

Joseph Caillaux
57th Prime Minister of France
In office
27 June 1911  11 January 1912
Preceded byErnest Monis
Succeeded byRaymond Poincaré
Personal details
Joseph-Marie–Auguste Caillaux

(1863-03-30)30 March 1863
Died22 November 1944(1944-11-22) (aged 81)
Political partyRadical Party


After studying law and following lectures at the École des Sciences Politiques, he entered the civil service in 1888 as an inspector of finance, and spent most of his official career in Algiers. Standing as a Republican candidate in the elections of 1898 for the department of the Sarthe, in opposition to the Duc de la Rochefoucault-Bisaccia, he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies by 12,929 votes to 11,737. He became Minister of Finance in the Waldeck-Rousseau Cabinet, and after its fall it was not until the Clemenceau Ministry of 1906 that he returned to office, once more with the portfolio of Finance.[2] During the revolt of the Languedoc winegrowers on 22 May 1907 Caillaux tabled a bill on wine fraud. The text submitted to Parliament provided for an annual declaration of their harvest by wine growers, prohibition of second-cycle sweetening and control and taxation of purchases of sugar.[3]

In 1911 he became prime minister. The leader of the Radicals, he favored a policy of conciliation with Germany during his premiership from 1911 to 1912, which led to the maintenance of the peace during the Second Moroccan Crisis of 1911. He and his ministers were forced to resign on 11 January 1912, after it was revealed that he had secretly negotiated with Germany without the knowledge of President Armand Fallières.[4]

Nevertheless, thanks to his undoubted qualities as a financier, he remained a great power in French politics. He fought the Three Years' Service bill with the utmost tenacity. Although that measure became law, it was he who finally, on the financial aspect of that bill, brought about the downfall of the Barthou Ministry in the autumn of 1913.[2]

While the Entente Cordiale was in effect, it was impossible for Caillaux to return to the position of prime minister, but he joined the succeeding Doumergue Cabinet as Minister of Finance. As a financial expert, he had long identified himself with a great and necessary reform in the fiscal policy of France—the introduction of the principle of an income tax. Throughout the winter of 1913, he campaigned for this principle. His advocacy of an income tax, and his uncertain and erratic championship of proletarian ideas, alarmed all the conservative elements in the country, and throughout the winter he was attacked with increasing vehemence from the platform and through the press.[2] Those attacks reached their highest point of bitterness in a series of disclosures in Le Figaro of a more or less personal nature.

In 1914, Le Figaro started the publication of letters addressed by Caillaux to Henriette Caillaux, the second Madame Caillaux, while he was still married to the first. In March 1914, Madame Caillaux in turn shot to death Gaston Calmette, the editor of Le Figaro newspaper, and Caillaux resigned as Minister of Finance. In July 1914, Madame Caillaux was acquitted on the grounds that she committed a crime passionel.[2]

Caillaux became the leader of a peace party in the Assembly during World War I. After a mission to South America, he returned in 1915, and at once began to lobby. He financed newspapers, and did everything he possibly could behind the scenes to consolidate his position. He became acquainted with the Bolos and the Malvys of political and journalistic life. By the spring of 1917, he had become in the eyes of the public "l'homme de la défaite," the man who was willing to effect a compromise peace with Germany at the expense of Great Britain. However, the advent of Clemenceau to power killed all his hopes. This led to his arrest and trial for treason in 1918.[5] After long delay, he was tried on a charge of high treason by the High Court of the Senate, and sentenced to three years' imprisonment, the term he had already served. He was also forbidden to reside in French territory for five years and deprived of civil rights for ten years.[2]

Again rehabilitated after the war, Caillaux served at various times in the left wing governments of the 1920s.[6]

Joseph Caillaux is interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

His political collaborators included the Nord region journalist and politician Émile Roche.

Caillaux's Ministry, 27 June 1911 – 11 January 1912

See also

  • List of people on the cover of Time Magazine: 1920s




  1. Rudolph Binion, Defeated leaders; the Political Fate of Caillaux, Jouvenel, and Tardieu (1960).
  2.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Caillaux, Joseph-Marie-Auguste" . Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York.
  3. Bon, Nicolas, "Midi 1907, l'histoire d'une révolte vigneronne", (in French)
  4. J. F. V. Keiger, Raymond Poincaré (Cambridge University Press, 2002) p. 126; "Political Chaos France's Peril", New York Times, 12 January 1912
  5. "An Ex-Premier of France Facing a Treason Trial," The Literary Digest, 29 December 1917.
  6. "Caillaux's Political Resurrection," The Literary Digest, 2 May 1925.

Further reading

  • Binion, Rudolph. Defeated leaders; the Political Fate of Caillaux, Jouvenel, and Tardieu, Columbia University Press, 1960. pp 15–118 online
  • Cooke, W. Henry. "Joseph Caillaux, Statesman of the Third Republic," Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, September, 1944.
  • Gibbons, Herbert Adams. "The Case Against Caillaux." In France and Ourselves: Interpretative Studies, Chap. VIII, The Century Co., 1920.
  • Hamilton, Keith A. "The 'Wild Talk' of Joseph Caillaux: A Sequel to the Agadir Crisis," The International History Review, Vol. 9, No. 2, May, 1987.
  • Johnston, Charles. "Caillaux's Secret Power Through French Masonry," The New York Times, 24 February 1918.
  • Latzarus, Louis. "Joseph Caillaux: A Character Sketch," The Living Age, 6 December 1919.
  • Lauzanne, Stephane. "A Lost Force: M. Joseph Caillaux," The Forum, January 1923.
  • Raphael, John. The Caillaux Drama, Max Goschen Ltd., 1914.
  • Seager, Frederic. "Joseph Caillaux as Premier, 1911-1912: The Dilemma of a Liberal Reformer," French Historical Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2, Autumn, 1979. online
  • "The Road to Peace: An Interview," The Living Age, 8 March 1924.
Political offices
Preceded by
Ernest Monis
Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by
Raymond Poincaré
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