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Philippe Pétain

Marshal Henri Fanchon

Henri Fanchon was the nationalistic leader of France after the end of the French Civil War. He advocated expansionist policies and launched the Hundred Day War with the United States of Mexico.

President of FranceEdit

Marshal Fanchon came to power following a coup in 1909, the fifth since 1884, and made himself the head of a provisional government. Under Marshal Fanchon's leadership France had a strong government able to control all parts of the nation for the first time since the French Revolution. Within two years the French economy had recovered from the civil war. Fanchon established a new constitution in 1911 and was elected President of France. As Prime Minister Stanley Martin remarked at the time, "France is now at peace. The republicans have their republic, and the royalists their king."

Fanchon was a devoted expansionist and proponent of the Moral Imperative. Speaking of Joan of Arc, glory, and duty, he noted that much of Africa and Asia had been taken by the British and Germans. "France has a mission," he said. "We cannot fail our blood and our history." He was prepared to end the fragile peace that had developed in Europe since the end of the Bloody Eighties, and use military force to make France a global power.

Fanchon's initial efforts were tentative and exploratory while he built up French military power. In 1912 he sent fraternal greetings to the governments of Quebec, Ghana, and the Santos colony of Brazil, letting each know that "Your Mother remembers." The results were mixed: Fanchon was rebuffed by Quebec, was invited to visit Santos but was refused permission to travel to Brazil, and was asked for economic assistance by Ghana.

The Argentine CrisisEdit

In 1913, Fanchon's military buildup had reached the point where he was willing and able to resort to war to advance his aims, and he chose the U.S.M. for his first target. He reopened discussions with the Mexican government regarding properties seized by Benito Hermión in the 1880s. If the Mexicans refused to make restitution, Fanchon was prepared to call upon Franco-Mexican residents of Tampico, Durango to remember their homeland, sponsor a Moralista revival, and call for an end to slavery. He believed that the Mexican-German alliance of 1886 was moribund, and that the Germans would not aid the Mexicans; he also believed that the C.N.A. would either remain neutral, or would sympathize with France. "Burgoyne will be with us in spirit as we enter Mexico City," he said. French conquest of the U.S.M. would make France the world's leading reformist power, and possibly bring South America under French influence.

When the French Navy held maneuvers in Argentine waters in March 1914, newly-elected Mexican President Victoriano Consalus sent a note to Argentine President Lopez Vargas warning him of "dire consequences should the Argentine continue its warlike alliance with France." The U.S.M. broke off diplomatic relations with Argentina on 1 April, and France recalled its ambassador to Mexico City three days later. French troops landed in Argentina on 16 May "to assist that government in repressing guerrilla activities near the capital," and on 2 June a French brigade disembarked in Martinique.

The Hundred Day WarEdit

A major riot erupted in Tampico on 12 June and lasted for four days before being halted by government troops. Fanchon sent the French Navy to the port "to assist our countrymen in their fight against tyranny," and the fleet anchored just beyond the 15 kilometer limit on 22 June. Rioting resumed on the night of 27 June, and ten French troopships survived a bombardment by Mexican coastal batteries to land French marines in the city, marking the start of the Hundred Day War. In the next month, the marines were able to consolidate their position in Tampico while a second French naval force secured the Caribbean end of the Kinkaid Canal and a third was defeated by the Mexican Navy at the Battle of Campeche Bay. Additional French troops landed in Tampico under General Jacques Beauchamp on 15 July, and began a drive on Mexico City.

Mexican forces were driven back by the French until the decisive Battle of Chapultepec on 28 August. Mexican airmobiles were able to destroy the French artillery, while Mexican soldiers surrounded the French force with barbed wire barricades which the French were unable to penetrate. General Beauchamp was killed, and his successor, General Pierre Bordagary, surrendered unconditionally to the Mexican commander, General Emiliano Calles. Calles placed Tampico under siege, while the Mexican Navy sealed the port against further French troop landings. The French garrison in Tampico surrendered to Calles on 29 September, and Fanchon sued for peace on 3 October. An armistice was declared between the two nations on 10 October. By the terms of the Treaty of Caracas, France was forced to pay an indemnity of $200 million and cede control of the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas and Martinique to Mexico.


Sobel's sources for the life of Henri Fanchon are Maxwell Horan's The Paper Marshal: The Life of Henri Fanchon (New York, 1944), and Claude Elizy's Fanchon and the Rebirth of France (London, 1966).

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