An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914

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  1. Franklin on White and Daughton, 'In God's Empire: French Missionaries and the Modern World'
  2. The French Overseas Empire and its Contemporary Legacy
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Save to Library Edit. When Civilization Destroyed Paradise. Silent Sisters in the South Seas. Civilizing and Its Discontents. Defining French Influence in Indochina. Introduction: Empire in an Age of Discord. Conclusion: Finding France Abroad. Martyrs, Patriots, Frenchmen. He assured the administration that the mission was the only real force in the region.

Who today can say where Annam begins and ends? The Missions. Lemire was a classic colonial type, part bureaucrat who bounced from one imperial post to another, and part explorer, traveler, art collector, and guidebook writer. He demanded that Guerlach and Irigoyen be removed from their positions in the region—a request that drove Guerlach to travel to Hanoi to clear his name.

The Mission Responds To the accusations made against the missionaries of the central highlands, the mission responded at all levels—from Guerlach to regional bishops, from private meetings to letters published in colonial newspapers. No one made a more masterful case for missionary assistance than 78 Indochina Mgr. Puginier, whose vicariate did not include the central highlands. With the balanced tone of a seasoned adviser, Puginier suggested two ways of settling the affair, thus saving the government further embarrassment. Even more important to missionaries protective of their autonomy from administrative meddling, it made a case for letting the minorities of the highlands—and the mission of Kontum—remain outside the watchful eye of French authorities.

Bishops generally did not endorse missionary forays into public debate.


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Lemire did not prove the qualities necessary of a Resident. May M. He told Resident-General Rheinart that he had been involved in the creation of the Bahnar-Rongoa Confederation, a defensive alliance of two major highland ethnic groups. With European visitors a rarity in the highlands, missionaries were essentially independent as it was—a belief Van Camelbeke betrayed to the administration.

The mission had nothing to gain by putting its faith in a feverish Frenchman. With a background more suitable to a prime minister than a priest, he was born on Bastille Day in a coincidence he might have lamented in Metz, Lorraine. Guerlach undoubtedly loved France, though not the France that Lemire and Guiomar served. A country evangelized by missionaries, France now had a duty as the eldest daughter of the Church to evangelize abroad. Regnum Galliae, Regnum Mariae. Lemire, Guiomar, and many other republicans in the empire could not have disagreed more.

During the years that followed, the Kontum mission encountered only occasional travelers.

Franklin on White and Daughton, 'In God's Empire: French Missionaries and the Modern World'

The protectorate had the representation it needed without building expensive new posts. But this collaboration was far more complicated than historians have suggested. Missionaries insisted that their work helped spread a love of France among the indigenous population. Far from being eager servants of empire in Indochina, missionaries remained acutely suspicious of colonial authority. The missionary ranks swelled, and mission schools, hospitals, and orphanages expanded.

The s and early s witnessed a new anticlerical force emerging in French Indochina: Freemasons. For Freemasons, Catholic missionaries posed a much graver threat—to civilization itself. And on 8 April , he endeavored to explain why France had come to Southeast Asia. Colonialism, he announced, was not about exploitation but assistance.


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French rule was not about domination but new partnerships. The French came not to steal but to cultivate, to develop, and to bring economic prosperity. In the years that followed, Frenchmen showed themselves far more concerned with capturing rebels and developing local resources than with disseminating the insights of French philosophers and novelists. Before they could teach French to the Vietnamese, they had to organize an effective military to maintain internal stability and protect against the possibility of British, German, and Chinese aggression.

The French Overseas Empire and its Contemporary Legacy

After a decade of uncertainty, things started to improve. In the history of Indochina, stands as a watershed of sorts. That year, Paul Doumer, a reform-minded republican politician, became governor-general of Indochina. In the years since Paul Bert made his proclamation to the people of Tonkin, relations between republicans and conservative Catholics in France had steadily deteriorated.

French Third Republic - Wikipedia

As a result, the late s saw renewed attacks on Catholic missions around the empire. Drawing on the anticlerical fervor at home, radical Freemasons launched a systematic campaign asserting that the Catholic missions undermined the great republican mission civilisatrice. The missions were not the only ones that needed to respond: critiques of the civilizing mission—or lack thereof— were equally uncomfortable for the colonial administration.

The anticlerical polemics of the Dreyfus affair, reformulated in the colonies as distrust of and disgust for missionary work, most forcefully brought the issue of civilization to Indochina. The Dreyfus Affair in the Empire The volatility and confrontation that stirred colonial society in Indochina during the two decades leading up to the First World War paralleled contemporary discord in France. At stake was more than the fate of an army captain. Catholic commentators denounced republicans as hypocritical sinners who touted individual liberty and respect for all religions, save one. In July , republicans in Paris passed the Law on Associations, requiring all religious congregations to be registered with the government.

Combes and his supporters attacked Catholics with deliberate bravado; on one occasion, they closed eighty-one congregations of nuns with a single vote. Across the empire, the most immediate impact of the separation was on the least threatening component of the Catholic missions: nursing sisters were removed from military and colonial hospitals, and the minority of teaching brothers and sisters who worked at state-run schools were excused from their duties.

Most mission schools and medical facilities continued to operate. Though French lawmakers did not immediately apply them to the colonies, the religious laws posed a serious long-term threat to missionary efforts. Were the Law on Associations to be applied abroad, requiring authorization of foreign missions, a number of the largest missionary groups could have faced closure. The Jesuits, the White Fathers of Africa, and the Trappists were all among the organizations that were unauthorized in Criticisms of missions were nothing new, but never had missions faced such a clear legislative onslaught.

Throughout the s, colonial administrators in France had stuck to the guiding principle that anticlericalism was not for export. It was left to the missions to prove their importance to the future success of colonialism. For instance, an pamphlet that discussed Masonic views on colonialism focused almost entirely on the dangers of missionaries. Ardently committed to secular, republican government, these colonists pounced on any aspect of colonial society or policy they deemed improper or ineffective.

From the early s, these papers regularly ran stories about missionary abuses, sparking heated exchanges, accusations, and denials in the form of letters to the editor. Some articles were incendiary pieces meant to provoke more than to inform. The mission also threatened legal action. Some demanded taxation of the mission; others asked for the ousting of the mission altogether.

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In short, they wanted to see the civilizing mission in action. This demand went beyond anticlericalism: it also hit hard at a republican government that was not living up to its own civilizing ideals. The Freemason Campaign The arrival of Governor-General Paul Doumer—himself a Freemason—in coincided with the start of roughly a decade of sustained critique of the missions and often, by extension, the colonial administration. Indochina, like other overseas possessions, was in no way isolated from the polemics of metropolitan France.

Radical colonists were certainly inspired by the mounting anticlericalism at home, but their attacks on the mission were also tailored to the concerns of Frenchmen living in the uncertainty of the empire. Freemasons accused missionaries of nearly every evil imaginable. For most commentators, missionaries were dangerous enemies of France.

The authors claimed that missionaries used murder, torture, and slave trading to intimidate and manipulate non-Christian populations. The more extreme accusations—such as torture and murder—were just the sorts of crimes that the colonial administration would have investigated. And, though authorities occasionally reprimanded missionaries, it was never for the sordid behavior Freemasons attributed to them. In most of their accounts, Freemasons wanted to show that missionary misdeeds stemmed from intolerance.