Charles Maurras: The Beginnings of the Action Française

  • Samuel M. Osgood


“L’Action Française est née de l’Affaire Dreyfus”, wrote Léon de Montesquiou of the origins of the most resilient, if not the most controversial, political movement in contemporary France.1 Avowedly Catholic, royalist, and Ultranationalist, the Action Française has survived in turn the ban of the Papacy, the repudiation of the House of France, and the condemnation of its leader to national degradation for “intelligence with the enemy” during World War II. To be sure, after 1945 the movement represented little more than a shadow of its former self, and it took on all the aspects of “une chapelle”. Yet the flame continued to flicker, and in the late 1950’s the movement even showed signs of rejuvenation. The domestic career of the Action Française was a stormy one to say the least, and the second generation of Maurrassians has been true to its elders in this as in other ways. Under the Fourth Republic, Maurras’ heritage was bitterly fought over by two weeklies, Aspects de la France and La Nation Française.


Political Thought Domestic Career Hobbesian State Political Bureau Open Aristocracy 
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  1. 1.
    A. de Coudekerque-Lambrecht, Lion de Montesquiou: sa vie politique — L’Action Française (Paris, 1925), p. 28. For the important contributions of American scholars to the historiography of the Action Française, see the author’s “Charles Maurras et l’Action Française: Etat des Travaux Américains,” Revue Française de Science Politique, VIII (March, 1958).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Guy Chapman, The Dreyfus Case: A Reassessment (New York, 1955), p. 9.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    D. W. Brogan, France Under the Republic (New York & London, 1940), p. 341.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    When italicized Action Française refers to the daily as distinguished from the movement as a whole. All references to the review (semi-monthly until 1908; monthly 1908–1914) are made under the title Revue d’Action Française. Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Edward R. Tannenbaum, The Action Française Before the First World War (Ms., University of Chicago Doctoral Dissertation, 1950), pp. 144–150. Cf. François Daudet’s eulogy of Pujo in Les Libertés Françaises, No. 3 (October, 1955); & Abel Manouvriez, “Maurice Pujo ou la fidélité,” Les Libertés Françaises, No. 4 (November, 1955). For biographical sketches of other Action Française leaders, see Professor Tannenbaum’s work, chapter V: “The Leadership of the Movement.”Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    Henri Vaugeois, La Fin de l’erreur Française (Paris, 1928), p. 292.Google Scholar
  7. 2.
    Louis Dimier, Vingt ans d’Action Française et autres souvenirs (Paris, 1926), p. 20.Google Scholar
  8. 3.
    Jean-Jacques Chevallier, Les Grandes oeuvres politiques: De Machiavel à nos jours (Paris, 1950) ; André Mirambel, La Comédie du Nationalisme Intégral (Paris, 1947).Google Scholar
  9. 1.
    Quoted in Pierre Brodin, Présences contemporaines (Paris, 1955), II, pp. 129–130. In praise of Maurras see Charles Maurras (1868–1852): Témoignages... (Paris, 1953); for a violent outburst against him see Ernest Renauld, L’Action Française contre l’Eglise Catholique et contre la Monarchie (Paris, 1936).Google Scholar
  10. 2.
    Au Signe de Flore (Paris, 1933), p. 1.Google Scholar
  11. 3.
    Michel Mourre, Charles Maurras (Paris, 1953), p. 128. For a thorough treatment of his intellectual formation: Léon S. Roudiez, Maurras jusqu’à l’Action Française (Paris, 1957).Google Scholar
  12. 4.
    The Félibrige was founded in 1854 by seven provençal poets. Its professed aim was to maintain the purety of the literary dialects of the Langue d’Oc. Google Scholar
  13. 1.
    Au Signe de Flore, pp. 43–49.Google Scholar
  14. 1.
    Pierre Chardon, ed., Dictionnaire politique et critique. 5 vs. (Paris, 1932–1934). Hereafter referred to as Dictionnaire. Unless otherwise indicated all quotations in the following exposition of Integral Nationalism are taken from Maurras’ writings.Google Scholar
  15. 2.
    Frank C. Huntington, The Ideology of the Action Française (Ms., Yale University Doctoral Dissertation, 1954), p. 86.Google Scholar
  16. 3.
    “Nous ne sommes pas un parti. Nous sommes le salut public,” Soleil, May 7, 1901.Google Scholar
  17. 4.
    Mes Idées politiques (Paris, 1937), p. 118.Google Scholar
  18. 1.
    Dictionnaire, III, p. 231.Google Scholar
  19. 2.
    Ibid., II, p. 274.Google Scholar
  20. 3.
    Ibid., II, p. 76.Google Scholar
  21. 4.
    Ibid., III, p. 202.Google Scholar
  22. 1.
    Ibid., II, pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  23. 2.
    Maurras defined the “métèques” as “étrangers mal nés.” He often asserted that his attacks were directed against the Protestant and Jewish “Estates.” It was not impossible for individual Protestants, or even Jews, to become good Frenchmen.Google Scholar
  24. 3.
    Dictionnaire, II, pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
  25. 4.
    La Démocratie religieuse (Paris, 1921), p. 482.Google Scholar
  26. 5.
    Revue d’Action Française, XXIX (February ist, 1908), p. 211.Google Scholar
  27. 1.
    Idées politiques, pp. 277–288.Google Scholar
  28. 2.
    Dictionnaire, III, p. 91.Google Scholar
  29. 3.
    Idées politiques, p. 280Google Scholar
  30. 1.
    Quoted in Huntington, Ideology of Action Française, p. 84.Google Scholar
  31. 2.
    Dictionnaire, I, p. 354.Google Scholar
  32. 3.
    Ibid., II, p. 6.Google Scholar
  33. 1.
    “La France aux Français,” was one of the Action Française’s favorite slogans.Google Scholar
  34. 2.
    See Charles Maurras: Témoignages... for excellent photographs of Maurras and other Action Française personalities.Google Scholar
  35. 3.
    Maurras et notre temps (Paris, 1951), I, pp. 12–14. See also Tannenbaum, The Action Française, p. 134. The author can only concur with Tannenbaum’s estimate of Maurras’ personality.Google Scholar
  36. 1.
    Tragi-Comédie de ma surdité (Aix-en-Provence, 1951), p. 8.Google Scholar
  37. 2.
    Tannenbaum, The Action Française, p. 129.Google Scholar
  38. 3.
    Action Française, May 6, 1914.Google Scholar
  39. 1.
    “Des armes? J’ai mes poings;” quoted in Massis, Maurras, II, p. 31.Google Scholar
  40. 2.
    S.N., Dossier Maurras. In a report full of spelling mistakes, another inspector once amusingly accused Maurras of pretending to be deaf. On the whole, however, the agents detailed to the Action Française appear to have been a capable lot of men.Google Scholar
  41. 3.
    A.N. F712861.Google Scholar
  42. 4.
    Maurras, II, p. 18.Google Scholar
  43. 1.
    William C. Buthman, The Rise of Integral Nationalism in France (New York, 1939), p. 257.Google Scholar
  44. 2.
    Lazare de Gérin Ricard et Louis Truc, Histoire de l’Action Française (Paris, 1949), p. 44.Google Scholar
  45. 3.
    Revue d’Action Française, I (August 15, 1899), p. 93.Google Scholar
  46. 4.
    Buthman, Rise of Integral Nationalism, p. 257.Google Scholar
  47. 1.
    Text of letter can be found in Charles Maurras, Enquête sur la Monarchie (Definitive Edition) (Paris, 1925), pp. 105–106.Google Scholar
  48. 2.
    Buthman, Rise of Integral Nationalism, p. 257.Google Scholar
  49. 1.
    Revue d’Action Française ,V (November ist, 1901), pp. 671–699.Google Scholar
  50. 2.
    A.N. F712431.Google Scholar
  51. 3.
    In 1896, the Sûreté estimated that only 30 out of 87 regional royalist committees were functioning regularly, A.N. F712431.Google Scholar
  52. 4.
    Maurras to Buffet: “Vous m’avez éclairé sur le Monseigneur, le malheur est que cela est venu bien tard... Mais quand on lui dira Sire, le Monsieur sera oublié.. .”A.N. F712861.Google Scholar
  53. 1.
    Jean France, Ligues et complots: Trente ans à la rue des Saussaies (Paris, 1931), p. 77.Google Scholar
  54. 2.
    As a result of this letter, the Duc d’Orléans was forced to resign from a number of clubs in London. A.N. F712861.Google Scholar
  55. 3.
  56. 4.
    La Monarchie Française: Lettres et documents politiques (1844–1907) (Paris, 1907), pp. i-xviii.Google Scholar
  57. 1.
    Ibid., p. 239.Google Scholar
  58. 2.
    A.N. F712861.Google Scholar
  59. 1.
    Monarchie Française, pp. 241–246.Google Scholar
  60. 2.
    Tannenbaum, The Action Française, p. 170.Google Scholar
  61. 3.
    Revue d’Action Française, V (July 15, 1901), p. 169.Google Scholar
  62. 4.
    A.N. F712431.Google Scholar
  63. 5.
    Testimony of an old Maurrassian (Paris, Summer, 1957).Google Scholar
  64. 1.
    “Il était devenu un mécontent... Je ne parlerai pas de ce qu’il éprouva, quand après la mort du Comte de Paris il sentit s’égarer et se perdre toutes les forces nécessaires à une monarchie parlementaire,” Auguste Laugel, “L’Expulsion des Princes,” Revue de Paris, CXCVI (Sept. 15, 1926), p. 351.Google Scholar
  65. 2.
    Brogan, France Under the Republic, p. 367.Google Scholar
  66. 3.
    Paul Dresse, Léon Daudet vivant (Paris, 1947), p. 36.Google Scholar
  67. 1.
    When the author met Madame Léon Daudet, in 1956, she was a very old lady who had lost sight in one eye. Although they are poles apart in their political beliefs, he would like to pay tribute to her broad erudition and still very alert intelligence.Google Scholar
  68. 2.
    Léon Daudet, Vers le Roi (Paris, 1934), p. 14.Google Scholar
  69. 3.
    French Personalities and Problems (London, 1945), p. 91.Google Scholar
  70. 4.
    For instance, Alexander Werth, France: 1940–1955 (London, 1956), p. 77.Google Scholar
  71. 5.
    Brogan, French Personalities, p. 95.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1970

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  • Samuel M. Osgood

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