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Summary Article: MacMahon, Marie Edmé Patrice de
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(märē' ĕdmā' pätrēs' dӘ mäkmäōN'), 1808–93, president of the French republic (1873–79), marshal of France. MacMahon, of Irish descent, fought in the Algerian campaign, in the Crimean War, and in the Italian war of 1859. For his victory at Magenta (1859), Napoleon III created him duke of Magenta. He was governor-general (1864–70) of Algeria and a commander in the Franco-Prussian War, taking part in the battle resulting in the great defeat of the French at Sedan (1870). He aided (1871) in the bloody suppression of the Commune of Paris. A monarchist, he was chosen by the monarchist majority in the national assembly to succeed Adolphe Thiers in 1873 as president of France for a seven-year term. MacMahon inaugurated measures designed to repress the republicans but was unwilling to go to the illegal extremes necessary to reestablish a monarchy. This reluctance, as well as dissension among the monarchists, served to preserve the Third Republic, and France received its new constitution in the organic laws of 1875. On May 16 (le Seize Mai), 1877, MacMahon precipitated a crisis by forcing the republican premier, Jules Simon, to resign, although Simon had the support of the newly elected (1876) chamber of deputies, which had a republican majority. MacMahon appointed a royalist cabinet, dissolved the chamber of deputies, and ordered new elections; this was the only time during the Third Republic that the chamber was dissolved. Despite a Republican victory in the elections in Oct., 1877, MacMahon again named a royalist ministry. He was finally forced (December) to accept a ministry that had the approval of the chamber of deputies. This incident established the principle of ministerial responsibility to the chamber rather than to the president, thus limiting presidential power in the Third Republic. Involved in continuing conflict with the chamber of deputies, MacMahon resigned in Jan., 1879, before the end of his seven-year term. Jules Grévy succeeded him.

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