French Colonial Expansion

Jules Ferry – On French Colonial Expansion

Author: Jules Ferry was born April 5, 1832, in Saint-Dié, France.  He was educated as a lawyer. Before serving two terms as prime minister of France (1880-1881, 1883-1885), Ferry was an active politician. He served as the republican deputy for Paris in 1869 and protested the declaration of war against Germany. The government of national defense appointed Ferry as the prefect of the Seine. As prime minister, he passed laws that secularized the French educational system. After Bismarck’s German victory over the French, Ferry began to promote French expansionism.

Context: Ferry wrote during the period of colonial expansionism and imperialism. This was a time when the powerful, industrialized countries like England began to stretch their constituencies by annexing or establishing protectorates in “undeclared” areas of the world like Africa.

Language: Ferry’s language was very direct, clear, and assertive. He emphasized and stressed his points by frequent use of the words “need” and “must.” Ferry referred to the grave seriousness of the problem of competition and the German and American protectionist policies restricting trade. He also spoke of the necessary French sense of duty to solve the problem.

Audience: Ferry made this speech before the French Chamber of Deputies on March 28, 1884.

Intent: Ferry hoped to convince the Chamber of Deputies to take up a more rapid and vast policy of colonial expansion for economic and political achievement amidst the globalizing competitive atmosphere.

Message: Ferry justified the need for a vast policy of colonial expansion with the need for economic success. He realized that competitive trade was globalizing and that to prosper, a country needed to attain a vast network of economic outlets. His solution was colonial expansionism, a policy that offered more outlets for exports. With more outlets, France would have a more competitive edge while rivaling the other industrialized nations like Germany, England, and the United States. Ferry also asserted that the French people, as a “superior” race, have a duty to reign over and civilize the “inferior” races, which is reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden.” Ferry saw colonial expansion necessary for France’s global rank.