Jean Jaurés, the son of an unsuccessful businessman, was born in Castres,
France, on 3rd
September, 1859. He won a scholarship to the Ecole Normale Supérieure in
Paris. After graduating he taught in schools before becoming a lecturer on
philosophy at the University of Toulouse (1883-85).
Jaurés was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1885. Defeated in the 1889
elections he returned to the University of Toulouse. He became increasingly
radical in his political views and after reading
Karl Marx he
began advocating socialism. He was not a revolutionary and supported the
Independent Socialists led by
1893 Jaurés was elected to the Chamber of Deputies to represent the working
class area of Carmaux. He became involved in the campaign to get the
conviction of Alfred Dreyfus overturned. This was not a popular cause at the
time and was partly responsible for his defeat in the 1898 election.
1900 a congress was held where socialists attempted to obtain a united party.
This proved impossible but two new grouping did emerge, the revolutionary
Socialist Party of France and the
Socialist Party, under the leadership of Jaurés, that advocated a
parliamentary route to power.
The Socialist Party of France was led by
Vaillant. This party failed to make much progress and in 1905 it merged
While out of
parliament Jaurés completed his mammoth
Socialist History of the French Revolution.
He also joined with
in 1904 to establish the left-wing newspaper,
L'Humanité in 1904.
As well as editing
L'Humanité Jaurés continued to write
history books and published The Franco-German War
(1908) and The New Army
(1910). At the Second International he opposed
those European politicians calling for armed insurrection. Instead he
advocated a policy of "peace through arbitration".
Socialist Party under Jaurés grew rapidly at the beginning of the
century but split over the correct response to German militarism. Jaurés
advocated a policy of international arbitration whereas others supported the
During the war fever that swept through Europe during the summer of 1914,
Jaurés continued to argue for peaceful negotiations between the European
governments. On 31st July, 1914, Jean Jaurés was assassinated by a young
French nationalist who wanted to go to war with
Manchester Guardian (1st August, 1914)
Grave as is the international situation even the probable imminence of war
has been overshadowed for the moment in Paris by the appalling crime this
evening of which I was an eye-witness. It is impossible to one who knew M.
Jaures, whom one could not help loving, to write about it calmly with the
grief fresh upon one. I was dining with a member of my family and a friend
at the Cafe du Croissant, the well-known resort of journalists in the Rue
Montmartre close to many
newspaper offices including that of the Humanite. M. Jaures was also dining
there with some Socialist deputies and members of the staff of the
Humanite. He came in later than we did. I spoke to him just as he
entered and had a short conversation with him about the prospects of war and
peace. Like everyone else, he feared that war was probable, but he still had
some faith that Sir Edward Grey might succeed in inducing Germany to be
conciliatory. If some sort of conference could be arranged, he thought,
peace might even yet be secured; and if the French Government would bring
pressure to bear on Russia and the German Government on Austria an
arrangement might be possible. He added, however, that he feared the French
Government might not do that. What a crime war will be and what a monstrous
folly. The last words that he said to me was an inquiry about M. Anatole
France, who, he said, must be deeply distressed by the situation.
At about half-past
nine, when we were just finishing dinner, two pistol shots suddenly
resounded in the restaurant. At first we did not understand what had
happened, and for a moment thought that there was shooting in the street
outside. Then we saw that M. Jaures had fallen sideways on the bench on
which he was sitting, and the screams of the women who were present told us
of the murder. It should be explained that M. Jaures and his friends were
sitting on a bench with their backs to the open window of the restaurant,
and the shots were feed from the street through the window. M. Jaures was
shot in the head, and the murderer must have held the pistol close to his
victim. A surgeon was hastily summoned, but he could do nothing, and M.
Jaures died quietly without regaining consciousness a few minutes after the
crime. Meanwhile the murderer had been seized and handed over to the police,
who had to protect him from the crowd which had quickly collected in the
street. At that hour in the evening the Rue Moatmastte is filled with
newsvendors waiting for the late editions of the evening papers.
It is said that
the murderer is a member of the Royalist society Action Francaise, but I
have not yet been able to discover whether this report is true or not. A
more cold-blooded and cowardly murder was never committed. The scene in and
about the restaurant was heartrending; both men and women were in tears and
their grief was terrible to see. It is as yet too early to say what the
effect of the murder will be, but it may be considerable. M. Jaures has died
a victim to the cause of peace and humanity.
In any case the
French Chauvinists and reactionaries cannot escape a large share of the
responsibility for this murder. For years their organs in the press have
been denouncing M. Jaures as a traitor sold to Germany, and the language
used by the Action Franfaise has been almost a direct incitement to his
assassination. Even such comparatively
moderate Chauvinist papers as the Temps have bandied the charge of treason
recklessly. I have known M. Jaures well, and a more simple-hearted man I
never met in my life. He was absolutely free from personal vanity and
personal ambition, and gave up the whole of his life to the cause of
Socialism and peace. His death is a terrible loss to the
Socialist party in France which cannot replace him without the very greatest
It is the
intention of the Government to issue a proclamation to the people of Paris
expressing the national mourning at the death of M. Jaures and calling upon
the people of Paris to remain calm.
A register has
been opened at the offices of the Humanite in order that the people may
express their sympathy. Hundreds of people are outside the office waiting to