Quebec Studies

The Appeal of Boulanger and Boulangism to North Americans, 1881-1889

Quebec Studies (1985), 3, (1), 113–125.


The Appeal of Boulanger and Boulangism To North Americans, 1881-1889 C. Stewart Doty Historians have made much of a "North Atlantic Triangle" of English-speaking Britain, Canada, and the United States, but they have paid considerably less attention to the French "North Atlantic Triangle" of France, Québec, and FrancoAmerican New England. Of particular interest would be how an event or development at one point of this French triangle might affect events or developments at other points during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One such development surely was the career of General Georges Boulanger. Students of French history generally recog­ nize that he and his movement of the 1880s, Boulangism, posed the biggest threat to the French parliamentary republic prior to De Gaulle's, save for the special circumstances of the Vichy regime. Moreover, Boulangism provided the seedbed for a new kind of nationalism. In its ideas, tactics, organization, and poli­ tical sociology, this new nationalism was twentieth-century mass movement nationalism in embryo, generally but not neces­ sarily rightist in politics. It proposed to restore national vigor and strength through substituting a strong leader for weak parliamentarianism, replacing capitalism's class struggle with corporatism's class reconciliation, regaining the national spirit through the blood and soil of one's ancestors, and so on. Fre­ quently, it was anti-Semitic. One of the untold aspects of Boulanger and Boulangism is their association with North America, particularly their impact on Québec life and politics. Boulanger visited North America in 1881 as one of 30 members of the French delegation to the Battle of Yorktown centennial commemoration. His visit to Québec on that occasion was Isuch a spectacular success that it caused Québécois to pay attention to his political movement when it emerged after 1887. 1

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Author details

Doty, C.