The multilingual contents of the site are the result of an automatic translation.


Other sources

Saut de ligne
Saut de ligne

Marshal Lyautey. A great colonial lord of the Third Republic.

General Military Review No. 54
History & strategy
Saut de ligne
Saut de ligne

Saint-cyrien, belonging to the class of Marshal of Turenne, graduate of the 102nd class of the École supérieure de guerre, Colonel (er) Claude Franc specialized in in the military history of the contemporary era, considered through the prism of command, a subject on which he has published numerous books and articles over the past decade.

Colonel (er) Franc recalls the action of Marshal Lyautey as a general resident of Morocco, closer in his attitudes to a "lord" or an aristocrat than to a colonizer, showing us how he knew how to use the Protectorate to build Morocco.

Lyautey and the Moroccan initiation.

In May 1912, on taking up his duties in Rabat, Lyautey was aware that he was walking in a vacuum and that he had no firm point of support within Moroccan society: "It is in all sincerity that I am very pessimistic; the situation is so difficult, almost inextricable, that I still do not see any serious point, the way out of it.1 ", he wrote in Paris, three months after his arrival. But he is not satisfied with these comments, which are all the more alarmist in that they are addressed directly to the metropolitan authorities likely to succeed in his requests for military reinforcements. This hotly debated interpretation of the Moroccan situation, which takes the form of a series of letters, sometimes feverish, whose content goes far beyond a simple report on the situation at the time, to become lost in considerations of the situation in the country.It is as surprising as it irritates the offices of the War and the Quai d'Orsay for whom it is intended, even if it arouses their curiosity.

It is in this hot initiation of Morocco in the midst of turmoil that the new Resident General will imprint his inimitable mark on a protectorate that was beginning under very unfavourable auspices, and will be born in a new country.a least lead to a singular construction, sometimes grandiose and ingenious, in spite of obvious contradictions, obvious equivocations and, sometimes, even proven failures.2.

In Paris, the ruling circles are held in suspense by the colonial party, left-wing and freemason, supported by the chambers of commerce of Marseilles and Bordeaux, the two great colonial ports, while the nationalist right, with its eyes fixed on the blue line of the Vosges, varies from thepolite indifference to open opposition to any colonial enterprise, especially in Morocco, where the Agadir crisis of the previous year made it even more circumspect in this matter. The Moroccan uprising of 1912 against France was not perceived in Paris as a "Muslim Valmy", as the republican culture of the colonial party might lead it to do, but as a manifestation of Muslim fanaticism and rudimentary Berber brutality. Referring to a rather rapid amalgamation, as fantastical as it is irrelevant, between the Moroccan situation and that of revolutionary France, the French "colonials", who were the first to be elected to the presidency of the French Republic, are now in a position to take over the presidency of the French Republic.However, they imagine a "native night of 4 August" during which the wealthy mobilised against the "new regime" instituted by the Protectorate would be brought to heel. This notion appears very explicitly in Article 1 of the Treaty of Fez.3. The Protectorate would thus be endowed with an emancipatory and civilizing dimension. It would, in a way, spread the spirit of the "Enlightenment" whose members of the colonial party did not doubt for a single moment that France was predestined for this mission by the great Revolution.

According to this logic, the Treaty of Fez, instituting the Protectorate, would thus constitute a rupture, establishing a new sense of Moroccan history. There was "Old Morocco", corresponding to the Ancien Régime in France, with all the connotations that the term has in the sense of a past that is irremediably over. There will be the Morocco of tomorrow, born of the civilizing and administrative hands of the French. In this respect, the colonial party is well within the legacy of the French republican mandate mixing an abstract universalism, the lyricism of the human race and its ambition to spread everywhere the great principles of 1789.

Lyautey happens to be light years away from this republican lyricism. The cries of vengeance that are everywhere, in Paris as in Morocco, at the end of the tragic events of the "April Days" in Fez, revolt this aesthete. The military, strengthened by the reminiscences of the Versailles Commune, were not the last to give voice to this: General d'Amade, the superior commander of the troops in Morocco, proposed to Poincaré "to take advantage of the present circumstances to open up in Fez avenues that could be useful militarily and hygienically. "He will be dismissed by Lyautey. In Fez itself, where General Moinier had established a state of siege, the city was disarmed and forced to pay a heavy price for the war. Lyautey is appalled and this great emotional person feels this atmosphere like a wound.

He will knowingly and resolutely commit himself against the tide of this recourse to "all repression", which his very complex personality rejects: His dual experience in Tongan and Madagascar has taught him to constantly shift himself in relation to a metropolitan system of thought and reasoning (in In Hanoi with Gallieni at the time of the Dreyfus affair, he was a staunch defender of the imprisoned captain and a firm supporter of the reformation of the; moreover, by treating the character of an aristocrat who is out of step with his time, he cultivates the paradox of a being who is past and present.iste (a man of the 18th century, who pursued 1789 and the Revolution with instinctive repulsion) and futuristic (a great admirer of America, its institutions and its youth). In addition to the Chouanne reference, Lyautey compares the Moroccan resistance to the French hold to that of the Spanish afrancesados raised against the Grande Armée: from Fez, he writes to the Minister of Foreign Affairs : "I am not far from seeing that the comparison that naturally comes to mind is that with Spain from 1808 to 1812, where, under the slight facade of grouped native authoritiess interests, by complacency or by force around the foreign sovereign, giving the illusion of an independent Maghzen, everyone rose up under the xenophobic and religious fanaticism that we know. »

These two references push Lyautey to understand from the inside what this very strong anti-French reaction possesses in terms of patriotic passion, social disarray and religious terror, all of which remain closely and extremely intertwined. From then on, he will commit himself to a political line aimed at restoring and not establishing, at preserving and not erasing. In doing so, throwing down the statue of the Commander that was later built by his thurifers, Lyautey immediately shows himself to be very reserved with regard to the very principle of the Protectorate: After a long conversation he had with Sultan Moulay Hafid, who was on the verge of abdicating so as not to be deposed, Lyautey wrote to his minister of supervision4A very logical, very informed, very calm conversation, which I listened to with all the more interest since, I must admit, I almost entirely share his way of seeing. While this sentence may be frightening and highly disturbing to the Quai d'Orsay at the time it was written, above all it casts a paradoxical and aberrant light on all the events that took place on the Quai d'Orsay.It is a hagiographical text that invariably aims to present Lyautey as "the soul of the Protectorate", particularly during the dynastic crisis that led to Morocco's independence in the 1950s. If Lyautey was to come to terms with the Protectorate, it was as a safeguard against the annexationist aims of the colonial party's upstarts, which were particularly virulent at the end of the Great War. Faced with them, Lyautey will take care, in his own words, to never 'algerize' Morocco, the Algerian example constituting, in his eyes, the very example of what should not be achieved in colonial matters.5. Faced with Lyautey, the Algerian lobby, which has powerful relays and support in the House in the radical ranks, obviously thinks that Morocco is worth only as an extension of Algeria.

Lyautey, a true non-conformist intellectual in military dress, undertook to give the institution of the Protectorate a direction diametrically opposed to that which the Republic had established in Tunisia. His model in terms of colonial intelligence was the British Indies, a new paradox for this uncompromising but secretly liberal legitimist monarchist.

To fully grasp Lyautey's manipulation of the Protectorate system, it is necessary to explore the various facets of the character's extraordinary personality.

Lyautey, incomparable and inimitable proconsul.

Drawing a portrait of Lyautey, that is to say fixing him in his role as proconsul in Morocco, is not easy because if he is a being with several characters at the same time, it is indeed him, and, what is more, he marries this plurality to perfection. In fact, one cannot understand Lyautey at all if one erases the fact that he is a man of the theatre, in permanent representation, adoring above all, in his own words, to be "swallowed". To seduce, to team up, to lead behind oneself, these are the springs of a conqueror, that is to say a dominator. In fact, this born seducer plays on the same registers, but placed on different keyboards to conquer a tribe of the Berber hillbilly rebellion, to conquer a tribe of the Berber hillbilly rebellion, to conquer a tribe of the Berber hillbilly get attached to a young civil servant, generally from an excellent background, attached to the Residence, or to impose himself on the dignitaries of the Maghzen. This charmer, at the same time fine, delicate, and tortured, but authoritarian and imperious, and with an ego like no other, could only live surrounded by "féaux", that is to say, by "féaux", that is to say, by "féaux", that is to say, by "féaux", that is to say, by "féaux".Whether European or indigenous, civilian or military, metropolitan or settler, he could only live surrounded by "fables," whether they were European or indigenous, civilian or military, metropolitan or settler, displaying a behaviour of "rallying" to his person and to the cause with which he identified. Guillaume de Tarde, the accomplished prototype of these snowmen, left a particularly vivid testimony of the court life that was the Residence.6. Membership in the Lyautey team is a quasi-religious rite: Tarde notes that "one joins the marshal's zawiya, just as one enters an order, and serving the person of the marshal is akin to participating in an office". In observing this quasi-feudal mode of operation, it must be noted that it does not in any way predispose to the exercise of any freedom of expression and the maintenance of free will by the personnel of the "team".

Moreover, Lyautey does not care, does not ask, and even strongly condemns any expression of any personal idea. This is how an exhilarating osmosis was created between the "boss" and his "team", but oh so full of ambiguities.

Certainly, Lyautey is above all a great lord, attached to tradition and hierarchies, rebelling with all his pores against the individualistic and egalitarian society that emerged in 1789. This bourgeois nobleman, caparisoned by aristocratic innate and cultivated aristocracy, likes to stigmatize, by aThe bourgeois nobleman, caparisoned by an aristocracy as innate as well as cultivated, likes to stigmatize, by an empty caste reflex, a mission of inquiry of parliamentarians that he receives reluctantly at the Residence: He wrote these revealing lines to his friend Albert de Mun, on October 23, 1913: "The horde of parliamentarians shot down on this poor country, enormous, cumbersome, boastful, perorating wrongly and through, and so ignorant, so vulgar".

This aristocratic inclination makes Lyautey sensitive to the monarchy, its pomp as much as to its principles, so that it is quite natural that he is enthusiastic about all the Moroccan elites who populate the Maghzen. By this atavism, Lyautey will recognize himself in the Cherifian Empire, the one he calls the "old wealthy Empire", precisely because of its archaic side. As this representative of France, an industrial power that claims to be the very archetype of parliamentary democracy, feels an "exile in his own country" (youth letter to Albert de Mun), he gives his thirteen year old proconsulate in Morocco, the tone of time finally regained: that of the Ancien Régime, whose last fires he experienced in the landed estates of his Lorraine region or in the salons of the private mansions of the faubourg Saint-Germain. On 19 June 1919, he wrote to a friend, Madame Godard-Decrais, these revealing lines7 This Moroccan breed is exquisite. It has remained the refuge of politeness, moderation, elegant manners, noble gestures, respect for social hierarchies, everything that adorned us in the 18th century. One would think one could read a description of the Schönbrunn court at the time Mozart was performing there, when it was the same "sons of the great tent". who, when unsubdued, stormed our posts and cut off the heads of European leaders to "adorn" the ruins when they fell!

The longer Lyautey lingers in his duties as Resident General in Morocco (which are akin to a first-class funeral), the more he becomes attached to the indigenous material of this country, which has retained the mark of a non-modern civilization. "Life here is becoming more and more inept, not by increasingly sympathetic, loyal and "gentlemanly" Muslims.8And by the little support I find in Paris, especially at the Quai d'Orsay," he confided to Henri de Castries after the war.

With this in mind, Lyautey will strive to restore the old Morocco, the one magnified by the memory of Moulay Hassan, the last sultan to have maintained between 1873 and 1894 the proud image, fictitious it must be acknowledged, of the independence of the "wealthy Empire". Everyone will be kept (or even put back) in his hierarchical place, in the name of a perception of Moroccan society, close to a simple caricature, dichotomized between the elite and the popular masses, so much so that Lyautey understands Moroccan society only from the top.

This is how he flies over these popular masses, gathered in tribes in the countryside, or the multitude of urban craftsmen and shopkeepers. To these, Lyautey applies Bernanos' principle: "To restore the poor to their rights without establishing them in power", which is quite a programme. It must be recognized that these masses are still socialized and supported by reliable organizations (tribes, douars, urban trades, even neighborhoods in large cities). This situation is the opposite of what is happening in Algeria, where the Muslim masses are left to their own devices, volatilized and reduced to a mass of atomized individuals. It is in this sense that Lyautey will endeavour, as far as possible, to spare the peasant masses of the hinterland and the small urban people the conservation of their working tools within the framework of safeguarding the organic bonds of solidarity provided by the tribe or the corporation.

In conclusion, it would be a great mistake to consider that Lyautey acted according to a rigid, codified framework, responding to an existing and pre-established doctrine. He has always refused to recognize any legitimacy whatsoever for any ideology or doctrine.9. It is therefore abusive to speak of the "Lyautey doctrine". A man of action, he reasoned on the data of the moment and the environment under consideration.

1Letter from Lyautey to the Chief of Staff of the Minister of War, dated 9 July 1912.

2 Unlike the failure of El Harri, in 1914, in which Lyautey was not held responsible, the failure of Tafilalet, in 1918, is entirely to be blamed on the Resident General.

3 Treaty signed in 1912 between France and Morocco, establishing the French protectorate over the Cherifian Empire. It was in the wake of this treaty that Lyautey was appointed General Resident of France in Morocco.

4 Letter n° 69 from Lyautey to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, dated 13 August 1912.

5 It must be acknowledged that the future did not quite prove him wrong.

6 Lyautey: le chef en action, Paris, Gallimard, 1959.

7 Quoted by André Le Révérend: Lyautey writer.

8 The head of Oxford University would have been, at the very least, surprised if these lines had fallen before his eyes!

9 Even at the military level

Title : Marshal Lyautey. A great colonial lord of the Third Republic.
Author (s) : le colonel (er) Claude Franc