Combes, Émile

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Combes, Émile

(āmēl` kôNb), 1835–1921, French statesman. An able politician of the left democratic group, he was minister of education under Léon Bourgeois (1895–96) and, succeeding René Waldeck-Rousseau, was (1902–5) premier and minister of interior and religion. Anticlericalism, growing out of the Dreyfus AffairDreyfus Affair
, the controversy that occurred with the treason conviction (1894) of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus (1859–1935), a French artillery officer and graduate of the French military academy.
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, was rampant, and Combes rigorously enforced the law of 1901 requiring religious associations to seek government authorization. He abolished religious education and initiated the separation of church and state in France; abrogation of the Concordat of 1801Concordat of 1801,
agreement between Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII that reestablished the Roman Catholic Church in France. Napoleon took the initiative in negotiating this agreement; he recognized that reconciliation with the church was politic.
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 was formalized in 1905 in a law introduced by Aristide BriandBriand, Aristide
, 1862–1932, French statesman. A lawyer and a Socialist, he entered (1902) the chamber of deputies and helped to draft and pass the law (1905) for separation of church and state.
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. Combes was a member of the Briand cabinet in World War I.

Combes, Émile

 

Born Sept. 6, 1835, in Roquecourbe; died May 25, 1921, in Pons. French statesman. The son of a craftsman.

Combes defended doctoral dissertations in theology (1860) and medicine (1866). In 1885 he became a senator and joined the Radical group. In 1894–95 he was vice-president of the Senate; from November 1895 to April 1896 he was minister of education. In the 1890’s, a period of sharp struggle between democracy and reaction centered on the Dreyfus Affair, Combes came out for a review of the case, a stand that was a defense of the republican system. From June 1902 to January 1905, Combes was head of the government. The Combes government carried out several anticlerical measures: it closed a number of Catholic churches, suppressed schools directed by a religious congregation, and prepared a bill for the separation of church and state. (The latter was implemented in late 1905.) This anticlerical policy led to a break in diplomatic relations between the Vatican and France (1904). Under pressure from right-wing bourgeois circles, Combes was forced to resign. In 1915–16 he was minister without portfolio.