Fouché, Joseph

Fouché, Joseph

Fouché, Joseph (zhôzĕfˈ fo͞oshāˈ), b. 1759 or 1763, d. 1820, French revolutionary and minister of police. A teacher in the schools of the Oratorian order, he joined the French Revolution and was elected to the Convention (1792). There he sided at first with the Girondists, but then became a Jacobin. As a Jacobin, he supported the Reign of Terror and assisted Jean Collot d'Herbois in the ruthless massacre (1793) of the counterrevolutionists in Lyons. He was instrumental in the overthrow of Maximilien Robespierre (1794), was envoy to Milan and The Hague (1798), and became minister of police (1799). Always an opportunist, he closed the Jacobin clubs and helped Napoleon Bonaparte's coup of 18 Brumaire (Nov. 9–10, 1799). As police minister under the Consulate, he organized a ruthlessly efficient spy system, but his opposition to Napoleon's being made first consul for life caused his dismissal (1802). He was, however, made a senator and continued to maintain an unofficial espionage system. He discovered the Cadoudal plot (1804) and was reappointed police minister in the same year. One of the indispensable men of the Napoleonic empire, Fouché is sometimes considered the father of the modern police state; nevertheless, his reforms of the criminal police were a lasting achievement. In 1809 he was created duke of Otranto as reward for his defense of Antwerp during Napoleon's absence in Austria. Shortly afterward, he entered into an intrigue with the English against Napoleon. Dismissed again (1810), he fled to Italy but soon afterward returned. In 1813, Napoleon made him governor of Illyria, and in 1814–15 he served both Napoleon and King Louis XVIII. After the second Bourbon restoration he was forced out of office and was sent as ambassador to Saxony. Shortly afterward, he was proscribed as a regicide, was exiled, and died in obscurity in Trieste.


See biographies by N. Forssell (1928, repr. 1970), S. Zweig (tr. 1930), and H. Cole (1971); R. E. Cubberly, The Role of Fouché during the Hundred Days (1969).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Fouché, Joseph


Born May 21, 1759, at Pellerin, near Nantes; died Dec. 25 or 26, 1820, in Trieste. French political and state figure.

Fouché was educated to be a priest. In 1791 he joined the Jacobin Club in Nantes. Elected to the National Convention in 1792, he at first sympathized with the Girondins but later sided with the Jacobins and voted for the execution of King Louis XVI. While serving as the Convention’s representative in several of the country’s departments, Fouché displayed extreme cruelty in suppressing counterrevolutionary uprisings and sometimes executed innocent people. He assiduously carried out the policy of dechristianization and became associated with the Hébertists.

Expelled from the Jacobin Club in July 1794, Fouché helped organize and lead the Thermidorian coup of July 27–28, 1794. Under the Directory, which existed from 1795 to 1799, he held various diplomatic posts and in August 1799 was appointed minister of police. He then betrayed the Directory by helping Napoleon Bonaparte carry out the coup d’etat of 18 Brumaire (November 9–10, 1799). Fouché remained the minister of police and created an intricate system of political intelligence, provocation, and espionage. He became one of the most influential figures in the state. Uneasy about Fouché’s power, Napoleon abolished the Ministry of Police in 1802. Nevertheless, Fouché used his personal police to help uncover G. Cadoudal’s plot against Napoleon. The ministry was reinstituted in 1804, and Fouché again became minister. In 1809 he received the title of duke of Otranto together with a sizable estate. Doubting the empire’s stability, Fouché entered into secret negotiations with Great Britain. Napoleon caught Fouché at his double game and dismissed him in 1810. In 1813 and 1814, however, he served as governor of the Illyrian Provinces.

After the collapse of Napoleon’s empire, Fouché became a fervent supporter of the Bourbons. This turnabout did not prevent him from again siding with Napoleon during the Hundred Days (1815) nor from agreeing to become, for the third time, the emperor’s minister of police.

After Napoleon’s second abdication, Fouché headed the Executive Commission of the Provisional Government and, forsaking Napoleon, zealously helped prepare for the second restoration of the Bourbons. Upon Louis XVIII’s return to power in 1815, Fouché was again assigned the Ministry of Police. At the insistence of the ultraroyalists, however, Louis removed Fouché within the year and sent him to Dresden as ambassador to the Kingdom of Saxony. By a decree of 1816, Fouché and the other “regicides” were banished from France. Having lost his position as ambassador, Fouché went to Trieste, where he became an Austrian citizen and spent the remainder of his days.


Mémoires, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1967.


Zweig, S. Zhozef Fushe: Izbr. proizv., vol. 2. Moscow, 1957. (Translated from German.)
Madelin, L. Fouché, 2nd ed. Paris, 1955.
Kammacher, L. J. Fouché. Paris, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.