Paul Deschanel, the son of Émile Deschanel (1819-1904), professor at the Collège de France and senator, was born at Brussels, where his father was living in exile (1851—1859), owing to his opposition to Napoleon III.
Paul Deschanel studied law, and began his career as secretary to Deshayes de Marcère (1876), and to Jules Simon (1876-1877). In October 1885 he was elected deputy for Eure et Loir. From the first he took an important place in the chamber, as one of the most notable orators of the Progressist Republican group. In January 1896 he was elected vice-president of the chamber, and henceforth devoted himself to the struggle against the Left, not only in parliament, but also in public meetings throughout France.
His addresses at Marseilles on October 26 1896, at Carmaux on December 27 1896, and at Roubaix on April 10 1897, were triumphs of clear and eloquent exposition of the political and social aims of the Progressist party.
In June 1898 he was elected president of the chamber, and was re-elected in 1901, but rejected in 1902. Nevertheless he came forward brilliantly in 1904 and 1905 as a supporter of the law on the separation of church and state. He was elected President of France on January 17 1920, but resigned soon after on September 21 because of ill health.
He was elected a member of the Académie française in 1899, his most notable works being Orateurs et hommes d'état (1888), Figures de femmes (1889), La Decentralization (1895), La Question sociale (1898).
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