Charles de Gaulle quotes

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Charles de Gaulle

Birthdate: 22. November 1890
Date of death: 9. November 1970

Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French army officer and statesman who led the French Resistance against Nazi Germany in World War II and chaired the Provisional Government of the French Republic from 1944 to 1946 in order to reestablish democracy in France. In 1958, he came out of retirement when appointed president of the Council of Ministers by President René Coty. He was asked to rewrite the Constitution of France and founded the Fifth Republic after approval by referendum. He was elected the president of France later that year, a position he was reelected to in 1965 and held until his resignation in 1969. He was the dominant figure of France during the early part of the Cold War era; his memory continues to influence French politics.

Born in Lille, he graduated from Saint-Cyr in 1912. He was a decorated officer of the First World War, wounded several times and later taken prisoner at Verdun. During the interwar period, he advocated mobile armoured divisions. During the German invasion of May 1940, he led an armoured division which counterattacked the invaders; he was then appointed Undersecretary for War. Refusing to accept his government's armistice with Germany, de Gaulle escaped to England and exhorted the French to resist occupation and to continue the fight in his Appeal of 18 June. He led the Free French Forces and later headed the French National Liberation Committee against the Axis. Despite frosty relations with the United States, he generally had Winston Churchill's support and emerged as the undisputed leader of the French Resistance. He became head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic in June 1944, the interim government of France following its Liberation. As early as 1944, de Gaulle introduced a dirigiste economic policy, which included substantial state-directed control over a capitalist economy which was followed by 30 years of unprecedented growth, known as the Trente Glorieuses.

Frustrated by the return of petty partisanship in the new Fourth Republic, he resigned in early 1946 but continued to be politically active as founder of the Rassemblement du Peuple Français . He retired in the early 1950s and wrote his War Memoirs, which quickly became a staple of modern French literature. When the Algerian War was ripping apart the unstable Fourth Republic, the National Assembly brought him back to power during the May 1958 crisis. He founded the Fifth Republic with a strong presidency, and he was elected to continue in that role. He managed to keep France together while taking steps to end the war, much to the anger of the Pieds-Noirs and the military; both previously had supported his return to power to maintain colonial rule. He granted independence to Algeria and progressively to other French colonies. In the context of the Cold War, de Gaulle initiated his "politics of grandeur" asserting that France as a major power should not rely on other countries, such as the United States, for its national security and prosperity. To this end, he pursued a policy of "national independence" which led him to withdraw from NATO's military integrated command and to launch an independent nuclear development program that made France the fourth nuclear power. He restored cordial Franco-German relations to create a European counterweight between the Anglo-American and Soviet spheres of influence through the signing of the Élysée Treaty on 22 January 1963. However, he opposed any development of a supranational Europe, favouring Europe as a continent of sovereign nations. De Gaulle openly criticised the United States intervention in Vietnam and the "exorbitant privilege" of the United States dollar. In his later years, his support for the slogan "Vive le Québec libre" and his two vetoes of Britain's entry into the European Economic Community generated considerable controversy, both in the US and in Europe.

Although reelected President of the Republic in 1965, he faced widespread protests by students and workers in May 1968, but had the Army's support and won an election with an increased majority in the National Assembly. De Gaulle resigned in 1969 after losing a referendum in which he proposed more decentralisation. He died a year later at his residence in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, leaving his presidential memoirs unfinished. Many French political parties and figures claim a Gaullist legacy; many streets and monuments in France were dedicated to his memory after his death.

Works

Appeal of 18 June
Charles de Gaulle

„France was built with swords. The fleur-de-lis, symbol of national unity, is only the image of a spear with three pikes.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

La France fut faite à coups d'épée. La fleur de lys, symbole d'unité nationale, n'est que l'image d'un javelot à trois lances.
in La France et son armée.
Writings

„I am Joan of Arc. I am Clemenceau.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Reportedly misattributed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in January, 1943, in communicating his impression of de Gaulle's arrogance in assuming the mantle of leadership of free France. Reported in Paul F. Boller, John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions (1990), p. 33-34.
Misattributed

„Difficulty attracts the characterful man, for it is by grasping it that he fulfils himself.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

La difficulté attire l'homme de caractère, car c'est en l'étreignant qu'il se réalise lui-même.
in Mémoires de guerre.
Writings

„Men can have friends, statesmen cannot.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Les hommes peuvent avoir des amis, pas les hommes d'Etat.
Interview, December 9 1967.
Fifth Republic and other post-WW2

„France cannot be France without greatness.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

La France ne peut être la France sans la grandeur.
in Mémoires de guerre.
Writings

„Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Oui, c'est l'Europe, depuis l'Atlantique jusqu'à l'Oural, c'est toute l'Europe, qui décidera du destin du monde.
23 November 1959, Strasbourg. The phrase shown in bold is the most often quoted excerpt. De Gaulle was expressing his vision of Europe's future.
Most famous
Context: Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is Europe, it is the whole of Europe, that will decide the fate of the world.

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„Why do you think that at 67 I would start a career as a dictator?“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Pourquoi voulez-vous qu'à 67 ans je commence une carrière de dictateur ?
Press conference, May 19 1958 (De Gaulle was changing the constitution to make government more efficient, after decades of impotent parliamentary regime, and he mocked journalists who claimed he was establishing a dictatorship).
Fifth Republic and other post-WW2

„Of course one can jump up and down yelling Europe! Europe! Europe! But it amounts to nothing and it means nothing.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Bien entendu, on peut sauter sur sa chaise comme un cabri en disant l’Europe ! l’Europe ! l’Europe ! mais cela n’aboutit à rien et cela ne signifie rien.
Interview on a presidential campaign, December 1965 INA archive of the video http://www.ina.fr/archivespourtous/index.php?vue=notice&id_notice=I00012536 (De Gaulle meant that he wanted to build a European Union on realities, i.e. the existing nation-states with their respective interests – not on slogans and abstractions)
Fifth Republic and other post-WW2

„It is unnecessary, for the Republic has never ceased to exist. I was the Republic.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Reply in August 1944 to a statement of regret that the windows of the Hotel de Ville in Paris were not opened for the crowd outside cheering the reestablishment of the Republic. Quoted in The Atlantic, November 1960.
World War II

„The cabinet has no propositions to make, but orders to give.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Le gouvernement n'a pas de propositions à faire, mais des ordres à donner.
in Mémoires de guerre. (Secretary of State De Gaulle so replied, in early June 1940, to Admiral Darlan, whom he was asking to transfer what was left of the French army to North Africa)
Writings

„Jews remain what they have been at all times: an elite people, self-confident and domineering.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Attributed to a news conference (27 November 1967) the earliest occurrence of this statement yet located is in The Cross and the Flag, Vol. 27, (1968) by the Christian Nationalist Crusade
Appeal of June 18, Speech of June 18

„The desire of privilege and the taste of equality are the dominant and contradictory passions of the French of all times.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Le désir du privilège et le goût de l'égalité, passions dominantes et contradictoires des Français de toute époque.
in La France et son armée.
Writings

„How can you govern a country that has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux cent quarante-six variétés de fromage?
Les Mots du Général, Ernest Mignon, 1962
Fifth Republic and other post-WW2

„Nothing great is done without great men, and they are great because they wanted it.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

On ne fait rien de grand sans de grands hommes, et ceux-ci le sont pour l'avoir voulu.
in Vers l’armée de métier.
Writings

„Anything can happen someday, even that an act conforming to honour and honesty can end up, at the end of the line, as a good political decision.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Tout peut, un jour, arriver, même qu'un acte conforme à l'honneur et à l'honnêteté apparaisse en fin de compte, comme un bon placement politique.
in Mémoires de guerre.
Writings

„So, it is true that one’s homeland is entirely human, emotional and that it is the root of action, of authority, of responsibility from which one can build Europe. What elements? Well, [nation] States, because only States are valid, are legitimate, in this respect, in addition they are capable of… As I have already said and I repeat, that at the present time, there cannot be any other Europe than that of the States, apart of course from myths, fictions, parades. From this solidarity depends all hope of uniting Europe in the political field and in the field of defense, as in the economic field. From this solidarity depends, therefore, the destiny of Europe as a whole, from the Atlantic to the Urals.“

—  Charles de Gaulle

Alors, il est vrai que la Patrie est un élément humain, sentimental et que c’est sur des éléments d’action, d’autorité, de responsabilité qu’on peut construire l’Europe. Quels éléments? Eh bien, les États, car il n’y a que les États qui, à cet égard, soient valables, soient légitimes et en outre soient capables de réaliser… J’ai déjà dit et je répète, qu’à l’heure qu’il est, il ne peut pas y avoir d’autre Europe possible que celle des États, en dehors naturellement des mythes, des fictions, des parades. De cette solidarité dépend tout espoir d’unir l’Europe dans le domaine politique et dans le domaine de la défense, comme dans le domaine économique. De cette solidarité dépend, par conséquent, le destin de l’Europe tout entière, depuis l’Atlantique jusqu’à l’Oural.
Press conference, Elysée Palace, Paris, 15 May 1962
Fifth Republic and other post-WW2

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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