When Paul Deschanel was elected president of France in January 1920, this article predicted great things. Instead, his behavior proved so erratic that he resigned after seven months and entered a mental institution.
Now if Paul Deschanel is to tread carefully in the footsteps of his excellent predecessors of the Third Republic, he has received the best possible schooling during his long career as President of the Chamber. He is promoted from presiding officer of a legislature to presiding officer of a nation. Aside from that and still with due attention paid to the traditions of the Presidency, as far as political affairs are concerned, there are great possibilities for Paul Deschanel.
Actually, the opposite occurred. Deschanel’s behavior became increasingly unhinged, culminating in falling out the window of a moving train and subsequently wandering around outside aimlessly in his pajamas. He resigned the presidency in September 1920 and entered a sanatorium.
Yet upon his release he was elected to France’s Senate, where he served for the rest of his life — apparently without incident, as far as I can tell.
Deschanel’s prior political position, President of the Chamber of Deputies, is equivalent to the American position Speaker of the House. Fortunately, America has had the opposite track record as France: only one Speaker of the House has ever become president, James K. Polk, and historians rank him in the top third of all presidents.
France’s New President: Paul Deschanel’s Shadowy Office Better Matched to His Personality Than to the Rugged Figure of Clemenceau
Published: Sunday, January 25, 1920
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