Ollivier, Émile

Ollivier, Émile āmēlˈ ôlēvyāˈ [key], 1825–1913, French statesman, a leading figure in the “Liberal Empire” of Napoleon III. Widely known as a brilliant lawyer, he was elected to the legislature in 1857. He and Jules Favre were the chief figures of the liberal opposition that sought to gain reforms by constitutional means. After 1863, Ollivier cooperated with the duc de Morny to gain liberal concessions from Napoleon and gradually drew away from his republican colleagues to lead a new liberal group supporting cooperation with the government. Growing public discontent led Napoleon to call on Ollivier to form a ministry, and the Ollivier ministry was organized in Jan., 1870. The new ministry instituted sweeping constitutional reforms, transforming the empire into a parliamentary regime. Unfortunately, the dispute over the Hohenzollern succession in Spain soon erupted into hostilities in the Franco-Prussian War. Although Ollivier was initially opposed to war, he endorsed the final decision to declare war on Prussia. Replaced as premier (Aug., 1870), Ollivier went to Italy. He returned to France after three years and spent his later life writing historical and political books, many of them in defense of his ministry. His major collection is L'Empire libéral (18 vol., 1895–1918).

See his Journal, 1846–1869 (1961, in French); biography by T. Zeldin (1963).

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