French Fourth Republic

French Republic
République française
"Liberté, égalité, fraternité" (French)
"Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood"
"La Marseillaise"
Metropolitan France is shown in dark green, with the Saarland, under French administration until its accession to West Germany on New Year's Day 1957, depicted in light green
ReligionSecular state
(excluding Alsace-Lorraine)
Roman Catholicism
(Alsace-Lorraine only)
GovernmentParliamentary republic
 • 1947–1954Vincent Auriol
 • 1954–1959René Coty
Prime Minister
 • 1947Paul Ramadier
 • 1958–1959Charles de Gaulle
LegislatureNational Assembly
Historical era
 • French constitutional referendum, October 194613 October 1946
 • Promulgation of French Fourth Republic27 October 1946
 • Battle of Dien Bien Phu13 March – 7 May 1954
 • Bloody All-Saints' Day1 November 1954
 • Treaty of Brussels17 March 1948
 • Algiers putsch and May crisis13–29 May 1958
 • French constitutional referendum, 195828 September 1958
 • Promulgation of French Fifth Republic4 October 1958
 • 1957889,898 km2 (343,592 sq mi)
CurrencyFrench franc (FRF)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Provisional Government of the French Republic
French Fifth Republic

The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems. France adopted the constitution of the Fourth Republic on 13 October 1946.

The Fourth Republic saw an era of great economic growth in France and the rebuilding of the nation's social institutions and industry after World War II, and played an important part in the development of the process of European integration which changed the continent permanently. The greatest accomplishments of the Fourth Republic were in social reform and economic development. In 1946, the government established a comprehensive social security system that assured unemployment insurance, disability and old-age pensions, and health care to all citizens.[1]

Some attempts were also made to strengthen the executive branch of government to prevent the unstable situation that had existed before the war, but the instability remained and the Fourth Republic saw frequent changes in government – there were 21 administrations in its 12-year history. Moreover, the government proved unable to make effective decisions regarding decolonization of the numerous remaining French colonies. After a series of crises, most importantly the Algerian crisis of 1958, the Fourth Republic collapsed. Wartime leader Charles de Gaulle returned from retirement to preside over a transitional administration which was empowered to design a new French constitution. The Fourth Republic was dissolved by a public referendum on 5 October 1958 which established the modern-day Fifth Republic with a strengthened presidency.

Part of a series on the
Carte de France dressée pour l'usage du Roy. Delisle Guillaume (1721)
Flag of France.svg France portal

Founding of the Fourth Republic (1944–54)

After the liberation of France in 1944, the Vichy government was dissolved and the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF) was instituted. With most of the political class discredited and containing many members who had more or less collaborated with Nazi Germany, Gaullism and communism became the most popular political forces in France.

Charles de Gaulle led the GPRF from 1944 to 1946. Meanwhile, negotiations took place over the proposed new constitution, which was to be put to a referendum. De Gaulle advocated a presidential system of government, and criticized the reinstatement of what he pejoratively called "the parties system". He resigned in January 1946 and was replaced by Felix Gouin of the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO). Ultimately only the French Communist Party (PCF) and the socialist SFIO supported the draft constitution, which envisaged a form of government based on unicameralism; but this was rejected in the referendum of 5 May 1946.

For the 1946 elections, the Rally of Left Republicans (Rassemblement des gauches républicaines – RGR), which encompassed the Radical-Socialist Party, the Democratic and Socialist Union of the Resistance and other conservative parties, unsuccessfully attempted to oppose the Christian democrat and socialist MRP-SFIO-PCF alliance. The new constituent assembly included 166 MRP deputies, 153 PCF deputies and 128 SFIO deputies, giving the tripartite alliance an absolute majority. Georges Bidault of the (MRP) replaced Felix Gouin as the head of government.

A new draft of the Constitution was written, which this time proposed the establishment of a bicameral form of government. Leon Blum of the (SFIO) headed the GPRF from 1946 to 1947. After a new legislative election in June 1946, the Christian democrat Georges Bidault assumed leadership of the Cabinet. Despite de Gaulle's so-called discourse of Bayeux of 16 June 1946 in which he denounced the new institutions, the new draft was approved by 53% of voters voting in favor (with an abstention rate of 31%) in the referendum held on 13 October 1946. This culminated in the establishment in the following year of the Fourth Republic, an arrangement in which executive power essentially resided in the hands of the President of the Council (the prime minister). The President of the Republic was given a largely symbolic role, although he remained chief of the French Army and as a last resort could be called upon to resolve conflicts.

The wartime damage was extensive and expectations of large reparations from defeated Germany largely failed. The United States helped revive the French economy with the Marshall Plan, 1948-1951, whereby it gave France $2.3 billion with no repayment. France was the second largest recipient after Britain. The total of all American grants and credits to France from 1946 to 1953, amounted to $4.9 billion.[2] The terms of the Marshall Plan required a modernization of French industrial and managerial systems, free trade, and friendly economic relations with West Germany.[3]

After the expulsion of the Communists from the governing coalition, France joined the Cold War against Stalin, as expressed by becoming a founding member of NATO in April 1949.[4] France now took a leadership position in unifying western Europe, working closely with Konrad Adenauer of West Germany. Robert Schuman, who was twice Prime Minister and at other times Minister of Finance and Foreign Minister, was instrumental in building post-war European and trans-Atlantic institutions. A devout Catholic and anti-Communist, he led France into the European Union, the Council of Europe and NATO.[5]

Other Languages
Bahasa Indonesia: Republik Keempat Perancis
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Četvrta Francuska Republika