Jaurès speaker

Jaurès speaker

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  • Brilliant match of eloquence between MM. Jean Jaurès and Jules Guesde.

    SOMM Henri

  • Jaurès at the rostrum.

    LEANDRE Charles (1862 - 1934)

  • Sketch to serve as an illustration of the story of eloquence.


To close

Title: Brilliant match of eloquence between MM. Jean Jaurès and Jules Guesde.

Author : SOMM Henri (-)

Creation date : 1900

Date shown: 1900

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Jean-Jaurès de Castres Museum website

Contact copyright: © Jean Jaurès Museum

Brilliant match of eloquence between MM. Jean Jaurès and Jules Guesde.

© Jean Jaurès Museum

© Jean Jaurès Museum

To close

Title: Sketch to serve as an illustration of the story of eloquence.

Author : ELOY-VINCENT (-)

Creation date : 1910

Date shown: 1910

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Jean-Jaurès de Castres Museum website

Contact copyright: © Jean Jaurès Museum

Sketch to serve as an illustration of the story of eloquence.

© Jean Jaurès Museum

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

An extraordinary speaker

Socialist leader and Member of Parliament from 1885 to 1889 then from 1893 to 1898 and from 1902 to 1914, Jaurès was undoubtedly one of the main speakers in our history: one-to-one or within small groups, in the Chamber or in electoral campaign, at the end of workers' demonstrations or in popular meetings, in scholarly conferences or at the congress platform…: Jean Jaurès spoke all his life, often only stopping to speak in order to write…
Admired for his oratory skills, including by his fiercest political opponents (such as Barres), he was nicknamed, at the height of his art, Saint-Jean Bouche d´or. His trips to the provinces always attracted a huge audience, and his positions in the House, expected by his friends, aroused fear and dread in the opposing camp.
In a time when megaphones and microphones did not exist, public speaking was difficult. In all places - and especially in Parliament, the temple of eloquence - politicians were called upon to express themselves and to debate. This is understood by the dozens of cartoonists, painters and cartoonists who have found it necessary to show his "oratorical genius".

Image Analysis

The gestures of eloquence

Jaurès speaks. In order to be convincing, he occupies the space, using all possible means to be seen and heard, even by those who do not wish to listen to him.
In Lille in November 1900, he debated with the other great leader of French socialism, Jules Guesde, about the "two methods" supposed to divide the various currents of the same political family. Jaurès caricatured by Henry Somm with more weight than he was then, responds tit for tat to his opponent of the day who does the same. The debate is lively. It captivates the audience, made up mostly of workers from the North, many of whom are committed to the Guesdist theses of the French Workers' Party (POF).
Three years later, Charles Léandre takes it from the platform. His ardor is matched only by the physical and gestural expressiveness of the various facets of his oratorical talent. With both fists clenched forward, here he is kneading the opponent; with his right arm stretched far ahead, he sets out to conquer enemy positions; one arm brought back in front of his chest, he takes his guard by pivoting on one foot to better challenge those who, facing him, are wrong not to share his ideas; then he goes on the attack, before evoking social leveling and specifying his ideal, arms outstretched towards the sky and whirling like a conductor. Jaurès screams and gets excited; he gets carried away and perishes. His face is serious, marked by effort and sometimes by fatigue.
Several years later, Eloy-Vincent portrayed the tribune at the height of his power, synthesizing the different moments of his interventions in sketches of great finesse and disturbing truth: let him ask for the floor, that he put in keeps his opponents, whether he asserts his convictions or that he is ironic, that he launches into a fiery exordium or that he reaches a peak of his period, the speaker is only a concentrate of attention , passion and talent, able to face any adversity. His powerful head, his tight body, his arms always very active…: everything in him serves his eloquence.


Public speaking between thought and action

These works allow us to grasp the historical role of eloquence in the political life of the Third Republic, a period during which several deputies, such as de Mun, Clemenceau, Guesde, etc., like Jaurès, showed a true genius of speech. The socialist leader, however, stood out. Not just because he wanted to be the direct heir to Bossuet. The means he implemented enabled him to surpass his colleagues: his physique ("a big head on a stocky body", it has been said) with a "chest" from which came a powerful and brassy voice, who served a southern spirit and unparalleled generosity; his culture and his erudition which, prolonging an impressive memory, without rival, allowed him to polish his sentences impeccably and to develop a rhetoric learned from the best sources (Greek and Latin). Using simple images, always finding the appropriate quotes, knowing how to use irony effectively, always having the necessary presence of mind and courtesy, Jaurès was also a great worker who matured his speeches for hours, preparing them carefully ( sometimes for days and by doing scrupulous research) with thoughts and meditations, and most often contented himself with noting a few words on a piece of paper by way of reference points. Leaving plenty of room for spontaneous expression, he could thus touch as accurately as possible and be very efficient. "As long as Jaurès speaks," said George Dalbert, little suspect of complacency towards him, "you will be his and you will only pull yourself together when he is silent. "
These natural gifts, these facilities, he put at the service of the objectives of emancipation which he sought to share with as many people as possible. And even though the most practical and immediate aspects were present to his mind (rallying the hesitant and undecided, for example), his speeches were very rarely circumstantial. Seeking the truth and always wanting, through debate and confrontation, to participate in the education of the public, he made his speech a veritable piece of bravery intended to strike the conscience of his listeners.
In this way, without demagoguery, he very quickly managed to understand his audience (the atmosphere of the room ...) and to enter into communion with him, although he was not always in front of him, so much in need, listeners acquired to his ideas. In addition, man has matured; his oratory has improved over time: knowledge of places, authors, events and actors of political, social and cultural life was invaluable to him in this area, as well as the mastery of networks and places of sociability . We also know that his adherence to socialism, popular contact, the most lively commitments to the workers' cause, or those, belated but real, against war and colonialism have further increased tenfold his oratory qualities as well as the originality of his ideas. "Extraordinary verbal torrent" (André Siegfried), "voice of the lion people" (Alain), "man orchestra of the great social symphonies" (Adolphe Taborant), "Prophet and Vomitor of speech" (Colette), "enthusiastic shuddering, disinterested and vehement "(Léon Trotsky)…: such was Jaurès orator.

  • deputies
  • Jaurès (Jean)
  • portrait
  • socialism
  • Third Republic
  • speaker


Michel LAUNAY Jaurès orator or the rare bird Paris, Jean-Paul Rocher Editor, 2000. Madeleine REBERIOUX Jaurès: the word and the deed Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Discoveries", 1994.

To cite this article

Alain BOSCUS, "Jaurès speaker"

Video: La gauche et le pouvoir: la table ronde Ailleurs


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