A partisan of the « Commune »
Rossel was born into a republican, protestant family from the Cévennes region. His father, an Army officer, refused to swear allegiance to Napoleon III.
He was admitted to the Ecole Polytechnique in 1862. He was a bright student and on left Polytechnique as an Army. In 1870 he took part in the siege of Metz with the rank of captain under the orders of a fellow Protestant, General Sigismond de Berckheim ; he made known his disapproval of the strategy of Bazaine. His refusal of defeat and his republican opinions led him to join the “Communards” in 1871. Promoted to General by the latter, he was nevertheless faced with a certain lack of understanding which will even lead to his being disowned by his former friends at the end of the “Commune” period. Nevertheless, he is arrested by the Versaillais and sentenced to death.
In his prison cell, he wrote his memoirs, analysing the difficulties he had encountered, and concluded by underlining the need for education of the working class.
The Third Republic (1871-1940)
Most Protestants were favourable to the Third Republic and strongly influenced its beginnings. Several intellectuals were attracted by Protestantism and for some, the “protestantisation” of France was, they felt, the best and most lasting way of establishing the Republic. The Protestants had a decisive influence over one of the great achievements of the Third Republic : a non-denominational, free and compulsory school system. This influence decreased at the end of the century, when the reinstatement of the Protestant community may be considered as complete.
Protestants and political power
Because of their theological and cultural background, Protestants were devoted to such democratic ideas as were embodied in the republican system. Since they had been favourable to the liberal system of the July Monarchy, they were to take an active part in the beginnings of the Third Republic, during which they played an immense role in proportion to their demographic numbers.
Agénor Étienne de Gasparin (1810-1871)
Félix Pécaut (1828-1898)
Elisée Reclus (1830-1905)
Elisée Reclus devoted all his energy to the exploration of the planet and published books which extolled its wonderful qualities. He is also known for his defense of the Anarchist point of view.