Philippe Aristide
Denfert-Rochereau (1823-1878)

The eminent defender of Belfort

  • Denfert-Rochereau (1823-1878) © S.H.P.F.

Born in Saint-Maixent (Deux-Sèvres), he attended secondary school in Toulouse, Poitiers and Paris. He was admitted at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1842. In 1849 he participated, as an officer, in the expedition to Rome but this was contrary to his protestant and socialist convictions (in December 1848 he was to vote for Ledru-Rollin at the presidential elections). He took part in the Crimean war and was wounded ; he was stationed in various places, like Algeria, (he was a member of the Church Parish Councilconseiller presbytéral – in Blida). He distinguished himself during the siege of Belfort in 1870-1871 : in his capacity as military governor, he organized its defence with so efficiently from November 1870 to February 1871 that after the victory of Prussia the town remained French.

In February 1871 he was elected deputy for the Haut-Rhin département, but he resigned in March when the transfer of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany was voted. In July 1871 he was re-elected in three départements. He failed to be chosen as life- senator in December 1875, but was elected deputy (depute) for Paris in 1876 and again in 1877.

A devout Protestant, he remained a life-long supporter of liberalism. In 1872, he was a candidate for the liberals at the presbyteral elections of the Paris Reformed Church, but was not elected. In 1872, as delegate to the General Synod of the Reformed Church, he defended the liberals by voting against the Declaration of Faith presented by the evangelicals.

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