June 1, 1958: Charles de Gaulle regains leadership in France
Following battles in South Africa, Charles de Gaulle became leader of the French government in 1944. Unfortunately, the actions of the Fourth Republic caused him to exit his job two years later. This wouldn’t be his final shot at running things, however.
One last hurrah
After leaving the French government, de Gaulle became the leader of Rassemblement du Peuple Français. This political party had over 500,000 members in under a year’s time. The party’s main agenda was allowing a true presidential government. Unfortunately, the party barely made a dent in France, which led to de Gaulle retiring in 1953. After retiring, de Gaulle wrote War Memoirs, which was about his time in politics. In a surprise to de Gaulle, War Memoirs quickly flew off the shelves in France.
A return to France?
In 1958, the Fourth Republic started falling apart at every turn due to the Algerian War. Their only option was to bring de Gaulle back to power. While many agreed to this idea, some thought he would remove their rights. When asked about this, de Gaulle stated, “Have I ever done that? On the contrary, I have re-established them when they had disappeared. Who honestly believes that, at age 67, I would start a career as a dictator?” French president René Coty knew that de Gaulle was right for the job. “I ask General de Gaulle to confer with the head of state and to examine with him what, in the framework of Republican legality, is necessary for the immediate formation of a government of national safety and what can be done, in a fairly short time, for a deep reform of our institutions,” he said.
Taking back the power
De Gaulle agreed to take back leadership, but he had some rules. He wanted to replace the Fourth Republic’s constitution with a new one. If that wasn’t enough, he wanted extraordinary powers for six months. This meant he could do anything drastic, and nobody could question him. On June 1, 1958, de Gaulle pulled a Michael Jordan and returned as the French leader. During his time, he aided in ending the Algerian War and reformed the French economy. After a ten-year reign as president, de Gaulle resigned on April 28, 1969. On November 9, 1970, he died before his 80th birthday. While delivering news of his death, president Georges Pompidou stated, “General de Gaulle is dead. France is a widow.”