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Louis-Jules Trochu (1815-1896) had served with distinction in the French armed forces during the Crimean War. During the Franco-Prussian War, he was appointed Governor of Paris and Commander-in-Chief of all forces responsible for the defence of the capital. The leadership he demonstrated during the Siege of Paris saw him named President of the Government of National Defence, the de facto head of state, on 4 September 1870.
“General Trochu, whose very name was, except to military men, a fortnight ago, utterly unknown, has suddenly been placed in, perhaps, the most difficult position in Europe, and the eyes of the whole civilised world are bent upon him to see how he will acquit himself of the responsibility he has assumed. When the system that has ruled France for the last eighteen years collapsed, when, with her soil invaded, her last army destroyed, the Empire crumbled ignominiously into dust, and the hated Prussian marching on Paris, France arose, bleeding but beautiful, among the ruins, the cry went forth for a man to save the country in its peril. It is the greatest possible testimony that could be afforded of the belief in the ability of General Trochu that at this supreme moment all men and all parties turned to him as to the most patriotic and trustworthy, and that they should have acclaimed him chief of the little band on whom France relies to save her from present destruction.
As President of the Provisional Government, General Trochu has achieved miracles of energy. He cares little for the vain trappings of war, but there is no one who is so well acquainted with the use of its various weapons. His name has long been known as that of an able theorist upon military organisation; he has now established his fame as a practical worker-out of his theories. In four days he gathered up an army from the remotest corners of France and placed them in Paris, drilled, armed, equipped, and ready for the fray. The defence of Paris and of France, however, although the first, is not the greatest, part of his task. When the last Prussian shall have quitted the country his difficulties will only have begun, and it remains to be seen how he will be able to deal first with the Orleanists and next with the Socialists, who will work in different directions to make the Republic impossible. He is himself accused of being a friend of the D'Orléans, but he is known to be first of all a patriot, and he will assuredly seek only with a single mind to interpret and to carry out the will of his country. He is the hope of France, and should he succeed in freeing her from the foreign enemy, he will become the President of a Republic in which his mission will be to preserve her from internal foes.”