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If the Prime Minister of the Royal Government, from 1864 to 1895, has a great deal of sagacity in domestic politics, he has a very difficult and very delicate role in relations with foreign nations. He relies, without much encouragement, on the English, and has, more than once, bound himself to go with France, “to whom, however, it is false to say that he had a continual attitude of bad faith and vexations (Regis Rajemisa-Raolison).
However, he was acknowledged to be an attitude of great mistrust towards the French, particularly concerning the treaty of December 17, 1885, which put an end to the first Franco-Merina war. The cause of this, let us recall, is the claim of the succession of Jean Laborde, died on December 20, 1878, by the royal government. This, by virtue of the immemorial principle that the land belongs to the Queen (or king) and that no parcel can be ceded to strangers.
Skilfully prepared by Admiral Miot and Patrimonio, the treaty of 1885 is (deliberately) badly drafted and maintains a certain confusion. But “what is most serious, it is accompanied by a dangerous explanatory note of the French parliamentarians” (Roger Pascal).
The text stipulates, among other things, that Diego-Suarez is ceded in full ownership to France and that a French resident will settle in Antananarivo. Above all, on the question of the exequators of foreign consuls and agents, the treaty requires the Malagasy government to recognize the right of the French resident to intervene in its relations with foreign powers.
Yet an ambiguity hovers in the text in Malagasy. In French, it is said that the French government will represent Madagascar “in its external relations”. But these terms are translated in the Malagasy version by “abroad”.
The Prime Minister did not fail to grasp a nuance of importance and refused to receive a request that the American consul, Mr. Waller, addressed first to the French resident. Subsequently, foreign diplomats asked Rainilaiarivony for approval, not for Lacoste.
This happened in 1890, but the French government did not react until 1894, when it saw a violation of the treaty. It is only a pretext for launching a second Franco-Merina war, it is said, to impose respect for the text of 1885. It will in fact become the decisive campaign of 1895, favored by the attitude of Rainilaiarivony who Dares to take an open position. This would doubtless have changed nothing since after the fall of Antananarivo on September 30, 1895, there is talk of protectorate, then annexation on August 6, 1896.
Nevertheless, some historians tend to “reproach” the Prime Minister for having, by his policy, favored the protectorate then the annexation of Madagascar by France. According to Régis Rajemisa-Raolison, for thirty years, he succeeded in maintaining himself by “his policy of rocking between England and France. The hour came, in 1894, when he should have played fair game to save his interests and those of his country. But he does not dare openly on either side, for fear of his powerful opponents. ” And this is, one might suppose, the cause of his almost complete failure at a period when, no doubt, intrigues, treason, and felonies multiplied around him.
In addition, to the ordinary motives of the French colonial expansion after 1871, Madagascar added an element of importance, the intervention of the Reunion.
In the seventeenth century France occupied and populated the Mascarenes. Neighbors of Madagascar, the island of France (Mauritius) and the island of Bourbon (Reunion Island) are of great strategic value on the route to the Indies. Thus, after the wars of the Empire, the English were ceded first. They have the skill of entrusting this new conquest, populated by Frenchmen, to a governor who is French by his mother, Sir Robert Farquhar.
“Man knows, by his great qualities, to impose himself on his citizens” (Roger Pascal).
Madagascar, with its large spaces and its resources in meat and slaves, is essential to the economy of Mauritius and Reunion. The traders of these small islands carry their metropolises in their rivalries. In these circumstances, it is not surprising to see the deputies of La Reunion request the annexation of their great neighbor. These are MM. Mahy, in his speech of 25 July 1885, and Brunet,
The interpellation of January 22, 1894 is directly at the origin of the campaign of 1895.