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Dossier thématiques : A close-up on: the Mexican campaign, 1862-1867
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(1809-1888) diplomat

Alphonse Dubois de Saligny was appointed Secrétaire de légation in 1830 in compensation for his participation in the revolution of the Trois-Glorieuses in 1830. His career was however to be patchy. He was sent to Washington, as chargé d'affaires for the Republic of Texas (from 1839 to 1842), with a mission to prevent that state's annexation by the United States. However a serious illness forced him to return to France, endangering his career. However, his rallying in support of the Republic in 1848 earned him brief favour, whereupon he was appointed ambassador at the Hague in January 1849. He was brutally replaced in April 1851. He was to remain in almost complete inactivity (apart from a brief mission to the Russo-Turkish frontier in 1856) for nearly 10 years. As a diplomat without a posting or calibre, but with a knowledge of America, he was thought of in March 1860 as a replacement for the French ambassador to Mexico who had gone on leave. Some months later the Mexican affair erupted, in which Dubois had a decisive influence. Conservative, and fervently religious, he perfectly understood Napoleon III's plan to create a powerful, Catholic Mexico. To achieve this, he took up the cause of the conservative party, a natural supporter of the project. After the triumphant entry of the French troops into Mexico, everyone supported him. However he was soon to be dismissed, to the great regret of members of the Junta which he had formed with conservative notables. He was criticised above all for taking too much initiative and for having given too much direction to the government's decisions with his over-optimistic despatches. In league with his English counterpart, he had incited the powers to use force, but the men in the military affirmed that the situation on the ground was not the same as had been described to them. Furthermore the press accused Dubois of having financial interests in the affair; though this was without doubt untrue. Despite the errors attributed to him (in a particularly heated atmosphere), Dubois was successful in Mexico. He remained the hero of the Mexican conservatives who, even in 1866, wanted him to return to save the situation compromised by Bazaine and Maximilian.
Source: Dictionnaire du Second Empire, Paris: Fayard, 1995, p. 447, ed. PH and AM
Oct. 2011


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