The leadership of the Third Republic was determined to distance itself from the memories of 1793 and 1848. Instead, the new Republic appealed to patriotism and social unity rather than to a radical programme, symbolized in the choice of 14 July (1789) rather than 10 August (1792) as the national day. In the aftermath of the victory of 1876–7, Grévy, Ferry, Gambetta and other leaders of the Third Republic successfully constructed a constituency of small property-owners — artisans, shopkeepers and small farmers, dubbed by Gambetta the ‘nouvelles couches sociales’ — against both old landed élites and socialist militants.1 By representing industrial growth and colonial expansion as patriotic endeavours in the aftermath of the national defeat of 1870, they were able to generate wide support for a programme of state investment in infrastructure such as railways, for example through the Freycinet Plan of 1878. Underpinning this economic endeavour was the belief that one reason for the defeat had been industrial weakness; other bodies, such as the Academy of Medicine, instead blamed alcoholism and declining birth-rates.
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