WHEN General de Gaulle, then prime minister of France, presided over his first cabinet meeting on 8 June 1958, he is supposed to have begun with the words, 'Gentlemen, let us start where we left off.' He thereby swept away everything that had happened in France since his resignation in January 1946. But there was only one man who had been in de Gaulle's government from 1945 to 1946, and who was in the government of 1958, and that was Louis Jacquinot. It was his permanence on the political scene which marked his career. In 1958 he was serving in his 10th government.
It was this permanence which characterised Jacquinot as a man of the 'system'. This offended those who had organised the rising in Algiers that had brought de Gaulle back to power, when they learned that Jacquinot was to be one of the three ministers to accompany the General on his first visit to Algiers. Before he left, de Gaulle was urged on all sides not to take Jacquinot. The result was that when they arrived in Algiers no transport was provided for the offending ministers who were obliged literally to fight their way into the cars which followed de Gaulle. When, in the evening, they went to the Summer Palace where de Gaulle was to make his great speech, they were pushed into a room and locked in. The officer responsible for this claimed that he had thereby saved their lives. They were released with great stealth, and returned to Paris with de Gaulle.
Jacquinot was also a nearly man. In December 1953 when the specially convened Congress of Parliament met in Versailles in order to elect a new President of the Republic in succession to Vincent Auriol, it appeared that the deadlock (for it took 13 votes to reach a decision) might be broken by Jacquinot. He was therefore a candidate for the 11th vote and received respectable support. However, he withdrew in favour of Rene Coty who was eventually elected. In 1962 when de Gaulle decided to change his prime minister there was some talk of Jacquinot succeeding Debre. But the choice fell on Pompidou.
Jacquinot was from Lorraine and never lost his attachment to his province. He joined the army in 1914 at the age of 16. After becoming a barrister he entered the administration in 1926 as chief adviser to the Minister for War, the famous Andre Maginot. In 1932 he was elected deputy for Poincare's old constituency, and with certain inevitable interruptions, he retained this position until 1973. He sat as a moderate, but had his differences with members of his group, notably with Pierre-Etienne Flandin when Flandin sent congratulatory telegrams to Hitler, and he became attached to the more independent Paul Reynaud. When the latter became prime minister in March 1940 he appointed Jacquinot to a post at the Interior Ministry, but in June he resigned and went to the front. There he was wounded and joined the resistance group Alliance before coming to London and Free France. Both in London, in the provisional government in Algiers and in the first government of the Liberation, Jacquinot was responsible for the French Navy.
Amongst the posts that he held under the Fourth Republic was that of Minister for Overseas France, where he was always reluctant to see France abandon territory. Nevertheless when he held similar positions under de Gaulle he always followed his policies and became a member of the Union for the New Republic, the Gaullists. He retired as minister in 1966, and was defeated in the elections of 1973.
There was always a good deal of speculation about his private life. He was renowned for his aesthetic tastes and knowledge of antiques.