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Jacques-Melchior Villefranche

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Publicist, b. at Couzon-sur-Saone, 17 Dec., 1829; d. at Bourg, 10 May, 1904. After excellent classical studies at the lesser seminary of Largentière, he entered the telegraphic service, in which capacity in 1855, during the Crimean War, he directed the telegraphic bureau of Varna, the first landing-place of the Franco-Russian troops. In 1870 as telegraphic director at Versailes he was attached to the service of telegraphic communications of the army of Le Mans . In 1875 he left the telegraphic service, and assumed the editorship of the "Journal de l'Ain", in which he defended the cause of religious liberty. His campaigns against the laws of scholastic secularization were widely noted. His activity as a writer was very great. His "Fables" (1851) and his "Fabuliste Chrétien" (1875) were welcomed in many houses of education. A number of historical and judicial romances from his pen have long been read, especially "Cineas, ou Rome sous Néron" (1869), which was translated into several foreign languages. But his most lasting works are historical: "Pius IX, son histoire, sa vie, son siècle" (1874), reprinted nineteen times; "Vie de Dom Marie-Augustin, Marquis de Ladouze, fonateur de la Trappe de Notre Dame des Dombes" (1876); "Vie de l'abbé Olivieri, fontateur de l'oeuvre du rachat des jeunes negresses" (1877); "Histoire des Martyrs de Gorcum, du Japon et autres canonisés par Pie IX" (1882); "Vie de Dom Bosco" (1887); "Vie du Père Chevrier, fonateur du Prado à Lyon" (1894); and "Histoire de Napoleon III" (2 vols., 1896). Mention should also be made of the controversial pamphlet published in 1891 and entitled "Le Concordat, qu'on l'observe loyalement ou qu'on le dénonce"; it should always be consulted for the religious history of the republic. In this pamphlet Villefranche struck at the policy which, according to a captious formula, was in favour of the strict application of the Concordat, and which, in fact, resulted in despoiling the Church of certain of its rights on the pretext that they were not explicitly contained in the concordatory text.


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