Georges Bonnet


Georges Bonnet

Infobox Person
name = Georges-Étienne Bonnet
birth_date = Birth date|1889|07|22
death_date = Death date and age|1973|6|18|1889|07|22
alma_mater= Sorbonne,
party = Radical-Socialist Party
religion = Roman Catholic
spouse = Odette Pelletan
children = 2
nationality = French
occupation =Politican
known_for = for serving as French foreign minister in 1938-39, and for being one of the leading spokesmen for French appeasement

Georges-Étienne Bonnet (July 22/23, 1889 - June 18, 1973) was a French politician and leading figure in the Radical-Socialist Party.

Early career

Bonnet was born in the Dordogne region, the son of a lawyer. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 98.] Bonnet studied law and political science at the "Ecoce libre des sciences politiques" and Sorbonne, and then went to work as an "auditeur" at the "Conseil d'état". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 98.] In 1911, he launched a political career after marrying Odette Pelletan, the granddaughter of Eugene Pelletan. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 98.] Bonnet's wife, often known as Madame Soutien-Georges, ran a salon, and had great ambitions for her husband; one contemporary reported that Madame Bonnet was "so wildly ambitious for her husband that when a new ministry was being formed he was afraid to go home at night unless he had captured a post for himself". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 104.] Many privately mocked Bonnet for the way in which his wife dominated him. [May, Ernest "Strange Victory", New York: Hill & Wang, 2000 page 160.] The moniker "Madame Soutien-Geogres" was a French pun on the word for brassiere ("soutien-gorge"), and which in turn was both a reference to Bonnet's Christian name and to the size of Madame Bonnet's breasts. [May, Ernest "Strange Victory", New York: Hill & Wang, 2000 page 160.] In 1914, Bonnet joined the French Army, and in 1918 served as director of demobilization. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 98.] During his service in World War I, Bonnet was a much decorated soldier who won the "Croix de guerre" medal for bravery under fire. [Young, Robert "France and the Origins of the Second World War", New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996 page 146.] In 1919, Bonnet served as a secretary to the French delegation at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and wrote a book "Lettres á un Bourgeois de 1914" calling for widespread social reforms. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 98.]

Bonnet served in the Chamber of Deputies from 1924-1928 and again from 1929-1940. He was appointed undersecretary of state in 1925, the first in a series of high ministerial positions throughout the 1920s and 1930s. During his time as in the Chamber, Bonnet was regarded as a leading expert in financial and economic matters. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 98.] As a minister, Bonnet had a reputation for hard work, always being well prepared and knowing his briefs in parliamentary debates, and for excelling at political intrigue. [May, Ernest "Strange Victory", New York: Hill & Wang, 2000 page 160.] In 1932, Bonnet headed the French delegation at the Lausanne Conference. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 99.] During the Lausanne Conference, the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, commenting on Bonnet's abilities, asked "Why isn't he in the Cabinet?". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 104.] In 1933, Bonnet was a prominent member of the French delegation to the London Conference, where he was a leading critic of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's actions during the conference. [Morrison, Rodney “The London Monetary and Economic Conference of 1933: A Public Goods Analysis” "American Journal of Economics and Sociology", Volume 52, Number. 3, July 1993 pages 312 & 314.] In 1936, Bonnet emerged as the leader of 18 Radical deputies who were not fond of their party's participation in the "Front Populaire". As a result, the French Premier Léon Blum exiled Bonnet by appointing him the French Ambassador to the United States in January 1937, through Bonnet never learned English. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 99.] Upon hearing of Bonnet' appointment, the American Ambassador to France, William C. Bullitt wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt about Bonnet: "I don't think you'll like him. He is extremely intelligent and competent on economic and financial matters, but he's not a man of character. You may remember that he led the French delegation to the London economic conference where he led the attacks against you". [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 254.] Despite his short stay in the United States and his lack of English, for the rest of his life Bonnet claimed to be an expert on all things American because of his time as French Ambassador in Washington. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940" pages 224-225]

On June 28, 1937, Bonnet returned to France when the Premier Camille Chautemps appointed him Finance Minister. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 251.] Bonnet first major act as Finance Minister was to oversee the devaluation of the franc (the second devaluation in less then nine months), with value of the franc going from 110.8 francs/per British pound to 147.20. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 251.] The devaluation had largely imposed on Bonnet by the fact that the 10 billion francs that had been set aside in September 1936 in a Currency Reserve Fund to defend the value of the franc following the devaluation of that year had been spent by middle of 1937. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 251.] As Finance Minister, Bonnet imposed sharp cuts to military spending. [Frankstein, Robert "French Appeasement Polices" pages 236-245 from "The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement" edited by Wolfgang Mommsen & Lothar Kettenacker, George Allen & Unwin: London, United Kingdom, 1983 pages 240-242.] Bonnet felt that the costs of the arms race with Germany were such that it was better for France to reach an understanding that might end the arms race, rather than continue to spend gargantuan sums on the military. [Frankstein, Robert "French Appeasement Polices" pages 236-245 from "The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement" edited by Wolfgang Mommsen & Lothar Kettenacker, George Allen & Unwin: London, United Kingdom, 1983 page 240.] Besides for the economic problems associated with budgetary stability and the attempts to maintain the value of the franc against currency speculation, Bonnet was highly concerned with the social conflict caused by the need for increased taxation and decreased social services in order to pay for the arms race. [Frankstein, Robert "French Appeasement Polices" pages 236-245 from "The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement" edited by Wolfgang Mommsen & Lothar Kettenacker, George Allen & Unwin: London, United Kingdom, 1983 pages 242-244.] In a meeting with Franz von Papen, the German Ambassador to Austria, in November 1937, Bonnet together Chautempts expressed the hope that an understanding might be reached whereas France might accept Central and Eastern Europe as Germany's sphere of influence in return for German acceptance of Western Europe as France's sphere of influence. [Frankstein, Robert "French Appeasement Polices" pages 236-245 from "The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement" edited by Wolfgang Mommsen & Lothar Kettenacker, George Allen & Unwin: London, United Kingdom, 1983 page 241.] Moreover, Bonnet became the leading spokesman within the French Cabinet for the idea that the French alliance system in Eastern Europe, the so-called "Cordon sanitaire" that far from representing a source of strength for France were rather a net liability that only served to embroil France in conflicts with Germany. [Frankstein, Robert "French Appeasement Polices" pages 236-245 from "The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement" edited by Wolfgang Mommsen & Lothar Lettenacke, George Allen & Unwin: London, United Kingdom, 1983 page 240.] Throughout his career, Bonnet was noted as an advocate of "sacred egoism", namely the notion that France must do what was right for France with no regard for any other state. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 272.] Bonnet regarded himself as a "realist", and his thinking on foreign policy tended to be colored in equal measure by pragmatism and insularity [Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew "The Road to War", London: Macmillan, 1989 page 130.]

Bonnet's cuts to military spending created a major row with the War Minister Édouard Daladier, who was able to persuade the Cabinet to rescind the most severe of Bonnet's economy measures to the French Army under the grounds in the current international climate, the French Army needed more, not less francs. [Frankstein, Robert "French Appeasement Polices" pages 236-245 from "The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement" edited by Wolfgang Mommsen & Lothar Lettenacke, George Allen & Unwin: London, United Kingdom, 1983 pages 241-242.] Since the Ministers of the Air and the Marine were not as substantial personalities as Daladier, the French Navy and French Air Force were not able to reversal the Finance Minister's cuts. [Frankstein, Robert "French Appeasement Polices" pages 236-245 from "The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement" edited by Wolfgang Mommsen & Lothar Lettenacke, George Allen & Unwin: London, United Kingdom, 1983 page 242.] In January 1938, following the fall of Chautempts's government, Bonnet made a serious effort to form a new government, but in the end, had to content himself with being appointed Minister of State. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 99-100.]

Foreign Minister, 1938-1939

To the Munich Conference

In April 1938, following the fall of the second Blum government, Bonnet was appointed as Foreign Minister under Premier Édouard Daladier (despite their quarrel of 1937, by this time Daladier and Bonnet were reconciled). Bonnet was a staunch supporter of the Munich Agreement in 1938 and was firmly opposed to taking military action against Nazi expansion, for the most part, preferring to follow a course of appeasement. In 1938-1939, there were three fractions within the French government. One fraction led by Bonnet felt that France could not afford the crippling costs of an arms race with Germany (as an expert in financial matters and a former Finance minister, Bonnet was acutely aware of the damages inflicted by the arms race on an economy already weakened by the Great Depression), and so sought a "détente" with the "Reich". [Frankenstein, Robert "The Decline of France and French Appeasement Policies, 1936-9" pages 236-245 from "The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement" edited by Wolfgang Mommsen and Lothar Kettenacker, George Allen & Unwin, London, United Kingdom, 1983 pages 240-243; Jackson, Peter "Intelligence and the End of Appeasement" pages 234-260 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" edited by Robert Boyce, London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 1998 page 246.] An second fraction led by Paul Reynaud, Jean Zay and Georges Mandel favored a policy of resistance to German expansionism, and a third fraction led by Daladier stood halfway between the two other fractions, and favored appeasement of the "Reich" as the way of buying time to rearm. [Frankenstein, Robert "The Decline of France and French Appeasement Policies, 1936-9" pages 236-245 from "The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement" edited by Wolfgang Mommsen and Lothar Kettenacker, George Allen & Unwin, London, United Kingdom, 1983 pages 240-243; Jackson, Peter "Intelligence and the End of Appeasement" pages 234-260 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" edited by Robert Boyce, London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 1998 page 246.] In 1938, Daladier believing that France need more time to rearm was willing to leave foreign policy largely in the hands of Bonnet as the best way of avoiding a war with Germany in 1938. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" page 225.] In addition, Daladier felt that the best way of watching Bonnet was to include him in the Cabinet, especially Daladier wished to see the Popular Front continue, whereas Bonnet wanted to see the end of the Popular Front. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" pages 224-225.] In Daladier's viewpoint, if Bonnet were outside of the Cabinet, his ability to engage in intrigues to break up the Popular Front and seize the Premiership for himself would be corresponding increased while including in the Cabinet limited his room to manoeuvre. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" page 225.] Moreover, an additional complication in the Daladier-Bonnet relationship was posed by Bonnet's desire for the Premiership, which gradually led to a breakdown with his once warm relations with Daladier. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 109-110.] Bonnet was extremely critical of what he regarded as the "warmongers" of the Quai d'Orsay, and right from the beginning of his time as Foreign Minister, he tended to exclude his senior officials from the decision-making progress, preferring instead to concentrate authority in his hands. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" page 224.]

Between April 27-29, 1938, Bonnet visited London with Daladier for meetings with Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax to discuss the possibility of a German-Czechoslovak war breaking out, and what the two governments could do to stop such a war. During the talks, the French ministers argued for firm statements that both nations would go to war in the event of a German aggression, and agreed to a British suggestion that the two nations pressure Prague into making concessions to the Sudeten "Heimfront" of Konrad Henlein. The London summit marked the beginning of a pattern that was to last throughout 1938, where the French would begin talks with the British by demanding a harder line against the "Reich", and then agree to follow the British line. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 180.] In the viewpoint of Bonnet and Daladier, these tactics allowed them to carry out their foreign policy goals while providing them with a cover from domestic politics by presenting their foreign policy as the result of British pressure. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 180; Young, Robert "France and the Origins of the Second World War", New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996 page 58.] As Bonnet told the American Ambassador William C. Bullitt, his "whole policy was based on allowing the British full latitude to work out the dispute" because otherwise France would have to bear the main responsibility for pressure for concessions on Czechoslovakia. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 180.] Throughout the summer of 1938, Bonnet led most of the diplomatic pressure applied to President Edvard Benešfor concessions to Henlein come from London, leading to sharp complaints from the British that Bonnet should do more to apply pressure on Beneš. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 189 & 194.]

Between May 9-14, 1938, Bonnet attended the meeting of the League Council of the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. [Weinberg, Gerhard "The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Starting World War II", Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980 page 363.] During the meeting, Bonnet met with the Soviet Foreign Commissar, Maxim Litvinov, who offered vague and evasive answers to Bonnet's questions about what the Soviet Union proposed to do in the event of a German attack on Czechoslovakia. [Weinberg, Gerhard "The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Starting World War II", Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980 page 363.] At the same time, Bonnet was informed by the Polish and Romanian delegations that if Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, they would refuse the Red Army transit rights to come to aid of Czechoslovakia, and that any Soviet violation of their neutrality would be resisted with force. [Weinberg, Gerhard "The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Starting World War II", Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980 pages 363-364.] After the League meeting, Bonnet met with Lord Halifax in Paris, where he urged Halifax to "work as hard as he could for a settlement in Czechoslovakia so that the French would not be faced with a crisis which they definitely did not want to face". [Weinberg, Gerhard "The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Starting World War II", Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980 page 364.] As Lord Halifax reported to the British Cabinet, Bonnet "wanted His Majesty's Government to put as much pressure as possible on Dr. Beneś to reach a settlement with the "Sudeten-Deutsch" in order to save France from the cruel dilemma between dishonouring her agreement [the Franco-Czechoslovak alliance of 1924] or becoming involved in war". [Weinberg, Gerhard "The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany Starting World War II", Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980 page 364.]

During the May Crisis of 1938, on May 21, Bonnet advised Lord Halifax that Britain should warn Berlin that if the Germans attacked Czechoslovakia, then Britain would become involved in the ensuring war, only to be informed that London had already delivered such a warning. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 190.] In a talk with the British Ambassador, Sir Eric Phipps, Bonnet attacked Beneš for ordering Czechoslovak mobilization without informing France first, and criticized Prague's for its "hasty action", through at meeting with the Czechoslovak Minister to Paris, Štefan Osuský on May 21, Bonnet did not criticize Prague as he had promised Phipps he would do. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 190.] Phipps urged Bonnet to use the crisis as an excuse to renounce the Franco-Czechoslovak alliance of 1924, but this Bonnet refused to do unless France could secure a stronger commitment from Britain to come to France's aid in the event of war with Germany. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 190.] During the crisis, Bonnet issued a cautiously worded press statement supporting Prague, but refused to issue a "démarche" in Berlin. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 191.] At a subsequent meeting with Phipps on May 22, Bonnet was informed not to interpret the British warnings to Berlin during the May Crisis as blank cheque for British support for either Czechoslovkia or France. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 190.] Bonnet took "copious notes" of the British message, and stated that "if Czechoslovakia were really unreasonable, the French Government might well declare that France considered herself released from her bond". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 190.] On May 25, 1938, Bonnet told the German Ambassador to France, Count Johannes von Welczeck that France would honour her alliance with Czechoslovakia should Germany invade that nation, and highlighted his main foreign policy goals when he declared:"if the problem of the minorities in Czechoslovakia was settled peacefully, economic and disarmament problems might be considered". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 191.]

On May 31, 1938, Bonnet refused a British request for an Anglo-French "démarche" to Beneš demanding concessions to the Sudeten German "Heimfront", but promised to commit the French Minister in Prague, Victor de Lacroix to do more to pressure the Czechoslovaks. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 191.] In his instructions to Lacroix for the "démarche", Bonnet instead merely asked for more information and stated: "The information that you have transmitted to me on the state of the negotiations between the Prime Minister and the representatives of the Sudetens does not allow me to pronounce as fully as the British Government believes itself able to do on the character and substance of M. Henlein's proposals...I ask you, therefore to obtain urgently the necessary details on the proposals submitted to M. Hodza...". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 192.] The British discovery of Bonnet's instructions, which Lacroix inadvertently revealed to the British Minister in Prague, Sir Basil Newton led to much Anglo-French recriminations. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 192.] Throughout the spring and early summer of 1938, Bonnet refused to apply pressure through official channels, and instead used unofficial emissaries to carry the message that France might not go to war in the event of a German invasion, leading Prague to place more assurance on French statements of public support that was not warranted. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 194.] Bonnet had his friend, the journalist Jules Saurerwein tell Beneš in an interview that "Victory is not a state that endures forever" in the summer of 1938. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" page 217.] Not until July 17, 1938 did Bonnet issue a set of instructions to Lacroix which explicitly warned Beneš and his Prime Minister, Milan Hodža that because of the attitude of the British, France could not risk a war in 1938, and Prague should do its utmost to reach a settlement with Germany. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 197.]

Starting with the May Crisis, Bonnet began a campaign of lobbying the United States to become involved in European affairs, asking that the Washington inform Prague that in the event of a German-Czechoslovak war the "Czech government would not have the sympathy of the American government if it should not attempt seriously to produce a peaceful solution...by making concessions to the Sudeten Germans which would satisfy Hitler and Henlein". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 208.] In a meeting with the American Ambassador William C. Bullitt on May 16, 1938 Bonnet stated his belief that another war with Germany would be more dreadful then any previous war and "he [Bonnet] would fight to the limit against the involvement of France in the war". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 209.] As part of his effort to gain Bullitt’s trust, Bonnet showed the American notes received from the British government during the Czechoslovak crisis. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 177.] In a radio broadcast sent direct to the United States on July 4, 1938 Bonnet proclaimed his belief in the "common ideals" which linked France and the United States as a way of pressuring for greater American interest in the crisis in Central Europe. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 209.]

In June 1938, there was a major dispute between Daladier and Bonnet over the question of continuing French arms shipments to the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. The Italian intervention in the Spanish Civil War had created a major strategic problem for French policy-makers. Because of Germany’s greater population, it considered crucial in France to use the vast manpower of North Africa as a way of compensation, which in turn required French control of the western Mediterranean to ensure that no inference would be possible with the troop convoys from Algeria to Marseilles. As a result of the Italian intervention in Spain’s civil war, a number of Italian bases had been set up in the strategic Balearic Islands. It was widely feared in France that the Italians would at minimum receive permission from the Spanish Nationalists to make their presence in the Balerics permanent, and at maximum, would ask for and receive the cession of the Balearics. The prospect of a Franco-German war breaking out with the Italians siding with the latter and using the Balearics to make naval and air attacks on French troop convoys was considered to be highly undesirable by French decision-makers, and a major objective of French foreign policy in the late 1930s was to remove the Italians from the Balearics. Daladier was in favor of continuing arms shipments to the Spanish Republicans as long as the Italian forces were in Spain, whereas Bonnet argued for ending arms supplies as a way of improving relations with Italy, and went as far to tell the British Ambassador Sir Eric Phipps that his country should "lay great stress with Daladier on the importance to the Pyrenees frontier remaining closed". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 188] It was Bonnet’s hope that ending arms support for the Spanish Republic would be reciprocated by a total Italian withdraw from all Spanish territory, especially the Balearics. Bonnet was successful in having the frontier closed.

Following the reports from General Joseph Vuillemin of the French Air Force after a visit to Germany about the strength of the "Luftwaffe", and a memo from André François-Poncet, the French Ambassador to Germany on August 18, 1938 stating it was quite likely that Adolf Hitler planned to attack Czechoslovakia sometime soon, Bonnet began quite insistent that the a joint Anglo-French warning be sent to Berlin, warning against invading Czechoslovakia. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" page 217.] On August 22, 1938, Bonnet had Charles Corbin, the French Ambassador in London press for an outright British commitment to come to France's side in the event of war breaking out in Central Europe, and used the ensuring British refusal as a reason in Cabinet discussions as why France could not go to war. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 202-203] Starting in August 1938, Bonnet started to become hostile towards what he felt to Daladier's excessive belligerence and lack of willingness to compromise with the Germans, and often urged in private that Daladier change his stance. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" page 225.] In early September 1938 as part of his effort to prevent war through a mixture of threat and conciliation, Bonnet had a series of meetings with Count Welczeck, telling him that France would honor the terms of the Franco-Czechoslovak treaty should the Germans invade Czechoslovakia, while insisting that his government was quite open to a compromise solution. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" page 218.]

During a speech delivered on September 4, 1938 at the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Pointe de Grave honoring the La Fayette's's departure to America in 1777 and the arrival of the A.E.F in 1917, Bonnet stated in an oblique way that France would go to war if Germany attacked Czechoslovakia, and expressed the hope that the U.S. would fight on France's side. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 209.] During the same ceremony, Ambassador Bullitt stated that "France and the United States were united in war and peace", leading to a major storm by American isolationists, and a statement from President Franklin D. Roosevelt that it was “100 per cent wrong” the U.S. would join a “stop-Hitler bloc”. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 209.] Roosevelt's statement had the effect of confirming Bonnet in his course of seeking to avoid a war with Germany. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 209-210.] In addition, a highly exaggerated estimate of the strength of the Luftwaffe presented by Charles Lindbergh in August 1938, supplemented by a highly negative assessment of the ability of the "Armée de l'Air" by the Air Force's General Joseph Vuillemin to survive a war had the effect of reinforcing Bonnet's determination to avoid a war with Germany. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 240-242.]

When it appeared quite likely in mid-September 1938 that war could break out at any moment in Central Europe following Hitler's violent speech blasting Czechoslovakia on September 12 followed by a failed revolt in the Sudetenland, Bonnet become quite frantic in his efforts to save the peace. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 210] Bonnet told Phipps: "I repeated all this with emotion to Sir Eric Phipps telling him that an no price should we allow ourselves to be involved in war without having weighted all the consequences and without having measured in particular the state of our military forces. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 210] On September 14th, Phipps was informed by Bonnet: "We cannot sacrifice ten million men in order to prevent three and half million Sudetens joining the "Reich". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 211] Bonnet went on to advocate as his preferred solution to the crisis as the neutralization of Czechoslovakia with wide-ranging autonomy for the Sudetenland, but was prepared as "last resort" to accept a plebiscite on the Sudetenlanders joining Germany. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 211] During the same talk, Bonnet "expressed great indignation with the Czechs who, it seems, mean to mobilise without consulting the French...he has therefore given a broad hint to Beneš that France may have to reconsider her obligations", and that "we are not ready for war and we must therefore make the most far-reaching concessions to the Sudetens and to Germany". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 211] At a summit meeting in London with the leading British ministers on September 18th, Bonnet and Daladier agreed formally to the idea of ceding the Sudetenland to Germany, but pressed strongly as the price for making such a concession, a British guarantee of the remainder of Czechoslovakia. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 213-214] On his return to Paris, in a meeting with Osuský, Bonnet was very vehement that Prague agree to the Anglo-French plan agreed to in London at once. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 215] In a letter to Daladier on September 24, 1938, Bonnet wrote: "If France declared war against Germany, her position would be weaker than at any time since 1919. In fact, France in this case would have to stand alone on land the force of the combined German and Italian armies, without counting Japan, which in the Far East, will doubtless attack Indo-China...For five months, night and day, in the course of our confident collaboration, we have struggled for peace. I beg you to continue in this course. It is the only one which can save the country...". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 221] At the same time, Bonnet's relations with René Massigli, the Quai d'Orsay's Political Director began to deteriorate quite rapidly as Massigli felt that Bonnet was too anxious to avoid a war at any price. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" page 227.]

On September 25, 1938, Daladier and Bonnet returned to London for another set of meetings with British leaders; during this summit, Bonnet said almost nothing during the Anglo-French meetings. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" page 220.] When Britain rejected Hitler's Bad Godesberg ultimatum on September 26th, Bonnet sought to prevent the news of the British rejection appearing in the French press, as it now appeared that British were pushing the French towards war, and deprived Bonnet of using British pressure as an excuse. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 220-221] As the crisis reached its climax in late September 1938, Bonnet called upon his "peace lobby" which comprised a collection of various politicians, journalists and industrialists to pressure the Cabinet against going to war for Czechoslovakia. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" pages 225-226.] Some of the prominent members of Bonnet's "peace lobby" were the politicians' Jean Mistler, Henri Bérenger, Jean Montigny, Anatole de Monzie, François Piétri, Lucien Lamoureux, Joseph Caillaux, the industrialist Marcel Boussac, and the journalists' Jacques Sauerwein, Emile Roche, Léon Bassée, and Emmanuel Berl. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" pages 225-226.] Together with Bonnet, the "peace lobby" sought to influence the government both within the corridors of power and by appealing to public opinion. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" page 226.] In this regard, Bonnet especially valued the contribution of his close friend, Bassée who served as the political director of the Havas news agency. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" page 226.] Another unofficial member of the “peace lobby” was Phipps, whose dispatches to London often reflected Bonnet’s influence. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 177.] The most celebrated of Phipps’s dispatches was a message on September 24, 1938 which claimed that "all that is best in France is against war, almost at any price", who were opposed by a "small, but noisy and corrupt, war group". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 177.]

In the aftermath of the British rejection of the Bad Godesberg ultimatum, Daladier stated at a Cabinet meeting that if Hitler persisted with the terms of the ultimatum, then France "intended to go to war". [Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew "The Road to War", London: Macmillan, 1989 page 132.] At a Cabinet meeting on September 27th, Bonnet spoke out against French mobilization, and threatened to resign if the Cabinet were to order such a step. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 222] The atmosphere at the Cabinet meeting was very tense as Daldadier insisted upon mobilization, leading to many heated words between the Premier and his Foreign Minister. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" pages 221.] The crisis was suddenly averted on September 29th when Chamberlain announced that he had received an invitation from Benito Mussolini for a four-power conference to be held on September 30th in Munich, Germany to settle the crisis. Bonnet was very much in favor of the Munich conference of September 30th, which averted the war Bonnet labored against, but was not part of the French delegation to Munich. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 224] After the Munich Conference, Bonnet visited his hometown of Périgeueux, where he was greeted with a deluge of flowers and shouts of "Vive Bonnet!" and "Merci Bonnet!". [Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew "The Road to War", London: Macmillan, 1989 page 133.]

From Munich to Danzig

Relations between Bonnet and his officials at the Quai d'Orsay, especially René Massigli were very poor, leading to Bonnet to condemn Massigli quite strongly in his memoirs. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 149] In turn, Massigli was to accuse Bonnet of seeking to alter the documentary record in his favor. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 142] In the aftermath of Munich, relations between Bonnet and Massigli, which were poor to begin with, declined even further. On October 24, 1938, Bonnet had Massigli sacked as the Quai d'Orsay's Political Director and exiled him as Ambassador to Turkey. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 316.] Massilgi first learnt of his sacking by reading his morning newspaper, where it was stated he had just been appointed French Ambassador to Turkey. [May, Ernest "Strange Victroy", New York: Hill & Wang, 2000 page 179.] On the same day that Massilgi was exiled, Pierre Comert, the Director of the Quai d'Orsay's Press Service, whose news releases during the Czechoslovak crisis were not in accord with the line that Bonnet wanted to hear was sent off to the American department. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 73.] Bonnet had also wanted to sack the Quai d'Orsay's Secretary-General Alexis Saint-Legér Léger and replace him with a man more in tune with Bonnet's views, but Saint-Legér Léger's increasing friendship with Daladier served to protect him. [May, Ernest "Strange Victroy", New York: Hill & Wang, 2000 page 179.] A popular legend has it that Saint-Legér Léger was not fired because he knew too much about stock market speculations that Bonnet was alleged to have engaged in during the war crisis of September 1938, but there is no evidence to support this story. [May, Ernest "Strange Victroy", New York: Hill & Wang, 2000 page 179.] In the aftermath of the purge, Bonnet was congratulated by Phipps for removing the "warmongers" Massilgi and Comert from the Quai d'Orsay, but the latter went on complained that Bonnet should sacked Saint-Legér Léger as while. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 73.] In response, Bonnet claimed that he and Saint-Legér Léger saw "eye to eye", leading to Phipps, who knew about the true state of relations between Bonnet and Saint-Legér Léger to drily remark "in that case the eyes must be astigmatic". [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 73.]

On October 19, 1938, at the last meeting between the French Ambassador to Germany André François-Poncet and Adolf Hitler, the former had suggested to the latter that a Franco-German Declaration of Friendship might offer a way of improving relations between the two countries and avoiding a repeat of the crisis of September 1938. [May, Ernest "Strange Victroy", New York: Hill & Wang, 2000 page 179.] When François-Poncet reported to Paris Hitler's favorable attitude towards such a declaration, and his willingness to send his Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop to Paris to sign the proposed declaration, Bonnet enthusiastically embraced the idea. [May, Ernest "Strange Victory", New York: Hill & Wang, 2000 page 179.] Bonnet felt that such a declaration might open the way for a series of economic and cultural agreements that would end forever the prospect of another Franco-German war. [May, Ernest "Strange Victroy", New York: Hill & Wang, 2000 page 179.] In addition, Bonnet was jealous over the Anglo-German Declaration of September 30th that Chamberlain had forced upon Hitler after the Munich Conference, and wanted his own declaration. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 72. ]

Throughout his career, Bonnet was widely respected for his intelligence, but often inspired great mistrust in others, in part because of his highly secretive methods of working and his preference for verbal as opposed to written instructions. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 pages 74-75; Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 103 & 141-142] During his time as Foreign Minister, Bonnet was distrusted by the British, Daladier and by the senior officials in the Quai d'Orsay, all of whom suspected that Bonnet was in some way not quite being honest with them. [Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew "The Road to War", London: Macmillan, 1989 page 132.] Neville Chamberlain described Bonnet as "Clever, but ambitious and an intriguer". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 102] Georges Mandel proclaimed his belief that "His long nose sniffs danger and responsibility from afar. He will hide under any flat stone to avoid it". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 103] The French columnist André Géraud who wrote the pen-name Pertinax stated that Bonnet was capable of only pursuing the line "of least resistance". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 103] Sir Winston Churchill described Bonnet as "The quintessence of defeatism". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 103] In December 1938, Lord Halifax's private secretary Oliver Harvey referred to Bonnet as "a public danger to his own country and to ours". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 103] In December 1939, the British Chief Diplomatic Advisor Robert Vansittart wrote: "As to M. Bonnet he had better trust to time and oblivion rather than to coloured self-defence. He did a lot of really dirty work in 1938...if I ever had to play cards with M. Bonnet again I would always run through the pack first, just to make sure that the joker had been duly removed". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 103]

Others were more sympathetic to Bonnet. Lord Halifax wrote in response to Vansittart's memo that "I am disposed to think but I know it is a minority view that M. Bonnet is not so black (or so yellow) as he is often painted". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 103] Joseph Paul-Boncour, a political opponent of Bonnet's spoke of his great "kindness and help". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 104] The editor of the "Le Petit Parisien", Élie J. Bois felt that Bonnet had "the makings of a good, perhaps a great, foreign minister". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 104] On another occasion, Bois, who disliked Bonnet wrote of Bonnet's "features...instinct with...the intelligence of a fox on the alert". [May, Ernest "Strange Victory", New York: Hill & Wang, 2000 page 160.] Bonnet's friend and follow "peace lobby" member, Anatole de Monzie commented that "Whilst very courageous in the long run, he is much less so in the heat of the moment...Because he is reticent, he is accused of lying or of deceit. False accusation...Bonnet is discreet so that his policy may be successful...There is in him an obvious ability, an excessive flexibility. He jumps too quickly, on to the bandwagon, on to all bandwagons. What does it matter to me?...If he aims for the goal and means to reach it by devious means, I care only for the goal. Now I note that having adopted the peace party, he is sticking to it with all the foresight of a statesman". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 104] The French historian Yvon Lacaze has argued against the popular image of Bonnet as a slick and amoral opportunist, and instead attributed Bonnet’s views about avoiding another war with Germany to his memories of service in the trenches of World War I. [Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" pages 224-225.]

In the fall of 1938, Bonnet started to advocate the ending of the French alliance system in Eastern Europe, and ordered his officials at the Quai d'Orsay to start preparing grounds for renouncing the French treaties with the Soviet Union and Poland. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 265-266.] Speaking before the Foreign Affairs Commission on the Chamber of Deputies in October 1938, Bonnet spoke of his desire to "restructure" the French alliance system in Eastern Europe and of his wish to "renegotiate" treaties which might bring France into a war "when French security is not directly threatened". [Jackson, Peter "Intelligence and the End of Appeasement" pages 234-260 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940" edited by Robert Boyce, London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 1998 page 244.] In his efforts to end the eastern alliances, Bonnet found his hands tied by opposition from other members of the French government. As he noted during talks in October with a group of Deputies who had formally asked the Foreign Minister to end French commitments in Eastern Europe: "If I was free, I would carry out your policy; but I am not: I would have against me the majority of the Cabinet, led by Reynaud and Mandel, and I cannot count on Daladier, for Gamelin believes that in the event of war Polish military assistance would be indispensable". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 266.] As part of his general tendency towards seeking to weaken the French eastern alliances, Bonnet did his best to put off giving the international guarantee to Czecho-Slovakia that France had promised in the Munich Agreement. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 269-270.] On November 25, 1938 Bonnet informed the French Ambassador to Poland, Léon Noel that France should find an excuse for terminating the 1921 Franco-Polish alliance, but found that his views on this issue created considerable opposition within the Quai d'Orsay, who argued that Poland was too valuable ally to be abandoned, and that if France renounced the Polish alliance, then Warsaw would align herself with Berlin (the Polish Foreign Minister Colonel Józef Beck was widely if erroneously believed in France to be pro-German). [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 271.] In December 1938, during the visit of the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop to Paris to sign the largely meaningless Declaration of Franco-German Friendship, Ribbentrop was later claim that Bonnet had promised him that France recognized all of Eastern Europe as Germany's exclusive sphere of influence, leading to a long war of words between the two foreign ministers in the summer of 1939 over just what precisely Bonnet said to Ribbentrop. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 290-292.] Ribbentrop was to use Bonnet's alleged statement to convince Hitler that France would not go to war in the defence of Poland in 1939. Both Bonnet and Saint-Legér Léger were quite vehement in insisting that no such remark was ever made. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 75.]

In January 1939, Bonnet commissioned a study for the French Cabinet which concluded that for all intents and purposes that the 1935 Franco-Soviet alliance was now defunct, and hence there no grounds for hope about help from the Soviet Union. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 331.] Moreover, rumors in the French press over the winter of 1938-39 that France was seeking the end of the eastern alliances generated concerns both in the Chamber of Deputies and in the press, leading Bonnet to state in a speech to the Chamber on January 26, 1939: "So, gentlemen, let us dispose of the legand that our policy has destroyed the engagements that we have contracted in Eastern Europe with the USSR and with Poland. These engagements remain in force and they must be applied in the same spirit in which they were conceived". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 276.] In response to Bonnet’s speech, Ribbentrop summoned the French Ambassador to Germany, Robert Coulondre on February 6, 1939 to offer a formal protest over his speech. [ Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 321] Ribbentrop told Coulondre that because of Bonnet’s alleged statement of December 6, 1938 accepting Eastern Europe as Germany’s zone of influence meant that “France’s commitments in Eastern Europe” were now “off limits”. [ Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste France "and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 321]

Besides for seeking to end the "cordon sanitaire", Bonnet’s major initiative in foreign policy after Munich were a series of economic agreements he sought to negotiate with the Germans. [Jackson, Peter "Intelligence and the End of Appeasement" pages 234-260 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940" edited by Robert Boyce, London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 1998 page 244.] Bonnet’s economic diplomacy was intended to achieve four goals, namely:
*Alleviate the effects of the Great Depression in France
*Like many other appeasers on both sides of the Channel, Bonnet believed that German foreign policy was driven by economic grievances, not by Nazi racial theories about "Lebensraum", which Bonnet thought were so farfetched that he felt that the Nazis themselves did not take their ideology seriously. Thus, arrangements that offered Germany greater prosperity would tame German complaints against the existing international order, and thereby reduce international tension.
*In common with many other economic experts around the world in the 1930s, Bonnet was disturbed by the implications of the increasing tendency in Germany towards protectionism, currency manipulation, use of “blocked accounts” for foreign businesses in Germany and foreign holders of German debt, autarky, a growing etatism in the German economy, and the German drive to create their own economic zone in Europe. At minimum, Bonnet felt that Franco-German economic agreements would ensure that France would not be locked out of the German economic sphere of influence, and might moderate some of the more worrisome German economic practices.
*Lay the groundwork for a Franco-German friendship that would both banish the prospect of an another war, and end the arms race that had placed such a burden on the French economy. However, during the winter of 1938-39, negotiations with the Germans proceeded slowly, in large part because the Germans did not wish to abandon the economic practices that caused such concern. In the atmosphere following the German destruction of Czecho-Slovakia (as Czechoslovakia had been renamed in October 1938) on March 15, 1939 was not considered conductive for France to be pursuing any sort of agreements with the Germans, and the talks were called off, never to be resumed.

In October 1938, the French opened secret talks with the Americans to start buying American aircraft to make up productivity deficiencies in the French aircraft industry. [Keylor, William "France and the Illusion of American Support, 1919-1940" pages 204-244 from "The French Defeat of 1940 Reassessments" edited by Joel Blatt Berghahn Books: Providence 1998 pages 234-235] Daladier commented that "If I had three or four thousand aircraft Munich would never have happened". [Keylor, William "France and the Illusion of American Support, 1919-1940" pages 204-244 from "The French Defeat of 1940 Reassessments" edited by Joel Blatt Berghahn Books: Providence 1998 page 234] A major problem in the Franco-American talks were how the French were to pay for the American planes, and the American neutrality acts. [Keylor, William "France and the Illusion of American Support, 1919-1940" pages 204-244 from "The French Defeat of 1940 Reassessments" edited by Joel Blatt Berghahn Books: Providence 1998 pages 235-236] In addition, the American Johnson Act which forbide loans to the nations that had defaulted on their World War I debts was a further complicating factor. [Keylor, William "France and the Illusion of American Support, 1919-1940" pages 204-244 from "The French Defeat of 1940 Reassessments" edited by Joel Blatt Berghahn Books: Providence 1998 page 237] In February 1939, the French offered to cede their possessions in the Caribbean and the Pacific together with a lump sum payment of ten billion frans. [Keylor, William "France and the Illusion of American Support, 1919-1940" pages 204-244 from "The French Defeat of 1940 Reassessments" edited by Joel Blatt Berghahn Books: Providence 1998 page 238]

On November 30, 1938, there were "spontaneous" demonstrations in the Italian Chamber of Deputies organized by Benito Mussolini and his Foreign Minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano demanding that France cede Tunisia, Corsica and French Somaliland to Italy. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 323.] In response, Bonnet sent out a message to André François-Poncet, who by this time was now the French Ambassador in Rome informing the latter that he should see Count Ciano to complain about that “Such behavior may appear rather unusual in the presence of the French Ambassador and immediately following the unconditional recognition of the Italian Empire". [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 323.] At the same time, Bonnet had ordered Charles Corbin, the French Ambassador in London to tell Chamberlain and Lord Halifax during their scheduled visit to Rome in January 1939 that they should allow any weakening of Anglo-French relations at the expense of improved Anglo-Italian relations. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 323.] During a meeting between François-Poncet and Count Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister claimed that the demonstrations were purely "spontaneous", and did not reflect the views of his government. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 324.] As part of an effort to gain British support against the Italian campaign, Bonnet issued a statement that France would always to Britain's aid in the event of aggression out of the hope that his statement might lead to a similar British statement. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 93.] In early January 1939, Bonnet and Daladier approved of the idea of sending the banker Paul Baudoin as an unofficial diplomat to find out just what exactly the Italians wanted from France. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 326.] The reasoning for the Baudoin mission was if the price of Italian friendship was not too expensive, then it might be worth paying as a way of detaching Italy from Germany, and thus reducing France's potential enemies. When Baudoin visited Rome in February 1939, he reported that the Italians were only asking for some economic concessions from the French in the Horn of Africa and for Italian representation on the board of the "Compagnie universelle du canal maritime de Suez". [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 326-327.] But before any decisions were made in Paris about accepting the Italian demands or not, the news of Baudoin's secret visit was leaked to the French press, thereby forcing Bonnet to disallow Baudoin. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 326-327.] In response to furious complaints from François-Poncet about Baudoin's mission, which he had first learned about after the story had been leaked, Bonnet replied to François-Poncet that: "The rumors you are telling me have no basis in fact. You are fully aware that any conversation, any Franco-Italian negotiation official or unofficial could only be handled by you, and that no direct or indirect transaction could not be considered outside your purview". [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 326.]

In January 1939, negotiations were opened between the French and the Turks over resolving the Hatay dispute. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 364-365.] Leading the French term were Gabriel Puaux, the High Commissioner of Syria and Massigli, the French Ambassador in Ankara. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 365.] The continuing feud between Massigli and Bonnet was reflected in Bonnet's habit of refusing Massigli negotiating instructions for weeks on end, thereby placing Massigli in an embarrassing situation when he attempted talks with the Turks. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 365.] During the talks, Bonnet had first backed Paaux, who was opposed to any weakening of French control over the "Sanjak" of Alexandretta, before deciding upon settling the dispute in favor of the Turks as a way of potentially winning Turkish support in the event of a war with Germany. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 365-366.] Despite efforts of maintain some sort of French presence in Alexandretta, the Franco-Turkish talks were to end in June 1939 with the Turks being given total control over the disputed region. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 366-367.]

By early 1939, it was clear that the days of the Spanish Republic were numbered, and Bonnet felt it was time for France to recognize the Spanish Nationalists as the legitimate government of Spain (Until that time, Paris had recognized the Republican government as the legitimate government). [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 338-339.] On January 20, 1939, Bonnet had a meeting with the former president of Mexico, Francisco León de la Barra who was living in exile in Paris and asked that de la Barra serve as an unofficial French diplomat in talks with the Spanish Nationalists. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 339.] In response to reports from de la Barra that ties between General Francisco Franco and the Axis powers were strained, Bonnet then sent out Senator Léon Bérard to sound out the Nationalists about establishing diplomatic relations. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 339.] Bonnet told Bérard to inform General Jordana, the Nationalist Foreign Minister that provided that General Franco was willing to promise that all German and Italian forces were to be withdrawn after the end of the Spanish Civil War, then Paris would recognize the Nationalists. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 339.] The major dispute during the talks between Bérard and Jourdana concerned whatever the recognition of the Burgos government would be "de jure" as Franco wanted or "de facto" as Bonnet wanted, and if Franco would promise to remain neutral should a Frano-German war occur. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 340-341.] However by February 1939, Bonnet believed that the rapid collapse of the Republican war effort made recognition of the Burgos government imperative if France were to have any hope of having influence with General Franco, and on February 28, 1939 France broke diplomatic relations with the Republican government in Madrid and recognized the Nationalist government in Burgos. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 341.] Much to the relief of Bonnet, General Franco kept his word about ensuring the withdrawal of Axis forces from Spanish territory, especially the departure of the Italians from the Balearic Islands.

In early 1939, the British Embassy in Paris was bombarded with a series of reports that public opinion in France was highly dejected and demoralized, and that unless Britain made the “continental commitment” (i.e. unequivocally linked British security to French security and commit to sending a large British Expeditionary Force to France like the one ultimately sent in World War I), then the French would resign themselves to becoming a German satellite state. [Young, Robert J. "In Command of France French Foreign Policy and Military Planning, 1933-1940", Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America, 1978 pages 222-224] These reports which secretly originated with the French government, which hoped to pressure the British into making the long-sought “continental commitment”. [Young, Robert J. "In Command of France French Foreign Policy and Military Planning, 1933-1940", Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America, 1978 pages 222-224; Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 331-332.] The French were assisted in a conspiracy of convenience by the leadership of the British Army, who disliked the funding implications of Chamberlain’s “limited liability” doctrine, which held that in the next war, British efforts were to be largely limited to the sea and air, with the British Army playing an ancillary role at best. [Young, Robert J. "In Command of France French Foreign Policy and Military Planning, 1933-1940", Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America, 1978 pages 222-224; Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 331-332.] The French effort for a British “continental commitment” was given a huge and unexpected boost by the “Dutch war scare” of January 1939. In response to the "Dutch war scare" which gripped London in late January 1939 when the British government received false reports of an imminent German invasion of the Netherlands, Lord Halifax had Phipps inquire what the France would do if such an invasion were to take place. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 331.] According to the misinformation, the Germans planned to overrun the Netherlands, and then use Dutch airfields to launch a bombing campaign meant to achieve a “knock-out” blow against Britain by razing British cities to the ground. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 pages 102-103.] The French attitude towards a German invasion of the Netherlands was crucial because France was the only country in Western Europe that possessed an Army large enough and modern enough to save the Dutch. Moreover, the importance of France to British security had increased following a violent anti-British propaganda launched in Germany in November 1938, which had led the Chamberlain government to increasingly perceive German foreign policy as anti-British combined with rumors that Bonnet was secretly attempting to negotiate a Franco-German "special relationship" that might leave Britain facing a hostile Germany without any allies who possessed the large armies that Britain lacked. In response to Phipps's message, Bonnet had Corbin inform Lord Halifax that the French attitude towards German aggression towards the Netherlands would depend upon what was the British attitude was towards France if the latter were the victim of aggression. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 331-332.] The British response to Bonnet's message was Chamberlain's statement to the House of Commons on February 6, 1939 that any German attack on France would be automatically considered an attack on Britain, thereby leading the British to making the "continental commitment" to once again send a large army to the defense of France that successive French diplomats had struggled to obtain since 1919. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 331-332.]

In March 1939, following the German destruction of the rump state of Czecho-Slovakia and the proclamation of the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia, Bonnet had Hervé Alphand of the Ministry of Commerce, who was in Berlin to negotiate a trade treaty recalled in protest. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 301.] The German move badly damaged Bonnet's creditability, and as part of the aftermath, the "Union des Intellectuels francais" sent out a letter signed by 17 intellectuals calling for an inquiry into Bonnet's conduct of foreign affairs. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 302.] Ties between Daladier and Bonnet were stressed when in protest over the German coup Daladier ordered the recall of Robert Coulondre, the French Ambassador to Germany without consulting Bonnet, who was much offended by Daladier's act. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 302.] In April 1939, Bonnet in turn went behind Daladier's back in suggesting that Britain apply pressure on the French Premier to make more concessions to Italy regarding the Franco-Italian disputes over influence in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea regions. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 308.] The differences on opinion between Daladier and Bonnet over question of making concessions to Italy, which Daladier was firmly opposed to, led Daladier to increasing taking direct control of foreign policy by dealing directly with the Quai d'Orsay's Secretary-General Alexis Saint-Legér Léger, and pushing Bonnet aside from April 1939 onwards. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 314-316.] In April 1939, Daladier told the Romanian foreign minister Grigore Gafencu "he was going to get rid of Bonnet quite shortly", and on May 6th, Daladier stated to Bullit he had a great deal of "...mistrust of Bonnet and said that he might replace him in the immediate future". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 327.] As Count Welczeck noted in May 1939: "Bonnet was ...a man who would go to the utmost limits to avoid a European war up to the last moment. He regretted therefore that foreign affairs were so much more in the hands of M. Daladier than M. Bonnet". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 319.]

During the "Romanian war scare" of March 1939, when the Romanian government as part of an effort to enlist British support against German demands for the control of the Romanian oil industry, had the Romanian Minister in London Virgil Tilea make a series of highly misleading statements to the British government to the effect that they were under the verge of an immediate German invasion, Bonnet happened to be in London as part of the company accompanying the state visit of President Albert Lebrun. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 178.] The importance of Romania was due to the fact that Germany possessed no oil of its own, and was highly dependent on oil imported from the New World (the coal carbonation plants that were to supply Germany with oil during World War II were not in operation in yet). As such a naval blockade of Germany would have highly damaging effects on the German economy, and conversingly, a German seizure of Romania would undermine the effectiveness of a blockade. When the "Romanian war scare" began on March 18, 1939, Bonnet's first response was to inform the Romanians that they should accept aid from the Soviet Union as there was nothing France could do to save them. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 178.] The Romanians rejected the French advice while Jakob Suritz, the Soviet Ambassador to France stated the Soviet Union would take no initiatives in resisting German aggression in Eastern Europe, and that France must show the way. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 178.] During an emergency meeting with Lord Halifax on March 20th, Bonnet sought to shift responsibility to dealing with the crisis onto British shoulders, and strongly suggested that the ideal state for saving Romania and its oil was Poland. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 pages 178-179.] In particular, Bonnet argued that Britain should take the lead in persuading the Poles to come to Romania's aid, and furthermore suggested that if Poland were involved, then perhaps the Romanians might be persuaded to accept Soviet aid as while. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 pages 178-179.] Bonnet’s reasons for arguing that Britain should take the lead in persuading Poland to come to Romania’s aid were due to his fear that if France should make such an effort, the price of Polish support would a tightening of the Franco-Polish alliance, which was counter to Bonnet’s general policy of seeking to weaken France’s eastern alliances. On March 23, 1939, in another meeting with Lord Halifax, Bonnet mentioned he had received a series of messages from François-Poncet claiming that it would create a highly negative impression on Mussolini and would hamper efforts to detach him from his alignment with Germany if Britain and France would align themselves with the Soviet Union only. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 179.] Bonnet's statement was to lead the British government into considering the idea of making a "guarantee" of Polish independence as the best way of securing Polish support for Romania. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 179.] In this way, Bonnet played a major, if indirect role in the progress leading to the British "guarantee" of Poland on March 31, 1939.

Following the British "guarantee" of Polish independence on March 31, 1939 followed by the announcements that London wished to build a "peace front" to resist aggression in April 1939, Bonnet felt there was now a great opportunity of building an Anglo-French-Soviet combination that might deter Germany from war. [Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew "The Road to War", London: Macmillan, 1989 page 138.] On April 14, 1939, Bonnet had a meeting with the Soviet Ambassador to France, Jakob Suritz and asked "in a form to be determined" for the Soviet Union to provide military support for Poland and Romania should those nations be attacked by Germany. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 349.] Bonnet suggested to Suritz that an Annexe to the Franco-Soviet Pact of 1935 should be added stating that the Soviet Union would go to war if Germany attacked either Poland or Romania. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 227.] In particular, Bonnet stated that "It was obvious that there had to be an agreement between the USSR and Romania or the USSR and Poland for the Franco-Soviet Pact to come usefully into play". [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 349.] Suritz commented that unless the Poles and Romanians allowed the Red Army transit rights, there was little the Soviet Union could do for those nations, leading Bonnet to reply that he felt he could pressure both nations into agreeing to provide the desired transit rights. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 349.] Bonnet commented that he felt it was time to "begin immediate discussions between France and the USSR in order to precisely determine the help the USSR could provide to Romania and Poland in the event of German aggression". [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 349.]

In contrast to his enthusiasm for improving ties with Moscow in the spring of 1939, Bonnet felt the opposite about relations with Warsaw. In May 1939, during talks in Paris with the Poles aimed at strengthening the political and military aspects of the Franco-Polish alliance, Bonnet sabotaged the negotiations by bogging down the talks on the political accord on procedural details, and ensured that no political accord was signed, which was the precondition for the military accords (not until September 3, 1939 was the political accord finally signed). [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 319-322.] Bonnet's reasons in seeking to block the signing of the Franco-Polish political accord were a way of applying pressure on the Poles to grant the Soviets transit rights, and because in case, the negotiations for the “grand alliance” failed, Bonnet did not wish to see France anymore committed to Poland’s defense. In June 1939, Bonnet's reputation was badly damaged when the French agent of the "Dienststelle Ribbentrop", Otto Abetz was expelled from France for engaging in espionage, two French newspaper editors were charged with receiving bribes from Abetz, and the name of Madame Bonnet was prominently mentioned in connection with the Abetz case as a close friend of the two editors, through it should be noted that despite much lucid speculation in the French press at the time, that no evidence has ever emerged linking Bonnet or his wife to German espionage or bribery. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 332.]

During the ultimately failed talks for an Anglo-Franco-Soviet alliance in the spring and summer of 1939, Bonnet together with the rest of the French leadership pressed quite strongly for the revived Triple Entente, often to the considerable discomfort of the British. [Young, Robert J. "In Command of France", Harvard University Press, Cambridge, United States of America, 1978 pages 236-237] In the spring and summer of 1939, Bonnet was a very strong advocate of the revived Triple Entente concept, believing that a "grand alliance" of the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France would deter Germany from attacking Poland. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste France and the Nazi Threat, New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 272.] At a meeting with Lord Halifax on May 20-21, 1939 in Geneva, Daladier, Bonnet and Saint-Legér Léger pressured the British Foreign Secretary quite strongly for a "grand alliance" as the only way of stopping another world war. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste France and the Nazi Threat, New York: Enigma Books, 2004 pages 352-353.] In the spring of 1939, Bonnet went so far as to inform Moscow that he supported turning over all of eastern Poland to the Soviet Union regardless of what the Poles felt about the issue, if that was to be the price of the Soviet alliance. [Imlay, Talbot "France and the Phony War, 1939-1940" pages 261-280 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940" edited by Robert Boyce page 264.] On June 2, 1939 when the Soviet government offered up its definition of what constituted "aggression", upon which the intended alliance was come into play, Bonnet sided with the Soviets against the British, who felt that the Soviet definition of "aggression", especially "indirect aggression" was too loose a definition and phrased in such a manner as to imply the Soviet right of inference in the internal affairs of nations of Eastern Europe. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste France and the Nazi Threat, New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 353.] On July 1, 1939 in response to message from the Soviet Foreign Commissar Vyacheslav Molotov about what nations the intended "grand alliance" was meant to protect, Bonnet sent a telegraph in reply stating the purpose of the "grand alliance" was "the mutual solidarity of the three great powers...in those conditions the number of countries guaranteed is unimportant". [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste France and the Nazi Threat, New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 355.] Besides for working for the "peace front" with Britain and the Soviet Union, Bonnet tried to enlist Turkey in the "peace front" in July 1939 by arranging for the French and British treasuries to provide financial support to Ankara. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 pages 308-309.]

By early July 1939, Bonnet grew increasingly irritated over what he regarded as British foot-dragging in the talks with the Soviets, and with the Poles for refusing to grant transit rights to the Red Army. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste France and the Nazi Threat, New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 356.] Bonnet wrote to Lord Halifax at this time stating "We reaching a critical moment, where we find it necessary to do everything possible to succeed". [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste France and the Nazi Threat, New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 356.] As part of an effort to save the talks, Bonnet wrote up and presented to both London and Moscow the text of a joint communiqué stating to the world their determination to resist aggression and that they "agreed on the main points of the political agreement". [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste France and the Nazi Threat, New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 356.] Bonnet's effort was blocked by Molotov, who stated his government had no interest in issuing such a communiqué. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste France and the Nazi Threat, New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 357.] In August 1939, Bonnet took up a Turkish effort of mediation between the British and the Soviets as part of an attempt to break the deadlock. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 310.]

When the Anglo-Franco-Soviet talks were on the verge of breaking down in August 1939 over the issue of transit rights for the Red Army in Poland, Bonnet instructed the French Embassy in Moscow to falsely inform the Kremlin that the Poles had granted the desired transit rights as part of a desperate bid to rescue the alliance talks with the Soviets. [Adamthwaite, Anthony France "and the Coming of the Second World War" pages 337-338.] At the same time, immense French diplomatic pressure was applied in Warsaw for the Poles to agree to the transit rights for the Red Army, but the Polish Foreign Minister Colonel Józef Beck was very firm in refusing to consider such an idea. On August 19th, 1939, Colonel Beck stated in a message to Paris: "We have not got a military agreement with the USSR. We do not want to have one". [Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew "The Road to War", London: Macmillan, 1989 page 138.] The conclusion of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 23, 1939 left Bonnet highly dejected, believing the prospect of Soviet economic support for Germany would undermine the effectiveness of a British naval blockade of Germany (which was widely assumed in France to be a prerequisite of defeating Germany), and hence his return to advocating renouncing the Polish alliance as the best way of avoiding war for France. [Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat", New York: Enigma Books, 2004 page 272; Imlay, Talbot "France and the Phony War, 1939-1940" pages 261-280 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940" edited by Robert Boyce pages 265-267.] After the Non-Aggression Pact, Bonnet urged Daladier that the French should inform the Poles that they should allow the Free City of Danzig (modern Gdańsk, Poland) to rejoin Germany, and if the Poles refused, then the French should use that refusal as an excuse to renounce the alliance with Poland. [Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew "The Road to War", London: Macmillan, 1989 page 139.]

At a Cabinet meeting on August 22, 1939, Bonnet spoke against French mobilization and argued that France should seek to find a way to end the alliance with Poland. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 337-338.] Bonnet supported by St. Léger-Léger and Daladier argued for making one more attempt to win the Soviet alliance. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 467.] Reynaud and Mandel both spoke for French mobilization, which Bonnet argued would increase Polish "intransigence"; Bonnet comment about mobilization was "I do not ask for this". [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 467.] At an of the Standing Committee on National Defence, which comprised the Premier, the Ministers of Defence, the Navy, the Air and Foreign Affairs and all of the top French military officials on August 23, 1939, Bonnet sought to pressure General Maurice Gamelin into stating that France could not risk a war in 1939, and stated that France should find a way of renouncing the 1921 alliance with Poland. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 339-341.] Bonnet argued that Poland could only be saved with Soviet support, and the Non-Aggression Pact had ended that prospect. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 468] Moreover, Bonnet asserted that oil-rich Romania, helmed by Germany and the Soviet Union would now lean towards the totalitarian states, and that the Soviets would allow Turkey to enter the war if Germany attacked a state in the Balkans. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 468] At that meeting, Bonnet's arguments for abandoning Poland were countered by General Gamelin, who argued that if war came, there was little France could do for the Poles (whom Gamelin felt could hold out for about 3 months), but that to abandon Poland would be equivalent to abandoning Great Power status for France. [Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew "The Road to War", London: Macmillan, 1989 page 140.] As Bonnet continued his efforts against going to war for Poland, Daladier came to increasingly to feel that appointing Bonnet to the Qui d'Orsay had been a mistake, and increasing came to be consumed with hatred for Bonnet. [Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew "The Road to War", London: Macmillan, 1989 page 140; Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 544.] Juliusz Łukasiewicz, the Polish Ambassador to France accused Bonnet of "preparing a new Munich behind our backs". [Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew "The Road to War", London: Macmillan, 1989 page 140.]

On August 31, 1939, Bonnet was the leading spokesman for the idea of using the peace mediation proposals of Benito Mussolini as a pretext for ending the alliance with Poland, but was overruled by the French Cabinet led by Daladier. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 345-346.] Prior to the meeting, Bonnet together his close ally, the Public Works Minister, Anatole de Monzie sought to pressure some of the more hesitant hawks in the Cabinet such as Charles Pomaret, Henri Queuille and Jean Zay into endorsing accepting Mussolini's offer. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 544] At that meeting, Bonnet stated that French should accept the Italian offer while rejecting the British precondition for acceptance, namely the demobilization of the German Army. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 544] Daladier, who was strongly supported by General Gamelin argued that the Mussolini's proposed peace conference was a trap, and that the French should find a reason not to attend Mussolini's proposed conference. [Overy, Richard & Wheatcroft, Andrew "The Road to War", London: Macmillan, 1989 page 141.]

After the German aggression against Poland began on September 1, 1939, Bonnet continued to argue against a French declaration of war, and instead urged that the French take up Mussolini's mediation offer; if the Poles refused to attend Mussolini's conference (which was widely expected since Mussolini's revised peace plan on September 1 called for an armistice, but did not call for the removal of German troops from Poland, which was the major Polish precondition to accepting the Italian plan), then the French should denounce the Polish alliance. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 346-350.] When Bonnet first learned of the German attack on Poland at 8:20 AM on September 1, 1939, his first reaction was to contact the Italian Ambassador to France, Raffaele Guariglia and informed him that France had accepted Mussolini's mediation offer. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 545.] Bonnet then ordered François-Poncet to see Mussolini about when the peace conference could be begin. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 545.] Later that same day Bonnet ordered the Ambassador in London, Charles Corbin to tell the British that Mussolini's peace offers had been accepted. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 546.] Corbin in turn reported that now that war had began, the British were starting to lose interest in the Italian mediation offer. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 546.] Likewise, Ambassador Leon Noel in Warsaw was instructed to see if the Poles would agree to attending Mussolini's proposed conference, only to receive an angry reply from Colonel Beck about when France proposed to honor the Franco-Polish alliance by declaring war on Germany. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 546.] Owing to strong British pressure for a warning to be delivered in Berlin, Bonnet reluctantly ordered Ambassador Robert Coulondre late on the afternoon of the 1st to warn Ribbentrop that if the Germans continued with their aggression, then France would declare on Germany. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 pages 549-550.] At midnight on September 1st, Bonnet had Havas issue a statement saying:"The French government has today, as have several other Governments, received an Italian proposal looking to the resolution of Europe's difficulties. After due consideration the French government has given a "positive response"". [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 550.]

On the morning of September 2, an angry scene occurred at the Quai d'Orsay when the Polish Ambassador Juliusz Łukasiewicz marched in and during a stormy interview with Bonnet demanded to know why France had not declared war yet. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 pages 568-570.] Later that same, Bonnet during a phone conversation with Count Ciano made a great point of insisting that the French "demarche" of September 1st was not ultimantum, and urging that the Italians call the peace conference as soon as possible. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 572.] Through both Bonnet and the Italians were serious about the conference, the proprosed conference was blocked when Lord Halifax stated that unless the Germans withdraw from Poland immediately, then Britain would not attend. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 572.] During a phone call to Halifax later on September 2, Bonnet attempted to persuade Halifax to drop the pre-condition about a German withdraw, only to be refused. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 pages 573-574.] At 5:00 PM on September 2 Bonnet had another tempestuous interview with Łukasiewicz, who pressed very strongly for a French declaration of war and accused Bonnet of plotting to keep France neutral. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 page 576.] As part of an effort to gain British acceptance of the Italian plan, Bonnet sought to see if were possible for the Germans to stage a "symbolic withdrawal" from Poland, only to learn from Lord Halifax that a "symbolic withdrawal" was not acceptable and from Ribbentrop that the Germans had no interest in any sort of peace conference. [Watt, D.C. "How War Came", London: Heinemann, 1989 pages 583-585.]

Bonnet together with his allies in the "peace lobby" both within and without the government such as Anatole de Monzie, Jean Mistler, Marcel Déat, Paul Faure, Paul Baudoin, Pierre Laval, René Belin, Adrien Marquet, and Gaston Bergery all spent the days September 1-3 lobbying the Daladier government, the Senate and the Chamber against going to war with Germany. [Irvine, William "Domestic Politics and the Fall of France in 1940" pages 85-99 from The French Defeat of 1940 edited by Joel Blatt, Providence: Berghahn Books 1998 pages 96-97; Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 346-351.] On September 3, 1939, Britain declared war on Germany, which had the effect of resolving the debate in Paris, and led to Daladier finally having the French declaration of war issued later that same day. For a week after war was declared, Daladier avoided having the cabinet meet in order to ensure that Bonnet would not have a chance to put forward his views about seeking peace with Germany. [Réau, Elisabeth du "Edouard Daladier: The Conduct of the War and the Beginings of Defeat" pages 100-125 from "The French Defeat of 1940 Reassessments" edited by Joel Blatt Berghahn Books: Providence 1998 page 106.] Bonnet was demoted to minister of justice with the coming of war on September 13, 1939.

Later career

In the latter half of March 1940, Bonnet together with his "peace lobby" allies such as Anatole de Monzie, Pierre-Etienne Flandin, Pierre Laval, Jean Montigny, Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour, Georges Scapini, René Dommanage, Gaston Bergery, René Chateau, and René Brunet made a major lobbying effort to have Laval appointed foreign minister as a prelude to making peace with Germany. [Irvine, William "Domestic Politics and the Fall of France in 1940" pages 85-99 from "The French Defeat of 1940 Reassessments" edited by Joel Blatt Berghahn Books: Providence 1998 page 97] Besides for chairing meetings of the "peace lobby", which met six times during the "Drôle de guerre", Bonnet otherwise remained silent as Justice Minister. [Irvine, William "Domestic Politics and the Fall of France in 1940" pages 85-99 from "The French Defeat of 1940 Reassessments" edited by Joel Blatt Berghahn Books: Providence 1998 page 97] On June 21, 1940, Bonnet together with Pierre Laval helped to pressure President Albert Lebrun into changing his mind about leaving for Algeria. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 101.] Bonnet supported the Vichy government and served on the National Council from December 1940, but since the council never met, Bonnet's role in Vichy was not a large one. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 101.] Bonnet spent most of World War II living on his estate in the Dordongne, and attempting to secure himself an office in Vichy, through Bonnet was later to claim to have been involved in the Resistance. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 101.] According to the Gestapo records, Bonnet contracted the Germans once in February 1941 to see if it were possible if the Germans would pressure Laval to include him in the Cabinet, and again in June 1943 to reassure them that he had no intention of leaving France to join the Allies. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 101.] On April 5, 1944, Bonnet left France for Switzerland, where he was to stay until March 1950. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 101-102.] After the war, proceedings were begun against him but eventually dropped, though he was expelled from the Radical Party in 1944. During his time in exile, Bonnet was to write a five-volume set of memoirs. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 101-103.] Bonnet throughout his career had been very much concerned with his reputation, and during his time as Foreign Minister, had a team of journalists to engage in what is known in France as "Bonnetiste" writing, namely a series of books and pamphlets meant to glorify Bonnet as the defender of the peace and Europe’s savior. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 400.] After leaving the Quai d'Orsay, Bonnet took with him a large number of official papers, which he then used to support the claims made in his voluminous memoirs, where Bonnet depicted himself as waging a single-handed heroic battle to save the peace. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 398-401.] Many have charged Bonnet with "editing" his papers to present himself in the best possible light, regardless of the facts. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 400.] In particular, criticism has centered some of the contradictory claims in the Bonnet memoirs. At various points, Bonnet claimed it was British pressure that driven France towards Munich in 1938, and that his government would very much liked to gone to war for Czechoslovakia. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 400.] At other times, Bonnet states the military and economic situation in 1938 was such that France could not risk a war that year. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 400.] In the early 1950s, Bonnet had a celebrated debate on the pages of the "Times Literary Supplement" with one of his leading critics, the British historian Sir Lewis Bernstein Namier over some of the claims contained in his memoirs. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 183-184] At issue was the question whether Bonnet had, as Namier charged, snubbed an offer by the Polish foreign minister Colonel Józef Beck in May 1938 to have Poland come to the aid of Czechoslovakia in the event of a German attack. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 183-184] Bonnet denied that such an offer had been made, which led Namier to accuse Bonnet of seeking to falsify the documentary record. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 pages 183-184] Namier was able to establish that Bonnet had been less then honest in his account, and concluded the debate in 1953 with words "The Polish offer, for what it was worth, was first torpedoed by Bonnet the statesman, and next obliterated by Bonnet the historian". [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 184] Beyond the narrow question of whatever a Polish offer in May 1938 had been made or not, the real significance of the debate was over Bonnet’s freedom of maneuver. In his memoirs, Bonnet claimed that he had been often forced by circumstances beyond his control to carry out a foreign policy that he may not have necessarily wanted to carry out. By contrast, Namier charged that Bonnet had other options, and was merely carrying out the foreign policy he had wanted to carry out.

In 1953, an amnesty for those convicted of "national disgrace" allowed to run for office again, and in 1956, Bonnet returned to his old seat in the Dordonge. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 102.] Readmitted to the Radicals in 1952, he was once again expelled in 1955 for refusing to support Pierre Mendès-France. Nevertheless, he was once again elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1956 and continued to serve in that body until 1968, when he lost his seat. [Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War", London: Frank Cass, 1977 page 102.]

Notes

References

* Adamthwaite, Anthony "France and the Coming of the Second World War 1936-1939", London: Frank Cass, 1977, ISBN 0 7146 3035 7.
* Duroselle, Jean-Baptiste "France and the Nazi Threat The Collapse of French Diplomacy 1932-1939", New York: Enigma Books, 2004, ISBN 1-029631-15-4.
* Frankenstein, Robert "The Decline of France and French Appeasement Policies, 1936-9" pages 236-245 from "The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement" edited by Wolfgang Mommsen and Lothar Kettenacker, George Allen & Unwin, London, United Kingdom, 1983, ISBN 0049400681.
* Jackson, Peter "Intelligence and the End of Appeasement" pages 234-260 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" edited by Robert Boyce, London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0-415-15039-6.
* Lacaze, Yvon “Daladier, Bonnet and the Decision-Making Process During the Munich Crisis, 1938” pages 215-233 from "French Foreign and Defence Policy, 1918-1940 The Decline and Fall of A Great Power" edited by Robert Boyce, London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0-415-15039-6.
* Watt, D.C. "How War Came: The Immediate Origins of the Second World War, 1938-1939", New York: Pantheon Books, 1989, ISBN 039457916X.


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