Freycinet, who is it ?


The Freycinet gauge

It carried the dimension of lock chambers to 39 m long and 5.20 m wide, so that they could be crossed by barges of 300 t or 350 t with 1.80 / 2.20 m of pulling water. As a result, boats with a Freycinet gauge must not exceed 38.5 m by 5.05 m. This is called Freycinet boats or barges. Following this standard, many works were undertaken in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to modernize the canals, locks and harmonize river navigation. The Freycinet gauge takes the width of the Becquey gauge which built the bulk of the river network in the 1820s-1840s, but increases the length of the locks formerly at 30.40m.

The Freycinet gauge now corresponds to the European Class I gauge. In 2001, in France, 5 800 km of river waterways conform to it, and 23% of the river traffic passes through it. The French Freycinet class I gauge in figures.



Classe CEMT

Inland waterways in Europe have been classified according to their size and capacity to accommodate vessels in eight ECMT classes. The choice of classes was organized by the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT).


The different types of river boats according to their size

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Who was Charles de Freycinet ?

Louis Charles de Saulces Freycinet, born in Foix (Ariège) November 14, 1828 and died in Paris May 14, 1923, is a statesman and French engineer.


Charles de Freycinet was a French engineer who became Minister several times in different fields

Illustration : ©



Charles de Freycinet is the son of Casimir Frederic de Saulces de Freycinet, director of indirect taxes in Montauban, a native of a Protestant family of Dauphine, and Anne Nancy Malet. One of his uncles, Louis Claude de Freycinet was a naval officer, geographer and member of the Academy of Sciences. Another of his uncles was Admiral Louis-Henri de Freycinet, governor of Île Bourbon, then of Guyana.

He studies at the Ecole polytechnique. He was noticed during the Revolution of 1848 by participating, on behalf of the Parisian students, the advice of the Provisional Government, and received the praise of Lamartine. He graduated from the Polytechnic School, ranked 6th out of 122 students and chose to enter the state services in the Corps des Mines. In 1852 he began his professional career in the public works administration in Mont-de-Marsan and continued in Chartres and Bordeaux. He was chief operating officer of the Midi Railway Company until 1862. During his mission in Bordeaux, he married in this town, on September 8, 1858, Jeanne Alexandrine Bosc (born August 25, 1837 in Bordeaux) , granddaughter of the merchant Jean-Jacques Bosc (1757-1840), councilor of Bordeaux named during the Hundred Days (1815), then deputy of the Gironde (1829-1830). From December 1862 to 1868, at the request of the Minister of Public Works, Charles de Freycinet conducted a study mission, first in England in 1863, then until 1868 in the rest of Europe (Belgium and Prussia Rhineland in particular), on the prevention of industrial risks and the improvement of the protection of workers. The result of these studies is published in 1869 under the title Industrial Remediation Treaty. On this occasion, particularly interested in the administrative reform, he is appointed, by Emile Ollivier, member of the commission of decentralization, chaired by Odilon Barrot and which also includes Maxime Du Camp.

Charles de Freycinet became a collaborator of Gambetta as a delegate to the war in the National Defense Government in 1870-1871, during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. He was promoted to Officer of the Imperial Order of the Legion of Honor in 1870.

During this period (1870-1871), his secretary was Justin Germain Casimir de Selves, son of his sister Marie Elisabeth Zoé and Jacques Joseph Gustave de Selves, controller of tobacco at Aiguillon (47) in 1872.

He became senator of the Seine in 1876, a mandate he kept until 1920.

Charles de Freycinet is Minister of Public Works (1877-1879) in the government chaired by Jules Dufaure, where his name is attached to the multiplication of railway lines as planning project (each prefecture and sub-prefecture must be connected ), often of poor profitability (Freycinet plan), with the aim of opening up the underserved regions. It also contributes to the modernization of waterways, including, in imitation of Louis Becquey nearly 60 years ago, by establishing a standard for the size of locks, known since under the name Freycinet gauge. In 1878, Charles de Freycinet, Minister of Public Works, He tabled in the Chamber of Deputies a bill for the reconstruction of the central pavilion of the Tuileries, the assignment of this building to a museum of modern art and the establishment of a garden in the courtyard of the Carrousel.

He was then several times President of the Council after having been called for the first time by Jules Grevy, cumulating this function with that of Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1879-1880, then in 1885-1886. He supports Jules Ferry in his projects of secularization and compulsory education. He is a candidate for the presidential election of 1885, without success.

In 1886, Charles de Freycinet expelled the pretenders to the throne of France, then he was defeated by Sadi Carnot in the elections to the presidency of the Republic of 1887. First civilian to become Minister of War in 1889-1890, he returned the military service to three years (instead of five), created the General Staff and modernized military equipment by having the army adopt the Lebel rifle and the 75 mm model 1897 gun.
Accused of having wanted to quell the Panama Scandal, he is removed from power, but finds the Ministry of War in the cabinet Charles Dupuy where, anxious to defend the honor of the army, he is ardently anti-Dreyfusard. President of the Armed Forces Commission in the Senate, he is still Minister of State in the Government Aristide Briand in 1915-1916.

He was elected a free member of the Academy of Sciences in 1882 and a member of the Académie française in 1890.



Related documents :

Attention : following pdf docs weigh many Mo. Do not open these on mobile devices ! ! Links not translated in English means that the links behind lead to french webpages only.

Map of french river network

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European river network map - pdf archive here



Sources of this article :, et mainly. All other references are named.