Prefect of the Seine-Inférieure, he was also Extraordinary Commissioner of National Defence in Le Havre (January 1871). A supporter of excessive fighting, he resigned. As a deputy for the Côte d'Or (February 1871), he became Secretary of the Republican Left. As a general councilor, he was elected deputy for Beaune (1876). Under Secretary of State in the Dufaure and then Waddington cabinets (1878-79), he became Minister of Public Works in the Ferry cabinet (1880). Chairman of the Democratic Left and Deputy Speaker of the House, he took over the portfolio of public works in the Brisson government (1885), before taking over the portfolio of finance, which he retained with Freycinet (1886). He was elected by Congress as President of the Republic during the political crisis of 1887. He had to face the Panama scandal and the Boulanger's agitation. He was one of the architects of the Franco-Russian alliance. On 24 June 1894, at the Lyon Exhibition, he was assassinated by an anarchist.