René Waldeck-Rousseau (rənā´ väldĕk´-rōōsō´), 1846–1904, French statesman. Belonging to the republican left, he was twice minister of the interior (1881, 1883–85), and in 1884 he was responsible for the passage of the Waldeck-Rousseau law, legalizing the creation of trade unions. In 1893 he was defense counsel for A. Gustave Eiffel in the Panama Canal scandal trial. President Émile Loubet appointed him to head a cabinet in 1899, at the height of the Dreyfus Affair, and he succeeded in securing a presidential pardon for Dreyfus. Although Waldeck-Rousseau himself advocated moderate measures, the repressive anticlerical legislation that grew out of the affair began during his ministry. His Associations Law (1901) virtually abolished the right of free association of religious orders, and thousands of monks and nuns went into exile. Waldeck-Rousseau resigned (1902) because of failing health and was succeeded by Émile Combes.
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