This article is intended to serve as a preview of a detailed study of the two administrations of Governor Louis Léon César Faidherbe (1854-1861 and 1863-1865) which has been in preparation for some years. For despite his recognized importance as one of the founders of French rule in west Africa, he has remained surprisingly unstudied but nevertheless the subject of several myths. Although an article of this length obviously cannot pretend to be comprehensive, it will stress those general aspects of Faidherbe's two administrations—personal, military, political, and administrative—which have been most prone to misinterpretation and exaggeration.
The core of Faidherbe's achievement in Senegal was his realization of the so-called plan of 1854, the synthesis of a series of ministerial instructions (SOM: Sénégal I, 37-40: MMC to Protet, 1/4, 1/5, 11/, and 12/14/53; and 1/21, 5/18, 7/27, and 12/18/54) which had been given first to his predecessor, Captain Protet, and then to Faidherbe himself. These instructions recapitulated a plan which had been put forth in two petitions addressed to Protet which Marc Maurel of the Maurel and Prom Company of Saint-Louis and Bordeaux had written and had had signed by the major wholesalers, merchants, and other notables of Saint-Louis, the first in December 1851 (SOM: Sénégal XIII, 1a) and the second in February 1854.
This plan, parts of which went back to the 1820s, called for the French, based in small enclaves on the Atlantic coast at Saint-Louis and at a few other posts along the Senegal River, to become the dominant power in the area rather than one among many, some of whom were stronger than they.