is in many ways a land of paradox. Viewed from afar or seen by the
passing traveller, she presents a surface appearance that is deceptive.
Things are frequently not what they seem and outward semblance does
not correspond to inner reality. More perhaps than in any other European
country, one must get below the surface to understand the true trend
first impression which France gives the stranger is that of intense
unity. A compact country, with a centralized government, an old civilization,
and a special culture both land and people have a marked French stamp
which is unmistakable wherever you cross the French frontier.
when you come to meet Frenchmen .this impression of unity is deepened.
In manners, habits,. and ordinary conversation Frenchmen seem alike.
Above all, they are strongly nationalistic. Almost without exception,
Frenchmen profess an ardent national patriotism. They are forever
talking and writing about it. " La France" and "la
Pa'trie"-- the Fatherland -- are words continually on French
lips. Furthermore, Frenchmen emphasize the unity of their country.
"France, one and indivisible," is a stock phrase. Lastly,
this unitary doctrine is reflected in the centralization that characterizes
every phase of French national life. Government, finance,
education, art, and literature -- all are centred in Paris, the mighty
capital. Seeing these things what wonder if most foreign observers
come to think of the French as a homogeneous people, especially of
at least, is the prevailing idea concerning France and the French.
And yet it is very far from being the case. The truth of the matter
is that the French are a nation but not a race. France is in fact
a good example of national as distinguished from racial, unity. This
doed not mean that the French nation is likely to break up. But it
does mean that French unity lacks the racial element. And this lack
the French instinctively feel to be a weakness and a possible source
of danger to their national life. That is just the reason why they
are always stressing their unity and why they favor extreme centralization.
When people keep emphasizing something as supremely desirable it is
a pretty good sign that they are not quite sure of it. We do not congnitulate
ourselves on the air we breathe; we just breathe it and take it for
France with its neighbor England. Both are strongly marked nations.
The chief difference is that England has racial unity while France
has not. Englishmen are overwhelmingly of one stock -- the Nordic
race. The population of France on the other hand is highly composite;
it is made up of all three of the European races. This difference
in the racial make-up of France and England explains in great part
why the two peoples are so different in past history and present outlook.
England's development has been at once more stable and more consistent;
English party quarrels have been less bitter, while there has never
been a violent breach with the past like that
of the French Revolution. Also, English nationality has been mainly
a spontaneous growth, a natural evolution; whereas French nationality
has been largely due to external causes like foreign invasion, combined
with conscious efforts of the French ruling classes to weld the country
into a strong political unity. England was a nation long before France,
yet the process was so pormal and imperceptible that Englislllnen
have never thought. or talked much about it. In France, however, national
umty was attained only after great difficulties, so that in France
nationality became a conscious principle inspiring passionate zeal
of an almost religious character. It was revolutionary France that
proclaimed the doctrine of nationality which asserts that national
feeling is more powerful than blood in binding men together.
doctrine has profoundly affected the thought not merely of France
but of the whole world, and is still widely believed. However, the
discoveries of modern science are undermining its authority. We now
know that nationality is at bottom merely a state of mind, which may
conceal but cannot really abolish those profound differences of instinct,
temperament, and intelligence that are inborn in persons of different
herself is the best proof of this. Despite the fact that for generations
everything has been done to break down local distinctions and to unify
her population, the inhabitants of various parts of France differ
from one another in many important ways. French investigators of racial
matters admit this frankly. Says the well-known French writer, Gustave
France, the Provencal is very different from the
Breton, the inhabitant of Auvergne from the inhabitant of Normandy.
Unfortunately, these types are very distinct as regards their ideas
and character. It is difficult in consequence to devise institutions
which shall suit them all equally weIl, and it is only by dint of
energetic concentration that it is possible to lend them some community
of thought. Our profound divergences of sentiment and belief, and
the political upheavaIs which result therefrom, are due, in the main,
to differences of mental constitution.
a matter of fact, the policy of centralizing everything in Paris has
produced grave disadvantages, which have led some Frenchmen to advocate
granting local self-government and encouraging intellectual life in
the provinces instead of draining it all to the capital. This is the
movement known as regionalism. But regionalism is viewed with disfavor
verging on alarm both by the bulk of French public opinion and by
the government. Clemenceau voiced tbis uneasiness very well when he
said of regionalism:
might correct those evils of excessive centralization from which we
have suffered and still suffer so crueIly. And yet, somehow, we feel
that if we relaxed our unifying bonds, France might weIl be lost."
is interesting to note that the French dislike to admit the importance
of race in human affairs. Most Frenchmen still cling to the old doctrine
of nationality, and even deny that racial differences amount to much.
Leading French students of racial matters like De Lapouge and Le Bon
have told me personally that their writings are not only unpopular
but have often been condemned as down-
right unpatriotic in official circles. This reveals a state of mind
in the French people which is of unquestionable importance to the
world at large. France's insistence upon nationalism and minimizing
of race, though due primarily to her internal political situation,
affects strongly her attitude toward her vast colonial empire in Africa
and accounts largely for policies like the creation of her Black Army
for service in Europe, which we will later examine more in detail.
the three races which make up France's population have been settled
there for ages, they have not intermarried to the extent which might
be imagined, but still remain largely segregated in different regions.
The reason for this is found in the geography of the country. GeographicaIly
speaking, France divides into three parallel zones, running east and
west. Northern France is mainly plain and valley country, open and
fertile. Southern France is of somewhat similar character. Between
these two well-favored regions thrusts an intermediate zone of relatively
barren mountains, highlands, and plateaus, stretching clear across
Central France from the Alps to Brittany. However, this barrier is
not absolute; it is broken by two corridors of fertile lowland, which
form natural highways between north and south. The broader of these
corridors runs down through France from the open valleys and wide
plains around Paris until it reaches the plain country .about Bordeaux.
The second corridor cuts down through Eastern France, narrowing to
the valley of the River Rhone and then broadening out into the coastal
plains that fringe the Mediterranean Sea.
corridors through the upland belt together form
one of the keys to French history. If they had not existed, if the
upland zone had been unbroken, there would have been no France, but
rather two, or even three, separate nations. Along those two natural
highways invading hosts have passed easily northward or southward,
as the case might be, conquering the whole of France and thus bringing
north and south under the same sway. But on the other hand, the presence
of that intermediate upland belt has broken the full sweep of these
invasions, restricted the numbers of the invaders, and thus prevented
a general mixture of conquerors and conquered. Race lines have in
fact always tended to follow geographical lines.
racially and geographically, present-day France can be described much
as Caesar described ancient Gaul -- divided into three parts.
is really extraordinary when we observe how closely the racial make-up
of Gaul-the ancient name for France corresponds to the racial make-up
of France to-day. Nordics, Alpines, and Mediterraneans were then grouped
geographically much as they are now. When Caesar conquered Gaul, and
thus brought it out of the twilight of barbarism into the light of
world history, he found the south inhabited mainly by the slender,
dark-complexioned race known as Mediterranean, the north mainly inhabited
by the tall, blond race known as Nordic, while the intermediate uplands
were occupied by the stocky, roundheaded Alpine race, living .in subjection
to a Nordic aristocracy which had conquered the uplands a short time
before and were beginning to push down through the fertile corridors
between the uplands to the conquest of the Mediterranean south.
conquest of Gaul illustrates another striking feature of French history-the
sudden shifts of fortune suffered by its various racial elements.
Caesar's conquest is in fact merely one of a long series of changes
in the balance of power from the hands of one racial element to those
of another which is still going on. To-day, for example, the Alpine
element in the French population is gaining so rapidly at the expense
of both Nordics and Mediterraneans that the process must, unless speedily
checked, produce profound changes in every phase of French national
rapid rise of the Alpine element in present-day France is all the
more interesting because it is the first time since the dawn of history
that such a thing has happened. For ages the French Alpines have been
continuously dominated by either the Nordic or Mediterranean elements.
This Alpine stock, relatively passive and unintelligent, but extremely
tenacious, has hitherto formed the solid yet humble base of the French
social system. Hard-working, thrifty, clinging to the soil, caring
little for politics, and contributing little to either art or ideas,
the French Alpine has been the typical peasant, the man with the hoe,
accepting stolidly the rule of more active and intelligent stocks,
yet surviving doggedly the worst misfortunes and increasing rapidly
in numbers whenever conditions have not been too unfavorable. More
than once the Alpine element has been crowded back upon the poor and
infertile uplands which from time immemorial have been its strongholds.
But there it has stood its ground, multiplied, and spread out again
when circumstances changed in its favor. Now for the past century
number of causes have favored the Alpines as never before, the result
being that to-day this element is more numerous than the Nordic and.
Mediterranean put together, and bids fair to turn France within a
few generations into a land overwhelmingly Alpine in race.
full significance of this racial change will be better appreciated
if we glance backward at the racial changes of the past. When Caeser
and his legions invaded Gaul the Nordics were the dominant element.
The Roman. conquest, however, radically altered the situation. The
Nordic Gauls put up a furious resistance, were slaughtered or enslaved
wholesale, and were permanently broken. On the other hand, their Alpine
subjects did little fighting, submitted to Roman rule, and continued
to be the peasantry under the new order as they had been under the
old. The real gainers were the Mediterranean elements. Welcoming the
Romans, who were blood kin they took naturally to Roman civilization.
During the five centuries of Roman rule Gaul became increasingly Mediterraneanized.
The many cities and towns which sprang up were inhabited mainly by
Mediterraneans, drawn not only from Gaul but from other parts of the
came another dramatic shift of fortune. Roman civilization decayed
and finally collapsed beneath a flood of Nordic barbarians pouring
down from Germany. The cities and towns were ravaged, and with them
perished most of their Mediterranean inhabitants. The Mediterranean
element in France was again confined to the south. The north was once
more stocked with a Nordic population, which spread as a conquering
aristocracy over the central uplands and even into the southern plains.
for the Alpine peasantry, they bowed their heads to the storm and
again became the serfs of Nordic masters, just as they had been before
a thousand years France was a predominantly Nordic land. The ruling
classes were everywhere mainly Nordic in blood and set the tone to
French life. It is striking to note how different the French spirit
was in the Middle Ages from what it is now. There was the an individualistic
energy, a fierce self-assertiveness, and a richness of local life
which are rare in the centralized, regulated France of to-day. That
was the Nordic spirit, stimulated by a dash of Mediterranean blood.
In all this the Alpine peasant had practically no share.
ascendancy in France continued down to the French Revolution, a little
more than a century ago. And yet long before the revolution France
had been getting steadily less Nordic and more Alpine, this racial
shift being revealed by subtle changes in both spirit and institutions.
The main reason for Nordic decline was the endless series of foreign,
civil, and religious wars which raged for centuries. In France, as
elsewhere, war proved to be the Nordic's worst enemy. A born soldier,
the Nordic always does most of the fighting and suffers most of the
losses. Another reason for Nordic decline was the establishment of
despotic monarchy. It is a significant fact that in their struggle
for power the French kings found their stanchest allies among the
largely Alpine middle classes, while their bitterest enemies were
the free-spirited, individualistic Nordic aristocracy. To be sure,
when the king had broken their resistance he did not destroy the aristocrats,
but turned them into idle courtiers loaded
with honors and privileges: Yet this was merely
a subtle way of ruining them, because they thereby became social parasites
hated by the people.
the monarchy itself decayed, and after that came the revolution. Although
political in form, the French Revolution had a racial aspect far more
important than is usually realized. It was largely a revolt of the
Alpine and Mediterranean elements against the Nordic ruling class.
The revolutionary leaders openly boasted that they were avenging themselves
on the descendants of to Nordic Franks, who had dominated them since
the fall of Rome. As a revolutionary orator shouted in a memorable
speech against the aristocrats, "Let us send them back to their
German marshes, whence they came!" Eye-witnesses of the Reign
of Terror have left us vivid pictures of how the dark-haired mob surging
around the guillotine yelled with special delight whenever the executioner
would hold up the head of some French lady, swinging the head by its
long blond tresses for the amusement of the crowd.
revolution marks, indeed, a turning-point in the racial history of
France. It started that rapid decline of the Nordic element which
is still in full swing. Not only was the Nordic aristocracy hopelessly
broken but the Nordic strain in the general population was weeded
out faster than ever. The revolution caused a series of terrible wars,
which were continued under Napoleon. For twenty-three years France
was fighting most of Europe. Millions of Frenchmen perished on the
battle-field, and, as usual, the Nordics were the worst sufferers.
It has been shown that .at the end of this war period the average
stature of French
narmy recruits had been lowered nearly four inches. This is striking
proof of how the tall Nordics had been weeded out of the population
in favor of the shorter Alpine and Mediterranean elements .
a clear majority of the French population is to-day Alpine in race
the minority elements still play a greater part in the national life
than their mere numbers would indicate. This is particularly true
in certain fields. Nordics contribute most to science and invention,
while in literature and art honors are shared between Nordics and
Mediterraneans. On the other hand, politics and government are falling
more and more into Alpine hands, as is natural for a majority under
democratic political institutions. In fact, the general tone of French
national life is becoming increasingly Alpine in character. This unquestionably
makes for solidity. Yet many French writers deplore the lack of individual
initiative and the reliance upon the state which the average Frenchman
the virtues and the shortcomings of the Alpine. temperament come out
most clearly in the French peasantry, which is mainly Alpine in blood.
Hard-working, thrifty, solid, but limited in imaginative vision and
creative intelligence, the French peasant remains what he has always
been. The difference lies not in himself but in the fact that modern
political and economic conditions have made him a greater power in
the nation than was formerly the case. The French peasantry was never
so prosperous as it is to-day. Furthermore, it is the most numerous
occupational group in the nation. We must remember that France never
industrialized herself like England and Germany, where the bulk of
the population now lives in cities
and towns. In France a majority of the population still lives in the
country. According to the last census, of France's 39,000,000 inhabitants
only 18,000,000 live under urban conditions, while 21,000,000 live
on the land.
means that France grows enough foodstuffs to feed her own population,
and that, unlike England and Germany, she is not dependent for her
very life upon selling the products of her industry in foreign markets.
Indeed, France's whole economic system is very different from that
of her more industrialized neighbors. Britain and German industry
is based upon the principle of mass production for foreign markets.
French industry, so far as staple manufactures are concerned, is based
upon limited production behind a high tariff wall primarily for the
home market. And French production is further limited by the home
demand for high quality coupled with long wear. This is where the
French view-point differs radically from ours. The Frenchman hates
to scrap anything. Whether it be a single machine or a whole factory,
his idea is to buy a well-made article and then use it until it is
absolutely worn out. Even if it gets behind the times he cannot bear
to throw it away. Under such circumstances French manufactured staples
have not been able to compete in the world market with British, German,
or American staples, and France's typical exports have remained high-grade
specialties such as ladies' fashions, silk's, perfumes, wines, and
other articles in which France has more or less of a monopoly advantage.
business and finance have much the same character as French industry.
The French merchant and the French investor do not like to take risks.
safety to chances of big profits -- and big losses. Frenchmen like
to salt down their thrifty savings in gilt-edged securities like government
bonds. The recent decline of the French franc, threatening as it does
the value of all investments, has been a great shock to the French
people; and if anything like a collapse of the franc should take place,
the political and social consequences might be nothing short of catastrophic.
profound uneasiness among the great French investing public -- and
it must be remembered that in proportion to her population France
has a greater number of small investors than any other country --
is only part of the general shaking up which the war has caused. The
casual observer may not see much of this, but the truth is that below
the well-ordered surface of French national life important developments
are taking place.
to-day stands at a momentous parting of the ways. Before the late
war her national life was, so to speak, geared low. Refraining from
thoroughly industrializing herself like England and Germany, maintaining
a balance between town and country, and with a stationary population,
France led a stable, well-balanced existence. This balance the war
and the peace combined to shatter in two different ways. France is
to-day both much weaker and much stronger than she was in 1914. She
is much weaker in blood and wealth; she is much stronger in political
and military power. Let us cast our e!es over this singular balance
sheet and note the possible results.
late war was a frightful blood-letting for France. At the beginning
of 1914 the population of France was
39,700,000. From this population nearly 8,000,000 men were mobilized
during the war years. Of these 400,000 were killed and 3,000,000 were
wounded. Of the wounded more than 800,000 were left permanent physical
wrecks. Thus fully 2,000,000 men -- mostly drawn from the flower of
French manhood -- were killed or hopelessly incapacitated. In addition
to this the civilian population suffered heavy losses. The result
is that the last census -- 1921 -- showed a net decrease of over 2,000,000
inhabitants. Of course, the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine brought
in 1,700,000 people. Nevertheless, even including Alsace-Lorraine,
the population of France is 500,000 below what it was when the war
of course, the mere numbers of the dead are no test of the seriousness
of the losses, because, as already stated, the killed included so
large a proportion of the very flower of France. The drain on French
vitality and ability has been simply incalculable. Frenchmen continually
stress this melancholy fact. A leading French universIty professor
said to me sadly:
of the rising generation of intellectuals who should now be coming
to the fore -- that is, men in the early thirties -- are dead. Old
men like myself feel as though we were in an intellectual desert.
We look about in vain for successors to whom we may hand on the torch
one of France's best-known political figures remarked to me grimly:
see our surviving generations are seeking to bridge the gulf of death.
I, an old man of seventy am working like a man of forty; and I tell
my grandson, aged
fourteen, that he must jump into his profession five years ahead of
most serious aspect of the situation is that owing to France's low
birth-rate, her vital losses will take a very long time to be repaired.
In fast-breeding countries the ravages of war can be effaced, so far
as numbers are concerned, in a generation. In France, however, population
has long been practically stationary, and there are no signs of any
marked betterment in the situation. It took France more than a century
to increase her population 40 per cent. In fact the total number of
births per year has actually fallen. In the year 1801, 904,000 babies
were born in France. In the year 1901, the number of births had fallen
to 857,000, although the population was 40 per cent greater than it
had been a century before, and the number of births at the old rate
should thus have been 1,266,000. The reason why France's population
had increased notwithstanding the falling birth-rate was due mainly
to a corresponding fall in the death-rate. It was also due to the
growing number of foreigners who had entered the country. The foreign
element in France is much larger than is usually imagined. In the
year 1861 the foreign element numbered less than 400,000; in 1911
it had risen to 1,100,000; in 1921 it was nearly 1,600,000. Nearly
one-third of these are Italians, with Belgians and Spaniards also
contributing large quotas. Many Frenchmen are decidedly uneasy over
this large foreign element, which they consider a possible danger
to French national and cultural umty.
is France's population problem. And when we turn to her financial
situation we find it likewise in serious
shape. Even before the war the French Government was not paying its
way. Every year saw considerable deficits in the budget, which were
covered by floating bonds that were readily absorbed by the French
investing public, which, as we have already seen, has a strong liking
for safe securities. The French have always hated high taxation, particularly
direct taxes -- before the war France had no income tax -- and the
government naturally took the easier way of issuing bonds rather than
rousing unpopularity by imposing new taxes. This was all very well
for a while, but it could not go on forever. At the beginning of 1914,
the French national debt was 34,000,000,000 francs, the largest per
capita debt in Europe, which swallowed almost three-fourths of the
annual revenue to pay interest charges.
came the war, and France's financial condition which had already been
dubious, became infinitely worse. In contrast to Britain, which promptly
imposed tremendous taxes and partly paid for the war as she went along,
France financed herself almost entirely by new loans coupled with
a partial inflation of her currency. The proportion of war expenses
paid out of current revenue was infinitesima -- less than one-tenth
of 1 per cent. The result was that at the end of the war France's
national debt had grown to 147,000,000,000 francs. Still France made
no real effort to balance her budget by drastic taxation on the English
scale, and her debt grew even faster than during the war. To-day France's
national debt stands at about 330,000,000,000 francs-practically ten
times her debt in 1914, while her currency has been inflated to nearly
seven times the amount in circulation in 1914.
wonder that the franc has fallen! To be sure, this fall of the franc
has so alarmed the French people that it is getting ready to stand
really drastic taxation. Nevertheless, even the new taxation programme
which has been proposed will cover only a little more than half of
France's annual expenses; so the national debt will continue to mount
and the financial situation will get still worse.
is the debit side of France's national balance sheet. With a decimated
stationary population, and with a debt so crushing as to threaten
possible national bankruptcy, it is clear that the war has stained
France of blood and treasure so terribly that in both respects she
is much weaker than she was ten years ago.
there is a credit side to the ledger. Whatever her losses, the fact
remains that France won the war and that the peace treaties gave her
such political and military power that she stands to-day the strongest
nation on the European Continent. Her army is the finest war machine
in existence, while the system of alliances that she has built up,
stretching from Belgium to Poland, dominates the Continent, at least
for the time being. Lastily, it must not be forgotten that France
possesses a great colonial empire, second only to Britain's, including
as it does vast areas in Africa, rich portions of Asia, and desirable
bits in other parts of the world.
France is thus a strange combination of great weakness and great strength.
And this, as already remarked, means for France a momentous parting
of the ways. Two roads lie open to her. On the one hand lies the path
of conservative foreign policy and domestic reconstruction along traditional
lines. On the other hand
lies the path of expansive policy, both foreign and domestic, which
if successful would make France politically and industrially a great
world power, as Germany was before the war and as Britain is to-day.
If France follows the conservative path she will endeavor to become
once more the rather self-centred but stable and moderately prosperous
nation that she was before the war. If France decides to tread the
ambitious path, this will mean not only a great change in her political
relations with other nations but also a profound transformation of
her own internal economic and social life. We have seen that hitherto
France's economic system has been characterized by a balance between
manufacturing and agriculture, between town and country; that she
has refrained from extreme industrialization and consequent vital
dependence upon exports to foreign markets. If France abandons this
system for that of mass production of industrial staples for the world
market, she will have to do precisely what England did a century ago
and what Germany did half a century ago. The outstanding features
of such a policy would be retention at all risks of her present political
and military dominance on the Continent of Europe, and competition,
sharp and general, in the world market with great industrial nations
like Britain and America, not to mention rising industrial nations
like Italy and Japan -- and Germany, if she recovers her former industrial
All this plays a great part in producing the mood' of uncertainty
and uneasiness which is so evident in French public opinion to-day.
Consciously or instinctively, m()st Frenchmen feel that they are passing
through a highly critical transition period and that decisions now
may involve momentous consequences for good or for ill. Foreign observers
make a mistake in fixing their attention upon particular issues like
reparations and security. Important though these matters undoubtedly
are, they form merely part of a larger whole.
is interesting to talk with Frenchmen these days and to observe the
sharp contrasts of opinion and of mood. Paradoxical though it may
seem, such contrasting ideas and sentiments are often held by the
same individual. I have heard a Frenchman start conversation with
expressions of high confidence in France's position and prospects
and a few minutes late fall into deep pessimism. This, of course,
arises from the unusual combination, of strength and weakness which
we have already seen the basic feature of France's situation.
point insufficiently appreciated outside France is the extent to which
its colonial empire figures in French calculations. France possesses
the second-largest colonial empire in the world, Britain alone surpassing
her in this respect. Indeed, in some ways France's colonial possessions
constitute more of an empire than do Britain's. The vast assemblage
of lands and peoples under the British flag are rapidly evolving into
a loose-knit association of semi-independent nations. The territories
and populations under the French flag, on the other hand, form a colonial
empire in the old-fashioned sense, closely subordinated to the home
government and surrounded by a high tariff wall which makes them frankly
a preserve for French trade and commerce. Another point of difference
between the French and British colonial empires is that none of the
French colonies contain large populations
of French blood. Algeria alone possesses a considerable French element
-- about 500,000 -- yet even this is only one-tenth of the total population.
Most of France's colonial possessions are topical or semi-tropical
lands inhabited by non-white races. These possessions are, however,
very extensive. In Southeastern Asia- Indo-China-France has a rich
and populous group of colonies, while in Africa she owns a vast domain.
Practically the whole northwestern quarter of the African continent
is under the French flag -- a region nearly twice as large as the
United States and with fully 35,000,000 inhabitants. The total population
of France's colonial empire is a trifle more than 62,000,000.
a long time France regarded her colonial possessions chiefly in an
economic sense, the idea being, that they would form a close economic
unit which might ultimately be self-sufficing, the colonies absorbing
France's exports and capital while furnishing France in return with
the bulk of her imported raw materials and tropical products. But
about a generation ago France woke up to the potential value of her
colonies in the political and military sense -- as reservoirs of soldiers
which would increase French power both at the diplomatic council table
and upon the battle-field. For the past twenty years France has been
raising larger and larger contingents of colonial troops, especially
in Africa, where both the brown-skinned Arab and Berber populations
of the northern regions and the negro tribes to the south contain
much excellent fighting material. The process was accelerated by the
late war, when France raised hundreds of thousands of soldiers in
Africa and Indo-China, shipping them to Europe, where
they did good service. And this was not a mere war measure; it has
been established as a fixed principle of French policy. In the present
French military system nearly 200,000 African and Asiatic troops are
included, part of whom are quartered in France, while in time of war
their numbers could be expanded to something like 1,000,000. A large
section of French public opinion frankly admits that they intend to
exploit their colonial man-power to the uttermost and to make it the
corner-stone of French military strength. Not long ago General Mangin,
one of the pioneers in the creation of France's African army, asserted
that "our colonial empire may be welded into one whole with France
herself, and our power of expansion in the whole world thus increased."
And about the same time Premier Poincare stated that France was no
longer a nation of 40,000,000, but a nation of 100,000,000.
a strictly military view-point these calculations are justified. But
from the political view-point there are serious disadvantages. France's
avowed intention of exploiting her colored colonial man-power for
use in Europe is rousing fear and antagonism in Europe and is cooling
friendly feeling for France in other parts of the world.
England and Italy hostility to France's colonial military policy is
widespread. Prominent Englishmen and Italians have assured me that
neither country would long tolerate a policy which they considered
a menace to the very heart of European civilization. The recent understanding
between Italy and Spain was undoubtedly furthered by common dislike
of France's African policies. As for Britain, this is one more count
in the serious differences which exist between her and France. Typical
British feeling is this comment on General Mangin's speech by a leading
English newspaper, the Manchester Guardian:
does not need much imagination to understand the horrors that would
be brought upon Europe if European nations came to rely on the weapon
that General Mangin brandishes before the world. A Europe with black
garrisons would symbolize a civilization even more desperately retrograde
and despairing than a Europe armed to the teeth. White conscription
would mean a Europe without hope, but black conscription would mean
a Europe without self-respect."
again we come back to the truth which we have already observed --
the striking contrast of strength and weakness that characterizes
France's present situation. I have never heard it expressed better
than it was by a clever French diplomat, who said to me: "You
want to know what I think of my country's position to-day? I'll tell
you. It's just about what it was at the height of Napoleon's power
-- outwardly brilliant, inwardly dangerous."
of the most serious miscalculations which many Frenchmen make is in
regarding their country as precisely what it was in the past. That,
of course, is an error of which other nations are guilty, notably
the Germans; but it is a mistake which, wherever made, is apt to be
very costly. The fact is that neither outwardly nor inwardly is France
what she was in the days of her greatest power under Louis XIV and
:Napoleon. In those days France was in every respect the strongest
natiori in Europe. Take the factor of population alone. Under Louis
France had three times the population of Britain, twice the population
of Germany, and almost twice the population of Russia. To-day Britain
and Germany have much larger populations than France, while Russia
outnumbers her nearly five to one. Of course, Frenchmen see this and
are mobilizing Africa to redress the balance, yet in so doing they
may be also adding such counterweights of fear and hatred that in
the end the scales will run still more heavily against them than they
even more important, though. less evident, is the question of the
internal make-up of the French people to-day as compared with past
times. We have already noted the striking racial changes which have
been going on in France, and which have resulted in the rapid rise
of the Alpine at the expense of the Nordic and .Mediterranean elements.
For the first time in French history power is definitely passing into
Alpine hands, backed by a clear majority of the population. This rise
of the Alpine element has already produced distinct changes in the
will the Nordic and Mediterranean minorities accommodate themselves
to these increasing changes? Already many of the internal strains
in French national life are unquestionably due to this subtle yet
powerful factor of racial readjustment. Can an Alpinized France be
a world power? However solid their qualities, the Alpines have never
shone as empire builders. Again, will the highly centralized French
national fabric remain unaltered? Such are some of the questions which
the France of to-morrow will have to face.