A Letter From France
THE Dreyfus affair,never so all-absorbing and sensational an interest here as most foreigners supposed, has long ceased to be talked about. Its uglier phases having been emphasized by the pestilential activity of the politicians, of all parties, it dropped into the background, from which it should never have been forced, as soon as the politicians, seeing no more capital to be made out of it, ceased to busy themselves with it. It has taken something like its proper place in history, and seems to-day quite as remote as the Panama or the Boulanger scandal. Without having agreed to forgive or having any notion of forgiving, all but the protagonists have come, quite involuntarily, to forget.
The Dreyfus affair defined roughly the respective spheres of the civil and military powers, but did not settle the question of the supremacy of the one over the other, about which so much ado was made, for the very good reason that the question was never directly raised. It rendered unavoidable the humiliation of Fashoda. It occasioned several strange marriages ; none quite so strange as that between the revolutionists (anarchists and socialists) and a hitherto anti-socialistic republican group.
It revealed many things — everything almost, except its own secret — by a sort of cathode-ray efficacy with which it was strangely endowed: long - forgotten or ignored but permanent cleavages and affinities in society ; the nastiness of the entire European spy system ; the uncertainty of the morals of diplomats ; the unwisdom of public trials where either the one or the other of these two factors is involved ; the crying defects of the Latin code of law and legal procedure; the anomalies of the French Constitution, especially on the side of the separation of powers ; the tyrannical rigidity of the military code of honor; the esprit de corps of the army, its stringent discipline (evidenced by a remarkable passivity under violent attack), and its loyalty to the Republic ; the esteem in which the army is held by the majority, and the loathing in which it is held by the minority ; the growth of disarmament sentiment; the vigor of internationalism ; the patriotism of the supposed dilettante classes ; the inconvenience of an unbridled, sensational press.
Like war — it was a kind of bloodless civil war — it brought out the best and the worst there is in men. Dreyfusards and Anti-Dreyfusards vied with one another in faith, in moral heroism, in Quixotic sacrifice, for what they respectively believed to be the right; as they did in meanness, narrowness, bitterness, cruelty, brutality, and blackguardism. It has left little behind it, apart from personal rancors, except an aroused national self - consciousness, a Nationalist party garrulous but small, the Waldeck-Rousseau ministry, and the open advocacy, in certain quarters, of a militia instead of a standing army, — an advocacy which waxes and wanes humorously enough at present, in exact correspondence with the victories and defeats of the Boers.
Of the events of one sort or another growing out of the Dreyfus affair, — the stifling by the Dupuy ministry of the popular welcome to Marchand, Déroulède’s attempt to debauch the army at Reuilly, his trial and acquittal by the Jury of the Seine, the suppression of the principal Dreyfusard and Anti-Dreyfusard leagues, the assault on President Loubet at the races, the siege of Fort Chabrol, the pillaging of the church of St. Joseph by the anarchists, the revolutionary manifestation at the dedication of Dalon’s monument Le Triomphe de la République, the conspiracy trial before the Senate sitting as a high court, and the prosecution of the Assumptionist Fathers (what a list!), — no one seems, even at this short distance, of any great moment.
True, the high court trial was provided with the pomp and circumstance that should bespeak a ceremony of the first importance ; but it was so plainly a mere move in a political game that the country was quite unable to take it seriously. Its main interest lay in the emphasis it placed on the confusion of powers in the French Constitution. “ There is a real confusion of powers,” says Montesquieu, “ when the legislative function and the judicial function are exercised by the same man or the same body of men.” That three dangerous disturbers of the public peace — Déroulède, Habert, and Guérin — received thereby well-merited punishment does not palliate the enormity of the trial, by an elective, legislative body whose members are actively engaged in politics, of political opponents for political crimes. Déroulède, threatening to overthrow the Senate, is judged by the Senate. There is confusion of powers for you and worse! If such a proceeding is constitutional, — and there is no reason to doubt that it is, — so much the worse for the Constitution.
Lamartine once said, “ The first need of a government is to live, well or ill.” The present coalition ministry, the three principal members of which — Waldeck-Rousseau, Millerand, and de Gallifet — are natural antagonists, has come to be popularly known as “ the irreversible.” It has kept itself in power far beyond the wildest prophecy or its own fondest hope by a supple talent that compels admiration. Aside from showing a wavering tendency to pursue Jules Ferry’s policy of destroying the political influence of the church by coercion, it has done little else, perhaps, that is worth recounting except keep itself in power, — for it is impossible to admit its claim, based on the high court trial, to be the saviour of the Republic ; but in view of the circumstances under which it took office, as a sort of “ special police ” to oversee the retrial of Dreyfus at Rennes, and its more than heterogeneous composition, it is a colossal triumph of address to have done that. The Waldeck-Rousseau ministry must be rated, then, a success, as ministries go, and must be admitted to have earned honestly the honor it has obtrusively coveted of presiding over the fêtes of the Exposition.
The internal dissensions incident to the Dreyfus affair and the nearness of the Exposition have combined to prevent aggressiveness in foreign relations during the last three years. The foreign policy of 1899, thanks to the continuance of M. Delcassé in power, was the logical consequence of that of the year preceding, — rare thing in France ! A better feeling toward Germany, a worse feeling toward England, and a lively sympathy for the Boers have prevailed among the people, for reasons good and bad; but the foreign department has wisely limited itself, in the impossibility of being brilliant, to being impeccably correct. Nothing, therefore, is more improbable than the war between France and England which yellow journals on both sides of the Channel have been tirelessly predicting and doing their impotent utmost to force. On this subject, M. Delcassé’s official declaration (April 3), which has been posted on the walls of all the communes of France, should be convincing.
It has been said that the politicians were responsible for the uglier aspects of the Dreyfus case, and that the high court trial was a political manœuvre. Contemporary France is suffering acutely from the exploitation of the professional politician. The professional politician dominates the Chambers, and the Chambers dominate, in their turn, not only the ministry, the presidency, and the magistracy, but also, by reason of the high degree of centralization inherited from the Second Empire, nearly every phase of the country’s corporate life, and many phases of the private life of the citizens. The President of the Republic is the Chambers’ creation, and must be, if he aspires to reëlection, their creature. The ministers are totally at the mercy of the Chambers, and the magistrates, who are not venal, to their credit be it said, but who are ambitious, — Brieux’s La Robe Rouge, now running at the Vaudeville, satirizes admirably their preoccupation with promotion, — offend them at their peril. The Chambers are, furthermore, the non-resident landlords, so to speak, of the departments and the communes, and industry, trade, and agriculture are their playthings. In a word, they are cursed with that omnipotence which Lamartine called (1848) “ the pitfall of legislatures ; the delirium of popular assemblies as despotism is the delirium of kings.”
Though they were angels, the members of the Chambers could hardly refrain from abusing such excessive power, and they are so far from being angels that they are not even high-minded men. They are, allowing for fine exceptions, vulgar, mediocre, selfish types, swayed by ignoble ambitions, petty jealousies, and contemptible rivalries, politicians, and tools of politicians, in public life for what is to be got out of it, and consequently, even when not downright dishonest, unreluctant to sacrifice the general interest to their private ends.
The result of the multiplication of inefficiency and unscrupulousness by power is scurrility in debate, tumultuous sessions, malicious manœuvrings, frequent ministerial crises,1 — the ministerial crisis is the ambitious deputy’s opportunity, — and correspondingly frequent distributions of spoils ; narrowness, capriciousness, incoherence and inadequacy in legislation ; shortsightedness and instability in foreign and colonial programmes; popular discontent, disenchantment, and distrust.
The unloveliness of the situation cannot be exaggerated, but it may easily be taken too much to heart.
M. Paul de Rousiers, in the last volume of his able work La Vie Américaine, says : 44 America has her evils like all human societies ; but it is not by its evils, it is by the force of resistance it opposes to them, that the vigor of a society is to be judged. All societies would be doomed to perish speedily if the diseases with which they are afflicted constituted a cause of ruin, and yet history shows us that some peoples manage to grow and prosper despite the crises they meet, while others disappear under the assault of analogous crises. Now, one of the most striking traits of American society is its marvelous capacity for surmounting crises.”
If the test which M. de Rousiers applies to the United States is applied to France, the verdict, mutatis mutandis, is the same. One of the most striking characteristics of French society is its marvelous capacity for surmounting crises. All French history proves it: —
Plus on le coupe et plus it est naissant;
Il rejétonne en branches davantage
Et prend vigueur dans son propre dommage.”
So sang Ronsard centuries ago, and so, in the light of the last hundred years, or even of the last thirty years (Sedan, the Commune, McMahonism, Boulangerism, Panamaism, Dreyfusism), a modern Ronsard might sing. It is not idle rhetoric to say that France has “ a hope as great as her past.”
Intelligent reaction against the deplorable governmental situation has set in. The chief prerequisite to betterment is already completely fulfilled. The evil is universally known and acknowledged. Men of all parties, agreed in little else, concur in the opinion that the government works badly. Disgust with the current spoils system is widespread.
“ As to the government under which we live, it seems to me,” says Émile Faguet, “ that it has ' done ’ its time, that it has ' done ’ its darndest (pardon the paraphrase), and that it has ‘done’ little else.”
“I despise,” says Léon Daudet, “ the profession of politician such as I see it practiced in France by most of our parliamentarians. Hypocrisy, deceit; such is the programme of these knaves. They believe in but one thing, the patience of the people, and they exploit it in a thousand ways.”
“I think, for my part,” says Maurice Barrès,“ that the apparent decadence of our country is due to the fact that our incompetent governors do not know how to utilize its real superiorities. The masses of the people, the workers, the taxpayers, have immense reserves of force.” Even Le Temps, the orthodoxy of whose republicanism cannot be questioned, laments : “ We find ourselves to-day in such a state of uneasiness and upon so dangerous a declivity that all minds not altogether reckless of the future are seeking some organic and profound reform.”
This general disaffection and desire for change is too well based and honestly reasoned to be classed as fickleness. It is not to be confounded with the machinations of the monarchic reactionaries, on the one hand, or with the propaganda of the socialists and anarchists, on the other, though in charging the atmosphere with unrest it may add somewhat to the strength of each of these. It is not derived from the blind faith in the infallibility and saving power of institutions which leads logically to revolutions, — revolution, and no wonder, has come to be a synonym, almost, for disillusion, — but from a sane conviction, grounded in observation and experience, that the improvement of institutions, while it cannot annihilate the evils of society, may somewhat lessen them. It is entirely consistent with loyalty to the Republic which is stronger at this moment, there is every reason to believe, than ever before. Indeed, as a certain Academician wittily puts it, “ France loves the Republic so much that, having had her fill of the one she possesses, she would like another.”
The principal reforms being advocated are : compulsory suffrage ; administrative decentralization ; a supreme court on the model of the Supreme Court of the United States; election of judges by the Cour de Cassation, and of the Cour de Cassation by the bar of France ; individual responsibility of ministers ; a single term for deputies and senators ; proportional representation ; withdrawal from the Chambers of the right of initiative in matters of finance ; election of President by direct vote of the people, for advocating which somewhat too noisily and impatiently Paul Déroulède is now in banishment; limited initiative and referendum for the people.
If opinion were as unanimous regarding the exact change needed as it is regarding the need of a change, the present régime would not last longer than the time necessary to call and hold a constitutional convention. But the schemes of revision brought forward are so many and so conflicting, of such varying degrees of sense and of nonsense, that a constitutional convention, though favored by so sagacious and sound a Republican as Paul Deschanel (President of the Chamber), is regarded by a majority of the thoughtful as impracticable for the present, the circumstances which seem to cry loudest for it being the very circumstances which render its convocation difficult and even dangerous.
In this dilemma, a commendable tendency is manifest to do the simple, obvious things ; to get what little may be got from legislation in the way of improvement ; and to enlighten and elevate the universal suffrage (“ organize the universal suffrage ” is the catchword) to the end of putting better men in office against the time when the destinies of the country may be intrusted, without the slightest risk, to an Assembly of Revision.
Of the numerous movements occupied with the “ organization of the universal suffrage,” the decentralization movement enlists the most parties, the most classes, and the most tastes : the idyllist, Theuriet, as well as the “professor of energy,” Barrès ; the dilettante, Bourget, as well as the iconoclast, Paul Adam. It is gradually effecting the real decentralization, the mental, moral, and æsthetic emancipation of the provinces from Paris, of which political emancipation must be, in the long run, the consequence whether it is put deliberately to the fore or not.
By diverse and in some cases seemingly trivial efforts for the regeneration and enrichment of local life, civic interest, civic loyalty, and a sense of civic responsibility — qualities as essential to good citizenship in the national as in the communal field — are being developed among the voting masses. They constitute a current of progress that is broad, deep, and strong. The decentralization activity, viewed in its entirety, is the most interesting, the most wholesome, and the most promising political movement that France has produced in many years. Carried to its logical conclusion, as with time and patience it may be, it will accomplish, for the good of the country, the utter annihilation of the enormous, demoralizing, and demoralized Napoleonic machine.
This accomplished, France can snap her fingers, as we do in the United States, at the mediocrity and corruption of her legislature, if it continues to be mediocre and corrupt, since it will be powerless to do her, as it is powerless to do us, great harm. So that root, stem, and branch are sound, it is not so very tragic an affair if caterpillars do prey upon a tree’s foliage.
At the dedication of the Imperial Museum of Industrial Art at Berlin, in 1881, the Crown Prince of Germany said: “ We conquered France on the held of battle in 1870 ; we wish to conquer her now on the fields of industry and commerce.” Frenchmen are not wanting who affirm that the Hohenzollern’s wish has been granted, and that the Exposition lately opened will give thereof irrefutable proof. Perhaps these Frenchmen are too easily discouraged, or, perhaps, in the commendable effort to be honest with themselves, they exaggerate. In any event, this much is certain, on the eve of an exposition, one of the main objects of which is to illustrate the progress of industry and commerce, French industry and commerce are not as flourishing as they should be.
Time was, not so very remote either, that France was the first commercial nation in Europe and the second in the world. A large part of the business of Havre and Marseilles, then the most important European ports, has gone since to Genoa, Bremen, Antwerp, Ostend, and Hamburg. Of the shipping that does frequent French ports only thirty per cent is French. France has been crowded out of the Levant, where her activity was prodigious, by England, Germany, the United States, Russia, and even by Austria, Italy, and Greece. During the past decade, a period of exceptional commercial expansion for nearly every country of America and Europe, the volume of France’s foreign trade has remained almost stationary.
As it is with her commerce, so it is with her industry. The exportation of manufactured articles has decreased, while their importation has proportionally increased, to the advantage of Germany, mainly. Furthermore, she is beginning to encounter serious competition in the field of industrial art, where her supremacy for all time seemed to be secure. The government is in a measure responsible for this deplorable state of affairs. The dearth of navigable water ways, inadequacy of port and transportation facilities, exorbitance of freight charges and port dues, indifference and insolence of the railroad and steamboat monopolies, maladjustment of the protective tariff and the annoying manner in which the taxes, unavoidably high, are imposed and collected, — these, as well as a lack of the steadiness and continuity in policy which inspires business confidence, must be laid at its door. But the government is not the only culprit by any means.
The merchants of France are, as a rule, wedded to routine and wanting in intelligent enterprise, not to say audacity. Disliking travel, they depend too much on middlemen who exact excessive commissions. They do not know, and do not seem to care to know, the fluctuations of the markets in which they operate, or the needs and tastes of the populations they are supposed to serve.
The manufacturers are almost equally devoid of initiative and enterprise. They cling to old-fashioned machinery, put up with slow workmen, and placidly permit Lowell, Manchester, and Berlin to profit by the French designs and designers it should be their first business to exploit. So long as they can rub along from season to season without deficits, they are content with their prosperity and at peace with God and the world.
French investors are timid, unwilling to take large risks for large profits. Funds that should go to found new industries are put into government securities, the big folk being satisfied if their incomes are not curtailed, the small folk being solely ambitious to become modest rentiers. An antediluvian prejudice against business and an exaggerated, ridiculous reverence for the government service and the liberal professions condemn to relative unproductiveness persons who are well equipped for industrial and commercial enterprise.
Fonctionnarisme is, after professional politics, of which, in a sense, it forms a part, the greatest evil of contemporary France. Of the 420,000 national functionaries, maintained at an annual outlay of 630,000,000 francs, 50,000, by the most conservative estimate, hold absolute sinecures. In other words, 50,000 persons, mainly of the middle class, are a drain on the community to the producing power of which they should be contributing their capital and intelligence. Fonctionnarisme has another much more serious aspect. Rejected applicants, hoping always for ultimate success, postpone year after year establishing themselves in life. Many of them are permanently demoralized in consequence, and go to swell, sooner or later, the army of the shabby-genteel proletariat. At the prefecture of the Seine, 64,000 applications for 1100 positions are on record. To be sure, this dismaying proportion, or rather disproportion, does not hold good throughout France, but it is worth noting as illustrating the phenomena the bureaucratic mania from time to time develops. With only six applications for one place instead of sixty, two million and a half persons would be directly, many more indirectly, involved.
Happily, there are plenty of signs that the industrial and commercial retrogression of France — which is, after all, not so much a retrogression as a failure to advance while other nations are advancing — has been arrested. Necessity, the best of logicians, is forcing young men to do the things they never would have done from choice. What is more, they are taking, to their own great surprise, infinite zest in the doing, and thus gaining an entirely new outlook on life with which to endow their children. The overcrowding of the public offices and the liberal professions, the low rate of interest and the high rate of taxes, the entrance of women upon careers hitherto considered the exclusive property of men, and the prospect of their entry into the public offices, are combining to render the placid, unhurried gentility of the professional man and the sunny tranquillity of the functionary and the modest rentier more and more chimerical, and must end by driving thousands of non-producers into active careers.
Besides, France is as keenly alive to her industrial and commercial as she is to her governmental situation (nothing damaging or uncomplimentary has been said here that Frenchmen do not say hourly about themselves), and quite as full of resolves to mend it, because of its closer touch with daily living. She knows that her industrial and business forces, too long fatuously incredulous of foreign competition, need to be organized like her universal suffrage, and has set about the task.
In Mexico, the Argentine Republic, and the kingdom of Menelik a business foothold has been acquired. The rage for cheapness which possesses the world has at last, after much reluctance, been admitted. National pride has at last succumbed to a sane resolve to copy foreigners as, for centuries, foreigners have copied Frenchmen. Long - established, dead-and-alive technical and industrial schools are being rejuvenated and new ones founded. Secondary education, both public and private, is gradually being given a highly practical turn. The honorableness of trade, its place and function in civilization, the benefits of travel, the value of vigorous initiative, the pettiness of fonctionnarisme are being inculcated by the schools, the press, and even the pulpit. It is becoming the fashion for boys destined to industry or commerce to finish off their education by a sort of apprenticeship in some one of the advanced commercial and industrial countries.
Furthermore, energy is being transferred from the acquirement of new colonies to the development of those already possessed. M. Delcassé’s two recent official declarations of policy to this effect have been exceedingly well received by the country, and may be taken as reflecting its opinion. The Comité Dupleix, an alert organization of citizens for the encouragement of colonization, has given thousands of lectures on colonial subjects to hundreds of thousands of people, and has done much to develop a colonizing spirit in the schools and universities besides directly aiding emigration to the colonies in many practical ways. The witty reproach that the cultivation of functionaries constitutes the chief industry of the French colonies will soon cease to be witty if the government and the colonization societies follow their present programmes persistently.
M. Gabriel Bouvalot, the President of the Comité Dupleix, who has devoted the greater part of his life to studying, on the ground, the industries, trade, and colonizing expedients of various peoples, has drawn a highly suggestive and encouraging parallel between the situation of France under Louis XV., after which she “ manifested herself by leaps and bounds ” of progress, and her situation to-day. French trademarks are still among those most counterfeited. Whatever else has been lost the national reputation for taste, sound workmanship, and exceptional business honesty persists. With this to build on it is not unreasonable to expect that France is about to advance industrially and commercially, not, perhaps, “ by leaps and bounds,” not, perhaps, sufficiently to rival the colossal mechanical progress of Germany, the United States, and Great Britain (which might not be altogether desirable), but steadily and surely, and sufficiently to restore and maintain the wholesome equilibrium between the forces of the nation which is for the time being disturbed.
There is at least one article of exportation in the manufacture and disposal of which France stands at no disadvantage, namely, the theatrical piece. Her activity in this direction is extraordinary. Émile Augier affirmed, thirty years ago, that the dramatic art is as dear to the French as it was to the Athenians, and only the other day Paul Perret wrote in the Matin : “ One would hardly be advancing too bold a proposition in saying that at this hour the French people are divided into halves, one of which can, in all tranquillity, abandon itself to its passion for the theatre since the other half is working furiously to provide it the material for its pleasure. A great writer has said of the Englishman ‘ he is a political animal.’ The same compliment — under a more courteous form — could not be addressed to the Frenchman, but he deserves another; the Frenchman is a ‘ dramatic biped.’ ”
More extraordinary than the degree of French activity in the production of the theatrical piece is the nature of the activity. It is, speaking generally, a literary activity. It is one of the real, unassailable glories of France that she has never, for an instant, ceased to have a literary stage in the best and fullest sense of the expression. The plays on the boards constitute an appreciable part of the stock of the bookstalls. Most of them stand that severest of all tests for a play, reading in a quiet corner at home ; and this is as true within limits, so general is the insistence on form, of the light as of the heavy pieces.
It is another extraordinary thing that a fair proportion of this literary playwriting activity is and has never ceased to be a poetic activity. A goodly number of each season’s productions, and by no means the least successful, — Richepin’s Chemineau, Coppée’s Pour la Couronne, Mendès’ Reine Frammette are cases in point, — are written in rhymed verse.
L’Aiglon is the sensation of 1900 as Cyrano was of the seasons of 1898 and 1899, and it is primarily because Rostand is a poet that he has put completely in the shadow such an incomparable stage machinist as Sardou. It gives fresh proof of the persistence of a strong and fine appreciation of poetry in the French people that Rostand’s plays have won such signal success.
Literature other than the drama has suffered somewhat the past year, the past two or three years in fact, from a more or less active participation in the Dreyfus agitation on one side or the other — and as much on the one side as on the other — of nearly all the authoritative writers. No unsuspected, electrifying genius has been revealed; but René Bazin, by the publication of La Terre qui Meurt (a study of the Vendée), has earned the right to be rated with the half dozen ablest living French romancers. Bazin’s work illustrates a prevalent tendency to “return to the soil,” as it were, in literature which promises solid results. The imitation of the local literary movement of Provence, about which so much has been written, to Brittany and Normandy is another illustration of this tendency. Maurice Barrès’ studies of Lorraine are still another.
The definite constitution of the de Goncourt Academy (after years of litigation) and the admission to the French Academy of three such youngsters as Henri Lavedan, Paul Deschanel, and Paul Hervieu (Rostand, still younger, is soon to follow) are good auguries for French letters.
The supremacy of French sculpture is almost a truism. No country but America can present the slightest claim to rivalry, and our two most famous sculptors, St. Gaudens and MacMonnies, have, as luck would fix it, taken up their permanent abode in Paris. There is no possibility that French sculptors will become inferior in the present generation to the sculptors of any other people, and there are no signs that they are becoming inferior to their predecessors. Add to the names of Bartholomé, Meunier, and Rodin the names of Barrias, Falguière (spite of some recent failures), Dalon, Chapu, Dubois, St. Marceaux, Caru, Frémiet, and Mercié, give a thought to the list of the great dead, — Rude, Barye, Carpeaux, — and wonder not that enthusiasts say that the spirit of Greece and of the Italy of the Renaissance is reincarnated in the sculpture of modern France.
Notwithstanding the great loss sustained by the death of Puvis de Chavannes, and the absence of the slightest new impulse in the men who were justly admired fifteen years back, — CarolusDuran, Bonnat, Gérôme, Flameng, Laurens, Chartran, Constant, Lefèvre, Hebert, Robert-Fleury, Breton, Courtois, and Henner (in whom alone the lack of new impulse seems to be completely pardoned),—French painting is very much alive, and alive to very good purpose. Paris remains, what it has been for a generation, the art school of the world, and, with no serious competition but that of America to meet, the art centre. The atmosphere of the hour is one of general striving rather than of combat. Naturalists, Impressionists, Luminists, and Symbolists have each fought their special fight and won, and left art richer for their victories.
M. René Doumic, writing in 1895, characterized the “ movement for the renovation of French poetry ” as the “ most interesting intellectual movement of the time.” If he were called upon to express himself now, he would probably for poetry read music. The production at the Opéra Comique a few months ago of Gustave Charpentier’s Louise was as striking an event in the musical world as the production of Cyrano a couple of years ago was in the dramatic. Louise is by no means the first work representing the latest stage of French musical evolution that has been written or performed, but it is the first that has had a dazzling popular success. Its popularity has roused France to the consciousness of possessing not only a new composer of talent, but a new school of music of which it has every reason to be proud.
More books are published in France each year than in Great Britain and the United States combined; more books of a serious nature especially, since France publishes only a quarter as many novels as England, and only half as many as the United States. In pure learning and in science (in which latter, despite the deaths of the leaders of research Pasteur and Charcot, she was never more earnest than now) she is second only to Germany, and her competition with Germany is growing keener every day.
The French army, none the worse for its recent shaking up, is sound and true, and ample for defense if not for aggression. Her navy, temporarily neglected, is receiving proper attention. She has an alliance which will not aid her in harebrained adventures, but which may be counted on, which is better, to keep her out of them.
In a word, nothing but good government and good business seem to be lacking her. Even without them, since she is straining toward them with intelligence and zest, she may greet the nations coming to her Exposition without shame as without vanity.
Alvan F. Sanborn.
- There have been thirty - eight ministries since the Republic began, with an average duration of nine months.↩