I TAKE it for granted that in America at least everybody knows more or less clearly that a French President exercises a more limited authority than an American President: I have read a very accurate article on these limitations and their historical causes in the North American Review.1 I also take it for granted that there is an almost universal consciousness abroad that, in spite of these constitutional restrictions, M. Poincaré’s significance is immeasurably superior not only to that of his two immediate predecessors, M. Loubet and M. Fallières, but even to that of any French President since Maréchal MacMahon, — elected at the critical period of 1873, when France hung uncertain between the monarchical and ihe republican régimes. The object of the present article is to explain how a ‘mere President’ happens to occupy such a very exceptional position.
Certainly M. Raymond Poincaré is a man of rare distinction. He is only fifty-three years old at the present moment, and he has managed in his rapid career to secure a reputation not only in politics but at the bar, — where his only rival is another wellknown politician, M. Millerand, — and he is a member of the French Academy. He was a deputy at the age of twenty-eight, a cabinet minister at thirty-two, and he refused to be Prime Minister at thirty-eight. Yet three or four years ago, say at the time when M. Briand occupied almost alone the political stage, the name of M. Poincare was not often heard outside the law-courts. He was Senator Poincaré, a man of great talent and integrity who gave to politics what little leisure his professional affairs left him; a man upon whom, his intimate friends said, one could count at a pinch, but more of a barrister than a statesman, and more a name than a positive influence. Undoubtedly, when Casimir-Périer was elected President in 1894, —to resign shortly after in despair at his impotency, — he was a much more conspicuous person than M. Poincare in 1910.
The prima facie conclusion therefore must be that the new President is a man who could rise to an occasion, but whom circumstances favored. What these circumstances were we shall presently say, and as we proceed to give an account of them, the reader will notice that it is not quite accurate to speak of M. Poincaré as a lucky man, or even as one whose legitimate ambition has been successful. Such a phrase does not suit the dramatic moment of the history of France which we now witness. It might be better simply to speak of M. Poincaré as a providential man.
It is pleasant to find that so many foreign writers refer to the changed conditions in France at present, but I wonder if they realize the extent of the transformation. If it were possible in this age of wireless telegraphy that a man should have left France ten years ago and returned there without hearing of it in the interval, he would be another Rip van Winkle, with even more subjects for astonishment. At the beginning of the twentieth century the French were in the full enjoyment of that capacity for living on mere abstractions of which they have given so many proofs since the days of the Encyclopedists; to-day, they have gone back to an earlier stage of their development, and they watch keenly the sober facts connected with their country’s welfare: realism has taken the place of vague theology.
Until about 1895 France, as well as Germany, lived in constant fear of a war. It is well known that the anxiety over a possible revanche poisoned the last days of that strongest of men, Bismarck; and it is no less certain that the memories of the war of 1870 were more oppressive to the French in 1895 than twenty years before, when their army was first reconstituted. In the last years of the nineteenth century, three events took place which went far to tranquilize France. These events were the Franco-Russian alliance, the revelation of the industrial expansion of Germany, and the apparent cessation of the long quarrel between Monarchists and Republicans, thanks to the interference of Pope Leo XIII on behalf of the republican régime. This truce and the ‘new spirit,’ as it was called, which was its result among Republicans, making them less anticlerical than they had been, gave something like a settled appearance to home politics, while the Russian amity and the consciousness that Germany was henceforward to be more attentive to her commercial than to her territorial expansion made the chances of a war more remote.
These new conditions might have been productive of admirable results if they had not coincided with the appearance of a new factor, helped by a man hitherto obscure, who was, however, promptly to become celebrated. I mean the diffusion of the Socialist doctrines among the workers, and their unexpected representation in Parliament by a small group with Jaurès at its head.
Jaurès took advantage of the contrast between the economic prosperity of the country and the situation of the laborers, and his eloquence, coupled with the apparent security in which the republican régime found itself, carried away the so-called advanced elements in the Chamber. These advanced elements might be classed in two sections which have not disappeared at the present day, namely: the Socialists proper, who believed in the materialist millennium, which they based on Karl Marx, and were ready to make havoc with the existing legislation to bring it about; and the Radicals, most of them men of ample means and influence, who for years deceived their humble constituents, and possibly themselves, with a conviction that they wanted a complete remodeling of social conditions. Until quite recently the Socialists, urged by their very matter-of-fact friends — and in reality leaders — the Syndicalists, put forward practical measures which the Radicals supported in Parliament, knowing they could never be enacted,—no less than eight income-tax bills, for instance, — but which they translated into the vague slang of Progress and repeated ad nauseam for the benefit of their unenlightened countrymen. The result was a sort of universal intoxication in which men went on prophesying — and honestly or innocently believing — that war was a thing of the barbaric past, universal fraternity the certainty of the morrow, and that the first thing to do was to efface the last traces of militarism and use the immediate resources obtained by the suppression of standing armies for social or benevolent purposes.
It is difficult to resist an almost universal conviction, and we must admit that very few were the clear-headed individuals who saw through this enormous trumpery. Very many, on the contrary, were those who were wrought up by it to a state of exaltation which the trivial and at the same time immense incident known as the Dreyfus Affair changed into actual frenzy.
It is useless to expatiate on the Dreyfus case. But the reader ought to be reminded that the spirit which developed during that nightmare, and is even to-day known as Dreyfusism, was much more general than its cause. Practically it was the most extraordinary perversion of a generous instinct in the interests of arrant antipatriotism, and its outcome was the anarchism which the peaceful vocabulary of everyday history calls the Combes government, but which was in reality the complete absence of government. During three years this wonderful Prime Minister, M. Combes, never took a step without ascertaining, through the chiefs of the various groups in the Chamber, that he was sure of a majority; and Ins movements were dictated to him by the man without whose concurrence he could not have gone on for a week, namely, M. Jaurès. As to the positive consequences, they are well known: they can be summed up as anti-clericalism bringing about religious persecution and confiscation, on the one hand, and on the other — which is more important in our present consideration — as anti-militarism. During those years, the Minister of War, General André, and the Minister of the Navy, M. Pelletan, — two men who did not believe in the possibility of a war, — were employed in diffusing their certainty, and, worse than that, in emptying the magazines and arsenals, in flattering the men under pretence of making them ‘conscious citizens,’ and in molesting the officers in every way, the best known of which is the notorious ‘relation’ system.
From this dream of universal peace and fraternity, France was rudely awakened. Toward the end of 1906, when the chorus announcing the near advent of the United States of Europe was the loudest, the Tangier incident occurred. While André and Pelletan were acting as if war had been done away with, their colleague at the Foreign Office, M. Delcassé, had acted as if war were a matter of course. After years of patient labor of which the successive cabinets — even premiers — had known only what they could gather from the newspapers,2 M. Delcasse had succeeded through various agreements (with England, Spain, Italy) in bringing about what was termed the splendid isolation of Germany, and he had just engineered the beginnings of the Moroccan campaign without any reference to Berlin when the appearance of the Kaiser’s yacht off Tangier completely reversed the situation. In a few hours it became clear that the visit of William II to the Sultan of Morocco meant war in awful earnest, if the Moroccan operations were not stopped at once, and what had been looked upon as a scarecrow for feeble intellects became the reality of the morrow.
It would be unpleasant for a French writer to recall what happened, were it not that the mistake of a few cannot be saddled on a whole nation. Within a week M. Delcassé had been unceremoniously thrown overboard, and M. Rouvier, the Prime Minister, had begun the three months’negotiations with the German Ambassador which were eventually to result in peace, while France looked on in the speechlessness of astonishment rather than of panic.
During those eventful months, the country re-learned a lesson which it is necessary to bear in mind to understand the position of M. Poincaré: it realized the importance of a man. Since 1879 no individual could have been pointed out as the representative of France — the Chamber was that, and saw that nobody else should be; now, all eyes were fixed upon M. Rouvier. Rouvier was a politician and a financier whose past in both qualifications was doubtful. But in the emergency he was brave to heroism, and whenever he had to speak to the Chamber of what was going on, his words had a ring which nobody coukl mistake: it meant that the danger of France had been terrible, and could only be averted in the future, not by a change of policy but by something more akin to a conversion. It was Rouvier who reawakened in the French consciousness the very elemental instinct of self-preservation which it had well-nigh forgotten.
After Rouvier came Clemenceau, another man with a past, but capable of rising to the present; an undisciplined mind but fond of breaking others to obedience; a living paradox, denying duty and yet never shrinking from responsibilities, — a puzzling though complete representative of the lawlessness coupled with generosity of the nineteenth century. Clemenceau was the first French leader who had the joy to withstand Germany — at the time of the Casablanca affair.3 The arsenals had been replenished after more than a year of feverish activity, and with this background, outspokenness ceased to be folly. Clemenceau, strange to say, was also the first to curb the disorderly spirit which he had so often encouraged among the lower classes. His method in the repression of strikes with dangerous complications was of Napoleonic directness, and no one would have suspected that, so short a time before, pure Syndicalism had seemed to be the government of the future. There was, however, one exception which was of considerable importance, namely, the postal strike.
For more than a week the government was checkmated by the quiet insubordination of the postal clerks, and it was only through a ruse that Clemenceau managed to bring that comic and at the same time tragic situation to an end. This time the country at large was not so conscious of its dependence on one man, but Parliament was. Whoever talked over the difficulty with deputies at the time, must remember their discomfited air, as, day after day, they proposed ineffectual solutions. The quiet abdication of the Chamber from the rights which they had usurped under President Grévy, and had strengthened by twenty-five years of unchallenged possession, dates from that week.
The success of M. Briand as Prime Minister during the year that followed was mostly due to his evident desire to prevent such anarchy in the future; but as he did so, the necessity of hierarchical rights and duties was, so to speak, in t he air, and dispelled the most dangerous sophism on which the Radicals as well as the Socialists had lived. Here, as after the Tangier incident, it was one simple fact that taught the country the no less simple but all important lesson: to beware of such dangerous formulas as the identification of the Republic with unrestrained individual freedom.
In the summer of 1911, Germany, for the second time, did France the good turn to administer to her a strong tonic in the shape of another bullying action. The Agadir demonstration was exactly a replica of the Tangier affair, but circumstances had changed and the effect produced was very different. The French were sufficiently recovered from their former bewilderment to be wide awake and self-controlled, and they had considered the chances of a war long enough to regard it as a possibility, nay, a necessity.
The present writer remembers one of those vivid impressions which differentiate history lived from history read. He was at the moment of the Agadir surprise in an industrial town in the North of France which had been, and on the face of the matter still is, honeycombed with Syndicalism. The tone of the workmen in that particular centre as well as in practically every other, was startling. There was no more question of Socialism or Ideologism in any form: the only feeling discernible was wounded pride, and the simple patriotism of past generations; as to the impulse, it was decidedly military, and the formula which expressed it was as elemental as could be imagined: il faut toper dedans. I doubt whether at any period of her history France was more conscious of the soldierly spirit without which she never appears quite herself.
After Agadir, as after Tangier, negotiations averted a war, and the outcome was the Franco-Prussian agreement which made over a rich French colony, the Congo, to Germany, in exchange for a mere permission to have henceforward carte blanche in Morocco.
These negotiations had been conducted on the French side by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, M. de Selves, and by the Prime Minister, M. Caillaux. Subsequent revelations made it clear that M. de Selves, who was brave, and on several occasions was the true mouthpiece of the country, was nevertheless unprepared for his task and showed extraordinary gaps in his information, while M. Caillaux, who is the ablest financier in the Republic and a man of unequaled facility, gave proofs of singular unscrupulousness, negotiating over the heads of both the Foreign Minister and President Fallières, and finally reappearing before the nation with worse results than M. Rouvier had obtained under far less favorable circumstances.
The public in democracies is generally slow to realize the work of diplomacy, and it took France several months to make up her mind that her representative had been timid while she was for fighting, and that the consequence had been to give her an unpleasantly gullible appearance. This, however, was enough to do away with the old Republican fallacy of indifference to what passes beyond the frontiers, and to bring into strong light the crudeness of the principle of non-interference. A slow but complete evolution of the national mind caused even the man in the street to realize that shutting one’s self up at home to ponder over social progress and social philosophies is no terrestrial attitude, and that the Biblical maxim identifying man’s life here below with unceasing warfare is, after all, also a political maxim.
Since then, the Balkan experiences have only strengthened the impression. At the present moment no European nation is indifferent to what used to be termed ‘mere politics,’ and was skipped in schoolbooks as belonging to that superannuated chapter of history, ‘battles and treaties.’ Nowhere has the lesson been taken so much to heart as in France; at all events, nowhere has the tone of the tribune and the press changed so completely in the short space of seven years. I could quote a passage from an address of M. Steeg— since then twice a member of the ministry— so full of vague millennial optimism clad in cheap claptrap that it cannot be read without amusement , and place beside it certain more recent passages from the same politician, and even from Socialist orators, perfectly indiscernible from Nationalist utterances.
To sum up this exposé, without which the position of M. Poincaré would be unintelligible, we may therefore say that, in the last seven years, a real revolution has transformed French mentality, creating a deep distrust of the pacifist and anti-militarist ideas which used to be regarded as essentially Republican notions, compelling governments to accept responsibilities, and as Nietzsche says, ‘to learn how to live dangerously,’ and finally depriving the Chamber of its usurped privilege of centralizing the executive as well as the legislative power.
Is there an immediately visible connection between this new state of mind and the peculiar situation of M. Poincaré? Evidently no, for the New France, as she may well be called, has sprung into existence during the seven years which exactly coincided with M. Fallières’s presidency, and M. Fallières will appear in history as the typical King Log, not only resigned, but convinced and satisfied. So that there must be both in M. Poincaré’s character and in his previous position special features to which the new presidency owes its unexpected importance. We need only look eighteen or twenty months back to discover these features.
The chief difference between M. Poincaré and his predecessors lies in the fact that at the time of the presidential election his name had a distinct significance. Instead of being an obscure outsider like Felix Faure, or a man more distinguished for his character than his mental power, like Carnot, or above all, like M. Loubet and M. Fallières, a President of the Senate in the enjoyment of the most magnificent sinecure in the French Republic, he was a Prime Minister with a programme and difficulties, with warm friends and irreconcilable enemies. And being a Prime Minister meant more with him than it had meant since Gambetta’s days. He had been urgently entreated to take office at the time of M. Caillaux’s retirement, when the country seemed to be in exceptional difficulties; the best patriots in the Chamber and Senate had sought him in his political isolation and asked him to take the lead in the most remarkable Cabinet since 1881, with such men as Briand, Leon Bourgeois and Millerand as collaborators. He had been eminently the representative of France at the time when France had become anxious about her representatives.
His programme was clear and honest, but by no means likely to secure him universal approbation. It was summed up in a decidedly patriotic, that is to say, militarist attitude — emphasized by the choice of M. Millerand as Minister of War — and in a measure of parliamentary reform known as Proportional Representation. To the military effort the Socialists were of course resolutely opposed; to the Proportional Representation there was a much wider opposition, about which it is necessary to say a few words.
At the time of the postal strike, M. Briand, then Minister of the Interior, had been struck by the difficulties he found in removing or punishing some of the offending officials. Most of them had been appointed through the interest of some deputy who at present backed them, more or less overtly, against lire regular authorities. Here appeared the connection between the electioneering system and some of the quiet corruption going on in France. The deputies were elected, thanks to a handful of local leaders, — let it be remembered that France as a country is utterly indifferent to minor politics, — and these leaders in their turn were rewarded by appointments given to their relations, friends, or clients. There was only one remedy to that state of affairs: it was the suppression of what M. Briand called ‘les mares stagnantes,’ stagnant pools, by the substitution of a wider for the local electioneering systems. Given an election including much larger areas, it was evident that, the petty influences would lose their force, and at the same time that the candidates would be compelled to appeal to higher and broader interests. This the country seemed to realize, as half the deputies returned in 1910 felt constrained to promise Proportional Representation for the election of 1916; but to this the Radicals strongly objected.
I have pointed out above how the Radicals pretended to hold Socialist principles whenever they thought them popular and yet unlikely to result in definite measures from which their purse might suffer. They would probably have taken up the patriotic strains now in vogue if Proportional Representation had not been one of them. Their whole raison d’être having been selfish interest, and their sole method political jockeying, they felt, at once that the new system would turn against them, and easy calculations — which they more than once brought cynically to the tribune — soon convinced them that their misgivings were not unfounded. Now, the Radicals, although not in the majority in the Chamber, form the most numerous group there, and they have a majority of the Senate. The consequence was that when M. Poincaré promoted patriotic measures, he was more or less hypocritically followed, but whenever Proportional Representation was in question, he had to threaten the Chamber with his resignation to muster a sufficient majority. While this was evidently agreeable to the country, it created a sore feeling among the mere politicians in Parliament, and lobby intrigues were not lacking. Some months before the presidential election took place, the Radicals had openly chosen M. Caillaux as their chief, and they watched an opportunity to pit him against M. Poincaré. It was in this atmosphere that the very short campaign which precedes a French presidential election began,— five or six weeks before the appointed date, January 17.
The presidential election is made in Congress, that is to say, in a plenary assembly of the Chamber and Senate in the old Versailles palace. Legally it ought to be left entirely to their choice, but the custom has gradually been established among the Radical groups in both houses of designating a candidate a few days before the election, and this candidate continues to be called the Republican candidate, as if there really were a monarchist candidate against him. On several occasions the Republican candidate has been known to be replaced by another at the last minute, and it was in this way that Felix Faure was elected on a suggestion of Clemenceau, though his name had never been mentioned before. Needless to say, then, that a French presidential election is completely different from that of an American President, and that it is practically given up to Parliamentary arrangements or intrigues, while throughout the country the feeling is one of curiosity rather than interest.
This year the conditions were different. In the last weeks of 1912 the reinstatement by M. Millerand of a territorial officer who became well known during the Dreyfus agitation, M. du Paty de Clam, gave the Radicals a handle against M. Poincaré. His friend Millerand had been looked upon as his right arm, and was in fact the living incarnation of his patriotic ideas as well as the idol of the army. Getting rid of such a minister of war was at the same time dealing a hard blow to the Prime Minister. The Radicals did not take into consideration for one moment that M. Millerand was the embodiment of French defense in the most critical period of the Balkan War. They decided on his ejection, and, to the universal amazement, they found an instrument in the Cabinet itself. The Minister of Agriculture, M. Pams, declared himself in the Chamber against his colleague, and M. Millerand was constrained to offer his resignation. M. Pams was one of the Radicals whom political necessities had made it inevitable that M. Poincaré should take into the Cabinet. He had been known for several years as a rich business man from a Southern département, with a great deal of mild ambition, no particular intelligence, and no particular principles, a belief in hospitality and a persuasive cook, — the accomplished type of the good-natured politician whose conception of politics does not go further than give and take according to an easy formula.
This placid, kind, ordinary man did the incredible thing we have just mentioned, and publicly divided his cause, apparent ly from that of Millerand, but, to all intents and purposes, from that of Poincaré. Only a strong incentive could have inspired such a weak man to a step of this character. What the incentive was soon appeared when M. Pams was designated as the Republican candidate by the Radical caucus.
It would be superfluous to narrate how, after the refusal of M. Leon Bourgeois, M. Poincare was prevailed upon, or made up his mind, to fight the Southron. When his intention was known there was a furious outcry in the Radical camp: Poincaré ignored the Republican discipline, — as the phrase goes, — and his audacity was extreme. Deputation after deputation went to him to remonstrate on the enormity of his conduct, and the Radical forces indulged for almost a fortnight in very violent language against him.
However this agitation was merely political, and consequently superficial. It soon appeared clearly that it would not infect the country, and that the reverse was much more probable. For the first time since the institution of the Presidency the man in the street saw clearly the ins and outs of an election and took proportionate interest in it. In ordinary times M. Pams would have been a likely enough candidate, provided the Presidency was what President Grévy said it was, — ‘ an honorable retirement for an old servant of the country.’ At the critical moment in which France found herself, this candidacy was tragi-comic. Just at the time when the country needed a man the Radicals offered it a Pams. Was it not a thousand times a blessing that Providence should offer it a Poincaré ?
The reader must now see the significance of Poincaré’s election: it was a national victory against a crew of mere politicians represented to unhoped-for perfection by an ambitious nonentity. The programme of Poincaré was defense of the country through necessary sacrifices of men and money, along with an indispensable reform of political manners; the programme of Pams was only a vague promise of an improved state of affairs with no more definite indication of ways and means than the league of greeds and ambitions known as Republican Concentration, glorified in the jejune language of which the country, after thirty years, has become heartily sick, but which Radical eloquence will use as if it were everlastingly fresh.
It also must appear evident that the words ‘new presidency’ applied to the incumbency of M. Poincaré mean more than the accession of a new man to an old office. Circumstances and the character of M. Poincaré have suddenly lifted up the position of the French President from the insignificance to which it had fallen, especially under MM. Loubet and Fallières, and the contrast is so strong that it suggests the idea of a constitutional change, which of course it is not in the least.
The question now arises: what will M. Poincare do? What is his role likely to be in European politics? what is right, and what is exaggerated, in what has been said in various quarters of his Russophil tendencies, of the influence which Russia is supposed to have had with him in originating t he Three-YearService law? and so forth.
These questions can be answered not by prophesying, but by explaining.
First of all, it is obvious that there will be a state of more or less open warfare between the President and the Radicals in the Chamber, and especially in the Senate — where, as I said above, they are in the majority — until new elections bring in a better class of politicians. This war began on the morrow of the election, and the first event was the defeat by the Senate of M. Briand’s government, on that very measure— Proportional Representation — which was an essential item in M. Poincaré’s programme. In beating Briand, the Radicals in the Senate did nothing else than wreak their vengeance on the President.
Since then, M. Barthou has been Prime Minister, and has given proofs of exceptional and one might say of unexpected decision in the defense of the Three-Year law which has occupied the Chamber’s attention since the month of March. In the long debates over this momentous question the Radicals and Socialists have vainly watched their opportunity to hit the President once more through a premier whose tone and intentions make him his evident representative. It is difficult at present for mere political passion to use as a snare a question which the nation follows, and we can easily foresee the future. The Radicals will stand in the way of any government trying to support Proportional Representation or political reforms akin to it, in hope of discouraging the President, but they will not dare go against them when military or international measures are in question.
Who will be ultimately defeated in this contest between the legislative and the executive powers? Is it possible for a President either to fight the Parliament or even to withstand its antagonism? President Casimir-Périer, who found himself in 1895 in a position somewhat similar to that of Poincaré, did not think so, and resigned after six months of what he later on described as everyday torture. But. many jurists have since expressed their opinion that M. Casimir-Périer had not even begun to use the rights which the Constitution gave him.
The year after that President’s resignation a very young but already distinguished deputy, addressing his constituents at Commercy, did not take sides as between Casimir-Périer and Parliament, but said in very forcible language that the rôle which the Chamber was constantly assuming was anticonstitutional. This young deputy was M. Poincaré.
Will the President make use of the restrictions which the Constitution places at his disposal? He may, for instance, prorogue the Chambers twice in the course of a session, and he need keep them in session only five months in twelve. The mere exercise of this right would give him and a congenial Cabinet perfect freedom from parliamentary control during the greater part of the year. It is not likely that he will adopt this policy, to which his enemies would easily give the appearance of a coup d’état. The probabilit ies are that he will pretend to ignore the schemes and intrigues of the Radicals, and will good-humoredly replace government after government as it falls, counting on the powerful influence of the new public spirit to force a patriotic attitude on Parliament, and counting on popular common sense to see through the manœuvres of politicians. The brisk buoyant manner in which he has until now accomplished the official part of his task, appearing everywhere, speaking everywhere, displaying more activity in his first six months than M. Fallières in his whole seven years, appears to me as revealing both a mood and a resolution. The mood is evident happiness in feeling himself in communion with France, and the resolution is to let France find out more and more for herself how remote she is from the petty Radical disposition. On the other hand, the transformation of At. Barthou from a clever politician into a real head of government shows the continuous presence of a stronger will, which is no other than that of the President embodying that of the country. So that this at least is certain, that AI. Poincare will fight the battles of France against inferior Frenchmen at home, and will, in all likelihood, fight them successfully.
Of his foreign and European policies one can speak only in the most general terms. An impression seems to have prevailed abroad, thanks to ill-informed comments on the Three-YearService law, that M. Poincaré might be a warlike and somewhat adventurous President, with a Lorrainer’s background and the memories of 1870 still fresh in him to encourage him in that attitude. Such an impression is one which only false presentments and insufficient knowledge of the European atmosphere at t he present moment can create. All Europe is in arms, and it would be treason for a French president to adopt Jaurès’s language in favor of disarmament. As to the ThreeYear-Service law, those persons who have even cursorily followed the debates of the Chamber on the question can have no doubt that it is a mere defensive measure, securing six hundred thousand men—instead of four — against the eight hundred thousand of Germany.
The so-called Russophil tendency of the President is of exactly the same order, How could a French President be otherwise than Russophil, whatever his personal sympathies may be, when the Russian alliance is the only French alliance, and during the sixteen years of its duration has never once appeared to be other than merely defensive? M. Barthou formally denied in the Chamber that Russia had anything to do with the extension of the military service, but the briefest examination of the pros and cons of the measure would be enough to demonstrate it. The international interests of France at the present moment are too apparent to admit of two policies, and the policy of M. Poincaré as President cannot be different from his policy as Foreign Minister, which was approved by everybody outside a blindly antagonistic party.
The conclusion of this article need not be long: no situation was ever clearer than that of the new French President, and the reader surely realizes that it is more the situation of the country than that of the man. With all his talent and popularity, with his capacity for work, his clear-sightedness and self-command, M. Poincaré would not be the President he is if his past had not enabled him to be in an emergency simply a patriot instead of a politician. As it is, his own personal interests are fused with those of the nation, and indiscernible from them. This may be called rare luck, but it ought also to be called rare civic virtue. Certain it is that M. Poincaré appears as an excellent representative of France when she is passing from the anarchy of dreams to the self-possession of definite ideals, and nobody can name the man who would hold his position as well.
- Vol. CXCVII, pp. 335 et seq.↩
- The system of laws known as the Republican Constitution makes it imperative that any act of the President should be countersigned by one minister; but, conversely, it is enough if an act of a minister — for instance, a secret treaty—is countersigned by the President, unknown to the rest of the Cabinet. — THE AUTHOR.↩
- An incident connected with the protection given to some deserters in Morocco.↩