DURING the past year a new France has emerged: it is the France which makes peculiarly its own ideas of internationalization, of pacifism, of universal friendship. It is possible to discover many flaws in the present reasoning of France, and some of the political beliefs which are held argue a strange credulity. Moreover, Radicalism — it is perhaps necessary to state that radicalism in France has not the same implications as in America — is overlaid with many foolish and false doctrines; much of the religious controversy which has been raised was altogether uncalled for. It did not appear that the new majority could at once behave differentiy in any material sense from its predecessors. The elections had not been fought, for example, on the question of the Ruhr, and nobody could pretend that the Herriot Government had a mandate to reverse the policy of M. Poincaré. Yet, although it seemed to be hard to deflect the current of public opinion, and although it seemed at least doubtful whether M. Herriot, and many of his followers who leaned toward the Right, seriously wished to deflect the current, in the sequel it was shown that none of us had sufficiently realized how, when once a stream is turned, its new direction may bear no relation to its previous course. The application of metaphors to politics is always misleading, and certainly it was wrong to imagine that the bed of the stream could be shifted a few feet to the Left or Right; the truth is that a new orientation was effected, and the current began to flow in an almost diametrically opposed direction.
For years we had been accustomed to a France that relied upon coercion. We had seen France chiefly desirous of stereotyping the victory of 1918. Germany was to be kept down at all costs; if possible, she was to be broken up. M. Clemenceau had agreed with Marshal Foch that the Rhine was the real frontier of Germany, although he was unable to impose his views straightforwardly on the Peace Conference and was obliged to accept an occupation of Rhineland nominally limited in time, though in reality capable of indefinite extension. M. Poincaré had, after many manœuvres, managed to extend the occupation in a territorial as well as a time sense. Impossible reparationclaims were maintained, chiefly, it appeared, in order that the nonpayment of Reparations might be exploited. France was engaged in constructing a chain of States from the Baltic to the Black Sea, designed to create a permanent coalition of interests against Germany. Militarism was rampant; the army was to be maintained even in peace time at the amazingly high figure of nearly three quarters of a million men, while in Central Europe France encouraged the maintenance of armies which she helped to equip.
Public opinion, both in England and America, although sympathizing with the unhappy experience of France, nevertheless turned against her because the country was supposed to have adopted conceptions based purely on the employment of force. Just as Germany had endeavored to dominate Europe by mere brute strength, so France, after the victory rendered possible only by British and American aid, was supposed to seek the domination of the Continent by material might.
Even those Americans who do not favor the League of Nations in its present form do at least recognize that for Europe some such clearing-house for quarrels has become a necessity; but from the beginning France was seen to be cynically antagonistic to the whole notion of the League. There can be no doubt that France had come to be regarded as a public nuisance — a country altogether reactionary. This was not entirely her fault. The manner in which the country had been treated by its war associates was hardly creditable: England had taken what she wanted in the shape of the German colonies and the destruction of the German fleet, while France, who had been promised enormous sums by way of Reparations, found that little was to be obtained. America, though declining to take anything for herself, had gone back on promises made by President Wilson, which the French justifiably supposed had been made in the nation’s name. The Triple Pact, which was to guarantee France against invasion, had fallen to the ground. The United States neither ratified the Treaty of Versailles nor accepted the Covenant of the League. Both England and America held over France the menace of huge war-debts that had been incurred in the common cause. England and America together had become the financial leaders of the world, while France’s finances were — partly owing to her advances for the repair of the devastated regions — in parlous case. In addition there was a feeling that France was being dragged down to the level of a second-rate nation, compelled to obey the behests of England as represented by the astute Mr. Lloyd George and the overbearing Lord Curzon. And when France believed herself deserted by her allies and swindled by her former enemies she determined on the desperate policy that resulted in the seizing of the rich Westphalian coal-fields.
There was much excuse for France; but whatever her provocation, she incurred the reproaches of the world; and the other France that has always been in the vanguard of civilization, that has always generously originated and fostered ideas of human progress, appeared to be obliterated — altogether forgotten. It seemed hardly possible that there could be a speedy reversal, that France in a few months could recover her old position as one of the moral leaders of mankind.
But the miracle happened. It happened much more quickly than anybody could have anticipated. The bitter feelings that had been engendered between France and England were swept away as if by magic; the Reparations problem was — at least provisionally — solved by the acceptance and application of the Dawes Report; there was a promise to abandon the Ruhr within a stated period of time; more normal peaceful relations between France and Germany were fostered, and the two countries began to hammer out economic and commercial accords; the League of Nations, which had been scoffed at from its earliest days, was suddenly rediscovered; and France was foremost in promoting a protocol that — with all its defects — may at any rate lead to general disarmament. The stigma which had been placed upon France was removed: no longer was she represented to be a militarist country, bellicose and aggressive, ungenerous and unimaginative, immorally taking advantage of her victory; she was now recognized to be peace-loving, inspired by high ideals, striving for the general good.
That this extraordinary transformation should be brought about in a few months may well appear to be one of the most surprising facts of modern history. It is interesting, therefore, to examine some of the causes and to glance at some of the persons who have contributed to this remarkable emergence of the new and — as many would say — the true France.
In the first place, the greatest tribute should be paid to America. Only American participation in the proceedings of the Dawes Committee could have imposed a Reparations settlement on France and on Germany. There are many critics of the Dawes Report. It is possible that the scheme simply gives us a breathing-space: that in a few years it will break down completely. Even its authors recognize that the difficulties of transferring large sums of money from one country to another have not been overcome. Nobody — neither banker nor expert nor statesman — has anything but the vaguest plan for making use of the money which Germany is to pay into a pool at Berlin for Reparations purposes. The central problem has not even been tackled. But enough has been done to satisfy both sides for a few years; and in a few years we shall be able to look at the whole question in an entirely different spirit. Further, the onus of collection is placed upon the Allies, and Germany cannot be held to account for defaults for which she is not responsible. There is no acute quarrel between France and Germany, and a means is provided by which France can honorably evacuate the territories which she holds, perhaps illegally, without doubt unfruitfully.
It is impossible to exaggerate the enormous service that America has rendered to Europe in furnishing this way of escape, which even M. Poincaré could hardly refuse to take. The money for various purposes — including the restoration of Germany — which America has contributed is of first-rate importance, as opportune and as vital as the intervention of America in the war. Just as American soldiers saved the situation in Europe in 1917 and 1918, so did American financiers save the situation in Europe in 1924. Any account of the change in Europe which did not take heed of this factor would omit the central circumstance; but we must further give every credit to the MacDonald Ministry which, whatever its record in domestic affairs, in nine months accomplished more for the pacification of Europe than all the preceding governments had accomplished in five years.
It would not be too much to state that Mr. MacDonald, inexperienced as he was in practical statesmanship a year ago, proved to be the best Foreign Secretary that England has had in recent times. Lord Curzon and M. Poincaré between them had made Anglo-French relations worse than they had been for many years, and bad relations between France and England meant bad relations between France and Germany. It was not by bullying or threatening that M. Poincaré could be dislodged and French sentiment could be changed. Had Lord Curzon continued in office, M. Poincaré would have been supported even by the Radicals, and there would have been no substantial turnover at the May elections. The tactics which had been pursued were altogether wrong.
Mr. MacDonald tried a new method, one that succeeded. He set out to make friends with France, and a rapprochement between France and England meant the possibility of a rapprochement between France and Germany. The great merit of Mr. MacDonald was to rediscover the elementary truth that to come to terms it is necessary to talk reasonably; that it is impossible to talk reasonably in an atmosphere of hostility; that a common policy can be discovered only by nations who are animated by good feeling toward each other. Such a return to the rudiments of diplomacy — which had been overlooked by proconsular persons — was the signal service that Mr. MacDonald rendered to Europe. The Labor Government in England, whatever may be said about it in other respects, was timely and admirable in that it determined the victory of the Radicals in France. The mood altered amazingly; France was just as anxious for an all-round understanding as she had appeared — in the earlier years — to be anxious for perpetuation of misunderstandings as the alternative to a complete surrender of England and of Germany to her own views.
It is of relatively little importance to ask whether the arrangements that have now been made are workable or not; the essential thing has been accomplished, and the essential thing was to foster a fresh spirit. The London Conference was the most helpful one that has yet been held. It was followed by the League Assembly at Geneva, whose practical results may be questioned, but whose moral effect on the relations of European countries is excellent. If it is foolishly premature to say that war has been abolished, at least it is possible to say that an attempt has been made to exorcise the malign influences which separated peoples. The inclusion of Germany in the comity of nations — and presumably the ultimate inclusion of Russia — means that in future European countries can discuss without passion the problems which remain.
Although a good deal has been written about M. Herriot, most of the men in France who have helped to fashion the new policy are almost unknown abroad.
There is, first of all, M. Gaston Doumergue, the President of the Republic. His part has not been very active; at the Élysée, warned by the fate of his predecessor, he practises impartiality to a point where it would seem to resemble lack of convictions. But at any rate, the presence at the Élysée of a man who will not oppose the party in power has rendered possible the making of numerous concessions which, had M. Millerand remained in office, would not have been accorded. It should always be remembered that the French president has nothing like the authority of the American president; he may, indeed, be a mere cipher. Some of the best presidents of France have interfered with the course of events to an exceedingly small degree: one would put President Loubet and President Fallières in this category; they were popular, and managed — unlike most of the French presidents — to reach successfully the end of the seven-year tenure of office. Other presidents, with the exception of M. Poincaré, — who had certainly more influence on events than M. Loubet or M. Fallières, but who nevertheless never openly opposed his Prime Ministers, — fell before the expiration of the period for which they were elected and fell because they tried to become real rulers. The French are afraid of a dictatorship: they shrink from the Bonapartist tradition. Napoleon I seized the reins of power by sheer force of character, indeed, of genius; but Napoleon III — Napoleon the Little, as he was called by Victor Hugo — was originally elected as President, turned himself into Emperor, and the disastrous crash of the Second Empire is vividly remembered. When General Boulanger appeared to be seeking personal power, he was ruthlessly broken by the French. The struggle with Marshal MacMahon, who sought as President to exercise real authority, lasted for some time, but it was MacMahon who was crushed. Any president who is not content to be a mere figurehead runs great risks.
M. Millerand, who in 1920 was elected to the presidency, was a somewhat headstrong, obstinate man, who tried to direct affairs as he considered a president should. He did not disguise his party leanings; he was the founder of the Bloc National, and stood even more than M. Poincaré for a policy of military alliances and of military coercion of Germany. It became necessary, in the opinion of the leaders of the Radical Party, to get rid of a president who claimed to count in the ministerial councils. M. Millerand was suspected of aiming at a sort of dictatorship. By a series of manœuvres — in reality a strike of ministers — he was compelled to resign, and the National Assembly, that is to say, the Senate and the Chamber meeting together, on June 13 elected M. Gaston Doumergue as the thirteenth President of the Third Republic. The Radicals would have liked to place M. Paul Painlevé in this position, but in the two Houses they had not sufficient strength to impose their own partisan choice.
In these circumstances it would be surprising if M. Doumergue — selected chiefly because he offends nobody — were to be anything more than a colorless President. His function is to make pleasant speeches of a meaningless character, and to allow the Cabinet to govern as it pleases. So far, M. Doumergue has not gone outside the rôle allotted to him, nor is it likely that he will take sides in any quarrel. When he is called upon to form another ministry he will have no prejudices; he will accept whatever prime minister is designated by the sentiment of the two Houses. He would be equally at home with M. Poincaré, whose friend he is, — were M. Poincaré again to be indicated, — as with M. Caillaux, for whose acquittal he voted when M. Caillaux was tried by the Senate on various charges concerning his relations with emissaries of Germany.
Though the part of M. Doumergue in the making of the new France may fairly be described as negative, this does not mean that M. Doumergue is without character; he has throughout his career shown considerable ability and exceptional political sense. As is fairly common in France, he has risen from the most humble beginnings to the highest post. His father was a small farmer at Aigues-Vives in the South, and considerable sacrifices were necessary to send the boy to the Lycée of Nîmes. There he distinguished himself, and an effort was made to enable him to continue his studies until he became a lawyer. He went as a judge to Cochin China and then, after a short Colonial career, entered politics. Here his cordiality, industry, attention to affairs, and care not to make enemies, served him in excellent stead. He has held a number of ministerial posts. Doubtless a good deal of luck has aided M. Doumergue; nevertheless he is precisely the type of politician who in France, where personal jealousies and intrigues are intense, is often destined to succeed. M. Doumergue, if not a great figure, is at least a charming one, and he permitted M. Herriot, leader of the Radicals, to have full scope.
M. Paul Painlevé, who was his opponent at the presidential elections, is a man of another type, who counts for much in the shaping of policy. He was made President of the French Chamber, — in itself a post calling for impartiality, — but personally is a Radical of the Radicals. He feels strongly, thinks quickly, and expresses himself with emphasis. As he is one of the most brilliant mathematicians in France, one may well be surprised at his strong and ardent feeling; but one must remember that great mathematicians are not necessarily cold and cautious. Intuition’s swift leaps are, as Henri Poincaré pointed out, essential to the mathematician — indeed, to any scientific man who is not content to be the mere professorial person. Brilliant guesses and flights of imagination must afterward be checked and verified, but the true scientist is also an artist. Such is M. Painlevé, a strange mixture of the emotional and the critical faculties. He has an extraordinary facility of instructing himself in a subject through conversation. M. Henri Poincaré, the finest mathematician that France has produced, would read through a hundred pages of an abstruse memoir in a few minutes, and completely absorb it. M. Painlevé prefers the method of talking with an author, of putting penetrating questions. He too extracts the quintessence in a few minutes and he never forgets anything he has thus acquired.
Although M. Painlevé has never neglected to keep himself informed of the progress of mathematics, and was able to engage in a memorable discussion with Einstein two years ago, his attention has for a number of years been turned to politics, and with his lightning-like intelligence he gets to the heart of any question of domestic or foreign politics. For example, — if a personal reference be permitted, — I was greatly impressed when, after I had expounded in an hour-long lecture a subject to which I had given particular study, M. Painlevé, who was in the audience, arose and compressed into a dozen pregnant sentences all the points of my own discourse. In foreign affairs he not only knows the French point of view but, unlike most other French politicians, has thoroughly grasped the American and the British point of view. It is this ability to assimilate that has made him one of the most redoubtable of French statesmen, and although he formed no part of the Herriot Government he had more influence over some of its decisions than any other man. The part he plays in the present Parliament will probably be more conspicuous than it has been hitherto.
In the background there is M. Caillaux. In spite of his misfortunes he is looked upon by many Frenchmen as the financier who will eventually tackle the greatest of all French problems, that of the national finances.
Certainly everything will be done to bring him back. There is a good deal of opposition to him, and while the Bloc National held the majority there was no chance whatever of his return. But now that his friends are in office it is anticipated that he will, sooner or later, become not only again a member of parliament, but even a minister. This is possible, yet there is undoubtedly much against him; the handicap which he will carry may prove to be too heavy. It is unnecessary in this place to retrace his political life at any great length; it is sufficient to say that he was bitterly reproached for his negotiations with Germany in 1911, which resulted in the cession of a portion of the French Congo to the country that even then was threatening war; and that during the Great War he was arrested by M. Clemenceau on the allegation that he had improperly entered into relations with German agents. After his trial by the Senate, sitting as a High Court of Justice, he was deprived of his political rights and prohibited from entering the French capital for ten years.
This ban naturally had to be lifted when the Radicals won the elections. There were many Frenchmen who held that, although M. Caillaux had permitted himself to be mixed up in a number of unfortunate affairs, there was no real evidence of his disloyalty; nevertheless he has been branded as a pacifist and a pro-German. It remains to be seen how far he will be able to live down this reputation, how far some of his actions and aspirations may, indeed, in France’s new frame of mind, be regarded as to his credit. Since the days when he was the acknowledged chief of the Radical Party other chiefs have arisen, and he will not find it easy to overcome a certain personal opposition in his own party. Yet even when he remained in his retreat at Mamers his speeches and his writings and his interviews with prominent Radicals and Socialists were by no means negligible. His power, exercised openly or occultly, was indeed formidable. The present tendency is clearly toward a real reconciliation with Germany, and there are those who go so far as to foresee a definite economic and political union of France and Germany which will constitute what is known as a ‘Continental bloc.’
In addition to the fact of M. Caillaux’s attitude toward Germany, a legend has sprung up around him as being the great financier who alone can put France on her feet again financially. It cannot be denied that the budget which M. Clementel, the Finance Minister in the Herriot Cabinet, prepared for 1925 is altogether inadequate; it does not go to the root of the French trouble. Probably one could not expect more to be done in a few months, but before the expiration of the four years for which the French Parliament is elected it is imperative that a better budget be prepared. For many, M. Caillaux is the man to prepare it. While England is financially sound and economically sick, France is economically sound and financially sick. The chief point to notice is that, altogether apart from the French debt to the United States and to England, there is an internal debt which is altogether out of proportion to the annual revenue of the country. If one assumes that the annual revenue must remain somewhere around the figure of thirty milliard francs, at least half this revenue must go, not to the current needs of the State, but simply to the service of the internal debt. There is the canker; and German payments to France, even at their highest, hardly touch the spot. Can M. Caillaux indeed discover the way out? He is certainly skillful, but those who call him the new Necker have perhaps chosen an unfortunate name for him. Necker did not avert the crash in the years which preceded the French Revolution.
M. Caillaux is one of the originators of the income tax in France and, as its protagonist, may be able to apply it better than it is applied to-day. His personal character is not, however, altogether sympathique; he is proud and irascible; he cannot lightly support contradiction; it is to be doubted whether he could long hold together any team.
Aristide Briand considers that he has found a Chamber after his own heart. Strictly speaking, he is not a Radical, since he stands aside from the parties, but he undoubtedly leans to the Left. It is believed that the ultimate configuration of the Chamber will be such that neither the Left nor the Right will have a clear majority. At the beginning the Radicals were able to govern with the active support of the Socialists, but the Socialists refused to enter the Radical Cabinet and the assistance which they gave could be withdrawn at any moment. There were, from the beginning, many reasons for supposing that the union of Radicals and Socialists could not long continue: if M. Herriot accepted the Socialists’ support, he had to accept to a large extent the Socialist doctrines or he would be overthrown in the Chamber; if he accepted the Socialist doctrines, then he would sooner or later be overthrown in the more moderate Senate. Thus the proper solution, as seen by some of the best observers, was a coalition of the Radicals with the moderate Republicans sitting on their right. A Cabinet of Concentration — a sort of Centre Party — was indicated.
Now M. Briand was capable of leading such a coalition. He is the most supple politician in France. He has been compared with Mr. Lloyd George; but Mr. Lloyd George, in the strict party-system which prevails in England, had not the same opportunities as M. Briand in France, where the group system usually operates. Mr. Lloyd George, during the war and the years which immediately followed the war, was eminently successful because the party system was broken down and there was, indeed, the possibility of a coalition. But now England has had enough of coalitions. France, on the other hand, appeared to have reverted to a more English system of party divisions; but in reality the groups still exist with their chances of multiple combinations. It is in manipulating the cards that M. Briand excels. Already he has been seven times Prime Minister of France — a remarkable record, which is not even approached by any other French politician. His versatility, his tact, and one may say his sense of opportunism are unequaled; his policy is always nicely balanced and full of nuances. He is a great improviser. There are more florid orators in the French Parliament, but for persuasiveness he is unmatched. His voice is deep and rich like a violoncello, and he plays on every chord; it changes perpetually in accordance with the effect he is producing on his audience, and nobody has ever been better able to catch the mood of an audience.
Certainly M. Briand will come again to the front in the present Parliament. With his stooped shoulders, his inveterate smoking of cigarettes, he gives an impression of indolence and, in fact, he is not to be numbered among the tremendous workers, such as M. Herriot and M. Poincaré. He depends upon his alert intelligence, his ability to appreciate instantly what should be done. When he is not in office he spends much of his time in the country on his sheep farm in Normandy. It was expected that M. Herriot would offer him a place in the Cabinet as his Foreign Minister, and failure to do this was perhaps a mistake; but M. Herriot’s temptation to put himself in the limelight was great, and at London he was eminently successful.
Nevertheless, when the Geneva Assembly met, M. Herriot had thought better of his desire to fulfill all the tasks himself; and with some difficulty he persuaded M. Briand, whose skill as a diplomatist is well known, — witness his wonderful handling of the Upper Silesian dispute and his all-but successful attempt at Cannes to bring about a European settlement, an attempt spoiled only by the intervention of M. Millerand, — to represent France at the League of Nations. The reëntry of M. Briand at Geneva was taken to foreshadow his early return as Prime Minister.
America knows M. Briand chiefly because of his oratory at the Washington Conference for the limitation of armaments. His efforts will, on the whole, be directed toward the furtherance of a permanent peace.
M. Louis Loucheur is a man of great ambition, and believes that he too, during the coming four years, will be given an opportunity of presiding over the Council of Ministers. He hesitated when the offer of an ambassadorship was made to him, because he did not want to be absent from Paris at the moment of crisis when he could best push his claims.
M. Loucheur is eminently likable; he seems to be all things to all men. He was a minister in the Clemenceau Government, and he then contrived to be a minister in the Briand Government. With the accession of the Radicals he at once made his peace with M. Herriot and was chosen one of the representatives of France at Geneva, where he was ubiquitous. He talks with volubility, and is certainly skilled in figures. What is reproached against him is that he is somewhat too volatile, and is inclined to mistake his wishes for realities, The truth has never been completely known about the mission on which he managed to get himself sent to London during the Poincaré régime, in order to effect a reconciliation between France and England; but it is significant that M. Loucheur’s own account of his conversations with British ministers was vastly more optimistic than the official account. Unfortunately his speculations were without solid foundation, and it is to be feared that his effusiveness is generally apt to evaporate into nothing. Nevertheless, he is one of the most remarkable of the newer men, and if he becomes a little more sober in his judgments he will clearly be one of the leaders of the present Parliament. For a long time it was the fashion to rail against him because of his reputed riches: M. Loucheur is the type of the great industrialist who, after acquiring an immense fortune, comes more or less accidentally into politics, acquires a liking for the game, and applies to politics the principles which have served him well in business. He is on good terms with everybody, is extremely active, and in the end will probably obtain all that he desires.
The greatest revelation of the Geneva Conference was M. Paul Boncour. He is an excellent orator of the florid kind, indulging in long, rolling, picturesque phrases and striking statuesque attitudes. In his manner on the platform there is much which is Dantonesque. His pink, clean-shaven face, surmounted by a shock of white hair, is the face of an actor. M. Paul Boncour is a successful advocate and one of the chiefs of the Socialist Party. He is a man of letters, and an authority on education. His knowledge of the law is profound; his argument is conducted with convincing logic. Altogether, he must be put among the intellectuals, with whom the Socialist Party in France abounds. Whatever may be true of other countries, it is true of France that Socialism seems to produce the greatest scholars and the best thinkers. Of course I do not refer to the revolutionary Communists; but the Socialists proper are in no way dangerous: they simply express and stand for a deep desire for human justice, human culture, and human uplift.
While Paul Boncour is somewhat to the Right of his party and favors the greatest possible coöperation with the bourgeois parties, M. Léon Blum, who has even more authority, insists on remaining aloof and was, from the beginning, ready to break with the Radicals if they did not do his bidding. M. Blum may not unfairly be described as the man who pulls the strings. He is exceptionally clever, and is one of the most learned men in France. He has written on a variety of subjects, literary, dramatic, and social. Politically he has devoted special attention to financial quest ions. Some of his speeches on this subject have been masterpieces of exposition.
M. Henry de Jouvenel is a Senator, and the editor of Le Matin. At a time when his newspaper was giving its support to M. Poincaré, M. de Jouvenel was — curiously enough — personally showing the greatest possible liberalism. Somehow he manages to combine friendship for M. Poincaré with a policy of the Left, and although his influence has perhaps not yet been conspicuous in the new France, he is alive to the changing needs of the hour. He has identified himself with the cause of the League of Nations, and has spoken eloquently on its behalf. In France he has been one of the ablest lieutenants of M. Léon Bourgeois, the venerable father of the League, who now appears to be dropping out of active public life. Others are now rushing to the rescue of the League, which has established itself, if not as a world institution, at least as a European institution; but M. Henry de Jouvenel had faith in it from the first, and deserves the utmost credit for his valiancy and his vision.
On the side of the Opposition there are few outstanding figures. They seem to have been entirely routed by the elections. M. Poincaré himself has become silent, and is content for the time being with a decent obscurity. It is M. Millerand, the defeated President, who is chiefly endeavoring to rally the scattered forces. He is a stalwart fighter, and maybe depended upon sooner or later to engage in a serious battle with the Radicals. His principal assistants are M. Maginot, the former War Minister, — distinguished for height and pugnacity, — and M. François Marsal, the powerful financier who gallantly agreed to form the shortlived Government that presented to the Chamber and to the Senate the messages of M. Millerand just before his resignation, during the strike of the ministers who could command a majority. Although Radicalism as such may not remain exclusively in office, it is doubtful whether the Opposition properly so-called will recover its lost ground until 1928. It may be taken that France has now entered upon a path leading away from the things for which M. Millerand and his followers unreservedly stood; but among those followers M. Poincaré is not to be numbered. In spite of his policy from 1922 to 1924, M. Poincaré professed liberal doctrines.
M. Herriot is not and never will be the rigid, austere, haughty statesman. He is incapable of animosities, he is incapable of concealing his frank delight in the majority of persons whom he meets. He is always acting unconventionally, out of the bigness of his heart — is not afraid to be a shirt-sleeved Prime Minister. One can really picture him in the magnificent cabinet de travail, of the Quai d’Orsay, with its gilt ornaments and its Gobelin tapestries, taking off his coat to tackle a job. He shocked State officials by smoking the plebeian pipe over his papers; there were even some remonstrances against the supposed lack of dignity in his pipe-topipe talks with the British Prime Minister. But his homeliness was honest: he comes from the people. His erudition, his taste, his clarity, and his industry made him first an excellent professor, then a sound author and journalist. Those same qualities were used in his administrative work at Lyon and his parliamentary work at Paris. His activity has always been extraordinary. For a score of years Mayor of Lyon, he would two or three times a week make the journey between that city and Paris to attend to his parliamentary or his municipal duties, snatching brief sleep in the train.
Whether M. Herriot declines or develops, he is certainly to be thanked as the man who, above all others, gave the impetus to the movement for better relations with England, with Germany, with Russia, and indeed with America. He is to be thanked as the man who led France from a policy of isolation, which the uncertain alliances with little States in Central Europe did not seriously modify, to the policy of coöperation and universal friendship. He is to be thanked as the man who, more than any other, made the new France — which is really the old France, the traditional France of generous impulses — the France which marches in the vanguard of civilization. He has probably made many mistakes during his administration; he has not been able to prevent the religious strife which some of his followers desire; he has not yet been able to place the nation’s finances on a sound basis; he has possibly underrated the forces of reaction in France and in other European countries; it is urged that he has indulged in a vague idealism, moving with his head among the clouds and his feet not always on the solid earth. But when criticism has done its worst, M. Herriot has in truth given a new turn to events. He has begun a fresh chapter of French history.
One could perhaps make up the number of pivotal men of the Third Republic to half a dozen, but outside this halfdozen the rest are mere politicians, who come and go and play their parts for good or for evil, who carry on for better or for worse, but historically do not represent supremely significant dates and events.
Herriot does represent one of the supremely significant dates and events of the Third Republic. He represents a turning-point. It would be invidious to attempt to determine how far this honor falls accidentally upon him, but that it has fallen upon him there can be no doubt: M. Herriot has been the instrument of the emancipation of France from the war mentality. He has unlocked the prison in which the nation after the war voluntarily placed herself, and France again walks freely and splendidly abroad in the wider world.