صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

over, his prodigious adventure was also the most cruel lesson that France could receive, as, in the wake of Napoleon's dazzling warlike achievements came, first of all, defeat, then social discontent and exhausted finances, and, lastly, the degeneration of our country. This lesson teaches us that such conquests are always followed by dire results, as, for instance, interior difficulties arising from the foothold gained by political rings and parties, and the prolonged crisis which still holds us in the balance, rendering us unable to find our equilibrium. The perusal of Napoleonic history would tempt none but a madman to wish for a renewal of military feats which, glorious as they were, were followed by a dismal confusion from which our country still suffers.

This is why I cannot admit that France would ever so jeopardize her future as to try to make it a repetition of her warlike past. I cannot believe that there are in France men possessed of so little reason and so ignorant of the philosophy of history as to dream of a belligerent future for their country; men who could cherish the idea first of fighting Germany, then of beginning afresh the marvellous campaigns of Napoleon and starting out anew to attack Europe. In the first place, such a dream could never be realized; and if it could, it would bring back upon us all the disasters which have oppressed us, all the difficulties which have beset us from the beginning of this century. If France were to hypnotize herself into this hope of conquest, she would be irrevocably, irretrievably lost. To encourage such aspirations, to make her believe that she could once again become the War Queen of Europe, the conquering nation, would be to feed her with poisoned bread, to lead her on to new catastrophes, and at length prepare her for her supreme defeat and subsequent disappearance.

I claim that her salvation lies in her abandonment of the warlike ideal. She has become a democracy, she is a Republic. I know full well that there is but little of the Republic about her except the mere name, and that, democratic as she wishes to be, she is still full of monarchical and clerical atavism. But, notwithstanding that she is so far from being the free republican nation that I would wish, I deem it impossible for her to turn backward unless she wishes to go headlong to destruction. If France be eager to resume her place as a great European nation, if she be anxious to once more find herself at the head of nations, if she be legitimately ambitious to be again preponderant, she must courageously re

nounce her old martial ideal. In 1789 her cry for deliverance re-echoed through all nations, and at that time she may be said to have instilled into the world the idea of liberty: her part to-day would be to inflame it with a spirit of justice. I would have her take the lead in this great socialist movement, in the reorganization of labor, which, in my opinion, will be the great feature of the coming century. I would see her at the head of the nations which will beget that future society in which, thanks to the organization of labor, there will be an even distribution of riches. I would that France might be the handmaid of this future society, of this expected evolution which will transform the world by bringing into it a new civilization.

In fine, I wish that she might live, above all, by her men of learning, by her thinkers; and that she would be convinced that war can only give a nation transitory power, a power subject to challenge, whereas, by fostering labor, by encouraging that progress toward a society in which justice will reign, a nation such as France can make herself mistress of the future. Thought is supreme; it breaks swords and stops the cannon's roar. The world was never positively conquered except by thought. What remains of great ancient nations, of Syria, Egypt, Greece and Rome, is not warlike achievements, but books and monuments; in fact, whatever is the fruit of labor and of peace.

We may speak of Alexander and Cæsar, but their splendid conquests belong only to a dead past, even their empires have crumbled away, nothing being left of them but ruins, grains of sand which are carried off by the wind; whereas, the works of Homer and Virgil and all the monuments of legislation and civilization still live and form a part of our wealth. And we are the children of these ancestors of human thought. The exploits of war count only insofar as they procure for legislators, poets and artists that peace which they most need in order to be able to produce these monuments of the wisdom and beauty of man.

I know that, for belief in peace and future disarmament, the time is scarcely auspicious, as we are now beholding an alarming recrudescence of militarism. Nations which until now seem to have held aloof from the contagion, to have escaped this madness so prevalent in Europe, now appear to be attacked. Thus, since the Spanish War, the United States seem to have become a victim of the war fever. I am not quite competent to judge the situation

in the United States, as I am not sufficiently well informed on the subject, and I speak merely from what I have seen in the newspapers and in some documents that were given me. However, I can see in that great nation a dangerous inclination toward war; I can detect the generation of vague ideas of future conquest. Until the present time, that country wisely occupied itself with its domestic affairs and let Europe severely alone, but now it is donning plumes and epaulettes and will probably be dreaming of possible campaigns and be carried away with the idea of military glory-notions so perilous as to have been responsible for the downfall of nations.

And England, since the resistance offered her in the Transvaal, that small Republic which she expected to subdue almost without an effort, even England has yielded to that most disturbing emotion, the growing desire of fostering the military spirit. To be sure, this state of mind is nothing new to the English. There is in England much of what we call imperialism; that is to say, a sort of national impulse which may lead her to extremes, a desire to extend her colonies, to make herself mistress of the most important posts in the world, or to acquire what the word imperialism denotes, dominion over the world.

Such is England's dream, and her symptoms in this regard are indeed alarming. Therefore, is Rudyard Kipling the most popular English novelist: it is no longer Dickens, the charming narrator, that the nation reads; no, Kipling is the author now winning loudest applause, Kipling, who is almost a soldier, a bugle sounding the charge. He fans all England's warlike passions, chooses his types from the new generation, and these types are those of men ready for war, putting in war their only hope, developing themselves morally and physically for war-in fact, having naught else in view but fighting and conquests. Until now, England has escaped the military spirit, in the sense that she has not had conscription. She has had no experience of that bloodtax, for she always had, and still has, paid troops. But the possibility of establishing military conscription in England, as it now exists in France and Germany, has already been discussed in the Houses of Lords and Commons. And this fact is singularly significant. After the battle of Waterloo and the defeat of Napoleon, England was wise enough not to be intoxicated with the glory of victory, and was satisfied with an army of hired soldiers; but to

day she is prone to introduce the system of military conscription. It can be clearly foreseen that if England should continue to meet with reverses in the Transvaal or, if victorious, should later be forced to defend herself or to attack stronger nations, she would hurriedly adopt conscription and exact military service from her subjects. This contingency is a serious one and shows that England is about to enter upon a new phase of her history. She has always been looked upon as being in retirement in her island, well protected by her coast defenses, proud and happy of her free institutions, sparing her subjects military conscription, living for commerce and for the development of the arts, when lo! she succumbs to the war passion which has reached her from the Continent, and becomes the latest victim of a folly which threatens the destruction of Europe in a frightful, general massacre.

It must be admitted that symptoms such as these are indeed terrifying. If the United States, on the one hand, and England on the other, were to arm all their male citizens, would not the situation become only the more alarming? On the other side of the seas would be found great fortified camps such as we have in Europe; there would be one in England and another in America, and both nations could truly be said to be under arms. Well may one tremble when peace is thus threatened. How, in face of it all, can we believe that war will soon have become a thing of the past?

Nevertheless, in conclusion, I shall repeat that I consider these terrifying symptoms the result of that ever-increasing uneasiness which is pushing to extremes the dread of war, is goading nations on to self-destruction, forcing them to make extravagant preparations for war in the hope that they will never again have to fight. The present crisis will, I feel, be the last, and is undoubtedly war's death-cry. It is war killing war; war making further war impossible; war forced to disappear because it is antisocial, because it ruins nations and impedes the progress of humanity toward the City of Peace and Justice, because it is a factor which, on account of its utter uselessness, must henceforth be banished from history.




So much has been said about Puerto Rico that it is difficult to say anything new. All understand the nature of the island and are familiar with the fact that, under that name, we are proposing to govern not only Puerto Rico proper, but also a number of adjacent islands-Vieque, Culebra, Mona, etc.—that were ceded to us by the treaty with Spain. Likewise, all are familiar, in a general way, with the population of these islands; that is to say, all know that they number, in the aggregate, about one million people; that only about fifteen per cent. are able to read or write, or are possessed of any property. This means that, in this new possession, we have something like 800,000 people who neither read nor write, and who own no property. These 800,000 are not only illiterate, but they are without any experience in selfgovernment, and know nothing, practically, of what is meant by free popular government.

If this were all that should be taken into account, it would be enough to make the problem of providing a government for Puerto Rico a serious one. But, when this duty was entered upon by the Congressional committees, they found not only the conditions already named, but they also found that the total property in all this island amounts, in the aggregate, to a valuation of only about $150,000,000, or a tax valuation-adopting the rule generally prevailing in the United States, where property is assessed for taxation-of about $100,000,000, that being two-thirds of the fair average selling price, and quite as much as it would bring, as a rule, if sold at a forced sale.

They found also, from the testimony adduced, that while there is no debt of a public character fixed upon the island, as a whole, there is, yet, a private indebtedness, evidenced by recorded mortgages on the real estate, of more than $26,000,000, or more than

« السابقةمتابعة »