Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Heureux Jour de Bastille 2015 -- July 14, 2015

New York Tribune, 14-July-1915
Happy Bastille Day, everyone.  This editorial is from the 14-July-1915 New York Tribune.  I guess their stylebook spelled "Bastille" as "Bastile." 

On Bastile Day.

For many millions of men and women removed from the battle lines of the present conflict the national holiday of France will this year seem the most splendid in French history since the day on which the people of the Old Monarchy appeared at the gates of the Bastile and battered in that breach in the walls of tyranny which has never been closed.

In our own day there has come to France for the third time in her wonderful history the duty to defend civilization against the inroads of destructive barbarism. As she supplied at once the battleground and the resistance in the repulse of the Saracens at Poitiers, of the Huns in the Plain of Chalons, hard by the fields where the World War is still raging, France in last August and September bore the burden of one more assault upon the whole structure of our own culture and civilization.

In the confused and disproportionate bulletin of the early days of the war we, like the English, failed to grasp the magnitude of French effort, the stupendous character of the conflict which was fought along the Marne. To Belgian heroism, to British participation, we assigned importance far beyond the reality, A little shamefacedly, but with full and frank acknowledgment, the British press and public men are now making their amends.

For in that great opening act of the war it was France and France alone that bore the burden. Belgian resistance crumpled in a few brief days. The something less than a hundred thousand British troops who shared in the campaign from the Sambre to the Marne were but a chip on the wave of German invasion. It was France, rising from defeat, from the depression stretching back to Sedan and Gravolotte, who met the whole flood, stemmed it, rolled it back, settled the issue of the war in the opening days, assured to Europe the endurance of that democracy which the French Revolution brought to the Continent, to mankind.

Even at this near date there is small reason to question that in all future time the Battle of the Marne will take its place with that of Marathon in human history. A barbarism that was rolled back In the remoter struggle aimed at the destruction of the Hellenic beginnings, which are the foundation of all we know and reverence and live by. For all who believe in democracy, in liberty, equality, the right of men to live their own lives, of nations and races to follow their own ideals and their own culture, for all who believe in the gospel of "sweetness and light" and repulse the doctrine of "terribleness," and the idea of the "Superman," the theory of a right to rule vested in a chosen race and a superior people, the Battle of the Marne was an authentic sign of deliverance.

And for that we have France to thank. Upon her, unready as democratic states must always be, fell the full fury of more than 2,000,000 men, equipped with all the weapons, provided with all the utensils, furnished with all the requisites that the supreme genius of a nation whose gift for organization and capacity for concentration upon its purpose have never been equaled could supply. To meet this storm France had little more than half as many soldiers; she lacked the equipment, the preparation, the whole armory of warfare possessed by her tremendous foe.

Yet through opening defeat, in the hours when the thunder of German artillery shook the hills of Paris, when French cities were in flame and new hordes of flying peasants and terror-stricken women and children filled all the roads leading from the north, France never trembled, never lost courage, never for a single moment thought to desert the cause for which every Frenchman felt himself fighting, the cause of which his ancestors had fought against the Saracen and the Hun, the fight which France made against Europe for her own gospel of democracy in the days of the Revolution and won, not for herself but for mankind.

And at the Marne the issue of the war was decided. Years may yet pass before Germany is conquered. She may never be beaten to her knees. She may come from the struggle without the loss of a province, as France emerged from the Revolution intact. But German domination of Europe was a dream impossible of realization when Von Kluck and Von Bulow led beaten masses back across the Marne and through the hills of Champagne. The victory of ideas was assured, the triumph, the persistence of the ideas which are American as well us French and British was no longer in doubt when the French troops from Paris to the gates of Nancy leaped forward to the charge and to the advance in the early days of September.

Nearly a year has passed since those terrible days and it is still France who is holding the line. Russia has advanced and retreated. England has still fallen far short of her share in the world struggle. Early hopes of speedy victory have faded. But from Switzerland to Flanders the French line has held all that it won in the Battle of the Marne and added thereto new fields, new hectares of the fatherland, won back at the cost of incredible effort and sacrifice.

And in all this terrible time, when more then a million and a half of Frenchmen have gone to death, foreign prison or the hospital, there has come from the French people not a murmur. There is about the silence of forty million! something more impressive, more terrible than all the thunders of protests that come from other nations. It is as if a whole race had with complete unity of mind recognized that its final hour had come; that the issue joined was one of life or death, and in that realization had gone forth to battle, not boastfully, not animated by overconfidence or unwarranted optimism, but with the complete foreknowledge that only victorious could they, could France, survive.

All this means more to us in America more than we have yet seen, than we shall realize for years to come. Alone of all the nations at war France is a democracy in the full sense in which we are. Her armies are armies ruled by her citizens, officered by her sons without regard to rank in social scheme. Her equality is our equality, her ideals are our ideals. Her revolution and ours have permeated and penetrated the whole structure of our respective national lives. The dreams of world peace, disarmament, arbitration which we have cherished and sought to champion France has hailed and served, her very weakness last August was due to the fact that her statesmen and her citizens, like our own, had listened too willingly to the voice of those who would have them believe possible what Franco longed to see accomplished.

If France had failed the German idea would not necessarily have conquered the world permanently. To believe this is to believe that all that centuries have won can be lost in an hour and that mankind does not advance through all the ages. But it would have meant that all over the world, in America as in Europe, all men of all races would have had to send their sons to the barracks, civilization would temporarily have had to give the soldier first place. We should not have been able to live according to the will of our race, hut according to the necessities imposed from without.

But France did not fail. Rather she won not her fight alone, but our fight. She saved the democracy she had bestowed upon Europe. She held the line of our civilization against the magnificent but destructive barbarism of the German idea. She not only held the line, but she threw the invader back. After the Battle of the Marne the Teutonic dream of world power was as completely shattered as that of Napoleon was destroyed at Leipsic. Had France done no more, had she died in doing it, her service would have been out of proportion to her responsibility. Hut she did more; she is doing more now. Alone of the foes of Germany she is to-day at the height of her task.

Happily on this, Bastile Day, the whole world is beginning to appreciate the magnitude of French service. Indeed, nowhere more frankly than in German ranks does French courage, devotion, efficiency find just appraisal. And in America, for our ancien ally, who gave her sons and her treasure that our Revolution might succeed can there be anything but homage and admiration for the nation which is once more fighting, and fighting for what millions of us believe is the cause of mankind, for liberty, for the ideas and the ideal which we hold are our own quite as much as they are French?

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