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Anatole France: Modern Romans, the Americanization of the world

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Anatole France: Selections on war

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Anatole France
From On the White Stone (1905)
Translated by Charles E. Roche

EL2003_68

“Supposing even that Europe should become pacific, can you not see that America would become warlike? Following upon Cuba, reduced to the state of a vassal republic, Hawaii, Porto Rico, and the annexation of the Philippines, it is impossible to say that the American Union is not a conquering nation. A publicist of Yankee proclivities, Stead, has said amid the plaudits of the whole of the United States: ‘The Americanization of the world is on the march.’ And then there is Mr. Roosevelt, whose dream is to plant the Stars and Stripes in South Africa, Australia, and the West Indies. Mr. Roosevelt is Imperialist and he sighs for an America mistress of the world. Between ourselves, he is planning the Empire of Augustus. He has unfortunately perused Livy. The conquests of the Romans banish sleep from him. Have you read his speeches? They breathe a bellicose spirit. ‘Fight, my friends,’ says Mr. Roosevelt,’ and fight hard. There is nothing like blows. We are upon earth only to exterminate one another. Those who tell you the contrary are men without morality. Mistrust men who think. Thought enervates. ‘Tis a French failing. The Romans conquered the world. They lost it. We are the modern Romans.’ Words full of eloquence, backed up with a navy which will soon be the second in the world, and with a military Budget of 40,500,000 francs!

“The Yankees declare that in four years’ time they will fight Germany. If we are to believe this, they should first tell us where they expect to come into contact with the enemy. That a Russia, the serf of her Czar, that a still feudal Germany, should entertain armies for fighting purposes, this one is tempted to lay to the door of ancient habits and the survival of a strenuous past. But that a young democracy, the United States of America, an aggregation of business men, a mass of emigrants from all countries, lacking community, traditions, and memories, madly cast into the scramble for the mighty dollar, should of a sudden be swept with the desire of firing torpedoes at the flanks of battleships, and of exploding mines under the enemy’s columns, affords a proof that the inordinate struggle for the production and exploitation of riches keeps alive the employment of and taste for brutal force, that industrial violence engenders military violence, and that mercantile rivalries kindle between nations hatreds that bloodshed can alone extinguish. The colonial mania of which you were speaking a while ago is but one of the thousand forms of the much-vaunted competition of our economists. The capitalistic state is just as much a warlike one as the feudal. The era has dawned of great wars for the industrial sovereignty. Under the present regime of national production it is the cannon which fixes tariffs, establishes customs, opens and closes markets. There exists no other regulator of commerce and industry. Extermination is the fatal result of the economic conditions in which the civilised world finds itself to-day…”

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