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Anatole France: Even war depends on the arts of peace


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

French writers on war and peace

Anatole France: Selections on war


Anatole France

When the man who bears witness is armed with a sword, it is the sword’s evidence that must be listened to, not the man’s. The man is contemptible and may be wrong. The sword is not contemptible and is always right. President Bourriche has seen deeply into the spirit of laws. Society rests on force; force must be respected as the august foundation of society. Justice is the administration of force.


“To disarm the strong and to arm the weak would be to subvert that social order which it is my duty to preserve. Justice is the sanction of established injustice. Was justice ever seen to oppose conquerors and usurpers? When an unlawful power arises, justice has only to recognize it and it becomes lawful. Form is everything; and between crime and innocence there is but the thickness of a piece of stamped paper….”



“The last time I saw him he was talking of military tactics and strategy. They were his favourite topic of conversation. Although the campaign of ’70, in which he had served, was conducted with the greatest disorder and confusion, he was persuaded that the art of war is the finest of all arts. And I fear that I must have vexed him by saying that properly speaking there is no art of war, for the arts that are really employed in campaigns are those of peace; baking, farriery, the maintenance of order, chemistry, etc.”

“Why did you say such things, Lucien?” asked Mademoiselle Bergeret.

“Because I was convinced of their truth,” replied her brother. “What is called strategy is really the art practised by Cook’s agency. It consists in crossing rivers by way of bridges and getting the other side of mountains through passes. As for military tactics, the rules are childish. Great Captains pay no attention to them. Although they would never admit it, they leave much to chance. Their art is to create prejudices In their favour. Conquest becomes easy to them when they are believed to be unconquerable. It Is only on a plan that a battle assumes that aspect of order and regularity which reveals a dominant will.”

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