Paris - Sharing The Glory
( Originally Published 1915 )
I REMEMBER having heard M. Emile Faguet say some years ago that the French are, individually, the most jealous race in the world of each other's attainments and achievements. The statement is true, when it is limited to the intellectual classes euphemistic term) is common among men of talent working in the same field, strangely enough it does, not hold equally true if the man who is doing the same kind of thing you are doing is a foreigner. The Frenchman does not brook the other Frenchman who dares to rival him, but he extends a hand to the competitor of another nation.
If there is no more jealous race than the French in their relations with each other, at the same time there is no more generous race in their praise of outsiders. I have friends who do not agree with this opinion, and who bring up proofs from their own experience to refute it. But the instances they cite are the exceptions that prove the rule. I hold to this opinion since the war began more strongly than ever before. And I have good reason to do so.
The spirit of generosity and the lack of jealousy shown by the French press during these past three months in regard to the exploits of their allies is wonderful.
From the very first moment of the war, the British Expeditionary Corps, although comprising only a tenth of the forces in action, has received the warmest praises from every newspaper in Paris. There has never been a word of criticism, even after the disastrous retreat from Charleroi to Compiègne. Full credit has been given to the important part that the British played in the Battle of the Marne, and in the present struggle along the Aisne.
The same spirit has been displayed towards the Belgians. The French have been untiring in their praise of the heroism of the Belgians at the moment of the German invasion, and have not hesitated to admit that the defense of Liege probably prevented the capture of Paris by the Germans. We read constantly in the papers about the exploits of the Belgians and the British, and I have never once seen the suggestion that the Allies were after all a negligible factor in the defense of France.
The colonial troops from Morocco, Tunis, and Senegal have also had a good press. In fact, they have been spoken of as the most daring and most efficient element in the offensive movements in Alsace, Lorraine, and Belgium at the beginning of the war. It is reported that the Germans are more afraid of them than any other body of men among their opponents.
Space also has been devoted to the movements of the Russian armies in Russian and Austrian Poland. It has been pointed out that the advance of General Rennenkampf, although it did not end successfully, was of very great service to the French army, because it compelled Germany to send many of her best regiments from the French field of action to stem the tide of the Russian invasion. One able French critic has declared that the way the Russian campaign has been managed from the very first day of the war has helped more in the salvation of France than if the troops engaged there had been actually united with the French army in repelling the German dash on Paris.
I contrast this admirable loyalty and [generous spirit of praise which France has shown with the despicable spirit of all the Balkan allies during their war with Turkey. Their selfconceit and jealousy prevented Bulgarians, Greeks, and Servians from seeing the importance of what other armies than their own had done. The spirit of France is an excellent augury of harmony in the settlement of the issues of the war. Germany cannot hope that those who are opposing her will fall out amongst themselves.
The French press is growing very restless over the continuance of the severe military censorship, which maintains its rule of brevity and anonymity in reporting the events of the battlefields. There is cold comfort for the journalists to have to publish, and for the people to have to continue to read daily, about the wonderful progress of the Russian armies against Austria and Germany, and the important part played by Russia in preventing the total concentration of the best German troops between Paris and Calais.
Bitterer still is the fact that the British newspapers seem to be given carte blanche to reproduce in the smallest detail the operations of their Expeditionary Corps in France and to give credit to individuals for exploits of war. In default of information of the movements of their own army, the Paris newspapers reproduce the accounts written by British journalists, and are naturally full of what the British army is doing.
The result is that when we open our newspapers at the breakfast table, we have every day glowing and detailed accounts of how the British bulldogs are holding back the Germans on the Belgian frontier and saving the day for France. One !would think that the French army was standing by and looking on while the British and Germans fought it out between them. The same thing is true of the aviation corps. We hear continually of daring raids of British aviators into German territory and of the dropping of bombs on Zeppelin sheds one hundred and fifty kilometers from the French frontier.
The French are getting restless. They would be inhuman if they were not. They reason : we have ten times as many airmen as the British, and our army in the field is five times as large as that of the British. Our losses since the beginning of the war,although we have no definite information have certainly exceeded the total number of the British forces engaged. Are the deeds of our soldiers and of our airmen to pass in silence and go into oblivion, while those of our allies are held up to us daily in glowing reports'?
But while they are eager to hear of French feats of arms, they do not translate this eagerness into jealousy of their allies. The military writers continue to give unstinted praise to the British and Russians, and to acknowledge the essential aid of the Belgians. The policy of silence and anonymity is burdensome, but it is being borne. In private conversation as well as in the newspapers, the restraint is splendid. There is glory enough for all. The French are giving it to others, and waiting patiently for their share. Could there be greater glory than just this'?