Front Page Titles (by Subject) ARE ALSACE AND LORRAINE WORTH MOST TO GERMANY OR FRANCE? ( From The Economist, 24 th September, 1870.) - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review)
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ARE ALSACE AND LORRAINE WORTH MOST TO GERMANY OR FRANCE? ( From “ The Economist, ” 24 th September, 1870.) - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 9 (Essays from the Economist, the Saturday Review) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 9.
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ARE ALSACE AND LORRAINE WORTH MOST TO GERMANY OR FRANCE?
The argument that the inhabitants of Alsace and of a certain portion of Lorraine, though admitted on all hands to be thoroughly French at heart, are by blood and by speech more German than French, is usually supposed to tell in favour of the German demand for their annexation. Perhaps it does so just so far as this, that it to some extent diminishes the difficulty which might be experienced and the length of time which might be needed for re-Germanising them, for restoring them to content and the feeling of self-respect as constituent parts of the German nation. Just so there are portions of the Austrian Tyrol, as heartily attached as any parts of the Tyrol to the Austrian rule, where Italian is the only language spoken, and though that is no argument for transferring these parts to Italy, it probably would require less length of time to assimilate these portions to Italian rule than it would to assimilate, for instance, the upper valley of the Adige where German only is understood. There can be no doubt at all events that it would take much less time to reconcile the recently annexed part of Savoy to French rule than to assimilate Nice, because in the former the language in use is entirely French, and the people therefore understand the literature of their adopted country and the laws and orders of their administrative chiefs, while in the latter the literature and the laws are the literature and the laws of foreigners. The case is not indeed so favourable in the greater part of Alsace, for the dialect of the Vosges, the language actually in use by the country people of the department, is unintelligible to most Germans; and newspapers written in pure German would be orally unintelligible to illiterate inhabitants. But conceding that so far as the affinity of blood and the similarity of forms of speech go, there would be some attenuation of the difficulty of re-Germanising these Alsatians and Lorrainers, the further question remains to be asked—whether the process, if it can be accomplished, would be a gain or a loss, in moral resources, to the world at large;—whether it would enrich Germany more or less than it would impoverish France?
Now, we think it would be easy to show that France has owed a vast deal of her influence in Europe to her wonderful power of reconciling and mingling genius and races of the most dissimilar elements in one great national whole, and so enlarging the resources of character on which the nation has to depend. Nothing can well be more distinct than the Gascon, the Provençal, the Parisian, the Norman, and the Breton. Yet all these widely different races, and not only these, but the Italians of Corsica and the French Swiss, have lent France great men—great men, who have at times influenced profoundly the destinies of the country. The Girondists, for instance, who so materially influenced the fortunes of the revolution, were a party bound together as much by local and provincial feeling, as by mere community of principle,—in fact, the peculiar shade of their political principles arose out of the character of the race from whom they came; and so, again, the peculiar temperament and faith of Brittany have constantly exerted the deepest influence on French history. Look only at the men who represented the various phases in the French Revolution, and consider how widely distinct were the genealogical and moral elements they contributed. Voltaire was a thorough Frenchman, from the neighbourhood of Paris, and of the Parisian type; Diderot, a Burgundian; Rousseau, a Swiss; Mirabeau, a Provençal of Florentine extraction; Vergniaud, a North Gascon; Danton, from the North of France; Barère, a South Gascon; and Napoleon, a Corsican. Here was a succession of totally different elements which in turn became predominant over either the mind or the body, or both mind and body, of France. And a long list could easily be made of the great names of French literature, showing an equally wide variety of genius and race. Unquestionably it has been one of the first causes of the vast influence of France in Europe that she has covered so great a variety of races and provincial characters and yet managed to unite them all in ties of indissoluble strength. Norman masterliness, and Breton veneration and romance, and Parisian keenness of wit, and Gascon elasticity, and Provençal sentiment and gaiety, are elements as widely different from each other as it is easy to conceive bound up in a union so strong as that of the French nation. But in all these there is wanting one of the most important of all contributions to the elements of a great nation—the German fidelity, domesticity, and thoroughness of character, and these are more or less exhibited in those Eastern provinces of German extraction which Germany now covets, and proposes to reclaim.
Now we do not hesitate to say that as a general rule a nation gains more, man for man, by those districts of its country which supplement the weakness of its typical character than by those which are most characteristic and typical,—so long as the former belong to it willingly, and really yield to it their characteristic genius and life. France needs German elements, so long as they embrace French rule gladly, more probably than she needs any other elements of the national life. To her the quasi-German stock of Alsace and Lorraine is invaluable, while to Germany it would only add what Germany has already in superabundance. And let it not be said that this argument is directly opposed to the political tendencies of the day, which aggregate like to like, and break up empires of heterogeneous provinces held together by sheer force, like the Empire of Austria for instance before 1859. We quite admit and even maintain that it is absolutely needful for the development of any healthy national life that the union between the distinct and mutually-supplementing elements of which we have spoken should be not compulsory, but perfectly cordial and willing. Only when that is so,—and no one denies that it is so in France in relation to Alsace and Lorraine,—we assert that the wider the range of distinct temperaments and stocks over which the rule of a nation extends the better it is for that nation. What does Great Britain not gain by the hearty co-operation of Scotch and English, and the totally different genius even of the Northern and the Southern English, in one and the same national unity? What might we not gain if we could ever bring Ireland into a union and co-operation as hearty? Now something like what Scotland gives to England, the Eastern and quasi-German provinces of France seem to us to give to France so long as they remain with her, and we believe that their separation would be an infinitely greater loss to the prospects of the French character and genius than they could possibly be a gain to Germany. The German qualities of character are those in which the French are peculiarly deficient. The plodding tenacity, the unambitious faithfulness of the German mind and character, are precisely the kind of qualities which France can borrow from the Eastern far better than from any other side of her Empire. France has everything to lose, and Germany, in a moral and intellectual point of view, little to gain from these so-called “rectifications” of boundary. Germany would have a perfect right to reclaim any German province of France which was discontented with the French yoke. But we not only deny that that right extends to German provinces of France which are heartily French, but we hold that it applies even less to such provinces than to provinces which are purely French in race and language, so long as these last are not more vehemently opposed to annexation than the Gallicised German provinces. The annexation of purely French provinces to Germany might indeed open a prospect of somewhat slower assimilation, but the assimilation once accomplished would probably be a real and great addition to the intellectual and moral wealth of Germany,—an addition by which Germany would be a great gainer. But in annexing German Lorraine and Alsace she would annex provinces with no strikingly new element of blood and character wherewith to enrich Germany, while she would take from France some of the best possible correctives of French deficiencies. With very little difference in the price to be paid,—the price of alien and oppressive government for two or three generations,—she would gain nothing but population by annexing provinces of German stock which have lost all their loyalty to Germany and are full of loyalty to France; whereas she would gain both population and moral elements of character and genius by annexing provinces purely French.
We are well aware that this argument is not one which will appear of the least weight either to the military leaders of Germany who are thinking and talking of nothing but the strength of the military frontier, or to the German pamphleteers who are raving about the redemption of provinces stolen hundreds of years ago from the “Fatherland”. But it is a consideration which should have some little weight with Englishmen who are considering impartially what the true limits of the new doctrine of nationalities ought to be; and for our own parts, we believe it is one of infinitely greater importance than the very trivial military considerations which at present absorb so much more than their fair share of attention. That North and South Germany, with a population already exceeding 40,000,000,—and that a rapidly increasing population,—and an outlying German population of some 20,000,000 more, which no doubt they are looking forward to absorbing soon into their mighty national life, and with an army the best organised, the most numerous, and the most successful which the world has ever known, should pretend to be seriously afraid of what a defeated and disorganised France, with a stationary population of only 37,000,000, and no prospect of extension in any direction, can do in the way of invasion, seems to us, we confess, pure affectation. Alsace and Lorraine are worth infinitely more in a moral point of view to France than they can be in a military point of view to Germany.