A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 121

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A Popular History of The Great War   ·   Volume 1: The First Phase - 1914   ·   Chapter 7: France in Wartime
France in Wartime

AN eminent English writer, who knows contemporary France as intimately as France of former days, wrote at the time: "We are all of one mind in admiring, and often with an admiration bordering on amazement, the magnificent temper in which the heroic French nation has faced its stupendous hour of trial."

Would war be imposed upon us? Such was the question, repeated anxiously in all French circles, political and financial, commercial and industrial; but the bulk of the population in the provinces, whether at manufacturing centres or in agricultural districts, was ready to believe still that the storm would pass. With more or less clearness, each imagined for himself the disastrous consequences which such a cataclysm would bring in its train for all those affected; one pictured the losses and ruin which a modern war would accumulate with its murderous arms and numberless masses of men, and the people refused to believe that there could be anywhere responsible heads of states mad enough to provoke such a frightful Armageddon.

When the definite rupture came between Austria and Serbia, public opinion realized that the conflict could not remain local, and that the efforts of the British and French diplomatists had been pure waste of time. A fortunate issue from the crisis was anticipated less and less, the fatal dénouement was perceived to be approaching, and one of the first effects of this pessimism was the almost total disappearance of gold and the scarcity of change. The difficulty arose of regulating purchases, and of changing notes of l00 and 50 francs. Immediately, economists and bankers demanded that notes of 20 and 5 francs should be put in circulation. Very quickly public imagination foresaw the almost inevitable menace of war, and everywhere it was accepted without braggadocio or terror, even when hopes of intervention were reduced to a feeble glimmer. None the less, opinion awaited from Berlin the gesture which would arrest Austria on the slope, at the bottom of which lay fatal collision...

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