A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 132

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FRANCE IN WARTIME


among the better classes, which so strengthened the government that the latter ratified the decisions of the military power by forbidding the manufacture, sale and consumption of absinthe throughout the whole territory of the French republic, of its dependencies and colonies. To anyone who knows what ravages were wrought by the "green enchantress" on the working classes in huge industrial centres, how she filled the asylums with maniacs and weakened the race, this vote of Parliament must seem a victory in itself.

Frenchmen knew that they had the necessary courage to sustain the shock of a formidable enemy which attacked them treacherously by violating the frontiers of a neutral country, and they also knew that the success of their resistance depended on their will, their firmness of soul, their coolness. It must be confessed that they nourished strange illusions, shared by other opponents of Germany. Germans have committed a series of capital mistakes in assuming beforehand the complacency of Belgium, the indifference of Britain, the impossibility on the part of France of opposing the invasion of her soil and the capture of her capital. The military chiefs, advisers of the kaiser, repeated during the first days of the war that the French mobilization would be hindered by sabotage, thwarted and disorganized by the workmen's syndicates; that a revolution breaking out in Paris would upset the government and create grave disorders by which the German armies might profit to reach Paris without striking a blow. With all their foresight the Germans had not foreseen the "sacred union" and Joffre.

On the other hand, the French did not suspect the formidable power of their enemies, their crushing superiority in arms and numbers. They clung to those antiquated ideas about the value of the individual combatant, about his superiority to mere material. They paid dearly for this mistake. Of what use was the dash of troops against machine guns which mowed them down and so prevented them from coming to grips with the foe? What could heroic bravery avail against the torrent of shells rained on them by the enemy?

One had dreamed of formidable encounters in which the "furia francese" should have irresistibly flung back the hostile hordes and driven them as far as the farther side of the Rhine. The opposite to this happened, and public sentiment, taken aback at first, was not slow to accept this defensive war, preceded by a

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