Great Speeches of the War/Viviani

M. René Viviani
(French Minister for Foreign Affairs)
M. VIVIANI
(PREMIER OF THE FRENCH SENATE)

[Speech at the re-opening of the French Parliament in Paris on December 22, 1914. On the threatened investment of Paris the Government removed to Bordeaux, where the business of the State was conducted for four months.]

Gentlemen:—There is at present but one policy—a policy of merciless war until Europe has secured final liberation guaranteed by a completely victorious peace. That is the unanimous cry of Parliament, of the country, and of the army. In the face of the unexpected uprising of national sentiment, so unexpected by her, Germany was disturbed in the intoxication of her dream of victory. The French national unity surprised Germany. She had first denied right and spurned history; now she tried to find excuses, but they were so many lies. All the documents published by other nations have proved them so, and likewise the sensational statement of one of the most illustrious representatives of the noble Italian nation, and since France and the Allies have now been compelled into war, they and we will wage it to the bitter end. [The whole House rises and applauds.] France, faithful to the Treaty of September 4, in which she pledged her honour, that is, her life, will lay down arms only when outraged right has been avenged; when for ever the provinces torn from her have been rejoined to her; when heroic Belgium has been restored to her full material and political independence, when Prussian militarism has been broken, and regenerate Europe rebuilt according to justice. [The whole House rises and applauds for several minutes.]

These projects for peace and war are not suggested to us, gentlemen, by mere presumptuous hopes. We have the certainty of success. [Enthusiastic cheers.] We have shown that, as the Commander-in-Chief, who is a great soldier and a noble citizen—[renewed cheers]—said, the Republic may feel proud of the army she has prepared.

We salute all those heroes—glory to those who have fallen in the field before the final victory, and to those who by the final victory will to-morrow avenge them.

Gentlemen, the hour of final victory has not yet struck. The task till then will be severe. It may be long. Let us brace our courage and our will to it to-day, as yesterday. Let us utter one cry—Victory; see one vision—Our Country; entertain one ideal — Right. It is for that we are struggling, for that we see struggling by our side Belgium, who has given for that ideal all the blood in her veins; unshakable England, loyal Russia, intrepid Servia, and the daring Japanese navy.

If this war is the most gigantic in history, it is not because peoples are flying at each other to win territory and markets, an aggrandisement of material life, or political and economic advantages. It is because they are in conflict to settle the fate of the world. Nothing greater has ever been displayed before the eyes of men. Against barbarism and despotism, against the system of methodical provocation and threats which Germany called peace, against the system of collective murders and pillagings which Germany calls war, and against the insolent hegemony of the military caste, which let loose the scourge, France, an emancipator and avenger, rose with her Allies at a bound. What was at stake was something more than our life.

Heir as she is to the most formidable burden of glory any people has to bear, France agrees in advance to any sacrifice. Our Allies know it. The neutral nations know it. By an unbridled campaign of false news a vain attempt has been made to wring from the latter the sympathies which we have won.

Germany, which at first professed to be in doubt as to those sympathies, is in doubt no longer. She is also realizing once again that the French Parliament, after more than four months of war, has renewed before the world the spectacle it offered on the day when, in the name of the nation, it accepted the challenge. Let us continue to have one soul, and afterwards, in victorious peace, when we have regained the liberties which now are willingly fettered, we will remember with pride these tragic days which will have made us braver and better men.