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The Yale review (v. 8)

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Pages: 394

Book format: An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.

Publisher: Date:8/5/2009 - General Books LLC

By: George Park Fisher

Excerpt from book: A FRENCH COLONIAL EXPERIMENT IN THE FAR EAST. HP HERE is something fascinating about building colonial empires. It gives men a sense of power to detach, with a lead pencil, this sphere of influence, or delimit that hinterland, or take over those islands. The earth seems so small, and its inhabitants as grasshoppers. But the bad quarter of an hour comes when peoples annexed or purchased cease to be numbers, and become men: when they reject the alien civilization thrust upon them, and when punitive expeditions and mobile columns and every variety of petty warfare crowd into the expense account, leaving the empire-builders each year some millions in debt. Empires that grow of themselves are, at least in spots, less unprofitable, but these are of the English or of the Dutch sort, and they have trade as their motive, not the mere glory of governing. Perhaps it is unfair to hint in this way that the French colonies are, to a degree, artificial and costly attempts at empire, for five-sixths of the colonial domain of France is scarcely a generation old. And it was not incapacity for the work of colonization which lost France most of her possessions in the eighteenth century: this loss was a disastrous incident of the European wars of the Bourbon monarchy. Nevertheless the new empire has been an unnecessarily expensive affair, and none more bitterly criticize its management than Frenchmen whose duties or studies give their words a claim to attention. M. Pelletan, the reporter for the budget commission this year, declared in the Chamber of Deputies, last January, that the colonies cost the country twenty million dollars a year. Against this expense he could set only a little over four millions as profits on goods sold the colonies, although he might fairly have added something for th...  


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