From ............. THE TROUBLE WITH FRANCE

By - Alain Peyrefitte

CHAPTER 14 ................. At Different Speeds

pages 111 - 116

After the Counter-Reformation, the nations that remained Catholic dozed. After the Reformation, the Protestant nations awoke. Let's simply say "after;" for the moment, nothing allows us to say "because of."

The dividing line is not so clear everywhere, however. It cuts some societies in two - a single people, with identical antecedents, yet split into two sometimes extremely unequal communities.

Does the disturbing economic inferiority we find in Catholic countries reemerge between the Protestant and Catholic communities within a single country? If so, the religious factor clearly must be given decisive weight; the national factor would cease to coincide with it, might perhaps even confuse it. There is no lack of examples to supply this supporting evidence.

Let's look at four: those of Germany, Ireland, France and Canada.

Germany: Catholic and Protestant

Although it was born in Germany, the Reformation did not conquer all the Germans. It shattered their religious unity. Since then, Germany has been a marquetry pattern of Protestants and Catholics.

Its Protestant areas did not enter the industrial age as quickly as Holland, England, Switzerland or even the United States. Before we seize on this as an exception to the rule, it should be noted that Reformed Germany is Lutheran, not Calvinist. It launched the Reformation, but it clung to its early Protestantism.

Lutheranism remains a Church, anti-Roman of course, but still a Church, hierarchical and dogmatic. Psychologists and sociologists place it somewhere between Catholicism and Calvinism. This must have some connection with the fact that the Calvinist countries began their development in the seventeenth century, the Lutheran countries only in the nineteenth, while the Catholic countries waited until the twentieth.

It can also be noted that Prussia's image is very similar to that of the Catholic countries: a strong central authority bolstered by a powerful military establishment, a hierarchical, extremely disciplined society. A warrior state more than a Protestant society. Like the Lutheran Church, the Prussian state remained impregnated with Romanism.

Yet when Germany began to modernize its agriculture and industry in the nineteenth century, it was the Protestants who dragged the rest of the country with them. In the pluri-religious principalities - and in Germany's overall equilibrium - it was the Protestants (or the Jews) who usually controlled big business, big finance, big industry. Protestant Prussia had a well-developed railway network in 1840, before France. Germany's Catholics stuck chiefly to small businesses and household crafts.

In 1900, Max Weber took as the point of departure for his thesis on The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism a study by his disciple Martin Offenbacher on the situations of Catholics and Protestants in the state of Baden.

Offenbacher showed that the Catholics, less urbanized, less cultivated, were shopkeepers, artisans, office workers, farmers. The Protestants had moved in force into the ranks of industrialists, technicians, bankers, traders. Subsistence farming remained largely the rule on the smallholdings in the rural, Catholic west and south; the Protestants in the north and east quickly adopted modern agricultural methods.

This conflict of influence came to a test of strength in the nineteenth century. In a Germany broken up into a cluster of small states, the clash of vitality and immobility was polarized around the Protestant north, led by Prussia, and the Catholic south, centered in Bavaria and supported by Austria. Vitality won. Germany, united in January 1871 under the Hohenzollern crown, opted for industrialization and expansionism.

The French habitually see the half century [1866-1913] following the Battle of Sadowa, [The decisive battle of the Seven Weeks' War that confirmed Prussia's hegemony in Germany was fought at Sadowa, in Bohemia, on July 3, 1866] when Germany's power and potential were really established, in the guise of "Prussian militarism." They too easily forget that the German empire was not centralized a la francaise. It was merely a federation of constitutional monarchies, each of which maintained its own dynasty, its parliament, legislation, budget, sometimes even its army and diplomatic corps. Germany remained a complex, heterogeneous, multifarious world - polycentric - in which the Catholic states fully played their part. Change came through flexibility. This too-often misunderstood fact may go far toward explaining Germany's vitality.

At the heart of this diversity there was, nevertheless, a unitary dynamism. In 1906, the Swiss historian Paul Seippel wrote:

A quarter of a century before the event, Seippel guessed that one day

The personage came from the south - the most Romanized part of the Germanic Holy Roman Empire.

It was in Bavaria that the Austrian-born Hitler enjoyed his strongest popular support. And most of the conspirators in the July 1944 plot against Hitler were Protestants, mainly Calvinists.

After 1945, as we have seen, under British and American influence, the tendency toward decentralization prevailed in West Germany, forging a link with a centuries-old tradition. And its federative structure seems strong enough to have routed the demons that, behind the shield of centralization, had plagued the German people.

Modern Ireland and Backward Ireland

Here the basic facts are simple, but odd. Eire, the homogeneously Catholic part of Ireland, won its independence in 1921. Ulster, six times smaller than Eire, remained attached to the United Kingdom; its population, half that of its neighbor, is 65 percent Protestant and 35 percent Catholic.

Economically, Eire resembles an underdeveloped country. Agriculture is its leading industry, holding half the country's population on the land and providing the raw materials for three fourths of Eire's manufactured exports, chiefly whisky, beer and sweaters. In any case, exports cover only 70 percent of its imports; tourism alone enables it to balance its payments. Three out of four farms are still primitive, operating at subsistence level.

All this is reflected in Southern Ireland's standard of living, its gross national product is inferior to that of smaller Ulster, for the six counties around Belfast have long been industrialized; it was in the nineteenth century that they began processing flax and building ships.

Can this disparity be traced to a difference in natural resources between Ulster and Eire? Not at all. Indeed, Catholic economic inferiority is just as strong inside Ulster.

Whether we compare wholly Catholic Eire with mainly Protestant Ulster, or the Catholic segment of Ulster with its Protestant population, the correlations are the same. The Protestants have "created" [according to them] or "taken over" [according to the Catholics] the wealth-producing jobs in industry, technology, shipping, big business, banking, insurance. The Catholics are locked into the traditional chores of a subsistence economy - farming, digging peat, fishing, small business, the crafts.

Is this simply a matter of colonial domination? Of course, no Irish Catholic has forgotten the massacre at Drogheda in 1649, when the town's inhabitants - those "miserable savages," as Cromwell called them - were ruthlessly exterminated and English exploitation of Ireland reached its stride. But have the English prevented Irish Catholics since the nineteenth century from modernizing their agriculture, from engaging in trade or developing industry?

No, neither in united Ireland until 1921, nor in bi-religious Ulster since 1921, nor, of course, in independent Eire.

The Irish Catholics, like the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, ran stubbornly up against the population density wall of 40 people per square kilometer. When the wall was breached, there was no relief for them but mass emigration. Throughout the nineteenth century this hemorrhage drained Ireland, mostly to the benefit of the United States.

Even if we were to opt for colonial exploitation by Britain as the single explanation for Irish backwardness and the historical facts in support of this are irrefutable - we would again have to reply with the painful question:

It is no mere theological quarrel that has bred the hatred which for centuries has divided Catholics and Protestants in Ulster. The rivalry there has the ferocity of a holy war, aggravated by racial conflict and a class struggle between an advanced commercial society and a backward agrarian culture.

France's Busy Minority

In the light of the Irish situation, France offers another kind of evidence to support our hypothesis. Here it is the Catholics who are the "oppressors", the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre [in 1572] was France's Drogheda.

But the "oppressed'' in France have not reacted as the Irish have. The country's Protestant minority is very small, yet its vitality in proportion to its size exceeds that of the Catholic majority.

When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Protestants made up barely a tenth of France's population, but they were among its best educated, most enterprising, most progressive citizens.

In the century surrounding the revocation, at least a fourth, perhaps as many as half of the country's roughly 2 million Protestants, fled abroad to escape persecution. [The most recent estimate, by Pastor Samuel Mours, places the number who left France after the revocation at 250,000. But the period of persecution and flight extended over more than a century]

The emigrants were often those who, having already succeeded brilliantly in life, felt themselves best equipped to succeed elsewhere. And so they did. Rapidly assimilated in Switzerland, Holland, England, Prussia, and even as far away as Sweden and Finland, many rose to prominence. Deposits in the Bank of Amsterdam doubled almost overnight after 1685. Along with their capital, the French Protestants brought their technical knowledge, their trade secrets and their spirit of adventure.

Meanwhile, the Protestants who remained in France continued to display more economic dynamism than the rest of the population. They excelled in finance, which was the monarchy's weak point. The crown called on their services even after the revocation - the state's well-being took priority over any edict. Barthelemy Herwarth, a commissary to the army of Bernard of Saxony, also acted as agent for Richelieu, Mazarin and Colbert. As Superintendent of Finance in 1650, he used his vast personal fortune to further the king's enterprises. Samuel Bernard took over from him. Louis XIV was careful to ignore their Protestantism. Nor could his successors decently act more sectarian than he toward French or foreign Protestant bankers; Protestantism could erase frontiers.

During and after the Revolution of 1789, it was the Protestants, many of whom returned to France from Switzerland, who along with the Jews, became the powers [virtually the only powers] in French high finance. From then until now, there has not been a single private bank of any importance in France that was not founded by Protestants or Jews.

Browse through the 'Yearbook' of the Institut d'Etudes Politiques [established by Protestants in 1870], through the lists of tax officials, the diplomatic corps, business consultants, the Court of Accounts, of big-business managers and industrialists. You will find that the prominence of the Huguenots' descendants in the key sectors of French economic life is out of all proportion to their numbers.

Canadian Codicil to the Revocation

"Iffy'' history is always a little ridiculous. Yet, when we think about it, how can France today fail to regret that its half-million Protestant emigrants did not go to New France? That would have been a very different thing, in numbers and in knowledge, from the 6,000 poor peasants from western France who made up our entire American colonizing force. They would have been three times more numerous than the population in the English colonies. Unlike Britain and Holland, where emigration overseas was made easy for, dissenters, France refused to allow its banished and dispersed "religionaries" to try their luck there. Absolutism gave no quarter; it was intolerant even to its exiles.

An Inferiorized Majority

Today, even in Quebec, where 80 percent of the people are French-speaking, English remains the language of power, French the language of the poor.

Like Ireland, Quebec poses the problem not of an oppressed minority but of an inferiorized majority. It is not the minority that needs the protection of the law, but the majority.

New immigrants there - Italians, Greeks, Germans - perceive this; nine out of ten try to be assimilated into the small group of English speakers, determined to melt into the dominant minority, not the dominated majority. English-speaking Canadians in Quebec control three of the province's six universities, half its radio and television stations, almost all its industry, its trade and its major financial institutions.

The French-speaking population unquestionably holds political power in Quebec, both provincial and municipal, which is essential in a decentralized federal system. But their troubles stem less from law or politics than from attitudes. Out of shame, Quebecois pretend that their tragedy is "linguistic." But English is merely the exterior sign of a dynamic mentality, a dynamic society, French that of a mentality and a society on the defensive.

From the time Champlain arrived in Quebec until the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the French in New France were under the remote control of the home country. The central administration in Paris ruled on "quarrels concerning a cow that strayed into a garden, a row at the church door, even a lady's virtue."

Left to its own devices after the Treaty of Paris, this primitive, timorous, inhibited society resisted change. The French in Canada retreated into hierarchical communities under the [Roman Catholic] clergy's authority. Afraid to coexist, they chose isolation.

Is change still possible? The French-Canadian community today feels that it is not catching up to the Anglophones. So prolific until around 1960, it has since registered the sharpest drop in birth rates recorded in any modern society. It is as though the French Canadians had given up an impossible adventure Ñ barring a sudden reversal, of which a few signs are visible.

Germany, Ireland, France, Quebec: a cultural tour that confirms the early lessons learned along our route. Within a given society, some people are liberated by their mentality while others are fettered by theirs.

Everywhere, with almost irritating regularity, the same distinction is found: the seal of liberation is on the Protestants, of repression on the Catholics.

"Everywhere, with almost irritating regularity,

the seal of liberation is on the Protestants,





By - Alain Peyrefitte Translator- William R.Byron

USA Publisher - Alfred A.Knopf, Inc., NYC 1981

Canadian Publisher - Random House 1981

French Publisher - Librairie Plon 1976