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Matthew (1870-11-03)


Dundee Advertiser, 3 November 1870

(Letter written Nov 3 1870)
Matthew goes even further than the previous letter, describing the French as “quite apart from justice, morality, humanity; as if the knowledge of good and evil in her case had been lost”, and guilty of “demoniac possession of restless, reckless ambition; cupidity of the property of others; and fighting propensities”.

Unfortunately, the British Newspaper Archive is missing all issues of the Dundee Advertiser for 1870. The text below has been reproduced from “Evolutionary concepts in the Nineteenth Century: Natural Selection and Patrick Matthew” (Dempster 1996).

Sir,— It has long been a maxim that Republics – that is equality of political rights and representative government – required a high morality, a probity in the great body of the people as well as in the Government officials. Judging of France by the past, where within my memory, a republic has been twice tried, and twice found impracticable, we must conclude that the amount of probity has been defective, or the ignorance too gross. In the case of ancient Rome, which France so coverts to imitate, a pure republic never existed. An aristocracy sufficiently defective in morality, and a people grossly ignorant, along with slavery, prevailed. This was naturally suited to a robber nation, which acted on the brute force system – that might was right. France mistaking her fighting power, and acting upon the brute force principle, proclaimed a war of aggression and plunder against her quiet neighbour, and being beaten in the field in her attempt to conquer Germany, instead of accepting her defeat as merited punishment – some well believe a judgement – has raised an outcry that honour calls her to carry out to the knife (be it remembered a guilty war of her own creating). France only regards honour in the brute force view – that is, fighting success, quite apart from justice, morality, humanity; as if the knowledge of good and evil in her case had been lost. At present, when actually at the mercy of Germany, France will listen up to no peace which embraces the restoration of territory she has seized from neighbours, Germany and Italy. She also attempted to seize upon Spain in a most treacherous manner, and Mexico by a sleight of hand dexterity, but, with the assistance of Britain to Spain and of the United States to Mexico, was baffled. The last manoeuvre is to recommence a Republic, make their own Emperor, whom they had so recently confirmed in his Government by a plebiscite vote, the scapegoat of the German war and defeats, but who had been driven, by the enthusiastic desire of the army and people, into the guilty war of aggression. Will France under any Government be less the disturber of Europe?

The French nation seem to think that the adoption of a Republic is an atonement for all previous sins of commission, as if a white surplice was enough to change the nature of what is covered; expel demoniac possession of restless, reckless ambition; cupidity of the property of others; and fighting propensities. How can France go on as a Republic without anarchy or foreign war with the sparse morality which at present she exhibits, when the passions of bitter hate and revenge at being curbed in her boasted aggressive march to Berlin are so furiously raging, it is not easy to predicate. May we hope that the ancient Romish brigand fashion – desire of plunder, foreign dominion, and turbulency – will give place to the improvement of her home resources and industries, which are far from being exhausted. On the contrary, how is Germany to act when France, fairly beaten in her aggressive attempts to conquer and plunder Germany, instead of mending her ways, like a mangled viper, gets careless of her own life being trampled out, and only attempts the destruction of her opponent? Such would only be giving time for France to prepare a new army of aggression, and a fourth march Paris be necessary. Germany has only one resource – to lessen the territory of her implacable neighbour and to procure an impregnable frontier on the side of France, with a war navy able to cope with France.

Patrick Matthew
Gourdiehill, Errol
3 November 1870

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