Imperialism and “The horror!”

Jules Ferry, a two-time prime minister of France, supported the ideals of Imperialism. In 1884 France, competition amongst Britain, Germany, and the United States sparked a sense of urgency in people like Ferry. Germany conquered nations in Africa, prevailing over Britain and creating pressure in Britain. Ferry notes that this competition, as well as supply and demand and freedom of trade are major problems. In a proud, almost desperate tone, he insists that “the superior races have a right because they have a duty. They have the duty to civilize the inferior races.” ((Jules Ferry, On French Colonial Expansion)) Ferry implies that men of higher rank need to be on board in order for French colonial expansion to take place, and he speaks to them often in his piece, addressing them as “Gentlemen.” He says, “Gentlemen, we must address them more loudly and more honestly!” ((Jules Ferry, On French Colonial Expansion)) Ferry writes in a convincing, enthusiastic tone to try to improve support for French Imperialism, which was somewhat lacking upon his writing. With competition in Western Europe and the United States increasing, Ferry notes that the time to act is now; he notes that market success in South America is dwindling because of North American products. A weak French navy needs to be improved in order to face this increasing competition, as it needs “harbors, defenses, [and] supply centers on the high seas.” ((Jules Ferry, On French Colonial Expansion)) Previously conquered territory such as Vietnam did not suffice, for individuals such as Ferry feared an economic collapse. Clearly an Imperialist, Ferry believed that exporting best served the economy of France, especially with the shrinking of markets in Europe.

Ferry’s contradictory and racist beliefs puzzled me. When I first read this, I was surprised with the “hierarchy of races” that he believed in. Nonetheless, Ferry’s beliefs set the basis of the beginning of the French colonial empire. As I searched more, I found out that Ferry became interested in acquiring the Congo. I immediately thought of the novel Heart of Darkness, a novel that accurately represents the evil ideologies of imperialism and takes place in the Congo. One of the novel’s main characters, Kurtz, conducts raids for ivory, and other immoral acts because of his greed. His lack of compassion and respect for the natives is evident. To not extend into too much further detail, Kurtz’s last words are “The horror! The horror!” These last words resemble his realization of his brutality, and how “the horror” ultimately killed him. I thought the connection between Ferry and this novel worked rather well. Heart of Darkness included such brutal, sickening images, and when reading it I found it difficult to truly believe the fact that European imperialism mirrored the brutalities in Heart of Darkness. This world has such a long history.

Do countries act with immorality in order to achieve their realist goals, or are we shifting away from this in today’s society? How can you compare French and other countries’ Imperialism with Christopher Columbus? Why must states be so competitive; is “world peace” without any imperialism ever possible?

French Colonial Expansion

Jules Ferry – On French Colonial Expansion

Author: Jules Ferry was born April 5, 1832, in Saint-Dié, France.  He was educated as a lawyer. Before serving two terms as prime minister of France (1880-1881, 1883-1885), Ferry was an active politician. He served as the republican deputy for Paris in 1869 and protested the declaration of war against Germany. The government of national defense appointed Ferry as the prefect of the Seine. As prime minister, he passed laws that secularized the French educational system. After Bismarck’s German victory over the French, Ferry began to promote French expansionism.

Context: Ferry wrote during the period of colonial expansionism and imperialism. This was a time when the powerful, industrialized countries like England began to stretch their constituencies by annexing or establishing protectorates in “undeclared” areas of the world like Africa.

Language: Ferry’s language was very direct, clear, and assertive. He emphasized and stressed his points by frequent use of the words “need” and “must.” Ferry referred to the grave seriousness of the problem of competition and the German and American protectionist policies restricting trade. He also spoke of the necessary French sense of duty to solve the problem.

Audience: Ferry made this speech before the French Chamber of Deputies on March 28, 1884.

Intent: Ferry hoped to convince the Chamber of Deputies to take up a more rapid and vast policy of colonial expansion for economic and political achievement amidst the globalizing competitive atmosphere.

Message: Ferry justified the need for a vast policy of colonial expansion with the need for economic success. He realized that competitive trade was globalizing and that to prosper, a country needed to attain a vast network of economic outlets. His solution was colonial expansionism, a policy that offered more outlets for exports. With more outlets, France would have a more competitive edge while rivaling the other industrialized nations like Germany, England, and the United States. Ferry also asserted that the French people, as a “superior” race, have a duty to reign over and civilize the “inferior” races, which is reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden.” Ferry saw colonial expansion necessary for France’s global rank.

Jules Ferry: On French Colonial Expansion

Author – Ferry was a French statesman and republican and was also the prime minister of France from 1880-1881 and again from 1883-1885. He is remembered for his dislike of the power and influence of the Catholic church on education, and he was a strong promoter of the expansion of the French colonial empire.

Context – From the “Speech Before the French Chamber of Deputies, March 28, 1884.” Published during the second wave of the Industrial Revolution. He was witness to Liberalism and Nationalism arising in France and the nation building period in various countries. In 1884 the Sino French War occurred, in which France fought the Chinese over Vietnam.

Language – Written in a very clear and organized way. Asked many questions to his audience and wrote in convincing and influential tone.

Audience – Written for the educated and powerful French Chamber of Deputies.

Intent – His intent was to call attention to the duty of the superior races and inspire the French to overtake less powerful nations but be aware of the rising powers around them.

Message – His message contained his idea of the power of the French and his strong belief in their colonial expansion. He declared that it was the right and duty of the superior races to civilize other inferior races and this would allow economic exploitation by France. He said the expansion was necessary because it would give France important harbors and supply centers on the sea that would be necessary during a war. Great nations are only great through the actions that they employ and France needs to be active and take part in what’s going on around them in order to be a great nation.