THE FIGHT FOR NORTH AMERICA
ON the threshold of her colonizing era in North America France possessed pre-eminent advantages in material power and governing capacity. Both in national wealth and population she was ahead of England, and had it not been for civil war her supremacy on the continent would have emerged far earlier.
Although France remained in many respects a feudal state, with rigid lines of caste separating class from class, her civilization was more distinctive than that of Spain or England, subtler, richer, more variegated than that of any other European state, and the intellectual content of this culture was mingled with a humanism that infected all the arts and sciences. With little affection for free institutions, but with a sympathetic and imaginative understanding of other races, including the primitive, she had the ability to share her native heritage with other lands. Macaulay's lofty pronouncement on the France of Louis XIV bears repetition. "She had forced the Castilian pride to yield her the precedence. She had summoned Italian princes to prostrate themselves at her footstool. Her authority was supreme on all matters of breeding from a duel to a minuet. She determined how a gentleman's coat must be cut, how long his peruke must be, whether his heels must be high or low, and whether the lace on his hat be broad or narrow."
None the less, with organized resources greater than those of Spain or England, and with a civilization more humane and adaptable, France was to suffer repeated set-backs, and eventually decisive defeat in the ensuing struggle for empire. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, only isolated areas in the world belonged to her--St. Pierre and Miquelon, Guiana, Cayenne, Mauritius and a few West Indian islands. To Frenchmen of this day it still appears as an astounding and in many ways undeserved reversal of fortune, and one of the first questions