Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/539

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
521
THE SPIRIT OF CONQUEST.

The great North American federation is composed of forty-four States, of from 1,250 square miles (the size of Rhode Island) to 265,780 square miles (the size of Texas). If one hundred States should be established to-morrow of about 30,000 square miles each, there would not necessarily follow either an increase or a diminution of the welfare of the population. The Americans can make equally rapid progress whether divided into forty republics or one hundred, and as slow under one division as under the other. Wealth is not a function of political divisions. So Europe is now divided into twenty-four independent states, having from 8 to 2,100,000 square miles of territory. If it were divided to-morrow into one hundred independent states of 35,000 square miles each, it would as easily be poorer as richer. All would depend upon the interior organization of each of these states, and on the relations which they might establish with one another.

Very few persons understand this truth. When we see the most civilized nations of Europe imagining that their welfare depends on 5,000 or 6,000 square miles more or less, we stand really stupefied before the persistence of the ancient routines. The simple disarmament of three military corps would procure ten times as many benefits for the German people as the possession of Alsace-Lorraine. In short, as long as the false association between the territorial extent of a state and its wealth persists its progress in real wealth will be very slow.

To return to the spirit of conquest. A great many things, as we have shown in another place, are not appropriable. Foreign, territories are not so for entire nations. A military chief with his staif may be better off through the conquest of a country, but a nation never.

When William of Normandy seized England he committed an act that was not according to his interest as properly understood. He destroyed by war a considerable quantity of wealth, and he and his barons in turn suffered by the general diminution of welfare. These sufferings were, however, infinitesimal and very hard to appreciate. True views of the nature of wealth were, moreover, not accessible to the brains of men of the eleventh century. Certainly, when William and his army had possessed themselves of England they experienced an increase of wealth that was very evident to them. The king had more revenue; every Norman soldier got land or a reward in money, and he became richer after Hastings than he had ever been before.

But what did the Roman people, for example, gain by the conquest of the basin of the Mediterranean? Four or five hundred grand personages divided the provincial lands alienated by the state