Le Bon Gustave - The Influence of Education and European Institutions on the Indigenous Populations of the Colonies

Author : Le Bon Gustave
Title : The Influence of Education and European Institutions on the Indigenous Populations of the Colonies
Year : 1889

Link download : Le_Bon_Gustave_-_The_Influence_of_Education_and_European_Institutions_on_the_Indigenous_Populations_of_the_Colonies.zip

Messieurs, I propose to consider and investigate with you today a serious and important question, namely: what is the influence that our European civilization is able to produce on the indigenous populations of the colonies? I have seen to research the action that we can exercise over these peoples by means of the European life that we furnish them, by the institutions that we might impose on them, and finally by our education. Now, the subject that I am drawing your attention to has for some time been in France the object of passionate debate, and it is easy to ascertain in what ways public opinion and the government authorities tend more and more to be engaged. Every day government officials and others talk to us about Frenchifying the Arabs of Algeria, the yellowish populations of Indo-China, the negroes of Martinique; of providing to all these colonies institutions, laws, and organization identical to those of our French departments. It is not, moreover, only France which finds itself seriously interested in studying these momentous questions. The problem under consideration here is essentially international. It poses or will sooner or later pose itself to all nations that possess colonies, which, needless to say, includes most of Europe. The questions of colonization that we are proceeding to study together here have not been able to be entertained before by an assembly more competent than your own. Indeed, among the delegates sent by foreign countries to this Congress, I see around me statesmen, eminent jurisconsults, and administrators who head or oversee important colonies. Among the French members, I notice retired First Lords of the Admiralty, illustrious admirals, colonial senators, governors general of our foreign possessions, learned university professors, and famous explorers. In short, it would be quite difficult to come upon a meeting of men more fit to deal with the questions that I intend to raise. It is therefore a heavy task in inaugurating the first general meeting of this great Congress to be the first speaker to talk on a subject that you know so well. The missions that your organizing committee has conferred on me calls for a voice more eloquent than my own, and I therefore very much count upon your forbearance as I proceed. I am of the opinion that this forbearance is even the more necessary given that in the French delegation of this assembly the general principles that I have seen to advance have never received many approbations. In order for me to uphold them before you, it is necessary to possess this deep conviction, resulting from numerous personal observations, that it is by the sustained application of these principles that the English and Dutch colonies owe the persistent prosperity which they enjoy; whereas our colonies, governed by very different principles, find themselves in an unflourishing situation if one goes by the statistical indications, the unanimous complaints of their representatives, and finally by the continually increasing costs that they impose on our budget. Now, I have earlier uttered the term “general principles;” but, I have only done so for the sake of convenience, and I do not want to leave you believing for a single moment that I desire to defend before you a particular system while opposing another. Indeed, I do not know of any general systems that are applicable to all cases. Whenever general, broad solutions have been applied to the most different situations, an approach which no doubt the simplest mind find attractive, their rigorous application has always led to the most disastrous results. The main purpose of my speech today is to demonstrate to you the terrible danger posed by these very general, broad solutions. France, unfortunately, is inclined to adopt such solutions, whereas neighboring nations energetically resist them. England, for example, has carefully varied its colonial system from one country to another, and often from one region to another within the same country. If I were to go over with you the comparative history of the foreign colonies and the French colonies, I would be able to easily show you that the prosperity of the former is ever increasing, thanks to this flexible form of governing which varies according to the circumstances, whereas in ours I would only be able to relate the fatal results engendered by the uniform system known under the name of assimilation. This system of assimilation, marvelously simple in appearance, consists, as you know, of providing the very diverse populations which inhabit our colonies—and whatever be their morals, customs, and part—the entirety of our laws and institutions, in a word to treat them exactly like a French department. ...

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