"Where the treasure is there the heart is also." So said an old proverb, and its truth was never more apparent than it has been since the present war began. Since that witches¹ cauldron was stirred up we have seen the most extraordinary somersaults thrown by men and nations, and the most careful study of conditions cannot reveal any other reason for the somersaulting than the overmastering love of treasures.
Consider the case of France. France is the mother of European democracy, the apostle of the right of rebellion, the century-long sword of the revolution of peoples. England, which struts before the world as the home of the Mother of Parliaments, has in reality been chiefly engaged in evolving a system of government in which there should be the greatest semblance of freedom, and the least practical control by the democracy of the essentials of freedom. Witness the absolute power vested in the Cabinet, despite the fact that the Cabinet is quite outside the Constitution, and unknown to British Law.
America has since its own foundation as a nation, the United States, been ever opposed to all revolutionary movements elsewhere; and fettered the free development of its own citizens by means of a Supreme Court to which all laws are amenable. The decision of an overwhelming majority of the electors of the United States upon any particular question can be upset and rendered null and void by five members of the Supreme Court.
But France, the example of France, the free spirit of France, the human outlook of France, the glorious tradition of France - all combined to make France the beau ideal among the nations of all lovers of liberty.
Ever since the Revolution this has been the lot of France - to inspire and enthuse rebels everywhere, and everywhere to lend keenness to the blades of whosoever struck out for Freedom.
But since the great defeat of 1870 - a great defeat brought upon France by the rule of an unscrupulous despot and murderer, Napoleon III, brought upon France by that despot waging a criminal and foolish dynastic war upon a matter in which his subjects had no earthly interest, viz: the succession to the throne of Spain - since then France has been gradually turning her back upon her glorious past, and uniting with forces that stood for all those things in warring against which her revolutionary children had made her name immortal.
France has been the incarnation of Freedom, Russia has been the embodiment of brutal and soulless despotism. They were as far as the poles asunder. But there came a time when Russia borrowed money in France, when French bankers coaxed thrifty French peasants to empty their stockings of the hoards of sorely accumulated coins, and lend them to the Czar¹s government at good rates of interest. And the peasants yielded to the lure - the thrifty republicans lent gold to the spendthrift despot.
If you lend money to a man you do not like to hear of him losing his job the next week; if you lend money to a business house you do not like to hear of it putting up its shutter and going into bankruptcy. No, until you get your money back you want that man to stop at his job, that house to keep its doors open, and its business flourishing.
England has flourished because she owed money everywhere, her national debt was the biggest in the world, and every one who had bought a share in that debt, or lent England money was anxious that the British Empire should not go down lest their money should go down along with her.
The Russian despot borrowed money from the French Republicans, and gradually the fear lest they should lose their money so worked upon the minds of the republicans that they dreaded the advent of a republic in Russia, and lent more money to keep the despot on his throne, and aid him in crushing in blood the aspirations of those who wanted in Russia the same Republican Freedom as the French enjoyed in France.
It was a situation to make the Devil grin. The great Russian Revolution of 1905 was only crushed by means of the monies lent to the Czar by the French Republicans; it was the children of revolutionary France that enabled the blood-soaked despot to overthrow the Duma, and fill his jails to overflowing with the bravest, best and most enlightened of his subjects.
Out of that horrible situation has grown the participation of France in this War. The money-lenders of France force their nation into war that they might not lose the money they lent to the Czar to enable him to destroy the Russian Revolution. Gallant France, liberty-loving France, revolutionary France, with its free spirit, its human outlook, its glorious tradition does not make this war, although it suffers and fights in it. The France that makes this war is the France of the capitalists, the money-lenders¹ France whose one great enthusiasm and ideal is that their dividends upon Russian loans be paid though millions perish, and the child of Freedom be strangled in its cradle.
"Where the treasure is there the heart is also." Over the Atlantic we are beholding the first stages in the similar process of corrupting the hearts of a people. America has taken up a Billion Dollar Loan to the Allies. Henceforth America is no passive onlooker at the struggles of Europe. Her heart will ever follow her treasures, and the splendid neutrality of the past will be followed by an excited and selfish interest in the fortunes of European wars.
The fathers of the American Revolution laid down the axiom that the United States should make no "entangling alliances". The last great message of George Washington to his countrymen embodied that advice, and for over a century it has guided American statesmen.
Following that advice America remained the hope and the refuge of all European rebels against tyranny, and the shining example to the world of a nation seeking only a peaceful intercourse with others.
The greatest and most insidious enemy of that policy of America has ever been the statesmen of the British Empire. Without ceasing they have ever striven to lure the United States into an alliance with Great Britain - an Anglo-Saxon Alliance as they phrased it, coolly ignoring the fact that the Anglo-Saxon strain in American blood is but a poor stream in a mighty ocean of many powerful currents.
But the real American spirit has ever been too strong for this attempt to succeed, and America has grown strong in peace, and mighty through the strength of her own industry and resources.
But the rulers of the British Empire have many strings to their bow, and in the attempt to snare a nation are the most sleepless hunters the world has ever known.
Where the politician could not succeed, where the most wily diplomat was worsted, the financier has succeeded. An appeal to the cupidity of American capitalists has resulted in these gentry betraying their nation¹s best interests, as capitalists will ever sell for gold any human or holy cause.
America lends money to enable the Allies to pay for war, as America made munitions to enable the Allies to make war.
Consider the hellish irony of it all! The All Lies buy munitions of war from America, and propose to pay for them with monies borrowed from America.
It is like as if you bought a suit of clothes and proposed to pay for them with money borrowed from the tailor who made them. Did you ever try it?
The result is that all the powerful financial interests in America - the Steel Trust, the Armament makers, the Bankers, the manufacturers of Army requirements, all will henceforth be pledged to keep America on the side of the Governments of France, England, or Russia in every war or domestic revolution in which these latter may be engaged.
And that means that all the small investors with whose money those great sharks are gambling will slowly, almost imperceptibility, but surely and inevitably have all their sympathies drawn from the side of freedom towards that side which makes for the security of the Governments to whom their money has been lent.
"Where the treasure is there the heart is also." America is no longer free of entangling alliances: America is committed to the worst kind of an alliance, that alliance of sordid interests in whose grasp French Republicanism has surrendered its soul, to whose loathsome embraces American capitalism has committed the civilisation of the American Continent.
And yet, and yet - the forces of evil will not forever prevail.
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.