ON THE EVE OF FRANCE'S NATIONAL DAY
Charles de Gaulle
THE SPEECHES OF GENERAL DE GAULLE pp. 12-13..
To-night, on the eve of July 14th, the thoughts of all French people are centred on France.
Not, let me hasten to add, that we should remain deep in tribulation, or give ourselves up to hopeless resignation. Any excess of grief, any surrender to despair, would be playing into the hands of the enemy.
The creed of a guilty France who is rightly being punished for her sins and needs must expiate them is precisely what suits our conquerors of the moment. It chimes too well with the remorse, as well as with the interests, of the men who engineered the armistice.
One thing is certain. The day will come when France, restored to freedom, will punish the men responsible for their country's disasters, the men who brought her to her present plight. But, just at present, that is not the question.
What we must do now is strive by every means in our power, both actively and passively, to secure the defeat of the enemy. If Germany is beaten, France will rise again: if she is not, each day will add to our sorrows: the country will be wrecked and looted, and the people downtrodden and deprived of every vestige of liberty. Anyone who maintains that our country could still be anything like the real France under the jackboot of Hitler and the clog of Mussolini is either a dotard or a traitor. It would likewise be senile or treacherous to say that the present war is a forlorn hope. Those who make such assertions to France, assuming that they do so in good faith, merely show how utterly they have misunderstood the actual state of the world.
The world is not confined to the battlefield on which the blindness of our leaders delivered us up defenceless to the mechanized might of Germany. There exists in the world a Europe in which our British Allies, who already command the seas and are beginning to win mastery in the skies, grow stronger with each passing day. There exist in the world an Africa, an Asia, an America whose resources are incalculable. Admittedly, the enemy has succeeded in defeating several of his immediate neighbours. But each step forward increases his difficulties. France has been partitioned, looted, and surrendered, but all is not lost.
Since they whose duty it was to wield the sword of France
have let it fall shattered to the ground, I have taken up the broken blade. I am able to state that already, under my command, there exists a considerable fighting force capable, at any moment, of giving battle on land, on sea, or in the air. I would add that this force is growing day by day, and I should like the world to know what magnificent specimens of young French manhood are answering my call. There is not the slightest doubt that the army of Free France will steadily increase as the war goes on. And there is one thing I want to say to the French: whatever happens, you now know that you still have an army to carry on the fight.
So, although July 14th this year is a day of mourning for our country, it is also a day of burgeoning hope. Victory will be ours and, you can take my word for this, it will be won with the help of French arms.