mardi 29 juin 2010

Purported early French anti-Americanism

At the height of the anti-French frenzy led by the American MSM from 2003 up to 2007 the name of Comte Georges Buffon was often mentioned as evidence of historical French anti-Americanism. 

The reason why Buffon was associated with this canard of naturally born French anti-Americanism was to be found in his major work l'Histoire naturelle, published between 1749 and 1789 (8 years after he died). In this very popular encyclopaedia, Buffon wrote some passages where he described the natural world in America as much inferior in size and abilities to the European one.

Needless to say, this book was very favourably received when it was published in the US in 2005. At long last, a Frenchman validated the American certitude of yesteryears about the natural anti-Americanism of the French.

Now, to use Buffon's work as evidence of early French anti-Americanism as Philippe Roger did in his book The American enemy is beyond common sense. At least he found a niche...

- Everybody knows how unscientific Buffon was.
- He wrote his book before the US was even born as an independent state.
- He merely exposed the Eurocentrism of nearly each and every "scientist" in this field of research  in the XVIIIth century.
- When he wrote his Histoire naturelle, a third of the land known as America belonged to the French as we can see here and here. Why would have Buffon written something deliberately disparaging about Americans (e.g. white immigrants) whereas he was writing about the natives, save for his European bias and unscientific approach of the issues at stake?

The reproach holds true, IMHO for Sophie Meunier and Denis Lacorne who both fall in the same trap, that is mentioning Buffon as evidence of early French anti-Americanism.

Modern Americans taking at face value the use of Buffon's work as evidence of very early French anti-Americanism are being misled to say the least.

The same "accusation" of early anti-Americanism can be made against Stendhal for example. I remember reading something about the omnipotence of the dollar in his preface to the Italian chronicles. It may be understood as early anti-Americanism. It also may be a good opportunity to remember that in those times the American population Stendhal was referring to was mostly composed of European immigrants. And not exactly the upper crust of the society. Mainly peasants and traders, poor people from Scandinavia, Ireland or Poland, gold rushers etc… 

The US was seen by many Europeans as an exit strategy after the crimes they may have committed in their respective lands. The country was a limitless space open to all sorts of adventure to people who certainly didn’t belong to the European circles were hand-kissing was practiced. 

Ever heard of the Loterie du lingot d'or? The thousands of French who were sent to California weren’t used to hand-kissing according to all probabilities since the settlers in XIXth century weren’t exactly adept at this social behaviour when they were still living in Europe. Just like the first British sent to populate Australia were'nt scions of the English aristocracy.

So, to make a long story short, maybe Stendhal (among others) was critical of these Europeans who were emigrating rather of Americans per se, that is those with 3 or 4 generations behind them on American soil. In that case they were mostly English descendants from a nation of shopkeepers as you know (cf. Napoleon). 

6 commentaires:

ZapPow a dit…

L'anachronisme et la manipulation sont souvent utilisés par ceux qui tiennent à prouver absolument que Pierre, Paul ou Jacques sont de vilains personnages. J'ai eu ainsi une discussion avec quelqu'un qui accusait Mahomet* de pédophilie : je lui ai fait l'observation que Mahomet était un homme du VIIe siècle, et que la pédophilie était une notion datant de la fin du XIXe, et que personne n'avait été puni pour crime de pédophilie, nulle part, avant l'époque moderne. À quoi cet interlocuteur, très cultivé, m'a sorti l'argument Gilles de Rais, exécuté pour pédophilie, selon lui. Sauf que c'est faux, Gilles de Rais fut jugé et condamné pour meurtre**, et il ne fut jamais question de ses relations sexuelles éventuelles avec des enfants lors de son procès. Et pour cause, à l'époque, ce n'était pas un crime, juste de l'inconduite, pour laquelle on versait un dédommagement aux parents de l'enfant, quand eux-mêmesne l'offraient pas contre rémunération.

* Je n'ai pas d'estime particulière pour le personnage, mais tant qu'à argumenter, j'aime autant qu'on présente des arguments qui tiennent debout, et résistent à la logique.

** Il semble bien qu'il ait été, en fait l'innocente victime d'un complot politique.

Flocon a dit…

Sur l'anachronisme comme arme de destruction massive, on a le jugement selon les normes contemporaines de pratiques anciennes qui ne connaissaient pas nos normes. Ça ne tient pas la route une seconde.

Pour Gilles de Rais je ne me souviens pas qu'il ait été question de pédophilie mais de crimes monstrueux et d'offenses à Dieu et à la religion. Complot politique, on ne peut rien exclure en effet.

Ce qui est inquiétant c'est que des gens dont l'intégrité morale ou le niveau d'instruction ne peuvent être mis en doute peuvent en toute bonne foi sortir des énormités.

Ce qui est plus inquiétant encore c'est que tous nous sommes susceptibles de pareils dérapages sans le savoir, persuadés que nous sommes de savoir ce que l'on sait. Genre citations apocryphes par exemples, mais là c'est encore mineur.

Ce qui pose l'inquiétante question de savoir ce qui constitue la réalité dernière et inébranlable de la connaissance, particulièrement en histoire.

Une remise à jour du Cogito ergo sum.

J'ai un vague projet de billet à ce sujet.

Flocon a dit…

Il y a longtemps que je n'avais pas écrit en anglais, il y avait des horreurs de syntaxe dans la première version, j'ai corrigé ce que j'ai repéré mais il en reste malheureusement d'autres, ça ne fait pas l'ombre d'un doute.

Anijo a dit…

Il y a longtemps que je n'avais pas écrit en anglais, il y avait des horreurs de syntaxe dans la première version, j'ai corrigé ce que j'ai repéré mais il en reste malheureusement d'autres, ça ne fait pas l'ombre d'un doute.

pffft... Your English is amazing. I only wish I could write so well in French. All I noticed was the following:

before the US were even born as an independent state.-
before the US was even born

safe for his European bias
save for his

were hand-kissing was practiced
Just a simple typing mistake

adept of
adpet at because 'adept' here is an adjective.

If 'adept' used as a noun, then "the adept of.."

Most native English speakers don't write English as well as you do Flocon.

I don't mean to correct you. I was just showing you how few mistakes that you made. Quite remarkable for a post in English.

Flocon a dit…

It's the question of learning process that you're raising here Anijo.

When you're 13 and you don't pay attention to what the teacher says you simply quite don't understand what the lesson is all about, you know you've missed something and you tell yourself, "Well I'll look at it later and I'll fix it then".

Simply you don't look later at it and you keep a false notion or completely ignore for the rest of your life what you should have known by 15.

Typically my case!

Save instead safe i knew but didn't pay attention. Easy to remember yet since the English word comes from French Sauf

Now the U.S always get me confused since it logically "should" be plural. So I understand it is the U.S has decided and not have decided.

The same goes for America. Is America a she or a it, so to speak?

Figures also are a problem with me (which should come as no surprise to ZapPow, he knows...). Plural or not plural? In certain cases it seems yes plural is on the order but in other instances it's not.

Adept of/at is becoming very subtle for me. I'll try to remember.

But thanks for the corrections, I'm always eager to learn.

Anijo a dit…

I knew that you thought that the United States would logicially be plural.

America is a she. Why that would be, I don't know..