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In the hotel afterwards there is an interesting conversation which gives some idea of the notions of history Maddison is picking up from reading 'Birkin's weekly paper'. Maddison is talking to a Dutchman

'“Money does more than talking. It can send men to death. Hitler is only Napoleon over again.”

'“That is so. No money, no gold. ”

'“Napoleon tried to divert the use of money as usury, you see, and so tried to create a self-sufficient and united states of Europe,” Phillip went on hopefully. “That, of course, was not the British bankers’ idea at all. They wished for trade, in order to lend, and so make more money. You know that, you and old Van Iromp with his broom to sweep the British ships off the seas.”

'“Ja ja, Van Tromp, he did some sweeping, too, my friend!” 

'“The bankers, or banksters. of Lombard and Threadneedle Street wanted a gold-based Europe, since they had the gold in their vaults.”

'“What’s wrong with that?” asked the pipe-puffing Liberal journalist.

'“Bad for trade, sir. Very bad.” Phillip drank his tenth glass of champagne and said, “Zum Wohl!”, before continuing with what he had read in Birkin’s weekly paper. “You see, France after the revolution was bankrupt, So she could not afford to buy sugar and other commodities brought from the British colonies in British ‘bottoms’. So he started a new system.”

'“And ten million died in Europe as a consequence.”

“Yes, when England started to blockade Europe. If Napoleon’s system had prevailed, Europe would have become self-sufficient, with a share in the trade from the East.”

'“Then why did not Napoleon try peaceful overtures? Shall I tell you? Because he had a lust for power. ‘And all power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Lord Acton said that, if you know your history.”

'“My history, sir, is not of the law, such as Judge Jefferies and those judges who said, or one of them, that Englishmen would not be able to sleep safely in their beds if children were no longer hanged for stealing anything to the value of half-a-crown and upwards. But the point is this, Lombard Street bellies would have to shrink if Napoleon and his system prevailed. He offered a prize for anyone who discovered a substitute for cane sugar. It was won by someone in Poland who cultivated a weed which became what today we call sugar-beet. He offered a prize of ten thousand francs for a substitute for bicarbonate of soda from sea-water. Someone made it. Cotton from America was substituted by silk from Lille [sic. should be Lyon? - PB] and elsewhere. Europe was blockaded, Nelson burned Danish ships which traded with Napoleon."

“'But Napoleon used force. And found his grave in Russia ..."

'“Russia, under Alexander the King, double-crossed Napoleon, don’t forget. Napoleon was promised Russian wheat, then Alexander bilked and accepted a bribe of four million pounds in gold from Lombard Street not to deliver in bulk. So Napoleon went to give Alexander a punch on the nose and was defeated by General Winter. And - no, don’t interrupt me - I know your point of view, in a way it is mine too - cheerio.” He swallowed another glass of wine. “In eighteen fifteen Napoleon said, ‘These English will rue the day they refused to work with my system. In a hundred years there will arise a nation across the Rhine which will break the strangle-hold of gold in Europe. And he was one year out; for ninety-nine years later there was nineteen fourteen!”

'"Who are you? Why are you talking like this in Germany, when very soon we are likely to be at war all over again!"

'"My name is Phillip Maddison, and I write books."

'"Phillip Maddison? You wrote the Donkin Tetralogy? [fictional equivalent of The Flax of Dream - PB] That was a fine work, an idealistic work. What has happened to you since you wrote those novels, and that even better book, The Water Wanderer? [Tarka - PB] Stick to your last, my lad, and don't try to play Hamlet."'