France is an unusually stable, well-balanced, and mature country. Its stability shows itself in the fact that it has remained unchanged politically since 1500 with the exception of little shifts along the Belgian and Italian boundaries and in the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine. This is partly because it lies for the most part within the natural boundaries of the sea and the Pyrenees, Alps, Jura, Vosges, and Ardennes. The balanced quality of the country, resulting in part at least from favorable conditions of climate, relief, soils, power, and mineral resources, is evident in the fact that among the large European countries France is the one which could best maintain its present economic status if all foreign trade were suddenly abolished. Only in the field of textiles would this cause really serious limitations, for France raises no cotton.
Finally, maturity is evident in the French conception of civilization and in the way in which man has so thoroughly remade the natural landscape. Moreover, like old people in general, France has an especially strong desire for security, and this is the underlying motive of much of its political activity. The early decline of the birthrate, which forces the nation to import foreigners, thus endangering the unity of the nation, also seems to be an evidence of maturity. Another evidence of this is the strong desire of the average Frenchman to stay at home and continue the comfortable round of daily duties which has become habitual. But there are also high qualities of maturity. France much surpasses most countries in love of art and beauty, in clear, logical thinking and writing, and in practical, common-sense reasoning.