According to official figures in 1863, 8,381 of France’s 37,510 communes were not majority French. They included a quarter of the country’s population. Thus French was basically a foreign language to many “Frenchmen.3” Despite this language barrier, the inhabitants of France somehow achieved spiritual unity beyond political or administrative structures, a unity of mind and feelings that was a reflection of a shared culture.4 The idea of la patrie emerged to express these binding qualities among the people of France.5 It began among certain social groups, perhaps, but soon spread beyond their origins. One result of this consciousness was the people’s will to form a nation.6