ePub 版

forcing them less on his enemy than on his allies.

[ocr errors]

As Russia's leadership of Europe had come from success in war, and had been maintained by subsequent successes of the Russian armies, — in Persia, in Turkey, in Poland, and elsewhere, it followed that that leadership was lost when the fortune of war changed, and those armies were beaten on every occasion where they met the Allies. No military country could stand up erect under such crushing blows as had been delivered at the Alma, at Inkermann, at the Tchernaya, and at Sebastopol, not to name lesser Allied successes, or to count the victories of the Turks. Nicholas died in the course of the war, falling only before the universal conqueror. His successor submitted to the decision of the sword, and in fact performed an act of abdication inferior only to that executed by Napoleon. France stepped into the vacant leadership, and held it for ten years. Subsequent events confirmed and strengthened the French hegemony. The Italian war, waged by the Emperor in person, had lasted only about as many months as the Russian war did years, and yet it had proved far more damaging to Austria than the other had proved to Russia. The mere loss of territory experienced by Austria, though not small, was the least of the adverse results to her. Her whole Italian scheme was cut through and utterly ruined; and it was well understood that the days of her rule over Venetia were destined to be as few as they were evil. For what she then did, France received Savoy and Nice, which formed by no means a great price for her all but inestimable services, services by no means to be ascertained, if we would know their true value, by what was done in 1859. France created the Kingdom of Italy. After making the amplest allowance for what was effected by Cavour, by Garibaldi, by Victor Emanuel, and by the Italian people, it must be clear to every one that nothing could have been effected toward the overthrow of Austrian domination in

Italy but for the action of French armies in that country. That the Emperor meant what he wrought is very unlikely; but after the events of 1859 it was impossible to prevent the construction of the kingdom of Italy; and the Frenchman had to consent to the completion of his own work, though he did so on some occasions with extreme reluctance, not so much from the dictation of his own feelings, as from the aversion which the French feel for the Italian cause, and which is so strong, and so deeply shared by the military, that it was with difficulty the soldiers in the camp of Châlons were prevented getting up an illumination when news reached them of the battle of Custozza, the event of which was so disastrous to Italy, and would have been fatal to her cause, had not that been vindicated and established by Prussian genius and valor on the remote fields of Germany and Bohemia. The descendants of men who fought under Arminius saved the descendants of the countrymen of Varus. Those persons who have condemned the Frenchman's apparently singular course toward Italy on some occasions, have not made sufficient allowance for the dislike of almost all classes of his subjects for the Italians. The Italian war was unpopular, and the Russian war was not popular. While the French have been pleased by the military occurrences that make up the histories of those wars, they were by no means pleased by the wars themselves, and they do not approve them even at this day; and the extraordinary events of the current year are not at all calculated to make them popular in France: for it is not difficult to see that there is a close connection between the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy and the elevation of Prussia to the first place in Europe; and Prussia is the power most abhorred by the French. So intense is French hatred of Prussia, that it is not too much to say that, last summer, the French would almost as lief have seen the Russians in Paris as the Prussians in Vienna.

At the middle of last June the leadership of Europe - Frenchmen said of the world was in the hands of France; and that such was France's place was the work of Napoleon III. The Emperor had been successful in all his undertakings, with one exception. His Mexican business had proved a total failure; but this had not injured him. Americans thought differently, some of us going so far as to suppose the fall of Maximilian's shaky throne would involve that of the solid throne of Napoleon. No such thing. The great majority of Frenchmen know little and care less about the Mexican business. Intelligent Frenchmen regret the Emperor's having taken it up; but they do so because of the expenditure it has involved, and because they have learnt from their country's history that it is best for her to keep out of that colonizing pursuit which has so many charms for the Emperor, - perhaps because of his Dutch origin. There is something eminently ridiculous about French colonization, which contrasts strangely with the robust action of the English. The Emperor seems to believe in it,- an instance of weakness that places him, on one point at least, below common men, most of whom laugh at his doings in regard to Mexico. If report does him no injustice, he thinks his Mexican undertaking the greatest thing of his reign. What, then, is the smallest thing of that reign? It is somewhat strange that this immense undertaking should not have been practicable till some time after the United States had become involved in civil war, that tasked all American energies, and did not permit any attention to be paid to Napoleon's action in Mexico.


Whether wise or foolish, Napoleon's interference in Mexican affairs had not weakened his power or lessened his influence in the estimation of Europe. Five months ago he was at the head of the European world. His position was quite equal to that which Nicholas held thirteen years earlier. If any change in his condition was looked for,

it was sought in the advance of his greatness, not in the chance of his fall. The general, the all but universal sentiment was, that during Napoleon III.'s life France's lead must be accepted; and that, if that life should be much extended, France's power would be greatly increased, and that Belgium and the Rhine country might become hers at no distant day. It is true that, long before the middle of June, the course of events indicated the near approach of war; but it was commonly supposed that the chief result of such war would be to add to the greatness and glory of France. That was about the only point on which men were agreed with respect to the threatened conflict. Prussia and Italy might overthrow the Austrian empire; but most probably Austria, aided by most of Germany, would defeat them both, her armies rendezvousing at Berlin and Milan; and then would Napoleon III., bearing "the sword of Brennus," come in, and save the Allies from destruction, who would gratefully reward him, — the one by ceding the Rhenish provinces, and the other the island of Sardinia, to France. Such was the programme laid out by most persons in Europe and America, and probably not one person in a hundred thought it possible for Prussia to succeed. Even most of those persons who were not overcrowed by Austria's partisans and admirers did not dream that she would be conquered in a week, but thought it would be a more difficult matter for General Benedek to march from Prague to Berlin than was generally supposed, and that such march would not exactly be of the nature of a military promenade. That the French Emperor shared the popular belief, is evident from his conduct. He never would have allowed war to break out, if he had supposed it would lead to the elevation of Prussia to the first place in Europe, — a position held by himself, and which he had no desire to vacate. It was in his power to prevent the occurrence of war down almost to the very hour when

the Diet of the Germanic Confederation afforded to Prussia so plausible a ground for setting her armies in motion, by adopting a course that bore some resemblance to the old process of putting a disobedient member under the ban of the Empire. Prussia would not have gone to war with Austria, had she not been assured of the Italian alliance, an alliance that would not only be useful in keeping a large portion of Austria's force in the south, but would prevent that power from purchasing Italian aid by the cession of Venetia; for so angry were the Austrians with Prussia, that it was quite on the cards that they might become the friends of Italy, if she would but help them against that nation whose exertions in 1859 had prevented Venetia from following the fate of Lombardy.

As Prussia would not have made war in 1866 without having secured the assistance of Italy, so was it impossible for Italy to form an alliance with Prussia without the consent of France being first had and obtained. Napoleon III. possessed an absolute veto on the action of the Italian government, and had he signified to that government that an alliance with Prussia could not meet with his countenance and approval, no such alliance ever would have been formed, or even the proposition to form it have been taken into serious consideration by the Cabinet of Florence. Victor Emanuel II. would have dared no more to attack Francis Joseph, without the consent of Napoleon III., than Carthage durst have attacked Masinissa without the consent of Rome. Prussia was not under the supervision of France, and was and is the only great European nation which had not then, as she has not since, been made to feel the weight of his power; but it may be doubted, without the slightest intention to impeach her courage, if she would have resolved upon war had she been convinced that France was utterly opposed to such resolution, and was prepared to show that the Empire was for peace by making war to preserve it. The opin

ion was quite common, as matters became more and more warlike with each succeeding day, that the course of Prussia had been fixed upon and mapped out by Count Bismark and Napoleon III., and that the former had received positive assurances that his country should not undergo any reduction of territory should the fortune of war go against her; in return for which he had agreed to such a "rectification of the French frontier" as should be highly pleasing to the pride of Frenchmen, and add greatly to the glory and the dignity of their Emperor. When news came that Napoleon III., after peace had been resolved upon, had asked for the cession of certain Rhenish territory, the demand was supposed to have been made in consequence of an understanding entered into before the war by the courts of Paris and Berlin. There was nothing unreasonable in this supposition; for Napoleon III. was so bent upon ex

Exactly what it was Napoleon III. asked of Prussia we never have seen stated by any authority that we can quite trust. The London Times, which is likely to be well informed on the subject, assumes, in its issue of August 11th, that the Emperor asked of Prussia the restoration of the French frontier of 1814, - meaning the French frontier as it was fixed by the Treaty of Paris, on the 30th of May, immediately after the fall of Napoleon I. If this is the correct interpretation of Napoleon's demand, he asked for very little. The Treaty of Paris took from France nearly all the conquests made by the Republic and the Empire, leaving her only a few places on the side of Germany, a little territory near Geneva, portions of Savoy, and the Venaissin. After the second conquest of France, most of these remnants of her conquests were taken from her. Napoleon III. has regained what was then lost of Savoy, and he seems to have sought from Prussia the restoration of that which was lost on the side of Germany, most of which was given to Bavaria and Belgium, and the remainder to Prussia herself. What Prussia holds, he supposed she could cede to France; and as to Bavaria, he may have argued that Prussia was in such position with regard to that kingdom as to make her will law to its government. But how could she get possession of what Belgium holds? Since the failure of his attempt, the French Emperor has been at peculiar pains to assure the King of the Belgians that he has no designs on his territory; and therefore we must suppose he had none when he propounded his demand to Prussia. It may be added, that the cession of the Prussian portion of the spoil of 1815 had been a subject of speculation, and of something like negotiation, long before war between Prussia and Austria was supposed to be possible.

tending the boundaries of France, and was so entirely master of the situation, and his friendship was so necessary to Prussia, that it was reasonable to suppose he had made a good bargain with that power. Probably, when the secret history of the war shall be published, it will be seen that an understanding did exist between Prussia and France, and that Napoleon III., in August, asked for no more than it had been agreed he should have, in June, or May, or even earlier. Why, then, did Prussia give so firm but civil a negative in answer to his demand? and how was it that he submitted with so much of meekness to her refusal, even attributing his demand to the pressure of French public opinion, which is no more strongly expressed in 1866 in favor of the acquisition of the Rhine country, than it has been in almost any year since that country was lost, more than half a century since? The answer is easy. Prussia, no matter what her arrangement with France before the war, durst not pass over to the latter a solitary league of German territory. Her victories had so exalted German sentiment that she could not have her own way in all things. She was, on one side, paralyzed by the unexpected completeness of her military successes, which had brought very near all Germany under her eagles; for all Germans saw at once that she had obtained that commanding position from which the dictation of the unity of their country was not only a possibility, but something that could be accomplished without much difficulty. What Victor Emanuel II. and Count Cavour had been to Italy, William I. and Count Bismark could be to Austria, with this vast difference in favor of the Prussian sovereign and statesman, that their policy could not be dictated, nor their action hampered, by a great foreign sovereign, who ruled a people hostile to the unity of every European race but themselves. It was impossible even to take into consideration any project that looked to the dismemberment of Germany, at a time

when even Southern Germans were ready to unite with Prussia, because she was the champion of German unity, and was in condition to make her championship effectual. Napoleon III. saw how matters were, and, being a statesman, he did not hesitate, at the risk of much loss of influence, to admit a fact the existence of which could not be denied, and which operated with overwhelming force against his interests both as an emperor and as a man. That he may have only deferred a rupture with Prussia is probable enough, for it is not to be assumed that he is ready to cede the first place in Europe to the country most disliked by his subjects, and which refuses to cede anything to him. But he must have time in which to rearm his infantry, and to place in their hands a weapon that shall be to the needlegun what the needle-gun is to the Austrian muzzle-loader. He has postponed action; but that he has definitely abandoned the French claim to the left bank of the Rhine it would be hazardous to assert. There are reports that a conference of the chief European powers will be held soon, and that by that body something will be done with respect to the French claim that will prove satisfactory to all parties. It would be a marvellous body, should it accomplish so miraculous a piece of business. The matter is in fair way to disturb the peace of Europe before Sadowa shall have be

There has been as much noise made over the needle - gun as by that famous and fascinating slaughter weapon; yet it is by no means an arm of tender years. It had been known thirty years when the recent war began, and it had been amply tested in action seventeen years before it was first directed against the Austrians, not to mention the free use that had been made of it in the Danish war. Much that has been said of its character and capabilities since last June was said in 1849, and can be found in publications of that year. The world had forgotten it, and also that Prussia could fight. Nicholas von Dreyse, inventor of the needle-gun, is now living, at the age of seventy-eight. The thought of the invention occurred to him the day after the battle of Jena, in 1806. Some six or seven years since, we read, in an English work, an elaborate argument to show that, in a great war, Prussia must be beaten, because she had no experienced commanders ! - like Benedek and Clam-Gallas, for example.

come as old a battle as we now rate Solferino.

We do not assert that there was an understanding between France and Prussia last spring, and that Prussia went to war because that arrangement assured her against loss; but we think there is nothing irrational in the popular belief in the existence of such an understanding, and that nothing has occurred since the middle of June that renders that belief absurd. The contrary belief makes a fool of Napoleon III.,

a character which not even the Emperor's enemies have attributed to him since he became a successful man.

War began on the 15th of June, the day after that on which that bungling body, the Bund, under Austrian influence, had resort to overt measures against Prussia, which had suffered for some time from its covert measures. The Germanic Confederation ceased to exist on the 14th of June, having completed its half-century, with a little time to spare. The declarations of war that appeared on the 18th of June, — the anniversary of Fehrbellin, Kolin, and Waterloo, all great and decisive Prussian battles, and two of them Prussian victories, or victories which Prussians aided in winning, - the declarations of war, we say, were mere formalities, and as such they were regarded. Prussia's first open operation was taken three days before, when she invaded Saxony,

a country in which the Austrians, had they been wise, would have had at least a hundred thousand men within twenty-four hours after the action of the Diet. Prussia had been prepared for war for some weeks, perhaps months, while we are assured that Austria's preparations were far from complete ; from which, supposing the statement correct, the inference is drawn that she did not expect Prussia to push matters to extremity. It is more likely that she fell into the usual error of all proud egotists, that of estimating the capacity of a foe by her own. We cannot think so poorly of Austrian statesmen and generals as to conclude that they did not see war was inevitable in

the latter part of May, which gave them three weeks to mass their troops so near the Saxon frontier as would have enabled them to cross it in a few hours after the Diet had given itself up to their direction, before the world. As the Diet never durst have acted thus without Austria's direct sanction, Austria must have known that war was at hand, and she should have prepared for its coming. Probably she did make all the preparation she thought necessary, she supposing that Prussia would be as slow as herself, because believing that her best was the best thing in the world. This error was the source of all her misfortunes. She applied to the military art, in this age of railways and electric telegraphs, principles and practices that were not even of the first merit in much earlier and very different times. She was not aware that the world had changed. Prussia was thoroughly aware of it, and acted accordingly. She was all vivacity and alertness, and hence her success. In nineteen days, counting from the morning of June 15th, she had accomplished that which almost all men in other countries had deemed impossible. While foreigners were speculating as to the number of days Benedek would require to reach Berlin, and wondering whether he would proceed by the Silesian or the Saxon route, the Prussians were routing him, taking Prague, and marching swiftly toward Vienna. The contending armies first “felt” one another on the 26th of June, in a small affair at Liebenau, in which the Prussians were victorious. The next day there was another "affair," of larger proportions, at Podal, with the same result; and two more actions, one at Nachod and at Skalitz, in which Fortune was consistent, adhering to the single-headed eagle, and the other at Trautenau, which was of the nature of a drawn battle. On the 28th there was another fight at Trautenau, the Prussians remaining masters of the field; while the Austrians were beaten at other points, and fell back to Gitschin, once the capital of Wallenstein's Duchy of Friedland, and where

« 上一頁繼續 »