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Chapter XXIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2


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In spite of the brilliant success of Count Bismarck's policy, the party of retrenchment and reform in the

Prussian Chambers continued to exercise a jealous control over the national expenditure, however powerless they were to direct the national policy. Soon after the peace, a Loan Bill was introduced into the Lower House, the object of which was to enable the Government to borrow 60,000,000 thalers; but the Chamber refused to sanction more than 40,000,000 thalers. In the debate on this question, Count Bismarck used some remarkable words. " The financial question," he said,' " is the chief point; and if the right moment be allowed to pass, the accomplishment of Prussia's aims may be deferred for years, and her very existence again endangered. Money must be at the disposal of the Government. We must have our hands on our swords, and our purses well filled" There can be no doubt that these words refer to France. The shadow of a yet more tremendous struggle than that from which his country had just emerged seems already to be passing over the mind of the Prussian statesman.

In the beginning of September, a deputation from Hanover obtained an interview with the King of Prussia, in the vain hope of inducing the monarch to refrain from destroying the independence of their country. The address which they presented contained the following passage: - " It cannot be agreeable to your Majesty to dethrone a prince whose dynasty has been connected with the country for nearly a thousand years, and who, equally with your Majesty, wears his crown by the grace of God; to dethrone him simply because, taking a different view of the Federal law, up to that time valid, to the view entertained by your Majesty's advisers, he considered himself legally prevented from unhesitatingly adopting your Majesty's German policy, and thus, by an unfortunate concatenation of circumstances, was ultimately forced to employ his army against your Majesty's troops, whom they had previously never opposed, but by whose side they had often victoriously fought in joyful brotherhood of arms."

The King's reply, though it ended with asserting " necessity - the tyrant's plea" - for the annexation of Hanover, was, in its tone, far from unfeeling or ungenerous. He said that he should have held the Hanoverians in less esteem if they had not adopted some such step to testify their faithful attachment to their hereditary dynasty, so closely allied in blood to his own. He claimed the speedy and signal overthrow of Austria as a " visible interposition of Providence in favour of Prussia." Nor was he insensible to the gravity of what he was doing. " Notwithstanding the wonderful successes which have given me the right of freely deciding upon the course I should adopt, it did not require either addresses or deputations to make me aware of the importance of the measure which you desire to see withdrawn. Nevertheless, I again offer you my thanks. We have frankly said to each other what we think; and I prefer that, because it holds out a hope of a better understanding in future. The most careful consideration, which has been painful because of my relationship to the House of Hanover, imposes annexation upon me as a duty. I owe it to my people, to compensate it for the immense sacrifices it has made; and therefore, I am bound to render impossible in the future any recurrence of danger from the hostile attitude of Hanover."

The annexation accordingly took place. The dethroned King George addressed a proclamation to his former subjects, releasing them from their allegiance to him, " under reserve of all his rights," and " with the reserve that such duties shall revive, and become obligatory, at any time when King George V., or one of his lawful successors, shall resume the exercise of the government of the kingdom." On the 2nd October, he addressed a formal protest against the annexation to all the Cabinets of Europe.

A bill was also introduced in the Prussian Chambers about the same time for the formal annexation to Prussia of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, "except a portion to be agreed upon hereafter by a contract with the Grand Duke of Oldenburg." This reservation must have been insisted upon by Russia, the imperial family of which is nearly allied to the House of Oldenburg. In bringing forward this measure, Count Bismarck was wholly silent as to Article 5 of the Treaty of Prague, which provided that the inhabitants of Northern Schleswig should be invited to signify by vote their political preference; and that if they expressed by their votes the wish to be re-united to Denmark, that wish should be carried out. Up to the present time (1873) this article of the Treaty of Prague has remained inoperative.

The Italians had tried hard to gain a footing in the Trentino while the war lasted, being under the impression that, when the peace came, territory would be awarded to the belligerent Powers on the principle of uti possidetis. But their troops - whether regulars or volunteers - penetrated but a little way, and captured no place of importance. The negotiations for the peace were carried on at Vienna. Italian diplomatists are famous for their subtlety and address; but in the present case the uniform ill-success of the Italian arms paralysed their diplomacy, and Austria refused to cede one foot of territory beyond what she had already ceded to France. The Italian plenipotentiary was urgent that at least Riva, at the northern end of the Lake of Garda, might be ceded to Italy, which already owned nine-tenths of the shores of the lake; and Count Mensdorff, as if tired by his pertinacity, consented to sell Riva - a town of 5,000 inhabitants - for the sum of 10,000,000 florins! The offer was not accepted.

After much discussion, the treaty between Austria and Italy was signed on the 3rd October. Italy was to assume a portion of the debt attaching to the ceded territories, and to receive them from the hand of France, as arranged by the Anstro-French Treaty concluded at Vienna on the 24th August. Accordingly, Peschiera was handed over by the French Commissioner, on the 10th October, to the Italian municipality. Venice was evacuated by the Austrians on the 19th instant, amid marks of respect from the crowd. On the 11th, General Menabrea, the Italian negotiator at Vienna, received from Count Mensdorff the far-famed iron crown of Lombardy.

The French Emperor, while handing over Venetia to Italy, was resolved that so good an opportunity for a plébiscite on the Napoleonic model should not be lost. He wrote thus to the King of Italy on the 11th August:. " Your Majesty knows that I accepted the offer of Venetia in order to preserve it from all devastation, and prevent a useless effusion of blood. My purpose always has been to restore it to itself, so that Italy should be free from the Alps to the Adriatic. Mistress of Jier own destinies, Venetia will soon be able to express her will by universal suffrage." The Italian Government probably thought this a superfluous formality; nevertheless, it was necessary to comply. The voting took place about the end of October; 641,758 votes were given in favour of the incorporation of Venetia with Italy, and 69 against it.

For the French Emperor, in spite of the efficacy of the French intervention in favour of Austria, the events of this year must have been full of secret mortification. In Mexico, the empire which he had built up at such a heavy cost was crumbling to pieces; and he did not feel himself strong enough on the throne - nor was he, in fact, gifted with sufficient strength of moral and intellectual fibre - to persevere in the enterprise against the ill-will of the American Government, and the carpings of the opposition at home. He made up his mind to withdraw the French troops from Mexico, and get out of the affair with as little loss of credit as possible. We reserve, however, for the present, an examination of the state of affairs in Mexico in 1866, that we may exhibit a complete and connected narrative of the course and fate of that unfortunate empire, when we have to speak of its collapse. In spite of checks and disappointments, Napoleon still wore a bold front, and in his public utterances continued to assume the oracular and impassible character which had so long imposed on the world. In replying (March 22, 1866) to the address of the Corps Legislative, the Emperor said: "Fifteen years ago, when nominal chief of the state, without effective power, and without support in the Chamber, but strong in my conscience and in the suffrages which had elected me, I ventured to declare that France would not perish in my hands. I have kept my word." What hardihood! thus to refer to the dark deed of treachery and violence by which he had risen to power, as if it ought to be only a subject of pride for him, and of congratulation for France. Within five years after the boast was uttered France was to " perish in his hands," as nearly as a great nation can perish.

In the sitting of the Corps Legislative on the 12th June, an important letter from the Emperor to M. Drouyn de Lhuys was read, in which it was declared that France would only require an extension of her frontiers, in the event of the map of Europe being altered to the profit of a great Power, and of the bordering provinces expressing by a formal and free vote their desire for annexation. The last clause was a judicious reservation, particularly as the doctrine of the popular sovereignty, expressed through plebiscites, was not at all consonant to Prussian ideas, so that there was no chance of Rhine Prussia, or any part of it, being allowed the opportunity, supposing it had desired it, of voting for annexation to France. However, notwithstanding the imperial declaration, the map of Europe was altered to the profit of a great Power, and France obtained no extension of territory. Soor after the close of the Austro-Prussian War, the Emperor asked from the Prussian Government the concession of a small strip of territory to the extreme south of her Rhenish provinces, including the valuable coal-field in the neighbourhood of Saarbruck and Saarlouis. Count Bismarck met the request with a decided refusal, on the ground that the state of national feeling in Germany rendered the cession of a single foot of German territory to a foreign Power an impossible proceeding. The Emperor's mortification must have been extreme; he concealed it, however, and nothing can be more hopeful or optimistic than the tone of the circular which lie caused to be sent on the 16th September to the French diplomatic agents abroad. Its object was to convince the nation and all the world that France had not been humiliated, nor disappointed, nor disagreeably surprised, by the late events; on the contrary, that she was perfectly satisfied with what had happened. The formation of the Holy Alliance fifty years before might indeed have been called a menace for France; at that time the chief Powers of Europe were banded together for the attainment of their own purposes, and she could get no allies. But the day of Holy Alliances was gone by; every nation was now free to choose its allies according to its political preferences. No principle dear to France had been outraged by what had happened in Germany. That very principle of nationality, by understanding and promoting which Prussia had risen to greatness, was a French principle. It would be found that the first Napoleon had caused two hundred and fifty-three independent states to disappear in Germany, and had founded, in germ, the nationality and kingdom of Italy. As to annexations, France desired none in which the sympathy of the populations annexed did not go with her - in which they had not the same customs, the same national spirit with herself. From the elevated point of view occupied by the French Government, " the horizon appeared to be cleared of all menacing eventualities;" great and anxious questions had been settled without too violent shocks, and without the dangerous co-operation of revolutionary passions. "A peace which reposes upon such bases will be a durable peace." Yet at this very time, if M. Rouher spoke the truth in the address which he presented to Napoleon III. in the name of the Senate on the 16th July, 1870, the Emperor had begun to make preparations for a great and decisive war with Prussia.

About this time M. Drouyn de Lhuys resigned his portfolio as Minister for Foreign Affairs, and was succeeded by the Marquis de Moustier. It was generally believed that M. Drouyn de Lhuys did not approve of the tone of indifference assumed by the Emperor with regard to the Prussian annexations; and also that he felt no confidence that, under the Convention of September, the Pope and the Papal territory would long be secure from attack.

That convention, however, was gradually carried into effect. The Italion, capital was transferred to Florence about the end or 1865, and the French troops began to be withdrawn from Rome in the early months of 1866. Meantime what was called the Antibes Legion was organised - a body of men, 1,200 strong, under the command of a French general, enlisted in France for the service and protection of the Pope. This force embarked at Antibes for Civita Vecchia on the 13th September; the men being distinctly informed before they went that, although serving under the Pope's colours, they would not cease to be French soldiers. When, in December, 1866, the last troops of the French garrison were taking their departure, their commander, General Montebello, addressed His Holiness in a short farewell speech, the point of which lay in the expression, that the Emperor, though withdrawing his troops, "left at Rome the protection of France." The Pope made a remarkable reply, from which it was evident that he augured no good from the new arrangement. " Revolution may come," he said; "I am weak; I have no resource on earth. But I 'tranquillise myself by confiding in a power which will give me the strength I need. That power is God. It is He who sustains me. Go, my children, depart with my benediction, with my love. If you see the Emperor, tell him that I pray for him every day.... But, if I pray for him, he on his side should do something, since he bears the title of Most Christian, and since France is the eldest daughter of the Church." On the 11th December, the French flag was hauled down at the Castle of St. Angelo, and the Pontifical standard hoisted in its place.

The tranquillity of Spain during this year was only disturbed by an unimportant military rising, headed by General Don Juan Prim. In January, Marshal O 'Donnell was in power, having, as the representative of the Liberal Union party, succeeded Narvarz at the head of the Administration in the summer of 1865. On the 2nd January, Prim raised the standard of insurrection at Aranjuez and Oeana. It is not easy to determine his precise motives; but, so far as appears, he wished to terminate the long exclusion from power of the Progresista party to which ho belonged, by simply substituting himself for O'Donnell as the chief of the Government. But O'Donnell was vigilant. Prim could only induce a few squadrons of cavalry to follow him; and, after keeping the field for fifteen days, lie gave up the enterprise and took refuge in Portugal.

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Pictures for Chapter XXIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2

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