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Chapter XXVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9


The Year 1867 a Time of Peace in Europe - Failure of the Policy of Napoleon: His Letter to M. Ollivier - Celebrated Speech of M. Thiers - Proposed Cession of Luxemburg to France: History of the Question: The Cession warmly opposed in Germany: The Conference of London: Treaty concluded, by which Luxemburg Is Neutralised - Paris International Exhibition - Attempt on the Life of the Czar - Interview of Salzburg - Speech of M. Thiers on the Roman Question and the Unity of Italy: Declaration of M. Rouher: Scene in the Legislative Body - Austrian Affairs after the War - The Emperor appoints Count Beust his Foreign Minister - Count Andrassy is made Minister President for Hungary - Restoration of the Hungarian Constitution - The Dual System of Government established - Compromise between Austria and Hungary - The Delegations - Arrangement about the State Debt - Cis-Leithan Affairs - Amendment of the Constitution of 1861 - Confessional Laws - Coronation Ceremony at Pesth - Italian Affairs in 1867 - Ministry of Rattazzi - Arrest of Garibaldi- Bands cross the Roman Frontier, but are Defeated - Garibaldi escapes and renews the Invasion - The French Expedition leaves Toulon - Circular of M. de Moustier - The Pontifical Army- Battle of Montana - Defeat of the Garibaldians: Indignation against them in France - Speech of Cardinal Bellechose - United States: Conflict between the President and the Congress continues - State of things at the South - Negro ascendancy - Democratic opinion - Republican opinion - Reflections - Affairs of Mexico - Arrival of a Papal Nuncio at the end of 1864: Maximilian can come to no agreement with him - Relations with Borne broken off - Decree of October, 1865: its fatal consequences- Unfriendly attitude of the American Government: They press Napoleon to recall the French Troops: He at last consents - Decline of Maximilian's Fortunes in 1866 - The Empress visits Europe - She becomes insane - Progress of the Juarists - Mission of General Castelnau: Letter to him from the French Emperor - The French Officials urge Maximilian to Abdicate: He refuses: He is joined by Meramon and Marquez - Departure of the French - The Imperialists defeated at San Jacinto - Maximilian besieged in Queretaro: He is captured, tried, and executed - Juarez re-elected President of Mexico.
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The year 1867 was a time of profound peace in Europe, except so far as it was disturbed by revolutionary movements which had for their object the overthrow of the Papal Government, and by the last fruitless struggles of the Cretan insurgents. Besides the consummation of the failure of his costly experiment in Mexico, which will be fully narrated farther on, a new mortification befell the Emperor of the French this year in connection with the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. Yet he continued to put the best face upon everything, to claim increasing influence for Napoleonic ideas, and to credit his foreign policy with success in all directions. Justly indeed might he declare - in the speech delivered at the opening of the Chambers on February 14 - that " the voice of France had influence enough to arrest the conqueror at the gates of Vienna." But when, in the " Livre Jaune " (the " Yellow Book," containing the usual annual exposition of the views of the French Government on foreign policy), the recall of the French troops from Mexico was said to have been " resolved upon in the full plenitude of our liberty of action," - when it was intimated that "anything having the character of external pressure could only have placed us in the position, despite ourselves, of having to prolong a state of things which we should wish to abridge," - when he said that " the Government of the United States understood that want of conciliation would only have prolonged the occupation [of Mexico], and embittered relations which, for the welfare of both countries, should remain friendly," - these brave words could not hide from the keen-witted politicians of France the real nature of the pusillanimous surrender which they were intended to disguise. Nor are there wanting indications that the Emperor was beginning to be haunted by that terrible sense of instability which, when it had attained to greater strength, caused him to rush madly into war in 1870. Writing to M. Ollivier, on the 12th January, on the subject of a now Press law, he said - after referring to the extreme difficulty of framing a law which should hit the right mean between repression and indulgence - " Nevertheless, to strike the imagination by decisive measures, I would wish at one stroke to establish what has been called the crowning of the edifice. I should like to do this, and never undo the work, for a settlement is necessary to me and to the country. I must mark out resolutely the goal which I desire to reach, without having the appearance of being forced, year by year, to make successive concessions; for one always falls, as said M. Guizot, on the side towards which one leans; and I wish to march straight and firmly, without oscillating, now to the right, now to the left. You see I speak to you very frankly; you have inspired me with entire confidence, and my inspirations will always seem to me the better for being in conformity with yours."

A single word - in that condition of unstable equilibrium which results when the government of a great nation is based on an originally violent and illegal assumption of power - suffices sometimes to produce a terrible sensation. In March, M. Thiers made a celebrated speech, in which he declared himself opposed to the extravagant importance which was attached to the principle of race nationality - a principle which, if carried out universally and logically, would " be for Europe a chaos, and for France a descent to the third rank among nations." He expressed a strong disapproval of the policy which had favoured the unification of Italy, and was about to further rather than impede the unification of Germany. M. Rouher replied, and, in defending the policy of the Emperor in promoting national and popular aims, said: "The Government has no idea of impeding abroad the principle of national sovereignty which it upholds at home. Universal suffrage sanctioned the Imperial Government which was inaugurated on the 2nd December." Here M. Thiers interrupted M. Rouher by pronouncing the single word " Oublions!" (Let us forget). A kind of electric thrill ran through the Assembly at the sound of this ominous word; great agitation prevailed; and some time elapsed before M. Rouher could proceed with his speech. The Emperor must have known full well that this expression of a desire to forget the 2nd December signified really that no honest. Frenchman felt it possible to forgive it.

The Emperor formally opened the Paris International Exhibition on the 1st April. Two days before, a question had been discussed in the North-German Parliament, which might easily have rekindled another war in Europe. The discussion bore on the negotiations, then first divulged, which had been proceeding for some time between the Emperor Napoleon and the King of Holland for the cession of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg to France. When, after Waterloo, the representatives of the great Powers were settling the map of Europe, the leading thought in their minds was to take securities against France; and among such securities, the establishment of a fortress of the first class on the northern frontier of France was provided for by the admission of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg (ruled over then, as now, by the King of Holland as Grand Duke) into the German Confederation, and the arrangement for the garrisoning of Luxemburg - one of the strongest places in Europe - by a garrison jointly composed of native and Prussian troops. At a later period, it was agreed by treaty that the garrison should consist of Prussian troops only. In 1839, the territory of the Grand Duchy was guaranteed to the King of Holland by a treaty concluded between Great Britain, Austria, France, Prussia, Russia, and Luxemburg. The King of Holland, as ruler of Limburg and Luxemburg, had voted on the side of Prussia in the memorable division of the 14th June, 1866; Count Bismark had therefore no excuse for seizing Luxemburg as he did Hanover and Hesse Cassel. When the war was over, and the organisation of the new North- German Bund was being proceeded with, the King of Holland expressed his desire that neither Limburg nor Luxemburg should be included in the new Bund. To this Prussia acceded, yet retained her garrison in Luxemburg. Such a possession as the Grand Duchy, separated by Belgian territory from his Dutch dominions, Ťand interposed between two powerful states, the relations between which were continually becoming more perilous and inflammable, was productive of more anxiety than profit to the King of Holland; and could he have quietly ceded it to France, for a consideration, nothing would have pleased him better. For the Emperor, such a " rectification" of the French frontier would have been in the highest degree serviceable; the world would then see that Prussia was not the only gainer by the late war, but that for France also it had resulted in an extension of her boundaries. The correspondence with Holland commenced towards the close of 1866, and was continued in January and February of the following year, being kept strictly secret. The difficulty, of course, lay in the Prussian garrison of Luxemburg; for, although the Grand Duchy was to form no part of the new North-German Bund, Prussia showed no symptoms of any intention to relax her hold on the fortress. It came to this, that the King of Holland declared himself ready to sell Luxemburg to France, if the consent both of the population and of Prussia could be first obtained. The Luxemburgers are said to be so philosophically cosmopolitan in their sentiments, that there would perhaps have been little difficulty, if judicious measures had been resorted to, in obtaining a nearly unanimous plebiscite in favour of annexation to France. But it was quite another thing to gain the consent of Prussia. The King of Holland had no sooner given to the Prussian Government an intimation of the contemplated cession, than the matter was debated in the North- German Parliament, and warmly, not to say angrily, canvassed in newspapers, in streets, and in houses, through the length and breadth of Germany. It was an intolerable thought to men who had just won so large a measure of national unity, and were full of pride and exultation in the retrospect, that an old German land, which had formerly given a line of emperors to Germany, should pass under the power of France. The negotiation respecting Luxemburg, had it now been transferred from the Hague to Berlin, must, considering the excitement of German feeling, have become acrimonious, and would probably have ended in war. For this the Emperor, who was engaged in plans for the re-organisation of the French army, and the introduction of a new weapon, was not as yet prepared; he therefore abandoned the notion of purchasing Luxemburg, forebore to open direct negotiations with Berlin, and called in the assistance of the neutral Powers. It was arranged that the King of Holland, in his capacity of Grand Duke, should be invited by England, Prussia, Austria, Italy, and Belgium, to propose a Conference, to be held in London, for the settlement of the Luxemburg question. The King of Holland did so. Representatives of Prance and Prussia also, as well as the six Powers above mentioned, were sent to the Conference, which held its first meeting in London on the 7th May, 1867. The nature of the work to be done was pretty generally understood before the Conference met, and its deliberations were soon over. On the 11th May, a treaty was signed, by which it was stipulated that Luxemburg should remain, as before, under the rule of the House of Orange-Nassau, without any political connection with Holland, but that it should be for the future a neutral state, its neutrality being guaranteed by the Powers that were signataries to the treaty, with the exception of Belgium, itself a neutral kingdom. In accordance with its acquired character of neutrality, the capital of the Grand Duchy was to cease to be a fortified town; its fortifications were to be razed within a specified time; and the Prussian troops were to be withdrawn after the ratifications of the treaty had been exchanged. In this way the question was equitably and honourably settled without war, thanks to the diplomacy of Lord Stanley, who had actively promoted the project of a Conference.

In June, the Emperor had the satisfaction of welcoming at Paris a great number of imperial and royal personages, who came to visit the International Exhibition. During the festivities the Emperor of Russia, while seated in a carriage beside the Emperor Napoleon, was fired at by a fanatical Polish refugee, named Berezowski. Both sovereigns escaped without injury, Napoleon, according to the Moniteur, remarking to the Czar with a smile, "Sire, we shall have been under fire together." The King of Prussia also came to Paris, attended by Count Bismark. To these distinguished visitors must be added the King of Portugal, Prince Humbert of Italy, the Viceroy of Egypt, and, finally, no less a personage than the Commander of the Faithful himself, the Sultan Abdul Aziz, who now, for the first time in history, set foot as a guest, not as a conqueror, upon soil inhabited by unbelievers. In August, Napoleon went to Salzburg, and there had an interview with the Emperor of Austria. The circumstance caused much disquietude in Germany, for the object of the meeting was believed to be to concert plans against Prussia. Whether anything of the kind was contemplated on either side, it is impossible to determine; but it is certain that little beyond the interchange of friendly civilities and amenities actually took place. In a circular despatch bearing on this matter, Bismark intimated his satisfaction at finding that, contrary to the first reports, the meeting had really been of such an innocuous character; but he took occasion to give plain, and even stem, expression to the resolution generally entertained in Germany, to suffer henceforward no foreign intermeddling of any kind in its internal affairs.

On the 4th December, during a debate on the Roman question, M. Thiers made another of those telling and incisive speeches against the policy which had formed or permitted an united Italy - an united Germany - which, it is to be feared, contributed not a little to goad on the Emperor to the frantic declaration of war which he made in 1870. Yet it seems but just to M. Thiers to admit that his words need not necessarily bear the warlike and fire-breathing interpretation which is usually affixed to them. It is possible for a great nation " not to permit " a great political change in the midst of a neighbouring people without declaring war; at any rate, it is theoretically possible. Suppose, for instance, that Napoleon had, throughout the quarrels which preceded the war, given the support of France, so far as it was possible, to the Austrian policy, and had declined to give to Bismark, when he visited him at Biarritz, the slightest tranquil- lising assurance as to what the attitude of France would be in the event of war between Austria and Prussia. In that case, it is not too much to say, that either the war would not have broken out at all; or, if it had broken out, it would not have resulted in an aggrandisement of Prussia comparable to that which was actually achieved. An unfriendly neutrality of France, as before explained, would have prevented Prussia from denuding the Rhine frontier, and so bringing a great superiority of force into play against Austria on the Elbe. Why might not M. Thiers have merely desired for France a course of policy such as is here shadowed forth? This, however, is what he said: " No sovereign should create voluntarily on his own frontier a state of twenty-five millions of inhabitants. By committing such a fault, we have not promoted either the welfare of France, Italy, or Europe. Italy, in becoming a great monarchy, at the same time becomes a disturbing agent, and an instrument of revolution. The Germanic Confederation, which for fifty years was the principal authority for maintaining the peace of the world, has disappeared, and has been replaced by a military monarchy, which disposes of forty millions of men. You are placed between two unities - one which you made, and the other which you permitted. They are joining hands over the Alps, and only content to preserve peace on condition that you allow the one to complete itself by seizing on the States of the Pope, and the other to swallow up the German Governments of the South." M. Thiers went on to speak in detail of the condition of Italy under the "wolves of Savoy." Stung by his taunts, and alarmed by the evident sympathy of the majority with the line of censure which he adopted, the Government was induced to commit itself more explicitly than it had intended. M. Rouher rose, and, in the course of his reply to Thiers, declared that France would never permit Italy to possess itself of Rome. Then ensued an extraordinary scene. The majority of the members welcomed this declaration with enthusiasm, rising from their seats, waving their hats, and shouting, " Jamais, non, jamais l'Italie ne s'emparera de Rome! " (Never, never shall Italy possess itself of Rome).

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Pictures for Chapter XXVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9

Salzburg
Salzburg >>>>
Naval review at Spithead
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International Exhibition at Paris, 1867
International Exhibition at Paris, 1867 >>>>
Marshal Bazaine
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