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- History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 40/202 -


qualifying the absolute cession of Hanover was an afterthought, lay hidden in the conscience of the Prussian Cabinet. Never had a Government more completely placed itself at the mercy of a pitiless enemy. Count Haugwitz, on reaching Paris, was received by Napoleon with a storm of invective against the supposed partisans of England at the Prussian Court. Napoleon declared that the ill faith of Prussia had made an end even of that miserable pact which had been extorted after Austerlitz, and insisted that King Frederick William should openly defy Great Britain by closing the ports of Northern Germany to British vessels, and by declaring himself endowed by Napoleon with Hanover in virtue of Napoleon's own right of conquest. Haugwitz signed a second and more humiliating treaty embodying these conditions; and the Prussian Government, now brought into the depths of contempt, but unready for immediate war, executed the orders of its master. [125] A proclamation, stating that Prussia had received the absolute dominion of Hanover from its conqueror Napoleon, gave the lie to the earlier announcements of King Frederick William. A decree was published excluding the ships of England from the ports of Prussia and from those of Hanover itself (March 28, 1806). It was promptly answered by the seizure of four hundred Prussian vessels in British harbours, and by the total extinction of Prussian maritime commerce by British privateers. [126]

[Napoleon negotiates with Fox. Offers Hanover to England.]

Scarcely was Prussia committed to this ruinous conflict with Great Britain, when Napoleon opened negotiations for peace with Mr. Fox's Government. The first condition required by Great Britain was the restitution of Hanover to King George III. It was unhesitatingly granted by Napoleon. [127] Thus was Prussia to be mocked of its prey, after it had been robbed of all its honour. For the present, however, no rumour of this part of the negotiation reached Berlin. The negotiation itself, which dragged on through several months, turned chiefly upon the future ownership of Sicily. Napoleon had in the first instance agreed that Sicily should be left in the hands of Ferdinand of Naples, who had never been expelled from it by the French. Finding, however, that the Russian envoy d'Oubril, who had been sent to Paris with indefinite instructions by the Emperor Alexander, was willing to separate the cause of Russia from that of England, and to sign a separate peace, Napoleon retracted his promise relating to Sicily, and demanded that this island should be ceded to his brother Joseph. D'Oubril signed Preliminaries on behalf of Russia on the 20th of July, and left the English negotiator to obtain what terms he could. Fox had been willing to recognise the order of things established by Napoleon on the Italian mainland; he would even have ceded Sicily, if Russia had urged this in a joint negotiation; but he was too good a statesman to be cheated out of Sicily by a mere trick. He recalled the English envoy from Paris, and waited for the judgment of the Czar upon the conduct of his own representative. The Czar disavowed d'Oubril's negotiations, and repudiated the treaty which he brought back to St. Petersburg. Napoleon had thus completely overreached himself, and, instead of severing Great Britain and Russia by separate agreements, had only irritated and displeased them both. The negotiations went no further; their importance lay only in the effect which they produced upon Prussia, when Napoleon's offer of Hanover to Great Britain became known at Berlin.

[Prussia learns of Napoleon's offer of Hanover to England, Aug. 7.]

[Prussia determines on war.]

From the time when Haugwitz' second treaty placed his master at Napoleon's feet, Prussia had been subjected to an unbroken series of insults and wrongs. Murat, as Duke of Berg, had seized upon territory allotted to Prussia in the distribution of the ecclesiastical lands; the establishment of a North German Confederacy under Prussian leadership was suggested by Napoleon himself, only to be summarily forbidden as soon as Prussia attempted to carry the proposal into execution. There was scarcely a courtier in Berlin who did not feel that the yoke of the French had become past endurance; even Haugwitz himself now considered war as a question of time. The patriotic party in the capital and the younger officers of the army bitterly denounced the dishonoured Government, and urged the King to strike for the credit of his country. [128] In the midst of this deepening agitation, a despatch arrived from Lucchesini, the Prussian Ambassador at Paris (August 7), relating the offer of Hanover made by Napoleon to the British Government. For nearly three months Lucchesini had caught no glimpse of the negotiations between Great Britain and France; suddenly, on entering into conversation with the English envoy at a dinner-party, he learnt the blow which Napoleon had intended to deal to Prussia. Lucchesini instantly communicated with the Court of Berlin; but his despatch was opened by Talleyrand's agents before it left Paris, and the French Government was thus placed on its guard against the sudden explosion of Prussian wrath. Lucchesini's despatch had indeed all the importance that Talleyrand attributed to it. It brought that spasmodic access of resolution to the irresolute King which Bernadotte's violation of his territory had brought in the year before. The whole Prussian army was ordered to prepare for war; Brunswick was summoned to form plans of a campaign; and appeals for help were sent to Vienna, to St. Petersburg, and even to the hostile Court of London.

[Condition of Prussia.]

[Ministers not in the King's Cabinet.]

The condition of Prussia at this critical moment was one which filled with the deepest alarm those few patriotic statesmen who were not blinded by national vanity or by slavery to routine. The foreign policy of Prussia in 1805, miserable as it was, had been but a single manifestation of the helplessness, the moral deadness that ran through every part of its official and public life. Early in the year 1806 a paper was drawn up by Stein, [129] exposing, in language seldom used by a statesman, the character of the men by whom Frederick William was surrounded, and declaring that nothing but a speedy change of system could save the Prussian State from utter downfall and ruin. Two measures of immediate necessity were specified by Stein, the establishment of a responsible council of Ministers, and the removal of Haugwitz and all his friends from power. In the existing system of government the Ministers were not the monarch's confidential advisers. The Ministers performed their work in isolation from one another; the Cabinet, or confidential council of the King, was composed of persons holding no public function, and free from all public responsibility. No guarantee existed that the policy of the country would be the same for two days together. The Ministers were often unaware of the turn that affairs had taken in the Cabinet; and the history of Haugwitz' mission to Austerlitz showed that an individual might commit the State to engagements the very opposite of those which he was sent to contract. The first necessity for Prussia was a responsible governing council: with such a council, formed from the heads of the actual Administration, the reform of the army and of the other branches of the public service, which was absolutely hopeless under the present system, might be attended with some chance of success.

[State of the Prussian Army.]

[Higher officers.]

The army of Prussia, at an epoch when the conscription and the genius of Napoleon had revolutionised the art of war, was nothing but the army of Frederick the Great grown twenty years older. [130] It was obvious to all the world that its commissariat and marching-regulations belonged to a time when weeks were allowed for movements now reckoned by days; but there were circumstances less conspicuous from the outside which had paralysed the very spirit of soldiership, and prepared the way for a military collapse in which defeats in the field were the least dishonourable event. Old age had rendered the majority of the higher officers totally unfit for military service. In that barrack-like routine of officialism which passed in Prussia for the wisdom of government, the upper ranks of the army formed a species of administrative corps in time of peace, and received for their civil employment double the pay that they could earn in actual war. Aged men, with the rank of majors, colonels, and generals, mouldered in the offices of country towns, and murmured at the very mention of a war, which would deprive them of half their salaries. Except in the case of certain princes, who were placed in high rank while young, and of a few vigorous patriarchs like Blücher, all the energy and military spirit of the army was to be found in men who had not passed the grade of captain. The higher officers were, on an average, nearly double the age of French officers of corresponding rank. [131] Of the twenty-four lieutenant-generals, eighteen were over sixty; the younger ones, with a single exception, were princes. Five out of the seven commanders of infantry were over seventy; even the sixteen cavalry generals included only two who had not reached sixty-five. These were the men who, when the armies of Prussia were beaten in the field, surrendered its fortresses with as little concern as if they had been receiving the French on a visit of ceremony. Their vanity was as lamentable as their faint-heartedness. "The army of his Majesty," said General Rüchel on parade, "possesses several generals equal to Bonaparte." Faults of another character belonged to the generation which had grown up since Frederick. The arrogance and licentiousness of the younger officers was such that their ruin on the field of Jena caused positive joy to a great part of the middle classes of Prussia. But, however hateful their manners, and however rash their self-confidence, the vices of these younger men had no direct connection with the disasters of 1806. The gallants who sharpened their swords on the window-sill of the French Ambassador received a bitter lesson from the plebeian troopers of Murat; but they showed courage in disaster, and subsequently gave to their country many officers of ability and honour.

[Common soldiers.]

What was bad in the higher grades of the army was not retrieved by any excellence on the part of the private soldier. The Prussian army was recruited in part from foreigners, but chiefly from Prussian serfs, who were compelled to serve. Men remained with their regiments till old age; the rough character of the soldiers and the frequency of crimes and desertions occasioned the use of brutal punishments, which made the military service an object of horror to the better part of the middle and lower classes. The soldiers themselves, who could be flogged and drilled into high military perfection by a great general like Frederick, felt a surly indifference to their present taskmasters, and were ready to desert in masses to their homes as soon as a defeat broke up the regimental muster and roll-call. A proposal made in the previous year to introduce that system of general service which has since made Prussia so great a military power was rejected by a committee of generals, on the ground that it "would convert the most formidable army of Europe into a militia." But whether Prussia entered the war with a militia or a regular army, under the men who held command in 1806 it could have met with but one fate. Neither soldiery nor fortresses could have saved a kingdom whose generals knew only how to capitulate.

[Southern Germany. Execution of Palm, Aug. 26.]

All southern Germany was still in Napoleon's hands. As the probability of a war with Prussia became greater and greater, Napoleon had tightened his grasp upon the Confederate States. Publications originating among the patriotic circles of Austria were beginning to appeal to the German people to unite against a foreign oppressor. An anonymous pamphlet, entitled "Germany in its Deep Humiliation," was sold by various booksellers in Bavaria, among others by Palm, a citizen of Nuremberg. There is no evidence that Palm was even acquainted with the contents of the pamphlet; but as in the case of the Duke of Enghien, two years before, Napoleon had required a victim to terrify the House of Bourbon, so now he required a victim to terrify those who among the German people might be inclined to listen to the call of patriotism. Palm was not too obscure for the new Charlemagne. The innocent and unoffending man, innocent even of the honourable crime of attempting to save his country, was dragged before a tribunal of French soldiers, and executed within twenty-four hours, in pursuance of the


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