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- History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 6/202 -

which had been taken from him by France; and that a Government should be established at Paris capable of affording the Powers of Europe security against the spread of democratic agitation. No one supposed the first two grievances to be a serious ground for hostilities. The rights of the German nobles in Alsace over their villagers were no doubt protected by the treaties which ceded those districts to France; but every politician in Europe would have laughed at a Government which allowed the feudal system to survive in a corner of its dominions out of respect for a settlement a century and a half old: nor had the Assembly refused to these foreign seigneurs a compensation claimed in vain by King Louis for the nobles of France. As to the annexation of Avignon and the Venaissin, a power which, like Austria, had joined in dismembering Poland, and had just made an unsuccessful attempt to dismember Turkey, could not gravely reproach France for incorporating a district which lay actually within it, and whose inhabitants, or a great portion of them, were anxious to become citizens of France. The third demand, the establishment of such a government as Austria should deem satisfactory, was one which no high-spirited people could be expected to entertain. Nor was this, in fact, expected by Austria. Leopold had no desire to attack France, but he had used threats, and would not submit to the humiliation of renouncing them. He would not have begun a war for the purpose of delivering the French Crown; but, when he found that he was himself certain to be attacked, he accepted a war with the Revolution without regret. On the other side, when the Gironde denounced the league of the Kings, they exaggerated a far-off danger for the ends of their domestic policy. The Sovereigns of the Continent had indeed made no secret of their hatred to the Revolution. Catherine of Russia had exhorted every Court in Europe to make war; Gustavus of Sweden was surprised by a violent death in the midst of preparations against France; Spain, Naples, and Sardinia were ready to follow leaders stronger than themselves. But the statesmen of the French Assembly well understood the interval that separates hostile feeling from actual attack; and the unsubstantial nature of the danger to France, whether from the northern or the southern Powers, was proved by the very fact that Austria, the hereditary enemy of France, and the country of the hated Marie Antoinette, was treated as the main enemy. Nevertheless, the Courts had done enough to excite the anger of millions of French people who knew of their menaces, and not of their hesitations and reserves. The man who composed the "Marseillaise" was no maker of cunningly-devised fables; the crowds who first sang it never doubted the reality of the dangers which the orators of the Assembly denounced. The Courts of Europe had heaped up the fuel; the Girondins applied the torch. The mass of the French nation had little means of appreciating what passed in Europe; they took their facts from their leaders, who considered it no very serious thing to plunge a nation into war for the furtherance of internal liberty. Events were soon to pass their own stern and mocking sentence upon the wisdom of the Girondin statesmanship.

[Germany follows Austria into the war.]

[State of Germany.]

After voting the Declaration of War the French Assembly accepted a manifesto, drawn up by Condorcet, renouncing in the name of the French people all intention of conquest. The manifesto expressed what was sincerely felt by men like Condorcet, to whom the Revolution was still too sacred a cause to be stained with the vulgar lust of aggrandisement. But the actual course of the war was determined less by the intentions with which the French began it than by the political condition of the States which bordered upon the French frontier. The war was primarily a war with Austria, but the Sovereign of Austria was also the head of Germany. The German Ecclesiastical Princes who ruled in the Rhenish provinces had been the most zealous protectors of the emigrants; it was impossible that they should now find shelter in neutrality. Prussia had made an alliance with the Emperor against France; other German States followed in the wake of one or other of the great Powers. If France proved stronger than its enemy, there were governments besides that of Austria which would have to take their account with the Revolution. Nor indeed was Austria the power most exposed to violent change. The mass of its territory lay far from France; at the most, it risked the loss of Lombardy and the Netherlands. Germany at large was the real area threatened by the war, and never was a political community less fitted to resist attack than Germany at the end of the eighteenth century. It was in the divisions of the German people, and in the rivalries of the two leading German governments, that France found its surest support throughout the Revolutionary war, and its keenest stimulus to conquest. It will throw light upon the sudden changes that now began to break over Europe if we pause to make a brief survey of the state of Germany at the outbreak of the war, to note the character and policy of its reigning sovereigns, and to cast a glance over the circumstances which had brought the central district of Europe into its actual condition.

[Since 1648, all the German States independent of the Emperor.]

[Holy Roman Empire.]

Germany at large still preserved the mediæval name and forms of the Holy Roman Empire. The members of this so-called Empire were, however, a multitude of independent States; and the chief of these States, Austria, combined with its German provinces a large territory which did not even in name form part of the Germanic body. The motley of the Empire was made up by governments of every degree of strength and weakness. Austria and Prussia possessed both political traditions and resources raising them to the rank of great European Powers; but the sovereignties of the second order, such as Saxony and Bavaria, had neither the security of strength nor the free energy often seen in small political communities; whilst in the remaining petty States of Germany, some hundreds in number, all public life had long passed out of mind in a drowsy routine of official benevolence or oppression. In theory there still existed a united Germanic body; in reality Germany was composed of two great monarchies in embittered rivalry with one another, and of a multitude of independent principalities and cities whose membership in the Empire involved little beyond a liability to be dragged into the quarrels of their more powerful neighbours. A German national feeling did not exist, because no combination existed uniting the interests of all Germany. The names and forms of political union had come down from a remote past, and formed a grotesque anachronism amid the realities of the eighteenth century. The head of the Germanic body held office not by hereditary right, but as the elected successor of Charlemagne and the Roman Cæsars. Since the fifteenth century the imperial dignity had rested with the Austrian House of Hapsburg; but, with the exception of Charles V., no sovereign of that House had commanded forces adequate to the creation of a united German state, and the opportunity which then offered itself was allowed to pass away. The Reformation severed Northern Germany from the Catholic monarchy of the south. The Thirty Years' War, terminating in the middle of the seventeenth century, secured the existence of Protestantism on the Continent of Europe, but it secured it at the cost of Germany, which was left exhausted and disintegrated. By the Treaty of Westphalia, A.D. 1648, the independence of every member of the Empire was recognised, and the central authority was henceforth a mere shadow. The Diet of the Empire, where the representatives of the Electors, of the Princes, and of the Free Cities, met in the order of the Middle Ages, sank into a Heralds' College, occupied with questions of title and precedence; affairs of real importance were transacted by envoys from Court to Court. For purposes of war the Empire was divided into Circles, each Circle supplying in theory a contingent of troops; but this military organisation existed only in letter. The greater and the intermediate States regulated their armaments, as they did their policy, without regard to the Diet of Ratisbon; the contingents of the smaller sovereignties and free cities were in every degree of inefficiency, corruption, and disorder; and in spite of the courage of the German soldier, it could make little difference in a European war whether a regiment which had its captain appointed by the city of Gmünd, its lieutenant by the Abbess of Rotenmünster, and its ensign by the Abbot of Gegenbach, did or did not take the field with numbers fifty per cent. below its statutory contingent. [7] How loose was the connection subsisting between the members of the Empire, how slow and cumbrous its constitutional machinery, was strikingly proved after the first inroads of the French into Germany in 1792, when the Diet deliberated for four weeks before calling out the forces of the Empire, and for five months before declaring war.


[Catholic policy of the Hapsburgs.]

The defence of Germany rested in fact with the armies of Austria and Prussia. The Austrian House of Hapsburg held the imperial title, and gathered around it the sovereigns of the less progressive German States. While the Protestant communities of Northern Germany identified their interests with those of the rising Prussian Monarchy, religious sympathy and the tradition of ages attached the minor Catholic Courts to the political system of Vienna. Austria gained something by its patronage; it was, however, no real member of the German family. Its interests were not the interests of Germany; its power, great and enduring as it proved, was not based mainly upon German elements, nor used mainly for German ends. The title of the Austrian monarch gave the best idea of the singular variety of races and nationalities which owed their political union only to their submission to a common head. In the shorter form of state the reigning Hapsburg was described as King of Hungary, Bohemia, Croatia, Slavonia, and Galicia; Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Transylvania; Duke of Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola; and Princely Count of Hapsburg and Tyrol. At the outbreak of the war of 1792 the dominions of the House of Austria included the Southern Netherlands and the Duchy of Milan, in addition to the great bulk of the territory which it still governs. Eleven distinct languages were spoken in the Austrian monarchy, with countless varieties of dialects. Of the elements of the population the Slavic was far the largest, numbering about ten millions, against five million Germans and three million Magyars; but neither numerical strength nor national objects of desire coloured the policy of a family which looked indifferently upon all its subject races as instruments for its own aggrandisement. Milan and the Netherlands had come into the possession of Austria since the beginning of the eighteenth century, but the destiny of the old dominions of the Hapsburg House had been fixed for many generations in the course of the Thirty Years' War. In that struggle, as it affected Austria, the conflict of the ancient and the reformed faith had become a conflict between the Monarchy, allied with the Church, and every element of national life and independence, allied with the Reformation. Protestantism, then dominant in almost all the Hapsburg territories, was not put down without extinguishing the political liberties of Austrian Germany, the national life of Bohemia, the spirit and ambition of the Hungarian nobles. The detestable desire of the Emperor Ferdinand, "Rather a desert than a country full of heretics," was only too well fulfilled in the subsequent history of his dominions. In the German provinces, except the Tyrol, the old Parliaments, and with them all trace of liberty, disappeared; in Bohemia the national Protestant nobility lost their estates, or retained them only at the price of abandoning the religion, the language, and the feelings of their race, until the country of Huss passed out of the sight of civilised Europe, and Bohemia represented no more than a blank, unnoticed mass of tillers of the soil. In Hungary, where the nation was not so completely crushed in the Thirty Years' War, and Protestantism survived, the wholesale executions in 1686, ordered by the Tribunal known as the "Slaughter-house of Eperies," illustrated the traditional policy of the Monarchy towards the spirit of national independence. Two powers alone were allowed to subsist in the Austrian dominions, the power of the Crown and the power of the Priesthood; and, inasmuch as no real national unity could exist among the subject races, the unity of a blind devotion to the Catholic Church was enforced over the greater part of the Monarchy by all the authority of the State.

[Reforms of Maria Theresa, 1740-1780.]

Under the pressure of this soulless despotism the mind of man seemed to lose all its finer powers. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in which no decade passed in England and France without the production of some literary masterpiece, some scientific discovery, or some advance in

History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 6/202

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