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- The Duel Between France and Germany - 3/13 -

diplomatic usage, are not communicated." Here Emmanuel Arago interrupted: "It is on these reports that you make war!" The Prime-Minister proceeded to read two brief telegrams from Count Benedetti at Ems, when De Choiseul very justly exclaimed: "We cannot make war on that ground; it is impossible!" Others cried out from their seats,--Garnier Pages saying, "These are phrases"; Emmanuel Arago protesting, "On this the civilized world will pronounce you wrong"; to which Jules Favre added, "Unhappily, true!" Thiers and Jules Favre, with vigorous eloquence, charged the war upon the Cabinet: Thiers declaring, "I regret to be obliged to say that we have war by the fault of the Cabinet"; Jules Favre alleging, "If we have war, it is thanks to the politics of the Cabinet;....from the exposition that has been made, so far as the general interests of the two countries are concerned, there is no avowable motive for war." Girault exclaimed, in similar spirit: "We would be among the first to come forward in a war for the country, but we do not wish to come forward in a dynastic and aggressive war." The Duc de Gramont, who on the 6th of July flung down the gauntlet, spoke once more for the Cabinet, stating solemnly, what was not the fact, that the Prussian Government had communicated to all the Cabinets of Europe the refusal to receive the French Ambassador, and then on this misstatement ejaculating: "It is an outrage on the Emperor and on France; and if, by impossibility, there were found in my country a Chamber to bear and tolerate it, I would not remain five minutes Minister of Foreign Affairs." In our country we have seen how the Southern heart was fired; so also was fired the heart of Franco. The Duke descended from the tribune amidst prolonged applause, with cries of "Bravo!"--and at his seat (so says the report) "received numerous felicitations." Such was the atmosphere of the Chamber at this eventful moment. The orators of the Opposition, pleading for delay in the interest of peace, were stifled; and when Gambetta, the young and fearless Republican, made himself heard in calling for the text of the dispatch communicating the refusal to receive the Ambassador, to the end that the Chamber, France, and all Europe might judge of its character, he was answered by the Prime-Minister with the taunt that "for the first time in a French Assembly there were such difficulties on a certain side in explaining _a question of honor_." Such was the case as presented by the Prime-Minister, and on this question of honor he accepted war "with a light heart." Better say, with no heart at all;--for who so could find in this condition of things sufficient reason for war was without heart. [Footnote: For the full debate, see the _Journal Officid du Soir_, 17 Juillet 1870, and Supplement.]

During these brief days of solicitude, from the 6th to the 15th of July, England made an unavailing effort for peace. Lord Lyons was indefatigable; and he was sustained at home by Lord Granville, who as a last resort reminded the two parties of the stipulation at the Congress of Paris, which they had accepted, in favor of Arbitration as a substitute for War, and asked them to accept the good offices of some friendly power. [Footnote: Earl Granville to Lords Lyons and Loftus, July 15, 1870,--Correspondence respecting the Negotiations preliminary to the War between France and Prussia, p. 35: Parliamentary Papers, 1870, Vol. LXX.] This most reasonable proposition was rejected by the French Minister, who gave new point to the French case by charging that Prussia "had chosen to declare that France had been affronted in the person of her Ambassador," and then positively insisting that "it was this boast which was the _gravamen_ of the offence." Capping the climax of barbarous absurdity, the French Minister did not hesitate to announce that this "constituted an insult which no nation of any spirit could brook, and rendered it, much to the regret of the French Government, impossible to take into consideration the mode of settling the original matter in dispute which was recommended by her Majesty's Government." [Footnote: Lord Lyons to Earl Granville, July 15, 1870,--Correspondence respecting the Negotiations preliminary to the War between France and Prussia, pp. 39, 40: Parliamentary Papers, 1870, Vol. LXX.] Thus was peaceful Arbitration repelled. All honor to the English Government for proposing it!

The famous telegram put forward by France as the _gravamen_, or chief offence, was not communicated to the Chamber. The Prime- Minister, though hard-pressed, held it back. Was it from conviction of its too trivial character? But it is not lost to the history of the duel. This telegram, with something of the brevity peculiar to telegraphic dispatches, merely reports the refusal to see the French Ambassador, without one word of affront or boast. It reports the fact, and nothing else; and it is understood that the refusal was only when this functionary presented himself a second time in one day on the same business. Considering the interests involved, it would have been better, had the King seen him as many times as he chose to call; yet the refusal was not unnatural. The perfect courtesy of his Majesty on this occasion furnished no cause of complaint. All that remained for pretext was the telegram. [Footnote: See references, _ante_, p. 19, Note 1. For this telegram in the original, see Aegidi und Klauhold, _Staatsarchiv_, (Hamburg, 1870,) 19 Band, S. 44, No. 1033.]


The scene in the Legislative Body was followed by the instant introduction of bills making additional appropriations for the Army and Navy, calling out the National Guard, and authorizing volunteers for the war. This last proposition was commended by the observation that in France there were a great many young people liking powder, but not liking barracks, who would in this way be suited; and this was received with applause. [Footnote: Journal Officiel du Soir, 17 Juillet 1870.] On the 18th of July there was a further appropriation to the extent of 500 million francs,---440 millions being for the Army, and 60 for the Navy; and an increase from 150 to 500 millions Treasury notes was authorized. [Footnote: Ibid., 20 Juillet.] On the 20th of July the Duc de Gramont appeared once more in the tribune, and made the following speech:---

"Conformably to customary rules, and by order of the Emperor, I have invited the _Charge d'Affaires_ of France to notify the Berlin Cabinet of our resolution to seek by arms the guaranties which we have not been able to obtain by discussion. This step has been taken, and I have the honor of making known to the Legislative Body that in consequence a state of war exists between France and Prussia, beginning the 19th of July. This declaration applies equally to the allies of Prussia who lend her the cooperation of their arms against us." [Footnote: Ibid., 23 Juillet.]

Here the French Minister played the part of trumpeter in the duel, making proclamation before his champion rode forward. According to the statement of Count Bismarck, made to the Parliament at Berlin, this formal Declaration of War was the solitary official communication from France in this whole transaction, being the first and only note since the candidature of Prince Leopold. [Footnote: Substance of Speech of Bismarck to the Reichstag, [July 20, 1870,] explanatory of Documents relating to the Declaration of War,--Franco-Prussian War, No. 3, p. 29: Parliamentary Papers, 1870, Vol. LXX. Discours du Comte de Bismarck am Reichstag, le 20 Juillet 1870: Angeberg, [Chodzko,] Recueil des Traites, etc., concernant la Guerre Franco-Allemande, Tom. I. p. 215.] How swift this madness will be seen in a few dates. On the 6th of July was uttered the first defiance from the French tribune; on the 15th of July an exposition of the griefs of France, in the nature of a Declaration of War, with a demand for men and money; on the 19th of July a state of war was declared to exist.

Firmly, but in becoming contrast with the "light heart" of France, this was promptly accepted by Germany, whose heart and strength found expression in the speech of the King at the opening of Parliament, hastily assembled on the 19th of July. With articulation disturbed by emotion and with moistened eyes, his Majesty said:--

"Supported by the unanimous will of the German governments of the South as of the North, we turn the more confidently to the love of Fatherland and the cheerful self-devotion of the German people with a call to the defence of their honor and their independence." [Footnote: Aegidi und Klauhold, Staatsarchiv, 19 Band, S. 107, No. 4056. Parliamentary Papers, 1870, Vol. LXX.: Franco-Prussian War, No. 3, pp. 2-3.]

Parliament responded sympathetically to the King, and made the necessary appropriations. And thus the two champions stood front to front.


Throughout France, throughout Germany, the trumpet sounded, and everywhere the people sprang to arms, as if the great horn of Orlando, after a sleep of ages, had sent forth once more its commanding summons. Not a town, not a village, that the voice did not penetrate. Modern invention had supplied an ally beyond anything in fable. From all parts of France, from all parts of Germany, armed men leaped forward, leaving behind the charms of peace and the business of life. On each side the muster was mighty, armies counting by the hundred thousand. And now, before we witness the mutual slaughter, let us pause to consider the two parties, and the issue between them.

France and Germany are most unlike, and yet the peers of each other, while among the nations they are unsurpassed in civilization, each prodigious in resources, splendid in genius, and great in renown. No two nations are so nearly matched. By Germany I now mean not only the States constituting North Germany, but also Wurtemberg, Baden, and Bavaria of South Germany, allies in the present war, all of which together make about fifty-three millions of French hectares, being very nearly the area of France. The population of each is not far from thirty-eight millions, and it would be difficult to say which is the larger. Looking at finances, Germany has the smaller revenue, but also the smaller debt, while her rulers, following the sentiment of the people, cultivate a wise economy, so that here again substantial equality is maintained with France. The armies of the two, embracing regular troops and those subject to call, did not differ much in numbers, unless we set aside the authority of the "Almanach de Gotha," which puts the military force of France somewhat vaguely at 1,350,000, while that of North Germany is only 977,262, to which must be added 49,949 for Bavaria, 34,953 for Wuertemberg, and 43,703 for Baden, making a sum-total of 1,105,867. This, however, is chiefly on paper, where it is evident France is stronger than in reality. Her available force at the outbreak of the war probably did not amount to more than 350,000 bayonets, while that

The Duel Between France and Germany - 3/13

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