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- The Duel Between France and Germany - 4/13 -

of Germany, owing to her superior system, was as much as double this number. In Prussia every man is obliged to serve, and, still further, every man is educated. Discipline and education are two potent adjuncts. This is favorable to Germany. In the Chassepot and needle-gun the two are equal. But France excels in a well- appointed Navy, having no less than 55 iron-clads, and 384 other vessels of war, while Germany has but 2 iron-clads, and 87 other vessels of war. [Footnote: For the foregoing statistics, see _Almanach de Gotha, 1870, under the names of the several States referred to,--also, for Areas and Population, _Tableaux Comparatifs_, I., II., III., in same volume, pp. 1037-38.] Then again for long generations has existed another disparity, to the great detriment of Germany. France has been a nation, while Germany has been divided, and therefore weak. Strong in union, the latter now claims something more than that _dominion of the air_ once declared to be hers, while France had the land and England the sea. [Footnote: "So wie die Franzosen die Herren des Landes sind, die Englaender die des groessern Meeres, wir die der Beide und Alles umfassenden Luft sind."--RICHTER, (Jean Paul,) _Frieden-Predigt an Deutschland_, V.: Saemtliche Werke, (Berlin, 1828-38,) Theil XXXIV. s. 13.] The dominion of the land is at last contested, and we are saddened inexpressibly, that, from the elevation they have reached, these two peers of civilization can descend to practise the barbarism of war, and especially that the laud of Descartes, Pascal, Voltaire, and Laplace must challenge to bloody duel the laud of Luther, Leibnitz, Kant, and Humboldt.


Plainly between these two neighboring powers there has been unhappy antagonism, constant, if not increasing, partly from the memory of other days, and partly because Prance could not bear to witness that German unity which was a national right and duty. Often it has been said that war was inevitable. But it has come at last by surprise, and on "a question of form." So it was called by Thiers; so it was recognized by Ollivier, when he complained of insensibility to a question of honor; and so also by the Due de Gramont, when he referred it all to a telegram. This is not the first time in history that wars have been waged on trifles; but since the Lord of Frauenstein challenged the free city of Frankfort because a young lady of the city refused to dance with his uncle, nothing has passed more absurd than this challenge sent by France to Germany because the King of Prussia refused to see the French Ambassador a second time on the same matter, and then let the refusal be reported by telegraph. Here is the folly exposed by Shakespeare, when Hamlet touches a madness greater than his own in that spirit which would "find quarrel in a straw when honor's at the stake," and at the same time depicts an army

"Led by a delicate and tender prince, Exposing what is mortal and unsure To all that Fortune, Death, and Danger dare, _Even for an egg-shall._"

There can be no quarrel in a straw or for an egg-shell, unless men have gone mad. Nor can honor in a civilized age require any sacrifice of reason or humanity.


If the utter triviality of the pretext were left doubtful in the debate, if its towering absurdity were not plainly apparent, if its simple wickedness did not already stand before us, we should find all these characteristics glaringly manifest in that unjust pretension which preceded the objection of form, on which France finally acted. A few words will make this plain.

In a happy moment Spain rose against Queen Isabella, and, amidst cries of "Down with the Bourbons!" drove her from the throne which she dishonored. This was in September, 1868. Instead of constituting a Republic at once, in harmony with those popular rights which had been proclaimed, the half-hearted leaders proceeded to look about for a King; and from that time till now they have been in this quest, as if it were the Holy Grail, or happiness on earth. The royal family of Spain was declared incompetent. Therefore a king must be found outside,----and so the quest was continued in other lands. One day the throne is offered to a prince of Portugal, then to a prince of Italy, but declined by each,----how wisely the future will show. At last, after a protracted pursuit of nearly two years, the venturesome soldier who is Captain-General and Prime-Minister, Marshal Prim, conceives the idea of offering it to a prince of Germany. His luckless victim is Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a Catholic, thirty-five years of age, and colonel of the first regiment of the Prussian foot-guards, whose father, a mediatized German prince, resides at Duesseldorf. The Prince had not the good sense to decline. How his acceptance excited the French Cabinet, and became the beginning of the French pretext, I have already exposed; and now I come to the pretension itself.

By what title did France undertake to interfere with the choice of Spain? If the latter was so foolish as to seek a foreigner for king, making a German first among Spaniards, by what title did any other power attempt to control its will? To state the question is to answer it. Beginning with an outrage on Spanish independence, which the Spain of an earlier day would have resented, the next outrage was on Germany, in assuming that an insignificant prince of that country could not be permitted to accept the invitation,---- all of which, besides being of insufferable insolence, was in that worst dynastic spirit which looks to princes rather than the people. Plainly France was unjustifiable. When I say it was none of her business, I give it the mildest condemnation. This was the first step in her monstrous _blunder-crime_.

Its character as a pretext becomes painfully manifest, when we learn more of the famous Prince Leopold, thus invited by Spain and opposed by France. It is true that his family name is in part the same as that of the Prussian king. Each is Hohenzollern; but he adds Sigmaringen to the name. The two are different branches of the same family; but you must ascend to the twelfth century, counting more than twenty degrees, before you come to a common ancestor. [Footnote: Conversations-Lexikon, (Leipzig, 1866,) 8 Band, art. HOHENZOLLERN. Carlyle's History of Friedrich II., (London, 1858,) Book III. Cli. 1, Vol. I. p. 200.] And yet on this most distant and infinitesimal relationship the French pretension is founded. But audacity changes to the ridiculous, when it is known that the Prince is nearer in relationship to the French Emperor than to the Prussian King, and this by three different intermarriages, which do not go hack to the twelfth century. Here is the case. His grandfather had for wife a niece of Joachim Murat,[Footnote: Antoinette, daughter of Etienne Murat, third brother of Joachim.--- Biographic Genemle, (Didot,) Tom. XXXVI. col. 984, art. MURAT, note.] King of Naples, and brother-in-law of the first Napoleon; and his father had for wife a daughter of Stephanie de Beauharnais, an adopted daughter of the first Napoleon; so that Prince Leopold is by his father great-grand- nephew of Murat, and by his mother he is grandson of Stephanie de Beauharnais, who was cousin and by adoption sister of Horteuse de Beauharnais, mother of the present Emperor; and to this may be added still another connection, by the marriage of his father's sister with Joachim Napoleon, Marquis of Pepoli, grandson of Joachim Murat.[Footnote: Almanach de Gotha, 1870, pp. 85-87, art. HOHENZOLLERN-SIGMARINGEN.] It was natural that a person thus connected with the Imperial Family should be a welcome visitor at the Tuileries; and it is easy to believe that Marshal Prim, who offered him the throne, was encouraged to believe that the Emperor's kinsman and guest would be favorably regarded by France. And yet, in the face of these things, and the three several family ties, fresh and modern, binding him to France and the French Emperor, the pretension was set up that his occupation of the Spanish throne would put in peril the interests and the honor of France.


In sending defiance to Prussia on this question, the French Cabinet selected their own ground. Evidently a war had been meditated, and the candidature of Prince Leopold from beginning to end supplied a pretext. In this conclusion, which is too obvious, we are hardly left to inference. The secret was disclosed by Rouher, President of the Senate, lately the eloquent and unscrupulous Minister, when, in an official address to the Emperor, immediately after the War Manifesto read by the Prime- Minister, he declared that France quivered with indignation at the flights of an ambition over-excited by the one day's good-fortune at Sadowa, and then proceeded:---

"Animated by that calm perseverance which is true force, your Majesty has known how to wait; but in the last four years you have carried to its highest perfection the arming of our soldiers, and raised to its full power the organization of our military forces. _Thanks to your care, Sire, France is ready,_" [Footnote: Address at the Palais de Saint-Cloud, July 50, 1870: Journal Officiel du Soir, 18 Juillet 1870.]

Thus, according to the President of the Senate, France, after waiting, commenced war because she was ready,--- while, according to the Cabinet, it was on the point of honor. Both were right. The war was declared because the Emperor thought himself ready, and a pretext was found in the affair of the telegram.

Considering the age, and the present demands of civilization, such a war stands forth terrific in wrong, making the soul rise indignant against it. One reason avowed is brutal; the other is frivolous; both are criminal. If we look into the text of the Manifesto and the speeches of the Cabinet, it is a war founded on a trifle, on a straw, on an egg-shell. Obviously these were pretexts only. Therefore it is a war of pretexts, the real object being the humiliation and dismemberment of Germany, in the vain hope of exalting the French Empire and perpetuating a bawble crown on the head of a boy. By military success and a peace dictated at Berlin, the Emperor trusted to find himself in such condition, that, on return to Paris, he could overthrow parliamentary government so far as it existed there, and reestablish personal government, where all depended upon himself,--thus making triumph over Germany the means of another triumph over the French people.

The Duel Between France and Germany - 4/13

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