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History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 by C. A. Fyffe

Part 18 out of 21

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otherwise a catastrophe was inevitable. He then concentrated his army on
high ground a few miles west of Königgrätz, and prepared for a defensive
battle on the grandest scale. In spite of the losses of the past week he
could still bring about two hundred thousand men into action. The three
Prussian armies were now near enough to one another to combine in their
attack, and on the night of July 2nd the King sent orders to the three
commanders to move against Benedek before daybreak. Prince Frederick
Charles, advancing through the village of Sadowa, was the first in the
field. For hours his divisions sustained an unequal struggle against the
assembled strength of the Austrians. Midday passed; the defenders now
pressed down upon their assailants; and preparations for a retreat had been
begun, when the long-expected message arrived that the Crown Prince was
close at hand. The onslaught of the army of Silesia on Benedek's right,
which was accompanied by the arrival of Herwarth at the other end of the
field of battle, at once decided the day. It was with difficulty that the
Austrian commander prevented the enemy from seizing the positions which
would have cut off his retreat. He retired eastwards across the Elbe with a
loss of eighteen thousand killed and wounded and twenty-four thousand
prisoners. His army was ruined; and ten days after the Prussians had
crossed the frontier the war was practically at an end. [524]

[Battle of Custozza, June 24.]

[Napoleon's mediation, July 5.]

[Preliminaries of Nicolsburg, July 26.]

[Treaty of Prague, Aug. 23.]

The disaster of Königgrätz was too great to be neutralised by the success
of the Austrian forces in Italy. La Marmora, who had given up his place at
the head of the Government in order to take command of the army, crossed
the Mincio at the head of a hundred and twenty thousand men, but was
defeated by inferior numbers on the fatal ground of Custozza, and compelled
to fall back on the Oglio. This gleam of success, which was followed by a
naval victory at Lissa off the Istrian coast, made it easier for the
Austrian Emperor to face the sacrifices that were now inevitable.
Immediately after the battle of Königgrätz he invoked the mediation of
Napoleon III., and ceded Venetia to him on behalf of Italy. Napoleon at
once tendered his good offices to the belligerents, and proposed an
armistice. His mediation was accepted in principle by the King or Prussia,
who expressed his willingness also to grant an armistice as soon as
preliminaries of peace were recognised by the Austrian Court. In the
meantime, while negotiations passed between all four Governments, the
Prussians pushed forward until their outposts came within sight of Vienna.
If in pursuance of General Moltke's plan the Italian generals had thrown a
corps north-eastwards from the head of the Adriatic, and so struck at the
very heart of the Austrian monarchy, it is possible that the victors of
Königgrätz might have imposed their own terms without regard to Napoleon's
mediation, and, while adding the Italian Tyrol to Victor Emmanuel's
dominions, have completed the union of Germany under the House of
Hohenzollern at one stroke. But with Hungary still intact, and the Italian
army paralysed by the dissensions of its commanders, prudence bade the
great statesman of Berlin content himself with the advantages which he
could reap without prolongation of the war, and without the risk of
throwing Napoleon into the enemy's camp. He had at first required, as
conditions of peace, that Prussia should be left free to annex Saxony,
Hanover, Hesse-Cassel, and other North German territory; that Austria
should wholly withdraw from German affairs; and that all Germany, less the
Austrian Provinces, should be united in a Federation under Prussian
leadership. To gain the assent of Napoleon to these terms, Bismarck hinted
that France might by accord with Prussia annex Belgium. Napoleon, however,
refused to agree to the extension of Prussia's ascendency over all Germany,
and presented a counter-project which was in its turn rejected by Bismarck.
It was finally settled that Prussia should not be prevented from annexing
Hanover, Nassau, and Hesse-Cassel, as conquered territory that lay between
its own Rhenish Provinces and the rest of the kingdom; that Austria should
completely withdraw from German affairs; that Germany north of the Main,
together with Saxony, should be included in a Federation under Prussian
leadership; and that for the States south of the Main there should be
reserved the right of entering into some kind of national bond with the
Northern League. Austria escaped without loss of any of its non-Italian
territory; it also succeeded in preserving the existence of Saxony, which,
as in 1815, the Prussian Government had been most anxious to annex.
Napoleon, in confining the Prussian Federation to the north of the Main,
and in securing by a formal stipulation in the Treaty the independence of
the Southern States, imagined himself to have broken Germany into halves,
and to have laid the foundation of a South German League which should look
to France as its protector. On the other hand, Bismarck by his annexation
of Hanover and neighbouring districts had added a population of four
millions to the Prussian Kingdom, and given it a continuous territory; he
had forced Austria out of the German system; he had gained its sanction to
the Federal union of all Germany north of the Main, and had at least kept
the way open for the later extension of this union to the Southern States.
Preliminaries of peace embodying these conditions and recognising Prussia's
sovereignty in Schleswig-Holstein were signed at Nicolsburg on the 26th of
July, and formed the basis of the definitive Treaty of Peace which was
concluded at Prague on the 23rd of August. An illusory clause, added at the
instance of Napoleon, provided that if the population of the northern
districts of Schleswig should by a free vote express the wish to be united
with Denmark, these districts should be ceded to the Danish Kingdom. [525]

[The South German States.]

[Secret Treaties of the Southern States with Prussia.]

Bavaria and the south-western allies of Austria, though their military
action was of an ineffective character, continued in arms for some weeks
after the battle of Königgrätz and the suspension of hostilities arranged
at Nicolsburg did not come into operation on their behalf till the 2nd of
August. Before that date their forces were dispersed and their power of
resistance broken by the Prussian generals Falckenstein and Manteuffel in a
series of unimportant engagements and intricate manoeuvres. The City of
Frankfort, against which Bismarck seems to have borne some personal hatred,
was treated for a while by the conquerors with extraordinary and most
impolitic harshness; in other respects the action of the Prussian
Government towards these conquered States was not such as to render future
union and friendship difficult. All the South German Governments, with the
single exception of Baden, appealed to the Emperor Napoleon for assistance
in the negotiations which they had opened at Berlin. But at the very moment
when this request was made and granted Napoleon was himself demanding from
Bismarck the cession of the Bavarian Palatinate and of the Hessian
districts west of the Rhine. Bismarck had only to acquaint the King of
Bavaria and the South German Ministers with the designs of their French
protector in order to reconcile them to his own chastening, but not
unfriendly, hand. The grandeur of a united Fatherland flashed upon minds
hitherto impenetrable by any national ideal when it became known that
Napoleon was bargaining for Oppenheim and Kaiserslautern. Not only were the
insignificant questions as to the war-indemnities to be paid to Prussia and
the frontier villages to be exchanged promptly settled, but by a series of
secret Treaties all the South German States entered into an offensive and
defensive alliance with the Prussian King, and engaged in case of war to
place their entire forces at his disposal and under his command. The
diplomacy of Napoleon III. had in the end effected for Bismarck almost more
than his earlier intervention had frustrated, for it had made the South
German Courts the allies of Prussia not through conquest or mere compulsion
but out of regard for their own interests. [526] It was said by the
opponents of the Imperial Government in France, and scarcely with
exaggeration, that every error which it was possible to commit had, in the
course of the year 1866, been committed by Napoleon III. One crime, one act
of madness, remained open to the Emperor's critics, to lash him and France
into a conflict with the Power whose union he had not been able to prevent.

[Projects of compensation for France.]

Prior to the battle of Königgrätz, it would seem that all the suggestions
of the French Emperor relating to the acquisition of Belgium were made to
the Prussian Government through secret agents, and that they were actually
unknown, or known by mere hearsay, to Benedetti, the French Ambassador at
Berlin. According to Prince Bismarck, these overtures had begun as early as
1862, when he was himself Ambassador at Paris, and were then made verbally
and in private notes to himself; they were the secret of Napoleon's
neutrality during the Danish war; and were renewed through relatives and
confidential agents of the Emperor when the struggle with Austria was seen
to be approaching. The ignorance in which Count Benedetti was kept of his
master's private diplomacy may to some extent explain the extraordinary
contradictions between the accounts given by this Minister and by Prince
Bismarck of the negotiations that passed between them in the period
following the campaign of 1866, after Benedetti had himself been charged to
present the demands of the French Government. In June, while the Ambassador
was still, as it would seem, in ignorance of what was passing behind his
back, he had informed the French Ministry that Bismarck, anxious for the
preservation of French neutrality, had hinted at the compensations that
might be made to France if Prussia should meet with great success in the
coming war. According to the report of the Ambassador, made at the time,
Count Bismarck stated that he would rather withdraw from public life than
cede the Rhenish Provinces with Cologne and Bonn, but that he believed it
would be possible to gain the King's ultimate consent to the cession of the
Prussian district of Trèves on the Upper Moselle, which district, together
with Luxemburg or parts of Belgium and Switzerland, would give France an
adequate improvement of its frontier. The Ambassador added in his report,
by way of comment, that Count Bismarck was the only man in the kingdom who
was disposed to make any cession of Prussian territory whatever, and that a
unanimous and violent revulsion against France would be excited by the
slightest indication of any intention on the part of the French Government
to extend its frontiers towards the Rhine. He concluded his report with the
statement that, after hearing Count Bismarck's suggestions, he had brought
the discussion to a summary close, not wishing to leave the Prussian
Minister under the impression that any scheme involving the seizure of
Belgian or Swiss territory had the slightest chance of being seriously
considered at Paris. (June 4-8.)

[Demand for Rhenish territory, July 25-Aug. 7, 1866.]

[The Belgian project, Aug. 16-30.]

Benedetti probably wrote these last words in full sincerity. Seven weeks
later, after the settlement of the Preliminaries at Nicolsburg, he was
ordered to demand the cession of the Bavarian Palatinate, of the portion of
Hesse-Darmstadt west of the Rhine, including Mainz, and of the strip of
Prussian territory on the Saar which had been left to France in 1814 but
taken from it in 1815. According to the statement of Prince Bismarck, which
would seem to be exaggerated, this demand was made by Benedetti as an
ultimatum and with direct threats of war, which were answered by Bismarck
in language of equal violence. In any case the demand was unconditionally
refused, and Benedetti travelled to Paris in order to describe what had
passed at the Prussian headquarters. His report made such an impression on
the Emperor that the demand for cessions on the Rhine was at once
abandoned, and the Foreign Minister, Drouyn de Lhuys, who had been disposed
to enforce this by arms, was compelled to quit office. Benedetti returned
to Berlin, and now there took place that negotiation relating to Belgium on
which not only the narratives of the persons immediately concerned, but the
documents written at the time, leave so much that is strange and
unexplained. According to Benedetti, Count Bismarck was keenly anxious to
extend the German Federation to the South of the Main, and desired with
this object an intimate union with at least one Great Power. He sought in
the first instance the support of France, and offered in return to
facilitate the seizure of Belgium. The negotiation, according to Benedetti,
failed because the Emperor Napoleon required that the fortresses in
Southern Germany should be held by the troops of the respective States to
which they belonged, while at the same time General Manteuffel, who had
been sent from Berlin on a special mission to St. Petersburg, succeeded in
effecting so intimate a union with Russia that alliance with France became
unnecessary. According to the counter-statement of Prince Bismarck, the
plan now proposed originated entirely with the French Ambassador, and was
merely a repetition of proposals which had been made by Napoleon during the
preceding four years, and which were subsequently renewed at intervals by
secret agents almost down to the outbreak of the war of 1870. Prince
Bismarck has stated that he dallied with these proposals only because a
direct refusal might at any moment have caused the outbreak of war between
France and Prussia, a catastrophe which up to the end he sought to avert.
In any case the negotiation with Benedetti led to no conclusion, and was
broken off by the departure of both statesmen from Berlin in the beginning
of autumn. [527]

[Prussia and North Germany after the war.]

The war of 1866 had been brought to an end with extraordinary rapidity; its
results were solid and imposing. Venice, perplexed no longer by its
Republican traditions or by doubts of the patriotism of the House of Savoy,
prepared to welcome King Victor Emmanuel; Bismarck, returning from the
battle-field of Königgrätz, found his earlier unpopularity forgotten in the
flood of national enthusiasm which his achievements and those of the army
had evoked. A new epoch had begun; the antagonisms of the past were out of
date; nobler work now stood before the Prussian people and its rulers than
the perpetuation of a barren struggle between Crown and Parliament. By none
was the severance from the past more openly expressed than by Bismarck
himself; by none was it more bitterly felt than by the old Conservative
party in Prussia, who had hitherto regarded the Minister as their own
representative. In drawing up the Constitution of the North German
Federation, Bismarck remained true to the principle which he had laid down
at Frankfort before the war, that the German people must be represented by
a Parliament elected directly by the people themselves. In the
incorporation of Hanover, Hesse-Cassel and the Danish Duchies with Prussia,
he saw that it would be impossible to win the new populations to a loyal
union with Prussia if the King's Government continued to recognise no
friends but the landed aristocracy and the army. He frankly declared that
the action of the Cabinet in raising taxes without the consent of
Parliament had been illegal, and asked for an Act of Indemnity. The
Parliament of Berlin understood and welcomed the message of reconciliation.
It heartily forgave the past, and on its own initiative added the name of
Bismarck to those for whose services to the State the King asked a
recompense. The Progressist party, which had constituted the majority in
the last Parliament, gave place to a new combination known as the National
Liberal party, which, while adhering to the Progressist creed in domestic
affairs, gave its allegiance to the Foreign and the German policy of the
Minister. Within this party many able men who in Hanover and the other
annexed territories had been the leaders of opposition to their own
Governments now found a larger scope and a greater political career. More
than one of the colleagues of Bismarck who had been appointed to their
offices in the years of conflict were allowed to pass into retirement, and
their places were filled by men in sympathy with the National Liberals.
With the expansion of Prussia and the establishment of its leadership in a
German Federal union, the ruler of Prussia seemed himself to expand from
the instrument of a military monarchy to the representative of a great

[Hungary and Austria, 1865.]

To Austria the battle of Königgrätz brought a settlement of the conflict
between the Crown and Hungary. The Constitution of February, 1861,
hopefully as it had worked during its first years, had in the end fallen
before the steady refusal of the Magyars to recognise the authority of a
single Parliament for the whole Monarchy. Within the Reichsrath itself the
example of Hungary told as a disintegrating force; the Poles, the Czechs
seceded from the Assembly; the Minister, Schmerling, lost his authority,
and was forced to resign in the summer of 1865. Soon afterwards an edict of
the Emperor suspended the Constitution. Count Belcredi, who took office in
Schmerling's place, attempted to arrive at an understanding with the Magyar
leaders. The Hungarian Diet was convoked, and was opened by the King in
person before the end of the year. Francis Joseph announced his abandonment
of the principle that Hungary had forfeited its ancient rights by
rebellion, and asked in return that the Diet should not insist upon
regarding the laws of 1848 as still in force. Whatever might be the formal
validity of those laws, it was, he urged, impossible that they should be
brought into operation unaltered. For the common affairs of the two halves
of the Monarchy there must be some common authority. It rested with the
Diet to arrive at the necessary understanding with the Sovereign on this
point, and to place on a satisfactory footing the relations of Hungary to
Transylvania and Croatia. As soon as an accord should have been reached on
these subjects, Francis Joseph stated that he would complete his
reconciliation with the Magyars by being crowned King of Hungary.


In the Assembly to which these words were addressed the majority was
composed of men of moderate opinions, under the leadership of Francis Deák.
Deák had drawn up the programme of the Hungarian Liberals in the election
of 1847. He had at that time appeared to be marked out by his rare
political capacity and the simple manliness of his character for a great,
if not the greatest, part in the work that then lay before his country. But
the violence of revolutionary methods was alien to his temperament. After
serving in Batthyány's Ministry, he withdrew from public life on the
outbreak of war with Austria, and remained in retirement during the
dictatorship of Kossuth and the struggle of 1849. As a loyal friend to the
Hapsburg dynasty, and a clear-sighted judge of the possibilities of the
time, he stood apart while Kossuth dethroned the Sovereign and proclaimed
Hungarian independence. Of the patriotism and the disinterestedness of Deák
there was never the shadow of a doubt; a distinct political faith severed
him from the leaders whose enterprise ended in the catastrophe which he had
foreseen, and preserved for Hungary one statesman who could, without
renouncing his own past and without inflicting humiliation on the
Sovereign, stand as the mediator between Hungary and Austria when the time
for reconciliation should arrive. Deák was little disposed to abate
anything of what he considered the just demands of his country. It was
under his leadership that the Diet had in 1861 refused to accept the
Constitution which established a single Parliament for the whole Monarchy.
The legislative independence of Hungary he was determined at all costs to
preserve intact; rather than surrender this he had been willing in 1861 to
see negotiations broken off and military rule restored. But when Francis
Joseph, wearied of the sixteen years' struggle, appealed once more to
Hungary for union and friendship, there was no man more earnestly desirous
to reconcile the Sovereign with the nation, and to smooth down the
opposition to the King's proposals which arose within the Diet itself, than

[Scheme of Hungarian Committee, June 25, 1866.]

Under his influence a committee was appointed to frame the necessary basis
of negotiation. On the 25th of June, 1866, the Committee gave in its
report. It declared against any Parliamentary union with the Cis-Leithan
half of the Monarchy, but consented to the establishment of common
Ministries for War, Finance, and Foreign Affairs, and recommended that the
Budget necessary for these joint Ministries should be settled by
Delegations from the Hungarian Diet and from the western Reichsrath. [528]
The Delegations, it was proposed, should meet separately, and communicate
their views to one another by writing. Only when agreement should not have
been thus attained were the Delegations to unite in a single body, in which
case the decision was to rest with an absolute majority of votes.

[Negotiations with Hungary after Königgrätz.]

[Federalism or Dualism.]

[Settlement by Beust.]

[Francis Joseph's Coronation, June 8, 1867.]

The debates of the Diet on the proposals of King Francis Joseph had been
long and anxious; it was not until the moment when the war with Prussia was
breaking out that the Committee presented its report. The Diet was now
prorogued, but immediately after the battle of Königgrätz the Hungarian
leaders were called to Vienna, and negotiations were pushed forward on the
lines laid down by the Committee. It was a matter of no small moment to the
Court of Vienna that while bodies of Hungarian exiles had been preparing to
attack the Empire both from the side of Silesia and of Venice, Deák and his
friends had loyally abstained from any communication with the foreign
enemies of the House of Hapsburg. That Hungary would now gain almost
complete independence was certain; the question was not so much whether
there should be an independent Parliament and Ministry at Pesth as whether
there should not be a similarly independent Parliament and Ministry in each
of the territories of the Crown, the Austrian Sovereign becoming the head
of a Federation instead of the chief of a single or a dual State. Count
Belcredi, the Minister at Vienna, was disposed towards such a Federal
system; he was, however, now confronted within the Cabinet by a rival who
represented a different policy. After making peace with Prussia, the
Emperor called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Count Beust, who had
hitherto been at the head of the Saxon Government, and who had been the
representative of the German Federation at the London Conference of 1864.
Beust, while ready to grant the Hungarians their independence, advocated
the retention of the existing Reichsrath and of a single Ministry for all
the Cis-Leithan parts of the Monarchy. His plan, which pointed to the
maintenance of German ascendency in the western provinces, and which deeply
offended the Czechs and the Slavic populations, was accepted by the
Emperor: Belcredi withdrew from office, and Beust was charged, as President
of the Cabinet, with the completion of the settlement with Hungary (Feb. 7,
1867). Deák had hitherto left the chief ostensible part in the negotiations
to Count Andrássy, one of the younger patriots of 1848, who had been
condemned to be hanged, and had lived a refugee during the next ten years.
He now came to Vienna himself, and in the course of a few days removed the
last remaining difficulties. The King gratefully charged him with the
formation of the Hungarian Ministry under the restored Constitution, but
Deák declined alike all office, honours, and rewards, and Andrássy, who had
actually been hanged in effigy, was placed at the head of the Government.
The Diet, which had reassembled shortly before the end of 1866, greeted the
national Ministry with enthusiasm. Alterations in the laws of 1848 proposed
in accordance with the agreement made at Vienna, and establishing the three
common Ministries with the system of Delegations for common affairs, were
carried by large majorities. [529] The abdication of Ferdinand, which
throughout the struggle of 1849 Hungary had declined to recognise, was now
acknowledged as valid, and on the 8th of June, 1867, Francis Joseph was
crowned King of Hungary amid the acclamations of Pesth. The gift of money
which is made to each Hungarian monarch on his coronation Francis Joseph by
a happy impulse distributed among the families of those who had fallen in
fighting against him in 1849. A universal amnesty was proclaimed, no
condition being imposed on the return of the exiles but that they should
acknowledge the existing Constitution. Kossuth alone refused to return to
his country so long as a Hapsburg should be its King, and proudly clung to
ideas which were already those of the past.

[Hungary since 1867.]

The victory of the Magyars was indeed but too complete. Not only were Beust
and the representatives of the western half of the Monarchy so overmatched
by the Hungarian negotiators that in the distribution of the financial
burdens of the Empire Hungary escaped with far too small a share, but in
the more important problem of the relation of the Slavic and Roumanian
populations of the Hungarian Kingdom to the dominant race no adequate steps
were taken for the protection of these subject nationalities. That Croatia
and Transylvania should be reunited with Hungary if the Emperor and the
Magyars were ever to be reconciled was inevitable; and in the case of
Croatia certain conditions were no doubt imposed, and certain local rights
guaranteed. But on the whole the non-Magyar peoples in Hungary were handed
over to the discretion of the ruling race. The demand of Bismarck that the
centre of gravity of the Austrian States should be transferred from Vienna
to Pesth had indeed been brought to pass. While in the western half of the
Monarchy the central authority, still represented by a single Parliament,
seemed in the succeeding years to be altogether losing its cohesive power,
and the political life of Austria became a series of distracting
complications, in Hungary the Magyar Government resolutely set itself to
the task of moulding into one the nationalities over which it ruled.
Uniting the characteristic faults with the great qualities of a race marked
out by Nature and ancient habit for domination over more numerous but less
aggressive neighbours, the Magyars have steadily sought to the best of
their power to obliterate the distinctions which make Hungary in reality
not one but several nations. They have held the Slavic and the Roumanian
population within their borders with an iron grasp, but they have not
gained their affection. The memory of the Russian intervention in 1849 and
of the part then played by Serbs, by Croats and Roumanians in crushing
Magyar independence has blinded the victors to the just claims of these
races both within and without the Hungarian kingdom, and attached their
sympathy to the hateful and outworn empire of the Turk. But the
individuality of peoples is not to be blotted out in a day; nor, with all
its striking advance in wealth, in civilisation, and in military power, has
the Magyar State been able to free itself from the insecurity arising from
the presence of independent communities on its immediate frontiers
belonging to the same race as those whose language and nationality it seeks
to repress.


Napoleon III.--The Mexican Expedition--Withdrawal of the French and death
of Maximilian--The Luxemburg Question--Exasperation in France against
Prussia--Austria--Italy--Mentana--Germany after 1866--The Spanish
candidature of Leopold of Hohenzollern--French declaration--Benedetti and
King William--Withdrawal of Leopold and demand for guarantees--The
telegram from Ems--War--Expected Alliances of France--Austria--Italy--
Prussian plans--The French army--Causes of French inferiority--
The Republic proclaimed at Paris--Favre and Bismarck--Siege of
Paris--Gambetta at Tours--The Army of the Loire--Fall of Metz--Fighting
at Orleans--Sortie of Champigny--The Armies of the North, of the Loire,
of the East--Bourbaki's ruin--Capitulation of Paris and Armistice--
Preliminaries of Peace--Germany--Establishment of the German Empire--The
Commune of Paris--Second siege--Effects of the war as to Russia and

[Napoleon III.]

The reputation of Napoleon III. was perhaps at its height at the end of the
first ten years of his reign. His victories over Russia and Austria had
flattered the military pride of France; the flowing tide of commercial
prosperity bore witness, as it seemed, to the blessings of a government at
once firm and enlightened; the reconstruction of Paris dazzled a generation
accustomed to the mean and dingy aspect of London and other capitals before
1850, and scarcely conscious of the presence or absence of real beauty and
dignity where it saw spaciousness and brilliance. The political faults of
Napoleon, the shiftiness and incoherence of his designs, his want of grasp
on reality, his absolute personal nullity as an administrator, were known
to some few, but they had not been displayed to the world at large. He had
done some great things, he had conspicuously failed in nothing. Had his
reign ended before 1863, he would probably have left behind him in popular
memory the name of a great ruler. But from this time his fortune paled. The
repulse of his intervention on behalf of Poland in 1863 by the Russian
Court, his petulant or miscalculating inaction during the Danish War of the
following year, showed those to be mistaken who had imagined that the
Emperor must always exercise a controlling power in Europe. During the
events which formed the first stage in the consolidation of Germany his
policy was a succession of errors. Simultaneously with the miscarriage of
his European schemes, an enterprise which he had undertaken beyond the
Atlantic, and which seriously weakened his resources at a time when
concentrated strength alone could tell on European affairs, ended in
tragedy and disgrace.

[The Mexican Project.]

There were in Napoleon III., as a man of State, two personalities, two
mental existences, which blended but ill with one another. There was the
contemplator of great human forces, the intelligent, if not deeply
penetrative, reader of the signs of the times, the brooder through long
years of imprisonment and exile, the child of Europe, to whom Germany,
Italy, and England had all in turn been nearer than his own country; and
there was the crowned adventurer, bound by his name and position to gain
for France something that it did not possess, and to regard the greatness
of every other nation as an impediment to the ascendency of his own.
Napoleon correctly judged the principle of nationality to be the dominant
force in the immediate future of Europe. He saw in Italy and in Germany
races whose internal divisions alone had prevented them from being the
formidable rivals of France, and yet he assisted the one nation to effect
its union, and was not indisposed, within certain limits, to promote the
consolidation of the other. That the acquisition of Nice and Savoy, and
even of the Rhenish Provinces, could not in itself make up to France for
the establishment of two great nations on its immediate frontiers Napoleon
must have well understood: he sought to carry the principle of
agglomeration a stage farther in the interests of France itself, and to
form some moral, if not political, union of the Latin nations, which should
embrace under his own ascendency communities beyond the Atlantic as well as
those of the Old World. It was with this design that in the year 1862 he
made the financial misdemeanours of Mexico the pretext for an expedition to
that country, the object of which was to subvert the native Republican
Government, and to place the Hapsburg Maximilian, as a vassal prince, on
its throne. England and Spain had at first agreed to unite with France in
enforcing the claims of the European creditors of Mexico; but as soon as
Napoleon had made public his real intentions these Powers withdrew their
forces, and the Emperor was left free to carry out his plans alone.

[The Mexican Expedition, 1862-1865.]

[Napoleon compelled to withdraw, 1866-7.]

[Fall and Death of Maximilian.]

The design of Napoleon to establish French influence in Mexico was
connected with his attempt to break up the United States by establishing
the independence of the Southern Confederacy, then in rebellion, through
the mediation of the Great Powers of Europe. So long as the Civil War in
the United States lasted, it seemed likely that Napoleon's enterprise in
Mexico would be successful. Maximilian was placed upon the throne, and the
Republican leader, Juarez, was driven into the extreme north of the
country. But with the overthrow of the Southern Confederacy and the
restoration of peace in the United States in 1865 the prospect totally
changed. The Government of Washington refused to acknowledge any authority
in Mexico but that of Juarez, and informed Napoleon in courteous terms that
his troops must be withdrawn. Napoleon had bound himself by Treaty to keep
twenty-five thousand men in Mexico for the protection of Maximilian. He
was, however, unable to defy the order of the United States. Early in 1866
he acquainted Maximilian with the necessities of the situation, and with
the approaching removal of the force which alone had placed him and could
sustain him on the throne. The unfortunate prince sent his consort, the
daughter of the King of the Belgians, to Europe to plead against this act
of desertion; but her efforts were vain, and her reason sank under the just
presentiment of her husband's ruin. The utmost on which Napoleon could
venture was the postponement of the recall of his troops till the spring of
1867. He urged Maximilian to abdicate before it was too late; but the
prince refused to dissociate himself from his counsellors who still
implored him to remain. Meanwhile the Juarists pressed back towards the
capital from north and south. As the French detachments were withdrawn
towards the coast the entire country fell into their hands. The last French
soldiers quitted Mexico at the beginning of March, 1867, and on the 15th of
May, Maximilian, still lingering at Queretaro, was made prisoner by the
Republicans. He had himself while in power ordered that the partisans of
Juarez should be treated not as soldiers but as brigands, and that when
captured they should be tried by court-martial and executed within
twenty-four hours. The same severity was applied to himself. He was
sentenced to death and shot at Queretaro on the 19th of June.

[Decline of Napoleon's reputation.]

Thus ended the attempt of Napoleon III. to establish the influence of
France and of his dynasty beyond the seas. The doom of Maximilian excited
the compassion of Europe; a deep, irreparable wound was inflicted on the
reputation of the man who had tempted him to his treacherous throne, who
had guaranteed him protection, and at the bidding of a superior power had
abandoned him to his ruin. From this time, though the outward splendour of
the Empire was undiminished, there remained scarcely anything of the
personal prestige which Napoleon had once enjoyed in so rich a measure. He
was no longer in the eyes of Europe or of his own country the profound,
self-contained statesman in whose brain lay the secret of coming events; he
was rather the gambler whom fortune was preparing to desert, the usurper
trembling for the future of his dynasty and his crown. Premature old age
and a harassing bodily ailment began to incapacitate him for personal
exertion. He sought to loosen the reins in which his despotism held France,
and to make a compromise with public opinion which was now declaring
against him. And although his own cooler judgment set little store by any
addition of frontier strips of alien territory to France, and he would
probably have been best pleased to pass the remainder of his reign in
undisturbed inaction, he deemed it necessary, after failure in Mexico had
become inevitable, to seek some satisfaction in Europe for the injured
pride of his country. He entered into negotiations with the King of Holland
for the cession of Luxemburg, and had gained his assent, when rumours of
the transaction reached the North German Press, and the project passed from
out the control of diplomatists and became an affair of rival nations.

[The Luxemburg question, Feb.-May, 1867.]

Luxemburg, which was an independent Duchy ruled by the King of Holland, had
until 1866 formed a part of the German Federation; and although Bismarck
had not attempted to include it in his own North German Union, Prussia
retained by the Treaties of 1815 a right to garrison the fortress of
Luxemburg, and its troops were actually there in possession. The proposed
transfer of the Duchy to France excited an outburst of patriotic resentment
in the Federal Parliament at Berlin. The population of Luxemburg was indeed
not wholly German, and it had shown the strongest disinclination to enter
the North German league; but the connection of the Duchy with Germany in
the past was close enough to explain the indignation roused by Napoleon's
project among politicians who little suspected that during the previous
year Bismarck himself had cordially recommended this annexation, and that
up to the last moment he had been privy to the Emperor's plan. The Prussian
Minister, though he did not affect to share the emotion of his countrymen,
stated that his policy in regard to Luxemburg must be influenced by the
opinion of the Federal Parliament, and he shortly afterwards caused it to
be understood at Paris that the annexation of the Duchy to France was
impossible. As a warning to France he had already published the Treaties of
alliance between Prussia and the South German States, which had been made
at the close of the war of 1866, but had hitherto been kept secret. [530]
Other powers now began to tender their good offices. Count Beust, on behalf
of Austria, suggested that Luxemburg should be united to Belgium, which in
its turn should cede a small district to France. This arrangement, which
would have been accepted at Berlin, and which, by soothing the irritation
produced in France by Prussia's successes, would possibly have averted the
war of 1870, was frustrated by the refusal of the King of Belgium to part
with any of his territory--Napoleon, disclaiming all desire for territorial
extension, now asked only for the withdrawal of the Prussian garrison from
Luxemburg; but it was known that he was determined to enforce this demand
by arms. The Russian Government proposed that the question should be
settled by a Conference of the Powers at London. This proposal was accepted
under certain conditions by France and Prussia, and the Conference
assembled on the 7th of May. Its deliberations were completed in four days,
and the results were summed up in the Treaty of London signed on the 11th.
By this Treaty the Duchy of Luxemburg was declared neutral territory under
the collective guarantee of the Powers. Prussia withdrew its garrison, and
the King of Holland, who continued to be sovereign of the Duchy, undertook
to demolish the fortifications of Luxemburg, and to maintain it in the
future as an open town. [531]

[Exasperation in France against Prussia.]

Of the politicians of France, those who even affected to regard the
aggrandisement of Prussia and the union of Northern Germany with
indifference or satisfaction were a small minority. Among these was the
Emperor, who, after his attempts to gain a Rhenish Province had been
baffled, sought to prove in an elaborate State-paper that France had won
more than it had lost by the extinction of the German Federation as
established in 1815, and by the dissolution of the tie that had bound
Austria and Prussia together as members of this body. The events of 1866
had, he contended, broken up a system devised in evil days for the purpose
of uniting Central Europe against France, and had restored to the Continent
the freedom of alliances; in other words, they had made it possible for the
South German States to connect themselves with France. If this illusion was
really entertained by the Emperor, it was rudely dispelled by the discovery
of the Treaties between Prussia and the Southern States and by their
publication in the spring of 1867. But this revelation was not necessary to
determine the attitude of the great majority of those who passed for the
representatives of independent political opinion in France. The Ministers
indeed were still compelled to imitate the Emperor's optimism, and a few
enlightened men among the Opposition understood that France must be content
to see the Germans effect their national unity; but the great body of
unofficial politicians, to whatever party they belonged, joined in the
bitter outcry raised at once against the aggressive Government of Prussia
and the feeble administration at Paris, which had not found the means to
prevent, or had actually facilitated, Prussia's successes. Thiers, who more
than any one man had by his writings popularised the Napoleonic legend and
accustomed the French to consider themselves entitled to a monopoly of
national greatness on the Rhine, was the severest critic of the Emperor,
the most zealous denouncer of the work which Bismarck had effected. It was
only with too much reason that the Prussian Government looked forward to an
attack by France at some earlier or later time as almost certain, and
pressed forward the military organisation which was to give to Germany an
army of unheard-of efficiency and strength.

[France and Prussia after 1867.]

There appears to be no evidence that Napoleon III. himself desired to
attack Prussia so long as that Power should strictly observe the
stipulations of the Treaty of Prague which provided for the independence of
the South German States. But the current of events irresistibly impelled
Germany to unity. The very Treaty which made the river Main the limit of
the North German Confederacy reserved for the Southern States the right of
attaching themselves to those of the North by some kind of national tie.
Unless the French Emperor was resolved to acquiesce in the gradual
development of this federal unity until, as regarded the foreigner, the
North and the South of Germany should be a single body, he could have no
confident hope of lasting peace. To have thus anticipated and accepted the
future, to have removed once and for all the sleepless fears of Prussia by
the frank recognition of its right to give all Germany effective Union,
would have been an act too great and too wise in reality, too weak and
self-renouncing in appearance, for any chief of a rival nation. Napoleon
did not take this course; on the other hand, not desiring to attack Prussia
while it remained within the limits of the Treaty of Prague, he refrained
from seeking alliances with the object of immediate and aggressive action.
The diplomacy of the Emperor during the period from 1866 to 1870 is indeed
still but imperfectly known; but it would appear that his efforts were
directed only to the formation of alliances with the view of eventual
action when Prussia should have passed the limits which the Emperor himself
or public opinion in Paris should, as interpreter of the Treaty of Prague,
impose upon this Power in its dealings with the South German States.

[Negotiations with Austria, 1868-69.]

The Governments to which Napoleon could look for some degree of support
were those of Austria and Italy. Count Beust, now Chancellor of the
Austrian Monarchy, was a bitter enemy to Prussia, and a rash and
adventurous politician, to whom the very circumstance of his sudden
elevation from the petty sphere of Saxon politics gave a certain levity and
unconstraint in the handling of great affairs. He cherished the idea of
recovering Austria's ascendency in Germany, and was disposed to repel the
extension of Russian influence westwards by boldly encouraging the Poles to
seek for the satisfaction of their national hopes in Galicia under the
Hapsburg Crown. To Count Beust France was the most natural of all allies.
On the other hand, the very system which Beust had helped to establish in
Hungary raised serious obstacles against the adoption of his own policy.
Andrássy, the Hungarian Minister, while sharing Beust's hostility to
Russia, declared that his countrymen had no interest in restoring Austria's
German connection, and were in fact better without it. In these
circumstances the negotiations of the French and the Austrian Emperor were
conducted by a private correspondence. The interchange of letters continued
during the years 1868 and 1869, and resulted in a promise made by Napoleon
to support Austria if it should be attacked by Prussia, while the Emperor
Francis Joseph promised to assist France if it should be attacked by
Prussia and Russia together. No Treaty was made, but a general assurance
was exchanged between the two Emperors that they would pursue a common
policy and treat one another's interests as their own. With the view of
forming a closer understanding the Archduke Albrecht visited Paris in
February, 1870, and a French general was sent to Vienna to arrange the plan
of campaign in case of war with Prussia. In such a war, if undertaken by
the two Powers, it was hoped that Italy would join. [532]

[Italy after 1866.]

[Mentana, Nov. 3, 1867.]

The alliance of 1866 between Prussia and Italy had left behind it in each
of these States more of rancour than of good-will. La Marmora had from the
beginning to the end been unfortunate in his relations with Berlin. He had
entered into the alliance with suspicion; he would gladly have seen Venetia
given to Italy by a European Congress without war; and when hostilities
broke out, he had disregarded and resented what he considered an attempt of
the Prussian Government to dictate to him the military measures to be
pursued. On the other hand, the Prussians charged the Italian Government
with having deliberately held back its troops after the battle of Custozza
in pursuance of arrangements made between Napoleon and the Austrian Emperor
on the voluntary cession of Venice, and with having endangered or minimised
Prussia's success by enabling the Austrians to throw a great part of their
Italian forces northwards. There was nothing of that comradeship between
the Italian and the Prussian armies which is acquired on the field of
battle. The personal sympathies of Victor Emmanuel were strongly on the
side of the French Emperor; and when, at the close of the year 1866, the
French garrison was withdrawn from Rome in pursuance of the convention made
in September, 1864, it seemed probable that France and Italy might soon
unite in a close alliance. But in the following year the attempts of the
Garibaldians to overthrow the Papal Government, now left without its
foreign defenders, embroiled Napoleon and the Italian people. Napoleon was
unable to defy the clerical party in France; he adopted the language of
menace in his communications with the Italian Cabinet; and when, in the
autumn of 1867, the Garibaldians actually invaded the Roman States, he
despatched a body of French troops under General Failly to act in support
of those of the Pope. An encounter took place at Mentana on November 3rd,
in which the Garibaldians, after defeating the Papal forces, were put to
the rout by General Failly. The occupation of Civita Vecchia was renewed,
and in the course of the debates raised at Paris on the Italian policy of
the Government, the Prime Minister, M. Rouher, stated, with the most
passionate emphasis that, come what might, Italy should never possess
itself of Rome. "Never," he cried, "will France tolerate such an outrage on
its honour and its dignity." [533]

[Napoleon and Italy after Mentana.]

[Italy and Austria.]

The affair of Mentana, the insolent and heartless language in which General
Failly announced his success, the reoccupation of Roman territory by French
troops, and the declaration made by M. Rouher in the French Assembly,
created wide and deep anger in Italy, and made an end for the time of all
possibility of a French alliance. Napoleon was indeed, as regarded Italy,
in an evil case. By abandoning Rome he would have turned against himself
and his dynasty the whole clerical interest in France, whose confidence he
had already to some extent forfeited by his policy in 1860; on the other
hand, it was vain for him to hope for the friendship of Italy whilst he
continued to bar the way to the fulfilment of the universal national
desire. With the view of arriving at some compromise he proposed a European
Conference on the Roman question; but this was resisted above all by Count
Bismarck, whose interest it was to keep the sore open; and neither England
nor Russia showed any anxiety to help the Pope's protector out of his
difficulties. Napoleon sought by a correspondence with Victor Emmanuel
during 1868 and 1869 to pave the way for a defensive alliance; but Victor
Emmanuel was in reality as well as in name a constitutional king, and
probably could not, even if he had desired, have committed Italy to
engagements disapproved by the Ministry and Parliament. It was made clear
to Napoleon that the evacuation of the Papal States must precede any treaty
of alliance between France and Italy. Whether the Italian Government would
have been content with a return to the conditions of the September
Convention, or whether it made the actual possession of Rome the price of a
treaty-engagement, is uncertain; but inasmuch as Napoleon was not at
present prepared to evacuate Civita Vecchia, he could aim at nothing more
than some eventual concert when the existing difficulties should have been
removed. The Court of Vienna now became the intermediary between the two
Powers who had united against it in 1859. Count Beust was free from the
associations which had made any approach to friendship with the kingdom of
Victor Emmanuel impossible for his predecessors. He entered into
negotiations at Florence, which resulted in the conclusion of an agreement
between the Austrian and the Italian Governments that they would act
together and guarantee one another's territories in the event of a war
between France and Prussia. This agreement was made with the assent of the
Emperor Napoleon, and was understood to be preparatory to an accord with
France itself; but it was limited to a defensive character, and it implied
that any eventual concert with France must be arranged by the two Powers in
combination with one another. [534]

[Isolation of France.]

At the beginning of 1870 the Emperor Napoleon was therefore without any
more definite assurance of support in a war with Prussia than the promise
of the Austrian Sovereign that he would assist France if attacked by
Prussia and Russia together, and that he would treat the interests of
France as his own. By withdrawing his protection from Rome Napoleon had
undoubtedly a fair chance of building up this shadowy and remote engagement
into a defensive alliance with both Austria and Italy. But perfect
clearness and resolution of purpose, as well as the steady avoidance of all
quarrels on mere incidents, were absolutely indispensable to the creation
and the employment of such a league against the Power which alone it could
have in view; and Prussia had now little reason to fear any such exercise
of statesmanship on the part of Napoleon. The solution of the Roman
question, in other words the withdrawal of the French garrison from Roman
territory, could proceed only from some stronger stimulus than the
declining force of Napoleon's own intelligence and will could now supply.
This fatal problem baffled his attempts to gain alliances; and yet the
isolation of France was but half acknowledged, but half understood; and a
host of rash, vainglorious spirits impatiently awaited the hour that should
call them to their revenge on Prussia for the triumphs in which it had not
permitted France to share.

[Germany, 1867-1870.]

Meanwhile on the other side Count Bismarck advanced with what was most
essential in his relations with the States of Southern Germany--the
completion of the Treaties of Alliance by conventions assimilating the
military systems of these States to that of Prussia. A Customs-Parliament
was established for the whole of Germany, which, it was hoped, would be the
precursor of a National Assembly uniting the North and the South of the
Main. But in spite of this military and commercial approximation, the
progress towards union was neither so rapid nor so smooth as the patriots
of the North could desire. There was much in the harshness and
self-assertion of the Prussian character that repelled the less disciplined
communities of the South. Ultramontanism was strong in Bavaria; and
throughout the minor States the most advanced of the Liberals were opposed
to a closer union with Berlin, from dislike of its absolutist traditions
and the heavy hand of its Government. Thus the tendency known as
Particularism was supported in Bavaria and Würtemberg by classes of the
population who in most respects were in antagonism to one another; nor
could the memories of the campaign of 1866 and the old regard for Austria
be obliterated in a day. Bismarck did not unduly press on the work of
consolidation. He marked and estimated the force of the obstacles which too
rapid a development of his national policy would encounter. It is possible
that he may even have seen indications that religious and other influences
might imperil the military union which he had already established, and that
he may not have been unwilling to call to his aid, as the surest of all
preparatives for national union, the event which he had long believed to be
inevitable at some time or other in the future, a war with France.

[The Spanish candidature of Leopold of Hohenzollern.]

[Leopold accepts the Spanish Crown, July 3, 1870.]

Since the autumn of 1868 the throne of Spain had been vacant in consequence
of a revolution in which General Prim had been the leading actor. It was
not easy to discover a successor for the Bourbon Isabella; and after other
candidatures had been vainly projected it occurred to Prim and his friends
early in 1869 that a suitable candidate might be found in Prince Leopold of
Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, whose elder brother had been made Prince of
Roumania, and whose father, Prince Antony, had been Prime Minister of
Prussia in 1859. The House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was so distantly
related to the reigning family of Prussia that the name alone preserved the
memory of the connection; and in actual blood-relationship Prince Leopold
was much more nearly allied to the French Houses of Murat and Beauharnais.
But the Sigmaringen family was distinctly Prussian by interest and
association, and its chief, Antony, had not only been at the head of the
Prussian Administration himself, but had, it is said, been the first to
suggest the appointment of Bismarck to the same office. The candidature of
a Hohenzollern might reasonably be viewed in France as an attempt to
connect Prussia politically with Spain; and with so much reserve was this
candidature at the first handled at Berlin that, in answer to inquiries
made by Benedetti in the spring of 1869, the Secretary of State who
represented Count Bismarck stated on his word of honour that the
candidature had never been suggested. The affair was from first to last
ostensibly treated at Berlin as one with which the Prussian Government was
wholly unconcerned, and in which King William was interested only as head
of the family to which Prince Leopold belonged. For twelve months after
Benedetti's inquiries it appeared as if the project had been entirely
abandoned; it was, however, revived in the spring of 1870, and on the 3rd
of July the announcement was made at Paris that Prince Leopold had
consented to accept the Crown of Spain if the Cortes should confirm his

[French Declaration, July 6.]

At once there broke out in the French Press a storm of indignation against
Prussia. The organs of the Government took the lead in exciting public
opinion. On the 6th of July the Duke of Gramont, Foreign Minister, declared
to the Legislative Body that the attempt of a Foreign Power to place one of
its Princes on the throne of Charles V. imperilled the interests and the
honour of France, and that, if such a contingency were realised, the
Government would fulfil its duty without hesitation and without weakness.
The violent and unsparing language of this declaration, which had been
drawn up at a Council of Ministers under the Emperor's presidency, proved
that the Cabinet had determined either to humiliate Prussia or to take
vengeance by arms. It was at once seen by foreign diplomatists, who during
the preceding days had been disposed to assist in removing a reasonable
subject of complaint, how little was the chance of any peaceable settlement
after such a public challenge had been issued to Prussia in the Emperor's
name. One means of averting war alone seemed possible, the voluntary
renunciation by Prince Leopold of the offered Crown. To obtain this
renunciation became the task of those who, unlike the French Minister of
Foreign Affairs, were anxious to preserve peace.

[Ollivier's Ministry.]

The parts that were played at this crisis by the individuals who most
influenced the Emperor Napoleon are still but imperfectly known; but there
is no doubt that from the beginning to the end the Duke of Gramont, with
short intermissions, pressed with insane ardour for war. The Ministry now
in office had been called to their places in January, 1870, after the
Emperor had made certain changes in the constitution in a Liberal
direction, and had professed to transfer the responsibility of power from
himself to a body of advisers possessing the confidence of the Chamber.
Ollivier, formerly one of the leaders of the Opposition, had accepted the
Presidency of the Cabinet. His colleagues were for the most part men new to
official life, and little able to hold their own against such
representatives of unreformed Imperialism as the Duke of Gramont and the
War-Minister Leboeuf who sat beside them. Ollivier himself was one of the
few politicians in France who understood that his countrymen must be
content to see German unity established whether they liked it or not. He
was entirely averse from war with Prussia on the question which had now
arisen; but the fear that public opinion would sweep away a Liberal
Ministry which hesitated to go all lengths in patriotic extravagance led
him to sacrifice his own better judgment, and to accept the responsibility
for a policy which in his heart he disapproved. Gramont's rash hand was
given free play. Instructions were sent to Benedetti to seek the King of
Prussia at Ems, where he was taking the waters, and to demand from him, as
the only means of averting war, that he should order the Hohenzollern
Prince to revoke his acceptance of the Crown. "We are in great haste,"
Gramont added, "for we must gain the start in case of an unsatisfactory
reply, and commence the movement of troops by Saturday in order to enter
upon the campaign in a fortnight. Be on your guard against an answer merely
leaving the Prince of Hohenzollern to his fate, and disclaiming on the part
of the King any interest in his future." [535]

[Benedetti and King William at Ems, July 9-14.]

Benedetti's first interview with the King was on the 9th of July. He
informed the King of the emotion that had been caused in France by the
candidature of the Hohenzollern Prince; he dwelt on the value to both
countries of the friendly relation between France and Prussia; and, while
studiously avoiding language that might wound or irritate the King, he
explained to him the requirements of the Government at Paris. The King had
learnt beforehand what would be the substance of Benedetti's communication.
He had probably been surprised and grieved at the serious consequences
which Prince Leopold's action had produced in France; and although he had
determined not to submit to dictation from Paris or to order Leopold to
abandon his candidature, he had already, as it seems, taken steps likely to
render the preservation of peace more probable. At the end of a
conversation with the Ambassador, in which he asserted his complete
independence as head of the family of Hohenzollern, he informed Benedetti
that he had entered into communication with Leopold and his father, and
that he expected shortly to receive a despatch from Sigmaringen. Benedetti
rightly judged that the King, while positively refusing to meet Gramont's
demands, was yet desirous of finding some peaceable way out of the
difficulty; and the report of this interview which he sent to Paris was
really a plea in favour of good sense and moderation. But Gramont was
little disposed to accept such counsels. "I tell you plainly," he wrote to
Benedetti on the next day, "public opinion is on fire, and will leave us
behind it. We must begin; we wait only for your despatch to call up the
three hundred thousand men who are waiting the summons. Write, telegraph,
something definite. If the King will not counsel the Prince of Hohenzollern
to resign, well, it is immediate war, and in a few days we are on the

[Leopold withdraws, July 12.]

[Guarantee against renewal demanded.]

[Benedetti and the King, July 13.]

Nevertheless Benedetti's advice was not without its influence on the
Emperor and his Ministers. Napoleon, himself wavering from hour to hour,
now inclined to the peace-party, and during the 11th there was a pause in
the military preparations that had been begun. On the 12th the efforts of
disinterested Governments, probably also the suggestions of the King of
Prussia himself, produced their effects. A telegram was received at Madrid
from Prince Antony stating that his son's candidature was withdrawn. A few
hours later Ollivier announced the news in the Legislative Chamber at
Paris, and exchanged congratulations with the friends of peace, who
considered that the matter was now at an end. But this pacific conclusion
little suited either the war-party or the Bonapartists of the old type, who
grudged to a Constitutional Ministry so substantial a diplomatic success.
They at once declared that the retirement of Prince Leopold was a secondary
matter, and that the real question was what guarantees had been received
from Prussia against a renewal of the candidature. Gramont himself, in an
interview with the Prussian Ambassador, Baron Werther, sketched a letter
which he proposed that King William should send to the Emperor, stating
that in sanctioning the candidature of Prince Leopold he had not intended
to offend the French, and that in associating himself with the Prince's
withdrawal he desired that all misunderstandings should be at an end
between the two Governments. The despatch of Baron Werther conveying this
proposition appears to have deeply offended King William, whom it reached
about midday on the 13th. Benedetti had that morning met the King on the
promenade at Ems, and had received from him the promise that as soon as the
letter which was still on its way from Sigmaringen should arrive he would
send for the Ambassador in order that he might communicate its contents at
Paris. The letter arrived; but Baron Werther's despatch from Paris had
arrived before it; and instead of summoning Benedetti as he had promised,
the King sent one of his aides-de-camp to him with a message that a written
communication had been received from Prince Leopold confirming his
withdrawal, and that the matter was now at an end. Benedetti desired the
aide-de-camp to inform the King that he was compelled by his instructions
to ask for a guarantee against a renewal of the candidature. The
aide-de-camp did as he was requested, and brought back a message that the
King gave his entire approbation to the withdrawal of the Prince of
Hohenzollern, but that he could do no more. Benedetti begged for an
audience with His Majesty. The King replied that he was compelled to
decline entering into further negotiation, and that he had said his last
word. Though the King thus refused any further discussion, perfect courtesy
was observed on both sides; and on the following morning the King and the
Ambassador, who were both leaving Ems, took leave of one another at the
railway station with the usual marks of respect.

[Publication of the telegram from Ems, July 13.]

[War decided at Paris, July 14.]

That the guarantee which the French Government had resolved to demand would
not be given was now perfectly certain; yet, with the candidature of Prince
Leopold fairly extinguished, it was still possible that the cooler heads at
Paris might carry the day, and that the Government would stop short of
declaring war on a point on which the unanimous judgment of the other
Powers declared it to be in the wrong. But Count Bismarck was determined
not to let the French escape lightly from the quarrel. He had to do with an
enemy who by his own folly had come to the brink of an aggressive war, and,
far from facilitating his retreat, it was Bismarck's policy to lure him
over the precipice. Not many hours after the last message had passed
between King William and Benedetti, a telegram was officially published at
Berlin, stating, in terms so brief as to convey the impression of an actual
insult, that the King had refused to see the French Ambassador, and had
informed him by an aide-de-camp that he had nothing more to communicate to
him. This telegram was sent to the representatives of Prussia at most of
the European Courts, and to its agents in every German capital. Narratives
instantly gained currency, and were not contradicted by the Prussian
Government, that Benedetti had forced himself upon the King on the
promenade at Ems, and that in the presence of a large company the King had
turned his back upon the Ambassador. The publication of the alleged
telegram from Ems became known in Paris on the 14th. On that day the
Council of Ministers met three times. At the first meeting the advocates of
peace were still in the majority; in the afternoon, as the news from Berlin
and the fictions describing the insult offered to the French Ambassador
spread abroad, the agitation in Paris deepened, and the Council decided
upon calling up the Reserves; yet the Emperor himself seemed still disposed
for peace. It was in the interval between the second and the third meeting
of the Council, between the hours of six and ten in the evening, that
Napoleon finally gave way before the threats and importunities of the
war-party. The Empress, fanatically anxious for the overthrow of a great
Protestant Power, passionately eager for the military glory which alone
could insure the Crown to her son, won the triumph which she was so
bitterly to rue. At the third meeting of the Council, held shortly before
midnight, the vote was given for war.

In Germany this decision had been expected; yet it made a deep impression
not only on the German people but on Europe at large that, when the
declaration of war was submitted to the French Legislative Body in the form
of a demand for supplies, no single voice was raised to condemn the war for
its criminality and injustice: the arguments which were urged against it by
M. Thiers and others were that the Government had fixed upon a bad cause,
and that the occasion was inopportune. Whether the majority of the Assembly
really desired war is even now matter of doubt. But the clamour of a
hundred madmen within its walls, the ravings of journalists and
incendiaries, who at such a time are to the true expression of public
opinion what the Spanish Inquisition was to the Christian religion,
paralysed the will and the understanding of less infatuated men. Ten votes
alone were given in the Assembly against the grant demanded for war; to
Europe at large it went out that the crime and the madness was that of
France as a nation. Yet Ollivier and many of his colleagues up to the last
moment disapproved of the war, and consented to it only because they
believed that the nation would otherwise rush into hostilities under a
reactionary Ministry who would serve France worse than themselves. They
found when it was too late that the supposed national impulse, which they
had thought irresistible, was but the outcry of a noisy minority. The
reports of their own officers informed them that in sixteen alone out of
the eighty-seven Departments of France was the war popular. In the other
seventy-one it was accepted either with hesitation or regret. [536]

[Initial forces of either side.]

[Expected Alliances of France.]

[Austria preparing.]

How vast were the forces which the North German Confederation could bring
into the field was well known to Napoleon's Government. Benedetti had kept
his employers thoroughly informed of the progress of the North German
military organisation; he had warned them that the South German States
would most certainly act with the North against a foreign assailant; he had
described with great accuracy and great penetration the nature of the tie
that existed between Berlin and St. Petersburg, a tie which was close
enough to secure for Prussia the goodwill, and in certain contingencies the
armed support, of Russia, while it was loose enough not to involve Prussia
in any Muscovite enterprise that would bring upon it the hostility of
England and Austria. The utmost force which the French military
administration reckoned on placing in the field at the beginning of the
campaign was two hundred and fifty thousand men, to be raised at the end of
three weeks by about fifty thousand more. The Prussians, even without
reckoning on any assistance from Southern Germany, and after allowing for
three army-corps that might be needed to watch Austria and Denmark, could
begin the campaign with three hundred and thirty thousand. Army to army,
the French thus stood according to the reckoning of their own War Office
outnumbered at the outset; but Leboeuf, the War-Minister, imagined that the
Foreign Office had made sure of alliances, and that a great part of the
Prussian Army would not be free to act on the western frontier. Napoleon
had in fact pushed forward his negotiations with Austria and Italy from the
time that war became imminent. Count Beust, while clearly laying it down
that Austria was not bound to follow France into a war made at its own
pleasure, nevertheless felt some anxiety lest France and Prussia should
settle their differences at Austria's expense; moreover from the victory of
Napoleon, assisted in any degree by himself, he could fairly hope for the
restoration of Austria's ascendency in Germany and the undoing of the work
of 1866. It was determined at a Council held at Vienna on the 18th of July
that Austria should for the present be neutral if Russia should not enter
the war on the side of Prussia; but this neutrality was nothing more than a
stage towards alliance with France if at the end of a certain brief period
the army of Napoleon should have penetrated into Southern Germany. In a
private despatch to the Austrian Ambassador at Paris Count Beust pointed
out that the immediate participation of Austria in the war would bring
Russia into the field on King William's side. "To keep Russia neutral," he
wrote, "till the season is sufficiently advanced to prevent the
concentration of its troops must be at present our object; but this
neutrality is nothing more than a means for arriving at the real end of our
policy, the only means for completing our preparations without exposing
ourselves to premature attack by Prussia or Russia." He added that Austria
had already entered into a negotiation with Italy with a view to the armed
mediation of the two Powers, and strongly recommended the Emperor to place
the Italians in possession of Rome. [537]

[France, Austria, and Italy.]

Negotiations were now pressed forward between Paris, Florence, and Vienna,
for the conclusion of a triple alliance. Of the course taken by these
negotiations contradictory accounts are given by the persons concerned in
them. According to Prince Napoleon, Victor Emmanuel demanded possession of
Rome and this was refused to him by the French Emperor, in consequence of
which the project of alliance failed. According to the Duke of Gramont, no
more was demanded by Italy than the return to the conditions of the
September Convention; this was agreed to by the Emperor, and it was in
pursuance of this agreement that the Papal States were evacuated by their
French garrison on the 2nd of August. Throughout the last fortnight of
July, after war had actually been declared, there was, if the statement of
Gramont is to be trusted, a continuous interchange of notes, projects, and
telegrams between the three Governments. The difficulties raised by Italy
and Austria were speedily removed, and though some weeks were needed by
these Powers for their military preparations, Napoleon was definitely
assured of their armed support in case of his preliminary success. It was
agreed that Austria and Italy, assuming at the first the position of armed
neutrality, should jointly present an ultimatum to Prussia in September
demanding the exact performance of the Treaty of Prague, and, failing its
compliance with this summons in the sense understood by its enemies, that
the two Powers would immediately declare war, their armies taking the field
at latest on the 15th of September. That Russia would in that case assist
Prussia was well known; but it would seem that Count Beust feared little
from his northern enemy in an autumn campaign. The draft of the Treaty
between Italy and Austria had actually, according to Gramont's statement,
been accepted by the two latter Powers, and received its last amendments in
a negotiation between the Emperor Napoleon and an Italian envoy, Count
Vimercati, at Metz. Vimercati reached Florence with the amended draft on
the 4th of August, and it was expected that the Treaty would be signed on
the following day. When that day came it saw the forces of the French
Empire dashed to pieces. [538]

[Prussian Plans.]

Preparations for a war with France had long occupied the general staff at
Berlin. Before the winter of 1868 a memoir had been drawn up by General
Moltke, containing plans for the concentration of the whole of the German
forces, for the formation of each of the armies to be employed, and the
positions to be occupied at the outset by each corps. On the basis of this
memoir the arrangements for the transport of each corps from its depot to
the frontier had subsequently been worked out in such minute detail that
when, on the 16th of July, King William gave the order for mobilisation,
nothing remained but to insert in the railway time-tables and
marching-orders the day on which the movement was to commence. This
minuteness of detail extended, however, only to that part of Moltke's plan
which related to the assembling and first placing of the troops. The events
of the campaign could not thus be arranged and tabulated beforehand; only
the general object and design could be laid down. That the French would
throw themselves with great rapidity upon Southern Germany was considered
probable. The armies of Baden, Würtemberg, and Bavaria were too weak, the
military centres of the North were too far distant, for effective
resistance to be made in this quarter to the first blows of the invader.
Moltke therefore recommended that the Southern troops should withdraw from
their own States and move northwards to join those of Prussia in the
Palatinate or on the Middle Rhine, so that the entire forces of Germany
should be thrown upon the flank or rear of the invader; while, in the event
of the French not thus taking the offensive, France itself was to be
invaded by the collective strength of Germany along the line from
Saarbrücken to Landau, and its armies were to be cut off from their
communications with Paris by vigorous movements of the invader in a
northerly direction. [539]

[German mobilisation.]

The military organisation of Germany is based on the division of the
country into districts, each of which furnishes at its own depôt a small
but complete army. The nucleus of each such corps exists in time of peace,
with its own independent artillery, stores, and material of war. On the
order for mobilisation being given, every man liable to military service,
but not actually serving, joins the regiment to which he locally belongs,
and in a given number of days each corps is ready to take the field in full
strength. The completion of each corps at its own depôt is the first stage
in the preparation for a campaign. Not till this is effected does the
movement of troops towards the frontier begin. The time necessary for the
first act of preparation was, like that to be occupied in transport,
accurately determined by the Prussian War Office. It resulted from General
Moltke's calculations that, the order of mobilisation having been given on
the 16th of July, the entire army with which it was intended to begin the
campaign would be collected and in position ready to cross the frontier on
the 4th of August, if the French should not have taken up the offensive
before that day. But as it was apprehended that part at least of the French
army would be thrown into Germany before that date, the westward movement
of the German troops stopped short at a considerable distance from the
border, in order that the troops first arriving might not be exposed to the
attack of a superior force before their supports should be at hand. On the
actual frontier there was placed only the handful of men required for
reconnoitring, and for checking the enemy during the few hours that would
be necessary to guard against the effect of a surprise.

[The French Army.]

The French Emperor was aware of the numerical inferiority of his army to
that of Prussia; he hoped, however, by extreme rapidity of movement to
penetrate Southern Germany before the Prussian army could assemble, and so,
while forcing the Southern Governments to neutrality, to meet on the Upper
Danube the assisting forces of Italy and Austria. It was his design to
concentrate a hundred and fifty thousand men at Metz, a hundred thousand at
Strasburg, and with these armies united to cross the Rhine into Baden;
while a third army, which was to assemble at Châlons, protected the
north-eastern frontier against an advance of the Prussians. A few days
after the declaration of war, while the German corps were still at their
depots in the interior, considerable forces were massed round Metz and
Strasburg. All Europe listened for the rush of the invader and the first
swift notes of triumph from a French army beyond the Rhine; but week after
week passed, and the silence was still unbroken. Stories, incredible to
those who first heard them, yet perfectly true, reached the German
frontier-stations of actual famine at the advanced posts of the enemy, and
of French soldiers made prisoners while digging in potato-fields to keep
themselves alive. That Napoleon was less ready than had been anticipated
became clear to all the world; but none yet imagined the revelations which
each successive day was bringing at the headquarters of the French armies.
Absence of whole regiments that figured in the official order of battle,
defective transport, stores missing or congested, made it impossible even
to attempt the inroad into Southern Germany within the date up to which it
had any prospect of success. The design was abandoned, yet not in time to
prevent the troops that were hurrying from the interior from being sent
backwards and forwards according as the authorities had, or had not, heard
of the change of plan. Napoleon saw that a Prussian force was gathering on
the Middle Rhine which it would be madness to leave on his flank; he
ordered his own commanders to operate on the corresponding line of the
Lauter and the Saar, and despatched isolated divisions to the very
frontier, still uncertain whether even in this direction he would be able
to act on the offensive, or whether nothing now remained to him but to
resist the invasion of France by a superior enemy. Ollivier had stated in
the Assembly that he and his colleagues entered upon the war with a light
heart; he might have added that they entered upon it with bandaged eyes.
The Ministers seem actually not to have taken the trouble to exchange
explanations with one another. Leboeuf, the War-Minister, had taken it
for granted that Gramont had made arrangements with Austria which would
compel the Prussians to keep a large part of their forces in the interior.
Gramont, in forcing on the quarrel with Prussia, and in his negotiations
with Austria, had taken it for granted that Leboeuf could win a series of
victories at the outset in Southern Germany. The Emperor, to whom alone the
entire data of the military and the diplomatic services of France were
open, was incapable of exertion or scrutiny, purposeless, distracted with
pain, half-imbecile.

[Causes of French military inferiority.]

That the Imperial military administration was rotten to the core the
terrible events of the next few weeks sufficiently showed. Men were in high
place whose antecedents would have shamed the better kind of brigand. The
deficiencies of the army were made worse by the diversion of public funds
to private necessities; the looseness, the vulgar splendour, the base
standards of judgment of the Imperial Court infected each branch of the
public services of France, and worked perhaps not least on those who were
in military command. But the catastrophe of 1870 seemed to those who
witnessed it to tell of more than the vileness of an administration; in
England, not less than in Germany, voices of influence spoke of the doom
that had overtaken the depravity of a sunken nation; of the triumph of
simple manliness, of Godfearing virtue itself, in the victories of the
German army. There may have been truth in this; yet it would require a nice
moral discernment to appraise the exact degeneracy of the French of 1870
from the French of 1854 who humbled Russia, or from the French of 1859 who
triumphed at Solferino; and it would need a very comprehensive acquaintance
with the lower forms of human pleasure to judge in what degree the
sinfulness of Paris exceeds the sinfulness of Berlin. Had the French been
as strict a race as the Spartans who fell at Thermopylae, as devout as the
Tyrolese who perished at Königgrätz, it is quite certain that, with the
numbers which took the field against Germany in 1870, with Napoleon III. at
the head of affairs, and the actual generals of 1870 in command, the armies
of France could not have escaped destruction.

[Cause of German Success.]

The main cause of the disparity of France and Germany in 1870 was in truth
that Prussia had had from 1862 to 1866 a Government so strong as to be able
to force upon its subjects its own gigantic scheme of military organisation
in defiance of the votes of Parliament and of the national will. In 1866
Prussia, with a population of nineteen millions, brought actually into the
field three hundred and fifty thousand men, or one in fifty-four of its
inhabitants. There was no other government in Europe, with the possible
exception of Russia, which could have imposed upon its subjects, without
risking its own existence, so vast a burden of military service as that
implied in this strength of the fighting army. Napoleon III. at the height
of his power could not have done so; and when after Königgrätz he
endeavoured to raise the forces of France to an equality with those of the
rival Power by a system which would have brought about one in seventy of
the population into the field, his own nominees in the Legislative Body,
under pressure of public opinion, so weakened the scheme that the effective
numbers of the army remained little more than they were before. The true
parallel to the German victories of 1870 is to be found in the victories of
the French Committee of Public Safety in 1794 and in those of the first
Napoleon. A government so powerful as to bend the entire resources of the
State to military ends will, whether it is one of democracy run mad, or of
a crowned soldier of fortune, or of an ancient monarchy throwing new vigour
into its traditional system and policy, crush in the moment of impact
communities of equal or greater resources in which a variety of rival
influences limit and control the central power and subordinate military to
other interests. It was so in the triumphs of the Reign of Terror over the
First Coalition; it was so in the triumphs of King William over Austria and
France. But the parallel between the founders of German unity and the
organisers of victory after 1793 extends no farther than to the sources of
their success. Aggression and adventure have not been the sequels of the
war of 1870. The vast armaments of Prussia were created in order to
establish German union under the House of Hohenzollern, and they have been
employed for no other object. It is the triumph of statesmanship, and it
has been the glory of Prince Bismarck, after thus reaping the fruit of a
well-timed homage to the God of Battles, to know how to quit his shrine.

[The frontier, Aug. 2.]

[Saarbrücken, Aug 2.]

[Weissenburg, Aug 4.]

[Battle of Wörth, Aug. 6.]

At the end of July, twelve days after the formal declaration of war, the
gathering forces of the Germans, over three hundred and eighty thousand
strong, were still some distance behind the Lauter and the Saar. Napoleon,
apparently without any clear design, had placed certain bodies of troops
actually on the frontier at Forbach, Weissenburg, and elsewhere, while
other troops, raising the whole number to about two hundred and fifty
thousand, lay round Metz and Strasburg, and at points between these and the
most advanced positions. The reconnoitring of the small German detachments
on the frontier was conducted with extreme energy: the French appear to
have made no reconnaissances at all, for when they determined at last to
discover what was facing them at Saarbrücken, they advanced with
twenty-five thousand men against one-tenth of that number. On the 2nd of
August Frossard's corps from Forbach moved upon Saarbrücken with the
Emperor in person. The garrison was driven out, and the town bombarded, but
even now the reconnaissance was not continued beyond the bridge across the
Saar which divides the two parts of the town. Forty-eight hours later the
alignment of the German forces in their invading order was completed, and
all was ready for an offensive campaign. The central army, commanded by
Prince Frederick Charles, spreading east and west behind Saarbrücken,
touched on its right the northern army commanded by General Steinmetz, on
its left the southern army commanded by the Crown Prince, which covered the
frontier of the Palatinate, and included the troops of Bavaria and
Würtemberg. The general direction of the three armies was thus from
northwest to south-east. As the line of invasion was to be nearly due west,
it was necessary that the first step forwards should be made by the army of
the Crown Prince in order to bring it more nearly to a level with the
northern corps in the march into France. On the 4th of August the Crown
Prince crossed the Alsatian frontier and moved against Weissenburg. The
French General Douay, who was posted here with about twelve thousand men,
was neither reinforced nor bidden to retire. His troops met the attack of
an enemy many times more numerous with great courage; but the struggle was
a hopeless one, and after several hours of severe fighting the Germans were
masters of the field. Douay fell in the battle; his troops frustrated an
attempt made to cut off their retreat, and fell back southwards towards the
corps of McMahon, which lay about ten miles behind them. The Crown Prince
marched on in search of his enemy, McMahon, who could collect only
forty-five thousand men, desired to retreat until he could gain some
support; but the Emperor, tormented by fears of the political consequences
of the invasion, insisted upon his giving battle. He drew up on the hills
about Wörth, almost on the spot where in 1793 Hoche had overthrown the
armies of the First Coalition. On the 6th of August the leading divisions
of the Crown Prince, about a hundred thousand strong, were within striking
distance. The superiority of the Germans in numbers was so great that
McMahon's army might apparently have been captured or destroyed with far
less loss than actually took place if time had been given for the movements
which the Crown Prince's staff had in view, and for the employment of his
full strength. But the impetuosity of divisional leaders on the morning of
the 6th brought on a general engagement. The resistance of the French was
of the most determined character. With one more army-corps--and the corps
of General Failly was expected to arrive on the field--it seemed as if the
Germans might yet be beaten back. But each hour brought additional forces
into action in the attack, while the French commander looked in vain for
the reinforcements that could save him from ruin. At length, when the last
desperate charges of the Cuirassiers had shattered against the fire of
cannon and needle-guns, and the village of Froschwiller, the centre of the
French position, had been stormed house by house, the entire army broke and
fled in disorder. Nine thousand prisoners, thirty-three cannon, fell into
the hands of the conquerors. The Germans had lost ten thousand men, but
they had utterly destroyed McMahon's army as an organised force. Its
remnant disappeared from the scene of warfare, escaping by the western
roads in the direction of Châlons, where first it was restored to some
degree of order. The Crown Prince, leaving troops behind him to beleaguer
the smaller Alsatian fortresses, marched on untroubled through the northern
Vosges, and descended into the open country about Lunéville and Nancy,
unfortified towns which could offer no resistance to the passage of an

[Spicheren, Aug. 6.]

On the same day that the battle of Wörth was fought, the leading columns of
the armies of Steinmetz and Prince Frederick Charles crossed the frontier
at Saarbrücken. Frossard's corps, on the news of the defeat at Weissenburg,
had withdrawn to its earlier positions between Forbach and the frontier: it
held the steep hills of Spicheren that look down upon Saarbrücken, and the
woods that flank the high road where this passes from Germany into France.
As at Wörth, it was not intended that any general attack should be made on
the 6th; a delay of twenty-four hours would have enabled the Germans to
envelop or crush Frossard's corps with an overwhelming force. But the
leaders of the foremost regiments threw themselves impatiently upon the
French whom they found before them: other brigades hurried up to the sound
of the cannon, until the struggle took the proportion of a battle, and
after hours of fluctuating success the heights of Spicheren were carried by
successive rushes of the infantry full in the enemy's fire. Why Frossard
was not reinforced has never been explained, for several French divisions
lay at no great distance westward, and the position was so strong that, if
a pitched battle was to be fought anywhere east of Metz, few better points
could have been chosen. But, like Douay at Weissenburg, Frossard was left
to struggle alone against whatever forces the Germans might throw upon him.
Napoleon, who directed the operations of the French armies from Metz,
appears to have been now incapable of appreciating the simplest military
necessities, of guarding against the most obvious dangers. Helplessness,
infatuation ruled the miserable hours.

[Paris after Aug. 6.]

The impression made upon Europe by the battles of the 6th of August
corresponded to the greatness of their actual military effects. There was
an end to all thoughts of the alliance of Austria and Italy with France.
Germany, though unaware of the full magnitude of the perils from which it
had escaped, breathed freely after weeks of painful suspense; the very
circumstance that the disproportion of numbers on the battle-field of
Wörth was still unknown heightened the joy and confidence produced by the
Crown Prince's victory, a victory in which the South German troops,
fighting by the side of those who had been their foes in 1866, had borne
their full part. In Paris the consternation with which the news of
McMahon's overthrow was received was all the greater that on the previous
day reports had been circulated of a victory won at Landau and of the
capture of the Crown Prince with his army. The bulletin of the Emperor,
briefly narrating McMahon's defeat and the repulse of Frossard, showed in
its concluding words--"All may yet be retrieved"--how profound was the
change made in the prospects of the war by that fatal day. The truth was
at once apprehended. A storm of indignation broke out against the
Imperial Government at Paris. The Chambers were summoned. Ollivier,
attacked alike by the extreme Bonapartists and by the Opposition, laid
down his office. A reactionary Ministry, headed by the Count of Palikao,
was placed in power by the Empress, a Ministry of the last hour as it was
justly styled by all outside it. Levies were ordered, arms and stores
accumulated for the reserve-forces, preparations made for a siege of
Paris itself. On the 12th the Emperor gave up the command which he had
exercised with such miserable results, and appointed Marshal Bazaine, one
of the heroes of the Mexican Expedition, General-in-Chief of the Army of
the Rhine.

[Napoleon at Metz. Aug. 7-11.]

[Borny, Aug 14.]

After the overthrow of McMahon and the victory of the Germans at Spicheren,
there seems to have been a period of utter paralysis in the French
headquarters at Metz. The divisions of Prince Frederick Charles and
Steinmetz did not immediately press forward; it was necessary to allow some
days for the advance of the Crown Prince through the Vosges; and during
these days the French army about Metz, which, when concentrated, numbered
nearly two hundred thousand men, might well have taken the positions
necessary for the defence of Moselle, or in the alternative might have
gained several marches in the retreat towards Verdun and Châlons. Only a
small part of this body had as yet been exposed to defeat. It included in
it the very flower of the French forces, tens of thousands of troops
probably equal to any in Europe, and capable of forming a most formidable
army if united to the reserves which would shortly be collected at Châlons
or nearer Paris. But from the 7th to the 12th of August Napoleon, too cowed
to take the necessary steps for battle in defence of the line of Moselle,
lingered purposeless a id irresolute at Metz, unwilling to fall back from
this fortress. It was not till the 14th that the retreat was begun. By this
time the Germans were close at hand, and their leaders were little disposed
to let the hesitating enemy escape them. While the leading divisions of the
French were crossing the Moselle, Steinmetz hurried forward his troops and
fell upon the French detachments still lying on the south-east of Metz
about Borny and Courcelles. Bazaine suspended his movement of retreat in
order to beat back an assailant who for once seemed to be inferior in
strength. At the close of the day the French commander believed that he had
gained a victory and driven the Germans off their line of advance; in
reality he had allowed himself to be diverted from the passage of the
Moselle at the last hour, while the Germans left under Prince Frederick
Charles gained the river farther south, and actually began to cross it in
order to bar his retreat.

[Mars-la-Tour, Aug. 15.]

From Metz westwards there is as far as the village of Gravelotte, which is
seven miles distant, but one direct road; at Gravelotte the road forks, the
southern arm leading towards Verdun by Vionville and Mars-la-Tour, the
northern by Conflans. During the 15th of August the first of Bazaine's
divisions moved as far as Vionville along the southern road; others came
into the neighbourhood of Gravelotte, but two corps which should have
advanced past Gravelotte on to the northern road still lay close to Metz.
The Prussian vanguard was meanwhile crossing the Moselle southwards from
Noveant to Pont-a-Mousson, and hurrying forwards by lines converging on the
road taken by Bazaine. Down to the evening of the 15th it was not supposed
at the Prussian headquarters that Bazaine could be overtaken and brought to
battle nearer than the line of the Meuse; but on the morning of the 16th
the cavalry-detachments which had pushed farthest to the north-west
discovered that the heads of the French columns had still not passed
Mars-la-Tour. An effort was instantly made to seize the road and block the
way before the enemy. The struggle, begun by a handful of combatants on
each side, drew to it regiment after regiment as the French battalions
close at hand came into action, and the Prussians hurried up in wild haste
to support their comrades who were exposed to the attack of an entire army.
The rapidity with which the Prussian generals grasped the situation before
them, the vigour with which they brought up their cavalry over a distance
which no infantry could traverse in the necessary time, and without a
moment's hesitation hurled this cavalry in charge after charge against a
superior foe, mark the battle of Mars-la-Tour as that in which the military
superiority of the Germans was most truly shown. Numbers in this battle had
little to do with the result, for by better generalship Bazaine could
certainly at any one point have overpowered his enemy. But while the
Germans rushed like a torrent upon the true point of attack--that is the
westernmost--Bazaine by some delusion considered it his primary object to
prevent the Germans from thrusting themselves between the retreating army
and Metz, and so kept a great part of his troops inactive about the
fortress. The result was that the Germans, with a loss of sixteen thousand
men, remained at the close of the day masters of the road at Vionville, and
that the French army could not, without winning a victory and breaking
through the enemy's line, resume its retreat along this line.

[Gravelotte, Aug. 18.]

It was expected during the 17th that Bazaine would make some attempt to
escape by the northern road, but instead of doing so he fell back on
Gravelotte and the heights between this and Metz, in order to fight a
pitched battle. The position was a well-chosen one; but by midday on the
18th the armies of Steinmetz and Prince Frederick Charles were ranged in
front of Bazaine with a strength of two hundred and fifty thousand men, and
in the judgment of the King these forces were equal to the attack. Again,
as at Wörth, the precipitancy of divisional commanders caused the sacrifice
of whole brigades before the battle was won. While the Saxon corps with
which Moltke intended to deliver his slow but fatal blow upon the enemy's
right flank was engaged in its long northward détour, Steinmetz pushed his
Rhinelanders past the ravine of Gravelotte into a fire where no human being
could survive, and the Guards, pressing forward in column over the smooth
unsheltered slope from St. Marie to St. Privat, sank by thousands without
reaching midway in their course. Until the final blow was dealt by the
Saxon corps from the north flank, the ground which was won by the Prussians
was won principally by their destructive artillery fire: their infantry
attacks had on the whole been repelled, and at Gravelotte itself it had
seemed for a moment as if the French were about to break the assailant's
line. But Bazaine, as on the 16th, steadily kept his reserves at a distance
from the points where their presence was most required, and, according to
his own account, succeeded in bringing into action no more than a hundred
thousand men, or less than two-thirds of the forces under his command.
[540] At the close of the awful day, when the capture of St. Privat by the
Saxons turned the defender's line, the French abandoned all their positions
and drew back within the defences of Metz.

[McMahon is compelled to attempt Bazaine's relief.]

The Germans at once proceeded to block all the roads round the fortress,
and Bazaine made no effort to prevent them. At the end of a few days the
line was drawn around him in sufficient strength to resist any sudden
attack. Steinmetz, who was responsible for a great part of the loss
sustained at Gravelotte, was now removed from his command; his army was
united with that under Prince Frederick Charles as the besieging force,
while sixty thousand men, detached from this great mass, were formed into a
separate army under Prince Albert of Saxony, and sent by way of Verdun to
co-operate with the Crown Prince against McMahon. The Government at Paris
knew but imperfectly what was passing around Metz from day to day; it knew,
however, that if Metz should be given up for lost the hour of its own fall
could not be averted. One forlorn hope remained, to throw the army which
McMahon was gathering at Châlons north-eastward to Bazaine's relief, though
the Crown Prince stood between Châlons and Metz, and could reach every
point in the line of march more rapidly than McMahon himself. Napoleon had
quitted Metz on the evening of the 15th; on the 17th a council of war was
held at Châlons, at which it was determined to fall back upon Paris and to
await the attack of the Crown Prince under the forts of the capital. No
sooner was this decision announced to the Government at Paris than the
Empress telegraphed to her husband warning him to consider what would be
the effects of his return, and insisting that an attempt should be made to
relieve Bazaine. [541] McMahon, against his own better judgment, consented
to the northern march. He moved in the first instance to Rheims in order to
conceal his intention from the enemy, but by doing this he lost some days.
On the 23rd, in pursuance of arrangements made with Bazaine, whose
messengers were still able to escape the Prussian watch, he set out
north-eastwards in the direction of Montmédy.

[German movement northwards, Aug 26.]

[Battle of Sedan, Sept. 1.]

[Capitulation of Sedan, Sept. 2.]

The movement was discovered by the Prussian cavalry and reported at the
headquarters at Bar-le-Duc on the 25th. Instantly the westward march of the
Crown Prince was arrested, and his army, with that of the Prince of Saxony,
was thrown northwards in forced marches towards Sedan. On reaching Le
Chesne, west of the Meuse, on the 27th, McMahon became aware of the enemy's
presence. He saw that his plan was discovered, and resolved to retreat
westwards before it was too late. The Emperor, who had attached himself to
the army, consented, but again the Government at Paris interfered with
fatal effect. More anxious for the safety of the dynasty than for the
existence of the army, the Empress and her advisers insisted that McMahon
should continue his advance. Napoleon seems now to have abdicated all
authority and thrown to the winds all responsibility. He allowed the march
to be resumed in the direction of Mouzon and Stenay. Failly's corps, which
formed the right wing, was attacked on the 29th before it could reach the
passage of the Meuse at the latter place, and was driven northwards to
Beaumont. Here the commander strangely imagined himself to be in security.
He was surprised in his camp on the following day, defeated, and driven
northwards towards Mouzon. Meanwhile the left of McMahon's army had crossed
the Meuse and moved eastwards to Carignan, so that his troops were severed
by the river and at some distance from one another. Part of Failly's men
were made prisoners in the struggle on the south, or dispersed on the west
of the Meuse; the remainder, with their commander, made a hurried and
disorderly escape beyond the river, and neglected to break down the bridges
by which they had passed. McMahon saw that if the advance was continued his
divisions would one after another fall into the enemy's hands. He recalled
the troops which had reached Carignan, and concentrated his army about
Sedan to fight a pitched battle. The passages of the Meuse above and below
Sedan were seized by the Germans. Two hundred and forty thousand men were
at Moltke's disposal; McMahon had about half that number. The task of the
Germans was not so much to defeat the enemy as to prevent them from
escaping to the Belgian frontier. On the morning of September 1st, while on
the east of Sedan the Bavarians after a desperate resistance stormed the
village of Bazeilles, Hessian and Prussian regiments crossed the Meuse at
Donchéry several miles to the west. From either end of this line corps
after corps now pushed northwards round the French positions, driving in
the enemy wherever they found them, and, converging under the eyes of the
Prussian King, his general, and his Minister, each into its place in the
arc of fire before which the French Empire was to perish. The movement was
as admirably executed as designed. The French fought furiously but in vain:
the mere mass of the enemy, the mere narrowing of the once completed
circle, crushed down resistance without the clumsy havoc of Gravelotte.
From point after point the defenders were forced back within Sedan itself.
The streets were choked with hordes of beaten infantry and cavalry; the
Germans had but to take one more step forward and the whole of their
batteries would command the town. Towards evening there was a pause in the
firing, in order that the French might offer negotiations for surrender;
but no sign of surrender was made, and the Bavarian cannon resumed their
fire, throwing shells into the town itself. Napoleon now caused a white
flag to be displayed on the fortress, and sent a letter to the King of
Prussia, stating that as he had not been able to die in the midst of his
troops, nothing remained for him but to surrender his sword into the hands
of his Majesty. The surrender was accepted by King William, who added that
General Moltke would act on his behalf in arranging terms of capitulation.
General Wimpffen, who had succeeded to the command of the French army on
the disablement of McMahon by a wound, acted on behalf of Napoleon. The
negotiations continued till late in the night, the French general pressing
for permission for his troops to be disarmed in Belgium, while Moltke
insisted on the surrender of the entire army as prisoners of war. Fearing
the effect of an appeal by Napoleon himself to the King's kindly nature,
Bismarck had taken steps to remove his sovereign to a distance until the
terms of surrender should be signed. At daybreak on September 2nd Napoleon
sought the Prussian headquarters. He was met on the road by Bismarck, who
remained in conversation with him till the capitulation was completed on
the terms required by the Germans. He then conducted Napoleon to the
neighbouring château of Bellevue, where King William, the Crown Prince, and
the Prince of Saxony visited him. One pang had still to be borne by the
unhappy man. Down to his interview with the King, Napoleon had imagined
that all the German armies together had operated against him at Sedan, and
he must consequently have still had some hope that his own ruin might have
purchased the deliverance of Bazaine. He learnt accidentally from the King
that Prince Frederick Charles had never stirred from before Metz. A
convulsion of anguish passed over his face: his eyes filled with tears.
There was no motive for a prolonged interview between the conqueror and the
conquered, for, as a prisoner, Napoleon could not discuss conditions of
peace. After some minutes of conversation the King departed for the
Prussian headquarters. Napoleon remained in the château until the morning
of the next day, and then began his journey towards the place chosen for
his captivity, the palace of Wilhelmshöhe at Cassel. [542]

[The Republic Proclaimed, Sept. 4.]

[Circular of Jules Favre, Sept. 6.]

Rumours of disaster had reached Paris in the last days of August, but to
each successive report of evil the Government replied with lying boasts of
success, until on the 3rd of September it was forced to announce a
catastrophe far surpassing the worst anticipations of the previous days.
With the Emperor and his entire army in the enemy's hands, no one supposed
that the dynasty could any longer remain on the throne: the only question
was by what form of government the Empire should be succeeded. The
Legislative Chamber assembled in the dead of night; Jules Favre proposed
the deposition of the Emperor, and was heard in silence. The Assembly
adjourned for some hours. On the morning of the 4th, Thiers, who sought to
keep the way open for an Orleanist restoration, moved that a Committee of
Government should be appointed by the Chamber itself, and that elections to
a new Assembly should be held as soon as circumstances should permit.
Before this and other propositions of the same nature could be put to the
vote, the Chamber was invaded by the mob. Gambetta, with most of the
Deputies for Paris, proceeded to the Hôtel de Ville, and there proclaimed
the Republic. The Empress fled; a Government of National Defence came into
existence, with General Trochu at its head, Jules Favre assuming the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Gambetta that of the Interior. No hand was
raised in defence of the Napoleonic dynasty or of the institutions of the
Empire. The Legislative Chamber and the Senate disappeared without even
making an attempt to prolong their own existence. Thiers, without approving
of the Republic or the mode in which it had come into being, recommended
his friends to accept the new Government, and gave it his own support. On
the 6th of September a circular of Jules Favre, addressed to the
representatives of France at all the European Courts, justified the
overthrow of the Napoleonic Empire, and claimed for the Government by which
it was succeeded the goodwill of the neutral Powers. Napoleon III. was
charged with the responsibility for the war: with the fall of his dynasty,
it was urged, the reasons for a continuance of the struggle had ceased to
exist. France only asked for a lasting peace. Such peace, however, must
leave the territory of France inviolate, for peace with dishonour would be
but the prelude to a new war of extermination. "Not an inch of our soil
will we cede"--so ran the formula--"not a stone of our fortresses." [543]

[Favre and Bismarck, Sept. 29.]

The German Chancellor had nothing ready in the way of rhetoric equal to his
antagonist's phrases; but as soon as the battle of Sedan was won it was
settled at the Prussian headquarters that peace would not be made without
the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine. Prince Bismarck has stated that his
own policy would have stopped at the acquisition of Strasburg: Moltke,
however, and the chiefs of the army pronounced that Germany could not be
secure against invasion while Metz remained in the hands of France, and
this opinion was accepted by the King. For a moment it was imagined that
the victory of Sedan had given the conqueror peace on his own terms. This
hope, however, speedily disappeared, and the march upon Paris was resumed
by the army of the Crown Prince without waste of time. In the third week of
September the invaders approached the capital. Favre, in spite of his
declaration of the 6th, was not indisposed to enter upon negotiations; and,
trusting to his own arts of persuasion, he sought an interview with the
German Chancellor, which was granted to him at Ferrières on the 19th, and
continued on the following day. Bismarck hesitated to treat the holders of
office in Paris as an established Government; he was willing to grant an
armistice in order that elections might be held for a National Assembly
with which Germany could treat for peace; but he required, as a condition
of the armistice, that Strasburg and Toul should be surrendered. Toul was
already at the last extremity; Strasburg was not capable of holding out ten
days longer; but of this the Government at Paris was not aware. The
conditions demanded by Bismarck were rejected as insulting to France, and
the war was left to take its course. Already, while Favre was negotiating
at Ferrières, the German vanguard was pressing round to the west of Paris.
A body of French troops which attacked them on the 19th at Châtillon was
put to the rout and fled in panic. Versailles was occupied on the same day,
and the line of investment was shortly afterwards completed around the

[Siege of Paris, Sept. 19.]


[Gambetta at Tours.]

The second act in the war now began. Paris had been fortified by Thiers
about 1840, at the time when it seemed likely that France might be engaged
in war with a coalition on the affairs of Mehemet Ali. The forts were not
distant enough from the city to protect it altogether from artillery with
the lengthened range of 1870; they were sufficient, however, to render an
assault out of the question, and to compel the besieger to rely mainly on
the slow operation of famine. It had been reckoned by the engineers of 1840
that food enough might be collected to enable the city to stand a
two-months' siege; so vast, however, were the supplies collected in 1870
that, with double the population, Paris had provisions for above four
months. In spite therefore of the capture and destruction of its armies the
cause of France was not hopeless, if, while Paris and Metz occupied four
hundred thousand of the invaders, the population of the provinces should
take up the struggle with enthusiasm, and furnish after some months of
military exercise troops more numerous than those which France had lost, to
attack the besiegers from all points at once and to fall upon their
communications. To organise such a national resistance was, however,
impossible for any Government within the besieged capital itself. It was
therefore determined to establish a second seat of Government on the Loire;
and before the lines were drawn round Paris three members of the Ministry,
with M. Crémieux at their head, set out for Tours. Crémieux, however, who
was an aged lawyer, proved quite unequal to his task. His authority was
disputed in the west and the south. Revolutionary movements threatened to
break up the unity of the national defence. A stronger hand, a more
commanding will, was needed. Such a hand, such a will belonged to Gambetta,
who on the 7th of October left Paris in order to undertake the government
of the provinces and the organisation of the national armies. The circle of
the besiegers was now too closely drawn for the ordinary means of travel to
be possible. Gambetta passed over the German lines in a balloon, and
reached Tours in safety, where he immediately threw his feeble colleagues
into the background and concentrated all power in his own vigorous grasp.
The effect of his presence was at once felt throughout France. There was an
end of the disorders in the great cities, and of all attempts at rivalry
with the central power. Gambetta had the faults of rashness, of excessive
self-confidence, of defective regard for scientific authority in matters
where he himself was ignorant: but he possessed in an extraordinary degree
the qualities necessary for a Dictator at such a national crisis:
boundless, indomitable courage; a simple, elemental passion of love for his
country that left absolutely no place for hesitations or reserve in the
prosecution of the one object for which France then existed, the war. He
carried the nation with him like a whirlwind. Whatever share the military
errors of Gambetta and his rash personal interference with commanders may
have had in the ultimate defeat of France, without him it would never have
been known of what efforts France was capable. The proof of his capacity
was seen in the hatred and the fear with which down to the time of his
death he inspired the German people. Had there been at the head of the army
of Metz a man of one-tenth of Gambetta's effective force, it is possible
that France might have closed the war, if not with success, at least with
undiminished territory.

[Fall of Strasburg, Sept. 28.]

[The army of the Loire.]

[Tann takes Orleans, Oct. 12.]

Before Gambetta left Paris the fall of Strasburg set free the army under
General Werder by which it had been besieged, and enabled the Germans to
establish a civil Government in Alsace, the western frontier of the new
Province having been already so accurately studied that, when peace was
made in 1871, the frontier-line was drawn not upon one of the earlier
French maps but on the map now published by the German staff. It was
Gambetta's first task to divide France into districts, each with its own
military centre, its own army, and its own commander. Four such districts
were made: the centres were Lille, Le Mans, Bourges, and Besançon. At
Bourges and in the neighbourhood considerable progress had already been
made in organisation. Early in October German cavalry-detachments,
exploring southwards, found that French troops were gathering on the Loire.
The Bavarian General Von der Tann was detached by Moltke from the besieging
army at Paris, and ordered to make himself master of Orleans. Von der Tann
hastened southwards, defeated the French outside Orleans on the 11th of
October, and occupied this city, the French retiring towards Bourges.
Gambetta removed the defeated commander, and set in his place General
Aurelle de Paladines. Von der Tann was directed to cross the Loire and
destroy the arsenals at Bourges; he reported, however, that this task was
beyond his power, in consequence of which Moltke ordered General Werder
with the army of Strasburg to move westwards against Bourges, after
dispersing the weak forces that were gathering about Besançon. Werder set
out on his dangerous march, but he had not proceeded far when an army of
very different power was thrown into the scale against the French levies on
the Loire.

[Bazaine at Metz.]

[Capitulation of Metz, Oct. 27.]

In the battle of Gravelotte, fought on the 18th of August, the French
troops had been so handled by Bazaine as to render it doubtful whether he
really intended to break through the enemy's line and escape from Metz. At
what period political designs inconsistent with his military duty first
took possession of Bazaine's thoughts is uncertain. He had played a
political part in Mexico; it is probable that as soon as he found himself
at the head of the one effective army of France, and saw Napoleon
hopelessly discredited, he began to aim at personal power. Before the
downfall of the Empire he had evidently adopted a scheme of inaction with
the object of preserving his army entire: even the sortie by which it had
been arranged that he should assist McMahon on the day before Sedan was
feebly and irresolutely conducted. After the proclamation of the Republic
Bazaine's inaction became still more marked. The intrigues of an adventurer
named Regnier, who endeavoured to open a negotiation between the Prussians
and the exiled Empress Eugénie, encouraged him in his determination to keep
his soldiers from fulfilling their duty to France. Week after week passed
by; a fifth of the besieging army was struck down with sickness; yet
Bazaine made no effort to break through, or even to diminish the number of
men who were consuming the supplies of Metz by giving to separate
detachments the opportunity of escape. On the 12th of October, after the
pretence of a sortie on the north, he entered into communication with the
German headquarters at Versailles. Bismarck offered to grant a free
departure to the army of Metz on condition that the fortress should be
placed in his hands, that the army should undertake to act on behalf of the
Empress, and that the Empress should pledge herself to accept the Prussian
conditions of peace, whatever these might be. General Boyer was sent to
England to acquaint the Empress with these propositions. They were declined
by her, and after a fortnight had been spent in manoeuvres for a
Bonapartist restoration. Bazaine found himself at the end of his resources.
On the 27th the capitulation of Metz was signed. The fortress itself, with
incalculable cannon and material of war, and an army of a hundred and
seventy thousand men, including twenty-six thousand sick and wounded in the
hospitals, passed into the hands of the Germans. [544]


Bazaine was at a later time tried by a court-martial, found guilty of the
neglect of duty, and sentenced to death. That sentence was not executed;
but if there is an infamy that is worse than death, such infamy will to all
time cling to his name. In the circumstances in which France was placed no
effort, no sacrifice of life could have been too great for the commander of
the army at Metz. To retain the besiegers in full strength before the
fortress would not have required the half of Bazaine's actual force. If
half his army had fallen on the field of battle in successive attempts to
cut their way through the enemy, brave men would no doubt have perished;
but even had their efforts failed their deaths would have purchased for
Metz the power to hold out for weeks or for months longer. The civil
population of Metz was but sixty thousand, its army was three times as
numerous; unlike Paris, it saw its stores consumed not by helpless millions
of women and children, but by soldiers whose duty it was to aid the defence
of their country at whatever cost. Their duty, if they could not cut their
way through, was to die fighting; and had they shown hesitation, which was
not the case, Bazaine should have died at their head. That Bazaine would
have fulfilled his duty even if Napoleon III. had remained on the throne is
more than doubtful, for his inaction had begun before the catastrophe of
Sedan. His pretext after that time was that the government of France had
fallen into the hands of men of disorder, and that it was more important
for his army to save France from the Government than from the invader. He
was the only man in France who thought so. The Government of September 4th,
whatever its faults, was good enough for tens of thousands of brave men,
Legitimists, Orleanists, Bonapartists, who flocked without distinction of
party to its banners: it might have been good enough for Marshal Bazaine.
But France had to pay the penalty for the political, the moral indifference
which could acquiesce in the Coup d'État of 1851, in the servility of the
Empire, in many a vile and boasted deed in Mexico, in China, in Algiers.
Such indifference found its Nemesis in a Bazaine.

[Tann driven from Orleans, Nov. 9.]

[Battles of Orleans, Nov. 28-Dec. 2.]

[Sortie of Champigny, Nov. 29-Dec. 4.]

[Battle of Amiens, Nov. 27.]

The surrender of Metz and the release of the great army of Prince Frederick
Charles by which it was besieged fatally changed the conditions of the
French war of national defence. Two hundred thousand of the victorious
troops of Germany under some of their ablest generals were set free to
attack the still untrained levies on the Loire and in the north of France,
which, with more time for organisation, might well have forced the Germans
to raise the siege of Paris. The army once commanded by Steinmetz was now
reconstituted, and despatched under General Manteuffel towards Amiens;
Prince Frederick Charles moved with the remainder of his troops towards the
Loire. Aware that his approach could not long be delayed, Gambetta insisted
that Aurelle de Paladines should begin the march on Paris. The general
attacked Tann at Coulmiers on the 9th of November, defeated him, and
re-occupied Orleans, the first real success that the French had gained in
the war. There was great alarm at the German headquarters at Versailles;
the possibility of a failure of the siege was discussed; and forty thousand
troops were sent southwards in haste to the support of the Bavarian
general. Aurelle, however, did not move upon the capital: his troops were
still unfit for the enterprise; and he remained stationary on the north of
Orleans, in order to improve his organisation, to await reinforcements, and
to meet the attack of Frederick Charles in a strong position. In the third
week of November the leading divisions of the army of Metz approached, and
took post between Orleans and Paris. Gambetta now insisted that the effort
should be made to relieve the capital. Aurelle resisted, but was forced to
obey. The garrison of Paris had already made several unsuccessful attacks
upon the lines of their besiegers, the most vigorous being that of Le
Bourget on the 30th of October, in which bayonets were crossed. It was
arranged that in the last days of November General Trochu should endeavour
to break out on the southern side, and that simultaneously the army of the
Loire should fall upon the enemy in front of it and endeavour to force its
way to the capital. On the 28th the attack upon the Germans on the north of
Orleans began. For several days the struggle was renewed by one division
after another of the armies of Aurelle and Prince Frederick Charles.
Victory remained at last with the Germans; the centre of the French
position was carried; the right and left wings of the army were severed
from one another and forced to retreat, the one up the Loire, the other
towards the west. Orleans on the 5th of December passed back into the hands
of the Germans. The sortie from Paris, which began with a successful attack
by General Ducrot upon Champigny beyond the Marne, ended after some days of
combat in the recovery by the Germans of the positions which they had lost,
and in the retreat of Ducrot into Paris. In the same week Manteuffel,
moving against the relieving army of the north, encountered it near Amiens,
defeated it after a hard struggle, and gained possession of Amiens itself.

[Rouen occupied, Dec. 6.]

[Bapaume, Jan. 3.]

[St. Quentin, Jan 19.]

After the fall of Amiens, Manteuffel moved upon Rouen. This city fell into
his hands without resistance; the conquerors pressed on westwards, and at
Dieppe troops which had come from the confines of Russia gazed for the
first time upon the sea. But the Republican armies, unlike those which the
Germans had first encountered, were not to be crushed at a single blow.
Under the energetic command of Faidherbe the army of the North advanced
again upon Amiens. Goeben, who was left to defend the line of the Somme,
went out to meet him, defeated him on the 23rd of December, and drove him
back to Arras. But again, after a week's interval, Faidherbe pushed
forward. On the 3rd of January he fell upon Goeben's weak division at
Bapaume, and handled it so severely that the Germans would on the following
day have abandoned their position, if the French had not themselves been
the first to retire. Faidherbe, however, had only fallen back to receive
reinforcements. After some days' rest he once more sought to gain the road
to Paris, advancing this time by the eastward line through St. Quentin. In
front of this town Goeben attacked him. The last battle of the army of the
North was fought on the 19th of January. The French general endeavoured to
disguise his defeat, but the German commander had won all that he desired.
Faidherbe's army was compelled to retreat northwards in disorder; its part
in the war was at an end.

[The Armies of the Loire and of the East.]

[Le Mans, Jan. 12.]


[Montbéliard, Jan. 15-17.]

[The Eastern army crosses the Swiss Frontier, Feb. 1.]

During the last three weeks of December there was a pause in the operations
of the Germans on the Loire. It was expected that Bourbaki and the east
wing of The Armies of the French army would soon re-appear at Orleans and
endeavour to combine with Chanzy's troops. Gambetta, however, had formed
another plan. He considered that Chanzy, with the assistance of divisions
formed in Brittany, would be strong enough to encounter Prince Frederick
Charles, and he determined to throw the army of Bourbaki, strengthened by
reinforcements from the south, upon Germany itself. The design was a daring
one, and had the two French armies been capable of performing the work

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