THE ATTITUDE OF COUNT VON BISMARCK.
COUNT VON BISMARCK appears to have returned to Berlin full of life, spirits, and intellectual energy. His favour at Court appears to be as great as ever, his hold over
t he Chambers greater than ever,—so great that he intends, it is believed, to merge the Prussian Lower Chamber in the North German Lower Chamber,—and his attitude before Europe more than ever defiant and proud. Always frank, his frankness has of late assumed a tone almost of brutality, and remembering that he is a trained and successful diplomatist, that he can on occasion keep secrets religiously, and that be speaks to reporters, it is difficult to believe that he is not either speaking with a purpose, or, at least, aware that • time has arrived when reticence has ceased to be of
any value. Two, at least, of his recent addresses, one on -the sequestration of the King of Hanover's allowance, and the other on the similar penalty enforced against the Elector of Hesse, and on the espionage maintained by Prussia, seem -to us almost defiant in their tone, expressly calculated to awaken national feeling, and warn the German people to hold themselves prepared. The measures themselves are not without their significance. There was no very pressing necessity for sequestrating the Duke of Cumberland's £120,000 a year. It is true that Prince was wasting the money on a Hanoverian Legion scattered through the towns of France, and officered, the Premier says, by gentlemen residing in Paris, with the express object of assisting in some future war. It is true also that the Count thinks himself duped about that money, a British representative having assured him that in accepting the pension, the ex-King would bind himself in honour to desist from his pretensions—a curious little incident we recommend to the attention of Sir Henry Bulwer. And finally, it is true that the Prussian Government alone among the Governments of Europe never loses sight of its till, exacting every right and saving every shilling as if it were taxpayer instead of tax-receiver. But nevertheless, 1,200 scattered soldiers will make little difference when war breaks out, the ex-King was wasting his revenue very harmlessly, and as much will be lost by the appearance of meanness as gained by the reality of economy. Count von Bismarck must have been very indifferent to French opinion when he avowed that he had sent spies into France to ascertain the facts, and cared nothing for charges of ungentlemanly conduct while it was needful "to follow these malignant reptiles to their holes." He must have been at least careless of what the Austrian Government might feel when he denounced its guests as men who were endeavouring to invite the foreigner and who would "leave no stone unturned to see their native plains trodden by jubilant foreign foes, till the land of their fathers groaned again beneath the yoke from which we freed it in the beginning of the century,"—the French yoke, remember. Statesmen on the Continent, or for that matter in England, rarely utter inflammatory speeches of that kind ; speeches which are caught up even by workmen and peasants; speeches which rouse the patriotism of soldiers, unless they know either that war is at hand, or that affairs are in a condition in which it is expedient to tell the masses the whole truth in its simplest form. Still less do they indulge in refined sneers, such as calling the King of Hanover and the Elector of Hesse "heads of the houses of Este and Brabant," that is, as it were, of foreign houses, the male lines of Guelph and Hesse, as the semi-official Correspondence hastens to inform its readers in a foot-note to the report, having perished, the Guelph in 1055, and the line of Hesse in 1247. That hit will be felt, and was meant to be felt, more keenly by the Prince who in all proclamations maintains his "sacred right to Hanover as Guelph," more than the sequestration of his property. Least ef all do statesmen of Count von Bismarck's calibre indulge without careful reflection in outbursts such as this :—" When confidence is wanting, peace itself loses much of the value it ought to have for a great nation. A peace which may be troubled every day and every week is not a peace in the true acceptation of the word. A war is often less injurious to the general prosperity than a peace so ill assured." In France words like this from M. Rouher would mean war within a week; in England they would signify that the Cabinet believed war nearly inevitable ; and in Prussia, after every allowance for the speaker's habit of directness and of accentuated speech, we cannot believe that they imply less than a willingness to excite an enthusiasm for war. If they do not, what is the
meaning of this alarmist sentence There was a time when
peace seemed to be threatened. I know that in saying this I expose myself to the danger of being told by an honourable member (Virchow) who for some years has devoted a good deal of his attention to my person, not always with entire amicability, but who am I disappointed to see is not in his place to-day,--..I am in danger, I say, of being told that I am a prophet of evil, and that I am constantly speaking of a dagger being directed against our breast which that honourable gentleman cannot see. It is my comfort that there was a time when that honourable gentleman could not see hundreds of thousands of bayonets which were clear enough to the eyes of everybody else. The sleepy chamberlain of King Duncan did not see the dagger in the hands of Macbeth ; but it is the duty of those who have to watch over the interests of a great nation to keep awake and watchful. I say peace seemed. to be threatened ; and I may add that it was threatened through a misunderstanding. The danger of the situation has decreased since the Ministry of the Danubian Principalities was changed, and other events have drawn attention in other directions." We scarcely wonder at the rage of the French semi-official Press, or its severity of language, for if the speech meant anything at -all, and Count von Bismarck is no random talker, it meant that Germany was in danger, that the danger came from France, and that France had allies within the Confederation itself. "We have Coriolanuses enough in Germany [the Princes] ; they only require a suitable following of Volscians [French] at their back, and if they had found them, all the wives in Cassel or in Germany could not have brought about a reconciliation," and saved the German Rome. To all enemies, internal and external, we should expect Count von Bismarck to oppose an undaunted front, but we should not expect him, unless he cared not how soon war came, to say so clearly that he regarded them as foes.
Our readers will not fail to mark the allusion to the Danubian Ministry in the speech of the 29th January. The explanation of this fact is,—in Hungarian belief, at all events, —that the simple foreign policy of Prince Charles of Roumania is to support Berlin. It is known that he dismissed his War Ministry, headed by M. Bratiano, in obedience to a hint from thence that war was not to be provoked, and it is stated emphatically in the Hungarian Monthly Journal that the Prussian Premier has resumed his agitation in that direction, and that the threatened refusal of the Roumanians of Transylvania to send Deputies to Pesth has been ordered from Bucharest in order to create a new embarrassment for the Austrian Empire, which in the event of war might become a serious one. It is impossible, amidst the intrigues so incessantly revealed by the news from the Lower Danube, to ascertain positively which is the permanent policy ; but the direct interest of Prussia in keeping a hold on the Lower Danube, to be used in the event of war, is unmistakable. She does not dread France, but France allied with Austria ; and everything which tends to compel Austria to remain quiet tends to preserve her own safety from attack. Of course war may be still postponed for a long time, as it was in September, according to the Prussian Premier himself. He will not be the first to attack, even though he thinks peace nearly as oppressive as war, and Napoleon would, we should imagine, gladly see Spain more settled before he allowed war to commence. But all these speeches, and rumours, and intrigues like the Greek affair, and hostile articles, and complaints in blue-books, and angry denials of plain facts, show that the European peace, which, if perfect, would be so invaluable, is still strained to the utmost. The pacification always asked for, and we believe really desired, by most of the ruling men,—who, except in Prussia, are worried to death by financial difficulties,—never comes, and we greatly fear will not come till after the explosion. If France and Prussia could come to terms there might be a genuine peace of years ; but Prussia cannot surrender the unity of Germany, and France will not suffer that unity without an effort to arrest it. All the talk about Greece and Roumania, and the Treaty of Prague, and Danish affairs, and affairs in Perth, always comes back to that one point,—that France and Prussia would like to fight, but are most unwilling to begin.