17 DECEMBER 1870, Page 5


WHY Count Bismarck has already thought fit to menace Luxemburg it is by no means easy to conjecture. The matters to which his organs point as breaches of neutrality are, except the asserted establishment of a French recruiting-office in Luxemburg, no breaches of neutrality at all ; and as for the recruiting-office, no evidence has yet been produced that the Government ever knew of its existence, nor, indeed, that it ever really existed at all. That escaped French prisoners should have been enabled to return to the French Army viii Luxemburg is no accusation at all. Luxemburg could no more have prevented it than we could have prevented escaped French prisoners from returning to the French armies through England. That the French Vice-Consul should have shown sympathy with his countrymen was an official mistake, but the Luxemburg Government disavow him, and with apparent sincerity. As for the sympathy expressed by citizens of Luxemburg for France, or the food sold to Thionville, that is no violation of neutrality at all. If it were, every neutral State would have violated its neutrality in that way, either on behalf of France or Germany. However, that Count Bis- marck seeks to pick a quarrel with Luxemburg, which shall enable Germany to withdraw from that patched-up Treaty of 1867, by the negotiation of which the present Lord Derby obtained so much ill-earned éclat, is intelligible enough. Of course, now that Germany is strong and France is in the dust, the German Power will hope to take without purchase what France, when she was strong, would have liked to take and had done her best to purchase. The puzzle is not in understanding the position of Germany in the matter, but the time chosen for assuming that position. Why openly challenge and estrange all the parties to the Treaty of 1867 while a great war is still on the hands of Germany, and very far indeed from completion ? It is almost impossible to ex- plain Count Bismarck's action, except as a gratuitous threat thrown oat against Europe in the plenitude of German power and at the height of German victory. It looks very much more like the challenge of an exalte conqueror than the move of an able statesman. We know it is suggested that in raising the question of Luxemburg, Germany is really suggesting a possible substitute for Metz,—hinting to neutral Europe, may be inclined to take Luxemburg in exchange for Metz.' But surely nobody ever heard of so odd a hint as this. Metz she has got, and if this were all she meant, she would wait to the end of the war to say, 'Unless you give me Luxemburg, I shall keep Metz,' and not alarm Europe by threatening an enclave guaranteed by the neutral Powers, while the question of the ultimate terms of peace is still in the far distance. The natural inference from her warning that she no longer feels bound by treaty to respect the neutrality of Luxemburg is that she contemplates immediately violating it ; and if she contemplates immediately violating it, Metz being already in her power,—the further inference is that she intends to have both, not that she intends to exchange the one for the other. At all events, this, and this only, is the meaning which England is compelled to put upon this very cynical and im- perious proceeding. Germany is getting her head right above the law. She has always, since Luther's time, had a certain contempt for the moral law, and a desire to claim the freedom of unrestrained individuality. Is she now going to repeat the process in the region of international law, and to comply with Luther's somewhat dangerous advice to " sin strongly," so long as she is conscious to her own self of receiving grace ?

At all events, we do not see how England can acquiesce in this singularly frank notice of the intention of Germany to abide by no inconvenient pledges given when she was no longer the military giant she now is. The guarantee given for the neu- trality of Luxemburg was certainly a very hesitating, unwill- ing, and as interpreted by the statesman who signed it, Lord Derby, a very insincere guarantee. Lord Derby told us at once he meant nothing by the words. It was a " collective" guarantee he had signed. If all the Powers kept it, there would be no opportunity to redeem the guarantee ; and if any

one Power broke it, we were absolved. We thought and wrote at the time that such a guarantee, so interpreted, was a mockery and a mischief to the public law of Europe. We wrote on the 18th May, 1867, " Sincerely as we regret that England should have pledged herself to engagements which seem to us dangerous and incalculable in their nature, we would rather hear that this has been done with the sincere intention of applying force, whenever it may be necessary, to compel their observ- ance, than with the idea of adding to the number of waste- paper treaties which delude the weaker States of Europe into false security, and are constantly bringing on the stronger Powers the well. deserved charge of dishonourable recklessness, shown both in giving and repudiating national engagements." And what we said three years ago, we say still. The Luxem- burg Treaty was a treaty to which we rashly assented', declaring that our words should mean nothing if we wished them to mean nothing. Now, we do not wish Eng- land's words ever to be words of no meaning. We are not for giving engagements lightly. But we are for keeping scrupulously such engagements as we do give. In 1867 France desisted from her intended purchase of Luxemburg only on condition that its neutrality should be guaranteed. Prussia agreed to that condition and guaranteed it. England and the other neutral Powers joined in that guarantee. We persuaded France to loose her hold of a great fortress, on the promise that she should not be worse off than before for doing so. Now Germany, who has in the mean- time wrenched from France two great provinces and many great fortresses, of which she has given out pretty publicly her intention of keeping three, Strasburg, Metz, and Thionville, breaks out against Luxemburg, tells her, on apparently the most trivial grounds, that Luxemburg has violated the neutrality imposed upon her, and declares herself at perfect liberty to act as she pleases in future,—in other words, intimates- that she may take Luxemburg, and fortify a third great fortress, on the French border within 200 miles of Paris, whenever it is- most convenient to her. Is it possible for England to put any interpretation but one on this cynical proceeding? Germany the- pacific, Germany the industrious, Germany the intellectual, has- suddenly discovered her own power, and is becoming purely aggressive. France has become her wasbpot, and over England she has cast her shoe. Russia, encouraged by her singular tolerance, is making a similar move in the East. As for Austria, she is a worm which, with her large German. population, can hardly be expected ever to turn on a German threatener.

The neutrality of Luxemburg would be a matter of very little importance in itself, were France and Germany in their old positions of relative equality. Luxemburg long belonged] to the German Bund. On the other hand, her people are• almost exclusively French in their sympathies,—the very- grievance of which Germany now complains. Both had a claim on Luxemburg before the war. As far as we were concerned, the claim of either might have been fairly allowed. We feel no particular sympathy for the selfish desire of any people to be exempted from all the duties and burdens of self-defence, and this was all that neutrality seemed to imply in the case of Luxemburg. But it is a very different matter indeed whether we should regard the cool avowal by Germany of her intention to pick a quarrel with this small State, whose independence we have guaranteed, as indifferent to us, now that it practically means a conquest from a third Power made for the purpose of fur- ther menace to France. Where are we to stop this spirit of aggression ? We have said, and as we think quite justly, that Germany, though wrong and untrue to the highest prin- ciples of modern political right in seeking to strip France of French provinces, was only doing what France endeavoured to- do, and endeavoured to do without any of the provocation given to Germany ; and that it did not become us to in- terfere to save France from a mutilation which she had not hesitated to attempt to inflict on Germany. But when a neutral State outside France is threatened in the same way,—the- whole aspect of the question is changed. If we yield this, why should not Belgium be threatened next ? Prussia is- bound, indeed, to join us in defending the neutrality of Bel-- gium ; but then, legally at least, she was bound to help us in asserting the neutrality of Luxemburg. If she quietly de- clares her intention of withdrawing from the latter engage- ment why not from the first ? People have been crying out that Germany never could be an aggressive power a great deal too soon. Prussia has almost always been an aggressive power. Germany will be led by Prussia. She Las inaugurated the new Empire by a pertinacious attempt to rend away two reluctant provinces from France, when she might have had the most splendid peace ever made in the history of the world without it. She follows up that attempt, —which cannot be denied to be excusable by all precedent, though it is lamentably mistaken and unjust,—by launching a threat which is wholly inexcusable against a petty neutral State, containing a population not as large as Leeds, and the only object in the occupation of which would be to bind France with still stronger chains. With Luxemburg, Thion- ville, Metz, and Strasburg all in German hands, France would be utterly at the mercy of Germany ; and if Germany chose to proceed to deal with Holland for not agreeing in the cession of Luxemburg, as she has declared her intention to -deal with Alsace and Lorraine, or to proceed to the annexation of portions of Belgium on the ground that Belgium had sym- pathized with France in her troubles, France could hardly stir effectually with such a girdle of fortresses and arsenals on her eastern border.

We hold, then, that it is our duty to declare at once that we will not permit the violation of the Treaty of 1867 ; that France has been weakened enough by the war which her own fault brought upon her ; and that what we guaranteed, believ- ing at the time that the guarantee would need to be put in force, if at all, as against France, we will hold to as against Prussia, who, if she wants territorial accessions besides those she demands from France, wants what it would be fatal to the peace of Europe to concede. Englishmen have hardly realized yet how high the spirit of conquest is rising in this great Teutonic people, which, by constantly repeating, and quite sincerely, that they are pacific and domestic, have got both themselves and their neighbours to believe it in the face of the most ominous facts. But this raid upon Luxemburg is more than ominous. If followed out by the Germans, it is -a final proof of the greed of conquest and of lost moderation. England must take her stand sometime. She is solemnly bound to stand by Belgium. But Luxemburg yielded, it will be very -difficult to stand by Belgium, and far more difficult to get aid from France. The dismemberment of France is a great evil to Europe. While Germany made no demands which France would not have made had she been conqueror, we felt the moral impossi- bility of supporting France. But this is a feature of an entirely new kind. It is, we presume, meant to test the mettle and the courage of the neutrals. If they give no sign, Germany would at once feel that she may do precisely what she pleases, in case of conquering France. If we do not interfere to save a neutral territory we have guaranteed, though it is only coveted as a new threat to France, we certainly shall not interfere to mitigate any terms Germany may choose to impose. The crisis is one in which the neutral Powers are .called upon to oppose a firm front to a most cynical aggression. England, who has least to fear, ought to lead the way. The nonsense about German moderation should instantly cease, now that Germany is showing that she means by moderation the most unscrupulous use of her victories, against the neutral Powers, no less than against her vanquished antagonist. If -we yield now, we had better at once give notice of our inten- tion to withdraw from European politics, and assume the same position in relation to them as that taken by the United States.