" SCRUTATOR " ON THE ORIGLN OF THE WAR.* THE
chief interest now attaching to the question of the original responsibility for the war lies in the light it throws on the great statesman of the great power which has proved so much the mightier that it utterly crushed its opponent in six months. " Scru- tator " in his very able little book confines himself to the narrower view of the question of origin,—the statesman's responsibility, not the people's. We are compelled, in following the inquiry, to agree with " Scrutator's" conclusion on this head, and will give our reasons briefly for doing so. But after all that can be said, and after all that can be proved, in relation both to the pacific spirit of the French peasantry, and the sentimental desire for the recovery of Alsace and Lorraine among the German people, no impartial man will deny that the attitude of France towards German unity was far more culpable, and far more of a general cause of war, than any corresponding feeling in Germany towards France. Had not there been this one great fact working on Count Bismarck's side, even he would perhaps hardly have conceived or countenanced the project of fomenting the terrible national conflict which has almost destroyed France, and brought Germany to the highest pinnacle of military greatness, and therefore to the edge of grave political peril.
We mention this only to point to a less diabolic view of Count Bismarck's statesmanship than "Scrutator's" inquiry suggests. That Count Bismarck really forced the hand of his opponent, and compelled him to declare war at a moment most convenient for Germany and most fatal for France, " Scrutator," we think, proves. But the only motive suggested,--the wish to prevent Prussia from being " dissolved in Germany," the wish to sustain the military influence of Prussia against the liberalizing influences of the new Germany, though we are quite sure it had its effect, is, nevertheless, taken alone, a far too diabolic explanation of a statesman who, unscrupulous as he is, is before all things Prus- sian, and not devil. We have no doubt that Count Bismarck seriously resented the temper of France, seriously believed war with France sooner or later to be all but inevitable, and therefore felt him- self authorized in choosing his own moment, and forcing his opponent's hand by the means most convenient to himself, and best adapted to make Germany seem the assailed and insulted power, France the aggressive and insulting power ; and he would excuse himself by saying to himself that this really represented the relative attitude of the two national feelings, and that there was no harm in so far manipulating diplo- matic events as to reverse the true position of the two Governments so as to make them express the true position of the two nations.
However, " Scrutator " appears to us to demonstrate (1), that Count Bismarck expected the Hohenzollern candidature to cause war, and yet that he had had it secretly before him for a year before it was brought forward in Europe ; (2) that while France courted, Germany repudiated, those good offices of England which might have averted war ; (3) that when the candidature was withdrawn (not by any Prussian influence), though quite willing to take a credit, which did not belong to Prussia, for her modera- tion in allowing the candidature to be withdrawn, Count Bismarck,
Who is Responsible for the War! By "Scrotator." With an Appendix. contain- really feared leat France might prove reasonable, and had several
strings to his bow to prevent a pacific solution; and finally, his own paper circulated, and circulated gratis, the false story which caused the declaration of war, and yet afterwards he laid the responsibility of that false story on France.
(1.) It is known that the French Ambassador had inquired as to the Hohenzollern project as early as March, 1869, and had. informed the German Foreign Office formally of the danger that. any such attempt would cause. This was on occasion of a visit to- Berlin of a Spanish diplomatist S. 'lances, who passed through, Berlin in this month, and had a long conversation with Count Bismarck. Count Bismarck's subordinate, Herr von Thile, on this
occasion pledged his honour to Count Benedetti that "he had not at any moment been aware of any indication whatever which. could authorize such a conjecture" [as to the Hohenzollern, choice], "and that the Spanish Minister at Vienna during the stay he made in Berlin had not even made any allusion to the subject." Herr von Thile several times repeated " his first declara- tion,—that there was not and could not be a question of the Prince de Hohenzollern for the Crown of Spain." This was March, 1869. 1869. Of course, then Count Bismarck knew the im- portance attached to the subject in France, the " danger " in the scheme of which the French Minister had formally warned
Prussia. Even if no mention of the Prince of Hohenzollern had passed between S. Raines and Count Bismarck,—(a very ques- tionable matter, for he would certainly have kept his subordinate- ignorant of it, and left him to protest with a clear conscience there was no such project under discussion),—Count Bistnarck knew the importance attached to the case by France, and knew
that his own subordinate had formally declared to France that "there was not, and could not be a question of the Prince de Hohenzollern for the crown of Spain." Notwithstanding this, we have Count Bismarck's own assurance that for months before it was announced this candidature had been discussed between Spaia and the Prince of Hohenzollern, and that the King was informed
of the matter ; and we have, again, the King's own word that he
talked over the matter with Count Bismarck. Directly the candi- dature was publicly known, all the Powers of Europe thought it so objectionable that they admitted France had a great grievance,. though they did not think it exactly a cases belli. Of course, as Count Bismarck knew the French point of view a year ago, and
knew his own subordinate had even admitted its reasonableness by earnestly disclaiming the possibility of the candidature ; knew that the King (as head of the House of llohenzollern) had sanctioned the- candidature, and had kept it a strict secret for months, and as, moreover, he himself declared himself ready for war and con- fident of success,—we cannot doubt for a moment that he really expected the candidature to produce war, though he also intended. to get the credit for Prussia of a pacific disposition.
(2.) While France courted, Germany repudiated the effort of England to bring about peace by her good offices ;—and this is the final justification for England in refusing to declare on the Ger- man side. " Scrutator " shows conclusively that Germany never withdrew the candidature of the Prince, and peremptorily refused to withdraw even her sanction for that candidature. The Prince withdrew it on his own account, and Lord Granville pressed upon Germany that King William should—we quote Lord Gran- ville's words,—" communicate to the French Government his. consent to the withdrawal of the acceptance." But Lord Gran- ville's overtures were received,—as almost all his overtures on the subject of the war have been received by Count Bismarck,—very roughly indeed. Here is Lord Granville's own account of the rebuff :—
"Count Bernstorff called upon me this morning, and informed me. that he had received a telegram from Count Bismarck, in which he ex- pressed his regret that her Majesty's Government should have made a. proposal which it would be impossible for him to recommend to the. King for his Majesty's acceptance."
(3.) Moreover, Count Bismarck had provided many strings to his bow to prevent the pacific solution, as the following despatch from Lord A. Loftus, our Ambassador in Berlin, dated 13th July, 1870,. shows : —
" I had an interview with Count Bismarck to-day, and congratulated his Excellency on the apparent solution of the impending crisis by the spontaneous renunciation of the Prince of Hohenzollern. His Excel- lency appeared somewhat doubtful as to whether this solution would prove a settlement of the difference with Franco. He told me that the extreme moderation evinced by the King of Prussia under the menacing, tones of the French Government, and the courteous reception by his Majesty of Count Benedetti at Ems, after the severe language held to Prussia, both officially and in the French Press, was producing through- out Prussia general indignation I have,' said his Excel- Four Letters reprinted (hypermission) from the Time& London: Itivingtone. lency, 'positive information that military preparations have been made, and are making, in France for war. Large stores of munition are being concentrated, large purchases of hay, and other materials necessary for a campaign, are making, and horses are being collected.' If these continued, said his Excellency, we shall be obliged to ask the French Government for explanations as to their object and meaning. After what has now occurred, we must require some assurance, some guarantee, that we may not be subjected to a sudden attack ; we must know that this Spanish difficulty once removed, there are no other lark- ing designs which may burst upon us like a thunderstorm. Count Bismarck further stated that unless some assurance, some declaration, were given by France to the European Powers, or in some official form, that the present solution of the Spanish question was a final and satis- factory settlement of the French demands, and that no further claims were to be raised; and if, further, a withdrawal or a satisfactory ex- planation of the menacing language held by the Due de Gramont were not made, the Prussian Government would be obliged to seek explana- tions from France. It was impossible, added his Excellency, that Prussia could tamely and quietly sit under the affront offered to the King and to the nation by the menaeing language of the French Government. I could not, said his Excellency, hold communication with the French Ambassador after the language held to Prussia by the French Minister for Foreign Affairs in the face of Europe."
That is, undoubtedly, the tone of a Minister who did not intend the incident to end pacifically if he could help it,—who wished to have the credit of a pacific disposition and the advantages of a warlike policy.
But after all, the great evidence which shows how resolved on war Count Bismarck was, is the mode in which circulation was given to the inflammatory account of the scene which never took place at Ease between Count Benedetti and the King. The Berlin correspondent of the Times states that on the 13th of July a special supplement to the Nord Deutsche Zeitung (the official organ of the Government) was distributed gratis in the streets of Berlin, and this special supplement gratuitously distributed contained the following despatch, headed in the following way
Telegram addressed by the Prussian Government to Foreign Governments. "(Translation.) "After the news of the renunciation of the hereditary Prince of Hohenzollern had been officially communicated to the Imperial French Government by the Royal Spanish Government, the French Ambassador at Ems further demanded of His Majesty, the King, to authorize him to telegraph to Paris that His Majesty the King engages for all future time never again to give his consent if the Hohenzollerns should again return to their candidature. His Majesty the King thereon declined to receive the French Ambassador again, and had him told by the adju- tant in attendance that His Majesty had nothing further to communicate to the Ambassador."
This brief and, as Count Bismarck himself indirectly confesses, quite untrue account of the Ems affair, was published by an organ of the Government when Count Bismarck was himself present in Berlin, and was expanded by the Berlin correspondents into the well-known story of the rude encounter of the King and Count Benedetti on the parade at Ems. Yet Count Bis- marck himself sent this telegram in the very words just given to the foreign agents of the German Government, and then re- proached the French Government with accepting as true a para- graph in an official paper which had also been officially telegraphed to the German Ministers abroad, and not waiting to see if it were confirmed by their own Minister at Ems, and by the despatches from Berlin. In a despatch to Count Bernstorff, dated 18th July, Count Bismarck makes this marvellously flagrant charge in explicit terms :—
" It is a sad business to expose the series of untruths ; fortunately the French Ministers have shortened the task, as they, by their refusal to produce the note or despatch, as demanded by a part of the Assembly, have prepared the world for the intelligence that it has no existence whatever. This is in fact the case. There exists no note or despatch by which the Prussian Government notified to the Cabinets of Europe a refusal to receive the French Ambassador. There exists nothing but the newspaper telegram known to all the world, which was communi- cated to the German Governments, and to some of our representatives with non-German Governments according to the wording of the news- papers, in order to inform them of the nature of the French demands, and the impossibility of complying with them, and which, moreover, contains nothing injurious to France."
In the same despatch Count Bismarck asserts that both the Duke de Gramont and M. 011ivier "demanded that His Majesty the King should write an apologetic letter to the Emperor Napo- leon, the publication of which might pacify the excited feeling in France,"—and yet both the Duc de Gramont and M. 011ivier deny in the most explicit terms that they ever demanded such a document at all ; and " Scrutator" tells us—what our own impres- aion of the papers presented to Parliament confirms,—that "not a trace of such a demand is to be found in any of the papers published by Her Majesty's Government." In point of fact, it is not likely that any such demand was ever made except in Count Bismarck's imagination. We have a very precise account of the demand that was made (for England was asked to urge it), and Lord Lyons tells us it was this :— "Still France did not call upon Prussia to prevent the Prince's going to Spain ; all she desired was that the King should forbid him to change his present resolution to withdraw his candidature. If His Majesty would do this, the whole affair would be absolutely and entirely at an end. I asked him whether he authorized me categorically to state to Her Majesty's Government, in the name of the Government of the Emperor, that, in this case, the whole affair would be completely over. He said, Undoubtedly ; and he took a sheet of paper and wrote the fol- lowing memorandum, which he placed in my hands :—.'Nous demandons an Roi de Prusse de defendre an Prince de Hohenzollern de revenir as rdsolation. S'il le fait tout l'incident eat termini.'"
The difference between this demand,—a withdrawal of all royal sanction from the Prince's candidature,—and the demand for a written apology to soothe France, is immense.
Such is a brief account of the tortuous policy of the Berlin Foreign Office on the question of the war. This affair seems to us to show that the French diplomatic agents and foreign ministers were mere babies in the hands of Count Bismarck ; but also that Count Bis- marck made plenty of audacious misrepresentations, of which less excitable and more wary diplomatists would have made terrible use. The disgraceful telegram to the German foreign agents, sub- sequently discredited by both France and Germany, should have been treated as a mere report, on which no action could be taken at all. The monstrous misstatement of the demands of France should have been taken note of, brought to the knowledge of every foreign Government, and held up to reprehension. There should have been less passion and more reason in reference to the candidature of the Prince of Hohenzollern himself,—less precipitancy,—more anxiety to put the German statesman in a wrong position before Europe, which might have been done again and again. But " Scruta- tor "has triumphantly proved that Count Bismarck 'manipulated' facts, news, everything, in order to produce the universal impres- sion he did produce, —that the statesmen of France were the aggressors, and he the "injured innocent" of the negotiations.