THE COMING WAR " W HEN the Sovereigns ask for treasure,"
says Mr. Disraeli, through Sidonia, "then I begin to believe that matters are getting serious." Judging by the light of that epigram, which contains just such a half-truth as such epigrams do, England, for example, rarely preceding action by a loan, the " Continental crisis " has come to a head at last. Austria and Italy have each asked for treasure, Austria issuing inconvertible paper, Italy borrowing ten millions sterling from her State bank, apparently at nominal interest. Amidst the bewildering mass of letters, rumours, despatches, inventions, and telegrams—we name them in the order of their com- parative authenticity—one series of incidents seems at last to be becoming clear. Italy, which needs war as most other countries need peace, which is borne down by the weight of armaments supported by an almost mediaeval finance, and which will never be really free till it has won a pitched battle unaided against a great power, has contrived in some mode still obscure, but sufficient, to challenge Austria to arms. The Berlin correspondent of the Times, who usually knows the official opinion in Berlin, says the mere agreement to aid Prussia sufficed to rouse the pride of the Kaiser, who still regards the Italian Monarchy as an upstart and feeble structure, but that looks very much like a statement invented in Prussian bureaus. It is more probable that the Emperor discovered that the treaty, so often denied, really existed,, and, certain of war within the year, resolved to face it before the spirit of his people had been worn out by delays. It is even possible that Francis Joseph, aware that he can at any moment avert war with Prussia by ceding the Duchies peace- fully under pretext of menace from Italy, may have chosen the latter as the more profitable antagonist, and seriously hopes to regain in the peninsula the influence he surrenders beyond the Maine. Be that as it may, it seems certain that the challenge was given and instantly accepted by the Kaiser, in the spirit partly of a Continental duellist who fights for a nutshell to show that he is brave, and partly of the head of an ancient and military monarchy, who must not submit to defiances, lest his army should cease to see in him a chief. An army sufficient to take the field was poured into Venetia so rapidly that traffic on the great Southern Railway was suspended by decree, an Archduke was appointed Commander- in-Chief, with an old General as dry nurse, and with a calm scientific cruelty that recalls the history of the House of Hapsburg, Venetia itself was paralyzed by a sudden and terrible conscription. The youth of the province who might have joined the invader, the youth of its capital who might have recalled the days of Manin, were seized in the night by soldiers, the meshes of the net were made so small that fathers of families were carried off with the young men, and amidst heartrending scenes of misery the crowds of strong men, guarded closely by Croats, were hurried off into the interior of the Empire, to keep down Hungarians for the Kaiser who is about to devastate their own land. The Imperial Government in this last act does but adhere to its traditions. There never was a Hapsburg yet, from Ferdinand the Catholic downwards, who could move to battle except to the music of women's sobs, and this one probably does not realize the profound misery he is causing, the profounder hate he is accumulating on his House. The fortresses have been restored, the artillery has been horsed, and Austria is ready at this moment either to defend Venetia or re- conquer Lombardy. On their side the Italians have not been idle. The recruits have been called in, and the army raised to its war footing. With Naples clamouring for war there is little need of garrisons, and the old Piedmontese nucleus of the Italian army is gathering fast under La. Marmora. The fleet has been re-equipped, and is by the last telegram reported at sea on its way to the head of the Adriatic, and the chiefs of the old volunteers are hourly ex- pecting the call to action. Garibaldi is sure to be present, though, as usual, he is asking to be left as independent as if he were a monarch, and on the night of 30th April, after, it is said, a whole night of unreported explanations, the Italian Parliament, true always to its policy of self-sacrifice, legally invested the Government with dictatorial power. Better than all, if it be but true, the national emergency is said to have. brought Ricasoli away from his woods to take the helm, and Italy therefore has a civil ruler who can organize, who will fight on silently to the last, and who even in extremity will not buy the aid of Napoleon too dear.
The seizure of the Venetian conscripts shows that the Kaiser will not surrender the province without a war, and wet doubt if Italy, even if deserted by Prussia, which is improbable,. will or can now recede. The strength of the opposing Powers is not so unequal as it is the habit in England to. imagine. The Austrian Government has no doubt a larger army, but it cannot dispense with garrisons, and cannot there- fore place on its frontier a force greater than that of the enemy. In 1859, with all Germany sympathizing, the Austrians- never had 200,000 men in Italy, and Victor Emanuel can now- place that force in Venetia twice. The fleets are tolerably equal, and the Austrian one manned chiefly by Italian sailors, while the finances of each are at that ,point which threatens- that requisitions will speedily take the place of purchase. Italy, too, fighting within her frontier, has the aid of her- volunteers, while Austria, fighting beyond it, has nothing ex- cept her army and the conscript depots. Above all, the invader- pours into a province in which every man is a friend, every- woman ready to be a spy, while the " invaded " defends cities- in which every human being, from the noble who quits his. café becawie an Austrian has entered it, to the child who- spits at her doll as " maladetto Tedesco," is an implacaNe foe._ Army to army, man to man, Italy may win the game if only men in her army, the rank and file, are as good as the Austrian men. The Piedmontese are as they proved 'on the ' Tchernaya., The Romagnese are as they showed in 1849. But the Italians ? Napoleon believed them as good as French-- men, and better than Russians, but they are still as a national army under native officers, unaided by Zouaves, untried, and a- , doubt lingers still in the military mind—will they stand to be- shot at till the enemy has retired, or they are all dead ? We do not doubt it, believing the reproach so often cast to be just as baseless as the similar one thrown during our Peninsular War upon the Spaniards, now known to make splendid infantry, but- this is the doubt to be now removed. Once it has disappeared, once the Italians have shown that they can charge with effect . ' on Austrians or face Hungarian cavalry, half their difficulties. ' will disappear. The nation may still be bankrupt, still kept ' out of Rome, still perplexed with its contest with the priest- hood, but it will be a living nation, not to be invaded for- conquest, to be left to live its own life a recognized member of the great European family. If the war produces that one result it will repay all the misery which it must cause, all the- bloodshed which must precede a lasting peace. The risk, too, may not be so enormous as it looks. It is difficult to be- lieve that Italy is in motion without some secret guarantee- from Napoleon that she shall not be conquered. It would. not suit his policy to have a design for which France has paid. so many lives roughly overthrown, to see Austrians back in_ Milan or Florence, to rouse against him again the inextinguish- able Italian hate. He may ask Sardinia as the price of aid, but the aid would be given, and the loss of Sardinia is not the loss of Italian freedom.
On the North the prospects remain to-day as they were last week. There is no certainty that Prussia intends to fight, but all the few facts visible through the hail of lies appear to point that way. Prussia still wants the Duchies, still per- ceives that if Italy declares war her own opportunity will at last have arrived, still promises to disarm if Austria will disarm first, and the lesser Powers. All the while she is arming, horses coming in steadily, and troops moving rapidly south-eastward, while Count von Bismark picks the necessary quarrel with Saxony. It will be necessary to occupy Dresden, for through Dresden lies the Austrian road to Berlin, and so,. to avoid all difficulties, the Prussian Court summons Saxony to disarm, and having just sold her needle guns enough to equip her army, refuses to forward the machinery necessary for their cartridges. The Saxon Government, which has from the first been heartily with the Kaiser, has of course refused to obey, and the war, if accepted, will probably begin with a quick spring on Dresden. On the other hand, the old obstacle, the dislike of the King to declare war on a German House or to play for stakes so immense, still, it is said, exists, and he is absolute, may at the eleventh hour consider it easier to sacrifice his Minister, betray Italy, and come to some under- standing with his people. We question the probability, almost the possibility, of a policy so cynical, but still the possibility exists, and he will be rash who, looking at the broad facts amidst the blinding telegrams, will say more than that Italy expects, desires, and is ready for war, and Prussia seems to expect, desire, and be ready for it too.