AUSTRIA IN 1813 AND 1854.
IT would perhaps be considered fanciful to draw an historical parallel out of the elements of the Austrian situation at the open ing of the German campaign of 1813, and those of 1854; yet there are many political points of resemblance, and certainly a great similarity between the two diplomatic situations. No historical parallel ever was perfect, and although there may be nothing new under the sun, yet there are new combinations of the normal forces of things. Nations and empires preserve their distinguishing characteristics with wonderful completeness; and the use of any reference to the experience of history is to point some contemporary moral, to illustrate some contemporary situation, or to assist the speculator in estimating the chances of the future.
The career of the Emperor Nicholas, like that of the first Em peror Napoleon, has been one of aggression; but how different in character ! Napoleon went out boldly with the armies of France to conquer Europe, impelled by imperious necessity, the giant crisis in the affairs of the nation at whose head he had placed himself, and an innate desire to exercise the specialty of his genius for the practice of the art of war. Nicholas, quite as relentless, quite as ambitious, quite as aggressive as Napoleon, has gone forth with a stealthy tread, securing his conquests by granite and iron ; has hurled his legions on the weak at moments when the strong, who might have controlled him, were otherwise employed; and has extended his power by minute and undefined encroachments, quite as much as by the bayonet and sabre. Napoleon defied and trampled upon Europe in the name of a new order of things, ruthlessly breaking down all before him, and parcelling the nations out anew. Nicholas defies nobody, but in their extremities filches from all. In his siege of Europe Napoleon led the French soldiery in vast storming columns into every breach, or over every rampart, and by sheer force carried the day. Nicholas hangs about the outworks of Europe, and, holding his armed men in readiness for an assault, proceeds by sap and mine. Europe arrayed herself against Napoleon from au instinct of self-preservation in the kings and indignant rage in the nations. Europe seems likely to arra), herself against Nicholas, from a similar instinct of self-preservation in her governments and of enlightened antipathy to despotism in her nations. And in the crisis of the fortunes of both the defiant and the stealthy aggressor, Austria seems destined to play a decisive part. In the sprinc, of 1813, Napoleon having, with astonishing ra pidity, partial?), repaired the disasters of 1812, opened the campaign with some success against the combined forces of Russia and Prussia, and drove them back in good order upon the Bohemian mountains. Austria, at that moment, was the ally of France ; but Napoleon's calamities in the preceding year had shaken the alliance to its foundations ; and the Emperor Francis, guided by Metternich, only waited a favourable moment to complete, by her junction, the league of Europe against Napoleon. That moment the French Emperor unwittingly provided. The Allies were close upon the Austrian frontier' when Napoleon, anxious to obtain Austrian cooperation, or at least to prolong Austrian neutrality, and unwilling, perhaps, by a decisive battle to force the Allies into Bohemia, halted in his career, and agreed to an armistice of six weeks, and a conference at Prague, in which Austria assumed to play the part of mediator. This six weeks' cessation of hostilities was precious time to the Allies; and Austria, assured of a British subsidy, and clearly perceiving that her own interest lay in an escape from French domination, employed the interval in doubling her insignificant army. Tier conduct was eminently characteristic. Even before the armistice was arranged, she sent an envoy to Napoleon instructed to urge the necessity of a general pacification, in which Austria should act the part of mediator,—alleging, at the same time, her determination to insist on that policy, as a reason for the increase of her army ; while she sent another envoy to the camp of the Allies to give renewed assurances that her army should act with them. Then came the conference, which ended, as it was intended, not only without any result favourable to peace, but in a declaration of war on the part of Austria.
Put Nicholas in the place of Napoleon, make allowance for the
altered circumstances of the times, and the illustration drawn from the annals of 1813 is not without value in helping us to form some conception of the conduct of Austria in the present war. The different circumstances are these. In 1813, Austria had no army—she could only, by excessive efforts, bring 60,000 middling troops to the side of the Allies: in 1854, she wields an immense army. In 1813, her finances were at the lowest ebb : in 1854, a bevolenee has raised them to a position of temporary soundness. In1813, her interest as an empire taught her to help in battering to pieces the power of the man who held the Continent in subjec
tigt: in 1854, her interest teaches her to help in thwarting the
d signs of the man who menaces Europe with moral if not ma t ia conquest. In 1813, sloe broke with France diplomatically,
Endannounced a friendly policy of mediation: in 1854, she has
c.,ne the same with regard to Russia. In 1813, she held on
oh Napoleon until her measures for resistance were taken and
el cry contingency was guarded against : in 1854, she has held on with Nicholas, while she has increased and perfected her 6plendid army ; and she ha a continued to sway from the policy ni mediation towards the policy of force. In 1813, she was insincere in her project of mediation, because she, in common with dl European Governments, believed that no treaty of peace to
hich they could agree would satisfy Napoleon : but the same :eason does not exist to warrant a belief that she has been insincere as a mediator in 1854. The power of Nicholas is not so ostensible as that of Napoleon ; the danger is not so near and pressing in appearance, and her relations with Germany lead to a belief that Austria would gladly patch up a peace. If, however, she has been insincere, judging by the analogy of 1813, it must have been towards Russia ; because Austria, ever anxious for the preservation of her disjointed empire, must side with those who threaten it least. As the triumph of Napoleon in 1813 would have prolonged her subjugation, perhaps led to her extinction, whereas the triumph of the Allies by her aid restored her as a great European power —so, in 1854, Austria can lose nothing by the success of the Western Powers, whereas the success of Russia ultimately, if not instantly, must be greatly at her expense. Apart from territorial considerations, the defeat of England and France by Russia, Austria remaining neutral, would be a blow to her power which she could never recover. A joint war in alliance with Russia against England and France would certainly involve the loss of her Italian provinces, and the destruction of her rising commerce. Nothing, therefore, except judicial blindness could carry Austria into the battle-field with the Czar against Western Europe. The fact is, that Austria, in any European combination of forces—in any conjuncture of affairs where overbearing aggression appears on one side and resolute defence on the other—will in the long run, by hook or by crook, side with that power which bars the way to universal empire or even European preponderance.
It is therefore quite probable that Austria is acting in 1854 as she acted in 1813. Her interests lie, first, in preserving peace if possible, because peace offers the fewer dangers to her heterogeneous territory ; secondly, in temporizing and feeling all round to ascertain her chances ; thirdly, in energetic war to restore peace in conformity with her interests, as speedily and as cheaply as possible. Through the two first of these stages she seems to have already gone. In 1853, she showed greater friendliness to Russia, and sought to preserve peace by extracting concessions in 1854, she temporizes, professes armed neutrality, threatens concessions; Principalities so as to expel Russia, then occupies the Principalities and becomes surety for Constantinople. Nicholas, like Napoleon— anxious to secure Austrian neutrality, and certainly desirous of avoiding instant war' which, with the Turks and Allies in his front and flank, would have led to the destruction of his army—refrains from punishing the veiled hostility of Austria, even though Austria by occupying the Principalities enabled the Allies to invade the Crimea and besiege the heart of Russian power in the East. Russia is probably no longer, if indeed she ever was, the dupe of Austria; but she was powerless to prevent the catastrophe, and time was invaluable to both.
Now, we are told, Austria has signed a treaty with the Western Powers, involving open hostilities : this would be the natural and logical result of her extraordinary position, as we have shown. by a reference to her traditional policy.