3 APRIL 1880, Page 15



THROUGHOUT the closing year of his life, it seems evident that -the Prince Consort laboured under a certain amount of physical -depression, which was due, no doubt, to a diminishing vitality. His letters are less animated. His political views are not only not sanguine, but needlessly despondent. He hardly sees the good side of any of the great movements which marked the years 1860 and 1861. He is oppressed by the restlessness of France and the intrigues of Italy, without recognising the large element of new stability which was introduced into European affairs by the unification and recovered independence of the Italian people. It is clear that he was thoroughly dis- satisfied with the Italian policy of Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell, and yet had nothing of his own to substitute which could have been half as useful to the world. Even in relation to Prussia, * The Life of his Royal Highness the Prince Consort, By Theodore Martin. With /Portraits. Vol. V., concluding the Work. London: Smith and Elder. 1880. though he foresaw the drift of events somewhat better, he was far from hopeful, and yet he never understood how little it was possible for the people of England to enter into the spirit of that cast-iron bureaucracy. During the quarrel between Eng- land and Prussia as to the ill-treatment of Captain Macdonald on a Prussian railway, the Prince Consort evidently sym- pathised much less with the English than the Prussian view, to some extent disapproving of Lord Palmerston's by no means too outspoken criticism on the conduct of the Prussian Government, and vehemently, not to say passionately, condemning the bitter language of the Time:. Throughout this final volume, one perceives clearly that the Prince's calm sense was deprived of its full effectiveness by a predisposition towards the least hopeful view. The attitude of France not unnaturally made him uneasy, and he found it impossible to discount the immediate impression which this uneasiness pro- duced on him, and calculate the gain to the world likely to re- sult from much which France had done. The following memo- randum, which it was natural enough to write in 1861, conveys, we, think, the gist of the Prince's expectations from Italian unity, but certainly by no means the expectations of the more sagacious English Liberals of that date; and it is clear now, we think, that the anticipation that Europe would find in regenerated Italy a mere tool of France, was a mistaken expectation :— "Setting aside, on the one hand, all sentiment about Italian liberty and unity, and on the other all feeling about international law and treaties, and the general principles of right and wrong, the statesman will have to ask himself what. will be the probable result of the events occurring in Italy on the balance of power in Europe, and on the particular interests of his own country. Will united Italy be a counterpoise to France, and an element securing the stability of the peace in Europe, or will she be an associate and helpmate in tho restless aggression of France upon the territorial and legal condition of Europe, and a cause of disturbance and war ? A perusal of the debates in the French Legislative Assembly, and of the speech of the King of Sardinia, throws important light on this question. The words of Prince Napoleon, in different parts of his long oration, are The policy of France is bound to respect treaties, but as for those odious treaties of 1815, which have placed the foot of Europe on the throat of France, we must, whenever we can, denounce them and tear them in pieces. To have done this is the glory of the second Empire. If there be any position which can strengthen us against England, it is to make ourselves the centre of all the secondary Navies. When I say this, I am only citing one of the axioms of the traditional policy of France For if you think that all the secondary Navies ought to ho grouped round that of France, it is evident that if the Italians have a navy, this will be a gain for France. Do not be deceived on this head. English states- men know it well. The unity of Italy is above all in the interests of France, because it is the only way one can hope, without a war, by an universal propaganda, to modify to our advantage the treaties of 1815. I defy you to find any other, especially now, -when every possibility of disagreement with Italy about frontiers has been re- moved. Italy's natural ally is France; and I do not speak to you of the gratitude of her people, but of their interests.' N. Piiitri, the Emperor's most confidential servant and agent, says Who would deny to France that moral ascendency which places her at the head of nations, and which has created for her in Italy a sympathy which may one day be represented by 300,000 men following her banners on the field of battle, when she should be provoked into completing the triumphs of civilisation ?' The King of Sardinia says in his speech from the throne :-4 Franco and Italy, whose origin, customs, and traditions are the same, contracted on the fields of Magenta and Solferino a bond of union which can never be severed,'"

In his private letters, the Prince Consort speaks of Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell by the not very respectful nickname of " the two old Italian Masters," a nickname be- stowed on them by Lady "William Russell, for their Italian sympathies. It is Lord John Russell's Note on Italian affairs which calls out the Prince Consort's anecdote concerning tho late Sir G. C. Lewis, to which we recently called attention, and it is evident that the statesman whom the Prince Consort con- sidered as anxious "to immortalise himself at the expense of his country," and whom he reproached the Cabinet for not preventing :from so; immortalising himself, was Lord John Russell :—

"You too will have been annoyed at Lord John's note. A country like this ought not to help to increase the general confusion of what is legal and right, but should uphold the moral law. The craving of individual statesmen to thrust themselves into the van in the general movement, and to make themselves conspicuous, is a constant temptation to mischief Sir George Lewis said to me lately, I find that the Cabinet is an institution intended to prevent indi- vidual ministers from immortalising themselves at the expense of the country.' This would be a valuable institution if it ever fulfilled its destiny."

At the same time, it is obvious that in relation to the affairs of Prussia, the Prince Consort, though not exactly a true prophet of the coming unity, desired and hoped to see a much more constitutional method entered upon for the unification of the German people than that which actually succeeded in placing Prussia at the head of Germany. The following letter to the present Emperor of Germany is curious enough, as showing what a sincere constitutionalist like the Prince Consort looked for, and how differently history has actually worked out the result for which he looked :—

" The general sympathy shown to you after the recent attempt on your life has, I see, comforted your heart. It shows what the real feeling of the Germans is, and this is not without significance, even although what they struggle after be not altogether consonant with your views. The danger for yourself, for Prussia, and for Germany, I am firmly convinced, does not lie in their struggle for con- stitutional development, but in the ulterior designs of France, and can only be successfully encountered and overcome by the help of this struggle. The first Napoleon and France had held Germany in bondage, in dismemberment, and humiliation. The appeal of your father in 1813 to the German feeling for liberty, and the promise of constitutional organisation, evoked the heroic spirit which broke Napoleon's diabolical power. Austria saw in the German uprising under Prussia's guidance a greater danger than in Napoleon's oppression, and hesitated long to which side she should turn. Stimu- lated by Napoleon's insolence and blunders, and encouraged by the hope of being able in the long run to deceive and to suppress the German impulse towards freedom, she decided at last to join the allies. After the Peace of Paris, Austria had no other object than to crush German freedom. The Diet and Germany, as it is at this moment, are Prince Metternich's work, and he entirely led German policy down to 1848, and, indirectly, Prussian policy also (with each of the two last Sovereigns), of course in different ways—in fact, by humouring the differences of their personal character. No wonder, that when in 1848 the barriers of repression gave way, democracy broke forth like a wave long held in check. No wonder, too, that after the Austrian Government had in a measure ceased to exist, and the authority of the King of Prussia had quite unnecessarily been abdicated in the days of March into the hands of the Berlin mob, Germany was seized with a panic dread of confusion and turmoil, and the patriotic movement, which in the first days after the Paris Revolution was directed to unification of the Fatherland, and to making it safe against French inroads, was frittered away in the absence of any superior guidance in the wildest democratic extravagances. The patriotic German looks with sorrow and shame at these results ; and . . . . it is not to be wondered at if he tries to snake good his claim to what was promised in 1813, and in particular, desires to be led onwards in the constitutional path by Prussia and by you. Austria has once more brought Napoleon into prominence as the Conqueror in Europe, has given Italy to him as his tool, and prepared Hungary and Poland to serve him in the same way. Ger- many sees herself face to face with the most serious peril, yet still divided, weakened, broken into sections, her very existence in the hands of individual Cabinets, without the possibility of her people exercising the smallest influence upon their action. Is it an evil trait of the spirit of the people if they yearn for general unity and active co-operation in what is to decide their destiny ? Do not allow yourself to be annoyed or misled, if here and there this people are guilty of stupid extravagances. They are your and Germany's only stay, and the power by which alone the enemy can be held at bay. It is not a Cavour that Germany needs, but a Stein."

If it was not a Cavour that Germany needed, but a Stein, she certainly did not get in a Bismarck what, in the belief of the Prince, she most needed. Even less disposed for constitutional development than Cavour, Bismarck united Germany by a liberal expenditure of "blood and iron," and by giving a very brief shrift to any Constitutional scruples that stood in his way. Yet though the development of Germany has proceeded on lines much less satisfactory than those anticipated by the Prince Consort, and though the result as yet is certainly not any increase in European stability and peace, yet we cannot but be aware that the twenty years which have nearly elapsed since this letter was written, contain as much of promise for the ultimate future in them, as they contain of anxiety and threatening for the immediate future. Already Italy is a security for the balance of power in the Mediterranean, instead of a for- midable tool in the hands of France ; and Germany, though she has lost in constitutional and pacific tendencies while gaining in power, may revert at any time, when Bismarck's star wanes, to the nobler path of development through which the Prince Consort hoped to see her winning her way to unity and strength.

The chief personal interest of this concluding volume of the Prince's life belongs, of course, to the account of his last ill- ness and death. The whole story of this illness,—of the Prince's long struggle to complete all his usual tasks, in spite of the heavy oppression on his health and spirits,—of his import- ant modification of the terms in which Lord Palmerston's Government demanded from the United States the surrender of Mr. Slidell and Mr. Mason, captured from our mail packet the Trent,'—a modification suggested by the Prince when he was already so ill that his hand could barely write the memorandum in which the changes made by him were suggested,— and of his gradual wasting away under the blight of that deadly fever, is of the deepest possible interest, and told by Sir Theodore Martin with great pathos, as well as due reserve. The story of this most noble effort of his political life, the effort to render the demand made upon the United States less difficult to com- ply with, ought to entitle him to the gratitude of Englishmen, so long as the memory of that imminent though averted danger of disastrous national conflict is retained amongst us :—

"Next day (30th of November), after the Cabinet meeting, Lord John Russell forwarded to the Queen the Drafts of the various Despatches which were to be sent to Lord Lyons. They reached Windsor Castle in the evening, and doubtless occupied much of the Prince's thoughts, in the long hours of the winter morning, when he. found sleep impossible. Ill as he was, in accordance with his accus- tomed habit, he rose at seven, and before eight he had finished and brought to the Queen the Draft of a Memorandum on the sub- ject of these Despatches. He could eat no breakfast,' is the entry in her Majesty's diary, and looked very wretched. But still he was well enough, on getting up, to make a Draft for- me to write to Lord Russell in correction of his Draft to Lord Lyons, sent to me yesterday, which Albert did not approve.' When he brought it to the Queen, he told her that he could scarcely hold his pen while writing it. Traces of his weak- ness are visible in the handwriting, and may be perceived in. the annexed fac-simile, even by those who are not familiar with his autograph. The fac-simile has a special value, as re- presenting the last political Memorandum written by the Prince, while it was, at the same time, inferior to none of them, as. will presently be seen, in the importance of its results. It shows, like most of his Memorandums, by the corrections in the Queen's hand, how the minds of both were continually brought to bear upon the subjects with which they dealt. What was the nature of the Prince's objection to the Draft of the principal Despatch' (the. others were private, and not to be communicated to the United States Government), is sufficiently obvious from his Memorandum :— Windsor Castle, December 1, 1861.—The Queen returns these im- portant Drafts, which upon the whole she approves ; but she cannot help feeling that the main Draft,—that for communication tothe. American Government—is somewhat meagre. She should have liked to have seen the expression of a hope, that the American captain did not act under instructions, or, if he did, that he misapprehended them,—that the United States Government must be fully aware that the British Government could not allow its flag to be insulted, and the security of her mail communications to be placed in jeopardy ; and her Majesty's Government are unwilling to believe that the United States Government intended wantonly to put an insult upon this country, and to add to their many distressing complications by a question of dispute upon us, and that we are, therefore, glad to believe that, upon a full consideration of the circumstances of the undoubted breach of International Law committed, they would spontaneously offer such redress as alone could satisfy this country, viz., the restoration of the unfortunate passengers and a suitable apology.' The suggestions here made at once commended them- selves to Lord John Russell. Lord Palmerston thought them excel- lent,' are Lord Granville's words, in a letter next day to the Prince, in which he expresses his own delight that the despatch had been altered in accordance with them. By the time this letter reached the Prince, he was already much worse. It was read to him by the Queen, and he was much gratified by the good result of his observa- tions, which led to the removal from the despatch of everything which could irritate a proud and sensitive nation, at the same time that it offered to them an opportunity of receding honourably from the position in which they had been placed by the indiscreet act of a too-zealous Navy captain."

With this passage, we will conclude our notice of this volume.. The book is, as we have said, throughout couched in a too official and ceremonious style. It is not, and could not have been, a fresh or spirited book. It is mainly the book of a courtier, and is overburdened with details of a kind which will have little or no interest to the readers of the next century. But it is a book full of valuable material ; full of evidence of the Prince's great goodness, and of a certain mild wisdom which was not exactly sagacity or shrewdness, but rather the wisdom which comes of high purpose, of a singularly unprejudiced in- telligence, and of a perfectly serene temper. The Prince Consort was not at any time a buoyant statesman or a great leader of men. But he was thoughtful, conscientious, discreet, diligent, self-possessed to a degree beyond that of almost any of the states- men with whom be mingled, and these are qualities of a kind especially fitted to supplement the defects of English statesmen, and to turn their very different powers to the best account.