6 MARCH 1880, Page 12




SIn,—In your issue of February 21st, I observe that you share what appears to be an antipathy common to the Liberal party towards Austria and Germany, and more especially towards Austria, as possible allies and friends of this country. It has always seemed to me that there is very little real ground for this feeling, and there is certainly, in my opinion, no excuse for the very strong and sweeping strictures which Mr. Gladstone has been the foremost to pronounce upon the dual Empire, and which you, in company with other equally sound Liberals, have felt yourselves compelled to endorse.

It is, of course, impossible to protest too strongly against any schemes of formal alliance with Austria, Germany, or any other Power, during a time of peace, and when, as you very justly say, pledging ourselves to one nation has very much the appearance of throwing down a challenge to another. But this need not prevent us recognising the fact that history and common-sense alike do point to a community of interest between England and Germany, and in a less degree, between England and Austria, which it is impossible to ignore or to forget. To Germany we are united by the strong ties of a common race and a common religion, ties which have proved so strong, that I believe the history of the last three centuries, with its endless complications, does not afford a single instance of Prussian troops actually opposed in the field to those of this country. One other point of the greatest importance must not be for- gotten with regard to the advantages accompanying the good- will of Germany, and that is, that with the exception of England, no country is so widely and intimately connected with the United States, or would be more sure of securing that immensely important factor in any man, the sympathy of the American people.

With regard to Austria, the reasons which should make us anxious to be on good terms with her are, perhaps, of a more negative character than those referred to above in the case of Germany, but they are, nevertheless, very strong reasons indeed. It seems fashionable to talk in the same strain of the danger which would arise for this country, if either Russia or Austria were to occupy Constantinople. But the merest glance at the true conditions of the case will show how vastly different in importance for us would be the two eventualities referred to. Austria has no Asiatic frontier, has no northern coast-line, and has no port on the Pacific. Russia has all these. Austria is already upon the Mediterranean ; Russia, until she acquires Constantinople, is practically excluded from it. Add to this that before very long Constantinople must inevitably change hands, and it becomes a question into whose hands it could fall with the most benefit to its inhabitants, and the least detriment to ourselves.

I by no means wish to express an opinion to the effect that there is no other solution of the matter than an occupation by either Austria or Russia, but all I contend is that many worse solutions might be found than the former, and that a great deal

of the abuse lavished on the Austro-Hungarian Empire is as unjust as it is unwise. Many people appear to forget, what is none the less the fact, that no common denomination can be found for that large portion of the population of Europe lying between the Baltic and lEgean, draw the lines of division as you will. Bearing this in mind, I maintain that Austria has, after all, performed the well-nigh impossible task of producing some sort of union, and introducing a large measure of good government, among so varied a population.

Solve the Eastern Question as you will, the result must, in some shape or another, be a confederation of races, united by some central authority. Given the present materials, is it cer- tain that a better centre than the House of Hapsburg is likely to be forthcoming ? Mr. Gladstone speaks with almost scorn- ful bitterness of the "only Austria known to history and tradition ;" and Mr. Gladstone only too faithfully echoes the popular judgment, which still knows of no Austria but that of 1866, or even of 1848. How unjust and how misleading is such a judgment, any one who is acquainted with the history of Austria-Hungary during the reign of the present Emperor will acknowledge. I say without hesitation that in no country in Europe has the advance in the lust twenty years towards a just and liberal form of government been so rapid and consist- ent as in Austria-Hungary. It is true that there was much lost ground to make up, it is true that much remains still to be done, but much, very much, has been accom- plished. Both in Vienna and Pesth, parliamentary govern- ment is practised with an approach to freedom and a genuine popularity that offer a marked contrast to the procedure of kindred institutions in other European capi- tals. Beset with difficulties, crushed by defeat, and still surrounded by armed enemies, no Power has sought more strenuously, and, on the whole, with greater success, than Austria, to relax the strain of its excessive armaments. A Polish garrison in Cracow, and a score of Polish Deputies at Vienna, testify to the liberality with which she can afford to treat those who were once her foes.

It is easy enough to rail at Austria, and to some it may be a congenial occupation to dwell upon the errors of her past. But anybody, who, not forgetting the tremendous difficulties under which she labours, takes the trouble to acquaint himself with Austria as she really is at the present time, will, I am convinced, come to the conclusion that not only do natural circumstances point her out as an ally and friend of this country, but that she is at least as fit to help on the cause of civilisation in the East as any other Power that is likely to have any share in the work.

[We have never expressed any jealousy of the advance of Austrian power in the East of Europe, so far as that advance of power is consistent with the development of self-government. But the new proposals for placing Austria at Constantinople are proposals for superseding forms of national self-govern- ment which are really in existence.—En. Spectator.]