Beacon Lights of History, Volume X
John Lord

Part 3 out of 4

the Tuileries, April 20, 1808. Living in Switzerland, with his mother
and brother (Napoleon Louis), he was well-educated, expert in all
athletic sports,--especially in riding and fencing,--and trained to the
study and practice of artillery and military engineering. The two
brothers engaged in an Italian revolt in 1830; both fell ill, and while
one died the other was saved by the mother's devotion. In 1831 the Poles
made an insurrection, and offered Louis Napoleon their chief command and
the crown of Poland; but the death, in 1832, of the only son of his
uncle aroused Louis's ambition for a larger place, and the sovereignty
of France became his "fixed idea." He studied hard, wrote and published
several political and military works, and in 1836 made a foolish attempt
at a Napoleonic revolt against Louis Philippe. It ended in humiliating
failure, and he was exiled to America, where he lived in obscurity for
about a year; but he returned to Switzerland to see his dying mother,
and then was obliged to flee to England. In 1838 he published his
"Napoleonic Ideas;" in 1840 he made, at Boulogne, another weak
demonstration upon the French throne, and was imprisoned in the
fortress of Ham. Here he did much literary work, but escaped in 1848 to
Belgium, whence he hurried back to Paris when the revolution broke out.
Getting himself elected a deputy in the National Assembly, he took
his seat.

The year 1848, when Louis Napoleon appeared on the stage of history, was
marked by extraordinary political and social agitations, not merely in
France but throughout Europe. It saw the unexpected fall of the
constitutional monarchy in France, which had been during eighteen years
firmly upheld by Louis Philippe, with the assistance of the ablest and
wisest ministers the country had known for a century,--the policy of
which was pacific, and the leading political idea of which was an
alliance with Great Britain. The king fled before the storm of
revolutionary ideas,--as Metternich was obliged to do in Vienna, and
Ferdinand in Naples,--and a provisional government succeeded, of which
Lamartine was the central figure. A new legislative assembly was chosen
to support a republic, in which the most distinguished men of France, of
all opinions, were represented. Among the deputies was Louis Napoleon,
who had hastened from England to take part in the revolution. He sat on
the back benches of the Chamber neglected, silent, and despised by the
leading men in France, but not yet hated nor feared.

When a President of the Republic had to be chosen by the suffrages of
the people, Louis Napoleon unexpectedly received a great majority of the
votes. He had been quietly carrying on his "presidential campaign"
through his agents, who appealed to the popular love for the name
of Napoleon.

The old political leaders, amazed and confounded, submitted to the
national choice, yet stood aloof from a man without political
experience, who had always been an exile when he had not been a
prisoner. Most of them had supposed that Bonapartism was dead; but the
peasantry in the provinces still were enthralled by the majesty and
mighty prestige of that conqueror who had been too exalted for envy and
too powerful to be resisted. To the provincial votes chiefly Louis
Napoleon owed his election as President,--and the election was fair. He
came into power by the will of the nation if any man ever did,--by the
spontaneous enthusiasm of the people for the name he bore, not for his
own abilities and services; and as he proclaimed, on his accession, a
policy of peace (which the people believed) and loyalty to the
Constitution,--Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality, the watchwords of the
Revolution,--even more, as he seemed to represent the party of order, he
was regarded by such statesmen as Thiers and Montalembert as the least
dangerous of the candidates; and they gave their moral support to his
government, while they declined to take office under him.

The new President appointed the famous De Tocqueville as his first prime
minister, who after serving a few months resigned, because he would not
be the pliant tool of his master. Louis Napoleon then had to select
inferior men for his ministers, who also soon discovered that they were
expected to be his clerks, not his advisers. At first he was regarded by
the leading classes with derision rather than fear,--so mean was his
personal appearance, so spiritless his address, so cold and dull was his
eye, and so ridiculous were his antecedents. "The French," said Thiers,
long afterward, "made two mistakes about Louis Napoleon,--the first,
when they took him for a fool; the second, when they took him for a man
of genius." It was not until he began to show a will of his own, a
determination to be his own prime minister, that those around him saw
his dangerous ambition, his concealed abilities, and his unscrupulous

Nothing of importance marked the administration of the President, except
hostility to the Assembly, and their endless debates on the
constitution. Both the President and the Assembly feared the influence
of the ultra-democrats and Red Republicans,--socialists and anarchists,
who fomented their wild schemes among the common people of the large
cities. By curtailing the right of suffrage the Assembly became
unpopular, and Louis Napoleon gained credit as the friend of order
and law.

As the time approached when, by the Constitution, he would be obliged to
lay down his office and return to private life, the President became
restless, and began to plot for the continuance of his power. He had
tasted its sweets, and had no intention to surrender it. If he could
have been constitutionally re-elected, he probably would not have
meditated a _coup d'etat_, for it was in accordance with his indolent
character to procrastinate. With all his ambition, he was patient,
waiting for opportunities to arise; and yet he never relinquished an
idea or an intention,--it was ever in his mind: he would simply wait,
and quietly pursue the means of success. He had been trained to
meditation in his prison at Ham; and he had learned to disguise his
thoughts and his wishes. The power which had been developed in him in
the days of his obscurity and adversity was cunning. As a master of
cunning he saw the necessity of reserve, mistrust, and silence.

The first move of the President to gain his end was to secure a revision
of the Constitution. The Assembly, by a vote of three-fourths, could by
the statutes of 1848 order a revision; a revision could remove the
clause which prohibited his re-election, and a re-election was all he
then pretended to want. But the Assembly, jealous of its liberties,
already suspicious and even hostile, showed no disposition to smooth his
way. He clearly saw that some other means must be adopted. He naturally
turned to the army; but the leading generals distrusted him, and were in
the ranks of his enemies. They were all Orleanists or Republicans.

The ablest general in France was probably Changarnier, who had greatly
distinguished himself in Algeria. He had been called, on the change of
government, to the high post of commander of the National Guards and
general of the first military division, which was stationed at Paris. He
had been heard to say that if Louis Napoleon should undertake a _coup
d'etat_, he would conduct him as a prisoner to Vincennes. This was
reported to the President, who at once resolved to remove him, both from
hostility and fear. On Changarnier's removal the ministry resigned.
Their places were taken by tools still more subservient.

Nothing now remained but to prepare for the meditated usurpation. The
first thing to be done was to secure an able and unscrupulous minister
of war, who could be depended upon. As all the generals received their
orders from the minister of war, he was the most powerful man in France,
next to the President. Such was military discipline that no subordinate
dared to disobey him.

There were then no generals of ability in France whom Louis Napoleon
could trust, and he turned his eyes to Algeria, where some one might be
found. He accordingly sent his most intimate friend and confidant, Major
Fleury, able but unscrupulous, to Algeria to discover the right kind of
man, who could be bribed. He found a commander of a brigade, by name
Saint-Arnaud, extravagant, greatly in debt, who had done some brave and
wicked things. It was not difficult to seduce a reckless man who wanted
money and preferment. Fleury promised him the high office of minister of
war, when he should have done something to distinguish himself in the
eyes of the Parisians. Saint-Arnaud, who proved that he could keep a
secret, was at once promoted, and a campaign was arranged for him in the
summer of 1851, in which he won some distinction by wanton waste of
life. His exploits were exaggerated, the venal Press sounded his
praises, and he was recalled to Paris and made minister of war; for the
President by the Constitution could nominate his ministers and appoint
the high officers of State. Other officers were brought from Algeria and
made his subordinates. The command of the army of Paris was given to
General Magnan, who was in the secret. The command of the National
Guards was given to a general who promised not to act, for this body was
devoted to the Assembly. M. Maupas, another conspirator, of great
administrative ability, was made prefect of police.

Thus in September, 1851, everything was arranged; but Saint-Arnaud
persuaded the President to defer the _coup d'etat_ until winter, when
all the deputies would be in Paris, and therefore could be easily
seized. If scattered over France, they might rally and create a civil
war; for, as we have already said, the Assembly contained the leading
men of the country,--statesmen, generals, editors, and great lawyers,
all hostile to the ruler of the Republic.

So the President waited patiently till winter. Suddenly, without
warning, in the night of the 2d of December, all the most distinguished
members of the Assembly were arrested by the police controlled by
Maupas, and sent to the various prisons,--including Changarnier,
Cavaignac, Thiers, Bedeau, Lamoriciere, Barrot, Berryer, De Tocqueville,
De Broglie, and Saint-Hilaire. On the following morning strong bodies of
the military were posted at the Palais Bourbon (where the Assembly held
its sessions), around all the printing-presses, around the public
buildings, and in the principal streets. In the meantime, Morny was made
minister of the interior. Manifestoes were issued which announced the
dissolution of the Assembly and the Council of State, the restoration of
universal suffrage, and a convocation of the electoral college to elect
the Executive. A proclamation was also made to the army, containing
those high-sounding watchwords which no one was more capable of using
than the literary President,--eloquent, since they appealed to
everything dear to the soldiers' hearts, and therefore effective. Louis
Napoleon's short speeches convinced those for whom they were intended.
He was not so fortunate with his books.

The military and the police had now the supreme control of Paris, while
the minister of the interior controlled the municipalities of the
various departments. All resistance was absurd; and yet so tremendous an
outrage on the liberties of the nation provoked an indignation,
especially among the Republicans, which it was hard to suppress. The
people rallied and erected barricades, which of course were swept away
by the cannon of General Magnan, accompanied by needless cruelties and
waste of blood, probably with the view to inspire fear and show that
resistance was hopeless.

Paris and its vicinity were now in the hands of the usurper, supported
by the army and police, and his enemies were in prison. The Assembly was
closed, as well as the higher Courts of Justice, and the Press was
muzzled. Constitutional liberty was at an end; a despot reigned
unopposed. Yet Louis Napoleon did not feel entirely at his ease. Would
the nation at the elections sustain the usurpation? It was necessary to
control the elections; and it is maintained by some historians that
every effort to that end was made through the officials and the police.
Whether the elections were free or not, one thing astonished the
civilized world,--seven millions of votes were cast in favor of Louis
Napoleon; and the cunning and patient usurper took possession of the
Tuileries, re-elected President to serve for ten years. Before the year
closed, in December, 1852, he was proclaimed Emperor of the French by
the vote and the will of the people. The silent, dull, and heavy man had
outwitted everybody; and he showed that he understood the French people
better than all the collected statesmen and generals who had served
under Louis Philippe with so much ability and distinction.

What shall we say of a nation that so ignominiously surrendered its
liberties? All we can say in extenuation is that it was powerless. Such
men as Guizot, Thiers, Cousin, Changarnier, Cavaignac, Mole, Broglie,
Hugo, Villemain, Lamartine, Montalembert, would have prevented the fall
of constitutional government if their hands had not been tied. They were
in prison or exiled. Some twenty-five thousand people had been killed or
transported within a few weeks after the _coup d'etat_, and fear seized
the minds of those who were active in opposition, or suspected even of
being hostile to the new government. France, surprised, perplexed,
affrighted, must needs carry on a war of despair, or succumb to the
usurpation. The army and the people alike were governed by terror.

But although France had lost her freedom, it was only for a time; and
although Louis Napoleon ruled as an absolute monarch, his despotism,
sadly humiliating to people of intelligence and patriotism, was not like
that of Russia, or even like that of Prussia and Austria. The great men
of all parties were too numerous and powerful to be degraded or exiled.
They did not resist his government, and they held their tongues in the
cafes and other assemblies where they were watched by spies; but they
talked freely with one another in their homes, and simply kept aloof
from him, refusing to hold office under him or to attend his court,
waiting for their time. They knew that his government was not permanent,
and that the principles of the Revolution had not been disseminated and
planted in vain, but would burst out in some place or other like a
volcano, and blaze to heaven. Men pass away, but principles are

Louis Napoleon was too thoughtful and observant a man not to know all
this. His residence in England and intercourse with so many
distinguished politicians and philosophers had taught him something. He
feared that with all his successes his throne would be overturned
unless he could amuse the people and find work for turbulent spirits.
Consequently he concluded on the one hand to make a change in the
foreign policy of France, and on the other to embellish his capital and
undertake great public works, at any expense, both to find work for
artisans and to develop the resources of the country.

When Louis Napoleon made his first attack on the strong government of
Louis Philippe, at Strasburg, he was regarded as a madman; when he
escaped from Ham, after his failure at Boulogne, he was looked upon by
all Europe as a mere adventurer; and when he finally left England, which
had sheltered him, to claim his seat in the National Assembly of
republican France, and even when made President of the republic by the
suffrages of the nation, he was regarded as an enigma. Some thought him
dull though bold, and others looked upon him as astute and long-headed.
His heavy look, his leaden eye, his reserved and taciturn ways, with no
marked power but that of silence and secrecy, disarmed fear. Neither
from his conversations nor his writings had anybody drawn the inference
that he was anything remarkable in genius or character. His executive
abilities were entirely unknown. He was generally regarded as simply
fortunate from the name he bore and the power he usurped, but with no
striking intellectual gifts,--nothing that would warrant his supreme
audacity. He had never distinguished himself in anything; but was
admitted to be a thoughtful man, who had written treatises of
respectable literary merit. His social position as the heir and nephew
of the great Napoleon of course secured him many friends and followers,
who were attracted to him by the prestige of his name, and who saw in
him the means of making their own fortune; but he was always, except in
a select and chosen circle, silent, non-committal, heavy, reserved, and

But the President--the Emperor--had been a profound student of the
history of the first Napoleon and his government. He understood the
French people, too, and had learned to make short speeches with great
effect, in which adroitness in selecting watchwords--especially such as
captivated the common people--was quite remarkable. He professed liberal
sentiments, sympathy with the people in their privations and labors, and
affected beyond everything a love of peace. In his manifestoes of a
policy of universal peace, few saw that love of war by which he intended
to rivet the chains of despotism. He was courteous and urbane in his
manners, probably kind in disposition, not bloodthirsty nor cruel,
supremely politic and conciliating in his intercourse with statesmen and
diplomatists, and generally simple and unstilted in his manners. He was
also capable of friendship, and never forgot those who had rendered him
services or kindness in his wanderings. Nor was he greedy of money like
Louis Philippe, but freely lavished it on his generals. Like his uncle,
he had an antipathy to literary men when they would not condescend to
flatter him, which was repaid by uncompromising hostility on their part.
How savage and unrelenting was the hatred of Victor Hugo! How unsparing
his ridicule and abuse! He called the usurper "Napoleon the Little,"
notwithstanding he had outwitted the leading men of the nation and
succeeded in establishing himself on an absolute throne. A small man
could not have shown so much patience, wisdom, and prudence as Louis
Napoleon showed when President, or fought so successfully the
legislative body when it was arrayed against him. If the poet had called
him "Napoleon the Wicked" it would have been more to the point, for only
a supremely unscrupulous and dishonest man could have meditated and
executed the _coup d'etat_. His usurpation and treachery were gigantic
crimes, accompanied with violence and murder. Even his crimes, however,
were condoned in view of the good government which he enforced and the
services he rendered; showing that, if he was dishonest and treacherous,
he was also able and enlightened.

But it is not his usurpation of supreme power for which Louis Napoleon
will be most severely judged by his country and by posterity. Cromwell
was a usurper, and yet he is regarded as a great benefactor. It was the
policy which Napoleon III. pursued as a supreme ruler for which he will
be condemned, and which was totally unlike that of Cromwell or Augustus.
It was his policy to embroil nations in war and play the _role_ of a
conqueror. The policy of the restored Bourbons and of Louis Philippe was
undeniably that of peace with other nations, and the relinquishment
of that aggrandizement which is gained by successful war. It
was this policy,--upheld by such great statesmen as Guizot and
Thiers,--conflicting with the warlike instincts of the French people,
which made those monarchs unpopular more than their attempts to suppress
the liberty of the Press and the license of popular leaders; and it was
the appeal to the military vanity of the people which made Napoleon III.
popular, and secured his political ascendency.

The quarrel which was then going on between the Greek and Latin monks
for the possession of the sacred shrines at Jerusalem furnished both the
occasion and the pretence for interrupting the peace of Europe, as has
been already stated in the Lecture on the Crimean war. The French
usurper determined to take the side of the Latin monks, which would
necessarily embroil him with the great protector of the Greek faith,
even the Emperor Nicholas, who was a bigot in all matters pertaining to
his religion. He would rally the French nation in a crusade, not merely
to get possession of a sacred key and a silver star, but to come to the
assistance of a power no longer dangerous,--the "sick man," whom
Nicholas had resolved to crush. Louis Napoleon cared but little for
Turkey; but he did not want Constantinople to fall into the hands of the
Russians, and thus make them the masters of the Black Sea. France, it is
true, had but little to gain whoever possessed Constantinople; she had
no possessions or colonies in the East to protect. But in the eye of her
emperor it was necessary to amuse her by a war; and what war would be
more popular than this,--to head off Russia and avenge the march
to Moscow?

Russia, moreover, was the one power which all western Europe had cause
to dread. Ever since the Empress Catherine II., the encroachments and
territorial aggrandizement of this great military empire had been going
on. The Emperor Nicholas was the most powerful sovereign of the world,
having a million of men under arms, ready to obey his nod, with no check
whatever on his imperial will. He had many fine qualities, which
commanded esteem; but he was fitful, uncertain, ambitious, and warlike.
If an aggressive war to secure the "balance of power" could ever be
justified, it would seem to have been necessary in this case. It was an
aggressive war on the part of France, since the four great
Powers--Austria, Prussia, France, and England--were already united to
keep the Czar in check, and demanded his evacuation of the Danubian
provinces which he had invaded. Nicholas, seeing this powerful
combination against him, was ready to yield, and peace might have been
easily secured, and thus the Crimean war been avoided; but Louis
Napoleon did not want peace, and intrigued against it.

Resolved then on war, the real disturber of the peace of Europe, and
goaded on by his councillors,--the conspirators of the 2d of December,
Morny, Fleury, Maupas, etc.,--Louis Napoleon turned around to seek an
ally; for France alone was not strong enough to cope with Russia.
Austria having so much to lose, did not want war, and was afraid of
Nicholas. So was Prussia. It was the policy of both these Powers to keep
on good terms with Nicholas. It always will be the policy of Germany to
avoid a war with Russia, unless supported by England and France. The
great military organization which Bismarck and Moltke effected, the
immense standing army which Germany groans under, arises not from
anticipated dangers on the part of France so much as from fear of
Russia, although it is not the policy of German statesmen to confess it
openly. If France should unite with Russia in a relentless war, Germany
would probably be crushed, unless England came to the rescue. Germany,
placed between two powerful military monarchies, is obliged to keep up
its immense standing army, against its will, as a dire necessity. It is
Russia she is most anxious to conciliate. All the speeches of Bismarck
show this.

In view of this policy, Louis Napoleon turned his eyes to England as his
ally in the meditated war with Russia, notwithstanding the secret
hostilities and jealousies between these nations for five hundred years.
Moreover, the countries were entirely dissimilar: England was governed
by Parliament, based on free institutions; France was a military
despotism, and all who sought to establish parliamentary liberties and
government were banished when their efforts became dangerous or
revolutionary. Louis Napoleon showed great ability for intrigue in
forcing the English cabinet to adopt his warlike policy, when its own
policy was pacific. It was a great triumph to the usurper to see England
drifting into war against the combined influence of the premier, of
Gladstone, of the Quakers, and of the whole Manchester school of
political economists; and, as stated in the Lecture on the Crimean war,
it was an astounding surprise to Nicholas.

But this misfortune would not have happened had it not been for the
genius and intrigues of a statesman who exercised a commanding influence
over English politics; and this was Lord Palmerston, who had spent his
life in the foreign office, although at that time home secretary. But he
was the ruling spirit of the cabinet,--a man versatile, practical,
amiable, witty, and intensely English in all his prejudices. Whatever
office he held, he was always in harmony with public opinion. He was not
a man of great ideas or original genius, but was a ready debater,
understood the temper of the English people, and led them by adopting
their cause, whatever it was. Hence he was the most popular statesman of
the day, but according to Cobden the worst prime minister that England
ever had, since he was always keeping England in hot water and stirring
up strife on the Continent. His supreme policy, with an eye to English
interests on the Mediterranean and in Asia, was to cripple Russia.

Such a man, warlike, restless, and interfering in his foreign policy,
having in view the military aggrandizement of his country, eagerly
adopted the schemes of the French emperor; and little by little these
two men brought the English cabinet into a warlike attitude with Russia,
in spite of all that Lord Aberdeen could do. Slight concessions would
have led to peace; but neither Louis Napoleon nor Palmerston would allow
concessions, since both were resolved on war. Never was a war more
popular in England than that which Louis Napoleon and Palmerston
resolved to have. This explains the leniency of public opinion in
England toward a man who had stolen a sceptre. He was united with Great
Britain in a popular war.

The French emperor, however, had other reasons for seeking the alliance
of England in his war with Russia. It would give him a social prestige;
he would enter more easily into the family of European sovereigns; he
would be called _mon frere_ by the Queen of England, which royal name
Nicholas in his disdain refused to give him. If the Queen of England was
his friend and ally, all other sovereigns must welcome him into their
royal fraternity in spite of his political crimes, which were
universally detested. It is singular that England, after exhausting her
resources by a war of twenty years to dethrone Napoleon I., should
become the firmest ally and friend of Napoleon III., who trampled on all
constitutional liberty. But mutual interests brought them together; for
when has England turned her back on her interests, or what she supposed
to be her interests?

So war became inevitable. Napoleon III. triumphed. His co-operation with
England was sincere and hearty. Yea, so gratified and elated was he at
this stroke of good fortune, that he was ready to promise anything to
his ally, even to the taking a subordinate part in the war. He would
follow the dictation of the English ministers and the English generals.

It was the general opinion that the war would be short and glorious. At
first it was contemplated only to fight the Russians in Bulgaria, and
prevent their march across the Balkans, and thence to Constantinople.
The war was undertaken to assist the Turks in the defence of their
capital and territories. For this a large army was not indispensable;
hence the forces which were sent to Bulgaria were comparatively small.

When Nicholas discovered that he could not force his way to
Constantinople over the Balkans, and had withdrawn his forces from the
Danubian principalities, peace then might have been honorably declared
by all parties. France perhaps might have withdrawn from the contest,
which had effected the end at first proposed. But England not only had
been entangled in the war by the French alliance, but now was resolved
on taking Sebastopol, to destroy the power of Russia on the Euxine; and
France was compelled to complete what she had undertaken, although she
had nothing to gain beyond what she had already secured. To the credit
of Louis Napoleon, he proved a chivalrous and faithful ally, in
continuing a disastrous and expensive war for the glory of France and
the interests of England alone, although he made a separate peace as
soon as he could do so with honor.

It is not my purpose to repeat what I have already written on the
Crimean war, although the more I read and think about it the stronger is
my disapproval, on both moral and political grounds, of that needless
and unfortunate conflict,--unfortunate alike to all parties concerned.
It is a marvel that it did not in the end weaken the power and prestige
of both Palmerston and Napoleon III. It strengthened the hands of both,
as was foreseen by these astute statesmen. Napoleon III. after the war
was regarded as a far-seeing statesman, as well as an able
administrator. People no longer regarded him as a fool, or even a knave.
Success had shut the mouths of his enemies, except of a few obdurate
ones like Thiers and Victor Hugo,--the latter of whom in his voluntary
exile in Guernsey and Jersey still persisted in calling him "Napoleon
the Little." Thiers generally called him _Celui-ci,_--"That fellow."
This illustrious statesman, in his restless ambition and desire of
power, probably would have taken office under the man whom he both
despised and hated; but he dared not go against his antecedents, and was
unwilling to be a mere clerk, as all Louis Napoleon's ministers were,
whatever their abilities. He was supported by the army and the people,
and therefore was master of the situation. This was a fact which
everybody was compelled to acknowledge. It was easy to call him usurper,
tyrant, and fool,--anything; but he both "reigned and governed."

"When peace was finally restored, the empire presented the aspect of a
stable government, resting solidly upon the approval of a contented and
thriving people." This was the general opinion of those who were well
acquainted with French affairs, and of those who visited Paris, which
was then exceedingly prosperous. The city was filled with travellers,
who came to see the glory of success. Great architectural improvements
were then in progress, which gave employment to a vast number of men
theretofore leading a precarious life. The chief of these were the new
boulevards, constructed with immense expense,--those magnificent but
gloomy streets, which, lined with palaces and hotels, excited universal
admiration,--a wise expenditure on the whole, which promoted both beauty
and convenience, although to construct them a quarter of the city was
demolished. The Grand Opera-House arose over the _debris_ of the
demolished houses,--the most magnificent theatre erected in modern
times. Paris presented a spectacle of perpetual fetes, reviews of
troops, and illuminations, which both amused and distracted the people.
The Louvre was joined to the Tuileries by a grand gallery devoted
chiefly to works of art. The Champs Elysees and the Bois de Boulogne
were ornamented with new avenues, fountains, gardens, flowers, and
trees, where the people could pursue their pleasure unobstructed. The
number of beautiful equipages was vastly increased, and everything
indicated wealth and prosperity. The military was wisely kept out of
sight, except on great occasions, so that the people should not be
reminded of their loss of liberties; the police were courteous and
obliging, and interfered with no pleasures and no ordinary pursuits; the
shops blazed with every conceivable attraction; the fashionable churches
were crowded with worshippers and strangers to hear music which rivalled
that of the opera; the priests, in their ecclesiastical uniform, were
seen in every street with cheerful and beaming faces, for the government
sought their support and influence; the papers were filled with the
movements of the imperial court at races, in hunting-parties, and visits
to the _chateaux_ of the great. The whole city seemed to be absorbed in
pleasure or gain, and crowds swarmed at all places of amusement with
contented faces: there was no outward sign of despotism or unhappiness,
since everybody found employment. Even the idlers who frequented the
crowded cafes of the boulevards seemed to take unusual pleasure at their
games of dominoes and at their tables of beer and wine. Visitors
wondered at the apparent absence of all restraint from government and at
the personal liberty which everybody seemed practically to enjoy. For
ten years after the _coup d'etat_ it was the general impression that the
government of Louis Napoleon was a success. In spite of the predictions
and hostile criticisms of famous statesmen, it was, to all appearance at
least, stable, and the nation was prosperous.

The enemies that the emperor had the most cause to dread were these
famous statesmen themselves. Thiers, Guizot, Broglie, Odillon Barrot,
had all been prime ministers, and most of the rest had won their laurels
under Louis Philippe. They either declined to serve under Napoleon III.
or had been neglected by him; their political power had passed away.
They gave vent, whenever they could with personal safety, to their
spleen, to their disappointment, to their secret hostility; they all
alike prophesied evil; they all professed to believe that the emperor
could not maintain his position two years,--that he would be carried off
by assassination or revolution. And joined with them in bitter hatred
was the whole literary class,--like Victor Hugo, Lamartine, and
Cousin,--who hurled curses and defiance from their retreats, or from the
fashionable _salons_ and clubs which they frequented. The old noblesse
stood aloof. St. Germain was like a foreign city rather than a part of
Paris. All the traders among the Legitimists and Orleanists continued in
a state of secret hostility, and threw all the impediments they could
against the government.

The situation of Louis Napoleon was indeed extremely difficult and
critical. He had to fight against the combined influences of rank,
fashion, and intellect,--against an enlightened public opinion; for it
could not be forgotten that his power was usurped, and sustained by
brute force and the ignorant masses. He would have been nothing without
the army. In some important respects he showed marvellous astuteness and
political sagacity,--such, for instance, as in converting England from
an enemy to a friend. But he won England by playing the card of common
interests against Russia.

The emperor was afraid to banish the most eminent men in his empire; so
he tolerated them and hated them,--suspending over their heads the sword
of Damocles. This they understood, and kept quiet except among
themselves. But France was a hotbed of sedition and discontent during
the whole reign of Louis Napoleon, at least among the old government
leaders,--Orleanists, Legitimists, and Republicans alike.

Considering the difficulties and hatreds with which Napoleon III. had to
contend, I am surprised that his reign lasted as long as it did,--longer
than those of Louis XVIII. and Charles X. combined; longer than that of
Louis Philippe, with the aid of the middle classes and the ablest
statesmen of France,--an impressive fact, which indicates great ability
of some kind on the part of the despot. But he paid dearly for his
passion for power in the enormous debts entailed by his first war of
prestige, and in the death of more than a hundred thousand men in the
camps, on the field of battle, and in the hospitals. If he had had any
conscience he would have been appalled; but he had no conscience, any
more than his uncle, when anything stood in his way. The gratification
of his selfish ambition overmastered patriotism and real fame, and
prepared the way for his fall and the ignominy which accompanied it.

Had either of the monarchs who ruled France since the Revolution of 1791
been animated with a sincere desire for the public good, and been
contented to rule as a constitutional sovereign, as they all alike swore
to rule, I do not see why they might not have transmitted their thrones
to their heirs. Napoleon I. certainly could have perpetuated his empire
in his family had he not made such awful blunders as the invasion of
Spain and Russia, which made him unable to contend with external
enemies. Charles X. might have continued to reign had he not destroyed
all constitutional liberty. Louis Philippe might have transmitted his
power to the House of Orleans had he not sacrificed public interests to
his greediness for money and to his dynastic ambition. And Napoleon III.
might have reigned until he died had he fulfilled his promises to the
parties who elevated him; but he could have continued to reign in the
violation of his oaths only so long as his army was faithful and
successful. When at last hopelessly defeated and captured, his throne
instantly crumbled away; he utterly collapsed, and was nothing but a
fugitive. What a lesson this is to all ambitious monarchs who sacrifice
the interest of their country to personal aggrandizement! So long as a
nation sees the monarch laboring for the aggrandizement and welfare of
the country rather than of himself, it will rally around him and
venerate him, even if he leads his subjects to war and enrolls them in
his gigantic armies,--as in the case of the monarchs of Prussia since
Frederic II., and even those of Austria.

Napoleon III. was unlike all these, for with transcendent cunning and
duplicity he stole his throne, and then sacrificed the interests of
France to support his usurpation. That he was an adventurer--as his
enemies called him--is scarcely true; for he was born in the Tuileries,
was the son of a king, and nephew of the greatest sovereign of modern
times. So far as his usurpation can be palliated,--for it never can be
excused,--it must be by his deep-seated conviction that he was the heir
of his uncle, that the government of the empire belonged to him as a
right, and that he would ultimately acquire it by the will of the
people. Had Thiers or Guizot or Changarnier seized the reins, they would
have been adventurers. All men are apt to be called adventurers by their
detractors when they reach a transcendent position. Even such men as
Napoleon I., Cromwell, and Canning were stigmatized as adventurers by
their enemies. A poor artist who succeeds in winning a rich heiress is
often regarded as an adventurer, even though his ancestors have been
respectable and influential for four generations. Most successful men
owe their elevation to genius or patience or persistent industry rather
than to accidents or tricks. Louis Napoleon plodded and studied and
wrote for years with the ultimate aim of ruling France, even though he
"waded through slaughter to a throne;" and he would have deserved his
throne had he continued true to the principles he professed. What a name
he might have left had he been contented only to be President of a great
republic; for his elevation to the Presidency was legitimate, and even
after he became a despot he continued to be a high-bred gentleman in the
English sense, which is more than can be said of his uncle. No one has
ever denied that from first to last Louis Napoleon was courteous,
affable, gentle, patient, and kind, with a control over his feelings and
thoughts absolutely marvellous and unprecedented in a public man,--if we
except Disraeli. Nothing disturbed his serenity; very rarely was he seen
in a rage; he stooped and coaxed and flattered, even when he sent his
enemies to Cayenne.

The share taken by Napoleon III. in the affairs of Italy has already
been treated of, yet a look from that point of view may find place here.
The interference of Austria with the Italian States--not only her own
subjects there, but the independent States as well--has been called "a
standing menace to Europe." It was finally brought to a crisis of
conflict by the King of Sardinia, who had already provided himself with
a friend and ally in the French emperor; and when, on the 29th of April,
1859, Austria crossed the river Ticino in hostile array, the combined
French and Sardinian troops were ready to do battle. The campaign was
short, and everywhere disastrous to the Austrians; so that on July 6 an
armistice was concluded, and on July 12 the peace of Villa Franca ended
the war, with Lombardy ceded to Sardinia, while Nice and Savoy were the
reward of the French,--justifying by this addition to the territory and
glory of France the emperor's second war of prestige.

Louis Napoleon reached the culmination of his fame and of real or
supposed greatness--I mean his external power and grandeur, for I see no
evidence of real greatness except such as may be won by astuteness,
tact, cunning, and dissimulation--when he returned to Paris as the
conqueror of the Austrian armies. He was then generally supposed to be
great both as a general and as an administrator, when he was neither a
general nor an administrator, as subsequent events proved. But his court
was splendid; distinguished foreigners came to do him homage; even
monarchs sought his friendship, and a nod of his head was ominous. He
had delivered Italy as he had humiliated Russia; he had made France a
great political power; he had made Paris the most magnificent city of
the world (though at boundless expense), and everybody extolled the
genius of Hausmann, his engineer, who had created such material glories;
his fetes were beyond all precedent; his wife gave the law to fashions
and dresses, and was universally extolled for her beauty and graces; the
great industrial exhibition in 1855, which surpassed in attractiveness
that of London in 1851, drew strangers to his capital, and gave a
stimulus to art and industry. Certainly he seemed to be a most fortunate
man,--for the murmurs and intrigues of that constellation of statesmen
which grew up with the restoration of the Bourbons, and the antipathies
of editors and literary men, were not generally known. The army
especially gloried in the deeds of a man whose successes reminded them
of his immortal uncle; while the lavish expenditures of government in
every direction concealed from the eyes of the people the boundless
corruption by which the services of his officials were secured.

But this splendid exterior was deceptive, and a turn came to the
fortunes of Napoleon III.,--long predicted, yet unexpected. Constantly
on the watch for opportunities to aggrandize his name and influence, the
emperor allowed the disorders of civil war in Mexico--resulting in many
acts of injustice to foreigners there--to lead him into a combination
with England and Spain to interfere. This was in 1861, when the United
States were entering upon the terrific struggles of their own civil war,
and were not able to prevent this European interference, although
regarding it as most unfriendly to republican institutions. Within a
year England and Spain withdrew. France remained; sent more troops;
declared war on the government of President Juarez; fought some battles;
entered the City of Mexico; convened the "Assembly of Notables;" and, on
their declaring for a limited hereditary monarchy, the French emperor
proposed for their monarch the Archduke Maximilian,--younger brother of
Francis Joseph the Austrian emperor. Maximilian accepted, and in June,
1864, arrived,--upheld, however, most feebly by the "Notables," and
relying chiefly on French bayonets, which had driven Juarez to the
northern part of the country.

But against the expectation of Napoleon III, the great rebellion in the
United States collapsed, and this country became a military power which
Europe was compelled to respect: a nation that could keep in the field
over a million of soldiers was not to be despised. While the civil war
was in progress the United States government was compelled to ignore the
attempt to establish a French monarchy on its southern borders; but no
sooner was the war ended than it refused to acknowledge any government
in Mexico except that of President Juarez, which Louis Napoleon had
overthrown; so that although the French emperor had bound himself with
solemn treaties to maintain twenty-five thousand French troops in
Mexico, he was compelled to withdraw these forces and leave Maximilian
to his fate. He advised the young Austrian to save himself by
abdication, and to leave Mexico with the troops; but Maximilian felt
constrained by his sense of honor to remain, and refused. In March,
1867, this unfortunate prince was made prisoner by the republicans, and
was unscrupulously shot. His calamities and death excited the compassion
of Europe; and with it was added a profound indignation for the man who
had unwittingly lured him on to his ruin. Louis Napoleon's military
prestige received a serious blow, and his reputation as a statesman
likewise; and although the splendor of his government and throne was as
great as ever, his fall, in the eyes of the discerning, was near
at hand.

By this time Louis Napoleon had become prematurely old; he suffered
from acute diseases; his constitution was undermined; he was no longer
capable of carrying the burdens he had assumed; his spirits began to
fail; he lost interest in the pleasures which had at first amused him;
he found delight in nothing, not even in his reviews and fetes; he was
completely ennuied; his failing health seemed to affect his mind; he
became vacillating and irresolute; he lost his former energies. He saw
the gulf opening which was to swallow him up; he knew that his situation
was desperate, and that something must be done to retrieve his fortunes.
His temporary popularity with his own people was breaking, too;--the
Mexican _fiasco_ humiliated them. The internal affairs of the empire
were more and more interfered with and controlled by the Catholic
Church, through the intrigues and influence of the empress, a bigoted
Spanish Catholic,--and this was another source of unpopularity, for
France was not a priest-ridden country, and the emperor was blamed for
the growing ecclesiastical power in civil affairs. He had invoked war to
interest the people, and war had saved him for a time; but the
consequences of war pursued him. As he was still an overrated man, and
known to be restless and unscrupulous, Germany feared him, and quietly
armed, making preparations for an attack which seemed only too probable.
His negotiation with the King of Holland for the cession of the Duchy of
Luxemburg, by which acquisition he hoped to offset the disgrace which
his Mexican enterprise had caused, excited the jealousy of Prussia; for
by the treaties of 1815 Prussia obtained the right to garrison the
fortress,--the strongest in Europe next to Gibraltar,--and had no idea
of permitting it to fall into the hands of France.

The irresistible current which was then setting in for the union of the
German States under the rule of Prussia, and for which Bismarck had long
been laboring, as had Cavour for the unity of Italy, caused a great
outcry among the noisy but shallow politicians of Paris, who deluded
themselves with the idea that France was again invincible; and not only
they, but the French people generally, fancied that France was strong
enough to conquer half of Europe, The politicians saw in a war with
Prussia the aggrandizement of French interests, and did all they could
to hasten it on. It was popular with the nation at large, who saw only
one side; and especially so with the generals of the army, who aspired
to new laurels. Napoleon III. blustered and bullied and threatened,
which pleased his people; but in his heart he had his doubts, and had no
desire to attack Prussia so long as the independence of the southern
States of Germany was maintained. But when the designs of Bismarck
became more and more apparent to cement a united Germany, and thus to
raise up a most formidable military power, Louis Napoleon sought
alliances in anticipation of a conflict which could not be much
longer delayed.

First, the French emperor turned to Austria, whom he had humiliated at
Solferino and incensed by the aid which he had given to Victor Emmanuel
to break the Austrian domination in Italy, as well as outraged its
sympathies by his desertion of Maximilian in Mexico. No cordial alliance
could be expected from this Power, unless he calculated on its hostility
to Prussia for the victories she had lately won. Count Beust, the
Austrian chancellor, was a bitter enemy to Prussia, and hoped to regain
the ascendency which Austria had once enjoyed under Metternich. So
promises were made to the French emperor; but they were never kept, and
Austria really remained neutral in the approaching contest, to the great
disappointment of Napoleon III. He also sought the aid of Italy, which
he had reason to expect from the service he had rendered to Piedmont;
but the Garibaldians had embroiled France with the Italian people in
their attempt to overthrow the Papal government, which was protected by
French troops; and Louis Napoleon by the reoccupation of Rome seemed to
bar the union of the Italian people, passionately striving for national
unity. Thus the Italians also stood aloof from France, although Victor
Emmanuel personally was disposed to aid her.

In 1870 France found herself isolated, and compelled, in case of war
with Prussia, to fight single-handed. If Napoleon III. had exercised the
abilities he had shown at the beginning of his career, he would have
found means to delay a conflict for which he was not prepared, or avoid
it altogether; but in 1870 his intellect was shattered, and he felt
himself powerless to resist the current which was bearing him away to
his destruction. He showed the most singular incapacity as an
administrator. He did not really know the condition of his army; he
supposed he had four hundred and fifty thousand effective troops, but
really possessed a little over three hundred thousand, while Prussia had
over one-third more than this, completely equipped and disciplined, and
with improved weapons. He was deceived by the reports of his own
generals, to whom he had delegated everything, instead of looking into
the actual state of affairs himself, as his uncle would have done, and
as Thiers did under Louis Philippe. More than a third of his regiments
were on paper alone, or dwindled in size; the monstrous corruptions of
his reign had permeated every part of the country; the necessary arms,
ammunition, and material of war in general were deplorably deficient; no
official reports could be relied upon, and few of his generals could be
implicitly trusted. If ever infatuation blinded a nation to its fate, it
most signally marked France in 1870.

Nothing was now wanting but the spark to kindle the conflagration; and
this was supplied by the interference of the French government with the
nomination of a German prince to the vacant throne of Spain. The
Prussian king gave way in the matter of Prince Leopold, but refused
further concessions. Leopold was sufficiently magnanimous to withdraw
his claims, and here French interference should have ended. But France
demanded guarantees that no future candidate should be proposed without
her consent. Of course the Prussian king,--seeing with the keen eyes of
Bismarck, and armed to the teeth under the supervision of Moltke, the
greatest general of the age, who could direct, with the precision of a
steam-engine on a track, the movements of the Prussian army, itself a
mechanism,--treated with disdain this imperious demand from a power
which he knew to be inferior to his own. Count Bismarck craftily lured
on his prey, who was already goaded forward by his home war-party, with
the empress at their head; negotiations ceased, and Napoleon III. made
his fatal declaration of hostilities, to the grief of the few statesmen
who foresaw the end.

Even then the condition of France was not desperate if the government
had shown capacity; but conceit, vanity, and ignorance blinded the
nation. Louis Napoleon should have known, and probably did know, that
the contending forces were uneven; that he had no generals equal to
Moltke; that his enemies could crush him in the open field; that his
only hope was in a well-organized defence. But his generals rushed madly
on to destruction against irresistible forces, incapable of forming a
combination, while the armies they led were smaller than anybody
supposed. Napoleon III. hoped that by rapidity of movement he could
enter southern Germany before the Prussian armies could be massed
against him; but here he dreamed, for his forces were not ready at the
time appointed, and the Prussians crossed the Rhine without obstruction.
Then followed the battle of Worth, on the 6th of August, when Marshal
McMahon, with only forty-five thousand men, ventured to resist the
Prussian crown-prince with a hundred thousand, and lost consequently a
large part of his army, and opened a passage through the northern Vosges
to the German troops. On the same day Frossard's corps was defeated by
Prince Frederic Charles near Saarbruecken, while the French emperor
remained at Metz irresolute, infatuated, and helpless. On the 12th of
August he threw up the direction of his armies altogether, and appointed
Marshal Bazaine commander-in-chief,--thus proclaiming his own incapacity
as a general. Bazaine still had more than two hundred thousand men under
his command, and might have taken up a strong position on the Moselle,
or retreated in safety to Chalons; but he fell back on Gravelotte, when,
being defeated on the 18th, he withdrew within the defences of Metz. He
was now surrounded by two hundred and fifty thousand men, and he made no
effort to escape. McMahon attempted to relieve him, but was ordered by
the government at Paris to march to the defence of that city. On this
line, however, he got no farther than Sedan, where all was lost on
September 1,--the entire army and the emperor himself surrendering as
prisoners of war. The French had fought gallantly, but were outnumbered
at every point.

Nothing now remained to the conquerors but to advance to the siege of
Paris. The throne of Napoleon III. was overturned, and few felt sympathy
for his misfortunes, since he was responsible for the overwhelming
calamities which overtook his country, and which his country never
forgave. In less than a month he fell from what seemed to be the
proudest position in Europe, and stood out to the eye of the world in
all the hateful deformity of a defeated despot who deserved to fall. The
suddenness and completeness of his destruction has been paralleled only
by the defeat of the armies of Darius by Alexander the Great. All
delusions as to Louis Napoleon's abilities vanished forever. All his
former grandeur, even his services, were at once forgotten. He paid even
a sadder penalty than his uncle, who never lost the affections of his
subjects, while the nephew destroyed all rational hopes of the future
restoration of his family, and became accursed.

It is possible that the popular verdict in reference to Louis Napoleon,
on his fall, may be too severe. This world sees only success or failure
as the test of greatness. With the support of the army and the
police--the heads of which were simply his creatures, whom he had
bought, or who from selfish purposes had pushed him on in his hours of
irresolution and guided him--the _coup d'etat_ was not a difficult
thing, any more than any bold robbery; and with the control of the vast
machinery of government,--that machinery which is one of the triumphs of
civilization,--an irresistible power, it is not marvellous that he
retained his position in spite of the sneers or hostilities of statesmen
out of place, or of editors whose journals were muzzled or suppressed;
especially when the people saw great public improvements going on, had
both bread and occupation, read false accounts of military successes,
and were bewildered by fetes and outward grandeur. But when the army was
a sham, and corruption had pervaded every office under government; when
the expenses of living had nearly doubled from taxation, extravagance,
bad example, and wrong ideas of life; when trusted servants were turned
into secret enemies, incapable and false; when such absurd mistakes were
made as the expedition to Mexico, and the crowning folly of the war
with Prussia, proving the incapacity and folly of the master-hand,--the
machinery which directed the armies and the bureaus and all affairs of
State itself, broke down, and the catastrophe was inevitable.

Louis Napoleon certainly was not the same man in 1870 that he was in
1850. His burdens had proved too great for his intellect. He fell, and
disappeared from history in a storm of wrath and shame, which also hid
from the eyes of the people the undoubted services he had rendered to
the cause of order and law, and to that of a material prosperity which
was at one time the pride of his country and the admiration of the
whole world.

But a nation is greater than any individual, even if he be a miracle of
genius. When the imperial cause was lost, and the armies of France were
dispersed or shut up in citadels, and the hosts of Germany were
converging upon the capital, Paris resolved on sustaining a
siege--apparently hopeless--rather than yield to a conqueror before the
last necessity should open its gates. The self-sacrifices which its
whole population, supposed to be frivolous and enervated, made to
preserve their homes and their works of art; their unparalleled
sufferings; their patience and self-reliance under the most humiliating
circumstances; their fertility of resources; their cheerfulness under
hunger and privation; and, above everything else, their submission to
law with every temptation to break it,--proved that the spirit of the
nation was unbroken; that their passive virtues rivalled their most
glorious deeds of heroism; that, if light-headed in prosperity, they
knew how to meet adversity; and that they had not lost faith in the
greatness of their future.

Perhaps they would not have made so stubborn a resistance to destiny if
they had realized their true situation, but would have opened their
gates at once to overwhelming foes, as they did on the fall of the first
Napoleon. They probably calculated that Bazaine would make his escape
from Metz with his two hundred thousand men, find his way to the banks
of the Loire, rally all the military forces of the south of France, and
then march with his additional soldiers to relieve Paris, and drive back
the Germans to the Rhine.

But this was not to be, and it is idle to speculate on what might have
been done either to raise the siege of Paris--one of the most memorable
in the whole history of the world--or to prevent the advance of the
Germans upon the capital itself. It is remarkable that the Parisians
were able to hold out so long,--thanks to the genius and precaution of
Thiers, who had erected the formidable forts outside the walls of Paris
in the reign of Louis Philippe; and still more remarkable was the rapid
recovery of the French nation after such immense losses of men and
treasure, after one of the most signal and humiliating overthrows which
history records. Probably France was never stronger than she is to-day
in her national resources, in her readiness for war, and in the apparent
stability of her republican government,--which ensued after the collapse
of the Second Empire. She has been steady, persevering, and even patient
for a hundred years in her struggles for political freedom, whatever
mistakes she has made and crimes she has committed to secure this
highest boon which modern civilization confers. A great hero may fall, a
great nation may be enslaved; but the cause of human freedom will in
time triumph over all despots, over all national inertness, and all
national mistakes.


Abbott, M. Baxter, S.P. Day, Victor Hugo, Macrae, S.M. Smucker, F.M.
Whitehurst, have written more or less on Louis Napoleon. See Justin
McCarthy's Modern Leaders; Kinglake's Crimean War; History of the
Franco-German War; Lives of Bismarck, Moltke, Cavour; Life of Lord
Palmerston; Life of Nicholas; Life of Thiers; Harriet Martineau's
Biographical Sketches; W.R. Greg's Life of Todleben.




Before presenting Bismarck, it will be necessary to glance at the work
of those great men who prepared the way not only for him, but also for
the soldier Moltke,--men who raised Prussia from the humiliation
resulting from her conquest by Napoleon.

That humiliation was as complete as it was unexpected. It was even
greater than that of France after the later Franco-Prussian war. Prussia
was dismembered; its provinces were seized by the conqueror; its
population was reduced to less than four millions; its territory was
occupied by one hundred and fifty thousand French soldiers; the king
himself was an exile and a fugitive from his own capital; every sort of
indignity was heaped on his prostrate subjects, who were compelled to
pay a war indemnity beyond their power; trade and commerce were cut off
by Napoleon's Continental system; and universal poverty overspread the
country, always poor, and now poorer than ever. Prussia had no allies
to rally to her sinking fortunes; she was completely isolated. Most of
her fortresses were in the hands of her enemies, and the magnificent
army of which she had been so proud since the days of Frederic the Great
was dispersed. At the peace of Tilsit, in 1807, it looked as if the
whole kingdom was about to be absorbed in the empire of Napoleon, like
Bavaria and the Rhine provinces, and wiped out of the map of Europe like
unfortunate Poland.

But even this did not complete the humiliation. Napoleon compelled the
King of Prussia--Frederic William III.--to furnish him soldiers to fight
against Russia, as if Prussia were already incorporated with his own
empire and had lost her nationality. At that time France and Russia were
in alliance, and Prussia had no course to adopt but submission or
complete destruction; and yet Prussia refused in these evil days to join
the Confederation of the Rhine, which embraced all the German States at
the south and west of Austria and Prussia. Napoleon, however, was too
much engrossed in his scheme of conquering Spain, to swallow up Prussia
entirely, as he intended, after he should have subdued Spain. So, after
all, Prussia had before her only the fortune of Ulysses in the cave of
Polyphemus,--to be devoured the last.

The escape of Prussia was owing, on the one hand, to the necessity for
Napoleon to withdraw his main army from Prussia in order to fight in
Spain; and secondly, to the transcendent talents of a few patriots to
whom the king in his distress was forced to listen. The chief of these
were Stein, Hardenberg, and Scharnhorst. It was the work of Stein to
reorganize the internal administration of Prussia, including the
financial department; that of Hardenberg to conduct the ministry of
foreign affairs; and that of Scharnhorst to reorganize the military
power. The two former were nobles; the latter sprung from the people,--a
peasant's son; but they worked together in tolerable harmony,
considering the rival jealousies that at one time existed among all the
high officials, with their innumerable prejudices.

Baron von Stein, born in 1757, of an old imperial knightly family from
the country near Nassau, was as a youth well-educated, and at the age of
twenty-three entered the Prussian service under Frederic the Great, in
the mining department, where he gained rapid promotion. In 1786 he
visited England and made a careful study of her institutions, which he
profoundly admired. In 1787 he became a sort of provincial governor,
being director of the war and Domaine Chambers at Cleves and Hamm.

In 1804 Stein became Minister of Trade, having charge of excise,
customs, manufactures, and trade. The whole financial administration at
this time under King Frederick William III was in a state of great
confusion, from an unnecessary number of officials who did not work
harmoniously. There was too much "red tape." Stein brought order out of
confusion, simplified the administration, punished corruption, increased
the national credit, then at a very low ebb, and re-established the bank
of Prussia on a basis that enabled it to assist the government.

But a larger field than that of finance was opened to Stein in the war
of 1806. The king intrusted to him the portfolio of foreign
affairs,--not willingly, but because he regarded him as the ablest man
in the kingdom. Stein declined to be foreign minister unless he was
entirely unshackled, and the king was obliged to yield, for the
misfortunes of the country had now culminated in the disastrous defeat
at Friedland. The king, however, soon quarrelled with his minister,
being jealous of his commanding abilities, and unused to dictation from
any source. After a brief exile at Nassau, the peace of Tilsit having
proved the sagacity of his views, Stein returned to power as virtual
dictator of the kingdom, with the approbation of Napoleon; but his
dictatorship lasted only about a year, when he was again discharged.

During that year, 1807, Stein made his mark in Prussian history. Without
dwelling on details, he effected the abolition of serfdom in Prussia,
the trade in land, and municipal reforms, giving citizens
self-government in place of the despotism of military bureaus. He made
it his business to pay off the French war indemnity,--one hundred and
fifty million francs, a great sum for Prussia to raise when dismembered
and trodden in the dust under one hundred and fifty thousand French
soldiers,--and to establish a new and improved administrative system.
But, more than all, he attempted to rouse a moral, religious, and
patriotic spirit in the nation, and to inspire it anew with courage,
self-confidence, and self-sacrifice. In 1808 the ministry became warlike
in spite of its despair, the first glimpse of hope being the popular
rising in Spain. It was during the ministry of Stein, and through his
efforts, that the anti-Napoleonic revolution began.

The intense hostility of Stein to Napoleon, and his commanding
abilities, led Napoleon in 1808 imperatively to demand from the King of
Prussia the dismissal of his minister; and Frederick William dared not
resist. Stein did not retire, however, until after the royal edict had
emancipated the serfs of Prussia, and until that other great reform was
made by which the nobles lost the monopoly of office and exemption from
taxation, while the citizen class gained admission to all posts, trades,
and occupations. These great reforms were chiefly to be traced to Stein,
although Hardenberg and others, like Schoen and Niebuhr, had a hand
in them.

Stein also opened the military profession to the citizen class, which
before was closed, only nobles being intrusted with command in the army.
It is true that nobles still continued to form a large majority of
officers, even as peasants formed the bulk of the army. But the removal
of restrictions and the abolition of serfdom tended to create patriotic
sentiments among all classes, on which the strength of armies in no
small degree rests. In the time of Frederic the Great the army was a
mere machine. It was something more when the nation in 1811 rallied to
achieve its independence. Then was born the idea of nationality,--that,
whatever obligations a Prussian owed to the state, Germany was greater
than Prussia itself. This idea was the central principle of Stein's
political system, leading ultimately to the unity of Germany as finally
effected by Bismarck and Moltke. It became almost synonymous with that
patriotism which sustains governments and thrones, the absence of which
was the great defect of the German States before the times of Napoleon,
when both princes and people lost sight of the unity of the nation in
the interests of petty sovereignties.

Stein was a man of prodigious energy, practical good sense, and lofty
character, but irascible, haughty, and contemptuous, and was far from
being a favorite with the king and court. His great idea was the unity
and independence of Germany. He thought more of German nationality than
of Prussian aggrandizement. It was his aim to make his countrymen feel
that they were Germans rather than Prussians, and that it was only by a
union of the various German States that they could hope to shake off the
French yoke, galling and humiliating beyond description.

When Stein was driven into exile at the dictation of Napoleon, with the
loss of his private fortune, he was invited by the Emperor of Russia to
aid him with his counsels,--and it can be scarcely doubted that in the
employ of Russia he rendered immense services to Germany, and had no
little influence in shaping the movements of the allies in effecting the
ruin of the common despot. On this point, however, I cannot dwell.

Count, afterward Prince, Hardenberg, held to substantially the same
views, and was more acceptable to the king as minister than was the
austere and haughty Stein, although his morals were loose, and his
abilities far inferior to those of the former. But his diplomatic
talents were considerable, and his manners were agreeable, like those of
Metternich, while Stein treated kings and princes as ordinary men, and
dictated to them the course which was necessary to pursue. It was the
work of Hardenberg to create the peasant-proprietorship of modern
Prussia; but it was the previous work of Stein to establish free trade
in land,--which means the removal of hindrances to the sale and purchase
of land, which still remains one of the abuses of England,--the ultimate
effect of which was to remove caste in land as well as caste in persons.

The great educational movement, in the deepest depression of Prussian
affairs, was headed by William, Baron von Humboldt. When Prussia lay
disarmed, dismembered, and impoverished, the University of Berlin was
founded, the government contributing one hundred and fifty thousand
thalers a year; and Humboldt--the first minister of public
instruction--succeeded in inducing the most eminent and learned men in
Germany to become professors in this new university. I look upon this
educational movement in the most gloomy period of German history as one
of the noblest achievements which any nation ever made in the cause of
science and literature. It took away the sting of military ascendency,
and raised men of genius to an equality with nobles; and as the
universities were the centres of liberal sentiments and all liberalizing
ideas, they must have exerted no small influence on the war of
liberation itself, as well as on the cause of patriotism, which was the
foundation of the future greatness of Prussia. Students flocked from all
parts of Germany to hear lectures from accomplished and patriotic
professors, who inculcated the love of fatherland. Germany, though
fallen into the hands of a military hero from defects in the
administration of governments and armies, was not disgraced when her
professors in the university were the greatest scholars of the world.
They created a new empire, not of the air, as some one sneeringly
remarked, but of mind, which has gone on from conquering to conquer. For
more than fifty years German universities have been the centre of
European thought and scholastic culture,--pedantic, perhaps, but
original and profound.

Before proceeding to the main subject, I have to speak of one more great
reform, which was the work of Scharnhorst. This was that series of
measures which determined the result of the greatest military struggles
of the nineteenth century, and raised Prussia to the front rank of
military monarchies. It was the _levee en masse_, composed of the youth
of the nation, without distinction of rank, instead of an army made up
of peasants and serfs and commanded by their feudal masters. Scharnhorst
introduced a compulsory system, indeed, but it was not unequal. Every
man was made to feel that he had a personal interest in defending his
country, and there were no exemptions made. True, the old system of
Frederic the Great was that of conscription; but from this conscription
large classes and whole districts were exempted, while the soldiers who
fought in the war of liberation were drawn from all classes alike:
hence, there was no unjust compulsion, which weakens patriotism, and
entails innumerable miseries. It was impossible in the utter exhaustion
of the national finances to raise a sufficient number of volunteers to
meet the emergencies of the times; therefore, if Napoleon was to be
overthrown, it was absolutely necessary to compel everybody to serve in
the army for a limited period, The nation saw the necessity, and made no
resistance. Thus patriotism lent her aid, and became an overwhelming
power. The citizen soldier was no great burden on the government, since
it was bound to his support only for a limited period,--long or short as
the exigency of the country demanded. Hence, large armies were
maintained at comparatively trifling expense.

I need not go into the details of a system which made Prussia a nation
of patriots as well as of soldiers, and which made Scharnhorst a great
national benefactor, sharing with Stein the glory of a great
deliverance. He did not live to see the complete triumph of his system,
matured by genius and patient study; but his work remained to future
generations, and made Prussia invincible except to a coalition of
powerful enemies. All this was done under the eye of Napoleon, and a
dreamy middle class became an effective soldiery. So, too, did the
peasants, no longer subjected to corporal punishment and other
humiliations. What a great thing it was to restore dignity to a whole
nation, and kindle the fires of patriotic ardor among poor and rich
alike! To the credit of the king, he saw the excellence of the new
system, at once adopted it, and generously rewarded its authors.
Scharnhorst, the peasant's son, was made a noble, and was retained in
office until he died. Stein, however, whose overshadowing greatness
created jealousy, remained simply a baron, and spent his last days in
retirement,--though not unhonored, or without influence, even when not
occupying the great offices of state, to which no man ever had a higher
claim. The king did not like him, and the king was still an
absolute monarch.

Frederick William III. was by no means a great man, being jealous,
timid, and vacillating; but it was in his reign that Prussia laid the
foundation of her greatness as a military monarchy. It was not the king
who laid this foundation, but the great men whom Providence raised up in
the darkest hours of Prussia's humiliation. He did one prudent thing,
however, out of timidity, when his ministers waged vigorous and
offensive measures. He refused to arm against Napoleon when Prussia lay
at his mercy. This turned out to be the salvation of Prussia, A weak
man's instincts proved to be wiser than the wisdom of the wise. When
Napoleon's doom was sealed by his disasters in Russia, then, and not
till then, did the Prussian king unite with Russia and Austria to crush
the unscrupulous despot.

The condition of Prussia, then, briefly stated, when Napoleon was sent
to St. Helena to meditate and die, was this: a conquering army, of which
Bluecher was one of its greatest generals, had been raised by the _levee
en masse_,--a conscription, indeed, not of peasants alone, obliged to
serve for twenty years, but of the whole nation, for three years of
active service; and a series of administrative reforms had been
introduced and extended to every department of the State, by which
greater economy and a more complete system were inaugurated, favoritism
abolished, and the finances improved so as to support the government and
furnish the sinews of war; while alliances were made with great Powers
who hitherto had been enemies or doubtful friends.

These alliances resulted in what is called the German Confederation, or
Bund,--a strict union of all the various States for defensive purposes,
and also to maintain a general system to suppress revolutionary and
internal dissensions. Most of the German States entered into this
Confederacy, at the head of which was Austria. It was determined in
June, 1815, at Vienna, that the Confederacy should be managed by a
general assembly, called a Diet, the seat of which was located at
Frankfort. In this Diet the various independent States, thirty-nine in
number, had votes in proportion to their population, and were bound to
contribute troops of one soldier to every hundred inhabitants, amounting
to three hundred thousand in all, of which Austria and Prussia and
Bavaria furnished more than half. This arrangement virtually gave to
Austria and Prussia a preponderance in the Diet; and as the States were
impoverished by the late war, and the people generally detested war, a
long peace of forty years (with a short interval of a year) was secured
to Germany, during which prosperity returned and the population nearly
doubled. The Germans turned their swords into pruning-hooks, and all
kinds of industry were developed, especially manufactures. The cities
were adorned with magnificent works of art, and libraries, schools, and
universities covered the land. No nation ever made a more signal
progress in material prosperity than did the German States during this
period of forty years,--especially Prussia, which became in addition
intellectually the most cultivated country in Europe, with twenty-one
thousand primary schools, and one thousand academies, or gymnasia, in
which mathematics and the learned languages were taught by accomplished
scholars; to say nothing of the universities, which drew students from
all Christian and civilized countries in both hemispheres.

The rapid advance in learning, however, especially in the universities
and the gymnasia, led to the discussion of innumerable subjects,
including endless theories of government and the rights of man, by which
discontent was engendered and virtue was not advanced. Strange to say,
even crime increased. The universities became hot-beds of political
excitement, duels, beer-drinking, private quarrels, and infidel
discussion, causing great alarm to conservative governments and to
peaceful citizens generally. At last the Diet began to interfere, for it
claimed the general oversight of all internal affairs in the various
States. An army of three hundred thousand men which obeyed the dictation
of the Diet was not to be resisted; and as this Diet was controlled by
Austria and Prussia, it became every year more despotic and
anti-democratic. In consequence, the Press was gradually fettered, the
universities were closely watched, and all revolutionary movements in
cities were suppressed. Discontent and popular agitations, as usual,
went hand in hand.

As early as 1818 the great reaction against all liberal sentiments in
political matters had fairly set in. The king of Prussia neglected, and
finally refused, to grant the constitutional government which he had
promised in the day of his adversity before the battle of Waterloo;
while Austria, guided by Metternich, stamped her iron heel on everything
which looked like intellectual or national independence.

This memorable reaction against all progress in government, not confined
to the German States but extending to Europe generally, has already been
considered in previous chapters. It was the great political feature in
the history of Europe for ten years after the fall of Napoleon,
particularly in Austria, where hatred of all popular movements raged
with exceeding bitterness, intensified by the revolutions in Spain,
Italy, and Greece. The assassination of Kotzebue, the dramatic author,
by a political fanatic, for his supposed complicity with the despotic
schemes of the Czar, kindled popular excitement into a blazing flame,
but still more fiercely incited the sovereigns of Germany to make every
effort to suppress even liberty of thought.

During the period, then, when ultra-conservative principles animated the
united despots of the various German States, and the Diet controlled by
Metternich repressed all liberal movements, little advance was made in
Prussia in the way of reforms. But a great advance was made in all
questions of political economy and industrial matters. Free-trade was
established in the most unlimited sense between all the states and
provinces of the Confederation. All restraints were removed from the
navigation of rivers; new markets were opened in every direction for the
productions of industry. In 1839 the Zollverein, or Customs-Union, was
established, by which a uniform scale of duties was imposed in Northern
Germany on all imports and exports. But no political reforms which the
king had promised were effected during the life of Frederick William
III. Hardenberg, who with Stein had inaugurated liberal movements, had
lost his influence, although he was retained in power until he died.

For the twenty years succeeding the confederation of the German States
in 1820, constitutional freedom made little or no progress in Germany.
The only advance made in Prussia was in 1823, when the Provincial
Estates, or Diets, were established. These, however, were the mere
shadow of representative government, since the Estates were convoked at
irregular intervals, and had neither the power to initiate laws nor
grant supplies. They could only express their opinions concerning
changes in the laws pertaining to persons and property.

On the 7th of June, 1840, Frederick William III. of Prussia died, and
was succeeded by his son Frederick William IV., a religious and
patriotic king, who was compelled to make promises for some sort of
constitutional liberty, and to grant certain concessions, which although
they did not mean much gave general satisfaction. Among other things the
freedom of the Press was partially guaranteed, with certain
restrictions, and the Zollverein was extended to Brunswick and
Hesse-Homburg. Meantime the government entered with zeal upon the
construction of railways and the completion of the Cathedral of Cologne,
which tended to a more permanent union of the North German States. "We
are not engaged here," said the new monarch, on the inauguration of the
completion of that proudest work of mediaeval art, "with the
construction of an ordinary edifice; it is a work bespeaking the spirit
of union and concord which animates the whole of Germany and all its
persuasions, that we are now constructing." This inauguration, amid
immense popular enthusiasm, was soon followed by the meeting of the
Estates of the whole kingdom at Berlin, which for the first time united
the various Provincial Estates in a general Diet; but its functions were
limited to questions involving a diminution of taxation. No member was
allowed to speak more than once on any question, and the representatives
of the commons were only a third part of the whole assembly. This
naturally did not satisfy the nation, and petitions flowed in for the
abolition of the censorship of the Press and for the publicity of
debate. The king was not prepared to make these concessions in full,
but he abolished the censorship of the Press as to works extending to
above twenty pages, and enjoined the censors of lesser pamphlets and
journals to exercise gentleness and discretion, and not erase anything
which did not strike at the monarchy. At length, in 1847, the desire was
so universal for some form of representative government that a royal
edict convoked a General Assembly of the Estates of Prussia, arranged in
four classes,--the nobles, the equestrian order, the towns, and the
rural districts. The Diet consisted of six hundred and seventy members,
of which only eighty were nobles, and was empowered to discuss all
questions pertaining to legislation; but the initiative of all measures
was reserved to the crown. This National Diet assembled on the 24th of
July, and was opened by the king in person, with a noble speech,
remarkable for its elevation of tone. He convoked the Diet, the king
said, to make himself acquainted with the wishes and wants of his
people, but not to change the constitution, which guaranteed an absolute
monarchy. The province of the Diet was consultative rather than
legislative. Political and military power, as before, remained with the
king. Still, an important step had been taken toward representative

It was about this time, as a member of the National Diet, that Otto
Edward Leopold von Bismarck appeared upon the political stage. It was a
period of great political excitement, not only in Prussia, but
throughout Europe, and also of great material prosperity. Railways had
been built, the Zollverein had extended through North Germany, the
universities were in their glory, and into everything fearless thinkers
were casting their thoughtful eyes. Thirty-four years of peace had
enriched and united the German States. The great idea of the day was
political franchise. Everybody aspired to solve political problems, and
wished to have a voice in deliberative assemblies. There was also an
unusual agitation of religious ideas. Rouge had attempted the complete
emancipation of Germany from Papal influences, and university professors
threw their influence on the side of rationalism and popular liberty. On
the whole, there was a general tendency towards democratic ideas, which
was opposed with great bitterness by the conservative parties, made up
of nobles and government officials.

Bismarck arose, slowly but steadily, with the whole force of his genius,
among the defenders of the conservative interests of his order and of
the throne. He was then simply Herr von Bismarck, belonging to an
ancient and noble but not wealthy family, whose seat was Schoenhausen,
where the future prince was born, April 1, 1815. The youth was sent to a
gymnasium in Berlin in 1830, and in 1832 to the university of Goettingen
in Hanover, where he was more distinguished for duels, drinking-parties,
and general lawlessness than for scholarship. Here he formed a memorable
friendship with a brother student, a young American,--John Lothrop
Motley, later the historian of the Dutch Republic. Much has been written
of Bismarck's reckless and dissipated life at the university, which
differed not essentially from that of other nobles. He had a grand
figure, superb health, extraordinary animal spirits, and could ride like
a centaur. He spent but three semestres at Goettingen, and then repaired
to Berlin in order to study jurisprudence under the celebrated Savigny;
but he was rarely seen in the lecture-room. He gave no promise of the
great abilities which afterward distinguished him. Yet he honorably
passed his State examination; and as he had chosen the law for his
profession, he first served on leaving the university as a sort of clerk
in the city police, and in 1834 was transferred to Aix-la-Chapelle, in
the administrative department of the district. In 1837 he served in the
crown office at Potsdam. He then entered for a year as a sharpshooter of
the Guards, to absolve his obligation to military service.

The next eight years, from the age of twenty-four, he devoted to
farming, hunting, carousing, and reading, on one of his father's estates
in Pomerania. He was a sort of country squire, attending fairs, selling
wool, inspecting timber, handling grain, gathering rents, and sitting as
a deputy in the local Diet,--the talk and scandal of the neighborhood
for his demon-like rides and drinking-bouts, yet now studying all the
while, especially history and even philosophy, managing the impoverished
paternal estates with prudence and success, and making short visits to
France and England, the languages of which countries he could speak with
fluency and accuracy. In 1847 he married Johanna von Putkammer, nine
years younger than himself, who proved a model wife, domestic and wise,
of whom he was both proud and fond. The same year, his father having
died and left him Schoenhausen, he was elected a member of the Landtag, a
quasi-parliament of the eight united Diets of the monarchy; and his
great career began.

Up to this period Bismarck was not a publicly marked man, except in an
avidity for country sports and skill in horsemanship. He ever retained
his love of the country and of country life. If proud and overbearing,
he was not ostentatious. He had but few friends, but to these he was
faithful. He never was popular until he had made Prussia the most
powerful military State in Europe. He never sought to be loved so much
as to be feared; he never allowed himself to be approached without
politeness and deference. He seemed to care more for dogs than men. Nor
was he endowed with those graces of manner which marked Metternich. He
remained harsh, severe, grave, proud through his whole career, from
first to last, except in congenial company. What is called society he
despised, with all his aristocratic tendencies and high social rank. He
was born for untrammelled freedom, and was always impatient under
contradiction or opposition. When he reached the summit of his power he
resembled Wallenstein, the hero of the Thirty Years War,--superstitious,
self-sustained, unapproachable, inspiring awe, rarely kindling love,
overshadowing by his vast abilities the monarch whom he served
and ruled.

No account of the man, however, would be complete which did not
recognize the corner-stone of his character,--an immovable belief in the
feudalistic right of royalty to rule its subjects. Descended from an
ancient family of knights and statesmen, of the most intensely
aristocratic and reactionary class even in Germany, his inherited
instincts and his own tremendous will, backed by a physique of colossal
size and power, made effective his loyalty to the king and the monarchy,
which from the first dominated and inspired him. In the National Diet of
1847, Herr von Bismarck sat for more than a month before he opened his
lips; but when he did speak it became evident that he was determined to
support to the utmost the power of the crown. He was _plus royaliste
que le roi._ In the ordinary sense he was no orator. He hesitated, he
coughed, he sought for words; his voice, in spite of his herculean
frame, was feeble. But sturdy in his loyalty, although inexperienced in
parliamentary usage, he offered a bold front to the liberalism which he
saw to be dangerous to his sovereign's throne. Like Oliver Cromwell in
Parliament, he gained daily in power, while, unlike the English
statesman, he was opposed to the popular side, and held up the monarchy
after the fashion of Strafford. From that time, and in fact until 1866,
when he conquered Austria, Bismarck was very unpopular; and as he rose
in power he became the most bitterly hated man in Prussia,--which hatred
he returned with arrogant contempt. He consistently opposed all reforms,
even the emancipation of the Jews, which won him the favor of
the monarch.

When the revolution of 1848 broke out, which hurled Louis Philippe from
the French throne its flames reached every continental State except
Russia. Metternich, who had been all powerful in Austria for forty
years, was obliged to flee, as well as the imperial family itself. All
the Germanic States were now promised liberal constitutions by the
fallen or dismayed princes. In Prussia, affairs were critical, and the
reformers were sanguine of triumph. Berlin was agitated by mobs to the
verge of anarchy. The king, seriously alarmed, now promised the boon
which he had thus far withheld, and summoned the Second United Diet to
pave the way for a constituent assembly. In this constituent assembly
Bismarck scorned to sit. For six months it sat squabbling and fighting,
but accomplishing nothing. At last, Bismarck found it expedient to enter
the new parliament as a deputy, and again vigorously upheld the absolute
power of the crown. He did, indeed, accept the principle of
constitutional government, but, as he frankly said, against his will,
and only as a new power in the hands of the monarch to restrain popular
agitation and maintain order. Through his influence the king refused the
imperial crown offered by the Frankfort parliament, because he conceived
that the parliament had no right to give it, that its acceptance would
be a recognition of national instead of royal sovereignty, and that it
would be followed probably by civil war. As time went on he became more
and more the leader of the conservatives. I need not enumerate the
subjects which came up for discussion in the new Prussian parliament, in
which Bismarck exhibited with more force than eloquence his loyalty to
the crown, and a conservatism which was branded by the liberals as
mediaeval. But his originality, his boldness, his fearlessness, his
rugged earnestness, his wit and humor, his biting sarcasm, his
fertility of resources, his knowledge of men and affairs, and his
devoted patriotism, marked him out for promotion.

In 1851 Bismarck was sent as first secretary of the Prussian embassy to
the Diet of the various German States, convened at Frankfort, in which
Austria held a predominating influence. It was not a parliament, but an
administrative council of the Germanic Confederation founded by the
Congress of Vienna in 1815. It made no laws, and its sittings were
secret. It was a body which represented the League of Sovereigns, and
was composed of only seventeen delegates,--its main function being to
suppress all liberal movements in the various German States; like the
Congress of Vienna itself. The Diet of Frankfort was pretentious, but
practically impotent, and was the laughingstock of Europe. It was full
of jealousies and intrigues. It was a mere diplomatic conference. As
Austria and Prussia controlled it, things went well enough when these
two Powers were agreed; but they did not often agree. There was a
perpetual rivalry between them, and an unextinguishable jealousy.

There were many sneers at the appointment of a man to this diplomatic
post whose manners were brusque and overbearing, and who had spent the
most of his time, after leaving the university, among horses, cattle,
and dogs; who was only a lieutenant of militia, with a single
decoration, and who was unacquainted with what is called diplomacy. But
the king knew his man, and the man was conscious of his powers.

Bismarck found life at Frankfort intolerably dull. He had a contempt for
his diplomatic associates generally, and made fun of them to his few
intimate friends. He took them in almost at a glance, for he had an
intuitive knowledge of character; he weighed them in his balance, and
found them wanting. In a letter to his wife, he writes: "Nothing but
miserable trifles do these people trouble themselves about. They strike
me as infinitely more ridiculous with their important ponderosity
concerning the gathered rags of gossip, than even a member of the Second
Chamber of Berlin in the full consciousness of his dignity.... The men
of the minor States are mostly mere caricatures of periwig diplomatists,
who at once put on their official visage if I merely beg of them a light
to my cigar."

His extraordinary merits were however soon apparent to the king, and
even to his chief, old General Rochow, who was soon transferred to St.
Petersburg to make way for the secretary. The king's brother William,
Prince of Prussia, when at Frankfort, was much impressed by the young
Prussian envoy to the Bund, and there was laid the foundation of the
friendship between the future soldier-king and the future chancellor,
between whom there always existed a warm confidence and esteem. Soon
after, Bismarck made the acquaintance of Metternich, who had ruled for
so long a time both the Diet and the Empire. The old statesman, now
retired, invited the young diplomatist to his castle at Johannisberg.
They had different aims, but similar sympathies. The Austrian statesman
sought to preserve the existing state of things; the Prussian, to make
his country dominant over Germany. Both were aristocrats, and both were
conservative; but Metternich was as bland and polished as Bismarck was
rough and brusque.

Nothing escaped the watchful eye of Bismarck at Frankfort as the
ambassador of Prussia. He took note of everything, both great and small,
and communicated it to Berlin as if he were a newspaper correspondent.
In everything he showed his sympathy with absolutism, and hence
recommended renewed shackles on the Press and on the universities,--at
that time the hotbed of revolutionary ideas. His central aim and
constant thought was the ascendency of Prussia,--first in royal strength
at home, then throughout Germany as the rival of Austria. Bismarck was
not only a keen observer, but he soon learned to disguise his thoughts.
Nobody could read him. He was frank when his opponents were full of
lies, knowing that he would not be believed. He became a perfect master
of the art of deception. No one was a match for him in statecraft. Even
Prince Gortschakoff became his dupe. By his tact he kept Prussia from
being entangled by the usurpation of Napoleon III., and by the Crimean
war. He saw into the character of the French emperor, and discovered
that he was shallow, and not to be feared. At Frankfort, Bismarck had
many opportunities of seeing distinguished men of all nations; he took
their gauge, and penetrated the designs of cabinets. He counselled his
master to conciliate Napoleon, though regarding him as an upstart; and
he sought the friendship of France in order to eclipse the star of
Austria, whom it was necessary to humble before Prussia could rise. In
his whole diplomatic career at Frankfort it was Bismarck's aim to
contravene the designs of Austria, having in view the aggrandizement of
Prussia as the true head and centre of German nationality. He therefore
did all he could to prevent Austria from being assisted in her war with
Italy, and rejoiced in her misfortunes. In the meantime he made frequent
short visits to Holland, Denmark, Italy, and Hungary, acquired the
languages of these countries, and made himself familiar with their
people and institutions, besides shrewdly studying the characters,
manners, and diplomatic modes of the governing classes of European
nations at large. Cool, untiring, self-possessed, he was storing up
information and experience.

At the end of eight years, in 1859, Bismarck was transferred to St.
Petersburg as the Prussian ambassador to Alexander II. He was then
forty-three years of age, and was known as the sworn foe of Austria. His
free-and-easy but haughty manners were a great contrast to those of his
stiff, buttoned-up, and pretentious predecessors; and he became a great
favorite in Russian court circles. The comparatively small salary he
received,--less than twenty thousand dollars, with a house,--would not
allow him to give expensive entertainments, or to run races in
prodigality with the representatives of England, France, or even
Austria, who received nearly fifty thousand dollars. But no parties were
more sought or more highly appreciated than those which his sensible and
unpretending wife gave in the high society in which they moved. With the
empress-dowager he was an especial favorite, and was just the sort of
man whom the autocrat of all the Russias would naturally like,
especially for his love of hunting, and his success in shooting deer and
bears. He did not go to grand parties any more than he could help,
despising their ostentation and frivolity, and always feeling the
worse for them.

On the 2d of January, 1861, Frederick William IV., who had for some time
been insane, died, and was succeeded by the Prince Regent, William I.,
already in his sixty-fifth year, every inch a soldier and nothing else.
Bismarck was soon summoned to the councils of his sovereign at Berlin,
who was perplexed and annoyed by the Liberal party, which had the
ascendency in the lower Chamber of the general Diet. Office was pressed
upon Bismarck, but before he accepted it he wished to study Napoleon and
French affairs more closely, and was therefore sent as ambassador to
Paris in 1862. He made that year a brief visit to London, Disraeli being
then the premier, who smiled at his schemes for the regeneration of
Germany. It was while journeying amid the Pyrenees that Bismarck was
again summoned to Berlin, the lower Chamber having ridden rough-shod
over his Majesty's plans for army reform. The king invested him with the
great office of President of the Ministry, his abilities being
universally recognized.

It was now Bismarck's mission to break the will of the Prussian
parliament, and to thrust Austria out of the Germanic body. He
considered only the end in view, caring nothing for the means: he had no
scruples. It was his religion to raise Prussia to the same ascendency
that Austria had held under Metternich. He had a master whose will and
ambition were equal to his own, yet whose support he was sure of in
carrying out his grand designs. He was now a second Richelieu, to whom
the aggrandizement of the monarchy which he served and the welfare of
Fatherland were but convertible terms. He soon came into bitter
conflict, not with nobles, but with progressive liberals in the Chamber,
who detested him and feared him, but to whom he did not condescend to
reveal his plans,--bearing obloquy with placidity in the greatness of
the end he had in view. He was a self-sustained, haughty, unapproachable
man of power, except among the few friends whom he honored as boon
companions, without ever losing his discretion,--wearing a mask with
apparent frankness, and showing real frankness in matters which did not
concern secrets of state, especially on the subjects of education and
religion. Like his master, he was more a Calvinist than a Lutheran. He
openly avowed his dependence on Almighty God, and on him alone, as the
hope of nations. In this respect we trace a resemblance to Oliver
Cromwell rather than to Frederic the Great. Bismarck was a compound of
both, in his patriotism and his unscrupulousness.

The first thing that King William and his minister did was to double the
army. But this vast increase of military strength seemed unnecessary to
the Liberal party, and the requisite increase of taxes to support it was
unpopular. Hence, Bismarck was brought in conflict with the lower
Chamber, which represented the middle classes. He dared not tell his
secret schemes without imperilling their success, which led to grave
misunderstandings. For four years the conflict raged between the crown
and the parliament, both the king and Bismarck being inflexible; and the
lower House was equally obstinate in refusing to grant the large
military supplies demanded. At last, Bismarck dissolved the Chambers,
and the king declared that as the Three Estates could not agree, he
should continue to do his duty by Prussia without regard to "these
pieces of paper called constitutions." The next four sessions of the
Chamber were closed in the same manner. Bismarck admitted that he was
acting unconstitutionally, but claimed the urgency of public necessity.
In the public debates he was cool, sarcastic, and contemptuous. The
Press took up the fight, and the Press was promptly muzzled. Bismarck
was denounced as a Catiline, a Strafford, a Polignac; but he retained a
provoking serenity, and quietly prepared for war,--since war, he
foresaw, was sooner or later inevitable. "Nothing can solve the
question," said he, "but blood and iron."

At last an event occurred which showed his hand. In November, 1863,
Frederick VII., the king of Denmark, died. By his death the
Schleswig-Holstein question again burst upon distracted Europe,--Who was
to reign over the two Danish provinces? The king of Denmark, as Duke of
Schleswig and Holstein, had been represented in the Germanic Diet. By
the treaty of London, in 1852, he had undertaken not to incorporate the
duchies with the rest of his monarchy, allowing them to retain their
traditional autonomy. In 1863, shortly before his death, Frederick VII.
by a decree dissolved this autonomy, and virtually incorporated
Schleswig, which was only partly German, with the Danish monarchy,
leaving the wholly German Holstein as before. Bismarck protested against
this violation of treaty obligations. The Danish parliament nevertheless
passed a law which incorporated the province with Denmark; and Christian
IX., the new monarch, confirmed the law.

But a new claimant to the duchies now appeared in the person of
Frederick of Augustenburg, a German prince; and the Prussian Chamber
advocated his claims, as did the Diet itself; but the throne held its
opinion in reserve. Bismarck contrived (by what diplomatic tricks and
promises it is difficult to say) to induce Austria to join with Prussia
in seizing the provinces in question and in dividing the spoil between
them. As these two Powers controlled the Diet at Frankfort, it was easy
to carry out the programme. An Austro-Prussian army accordingly invaded
Schleswig-Holstein, and to the scandal of all Europe drove the Danish
defenders to the wall. It was regarded in the same light as the seizure
of Silesia by Frederic the Great,--a high-handed and unscrupulous
violation of justice and right. England was particularly indignant, and
uttered loud protests. So did the lesser States of Germany, jealous of
the aggrandizement of Prussia. Even the Prussian Chamber refused to
grant the money for such an enterprise.

But Bismarck laughed in his sleeve. This arch-diplomatist had his
reasons, which he did not care to explain. He had in view the weakening
of the power of the Diet, and a quarrel with Austria. True, he had
embraced Austria, but after the fashion of a bear. He knew that Austria
and Prussia would wrangle about the division of the spoil, which would
lead to misunderstandings, and thus furnish the pretext for a war, which
he felt to be necessary before Prussia could be aggrandized and German
unity be effected, with Prussia at its head,--the two great objects of
his life. His policy was marvellously astute; but he kept his own
counsels, and continued to hug his secret enemy.

On the 30th of October, 1864, the Treaty of Vienna was signed, by which
it was settled that the king of Denmark should surrender
Schleswig-Holstein and Lauenburg to Austria and Prussia, and he bound
himself to submit to what their majesties might think fit as to the
disposition of these three duchies. Probably both parties sought an
occasion to quarrel, since their commissioners had received opposite
instructions,--the Austrians defending the claims of Frederick of
Augustenburg, as generally desired in Germany, and the Prussians now
opposing them. Prussia demanded the expulsion of the pretender; to which
Austria said no. Prussia further sounded Austria as to the annexation of
the duchies to herself, to which Austria consented, on condition of
receiving an equivalent of some province in Silesia. "What!" thought
Bismarck, angrily, "give you back part of what was won for Prussia by
Frederic the Great? Never!" Affairs had a gloomy look; but war was
averted for a while by the Convention of Gastein, by which the
possession of Schleswig was assigned to Prussia, and Holstein to
Austria; and further, in consideration of two and a half millions of
dollars, the Emperor Francis Joseph ceded to King William all his rights
of co-proprietorship in the Duchy of Lauenburg.

But the Chamber of Berlin boldly declared this transaction to be null
and void, since the country had not been asked to ratify the treaty. It
must be borne in mind that the conflict was still going on between
Bismarck, as the defender of the absolute sovereignty of the king, and
the liberal and progressive members of the Chamber, who wanted a freer
and more democratic constitution. Opposed, then, by the Chamber,
Bismarck dissolved it, and coolly reminded his enemies that the Chamber
had nothing to do with politics,--only with commercial affairs and
matters connected with taxation. This was the period of his greatest
unpopularity, since his policy and ultimate designs were not
comprehended. So great was the popular detestation in which he was held
that a fanatic tried to kill him in the street, but only succeeded in
wounding him slightly.

In the meantime Austria fomented disaffection in the provinces which
Prussia had acquired, and Bismarck resolved to cut the knot by the
sword. Prussian troops marched to the frontier, and Austria on her part
also prepared for war. It is difficult to see that a real _casus belli_
existed. We only know that both parties wanted to fight, whatever were
their excuses and pretensions; and both parties sought the friendship of
Russia and France, especially by holding out delusive hopes to Napoleon
of accession of territory. They succeeded in inducing both Russia and
France to remain neutral,--mere spectators of the approaching contest,
which was purely a German affair. It was the first care of Prussia to
prevent the military union of her foes in North Germany with her foes in
the south,--which was effected in part by the diplomatic genius of
Bismarck, and in part by occupying the capitals of Hanover, Saxony, and
Hesse-Cassel with Prussian troops, in a very summary way.

The encounter now began in earnest between Prussia and Austria for the
prize of ascendency. Both parties were confident of success,--Austria as
the larger State, with proud traditions, triumphant over rebellious
Italy; and Prussia, with its enlarged military organization and the new
breech-loading needle-gun.

Count von Moltke at this time came prominently on the European stage as
the greatest strategist since Napoleon. He was chief of staff to the
king, who was commander-in-chief. He set his wonderful machinery in
harmonious action, and from his office in Berlin moved his military
pawns by touch of electric wire. Three great armies were soon
centralized in Bohemia,--one of three corps, comprising one hundred
thousand men, led by Prince Charles, the king's nephew; the second, of
four corps, of one hundred and sixteen thousand men, commanded by the
crown prince, the king's son; and the third, of forty thousand, led by
General von Bittenfield. "March separately; strike together," were the
orders of Moltke. Vainly did the Austrians attempt to crush these armies
in detail before they should combine at the appointed place. On they
came, with mathematical accuracy, until two of the armies reached
Gitschin, the objective point, where they were joined by the king, by
Moltke, by Bismarck, and by General von Roon, the war minister. On the
2d of June, 1866, they were opposite Koeniggraetz (or Sadowa, as the
Austrians called it), where the Austrians were marshalled. On the 3d of
July the battle began; and the scales hung pretty evenly until, at the
expected hour, the crown prince--"our Fritz," as the people
affectionately called him after this, later the Emperor Frederick
William--made his appearance on the field with his army. Assailed on
both flanks and pressed in the centre, the Austrians first began to
slacken fire, then to waver, then to give way under the terrific
concentrated fire of the needle-guns, then to retreat into ignominious
flight. The contending forces were about equal; but science and the
needle-gun won the day, and changed the whole aspect of modern warfare.
The battle of Koeniggraetz settled this point,--that success in war
depends more on good powder and improved weapons than on personal
bravery or even masterly evolutions. Other things being equal, victory
is almost certain to be on the side of the combatants who have the best
weapons. The Prussians won the day of Koeniggraetz by their breech-loading
guns, although much was due to their superior organization and
superior strategy.

That famous battle virtually ended the Austro-Prussian campaign, which
lasted only about seven weeks. It was one of those "decisive battles"
that made Prussia the ascendent power in Germany, and destroyed the
prestige of Austria. It added territory to Prussia equal to one quarter
of the whole kingdom, and increased her population by four and a half
millions of people. At a single bound, Prussia became a first-class
military State.

The Prussian people were almost frantic with joy; and Bismarck, from
being the most unpopular man in the nation, became instantly a national
idol. His marvellous diplomacy, by which Austria was driven to the
battlefield, was now seen and universally acknowledged. He obtained
fame, decorations, and increased power. A grateful nation granted to him
four hundred thousand thalers, with which he bought the estate of
Varzin. General von Moltke received three hundred thousand thalers and
immense military prestige. The war minister, Von Roon, also received
three hundred thousand thalers. These three stood out as the three most
prominent men of the nation, next to the royal family.

Never was so short a war so pregnant with important consequences. It
consolidated the German Confederation under Prussian dominance. By
weakening Austria it led to the national unity of Italy, and secured
free government to the whole Austrian empire, since that government
could no longer refuse the demands of Hungary. Above all, "it shattered
the fabric of Ultramontanism which had been built up by the concordat
of 1853."

It was the expectation of Napoleon III that Austria would win in this
war; but the loss of the Austrians was four to one, besides her
humiliation, condemned as she was to pay a war indemnity, with the loss
also of the provinces of Schleswig-Holstein, Hanover, Hesse-Cassel,
Nassau, and Frankfort. But Bismarck did not push Austria to the wall,
since he did not wish to make her an irreconcilable enemy. He left open
a door for future and permanent peace. He did not desire to ruin his
foe, but simply to acquire the lead in German politics and exclude
Austria from the Germanic Confederation. Napoleon, disappointed and
furious, blustered, and threatened war, unless he too could come in for
a share of the plunder, to which he had no real claim. Bismarck calmly
replied, "Well, then, let there be war," knowing full well that France
was not prepared, Napoleon consulted his marshals, "Are we prepared,"
asked he, "to fight all Germany?" "Certainly not," replied the marshals,
"until our whole army, like that of Prussia, is supplied with a
breech-loader; until our drill is modified to suit the new weapon; until
our fortresses are in a perfect state of preparedness, and until we
create a mobile and efficient national reserve."

When Carlyle heard the news of the great victories of Prussia, he wrote
to a friend, "Germany is to stand on her feet henceforth, and face all
manner of Napoleons and hungry, sponging dogs, with clear steel in her
hand and an honest purpose in her heart. This seems to me the best news
we or Europe have heard for the last forty years or more."

The triumphal return of the Prussian troops to Berlin was followed on
the 24th of February, 1867, by the opening of the first North German
parliament,--three hundred deputies chosen from the various allied
States by universal suffrage. Twenty-two States north of the Main formed
themselves into a perpetual league for the protection of the Union and
its institutions. Legislative power was to be invested in two
bodies,--the Reichstag, representing the people; and the Bundesrath,
composed of delegates from the allied governments, the perpetual
presidency of which was invested in the king of Prussia. He was also
acknowledged as the commander-in-chief of the united armies; and the
standing army, on a peace footing, was fixed at one per cent of all the
inhabitants. This constitution was drawn by Bismarck himself, not
unwilling, under the unquestioned supremacy of his monarch, to utilize
the spirit of the times, and admit the people to a recognized support of
the crown.

Thus Germany at last acquired a liberal constitution, though not so free
and broad as that of England. The absolute control of the army and navy,
the power to make treaties and declare peace and war, the appointment
of all the great officers of state, and the control of education and
other great interests still remained with the king. The functions of the
lower House seemed to be mostly confined to furnishing the sinews of war
and government,--the granting of money and the regulation of taxes.
Meanwhile, secret treaties of alliance were concluded with the southern
States of Germany, offensive and defensive, in case of war,--another
stroke of diplomatic ability on the part of Bismarck; for the intrigues
of Napoleon had been incessant to separate the southern from the
northern States,--in other words, to divide Germany, which the French
emperor was sanguine he could do. With a divided Germany, he believed
that he was more than a match for the king of Prussia, as soon as his
military preparations should be made. Could he convert these States into
allies, he was ready for war. He was intent upon securing for France
territorial enlargements equal to those of Prussia. He could no longer
expect any thing on the Rhine, and he turned his eyes to Belgium.

The war-cloud arose on the political horizon in 1867, when Napoleon
sought to purchase from the king of Holland the Duchy of Luxemburg,
which was a personal fief of his kingdom, though it was inhabited by
Germans, and which made him a member of the Germanic Confederation if he
chose to join it. In the time of Napoleon I. Luxemburg was defended by
one of the strongest fortresses in Europe, garrisoned by Prussian
troops; it was therefore a menace to France on her northeastern
frontier. As Napoleon III, promised a very big sum of money for this
duchy, with a general protectorate of Holland in case of Prussian
aggressions, the king of Holland was disposed to listen to the proposal
of the French emperor; but when it was discovered that an alliance of
the southern States had been made with the northern States of Germany,
which made Prussia the mistress of Germany, the king of Holland became
alarmed, and declined the French proposals. The chagrin of the emperor
and the wrath of the French nation became unbounded. Again they had been
foiled by the arch-diplomatist of Prussia.

All this was precisely what Bismarck wanted. Confident of the power of
Prussia, he did all he could to drive the French nation to frenzy. He
worked on a vainglorious, excitable, and proud people, at the height of
their imperial power. Napoleon was irresolute, although it appeared to
him that war with Prussia was the only way to recover his prestige after
the mistakes of the Mexican expedition. But Mexico had absorbed the
marrow of the French army, and the emperor was not quite ready for war.
He must find some pretence for abandoning his designs on Luxemburg, any
attempt to seize which would be a plain _casus belli_. Both parties were
anxious to avoid the initiative of a war which might shake Europe to its
centre. Both parties pretended peace; but both desired war.

Napoleon, a man fertile in resources, in order to avoid immediate
hostilities looked about for some way to avoid what he knew was
premature; so he proposed submitting the case to arbitration, and the
Powers applied themselves to extinguish the gathering flames. The
conference--composed of representatives of England, France, Russia,
Austria, Prussia, Holland, and Belgium--met in London; and the result of
it was that Prussia agreed to withdraw her garrison from Luxemburg and
to dismantle the fortress, while the duchy was to continue to be a
member of the German Zollverein, or Customs Union. King William was
willing to make this concession to the cause of humanity; and his
minister, rather than go against the common sentiment of Europe,
reluctantly conceded this point, which, after all, was not of paramount
importance. Thus was war prevented for a time, although everybody knew
that it was inevitable, sooner or later.

The next three years Bismarck devoted himself to diplomatic intrigues in
order to cement the union of the German States,--for the Luxemburg
treaty was well known to be a mere truce,--and Napoleon did the same to
weaken the union. In the meantime King William accepted an invitation of
Napoleon to visit Paris at the time of the Great Exposition; and thither
he went, accompanied by Counts Bismarck and Moltke. The party was soon
after joined by the Czar, accompanied by Prince Gortschakoff, who had
the reputation of being the ablest diplomatist in Europe, next to
Bismarck. The meeting was a sort of carnival of peace, hollow and
pretentious, with fetes and banquets and military displays innumerable.
The Prussian minister amused himself by feeling the national pulse,
while Moltke took long walks to observe the fortifications of Paris.
When his royal guests had left, Napoleon travelled to Salzburg to meet
the Austrian emperor, ostensibly to condole with him for the unfortunate
fate of Maximilian in Mexico, but really to interchange political ideas.
Bismarck was not deceived, and openly maintained that the military and
commercial interests of north and south Germany were identical.

In April, 1868, the Customs Parliament assembled in Berlin, as the first
representative body of the entire nation that had as yet met. Though
convoked to discuss tobacco and cotton, the real object was to pave the
way for "the consummation of the national destinies."

Bismarck meanwhile conciliated Hanover, whose sovereign, King George,
had been dethroned, by giving him a large personal indemnity, and by
granting home rule to what was now a mere province of Prussia. In
Berlin, he resisted in the Reichstag the constitutional encroachments
which the Liberal party aimed at,--ever an autocrat rather than
minister, having no faith in governmental responsibility to parliament.
Only one master he served, and that was the king, as Richelieu served
Louis XIII. Nor would he hear of a divided ministry; affairs were too
complicated to permit him to be encumbered by colleagues. He maintained
that public affairs demanded quickness, energy, and unity of action; and
it was certainly fortunate for Germany in the present crisis that the
foreign policy was in the hands of a single man, and that man so able,
decided, and astute as Bismarck.

All the while secret preparations for war went on in both Prussia and
France. French spies overran the Rhineland, and German draughtsmen were
busy in the cities and plains of Alsace-Lorraine. France had at last
armed her soldiers with the breech-loading chassepot gun, by many
thought to be superior to the needle-gun; and she had in addition
secretly constructed a terrible and mysterious engine of war called
_mitrailleuse_,--a combination of gun-barrels fired by mechanism. These
were to effect great results. On paper, four hundred and fifty thousand
men were ready to rush as an irresistible avalanche on the Rhine
provinces. To the distant observer it seemed that France would gain an
easy victory, and once again occupy Berlin. Besides her supposed
military forces, she still had a great military prestige. Prussia had
done nothing of signal importance for forty years except to fight the
duel with Austria; but France had done the same, and had signally
conquered at Solferino. Yet during forty years Prussia had been
organizing her armies on the plan which Scharnhorst had furnished, and
had four hundred and fifty thousand men under arms,--not on paper, but
really ready for the field, including a superb cavalry force. The combat
was to be one of material forces, guided by science.

I have said that only a pretext was needed to begin hostilities. This
pretext on the part of the French was that their ambassador to Berlin,
Benedetti, was reported to have been insulted by the king. He was not
insulted. The king simply refused to have further parley with an
arrogant ambassador, and referred him to his government,--which was the
proper thing to do. On this bit of scandal the French politicians--the
people who led the masses--lashed themselves into fury, and demanded
immediate war. Napoleon could not resist the popular pressure, and war
was proclaimed. The arrogant demand of Napoleon, through his ambassador
Benedetti, that the king of Prussia should agree never to permit his
relative, Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern, to accept the vacant throne of
Spain, to which he had been elected by the provisional government of
that country, was the occasion of King William's curt reception of the
French envoy; for this was an insulting demand, not to be endured. It
was no affair of Napoleon, especially since the prince had already
declined the throne at the request of the king of Prussia, as the head
of the Hohenzollern family. But the French nation generally, the
Catholic Church party working through the Empress Eugenie, and, above
all, the excitable Parisians, goaded by the orators and the Press, saw
the possibility of an extension of the Roman empire of Charles V., under
the control of Prussia; and Napoleon was driven to the fatal course,
first, of making the absurd demand, and then--in spite of a wholesome
irresolution, born of his ignorance concerning his own military
forces--of resenting its declinature with war.

In two weeks the German forces were mobilized, and the colossal
organization, in three great armies, all directed by Moltke as chief of
staff to the commander-in-chief, the still vigorous old man who ruled
and governed at Berlin, were on their way to the seat of war. At
Mayence, the king in person, on the 2d of August, 1870, assumed command
of the united German armies; and in one month from that date Prance was
prostrate at his feet.

It would be interesting to detail the familiar story; but my limits will
not permit. I can only say that the three armies of the German forces,
each embracing several corps, were, one under the command of General
Steinmetz, another under Prince Frederic Charles, and the third under
the crown prince,--and all under the orders of Moltke, who represented
the king. The crown prince, on the extreme left, struck the first blow
at Weissenburg, on the 4th of August; and on the 6th he assaulted
McMahon at Worth, and drove back his scattered forces,--partly on
Chalons, and partly on Strasburg; while Steinmetz, commanding the right
wing, nearly annihilated Frossard's corps at Spicheren. It was now the
aim of the French under Bazaine, who commanded two hundred and fifty
thousand men near Metz, to join McMahon's defeated forces. This was
frustrated by Moltke in the bloody battle of Gravelotte, compelling
Bazaine to retire within the lines of Metz, the strongest fortress in
France, which was at once surrounded by Prince Charles. Meanwhile, the
crown prince continued the pursuit of McMahon, who had found it
impossible to effect a junction with Bazaine. At Sedan the armies met;


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