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retain the northern portion of Schleswig in exchange for Lauenburg, which undoubtedly belonged to the Danish Crown, but this failed. The preliminaries were signed on August 1, 1864. Bismarck had his way. His conduct, as we have traced it, had certainly been most astute.
He had secured the friendship of Russia by attacking the Polish insurrection, the good-will of France by opposing the meeting of Princes at Frankfort. Friendship with France had been further stimulated by the support of the Napoleonic Congress, and the result had been a rapprochement between Prussia and Austria. To have withdrawn from the London Protocol of 1852 would have placed Prussia in the wrong before the eyes of Europe. He left the breach of this treaty to Denmark herself, who thus gave an opportunity for Prussia and Austria to intervene without any violation of international law. With the outbreak of war previous arrangements naturally fell to the ground. In the London Conference he avoided at once the
of a breach with existing treaties, and the pronouncement of any irrevocable decision. He used the agitation for Augustenburg to bind Austria to the alliance, and the Danish sympathies of Palmerston to secure the entire defeat of the Danes. Bismarck always considered these transactions as the greatest triumph of his diplomatic skill. The ways of the two allies now lay apart. Prussia desired to incorporate the Duchies in her own dominions ; Austria, if possible, to replace them under the protection of Denmark.
The affairs of Italy now gave Bismarck an opportunity for the further prosecution of his policy. The Peace of Villafranca had left Venetia unliberated. A French garrison still occupied Rome. Cavour, before his death, had bequeathed the acquisition of Rome as an heritage to his successors. Napoleon III. still clung to the idea of a divided Italy. He now favoured a Northern Kingdom, with the addition of Venetia, a Southern Kingdom, and a reformed Papal State between the two. Minghetti at this juncture made advances to the Emperor for the settlement of the Roman question. All that could be obtained from him was the permission to remove the capital from Turin to Florence, which appeared to Italian patriots as a halfway house towards Rome, and to pious Catholics as a sign that the Italians were willing to surrender the hope of Rome altogether. A treaty was signed between France and Italy in September, which seemed to secure independence to the Pope, and the ultimate withdrawal of the French garrison, with the future possession of Venetia to the Italians. Before Bismarck could make use of these altered circumstances the spoils of victory had to 2 A 2
be divided between the conquerors.
Mensdorff laid the matter before the Prussian minister in three long despatches. He declared the annexation of the Duchies to Prussia to be inadmissible; the creation of a semi-sovereign State to be impossible; the only solution was an independent Schleswig-Holstein. The second despatch argued that the sovereign of this new State should be chosen, not by the Confederation, but by the Allied Powers; the third declared the right of Augustenburg to be superior to that of Oldenburg. At the same time it had been stated by word of mouth, that Austria might consent to the annexation of the Duchies, if she were compensated by a cession of territory. Bismarck's first step was to get rid of the Confederate troops from Holstein, which was not effected without considerable difficulty, and even some danger of war.
Not till this was done did he answer Mensdorff's three despatches. He declined to decide in favour of either of the two claimants, and emphasized the very important interests, both naval and military, which Prussia had in the disposition of the Duchies. At the same time a Commission was appointed to enquire into the conflicting claims of the pretenders, which might take years and must take months before it reported. The military staff declared it to be indispensable for Prussian interests that she should have full command over army and fleet, the possession of Kiel and Düppel, as well as a garrison in Rendsburg. A conversation between Bismarck and Karolyi in February 1865, which is reported at length by Sybel, did not help to mend matters. The Prussian demands were formally presented on February 22. They contained, besides what we have already mentioned, the union of the Duchies with the Zollverein, and the introduction of Prussian posts and telegraphs. Prussian officials were to administer the country, and the troops were to take an oath of allegiance to the King of Prussia. In short, the newly-conquered lands were to become a Prussian province.
These demands naturally aroused great dissatisfaction in Germany.
Napoleon viewed with pleasure the growing mistrust between Prussia and Austria. He urged Bismarck to annex the Duchies, and declared that he would support the arrangement if the North of Schleswig were restored to Denmark. Bismarck was reluctant to take a step which would lead to a breach with Austria, until he was more certain of what he might obtain from France. He wrote to Goltz on February 20 :
• I consider that the advantages of an alliance with Austria are not yet exbausted, and that we can do better by keeping Vienna balanced between the hope of our support and the fear of our going over to the enemies of Austria, than we could by unnecessarily compelling her to break with us. It seems to me more prudent to continue the present marriage in spite of a few family jars, and when the divorce becomes necessary, to take the circumstances as they may then happen to be, than to break the bond now, under all the disadvantages of indubitable perfidy, without the certainty that we can find better conditions in a new union at the present time than we can at a later period.'
The rejection of the Prussian proposal followed shortly after the date of this despatch. Matters continued in the same unsatisfactory state. The popular agitation in favour of Augustenburg became vehement. On March 24, King William issued an order to his Minister of Marine to transfer the station of the Prussian fleet from Danzig to Kiel, in order to show to all the world that Prussia did not intend to be driven from the Duchies either by the Diet or the friends of Augustenburg. At the same time Bismarck said to Karolyi, .We have come to a point where our roads diverge, and I hope that they will not lead us too far apart. As matters stand, our railway-tickets are for different lines, and we cannot, this journey, get into the carriage which you already share with others. The Diet proceeded to declare in favour of Augustenburg, while Austria protested against the occupation of Kiel. Bismarck replied, with his usual cynicism, that each of the allies had the right to use the bays and harbours of the Duchies for his own purposes, provided he did not interfere with the others. If the geographical conditions of Austria were such that she could not use the harbour of Kiel for the fleet, that was no reason why Prussia should allow it to remain useless. Austria had long been aware that no settlement was possible, which did not secure to Prussia the possession of Kiel. Austria continued to grumble, but had to content herself with accomplished facts.
As a conflict seemed to be imminent, Bismarck cautiously sounded the disposition of Italy, and discovered from Usedom at Florence, that, if a great war should break out between Prussia and Austria, Italy would immediately attack Austria with 250,000 troops, and that Napoleon would neither have the power nor the will to prevent her. The next step was to remove the Prince of Augustenburg from Holstein. For this purpose Bismarck proposed, that the Parliament of the Duchies should be summoned, and argued, with some show of reason, that the Prince ought not to be on the spot while the elections were taking place. The whole situation was carefully considered in a sitting of the Prussian Cabinet on May 29, under the presidency of the King, at which Moltke and the Crown Prince were present,
Bismarck declared for a formal demand of annexation. This would probably lead to
war with Austria;
Austria ; but the situation of Europe was favourable, and the neutrality of France and Russia certain. A war with Austria, he said, cannot be avoided sooner or later.' Most of the ministers declared for the annexation, but not in a manner which would lead to war. The Crown Prince opposed it, and supported the claims of Augustenburg under Prussian protection. Bismarck, in answer, denied that a war with Austria was to be regarded as
The King was averse to a breach with his old ally. He asked Moltke what was the opinion of the army. Moltke replied that his personal feeling was in favour of annexation, and that the gain was so great that it was well worth a war. He also presaged a victory for Prussia. The King reserved his decision. It is seldom that the record of so momentous a Conference has been preserved to history with such minuteness. It is needless to follow the illusory negociations which succeeded. During the summer the Commission, which we have previously mentioned, declared by a majority against the claims of Augustenburg. In the beginning of July Bismarck was assured that Prussia could in four weeks' time place 250,000 men in Bohemia, and 46,000 in West Germany, leaving a force of 200,000 for reserve and garrison duty; that the ordnance was in a satisfactory condition, and the
An ultimatum was drawn necessary money was forthcoming. up to be presented to Austria. For the moment, however, the question of peace or war depended on the readiness of Italy to attack Austria, and on the consent of France. The attitude of both these Powers was undecided, and negociations with Austria were continued.
Bismarck now proposed that Holstein should remain in possession of Austria, Schleswig in that of Prussia. Prussia was to possess a right of way and a telegraph line through Holstein, with leave to make a canal and a railway. Kiel was to be a federal harbour, Rendsburg a federal fortress. Both Duchies were to join the Zollverein. These terms were agreed upon at Gastein on August 14, and were immediately carried out. Manteuffel was appointed Governor of Schleswig, and Gablenz of Holstein. Four days later the two monarchs met at Salzburg with every mark of friendship. Although this treaty was violently opposed in Austria and in the smaller States as being much too favourable to Prussia, it would not have been consented to by Bismarck, if he could have counted on the support of Italy and France. The very day after the treaty was signed, La Marmora, who had received new information from Paris, announced to Count Usedom that, if Prussia would begin a really great war against Austria, Italy would join
her in the attack. The offer came too late. Napoleon, indeed, was discontented with the treaty. His feelings at this time seem to have been directed towards the aggrandisement of Prussia and the abasement of Austria. He had no desire to see the renewal of an Austro-Prussian alliance. He invited Goltz to a private dinner, and expressed his dissatisfaction. At the close of the evening they walked together in the garden, when the Emperor said, 'Write to Count Bismarck, that in the event of a war between Prussia and Austria, I would preserve a friendly neutrality, but that I am surprised, very much surprised at what has taken place.' Goltz asked whether the same promise would hold good in any future crisis. Certainly, said the Emperor; but I complain that Prussia is more and more untrue to her mission, which is to place herself at the head of the national movement in Germany. If the King announces a liberal and national programme for which he requires a war, all liberal elements in Germany will naturally adhere to him, and these miserable party conflicts and this wretched question of the Duchies will be forgotten.' The conversation was followed by a violent circular from France against the treaty, which was characterized as having no other foundation except force, and no other justification except the convenience of the partitioning power. Lord John Russell expressed his entire approval of the French despatch, with all the more freedom because the Queen was very much annoyed at the passing over of Augustenburg. Bismarck thought it best to go to Biarritz, where he would meet the Emperor. Napoleon asserted his regret at the time and the publication of the despatch, ignorant that Bismarck had already learnt from Rouher that it had been drawn up with his approval. Bismarck pointed out that a powerful North Germany, under the leadership of Prussia, would be a valuable ally for France, a subject which he afterwards developed in a despatch to Goltz. The Emperor gave no promise, but suggested the idea of an international league against the cholera, which was spread over Europe by the concourse of pilgrims at Mecca. Bismarck returned to Berlin with a general idea that France would regard the aggrandisement of Prussia with favour.
As might be expected, differences arose in the administration of the Duchies. Manteuffel was a straightforward, honest man, bluff, and even rude in speech. He desired to govern in accordance with the wishes of the population, and went so far as to restore some of the Danish officials, a course which was sternly forbidden by Bismarck. He was constantly interfered with by the Cabinet of Berlin, and was allowed very insufficient means