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to carry out his views. Bismarck had apparently no desire that Schleswig should be well administered ; a condition of discontent and unrest was better suited to his policy. A breach between the two allies was not far distant. In the autumn of 1865, La Marmora sent an emissary to Vienna to propose that Italy should purchase Venetia from Austria at the price of a thousand million lire. Italy was ready to conclude a commercial treaty with Austria, to guarantee a proper treatment of the Pope, and in the event of a war between Austria and Prussia would support the cession of Silesia. Austrian finance was in so bad condition that the offer had its tempting side. At the same time a proposal came from Bismarck to purchase the Duchies from Austria for a sum of money. The ancient pride of the Hapsburgs revolted at these humiliating suggestions. The Emperor pronounced an emphatic 'No.' He would not part with Schleswig except for an indemnification in kind, and Venetia could only be ceded at the close of an honourable war. During the autumn the relations between Manteuffel and Gablenz, which had at first been excellent, became strained. This was chiefly due to the attitude which the Governor of Holstein assumed towards the claims of Augustenburg. Manteuffel wrote to Bismarck that it was absolutely necessary to insist upon the banishment of the Prince. Bismarck now stood on the eve of a great crisis. The keynote of his policy had been to liberate Prussia from the domination of Austria in the German Confederation. Three ways were open to him-a joint supremacy with Austria, a partition of Germany between the two Powers, and the exclusion of Austria from the Confederation, which would then remain under the primacy of Prussia. This last step could not be taken without a war, To this he saw no alternative. The two first courses were impossible. Nothing remained but the choice between a second Olmütz or a war with Austria.
Therefore, on January 13, 1866, he sent instructions to Usedom to open negociations with the Court of Florence. Ten days later a popular demonstration was organized at Altona by the leaders of the Augustenburg party. There was also a rumour_that Prince Christian of Augustenburg, who was betrothed to Princess Helena of England, was about to take up his residence in Schleswig. Bismarck therefore addressed to Vienna a peremptory demand to adopt a different system in Holstein, or to consider the alliance at an
On February 7 Austria rejected these demands in a haughty tone, and little hope of peace remained.
Bismarck's course was now clear. It was to propose a reform of the German Confederation in a sense favourable to Prussia,
and, if Austria objected, to crush her opposition by sword and fire. For this purpose it was necessary to secure the friendship of France and an alliance with Italy, and further, to strike the blow against Austria with overwhelming force and without delay. It was no easy matter to obtain the consent of his sovereign. King William was quite willing to engage in a war with Austria, if it were necessary for the honour of his country. But he was drawn to his brother Emperor by political principles, family recollections, and personal relations, and was especially averse to any alliance with Napoleon. He and his Prime Minister passed many anxious hours together, and the difficulty of decision was complicated by other influences at work in the royal palace.
An important Cabinet Council was held on February 28, in which, besides the ministers and the Crown Prince, Count Goltz, and Generals Moltke, Manteuffel, and Alvensleben, took part. Bismarck spoke strongly for an immediate war with Austria; the various ministers declared that the guns,
the money, and the men, were forthcoming for the purpose.
Goltz reported that Napoleon would be neutral during the war, and favourable to Prussia in the arrangements which might follow it. Moltke said that the active co-operation of Italy was absolutely necessary. If this were the case, Austria could only bring 240,000 troops into Bohemia, while Prussia would have the same number, not including the landwehr, together with 50,000 men to control Bavaria and the South German States. Manteuffel was strongly for war. Bismarck replied to Moltke that it was not certain that Bavaria would be hostile. He suggested that Moltke himself should proceed to Florence to conclude an alliance. The Crown Prince vehemently opposed the war as unnatural, and certain to lead to foreign intervention. Eventually the King decided that the possession of the Duchies was worth a war, but that it would be better to obtain this object by friendly means if possible. Goltz, on his return to Paris, informed Napoleon that a war with Austria was probable, not only for the possession of the Duchies, but to place Prussia at the head of a reformed German Confederacy. The Emperor replied that France would expect some compensation for the aggrandisement of Prussia. Various countries were passed in review, Southern Belgium, French Switzerland, Landau and Saarbrück, the frontiers of 1814. One thing was certain, Prussia would never consent to the alienation of an inch of German territory. The price to be paid for the Emperor's friendship was left undetermined. At the same time Napoleon advised Italy to make an alliance with Prussia.
Just at this time a revolution had driven Prince Cusa from the throne of Roumania, and it was suggested by the Italian Government, that the Danubian Principalities might be offered to Austria as a compensation for Venetia. Napoleon observed that Austria was not likely to agree to this exchange without pressure, and that the best means of bringing it about was for Italy to conclude an offensive and defensive alliance with Prussia. La Marmora therefore sent General Govone to Berlin just at the time when Moltke was on the point of leaving for Florence. The only object of his mission was to frighten Austria into accepting the exchange of Venetia for Roumania. Bismarck
proposed that Italy should bind herself to declare war against Austria as soon as Prussia took up arms, in order to carry into effect the reform of the Confederation. Govone had no instructions for this purpose. The negociations continued for some days. Bismarck insisted on the great perils of a war with Austria, and the probability of a friendly arrangement which would leave Italy in the lurch. In the meantime the Roumanian project ended in smoke. England and Russia declared positively against it; Austria refused to have anything to do with it. All hope of obtaining Venetia by peaceful means vanished. Austria began to arm.
Sybel gives the weight of his authority to a story about Bismarck, which is both characteristic and amusing. Dining one day at the Saxon Embassy at Berlin, he was asked by Countess Hohenthal, the wife of the Ambassador who was sitting next to him : "Is it true, Excellency, that you intend to go to war with Austria and to conquer Saxony? Certainly it is true, my dearest Countess,' replied Bismarck; “I have never had any other idea since the beginning of my ministry ; our cannon are already founded, and you will see that they are far superior to the Austrian artillery.' • Horrible!' cried the lady ;
but give me a piece of advice, as you are in a communicative humour.
I have two country places, in which shall I take refuge, my property in Bohemia or my castle near Leipzig ?' • If you take my advice,' answered Bismarck, ‘do not go to Bohemia, for it is there, and just in the neighbourhood of your property, unless I am mistaken, we shall beat the Austrians. Go quietly to Saxony, nothing will happen at Leipzig, and no soldiers will be quartered upon you, for your castle of Knauthayn does not lie on any military road.' When Bismarck was interrogated as to the conversation he treated it as a jest, but Beust took it more seriously, and wrote to Vienna urging Austria to prepare herself. The treaty with Italy was signed on April 8.' It provided that, if Prussia declared war in consequence of the failure of its demands for the reform of the Confederation, Italy should immediately declare war against Austria, after which neither Power was to make peace nor conclude an armistice without the concurrence of the other. It was understood that the objects of the war were the cession of Venetia, and the supremacy of Prussia in Germany. The treaty was not to take effect unless Prussia declared war within three months, that is before July 8. It should be noticed that the treaty was one-sided so far as Italy was concerned. It imposed duties, but conferred no rights.
Bismarck's next step was to propose to the German Diet the convocation of a German Parliament, with universal suffrage. This motion met with general opposition both in Germany and in Europe. France alone expressed herself as favourable towards it. It would have been rejected at once if put to the vote, but at the advice of the Bavarian representative, Pfordten, it was referred to a committee. This was done in the interests of peace. But alarming reports reached Vienna of military preparations in Italy. The English Government, through Lord Bloomfield, did its best to persuade Austria to the peaceful cession of Venetia. On April 21, the Military Council at Vienna ordered the mobilization of a large portion of the Austrian
The command of the southern army was given to Archduke Albert, that of the northern to Field-marshal Benedek. Throngs of military trains passed from north to south and from south to north, recruits were drilled, fortresses armed, and a loan of sixty million gulden contracted. Horsedealers and contractors had merry times. At the same time Mensdorff attempted to secure the neutrality of France and Italy by promising the cession of Venetia so soon as the Austrians should have conquered Silesia. The mobilization of the Italian army was also determined on April 21, and was received with an outburst of patriotic enthusiasm. Before the middle of May the arming of Prussia and the smaller German States was complete. The whole of Germany was transformed into a large camp. All business was at a standstill. No one but the King of Prussia appeared to think that peace could any longer be preserved.
At the same time some well-meant efforts were made towards pacification. Napoleon had recourse to his favourite panacea of a European Congress. Bismarck accepted the proposal with alacrity, but said that he should wish to have a previous understanding with the French Government. At the same time a certain change was visible in the Imperial policy. It is probable, but not certain, that Austria made offers of the Rhine as the price of French assistance. Napoleon considered the cession of Venetia as more important. He said to Lord Cowley, ‘Unless the work of Italian liberation is completed, my son's throne will rest upon a volcano.' Thiers made a powerful speech in the Chamber against German unity, arguing that it was fatal to the interests of France. The French Generals were of the opinion then commonly held in Europe, that the Austrian army would prove infinitely superior to its antagonists. On May 5 the Emperor communicated to Count Nigra, the Italian minister, that Austria was willing to surrender Venetia as soon as Silesia was conquered. France and Italy must promise not to support Prussia, and to remain neutral. Venice would be delivered to the Emperor, who would hand it over unconditionally to Italy. The only chance of these conditions being accepted by Italy lay in the one-sided character of the PrussoItalian treaty.
In case Austria should invade Italy, Prussia was under no obligation to assist her. This difficulty was, however, removed by the assurance of King William and his minister, that they would not desert; their ally in the hour of need. Austria now offered to cede Venetia without waiting for the conquest of Silesia. But to the credit of the Italian name La Marmora remained firm. Anxious as he was to avoid a war, he saw that such a traffic would be disastrous as well as dishonourable. At the same time he pointed out that the treaty with Prussia expired on July 8, and that after that date Italy would be entirely unfettered.
A last proposal for a pacific solution was made by Gablenz, The terms offered were a Prussian Prince for the Duchies, the reform of the Confederation in the sense that Prussia should command the northern forces and Germany the southern, the possession of Kiel by Prussia on payment of a sum of money, and the garrisoning of Rendsburg by Prussian troops. Bismarck was too astute to reject these proposals, although he must have known their inadequacy. They were finally rejected by Austria herself. Indeed with a deficit of eighty millions, the pressure of financial distress and an entire absence of credit, war was not the worst of the evils which threatened her. A brilliant victory might restore her prospects, and crush the enervating machinations of internal dissensions.
The Emperor Napoleon was now in a very difficult position. He had a character to keep up as the arbiter of Europe; public opinion in France was decidedly opposed to the aggrandisement of Prussia, yet a war in Germany was the only means of liberating Venetia,
He now conceived a new series of arrangements. Austria was to receive Silesia as compensation for Venice.