Billeder på siden

The dethroned monarch, under various disguises, got safely back to England. His minister, Guizot, likewise fled from the country. The revolution was complete, and it was a blunder. A dynasty that might have taken root and done well was heedlessly expelled, without a thought of the consequences.


AND LOUIS NAPOLEON. The Republic set up in 1848 bore a strong tinge of that which had disgraced France in 1793. Among its promoters were men with Socialist tendencies, who had become known as Red Republicans, from the circumstance that, instead of the tricolor, they desired to hoist a red flag, significant of universal rapine, or at least of some very violent re-organisation of society. Administered by Ledru Rollin, Louis Blanc, Albert, Lamartine, and several others, the provisional government had great difficulty in dealing with this formidable class of anarchists. National work-shops were established in Paris, to give employment and wages to all applicants; soon 60,000 names were enrolled as candidates ; but the chief work performed by these national labourers was careering through the streets roaring revolutionary songs, proclaiming 'Liberty, equality, and fraternity,' and planting trees of liberty on the sides of the thoroughfares.

Nothing could be more miserable than the state of France. There was a general depreciation of the value of property, trade was paralysed, and a financial pressure ensued as terrible as that in the days of Robespierre. How bitterly did the National Guards now regret having helped to drive away Louis-Philippe, and bring about this hapless state of things! In June (1848), there was a frightful outbreak of the Red Republicans, barricades were raised, and there was an immense slaughter. The revolt was subdued by the military skill and dauntless energy of General Cavaignac. Under his protection, a Constituent Assembly prepared a republican constitution, with an elective president at the head of the government. Louis Napoleon now appears on the stage.

The great Napoleon, when in power, did his best to elevate his brothers and sisters to positions of regal distinction. Louis, a younger brother, married to Hortense Beauharnais, daughter of Josephine, was created king of Holland, a dignity, however, which he was pleased to resign. Louis had a son, Louis Napoleon, born in Paris 20th April 1808, and this child, grandson of Josephine and nephew of the emperor, was destined to play an important part in the stirring French drama.* He living in London when France was convulsed by the revolution of February 1848, whereupon he hastened to Paris, and professed himself devoted to the views of the provisional government. He was elected deputy for Paris and three other departments, and, 13th June, took his seat in the Constituent Assembly. A stormy debate followed. On the 15th he resigned his seat, and left France. Recalled in the following September, and re-elected deputy, he once more appeared in the Assembly, and, through the agency of his zealous supporters, commenced his candidature for the presidency. In this he was opposed by Cavaignac, who had been in reality the saviour of his country from anarchy. So profound and ineradicable, however, was the veneration of the French people for the memory of the great Napoleon, that, despite all Cavaignac's claims and services, Louis Napoleon was preferred by an overwhelming majority of many millions of votes.

* See Louis Napoleon, No. 33 in present series.

The second republic lasted three years. When the Socialists were looking forward to a new presidential election, Louis Napoleon executed his notable and unexpected coup d'état, December 2, 1851, by which he violently dissolved the constitution, on the ground that it was wholly unworkable, and at variance with the feelings of the people. This extraordinary measure was confirmed by the national vote. The year 1852 was pre-eminently one of revival and progress throughout France, and, as if by an act of national gratitude, as well as from an apprehension of the Red Republicans, Louis Napoleon was besought to assume the position of Emperor, which he did, December 2, 1852, under the title of Napoleon III. The rule of Napoleon III. lasted about eighteen years, during which he raised France to a high pitch of material prosperity. His reign, as is alleged, may have been officially enervating and corrupting, but as regards the state of affairs generally there were all the external symptoms of national progress. Everywhere there were marked improvements. Peace and order were secured. New industries were developed. Railways were extended all over the country. Paris was renovated so as to render it the most beautiful and attractive city in the world; and if this was a too costly undertaking, the money was at least spent among the very classes who ultimately assailed the imperial rule. The most amicable relations were maintained with Great Britain, and a treaty of commerce entered into with that country. Nor could any moral impropriety be charged on the court of Napoleon. On the 29th January 1853, he married a lady of united Spanish and Scottish extraction, the Countess Eugenie de Theba; and on the 16th March 1856, was born his son, known as the Prince Imperial. Imputations of extravagance have been brought against the private life of the emperor and empress. Louis-Philippe was with equal bitterness accused of being too prudent-as even being guilty of paying his bills weekly.

The French had less fault to find with the internal administration of Napoleon than with his foreign policy. They never got over the unfortunate issue of the Mexican expedition, which had lowered the national prestige. They likewise writhed under the spectacle of Prussian aggrandisement which the emperor had done nothing to check. Proud of their military fame, and jealous of their preeminence in continental Europe, they saw that the North German Confederation, headed by Prussia, and under the counsels of Count Bismark, was rapidly outstripping them as regards geographical dimensions and political and military power. Impelled by this jealousy, they began to prepare for hostilities soon after the affair of Sadowa in 1866. They would then have rushed into war had they felt themselves properly prepared. Exercising an extraordinary restraint, they proceeded to supersede the older class of small firearms by the breech-loading Chassepot rifle, which was supposed to be equal, if not superior, to the needle-gun of the Prussians; and some reliance was placed on a new engine of destruction, called the mitrailleuse. All that was wanted was a pretext to declare hostilities. Meanwhile, Napoleon perceived that his popularity was waning. It was thought he had reigned long enough. There was a growing desire for a change. With a view to restore confidence, and if possible insure the continuance of his dynasty, he, in 1869, granted a constitution with a legislative assembly and responsible ministry. On resorting to a national plebiscite, May 1870, his imperial rule, with his son as his successor, was confirmed by eight millions of votes. Unfortunately there was a cause of chagrin in the fact that there was a minority of fifty thousand votes against him in the army, the main cause of which was a feeling that Sadowa was still unavenged. War with Prussia would recover the military glory of the grande nation, and give the Rhine for a boundary. Orators constantly clamoured about Prussian aggrandisement. Hatred of Prussia was universal. Anything to lower that detested rival would render the emperor immensely popular, and give him a new lease of power. Such was the state of matters when, under the ministry of M. Ollivier, the desired pretext was found for breaking the public peace of Europe. And a very curious pretext was-no encroachment on rights, but a fancied insult to dignity.

In June 1870, it became known that the throne of Spain had been offered to Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern, head of the Catholic branch of the Prussian royal family, and declared by a treaty of 1849 to be a prince of the blood and within the limits of succession. William, king of Prussia, was said to have assented to the arrangement. Here, as the French imagined, was a chance of Prussia getting a fresh aggrandisement. It was coolly proposed to Prussianise Spain! Where was all this to end ? The French army grew frantic at this monstrous proposition. Orators and newspapers raved with indignation, when it became known that Prince Leopold had actually accepted. Being personally appealed to on the subject, King William agreed to recommend Prince Leopold to withdraw, and such withdrawal took place. There the matter should have dropped. The French government, however, insisted that the king of Prussia should promise that the prince should never again be allowed to be a candidate. The king considered this was too much; he declined ; and there lay the much wanted pretext to declare war against Prussia. It is unjust to blame Napoleon exclusively for this piece of folly. He had the choice before him either of resigning and being branded as a coward who had no regard for national honour, or of remaining in power and doing his best to carry the war to a successful issue. It must, nevertheless, be admitted that he ought to have been thoroughly aware of the power of his antagonist, as well as of the comparative weakness and inefficiency of his own military organisation. In some particulars, it seems, he was deceived; but there is conclusive evidence that the legislative body elected by universal suffrage, the army, and the populace were favourable to the war.

On the 22d July, the emperor received the members of the Legis-. lative Body, the president of which addressed him as follows:

'SIRE—The Legislative Body has terminated its labours, after voting all the subsidies and laws necessary for the defence of the country. Thus the Chamber has joined in an effective proof of patriotism. The real author of the war is not he by whom it was declared, but he who rendered it necessary. There will be but one voice among the people of both hemispheres, throwing, namely, the responsibility of the war upon Prussia, which, intoxicated by unexpected success, and encouraged by our patience and our desire to preserve to Europe the blessings of peace, has imagined that she could conspire against our security, and wound with impunity our honour. Under these circumstances, France will know how to do her duty. The most ardent wishes will follow you to the army, the command of which you assume, accompanied by your son, who, anticipating the duties of maturer age, will learn, by your side, how to serve his country. Behind you, behind our army, accustomed to carry the noble flag of France, stands the whole nation ready to recruit it. Leave the regency without anxiety in the hands of our august sovereign the empress. To the authority commanded by her great qualities, of which ample evidence has already been given, her majesty will add the strength now afforded by the liberal institutions so gloriously inaugurated by your majesty. Sire, the heart of the nation is with you, and with your valiant army.'

To this address the emperor made a suitable reply. Whatever opposition there was to the war, was of a very feeble kind. In the Senate, the proposition to attack Prussia was hailed with the utmost enthusiasm. On quitting the hall, the senators were greeted by the young men of the schools with loud cheers, and cries of Vive la France ! à bas la Prusse! The streets of Paris resounded with the cry à Berlin, and when the army marched off, the shopkeepers rushed forth to treat the soldiers with wine and cigars, and wish

them a hearty success. The emperor, in declaring war on the 230 July, said, that Prussia, launched on the path of invasion, had aroused defiance everywhere, necessitated exaggerated armaments, and turned Europe into a camp where nothing but uncertainty reigns. A last incident had shewn the instability of internal relations. The protestations of the French had been contemptuously evaded. The country had resented this with profound irritation, and immediately a cry for war resounded from one end of France to the other.'

Appointing a regency under the Empress Eugenie, Napoleon set out towards the borders of the Rhine, taking with him his son, the Prince Imperial, a boy fourteen years of age. Preserving their neutrality, yet alarmed for eventualities, the people of Great Britain looked with astonishment at this wholly unforeseen outburst. It was universally allowed that the French had received no proper provocation for going to war. At the same time, the conduct of Prussia in its dealings with Denmark in 1864, and its subsequent absorption of Hanover, Frankfort, and some other small states, had damaged its reputation; the general notion was, that its pursuit of schemes of German unity might lead to international difficulties in which Great Britain, with all its desire for neutrality, might be somehow unpleasantly concerned. In short, if France was wrong, Prussia had incurred suspicions by its aggressions.

The principal dramatis persone at the opening of the campaign were as follows : On the Prussian side-William, king of Prussia; his son, the Crown Prince ; his nephew, Prince Frederick-Charles; Count Bismark, chancellor of the North German Confederation; and General von Moltke. While Germany is indebted to Count Bismark for the political and diplomatic part of the work of the recent reorganisation, so is to Moltke, with his profound military genius, due the merit .of the strategical. On the side of the French-Napoleon; Marshals M‘Mahon, Bazaine, Leboeuf, and Trochu, with some generals of less note. According to the best accounts, France sent to the seat of war from 300,000 to 350,000 trained soldiers-cavalry, infantry, and artillery : much beyond this number it was not able to raise, and in the extremity of what may be called its death-struggle had to rely on national guards and gardes mobiles, both in point of discipline unfitted to encounter a resolute well-trained force. Let us look at the strength of the enemy which the French so recklessly challenged.

When the first Napoleon crushed Prussia in 1806, he imagined that, by limiting its armed force to an insignificant extent, the country would remain a poor second or third rate power. Precisely the reverse occurred. After the collapse at Jena, and when Prussia was lying prostrate under the power of France, the reorganisation of her military resources was undertaken and carried out by Sharnhorst. The vital element of his plan was the short-service system, the design of which, while reconciling itself to the obligations imposed

« ForrigeFortsæt »