Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

tage of the ideas of his predecessor in office on the policy he was about to adopt. The interview had taken place with the knowledge of the King; and the questions which they had to discuss involved no less than the whole question of to which Power, whether to Austria or to Prussia, the future supremacy in Germany was to belong. Manteuffel, in accordance with the policy he had pursued while in office, was for continuing to avoid the arbitrament of war, and for trusting to the progress of public opinion to raise the confidence of the Germans towards the Prussian hegemony. Herr von Bismarck, however, had almost as good as determined upon a different policy, and the result of the interview was but to strengthen him in the resolves he already entertained.

The conversations in these volumes are, of course, principally carried on by means of speech; but there is a good deal of gesture employed also, and there is one gesture over which the author gives to his personages a most astonishing command, and which is used by way of supplementary accompaniment to conversation. The quantity of smiling his diplomatists make use of is prodigious; and they appear especially to be given to the practice of the fine smile,' the mournful smile,' and the quiet smile;' seldom with them does the sudden smile' fly involuntarily over the features, as with more unsophisticated people.

Herr von Manteuffel then, who appears to be a remarkable artist in the 'fine smile,' being of opinion that the proper policy of Prussia in the present crisis was pacific, and not to drive Austria to war, has come to the Prussian Foreign Office, at the desire of Bismarck, to state his views on the crisis.

After the exchange of a few preliminary observations between the dramatis persone, Manteuffel explains the actual crisis as follows:

6 - You desire,” he went quietly on to say, “ I think, according to the conviction I entertain from my observation of events, to settle the German question, or rather to end it. You desire to place Prussia at the head of the financial and military power of Germany, and to show the point of the sword to those who would oppose you. You would, with a word, force the long chronic crisis which is called the German question into an acute crisis; and," added he with a light smile, cure it once for all with the arcanum of blood and iron.'"

* " That will I," replied Herr von Bismarck, without making a movement or without exalting his tone; but his voice vibrated so peculiarly that the sound of these three words resounded like a clang of arms through the room, while an electric light streamed out of his unchanged eye directed on llerr von Manteuffel.

* So resounded, out of the inside of the Trojan horse, when touched

:

[ocr errors]

ance.

by the spear of Laocoön, the light clang of Greek arms—the first tone of those terrible notes before which the walls of Pergamus fell; and which, echoing from the strings of the lyre of Ilomer (!!) for two thousand

years, make to tremble the hearts of the generations of men.' Herr von Manteuffel then examines all the points of the political situation of Prussia, and enters into an estimation of the elements which appear to incline either in her favour or against her. First, there is the needle-gun and the Prussian army, both powerful factors on which the country can reckon. Then public opinion—at the mention of which Bismarck sneers a little--but which, nevertheless, Manteuffel considers to be something, and to be unfavourable. The Ex-foreign Minister then inquires about the state of the negotiations with France, and his companion gives some but very fugitive account of his visit to Biarritz and to France in 1865, and of his dealings with official personages there—about which, indeed, one would be glad to hear a little precise information. Then the secret treaty with Italy, by which the latter Power bound herself to attack Austria in the south when war should be declared against her in the north—is discussed-and on this part of the arrangements Manteuffel does not place much reli

Then the situation of Hanover towards Prussia, and the existing state of the negotiations at Hanover are considered. After some observations upon both sides, Manteuffel says:-

:"" And you yourself, what do you think about the Hanoverian question ? "

* "If I place myself on the purely objective political point of view," Bismarck replies with frankness, “I cannot help desiring that Hanover did not exist at all, and must regret that our diplomacy did not succeed at the Congress of Vienna in getting the English Royal Family to abdicate its secundo-geniture, which perhaps might have been arranged. Hanover is a nail in our flesh, and, even with the best intentions, cripples us mightily. But if, as has been the case for a long while, bad intentions reign there, she may become quite perilous to us. Were I so much of a Machiavelist as people reproach me with at times, I would direct my whole attention to the acquirement of Hanover. And perchance that would not be so difficult, as it seems," continued Ilerr von Bismarck, following, as it were involuntarily, the train of thought which started up in his mind; “ neither the people of England nor the royal house there would trouble themselves much about it. know, our most gracious sovereign is very conservative, and has a deep reverence for the Ilanoverio-Prussian traditions, which were personitied in the Queen Sophia Charlotte and in the Queen Louisa—and 1-well, I am no less conservative, and those traditions are to me no less holy, and with all my heart and with full conviction I follow the ideas of the King, to fashion the future according to these traditions, and to make possible the permanent existence of Hanover. But we

Yet, you

[ocr errors]

cannot continue as we have been. We must have guarantees, and the more the life of States is accentuated and concentrated in their individuality, and the more their communications are developed and become with their rich veins of life the factors, the bases of politics, so much the less can Prussia permit that a strange and perhaps a hostile element shall exist in its body so near to its heart. I can, therefore, in all earnestness reply-I am endeavouring honourably and honestly to win Hanover, and to create for it a secure, honourable, yea, a brilliant position in North Germany, if she on her side respects the old traditions and remains true to us. But, of a truth, they must leave off making us continually feel that they are impediments in our way."

After some communications from Bismarck as to the way in which he was endeavouring to gain Hanover, the two statesmen proceed to discuss the leanings of the South German States which were indisputably hostile, Manteuffel then sums up the result of their conversation :

I see, first of all, that you have embraced in your vision all the points which are to be regarded in the great conflict, and that much has been done to bring the chances of success on your side ; but I only see something ready, complete and sure in one point, and that point is the Prussian army. Everything else in your structure is uncertain and tottering. The position of the French is not perfectly well defined and sure; Germany seems to me to be hostile—since, to say the truth, I do not reckon on Hanover. The policy of safety and foresight does not lie in the character of the King; and I repeat it, Hanover may be dangerous. Consider the Brigade Kalisch is yet in Holstein ; consider that Hanover and Hesse together can set on foot a tolerably strong power, and that you will not have much force to spare to carry on operations there. Italy? Its alliance is sure, you tell me. Well, I too will believe that they keep their promise. Do you believe that the Italian army can count on success? I think not. I see, therefore, a defeat on the side of Italy."

6“Well," continued Manteuffel, “let us leave aside the investigation of the chances-granted that you have them, especially in the effectiveness of the army. But there is a second serious question, Is war necessary ? Is the situation such, that all the heavy mischief, all the mighty perils, must he incurred which so vast a conflict will summon up? You know that I too desire to see Prussia at the head of Germany: I wish this as a Prussian, I desire this out of conviction as a German, and I have laboured to this end as a minister so far as I was able. But I have thought that such developments could be ripened by time and by organic growth, and I have found the greatest antagonism to the Prussian hegemony in Germany in the mistrust of the Germans—this mistrust the fear of the princes for their sovereignty and the future of their dynasties. The fear of the various divisions of the people for the autonomic individuality sets itself against Prussia and is utilised adroitly by Austria, which on account of its almost too great complexity is assured on its side against such mistrust. I have held it to be the task of Prussia—and I have so worked for this end-to earn for us the confidence of the princes and the people in Germany. If that end is reached then the lead will come to us and the part of Austria is played out since were it not for that mistrust of which I speak the spirit of Germany, the spirit of culture and enlightenment, the spirit of progressive national life, turns to us. I have too my decided views about Prussian wars. .. So long as we threaten our power is great; it diminishes by being put into activity. When we stand at ease in the ranks we must always be counted with; the peace of Paris argues a little for my maxim. Where is the necessity of upsetting so thoroughly that confidence, which is already shaken by the new era? where is the urgent need of imperilling the strong and reserved position of Prussia by the uncertain dice-play of war?”?

Bismarck replies :

"“O my honoured friend, I know these views of yours. I know those noble intentions, which animated and led you, so long as you held the rudder of the German State. I know your conscientiousness and foresight. Believe me, I too am far removed from playing frivolously with the destiny of the Prussian State—this artificial creation of centuries of striving! Believe me, it is not I who have provoked this war.

I find myself in the condition of necessary defence, and if I have not, like the King, the same reverential awe of entering into a duel at least with this perfidious Austria, yet would I for no price, without necessity, bring the uttermost to pass. But I know that in Vienna they will have war; they will not grant to us our rightful position ; yea, they would suppress us and choke us in the machinery of the Bund, which you know gave to you too much trouble and sorrow. This Saxon Beust and his friends in Vienna, the sanguine Meysenbug, the ambitious pedant Biegeleben, and that simple honest fellow Max Gagern, are dreaming of a new German kingdom, in which a parliament of their own stamp shall replace the Kaiser Franz Joseph on the Imperial German throne. . . . And shall I wait quietly until perhaps they find a more favourable moment for the accomplishment of their noble designs ? And then, my honoured friend, are there not moments in which the bold resolve is a necessity ? . . . What had become of Prussia if Frederick the Great had waited ?

..O my honoured friend, my feeling tells me, and my reason does not contradict it, that the spirit of Frederick the Great and the spirit of 1813 is the breath of life which breathes through Prussian history. But not to go forward here means going backward, backward along incalculable paths. Shall I hide this conviction in my heart, sit still and wait for the end to arrive, until perhaps a hand which is less strong than mine, a mind which is less bold than that which I feel in me, may be called to make head against the peril?" !

To such considerations Manteuffel had nothing to reply, except that he could not undertake to judge whether such a moment had come or not. After a little further question and reply, the two ministers separated, without having effectuated any change in each other's convictions.

a

Bismarck then remains alone, and after remaining sunk in deep thought for a few minutes, cries out:

"" All, all, all sing the same song; all speak of responsibility, of the perils, of the misery, of war! But do I not feel the responsibility ? do I not see the danger? does not my heart, too, grow cold at the thought of the misery of war? And is he not right? If success was to fail me, if our enemies had power to beat down Prussia—to break Ler—what were the consequences ?—to abdicate like a frivolous actor, condemned of all, and to be through all future history a mock of the vile mob—but then," he cried passionately out, while he directed his burning look up

wards, “ on the other side to retreat with the consciousness of victory in · one's heart, to lose the moment, and therewith perchance the whole great

mighty future of Prussia, which I see stretching so brilliant before

a

[ocr errors]

me

[ocr errors]

66. And that which you lose at the moment

Eternity ne'er will restore.' • He stood still again, and looked in deep meditation on the ground.

C“Who will give me light in this darkness? I must have heaven above my head, and let the fresh air into

my

blood."" So saying, Herr von Bismarck seized a light hat and left the room, descended the steps at the back of the hotel, and paced up and down the large garden in its rear, under the shade of its majestic trees. After some time he re-enters the house, still undecided, and seeks the drawing-room of his residence, where he finds his wife, his daughter, and Herr von Keudell, his secretary and chief confidant. A tea-service was on a side table, and Fräulein von Bismarck addressed herself to preparing and serving tea. Herr von Bismarck, however, it appears, does not indulge in so effeminate a beverage; so for him a lacquey enters, and presents to the Ministerpresident a cut-glass foaming with Bavarian beer, ' which the - latter half empties in one thirsty draught.' Indeed, it seems that Prince Bismarck finds in beer great support and comfort in difficult crises, and always takes care to have it at hand. After a little desultory talk about visitors, the Minister cries to Herr von Keudell, A little music, dear Keudell—will

you?' Herr von Keudell accordingly seats himself at the piano, while Bismarck paces up and down the room in thought. After playing various pieces, the secretary begins the As-dur Sonata, of Beethoven, which contains the famous Marcia funebre sulla morte d’un Eroe.' A gentle smile of satisfaction at the commencement of the sonata showed that he had touched Herr von Bismarck's right key. His attention grew more intense when the marcia was reached. Then he stood still.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »