(The Nation, October 13, 1866.)
Why, ah! Why, should there be general war in Europe? Where is the fatal necessity that these poor nations should so soon fly at one another’s throats again? Where, indeed – and why? When you expound to me the sound reasons for which nations always have gone to war hitherto, then you may ask such a question, and pause for a reply. All I can do for you now is to point out the systems which demonstrate to every rational being, not that war ought to come, but only that it is coming, and that everybody knows it. Reason, indeed! Since when, I pray you, has Reason presided over human affairs?
In the first place, then, Prussia has run mad, mad with pride and ambition; not for the first time in European history. She is not a whit more insolent today, nor more irresistible in her own eyes, than she was the day before Jena. You will have received the proclamation of King William, on occasion of formal taking possession of Hanover. He officially informs the Hanoverians, in their own capital city, that they are his To Have and To Hold “by right of conquest”; and adds that they ought to be charmed by that circumstance, because “whatever is acquired by Prussia is so much gained for Germany”; a subtle proposition, which it would take some time to discuss. Be that as it may, most of the Hanoverians are not of the King’s opinion, as they informed him by a deputation a few days ago; and all this while the King of Hanover (or ex-King) at Vienna proclaims to all mankind that the whole of these Prussian transactions in his dominions are null and of none effect; that he stands upon his rights, and “waits for events.” What events?
It is proper to add that there is a party in Hanover, partly namely of the Nationalverein, which is entirely Prussian; and that thirty-four members of the last Hanover Chamber of Deputies have signed a declaration approving and sustaining the Prussian annexation. Still, with the majority of the people discontented and plainly declaring that they submit only par force, and with the ex-King standing on his rights, and “awaiting events,” he is evidently one unsettled account, one open question.
Then Prussia is holding military possession of the greater part of Saxony, as a method of exercising a gentle sort of pressure upon that Power, by way of persuading it to yield the Prussian demands. By telegrams received this morning it is stated that the negotiation between Saxony and Prussia, which had come to a stand, is again reopened, with some prospect of peaceable settlement; but this has been announced so often before that one cannot believe it. And it is generally supposed, with some show of reason, that little Saxony would not so stiffly oppose its potent neighbour without promises of support from some quarter or another. In short, here is another unsettled account, and open question; and another potentate in Germany who is “waiting for events.” Grand Dieu! What events?
Also, we find that the pretence of allowing a voice to the folk of North Schleswig, to pronounce whether they will be German or Danish, has been definitively abandoned. “The Nationalities” are at a discount in Prussia just now; and indeed the Gazette de la Croix, great royalist and feudalist organ in Prussia, systematically mocks at the “pretended rights of nationality.” During the war, indeed, that was a useful kind of slang to throw out among the Bohemians and Hungarians, in hopes of making them rise upon Austria; but during peace, and in his own case, and among his own populations, King William wants to hear of no such nonsense. So Polish Posen and Danish Schleswig had better hold their tongues. In short, this Hohenzollern, with a high hand and with an outstretched arm, is arranging Germany to suit himself, and seems for so far to defy the world. The world is not going to be defied in this sort of way with impunity.
And Austria is in the most black and dangerous humour. Never believe, what the English newspapers have been reporting with so much satisfaction, that Austria was destroyed and overthrown for ever at the battle of Sadowa. She has been lower than this ere now, and has been found hard to kill; accepts her humiliation always for the moment; then sets to work to gather up her force again silently, and you find her soon as fresh as ever. At present (and this is the perilous symptom) Austria is diligently conciliating all the populations which live under its sway. Hungary is at last to have her “Constitution of 1848”; and the party of M. Deak is now supreme. A still more remarkable thing has befallen in Galicia (Austrian Poland) – the Emperor has appointed the Count Goluchowski governor of that province, a Pole of the highest patriotic type, and who possesses the love and sympathy of his compatriots; a very marked indication of the new policy of the Austrian Court, to make itself strong in the affections of the various non-German nationalities which compose that Empire.
I may remark that this liberality of Austria towards her share of Poland gives deep umbrage to Russia; and accordingly one cannot be surprised to read among the news of yesterday that:
“General Prince Baryatinski, who was at Geneva, intending to pass the winter there, and who had formed a grand establishment on the shore of the Lake, has been suddenly recalled home to Russia, to take chief command of the Russian army, which is assembling on the frontiers of Turkey.”
And which will then be very handy for use against any other Power upon occasion; for the elements of conflagration are on all sides, in every corner of this unhappy combustible continent; and the fuel dry and prompt to kindle; the only question being, Who will apply the match?
October 10, 1866.