Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

of the Emperor, the object of which was to prove that it had now become imperative upon France to intervene against Austria in Italy. Previous to the meeting of Parliament, the only assurance that the British Government had been able to extract from the French Emperor was, "that so long as Austria confines herself to her own limits, Sardinia must not expect from France any assistance in an aggressive war." An assurance of the very weakest and vaguest kind. For (1) it virtually requires that Austria shall withdraw her troops from the Papal territories, and her influence from all southern Italy, and confine herself wholly and exclusively to Lombardy (2) an insurrectionary movement in Lombardy, easily excited, would doubtless be held at the Tuileries to take from Sardinia's attack upon Austria the character of an aggressive war; and (3) besides all this, the Imperial assurance only says that Sardinia "must not expect," not that France will not give, assistance. In fact, it .was an assurance that assured nothing. And when the Imperial pamphlet, entitled "Napoleon III. and Italy," came out, it became sufficiently obvious why the Emperor had been so chary of pledging himself to the maintenance of peace. In that official pamphlet the Emperor attacks Austria in the most thoroughgoing and premeditated style-declaring that her expulsion from Italy is absolutely necessary, and can no longer be delayed, and that the sole hope of Italy lies in the intervention of France. There is no attempt made to conciliate Austria; on the contrary, pains is taken to demonstrate that the "reforms" which France must demand from her, it is impossible for her to grant. The pamphlet says:

"To ask Austria to exercise a milder and more liberal rule in Lombardy would be simply to ask her to commit suicide. It is evident she cannot maintain her rule in Upper Italy, except by the strong hand; every atom of liberty conceded by her to that conquered country would be made use of as a weapon towards enfranchisement. But this is not all, and this was well understood by M. de Metternich in 1815. Place the Roman States, Naples, and Tuscany,

under a better system of government, and the first effect of this change would necessarily be to create a bond between those States and Lombardy, the pressure of which would immediately be felt by Austria. Thus Austria would not be menaced only by the reforms she might introduce into her own provinces, but also by those introduced into these independent States. She is condemned to oppose a firm resistance to every innovation; immobility is the absolute condition of her power. It is, therefore, impossible to obtain her co-operation, and without that nothing can be done at

Rome, at Naples, in the Duchies, wherever her power is feared and her impulsions obeyed."

And farther on, after declaring that the creation of an Italian Confederation is the only possible solution of the Italian question, the Imperial pamphleteer again takes pains to show that Austria is the supreme mar-plot and universal obstacle. To this Confederation he says:

"There exists an obstacle beyond Italian and beyond European interests. It is Austria's position in Lombardy. Opposition is the basis of Austrian policy; as Austria opposes reforms, so will she oppose everything else. What is to be done? Are we to bow to the veto of Vienna Are we to discard it? Are we to appeal to force or to public opinion to overcome this resistance?"

Finally, having thus fastened a quarrel of the most unevadable kind upon Austria, the pamphleteer proceeds to show that the supreme in

terests of France demand that she

should engage in this struggle, and displace Austrian power in Italy in order to make room for her own. History is also appealed to, to prove that what Napoleon III. now meditates is only what Henri IV., the chiefs of the Republic, and Napoleon I., made a prime object of their warlike policy:

"French policy has traditions which it never can abandon, because they respond to the permanency of its influence. One of those traditions is, that the Alps, which are for her a bulwark, shall not become an armed fortress

against her power. Our former kings understood this, as it was afterwards understood by the Republic and the first Empire. In that national idea Henry IV. only anticipated Napoleon I. That great king, who was as practi

cal as he was chivalrous, knew that between France and Austria Italy ought to extend freely, and belong only to herself. Thus, the same ideas are maintained throughout the space of time when they respond to permanent interests, and to a policy as national as it is European."

This is very polished, yet very plain speaking. The sensation produced by the pamphlet was profound and disquieting. It was issued, we have said, on the same day that the British Parliament opened in four days afterwards (Feb. 7) the French Legislature was likewise to commence its sittings; and the speech of the Emperor was eagerly waited for, in the ingenuous expectation that it would reveal definitely and explicitly the intentions of its author. That it did not fulfil these expectations was just what might have been anticipated. And yet it showed Napoleon III. in a new aspect. In sentiment it was fundamentally different from the character in which the Emperor had hitherto chosen to appear. It is no longer, as at Bordeaux, "the Empire is peace,"--that France only wants rest, and that the only triumphs he desires are the triumphs of peaceful industry. It is no longer, as during the Russian war, that treaties must be respected, and that he who violates the peace of Europe must be put hors la loi. The Emperor speaks openly of his quarrel with Austria; and for the first time we hear that France has a mission to perform in putting to rights all the rest of the world! It is now for the first time announced that one of the "principles" of the Emperor's rule is "to restore France to her true rank among nations,”a vague but ominous phrase. He says that," although the heir of Napoleon I.," he "will not recommence an era of conquests; and that peace will not be disturbed "except for the defence of great national interests-religion, philosophy, and civilisation." A wider reservation he could hardly have made; for an emperor who is ready to go to war whenever his own ideas of religion, philosophy, and civilisation are not acted upon elsewhere, need never be long out of the smoke of battle. And, lastly--as if to show

[ocr errors]

how very extensive is the championship thus assumed-it is proclaimed that the interest of France is everywhere where there is a just cause, and where civilisation ought to be made to prevail." What is to be held "civilisation?"-and who is to decide where it "ought to be made to prevail?" Napoleon III., of course, is the only possible answer. What are we to think of all this? Such language-we say it deliberately - has not been heard from the chief of a nation since the days of Robespierre and the revolutionary propagandism of 1792. Napoleon III., we feel assured, has no intention to attempt to domineer in the same fashion as his uncle, nor to convulse Europe like the Republicans of 1792; yet the above-quoted words would justify any amount of intermeddling and coercion, both by policy and by arms, in the affairs of other States. And we are very much mistaken if Napoleon III. has not resolved upon a policy which will disregard all treaties, and aim at wholesale intervention, for the sake of putting the affairs of Europe on a basis which will best comport with his own interests and those of France.

[ocr errors]

We shall not do injustice to the Emperor of the French. He is placed in a trying position; and revolutionary elements are now at work in Europe, which, if he does not anticipate their explosion, are likely to prove his ruin. This is the secret motive for his meditated intervention in Italy. But it is clear also that, in his desire to restore France to her true place among nations," he aims to obtain for her the position of despotic arbiter in the affairs of Europe. And we feel confident-sagacious, far-seeing monarch as he is--that he will seek to accomplish this grand triumph for himself and for France by addressing himself to one object at a time, and by an adroit successive shifting of his alliances, in such a manner that he may always have a preponderance of power on his side, and so carry his point with each State in turn. It is Austria's turn at present. He has her fixed in the vice of his dread and subtle policy. But it may be England's turn by-and-by: so it

becomes us to look ahead, and comprehend the novel phase, the new influence, that is coming over European politics.

The policy of Napoleon III. is too subtle and too powerful to be safely watched with indifference. He has made Paris the centre, and himself has become the prime moving power of diplomatic Europe. Rarely gifted with a prescient power of calculation, cool, and secret, he covers the map of the future with his plans, and slowly, steadily, and unflinchingly he works onwards towards the accomplishment of each in its turn, -ever thinking of the others while carrying out the one in hand, so as to make each pave the way for its successor. Like all strong natures -and never in this respect was there a nature stronger than his he bides his time; while his marvellous reticence and self-control shroud even from his privy councillors the ultimate ends which he

keeps in view. The acts of his policy appear one by one, but the plan of which they are fragments he keeps to himself. Neither is he the man to run his head against a wall from a too obstinate pursuit of any particular plan. Sagacious and self-possessed, he bows to the might of Circumstance, and when the tide of event runs strongly against any of his projects, he lets it drop-sometimes replacing it by another, sometimes only postponing it till a more convenient season. Napoleon III. never engages in any policy without holding himself ready to stop whenever circumstances make it his interest to do so. No feature of his character has so puzzled onlookers as this. They see him enter warmly upon a certain project, then all at once stop short as if in mid career, and back out. Probably from the outset, in his secret thoughts he had never intended to go further; or else the strange ceaseless flux of circumstance, which one may watch but no one can control, took such a shape as showed he could obtain better results by stopping half-way, than by carrying out the enterprise to the end. Witness the war with Russia. And let us do him justice again. Much has been said about his aims being dynastic and personal, not national;

His

that he follows his own interests, as opposed to those of France. This idea is founded on a mistake. In public as in private life, selfishness is a folly. It is only fools who are beguiled by its promptings. Napoleon III. is too wise ever to dissociate his policy from the fundamental interests of France. He will give effect to those interests in the manner most advantageous for himself, but he will never disregard them. Deriving his throne from universal suffrage, and centring in himself the whole powers of Government, he seeks in his policy to give expression to the most fundamental interests and desires of the French nation. He pays regard, not to a clique in the capital, nor to the coteries of self-seeking parliamentary chiefs, which his immediate predecessors were too apt to mistake for entire France, but to those enduring aims and interests which lie at the bottom of the national character of Frenchmen. genius consists in correctly discerning to its very depths the heart of the French nation; and his remarkable self-control enables him to keep down any impulses of his own which might lead him to act contrary to the quiet deep tide of national feeling. He has often disregarded and repressed the superficial fret and fume of the nation, for he knows that the nation itself will thank him for so doing. He nobly withstands the ardor civium prava jubentium; for he knows it will hurt himself as well as them if he becomes their leader in a race that starts from folly. But he will ever join with the tide-nay, he anticipates its rising and leads itin cases where he knows the national feelings are truly implicated, and where he sees he can conduct them to a prosperous result. His personal interests, so far from being opposed to such a line of conduct, constitute his strongest motive for adopting it. Doubtless he has many ideas he would like to indulge, or personal affronts (of which he met not a few during the first years of his rule) which most people would like to avenge; but he has the wisdom and self-control to subordinate these to his main motives of self-interestnamely, to keep himself on the throne, and to leave a dynasty behind him.

This he can only hope to accomplish by ruling France as France wishes to be ruled, by conducting the imperial policy in accordance with the national interests, and with so much vigour and ability as to carry the policy successfully to its goal. Hence, in seeking for the motives of the successive projects in which he engages, we must not think to find his personal interests indulged in opposition to the national, but only as determining the particular line or manner in which at any particular time he should give effect to those interests.

During the first years of his rule, Louis Napoleon had to play a subordinate part in the general politics of Europe. Abroad he was universally distrusted and disliked; at home he had enough to do to keep in check the factions in the Assembly and the Socialists in the country. The Czar Nicholas hated him; Prussia looked on him coldly and with mistrust; and even after he was Emperor, the little German States refused to furnish him with a bride. Of the Continental powers, Austria was the first to show any friendliness towards him; and with the chivalrous young Kaiser, and his impetuous strong-handed Minister, Napoleon established a relationship which might possibly have ripened into an active alliance but for the premature death of Prince Schwartzenberg. But it was the English alliance which first enabled Napoleon III. to assume his due place amongst the sovereignties of Europe. He saw it was his true policy for the time; and he stood by us firmly, as we stood by him. But for that alliance-such was the suspicion and antipathy of the other great powers towards a revival of Napoleonic imperialism - France, under Louis Napoleon, would have been isolated and snubbed. But the war with Russia (the Power which had most contemned him) enabled him to take his place in the front rank of European potentates; and at the close of that war he played his cards so well, and so adroitly took up an intermediate position between his ally and his adversary, that he at once conciliated the latter and forced the former to go along with him. Thus he turned the English alliance

to good account. It not only enabled him greatly to augment his prestige and gratify the martial pride of his nation by waging a successful war, but he made it the means of gaining for himself new friends at the close of the war, especially in the very Power which previously had been most opposed to him. These new friends, thus obtained by means of the English alliance, thenceforth rendered him less dependent upon that alliance. Indeed, it was partially by sacrificing that alliance that he succeeded in obtaining the friendship of Russia. Does it sufficiently occur to us that in due time he may veer round entirely, and join an alliance against us, as he once joined an alliance with us?

In exile and adversity Louis Napoleon had time to reflect upon the politics of Europe and the interests and desires of the French nation, and from these to deduce the leading objects which should shape his own policy. His personal susceptibilities we put out of view; he is too great and sagacious to let his policy be influenced by a desire to avenge affronts directed against himself as an individual. But Russia had beaten his uncle, and, in conjunction with other Powers, had conquered France. The retreat from Moscow and the taking of Paris are memories which will sting as long as they endure. Accordingly, to defeat and humble Russia in turn was a point of ambition both to Napoleon III. and to the French people. Yet it is notorious that, during the negotiations which preceded and followed the close of the Crimean struggle, the French Emperor showed every desire to let Russia off easily. How was this? Because he has no passions but those of the intellect, and never prosecutes an animosity a step further than is demanded by the interests which he represents. Having once humbled Russia, it was enough: thenceforth it was his interest to obtain her friendship as a means of carrying out other schemes which he had in reserve, and in which England was little likely to support him. In this way does the profound calculator of the Tuileries play his game. Already he has avenged the Moscow retreat and the first taking of Paris.

By-and-by, if we do not take care, he may as adroitly avenge Waterloo and the exile of St Helena.

At present it is another of his uncle's foes-Austria-whom he has fixed in the cleft stick of his subtle policy. In the outset of his career, as we have said, Austria and he were on good terms; and at the time when we were drifting into the Russian war, it will be remembered that there was issued at Paris a "Revised Map of Europe," which embodied Napoleon I.'s project of checking the advance of Russia upon Constantinople by giving the Danubian Principalities to Austria, and thereby interjecting a great military Power between the northern Colossus and its prey. Probably Napoleon III. at first took to this plan,-a plan which, besides securing to Germany its natural outlet by the line of the Danube, has many advantages as respects the general balance of power in Europe; and doubtless if Austria had been willing to make room for France in Italy, by resigning Lombardy in exchange for the Danubian provinces, it was a project which it would have been well worth while for Napoleon III. to have supported. But Austria showed no desire to give up her old provinces in Italy for the sake of new possessions, which would be contested by Russia, in the valley of the Danube; and moreover, the virtual neutrality maintained by Austria prevented the anti-Russian Alliance assuming such a magnitude as would have induced Russia to accept so great a revision of the territorial boundaries of eastern Europe. To have checked Russia's advance upon Turkey, by the same plan that would have opened Italy to France, would probably have been the best arrangement for the French Emperor. But there was about as much to be gained by the opposite course of propitiating Russia and assailing Austria; for this latter course would afford him the means not only of humbling Austria in Italy, but also perhaps of forming a naval confederacy sufficiently powerful to dictate terms even to Great Britain. Napoleon shifts his policy according to the changes in overruling circumstance-carrying out

now one Napoleonic idea

now an

to the time; but, for the present, the tendency of his policy unquestionably is, to let Russia extend herself on the side of Turkey, in return for countenancing France's policy in Italy, and also for co-operation in other matters which may more nearly affect us, if the Russo-Gallic alliance acquire stability.

The Russian war was no sooner closed than Napoleon III. began to lay his trains for an assault upon Austria in Italy. At the Congress of Paris, the state of Italy was interjected into the discussions by Count Cavour on the part of Sardinia, seconded by Count Walewski on the part of France; the British Minister expressed a wish to see certain reforms adopted in the internal administration of the peninsula; the Russian Minister, though doubtless enjoying the dilemma of Austria, contented himself with saying that he had "no instructions" on the subject; while the representative of Austria very wisely declined to discuss the question. So the game began. The next step in its progress was the demand made by England and France that the Neapolitan Government should reform its administration, and the consequent diplomatic rupture with that Power, -a rupture very idle and unseemly on our part, but by no means useless to the plans of Napoleon III. He continued quietly to work towards his unsuspected end. Orsini was executed, but the French Government published his testament," which inveighed strongly against the Austrian rule in Italy, and blamed Napoleon for playing a similar part at Rome. This publication naturally gave great offence at Vienna,—and it certainly appeared very ingenuous on the part of the French Emperor; but, as we now see, he had his reasons for it. In the June previous, it appears, he had made a formal proposal to the Cabinet of Vienna to join him in pressing upon the Papal Government the following sweeping changes,— namely (1), to strip the Pope of his secular character, changing the Papal territories into a self-managing popular State, in the midst of which the Pope would reside, but not rule, save in that sacerdotal manner in which

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »