spirit of which we spoke manifests itself in Germany. Some of the peculiarities of German institutions, which have been supposed by Englishmen to mark the slavish character of the people, seem to me to be signs of a capability for national freedom, and even steps towards that freedom. We have no

We have no more right, for instance, to speak of a nation in which every man is, has been, or will be, a soldier, as under the heel of a military despotism, than we have to speak of ourselves or the Americans as under the heel of a parliamentary despotism. Indeed, we hardly know a better description of the rising of the people this summer in Germany than the very words which Lowell applies to his countrymen in their great struggle

“ Last year, the nation at a word,

When trembling freedom cried to shield her,
Flamed, welding into one keen sword,

Still hoping, longing for a wielder." The number of volunteers that flocked to the war was so great that the Government were obliged to reject some of them. Is this a nation of mere drill and red tape ? But this is not all. In spite of the weakness of Parliament and the strength of the military power, the sense of law is a tradition in Prussia which cannot be rooted out. The story of the lawsuit in which the miller defeated Frederick II. is told with delight by a people who believe the said Frederick to have been “great," and the appeal of Dr. Jacoby to Bismarck would have had little sense if he had been one of a people who owned that “the lion's paw was all the law.”

This last allusion will perhaps suggest that whatever answer I can give to the first question which I proposed, yet, so far as Bismarck is concerned, the triumph of the new régime in Europe can be looked upon merely as reactionary. We admit, of course, that none of the feelings which we have mentioned were first called forth by him; that the only law which we have alluded to as promoting national life, the universal military service, was due to a man as far his superior in morality and ability * as a great statesman in a time of national distress must be to a clever politician in time of national success ; that much of what he has done has been a check to constitutional progress; but yet, when all this has been said, there is still another side to the question. To take the most difficult case first, the

respect for law. Whoever will read the arguments with the Liberal Abgeordneter on the questions of the control of the budget, responsible ministry, and military service, will see that he labours, not always ineffectually, to justify his position by the Articles of the Constitution

* Our allusion, of course, is to Stein, not to Hardenberg. We suppose that, whatever hand the latter may have had in introducing this change, most Germans will be inclined to attribute the calling out of the spirit which so gladly accepted it, as the work rather of his nobler colleague.

[blocks in formation]

“If you, gentlemen,” he says in one place, “had the right, by a resolution made by yourselves only, to settle the budget both in general and in detail ; if you had the right to demand from his Majesty the King the dismissal of those ministers who do not possess your confidence; if you

had the right, through your resolves about the state expenditure for the year, to settle the condition and organization of the army; if you had the right, which according to the constitution you have not, though you claim it in the address, to control by your limitations the relations of the Executive to their officials ;—then, indeed, would you be in the possession of the whole government of the country. It is on the basis of these claims that your address rests, if it has a basis at all. I think I can describe its practical effect in a few words. By this address, the House of Hohenzollern is required to surrender its constitutional rights in the government to the majority of this House."

Then, after rejecting the distinction between the policy of the ministers and that of the king on the ground (which we quoted above) of the difference between the English and Prussian constitution, he adds

“ I do not reject this separation of the ministers from the Crown, which is claimed in this address, at all for the purpose which has been imputed to me from the tribune-making the authority of the Crown a shield by which the ministers can cover themselves. This covering we do not need. We stand firm on the ground of right.”

No doubt the arrest of Twesten, as well as the later arrest of Jacoby, must be opposed to the spirit of all constitutions; and we should be sorry to rest our hopes of any greater liberality in Count Bismarck's policy on such arguments as those which we have quoted. We have merely alluded to them to show the influence of law even on the most powerful of ministers at the time at which he was most impatient of parliamentary government. But when the scene is changed from the Prussian Abgeordnetes Haus to the North German Reichstag, we do see reason for better hopes. The idea which he urged in the former Assembly that the constitution was based on compromises, seemed then to mean that the House must always yield to the king; but in the latter we see that he really did recognise the Parliament as a body to which it was even desirable to yield when the safety of the country permitted it. The acknowledgment of the strength of his opponents, of the uselessness of resisting them, and of the necessity of appealing to their patriotism, is made with all the genial frankness of his nature, and certainly must startle those who look on him merely as an advocate of despotism

“ Gentlemen, if you had passed about four years in such a conflict with feelings of responsibility for the whole situation, between powers both . abroad and at home, of neither of which you were the master, you would say that the Government has done right to put an end to this conflict as soon as it could do so without humiliating the Crown; but the moment we have chosen has been such as to exclude every suspicion of humiliation.”

"Nothing is more fitted to produce the amalgamation of the opposing elements than common work for common objects.”

And again

“ Constitutional life cannot be tried by mathematical, not even by legal, rules. It is a perpetual compromise. I hold it for a piece of good fortune for the country—especially in considering our relations to foreign countries, which are the questions that concern me most nearly—that the conflict is at an end, that even the great majority of our decided opponents have consented to conclude a peace.” But above all, consider such appeals as the following, in contrast to the earlier tone of bullying :

“Gentlemen, we ask you for bread, and you give us a stone. You act as if the matter concerned you less than it concerns the Government—as if the representatives had one country and the Government another; as if these two were not identical, and had not the same needs. We demand it not for ourselves, but for the people which you represent; if you think that the people which you represent, and which has sent you here to arrange its business, does not need this money, then you are using your rights, nay, then it is your duty to refuse it. If you believe the people's affairs do need the money, then it is your duty to grant it; then, by your refusal, you injure not us, the Government, but those who have entrusted you with your office—whose affairs cannot be managed unless you grant this money.

“I do not say that I appeal to your patriotism in proposing these taxes. I hate big words, especially in money matters. I appeal simply to your own sense of duty. You are come here to work with us in the arrangement of the affairs of the North German people, and of that important part of it which forms the Prussian people. I demand of you merely the fulfilment of the duty, and, if you desire that we should spend money on objects that will be useful and productive for the commonweal, to grant us the means to these ends. For, if you will not grant them, then they are not in existence, and we cannot make them, nor incur the necessary expenses." This is surely not the language of mere despotism, and we can hardly wonder that, as he says in another place, some of the Southern States (Bavaria,* at any rate) shrank from the Union, on the ground of the too great liberality of their Northern brethren.

No doubt it will be said these utterances do not sound like the expressions of an intentionally liberal policy, but rather like the concessions of a man who can fight no further. We believe that criticism is in the main just. We have not held up Count Bismarck as a statesman of the first rank, who can call out the life of a people because he understands and sympathizes with their highest aspirations; but we think it is no small matter that Germany should have as its leader at such a time a man who understands enough of the spirit of his people and of the times to be able to yield heartily and frankly to the tide of advancing freedom.

And what as to the policy of Germany in Europe ? Those who have heard anything of the anxious zeal with which Germans, in discussing the approaching recovery of Elsass and Lothringen, have

* This was written before the concessions to Bavarian Particularism and aristocracy which have been unfortunately made in the new constitution.

tried to exclude all those parts which they believe to be hopelessly Frenchified, would not fear from such a people a policy of aggression. No doubt Bismarck's own view of the question is not the same as that of the more enthusiastic nationalists among his countrymen. He has confessed that he claims the provinces merely as a safeguard against new French aggressions, not as necessary to the unity of Germany. Still there are two points to be considered in his utterances on this matter, which are all-important in a calculation of his future policy. First, it is as a safeguard against aggression, not merely as new territory, that he claims them. The most enthusiastic champion of the French cannot deny that the fear of French aggression is justified by many facts of history—by the beginning of this very war.

Secondly, there is a nervous sense of the difficulty of the task he has undertaken. The dislike to " Widerstrebende Bevölkerungen ” which he expressed in the speeches on North Schleswig and Poland, now takes the form of desiring to hand over these new provinces as a reward to “our southern allies.” We cannot think this wish so merely dishonest as some suppose. Certainly the French have tried during the war to appeal to the Badensers and Bavarians against the Prussians, and it is, therefore, no unfair conclusion that the former would be less hated as masters than the latter. But in any case, the statesmanlike dislike to unnecessary conquests of reluctant populations is a fair guarantee for the peace of Europe. May not it also be taken as a guarantee for the independence of Luxembourg ? Luxembourg offers none of the excuses for annexation which have been used of late years (honestly used, we believe) by the Prussians. It does not desire to unite with Germany, as Schleswig-Holstein, Nassau, or Cassel did; it is neither necessary to self-defence nor German in language and feeling as Hanover and Frankfort were, as Alsace is believed by Germans at bottom to be. May not Luxembourg then hope for the same treatment as was given to Bohemia in 1866, that is, that even if it should endure for a time the passage of Prussian troops, those troops would leave it as an undesirable conquest when military purposes no longer required its retention. We do not defend the tone of Count Bismarck's note; we admit that the protest of Lord Granville might have been stronger, but we see no reason to fear for Luxembourg's annexation to Prussia or Germany. There are wild theorists among the Germans, no doubt, who, like Dr. Wagner,* look forward to the absorption of Holland and German-speaking Switzerland in United Germany; but we believe them to be an insignificant minority ; while, on the other hand,


See his pamphlet “Elsass und Lothringen und ihrer wieder-gewinnung für Deutschland.”.

a great number desire, in spite of the difficulties which Bismarck sees in the way, the restoration of North Schleswig to Denmark, and, whenever Poland shall return to life, the restoration to it of the still Polish strip of Posen. Thus the practical statesman, modifying the wildness of theorists, and himself influenced by the popular sense of justice, may yet inaugurate in Europe a policy of peace and freedom such as he himself may hardly yet foresee or desire—such as all true patriots in every nation have so long hoped for in vain.


Since this was written an article has appeared in the Spectator on Prussian “Junkerism,” which collects into a neat form all the popular mistakes about Prussia. In the first place it assumes that the influence of the Junkerthum has been strengthened by the events of the last five years. Now it is notorious in Germany that the unity of Germany, which Bismarck and Napoleon have between them nearly completed, was looked upon by the Junkerthum as a Republican programme, and that any weakening of the small State principle was expected to weaken the Junker party. It is true, no doubt, that they have in the last year wisely modified their programme, and now use their influence chiefly in support of the authority of the king and of Prussia in the Bund; but surely a confession of defeat is not a sign of victory. Other mistakes of the Spectator are, however, far more important. I thought it worth while to apply for evidence direct from Germany to expose them; and the following answers have been sent me by a Professor at IIalle University :

“ That such a consent of the officers is never given unless the applicant is noble or specially protected by the king, is sufficiently contradicted by the very large number of officers not belonging to the nobility. The Prussian Army List, published every year, shows it to everybody who takes the trouble to open it. The three brothers of my wife, who have no “von' before their names, nor are more specially protected by his Majesty, as far as I know, than any other faithful subjects, are officers in the army, one of them on the general staff as obrist-lieutenant. They like to accompany us in the University society, and would laugh heartily at such humbug as the Spectator produced—that · Prussian officers quitting a room because the daughters of professors enter it' were maintaining a rule needful to the system of the great army. I never in my life heard of any case which could give rise to such a foolish statement. Many sons of professors now are fighting before Paris ; also, a colleague of mine, a professor of law at our university, is near Paris as lieutenant and adjutant.

“That an officer - slays civilians in the street' is an exceptional case ; and that such a thing has been done with impunity' will be very difficult to prove. Of course such manslaughter is prohibited also by the military code. After all it is of no importance to find out, if possible, some forgotten case : now-a-days our army is an armed nation, and there exists no animosity between soldiers and civilians."

« ElőzőTovább »