Page images
PDF
EPUB

of night a safe and speedy retreat, whereas had he remained in his defensive position at Orleans nothing could have saved all that remained of the Army of the Loire from a repetition of the catastrophe at Sedan - this in fact was the main object of Prince Frederic Charles from the commencement of the campaign on the Loire. In this instance at least the Frenchman, with the example of MacMahon before him, outgeneraled the strategy of an opponent so renowned for his skill in this peculiar and most difficult of every other tactic in the profession of a soldier.

Under the guidance of such a skilful leader as this Hohenzol. lern prince is known to be, we may be assured that so long as a French Army exists and shows fight no pause in the contest will be permitted, no cessation to the thunder of his cannon, no respite to the pursuit of his adversary. In point of fact the Germans are tired of so much useless resistance, they know not what to do with their prisoners and once for all they are determined coûte qui coûte to bring the war to a termination, even should they be obliged to call the Landsturm to arms. Every day we hear of fresh troops arriving at railway pace from Germany, every day we hear of the capture of fortresses and the surrender of towns and cities, all rich in glorious old traditions; they are, however, nothing more to the Germans than so many episodes in the grand drama of which Paris is to be the centre. That stronghold, now for ever memorable in the page of history for its long resistance, they say must be taken, let the cost be what it may-their military fame as a nation of warriors, depends upon its submission, in any case they dare not raise the siege, an act which would not only expose them to ridicule, but be the means of causing an outbreak among the vast population of Paris and the adjoining provinces which even a German army of well tried veterans would find hazardous to encounter, much less subdue. To attain the object they have in view, the whole of the country to the extent of many miles has been forcibly occupied with the intention of forming an extensive chain of armour to that already so firmly linked around Paris. It may take time to carry out the enterprize—there is, however, no retreat from this but in victory, and as the patience and endurance of a German seems to be inexhaustable, we may presume that the day is not far distant when Paris must surrender.

In short, until that is done we fear there is no hope of peace, we are nevertheless glad to have to record that this important question has been warmly taken up by some of the leading men in France, M. Guizot has been the first in the field, and coming from a man of such high consideration, we feel assured that his opinions will find many supporters. France bas already suffered too long and too fearfully, and for what?-a mere idea—the giving up to her conqueror a strip of territory of no great value, and which had originally belonged to the people who made the demand; other nations now great and powerful were obliged to submit in their turn to a similar fate, yet they have lost nothing in the estimation of their neighbours, nay, as in the case of Austria, seem rather to have gained than lost.

In summing up the events of the past month, every lover of social order will learn with no little pleasure that the great chief of the House of Hohenzollern has accepted from the hands of the ruling princes of Germany the imperial diadem of that great and influential country. Here we see without the disbursement of the smallest fraction of our wealth, or the sacrifice of the life of one of our soldiers, the establishment of that great Central European power, to achieve which our fathers had so long fought, and our statesmen had so long struggled in vain, and which was intended to curb on one side the ever restless, ever turbulent spirit of democratic France, and on the other the towering ambition of the Czar of all the Russias. Truly, of all the humiliations France has had to endure since the commencement of this ever memorable war, to be obliged to resign the sceptre of European supremacy into the hands of her greatest enemy has been the bitterest of all.

At the present moment it wonld be impossible to foretell what the consequences may be of this mighty change to the future of the civilized world, but judging from the character and tendencies of the people now invested with the weighty responsibilities of becoming the arbiters of Europe—we think we may venture to anticipate that the peace of the world will not be wantonly broken. On the other hand if we reverse the picture, we tremble to think what might have been the fate of Europe had the fortune of war favoured the arms of democratic France, with her hosts of blind fanatics and visionary dreamers ; indeed the supposition can scarcely admit of a doubt that in less than a month we should see the whole of Europe a scene of tumult and strife, and hear of nothing else but the establishment of that Great and Universal Republic which is to unite the whole of Europe into one bond of brotherhood—we should see monster meetings in all our own great towns and cities of brawling radicals, demanding the reform of this or that imaginary grievance, Fenianism again rampant in Ireland, panics here and panics there, and all industry at a stand still.

FOREIGN SUMMARY.

Bordeaux, Dec. 20. The telegraph, of course, has told you long ago (as we reckon time now) of the removal of the Delegate Government from Tours to this place; but it probably has not given you the real reason for that step-at least the reason that gains acceptance here

among people usually supposed to be well-informed. It is this: At Tours, M. Gambetta was hampered with colleagues who did not come up to his standard of zeal for the Republic, and were, therefore, considered not helps but hindrances, if close at hand, though they might be very useful elsewhere. Like the gallant old Scotchman who gave new life to the decaying burgh of St. Andrews, in which he was born, when he returned after a long Indian residence, M. Gambetta has a decided preference for a “ committee of one,” and he remains to play the Dictator, with the Army (or more properly Armies) of the Loire more absolutely at his command than if he had been born in the purple. Such a man will leave bis mark on the age, and in time, perhaps, even Count Bismarck will accord bim some distinction among “ the men of the pavement." Count Moltke, too, has found several disturbing elements introduced into his highly scientific calculations, which were to allow the Prussians to be all home again in plenty of time to dress their Christmas trees, and probably M. Gambetta has almost as much to do with the disappointment as General Trochu. At any rate, the German Christmas festivities will be kept neither in the Fatherland nor in starved and bombarded Paris, and they will in all likelihood be of the character which Froissart ascribes to the merrymakings of your countrymen; you know he says, “ The English, after their fashion, rejoiced right dolefully.” In Paris, no doubt, the season will not be one of festivity, but I shall be greatly mistaken if as many fears and apprehensions trouble General Trochu as hang heavily on Count Bismarck.

It would be to you only a “twice-told tale" to make more than an allusion to the sorties from Paris, the battles in the valley of the Loire, or the plundering visits of the Prussians to Abbeville, Amiens, Dieppe, Evreux, Rouen, &c., or even their great feat of the re-occupation of Orleans. Suffice it to say, that we fully understand the magnitude of the evils that have fallen on us, and, in M. Favre's words, “we have no delusions left ;" we know we are engaged in a life and death struggle, but still we clearly see our way to a better state of affairs. This war seems to have changed our national character, and Fabian tactics have taken the place of tbe élan that formerly marked us. This puzzles the Prussians amazingly, but we defy them to find a remedy for it. We are firmly resolved to work out our own redemption, and we shall do it in our own mode. One good result of the sorties bas been, that the Reds of Belleville have shown the " white feather," and Red Republicanism is out of the running for the future. No man, or set of men, can ever attain power in France if they shrink in the hour of danger, so the Parisians will not have to call in the Prussians to save them from the Socialists. They would appear to be very happy to do so, if we may judge from the tender concern which Count Moltke showed in informing General Trochu of the recapture of Orleans. The scheme to produce discouragement in Paris signally failed, for the Government had the moral courage to make the matter known to the people, and the result was, as I may say, another vote of confidence in them. Their announcement in the official “Journal” ran thus:

“The Government of the National Defence brings the following facts to the knowledge of the population. Last evening the Government received the following letter :

Versailles, Dec. 5. “. It may be useful to inform your Excellency tbat the Army of the Loire was defeated near Orleans yesterday, and that that town is re-occupied by the German troops. Should, however, your Excellency deem it expedient to be convinced of the fact through one of your own officers, I will not fail to provide him with a safe-conduct to come and return. Receive, General, the expression of the high consideration with which I have the honour to be your very humble and obedient servant,

"The Chief of the Staff, Count MOLTKE.' The Governor answered:

66 Paris, Dec. 6. “'Your Excellency thought it might be useful to inform me that the Army of the Loire was defeated near Orleans, and that that town is re-occupied by German troops. I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of that communication, which I do not think it expedient to verify through the means which your Excellency suggests to me. Receive, General, the expression of the high consideration with which I have the honour to be your very humble and very obedient servant, the Governor of Paris, General Trochu.'

“ This news, which reaches us through the enemy, 'supposing it to be accurate, does not deprive us of our right to rely on the great movement of France rushing to our relief. It changes nothing either in our resolutions or our duties. A single word sums them up :- To fight! Long live France! Long live the Republic!' (Here follows the signatures of the members of the Government of the National Defence.)"

As to the stores of food in Paris, I have said all along that they were far greater than the Prussians were willing to believe, but they now find out that such is the case. They also have discovered, to their intense mortification, that there are means of communication with the rest of the world beyond the balloons, and the carrier-pigeons, and even these they are not able to neutralize. I have not heard of a single balloon being brought down by the new-fangled gun their renowned Krupp has invented for the purpose ; tbeir bawks don't seem to catch many pigeons, and their attempts to send in false news by means of some that they took in a balloon have been so clumsily managed as to be at once detected and laughed at. They had, till recently, some of the poor Cyprians in their pay, who used to carry them out news, and keep up their communication with resident spies ; but the vigilant commandant of one of the western forts has put a stop to this by shooting two or three of the miserable creatures, and that channel is effectually stopped. The Governments, however, have all along kept up a regular communication between Paris and Tours, and, to the horror of the Prussians, even with Lorraine, although it swarms with their troops and their spies. I hardly need say, that the communication is good also between Paris and Bordeaux, but you may take this as something like a proof-a sortie from Paris, northwards, is publicly talked of, as to come off this very day, the 20th of December. I would not mention this, whether I believed it or not, could it do any harm ? but I think it well to give it to you as a test.

“ Time and I against any two," was the saying of a famous French statesman, and he was able to make good the saying. So will it be with France. “Time” is in her favour, and if it has not yet brought forward her deliverer, it is only a delay which France can better afford than Germany. One great reason with the Prussians for forming the siege of Paris was the expectation that intestine dissention would soon deliver her into their hands, and what they expected their wonderful love of truth prompted them to telegraph all over the world as having already occurred. Never have people been more signally disappointed, and the disappointment is beginning to tell very unpleasantly across the Rhine. It is certainly true, though officially denied, that the Berlin population are becoming very turbulent, and a street fight seems likely to occur, “ Unter den Linden” rather than in the Rue Rivoli. It also has come out that there are what are mildly termed " differences of opinion” in the Cabinet at Versailles, and we may expect some as singular disclosures as the publication of the dispatches of the ex-Imperial Government have afforded. Already Count Bismarck thinks it necessary to protest that he is not to blame if Paris is not yet, nor ever will be bombarded, and his known tenderness of heart makes this disclaimer very valuable. Count Moltke bas “a great talent for siience," but he has his partisans, who are not so discreet, and from them we learn the simple fact, that three months have not sufficed to bring up either guns or ammunition enough to give the proposed bombardment a chance of success; and whether the German host can wait another three months for them is not at all clear even to themselves. They begin to see that they have made an egregious mistake, and the question “ Whom shall we hang ?” is discussed as eagerly in their camp as it was in England in the middle of the Crimean War. At present, the favourite candidate is understood to be some particular general who did not capture Paris by a coup de main on the 19th of last September, when the Mobiles made a worse figure at Villejuif than they have since done at Champigny; the old story of the north front of Sebastopol over again.

« PreviousContinue »