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France fearing Prussian influence in Sj^ain, when it was
elsewhere growing so rapidly, disi)alched an arrogant note
demanding Prince Leopold's withdrawal. Bismarck be-
lieved that this was the opportunity which he had been
seeking to bring about war with France, but the king of
Prussia directed that his relative's name be withdrawn.
Bismarck's disappointment at this was such that he
thought of resigning; but almost immediately the leaders of
the war party in France gave him the opportunity which
he sought. The French Government now demanded that
imder no circumstances should Leopold ever be a candi-
date in the future. The king of Prussia, then at the vil-
lage of Ems, rejected this demand firmly, but courteously
enough, and then telegraphed to Bismarck an account of
what he had done, authorizing him to publish the news.
Bismarck deliberately, as he afterward boasted, so con- The Ems
densed the king's words that the result was certain to seem Dispatch
insulting to the French, while at the same time the Prus-
sian people would believe that their sovereign had been
insulted by the insolent demands of the ambassador of
France. Bismarck was dining with Von INIoltke and with
Von Roon, minister of war, when this was done; and they
who a little before had been much dejected now rejoiced
when they saw how this message so cunningly condensed
would most probably bring the war that they wanted;
and they finished their meal with right great joy, caring
little, as a commentator has said, about the thousands
of young men shortly to die and the misery to women and
children sure to come. The French people easily fell into
the trap, for immediately upon j)ublication of what seemed



The Franco-
War, 1870-1

France not

to tliera such an affront, war was declared. And so well
had the thing been contrived that the war was very
popular in Germany. All the rest of the North German
Confederation immediately gave support to Prussia, and
the south German states followed also. It was war be-
tween France and a Germany united.

In later years the Franco-German War, as it came to
be called, appeared as the great landmark in the military
annals of Europe in the nineteenth century. Seldom has
any nation been so quickly triumphant as Prussia, and
seldom has any people been humbled and overthrown
as were the French. In after days nothing convinced men
that German armies were unconquerable so much as
memory of the victories of 1870. Not until the Battle
of the Marne, forty-four years^ later, was the legend of
German invincibility disturbed; and not till the very end
of the Great War could it be completely destroyed. Ac-
tually, however, it is evident that the German military
organization, with its system of universal training, had
been developed with the most careful preparation for the
contest, while the French military system had degenerated
so far that France went into the struggle almost entirely

In 1870, among the undiscerning, France was still
regarded as the foremost military power in Europe. Al-
though a new law had just been passed to some extent
adopting the Prussian system, yet her army, like the
Austrian, continued to be based on the old principle of
conscription and hiring of soldiers, which produced a
standing army, sometimes strong and eflficient, but without
the great mass of reserves behind it that came from the
Prussian method. The total force was less than 600,000
men, little more than half of whom were available. The
French did indeed have a better rifle than the Germans;
and they were beginning to use the mitrailleuse, an early
type of the machine or rapid-fire gun, but this weapon



was not yet generally efFective, nor was it destined to be
a factor in war until tlie (jlernians themselves brought
such large numbers into use in 1914. Furthermore, the
entire French military organization at this time was
suffering from decny and poor administration. Plans of
mobilization had not been effectively worked out, and
supplies and munitions were lacking. Actually, when the
war began, France was able to move down to the frontier
270,000 men with 925 cannon; and during the first period
of the war, the first two or three months, not many more
were ever put into the field. These forces were advanced
quickly, in hope of taking the offensive, but there was
considerable confusion, in which troops were moved with-
out supplies and officers could not find their detachments.
A slight offensive into Germany was indeed begun, but
in face of the ominous and overwhelming movements
of German troops it was at once abandoned; and the
French troops prepared to try to repel the German in-

On the other side all was different. The French leaders
had mistakenly boasted that their army was ready "to
the last button," but the Germans were completely ready.
Everything apparently had been thought out before-
hand, and every emergency foreseen. The entire German
plan had been carefully prepared, and all details of the
mobilization worked out in advance. It was well know^n
that any forward movement by the French must take place
along the railroad through Alsace and the railroad through
Lorraine. With extraordinary accuracy the German staff
predicted in its estimates just where the French would ar-
rive by a certain time. Calculations about their own move-
ments were made no less truly. There is a story, which
may not be true, but which accurately reveals the state
of affairs, that when ]\loltke was aroused at night and
news of the declaration of war brought to him, he merely
directed that a paper in a certain drawer be taken out and

Her military
system in

The Ger-




The German
forces ready

First phase
of the war,
tember 1,

the instructions contained in it followed; after which he
turned over and slept again. At all events, while the
French were beginning to discover how little ready they
were for the war, into which they had gone so rashly and
with such light heart, the German troops were brought
down to the frontier with such speed and precision as
had never been seen before. The Germans had, all told, a
million well-trained troops. Of this number they moved
forward nearly 500,000 with 1,584 guns, and had them
across into France in a little more than two weeks. The
way had been prepared by an army of spies, who did all
they could to confuse the French movements, while they
collected information for the Germans.

Outnumbered two to one in men and in cannon, and
fighting against an enemy as brave and resourceful as
themselves, the French were overwhelmed from the start,
so that there could be only one outcome of the struggle.
The French were in two armies, one under the emperor
in Lorraine, the other under MacMahon in Alsace. The
advancing Germans fell upon them both, striving to keep
them from uniting. On the same day they won two
victories : at Worth in Alsace, and at Spicheren in Lorraine.
The French fought bravely, though they were not led with
aggressiveness or skill; but they were smothered by the
superior artillery, and crushed by the masses of German
infantry. Their northern army now retreated toward the
fortress of Metz, while the southern one abandoned Alsace,
the Germans following with little delay. August 18,
the northern army, now commanded by Bazaine, was de-
feated in the Battle of Gravelotte-Saint Privat, and took
refuge within the fortifications of Metz. A smaller army
was left to surround it, while all the rest of the German
forces hastened after the other French command. Had
it been possible to take into account strategic considera-
tions solely, MacMahon's army should have retreated
upon Paris, delaying the war until it could be rein-


forced. Political conditions, however, made this alto- Sedan
gether inadvisable, since such retreat would almost cer-
tainly mean the downfall of Napoleon's government.
Therefore, in an evil hour, MaclMahon turned in a forlorn
attempt to relieve IVIetz. By a series of magnificent
strategic moves INIoltke presently drove him into the town
of Sedan on the Meuse. There he was pushed back until
his huddled troops were commanded by the German artil-
lery brought up on to the surrounding hills. It was in vain
that the French strove to break through the ring which so
swiftly had been drawn about them, September 1, their
entire army surrendered, and the emperor was among the

Actually France was now completely defeated, and, France now
had the conditions of modern warfare been more clearly defeated
understood then, perhaps the French people might have
abandoned the struggle. One of their armies had just
surrendered. The other was surrounded; and the event
was to prove that Bazaine's army could not escape, for
just as the French soldiers were utterly unable to break
through the encircling Germans at Sedan, so they were
not able to do it at Metz. The German armament and
equipment were so powerful that, as in the Great War,
it was found almost impossible to break their lines when
they occupied entrenched positions. Accordingly, the
regular army of France was now lost, and she had no
reserves of soldiers as had the Germans, because she had
had nothing like the Prussian system of universal military
training. None the less she had not lost her courage.
In 1918, when the German armies were tottering, but not
yet completely beaten, Germany did not prolong the
struggle, but drew back her soldiers and surrendered her
ships without any further attempt. In 1870 it was not so
with the French. We see now that their cause was hope-
less, but they made a gallant effort. The government of
Napoleon III was overturned, and a republic established.



phase: Sep-
tember 2,
1, 1871

The siege
of Paris

The new government sought peace; but it refused to cede
a stone of the fortresses or a single inch of the soil of
France. Bismarck had desired the friendship of Austria
in 1866, and to Austria he had given easy terms. Now he
was resolved to have conquests in France, and so the
struggle continued. The German armies closed in upon
Paris, while detachments spread their conquest wide about
over the country.

The effort made by the French people was amazing.
They called out the manhood of the nation, and raised
altogether 1,800,000 men. But they had armies only in
name. The men were without military training, and were
no match for the Germans. It was impossible to get enough
capable officers and commanders, and most of the military
stores and equipment had been lost. In vain did they try
to purchase munitions and supplies abroad; they got
inferior goods at outrageous prices, and there was not
sufficient time to get enough of anything even so. Such
was their energy that they did put large forces in the
field, but during the terrible winter of 1870-1, while
France suffered fearfully, and while the French soldiers
endured prodigious losses, the new armies never gained
against the inferior numbers of the German troops a single
substantial success. It was not even necessary for the
Germans to draw to any extent on their reserves remaining
over the Rhine. They held the fortresses, Belfort, Strass-
burg, INIetz, and the fortified camp of Paris in grip of iron;
and directed their principal effort to the taking of Paris. For
four months that great city held out through a terrible siege,
and finally a heavy bombardment. Provisions presently
gave out and there was appalling suffering from the cold
of winter and increasing famine. The old people and the
young children died, as is ever the case. One by one, ex-
cept for Belfort, the other fortresses surrendered. In
Paris a great citizen army was raised, but it was ill-trained
and insubordinate, and never able to break the lines of the



besiegers. Gradually all hope of deliverance from outside
was abandoned. The (iernians everywhere defeated and
scattered the raw levies raised against them, and oc-
cupied more and more of the country. They acted with
much harshness and severity, attempting to discourage
the formation of the new armies, shooting down as francs-
iireurs those who tried to defend their country without
uniform or part in regular military organization, taking
hostages, imposing fines and ransoms, and l)urning some
l)laces in reprisal; not so hardly and so terribly as when
they reentered France in 1914, but in manner that was
ominous of the future.

The Germans had really won the victory in the first
two months. The heroic efforts of the French people pro-
longed the agony for four months longer. Nothing in
those four months altered the outcome, and they merely
imposed additional suffering on the nation. And yet,
this heroism was not, perhaps, useless, for it gave stern
warning that these people held high their honor, and
would not yield till the uttermost had been endured. The
events of 1918 showed that the Germans might well be
expected to submit after they had been badly defeated;
but what happened in France in the cold, horrible first
months of 1871 made it evident that France did not sur-
render until her strength was annihilated and her people
completely prostrate.

January 28, 1871, Paris surrendered, and the war was
presently brought to an end. The triumph of the Ger-
mans was complete. By the Treaty of Frankfort (1871)
France ceded Alsace and most of Lorraine, agreed to pay
an indemnity of $1,000,000,000, and granted favorable
commercial terms to her enemy. The results were that
France lost for the next two generations the primacy in
Europe she had so long enjoyed; that her eastern frontier
was now weaker, and Paris, the capital, left much more
exposed to the Germans than before; that she was to

The lesson
of the rising
of the

The Treaty
of Frank-

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crouch in fear before an all-powerful and arrogant Ger-
many for the next forty years; that German manufactures,
easily exported into France because of the favorable com-
mercial terms now yielded, were to make it very difficult
for France to enter upon great industrial development;
and that Germany would thereafter feel invincible and
superior and generally so behave. Moreover, the entire
cost of the war, at the utmost, had been to the Germans
not so much as $500,000,000. But they received double
that sum, and would believe in the future that all their
wars would bring conquests and the defeated enemy
would always pay and reward them with booty.

January 18, 1871, just before the surrender of Paris and
the culmination of their triumph, William I, king of
Prussia, was proclaimed German emperor in the Hall of
Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles. The South German
states were now willing to join the North German Con-
federation, and so, form an empire, the Deutsches Reich.
Thus was accomplished the task for which German patriots
and statesmen had so long been striving. Fulfilment was
possible now because of the unbounded enthusiasm of the
German people in the midst of their common triumph,
and because of the ardent spirit of nationalism which
their efforts and victories called forth. Expectation of
this was one of the principal reasons why Bismarck had
hoped for the war.

The down-
fall of

Founding of
the German


The Austro-Prussian ^ya^: H. M. Hozier, The Seven Weeks'
War, 2 vols. (1807).

The Franco-German War, origin: Hans Delbrtick Der
Ursprung des Krieges von 1870 (1893); Richard Fester, Brief e,
Aktenstiicke und Regesten zur Geschichte der Hohenzollernschen
Tronkandidatnr in Spanien, 2 vols. (1913); Due de Grammont,
La France et la Priisse avant la Guerre (1872); Edmond Palat
[Pierre Lehautcourt], Les Origines de la Guerre de 1870 (1912).


The War: Der Deutsch-Franzosische Krieg, 1870-71 (ed. by
the Historical Section of the Great General Staff) 5 vols, and
2 vols, of maps (1874-81) ; Arthur Chuquet, La Guerre de 1870-
1871 (1895); L. Hahn, Der Krieg Deutschlands gegen Frankreich
nnd die Griindung des Deutschen Kaiserreichs (1871), documents
and official utterances for the period 1867-71; C. de Mazade,
La Guerre de France, 1870-1871, 2 vols. (1875), contains con-
temporary documents: Hellmuth von Moltke, Geschichte des
Deutsch-Franzosischen Krieges von 1870-71 (1891), trans, by
Clara Bell and H. W. Fischer, 2 vols. (1891); E. Palat, Histoire
de la Guerre de 1870, 7 vols. (1901-8), to the surrender of Metz,
Guerre de 1870-1871, 2 vols. (1910); Krieg und Sieg, 1870-71,
ed. by J. A. von Pflugk-Harttung (1895), trans, ed. by Major-
General Sir F. Maurice (1914); A. Sorel, Histoire Diplomatique
de la Guerre Franco-Allemande, 2 vols. (1875), based on accounts
of participants.

Special studies on the military operations: Fritz Honig, Der
Volkskrieg an der Loire im Herbst 1870, 8 vols. (1893-7); George
Hooper, The Campaign of Sedan (1914). Also E. Palat, Biblio-
graphie Generale de la Guerre de 1870-1871 (1896).

The Treaty of Frankfort : Jules Favre, Le Gouvernement de la
Defense Nationale, 1871-1872, 3 vols. (1871-5); G. May, Le
Traite de Francfort (1909), best, based on studies in the ar-

Contemporary accounts: Dr. Moritz Busch, Bismarck in the
Franco-German War, 1870-1871, authorized trans., 2 vols (1879) ;
Eduard Engel, Kaiser Friedrichs Tagehuch (1919); Lord Augus-
tus Loftus, Diplomatic Reminiscences, 1862-1879, 2 vols. (1894) ;
Lord Newton, Lord Lyons, a Record of British Diplomacy, 2 vols.
(1913), the British ambassador to France during the period of
the Franco-German War; E. B. Washburn, Recollections of a
Minister to France, 1869-1877, 2 vols. (1883), the American



Die deutsche Nation ist trotz ihrer alten Geschichti' das jungste unter
den grossen Volkern Wcsteuropas.

Heinuich vox Treitschke, Deutsche Geschichte iin Neuzehn-
ten Jahrhundert (1879), i. 1,

Selten oder niemals hat ein Land in so kiirzer Zeit einen so gewal-
tigen wirtschaftlichen Aufschwung erlcht wie das Deutsche lleicli
in der Epoche vom Frahkfurter Frieden bis zuni Ausl)ruch des
Weltkrieges. . . . Aus deni arnien deutschen Lande ist ein
reiehes Land geworden. . . . Das Volk der Denker, Dichter and
Krieger ist zu einem Kaufnianns- und Handelsvolk ersten Ranges
geworden, Wo sind die Zeiten, wo unser Schiller nur zwei gewal-
tige Nationen ringen sah um der Welt alleinigen Besitz, den
Franken . . . und den Briten. . . ?

FtJRST VON BuLOW, Deutsche Politik (ed. 1917), pp. 291, 292.

To THE people of the new German Empire the period Greatness of
following their great military triumphs brought unpar- the German
alleled prosperity and power. The years from 1871 to ™Pire
1914 were like a mighty epic, or a period of triumph,
grander and more splendid in time's progress. Such in-
crease had probably never been seen anywhere else before.
In modern times it was rivalled only by the rise of Japan
and the growth of the United States. Sometimes there
comes in a people's life vast quickening of spirit and hope,
when it seems that youth will never depart, and boundless
confidence and boundless ambition accompany limitless
strength. Such a time had come to Italian comnumities
in the days of the Renaissance; Englishmen had it under
Elizabeth and Pitt; Frenchmen, in the French Revolution.
It came to Germans after 1870. In industry, in connnerce,
in population, in wealth, and in power they went forward




Causes of

of the


with amazing strides, surpassing the greatest things that
their legends related of old. In time they believed that
before them lay the destiny of men who would one day
rule all the world.

This success came from many causes: from the union
at last achieved, from the splendid qualities of the people
themselves, from the excellence of their educational sys-
tem, from altered conditions respecting industry and
trade which were working now in their favor, and from
the German genius for organization which was applied
to winning triumphs in peace as it had just been used to
achieve victory in war.

Bismarck had succeeded where a long line of leaders
had failed: there was a great, united Germany now with
a strong central government. The system established
was a very interesting one. It had the form of constitu-
tional government with power based upon representatives
of the people; but in reality it was devised to retain act-
ual power for the upper class supporting an autocratic
ruler at the top.

Like most nineteenth-century constitutions in Europe,
the constitution of the Deutsches Reich was modelled after
the English system. The British cabinet system — in which
an executive, composed of a prime minister and other
ministers of the cabinet, depends entirely upon the sup-
port of the majority of representatives of the people in the
legislative body, the House of Commons — does actually
give a government which is representative of the people,
controlled by them, and more and more democratic in
character. Generally speaking, wherever the cabinet sys-
tem prevails in any form, the test of the government be-
ing controlled by the people is that the executive shall
depend upon support of the majority of representatives
elected by the voters; and that these representatives
shall really make the laws, grant the taxes, and control
the spending of public money.



In respect of these things it is interesting to study the
government of the German Empire estabhshed in 1871.
This government had been taken over, substantially, from
the preceding North German Confederation, estabhshed
in 18G7. The German Empire was a federation con-
sisting of twenty-five states and the lieichdand, Alsace-
Lorraine. It was ruled by the Kaiser (emperor), who was
the King of Prussia, the Bundesrath (council of the Federa-
tion), and the Reichstag (representative assembly of the
Empire). The only part of this system which was directly
or indirectly controlled by the people was the Reichstag.
For the most part the constitution was so arranged as to
concentrate a great deal of all the power in the hands of the

The Reichstag, like the British House of Commons or
the American House of Representatives, was elected by
the voters — in Germany the men of twenty -five years and
older. Its functions were to assist in making the laws
and to pass appropriations of money. But it was defective
in its representation and it had not very much real power.
From 1871 to the time of the Great War there was no re-
apportionment of representation as population shifted
from one district to another, notably from country to the
cities. Hence, in course of time, conservative, agricultural
East Prussia, one of the strongholds of the Junkers, had
more than three times as much representation as some
of the liberal industrial centers, and there were as scandal-
ous inequalities in representation as had prevailed in
England before the time of electoral reform. But more
important than this was the fact that appropriations of
money were often made by the Reichstag for periods
of years, so that the representatives of the voters lost much
of the power which comes from steady control of the
purse. Moreover, no important piece of legislation could
be passed without the Bundesrath's consent.

The Bundesrath was not, properly speaking, an upper

The German


The Reichs-

in represen-



The Bun-

The govern-
ment of

Online LibraryEdward Raymond TurnerEurope since 1870 → online text (page 12 of 49)