Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links

Canadian Illustrated News:
Images in the news: 1869-1883

The Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871

The War Complications

November 19, 1870
[ Vol. II, No. 21 ]

[ page] 325, [ col. 1 ]

As the struggle continues between France and Prussia, the danger of European entanglements seems to increase. London becomes excited because of the attitude of St. Petersburg; Vienna has still something to fear from Berlin; and Constantinople is already as good as rescued from the Turk, only to be given to the Muscovite. In the meantime, it must be confessed that Prussian

[ page ] 325 [ col. 2 ]

triumphs no longer carry with them the world's sympathy. On the contrary, it appears that as France developes the mere negative faculty of simple endurance, she is gaining the good will of other countries; and that Prussia, at first hailed as conqueror, is already earning the character of tyrant. It is very probable that Russia will make this war the occasion of setting aside some of the clauses of the treaty of Paris, with the view to pre-

[ page ] 325 [ col. 3 ]

paring the way for another movement against Turkey. The consequences of such a movement would be of the most serious character to England, and might involve a second Crimean war. Some persons, whose opinions are entitled to considerable weight, have denounced the Crimean war as a gross blunder on the part of England, and the holding up of the Crescent as a crime against christianity; but British traditional state-

[ page ] 326 [ col. 1 ]

craft has handed down another doctrine. The Ottoman Empire is regarded as one of the barriers to Russian aggression in the East; and its maintenance as the very key to the balance of power in Europe. Many people remember, with something like dread, the words of the first Napoleon, that "in a hundred years Europe would be either Russian or Cossack;" and these will now see in the present war a powerful helping cause to either one of the alternatives. So far the Republic has won; it has been proclaimed, and has lasted for more than a couple of months, but it cannot be said yet that it has taken root in France. On the other hand, the weakening of France and Prussia -- and both are being depleted with fearful rapidity -- is a relative gain to Russia, and this gain has been rapidly improved by positive additions to the warlike strength of the Empire. It may be that Russia only fears the possibility of Prussia coming out of the war so strong as to invade her Western Provinces on the plea of completing the "unification" of the German races, but this is hardly a plausible explanation of the reasons which may be presumed to have led the Czar to put his army on a war footing. In England it appears to be generally believed that the "sick man" of Constantinople is again to be the object of his solicitude, and the question now anxiously discussed is whether England should or should not interpose her strength to protect the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. If that Empire should fall, it would undoubtedly be a point gained for the cause of Cossack supremacy, and, perhaps, assist in fulfilling the great Napoleon's prediction. The doctrine of the "balance of power" having become a mere fiction, there seems nothing left to regulate international relations but the law of force: "The good old rule / The ancient plan / That he may take who has the power / And he may keep who can."

We cannot say that we see much chance for human progress in the way of national development under such a system. There may be other ways for balancing power in Europe than that which was thought the best after the final downfall of the first Napoleon; and doubtless changes in the map of the world will continue to be in the future, as they have been in the past, a very common occurrence. Still it is lamentable that nations should not yet be able to decide ordinary disputes without a resort to arms; and the fault apparently lies less with those who, for considerations of interest or of national pride, become active participants in the quarrel, than with those neutral powers, who, being simply onlookers, could club their strength and effectively forbid a war. Had England, Russia, and Austria, not to mention Italy and other smaller powers, declared with emphasis that their whole strength would be thrown against the first party to the Hohenzollern dispute who made it a cause of war, there would have been peace in Europe to-day. But a cowardly feeling, under the title of "non-intervention," has poisoned the international politics of the world, until no wise man would dare to say where the nations may be led in the mad dance so thoughtlessly and so absurdly begun between France and Prussia in July last, and so likely to end in very serious, if not vital injury to both.