But this was not to be, and it is idle to speculate on what might have been done either to raise the siege of Paris—one of the most memorable in the whole history of the world—or to prevent the advance of the Germans upon the capital itself. It is remarkable that the Parisians were able to hold out so long,—thanks to the genius and precaution of Thiers, who had erected the formidable forts outside the walls of Paris in the reign of Louis Philippe; and still more remarkable was the rapid recovery of the French nation after such immense losses of men and treasure, after one of the most signal and humiliating overthrows which history records. Probably France was never stronger than she is to-day in her national resources, in her readiness for war, and in the apparent stability of her republican government,—which ensued after the collapse of the Second Empire. She has been steady, persevering, and even patient for a hundred years in her struggles for political freedom, whatever mistakes she has made and crimes she has committed to secure this highest boon which modern civilization confers. A great hero may fall, a great nation may be enslaved; but the cause of human freedom will in time triumph over all despots, over all national inertness, and all national mistakes.
Abbott, M. Baxter, S.P. Day, Victor Hugo, Macrae,
S.M. Smucker, F.M.
Whitehurst, have written more or less on Louis Napoleon. See Justin
McCarthy’s Modern Leaders; Kinglake’s Crimean War; History of the
Franco-German War; Lives of Bismarck, Moltke, Cavour; Life of Lord
Palmerston; Life of Nicholas; Life of Thiers; Harriet Martineau’s
Biographical Sketches; W.R. Greg’s Life of Todleben.
THE GERMAN EMPIRE.
Before presenting Bismarck, it will be necessary to glance at the work of those great men who prepared the way not only for him, but also for the soldier Moltke,—men who raised Prussia from the humiliation resulting from her conquest by Napoleon.
That humiliation was as complete as it was unexpected. It was even greater than that of France after the later Franco-Prussian war. Prussia was dismembered; its provinces were seized by the conqueror; its population was reduced to less than four millions; its territory was occupied by one hundred and fifty thousand French soldiers; the king himself was an exile and a fugitive from his own capital; every sort of indignity was heaped on his prostrate subjects, who were compelled to pay a war indemnity beyond their power; trade and commerce were cut off by Napoleon’s Continental system; and universal poverty overspread the country, always poor, and now poorer than ever. Prussia had no allies to rally to her sinking fortunes; she was completely isolated. Most of her fortresses were in the hands of her enemies, and the magnificent army of which she had been so proud since the days of Frederic the Great was dispersed. At the peace of Tilsit, in 1807, it looked as if the whole kingdom was about to be absorbed in the empire of Napoleon, like Bavaria and the Rhine provinces, and wiped out of the map of Europe like unfortunate Poland.