* * * * *
THE EMS TELEGRAM
On July 2, 1870, the Spanish ministry decided in favor of the accession to that throne of Leopold, Hereditary Prince of Hohenzollern. This gave the first stimulus in the field of international law to the subsequent military question, but still only in the form of a specifically Spanish matter. It was hard to find in the law of nations a pretext for France to interfere with the freedom of Spain to choose a King; after people in Paris had made up their minds to war with Prussia, this was sought for artificially in the name Hohenzollern, which in itself had nothing more menacing to France than any other German name. On the contrary, it might have been assumed, in Spain as well as in Germany, that Prince Hohenzollern, on account of his personal and family connections in Paris, would be a persona grata beyond many another German Prince. I remember that on the night after the battle of Sedan I was riding along the road to Donchery in thick darkness, with a number of our officers, following the King in his journey round Sedan. In reply to a question from some one in the company I talked about the preliminaries to the war, and mentioned at the same time that I had thought Prince Leopold would be no unwelcome neighbor in Spain to the Emperor Napoleon, and would travel to Madrid via Paris, in order to get into touch with the imperial French policy, forming as it did a part of the conditions under which he would have had to govern Spain. I said: “We should have been much more justified in dreading a close understanding between the Spanish and French crowns than in hoping for the restoration of a Spanish-German anti-French constellation after the analogy of Charles V.; a king of Spain can only carry out Spanish policy, and the Prince by assuming the crown of the country would become a Spaniard.” To my surprise there came from the darkness behind me a vigorous rejoinder from the Prince of Hohenzollern, of whose presence I had not the least idea; he protested strongly against the possibility of presuming any French sympathies in him. This protest in the midst of the battlefield of Sedan was natural for a German officer and a Hohenzollern Prince, and I could only answer that the Prince, as King of Spain, could have allowed himself to be guided by Spanish interests only, and prominent among these, in view of strengthening his new kingdom, would have been a soothing treatment of his powerful neighbor on the Pyrenees. I made my apology to the Prince for the expression I had uttered while unaware of his presence.