The war of 1870-71 arose from just such relations. A Napoleon on the throne of France was bound to establish his rights by political and military success. Only for a time did the victories won by French arms in distant countries give general satisfaction; the triumphs of the Prussian armies excited jealousy, they were regarded as arrogant, as a challenge; and the French demanded revenge for Sadowa. The liberal spirit of the epoch was opposed to the autocratic Government of the Emperor; he was forced to make concessions, his civil authority was weakened, and one fine day the nation was informed by its representatives that it desired war with Germany.
The wars carried on by France on the other side of the ocean, simply for financial ends, had consumed immense sums and had undermined the discipline of the army. The French were by no means archiprets for a great war, but the Spanish succession to the throne, nevertheless, had to serve as a pretext to declare it. The French Reserves were called to arms July 15th, and only four days later the French declaration of war was handed in at Berlin, as though this were an opportunity not to be lost.
[Illustration: KING WILLIAM AT THE MAUSOLEUM OF HIS PARENTS ON THE DAY OF THE FRENCH DECLARATION OF WAR ANTON VON WERNER]
One Division was ordered to the Spanish frontier as a corps of observation; only such troops as were absolutely necessary were left in Algiers and in Civita Vecchia; Paris and Lyons were sufficiently garrisoned. The entire remainder of the army: 332 battalions, 220 squadrons, 924 cannon, in all about 300,000 men, formed the army of the Rhine. This was divided into eight Corps, which, at any rate in the first instance, were to be directed by one central head, without any kind of intervention. The Imperator himself was the only person to assume this difficult task; Marshal Bazaine was to command the army as it assembled, until the Emperor’s arrival.
It is very probable that the French were counting on the old dissensions of the German races. True, they dared not look upon the South Germans as allies, but they hoped to reduce them to inactivity by an early victory, or even to win them over to their side. Prussia was a powerful antagonist even when isolated, and her army more numerous than that of the French, but this advantage might be counterbalanced by rapidity of action.