Page images

win respect with us from the keenest political antagonists. “Gentlemen," he said, “I stand here as no apologist for our naval administration in the common sense of the word apology. So far from it, I firmly believe that the great changes which we carried out will be fully recognized when transient party feeling has less weight, not only as sound in principle, but thoroughly effective in execution. This is not the place or the occasion for going into details; but I may say, in a word, that whatever may have been the success and whatever the intentions of my predecessors, I left the navy, when I was obliged to resign office, more effective, more contented, and far more prepared for any emergency than the British navy had been for many years—and that, too, at a saving to the taxpayer of at least a million and a half or a million and threequarters per annum. I appeal fearlessly to the future history and public opinion of this country to back me in that assertion. But, gentlemen, you are doubtless aware that during my absence from Parliament there have been some vigorous naval debates and some not very sparing criticisms of my acts, and some of you may possibly think that I should be glad to take this opportunity of adverting to and refuting those criticisms. The temptation is, no doubt, great, to take advantage of so generous and sympathizing an audience as I now have for that purpose; but that is a temptation which I have made up my mind to resist. I prefer, when personal discussions of this sort are inevitable, to carry them on in the face of those who make the attack, and who will be able to reply to me. This always has been my rule. I intend to abide by it; and as I feel pretty confident from my knowledge of the men who have attacked me in my absence that they will not abstain from doing so to my face, I look forward to ample opportunities of vindicating my acts in the next session of Parliament."

And thus the year which had begun for Europe at the height of so terrible a storm, old alliances dissevered, and old friendships threatened, with “rumours of wars on all sides, and wars in the midst, ended in profound peace. Our own relations with both France and Germany, we had grounds for hope, were fast becoming amicable again as the present bitterness passed away. Our only personal difficulty with the former country was connected with the Commercial Treaty, which was seriously threatened with a Protectionist reaction of which M. Thiers himself appeared as the chief champion ; but as none of the papers connected with the negotiations upon this subject have been made public as we write, we defer further comment. The uneasiness in the direction both of Russia and America, which had prevailed with the opening year, was allayed ; and though some American lawyers had attempted, in the “ case" submitted to the arbitrators for their country, to treat the generous if somewhat doubtful “admissions” which we had consented to make at Washington as the basis for a claim for damages which would far exceed the war indemnity exacted from France by her conquerors, this was so far regarded in this country rather as a piece of professional bravado, somewhat after the style of Mr. Sumner, than a serious menace to future tranquillity. Thus, on the whole, our future seemed bright enough ; but already we were threatened by the danger of falling into the Scylla of security from the Charybdis of alarm. At the beginning of the year, nothing short of Prussianizing England, it seemed, would satisfy the country ; at its close, the country was grumbling already at the unnecessary cost of increased armaments and efforts at improved efficiency. The Minister who had to avoid both errors had a difficult course to steer.

As we ended our record last year with pleasant thoughts of a Royal Marriage, we are glad to close it now with a yet more touching memory. Of the illness of the Prince of Wales, and the unexpected burst of loyalty which it called forth, we have already written. The Queen completed the lesson of the expiring year by making public the following letter, by which she personally accepted and answered the personal sympathy of her people, assured as we write of the steady progress of the Prince to complete recovery.

“ Windsor Castle, December 26, 1871. The Queen is very anxious to express her deep sense of the touching sympathy of the whole nation on the occasion of the alarming illness of her dear son, the Prince of Wales. The universal feeling shown by her people during those painful, terrible days, and the sympathy evinced by them with herself and her beloved daughter, the Princess of Wales, as well as the general joy at the improvement in the Prince of Wales's state, have made a deep and lasting impression on her heart which can never be effaced. It was, indeed, nothing new to her, for the Queen had met with the same sympathy when, just ten years ago, a similar illness removed from her side the mainstay of her life, the best, wisest, and kindest of husbands.

"The Queen wishes to express at the same time, on the part of the Princess of Wales, her feelings of heartfelt gratitude, for she has been as deeply touched as the Queen by the great and universal manifestation of loyalty and sympathy.

“The Queen cannot conclude without expressing her hope that her faithful subjects will continue their prayers to God for the complete recovery of her dear son to health and strength."




Military Situation at beginning of the year-New Year's Day at Versailles

and Paris-Progress of the Bombardment-Sorties of the 13th and of the 19th January—Disturbances in Paris-War in the North: Battles of Bapaume and St. Quentin-In the West : Battle of Le Mans-Expedition of Bourbaki: Convention of Les Verrières-Capitulation of Paris–Gambetta at Bordeaux : Conflict of Authorities-Proclamation of the Government of Defence-Elections-Meeting of National Assembly-M. Thiers Head of the Executive Power-Peace Nego. tiations at Versailles-Excitement in Paris—Acceptance of Preliminaries by the National Assembly-Entrance of German Troops into Paris-Break up of the German Head-Quarters.

WHEN the year 1871 opened, the capital city of France stood encompassed by the iron circle of the German hosts. All her hopes of deliverance depended on the action of the three armies which in the North, Centre, and West were endeavouring to break the enemy's lines from behind, and force their way to her walls. These armies were calculated at, in round numbers, about 450,000 men in all, but they consisted mostly of raw levies, provincial Mobiles, who had never mounted horse or fired musket before, and whose steadfastness in presence of the enemy might well be doubted. The German besieging force of about 220,000 strong had the arduous double task of investing Paris with its 500,000 fighting men and its vast outer circuit of forts, and of facing round against the three armies of relief, which far outnumbered the detachments opposed to them in the north by Manteuffel, in the east by Werder, and in the west by the Duke of Mecklenburg and Van der Tann. The difficulties and dangers of existence in the midst of a hostile country increased with the increasing consumption of its re

Large additional reinforcements were pouring in from beyond the Rhine to fill the greedy demands of this accumulating war. The German nation was groaning over the sacrifices it was called upon to make, and heartily wishing the contest to come to an end. The strain upon the endurance of the invaders at this time was unquestionably severe.

And it was upon this certainty that the indomitable French War Minister, Gambetta, built his expectations of ultimate success for the French cause. He spoke like a fanatic on the subject. He maintained that the defeat and expulsion of the enemy amounted to a mathematical demonstration, if only the defenders of the soil


would persevere. To raise fresh levies of Mobiles, however raw and undisciplined ; to appoint and supersede generals with feverish impatience, according as they excited or nullified his hopes—such were the methods by which this self-elected dictator drove on the war of defence from his official Cabinet at Bordeaux, flying however from time to time to different points of the military area, to inspect, animate, or organize according to the exigencies of the hour.

History, with all its surprises, has never perhaps brought to view so startling a new year's anniversary as that which was witnessed in and around the capital of France on Sunday, the 1st of January, 1871. At Versailles, in the great palace of Louis Quatorze, a brilliant assembly met, but the objects that glittered in the Hall of Mirrors were not the jewels of French dames and courtiers doing homage to the glories of a Bourbon or a Bonapartist Court: they were the helmets of victorious foes, the German warriors whom a German monarch had called around him to exchange congratulations on the downfall of French power. “The apartmen

“The apartments of the royal palace,” says a contemporary account, “have been thrown open with something of royal pomp, and the Hohenzollerns have fairly taken possession of the quarters of the Bourbons. After a Lutheran service in the Palace Chapel, with a splendid military band to assist, the King went to the Galérie des Glaces, where all the princes and officers were drawn up in a long line on one side, and where the King, after addressing to them a few words in a loud voice-words of thanks and of compliment on the great work of United Germany-wished them heartily a happy New Year.” A banquet closed the ceremonies of the day, when, in answer to King William's New Year's greeting to his assembled guests, the Duke of Baden, as spokesman of the other German princes, concluded a long oration with the proposal of a toast to “King William the Victorious."

The beleaguered city of Paris itself had boomed in the New Year with a defiant volley of cannon. This lasted but a short time, and was felt both by besiegers and besieged to be a despairing utterance-an angry growl before the surrender which the recent capture of Mont Avron had shown to be inevitable. The weather was bitterly cold. The positions of the besieging army were covered

The German sentinels, however, found excitement enough to keep them alive in waiting and watching for the longpromised sortie, to which it seemed that the enemy in their necessity must soon resort.

Inside the walls, the Jour de l'An passed gloomily enough. А somewhat liberal distribution of food was indeed made by order of the Government, but this rather indicated the hopelessness of long-protracted resistance than the possession of abundant stores in the background. The death-rate was rapidly increasing. The last week of the old year had given a total of nearly 4000 out of the two millions of population, small-pox carrying off about one-eighth of the number. Ominous mutterings were heard from the Belleville quarter, the stronghold of the Red Repub

with snow.

licans, whose "platform” was always the demand for government by a municipal commune. From the discontented groups on the Boulevards murmurs were heard of “A bas Trochu." The wellmeaning Breton himself, whom circumstances had called to the chief military command—cæur chaud et chevaleresque, as his friends in other times had described him-seemed paralyzed with the difficulties of his position. He talked of his “plan:” he declared, “ Le gouverneur de Paris ne capitulera pas." Still time went on, and in vain Paris waited for the propitious moment when the hosts from the provinces—certainly numerous, and always represented to them as victorious and advancing-should, in combination with the 500,000 fighting men within the fortifications, crush the unhappy Germans from before and from behind, and show the world how Frenchmen could triumph in defence of their honour and their soil !

In the course of the first week in January, Forts Nogent, Rosny, and Noisy, on the east side of Paris, were silenced by the German batteries, and a cannonade was commenced against the southern forts. As these, too, successively ceased to reply, the batteries were advanced within range of the enceinte, and by the middle of the month the iron shower was falling inside the city itself. On the 15th, General Trochu sent a parlementaire to Count Moltke, complaining of the damage done by the German shells to schools and hospitals. The German commander replied that the selection of such objects was purely accidental, caused by the fog and the great distance at which the firing had to be conducted; but, he cynically remarked, when the batteries should be moved nearer, more discrimination would be practicable.

There were critics of the German measures in this war, who doubted the policy of the bombardment. It certainly aroused a feeling of horror and dismay in the outside world to see the beautiful metropolis of France, the glory and the grace of civilization, subjected to such ruthless treatment. But there was less of reason than of sentiment in the objections raised against a proceeding which the German authorities themselves would have been glad enough to avoid had it not become a matter of vital import to shorten the resistance which they had pledged themselves to overcome. In the earlier stages of the siege, à blockade was all that was intended : it was believed by the king and by Bismarck, that the anarchy within the walls of Paris would soon wear out its powers of self-defence. The event proved otherwise; and as the provincial armies of France pressed on the outer line of the investing force, the danger of weakening the circle from within by the reinforcements it was necessary to send became obvious to the German leaders. Therefore it was that the batteries, which had so long been ready, were finally unmasked without waiting longer for the effects of either dissension or famine within the city—and assuredly no one desired more earnestly than Von Moltke, the director of the movement, that the terror of the bombardment might bring the Parisians to terms before the damage inflicted should have reached dire proportions.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »