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Guizot wrote to Mr. Gladstone, setting forth, in a letter afterwards made public, the interest that England had in European questions, the share that she ought to take in them, and the rôle that she was able to fill.
“ Without question, the events which have been taking place in Europe during the last few years, and the struggle between France and Prussia which has arisen out of them, are facts sufficiently grave and weighty to attract towards her foreign policy all the attention and all the energy of England. Is this equivalent to saying that she is necessarily called to take a part in the war and to unite her armies with those of the continent already engaged in strife? I am far from the thought! It is not in carrying on war, it is, on the contrary, in bringing war to an end, that the mission of England to-day consists. She is not obliged, as formerly, to recruit armies, to form and maintain coalitions, for the purpose of repelling and even of destroying a hostile army and an aggressive and powerful sovereign. Of the two present belligerents, the one who declared war has fallen; he who now pushes war to an extreme has long been in the most friendly relations towards England; she decided in his favor at the beginning of the conflict, and she ought, therefore, to have the more influence in persuading him to bring it to a close. The situation, the motives of action, the aim, -all is radically different to-day from that which, sixty years ago, determined the conduct of England. She has now infinitely less effort to make, less risks to run to attain an end infinitely less complicated, less contested, than that which she then sought, and yet one which will be, beyond doubt, no less salutary for Europe. It is in the interests of peace that England now ought to form a coalition of the great Powers who at this moment, Prussia alone excepted, have no other ambition than the restora
tion of peace.
“But it may be said, that efficacious measures cannot be employed by a government acting with sincerity to re-establish peace between belligerents when that government does not feel itself obliged to go so far as actual coercion, when, in a military sense, it desires to remain neutral ? Have we then been so dominated, so subjugated by material force, either in the form of popular revolutions or of military despotism, that we have lost all confidence in the moral influences, in the authority of ideas of right, of justice, of humanity, when these influences, these ideas, have only pacific representatives? Can it be possible that these sublime ideas no longer have authority? Is it fitting that a great people and a great government should recognize and declare that it can do nothing, when it does not stand ready to dispatch its fleets and its armies to the scene where it desires to exercise its power? It would be a great retrogression for mankind, a great disgrace to our civilization, so proud of its progress. I do not admit this nullity of moral influences, and it is my profound conviction that he who learns how to employ them opportunely, with confidence, energy and perseverance, will find therein a power more efficacious than he perhaps himself expected.
“ I will allow myself, my dear Mr. Gladstone, to bring to your notice on this subject an individual and contemporary example which I am able to cite with certainty, for it passed under my own observation, and I know well the man of whom I speak and the circumstances in which he was called to act. When, on the eve of our disasters, General Trochu was appointed Governor of Paris, he had for such a duty in such a position of affairs no material force, no organized means of action. He, however, succeeded; he drew Paris out of chaos and nothingness; he made of her a living and powerful entity, devoted to the great work of national defence. How was General Trochu able to obtain a result like this? It was because he believed in moral forces; it was because, in the name of duty and right, of honor, and of the country, he made appeal daily, in every act and every word, to the population of Paris. They responded to his confidence, they regained confidence in themselves; under this pure and brave inspiration, material strength was recovered, and Paris endured for four months the trials of a siege which, four months before, neither besiegers nor besieged would have deemed it possible for her to support.
“I cannot, I will not believe that Europe, Prussia included, will be more deaf to the voice of England, armed with moral influences, than was Paris to that of General Trochu. But it is not with timidity and hesitation, with a low voice and an air of doubt that the moral influences should and can be exerted. It is essential that those who interpret them should feel strongly and maintain boldly their worth and their authority. It is in the name of international equity, of justice, of humanity, in the name of the illegitimacy of the spirit of aggression and conquest that the present war should be censured and peace demanded. England has need to make use of this firm and noble language. Let her not deceive herself on this subject; she is suspected of being always inclined to take undue advantage of her geographical security, and to see with indifference the wars and sufferings of the continent, so long as she is not evidently and directly menaced by them. Egotism, an egotism overpassing the needs and rights of national self-interest, is the reproach habitually made against her policy, and her influence often suffers by it as much as does her moral honor. How often has it been said of late : Prussia may do what she pleases, England will not interpose.' But precisely because of this general opinion, as soon as England shall act distinctly, her action will be efficacious, for, if she is believed egotistic, it is also believed that she is in earnest, and if her government take any action in the case, that action will not be insignificant in its results.
“Let not England fear, then, that unless she interposes with material force in the present war, her action in belialf of peace would be in vain. After having firmly employed the moral influences and developed them to the utmost, if they prove insufficient to restrain the ambition of Prussia, England will still hold in her hands another measure of great weight; she will be able to declare that, if conditions irreconcilable with a real and lasting peace should be imposed upon France, the Erglish government will not recognize the changes of frontier arising from such conditions, and will not give her consent to a European order thus rendered more than ever troubled and insecure. Who can doubt that an act like this would be a great obstacle in the way of Prussian ambition, and a great encouragement to French resistance ? In 1831, when the Belgian question engrossed the attention of Europe, if Austria and Prussia, without offering material resistance to the separation of Belgium and Holland, had refused to recognize the existence of the two kingdoms, is it credible that France and England, even though agreed, would not have experienced extreme difficulty in re-establishing a durable European peace and order? These are questions which cannot be truly settled without the consent of all Europe. England is in a position to declare, without effort and without danger to herself, that she will not regard the question now at issue between France and Prussia as decided, so long as the belligerents do not accept a solution which re-establishes and truly secures peace. I do not attempt to indicate here upon what precise terms such a peace is to-day possible between France and Prussia. Special questions, questions of the moment, exist therein which it would be unwise to enter upon in advance, since they can only be treated by the persons appointed to represent the contradictory interests of both sides, and fully informed in respect to the circumstances under stress of which the negotiations would be conducted. I desire only to call the attention of the friends of peace to the two great princi
ples which would be powerful, were they resolutely put in practice, to second them in their pacific intentions, and to remove the most serious difficulties which weigh upon them.
“ History has already accepted the task of proving the efficiency of one of these ideas. When two powerful nations have long disputed the possession of a territory important by its geographical position, its population, its wealth, — when this country has been many times taken and re-taken by the belligerents, never definitively acquired by either, and continually com. promising the general peace, Europe has finally resolved to put an end to this situation by declaring the territory thus contested neutral, and placing its neutrality under the protection of the Great European Powers. It is thus that Switzerland and Belgium have become neutral states, no longer incessantly ravaged, no longer an apple of discord in European politics. This salutary principle of neutrality is susceptible of applications much more numerous and more varied than it has hitherto received.
“ When, in 1831, the neutrality of Belgium was established, guaranteed by the five great Powers, it was determined to give a visible sign and a further pledge of this, by ordering the demolition of the principal fortresses constructed in Belgium against France. By the convention of December 16, 1831, the fortified towns, Menin, Ath, Mons, Philippeville and Marienbourg were accordingly dismantled, and all munitions and military stores withdrawn from them. Why should not two States establish between them, in a certain portion of the territory of each, a military neutrality, that is to say, the prohibition of all fortified places, arsenals and munitions, each at the same time preserving full and free political sway over the territory? Why should not, for exanıple, the two banks of the Rhine cease to be, for France and Prussia, a perpetual menace and instrument of war, by each nation's relinquishing the right to cover a certain length and breadth of territory with fortresses and guns? Doubtless, in