« AnteriorContinuar »
The direction of England's foreign policy during this period, if we judge by the results, was singularly fortunate, although it is not easy to decide whether our statesmen stumbled by haphazard or by subtle calculation upon the course which led, by a series of shifty manoeuvres, to the detachment of Prussia from France. There can be no doubt, at any rate, that our alliance with Frederic was a master-stroke of policy. No other combination could have served us so well, for it reduced France to the necessity of confronting simultaneously the Prussian Army by land and the English navy at sea, whereby she was overmatched and defeated on both elements. It is worth notice that the chief of the English cabinet that had to deal with the critical and complicated situation immediately preceding the outbreak of the Seven Years' War was the Duke of Newcastle, who is unanimously reputed to have been the most incompetent Prime Minister in all our parliamentary apnals. But the Prussian alliance was not turned to its right use until Pitt came into power, and insisted on putting all our money on one strong energetic ally, instead of dribbling it away in subsidies to a number of petty German princes. Another point is the impression produced by the story of these transactions that England was exceedingly well served by her representatives abroad, who do not appear to have belonged to the aristocratic class that latterly furnished so many of our diplomatists. Keith at Vienna, Keene at Madrid, Mitchell at Berlin, and the unfortunate Hanbury Williams at St. Petersburg seem all to have been men who for acuteness, knowledge of their business, and devotion to their country's interests could be confidently matched against any ministers and envoys of continental States, were not inferior to the carefully chosen agents of Prussia, and were far superior to the ambassadors of France. Of Mitchell it is said by M. Waddington that his frankness, integrity, and independence produced the most favourable impression upon the sceptical Frederic, with whom he always managed to retain considerable influence, in spite of embarrassment created by a changing and hesitating policy at home.
Among the leading actors in the drama Frederic of Prussia stands out in bold relief as the clear-headed man of daring and unscrupulous genius, the intellectual ancestor, in war and statesmanship, of Napoleon and Bismarck, of men who make short work of irresolute or maladroit antagonists, who take boldly the straightest road toward definite ends. The Duc de Broglie? compares Frederic's irruption into Saxony, by which he began the war of 1756, with the opening of the campaign by Bismarck and Moltke in 1865; the object in both cases being to attack Austria before she was ready, and to penetrate into Bohemia from a base in Saxony. But in 1756 the resistance of the Saxon army checked Frederic, and placed him in some jeopardy; whereas in the later campaign the Saxon king,
3. Le Secret du Roi.' VOL. XLIII-No. 264
being intimidated, offered no resistance, and the war, which lasted seven weeks instead of seven years, was virtually terminated in Bohemia by the overthrow of the Austrian army at Sadowa. In 1865 Russia aided the Prussians by a friendly neutrality; France held aloof until it was too late to strike in; and Italy was actively hostile to the Austrians, who were thus isolated and overpowered ; while in the previous century Frederic had against him the three great continental Powers, was driven to fearful extremities, and only saved his kingdom by miraculous energy.
But while he was fighting for his existence in central Europe England was breaking down the naval and colonial power of France ;3 the defeat of the French at Rosbach was a heavy blow to their military reputation, and the general dilapidation of their resources became so incurable that to the Seven Years' War may be largely attributed the decline and fall of the Bourbon monarchy.
In the middle of the last century the greater part of Europe was governed, directly or indirectly, by women; and Frederic had an unlucky knack of giving them mortal offence, with the result that two empresses and a king's mistress combined to destroy him, and very nearly succeeded in doing so. M. Waddington proves that for the political blunders of France the Abbé de Bernis and other ministers were as much to blame as Madame de Pompadour; yet he admits that at the time she was virtually the king's premier ministre,' and a monarch in such leading strings is sure to go wrong. What saved Frederic was the mismanagement of their foreign affairs by the French government, and Pitt's vigorous war-policy in England. At a period when Russia, Prussia, Austria, and England were all ruled by sovereigns or statesmen of remarkable personal character France was governed from Versailles by the feeblest of the French kings, with the aid of a fair but frail lady and of some secondrate ministers. It was clean against the manifest interest of Louis the Fifteenth to let himself be drawn into joining Austria's vindictive attack upon Prussia when he had on his hands a dangerous quarrel with England; and it was very bad policy, as M. Waddington points out, for France to abet the two empresses in their design of breaking up Prussia and reducing her to insignificance, for this would have been to invest Austria, France's hereditary rival, with supreme predominance in central Europe.
L'Autriche, débarrassée du seul rival qui lui portât ombrage, accrue par la reprise de la Silésie et des duchés italiens, grandie par le prestige de la victoire, serait devenue maîtresse incontestée de l'Europe centrale, et aurait peut-être effectué un siècle plus tôt, sinon l'union, du moins la consolidation, à son profit, de l'empira germanique.
: Ce fut en Allemagne, dans une lutte où les bataillons français ne furent, à proprement parler, que les auxiliaires de l'armée de l'impératrice, ce fut sur les champs de bataille de Rosbach, de Creveld, de Minden, que nous perdimes nos colonies du Canada et du golfe St-Laurent. [Renversement des Alliances, p. 369.]
Yet Maria Theresa persuaded Louis the Fifteenth into signing a treaty which forced him to follow her lead into a war, of which the end, even if it had been triumphant, would have been disadvantageous to France; and as he had entered upon it without preparation or forethought, so indolence and backstairs intriguing at headquarters paralysed his generals in the field. Fifty years later, in 1806, when it was Prussia whose tactics were tardy and irresolute, France wiped out the disgrace of Rosbach at Jena; but in 1870 diplomatic skill and military capacity had again changed sides, and Sedan left Prussia the winner of two out of the three decisive battles with France. Louis Napoleon was a far better administrator than Louis the Fifteenth; yet he also, though bred in a different school, was troubled latterly by a kind of indolent good-nature, was ill served by his ministers, and on the vital question of peace or war with Prussia he was swayed by a woman's influence. One can only marvel at the ill fortune that placed the French people, with their bright intelligence and high spirit, under a rash and short-sighted government at two momentous epochs of their history; and we shall do well to reflect upon the irreparable disaster that may be brought down upon a nation by those who misguide its foreign policy. There is much truth in the words used by Henri Martin when, in his History of France, he concludes his survey of the great contest between England and France during the Seven Years' War by saying of England: 'Elle avait vaincu par la seule supériorité de son gouvernement.
A. C. LYALL.
DEATHS UNDER CHLOROFORM
DOCTORS and their doings have been the theme of many writers, both of those who deal in fiction and those who undertake to popularise their views on science.
It is frequently a difficult matter to recognise the doctor when so depicted, nor is it an easier task to understand how the doings and sayings and practices of the confraternity tend to become so wholly perverted as they do under the hands of these authors. No doubt technical questions must always prove extremely difficult material to handle when those who write are obliged to aocept the statements of other authorities, and are at the same time in ignorance of many criticisms which have either discredited or modified the conclusions which appear to them as proven facts. Hence the rule accepted by the medical profession, which condemns ventilating medical questions in non-professional journals, is upon the whole a salutary one. Halftruths are notoriously dangerous, and are peculiarly liable to occur in the pages of the lay press which deal with the recondite questions of science. It would be unfair to accuse the writers of wilful misrepresentation of fact when they are only guilty of the common sin of ignorance. As, however, statements formed upon partial knowledge not infrequently do serious injustice to a large body of men, it is not always right to leave unanswered attacks or criticisms unless obviously unworthy of rejoinder.
It is a canon in medical ethics that medical questions should be discussed more or less within closed doors; the pages of the professional journals are open to us, and outside their voluminous field it is deemed inadvisable that we should discuss professional sayings. There are, however, occasions when the duty, the knowledge, the behaviour, the skill of a medical man is brought so intimately into relation with the laity that his conduct becomes open to aspersion, and his skill assailed as it were from the housetops. When this is the case it is incumbent upon those with special knowledge of the question involved to either impugn their professional brethren, and hale them before the judges who keep the public conscience, or to protect them from animadversions which are unjustly hurled at their undeserving heads.
In the March issue of this Review an article appears dealing with the administration of chloroform. Its gist may perhaps be put in a few words as follows. The medical profession knows, we are told, or if it does not, ought to know, how to give chloroform. Chloroform can be given with absolute safety'if certain simple rules are followed. This has been proved beyond question by the Hyderabad Commission (sic). The truth of the contention of this commission has been vouched for, it is averred, by the most illustrious members of the medical profession in the United Kingdom and in America; inferentially it is put that therefore no longer does doubt exist about the matter. A royal road to safe anæsthesia has been discovered, and those who neglect to travel along its well-defined way are guilty of the lives of those who die under chloroform. The whole question appears to be extremely simple when judged from the standpoint of the writer of the article in question. The main issues, however, are not stated, or are only half put forth. It will probably render it more easy of comprehension if these issues are brought into line while the history of our knowledge of chloroform's action upon the human organism is displayed. The gravamen of the paper consists in the statement that a definite 'safe method of giving chloroform exists, which has been duly published, and has received the imprimatur of those who know most of the subject. Medical men are aware of these facts, and yet have refrained from adopting “the safe method,' and consequently have caused the death of a large number of persons.
There is, in fact, a 'conspiracy of silence.' This charge, made no doubt in good faith, and certainly with the best of intentions, is one which all right-thinking persons would wish to have proved or disproved ; if proved, the results at which the writer of the paper hints would certainly follow, namely, the universal adoption of the safe method' and the consequent saving of life. If the charge is incapable of being substantiated, it is only fitting that the truth about the question should be in the hands of those most interested in the matter, namely, the public, all of whom are potential patients. As will be seen in the sequel, many of the statements advanced in the article, for some of which the writer is not responsible, as she quotes from various sources, are capable of emendation if not of refutation. The main issues involved are : (1) whether or no chloroform kills, simply when so badly administered as to produce cessation of respiration; in other words, by suffocation (asphyxia), or whether it may under certain circumstances, even when no suffocation is allowed to exist, prove fatal by acting upon the heart and blood circulatory mechanism. (2) Whether the knowledge that chloroform kills by producing suffocation was advanced within the last decade, or is the result of the teaching of Mr. Syme,