Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward.
Sir: No answer had been received up to last night from the Prussian government to the note of the Vienna cabinet of April 7. The spirit and tendency of that note I stated to you in my despatch last week, No. 160, of date April 10, from official information.
In this morning’s paper there is a semi-official Berlin telegram, stating that the Prussian answer had been sent to Vienna day before yesterday. If this is true, the note ought to be handed in to-day, and perhaps I shall be able to learn the character of it in time to send you a line via Queenstown to-morrow.
Affairs are approaching a crisis. Meantime let me recall, in a few words, the steps which have been taken up to the present moment, and which I have narrated in full detail in previous despatches.
On the 26th of January of this year Prussia notified Austria that Holstein had become a nest of democrats, intriguers, and revolutionary agents, “under the protection of the Austrian double eagle.” Especially the court of the Prince of Augustenburg at Keil was described as a standing protest against the co-sovereignty of Prussia and Austria.
Austria replied, on February 8, by calmly but firmly repelling all right of Prussia to interfere with the administration of Holstein, and disclaiming on her part any power to meddle with matters in Schleswig. Thus for a time closed the correspondence between the two powers.
Prussia at once issued in Schleswig the famous penitentiary ordinance against the Augustenburg intrigues.
On the 26th of March she issued a circular to her representatives at the German courts, requesting information as to what each German government would do in case Prussia was attacked or should find herself obliged by impending danger to make war herself, insisting on the fact that the Bund as at present constituted was not strong enough to hold Prussia and Austria both, and enlarging upon the warlike preparations of Austria. The answer from the principal courts of Germany, briefly or lengthily, as the case might be, was a reference to Article XI of the Bund law.
On the 31st of March Austria declared solemnly that she was making no warlike preparations of any kind, and had no idea of attacking Prussia.
On the 5th of April a reply to that note was received in Vienna from Prussia, repeating the accusations as to the Austrian armament, the massing of troops on the Prussian frontier, the great extent of which military operations she declared to be well known to her, however much they might be denied. These measures had made her military preparations absolutely necessary in order to prevent her from being taken by surprise. She added that the King had no thought of attacking Austria.[Page 658]
Austria replied immediately in a despatch to her minister at Berlin. Her note, dated April 7, was warm and indignant. Although it was almost beneath her dignity, she said, to deny accusations which she had so often denied, she once more proclaimed as contrary to truth all statements upon which the Prussian government had based accusations against her of warlike intentions. For the first time she hurled counter accusations at her antagonist, and with much bitterness alluded to the extensive and avowed military preparations of Prussia, to her secret negotiations with the court of Florence against Austria, to her avowal of a determination to annex the duchies, peaceably or forcibly, to the statements of the Prussian prime minister that war was inevitable, to his denial on the 16th of March of an intention to break up the Gastein convention by force, coupled with a declaration that the denial was null and void. “All this,” said Count Mensdorff, “must be mere delusion, and to the realm of reality must belong only those threatening masses of Austrian troops which, since the 13th of March, (it is the Prussian cabinet that gives the exact date,) have been moved to the Prussian frontier.” “If the note of Baron Werther is correct,” says also the Austrian minister, “then Europe during the last few months must have been in a painful dream.” He expressed satisfaction at the declaration of Prussia that the King was meditating no attack, and ended with these words to the imperial minister at the Prussian court:
“We now are expecting the information (which we regretted not to find in the note of the Prussian minister) that the order of mobilization issued by Prussia on the 28th of March will remain unfulfilled. You will request from the minister president of Prussia a satisfactory communication on this subject without delay, as the imperial cabinet cannot, without heavy responsibility, remain indifferent to a longer continuation of the military preparations of Prussia. You will leave with him a copy of this despatch and apprise us of the result by telegram.”
This you perceive is a peremptory summons. No answer was received up to April 16.
The delay has been attributed to a note of the Bavarian prime minister, urging the Vienna and the Berlin cabinets to a pacific arrangement by means of the Bund. Meantime the Austrian note, which I have just been analyzing, was published yesterday —nobody knows how— in the Cobourg Gazette. Its publication it is thought must complicate matters, for it is now known to the world that Austria has categorically summoned Prussia to disarm. Certainly the chances of peace have not improved.
The Prussian proposition, recommending a reform of the Bund, mentioned in my last despatch, is not likely to lead to a direct result. It may be considered as an indirect means of forestalling a possible appeal of Austria to Article XI of the Bund law.
If Austria calls on the Bund by virtue of Article XI to take warlike steps against Prussia as guilty of a breach of Bund law, Prussia will accept this as a declaration of war. War can now be escaped in one of two ways. The other German powers may refuse or hesitate to aid Austria with their troops in war against Prussia. In that case Austria will make peace with Prussia, and Prussia will get the duchies; or the King may accept Count Bismarck’s resignation and refuse to fight for the duchies. In that case the war would be postponed. Neither of these events seems to be very probable.
Arbitration or mediation by foreign powers seems also improbable. Prussia makes no secret of her determination to annex the Duchies. If she will not give up that project in deference to the Bund she is not likely to submit to foreign powers.
I have the honor to remain, sir, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.