Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I send you herewith a careful translation of the imperial manifesto published day before yesterday, regarded as a declaration of motives and purposes by an emperor to his subjects when entering upon what is likely to be one of the most eventful struggles of modern history. The document will strike you, no doubt, as well worded, dignified, and worthy of the solemn occasion.
It will have, of course, met your eye long before this despatch can reach you; as I have, however, endeavored to keep you informed, to the best of my ability, of the gradual steps towards the war, ever since, in my despatch of March 20, I stated my inability to imagine how war could be averted, I have thought it best to insert this important state paper in our correspondence.
It sums up the case for Austria lucidly and energetically, and seems to leave but little to be said on that side.
Since the date of my last despatch, the vote of the Bund, by nine to six, to put [Page 668] the Bund army in motion against Prussia, as the peace breakers, has been an pounced, and Prussia, declaring that vote illegal, has formally seceded from the Bund, has offered its alliance to Saxony, Electoral Hesse, and Hanover, and on their refusal has invaded and occupied the territory of those powers.
The telegraph this morning brings us the news of the occupation of Leipzig and Dresden by the Prussian army of the Elbe. Its army of the Oder, under the crown prince, defends Silesia. A battle is considered imminent in Saxony.
I must, however, take this opportunity to state that it would be mere affectation for me to attempt to send military intelligence.
The plans and movements of the Austrian commander-in-chief are kept scrupulously secret. Permission to the foreign military attaches to go to headquarters has been courteously refused, and the newspapers are prevented at present from furnishing authentic military intelligence.
I should say, as nearly as I can inform myself, that the Austrian army of the north numbers 350,000 fighting men, and that it means to take the offensive, and, if possible, capture Berlin.
On the other hand, I should guess the opposing army of Prussia to be larger than that of the Austrian northern army, and that it means, if possible, to hold the celebrated line of the river Main, thus occupying those German states which lie between its own western and eastern possessions, and to neutralize the contingents to the Bund army of those powers.
The Kings of Hanover* and Saxony and the elector of Hesse have already left their respective dominions, which for the time are mainly in the power of Prussia, together with the coveted duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.
The war thus opens with a considerable apparent advantage secured by Prussia, through promptness and energy of action; on the other hand, it cannot be doubted that Austria is preparing a great movement, combined with the forces of the powers faithful to the Bund. The result of a general battle in Saxony on a great scale might, if decidedly favorable to Austria and the Bund, force the Prussians from Dresden, and even open the road to Berlin But such speculations on my part are idle and superfluous. I shall only add that the Bund has formally declared itself indissoluble. This means, of course, its intention to coerce Prussia back into the Bund.
But the difference between our own civil war and the opening civil war in Germany strikes the eye at once.
The German Bund is a confederacy, a league of sovereigns, not an incorporation. It never pretended to be a union. Its foundation is a treaty between monarchs, not a law laid down by a sovereign people.
It was never disputed that those princes, emperors, kings, or dukes, who have for centuries exercised all the attributes of sovereignty, coining money, maintaining armies and navies, regulating foreign commerce and holding diplomatic intercourse with foreign powers, were as sovereign as it was possible to be. Their sovereignty is a fact, not a phrase. As independent sovereigns they have bound themselves together by a league. As they declared it perpetual, those faithful to the Bund have a legal right to carry on war against those members who violate their faith to it.
Prussia may be proceeded against, therefore, as a peace breaker, as a violator of treaties, by those who consider her guilty of those offences.
To speak of her as a rebel would be a mere abuse of language. It would be to confound things essentially different, quite as much so as it was for those States of America, some of which had never possessed the attribute of sovereignty, while others had voluntarily divested themselves thereof on accepting the constitution of 87, to claim sovereignty and independence, which they could only achieve by successful rebellion against legal authority.[Page 669]
Whatever be the result of the war, we can hardly expect to witness the return of Prussia to what has been, since 1815, called the Germanic confederation. But these considerations are so obvious that I ought to ask pardon for dwelling on them.
I have the honor to remain, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
- Since contradicted as regards the King of Hanover.↩