Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I had the honor to receive your despatch No. 196 of July 17. Since my last of August 1, No. 201, I have not had the power to communicate any important intelligence of a political nature, nor would it be possible for me to do so to-day.
The armistice between Austria and Italy, just concluded, runs from the 13th of August till the 10th of September; that between this empire and Prussia expires at the end of the month. There can hardly be a reasonable doubt that a treaty of peace will be signed between the various belligerents before the expiration of the amistices. You are aware that separate negotiations are going on between Prussia and the governments of Baden, Ducal-Hesse, Wurtemberg, and Bavaria.
The telegraph will probably bring you the actual result of the negotiations before this despatch can reach you. It would be entirely superfluous for me, therefore, to indulge in speculation as to what those results in detail are likely to be. Moreover, the details have no very vital interest for us.
That in Germany a great power of the first class has suddenly risen to overshadowing greatness, is already a historical fact. That there are no real sovereigns in Germany north of the Main line, except Prussia; that south of that line there are only two kingdoms of comparatively little strength, one grand duchy and a fragment of another, besides the possessions of the Austrian dynasty. These are also facts not likely to be materially altered by the treaties which are soon to sanction them. The unification of Italy, so far as the Austrian dominion in Venetia was an obstacle to it, has become far more probable than ever.
The Roman question, now rapidly approaching its solution, if the September convention be fulfilled, will be watched by the whole world with palpitating interest. So, also, the process of consolidating the new German union, under the sceptre of Prussia, will present problems than which nothing can be more grave or exciting to all who find something more important in contemporary history than a political game.
The present indications are that the spirit of freedom and human progress is to gain by the triumph of the Prussian army. A parliament chosen by universal suffrage, with vote by ballot, through a country inhabited by thirty millions of an industrious, highly civilized, and intellectual race, can hardly fail, one would hope, to achieve some good for humanity.
One must trust, until events forbid such reasonable hopes, that all this blood has not been shed in vain, and that a new and vast military Cæsarism is not to be the substitute for the small sovereignties into which North Germany has so long been subdivided.
The treaty of Westphalia sanctioned but did not create the disunion of the consequent weakness into which the course of history for centuries had reduced the German nation. Three hundred dynastic families were established in the powers which they had gained, at the expense of the German people. The Bund, [Page 683] in the early days of this century, confined the reduction of these three hundred principalities to three dozen, and presented the resemblence of a national union, which was only a league of monarchs. Peace was kept in Germany by this machinery, at the expense of the national strength, until the antagonism between the only two members of the Bund possessing political power burst the rope of sand.
Whether the great German power now taking so prominent a place among the nations will be a liberal, constitutional state, will be shown in the immediate future.
But these speculations you will probably think out of place in a diplomatic correspondence. Moreover, the politics of North Germany, which is now synonymous with Prussia, are not in my sphere of duty, and I must abstain from trespassing upon matter belonging to our able representative at Berlin. For the same reasons, I avoid expressing any opinions as to the immediate future of Italy.
So soon as the conclusion of peace gives leisure for Austria to occupy itself exclusively with its internal affairs, the politics of this empire will become deeply interesting, and will engage my anxious attention. For the present there is an interim, but the consideration of Hungarian affairs and the general constitutional questions cannot be much longer deferred.
I cannot regard the so-called exclusion of Austria from Germany as an unmitigated evil to this empire. As already intimated, treaties are apt rather to register results than to create new facts.
There having been nothing since the peace of Westphalia that could be legally or philosophically called Germany, and there being no reasonable ground for supposing that leagues or treaties to be made in future between this empire and such other German powers as exist may not be as beneficial at least as the extinguished Bund, I do not feel that the vital interests of Austria are prejudiced by a phrase which at first seemed so painful. There are elements of a magnificent future in this empire, boundless resources if properly employed, and the variety of races which ever threatens the stability of the realm might be made a source of strength, instead of weakness, if the constitutional problem can be satisfactorily solved. The German element cannot be eliminated by a treaty article from a state inhabited by ten millions of Germans. With so large a portion of that mother race, from which the civilization of the greater part of Europe and America is almost exclusively derived, as one great ingredient, and with other very noble national components, which have never yet manifested all their splendid capabilities, because generally in discord, instead of harmony with the forces which ought to produce together an organic whole, it is impossible not to trust in better days for Austria, dating from what seems an epoch of disaster.
I make no allusions, for the reasons already given, to the claims of France upon Prussia, nor to the possible embarrassments with Bavaria, threatening symptoms of war, which will probably die away.
I have the honor to remain, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.