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could not bring himself to part with the right to decide. He could not, in other words, devolve on others the responsibility of decision. It would, indeed, be possible to argue that he habitually deprived his advisers of the opportunity of giving him advice. Frank to a fault with foreign statesmen, he usually concealed his intentions and his decisions from his own ministers. A conspirator by nature,* he conspired against his own advisers. Count Walewski enjoyed his confidence in 1858. Yet Count Walewski was not made acquainted with Napoleon's interview with Count Cavour at Plombieres in July, nor with the secret treaty between Sardinia and France in December. M. Thouvenel succeeded Count Walewski: yet M. Thouvenel was deceived as to the Emperor's intentions in 1860 towards Rome, and was never fully informed of the Emperor's Mexican policy. M. Drouyn de Lhuys was M. Thouvenel's successor, and he, too, had to complain that he was allowed, in the name of his Government, to declare that the Emperor would never agree to arrangements which he had already accepted. The Emperor, in fact, took a positive pride in his reticence to his own servants. 'Do not attach any 'importance '—so he said to the Prussian ambassador—' to 'the words of my ministers. I alone am acquainted with 'the foreign policy of France.' The Emperor's habitual refusal to entrust his advisers with his intentions was inconvenient enough when he was the autocratic master of France; it became full of danger when he permitted parliamentary criticism and parliamentary interference. For the men who were charged with the defence of his policy did not know his whole mind: and, though they might not have found it always easy to explain the views of a despot, it was ten times more difficult to interpret the thoughts of a Sphinx.
It was, moreover, the Emperor's misfortune that the closing years of his reign were years pregnant with great events in the history of the world, in which France either had, or thought she had, a deep interest. In Europe, Poland was again rising for its independence; Germany was demanding the solution of the Schleswig-Holstein question; and Prussia was preparing for the great struggle which was to bring her, in one stride, to Sadowa, and in another to Sedan. If, in Europe, the doctrine of nation
* M. de la Gorce saya of him, ' RSveur et conspirateur, il le fut sur le trone et toujours.'
alities, which the Emperor himself had done so much to encourage, was raising issues which could not easily be determined, in North America still more serious problems were being settled by war. For, in the United States, the great Civil War was deciding the issues of slavery and freedom, of union and secession; while in the neighbouring republic of Mexico the struggle between Juarez and Miramon was throwing one of the richest countries in the world into disorder, and involving the foreigners, who had settled in it to make their fortunes, in danger to their persons and in ruin to their estates.
France had always felt a keen interest in the cause of Poland. The majority of Frenchmen would have preferred a war of nationality for the Poles to a war of nationality for the Italians; thoughtful Frenchmen, at any rate, understood that, while a united Italy on their south-eastern frontier might be a possible menace to their own country, a restored Poland, in the east of Europe, could only be a menace to other nations. Into the causes of the Polish insurrection, indeed, Frenchmen did not probably inquire too minutely. We suspect that, even now, they are not likely to accept M. Ollivier's view of a movement, in which he seems to think that most of the excesses were committed by the Poles, though they may perhaps appreciate from his narrative the difficulties of Napoleon's position. In the first place, the Emperor rightly attached the highest importance to a good understanding with Russia. Without that understanding he would hardly have ventured on undertaking the Italian war of 1859, or on braving this country by the annexation of Savoy and Nice in 1860. It was no slight matter, therefore, to quarrel with Russia by becoming the champion of the Poles. But, in the next place, if the sympathies of his own subjects with the Poles compelled him to interfere, it was not easy to see what he could do. As M. Ollivier puts it, Napoleon could not dispatch an army in balloons to a country which could not be approached on any side. It was not merely then—as the Polish proverb ran—that Paris was too far. The real difficulty was that Poland was inaccessible.
In these circumstances the Emperor would have probably acted wisely if he had refrained from doing anything. He committed his first mistake in asking this country to join with him in a remonstrance to Prussia for assenting to a military convention with Russia, under which the soldiers of either country were authorised to follow insurrectionary bands into the territory of the other. The British ministers were quite as hostile to this convention as the Emperor. Lord Russell—for Lord John had now become a Peer, and we must consequently give him his later title—spoke of it in terms of unmeasured severity. But the very reasons which made the Emperor hesitate to pick a quarrel with Russia made them shrink from taking any step which might lead to a disagreement between Prussia and France. Lord Palmerston, in particular, had never recovered from the distrust of Napoleon with which the annexation of Savoy and Nice had inspired him. He believed that the Emperor was bent on seizing the Rhenish provinces of Prussia, and that he was seeking a pretext for a quarrel which would enable him to move an army upon the Rhine. We are disposed to think that, in this respect, Lord Palmerston did the Emperor an injustice. The more we read, the more we learn of the policy of Napoleon III., the more we feel satisfied that he was ready to incur almost any sacrifice to regain the good understanding with this country which he had lost in 1860, and that he placed the English alliance above the rectification of the Rhine frontier. But we cannot agree with M. Ollivier that Lord Palmerston's suspicions were unnatural. Great rulers should recollect that, in politics as in private life, the broken pitcher may be mended, but that it never can again be trusted to hold water.
Foiled in his first effort, the Emperor had next to consider whether he would accept Lord Russell's proposal that all the Powers should agree to present remonstrances at St. Petersburg. We are not among those who think that this proposal was a wise one. Remonstrances which it is not intended to support by action are not likely to carry much weight. And, as a matter of fact, the notes, which were presented by all the Great Powers except Prussia, ultimately resulted in a somewhat discourteous refusal on the part of Russia to continue the discussion. This refusal produced a wild burst of excitement in France. In the Chambers, in society, in the streets, arose a clamour for war. The Emperor, wiser than his subjects, resolutely refused to embark single-handed upon a campaign which the simplest study of geography showed to be full of difficulty. He endeavoured to cover his retreat by his favourite expepedient of a congress of sovereigns. But this proposal, which perhaps would in no case have been accepted, was practically destroyed by a despatch of Lord Russell, which M. Ollivier admits that it is difficult to answer; and Lord Russell—so M. Ollivier alleges—made his despatch more unpalatable by communicating a copy of it to the 'Times' before the original reached the French Foreign Office.
Thus the unhappy insurrection, which led to the final subjugation of Poland, increased the discredit into which the Emperor had already fallen. The man who, in the earlier part of his reign, had marched from victory to victory, seemed in the latter part of his reign to move from failure to failure; and the ruler who in the first period had seemed always ready to use his military strength in a cause in which he believed, appeared in the latter period either incompetent or afraid to support his opinion on the battlefield against a first-rate Power. In the latter part of 1863, indeed, there was good reason why the Emperor should shrink from such a struggle. For, with inconceivable folly, he had allowed himself to become involved in a campaign, 5,000 miles from home, which was exhausting the resources of his country and locking up thousands of men in another hemisphere. The Mexican war, however, had so fatal an effect on the fortunes of the Second Empire, and its incidents are so imperfectly known in England, that it is worth while devoting a few pages to the subject.
In the middle of the nineteenth century Mexico was the scene of civil war. Two men, Juarez and Miramon, were struggling with alternate success for the mastery. In the course of the struggle things were done on both sides which it was difficult to justify. Many Europeans, French and English especially, attracted by the wealth of the country, had settled or were carrying on business in the republic, and these adventurers—Uitlanders they would have been called to-day—were exposed to arbitrary taxation and personal violence. In August 1860, for example, a considerable quantity of silver, the property of British subjects, was ' commandeered' (we again use a more modern word) on its way to the coast, by Juarez's orders. Three months afterwards a large sum of money was taken from the British Consulate at Mexico itself by a force under Miramon's officers.
Outrages of this character justified grave remonstrance. If remonstrance failed in its effect, precedent could be quoted for a resort to stronger measures. The complaints which this country had against Mexico in 1860 were at least as serious as those which she had preferred against Greece ten years before. It so happened, however, that this country was not alone in its complaints against Mexico.
VOL. OXCVI. NO. CCOCI. O
France and Spain were in very much the same position; it was natural, therefore, that the representatives of the three Powers should meet and discuss the possibility of concerted action. They accordingly met in London in the autumn of 1861. They agreed to send a joint expedition to Mexico, and to seize and occupy certain positions on its coast as security for the settlement of their claims and the safety of the Uitlanders.
In the negotiations which thus took place it soon became evident that France was anxious to go much further than England was prepared to follow. France was already contemplating the reversal of Juarez's government, while London was determined to confine itself to obtaining pecuniary redress for the wrongs which British subjects had suffered. The fact was that, in the days of his exile, Napoleon had dreamed a dream of a Latin Empire in the New World intersected by a canal joining the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific, and that the outbreak of civil war in America had apparently supplied him with an opportunity for giving effect to his dream. He had in Mexico a representative—M. de Saligny—who had penetrated his thoughts and who made it his business to supply him with arguments for his policy. 'M. de Saligny became the indefatigable 'accuser of Juarez. With premeditated bitterness, he recited 'all the violence which had been committed in the past, he 'added all the vexatious experiences which the Uitlanders 'had recently undergone, and by dexterously grouping his 'facts he composed a picture, true in its main features, but 'artificially coloured, to produce an effect.' And he repeated, by every mail, the same story; he added, as its moral, the same advice; it is necessary to have in Mexico a force sufficient to protect our interests; the time has come when we must support our remonstrances by force.
The forces which the allied Powers determined to send hardly came up to M. de Saligny's expectations. Spain, indeed, dispatched a little army of 6,000 men, under General Prim; France a contingent of 2,500 men, whom it placed under the command of Admiral Jurien de la Graviere. This country was content with sending a couple of line-of-battleships, some frigates, and on landing some 700 marines. The allied forces, however, on their arrival at Vera Cruz, in January 1862, disclaimed all thoughts of war. They had come with the intention of securing redress, but with the best wishes for the happiness of Mexico. They proceeded to formulate their demands. The English claimed the punctual