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Matthew (1871-01-10)


The Disastrous War. Dundee Courier, Tuesday 10 January 1871, p.2 col.5 (pdf image)

(Letter undated, published Jan 10 1871)
Matthew responds to a previous editorial in the Dundee Courier, which had objected to German aggression in France. Matthew describes the French as “ravenously bent upon German plunder and German territory”, and the Germans as “peace-loving”. Matthew concludes: “France has long been the political volcano of Europe, and will continue so if not strongly curbed”.

In their response at the end, the editors stand by their claims of German “abuse of power” in occupied France.


SIR,— How easy it is to confute the very strange attack made in your paper of Saturday last upon our neighbour, the German nation — an attack, I think, without cause. We are told not to bear false witness against our neighbour, and the utmost care ought to be taken not to promote national hatreds. All that has yet befallen France is only what France attempted most unjustly to do to Germany, and has only been done in self-defence, and wisely so. After the battle of Sedan, for Germany to have made peace would only have been furnishing 350,000 trained soldiers to commence the war anew. The base attempt of France to get hold of Belgium, the independence of which she had so solemnly by treaty bound herself to defend, shows what dependence can be placed upon French treaties. Germany, hitherto, has done everything in her power retain peace; has even in the case of Luxemburg and Spain yielded farther, at the desire, I believe, of Britain, than national honour could well submit to yield to, not from fear but from humanity. The great fortress of Luxemburg, the defence of Germany on the west, was coveted by France, and in order to prevent threatened war by France, Germany consented to have the fortress demolished and her garrison of German troops withdrawn as the price of peace. The French having got this barrier out of the way, waited their opportunity of some godsend to make further demands; and upon a Prussian, a blood relation of the French Emperor and of the King of Prussia, being chosen by Spain to be its King, and he having accepted, they, ravenously bent upon German plunder and German territory, immediately declared war unless this arrangement was departed from. Here again, the peace-loving Germans yielded and used influence to get the proposed King to withdraw. But his withdrawing was not enough; the French Government, determined upon getting up some pretext for war, immediately forwarded a highly insulting message to the King of Prussia, demanding of him a guarantee that no German should be King of Spain. This the King refused to give as having no right to interfere with Spanish affairs, nor with individual liberty out of Germany. Upon this the French Government immediately declared war, and the French army commenced their raid upon Germany.

Upon whom, then, is the destruction now going on in France to rest? The guilt of every German killed since the war began must rest on the head of every Frenchman who has assisted in this war. The French nation have made no confession of their guilt, but carry on the war to the utmost of their power, vociferating threats and vengeance in time to come. Instead of repenting, they basely throw the whole blame upon their poor Emperor, who did his utmost to entry out their strongly expressed desires. Their real fault to him is that he did not succeed in giving them the plunder of Germany, and this feat they will attempt again should they ever think themselves able. The Germans are truly in a fix, not from their own fault, but from dire necessity obliged to fight till France is so far reduced as not to be dangerous to her neighbours. France has long been the political volcano of Europe, and will continue so if not strongly curbed. It is nonsense to speak of French hatred to Germany; after the disgrace of Sedan it had reached the ne plus ultra.


[As an unwavering and strong — not to say headstrong — partizan of Prussia, we do not wonder though Mr Patrick Matthew objects to the strength of our attack on the Prussian position. When we strike we strike with vigour, but not at all till we are assured of an abuse. That there is an abuse of power on the part of the Germans in the meantime is what we have proved over and over again. We might, to be sure, have filled the article in question with some of the dramatic incidents now taking place in France under German rule. The treatment of Maires, for example, when they cannot raise enough money to satisfy German rapacity, might have been noticed. How would Matthew like, were he a citizen of France, to be stopped on the street, and have his shoes and stockings taken from him by German soldiers? How would he like to be hung up by the neck from the branch of a tree, his greatest crime being that had shouldered his rifle to drive the invader from his country? But the iniquitous and maddening system of requisitioning where impossibilities are not performed, far more than deserved all we have said against the German mode of warfare. We not think it necessary to discuss the general question with Mr Matthew. —Ed. D. C.]

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