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Matthew (1871-01-27)


The French Aggressive War and Mr Ellice, M.P. Dundee Advertiser, Friday 27 January 1871, p.3 col.2 (pdf image)

(Letter dated Jan 23 1871, published Jan 27 1871)
Matthew, still seething at the remarks made by Mr Ellice M. P. (see previous letter), continues on his theme that it is the French and not the Germans who are the aggressors and plunderers in the Franco-Prussian War. In a postscript, Matthew quotes from the Book of Hosea in the Hebrew Bible: “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind”.



SIR,—When a powerful first-class nation, restless, impulsive, unscrupulous, takes the opportunity in time of peace to cultivate an immense preparation for war, which its people are by nature strongly disposed and highly ambitious; when that Government imposes a high taxation upon its subjects, and at the same time borrows vast sums at high interest (more than it can expect ever pay, even the interest, by honest means), and all this to carry out a vast war preparation, and by conscription levies vast armies, able, as it thinks, or has thought, to overwhelm its neighbours, it has in recent times done to Holland, Spain, Italy, and more than once Germany, when Germany was disunited; also, when strong hints have been given by its imposing legions that Europe in rich and they are powerful, one would have thought it was high time that the other European nations should have combined to put that restless aggressive nation in a condition no longer to be dangerous to its neighbours, and, as it has turned out, also to itself. Instead of the other nations combining to do this, each has very foolishly endeavoured to imitate this war-loving nation, and to put itself to great expense in raising a military force to defend itself against this restleas disturber of the general peace. This disunited military and naval equipment has cost Europe many hundred millions sterling, besides increasing immorality and repressing industry, directly and indirectly. In Britain and some other nations, it has caused the building of enormous iron-sided war frigates, at a cost of several hundred thousand pounds each. Fear of France in Britain, caused by her threats and preparations a few years ago, produced an organisation of 160,000 British Volunteers, the naval reserve, the militia, and a greatly-increased war navy; and in Germany the union of all the separate States, Austria excepted, now under one head, a German Emperor, as in former times.

In regard to the present war – the natural consequence a French standing army of more than 500,000 soldiers – it may be said that it might have been stopped had Britain come boldly forward and stated to France that a war against Germany would be a war by Britain against France. Our Ministry take credit to themselves for having remained neutral, that they might have more influence to mediate as peacemakers. This does not show much acquaintance with the character the French – as if they, if victorious, would pay any heed to English advice which was not backed by iron-sided men of war. Our neutrality to me seemed anything but wise and meritorious. A threat, in French fashion, of immediate war against the declarer of guilty war would most likely have prevented war, and saved the lives of two millions of human beings. If we hold it base to see a neighbour attacked by a brigand without rendering assistance, it is equally so in regard to a neighbour nation. Even in expediency was this our duty when the attack was by those who have repeatedly threatened to avenge Waterloo when able to so. It is foolish to listen to fine words, waiting an opportunity for foul acts. The great error of the European Powers was (knowing the character of the French nation) permitting France to embody an army of 500,000 soldiers in time of peace. They might have known that these would require to be killed off or rendered innocuous before peace, good neighbourhood, tranquillity could exist in Europe.

On the other hand, is it Britain, when she sees her peaceable old ally attacked by her old enemy – by a brigand – and the robber likely to get the worst of it, that wishes to rush forward to assist the robber, and save him from a merited punishment? This would, indeed, be a Quixotic act – worse than Quixotic! The Spanish Don did not know those he liberated were convicted robbers, and we British do. It is bad enough to have forwarded arms to the brigand in his intended war of conquest and plunder. Every drop of blood shed by these arms will be upon the head and bear witness against the party who has supplied them. Why did our Government permit this? Should we give personal assistance the robber – beiug thus art and part in the crime – the blood of all the Germans killed in the attempted destruction of Germany would be upon our heads. It would form a fitting subject for Punch, though a little tragic, the British forwarding guns and other lethal arms to France for making wounds, and surgeons’ lint and salves to heal them! Here our pity should all be on the side of Germany, forced to lose too many of her honest working men in repressing the plunder attack of a brigand nation which takes the ancient Roman robber empire as her model. Instead of giving aid to the French in their guilty attack upon their peace-loving neighbour, it was the bounden duty of Britain, when it first saw that a war was intended, to have boldly come forward and declared to France that we would interfere with all our power to aid Germany, were France to declare war. This would in all probability have prevented war.

That Bismarck did everything in his power to prevent war, instead of being the guilty cause so insultingly insinuated by Mr Ellice, is seen in the fact that the strong barrier fortress of Luxembourg, the chief defence of Germany upon the west, was agreed to be demolished by Germany as the price of peace – not from any fear of France, but from humanity, and the strong desire of Britain and the other nations that peace should be maintained. There cannot be a doubt that the successful intrigue of France get this fortress removed was for an ulterior object, and that Germany and the other nations were deceived, imposed upon, and no doubt laughed at. France considered this opening up of Germany of good augury, and the first act of the play – “The Invasion and Conquest of Germany” – watching for same godsend opportunity for commencing it? This, the choice of a person born in Germany, and a blood relation of the French Emperor and Prussian King, to be King of Spain, afforded a pretext. Upon this France immediately declared that war against Germany would take place if this was carried out. Germany here again, to avert war, employed means to get the proposed King to withdraw. Baffled in this pretext for war, the French Government immediately forwarded an insulting letter to the King Prussia, demanding from him a guarantee that no German should be King of Spain. This, as it ought, was indignantly refused, upon which the war was immediately declared by France. I would ask the reader, Does all this yielding to avert war, even further than strict national honour demanded, not afford irrefragible proof that Bismarck did everything in his power to preserve peace – reducing the attack of France to a brigand robber raid, which every other nation in Europe ought to have opposed as a breach of the law of nations? I would ask Mr Ellice, upon what does he base his insidious allusion regarding the present war being caused by Bismarck?

Mr Ellice contrives most ingeniously to metamorphose the plunderer into the plundered. Who is this Mr Ellice, who so grossly misrepresents facts, and panders to flatter and feed an audience possessed of an irrational, passing, fanatic phantasy of pity towards a brigand nation being punished in its attempt at murder and robbery on the great seale? or to turn their just hatred of the brigand into haterd of the nation which has so bravely beaten back the robber legions, who still continue to fight, and threaten to carry out their rapine of Germany? Is it that Britain, which, a few years ago, was herself threatened by this brigand nation with such an attack of murder and plunder as she recently attempted upon Germany, in preparation against which Britain still bears the marks in her Volunteers and other war preparations?

Had France succeeded in her murderous attack upon Germany, she no doubt would have plundered Berlin. Why, then, should the stronghold of this brigand nation be spared – not be treated as she attempted to treat the German capital? In the one cace, there would have been a horrible crime, and even is, as it has cost Germany so many lives to prevent the infernal attempt being carried out, and bestow condign punishment upon the brigand nation. In the other case, it comes to be a national duty. Can retributive justice be satistied with less? Can the future safety of Germany be attained with less? Now that Paris is beginning to experience the horrors of war, she has begun to inveigh against its wickedness, while not five months ago she welcomed the guilty war with rapturous applause. In the vista shs saw the return of her grand army to Paris loaded with gold to splendid triumphal processions, and thousands of railway waggons hurling along loaded with the spoils Germany. All this has vanished, and in its place the most stern realities, starvation, squalid misery, the wounded and dying, the cannon’s roar, the bombshell’s blazing burst, terror, ruin, despair, and death. Such are the merited wages of sin! All this is needed as a memorable warning to nations in time to come. With respect to national and individual punishment of crime, I do not see how any difference should be made, only that the brigand nation robs and murders on the great scale. I therefore wonder at the French having been deliberating whether they should send a diplomatic agent to the London Conference. I should rather have thought to have seen those of the London Conference deliberating whether any agent should be received from a nation that had so glaringly broken through all national law in feloniously attacking its peaceable neighbour.

Gourdiehill, Errol, Jan. 23,1871

PS.— As France “brewed, so must she drink.” “She sowed the wind, and she has reaped the whirlwind.” Let any unprejudiced sane man place himself in the condition of the Germans – how would he act? Germany has twice been plundered by the French. The first occupation of Paris and a portion of France was leniently carried out by the Allies. Not even were the pictures and statuary in the galleries of the Louvre restored to the nations from which they had been robbed. Upon the second visit of the Allies to Paris in 1815, these plundered specimens of art were most of them restored, but the French specimens of art (not as the French had done) were not carried away. In this war the Germans have levied contributions in money and goods, knowing, if they did not, much of the money at least would be used against themselves. They cannot be blamed for being loth to leave France in the condition to have to march to Paris a fourth time. How is it possible that they should consent to restore their own German territory back to France, which is so necessary as a barrier to prevent future French aggression? P. M.

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