Obrázky na stránke

number and boundless in extent. There were the great states demanding indemnity and increase of power; and the small ones insisting on security and independence. There were the secularized clergy and the mediatized nobles, clamouring for a restoration of their exclusive privileges and confiscated property, emperors obstinately refusing the hereditary right to be elected to that high dignity; and electors bent upon resuming the right of choice, whether there were any body to be chosen or not;* there was a confusion of the greatest and the smallest interests requiring to be settled at the same time, a vast confederacy to be organized and the balance of power in Europe to be secured; while the antichambers of the congress were besieged by the representatives of a thousand private concerns down to those of the very booksellers. Besides all thesc, and though last, it is to be hoped not considered as absolutely least in importance, was the interest of the people, the public good, which old not be wholly overlooked, though unfortuna it was found impossible to make it the first and principal object of attention. To introduce something like a principle of order into this scene of wild confusion was the most difficult task that devolved upon the

*The elector of Hesse actually retained this title; and his successor has, in like manner, assumed it at his father's death.

congress; and the accomplishment of it, even to the imperfect extent to which it has been effected, was assisted very much if not wholly produced by accidental events.

The holy Roman empire had disappeared, the emperor had abdicated his dignity; and the confederation of the Rhine, which succeeded, had sunk into nothing. The first object, therefore, in regard to Germany was to fix upon some general principle of reorganization. Shall the states, into which it is divided, be left unconnected and independent? If not, shall the old empire be restored, or shall a new general system be established? If the latter, what shall be its principles? and shall it resemble most nearly the constitution of the empire, or that of the Rhenish confederation? Had these questions been decided on grounds of mere expediency and regard to the public good, it would probably have appeared very clear, either that the idea of a general system should be entirely abandoned, or that the new government should be much more consolidated than either of the former leagues. A federal system, which acts merely upon the sovereign states, that compose it, and has no operation upon individuals, has been ascertained by experience to be worse than useless. In proof of this remark, if its correctness were doubtful, might

be quoted the examples of the republic of the Netherlands and of the old confederation of the United States of America; but that of the German empire was still more striking than either, and was quite sufficient for the decision of the question. The only way, therefore, in which the new system could have been made really efficient would have been to establish a consolidated government, acting directly upon individuals, and exercising exclusively the functions of general sovereignty; while the separate states retained their power merely for municipal purposes, as with us. The foundation of such a system in the centre of Europe, had it been possible, would have done more than any thing for the security of the public tranquillity. A confederacy of this kind, though strong for all useful objects, is, in its nature, pacific and unambitious; and could not of itself have caused any alarm; while it would have interposed the best barrier between the two great sections of the European commonwealth, which, under the present arrangement will probably, sooner or later, come into collision. But the obstacles to the establishment of such a system were so great and obvious that it probably was not even suggested. It would have been necessary that all the great German powers should incorporate their whole dominions in

the union. Thirty or forty hereditary rulers must have surrendered the most important functions of sovereignty; and what touches them much more nearly, its forms and titles.. If the establishment of the present constitution in the United States encountered no small opposition from the offended pride of the states, it may easily be imagined what would be the resistance of these emperors, kings, and princes, the least of whom would think the order of the universe in danger, if he lost the bauble he calls his crown. The idea was wholly inadmissible, and in reality was never publicly suggested.

The next best plan to this would have been to abandon the idea of a general system, at least as far as regarded the participation of Austria and Prussia. A union of the smaller powers might have still been advantageous; and perhaps in this the plan of consolidation might not have been wholly impracticable; but a league, into which Austria, Prussia, and Great Britain entered, whether for the whole or a part of their dominions, was, as far as it produced any effect at all, a mere subjugation of the smaller states under another name. Such a system would be vicious as regarded them, precisely in the same degree in which it was good in itself; because the more efficient it

was, the more efficient an engine was in operation for the destruction of their political existence. This consideration was too obvious to have been overlooked by the great powers, had their views been steadily directed to the promotion of the public good. But there were other objects which touched them more nearly. Each of them naturally aimed, in the first place, to secure and augment, as far as it might be, its own political importance. Other and more general objects could only be treated in subordination to this. It was natural, therefore, that they should desire, without sacrificing their own independence, to secure a sort of political guardianship over the inferior German states. The establishment of such a system as would best promote this object and not the general tranquillity, nor the public good, was the problem to be solved in the settlement of Germany. The whole affair was another representation of the drama of the partition of Poland, in a more specious and plausible shape. The interest of the inhabitants of these states, of the states themselves as sovereignties, and the public good were sacrificed to the ambition of the great powers. In order to effect the object they had in view, the first step was to organize a confederacy. This measure was accordingly resolved upon previously to the treaty of Paris, and is

« PredošláPokračovať »