Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward

No. 351.]

Sir: I have the honor to enclose to you, in two extracts from official journals I at Berlin, what is here recognized in official quarters as substantially the priliminary conditions of a peace which were entered into On the 26th of July by Austria and Prussia. Austria assents to a dissolution of the old Germanic Confederation, and to a new organization of Germany proper, to which she shall in no political sense belong. She engages to recognize such federal union as Prussia may establish in connection with the states north of the Main, and any union among themselves which the states south of that river may enter into.

I learn that Prussia insists further that Austria shall never become a member of this latter union, though nothing of that has yet transpired in the press. This is at present one of the gravest questions which now divide the belligerents. It is difficult to see how Austria can yield to such a humiliating privation of sovereignty if she has any faculty of resistance left, while Prussia, I am told, is disposed to be very tenacious upon this point.

The manner in which the war has been conducted and in a manner terminated, I has been so mysterious and so unprecedented in its most important aspects, as to leave the public mind of this country in a very unquiet state. No one is yet able to see how France is to reap the profit from this war which will compensate her for the great accessions of strength resulting from it to her two most | powerful continental neighbors. Without some such compensation they feel that the relative influence of France in the European system is lowered, her security gravely compromised, and the peace that may now be made not likely to be durable.

I confess I have not as yet shared these apprehensions. The Emperor of France is the author and apostle of the policy of absorbing the secondary and tertiary; sovereignties by the primary ones. For purposes which nearly concern the dignity and honor of France, as the French understand those words, he wished to have the authority of some leading European power in support of it, and he now has it in Prussia. Austria will be compelled to lend her concurrence. That France will have her compensation sooner or later in the final peace, or under a future treaty, I have no doubt. Without some tolerably satisfactory assurance upon that point the war would have been prevented, an easy thing for France to have managed, or, what would be still easier, it would yet be prolonged. The more completely, however, France shall appear to have suffered by the changes wrought by the war, the more easy it will be for these “rectifications’’ to be conceded to France, which, in my opinion, were intended in advance to be the price of her forbearance. That no symptoms of any such arrangements have been disclosed by the press is not strange, but rather confirms me in the impression I have expressed. Savoy was not added to France till many months after [Page 335] the peace of Villa-Franca. It came to her then as a present, “not as the price of blood.”

The Emperor is at Vichy, attended by the minister of foreign affairs and by most of his cabinet. The Prince Napoleon also arrived there yesterday from Italy. Up to last night the negotiations for a peace between Austria and Italy were not as far advanced as between Austria and Prussia. Indeed, a battle between the Italian and Austrian troops yesterday morning was with difficulty prevented. I learned this yesterday at the ministry of foreign affairs. The press makes no allusion to it.

My impression is that the obstacles to a peace, however, will all be overcome without more fighting of consequence. Prussia will have all she has yet asked. Italy will get Venetia without conditions, and as much more as possible; and Austria will be reduced to a second rate power. For such of the secondary states south of the Main as may be left independent for the present, will be reserved the privilege, if it may be called such, which Polyphemus reserved for Ulysses, of being eaten last.

I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.


The Prussian Moniteur publishes the preliminaries of peace, stipulated the 26th July, to obviate in advance, as it states in an article, the evil results which might arise from false interpretations.

Berlin, August 1—Evening.

The Emperor of Austria recognizes the dissolution of the Germanic Confederation, and consents to a new organization of Germany, to which Austria remains foreign. The Emperor promises to recognize the limited federal relations which the King of Prussia is to establish in the German countries north of the line of the Main, and gives also his consent to a union of the states situated south of that line; a union, the national representation of which, is reserved for a more definite arrangement with the confederation of the north.

These articles correspond exactly to the French propositions of mediation recommended at Vienna the 14th July. Austria has, therefore, consented to a reorganization of Germany, without any obstacle on her part, and without herself taking part in it. The empire of Austria does not form a part of the southern union, and we cannot consider the national and natural bond of union between the north and the south of Germany as destroyed by the line of the Main.

The following is the account of the conditions for peace, published by the Provincial Correspondence, of Berlin, known as an office al organ. Most of the details here given have, however, been already received from other sources:

“According to the information at present received the principal clauses of the preliminaries of peace appear to be the following: Austria will not suffer, with the exception of Venetia, any loss of territory; but she codes to Prussia her part of the copossession of Schleswig-Holstein. Saxony, which alone in the German states figures in the Austro-Prussian preliminaries of peace, preserves also her territorial integrity, with the reserve of ulterior decisions as to her position in the confederation of the north with regard to Prussia. Austria pays to Prussia 40,000,000 of thalers as cost of the war. Of this sum 15,000,000 will be deducted as Austria’s share of the cost of the war in the duchies, and 5,000,000 as cost of occupation. Bohemia and Moravia will continue to be occupied by the Prussian troops until the payment of the balance, (20,000,000.) Austria withdraws entirely from the union of the German states, and recognizes the formation of a restricted confederation of the states of the north under the direction of Prussia. The union of the states of the south, and the regulation of their connection with the confederation of the north, are reserved to the free understanding of these states. Austria recognizes the changes of possession to be made in northern Germany. By that is understood the measures which Prussia will take relative to the countries occupied militarily—that is to say, Hanover, Electoral Hesse, the part of Hesse Darmstadt (Oberhessen) situated to the north of the Main, the duchy of Nassau, and Frankfort. The details are not, however, contained in the preliminaries of peace with Austria, as those leave to Prussia a free decision in that respect, stipulating that Austria will recognize what Prussia shall have done.”

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The same journal also says:

“France, by her mediation, has acquired great merit for herself by the satisfactory results of the work of peace up to this time obtained. The Emperor of the French accepted, in a generous and disinterested manner, with the hope of a really just and impartial pacification, the mission given to him by Austria. In the important position created for him in the negotiations, the Emperor Napoleon has not sought, neither for himself nor for France, anything but the honor and glory of causing his authority to prevail among the sovereigns in favor of an equitable peace. It has been given to him to contribute to the accomplishment of the great work which he had rigorously commenced for the establishment of a free and united Italy. In the same spirit that presided at that work he has spontaneously offered his hand to Prussia, to lay the solid and secure foundations of a united Germany. The financial situation of Prussia, favorable beyond all expectation, permits the cessation of the forced contributions levied on the country for bread, meat, and forage for the troops; henceforward such things will be paid for by the state. A loan does not appear to be necessary to cover the expenses of the war; a transitory financial measure will, perhaps, be sufficient to acquit the state obligations resulting notably from the contributions imposed on the country.”