Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward.
Sir: The slight gleam of hope which was indicated in my despatch of last week vanished almost instantaneously. As already intimated, the arming of Austria as against Italy was at once considered by Prussia as sufficient reason [Page 661] for not reducing her own armaments, according to the agreement which had just been made between the cabinets of Vienna and Berlin.
A remarkable article appeared in a semi-official journal of Berlin, called the North German Universal Gazette. In this it was very vigorously argued that in view of the armaments of Austria in the south it had now become necessary for Prussia to increase her own warlike preparations, instead of revoking them. Unless Austria would at once place her southern army on a peace footing, no time was to be lost by Prussia in taking defensive measures. That southern army might be used at any moment against Prussia instead of Italy, for Italy had shown no intention of attacking Austria.
Moreover, it would be impossible for Prussia to look on quietly while that very Italian army, on which Prussia might probably rely in case of a war between herself and Austria, was rendered incapable of doing damage to the common enemy.
This manifesto, in a journal believed to be in the confidence of the Prussian government, of course made a great sensation.
It was believed to be a forerunner of more positive and direct communications. Meantime, Prussia is continuing to arm against Austria; Austria continues to arm against Italy.
And now Italy officially announces that in consequence of an expected aggression from Austria, she is taking the military measures which she had previously denied.
If there ever was a power in the world which most earnestly desired peace, and was determined to attack nobody unless absolutely compelled to do so, it is Austria.
Yet she is accused by Prussia on the one side, and by Italy on the other—the one determined to obtain Schleswig-Holstein, the other Venice—of bloodthirsty intentions, although it is impossible to imagine what she could gain by a war.
Her position of wolf between these two lamb-like adversaries is altogether unexampled in history. Inter audaces lupsus errat agnes.
There is little need of writing more to-day.
I have always believed in the imminence of a war because I could form no probable hypothesis on which peace could be preserved.
Of course Austria could abandon Schleswig-Holstein to Prussia, but that seems now to have become impossible.
She could sell Venice to Italy. Of that she will never dream.
There is a talk of a congress, to be proposed at the last moment by the French Emperor, in order to prevent war. But is it imaginable that Prussia will allow a European congress to dispose of her claims on Schleswig-Holstein, or that Austria will submit its Venetian possessions to its fiat?
There was a story in London that the Emperor of the French had written an autograph letter to the Emperor of Austria, offering to guarantee that Italy should not make an attack, if Austria would place her southern army on a peace footing.
This is entirely untrue. It is even suspected in diplomatic circles here that a despatch from the Berlin cabinet, in the sense of the above-mentioned article of the Prussian semi-official gazette, has been sent to the Prussian envoy here, but has not yet been officially communicated to the imperial government.
The language held by the Prussian government is unquestionably in accordance with that manifesto.
I think there is no one now that entertains much hope of peace. Prussia and Italy appear determined to accomplish their objects, at the risk of war if necessary.
Whether there is a treaty of alliance actually signed between those two powers does not seem a very vital question. It is an alliance which makes itself. [Page 662] I suppose no one could doubt that if Prussia and Austria were actually at war, Italy would strike a blow for the possession of Venice.
The Austrian five per cents, have fallen within a week from 57 to 51, and other stocks in the same proportion.
The agio on gold has risen four or five per cent. in the same interval.
I have the honor to remain, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.