Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward.

No. 188.]

Sir: I send you herewith a careful translation of the imperial manifesto published day before yesterday, regarded as a declaration of motives and purposes by an emperor to his subjects when entering upon what is likely to be one of the most eventful struggles of modern history. The document will strike you, no doubt, as well worded, dignified, and worthy of the solemn occasion.

It will have, of course, met your eye long before this despatch can reach you; as I have, however, endeavored to keep you informed, to the best of my ability, of the gradual steps towards the war, ever since, in my despatch of March 20, I stated my inability to imagine how war could be averted, I have thought it best to insert this important state paper in our correspondence.

It sums up the case for Austria lucidly and energetically, and seems to leave but little to be said on that side.

Since the date of my last despatch, the vote of the Bund, by nine to six, to put [Page 668] the Bund army in motion against Prussia, as the peace breakers, has been an pounced, and Prussia, declaring that vote illegal, has formally seceded from the Bund, has offered its alliance to Saxony, Electoral Hesse, and Hanover, and on their refusal has invaded and occupied the territory of those powers.

The telegraph this morning brings us the news of the occupation of Leipzig and Dresden by the Prussian army of the Elbe. Its army of the Oder, under the crown prince, defends Silesia. A battle is considered imminent in Saxony.

I must, however, take this opportunity to state that it would be mere affectation for me to attempt to send military intelligence.

The plans and movements of the Austrian commander-in-chief are kept scrupulously secret. Permission to the foreign military attaches to go to headquarters has been courteously refused, and the newspapers are prevented at present from furnishing authentic military intelligence.

I should say, as nearly as I can inform myself, that the Austrian army of the north numbers 350,000 fighting men, and that it means to take the offensive, and, if possible, capture Berlin.

On the other hand, I should guess the opposing army of Prussia to be larger than that of the Austrian northern army, and that it means, if possible, to hold the celebrated line of the river Main, thus occupying those German states which lie between its own western and eastern possessions, and to neutralize the contingents to the Bund army of those powers.

The Kings of Hanover* and Saxony and the elector of Hesse have already left their respective dominions, which for the time are mainly in the power of Prussia, together with the coveted duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.

The war thus opens with a considerable apparent advantage secured by Prussia, through promptness and energy of action; on the other hand, it cannot be doubted that Austria is preparing a great movement, combined with the forces of the powers faithful to the Bund. The result of a general battle in Saxony on a great scale might, if decidedly favorable to Austria and the Bund, force the Prussians from Dresden, and even open the road to Berlin But such speculations on my part are idle and superfluous. I shall only add that the Bund has formally declared itself indissoluble. This means, of course, its intention to coerce Prussia back into the Bund.

But the difference between our own civil war and the opening civil war in Germany strikes the eye at once.

The German Bund is a confederacy, a league of sovereigns, not an incorporation. It never pretended to be a union. Its foundation is a treaty between monarchs, not a law laid down by a sovereign people.

It was never disputed that those princes, emperors, kings, or dukes, who have for centuries exercised all the attributes of sovereignty, coining money, maintaining armies and navies, regulating foreign commerce and holding diplomatic intercourse with foreign powers, were as sovereign as it was possible to be. Their sovereignty is a fact, not a phrase. As independent sovereigns they have bound themselves together by a league. As they declared it perpetual, those faithful to the Bund have a legal right to carry on war against those members who violate their faith to it.

Prussia may be proceeded against, therefore, as a peace breaker, as a violator of treaties, by those who consider her guilty of those offences.

To speak of her as a rebel would be a mere abuse of language. It would be to confound things essentially different, quite as much so as it was for those States of America, some of which had never possessed the attribute of sovereignty, while others had voluntarily divested themselves thereof on accepting the constitution of 87, to claim sovereignty and independence, which they could only achieve by successful rebellion against legal authority.

[Page 669]

Whatever be the result of the war, we can hardly expect to witness the return of Prussia to what has been, since 1815, called the Germanic confederation. But these considerations are so obvious that I ought to ask pardon for dwelling on them.

I have the honor to remain, sir, your obedient servant,


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



To MY People: In the midst of the work of peace that I undertook in order to lay the foundations of a constitutional form, which should strengthen the unity and position as a power of the whole empire, and secure to the separate provinces and peoples their free interior development, my duty as ruler has compelled me to call my whole army into the field.

On the frontiers of the realm in north and south stand the armies of two allied armies, in the intention of shaking Austria in its position as a European power. To neither of them has been given on my part a motive for war.

To keep the blessings of peace for my peoples, I have always regarded, the Omniscient God is my witness, as one of my first and most holy duties as ruler, and have striven faithfully to fulfil it.

One of the two hostile powers, however, requires no pretext; greedy for the robbing of a part of my realm the first favorable opportunity, is a sufficient cause for war.

Allied with the Prussian troops which now stand against us as enemies, a portion of my brave and faithful army marched two years ago to the shores of the North sea.

I entered into this armed alliance with Prussia in order to maintain the rights of treaties, to protect a threatened German brother race, to confine the misfortune of an inevitable war within its narrowest limits, and in the most intimate connection of the two great powers of central Europe, to whom especially the duty of maintaining European peace is confided, to gain for the welfare of my empire, of Germany and of Europe, such a lasting security for peace.

I sought no conquests; unselfish in the concluding of the alliance with Prussia, I strove also at the peace of Vienna for no advantages for myself. Austria has no responsibility for the dark series of unhappy complications which, had Prussia been equally unselfish, could never have arisen, which, had she been equally faithful to the Bund, would have been arranged in one moment.

They were called forth by the desire to realize selfish purposes, and were, therefore, insolvable by my government in a peaceful manner.

Thus the gravity of the situation steadily increased.

Even when warlike preparations were manifestly going on in both the hostile states, and an understanding between them, which could have no other object than a combined attack upon my empire, became every day clearer, I persisted in peace, conscious of my duty as ruler, and ready for every concession that might be Compatible with honor, and with the welfare of my peoples.

As I found that a further delay would endanger the effective defence against hostile assaults, and, consequently, the security of the monarchy, I was obliged to resolve upon the heavy sacrifices which are inseparable from warlike armaments.

The assurances of my love of peace given to my peoples, the repeated declarations of my readiness to simultaneous disarming on all sides, were answered by Prussia with counter imputations, the acceptance of which would have been the abandonment of the honor and safety of my empire.

Prussia demanded the full previous disarming, not only against herself, but also against the hostile power standing against me on the border of my empire in Italy, for whose peaceful intentions no guarantee was offered or could be offered.

All negotiation with Prussia regarding the questions of the duchies has demonstrated the fact that a solution of this question such as is demanded by the dignity of Austria, the law and interests of Germany and of the duchies in understanding with Prussia, in its now openly manifested policy of violence and conquest, is not to be attained. The negotiations were broken off, the whole matter laid before the Bund for its decision, and the legal representatives of the Bund were at once summoned. The threatening appearances of war caused the three powers, France, England, and Russia, to issue invitations to my government for participation in common deliberations, the object of which should be the maintenance of peace. My government, in harmony with my intention to maintain peace for my peoples, if it were possible, did not refuse its participation, but annexed to its consent the precise assumption [Page 670] that public European law and existing treaties should fix the point of departure for these mediatory attempts, and that the participating powers should pursue no special interests to the detriment of the European equilibrium, and of the rights of Austria.

If the attempt of peace deliberations was at once wrecked on these natural preliminary conditions, the proof is thus afforded that the deliberations themselves could never have led to the maintenance and confirmation of peace.

The latest events prove indisputably that Prussia now publicly places might before right.

In the right and honor of Austria, in the right and honor of the whole German nation, Prussia saw no longer a limit for its fatally mounting ambition; Prussian troops marched into Holstein; the assembly of the estates summoned by the imperial stadtholder was forcibly prevented; the governmental power in Holstein, which the peace of Vienna had conferred on Austria and Prussia jointly, was claimed exclusively by Prussia, and the Austrian occupying force compelled to yield to tenfold superior power.

When the German Bund, recognizing an arbitrary violation of treaties, voted on motion of Austria the mobilization of the Bund troops, Prussia, who so willingly vaunts itself the protector of German interests, completed the ruinous course upon which she had begum Tearing in pieces the national bond of the Germans, she declared her secession from the Bund, demanded of the German governments the acceptance of a so-called plan of reform which realized the division of Germany, and proceeded with military violence against the sovereigns faithful to the Bund.

Thus has the most woeful of all wars, of Germans against Germans, become inevitable.

To answer for all the misery that it will bring upon individuals, families, countries and provinces, I summon those who have brought it on before the judgment seat of history, and of the Eternal Almighty God.

I go forward to the conflict in the confidence that a just cause gives, in the consciousness of might which lies in a great empire where prince and people are filled with but one thought, the good right of Austria, with fresh, full courage, at the sight of my brave army all equipped for battle, and building the wall against which the power of Austria’s enemies will break itself, at the sight of my true peoples, who, resolved and united, are looking up, ready for sacrifices, to me.

The pure flame of patriotic enthusiasm is glowing everywhere and equally through the wide territories of my empire; joyfully have the summoned warriors hastened into the ranks of the army; volunteers are pressing forward for military service; the whole arms-bearing population of the provinces most threatened is girding itself for the contest, and the most noble spirit of self-devotion is hastening to mitigate the sufferings and to supply the wants of the army.

But one feeling pervades the inhabitants of my kingdom and provinces, the feeling of a common fellowship, the feeling of might in unity, and the feeling of resentment at such unexampled violation of laws.

Doubly does it pain me that the work of compromise and agreement upon internal constitutional questions has not made such progress as to enable me, in this earnest but inspiring moment, to summon the representatives of my peoples around my throne.

Wanting this support of my throne now, my duty as ruler is the more clear, my resolve the firmer to insure it for all future time for my empire.

We shall not stand in this struggle alone.

Germany’s princes and peoples know the danger which threatens their freedom and independence, on the part of a power whose conduct is guided alone by the self-seeking plans of a reckless love of aggrandizement; they know what a shield for their highest treasures, what a support for the power and integrity of the whole German fatherland, they find in Austria.

As we stand in arms for the most sacred possessions which peoples have to defend, so do our German brothers of the Bund.

The arms have been forced into our hands. So be it! Now that we have grasped them, we will not and cannot lay them down before a free inner development is secured to my empire and to the German states allied with it until their political position is once more established—firm foundations.

Upon our unity, our strength, let not confidence and hope repose alone. I place them upon a higher power, the almighty and just God, whom my house, from its origin, has ever served; who does not forsake those who in righteousness do not forsake Him.

To Him I will pray for support and for victory, and I summon my peoples to do it with me.

  1. Since contradicted as regards the King of Hanover.