to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Berlin, July 10, 1882. (Received July 27.)
Sir: Presuming that your correspondents from other capitals keep you fully advised of the aspects of political and military movements from their various standpoints, I beg to submit a few observations upon the relations of these movements to Germany, perhaps furnishing a somewhat wider range for induction.
From what I have observed and learned I am satisfied that the influence of Germany has recently been exerted in the interest of peace in Egypt, and to the end of satisfying England and France, through the action of the Sultan, with whom the empire has preserved good relations, its object being to avoid the possible effects of a military campaign by the western powers upon the general tranquility. But these peaceful purposes of the empire bid fair to be thwarted by the hesitations or craft of the Porte, which seeks to regain its hold upon Egypt, and while watching for such advantage lets matters drift into dangerous conditions. The resolute attitude of England during the past week has apparently changed the views of the German Government, so that it now has little hope that the solution can be reached through the Porte, and it seems to sanction the resolution of England to vindicate its dignity and rights by active military operations. Certainly, so far as appears, there has been no protest by Germany against the obvious purpose of England. On the other hand, it seems to adhere to the European concert, and not to consider that the warlike intentions of England can prejudice it.
This policy of Germany seems actually to spring from its strength and self-confidence. It contemplates any eventuality with composure. While its interests would be promoted by peace it is superbly prepared for war. While other European nations maintain great armies, and have well-stored magazines, none equal Germany in acquired facilities to launch in any desired direction the effective enginery of war.
This fact is being perceived by military authorities elsewhere, and is, perhaps, the best guarantee that the peace of the empire will remain undisturbed. On two sides only has Germany apparent occasion for watchfulness—France and Russia.
In the former case there is an apparent feeling of concord between [Page 169] the administration of M. de Frecynet and the chancellor. Bat French politics are always uncertain, and back of the present French executive there always looms up the shadow of Gambetta, the enfant terrible of the republic, to German eyes. Mr. Gambetta is not chary of his views upon German subjects. The Berlin papers are now discussing with various intonations a recent speech of his before a parliamentary commission, where he is alleged to have said:
I believe that 400,000 old troops are better than 800,000 such as this law will provide us; but the three years’ service is in harmony with the present custom of our country. We must accept it. There is a prospect of having a good army if we give it the most manly and most intelligent element that we have. Reserves who only serve one year would be inefficient. In order to cope with Prussia, we must not only be equal, but superior to her. We were beaten, and are therefore obliged to impose heavy sacrifices upon the country. France pays one milliard for its army and navy, and must continue to do so in order to defend its existence.
The spirit of conquest is at present greater in Europe than in the fifteenth century, and is directed against us. To be or not to be is now the question. I hope the French democracy will not be doomed to these sacrifices perpetually, but now it is a question-of life or death with us.
Such utterances from the powerful leader of a party in France, the possible future President of the Republic, necessarily attract attention here.
Upon the side of Russia, unless the incident of the betrayal of the plan of the Baltic defenses and torpedo stations to that government by a Prussian naval officer is false, * * * there is also some reason for watchfulness. The death of General Scobeleff does not entirely relieve the situation.
But German confidence in its ability to cope with any possible adversary, or with several, does not seem unwarranted. On the occasion of the opening of railway running through the city of Berlin, the National Zeitung, in a leading article upon it, among other things said:
The central depot in the Fredierich Strasse has now become a center of great importance to German and Prussian power. If we regard the zigzag lines diverging from it, we are forcibly reminded of the thunderbolts darting from the hands of Jupiter to the right and left.
The object of the road in question, which is extraordinary in its solidity and facilities for handling bodies of men, is undoubtedly more military than commercial. The above article attracted the attention of the French Revue Militaire de I’Etranger, and it reviewed it, alleging that it emanates from the “general staff,” and admits that the transportation of German troops has been greatly facilitated by this railway connection.
If it be true that six lines of road are already constructed in the direction of Posen (says the writer in this review), for strategical purposes, the lines leading to Breslau and to Eastern Prussia are no less important. For some years already lines of railroad have been projected through the province bordering on the Russian frontier, while on the Russian side little or nothing has been done in this direction, and consequently there are no facilities for concentrating large bodies of troops in a short time, or even assuming an energetic offensive.
This comparative statement of the relative facilities for handling troops of Germany and Russia is quite accurate. Owing to the splendid system of railways in Germany, that part of Poland situated on the left bank of the Vistula, or perhaps the whole of that province, with the exception of the fortified places, lies open to German invasion and occupation. It is even possible that, owing to the inability of Russia to concentrate troops on the Vistula in time, she would be forced to take up a position much farther in land, in which case the German army would gain an advantage, the result of which cannot be foreseen; an advantage which could not be reckoned by hours, but by days.[Page 170]
The effect of this system of railways, of which the road through Berlin is the completion and key, is to enable Germany to transport troops even from a battle-field on her eastern or southern border to the west, or wherever needed. That power doubles its forces which can rapidly handle them, and concentrates them on new points. In the event of a war with a powerful neighbor, if Germany were compelled to defend itself against another, or possibly a simultaneous attack, it could make the most of its regular army and reserves, and concentrate with crushing force first upon one and then upon the other of its enemies, holding the one in check while destroying the other. Her central position is favorable to this, and her railroad system utilizes it.
It is important to notice that all these lines of German railroads extend into the heart of Lorraine. They are ready for instant service against France as well as Russia. They serve as good purpose on the side of Austria. In the event of war with either of these powers, or with all of them, they are inestimable.
The German papers are aware of the great advantages given by this railroad system, and glory in it as a means of gaining inestimable time in a decisive moment. The Berlin Tageblatt relates that in the campaign of 1866, at the battle of Langensalza, it became imperatively necessary to throw as large a force of troops from the interior as could be spared into Thuringia, to intercept the Hanoverian army, and cut off its retreat toward the south. Everything depended upon it. The Emperor personally urged men on furlough in the streets of Berlin to join their commands, and lagging troops were dispatched in special vans. The object was accomplished and the Hanoverian army was captured. It instances a case where a rapid movement saved a great battle in the Franco-Prussian war, and might have instanced Blucher’s timely descent on the field at Waterloo. Most of Napoleon’s successes were gained by his superior activity in concentrating his troops at unexpected points. It would seem that Germany is acting upon Bismarck’s aphorism, that its central position acts like a magnet to attract to it the bayonets of Europe, and has created a system of rapid transportation for its troops and munitions of war that will enable it to strike at any point on its circumference, vehemently and rapidly, where necessity or policy may require.
In this view of its gigantic resources it is not difficult to see why it-is so self-poised in the midst of present complications, and yet exerting its great influence to preserve the peace of Europe.
I have, &c.,