No. 170.
Mr. Sargent to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 95.]

Sir: Undoubtedly the most important event of the week in Europe is the death of the distinguished French statesman and patriot, M. Leon Gambetta. His large gifts and brilliant history gave him an ascendency among his countrymen that no other man enjoys, while his sentiments upon the foreign interests and rights of France made him an object of remarkable interest to other peoples, and especially to the Germans. Gambetta peculiarly represented the gospel of revenge to the German mind. His public utterances, down to a recent period, showed the spirit that animated the dictator of Tours, where he “re-in-forced with a man” the beaten and demoralized armies of France and almost snatched victory from unwilling fate. While Gambetta lived, there was no feeling of security in Germany that he might not use his magnetic power to again precipitate France upon Germany. This was by no means a sentiment of fear, for Germany has reason to believe, and does believe, that it could cope with France in any future struggle. It was rather a feeling of unrest at the thought that an undesirable struggle might be forced upon Germany, where no successful combat could bring higher glory than that already reaped. Some allowance must be made for the first expressions of national emotion; but in this case there is no reason to impeach their honesty. They were at least sincere.

The Börsen Currier wrote, for German sentiment:

The news is of the greatest moment for ns. Who knows but that the death of this man has spared many a young man his life, and humanity the unspeakable misery of war, with all its enormous sacrifices of money, property, and life? With Gambetta the revenge idea in France will not become extinct, but after having lost its representative, it will recede into the background for some time to come. Thoughts of foreign adventure will meanwhile be forgotten in the struggle for the leadership of the republican party. But before a similar crisis arises, things may have undergone [Page 327] so great a change that men’s minds may have meanwhile cooled down, and the revenge idea have lost its edge. Besides, no other party leader can have the advantage of the prestige which Gambetta achieved, as organizer of the national resistance.

The Berlinger Tageblatt said:

The rest of Europe, hut especially Germany, has full cause to regard the death of this, our most gifted and bitterest adversary, as a pledge of peace. * * * Gambetta, the man of implacable revenge, is dead, and his decease will bring us more peace than diplomatic alliauces. His was a richly endowed nature, which to a certain extent compelled even his enemies to respect him; but now that he is no more among the living, it need not be concealed that the peace of Europe seems to be more enduringly secured than it has been for a long time. The New Year’s bells which rang in the death of Gambetta have sent us, over the Vosges, chimes of peace.

I need not quote further, as these give the tone of the German papers when the news first came. It is pleasant to read the latter articles, where an appreciation of the patriot pierces through the prejudice against the foe. Thus the North German Gazette, which often speaks for the Government, says:

But appreciation of foreign merit and foreign greatness of character, free from envy and prejudice, has always been a prominent quality of the Germans, and therefore our fatherland, too, does not hesitate to place a wreath of esteem on the bier of her deceased enemy, with whom she struggled victoriously in valiant, honorable fight. Did not some of our legitimate military authorities on this side of the Vosges write of the great talents of the deceased in terms of unreserved recognition? To examine what Gambetta has been to the Republic, and what perhaps he might have still become to it, is not our business. It is not for the death of the politician that Germany-feels, but for that of the patriot, who, even at times when it had sunk lowest, never despaired of the fate of his native country.

An extract from the Paris Paix is published here, replying to the first utterances of the German press, which is of value as showing, the sensitiveness of the two people. It is as follows:

France does not desire war nor does she fear it. If she were forced into hostilities by the action of any foreign power, she would make war without M. Gambetta just as she would have done with him. The warlike tendency ascribed to him would not have led France into war, but the disappearance of the great orator will not deprive her of the power to defend her interests and her honor, should they become endangered.

Singularly enough the new year also brings news of the sudden death of General Chanzy, Gambetta’s right-hand man in the defensive movements of France after Sedan, and the best French soldier of the epoch. Germany has lost within a year the three personal enemies whose genius was most dangerous—Skobeleff, Gambetta, and Chanzy.

I have, &c.,