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(G): FOREIGN AFFAIRS - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, Vol. I (Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone) 
Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, edited with and Introduction by John Neville Figgis and Renald Vere Laurence. Vol. I Correspondence with Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone and Others (London: Longmans, Gree and Co., 1917).
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Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I never regretted the shortness of time so much as last week. There were so many things that we could not talk over.
Nobody will take Ferguson’s answer3 for ready money, and no doubt you know better than I do whether the agreement as to our eventual protection of the Italian coast is substantially what the Neue Freie Presse has published.
It is clear that the French fleet appearing before Genoa, Spezzia, Naples, Palermo, would hold fast the Italian army, so that our intervention represents 200,000 men in the field besides the means of negotiating with France about Egypt. In the Austro-German treaty there is a point which I hope you will not disregard. That is, that a close alliance with Austria was the legitimate policy of Germany. The reproach against Prussian unification was that it diminished Germany, that it betrayed the national cause, and cast out the 12 or 15 millions of Germans whose vocation it was to extend the influence of the more civilised race over 20 or 25 millions of less favoured nations. And the first effect of German unity, as achieved by Bismarck, was the uprising of the non-German elements in Austria.
Until the two Powers became closely allied, Bismarck could not meet the Grossdeutsch argument against the Kleindeutsch policy. Now the enemy that always threatens, by process of disintegration and divided allegiance, to demolish Austria, is Russia. There could be no effective league with Germany unless it assured either defence against Russia, or expansion towards the Ægean.
The young Grand Duke of Baden assures me that his cousin, Prince William, is not at all the fire-eater we are told, but a studious, thoughtful, young man.1 I hope it is true, for I see that the doctors have become very unhopeful about the Crown Prince.
With respect to Salisbury’s argument, I think we must admit that there is a tendency towards concentration. It showed itself in the growth of absolute monarchy, and it is one of the characteristics of Democracy. It is the special mark both of Jacobinism and of Imperialism. The Democratic horror of limitations showed itself in the crushing both of the Sonderbund and of the Confederation, as in the suppression of the Girondins. And all the North German theorists are constantly writing against Federalism. Holst’s book,1 the best ever written on American Democracy, has no other object than to put down Home Rule in Germany.
It is precisely because Democracy can put up with no effective checks on the concentration and abuse of power, excepting the local division of Federalism, that Home Rule became the normal consequence of the last Reform Act, and the proof, in good statesmanship, of the healthiness and in-corruption of the British Democracy.
To establish, maintain, and strengthen a federal Compact became a moral necessity before, a physical necessity after, you refused to reduce the number of Irish members.
There are excellent remarks to this effect in Calhoun’s2Disquisition on Government. Italy should be omitted from Salisbury’s list. There was no subject district, race or country or religion. I remember that Manzoni3 had no sympathy with the movement of 1848, because he said that independence without unity was untenable.
One should exhibit the effects of Unitarianism in Russia by the suppression of Poland, in Denmark by the loss of Schleswig, in Holland by the loss of Belgium, in Austria by the insurrections of 1848, and the military weakness of 1859 and 1866.
Norway, Iceland, and Beust’s policy towards Hungary, and Hohenwart’s4 towards the other Home Rule elements, are the examples on the other side.—I remain, ever yours,
Cannes,Feb. 14, 1888.
June 18, 1888.
The animosity against the Empress is so great—apart from Mackenzie—that it might do her good to say that, as she represented English ideas in Germany, so she represents and personates Germany to us; so as to indicate that there is another balancing side to her imputed anglo-mania.
N.B. that this man, whose name is affixed to victories, incomparably grander and more fruitful than those of Frederick II, never was considered a mere professional soldier; but did his duty splendidly, in war as in all things.
I found that he had kept up his Greek—Curtius was his master.
His wish to get rid of duelling in the army is the most characteristic point—but it will hardly do to mention it.
It would be impossible to say too much, intellectually: one never perceived much initiative in him, and his very fine eye had little expression.
If not the greatest, the most lamented of his race. More than once, especially in 1866, he assuaged Bismarck.
N.B.—When there was a plan for doing without the Constitution which was not at all sacred in Bismarck’s eyes, it was the Crown Prince who made it impossible.
Bismarck told this to Bluntschli.
You remember Castelar’s parting testimony to King Amadeo as the faithful, the very faithful—fiel, muy fiel—observer of the Constitutional law.
I see one of the papers has got hold of his confidential interview, in England, with the Count of Paris, and his wish for an understanding founded on a Restoration—unlike Bismarck, who has always been so bitter against the Orleans.
I believe it was not till February he knew it was hopeless. The Grand Duke of Baden told me this just after seeing him a week or two before the death of William I.
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I had not time yesterday to finish my letter.
The impression one receives here is that Crispi is strongly established, although his policy of alliances is not popular. He has got the press in his hands, even the Tribuna, which sells 100,000 copies. There is a general persuasion that the great Italian war vessels will not resist the Courbet; although those who foretold that they were to serve against France have proved right: they cannot find shelter in any Adriatic port. There is, for the moment, a desire to stand well with England. I do not think I was wrong in urging that they were driven into the Triple Alliance by France. The Vatican intrigue goes on vigorously, and puts arms into the hands of the Republic. I remember Jules Favre saying that the time might come to restore the Temporal Power. The point to press is that Italy sold herself to her disadvantage: there is real suffering from excess of taxation.
I think both Bonghi1 and Villari will write in the Speaker. It has begun well as to tone, temper and contributors, but without force or distinctness. Bryce’s description of the Liberal party without Liberals promises a doctrinaire basis.
There will be good ground of attack against the Government encumbered with a surplus. But the furious action against Portugal will, I expect, gratify the passions of the country, and the wishes of the City.
I hope you will have an opportunity of seeing George Lefevre, who has an eye for facts, and saw some very remarkable facts and signs only the other day in Ireland. He will not know how to employ them to advantage himself.
Asquith and Bryce, whom I quote as two of the ablest men in the party, certainly speak the sentiments of many when they complain of your not showing your hand, and they direct the Unionist attack to that point. In substance they are clearly wrong. But in point of policy it might be well to deal with this objection or aspiration, and make them understand, better than they do—what Herschell and Morley understand perfectly—the reason why.
I hear from friends that Döllinger was better on the 9th, wished to get up, but found he could not read. A stroke of apoplexy, or paralysis, came upon him in the afternoon. He said that he did not suffer, then lost consciousness, and died on the following evening.
For several years, beginning with 1879, my impression has been that he seriously underrated those evils in the spirit of the Church of Rome which have nothing to do with the Vatican Council, and that Infallibility prevented him from recognising what was behind. There was something like a resolute charitable illusion in his judgments, in his way of distinguishing Roman and Gallican, in the forced and inconsistent allowance he made for individual men. I strove for years to make him see it; but I succeeded only once, when you were at Tegernsee. On the day after his mountain walk with you, when he felt exhausted, he came to my room and assured me that in reality he knew what I meant and did not disagree with me. Later, and especially in the essay on Madame de Maintenon as it originally stood, I saw that I had lost the ground I thought I had gained.
A mind so charged with knowledge and ideas could not remain content with an incomplete circle; but I cannot yet say that I know what he thought on some things which to me seemed decisive. Certainly he never admitted that a Dominican or a Jesuit must be assumed to be living in sin.
I have sent to ask for my letters to him, and my wife’s and mother’s; but I expect to learn that his correspondence was not in order. There must be many letters from you, which I will try to get.—I remain, ever yours,
Rome,Jan. 18, 1890.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I shall not be telling you anything new, but as I have had some conversation with a man who for years was next to Bismarck, I may say that there is this remarkable change in the Prussian tone, that they are no longer so presumptuous. They say that their superiority in men and armament reached its height in 1887, when Bismarck and Moltke wished to force on a war with France; but that the French are now beyond them in both, in fact, in everything except the incalculable element of military talent, as to which they are still hopeful. Ribot certainly has an auspicious opportunity to negotiate with Italy on the lines of Outidanos.1
I do not remember whether you knew that considerable man—of the second rank—Pressensé, who died lately of cancer. His son is the principal leader writer of the Temps, and keeps that paper, by far the best in France, so straight in Hibernicis.
A fortnight ago I asked Bunting2 why he does not have a scientific analysis of the bye-elections: and I wondered whether there was some unfavourable element which I, from afar, overlooked. My point was that, from the first, I have thought the Parnell disruption less formidable to party prospects than all my correspondents at home. The Contemporary replied that bye-elections depend too much on local conditions to be of much indicative value. That was before the two new ones; and I cannot imagine his holding fast to that view now.
You must have been much interested in the life of the late Primate [Tait]. I never succeeded in liking him much, but a certain strength he manifestly had.—I remain, ever yours,
Tegernsee,June 9, 1891.
July 18, 1892.
There are objections to the plan of utilising the German which seemed plausible at first. A form of words might easily be found which would be received with favour. But the present and immediate difficulty is with France. The French are ready to hail the new Ministry, at least with hopefulness. Advances made to Germany would check that disposition, unless they were followed by other explanations, on the French side of the question, and followed at once, not in consequence of remonstrances, or as yielding to various pressure.
The other difficulty is that I am representing to Rosebery that you start with the understanding that he is your Foreign Secretary. On the one hand, he might take such early deliverance on his department without consultation as a snub, and a proof of want of confidence. On the other hand, if you employ the German allusion to him, which would be the easiest way, he might think that it was done to nail him, against his will.
There is also this third objection, that it is dangerous to allude, without book, to Salisbury’s foreign engagements.
Might not something be written in reply to the effect that it would be premature to discuss the policy of a Ministry that does not exist, that has not deliberated, and possesses no official knowledge?
Tegernsee,October 5, 1897.
My dear Blennerhassett,—
Macalister is the Cambridge Scot of whom I spoke, as connected with Irish Commissions.
Would you remind Lady Blennerhassett of her kind promise to consult Stauffenberg1 when he comes to Munich as I suppose he has done for the Chamber. There was matter which he did not like to put on paper.
The question is this: The majority of both Houses, and the Committee of the deputies on the financial demands of Government being decidedly against the Casus Foederis on the morning of July 19, 1870, what made them vote for war that night?
I know all about the declaration of war at Paris, the supposed violation of territory, the noise in the streets, the indignation of the President. All that is not the vera causa.
Something was said or done by or in behalf of the Government which changed certain votes, and whatever it was it has been kept secret.
No secret lasts longer than 27 years.—Ever yours,
Tegernsee,Sept. 16, 1898.2
My dear Blennerhassett,—
. . . There is no doubt about the Empress. But the story is denied on as good authority as it is affirmed on. I know she said it to the queen, but that is of no use to me.
Mme. de Handel seems decisive. But then Parieu1 has related the conversation in his book, and there gives materials to those who deny her story.
I wonder whether you will be able to explain what Bismarck so often said, that there was a clerical conspiracy at the root of it.—Ever yours,
[3 ]Sir James Ferguson’s Answer was a reply to a question of Mr. Labouchere on August 19, 1889. Bismarck did his best to bring England into the circle of the Triple Alliance, and had even threatened a rapprochement with France if we did not make an accord with Italy. England was on bad terms with France ever since 1882 on account of the Egyptian question. What Acton alludes to was the belief that we had entered into some arrangements to prevent France using her Navy against Italy. It is discussed by Mr. Gladstone under the pseudonym of “Outidanos” in the Contemporary Review for October 1889. Gladstone, it must be remembered, was also Franco-phile and disliked Bismarck. He deplored, and rightly, the policy of Crispi, which turned Italy away from the French to the German side.
[1 ] The Kaiser Wilhelm II.
[1 ]Holst’s book. This refers to Hermann von Holst’s Verfassung und Demokratie der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, 4 vols., 1873-91. A translation began to appear in 1876. Holst wrote also on Jackson’s administration.
[2 ]Calhoun, John Caldwell (1782-1850), was a strong supporter of State Rights in America. His most important works are—A Disquisition on Government; A Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States. He invented the doctrine of nullification. Acton admired him as an exponent of the theory of liberty within the State as against the absolute power of a majority.
[3 ]Manzoni, Alexander (1785-1873), the famous novelist and poet, best known as the author of I Promessi Sposi. He was a strong Catholic, but Liberal in politics. In 1860 he became a Sardinian Senator.
[4 ]Hohenwart, Ck. Karl, Count (1823-99), was Prime Minister of Austria, 1871. He had been inspired by Beust, who was dismissed one week after Hohenwart.
[1 ] Signor Bonghi did write a good deal in the Speaker.
[1 ] This refers to an article contributed by Mr. Gladstone over the signature “Outidanos.” The article was entitled, “The Triple Alliance and Italy’s Place in it.” It was published in the Contemporary Review, September 1889.
[2 ] Mr. Percy Bunting, editor of the Contemporary Review.
[1 ]Stauffenberg, François Auguste, Baron Schenk de (1854), was elected in 1866 to the Chamber of Bavaria. He was President in 1873-75.
[2 ] This letter refers to the article on the causes of the Franco-Prussian War, printed in the Historical Essays.
[1 ]Parieu, Marie-Louis-Pierre-Félix, Esquirou de (1815-86); a great economist and financier; for a long time was president of the financial section of the Conseil d’Etat under the Emperor Louis Napoléon. In 1870 he became Minister-President of the Council of State in the Liberal Cabinet of Émile Ollivier. The book is Considérations sur l’histoire du second Empire, 1877. Cf. also on this topic É. Ollivier, L’Empire Libéral, xiv, Appendix xiii, “c’est ma guerre.” Acton alludes to this in his essay (Historical Essays, p. 220). “Lastly Parieu, the President of the Council of State, who was present at the Council referred to by Lord Malmesbury, says that when they were leaving he asked him what he thought of it. He replied that he wished England would do them the service of finding some way out of it. ‘M. Parieu,’ said the Empress, ‘I am much of the same opinion.’ This is in a published book. But in a private letter he wrote to a person that I knew that her words were, ‘C’est ma guerre à moi.’ ”