Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration - Vol. 1

By Allan Nevins | Go to book overview

Chapter XVII War in Europe

IN July, 1870, the curtain rolled up on the theatrical events which made the Franco-Prussian War seem like a melodrama staged by Sarcey--the withdrawal of the Hohenzollern candidacy for the throne of Spain; the insolent French demand for a pledge that it be not renewed; the Ems telegram; and the first Prussian victories. The Atlantic cable enabled Americans to watch the conflict with a new immediacy. War correspondents were hurried off; men discussed Gravelotte, Sedan, and Metz with the tutored interest of a nation which had just emerged from four years of fighting. The conflict was brief. Within two months MacMahon's army had surrendered, Napoleon III was a prisoner, and the unification of Germany was assured.

Sympathies both inside and outside the Administration were heavily on the German side. In good Anglo-Saxon fashion, many Americans had always regarded the Gallic race with a slight tinge of contempt. During the Civil War Napoleon's unconcealed hostility for the North, the sale of Confederate bonds in Paris, and the threats of French intervention had aroused deep irritation. Above all, the French bayonets which had supported Maximilian in Mexico were resentfully remembered. Prussia had favored the Union, many German investors had bought American bonds, and the host of German-born volunteers under Schurz and Sigel were gratefully recalled. Our most powerful newspapers and many public men, from Sumner down, were frankly on Prussia's side. Bancroft Davis records that he attended the Cabinet the August afternoon that news came of the German victory at Weissembourg.1"The defeat of the French," he remarks, "did not seem to make anyone less cheerful."

Officially, however, Grant and Fish pursued a policy of the strictest neutrality. They had to resist eager partisans on both sides. It was impossible to expect neutrality from our Minister to Prussia, George Bancroft. He had studied at Göttingen and Berlin, he entertained in his Tiergarten home the most distinguished figures in Germany,2 and he was a favorite of Bismarck's; Ranke had said, "He is one of us! " In the North German Confederation he somehow discerned similarities

____________________
1
Diary, August 5, 1970.
2
M. A. DeWolfe Howe, Bancroft, II, 272 ff. 400

-400-

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Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction xi
  • Contents xix
  • Chapter I an Heir of the Federalists 1
  • Chapter II the Great Whig Battles 20
  • Chapter III the Senate in Stormy Days 36
  • Chapter IV Travel and War 66
  • Chapter V the Watcher 89
  • Chapter VI Grant in Power 105
  • Chapter VII Portrait of a President 124
  • Chapter VIII Broadside from Sumner 142
  • Chapter IX 176
  • Chapter X Motley's Insubordination 201
  • Chapter XII Pandora's Box 249
  • Chapter XIII Congress in Session 279
  • Chapter XIV the Battle of Santo Domingo 309
  • Chapter XV Crisis: June, 1870 335
  • Chapter XVI Exit Motley--And Sumner's Policy 372
  • Chapter XVII War in Europe 400
  • Chapter XVIII the Road to Peace 423
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