Life and Times of Stein: Or, Germany and Prussia in the Napoleonic Age - Vol. 1

By Sir J. R. Seeley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II.
STEIN AND INSURRECTION.

WE have seen in the Spanish rising not only a serious blow to Napoleon's power, but also the beginning of a moral resistance to the very principle of his Empire and the revelation of a new resource which statesmen might use against him. Yet the first attempt to use this resource failed deplorably, and his Empire was not in the end overthrown in the way that Stein may have expected in 1808. Stein no doubt looked forward to the rise of a party of national independence in Germany, which would simply follow the Spanish example. It would be led by the Prussian and Austrian governments, which would forget their old discords in a common need. The insurrection of Germany would be less fiery, but then it would be guided with much more intelligence, than that of Spain, and it would be equally helped by England. Gradually the disasters of the last three years would be repaired and Napoleon's armies rolled back to the Rhine or perhaps even further.

What actually happened was different, because the alliance between Prussia and Austria could not be realized soon enough. In consequence of this Napoleon was able to engage Austria alone in 1809, and he now reduced her as low, proportionally to her former power, as he had reduced Prussia two years before. This new triumph had the effect of effacing from the mind of Europe, the impression produced by the Spanish rising. Having thus recovered lost ground he abandoned himself to all appearance to a sort of fatality. As though his inventiveness were exhausted he remained idly gazing at the war-in Spain, which he took no decisive steps to finish. By itself it was no serious wound to a power so vast as his, and those moral effects of it on which we have dwelt he either allowed himself to forget or had never clearly understood. He fell back upon the feeblest of his plans, the continental blockade, and sacrificed to this the Russian

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