The Halt in the Mud: French Strategic Planning from Waterloo to Sedan

By Gary P. Cox | Go to book overview

6
1830: Revolution, Belgium, and the Brink of War

The war scare of 1830-32 was a product of mirror images. For two long years France and the German Confederation found themselves seemingly locked on a fatal collision course. Each felt acutely vulnerable. Each thought the other was on the brink of launching an invasion that would augur a resurrection of the passions and bloodshed of the revolutionary era. While governments maneuvered and blustered, the military on both sides of the Rhine were forced to prepare for war. This quickly came to mean planning operations in Belgiumoperations the prospective combatants saw as offensive in nature, but defensive in intent.

The French Revolution of 1830 was the catalyst. Its outbreak had not been a total surprise to the European powers. Observers in Paris had been warning their governments for some time that an explosion appeared imminent. 1 When the eruption came, however, its suddenness, violence, and wide-ranging repercussions set the powers on their heels. Britain, still incensed at the Bourbons' Algerian adventure and Polignac's crude attempts to overturn the peace settlements of 1815, was sympathetic if skeptical toward the new regime. Russia was frankly hostile, and news of the revolution sparked extensive military preparations by Tsar Nicholas I. Metternich's Austria was more reserved. She recognized the new French government, but only in preference to anarchy rather than through any feelings of enthusiasm for the latest outbreak in Paris. 2

Prussia also opposed the revolution, but her rulers were cautious men. In dealing with the French, memories of Leipzig and La Belle Alliance never overshadowed the nightmares of 1806 -- of Jena-Auerstadt. 3 Berlin was unlikely to make any unilateral moves. What the Quadruple Alliance as a whole might do, however, was altogether a different story, and the impact of the revolution on Europe's smaller states provoked intense concern in the chancelleries of Berlin, Vienna, St. Petersburg, and London.

For Europe's lesser powers, the new revolutionary outbreak proved contagious. Unrest swept Belgium, western Germany -- including some Prussian

-94-

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