Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Henry Reeve, C.B., D.C.L. / In Two Volumes. Volume II.

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From a Photograph taken by RUPERT POTTER, Esq.

XIX. FOXHOLES (1874-9)




How far the murderous attempt of Orsini, on January 14th, 1858, was
connected with the political relations of France and Italy it is as yet
impossible to say. It was, and still is, very commonly believed that in
his youth Louis Napoleon had been affiliated to one or other of the secret
societies of Italy, that he was still pledged to this, was bound to obey
its orders, and that Orsini was an agent to remind him that the attainment
of high rank, far from releasing him from the bond, rendered it more
stringent, as giving him greater power and facility for carrying out the
orders he received. The independence of Italy was aimed at; and it had
been intimated to the Emperor that Orsini’s was only the first of similar
messages which, if action was not taken, would be followed by a second,
with greater care to ensure its delivery.

All this may or may not have been mere gossip. What is certain is that,
during the latter months of 1858, secret negotiations had been going on
between the Emperor and Victor Emanuel, the King of Sardinia, or rather his
minister, Cavour; and that an agreement had been come to that Austria was
to be attacked and driven out of Italy. Accordingly, on January 1st, 1859,
at his New Year’s reception of the foreign ministers, Louis Napoleon took
the opportunity of addressing some remarks to the Austrian Ambassador
which, to France and to all Europe, appeared threatening.

Similarly, at Turin, it was allowed to appear that war was intended; and on
both sides preparations were hurried on. In France, as in Austria, these
were on a very extensive scale. A large fleet of transports was collected
at Marseilles; troops were massed on the frontier of Savoy; and, on the
part of the Austrians, 200,000 men were assembled in readiness for action.
On April 23rd Francis Joseph, without—it was said—the knowledge of his
responsible ministers, sent an ultimatum to Turin, requiring an answer
within three days: at the expiration of that time the Austrians would cross
the frontier. The allies utilised the delay to complete their preparations;
and before the three days had ended the advance of the Franco-Sardinian
army had begun.

The campaign proved disastrous to the Austrians, whose half-drilled and
badly-fed troops and obsolete artillery were commanded by an utterly
incompetent general. They were defeated at Palestro on May 31st; at Magenta
on June 4th; and again at Solferino on June 24th. Nothing, it appeared to
the Italians and the lookers-on, could prevent the successful and decisive
issue; the Austrians would be compelled to quit Italy. Suddenly Louis
Napoleon announced that he had come to an agreement with the Emperor of
Austria and that peace was agreed on. The disappointment and rage of the
Italians were very great; but, as Louis Napoleon was resolved, and as
Victor Emanuel could not continue the war without his assistance, he was
obliged to consent, and peace was concluded at Villafranca on July 11th.

For the next eighteen months much of the correspondence refers to the
inception and result of this short war, mixed, of course, with more
personal matters, and at the beginning, with news as to the state of
Tocqueville’s health, which was giving his friends the liveliest anxiety.
The Journal for the year opens with:—

January 6th.—We went to Bowood. It was the first time Christine went
there. The party consisted of the Flahaults, Cheneys, Strzelecki, the
Clarendons, Twisletons,[Footnote: The Hon. Edward Twisleton, chief
commissioner of the poor laws in Ireland. He married, in 1852, Ellen,
daughter of the Hon. Edward Dwight, of Massachusetts, U.S.A.; and died, at
the age of sixty-five, in 1874.] and Leslies. What agreeable people! For a
wonder we shot there on the 10th, and killed 140 head.

January 12th.—We had a dinner at home—Trevelyan, just appointed
governor of Madras, Phinn, Baron Martin, Huddleston, W. Harcourt, Merivale,
and Henry Brougham.

From Lord Brougham

Cannes, January 3rd.—I grieve to say Tocqueville has been worse. His
doctor dined here t’other day and T.’s brother came for him at ten o’clock.
I have as bad an opinion of the case as possible.

Cannes, January 9th. The Italian affair is very naturally cause of
anxiety, but I feel assured this, for the present, will pass away. I find
there is a strong feeling getting up of the Austrian army being as good as
the finances are bad, but the French finances are not likely to be very
much better. However, though the present alarm will pass away, what a sad
thing for the peace of the world to depend, not on the general opinion
and feeling, but on the caprice, or the jobbing, or the blunders of a
few individuals! Who can be quite sure that Morny’s stockjobbing has had
nothing to do with the late most silly conversation? [Footnote: Presumably,
the sinister remark addressed to the Austrian Ambassador on New Year’s
Day.] L. N. himself is quite clear of all such blame. He tries all he can
to prevent M. and others from their pillaging, but he never can succeed.
However, it is to the risk of more blunders that I look as placing peace in
greatest jeopardy. I don’t believe L. N. or any one of them would, if they
knew it
, run the risk of a general war (and the least war means a general
war); but they may any day get into a scrape without intending it, for they
have not the security of free discussion to warn them.

From Lord Hatherton

Teddesley, January 12th.—Do me the kindness to write me one line to tell
me what you know of the state of M. de Tocqueville. Is it dangerous? There
is no man out of this kingdom who possesses so much of my admiration and

This general lull after the late Reform agitation is very natural. There
are four parties waiting each other’s moves; three, at least, exclusive of
Bright’s, which is the least. There are the present Government, the late
Government, and the country—which, as I read it, has little in common with
any of them, but is at present without a leader. Any very powerful man, who
had been living by, would now have had a great field before him.

I attended the day before yesterday a very remarkable meeting of the
Birmingham and Midland Institute at Birmingham. Lord Ward [Footnote:
Created Earl of Dudley in 1860.] in the chair. The report, and all the
officials and speakers, especially those from the town, complained of the
indifference of the artisans, mechanics, and labourers of that town to
instruction and education generally. It seems, on the showing of Bright’s
friends, that these fellows, the noisiest of their class about Reform, are
the most ignorant and the least desirous of improving themselves. Such is
the report of Bright’s own friends. Mr. Ryland, the vice-president and
real manager of the institution, who is also Bright’s friend there, is the
loudest in his complaints of this body. Ryland further told me that
he believed there was not a workman in the town who, if consulted
individually, would express his approval of all Bright’s principles. Mr.
Ryland is a solicitor.

I am all anxiety to see your January number.

To the Marquis of Lansdowne

62 Rutland Gate, January 25th.

My dear Lord Lansdowne,—I have omitted, but not from forgetfulness, to
express to you the very high gratification Mrs. Reeve and myself derived
from your most kind reception of us at Bowood, and I am sure we shall
always retain the liveliest recollection of this most agreeable visit. But,
in truth, I waited till something should occur which might have the good
fortune to interest you, and I think the accounts I continue to receive
from France, on the present threatening aspect of affairs, may be of that
nature. M. Guizot says to me, in a letter of the 23rd inst.:—

‘Jusqu’à ces jours derniers je n’y voulais pas croire. J’essaye encore d’en
douter; mais c’est difficile. Ce sera un exemple de plus des guerres faites
par embarras de ne pas les faire bien plus que par volonté de les faire.
Je suis porté à croire que l’Empereur Napoléon serait charmé de ne plus
entendre parler de l’Italie; mais pour cela il faudrait qu’il n’y eût plus
d’assassins italiens, plus de Roi de Sardaigne, plus de cousins à marier,
plus de brouillons révolutionnaires à contenter. Aujourd’hui, et malgré
toutes les paroles contraires, il me paraît probable que ces causes de
guerre prévaudront sur la modération naturelle, sur le goût du repos
voluptueux, sur l’avis des conseillers officiels, et sur le sentiment
évident du public. Que fera l’Allemagne? Le tiendra-t-elle unie? Là est la
question. L’Angleterre y peut certainement beaucoup. Je ne vois plus que là
une chance pour le maintien de la paix.’

These words are so remarkable, coming from a man whose disposition is ever
so much more sanguine than desponding, that I have quoted them at length.

We have all been greatly touched by the close of Mr. Hallam’s most
honourable, useful, and I may say illustrious life. [Footnote: He died on
January 21st, 1859.] It so chanced that my sister-in-law, Helen Richardson,
who has been to him a second daughter for the last few years, came up from
Scotland on Thursday [January 20th]. On Friday she went down with Mrs.
Cator to see him. He perfectly knew her, and seemed charmed to see her
again; but before she left his bed-side the light flickered in the socket,
and he expired a short time afterwards in their presence, conscious and
without pain to the last. I thought the notice of him in the ‘Times’ of
Monday very pleasing, and was inclined to attribute it to David Dundas, but
I know not whether I am right….

I remain always

Your obliged and faithful


From Lord Clarendon

The Grove, January 26th.—I am much obliged to you for M. Guizot’s
letter, [Footnote: Apparently that of January 23rd, quoted in the previous
letter to Lord Lansdowne.] which Miladi and I have read with interest, as
one always does everything he writes. I showed it to G. Lewis and C. C. G.,
feeling sure you would have no objection. It is impossible not to agree in
his gloomy view of things. It must be owned that the position the Emperor
has made for himself is one of extreme difficulty. His idée dominante
has been how to pacify Italian conspirators by bringing away his army
from Rome, without having the Pope’s throat cut or letting in an Austrian
garrison there; and he determined that driving the Austrians out of Italy
was the indispensable preliminary step. He was urged to do this and to
think it easy both by Russia and Sardinia; and we may be sure that the
Sardinians would not have committed themselves as they have done, and
incurred such inconvenient expense, if they had not received promises of
active support. How would it be possible then for L. N. to recede? Cavour
would show him up, and fresh daggers and grenades would be prepared for
him. I look upon war, therefore, as certain. We have only to hope that
Austria may continue to act prudently, and not furnish the cause of quarrel
which her enemies are looking for, and which might turn against her those
who, for decency’s sake, wish to remain neutral; and next, that Germany may
be united by a sense of common danger. This may tend to limit the area of
the war; but altogether it is a deplorable gâchis, out of which L. N. can
no more see his way than anyone else.

From Lord Brougham

Cannes, January 26th.—I must throw myself and the cause of law amendment
on your kindness, under a great evil which has befallen us. The ‘Quarterly
Review,’ under Mr. Elwin, was so favourably disposed to law reform as to
resolve upon inserting a full discussion of the subject on the occasion
of Sir E. Wilmot’s volume on my ‘Acts and Bills;’ and Bellenden Ker had
undertaken it, and was, as a law reformer and as, under Cranworth, in
office as consolidation commissioner, certainly well qualified to do
the article. But he made such a mess of it; in fact, treating Eldon,
Ellenborough, &c., and other obstacles to law reform not introductory, but,
as I understand, making a whole article upon that. The consequence has been
that the whole has failed, and this most valuable opportunity been lost of
having the Tory journal’s adhesion to law reform now. It is barely possible
they may take it up hereafter. But surely the natural place for this
statement is the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ and I should feel great comfort for
the good cause if I thought you would thus help us. The matter in Sir E.’s
book renders it very easy to show what has been done of late years.

Poor Tocqueville is one day a little better, another a little worse; but I

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