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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Another from the Rhine entered Cassel on the 19th


Thus

far, the course of the two powers in the matter had made them equally unpopular throughout the rest of Germany. Austria had quite lost her temporary advantage over Prussia, in this respect, and she now endeavored to regain it by favoring the claims of the Duke of Augustenburg in Holstein. An angry correspondence followed, and early in 1866 Austria began to prepare for war, not only at home, but by secretly canvassing for alliances among the smaller States. Neither she, nor the German people, understood how her policy was aiding the deep-laid plans of Bismarck. The latter had been elevated to the rank of Count, he had dared to assert that the German question could never be settled without the use of "blood and steel" (which was generally interpreted as signifying the most brutal despotism), and an attempt to assassinate him had been made in the streets of Berlin. When, therefore, Austria demanded of the Diet that the military force of the other States should be called into the field against Prussia on account of the invasion of Holstein by Prussian troops, only Oldenburg, Mecklenburg, the little Saxon principalities and the three free cities of the North voted against the measure!

[Sidenote: 1866.]

This vote, which was taken on the 14th of June, 1866, was the last act of the German Diet. Prussia instantly took the ground that it was a declaration of war, and set in motion all the agencies which had been quietly

preparing for three or four years. The German people were stunned by the suddenness with which the crisis had been brought upon them. The cause of the trouble was so slight, so needlessly provoked, that the war seemed criminal: it was looked upon as the last desperate resource of the absolutist, Bismarck, who, finding the Prussian Assembly still five to one against him, had adopted this measure to recover by force his lost position. Few believed that Prussia, with nineteen millions of inhabitants, could be victorious over Austria and her allies, representing fifty millions, unless after a long and terrible struggle.

Prussia, however, had secured an ally which, although not fortunate in the war, kept a large Austrian army employed. This was Italy, which eagerly accepted the alliance in April, and began to prepare for the struggle. On the other hand, there was every probability that France would interfere in favor of Austria. In this emergency, the Prussian Government seemed transformed: it stood like a man aroused and fully alive, with every sense quickened and every muscle and sinew ready for action. The 14th of June brought the declaration of war: on the 15th, Saxony, Hannover, Hesse-Cassel and Nassau were called upon to remain neutral, and allowed twelve hours to decide. As no answer came, a Prussian army from Holstein took possession of Hannover on the 17th, another from the Rhine entered Cassel on the 19th, and on the latter day Leipzig and Dresden were occupied by a third. So complete had been the preparations that a temporary railroad bridge was made, in advance, to take the place of one between Berlin and Dresden, which it was evident the Saxons would destroy.


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