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A History of Modern Europe, 1792-1878

A History of Modern Europe, 1792-1878

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Outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1792-Its immediate causes- Declaration of Pillnitz made and withdrawn-Agitation of the Priests and Emigrants-War Policy of the Gironde-Provocations offered to France by the Powers-State of Central Europe in 1792-The Holy Roman Empire- Austria-Rule of the Hapsburgs-The Reforms of Maria Theresa and Joseph II.-Policy of Leopold II.-Government and Foreign Policy of Francis II.-Prussia-Government of Frederick William II.-Social condition or Prussia-Secondary States of Germany-Ecclesiastical States-Free Cities-Knights-Weakness of Germany

On the morning of the 19th of April, 1792, after weeks of stormy agitation in Paris, the Ministers of Louis XVI. brought down a letter from the King to the Legislative Assembly of France. The letter was brief but significant. It announced that the King intended to appear in the Hall of Assembly at noon on the following day. Though the letter did not disclose the object of the King's visit, it was known that Louis had given way to the pressure of his Ministry and the national cry for war, and that a declaration of war against Austria was the measure which the King was about to propose in person to the Assembly. On the morrow the public thronged the hall; the Assembly broke off its debate at midday in order to be in readiness for the King. Louis entered the hall in the midst of deep silence, and seated himself beside the President in the chair which was now substituted for the throne of France. At the King's bidding General Dumouriez, Minister of Foreign Affairs, read a report to the Assembly upon the relations of France to foreign Powers. The report contained a long series of charges against Austria, and concluded with the recommendation of war. When Dumouriez ceased reading Louis rose, and in a low voice declared that he himself and the whole of the Ministry accepted the report read to the Assembly; that he had used every effort to maintain peace, and in vain; and that he was now come, in accordance with the terms of the Constitution, to propose that the Assembly declare war against the Austrian Sovereign. It was not three months since Louis himself had supplicated the Courts of Europe for armed aid against his own subjects. The words which he now uttered were put in his mouth by men whom he hated, but could not resist: the very outburst of applause that followed them only proved the fatal antagonism that existed between the nation and the King. After the President of the Assembly had made a short answer, Louis retired from the hall. The Assembly itself broke up, to commence its debate on the King's proposal after an interval of some hours. When the House re-assembled in the evening, those few courageous men who argued on grounds of national interest and justice against the passion of the moment could scarcely obtain a hearing. An appeal for a second day's discussion was rejected; the debate abruptly closed; and the declaration of war was carried against seven dissentient votes. It was a decision big with consequences for France and for the world. From that day began the struggle between Revolutionary France and the established order of Europe. A period opened in which almost every State on the Continent gained some new character from the aggressions of France, from the laws and political changes introduced by the conqueror, or from the awakening of new forces of national life in the crisis of successful resistance or of humiliation. It is my intention to trace the great lines of European history from that time to the present, briefly sketching the condition of some of the principal States at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, and endeavouring to distinguish, amid scenes of ever-shifting incident, the steps by which the Europe of 1792 has become the Europe of today....