Littell's Living Age/Volume 162/Issue 2091/The Destiny of Holland
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Volume 162, Issue 2091 : The Destiny of Holland
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We do not think any such situation fairly probable. In the first place, the house of Orange is not extinct yet, and, in spite of Dutch apprehensions it may never be; and while it lasts Holland is fairly safe. Her people will not enter the empire voluntarily, and Germany would not commence a war of pure aggression. The people do not want the consequent suffering, and the princes do not want the “solidification” which might follow a successful campaign. In the second place, there is no clear evidence that even if the failure of the Netherlands dynasty gave them a pretext for interference, or negotiations about Luxernburg roused popular passion, either the German chancellor or the German people desire to conquer Holland. They have not, since the peace of 1870, betrayed aggressive tendencies. They have eaten neither German Austria nor German Russia, but have endeavored, with apparent sincerity, to keep the peace. They would hardly care to trust their fleet to a disaffected population, or to add to their troubles a people who for years, possibly for centuries, would consider their independence violently brought to an end. The desire for colonies, though undoubtedly strong with a section of the German people, is believed not to be shared by their statesmen, who are very well aware that dependencies are seldom profitable, and are most averse to increasing the permanent and unavoidable calls upon the treasury and the army. It has been the policy of the Hohenzollerns to avoid such complications, and to seek trade outlets rather in eastern Europe than in Asiatic possessions. When the French army was going to Mexico, Prussia might have seized any South American territory she liked. Prince Bismarck’s profound content with M. Ferry’s conquests shows that he does not measure national strength by “colonies;” and he knows that liability to foreign service is a terrible strain both upon the willingness and the discipline of a conscript army. The French organization breaks down under it; and M. Ferry is already trying the system which we were obliged to abandon, that of forming a separate army for Asiatic and African service. Prince Bismarck does not desire a war with France, with Russia looking on; while a compromise with France must involve the sacrifice of Belgium, and would secure a great addition alike to her population and her wealth. Statesmen think of the future, and Prince Bismarck would not look forward the more happily because France had a new and potent reason for desiring possession of the Rhine. Nations live a long while; and Germany, with Holland within her boundaries sullen and dissatisfied, and France looking steadily across the Rhine, would not be so independent of external influences, or so fearless of the rise of a military genius outside her borders, as she is now. She would be even more dependent upon the friendship of Austria, and her security requires that Austria should rather depend on her.
Still we do not wonder that the situation in Holland creates some secret anxiety among politicians. It is a most unfortunate thing for a country not ready to declare itself a republic that its dynasty should come to an end; more unfortunate still when that dynasty reigns not by prescription, but in virtue of treaties not a century old; most unfortunate of all when the country is too weak to be independent of foreign influence. If the princess Victoria had died, and Germany had been able to declare for the Duke of Cumberland, and France had supported the Duke of Cambridge, we should have had trouble here; and the position of Holland might conceivably be far worse than that. We could in the last resort have declared a republic, and defied invasion; but that is precisely what Holland cannot do. She could cut the dykes, but without great allies she would be powerless; and what allies could she hope for who would attack Germany, Austria, and France in combination? The possible alarms Continental diplomatists almost as much as the probable; and they have a motive for alarm beyond those which affect the public. We take it to be an axiom characteristic of the whole class that they never quite trust the dynasties, never believe that royal persons will willingly forego territory, and never doubt that the dynasties are contending quite as much as the statesmen, and are even hungrier for aggrandisement. Kings are greedy, they say, and they do not like to hear of thrones without tenants, or provinces without fully recognized proprietors. We trust that this time their fears are groundless, and believe, for the reasons we have given, that they are; but it is vain to deny that should the throne of Holland become vacant, Europe will have reason for a few days to await a German decision with some awe. If it were the decision of 1864, the world might be in flames.