Page:The World's Famous Orations Volume 7.djvu/146

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suddenly they were forced to fall back before the enemy; they abandon advantageous positions which they have conquered; they are led back to our own territory, whence the theater of war is fixed; and nothing of us will remain with the unfortunate Belgians but the memory of the fires which will have lighted our retreat. On another side and on the banks of the Rhine our frontiers are threatened by Prussian troops, whose march the ministerial reports have made us hope would not be so sudden. Such is our political and military situation, and never were to necessary the wise arrangement of plans, the prompt execution of means, the union, the accord of all authorities to whom the Constitution delegates the use of armed force; never might become so disastrous the least misinformation, the slightest suspension, the most trifling missteps.

How does it happen that precisely at the last period of the most violent crisis, on the edge of the abyss into which the nation may plunge, the movement of our armies is suspended; that by a sudden disorganization of the ministry the chain of works has been shattered, the bonds of confidence broken, the safety of the empire given up to the inexperience of hands chosen at random, the difficulties of execution multiplied, and its success jeopardized by mistakes which must happen, even with the most enlightened patriotism, in the apprenticeship of a great administration? If plans are conceived which may expedite the completion of our armies, for increas-