Fascinating account of the Rise of the Prussian Empire. The first part of the book examines the early years of Prussia— from its rise from a minor duchy to a major European power under Frederick the Great, to its struggles with France during the Napoleonic era. Most of the book however, is dedicated to the formation of the German Empire under Bismarck which made Prussia the predominant power in Europe. It ends with a detailed description of the Franco-Prussian war and the calamity of the Paris Commune, which occurred only a year before the book was written.
It is less than two hundred years since the petty Marquisate of Branden burg and the little Duchy of Prussia were united in a kingdom. Prussia, as thus constituted, was so insignificant a realm in territory and population as quite to excite the contempt of the proud monarchs of Europe. England, France, Austria, and Russia were by no means disposed to admit the newly. created king of so paltry a domain on social equality with them.
Prussia is now recognized not only as one of the great powers, but as, probably, the first military power in Europe. The steps by which this greatness has been attained constitute one of the most interesting chapters in the history of modern times. Prussia is the representative, not of liberalism, but of absolutism. It has been under the banner of despotic sway that most of its victories have been achieved.
Prussia now presents to the world the somewhat appalling spectacle of a nation of forty millions, in which every able-bodied man is a trained soldier. It has been able, at a moment's warning, to send into the field armies so overwhelming in numbers, and so admirably organized and disciplined, as to crush the military power of France, to batter down her strongest fortresses, and even to penetrate the heart of the empire, and invest her proud metropolis with beleaguering hosts. The object of this volume is to give a narrative of the origin, growth, and present condition, of this gigantic power. It would be difficult to find anywhere a theme more full of instructive and exciting incidents.
The mad pranks of the half crazed Frederick William; the wild and wonderful career of Frederick the Great; the awful reverses which overwhelmed Prussia in the wars of the French *Revolution; the astounding victories and conquests achieved in the late war with Austria, which culminated in the great battle of Sadowa, where Austria, a helpless victim, lay prostrate at the feet of the conqueror; and the recent campaign in France, which has excited the wonder of the world, as the French armies have melted away before the Prussian legions, as fortress after fortress has fallen before their batteries, and as Paris itself has surrendered to hosts such as Attila could scarcely have brought into the field—these are events which are to be chronicled among the most momentous which have transpired upon our globe.
The narrative here given of the Franco-Prussian War is an impartial recital of facts known by all intelligent men. If this record be not substantially true, then is it impossible to obtain any truth of history. Neves did events take place under a broader blaze of day. Wherever our sympathies may rest, the facts here given are indisputable; and it is a weakness for one to shrink from impartial truth because it is not, in all respects, flattering to national pride.
It cannot be gratifying to any Frenchman to read this record of the utter humiliation and the ruin of his country, and of that lamentable want of stability on the part of his countrymen which has caused this humiliation and ruin.
And, in the creation of the new Germanic Empire, there have been some distinctly-avowed motives which have inspired the actors, and some measures which have been adopted before the eyes of all the world, which many Germans will not reflect upon with pleasure.
But both French and Germans will find in these pages as honest and impartial a record of facts as it is possible to give. The intelligent American community, who month after month have watched with the utmost interest the development of these transactions, will be able to testify from its own personal observation to the accuracy of this account of the Franco-Prussian War. But we must remember that it is a pardonable weakness for men, when in a foreign country, to be even unduly zealous in reference to the good name of their native land.
The accuracy of the portraits, we think, may be relied upon. They have been obtained from the most authentic sources. The beautiful group of the Imperial Family of France has been taken, by express permission, from the private collection of the Emperor, and has been engraved by the most skilful of French artists. The writer can testify to the remarkable fidelity of the likenesses.
JOHN S.C. ABBOTT, New Haven, Conn.