Whether the fears thus entertained in regard to the eventual course of France and to the alliances to which it may give rise will be realized or not, some seventeen or eighteen months hence, their existence produces a feeling of uncertainty as to the future and furnishes a motive for military preparation on the part of Germany.
In conclusion, I may perhaps be permitted to repeat an opinion, which I have formerly taken the liberty of expressing, that, although, abstractedly speaking, it is in the interest of Great Britain that there should be a strong Prussia to serve as a barrier against France, yet that Her aggrandisement, under the present circumstances, cannot be looked upon with unmixed satisfaction from a British point of view. – From a defensive [power], Prussia has become an aggressive power. – Her tendencies are Russian. – If She has not concluded, as I believe She has not, any Treaty of Alliance with Russia, She has an understanding with Her – equivalent to an alliance in these days, when the fact of engagements being written does not appear to add to their force. The question which has principally drawn Russia closer to Prussia at the present moment and made Her overlook the subversion by Prussia of thrones established by Treaties to which Russia was a party is, I understand, that of Poland.
The Emperor of Russia is jealous of the concessions which Austria is making to Her Polish subjects, and which he fears will disturb the tranquillity of his own Polish dominions, whereas he finds in Prussia an Ally ready to cooperate in preventing or suppressing any Polish movements.
But, although the Polish Question may for the present be the principal subject of an understanding between the two Powers, have we any security that, should the Oriental Question be again brought forward, Prussia, in exchange for the consent of Russia to Her further aggrandisement in Germany, will not assist Russia towards Her object, in the midst of the general subversion of other Treaties, to cancel those which were imposed upon Her after the Crimean War, and which have already been infringed by the success of the Prussian manoeuvre in placing the Prince of Hohenzollern on the throne of the Danubian Principalities and to extend Her power in the East? – The part which Prussia played in that war is not calculated to inspire confidence in this respect. – If the Alliance of the two Great Northern Powers were to have such a result, which is certainly within the range of possibilities, British interests would undoubtedly be affected. But it would be wearying your Lordship were I further to prosecute the theme of the Alliances and complications which may arise out of the present state of things. – Suffice it to say, that I trust that my fears lest the results of the late War should have sown the seeds of fresh and perhaps more extended wars, may not be realized.
I have the honor to be with the highest respect,
Your Lordship’s most obedient humble servant
Henry F. Howard
Source: British envoy to Bavaria, Sir Henry F. Howard, Munich, to British Foreign Secretary Lord Stanley, London (confidential), Report no. 140, December 3, 1866, in National Archives (formerly Public Record Office, Kew), London, FO 9/177, unfoliated, handwritten. Original British spelling and syntax have been retained.