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At Home and Abroad

The Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1217, p. 158.

August 15, 1863

AT HOME AND ABROAD.

...For the moment public interest everywhere is concentrated on the affairs of Mexico. In considering the events of something less than a year in that region of the western hemisphere, we almost recognise a revival of the times of Cortez and Pizarro, and are reminded of our own raid into India under Clive. A handful of armed Frenchmen, under a General who is supposed to be a soldier and nothing else, have, not without difficulty but in the end triumphantly, subdued a country larger than France, and probably, as the result of something like an order of the day from Marshal Forey, an empire has been established on the ruins of a rickety republic, and an Austrian Archduke proclaimed Emperor. Those who claimed to be well informed as to the policy of France in regard to Mexico have asserted that the proclamation of the empire and the choice of the Archduke Maximilian were by no means the desired sequence. It was supposed that the Archduke would decline the proffered Imperial Crown; and then, the whole responsibility being cast upon France, there could remain only that alternative which was provided in such a case--the nomination of a Sovereign as the occupant of the new throne by Louis Napoleon. Practically, this meant the selection of a cadet of the House of Buonaparte; the permanent occupation of Mexico by a French army; and, in reality, the establishment in that country of a French protectorate, political as well as physical. In short, Mexico would have become a distant province of France under a vicegerent, who would be called an Emperor. But all these speculations have been set at nought by the fact that the Archduke has accepted the crown which has been offered to him. This alters the whole state of affairs. It is impossible that the brother of the Emperor of Austria can consent to be maintained on his throne by French bayonets. If, as seems to be certain, bayonets are to be the props of the Mexican empire, they should, and must be, Austrian, and not French. At once Austria, through one of her Imperial family, becomes the ostensible arbiter of the destinies of a new addition to the Powers of the world, which, by a curious complication, she can influence only under French inspiration. Mexico is a present from France to Austria, and must represent a close alliance between those two Powers in Europe--a scheme of polity which is not new in the ideas of Bonapartism.

Beyond this we think we see a design on the part of France to relieve herself from what might have been a great difficulty. The occupation of Mexico by the French, and the conversion of that country into a dependency of France, might have been resented in due time by the Federal States of America. If, as has been hinted, the new Franco-Mexican Empire had entered into an alliance, offensive and defensive, with the Confederate States, the rupture between France and the Northern States would have been complete. It may be that Louis Napoleon is not prepared for war with the North, even in conjunction with the South; and, therefore, if Mexico becomes ostensibly Austrian instead of French, this danger may be averted for the present. Whether America, South or North, will eventually allow a European dynasty and Government to be established in Mexico remains to be seen. In truth, there lies more peril to quiet enjoyment of a Mexican empire from the Southern than from the Northern States; for, when the latter establish their independence, the extention of their territory to the Gulf is inevitably upon the cards....

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