The Peace By THE middle of January 1871 the armies of the National Defence, both in Paris and in the Provinces, had been routed and to a large extent destroyed. The civil population of France, except only for a handful of iron-willed commanders and unreasoning enthusiasts, were ready for any sort of peace. But in war the scales of fortune do not tip evenly. The growing misery of the French was not counter-balanced by any lightening of the burden which weighed on the German armies and their leaders. The troops in the field and in occupation-areas were war-weary, indifferently housed, and harassed, in many areas, by francs-tireurs. The task of the Intendantur, of supplying an army 800,000 strong over a railway-system still strangled by intact fortresses and demolitions and liable at any moment to interruption, grew no easier. And in Germany itself open complaints were now being made about the continuing demands on national resources of rolling-stock and man-power. The victories at Le Mans, St Quentin, Buzenval, and the Lisaine were loudly and properly applauded in the German press; but they seemed to bring peace no nearer
At Versailles therefore, the centre of Prussian civil and military government, the tensions remained as great as ever. It was clear that the question of the bombardment of Paris had been an occasion for conflict rather than a cause, for the opening of fire on 5th January had led to no detente. It was indeed not until a fortnight later that the quarrels at Versailles were to reach their climax. The French request for an armistice was to come at an almost providential moment. Had the war been prolonged for a few more weeks, it is difficult to see how either Bismarck or Moltke could have remained in posts which each felt the other was making untenable.