Memoirs of Francesco Crispi

Date: 1912

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European Politics in the ’seventies and ’eighties



An Interview with Bismarck


I feel it incumbent upon me to render an account of the manner in which I have acquitted myself of the mission to Prince Bismarck, with which your Majesty and the president of the council of ministers have intrusted me.

The object of this mission, which formed the subjects of our discussion at Gastein on the 17th, and at Berlin on the 24th, were as follows: —

An eventual alliance with Germany in case of war with France or Austria.

An understanding concerning the solution of the various questions which may arise in consequence of the Russo-Turkish war in the East.

The establishment of equality between Germans and Italians in the exercise of civil rights in both countries.

The prince remained obdurate in refusing an alliance against Austria. On the other hand, he was very willing to consent to one against France, although he expressed the hope that this last-named power would know how to keep quiet and refrain from disturbing the peace of Europe.

I naturally assured him that we also cherished the same hope. But I pointed out to him — and the prince was quite of my opinion — that in case the reactionist party should triumph at the next political elections, and the republic fall, the government that should take its place would be obliged to resort to war in order to avenge the defeats of 1870 and establish its authority throughout the country.

As regards Austria’s attitude toward ourselves, the prince assured me that he deeply deplored it, and expressed a desire that a cordial understanding might be established between the two governments.

I hereupon reminded him that, although Austria needs peace in order to recuperate after the war of 1866, she cannot possibly forget the injury she has suffered and that, sooner or later, she will feel the necessity of seeking to regain the position she once occupied. His Highness replied that he was determined to believe that would never happen. There could be but one cause for a breach between the two nations,1 namely, should Austria, by her attitude, encourage a rebellion in Poland. "Austria," said the prince, "favors the ambitions of the Polish aristocracy. Nevertheless," he added, "things have not as yet reached the danger point. Leave me my faith in the government. If my presumptions are proved to be mistaken, there will still be time for us to unite and form an alliance."

My conviction is that the prince wishes to hold fast to Austria, and I believe I am justified in concluding from his remarks that he intends to maintain a perfect understanding with the cabinet of Vienna, and that he wishes us to follow the same policy. The remote hypothesis of a rupture between the two empires did not appear to cause his Highness the slightest uneasiness. As to Italy, he frankly declared that although he might deplore a rupture between Austria and that country, he would not allow it to induce him to go to war.

With regard to the Eastern Question the prince declared that Germany, having no interests at stake, would accept any solution that did not disturb the peace of Europe.

I hastened to point out that it cannot be said of Italy that she has no interests at stake, and I alluded to the rumors concerning territorial changes, and to Russia’s proposal, by means of which she hopes to ingratiate herself with Austria, that Austria take Bosnia and Herzegovina. I reminded him of the condition in which we found ourselves after the peace of 1866, and explained that any addition to the territory of the neighboring empire would constitute a menace to us. "Our Eastern frontiers," I said, "are extremely exposed, and should Austria’s position on the Adriatic be strengthened, we should be held as in a vice, and our safety would be threatened.

"You should help us at this crisis," I added. "We are loyal to our treaties, and we ask nothing of any one. To-morrow you should seek to prevail upon Count Andrássy to relinquish all intention of annexing any part of the Ottoman territory."

The prince replied that he did not wish to mention these matters to Andrássy, as the Austrian chancellor might find them obnoxious topics. He is of the opinion, however, that an understanding might be arrived at, and he proposes that, should Austria take Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy should annex Albania or some other Turkish province on the Adriatic.

1 , translated by Mary Prichard-Agnetti. 2 vols. London, 1912. Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd.

2 , vol. ii, pp. 62–64.

1i.e., between Germany and Austria.


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Chicago: Mary Prichard-Agnetti, trans., "An Interview With Bismarck," Memoirs of Francesco Crispi in Readings in Modern European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: D.C. Heath, 1926), 364–365. Original Sources, accessed June 19, 2024,

MLA: . "An Interview With Bismarck." Memoirs of Francesco Crispi, translted by Mary Prichard-Agnetti, Vol. ii, in Readings in Modern European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, D.C. Heath, 1926, pp. 364–365. Original Sources. 19 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: (trans.), 'An Interview With Bismarck' in Memoirs of Francesco Crispi. cited in 1926, Readings in Modern European History, ed. , D.C. Heath, Boston, pp.364–365. Original Sources, retrieved 19 June 2024, from