No historian believes that history repeats itself. Yet, between different ages there are frequently- striking analogies and resemblances. It is problems that repeat themselves, not the conditions which determine their solution. One of these problems, recurrent in European annals, is that of the maintenance of a certain balance of power among the various nations as essential to their freedom, the maintenance of a situation to which they are accustomed and which they have found tolerable, a change in which would be prejudicial or dangerous to their peace and safety. Several times in modern history this balance has been threatened and Europe has purchased immunity from servitude by freely giving its life blood that life might remain and might be worth living.
To an age like our own, caught in the grip of a world war, whose issues, however incalculable, will inevitably be profound, there is much instruction to be gained from the study of a similar crisis in the destinies of humanity a century ago. The most dramatic and most impressive chapter of modern history was written by the French Revolution and by Napoleon. And between that period and our own not only are there points of interesting and suggestive comparison but there is also a distinct line of causation connecting the two.
For the convenience of those who may wish to review this memorable and instructive period I have brought together in this volume the chapters dealing with it in my Modern European History. In the opening twentieth century, as in the opening nineteenth, mankind has been driven to the ordeal by battle by the resolve to preserve the most cherished things of life. Now, as then, civilization hangs upon the arbitrament of the sword. It is not churches alone that owe their existence and their power to the blood of the martyrs. The most precious rights of nations and of individuals have not only been achieved, but have been maintained inviolate, by the unconquerable spirit of the brave.
“Great is the glory, for the strife is hard!”
C. D. H.
January 10, 1917.