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Title: Beacon Lights of History, Volume 08 - Great Rulers
Author: Lord, John, 1810-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Beacon Lights of History, Volume 08 - Great Rulers" ***

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The early Saxons
Their conquest of England
Division of England into petty kingdoms
Conversion of the Saxons
The Saxon bishoprics
Early distinguished men
Isadore, Caedmon, and Baeda, or Bede
Birth and early life of Alfred
Succession to the throne of Wessex
Danish invasions
Humiliation and defeat of Alfred
His subsequent conquests
Final settlement of the Danes
Alfred fortifies his kingdom
Reorganizes the army and navy
His naval successes
Renewed Danish invasions
The laws of Alfred
Their severity
Alfred's judicial reforms
Establishment of shires and parishes
Administrative reforms
Financial resources of Alfred
His efforts in behalf of education
His literary labors
Final defeat of the Danes
Death and character of Alfred
His services to civilization



The reign of Queen Elizabeth associated with progress
Her birth and education
Her trials of the heart
Her critical situation during the reign of Mary
Her expediences
Her dissembling
State of the kingdom on her accession to the throne
Rudeness and loyalty of the people
Difficulties of the Queen
The policy she pursued
Her able ministers
Lord Burleigh
Archbishop Parker
Favorites of Elizabeth
The establishment of the Church of England
Its adaptation to the wants of the nation
Religious persecution
Development of national resources
Pacific policy of the government
Administration of justice
Hatred of war
Glory of Elizabeth allied with the prosperity of England
Good government
Royal economy
Charge of tyranny considered
Power of Parliament
Mary, Queen of Scots
Palliating circumstances for her execution
Character of Mary Stuart
Her plots and intrigues
The execution of Essex
Other charges against Elizabeth
Her coquetry
Her defects
Her virtues
Her public services
Her great fame
Her influence contrasted with power
Verdict of Lord Bacon
Elizabethan era
Constellation of men of genius



The Cause and the Hero
The sixteenth century contrasted with the nineteenth
A New Spirit in the world
Differences of progress
Religious, civil, and social upheavals
John Calvin
Reformed doctrines in France
Persecution of the Huguenots
They arm in self-defence to secure religious liberty
Henry of Navarre
Jeanne D'Albret
Education of Henry
Slaughter of St. Bartholomew
The Duke of Guise, Catherine de Medicis, and Charles IX.
Effects of the massacre
Responsibility for it
Stand taken by the Protestants
They retire to La Rochelle
Bravery and ability of Henry
Battle of Coutras
Battle of Ivry
Abjuration of Henry IV
His motives
The ceremony
Edict of Nantes
Henry's service to France
Effects of the Abjuration of Henry IV. on the Huguenots
Character of Henry



The Thirty Years' War a political necessity
Agitation which succeeded the death of Luther
Brilliancy of the period
Persecution of the Protestants
Ferdinand II
Its insurrection
Renewed persecution
Its success
Elector Count Palatine
Rallying of German princes against the Emperor
His successful warfare
Consternation of Germany
Gustavus Adolphus comes to its relief
Character of Gustavus Adolphus
His brilliant exploits
Balance of power
Dismissal and recall of Wallenstein
The contending forces
Battle of Lutzen
Death of Gustavus Adolphus
Peace of Westphalia
Its political consequences
Ultimate effects of the Thirty Years' War



State of France in the 17th Century
Elevation of Richelieu
He perceives the great necessities of the State
Makes himself necessary to Louis XIII.
His aims as Prime Minister
His executive ability
His remorseless tyranny
His warfare on the Huguenots
Aims of the Huguenots
La Rochelle
Fall of the Huguenots
Character of the Nobility; their decimation
The Queen-Mother
The Duke of Orleans
The justification of Richelieu
The Parliaments
Their hostilities
Their humiliation
The policy of Richelieu
His services to the Crown
His internal improvements
His defects of character
Necessity of absolutism amid treasons and anarchies
Abuse of absolutism



The Puritans
Their peculiarities
Love of Civil Liberty
Charles I. and his ministers
Tyranny of the King
Persecution of the Puritans
Petition of Right
The Parliament
Contest between the King and Parliament
War and Revolution
Characteristics of the Age
Rise of Cromwell
His military genius
Battle of Naseby
Of Preston
Conquest of Scotland
Execution of Charles I.
A war measure
The Independents gain ascendency
Conquest of Ireland
Cromwell made Protector of the army
Military despotism
Motives of Cromwell
His great abilities as a ruler
His services to England
Greatness of England under Cromwell
Cromwell contrasted with Louis XIV.
His intellectual defects
His death
Cromwell as an instrument of Providence
Occasional necessity of absolutism
Ultimate effect of Cromwell's rule



Illustrious men on the accession of Louis XIV.
State of France
Ambition of Louis XIV.
His love of military glory
His character
His inherited greatness
His alliance with the Church
His unbounded power
His great ministers
Aims of Colbert
His great services
His great executive abilities
The first war of Louis XIV.
Conquest of Flanders
Its iniquity
Invasion of Holland
Easy victories
Rise of William of Nassau
Prevents the conquest of Holland
Peace of Nimeguen
Louis in the zenith of power
His aggrandizement
His palaces
His court
His mistresses
His friendship with Madame de Maintenon
Elevation of Maintenon
Religious persecution
Revocation of the Edict of Nantes
Coalition against Louis XIV.
Unfortunate wars
His death
Effects of his reign in France



Long reign of Louis XV.
Decline of French military power
Loss of colonial possessions
Cardinal Fleury
Duke of Orleans
Derangement of the finances
Injustice of feudal privileges
John Law
Mississippi scheme
Bursting of the bubble
Excessive taxation
Worthlessness of the nobility
Their effeminacy and hypocrisy
Character of the King
Corruption of his court
The Jesuits
Death of the King
The reign of court mistresses
Madame de Pompadour
Extravagance of the aristocracy
Improvements of Paris
Fall of the Jesuits
The Philosophers and their writings,--Voltaire, Rousseau
Accumulating miseries and disgraceful government



State of Russia on the accession of Peter the Great
The necessity for a great ruler to arise
Early days of the Czar Peter
Accession to the throne
Origin of a navy
Seizure of Azof
Military reform
Peter sets out on his travels
Works as a carpenter in Holland
Peter visits England
Visits Vienna
Completion of the apprenticeship of Peter
He abolishes the Streltzi
Various other reforms
Opposition of the clergy
War with Charles XII. of Sweden
Battle of Narva
Siege of Pultowa
Peter invades Turkey
His imprudence and rashness
Saved by the sagacity of his wife Catherine
Foundation of St. Petersburg
Second tour of Europe
Misconduct and fate of Alexis
Coronation of Catherine I.
Character of Peter
His great services to Russia



Characteristics of the man
Education of Frederic II.
His character
Becomes King
Seizure of a part of Liège
Seizure of Silesia
Maria Theresa
Visit of Voltaire
Friendship between Voltaire and Frederic
Coalition against Frederic
Seven Years' War
Carlyle's History of Frederic
Empress Elizabeth of Russia
Decisive battles of Rossbach, Luthen, and Zorndorf
Heroism and fortitude of Frederic
Results of the Seven Years' War
Partition of Poland
Development of the resources of Prussia
Public improvements
General services of Frederic to his country
His character
His ultimate influence



Frederic the Great Reproaching his Generals at Köben
_After the painting by Arthur Kampf_.

Embarkation of Anglo-Saxons for the Conquest of England
_After the painting by H. Merté_.

Queen Elizabeth
_After the "Ermine" portrait by F. Zucchero_.

Last Moments of Queen Elizabeth
_After the painting by Paul Delaroche_.

The Morning after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew
_After the painting by Ed. Debat-Ponsan_.

Henry of Navarre and La Belle Fosseuse
_After the painting by A.P.E. Morlon_.

The Imperial Counsellors are Thrown Out of the Window
by the Bohemian Delegates
_After the painting by V. Brozik_.

Cardinal Richelieu
_After the painting by Ph. de Champaign, National Gallery, London_.

Richelieu Watches the Siege Operations from the Dam
at Rochelle
_After the painting by Henri Motte_.

Oliver Cromwell
_After the painting by Pieter van der Picas_.

Louis XIV. and Mlle. de la Valliere
_After the painting by A.P.E. Morlon_.

Peter the Great
_After a Contemporaneous Engraving_.

Peter the Great Learns the Trade of Ship-Carpentry at Zaardam
_After the painting by Felix Cogen_.

Frederic the Great
_After the painting by W. Camphausen_.


A.D. 849-901.


Alfred is one of the most interesting characters in all history for
those blended virtues and talents which remind us of a David, a Marcus
Aurelius, or a Saint Louis,--a man whom everybody loved, whose deeds
were a boon, whose graces were a radiance, and whose words were a
benediction; alike a saint, a poet, a warrior, and a statesman. He ruled
a little kingdom, but left a great name, second only to Charlemagne,
among the civilizers of his people and nation in the Middle Ages. As a
man of military genius he yields to many of the kings of England, to say
nothing of the heroes of ancient and modern times.

When he was born, A.D. 849, the Saxons had occupied Britain, or England,
about four hundred years, having conquered it from the old Celtic
inhabitants soon after the Romans had retired to defend their own
imperial capital from the Goths. Like the Goths, Vandals, Franks,
Burgundians, Lombards, and Heruli, the Saxons belonged to the same
Teutonic race, whose remotest origin can be traced to Central
Asia,--kindred, indeed, to the early inhabitants of Italy and Greece,
whom we call Indo-European, or Aryan. These Saxons--one of the fiercest
tribes of the Teutonic barbarians;--lived, before the invasion of
Britain, in that part of Europe which we now call Schleswig, in the
heart of the peninsula which parts the Baltic from the northern seas;
also in those parts of Germany which now belong to Hanover and
Oldenburg. It does not appear from the best authorities that these
tribes--called Engle, Saxon, and Jute--wandered about seeking a
precarious living, but they were settled in villages, in the government
of which we trace the germs of the subsequent social and political
institutions of England. The social centre was the homestead of the
_oetheling_ or _corl_, distinguished from his fellow-villagers by his
greater wealth and nobler blood, and held by them in hereditary
reverence. From him and his brother-oethelings the leaders of a warlike
expedition were chosen. He alone was armed with spear and sword, and his
long hair floated in the wind. He was bound to protect his kinsmen from
wrong and injustice. The land which inclosed the village, whether
reserved for pasture, wood, or tillage, was undivided, and every free
villager had the right of turning his cattle and swine upon it, and also
of sharing in the division of the harvest. The basis of the life was
agricultural. Our Saxon ancestors in Germany did not subsist exclusively
by hunting or fishing, although these pursuits were not neglected. They
were as skilful with the plough and mattock as they were in steering a
boat or hunting a deer or pursuing a whale. They were coarse in their
pleasures, but religious in their turn of mind; Pagans, indeed, but
worshipping the powers of Nature with poetic ardor. They were born
warriors, and their passion for the sea led to adventurous enterprise.
Before the close of the third century their boats, driven by fifty oars,
had been seen in the British waters; and after the Romans had left the
Britons to defend themselves against the Scots and Picts, the harassed
rulers of the land invoked the aid of these Saxon pirates, and, headed
by two ealdormen,--Hengist and Horsa,--they landed on the Isle of Thanet
in the year 449.

These two chieftains are the earliest traditionary heroes of the Saxons
in England. Their mercenary work was soon done, and after it was done
they had no idea of retiring to their own villages in Germany. They cast
their greedy eyes on richer pastures and more fruitful fields.
Brother-pirates flocked from the Elbe and Rhine to their settlement in
Thanet. In forty-five years after Hengist and Horsa landed, Cerdic with
a more formidable band had taken possession of a large part of the
southern coast, and pushed his way to Winchester and founded the
kingdom of Wessex. But the work of conquest was slow. It took seventy
years for the Saxons to become masters of Kent, Sussex, Hampshire,
Essex, and Wessex.

A stout resistance to the invading Saxons had been made by the native
Britons, headed by Arthur,--a legendary hero, who is thought to have
lived near the close of the fifth century. His deeds and those of the
knights of the Round Table form the subject of one of the most
interesting romances of the Middle Ages, probably written in the
brightest age of chivalry, and by a monk very ignorant of history, since
he gives many Norman names to his characters. But all the valor of the
Celtic hero and his chivalrous followers was of no avail before the
fierce and persistent attacks of a hardier race, bent on the possession
of a fairer land than their own.

We know but little of the details of the various conflicts until Britain
was finally won by these predatory tribes of barbarians. The stubborn
resistance of the Britons led to their final retreat or complete
extermination, and with their disappearance also perished what remained
of the Roman civilization. The resistance of the Britons was much more
obstinate than that of any of the other provinces of the Empire; but, as
the forces arrayed against them were comparatively small, the work of
conquest was slow. "It took thirty years to win Kent alone, and sixty
to complete the conquest of south Britain, and nearly two hundred to
subdue the whole island." But when the conquest was made it was
complete, and England was Saxon, in language, in institutions, and in
manners; while France retained much of the language, habits, and
institutions of the Romans, and even of the old Gaulish elements of
society. England became a German nation on the complete wreck of
everything Roman, whose peculiar characteristic was the freedom of those
who tilled the land or gathered around the military standard of their
chieftains. It was the gradual transfer of a whole German nation from
the Elbe and Rhine to the Thames and the Humber, with their original
village institutions, under the rule of their _eorls_, with the simple
addition of kings,--unknown in their original settlements, but brought
about by the necessities which military life and conquest produced.

After the conquest we find seven petty kings, who ruled in different
parts of the island. Jealousies, wars, and marriages soon reduced their
number to three, ruling over Wessex, Mercia, and Northumbria. All the
people of these kingdoms were Pagan, the chief deity of whom was Woden.
It was not till the middle of the seventh century that Christianity was
introduced into Wessex, although Kent and Northumbria received Christian
missionaries half-a-century earlier. The beautiful though well-known
tradition of the incidents which led to the introduction of the
Christian religion deserves a passing mention. About the middle of the
sixth century some Saxons taken in war, in one of the quarrels of rival
kings, and hence made slaves, were exposed for sale in Rome. Gregory the
Great, then simply deacon, passing by the market-place, observed their
fair faces, white bodies, blue eyes, and golden hair, and inquired of
the slave-dealer who they were. "They are English, or Angles." "No, not
Angles," said the pious and poetic deacon; "they are angels, with faces
so angelic. From what country did they come?" "From Deira." "_De Ira!_
ay, plucked from God's wrath. What is the name of their king?" "Ella."
"Ay, let alleluia be sung in their land." It need scarcely be added that
when this pious and witty deacon became pope he remembered these Saxon
slaves, and sent Augustin (or Austin,--not to be confounded with
Augustine of Hippo, who lived nearly two centuries earlier), with forty
monks as missionaries to convert the pagan Saxons. They established
themselves in Kent A.D. 597, which became the seat of the first English
bishopric, through the favor of the king, Aethelbert, whose wife
Clotilda, a French princess, had been previously converted. Soon after,
Essex followed the example of Kent; and then Northumbria. Wessex was the
last of the Saxon kingdoms to be converted, their inhabitants being
especially fierce and warlike.

It is singular that no traces of Christianity seem to have been left in
Britain on the completion of the Saxon conquest, although it had been
planted there as early as the time of Constantine. Helena was a
Christian, and Pelagius and Celestine were British monks. But the Saxon
conquest eradicated all that was left of Roman influence and

When Christianity had once acquired a foothold among the Saxons its
progress was rapid. In no country were monastic institutions more firmly
planted. Monasteries and churches were erected in the principal
settlements and liberally endowed by the Saxon kings. In Kent were the
great sees of Canterbury and Rochester; in Essex was London; in East
Anglia was Norwich; in Wessex was Winchester; in Mercia were Lichfield,
Leicester, Worcester, and Hereford; in Northumbria were York, Durham,
and Ripon. Each cathedral had its schools and convents. Christianity
became the law of the land, and entered largely into all the Saxon
codes. There was a constant immigration of missionaries into Britain,
and the great sees were filled with distinguished ecclesiastics,
frequently from the continent, since a strong union was cemented between
Rome and the English churches. Prince and prelate made frequent
pilgrimages to the old capital of the world, and were received with
distinguished honors. The monasteries were filled with princes and
nobles and ladies of rank. As early as the eighth century monasteries
were enormously multiplied and enriched, for the piety of the Saxons
assumed a monastic type. What civilization existed can be traced chiefly
to the Church.

We read of only three great names among the Saxons who impressed their
genius on the nation, until the various Saxon kingdoms were united under
the sovereignty of Ecgberht, or Egbert, king of Wessex, about the middle
of the ninth century. These were Theodore, Caedmon, and Baeda. The first
was a monk from Tarsus, whom the Pope dispatched in the year 668 to
Britain as Archbishop of Canterbury. To him the work of church
organization was intrusted. He enlarged the number of the sees, and
arranged them on the basis which was maintained for a thousand years.
The subordination of priest to bishop and bishop to primate was more
clearly defined by him. He also assembled councils for general
legislation, which perhaps led the way to national parliaments. He not
only organized the episcopate, but the parish system, and even the
system of tithes has been by some attributed to him. The missionary who
had been merely the chaplain of a nobleman became the priest of the
manor or parish.

The second memorable man was born a cowherd; encouraged to sing his
songs by the abbess Hilda, a "Northumbrian Deborah." When advanced in
life he entered through her patronage a convent, and sang the
marvellous and touching stories of the Hebrew Scriptures, fixing their
truths on the mind of the nation, and becoming the father of
English poetry.

The third of these great men was the greatest, Baeda,--or Bede, as the
name is usually spelled. He was a priest of the great abbey church of
Weremouth, in Northumbria, and was a master of all the learning then
known. He was the life of the famous school of Jarrow, and it is said
that six hundred monks, besides strangers, listened to his teachings.
His greatest work was an "Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation,"
which extends from the landing of Julius Caesar to the year 731. He was
the first English historian, and the founder of mediaeval history, and
all we know of the one hundred and fifty years after the landing of
Augustin the missionary is drawn from him. He was not only historian,
but theologian,--the father of the education of the English nation.

It was one hundred and fourteen years after the death of the "venerable
Bede" before Alfred was born, A.D. 849, the youngest son of Aethelwulf,
king of Wessex, who united under his rule all the Saxon kingdoms. The
mother of Alfred was Osburgha, a German princess of extraordinary force
of character. From her he received, at the age of four, the first
rudiments of education, and learned to sing those Saxon ballads which
he afterwards recited with so much effect in the Danish camp. At the
age of five Alfred was sent to Rome, probably to be educated, where he
remained two years, visiting on his return the court of Charles the
Bald,--the centre of culture in Western Europe. The celebrated Hincmar,
Archbishop of Rheims,--the greatest churchman of the age,--was the most
influential minister of the king; at whose table also sat John Erigena,
then engaged in a controversy with Gotteschalk, the German monk, about
the presence of Christ in the eucharist,--the earliest notable
theological controversy after the Patristic age. Alfred was too young to
take an interest in this profound discussion; but he may perhaps have
received an intellectual impulse from his visit to Rome and Paris, which
affected his whole subsequent life.

About this time his father, over sixty years of age, married a French
princess of the name of Judith, only fourteen years of age,--even in
that rude age a great scandal, which nearly resulted in his
dethronement. He lived but two years longer; and his youthful widow, to
the still greater scandal of the realm and Church, married her late
husband's eldest son, Ethelbald, who inherited the crown. It was through
this woman, and her subsequent husband Baldwin, called _Bras de Fer_,
Count of Flanders, that the English kings, since the Conqueror, trace
their descent from Alfred and Charlemagne; for her son, the second
Count of Flanders, married Elfrida, the daughter of Alfred. From this
union descended the Conqueror's wife Matilda. Thus the present royal
family of England can trace a direct descent through William the
Conqueror, Alfred, and Charlemagne, and is allied by blood, remotely
indeed, with most of the reigning princes of Europe.

The three elder brothers of Alfred reigned successively over Wessex,--to
whom all England owned allegiance. It was during their short reigns that
the great invasion of the Danes took place, which reduced the whole
island to desolation and misery. These Danes were of the same stock as
the Saxons, but more enterprising and bold. It seems that they drove the
Saxons before them, as the Saxons, three hundred years before, had
driven the Britons. In their destructive ravages they sacked and burned
Croyland, Peterborough, Huntington, Ely, and other wealthy abbeys,--the
glory of the kingdom,--together with their valuable libraries.

It was then that Alfred (already the king's most capable general) began
his reign, A.D. 871, at the age of twenty-three, on the death of his
brother Ethelred,--a brave and pious prince, mortally wounded at the
battle of Merton.

It was Alfred's memorable struggle with the Danes which gave to him his
military fame. When he ascended the throne these barbarians had gained
a foothold, and in a few years nearly the whole of England was in their
hands. Wave followed wave in the dreadful invasion; fleet after fleet
and army after army was destroyed, and the Saxons were driven nearly to
despair; for added to the evils of pillage and destruction were
pestilence and famine, the usual attendants of desolating wars. In the
year 878 the heroic leader of the disheartened people was compelled to
hide himself, with a few faithful followers, in the forest of Selwood,
amid the marshes of Somersetshire. Yet Alfred--a fugitive--succeeded at
last in rescuing his kingdom of Wessex from the dominion of Pagan
barbarians, and restoring it to a higher state of prosperity than it had
ever attained before. He preserved both Christianity and civilization.
For these exalted services he is called "the Great;" and no prince ever
more heroically earned the title.

"It is hard," says Hughes, who has written an interesting but not
exhaustive life of Alfred, "to account for the sudden and complete
collapse of the West Saxon power in January, 878, since in the campaign
of the preceding year Alfred had been successful both by sea and land."
Yet such seems to have been the fact, whatever may be its explanation.
No such panic had ever overcome the Britons, who made a more stubborn
resistance. No prince ever suffered a severer humiliation than did the
Saxon monarch during the dreary winter of 878; but, according to Asser,
it was for his ultimate good. Alfred was deeply and sincerely religious,
and like David saw the hand of God in all his misfortunes. In his case
adversity proved the school of greatness. For six months he was hidden
from public view, lost sight of entirely by his afflicted subjects,
enduring great privations, and gaining a scanty subsistence. There are
several popular legends about his life in the marshes, too well known to
be described,--one about the cakes and another about his wanderings to
the Danish camp disguised as a minstrel, both probable enough; yet, if
true, they show an extraordinary depth of misfortunes.

At last his subjects began to rally. It was known by many that Alfred
was alive. Bodies of armed followers gradually gathered at his retreat.
He was strongly intrenched; and occasionally he issued from his retreat
to attack straggling bands, or to make reconnoissance of the enemy's
forces. In May, 878, he left his fortified position and met some brave
and faithful subjects at Egbert's Stone, twenty miles to the east of
Selwood. The gathering had been carefully planned and secretly made, and
was unknown to the Danes. His first marked success was at Edington, or
Ethandune, where the Pagan host lay encamped, near Westbury. We have no
definite knowledge of the number of men engaged in that bloody and
desperate battle, in which the Saxons were greatly outnumbered by the
Danes, who were marshalled under a chieftain called Guthrun. But the
battle was decisive, and made Alfred once more master of England south
of the Thames. Guthrun, now in Alfred's power, was the ablest warrior
that the Northmen had as yet produced. He was shut up in an inland fort,
with no ships on the nearest river, and with no hope of reinforcements.
At the end of two weeks he humbly sued for peace, offering to quit
Wessex for good, and even to embrace the Christian religion. Strange as
it may seem, Alfred granted his request,--either, with profound
statesmanship, not wishing to drive a desperate enemy to extremities, or
seeking his conversion. The remains of the discomfited Pagan host
crossed over into Mercia, and gave no further trouble. Never was a
conquest attended with happier results. Guthrun (with thirty of his
principal nobles) was baptized into the Christian faith, and received
the Saxon name of Athelstan. But East Anglia became a Danish kingdom.
The Danes were not expelled from England. Their settlement was
permanent. The treaty of Wedmore confirmed them in their possessions.
Alfred by this treaty was acknowledged as undisputed master of England
south of the Thames; of Wessex and Essex, including London, Hertford,
and St. Albans; of the whole of Mercia west of Watling Street,--the
great road from London to Chester; but the Danes retained also one half
of England, which shows how formidable they were, even in defeat. The
Danes and the Saxons, it would seem, commingled, and gradually became
one nation.

The great Danish invasion of the ninth century was successful, since it
gave half of England to the Pagans. It is a sad thing to contemplate.
Civilization was doubtless retarded. Whole districts were depopulated,
and monasteries and churches were ruthlessly destroyed, with their
libraries and works of art. This could not have happened without a
fearful demoralization among the Saxons themselves. They had become
prosperous, and their wealth was succeeded by vices, especially luxury
and sloth. Their wealth tempted the more needy of the adventurers from
the North, who succeeded in their aggressions because they were stronger
than the Saxons. So slow was the progress of England in civilization. As
soon as it became centralized under a single monarch, it was subjected
to fresh calamities. It would seem that the history of those ages is
simply the history of violence and spoliations. There was the perpetual
waste of human energies. Barbarism seemed to be stronger than
civilization. Nor in this respect was the condition of England unique.
The same public misfortunes happened in France, Germany, Italy, and
Spain. For five hundred years Europe was the scene of constant strife.
Not until the Normans settled in England were the waves of barbaric
invasion arrested.

The Danish conquest made a profound impression on Alfred, and stimulated
him to renewed efforts to preserve what still remained of Christian
civilization. His whole subsequent life was spent in actual war with the
Northmen, or in preparations for war. It was remarkable that he
succeeded as well as he did, for after all he was the sovereign of
scarcely half the territory that Egbert had won, and over which his
grandfather and father had ruled. He preserved Wessex; and in preserving
Wessex he saved England, which would have been replunged in barbarism
but for his perseverance, energy, and courage. That Danish invasion was
a chastisement not undeserved, for both the clergy and the laity had
become corrupt, had been enervated by prosperity. The clergy especially
were lazy and ignorant; not one in a thousand could write a common
letter of salutation. They had fattened on the contributions of princes
and of the credulous people; they saw the destruction of their richest
and proudest abbeys, and their lands seized by Pagan barbarians, who
settled down in them as lords of the soil, especially in Northumbria.
But Alfred at least arrested their further progress, and threw them on
the defensive. He knew that the recovery of the conquests which the
Saxons had made was a work of exceeding difficulty. It was necessary to
make great preparations for future struggles, as peace with the Danes
was only a truce. They aimed at the complete conquest of the island, and
they sought to rouse the hostility of the Welsh.

Alfred showed a wise precaution against future assaults in constructing
fortresses at the most important points within his control. Before his
day the Saxons had but few fortified positions, and this want of forts
had greatly facilitated the Danish conquest. But the Danes, as soon as
they gained a strong position, fortified it, and were never afterwards
ejected by force. Probably Alfred took the hint from them. He rebuilt
and strengthened the fortresses along the coast, as he had four precious
years of unmolested work; and for this his small kingdom was doubtless
severely taxed. He imported skilled workmen, and adopted the newest
improvements. He made use of stone instead of timber, and extended his
works of construction to palaces, halls, and churches, as well as
castles. So well built were his fortifications, that no strong place was
ever afterwards wrested from him. In those times the defence of kingdoms
was in castles. They marked the feudal ages equally with monasteries and
cathedral churches. Castles protected the realm from invasion and
conquest, as much as they did the family of a feudal noble. The wisdom
as well as the necessity of fortified cities was seen in a marked manner
when the Northmen, in 885, stole up the Thames and Medway and made an
unexpected assault on Rochester. They were completely foiled, and were
obliged to retreat to their ships, leaving behind them even the spoil
they had brought from France. This successful resistance was a great
moral assistance to Alfred, since it opened the eyes of bishops and
nobles to the necessity of fortifying their towns, to which they had
hitherto been opposed, being unwilling to incur the expense. So it was
not long before Alfred had a complete chain of defences on the coast, as
well as around his cities and palaces, able to resist sudden
attacks,--which he had most to fear. His great work of fortification was
that of London, which, though belonging to him by the peace of Wedmore,
was neglected, fallen to decay, filled with lawless bands of marauders
and pirates, and defenceless against attack. In 886 he marched against
this city, which made no serious resistance; rebuilt it, made it
habitable, fortified it, and encouraged people to settle in it, for he
foresaw its vast commercial importance. Under the rule of his son
Ethelred, it regained the pre-eminence it had enjoyed under the Romans
as a commercial centre.

Having done what he could to protect his dominion from sudden attacks,
Alfred then turned his attention to the reorganization of his army and
navy. Strictly speaking he had no regular army, or standing force, which
he could call his own. When the country was threatened the freemen flew
to arms, under their eorls and ealdormen; and on this force the king was
obliged to rely. They sometimes acted without his orders, obeying the
calls of their leaders when danger was most imminent. On the men in the
immediate neighborhood of danger the brunt of the contest fell. Nor
could levies be relied upon for any length of time; they dwindled after
a few weeks, in order to attend to their agricultural interests, for
agriculture was the only great and permanent pursuit in the feudal ages.
Everything was subordinate to labors in the field. The only wealth was
in land, except what was hoarded by the clergy and nobles.

How well Alfred paid his soldiers it is difficult to determine. His own
private means were large, and the Crown lands were very extensive.
One-third of his income was spent upon his army. But it is not probable
that a large force was under pay in time of peace; yet he had always one
third of his forces ready to act promptly against an enemy. The burden
of the service was distributed over the whole kingdom. The main feature
of his military reform seems to have been in the division of his forces
into three bodies, only one of which was liable to be called upon for
service at a time, except in great emergencies. In regard to tactics, or
changes in armor and mode of fighting, we know nothing; for war as an
art or science did not exist in any Teutonic kingdom; it was lost with,
the fall of the Roman Empire. How far Alfred was gifted with military
genius we are unable to say, beyond courage, fertility of resources,
activity of movement, and a marvellous patience. His greatest qualities
were moral, like those of Washington. It is his reproachless character,
and his devotion to duty, and love of his people which impress us from
first to last. As has been said of Marcus Aurelius, Alfred was a Saint
Anselm on a throne. He had none of those turbulent and restless
qualities which we associate with mediaeval kings. What a contrast
between him and William the Conqueror!

Alfred also gave his attention to the construction of a navy, as well as
to the organization of an army, knowing that it was necessary to resist
the Northmen on the ocean and prevent their landing on the coast. In 875
he had fought a naval battle with success, and had taken one of the
ships of the sea-kings, which furnished him with a model to build his
own ships,--doing the same thing that the Romans did in their early
naval warfare with the Carthaginians. In 877 he destroyed a Danish fleet
on its way to relieve Exeter. But he soon made considerable improvement
on the ships of his enemies, making them twice as long as those of the
Danes, with a larger number of oars. These were steadier and swifter
than the older vessels. As the West Saxons were not a seafaring people,
he employed and munificently rewarded men from other nations more
accustomed to the sea,--whether Frisians, Franks, Britons, Scots, or
even Danes. The result was, he was never badly beaten at sea, and before
the end of his reign he had swept the coast clear of pirates. Within two
years from the treaty of Wedmore his fleet was ready for action. He was
prepared to meet the sea-kings on equal terms, and in 882 he had gained
an important naval battle over a fleet that was meditating an invasion.

In the year 885 the Danes again invaded England and laid siege to
Rochester, but fled to their ships on the approach of Alfred. They were
pursued by the Saxon king and defeated with great slaughter, sixteen
Danish vessels being destroyed and their crews put to the sword. Nor had
Guthrun Athelstan, the ex-viking, been true to his engagements. He had
allowed two additional settlements of Danes on the East Anglian coasts,
and had even assisted Alfred's enemies. Their defeat, however, induced
him to live peaceably in East Anglia until he died in 890. These
successes of Alfred secured peace with the Danes for eight more years,
during which he pursued his various schemes for the improvement of his
people, and in preparations for future wars. He had put his kingdom in a
state of defence, and now turned his attention to legislation,--the
supremest labor of an enlightened monarch.

The laws of Alfred wear a close resemblance to those which Moses gave to
the Hebrews, and moreover are pervaded with Christian ideas. His aim
seems to have been to recognize in his jurisprudence the supreme
obedience which is due to the laws of God. In all the laws of the
converted Teutonic nations, from Charlemagne down, we notice the
influence of the Christian clergy in modifying the severity of the old
Pagan codes. Alfred did not aim to be an original legislator, like Moses
or Solon, but selected from the Mosaic code, and also from the laws of
Ethelbert, Ina, Offa, and other Saxon princes, those regulations which
he considered best adapted to the circumstances of the people whom he
governed. He recognized more completely than any of his predecessors the
rights of property, and attached great sanctity to oaths. Whoever
violated his pledge was sentenced to imprisonment. He raised the dignity
of ealdormen and bishops to that of the highest rank. He made treason
against the royal authority the gravest offence known to the laws, and
all were deemed traitors who should presume to draw the sword in the
king's house. He made new provisions for personal security, and severely
punished theft and robbery of every kind, especially of the property of
the Church. He bestowed freedom on slaves after six years of service.
Some think he instituted trial by jury. Like Theodosius and Charlemagne,
he gave peculiar privileges to the clergy as a counterpoise to the
lawlessness of nobles.

One of the peculiarities of his legislation was compensation for
crime,--seen alike in the Mosaic dispensation and in the old customs of
the Germanic nations in their native forests. On conviction, the culprit
was compelled to pay a sum of money to the relatives of the injured, and
another sum to the community at large. This compensation varied
according to the rank of the injured party,--and rank was determined by
wealth. The owner of two hydes of land was ranked above a ceorl, or
simple farmer, while the owner of twelve hydes was a royal thane. In the
compensation for crime the gradation was curious: twelve shillings would
pay for the loss of a foot, ten for a great toe, and twenty for a thumb.
If a man robbed his equal, he was compelled to pay threefold; if he
robbed the king, he paid ninefold; and if he robbed the church, he was
obliged to return twelvefold: hence the robbery of ecclesiastical
property was attended with such severe penalties that it was unusual. In
some cases theft was punished with death.

The code of Alfred was severe, but in an age of crime and disorder
severity was necessary. He also instituted a vigorous police, and
divided the country into counties, and these again into hundreds or
parishes, each of which was made responsible for the maintenance of
order and the detection of crime. He was severe on judges when they
passed sentence irrespective of the rights of jurors. He did not
emancipate slaves, but he ameliorated their condition and limited their
term of compulsory service. Burglary in the king's house was punished by
a fine of one hundred and twenty shillings; in an archbishop's, at
ninety; in a bishop's or ealdorman's, at sixty; in the house of a man of
twelve hydes, at thirty shillings; in a six-hyde man's, at fifteen; in a
churl's, at five shillings,--the fine being graded according to the rank
of him whose house had been entered. There was a rigorous punishment for
working on Sunday: if a theow, by order of his lord, the lord had to pay
a penalty of thirty shillings; if without the lord's order, he was
condemned to be flogged. If a freeman worked without his lord's order,
he had to pay sixty shillings or forfeit his freedom. If a man was found
burning a tree in a forest, he was obliged to pay a fine of sixty
shillings, in order to protect the forest; or if he cut down a tree
under which thirty swine might stand, he was obliged to pay a fine of
sixty shillings. These penalties seem severe, but they were inflicted
for offences difficult to be detected and frequently committed. We infer
from these various fines that burglary, robbery, petty larcenies, and
brawls were the most common offences against the laws.

One of the greatest services which Alfred rendered to the cause of
civilization in England was in separating judicial from executive
functions. The old eorls and ealdormen were warriors; and yet to them
had been committed the administration of justice, which they often
abused,--frequently deciding cases against the verdicts of jurors, and
sometimes unjustly dooming innocent men to capital punishment. Alfred
hanged an ealdorman or alderman, one Freberne, for sentencing Haspin to
death when the jury was in doubt. He even hanged twenty-four inferior
officers, on whom judicial duties devolved, for palpable injustice.

The love of justice and truth was one of the main traits of Alfred's
character, and he painfully perceived that the ealdormen of shires,
though faithful and valiant warriors, were not learned and impartial
enough to administer justice. There was scarcely one of them who could
read the written law, or who had any extensive acquaintance with the
common law or the usages which had been in force from time
immemorial,--as far back as in the original villages of Germany.
Moreover, the poor and defenceless had need of protection. They always
had needed it, for in Pagan and barbarous countries their rights were
too often disregarded. When brute force bore everything before it, it
became both the duty and privilege of the king, who represented central
power, to maintain the rights of the humblest of his people,--to whom
he was a father. To see justice enforced is the most exalted of the
prerogatives of sovereigns; and no one appreciated this delegation of
sovereign power from the Universal Father more than Alfred, the most
conscientious and truth-loving of all the kings of the Middle Ages.

So, to maintain justice, Alfred set aside the ignorant and passionate
ealdormen, and appointed judges whose sole duty it was to interpret and
enforce the laws, and men best fitted to represent the king in the royal
courts. They were sent through the shires to see that justice was done,
and to report the decisions of the county courts. Thus came into
existence the judges of assize,--an office or institution which remains
to this day, amid all the revolutions of English thought and life, and
all the changes which politics and dynasties have wrought.

Nor did Alfred rest with a reform of the law courts. He defined the
boundaries of shires, which divisions are very old, and subdivided them
into parishes, which have remained to this day. He gave to each hundred
its court, from which appeals were made to a court representing several
hundreds,--about three to each county. Each hundred was subdivided into
tythings, or companies of ten neighboring householders, who were held as
mutual sureties or frank (free) pledges for each other's orderly
conduct; so that each man was a member of a tything, and was obliged to
keep household rolls of his servants. Thus every liegeman was known to
the law, and was taught his duties and obligations; and every tything
was responsible for the production of its criminals, and obliged to pay
a fine if they escaped. Every householder was liable to answer for any
stranger who might stop at his house. "This mutual liability or
suretyship was the pivot of all Alfred's administrative reform, and
wrought a remarkable change in the kingdom, so that merchants and
travellers could go about without armed guards. The forests were emptied
of outlaws, and confidence and security succeeded distrust and
lawlessness.... The frank pledge-system, which was worked in country
districts, was supplied in towns by the machinery of the
guilds,--institutions combining the benefit of modern clubs, insurance
societies, and trades-unions. As a rule, they were limited to members of
one trade or calling."

Mr. Pearson, in his history of England, as quoted by Hughes, thus sums
up this great administrative reform for the preservation of life and
property and order during the Middle Ages:--

"What is essential to remember is, that life and property were not
secured to the Anglo-Saxon by the State, but by the loyal union of his
fellow-citizens; the Saxon guilds are unmatched in the history of their
times as evidences of self-reliance, mutual trust, patient
self-restraint, and orderly love of law among a young people,

"To recapitulate the reforms of Alfred in the administration of justice
and the resettlement of the country, the old divisions of shires were
carefully readjusted, and divided into hundreds and tythings. The
alderman of the shire still remained the chief officer, but the office
was no longer hereditary. The king appointed the alderman, or eorl, who
was president of the shire gemot, or council, and chief judge of the
county court as well as governor of the shire, but was assisted and
probably controlled in his judicial capacity by justices appointed by
the king, and not attached to the shire, or in any way dependent on the
alderman. The vice-domini, or nominees of the alderman, were abolished,
and an officer substituted for them called the reeve of the shire, or
sheriff, who carried out the decrees of the courts. The hundreds and
tythings were represented by their own officers, and had their
hundred-courts and courts-leet, which exercised a trifling criminal
jurisdiction, but were chiefly assemblies answering to our grand juries
and parish vestries. All householders were members of them, and every
man thus became responsible for keeping the king's peace."

In regard to the financial resources of Alfred we know but little.
Probably they were great, considering the extent and population of the
little kingdom over which he ruled, but inconsiderable in comparison
with the revenues of England at the present day. To build fortresses,
construct a navy, and keep in pay a considerable military force,--to say
nothing of his own private expenditure and the expense of his court,
his public improvements, the endowment of churches, the support of
schools, the relief of the poor, and keeping the highways and bridges in
repair,--required a large income. This was derived from the public
revenues, crown lands, and private property. The public revenue was
raised chiefly by customs, tolls, and fines. The crown lands were very
extensive, as well as the private property of the sovereign, as he had
large estates in every county of his kingdom.

But whatever his income, he set apart one quarter of it for religious
purposes, one-sixth for architecture, and one-eighth for the poor,
besides a considerable sum for foreigners, whom he liberally patronized.
He richly endowed schools and monasteries. He was devoted to the Church,
and his relations with the Pope were pleasant and intimate, although
more independent than those of many of his successors.

All the biographers of Alfred speak of his zealous efforts in behalf of
education. He established a school for the young nobles of his court,
and taught them himself. His teachers were chiefly learned men drawn
from the continent, especially from the Franks, and were well paid by
the king. He made the scholarly Asser--a Welsh monk, afterwards bishop
of Sherborne, from whose biography of Alfred our best information is
derived--his counsellor and friend, and from his instructions acquired
much knowledge. To Asser he gave the general superintendence of
education, not merely for laymen, but for priests. In his own words, he
declared that his wish was that all free-born youth should persevere in
learning until they could read the English Scriptures. For those who
desired to devote themselves to the Church, he provided the means for
the study of Latin. He gave all his children a good education. His own
thirst for knowledge was remarkable, considering his cares and public
duties. He copied the prayer-book with his own hands, and always carried
it in his bosom, Asser read to him all the books which were then
accessible. From an humble scholar the king soon became an author. He
translated "Consolations of Philosophy" from the Latin of Boethius, a
Roman senator of the sixth century,--the most remarkable literary effort
of the declining days of the Roman Empire, and highly prized in the
Middle Ages. He also translated the "Chronicle of the World," by
Orosius, a Spanish priest, who lived in the early part of the fifth
century,--a work suggested by Saint Augustine's "City of God." The
"Ecclesiastical History" of Bede was also translated by Alfred. He is
said to have translated the Proverbs of Solomon and the Fables of Aesop.
His greatest literary work, however, was the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the
principal authority of the reign of Alfred. No man of his day wrote the
Saxon language so purely as did Alfred himself; and he was
distinguished not only for his knowledge of Latin, but for profound
philosophical reflections interspersed through his writings, which would
do honor to a Father of the Church. He was also a poet, inferior only to
Caedmon. Nor was his knowledge confined to literature alone; it was
extended to the arts, especially architecture, ship-building, and
silver-workmanship. He built more beautiful edifices than any of his
predecessors. He also had a knowledge of geography beyond his
contemporaries, and sent a Norwegian ship-master to explore the White
Sea. He enriched his translation of Orosius by a sketch of the new
geographical discoveries in the North. In fact, there was scarcely any
branch of knowledge then known in which Alfred was not well
instructed,--being a remarkably learned man for his age, and as
enlightened as he was learned.

But in the midst of his reforms and wise efforts to civilize his people,
the war-clouds gathered once more, and he was obliged to put forth all
his energies to defend his realm from the incursions of his old enemies.
The death of Charles the Bald in the year 877 left France in a very
disordered state, and the Northmen under Hasting, one of the greatest of
their vikings, recommenced their ravages. In 893 they crossed the
Channel in two hundred and fifty vessels, and invaded England, followed
soon after by Hasting with another large detachment, and strongly
intrenched themselves near Winchester. Alfred at the same time strongly
fortified his own position, about thirty miles distant, and kept so
close a watch over the movements of his enemies that they rarely
ventured beyond their own intrenchments. A sort of desultory warfare
succeeded, and continued for a year without any decisive results. At
last the Danes, getting weary, broke up their camps, and resolved to
pass into East Anglia. They were met by Alfred at Farnham and forced to
fight, which resulted in their defeat and the loss of all the spoils
they had taken and all the horses they had brought from France. The
discomfited Danes retreated, by means of their ships, to an island in
the Thames, at its junction with the Colne, where they were invested by
Alfred. They would soon have been at the mercy of the Saxon king, had it
not unfortunately happened that the Danes on the east coast, from Essex
to Northumbria, joined the invaders, which unlooked-for event compelled
Alfred to raise the blockade, and send Ethelred his son to the west,
where the Danes were again strongly intrenched at Banfleet, near London.
Their camp was successfully stormed, and much booty was taken, together
with the wife and sons of Hasting. The Danish fleet was also captured,
and some of the vessels were sent to London. But Hasting still held out,
in spite of his disaster, and succeeded in intrenching himself with the
remnants of his army at Shoebury, ten miles from Banfleet, from which
he issued on a marauding expedition along the northern banks of the
Thames, carrying fire and sword wherever he went, thence turned
northward, making no halt until he reached the banks of the Severn,
where he again intrenched himself, but was again beaten. Hasting saved
himself by falling back on a part of East Anglia removed from Alfred's
influence, and appeared near Chester. Alfred himself had undertaken the
task of guarding Exeter and the coasts of Devonshire and South Wales,
where he wintered, leaving Ethelred to pursue Hasting.

Thus a year passed in the successful defence of the kingdom, the Danes
having gained no important advantage. At the end of the second campaign
Hasting still maintained his ground and fortified himself on the Thames,
within twenty miles of London. At the close of the third year, Hasting,
being driven from his position on the Thames, established himself in
Shropshire. "In the spring of 897 Hasting broke up his last camp on the
English soil, being foiled at every point, and crossed the sea with the
remnant of his followers to the banks of the Seine." The war was now
virtually at an end, and the Danes utterly defeated.

The work for which Alfred was raised up was at last accomplished. He had
stayed the inundations of the Northmen, defended his kingdom of Wessex,
and planted the seeds of a higher civilization in England, winning the
love and admiration of his subjects. The greatness of Alfred should not
be measured by the size of his kingdom. It is not the bigness of a
country that gives fame to its illustrious men. The immortal heroes of
Palestine and Greece ruled over territories smaller and of less
importance than the kingdom of Wessex. It is the greatness of their
characters that preserves their name and memory.

Alfred died in the year 901, at the age of fifty-two, worn out with
disease and labors, leaving his kingdom in a prosperous state; and it
had rest under his son Edward for nine years. Then the contest was
renewed with the Danes, and it was under the reign of Edward that Mercia
was once more annexed to Wessex, as well as Northumbria. Edward died in
925, and under the reign of his son Aethelstan the Saxon kingdom reached
still greater prosperity. The completion of the West Saxon realm was
reserved for Edmund, son of Aethelstan, who ascended the throne in 940,
being a mere boy. He was ruled by the greatest statesman of that age,
the celebrated Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury and Archbishop of
Canterbury,--a great statesman and a great Churchman, like Hincmar
of Rheims.

Thus the heroism and patience of Alfred were rewarded by the restoration
of the Saxon power, and the absorption of what Mr. Green calls
"Danelagh," after a long and bitter contest, of which Alfred was the
greatest hero. In surveying his conquests we are reminded of the long
contest which Charlemagne had with the Saxons. Next to Charlemagne,
Alfred was the greatest prince who reigned in Europe after the
dissolution of the Roman Empire, until the Norman Conquest. He fought
not for the desire of bequeathing a great empire to his descendants, but
to rescue his country from ruin, in the midst of overwhelming
calamities. It was a struggle for national existence, not military
glory. In the successful defence of his kingdom against the ravages of
Pagan invaders he may be likened to William the Silent in preserving the
nationality of Holland. No European monarch from the time of Alfred can
be compared to him in the service he rendered to his country. The
memorableness of a war is to be gauged not by the number of the
combatants, but by the sacredness of a cause. It was the devotion of
Washington to a great cause which embalms his memory in the heart of the
world. And no English king has left so hallowed a name as Alfred: it was
because he was a benefactor, and infused his energy of purpose into a
discouraged and afflicted people. How far his saint-like virtues were
imitated it is difficult to tell. Religion was the groundwork of his
character,--faith in God and devotion to duty. His piety was also more
enlightened than the piety of his age, since it was practical and not
ascetic. His temper was open, frank, and genial. He loved books and
strangers and travellers. There was nothing cynical about him, in spite
of his perplexities and discouragements. He had a beautifully balanced
character and a many-sided nature. He had the power of inspiring
confidence in defeat and danger. His judgment and good sense seemed to
fit him for any emergency. He had the same control over himself that he
had over others. His patriotism and singleness of purpose inspired
devotion. He felt his burdens, but did not seek to throw them off.
"Hardship and sorrow," said he, "not a king but would wish to be without
these if he could; but I know he cannot." "So long as I have lived I
have striven to live worthily." "I desire to leave to the men that come
after me a remembrance of me in good works." These were some of his
precious utterances, so that the love which he won a thousand years ago
has lingered around his name from that day to this.

It was a strong sense of duty, quickened by a Christian life, which gave
to the character of Alfred its peculiar radiance. He felt his
responsibilities as a Christian ruler. He was affable, courteous,
accessible. His body was frail and delicate, but his energies were never
relaxed. Pride and haughtiness were unknown in his intercourse with
bishops or nobles. He had no striking defects. He was the model of a man
and a king; and he left the impress of his genius on all the subsequent
institutions of his country. "The tree," says Dr. Pauli, one of his
ablest biographers, "which now casts its shadow far and near over the
world, when menaced with destruction in its bud, was carefully guarded
by Alfred; but at the period when it was ready to burst forth into a
plant, he was forced to leave it to the influence of time. Many great
men have occupied themselves with the care of this tree, and each in his
own way has advanced its growth. William the Conqueror, with his iron
hand, bent the tender branches to his will; Henry the Second ruled the
Saxons with true Roman pride, but in _Magna Charta_ the old German
nature became aroused and worked powerfully, even among the barons. It
became free under Edward the Third,--that prince so ambitious of
conquest: the old language and the old law, the one somewhat altered,
the other much softened, opened the path to a new era. The nation stood
like an oak in the full strength of its leafy maturity; and to this
strength the Reformation is indebted for its accomplishment. Elizabeth,
the greatest woman who ever sat upon a throne, occupied a central
position in a golden age of power and literature. Then came the Stuarts,
who with their despotic ideas outraged the deeply-rooted Saxon
individuality of the English, and by their fall contributed to the sure
development of that freedom which was founded so long before. The stern
Cromwell and the astute William the Third aided in preparing for the now
advanced nation that path in which it has ever since moved. The
Anglo-Saxon race has already attained maturity in the New World, and,
founded on these pillars, it will triumph in all places and in every
age. Alfred's name will always be placed among those of the great
spirits of this earth; and so long as men regard their past history with
reverence they will not venture to bring forward any other in comparison
with him who saved the West Saxon nation from complete destruction, and
in whose heart all the virtues dwelt in such harmonious concord."


Asser's Life of Alfred; the Saxon Chronicle; Alfred's own writings;
Bede's Ecclesiastical History; Thorpe's Ancient Laws and Institutes of
England; Kemble's Saxons in England; Sir F. Palgrave's History of the
English Commonwealth; Sharon Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons;
Green's History of the English People; Dr. Pauli's Life of Alfred;
Alfred the Great, by Thomas Hughes. Freeman, Pearson, Hume, Spelman,
Knight, and other English historians may be consulted.


A.D. 1533-1603.


I do not present Queen Elizabeth either as a very interesting or as a
faultless woman. As a woman she is not a popular favorite. But it is my
object to present her as a queen; to show with what dignity and ability
a woman may fill one of the most difficult and responsible stations of
the world. It is certain that we associate with her a very prosperous
and successful reign; and if she was lacking in those feminine qualities
which make woman interesting to man, we are constrained to admire her
for those talents and virtues which shed lustre around a throne. She is
unquestionably one of the links in the history of England and of modern
civilization; and her reign is so remarkable, considering the
difficulties with which she had to contend, that she may justly be
regarded as one of the benefactors of her age and country. It is a
pleasant task to point out the greatness, rather than the defects, of so
illustrious a woman.

It is my main object to describe her services to her country, for it is
by services that all monarchs are to be judged; and all sovereigns,
especially those armed with great power, are exposed to unusual
temptations, which must ever qualify our judgments. Even bad men--like
Caesar, Richelieu, and Napoleon--have obtained favorable verdicts in
view of their services. And when sovereigns whose characters have been
sullied by weaknesses and defects, yet who have escaped great crimes and
scandals and devoted themselves to the good of their country, have
proved themselves to be wise, enlightened, and patriotic, great praise
has been awarded to them. Thus, Henry IV. of France, and William III. of
England have been admired in spite of their defects.

Queen Elizabeth is the first among the great female sovereigns of the
world with whose reign we associate a decided progress in national
wealth, power, and prosperity; so that she ranks with the great men who
have administered kingdoms. If I can prove this fact, the sex should be
proud of so illustrious a woman, and should be charitable to those
foibles which sullied the beauty of her character, since they were in
part faults of the age, and developed by the circumstances which
surrounded her.

She was born in the year 1533, the rough age of Luther, when Charles V.
was dreaming of establishing a united continental military empire, and
when the princes of the House of Valois were battling with the ideas of
the Reformation,--an earnest, revolutionary, and progressive age. She
was educated as the second daughter of Henry VIII. naturally would be,
having the celebrated Ascham as her tutor in Greek, Latin, French, and
Italian. She was precocious as well as studious, and astonished her
teachers by her attainments. She was probably the best-educated woman in
England next to Lady Jane Grey, and she excelled in those departments of
knowledge for which novels have given such distaste in these more
enlightened times.

Elizabeth was a mere girl when her mother, Anne Boleyn, was executed for
infidelities and levities to which her husband could not be blind, had
he been less suspicious,--a cruel execution, which nothing short of
high-treason could have justified even in that rough age. Though her
birth was declared to be illegitimate by her cruel and unscrupulous
father, yet she was treated as a princess. She was seventeen when her
hateful old father died; and during the six years when the government
was in the hands of Somerset, Edward VI. being a minor, Elizabeth was
exposed to no peculiar perils except those of the heart. It is said that
Sir Thomas Seymour, brother to the Protector, made a strong impression
on her, and that she would have married him had the Council consented.
By nature, Elizabeth was affectionate, though prudent. Her love for
Seymour was uncalculating and unselfish, though he was unworthy of it.
Indeed, it was her misfortune always to misplace her affections,--which
is so often the case in the marriages of superior women, as if they
loved the image merely which their own minds created, as Dante did when
he bowed down to Beatrice. When we see intellectual men choosing weak
and silly women for wives, and women of exalted character selecting
unworthy and wicked husbands, it does seem as if Providence determines
all matrimonial unions independently of our own wills and settled
purposes. How often is wealth wedded to poverty, beauty to ugliness, and
amiability to ill-temper! The hard, cold, unsocial, unsympathetic,
wooden, scheming, selfish man is the only one who seems to attain his
end, since he can bide his time,--wait for somebody to fancy him.

Elizabeth had that mixed character which made her life a perpetual
conflict between her inclinations and her interests. Her generous
impulses and affectionate nature made her peculiarly susceptible, while
her prudence and her pride kept her from a foolish marriage. She may
have loved unwisely, but she had sufficient self-control to prevent a
mésalliance. While she may have resigned herself at times to the
fascinations of accomplished men, she yet fathomed the abyss into which
imprudence would bury her forever.

On the accession of Mary, her elder sister, daughter of Catharine of
Aragon, Elizabeth's position was exceedingly critical, exposed as she
was to the intrigues of the Catholics and the jealousy of the Queen. And
when we remember that the great question and issue of that age was
whether the Catholic or Protestant religion should have the ascendency,
and that this ascendency seemed to hinge upon the private inclinations
of the sovereign who in the furtherance of this great end would scruple
at nothing to accomplish it, and that the greatest crimes committed for
its sake would be justified by all the sophistries that religious
partisanship could furnish, and be upheld by all bigots and statesmen as
well as priests, it is really remarkable that Elizabeth was spared. For
Mary was not only urged on to the severest measures by Gardiner and
Bonner (the bishops of Winchester and London), and by all the influences
of Rome, to which she was devoted body and soul,--yea, by all her
confidential advisers in the State, to save themselves from future
contingencies,--but she was also jealous of her sister, as Elizabeth was
afterwards jealous of Mary Stuart. And it would have been as easy for
Mary to execute Elizabeth as it was for Elizabeth to execute the Queen
of Scots, or Henry VIII. to behead his wives; and such a crime would
have been excused as readily as the execution of Somerset or of the Lady
Jane Grey, both from political necessity and religious expediency.
Elizabeth was indeed subjected to great humiliations, and even compelled
to sue for her life. What more piteous than her letter to Mary, begging
only for an interview: "Wherefore I humbly beseech your Majesty to let
me answer before yourself; and, once again kneeling with humbleness of
heart, I earnestly crave to speak to your Highness, which I would not be
so bold as to desire if I knew not myself most clear, as I know myself
most true." Here is a woman pleading for her life to a sister to whom
she had done no wrong, and whose only crime was in being that sister's
heir. What an illustration of the jealousy of royalty and the bitterness
of religious feuds; and what a contrast in this servile speech to that
arrogance which Elizabeth afterward assumed towards her Parliament and
greatest lords! Ah, to what cringing meanness are most people reduced by
adversity! In what pride are we apt to indulge in the hour of triumph!
How circumstances change the whole appearance of our lives!

Elizabeth, however, in order to save her life, was obliged to dissemble.
If her true Protestant opinions had been avowed, I doubt if she could
have escaped. We do not see in this dissimulation anything very lofty;
yet she acted with singular tact and discretion. It is creditable,
however, to Mary that she did not execute her sister. She showed herself
more noble than Elizabeth did later in her treatment of the Queen of
Scots. History calls her the "Bloody Mary;" and it must be admitted that
she was the victim and slave of religious bigotry, and that she
sanctioned many bloody executions. And yet it would appear that her
nature was, after all, affectionate, which is evinced in the fact that
she did spare the life of Elizabeth. Here her better impulses gained the
victory over craft and policy and religious intolerance, and rescued her
name from the infamy to which such a crime would have doomed her, and
which her Church would have sanctioned, and in which it would have
rejoiced as much as it did in the slaughter of Saint Bartholomew.

The crocodile tears which Elizabeth is said to have shed when the death
of her sister Mary was announced to her at Hatfield were soon wiped away
in the pomps and enthusiasms which hailed her accession to the throne.
This was in 1558, when she was twenty-five, in the fulness of her
attractions and powers. Great expectations were formed of her wisdom and
genius. She had passed through severe experiences; she had led a life of
study and reflection; she was gifted with talents and graces. "Her
accomplishments, her misfortunes, and her brilliant youth exalted into
passionate homage the principle of loyalty, and led to extravagant
panegyrics." She was good-looking, if she was not beautiful, since the
expression of her countenance showed benignity, culture, and vivacity.
She had piercing dark eyes, a clear complexion, and animated features.
She was in perfect health, capable of great fatigue, apt in business,
sagacious, industrious, witty, learned, and fond of being surrounded
with illustrious men. She was high-church in her sympathies, yet a
Protestant in the breadth of her views and in the fulness of her
reforms. Above all, she was patriotic and disinterested in her efforts
to develop the resources of her kingdom and to preserve it from
entangling wars.

The kingdom was far from being prosperous when Elizabeth assumed the
reins of government, and it is the enormous stride in civilization which
England made during her reign, beset with so many perils, which
constitutes her chief claim to the admiration of mankind. Let it be
borne in mind that she began her rule in perplexities, anxieties, and
embarrassments. The crown was encumbered with debts; the nobles were
ambitious and factious; the people were poor, dispirited, unimportant,
and distracted by the claims of two hostile religions. Only one bishop
in the whole realm was found willing to crown her. Scotland was
convulsed with factions, and was a standing menace, growing out of the
marriage of Mary Stuart with a French prince. Barbarous Ireland was in
a state of chronic rebellion; France, Spain, and Rome were decidedly
hostile; and all Catholic Europe aimed at the overthrow of England.
Philip II. had adopted the dying injunction of his father to extinguish
the Protestant religion, and the princes of the House of Valois were
leagued with Rome for the attainment of this end. At home, Elizabeth had
to contend with a jealous Parliament, a factious nobility, an empty
purse, and a divided people. The people generally were rude and
uneducated; the language was undeveloped; education was chiefly confined
to nobles and priests; the poor were oppressed by feudal laws. No great
work in English history, poetry, or philosophy had yet appeared. The
comforts and luxuries of life were scarcely enjoyed even by the rich.
Chimneys were just beginning to be used. The people slept on mats of
straw; they ate without forks on pewter or wooden platters; they drank
neither tea nor coffee, but drank what their ancestors did in the
forests of Germany,--beer; their houses, thatched with straw, were dark,
dingy, and uncomfortable. Commerce was small; manufactures were in their
infancy; the coin was debased, and money was scarce; trade was in the
hands of monopolists; coaches were almost unknown; the roads were
impassable except for horsemen, and were infested with robbers; only the
rich could afford wheaten bread; agricultural implements were of the
most primitive kind; animal food, for the greater part of the year, was
eaten only in a salted state; enterprise of all kinds was restricted
within narrow limits; beggars and vagrants were so numerous that the
most stringent laws were necessary to protect the people against them;
profane swearing was nearly universal; the methods of executing capital
punishments were revolting; the rudest sports amused the people; the
parochial clergy were ignorant and sensual; country squires sought
nothing higher than fox-hunting; it took several days for letters to
reach the distant counties; the population numbered only four millions;
there was nothing grand and imposing in art but the palaces of nobles
and the Gothic monuments of mediaeval Europe.

Such was "Merrie England" on the accession of Elizabeth to the
throne,--a rude nation of feudal nobles, rural squires, and ignorant
people, who toiled for a mere pittance on the lands of cold,
unsympathetic masters; without books, without schools, without
privileges, without rights, except to breathe the common air and indulge
in coarse pleasures and religious holidays and village fêtes.

On the other hand, it must be admitted that the people were loyal,
religious, and brave; that they had the fear of God before their eyes,
and felt personal responsibility to Him, so that crimes were uncommon
except among the lowest and most abandoned; that family ties were
strong; that simple hospitalities were everywhere exercised; that
healthy pleasures stimulated no inordinate desires; that the people, if
poor, had enough to eat and drink; that service was not held to be
degrading; that churches were not deserted; that books, what few there
were, did not enervate or demoralize; that science did not attempt to
ignore the moral government of God; that laws were a terror to
evil-doers; that philanthropists did not seek to reform the world by
mechanical inventions, or elevate society by upholding the majesty of
man rather than the majesty of God,--teaching the infallibility of
congregated masses of ignorance, inexperience, and conceit. Even in
those rude times there were the certitudes of religious faith, of
domestic endearments, of patriotic devotion, of respect for parents, of
loyalty to rulers, of kindness to the poor and miserable; there were the
latent fires of freedom, the impulses of generous enthusiasm, and
resignation to the ills which could not be removed. So that in England,
in Elizabeth's time, there was a noble material for Christianity and art
and literature to work upon, and to develop a civilization such as had
not existed previously on this earth,--a civilization destined to spread
throughout the world in new institutions, inventions, laws, language,
and literature, binding hostile races together, and proclaiming the
sovereignty of intelligence,--the [Greek: nous kratei] of the old Ionian
philosophers,--with that higher sovereignty which Moses based upon the
Ten Commandments, and that higher law still which Jesus taught upon
the Mount.

Yet with all this fine but rude material for future greatness, it was
nevertheless a glaring fact that the condition of England on the
accession of Elizabeth was most discouraging,--a poor and scattered
agricultural nation, without a navy of any size, without a regular army,
with factions in every quarter, with struggling and contending religious
parties, with a jealous parliament of unenlightened country squires; yet
a nation seriously threatened by the most powerful monarchies of the
Continent, who detested the doctrines which were then taking root in the
land. Against the cabals of Rome, the navies of Spain, and the armies of
France,--alike hostile and dangerous,--England could make but a feeble
show of physical forces, and was protected only by her insular position.
The public dangers were so imminent that there was needed not only a
strong hand but a stout heart and a wise head at the helm. Excessive
caution was necessary, perpetual vigilance was imperative; a single
imprudent measure might be fatal in such exigencies. And this accounts
for the vacillating policy of Elizabeth, so often condemned by
historians. It did not proceed from weakness of head, but from real
necessity occasioned by constant embarrassments and changing
circumstances. According to all the canons of expediency, it was the
sign of a sagacious ruler to temporize and promise and deceive in that
sad perplexity. Governments, thus far in the history of nations, have
been carried on upon different principles from those that bind the
conduct of individuals, especially when the weak contend against the
strong. This, abstractly, is not to be defended. Governments and
individuals alike are bound by the same laws of immutable morality in
their general relations; but the rules of war are different from the
rules of peace. Governments are expediencies to suit peculiar crises and
exigencies. A man assaulted by robbers would be a fool to fall back on
the passive virtues of non-resistance.

Elizabeth had to deal both with religious bigots and unscrupulous kings.
We may be disgusted with the course she felt it politic to pursue, but
it proved successful. A more generous and open course might have
precipitated an attack when she was unprepared and defenceless. Her
dalliances and expediencies and dissimulations delayed the evil day,
until she was ready for the death-struggle; and when the tempest of
angry human forces finally broke upon her defenceless head, she was
saved only by a storm of wind and rain which Providence kindly and
opportunely sent. Had the "Invincible Armada" been permitted to invade
England at the beginning of her reign, there would probably have been
another Spanish conquest. What chance would the untrained militia of a
scattered population, without fortresses or walled cities or military
leaders of skill, have had against the veteran soldiers who were
marshalled under Philip II., with all the experiences learned in the
wars of Charles V. and in the conquest of Peru and Mexico, aided, too,
by the forces of France and the terrors of the Vatican and the money of
the Flemish manufacturers? It was the dictate of self-preservation which
induced Elizabeth to prevaricate, and to deceive the powerful monarchs
who were in league against her. If ever lying and cheating were
justifiable, they were then; if political jesuitism is ever defensible,
it was in the sixteenth century. So that I cannot be hard on the
embarrassed Queen for a policy which on the strict principles of
morality it would be difficult to defend. It was a dark age of
conspiracies, rebellions, and cabals. In dealing with the complicated
relations of government in that day, there were no recognized principles
but those of expediency. Even in our own times, expediency rather than
right too often seems to guide nations. It is not just and fair,
therefore, to expect from a sovereign, in Queen Elizabeth's time, that
openness and fairness which are the result only of a higher national
civilization. What would be blots on government to-day were not deemed
blots in the sixteenth century. Elizabeth must be judged by the standard
of her age, not of ours, in her official and public acts.

We must remember, also, that this great Queen was indorsed, supported,
and even instructed by the ablest and wisest and most patriotic
statesmen that were known to her generation. Lord Burleigh, her prime
minister, was a marvel of political insight, industry, and fidelity. If
he had not the commanding genius of Thomas Cromwell or the ambitious
foresight of Richelieu, he surpassed the statesmen of his day in
patriotic zeal and in disinterested labors,--not to extend the
boundaries of the empire, but to develop national resources and make the
country strong for defence. He was a plodding, wary, cautious,
far-seeing, long-headed old statesman, whose opinions it was not safe
for Elizabeth to oppose; and although she was arbitrary and opinionated
herself, she generally followed Burleigh's counsels,--unwillingly at
times, but firmly when she perceived the necessity; for she was, with
all her pertinacity, open to conviction of reason. I cannot deny that
she sometimes headed off her prime-minister and deceived him, and
otherwise complicated the difficulties that beset her reign; but this
was only when she felt a strong personal repugnance to the state
measures which he found it imperative to pursue. After all, Elizabeth
was a woman, and the woman was not utterly lost in the Queen. It is
greatly to her credit, however, that she retained the services of this
old statesman for forty years, and that she filled the great offices in
the State and Church with men of experience, genius, and wisdom. She
made Parker the Archbishop of Canterbury,--a man of remarkable
moderation and breadth of mind, whose reforms were carried on without
exciting hostilities, and have survived the fanaticisms and hostile
attacks of generations. Walsingham, her ambassador at Paris, and
afterwards her secretary of state, ferreted out the plots of the Jesuits
and the intrigues of hostile courts, and rendered priceless service by
his acuteness and diligence. Lord Effingham, one of the Howards,
defeated the "Invincible Armada." Sir Thomas Gresham managed her
finances so ably that she was never without money. Coke was her
attorney. Sir Nicholas Bacon--the ablest lawyer in the realm, and a
stanch Protestant--was her lord-keeper; while his illustrious son, the
immortal Francis Bacon, though not adequately rewarded, was always
consulted by the Queen in great legal difficulties. I say nothing of
those elegant and gallant men who were the ornaments of her court, and
in some instances the generals of her armies and admirals of her
navies,--Sackville, Raleigh, Sidney, not to mention Essex and
Leicester, all of whom were distinguished for talents and services; men
who had no equals in their respective provinces; so gifted that it is
difficult to determine whether the greatness of her reign was more owing
to the talents of the ministers or to the wisdom of the Queen herself.
Unless she had been a great woman, I doubt whether she would have
discerned the merits of these men, and employed them in her service and
kept them so long in office.

It was by these great men that Elizabeth was ruled,--so far as she was
ruled at all,--not by favorites, like her successors, James and Charles.
The favorites at the court of Elizabeth were rarely trusted with great
powers unless they were men of signal abilities, and regarded as such by
the nation itself. While she lavished favors upon them,--sometimes to
the disgust of the old nobility,--she was never ruled by them, as James
was by Buckingham, and Louis XV. by Madame de Pompadour. Elizabeth was
not above coquetry, it is true; but after toying with Leicester and
Raleigh,--never, though, to the serious injury of her reputation as a
woman,--she would retire to the cabinet of her ministers and yield to
the sage suggestions of Burleigh and Walsingham. At her council-board
she was an entirely different woman from what she was among her
courtiers: _there_ she would tolerate no flattery, and was controlled
only by reason and good sense,--as practical as Burleigh himself, and
as hard-working and business-like; cold, intellectual, and clear-headed,
utterly without enthusiasm.

Perhaps the greatest service which Elizabeth rendered to the English
nation and the cause of civilization was her success in establishing
Protestantism as the religion of the land, against so many threatening
obstacles. In this she was aided and directed by some of the most
enlightened divines that England ever had. The liturgy of Cranmer was
re-established, preferments were conferred on married priests, the
learned and pious were raised to honor, eminent scholars and theologians
were invited to England, the Bible was revised and freely circulated,
and an alliance was formed between learning and religion by the great
men who adorned the universities. Though inclined to ritualism,
Elizabeth was broad and even moderate in reform, desiring, according to
the testimony of Bacon, that all extremes of idolatry and superstition
should be avoided on the one hand, and levity and contempt on the other;
that all Church matters should be examined without sophistical niceties
or subtle speculations.

The basis of the English Church as thus established by Elizabeth was
half-way between Rome and Geneva,--a compromise, I admit; but all
established institutions and governments accepted by the people are
based on compromise. How can there be even family government without
some compromise, inasmuch as husband and wife cannot always be expected
to think exactly alike?

At any rate, the Church established by Elizabeth was signally adapted to
the wants and genius of the English people,--evangelical, on the whole,
in its creed, though not Calvinistic; unobtrusive in its forms, easy in
its discipline, and aristocratic in its government; subservient to
bishops, but really governed by the enlightened few who really govern
all churches, Independent, Presbyterian, or Methodist; supported by the
State, yet wielding only spiritual authority; giving its influence to
uphold the crown and the established institutions of the country;
conservative, yet earnestly Protestant. In the sixteenth century it was
the Church of reform, of progress, of advancing and liberalizing
thought. Elizabeth herself was a zealous Protestant, protecting the
cause whenever it was persecuted, encouraging Huguenots, and not
disdaining the Presbyterians of Scotland. She was not as generous to the
Protestants of Holland and Trance as we could have wished, for she was
obliged to husband her resources, and hence she often seemed
parsimonious; but she was the acknowledged head of the reform movement
in Europe. Her hostility to Rome and Roman influence was inexorable. She
may not have carried reforms as far as the Puritans desired, and who
can wonder at that? Their spirit was aggressive, revolutionary, bitter,
and, pushed to its logical sequences, was hostility to the throne
itself, as proved by their whole subsequent history until Cromwell was
dead. And this hostility Burleigh perceived as well as the Queen, which,
doubtless led to severities that our age cannot pretend to justify.

The Queen did dislike and persecute the Puritans, not, I think, so much
because they made war on the surplice, liturgy, and divine right of
bishops, as because they were at heart opposed to all absolute authority
both in State and Church, and when goaded by persecution would hurl even
kings from their thrones. It is to be regretted that Elizabeth was so
severe on those who differed from her; she had no right to insist on
uniformity with her conscience in those matters which are above any
human authority. The Reformation in its severest logical consequences,
in its grandest deductions, affirms the right of private judgment as the
mighty pillar of its support. All parties, Presbyterian as well as
Episcopalian, sought uniformity; they only differed as to its standard.
With the Queen and ministers and prelates it was the laws of the land;
with the Puritans, the decrees of provincial and national synods. Hence,
if Elizabeth insisted that her subjects should conform to her notions
and the ordinances of Parliament and convocations, she showed a spirit
which was universal. She was superior even in toleration to all
contemporaneous sovereigns, Catholic or Protestant, man or woman.
Contrast her persecutions of Catholics and Puritans with the persecution
by Catherine de Médicis and Charles IX. and Philip II. and Ferdinand
II.; or even with that under the Regent Murray of Scotland, when
churches and abbeys were ruthlessly destroyed. Contrast her Archbishop
of Canterbury with the religious dictator of Scotland. She kindled no
_auto-da-fé,_ like the Spaniards; she incited no wholesale massacre,
like the demented fury of France; she had a loving care of her subjects
that no religious bigotry could suppress. She did not seek to
exterminate Catholics or Puritans, but simply to build up the Church of
England as the shield and defence and enlargement of Protestantism in
times of unmitigated religious ferocity,--a Protestantism that has
proved the bulwark of European liberties, as it was the foundation of
all progress in England. In giving an impulse to this great emancipating
movement, even if she did not push it to its remote logical end,
Elizabeth was a benefactor of her country and of mankind, and is not
unjustly called a nursing-mother of the Church,--being so regarded by
Protestants, not in England merely, but on the Continent of Europe. When
was ever a religious revolution effected, or a national church
established, with so little bloodshed? When have ever such great changes
proved so popular and so beneficial, and, I may add, so permanent? After
all the revolutions in English thought and life for three hundred years,
the Church as established by Elizabeth is still dear to the great body
of English people, and has survived every agitation. And even many
things which the Puritans sought to sweep away--the music of the choir,
organs, and chants, even the holidays of venerated ages--are now revived
by the descendants of the Puritans with ancient ardor; showing how
permanent are such festivals as Christmas and Easter in the heart of
Christendom, and how hopeless it is to eradicate what the Church and
Christianity, from their earliest ages, have sanctioned and commended.

The next great service which Elizabeth rendered to England was a
development of its resources,--ever a primal effort with wise statesmen,
with such administrators as Sully, Colbert, Richelieu. The policy of her
Government was not the policy of aggrandizement in war, which has ever
provoked jealousies and hatreds in other nations, and led to dangerous
combinations, and sowed the seed of future wars. The policy of Napoleon
was retaliated in the conquests of Prussia in our day; and the policy of
Prussia may yet lead to its future dismemberment, in spite of the
imperial realm shaped by Bismarck. "With what measure ye mete, it shall
be measured to you again,"--an eternal law, binding both individuals and
nations, from which there is no escape. The government of Elizabeth did
not desire or aim at foreign conquests,--the great error of European
statesmen on the Continent; it sought the establishment of the monarchy
at home, and the development of the various industries of the nation,
since in these industries are both power and wealth. Commerce was
encouraged, and she girt her island around with those "wooden walls"
which have proved England's impregnable defence against every subsequent
combination of tyrants and conquerors. The East India Company was
formed, and the fisheries of Newfoundland established. It was under
Elizabeth's auspices that Frobisher penetrated to the Polar Sea, that
Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe, that Sir Walter Raleigh
colonized Virginia, and that Sir Humphrey Gilbert attempted to discover
'a northwestern passage to India. Manufactories were set up for serges,
so that wool was no longer exported, but the raw material was consumed
at home. A colony of Flemish weavers was planted in the heart of
England. The prosperity of dyers and cloth-dressers and weavers dates
from this reign, although some attempts at manufactures were made in the
reign of Edward III. A refuge was given to persecuted foreigners, and
work was found for them to do. Pasture-land was converted to
tillage,--not, as is now the case, to parks for the wealthy classes.
Labor was made respectable, and enterprise of all kinds was stimulated.
Wealth was sought in industry and economy, rather than in mines of gold
and silver; so that wealth was doubled during this reign, and the
population increased from four millions to six millions. All the old
debts of the Crown were paid, both principal and interest, and the
debased coin was called in at a great sacrifice to the royal revenue.
The arbitrary management of commerce by foreign merchants was broken up,
and weights and measures were duly regulated. The Queen did not revoke
monopolies, it is true; the principles of political economy were not
then sufficiently understood. But even monopolies, which disgraced the
old Roman world, and are a disgrace to any age, were not so gigantic and
demoralizing in those times as in our own, under our free institutions;
they were not used to corrupt legislation and bribe judges and prevent
justice, but simply to enrich politicians and favorites, and as a reward
for distinguished services.

Justice in the courts was impartially administered; there was security
to property and punishment for crime. No great culprits escaped
conviction; nor, when convicted, were they allowed to purchase, with
their stolen wealth, the immunities of freedom. The laws were not a
mockery, as in republican Borne, where demagogues had the ascendency,
and prepared the way for usurpation and tyranny. All the expenses of the
government were managed economically,--so much so that the Queen herself
received from Parliament, for forty years, only an average grant of
£65,000 a year. She disliked to ask money from the Commons, and they
granted subsidies with extreme reluctance; the result was that between
the two the greatest economy was practised, and the people were not
over-burdened by taxation.

Elizabeth hated and detested war as the source of all calamities, and
never embarked upon it except under compulsion. All her wars were
virtually defensive, to maintain the honor, safety, and dignity of the
nation. She did not even seek to recover Calais, which the French had
held for three hundred years; although she took Havre, to gain a
temporary foothold for her troops. She did not strive for military
_éclat_ or foreign possessions in Europe, feeling that the strength of
England, like the ancient Jewish commonwealth, was in the cultivation of
the peaceful virtues; and yet she made war when it became imperative.
She gave free audience to her subjects, paid attention to all petitions,
and was indefatigable in business. She made her own glory identical with
the prosperity of the realm; and if she did not rule _by_ the people,
she ruled _for_ the people, as enlightened and patriotic monarchs ever
have ruled. It is indisputable that the whole nation loved her and
honored her to the last, even when disappointments had saddened her and
the intoxicating delusions of life had been dispelled. She bestowed
honors and benefits with frankness and cordiality. She ever sought to
base her authority on the affections of the people,--the only support
even of absolute thrones. She was ever ready with a witticism, a smile,
and a pleasant word. Though she gave vent to peevishness and
irritability when crossed, and even would swear before her ministers and
courtiers in private, yet in public she disguised her resentments, and
always appeared dignified and graceful; so that the people, when they
saw her majestic manners, or heard her loving speeches, or beheld her
mounted at the head of armies or shining unrivalled in grand festivals,
or listened to her learning on public occasions,--such as when she
extemporized Latin orations at Oxford,--were filled with pride and
admiration, and were ready to expose their lives in her service.

The characteristic excellence of Elizabeth's reign, as it seems to me,
was good government. She had extraordinary executive ability, directed
to all matters of public interest. Her government was not marked by
great and brilliant achievements, but by perpetual vigilance, humanity,
economy, and liberal policy. There were no destructive and wasting
wars, no passion for military glory, no successions of court follies, no
extravagance in palace-building, no egotistical aims and pleasures such
as marked the reign of Louis XIV., which cut the sinews of national
strength, impoverished the nobility, disheartened the people, and sowed
the seeds of future revolution. That modern Nebuchadnezzar spent on one
palace £40,000,000; while Elizabeth spent on all her palaces,
processions, journeys, carriages, servants, and dresses £65,000 a year.
She was indeed fond of visiting her subjects, and perhaps subjected her
nobles to a burdensome hospitality. But the Earl of Leicester could well
afford three hundred and sixty-five hogsheads of beer when he
entertained the Queen at Kenilworth, since he was rich enough to fortify
his castle with ten thousand men; nor was it difficult for the Earl of
Derby to feast the royal party, when his domestic servants numbered two
hundred and forty. She may have exacted presents on her birthday; but
the courtiers who gave her laces and ruffs and jewelry received
monopolies in return.

The most common charge against Elizabeth as a sovereign is, that she was
arbitrary and tyrannical; nor can she be wholly exculpated from this
charge. Her reign was despotic, so far as the Constitution would allow;
but it was a despotism according to the laws. Under her reign the people
had as much liberty as at any preceding period of English history. She
did not encroach on the Constitution. The Constitution and the
precedents of the past gave her the Star Chamber, and the High
Commission Court, and the disposal of monopolies, and the absolute
command of the military and naval forces; but these great prerogatives
she did not abuse. In her direst necessities she never went beyond the
laws, and seldom beyond the wishes of the people.

It is expecting too much of sovereigns to abdicate their own powers
except upon compulsion; and still more, to increase the political power
of the people. The most illustrious sovereigns have never parted
willingly with their own prerogatives. Did the Antonines, or Theodosius,
or Charlemagne, or 'Frederic II.? The Emperor of Russia may emancipate
serfs from a dictate of humanity, but he did not give them political
power, for fear that it might be turned against the throne. The
sovereign people of America may give political equality to their old
slaves, and invite them to share in the legislation of great interests:
it is in accordance with that theory of abstract rights which Rousseau,
the creator of the French Revolution, propounded,--which gospel of
rights was accepted by Jefferson and Franklin, The monarchs of the world
have their own opinions about the political rights of those whom they
deem ignorant or inexperienced. Instead of proceeding to enlarge the
bounds of popular liberties, they prefer to fall back on established
duties. Elizabeth had this preference; but she did not attempt to take
away what liberties the people already had. In encouraging the
principles of the Reformation, she became their protector against
Catholic priests and feudal nobles.

It is not quite just to stigmatize the government of Elizabeth as a
despotism, A despotism is a régime supported by military force, based on
an army, with power to tax the people without their consent,--like the
old rule of the Caesars, like that of Louis XIV. and Peter the Great,
and even of Napoleon. Now, Elizabeth never had a standing army of any
size. When the country was threatened by Spain, she threw herself into
the arms of the militia,--upon the patriotism and generosity of her
people. Nor could she tax the people without the consent of
Parliament,--which by a fiction was supposed to represent the people,
while in reality it only represented the wealthy classes. Parliament
possessed the power to cripple her, and was far less generous to her
than it was to Queen Victoria. She was headed off both by the nobles and
by the representatives of the wealthy, powerful, and aristocratic
Commons. She had great prerogatives and great private wealth, palaces,
parks, and arbitrary courts; but she could not go against the laws of
the realm without endangering her throne,--which she was wise enough
and strong enough to keep, in spite of all her enemies both at home and
abroad. Had she been a man, she might have turned out a tyrant and a
usurper: she might have increased the royal prerogatives, like
Richelieu; she might have made wars, like Louis XIV.; she might have
ground down the people, like her successor James. But she understood the
limits of her power, and did not seek to go beyond: thereby proving
herself as wise as she was mighty.

By most historical writers Elizabeth is severely censured for the
execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and I think with justice. I am not
making a special plea in favor of Elizabeth,--hiding her defects and
exaggerating her virtues,--but simply seeking to present her character
and deeds according to the verdict of enlightened ages. It was a cruel
and repulsive act to take away the life of a relative and a woman and a
queen, under any pretence whatever, unless the sparing of her life would
endanger the security of the sovereign and the peace of the realm. Mary
was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, and was
the lawful successor of Mary, the eldest daughter of Henry VIII. On the
principle of legitimacy, she had a title to the throne superior to
Elizabeth herself, and the succession of princes has ever been
determined by this. But Mary was a Catholic, to say nothing of her
levities or crimes, and had been excluded by the nation for that very
reason. If there was injustice done to her, it was in not allowing her
claim to succeed Mary. That she felt that Elizabeth was a usurper, and
that the English throne belonged by right to her, I do not doubt. It was
natural that she should seek to regain her rights. If she should survive
Elizabeth, her claims as the rightful successor could not be well set
aside. That in view of these facts Elizabeth was jealous of Mary I do
not doubt; and that this jealousy was one great cause of her hostility
is probable.

The execution of Mary Stuart because she was a Catholic, or because she
excited fear or jealousy, is utterly indefensible. All that the English
nation had a right to do was to set her succession aside because she was
a Catholic, and would undo the work of the Reformation. She had a right
to her religion; and the nation also had a right to prevent its religion
from being overturned or jeopardized. I do not believe, however, that
Mary's life endangered either the throne or the religion of England, so
long as she was merely Queen of Scotland; hence I look upon her
captivity as cruel, and her death as a crime. She was destroyed as the
male children of the Hebrews were destroyed by Pharaoh, as a sultan
murders his nephews,--from fear; from a cold and cruel state policy,
against all the higher laws of morality.

The crime of Elizabeth doubtless has palliations. She was urged by her
ministers and by the Protestant part of the nation to commit this great
wrong, on the plea of necessity, to secure the throne against a Catholic
successor, and the nation from embarrassments, plots, and rebellions. It
is an undoubted fact that Mary, even after her imprisonment in England,
was engaged in perpetual intrigues; that she was leagued with Jesuits
and hostile powers, and kept Elizabeth in continual irritation and the
nation in constant alarm. And it is probable that had she succeeded
Elizabeth, she would have destroyed all that was dear to the English
heart,--that glorious Reformation, effected by so many labors and
sacrifices. Therefore she was immolated to the spirit of the times, for
reasons of expediency and apparent state necessity. That she conspired
against the government of Elizabeth, and possibly against her life, was
generally supposed; that she was a bitter enemy cannot be questioned.
How far Elizabeth can be exculpated on the principle of self-defence
cannot well be ascertained. Scotch historians do not generally accept
the reputed facts of Mary's guilt. But if she sought the life of
Elizabeth, and was likely to attain so bloody an end,--as was generally
feared,--then Elizabeth has great excuses for having sanctioned the
death of her rival.

So the beautiful and interesting Mary dies a martyr to her cause,--a
victim of royal and national jealousy, paying the penalty for alleged
crimes against the state and throne. Had Elizabeth herself, during the
life of her sister Mary, been guilty of half they proved against the
Queen of Scots, she would have been most summarily executed. But
Elizabeth was wise and prudent, and waited for her time. Mary Stuart was
imprudent and rash. Her character, in spite of her fascinations and
accomplishments, was full of follies, infidelities, and duplicities. She
is supposed to have been an adulteress and a murderess. She was
unfortunate in her administration of Scotland. She was ruled by wicked
favorites and foreign influence. She was not patriotic, or lofty, or
earnest. She did what she could to root out Protestantism in Scotland,
and kept her own realm in constant trouble. She had winning manners and
graceful accomplishments; she was doubtless an intellectual woman; she
had courage, presence of mind, tact, intelligence; she could ride and
dance well: but with these accomplishments she had qualities which made
her dangerous and odious. If she had not been executed, she would have
been execrated. But her sufferings and unfortunate death appeal to the
heart of the world, and I would not fight against popular affections and
sympathies. Though she committed great crimes and follies, and was
supposed to be dangerous to the religion and liberties of England, she
died a martyr,--as Charles I. died, and Louis XVI.,--the victim of great
necessities and great animosities.

The execution of Essex is another of the popular rather than serious
charges against Elizabeth. He had been her favorite; he was a generous,
gifted, and accomplished man,--therefore, it is argued, he ought to have
been spared. But he was caught with arms in his hands. He was a traitor
to the throne which enriched him and the nation which flattered him. He
was at the head of foolish rebellion, and therefore he died,--died like
Montmorency in the reign of Henry IV., like Bassompierre, like Norfolk
and Northumberland, because he had committed high-treason and defied the
laws. Why should Elizabeth spare such a culprit? No former friendship,
no chivalrous qualities, no array of past services, ever can offset the
crime of treason and rebellion, especially in unsettled times; and
Elizabeth would have been worse than weak had she spared so great a
criminal, both according to the laws and precedents of England and the
verdict of enlightened civilization. We may compassionate the fate of
Essex; but he was rash, giddy, and irritated, and we feel that he
deserved his punishment.

The other charges brought against Elizabeth pertain to her as a woman
rather than a sovereign. They say that she was artful, dissembling,
parsimonious, jealous, haughty, and masculine. Very likely,--and what
then? Who claimed that she was perfect, any more than other great
sovereigns whom on the whole we praise? These faults, too, may have been
the result of her circumstances, rather than native traits of character.
Surrounded with spies and enemies, she was obliged to hide her thoughts
and her plans. Irritated by treason and rebellions, she may have given
vent to unseemly anger. Flattered beyond all example, she may have been
vain and ostentatious. Possessed of great powers, she may have been
arbitrary. Crippled by Parliament, she may have nursed her resources.
Compelled to give to everything, she may have been parsimonious.
Slandered by her enemies, she may have been resentful. Annoyed by
wrangling sects, she may have too strenuously paraded her high-church

But all these things we lose sight of in the undoubted virtues,
abilities, and services of this great Queen. Historians have other work
than to pick out spots on the sun. The dark spot, if there is one upon
Elizabeth's character, was her coquetry in private life. It is
impossible to tell whether or not she exceeded the bounds of womanly
virtue. She was probably slandered and vilified by treacherous,
gossiping ambassadors, who were foes to her person and her kingdom, and
who made as ugly reports of her as possible to their royal masters. I am
sorry that these malicious accusations have been raked out of the ashes
of the past by modern historians, whose literary fame rests on bringing
to light what is _new_ rather than what is _true_. The character of a
woman and a queen so admired and honored in her day, should be sacred
from the stings of sensational writers who poison their darts from the
archives of bitter foreign enemies.

The gallant men of genius whom Elizabeth admired and honored--as a
bright and intellectual woman naturally would, especially when deprived
of the felicities of wedded life--never presumed, I have charity to
believe, beyond an undignified partiality and an admiring friendship.
When Essex stood highest in her favor, she was nearly seventy years of
age. There are no undoubted facts which criminate her,--nothing but
gossip and the malice of foreign spies. What a contrast her private life
was to that of her mother Anne Boleyn, or to that of Mary, Queen of
Scots, or even to that of the great Catherine of Russia! She had,
indeed, great foibles and weaknesses. She was inordinately fond of
dress; she was sensitive to her own good looks; she was jealous of
pretty women; she was vain, and susceptible to flattery; she was
irritable when crossed; she gave way to sallies of petulance and anger;
she occasionally used language unbecoming her station and authority; she
could dissimulate and hide her thoughts: but her nature was not
hypocritical, or false, or mean. She was just, honest, and
straightforward in her ordinary dealings; she was patriotic,
enlightened, and magnanimous; she loved learning and learned men; she
had at heart the best interests of her subjects; she was true to her
cause. Surely these great virtues, which it is universally admitted she
possessed, should more than balance her defects and weaknesses. See how
tender-hearted she was when required to sign death-warrants, and what
grief she manifested when Essex proved unworthy of her friendship! See
her love of children, her readiness of sympathy, her fondness for
society,--all feminine qualities in a woman who is stigmatized as
masculine, as she perhaps was in her mental structure, in her habits of
command, and aptitude for business: a strong-minded woman at the worst,
yet such a woman as was needed on a throne, especially in stormy times
and in a rude state of society.

And when we pass from her private character to her public services, by
which the great are judged, how exalted her claims to the world's
regard! Where do we find a greater or a better queen? Contrast her with
other female sovereigns,--with Isabella, who with all her virtues
favored the Inquisition; with her sister Mary, who kindled the fires of
Smithfield; with Catherine de Médicis, who sounded the tocsin of St.
Bartholomew; with Mary of Scotland, who was a partner in the murder of
her husband; with Anne of Austria, who ruled through Italian favorites;
with Christiana of Sweden, who scandalized Europe by her indecent
eccentricities; with Anne of Great Britain, ruled by the Duchess of
Marlborough. There are only two great sovereigns with whom she can be
compared,--Catherine II. of Russia, and Maria Theresa of Germany,
illustrious, like Elizabeth, for courage and ability. But Catherine was
the slave of infamous passions, and Maria Theresa was a party to the
partition of Poland. Compared with these even, the English queen appears
immeasurably superior; they may have wielded more power, but their moral
influence was less. It is not the greatness of a country which gives
greatness to its exalted characters. Washington ruled our empire in its
infancy; and Buchanan, with all its majestic resources,--yet who is
dearest to the heart of the world? No countries ever produced greater
benefactors than Palestine and Greece, when their limits were scarcely
equal to one of our States. The fame of Burleigh burns brighter than
that of the most powerful of modern statesmen. The names of Alexander
Hamilton and Daniel Webster may outshine the glories of any statesmen
who shall arise in this great country for a hundred years to come.
Elizabeth ruled a little island; but her memory and deeds are as
immortal as the fame of Pericles or Marcus Aurelius.

And the fame of England's great queen rests on the influence which
radiated from her character, as well as upon the power she wielded with
so much wisdom and ability. Influence is greater than power in the lapse
of ages. Politicians may wield power for a time; but the great
statesmen, like Burke and Canning, live in their ideas. Warriors and
kings, and ministers of kings, have power; but poets and philosophers
have influence, for their ideas go coursing round the world until they
have changed governments and institutions for better or for worse,--like
those of Paul, of Socrates, of Augustine, of Dante, of Shakspeare, of
Bacon, yea, of Rousseau. Some few favored rulers and leaders of men have
had both power and influence, like Moses, Alfred, and Washington; and
Elizabeth belongs to this class. Her influence was for good, and it
permeated English life and society, like that of Victoria, whose power
was small.

As a queen, however, more than a woman, Elizabeth is one of the great
names of history. I have some respect for the critical verdict of
Francis Bacon, the greatest man of his age,--if we except
Shakspeare,--and one of the greatest men in the history of all nations.
What does he say? He knew her well, perhaps as well as any modern
historian. He says:--

"She was a princess, that, if Plutarch were now alive to write by
parables, it would puzzle him to find her equal among women. She was
endowed with learning most singular and rare; and as for her government,
I do affirm that England never had forty-five years of better times, and
this, not through the calmness of the season, but the wisdom of her
regimes. When we consider the establishment of religion, and the
constant peace of the country, the good administration of justice, the
flourishing state of learning, the increase of wealth, and the general
prosperity, amid differences in religion, the troubles of neighboring
nations, the ambition of Spain, and the opposition of Home, I could not
have chosen a more remarkable combination of learning in the prince with
felicity of the people."

I can add nothing to this comprehensive verdict: it covers the whole
ground. So that for virtues and abilities, in spite of all defects, I
challenge attention to this virgin queen. I love to dwell on her
courage, her fortitude, her prudence, her wisdom, her patriotism, her
magnanimity, her executive ability, and, more, on the exalted services
she rendered to her country and to civilization. These invest her name
with a halo of glory which shall blaze through all the ages, even as the
great men who surrounded her throne have made her name illustrious.

The Elizabethan era is justly regarded as the brightest in English
history; not for the number of its great men, or the magnificence of its
great enterprises, or the triumphs of its great discoveries and
inventions, but because there were then born the great ideas which
constitute the strength and beauty of our proud civilization, and
because then the grandest questions which pertain to religion,
government, literature, and social life were first agitated, with the
freshness and earnestness of a revolutionary age. The men of that period
were a constellation of original thinkers. We still point with
admiration to the political wisdom of Cecil, to the sagacity of
Walsingham, to the varied accomplishments of Raleigh, to the chivalrous
graces of Sidney, to the bravery of Hawkins and Nottingham, to the bold
enterprises of Drake and Frobisher, to the mercantile integrity and
financial skill of Gresham, to the comprehensive intellect of Parker, to
the scholarship of Ascham, to the eloquence of Jewel, to the profundity
of Hooker, to the vast attainments and original genius of Bacon, to the
rich fancy of Spenser, to the almost inspired insight of Shakspeare,
towering above all the poets of ancient and of modern times, as fresh
to-day as he was three hundred years ago, the greatest miracle of
intellect that perhaps has ever adorned the world. By all these
illustrious men Queen Elizabeth was honored and beloved. All received no
small share of their renown from her glorious appreciation; all were
proud to revolve around her as a central sun, giving life and growth to
every great enterprise in her day, and shedding a light which shall
gladden unborn generations.

It is something that a woman has earned such a fame, and in a sphere
which has been supposed to belong to man alone. And if men shall here
and there be found to decry her greatness, let no woman be found who
shall seek to dethrone her from her lofty pedestal; for in so doing she
unwittingly becomes a detractor from that womanly greatness in which we
should all rejoice, and which thus far has so seldom been seen in
exalted stations. For my part, the more I study history the more I
reverence this great sovereign; and I am proud that such a woman has
lived and reigned and died in honor.


Fronde's History of England; Hume's History of England; Agnes
Strickland's Queens of England; Mrs. Jameson's Memoirs of Queen
Elizabeth; E. Lodge's Sketch of Elizabeth; G.P.R. James's Memoir of
Elizabeth; Encyclopaedia Britannica, article on England: Hallam's
Constitutional History of England; "Age of Elizabeth," in Dublin Review,
lxxxi.; British Quarterly Review, v. 412; Aikin's Court of Elizabeth;
Bentley's Elizabeth and her Times; "Court of Elizabeth," in Westminster
Review, xxix. 281; "Character of Elizabeth," in Dublin University
Review, xl. 216; "England of Elizabeth," in Edinburgh Review, cxlvi.
199; "Favorites of Queen Elizabeth," in Quarterly Review, xcv. 207;
Reign of Elizabeth, in London Quarterly Review, xxii. 158; "Youth of
Elizabeth," in Temple Bar Magazine, lix. 451, and "Elizabeth and Mary
Stuart," x. 190; Blackwood's Magazine, ci. 389.


A. D. 1553-1610.


In this lecture I shall confine myself principally to the connection of
Henry IV. with that memorable movement which came near making France a
Protestant country. He is identified with the Huguenots, and it is the
struggles of the Huguenots which I wish chiefly to present. I know he
was also a great king, the first of the Bourbon dynasty, whose heroism
in war was equalled only by his enlightened zeal in the civilization of
France,--a king who more deeply impressed himself upon the affections of
the nation than any monarch since Saint Louis, and who, had he lived to
execute his schemes, would have raised France to the highest pitch of
glory. Nor do I forget, that, although he fought for a great cause, and
reigned with great wisdom and ability, and thus rendered important
services to his country, he was a man of great defects of character,
stained with those peculiar vices which disgraced most of the Bourbon
kings, especially Louis XIV. and Louis XV.; that his court was the
scene of female gallantries and intrigues, and that he was more under
the influence of women than was good for the welfare of his country or
his own reputation. But the limits of this lecture will not permit me to
dwell on his acts as a monarch, or on his statesmanship, his services,
or his personal defects of character. I am obliged, from the magnitude
of my subject, and from the necessity of giving it unity and interest,
to confine myself to him as a leader of the Huguenots alone. It is not
Henry himself that I would consider, so much as the struggles of the
brave men associated with him, more or less intimately, in their attempt
to secure religious liberty in the sixteenth century.

The sixteenth century! What a great era that was In comparison with the
preceding centuries since Christianity was declared! From a religious
and heroic point of view it was immeasurably a greater period than the
nineteenth century, which has been marked chiefly for the triumphs of
science, material progress, and social and political reforms. But in
earnestness, in moral grandeur, and in discussions which pertain to the
health and life of nations, the sixteenth century was greater than our
own. Then began all sorts of inquiries about Nature and about mind,
about revelation and Providence, about liberty of worship and freedom of
thought; all of which were discussed with an enthusiasm and patience
and boldness and originality to which our own times furnish no parallel.
And united with this fresh and original agitation of great ideas was a
heroism in action which no age of the world has equalled. Men risked
their fortunes and their lives in defence of those principles which have
made the enjoyment of them in our times the greatest blessing we
possess. It was a new spirit that had arisen in our world to break the
fetters which centuries of fraud and superstition and injustice had
forged,--a spirit scornful of old authorities, yet not sceptical, with
disgust of the past and hope for the future, penetrating even the
hamlets of the poor, and kindling the enthusiasm of princes and nobles,
producing learned men in every country of Europe, whose original
investigations should put to the blush the commentators and compilers of
this age of religious mediocrity and disguised infidelity. Such
intellectual giants in the field of religious inquiry had not appeared
since the Fathers of the Church combated the paganism of the Roman
world, and will not probably appear again until the cycle of changes is
completed in the domain of theological thought, and men are forced to
meet the enemies of divine revelation marshalled in such overwhelming
array that there will be a necessity for reformers, called out by a
special Providence to fight battles,--as I regard Luther and Calvin and
Knox. The great difference between the sixteenth and nineteenth
centuries, outside of material aspects, is that the former recognized
the majesty of God, and the latter the majesty of man. Both centuries
believed in progress; but the sixteenth century traced this progress to
first, and the nineteenth to second, causes. The sixteenth believed that
human improvement was owing directly to special divine grace, and the
nineteenth believes in the necessary development of mankind. The school
of the sixteenth century was spiritual, that of the nineteenth is
material; the former looked to heaven, the latter looks to earth. The
sixteenth regarded this world as a mere preparation for the next, and
the nineteenth looks upon this world as the future scene of indefinite
and completed bliss. The sixteenth century attacked the ancient, the
nineteenth attacks the eternal. The sixteenth destroyed, but
reconstructed; the nineteenth also destroys, but would substitute
nothing instead. The sixteenth reminds us of audacious youth, still
clinging to parental authority; the nineteenth reminds us of cynical and
irreverent old age, believing in nothing but the triumphs of science and
art, and shaking off the doctrines of the ages as exploded

The sixteenth century was marked not only by intensely earnest religious
inquiries, but by great civil and social disorders,--showing a
transition period of society from the slaveries and discomforts of the
feudal ages to the liberty and comforts of highly civilized life. In
the midst of religious enthusiasm we see tumults, insurrections,
terrible animosities, and cruel intolerance. War was associated with
inhuman atrocities, and the acceptance of the reformed faith was
followed by bitter and heartless persecution. The feudal system had
received a shock from standing armies and the invention of gunpowder and
the central authority of kings, but it was not demolished. The nobles
still continued to enjoy their social and political distinctions, the
peasantry were ground down by unequal laws, and the nobles were as
arrogant and quarrelsome as the people were oppressed by unjust
distinctions. They were still followed by their armed retainers, and had
almost unlimited jurisdiction in their respective governments. Even the
higher clergy gloried in feudal inequalities, and were selected from the
noble classes. The people were not powerful enough to make combinations
and extort their rights, unless they followed the standards of military
chieftains, arrayed perhaps against the crown and against the
parliaments. We see no popular, independent political movements; even
the people, like all classes above them, were firm and enthusiastic in
their religious convictions.

The commanding intellect at that time in Europe was John Calvin (a
Frenchman, but a citizen of Geneva), whom we have already seen to be a
man of marvellous precocity of genius and astonishing logical powers,
combined with the most exhaustive erudition on all theological subjects.
His admirers claim a distinct and logical connection between his
theology and civil liberty itself. I confess I cannot see this. There
was nothing democratic about Calvin. He ruled indeed at Geneva as
Savonarola did in Florence, but he did not have as liberal ideas as the
Florentine reformer about the political liberties of the people. He made
his faith the dearest thing a man could have, to be defended unto death
in the face of the most unrelenting persecution. It was the tenacity to
defend the reformed doctrines, of which, next to Luther, Calvin was the
greatest champion, which kindled opposition to civil rulers. And it was
opposition to civil rulers who proved themselves tyrants which led to
the struggle for civil liberty; not democratic ideas of right. These may
have been the sequence of agitations and wars, but not their animating
cause,--like the ideas of Rousseau on the French revolutionists. The
original Puritans were not democratic; the Presbyterians of Scotland
were not, even when Cromwell led the armies, but not the people, of
England. The Huguenots had no aspirations for civil rights; they only
aspired for the right of worshipping God according to the dictates of
conscience. There was nothing popular in their notions of government
when Henry IV. headed the forces of the Huguenots; he only aimed at the
recognition of religious rights. The Huguenots never rallied around
popular leaders, but rather under the standards of princes and nobles
fighting for the right of worshipping God according to the dictation or
ideas of Calvin. They would preserve their schools, their churches,
their consistories, and their synods; they would be unmolested in their
religious worship.

Now, at the time when Henry IV. was born, in the year 1553, when Henry
II. was King of France and Edward VI. was King of England, the ideas of
the Reformation, and especially the doctrines of Calvin, had taken a
deep and wide hold of the French people. The Calvinists, as they were
called, were a powerful party; in some parts of France they were in a
majority. More than a third of the whole population had enthusiastically
accepted the reformed doctrines. They were in a fair way toward triumph;
they had great leaders among the highest of the nobility. But they were
bitterly hated by the king and the princes of the house of Valois, and
especially by the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorraine,--the most
powerful famlies in France,--because they meditated to overturn, not the
throne, but the old established religion. The Pope instigated the most
violent proceedings; so did the King of Spain. It was resolved to
suppress the hated doctrines. The enemies of the Calvinists resorted to
intrigues and assassinations; they began a furious persecution, as they
held in their hands the chief political power. Injustice succeeded
injustice, and outrage followed outrage. During the whole reigns of the
Valois Princes, treachery, assassinations, and bloody executions marked
the history of France. Royal edicts forbid even the private assemblies
of the Huguenots, on pain of death. They were not merely persecuted but
calumniated. There was no crime which was not imputed to them, even that
of sacrificing little children; so that the passions of the people were
aroused against them, and they were so maltreated that all security was
at an end. From a condition of hopeful progress, they were forced back
and beaten down. Their condition became insupportable. There was no
alternative but desperate resistance or martyrdom, for the complete
suppression of Protestantism was resolved upon, on the part of the
government. The higher clergy, the parliaments, the University of Paris,
and the greater part of the old nobility supported the court, and each
successive Prince of the house of Valois adopted more rigorous measures
than his predecessor. Henry II. was more severe than Francis I.; and
Francis II. was more implacable than Henry II., who was killed at a
tournament in 1559. Francis II., a feeble prince, was completely ruled
by his mother, Catherine de Médicis, an incarnated fiend of cruelty and
treachery, though a woman of pleasing manners and graceful
accomplishments,--like Mary of Scotland, but without her levities. Under
her influence persecution assumed a form which was truly diabolical. The
Huguenots, although supported by the King of Navarre, the Prince of
Condé, Coligny (Admiral of France), his brother the Seigneur d' Andelot,
the Count of Montgomery, the Duke of Bouillon, the Duke of Soubise, all
of whom were nobles of high rank, were in danger of being absolutely
crushed, and were on the brink of despair. What if a third part of the
people belonged to their ranks, when the whole power of the crown and a
great majority of the nobles were against them; and these supported by
the Pope and clergy, and stimulated to ferocity by the Jesuits, then
becoming formidable?

At last the Huguenots resolved to organize and arm in their own defence,
for there is a time when submission ceases to be a virtue. If ever a
people had cause for resistance it was this persecuted people. They did
not rise up against their persecutors with the hope of overturning the
throne, or producing a change of dynasties, or gaining constitutional
liberty, or becoming a political power hostile to the crown, like the
Puritans under Cromwell or Hampden, but simply to preserve what to them
was more precious than life. All that they demanded was a toleration of
their religion; and as their religion was dearer to them than life, they
were ready to undergo any sacrifices. Their resistance was more
formidable than was anticipated; they got possession of cities and
fortresses, and were able to defy the whole power of the crown. It was
found impossible to suppress a people who fought with so much heroism,
and who defied every combination. So truces and treaties were made with
them, by which their religious rights were guaranteed. But these
treaties were perpetually broken, for treachery is no sin with religious
persecutors, since "the end justified the means."

This Huguenotic contest, attended with so much vicissitude, alternate
defeat and victory, and stained by horrid atrocities, was at its height
when Henry IV. was a boy, and had no thought of ever being King of
France. His father, Antoine de Bourbon, although King of Navarre and a
prince of the blood, being a lineal descendant from Saint Louis, was
really only a great noble, not so powerful as the Duke of Guise or the
Duke of Montmorency; and even he, a leader of the rebellion, was finally
won over to the court party by the seductions brought to bear on him by
Roman priests. He was either bribed or intimidated, and disgracefully
abjured the cause for which he at first gallantly fought. He died from a
wound he received at the siege of Rouen, while commanding one of the
armies of Charles IX., who succeeded his brother Francis II., in 1560.

The mother of the young prince, destined afterwards to be so famous,
was one of the most celebrated women of history,--Jeanne D'Albret, niece
of Francis L; a woman who was equally extolled by men of letters and
Calvinistic divines. She was as beautiful as she was good; at her castle
in Pau, the capital of her hereditary kingdom of Navarre, she diffused a
magnificent hospitality, especially to scholars and the lights of the
reformed doctrines. Her kingdom was small, and was politically
unimportant; but she was a sovereign princess nevertheless. The
management of the young prince, her son, was most admirable, but
unusual. He was delicate and sickly as an infant, and reared with
difficulty; but, though a prince, he was fed on the simplest food, and
exposed to hardships like the sons of peasants; he was allowed to run
bareheaded and barefooted, exposed to heat and rain, in order to
strengthen his constitution. Amid the hills at the base of the Pyrenees,
in the company of peasants' children, he thus acquired simple and
natural manners, and accustomed himself to fatigues and dangers. He was
educated in the reformed doctrines, but was more distinguished as a boy
for his chivalric graces, physical beauty, and manly sports than for
seriousness of character or a religious life. He grew up a Protestant,
from education rather than conviction. At twelve, in the year 1565, he
was intrusted by his mother, the Queen of Navarre, to the care of his
uncle, the Prince of Condé, and, on his death, to Admiral Coligny, the
acknowledged leader of the Protestants. He thus witnessed many bloody
battles before he was old enough to be intrusted with command. At
eighteen he was affianced to Marguerite de Valois, sister of Charles
IX., in spite of differences of religion.

It was amid the nuptial festivities of the young King of Navarre,--his
mother had died the year before,--when all the prominent leaders of the
Protestants were enticed to Paris, that preparations were made for the
blackest crime in the annals of civilized nations,--even the treacherous
and hideous massacre of St. Bartholomew, perpetrated by Charles IX., who
was incited to it by his mother, the ever-infamous Catherine de Médicis,
and the Duke of Guise.

The Protestants, under the Prince of Condé and Admiral Coligny, had
fought so bravely and so successfully in defence of their cause that all
hope of subduing them in the field was given up. The bloody battles of
Montcontour, of St. Denis, and of Jarnac had proved how stubbornly the
Huguenots would fight; while their possession of such strong fortresses
as Montauban and La Rochelle, deemed impregnable, showed that they could
not easily be subdued. Although the Prince of Condé had been slain at
the battle of Jarnac, this great misfortune to the Protestants was more
than balanced by the assassination of the great Duke of Guise, the
ablest general and leader of the Catholics. So when all hope had
vanished of exterminating the Huguenots in open warfare, a deceitful
peace was made; and their leaders were decoyed to Paris, in order to
accomplish, in one foul sweep, by wholesale murder, the
diabolical design.

The Huguenot leaders were completely deceived. Old Admiral Coligny, with
his deeper insight, hesitated to put himself into the power of a bigoted
and persecuting monarch; but Charles IX. pledged his word for his
safety, and in an age when chivalry was not extinguished, his promise
was accepted. Who could believe that his word of honor would be broken,
or that he, a king, could commit such an outrageous and unprecedented
crime? But what oath, what promise, what law can bind a man who is a
slave of religious bigotry, when his church requires a bloody and a
cruel act? The end seemed to justify any means. I would not fix the
stain of that infamous crime exclusively on the Jesuits, or on the Pope,
or on the councillors of the King, or on his mother. I will not say that
it was even exclusively a Church movement: it may have been equally an
apparent State necessity. A Protestant prince might mount the throne of
France, and with him, perhaps, the ascendency of Protestantism, or at
least its protection. Such a catastrophe, as it seemed to the
councillors of Charles IX., must somehow be averted. How could it be
averted otherwise than by the assassination of Henry himself, and his
cousin Condé, and the brave old admiral, as powerful as Guise, as
courageous as Du Gueslin, and as pious as Godfrey? And then, when these
leaders were removed, and all the Protestants in Paris were murdered,
who would remain to continue the contest, and what Protestant prince
could hope to mount the throne? But whoever was directly responsible for
the crime, and whatever may have been the motives for it, still it was
committed. The first victim was Coligny himself, and the slaughter of
sixty thousand persons followed in Paris and the provinces. The Admiral
Coligny, Marquis of Chatillon, was one of the finest characters in all
history,--brave, honest, truthful, sincere, with deep religious
convictions, and great ability as a general. No Englishman in the
sixteenth century can be compared with him for influence, heroism, and
virtue combined. It was deemed necessary to remove this illustrious man,
not because he was personally obnoxious, but because he was the leader
of the Protestant party.

It is said that as the fatal hour approached to give the signal for the
meditated massacre, Aug. 24, 1572, the King appeared irresolute and
disheartened. Though cruel, perfidious, and weak, he shrank from
committing such a gigantic crime, and this too in the face of his royal
promises. But there was one person whom no dangers appalled, and whose
icy soul could be moved by no compassion and no voice of conscience. At
midnight, Catherine entered the chamber of her irresolute son, in the
Louvre, on whose brow horror was already stamped, and whose frame
quivered with troubled chills. Coloring the crime with the usual
sophistries of all religious and political persecution, that the end
justifies the means, and stigmatizing him as a coward, she at last
extorted from his quivering lips the fatal order; and immediately the
tocsin of death sounded from the great bell of the church of St. Germain
de Auxerrois. At once the slaughter commenced in every corner of Paris,
so well were the horrid measures concerted. Screams of despair were
mingled with shouts of vengeance; the cries of the murdered were added
to the imprecations of the murderers; the streets flowed with blood, the
dead rained from the windows, the Seine became purple. Men, women, and
children were seen flying in every direction, pursued by soldiers, who
were told that an insurrection of Protestants had broken out. No sex or
age or dignity was spared, no retreat afforded a shelter, not even the
churches of the Catholics. Neither Alaric nor Attila ever inflicted such
barbarities. No besieged city taken by assault ever saw such wanton
butcheries, except possibly Jerusalem when taken by Titus or Godfrey,
or Magdeburg when taken by Tilly. And as the bright summer sun
illuminated the city on a Sunday morning the massacre had but just
begun; nor for three days and three nights did the slaughter abate. A
vulgar butcher appeared before the King and boasted he had slain one
hundred and fifty persons with his own hand in a single night. For seven
days was Paris the scene of disgraceful murder and pillage and violence.
Men might be seen stabbing little infants, and even children were known
to slaughter their companions. Nor was there any escape from these
atrocities; the very altars which had once protected Christians from
pagans were polluted by Catholic executioners. Ladies jested with
unfeeling mirth over the dead bodies of murdered Protestants. The very
worst horrors of which the mind could conceive were perpetrated in the
name of religion. And then, when no more victims remained, the King and
his court and his clergy proceeded in solemn procession to the cathedral
church of Notre Dame, amidst hymns of praise, to return thanks to God
for the deliverance of France from men who had sought only the privilege
of worshipping Him according to their consciences!

Nor did the bloody work stop here; orders were sent by the Government to
every city and town of France to execute the like barbarities. The utter
extermination of the Protestants was resolved upon throughout the
country. The slaughter was begun in treachery and was continued in the
most heartless cruelty. When the news of it reached Borne, the Holy
Father the Pope caused a medal to be struck in commemoration of the
event, illuminated his capital, ordained general rejoicings, as if for
some signal victory over the Turks; and, assisted by his cardinals and
clergy, marched in glad procession to St. Peter's Church, and offered up
a solemn Te Deum for this vile and treacherous slaughter of sixty
thousand Protestants.

In former lectures I have passed rapidly and imperfectly over this awful
crime, not wishing to stimulate passions which should be buried, and
thinking it was more the fault of the age than of Catholic bigots; but I
now present it in its naked deformity, to be true to history, and to
show how cruel is religious intolerance, confirmed by the history of
other inhumanities in the Catholic Church,--by the persecution of
Dominican monks, by the slaughter of the Albigenses, by inquisitions,
gunpowder plots, the cruelties of Alva, and that trail of blood which
has marked the fairest portions of Europe by the hostilities of the
Church of Borne in its struggles to suppress Protestant opinions. I
mention it to recall the fact that Protestantism has never been stained
by such a crime. I mention it to invoke gratitude that such a misguided
zeal has passed away and is never likely to return. Catholic historians
do not pretend to deny the horrid facts, but ascribe the massacre to
political animosities rather than religious,--a lame and impotent
defence of their persecuting Church in the sixteenth century.

But this atrocity had such a demoniacal blackness and perfidy about it
that it filled the whole Protestant world with grief and indignation,
especially England, and had only the effect of binding together the
Huguenots in a solid phalanx of warriors, resolved on making no peace
with their perfidious enemies until their religious liberties were
guaranteed Though decimated, they were not destroyed; for the provincial
governors and rural magistrates generally refused to execute the royal
decrees,--their hearts were moved with pity. The slaughter was not
universal, and Henry himself had escaped, his life being spared on
condition of his becoming a Catholic, which as a matter of form he did.

Nevertheless, all Protestant eyes were now directed to him as their
leader, since Coligny had perished by daggers, and Condé on the field of
battle. Henry was still a young man, only twenty years of age, but able,
intrepid, and wise. He and his cousin, the younger Condé, were still
held as hostages, while the Huguenots again rallied and retired to their
strong fortress of La Rochelle. Their last hopes centred in this
fortress, defended by only fifteen thousand men, under the brave La
None, while the royal army embraced the flower of the French nobility,
commanded by the Dukes of Anjou and Alençon. But these royal dukes were
compelled to raise the siege, 1573, with a loss of forty thousand men. I
regard the successful defence of this fortress, at this crisis, as the
most fortunate event in the whole Huguenot contest, since it enabled the
Huguenots to make a stand against the whole power of the monarchs. It
did not give them victory, but gave them a place to rally; and it
proclaimed the fact that the contest would not end until the Protestants
had achieved their liberties or were utterly annihilated.

Soon after this successful and glorious defence of La Rochelle, Charles
IX. died, at the age of twenty-four, in awful agonies,--the victim of
remorse and partial insanity, in the hours of which the horrors of St.
Bartholomew were ever present to his excited imagination, and when he
beheld wild faces of demons and murdered Huguenots rejoicing in his
torments, and heard strange voices consigning his name to infamy and his
body to those never-ending physical torments in which both Catholics and
Protestants equally believed. His mother however remained cold,
inflexible, and unmoved,--for when a woman falls under the grip of the
Devil, then no man can equal her in shamelessness and reckless sin.

Charles IX. was succeeded, in 1574, by his brother the King of Poland,
under the name of Henry III., who was equally under the control of his
mother Catherine.

Two years afterward the King of Navarre succeeded in making his escape,
and joined the Huguenot army at Tours. He was now twenty-three. He
astonished the whole kingdom by his courage and intrepidity,--winning
the hearts of the soldiers, and uniting them by strict military
discipline. His friend and counsellor was Rosny, afterwards Duke of
Sully, to whose wise counsels his future success may be in a great
measure traced. Fortunate is the prince who will listen to frank and
disagreeable advice; and that was one of the virtues of Henry,--a
magnanimity which has seldom been equalled by generals.

The Huguenots were now able to make a stand in the open country, partly
from additions to their numbers and partly from the mistakes and
frivolities of Henry III., who alienated stern Catholics and his best
friends. It was then that Bouillon, father of the illustrious Turenne,
joined the standard of Henry of Navarre. Soon after this, Henry became
heir-apparent of the French throne, by the death of the Duke of Alençon,
1584. Only the King, Henry III., a man without children, and the last of
the male line of the house of Valois, stood between Henry of Navarre and
the throne. The possibility that he, a Protestant, might wield the
sceptre of Saint Louis, his ancestor, increased the bitterness and
animosity of the Catholics. All the forces which the Government could
raise were now arrayed against him and his party. The Pope, Sixtus V.,
in a papal bull, took away his hereditary rights; but fortune favored
him. The Duke of Guise, who aspired to the throne, was himself
assassinated, as his father had been; and now, by the orders of his
jealous sovereign, his brother, the Cardinal of Guise, nephew of the
Cardinal of Lorraine,--a man who held three archbishoprics, six
bishoprics, and five abbeys, and these the richest in the
kingdom,--shared the same fate. And Providence removed also, soon after,
the most guilty and wicked of all the perpetrators of the massacre of
St. Bartholomew, even Catherine de Médicis,--who would be regarded as a
female monster, an incarnate fiend, a Messalina, or a Fredegunda, had
she not been beautiful, with pleasing and gracious manners, a great
fondness for society and music and poetry and art,--the most
accomplished woman of her day, and so attractive as to be compared by
the poets of her court to Aurora and Venus. Her life only shows how much
heartlessness, cruelty, malignity, envy, and selfishness may be
concealed by the mask of beauty and agreeable manners and artistic

The bloody battle of Coutras enabled Henry of Navarre to take a stand
against the Catholics; but after the death of Henry III. by
assassination, in 1589, his struggles for the next five years were more
to secure his hereditary rights as King of France than to lead the
Huguenots to victory as a religious body. It might have been better for
them had Henry remained the head of their party rather than become King
of France, since he might not have afterwards deserted them. But there
was really no hope of the Huguenots gaining a political ascendency at
any time; they composed but a third part of the nation; their only hope
was to secure their religious liberties.

The most brilliant part of the military career of Henry IV. was when he
struggled for his throne, supported of course by the Huguenots, and
opposed by the whole Catholic party, the King of Spain, and the Pope of
Rome. The Catholics, or the "Leaguers" as they were called, were led by
the Duke of Mayenne. I need not describe the successes of Henry, until
the battle of Ivry, March 14, 1590, made him really the monarch of
France. On that eventful day both armies, having performed their
devotions, were drawn out for action. Both armies knew that this battle
would be decisive; and when all the arrangements were completed, Henry,
completely covered with mail except his hands and head, mounted upon a
great bay charger, galloped up and down the ranks, giving words of
encouragement to his soldiers, and assuring them that he would either
conquer or die. "If my standard fail you," said he, "keep my plume in
sight: you will always see it in the face of glory and honor." So
saying, he put on his helmet, adorned with three white plumes, gave the
order of battle, and, sword in hand, led the charge against the enemy.
For some time the issue of the conflict was doubtful, for the forces
were about equal; but at length victory inclined to the Protestants, who
broke forth in shouts as Henry, covered with dust and blood, appeared at
the head of the pursuing squadrons.

     "Now, God be praised, the day is ours! Mayenne hath turned
        his rein,
     D'Aumale hath cried for quarter, the Flemish count is slain.
     Their ranks are breaking like thin clouds before a Biscay gale;
     The field is heaped with bleeding steeds, and flags, and cloven
     And then we thought on vengeance, and all along our van
     'Remember St. Bartholomew' was passed from man to man.
     But out spake gentle Henry then: 'No Frenchman is my foe;
     Down, down with every foreigner, but let your brethren go!'
     Oh, was there ever such a knight, in friendship or in war,
     As our sovereign lord, King Henry, the soldier of Navarre?"

The battle of Ivry, in which the forces of the League met with a
complete overthrow, was followed by the siege of Paris, its memorable
defence, and the arrival of the Duke of Parma, which compelled Henry to
retire. Though he had gained a great victory, and received great
accessions, he had to struggle four years longer, so determined were the
Catholics; and he might have had to fight a still longer time for his
throne had he not taken the extraordinary resolution of abjuring his
religion and cause. His final success was not doubtful, even as a
Protestant king, since his title was undisputed; but he wearied of war.
The peace of the kingdom and the security of the throne seemed to him a
greater good than the triumph of the Huguenots. In that age great power
was given to princes; he doubtless could have reigned as a Protestant
prince had he persevered for a few years longer, and Protestantism would
have been the established religion of France, as it was of England under
Elizabeth. Henry as a Protestant king would have had no more enemies, or
difficulties, or embarrassments than had the Virgin Queen, who on her
accession found only one bishop willing to crown her. He had all the
prestige of a conqueror, and was personally beloved, besides being a man
of ability. His prime minister, Sully, was as able a man as Burleigh,
and as good a Protestant; and the nation was enthusiastic. The Huguenots
had deeper convictions, and were more logical in their creed, than the
English Episcopalians. Leagued with England and Holland and Germany,
France could have defied other Catholic powers,--could have been more
powerful politically. Protestantism would have had the ascendency
in Europe.

But it was not to be. To the mind of the King he had nothing before him
but protracted war, unless he became a Catholic; and as all the
Huguenots ever struggled for was religious toleration, he would, as
king, grant this toleration, and satisfy all parties. He either had no
deep religious convictions, like Coligny and Dandelot, or he preferred
an undisturbed crown to the ascendency of the religion for which he had
so bravely fought. What matter, the tempter said, whether he reigned as
a Catholic or Protestant monarch, so long as religious liberty was given
to his subjects? Could he have reigned forever, could he have been
assured of the toleration of his successors, this plea might have had
some force; but it was the dictate of expediency, and no man can predict
its ultimate results. He was not a religious man, although he was the
leader of the Protestant party. He was far from being even moral in his
social relations; still less had he the austerity of manners and habits
that then characterized the Huguenots, for they were Calvinists and
Presbyterians. He was gallant, brave, generous, magnanimous, and
patriotic,--the model of a gentleman, the impersonation of chivalry, the
charm of his friends, the idol of his army, the glory of his country;
but there his virtues stopped. He was more of a statesman than the
leader of a party. He wanted to see France united and happy and
prosperous more than he wanted to see the ascendency of the Huguenots.
He was now not the King of Navarre,--a small country, scarcely thirty
miles long,--but the King of France, ruling, as he aspired, from the
Pyrenees to the Rhine. So it is not strange that he was governed by the
principles of expediency, as most monarchs are. He wished to aggrandize
his monarchy; that aim was dearer to him than the reformed faith.
Coligny would have fought to the bitter end to secure the triumph of the
Protestant cause; but Henry was not so lofty a man as the Admiral,--he
had not his religious convictions, or stern virtues, or incorruptible
life. He was a gallant monarch, an able general, a far-reaching
statesman, yet fond of pleasure and of the glories of a court.

So Henry made up his mind to abjure his faith. On Sunday the 25th of
July, 1593, clad not in helmet and cuirass and burnished steel, as at
Ivry, but in a doublet of white satin, and a velvet coat ornamented with
jewels and orders and golden fleurs de lis, and followed by cardinals
and bishops and nobles, he entered the venerable Abbey of St. Denis,
where reposed the ashes of all his predecessors, from Dagobert to Henry
III, and was received into the bosom of the Catholic Church. A solemn Te
Deum was then chanted by unnumbered priests; and the lofty pillars, the
marble altars, the storied effigies, the purple windows, and the vaulted
roof of that mediaeval monument re-echoed to the music of those glorious
anthems which were sung ages before the most sainted of the kings of
France was buried in the crypt. The partisans of the Catholic faith
rejoiced that a heretic had returned to the fold of true believers;
while the saddened, disappointed, humiliated members of the reformed
religion felt, and confessed with shame, that their lauded protector had
committed the most lamentable act of apostasy since the Emperor Julian
abjured Christianity. It is true they palliated his conduct and remained
faithful to his standard; but they felt he had committed a great
blunder, if it were not a great crime. They knew that their cause was
lost,--lost by him who had been their leader. Truly could they say, "Put
not your trust in princes." To the irreligious, but worldly-wise, Henry
had made a grand stroke of policy; had gained a kingdom well worth a
Mass, had settled the disorders of forty years, had united both
Catholics and Protestants in fealty to his crown, and was left at
leisure to develop the resources of the nation, and lay a foundation for
its future greatness.

I cannot here enumerate Henry IV.'s services to France, after the long
civil war had closed; they were very great, and endeared him to the
nation. He proved himself a wise and beneficent ruler; with the aid of
the transcendent abilities of Sully, whose counsels he respected, he
reduced taxation, founded schools and libraries, built hospitals, dug
canals, repaired fortifications, restrained military license, punished
turbulence and crime, introduced useful manufactures, encouraged
industry, patronized learning, and sought to perpetuate peace. He aimed
to be the father of his people, and he was the protector of the poor.
His memorable saying is still dear to the hearts of Frenchmen: "I hope
so to manage my kingdom that the poorest subject of it may eat meat
every day in the week, and moreover be enabled to put a fowl into the
pot every Sunday." I should like to point out his great acts and his
enlightened policy, especially his effort to create a balance of power
in Europe. The settlement of the finances and the establishment of
various industries were his most beneficial acts. The taxes were reduced
one half, and at his death he had fifty millions in the treasury,--a
great sum in those days,--having paid off a debt of three hundred
millions in eight years.

These and other public services showed his humane nature and his
enlightened mind, until, after a glorious reign of twenty-one years, he
was cut off, in the prime of his life and in the midst of his
usefulness, by the assassin's dagger, May, 1610, in the fifty-eighth
year of his age,--the greatest of all the French kings,--leaving five
children by his second wife, Marie de Médicis, four of whom became kings
or queens.

But to consider particularly Henry's connection with the Huguenots. If
he deserted their ranks, he did not forget them. He gave them religious
toleration,--all they originally claimed. In 1598 was signed the
memorable edict of Nantes, by which the Protestants preserved their
churches, their schools, their consistories, and their synods; and they
retained as a guarantee several important cities and fortresses,--a sort
of _imperium in imperio_. They were made eligible to all offices. They
were not subjected to any grievous test-act. They enjoyed social and
political equality, as well as unrestricted religious liberty, except in
certain cities. They gained more than the Puritans did in the reign of
Charles II. They were not excluded from universities, nor degraded in
their social rank, nor annoyed by unjust burial laws. The two religions
were placed equally under the protection of the government. By this
edict the Huguenots gained all that they had struggled for.

Still, the abjuration of Henry IV. was a great calamity to them. They
lost their prestige; they were in a minority; they could count no longer
on the leadership of princes. They were deprived gradually of the
countenance of powerful nobles and all the potent influences of fashion;
and when a reaction against Calvinism took place in the seventeenth
century, the Huguenots had dwindled to a comparatively humble body of
unimportant people. They lost heart and men of rank to defend them when
the persecution of Richelieu overtook them in the next reign. They were
then unfit to contend successfully with that centralized monarchy of
which Henry IV. had laid the foundation, and which Richelieu cemented by
fraud and force. Louis XIV., educated by the Jesuits and always under
their influence, repealed the charter which Henry IV. had given them.
The persecution they suffered under Louis XIV. was more dreadful than
that they suffered under Charles IX., since they had neither arms, nor
organization, nor leaders, nor fortresses. Under the persecution of the
Valois princes they had Condé and the King of Navarre and Coligny for
leaders; they were strong enough to fight for their liberties,--they had
enthusiasm and prestige and hope. Under the iron and centralized
government of Louis XIV. they were completely defenceless, like lambs
before wolves; they had no hopes, they could make no defence; they were
an obnoxious, slandered, unimportant, unfashionable people, and their
light had gone out. They had no religious enthusiasm even; they were
small farmers and tradesmen and servants, and worshipped God in dingy
chapels. No great men arose among them, as among the Puritans of
England. They were still evangelical in their creed, but not earnest in
defending it; so persecution wiped them out--was terribly successful.
Eight hundred thousand of them perished in prisons and galleys or on
scaffolds, and there was no help.

Henry IV., when he gave toleration to the Huguenots, never dreamed that
his successors would undo his work. Had he foreseen that concession to
the unchanged and unchangeable enemies of human freedom would have ended
as it did, I believe his noble heart would have revolted from any peace
until he could have reigned as a Protestant king. Oh, had he struggled a
little longer for his crown, how different might have been the
subsequent history of France, and even Europe itself! How much greater
would have been his own fame! Even had he died as the defender of
Protestant liberties, a greater glory than that of Gustavus would have
been his forever. The immediate results of his abjuration were doubtless
beneficial to himself, to the Huguenots, and to his country. Expediency
gives great rewards; but expediency cannot control future events,--it is
short-sighted, and only for the time successful. Ask you for the
ultimate results of the abjuration of Henry IV., I point to the
demolition of La Rochelle, under Richelieu, and the systematic
humiliation of the Huguenots; I point to the revocation of the Edict of
Nantes, by Louis XIV., and the bitter and cruel and wholesale
persecution which followed; I point to the atrocities of the dragonnades
and the exile of the Huguenots to England and America and Holland; I
point to the extinction of civil and religions liberty in France,--to
the restoration of the Jesuits,--to the prevalence of religious
indifference under the guise of Roman Catholicism, until at last it
threw off the mask and defied all authority, both human and divine, and
invoked all the maddening passions of Revolution itself.


Histoire de Thou; L'Estoile; Mémoires de la Reine Marguerite; Histoire
de Henri le Grand, par Madame de Genlis; Mémoires de Sully; D'Aubigné;
Matthien; Brantôme's Vie de Charles IX.; Henri Martin's History of
France; Mézerai; Péréfixe; Sismondi.



THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR (1618-1648).

The Thirty Years' War, of which Gustavus Adolphus was the greatest hero,
was the result of those religious agitations which the ideas of Luther
produced. It was the struggle to secure religious liberty,--a warfare
between Catholic and Protestant Germany. It differed from the Huguenot
contest in this,--that the Protestants of France took up arms against
their king to extort religious privileges; whereas the Protestants of
Germany were marshalled by independent princes against other independent
princes of a different religion, who sought to suppress Protestantism.
In this warfare between Catholic and Protestant States, there were great
political entanglements and issues that affected the balance of power in
Europe. Hence the Thirty Years' War was political as well as religious.
It was not purely a religious war like the crusades, although religious
ideas gave rise to it. Nor was it an insurrection of the people against
their rulers to secure religious rights, so much as a contest between
Catholic and Protestant princes to secure the recognition of their
religious opinions in their respective States.

The Emperor of Germany in the time of Luther was Charles V.,--the most
powerful potentate of Europe, and, moreover, a bigoted Catholic. On his
abdication,--one of the most extraordinary events in history,--the
German dominions were given to his brother Ferdinand; Spain and the Low
Countries were bestowed on his son Philip. Ferdinand had already been
elected King of the Romans. There was a close alliance between these
princes of the House of Austria to suppress Protestantism in Europe. The
new Austrian emperor was not, indeed, so formidable as his father had
been, but was still one of the greatest monarchs of Europe; and so
powerful was the House of Austria that it excited the jealousy of the
other European powers. It was to prevent the dangerous ascendency of
Austria that Henry IV. of France raised a great army with a view of
invading Germany, but was assassinated before he could carry his scheme
into execution. He had armed France to secure what is called the
"balance of power;" and it was with the view of securing this balance of
power that Cardinal Richelieu, though a prince of the Church, took the
side of the Protestants in the Thirty Years' War. This famous contest
may therefore be regarded as a civil war, dividing the German nations;
as a religious war, to establish freedom of belief; and as a war to
prevent the ascendency of Austria, in which a great part of Europe
was involved.

The beginning of the contest, however, was the result of religious
agitation. The ideas of Luther created universal discussion. Discussion
led to animosities. All Germany was in a ferment; and the agitation was
not confined to those States which accepted the Reformation, but to
Catholic States also. The Catholic princes resolved to crush the
Reformation, first in their own dominions, and afterwards in the other
States of Germany. Hence, a bloody persecution of the Protestants took
place in all Catholic States. Their sufferings were unendurable. For a
while they submitted to the cruel lash, but at last they resolved to
defend the right of worshipping God according to their consciences. They
armed themselves, for death seemed preferable to religious despotism.
For more than fifty years after the death of Luther, Germany was the
scene of commotions ending in a fiery persecution. At that time Germany
was in advance of the rest of Europe in wealth and intelligence; the
Protestants especially were kindled to an enthusiasm, pertaining to
theological questions, which we in these times can but feebly realize;
and the Germans were doubtless the most earnest and religious people in
Europe. In those days there was neither religious indifference nor
scepticism nor rationalism. The faith of the people was simple, and they
were resolved to maintain it at any cost. But there were religious
parties and asperities, even among the Protestants. The Lutherans would
not unite with the Calvinists, and the Calvinists would not accede to
the demands of the Lutherans.

After a series of struggles with the Catholics, the Lutherans succeeded,
by the treaty of Augsburg (1555), in securing toleration; and this
toleration lasted during the reigns of Ferdinand I. and Maximilian II.
Indeed, Germany enjoyed tranquillity until the reign of Matthias, in
1612. This usurping emperor, who had delivered Germany from the Turks,
abolished in his dominions the Protestant religion, so far as edicts and
persecution could deprive the Protestants of their religious liberties.
Matthias died in 1619, and was succeeded by Ferdinand II., a bigoted
prince, who had been educated by the Jesuits. This emperor was an
inveterate enemy of the Protestants. He forbade their meetings, deprived
them even of civil privileges, pulled down their churches and schools,
erected scaffolds in every village, appointed only Catholic magistrates,
and inflicted unsparing cruelties on all who seceded from the
Catholic church.

It was under this Austrian emperor, seventy-three years from the death
of Luther, that the first act of the bloody tragedy which I am to
describe was opened by an insurrection in Bohemia, one of the hereditary
possessions of the House of Austria.

In this kingdom, isolated from the rest of Germany, separated on every
side from adjoining States by high mountains of volcanic origin, peopled
with the descendants of the ancient Sclavonians, who were characterized
by impulse and impetuosity, the reformed doctrines had taken a powerful
hold of the affections and convictions of the people. The followers of
John Huss and Jerome of Prague were something like the Lollards of
England, in their spirit and sincerity. But they were persecuted by
their Catholic rulers with a rigor and cruelty never seen among the
Lollards; for Ferdinand II. was the hereditary king of Bohemia as well
as emperor of Germany.

At last his tyranny and cruelties became unendurable, and in a violent
burst of passionate indignation his deputies were thrown out of the
windows of the chamber of the Council of Regency at Prague. This act of
violence was the signal of a general revolt, not in Bohemia merely, but
in Silesia, Moravia, Hungary, and Austria. The celebrated Count
Mansfeld, a soldier of fortune, with only four thousand troops, dared to
defy the whole imperial power; and for a while he was successful. The
Bohemians renounced their allegiance to Ferdinand, and chose for their
king Frederick V.,--Elector Palatine of the Rhine, son-in-law of James
I. of England, and head of the Protestant party in Germany. He unwisely
abandoned his electoral palace at Heidelberg, to grasp the royal sceptre
at Prague. But he was no match for the Austrian emperor, who, summoning
from every quarter the allies and adherents of imperial power, and
making peace with other enemies, poured into Bohemia such overwhelming
forces under Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, that his authority was
established more firmly than before. The battle of Prague (1620) decided
the fate of Bohemia, and the Elector Palatine became a fugitive, and his
possessions were given to the Duke of Bavaria.

Then followed a persecution which has had no parallel since the
slaughter of the Albigenses and the massacre of St. Bartholomew. The
unhappy kingdom of Bohemia was abandoned to inquisitions and executions;
all liberties were suppressed, the nobles were decimated, ministers and
teachers were burned or beheaded, and Protestants of every rank, age,
and condition were prohibited from acting as guardians to children, or
making wills, or contracting marriages with Catholics, or holding any
office of trust and emolument. They were outlawed as felons, and
disfranchised as infidels. The halls of justice were deserted, the Muses
accompanied the learned in their melancholy flight, and all that
remained of Bohemian gallantry and heroism forsook the land. Strange to
say, the land of Huss and Jerome became henceforth the strongest hold of
Austrian despotism and papal superstition.

This is one of those instances where persecution proved successful. It
is a hackneyed saying that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the
Church;" and it is true that lofty virtues have been generally developed
by self-sacrifice and martyrdom, and that only through great tribulation
have permanent blessings been secured. The Hollanders, by inundating
their fields and fighting literally to the "last ditch," preserved their
liberties and secured ultimate prosperity. The fires of Smithfield did
not destroy the reformed religion in England in the time of Mary, and
the jails and judicial murders of later and better times did not prevent
the progress of popular rights, or the extension of Puritanism in the
wilds of the American continent. But in the history of society the
instances are unfortunately numerous when bigotry and despotism have
kindled their infernal fires and erected their bloody scaffolds, not to
purify the Church and nourish the principles of Christian progress, but
to destroy what is good as well as what is evil. What availed the
struggles of the Waldenses in the Middle Ages? Who came to the rescue of
Savonarola when he attempted to reform the lives of degenerate
Florentines? What beneficial effects resulted ultimately from the
Inquisition in Spain? How was the revocation of the edict of Nantes
overruled for the good of the Huguenots of France?

And yet the unfortunate suppression of religious liberty in Bohemia, and
the sufferings of those who came to her rescue, especially the
misfortunes of the Elector Palatine, arrayed the Protestant princes of
Germany against the Emperor, and created general indignation throughout
Europe. Austria became more than ever a hated and dreaded power, not
merely to the States of Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and England, but to
Catholic France herself, then ruled by that able and ambitious statesman
Cardinal Richelieu, before whose tomb in an after age the czar Peter
bowed in earnest homage from the recollection and admiration of his
transcendent labors in behalf of absolutism. Even Richelieu, a prince of
the Church and the persecutor of the Huguenots, was alarmed at the
encroachments of Austria, and intrigued with Protestant princes to
undermine her dangerous ascendency.

Then opened the second act of the bloody drama of the seventeenth
century, when the allied Protestant princes of Germany, assisted by the
English and the Dutch, rallied under the leadership of Christian, King
of Denmark, and resolved to recover what they had lost; while Bethlen
Gabor, a Transylvanian prince, at the head of an army of robbers,
invaded Hungary and Austria. The Emperor, straitened in his finances,
was in no condition to meet this powerful confederacy, although the
illustrious Tilly was the commander of his forces.

But the demon of despotism, who never sleeps, raised up to his
assistance a great military genius. This was Wallenstein, Duke of
Friedland, the richest noble in Bohemia. The person whom he most
resembled, in that age of struggle and contending forces, when despotism
sought unscrupulous agents, was Thomas Wentworth, Earl of
Strafford,--the right hand of Charles I., in his warfare against the
liberties of England. Like Stratford, he was an apostate from the
principles in which he had been educated; like him, he had arisen from a
comparatively humble station; like him, his talents were as commanding
as his ambition,--devoted first to his own exaltation; and, secondly, to
the cause of absolutism, with which he sympathized with all the
intensity that a proud and domineering spirit may be supposed to feel
for the struggles of inexperienced democracy. Like the English
statesman, the German general was a Jesuit in the use of tools, jealous
of his authority, liberal in his rewards, and fearful in his vengeance.
Though greedy of admiration and fond of display, he surrounded himself
with mystery and gloom. Like Strafford, he was commanding in his person,
dignified, reserved, and sullen; with an eye piercing and melancholy, a
brow lowering with thought and care, and a lip compressed into
determination and twisted into a smile of ironical disdain.

This nobleman had fought with distinction as a colonel at the battle of
Prague, when Bohemian liberties had been prostrated, and had signally
distinguished himself in his infamous crusade against his own
countrymen. He offered, at his own expense, to raise and equip an army
of fifty thousand men in the service of the Emperor; but demanded as a
condition, that he should have the appointment of all his officers, and
the privilege of enriching himself and army from the spoils and
confiscations of conquered territories. These terms were extraordinary
and humiliating to an absolute sovereign, yet, at the crisis in which
Ferdinand was placed, they were too tempting to be refused.

Wallenstein fulfilled his promises, and raised in an incredibly short
time an immense army, composed of outlaws and robbers and adventurers
from all nations. He advanced rapidly against the allied Protestant
forces, levying enormous contributions wherever he appeared; as
imperious to friends as to foes, mistrusted and feared by both, yet
supremely indifferent to praise or censure; resting on the power of
brute force and his ability to enrich his soldiers. Possessing a fine
military genius, unbounded means, and unscrupulous rapacity, and
assisted by such generals as Tilly, Pappenheim, and Piccolomini,
seconded by Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, he soon reduced his enemies to
despair. The King of Denmark was unequal to the contest, and sued for
peace. The Elector Frederic again became a fugitive, the Duke of
Brunswick was killed, and the intrepid Mansfeld died. The Electors of
Saxony and Brandenburg, the natural defenders of Protestantism and the
leading princes of the league, were awed into an abject neutrality. The
old protectors of Lutheranism were timid and despairing. The monarchs of
Europe trembled. Germany lay prostrate and bleeding. Christendom stood
aghast at the greatness of the calamities which afflicted Germany and
threatened neighboring nations.

But the Emperor at Vienna was overjoyed, and swelled with arrogance and
triumph. He divided among the members of his imperial house the rich
benefices of the Church, and bestowed upon his victorious general the
revenues of provinces. He now resolved to pursue the King of Denmark
into his remotest territories, to dethrone the King of Sweden, to give
away the crown of Poland, to aid the Spaniards in the recovery of the
United Provinces, to exterminate the Protestant religion, to subvert the
liberties of the German nations, and reign as a terrible incarnation of
imperial tyranny. He would even revive the dreams of Charlemagne and
Charles V., and make Vienna the centre of that power which once emanated
from Borne. He would ally himself more strongly with the Pope, and
extend the double tyranny of priests and kings over the whole continent
of Europe. Fines, imprisonments, tortures, banishments, and executions
were now added to the desolations which one hundred and fifty thousand
soldiers inflicted on villages and cities that had been for generations
increasing in wealth and prosperity.

In that dark hour of calamity and fears, Providence raised up a greater
hero than Wallenstein, a noble protector and intrepid deliverer, even
Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden; and the third act of the political
tragedy opens with his brilliant career.

Carlyle has somewhere said: "Is not every genius an impossibility until
he appear?" This is singularly true of Gustavus Adolphus. It was the
last thing for contemporaries to conjecture that the deliverer of
Germany, and the great hero of the Thirty Years' War, would have arisen
in the ice-bound regions of northern Europe. No great character had
arisen in Sweden of exalted fame, neither king nor poet, nor
philosopher, nor even singer. The little kingdom, to all appearance, was
rich only in mines of iron and hills of snow. It was not till the middle
of the sixteenth century that Sweden was even delivered from base
dependence on Denmark.

But Gustavus before he was thirty-five years of age had made his
countrymen a nation of soldiers; had freed his kingdom from Danish,
Russian, and Polish enemies; had made great improvements in the art of
war, having introduced a new system of tactics never materially improved
except by Frederic II.; had reduced strategy to a science; had raised
the importance of the infantry, had increased the strictness of military
discipline, had trained up a band of able generals, and inspired his
soldiers with unbounded enthusiasm.

And he had raised in the camp a new tone of moral feeling. Not even
Cromwell equalled him in divesting war of its customary atrocities, and
keeping alive the spirit of religion. The worship of God formed one of
the most important duties of the Swedish army wherever located. "Twice
every day the roll of the drum assembled the soldiers to prayer. The
usual vices of soldiers, like profanity and drunkenness and gambling,
were uniformly punished. Death was inflicted on any soldier who
assaulted a citizen in his house. Even a certificate was required of the
chief citizens of any place where troops were quartered, that their
conduct had been orderly. He never allowed, under any provocation, a
city to be taken by assault,--a striking contrast to the imperial

Nor amid the toils and dangers of war was Gustavus unmindful of his
duties as a king. He was one of the most enlightened statesmen that had
appeared since Charlemagne and Alfred. He established schools and
colleges, founded libraries, reformed the codes of law, introduced wise
mercantile regulations, rewarded eminent merit, respected the voice of
experience, and developed the industries of the country. What Richelieu
and Colbert did for France, what Burleigh and Cromwell did for England,
Gustavus did for Sweden. His prime minister is illustrious for wisdom
and ability, the celebrated Oxenstiern, through whose labors and genius
the country felt no impoverishment from war. He laid the foundation of
that prosperity which made a little kingdom great.

But all his excellences as a general, a statesman, and a ruler paled
before the exalted virtues of his private life. His urbanity, his
gentleness, his modesty, his meekness, his simplicity, and his love won
all hearts, and have never been exceeded except by Alfred the Great. He
was a Saint Louis on a throne, in marked contrast with the suspicion,
duplicity, roughness, and egotism of Oliver Cromwell,--the only other
great man of the century who equalled Gustavus in the value of public
services and enlightened mind. It is not often that Christian graces and
virtues are developed amid the tumults of war. David lost nothing of his
pious fervor and reliance on God when pursuing the Philistines, nor
Marcus Aurelius when fighting barbarians on the frozen Danube. The
perils and vicissitudes of war, with the momentous interests involved,
made Lincoln shine, amid all his jokes, a firm believer in the
overruling power that Napoleon failed to see. And so of Washington: he
was a better man and firmer Christian from the responsibilities that
were thrust upon him. Not so with Frederic the Great, and the marshals
of Louis XIV., with the exception of Turenne: war seemed rather to
develop their worst qualities. It usually makes a man unscrupulous,
hard, and arrogant. Military life is anything but interesting in the
usual bearing of Prussian officers. In our own Revolutionary war,
generals developed pride and avarice and jealousy. War turned Tilly into
a fiend. How cold and sullen and selfish it made Napoleon! How grasping
and greedy it made Marlborough! How unscrupulous it made Clive and
Hastings! How stubborn and proud it made Wellington! How vain and
pompous it made Scott! How overbearing it made Belle-Isle and Villars!
How reckless and hard it made Ney and Murat! The dangers and miseries of
war develop sternness, hardness, and indifference to suffering. It is
violence; and violence does not naturally produce the peaceful virtues.
It produces courage, indeed, but physical rather than moral,--least of
all, that spiritual courage which makes martyrs and saints. It makes
boon companions, not friends. It gives exaggerated ideas of
self-importance. It exalts the outward and material, not the spiritual
and the real. The very tread of a military veteran is stately, proud,
and conscious,--like that of a procession of cardinals, or of
railway kings.

So that when a man inured to camps and battles shines in the modest
unconsciousness of a Christian gentleman or meditative sage, we feel
unusual reverence for him. We feel that his soul is unpolluted, and that
he is superior to ordinary temptations.

And nothing in war develops the greatness of the higher qualities of
heart and soul but the sacredness of a great cause. This takes a man out
of himself, and binds his soul to God. He learns to feel that he is
merely an instrument of Almighty power. It was the sacredness of a great
cause that shed such a lustre on the character of Washington. How
unimpressible the victories of Charlemagne, disconnected with that work
of civilization which he was sent into the world to reconstruct! How
devoid of interest and grandeur were the battles of Marston Moor and
Worcester, without reference to those principles of religious liberty
which warmed the soul of Cromwell! The conflicts of Bunker Hill and
Princeton were insignificant when compared with the mighty array of
forces at Blenheim or Austerlitz; but when associated with ideas of
American independence, and the extension of American greatness from the
Atlantic to the Pacific, their sublime results are impressed upon the
mind with ever-increasing power. Even French soldiers have seldom been
victorious unless inspired by ideas of liberty or patriotism. It is ever
the majesty of a cause which makes not only great generals but good men.
And it was the greatness of the cause with which Gustavus Adolphus was
identified that gave to his character such moral beauty,--that same
beauty which exalted William the Silent and William of Orange amid the
disasters of their country, and made them eternally popular. After all,
the permanent idols of popular idolatry are not the intellectually
great, but the morally beautiful,--and all the more attractive when
their moral excellence is in strong contrast with the prevailing vices
of contemporaries. It was the moral greatness of Gustavus which has
given to him his truest fame. Great was he as a military genius, but
greater still as a benefactor of oppressed peoples.

Surely it was no common hero who armed himself for the deliverance of
Germany, which prostrate and bleeding held out her arms to be rescued
from political degradation, and for the preservation of liberties dearer
to good men than life itself. All Protestant Europe responded to the
cry; for great interests were now at stake, not in Germany merely, but
in the neighboring nations. It was to deliver his Lutheran brethren in
danger of extermination, and to raise a barrier against the overwhelming
power of Austria, that Gustavus Adolphus lent his armies to the
Protestant princes of Germany. Other motives may have entered into his
mind; his pride had been piqued by the refusal of the Emperor Ferdinand
to acknowledge his title as King; his dignity was wounded by the
contemptuous insolence shown to this ambassadors; his fears were excited
that Austria might seek to deprive him of his throne. The imperial
armies had already conquered Holstein and Jutland,--provinces that
belonged to Sweden. Unless Austria were humbled, Sweden would be ruined.
Gustavus embarked in the war against Austria, as William III. afterwards
did against Louis XIV. Wars to preserve the "balance of power" have not
generally been deemed offensive, when any power has become inordinately
aggrandized. Pitt opposed Napoleon, to rescue Europe from
universal monarchy.

So Gustavus, deeply persuaded of the duties laid upon him, assembled
together the deputies of his kingdom,--the representatives of the three
estates,--and explained to them his intentions and motives. "I know,"
said he, "the dangers I am about to encounter; I know that it is
probable I shall never return; I feel convinced that my life will
terminate on the field of battle. Let no one imagine that I am actuated
by private feelings or fondness for war. My object is to set bounds to
the increasing power of a dangerous empire before all resistance becomes
impossible. Your children will not bless your memory if, instead of
civil and religious freedom, you bequeath to them the superstitions of
monks and the double tyranny of popes and emperors. We must prevent the
subjugation of the Continent before we are reduced to depend upon a
narrow sea as the only safeguard of our liberties; for it is delusion to
suppose that a mighty empire will not be able to raise fleets, if once
firmly established on the shores of the ocean." Then taking his infant
daughter Christiana in his arms, he recommended her to the protection of
the nation, and bade adieu to the several orders of the State. Amid
their tears and sobs, he invoked upon them and his enterprise the
blessing of Almighty God. Then, hastening his preparations, he embarked
his forces for the deliverance of Germany. It was on the 24th of June,
1630, just one hundred years after the confession of Augsburg, that
Gustavus Adolphus landed on the German soil.

If ever the ruler of a nation is to be justified for going to war when
his country is not actually invaded, it was doubtless Gustavus Adolphus.
Had he withheld his aid, the probability is that all Germany would have
succumbed to the Austrian emperor, and have been incorporated with his
empire; and not only Germany, but Denmark and Sweden. The Protestant
religion would have been suppressed in northern Germany, as it was in
France by Louis XIV. There would have been no Protestant country in
Europe, but England, and perhaps Holland. A united German Empire, with
the restoration of the Catholic religion, would have been a most
dangerous power,--much more so than at the present day. Some there are,
doubtless, who would condemn Gustavus for the invasion of Germany, and
think he ought to have stayed at home and let his unfortunate neighbors
take care of themselves the best way they could. Perhaps the peace
societies would take this ground, and the apostles of thrift and
material prosperity. But I confess, when I see a man like the King of
Sweden, with all the temptations of luxury and ease, encountering all
sorts of perils and fatigues,--yea, offering up his life in battle in
order to emancipate suffering humanity,--then every generous impulse and
every dictate of enlightened reason urge me to add my praises with those
of past generations in honor of such exalted heroism.

According to the authors of those times, signs and prodigies appeared,
to warn mankind of the sanguinary struggle which was now to take place.
"In the dead of night, on wild heaths, in solitary valleys, the clang of
arms was heard. Armies were seen encountering each other in the heavens,
marshalled by aërial leaders, while monstrous births, mock suns, and
showers of fire filled the minds of the superstitious with fear and
dread. It would be puerile to believe these statements, yet if the
stupendous framework of external nature ever could exhibit sympathy with
the brief calamities of man, it may well be supposed to have been
displayed when one of the fairest portions of the earth was again to be
ravaged with fire and sword; and when the melancholy lesson, so often
exemplified before, was to receive still further confirmation,--that of
all the evils with which Divine wisdom permits this world to be visited,
none can be compared to those which the wrath of man is so often eager
to inflict upon his fellows."

I need not detail the various campaigns of the Swedish hero, his
marchings and counter-marchings, his sieges and battles and victories,
until the power of Austria was humbled and northern Germany was
delivered. The history of all war is the same. There is no variety
except to the eye of a military man. Military history is a dreary record
of dangers, sufferings, mistakes, and crimes; occasionally it is
relieved by brilliant feats of courage and genius, which create
enthusiastic admiration, but generally it is monotonous. It has but
little interest except to contemporaries. Who now reads the details of
our last great war? Who has not almost forgotten the names of its
ordinary generals? How sickening the description of the Crusades! The
mind cannot dwell on the conflagrations, the massacres, the starvations,
the desolations, of an invaded country. Few even read a description of
the famous battles of the world, which decided the fate of nations. When
battles and marches are actually taking place, and all is uncertainty,
then there is a vivid curiosity to learn immediate results; but when
wars are ended, we forget the intense excitements which we may have felt
when they were taking place. We gaze with eager interest on a game of
football, but when it is ended we care but little for the victors. It is
only when the remote consequences of great wars are traced by
philosophical historians, revealing the ways of Providence, retribution,
and eternal justice, that interest is enkindled. No book to me is more
dreary and uninteresting than the campaigns of Frederic II., though
painted by the hand of one of the greatest masters of modern times. Even
interest in the details of the battles of Napoleon is absorbed in the
interest we feel in the man,--how he was driven hither and thither by
the Providence he ignored, and made to point a moral to an immortal
tale. All we care about the histories of wars is the general results,
and the principles to be deduced as they bear on the cause of

It was fortunate for the fame and the cause of Gustavus that at the very
outset of his career, when he landed in Pomerania, with his small army
of twenty thousand men, the Emperor had been prevailed upon by a
pressure he could not resist, and the intrigues of all the German
princes, to dispense with the services of Wallenstein. Spain, France,
Bavaria,--the whole Electoral College, Catholic as well as
Protestant,--clamored for the discharge of the most unscrupulous general
of modern times. He was detested and feared by everybody. Humanity shed
tears over his exactions and cruelties, while general fears were aroused
that his influence was dangerous to the public peace. Most people
supposed that the war was virtually ended, and that he was therefore no
longer needed.

Loath was Ferdinand to part with the man to whom he was indebted for the
establishment of his throne; and it seems he was also personally
attached to him. Long did he resist expostulations and threats. He felt
as poor Ganganelli felt when called upon by the Bourbon courts of Europe
to annul the charter of the Jesuits. Wallenstein would probably have
been retained by Ferdinand, had this been possible; but the Emperor was
forced to yield to overwhelming importunities. So the dismissal of the
general was decreed at the diet of Worms, and a messenger of the Emperor
delivered to the haughty victor the decree of his sovereign.

Wallenstein was then at the head of one hundred thousand men. Would he
obey the order? Would he retire to private life? Ambitious and
unscrupulous as he was, he knew that no one, however powerful, could
resist an authority universally conceded to be supreme and legitimate.
It was like the recall of a proconsul by the Roman Emperor and Senate:
he could resist for a time, but resistance meant ultimate ruin. He also
knew that he would be recalled, for he was necessary to the Emperor. He
anticipated the successes of Gustavus. He was not prepared to be a
traitor. He would wait his time.

So he resigned his command without a moment's hesitation, and with
apparent cheerfulness. He even loaded the messenger with costly gifts.
He appeared happy to be relieved from labor and responsibility, and
retired at once to his vast Bohemian estates to pursue his favorite
studies in the science of the stars, to enshroud himself in mystery and
gloom, and dazzle his countrymen by the splendor of his life. "His table
was never furnished with less than one hundred covers; none but a noble
of ancient family was intrusted with the office of superintending his
household; an armed guard of fifty men waited in his antechamber; the
ramparts of his castle were lined with sentinels; six barons and as many
knights constantly attended on his person; sixty pages were trained and
supported in his palace, which was decorated with all the wonders of
art, and almost realized the fictions of Eastern luxury." In this
splendid retirement Wallenstein brooded on his wrongs, and waited for
the future.

The dismissal of this able general was a great mistake on the part of
the Emperor. There were left no generals capable of opposing Gustavus.
The supreme command had devolved on Tilly, able but bigoted, and best
known for his remorseless cruelty when Magdeburg was taken by
assault,--the direst tragedy of the war. This city was one of the first
to welcome the invasion of the King of Sweden, and also to adopt the
Protestant religion. It was the most prosperous city in northern
Germany; one of the richest and most populous. Against this mercantile
fortress Tilly directed all his energies, for he detested the spirit of
its people. It was closely invested by the imperial troops, and fell
before Gustavus could advance to relieve it. It was neglected by the
electors of Saxony and Brandenburg, who were timid and pusillanimous,
and it was lulled into false security by its strong position and
defences. Not sufficient preparation for defence had been made by the
citizens, who trusted to its strong walls, and knew that Gustavus was
advancing to relieve it. But unexpectedly it was assaulted in the most
daring and desperate manner, and all was lost. On a Sabbath morning, the
sudden toll of alarm bells, the roar of artillery, the roll of drums
beating to quarter, and the piercing cries of women and children,
mingled with the shouts and execrations of brutal and victorious
soldiers, announced the fate of Magdeburg. Forty thousand people--men,
women, and children--were inhumanly butchered, without necessity,
quarter, compassion, or remorse. So cold and hard is war! This was the
saddest massacre in the history of Germany, and one of the greatest
crimes that a successful general ever committed. History has no
language, and painting no colors to depict the horrors of that dreadful
scene; and the interval of more than two hundred years has not weakened
the impression of its horrors. The sack of Magdeburg stands out in the
annals of war like the siege of Tyre and the fall of Jerusalem.

But it roused the Protestants as from a trance. It united them, as the
massacre of St. Bartholomew united the Huguenots. They marched under the
standard of Gustavus with the same enthusiasm that the Huguenots showed
under Henry IV. at the battle of Ivry. There was now no limit to the
successes of the heroic Swede. The decisive battle of Leipsic, the
passage of the Lech, the defence of Nuremberg, and the great final
victory at Lutzen raised the military fame of Gustavus to a height
unknown since Hannibal led his armies over the Alps, or Caesar
encountered the patrician hosts at the battle of Pharsalia. No victories
were ever more brilliant than his; and they not only gave him a
deathless fame, but broke forever the Austrian fetters. His reputation
as a general was fairly earned. He ranks with Condé, Henry IV., Frederic
the Great, Marlborough, and Wellington; not, perhaps, with Alexander,
Caesar, and Napoleon,--those phenomena of military genius, the exalted
trio who shine amid the glories of the battlefield, as Homer, Dante, and
Shakspeare loom up in fame above other immortal poets.

In two years from the landing of Gustavus Adolphus on the island of
Ruden, near the southern extremity of the Baltic, he expelled a
triumphant enemy from Pomerania, traversed the banks of the Oder,
overran the Duchy of Mecklenburg, ascended the Elbe, delivered Saxony
from the armies of Tilly, crossed the Thuringian forest, entered
Frankfort in triumph, restored the Palatinate to its lawful sovereign,
took possession of some of the strongest fortresses on the Rhine,
overran Bavaria, occupied its capital, crossed the Danube, and then
returned to Saxony, to offer up his life on the plains of Lutzen. There,
on that memorable battlefield, where the descending sun of victory in
later times shed a delusive gleam on the eagles of Napoleon before his
irremediable ruin, did Gustavus encounter the great antagonist of German
liberties, whom the necessities of the Emperor had summoned from
retirement. Wallenstein once more commanded the imperial armies, but
only on conditions which made him virtually independent of his master.
He was generalissimo, with almost unlimited authority, so long as the
war should last; and the Emperor agreed to remove neither the general
himself nor his officers, and gave him principalities and spoils
indefinitely. He was the most powerful subject in Europe, and the
greatest general next to Gustavus. I read of no French or English
general who has been armed with such authority. Cromwell and Napoleon
took it; it was not conferred by legitimate and supreme power. Had
Wallenstein been successful to the end, he might have grasped the
imperial sceptre. Had Gustavus lived, he might have been the dictator
of Germany.

Impatient were both commanders to engage in the contest which each knew
would be decisive. Long did they wait for opportunities. At last, on the
16th of November, 1632, the defenders and the foes of German liberties
arrayed themselves for the great final encounter. The Protestants gained
the day, but Gustavus fell, exclaiming to the murderous soldiers who
demanded his name and quality, "I am the King of Sweden! And I seal this
day, with my blood, the liberties and religion of the German nation."

The death of Gustavus Adolphus in the hour of victory was a shock which
came upon the allies like the loss of the dearest friend. The victory
seemed too dearly purchased. The greatest protector which Protestantism
ever knew had perished, as he himself predicted. Pappenheim, the bravest
of the Austrian generals, also perished; and with him, the flower of
Wallenstein's army. Schiller thinks that Gustavus died fortunately for
his fame; that had he survived the decisive battle of Lutzen, he not
only could have dictated terms to the Emperor, but might have yielded to
the almost irresistible temptation of giving laws to the countries he
had emancipated. But he did not live to be tried. That rarest of all
trials was reserved alone for our Washington to pass through
triumphantly,--to set an example to all countries and ages of the
superiority of moral to intellectual excellence. Gustavus might have
triumphed like Washington, and he might have yielded like Cromwell. We
do not know. This only we know,--that he was not merely the great hero
of the Thirty Years' War, but one of the best men who ever wore a crown;
that he conferred on the Protestants and on civilization an immortal and
inestimable service, and that he is to be regarded as one of the great
benefactors of the world.

The Thirty Years' War loses its dramatic interest after the battle of
Lutzen. The final issue was settled, although the war was carried on
sixteen years longer. It was not till 1648 that the peace of Westphalia
was signed, which guaranteed the liberties of Germany, and established
the balance of power. That famous treaty has also been made the
foundation of all subsequent treaties between the European nations, and
created an era in modern history. It took place after the death of
Richelieu, when Mazarin ruled France in the name of Louis XIV., and
when Charles I. was in the hands of Cromwell.

With the death of Gustavus we also partially lose sight of Wallenstein.
He never afterwards gained victories commensurate with his reputation.
He remained, after the battle of Lutzen, unaccountably inactive in
Bohemia. But if his military fame was tarnished, his pride and power
remained. His military exactions became unendurable, and it is probable
he was a traitor. So unpopular did he become, and so suspicious was the
Emperor, who lost confidence in him, that he was assassinated by the
order of his sovereign. He was too formidable to be removed in any other
way. He probably deserved his fate. Although it was difficult to bring
this great culprit to justice, yet his death is a lesson to traitors.
"There are many ways," said Cicero, "in which a man may die,"--referring
to the august usurper of the Roman world.

I will not dwell on the sixteen remaining years of the Thirty Years'
War. It is too horrible a picture to paint. The desolation and misery
which overwhelmed Germany were most frightful and revolting. The war was
carried on without system or genius. "Expeditions were undertaken
apparently with no other view than to desolate hostile provinces, till
in the end provisions and winter quarters formed the principal object of
the summer campaigns." "Disease, famine, and want of discipline swept
away whole armies before they had seen an enemy." Soldiers deserted the
ranks, and became roving banditti. Law and justice entirely vanished
from the land. Germany, it is asserted by Mitchell, lost probably twelve
millions of people. Before the war, the population was sixteen millions;
at the close of the war, it had dwindled to four millions. The city of
Augsburg at one time had eighty thousand inhabitants; at the close of
the war, it had only eighteen thousand. "No less than thirty thousand
villages and hamlets were destroyed. Peaceful peasants were hunted for
mere sport, like the beasts of the forest. Citizens were nailed up and
fired at like targets. Women were collected into bands, driven like
slaves into camp, and exposed to indignities worse than death. The
fields were allowed to run waste, and forests sprung up and covered
entire districts which before the war had been under full cultivation."
Amid these scenes of misery and ruin, vices were more marked than
calamities. They were carried to the utmost pitch of vulgarity. Both
Austrian and Swedish generals were often so much intoxicated, for days
together, as to be incapable of service. Never was a war attended by so
many horrors. Never was crime more general and disgusting. So terrible
were the desolations, that it took Germany one hundred years to recover
from her losses. It never recovered the morality and religion which
existed in the time of Luther. That war retarded civilization in all the
countries where it raged. It was a moral and physical conflagration.

But there is a God in this world, and the evils were overruled. It is
certain that Protestantism was rescued from extermination on the
continent of Europe. It is clear also that a barrier was erected against
the aggressions of Austria. The Catholic and the Protestant religions
were left unmolested in the countries where they prevailed, and all
religious sects were tolerated. Religious toleration, since the Thirty
Years' War, has been the boast and glory of Germany.

We should feel a sickening melancholy if something for the ultimate good
of the world were not to come from such disasters as filled Germany with
grief and indignation for a whole generation; for the immediate effects
of the Thirty Years' War were more disastrous than those of any war I
have read of in the history of Europe since the fall of the Roman
Empire. In the civil wars of France and England, cities and villages
were generally spared. Civilization in those countries has scarcely ever
been retarded for more than a generation; but it was put back in Germany
for a century. Yet the enormous sacrifice of life and property would
seem to show the high value which Providence places on the great rights
of mankind, in comparison with material prosperity or the lives of men.
What is spiritual is permanent; what is material is transient. The
early history of Christianity is the history of martyrdom. Five millions
of Crusaders perished, that Europe might learn liberality of mind. It
took one hundred years of contention and two revolutions to secure
religious toleration in England. France passed through awful political
hurricanes, in order that feudal injustice might be removed. In like
manner, twelve millions of people perished in Germany, that despotism
might be rebuked.

Fain would we believe that what little was gained proved a savor of life
unto life; that seeds of progress were planted in that unhappy country
which after a lapse of one hundred years would germinate and develop a
higher civilization. What a great Protestant power has arisen in
northern Germany to awe and keep in check not Catholicism merely, but
such a hyperborean giant as Russia in its daring encroachments. But for
Prussia, Russia might have extended her conquests to the south as well
as to the west. But for the Thirty Years' War, no such empire as Prussia
would have been probable, or perhaps possible. But for that dreadful
contest, there might have been to-day only the Catholic religion among
the descendants of the Teutonic barbarians on the continent of Europe.
But for that war, the Austrian Empire might have retained a political
ascendency in Europe until the French Revolution; and such countries as
Sweden and Denmark might have been absorbed in it, as well as Saxony,
Brandenburg, and Hanover. What a terrible thing for Germany would have
been the unbroken and iron despotism of Austria, extending its Briarean
arms into every corner of Europe where the German language is spoken!
What a blow such a despotism would have been to science, literature, and
philosophy! Would Catholic Austria, supreme in Germany, have established
schools, or rewarded literary men? The Jesuits would have flourished and
triumphed from Pomerania to Wallachia; from the Baltic to the Danube.

It may have taken one hundred years for Germany to rally after such
miseries and disasters as I have had time only to allude to, and not
fully to describe; but see how gloriously that country has at last
arisen above all misfortunes! Why may we not predict a noble future for
so brave and honest a people,--the true descendants of those Teutonic
conquerers to whom God gave, nearly two thousand years ago, the
possessions and the lands of the ancient races who had not what the
Germans had,--a soul; the soul which hopes, and the soul which conquers?
The Thirty Years' War proved that liberty is not a dream, nor truth a
defeated power. Liberty cannot be extinguished among such peoples,
though "oceans may overwhelm it and mountains may press it down." It is
the boon of one hundred generations, the water of life distilled from
the tears of unnumbered millions,--the precious legacy of heroes and
martyrs, who in different nations and in different ages, inspired by the
contemplation of its sublime reality, counted not their lives dear unto
them, if by the sacrifice of life this priceless blessing could be
transmitted to posterity.


Hallenberg's History of Gustavus Adolphus; Fryxell's History of Sweden,
translated by Mary Howitt; Dreysen's Life of Gustavus Adolphus; S.R.
Gardiner's Thirty Years' War; Schiller's Thirty Years' War; Schiller's
Wallenstein, translated by Coleridge; Dr. Foster's Life of Wallenstein;
Colonel Mitchell's Life of Gustavus Adolphus; Lord F. Egerton's Life and
Letters of Wallenstein; Chapman's History of Gustavus Adolphus;
Biographie Universelle; Article in Encyclopaedia Britannica on Sweden;
R.C. Trench's Social Aspects of the Thirty Years' War; Heydenreich's
Life of Gustavus Adolphus.


A. D. 1585-1642.


Cardinal de Richelieu is an illustration of what can be done for the
prosperity and elevation of a country by a man whom we personally abhor,
and whose character is stained by glaring defects and vices. If there
was a statesman in French history who was pre-eminently unscrupulous,
selfish, tyrannical, and cruel, that statesman was the able and wily
priest who ruled France during the latter years of Louis XIII. And yet
it would be difficult to find a ruler who has rendered more signal
services to the state or to the monarch whom he served. He extricated
France from the perils of anarchy, and laid the foundation for the
grandeur of the monarchy under Louis XIV. It was his mission to create a
strong government, when only a strong government could save the kingdom
from disintegration; so that absolutism, much as we detest it, seems to
have been one of the needed forces of the seventeenth century. It was
needed in France, to restrain the rapacity and curtail the overgrown
power of feudal nobles, whose cabals and treasons were fatal to the
interests of law and order.

The assassination of Henry IV. was a great calamity. The government fell
into the hands of his widow, Marie de Médicis, a weak and frivolous
woman. Under her regency all kinds of evils accumulated. So many
conflicting interests and animosities existed that there was little
short of anarchy. There were not popular insurrections and rebellions,
for the people were ignorant, and were in bondage to their feudal
masters; but the kingdom was rent by the rivalries and intrigues of the
great nobles, who, no longer living in their isolated castles but in the
precincts of the court, fought duels in the streets, plundered the royal
treasury, robbed jewellers and coachmakers, paid no debts, and treated
the people as if they were dogs or cattle. They claimed all the
great offices of state, and all high commands in the army and
navy; sold justice, tampered with the law, quarrelled with the
parliaments,--indeed, were a turbulent, haughty, and powerful
aristocracy, who felt that they were above all law and all restraint.
They were not only engaged in perpetual intrigues, but even in
treasonable correspondence with the enemies of their country. They
disregarded the honor of the kingdom, and attempted to divide it into
principalities for their children. "The Guises wished to establish
themselves in Provence, the Montmorencies in Languedoc, the Longuevilles
in Picardy. The Duke of Epernon sought to retain the sovereignty of
Guienne, and the Duke of Vendôme to secure the sovereignty of Brittany."
One wanted to be constable, another admiral, a third to be governor of a
province, in order to tyrannize and enrich themselves like Roman
proconsuls. Every outrage was shamelessly perpetrated by them with
impunity, because they were too powerful to be punished. They
assassinated their enemies, filled the cities with their armed
retainers, and made war even on the government; so that all central
power was a mockery. The Queen-regent was humiliated and made
contemptible, and was forced, in her turn and in self-defence, to
intrigues and cabals, and sought protection by setting the nobles up
against each other, and thus dividing their forces. Even the
parliaments, which were courts of law, were full of antiquated
prejudices, and sought only to secure their own privileges,--at one time
siding with the Queen-regent, and then with the factious nobles. The
Huguenots were the best people of the land; but they were troublesome,
since they possessed cities and fortresses, and erected an _imperium in
imperio._ In their synods and assemblies they usurped the attributes of
secular rulers, and discussed questions of peace and war. They entered
into formidable conspiracies, and fomented the troubles and
embarrassments of the government The abjuration of Henry IV. had thinned
their ranks and deprived them of court influence. No great leaders
remained, since they had been seduced by fashion. The Huguenots were a
disappointed and embittered party, hard to please, and hard to be
governed; full of fierce resentments, and soured by old recollections.
They had obtained religious liberty, but with this they were not
contented. Their spirit was not unlike that of the Jacobins in England
after the Stuarts were expelled from the throne. So all things combined
to produce a state of anarchy and discontent. Feudalism had done its
work. It was a good thing on the dissolution of the Roman Empire, when
society was resolved into its original elements,--when barbarism on the
one hand, and superstition on the other, made the Middle Ages funereal,
dismal, violent, despairing. But commerce, arts, and literature had
introduced a new era,--still unformed, a vast chaos of conflicting
forces, and yet redeemed by reviving intelligence and restless daring.
The one thing which society needed in that transition period was a
strong government in the hands of kings, to restore law and develop
national resources.

Now amid all these evils Richelieu grew up. Under the guise of levity
and pleasure and good-nature, he studied and comprehended all these
parties and factions, and hated them all. All alike were hostile to the
central power, which he saw was necessary to the preservation of law and
to the development of the resources of the country.

Moreover, he was ambitious of power himself, which he loved as Michael
Angelo loved art, and Palestrina loved music. Power was his
master-passion, and consumed all other passions; and he resolved to gain
it in any way he could,--unscrupulously, by flatteries, by duplicities,
by sycophancies, by tricks, by lies, even by services. That was his end.
He cared nothing for means. He was a politician.

The progress of his elevation is interesting, but hideous. Armand Jean
Duplessis was born in 1585, of a noble family of high rank. He was
designed for the army, but a bishopric falling to the gift of his
family, he was made a priest. He early distinguished himself in his
studies, for he was precocious and had great abilities. At twenty he was
doctor of the Sorbonne, and before he was twenty-one he received from
the Pope, Paul V., the emblems of spiritual power as a prelate of the
Church. But he was too young to be made a bishop, according to the
canons,--a difficulty, however, which he easily surmounted: he told a
lie to the Pope, and then begged for an absolution. He then attached
himself to the worthless favorite of the Queen-regent, Concini, one of
her countrymen; and through him to the Queen herself, Marie de Medicis,
who told him her secrets, which he betrayed when it suited his
interests. When Louis XIII. attained his majority, Richelieu paid his
court to De Luynes, who was then all-powerful with the King, and who
secured him a cardinal's hat; and when this miserable favorite
died,--this falconer, this keeper of birds, yet duke, peer, governor,
and minister,--Richelieu wound himself around the King, Louis XIII., the
most impotent of all the Bourbons, made himself necessary, and became
minister of foreign affairs; and his great rule began (1624).

During all these seventeen years of office-climbing, Richelieu was to
all appearance the most amiable man in France; everybody liked him, and
everybody trusted him. He was full of amenities, promises, bows, smiles,
and flatteries. He always advocated the popular side with reigning
favorites; courted all the great ladies; was seen in all the fashionable
salons; had no offensive opinions; was polite to everybody; was
non-committal; fond of games and spectacles; frivolous among fools,
learned among scholars; grave among functionaries, devout among
prelates; cunning as a fox, brave as a lion, supple as a dog; all things
to all men; an Alcibiades, a Jesuit; with no apparent animosities;
handsome, witty, brilliant; preacher, courtier, student; as full of
hypocrisy as an egg is of meat; with eyes wide open, and thoughts
disguised; all eyes and no heart; reserved or communicative as it suited
his purpose. This was that arch-intriguer who was seeking all the while,
not the sceptre of the King, but the power of the King. Should you say
that this non-committal, agreeable, and amiable politician--who
quarrelled with nobody, and revealed nothing to anybody; who had cheated
all parties by turns--was the man to save France, to extricate his
country from all the evils to which I have alluded, to build up a great
throne (even while he who sat upon it was utterly contemptible) and make
that throne the first in Europe, and to establish absolutism as one of
the needed forces of the seventeenth century?

Yet so it was; and his work was all the more difficult when the
character of the King is considered. Louis XIII. was a different kind of
man from his father Henry IV. and his grandson Louis XIV. He had no
striking characteristics but feebleness and timidity and love of ignoble
pleasures. He had no ambitions or powerful passions; was feeble and
sickly from a child,--ruled at one time by his mother, and then by a
falconer; and apparently taking but little interest in affairs of state.

But if it was difficult to gain ascendency over such a frivolous and
inglorious Sardanapalus, it was easy to retain it when this ascendency
was once acquired. For Richelieu made him comprehend the dangers which
menaced his life and his throne; that some very able man must be
intrusted with supreme delegated power, who would rule for the benefit
of him he served,--a servant, and yet a master; like Metternich in
Austria, after the wars of Napoleon,--a man whose business and aim were
to exalt absolutism on a throne. Moreover, he so complicated public
affairs that his services were indispensable. Nobody could fill
his place.

Also, it must be remembered that the King was isolated, and without
counsellors whom he could trust. After the death of De Luynes he had no
bosom friend. He was surrounded with perplexities and secret enemies.
His mother, who had been regent, defied his authority; his brothers
sought to wear his crown; the nobles conspired against his throne; the
Protestants threatened another civil war; the parliaments thought only
of retaining their privileges; the finances were disordered; the
treasures which Henry IV. had accumulated had been squandered in bribing
the great nobles; foreign enemies had invaded the soil of France; evils
and dangers were accumulating on every side, with such terrific force as
to jeopardize the very existence of the monarchy; and one necessity
became apparent, even to the weak mind of the King,--that he must
delegate his power to some able man, who, though he might rule
unscrupulously and tyrannically, would yet be faithful to the crown, and
establish the central power for the benefit of his heirs and the welfare
of the state.

Now Richelieu was just the man he needed, just such a man as the times
required,--a man raised up to do important work, like Cromwell in
England, like Bismarck in Prussia, like Cavour in Italy: doubtless a
great hypocrite, yet sincere in the conviction that a strong government
was the great necessity of his country; a great scoundrel, yet a
patriotic and wise statesman, who loved his country with the ardor of a
Mirabeau, while nobody loved him. Besides, he loved absolutism, both
because he was by nature a tyrant, and because he was a member of the
Roman Catholic hierarchy. He called to mind old Rome under the Caesars,
and mediaeval Rome under the popes, and what a central authority had
effected for civilization in times of anarchy, and in times of darkness
and superstition; and the King to him was a sort of vicegerent of divine
power, clothed in authority based on divine right,--the idea of kings in
the Middle Ages. The state was his, to be managed as a man manages his
farm,--as a South Carolinian once managed his slaves. The idea that
political power properly emanates from the people,--the idea of Rousseau
and Jefferson,--never once occurred to him; nor even political power in
the hands of aristocrats, fettered by a constitution and amenable to the
nation. A constitutional monarchy existed nowhere, except perhaps in
England. Unrestricted and absolute power in the hands of a king was the
only government he believed in. The king might be feeble, in which case
he could delegate his power to ministers; or he might be imbecile, in
which case he might be virtually dethroned; but his royal rights were
sacred, his authority incontestable, and consecrated by all usage and

Yet while Richelieu would uphold the authority of the crown as supreme
and absolute, he would not destroy the prestige of the aristocracy; for
he was a nobleman himself,--he belonged to their class. He believed in
caste, in privileges, in monopolies; therefore he would not annul either
rank or honor. The nobles were welcome to retain their stars and orders
and ribbons and heraldic distinctions, even their parks and palaces and
falcons and hounds. They were a favored class, that feudalism had
introduced and ages had indorsed; but even they must be subservient to
the crown, from which their honors emanated, and hence to order and law,
of which the king was the keeper. They must be subjects of the
government, as well as allies and supporters. The government was royal,
not aristocratic. The privileges of the nobility were social rather
than political, although the great offices of state were intrusted to
them as a favor, not as a right,--as simply servants of a royal master,
whose interests they were required to defend. Some of them were allied
by blood with the sovereign, and received marks of his special favor;
but their authority was derived from him.

Richelieu was not unpatriotic. He wished to see France powerful, united,
and prosperous; but powerful as a monarchy, united under a king, and
prosperous for the benefit of the privileged orders,--not for the
plebeian people, who toiled for supercilious masters. The people were of
no account politically; were as unimportant as slaves,--to be protected
in life and property, that they might thrive for the benefit of those
who ruled them.

So when Richelieu became prime minister, and felt secure in his
seat,--knowing how necessary to the King his services were,--he laid
aside his amiable manners as a politician, and determined as a statesman
to carry out remorselessly and rigidly his plans for the exaltation of
the monarchy. And the moment he spoke at the council-board his genius
predominated; all saw that a great power had arisen, that he was a
master, and would be obeyed, and would execute his plans with no
sentimentalities, but coldly, fixedly, like a man of blood and iron,
indifferent to all obstacles. He was a man who could rule, and
therefore, on Carlyle's theory, a man who ought to rule, because he
was strong.

There is something imposing, I grant, in this executive strength; it
does not make a man interesting, but it makes him feared. Every
ruler,--in fact every man intrusted with executive power, especially in
stormy times,--should be resolute, unflinching, with a will dominating
over everything, with courage, pluck, backbone, be he king or prime
minister, or the superintendent of a railway, or director of a lunatic
asylum, or president of a college. No matter whether the sphere be large
or small, the administration of power requires energy, will, promptness
of action, without favor and without fear. And if such a person rules
well he will be respected; but if he rules unwisely,--if capricious,
unjust, cruel, vindictive,--he may be borne for a while, until patience
is exhausted and indignation becomes terrible: a passion of vengeance,
like that which overthrew Strafford. Wise tyrants, like Peter and
Frederic the Great, will be endured, from their devotion to public
interests; but unwise tyrants, ruling for self-interest or pleasure,
will be hurled from power, or assassinated like Nero or Commodus, as the
only way to get rid of the miseries they inflict.

Now of the class of wise and enlightened tyrants was Richelieu. His
greatness was in his will, sagacity, watchfulness, and devotion to
public affairs. Factions could not oust him, because he was strong; the
King would not part with him, because he was faithful; posterity will
not curse him, because he laid the foundation of the political greatness
of his country.

I do not praise his system of government. On abstract principles I feel
that it is against the liberties of mankind; nor is it in accordance
with the progress of government in our modern times. All the successive
changes which reforms and revolutions have wrought have been towards
representative and constitutional governments,--as in England and France
in the nineteenth century. Absolutism or Caesarism is only adapted to
people in primitive or anarchical states of society,--as in old Rome, or
Rome under the popes. It is at the best a necessary tyranny, made so by
the disorders and evils of life. It can be commended only when men are
worse than governments; when they are to be coerced like wild beasts, or
lunatics, or scoundrels. When there is universal plunder, lying,
cheating, and murdering; when laws are a mockery, and when demagogues
reign; when all public interests are scandalously sacrificed for private
emolument,--then absolutism may for a time be necessary; but only for a
time, unless we assume that men can never govern themselves.

In that state of society into which France was plunged during the
regency of Marie de Médicis, and at which I have glanced, absolutism
was perhaps a needed force. Then Richelieu, its great modern
representative, arose,--a model statesman in the eyes of Peter
the Great.

But he was not to reign, and trample all other powers beneath his feet,
without a memorable struggle. Three great forces were arrayed against
him. These were the Huguenots, the nobles, and the parliaments,--the
Protestant, the feudal, and the legal elements of society in France. The
people,--at least the peasantry,--did not rise up against him; they were
powerless and too unenlightened. The priests sustained him, and the
common people acquiesced in his rigid rule, for he established law
and order.

He began his labors in behalf of absolutism by suppressing the
Huguenots. That was the only political party which was urgent for its
rights. They were an intelligent party of tradesmen and small farmers;
they were plebeian, but conscientious and aspiring. They were not
contented alone to worship God according to the charter which Henry IV.
had granted, but they sought political power; and they were so
unfortunate as to be guilty of cabals and intrigues inconsistent with a
central power. They were factious, and were not disposed to submit to
legitimate authority. They had declined in numbers and influence; they
had even degenerated in religious life; but they were still powerful
and dangerous foes. They had retreated to their strong fortress of La
Rochelle, resolved, if attacked, to fight once again the whole power of
the monarchy. They put themselves in a false position; they wanted more
than the Edict of Nantes had guaranteed.

Unfortunately for them they had no leaders worthy to marshal their
forces. Fashion and the influence of the court had seduced their men of
rank; nor had they the enthusiasm which had secured victory at Ivry. Nor
could they contend openly in the field; they were obliged to intrench
themselves in an impregnable fortress: there they deemed they could defy
their enemy. They even invoked the aid of England, and thus introduced
foreign enemies on the soil of France, which was high-treason. They put
themselves in the attitude of rebels against the government; and so long
as English ships, with supplies, could go in and out of their harbor,
they could not be conquered. Richelieu, clad in mail, a warrior-priest,
surveyed with disgust their strong defences and their open harbor. His
artillery was of no use, nor his lines of circumvallation. So he put his
brain in motion, and studied Quintus Curtius. He remembered what
Alexander did at the siege of Tyre; he constructed a vast dyke of stone
and timber and iron across the harbor, in some places twelve hundred
feet deep, and thus cut off all egress and ingress. The English under
Buckingham departed, unable to render further assistance. The capture
then was only a work of time; genius had hemmed the city in, and famine
soon did the rest. Cats, dogs, and vermin became luxuries. The starving
women beseeched the inexorable enemy for permission to retire: they
remembered the mercy that Henry IV. had shown at the siege of Paris. But
war in the hands of masters has no favors to grant; conquerors have no
tears. The Huguenots, as rebels, had no hope but in unconditional
submission. They yielded it reluctantly, but not until famine had done
its work. And they never raised their heads again; their spirit was
broken. They were conquered, and at the mercy of the crown; destined in
the next reign to be cruelly and most wantonly persecuted; hunted as
heretics by dragonnades and executioners, at the bidding of Louis XIV.,
until four hundred thousand were executed or driven from the kingdom.

But Richelieu was not such a bigot as Louis XIV.; he was a statesman,
and took enlightened views of the welfare of the country. Therefore he
contented himself with destroying the fortifications of La Rochelle,
filling up its ditches, and changing its government. He continued, in a
modified form, the religious privileges conceded by the Edict of Nantes;
but he kept a strict watch, humiliated the body by withholding civil
equalities and offices in the army and navy, treating with disdain their
ministers, and taking away their social rank, so that they became
plebeian and unimportant. He pursued the same course that the English
government adopted in reference to Dissenters in the eighteenth century,
when they were excluded from Oxford and Cambridge and church
burial-grounds. So that Protestantism in France, after the fall of La
Rochelle, never asserted its dignity, in spite of Bibles, consistories,
and schools. Degraded at court, deprived of the great offices of the
state, despised, rejected, and persecuted, it languished and declined.

Having subdued the Huguenots, Richelieu turned his attention to the
nobles,--the most worthless, arrogant, and powerful of all the nobility
of Europe; men who made royalty a mockery and law a name. I have alluded
to their intrigues, ambition, and insolence. It was necessary that they
should be humiliated, decimated, and punished, if central power was to
be respected. So he cut off their towering heads, exiled and imprisoned
them whenever they violated the laws, or threatened the security of the
throne or the peace of the realm. As individuals they hated him, and
conspired against his rule. Had they combined, they would have been more
powerful than he; but they were too quarrelsome, envious, and
short-sighted to combine.

The person who hated Richelieu most fiercely and bitterly was the
Queen-mother,--widow of Henry IV., regent during the minority of Louis
XIII. And no wonder, for he had cheated her and betrayed her. She was a
very formidable enemy, having a great ascendency over the mind of her
son the King; and once, it is said, she had so powerfully wrought upon
him by her envenomed sarcasms, in the palace of the Luxembourg where she
lived in royal state, that the King had actually taken the parchment in
his hand to sign the disgrace of his minister. But he was watched by an
eye that never slept; Richelieu suddenly appearing, at the critical
moment, from behind the tapestries where he had concealed himself,
fronted and defied his enemy. The King, bewildered, had not nerve enough
to face his own servant, who however made him comprehend the dangers
which surrounded his throne and person, and compelled him to part with
his mother,--the only woman he ever loved,--and without permitting her
to imprint upon his brow her own last farewell. "And the world saw the
extraordinary spectacle of this once powerful Queen, the mother of a
long line of kings, compelled to lead a fugitive life from court to
court,--repulsed from England by her son-in-law, refused a shelter in
Holland, insulted by Spain, neglected by Rome, and finally obliged to
crave an asylum from Rubens the painter, and, driven from one of his
houses, forced to hide herself in Cologne, where, deserted by all her
children, and so reduced by poverty as to break up the very furniture of
her room for fuel, she perished miserably between four empty walls, on a
wretched bed, destitute, helpless, heartbroken, and alone." Such was the
power and such was the vengeance of the cardinal on the highest
personage in France. Such was the dictation of a priest to a king who
personally disliked him; such was his ascendency, not by Druidical
weapons, but by genius presenting reasons of state.

The next most powerful personage in France was the Duke of Orleans,
brother of the King, who sought to steal his sceptre. As he was detected
in treasonable correspondence with Spain, he became a culprit, but was
spared after making a humiliating confession and submission. But Condé,
the first prince of the blood, was shut up in prison, and the powerful
Duke of Guise was exiled. Richelieu took away from the Duke of Bouillon
his sovereignty of Sedan; forced the proud Epernon to ask pardon on his
knees; drove away from the kingdom the Duke of Vendôme, natural brother
of the King; executed the Duke of Montmorency, whose family traced an
unbroken lineage to Pharamond; confined Marshal Bassompierre to the
Bastile; arrested Marshal Marillac at the head of a conquering army; cut
off the head of Cinq-Mars, grand equerry and favorite of the King; and
executed on the scaffold the Counts of Chalais and Bouteville. All these
men were among the proudest and most powerful nobles in Europe; they all
lived like princes, and had princely revenues and grand offices, but had
been caught with arms in their hands, or in treasonable correspondence.
What hope for ordinary culprits when the proudest feudal nobles were
executed or exiled, like common malefactors? Neither rank nor services
could screen them from punishment. The great minister had no mercy and
no delay even for the favorites of royalty. Nay, the King himself became
his puppet, and was forced to part with his friends, his family, his
mistresses, and his pleasures. Some of the prime ministers of kings have
had as much power as Richelieu, but no minister, before or since, has
ruled the monarch himself with such an iron sway. How weak the King, or
how great the minister!

The third great force which Richelieu crushed was the parliament of
Paris. It had the privilege of registering the decrees of the King; and
hence was a check, the only check, on royal authority,--unless the King
came in person into the assembly, and enforced his decree by what was
called a "bed of justice." This body, however, was judicial rather than
legislative; made up of pedantic and aristocratic lawyers, who could be
troublesome. We get some idea of the humiliation of this assembly of
lawyers and nobles from the speech of Omer Talon,--the greatest lawyer
of the realm,--when called upon to express the sentiments of his
illustrious body to the King, at a "bed of justice": "Happy should we
be, most gracious sovereign, if we could obtain any favor worthy of the
honor which we derive from your majesty's presence; but the entry of
your sacred person into our assembly unfits us for our functions. And
inasmuch as the throne on which you are seated is a light that dazzles
us, bow, if it please you, the heavens which you inhabit, and after the
example of the Eternal Sovereign, whose image you bear, condescend to
visit us with your gracious mercy."

What a contrast to this servile speech was the conduct of the English
parliament about this time, in its memorable resistance to Charles I.;
and how different would have been the political destinies of the English
people, if Stratford, just such a man as Richelieu, had succeeded in his
schemes! But in England the parliament was backed by the nation,--at
least by the middle classes. In France the people had then no political
aspirations; among them a Cromwell could not have arisen, since a
Cromwell could not have been sustained.

Thus Richelieu, by will and genius, conquered all his foes in order to
uphold the throne, and thus elevate the nation; for, as Sir James
Stephen says, "the grandeur of the monarchy and the welfare of France
with him were but convertible terms." He made the throne the first in
Europe, even while he who sat upon it was personally contemptible. He
gave lustre to the monarchy, while he himself was an unarmed priest. It
was a splendid fiction to make the King nominally so powerful, while
really he was so feeble. But royalty was not a fiction under his
successor. How respectable did Richelieu make the monarchy! What a deep
foundation did he lay for royalty under Louis XIV.! What a magnificent
inheritance did he bequeath to that monarch! "Nothing was done for forty
years which he had not foreseen and prepared. His successor, Mazarin,
only prospered so far as he followed out his instructions; and the star
of Louis XIV. did not pale so long as the policy which Richelieu
bequeathed was the rule of his public acts." The magnificence of Louis
was only the sequel of the energy and genius of Richelieu; Versailles
was really the gift of him who built the Palais Royal.

The services of Richelieu to France did not end with centralizing power
around the throne. He enlarged the limits of the kingdom and subdued her
foreign enemies. Great rivers and mountains became the national
boundaries, within which it was easy to preserve conquests. He was not
ambitious of foreign domination; he simply wished to make the kingdom
impregnable. Had Napoleon pursued this policy, he could never have been
overthrown, and his dynasty would have been established. It was the
policy of Elizabeth and of Cromwell. I do not say that Richelieu did not
enter upon foreign wars; but it was to restore the "balance of power,"
not to add kingdoms to the empire. He rendered assistance to Gustavus
Adolphus, in spite of the protests of Rome and the disgust of Catholic
powers, in order to prevent the dangerous ascendency of Austria; thus
setting an example for William III., and Pitt himself, in his warfare
against Napoleon. In these days we should prefer to see the "balance of
power" maintained by a congress of nations, rather than by vast military
preparations and standing armies, which eat out the resources of
nations; but in the seventeenth century there was no other way to
maintain this balance than by opposing armies. Nor did Richelieu seek to
maintain the peace of Europe by force alone. Never was there a more
astute and profound diplomatist. His emissaries were in every court,
with intrigues very hard to be baffled. He equalled Metternich or
Talleyrand in his profound dissimulation, for European diplomacy has
ever been based on this. While he built up absolutism in France, he did
not alienate other governments; so that, like Cromwell, he made his
nation respected abroad. His conquest of Roussillon prepared the way for
the famous Treaty of the Pyrenees, under the administration of Mazarin.
While vigorous in war, his policy was on the whole pacific,--like that
of all Catholic priests who have held power in France. He loved glory
indeed, but, like Sully and Colbert, he also wished to develop the
national resources; and, as indeed all enlightened statesmen from Moses
downward have sought to do, he wished to make the country strong for
defence rather than offence.

He showed great sagacity as well as an enlightened mind. The ablest men
were placed in office. The army and navy were reorganized. Corruption
and peculation on the part of officials were severely punished. The
royal revenue was increased. Roads, bridges, canals were built and
repaired, and public improvements were made. The fine arts were
encouraged, and even learning was rewarded. It was he who founded the
French Academy,--although he excluded from it men of original genius
whose views he did not like. Law and order were certainly restored, and
anarchy ceased to reign. The rights of property were established, and
the finances freed from embarrassments.

So his rigid rule tended to the elevation of France; absolutism proved
necessary in his day, and under his circumstances. When arraigned at the
bar of posterity, he claims, like Napoleon, to be judged for his
services, and not for his defects of character. These defects will
forever make him odious in spite of his services. I hardly know a more
repulsive benefactor. He was vain, cold, heartless, rigid, and proud. He
had no amiable weakness. His smile was a dagger, and his friendship was
a snare. He was a hypocrite and a tyrant. He had no pity on a fallen
foe; and even when bending under the infirmities of age, and in the near
prospect of death, his inexorable temper was never for a moment subdued.
The execution of Cinq-Mars and De Thou took place when he had one foot
in his grave. He deceived everybody, sent his spies into the bosom of
families, and made expediency the law of his public life.

But it is nothing to the philosophic student of history that he built
the Palais Royal, or squandered riches with Roman prodigality, or
rewarded players, or enriched Marion Delorme, or clad himself in mail
before La Rochelle, or persecuted his early friends, or robbed the
monasteries, or made a spy of Father Joseph, or exiled the Queen-mother,
or kept the King in bondage, or sent his enemies to the scaffold: these
things are all against him, and make him appear in a repulsive light.
But if he brought order out of confusion, and gave a blow to feudalism,
and destroyed anarchies, and promoted law, and developed the resources
of his country, making that country formidable and honorable, and
constructed a vast machinery of government by which France was kept
together for a century, and would have fallen to pieces without
it,--then there is another way to survey this bad man; and we view him
not only as a great statesman and ruler, but as an instrument of
Providence, raised up as a terror to evil-doers. We may hate absolutism,
but must at the same time remember that there are no settled principles
of government, any more than of political economy. That is the best
government which is best adapted to the exigency of that human society
which at the time it serves. Republicanism would not do in China, any
more than despotism in New England. Bad men, somehow or other, must be
coerced and punished. The more prevalent is depravity, so much the more
necessary is despotic vigor: it will be so to the end of time. It is all
nonsense to dream of liberty with a substratum of folly and vice. Unless
evils can be remedied by the public itself, giving power to the laws
which the people create, then physical force, hard and cold tyranny,
must inevitably take the place. No country will long endure anarchy; and
then the hardest characters may prove the greatest benefactors.

It is on this principle that I am reconciled to the occasional rule of
despots. And when I see a bad man, like Richelieu, grasping power to be
used for the good of a nation, I have faith to believe it to be ordered
wisely. When men are good and honest and brave, we shall have
Washingtons; when they are selfish and lawless, God will send
Richelieus and Napoleons, if He has good things in store for the future,
even as He sends Neros and Diocletians when a nation is doomed to
destruction by incurable rottenness.

And yet absolutism in itself is not to be defended; it is what
enlightened nations are now striving to abolish. It is needed only under
certain circumstances; if it were to be perpetuated in any nation it
would be Satanic. It is endurable only because it may be destroyed when
it has answered its end; and, like all human institutions, it will
become corrupted. It was shamefully abused under Louis XIV. and Louis
XV. But when corrupted and abused it has, like slavery, all the elements
of certain decay and ruin. The abuse of power will lead to its own
destruction, even as undue haste in the acquisition of riches tendeth
to poverty.


Petitot's Mémoires sur le Règne de Louis XIII.; Secret History of the
French Court, by Cousin; Le Clerc's Vie de Richelieu; Henri Martin's
History of France; Mémoires de Richelieu, by Michaud and Poujoulat; Life
of Richelieu, by Capefigue, and E.E. Crowe, and G.P.R. James; Lardner's
Cabinet Cyclopaedia; Histoire du Ministère du Cardinal de Richelieu, by
A. Jay; Michelet's Life of Henry IV. and Richelieu; Biographie
Universelle; Sir James Stephen's Lectures on the History of France.


A.D. 1599-1658.


The most difficult character in history to treat critically, and the
easiest to treat rhetorically, perhaps, is Oliver Cromwell; after two
centuries and more he is still a puzzle: his name, like that of
Napoleon, is a doubt. Some regard him with unmingled admiration; some
detest him as a usurper; and many look upon him as a hypocrite. Nobody
questions his ability; and his talents were so great that some bow down
to him on that account, out of reverence for strength, like Carlyle. On
the whole he is a popular idol, not for his strength, but for his cause,
since he represents the progressive party in his day in behalf of
liberty,--at least until his protectorate began. Then new issues arose;
and while he appeared as a great patriot and enlightened ruler, he yet
reigned as an absolute monarch, basing his power on a standing army.

But whatever may be said of Cromwell as statesman, general, or ruler,
his career was remarkable and exceedingly interesting. His character,
too, was unique and original; hence we are never weary of discussing
him. In studying his character and career, we also have our minds
directed to the great ideas of his tumultuous and agitated age, for he,
like Napoleon, was the product of revolution. He was the offspring of
mighty ideas,--he did not create them; original thinkers set them in
motion, as Rousseau enunciated the ideas which led to the French
Revolution. The great thinkers of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries were divines, the men whom the Reformation produced. It was
Luther preaching the right of private judgment, and Calvin pushing out
the doctrine of the majesty of God to its remotest logical sequence, and
Latimer appealing to every man's personal responsibility to God, and
Gustavus Adolphus fighting for religious liberty, and the Huguenots
protesting against religious persecution, and Thomas Cromwell sweeping
away the abominations of the Papacy, and the Geneva divines who settled
in England during the reign of Elizabeth,--it was all these that
produced Oliver Cromwell.

He was a Puritan, and hence he was a reformer, not in church matters
merely, but in all those things which are connected with civil
liberty,--for there is as close a connection between Protestantism and
liberty as between Catholicism and absolutism. The Puritans intensely
hated everything which reminded them of Rome, even the holidays of the
Church, organs, stained-glass, cathedrals, and the rich dresses of the
clergy. They even tried to ignore Christmas and Easter, though
consecrated by the early Church. They hated the Middle Ages, looked with
disgust upon the past, and longed to try experiments, not only in
religion, but in politics and social life. The only antiquity which had
authority to them was the Jewish Commonwealth, because it was a
theocracy, and recognized God Almighty as the supreme ruler of the
world. Hence they adhered to the strictness of the Jewish Sabbath, and
baptized their children with Hebrew names.

Now to such a people, stern, lofty, ascetic, legal,
spiritual,--conservative of whatever the Bible reveals, yet progressive
and ardent for reforms,--the rule of the Stuarts was intolerable. It was
intolerable because it seemed to lean towards Catholicism, and because
it was tyrannical and averse to changes. The King was ruled by
favorites; and these favorites were either bigots in religion, like
Archbishop Laud, or were tyrannical or unscrupulous in their efforts to
sustain the King in despotic measures and crush popular agitations, like
the Earl of Strafford, or were men of pleasure and vanity like the Duke
of Buckingham. Charles I. was detested by the Puritans even more than
his father James. They looked upon him as more than half a Papist, a
despot, utterly insincere, indifferent to the welfare of the country,
intent only on exalting himself and his throne at the expense of the
interests of the people, whose aspirations he scorned and whose rights
he trampled upon. In his eyes they had no _rights_, only _duties_; and
duties to him as an anointed sovereign, to rule as he liked, with
parliaments or without parliaments; yea, to impose taxes arbitrarily,
and grant odious monopolies: for the State was his, to be managed as a
man would manage a farm; and those who resisted this encroachment on the
liberties of the nation were to be fined, imprisoned, executed, as
pestilent disturbers of the public peace. He would form dangerous
alliances with Catholic powers, marry his children to Catholic princes,
appoint Catholics to high office, and compromise the dignity of the
nation as a Protestant State. His ministers, his judges, his high
officials were simply his tools, and perpetually insulted the nation by
their arrogance, their venality, and their shameful disregard of the
Constitution. In short, he seemed bent on imposing a tyrannical yoke,
hard to be endured, and to punish unlawfully those who resisted it, or
even murmured against it. He would shackle the press, and muzzle the
members of parliament.

Thus did this King appear to the Puritans,--at this time a large and
influential party, chiefly Presbyterian, and headed by many men of rank
and character, all of whom detested the Roman Catholic religion as the
source of all religious and political evils, and who did not scruple to
call the Papacy by the hardest names, such as the "Scarlet Mother,"
"Antichrist," and the like. They had seceded from the Established Church
in the reign of Elizabeth, and became what was then called
Non-conformists. Had they been treated wisely, had any respect been
shown to their opinions and rights,--for the right of worshipping God
according to individual conscience is the central and basal pillar of
Protestantism,--had this undoubted right of private judgment, the great
emancipating idea of that age, been respected, the Puritans would have
sought relief in constitutional resistance, for they were conservative
and loyal, as English people ever have been, even in Canada and
Australia. They were not bent on _revolution_; they only desired
_reform_. So their representatives in Parliament framed the famous
"Petition of Right," in which were reasserted the principles of
constitutional liberty. This earnest, loyal, but angry Parliament, being
troublesome, was dissolved, and Charles undertook for eleven years to
reign without one,--against all precedents,--with Stafford and Laud for
his chief advisers and ministers. He reigned by Star Chamber decrees,
High-commission courts, issuing proclamations, resorting to forced
loans, tampering with justice, removing judges, imprisoning obnoxious
men without trial, insulting and humiliating the Puritans, and openly
encouraging a religion of "millineries and upholsteries," not only
illegally, but against the wishes and sentiments of the better part of
the nation,--thus undermining his own throne; for all thrones are based
on the love of the people.

The financial difficulties of the King--for the most absolute of kings
cannot extort _all_ the money they want--compelled him to assemble
another Parliament at an alarming crisis of popular indignation which he
did not see, when popular leaders began to say that even kings must rule
_by_ the people and not _without_ the people.

This new Parliament, with Hampden and Pym for leaders, though fierce and
aggressive, would have been contented with constitutional reform, like
Mirabeau at one period. But the King, ill-advised, obstinate, blinded,
would not accept reform; he would reign like the Bourbons, or not at
all. The reforms which the Parliament desired were reasonable and just.
It would abolish arbitrary arrests, the Star Chamber decrees, taxes
without its consent, cruelty to Non-conformists, the ascendency of
priests, irresponsible ministers, and offensive symbols of Romanism. If
these reforms had been granted,--and such a sovereign as Elizabeth would
have yielded, however reluctantly,--there would have been no English
revolution. Or even if the popular leaders had been more patient, and
waited for their time, and been willing to carry out these reforms
constitutionally, there would have been no revolution. But neither the
King nor Parliament would yield, and the Parliament was dissolved.

The next Parliament was not only angry, it was defiant and unscrupulous.
It resolved on revolution, and determined to put the King himself aside.
It began with vigorous measures, and impeached both Laud and
Strafford,--doubtless very able men, but not fitted for their times. It
decreed sweeping changes, usurped the executive authority, appealed to
arms, and made war on the government. The King also on his part appealed
to the sword, which now alone could settle the difficulties. The contest
was inevitable. The nation clamored for reform; the King would not grant
it; the Parliament would not wait to secure it constitutionally. Both
parties were angry and resolute; reason departed from the councils of
the nation; passion now ruled, and civil war began. It was not, at
first, a question about the form of government,--whether a king or an
elected ruler should bear sway; it was purely a question of reforms in
the existing government, limiting of course the power of the King,--but
reforms deemed so vital to the welfare of the nation that the best
people were willing to shed their blood to secure them; and if reason
and moderation could have borne sway, that angry strife might have been
averted. But people will not listen to reason in times of maddening
revolution; they prefer to fight, and run their chances and incur the
penalty. And when contending parties appeal to the sword, then all
ordinary rules are set aside, and success belongs to the stronger, and
the victors exact what they please. The rules of all deadly and
desperate warfare seem to recognize this.

The fortune of war put the King into the hands of the revolutionists;
and in fear, more than in vengeance, they executed him,--just what he
would have done to _their_ leaders if _he_ had won. "Stone-dead," said
Falkland, "hath no fellow." In a national conflagration we lose sight of
laws, even of written constitutions. Great necessities compel
extraordinary measures, not such as are sustained either by reason or
precedents. The great lesson of war, especially of civil war, is, that
contending parties might better make great concessions than resort to
it, for it is certain to demoralize a nation. Heated partisans hate
compromise; yet war itself generally ends in compromise. It is
interesting to see how many constitutions, how many institutions in both
Church and State, are based on compromise.

Now, it was amid all the fierce contentions of that revolutionary
age,--an age of intense earnestness, when the grandest truths were
agitated; an age of experiment, of bold discussions, of wild
fanaticisms, of bitter hatreds, of unconquerable prejudices, yet of
great loftiness and spiritual power,--that the star of Oliver Cromwell
arose. He was born in the year 1599, of a good family. He was a country
squire, a gentleman farmer, though not much given to fox-hunting or
dinner hilarities, preferring to read political pamphlets, or to listen
to long sermons, or to hold discussions on grace, predestination,
free-will, and foreknowledge absolute. His favorite doctrine was the
second coming of Christ and the reign of the saints, the elect,--to whom
of course he belonged. He had visions and rhapsodies, and believed in
special divine illumination. Cromwell was not a Presbyterian, but an
Independent; and the Independents were the most advanced party of his
day, both in politics and religion. The progressive man of that age was
a Calvinist, in all the grandeur and in all the narrowness of that
unfashionable and misunderstood creed. The time had not come for
"advanced thinkers" to repudiate a personal God and supernatural
agencies. Then an atheist, or even a deist, and indeed a materialist of
the school of Democritus and Lucretius, was unknown. John Milton was one
of the representative men of the Puritans of the seventeenth
century,--men who colonized New England, and planted the germs of
institutions which have spread to the Rocky Mountains,

Cromwell on his farm, one of the landed gentry, had a Cambridge
education, and was early an influential man. His sagacity, his
intelligence, his honesty, and his lofty religious life marked him out
as a fit person to represent his county in parliament. He at once became
the associate of such men as Hampden and Pym. He did not make very
graceful speeches, and he had an ungainly person; but he was eloquent in
a rude way, since he had strong convictions and good sense. He was
probably violent, for he hated the abuses of the times, and he hated
Rome and the prelacy. He represented the extreme left; that is, he was a
radical, and preferred revolution to tyranny. Yet even he would probably
have accepted reform if reform had been possible without violence. But
Cromwell had no faith in the King or his ministers, and was inclined to
summary measures. He afterwards showed this tendency of character in his
military career. He was one of those earnest and practical people who
could not be fooled with. So he became a leader of those who were most
violent against the Government During the Long Parliament, Cromwell sat
for Cambridge; which fact shows that he was then a marked man, far from
being unimportant. This was the Parliament, assembled in 1640, which
impeached Strafford and Laud, which abolished the Star Chamber, and
inaugurated the civil war, that began when Charles left Whitehall,
January, 1642, for York. The Parliament solicited contributions, called
out the militia, and appointed to the command of the forces the Earl of
Essex, a Presbyterian, who established his headquarters at Northampton,
while Charles unfurled the royal standard at Nottingham.

Cromwell was forty-two when he buckled on his sword as a volunteer. He
subscribed five hundred pounds to the cause of liberty, raised a troop
of horse, which gradually swelled into that famous regiment of one
thousand men, called "Ironsides," which was never beaten. Of this
regiment he was made colonel in the spring of 1643. He had distinguished
himself at Edgehill in the first year of the war, but he drew upon
himself the eyes of the nation at the battle of Marston Moor, July,
1644,--gained by the discipline of his men,--which put the north of
England into the hands of Parliament. He was then lieutenant-general,
second in command to the Earl of Manchester. The second battle of
Newbury, though a success, gave Cromwell, then one of the most
influential members of Parliament, an occasion to complain of the
imbecility of the noblemen who controlled the army, and who were
Presbyterians. The "self-denying ordinance," which prohibited members of
Parliament from command in the army, was a blow at Presbyterianism and
aristocracy, and marked the growing power of the Independents. It was
planned by Cromwell, although it would have deprived him also of his
command; but he was made an exception to the rule, and he knew he would
be, since his party could not spare him.

Then was fought the battle of Naseby, June 14, 1645, in which Cromwell
commanded the right wing of the army, Fairfax (nominally his superior
general) the centre, and Ireton the left; against Prince Rupert and
Charles. The battle was won by the bravery of Cromwell, and decided the
fortunes of the King, although he was still able to keep the field.
Cromwell now became the foremost man in England. For two years he
resided chiefly in London, taking an important part in negotiations with
the King, and in the contest between the Independents and
Presbyterians,--the former of which represented the army, while the
latter still had the ascendency in Parliament.

On the 16th of August, 1648, was fought the battle of Preston, in which
Cromwell defeated the Scotch army commanded by the Duke of Hamilton,
which opened Edinburgh to his victorious troops, and made him
commander-in-chief of the armies of the Commonwealth. The Presbyterians,
at least of Scotland, it would seem, preferred now the restoration of
the King to the ascendency of Cromwell with the army to back him, for it
was the army and not the Parliament which had given him supreme command.

Then followed the rapid conquest of the Scots, the return of the
victorious general to London, and the suppression of the liberty of
Parliament, for it was purged of its Presbyterian leaders. The
ascendency of the Independents began; for though in a minority, they
were backed by an army which obeyed implicitly the commands and even the
wishes of Cromwell.

The great tragedy which disgraced the revolution was now acted. The
unfortunate King, whose fate was sealed at the battle of Naseby, after
various vicissitudes and defeats, put himself into the hands of the
Scots and made a league with the Presbyterians. After Edinburgh was
taken, they virtually sold him to the victor, who caused him to be
brought in bitter mockery to Hampton Court, where he was treated with
ironical respect. In his reverses Charles would have made _any_
concessions; and the Presbyterians, who first took up arms against him,
would perhaps have accepted them. But it was too late. Cromwell and the
Independents now reigned,--a party that had been driven into violent
measures, and which had sought the subversion of the monarchy itself.

Charles is brought to a mock trial by a decimated Parliament, is
condemned and executed, and the old monarchy is supplanted by a military
despotism. "The roaring conflagration of anarchies" is succeeded by the
rule of the strongest man.

Much has been written and said about that execution, or martyrdom, or
crime, as it has been variously viewed by partisans. It simply was the
sequence of the revolution, of the appeal of both parties to the sword.
It may have been necessary or unnecessary, a blunder or a crime, but it
was the logical result of a bitter war; it was the cruel policy of a
conquering power. Those who supported it were able men, who deemed it
the wisest thing to do; who dreaded a reaction, who feared for
themselves, and sought by this means to perpetuate their sway. As one of
the acts of revolution, it must be judged by the revolution itself. The
point is, not whether it was wrong to take the life of the King, if it
were a military necessity, or seemed to be to the great leaders of the
day, but whether it was right to take up arms in defence of rights which
might have been gained by protracted constitutional agitation and
resistance. The execution proved a blunder, because it did not take away
the rights of Charles II., and created great abhorrence and indignation,
not merely in foreign countries, but among a majority of the English
people themselves,--and these, too, who had the prestige of wealth and
culture. I do not believe the Presbyterian party, as represented by
Hampden and Pym, and who like Mirabeau had applied the torch to
revolutionary passions, would have consented to this foolish murder.
Certainly the Episcopalians would not have executed Charles, even if
they could have been induced to cripple him.

But war is a conflagration; nothing can stop its ravages when it has
fairly begun. They who go to war must abide the issue of war; they who
take the sword must be prepared to perish by the sword. Thus far, in the
history of the world, very few rights have been gained by civil war
which could not have been gained in the end without it. The great rights
which the people have secured in England for two hundred years are the
result of an appeal to reason and justice. The second revolution was
bloodless. The Parliament which first arrayed itself against the
government of Charles was no mean foe, even if it had not resorted to
arms. It held the purse-strings; it had the power to cripple the King,
and to worry him into concessions. But if the King was resolved to
attack the Parliament itself, and coerce it by a standing army, and
destroy all liberty in England, then the question assumed another shape;
the war then became defensive, and was plainly justifiable, and Charles
could but accept the issue, even his own execution, if it seemed
necessary to his conquerors. They took up arms in self-defence, and war,
of course, brought to light the energies and talents of the greatest
general, who as victor would have his reward. Cromwell concluded to
sweep away the old monarchy, and reign himself instead; and the
execution of the King was one of his war measures. It was the penalty
Charles paid for making war on his subjects, instead of ruling them
according to the laws. His fate was hard and sad; we feel more
compassion than indignation. In our times he would have been permitted
to run away; but those stern and angry old revolutionists demanded
his blood.

For this cruel or necessary act Cromwell is responsible more than any
man in England, since he could have prevented it if he pleased. He ruled
the army, which ruled the Parliament. It was not the nation, or the
representatives of the nation, who decreed the execution of Charles. It
was the army and the purged Parliament, composed chiefly of
Independents, who wanted the subversion of the monarchy itself.
Technically, Charles was tried by the Parliament, or the judges
appointed by them; really, Cromwell was at the bottom of the affair, as
much as John Calvin was responsible for the burning of Servetus, let
partisans say what they please. There never has a great crime or blunder
been committed on this earth which bigoted, or narrow, or zealous
partisans have not attempted to justify. Bigoted Catholics have
justified even the slaughter of St. Bartholomew. Partisans have no law
but expediency. All Jesuits, political, religious, and social, in the
Catholic and Protestant churches alike, seem to think that the end
justifies the means, even in the most beneficent reforms; and when
pushed to the wall by the logic of opponents, will fall back on the
examples of the Old Testament. In defence of lying and cheating they
will quote Abraham at the court of Pharaoh. There is no insult to the
human understanding more flagrant, than the doctrine that we may do evil
that good may come. And yet the politics and reforms of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries seem to have been based on that miserable form
of jesuitism. Here Machiavelli is as vulnerable as Escobar, and Burleigh
as well as Oliver Cromwell, who was not more profound in dissimulation
than Queen Elizabeth herself. The best excuse we can render for the
political and religious crimes of that age is, that they were in
accordance with its ideas. And who is superior to the ideas of his age?

On the execution of the King, the supreme authority was nominally in the
hands of Parliament. Of course all kinds of anarchies prevailed, and all
government was unsettled. Charles II. was proclaimed King by the Scots,
while the Duke of Ormond, in Ireland, joined the royal party to seat
Charles II. on the throne. In this exigency Cromwell was appointed by
the Parliament Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.

Then followed the conquest of Ireland, in which Cromwell distinguished
himself for great military abilities. His vigorous and uncompromising
measures, especially his slaughter of the garrison of Drogheda (a
retaliatory act), have been severely commented on. But war in the hands
of masters is never carried on sentimentally: the test of ability is
success. The measures were doubtless hard and severe; but Cromwell knew
what he was about: he wished to bring the war to a speedy close, and
intimidation was probably the best course to pursue. Those impracticable
Irish never afterwards molested him. In less than a year he was at
leisure to oppose Charles II. in Scotland; and on the resignation of
Fairfax he was made Captain-General of all the forces in the empire. The
battle of Dunbar resulted in the total defeat of the Scots; while the
"crowning mercy" at Worcester, Sept. 3, 1651, utterly blasted the hopes
of Charles, and completely annihilated his forces.

The civil war, which raged nine years, was now finished, and Cromwell
became supreme. But even the decimated Parliament was jealous, and
raised an issue,--on which Cromwell dissolved it with a file of
soldiers, and assembled another, neither elective nor representative,
composed of his creatures, without experience, chiefly Anabaptists and
Independents; which he soon did away with. He then called a council of
leading men, who made him Lord Protector, December 13, 1653. Even the
shadow of constitutional authority now vanishes, and Cromwell rules with
absolute and untrammelled power, like Julius Caesar or Napoleon
Bonaparte. He rules on the very principles which he condemned in Charles
I. The revolution ends in a military despotism.

If there was ever a usurpation, this was one. Liberty gave her last sigh
on the remonstrance of Sir Harry Vane, and a military hero, by means of
his army, stamps his iron heel on England. He dissolves the very body
from which he received his own authority he refuses to have any check on
his will; he imposes taxes without the consent of the people,--the very
thing for which he took up arms against Charles I.; he reigns alone, on
despotic principles, as absolute as Louis XIV.; he enshrouds himself in
royal state at Hampton Court; he even seeks to bequeath his absolute
power to his son. And if Richard Cromwell had reigned like his father
Oliver, then the cause of liberty would have been lost.

All this is cold, unvarnished history. We cannot get over or around
these facts; they blaze out to the eyes of all readers, and will blaze
to the most distant ages. Cromwell began as a reformer, but ended as a
usurper. Whatever name he goes by, whatever title he may have assumed,
he became, by force of his victories and of his army, the absolute ruler
of England,--as Caesar did of Rome, and Napoleon of Paris. We may
palliate or extenuate this fact; we may even excuse it on the ground
that the State had drifted into anarchy; that only he, as the stronger
man, could save England; that there was no other course open to him as a
patriot; and that it was a most fortunate thing for England that he
seized the reins, and became a tyrant to put down anarchies. But
whatever were the excuses by which Cromwell justified himself, or his
admirers justify him, let us not deny the facts. It may have been
necessary, under his circumstances, to reign alone, by the aid of his
standing army. But do not attempt to gloss over the veritable fact that
he did reign without the support of Parliament, and in defiance of all
constitutional authorities. It was not the nation which elevated him to
supreme power, but his soldiers. At no time would any legitimate
Parliament, or any popular voice, have made him an absolute ruler. He
could not even have got a plebiscitum, as Louis Napoleon did. He was not
liked by the nation at large,--not even by the more enlightened and
conservative of the Puritans, such as the Presbyterians; and as for the
Episcopalians, they looked upon him not only as a usurper but as a

It is difficult to justify such an act as usurpation and military
tyranny by the standard of an immutable morality. If the overturning of
all constitutional authority by a man who professed to be a reformer,
yet who reigned illegally as a despot, can be defended, it is only on
the principle of expediency, that the end justifies the means,--the plea
of the Jesuits, and of all the despots who have overturned constitutions
and national liberties. But this is rank and undisguised Caesarism. The
question then arises, Was it necessary that a Caesar should reign at
Hampton Court? Some people think it was; and all admit that after the
execution of the King there was no settled government, nothing but
bitter, intolerant factions, each of which wished its own ascendency,
and all were alike unscrupulous. Revolution ever creates factions and
angry parties, more or less violent. It is claimed by many that a good
government was impossible with these various and contending parties, and
that nothing but anarchy would have existed had not Cromwell seized the
reins, and sustained himself by a standing army, and ruled despotically.
Again, others think that he was urged by a pressure which even he could
not resist,--that of the army; that he was controlled by circumstances;
that he could do no otherwise unless he resigned England to her
fate,--to the anarchy of quarrelling and angry parties, who would not
listen to reason, and who were too inexperienced to govern in such
stormy times. The Episcopalians certainly, and the Presbyterians
probably, would have restored Charles II.,--and this Cromwell regarded
as a great possible calamity. If the King had been restored, all the
fruit of the revolution would have been lost; there would have been a
renewed reign of frivolities, insincerities, court scandals, venalities,
favorites, and disguised Romanism,--yea, an alliance would have been
formed with the old tyrants of Europe.

Cromwell was no fool, and he had a great insight into the principles on
which the stability and prosperity of a nation rested. He doubtless felt
that the nation required a strong arm at the helm, and that no one could
save England in such a storm but himself. I believe he was sincere in
this conviction,--a conviction based on profound knowledge of men and
the circumstances of the age. I believe he was willing to be aspersed,
even by his old friends, and heartily cursed by his enemies, if he could
guide the ship of state into a safe harbor. I am inclined to believe
that he was patriotic in his intentions; that he wished to save the
country even, if necessary, by illegal means; that he believed there was
a higher law _for him_, and that an enlightened posterity would
vindicate his name and memory. He was not deceived as to his abilities,
even if he were as to his call. He knew he was the strongest man in
England, and that only the strongest could rule. He was willing to
assume the responsibility, whatever violence he should do to his early
principles, or to the opinions of those with whom he was at first
associated. If there was anything that marked the character of Cromwell,
it was the abiding sense, from first to last, of his personal
responsibility to God Almighty, whose servant and instrument he felt
himself to be. I believe he was loyal to his conscience, if not to his
cause. He may have committed grave errors, for he was not infallible. It
may have been an error that he ruled virtually without a Parliament,
since it was better that a good measure should be defeated than that the
cause of liberty should be trodden under foot. It was better that
parliaments should wrangle and quarrel than that there should be no
representation of the nation at all. And it was an undoubted error to
transmit his absolute authority to his son, for this was establishing a
new dynasty of kings. One of the worst things which Napoleon ever did
was to seat his brothers on the old thrones of Europe. Doubtless,
Cromwell wished to perpetuate the policy of his government, but he had
no right to perpetuate a despotism in his own family: that was an insult
to the nation and to the cause of constitutional liberty. Here he was
selfish and ambitious, for, great as he was, he was not greater than the
nation or his cause.

But I need not dwell on the blunders of Cromwell, if we call them by no
harsher name. It would be harsh to judge him for his mistakes or sins
under his peculiar circumstances, his hand in the execution of Charles
I., his Jesuitical principles, his cruelties in Ireland, his dispersion
of parliaments, and his usurpation of supreme power. Only let us call
things by their right names; we gain nothing by glossing over defects.
The historians of the Bible tell us how Abraham told lies to the King of
Egypt, and David caused Uriah to be slain after he had appropriated his
wife. Yet who were greater and better, upon the whole, than these
favorites of Heaven?

Cromwell earned his great fame as one of the wisest statesmen and ablest
rulers that England ever had. Like all monarchs, he is to be judged by
the services he rendered to civilization. He was not a faultless man,
but he proved himself a great benefactor. Whether we like him or not, we
are compelled to admit that his administration was able and beneficent,
and that he seemed to be actuated by a sincere desire to do all the good
he could. If he was ambitious, his ambition was directed to the
prosperity and glory of his country. If he levied taxes without the
consent of the nation, he spent the money economically, wisely, and
unselfishly. He sought no inglorious pomps; he built no expensive
palaces; he gave no foolish fetes; nor did he seek to disguise his
tyranny by amusing or demoralizing the people, like the old Roman
Caesars. He would even have established a constitutional monarchy, had
it been practicable. The plots of royalists tempted him to appoint
major-generals to responsible situations. To protect his life, he
resorted to guards. He could not part with his power, but he used it for
the benefit of the nation. If he did not reign by or through the people,
he reigned _for_ the people. He established religious liberty, and
tolerated all sects but Catholics and Quakers. The Presbyterians were
his enemies, but he never persecuted them. He had a great regard for
law, and appointed the ablest and best men to high judicial positions.
Sir Matthew Hale, whom he made chief-justice, was the greatest lawyer in
England, an ornament to any country. Cromwell made strenuous efforts to
correct the abuses of the court of chancery and of criminal law. He
established trial by jury for political offences. He tried to procure
the formal re-admission of the Jews to England. He held conferences with
George Fox. He snatched Biddle, the Socinian, from the fangs of
persecutors. He fostered commerce and developed the industrial resources
of the nation, like Burleigh and Colbert. He created a navy, and became
the father of the maritime greatness of England. He suppressed all
license among the soldiers, although his power rested on their loyalty
to him. He honored learning and exalted the universities, placing in
them learned men. He secured the union between England and Scotland, and
called representatives from Scotland to his parliaments. He adopted a
generous policy with the colonies in North America, and freed them from
rapacious governors. His war policy was not for mere aggrandizement. He
succeeded Gustavus Adolphus as the protector of Protestantism on the
Continent. He sought to make England respected among all the nations;
and, as righteousness exalts a nation, he sought to maintain public
morality. His court was simple and decorous; he gave no countenance to
levities and follies, and his own private life was pure and
religious,--so that there was general admiration of his conduct as well
as of his government.

Cromwell was certainly very fortunate in his régime. The army and navy
did wonders; Blake and Monk gained great victories; Gibraltar was
taken,--one of the richest prizes that England ever gained in war. The
fleets of Spain were destroyed; the trade of the Indies was opened to
his ships. He maintained the "balance of power." He punished the African
pirates of the Mediterranean. His glory reached Asia, and extended to
America. So great was his renown that the descendants of Abraham, even
on the distant plains of Asia, inquired of one another if he were not
the servant of the King of Kings, whom they were looking for. A learned
Rabbi even came from Asia to London for the purpose of investigating his
pedigree, thinking to discover in him the "Lion of the tribe of Judah."
If his policy had been followed out by his successors, Louis XIV. would
not have dared to revoke the Edict of Nantes; if he had reigned ten
years longer, there would have been no revival of Romanism. I suppose
England never had so enlightened a monarch. He was more like Charlemagne
than Richelieu. Contrast him with Louis XIV., a contemporaneous despot:
Cromwell devoted all his energies to develop the resources of his
country, while Louis did what he could to waste them; Cromwell's reign
was favorable to the development of individual genius, but Louis was
such an intolerable egotist that at the close of his reign all the great
lights had disappeared; Cromwell was tolerant, Louis was persecuting;
Cromwell laid the foundation of an indefinite expansion, Louis sowed the
seeds of discontent and revolution. Both indeed took the sword,--the one
to dethrone the Stuarts, the other to exterminate the Protestants.
Cromwell bequeathed to successors the moral force of personal virtue,
Louis paved the way for the most disgraceful excesses; Cromwell spent
his leisure hours with his family and with divines, Louis with his
favorites and mistresses; Cromwell would listen to expostulations, Louis
crushed all who differed from him. The career of the former was a
progressive rise, that of the latter a progressive fall. The ultimate
influence of Cromwell's policy was to develop the greatness of England;
that of Louis, to cut the sinews of national wealth, and poison those
sources of renovation which still remained. The memory of Cromwell is
dear to good men in spite of his defects; while that of Louis, in spite
of his graces and urbanities, is a watchword for all that is repulsive
in despotism. Hence Cromwell is more and more a favorite with
enlightened minds, while Louis is more and more regarded as a man who
made the welfare of the State subordinate to his own glory. In a word,
Cromwell feared only God; while Louis feared only hell. The piety of the
one was lofty; that of the other was technical, formal, and pharisaical.
The chief defect in the character of Cromwell was his expediency, or
what I call _jesuitism_,--following out good ends by questionable means;
the chief defect in the character of Louis was an absorbing egotism,
which sacrificed everything for private pleasure or interest.

The difficulty in judging Cromwell seems to me to be in the imperfection
of our standards of public morality. We are apt to excuse in a ruler
what we condemn in a private man. If Oliver Cromwell is to be measured
by the standard which accepts expediency as a guide in life, he will be
excused for his worst acts. If he is to be measured by an immutable
standard, he will be picked to pieces. In regard to his private life,
aside from cant and dissimulation, there is not much to condemn, and
there is much to praise. He was not a libertine like Henry IV., nor an
egotist like Napoleon. He delighted in the society of the learned and
the pious; he was susceptible to grand sentiments; he was just in his
dealings and fervent in his devotions. He was liberal, humane, simple,
unostentatious, and economical. He was indeed ambitious, but his
ambition was noble.

His intellectual defect was his idea of special divine illumination,
which made him visionary and rhapsodical and conceited. He was a
second-adventist, and believed that Christ would return, at no distant
time, to establish the reign of the saints upon the earth. But his
morals were as irreproachable as those of Marcus Aurelius. Like Michael
Angelo, he despised frivolities, though it is said he relished rough
jokes, like Abraham Lincoln. He was conscientious in the discharge of
what he regarded as duties, and seemed to feel his responsibility to God
as the sovereign of the universe. His family revered him as much as the
nation respected him. He was not indeed lovable, like Saint Louis; but
he can never lose the admiration of mankind, since the glory of his
administration was not sullied by those private vices which destroy
esteem and ultimately undermine both power and influence. He was one of
those world-heroes of whom nations will be proud as they advance in the
toleration of human infirmities,--as they draw distinction between
those who live for themselves and those who live for their country,--and
the recognition of those principles on which all progress is based.

Cromwell died prematurely, if not for his fame, at least for his
usefulness. His reign as Protector lasted only five years, yet what
wonders he did in that brief period! He suppressed the anarchies of the
revolution, he revived law, he restored learning, he developed the
resources of his country; he made it respected at home and abroad, and
shed an imperishable glory on his administration,--but "on the threshold
of success he met the inexorable enemy."

It was a stormy night, August 30, 1658, when the wild winds were roaring
and all nature was overclouded with darkness and gloom, that the last
intelligible words of the dying hero were heard by his attendants: "O
Lord! though I am a miserable sinner, I am still in covenant with Thee.
Thou hast made me, though very unworthy, an instrument to do Thy people
good; and go on, O Lord, to deliver them and make Thy name glorious
throughout the world!" These dying words are the key alike to his
character and his mission. He believed himself to be an instrument of
the Almighty Sovereign in whom he believed, and whom, with all his
faults and errors, he sought to serve, and in whom he trusted.

And it is in this light, chiefly, that the career of this remarkable
man is to be viewed. An instrument of God he plainly was, to avenge the
wrongs of an insulted, an indignant, and an honest nation, and to
impress upon the world the necessity of wise and benignant rulers. He
arose to vindicate the majesty of public virtue, to rebuke the egotism
of selfish kings, to punish the traitors of important trusts. He arose
to point out the true sources of national prosperity, to head off the
troops of a renovated Romanism, to promote liberty of conscience in all
matters of religious belief. He was raised up as a champion of
Protestantism when kings were returning to Rome, and as an awful
chastiser of those bigoted and quarrelsome Irish who have ever been
hostile to law and order, and uncontrollable by any influence but that
of fear. But, above all, he was raised up to try the experiment of
liberty in the seventeenth century.

That experiment unfortunately failed. All sects and parties sought
ascendency rather than the public good; angry and inexperienced, they
refused to compromise. Sectarianism was the true hydra that baffled the
energy of the courageous combatant. Parliaments were factious,
meddlesome, and inexperienced, and sought to block the wheels of
government rather than promote wholesome legislation. The people
hankered for their old pleasures, and were impatient of restraint; their
leaders were demagogues or fanatics; they could not be coerced by mild
measures or appeals to enlightened reason. Hence coercive measures were
imperative; and these could be carried only by a large standing
army,--ever the terror and menace of liberty; the greatest blot on
constitutional governments,--a necessity, but an evil, since the
military power should be subordinate to the civil, not the civil to the
military. The iron hand by which Cromwell was obliged to rule, if he
ruled at all, at last became odious to all classes, since they had many
rights which were ignored. When they clamored for the blood of an
anointed tyrant, they did not bargain for a renewed despotism more
irksome and burdensome than the one they had suppressed. The public
rejoicings, the universal enthusiasm, the brilliant spectacles and
fêtes, the flattering receptions and speeches which hailed the
restoration of Charles II., showed unmistakably that the régime of
Cromwell, though needed for a time, was unpopular, and was not in
accordance with the national aspirations. If they were to be ruled by a
tyrant, they preferred to be ruled according to precedents and
traditions and hallowed associations. The English people loved then, as
they love now, as they ever have loved, royalty, the reign of kings
according to the principles of legitimacy. They have shown the
disposition to fetter these kings, not to dispense with them.

So the experiment of Cromwell and his party failed. How mournful it
must have seemed to the original patriots of the revolution, that hard,
iron, military rule was all that England had gained by the struggles and
the blood of her best people. Wherefore had treasures been lavished in a
nine years' contest; wherefore the battles of Marston Moor and
Worcester; wherefore the eloquence of Pym and Hampden? All wasted. The
house which had been swept and garnished was re-entered by devils worse
than before.

Thus did this experiment seem; teaching, at least, this useful and
impressive lesson,--that despotism will succeed unwise and violent
efforts for reform; that reforms are not to be carried on by bayonets,
but by reason; that reformers must be patient, and must be contented
with constitutional measures; that any violation of the immutable laws
of justice will be visited with unlooked-for retribution.

But sad as this experiment seemed, can it be pronounced to be wholly a
failure? No earnest human experiment is ever thrown away. The great
ideas of Cromwell, and of those who originally took up arms with him,
entered into new combinations. The spirit remained, if the form was
changed. After a temporary reaction, the love of liberty returned. The
second revolution of 1688 was the logical sequence of the first. It was
only another act in the great drama of national development. The spirit
which overthrew Charles I. also overturned the throne of James II.; but
the wisdom gained by experience sent him into exile, instead of
executing him on the scaffold. Two experiments with those treacherous
Stuarts were necessary before the conviction became fastened on the mind
of the English people that constitutional liberty could not exist while
they remained upon the throne; and the spirit which had burst out into a
blazing flame two generations earlier, was now confined within
constitutional limits. But it was not suppressed; it produced salutary
reforms with every advancing generation. "It produced," says Macaulay,
"the famous Declaration of Right, which guaranteed the liberties of the
English upon their present basis; which again led to the freedom of the
press, the abolition of slavery, Catholic emancipation, and
representative reform," Had the experiment not been tried by Cromwell
and his party, it might have been tried by worse men, whose gospel of
rights would be found in the "social contract" of a Rousseau, rather
than in the "catechism" of the Westminster divines. It was fortunate
that revolutionary passions should have raged in the bosoms of
Christians rather than of infidels,--of men who believed in obedience to
a personal God, rather than men who teach the holiness of untutored
impulse, the infallibility of majorities, and the majesty of the
unaided intellect of man. And then who can estimate the value of
Cromwell's experience on the patriots of our own Revolution? His example
may even have taught the great Washington how dangerous and inconsistent
it would be to accept an earthly crown, while denouncing the tyranny of
kings, and how much more enduring is that fame which is cherished in a
nation's heart than that which is blared by the trumpet of idolatrous
soldiers indifferent to those rights which form the basis of social


Bulstrode's Memoirs; Ludlow's Memoirs; Sir Edward Walker's Historical
Discourses; Carlyle's Speeches and Letters of Oliver Cromwell;
Macaulay's Essays; Hallam's Constitutional History; Froude's History of
England; Guizot's History of Cromwell; Lamartine's Essay on Cromwell;
Forster's Statesmen of the British Commonwealth; Clarendon's History of
the Rebellion; Hume and Lingard's Histories of England; Life of
Cromwell, by Russell; Southey's Protectorate of Cromwell; Three English
Statesmen, Goldwin Smith; Dr. Wilson's Life of Cromwell; D'Aubigné's
Life of Oliver Cromwell; Articles in North American, North British,
Westminster, and British Quarterlies on Cromwell.


A.D. 1638-1715.


The verdict of this age in reference to Louis XIV. is very different
from that which his own age pronounced. Two hundred years ago his
countrymen called him _Le Grand Monarque_, and his glory filled the
world. Since Charlemagne, no monarch had been the object of such
unbounded panegyric as he, until Napoleon appeared. He lived in an
atmosphere of perpetual incense, and reigned in dazzling magnificence.

Although he is not now regarded in the same light as he was in the
seventeenth century, and originated no great movement that civilization
values,--in fact was anything but a permanent benefactor to his country
or mankind,--yet Louis XIV. is still one of the Beacon Lights of
history, for warning if not for guidance. His reign was an epoch; it was
not only one of the longest in human annals, but also one of the most
brilliant, imposing, and interesting. Whatever opinion may exist as to
his inherent intellectual greatness, no candid historian denies the
power of his will, the force of his character, and the immense influence
he exerted. He was illustrious, if he was not great; he was powerful, if
he made fatal mistakes; he was feared and envied by all nations, even
when he stood alone; and it took all Europe combined to strip him of the
conquests which his generals made, and to preserve the "balance of
power" which he had disturbed. With all Europe in arms against him, he,
an old and broken-hearted man, contrived to preserve, by his fortitude
and will, the territories he had inherited; and he died peacefully upon
his bed, at the age of seventy-six, still the most absolute king that
ever reigned in France. A man so strong, so fortunate until his latter
years; so magnificent in his court, which he made the most brilliant of
modern times; so lauded by the great geniuses who surrounded his throne,
all of whom looked up to him as a central sun of power and glory,--is
not to be flippantly judged, or ruthlessly hurled from that proud
pinnacle on which he was seated, amid the acclamations of two
generations. His successes dazzled the world; his misfortunes excited
its pity, except among those who were sufferers by his needless wars or
his cruel persecutions. His virtues and his defects both stand out in
bold relief, and will make him a character to meditate upon as long as
history shall be written.

The reign of Louis XIV. would be remarkable for the great men who shed
lustre on his throne, if he had himself been contemptible. Voltaire
doubted if any age ever saw such an illustrious group, and he compares
it with the age of Pericles in Greece, with that of Augustus in Rome,
and that of the Medici in Italy,--four great epochs in intellectual
excellence, which have never been surpassed in brilliancy and variety of
talent. No such generals had arisen since the palmy days of Roman
grandeur as Condé, Turenne, Luxembourg, Vauban, Berwick, and Villars, if
we except Gustavus Adolphus, and those generals with whom the marshals
of Louis contended, such as William III., Marlborough, and Eugene. No
monarch was ever served by abler ministers than Colbert and Louvois; the
former developing the industries and resources of a great country, and
the latter organizing its forces for all the exigencies of vast military
campaigns. What galaxy of poets more brilliant than that which shed
glory on the throne of this great king!--men like Corneille, Boileau,
Fontanelle, La Fontaine, Racine, and Molière; no one of them a Dante or
a Shakspeare, but all together shining as a constellation. What great
jurists and lawyers were Le Tellier and D'Aguesseau and Molé! What great
prelates and preachers were Bossuet, Fénelon, Bourdaloue, Massillon,
Fléchier, Saurin,--unrivalled for eloquence in any age! What original
and profound thinkers were Pascal, Descartes, Helvetius, Malebranche,
Nicole, and Quesnel! Until the seventeenth century, what more
respectable historians had arisen than Dupin, Tillemont, Mabillon, and
Fleury; or critics and scholars than Bayle, Arnauld, De Sacy, and
Calmet! La Rochefoucauld uttered maxims which were learned by heart by
giddy courtiers. Great painters and sculptors, such as Le Brun, Poussin,
Claude Lorrain, and Girardon, ornamented the palaces which Mansard
erected; while Le Nôtre laid out the gardens of those palaces which are
still a wonder.

It must be borne in mind that Louis XIV. had an intuitive perception of
genius and talent, which he was proud to reward and anxious to
appropriate. Although his own education had been neglected, he had a
severe taste and a disgust of all vulgarity, so that his manners were
decorous and dignified in the midst of demoralizing pleasures. Proud,
both from adulation and native disposition, he yet was polite and
affable. He never passed a woman without lifting his hat, and he
uniformly rose when a lady entered into his presence. But, with all his
politeness, he never unbent, even in the society of his most intimate
friends, so jealous was he of his dignity and power. Unscrupulous in his
public transactions, and immoral in his private relations with women, he
had a great respect for the ordinances of religion, and was punctilious
in the outward observances of the Catholic Church. The age itself was
religious; and so was he, in a technical and pharisaical piety and petty
ritualistic duties. He was a bigot and a persecutor, which fact endeared
him to the Jesuits, by whom, in matters of conscience, he was ruled, so
that he became their tool even while he thought he controlled
everything. He was as jealous of his power as he was of his dignity, and
he learned to govern himself as well as his subjects. He would himself
submit to the most rigid formalities in order to exact a rigorous
discipline and secure unconditional obedience from others. No one ever
dared openly to thwart his will or oppose his wishes, although he could
be led through his passions and his vanity: he was imperious in his
commands, and exacting in the services he demanded from all who
surrounded his person. He had perfect health, a strong physique, great
aptitude for business, and great regularity in his habits. It was
difficult to deceive him, for he understood human nature, and thus was
able to select men of merit and talent for all high offices in State
and Church.

In one sense Louis XIV. seems to have been even patriotic, since he
identified his own glory with that of the nation, having learned
something from Richelieu, whose policy he followed. Hence he was
supported by the people, if he was not loved, because he was ambitious
of making France the most powerful nation in Christendom. The love of
glory ever has been one of the characteristics of the French nation, and
this passion the king impersonated, which made him dear to the nation,
as Napoleon was before he became intoxicated by power; and hence Louis
had the power of rallying his subjects in great misfortunes. They
forgave extravagance in palace-building, from admiration of
magnificence. They were proud of a despot who called out the praises of
the world. They saw in his parks, his gardens, his marble halls, his
tapestries, his pictures, and his statues a glory which belonged to
France as well as to him. They marched joyfully in his armies, whatever
their sacrifices, for he was only leading them to glory,--an empty
illusion, yet one of those words which has ruled the world, since it is
an expression of that vanity which has its roots in the deepest recesses
of the soul. Glory is the highest aspiration of egotism, and Louis was
an incarnation of egotism, like Napoleon after him. They both
represented the master passions of the people to whom they appealed.
"Never," says St. Simon, "has any one governed with a better grace, or,
by the manner of bestowing, more enhanced the value of his favors. Never
has any one sold at so high a price his words, nay his very smiles and
glances." And then, "so imposing and majestic was his air that those who
addressed him must first accustom themselves to his appearance, not to
be overawed. No one ever knew better, how to maintain a certain manner
which made him appear great." Yet it is said that his stature was small.
No one knew better than he how to impress upon his courtiers the idea
that kings are of a different blood from other men. He even knew how to
invest vice and immorality with an air of elegance, and was capable of
generous sentiments and actions. He on one occasion sold a gold service
of plate for four hundred thousand francs, to purchase bread for
starving troops. If haughty, exacting, punctilious, he was not cold.
Even his rigid etiquette and dignified reserve were the dictates of
statecraft, as well as of natural inclination. He seemed to feel that he
was playing a great part, with the eyes of the world upon him; so that
he was an actor as Napoleon was, but a more consistent one, because in
his egotism he never forgot himself, not even among his mistresses. As
_grand monarque_, the arbiter of all fortunes, the central sun of all
glory, was he always figuring before the eyes of men. He never relaxed
his habits of ceremony and ostentation, nor his vigilance as an
administrator, nor his iron will, nor his thirst for power; so that he
ruled as he wished until he died, in spite of the reverses of his sad
old age, and without losing the respect of his subjects, oppressed as
they were with taxes and humiliated by national disasters.

Such were some of the traits which made Louis XIV. a great sovereign, if
not a great man. He was not only supported by the people who were
dazzled by his magnificence, and by the great men who adorned his court,
but he was aided by fortunate circumstances and great national ideas. He
was heir of the powers of Richelieu and the treasures of Mazarin. Those
two cardinals, who claimed equal rank with independent princes, higher
than that of the old nobility, pursued essentially the same policy,
although this policy was the fruit of Richelieu's genius; and this
policy was the concentration of all authority in the hands of the king.
Louis XIII. was the feeblest of the Bourbons, but he made his throne the
first in Europe. Richelieu was a great benefactor to the cause of law,
order, and industry, despotic as was his policy and hateful his
character. When he died, worn out by his herculean labors, the nobles
tried to regain the privileges and powers they had lost, and a miserable
warfare called the "Fronde" was the result, carried on without genius or
system. But the Fronde produced some heroes who were destined to be
famous in the great wars of Louis XIV. Mazarin, with less ability than
Richelieu, and more selfish, conquered in the end, by following out the
policy of his predecessor. He developed the resources of the kingdom,
besides accumulating an enormous fortune for himself,--about two hundred
millions of francs,--which, when he died, he bequeathed, not to the
Church or his relatives, but to the young King, who thus became
personally rich as well as strong. To have entered upon the magnificent
inheritance which these two able cardinals bequeathed to the monarchy
was most fortunate to Louis,--unrestricted power and enormous wealth.

But Louis was still more fortunate in reaping the benefits of the
principle of royalty. We have in the United States but a feeble
conception of the power of this principle in Europe in the seventeenth
century; it was nursed by all the chivalric sentiments of the Middle
Ages. The person of a king was sacred; he was regarded as divinely
commissioned. The sacred oil poured on his head by the highest dignitary
of the Church, at his coronation, imparted to him a sacred charm. All
the influences of the Church, as well as those of Feudalism, set the
king apart from all other men, as a consecrated monarch to rule the
people. This loyalty to the throne had the sanction of the Jewish
nation, and of all Oriental nations from the remotest ages. Hence the
world has known no other form of government than that of kings and
emperors, except in a few countries and for a brief period. Whatever the
king decreed, had the force of irresistible law; no one dared to disobey
a royal mandate but a rebel in actual hostilities. Resistance to royal
authority was ruin. This royal power was based on and enforced by the
ideas of ages. Who can resist universally accepted ideas?

Moreover, in France especially, there was a chivalric charm about the
person of a king; he was not only sacred, of purer blood than other
people, but the greatest nobles were proud to attend and wait upon his
person. Devotion to the person of the prince became the highest duty. It
was not political slavery, but a religious and sentimental allegiance.
So sacred was this allegiance, that only the most detested tyrants were
in personal danger of assassination, or those who were objects of
religious fanaticism. A king could dismiss his most powerful minister,
or his most triumphant general at the head of an army, by a stroke of
the pen, or by a word, without expostulation or resistance. To disobey
the king was tantamount to defiance of Almighty power. A great general
rules by machinery rather than devotion to his person. But devotion to
the king needed no support from armies or guards. A king in the
seventeenth century was supposed to be the vicegerent of the Deity.

Another still more powerful influence gave stability to the throne of
Louis: this was the Catholic Church. Louis was a devout Catholic in
spite of his sins, and was true to the interests of the Pope. He was
governed, so far as he was governed at all, by Jesuit confessors. He
associated on the most intimate terms with the great prelates and
churchmen of the day, like Bossuet, Fénelon, La Chaise, and Le Tellier.
He was regular at church and admired good sermons; he was punctilious in
all the outward observances of his religion. He detested all rebellion
from the spiritual authority of the popes; he hated both heresy and
schism. In his devotion to the Catholic Church he was as narrow and
intolerant as a village priest. His sincerity in defence of the Church
was never questioned, and hence all the influences of the Church were
exerted to uphold his domination. He may have quarrelled with popes on
political grounds, and humiliated them as temporal powers, but he stood
by them in the exercise of their spiritual functions. In Louis' reign
the State and Church were firmly knit together. It was deemed necessary
to be a good Catholic in order to be even a citizen,--so that religion
became fashionable, provided it was after the pattern of that of the
King and court. Even worldly courtiers entered with interest into the
most subtile of theological controversies. But the King always took the
side devoted to the Pope, and he hated Jansenism almost as much as he
hated Protestantism. Hence the Catholic Church ever rallied to
his support.

So, with all these powerful supports Louis began his long reign of
seventy-six years,--which technically began when he was four years old,
on the death of his father Louis XIII., in 1643, when the kingdom was
governed by his mother, Anne of Austria, as regent, and by Cardinal
Mazarin as prime minister. During the minority of the King the
humiliation of the nobles continued. Protestantism was only tolerated,
and the country distracted rather than impoverished by the civil war of
the Fronde, with its intrigues and ever-shifting parties,--a giddy maze,
which nobody now cares to unravel; a sort of dance of death, in which
figured cardinals, princes, nobles, bishops, judges, and generals,--when
"Bacchus, Momus, and Moloch" alternately usurped dominion. Those
eighteen years of strife, folly, absurdity, and changing fortunes, when
Mazarin was twice compelled to quit the kingdom he governed; when the
queen-regent was forced also twice to fly from her capital; when
Cardinal De Retz disgraced his exalted post as Archbishop of Paris by
the vilest intrigues; when Condé and Conti obscured the lustre of their
military laurels; when alternately the parliaments made war on the
crown, and the seditious nobles ignobly yielded their functions merely
to register royal decrees,--these contests, rivalries, cabals, and
follies, ending however in the more solid foundations of absolute royal
authority, are not to be here discussed, especially as nobody can thread
that political labyrinth; and we begin, therefore, not with the
technical reign of the great King, but with his actual government,
which took place on the death of Mazarin, when he was twenty-two.

It is said that when that able ruler passed away so reluctantly from his
pictures and his government, the ministers asked of the young
King,--thus far only known for his pleasures,--to whom they should now
bring their portfolios, "To me," he replied; and from that moment he
became the State, and his will the law of the land.

I have already alluded to the talents and capacities of Louis for
governing, and the great aid he derived from the labors of Richelieu and
the moral sentiments of his age respecting royalty and religion; so I
will not dwell on personal defects or virtues, but proceed to show the
way in which he executed the task devolved upon him,--in other words,
present a brief history of his government, for which he was so well
fitted by native talents, fortunate circumstances, and established
ideas. I will only say, that never did a monarch enter upon his career
with such ample and magnificent opportunities for being a benefactor of
his people and of civilization. In his hands were placed all the powers
of good and evil; and so far as government can make a nation great,
Louis had the means and opportunities beyond those of any monarch in
modern times. He had armies and generals and accumulated treasures; and
all implicitly served him. His ministers and his generals were equally
able and supple, and he was at peace with all the world. Parliaments,
nobles, and Huguenots were alike submissive and reverential. He had
inherited the experience of Sully, of Richelieu, and of Mazarin. His
kingdom was protected by great natural boundaries,--the North Sea, the
ocean, the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the mountains
which overlook the Rhine. By nothing was he fettered but by the decrees
of everlasting righteousness. To his praise be it said, he inaugurated
his government by selecting Colbert as one of his prime ministers,--the
ablest man of his kingdom. It was this honest and astute servant of
royalty who ferreted out the peculations of Fouquet, whom Louis did not
hesitate to disgrace and punish. The great powers of Fouquet were
gradually bestowed on the merchant's son of Rheims.

Colbert was a plebeian and a Protestant,--cold, severe, reserved,
awkward, abrupt, and ostentatiously humble, but of inflexible integrity
and unrivalled sagacity and forethought; more able as a financier and
political economist than any man of his century. It was something for a
young, proud, and pleasure-seeking monarch to see and reward the talents
of such a man; and Colbert had the tact and wisdom to make his young
master believe that all the measures which he pursued originated in the
royal brain. His great merit as a minister consisted in developing the
industrial resources of France and providing the King with money.

Colbert was the father of French commerce, and the creator of the French
navy. He saw that Flanders was enriched by industry, and England and
Holland made powerful by a navy, while Spain and Portugal languished and
declined with all their mines of gold and silver. So he built ships of
war, and made harbors for them, gave charters to East and West India
Companies, planted colonies in India and America, decreed tariffs to
protect infant manufactures, gave bounties to all kinds of artisans,
encouraged manufacturing industry, and declared war on the whole brood
of aristocratic peculators that absorbed the revenues of the kingdom. He
established a better system of accounts, compelled all officers to
reside at their posts, and reduced the percentage of the collection of
the public money. In thirteen years he increased the navy from thirty
ships to two hundred and seventy-three, one hundred of which were ships
of the line. He prepared a new code of maritime law for the government
of the navy, which called out universal admiration. He dug the canal of
Languedoc, which united the Mediterranean with the Atlantic Ocean. He
instituted the Academies of Sciences, of Inscriptions, of Belles
Lettres, of Painting, of Sculpture, of Architecture; and founded the
School of Oriental languages, the Observatory, and the School of Law. He
gave pensions to Corneille, Racine, Molière, and other men of genius. He
rewarded artists and invited scholars to France; he repaired roads,
built bridges, and directed the attention of the middle classes to the
accumulation of capital. "He recognized the connection of works of
industry with the development of genius. He saw the influence of science
in the production of riches; of taste on industry; and the fine arts on
manual labor." For all these enlightened measures the King had the
credit and the glory; and it certainly redounds to his sagacity that he
accepted such wise suggestions, although he mistook them for his own. So
to the eyes of Europe Louis at once loomed up as an enlightened monarch;
and it would be difficult to rob him of this glory. He indorsed the
economical reforms of his great minister, and rewarded merit in all
departments, which he was not slow to see. The world extolled this
enlightened and fortunate young prince, and saw in him a second Solomon,
both for wisdom and magnificence.

Another great genius ably assisted Louis as soon as he turned his
attention to war,--the usual employment of ambitious kings,--and this
was Le Tellier, Marquis of Louvois, the great war minister, who laid out
the campaigns and directed the movements of such generals as Condé,
Turenne, and Luxembourg. And here again it redounds to the sagacity of
Louis that he should select a man for so great a post whom he never
personally loved, and who in his gusts of passion would almost insult
his master. Louvois is acknowledged to have been the ablest war minister
that France ever had.

Louis reigned peaceably and prosperously for six years before the
ambition of being a conqueror and a hero seized him. At twenty-eight he
burned to play the part of Alexander. Thenceforth the history of his
reign chiefly pertains to his gigantic wars,--some defensive, but mostly
offensive, aggressive, and unprovoked.

In regard to these various wars, which plunged Europe in mourning and
rage for nearly fifty years, Louis is generally censured by historians.
They were wars of ambition, like those of Alexander and Frederic II.,
until Europe combined against him and compelled him to act on the
defensive. The limits of this lecture necessarily prevent me from
describing these wars; I can only allude to the most important of them,
and then only to show results.

His first great war was simply outrageous, and was an insult to all
Europe, and a violation of all international law. In 1667, with an
immense army, he undertook the conquest of Flanders, with no better
excuse than Frederic II. had for the invasion of Silesia,--because he
wanted an increase of territory. Flanders had done nothing to warrant
this outrage, was unprepared for war, and was a weak state, but rich and
populous, with fine harbors, and flourishing manufactures. With nearly
fifty thousand men, under Condé, Turenne, and Luxembourg, and other
generals of note, aided by Louvois, who provided military stores of
every kind, and all under the eye of the King himself, full of ideas of
glory, the issue of the conflict was not doubtful. In fact, there was no
serious defence. It was hopeless from the first. Louis had only to take
possession of cities and fortresses which were at his mercy. The
frontier towns were mostly without fortifications, so that it took only
about two or three days to conquer any city. The campaign was more a
court progress than a series of battles. It was a sort of holiday sport
for courtiers, like a royal hunt. The conquest of all Flanders might
have been the work of a single campaign, for no city offered a stubborn
resistance; but the war was prolonged for another year, that Louis might
more easily take possession of Franche-Comté,--a poor province, but
fertile in soil, well peopled, one hundred and twenty miles in length
and sixty in breadth. In less than three weeks this province was added
to France. "Louis," said the Spanish council in derision, "might have
sent his _valet de chambre_ to have taken possession of the country in
his name, and saved himself the trouble of going in person."

This successful raid seems to have contented the King for the time,
since Holland made signs of resistance, and a league was forming against
him, embracing England, Holland, and Sweden.

The courtiers and flatterers of Louis XIV. called this unheroic seizure
"glory." And it doubtless added to the dominion of France, inflamed the
people with military ambition, and caused the pride of birth for the
first time to yield to military talent and military rank. A marshal
became a greater personage than a duke, although a marshal was generally
taken from the higher nobility.

Louis paid no apparent penalty for this crime, any more than prosperous
wickedness at first usually receives. "His eyes stood out with fatness."
To idolatrous courtiers "he had more than heart could wish." But the
penalty was to come: law cannot be violated with impunity.

The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1668 followed, which made Louis the most
prominent figure in Europe. He was then twenty-nine years of age, in the
pride of strength, devoted equally to pleasure and ambition. It was then
that he was the lover of the Duchesse de La Vallière, who was soon to be
supplanted by the imperious Montespan. Louis remained at peace for four
years, but all the while he was preparing for another war, aimed against
Holland, which had offended him because resolved to resist him.

Vaster preparations were made for this war than that against Flanders,
five years before. The storm broke out in 1672, when this little state
saw itself invaded by one hundred and thirty thousand men, led by the
King in person, accompanied by his principal marshals, his war-minister
Louvois, and Vauban, to whom was intrusted the direction of siege
operations,--an engineer who changed the system of fortifications. This
was the most magnificent army that Europe had ever seen since the
Crusades, and much was expected of it. Against Condé, Turenne,
Luxembourg, and Vauban, all under the eye of the King, with a powerful
train of artillery, and immense sums of money to bribe the commanders of
garrisons, Holland had only to oppose twenty-five thousand soldiers,
under a sickly young man of twenty-two, William, Prince of Orange.

Of course Holland was unable to resist such an overwhelming tide of
enemies, such vast and disproportionate forces. City after city and
fortress after fortress was compelled to surrender to the generals of
the French King. "They were taken almost as soon as they were invested."
All the strongholds on the Rhine and Issel fell. The Prince of Orange
could not even take the field. Louis crossed the Rhine without
difficulty, when the waters were low, with only four or five hundred
horsemen to dispute his passage. This famous passage was the subject of
ridiculous panegyrics by both painters and poets. It was generally
regarded as a prodigious feat, especially by the people of Paris, as if
it were another passage of the Granicus.

Then rapidly fell Arnheim, Nimeguen, Utrecht, and other cities. The
wealthy families of Amsterdam prepared to embark in their ships for the
East Indies. Nothing remained to complete the conquest of Holland but
the surrender of Amsterdam, which still held out. Holland was in
despair, and sent ambassadors to the camp of Louis, headed by Grotius,
to implore his mercy. He received them, after protracted delays, with
blended insolence and arrogance, and demanded, as the conditions of
his mercy, that the States should give up all their fortified
cities, pay twenty millions of francs, and establish the Catholic
religion,--conditions which would have reduced the Hollanders to
absolute slavery, morally and politically. From an inspiration of
blended patriotism and despair, the Dutch opened their dykes, overflowed
the whole country in possession of the enemy, and thus made Amsterdam
impregnable,--especially as they were still masters of the sea, and had
just dispersed, in a brilliant naval battle under De Ruyter, the
combined fleets of France and England.

It was this memorable resistance to vastly superior forces, and
readiness to make any sacrifices, which gave immortal fame to William of
Orange, and imperishable glory also to the little state over which he
ruled. What a spectacle!--a feeble mercantile state, without powerful
allies, bracing itself up to a life-and-death struggle with the
mightiest potentate of Europe. I know no parallel to it in the history
of modern times. Our fathers in the Revolutionary war could retreat to
forests and mountains; but Holland had neither mountains nor forests.
There was no escape from political ruin but by the inundation of fertile
fields, the destruction to an unprecedented degree of private property,
and the decimation of the male part of the population. Nor did the noble
defenders dream of victory; they only hoped to make a temporary stand.
William knew he would be beaten in every battle; his courage was moral
rather than physical. He lost no ground by defeat, while Louis lost
ground by victory, since it required a large part of his army to guard
the prisoners and garrison the fortresses he had taken.

Some military writers say that Louis should have persevered until he had
taken Amsterdam. As well might Napoleon have remained in Russia after
the conflagration of Moscow. In May, Louis entered Holland; in July, all
Europe was in confederacy against him, through the negotiations of the
Prince of Orange. Louis hastened to quit the army when no more
conquests could be made in a country overflowed with water, leaving
Turenne and Luxembourg to finish the war in Franche-Comté. The able
generals of the French king were obliged to evacuate Holland. That
little state, by an act of supreme self-sacrifice, saved itself when all
seemed lost. I do not read of any military mistakes on the part of the
generals of Louis. They were baffled by an unforeseen inundation; and
when they were compelled to evacuate the flooded country, the Dutch
quietly closed their dykes and pumped the water out again into their
canals by their windmills, and again restored fertility to their fields;
and by the time Louis was prepared for fresh invasions, a combination
existed against him so formidable that he found it politic to make
peace. The campaigns of Turenne on the Rhine were indeed successful; but
he was killed in an insignificant battle, from a chance cannonball,
while the Prince of Condé retired forever from military service after
the bloody battle of Senif. On the whole, the French were victorious in
the terrible battles which followed the evacuation of Holland, and Louis
dictated peace to Europe apparently in the midst of victories at
Nimeguen, in 1678, after six years of brilliant fighting on both sides.

At the peace of Nimeguen Louis was in the zenith of his glory, as
Napoleon was after the peace of Tilsit. He was justly regarded as the
mightiest monarch of his age, the greatest king that France had ever
seen. All Europe stood in awe of him; and with awe was blended
admiration, for his resources were unimpaired, his generals had greatly
distinguished themselves, and he had added important provinces to his
kingdom, which was also enriched by the internal reforms of Colbert, and
made additionally powerful by commerce and a great navy, which had
gained brilliant victories over the Dutch and Spanish fleets. Duquesne
showed himself to be almost as great a genius in naval warfare as De
Ruyter, who was killed off Aosta in 1676. In those happy and prosperous
days the Hotel de Ville conferred upon Louis the title of "Great," which
posterity never acknowledged. "Titles," says Voltaire, "are never
regarded by posterity. The simple name of a man who has performed noble
actions impresses on us more respect than all the epithets that can be

After the peace of Nimeguen, in 1678, the King reigned in greater
splendor than before. There were no limits to his arrogance and his
extravagance. He was a modern Nebuchadnezzar. He claimed to be the
state. _L'état, c'est moi!_ was his proud exclamation. He would bear no
contradiction and no opposition. The absorbing sentiment of his soul
seems to have been that France belonged to him, that it had been given
to him as an inheritance, to manage as he pleased for his private
gratification. "Self-aggrandizement," he wrote, "is the noblest
occupation of kings." Most writers affirm that personal aggrandizement
became the law of his life, and that he now began to lose sight of the
higher interests and happiness of his people, and to reign not for them
but for himself. He became a man of resentments, of caprices, of
undisguised selfishness; he became pompous and haughty and self-willed.
We palliate his self-exaggeration and pride, on account of the
disgraceful flatteries he received on every hand. Never was a man more
extravagantly lauded, even by the learned. But had he been half as great
as his courtiers made him think, he would not have been so intoxicated;
Caesar or Charlemagne would not thus have lost his intellectual balance.
The strongest argument to prove that he was not inherently great, but
made apparently so by fortunate circumstances, is his self-deception.

In his arrogance and presumption, like Napoleon after the peace of
Tilsit, he now sets aside the rights of other nations, heaps galling
insults on independent potentates, and assumes the most arrogant tone in
all his relations with his neighbors or subjects. He makes conquests in
the midst of peace. He cites the princes of Europe before his councils.
He deprives the Elector Palatine and the Elector of Treves of some of
their most valuable seigniories. He begins to persecute the
Protestants. He seizes Luxembourg and the principality which belonged to
it. He humbles the republic of Genoa, and compels the Doge to come to
Versailles to implore his clemency. He treats with haughty insolence the
Pope himself, and sends an ambassador to his court on purpose to insult
him. He even insists on giving an Elector to Cologne.

And the same inflated pride and vanity which led Louis to trample on the
rights of other nations, led him into unbounded extravagance in
palace-building. Versailles arose,--at a cost, some affirm, of a
thousand millions of livres,--unrivalled for magnificence since the fall
of the Caesars. In this vast palace did he live, more after the fashion
of an Oriental than an Occidental monarch, having enriched and furnished
it with the wonders of the world, surrounded with princes, marshals,
nobles, judges, bishops, ambassadors, poets, artists, philosophers, and
scholars, all of whom rendered to him perpetual incense. Never was such
a grand court seen before on this earth: it was one of the great
features of the seventeenth century. There was nothing censurable in
collecting all the most distinguished and illustrious people of France
around him: they must have formed a superb society, from which the proud
monarch could learn much to his enlightenment. But he made them all
obsequious courtiers, exacted from all an idolatrous homage, and
subjected them to wearisome ceremonials. He took away their intellectual
independence; he banished Racine because the poet presumed to write a
political tract. He made it difficult to get access to his person; he
degraded the highest nobles by menial offices, and insulted the nation
by the exaltation of abandoned women, who squandered the revenues of the
state in their pleasures and follies, so that this grand court, alike
gay and servile, intellectual and demoralized, became the scene of
perpetual revels, scandals, and intrigues.

It was at this period that Louis abandoned himself to those adulterous
pleasures which have ever disgraced the Bourbons. Yet scarcely a single
woman by whom he was for a while enslaved retained her influence, but a
succession of mistresses arose, blazed, triumphed, and fell. Mancini,
the niece of Mazarin, was forsaken without the decency of the slightest
word of consolation. La Vallière, the only woman who probably ever loved
him with sincerity and devotion, had but a brief reign, and was doomed
to lead a dreary life of thirty-six years in penitence and neglect in a
Carmelite convent. Madame de Montespan retained her ascendency longer
for she had talents as well as physical beauty; she was the most
prodigal and imperious of all the women that ever triumphed over the
weakness of man. She reigned when Louis was in all the pride of manhood
and at the summit of his greatness and fame,--accompanying him in his
military expeditions, presiding at his fetes, receiving the incense of
nobles, the channel of court favor, the dispenser of honors but not of
offices; for amid all the slaveries to which women subjected the
proudest man on earth by the force of physical charms, he never gave to
them his sceptre. It was not till Madame de Maintenon supplanted this
beautiful and brilliant woman in the affections of the King, and until
he was a victim of superstitious fears, and had met with great reverses,
that state secrets were intrusted to a female friend,--for Madame de
Maintenon was never a mistress in the sense that Montespan was.

During this brilliant period of ten years from the peace of Nimeguen, in
1678, to the great uprising of the nations to humble him, in 1688,
Versailles and other palaces were completed, works of art adorned the
capital, and immortal works of genius made his reign illustrious.

While Colbert lived, I do not read of any extraordinary blunder on the
part of the Government. Perhaps palace-building may be considered a
mistake, since it diverted the revenues of the kingdom into monuments of
royal vanity. But the sums lavished on architects, gardeners, painters,
sculptors, and those who worked under them, employed thousands of useful
artisans, created taste, and helped to civilize the people. The people
profited by the extravagance of the King and his courtiers; the money
was spent in France, which was certainly better than if it had been
expended in foreign wars; it made Paris and Versailles the most
attractive cities of the world; it stimulated all the arts, and did not
demoralize the nation. Would this country be poorer, and the government
less stable, if five hundred millions were expended at Washington to
make it the most beautiful city of the land, and create an honest pride
even among the representatives of the West, perhaps diverting them from
building another capital on the banks of the Mississippi? Would this
country be richer if great capitalists locked up their money in State
securities, instead of spending their superfluous wealth in reclaiming
sterile tracts and converting them into gardens and parks? The very
magnificence of Louis impressed such a people as the French with the
idea of his power, and tended to make the government secure, until
subsequent wars imposed such excessive taxation as to impoverish the
people and drain the sources of national wealth. We do not read that
Colbert made serious remonstrances to the palace-building of the King,
although afterwards Louis regarded it as one of the errors of his reign.

But when Colbert died, in 1685, another spirit seemed to animate the
councils of the King, and great mistakes were made,--which is the more
noteworthy, since the moral character of the King seemed to improve. It
was at this time that he fell under the influence of Madame de Maintenon
and the Jesuits. They made his court more decorous. Montespan was sent
away. Bossuet and La Chaise gained great ascendency over the royal
conscience. Louis began to realize his responsibilities; the love of
glory waned; the welfare of the people was now considered. Whether he
was _ennuied_ with pleasure, or saw things in a different light, or felt
the influence of the narrow-minded but accomplished and virtuous woman
whom he made his wife, or was disturbed by the storm which was gathering
in the political horizon, he became more thoughtful and grave, though
not less tyrannical.

Yet it was then that he made the most fatal mistake of his life, the
evil consequences of which pursued him to his death. He revoked the
Edict of Nantes, which Henry IV. had granted, and which had secured
religious toleration. This he did from a perverted conscience, wishing
to secure the unanimity and triumph of the Catholic faith; to this he
was incited by the best woman with whom he was ever brought in intimate
relations; in this he was encouraged by all the religious bigots of his
kingdom. He committed a monstrous crime that good might come,--not
foreseeing the ultimate consequences, and showing anything but an
enlarged statesmanship. This stupid folly alienated his best subjects,
and sowed the seeds of revolution in the next reign, and tended to
undermine the throne. Richelieu never would have consented to such an
insane measure; for this cruel act not only destroyed veneration at
home, but created detestation among all enlightened foreigners.

It is a hackneyed saying, that "the blood of martyrs is the seed of the
Church." But it would seem that the persecution of the Protestants was
an exception to this truth,--and a persecution all the more needless and
revolting since the Protestants were not in rebellion against the
government, as in the tune of Charles IX. This diabolical persecution,
justified however by some of the greatest men in France, had its
intended results. The bigots who incited that crime had studied well the
principles of successful warfare. As early as 1666 the King was urged to
suppress the Protestant religion, and long before the Edict of Nantes
was revoked the Protestants had been subjected to humiliation and
annoyance. If they held places at court, they were required to sell
them; if they were advocates, they were forbidden to plead; if they were
physicians, they were prevented from visiting patients. They were
gradually excluded from appointments in the army and navy; little
remained to them except commerce and manufactures. Protestants could not
hold Catholics as servants; soldiers were unjustly quartered upon them;
their taxes were multiplied, their petitions were unread. But in 1685
dragonnades subjected them to still greater cruelties; who tore up their
linen for camp beds, and emptied their mattresses for litters. The poor,
unoffending Protestants filled the prisons, and dyed the scaffolds with
their blood. They were prohibited under the severest penalties from the
exercise of their religion; their ministers were exiled, their children
were baptized in the Catholic faith, their property was confiscated, and
all attempts to flee the country were punished by the galleys. Two
millions of people were disfranchised; two hundred thousand perished by
the executioners, or in prisons, or in the galleys. All who could fly
escaped to other countries; and those who escaped were among the most
useful citizens, carrying their arts with them to enrich countries at
war with France. Some two hundred thousand contrived to fly,--thus
weakening the kingdom, and filling Europe with their execrations. Never
did a crime have so little justification, and never was a crime followed
with severer retribution. Yet Le Tellier, the chancellor, at the age of
eighty, thanked God that he was permitted the exalted privilege of
affixing the seal of his office to the act before he died. Madame de
Maintenon declared that it would cover Louis with glory. Madame de
Sévigné said that no royal ordinance had ever been more magnificent.
Hardly a protest came from any person of influence in the land, not even
from Fénelon. The great Bossuet, at the funeral of Le Tellier, thus
broke out: "Let us publish this miracle of our day, and pour out our
hearts in praise of the piety of Louis,--this new Constantine, this new
Theodosius, this new Charlemagne, through whose hands heresy is no
more." The Pope, though at this time hostile to Louis, celebrated a
Te Deum.

Among those who fled the kingdom to other lands were nine thousand
sailors and twelve thousand soldiers, headed by Marshal Schomberg and
Admiral Duquesne,--the best general and the best naval officer that
France then had. Other distinguished people transferred their services
to foreign courts. The learned Claude, who fled to Holland, gave to the
world an eloquent picture of the persecution. Jurieu, by his burning
pamphlets, excited the insurrection of Cévennes. Basnage and Rapin, the
historians, Saurin the great preacher, Papin the eminent scientist, and
other eminent men, all exiles, weakened the supports of Louis. France
was impoverished in every way by this "great miracle" of the reign; "so
that," says Martin, "the new temple that Louis had pretended to erect to
unity fell to ruin as it rose from the ground, and left only an open
chasm in place of its foundations.... The nothingness of absolute
government by one alone was revealed under the very reign of the
great King."

The rebound of the revocation overthrew all the barriers within which
Louis had intrenched himself. All the smothered fires of hatred and of
vengeance were kindled anew in Holland and in every Protestant country.
William of Orange headed the confederation of hostile states that
dreaded the ascendency and detested the policy of Louis XIV. All Europe
was resolved on the humiliation of a man it both feared and hated. The
great war which began in 1688, when William of Orange became King of
England on the flight of James II., was not sought by Louis. This war
cannot be laid to his military ambition; he provoked it indeed,
indirectly, by his arrogance and religious persecutions, but on his part
it was as truly defensive as were the wars of Napoleon after the
invasion of Russia. Whatever is truly heroic in the character of Louis
was seen after he was forty-eight. Whatever claims to greatness he may
have had are only to be sustained by the memorable resistance he made
to united Europe in arms against him, when his great ministers and his
best generals had died, Turenne died in 1675, Colbert in 1683, Condé in
1686, Le Tellier in 1687, and Louvois in 1691. Then it was that his
great reverses began, and his glory paled before the sun of the King of
England, These reverses may have been the result of incapacity, and
they may have been the result of the combined forces which outnumbered
or overmatched his own; certain it is that in the terrible contest to
which he was now doomed, he showed great force of character and great
fortitude, which command our respect.

I cannot enter on that long war which began with the League of Augsburg
in 1686, and continued to the peace of Ryswick in 1697,--nine years of
desperate fighting, when successes and defeats were nearly balanced, and
when the resources of all the contending parties were nearly exhausted.
France, at the close of the war, was despoiled of all her conquests and
all the additions to her territory made since the Peace of Nimeguen,
except Strasburg and Alsace. For the first time since the accession of
Richelieu to power, France lost ground.

The interval between this war and that of the Spanish succession--an
interval of three years--was only marked by the ascendency of Madame de
Maintenon, and a renewed persecution, directed not against Protestants,
but against those Catholics who cultivated the highest and freest
religious life, and in which Bossuet appears to a great disadvantage by
the side of his rival, the equally illustrious Fénelon. It was also
marked by the gradual disappearance of the great lights in literature.
La Fontaine died in 1695, Racine in 1699. Boileau was as good as dead;
Mesdames de la Sablière and de la Fayette, Pellisson and Bussy-Rabutin,
La Bruyère and Madame Sévigné, all died about this time. The only great
men at the close of the century in France who made their genius felt
were Bossuet, who encouraged the narrow intolerance which aimed to
suppress the Jansenists and Quietists, and Fénelon, who protected them
although he did not join them,--the "Eagle of Meaux" and the "Swan of
Cambray," as they were called, offering in the realm of art "the eternal
duality of strength and grace," like Michael Angelo and Raphael; the one
inspiring the fear and the other the love of God, yet both seeing in the
Christian religion the highest hopes of the world. The internal history
of this period centres around those pious mystics of whom Madame Guyon
was the representative, and those inquiring intellectual Jansenists who
had defied the Jesuits, but were finally crushed by an intolerant
government. The lamentable dispute between Bossuet and Fénelon also then
occurred, which led to the disgrace of the latter,--as banishment to his
diocese was regarded. But in his exile his moral influence was increased
rather than diminished; while the publication of his "Télémaque," made
without his consent from a copy that had been abstracted from him, won
him France and Europe, though it rendered Louis XIV. forever
irreconcilable. Bossuet did not long survive the banishment of his
rival, and died in 1704, a month before Bourdaloue, and two years before
Bayle. France intellectually, under the despotic intolerance of the
King, was going through an eclipse or hastening to a dissolution, while
the material state of the country showed signs of approaching
bankruptcy. The people were exhausted by war and taxes, and all the
internal improvements which Colbert had stimulated were neglected. "The
fisheries of Normandy were ruined, and the pasture lands of Alsace were
taken from the peasantry. Picardy lost a twelfth part of its population;
many large cities were almost abandoned. In Normandy, out of seven
hundred thousand people, there were but fifty thousand who did not sleep
on straw. The linen manufactures of Brittany were destroyed by the heavy
duties; Touraine lost one-fourth of her population; the silk trade of
Tours was ruined; the population of Troyes fell from sixty thousand to
twenty thousand; Lyons lost twenty thousand souls since the beginning
of the war."

In spite of these calamities the blinded King prepared for another
exhausting war, in order to put his grandson on the throne of Spain.
This last and most ruinous of all his wars might have been averted if he
only could have cast away his ambition and his pride. Humbled and
crippled, he yet could not part with the prize which fell to his family
by the death of Carlos II. of Spain. But Europe was determined that the
Bourbons should not be further aggrandized.

Thus in 1701 war broke out with even intensified animosities, and lasted
twelve years; directed on the one part by Marlborough, Eugene, and
Heinsius, and on the other part by Villars, Vendôme, and Catinat, during
which the finances of France were ruined and the people reduced to
frightful misery. It was then that Louis melted up the medallions of his
former victories, to provide food for his starving soldiers. He offered
immense concessions, which the allies against him rejected. He was
obliged to continue the contest with exhausted resources and a saddened
soul. He offered Marlborough four millions to use his influence to
procure a peace; but this general, venal as he was, preferred ambition
to money. The despair which once overwhelmed Holland now overtook
France. The French marshals encountered a greater general than William
III., whose greatness was in the heroism of his soul and his diplomatic
talents, rather than in his genius on the battlefield. But Marlborough,
who led the allies, never lost a battle, nor besieged a fortress he did
not take. His master-stroke was to transfer his operations from Flanders
to the Danube. At Blenheim was fought one of the decisive battles of the
world, in which the Teutonic nations were marshalled against the French.
The battle of Ramillies completed the deliverance of Flanders; and
Louis, completely humiliated, agreed to give up ten Flemish provinces to
the Dutch, and to surrender to the Emperor of Germany all that France
had gained since the peace of Westphalia in 1648. He also agreed to
acknowledge Anne, as Queen of Great Britain, and to banish the Pretender
from his dominions; England was to retain Gibraltar, and Spain to cede
to the Emperor of Germany her possessions in Italy and the Netherlands.
But France, with all her disasters, was not ruined; the treaty of
Utrecht, 1713, left Louis nearly all his inherited possessions, except
in America.

Louis was now seventy-four,--an old man whose delusions were dispelled,
and to whom successive misfortunes had brought grief and shame. He was
deprived by death of his son and grandson, who gave promise of rare
virtues and abilities; only a feeble infant--his great-grandson--was the
heir of the monarchy. All his vast enterprises had failed. He suffered,
to all appearance, a righteous retribution for his early passion for
military glory. "He had invaded the rights of Holland; and Holland gave
him no rest until, with the aid of the surrounding monarchies, France
was driven to the verge of ruin. He had destroyed the cities of the
Palatinate; and the Rhine provinces became a wall of fire against his
armies. He had conspired against liberty in England; and it was from
England that he experienced the most fatal opposition." His wars, from
which he had expected glory, ended at last in the curtailment of his
original possessions. His palaces, which had excited the admiration of
Europe, became the monuments of extravagance and folly. His
persecutions, by which he hoped to secure religious unity, sowed the
seeds of discontent, anarchy, and revolution. He left his kingdom
politically weaker than it was when he took it; he entailed nothing but
disasters to his heirs. His very grants and pensions were subversive of
intellectual dignity and independence. At the close of the seventeenth
century the great lights had disappeared; he survived his fame, his
generals, his family, and his friends; the infirmities of age oppressed
his body, and the agonies of religious fears disturbed his soul. We see
no greatness but in his magnificence; we strip him of all claims to
genius, and even to enlightened statesmanship, and feel that his
undoubted skill in holding the reins of government must be ascribed to
the weakness and degradation of his subjects, rather than to his own
strength. But the verdicts of the last and present generation of
historians, educated with hatred of irresponsible power, may be again
reversed, and Louis XIV. may loom up in another age, if not as the
_grand monarque_ whom his contemporaries worshipped, yet as a man of
great natural abilities who made fatal mistakes, and who, like Napoleon
after him, alternately elevated and depressed the nation over which he
was called to reign,--not like Napoleon, as a usurper and a fraud, but
as an honest, though proud and ambitious, sovereign, who was supposed to
rule by divine right, of whom the nations of Europe were jealous, who
lived in fear and hatred of his power, and who finally conspired, not to
rob him of his throne and confine him to a rock, but to take from him
the provinces he had seized and the glory in which he shone.


Voltaire's Age of Louis XIV.; Henri Martin's History of France; Miss
Pardoe's History of the Court of Louis XIV.; Letters of Madame de
Maintenon; Mémoires de Greville; Saint Simon; P. Clément; Le
Gouvernement de Louis XIV.; Mémoires de Choisy; Oeuvres de Louis XIV.;
Limièrs's Histoire de Louis XIV.; Quincy's Histoire Militaire de Louis
XIV.; Lives of Colbert, Turenne, Vauban, Condé, and Louvois; Macaulay's
History of England; Lives of Fénelon and Bossuet; Mémoires de Foucault;
Mémoires du Due de Bourgogne; Histoire de l'Edit de Nantes; Laire's
Histoire de Louis XIV.; Mémoires de Madame de la Fayette; Mémoires de
St. Hilaire; Mémoires du Maréchal de Berwick; Mémoires de Vilette;
Lettres de Madame de Sévigné; Mémoires de Mademoiselle de Montpensier;
Mémoires de Catinat; Life, by James.


A. D. 1710-1774.


It is impossible to contemplate the inglorious reign of Louis XV.
otherwise than as a more complete development of the egotism which
marked the life of his immediate predecessor, and a still more fruitful
nursery of those vices and discontents which prepared the way for the
French Revolution. It is in fact in connection with that great event
that this reign should be considered. The fabric of despotism had
already been built by Richelieu, and Louis XIV. had displayed and
gloried in its dazzling magnificence, even while he undermined its
foundations by his ruinous wars and courtly extravagance. Under Louis
XV. we shall see even greater recklessness in profitless expenditures,
and more complete abandonment to the pleasures which were purchased by
the burdens and sorrows of his people; we shall see the monarch and his
court still more subversive of the prosperity and dignity of the nation,
and even indifferent to the signs of that coming storm which, later,
overturned the throne of his grandson, Louis XVI.

And Louis XV. was not only the author of new calamities, but the heir of
seventy years' misrule. All the evils which resulted from the wars and
wasteful extravagance of Louis XIV. became additional perplexities with
which he had to contend. But these evils, instead of removing, he only
aggravated by follies which surpassed all the excesses of the preceding
reign. If I were asked to point out the most efficient though indirect
authors of the French Revolution, I would single out those royal tyrants
themselves who sat upon the throne of Henry IV. during the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries. I shall proceed to state the principal events
and features which have rendered that reign both noted and ignominious.

In contemplating the long reign of Louis XV,--whom I present as a
necessary link in the political history of the eighteenth century,
rather than as one of the Beacon Lights of civilization,--we first
naturally turn our eyes to the leading external events by which it is
marked in history; and we have to observe, in reference to these, that
they were generally unpropitious to the greatness and glory of France,
Nearly all those which emanated from the government had an unfortunate
or disgraceful issue. No success attended the French arms in any quarter
of the world, with the exception of the victories of Marshal Saxe at
Fontenoy (1745); and the French lost the reputation they had previously
acquired under Henry IV., Condé, Turenne, and Luxembourg. Disgrace
attended the generals who were sent against Frederic II., in the Seven
Years' War, even greater than what had previously resulted from the
contests with the English and the Dutch, and which were brought to a
close by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1748. But it was not on the
fields of Germany that the greatest disasters happened; the French were
rifled of their possessions both in America and in India. Louisbourg
yielded to the bravery of New England troops, and finally Canada itself
was lost. All dreams of establishing a new empire on the Mississippi and
the Gulf of St. Lawrence vanished for ever, while Madras and Calcutta
fell into the hands of the English, with all the riches of Mahometan and
Mogul empires. During the regency of the Duke of Orleans,--for Louis XV.
was an infant five years of age when his great-grandfather died in
1715,--we notice the disgraceful speculations which followed the schemes
of Law, and which resulted in the ruin of thousands, and the still
greater derangement of the national finances. The most respectable part
of the reign of Louis XV. were those seventeen years when the
administration was hi the hands of Cardinal Fleury, who succeeded the
Duke of Bourbon, to whom the reins of government had been intrusted
after the death of the Duke of Orleans, two years before the young King
had attained his majority. Though the cardinal was a man of peace, was
irreproachable in morals, patriotic in his intentions, and succeeded in
restoring for a time the credit of the country, still even he only
warded off difficulties,--like Sir Robert Walpole,--instead of bravely
meeting them before it should be too late. His timid rule was a negative
rather than a positive blessing. But with his death ended all
prosperity, and the reign of mistresses and infamous favorites
began,--the great feature of the times, on which I shall presently speak
more fully, as one of the indirect causes of subsequent revolution.

In singling out and generalizing the evils and public misfortunes of the
reign of Louis XV., perhaps the derangement of the finances was the most
important in its political results. But for this misfortune the King was
not wholly responsible: a vast national debt was the legacy of Louis
XIV. This was the fruit of his miserable attempt at self-aggrandizement;
this was the residuum of his glories. Yet as a national debt, according
to some, is no calamity, but rather a blessing,--a chain of loyalty and
love to bind the people together in harmonious action and mutual
interest, and especially the middle classes, upon whom it chiefly falls,
to the support of a glorious throne,--we must not waste time by
dwelling on the existence of this debt,--a peculiarity which has
attended the highest triumphs of civilization, an invention of honored
statesmen and patriotic ministers, and perhaps their benignant boon to
future generations,--but rather we will look to the way it was sought to
be discharged.

Louis XIV. spent in wars fifteen hundred millions of livres, and in
palaces about three hundred millions more; and his various other
expenses, which could not be well defrayed by taxation, swelled the
amount due to his creditors, at his death, to nearly two thousand
millions,--a vast sum for those times. The regent, Duke of Orleans, who
succeeded him, increased this debt still more, especially by his
reckless and infamous prodigalities, under the direction of his prime
minister,--his old friend and tutor,--Cardinal Dubois. At last his
embarrassments were so great that the wheels of government were likely
to stop. His friend, the Due de Saint Simon, one of the great patricians
of the court, proposed, as a remedy, national bankruptcy,--affirming
that it would be a salutary lesson to the rich plebeian capitalists not
to lend their money. An ingenious Scotch financier, however, proposed a
more palatable scheme, which was, to make use of the credit of the
nation for a bank, the capital of which should be guaranteed by shares
in the Mississippi Company. John Law, already a wealthy and prosperous
banker, proposed to increase the paper currency, and supersede the use
of gold and silver. His offer was accepted, and his bank became a royal
one, its bills going at once into circulation. Now, as the most absurd
delusions existed as to the wealth of Louisiana, and the most boundless
faith was placed in Law's financiering; and as only Law's bills could
purchase shares in the Company which was to make everybody's
fortune,--gold and silver flowed to his bank. The shares of the Company
continued to rise in value, and bank-bills were indefinitely issued. In
a little while (1719), six hundred and forty millions of livres in these
bills were in circulation, and soon after nearly half of the national
debt was paid off'; in other words, people had been induced to exchange
government securities, to the amount of eight hundred millions, for the
Mississippi stock. They sold consols at Law's bank, and were paid in his
bills, with which they bought shares. The bills of the bank were of
course redeemable in gold and silver; but for a time nobody wanted gold
and silver, so great was the credit of the bank. Moreover, the bank
itself was guaranteed by the shares of the Company, which were worth at
one period twelve times their original value. John Law, of course, was
regarded as a national benefactor. His financiering had saved a nation;
and who had ever before heard of a nation being saved by stock-jobbing?
All sorts of homage and honors were showered upon so great a man. His
house was thronged with dukes and peers; he became controller-general of
the finances, and virtually prime-minister. He was elected a member of
the French Academy; his fame extended far and wide, for he was a
beneficent deity that had made everybody rich and no one poor. Surely
the golden age had come. Paris was crowded with strangers from all parts
of the world, who came to see a man whose wisdom surpassed that of
Solomon, and who made silver and gold to be as stones in the streets. As
everybody had grown rich, twelve hundred new coaches were set up;
nothing was seen but new furniture and costly apparel, nothing was felt
but universal exhilaration. So great was the delusion, that the stock of
the Mississippi Company reached the almost fabulous amount of three
thousand six hundred millions,--nearly twice the amount of the national
debt. But as Law's bank, where all these transactions were made,
revealed none of its transactions, the public were in ignorance of the
bills issued and stock created.

At last, the Prince of Conti,--one of the most powerful of the nobles,
and a prince of the blood-royal, who had received enormous amounts in
bills as the price of his protection,--annoyed to find that his
ever-increasing demands were finally resisted, presented his notes at
the bank, and of course obtained gold and silver; then other nobles did
the same, and then foreign merchants, until the bank was drained. Then
came the panic, then the fall of stocks, then general ruin, then
universal despondency and rage. The bubble had burst! Four hundred
thousand families, who thought themselves rich, and who had been
comfortable, were hopelessly ruined; but the State had got rid of half
the national debt, and for a time was clear of embarrassment. The
people, however, had been defrauded and deceived by Government, and they
rendered in return their secret curses. The foundations of a throne are
only secured by the affections of a people; if these are destroyed, one
great element of regal power is lost.

Under the administration of Cardinal Fleury (1726-1743) the finances
were somewhat improved, since he aimed at economical arrangements,
especially in the collection of taxes. He attempted to imitate Sully and
Colbert, but without their genius and boldness he effected but little.
He had an unfortunate quarrel with the Parliament of Paris, and was
obliged to repeal a favorite measure. After his death the country was
virtually ruled by the King's mistress, Madame de Pompadour, who
displaced ministers at her pleasure, and who encouraged unbounded
extravagance. The public deficit increased continually, until it finally
amounted to nearly two hundred millions in a single year. In spite of
this increasing derangement of the finances, the court had not the
courage or will to face the difficulties, but resorted to new loans and
forced contributions, and every form of iniquitous taxation. If a great
functionary announced the necessity of economy or order, he was
forthwith disgraced. Nothing irritated the court more than any proposal
to reduce unnecessary expenses. Nor would any other order, either the
nobles or the clergy, consent to make sacrifices.

In such a state of things, a most oppressive system of taxation was the
necessary result. In no country in modern times have the burdens of the
people been so great. Taxes were imposed to the utmost extent that they
were able to bear, without their consent; and upon the slightest
resistance or remonstrance they were imprisoned and treated as
criminals. So great were the taxes on land, that nearly two-thirds of
the whole gross produce, it has been estimated, went to the State, and
three-quarters of the remainder to the landlord. The peasant thus only
received about one-twelfth of the fruit of his labors; and on this
pittance his family was supported. Taxes were both direct and indirect,
levied upon every article of consumption, upon everything that was
imported or exported, upon income, upon capital, upon the transmission
of property, upon even the few privileges which were enjoyed. But not
one-half that was collected went to the royal treasury; it was wasted
by the different collectors and sub-collectors. In addition to the
ordinary burdens were enormous monopolies, granted to nobles and
courtiers, by which the income of the State was indirectly plundered.
The poor man groaned amid his heavy labors and great privations, without
exciting compassion or securing redress.

And, in addition to his taxes, the laborer was deprived of all the
privileges of freedom. He was injured, downtrodden, mocked, and
insulted. The laws were unequal, and gave him no security; game of the
most destructive kind was permitted to run at large through the fields,
and yet the people were not allowed to shoot a hare or a deer upon their
own grounds. Numerous edicts prohibited hoeing and weeding, lest young
partridges should be destroyed. The people were bound to repair the
roads without compensation, to grind their corn at the landlord's mill,
bake their bread in his ovens, and carry their grapes to his wine-press.
They had not the benefit of schools, or of institutions which would
enable them to improve their minds. They could not rise above the
miserable condition in which they were born, or even make their
complaints heard. Feudalism, in all its social distinctions, and in all
its oppressive burdens, crushed them as with an iron weight, or bound
them as with iron fetters. This weight they could not throw off, these
fetters they could not break. There was no alternative but in
submission,--forced submission to overwhelming taxes, robberies,
insults, and injustice, both from landed proprietors and the officers of
the crown.

Those, however, who lived upon the unrequited toil of the people lived
out of sight of their sorrows,--not in beautiful châteaux, as their
ancestors did, by the side of placid rivers and on the skirts of
romantic forests, or amid vineyards and olive-groves, but in the capital
or the court. Here, like Roman senators of old, they squandered the
money which they had obtained by extortion and corruption of every sort.
Amid the palaces of Versailles they displayed all the vanities of dress,
all the luxuries of their favored life. Here, as lesser stars, they
revolved around the great central orb of regal splendor, proud to belong
to another world than that in which the plebeian millions toiled and
suffered. At Versailles they attempted to ignore their own humanity, to
forget their most pressing duties, and to despise the only pursuits
which could have elevated their minds or warmed their hearts.

But they were not great feudal nobles, like the Guises and the Epernons,
such as combined to awe even regal power under the House of Valois,--men
who could coin money and exercise judicial authority in their own
domain,--but timid and subservient courtiers, as embarrassed in their
affairs as was the King himself. Nevertheless, many of the ancient
privileges of feudalism were enjoyed by them. They were exempt from many
taxes which oppressed merchants and farmers; they alone were appointed
to command in the army and navy; they alone were made prelates and
dignitaries in the Church; they were comparatively free from arrest when
their crimes were against society and God rather than the government;
they were distinguished from the plebeian class by dress as well as by
privileges; and they only had access to court and a share in the plunder
of the kingdom. Craving greater excitements than that which even
Versailles afforded, they built, in the Faubourg St. Germain, those
magnificent hotels which are still the dreary but imposing monuments of
aristocratic pride; and here they plunged into every form of excess and
folly for which Paris has always been distinguished. But it was in their
splendid equipages, and in their boxes at the opera, that they displayed
the most striking contrast to the habits of the plebeian people with
whom they were surrounded. Their embroidered vests, their costly silks
and satins, their emerald and diamond buckles, their point-lace ruffles,
their rare furs, their jewelled rapiers, and their perfumed
handkerchiefs were peculiar to themselves,--for in those days wealthy
shopkeepers, and even the daughters of prosperous notaries, could ill
afford such luxuries, and were scarcely allowed to shine in them if
they would. A velvet coat then cost more than one thousand francs; while
the ruffs and frills, and diamond studs and knee-buckles, and other
appendages to the dress of a gentleman, swelled the amount to scarcely
less than forty thousand francs, or sixteen hundred louis-d'or. If a
distinguished advocate was admitted to the presence of royalty, he must
appear in simple black. Gorgeous dresses were reserved only for the
_noblesse_, some one hundred and fifty thousand privileged persons; all
the rest were _roturiers_, marked by some emblem of meanness or
inferiority, whatever might be their intellectual and moral worth. Never
were the _noblesse_ more enervated; and yet they always appeared in a
mock-heroic costume, with swords dangling at their sides, or hats cocked
after a military fashion on their heads. As the strength of Samson of
old was in his locks, so the degenerate nobles of this period guarded
with especial care these masculine ornaments of the person; and so great
was the contagion for wigs and hair-powder, that twelve hundred shops
existed in Paris to furnish this aristocratic luxury. The muses of Rome
in the days of her decline condescended to sing on the arts of cookery
and the sublime occupations of hunting and fishing; so in the heroic
times of Louis XV. the genius of France soared to comprehend the
mysteries of the toilet. One eminent _savant_, in this department of
philosophical wisdom, absolutely published a bulky volume on the
_principles_ of hair-dressing, and followed it--so highly was it
prized--by a no less ponderous supplement. This was the time when the
_cuisine_ of nobles was as famous as their toilets, and when recipes for
different dishes were only equalled in variety by the epigrams of ribald
poets. It was a period not merely of degrading follies, but of shameless
exposure of them,--when men boasted of their gallantries, and women
joked at their own infirmities; and when hypocrisy, if it was ever added
to their other vices, only served to make them more ridiculous and
unnatural. The rouge with which they painted their faces, and the powder
which they sprinkled upon their hair were not used to give them the
semblance of youthful beauty, but rather to impart the purple hues of
perpetual drunkenness, such as Rubens gave to his Bacchanalian deities,
united with the blanched whiteness of premature old age. Licentiousness
without shame, drunkenness without rebuke, gambling without honor, and
frivolity without wit characterized, alas, a great proportion of that
"upper class" who disdained the occupations and sneered at the virtues
of industrial life.

But these dissipated courtiers had a model constantly before their eyes,
whose more excessive follies it were difficult to rival; and this was
the King himself, whom the whole nation was called upon to obey. If
Louis XIV. was a Nebuchadnezzar, unapproachable from pride, Louis XV.
was a Sardanapalus in effeminacy and insouciant revelries. The shameless
infamies of his life were too revolting to bear more than a passing
allusion; and I should blush to tear away the historic veil which covers
up his vices from the common eye. I shrink from showing to what depths
humanity can sink, even when clothed in imperial purple and seated on
the throne of state. The countless memoirs of that wicked age have
however, exposed to the indignant eye of posterity the regal
debaucheries of Versailles and the pollutions of the Pare aux
Cerfs,--that infamous seraglio which cost the State one hundred millions
of livres, at the lowest estimate. And this was but a part of the great
system of waste and folly. Five hundred millions of the national debt
were incurred for expenses too ignominious to be even named. The King,
however, was not fond of pomp; it was fatiguing for him to bear, and he
generally shut himself from the sight and intercourse of any but
convivial friends,--no, not friends, for to absolute monarchs the
pleasures of friendship are denied; I should have said, the panderers to
his degrading pleasures. Never did the Papal court at Avignon or Rome,
even in the worst ages of mediaeval darkness, witness more scandalous
enormities than those which disgraced the whole reign of Louis XV.,
either in the days of his minority, when the kingdom was governed by
the Duke of Orleans, or in his latter years, when the Duke of Choiseul
was the responsible adviser of the crown. The Palais Royal, the Palais
Luxembourg, the Trianon, and Versailles were alternately scenes of
excesses which would have disgraced the reigns of the most degenerate of
Saracenic caliphs. So vile was the court, that a celebrated countess one
day said, at a public festival, that "God, after having formed man, took
the mud which was left, and made the souls of princes and footmen."

And the King hated business as much as he hated pomp. Unlike his
predecessor, he left everything in the hands of his servants. Nothing
wearied him so much as an interview with a minister, or a dispatch from
a general. In the society of his mistresses he abnegated his duties as a
monarch, and the labors of his life were employed in gratifying their
resentments and humoring their caprices. Their complaints were more
potent than the suggestions of ministers, or the remonstrances of
judges. In idle frivolities his time was passed, neglectful of the great
interests which were intrusted to him to guard; and the only attainment
of which he was proud was a knack of making tarts and bon-bons, with
which he frequently regaled his visitors.

And yet, in spite of these ignoble tastes and pursuits, the King was by
no means deficient in natural abilities. He was much superior to even
Louis XIV. in logical acumen and sprightly wit. He was an agreeable
companion, and could appreciate every variety of talents. No man in his
court perceived more clearly than he the tendency of the writings of
philosophers which were then fermenting the germs of revolution. "His
sagacity kept him from believing in Voltaire, even when he succeeded in
deceiving the King of Prussia." He was favorable to the Jesuits, though
he banished them from the realm; perceiving and feeling that they were
his true friends and the best supports of his absolute throne,--and yet
he banished them from his kingdom. He was hostile too, in his heart, to
the very philosophers whom he invited to his table, and knew that they
sought to undermine his power. He simply had not the moral energy to
carry out the plans of that despotism to which he was devoted.
Sensuality ever robs a man of the advantages and gifts which reason
gives, even though they may be bestowed to an extraordinary degree.
There is no more impotent slavery than that to which the most gifted
intellects have been occasionally doomed. Self-indulgence is sure to sap
every element of moral strength, and to take away from genius itself all
power, except to sharpen the stings of self-reproach. "Louis XV. was not
insensible to the dangers which menaced his throne, and would have
despoiled the Parliament of the right of remonstrance; would have
imposed on the Jansenists the yoke of Papal supremacy; would have burned
the books of the philosophers, and have sent their authors to work out
their system within the gloomy dungeons of the Bastille;" but he had not
the courage, nor the moral strength, nor the power of will. He was
enslaved by his vices, and by those who pandered to them; and he could
not act either the king or the man. Seeing the dangers, but feeling his
impotence, he affected levity, and exclaimed to his courtiers _Après
nous le déluge_,--a prediction which only uncommon sagacity could have
prompted. Immersed however in unworthy pleasures, he gave himself not
much concern for the future; and this career of self-abandonment
continued to the last, even after satiety and _ennui_ had deprived the
appetites of the power to please. His latter days were of course
melancholy, and his miseries resulted as much from the perception of the
evils to come as from the failure of the pleasures of sense. A languor,
from which he was with difficulty ever roused, oppressed his life. Deaf,
incapable of being amused, prematurely worn out with bodily infirmities,
hated and despised by the whole nation, he dragged out his sixty-fourth
year, and died of the small-pox, which he caught in one of his visits to
the Pare aux Cerfs; and his loathsome remains were hastily hurried into
a carriage, and deposited in the vaults of St. Denis.

As, however, during this long reign of fifty-eight years, women were
the presiding geniuses of the court and the virtual directors of the
kingdom, I cannot give a faithful portrait of the times without some
allusion, at least, to that woman who was as famous in her day as Madame
de Montespan was during the most brilliant period of the reign of Louis
XIV. I single out Madame de Pompadour from the crowd of erring and
infirm females who bartered away their souls for the temporary honors of
Versailles. Not that proud peeress whom she displaced, the Duchesse de
Châteauroux; not that low-born and infamous character by whom she was
succeeded, Du Barry; not the hundreds of other women who were partners
or victims of guilty pleasures, and who descended unlamented and
unhonored to their ignominious graves, are here to be alluded to. But
Madame de Pompadour is a great historical personage, because with her
are identified the fall of the Jesuits in France, the triumph of
philosophers and economists, the disgrace of ministers, and the most
outrageous prodigality which ever scandalized a nation. Louis XV. was
almost wholly directed by this infamous favorite. She named and
displaced the controllers-general, and she herself received annually
nearly fifteen hundred thousand livres, besides hotels, palaces, and
estates. She was allowed to draw bills upon the treasury without
specifying the service, and those who incurred her displeasure were
almost sure of being banished from the court and kingdom, and perhaps
sentenced, by _lettre de cachet_, to the dreary cells of the Bastille.
She virtually had the appointment of the prelates of the Church and of
the generals of the army; and so great was her ascendency that all
persons, whatsoever their rank, found it expedient to pay their homage
to her. Even Montesquieu praised her intellect, and Voltaire her beauty,
and Maria Theresa wrote flattering letters to her. The prime minister
was her tool and agent, since royalty itself yielded to her sway; even
the proud ladies of the royal family condescended to flatter and to
honor her. Sprung only from the middle ranks of society, she yet assumed
the airs of a princess of the blood.

From her earliest years, long before she was admitted to the court, it
had been the dream of this woman to seduce the King. Her father was
butcher to the Invalides, and she spent nearly all the money she could
command in a costly present to a great duchess, the Princess Conti, in
order to be presented. She played high, and won--not a royal heart, but
the royal fancy. Her dress, manners, and extraordinary beauty increased
the impression she had once before made at a hunting-party; and after
the levée she was sent for, and became virtually the minister of the
realm. She was unquestionably a woman of great intellect, as well as of
tact and beauty, and even manifested a sympathy with some sorts of
intellectual excellence. She was the patroness of artists, philosophers,
and poets; but she liked those best who were distinguished for their
infidel or licentious speculations. She was the friend of those
economists and philosophers who sapped the foundations of the social
system. An imperious and insolent hauteur and reckless prodigality were
her most marked peculiarities,--just such as were to be expected in an
unprincipled woman raised suddenly to high position. In spite of her
power, she did not escape the malignant stings of envenomed rivals or
anonymous satirists. "She was rallied on the baseness of her origin; she
avenged herself by making common cause with those philosophers who
overturned the ancient order." She was both mistress and politician, but
her politics and alliances subverted the throne which gave her all her
glory. Her ascendency of course rested on her power of administering to
the tastes and pleasures of the 'King, and she showed genius in the
variety of amusements which she invented. She reigned twenty years, and
lost her empire only by death. Madame de Maintenon had maintained her
ascendency over Louis XIV. by the exercise of those virtues which
extorted his respect, but Madame de Pompadour by the faculty of charming
the senses. It was by her that Versailles was enriched with the most
precious and beautiful of its countless wonders. Her own collection of
pictures, cameos, antiques, crystals, porcelains, vases, gems, and
articles of _vertu_ was esteemed the richest and most valuable in the
kingdom, and after her death it took six months to dispose of it. Her
library was valued at more than a million of francs, and contained some
of the rarest manuscripts and most curious books in France. The sums,
however, which she spent on literary curiosities or literary men were
small compared with the expenses of her toilet, of her _fêtes_, her
balls, and her palaces. And all these expenses were open as the day in
the eyes of a nation suffering from ruinous taxation, from famine, and
the shame of unsuccessful war!

We are impressed with the blind and suicidal measures which all those
connected with the throne instigated or encouraged in this reign,--from
the King to the most infamous of his mistresses. Whoever pretended to
give his aid to the monarchy helped to subvert it by the very measures
which he proposed. "The Duke of Orleans, when he patronized Law, gave a
shock to the whole economical system of the old regime. When this Scotch
financier said to the powerful aristocracy around him, 'Silver is only
to you the means of circulation, beyond this it belongs to the country,'
he announced the ruin of the glebe and the fall of feudal prejudices.
The bankruptcies which followed the bursting of his bubble weakened the
potent charm of the word 'honor,' on which was based the stability of
the throne." The courtiers, when they blazed in jewels, in embroidered
silks and satins, in sumptuous equipages, and in all the costly
ornaments of their times, gave employment and importance to a host of
shopkeepers and handicraftsmen, who grew rich, as those who bought of
them grew poor. The wealth of bankers, brokers, mercers, jewellers,
tailors, and coachmakers dates to these times,--those prosperous and
fortunate members of the middle-class who "inhabited the Place Vendôme
and the Place des Victoires, as the nobles dwelt in the Rue de Grenelle
and the Rue St. Dominique. The nobles ruined themselves by the
extravagance into which they were led by the court, and their châteaux
and parks fell into the hands of financiers, lawyers, and merchants,
who, taking the titles of their new estates, became a parvenu
aristocracy which excited the jealousy of the old and divided its
ranks." The inferior, but still prosperous class, the shopkeepers, also
equally advanced in intelligence and power. In those dark and dingy
backrooms, in which for generations their ancestors had been immured,
they now discussed their rights, and retailed the scandals which they
heard. They read the sarcasms of the poets and the theories of the new
philosophers. Even the tranquillity which succeeded inglorious war was
favorable to the rise of the middle classes; and the Revolution was as
much the product of the discontent engendered by social improvements as
of the frenzy produced by hunger and despair. The court favored the
improvements of Paris, especially those designed for public amusements.
The gardens of the Tuileries were embellished, the Champs Elysées
planted with trees, and pictures were exhibited in the grand salon of
the Louvre. The Theatre Français, the Royal Opera, the Opéra Comique,
and various halls for balls and festivals were then erected,--those
fruitful nurseries of future clubs, those poisoned wells of popular
education. Nor were charities forgotten with the building of the
Pantheon and the extension of the Boulevards. The Hôpital des
Enfants-Trouvés allowed mothers, unseen and unheard, to bequeath their
children to the State.

There were two events connected with the reign of Madame de Pompadour--I
do not say of the King, or his queen, or his ministers, for
philosophical history compels us to confine our remarks chiefly to great
controlling agencies, whether they be sovereigns or people; to such a
man as Peter the Great, when one speaks of a semi-barbarous nation, to
ideas, when we describe popular revolutions--which had a great influence
in unsettling the kingdom, although brought about in no inconsiderable
measure by this unscrupulous mistress of the King. These were the
expulsion of the Jesuits, and the triumph of the philosophers.

In regard to the first, I would say, that Madame de Pompadour did not
like the Jesuits; not because they were the enemies of liberal
principles, not because they were the most consistent advocates and
friends of despotism in all its forms, intellectual, religious, and
political, or the writers of casuistic books, or the perverters of
educational instruction, or boastful missionaries in Japan and China, or
cunning intriguers in the courts of princes, or artful confessors of the
great, or uncompromising despots in the schools,--but because they
interfered with her ascendency. It is true she despised their
sophistries, ridiculed their pretensions, and detested their government;
but her hostility was excited, not because they aspired like her, like
the philosophers, like the popes, like the press in our times, to a
participation in the government of the world, but because they disputed
her claims as one of the powers of the age. The Jesuits were scandalized
that such a woman should usurp the reins of state, especially when they
perceived that she mocked and defied them; and they therefore refused to
pay her court, and even conspired to effect her overthrow. But they had
not sufficiently considered the potency of her wrath, or the desperate
means of revenge to which she could resort; nor had they considered
those other influences which had been gradually undermining their
influence,--even the sarcasms of the Jansenists, the ridicule of the
philosophers, and the invectives of the parliaments. Only one or two
favoring circumstances were required to kindle the smothered fires of
hatred into a blazing flame, and these were furnished by the attempted
assassination of the King, in his garden at Versailles, by Damiens the
fanatic, and the failure of La Valette the Jesuit banker and merchant at
Martinique. Then, when the nation was astounded by their political
conspiracies and their commercial gambling, to say nothing of the
perversion of their truth, did their arch-enemy, the King's mistress,
use her power over the King's minister, her own creature, the Due de
Choiseul, to decree the confiscation of their goods and their banishment
from the realm; nay, to induce the Pope himself, in conjunction with the
entreaties of all the Bourbon courts of Europe, to take away their
charter and suppress their order. The fall of the Jesuits has been
already alluded to in another volume, and I will not here enlarge on
that singular event brought about by the malice of a woman whom they had
ventured to despise. It is easy to account for her hatred and the
general indignation of Europe. It is not difficult to understand that
the decline of that great body in those virtues which originally
elevated them, should be followed by animosities which would undermine
their power. We can see why their moral influence should pass away, even
when they were in possession of dignities and honors and wealth. But it
is a most singular fact that the Pope himself, with whose interests they
were allied,--their natural protector, the head of the hierarchy which
they so constantly defended,--should have been made the main agent in
their temporary humiliation. Yet Clement XIV.--the weak and timid
Ganganelli--was forced to this suicidal act. Old Hildebrand would have
fought like a lion and died like a dog, rather than have stooped to such
autocrats as the Bourbon princes. A judicial and mysterious blindness,
however, was sent upon Clement; his strength for the moment was
paralyzed, and he signed the edict which dispersed the best soldiers
that sustained the interests of absolutism in Europe.

The effect of the suppression of the order in France was both good and
ill. The event unquestionably led to the propagation of an impious
philosophy and all sorts of crude opinions and ill-digested theories,
both in government and religion, in the schools, the salons, and the
pulpits of France. The press, relieved of its most watchful and jealous
spies, teemed with pamphlets and books of the most licentious character.
The good and evil powers were both unchained and suffered to go free
about the land, and to do what work they could. There are many who feel
that this combat is necessary for the full development of human strength
and virtue; who maintain that the good is much more powerful than the
evil in any age of moral experiences; and who believe that angels of
light will, on our mundane arena, prevail over angels of darkness,--that
one truth is stronger than one thousand lies, and that two can put ten
thousand to flight. There are others, again, who think that there is a
vitality in error as well as a vitality in truth, as proved seemingly by
the prevalence of Pagan falsehoods, Mohammedan empires, and Papal
superstitions. But to whatever party clearness of judgment belongs, one
thing is historically certain,--that never was poor human nature more
puzzled by false guides, more tempted by appetites and passions, more
enslaved by the lust of the eye and the pride of life, than during the
latter years of the reign of Louis XV. Never was there a period or a
country in Christendom more frivolous, pleasure-seeking, sceptical,
irreligious, vain, conceited, and superficial than during the reign of
Madame de Pompadour. No; never was there a time of so little moral
elevation among the great mass, or when so few great enterprises were
projected for the improvement of society.

And it was from society thus disordered, inexperienced, and godless that
all restraints were removed from the ancient and venerated guardians of
youth, of religion, and of literature. Judge what must have been the
effects; judge between these opposing theories, whether it were better
to have the institutions of society guarded by selfish, ambitious, and
narrow-minded priests, or to have the flood-gates of vastly
preponderating evil influences opened upon society already reeling in
the intoxication of the senses, or madly raving from the dethronement of
reason, the abnegation of religious duties, and the extinction of the
light of faith. I would not say that either one or the other of these
horrible alternatives is necessary or probable in these times, that _we_
are compelled to choose between them, or that we ever shall be
compelled; but simply, that, in the middle of the eighteenth century,
and in France,--that semi-Catholic and semi-infidel nation,--there
existed on the one hand a most execrable spiritual despotism exercised
by the Jesuits, and on the other a boundless ferment of destructive and
revolutionary principles, operating on a people generally inclined, and
in some cases abandoned, to every folly and vice. This despotism, while
it was selfish and unwarrantable, still had in view the guardianship of
morals and literature,--to restrain men from crimes by working on their
fears; but society, while it sought to free itself from hypocritical and
oppressive leaders, also sought to remove all social and moral
restraints, and to plunge into reckless and dangerous experiments. It
was a war between these two social powers,--between unlawful despotism
and unsanctified license. We are to judge, not which was the better, but
which was the worse.

One thing, however, is certain,--that Madame de Pompadour, in whom was
centred so much power, threw her influence against the Jesuits, and in
favor of those who were not seeking to build up literature and morals on
a sure and healthy foundation, but rather secretly and artfully to
undermine the whole intellectual and social fabric, under the plea of
liberty and human rights. Everybody admits that the writings of the
philosophers gave a great impulse to the revolutionary storm which
afterwards broke out. Ideas are ever most majestic, whether they are
good or evil. Men pass away, but principles are indestructible and of
perpetual power. As great and fearful agencies in the period we are
contemplating, they are worthy of our notice.

Although the great lights which adorned the literature of the preceding
reign no longer shone,--such geniuses as Molière, Boileau, Racine,
Fénelon, Bossuet, Pascal, and others,--still the eighteenth century was
much more intellectual and inquiring than is generally supposed. Under
Louis XIV. intellectual independence had been nearly extinguished. His
reign was intellectually and spiritually a gloomy calm between two
wonderful periods of agitation. All acquiesced in his cold, heartless,
rigid rule, being content to worship him as a deity, or absorbed in the
excitements of his wars, or in the sorrows and burdens which those wars
brought in their train. But under Louis XV. the people began to meditate
on the causes of their miseries, and to indulge in those speculations
which stimulated their discontents or appealed to their intellectual
pride. Not from La Rochelle, not from the cells of Port Royal, not from
remonstrating parliaments did the voices of rebellion come: the genius
of Revolution is not so poor as to be obliged to make use of the same
class of instruments, or repeat the same experiments, in changing the
great aspects of human society. Nor will she allow, if possible, those
who guard the fortresses which she wishes to batter down to be
suspicious of her combatants. Her warriors are ever disguised and
masked, or else concealed within some form of a protecting deity, such
as the fabled horse which the doomed Trojans received within their
walls. The court of France did not recognize in those plausible
philosophers, whose writings had such a charm for cultivated intellect,
the miners and sappers of the monarchy. Only one class of royalists
understood them, and these were the Jesuits whom the court had exiled.
Not even Frederic the Great, when he patronized Voltaire, was aware what
an insidious foe was domiciled in his palace, with all his sycophancy
of rank, with all his courtly flattering. In like manner, when the grand
seigneurs and noble dames of that aristocratic age wept over the sorrows
of the "New Héloïse," or craved that imaginary state of untutored
innocence which Rousseau so morbidly described, or admired those
brilliant generalizations of laws which Montesquieu had penned, or
laughed at the envenomed ironies of Voltaire, or quoted the atheistic
doctrines of D'Alembert and Diderot, or enthusiastically discussed the
economical theories of Dr. Quesnay and old Marquis Mirabeau,--that stern
father of him who, both in his intellectual power and moral deformity,
was alike the exponent and the product of the French Revolution,--when
the blinded court extolled and diffused the writings of these new
apostles of human rights, they little dreamed that they would be still
more admired among the people, and bring forth the Brissots, the
Condoreets, the Marats, the Dantons, the Robespierres, of the next
generation. I would not say that their influence was wholly bad, for in
their attacks on the religion and institutions of their country they
subverted monstrous usurpations. But whatever was their ultimate
influence, they were doubtless among the most efficient agents in
overturning the throne; they were, in reality, the secret enemies of
those by whom they were patronized and honored. "They cannot, indeed,
claim the merit of being the first in France who opened the eyes of the
nation; for Fénelon had taught even to Louis XIV., in his immortal
'Télémaque,' the duties of a king; Racine, in his 'Germanicus,' had
shown the accursed nature of irresponsible despotism; Molière, in his
'Tartuffe,' had exposed the vices of priestly hypocrisy; Pascal, in his
'Provincial Letters,' had revealed the wretched sophistries of the
Jesuits; Bayle even, in his 'Critical Dictionary,' had furnished
materials for future sceptics."

But the hostilities of all these men were united in Voltaire, who in
nearly two hundred volumes, and with a fecundity of genius perfectly
amazing and unparalleled, in poetry, in history, in criticism,--yet
without striking originality or profound speculations,--astonished and
delighted his generation. This great and popular writer clothed his
attacks on ecclesiastical power, and upon Christianity itself, in the
most artistic and attractive language,--clear, simple, logical, without
pedantry or ostentation,--and enlivened it with brilliant sarcasms,
appealing to popular prejudices, and never soaring beyond popular
appreciation. Never did a man have such popularity; never did a famous
writer leave so little to posterity which posterity can value.

While Voltaire was indirectly undermining the religious convictions of
mankind, the Encyclopedists more directly attacked the sources of
religious belief, and openly denied what Voltaire had doubted. But
neither Diderot nor D'Alembert made such shameless assaults as the
apostles of a still more atheistic school,--such men as Helvetius and
the Baron d'Holbach, who advocated undisguised selfishness, and
attributed all virtuous impulses to animal sensation. More dangerous
still than these ribald blasphemers were those sentimental and morbid
expounders of humanity of whom Rousseau was the type,--a man of more
genius perhaps than any I have named, but the most egotistical of that
whole generation of dreamers and sensualists who prepared the way for
revolution. He was the father of those agitating ideas which spread over
Europe and reached America. He gave utterance in his eloquent writings
to those mighty watch-words, "Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality," that
equally animated Mirabeau, Robespierre, and Jefferson. But the writings
of the philosophers will again be alluded to in the next lecture, as
among the efficient causes of the French Revolution.

When we contemplate those financial embarrassments which arose from half
a century of almost universal war, and those awful burdens which bent to
the dust, in suffering and shame, the whole people of a great country;
when we consider the absurd and wicked distinctions which separated man
from man, and the settled hostility of the clergy to all means of
intellectual and social improvement; when we remember the unparalleled
vices of a licentious court, the ignominious negligence of the
government to the happiness and wants of those whom it was its duty to
protect, and the shameless insults which an infamous woman was allowed
to heap upon the nation; and then when we bear in mind all the elements
of disgust, of discontent, of innovation, and of reckless and impious
defiance,--can we wonder that a revolution was inevitable, if society is
destined to be progressive, and man ever to be allowed to break
his fetters?

On that Revolution I cannot enter. I leave the subject as the winds
began to howl and the rains began to fall and the floods began to rise,
and all together to beat upon that house which was built upon the sand.


Lacretelle's Histoire de France; Anquetil; Henri Martin's History of
France; Dulaure's Histoire de Paris; Lord Brougham's Lives of Rousseau
and Voltaire; Memoires de Madame de Pompadour; Mémoires de Madame Du
Barry; Revue des Deux Mondes, 1847; Château de Lucienne; L'Ami des
Hommes, par M. le Marquis de Mirabeau; Maximes Générales du
Gouvernement, par Le Docteur Quesnay; Histoire Philosophique du Règne de
Louis XV., par le Comte de Tocqueville; Mémoires Secrets; Pièces
Inédites sous le Règne de Louis XV.; Anecdotes de la Cour de France
pendant la Faveur de Madame Pompadour; Louis XV. et la Société du XVIII.
Siècle, par M. Capefigue; Alison's introductory chapter to the History
of Europe; Louis XV. et son Siècle, par Voltaire; Saint Simon; Mémoires
de Duclos; Mémoires du Duc de Richelieu.


A. D. 1672-1725.


If I were called upon to name the man who, since Charlemagne, has
rendered the greatest services to his country, I should select Peter the
Great. I do not say that he is one of the most interesting characters
that has shone in the noble constellations of illustrious benefactors
whom Europe has produced. Far otherwise: his career is not so
interesting to us as that of Hildebrand, or Elizabeth, or Cromwell, or
Richelieu, or Gustavus Adolphus, or William III., or Louis XIV., or
Frederic II., or others I might mention. I have simply to show an
enlightened barbarian toiling for civilization, a sort of Hercules
cleansing Augean stables and killing Nemean lions; a man whose labors
were prodigious; a very extraordinary man, stained by crimes and
cruelties, yet laboring, with a sort of inspired enthusiasm, to raise
his country from an abyss of ignorance and brutality. It would be
difficult to find a more hard-hearted despot, and yet a more patriotic
sovereign. To me he looms up, even more than Richelieu, as an instrument
of Divine Providence. His character appears in a double light,--as
benefactor and as tyrant, in order to carry out ends which he deemed
useful to his country, and which, we are constrained to admit, did
wonderfully contribute to its elevation and political importance.

Peter the Great entered upon his inheritance as absolute sovereign of
Russia, when it was an inland and even isolated state, hemmed in and
girt around by hostile powers, without access to seas; a vast country
indeed, but without a regular standing army on which he could rely, or
even a navy, however small. This country was semi-barbarous, more
Asiatic than European, occupied by mongrel tribes, living amid snow and
morasses and forests, without education, or knowledge of European arts.
He left this country, after a turbulent reign, with seaports on the
Baltic and the Black seas, with a large and powerfully disciplined army,
partially redeemed from barbarism, no longer isolated or unimportant,
but a political power which the nations had cause to fear, and which,
from the policy he bequeathed, has been increasing in resources from his
time to ours. To-day Russia stands out as a first-class power, with the
largest army in the world; a menace to Germany, a rival of Great Britain
in the extension of conquests to the East, threatening to seize Turkey
and control the Black Sea, and even to take possession of Oriental
empires which extend to the Pacific Ocean.

Nobody doubts or questions that the rise of Russia to its present proud
and threatening position is chiefly owing to the genius and policy of
Peter the Great. Peter was a descendant of a patriarch of the Greek
Church in Russia, whose name was Romanoff, and who was his
great-grandfather. His grandfather married a near relative of the Czar,
and succeeded him by election. His father, Alexis, was an able man, and
made war on the Turks.

Peter was a child when his father died, and his half-brother Theodore
became the Czar. But Theodore reigned only a short time, and Peter
succeeded him at the age of ten (1682), the government remaining in the
hands of his half-sister, Sophia, a woman of great ability and
intelligence, but intriguing and unscrupulous. She was aided by Prince
Galitzin, the ablest statesman of Russia, who held the great office of
chancellor. This prince, it would seem, with the aid of the general of
the Streltzi (the ancient imperial guards) and the cabals of Sophia,
conspired against the life of Peter, then seventeen years of age,
inasmuch as he began to manifest extraordinary abilities and a will of
his own. But the young Hercules strangled the serpent,--sent Galitzin to
Siberia, confined his sister Sophia in a convent for the rest of her
days, and assumed the reins of government himself, although a mere
youth, in conjunction with his brother John. That which characterized
him was a remarkable precocity, greater than that of anybody of whom I
have read. At eighteen he was a man, with a fine physical development
and great beauty of form, and entered upon absolute and undisputed power
as Czar of Muscovy.

In the years of the regency, when the government was in the hands of his
half-sister, he did not give promise of those remarkable abilities and
that life of self-control which afterwards marked his career.

In his earlier youth he had been surrounded with seductive pleasures, as
Louis XIV. had been, by the queen-regent, with a view to _control_ him,
not oppose him; and he yielded to these pleasures, and is said to have
been a very dissipated young man, with his education neglected. But he
no sooner got rid of his sister and her adviser, Galitzin, than he
seemed to comprehend at once for what he was raised up. The vast
responsibilities of his position pressed upon his mind. To civilize his
country, to make it politically powerful, to raise it in the scale of
nations, to labor for its good rather than for his own private pleasure,
seems to have animated his existence. And this aim he pursued from first
to last, like a giant of destiny, without any regard to losses, or
humiliations, or defeats, or obstacles.

Chance, or destiny, or Providence, threw in his path the very person
whom he needed as a teacher and a Mentor,--a young gentleman from
Geneva, whom historians love to call an adventurer, but who occupied the
post of private secretary to the Danish minister. Aristocratic pedants
call everybody an adventurer who makes his fortune by his genius and his
accomplishments. They called Thomas Becket an adventurer in the time of
Henry II., and Thomas Cromwell in the reign of Henry VIII. The young
secretary to the Danish minister seems to have been a man of remarkable
ability, insight, and powers of fascination, based on his intelligence
and on knowledge acquired in the first instance in a mercantile
house,--as was the success of Thomas Cromwell and Alexander Hamilton.

It was from this young man, whose name was Lefort, whom Peter casually
met at dinner at the house of the Danish envoy, that he was made
acquainted with the superior discipline of the troops of France and
Germany, and the mercantile greatness of Holland and England,--the two
things which he was most anxious to understand; since, as he believed,
on the discipline of an army and the efficiency of a navy the political
greatness of his country must rest. A disciplined army would render
secure the throne of absolutism, and an efficient navy would open and
protect his ports for the encouragement of commerce,--one of the great
sources of national wealth. Without commerce and free intercourse with
other countries no nation could get money; and without money even an
absolute monarch could not reign as he would.

So these two young men took counsel together; and the conviction was
settled in the minds of each that there could be no military discipline
and no efficient military power so long as the Streltzi--those
antiquated and turbulent old guards--could depose and set up monarchs.
They settled it, and with the enthusiasm of young men, that before they
could get rid of these dangerous troops,--only fit for Oriental or
barbaric fighting,--they must create a regiment after their own liking,
large enough to form the nucleus of a real European army, and yet not
large enough to excite jealousy,--for Sophia was then still regent, and
the youthful Peter was supposed to be merely amusing himself. The Swiss
"adventurer"--one of the most enlightened men of his age, and full of
genius--became colonel of this regiment; and Peter, not thinking he
knew anything about true military tactics, and wishing to learn,--and
not too proud to learn, being born with disdain of conventionalities and
precedents,--entered the regiment as drummer, in sight of his own
subjects, who perhaps looked upon the act as a royal freak,--even as
Nero practised fiddling, and Commodus archery, before the Roman people.
From drummer he rose to the rank of corporal, and from corporal to
sergeant, and so on through all the grades.

That is the way Peter began,--as all great men begin, at the foot of the
ladder; for great as it was to be born a prince, it was greater to learn
how to be a general. In this fantastic conduct we see three things: a
remarkable sagacity in detecting the genius of Lefort, a masterly power
over his own will, and a willingness to learn anything from anybody able
and willing to teach him,--even as a rich and bright young lady, now and
then, when about to assume the superintendence of a great household,
condescends to study some of the details of a kitchen, those domestic
arts on which depend something of that happiness which is the end and
aim of married life. Many a promising domestic hearth is wrecked--such
is the weakness of human nature--by the ignorance or disdain of humble
acquirements, or what seem humble to fortunate women, and yet which are
really steps to a proud ascendency.

We trace the ambition of Peter for commercial and maritime greatness
also to a very humble beginning. Whether it was a youthful sport,
subsequently directed into a great enterprise, or the plodding intention
to create a navy and open seaports under his own superintendence, it
would be difficult to settle. We may call this beginning a decree of
Providence, an inspiration of genius, or a passion for sailing a boat;
the end was the same, as it came about,--the entrance of Russia into the
family of European States.

It would seem that one day, by chance, Peter's attention was directed to
a little boat laid up on the banks of a canal which ran through his
pleasure-grounds. It had been built by a Dutch carpenter for the
amusement of his father. This boat had a keel,--a new thing to him,--and
attracted his curiosity, Lefort explained to him that it was constructed
to sail against the wind. So the carpenter was summoned, with orders to
rig the boat and sail it on the Moskva, the river which runs through
Moscow. Peter was delighted; and he soon learned to manage it himself.
Then a yacht was built, manned by two men, and it was the delight of
Peter to take the helm himself. Shortly five other vessels were built to
navigate Lake Peipus; and the ambition of Peter was not satisfied until
a still larger vessel was procured at Archangel, in which he sailed on a
cruise upon the Frozen Ocean. His taste for navigation became a passion;
and once again he embarked on the Frozen Ocean in a ship, determined to
go through all the gradations of a sailor's life. As he began as drummer
in Lefort's regiment, so he first served as a common drudge who swept
the cabin in a Dutch vessel; then he rose to the rank of a servant who
kept up the fire and lighted the pipe of the Dutch skipper; then he was
advanced to the duty of unfurling and furling the sails,--and so on,
until he had mastered the details of a sailor's life.

Why did he condescend to these mean details? The ambition was planted in
him to build a navy under his own superintendence. Wherefore a navy,
when he had no seaports? But he meant to have seaports. He especially
needed a fleet on the Volga to keep the Turks and Tartars in awe, and
another in the Gulf of Finland to protect his territories from the
Swedes. We shall see how subsequently, and in due time, he conquered the
Baltic from the Swedes and the Euxine from the Turks. He did not seem to
have an ambition for indefinite territorial aggrandizement, but simply
to extend his empire to these seas for the purpose of having a free
egress and ingress to it by water. He could not Europeanize his empire
without seaports, for unless Russia had these, she would remain a
barbarous country, a vast Wallachia or Moldavia. The expediency and the
necessity of these ports were most obvious. But how was he to get them?
Only by war, aggressive war. He would seize what he wanted, since he
could attain his end in no other way.

Now, I do not propose to whitewash this enlightened but unscrupulous
robber. On no recognized principles of morality can he be defended, any
more than can Louis XIV. for the invasion of Flanders, or Frederic II.
for the seizure of Silesia. He first resolved to seize Azof, the main
port on the little sea of that name which opens out into the Black Sea,
and which belonged to the Turks. It was undoubted robbery; but its
possession would be an immense advantage to Russia. Of course, that
seizure could not be justified either by the laws of God or the laws of
nations. "Thou shalt not steal" is an eternally binding law for nations
and for individuals. Peter knew that he had no right to this important
city; but at the same time he knew that its possession would benefit
Russia. So we are compelled to view this monarch as a robber, taking
what was not his, as Ahab seized Naboth's vineyard; but taking it for
the benefit of his country, which Ahab did not. He knew it was a
political crime, but a crime to advance the civilization of his empire.
The only great idea of his life was the welfare of his country, by any
means. For his country he would sacrifice his character and public
morality. Some might call this an exalted patriotism,--I call it
unmitigated Jesuitism; which seems to have been the creed of
politicians, and even of statesmen, for the last three hundred years.
All that Peter thought of was _the end_; he cared nothing for the
_means_. I wonder why Carlyle or Froude has not bolstered up and
defended this great hyperborean giant for doing evil that good may come.
Casuistry is in their line; the defence of scoundrels seems to be
their vocation.

Well, then, bear in mind that Peter, feeling that he must have Azof for
the good of Russia, irrespective of right or wrong, went straight
forward to his end. Of course he knew he must have a fight with Turkey
to gain this prize, and he prepared for such a fight. Turkey was not
then what it is now,--ripe fruit to be gobbled up by Russia when the
rest of Europe permits it; but Turkey then was a great power. At that
very time two hundred thousand Turks were besieging Vienna, which would
have fallen but for John Sobieski. But obstacles were nothing to Peter;
they were simply things to be surmounted, at any sacrifice of time or
money or men. So with the ships he had built he sailed down the River
Don and attacked Azof. He was foiled, not beaten. He never seemed to
know when he was beaten, and he never seemed to care. That hard, iron
man marched to his object like a destiny. What he had to do was to take
Azof against an army of Turks. So, having failed in the first campaign,
through the treachery of one Jacobs who had been employed in the
artillery, he tried it again the next year and succeeded, his army being
commanded by General Gordon, a Scotchman, while he himself served only
as ensign or lieutenant. This port was the key of Palus Maeotis, and
opened to him the Black Sea, on which he resolved to establish a navy.
He had now an army modelled after the European fashion, according to the
suggestions of Lefort, whose regiment became the model of other
regiments. Five thousand men were trained and commanded by General
Gordon. Lefort raised another corps of twelve thousand, from the
Streltzi chiefly. These were the forces, in conjunction with the navy,
with which he reduced Azof. He now returns to Moscow, and receives the
congratulations of the boyars, or nobles,--that class who owned the
landed property of Russia and cultivated it by serfs. He made heavy
contributions on these nobles, and also on the clergy,--for it takes
money to carry on a war, and money he must have somehow.

These forced contributions and the changes which were made in the army
were not beheld with complacency. The old guard, the Streltzi, were
particularly disgusted. The various innovations were very unpopular,
especially those made in reference to the dress of the new soldiers. The
result of all these innovations and discontents was a conspiracy to take
his life; which, however, was seasonably detected and severely punished.

An extraordinary purpose now seized the mind of the Czar, which was to
travel in the various countries of Europe, and learn something more
especially about ship-building, on which his heart was set. He also
wished to study laws, institutions, sciences, and arts; and in order to
study them effectually, he resolved to travel incognito. Hitherto he had
not been represented in the European courts; so he appointed an embassy
of extraordinary magnificence to proceed in the first instance to
Holland, then the foremost mercantile state of Europe. The retinue
consisted of four secretaries, at the head of whom was Lefort, twelve
nobles, fifty guards, and other persons,--altogether to the number of
two hundred. As they travelled through Prussia they were received with
great distinction, and the whole journey seems to have been a
Bacchanalian progress. There were nothing _lout, fêtes_ and banquets to
his honor, and the Russians proved to have great capacity for drinking.
At Königsberg he left his semi-barbaric embassy to their revels, and
proceeded rapidly and privately to Holland, hired a small room--kitchen
and garret--for lodgings, and established himself as journeyman
carpenter, with a resolute determination to learn the trade of a
ship-carpenter. He dressed like a common carpenter, and lived like one,
with great simplicity. When he was not at work in the dock-yard with his
broad axe, he amused himself by sailing a yacht, dressed like a Dutch
skipper, with a red jacket and white trousers. He was a marked
personage, even had it not been known that he was the Czar,--a tall,
robust, active man of twenty-five, with a fierce look and curling brown
locks, free from all restraint, seeing but little of the ambassadors who
had followed him, and passing his time with ship-builders and merchants,
and adhering rigidly to all the regulations of the dock-yards. He spent
nine months in this way at hard labor, and at the end of that time
had mastered the art of ship-building in all its details, had
acquired the Dutch language, and had seen what was worth seeing of
Amsterdam,--showing an unbounded curiosity and indefatigable zeal,
frequenting the markets and the shops, attending lectures in anatomy and
surgery, learning even how to draw teeth; visiting museums and
manufactories, holding intercourse with learned men, and making
considerable proficiency in civil engineering and the science of
fortification. Nothing escaped his eager inquiries. "Wat is dat?" was
his perpetual exclamation. "He devoured every morsel of knowledge with
unexampled voracity." Never was seen a man on this earth with a more
devouring appetite for knowledge of every kind; storing up in his mind
everything he saw, with a view of introducing improvements into Russia.
To see this barbaric emperor thus going to school, and working with his
own hands, insensible to heat and cold and weariness, with the single
aim of benefiting his countrymen when he should return, is to me one of
the most wonderful sights of history.

His chosen companion in these labors and visits and pleasures was also
one of the most remarkable men of his age. His name was
Mentchikof,--originally a seller of pies in the streets of Moscow, who
attracted, by his beauty and brightness, the attention of General
Lefort, and was made a page in his household, and was as such made known
to the Czar, who took a fancy to him, and soon detected his great
talents; so that he rose as rapidly as Joseph did in the court of
Pharaoh, and became general, governor, prince, regent, with almost
autocratic power. The whole subsequent reign of Peter, and of his
successor, became identified with Prince Mentchikof, who was prime
minister and grand vizier, and who forwarded all the schemes of his
master with consummate ability.

After leaving Holland, Peter accepted an invitation of William III. to
visit England, and thither he went with his embassy in royal ships, yet
still affecting to travel as a private gentleman. He would accept no
honors, no public receptions, no state banquets. He came to England, not
to receive honors, but to add to his knowledge, and he wished to remain
unfettered in his sight-seeing. In England, the same insatiable
curiosity marked him as in Holland. He visits the dock-yards, and goes to
the theatre and the opera, and holds interviews with Quakers and attends
their meetings, as well as the churches of the Establishment. The
country-houses of nobles, with their parks and gardens and hedges,
filled him with admiration. He was also greatly struck with Greenwich
Hospital, which looked to him like a royal palace (as it was
originally), and he greatly wondered that the old seedy and frowsy
pensioners should be lodged so magnificently. The courts of Westminster
surprised him. "Why," said he, in reference to the legal gentlemen in
wigs and gowns, "I have but two lawyers in my dominions, and one of them
I mean to hang as soon as I return." But while he visited everything,
generally in a quiet way, avoiding display and publicity, he was most
interested in mechanical inventions and the dock-yards and mock naval
combats. It would seem that his private life was simple, although he is
accused of eating voraciously, and of drinking great quantities of
brandy and sack. If this be true, he certainly reformed his habits, and
learned to govern himself, for he was very temperate in his latter days.
Men who are very active and perform herculean labors, do not generally
belong to the class of gluttons or drunkards. I have read of but few
great generals, like Caesar, or Charlemagne, or William III., or
Gustavus Adolphus, or Marlborough, or Cromwell, or Turenne, or
Wellington, or Napoleon, who were not temperate in their habits.

After leaving England, the Czar repaired to Vienna, _via_ Holland,
sending to Russia five hundred persons whom he took in his
employ,--navy captains, pilots, surgeons, gunners, boat-builders,
blacksmiths, and various other mechanics,--having an eye to the
industrial development of his country; which was certainly better than
driving out of his kingdom four hundred thousand honest people, as Louis
XIV. did because they were Protestants. But Peter did not tarry long in
Vienna, whose military establishments he came to study, being compelled
to return hastily to Moscow to suppress a rebellion. He returned a much
wiser man; I doubt if any person ever was more improved than he by his
travels. What an example to tourists in these times! All travelling
(except explorations) is a dissipation and waste of time unless
self-improvement is the main object. Pleasure-seeking is the greatest
vanity on this earth, for he who _seeks_ pleasure never finds it; but it
comes when it is a minor consideration.

The apprenticeship of Peter is now completed, and he enters more
seriously upon those great labors which have given him an immortality. I
am compelled to be brief in stating them.

The first thing he did, on his return, was finally to crush the
Streltzi, who fomented treasons and were hostile to reform. He had
wisely left General Gordon at Moscow with six thousand soldiers,
disciplined after the European fashion. In abolishing the turbulent and
prejudicial Streltzi, he is accused of great cruelties. He summarily
executed or imprisoned some four thousand of them caught in acts of
treason and rebellion, and drafted the rest into distant regiments. He
may have been unnecessarily cruel, as critics have accused Oliver
Cromwell of being in his treatment of the Irish. But, cruel or not, he
got rid of troops he could not trust, and organized soldiers whom he
could,--for he must have tools to work with if he would do his work. I
neither praise nor condemn his mode of working; I seek to show how he
performed his task.

After disbanding rebellious soldiers, he sought to make his army more
efficient by changing the dress of the entire army. He did away with the
long coat reaching to the heels, something like that which ladies wear
in rainy days; and the drawers not unlike petticoats; and the long,
bushy beards. He found more difficulty in making this reform than in
taking Azof, although aided by Mentchikof, his favorite,
fellow-traveller, and prime minister. He was not content with cutting
off the beards of the soldiers and shortening their coats,--he wished to
make private citizens do the same; but the uproar and discontent were so
great that he was obliged to compromise the matter, and allow the
citizens to wear their beards and robes on condition of a heavy tax,
graded on ability to pay it. The only class he exempted from the tax
were the clergy and the serfs.

Among other reforms he changed the calendar, making the year to begin
with January, and abolished the old laws with reference to marriage, by
which young people had no power of choice; but he decreed that no
marriage should take place unless an intimacy had existed between the
parties for at least six months. He instituted balls and assemblies, to
soften the manners of the people. He encouraged the theatre, protected
science, invited eminent men to settle in Russia, improved the courts of
justice, established posts and post-offices, boards of trade, a vigorous
police, hospitals, and alms-houses. He imported Saxony sheep, erected
linen, woollen, and paper mills, dug canals, suppressed gambling, and
fostered industry and art. He aimed to do for Russia what Richelieu and
Colbert did for France.

The greatest opposition to his reforms came from the clergy, with the
Patriarch at their head,--a personage of great dignity and power, ruling
an _imperium in imperio_. Peter had no hostility to the Greek religion,
nor to the clergy. Like Charlemagne, he was himself descended from an
ecclesiastical family. But finding the clergy hostile to civil and
social reforms, he sought to change the organization of the Church
itself. He did not interfere with doctrines, nor discipline, nor rites,
nor forms of worship; but he unseated the Patriarch, and appointed
instead a consistory, the members of which were nominated by himself.
Like Henry VIII., he virtually made himself the head of the
Church,--that is, the supreme direction of ecclesiastical affairs was
given to those whom he controlled, and not to the Patriarch, whose power
had been supreme in religious matters,--more than Papal, almost
Druidical. In former reigns the Patriarch had the power of life and
death in his own tribunals; and when he rode to church on Palm Sunday,
in his emblazoned robes, the Czar walked uncovered at his side, and held
the bridle of his mule. It is a mark of the extraordinary power of Peter
that he was enabled to abolish this great dignity without a revolution
or bloodshed; and he not only abolished the patriarchal dignity, but he
seized the revenues of the Patriarch, taxed the clergy, and partially
suppressed monasteries, decreeing that no one should enter them under
fifty years of age; yea, he even decreed universal toleration of
religion, except to the Jesuits, whom he hated, as did William III. and
Frederic II. He caused the Bible to be translated into the Slavonic
language, and freely circulated it. And he prosecuted these reforms
while he was meditating, or was engaged in, great military enterprises.

I approach now the great external event of Peter's life, his war with
Charles XII., brought about in part by his eagerness to get a seaport on
the Baltic, and in part by the mad ambition of the Swedish king,
determined to play the part of Alexander. The aggressive party in this
war, however, was Peter. He was resolved to take part of the Swedish
territories for mercantile and maritime purposes; so he invaded Sweden
with sixty thousand men. Charles, whose military genius was not
appreciated by the Czar, had only eight thousand troops to oppose the
invasion; but they were veterans, and fought on the defensive, and had
right on their side. This latter is a greater thing in war than is
generally supposed; for although war is in our own times a mechanism in
a great measure, still moral considerations underlie even physical
forces, and give a sort of courage which is hard to resist. The result
of this invasion was the battle of Narva, when Peter was disgracefully
beaten, as he ought to have been. But he bore his defeat complacently.
He is reported as saying that he knew the Swedes would have the
advantage at first, but that they would teach him how to beat them at
last. I doubt this. I do not believe a general ever went into battle
with a vastly overwhelming force when he did not expect victory. But the
great victory won by Charles (a mere stripling king, scarcely nineteen)
turned his head. Never was there a more intoxicated hero. He turned his
victorious army upon Poland, dethroned the king, invaded Saxony, and
prepared to invade Russia with an army of eighty thousand troops. His
cool adversary, who since his defeat at Narva had been prosecuting his
reforms and reorganizing his army and building a navy, was more of a
wily statesman than a successful general. He retreated before Charles,
avoided battles, tempted him in the pursuit to dreary and sparsely
inhabited districts, decoyed him into provinces remote from his base of
supplies; so that at the approach of winter Charles found himself in a
cold and desolate country (as Napoleon was afterwards tempted to _his_
ruin), with his army dwindled down to twenty-five thousand men, while
Peter had one hundred thousand, with ample provisions and military
stores. The generals of Charles now implore him to return to Sweden, at
least to seek winter quarters in the Ukraine; but the monarch,
infatuated, lays siege to Pultowa, and gives battle to Peter, and is not
only defeated, but his forces are almost annihilated, so that he finds
the greatest difficulty in escaping into Turkey with a handful of
followers. That battle settled the fortunes of both Charles and Peter.
The one was hopelessly ruined; the other was left free to take as much
territory from Sweden as he wished, to open his seaports on the Baltic,
and to dig canals from river to river.

But another enemy still remained, Turkey; who sought to recover her
territory on the Black Sea, and who had already declared war. Flushed
with conquest, Peter in his turn became rash. He advanced to the
Turkish territory with forty thousand men, and was led into the same
trap which proved the ruin of Charles XII. He suddenly finds himself in
a hostile country, beyond the Pruth, between an army of Turks and an
army of Tartars, with a deep and rapid river in his rear. Two hundred
thousand men attack his forty thousand. He cannot advance, he cannot
retreat; he is threatened with annihilation. He is driven to despair.
Neither he nor his generals can see any escape, for in three days he has
lost twenty thousand men,--one half his army. In all probability he and
his remaining men will be captured, and he conducted as a prisoner to
Constantinople, and perhaps be shown to the mocking and jeering people
in a cage, as Bajazet was. In this crisis he shuts himself up in his
tent, and refuses to see anybody.

He is saved by a woman, and a great woman, even Catherine his wife, who
originally was a poor peasant girl in Livonia, and who after various
adventures became the wife of a young Swedish officer killed at the
battle of Marienburg, and then the mistress of Prince Mentchikof, and
then of Peter himself, who at length married her,--"an incident," says
Voltaire, "which fortune and merit never before produced in the annals
of the world," She suggested negotiation, when Peter was in the very
jaws of destruction, and which nobody had thought of. She collects
together her jewels and all the valuables she can find, and sends them
to the Turkish general as a present, and favorable terms are secured.
But Peter loses Azof, and is shut out from the Black Sea, and is
compelled to withdraw from the vicinity of the Danube. The Baltic is
however still open to him; and in the mean time he has transferred his
capital to a new city, which he built on the Gulf of Finland.

It was during his Swedish war, about the year 1702, when he had driven
the Swedes from Ladoga and the Neva, that he fixed his eyes upon a
miserable morass, a delta, half under water, formed by the dividing
branches of the Neva, as the future seat of his vast empire. It was a
poor site for a capital city, inaccessible by water half the year,
without stones, without wood, without any building materials, with a
barren soil, and liable to be submerged in a storm. Some would say it
was an immense mistake to select such a place for the capital of an
empire stretching even to the Pacific ocean. But it was the only place
he could get which opened a water communication with Western Europe. He
could not Europeanize his empire without some such location for his new
capital. So St. Petersburg arose above the marshes of the Neva as if by
magic, built in a year, on piles, although it cost him the lives of one
hundred thousand men. "We never could look on this capital," says
Motley, "with its imposing though monotonous architecture, its colossal
squares, its vast colonnades, its endless vistas, its spires and
minarets sheathed in barbaric gold and flashing in the sun, and remember
the magical rapidity with which it was built, without recalling Milton's
description of Pandemonium:--

                                     "'As bees
     In spring time, when the sun with Taurus rides,
     Pour forth their populous youth about the hive
     In clusters: they among fresh dews and flowers
     Fly to and fro, or on the smoothed plank,
     The suburb of their straw-built citadel,
     Now rubbed with balm, expatiate, and confer
     Their state affairs: so thick the aery crowd
     Swarm'd and were straighten'd; till, the signal given,
     Behold a wonder!'

"The transfer of the seat of government, by the removal of the senate
from Moscow, was effected a few years afterwards. Since that time, the
repudiated Oriental capital of the ancient Czars, with her golden tiara
and Eastern robe, has sat, like Hagar in the wilderness, deserted and
lonely in all her barbarian beauty. Yet even now, in many a backward
look and longing sigh, she reads plainly enough that she is not
forgotten by her sovereign, that she is still at heart preferred, and
that she will eventually triumph over her usurping and artificial rival."

So writes a great historian; but to me it seems that the longing eyes of
the Emperor of Russia are not turned to the old barbaric capital, but
to a still more ancient capital,--that which Constantine, with
far-seeing vision, selected as the central city of the decaying empire
of the Romans, easily defended, resting on both Europe and Asia, with
access to the Mediterranean and Black seas; the most magnificent site
for the capital of a great empire on the face of the globe, which is
needed by Russia if she is to preserve her maritime power, and which
nothing but the jealousy of the Western nations has prevented her from
twice seizing within a single generation. We say, "Westward, the star of
empire takes its way." But an empire larger in its territories than all
Europe, and constantly augmenting its resources, although still Cossack,
still undeveloped, has its eye on Eastern, not Western extension, until
China herself, with her four thousand years of civilization and her four
hundred millions of people, may become a spoil to be divided between the
Emperor of Russia and the Empress of India; not as banded and united
robbers divide their spoil, but the one encroaching from the West and
North, and the other from the West and South.

Peter, after having realized the great objects to which he early
aspired, after having founded a navy and reorganized his army, and added
provinces to his empire, and partially civilized it, and given to it a
new capital, now meditated a second tour of Europe, this time to be
accompanied by his wife. Thirteen years had elapsed since he worked as a
ship-carpenter in the dock-yards of Holland. He was now forty-three years
old, still manly, vigorous, and inquiring. In 1715, just as Louis had
completed his brilliant and yet unfortunate career, Peter first
revisited the scene of his early labors, where he was enthusiastically
received, and was afterwards entertained with great distinction at
Paris. He continued his studies in art, in science, and laws, saw
everything, and was particularly impressed with the tomb of Richelieu.
"Great man!" apostrophizes the Czar, "I would give half of my kingdom to
learn from thee how to govern the other half." Such remarks indicate
that he knew something of history, and comprehended the mission of the
great cardinal,--which was to establish absolutism as one of the needed
forces of the seventeenth century; for it was Richelieu, hateful as is
his character, who built up the French monarchy.

From Paris, Peter proceeded to Berlin, where he was received with equal
attentions. He inspired universal respect, although his aspect was
fierce, his habits rough, and his manners uncouth. The one thing which
marked him as a great man was his force of character. He was undazzled
and unseduced; plain, simple, temperate, self-possessed, and
straightforward. He had not worked for himself, but for his country, and
everybody knew it. His wife Catherine, also a great woman, did not make
so good an impression as he did, being fat, vulgar, and covered with
jewels and orders and crosses. I suppose both of them were what we now
should call "plain people." Station, power, and wealth seem to have very
little effect on the manners and habits of those who have arisen by
extraordinary talents to an exalted position. Nor does this position
develop pride as much as is generally supposed. Pride is born in a man,
and will appear if he is ever so lowly; as also vanity, the more amiable
quality, which expends itself in hospitalities and ostentations. The
proud Gladstone dresses like a Methodist minister, and does not seem to
care what kind of a hat he wears. The vain Beaconsfield loved honors and
stars and flatteries and aristocratic insignia: if he had been rich he
would have been prodigal, and given great banquets. Peter made no
display, and saved his money for useful purposes. It would seem that
most of the Russian monarchs have retained simplicity in their
private lives.

The closing years of Peter were saddened by a great tragedy, as were
those of David. Both these monarchs had the misfortune to have
rebellious and unworthy sons, who were heirs to the throne. Alexis was
as great a trial to Peter as Absalom was to David. He was hostile to
reforms, was in league with his father's enemies, and was hopelessly
stupid and profligate. He was not vain, ambitious, and beautiful, like
the son of David; but coarse, in bondage to priests, fond of the
society of the weak and dissipated, and utterly unfitted to rule an
empire. Had he succeeded Peter, the life-work of Peter would have been
wasted. His reign would have been as disastrous to Russia as that of
Mary Queen of Scots would have been to England, had she succeeded
Elizabeth. The patience of the father was at last exhausted. He had
remonstrated and threatened to no purpose. The young man would not
reform his habits, or abstain from dangerous intrigues. He got beastly
drunk with convivial friends, and robbed and cheated his father whenever
he got a chance.

What was Peter to do with such a rebellious, undutiful, profligate,
silly youth as Alexis,--a sot, a bigot, and a liar? Should he leave to
him the work of carrying out his policy and aims? It would be weakness
and madness. It seemed to him that he had nothing to do but disinherit
him. In so doing, he would render no injustice. Alexis had no claim to
the throne, like the eldest son of Victoria. The throne belonged to
Peter. He had no fetters on him like a feudal sovereign; he could elect
whom he pleased to inherit his vast empire. It was not his son he loved
best, but his country. He had the right to appoint any successor he
pleased, and he would naturally select one who would carry out his plans
and rule ably. So he disinherited his eldest son Alexis, and did it in
virtue of the power which he imagined he had received, like an old
Jewish patriarch, from God Almighty. There was no law of Russia
designating the eldest son as the Czar's successor. No one can
reasonably blame Peter for disinheriting this worthless son, whom he had
ceased to love,--whom he even despised.

Having disinherited him, out of regard to public interests more than
personal dislike, the question arises, what shall he do with him? Shall
he shut him in a state-prison, or confine him to a convent, or make way
with him? One of these terrible alternatives he must take. What
struggles of his soul to decide which were best! We pity a man compelled
to make such a choice. Any choice was bad, and full of perils and
calumnies. Whatever way he turned was full of obstacles. If he should
shut him up, the priests and humiliated boyars and other intriguing
rascals might make him emperor after Peter's death, and thus create a
counter reformation, and upset the work of Peter's life. If he should
make way with Alexis, the curses of his enemies and the execrations of
Europe and posterity would follow him as an unnatural father. David,
with his tender nature and deep affection, would have spared Absalom if
all the hosts of Israel had fallen and his throne were overturned. But
Peter was not so weak as David; he was stern and severe. He decided to
bring his son to trial for conspiracy and rebellion. The court found
him guilty. The ministers, generals, and senators of the empire
pronounced sentence of death upon him. Would the father have used his
prerogative and pardoned him? That we can never know. Some think that
Peter did not intend to execute the sentence. At any rate, he was
mercifully delivered from his dilemma. Alexis, frightened and apparently
contrite, was seized with a fit of apoplexy, and died imploring his
father's pardon.

This tragedy is regarded as the great stain on the reign of Peter. It
shocked the civilized world. I do not wish to exculpate Peter from
cruelty or hardheartedness; I would neither justify him nor condemn him.
In this matter, I think, he is to be judged by the supreme tribunal of
Heaven. I do not know enough to acquit or condemn him. All I know is,
that his treatment of his son was both a misfortune and a stain on his
memory. The people to decide this point are those rich fathers who have
rebellious, prodigal, reckless, and worthless sons, hopelessly
dissipated, and rendered imbecile by self-indulgence and wasteful
revels; or those people who discuss the expediency and apparent state
necessity for the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, when the welfare of
a great kingdom was set against the ties of blood.

After the death of Alexis, a few more years are given to the Czar to
follow out his improvements, centralize his throne, and extend his
territories both on the Baltic and in the East. The death of Charles
XII. enabled him to take what Swedish provinces he needed to protect his
mercantile interests, and to snatch from Persia the southern coast of
the Caspian,--the original kingdom of Cyrus. "It is not land I want,"
said he, "but water." This is the key to all his conquests. He wanted an
outlet to the sea, on both sides his empire. He did not aim at
territorial enlargement so much as at facilities to enrich and civilize
his empire.

Having done his work,--the work, I think, for which he was raised
up,--he sets about the succession to his throne. Amid unprecedented pomp
he celebrates the coronation of his faithful and devoted wife, to whom
he also has been faithful. It is she only who understands and can carry
out his imperial policy. He himself at Moscow, 1724, amid unusual
solemnities, placed the imperial crown upon her brow, and proudly and
yet humbly walked before her in the gorgeous procession as a captain of
her guard. Before all the great dignitaries of his empire he gives the
following reasons for his course:--

"The Empress Catherine, our dearest consort, was an important help to us
in all our dangers, not in war alone, but in other expeditions in which
she voluntarily accompanied us; serving us with her able counsel,
notwithstanding the natural weakness of her sex, more particularly at
the battle of Pruth, when our army was reduced to twenty-two thousand
men, while the Turks were two hundred thousand strong. It was in this
desperate condition, above all others, that she signalized her zeal by a
courage superior to her sex. For which reasons, and in virtue of that
power which God has given us, we thus honor our spouse with the
imperial crown."

Peter died in the following year, after a reign of more than forty
years, bequeathing a centralized empire to his successors, a large and
disciplined army, a respectable navy, and many improvements in
agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and the arts,--yea, schools and
universities for the education of the higher classes.

Whatever may have been the faults of Peter, history cannot accuse him of
ingratitude, or insincerity, or weak affections,--nothing of which is
seen in his treatment of the honest Dutchman, in whose yard he worked as
a common laborer; of Lefort, whom he made admiral of his fleet; or of
Mentchikof, whom he elevated to the second place in his empire. Peter
was not a great warrior, but he created armies. He had traits in common
with barbarians, but he bequeathed a new civilization, and dispelled the
night of hereditary darkness. He owed nothing to art; he looms up as a
prodigy of Nature. He cared nothing for public opinion; he left the
moral influence of a great example. He began with no particular aim
except to join his country to the sea; he bequeathed a policy of
indefinite expansion. He did not leave free institutions, for his
country was not prepared for them; but he animated thirty millions with
an intense and religious loyalty. He did not emancipate serfs; but he
bequeathed a power which enabled his successors to loosen fetters with
safety. He degraded nobles; but his nobles would have prevented if they
could the emancipation of the people. He may have wasted his energies in
condescending to mean details, and insisting on doing everything with
his own hands, from drummer to general, and cabin-boy to admiral,
winning battles with his own sword, and singing in the choir as head of
the Church; but in so doing he made the mistake of Charlemagne, whom he
strikingly resembles in his iron will, his herculean energies, and his
enlightened mind. He could not convert his subjects from cattle into
men, even had he wished, for civilization is a long and tedious process;
but he made them the subjects of a great empire, destined to spread from
sea to sea. Certainly he was in advance of his people; he broke away
from the ideas which enslaved them. He may have been despotic, and
inexorable, and hard-hearted; but that was just such a man as his
country needed for a ruler. Mr. Motley likens him to "a huge engine,
placed upon the earth to effect a certain task, working its mighty arms
night and day with ceaseless and untiring energy, crashing through all
obstacles, and annihilating everything in its path with the unfeeling
precision of gigantic mechanism." I should say he was an instrument of
Almighty power to bring good out of evil, and prepare the way for a
civilization the higher elements of which he did not understand, and
with which he would not probably have sympathized.

Who shall say, as we survey his mighty labors, and the indomitable
energy and genius which inspired them, that he does not deserve the
title which civilization has accorded to him,--yea, a higher title than
that of Great, even that of Father of his country?


Journal de Pierre le Grand; History of Peter the Great, by Alexander
Gordon; John Bell's Travels in Russia; Henry Bruce's Memoirs of Peter;
Motley's Life of Peter I.; Voltaire's History of the Russian Empire
under Peter the Great; Voltaire's Life of Charles XII.; Biographic
Universelle; Encyclopaedia Britannica,--article "Russia;" Barrow's
Memoir of the Life of Peter the Great; Schuyler's History of Peter
the Great.


A.D. 1712-1786.


The history of Frederic the Great is simply that of a man who committed
an outrageous crime, the consequences of which pursued him in the
maledictions and hostilities of Europe, and who fought bravely and
heroically to rescue himself and country from the ruin which impended
over him as a consequence of this crime. His heroism, his fertility of
resources, his unflagging energy, and his amazing genius in overcoming
difficulties won for him the admiration of that class who idolize
strength and success; so that he stands out in history as a struggling
gladiator who baffled all his foes,--not a dying gladiator on the arena
of a pagan amphitheatre, but more like a Judas Maccabaeus, when hunted
by the Syrian hosts, rising victorious, and laying the foundation of a
powerful monarchy; indeed, his fame spread, irrespective of his cause
and character, from one end of Christendom to the other,--not such a
fame as endeared Gustavus Adolphus to the heart of nations for heroic
efforts to save the Protestant religion,--but such a fame as the
successful generals of ancient Rome won by adding territories to a
warlike State, regardless of all the principles of right and wrong. Such
a career is suggestive of grand moral lessons; and it is to teach these
lessons that I describe a character for whom I confess I feel but little
sympathy, yet whom I am compelled to respect for his heroic qualities
and great abilities.

Frederic of Prussia was born in 1712, and had an unhappy childhood and
youth from the caprices of a royal but disagreeable father, best known
for his tall regiment of guards; a severe, austere, prejudiced, formal,
narrow, and hypochondriacal old Pharisee, whose sole redeeming
excellence was an avowed belief in God Almighty and in the orthodox
doctrines of the Protestant Church.

In 1740, this rigid, exacting, unsympathetic king died; and his son
Frederic, who had been subjected to the severest discipline, restraints,
annoyances, and humiliations, ascended the throne, and became the third
King of Prussia, at the age of twenty-eight. His kingdom was a small
one, being then about one quarter of its present size.

And here we pause for a moment to give a glance at the age in which he
lived,--an age of great reactions, when the stirring themes and issues
of the seventeenth century were substituted for mockeries, levities,
and infidelities; when no fierce protests were made except those of
Voltaire against the Jesuits; when an abandoned woman ruled France, as
the mistress of an enervated monarch; when Spain and Italy were sunk in
lethargic forgetfulness, Austria was priest-ridden, and England was
governed by a ring of selfish lauded proprietors; when there was no
marked enterprise but the slave-trade; when no department of literature
or science was adorned by original genius; and when England had no
broader statesman than Walpole, no abler churchman than Warburton, no
greater poet than Pope. There was a general indifference to lofty
speculation. A materialistic philosophy was in fashion,--not openly
atheistic, but arrogant and pretentious, whose only power was in sarcasm
and mockery, like the satires of Lucian, extinguishing faith, godless
and yet boastful,--an Epicureanism such as Socrates attacked and Paul
rebuked. It found its greatest exponent in Voltaire, the oracle and idol
of intellectual Europe. In short, it was an age when general cynicism
and reckless abandonment to pleasure marked the upper-classes; an age
which produced Chesterfield, as godless a man as Voltaire himself.

In this period of religious infidelity, moral torpor, fashionable
mediocrity, unthinking pleasure-seeking, and royal orgies; when the
people were spurned, insuited and burdened,--Frederic ascends an
absolute throne. He is a young and fashionable philosopher. He professes
to believe in nothing that ages of inquiry and study are supposed to
have settled; he even ridicules the religious principles of his father.
He ardently adopts everything which claims to be a novelty, but is not
learned enough to know that what he supposes to be new has been exploded
over and over again. He is liberal and tolerant, but does not see the
logical sequence of the very opinions he indorses. He is also what is
called an accomplished man, since he can play on an instrument, and
amuse a dinner-party by jokes and stories. He builds a magnificent
theatre, and collects statues, pictures, snuff-boxes, and old china. He
welcomes to his court, not stern thinkers, but sneering and amusing
philosophers. He employs in his service both Catholics and Protestants
alike, since he holds in contempt the religion of both. He is free from
animosities and friendships, and neither punishes those who are his
enemies nor rewards those who are his friends. He apes reform, but
shackles the press; he appoints able men in his service, but only those
who will be his unscrupulous tools. He has a fine physique, and
therefore is unceasingly active. He flies from one part of his kingdom
to another, not to examine morals or education or the state of the
people, but to inspect fortresses and to collect camps.

To such a man the development of the resources of his kingdom, the
reform of abuses, and educational projects are of secondary importance;
he gives his primary attention to raising and equipping armies, having
in view the extension of his kingdom by aggressive and unjustifiable
wars. He cares little for domestic joys or the society of women, and is
incapable of sincere friendship. He has no true admiration for
intellectual excellence, although he patronizes literary lions. He is
incapable of any sacrifice except for his troops, who worship him, since
their interests are identical with his own. In the camp or in the field
he spends his time, amusing himself occasionally with the society of
philosophers as cynical as himself. He has dreams and visions of
military glory, which to him is the highest and greatest on this earth,
Charles XII. being his model of a hero.

With such views he enters upon a memorable career. His first important
public act as king is the seizure of part of the territory of the Bishop
of Liege, which he claims as belonging to Prussia. The old bishop is
indignant and amazed, but is obliged to submit to a robbery which
disgusts Christendom, but is not of sufficient consequence to set it
in a blaze.

The next thing he does, of historical importance, is to seize Silesia, a
province which belongs to Austria, and contains about twenty thousand
square miles,--a fertile and beautiful province, nearly as large as his
own kingdom; it is the highest table-land of Germany, girt around with
mountains, hard to attack and easy to defend. So rapid and secret are
his movements, that this unsuspecting and undefended country is overrun
by his veteran soldiers as easily as Louis XIV. overran Flanders and
Holland, and with no better excuse than the French king had. This
outrage was an open insult to Europe, as well as a great wrong to Maria
Theresa,--supposed by him to be a feeble woman who could not resent the
injury. But in this woman he found the great enemy of his life,--a
lioness deprived of her whelps, whose wailing was so piteous and so
savage that she aroused Europe from lethargy, and made coalitions which
shook it to its centre. At first she simply rallied her own troops, and
fought single-handed to recover her lost and most valued province. But
Frederic, with marvellous celerity and ability, got possession of the
Silesian fortresses; the bloody battle of Mollwitz (1741) secured his
prey, and he returned in triumph to his capital, to abide the issue
of events.

It is not easy to determine whether this atrocious crime, which
astonished Europe, was the result of his early passion for military
glory, or the inauguration of a policy of aggression and aggrandizement.
But it was the signal of an explosion of European politics which ended
in one of the most bloody wars of modern times. "It was," says Carlyle,
"the little stone broken loose from the mountain, hitting others, big
and little, which again hit others with their leaping and rolling, till
the whole mountain-side was in motion under law of gravity."

Maria Theresa appeals to her Hungarian nobles, with her infant in her
arms, at a diet of the nation, and sends her envoys to every friendly
court. She offers her unscrupulous enemy the Duchy of Limberg and two
hundred thousand pounds to relinquish his grasp on Silesia. It is like
the offer of Darius to Alexander, and is spurned by the Prussian robber.
It is not Limberg he wants, nor money, but Silesia, which he resolves to
keep because he wants it, and at any hazard, even were he to jeopardize
his own hereditary dominions. The peace of Breslau gives him a temporary
leisure, and he takes the waters of Aachen, and discusses philosophy. He
is uneasy, but jubilant, for he has nearly doubled the territory and
population of Prussia. His subjects proclaim him a hero, with immense
paeans. Doubtless, too, he now desires peace,--just as Louis XIV. did
after he had conquered Holland, and as Napoleon did when he had seated
his brothers on the old thrones of Europe.

But there can be no lasting peace after such outrageous wickedness. The
angered kings and princes of Europe are to become the instruments of
eternal justice. They listen to the eloquent cries of the Austrian
Empress, and prepare for war, to punish the audacious robber who
disturbs the peace of the world and insults all other nationalities. But
they are not yet ready for effective war; the storm does not at once
break out.

The Austrians however will not wait, and the second Silesian war ensues,
in which Saxony joins Austria. Again is Frederic successful, over the
combined forces of these two powers, and he retains his stolen province.
He is now regarded as a world-hero, for he has fought bravely against
vastly superior forces, and is received in Berlin with unbounded
enthusiasm. He renews his studies in philosophy, courts literary
celebrities, reorganizes his army, and collects forces for a renewed
encounter, which he foresees.

He has ten years of repose and preparation, during which he is lauded
and nattered, yet retaining simplicity of habits, sleeping but five
hours a day, finding time for state dinners, flute-playing, and operas,
of all which he is fond; for he was doubtless a man of culture, social,
well read if not profound, witty, inquiring, and without any striking
defects save tyranny, ambition, parsimony, dissimulation, and lying.

It was during those ten years of rest and military preparation that
Voltaire made his memorable visit--his third and last--to Potsdam and
Berlin, thirty-two months of alternate triumph and humiliation. No
literary man ever had so successful and brilliant a career as this
fortunate and lauded Frenchman,--the oracle of all salons, the arbiter
of literary fashions, a dictator in the realm of letters, with amazing
fecundity of genius directed into all fields of labor; poet, historian,
dramatist, and philosopher; writing books enough to load a cart, and all
of them admired and extolled, all of them scattered over Europe, read by
all nations; a marvellous worker, of unbounded wit and unexampled
popularity, whose greatest literary merit was in the transcendent
excellence of his style, for which chiefly he is immortal; a great
artist, rather than an original and profound genius whose ideas form the
basis of civilizations. The King of Prussia formed an ardent friendship
for this king of letters, based on admiration rather than respect;
invited him to his court, extolled and honored him, and lavished on him
all that he could bestow, outside of political distinction. But no
worldly friendship could stand such a test as both were subjected to,
since they at last comprehended each other's character and designs.
Voltaire perceived the tyranny, the ambition, the heartlessness, the
egotism, and the exactions of his royal patron, and despised him while
he flattered him; and Frederic on his part saw the hollowness, the
meanness, the suspicion, the irritability, the pride, the insincerity,
the tricks, the ingratitude, the baseness, the lies of his
distinguished guest,--and their friendship ended in utter vanity. What
friendship can last without mutual respect? The friendship of Frederic
and Voltaire was hopelessly broken, in spite of the remembrance of
mutual admiration and happy hours. It was patched up and mended like a
broken vase, but it could not be restored. How sad, how mournful, how
humiliating is a broken friendship or an alienated love! It is the
falling away of the foundations of the soul, the disappearance forever
of what is most to be prized on earth,--its celestial certitudes. A
beloved friend may die, but we are consoled in view of the fact that the
friendship may be continued in heaven: the friend is not lost to us. But
when a friendship or a love is broken, there is no continuance of it
through eternity. It is the gloomiest thing to think of in this
whole world.

But Frederic was too busy and pre-occupied a man to mourn long for a
departed joy. He was absorbed in preparations for war. The sword of
Damocles was suspended over his head, and he knew it better than any
other man in Europe; he knew it from his spies and emissaries. Though he
had enjoyed ten years' peace, he knew that peace was only a truce; that
the nations were arming in behalf of the injured empress; that so great
a crime as the seizure of Silesia must be visited with a penalty; that
there was no escape for him except in a tremendous life-and-death
struggle, which was to be the trial of his life; that defeat was more
than probable, since the forces in preparation against him were
overwhelming. The curses of the civilized world still pursued him, and
in his retreat at Sans-Souci he had no rest; and hence he became
irritable and suspicious. The clouds of the political atmosphere were
filled with thunderbolts, ready to fall upon him and crush him at any
moment; indeed, nothing could arrest the long-gathering storm.

It broke out with unprecedented fury in the spring of 1756. Austria,
Russia, Sweden, Saxony, and France were combined to ruin him,--the most
powerful coalition of the European powers seen since the Thirty Years'
War. His only ally was England,--an ally not so much to succor him as to
humble France, and hence her aid was timid and incompetent.

Thus began the famous Seven Years' War, during which France lost her
colonial possessions, and was signally humiliated at home,--a war which
developed the genius of the elder Pitt, and placed England in the proud
position of mistress of the ocean; a war marked by the largest array of
forces which Europe had seen since the times of Charles V., in which six
hundred thousand men were marshalled under different leaders and
nations, to crush a man who had insulted Europe and defied the law of
nations and the laws of God. The coalition represented one hundred
millions of people with inexhaustible resources.

Now, it was the memorable resistance of Frederic II. to this vast array
of forces, and his successful retention of the province he had seized,
which gave him his chief claim as a hero; and it was his patience, his
fortitude, his energy, his fertility of resources, and the enthusiasm
with which he inspired his troops even after the most discouraging and
demoralizing defeats, that won for him that universal admiration as a
man which he lived to secure in spite of all his defects and crimes. We
admire the resources and dexterity of an outlawed bandit, but we should
remember he is a bandit still; and we confound all the laws which hold
society together, when we cover up the iniquity of a great crime by the
successes which have apparently baffled justice. Frederic II., by
stealing Silesia, and thus provoking a great war of untold and
indescribable miseries, is entitled to anything but admiration, whatever
may have been his military genius; and I am amazed that so great a man
as Carlyle, with all his hatred of shams, and his clear perceptions of
justice and truth, should have whitewashed such a robber. I cannot
conceive how the severest critic of the age should have spent the best
years of his life in apologies for so bad a man, if his own philosophy
had not become radically unsound, based on the abominable doctrine that
the end justifies the means, and that an outward success is the test of
right. Far different was Carlyle's treatment of Cromwell. Frederic had
no such cause as Cromwell; it was simply his own or his country's
aggrandizement by any means, or by any sword he could lay hold of. The
chief merit of Carlyle's history is his impartiality and accuracy in
describing the details of the contest: the cause of the contest he does
not sufficiently reprobate; and all his sympathies seem to be with the
unscrupulous robber who fights heroically, rather than with indignant
Europe outraged by his crimes. But we cannot separate crime from its
consequences; and all the reverses, the sorrows, the perils, the
hardships, the humiliations, the immense losses, the dreadful calamities
through which Prussia had to pass, which wrung even the heart of
Frederic with anguish, were only a merited retribution. The Seven Years'
War was a king-hunt, in which all the forces of the surrounding
monarchies gathered around the doomed man, making his circle smaller and
smaller, and which would certainly have ended in his utter ruin, had he
not been rescued by events as unexpected as they were unparalleled. Had
some great and powerful foe been converted suddenly into a friend at a
critical moment, Napoleon, another unscrupulous robber, might not have
been defeated at Waterloo, or died on a rock in the ocean. But
Providence, it would seem, who rules the fate of war, had some
inscrutable reason for the rescue of Prussia under Frederic, and the
humiliation of France under Napoleon.

The brunt of the war fell of course upon Austria, so that, as the two
nations were equally German, it had many of the melancholy aspects of a
civil war. But Austria was Catholic and Prussia was Protestant; and had
Austria succeeded, Germany possibly to-day would have been united under
an irresistible Catholic imperialism, and there would have been no
German empire whose capital is Berlin. The Austrians, in this contest,
fought bravely and ably, under Prince Carl and Marshal Daun, who were no
mean competitors with the King of Prussia for military laurels. But the
Austrians fought on the offensive, and the Prussians on the defensive.
The former were obliged to manoeuvre on the circumference, the latter in
the centre of the circle. The Austrians, in order to recover Silesia,
were compelled to cross high mountains whose passes were guarded by
Prussian soldiers. The war began in offensive operations, and ended in

The most terrible enemy that Frederic had, next to Austria, was Russia,
ruled then by Elizabeth, who had the deepest sympathy with Maria
Theresa; but when she died, affairs took a new turn. Frederic was then
on the very verge of ruin,--was, as they say, about to be
"bagged,"--when the new Emperor of Russia conceived a great personal
admiration for his genius and heroism; the Russian enmity was converted
to friendship, and the Czar became an ally instead of a foe.

The aid which the Saxons gave to Maria Theresa availed but little. The
population, chiefly and traditionally Protestant, probably sympathized
with Prussia more than with Austria, although the Elector himself was
Catholic,--that inglorious monarch who resembled in his gallantries
Louis XV., and in his dilettante tastes Leo X. He is chiefly known for
the number of his concubines and his Dresden gallery of pictures.

The aid which the French gave was really imposing, so far as numbers
make efficient armies. But the French were not the warlike people in the
reign of Louis XV. that they were under Henry IV., or Napoleon
Bonaparte. They fought, without the stimulus of national enthusiasm,
without a cause, as part of a great machine. They never have been
successful in war without the inspiration of a beloved cause. This war
had no especial attraction or motive for them. What was it to Frenchmen,
so absorbed with themselves, whether a Hohenzollern or a Hapsburg
reigned in Germany? Hence, the great armies which the government of
France sent to the aid of Maria Theresa were without spirit, and were
not even marshalled by able generals. In fact, the French seemed more
intent on crippling England than in crushing Frederic. The war had
immense complications. Though France and England were drawn into it, yet
both France and England fought more against each other than for the
parties who had summoned them to their rescue.

England was Frederic's ally, but her aid was not great directly. She did
not furnish him with many troops; she sent subsidies instead, which
enabled him to continue the contest. But these were not as great as he
expected, or had reason to expect. With all the money he received from
Walpole or Pitt he was reduced to the most desperate straits.

One thing was remarkable in that long war of seven years, which strained
every nerve and taxed every energy of Prussia: it was carried on by
Frederic in hard cash. He did not run in debt; he' always had enough on
hand in coin to pay for all expenses. But then his subjects were most
severely taxed, and the soldiers were poorly paid. If the same economy
he used in that war of seven years had been exercised by our Government
in its late war, we should not have had any national debt at all at the
close of the war, although we probably should have suspended
specie payments.

It would not be easy or interesting to attempt to compress the details
of a long war of seven years in a single lecture. The records of war
have great uniformity,--devastation, taxes, suffering, loss of life and
of property (except by the speculators and government agents), the
flight of literature, general demoralization, the lowering of the tone
of moral feeling, the ascendency of unscrupulous men, the exaltation of
military talents, general grief at the loss of friends, fiendish
exultation over victories alternated with depressing despondency in view
of defeats, the impoverishment of a nation on the whole, and the
sickening conviction, which fastens on the mind after the first
excitement is over, of a great waste of life and property for which
there is no return, and which sometimes a whole generation cannot
restore. Nothing is so dearly purchased as the laurels of the
battlefield; nothing is so great a delusion and folly as military glory
to the eye of a Christian or philosopher. It is purchased by the tears
and blood of millions, and is rebuked by all that is grand in human
progress. Only degraded and demoralized peoples can ever rejoice in war;
and when it is not undertaken for a great necessity, it fills the world
with bitter imprecations. It is cruel and hard and unjust in its nature,
and utterly antagonistic to civilization. Its greater evils are indeed
overruled; Satan is ever rebuked and baffled by a benevolent Providence.
But war is always a curse and a calamity in its immediate results,--and
in its ultimate results also, unless waged in defence of some
immortal cause.

It must be confessed, war is terribly exciting. The eyes of the
civilized world were concentrated on Frederic II. during this memorable
period; and most people anticipated his overthrow. They read everywhere
of his marchings and counter-marchings, his sieges and battles, his
hair-breadth escapes, and his renewed exertions, from the occupation of
Saxony to the battle of Torgau. In this war he was sometimes beaten, as
at Kolin; but he gained three memorable victories,--one over the French,
at Rossbach; the second, over the Austrians, at Luthen; and the third,
over the Russians, at Zorndorf, the most bloody of all his battles. And
he gained these victories by outflanking, his attack being the form of a
wedge,--learned by the example of Epaminondas,--a device which led to
new tactics, and proclaimed Frederic a master of the art of war. But in
these battles he simply showed himself to be a great general. It was not
until his reverses came that he showed himself a great man, or earned
the sympathy which Europe felt for a humiliated monarch, putting forth
herculean energies to save his crown and kingdom. His easy and great
victories in the first year of the war simply saved him from
annihilation; they were not great enough to secure peace. Although thus
far he was a conqueror, he had no peace, no rest, and but little hope.
His enemies were so numerous and powerful that they could send large
reinforcements: he could draw but few. In time it was apparent that he
would be destroyed, whatever his skill and bravery. Had not the Empress
Elizabeth died, he would have been conquered and prostrated. After his
defeat at Hochkirch, he was obliged to dispute his ground inch by inch,
compelled to hide his grief from his soldiers, financially straitened
and utterly forlorn; but for a timely subsidy from England he would have
been desperate. The fatal battle of Kunnersdorf, in his fourth campaign,
when he lost twenty thousand men, almost drove him to despair; and evil
fortune continued to pursue him in his fifth campaign, in which he lost
some of his strongest fortresses, and Silesia was opened to his enemies.
At one time he had only six days' provisions: the world marvelled how he
held out. Then England deserted him. He made incredible exertions to
avert his doom: everlasting marches, incessant perils; no comforts or
luxuries as a king, only sorrows, privations, sufferings; enduring more
labors than his soldiers; with restless anxieties and blasted hopes. In
his despair and humiliation it is said he recognized God Almighty. In
his chastisements and misfortunes,--apparently on the very brink of
destruction, and with the piercing cries of misery which reached his
ears from every corner of his dominions,--he must, at least, have
recognized a Retribution. Still his indomitable will remained. His pride
and his self-reliance never deserted him; he would have died rather than
have yielded up Silesia until wrested from him. At last the battle of
Torgau, fought in the night, and the death of the Empress of Russia,
removed the overhanging clouds, and he was enabled to contend with
Austria unassisted by France and Russia. But if Maria Theresa could not
recover Silesia, aided by the great monarchies of Europe, what could she
do without their aid? So peace came at last, when all parties were
wearied and exhausted; and Frederic retained his stolen province at the
sacrifice of one hundred and eighty thousand men, and the decline of one
tenth of the whole population of his kingdom and its complete
impoverishment, from which it did not recover for nearly one hundred
years. Prussia, though a powerful military state, became and remained
one of the poorest countries of Europe; and I can remember when it was
rare to see there, except in the houses of the rich, either a silver
fork or a silver spoon; to say nothing of the cheap and frugal fare of
the great mass of the people, and their comfortless kind of life, with
hardly any physical luxuries except tobacco and beer. It is surprising
how, in a poor country, Frederic could have sustained such an exhaustive
war without incurring a national debt. Perhaps it was not as easy in
those times for kings and states to run into debt as it is now. One of
the great refinements of advancing civilization is that we are permitted
to bequeath our burdens to future generations. Time only will show
whether this is the wisest course. It is certainly not a wise thing for
individuals to do. He who enters on the possession of a heavily
mortgaged estate is an embarrassed, perhaps impoverished, man. Frederic,
at least, did not leave debts for posterity to pay; he preferred to pay
as he went along, whatever were the difficulties.

The real gainer by the war, if gainer there was, was England, since she
was enabled to establish a maritime supremacy, and develop her
manufacturing and mercantile resources,--much needed in her future
struggles to resist Napoleon. She also gained colonial possessions, a
foothold in India, and the possession of Canada. This war entangled
Europe, and led to great battles, not in Germany merely, but around the
world. It was during this war, when France and England were antagonistic
forces, that the military genius of Washington was first developed in
America. The victories of Clive and Hastings soon after followed
in India.

The greatest loser in this war was France: she lost provinces and
military prestige. The war brought to light the decrepitude of the
Bourbon rule. The marshals of France, with superior forces, were
disgracefully defeated. The war plunged France in debt, only to be paid
by a "roaring conflagration of anarchies." The logical sequence of the
war was in those discontents and taxes which prepared the way for the
French Revolution,--a catastrophe or a new birth, as men
differently view it.

The effect of the war on Austria was a loss of prestige, the beginning
of the dismemberment of the empire, and the revelation of internal
weakness. Though Maria Theresa gained general sympathy, and won great
glory by her vigorous government and the heroism of her troops, she was
a great loser. Besides the loss of men and money, Austria ceased to be
the great threatening power of Europe. From this war England, until the
close of the career of Napoleon, was really the most powerful state in
Europe, and became the proudest.

As for Prussia,--the principal transgressor and actor,--it is more
difficult to see the actual results. The immediate effects of the war
were national impoverishment, an immense loss of life, and a fearful
demoralization. The limits of the kingdom were enlarged, and its
military and political power was established. It became one of the
leading states of Continental Europe, surpassed only by Austria, Russia,
and France. It led to great standing armies and a desire of
aggrandizement. It made the army the centre of all power and the basis
of social prestige. It made Frederic II. the great military hero of that
age, and perpetuated his policy in Prussia. Bismarck is the sequel and
sequence of Frederic. It was by aggressive and unscrupulous wars that
the Romans were aggrandized, and it was also by the habits and tastes
which successful war created that Rome was ultimately undermined. The
Roman empire did not last like the Chinese empire, although at one
period it had more glory and prestige. So war both strengthens and
impoverishes nations. But I believe that the violation of eternal
principles of right ultimately brings a fearful penalty. It may be long
delayed, but it will finally come, as in the sequel of the wicked wars
of Louis XIV. and Napoleon Bonaparte. Victor Hugo, in his "History of a
Great Crime," on the principle of everlasting justice, forewarned
"Napoleon the Little" of his future reverses, while nations and
kingdoms, in view of his marvellous successes, hailed him as a friend of
civilization; and Hugo lived to see the fulfilment of his prophecy.
Moreover, it may be urged that the Prussian people,--ground down by an
absolute military despotism, the mere tools of an ambitious king,--were
not responsible for the atrocious conquests of Frederic II. The misrule
of monarchs does not bring permanent degradation on a nation, unless it
shares the crimes of its monarch,--as in the case of the Romans, when
the leading idea of the people was military conquest, from the very
commencement of their state. The Prussians in the time of Frederic were
a sincere, patriotic, and religious people. They were simply enslaved,
and suffered the poverty and misery which were entailed by war.

After Frederic had escaped the perils of the Seven Years' War, it is
surprising he should so soon have become a party to another atrocious
crime,--the division and dismemberment of Poland. But here both Russia
and Austria were also participants.

     "Sarmatia fell, unwept, without a crime."

And I am still more amazed that Carlyle should cover up this crime with
his sophistries. No man in ordinary life would be justified in seizing
his neighbor's property because he was weak and his property was
mismanaged. We might as well justify Russia in attempting to seize
Turkey, although such a crime may be overruled in the future good of
Europe. But Carlyle is an Englishman; and the English seized and
conquered India because they wanted it, not because they had a right to
it. The same laws which bind individuals also binds kings and nations.
Free nations from the obligations which bind individuals, and the world
would be an anarchy. Grant that Poland was not fit for self-government,
this does not justify its political annihilation. The heart of the world
exclaimed against that crime at the time, and the injuries of that
unfortunate state are not yet forgotten. Carlyle says the "partition of
Poland was an operation of Almighty Providence and the eternal laws of
Nature,"--a key to his whole philosophy, which means, if it means
anything, that as great fishes swallow up the small ones, and wild
beasts prey upon each other, and eagles and vultures devour other birds,
it is all right for powerful nations to absorb the weak ones, as the
Romans did. Might does not make right by the eternal decrees of God
Almighty, written in the Bible and on the consciences of mankind.
Politicians, whose primal law is expediency, may justify such acts as
public robbery, for they are political Jesuits,--always were, always
will be; and even calm statesmen, looking on the overruling of events,
may palliate; but to enlightened Christians there is only one law, "Do
unto others as ye would that they should do unto you." Nor can Christian
civilization reach an exalted plane until it is in harmony with the
eternal laws of God. Mr. Carlyle glibly speaks of Almighty Providence
favoring robbery; here he utters a falsehood, and I do not hesitate to
say it, great as is his authority. God says, "Thou shalt not steal; Thou
shalt not covet anything which is thy neighbor's, ... for he is a
jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the
third and fourth generation." We must set aside the whole authority of
divine revelation, to justify any crime openly or secretly committed.
The prosperity of nations, in the long run, is based on righteousness;
not on injustice, cruelty, and selfishness.

It cannot be denied that Frederic well managed his stolen property. He
was a man of ability, of enlightened views, of indefatigable industry,
and of an iron will. I would as soon deny that Cromwell did not well
govern the kingdom which he had seized, on the plea of revolutionary
necessity and the welfare of England, for he also was able and wise. But
what was the fruit of Cromwell's well-intended usurpation?--a hideous
reaction, the return of the Stuarts, the dissipation of his visionary
dreams. And if the states which Frederic seized, and the empire he had
founded in blood and carnage had been as well prepared for liberty as
England was, the consequences of his ambition might have been far

But Frederic did not so much aim at the development of national
resources,--the aim of all immortal statesmen,--as at the growth and
establishment of a military power. He filled his kingdom and provinces
with fortresses and camps and standing armies. He cemented a military
monarchy. As a wise executive ruler, the King of Prussia enforced law
and order, was economical in his expenditures, and kept up a rigid
discipline; even rewarded merit, and was friendly to learning. And he
showed many interesting personal qualities,--for I do not wish to make
him out a monster, only as a great man who did wicked things, and things
which even cemented for the time the power of Prussia. He was frugal
and unostentatious. Like Charlemagne, he associated with learned men. He
loved music and literature; and he showed an amazing fortitude and
patience in adversity, which called out universal admiration. He had a
great insight into shams, was rarely imposed upon, and was scrupulous
and honest in his dealings as an individual. He was also a fascinating
man when he unbent; was affable, intelligent, accessible, and unstilted.
He was an admirable talker, and a tolerable author. He always
sympathized with intellectual excellence. He surrounded himself with
great men in all departments. He had good taste and a severe dignity,
and despised vulgar people; had no craving for fast horses, and held no
intercourse with hostlers and gamblers, even if these gamblers had the
respectable name of brokers. He punished all public thieves; so that his
administration at least was dignified and respectable, and secured the
respect of Europe and the admiration of men of ability. The great
warrior was also a great statesman, and never made himself ridiculous,
never degraded his position and powers, and could admire and detect a
man of genius, even when hidden from the world. He was a Tiberius, but
not a Nero fiddling over national calamities, and surrounding himself
with stage-players, buffoons, and idiots.

But here his virtues ended. He was cold, selfish, dissembling,
hard-hearted, ungrateful, ambitious, unscrupulous, without faith in
either God or man; so sceptical in religion that he was almost an
atheist. He was a disobedient son, a heartless husband, a capricious
friend, and a selfish self-idolater. While he was the friend of literary
men, he patronized those who were infidel in their creed. He was not a
religious persecutor, because he regarded all religions as equally false
and equally useful. He was social among convivial and learned friends,
but cared little for women or female society. His latter years, though
dignified and quiet, an idol in all military circles, with an immense
fame, and surrounded with every pleasure and luxury at Sans-Souci, were
still sad and gloomy, like those of most great men whose leading
principle of life was vanity and egotism,--like those of Solomon,
Charles V., and Louis XIV. He heard the distant rumblings, if he did not
live to see the lurid fires, of the French Revolution. He had been
deceived in Voltaire, but he could not mistake the logical sequence of
the ideas of Rousseau,--those blasting ideas which would sweep away all
feudal institutions and all irresponsible tyrannies. When Mirabeau
visited him he was a quaking, suspicious, irritable, capricious, unhappy
old man, though adored by his soldiers to the last,--for those were the
only people he ever loved, those who were willing to die for him, those
who built up his throne: and when he died, I suppose he was sincerely
lamented by his army and his generals and his nobility, for with him
began the greatness of Prussia as a military power. So far as a life
devoted to the military and political aggrandizement of a country makes
a man a patriot, Frederic the Great will receive the plaudits of those
men who worship success, and who forget the enormity of unscrupulous
crimes in the outward glory which immediately resulted,--yea, possibly
of contemplative statesmen who see in the rise of a new power an
instrument of the Almighty for some inscrutable end. To me his character
and deeds have no fascination, any more than the fortunate career of
some one of our modern millionnaires would have to one who took no
interest in finance. It was doubtless grateful to the dying King of
Prussia to hear the plaudits of his idolaters, as he stood on the hither
shores of eternity; but his view of the spectators as they lined those
shores must have been soon lost sight of, and their cheering and
triumphant voices unheard and disregarded, as the bark, in which he
sailed alone, put forth on the unknown ocean, to meet the Eternal Judge
of the living and the dead.

We leave now the man who won so great a fame, to consider briefly his
influence. In two respects, it seems to me, it has been decided and
impressive. In the first place, he gave an impulse to rationalistic
inquiries in Germany; and many there are who think this was a good
thing. He made it fashionable to be cynical and doubtful. Being ashamed
of his own language, and preferring the French, he encouraged the
current and popular French literature, which in his day, under the
guidance of Voltaire, was materialistic and deistical. He embraced a
philosophy which looked to secondary rather than primal causes, which
scouted any revelations that could not be explained by reason, or
reconciled with scientific theories,--that false philosophy which
intoxicated Franklin and Jefferson as well as Hume and Gibbon, and which
finally culminated in Diderot and D'Alembert; the philosophy which
became fashionable in German universities, and whose nearest approach
was that of the exploded Epicureanism of the Ancients. Under the
patronage of the infidel court, the universities of Germany became
filled with rationalistic professors, and the pulpits with dead and
formal divines; so that the glorious old Lutheranism of Prussia became
the coldest and most lifeless of all the forms which Protestantism ever
assumed. Doubtless, great critics and scholars arose under the stimulus
of that unbounded religious speculation which the King encouraged; but
they employed their learning in pulling down rather than supporting the
pillars of the ancient orthodoxy. And so rapidly did rationalism spread
in Northern Germany, that it changed its great lights into _illuminati_,
who spurned what was revealed unless it was in accordance with their
speculations and sweeping criticism. I need not dwell on this
undisguised and blazing fact, on the rationalism which became the
fashion in Germany, and which spread so disastrously over other
countries, penetrating even into the inmost sanctuaries of theological
instruction. All this may be progress; but to my mind it tended to
extinguish the light of faith, and fill the seats of learning with
cynics and unbelieving critics. It was bad enough to destroy the bodies
of men in a heartless war; it was worse to nourish those principles
which poisoned the soul, and spread doubt and disguised infidelities
among the learned classes.

But the influence of Frederic was seen in a more marked manner in the
inauguration of a national policy directed chiefly to military
aggrandizement. If there ever was a purely military monarchy, it is
Prussia; and this kingdom has been to Europe what Sparta was to Greece.
All the successors of Frederic have followed out his policy with
singular tenacity. All their habits and associations have been military.
The army has been the centre of their pride, ambition, and hope. They
have made their country one vast military camp. They have exempted no
classes from military services; they have honored and exalted the army
more than any other interest. The principal people of the land are
generals. The resources of the kingdom are expended in standing armies;
and these are a perpetual menace. A network of military machinery
controls all other pursuits and interests. The peasant is a military
slave. The student of the university can be summoned to a military camp.
Precedence in rank is given to military men over merchant princes, over
learned professors, over distinguished jurists. The genius of the nation
has been directed to the perfection of military discipline and military
weapons. The government is always prepared for war, and has been rarely
averse to it. It has ever been ready to seize a province or pick a
quarrel. The late war with France was as much the fault of Prussia as of
the government of Napoleon. The great idea of Prussia is military
aggrandizement; it is no longer a small kingdom, but a great empire,
more powerful than either Austria or France. It believes in new
annexations, until all Germany shall be united under a Prussian Kaiser.
What Rome became, Prussia aspires to be. The spirit, the animus, of
Prussia is military power. Travel in that kingdom,--everywhere are
soldiers, military schools, camps, arsenals, fortresses, reviews. And
this military spirit, evident during the last hundred years, has made
the military classes arrogant, austere, mechanical, contemptuous. This
spirit pervades the nation. It despises other nations as much as France
did in the last century, or England after the wars of Napoleon.

But the great peculiarity of this military spirit is seen in the large
standing armies, which dry up the resources of the nation and make war a
perpetual necessity, at least a perpetual fear. It may be urged that
these armies are necessary to the protection of the state,--that if they
were disbanded, then France, or some other power, would arise and avenge
their injuries, and cripple a state so potent to do evil. It may be so;
but still the evils generated by these armies must be fatal to liberty,
and antagonistic to those peaceful energies which produce the highest
civilization. They are fatal to the peaceful virtues. The great Schiller
has said:--

                                 "There exists
     An higher than the warrior's excellence.
     Great deeds of violence, adventures wild,
     And wonders of the moment,--these are not they
     Which generate the high, the blissful,
     And the enduring majesty."

I do not disdain the virtues which are developed by war; but great
virtues are seldom developed by war, unless the war is stimulated by
love of liberty or the conservation of immortal privileges worth more
than the fortunes or the lives of men. A nation incapable of being
roused in great necessities soon becomes insignificant and degenerate,
like Greece when it was incorporated with the Roman empire; but I have
no admiration of a nation perpetually arming and perpetually seeking
political aggrandizement, when the great ends of civilization are lost
sight of. And this is what Frederic sought, and his successors who
cherished his ideas. The legacy he bequeathed to the world was not
emancipating ideas, but the policy of military aggrandizement. And yet,
has civilization no higher aim than the imitation of the ancient Romans?
Can nations progressively become strong by ignoring the spirit of
Christianity? Is a nation only to thrive by adopting the sentiments
peculiar to robbers and bandits? I know that Prussia has not neglected
education, or science, or industrial energy; but these have been made
subservient to military aims. The highest civilization is that which
best develops the virtues of the heart and the energies of the mind: on
these the strength of man is based. It may be necessary for Prussia, in
the complicated relations of governments, and in view of possible
dangers, to sustain vast standing armies; but the larger these are, the
more do they provoke other nations to do the same, and to eat out the
vitals of national wealth. That nation is the greatest which seeks to
reduce, rather than augment, forces which prey upon its resources and
which are a perpetual menace. And hence the vast standing armies which
conquerors seek to maintain are not an aid to civilization, but on the
other hand tend to destroy it; unless by civilization and national
prosperity are meant an ever-expanding policy of military
aggrandizement, by which weaker and unoffending states may be gradually
absorbed by irresistible despotism, like that of the Romans, whose final
and logical development proves fatal to all other nationalities and
liberties,--yea, to literature and art and science and industry, the
extinction of which is the moral death of an empire, however grand and
however boastful, only to be succeeded by new creations, through the
fires of successive wars and hateful anarchies.

In one point, and one alone, I see the Providence which permitted the
military aggrandizement to which Frederic and his successors aimed; and
that is, in furnishing a barrier to the future conquests of a more
barbarous people,--I mean the Russians; even as the conquests of
Charlemagne presented a barrier to the future irruptions of barbarous
tribes on his northern frontier. Russia--that rude, demoralized,
Slavonic empire--cannot conquer Europe until it has first destroyed the
political and military power of Germany. United and patriotic, Germany
can keep at present the Russians at bay, and direct the stream of
invasion to the East rather than the south; so that Europe will not
become either Cossack or French, as Napoleon predicted. In this light
the military genius and power of Germany, which Frederic did so much to
develop, may be designed for the protection of European civilization and
the Protestant religion.

But I will not speculate on the aims of Providence, or the evil to be
overruled for good. With my limited vision, I can only present facts and
their immediate consequences. I can only deduce the moral truths which
are logically to be drawn from a career of wicked ambition. These truths
are a part of that moral, wisdom which experience confirms, and which
alone should be the guiding lesson to all statesmen and all empires. Let
us pursue the right, and leave the consequences to Him who rules the
fate of war, and guides the nations to the promised period when men
shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and universal peace shall
herald the reign of the Saviour of the world.


The great work of Carlyle on the Life of Frederic, which exhausts the
subject; Macaulay's Essay on the Life and Times of Frederic the Great;
Carlyle's Essay on Frederic; Lord Brougham on Frederic; Coxe's History
of the House of Austria; Mirabeau's Histoire Secrète de la Cour de
Berlin; Oeuvres de Frédéric le Grand; Ranke's Neuc Bücher Preussischer
Geschichte; Pöllnitz's Memoirs and Letters; Walpole's Reminiscences;
Letters of Voltaire; Voltaire's Idée du Roi de Prusse; Life of Baron
Trenck; Gillies View of the Reign of Frederic II.; Thiebault's Mémoires
de Frédéric le Grand; Biographic Universelle; Thronbesteigung; Holden.

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