Lectures on Modern history
by Baron John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton
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In the midst of foreign armies, and of new combinations disturbing the established balance of Italian Powers, the lesser potentates were exposed to destruction; and there were forces about sufficient, under capable guidance, to remodel the chaotic centre of Italy, where no strong government had ever been constituted. Caesar Borgia recognised the opportunity as soon as the French were at Milan; the Pope was growing old and was clay in his terrible hands. His sister just then became Duchess of Ferrara, on the border of the defenceless region which he coveted; and the dominions of the King of France, his patron and ally, extended to the Adda and the Po. Never had such advantages been united in such a man. For Caesar's talents were of the imperial kind. He was fearless of difficulties, of dangers, and of consequences; and having no preference for right or wrong, he weighed with an equal and dispassionate mind whether it was better to spare a man or to cut his throat. As he did not attempt more than he could perform, his rapid success awakened aspirations for a possible future. He was odious to Venice, but a Venetian, who watched his meteoric course, wonders, in his secret diary, whether this unerring schemer was to be the appointed deliverer. He was a terror to Florence, yet the Florentine secretary, to whom he confided his thoughts in certain critical hours, wrote of him as men have written of Napoleon, and erected a monument to his memory that has secretly fascinated half the politicians in the world.

With his double equipment as a lieutenant of the French king and as a condottiere of the Pope, he began by reviving the dormant authority of Rome, where nominal feudatories held vicarious sway. In the place of many despots struggling not for objects of policy, but for their own existence, there appeared a single state, reaching from sea to sea, from the Campagna to the salt-marshes by the delta of the Po, under a papal prince and gonfaloniere, invested with rights and prerogatives to protect the Holy See, and with power to control it. Rome would have become a dependency of the reigning house of Borgia, as it had been of less capable vassals, and the system might have lasted as long as the brain that devised it. Lorenzo de' Medici once said that his buildings were the only works that would outlast him; and it is common in the secular characters of that epoch, unlike the priesthood, not to believe in those things that are abiding, and not to regard organisations that are humble and obscure at first and bloom by slow degrees for the use of another age.

Caesar's enterprise was not determined or limited by the claims of the Vatican. He served both Pope and king, and his French alliance carried farther than the recovery of the Romagna. Florence became tributary by taking him into pay. Bologna bought him off with a heavy ransom. Venice inscribed his name in the illustrious record of its nobility. None could tell where his ambition or his resources would end, how his inventive genius would employ the rivalry of the invaders, what uses he would devise for the Emperor and the Turk. The era of petty tyranny was closed by the apparition of one superior national tyrant, who could be no worse than twenty, for though his crimes would be as theirs, they would not be useless to the nation, but were thoughtfully designed and executed for the sake of power, the accepted object of politics in a country where the right was known by the result. Caesar was not an unpopular master, and his subjects were true to him in his falling fortunes. The death of Alexander and the decline of the French cause in the South cut short his work in the autumn of 1503. Della Rovere, Cardinal Vincula, whose title came from the Church of St. Peter in Chains, the inflexible enemy of the Borgias, was now Julius II; and after a brief interval he was strong enough to drive Caesar out of the country; while the Venetians, entering the Romagna under ill omens for the Republic, occupied the remnant of his many conquests.

Julius had resisted Alexander, as a man unfit for his function, and it soon appeared that this was not a private feud, but a total reversal of ideas and policy. The change was not felt in religious reform or in patronage of learning, but first in the notion of territorial politics. Caesar had rebuilt the duchy of Romagna in the service of the papacy; and it was the essence of the schemes of Julius that it should be secured for the Holy See, together with all else that could be claimed by right, or acquired by policy and war. The Borgias had prevailed by arms, and Julius would not consent to be their inferior and to condemn his whole career. He must draw the sword; but, unlike them, he would draw it in the direct interest of the Church. He had overthrown the conqueror, not that the conquests might be dissolved, or might go to Venice, but in order that he himself and his successors might have power in Italy, and through Italians, over the world. Upon this foundation he instituted the temporal power, as it subsisted for three centuries. The jealous municipal spirit of the Middle Ages had dissolved society into units, and nothing but force could reverse the tradition and weld the fragments into great communities. Borgia had shown that this could be done; but also that no victorious condottiere, were he even his own son, could be trusted by a Pope. Julius undertook to command his army himself, and to fight at the head of his troops. Letting his white beard grow, putting on armour, and proudly riding his war-horse under fire, he exhibited the most picturesque and romantic figure of his time.

The Venetians, commanding the seaboard with their galleys, were not easy to dislodge from the towns they occupied. Essentially a maritime and commercial Power, their centre of gravity lay so far east that it was once proposed to move the capital from the Lagoons to the Bosphorus. When the advancing Turk damaged their trade and threatened their Colonial empire, they took advantage of Italian disintegration to become a continental state, and the general insecurity and oppression of miniature potentates made it a happy fate to be subject to the serene and politic government, whose 3000 ships still held the sea, flying the Christian flag. Renouncing non-intervention on the mainland, they set power above prosperity, and the interest of the State above the welfare and safety of a thousand patrician houses. Wherever there were troubled waters, the fisher was Venice. All down the Eastern coast, and along the Alpine slopes to the passes which were the trade route to Northern Europe, and still farther, at the expense of Milan and Naples, the patriarch of Aquileia and the Duke of Ferrara, the Emperor and the Pope, the Queen of the Adriatic extended her intelligent sway. It was under the long administration of the Doge Foscari, Byron's hero, that it dawned upon the Venetians that it might be their mission to supersede the frail and helpless governments of the Peninsula; and their famous politician and historian, Paruta, believed that it was in their power to do what Rome had done. Their ambition was evident to their neighbours, and those whom they had despoiled, under every plausible pretext, awaited the opportunity of retribution.

Julius, taking counsel with Machiavelli, found it easy to form a league composed of their enemies. As it was not the interest of the empire, France and Spain, to spite Venice by strengthening each other, the Venetians imagined they could safely hold their ground, leaving the dependent cities to make their own terms with the enemy. Padua held out victoriously against Maximilian, but the battle of Agnadello was lost against the French in the same year 1509, in which, fighting under the Crescent in the Indian Ocean, the Venetians were defeated by the Portuguese, and lost their Eastern trade. They soon obtained their revenge. Having gained his ends by employing France against Venice in the League of Cambray, Julius now allied himself with the Venetians to expel the French from Milan. He had recovered the papal possessions, he had broken the Venetian power, and in this his third effort to reconstitute Italy, he still succeeded, because he had the support of the Venetians and the Swiss. The French gave battle to the Spaniards at Ravenna and to the Swiss at Novara, and then they evacuated the Milanese.

Lewis XII swore that he would wreak vengeance on the papacy, and, in conjunction with the Emperor, opened a Council at Pisa, which was attended by a minority of cardinals. Julius met the attack by calling a general Council to meet at the Lateran, which was the first since the great reforming Council, and was still sitting when Julius died in 1513. Like the Council at Pisa, it was regarded at Rome as a move in the great game of Politics, and it made no serious attempt to heal the longstanding and acknowledged wounds of the Church. Its action spread the belief that the reigning diseases were known, but that the remedy was refused, and that reforms that might help religion were not to be expected from Church or State. Julius II died without having expelled the barbarians, as he had promised. The French were gone, but the Spaniards remained unshaken, and were still the pivot of the operations of the Holy See. The investiture of Naples was granted to Ferdinand of Aragon, and the fairest region in Europe bound Spain irrevocably to the Popes.

Although the Italian scheme of Julius was left half-way, his Roman scheme was completed; the intermittent suzerainty of the Middle Ages was straightened out into effective sovereignty over the half of Central Italy, where anarchy used to reign, and the temporal power was fixed on foundations solid enough to bear the coming diminution of spiritual power. The added splendours of modern royalty, round which cardinals of reigning houses—Medici, Este, Famese, Gonzaga—displayed the pomp and ceremony of semi-regal state, in palaces built by Bramante and Michael Angelo, with the ambassadors and protectors of the Powers, and the heads of princely families that had worn the tiara, made Rome the magnetic pole of aristocratic society. As the capital of an absolute monarchy, as others were, it became associated with principles which, in the Middle Ages, it resisted with spiritual and secular weapons; and the magnitude of the change was apparent when Leo X, by the Concordat of Bologna, conceded to Francis I the choice of bishops and the higher patronage of the Church of France. For Francis on his accession sent an army into Italy, the last work of Julius II was overthrown at Marignano, and France again was master of the Milanese.

The final struggle was to come at the vacancy of the Imperial throne. Ferdinand of Aragon was dead, and Naples passed to the King of undivided Spain. It was the unswerving policy of Rome that it should not be united with the Empire, and against that fixed axiom the strongest dynasty of emperors went to pieces. The Reformation had just begun in Germany, and Leo wished one of the Northern Electors to be chosen as Maximilian's successor. In conformity with the political situation, he would have preferred Frederic of Saxony, the protector of Luther. The election of Charles, in 1519, was a defiance of the Balance of Power, a thing not to the taste of the Middle Ages, but becoming familiar in those days. France, unable formerly to keep Naples against Spain, had now to defend Lombardy against Spain, supported by Germany, Naples, and the Netherlands. Francis maintained the unequal struggle for four years, although his most powerful vassal, Bourbon, brought the enemy to the gates of Marseilles. The decisive action of the long Italian war was fought at Pavia in June 1525, where Francis was taken prisoner, and was compelled to purchase his release by cruel sacrifices.

The years that followed are only a phase in the permanent subjugation of Italy, but they are memorable in another connection. For the triumph of Pavia brought the suppression of the Lutherans within the range of practical politics. The Peasants' War had damaged their position; the Emperor was able now to execute the Imperial decree of Worms, and there were some in Germany who desired it. He made it a condition of his prisoner's deliverance that he should assist in destroying them; and Francis readily offered to do it by coming in person, and bearing half the charge. Charles proposed to take him at his word, when he learnt that the Pope was at the head of a great alliance against him. Pope Clement was advised by the best ecclesiastic in his court, the Datario Giberti, to try one more struggle before the chains were riveted, and before he became, as they said, a Spanish chaplain. It is a war, said Giberti, not for power or dominion, but for the redemption of Italy from perpetual bondage; and he placed his master, for the moment, at the head of the nation. Clement concluded a treaty with the Emperor's enemies at Cognac, released Francis from his oath to observe the Treaty of Madrid, and endeavoured to make Pescara, the victor of Pavia, turn traitor by the prospect of the throne of Naples.

In this way Charles was compelled to turn his arms against Rome. He protested that he would risk all his crowns for the sake of revenge, and appealed to Germany, with its Lutherans, for support. Tell them, he wrote, that they are wanted against the Turk. They will know what Turk we mean. They knew it so well that the landsknechts came provided with silken nooses for the necks of cardinals, besides a gold-thread one for the Pope. He issued a detailed manifesto against him, the work of Valdes, one of the rare Lutherans of Spain; and those who were in the secret expected that the shrift would be short. Francis had intended from the first moment to break his word, and to execute no conditions injurious to France, but he came too late. A large body of Germans poured over the Alps and joined the Spaniards in Lombardy. It was observed afterwards that the Spaniards were the most vindictive, but it was the Germans who made the push for Rome; and Bourbon, on the plea of economy, as he could not pay them, led them through the passes of the Apennines, overthrowing the Medici at Florence on the way. Rome was taken almost without resistance, and Clement shut himself up in St. Angelo, while the city was given over to unmerciful pillage, the prelates were held to ransom, and all the secret treasure was got at by torture. That month of May 1527, with its awful experience, was an end to the pride and the hope and the gladness of the pagan revival; a severe and penitential spirit came over society, preparing to meet the Reformation by reform, and to avert change in doctrine by a change in morality. The sack of Rome, said Cardinal Cajetan, was a just judgment on the sufferers. The city was now the Emperor's, by right of conquest, to bestow as he chose, and the Romans were not unwilling that it should be his capital. Some said that the abolition of the temporal power would secure peace among the Powers, whilst others thought that the consequence would be a patriarch in France, if not in England as well. The last effort of the French being spent, and Doria having gone over to the Emperor, taking with him Genoa, the key of French influence, the chain of transactions which began with the Neapolitan expedition of 1494, concluded in 1530 with the siege of Florence. Charles made peace with France at Cambray, and with the Pope at Barcelona, and received the imperial crown at Bologna.

This was the consummation of the Italian wars, by which the main conditions of modern politics were determined. The conflicts which had lasted for a generation, and the disorder and violence which were older still, were at an end; Italy obtained repose from her master, and spent for centuries her intellect in his service. Pescara, Ferrante, Gonzaga, Philibert Emanuel, Spinola, were the men who made Spain the first of military powers. And Parma's invincible legions, which created Belgium, wrested Antwerp from the Dutch, delivered Paris from Henry IV, and watched the signals of the Armada that they might subdue England, were thronged with Italian infantry. Excepting Venice, strong in her navy and her unapproachable lagoon, Spain dominated thenceforward over Italy, and became, by her ascendency in both Sicilies, a bulwark against the Turks.

Italy passed out of general politics, and was a force in Europe only through Rome. The Conclave, and the creation of cardinals to compose the Conclave, made it a constant school of negotiation and intrigue for the best diplomacy in the world. By favour of the Habsburgs, the papacy obtained a fixed dominion, secure against all comers, requiring no military defence, no wasting and profitless expenditure, nothing to dissolve the mirage of an ideal government, under spiritual and converted men. The pontificates became steadily longer, averaging six years in the sixteenth century, eight in the seventeenth, twelve in the eighteenth, sixteen in the nineteenth, and by the original and characteristic institution which is technically known as nepotism, the selection of a Prime Minister, not from the College of the ecclesiastical aristocracy, but from the family of the reigning sovereign, the tonsured statesmen introduced a dynastic infusion into the fluctuations of elective monarchy.

The triumph and coronation of the Emperor Charles V, when he was superior to all that Europe had beheld since Charlemagne, revived the ancient belief in a supreme authority elevated on alliance with the priesthood, at the expense of the independence and the equipoise of nations. The exploits of Magellan and Cortez, upsetting all habits of perspective, called up vain dreams of the coming immensity of Spain, and roused the phantom of universal empire. The motive of domination became a reigning force in Europe; for it was an idea which monarchy would not willingly let fall after it had received a religious and an international consecration. For centuries it was constantly asserted as a claim of necessity and of right. It was the supreme manifestation of the modern state according to the image which Machiavelli had set up, the state that suffers neither limit nor equality, and is bound by no duty to nations or to men, that thrives on destruction, and sanctifies whatever things contributed to increase of power.

This law of the modern world, that power tends to expand indefinitely, and will transcend all barriers, abroad and at home, until met by superior forces, produces the rhythmic movement of History. Neither race, nor religion, nor political theory has been in the same degree an incentive to the perpetuation of universal enmity and national strife. The threatened interests were compelled to unite for the self-government of nations, the toleration of religions, and the rights of men. And it is by the combined efforts of the weak, made under compulsion, to resist the reign of force and constant wrong, that, in the rapid change but slow progress of four hundred years, liberty has been preserved, and secured, and extended, and finally understood.



GREATER CHANGES than those which were wrought by governments or armies on the battlefield of Italy were accomplished at the same time, thousands of miles away, by solitary adventurers, with the future of the world in their hands. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to understand that the ocean is not a limit, but the universal waterway that unites mankind. Shut in by Spain, they could not extend on land, and had no opening but the Atlantic. Their arid soil gave little scope to the territorial magnate, who was excluded from politics by the growing absolutism of the dynasty, and the government found it well to employ at a distance forces that might be turbulent at home.

The great national work of exploration did not proceed from the State. The Infante Henry had served in the African wars, and his thoughts were drawn towards distant lands. He was not a navigator himself; but from his home at Sagres, on the Sacred Promontory, he watched the ships that passed between the great maritime centre at the mouth of the Tagus and the regions that were to compose the Portuguese empire. As Grandmaster of the Order of Christ he had the means to equip them, and he rapidly occupied the groups of islands that lie between Africa and mid Atlantic, and that were a welcome accession to the narrow territory of Portugal. Then he sent his mariners to explore the coast of the unknown and dreaded continent. When they reached the Senegal and the Gambia, still more, when the coast of Guinea trended to the East, they remembered Prester John, and dreamed of finding a way to his fictitious realm which would afford convenient leverage for Christendom, at the back of the dark world that faced the Mediterranean.

As the trade of the country did not cover the outlay, Henry began in 1442 to capture negroes, who were imported as slaves, or sold with advantage to local chiefs. In five years, 927 blacks from Senegambia reached the Lisbon market; and, later on, the Guinea coast supplied about a thousand every year. That domestic institution was fast disappearing from Europe when it was thus revived; and there was some feeling against the Infante, and some temporary sympathy for his victims. On the other side, there were eminent divines who thought that the people of hot countries may properly be enslaved. Henry the Navigator applied to Rome, and Nicholas V issued Bulls authorising him and his Portuguese to make war on Moors and pagans, seize their possessions, and reduce them to perpetual slavery, and prohibiting all Christian nations, under eternal penalties, from trespassing on the privilege. He applauded the trade in negroes, and hoped that it would end in their conversion. Negro slavery struck no deep root in Europe. But the delusion, says Las Casas, lasted to his own time, when, half a century after the death of its founder, it began to control the destinies of America.

Henry's brother, the Regent Dom Pedro, had visited the courts of Europe, and brought Marco Polo's glowing narrative of his travels in the Far East, still, in Yule's edition, one of the most fascinating books that can be found. Emmanuel the Great, in the Charter rewarding Vasco da Gama, affirms that, from 1433, the Infante pursued his operations with a view to India. After his death, in 1460, they were carried on by the State, and became a secondary purpose, dependent on public affairs. Africa was farmed out for some years, on condition that a hundred leagues of coast were traced annually. There was a moment of depression, when the Guinea coast, having run eastward for a thousand miles and more, turned south, apparently without end. Toscanelli of Florence was a recognised authority on the geography of those days, and he was asked what he thought of the situation. No oracle ever said anything so wise as the answer of the Tuscan sage. For he told them that India was to be found not in the East, but in the West; and we shall see what came of it twenty years later, when his letter fell into predestined hands. The Portuguese were not diverted from their aim. They knew quite well that Africa does not stretch away for ever, and that it needed only a few intrepid men to see the end of it, and to reach an open route to Eastern Asia. They went on, marking their advance beyond the Congo, and erected crosses along the coast to signify their claim; but making no settlements, for Africa was only an obstruction on the way to the Indies.

Each successive voyage was made under a different commander, until 1486, when the squadron of Bartholomew Diaz was blown offshore, out into the Atlantic. When the storm fell he sailed east until he had passed the expected meridian of Africa, and then, turning northward, struck land far beyond Cape Agulhas. He had solved the problem, and India was within his reach. His men soon after refused to go farther, and he was forced to renounce the prize. On his way back he doubled the Cape, which, from his former experience, he called the Cape Tempestuous, until the king, showing that he understood, gave it a name of better omen. Nevertheless, Portugal did no more for ten years, the years that were made memorable by Spain. Then, under a new king, Emmanuel the Fortunate, Vasco da Gama went out to complete the unfinished work of Diaz, lest Columbus, fulfilling the prophecy of Toscanelli, should reach Cathay by a shorter route, and rob them of their reward. The right man had been found. It was all plain sailing; and he plucked the ripe fruit. Vasco da Gama's voyage to the Cape was the longest ever made till then. At Malindi, on the equatorial east coast of Africa, he found a pilot, and, striking across the Indian Ocean by the feeble monsoon of 1497, sighted the Ghats in May. The first cargo from India covered the expenses many times over. The splendour of the achievement was recognised at once, and men were persuaded that Emmanuel would soon be the wealthiest of European monarchs. So vast a promise of revenue required to be made secure by arms, and a force was sent out under Cabral.

The work thus attempted in the East seemed to many too much for so small a kingdom. They objected that the country would break its back in straining so far; that the soil ought first to be cultivated at home; that it would be better to import labour from Germany than to export it to India. Cabral had not been many weeks at sea when these murmurs received a memorable confirmation. Following the advice of Da Gama to avoid the calms of the Gulf of Guinea, he took a westerly course, made the coast of South America, and added, incidentally and without knowing it, a region not much smaller than Europe to the dominions of his sovereign.

The Portuguese came to India as traders, not as conquerors, and desired, not territory, but portable and exchangeable commodities. But the situation they found out there compelled them to wage war in unknown seas, divided from supports, and magazines, and docks by nearly half the globe. They made no attempt on the interior, for the Malabar coast was shut off by a range of lofty mountains. Their main object was the trade of the Far East, which was concentrated at Calicut, and was then carried by the Persian Gulf to Scanderoon and Constantinople, or by Jeddah to Suez and Alexandria. There the Venetians shipped the products of Asia to the markets of Europe. But on the other side of the isthmus the carrying trade, all the way to the Pacific, was in the hands of Moors from Arabia and Egypt. The Chinese had disappeared before them from Indian waters, and the Hindoos were no mariners. They possessed the monopoly of that which the Portuguese had come to take, and they were enemies of the Christian name. The Portuguese required not their share in the trade, but the monopoly itself. A deadly conflict could not be avoided. By the natives, they were received at first as friends; and Vasco da Gama, who took the figures of the Hindoo Pantheon for saints of the Catholic Calendar, reported that the people of India were Christians. When this illusion was dispelled, it was a consolation to find the Nestorians settled at Cochin, which thus became a Portuguese stronghold, which their best soldier, Duarte Pacheco, held against a multitude. Calicut, where they began operations, has disappeared like Earl Godwin's estate. Forbes, who was there in 1772, writes: "At very low water I have occasionally seen the waves breaking over the tops of the highest temples and minarets." It was an international city, where 1500 vessels cleared in a season, where trade was open and property secure, and where the propagation of foreign religion was not resented.

The Zamorin, as they called the Rajah of Calicut, ended by taking part with the old friends from the Arabian Seas, who supplied his country with grain, against the visitors who came in questionable shape. The Portuguese lacked the diplomatic graces, and disregarded the art of making friends and acquiring ascendency by the virtues of humanity and good faith. When it came to blows, they acquitted themselves like men conscious that they were the pioneers of History, that their footsteps were in the van of the onward march, that they were moulding the future, and making the world subservient to civilisation. They were Crusaders, coming the other way, and robbing the Moslem of their resources. The shipbuilding of the Moors depended on the teak forests of Calicut; the Eastern trade enriched both Turk and Mameluke, and the Sultan of Egypt levied duty amounting to L290,000 a year. Therefore he combined with the Venetians to expel the common enemy from Indian waters. In 1509 their fleet was defeated by the Viceroy Almeida near Diu, off the coast of Kattywar, where the Arabian seaman comes in sight of India. It was his last action before he surrendered power to his rival, the great Albuquerque. Almeida sought the greatness of his country not in conquest but in commerce. He discouraged expeditions to Africa and to the Moluccas; for he believed that the control of Indian traffic could be maintained by sea power, and that land settlements would drain the resources of the nation. Once the Moslem traders excluded, Portugal would possess all it wanted, on land and sea.

Almeida's successor, who had the eye of Alexander the Great for strategic points and commercial centres, was convinced that sea-power, at six months from home, rests on the occupation of seaports, and he carried the forward policy so far that Portugal possessed fifty-two establishments, commanding 15,000 miles of coast, and held them, nominally, with 20,000 men. Almeida's victory had broken the power of the Moors. Albuquerque resolved to prevent their reappearance by closing the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. With Aden, Ormuz, and Malacca, he said, the Portuguese are masters of the world. He failed in the Red Sea. When Socotra proved insufficient, he attacked Aden, and was repulsed. There was a disconcerting rumour that no Christian vessel could live in the Red Sea, as there was a loadstone that extracted the nails. Albuquerque succeeded in the Persian Gulf, and erected a fortress at Ormuz, and at the other end of the Indian world he seized Malacca, and became master of the narrow seas, and of all the produce from the vast islands under the equator. He made Goa the impregnable capital of his prodigious empire, and the work that he did was solid. He never perceived the value of Bombay, which is the best harbour in Asia, and did not see that the key of India is the Cape of Good Hope. His language was sometimes visionary. He beheld a cross shining in the heavens, over the kingdom of Prester John, and was eager for an alliance with him. He wished to drain the Nile into the Red Sea. He would attack Mecca and Medina, carry off the bones of the prophet, and exchange them for the Holy Sepulchre. The dependency was too distant and too vast. The dread proconsul in his palace at Goa, who was the mightiest potentate between Mozambique and China, was too great a servant for the least of European kings. Emmanuel was suspicious. He recalled the victorious Almeida, who perished on the way home; and Albuquerque was in disgrace, when he died on his quarter-deck, in sight of the Christian city which he had made the capital of the East.

The secret of Portuguese prosperity was the small bulk and the enormous market value of the particular products in which they dealt. In those days men had to do without tea, or coffee, or chocolate, or tobacco, or quinine, or coca, or vanilla, and sugar was very rare. But there were the pepper and the ginger of Malabar, cardamoms in the damp district of Tellicherry; cinnamon and pearls in Ceylon. Beyond the Bay of Bengal, near the equator, there was opium, the only conqueror of pain then known; there were frankincense and indigo; camphor in Borneo; nutmeg and mace in Amboyna; and in two small islands, only a few miles square, Ternate and Tidor, there was the clove tree, surpassing all plants in value. These were the real spice islands, the enchanted region which was the object of such passionate desire; and their produce was so cheap on the spot, so dear in the markets of Antwerp and London, as to constitute the most lucrative trade in the world. From these exotics, grown on volcanic soil, in the most generous of the tropical climates, the profit was such that they could be paid for in precious metals. When Drake was at Ternate in 1579, he found the Sultan hung with chains of bullion, and clad in a robe of gold brocade rich enough to stand upright. The Moluccas were of greater benefit to the Crown than to the Portuguese workman. About twenty ships, of 100 to 550 tons, sailed for Lisbon in the year. A voyage sometimes lasted two years out and home, and cost, including the ship, over L4000. But the freight might amount to L150,000. Between 1497 and 1612 the number of vessels engaged in the India trade was 806. Of these, ninety-six were lost. After the annexation by Philip II, Lisbon was closed to countries at war with Spain. Dutch and English had to make their own bargains in the East, and treated Portugal as an enemy. Their empire declined rapidly, and the Dutch acquired the islands long before the English succeeded on the mainland of India.

The Portuguese acknowledged no obligations of international law towards Asiatics. Even now, many people know of no law of nations but that which consists in contracts and conventions; and with the people of the East there were none. They were regarded as outlaws and outcasts, nearly as Bacon regarded the Spaniards and Edmund Burke the Turks. Solemn instruments had declared it lawful to expropriate and enslave Saracens and other enemies of Christ. What was right in Africa could not be wrong in Asia. Cabral had orders to treat with fire and sword any town that refused to admit either missionary or merchant. Barros, the classic historian of Portuguese Asia, says that Christians have no duties towards pagans; and their best writers affirm to this day that such calculated barbarities as they inflicted on women and children were justified by the necessity of striking terror. In the Commentaries of the great Albuquerque, his son relates with complacency how his father caused the Zamorin to be poisoned. These theories demoralised the entire government. S. Francis Xavier, who came out in 1542, found an organised system of dishonesty and plunder, and wrote home that no official in India could save his soul. By him and his brethren many converts were made, and as intermarriages were frequent, the estrangement grew less between the races. Just then, the Inquisition was introduced into Portugal, and sent a branch to Goa. One of the governors afterwards reported that it had helped to alienate the natives, whose temples were closed. But the solid structure of Almeida and Albuquerque was strong enough to defeat a second expedition from Egypt, after Egypt had become a province of Turkey, and an Indian war and insurrection. It declined with the decline of Portugal under Sebastian, in the latter part of the sixteenth century, but it perished through its association with Spain, at the hands of enemies not its own, and not from internal causes.

While the Asiatic empire was built up by the sustained and patient effort of a nation, during seventy years, the discovery of the West was due to one eager and original intellect, propelled by medieval dreams. Columbus had sailed both North and South; but the idea which changed the axis of the globe came to him from books. He failed to draw an inference favourable to his design from the driftwood which a tropical current carries to Iceland, and proceeded on the assurance of Pierre d'Ailly and of Toscanelli, that Asia reaches so far east as to leave but a moderate interval between Portugal and Japan. Although he rested his case on arguments from the classics and the prophets, his main authority was Toscanelli; but it is uncertain whether, as he affirmed, they had been in direct correspondence, or whether Columbus obtained the letter and the Chart of 1474 by means which were the cause of his disgrace.

Rejected by Portugal, he made his way into Spain. He was found, starving, at the gate of a Franciscan convent; and the place where he sank down is marked by a monument, because it is there that our modern world began. The friar who took him in and listened to his story soon perceived that this ragged mendicant was the most extraordinary person he had known, and he found him patrons at the court of Castile. The argument which Columbus now laid before the learned men of Spain was this: The eastern route, even if the Portuguese succeed in finding it, would be of no use to them, as the voyage to Cipango, to Cathay, even to the spice islands, would be too long for profit. It was better to sail out into the West, for that route would be scarcely 3000 miles to the extremity of Asia; the other would be 15,000, apart from the tremendous circuit of Africa, the extent of which was ascertained by Diaz while Columbus was pursuing his uphill struggle. The basis of the entire calculation was that the circumference of the earth is 18,000 miles at the equator, and that Asia begins, as is shown in Toscanelli's chart, somewhere about California. Misled by his belief in cosmographers, he blotted out the Pacific, and estimated the extent of water to be traversed at one-third of the reality. The Spaniards, who were consulted, pointed out the flaw, for the true dimensions were known; but they were unable to demonstrate the truths against the great authorities cited on the other side. The sophisms of Columbus were worth more than all the science of Salamanca. The objectors who called him a visionary were in the right, and he was obstinately wrong. To his auspicious persistency in error Americans owe, among other things, their existence.

A majority reported favourably—a majority composed, it would appear, of ignorant men. Years were spent in these preliminaries, and then the war with Granada absorbed the resources and the energies of the Crown. Columbus was present when the last Moorish king kissed the hand of Isabella, and he saw the cross raised over the Alhambra. This victory of Christendom was immediately followed by the expulsion of the Jews, and then the Catholic queen gave audience to the Genoese projector. His scheme belonged to the same order of ideas, and he was eloquent on its religious aspect. He would make so many slaves as to cover all expenses, and would have them baptized. He would bring home gold enough in three years to reconquer Palestine. He had one impressive argument which was not suggested by the situation at Court. Toscanelli had been at Rome when envoys came from the Grand Khan, petitioning for missionaries to instruct his people in the doctrines of Christianity. Two such embassies were sent, but their prayer was not attended to. Here were suppliants calling out of the darkness: Come over and help us. It was suitable that the nation which conquered the Moslem and banished the Jews should go on to convert the heathen. The Spaniards would appear in the East, knowing that their presence was desired. In reality they would come in answer to an invitation, and might look for a welcome. Making up by their zeal for the deficient enterprise of Rome, they might rescue the teeming millions of Farthest Asia, and thus fulfil prophecy, as there were only a hundred and fifty-five years to the end of the world. The conversion of Tartary would be the crowning glory of Catholic Spain.

All this was somewhat hypothetical and vague; but nothing could be more definite than the reward which he demanded. For it appeared that what this forlorn adventurer required for himself was to be admiral of the Atlantic, ranking with the constable of Castile, Viceroy with power of life and death, in the regions to be occupied, and a large proportion of the intended spoil. And he would accept no less. None divined what he himself knew not, that the thing he offered in return was dominion over half the world. Therefore, when he found that this would not do, Columbus saddled his mule and took the road to France. In that superb moment he showed what man he was, and the action was more convincing than his words had been. An Aragonese official, Santangel, found the money, the L1500 required for the expedition, and the traveller was overtaken by an alguazil a couple of leagues away, and recalled to Granada. Santangel was, by descent, a Jew. Several of his kindred suffered under the Inquisition, before and after, and he fortified himself against the peril of the hour when he financed the first voyage of Columbus. Granada fell on the 2nd of January 1492. The Jews were expelled on the 10th of March. On the 17th of April the contract with Columbus was signed at Santa Fe. The same crusading spirit, the same motive of militant propagandism, appears in each of the three transactions. And the explorer, at this early stage, was generally backed by the clergy. Juan Perez, the hospitable Franciscan, was his friend; and Mendoza, the great cardinal of Toledo, and Deza, afterwards Archbishop of Seville. Talavera, the Archbishop of Granada, found him too fanciful to be trusted.

Sailing due west from the Canaries he crossed the Atlantic in its widest part. The navigation was prosperous and uneventful until, changing their course to follow the flight of birds, they missed the continent and came upon the islands. It was the longest voyage that had ever been attempted in the open sea; but the passage itself, and the shoals and currents of the West Indies, were mastered with the aid of nautical instruments from Nuremberg, and of the Ephemerides of Regiomontanus. These were recent achievements of the Renaissance, and without them the undertaking was impossible. Even with the new appliances, Columbus was habitually wrong in his measurements. He put Cuba 18 degrees too far to the west; he thought San Domingo as large as Spain; and he saw mountains 50,000 feet high in Yucatan. Indeed, he protested that his success was not due to science, but to the study of the prophet Isaiah. Above all things, he insisted that Cuba was part of the Asiatic continent, and obliged his companions to testify to the same belief, although there is evidence that he did not share it.

He had promised Cathay. If he produced an unknown continent instead, a continent many thousands of miles long, prohibiting approach to Cathay, he would undo his own work; the peasants who had exposed his fallacies would triumph in his failure, and the competing Portuguese would appropriate all that he had undertaken to add to the crown of Castile. Without civilisation and gold his discoveries would be valueless; and there was so little gold at first that he at once proposed to make up for it in slaves. His constant endeavour was not to be mistaken for the man who discovered the new world. Somewhere in the near background he still beheld the city with the hundred bridges, the crowded bazaar, the long train of caparisoned elephants, the palace with the pavement of solid gold. Naked savages skulking in the forest, marked down by voracious cannibals along the causeway of the Lesser Antilles, were no distraction from the quest of the Grand Khan. The facts before him were uninteresting and provisional, and were overshadowed by the phantoms that crowded his mind. The contrast between the gorgeous and entrancing vision and the dismal and desperate reality made the position a false one. He went on seeking gold when it was needful to govern, and proved an incapable administrator. Long before his final voyage he had fallen into discredit, and he died in obscurity.

Many miserable years passed after his death before America began, through Cortez, to weigh perceptibly in the scales of Europe. Landing at Lisbon from his first expedition, Columbus, in all his glory, had an audience of the king. It was six years since Diaz proved that the sea route to India was perfectly open, but no European had since set eyes on the place where Table Mountain looks down on the tormented Cape. Portugal apparently had renounced the fruits of his discovery. It was now reported that a Spanish crew had found in the West what the Portuguese had been seeking in the East, and that the Papal privilege had been infringed. The king informed Columbus that the regions he had visited belonged to Portugal. It was evident that some limit must be drawn separating the respective spheres. Rome had forbidden Spain from interfering with the expeditions of Portugal, and the Spaniards accordingly demanded a like protection. On the surface, there was no real difficulty. Three Bulls were issued in 1493, two in May and one in September, admonishing Portuguese mariners to keep to the east of a line drawn about 35 degrees west of Greenwich. That line of demarcation was suggested by Columbus, as corresponding with a point he had reached on 13th September, 100 leagues beyond the Azores. On that day the needle, which had pointed east of the Pole, shifted suddenly to the west. There, he reckoned, was the line of No Variation. At that moment, the climate changed. There was a smooth sea and a balmy air; there was a new heaven and a new earth. The fantastic argument did not prevail, and in the following year Spain and Portugal agreed, by the treaty of Tordesillas, to move the dividing meridian farther west, about midway between the most westerly island of the Old World and the most easterly island of the New. By this agreement, superseding the Papal award, Portugal obtained Brazil. When the lines of demarcation were drawn in 1493 and 1494, nobody knew where they would cut the equator on the other side of the globe. There also was matter for later negotiation.

After the fall of Malacca, Albuquerque sent a squadron to examine the region of islands farther east. One of his officers, Serrano, remained out there, and after as many adventures as Robinson Crusoe, he found his way to the very heart of the Moluccas, to Ternate, the home of the clove. In describing his travels to a friend, he made the most of the distance traversed in his eastward course. Magellan, to whom the letter was addressed, was out of favour with his commander Albuquerque, and on his return home found that he was out of favour with King Emmanuel. For the country which had repelled Columbus repelled the only navigator who was superior to Columbus. Magellan remembered Serrano's letter, and saw what could be made of it. He told the Spaniards that the spice islands were so far east that they were in the Spanish hemisphere, and he undertook to occupy them for Spain. He would sail, not east, but west, in the direction which was legally Spanish. For he knew a course that no man knew, and America, hitherto the limit of Spanish enterprise, would be no obstacle to him.

It seemed an apparition of Columbus, more definite and rational, without enthusiasm or idealism, or quotations from Roger Bacon, and Seneca, and the greater prophets. Cardinal Adrian, the Regent, refused to listen, but Fonseca, the President of the Board of Control, became his protector. Magellan wanted a good deal of protection; for his adventure was injurious to his countrymen, and was regarded by them as the intrigue of a traitor. Vasconcellos, Bishop of Lamego, afterwards Archbishop of Lisbon, advised that he should be murdered; and at night he was guarded in the streets of Valladolid by Fonseca's men. Magellan was not the first to believe that America comes to an end somewhere. Vespucci had guessed it; the extremity is marked on a globe of 1515; and a mercantile house that advanced funds is supposed to have been on the track.

Without a chart Magellan made his way through the perilous straits that perpetuate his name in twelve days' sailing. Drake, who came next, in 1577, took seventeen days, and Wallis, one hundred and sixteen. And then, at Cape Deseado, the unbroken highway to the fabled East, which had been closed against Columbus, opened before him. The Spaniards discovered Cape Horn five years later, but it was doubled for the first time in 1616 by the Dutchman who gave his name to it. From the coast of Chili, Magellan sailed north-west for three months, missing all the Pacific Islands until he came to the Ladrones. He was killed while annexing the Philippines to the Crown of Spain, and his lieutenant Delcano, the first circumnavigator, brought the remnant of his crew home by the Cape. On 9th September, 1522, thirteen wasted pilgrims passed barefoot in procession through the streets of Seville, not so much in thanksgiving for that which had not been given to man since the Creation, as in penance for having mysteriously lost a day, and kept their feasts and fasts all wrong. Magellan's acquisition of the Philippines lasted to the present year (1899), but his design on the Moluccas was given up. Nobody knew, until the voyage of Dampier, to whom, by the accepted boundary, they belonged; and in 1529 Spain abandoned its claim for 350,000 ducats. The Portuguese paid that price for what was by right their own; for Magellan was entirely wrong both as to the meridian and as to the South American route, which was much the longest, and was not followed by sailors.

For more than twenty years Spain struggled vainly with the West Indian problem. Four large islands and forty small ones, peopled by barbarians, were beyond the range of Spanish experience in the art of government. Grants of land were made, with the condition that the holder should exercise a paternal rule over the thriftless inhabitants. It was thought to pay better to keep them underground, digging for gold, than to employ them on the surface. The mortality was overwhelming; but the victims awakened little sympathy. Some belonged to that Arcadian race that was the first revealed by the landfall of Columbus, and they were considered incurably indolent and vicious. The remainder came from the mainland and the region of the Orinoco, and had made their way by the Windward Islands as far as San Domingo, devouring the people they found there. Neither the stronger nor the weaker race withstood the exhausting labour to which they were put by taskmasters eager for gold. Entire villages committed suicide together; and the Spaniards favoured a mode of correction which consisted in burning Indians alive by a slow fire. Las Casas, who makes these statements, and who may be trusted for facts and not for figures, affirms that fifty millions perished in his time, and fifteen millions were put to death.

Without a fresh labour supply, the colony would be ruined. It was the office of the clergy to prove that this treatment of the natives was short-sighted and criminal, and their cause was taken up by the Dominican missionaries. In 1510 the preacher Montesino, taking for his text the words, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness," denounced the practice. Their mouthpiece with the Home Government, their immortal mouthpiece with posterity, is Las Casas, whose narrative is our authority. The government was anxious to preserve conquests that began to yield some profit. They appointed Commissions to advise, and followed sometimes one report, sometimes the other, taking generally the line of least resistance. The most important Commission of all, in which Las Casas asserted the duties of Christians and the rights of savages, against Sepulveda, who denied them, never came to a decision.

Failing the native supply, the Spaniards substituted negroes. The slaves forwarded by Columbus had been sent back with tokens of the queen's displeasure, and Ximenes would not permit the importation of Africans. But the traffic went on, and the Indies were saved. Under Charles V 1000 slaves were allotted to each of the four islands. It did not seem an intolerable wrong to rescue men from the devil-worshippers who mangled their victims on the Niger or the Congo. Las Casas himself was one of those who advised that the negro should be brought to the relief of the Carib, and he would have allotted twelve slaves to each settler. He survived half a century, lived to lament his error, and declared his repentance to the world. He repented from motives of humanity rather than from principle; his feelings were more sensitive than his conscience, and he resembled the imperious Parliaments of George III which upheld the slave trade until imaginations were steeped in the horrors of the middle passage.

The supreme moment in the conquest of America is the landing of Cortez at Vera Cruz in 1521. He was an insubordinate officer acting in defiance of orders, and the governor of Cuba, in just indignation, despatched a force under Narvaez to bring him back. Cortez came down from the interior to the coast, deprived Narvaez of his command, and took possession of his men. With this unexpected reinforcement he was able to conquer Mexico, the capital of an illimitable empire. There was plenty of hard fighting, for the dominant race about the king was warlike. They were invaders, who reigned by force, and as they worshipped beings of the nether world who were propitiated with human sacrifice, they took their victims from the subject people, and their tyranny was the most hateful upon earth. The Spaniards, coming as deliverers, easily found auxiliaries against the government that practised unholy rites in the royal city. When Mexico fell Cortez sent a report to Charles V, with the first-fruits of his victory. Then, that no protesting narrative might follow and weaken his own, that his men might have no hope except in his success, he took the most daring resolution of his life, and scuttled his ships. Fonseca had signed the order for his arrest, when the most marvellous tale in that sequence of marvels reached his hands, and the disgraced mutineer was found to have added to the Emperor's dominions a region many times vaster and wealthier than all he possessed in Europe. In 1522 the accumulated treasure which had been extracted from Mexican mines since the beginning of ages came pouring into the imperial exchequer, and the desire of so many explorers during thirty unprofitable years was fulfilled at last.

Cortez was not only the most heroic of the Conquistadors, for there was no lack of good soldiers, but he was an educated man, careful to import the plants and quadrupeds needed for civilisation, and a statesman capable of ruling mixed races without help from home. From the moment of his appearance the New World ceased to be a perplexing burden to Spain, and began to foreshadow danger and temptation to other nations. And a man immeasurably inferior to him, a man who could not write his name, whose career, in its glory and its shame, was a servile imitation, almost a parody, of his own, succeeded thereby in establishing a South American empire equal to that of Cortez in the North. One of the ships sailing from the islands to the isthmus carried a stowaway hidden in a cask, whose name was Balboa, and who discovered the Pacific.

The third name is Francisco Pizarro. He stood by and listened while a native described a mighty potentate, many days to the south, who reigned over the mountains and the sea, who was rich in gold, and who possessed a four-footed beast of burden, the only one yet encountered, which was taken at first for a camel. He waited many years for his opportunity. Then, with 168 armed men, and with aid from an associate who risked his money in the business, he started for the Andes and the civilised and prosperous monarchy in the clouds, which he had heard of when he was the lieutenant of Balboa. The example of Cortez, the fundamental fact of American history, had shown what could be done by getting hold of the king, and by taking advantage of internal dissension. How much could be accomplished by treachery and unflinching vigour Pizarro knew without a teacher. Whilst he established his power in the highlands under the equator, Almagro occupied the coast in the temperate zone, 1000 miles farther. Together they had conquered the Pacific. Then, as no man had the ascendency of Cortez, the time that succeeded the occupation was disturbed by internal conflict, in which both the conquerors perished. They had done even more for the Spanish empire than their greater rival. There were 4,600,000 ducats in the treasury of the Inca, and he filled his prison with gold as high as he could reach for the ransom which did not save his life. The mines were soon in working order; and, as the expanse of fertile soil was 3000 miles long, it was clear that Peru, added to Mexico, constituted an important factor in European finance.

As time carried away the tumult of conquest, and the evil generation that achieved it, Spanish America became the seat of such abundance and profusion as was not found in any European capital; and the natives, instructed and regulated by the missionaries, were the object of an elaborate protective legislation, which gave reason for attachment to the mother country. The prodigality of nature was too much for tropical society, and it accomplished nothing of its own for the mind of man. It influenced the position of classes in Europe by making property obtained from afar, in portable shape, predominate over property at home. Released from the retarding pressure of accumulated years, it developed towards revolution; and all the colonies founded by the Conquistadors on the continent of America became Republics. These events shifted the centre of political gravity from land to sea. The resources of the ocean world extended the physical basis of modern History; and increase of wealth, involving increase of power, depended thenceforward on the control of distant regions. Vasco da Gama created a broad channel for the pursuit of Empire, and Columbus remodelled the future of the world. For History is often made by energetic men, steadfastly following ideas, mostly wrong, that determine events.



NEXT TO the discovery of the New World, the recovery of the ancient world is the second landmark that divides us from the Middle Ages and marks the transition to modern life. The Renaissance signifies the renewed study of Greek, and the consequences that ensued from it, during the century and a half between Petrarca and Erasmus. It had survived, as a living language, among Venetian colonists and Calabrian monks, but exercised no influence on literature.

The movement was preceded by a Roman revival, which originated with Rienzi. Rome had been abandoned by the Papacy, which had moved from the Tiber to the Rhone, where it was governed by Frenchmen from Cahors, and had fallen, like any servile country, into feudal hands. Rienzi restored the Republic, revived the self-government of the city, the memories attached to the Capitol, the inscriptions, the monuments of the men who had ruled the world. The people, no longer great through the Church, fell back on the greatness which they inherited from ancient times. The spell by which the Tribune directed their palm was archaeology. In front of the Capitoline temple, near the Tapeian rock and the She Wolf's cave, he proclaimed their rights over the empire and the nations; and he invited the people of Italy to a national parliament for the restoration of Italian unity and of the ancient glory and power of Rome. Patriotism, national independence, popular liberty, all were founded on antiquarian studies and the rhetorical interpretation of the fragments of the Lex Regia.

Thee political scheme of Rienzi failed, but it started a movement in the world of thought deeper and more enduring than State transactions. For his ideas were adopted by the greatest writer then living, and were expounded by him in the most eloquent and gracious prose that had been heard for a thousand years. Petrarca called the appearance of the patriotic tribune and rhetorician the dawn of a new world and a golden age. Like him, he desired to purge the soil of Italy from the barbaric taint. It became the constant theme of the Humanists to protest against the foreign intruder, that is, against the feudal noble the essential type of the medieval policy. It is the link between Rienzi, the dreamer of dreams, and the followers of Petrarca. Bocaccio had already spoken of the acceptable blood of tyrants.

But the political influence of antiquity, visible at first, made way for a purely literary influence. The desire for good Latin became injurious to Italian, and Petrarca censured Dante for his error in composing the Divine Comedy in the vulgar tongue. He even regretted that the Decamerone was not written in Latin, and refused to read what his friend had written for the level of uneducated men. The classics became, in the first place, the model and the measure of style; and the root of the Renaissance was the persuasion that a man who could write like Cicero had an important advantage over a man who wrote like Bartolus or William of Ockham; and that ideas radiant with beauty must conquer ideas clouded over with dialectics. In this, there was an immediate success. Petrarca and his imitators learnt to write excellent Latin. Few of them had merit as original thinkers, and what they did for erudition was done all over again, and incomparably better, by the scholars who appeared after the tempest of the Reformation had gone down. But they were excellent letter writers. In hundreds of volumes, from Petrarca to Sadolet and Pole, we can trace every idea and mark every throb. It was the first time that the characters of men were exposed with analytic distinctness; the first time indeed that character could be examined with accuracy and certitude.

A new type of men began with Petrarca, men accustomed to introspection, who selected their own ideals, and moulded their minds to them. The medieval system could prepare him for death; but, seeing the vicissitudes of fortune and the difficulties of life, he depended on the intellectual treasures of the ancient world, on the whole mass of accessible wisdom, to develop him all round. To men ignorant of Greek, like the first generation of the Renaissance, the fourteenth-century men, much in ancient philosophy was obscure. But one system, that of the Stoics, they studied deeply, and understood, for they had the works of Seneca. For men craving for self-help and the complete training of the faculties, eager to escape from the fixed types of medieval manhood, minted by authority, and taught to distrust conscience, when it was their own, and to trust it only in others, Seneca was an oracle. For he is the classic of mental discipline, vigilant self-study, and the examination of conscience. It is under these influences that the modern type of individual man took shape. The action of religion, by reason of the divided Church, and the hierarchy in partibus, was at a low point; and no age has been so corrupt, so barbarous in the midst of culture. The finished individual of the Renaissance, ready for emergencies equal to either fortune, relying on nothing inherited, but on his own energy and resource, began badly, little recking rights of others, little caring for the sanctity of life.

Very early in the first or Latin phase of the revival, people suspected that familiarity with the classics would lead to admiration for paganism. Coluccio Salutato, who had been Florentine Secretary from the time of Petrarca, and is a classical writer of Latin letters, had to defend the new learning against the rising reproach of irreligion; and the statue of Virgil was ignominiously removed from the market-place of the town which his birth has made illustrious, as a scandal to good men. Petrarca never became a Greek scholar. He felt the defect. To write beautiful Latin was nothing, unless there was more to say than men already knew. But the Latin classics were no new discovery. The material increase of knowledge was quite insufficient to complete the type of an accomplished man. The great reservoir of ideas, of forgotten sciences, of neglected truth, remained behind. Without that, men would continue to work at a disadvantage, to fight in the dark, and could never fulfil the possibilities of existence. What was impatiently felt as the medieval eclipse came not from the loss of elegant Latin, but from the loss of Greek. All that was implied in the intended resurrection of antiquity depended on the revival of Greek studies. Because Petrarca possessed the culture of his time beyond all men, he was before them all in feeling what it needed most. Knowledge of truth, not casual and partial, but as complete and certain as the remaining civilisation admitted, would have to be abandoned, if Latin was still to be the instrument and the limit. Then the new learning would not be strong enough to break down the reliance on approved authors, the tyranny of great names, the exclusiveness of schools. Neither rhetoric nor poetry could deprive Aristotle and Peter Lombard, St. Augustine and St. Thomas, of their supremacy, give them their position in the incessant stream of thought, or reduce them beneath the law of progress in the realm of knowledge.

The movement which Petrarca initiated implied the revival of a buried world, the enrichment of society by the mass of things which the western nations had allowed to drop, and of which medieval civilisation was deprived. It meant the preference for Grecian models, the supremacy of the schools of Athens, the inclusion of science in literature, the elevation of Hippocrates and Archimedes to a level with Terence and Quintilian, the reproduction of that Hellenic culture which fought the giant fight of the fourth and fifth century with the Councils and Fathers of the Church. That is why the Latin restoration, which was the direct result of Petrarca's example, was overwhelmed by the mightier change that followed, when a more perfect instrument reached the hands of men passionately curious and yearning for new things.

At first there was no way of acquiring the unknown tongue. But the second generation of Humanists sat at the feet of Byzantine masters. The first was Chrysoloras, who was sent to Italy on a political mission and settled in 1397 as a teacher of his own language at Florence. When he died, at the council of Constance, there were Italian scholars who could read Greek MSS. As teachers were scarce, adventurous men, such as Scarparia, Guarino, Aurispa, pursued their studies at Constantinople. Filelfo remained there for seven years, working in great libraries not yet profaned by the Turk. Before the middle of the fifteenth century Italy was peopled with migratory scholars, generally poor, and without fixed appointments, but able to rouse enthusiasm when they offered Plato for Henry of Ghent, and Thucydides for Vincent of Beauvais. By that time the superiority of the new learning, even in its very fragmentary condition, was irresistible.

Just then three events occurred which determined the triumph of the Renaissance. The Emperor came over to the Council of Florence with a number of bishops and divines. In the discussions that followed, Greek scholars were in demand; and one Eastern prelate, Bessarion, remained in Italy, became a cardinal, and did much for the study of Plato and the termination of the long Aristotelian reign. His fine collection of manuscripts was at the service of scholars, and is still at their service, in St. Mark's library at Venice. The fall of Constantinople drove several fugitives to seek a refuge in Italy, and some brought their books with them, which were more scarce and more needful than men. For by that time Greek studies were well established, and suffered only from the extreme scarcity of manuscripts. The third important event was the election of Parentucelli, who became Pope Nicholas V. On that day the new learning took possession of the Holy See, and Rome began to be considered the capital of the Renaissance.

It was not in the nature of things that this should be. For the new men, with their new instrument of intellectual power, invaded territory which was occupied by the clergy. In the Middle Ages the Church, that is to say, first the cloister, then the universities founded under the protectorate of the Church, had the civilising of society, and, apart from law, the monopoly of literature. That came to an end when the clergy lost the superiority of knowledge, and had to share their influence with profane laymen, trained in the classics, and more familiar with pagan than with Christian writers. There was a common presumption in favour of the new point of view, the larger horizon, of opinions that were founded on classical as well as on Christian material. The Humanists had an independent judgment and could contemplate the world they lived in from outside, without quitting it, standing apart from the customary ways. As Pater said: "The human mind wins for itself a new kingdom of feeling and sensation and thought, not opposed to, but only beyond and independent of the spiritual system then actually realised."

This is one of many causes operating at the time to weaken the notion of ecclesiastical control. It was the triumphant return of an exile, with an uproarious popularity and a claim to compensation for arrears. The enthusiasm of those who were the first to read Homer, and Sophocles, and Plato grew into complaint against those by whose neglect such treasures had been lost. Centuries of ignorance and barbarism had been the consequence. There was not only a world of new ideas, but of ideas that were not Christian, which the Christianity of the West had discarded. They began to recover the lost power, and the ages in which they had been unknown became the ages of darkness. As they were also ages in which the Church had exerted supreme authority, antagonism was not to be averted. The endeavour was not only to make the range of men's thought more comprehensive, but to enrich it with the rejected wisdom of paganism. Religion occupied a narrower space in the new views of life than in those of Dante and the preceding time. The sense of sinfulness was weaker among the Humanists, the standard of virtue was lower; and this was common to the most brilliant of the Italian prelates, such as Aeneas Sylvius, with the king of the Renaissance, Erasmus himself.

Lorenzo Valla, the strongest of the Italian Humanists, is also the one who best exhibits the magnitude of the change that was going on in the minds of men. He had learnt to be a critic, and, what was more rare, a historical critic. He wrote against the belief in the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite, which was one of the fixed positions of theology, then and long after. When the Greeks at the Council of Florence declared themselves unacquainted with the Apostles' Creed, Valla warned the Latins not to speak of it as an apostolic composition. During a war between Rome and Naples, Valla, in the Neapolitan service, attacked the Donation of Constantine as the basis of the temporal power, and exhorted Pope Eugenius to abandon what was a usurpation, and a usurpation founded on fraud. Formidable in all the armour of the new learning, he did more than any other man to spread the conviction that the favourite arguments of the clergy were destined to go down before the better opinion of profane scholars. Valla is also the link between Italy and Germany. His critical essay on the New Testament in the Vulgate influenced Erasmus, who published it in 1505. His tract against the Donation, as the title-deed of the temporal sovereignty, was printed by Ulrich von Hutten, and spread that belief that the Pope was an antichrist, which was afterwards an important article of the Huguenot Church. He was also a forerunner of the Reformation by his tract on the Freedom of the Will. This man, who displayed so conspicuously the resentful and iconoclastic spirit, the religious scepticism, the moral indifference, the aversion for the papal sovereignty, the contempt for the laws and politics of feudalism, the hope and expectation of a mighty change, was an official in the Pope's household.

After the discussion with the Greeks at Florence it was clear to all men that there was a deeper issue than the revival of classical learning, that there was a Christian as well as a pagan antiquity, and that the knowledge of the early Church depended on Greek writings, and was as essential a part of the Renaissance as the study of Homer or of Pindar. The inference was drawn by Nicholas V, the first Renaissance pontiff. He recognised the fact that a divine in full possession of Hellenic literature would be a more competent defender of tradition, a better writer, a stronger disputant, than the long line of scholastic teachers. He saw that it would be the means of renovating theology and disclosing the authentic and necessary evidences of historical religion. The most enlightened ecclesiastics of that age understood but vaguely that there was not only benefit and enrichment in a policy that favoured the new learning, but the only possible escape from a serious danger.

Religious knowledge in those days suffered not only from ignorance and the defect of testimony, but from an excess of fiction and falsification. Whenever a school was lacking in proofs for its opinions, it straightway forged them, and was sure not to be found out. A vast mass of literature arose, which no man, with medieval implements, could detect, and effectually baffled and deceived the student of tradition. At every point he was confronted by imaginary canons and constitutions of the apostles, acts of Councils, decretals of early Popes, writings of the Fathers from St. Clement to St. Cyril, all of them composed for the purpose of deceiving.

The example of Lorenzo Valla made it certain that all this was about to be exposed. The process that began with him lasted for two centuries, to the patriarchs of authentic erudition, Ussher and Pearson, Blondel and Launoy, the Bollandists of Antwerp and the Benedictines of Saint-Maur. It became apparent that the divines of many ages had been remarkable for their incapacity to find out falsehood, and for their dexterity in propagating it, and it made no little difference whether this tremendous exposure should be made by enemies, and should constitute one series of disasters for religion. This was prevented by the resolve of Pope Nicholas, that the Holy See should sanction and encourage the movement with its influence, its immense patronage, and all its opportunities. Therefore Valla, who had narrowly escaped alive from the Inquisition, became a functionary at the Vatican, and received 500 ducats from the Pope to translate Thucydides. Scholars were attracted by the papal collection of 5000 manuscripts, which were the foundation of the Vatican library, the first in the world after the fall of Constantinople.

The alliance between renovated Hellenism and the Papacy was ratified a few years later, when the most intelligent of the Italian Humanists, Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini of Siena, was raised to the throne under the name of Pius II, and became the most modern of medieval Popes. He was one of those Churchmen in whom the classical spirit of the time predominated over the ecclesiastical. Twice there was a breach, and a momentary reaction; but on the whole the contract was observed, and the ancient pagans made their way under the shadow of St. Peter's better than the early Christians. Humanists of the type of Valla were domesticated by the prizes held out to them, from the pen of the secretary to the tiara of the pontiff. The apprehended explosion never came; the good and evil that was in the new scholars penetrated the court and modified its tone. Bibbiena's comedies were applauded at the Belvedere; The Prince was published by the Pope's printer, with the Pope's permission; a cardinal shrank from reading St. Paul, for fear of spoiling his style; and the scandals in the family of Borgia did not prevent bishops from calling him a god. Calixtus III said that he feared nothing from any hostile Powers, for he had 3000 men of letters to rely on. His successor, Aeneas Sylvius, considered that the decline of the empire was due to the fact that scholarship had gone over to the Papacy. The main fact in the Italian Renaissance is that an open conflict was averted at the cost of admitting into the hierarchy something of the profane spirit of the new men, who were innovators but not reformers. Ficino declares that there was no place where liberty prevailed as it did at Rome. Poggio, the mocking adversary of the clergy, was for half a century in the service of the Popes. Filelfo was handsomely rewarded by Nicholas for satires which would now be considered scarcely fit for publication. Aeneas Sylvius laughed at the Donation of Constantine, and wrote an account of his own Conclave in the tone of a fin de siecle journalist. He is indeed the founder of freedom of speech in History. When his History of his own time was published, a great number of passages injurious to his countrymen and to his ecclesiastical brethren had to be suppressed. They have been printed lately, and contain, in fifty pages, the concentrated essence of the wickedness of Italy. Platina wrote an angry and vindictive History of the Popes, and presented it to Sixtus IV, who made him librarian of the Vatican. Erasmus, who had a sort of clerical bias, warmly extols the light and liberty which he found at Rome in 1515, at the very eve of the Reformation.

There were branches of classical philology in which the Renaissance was backward. The general purpose was to set up Plato in the place of Aristotle, discredited as as accomplice of the obscurest schoolmen. Under the Medici, a Platonic academy flourished at Florence, with Ficino and Politian at its head. But there was a tendency to merge Plato in Neoplatonism, and to bridge over what separated him from Christianity. Neither the knowledge of Plato, nor the knowledge of the Gospel, profited by the endeavour. The only branch of literature in which the Renaissance gave birth to real classics, equal to the ancients, was politics. The medieval theory of politics restrained the State in the interest of the moral law of the Church, and of the individual. Laws are made for the public good, and, for the public good, they may be suspended. The public good is not to be considered, if it is purchased at the expense of an individual. Authorities are legitimate if they govern well. Whether they do govern well those whom they govern must decide. The unwritten laws reigns supreme over the municipal law. Modern sentiments such as these could not be sustained in the presence of indifference to religion, uncertainty as to another world, impatience of the past, and familiarity with Hellenistic thought. As the Church declined the ancient State appeared, a State which knew no Church, and was the greatest force on earth, bound by no code, a law to itself. As there is no such thing as right, politics are an affair of might, a mere struggle for power. Such was the doctrine which Venice practised, in the interest of a glorious and beneficent government, and which two illustrious writers, Machiavelli and Guicciardini, made the law of modern societies.

The one thing common to the whole Italian Renaissance was the worship of beauty. It was the aesthetic against the ascetic. In this exclusive study, that is, in art, the Italians speedily attained the highest perfection that has been reached by man. And it was reached almost simultaneously in many parts of Italy, Rome, Florence, Milan, and Venice. First, it was the triumph of classical over medieval models, and the suppression of Gothic. Then it was the outbreak of modern painting, beyond all models, medieval or ancient, in a generation of men remarkable for originality. Rome, which had adopted the new learning under the impulse of Nicholas V, went over also to the new art and became its metropolis. It was the ripest and most brilliant work of the time, and it was employed to give expression to religious ideas, and to decorate and exalt the dignity of the Papacy, with its headquarters at the Vatican. The man who conceived how much might be done by renascent art to give splendour to the Church at the moment when its terrestrial limits were immeasurably extended, and its political power newly established, was Julius II. In 1505 Emmanuel of Portugal, inspired by the prodigies of that epoch of discovery, and by the language of recent canonists, addressed him in these terms "Receive, at last, the entire globe, thou who art our god."

Julius, who, by the energy of his will and his passion for posthumous fame, was the true son of the Renaissance, asked Michael Angelo to construct a monument worthy of a pontiff who should surpass all his predecessors in glory. When the design proved too gigantic for any existing Church, he commanded Bramante to pull down the Basilica of Constantine, which for a thousand years had witnessed the dramatic scenes of ecclesiastical history, the coronation of Charlemagne, the enthronement of the dead Formosus, the arrest of Paschal, and to erect in its place a new and glorified St. Peter's, far exceeding all the churches of the universe in its dimensions, in beauty, in power over the imagination of men. The ruthless destruction indicates the tone of the new era. Old St. Peter's was not only a monument of history, but a sepulchre of saints.

Julius was not inspired by the Middle Ages. Under him the Papacy was preparing for a new career, less spiritual than what once had been, more politic and secular and splendid, under new stars. He had Bramante, Michael Angelo, Rafael, San Gallo, Peruzzi, a concentration of artistic genius such as had never been, not produced by Rome itself, but attracted from every quarter by the master of Rome. What had been, one hundred years before, a neglected provincial town, became the centre of European civilisation by the action of the Popes, and principally of one ambitious Pope. The Vatican paintings were largely political, commemorating the sovereign more than the priest, until St. Peter's was designed to exhibit the sublime grandeur and unity of the universal Church, and the authority of its head upon earth. It was the crowning triumph of the Renaissance. When he was dying, Julius said that the masses are impressed not by what they know, but by what they see. He transmitted to his successors the conception of a Church to be the radiant centre of religion and of art for mankind; and we shall see that this was, after all, a disastrous legacy.

The Renaissance, which was at its height in Italy after the middle of the fifteenth century, was checked by the wars of Charles V, the siege of Rome, and the Spanish domination. Toward 1540 Paolo Giovio says that scholarship had migrated from the Italians to the Germans; and the most learned Italian of the next generation, Baronius, knew no Greek. Before its decline in Italy it had found new homes beyond the Alps, especially in Germany. The Germans adopted the new learning much later, near a century later than the Italians, when an occasional student, such as Agricola and Reuchlin, visited Bologna or Rome. It spread slowly. Of the seventeen universities, some, such as at Vienna, Heidelberg, Erfurt, admitted the new studies; others, like Cologne, resisted. There was not the patriotic sentiment, the national enthusiasm. It was the importation of a foreign element, the setting up of an old enemy, the restoration of a world the Germans, under Alaric and Theodoric, had overthrown. They began with the invention of printing, which exactly coincided with the fall of Constantinople, as the earliest specimens of print are indulgences for the Turkish war. This gave assurance that the work of the Renaissance would last, that what was written would be accessible to all, that such an occultation of knowledge and ideas as had depressed the Middle Ages would never recur, that not an idea would be lost. They got their classics generally from Italy; but after Aldus had published his series of ancient writers, still treasured by those whom Greek contractions do not repel, the New Testament and the Fathers, edited by Erasmus, were printed at Bale by Froben and Amerbach.

The pagan spirit, the impatience of Christianity, appears only in one or two Germans, such as Mutianus Rufus, who kept his convictions to himself. There were no great theologians, but there was the greatest religious writer that ever lived, the author of the Imitation, and he was not a solitary thinker, but a member of a congregation which kept religion alive, especially in North Germany. The opposition which arose was stronger and more defined than anything in Italy, but it was against Catholicism, not against Christianity.

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