With Richelieu, as with all great men, we do well to ascertain low-water mark, that praise and admiration may not be carried too far. He was not a good administrator, for he considered the general interest, not that of any number of individual men. Every Frenchman had felt the benefit of Henry's appeasing wisdom, and a season of prosperity had ensued. But no individual was the better for Richelieu's eighteen years of supreme office. He wasted the treasure of ambitious enterprises, and sacrificed the happiness of the people to the greatness of the king. No man was richer in sagacious maxims, or in experience of mankind; but he was destitute of principle—I mean of political principles, which are the guide of public life as moral principles are the guide of our private lives. To serve his deliberate purpose, he shrank from no arbitrary or violent excess, putting innocent men to death without scruple, if he thought them dangerous. In such cases, he said, it is better to do too much than too little. He retained a superstitious belief in magic, and never soared above his age with the vision of great truths and prevision of the things to come. But he understood and relentlessly pursued the immediate purpose of his time.
The work of Henry IV had been undone during his son's minority, and had to be begun over again. The crown was only one among many rival forces. Richelieu decided that they should all be made subject and subservient, that the government alone should govern, not any men or any group behind the government, striving for their own ends. He meant that there should be no dominant interest but the reason of State, no authority but the sovereign, no will but his own. He pursued this object with perfect distinctness and resolution, and had succeeded when he died in 1642.
The court was an obstacle. The queen-mother, who had made his fortune, went against him, and the king's brother became a pivot of conspiracy. For a moment, they triumphed. Lewis withdrew his confidence from the too imperious and successful minister, who had made his master so powerful and so helpless; but in one short interview the cardinal recovered his position. The queen retired from the council, went out of the country, and died, an exile, in the house of Rubens at Cologne. When the greatest nobles of France, strong in their feudal traditions, rose against his new, and illegal, and oppressive authority, Richelieu repressed every attempt, and cut off the head of every offender. For he said that clemency was the bane of France.
The Huguenots, safe but not satisfied under Henry, had felt that they were in danger after his death, and sought to transform the self-government ceded to them at Nantes into a defensive association against the sovereign. The spectre of federalism threatened the hard-won unity of France, and challenged the very essence of Richelieu's policy. The decisive struggle took place at La Rochelle. Richelieu directed the siege himself, carrying out works as enormous as those of the siege of Tyre, and infusing his spirit into men who did not see that the political issue was superior to the military. The English fleet outside was helpless to assist, and the starving town yielded to the clerical warrior. Many thousands had perished, fighting, as they averred, for toleration, in reality for predominance.
The fall of Rochelle was the end of political Protestantism in France as it issued from the civil war; of the attempt to imitate that which the League had done, and to build up a confederation too strong for the State. But the strictly religious privileges conceded thirty years earlier were immediately renewed, and they were faithfully observed. What Richelieu resisted implacably was disintegration, not Calvinism. He had no difficulty in tolerating religious dissent. He would not tolerate political opposition. Richelieu was a bishop, a cardinal, a practised writer of theological controversy, a passionately resolved defender of the national unity, and of the French patriotism, which the religious struggle had imperilled, but he was not intolerant. Under him, and under his successor, the Sicilian Cardinal Mazarin, the religion which had been thought so dangerous was allowed to prosper, and the highest offices were crowded with Huguenots. The rapid expansion of French power was largely due to this policy. It was then that the French proved superior to the Spaniards in war, and the long supremacy of Spain came to an end on land half a century after it had terminated at sea. Several of the marshals were Protestants, including Turenne, the most illustrious of them all. The tolerant spirit of the ecclesiastical statesmen caused the rise of France, and its decline followed the intolerance of Lewis XIV.
Richelieu, if not deeply religious, was thoroughly a Churchman; but his attitude towards Protestants separated him, on most fundamental points, from the Spanish and Roman persecutors, and he differed considerably from the great divines of the preceding generation. He had just come to power when a book was published at Rome by Sanctarelli renewing the theories of Bellarmin and Suarez, which had excited the indignant resentment of the university and the Parliament. Richelieu required the Paris Jesuits to renounce the doctrines which their brethren proclaimed essential to orthodoxy. And they did what he required of them, accepting, in France, the sentiments of France, and protesting, at Rome, that they retained the sentiments of Rome. They became the friends of their very arbitrary protector. When Father Caussin, the king's confessor, warned him against the cardinal's wars, and his Protestant alliances, his superiors agreed to remove him.
Richelieu refused allegiance to system or party, and opposed the Jansenist and the Gallican as he did the Jesuit extreme. He desired to be aided, not hampered, by the Church and cultivated as much independence as allowed friendship with Rome. Towards the end of his life it was his object to become patriarch of France. The Pope who reigned in his time had been in France when Cardinal Barberini. He was a pontiff of a modern type, when compared with many of his recent predecessors; and it was in his pontificate that the Roman Inquisition put out its fires. He did not escape the influence of the Frenchman's more vigorous personality. He shared his dread of the Habsburgs and his interest in Gustavus, but they came to a breach at last.
It was in Richelieu's time, and under his auspices, that the great division occurs between the modern Papacy and the medieval, which the Counter-Reformation had revived. The striking contrast between France under Richelieu and France under Lewis XIV is the tolerance of the one and the intolerance of the other. But no spirit of independence could be safe under the absolutism which the cardinal inaugurated, and which was a glaring inconsistency as long as consciences were free. The change, which was sure to come, came when, under very peculiar constellations, Lewis XIV desired to show that he was a better Catholic than the Pope.
The cardinal never abandoned the hope of healing the division of churches, which was a calamity in his eyes, both as a statesman and a divine. He provided for Huguenot ministers who were reconciled, and he made serious plans to prepare for reunion, plans which Bossuet resumed, but which had to be given up when the king resorted to violence. The deepest part of the scheme to exalt the throne was the endeavour to raise France above the nations. The opportunity was afforded by the Thirty Years' War. All Europe was involved, the Protestant Powers uniting against the House of Habsburg, which, by tradition, by pretension, and by its actual position and power, was the one constant obstacle to the desired supremacy of the French king. Richelieu assisted them, and ended by openly joining them. Once he said, "I will prove to the world that the age of Spain is passing away and the age of France has come."
It was the contrast of two different epochs of civilisation, of two worlds succeeding each other, rather than a conflict of rival Powers. Spain was inseparably united with the Church and a declared enemy to the rest of Christendom. France lived at peace with Protestants, and based her policy on their support, having political but not religious enemies to combat, gaining all that Spain lost by exclusiveness. It was the adoption of a new doctrine. The interest of the State above the interest of the Church, of the whole above the aggregate of parts, determined the foreign as well as the domestic policy of the statesmanlike prelate. The formidable increase of State power, in the form of monarchy, was an event of European proportion and significance. General History naturally depends on the action of forces that are not national, but proceed from wider causes. The rise of modern kingship in France is part of a similar movement in England. Bourbon's and Stuarts obeyed the same law, though with a different result.
THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR
THE LAST and most important product of the Counter-Reformation was the Thirty Years' War. In Germany the rights of the churches had been defined by the Peace of Religion, and the principles of the settlement were not seriously contested.
When, the Archbishop of Cologne married and became a Protestant, he endeavoured to retain his political position as one of the electors; but the Catholics were strong enough to prevent it, as a thing foreseen and clearly provided against by law. There had been a constant propaganda on both sides, each gaining ground in some direction, the Lutherans losing much by the extension of Calvinism at their expense. By operation of the accepted maxim that the civil power shall determine which religion may be practised within its territory, Lutheran governments becoming Calvinist carried their subjects with them, weakening the Protestant cause, and presenting a divided front to opponents. In this matter there was one significant exception. The House of Brandenburg became Calvinist, the country remained Lutheran, while the minister, Schwarzenberg, was a Catholic. To this timely divergence from the ideas and customs of the sixteenth century, to this fundamentally different view of the function and uses of the State, the Hohenzollerns owe no small portion of their greatness in history. The Protestants were in the majority, but the Imperial government was still in Catholic hands.
In the hereditary dominions of the House of Habsburg the situation was different. Under Maximilian II Austria had been the least intolerant of European governments. Equal toleration prevailed at that time in Poland, and led to the growth and prosperity of the Socinians; but the Austrian policy aimed at a compromise between the churches, and at a system of concessions which made them much alike.
Under Maximilian's inefficient son, the country went asunder. One branch of the family carried out the Counter-Reformation in Styria; while, north of the Danube, the majority of the inhabitants was either Lutheran or Utraquist, that is, attached to Communion under both kinds, which had been the germ of Hussitism, and was the residue that remained after the fervour of the Hussite movement had burnt itself out. In 1609 Bohemia and Silesia obtained entire freedom of religious belief; while in the several provinces of Alpine Austria unity was as vigorously enforced as the law permitted—that is, by the use of patronage, expulsion of ministers, suppression of schools; confiscation of books, and, generally, by administrative repression, short of violence.
It was not stipulated in the Majestatsbrief, as the instrument of 1609 was called, which was the charter of toleration under the Bohemian crown, that Protestants might build churches on the domains of the Catholic clergy; but this they claimed to do, inasmuch as the right was conceded to them on the crown lands, and in Bohemia these were technically considered to include Church lands. Accordingly, one was built at Braunau, and was stopped by authority; another at Klostergrab, and was pulled down. At the same time, the intention to reverse legislation and repress Protestant religion on both sides of the tube alike was openly confessed.
The Styrian archduke, the head of the clerical party, became King of Bohemia and Emperor-elect, the kinsmen who were nearer the succession withdrawing in his favour. The Habsburgs felt strong enough to carry forward the Counter-Reformation even in Bohemia and the dependent lands, where nine-tenths of the people were Protestants, with rights assured by a recent and solemn instrument. They had in their favour the letter of the Peace of Religion, by which no prince could be required to rule over subjects differing from him in religion, and the more probable reading of the rule as to the building of places of worship. Against them was the unquestioned text of the Majestatsbrief, not yet nine years old. The new emperor did not meditate a breach of faith. Real violence was unavailing where the opponents were in a large majority. The Counter-Reformation had produced in Central Europe a scheme of persecution, which stopped short of tragedy, and laboured to accomplish, by infinite art and trouble, what the readier methods of the Holy Office and the Penal Law were expected to do. Ferdinand II was a slow, laborious, friendly man, with a sense of duty and a certain strictness of private life, but without initiative or imagination.
The Bohemian leaders saw the danger of submitting to a man who, without being a persecutor like Henry VIII and Philip II, would know how to oppress them wisely. Their crown had once been elective; and the ceremony of election had been revived ten years before when the last king ascended the throne. They resolved to resist Ferdinand, and to call another in his place. War would inevitably follow; and in order that the country might be committed to their quarrel, as there was no strong popular movement at first, and no national or political issue, they judged that they must begin by giving proof of their deadly meaning. The conspirators, with Count Thurn at their head, made their way into the Hradschin, the gloomy palace that overlooks Prague, and deliberately threw two hostile members of the government, Slavata and Martinitz, out of the window. It seems that there is a contagious charm about that sort of exercise which is not evident to those who have not practised it. For seeing an inoffensive secretary, Fabricius, who was trying to make himself as small as possible in the crowd, they threw him after the others. The victims had a fall of fifty feet. None of the three was much the worse for it, or for the shots that were fired at them; and it is difficult to account for their escape.
Ferdinand, who possessed no army, and was not safe in his palace at Vienna from the insurgents who sympathised with Prague, had no means of coping with the insurrection. He turned for aid to his friends in Germany. There, defensive confederacies had been formed both by Protestants and Catholics. The Catholics, consisting chiefly of ecclesiastical princes with the Duke of Bavaria at their head, composed what was known as the League, to protect their interests against more aggressive adversaries. And the aggressive adversaries, chiefly Calvinists, for Lutherans combined more easily with Catholics, constituted what was called the Union. For some time they had expected hostilities, and were preparing recruits. There was no lack of fighting material; but the nation was poor in organisation, and ill supplied with money, and was therefore insufficiently armed. They looked abroad for auxiliaries—the Union, to Savoy and Venice, Holland and England; the League, to Spain. Henry IV had been on the point of seizing the occasion of this open rivalry, and of a disputed succession, to invade the Empire in the summer of 1610. After his death France dropped for a time out of European complications, and thereby helped to postpone the outbreak of expected war. After the insane and stupid outrage at Prague it became an immediate certainty, and Maximilian of Bavaria, the ablest prince who ever reigned in that country, came to the aid of his cousin the emperor, with his own statesmanship, the forces of the League, and an ever-victorious general. The Bohemians had the support of the Union; and the chief of the Union, the elector Palatine, was elected to be their king. As his wife was the Princess Elizabeth, King James's only daughter, there was hope of English aid. Without waiting to verify that expectation, the elector quitted his castle at Heidelberg, and assumed the proffered crown. But the coalition between Rhenish Calvinists and the Lutherans of Prague did not work. The new subjects exhibited none of the warlike vigour which, under Ziska, had made the Empire tremble; and the Scottish father-in-law was too good a conservative and professor of kingcraft to abet revolution.
When the army of the League, under Tilly, appeared before Prague, on the slopes of what is called the White Mountain, there was no real resistance, and the new king became a fugitive and an exile, dependent on friends. As he spent but one winter in his capital, he is remembered as the Winter King. For us, he is the father of Rupert and of the Electress Sophia, from whom the king has his crown. Bohemia was treated as a conquered country. The Protestant religion was gradually suppressed, and the insurgents punished by immense confiscations. The country, which had been civilised and prosperous, was the first portion of the empire ruined by the outbreak of hostilities. Ferdinand made the most of the Catholic triumph. Tilly led his victorious army across Germany, from the Moldau to the Rhine. The Palatinate was conquered. Frederic was outlawed, and Maximilian of Bavaria became an Elector in his stead, so that the Catholic Electors, who had been four to three, were now five to two. The Heidelberg Library was removed from the castle, then the finest in Germany, and was sent as a present to the Pope.
Tilly was a Belgian, born in the town of that name, near Waterloo, to which Blucher retreated after Ligny. He had learnt war under Farnese, and served with the League at Ivry. He fought against the Turks on the Danube, and became a marshal in 1605. He was a soldier of the Spanish school, rigid and severe; but he was no criminal, like Alva and Farnese, and was the best and most trustworthy servant of the Catholic cause in Germany. For ten years, from the White Mountain, he carried all before him. The Union was dissolved. But German princes and adventurers took arms one after the other, and dashed themselves to pieces against him. When he was master of the valley of the Rhine, foreign Powers, alarmed at his progress, began to intervene. France, England, Holland, advanced funds, and Christian IV of Denmark led an army into Northern Germany. Tilly defeated him, as he had defeated every other enemy. His incessant success strengthened the Catholics, the League, the Duke of Bavaria, more than the emperor.
Ferdinand's allies served him so well that they threw him into the shade. The losses of the Protestants were not directly his gains. For that, in order that he might reap the full harvest which others had sown, he needed a great army commanded by a general of his own. In due time he acquired both one and the other. He commissioned Wallenstein to raise an Imperial force, independent of the League, and to complete the conquest of Germany.
Wallenstein was a Bohemian noble, a convert and pupil of the Jesuits, better known for his success in finance than in war. When the confiscations were going on, he speculated in land. Having thriven greatly, he lent large sums to the emperor. He gave valuable assistance in debasing the coinage, and became by far the richest man in the country. Watching the moment, he was able to offer Ferdinand an army of 24,000 men, to be raised by himself, paid by himself, commanded by himself, and by officers appointed by him. The object of the armament was not to save the empire from the foe, for the foe was being perpetually defeated; but to save the emperor from the League, and the oppressive superiority of Bavaria.
It was the beginning of the Austrian army. The regiments that followed Wallenstein to the sea still subsist, and are the same that fought under Eugene and the archduke Charles. They were quickly victorious; they overran Silesia, and at the bridge of Dessau they gained a victory over Mansfeld.
Mansfeld was one of the mere adventurers who disgrace the war. But he was a born soldier. Repulsed on the Elbe, he made his way through the hereditary provinces, intending to embark at Venice for England. In a Bosnian village his strength gave out. His death was nobler than his life, and is a legendary reminiscence in Germany. For he buckled on his armour, made his companions hold him upright, and met death standing, with his drawn sword.
Wallenstein was rewarded by being made Duke of Mecklenburg and admiral of the Baltic. He governed his principality well; but his fleet and his docks were destroyed by the Danes, and he was forced to raise the siege of Stralsund. He was unable to act in combination with Tilly and the League. They wished to make their religion dominate, without detriment to their position in the empire. Wallenstein meant that the emperor should dominate, at the expense of the princes, whether Catholic or Protestant, between whom he made no distinction. The very existence of the force under his command implied that the purpose and policy of the Habsburgs were not those of their allies, and that, after profiting by their services, he meant to rob them of their results. His imperialism was so dazzling, his success so unbroken, that Ferdinand would not check him, but strove to appease the League with fair assurances, and to induce its efficient leader Maximilian to trust the commander-in-chief.
Ferdinand had now reached a degree of power that Charles V never enjoyed. He had crushed the revolution at home, the opposition in Germany, and Lutheran loyalty was still unshaken. In his desire to conciliate the League, while he made their conquests serve his power, in March 1629 he published an edict restoring to the clergy all the Church property in Protestant hands. The Lutherans would have to give back two archbishoprics, twelve bishoprics, innumerable abbeys; while the Calvinists were to lose the benefit of the Peace of Religion. The Edict of Restitution gave up the immediate purposes of the empire for those of the Church, and drove all Protestant forces to unite in resistance to it. And it extended the rights of conquest over princes who had taken no part in the war. It was the repudiation of Wallenstein's policy, and of his schemes for regenerating the Empire, and he caused it to be known that he would not execute the new orders. Ferdinand had to choose between Wallenstein and the League. By the advice of France, represented by a Capuchin, who was the ablest diplomatist then living, he dismissed his generalissimo, and accepted the dictation of the Catholic League. He had to face the consequences of his Edict of Restitution at the moment when he disarmed.
Just then, when all the Protestants were roused to anger and alarm, and when Wallenstein had laid down his sword, Gustavus landed in Rugen. He had been fighting in Poland for the Baltic coast, and there he had encountered an imperial force. Richelieu aided him in making peace with the Poles, and he went forth with a trained army, assured that he would unite all the Protestants of Germany against the Habsburgs. He spent many months in securing his base of operations, by onerous alliances imposed on Pomerania, and on his reluctant brother-in-law, the elector of Brandenburg.
When at length the way through Silesia to the heart of Austria lay open before him, Tilly arrested his march by laying siege to Magdeburg, which commanded the Elbe, and was a Protestant stronghold in the North. The King of Sweden made no attempt to relieve the besieged city; and in May 1631 Pappenheim, the hardest hitter among the German commanders, took the place by storm. The defenders deprived him of the fruits of victory by setting fire to Magdeburg, and burning it to the ground. Tilly, with difficulty, saved the Cathedral, and handed it over to the Catholics. He then took Leipzig without resistance, hoping to coerce Saxony; but the Elector, in this extremity, abandoned the neutrality he had maintained throughout the war, and went over to the Swedes. At Breitenfeld, a few miles out of Leipzig, Gustavus, feebly aided by the Saxons, defeated the Imperialists in the greatest battle of the war. It was a victory of the musket over the pike, and the beginning of the long struggle between line and column. Tilly's ranks were ten deep, and the Swedes only three, so that every musketeer fired. The world now perceived that the tardy, patient soldier, who had seemed too cautious about his retreat to prepare his advance, was a mighty conqueror, full of invention and resource and untold design.
He struck at once for the heart of the empire, made himself master of Wurzburg, and overran the ecclesiastical principalities of the Rhine, which were the basis of Catholic power. At Mentz Gustavus held his court, treating the princes as his inferiors, endeavouring to conciliate the population. He did not live to declare his schemes of policy; but all men knew that he meant to be the head of a great Protestant Confederation, and to disarm their adversaries by secularising the dominions of the clergy. He had made no settlement for the future when he marched against Bavaria, the other stronghold of the League. Below Augsburg Gustavus forced the passage of the Lech, which Tilly disputed, and where the latter received the wound of which he died soon after, in the impregnable fortress of Ingolstadt. For more than two centuries his remains were so perfectly preserved that I have looked on his austere features. Down to the last months of his life he had been victorious over every foe, and was the most dangerous enemy of the Protestant cause. Legend took possession of him, and down to the last generation he was accused of being the destroyer of Magdeburg, and of having, from mere fanaticism, deprived himself of his prize. All that he had achieved in incessant triumph fell to pieces at his first defeat; and the armies of the League no longer stood between Gustavus, now at the head of 100,000 men, and the Austrian capital. But his career of success ended with the fall of his great rival.
When Tilly was defeated, the despairing emperor appealed once more to Wallenstein, who was living in great splendour, aloof from affairs, and showing as much capacity in the administration of his domains as he had shown in war. It was not two years since he had been deposed in disgrace, at the instance of the German princes. Therefore when, in their extremity, they turned to him for protection, they placed themselves in the power of an enemy on whom they had inflicted a mortal injury. He had felt it so deeply that he was in actual treaty, at the time, with Gustavus, for an expedition against Vienna. As Duke of Mecklenburg he was an independent potentate, and he regarded himself as released from the allegiance of a subject. Before breaking off his negotiation with the Swede, he beheld his enemies at his feet. Wallenstein was able to dictate his terms, and to make himself secure against a second dismissal. His army was his own. He meant to obey while obedience suited his purpose, and to act for himself when it did not. Unlike Tilly, the aims of his life were political, not ecclesiastical. With so many reasons for distrust on one side and resentment on the other, a catastrophe could hardly be averted. With Saxony and the Saxon general Arnim, who had been one of his colonels, he kept up an understanding; and they evacuated Bohemia, which they had occupied after Breitenfeld.
Wallenstein's new battalions came into line, and he took up a strong fortified position near Nuremberg, with 60,000 men; while Gustavus stood at the foot of the Alps, and his adherents wondered whether he meant to cross them, and to attack Catholicism in its centre. When the king knew that the imperial army had risen again, and threatened his communications on the road through Franconia, he hurried to measure swords with Wallenstein. He was heavily repulsed, and moved once more towards the Danube, expecting to be followed. He was still the dominating force in Germany, supported, if not trusted, by Lutheran and Calvinist alike. At that moment Gustavus committed a fatal mistake. If, as Oxenstiern advised, he had descended the valley of the Danube into the hereditary provinces, the Imperialists must have pursued him at a disadvantage, and could not have reached Vienna before him. But Gustavus turned westward, towards Suabia, and Wallenstein disregarded his movements. Gathering his forces, he threw them upon Saxony, which had refused to give up the Swedish alliance. The King of Sweden hastened to the rescue, while the Saxon army stood apart, waiting the event. Pappenheim had been detached, and the Swedes, in superior force, found a great opportunity before them. But Wallenstein sent an order in good time to his famous Lieutenant-divisionnaire, telling him to give up everything and join at once. That paper, which saved the empire, one of the most memorable autographs in the world, can still be seen, darkened with Pappenheim's blood, in the Museum of the Austrian army. He rode into battle at Lutzen with eight regiments of horse, seeking Gustavus. They never met, for they were both killed, and as the king's charger flew in terror along the line, the empty saddle told his soldiers of their loss. It was an indecisive day, leaving the balance of forces nearly as they remained, until Moltke, in one pitched battle, succeeding where Gustavus, Turenne, Frederic, and even Napoleon failed, overthrew for ever the military power of Austria.
Neither the Duke of Weimar nor Oxenstiern enjoyed the personal ascendency of Gustavus Adolphus. The minister could not deal as he did with German princes, nor the German prince with German territory. The Swedish cause was very seriously weakened, and as the emperor gave up the idea of restitution, which was hopeless, and which had done so much to intensify animosities, and as Wallenstein commanded and Tilly was dead, it became possible to discuss terms of peace with the Saxons, who dreaded the moderated emperor less than the formidable Swedes. That situation gives the basis of the tragedy that followed. Wallenstein enjoyed undivided command. If the enemy accepted his proposals, he thought himself strong enough to compel their acceptance at Vienna. He opened two negotiations, one with the Saxons, to get rid of the Swedes, the other with the Swedes themselves. The latter was promoted by his friends, the Bohemian exiles; but Oxenstiern was reluctant, and required that Wallenstein should declare against his master. If he would do that, he should have the crown of Bohemia. Wallenstein refused, and the matter was allowed to drop.
The scheme which he proposed to the Saxons and Brandenburgers was the restoration of peace on the principles of religious liberty; the control of belief by Government abolished; everything rescinded which had been done since 1618 in contradiction with this principle; the departure of the Swedes to be purchased by an indemnity. These are the main ideas. They were reasonable conditions of a lasting peace, and would have saved many years of useless war, and prevented the ruin of Germany. Wallenstein designed that the emperor should be compelled to submit, if necessary, by a display of force. What Ferdinand wished for beyond this, what he had striven for all along, the Catholic domination, was hopeless. And if not hopeless, it was a thing not to be desired, and not worthy of the cruel sacrifice of continued warfare. It was the interest of Spaniard, Bavarian, and clergy to frustrate Wallenstein's scheme. They represented that he was a traitor, that he was plotting with the enemies of the empire, that he crowded his camp with Protestants, that he wanted to be king, and compassed the death of his master. Some of it was plausibly near the truth; and their suspicions were confirmed when the Duke of Weimar took Ratisbon. The Elector of Bavaria had sent full warning; the Aulic Council had sent positive orders. But Wallenstein refused to move.
Fearing that he might be deposed before he could execute what he had long meditated, he summoned his colonels to Pilsen, and threatened to resign. They pledged themselves to stand by him. The clause, saving their duty to the emperor, was struck out of the declaration by him. He still hoped to succeed. But Ferdinand issued orders that he should be no longer obeyed; and these orders, proclaimed at Prague to sound of drum, were accepted by the army. A successor was appointed; Piccolomini, the real victor at Lutzen, was made field-marshal; and the officers were drawn away by the prospect of the impending confiscations. They amounted, eventually, to fourteen millions of florins. The Spanish envoy, Onate, at last sent word in Ferdinand's name that Wallenstein should be mastered, alive or dead. Wallenstein understood that he was in danger, and begged Weimar to come to his assistance with cavalry.
He started from Pilsen, with the remnant of his troops, to meet Weimar at Eger, where two Scotch Presbyterians were in command, who inspired confidence. But on the way he met the Irish regiment of dragoons, with their colonel, Butler, and required them to accompany him. They were going to Prague, to join his enemies, and were the authors of his death. Butler persuaded the two Scotsmen, Lesley and Gordon, and the few officers, known to be Wallenstein's immediate friends, were invited to a banquet in the castle of Eger, and there cut down. When the Countess Kinsky, who was the wife of one of them, learnt of her husband's death, she had the presence of mind instantly to destroy his papers, and the secret of Wallenstein's treason was lost in that conflagration. Devereux, one of Butlers captains, went with a handful of men to the general's quarters and despatched him. The deed was approved by the emperor, and the murderers were rewarded. This is the dramatic end of the struggle, so far as it was caused by genuine problems of Church and State.
A war of aggression and desolation ensued, and lasted many years, without higher significance. When the Imperialists had gained another victory at Nordlingen, Lutheran Saxony made its peace, at Prague, in 1635.
Then Richelieu took up the conflict, to carry on his feud with both branches of the House of Habsburg, and the empire sank lower and lower, German princes and generals betraying their country to the national enemy. In 1643, when Richelieu was dead, a chance of peace began. Five years later it was concluded for Germany, at Munster and Osnabruck, not for Spain. The Empire lost much in population and territory, which were taken by France; still more in authority, which fell from the emperors hands into the hands of the several princes, now virtually sovereign and subject to no control. The peace of Westphalia gave no accession to the Protestant interest.
In extension, the Protestants lost by the Thirty Years' War. They lost one-half of the Palatinate, incorporated in Bavaria; and they submitted to exclusion from the Austrian dominions, all but Silesia. Calvinists were now admitted to equal rights with the rest. Protestants and Catholics recovered what they had possessed in 1624. Therefore the cause of the insurgent Bohemians was abandoned, and the men who were thrown out of the window triumphed in the end. Concerning liberty of conscience, not a word was said. The power of the interfering State was not shorn, but the idea that the division of Christendom might be healed by force passed away from the minds of men. It had taken thirty years of incessant bloodshed to extinguish the Counter-Reformation.
THE PURITAN REVOLUTION
AT THE death of Elizabeth, England separated from the Continent in politics, and moved thenceforth in a different direction. Long before, political observers like Commynes and Fortescue recognised the distinctive character and the superiority of the insular institutions; but these were not strong enough to withstand the Tudors, and the work had to be begun over again. It was begun, upon the ancient ways, with tradition and precedent; and when that was found to be not quite convincing, it was pursued by means of new, general, and revolutionary principles. The combination, or alteration, of these methods of policy is the peculiar note of the times before us.
When King James of Scotland became King James of England, the country obtained the benefit of being an island, protected by the sea. There was no longer a hostile and warlike neighbour, compelling military preparation and the concentration of power, which made foreign governments absolute. An English officer once congratulated Moltke on the splendid army which he had created and led. The marshal shook his head, and replied that the German army was a terrible burden on the country, but that the long Russian frontier made it a necessity.
James, who had been helpless at home against the nobles and the Kirk, conceived high notions of authority, high ideals of what a monarch may legitimately do for his country, acting by his own lights, his own will, his own conscience, not as flotsam on the changing and uncertain wave of opinion. And he came to England expecting that its wealth and civilisation, and its intellectual culture, which reached just then its culminating point, would afford a more favourable field for advanced theories of State. The Stuarts owed something to each of the two strongest and most obvious currents of political thought in their time. From Machiavelli they took the idea of the State ruling itself, for its own ends, through experts, not depending on the forces of society or the wishes of men uninformed upon complex problems of international policy, military administration, economy and law. And they adopted from Luther his new and admired dogma of the divine right of kings. They consistently rejected an opposite theory, well known to James from his teacher Buchanan, derived from Knox and his medieval masters, and wrongly imputed to Calvin—the theory of revolution. They had the judges with them, that is, the laws of England. They had the Established Church, the keepers of conscience and consecrated expounders of the divine will. They had the successful example of the Tudors, showing that a government may be absolute and at the same time popular, and that liberty was not the supreme desire of English hearts. And they had the general drift and concurrence of Europe, as well as of the intellectual world at home, of Hooker, of Shakespeare, and of Bacon. The best philosophers, the most learned divines, many even of the most consummate jurists in the universe sustained their cause. They were not bound to believe that idle squires or provincial busybodies understood the national interest and the reason of State better than trained administrators, and claimed to be trusted in the executive as they were in the judiciary. Their strength was in the clergy, and the Anglican clergy professed legitimacy and passive obedience, in indignant opposition to the Jesuits and their votaries. The king could not be less monarchical than the divines; he could not renounce their support; and the bond between them was therefore a close one. Starting from the position that the sovereign will shall control and not be controlled, there was no certain evidence that the opposition to it would be deep, or formidable, or sincere. The quick increase of the middle class, which was the seat of sectarianism, could not well be discovered from the returns of taxation. The Stuarts might fairly be persuaded that they were not only wiser than their opponents, but more liberal than they, for the Puritans repeatedly demanded that the wages of heresy should be death. The distinction in point of liberality between King and parliament is manifest in the Catholic question.
James I wished to avoid persecution. In discussion with two superior men, Andrewes and Casaubon, he developed conciliatory views pointing to eventual reunion. His mother had been the champion and martyr of Catholic monarchy. His wife was a convert of the Jesuits. He regarded the Penal Laws as defensible on the ground of political danger only, not on the ground of religion. He desired to obtain a working arrangement with Rome, which should ensure the loyalty of the Catholics, in return for the inestimable benefit of toleration. Pope Clement VIII, Aldobrandini, was not satisfied, and sent instructions that James should not be acknowledged unless he pledged himself to much larger concessions. He feared, he said, to go too far in favour of a heretic. His briefs were not made public, but they came to the knowledge of Catesby, to whom they were very welcome. A king who might not be acknowledged was a king who might be deposed. When his advances were rejected, James issued a proclamation against the priests, which was the determining provocation of the plot. The violence with which Elizabeth defended her life against a multitude of conspirators was easily understood. But her successor was under no sentence of deprivation, and the legitimacy of his claim was untouched by arguments forged against the daughter of Anne Boleyn. The Catholics had reasonably hoped that the better treatment which they received at the beginning of the new reign, of the new dynasty, would be continued.
Under the shock of disappointment some deemed themselves absolved from allegiance, and left to their own means of self-defence. They regarded James as their aggressor. We cannot tell how much they knew of the odious filthiness of his private life and conversation, which foreign envoys described in language which nobody has ever had the courage to print. In any group there might be desperate and passionate men capable of devising crimes which they disguised under the gilding of a higher purpose. We have seen some of them at the murder of Riccio and the defenestration of Prague. But here there were deeper waters. Some of the accomplices, such as Digby, were men otherwise of blameless and honourable character, who could not be accused of hypocrisy. Then certain leading Jesuits were implicated. They were so far from encouraging the scheme that they procured from Rome a formal prohibition of violent designs. But they gave no hint of danger, and their silence was defended on the ground that although a general warning might have been given to save a Catholic prince, the seal of confession was absolute as against a Protestant.
A belief arose that these people were incorrigible. The precedent of 1572 established the right of murder. The doctrinaires of the League and their contemporaries added to it the right of revolution, applying to princes the rule followed against less exalted Protestants. How theorists were divided, or by what subtle exceptions the theory was qualified, nobody rightly knew. The generation that had beheld Guy Fawkes remained implacable. Not so King James. He resolved to perpetuate a broad division between the men of blood and their adversaries, and he founded thereon the oath of allegiance, which did no good. The Stuarts could honestly believe that the motives of persecuting parliaments were not inspired by a genuine sense of public duty, and that they themselves were defending the sacred cause against furious oppressors. The issues are not as plain, the edge is not as sharp as we suppose when we look back on the result. The question to be fought out between king and parliament was not monarchy or republic, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or the proteus that resists or betrays freedom. At many points the Stuart cause resembles that of constitutional monarchy on the Continent, as it was in France under Lewis XVIII, and in Prussia under the Emperor William. If Bismarck had been there he would have been the strength of the Royalists, and Cromwell might have met his match.
On almost every occasion, under James I, opposition made itself felt, and it became practically important, and anticipated the future in 1621. Then the Commons, guided by the most famous English lawyer, Coke, struck down Bacon, and deprived the Stuarts of the ablest counsellor they ever had. Impeachment and responsibility of ministers remained.
James's reign is also the beginning of colonial empire. Virginia was a cavalier settlement, proceeding from the epoch of exploration and the search for gold; and New England was a plebeian and sectarian establishment, planted by men who fled from oppression. They did not carry with them very clear notions of human right; but these ripened under their oppressive rule among those whom they persecuted. There were local self-government and federation in Connecticut, and spiritual self-government and toleration in Rhode Island; and from there the two institutions spread to the United States, and when the time came, the cavaliers of Virginia, who went out under James I, surpassed the fugitives of the Mayflower. They produced the Declaration of Independence, and bequeathed to America religious liberty and the political function of the Supreme Court. Of the first five presidents, four were Virginians. And in our own history, the ablest of the men who resisted Cromwell had studied practical politics in Massachusetts Bay.
The third political event by which the reign of the first Stuart profoundly influenced the modern world is the rise of those whom we call Congregationalists when we think of them as a Church, and Independents when we mean a party. It is on their account that this epoch is more fitly called the Puritan Reformation than the Puritan Revolution. For it is by the sects, including the Independents, that the English added to what was done by Luther and Calvin, and advanced beyond the sixteenth-century ideas. Continental Protestantism reacted on the Anglican settlement, and our exiled sectaries, before crossing the Atlantic, came into touch, in Holland, with the most original and spiritual remnant of the German Reformation. There Robinson completed the system of Robert Browne, a secondary and uninspiring figure, of whom we read: "Old father Browne, being reproved for beating his old wife, distinguished that he did not beat her as his wife, but as a curst old woman."
The power of Independency was not in relation to theology, but to Church government. They did not admit the finality of doctrinal formulas, but awaited the development of truth to come. Each congregation governed itself independently, and every member of the Church participated in its administration. There was consociation, but not subordination. The Church was governed, not by the State or by bishops or by the presbytery, but by the multitude of which it was composed. It was the ideal of local self-government and of democracy. Institutions which are the work of History were abolished in favour of popular control; and an Established Church, a Church connected with the State, was the supreme abomination, and went by the name of Babylon.
The political consequences reached far. The supremacy of the people, being accepted in Church government, could not be repudiated in the State. There was a strong prejudice in its favour. "We are not over one another," said Robinson, "but one with another." They inclined not only to liberty, but to equality, and rejected the authority of the past and the control of the living by the dead. The sovereignty of the yellow parchment fell before the light of reason. As there was no State Church, there could be no right of coercion over consciences. Persecution was declared to be spiritual murder. The age of Luther and the Reformation was an age of darkness. All sects alike were to be free, and Catholics, Jews, and Turks as well. The Independents fought, as they expressed it, not for their religion, but for liberty of conscience, which is the birthright of man. There was no place in their creed for a special prerogative of Englishmen over other nations, or of Independents over other churches. All this was in the stringent logic of the system, the immediate consequence of their dogmas on the constitution of the Church, and this gave to their liberalism the invaluable foundation of religion. Not every one of them saw equally far, or applied principles with equal courage. In the matter of tolerance they were supported by the Baptists, and, after the appearance of Penn, by the Quakers, though their historian deplores it as an unheard-of dogma. In 1641 there was only one congregation in London, and it consisted of sixty or seventy members. Ten years earlier Lord Brooke writes that there were not above two hundred Nonconformists in all England. It is clear that the rapid growth of numbers baffled all calculation. The Independents did not bring on the Civil War, but they were strong enough to bring it to a conclusion; and when all the direct effects of their victory passed away, their ideas survived.
Charles, a better man but a worse king than his father, had none of his insight. When, after the Petition of Right, he governed without a parliament, the problem is whether he did it for the sake of power or for the sake of religion. It resembles the problem of the American Civil War, whether the confederates were fighting for State rights or for slavery. We call him the martyr of Anglicanism. But there is one moment in his career when, at the price of unparliamentary monarchy, he could have saved Episcopacy. He was in the hands of Strafford and of Laud, and they were strong men. When Charles had to think and act for himself, it may be that his thoughts were not always clear. He was attached to the English Church, but the religious controversy puzzled him. There was a very able man among the queen's chaplains who held that the Thirty-nine Articles might be interpreted favourably to Rome. "The religion of Rome and ours," said Laud, "is all one." It is not strange, perhaps, that he should have been suspected, when so many of the king's ministers—Windebanke, Cottington, Weston—became Catholics, and the same thing was whispered of others. After Worcester, when the Earl of Derby was being taken to Newark to be executed, a strange horseman joined the cavalcade, and rode for a time by the prisoners side. It was said that this was a priest, who received him, and absolved him, in the hour of death. Although the Roman emissaries who negotiated with the archbishop, and offered him the red hat of a cardinal, never quite understood him, and could not explain why he who was so near was yet so far, they had no hopes of bringing him over. There was even a time when they reported more promising things of Ussher.
But for the religious question, the political opposition could not have carried the country with it. The Roman agents and nuncios were part of the religious question, and it is not prelacy alone that was at stake. In considering the old charge of a design to carry over England to Rome, we must remember this, that the art of understanding adversaries is an innovation of the present century, characteristic of the historic age. Formerly, a man was exhausted by the effort of making out his own meaning, with the help of his friends. The definition and comparison of systems which occupy so much of our recent literature, were unknown, and everybody who was wrong was supposed to be very wrong indeed.
We cannot avoid the question whether the three great victims —Strafford, Laud, and Charles—deserved their fate. It is certain that they were put to death illegally, and therefore unjustly. At the same time, the superior enlightenment and wisdom were not always on the side of parliament. But we have no thread through the enormous intricacy and complexity of modern politics except the idea of progress towards more perfect and assured freedom, and the divine right of free men. Judged by that test, the three culprits must be condemned. That is a principle which cuts very deep, and reaches far, and we must be prepared to see how it applies in thousands of other instances, in other countries, and in other times, especially the times in which we live.
When war broke out, the country was divided, not unequally. North and west were for the king; but north and west were backward in comparison with the south-east, which possessed London and the longer purse. The familiar line from South Devon to the Humber simplifies too much. For Charles held Oxford and Nottingham, while the parliament had the seaports, though not all the intervening region, from Plymouth to Hull, and reached the Severn at Gloucester, and the Irish Sea about the Mersey. Parties were not moved to their depths on either side, as men are by the question of existence, and the contending armies were generally small. Therefore, the struggle was slack and slow, and the Presbyterian sects became masters of the situation, and decided for the parliament. At first, through want of energy, great opportunities were lost. In Montrose Scotland produced a soldier of genius; but in England the Ironsides prevailed by their organisation and discipline. German writers on military history declare Cromwell to have been the best leader of cavalry in modern war, the master and superior of their own Frederic, whose fame is due largely to his skill in that arm. The end was an overwhelming victory and a crushing defeat. But as the chief cause was the genius of one extraordinary man, and the sudden growth and spreading of the religious party to which he belonged, the effect lasted no longer than his life. The fabric he had reared was overthrown without an effort, offering no resistance to the destroyer. The soldier, therefore, was greater than the statesman. Opinion, of late years, has become very favourable to Cromwell, thanks chiefly to Mr. Gardiner. But until the Lives by Mr. Firth and Mr. Morley are completed, the last word, for our time, will not be spoken.
Those to whom the great Noncomformist is an object of admiration, have certain conspicuous flaws to contemplate. Cromwell, by his approval of Pride's Purge, was an accomplice after the fact. Colonel Pride expelled the majority, in order that the minority might be able to take the life of the king. It was an act of illegality and violence, a flagrant breach of the law, committed with homicidal intent. In ordinary circumstances such a thing would have to bear a very ugly name. Nor was it an act of far-sighted policy, for the outraged Presbyterians restored Charles II without making terms. Then, the Protector professed to see the hand of God, a special intervention, when he succeeded, and things went well. It was not the arm of the flesh that had done these things. They were remarkable Providences, and the like. There is not a more perilous or immoral habit of mind than the sanctifying of success. Thirdly, he was the constant enemy of free institutions. Scarcely any Englishman has so bad a record in modern history. Having allowed all this, we cannot easily say too much of his capacity in all things where practical success is concerned, and not foresight or institutions. In that respect, and within those limits, he was never surpassed by any man of our race, here or in America.
As political thinkers both Vane and Harrington are more profound. Harrington is the author of what Americans have called the greatest discovery since the printing-press. For he has given the reason why the great Rebellion failed, and was followed by the reaction under Charles II. He says that it failed because it omitted to redistribute the property of the kingdom. The large estates constituted an aristocratic society, on which it was impossible to construct a democratic state. If the great estates had been broken up into small ones, on a definite plan, the nation would have been committed to the new order of things, and would have accepted the law of equality. Poverty would have been diminished on one side, and nobles would have been abolished on the other. A timorous conservatism and legal scruples made this impossible, and government, by a law of nature, took its shape from the forms and forces of society. It is needless to go quite so deep as this to see that the Cromwellian system, which was the work of a minority, led by a man of pre-eminent services and talents, crumbled when the necessary leader was gone.
The Commonwealth is the second stage on the road of revolution, which started from the Netherlands, and went on to America and France, and is the centre of the history of the modern world. Seen from a distance the value of that epoch is not in that which it created, for it left not creations but ruins, but in the prodigious wealth of ideas which it sent into the world. It supplied the English Revolution, the one that succeeded, the American, the French, with its material. And its ideas became efficacious and masterful by denying their origin. For at first they were religious, not political theories. When they renounced their theological parentage, and were translated into the scientific terms of politics, they conquered and spread over the nations, as general truths, not as British exports. For a long time to come we meet with little that goes beyond the conservatism of Hobbes, or the liberalism of Vane, and Harrington, and Milton, and of Lilburne in his saner moments. That is our inheritance from the Long Parliament, the Civil War, and the Commonwealth.
We have to deal with events which belong essentially to Constitutional History, and must treat them with a light touch, that we may not trespass on appropriated ground. Our topic is, how absolute monarchy, which just then succeeded so brilliantly over the Channel, was attempted in England, under conditions of no apparent danger, failed and failed at a great cost. And how, in the course of the struggle, ideas were developed which proved ultimately strong enough, as well as sufficiently lasting, to carry out an entirely new structure of constitutional government. It is the point where the history of nations turned into its modern bed. It is the point also where the Englishman became the leader of the world.
THE RISE OF THE WHIGS
THE LIBERAL ideas bred in sectarian circles, here And in America, did not become the common property of mankind until they were detached from their theological root, and became the creed of a party. That is the transition which occupies the reign of Charles II. It is the era in which parties took the place of churches as a political force.
A gentleman has written to remind me that the Independents did not jointly or corporately renounce the connection between Church and State, or assert religious liberty as a principle of government. They did individually that which they never did collectively, and such individuals were acting conformably to the logic of the system. In the Petition of 1616 they say, "We deny also a national, a provincial, and diocesan church under the Gospel to be a true, visible, political church." John Robinson writes: "It is the Church of England, or State Ecclesiastical, which we account Babylon, and from which we withdraw in spiritual communion." In 1644 we are told: "Godwin is a bitter enemy to presbytery, and is openly for a full liberty of conscience, to all sects, even Turks, Jews, Papists." The author of the tract, "What the Independents would have", writes that he thinks it a sin either to follow an erring conscience or to go against it; but to oppose it the greater sin, for he that will do the least sin against conscience is prepared in disposition to do the greatest. Therefore he reckons liberty of conscience to be England's chiefest good.
When I said that the English exiles in Holland came in contact with the most spiritual remnant of the Reformers, I meant the German Anabaptists. The English Baptists and the Quakers were as much opposed to the principle of persecution as the Independents I have quoted.
Only two conditions were imposed on Charles II before he came over. One of these was liberty of conscience. Cromwell had died without leaving behind him an established Constitution, and his lieutenants succeeded no better than his son. The army refused to obey a parliament of their own creating, the remnant which remained when Pride expelled the majority. It was a parliament founded not on law but on violence, on the act of men thirsting for the king's blood. The simplest solution was to restore the Long Parliament, to give power to the Presbyterian majority, which had been excluded, and was not responsible for the miscarriages and the constitutional instability of the last eleven years. The idea was so obvious that it occurred to everybody—to Monk in Scotland, to Fairfax at York, and to the army which Lambert collected to meet Monk at Newcastle, and which dispersed without fighting for its own imperial supremacy.
It is worth while to study, in the second volume of Guizot's "Richard Cromwell", the consummate policy with which Monk prepared the desired result. For the recall of the excluded members was the restoration to power of men who had persisted in negotiating with Charles I, of men who had been Royalists in season and out of season. They were no friends of arbitrary government; but it was certain that they would restore the monarchy. A premature rising of incautious Royalists was put down; and the object of Monk was to gain time, until the blindest could perceive what was inevitable. His hand was forced by Fairfax, who was ill with gout, but had himself lifted into the saddle, and raised Yorkshire for a free parliament. Under that flag Monk crossed the Tweed at Coldstream on New Year's Day. He was already the master of England, and met with no resistance on the way to Westminster. The Republicans, in their extremity, offered him the crown, which Monk refused. He likewise refused the offers of the king, who would have made him chancellor and grand constable, besides making lavish grants of money, which the general was believed to like. He knew that he was sure of his reward when the time came. It came quickly. The Long Parliament made way for a Convention Parliament, which renewed the fundamental laws, and finally abolished the feudal rights of the crown. Whilst these bills were being voted, Charles issued the Declaration of Breda, proposed by Monk, and resumed the crown without a struggle.
The nation was glad to escape from the misgovernment of the Republic, which had weighed heavily on numerous classes, and believed that the crown had received a lesson which could not be forgotten. The new government was not imposed by a victorious monarchy. It was an expression of the national wish. Parliament retained control, and there was no political reaction.
The changes now introduced went to strengthen not the prerogative, but the gentry, who were the governing class. They were relieved from the payment of feudal dues, by means of a tax which fell on other classes; members were taken from the towns and added to the country districts; and the militia, which was to protect society from the parliamentary army, was placed in the hands of the gentry. The new order of things was the work not of a party, but of a class. The dominant cavaliers were willing to refuse a share in their power to the old Puritan enemy, and passed every measure for inflicting disabilities on the Nonconformists. They were excluded from all offices, in the Church and in the State, even in the municipalities. In this way, by a religious test, the class that consisted mainly of Churchmen secured all political authority for themselves. They, however, added a political test. They imposed an oath in favour of non-resistance. Nobody could hold office who was not what was afterwards known as a Tory. This was Anglican doctrine; and the clergy set to work to rule the country in conjunction with the conservative country gentlemen, on a basis of principles laid down by Hobbes, the philosopher of the day, who denied the right, and even the existence of conscience.
Clarendon was minister; and it was an ingenious and politic thing in his eyes to suppress the Roundhead by suppressing the Presbyterian. He had reflected more deeply than any man then living on the problem of Church and State; and he did not believe in the sacred fixity of divisions founded on schemes of Church government only. Archbishop Ussher had made great concessions to the Presbyterians. Baxter had made concessions to Prelacy. The see of Hereford was offered to him, and it was thought he might accept it. Leighton, who was as much the greatest Puritan divine in Scotland as Baxter in England, did accept the offer of a mitre, and became Archbishop of Glasgow. The restored government was intolerant, because, by intolerance, it could exercise political repression. This did not apply to the Catholics. Clarendon had pledged himself that they should profit by the indulgence which was afterwards promised at Breda. When he adopted the policy of coercion against the Puritans, he was unable to keep his promise. The unnatural situation could not last after his fall. The Puritans had made war upon the throne, and the Catholics had defended it. When it was restored, they proclaimed their principles in a series of voluntary declarations which dealt with the customary suspicions and reproaches, and fully satisfied the purpose aimed at by the oath of allegiance. No people could be more remote from the type of Allen and Parsons than the English Benedictines and the Irish Franciscans who hailed the revived monarchy. Against such men the old argument of Elizabethan persecutors was vain.
After the fall of Clarendon a different policy was attempted. The rigid exclusiveness of the Puritans had bequeathed one sinister vice to the English people. They were complacent in their insularity, and had a prejudice against the foreigner. It had been directed against Spain, for the sake of Plate fleets to seize and coasts to pillage; and now it was strongest against the Dutch, who were dangerous rivals by sea, both in peace and war. It was least, at that time, against France, whose great statesman, Mazarin, had made terms with the Republic, and retained the friendship of the restored king. A trivial dispute on the Guinea Coast was fanned into a quarrel by the Duke of York, who was a sailor, and who hoped to strengthen his position at home by his professional skill, in which he only partially succeeded. This is the war that terminated in the memorable change of front of the Triple Alliance, uniting the Dutch, the English, and the Swedes against France. It was a popular but totally ineffective measure; and in 1669 England abandoned her allies and went over to France. Lewis XIV accomplished this important diplomatic success by the Treaty of Dover, the first in the process of events that overthrew the Stuart monarchy, and brought in the modern type of Constitution.
Soon after his return to England, Charles opened negotiations with Rome, which were carried on through one of his sons, born before Monmouth, who became a Jesuit; and he vainly endeavoured to obtain supplies from Alexander VII. Later on, he sought them in France. It was impossible, he said, to restore the royal authority unless it was done through the restoration of Catholicism. That could be secured, if Lewis would make him independent of the House of Commons. The scheme was prepared in January 1669, Arlington consenting, for a bribe of L12,000. It was decided to restore the Catholic Church in England by such a display of force as should be sufficient to raise the crown above the restraints of parliament. In execution of the design Lewis advanced L80,000, and undertook, in case of resistance, to furnish a force of 6000 men, to be a French garrison in England, for the repression of Protestants. The sum was much less than Charles demanded, for the object of the French king was not to strengthen, but to weaken him. The second point in the Treaty was that England engaged to support France in any claims she might have upon Spain. Lastly, England was to help her ally against Holland, in return for further payments and the annexation of Walcheren. But it was agreed to postpone the Dutch war until the year 1672. That is the solid substance of the phantom which is called the Popish Plot.
It was, in reality, a plot, under cover of Catholicism, to introduce absolute monarchy, and to make England a dependency of France, not only by the acceptance of French money, but by submission to a French army. Charles I and his ministers had gone to the block for less than this.
If the thing should become known, nobody could foretell the consequences. Turenne was told, because he would be wanted if it came to blows; and Turenne told a lady of his acquaintance, who proved indiscreet. The king, in a fury, asked him how he could be such a fool. The marshal, not unaccustomed to the experience of being under fire, replied that he was not the only man who had been made a fool of by a woman, and King Lewis XIV did not see his way to pursue the conversation. His political object was secured, even if nothing should be done in England to fulfil the agreement. He had Charles completely in his power. The secret text only needed to be divulged, in order to raise the country against him. He never again could be formidable. If all other devices for dividing him from his people were insufficient, this one could not fail. Many years later Lewis caused a book to be printed, by an Italian adventurer, in which the secret was revealed. The book was suppressed and the author imprisoned, for the sake of appearances. But 155 copies were in circulation, and the culprit was released after six days. It became dangerous for Charles to meet parliament. The facts became known to Shaftesbury long before, and determined his course from the time of his dismissal from office, in November 1673. The scheme laid down in the Dover Treaty was a dangerous one, and after the beginning of the Dutch war there were no French troops to spare.
Charles tried another way to gain his purpose. Both he and his brother desired to establish Catholicism for its own sake. They were not converts, but they intended to be before they died. The difference was that James was ready to make some sacrifice for his religion, Charles was not. They both regarded it as the only means of putting the crown above the law. This could be done more safely by claiming the right to dispense from penalties and disabilities imposed by parliament. The idea, entertained as early as 1662, ripened ten years later, when the Penal Laws, as well as the intolerant legislation of Clarendon against the Puritans, which had been considered the safeguard of monarchy, were declared inoperative. The ministers, including Shaftesbury, expected to obtain the support of Nonconformists. This calculation proved delusive. The Dissenters, on an assurance that they would be relieved by parliament if they resisted the offers of the king, refused to accept them. The object of his declaration was too apparent, and was indeed too openly avowed. Just then the Duke of York became a Catholic, and although the fact was not made public, it was suspected. Ministers advised Charles to maintain his offer of indulgence and his claim to the dispensing power. Charles gave way and accepted his defeat. He gave way because Lewis advised it, and promised him more French regiments than had been stipulated for, as soon as he was again at peace with the Dutch.
The House of Commons followed up its victory by passing the Test Act, excluding Catholics from office. The Duke of York resigned his post as Lord High Admiral. It was, he said, the beginning of the scheme for depriving him of the succession to the throne. In November 1673 Shaftesbury, who had promoted the Declaration of Indulgence, was dismissed from office and went into opposition, for the purposes of which Lewis sent him L10,000. He learnt from Arlington the main particulars of the Treaty of Dover, and in the following month of January the secret was substantially made public in a pamphlet, which is reprinted in the State Tracts. From that moment he devoted himself to the exclusion of James.
In 1676 the Duke of York made it known that he had become a Catholic. This was so gratuitous that people took it to mean that he was strong in the support which the French king gave him. He was still true to the policy of the Dover Treaty, which his brother had abandoned, and still watched his opportunity to employ force for the restoration of his Church. All this was fully understood, and his enemy, Shaftesbury, was implacable.
When he had been five years out of office, in September 1678, Titus Oates appeared. Who the people were who brought him forward, with the auxiliary witnesses, Bedloe, Dangerfield, and Turberville, the one who received L600 for his evidence against Stafford, is still unknown. Shaftesbury was not the originator. He would not have waited so many years. His part in the affair was to employ the public alarm for the destruction of the Duke of York. Therefore, from the summer of 1678 there was a second plot. The first, consisting in the Treaty of Dover, drawn up by the Catholic advisers, Arundel, Bellasis, the historian Belling, and Leighton, the great archbishop's brother. The second was the Protestant plot against the Catholics, especially the Duke of York. The indignation against the real plot, that of Dover, was essentially political.
In February 1675 the opposition proposed to James to restore his offices if he would abandon Lewis. When the imperial ambassador, in July 1677, complained of the No Popery cry, they replied that there was no question of religion, but of liberty. In the case of Oates and his comrades, the political motive faded into insignificance beside the religious. At first the evidence was unsubstantial. Oates was an ignorant man, and he obtained credit only by the excitement and distrust caused by the discovery of the premeditated coup d'etat. Godfrey, the magistrate who conducted the inquiry, warned James that the secretary of the Duchess of York, was implicated. His name was Coleman, and he had time to destroy his papers. Some of them were seized. They spoke of a great blow which was being prepared against the Protestants. It appeared also that he was in the pay of Lewis, and had solicited his confessor, Pere La Chaise, for a sum of L300,000 in order to get rid of parliament. It was argued that if such things were found in the papers he had not burnt, there must have been worse still in those which had perished. It showed that the scheme of Dover was still pursued, was still a danger. At that moment the magistrate who sent the warning disappeared. After some days his dead body was found at the foot of Green Berry Hill, now Primrose Hill; and one of the most extraordinary coincidences, so interesting in the study of historical criticism, is the fact that the men hanged for the murder were named Green, Berry, and Hill. It was of course suspected that Godfrey had perished because he knew too much.
For some time the excitement rose very high. On the day when two Jesuits were executed, one of the Catholic envoys writes that nothing else could have saved the lives of all the Catholics in London. Taking advantage of the state of public feeling, Shaftesbury proposed that James should be excluded from the succession for his religion. The crown was to go to the next heir, the Princess of Orange. This was thrown out by the Lords. Meantime the second Test Act expelled the Catholic peers from the House of Lords. James withdrew from the council, from the palace, and at last from the kingdom.
The second Exclusion Bill was founded, not on his religion, but on his politics, that is, his treasonable connection with the King of France. The opponents of exclusion proposed limitation of the royal power, in a manner such as that which has since prevailed. Charles preferred this amendment to the Constitution rather than an Act which enabled parliament to regulate the succession. William of Orange vigorously opposed it, as the same restraints might be retained when his wife came to the throne. Halifax, who defeated the Exclusion Bill and defended the Limitation Bill, assured the prince that it would never be applied, as James had no chance whatever of succeeding his brother. His only purpose in proposing his Bill was to preserve the succession, according to law, from parliamentary control.
In order to obtain evidence that should ruin James's prospects, it was resolved now to put the Catholic peers on their trial. Stafford came first. He had not been in the secret of the fatal Treaty. But the plans this time were cleverly laid. Although Lord Stafford was entirely innocent, Count Thun, the Austrian envoy, was profoundly impressed by the weight of the case against him and the weakness of the defence. He was beheaded amid shrieks of execration and exultation. Arundel was to come next; and Arundel did know enough to compromise the duke. But the plan had failed. Nothing had been discovered in Stafford's trial that could help the exclusion; and a revulsion of popular feeling followed. Monmouth was now put forward. If James could not be excluded he must make way for Monmouth, if Monmouth was legitimate. The king was pressed to acknowledge him. A black box was said to contain the necessary evidence of his mother's marriage. A bishop was spoken of who knew all about it. Monmouth himself accepted the idea. When the Duke of Plymouth died he refused to wear mourning. He would not mourn, he said, for a brother who was illegitimate. After the Test Act, the Exclusion Bill, the succession of Monmouth, the indefatigable Shaftesbury had still one resource. He tried an insurrection. When he found it impossible to draw the line between insurrection and murder, he thought the position dangerous, and went abroad. Russell and Sidney were put to death. Charles was victorious over his enemies. He owed his victory to the French king, who gave him L700,000, and enabled him to exist without a parliament for three years.
It was during this struggle against the overshadowing suspicion of the Dover Treaty that the Habeas Corpus Act was passed, and that Party took shape in England. In general, the old cavalier families, led by the clergy and the lawyers, acquiesced in the royal prerogative, the doctrine of passive obedience, the absolute and irresistible authority of that which Hobbes called Leviathan, meaning the abstract notion of the State. They had a passion for order, not for oppression; good government was as dear to them as to their opponents, and they believed that it would not be secured if the supreme authority was called in question. That was the Court Party, known as Tories. As time went on, after the Revolution, they underwent many developments. But at first they were simply defenders of royal authority against aggression, without any original ideas.
The Country Party was the party of reform. They were the people excluded from the public service by the oath in favour of non-resistance. They believed in the rightfulness of the war which the Long Parliament waged against the king, and were prepared, eventually, to make war against Charles II. That was the essential distinction between them and the Tories. They dreaded revolution, but, in an extreme case, they thought it justifiable. "Acts of tyranny," said Burnet, "will not justify the resistance of subjects, yet a total subversion of their constitution will." When Burnet and Tillotson urged this doctrine on Lord Russell, he replied that he did not see a difference between a legal and a Turkish Constitution, upon this hypothesis.
Whig history exhibits a gradual renunciation of Burnet's mitigated doctrine, that resistance is only justified by extreme provocation, and a gradual approach to the doctrine of Russell, on which the American Revolution proceeded. The final purpose of the Whigs was not distinct from that of their fathers in the Long Parliament. They desired security against injustice and oppression. The victors in the Civil War sought this security in a Republic, and in this they conspicuously failed. It was obvious that they made a mistake in abolishing the monarchy, the Established Church, and the House of Lords. For all these things came back, and were restored as it were by the force of Nature, not by the force of man.
The Whigs took this lesson of recent experience to heart. They thought it unscientific to destroy a real political force. Monarchy, Aristocracy, Prelacy, were things that could be made innocuous, that could be adjusted, limited and preserved. The very essence of the new Party was compromise. They saw that it is an error to ride a principle to death, to push things to an extreme, to have an eye for one thing only, to prefer abstraction to realities, to disregard practical conditions. They were a little disappointing, a little too fond of the half-way house. Their philosophy, or rather their philosopher, John Locke, is always reasonable and sensible, but diluted and pedestrian and poor. They became associated with great interests in English society, with trade, and banking, and the city, with elements that were progressive, but exclusive, and devoted to private, not to national ends. So far as they went, they were in the right, ethically as well as politically. But they proceeded slowly beyond the bare need of the moment. They were a combination of men rather than a doctrine, and the idea of fidelity to comrades was often stronger among them than the idea of fidelity to truths. General principles were so little apparent in the system that excellent writers suppose that the Whigs were essentially English, Nonconformists, associated with limited monarchy, unfit for exportation over the world. They took long to outgrow the narrow limits of the society in which they arose. A hundred years passed before Whiggism assumed the universal and scientific character. In the American speeches of Chatham and Camden, in Burke's writings from 1778 to 1783, in the Wealth of Nations, and the tracts of Sir William Jones, there is an immense development. The national bounds are overcome. The principles are sacred, irrespective of interests. The charter of Rhode Island is worth more than the British Constitution, and Whig statesmen toast General Washington, rejoice that America has resisted, and insist on the acknowledgment of independence. The progress is entirely consistent; and Burke's address to the colonists is the logical outcome of the principles of liberty and the notion of a higher law above municipal codes and constitutions, with which Whiggism began.
It is the supreme achievement of Englishmen, and their bequest to the nations; but the patriarchs of the doctrine were the most infamous of men. They set up the monument to perpetuate the belief that the Catholics set fire to London. They invented the Black Box and the marriage of Lucy Waters. They prompted, encouraged, and rewarded the murderer Oates. They proclaimed that the Prince of Wales came in the warming pan. They were associated with the Rye House assassins; that conspiracy was their ruin. Charles triumphed, and did not spare his enemies. When he died, in spite of the Dover Treaty, of his paid subserviency to France, of the deliberate scheme to subvert the liberties of England, James, the chief culprit, succeeded, with undiminished power. The prostrate Whigs were at the mercy of Jeffreys.
But forty years of agitation had produced the leaven that has leavened the world. The revolutionary system was saved, because the king threw away his advantage. The Whig party became supreme in the State by a series of events which are the most significant in English History.
THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION
THREE-QUARTERS of a century of struggling and experiment, from the fall of Bacon to the death of Charles II, had ended in failure, and the government of England had been brought into line with continental monarchy when James ascended the throne.
The House of Commons refused to listen to Seymour s warning speech, and voted, nemine discrepante, a revenue which, by the growth of trade, soon rose to near two millions. It was in the king's power to retain that loyal and submissive parliament as long as he chose, and he was not obliged to meet it annually. He had the control of the constituencies. The press was not free, and the proceedings of the legislature were withdrawn from public knowledge. Judges could be dismissed at will, until the bench was filled with prerogative lawyers. There was an army kept in foreign pay that could be recalled when it was wanted. Passive obedience was taught as a precept by the universities, and as a religious dogma by the Church.
It was no secret that James was resolved to be master, and to abolish the restraints and safeguards of the constitution. Penn, reporting his intentions to William of Orange, declared that he would have all or nothing. He had repeatedly avowed that he meant to do it by a standing army and by claiming the right to dispense with laws. Monmouth's rebellion gave him the standing army. Although it was unsupported either by the exclusionists or the limitationists, and although it was contemptibly managed, there had been a moment of serious danger. It was the general opinion that the night attack at Sedgemoor would have succeeded, and that the royal army would have been destroyed, if the rebels, instead of betraying their approach with musketry, had come to close quarters with axe and scythe. The king took advantage of what had happened, and he had the means of paying a force which amounted to 14,000 men.
Charles had been in perpetual want of money through the expensive scandals of his court. There were half a dozen ducal titles needing to be provided with ducal incomes, and obliging the king to become a dependent pensionary of the liberal paymaster in France. At his death all this was changed, and Catharine Sedley disappeared from Whitehall. It is true that her absence was not prolonged, and that she had obscurer rivals. But a decorous economy was observed in a branch of expenditure which had been profuse. Nevertheless Lewis XIV hastened to make offers of pecuniary aid to the frugal James as to the extravagant Charles. He sent over a sum of L60,000 or L70,000, consisting partly of arrears already due. This was to be paid only if James found himself in difficulties after having proclaimed liberty of conscience. If there was no disturbance, there was to be no payment. And when the session ended without any measure of the kind, Lewis gave orders that the money should be returned to him. In the autumn of 1685 James proceeded to adopt his advice. He had been victorious. His birthday, in October, was celebrated more heartily than his brother's had ever been, and the atrocities of the Western Assize did not affect opinion to his disadvantage.
He made known his plans. Besides the standing army and the recall of the Habeas Corpus, he demanded the dispensing power. Nobody supposed that the head of the executive was to persecute his own religion. To admit his right of succession was to admit that the Elizabethan Code was to be practically dormant. The Catholic desired no more. It was enough that they ceased to suffer oppression. Halifax, the ablest though not the strongest of James's ministers, agreed to that, and did not object to a moderate number of Catholic officers. The Prince of Orange was of the same opinion. Toleration was therefore assured, and the era of persecution had passed away. That was of no use to Lewis XIV, who in that month of October suppressed the Protestant religion in France. And it was of little use to James himself, as it added nothing to his power. He insisted on introducing toleration by dispensing with the laws, by right of his prerogative, and on abolishing the Test Act. But the Test Act was a security against arbitrary power, by depriving him of the assistance of Catholics in office. His desire for arbitrary power was notorious, and the country did not believe that his zeal for the liberty of conscience was sincere. They believed, and they believed rightly, that he demanded more than that which would satisfy the just and obvious necessities of his Church in order to strengthen his prerogative, and that he was tolerant in order that he might be absolute. He professed openly the maxim that toleration was the necessary condition of absolutism. He urged Lewis, secretly, to pursue the work of the revocation, and was reluctant to allow collections to be made for the Huguenot fugitives.
Later, when he was himself an exile, and nothing could be more inopportune than the profession of tolerant sympathies at the French court, he seriously and consistently proclaimed them. And it is very possible that he was then sincere, and that a change had taken place. Another change took place when he became acquainted with the famous Rance, who had made the abbey of La Trappe the most edifying seat of religion in France, and a favourite retreat for men like Bossuet and St. Simon. James also visited him and corresponded with him, and sixty of their letters are extant. At Versailles people did not understand how so much devotion could be combined with so much tolerance in religion. The letters to Rance show that the religion of James, when he was on the throne, was very near the surface. Whether it was different afterwards, as they believed in France, is not quite certain. And in this connection it will be convenient to mention the assassination plot.
There was an Irish divine, Martin of Connemara, who suggested that, in time of war, it would be well that a chosen band should devote themselves to the task of falling upon the Prince of Orange and putting him to death. It would, he said, be a legitimate act of warfare. Lewis XIV required no such arguments, and sent a miscreant named Grandval to rid him of the obnoxious prince. Berwick preferred the advice of the theologian, and, at the battle of Landen, he led a troop of 200 horsemen to the place where his kinsman stood, crying out to them to kill him. Three years later, in 1696, he was in London, communicating with the managers of the plot, who thought that it would be no murder to shoot the king on the road to Hampton Court, when surrounded by his guards. A beacon fire on Shakespeare's Cliff was to send the news across the sea, and at that signal James was to come over, in French ships. When the plot thickened, Berwick made his escape, and met his father changing horses at Clermont. Having learnt how matters stood, James pursued his way to Calais, and there, while he watched the northern horizon for the desired signal, he wrote edifying letters to the Abbe de Rance. When the plot was betrayed he showed the deepest sympathy with the assassins, and never lamented their crime.
The series of measures by which he lost the crown form a drama in three acts. First, he tried to obtain the co-operation of the Established Church. When that failed, he turned against the Church and worked through the Dissenters. And then he brought on that quarrel with the clergy which proved fatal to him. James did not believe in the reality of Protestant religion. Sunderland assured him that in two years not a Protestant would be left in England, if compulsion ceased, and his mind was bewildered by two very remarkable facts. One of these was the theology of recent Caroline divines. Archbishop Bramhall could hardly be distinguished from a Gallican. Archbishop Leighton was in close touch with Jansenists. One Roman doctrine was adopted by Montagu, another by Thomdike, a third by Isaac Barrow. Bull received the thanks of the French clergy for his vindication of the early fathers against the most learned of the Jesuits. To an ignorant and narrow-minded man all these things pointed to one conclusion, the instability and want of solidity in the Anglican system. Then there was the astounding collapse of the French Huguenots. Lewis boasted that, in a few months, without real violence, he had effected 800,000 conversions. And James was eager to believe it. He asked himself, says Barillon, why he could not do as much in England. He desired the Roman congregations to examine the question, whether the English bishops might retain their sees. Some said they would be better than the Catholic clergy, who were accused of Jansenism. One thing he considered absolutely certain. The Church would never resist his authority. The Bishop of Winchester entreated him not to rely on the passive obedience of Churchmen. James replied that the bishop had lost his nerve.