Lectures on Modern history
by Baron John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8
Home - Random Browse

On this state of feeling the government introduced septennial parliaments. Under the Triennial Act a general election would have fallen due in 1717, too soon for safety after the Jacobite rising. Opinion in the country had not been impressed by recent events, by the utter weakness of the rebels, the overwhelming success of the government, the significant menace of the dying leader, so deeply as the House of Commons. The new establishment would be in peril with the constituencies, but safe with their representatives. This was so certain that the philosophic arguments, for legislative independence and for popular control, were superfluous. The victors secured their victory and perpetuated their power by extending their mandate from three years to seven. The measure strengthened the House of Commons, and prepared the long reign of the Whigs. The funds rose, and the king took advantage of the improved situation to spend some months in Hanover. There he had greater scope to devote himself to foreign affairs, and to bring the Englishmen who attended him under the influence of experienced foreigners. Thus, while the Tories were prostrate and the Whigs supreme, a schism arose between the ministers at Hanover and the ministers at home. Walpole and Townshend went out of office; Stanhope and Sunderland formed a new administration, which the South Sea Bubble overthrew. A great question of constitutional principle opened between them and their former colleagues. The enmity between the king and the Prince of Wales made it probable that the ministers who had the confidence of the father would be dismissed on his son's accession. George II, to carry out his purpose, would be obliged to swamp the House of Lords with new peers. To prevent this, it was proposed to limit the power of creation and to fix a maximum number. As the Septennial Act had increased the power of the commons, the Peerage Bill would, in their turn, have increased the power of the peers, against the crown on one hand, against the commons on the other. The Whigs were not prepared to diminish the House of Commons, and not yet afraid that it would become too powerful, exposed as it was to corruption, and elected, on a narrow franchise, by an uneducated constituency. Burnet, the typical Whig, had protested against such limitations as should quite change the form of our government, and render the crown titular and precarious.

Walpole defeated the Bill. It deprived government of one great means of influence, by abolishing the hope of a peerage. He was not prepared to sacrifice a legitimate species of patronage. He came back, thereupon, to office, but not to a principal office; and he was not a member of the Cabinet when the South Sea Company undertook to reduce the National Debt. They offered only eight and a half years' purchase; but the spirit of speculation was strong, and these bad terms were widely accepted. The shares of the Company rose from 130 to 1000. As there was so much capital seeking investment, rival enterprises were started, and were opposed by the South Sea Company. Their ruin destroyed its credit; and after large sums had been won, large sums were lost. Some had been impoverished, others enriched. The country had not suffered, but the ministry fell. Walpole inherited their power. The ground was cleared for his long administration. It lasted so long that he did more than any other man to establish the new system of government. He was more zealous to retain his power than to make heroic use of it, and was a good administrator but an indifferent legislator. In his time those things were best which were done outside of parliament. Walpole made it his business to yield to public opinion, and did it consistently in the three critical moments of his career—in Wood's Halfpence, in the Excise, and in the Spanish war. The same problem presented itself to a greater man in the present century, and was decided on the opposite principle. Guizot was himself persuaded that a measure of parliamentary reform was inevitable, since the opinion of the country was in its favour. But the opinion of parliament was against it, and he preferred to fall, together with the monarchy, in obedience to parliament, rather than to triumph by public opinion.

Walpole gave way in the affair of the Halfpence, that he might not alienate those through whom he governed Ireland. The coins were good. They were to contain twice the value of metal with which we are satisfied, and it was never shown that they did not. The gains of the contractor were exhorbitant. He was able to pay a heavy fee to the Duchess of Kendal; and when the contract was revoked, he obtained an excessive compensation. His Halfpence are historic because Swift, in raising a tempest over the Irish grievance, employed the language of revolution and national patriotism, as it had never been heard. Again, the Excise Bill would have saved many hundreds of thousands of pounds to the State, when a hundred thousand was more than a million is now; but Walpole, in spite of his majority, yielded to the clamour outside. And he did the same thing in regard to the Spanish war, the last great crisis he encountered.

Walpole's main idea on taking the highest office, that which he proclaimed in his first king's speech, was to divert the country from frantic speculation to the legitimate profits of industry and trade. The two great openings for trade were with the Mediterranean and with Spanish America. That with the Mediterranean was somewhat neglected, as the government relied more on the friendship of the piratical Algerines than on the solid possession of Gibraltar and Minorca. George I had written a letter to Philip V, dated 1st June, 1721, in which he distinctly assured him of his "readiness to satisfy with regard to your demand relating to the restitution of Gibraltar, promising you to make use of the first favourable opportunity to regulate this article with consent of my parliament." The English ministry were not convinced of the importance of retaining Gibraltar, and fully expected to be in a position to give it up to Spain for an equivalent. Indeed, in January 1721, Stanhope had said to the French envoy that in a year, when the financial position of England was better and the temper of parliament improved, they would certainly give up Gibraltar, for the merest shadow of an equivalent, as the place was only a burden to them. But they had not counted on the determination of the English people to hold it at all costs. Philip, however, not perhaps without some reason, always regarded the engagement as precise, and treated the continued retention as an act of bad faith. In all that I have just said about Gibraltar, I have been quoting a recent writer in the Historical Review.

The South American trade presented infinite possibilities. It was pursued with difficulty against the resistance of the Spaniards, who had the law on their side. It was considered worth a war, and the strength of public feeling overcame the feeble scruples of the minister. The war ended disastrously, but before the end Walpole had been driven from office. It had been no part of his policy to promote prosperity by arms, but it was part of his policy, and the deciding part of it, to let the nation, in the last instance, regulate its own affairs. Peace was a good thing; but profit was also a good thing; and Walpole had no principle that made one a question of duty and the other a question of interest.

The constant lesson of the Revolution was that England preferred monarchy. But after the fall of Walpole it was observed that there was a new growth of republican sentiment, and that the country felt itself superior to the government. This was the natural result of the time known as the Robinocracy; not because he devised liberal measures, but because he was careful to be neither wiser nor more liberal than the public. He was quite content to preserve the government of the country by the rich, in the interest of their own class. Unlike Stanhope, his predecessor, he was unmoved by the intolerance of the laws in England, and especially in Ireland. He was a friend to Free Trade; but he suffered Ireland to be elaborately impoverished, for the benefit of English landlords. Slavery and the slave trade, which Bolingbroke had promoted, were not remedied or checked by this powerful Whig. The criminal Code, in his time, grew annually more severe; and I need enter into no details as to the treatment of the prisoners and of the poor. Walpole was so powerful, and was powerful so long, that much of the responsibility for all these things is at his door. On this account, and not because he governed by patronage and pensions and ribbons and bribes, he was a false Whig.

Government by Party was established in 1714, by Party acting through the Cabinet. Walpole added to this the prime minister, the accepted head of the Party and of the Cabinet. As the king did not preside, the minister who did preside discharged many functions of the king. The power of governing the country was practically transferred. It was shared, not between the minister and the king, but between the head of the ministry and the head of the opposition. For Party implies the existence of a party which is out as well as a party that is in. There is a potential ministry ready for office whenever the majority is shifted. As Walpole remained twenty-one years in office, he ignored this part of the constitutional system. He never became a leader of opposition, and when he resigned, no such thing had been provided. "All the talents" were opposed to him, but they were not an organised opposition. They were discontented and offended Whigs, assailing ministers on no ground of principle. This form of opposition was instituted by Pulteney, when he quarrelled with Walpole. Pulteney founded the Craftsman, in which there was much good political writing. For Bolingbroke had returned to England, and as he was not allowed to resume his seat in the Lords, he could make his power felt only through his pen. As he was thoroughly cured of his Jacobite sympathies, the doctrine he proclaimed was a Toryism stripped of the reactionary element. He proposed to make the State dominate over all the interests—land, Church, trade, and the like. That this might be done, and the government by a class for a class abolished, he appealed to the crown. The elevation of the State over the dominant classes had been the part of intelligent Monarchy in every age. And it is the spell by which Bolingbroke transformed Toryism and introduced the party called the King's Friends, which became a power in the middle of the century, and was put an end to by Mr. Pitt, after losing America, and setting up an English rival to England. After the final fall of the Stuarts in 1746, this was the moving force of Toryism, and the illiberal spirit was seriously curbed. Macaulay goes so far as to say that the Tories became more liberal than the Whigs. But it was an academic and Platonic liberality that did not strengthen the constitution.

The Whigs, having added the unwritten clauses, exclusive government by party, cabinet instead of council, and premier instead of king, did nothing to discover defects to be reformed and principles to be developed. They became Conservatives, satisfied with defending the new dynasty and the institutions that accompanied it. One supreme change was absolutely essential to complete their system. For its essence was that the object of the law, which was liberty, should prevail over the letter of the law, which was restraint. It required that public opinion should control legislation. That could not be done without the liberty of the press; and the press was not free while it was forbidden to publish and to discuss the debates of parliament. That prohibition was strictly maintained. For near thirty years we know the debates, and even the divisions, chiefly through the reports of Bonnet the Brandenburg resident, and of Hoffmann the Austrian resident, who tell us much that is sought vainly in the meagre pages of Hansard. Then came the epoch of Dr. Johnson and his colleagues in Grub Street. But when the Whig reign ended, at the resignation of the great Commoner in 1761, the Whigs had not admitted the nation to the parliamentary debates.

The debates were made public in 1774. The unreported parliament of 1768, as it is called, is the first that was properly reported. The speeches were taken down by one of the members, Cavendish, the ancestor of the Waterparks. A portion has been printed and forgotten. The remainder is preserved in manuscript, and contains, in all, about two hundred and fifty speeches of Edmund Burke. It is of no little value to political students, inasmuch as Burke at his best is England at its best. Through him and through American influence upon him, the sordid policy of the Walpolean Whigs became a philosophy, and a combination of expedients was changed into a system of general principles.



WHILST THE English people, with the example and assistance of the Dutch, were carrying forward the theory of constitutional government, a still more important movement in the opposite direction was proceeding in the North, and new forces were brought into the widening circle of general history.

The Muscovite empire extended from the frontiers of Poland to the farthest extremity of China. In numbers and in extent it was the first of Christian Powers. But it played no part in the concert or the conflict of Europe, and its existence was almost unnoticed and unfelt. The people were too backward in the scale of wealth or knowledge or civilisation to obtain influence even on their neighbours. Potentially the most formidable force on earth, practically they were forgotten and unknown. In a single reign, by the action of one man, Russia passed from lethargy and obscurity to a dominant position among the nations.

The first need was intercourse with the world—intercourse of trade for its material progress, intercourse of ideas for its civilisation. The problem was too obvious to escape the earlier Romanoffs. They were a clerical dynasty, closely associated with the Church, and allowing to the Patriarch a position very near the throne. In politics they were inefficient and unsuccessful; but their Church policy was charged with far-reaching consequences. In that, they were superior to the people about them, and they introduced certain moderate reforms, literary rather than dogmatic, in the externals of ritual, and in the liturgical books. An illiterate clergy had allowed abuses to take root, and were excessively intolerant of change. A schism arose between the established church with its rectified texts and improved ceremonial, and the large minority who rejected them. Everybody knows Newman's story of the ancient priest who fell into the habit, at mass, of saying, "quod ore mumpsimus" instead of "quod ore sumpsimus," and, when admonished of his error, refused to exchange old "mumpsimus" for new "sumpsimus." Although "mumpsimus" is the very motto for the Russian schismatics, and although ignorance and superstition were the root of the matter, they combined with a dread of arbitrary change by an arbitrary power, and supplied a basis for resistance to Erastianism and the fusion of Church and State. This was the heart of the opposition to the later reforms, to which the Church in general yielded reluctantly, and the sectaries not at all, choosing death, and even suicide by fire, to compromise. The reforming government was driven into persecution by the fanaticism of these men.

The new spirit began to reign when the young Tsar Peter triumphed over family intrigues that were supported by the party of reaction. He was uneducated, unmannerly, uncivilised; but he had a clear notion of that which his people required, and the energy and force of character to achieve it. As there were no roads in Russia, and not much material for making them, the waterway was the easy and natural line to follow. The Russian rivers flowed to the Caspian and the Euxine, and invited to the conquest of Persia and Central Asia, or to the deliverance of the Slavonic and Greek brethren from the Turk. Peter was not carried away by either prospect. He did indeed send a fleet down the Volga, and another down the Don. He conquered the Persian coast of the Caspian, but resisted the temptation of pushing his arms to the Indian Ocean. He was repeatedly at war with the Turk; but he contented himself with a humble measure of success.

Poland, for reasons of race and religion, was the national enemy; and from the death of Sobieski in 1696 there were symptoms that it was likely to break up. The next king, Augustus of Saxony, in 1702, proposed the partition of the Polish dominions. His agent, Patkul, renewed the idea at Berlin in 1704, and Austria did the same in 1712. At the height of his military success, in 1710, Peter entertained the idea, only to dismiss it. He preferred to wait. Poland would be convenient as a helpless neighbour, covering his frontier on a dangerous side; and its constitution prevented it from becoming formidable. He was content to make sure that the feeble government should never undergo reform. He resolutely fixed his thoughts in another direction, and chose, not the easiest, but the most difficult line of attack.

Tartars, or Persians, or Zaporogue Cossacks supplied no new element that could be of service to his people. The Russians had issued from the long subjection to the Golden Horde, indigent, ignorant, prejudiced, dishonest and false. A mighty future lay before them, but they were unfit for such a destiny. The civilising influences they required could come only from contact with superior races. From them they must import the goods, they must import the men, that were needed to raise them, in the arts of peace and war, to a level with others. The route for both species of commerce was by sea. But Russia touched the sea only in the North, where it is closed by ice. The way to the countries that were most advanced, intellectually and socially, to France and England, especially to Holland and the empire behind it, was by the Baltic.

There the Swedes stopped the way. Gustavus had conquered the Baltic provinces, and all the way from Poland to Finland the coast was inaccessible to the interior of Russia. Sweden was still esteemed a great Power; and although it was not yet discovered, the new king was, what Peter never became, a capable and ambitious commander. The main argument of Peter's reign was the struggle for supremacy with Charles XII.

Before it broke out, he undertook a journey to make acquaintance with the foreign countries by which he intended to accomplish the elevation of his own. That was the time of those grotesque studies in shipbuilding, tooth-drawing, and useful arts in which he acquired a sort of technical mastery; and it was then that he learned to think so highly of the Dutch as a practical people, worthy of imitation. This preference was not exclusive, and he was eager to borrow what he could from others—military organisation from Austria, manners from France, clothes from England, methods of administration from Germany. Together with the foreign customs he undertook to introduce experts who were to teach them, until the disciples became equal to their masters. The Scotsman Gordon and the Genevese Lefort were at the head of his army and navy. Germans, such as Munnich and Ostermann, followed; and then there came a vast army of engineers, miners, metal founders, artificers of almost all kinds, for the roads and bridges, the ships and palaces, the schools and hospitals that he called into existence. These things were the sine qua non of civilisation. It would be long before his own people understood the use of them. They could only be obtained by importation. To stimulate the demand for them at home it would be necessary to rely on the progress of intelligence. That could not be done in a nation consisting mainly of serfs. The educational part of the enterprise was the one which had least success, and which he understood least. For such imponderables he had no scales, and he cared more for the kind of knowledge that was practically useful than for the interior improvement of the mind, which constitutes what we call a gentleman. No such exotic could flourish at his court. He required that those whom he honoured with his confidence should get as drunk as himself; that they should be servile and cringing, without moral courage or self-respect, happy to be insulted, kicked, and spat upon. They might be men of resource, brave soldiers, clever administrators, but they seldom developed those elements of character which prevent a man from being corrupt. For those qualities he had no comprehension. Civilisation, as he understood it, was material, not moral. He could not imagine management of men by the nobler motives. He raised the condition of the country with great rapidity; he did not raise it above his own level.

While he was on his travels exploring Europe an insurrection broke out, and the old Russian militia, the Strelitz, mutinied, and plotted to exterminate the Germans and all the abettors of foreign innovation. The movement was crushed by Gordon, and Peter on his return was undisputed master. He then plunged into war with Sweden for the Baltic provinces—that is, for access to the sea, which was the highway to all the world. Beaten at first, but not discouraged, he organised a new army, while Charles XII overran Poland and dictated terms of peace in the heart of Germany.

It then appeared that the Russians, like most nations when they are ably commanded, were the raw material of good soldiers. Charles came back to Russia from his Saxon campaign laden with glory, and marched on Moscow by Minsk, Mohilev, the Beresina—very much the route which Napoleon followed. At the instigation of Mazeppa he turned aside to the Ukraine, in the hope of raising the Cossacks against the Tsar. At Pultawa, near the Dnieper, he was defeated, and fled for refuge to Turkey. The work of Gustavus, who had made Sweden so great, was undone, and Russia succeeded to the vacant place among the Powers.

The supreme object of Peter's policy was attained. He was in possession of the Baltic coast north of the Dwina. Finland was restored, but he retained Livonia, Esthonia, Ingria, from Riga to Viborg. On the Neva, where the Gulf of Finland penetrates farthest inland, he fixed his capital. The place was a swamp, that swallowed the tallest trunks of trees, and the workmen perished by fever. But an island in the mouth of the river made it impregnable by sea. It was free from traditions and reactionary memories, looking only to the future and the new things that the commerce with the world would bring; a gate for the inflow of the forces by which its founder would transform the nation. As part of the same transformation the Tsar of Muscovy became Emperor of Russia. It was a claim to the Byzantine inheritance, and a menace to the Austrian successor of the Western Empire. This was faint and distant; and Peter remained on friendly terms with Vienna. But the title was coldly received by Europe, and was not finally recognised until forty years after his death.

The persuasions by which Peter bent Russia to his will were base and atrocious; for, although one of the greatest men that have influenced the course of Christian history, he is undoubtedly the worst of them; but he was not working for himself; at Pultawa he told his troops that they were fighting for Russia, not for him. His motive was impersonal. He had grasped a great ideal, and he served it with devotion, sacrificing everything to it, and not sparing himself. The absolute State was the ideal, or rather the idol, for which he toiled, the State as it had been devised by Machiavelli and Hobbes. To raise the country by the employment of its own internal forces was an unpromising and unprofitable enterprise. He, who was himself a barbarian, could only accomplish his purpose by means of aid from outside, by the instrumentality of those who had experience of a more advanced order of things. The borrowed forces could only be applied by the powers of a despot. That power, moreover, was already provided. Muscovy had never been governed otherwise than by irresponsible and irresistible authority. That authority had been inactive and not deeply felt. Now the same authority interfered to alter almost everything, except the subjection of the serf to the landowner.

To enforce the supremacy of the State over society, and of will over custom, Peter introduced his most characteristic institution. He made precedence depend on public service, and regulated it according to rank in the army in fourteen degrees, from the ensign to the marshal. A new aristocracy superseded the old, and the ancient nobles were forced to serve, in order to be somebody, when away from the ancestral home. They were important, not by their possessions or their descent, but by the position in which they stood towards the emperor. Peter had imbibed too much of the rationalism of the West to be a persecutor. He was severe with the schismatics, who existed only as opponents of change and enemies of civilisation; and as there were no Jews in Russia, he decreed that in future there should be none. But he built churches for the foreigners whom he brought into the country, and did not attempt to sustain the domination of the Muscovite clergy, who, like the English, professed passive obedience, but obeyed without approval. When the last patriarch was dying he expressed the wish that all men of other faith—Catholic, Protestant, and Mahomedan— should be burnt, and their places of worship levelled with the ground.

Peter's schemes of change were so tremendous that most Russians recoiled and wished them no success. His own family opposed him, and became a centre of plotting opposition. He repudiated his wife, and sent her to the seclusion of a convent. His second empress was a peasant woman, whose name was Martha, but was called, in Russia, Catharine. It was uncertain whether her husband was dead. It was certain that Peter's first wife was living. Nobody minded. But Alexis, the son of the earlier marriage, took the conservative side, and became, from 1711, the hope of those who rejected Peter's anti-national, cosmopolitan, chiefly Dutch and German system of reform. He longed for the Asiatic twilight of the past, and the discontented longed for him to succeed. Peter, seeing that he was a poor creature, wished him to resign his claim. Alexis fled, and placed himself under the protection of the emperor Charles VI. He was discovered in the castle of St. Elmo at Naples, and brought back to Russia, where he was condemned to death, and died of torture. The plan had been to return to the ancient ways, and to give Petersburg back to the Swedes, with the command of the coast. The clergy were mixed up in it, and Peter now secured himself against the Church. He had left the patriarchate vacant. He now abolished it, and divided its powers.

A kindred spirit had arisen, capable of carrying out reform in the Church. Procopovitch had become a united Greek, in order to be admitted to foreign universities. He studied in Rome, and in Germany he became familiar with Lutheran theology. He came back with much of the religious culture of the West, and Peter appointed him to one of the sees. The bishops protested. They said that he was a heretic seventeen times over. And they proposed, if they were not believed, that the matter should be decided by the three eastern patriarchs. It was a scheme to disconnect the Church from the State, to merge it in the Eastern Church. Procopovitch defeated his enemies, and drew up the plan by which the Church was brought under the civil power, much on the lines of Henry VIII. It was governed, thenceforward, by the Holy Synod, which was controlled by a great official who represented the emperor. The clergy ceased to be an obstacle. The government of the Church by the Synod was part of a plan of government by boards, which had been suggested by Leibnitz. The empire was governed by a Senate of eight, of ten, at one time of twenty members. Under the Senate, which made laws, were ten ministerial departments, or boards, like our Treasury or Admiralty, which executed them. And there were eleven governors of provinces, each larger than a European monarchy. Men fit for such a responsibility could not be found in Russia, and the empire was badly governed. But it was there. The transformation was accomplished. And the gigantic force was centred in the hand of a tyrant.

The concentration was such, the destruction of resisting forces was so complete, that the machine worked well in the hands of women. For almost the whole of the seventy years after Peter's death, Russia was governed by empresses. The last of them, Catharine II, was one of the ablest and most successful rulers in modern times. For the machine which Peter created was strong enough to endure. It still exists as he made it, an amalgam of power and servility, never leading, but often supplying the deciding force in the history of the world. It was the empire of Peter the Great that destroyed the empire of Napoleon.

Such a Power, limited by feeble neighbours, would have been a danger to the whole of Europe, but that another great Power, founded in the same generation, became a bulwark against a menacing expansion. The rise of Prussia preserved the Continent from being submerged. This new phase of northern monarchy was very unlike that which we have just considered. Prussia, like Russia, was a military Power, living on the hope of expansion. But it was infinitely inferior, as to extent and population. It was not a giant but an athlete; and its future depended, not on the intrusion of foreign elements, but on its own development and practical organisation. Nature had done nothing to promise greatness. The country was open and arid, and the inhabitants were hard, unimaginative, and poor. Religion had less power over them than over any other part of Germany. To this day the sky-line of Berlin is more unbroken by church towers than that of almost any other city. Neither their situation on the map of Europe nor hereditary endowment fitted the Prussians for empire. It was the work of the dynasty that a country which was less than Scotland, and was protected by no barrier of land or water, became greater than France.

The Prussian people, by which I mean the people of Brandenburg and its vicinity, were conscious that Nature had not favoured them excessively, and that they could prosper only by the action of their government. No people were more submissive, or more ready to suffer, for the sake of the State. And none have gone farther in asserting its omnipotence, or in abdicating in its hands. They had no silver streak, no natural barriers. As a consequence of the Reformation the dominions of the Teutonic knights were joined in personal union under the same Hohenzollerns who reigned on the Oder and the Elbe. One was part of the empire, the other was enclosed in Poland, and they were separated by Polish territory. They did not help each other, and each was a source of danger for the other. They could only hope to exist by becoming stronger. That has been, for two centuries and a half, a fixed tradition at Berlin with the rulers and the people. They could not help being aggressive, and they worshipped the authority that could make them successful aggressors.

The dynasty entered into the spirit of the problem from 1640. One-half of the electors and kings since then have struggled intensely for the increase of their power. And they built up their state in spite of the other half, who had no enterprise or masterful energy. But before the accession of the great elector, in 1640, Brandenburg had taken a line of its own in the question of religion which was eminently favourable to territorial increase. It was more tolerant than other portions of the empire. The elector was one of the last of the German princes to join the Reformation. And Saxony retained the pre-eminence among the Protestants. Early in the seventeenth century the reigning family became Calvinists. The country was Lutheran. The position was unfavourable to the exercise of what was called the right of Reformation, the right of enforcing conformity under pain of exile; and, between the Calvinist at the head and the Lutherans in every other office, the Catholics were able to exist. In some provinces, though not in all, they were definitely tolerated. The great elector made every effort to attract the fugitive Huguenots. Agents were sent out to show them the way, and to help them with funds. Whole districts were peopled by them, and about twenty thousand of them settled in Berlin and other towns. Like Peter the Great, the great elector derived his notion of better things from Holland, and he encouraged Dutch artisans to settle. His dominions were scattered and unlike. He introduced a system of government that was the same for all, and was above local or social influences. The estates lost their ancient authority, and one supreme will governed everything, through a body of trained administrators such as up to that time existed nowhere else.

The next elector obtained the royal crown. Prince Eugene said that the emperor's ministers, who had advised the grant, deserved to be hanged. But in fact they were not less prescient than he, for they warned Leopold that Prussia would deprive his family of the empire. The King of Prussia became the head of the Protestant interest in Germany. That prerogative had been forfeited by the Elector of Saxony when he received the crown of Poland and became a Catholic. Rome alone protested against the Protestant king, and spoke only of a margrave of Brandenburg until after the death of Frederic II. All the Catholic Powers acknowledged the new title and disregarded the protest. For the first time there was a kingdom within the empire, a kingdom, moreover, which was Protestant. It was a step towards the break-up of that irrational body.

The second king succeeded in 1713 and died in 1740. He is the Peter the Great of Prussia. For him, the whole secret of government is the increase of power at home. His idea was that monarchy cannot be too absolute. It requires to be wisely administered; but it does not require to be limited. Concentration cannot be too intense. No enemy outside is so dangerous as public opinion within. He announced that he would establish his power on a rock—"un rocher de bronze." He meant that the power of the State must be independent of the changing motives of the hour, that it must be directed by a will superior alike to majority and minority, to interests and classes. He spent his reign in very deliberately contriving such a machine. The king, he said, must do his work himself, and not shrink from trouble. He was perpetually in harness. He was like a madman in his vehemence and his crudity of speech. But there was method in his fury, and calculating design and even practical wisdom. He gave an impetus as powerful as that of the Tsar Peter; but he was superior to him in knowledge of detail as well as in point of character. He was a hard taskmaster, but he knew what he was about; and it does not appear that his subjects desired to be governed in another way or that they would have been satisfied with a monarch who did not strain their strength to the uttermost.

The object in which they agreed with him—the supremacy of the Prussians in Germany—was not to be obtained if they would not go into training. There was no shrinking. He said, in 1713: "when my son comes to the throne he must find the vaults crowded with gold," and the son, in 1740, found eight million thalers. He found, moreover, a well-equipped army of eighty-three thousand men. This was the special creation of the energetic king. He was, indeed, a peaceful ruler, and did not thirst for military glory. Among European Powers he was of little account, and kept all his violence for home use. When he laid up treasure, and organised an army that was not so large as that of France, of Austria, or of Russia, but more concentrated and better drilled, his people understood that he would some day provide territory and population to match—an army so excessive, an army six times as large, in proportion to those of other Powers, was meant to be employed. The burden was not felt. Of the expense, one-half was borne by the domain. Of the men, a large portion was recruited abroad, and relieved the natives of Prussia. After some years, it was felt that the platoons of giants, which had cost twelve million thalers, were a wasteful toy, and that the money might have been spent to advantage among the people. The king attempted to supply their place by a levy among the the agrarian population, which is reputed the remote origin of universal service. His economy was so rigid that, with an income of seven million thalers, he spent five millions on his armaments. He thus created the force which began what Napoleon completed, the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. For that which the father stored, the son expended; and I hope in the next lecture to tell you how he did it.

He so eclipsed Frederic William that the latter became an obscure memory, and was spoken of with contempt and disgust by his own people. Carlyle discovered in him his own ideal, the strong man, and set him on his legs. And when the army which he created, which had been remodelled by Frederic, Scharnhorst, Roon, and Moltke, became the greatest of all armies, Germany remembered its founder and was grateful for his militarism.

They have made their choice, as we must do. Those who remember with honour men like Hampden and Washington, regard with a corresponding aversion Peter the Great and Frederic William I. But without the first Europe might be French, and without the other it might be Russian. That which arose in Northern Europe about the time of our revolution settlement was a new form of practical absolutism. Theological monarchy had done its time, and was now followed by military monarchy. Church and State had oppressed mankind together; henceforth the State oppressed for its own sake. And this was the genuine idea which came in with the Renaissance, according to which the State alone governs, and all other things obey. Reformation and Counter-Reformation had pushed religion to the front: but after two centuries the original theory, that government must be undivided and uncontrolled, began to prevail. It is a new type, not to be confounded with that of Henry VIII, Philip II, or Lewis XIV, and better adapted to a more rational and economic age. Government so understood is the intellectual guide of the nation, the promoter of wealth, the teacher of knowledge, the guardian of morality, the mainspring of the ascending movement of man. That is the tremendous power, supported by millions of bayonets, which grew up in the days of which I have been speaking at Petersburg, and was developed, by much abler minds, chiefly at Berlin; and it is the greatest danger that remains to be encountered by the Anglo-Saxon race.



THE PEACE of Utrecht was followed by a period of languor and depression. Spain and Sweden asserted themselves unsuccessfully; whilst England under Walpole, France under Fleury, Austria under the ceremonious majesty of Charles VI, were inactive and pacific; The generation lacked initiative, and was not rich in eminent men.

In Prussia, there was no repose, no leisure, but simply the tension of a tiger crouching for a spring. The king, who had devoted his life to creating the greatest army in Europe, never attempted to employ it, and left it a thunderbolt in the hands of his son. The crown prince was a musician and a versifier, with a taste for clever men, but also for cleverish men, an epicurean student, with much loose knowledge, literary rather than scientific, and an inaccurate acquaintance with French and Latin. To Bayle, Locke, Voltaire in his first manner, he owed an abundance of borrowed ideas, conventionally rational; but to the rising literature; of his own country, which ruled the world before he died, he did not attend. Hardened by his father's heartless severity he learnt to live without sympathy, to despise mankind, to rely on himself. He was the author of a commonplace treatise against Machiavelli, partly founded on Montesquieu's Grandeur et Decadence. This unamiable youth, with the aspirations and the vanity of a minor poet, was the most consummate practical genius that, in modern times, has inherited a throne.

In the same year, 1740, in which Frederic II succeeded his father, the Emperor Charles VI died, leaving his hereditary dominions to his daughter Maria Theresa, wife of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, of the House of Lorraine. By an instrument called the Pragmatic Sanction, which was the subject of protracted negotiations, the Powers had agreed to acknowledge her right. She was & sensible and reasonable woman, much the best that had ever reigned; but she was without culture or superior talent, and he husband was not able to supply the deficiency. Frederic at once made himself master of Silesia. There were certain territorial claims. The succession was about to be disputed, and a scramble might be expected. The death of the Russian empress, Anne, made it improbable that Austria would be protected on that side. Frederic was ambitious, and he was strong enough to gratify his ambition. No accepted code regulated the relations between States. It could not be exactly the same as that between men; and in what respect it differed was not determined. States were absolute, and acknowledged no law over them. Grave and disinterested men would have admitted that that may be done for the State which could not be done for the individual; that robbery was not robbery, that murder was not murder, if it was committed in the public interest. There might be a want of generosity, a want of delicacy about it; but if conquest by unprovoked attack was a crime, in the same sense or the same degree as poisoning a man to obtain his property, history must undergo a fundamental revision, and all respect for sovereign authority must be banished from the world. How far that revision has been accomplished or that respect has departed, at the present day, may be hard to say. At that time, Frederic was much more widely applauded for his prompt success than detested or despised for his crime.

At Molwitz, his first battle, the Austrian cavalry carried all before them, and Schwerin got the king to quit the field before the solid infantry of Brandenburg won the day. Voltaire, who hated him behind a mask of flattery, said that he had never known what it was to be grateful, except to the horse that carried him out of fire at Molwitz. That humiliation taught Frederk to remodel and increase his cavalry, and he afterwards owed to it much of his success. Nobody again advised him to ride out of the way of danger. He was soon known to an invariable victor, and Maria Theresa ended the war by surrendering the contested province. Frederic concluded a treaty of alliance with France, which was to last fifteen years, and did last until, in 1756, Kaunitz effected the great change in the attitude of European Powers. On the extinction of the Habsburg dynasty of emperors, the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach claimed the succession; and the French, supported by Frederic, traversed Germany and invaded Bohemia. Maria Theresa was loyally defended by Hungary in both the Silesian wars, and maintained her right, without recovering the country she had lost. She was ineffectively supported by England against the superiority of French arms in the Netherlands. That good understanding now came to an end.

The Seven Years' War, otherwise called the Third Silesian War, because it finally settled the question whether Silesia should be Austrian or Prussian, though it involved almost every European Power, was an episode in a far larger controversy. French and English were at peace in the old world, but a feud had broken out in the backwoods of the new, where their strife was for the grandest prize ever disputed by man, dominion over America from the Atlantic ultimately to the Golden Gates of the Pacific, and for the future of the world. The French were masters of the lake region and the St. Lawrence, and also of the Mississippi basin. They claimed the intervening country by right of discovery, and they began, in 1748, to establish an effective occupation of the valley of the Ohio. The English might retain the Atlantic fringe; the French would possess the hinterland from Louisbourg to New Orleans. They planted a chain of posts, choosing the place for them with superb intuition. One is now Detroit, another Chicago. And under the inland slope of the Alleghanies, where the waters fall towards the Gulf of Mexico, at the confluence of the Monongahela with the Ohio, a French officer, Duquesne, built a fort, the most important of all, which closed the interior to our colonies, but which has undergone a significant change of name, for Fort Duquesne is called after Pitt, and is the Birmingham of America.

This annexation of debatable land was an act of aggression to which the colonists were not bound to submit. The first to understand that it was a question of existence was the man on whose head the destinies of the country rested. Washington twice led expeditions against Duquesne, the second time with Regulars under Braddock, and was each time defeated. The question of the possession of the interior was left to be decided on the Heights of Abraham. It was worth more to the English people than any continental issue. The quarrel spread to the ocean, and we made no scruple to assail French ships wherever the conditions were favourable.

Kaunitz, the minister of Maria Theresa, saw his opportunity for a grand stroke of policy. By transplanting the struggle from the New World to the Old, and from sea to land, he would obtain a French alliance against Prussia. Ostensibly his purpose was the recovery of the lost province; but the circumstances seemed promising, and he spoke of reducing Frederic to the position of a margrave of Brandenburg. He asked, at first, for no assistance in the field. If France would set up an army of observation on the frontier, the house of Hanover would be disabled from joining Prussia. France was glad, in a quiet way, to check the House of Hanover. By degrees a complete understanding was achieved, and Lewis XV undertook to help Austria with an army in the field and a vast sum of money. Belgium was to be the price of it, partly for France, partly for the Bourbon, who was Duke of Parma, in exchange for his Italian dominions. This change of front was much facilitated by the civilities of Kaunitz to the person whom the Austrian envoy described as the French Prime Minister, Madame de Pompadour.

He was equally successful with Russia. There the government had come to the conclusion that the danger to the empire was not from Austria, which was expanding towards the Mediterranean, and had just lost its northern province, but from Prussia, which was aspiring and aggressive, and on the watch for opportunities. Therefore the Russians were only too eager for the attack to begin, and had to be restrained by the Austrians, who could only bring France into line by a negotiation in several stages. The Russian government agreed, reluctantly, to wait for the spring of 1757. But the hereditary grand-duke was an admirer of Frederic; the chancellor, Bernstorff, was secured by the English; and the action of the Russians was half-hearted throughout.

The first half of 1756 was spent by the three great military Powers in preparing the attack for next year. Nobody could blame the Austrians for plotting to reconquer what had belonged to them, and it is at Vienna that their initiative has been demonstrated. At Berlin, the discovery has been received with some resistance. They were proud of the great Frederic as a warrior and a conqueror; they were not ready to admire him as a quaker, and the victim of designing foes. He had been quite willing to commence a new war when the occasion should warrant it. He hoped, some day, to conquer Bohemia as he had conquered Silesia, and to exchange it for Saxony. But the conditions needed for such an enterprise did not exist, and he was in no hurry. He concluded a very harmless Convention at Westminster, in January 1756; but he was not arming at a time when the scheme of Kaunitz was about completed. It was midsummer before he knew the danger that threatened him. Certain despatches which were opened as they passed through the Prussian Post Office, others which were stolen, revealed the whole plot. Without an ally, except the House of Hanover, and such confederates from North-western Germany as English gold might induce to join, he had to defend himself against Austria, Russia, France, great part of Germany, and eventually Sweden and Spain. The help of England was assured, for, in May, war had been declared between England and France. But the English had not been preparing for a very formidable effort. They at once lost Minorca, the advanced post in the Mediterranean, from which they watched the Gulf of Lyons and the naval arsenal of Toulon, and felt the loss so acutely that they shot the admiral who had failed to relieve the place. Calcutta too was taken, and the English perished in the Black Hole. In the Lake region the French, at first, had the best of it.

Frederic underrated the value of the alliance, and mismanaged it badly. He knew that there was a Whig dogma against letting England be taken in tow by Hanover. The great propounder of the doctrine was William Pitt, who now rose to power. Frederic did not know that this turgid declaimer was as able, as powerful, as ambitious as himself, and did not divine that he would make the German quarrel and the compulsory defence of Hanover the means of occupying the military forces of France until the contest for' oceanic empire was decided in favour of England. Pitt declared that he would conquer America in Germany. He armed one hundred and forty-eight ships of the line and fifty frigates, with which he swept the Atlantic, and Montcalm, for many months, received neither instructions nor supplies. But Frederic required that the army in English pay, which was to defend Hanover, and thus to cover his right flank, should be commanded by the Duke of Cumberland. Upon this Pitt went out of office. The duke did not justify the king's choice of him. He was beaten by d'Estrees, and agreed to dissolve his force. But Pitt, who had soon returned to power, rejected the Convention, gave Frederic a subsidy of L670,000 a year, and maintained a force against the French, under Ferdinand of Brunswick, who did his work well. There was more of English gold in his camp than of English steel. One of our commanders was court-martialled. When the Marquis of Granby did better, at Warburg, the joy was great, and he became a popular hero. His hat and wig were blown off as he led the charge, and his portrait, bareheaded, in a high wind, is at Trinity, and was on the sign of many an inn, especially of a well-known one at Dorking, in Mr. Pickwick's time.

On 21st July, 1756, when Frederic II discovered the whole of the peril that confronted him, although it was far more than he had dreamt of, he lost neither hope nor courage. His army of 145,000 men was not the largest, but was much the best. Three or four of his generals, his brother Henry, the Prince of Brunswick, Schwerin, who had served under Eugene at Blenheim, and had followed Charles XII into Turkey, above all, Seydlitz, were superior to the men on the other side, so far as these were known. There were three millions in ready money, which was enough for two campaigns in those economical days. The Russians had a long march before them, in order to come within range; the French might be left to the army of English mercenaries. The king might hope, by energy and rapidity, to crush the Austrians in the valley of the Elbe, which is Bohemia, or the valley of the Oder, which is Silesia, before their friends came to aid them. Nearer still than Austria were the Saxons, whose elector was King of Poland, and whose minister, Bruhl, like Beust in 1866, was the centre of anti-Prussian politics.

Frederic began by seizing Dresden, and carrying off the secret papers of his enemies. The Saxon army held out for some weeks, and was then forced to serve in the ranks of their conqueror, who thus altered the proportion of numbers, by moving 20,000 men from one side to the other. The Saxon officers remonstrated when called on to take the oath of allegiance to their enemy. They said that such a thing was unexampled. He replied that he was not afraid of being original. Their resistance had compelled him to withdraw from Bohemia, after an indecisive action. In 1757 he won a great battle at Prague, where he sacrificed 18,000 men and Schwerin was killed. The main Austrian army was shut up in the city, and Frederic expected them to surrender; but a relieving force, under Daun, defeated him at Kollin, and he withdrew to his own country, that is, he withdrew into Saxony, which he had made his home, Dresden being then the most civilised and luxurious place in Germany. For six years he did not see Berlin, which was twice occupied by the enemy. Up to that midsummer of 1757 his success in war, like that of Marlborough, had been unbroken. Kollin was the first of three great battles which he lost. In the following year he was again defeated by Daun, in a night attack at Hochkirch, with the loss of 100 guns. And in 1759, which is the turning of the tide, the Russians beat him at Kunersdorf. And yet it is to this chequered year 1757, not to the preceding career of incessant victory, that Frederic the Great owes the immensity of his military fame.

The French had triumphed on the western side of the seat of war, and had driven Cumberland before them, when Frederic attacked them with a much smaller force, at Rossbach, in Saxony. With hardly any resistance and hardly any loss, he gained a complete victory over them and their Imperialist allies. Then he hurried to Silesia, where the Austrians were masters. He defeated them at Leuthen, a month after Rossbach, recovered Breslau, and made 38,000 prisoners. Nothing like it had been seen in war. The defeat of the French made him a national hero. Previously, his enemies were Germans, and the French were his allies. That was forgotten and rectified. That Germany had so much to suffer at his hands was forgiven. And the victory was so complete, so artistic, that he was not less admired in France, where they laughed at their unsuccessful marshals. Not long before he was spoken of in Paris as one who had just missed being a great man. Such language was never used again. And the tremendous reduction of Austrian forces at Leuthen and Breslau was a still greater surprise. A man who could do that might do anything, and was out of proportion with the ordinary race of men.

There is an undefinable quantity in military genius which makes the event uncertain. At the beginning the emperor had written that Frederic's secret had been discovered, and consisted in what was called the oblique order—that is, to make one wing much stronger than the other, to refuse with the weak wing, and to attack with overwhelming force with the strong. That method did not originate with him, but he repeatedly employed it. Then there was his innovation in the use of cavalry. He had learnt its value, against the musket of those days, by experience; and he believed that Seydlitz, in the open, at the head of seventy squadrons, was a thing which no infantry could resist. Then there was the impetus his troops derived from the extraordinary renown of their king, that there was nothing to counterbalance on the other side. This was evident, was matter of common knowledge. But even in his own army, on his own staff, in the royal family, there were two opinions. There was a school which taught that actual fighting must not be resorted to until the use of brains has been exhausted, that the battle comes in when the manoeuvre has failed, that the seizure of a strategic position, or a scientific retreat, like that of Wellington into Portugal, of Barclay in 1812 before Napoleon, of Johnston before Sherman, is the first defence of armies, so that a force which is tactically inferior may be strategically superior. Frederic was, I believe, the first great soldier to reject this doctrine, and to act on the principle that nothing can destroy the enemy except a pitched battle, and that the destruction of the enemy, not the weakening of the enemy, is the right object of war. His battles were very numerous and very sanguinary, and not always decisive. Napoleon followed in his footsteps, manoeuvring less, as he grew older, and fighting more. It is the adopted teaching of the Prussian school, since Clausewitz and Moltke.

During the French campaign of 1814 Napoleon said to Marmont: "We are still 100,000." "No!" said the marshal; "only 60,000." "Exactly," Napoleon replied; "60,000 and myself, that is 100,000." Something of this kind must be allowed in the person of the great king; and it kept up his hopes after his enemies began to prevail in 1759. In 1760 he was still successful at Liegnitz and at Torgau. But his country was exhausted; his ranks were thinned by the wasteful expenditure of life; there was nothing to look forward to, unless the Turk effected a diversion on the Danube; and Frederic was repeatedly on the point of taking poison. In 1755 he had written that war must always be aggressive. Even a successful defence weakens the victor.

The zeal of his only ally was beginning to cool. Pitt had accomplished more than he intended when he offered his subsidies to Prussia. Our fleet commanded the ocean. The Mediterranean squadron had been defeated at Lagos, the Atlantic squadron at Quiberon; Canada had been conquered, and with Canada, the interior of North America, with its population of savages and its inexhaustible resources. Bengal was English, and the rivalry of the French in India had ceased to be formidable. In four years England had grown into a boundless empire, offering, what no other war had done, compensation for expenditure and increase of debt. Trade had learnt to follow the flag, and Pitt's profusion was not waste. Much of this success was due to the Prussian Alliance. The vicissitudes of the French army had hampered the French navy. Frederic, who was several times very near destruction, had been saved by his ally. He had retained his disputed province, while England annexed dominions as vast as Europe. His genius and his power had been made so manifest that he was not again attacked during the remainder of his reign. England possessed that which, if it had been duly husbanded and developed, would make her mistress of the world. The object of each, in concluding their alliance, had been gained, but there was no proportion between them. In 1760 Pitt rejected peace with France when it would have damaged his treaty with Prussia. But when there was no prospect of a final triumph, and Frederic was only thinking of the terms on which he might obtain peace, Pitt advised him to negotiate. Then, in the autumn of 1761, under a new king, he was expelled from office. The subsidy came to an end, and Bute opened negotiations.

Frederic had resolved that he would not wear a diminished crown; that he would disappear from the scene if he could not preserve by treaty of peace the full integrity of the monarchy which he no longer hoped to preserve by war. But he stood alone. The change of reign, the fall of Pitt, the termination of the subsidy, the pacific disposition of Bute, somewhat exaggerated by those through whom he heard of it, weakened him so seriously that he allowed the struggle to languish while he sounded the courts, and especially sounded the Turk, as to his feelings towards his Austrian neighbour. Then, in an instant, the scene was entirely transformed. Elizabeth, the last of the children of Peter the Great, died in January 1762. She had been his bitter enemy throughout, personally as well as on grounds of pure policy, by which he was held to be the menacing obstruction to the expansion of Russia in Europe. Her heir was a German prince, married to a German princess, the famous Catharine, and they at once offered terms of peace.

Meanwhile Spain went to war with England, and the government began to treat apart from Frederic. Newcastle would have renewed the subsidy, but Bute refused, and Newcastle thereupon resigned, while Bute concluded peace. Frederic, quite unable to continue active operations, retained Silesia, but gave up his conquest, Saxony. Therefore, at the price of immense suffering to his people, he emerged from the unequal contest victorious and successful.

William III, Lewis XIV, Peter of Russia, had been great and able sovereigns; but none had left on the world such an impression of his genius. When Frederic appeared at the Te Deum at Charlottenburg in all his glory, he broke down utterly and burst into tears. He had been the victor, but it was England that carried away the prize. He had acquired in his campaigns immeasurable authority and renown, but his people had been decimated and impoverished, and he had gained no accession of territory.

In the first years of peace that followed, it appeared that there was a neighbouring country in which that deficiency might be repaired, and the disappointing issue of the war might be made good by the art of the statesman. The republic of Poland covered an enormous territory, but was the most backward of the civilised nations. It was governed, socially and politically, by the aristocratic class, and it was their prerogative that any minority, or even a single noble, might exert the right of veto on the proceedings of the Diet. The political conditions were those of the eleventh century. The government was the weakest in Europe. The Poles had been the earliest people to establish religious toleration; but they had succumbed to the Counter-Reformation, and they still refused liberty of conscience to the Dissidents, mainly of the Greek Church. It was the plain policy of Russia to maintain the grievance and the occasion for intervention, and to frustrate every attempt of intelligent Poles to reform their constitution and create a regular government.

In the reign of Catharine in Russia, and of her admirer Stanislas Poniatowski in Poland, the republic became a Russian dependency. The empress desired that this convenient situation should continue, and esteemed that a partition would be injurious to her interests. From the same point of view it appeared desirable to Austria and Prussia. Poland, undivided as it was, was useless to anybody but Catharine. Poland divided among friends would strengthen each of them at the expense of Catharine. What they succeeded in appropriating would be so much taken from the sphere of Russian power. The Russian empress endeavoured to turn their thoughts elsewhere. She pointed to Turkey, which was a dreadful blot on the map of Christendom, and proposed that Austria should rectify its frontier on that side. But Turkey could defend itself, and could not be subjected to spoliation without a struggle, which Austria would have to carry on. That was a wretched bargain compared with Poland, which must yield if the three Powers showed their teeth. And Turkey could be of no use to Frederic the Great. Therefore Kaunitz proposed that he should give back Silesia, and compensate himself richly out of Polish territory, where Austria also had some local claims to enforce.

Frederic was ready to annex part of Poland, but he saw no reason for giving up anything that he possessed. If Austria wished to enlarge her boundaries, Poland was extensive enough to satisfy her demands as well as his own. There would be no difficulty, no obstacle on the spot, no resistance of European opinion. England had already proposed the Polish solution of territorial controversy. In France there would be some genuine or affected displeasure. But Poland was a Catholic country, much influenced by prelates. The men who guided French thought would be easily consoled for its disappearance from the political stage. It was not modern enough to interest them, and its treatment of the Dissidents was a glaring offence. Therefore, although Catharine annexed as much as both the others together, the partition was accomplished in opposition to her real policy. About one-third of Poland was thus taken. The reckoning proved correct. Europe remained unmoved. By a series of treaties it had condoned the seizure of Silesia. It was too late to complain of the dismemberment of Poland. The work was completed, under very different conditions, twenty years later. It was overthrown by Napoleon; but, as he was without a Polish policy, and was disgusted by the obtrusive Liberalism of the Poles in his time, it was revived and sanctioned by the wisdom of united Europe at the Congress of Vienna.

The years which followed the Seven Years' War were a time of peace for a great part of the Continent, in the course of which a memorable change took place in European polity. It was the age of what may be called the Repentance of Monarchy. That which had been selfish, oppressive, and cruel became impersonal, philanthropic, and beneficent. The strong current of eighteenth-century opinion left the State omnipotent, but obliged it to take account of public, as distinct from dynastic, interests. It was employed more or less intelligently, for the good of the people. Humanity contended for the mastery with ambition. It was still a despotism, but an enlightened despotism. The competent expert more than ever was supreme, but he was influenced by great writers—Locke, Montesquieu, Turgot, Beccaria, Adam Smith. There was a serious tendency to increase popular education, to relieve poverty, to multiply hospitals, to promote wealth by the operations of the engineer, to emancipate the serf, to abolish torture, to encourage academies, observatories, and the like. Prisons had never been so bad—attempts were made to reform them. The slave trade had never been so prosperous; people began to doubt whether it was moral. Laws were codified, and though the codes were surprisingly bad, the laws were improved by them. The movement was almost universal, from Spain to Denmark and Russia. Piedmont dealt successfully with the feudal and social question, which baffled the National Assembly in France. The rich plain of the Milanese was administered by a proconsul of Maria Theresa, in a manner which made it the example of Europe. A strenuous disciple of the economists governed Baden. Wuerzburg and Bamberg, under the last Prince Bishop, were considered the happiest region in the empire. Turgot, Bernstorff, Firmian, were admired and imitated as Lewis XIV had been in a former phase of absolute monarchy. Society was enjoyable, apart from politics, and was studied like a fine art in the homes of luxury—Paris, Brussels, Rome, and Venice. Things went very well in those days with any man who was not a Whig, and had no views as to what makes governments legitimate and averts revolution.

In that age of the enlightenment of despotism the most enlightened despot was Frederic II. Of all rulers and reformers he was the most laborious and incessant. "A king," said he, "is the first servant of the State." He did more work and had fewer pleasures than any of them. The dominant influence was philosophy, not religion, emancipation of the State from the Church. That corresponded well with Frederic's temper. He was tolerant, and on the whole consistently tolerant. In those days the Jesuits were suppressed, first by the secular power in Bourbon countries, then by the Papacy. The Jesuits peculiarly represented the old order that was changing, and the authority of the ecclesiastical law that was being restrained. When they ceased to exist in Catholic countries, they sought a refuge in England, and at Petersburg; but their best and most determined protector was Frederic the Great. The only one of all the princes of that generation who saw farther, and understood that the time of absolute monarchy, enlightened or unenlightened, was very near its end, was Leopold of Tuscany, ancestor of the Austrian dynasty. That was a thing which Frederic never perceived. The great change that came over Europe in his time did not make for political freedom. We shall see how that greater change was to come from beyond the Atlantic.



THE RATIONAL and humanitarian enlightenment of the eighteenth century did much for the welfare of mankind, but little to promote the securities of freedom. Power was better employed than formerly, but it did not abdicate.

In England, politically, the most advanced country, the impetus which the Revolution gave to progress was exhausted, and people began to say, now that the Jacobite peril was over, that no issue remained between parties which made it worth while for men to cut each others' throats. The development of the Whig philosophy was checked by the practical tendency to compromise. Compromise distinguished the Whig from the Roundhead, the man who succeeded from the man who failed, the man who was the teacher of politics to the civilised world from the man who left his head on Temple Bar.

The Seven Years' War renewed the interrupted march by involving America in the concerns of Europe, and causing the colonies to react on the parent state. That was a consequence which followed the Conquest of Canada and the accession of George III. The two events, occurring in quick succession, raised the American question. A traveller who visited America some years earlier reports that there was much discontent, and that separation was expected before very long. That discontent was inoperative whilst a great military power held Canada. Two considerations reconciled the colonists to the disadvantages attending the connection with England. The English fleet guarded the sea against pirates; the English army guarded the land against the French. The former was desirable; the latter was essential to their existence. When the danger on the French side disappeared, it might become very uncertain whether the patrol of the Atlantic was worth the price that America had to pay for it. Therefore Montcalm foretold that the English, if they conquered the French colonies, would lose their own. Many Frenchmen saw this, with satisfaction; and the probability was so manifest that Englishmen saw it too. It was their interest to strengthen their position with new securities, in the place of that one supreme security which they had lost by their victory at Quebec. That victory, with the vast acquisition of territory that followed, would be no increase of imperial power if it loosened the hold on Atlantic colonies. Therefore, the policy of the hour was to enforce the existing claims and to obtain unequivocal recognition of English sovereignty. The most profitable method of doing it was in the shape of heavier taxation; but taxes were a small matter in comparison with the establishment of undisputed authority and unquestioning submission. The tax might be nominal, if the principle was safe. Ways and means would not be wanting in an empire which extended from Hudson's Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. For the moment the need was not money but allegiance. The problem was new, for the age of expansion had come suddenly, in East and West, by the action of Pitt; and Pitt was no longer in office, to find the solution.

Among the Whigs, who were a failing and discredited party, there were men who already knew the policy by which since then the empire has been reared—Adam Smith, Dean Tucker, Edmund Burke. But the great mass went with the times, and held that the object of politics is power, and that the more dominion is extended, the more it must be retained by force. The reason why free trade is better than dominion was a secret obscurely buried in the breast of economists.

Whilst the expulsion of the French from their Transatlantic empire governed the situation, the immediate difficulty was brought on by the new reign. The right of searching houses and ships for contraband was conveyed by certain warrants called Writs of Assistance, which required no specified designation, no oath or evidence, and enabled the surprise visit to be paid by day or night. They were introduced under Charles II, and had to be renewed within six months of the demise of the crown. The last renewal had been at the death of George II; and it was now intended that they should be efficacious, and should protect the revenue from smugglers. Between 1727 and 1761 many things had changed, and the colonies had grown to be richer, more confident, more self-respecting. They claimed to extend to the Mississippi, and had no French or Spaniards on their borders. Practically, there was no neighbour but England, and they had a patrimony such as no Englishman had dreamt of. The letter of the law, the practice of the last generation, were no argument with the heirs of unbounded wealth and power, and did not convince them that they ought to lose by the aid which they had given against France. The American jurists argued that this was good by English law, but could not justly be applied to America, where the same constitutional safeguards did not exist—where the cases would be tried by judges without a jury, by judges who could be dismissed at pleasure, by judges who were paid by fees which increased with the amount of the property confiscated, and were interested in deciding against the American importer, and in favour of the revenue. That was a technical and pedestrian argument which every lawyer could understand, without passing the limits of accustomed thought.

Then James Otis spoke, and lifted the question to a different level, in one of the memorable speeches in political history. Assuming, but not admitting, that the Boston custom-house officers were acting legally, and within the statute, then, he said, the statute was wrong. Their action might be authorised by parliament; but if so, parliament had exceeded its authority, like Charles with his shipmoney, and James with the dispensing power. There are principles which override precedents. The laws of England may be a very good thing, but there is such a thing as a higher law.

The court decided in favour of the validity of the writs; and John Adams, who heard the judgment, wrote long after that in that hour the child Independence was born. The English view triumphed for the time, and the governor wrote home that the murmurs soon ceased. The States, and ultimately the United States, rejected general warrants; and since 1817 they are in agreement with the law of England. On that point, therefore, the colonies were in the right.

Then came the larger question of taxation. Regulation of external traffic was admitted. England patrolled the sea and protected America from the smuggler and the pirate. Some remuneration might be reasonably claimed; but it ought to be obtained in such a way as not to hamper and prohibit the increase of wealth. The restrictions on industry and trade were, however, contrived for the benefit of England and to the injury of her colonies. They demanded that the arrangement should be made for their mutual advantage. They did not go so far as to affirm that it ought to be to their advantage only, irrespective of ours, which is our policy with our colonies at the present time. The claim was not originally excessive. It is the basis of the imputation that the dispute, on both sides, was an affair of sordid interest. We shall find it more just to say that the motive was empire on one side and self-government on the other. It was a question between liberty and authority, government by consent and government by force, the control of the subject by the State, and the control of the State by the subject. The issue had never been so definitely raised. In England it had long been settled. It had been settled that the legislature could, without breach of any ethical or constitutional law, without forfeiting its authority or exposing itself to just revolt, make laws injurious to the subject for the benefit of English religion or English trade. If that principle was abandoned in America it could not well be maintained in Ireland, and the green flag might fly on Dublin Castle.

This was no survival of the dark ages. Both the oppression of Ireland and the oppression of America were the work of the modern school, of men who executed one king and expelled another. It was the work of parliament, of the parliaments of Cromwell and of William III. And the parliament would not consent to renounce its own specific policy, its right of imposing taxes. The crown, the clergy, the aristocracy, were hostile to the Americans; but the real enemy was the House of Commons. The old European securities for good government were found insufficient protection against parliamentary oppression. The nation itself, acting by its representatives, had to be subjected to control. The political problem raised by the New World was more complicated than the simple issues dealt with hitherto in the Old. It had become necessary to turn back the current of the development of politics, to bind and limit and confine the State, which it was the pride of the moderns to exalt. It was a new phase of political history. The American Revolution innovated upon the English Revolution, as the English Revolution innovated on the politics of Bacon or of Hobbes. There was no tyranny to be resented. The colonists were in many ways more completely their own masters than Englishmen at home. They were not roused by the sense of intolerable wrong. The point at issue was a very subtle and refined one, and it required a great deal of mismanagement to make the quarrel irreconcilable.

Successive English governments shifted their ground. They tried the Stamp Act; then the duty on tea and several other articles; then the tea duty alone; and at last something even less than the tea duty. In one thing they were consistent: they never abandoned the right of raising taxes. When the colonists, instigated by Patrick Henry, resisted the use of stamps, and Pitt rejoiced that they had resisted, parliament gave way on that particular measure, declaring that it retained the disputed right. Townshend carried a series of taxes on imports, which produced about three hundred pounds, and were dropped by Lord North. Then an ingenious plan was devised, which would enforce the right of taxation, but which would not be felt by American pockets, and would, indeed, put money into them, in the shape of a bribe. East Indiamen were allowed to carry tea to American ports without paying toll in England. The Navigation Laws were suspended, that people in New England might drink cheap tea, without smuggling. The duty in England was a shilling a pound. The duty in America was threepence a pound. The shilling was remitted, so that the colonies had only a duty of threepence to pay instead of a duty of fifteen-pence. The tea-drinker at Boston got his tea cheaper than the tea-drinker at Bristol. The revenue made a sacrifice, it incurred a loss, in order to gratify the discontented colonials. If it was a grievance to pay more for a commodity, how could it be a grievance to pay less for the same commodity? To gild the pill still further, it was proposed that the threepence should be levied at the British ports, so that the Americans should perceive nothing but the gift, nothing but the welcome fact that their tea was cheaper, and should be spared entirely the taste of the bitterness within. That would have upset the entire scheme. The government would not hear of it. America was to have cheap tea, but was to admit the tax. The sordid purpose was surrendered on our side, and only the constitutional motive was retained, in the belief that the sordid element alone prevailed in the colonies.

That threepence broke up the British empire. Twelve years of renewed contention, ever coming up in altered shape under different ministers, made it clear that the mind of the great parent State was made up, and that all variations of party were illusory. The Americans grew more and more obstinate as they purged the sordid question of interest with which they had begun. At first they had consented to the restrictions imposed under the Navigation Laws. They now rejected them. One of the tea ships in Boston harbour was boarded at night, and the tea chests were flung into the Atlantic. That was the mild beginning of the greatest Revolution that had ever broken out among civilised men. The dispute had been reduced to its simplest expression, and had become a mere question of principle. The argument from the Charters, the argument from the Constitution, was discarded. The case was fought out on the ground of the Law of Nature, more properly speaking, of Divine Right. On that evening of 16th December, 1773, it became, for the first time, the reigning force in History. By the rules of right, which had been obeyed till then, England had the better cause. By the principle which was then inaugurated, England was in the wrong, and the future belonged to the colonies.

The revolutionary spirit had been handed down from the seventeenth-century sects, through the colonial charters. As early as 1638 a Connecticut preacher said: "The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people, by God's own allowance. They who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates, it is in their power, also, to set the bounds and limitations of the power and place unto which they call them." In Rhode Island, where the Royal Charter was so liberal that it lasted until 1842, all power reverted annually to the people, and the authorities had to undergo re-election. Connecticut possessed so finished a system of self-government in the towns, that it served as a model for the federal Constitution. The Quakers of Pennsylvania managed their affairs without privilege, or intolerance, or slavery, or oppression. It was not to imitate England that they went into the desert. Several colonies were in various ways far ahead of the mother country; and the most advanced statesman of the Commonwealth, Vane, had his training in New England.

After the outrage on board the Dartmouth in Boston harbour the government resolved to coerce Massachusetts, and a continental Congress met to devise means for its protection. The king's troops were sent to destroy military stores that had been collected at Concord; and at Lexington, on the outward march, as well as all the way back, they were assailed by militia. The affair at Lexington, 19th April, 1775, was the beginning of the War of Independence, which opened with the siege of Boston. Two months later the first action was fought at Bried's Hill, or Bunker Hill, which are low heights overlooking the town, and the colonials were repulsed with very little loss.

The war that followed, and lasted six years, is not illustrious in military annals, and interests us chiefly by the result. After the first battle the colonies declared themselves independent. Virginia, acting for herself only, led the way. Then the great revolutionist, who was the Virginian leader, Jefferson, drew up the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted by the remaining states. It was too rhetorical to be scientific; but it recited the series of ideas which the controversy had carried to the front.

Thirty thousand German soldiers, most of them from Hesse Cassel, were sent out, and were at first partially successful; for they were supported by the fleet, which the estuaries carried far inland. Where the European army had not that advantage things went badly. The Americans attacked Canada, expecting to be welcomed by the French inhabitants who had been so recently turned into British subjects. The attack failed dramatically by the death of General Montgomery, under the walls of Quebec, and the French colonists remained loyal. But an expedition sent from Canada against New York, under Burgoyne, miscarried. Burgoyne had scarcely reached the Hudson when he was forced to surrender at Saratoga. The Congress of the States, which feebly directed operations, wished that the terms of surrender should not be observed, and that the 5000 English and German prisoners, instead of being sent home, should be detained until they could be exchanged. Washington and his officers made known that if this was done they would resign.

The British defeat at Saratoga is the event which determined the issue of the conflict. It put an end to the vacillation of France. The French government had to recover the position it had lost in the last war, and watched the course of events for evidence that American resistance was not about to collapse. At the end of 1777 the victory of Saratoga supplied the requisite proof. Volunteers had been allowed to go over, and much war material was furnished through the agency of a comic poet. Now a treaty of alliance was concluded, a small army was sent to sea, and in March 1778 England was informed that France was at war with her. France was followed by Spain, afterwards by Holland.

It was evident from the first that the combination was more than England could hope to meet. Lord North at once gave way. He offered to satisfy the American demands, and he asked that Chatham should take office. From the moment that his old enemy, France, appeared on the scene, Chatham was passionately warlike. The king agreed that he should be asked to join the ministry, but refused to see him. America declined the English overtures, in fulfilment of her treaty with France. The negotiation with Chatham became impossible. That was no misfortune, for he died a few weeks later, denouncing the government and the opposition.

Then came that phase of war during which the navy of France, under d'Orvilliers in the Channel, under Suffren in the east, under d'Estaing and de Grasse in the west, proved itself equal to the navy of England. It was by the fleet, not by the land forces, that American independence was gained. But it was by the army officers that American ideas, sufficient to subvert every European state, were transplanted into France. When de Grasse drove the English fleet away from Virginian waters, Cornwallis surrendered the army of the south at Yorktown, as Burgoyne had surrendered with the northern army at Saratoga.

The Whigs came in and recognised the independence of the colonies, as North would have done four years earlier, when France intervened. Terms of peace with European Powers were made more favourable by the final success of Rodney at Dominica and of Elliot at Gibraltar; but the warlike repute of England fell lower than at any time since the Revolution.

The Americans proceeded to give themselves a Constitution which should hold them together more effectively than the Congress which carried them through the war, and they held a Convention for the purpose at Philadelphia during the summer of 1787. The difficulty was to find terms of union between the three great states—Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts—and the smaller ones, which included New York. The great states would not allow equal power to the others; the small ones would not allow themselves to be swamped by mere numbers. Therefore one chamber was given to population, and the other, the Senate, to the states on equal terms. Every citizen was made subject to the federal government as well as to that of his own state. The powers of the states were limited. The powers of the federal government were actually enumerated, and thus the states and the union were a check on each other. That principle of division was the most efficacious restraint on democracy that has been devised; for the temper of the Constitutional Convention was as conservative as the Declaration of Independence was revolutionary.

The Federal Constitution did not deal with the question of religious liberty. The rules for the election of the president and for that of the vice-president proved a failure. Slavery was deplored, was denounced, and was retained. The absence of a definition of State Rights led to the most sanguinary civil war of modern times. Weighed in the scales of Liberalism the instrument, as it stood, was a monstrous fraud. And yet, by the development of the principle of Federalism, it has produced a community more powerful, more prosperous, more intelligent, and more free than any other which the world has seen.



THE following letter was sent out to the contributors to the Cambridge History. It will interest many, as giving characteristic expression to Acton's ideals as a historian.

The paragraphs are left as in the original.

[From the Editor of the Cambridge Modern History.]

1. Our purpose is to obtain the best history of modern times that the published or unpublished sources of information admit.

The production of material has so far exceeded the use of it in literature that very much more is known to students than can be found in historians, and no compilation at second hand from the best works would meet the scientific demand for completeness and certainty.

In our own time, within the last few years, most of the official collections in Europe have been made public, and nearly all the evidence that will ever appear is accessible now.

As archives are meant to be explored, and are not meant to be printed, we approach the final stage in the conditions of historical learning.

The long conspiracy against the knowledge of truth has been practically abandoned, and competing scholars all over the civilised world are taking advantage of the change.

By dividing our matter among more than one hundred writers we hope to make the enlarged opportunities of research avail for the main range of modern history.

Froude spoke of 100,000 papers consulted by him in manuscript, abroad and at home; and that is still the price to be paid for mastery, beyond the narrow area of effective occupation.

We will endeavour to procure transcripts of any specified documents which contributors require from places out of reach.

2. It is intended that the narrative shall be such as will serve all readers, that it shall be without notes, and without quotations in foreign languages.

In order to authenticate the text and to assist further research, it is proposed that a selected list of original and auxiliary authorities shall be supplied in each volume, for every chapter or group of chapters dealing with one subject.

Such a bibliography of modern history might be of the utmost utility to students, and would serve as a substitute for the excluded references.

We shall be glad if each contributor will send us, as early as he finds it convenient, a preliminary catalogue of the works on which he would rely; and we enclose a specimen, to explain our plan, and to show how we conceive that books and documents might be classified.

3. Our scheme requires that nothing shall reveal the country, the religion, or the party to which the writers belong.

It is essential not only on the ground that impartiality is the character of legitimate history, but because the work is carried on by men acting together for no other object than the increase of accurate knowledge.

The disclosure of personal views would lead to such confusion that all unity of design would disappear.

4. Some extracts from the editor's Report to the Syndics will show the principles on which the Cambridge History has been undertaken.

"The entire bulk of new matter which the last forty years have supplied amounts to many thousands of volumes. The honest student finds himself continually deserted, retarded, misled by the classics of historical literature, and has to hew his own way through multitudinous transactions, periodicals, and official publications, where it is difficult to sweep the horizon or to keep abreast. By the judicious division of labour we should be able to do it, and to bring home to every man the last document, and the ripest conclusions of international research. . . .

"All this does not apply to our own time, and the last volumes will be concerned with secrets that cannot be learned from books, but from men. . . .

"The recent Past contains the key to the present time. All forms of thought that influence it come before us in their turn, and we have to describe the ruling currents, to interpret the sovereign forces, that still govern and divide he world. . . .

"By Universal History I understand that which is distinct from the combined history of all countries, which is not a rope of sand, but a continuous development, and is not a burden on the memory, but an illumination of the soul. It moves in a succession to which the nations are subsidiary. Their story will be told, not for their own sake, but in reference and subordination to a higher series, according to the time and the degree in which they contribute to the common fortunes of mankind. . . .

"If we treat History as a progressive science, and lean specially on that side of it, the question will arise, how we justify our departure from ancient ways, and how we satisfy the world that there is reason and method in our innovations. . . .

"To meet this difficulty we must provide a copious, accurate, and well-digested catalogue of authorities. . . . "

"Our principle would be to supply help to students, not material to historians. But in critical places we must indicate minutely the sources we follow, and must refer not only to the important books, but to articles in periodical works, and even to original documents, and to transcripts in libraries. The result would amount to an ordinary volume, presenting a conspectus of historical literature, and enumerating all the better books, the newly acquired sources, and the last discoveries. It would exhibit in the clearest light the vast difference between history, original and authentic, and history, antiquated and lower than high-water mark of present learning. . . .

"We shall avoid the needless utterance of opinion, and the service of a cause.

"Contributors will understand that we are established, not under the Meridian of Greenwich, but in Long. 30 degrees W.; that our Waterloo must be one that satisfies French and English, Germans and Dutch alike; that nobody can tell, without examining the list of authors, where the Bishop of Oxford laid down the pen, and whether Fairbairn or Gasquet, Liebermann or Harrison took it up."

CAMBRIDGE, March 12, 1898


Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8
Home - Random Browse