James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 11) online

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Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 11) → online text (page 21 of 56)
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that this period an age of great wars,
political tension, and economic develop-
ment should produce a literature which
was polemical and often political in
character, or that with the old religious ideas
and the old social system the

A I rf U En lish characteristic qualities of
ge o ng is seven t een th_ cen j. ur y poetry
Literature , ,-. J

and prose should evaporate

away. Poetry, in fact, almost ceased to
exist, for Alexander Pope (1688-1744),
though choosing verse for the medium of his
utterances, was by nature a critic, satirist,
and translator, a poet at moments only,
and, as it were, by accident. He is the
most characteristic figure of the so-called
Augustan age of English literature. All


his best work is satirical. The " Rape of
the Lock " (1714) is a personal satire on
feminine foibles, the " Dunciad " (1728-
1743) a savage attack upon the professional
writers of Grub Street, from whose malice
Pope had received pin-pricks which he
was incapable of forgiving. The " Essay
on Man " (1734), though professedly a
philosophical poem, is redeemed from
oblivion chiefly by the passages in which
Pope analyses the failings of his con-
temporaries. Avowedly the pupil of
Dryden, he shows the influence of his
master, both in matter and style. But
he is less political than Dryden, and far
surpasses his model in the management
of their favourite metre, the heroic couplet.
A metre less fitted for poetry than
this, of which the whole effect depends
upon antithesis, neatness of phrase,
and compression of meaning, can hardly
be imagined. But for the expression
of a sarcastic common-sense, for the
scornful analysis of character, it is un-
rivalled. Pope's use of the heroic couplet
entitles him to rank among the great
masters of literary form. There is much

~~ ~ in common between Pope and
Ihe Ureat

Writers of , lr .

the P riod ex P ress himself in prose ; and
his satire was at once more in-
discriminate and more reserved than that
of Pope. Swift at his best is characterised
by a grave irony, and his thought is more
antithetic than his style. A Tory pam-
phleteer of no mean order, Swift is best
known for two satires of a perfectly general
character the " Tale of a Tub," which
ridicules, under cover of an allegory,
the Reformation and the quarrels of the
Churches ; and the " Travels of Lemuel
Gulliver." In the latter work Swift
attacks humanity at large, and passes
gradually, under the influence of a melan-
choly bordering on mania, from playful
banter to savage denunciation, which
inspires, and is inspired by, loathing.

Swift died insane, and there is a morbid
element in his best work even from his
early years. The cynicism of his age
mastered, soured, and finally destroyed a
powerful nature. It could not sour Addi-
son and Steele, the two great essayists of
the Augustan age, whose contributions
immortalised the " Tatler " and " Spec-
tator," two otherwise ephemeral journals.
Like Pope and Swift, they are critics of
human life, but their criticism is tempered
with humour and a genial sympathy.


Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) is a critic in
a different vein ; for many years the
literary dictator of London society, he sat
in judgment on books and theories and
writers. He is typical of the second phase
in the literature of this period, a phase in
which literature becomes more impersonal.

But the writers of this phase still keep the
attitude of critics. In poetry they aim,
above all things, at the observance of rule
and proportion. In prose they devote
themselves to the delineation of character,
and are most successful in the new field
of the novel. Goldsmith, Sterne, Smollett,
Fielding, and Richardson, much as they
differ in other respects, are alike in their
realism ; their characters, however whim-
sical, belong to contemporary society.

The eighteenth century was character-
ised by a shallow rationalism. But every
age has its exceptions, and this produced
three philosophers of a profound and
penetrating genius. Berkeley (1685-1753),
an Irish dean and bishop, laid the founda-
tions of modern idealism in his works on
the " Theory of Vision " (1709) and on the
" Principles of Human Knowledge " (1710).
The crude scepticism which he demolished
was replaced by the more subtle specula-
tions of David Hume (1711-1776), whose
" Treatise of Human Nature " (1739-1740),
" Essays Moral and Political " (1741-

1742), and " Principles of Morals " (1751)
represent the last word of agnosticism in
metaphysics, and are memorable for having
provoked Kant to elaborate a system not
less critical, but more serious and more
stimulating, than that of Hume.

In political philosophy the period pro-
duced Burke' s expositions of the organic
conception of society. A Whig politician,
member of Parliament, and Minister of
State, Burke (1729-1793) was originally
drawn to study abstract principles by his
dislike for the Toryism of Bolingbroke
and George III. The " Thoughts on
the Present Discontents " (1770) was
the first of a series of writings in which
Burke unfolded not only his conception
of the English constitution but also the
ideas and principles which underlie all
political societies whatever. Unsurpassed
as an orator and in the marshalling of
complicated facts, he is greatest when he
deals in generalisation. His speeches
on American taxation and on concilia-
tion with America are of lasting worth,
apart altogether from the occasion to
which they refer ; and the numerous
writings in which he attacked the French
Revolution (1790-1796) are the most com-
plete defence of the old c rder upon which
the Girondists and the Jacobins made war.

This picture shows the choir of St. Paul's Cathedral during- a Thanksgiving: Service held in the famous building on
St. George's Day, 1789. The king, George III., had been seriously ill, and this service took plac* on his recovery.




TTHE Seven Years War had witnessed an
* altogether unprecedented combination
of the powers, in which the great but only
recently organised state of Eastern Europe
had joined with the traditional antagonists,
Austria and France, in an unsuccessful
attempt to crush another great but
recently organised state in Middle Europe.
At the end of the war, personal causes
detached Russia from a combination on
which her ruler had originally entered
mainly on personal grounds. France was
detached from it by the losses and the
exhaustion entailed by the maritime and
trans-oceanic triumphs of Great Britain.

The natural outcome was that Austria
should tend to reconciliation with Prussia,
and both to something like a common
understanding with Russia, the interests
which affected all three being centred
in Poland ; that Continental affairs
should virtually cease to interest Great
p . , Britain ; and that the Bour-
_ ru ! bons, so far as/ they could

afford to make their energies
for Peace , , . , , .

felt outside their own king-
doms, should seek opportunities for
injuring Great Britain rather than for
interfering with the Germanic states.

For Frederic of Prussia, the first re-
quirement was peace. In territorial ex-
tent, in population, and in resources, his
kingdom was surpassed by each one of
the three chief powers which had united
for his destruction. At each one of them,
his infinite energy had enabled him to
strike blow for blow and something more.
But the strain had been terrific ; rest,
recuperation, reorganisation, were abso-
lutely imperative. It was quite necessary
to be ready to face a new war, in order to
make sure that there should be no new
war to face. The proffer of a Russian
alliance was welcomed .by. him as a guar-
antee of peace. If -Pitt in England had
returned to power effectively, as he did
nominally in 1766, the alliance of the
northern powers Russia, Prussia, and


Great Britain as a counterpoise to the
existing association of Hapsburgs and
Bourbons, might have become a reality.
But even then the British Ministry,
absorbed in the process of irritating the
American colonies, gave no attention
_ _ to European questions ; and

State immediately after the Peace

of Hubertsburg, Frederic had
of Poland ,. , .

no inclination to rely on the

nation which had deserted him under
Bute's guidance, and showed no signs
of evolving a trustworthy or far-sighted
administration under the leadership of
Grenvilles and Bedfords.

Frederic and the Tsarina Catharine
understood each other, though their formal
alliance did not take place till March,
1764. The affairs of Poland were at a
critical stage, and Russian and Prussian
interests there could be pursued har-
moniously. The ulterior objects of the
two were indeed opposed. Catharine
would have liked to annex Poland, but,
failing that, wished for a government
there which would dance to her order.
Frederic wanted for himself Polish Prussia,
which intervened between Brandenburg
and East Prussia. But, in the meantime,
an election to the Crown of Poland was
imminent ; and it suited both him and
Catharine to oppose a candidate -of the
House of Saxony, now ruling, and,, to
maintain within Poland the cause of
religious equality. Austria, on the other
hand, favoured the Saxon dynasty -and
the cause of Catholic domination, while
the recent policy of France had associated
her with Austria and with

Saxony. But neither France
Dominated by A J , -,

. nor Austria was prepared as

Russia ~ ,, .

Catharine was to take a re-
solute line, and the Tsarina obtained the
election of her candidate, Stanislas
Poniatowski. Russian domination was.
secured, but the policy, when pursued,
alienated many of the Poles who had
at first supported her, and stirred Austria


and France to a more active hostility.
Both powers endeavoured to detach
Frederic from Russia; and here Frederic
found his own opportunity of detach-
ing Austria from France by a scheme
of partition to which Russia might be
prevailed upon to assent.

Now, it must be noted that the position
of Austria had become somewhat anoma-
lous. Maria Theresa was
queen, and continued
queen till her death in
1780. But her husband,
the Emperor Francis,
died in 1764, when
their son Joseph suc-
ceeded to the imperial
crown, his brother Leo-
pold becoming Grand
Duke of Tuscany, for
which Lorraine had been
exchanged some thirty
years before. Joseph
began operations as
emperor by a series of
attempts to reform the
imperial system, with-
out success ; nor could


he apply his reforming n iresa ' he

enthusiasm to the Aus-
trian dominions, where

was elected King of the Romans in 1764, and
became Emperor of Germany in the next
year. A feature of his reign was the

A second meeting took place between
Frederic and Joseph in the following
year, 1770 ; and this time a practicable
scheme was formulated. It seemed prob-
able at the moment that Russia might
establish herself in Roumania, a prospect
not at all to the liking of Austria. The
Porte appealed to the two powers to
mediate. If they insisted on Russia
resigning her conquests,
they must offer some
compensation : Poland
provided the where-
withal. Poland could
offer no effective resist-
ance, and she had
reached a stage of
political disintegration
which almost warranted
the doctrine that she
had forfeited her right
to a separate national
existence. But if Russia
was to have compensa-
tion in Polish territory
for resigning Roumania,
Prussia and Austria
might reasonably de-
mand a share in the
spoils as the price of
their assent. If they

his mother still retained suppression of 700 convents. He died in 1790. agree( j on a partition,

control. In foreign affairs, however, he
was able to exercise a leading influence,
although Kaunitz, Maria Theresa's
Minister, retained his position. Broadly
speaking, though the queen was less
impulsive and less warlike than of old,
her attitude to Prussia was never
friendly, and her inclination continued
to favour the French alliance. Joseph,
on the other hand, had a warm admira-
tion for his mother's great antagonist.

The overtures of France to Prussia were
received with extreme coldness ; those of
Austria, though made more or less at the
instigation of France, were much more
welcome. A friendly meeting was
arranged between Frederic and Joseph
in 1769, which had little direct result,
beyond estabh'shing friendly personal re-
lations and impressing on Catharine of
Russia the importance of keeping on a
satisfactory footing with Frederic. She
was already involved in a war with
Turkey ; and the success which was
attending her arms increased the likeli-
hood of Austria wishing to intervene, and
therefore to associate herself with Prussia.

there was no one to say them nay. Great
Britain, under Lord North, had her hands
more than full with colonial troubles, and
France had no interests sufficiently strong
to rouse her to active intervention. So
Russia, Prussia, and Austria, after pro-
tracted negotiations, settled how much
of Poland each was to have, and how
much was to be left to the puppet king,
Stanislas, and the Polish Diet was
bullied and bribed into ratifying the
partition. Frederic got West
** "! Prussia, the main object of his

A, " desire ; Austria got Red Russia.
of Enemies ~,,

The provinces assigned to

Russia were larger though less populous ;
but what was left over as "independent"
Poland was virtually a Russian dependency.
The business was completed in 1772.

To Frederic, the acquisition of West
or Polish Prussia was of immense strate-
gical importance ; but the negotiations
revealed, and the partition brought nearer,
dangers against which it was necessary to
guard. The contact of the great Slav
power with Teutonic Europe and with the
Slavonic dominions of Austria was growing



more intimate and, potentially at least,
more menacing. The menace could be held
in check if Austria and Prussia presented
a united tront ; but of this there was no
present prospect. Joseph's ambitions did
not harmonise with Frederic's require-
ments ; for Prussia it was a serious ques-
tion whether the aggression of Austria
or of Russia was the more to be feared,
while Joseph's aspiration for the extension
of power in Germany, to which Frederic
was necessarily opposed, distracted him
from the primary need of maintaining
Pi guard against Russia. How-
ever, if Frederic was between
the upper and the nether
mill-stones, there was always
with him the chance that one or both
of the mill-stones would get the worst
of it. As regards Russia, Prussia's
present security lay in the dominant
attraction for that power in the direc-
tion of the Danube and the Crimea.

Joseph's original idea of strengthening
the imperial power by remedying abuses
in the imperial system had failed ; the
scheme had in effect been replaced by a
desire to extend and consolidate the
Hapsburg territorial dominion so as to
give Austria a dictatorial ascendancy

of Prussia's

throughout Germany. Joseph was not
actuated by a mere vulgar thirst for con-
quest. The successful politician is the
man who knows how to adapt the means
which he can control to the ends he has
in view. The successful politician rises
into the great statesman if the ends in
view are great ends ; the measure of his
idealism is the measure of his greatness.
But the idealist who fails to grasp the
relation between means and ends fails as
a statesman, though his failure may be
more admirable than a meaner man's
success. Joseph was an idealist who failed.
He was conscious of crying evils which he
wished to remedy. To apply the remedies,
he wanted despotic power ; but he found
himself unable either to apply the remedies
judiciously or to secure despotic power
effectively. It may be questioned whether
the remedies, even if he had been able to
apply them despotically, would have had
the desired effect. The benevolent despot
was, however, a favourite ideal with the
very considerable body of those who
identified political liberty with anarchy
who were soon to point to the French
Revolution as a gruesome warranty for
their views. Unfortunately, in Joseph's
case neither the benevolence nor the


In this picture the magnificent coronation procession of the Emperor Joseph II. is seen passing through the inner court
of the royal residence at Vienna. The former residence of the chancellor of the empire stands in the background.


despotism was appreciated by his sub-
jects. Joseph, then, was fain to extend
his territories, while Frederic disapproved
unless he saw his way to an equivalent
accession of strength for himself. An
opportunity presented itself at the be-
ginning of 1778. The electoral House of
Bavaria became extinct ; the succession to

the Duchy reverted to an elder

th Sid ' Branch of the same stock in

* " e . the person of Charles Theodore

the Elector Palatine. Charles
Theodore was elderly and childless ; he
was easily persuaded to recognise a very
inadequate Hapsburg claim to a large slice
of Bavaria. Only two German princes
were directly affected.

If Frederic raised an opposition, there
would be no great powers to support him.
Russia was busy with Turkey, England
with America, and France would side with
Austria, if with either. Nevertheless,
Frederic did oppose, successfully. The
chance of French support for Austria dis-
appeared, as France turned her energies to
helping the American colonies against Great
Britain ; and Russia showed symptoms of
intervening in spite of her Turkish war.
Maria Theresa was opposed to her son's
policy. Joseph found himself obliged to be
content with a small portion of what he had
claimed and to recognise the Hohenzollern
title to succession in Anspach and Baireuth.
In 1780 Maria Theresa died, and Joseph
could now follow his own course un-
fettered. Hitherto his mother had kept
the domestic rule of the Austrian domain
in her own hands, and had held in the main
by Hapsburg tradition, for which the son
showed no respect. Alive to the immense
success which had been achieved by the
organisation of Prussia which Frederic
had built up on the foundations very
thoroughly laid by his father and by the
Great Elector, Joseph tried to force a
similar system on his own diverse domi-
nions. The primary idea of Prussian

absolutism had been the rapid
Mind " T subordination of all personal and

class interests to the strength-
of Prussia P. ,

ening of the state which

answered like a machine to the control
of the single master mind. But in Joseph's
dominions there were very powerful class
interests which had been established for
centuries, and declined to vanish at the
monarch's fiat. The nobles, the town
corporations, the clergy, in turn found
their privileges or endowments attacked

by the reformer, while elementary rights
of the peasantry were legalised. The
supremacy of the State over the
Church was emphasised, and general
toleration and religious equality before
the law were established.

All these things were in themselves
excellent ; but they not only excited the
classes who were directly affected, but
created the utmost alarm throughout the
principalities of the empire, the more so
as the Hapsburgs, or Lorrainers, now
dominated the college of princes in the
Imperial Diet. This end had been achieved
by the election of one of the emperor's
brothers as Archbishop and Elector of
Cologne. It appeared that the emperor
was not unlikely to force upon the minor
states reforms of the same nature as those
which he had been carrying out in his own
hereditary dominion. German liberties
were at stake ; not, that is, the liberties
of the bulk of the population, which had
never possessed any, but the right of each
petty ruler to rule within his own territory.
If the petty princes were to make head
against imperial aggression, they must

. ~. be leagued with some great

The Obstacle , ., ,

., power, and the only one avail-
to Joseph s *% , T, <v ,,
A .... able was Prussia. Now the em-

Ambitions , ,, ., ,

peror and Kaunitz recognised
in Prussia the great obstacle to Joseph's
ambitions within the empire. Frederic,
with a natural inclination to a league with
Austria to hold Russia in check, habitually
found himself forced towards a league
with Russia to hold Austria in check.
Russia, with a Turkish goal in view, had
on the whole a preference for an under-
standing with Austria rather than an
alliance with Prussia. Austria, with an
eye to Germany, was prepared for such an
understanding, which was, in fact, arrived
at very shortly after the accession of
Joseph to the Austrian throne.

Since France and Great Britain were
both still outside the mid- European
complications since, that is, they were
absorbed in their own mutual relations
or domestic difficulties Frederic was
isolated. He could not afford to appear
unsupported as the champion of the petty
princes, as in the recent Bavarian affair
he had posed as the champion of state
rights, as opposed to imperial aggression.
At that time the understanding between
Russia and Austria had not been estab-
lished. Now, however, Joseph provided the
occasion for uniting Germany* which had


hitherto proved impossible. The Nether-
lands had passed decisively from Spain to
Austria at the Treaty of Utrecht, but
Austria had always found them trouble-
some rather than useful, for reasons which
a glance at the map makes obvious. They
were' exposed to French attack, and
difficult to defend. Joseph, foiled in his
previous attempt to acquire Bavaria from
the Elector Palatine, now proposed an
exchange. Roughly speaking, Charles
Theodore was to hand over Bavaria and
receive the Netherlands, which, with the
Lower Palatinate, were to form a recon-
stituted kingdom of Burgundy.

Such a scheme would involve danger to
the independence of more than the petty
principalities. To thwart it, Frederic
took the lead in the formation of a defen-
sive league, in which it was no longer a
matter of great difficulty -to
induce practically all the
German states to join, a
league known as the Fiirsten-
bund. It had not, indeed,
the elements of permanency,
of German unity, but it
effected the immediate pur-
pose of putting a stop to
Austrian aggression within
the empire. The Fiirstenbund
fell to pieces after a brief
interval, but it had destroyed
the Bavarian scheme. What
further effect it would have
had if Frederic had been

He became emperor in 1790 on the
death of his brother Joseph II., and

succeeded in Prussia by an- P roved himself a powerful ruler. He Hungarian nobles to the
other king of the same quality died two years after his accession - Austrian supremacy, without

predecessors, in spite of certain grotesque
characteristics. After Frederic, the great-
ness of Prussia fell to pieces; had there
come no Bismarck and no Moltke, it might
never have been restored in its fulness.
But at the least, Frederic's rule had
accomplished this, that even under incom-
petent rulers Prussia was not likely again
_ to become a negligible

* r \i s s i 31 i j *r~* i *

.. _, . . , quantity in European poll-
after Frederic s 3 TM
Deat k tics. Ihree years and six

months after the Great
Frederic, Joseph also died. By this time
the French Revolution was in full career,
though most liberal-minded onlookers were
rejoicing in the expectation that its out-
come would be liberty in the sense of
constitutionalism. The Bastille had fallen,
but another year had to pass before the
death of Mirabeau. The monarchs of
Europe had not yet taken
alarm ; and Leopold, Joseph's
successor, was able to carry
out a policy which was at
once liberal and pacificatory.
He shared Joseph's progressive
ideas, but his .intelligence was
eminently practical. Being
content to work patiently, he
had been able to work effec-
tively in his Duchy of Tuscany;
and in a reign which was all
too brief he succeeded in
conciliating the outraged in-
terests, and in reconciling
both the Netherlands and the

is matter of conjecture. But he died in
1786, and his nephew and successor
Frederic William II., was no masterful
genius. Frederic died leaving the Ger-

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 11) → online text (page 21 of 56)