Wilfrid Richmond.

The Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 online

. (page 161 of 185)
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Europe; and French thought, French fashions,
and the French language were the common
property of all polite society.

The Treaty of Utrecht (1713), while it left
France still one of the three greatest powers,
marks her recession from predominance. Spain
resigned her territories and claims in Italy and
on the Rhine, and, except for her decaying



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HISTORY, MODERN



colonies, withdrew finally within her own pen-
insula. England gained Newfoundland and
Nova Scotia from France, and in Europe she
secured command of the Mediterranean by the
conquest of Gibraltar and Minorca. By the
same treaty and by the rearrangements that im-
mediately followed, the old Spanish Nether-
lands, the Duchy of Milan, and the Kingdom
of Naples and Sicily fell to Austria. The Duke
of Savoy (one of the faithful allies against
France) acquired Sardinia, with the title of a
kingdom for his enlarged state. A little be-
fore, in 1701, the Elector of Brandenburg had
secured the title of King of Prussia. Thus, out
of the wars of Louis, at the beginning of the
eighteenth century, arose the two kingdoms,
Prussia and Sardinia, which in the latter part
of the nineteenth century were to make mod-
ern Germany and modern Italy against the will
of modern France.

About 1700, other important changes took
place in the map of Europe. For three cen-
turies, Austria had been one of the chief bul-
warks of Christendom against Mohammedanism.
In 1683 Vienna had been besieged by the Turks,
and had been saved only by the arrival of the
gallant Sobieski with his Polish chivalry. But
thereafter Austria took the offensive. She
won back Hungary, and then, step by step, ex-
tended her dominions down the Danube valley
and the Illyrian coast. In the latter part of the
reign of Louis XIV., the Austrian Hapsburgs,
turning away from the Rhine, definitely adopted
a Danubian policy and sought to aggrandize
themselves by seizing Slav territory from Turkey.

This new policy of Austria gave Louis XIV.
a freer hand on the Rhine than he otherwise
would have had, and so helped on the decline
of Holland. In 1640, Dutch vessels carried the
commerce of the world, — even the greater part
of that between England and her colonies. Soon
( after that date, however, England attacked the
Dutch commercial supremacy by navigation
laws, and at last by war. Fearful of French
conquest, and deserted or timidly defended by
Austria, Holland had no choice but to ally
herself to her commercial rival. After 1689 in
particular (when William of Orange became
King of England), Holland followed the lead
of England in politics, while that country drew
to herself the Dutch carrying trade.

In the north of Europe the former great
powers, Sweden and Poland, were declining
before the rise of Russia and Prussia. Peter
the Great (1689-1725) consolidated the govern-
ment in Russia, introduced a veneer of Western
civilization, and started his country on its de-
liberate march toward distant seas, west, south,
and east. Peter himself secured the western
* window* by seizing from Sweden the south-
eastern Baltic provinces. In the middle of the
century, the Empress Elizabeth (1741-62) robbed
Sweden of the rest of the Baltic coast up
through southern Finland. The northern half
of Finland remained Sweden's until Alexander
I. seized it in the Napoleonic wars; but toward
♦he close of the eighteenth century, under Cath-
erine II., Russia began her advance along the
Black Sea at the expense of Turkey. Under
the same ruler occurred the Russian gains in
the partitions of Poland, — a story which can
)c understood only in connection with the rise
of Prussia.



For three centuries the Hohenzollern Mar-
graves of Brandenburg had been patiently add-
ing scrap by scrap to their realms. Soon after
1600 these dominions lay mainly in three widely
separated groups, — Clcves on the Rhine, Bran-
denburg on the Elbe, and East Prussia beyond
the Vistula. The object of Hohenzollern poli-
tics was to consolidate these provinces by ac-
quiring intermediate territory. Toward the close
of the Thirty Years' War, Frederick William,
the Great Elector, made important headway in
this respect and accomplished still more for
his country after the close of that struggle by
persistently maintaining peace and fostering in-
dustry. It was his son who in 1701 secured the
title of King. The second king of Prussia built
up a magnificent army and reared a son who
was to use it magnificently. Frederick II. as-
cended the throne in 1740 and began his long
reign by an unjust but profitable war. The
Hapsburg realms had just fallen to a woman,
and, disregarding solemn treaties, Frederick
took unscrupulous advantage of the supposed
weakness of the Archduchess, Maria Theresa,
to seize from Austria the rich province of Si-
lesia. The heterogeneous Hapsburg realms
seemed about to fall to pieces; and Spain,
France, Savoy, and Bavaria hurried to join
Prussia in dismembering the carcass. But
England and Holland threw themselves into
the struggle on the Austrian side, and the
Treaty of Aix la Chapelle (1748) closed the
War of the Austrian Succession without fur-
ther territorial changes. Frederick kept Sile-
sia, reaching far down into the heart of Ger-
many, and Prussia stood forth as one of the
great powers.

The significance of the contest, however, lay
in its wide extension into India and America.
Indeed, colonial war between England and Spain
had already begun before Frederick appeared
on the stage, and France must soon have joined
Spain in any event. In the New Worlds, too,
the Peace restored the former boundaries; but
the war marks a clear consciousness in England
and France that the two were rivals for vast
realms outside Europe. The family interests
of monarchs as a cause for war were giving
place to the commercial interests of English
and Dutch merchants as opposed to those of
French and Spanish merchants, while back of
these selfish motives lay the mighty question,
big with consequence to the world, whether
French or English political ideas should hold
the New World.

In 1756, Austria fortified herself by alliance
with Russia, Sweden, and even her old enemy
France, and prepared to destroy Prussia. Fred-
erick's supreme military genius saved his coun-
try for the moment, and the next year England
came to his aid. During the brief interval be-
tween the European wars, England and France
had practically remained at war in America;
and now that France had joined Austria, Eng-
land was constrained to support Prussia. In all
the period from i68q to 181 5, no matter what the
origin of the wars, England and France soon be-
came the chief factors ; and though they were at
one time or another on every side of every
question, they were never on the same side at
the same time.

This Seven Years* War (1756-1763), or
Great French War, as it is commonly known in



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HISTORY, MODERN



America, was literally a world-wide struggle.
Red men fought by the Great Lakes of North
America, and black men fought in Senegal,
while Englishmen and Frenchmen grappled in
India as well as in Germany, and their fleets
engaged on every sea. The showy battles took
place in Germany, and on the whole the Euro-
pean conflict determined the wider results. Pitt,
with vision fixed upon a coming British em-
pire, declared that in Germany he would con-
quer America from France. This he did. En-
gland furnished the funds, and her navy swept
the seas. Frederick, supported by British sub-
sidies, furnished the generalship and most of
the troops for the German battlefields. The
striking figures in the struggle are (i) Pitt,
the English imperialist and the directing genius
of the war; (2) Frederick, the military genius,
who won Pitt's victories in Europe; (3) Wolfe,
who won French America from the great Mont-
calm; and (4) Give, the East India Company's
clerk, who laid the basis for England's su-
premacy in India.

Changes in the World-Mop; the American
Revolution.— The Treaty of Paris (1763) left
Europe without change; but in India France
lost all except a few unfortified trading posts,
while in America England received Florida
from Spain, and Canada and the eastern half
of the Mississippi valley from France. France
ceded to Spain the western half of the Mis-
sissippi valley, in compensation for the losses
Spain had incurred as her ally ; and, except for
her West India islands, she ceased to be an
American power. Spain still held South Amer-
ica and half North America; but her huge
bulk was decaying day by day. Holland, too,
with widespread empire, was plainly in decline.
England, having dispossessed France in both
Asia and America, stood forth as the leading
world-power.

The American Revolution, a few years later,
did not lessen this pre-eminence ; but it had other
results of supreme significance. The war came
because the American colonies had really be-
come a nation, and because the English govern-
ment unwisely insisted upon managing Amer-
ican affairs after the Americans were quite able
to take care of themselves. English interfer-
ence in economic matters had long been irk-
some, and the danger of interference in eccle-
siastical matters was feared. England had just
relieved the colonies from fear of French con-
quest. External bonds were gone, and inter-
nal ties were dissolving. Then George III. and
his ministers supplied the necessary jar to ef-
fect separation by trying to raise revenue in
America by Acts of Parliament. Astute pa-
triots rallied the majority of the Americans
by an old English shibboleth; and after a bit-
ter eight-years conflict (1775-83), the thirteen
English colonies became the first free American
nation.

The Revolution ^snlit the English race and
doubled its influence.® It paved the way for
a more enlightened economic science, since, con-
trary to all expectations, the trade of free
America from the first proved more valuable
to England than that of colonial America had
been. It reacted upon England, so that, when
the £reat wars were oyer, both that country
and its remaining colonies made new advances
in political liberty. It set up the standard of
Vol. 10 — 39



independence for the states of Spanish Amer-
ica in both continents. But its supreme im-
portance lay in the birth into the family of
nations of the United States itself, though the
full significance of the new nation hardly be-
gan to impress Europe for more than two gen-
erations.

England's European enemies had seized the
opportunity to attack her in a war of revenge.
England came out of the contest with glory
little tarnished. She had been fighting, not
America alone, but France, Spain, and Holland,
as well; and though she had lost the best part
of her old American empire she was not with-
out compensating gains. She seized Dutch
colonies at will; she strengthened her grasp
upon India; she won back the undisputed sov-
ereignty of the ocean by shattering the navy
of France; she rebuffed all assailants from the
rock* of Gibraltar, the key to the Mediterra-
nean; and in some measure she made good
even her American loss by the acquisition of
Australia just afterward.

The Partitions of Poland. — To return to
continental Europe in the closing half of the
Age of Frederick the Great: — one more terri-
torial change calls for attention. Poland had
fallen into anarchy under its elective, figure-
head king and its oligarchic nobles. This an-
archy gave the neighboring powers excuse for
plunder. Catherine II. determined to seize a
large part of the country. Frederick II. per-
suaded his old enemy, Austria, to join him in
compelling Russia to share her booty. The
First Partition of Poland (1772) pared off a
deep rind. The Second and Third Partitions,
which "assassinated the kingdom, 9 had not even
the pretext of misgovernment in Poland, for the
Poles had earnestly taken up the work of re-
form. These final divisions took place in 1793
aad 1795, after the death of Frederick, amid the
wars of the French Revolution. Prussia gained
large extent of territory, with valuable sea
coast; and, most important of all, the additions
brought the principal Prussian provinces, —
formerly scattered, — into a compact body. But
Russia gained far the greatest part of the
territory, and she now bordered Germany on
the east, as France had come to do earlier
on the west, after the destruction of the Bur-
gundy of Charles the Bold. The wise policy
of the Germans, early and late, would have
been to support the buffer states against the
greed of Russia and France. Failure to do
so has left Germany exposed ever since to di-
rect attack by powerful enemies, and. has com-
pelled her to build up artificial frontiers of
fortresses and bayonets, and to accept an un-
due militant character for all her civilization.

The Beneficent Despots of the Eighteenth
Century. — In foreign relations, the Age of
Frederick the Great saw little improvement over
that of Louis. In the government within the
several states, however, there was a beneficent
and significant change. Frederick of Prussia,
Catherine of Russia, Charles III. of Spain, Leo-
pold of Tuscany, Ferdinand of Naples, Joseph
II. of Austria, all belonged to a new class of
"crowned philosophers* and ^benevolent des-
pots" who sat upon the thrones of Europe in the
latter half of the eighteenth century. In Swe-
den and Portugal, also, great ministers sought
to impose a liberal policy upon the monarch*, as



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Turgot succeeded in doing- for a while, even
in France. A remarkable school of French writ-
ers, — Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau, — had cre-
ated a new, enlightened sentiment in the rul-
ing classes, and a new sense of responsibility.
Government was no more by the people than be-
fore, but despots did try to govern for the
people, not for themselves. Sovereigns spoke
of themselves no longer as privileged proprie-
tors, but, in Frederick's phrase, as "the first
servants of their states? All these rulers
planned far reaching reforms, — the ameliora-
tion or abolition of serfdom, the correction of
abuses in the church, the building up of popu-
lar education. In Prussia, for a time, much
was accomplished. The condition of the peas-
antry was improved; the administration was
rendered economical and efficient; and wealth
and comfort began to increase by bounds. But
these happy results were secured only by" the
tireless energy of one of the world's greatest
geniuses. On the whole the liberal monarchs
made lamentable failures. One man could not
lift the weight of a nation. It remained to
see what the people could do for themselves.
The age of enlightened despots was the pre-
lude to the French Revolution.

The Age of Nation States. — The French
Revolution, 1789-99.— In the latter part of the
Middle Ages, Italy had given the world an
intellectual revolution; Germany began Modern
History with a religious revolution; and France
now introduced the last great division of the
Modern period by a political and social revolu-
tion. Pre-eminently among political revolutions,
the French Revolution deserves the name. The
English Revolution of 1688 swept away tempo-
rary interference with ancient principles of En-
glish politics; the American Revolution made
the Americans politically independent, but did
not directly change the character of their so-
ciety; the French Revolution cut loose from
the past, and started France, with all the world,
upon new lines of growth.

But if it destroyed the old, it also built the
new. The work of destruction was needlessly
horrible and bloody; but as a whole the Revo-
lution was a vast and fruitful reform. The
really significant thing is not the temporary
mob-rule and bloodshed; the significant thing
is the great national awakening which swept
away an absurd society, founded on ancient vi-
olence and warped by time, to replace it with
a simpler social system, based more nearly on
equal rights.

The chief institutions of France were: (1)
a monarchy, centralized, despotic, and irrespon-
sible; but in weak hands, incumbered by com-
plex survivals of ancient local institutions, and
.hampered by its respect for the good opinion
of the privileged classes ; (2) an aristocracy,
wealthy, privileged, corrupt, skeptical; and (3)
an established church, wealthy and often cor-
rupt. Below these spread the masses, a nec-
essary but ugly substructure. Over the con-
tinent, similar conditions held sway. In France
the nobles had fewer duties, the peasantry had
more completely risen out of serfdom, and more
of a middle class had grown up, than in the
other large countries of the continent. Feudal
society was more decayed, and industrial so-
ciety more advanced. The great European rev-
olution broke through at the weakest spot.



The fundamental cause of the Revolution
was the unjust privileges of the favored classes
and the crushing burdens of the masses. The
evil was no greater than for centuries, but the
consciousness of it was greater. The masses
began to demand reform; and the privileged
classes had begun to distrust their rights.

The Revolution is usually dated from the
meeting of the States-General in 1789. The
king had summoned that body, hoping to in-
duce the privileged orders to give up their ex-
emptions from taxation, and so relieve the bank-
rupt treasury. The Third Estate, representing
the middle class, and the liberal nobles and
clergy had assembled with the determination
to secure far-reaching reforms and to establish
a "constitution.* A sharp contest, with a brief
period of anarchy, left power in the hands of
these liberal elements, where, despite some at-
tempts at counter-revolution and some danger
of mob predominance, it remained for two years.
The Constitution fashioned during this pe-
riod provided for a weak kingship and abolished
nobility and all special privileges before the
law; but it carefully entrenched middle-class
supremacy against democracy by graded prop-
erty qualifications and a complex system of in-
direct elections.

Further changes were inevitable; but, if
France had been left to herself, they might have
come about as quietly as these first ones. In-
stead, foreign war gave the movement a new
character. War was inevitable. Emigrant no-
bles gathered their forces on the Rhine under
the protection of German princes. The Em-
peror, Leopold, brother-in-law of Louis of
France, called upon the sovereigns of Europe
to recognize the cause of Louis as "the cause
of kings,* and demanded from France such
changes in her government as should protect
Europe against the spread of revolution. This
presumptuous dictation in their internal af-
fairs roused a tempest of righteous wrath in
the French nation; and in 1792 war began be-
tween "the cause of kings* and "the cause of
peoples.* For twenty-three years Europe was
engaged in strife, upon a greater scale than
ever before in history.

France was girdled with foes. The Empire,
Prussia, and Sardinia, were at once in arms.
Naples and Spain joined the coalition. Sweden
and Russia both offered to do so, if needed
Ere long England and Holland were added to
the enemies who expected to partition France.
Vast armies invaded France; and the French
forces were demoralized by treachery of of-
ficers and by fear of royalist plots. If France
was to be saved, it could not be done by half-
measures, nor with a king in secret alliance with
the enemy. Control fell to extremists; and,
while the mighty Danton roused and organ-
ized the national energies, the frenzied mob,
unhindered, answered the victories and boast-
ings of the invaders by the attack on the Tuil-
leries and the Massacres. In September, the
Convention established the French Republic
with extreme democratic features and with
manhood suffrage. Then revolution within rev-
olution transferred power to more and more
radical factions. The defeated Girondists raised
the provinces against the capital; and for a
time Paris and a score of central departments
faced the remaining three fourths of France and



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united Europe. Out of this crisis, in i793»
grew the great Committee of Public Safety,
which ruled France for a year with despotic
power. The Revolution now became construc-
tive, and never has the French genius for or-
ganization shown itself more triumphantly. The
Committee deliberately adopted a policy of ®Ter-
ror* to crush plots and dissension and to se-
cure united action. Revolt was stamped out.
A million soldiers were sent to the front. The
invaders were rolled back in rout, and the rag-
ged but devoted French armies swarmed vic-
toriously across all the frontiers, to sow civil
liberty over Europe with fire and sword. France
was not again in serious danger from foreign
foes until the fall of Napoleon, twenty years
later.

Meantime, while the grim, crime-stained men
of the Committee in war and tumult were or-
ganizing order within and victory abroad, the
Convention was laying anew the foundations
of French society and advancing the progress
of the human race. It adopted the projects of
Cambarceres for the codification of French law,
and the plans of Condorcet for a system of na-
tional education; it accepted Argobast's metric
system of weights and measures; it abolished
slavery in the French colonies, created provi-
sion for the public debt, instituted the first
Normal School, the Polytechnic School, the
Conservatory, the Institute of France, the Na-
tional Library, and began the improvement of
prisons and hospitals, and the reform of youth-
ful criminals. Meantime the peasants had be-
come free landholders, and the whole laboring
class was rising rapidly in standard of living.

In 1704 the Jacobins split into factions, and
these turned the ^Terror 9 upon one another.
The following year a conservative reaction
gave the Republic a new constitution, which
restored property qualifications and indirect vot-
ing. But the new plural executive (the Di-
rectory) proved incompetent and corrupt, and
kept itself in power only by a series of coups d'
Hat It was assailed by conspiracy, radical and
royalist ; and France breathed more easily, when,
in 1799, Bonaparte overthrew it with his troops
and set up a firm military despotism, veiled by
plebiscites.

Napoleonic Period, 1800-15. — For fifteen
years, as First Consul (1800), Consul for Life
(1802), and Emperor of the French (1804-14),
Napoleon was sole master of France. He prer
served the principle of civil equality and all
the economic gains of the Revolution, but po-
litical liberty for a time was lost. True, nis
rule was a denial of the old doctrine of Divine
Right: each new usurpation received the sanc-
tion of a popular vote, and he boasted that
he was chief by will of the people. But every
form of constitutional opposition was crushed
or muzzled. The legislative chambers existed
only to speak when and as he chose ; free speech,
free press, and all security for personal lib-
erty were suppressed by a system of spies and
secret police and by arbitrary imprisonment of
suspects; local administration was centralized
more highly than even under the old monarchy,
«nor did there exist anywhere independent of
him authority to light or repair the streets of
the meanest village in France. 39

This all-pervading absolutism was directed
by the penetrating intelligence and indomitable



energy of the world's most ^terrible worker*;
and it conferred upon France great and rapid
benefits. Order, precision, symmetry were in-
troduced into every branch of the administra-
tion. The interrupted work of the Convention
was resumed. Education was organized; law
was simplified and codified; the church was
again brought into alliance with the state; in-
dustry was fostered, and magnificent public
works were carried out. But in all this, Na-
poleon was merely the last and greatest of the
beneficent despots. And in the outcome, his
rule fixed more firmly than before in the mind
of the nation the dangerous willingness to de-
pend upon an all-directing central power; so
that in our own day, after many revolutions,
the supremely difficult task of the Third Re-
public has been to create the spirit of local
self-government.

No doubt, in 1800, when Napoleon came into
power, he sincerely desired peace, in order to
reconstruct France. By the brilliant victories
of Marengo and Hohenlinden he dissolved the
hostile coalition, and a series of treaties, clos-
ing with the Treaty of Amiens (1802), gave



Online LibraryWilfrid RichmondThe Americana: a universal reference library, comprising the arts ..., Volume 10 → online text (page 161 of 185)