In the preceding chapter we have traced the beginnings of a new civilization, the civilization of the «modern» type, which becomes at the present time worldwide. It is still a vast unformed thing, still only in the opening phases of growth and development today. We have seen the mediaeval ideas of the Holy Roman Empire and of the Roman Church, as forms of universal law and order, fade in its dawn. They fade out, as if it were necessary in order that these ideas of one law and one order for all men should be redrawn on world-wide lines. And while in nearly every other field of human interest there was advance, the effacement of these general political ideas of the Church and Empire led back for a time in things political towards merely personal monarchy and monarchist nationalism of the Macedonian type. There came an interregnum, as it were, in the consolidation of human affairs, a phase of the type the Chinese annalists would call an «Age of Confusion». This interregnum has lasted as long as that between the fall of the Western Empire and the crowning of Charlemagne in Rome. We are living in it today. It may be drawing to its close; we cannot tell yet. The old leading ideas had broken down, a medley of new and untried projects and suggestions perplexed men’s minds and actions, and meanwhile the world at large had to fall back for leadership upon the ancient tradition of an individual prince. There was no new way clearly apparent for men to follow, and the prince was there.
All over the world the close of the sixteenth century saw monarchy prevailing and tending towards absolutism. Germany and Italy were patchworks of autocratic princely dominions, Spain was practically autocratic, the throne had never been so powerful in England, and as the seventeenth century drew on, the French monarchy gradually became the greatest and most consolidated power in Europe. The phases and fluctuations of its ascent we cannot record here.
At every court there were groups of ministers and secretaries who played a Machiavellian game against their foreign rivals. Foreign policy is the natural employment of courts and monarchies. Foreign offices are, so to speak, the leading characters in all the histories of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They kept Europe in a fever of wars. And wars were becoming expensive. Armies were no longer untrained levies, no longer assemblies of feudal knights who brought their own horses and weapons and retainers with them; they needed more and more artillery; they consisted of paid troops who insisted on their pay; they were professional and slow and elaborate, conducting long sieges, necessitating elaborate fortifications. War expenditure increased everywhere and called for more and more taxation. And here it was that these monarchies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries came into conflict with new and shapeless forces of freedom in the community. In practice the princes found they were not masters of their subjects lives or property. They found an inconvenient resistance to the taxation that was necessary if their diplomatic aggressions and alliances were to continue. Finance became an unpleasant specter in every council chamber. In theory the monarch owned his country. James I of England (1603) declared that «As it is atheism and blasphemy to dispute what God can do; so it is presumption and high contempt in a subject to dispute what a king can do, or say that a king cannot do this or that». In practice, however, he found, and his son Charles I (1625) was to find still more effectually, that there were in his dominions a great number of landlords and merchants, substantial and intelligent persons, who set a very definite limit to the calls and occasions of the monarch and his ministers. They were prepared to tolerate his rule if they themselves might also be monarchs of their lands and businesses and trades and what not. But not otherwise.
Everywhere in Europe there was a parallel development. Beneath the kings and princes there were these lesser monarchs, the private owners, noblemen, wealthy citizens and the like, who were now offering the sovereign prince much the same resistance that the kings and princes of Germany had offered the Emperor. They wanted to limit taxation so far as it pressed upon them, and to be free in their own houses and estates. And the spread of books and reading and intercommunication was enabling these smaller monarchs, these monarchs of ownership, to develop such a community of ideas and such a solidarity of resistance as had been possible at no previous stage in the world’s history. Everywhere they were disposed to resist the prince, but it was not everywhere that they found the same faculties for an organized resistance. The economic circumstances and the political traditions of the Netherlands and England made those countries the first to bring this antagonism of monarchy and private ownership to an issue.
At first this seventeenth-century «public», this public of property owners, cared very little for foreign policy. They did not perceive at first how it affected them. They did not want to be bothered with it; it was, they conceded, the affairs of kings and princes. They made no attempt therefore to control foreign entanglements. But it was with the direct consequences of these entanglements that they quarreled; they objected to heavy taxation, to interference with trade, to arbitrary, imprisonment, and to the control of consciences by the monarch. It was upon these questions that they joined issue with the Crown.
The breaking away of the Netherlands from absolutist monarchy was the beginning of a series of such conflicts throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They varied very greatly in detail according to local and racial peculiarities, but essentially they were all rebellious against the idea of a predominating personal «prince» and his religious and political direction.
In the twelfth century all the lower Rhine country was divided up among a number of small rulers, and the population was a low German one on a Celtic basis, mixed with subsequent Danish ingredients very similar to the English admixture. The southeastern fringe of it spoke French dialects; the bulk, Frisian, Dutch, and other Low German languages. The Netherlands figured largely in the crusades. Godfrey of Bouillon, who took Jerusalem (First Crusade), was a Belgian; and the founder of the so-called Latin Dynasty of emperors, in Constantinople (Fourth Crusade) was Baldwin of Flanders. (They were called Latin emperors because they were on the side of the Latin Church. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries considerable towns grew up in the Netherlands: Ghent, Bruges, Ypres, Utrecht, Leyden, Haarlem, and so forth; and these towns developed quasi-independent municipal governments and a class of educated townsmen. We will not trouble the reader with the dynastic accidents that linked the affairs of the Netherlands with Burgundy (Eastern France), and which finally made their overlordship the inheritance of the Emperor Charles V.
It was under Charles that the Protestant doctrines that now prevailed in Germany spread into the Netherlands. Charles persecuted with some vigour, but in 1556, as we have, told, he handed over the task to his son Philip (Philip II). Philip’s spirited foreign policy he was carrying on a war with France presently became a second source of trouble between himself and the Netherlandish noblemen and townsmen, because he had to come to them for supplies. The great nobles led by William the Silent, Prince of Orange, and the Counts of Egmont and Horn, made themselves the heads of a popular resistance, in which it is now impossible to disentangle the objection, to taxation from the objection to religious persecution. The great nobles were not at first Protestants. They became Protestants as the struggle grew in bitterness. The people were often bitterly Protestant.
Philip was resolved to rule both the property and consciences of his Netherlanders. He sent picked Spanish troops into, the country, and he made governor general a nobleman named Alva, one of those ruthless «strong» men who wreck governments and monarchies. For a time he ruled the land with a hand of iron, but the hand of iron begets a soul of iron in the body it grips, and in 1567 the Netherlands were in open revolt. Alva murdered, sacked, and massacred in vain. Counts Egmont and Horn were executed. William the Silent became the great leader of the Dutch, a king de facto. For a long time, and with many complications, the struggle for liberty continued, and through it all it is noteworthy that the rebels continued to cling to the plea that. Philip II was their king-if only he would be a reasonable and limited king. But the idea of limited monarchy was distasteful to the crowned heads of Europe at that time, and at last Philip drove the United Provinces, for which we now use the name of Holland, to the republican form of government. Holland, be it noted not all the Netherlands; the southern Netherlands, Belgium as we now call that country, remained at the end of the struggle a Spanish possession and Catholic.
The siege of Alkmaar (1573), as Motley describes it, may be taken as a sample of that long and hideous conflict between the little Dutch people and the still vast resources of Catholic Imperialism.
«’If I take Alkmaar,’ Alva wrote to Philip, ‘I am resolved net to leave a single creature alive; the knife shall be put to every throat.’…
«And now, with the dismantled and desolate Haarlem before their eyes, a prophetic phantom, perhaps, of their own imminent fate, did the handful of people shut up within Alkmaar prepare for the worst. Their main hope lay in the friendly sea. The vast sluices called the Zyp, through which the inundation of the whole northern province could be very soon effected, were but a few miles distant. By opening these gates, and by piercing a few dykes, the ocean might be made to fight for them. To obtain this result, however, the consent of the inhabitants was requisite, as the destruction of all the standing crops would be inevitable. The city was so closely invested, that it was a matter of life and death to venture forth, and it was difficult, therefore, to find an envoy for this hazardous mission. At last, a carpenter in the city, Peter Van der Mey by name, undertook the adventure …
«Affairs soon approached a crisis within the beleaguered city.
Daily skirmishes, without decisive results, had taken place outside the walls. At last, on the 18th of September, after a steady cannonade of nearly twelve hours, Don Frederick, at three in the afternoon, ordered an assault. Notwithstanding his seven months’ experience at Haarlem, he still believed it certain that he should carry Alkmaar by storm. The attack took place at once upon the Frisian gate and upon the red tower on the opposite side. Two choice regiments, recently arrived from Lombardy, led the onset, rending the air with their shouts and confident of an easy victory. They were sustained by what seemed an overwhelming force of disciplined troops. Yet never, even in the recent history of Haarlem, had an attack been received by more dauntless breasts. Every living man was on the walls. The storming parties were assailed with cannon, with musketry, with pistols. Boiling water, pitch and oil, molten lead, and unslaked lime were poured upon them every moment. Hundreds of tarred and burning hoops were skillfully quoited around the necks of the soldiers, who struggled in vain to extricate themselves from these fiery ruffs, while as fast as any of the invaders planted foot upon the breach, they were confronted face to face with sword and dagger by the burghers, who hurled them headlong into the moat below.
«Thrice was the attack renewed with ever increasing rage thrice repulsed with unflinching fortitude. The storm continued four hours long. During all that period not one of the defenders left his post, till he dropped from it dead or wounded … The trumpet of recall was sounded, and the Spaniards, utterly discomfited, retired from the walls, leaving at least one thousand dead in the trenches, while only thirteen burghers and twenty-four of the garrison lost their lives … Ensign Solis, who had mounted the breach for an instant, and miraculously escaped with life, after having been hurled from the battlements, reported that he had seen «neither helmet nor harness» as he looked down into the city: only some plain-looking people, generally dressed like fishermen. Yet these plain-looking fishermen had defeated the veterans of Alva …
«Meantime, as Governor Sonoy had opened many of the dykes, the land in the neighborhood of the camp was becoming plashy, although as yet the threatened inundation had not taken place. The soldiers were already very uncomfortable and very refractory. The carpenter-envoy had not been idle…»
He returned with dispatches for the city. By accident or contrivance he lost these dispatches as he made his way into the town, so that they fell into Alva’s hands. They contained a definite promise from the Duke of Orange to flood the country so as to drown the whole Spanish army. Incidentally this would also have drowned most of the Dutch harvest and cattle. But Alva, when he had read these documents, did not wait for the opening of any more sluices. Presently the stout men of Alkmaar, cheering and jeering, watched the Spaniards breaking camp …
The form assumed by the government of liberated Holland was a patrician republic under the headship of the house of Orange. The States-General was far less representative of the whole body of citizens than was the English Parliament we shall next relate.
Though the worst of the struggle was over after Alkmaar, Holland was not effectively independent until 1609, and its independence was only fully and completely recognized by the treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
The open struggle of the private property owner against the aggressions of the «Prince» begins in England far back in the twelfth century. The phase in this struggle that we have to study now is the phase that opened with the attempts of Henry VII and VIII and their successors, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, to make the government of England a «personal monarchy» of the continental type. It became more acute when, by dynastic accidents, James, King of Scotland, became James I, King of both Scotland and England (1603), and began to talk in the manner we have already quoted of his «divine right» to do as he pleased. But never had the path of English monarchy been a smooth one. In all the monarchies of the Northmen and Germanic invaders of the empire there had been a tradition of a popular assembly of influential and representative men to preserve their general liberties, and in none was it more living than in England. France had her tradition of the assembly of the Three Estates, Spain her Cortes, but the English assembly was peculiar in two respects; that it had behind it a documentary declaration of certain elementary and universal rights, and that it contained elected «Knights of the Shire», as well as elected burghers from the towns. The French and Spanish assemblies had the latter, but not the former element.
These two features gave the English Parliament a peculiar strength in its struggle, with the Throne. The document in question was Magna Carta, the Great Charter, a declaration, which was forced from King John (1199 – 1216), the brother and successor of Richard Coeur de Lion (1189 – 99), after a revolt of the Barons in 1215. It rehearsed a number of fundamental rights that made England a legal and not a regal state. It rejected the power of the king to control the personal property and liberty of every sort of citizen save with the consent of that man’s equals.
The presence of the elected shire representatives in the English Parliament, the second peculiarity of the British situation, came about from very simple and apparently innocuous beginnings. From the shires, or county divisions, knights seem to have been summoned to the national council to testify to the taxable capacity of their districts. They were sent up by the minor gentry, freeholders and village elders of their districts as early as 1254, two knights from each shire This idea inspired Simon de Montfort, who was in rebellion against Henry III, the successor of John, to summon to the national council two knights from each shire and two citizens from each city or borough. Edward I, the successor to Henry III, continued this practice because it seemed a convenient way of getting into financial touch with the growing towns. At first there was considerable reluctance on the parts of the knights and townsmen to attend Parliament, but gradually the power they possessed of linking the redress of grievances with the granting of subsidies was realized. Quite early, if not from the first, these representatives of the general property owners in town and country, the Commons, sat and debated apart from the great Lords and Bishops. So there grew up in England a representative assembly, the Commons, beside an Episcopal and patrician one, the Lords. There was no profound and fundamental difference between the personnel of the two assemblies; many of the knights of the shire were substantial men who might be as wealthy and influential as peers and also the sons and brothers of peers, but on the whole the Commons was the more plebeian assembly.
From the first these two assemblies, and especially the Commons, displayed a disposition to claim the entire power of taxation in the land. Gradually they extended their purview of grievances to a criticism of all the affairs of the realm. We will not follow the fluctuations of the power and prestige of the English Parliament through the time of the Tudor monarchs (i.e., Henry VII and VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth), but it will be manifest from what has been said that when at last James Stuart made his open claim to autocracy, the English merchants, peers, and private gentlemen found themselves with a tried and honored traditional means of resisting him such as no other people in Europe possessed.
Another peculiarity of the English political conflict was its comparative detachment from the great struggle between Catholic and Protestant that was now being waged all over Europe. There were, it is true, very distinct religious issues mixed up in the English struggle, but upon its main lines it was a political struggle of King against the Parliament embodying the class of private property owning citizens. Both Crown and people were formally reformed and Protestant. It is true that many people on the latter side were Protestants of a Bible respecting, non- sacerdotal type, representing the reformation according to the peoples, and that the king was the nominal head of a special sacerdotal and sacramental church, the established Church of England, representing the reformation according to the princes, but this antagonism never completely obscured the essentials of the conflict.
The struggle of King and Parliament had already reached an acute phase before the death of James I (1625), but only in the reign of his son Charles I did it culminate in civil war. Charles did exactly what one might have expected a king to do in such a position, in view of the lack of Parliamentary control over foreign policy; be embroiled the country in a conflict with both Spain and France, and then came to the country for supplies in the hope that patriotic feeling would override the normal dislike to giving him money. When Parliament refused supplies, he demanded loans from various subjects, and attempted similar illegal exactions. This produced from Parliament in 1628 a very memorable document, the Petition of Right, citing the Great Charter and rehearsing the legal limitations upon the power of the English king, denying his right to levy charges upon, or to imprison, or punish anyone, or to quarter soldiers on the people, without due process of law. The Petition of Right stated the case of the English Parliament. The disposition to «state a me» has always been a very marked English characteristic. When President Wilson, during the Great War of 1914–18, prefaced each step in his policy by a «Note», he was walking in the most respectable traditions of the English. Charles dealt with this Parliament with a high hand, he dismissed it in 1629, and for eleven years he summoned no Parliament. He levied money illegally, but not enough for his purpose; and realizing that the church could be used as an instrument of obedience, he made Laud, an aggressive high churchman, very much of a priest and a very strong believer in «divine right», Archbishop of Canterbury, and so head of the Church of England.
In 1638 Charles tried to extend the half-Protestant, half-Catholic characteristics of the Church of England to his other kingdom of Scotland, where the secession from Catholicism had been more complete, and where a non-sacerdotal, non- sacramental form of Christianity, Presbyterianism, had been established as the national church. The Scotch revolted, and the English levies Charles raised to fight them mutinied. Insolvency, at all times the natural result of a «spirited» foreign policy, was close at hand. Charles, without money or trustworthy troops, had to summon a Parliament at last in 1640. This Parliament, the Short Parliament, he dismissed in the same year; he tried a Council of Peers at York (1640), and then in the November of that year summoned his last Parliament.
This body, the Long Parliament, assembled in the mood for conflict. It seized Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and charged him with treason. It published a «Grand Remonstrance», which was a long and full statement of its case against Charles. It provided by a bill for a meeting of Parliament at least once in three years, whether the King summoned it or no. It prosecuted the King’s chief ministers who had helped him to reign for so long without Parliament, and in particular the Earl of Strafford. To save Strafford the King plotted for a sudden seizure of London by the army. This was discovered, and the Bill for Strafford’s condemnation was hurried on in the midst of a vast popular excitement. Charles I, who was probably one of the meanest and most treacherous occupants the English throne has ever known, was frightened by the London crowds. Before Strafford could die by due legal process, it was necessary for the King to give his assent. Charles gave it and Strafford was beheaded. Meanwhile the King was plotting and looking for help in strange quarters from the Catholic Irish, from treasonable Scotchmen. Finally he resorted to a forcible feeble display of violence. He went down to the Houses of Parliament to arrest five of his most active opponents. He entered the House of Commons and took the Speaker’s chair. He was prepared with some bola speech about treason, but when he saw the places of his five antagonists vacant, he was baffled, confused, and spoke in broken sentences. He learnt that they had departed from his royal city of Westminster and taken refuge in the city of London (see Chap. XXIV, sec 7). London defied him. A week later the Five Members were escorted back in triumph to the Parliament House in Westminster by the Trained Bands of London, and the King, to avoid the noise and hostility of the occasion, left Whitehall for Windsor.
Both parties then prepared openly for war.
The King was the traditional head of the army, and the habit of obedience in soldiers is to the King. The Parliament had the greater resources. The King set up his standard at Nottingham on the eve of a dark and stormy August day in 1642. There followed a long and obstinate civil war, the King holding Oxford, the Parliament, and London. Success swayed from side to side, but the King could never close on London nor Parliament takes Oxford. Each antagonist was weakened by moderate adherents who «did not want to go too far». There emerged among the Parliamentary commanders a certain Oliver Cromwell, who had raised a small troop of horse and who rose to the position of general. Lord Warwick, his contemporary, describes him as a plain man, in a cloth suit «made by an ill country tailor». He was no mere fighting soldier, but a, military organizer; he realized the inferior quality of many of the Parliamentary forces, and set himself to remedy it. The Cavaliers of the King had the picturesque tradition of chivalry and loyalty on their side; Parliament was something new and difficult without any comparable traditions. «Your troops are most of them old decayed serving men and tapsters», said Cromwell. «Do you think that the spirits of such base and mean fellows will ever be able to encounter gentlemen that have honor and courage and resolution in them?» But there is something better and stronger than picturesque chivalry in the, world, religious enthusiasm. He set himself to get together a «godly» regiment. They were to be earnest, sober living men. Above all, they were to be men of strong convictions. He disregarded all social traditions, and drew his officers from every class. «I had rather have a plain, russet coated captain that knows what he fights for and loves what he knows, than what you call a gentleman and is nothing else». England discovered a new force, the Ironsides, in its midst, in which footmen, draymen, and ships captains held high command, side by side with men of family. They became the type on which the Parliament sought to reconstruct its entire army. The Ironsides were the backbone of this «New Model». From Marston Moor to Naseby these men swept the Cavaliers before them. The King was at last a captive in the hands of Parliament.
There were still attempts at settlement that would have left the King a sort of king, but Charles was a man doomed to tragic issues, incessantly scheming, «so false a man that he is not to be trusted’’ The English were drifting towards a situation new in the world’s history, in which a monarch should be formally tried for treason to his people and condemned.
Most revolutions are precipitated, as this English one was, by the excesses of the ruler, and by attempts at strength and firmness beyond the compass of the law; and most revolutions swing by a kind of necessity towards an extremer conclusion than is warranted by the original quarrel. The English revolution was no exception. The English are by nature a compromising and even a vacillating people, and probably the great majority of them still wanted the King to be King and the people to be free, and all the lions and lambs to lie down together in peace and liberty. But the army of the New Model could not go back. There would have been scant mercy for these draymen and footmen who had ridden down the King’s gentlemen if the King came back. When Parliament began to treat again with this regal trickster, the New Model intervened; Colonel Pride turned out eighty members from the House of Commons who favored the King, and the illegal residue, the Rump Parliament, then put the King on trial.
But indeed the King was already doomed. The House of Lords rejected the ordinance for the trial, and the Rump then proclaimed «that the People are, under God, the original of all just power», and that «the Commons of England … have the supreme power in this nation», and assuming that it was itself the Commons proceeded with the trial. The King was condemned as a «tyrant, traitor, murderer, and enemy of his country». He was taken one January morning in 1649 to a scaffold erected outside the windows of his own banqueting room at Whitehall. There he was beheaded. He died with piety and a certain noble self-pity-eight years after the execution of Strafford, and after six and a half years of a destructive civil war, which had been caused almost entirely by his own lawlessness.
This was indeed a great and terrifying thing that Parliament had done. The like of it had never been heard of in the world before. Kings had killed each other times enough; parricide, fratricide, assassination, those are the privileged expedients of princes; but that a section of the people should rise up, try its king solemnly and deliberately for disloyalty, mischief, and treachery, and condemn and kill him, sent horror through every court in Europe. The Rump Parliament had gone beyond the ideas and conscience of its time. It was as if a committee of jungle deer had taken and killed a tiger a crime against nature. The Tsar of Russia chased the English envoy from his court. France and Holland committed acts of open hostility. England, confused and conscience stricken at her own sacrilege, stood isolated before the world.
But for a time the personal quality of Oliver Cromwell and the discipline and strength of the army he had created maintained England in the republican course she had taken. The Irish Catholics had made a massacre of the Protestant English in Ireland, and now Cromwell suppressed the Irish insurrection with great vigour. Except for certain friars at the storm of Drogheda, none but men with arms in their hands were killed by his troops; but the atrocities of the massacre were fresh in his mind, no quarter was given in battle, and so his memory still rankles in the minds of the Irish, who have a long memory for their own wrongs. After Ireland came Scotland, where Cromwell shattered a Royalist army at the Battle of Dunbar (1650). Then he turned his attention to Holland, which country had rashly seized upon the divisions among the English as an excuse for the injury of a trade rival. The Dutch were then the rulers of the sea, and the English fleet fought against odds; but after a series of obstinate sea fights the Dutch were driven from the British seas and the English took their place as the ascendant naval power. Dutch and French ships must dip their flags to them. An English fleet went into the Mediterranean- the first English naval force to enter those waters; it put right various grievances of the English shippers with Tuscany and Malta, and bombarded the pirate nest of Algiers and destroyed the pirate fleet which in the lax days of Charles had been wont to come right up to the coasts of Cornwall and Devon to intercept ships and carry off slaves to Africa. The strong arm of England also intervened to protect the Protestants in the south of France, who were being hunted to death by the Duke of Savoy. France, Sweden, Denmark, all found it wiser to overcome their first distaste for regicide and allied them with England. Came a war with Spain, and the great English Admiral Blake destroyed the Spanish Plate Fleet at Teneriffe in an action of almost incredible daring. He engaged land batteries. He was the first man «that brought ships to contemn castles on the, shore». (He died in 1657, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, but after the restoration of the monarchy his bones were dug out by the order of Charles II, and removed to St. Margaret’s, Westminster.) Such was the figure that England cut in the eyes of the world during her brief republican days.
On September 3rd, 1658, Cromwell died in the midst of a great storm that did not fail to impress the superstitious. Once his strong hand lay still, England fell away from this premature attempt to realize a righteous commonweal of free men. In 1660 Charles II, the son of Charles the «Martyr», was welcomed back to England with all those manifestations of personal loyalty dear to the English heart, and the country relaxed from its military and naval efficiency as a sleeper might wake and stretch and yawn after too intense a dream. The Puritans were done with «Merrie England» was herself again, and in 1667 the Dutch, once more masters of the sea, sailed up the Thames to Gravesend and burnt an English fleet in the Medway. «On the night when our ships were burnt by the Dutch», says Pepys, in his diary, «the King did sup with my Lady Castelmaine, and there they were all mad, hunting a poor moth». Charles, from the date of his return, 1660, took control of the foreign affairs of the state, and in 1670 concluded a secret treaty with Louis XIV of France by which he undertook to subordinate entirely English foreign policy to that of France for an annual pension of 100,000. Dunkirk, which Cromwell had taken, had already been sold back to France. The King was a great sportsman; he had the true English love for watching horse races, and the racing centre at Newmarket is perhaps his most characteristic monument.
While Charles lived, his easy humor enabled him to retain the British crown, but he did so by wariness and. compromise, and when in 1685 he was succeeded by his brother James II, who was a devout Catholic, and too dull to recognize the hidden limitation of the monarchy in Britain, the old issue between Parliament and Crown became acute. James set himself to force his country into a religious reunion with Rome. In 1688 he was in flight to France. But this time the great lords and merchants and gentlemen were too circumspect to let this revolt against the King fling them into the hands of a second Pride or a second Cromwell. They had already called in another king, William, Prince of Orange, to replace James. The change was made rapidly. There was no civil war except in Ireland and no release of the deeper revolutionary forces of the country.
Of William’s claim to the throne, or rather of his wife Mary’s claim, we cannot tell here, its interest is purely technical, nor how William: III and Mary ruled, nor how, after the widower William had reigned alone for a time, the throne passed on to Mary’s sister Anne (1702–14). Anne seems to have thought favorably of a restoration of the Stuart line, but the Lords and the Commons, who now dominated English affairs, preferred a less competent king. Some sort of claim could be made out for the Elector of Hanover, who became King of England as George I (1714–27). He was entirely German, he could speak no English, and he brought a swarm of German women and German attendants to the English court; dullness, tarnish came over the intellectual life of the land with his coming,
But this isolation of the court from English life was his conclusive recommendation to the great landowners and the commercial interests who chiefly brought him over. England entered upon a phase which Lord Beaconsfield has called the «Venetian oligarchy» stage; the supreme power resided in Parliament, dominated now by the Lords, for the art of bribery and a study of the methods of working elections carried to a high pitch by Sir Robert Walpole had robbed the House of Commons of its original freedom and vigour. By ingenious devices the parliamentary vote was restricted to a shrinking number of electors, old towns with little or no population would return one or two members (old Sarum had one non-resident voter, no population, and two members), while newer populous centres had no representation at all. And by insisting upon a high property qualification for members, the chance of the Commons speaking in common accents of vulgar needs was still more restricted. George I was followed by the very similar George II (1727–60), and it was only at his death that England had again a king who had been born in England, and one who could speak English fairly well, his grandson George III. On this monarch’s attempt to recover some of the larger powers of monarchy we shall have something to say in a later section.
Such briefly is the story of the struggle in England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries between the three main. factors in the problem of the «modern state»; between the crown, the private property owners, and that vague power, still blind and ignorant, the power of the quite common people. This latter factor appears as yet only at moments when the country is most deeply stirred; then it sinks back into the depths. But the end of the story, thus far, is a very complete triumph of the British private property owner over the dreams and schemes of Machiavellian absolutism. With the Hanoverian Dynasty, England became as the Times recently styled her a «crowned republic». She had worked out a new method of government, Parliamentary government, recalling in many ways the Senate and Popular Assembly of Rome, but more steadfast and efficient because of its use, however restricted, of the representative method. Her assembly at Westminster was to become the «Mother of Parliaments» throughout the world. Towards the, crown the English Parliament has held and still holds much the relation of the mayor of the palace to the Merovingian kings. The king is conceived of as ceremonial and irresponsible, a living symbol of the royal and imperial system. But much power remains latent in the tradition and prestige of the crown, and the succession of the four Hanoverian Georges, William IV (1830), Victoria (1837), Edward VII (1901), and the present king, George V (1910), is of a quite different strain from the feeble and short-lived Merovingian monarchs. In the affairs of the church, the military and naval organizations, and the foreign office, these sovereigns have all in various degrees exercised an influence, which is nonetheless important because it is indefinable.
Upon no part of Europe did the collapse of the idea of a unified Christendom bring more disastrous consequences than to Germany. Naturally one would have supposed that the Emperor, being by origin a German, both in the case of the earlier lines and in the case of the Habsburgs, would have developed into the national monarch of a united German speaking state. It was the accidental misfortune of Germany that her Emperors never remained German. Frederick II, the last Hohenstaufen, was, as we have seen, a half-orientalized Sicilian; the Habsburgs, by marriage and inclination, became in the person of Charles V, first Burgundian and then Spanish in spirit. After the death of Charles V, his brother Ferdinand took Austria and the empire, and his son Philip II took Spain, the Netherlands, and South Italy; but the Austrian line, obstinately Catholic, holding its patrimony mostly on the eastern frontiers, deeply entangled therefore with Hungarian affairs and paying tribute, as Ferdinand and his two successors did, to the Turk, retained no grip upon the north Germans with their disposition towards Protestantism, their Baltic and westward affinities, and their ignorance of or indifference to the Turkish danger.
The sovereign princes, dukes, electors, prince bishops and the like, whose domains cut up the map of The Germany of the Middle Ages into a crazy patchwork, were really not the equivalents of the kings of England and France; They were rather on the level of the great land owning dukes and peers of France and England. Until 1701 none of them had the title of «King». Many of their dominions were less both in size and value than the larger estates of the British nobility. The German Diet was like the States-General or like a parliament without the presence of elected representatives. So that the great civil war in Germany that presently broke out, the Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 48) was in its essential nature much more closely akin to the civil war in England (1643 – 49) and to the war of the Fronde (1648- 53), the league of feudal nobles against the Crown in France, than appears upon the surface.
In all these cases the Crown was either Catholic or disposed to become Catholic, and the recalcitrant nobles found their individualistic disposition tending to a Protestant formula. But while in England and Holland the Protestant nobles and rich merchants ultimately, triumphed and in France the success of the Crown was even more complete, in Germany neither was the Emperor strong enough, nor had the Protestant princes a sufficient unity and organization among themselves to secure a conclusive triumph. It ended there in a torn-up Germany. Moreover, the German issue was complicated by the fact that various non-German peoples, the Bohemians and the Swedes (who had a new Protestant monarchy which had arisen under Gustava Vasa as a direct result of the Reformation), were entangled in the struggle. Finally, the French monarchy, triumphant now over its own nobles, although it was Catholic, came in on the Protestant side with the evident intention of taking the place of the Habsburgs as, the imperial line.
The prolongation of the war, and the fact that it was not fought along a determinate frontier, but all over an empire of patches, Protestant here, Catholic there, made it one of the most cruel and destructive that Europe had known since the days of the barbarian raids. Its peculiar mischief lay not in the fighting, but in the concomitants of the fighting. It came at a time when military tactics had developed to a point that rendered ordinary levies useless against trained professional infantry. Volley firing with muskets at a range of a few score yards had abolished the individualistic knight in Armour, but the charge of disciplined masses of cavalry could still disperse any infantry that had not been drilled into a mechanical rigidity. The infantry with their muzzle-loading muskets could not keep up a steady enough fire to wither determined cavalry before it charged home. They had, therefore, to meet the shock standing or kneeling behind a bristling wall of pikes or bayonets. For this they needed great discipline and experience. Iron cannon were still of small size and not very abundant, and they did not play a decisive part as yet in warfare. They could «plough lanes» in infantry, but they could not easily smash and scatter it if it was sturdy and well drilled. War under these conditions was entirely in the hands of seasoned professional soldiers, and the question of their pay was as important a one to the generals of that time as the question of food or munitions. As the long struggle dragged on from phase to phase, and the financial distress of the land increased, the commanders of both sides were forced to fall back upon the looting of towns and villages, both for supply and to make up the arrears of their soldiers’ pay.
The soldiers became, therefore, more and more mere brigands living on the country, and the Thirty Years War set up a tradition of looting as a legitimate operation in warfare and of outrage as a soldier’s privilege that has tainted the good name of Germany right down to the Great War of 1914. The earlier chapters of Defoe’s Memoirs of a Cavalier, with its vivid description of the massacre and burning of Magdeburg, will give the reader a far better idea of the warfare of this time than any formal history. So harried was the land that the farmers ceased from cultivation, what snatch crops could be harvested were hidden away, and great crowds of starving women and children became camp followers of the armies, and supplied a thievish tail to the rougher plundering. At the close of the struggle all Germany was ruined and desolate. Central Europe did not fully recover from these robberies and devastations for a century.
Here we can but name Tilly and Wallenstein, the great plunder captains on the Habsburg side, and Gustavus Adolphus, the King of Sweden, the Lion of the North, the champion of the Protestants, whose dream was to make the Baltic Sea a «Swedish Lake». Gustavus Adolphus was killed in his decisive victory over Wallenstein at Lutzen (1632), and Wallenstein was murdered in 1634. In 1648 the princes and diplomatists gathered amidst the havoc they had made to patch up the affairs of Central Europe at the Peace of Westphalia. By that peace the power of the Emperor was reduced to a shadow, and the acquisition of Alsace brought France up to the Rhine. And one German prince, the Hohenzollern Elector of Brandenburg, acquired so much territory as to become the greatest German power next to the Emperor, a power that presently (1701) became the kingdom of Prussia. The Treaty also recognized two long accomplished facts, the separation from the empire and the complete independence of both Holland and Switzerland.
We have opened this chapter with the stories of two countries, the Netherlands and Britain, in which the resistance of the private citizen to this new type of monarchy, the Machiavellian monarchy that was arising out of the moral collapse of Christendom, succeeded. But in France, Russia, in many parts of Germany and of Italy-Saxony and Tuscany e.g. personal monarchy was not so restrained and overthrown; it established itself indeed as the ruling European system during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. And even, in Holland and Britain the monarchy was recovering power during the eighteenth century.
(In Poland conditions were peculiar, and they will be dealt with in a later section.)
In France there had been no Magna Carta, and there was not quite so definite and effective a tradition of parliamentary rule. There was the same opposition of interests between the crown on the one hand and the landlords and merchants on the other, but the latter had no recognized gathering place, and no dignified method of unity. They formed oppositions to the crown, they made leagues of resistance such was the «Fronde,» which was struggling against the young King Louis XIV and his great minister Mazarin, while Charles I was fighting for his life in England but ultimately (1652), after a civil war, they were conclusively defeated; and while in England after the establishment of the Hanoverians the House of Lords and their subservient Commons ruled the country, in France, on the contrary, after 1652, the court entirely dominated the aristocracy. Cardinal Mazarin was himself building upon a foundation that Cardinal Richelieu, the contemporary of King James I of England, had prepared for him. After the time of Mazarin we hear of no great French nobles unless they are at court as court servants and officials. They have been tamed but at a price, the price of throwing the burthen of taxation upon the voiceless mass of the common people. From many taxes both the clergy and the nobility – everyone indeed who bore a title – were exempt. In the end this injustice became intolerable, but for a while the French monarchy flourished like the Psalmist’s green bay tree. By the opening of the eighteenth century English writers are already calling attention to the misery of the French lower classes and the comparative prosperity, at that time , of the English poor.
On such terms of unrighteousness what we may call «Grand Monarchy» established itself in France. Louis XIV, styled the Grand Monarque, reigned for the unparalleled length of seventy-two years (1643–1715), and set a pattern for all the kings of Europe. At first he was guided by his Machiavellian minister, Cardinal Mazarin; after the death of the Cardinal he himself in his own proper person became the ideal «Prince.» He was, within his limitations, an exceptionally capable king; his ambition was stronger than his baser passions, and he guided his country towards bankruptcy, through the complication of a spirited foreign policy, with an elaborate dignity that still extorts our admiration. His immediate desire was to consolidate and extend France to the Rhine and Pyrenees, and to absorb the Spanish Netherlands; his remoter view saw the French kings as the possible successors of Charlemagne in a recast Holy Roman Empire. He made bribery a state method almost more important than warfare. Charles II of England was in his pay, and so were most of the Polish nobility, presently to be described. His money, or rather the money of the tax-paying classes in France, went everywhere. But his prevailing occupation was splendor. His great palace at Versailles, with its salons, its corridors, its mirrors, its terraces and fountains and parks and prospects, was the envy and admiration of the world. He provoked a universal imitation. Every king and princelet in Europe was building his own Versailles as much beyond his means as his subjects and credits would permit. Everywhere the nobility rebuilt or extended their chateaux to the new pattern. A great industry of beautiful and elaborate fabrics and furnishings developed. The luxurious arts flourished everywhere; sculpture in alabaster, faience, gilt woodwork, metal work, stamped leather, much music, magnificent painting, beautiful printing and bindings, fine cookery, fine vintages. Amidst the mirrors and fine furniture went a strange race of «gentlemen» in vast powdered wigs, silks and laces, poised upon high red heels, supported by amazing canes; and still more wonderful «ladies,» under towers of Powdered hair and wearing vast expansions of silk and satin sustained on wire. Through it all postured the great Louis, the sun of his world, unaware of the meager and sulky and bitter faces that watched him from those lower darknesses to which his sunshine did not penetrate.
We cannot give here at any length the story of the wars and doings of this monarch. In many ways Voltaire’s Siècle de Louis XIV is still the best and most wholesome account. He created a French navy fit to face the English and Dutch, a very considerable achievement. But because his intelligence did not rise above the lure of that Fata Morgana, that crack in the political wits of Europe, the dream of a world-wide Holy Roman Empire, he drifted in his later years to the propitiation of the Papacy, which had hitherto been hostile to him. He set himself against those spirits of independence and disunion, the Protestant princes, and he made war against Protestantism in France. Great numbers of his most sober and valuable subjects were driven abroad by his religious persecutions, taking arts and industries with them. The English silk manufacture, for instance, was founded by French Protestants. Under his rule were carried out the «dragonnades,» a peculiarly malignant and effectual form of persecution. Rough soldiers were quartered in the houses of the Protestants, and were free to disorder the life of their hosts and insult their womankind as they thought fit. Men yielded to that sort of pressure who would not have yielded to rack and fire. The education of the next generation of Protestants was broken up, and the parents had to give Catholic instruction or none. They gave it, no doubt, with a sneer and an intonation that destroyed all faith in it. While more tolerant countries became mainly sincerely Catholic or sincerely Protestant, the persecuting countries, like France and Spain and Italy, so destroyed honest Protestant teaching that these peoples became mainly Catholic believers or Catholic atheists, ready to break out into blank atheism when ever the opportunity offered. The next reign, that of Louis XV, was the age of that supreme mocker, Voltaire (1694–1778), an age in which everybody in French society conformed to the Roman church and hardly anyone believed in it.
It was part – and an excellent part – of the pose of Grand Monarchy to patronize literature and the sciences. Louis XIV set up an academy of sciences in rivalry with the English Royal Society of Charles II and the similar association at Florence. He decorated his court with poets, playwrights, philosophers, and scientific men. If the scientific process got little inspiration from this patronage, it did at any rate acquire resources for experiment and publication, and a certain prestige in the eyes of the vulgar.
Louis XV was the great-grandson of Louis XIV, and an incompetent imitator of his predecessor’s magnificence. He posed as a king, but his ruling passion was that common obsession of our kind the pursuit of women, tempered by a superstitious fear of hell. How such women as the Duchess of Chateauroux, Madame de Pompadour, and Madame du Barry dominated the pleasures of the king, and how wars and alliances were made, provinces devastated, thousands of people killed, because of the vanities and spites of these creatures, and how all the public life of France and Europe was tainted with intrigue And prostitution and imposture because of them, the reader must learn from the memoirs of the time. The spirited foreign policy went on steadily under Louis XV towards its final smash.
In 1774 this, Louis, Louis the Well-Beloved, as his flatterers, called him, died of smallpox, and was succeeded by his grandson, Louis XVI (1774–93), a dull, well-meaning man, an excellent shot, and an amateur locksmith of some ingenuity. Of how he came to follow Charles I to the scaffold we shall tell in a later section. Our present concern is with Grand Monarchy in the days of its glory.
Among the chief practitioners of Grand Monarchy outside France we may no to first the Prussian kings, Frederick William I (1713 – 40), and his son and successor, Frederick II, Frederick the Great (1740 – 86). The story of the slow rise of the Hohenzollern family, which ruled the kingdom of Prussia, from inconspicuous beginnings is too tedious and unimportant for us to follow here. It is a story of luck and violence, of bold claims and sudden betrayals. It is told with great appreciation in Carlyle’s Frederick the Great. By the eighteenth century the Prussian kingdom was important enough to threaten the empire; it had a strong, well-drilled army, and its king was an attentive and worthy student of Machiavelli. Frederick the Great perfected his Versailles at Potsdam. There the park of Sans Souci, with its fountains, avenues, statuary, aped its model; there also was the New Palace, a vast brick building erected at enormous expense, the Orangery in the Italian style, with a collection of pictures, a Marble Palace, and so on. Frederick carried culture to the pitch of authorship, and corresponded with and entertained Voltaire, to their mutual exasperation.
The Austrian dominions were kept too busy between the hammer of the French and the anvil of the Turks to develop the real Grand Monarch style until the reign of Maria Theresa (who, being a woman, did not bear the title of Empress) (1740–80). Joseph II, who was Emperor from 1765–92, succeeded to her palaces in 1780.
With Peter the Great (1682–1725) the empire of Muscovy broke away from her Tartar traditions and entered the sphere of French attraction. Peter shaved the Oriental beards of his nobles and introduced Western costume. These were but the outward and visible symbols of his westerning tendencies. To release himself from the Asiatic feeling and traditions of Moscow, which, like Pekin, has a sacred inner city, the Kremlin, he built himself a new capital, Petrograd, upon the swamp of the Neva. And of course be built his Versailles, the Peterhof, about eighteen miles from this new Paris, employing a French architect and having a terrace, fountains, cascades, picture gallery, park, and all the recognized features. His more distinguished successors were Elizabeth (1741–62 ) and Catherine the Great, a German princess, who, after obtaining the crown in sound Oriental fashion through the murder of her husband, the legitimate Tsar, reverted to advanced Western ideals and ruled with great vigour from 1762 to 1796 . She set up an academy, and corresponded with Voltaire. And she lived to witness the end of the system of Grand Monarchy in Europe and the execution of Louis XVI.
We cannot even catalogue here the minor Grand Monarchs of the time in Florence (Tuscany) and Savoy and Saxony and Denmark and Sweden. Versailles, under a score of names, is starred in every volume of Baedeker, and the tourist gapes in their palaces. Nor can we deal with the war of the Spanish Succession. Spain, overstrained by the imperial enterprises of Charles V and Philip II, and enfeebled by a bigoted persecution of Protestants, Moslems, and Jews, was throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries sinking down from her temporary importance in European affairs to the level of a secondary power again.
These European monarchs ruled their kingdoms as their noblemen ruled their estates: they plotted against one another, they were politic and far seeing in an unreal fashion, they made wars, they spent the substance of Europe upon absurd «policies» of aggression and resistance. At last there burst upon them a great storm out of the depths. That storm, the First French Revolution, the indignation of the common man in Europe, took their system unawares. It was but the opening outbreak of a great cycle of political and social storms that still continue, that will perhaps continue until every vestige of nationalist monarchy has been swept out of the world and the skies clear again for the great peace of the federation of mankind.