Part 11 out of 13
Almost the first act of the Commons was the impeachment and trial of
Strafford and Laud, as the most prominent instruments of the king's
tyranny and usurpation. Both were finally brought to the block. The three
iniquitous and illegal courts of which we have spoken (see p. 607) were
abolished. And the Commons, to secure themselves against dissolution
before their work was done, enacted a law which provided that they should
not be adjourned or dissolved without their own consent.
CHARLES'S ATTEMPT TO SEIZE THE FIVE MEMBERS.--An act of violence on the
part of Charles now precipitated the nation into the gulf of civil war,
towards which events had been so rapidly drifting. With the design of
overawing the Commons, the king made a charge of treason against five of
the leading members, among whom were Hampden and Pym, and sent officers to
effect their arrest; but the accused were not to be found. The next day
Charles himself, accompanied to the door of the chamber by armed
attendants, went to the House, for the purpose of seizing the five
members; but, having been forewarned of the king's intention, they had
withdrawn from the hall. The king was not long in realizing the state of
affairs, and with the observation, "I see the birds have flown," withdrew
from the chamber.
Charles had taken a fatal step. The nation could not forgive the insult
offered to its representatives. All London rose in arms. The king,
frightened by the storm which he had raised, fled from the city to York.
From this flight of Charles from London, may be dated the beginning of the
Civil War (Jan. 10, 1642).
Having now traced the events which led up to this open strife between the
king and his people, we shall pass very lightly over the incidents of the
struggle itself, and hasten to speak of the Commonwealth, to the
establishment of which the struggle led.
3. _The Civil War_ (1642-1649).
THE BEGINNING.--After the flight of the king, negotiations were entered
into between him and Parliament with a view to a reconciliation. The
demands of Parliament were that the militia, the services of the Church,
the education and marriage of the king's children, and many other matters
should be subject to the control of the two Houses. In making all these
demands Parliament had manifestly gone to unreasonable and
unconstitutional lengths; but their distrust of Charles was so profound,
that they were unwilling to leave in his hands any power or prerogative
that might be perverted or abused. Charles refused, as might have been and
was expected, to accede to the propositions of Parliament, and unfurling
the royal standard at Nottingham, called upon all loyal subjects to rally
to the support of their king (Aug. 22, 1642).
THE TWO PARTIES.--The country was now divided into two great parties.
Those that enlisted under the king's standard--on whose side rallied, for
the most part, the nobility, the gentry, and the clergy--were known as
Royalists, or Cavaliers; while those that gathered about the Parliamentary
banner were called Parliamentarians, or Roundheads, the latter term being
applied to them because many of their number cropped their hair close to
the head, simply for the reason that the Cavaliers affected long and
flowing locks. The Cavaliers, in the main, favored the Established Church,
while the Roundheads were, in general, Puritans. During the progress of
the struggle the Puritans split into two parties, or sects, known as
Presbyterians and Independents.
For six years England now suffered even greater evils than those that
marked that earlier civil strife known as the Wars of the Roses.
OLIVER CROMWELL AND HIS "IRONSIDES."--The war had continued about three
years when there came into prominence among the officers of the
Parliamentary forces a man of destiny, one of the great characters of
history,--Oliver Cromwell. During the early campaigns of the war, as
colonel of a regiment of cavalry, he had exhibited his rare genius as an
organizer and disciplinarian. His regiment became famous under the name of
"Cromwell's Ironsides." It was composed entirely of "men of religion."
Swearing, drinking, and the usual vices of the camp were unknown among
them. They advanced to the charge singing psalms. During all the war the
regiment was never once beaten.
THE SELF-DENYING ORDINANCE (1645).--In the course of the war the Puritans,
as has been said, became divided into two parties, the Presbyterians and
the Independents. The former desired to reestablish a limited monarchy;
the latter wished to sweep aside the old constitution and form a republic.
In the third year of the war there arose a struggle as to which party
should have control of the army. By means of what was called the "Self-
denying Ordinance," which declared that no member of either House should
hold a position in the army, the Independents effected the removal from
their command of several conservative noblemen. Cromwell, as he was a
member of the House of Commons, should also have given up his command; but
the ordinance was suspended in his case, so that he might retain his place
as lieutenant-general. Sir Thomas Fairfax was made commander-in-chief.
Though Cromwell was nominally second in command, he was now really at the
head of the army.
THE "NEW MODEL."--Cromwell at once set about to effect the entire
remodelling of the army on the plan of his favorite Ironsides. His idea
was that "the chivalry of the Cavalier must be met by the religious
enthusiasm of the Puritan." The army was reduced to 20,000 men--all
honest, fervent, God-fearing, psalm-singing Puritans. When not fighting,
they studied the Bible, prayed and sung hymns. Since Godfrey led his
crusaders to the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre, the world had not beheld
another such army of religious enthusiasts. From Cromwell down to the
lowest soldier of the "New Model," every man felt called of the Lord to
strike down all forms of tyranny in Church and State.
THE BATTLE OF NASEBY (1645).--The temper of the "New Model" was soon tried
in the battle of Naseby, the decisive engagement of the war. The Royalists
were scattered to the winds, and their cause was irretrievably lost.
Charles escaped from the field, and ultimately fled into Scotland,
thinking that he might rely upon the loyalty of the Scots to the House of
Stuart; but on his refusing to sign the Covenant and certain other
articles, they gave him up to the English Parliament.
"PRIDE'S PURGE" (1648).--Now, there were many in the Parliament who were
in favor of restoring the king unconditionally to his throne, that is,
without requiring from him any guaranties that he would in the future rule
in accordance with the constitution and the laws of the land. The
Independents, which means Cromwell and the army, saw in this possibility
the threatened ruin of all their hopes, and the loss of all the fruits of
victory. A high-handed measure was resolved upon,--the exclusion from the
House of Commons of all those members who favored the restoration of
Accordingly, an officer by the name of Pride was stationed at the door of
the hall, to arrest the members obnoxious to the army. One hundred and
forty members were thus kept from their seats, and the Commons thereby
reduced to about fifty representatives, all of whom of course were
Independents. This performance was appropriately called "Pride's Purge."
It was simply an act of military usurpation.
TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF THE KING.--The Commons thus "purged" of the king's
friends now passed a resolution for the immediate trial of Charles for
treason. A High Court of Justice, comprising 150 members, was organized,
before which Charles was summoned. Before the close of a week he was
condemned to be executed "as a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and enemy of his
II. THE COMMONWEALTH (1649-1660).
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH.--A few weeks after the execution of
Charles, the Commons voted to abolish the Monarchy and the House of Lords,
and to establish a republic, under the name of "The Commonwealth." The
executive power was lodged in a Council of State, composed of forty-one
persons. Of this body Bradshaw, an eminent lawyer, was the nominal, but
Cromwell the real, head.
TROUBLES OF THE COMMONWEALTH.--The republic thus born of mingled religious
and political enthusiasm was beset with dangers from the very first. The
execution of Charles had alarmed every sovereign in Europe. Russia,
France, and Holland, all refused to have any communication with the
ambassadors of the Commonwealth. The Scots, who too late repented of
having surrendered their native sovereign into the hands of his enemies,
now hastened to wipe out the stain of their disloyalty by proclaiming his
son their king, with the title of Charles the Second. The impulsive Irish
also declared for the Prince; while the Dutch began active preparations to
assist him in regaining the throne of his unfortunate father. In England
itself the Royalists were active and threatening.
WAR WITH IRELAND.--The Commonwealth, like the ancient republic of Rome,
seemed to gather strength and energy from the very multitude of
surrounding dangers. Cromwell was made Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and
sent into that country to crush a rising of the Royalists there. With his
Ironsides he made quick and terrible work of the conquest of the island.
Having taken by storm the town of Drogheda (1649), he massacred the entire
garrison, consisting of three thousand men. About a thousand who had
sought asylum in a church were butchered there without mercy. The capture
of other towns was accompanied by massacres little less terrible. The
conqueror's march through the island was the devastating march of an
Attila or a Zinghis Khan. The following is his own account of the manner
in which he dealt with the captured garrisons: "When they submitted, their
officers were knocked on the head, and every tenth man of the soldiers
killed, and the rest shipped for Barbadoes [to be sold into slavery]."
WAR WITH SCOTLAND.--Cromwell was called out of Ireland by the Council to
lead an army into Scotland. The terror of his name went before him, and
the people fled as he approached. At Dunbar he met the Scotch army. Before
the terrible onset of the fanatic Roundheads the Scots were scattered like
chaff before the wind (1650).
The following year, on the anniversary of the Battle of Dunbar, Cromwell
gained another great victory over the Scottish army at Worcester, and all
Scotland was soon after forced to submit to the authority of the
Commonwealth. Prince Charles, after many adventurous experiences, escaped
across the Channel into Normandy.
CROMWELL EJECTS THE LONG PARLIAMENT (1653).--The war in Scotland was
followed by one with the Dutch. While this war was in progress Parliament
came to an open quarrel with the army. Cromwell demanded of Parliament
their dissolution, and the calling of a new body. This they refused;
whereupon, taking with him a body of soldiers, Cromwell went to the House,
and after listening impatiently for a while to the debate, suddenly sprang
to his feet, and, with bitter reproaches, exclaimed: "I will put an end to
your prating. Get you gone; give place to better men. You are no
Parliament. The Lord has done with you." The soldiers rushing in at a
preconcerted signal, the hall was cleared, and the doors locked (1653).
In such summary manner the Long Parliament, or the "Rump Parliament," as
it was called in derision after Pride's Purge, was dissolved, after having
sat for twelve years. So completely had the body lost the confidence and
respect of all parties, that scarcely a murmur was heard against the
illegal and arbitrary mode of its dissolution.
THE LITTLE PARLIAMENT.--Cromwell now called a new Parliament, or more
properly a convention, summoning, so far as he might, only religious, God-
fearing men. The "Little Parliament," as generally called, consisted of
156 members, mainly religious persons, who spent much of their time in
Scripture exegesis, prayer, and exhortation. Among them was a London
leather-merchant, named Praise-God Barebone, who was especially given to
these exercises. The name amused the people, and they nicknamed the
Convention the "Praise-God Barebone Parliament."
The Little Parliament sat only a few months, during which time, however,
it really did some excellent work, particularly in the way of suggesting
important reforms. It at length resigned all its powers into the hands of
Cromwell; and shortly afterwards his council of army officers, fearing the
country would fall into anarchy, persuaded him--though manifesting
reluctance, he probably was quite willing to be persuaded--to accept the
title of "Lord Protector of the Commonwealth."
[Illustration: OLIVER CROMWELL]
THE PROTECTORATE (1653-1659).--Cromwell's power was now almost unlimited.
He was virtually a dictator. His administration was harsh and despotic. He
summoned, prorogued, and dissolved parliaments. The nation was really
under martial law. Royalists and active Roman Catholics were treated with
the utmost rigor. A censorship of the Press was established. Scotland was
overawed by strong garrisons. The Irish Royalists, rising against the
"usurper," were crushed with remorseless severity. Thousands were
massacred, and thousands more were transported to the West Indies to be
sold as slaves.
While the resolute and despotic character of Cromwell's government secured
obedience at home, its strength and vigor awakened the fear as well as the
admiration of foreign nations. He gave England the strongest, and in many
respects the best, government she had had since the days of Henry VIII and
CROMWELL'S DEATH.--Notwithstanding Cromwell was a man of immovable
resolution and iron spirit, he felt sorely the burdens of his government,
and was deeply troubled by the perplexities of his position. With his
constitution undermined by overwork and anxiety, fever attacked him, and
with gloomy apprehensions as to the terrible dangers into which England
might drift after his hand had fallen from the helm of affairs, he lay
down to die, passing away on the day which he had always called his
"fortunate day"--the anniversary of his birth, and also the anniversary of
his great victories of Dunbar and Worcester (Sept. 3, 1658).
RICHARD CROMWELL (1658-1659).--Cromwell with his dying breath had
designated his son Richard as his successor in the office of the
Protectorate. Richard was exactly the opposite of his father,--timid,
irresolute, and irreligious. The control of affairs that had taxed to the
utmost the genius and resources of the father was altogether too great an
undertaking for the incapacity and inexperience of the son. No one was
quicker to realize this than Richard himself, and after a rule of a few
months, yielding to the pressure of the army, whose displeasure he had
incurred, he resigned the Protectorate. Had he possessed one-half the
energy and practical genius that characterized his father, the crown would
probably have become hereditary in the family of the Cromwells, and their
house might have been numbered among the royal houses of England.
THE RESTORATION (1660).--For some months after the fall of the
Protectorate the country trembled on the verge of anarchy. The gloomy
outlook into the future, and the unsatisfactory experiment of the
Commonwealth, caused the great mass of the English people earnestly to
desire the restoration of the Monarchy. Prince Charles, towards whom the
tide of returning royalty was running, was now in Holland. A race was
actually run between Monk, the leader of the army, and Parliament, to see
which should first present him with the invitation to return to his
people, and take his place upon the throne of his ancestors. Amid the
wildest demonstrations of joy, Charles stepped ashore on the island from
which he had been for nine years an exile. As he observed the preparations
made for his reception, and received from all parties the warmest
congratulations, he remarked with pleasant satire, "It is my own fault
that I did not come back sooner, for I find nobody who does not tell me he
has always longed for my return."
1. _Puritan Literature_.
IT LIGHTS UP THE RELIGIOUS SIDE OF THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION.--No epoch in
history receives a fresher illustration from the study of its literature
than that of the Puritan Commonwealth. To neglect this, and yet hope to
gain a true conception of that wonderful episode in the life of the
English people by an examination of its outer events and incidents alone,
would, as Green declares, be like trying to form an idea of the life and
work of ancient Israel from the _Kings_ and the _Chronicles_, without the
_Psalms_ and the _Prophets_. The true character of the English Revolution,
especially upon its religious side, must be sought in the magnificent Epic
of Milton and the unequalled Allegory of Bunyan.
Both of these great works, it is true, were written after the Restoration,
but they were both inspired by the same spirit that had struck down
Despotism and set up the Commonwealth. The Epic was the work of a lonely,
disappointed Republican; the Allegory, of a captive Puritan.
Milton (1608-1674) stands as the grandest representative of Puritanism. He
was the greatest statesman of the Revolution, the stoutest champion of
English liberties against the tyranny of the House of Stuart. After the
beheading of Charles I. he wrote a famous work in Latin, entitled _The
Defence of the English People_, in which he justified the execution of
The Restoration forced Milton into retirement, and the last fourteen years
of his life were passed apart from the world. It was during these years
that, in loneliness and blindness, he composed the immortal poems
_Paradise Lost_ and _Paradise Regained_. The former is the "Epic of
Puritanism." All that was truest and grandest in the Puritan character
found expression in the moral elevation and religious fervor of this the
greatest of Christian poems.
John Bunyan (1628-1688) was a Puritan non-conformist. After the
Restoration, he was imprisoned for twelve years in Bedford jail, on
account of non-conformity to the established worship. It was during this
dreary confinement that he wrote his _Pilgrim's Progress_, the most
admirable allegory in English literature. The habit of the Puritan, from
constant study of the Bible, to employ in all forms of discourse its
language and imagery, is best illustrated in the pages of this remarkable
III. THE RESTORED STUARTS.
1. _Reign of Charles the Second_ (1660-1685).
PUNISHMENT OF THE REGICIDES.--The monarchy having been restored in the
person of Charles II, Parliament extended a general pardon to all who had
taken part in the late rebellion, save most of the judges who had
condemned Charles I. to the block. Thirteen of these were executed with
the revolting cruelty with which treason was then punished, their hearts
and bowels being cut out of their living bodies. Others of the regicides
were condemned to imprisonment for life. Death had already removed the
great leaders of the rebellion, Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw, beyond the
reach of Royalist hate; so vengeance was taken upon their bodies. These
were dragged from their tombs in Westminster Abbey, hauled to Tyburn in
London, and there, on the anniversary of Charles's execution, were hanged,
and afterwards beheaded (1661).
THE "NEW MODEL" IS DISBANDED.--This same Parliament, mindful of how the
army had ruled preceding ones, took care to disband, as soon as possible,
the "New Model." "With them," in the words of the historian Green,
"Puritanism laid down the sword. It ceased from the long attempt to build
up a kingdom of God by force and violence, and fell back on its truer work
of building up a kingdom of righteousness in the hearts and consciences of
On the pretext, however, that the disturbed state of the realm demanded
special precautions on the part of the government, Charles retained in his
service three carefully chosen regiments, to which he gave the name of
Guards. These, very soon augmented in number, formed the nucleus of the
present standing army of England.
THE CONVENTICLE AND FIVE-MILE ACTS.--Early in the reign the services of
the Anglican Church were restored by Parliament, and harsh laws were
enacted against all non-conformists. Thus the Conventicle Act made it a
crime punishable by imprisonment or transportation for more than five
persons besides the household to gather in any house or in any place for
worship, unless the service was conducted according to the forms of the
The Five-Mile Act forbade any non-conformist minister who refused to swear
that it is unlawful to take arms against the king _under any
circumstance_, and that he never would attempt to make any change in
Church or State government, to approach within five miles of any city,
corporate town, or borough sending members to Parliament. This harsh act
forced hundreds to give up their homes in the towns, and, with great
inconvenience and loss, to seek new ones in out-of-the-way country places.
PERSECUTION OF THE COVENANTERS.--In Scotland the attempt to suppress
conventicles and introduce Episcopacy was stubbornly resisted by the
Covenanters, who insisted on their right to worship God in their own way.
They were therefore subjected to most cruel and unrelenting persecution.
They were hunted by English troopers over their native moors and among the
wild recesses of their mountains, whither they secretly retired for prayer
and worship. The tales of the suffering of the Scotch Covenanters at the
hands of the English Protestants form a most harrowing chapter of the
records of the ages of religious persecution.
THE FIRE, THE PLAGUE, AND THE DUTCH WAR.--The years from 1664 to 1667 were
crowded with calamities,--with war, plague, and fire. The poet Dryden not
inaptly calls the year 1666, in which the Great Fire at London added its
horrors to those of pestilence and war, the _Annus Mirabilis_, or
"Year of Wonders."
The war alluded to was a struggle between the English and the Dutch, which
grew out of commercial rivalries (1664-1667). Just before the war began,
the English treacherously seized the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam in
America, and changed its name to New York in honor of the king's brother,
the Duke of York.
Early in the summer of 1665 the city of London was swept by a woeful
plague, the most terrible visitation the city had known since the Black
Death in the Middle Ages (see p. 485). Within six months 100,000 of the
The plague was followed, the next year, by the great fire, which destroyed
13,000 houses, and a vast number of churches and public buildings. The
fire was afterwards acknowledged to be, like the Great Fire at Rome in
Nero's reign, a blessing in disguise. The burnt districts were rebuilt in
a more substantial way, with broader streets and more airy residences, so
that London became a more beautiful and healthful city than would have
been possible without the fire.
CHARLES'S INTRIGUES WITH LOUIS XIV.--Charles inclined to the Catholic
worship, and wished to reestablish the Roman Catholic Church, because he
thought it more favorable than the Anglican to such a scheme of government
as he aimed to set up in England. In the year 1670 he made a secret treaty
with the French king, the terms and objects of which were most scandalous.
In return for aid which he was to render Louis in an attack upon Holland,
he was to receive from him a large sum of money; and in case his proposed
declaration in favor of the restoration of the Catholic Church produced
any trouble in the island, the aid of French troops. The scheme was never
consummated; but these clandestine negotiations, however, becoming an open
secret, made the people very uneasy and suspicious. This state of the
public mind led to a serious delusion and panic.
THE "POPISH PLOT" (1678).--A rumor was started that the Catholics had
planned for England a St. Bartholomew massacre. The king, the members of
Parliament, and all Protestants were to be massacred, the Catholic Church
was to be reestablished, and the king's brother James, the Duke of York, a
zealous Catholic, was to be placed on the throne. Each day the reports of
the conspiracy grew more exaggerated and wild. Informers sprang up on
every hand, each with a more terrifying story than the preceding. One of
these witnesses, Titus Oates by name, a most infamous person, gained an
extraordinary notoriety in exposing the imaginary plot. Many Catholics,
convicted solely on the testimony of perjured witnesses, became victims of
the delusion and fraud.
The excitement produced by the supposed plot led Parliament to pass what
was called the Test Act, which excluded Catholics from the House of Lords.
(They had already been shut out from the House of Commons by the oath of
Supremacy, which was required of commoners, though not of peers.) The
disability created by this statute was not removed from them until the
present century,--in the reign of George the Fourth.
ORIGIN OF THE WHIG AND TORY PARTIES.--Besides shutting Catholic peers out
of Parliament, there were many in both houses who were determined to
exclude the Duke of York from the throne. Those in favor of the measure of
exclusion were called Whigs, those who opposed it Tories. [Footnote: For
the meaning of the names Whig and Tory, see _Glossary_.] We cannot,
perhaps, form a better general idea of the maxims and principles of these
two parties than by calling the Whigs the political descendants of the
Roundheads, and the Tories of the Cavaliers. Later, they became known
respectively as Liberals and Conservatives.
THE KING'S DEATH.--After a reign of just a quarter of a century, Charles
died in 1685, and was followed by his brother James, whose rule was
destined to be short and troubled.
2. _Reign of James the Second_ (1685-1688).
JAMES'S DESPOTIC COURSE. [Footnote: James was barely seated upon the
throne before the Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II.,
who had been in exile in the Netherlands, asserted his right to the crown,
and at the head of a hundred men invaded England. Thousands flocked to his
standard, but in the battle of Sedgemoor (1685) he was utterly defeated
by the royal troops. Terrible vengeance was wreaked upon all in any way
connected with the rebellion. The notorious Chief Justice Jeffries, in
what were called the "Bloody Assizes," condemned to death 320 persons, and
sentenced 841 to transportation. Jeffries conducted the so-called trials
with incredible brutality.]--James, like all the other Stuarts, held
exalted notions of the divine right of kings to rule as they please, and
at once set about carrying out these ideas in a most imprudent and
reckless manner. Notwithstanding he had given most solemn assurances that
he would uphold the Anglican Church, he straightway set about the
reestablishment of the Roman Catholic worship. He arbitrarily prorogued
and dissolved Parliament. The standing army, which Charles had raised to
10,000 men, he increased to 20,000, and placed Catholics in many of its
most important offices. He formed a league against his own subjects with
Louis XIV. The High Commission Court of Elizabeth, which had been
abolished by Parliament, he practically restored in a new ecclesiastical
tribunal presided over by the infamous Jeffries (see note, below).
The despotic course of the king raised up enemies on all sides. No party
or sect, save the most zealous Catholics, stood by him. The Tory gentry
were in favor of royalty, indeed, but not of tyranny. Thinking to make
friends of the Protestant dissenters, James issued a decree known as the
Declaration of Indulgence, whereby he suspended all the laws against non-
conformists. This edict all the clergy were ordered to read from their
pulpits. Almost to a man they refused to do so. Seven bishops even dared
to send the king a petition and remonstrance against his unconstitutional
The petitioners were thrust into the Tower, and soon brought to trial on
the charge of "seditious libel." The nation was now thoroughly aroused,
and the greatest excitement prevailed while the trial was progressing.
Judges and jury were overawed by the popular demonstration, and the
bishops were acquitted. The news of the result of the trial was received
not only by the people, but by the army as well, with shouts of joy, which
did not fail to reach even the dull ears of the king.
THE REVOLUTION OF 1688.--The crisis which it was easy to see was impending
was hastened by the birth of a prince, as this cut off the hope of the
nation that the crown upon James's death would descend to his daughter
Mary, now wife of the Prince of Orange, Stadtholder of Holland. The
prospect of the accession in the near future of a Protestant and freedom
loving Prince and Princess had reconciled the people to the misgovernment
of their present despotic and Catholic sovereign. The appearance upon the
stage of an infant prince gave a wholly different look to affairs, and, as
we have said, destroyed all hope of matters being righted by the ordinary
course of events.
This led the most active of the king's opponents to resolve to bring about
at once what they had been inclined to wait to have accomplished by his
death. They sent an invitation to the Prince of Orange to come over with
such force as he could muster and take possession of the government,
pledging him the united and hearty support of the English nation. William
accepted the invitation, and straightway began to gather his fleet and
army for the enterprise.
Meanwhile King James, in his blind and obstinate way, was rushing on
headlong upon his own destruction. He seemed absolutely blind to the
steady and rapid drift of the nation towards the point of open resistance
and revolution. At last, when the sails of the Dutch fleet were spread for
a descent upon the English shores, then the infatuated despot suddenly
realized that absolute ruin was impending over his throne. He now adopted
every expedient to avert the threatened evil. He restored to cities the
charters he had wrongfully taken from them, reinstated magistrates in the
positions from which they had been unjustly deposed, attempted to make
friends with the bishops, and promised to sustain the Anglican Church and
rule in accordance with the constitution of the realm.
All concessions and promises, however, were in vain. They came too late.
The king was absolutely deserted; army and people went over in a body to
the Prince of Orange, whose fleet had now touched the shores of the
island. Flight alone was left him. The queen with her infant child
secretly embarked for France, where the king soon after joined her. The
last act of the king before leaving England was to disband the army, and
fling the Great Seal into the Thames, in order that no parliament might be
The first act of the Prince of Orange was to issue a call for a Convention
to provide for the permanent settlement of the crown. This body met
January 22, 1689, and after a violent debate declared the throne to be
vacant through James's misconduct and flight. They then resolved to confer
the royal dignity upon William and his wife Mary as joint sovereigns of
But this Convention did not repeat the error of the Parliament that
restored Charles II., and give the crown to the Prince and Princess
without proper safeguards and guaranties for the conduct of the government
according to the ancient laws of the kingdom. They drew up the celebrated
Declaration of Rights, which plainly rehearsed all the old rights and
liberties of Englishmen; denied the right of the king to lay taxes or
maintain an army without the consent of Parliament; and asserted that
freedom of debate was the inviolable privilege of both the Lords and the
Commons. William and Mary were required to accept this declaration, and to
agree to rule in accordance with its provisions, whereupon they were
declared King and Queen of England. In such manner was effected what is
known in history as the Revolution of 1688.
3. _Literature of the Restoration_.
IT REFLECTS THE IMMORALITY OF THE AGE.--The reigns of the restored Stuarts
mark the most corrupt period in the history of English society. The low
standard of morals, and the general prodigacy in manners, especially among
the higher classes, are in part attributable to the demoralizing example
of a shockingly licentious and shameless court; but in a larger measure,
perhaps, should be viewed as the natural reaction from the over-stern,
repellent Puritanism of the preceding period. The Puritans undoubtedly
erred in their indiscriminate and wholesale denunciation of all forms of
harmless amusement and innocent pleasure. They not only rebuked gaming,
drinking, and profanity, and stopped bear-baiting, but they closed all the
theatres, forbade the Maypole dances of the people, condemned as paganish
the observance of Christmas, frowned upon sculpture as idolatrous and
indecent, and considered any bright color in dress as utterly incompatible
with a proper sense of the seriousness of life.
Now all this was laying too heavy a burden upon human nature. The revolt
and reaction came, as come they must. Upon the Restoration, society swung
to the opposite extreme. In place of the solemn-visaged, psalm-singing
Roundhead, we have the gay, roistering Cavalier. Faith gives place to
infidelity, sobriety to drunkenness, purity to profligacy, economy to
extravagance, Bible-study, psalm-singing and exhorting to theatre-going,
profanity, and carousing.
The literature of the age is a perfect record of this revolt against the
"sour severity" of Puritanism, and a faithful reflection of the unblushing
immorality of the times.
The book most read and praised by Charles II, and his court, and the one
that best represents the spirit of the victorious party, is the satirical
poem of _Hudibras_ by Samuel Butler. The object of the work is to satirize
the cant and excesses of Puritanism, just as the _Don Quixote_ of
Cervantes burlesques the extravagances and follies of Chivalry.
So immoral and indecent are the works of the writers for the stage of this
period that they have acquired the designation of "the corrupt
dramatists." Among the authors of this species of literature was the poet
IV. THE ORANGE-STUARTS.
1. _Reign of William and Mary_ (1689-1702).
THE BILL OF RIGHTS.--The Revolution of 1688, and the new settlement of the
crown upon William and Mary, marks an epoch in the constitutional history
of England. It settled forever the long dispute between king and
Parliament--and settled it in favor of the latter. The Bill of Rights,--
the articles of the Declaration of Rights (see p. 624) framed into a law,
--which was one of the earliest acts of the first Parliament under William
and Mary, in effect "transferred sovereignty from the king to the House of
Commons." It asserted plainly that the kings of England derive their right
and title to rule, not from the accident of birth, but from the will of
the people, and declared that Parliament might depose any king, exclude
his heirs from the throne, and settle the crown anew in another family.
This uprooted thoroughly the pernicious doctrine that princes have a
divine and inalienable right to the throne of their ancestors, and when
once seated on that throne rule simply as the vicegerents of God, above
all human censure and control. We shall hear but little more in England of
this monstrous theory, which for so long a time overshadowed and
threatened the freedom of the English people.
Mindful of Charles's attempt to reestablish the Roman Catholic worship,
the framers of this same famous Bill of Rights further declared that all
persons holding communion with the Church of Rome or uniting in marriage
with a Roman Catholic, should be "forever incapable to possess, inherit,
or enjoy the crown and government of the realm." Since the Revolution of
1688 no one of that faith has worn the English crown.
The other provisions of the bill, following closely the language of the
Declaration, forbade the king to levy taxes or keep an army in time of
peace without the consent of Parliament; demanded that Parliament should
be frequently assembled; reaffirmed, as one of the ancient privileges of
both Houses, perfect freedom of debate; and positively denied the
dispensing power of the crown, that is, the authority claimed by the
Stuarts of exempting certain persons from the penalty of the law by a
All of these provisions now became inwrought into the English
Constitution, and from this time forward were recognized as part of the
fundamental law of the realm.
SETTLEMENT OF THE REVENUE.--The articles of the Bill of Rights were made
effectual by appropriate legislation. One thing which had enabled the
Tudors and Stuarts to be so independent of Parliament was the custom which
prevailed of granting to each king, at the beginning of his reign, the
ordinary revenue of the kingdom during his life. This income, with what
could be raised by gifts, benevolences, monopolies, and similar
expedients, had enabled despotic sovereigns to administer the government,
wage war, and engage in any wild enterprise just as his own individual
caprice or passion might dictate. All this was now changed. Parliament,
instead of granting William the revenue for life, restricted the grant to
a single year, and made it a penal offence for the officers of the
treasury to pay out money otherwise than ordered by Parliament.
We cannot overestimate the importance of this change in the English
Constitution. It is this control of the purse of the nation which has made
the Commons--for all money bills must originate in the Lower House--the
actual seat of government, constituting them the arbiters of peace and
war. By simply refusing to vote supplies, they can paralyze instantly the
arm of the king. [Footnote: For the _Mutiny Bill_, enacted at this
time, see _Glossary_.]
JAMES ATTEMPTS TO RECOVER THE THRONE: BATTLE OF THE BOYNE (1690).--The
first years of William's reign were disturbed by the efforts of James to
regain the throne which he had abandoned. In these attempts he was aided
by Louis XIV., and by the Jacobites (from _Jacobus_, Latin for James), the
name given to the adherents of the exiled king. The Irish gave William the
most trouble, but in the decisive battle of the Boyne he gained a great
victory over them, and soon all Ireland acknowledged his authority.
PLANS AND DEATH OF WILLIAM.--The motive which had most strongly urged
William to respond to the invitation of the English revolutionists to
assume the crown of England, was his desire to turn the arms and resources
of that country against the great champion of despotism, and the dangerous
neighbor of his own native country, Louis XIV. of France.
The conduct of Louis in lending aid to James in his attempts to regain his
crown had so inflamed the English that they were quite ready to support
William in his wars against him, and so the English and Dutch sailors
fought side by side against the common enemy in the War of the Palatinate
(see p. 595).
A short time after the Peace of Ryswick, broke out the War of the Spanish
Succession (see p. 596). William, as the uncompromising foe of the
ambitious French king, urged the English to enter the war against France.
An insolent and perfidious act on the part of Louis caused the English
people to support their king in this plan with great unanimity and
heartiness. The matter to which we refer was this. James II. having died
at just this juncture of affairs, Louis, disregarding his solemn promises,
at once acknowledged his son, known in history as the "Pretender," as
"King of Great Britain and Ireland."
Preparations were now made for the war thus provoked by the double sense
of danger and insult. In the midst of these preparations William was
fatally hurt by being thrown from his horse (1702). Mary had died in 1694,
and as they left no children, the crown descended to the Princess Anne,
Mary's sister, who had married Prince George of Denmark.
2. _Reign of Queen Anne_ (1702-1714).
WAR OF THE SPANISH SUCCESSION (1701-1714).--The War of the Spanish
Succession covered the whole of the reign of Queen Anne. Of the causes and
results of this war, and of England's part in it, we have spoken in
connection with the reign of Louis XIV. (see p. 596); and so, referring
the reader to the account of the contest there given, we shall pass to
speak of another event of a domestic character which signalized the reign
of Queen Anne.
UNION OF THE PARLIAMENTS OF ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND (1707).--We refer to the
union of England and Scotland into a single kingdom, under the name of
Great Britain (1707). It was only the two _crowns_ that were united when
James I. came to the English throne: now the two _Parliaments_ were
united. From this time forward the two countries were represented by
one Parliament, and in time the name "British" becomes the common
designation of the inhabitants of England, Wales, and Scotland. The union
was advantageous to both countries; for it was a union not simply of
hands, but of hearts.
DEATH OF QUEEN ANNE: THE SUCCESSION.--Queen Anne died in the year 1714,
leaving no heirs. In the reign of William a statute known as the Act of
Settlement had provided that the crown, in default of heirs of William and
Anne, should descend to the Electress Sophia of Hanover (grandchild of
James I.), or her heirs, "being Protestants." The Electress died only a
short time before the death of Queen Anne; so, upon that event, the crown
descended upon the head of the Electress's eldest son George, who thus
became the founder of a new line of English sovereigns, the House of
Hanover, or Brunswick, the family in whose hands the royal sceptre still
LITERATURE UNDER QUEEN ANNE.--The reign of Queen Anne is an illustrious
one in English literature. Under her began to write a group of brilliant
authors, whose activity continued on into the reign of her successor,
George I. Their productions are, many of them, of special interest to the
historian, because during this period there was an unusually close
connection between literature and politics. Literature was forced into the
service of party. A large portion of the writings of the era is in the
form of political pamphlets, wherein all the resources of wit, satire, and
literary skill are exhausted in defending or ridiculing the opposing
principles and policies of Whig and Tory.
The four most prominent and representative authors of the times were
Alexander Pope (1688-1744), Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Joseph Addison
(1672-1719), and Daniel Defoe (1661-1731).
In the scientific annals of the period the name of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-
1727) is most prominent. As the discoverer of the law of gravitation and
the author of the _Principia_, his name will ever retain a high place
among the few who belong through their genius or achievements to no single
nation or age, but to the world.
V. ENGLAND UNDER THE EARLIER HANOVERIANS.
[Footnote: The sovereigns of the House of Hanover are George I. (1714-
1727); George II. (1727-1760); George III. (1760-1820); George IV. (1820-
1830); William IV. (1830-1837); Victoria.(1837-).]
THE SOVEREIGN'S LOSS OF POLITICAL INFLUENCE.--The new Hanoverian king,
George I. (1714-1727), was utterly ignorant of the language and the
affairs of the people over whom he had been called to rule. He was not
loved by the English, but he was tolerated by them for the reason that he
represented Protestantism and those principles of political liberty for
which they had so long battled with their Stuart kings. On account of his
ignorance of English affairs the king was obliged to intrust to his
ministers the practical administration of the government. The same was
true in the case of George II. (1727-1760). George III. (1760-1820),
having been born and educated in England, regained some of the old
influence of former kings. But he was the last English sovereign who had
any large personal influence in shaping governmental policies. Since his
time the English government has been carried on in the name of the king by
a prime minister, dependent upon the will of the House of Commons. This
marks an important step in the process by which sovereignty has been
transferred from the Crown to the People. (For later steps, see Chap.
ENGLAND AND CONTINENTAL AFFAIRS.--It must be borne in mind that the
Georges, while kings of England, were also Electors of Hanover in Germany.
These German dominions of theirs caused England to become involved in
continental quarrels which really did not concern her. Thus she was drawn
into the War of the Austrian Succession (see p. 644) in which she had no
national interest, and which resulted in no advantage to the English
people. Hence these matters may be passed over by us without further
THE PRETENDERS.--Several times during the eighteenth century the exiled
Stuarts attempted to get back the throne they had lost. The last of these
attempts was made in 1745, when the "Young Pretender" (grandson of James
II.) landed in Scotland, effected a rising of the Scotch Highlanders,
worsted the English at Preston Pans, and marched upon London. Forced to
retreat into Scotland, he was pursued by the English, and utterly defeated
at the battle of Culloden Moor,--and the Stuart cause was ruined forever.
OLD FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR (1756-1763).--Just after the middle of the
eighteenth century there broke out between the French and the English
colonists in America the so-called Old French and Indian War. The struggle
became blended with what in Europe is known as the Seven Years' War (see
p. 645). At first the war went disastrously against the English,--
Braddock's attempt against Fort Du Quesne, upon the march to which he
suffered his memorable defeat in the wilderness, being but one of several
ill-starred English undertakings. But in the year 1757, the elder William
Pitt (afterwards Earl of Chatham), known as "the Great Commoner," came to
the head of affairs in England. Straightway every department of the
government was infused with new vigor. His own indomitable will and
persistent energy seemed to pass into every subordinate to whom he
intrusted the execution of his plans. The war in America was brought to a
speedy and triumphant close, the contest being virtually ended by the
great victory gained by the English under the youthful Major-General Wolfe
over the French under Montcalm upon the Heights of Quebec (1759). By the
Treaty of Paris (1763) France ceded to England Canada and all her
possessions in North America east of the Mississippi River, save New
Orleans and a little adjoining land (which, along with the French
territory west of the Mississippi, had already been given to Spain), and
two little islands in the neighborhood of Newfoundland, which she was
allowed to retain to dry fish on.
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (1775-1783).--By a violation of one of the
principles which the English people had so stoutly maintained against the
Stuarts, the ruling powers in England now drove the American colonies to
revolt. A majority in Parliament insisted upon taxing the colonists; the
colonists maintained that taxation without representation is tyranny,--
that they could be justly taxed only through their own legislative
assemblies. The Government refusing to acknowledge this principle, the
colonists took up arms in defence of those liberties which their fathers
had won with so hard a struggle from English kings on English soil. The
result of the war was the separation from the mother-land of the thirteen
colonies that had grown up along the Atlantic seaboard,--and a Greater
England began its independent career in the New World.
LEGISLATIVE INDEPENDENCE OF IRELAND (1782).--While the American War of
Independence was going on, the Irish, taking advantage of the
embarrassment of the English government, demanded legislative
independence. Ireland had had a Parliament of her own since the time of
the conquest of the island by the English, but this Irish Parliament was
dependent upon the English Parliament, which claimed the power to bind
Ireland by its laws. This the Irish patriots strenuously denied, and now,
under the lead of the eloquent Henry Grattan, drew up a Declaration of
Rights, wherein they demanded the legislative independence of Ireland. The
principle here involved was the same as that for which the English
colonists in America were at this time contending with arms in their
hands. Fear of a revolt led England to grant the demands of the Irish, and
to acknowledge the independence of the Irish Parliament.
Thus both in America and in Ireland the principles of the Political
Revolution triumphed. In Ireland, however, the legislative independence
gained was soon lost (see Chap. LXIII.).
THE RISE OF RUSSIA: PETER THE GREAT. (1682-1725.)
GENERAL REMARKS.--The second great struggle between the principles of
Liberalism and of Despotism, as represented by the opposing parties in the
English Revolution, took place in France. But before proceeding to speak
of the French Revolution, we shall first trace the rise of Russia and of
Prussia, as these two great monarchies were destined to play prominent
parts in that tremendous conflict. We left Russia at the close of the
Middle Ages a semi-savage, semi-Asiatic power, so hemmed in by barbarian
lands and hostile races as to be almost entirely cut off from intercourse
with the civilized world (see p. 508). In the present chapter we wish to
tell how she pushed her lines out to the seas on every side,--to the
Caspian, the Euxine, and the Baltic. The main interest of our story
gathers about Peter the Great, whose almost superhuman strength and energy
lifted the great barbarian nation to a prominent place among the powers of
ACCESSION OF PETER THE GREAT (1682).--The royal line established in Russia
by the old Norseman Ruric (see p. 508), ended in 1589. Then followed a
period of confusion and of foreign invasion, known as the Troublous Times,
after which a prince of the celebrated house of Romanoff came to the
throne. For more than half a century after the accession of the Romanoffs,
there is little either in the genius or the deeds of any of the line
calculated to draw our special attention. But towards the close of the
seventeenth century there ascended the Russian throne a man whose capacity
and energy and achievements instantly drew the gaze of his contemporaries,
and who has elicited the admiration and wonder of all succeeding
generations. This was Peter I., universally known as Peter the Great, one
of the remarkable characters of history. He was but seventeen years of age
when he assumed the full responsibilities of government.
THE CONQUEST OF AZOF (1696).--At this time Russia possessed only one sea-
port, Archangel, on the White Sea, which harbor for a large part of the
year was sealed against vessels by the extreme cold of that high latitude.
Russia, consequently, had no marine commerce; there was no word for
_fleet_ in the Russian language. Peter saw clearly that the most urgent
need of his empire was outlets upon the sea. Hence, his first aim was to
wrest the Baltic shore from the grasp of Sweden, and the Euxine from the
hands of the Turks.
In 1695 Peter sailed down the Don and made an attack upon Azof; the key to
the Black Sea, but was unsuccessful. The next year, however, repeating the
attempt, he succeeded, and thus gained his first harbor on the south.
[Illustration: PETER THE GREAT. (After a painting at Hampton Court, by G.
PETER'S FIRST VISIT TO THE WEST (1697-1698).--With a view to advancing his
naval projects, Peter about this time sent a large number of young Russian
nobles to Italy, Holland, and England to acquire in those countries a
knowledge of naval affairs, forbidding them to return before they had
become good sailors.
Not satisfied with thus sending to foreign parts his young nobility, Peter
formed the somewhat startling resolution of going abroad himself, and
learning the art of ship-building by personal experience in the dockyards
of Holland. Accordingly, in the year 1697, leaving the government in the
hands of three nobles, he set out _incognito_ for the Netherlands. Upon
arriving there he proceeded to Zaandam, a place a short distance from
Amsterdam, and there hired out as a common laborer to a Dutch shipbuilder.
Notwithstanding his disguise it was well enough known who the stranger
was. Indeed there was but little chance of Peter's being mistaken for a
Dutchman. The way in which he flew about, and the terrible energy with
which he did everything, set him quite apart from the easy-going,
To escape the annoyance of the crowds at Zaandam, Peter left the place,
and went to the docks of the East India Company in Amsterdam, who set
about building a frigate that he might see the whole process of
constructing a vessel from the beginning. Here he worked for four months,
being known among his fellow-workmen as Baas or Master Peter.
It was not alone the art of naval architecture in which Peter interested
himself; he attended lectures on anatomy, studied surgery, gaining some
skill in pulling teeth and bleeding, inspected paper-mills, flour-mills,
printing-presses, and factories, and visited cabinets, hospitals, and
museums, thus acquainting himself with every industry and art that he
thought might be advantageously introduced into his own country.
From Holland Master Peter went to England to study her superior naval
establishment. Here he was fittingly received by King William III., who
had presented Peter while in Holland with a splendid yacht fully armed,
and who now made his guest extremely happy by getting up for him a sham
Returning from England to Holland, Peter went thence to Vienna, intending
to visit Italy; but hearing of an insurrection at home, he set out in
haste for Moscow.
PETER'S REFORMS.--The revolt which had hastened Peter's return from the
West was an uprising among the Strelitzes, a body of soldiers numbering
20,000 or 30,000, organized by Ivan the Terrible as a sort of imperial
body-guard. In their ungovernable turbulence, they remind us of the
Pr�torians of Rome. The mutiny settled Peter in his determination to rid
himself altogether of the insolent and refractory body. Its place was
taken by a well-disciplined force trained according to the tactics of the
The disbanding of the seditious guards was only one of the many reforms
effected by Peter. So intent was he upon thoroughly Europeanizing his
country, that he resolved that his subjects should literally clothe
themselves in the "garments of Western Civilization." Accordingly he
abolished the long-sleeved, long-skirted Oriental robes that were at this
time worn, and decreed that everybody save the clergy should shave, or pay
a tax on his beard. We are told that Peter stationed tailors and barbers
at the gates of Moscow to cut off the skirts and to train the beards of
those who had not conformed to the royal regulations, and that he himself
sheared off with his own hands the offending sleeves and beards of his
reluctant courtiers. The law was gradually relaxed, but the reform became
so general that in the best society in Russia at the present day one sees
only smooth faces and the Western style of dress.
As additional outgrowths of what he had seen, or heard, or had suggested
to him on his foreign tour, Peter issued a new coinage, introduced
schools, built factories, constructed roads and canals, established a
postal system, opened mines, framed laws modelled after those of the West,
and reformed the government of the towns in such a way as to give the
citizens some voice in the management of their local affairs, as he had
observed was done in the Netherlands and in England.
CHARLES XII. OF SWEDEN.--Peter's history now becomes intertwined with that
of a man quite as remarkable as himself, Charles XII. of Sweden, the
"Madman of the North." Charles was but fifteen years of age when, in 1697,
the death of his father called him to the Swedish throne. The dominions
which came under his sway embraced not only Sweden, but Finland, and large
possessions along the Southern Baltic,--territory that had been won by the
arms of his ancestors.
[Illustration: Map of the BALTIC ISLANDS]
Taking advantage of Charles's extreme youth, three sovereigns, Frederick
IV. of Denmark, Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland,
and Peter the Great of Prussia, leagued against him (1700), for the
purpose of appropriating such portions of his dominions as they severally
desired to annex to their own.
THE BATTLE OF NARVA (1700).--But the conspirators had formed a wrong
estimate of the young Swedish monarch. Notwithstanding the insane follies
in which he was accustomed to indulge, he possessed talent; he had
especially a remarkable aptitude for military affairs. With a well-trained
force--a veteran army that had not yet forgotten the discipline of the
hero Gustavus Adolphus--Charles now threw himself first upon the Danes,
and in two weeks forced the Danish king to sue for peace; then he turned
his little army of 8,000 men upon the Russian forces of 20,000, which were
besieging the city of Narva, on the Gulf of Finland, and inflicted upon
them a most ignominious defeat. The only comment of the imperturbable
Peter upon the disaster was, "The Swedes will have the advantage of us at
first, but they will teach us how to beat them."
THE FOUNDING OF ST. PETERSBURG (1703).--After chastising the Czar
[Footnote: Czar is probably a contraction of _C�sar_. The title was
adopted by the rulers of Russia because they regarded themselves as the
successors and heirs of the C�sars of Rome and Constantinople.] at Narva,
the Swedish king turned south and marched into Poland to punish Augustus
for the part he had taken in the conspiracy against him. While Charles was
busied in this quarter, Peter was gradually making himself master of the
Swedish lands on the Baltic, and upon a marshy island at the mouth of the
Neva was laying the foundations of the great city of St. Petersburg, which
he proposed to make the western gateway of his empire.
The spot selected by Peter as the site of his new capital was low and
subject to inundation, so that the labor requisite to make it fit for
building purposes was simply enormous. But difficulties never dismayed
Peter. In spite of difficulties the work was done, and the splendid city
stands to-day one of the most impressive monuments of the indomitable and
despotic energy of Peter.
INVASION OF RUSSIA BY CHARLES XII.--Meanwhile Charles was doing very much
as he pleased with the king of Poland. He defeated his forces, overran his
dominions, and forced him to surrender the Polish crown in favor of
Stanislaus Lesczinski (1706). With sufficient punishment meted out to
Frederick Augustus, Charles was ready to turn his attention once more to
the Czar. So marvellous had been the success attendant upon his arms for
the past few years, nothing now seemed impossible to him. Deluded by this
belief, he resolved to march into Russia and dethrone the Czar, even as he
had dethroned the king of Poland.
In 1708, with an army of barely 40,000 men, Charles marched boldly across
the Russian frontier. At Pultowa the two armies met in decisive combat
(1709). It was Charles's Waterloo. The Swedish army was virtually
annihilated. Escaping with a few soldiers from the field, Charles fled
southward, and found an asylum in Turkey. [Footnote: After spending five
years in Turkey, Charles returned to Sweden, and shortly afterwards was
killed at the siege of Frederickshall, in Norway (1718). At the moment of
his death he was only thirty-six years of age. He was the strangest
character of the eighteenth century. Perhaps we can understand him best by
regarding him, as his biographer Voltaire says we must regard him, as an
old Norse sea-king, born ten centuries after his time.]
CLOSE OF PETER'S REIGN.--In 1721 the Swedish wars which had so long
disturbed Europe were brought to an end by the Peace of Nystadt, which
confirmed Russia's title to all the Southern Baltic lands that Peter had
wrested from the Swedes. The undisputed possession of so large a strip of
the Baltic seaboard vastly increased the importance and influence of
Russia, which now assumed a place among the leading European powers.
In 1723 troubles in Persia that resulted in the massacre of some Russians
afforded Peter a pretext for sailing down the Volga and seizing the
southern shore of the Caspian Sea, which now became virtually a Russian
lake. This ended Peter's conquests. The Russian colossus now "stood
astride, with one foot on the Baltic and the other upon the Caspian."
Two years later, being then in his fifty-fourth year, Peter died of a
fever brought on by exposure while aiding in the rescue of some sailors in
distress, in the Gulf of Finland (1725).
PETER'S CHARACTER AND WORK.--Peter's character stands revealed in the
light of his splendid achievements. Like Charlemagne he was a despotic
reformer. His theory of government was a rough, brutal one, yet the
exclamation which broke from him as he stood by the tomb of Richelieu
[Footnote: In 1716 Peter made a second journey to the West, visiting
France, Denmark, and Holland.] discloses his profound desire to rule well:
"Thou great man," he exclaimed, "I would have given thee half of my
dominion to have learned of thee how to govern the other half." He planted
throughout his vast empire the seeds of Western civilization, and by his
giant strength lifted the great nation which destiny had placed in his
hands out of Asiatic barbarism into the society of the European peoples.
The influence of Peter's life and work upon the government of Russia was
very different from what he intended. It is true that his aggressive,
arbitrary rule strengthened temporarily autocratic government in Russia.
He destroyed all checks, ecclesiastical and military, upon the absolute
power of the crown. But in bringing into his dominions Western
civilization, he introduced influences which were destined in time to
neutralize all he had done in the way of strengthening the basis of
despotism. He introduced a civilization which fosters popular liberties,
and undermines personal, despotic government.
REIGN OF CATHERINE THE GREAT (1762-1796).--From the death of Peter on to
the close of the eighteenth century the Russian throne was held, the most
of the time, by women, the most noted of whom was Catherine II., the
Great, "the greatest woman probably," according to the admission of an
English historian (McCarthy), "who ever sat on a throne, Elizabeth of
England not even excepted." But while a woman of great genius, she had
most serious faults of character, being incredibly profligate and
Carrying out ably the policy of Peter the Great, Catherine extended vastly
the limits of Russian dominion, and opened the country even more
thoroughly than he had done to the entrance of Western influences. The
most noteworthy matters of her reign were the conquest of the Crimea and
the dismemberment of Poland.
[Illustration: CATHERINE II. OF RUSSIA, IN HUSSAR UNIFORM. (After a
painting by Schebanow.) ]
It was in the year 1783 that Catherine effected the subjugation of the
Crimea. The possession of this peninsula gave Russia dominion on the Black
Sea, which once virtually secured by Peter the Great had been again lost
through his misfortunes. Catherine greatly extended the limits of her
dominion on the west at the expense of Poland, the partition of which
state she planned in connection with Frederick the Great of Prussia and
Maria Theresa of Austria. On the first division, which was made in 1772,
the imperial robbers each took a portion of the spoils. In 1793 a second
partition was made, this time between Russia and Prussia; and then, in
1795, after the suppression of a determined revolt of the Poles under the
lead of the patriot Kosciusko, a third and final division among the three
powers completed the dismemberment of the unhappy state, and erased its
name from the roll of the nations. The territory gained by Russia in these
transactions brought her western frontier close alongside the civilization
of Central Europe. In Catherine's phrase, Poland had become her "door
mat," upon which she stepped when visiting the West.
Besides thus widening her empire, Catherine labored to reform its
institutions and to civilize her subjects. Her labors in bettering the
laws and improving the administration of the government, have caused her
to be likened to Solon and to Lycurgus; while her enthusiasm for learning
and her patronage of letters led Voltaire to say, "Light now comes from
By the close of Catherine's reign Russia was beyond question one of the
foremost powers of Europe, the weight of her influence being quite equal
to that of any other nation of the continent.
THE RISE OF PRUSSIA: FREDERICK THE GREAT. (1740-1786.)
THE BEGINNINGS OF PRUSSIA.--The foundation of the Prussian Kingdom was
laid in the beginning of the seventeenth century (1611) by the union of
two small states in the North of Germany. These were the Mark, or
Electorate, of Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussia. Brandenburg had been
gradually growing into prominence since the tenth century. Its ruler at
this time was a prince of the now noted House of Hohenzollern, and was one
of the seven princes to whom belonged the right of electing the emperor.
THE GREAT ELECTOR, FREDERICK WILLIAM (1640-1688).--Although this new
Prussian power was destined to become the champion of German
Protestantism, it acted a very unworthy and vacillating part in the Thirty
Years' War. But just before the close of that struggle a strong man came
to the throne, Frederick William, better known as the Great Elector. He
infused vigor and strength into every department of the State, and
acquired such a position for his government that at the Peace of
Westphalia he was able to secure new territory, which greatly enhanced his
power and prominence among the German princes.
[Illustration: THE GREAT ELECTOR. (From a battle-piece.)]
The Great Elector ruled for nearly half a century. He laid the basis of
the military power of Prussia by the formation of a standing army, and
transmitted to his son and successor a strongly centralized and despotic
HOW THE ELECTOR OF BRANDENBURG ACQUIRED THE TITLE OF KING.--Frederick III.
(1688-1713), son of the Great Elector, was ambitious for the title of
king, a dignity that the weight and influence won for the Prussian state
by his father fairly justified him in seeking. He saw about him other
princes less powerful than himself enjoying this dignity, and he too
"would be a king and wear a crown." The recent elevation of William of
Orange, Stadtholder of Holland, to royal honors in England (see p. 624),
stimulated the Elector's ambition.
It was necessary of course for Frederick to secure the consent of the
emperor, a matter of some difficulty, for the Catholic advisers of the
Austrian court were bitterly opposed to having an heretical prince thus
honored and advanced, while the emperor himself was not at all pleased
with the idea. But the War of the Spanish Succession was just about to
open, and the emperor was extremely anxious to secure Frederick's
assistance in the coming struggle. Therefore, on condition of his
furnishing him aid in the war, the emperor consented to Frederick's
assuming the new title and dignity _in the Duchy of Prussia_, which,
unlike Brandenburg, did not form part of the empire.
Accordingly, early in the year 1701, Frederick, amidst imposing
ceremonies, was crowned and hailed as king at K�nigsberg. Hitherto he had
been Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia; now he is Elector of
Brandenburg and King of Prussia.
Thus was a new king born among the kings of Europe. Thus did the house of
Austria invest with royal dignity the rival house of Hohenzollern. The
event is a landmark in German, and even in European history. The cue of
German history from this on is the growth of the power of the Prussian
kings, and their steady advance to imperial honors, and to the control of
the affairs of the German race.
FREDERICK WILLIAM I. (1713-1740).-The son and successor of the first
Prussian king, known as Frederick William I., was one of the most
extraordinary characters in history. He was a strong, violent, brutal man,
full of the strangest freaks, yet in many respects just the man for the
times. He would tolerate no idlers. He carried a heavy cane, which he laid
upon the back of every unoccupied person he chanced to find, whether man,
woman, or child.
Frederick William had a mania for big soldiers. With infinite expense and
trouble he gathered a regiment of the biggest men he could find, which was
known as the "Potsdam Giants,"--a regiment numbering 2400 men, some of
whom were eight feet in height. Not only were the Goliaths of his own
dominions impressed into the service, but big men in all parts of Europe
were coaxed, bribed, or kidnapped by Frederick's recruiting officers. No
present was so acceptable to him as a giant, and by the gift of a six-
footer more than one prince bought his everlasting favor.
Rough, brutal tyrant though he was, Frederick William was an able and
energetic ruler. He did much to consolidate the power of Prussia, and at
his death in 1740 left to his successor a considerably extended dominion,
and a splendid army of 80,000 men.
FREDERICK THE GREAT (1740-1786).--Frederick William was followed by his
son Frederick II., to whom the world has agreed to give the title of
"Great." Frederick had a genius for war, and his father had prepared to
his hand one of the most efficient instruments of the art since the time
of the Roman legions. The two great wars in which he was engaged, and
which raised Prussia to the first rank among the military powers of
Europe, were the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War.
WAR OF THE AUSTRIAN SUCCESSION (1740-1748).--Through the death of Charles
VI. the Imperial office became vacant on the very year that Frederick II.
ascended the Prussian throne. Charles was the last of the direct male line
of the Hapsburgs, and disputes straightway arose respecting the
possessions of the House of Austria, which resulted in the long struggle
known as the War of the Austrian Succession.
Now, not long before the death of Charles, he had bound all the leading
powers of Europe in a sort of agreement called the Pragmatic Sanction, by
the terms of which, in case he should leave no son, all his hereditary
dominions--that is, the kingdom of Hungary, the kingdom of Bohemia, the
archduchy of Austria, and the other possessions of the House of Austria--
should be bestowed upon his daughter Maria Theresa. But no sooner was
Charles dead than a number of princes immediately laid claim to greater or
lesser portions of these territories. Prominent among these claimants was
Frederick of Prussia, who claimed Silesia. [Footnote: Charles Albert,
Elector of Bavaria, set up a claim to the Austrian States. France, ever
the sworn enemy of the House of Austria, lent her armies to aid the
Elector in making good his pretensions] Before Maria Theresa could arm in
defence of her dominions, Frederick pushed his army into Silesia and took
forcible possession of it.
Queen Theresa, thus stripped of a large part of her dominions, fled into
Hungary, and with all of a beautiful woman's art of persuasion appealed to
her Hungarian subjects to avenge her wrongs. Her unmerited sufferings, her
beauty, her tears, the little princess in her arms, stirred the resentment
and kindled the ardent loyalty of the Hungarian nobles, and with one
voice, as they rang their swords in their scabbards, they swore to support
the cause of their queen with their estates and their lives. England and
Sardinia also threw themselves into the contest on Maria Theresa's side.
The war lasted until 1748, when it was closed by the Peace of Aix-la-
Chapelle, which left Silesia in the hands of Frederick.
THE SEVEN YEARS' WAR (1756-1763).--The eight years of peace which followed
the war of the Austrian Succession were improved by Frederick in
developing the resources of his kingdom and perfecting the organization
and discipline of his army, and by Maria Theresa in forming a league of
the chief European powers against the unscrupulous despoiler of her
dominions. France, Russia, Poland, Saxony, and Sweden, all entered into an
alliance with the queen. Frederick could at first find no ally save
England,--towards the close of the struggle Russia came to his side,--so
that he was left almost alone to fight the combined armies of the
At first the fortunes of the war were all on Frederick's side. In the
celebrated battles of Rossbach, Leuthen, and Zorndorf, he defeated
successively the French, the Austrians, and the Russians, and startled all
Europe into an acknowledgment of the fact that the armies of Prussia had
at their head one of the greatest commanders of the world. His name became
a household word, and everybody coupled with it the admiring epithet of
But fortune finally deserted him. In sustaining the unequal contest, his
dominions became drained of men. England withdrew her aid, and inevitable
ruin seemed to impend over his throne and kingdom. A change by death in
the government of Russia now put a new face upon Frederick's affairs. In
1762 Elizabeth of that country died, and Peter III., an ardent admirer of
Frederick, came to the throne, and immediately transferred the armies of
Russia from the side of the allies to that of Prussia. The alliance lasted
only a few months, Peter being deposed and murdered by his wife, who now
came to the throne as Catherine II. She reversed once more the policy of
the Government; but the temporary alliance had given Frederick a decisive
advantage, and the year following Peter's act, England and France were
glad to give over the struggle and sign the Peace of Paris (1763). Shortly
after this another peace (the Treaty of Hubertsburg) was arranged between
Austria and Prussia, and one of the most terrible wars that had ever
disturbed Europe was over. The most noteworthy result of the war was the
exalting of the Prussian kingdom to a most commanding position among the
FREDERICK'S WORK: PRUSSIA MADE A NEW CENTRE OF GERMAN CRYSTALLIZATION.--
The all-important result of Frederick the Great's strong reign was the
making of Prussia the equal of Austria, and thereby the laying of the
basis of German unity. Hitherto Germany had been trying unsuccessfully to
concentrate about Austria; now there is a new centre of crystallization,
one that will draw to itself all the various elements of German
nationality. The history of Germany from this on is the story of the
rivalry of these two powers, with the final triumph of the kingdom of the
North, and the unification of Germany under her leadership, Austria being
pushed out as entitled to no part in the affairs of the Fatherland. This
story we shall tell in a subsequent chapter (see Chap. LXL).
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. (1789-1799.)
1. CAUSES OF THE REVOLUTION: THE STATES-GENERAL OF 1789.
INTRODUCTORY.--The French Revolution is in political what the German
Reformation is in ecclesiastical history. It was the revolt of the French
people against royal despotism and class privilege. "Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity," was the motto of the Revolution. In the name of these
principles the most atrocious crimes were indeed committed; but these
excesses of the Revolution are not to be confounded with its true spirit
and aims. The French people in 1789 contended for those same principles
that the English Puritans defended in 1640, and that our fathers
maintained in 1776. It is only as we view them in this light that we can
feel a sympathetic interest in the men and events of this tumultuous
period of French history.
CAUSES OF THE REVOLUTION.--Chief among the causes of the French Revolution
were the abuses and extravagances of the Bourbon monarchy; the unjust
privileges enjoyed by the nobility and clergy; the wretched condition of
the great mass of the people; and the revolutionary character and spirit
of French philosophy and literature. To these must be added, as a
proximate cause, the influence of the American Revolution. We shall speak
briefly of these several matters.
THE BOURBON MONARCHY.--We simply repeat what we have already learned, when
we say that the authority of the French crown under the Bourbons had
become unbearably despotic and oppressive. The life of every person in the
realm was at the arbitrary disposal of the king. Persons were thrown into
prison without even knowing the offence for which they were arrested. The
royal decrees were laws. The taxes imposed by the king were simply
robberies and confiscations. The public money, thus gathered, was
squandered in maintaining a court the scandalous extravagances and
debaucheries of which would shame a Turkish Sultan.
THE NOBILITY.--The French nobility, in the time of the Bourbons, numbered
about 80,000 families. The order was simply the remains of the once
powerful but now broken-down feudal aristocracy of the Middle Ages. Its
members were chiefly the pensioners of the king, the ornaments of his
court, living in riotous luxury at Paris or Versailles. Stripped of their
ancient power, they still retained all the old pride and arrogance of
their order, and clung tenaciously to all their feudal privileges.
Although holding one-fifth of the lands of France, they paid scarcely any
THE CLERGY.--The clergy formed a decayed feudal hierarchy. They possessed
enormous wealth, the gift of piety through many centuries. Over a third of
the lands of the country was in their hands, and yet this immense property
was almost wholly exempt from taxation. The bishops and abbots were
usually drawn from the families of the nobles, being too often attracted
to the service of the Church rather by its princely revenues and the
social distinction conferred by its offices, than by the inducements of
piety. These "patrician prelates" were hated alike by the humbler clergy
and the people.
THE COMMONS.--Below the two privileged orders of the State stood the
commons, who constituted the chief bulk of the nation, and who numbered,
at the commencement of the Revolution, probably about 25,000,000. It is
quite impossible to give any adequate idea of the pitiable condition of
the poorer classes of the commons throughout the century preceding the
Revolution. The peasants particularly suffered the most intolerable
wrongs. They were vexed by burdensome feudal regulations. Thus they were
forbidden to fence their fields for the protection of their crops, as the
fences interfered with the lord's progress in the hunt; and they were even
prohibited from cultivating their fields at certain seasons, as this
disturbed the partridges and other game. Being kept in a state of abject
poverty, a failure of crops reduced them to absolute starvation. It was
not an unusual thing to find women and children dead along the roadways.
In a word, to use the language of one (F�nelon) who saw all this misery,
France had become "simply a great hospital full of woe and empty of food."
REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT OF FRENCH PHILOSOPHY.--French philosophy in the
eighteenth century was sceptical and revolutionary. The names of the great
writers Rousseau (1712-1778) and Voltaire (1694-1778) suggest at once its
prevalent tone and spirit. Rousseau declared that all the evils which
afflict humanity arise from vicious, artificial arrangements, such as the
Family, the Church, and the State. Accordingly he would do away with these
things, and have men return to a state of nature--that is, to simplicity.
Savages, he declared, were happier than civilized men.
The tendency and effect of this sceptical philosophy was to create hatred
and contempt for the institutions of both State and Church, to foster
discontent with the established order of things, to stir up an
uncontrollable passion for innovation and change.
INFLUENCE OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.--Not one of the least potent of the
proximate causes of the French Revolution was the successful establishment
of the American republic. The French people sympathized deeply with the
English colonists in their struggle for independence. Many of the
nobility, like Lafayette, offered to the patriots the service of their
swords; and the popular feeling at length compelled Louis XVI to extend to
them openly the aid of the armies of France.
The final triumph of the cause of liberty awakened scarcely less
enthusiasm and rejoicing in France than in America. In this young republic
of the Western world the French people saw realized the Arcadia of their
philosophers. It was no longer a dream. They themselves had helped to make
it real. Here the Rights of Man had been recovered and vindicated. And now
this liberty which the French people had helped the American colonists to
secure, they were impatient to see France herself enjoy.
"AFTER US, THE DELUGE."--The long-gathering tempest is now ready to break
over France. Louis XV. died in 1774. In the early part of his reign his
subjects had affectionately called him the "Well-beloved," but long before
he laid down the sceptre, all their early love and admiration had been
turned into hatred and contempt. Besides being overbearing and despotic,
the king was indolent, rapacious, and scandalously profligate. During
twenty years of his reign the king was wholly under the influence of the
notorious Madame de Pompadour.
The inevitable issue of this orgy of crime and folly seems to have been
clearly enough perceived by the chief actors in it, as is shown by that
reckless phrase so often on the lips of the king and his favorite--"After
us, the Deluge." And after them, the Deluge indeed did come. The near
thunders of the approaching tempest could already be heard when Louis XV.
lay down to die.
CALLING OF THE STATES-GENERAL (1789).--Louis XV. left the tottering throne
to his grandson, Louis XVI., then only twenty years of age. He had
recently been married to the fair and brilliant Marie Antoinette,
archduchess of Austria.
The king called to his side successively the most eminent financiers and
statesmen (Maurepas, Turgot, Necker, and Calonne) as his ministers and
advisers; but their policies and remedies availed little or nothing. The
disease which had fastened itself upon the nation was too deep-seated. The
traditions of the court, the rigidity of long-established customs, and the
heartless selfishness of the privileged classes, rendered reform and
efficient retrenchment impossible.
In 1787 the king summoned the Notables, a body composed chiefly of great
lords and prelates, who had not been called to advise with the king since
the reign of Henry IV. But miserable counsellors were they all. Refusing
to give up any of their feudal privileges, or to tax the property of their
own orders that the enormous public burdens which were crushing the
commons might be lightened, their coming together resulted in nothing.
As a last resort it was resolved to summon the united wisdom of the
nation,--to call together the States-General, the almost-forgotten
assembly, composed of representatives of the three estates,--the nobility,
the clergy, and the commons, the latter being known as the Tiers �tat, or
Third Estate. On the 5th of May, 1789, a memorable date, this assembly met
at Versailles. It was the first time it had been summoned to deliberate
upon the affairs of the nation in the space of 175 years. It was now
composed of 1,200 representatives, more than one-half of whom were
deputies of the commons. The eyes of the nation were turned in hope and
expectancy towards Versailles. Surely if the redemption of France could be
worked out by human wisdom, it would now be effected.
2. THE NATIONAL, OR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY (June 17, 1789-Sept. 30, 1791).
THE STATE-GENERAL CHANGED INTO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY.--At the very outset
a dispute arose in the States-General assembly between the privileged
orders and the commons, respecting the manner of voting. It had been the
ancient custom of the body to vote upon all questions by orders; and
thinking that this custom would prevail in the present assembly, the king
and his counsellors had yielded to the popular demand and allowed the
Third Estate to send to Versailles more representatives than both the
other orders. The commons now demanded that the voting should be by
individuals; for, should the vote be taken by orders, the clergy and
nobility by combining could always outvote them. For five weeks the
quarrel kept everything at a standstill.
Finally the commons, emboldened by the tone of public opinion without,
took a decisive, revolutionary step. They declared themselves the National
Assembly, and then invited the other two orders to join them in their
deliberations, giving them to understand that if they did not choose to do
so, they should proceed to the consideration of public affairs without
Shut out from the palace, the Third Estate met in one of the churches of
Versailles. Many of the clergy had already joined the body. Two days later
the nobility came. The eloquent Bailly, President of the Assembly, in
receiving them, exclaimed, "This day will be illustrious in our annals; it
renders the family complete." The States-General had now become in reality
the _National Assembly_.
STORMING OF THE BASTILE (July 14, 1789).--During the opening weeks of the
National Assembly, Paris was in a state of great excitement. The Bastile
was the old state prison, the emblem, in the eyes of the people, of
despotism. A report came that its guns were trained on the city; that
provoked a popular outbreak. "Let us storm the Bastile," rang through the
streets. The mob straightway proceeded to lay siege to the grim old
dungeon. In a few hours the prison fortress was in their hands. The walls
of the hated state prison were razed to the ground, and the people danced
on the spot. The key of the fortress was sent as a "trophy of the spoils
of despotism" to Washington by Lafayette.
The destruction by the Paris mob of the Bastile is in the French
Revolution what the burning of the papal bull by Luther was to the
Reformation. It was the death-knell not only of Bourbon despotism in
France, but of royal tyranny everywhere. When the news reached England,
the great statesman Fox, perceiving its significance for liberty,
exclaimed, "How much is this the greatest event that ever happened in the
world, and how much the best!"
THE EMIGRATION OF THE NOBLES.--The fall of the Bastile left Paris in the
hands of a triumphant mob. Those suspected of sympathizing with the royal
party were massacred without mercy. The peasantry in many districts,
following the example set them by the capital, rose against the nobles,
sacked and burned their castles, and either killed the occupants or
dragged them off to prison. This terrorism caused the beginning of what is
known as the emigration of the nobles, their flight beyond the frontiers
"TO VERSAILLES."--An imprudent act on the part of the king and his friends
at Versailles brought about the next episode in the progress of the
Revolution. The arrival there of a body of troops was made the occasion of
a banquet to the officers of the regiment. While heated with wine, the
young nobles had trampled under foot the national tri-colored cockades,
and substituted for them white cockades, the emblem of the Bourbons. The
report of these proceedings caused in Paris the wildest excitement. Other
rumors of the intended flight of the king to Metz, and of plots against
the national cause, added fuel to the flames. Besides, bread had failed,
and the poorer classes were savage from hunger.
October 5th a mob of desperate women, terrible in aspect as furies, and
armed with clubs and knives, collected in the streets of Paris, determined
upon going to Versailles, and demanding relief from the king himself. All
efforts to dissuade them from their purpose were unavailing, and soon the
Parisian rabble was in motion. A horrible multitude, savage as the hordes
that followed Attila, streamed out of the city towards Versailles, about
twelve miles distant. The National Guards, infected with the delirium of
the moment, forced Lafayette to lead them in the same direction. Thus all
day Paris emptied itself into the royal suburbs.
The mob encamped in the streets of Versailles for the night. Early the
following morning they broke into the palace, killed two of the guards,
and battering down doors with axes, forced their way to the chamber of the
queen, who barely escaped with her life to the king's apartments. The
timely arrival of Lafayette alone saved the entire royal family from being
THE ROYAL FAMILY TAKEN TO PARIS--The mob now demanded that the king should
return with them to Paris. Their object in this was to have him under
their eye, and prevent his conspiring with the privileged orders to thwart
the plans of the revolutionists. Louis was forced to yield to the demands
of the people.
The procession arrived at Paris in the evening. The royal family were
placed in the Palace of the Tuileries, and Lafayette was charged with the
duty of guarding the king, who was to be held as a sort of hostage for the
good conduct of the nobles and foreign sovereigns while a constitution was
being prepared by the Assembly.
Such was what was called the "Joyous Entry" of October 6th. The palace at
Versailles, thus stripped of royalty and left bespattered with blood, was
never again to be occupied as the residence of a king of France.
THE FLIGHT OF THE KING (June 20, 1791).--For two years following the
Joyous Entry there was a comparative lull in the storm of the Revolution,
The king was kept a sort of prisoner in the Tuileries. The National
Assembly were making sweeping reforms both in Church and State, and
busying themselves in framing a new constitution. The emigrant nobles
watched the course of events from beyond the frontiers, not daring to make
a move for fear the excitable Parisian mob, upon any hostile step taken by
them, would massacre the entire royal family. Could the king only escape
from the hands of his captors and make his way to the borders of France,
then he could place himself at the head of the emigrant nobles, and, with
foreign aid, overturn the National Assembly and crush the revolutionists.
The flight was resolved upon and carefully planned. Under cover of night
the entire royal family, in disguise, escaped from the Tuileries, and by
post conveyance fled towards the frontier. When just another hour would
have placed the fugitives in safety among friends, the Bourbon features of
the king betrayed him, and the entire party was arrested and carried back
The attempted flight of the royal family was a fatal blow to the Monarchy.
Many affected to regard it as equivalent to an act of abdication on the
part of the king. The people now began to talk of a republic.
THE CLUBS: JACOBINS AND CORDELIERS.--In order to render intelligible the
further course of the Revolution we must here speak of two clubs, or
organizations, which came into prominence about this time, and which were
destined to become more powerful than the Assembly itself, and to be the
chief instruments in inaugurating the Reign of Terror. These were the
societies of the Jacobins and Cordeliers, so called from certain old
convents in which they were accustomed to meet. The purpose of these clubs
was to watch for conspiracies of the royalists, and by constant agitation
to keep alive the flame of the Revolution.
THE NEW CONSTITUTION.--The work of the National Assembly was now drawing
to a close. On the 14th of September, 1791, the new constitution framed by
that body, and which made the government of France a constitutional
monarchy, was solemnly ratified by the king. The National Assembly, having
sat nearly three years, then adjourned (Sept, 30, 1791). The first scene
in the drama of the French Revolution was ended.
3. THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY (Oct. 1, 1791-Sept. 21, 1792).
THE THREE PARTIES.--The new constitution provided for a national
legislature to be called the Legislative Assembly. This body, comprising
745 members, was divided into three parties: the Constitutionalists, the
Girondists, and the Mountainists. The Constitutionalists of course
supported the new constitution, being in favor of a limited monarchy. The
Girondists, so called from the name (_La Gironde_) of the department
whence came the most noted of its members, wished to establish in France
such a republic as the American colonists had just set up in the New
World. The Mountainists, who took their name from their lofty seats in the
assembly, were radical republicans, or levellers. Many of them were
members of the Jacobin club or that of the Cordeliers. The leaders of this
faction were Marat, Danton, and Robespierre,--names of terror in the
subsequent records of the Revolution.
WAR WITH THE OLD MONARCHIES.--The kings of Europe were watching with the
utmost anxiety the course of events in France. They regarded the cause of
Louis XVI. as their own. If the French people should be allowed to
overturn the throne of their hereditary sovereign, who would then respect
the divine rights of kings? The old monarchies of Europe therefore
resolved that the revolutionary movement in France, a movement threatening
all aristocratical and monarchical institutions, should be crushed, and
that these heretical French doctrines respecting the Sovereignty of the
People and the Rights of Man should be proved false by the power of royal
The warlike preparations of Frederick William III. of Prussia and the
Emperor Francis II., awakened the apprehensions of the revolutionists, and
led the Legislative Assembly to declare war against them (April 20, 1792).
A little later, the allied armies of the Austrians and Prussians,
numbering more than 100,000 men, and made up in part of the French
emigrant nobles, passed the frontiers of France. Thus were taken the first
steps in a series of wars which were destined to last nearly a quarter of
a century, and in which France almost single-handed was to struggle
against the leagued powers of Europe, and to illustrate the miracles
possible to enthusiasm and genius.
THE MASSACRE OF THE SWISS GUARDS (Aug. 10, 1792).--The allies at first
gained easy victories over the ill-disciplined forces of the Legislative
Assembly, and the Duke of Brunswick, at the head of an immense army,
advanced rapidly upon Paris. An insolent proclamation which this commander
now issued, wherein he ordered the French nation to submit to their king,
and threatened the Parisians with the destruction of their city should any
harm be done the royal family, drove the French people frantic with
indignation and rage. The Palace of the Tuileries, defended by a few
hundred Swiss soldiers, the remnant of the royal guard, was assaulted. A
terrible struggle followed in the corridors and upon the grand stairways
of the palace. The Swiss stood "steadfast as the granite of their Alps."
But they were overwhelmed at last, and all were murdered, either in the
building itself or in the surrounding courts and streets.
THE MASSACRE OF SEPTEMBER ("JAIL DELIVERY").--The army of the allies
hurried on towards Paris to avenge the slaughter of the royal guards and
to rescue the king. The capital was all excitement. "We must stop the
enemy," cried Danton, "by striking terror into the royalists." To this end
the most atrocious measures were now adopted by the Extremists. It was
resolved that all the royalists confined in the jails of the capital
should be murdered. A hundred or more assassins were hired to butcher the
prisoners. The murderers first entered the churches of the city, and the
unfortunate priests who had refused to take oath to support the new
constitution, were butchered in heaps about the altars. The jails were
next visited, one after another, the persons confined within slaughtered,
and their bodies thrown out to the brutal hordes that followed the
butchers to enjoy the carnival of blood.
The victims of this terrible "September Massacre," as it is called, are
estimated at from six to fourteen thousand. Europe had never before known
such a "jail delivery." It was the greatest crime of the French
DEFEAT OF THE ALLIES.--Meanwhile, in the open field, the fortunes of war
inclined to the side of the revolutionists. The French generals were
successful in checking the advance of the allies, and finally at Valmy
(Sept. 20, 1792) succeeded in inflicting upon them a decisive defeat,
which caused their hasty retreat beyond the frontiers of France. The day
after this victory the Legislative Assembly came to an end, and the
following day the National Convention assembled.
4. THE NATIONAL CONVENTION (Sept. 21, 1792-Oct. 26, 1795).
PARTIES IN THE CONVENTION.--The Convention, consisting of seven hundred
and forty-nine deputies, among whom was the celebrated freethinker, Thomas
Paine, was divided into two parties, the Girondists and the Mountainists.
There were no monarchists; all were republicans. No one dared to speak of
a monarchy. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE REPUBLIC (Sept. 21, 1792).--The very
first act of the Convention on its opening day was to abolish the Monarchy
and proclaim France a Republic. The motion for the abolition of Royalty
was not even discussed. "What need is there for discussion," exclaimed a
delegate, "where all are agreed? Courts are the hot-bed of crime, the
focus of corruption; the history of kings is the martyrology of nations."
All titles of nobility were also abolished. Every one was to be addressed
simply as _citizen_. In the debates of the Convention, the king was
alluded to as Citizen Capet, and on the street the shoeblack was called
The day following the Proclamation of the republic (Sept. 22, 1792) was
made the beginning of a new era, the first day of the YEAR 1. That was to
be regarded as the natal day of Liberty. A little later, excited by the
success of the French armies,--the Austrians and Prussians had been
beaten, and Belgium had been overrun and occupied,--the Convention called
upon all nations to rise against despotism, and pledged the aid of France
to any people wishing to secure freedom.
TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF THE KING (Jan. 21, 1793).--The next work of the
Convention was the trial and execution of the king. On the 11th of
December, 1792, he was brought before the bar of that body, charged with
having conspired with the enemies of France, of having opposed the will of
the people, and of having caused the massacre of the 10th of August. The
sentence of the Convention was immediate death. On Jan. 21, 1793, the
unfortunate monarch was conducted to the scaffold.
COALITION AGAINST FRANCE.--The regicide awakened the most bitter hostility
against the French revolutionists, among all the old monarchies of Europe.
The act was interpreted as a threat against all kings. A grand coalition,
embracing Prussia, Austria, England, Sweden, Holland, Spain, Portugal,
Piedmont, Naples, the Holy See, and later, Russia, was formed to crush the
republican movement. Armies aggregating more than a quarter of a million
of men threatened France at once on every frontier.
While thus beset with foes without, the republic was threatened with even
more dangerous enemies within. The people of La Vendee, in Western France,
who still retained their simple reverence for Royalty, Nobility, and the
Church, rose in revolt against the sweeping innovations of the
To meet all these dangers which threatened the life of the new-born
republic, the Convention ordered a levy, which placed 300,000 men in the
field. The stirring Marseillaise Hymn, sung by the marching bands,
awakened everywhere a martial fervor.
THE FALL OF THE GIRONDISTS (June 2, 1793).--Gloomy tidings came from every
quarter,--news of reverses to the armies of the republic in front of the
allies, and of successes of the counter-revolutionists in La Vend�e and
other provinces. The Mountainists in the Convention, supported by the
rabble of Paris, urged the most extreme measures. They proposed that the
carriages of the wealthy should be seized and used for carrying soldiers
to the seat of war, and that the expenses of the government should be met
by forced contributions from the rich.
The Girondists opposing these communistic measures, a mob, 80,000 strong,
it is asserted, surrounded the Convention, and demanded that the
Girondists be given up as enemies of the Republic. They were surrendered
and placed under arrest, a preliminary step to the speedy execution of
many of them during the opening days of the Reign of Terror, which had now
Thus did the Parisian mob purge the National Convention of France, as the
army purged Parliament in the English Revolution (see p. 612). That mob
were now masters, not only of the capital, but of France as well. There is
nothing before France now but anarchy, and the dictator to whom anarchy
always gives birth.
_The Reign of Terror_ (June 2, 1793-July 27, 1794).
OPENING OF THE REIGN OF TERROR.--As soon as the expulsion of the Moderates
had given the Extremists control of the Convention, they proceeded to
carry out their policy of terrorism. Supreme power was vested in the so-
called Committee of Public Safety, which became a terrific engine of
tyranny and cruelty. Marat was president of the Committee, and Danton and
Robespierre were both members.
The scenes which now followed are only feebly illustrated by the
proscriptions of Sulla in ancient Rome (see p. 283). All aristocrats, all
persons suspected of lukewarmness in the cause of liberty, were ordered to
the guillotine. Hundreds were murdered simply because their wealth was
wanted. Others fell, not because they were guilty of any political
offence, but on account of having in some way incurred the personal
displeasure of the dictators.
CHARLOTTE CORDAY: ASSASSINATION OF MARAT (July 13,1793).--At this moment
appeared the Joan of Arc of the Revolution. A maiden of Normandy,
Charlotte Corday by name, conceived the idea of delivering France from the
terrors of proscription and civil war, by going to Paris and killing
Marat, whom she regarded as the head of the tyranny. On pretence of
wishing to reveal to him something of importance, she gained admission to
his rooms and stabbed him to the heart. She atoned for the deed under the
knife of the guillotine.
EVENTS AFTER THE DEATH OF MARAT.--The enthusiasm of Charlotte Corday had
led her to believe that the death of Marat would be a fatal blow to the
power of the Mountainists. But it only served to drive them to still
greater excesses, under the lead of Danton and Robespierre. She died to
stanch the flow of her country's blood; but, as Lamartine says, "her
poniard appeared to have opened the veins of France." The flame of
insurrection in the departments was quenched in deluges of blood. Some of
the cities that had been prominent centres of the counter-revolution were
made a terrible example of the vengeance of the revolutionists. Lyons was
an object of special hatred to the tyrants. Respecting this place the
Convention passed the following decree: "The city of Lyons shall be
destroyed: every house occupied by a rich man shall be demolished; only
the dwellings of the poor shall remain, with edifices specially devoted to
industry, and monuments consecrated to humanity and public education." So
thousands of men were set to work to pull down the city. The Convention
further decreed that a monument should be erected upon the ruins of Lyons
with this inscription: "Lyons opposed Liberty! Lyons is no more!"
EXECUTION OF THE QUEEN AND OF THE GIRONDISTS.--The rage of the
revolutionists was at this moment turned anew against the remaining
members of the royal family, by the European powers proclaiming the
Dauphin King of France. The queen, who had now borne nine months'
imprisonment in a close dungeon, was brought before the terrible
Revolutionary Tribunal, a sort of court organized to take cognizance of
conspiracies against the republic, condemned to the guillotine, and
Two weeks after the execution of the queen, twenty-one of the chiefs of
the Girondists, who had been kept in confinement since their arrest in the
Convention, were pushed beneath the knife. Hundreds of others followed.
Day after day the carnival of death went on. Seats were arranged for the
people, who crowded to the spectacle as to a theatre. The women busied
their hands with their knitting, while their eyes feasted upon the swiftly
changing scenes of the horrid drama.
Most illustrious of all the victims after the queen was Madame Roland, who
was accused of being the friend of the Girondists. Woman has always acted
a prominent part in the great events of French history, because the grand
ideas and sentiments which have worked so powerfully upon the imaginative
and impulsive temperament of the men of France, have appealed with a still
more fatal attraction to her more romantic and generously enthusiastic
SWEEPING CHANGES AND REFORMS.--While clearing away the enemies of France
and of liberty, the revolutionists were also busy making the most sweeping
changes in the ancient institutions and customs of the land. They hated
these as having been established by kings and aristocrats to enhance their
own importance and power, and to enthrall the masses. They proposed to
sweep these things all aside, and give the world a fresh start.
A new system of weights and measures, known as the metrical, was planned,
and a new mode of reckoning time was introduced. The names of the months
were altered, titles being given them expressive of the character of each.
Each month was divided into three periods of ten days each, called
decades, and each day into ten parts. The tenth day of each decade took
the place of Sunday. The five odd days not provided for in the arrangement
were made festival days.
ABOLITION OF CHRISTIANITY.--With these reforms effected, the
revolutionists next proceeded to the more difficult task of subverting the
ancient institutions of religion. Some of the chiefs of the Commune of
Paris declared that the Revolution should not rest until it had "dethroned
the King of Heaven as well as the kings of earth."
An attempt was made by the Extremists to have Christianity abolished by a
decree of the National Convention; but that body, fearing such an act
might alienate many who were still attached to the Church, resolved that
all matters of creed should be left to the decision of the people
[Illustration: THE GUILLOTINE ]
The atheistic chiefs of the Commune of the capital now determined to
effect their purpose through the Church itself. They persuaded the Bishop
of Paris to abdicate his office; and his example was followed by many of
the clergy throughout the country. The churches of Paris and of other
cities were now closed, and the treasures of their altars and shrines
confiscated to the State, Even the bells were melted down into cannon. The
images of the Virgin and of the Christ were torn down, and the busts of
Marat and other patriots set up in their stead. And as the emancipation of
the world was now to be wrought, not by the Cross, but by the guillotine,
that instrument took the place of the crucifix, and was called the Holy
Guillotine. All the visible symbols of the ancient religion were
destroyed. All emblems of hope in the cemeteries were obliterated, and
over their gates were inscribed the words, "Death is eternal sleep."
The madness of the Parisian people culminated in the worship of what was
called the Goddess of Reason. A celebrated beauty, personating the
Goddess, was set upon the altar of Notre Dame as the object of homage and
adoration. The example of Paris was followed in many places throughout
France. Churches were everywhere converted into temples of the new
worship. The Sabbath having been abolished, the services of the temple
were held only upon every tenth day. On that day the mayor or some popular
leader mounted the altar and harangued the people, dwelling upon the news
of the moment, the triumphs of the armies of the republic, the glorious
achievements of the Revolution, and the privilege of living in an era when
one was oppressed neither by kings on earth or by a King in heaven.
FALL OF H�BERT AND DANTON (March and April, 1794).--Not quite one year of
the Reign of Terror had passed before the revolutionists, having destroyed
or driven into obscurity their common enemy, the Girondists, turned upon
one another with the ferocity of beasts whose appetite has been whetted by
the taste of blood.
During the progress of events the Jacobins had become divided into three
factions, headed respectively by Danton, Robespierre, and H�bert. Danton,
though he had been a bold and audacious leader, was now adopting a more
conservative tone, and was condemning the extravagances and cruelties of
the Committee of Public Safety, of which he had ceased to be a member.
H�bert was one of the worst demagogues of the Commune, the chief and
instigator of the Parisian rabble. He and his followers, the sans-culottes
of the capital, would overturn everything and refound society upon
communism and atheism.
Robespierre occupied a position midway between these two, condemning alike
the moderatism of Danton and the atheistic communism of Hebert. To make
his own power supreme, he resolved to crush both.
H�bert and his party were the first to fall, Danton and his adherents
working with Robespierre to bring about their ruin, for the Moderates and
Anarchists were naturally at bitter enmity.
Danton and his friends were the next to follow. Little more than a week
had passed since the execution of H�bert before Robespierre had effected
their destruction, on the charge of conspiring with and encouraging the
With the Anarchists and Moderates both destroyed, Robespierre was now
supreme. His ambition was attained. "He stood alone on the awful eminence
of the Holy Mountain." But his turn was soon to come.
WORSHIP OF THE SUPREME BEING.--One of the first acts of the dictator was
to give France a new religion in place, of the worship of Reason.
Robespierre wished to sweep away Christianity as a superstition, but he
would stop at deism. He did not believe that a state could be founded on
atheism. "Atheism," said he, "is aristocratic. The idea of a great being
who watches over oppressed innocence, and who punishes triumphant guilt,
is and always will be popular. If God did not exist, it would behoove man
to invent him." Accordingly Robespierre offered in the Convention the
following resolution: "The French people acknowledge the existence of the
Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul." The decree was adopted,
and the churches that had been converted into temples of the Goddess of
Reason were now consecrated to the worship of the Supreme Being.
THE TERROR AT PARIS.--At the very same time that Robespierre was
establishing the new worship, he was desolating France with massacres of
incredible atrocity, and ruling by a terrorism unparalleled since the most
frightful days of Rome. With all power gathered in his hands, he overawed
all opposition and dissent by the wholesale slaughters of the guillotine.
The prisons of Paris and of the departments were filled with suspected
persons, until 200,000 prisoners were crowded within these republican
Bastiles. At Paris the dungeons were emptied of their victims and room
made for fresh ones, by the swift processes of the Revolutionary Tribunal,
which in mockery of justice caused the prisoners to be brought before its
bar in companies of ten or fifty. Rank or talent was an inexpiable crime.
"Were you not a noble?" asks the president of the court of one of the
accused. "Yes," was the reply. "Enough; another," was the judge's verdict.
And so on through the long list each day brought before the tribunal.
The scenes about the guillotine were simply infernal. Benches were
arranged around the scaffold and rented to spectators, like seats in a
theatre. A special sewer had to be constructed to carry off the blood of
the victims. In the space of a little over a month (from June 10th to July
17th) the number of persons guillotined at Paris was 1285, an average of
34 a day.
MASSACRES IN THE PROVINCES.--While such was the terrible state of things
at the capital, matters were even worse in many of the other leading
cities of France. The scenes at Nantes, Bordeaux, Marseilles, and Toulon
suggested, in their varied elements of horror, the awful conceptions of
the "Inferno" of Dante. At Nantes the victims were at first shot singly or
guillotined; but these methods being found too slow, more expeditious
modes of execution were devised. To these were playfully given the names
of "Republican Baptisms," "Republican Marriages," and "Battues."
The "Republican Baptism" consisted in crowding a hundred or more persons
into a vessel, which was then towed out into the Loire and scuttled. In
the "Republican Marriages" a man and woman were bound together, and then
thrown into the river. The "Battues" consisted in ranging the victims in
long ranks, and mowing them down with discharges of cannon and musket.
By these various methods fifteen thousand victims were destroyed in the
course of a single month. The entire number massacred at Nantes during the
Reign of Terror is estimated at thirty thousand. What renders these
murders the more horrible is the fact that a considerable number of the
victims were women and children. Nantes was at this time crowded with the
orphaned children of the Vend�an counter-revolutionists. Upon a single
night three hundred of these innocents were taken from the city prisons
and drowned in the Loire.
THE FALL OF ROBESPIERRE (July, 1794).--By such terrorism did Robespierre
and his creatures rule France for a little more than three months. The
awful suspense and dread drove many into insanity and to suicide. The
strain was too great for human nature to bear. A reaction came. The
successes of the armies of the republic, and the establishment of the
authority of the Convention throughout the departments, caused the people
to look upon the massacres that were daily taking place as unnecessary and
cruel. They began to turn with horror and pity from the scenes of the
The first blow at the power of the dictator was struck in the Convention.
A member dared to denounce him, upon the floor of the assembly, as a
tyrant. The spell was broken. He was arrested and sent to the guillotine,
with a large number of his confederates. The people greeted the fall of
the tyrant's head with demonstrations of unbounded joy. The delirium was
over. "France had awakened from the ghastly dream of the Reign of Terror
(July 28, 1794)."
THE REACTION.--The reaction which had swept away Robespierre and his
associates continued after their ruin. The clubs of the Jacobins were
closed, and that infamous society which had rallied and directed the
hideous rabbles of the great cities was broken up. The deputies that had
been driven from their seats in the Convention were invited to resume
their places and the Christian worship was reestablished.
NAPOLEON DEFENDS THE CONVENTION (Oct. 5, 1795).--These and other measures
of the Convention did not fail of arousing the bitter opposition of the
scattered forces of the Terrorists, as they were called; and on the 5th of
October, 1795, a mob of 40,000 men advanced to the attack of the
Tuileries, where the Convention was sitting. As the mob came on they were
met by a storm of grape shot, which sent them flying back in wild
disorder. The man who trained the guns was a young artillery officer, a
native of the island of Corsica,--Napoleon Bonaparte. The Revolution had
at last brought forth a man of genius capable of controlling and directing
its tremendous energies. 5. THE DIRECTORY (Oct. 27, 1795-Nov. 9, 1799).