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A Political and Social History of Modern Europe V.1. by Carlton J. H. Hayes

Part 9 out of 12

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Our narrative of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries thus far has
been full of intrigue, dynastic rivalry, and colonial competition. We
have sat with red-robed cardinals in council to exalt the monarch of
France; we have witnessed the worldwide wars by which Great Britain won
and lost vast imperial domains; we have followed the thundering march
of Frederick's armies through the Germanies, wasted with war; but we
have been blind indeed if the glare of bright helmets and the glamour
of courtly diplomacy have hidden from our eyes a phenomenon more
momentous than even the growth of Russia or the conquest of New France.
It is the rise of the bourgeoisie.

Driven on by insatiable ambition, not content to be lords of the world
of business, with ships and warehouses for castles and with clerks for
retainers, the bourgeoisie have placed their lawyers in the royal
service, their learned men in the academies, their economists at the
king's elbow, and with restless energy they push on to shape state and
society to their own ends. In England they have already helped to
dethrone kings and have secured some hold on Parliament, but on the
Continent their power and place is less advanced.

For the eighteenth century is still the grand age of monarchs, who take
Louis XIV as the pattern of princely power and pomp. "Benevolent
despots" they are, these monarchs meaning well to govern their people
with fatherly kindness. But their plans go wrong and their reforms fall
flat, while the bourgeoisie become self-conscious and self-reliant, and
rise up against the throne of the sixteenth Louis in France. It is the
bourgeoisie that start the revolutionary cry of "Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity," and it is this cry in the throats of the masses which
sends terror to the hearts of nobles and kings. Desperately the old
order--the old régime--defends itself. First France, then all Europe,
is affected. Revolutionary wars convulse the Continent. Never had the
world witnessed wars so disastrous, so bloody.

Yet the triumph of the bourgeoisie is not assured. The Revolution has
been but one battle in the long war between the rival aristocracies of
birth and of business--a war in which peasants and artisans now give
their lives for illusory dreams of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," now
fight their feudal lords, and now turn on their pretended liberators,
the bourgeoisie. For already it begins to dawn on the dull masses that
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" are chiefly for their masters.

The old regime, its decay, the rise of the bourgeoisie, the
disappointment of the common people,--these are the bold landmarks on
which the student must fix his attention, while in the following
chapters we sketch the condition of Europe in the eighteenth century,
and trace the course of the French Revolution, the career of Napoleon,
and the restoration of "law and order" under Metternich.




[Sidenote: General Backwardness]

If some "Rip Van Winkle" of the sixteenth century could have slept for
two centuries to awake in 1750, he would have found far less to marvel
at in the common life of the people than would one of us. Much of the
farming, even of the weaving, buying, and selling, was done just as it
had been done centuries before; and the great changes that were to
revolutionize the life and work of the people were as yet hardly
dreamed of. In fact, there was so much in common between the sixteenth
and eighteenth centuries, that the reader who has already made himself
familiar with the manor and the gild, as described in Chapter II, will
find himself quite at home in the "old regime," as the order of things
in the eighteenth century is now termed.

One might still see the countless little agricultural villages and
manor houses nestling among the hills or dotting the plains, surrounded
by green fields and fringed with forest or wasteland. The simple
villagers still cultivated their strips in the common fields in the
time-honored way, working hard for meager returns. A third of the land
stood idle every year; it often took a whole day merely to scratch the
surface of a single acre with the rude wooden plow then in use; cattle
were killed off in the autumn for want of good hay; fertilizers were
only crudely applied, if at all; many a humble peasant was content if
his bushel of seed brought him three bushels of grain, and was proud if
his fatted ox weighed over four hundred pounds, though a modern farmer
would grumble at results three or four times as good.

[Sidenote: "Gentlemen Farmers" and "Husbandry"]
[Sidenote: "Rotation of Crops"]

There were some enterprising and prosperous landowners who used newer
and better methods, and even wrote books about "husbandry," as
agriculture was called. The Dutch, especially, learned to cultivate
their narrow territory carefully, and from them English farmers
learned many secrets of tillage. They grew clover and "artificial
grasses"--such as rye--for their cattle, cultivated turnips for winter
fodder, tilled the soil more thoroughly, used fertilizers more
diligently, and even learned how to shift their crops from field to
field according to a regular plan, so that the soil would not lose its
fertility and would not have to be left idle or "fallow" every third

[Sidenote: Survival of Primitive Methods]

These new methods were all very fine for "gentlemen farmers," but for
the average peasant the old "open-field" system was an effective
barrier to progress. He could not plant new crops on his strips in the
grain fields, for custom forbade it; he could not breed his cows
scientifically, while they ran in with the rest of the village cattle.
At best he could only work hard and pray that his cows would not catch
contagion from the rest, and that the weeds from his neighbor's wheat-
patch might not spread into his own, for between such patches there was
neither wall nor fence.

[Sidenote: Survival of Serfdom]
[Sidenote: Sorry Condition of the Peasantry]

Primitive methods were not the only survivals of manorial life. Actual
serfdom still prevailed in most of the countries of Europe except
France [Footnote: Even in France, some serfdom still survived.] and
England, and even in these countries nominal freedom lifted the
peasantry but little above the common lot. It is true, indeed, that
countless differences in the degree and conditions of servitude existed
between Russians and Frenchmen, and even between peasants in the same
country or village. The English or French plowman, perhaps, might not
be sold to fight for other countries like the Hessians, nor could he be
commanded to marry an undesired bride, as were of the tenants of a
Russian nobleman. But in a general way we may say that all the peasants
of Europe suffered from much the same causes. With no voice in making
the laws, they were liable to heavy fines or capital punishment for
breaking the laws. Their advice was not asked when taxes were levied or
apportioned, but upon them fell the heaviest burdens of the state.

It was vexatious to pay outrageous fees for the use of a lord's mill,
bridge, oven, or wine-press, to be haled to court for an imaginary
offense, or to be called from one's fields to war, or to work on the
roads without pay. It was hard for the hungry serf to see the fat deer
venturing into his very dooryard, and to remember that the master of
the mansion house was so fond of the chase that he would not allow his
game to be killed for food for vulgar plowmen.

But these and similar vexations sank into insignificance in comparison
with the burdens of the taxes paid to lord, to church, and to king. In
every country of Europe the peasants were taxed, directly or
indirectly, for the support of the three pillars of the "old regime."
The form of such taxation in England differed widely from that in
Hungary; in Sweden, from that in Spain. But beneath discrepancies of
form, the system was essentially the same. Some idea of the triple
taxation that everywhere bore so heavily upon the peasantry may be
obtained from a brief resume of the financial obligations of an
ordinary French peasant to his king, his Church, and his lord.

[Sidenote: Peasant Obligations to Landlord]

To the lord the serf owed often three days' labor a week, in addition
to stated portions of grain and poultry. In place of servile work the
freeman paid a "quit-rent," that is, a sum of money instead of the
services which were considered to accompany the occupation of land.
Double rent was paid on the death of the peasant, and, if the farm was
sold, one-fifth of the price went to the lord. Sometimes, however, a
freeman held his land without quit-rent, but still had numerous
obligations which had survived from medieval times, such as the annual
sum paid for a "military protection" which he neither demanded nor

[Sidenote: Peasant Obligation to Church]

The second obligation was to the church--the tithe or tenth, which
usually amounted every year to a twelfth or a fifteenth of the gross
produce of the peasant's land.

[Sidenote: Peasant Obligations to King and State]

Heaviest of all were the taxes levied by the king. The _taille_,
or land tax, was the most important. The amount was not fixed, but was
supposed to be proportional to the value of the peasant's land and
dwelling. In practice the tax-collectors often took as much as they
could get. and a shrewd peasant would let his house go to pieces and
pretend to be utterly destitute in order that the assessors might not
increase the valuation of his property.

The other direct taxes were the poll tax, _i.e._, a certain sum
which everybody alike must pay, and the income tax, usually a twentieth
part of the income. Finally, there were indirect taxes, such as the
salt _gabelle_. Thus, in certain provinces every person had to buy
seven pounds of salt a year from the government salt-works at a price
ten times its real value. Road-making, too, was the duty of the
peasant, and the _corvée_, or labor on roads, often took several
weeks in a year.

[Sidenote: Burden of Taxation on Peasants]

All these burdens--dues to the lord, tithes to the church, taxes to the
king--left the peasant but little for himself. It is so difficult to
get exact figures that we can put no trust in the estimate of a famous
writer that dues, tithes, and taxes absorbed over four-fifths of the
French peasant's produce: nevertheless, we may be sure that the burden
was very great. In a few favored districts of France and England
farmers were able to pay their taxes and still live comfortably. But
elsewhere the misery of the people was such as can hardly be imagined.
With the best of harvests they could barely provide for their families,
and a dry summer or long winter would bring them to want. There was
only the coarsest of bread--and little of that; meat was a luxury; and
delicacies were for the rich. We read how starving peasants in France
tried to appease their hunger with roots and herbs, and in hard times
succumbed by thousands to famine. One-roomed mud huts with leaky
thatched roofs, bare and windowless, were good enough dwellings for
these tillers of the soil. In the dark corners of the dirt-floors
lurked germs of pestilence and death. Fuel was expensive, and the
bitter winter nights must have found many a peasant shivering
supperless on his bed of straw.

True, the gloom of such conditions was relieved here and there by a
prosperous village or a well-to-do peasant. But, speaking in a general
way, the sufferings of the poorer European peasants and serfs can
hardly be exaggerated. It was they who in large part had paid for the
wars, theaters, palaces, and pleasures of the courts of Europe.


[Sidenote: Growth of Towns]

Let us now turn our eyes from the country to the city, for in the towns
are to be found the bourgeoisie, the class in which we are most
interested. The steady expansion of commerce and industry during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had been attended by a remarkable
development of town life. Little villages had grown, until in 1787
there were 78 towns of over 10,000 inhabitants each. London, the
greatest city in Europe, had increased in population from about half a
million in 1685 to over a million in 1800. Paris was at least half as
large; Amsterdam was a great city; and several German towns like
Hamburg, Bremen, and Frankfort were important trading centers.

The towns had begun to lose some of their medieval characteristics.
They had spread out beyond their cramping walls; roomy streets and
pleasant squares made the newer sections more attractive. The old
fortifications, no longer needed for protection, served now as
promenades. City thoroughfares were kept cleaner, sometimes well paved
with cobbles; and at night the feeble but cheerful glow of oil street-
lamps lessened the terrors of the belated burgher who had been at the
theater or listened to protracted debates at the great town hall.

[Sidenote: Industry Gild Regulation]

The life of the town was nourished by industry and commerce. Industry
in the eighteenth century meant far more than baking bread, making
clothes, cobbling shoes, and fashioning furniture for use in the town;
it meant the production on a large scale of goods to sell in distant
places,--cloth, clocks, shoes, beads, dishes, hats, buttons, and what
not. Many of these articles were still manufactured under the
regulations of the old craft gilds. For although the gild system was
pretty well broken up in England, it still maintained its hold on the
Continent. In France the division of crafts had become so complicated
that innumerable bickerings arose between cobblers' gilds and
shoemakers' gilds, between watch-makers and clock-makers. In Germany
conditions were worse. The gilds, now aristocratic and practically
hereditary corporations, used their power to prevent all competition,
to keep their apprentices and journeymen working for little or nothing,
to insure high profits, and to prevent any technical improvements which
might conceivably injure them. "A hatter who improved his wares by
mixing silk with the wool was attacked by all the other hatters; the
inventor of sheet lead was opposed by the plumbers; a man who had made
a success in print-cloths was forced to return to antiquated methods by
the dyers."

[Sidenote: Government Regulation of Industry: Mercantilism]

To gild regulation was added government regulation. It will be
remembered that many seventeenth-century statesmen had urged their
kings to make laws for the greater prosperity of industry, and that
Colbert had given the classic expression in France to the mercantilist
idea that wealth could be cultivated by regulating and encouraging
manufactures. In order that French dyers might acquire a reputation for
thorough work, he issued over three hundred articles of instruction for
the better conduct of the dyeing business. In an age when unscrupulous
English merchants were hurting the market with poorly woven fabrics,
French weavers were given careful orders about the quality of the
thread, the breadth of the cloth, and the fineness of the weave. It is
said that in 1787 the regulations for French manufactures filled eight
volumes in quarto; and other governments, while less thorough, were
equally convinced of the wisdom of such a policy.

The mercantilist was not content with making rules for established
industries. In justice to him it should be explained that he was
anxious to plant new trades. Privileges, titles of nobility, exemption
from taxation, generous grants of money, and other favors were accorded
to enterprising business men who undertook to introduce new branches of

In general, however, the efforts of such mercantilists as Colbert have
been adversely criticized by economists. The regulations caused much
inconvenience and loss to many manufacturers, and the privileges
granted to new enterprises often favored unstable and unsuitable
industries at the expense of more natural and valuable trades. It is
impossible to estimate the value to France of Colbert's pet industries,
and equally impossible to see what would have happened had industry
been allowed free rein. But we must not entirely condemn the system
simply because its faults are so obvious and its benefits so hard to

[Sidenote: Restrictions on Commerce]

Commerce, like industry, was subject to restrictions and impeded by
antiquated customs. Merchants traversing the country were hindered by
poor roads; at frequent intervals they must pay toll before passing a
knight's castle, a bridge, or a town gate. Customs duties were levied
on commerce between the provinces of a single kingdom. And the cost of
transportation was thus made so high that the price of a cask of wine
passing from the Orléanais to Normandy--two provinces in northwestern
France--increased twenty-fold.

From our past study of the commercial and colonial wars of the
eighteenth century, especially those between France and Great Britain,
we have already learned that mercantilist ideas were still dominant in
foreign commerce. We have noted the heavy protective tariffs which were
designed to shut out foreign competition. We have discussed the
Navigation Acts, by means of which England encouraged her ship-owners.
We have also mentioned the absorption, by specially chartered
companies, of the profits of the lucrative European trade with the
Indies. The East India Company, the Hudson's Bay Company, the Dutch
East India Company, and the French _Compagnie des Indes_ were but
a few famous examples of the chartered companies which still
practically monopolized the trade of most non-European countries.

[Sidenote: Great Growth of Commerce]

Customs and companies may have been injurious in many respects, but
commerce grew out of all bounds. The New World gave furs, timber,
tobacco, cotton, rice, sugar, rum, molasses, coffee, dyes, gold, and
silver, in return for negro slaves, manufactures, and Oriental wares;
and the broad Atlantic highways were traversed by many hundreds of
heavily laden ships. The spices, jewels, tea, and textiles of the Far
East made rich cargoes for well-built East Indiamen. Important, too,
was the traffic which occupied English and Dutch merchant fleets in the
Baltic; and the flags of many nations were carried by traders coastwise
along all the shores of Europe. Great Britain at the opening of the
eighteenth century possessed a foreign commerce estimated at
$60,000,000, and that of France was at least two-thirds as great.
During the century the volume of commerce was probably more than

It is difficult to realize the tremendous importance of this expansion
of commerce and industry. It had erected colonial empires, caused wars,
lured millions of peasants from their farms, and built populous cities.
But most important of all--it had given strength to the bourgeoisie.

[Sidenote: Rise of the Bourgeoisie]

Merchants, bankers, wholesalers, rich gild-masters, and even less
opulent shopkeepers, formed a distinct "middle class," between the
privileged clergy and nobility on the one hand, and the oppressed
peasant and artisan, or manual laborer, on the other. The middle class,
often called by the French word _bourgeoisie_ because it dwelt in
towns or _bourgs_, was strongest in England, the foremost
commercial nation of Europe, was somewhat weaker in France, and very
much weaker in less commercial countries, such as Germany, Austria, and

If the bourgeoisie was all-powerful in the world of business, it was
influential in other spheres. Lawyers came almost exclusively from
commercial families. Judges, local magistrates, keepers of prisons,
government secretaries, intendants, all the world of officialdom was
thronged with scions of bourgeois families. The better and older
middle-class families prided themselves on their wealth, influence, and
culture. They read the latest books on science and philosophy; they
sometimes criticized the religious ideas of the past; and they eagerly
discussed questions of constitutional law and political economy.

[Sidenote: Ambition of the Bourgeoisie]

Ambition came quite naturally with wealth and learning. The bourgeoisie
wanted power and privilege commensurate with their place in business
and administration. It seemed unbearable that a foppish noble whose
only claims to respect were a moldy castle and a worm-eaten patent of
nobility should everywhere take precedence over men of means and
brains. Why should the highest social distinctions, the richest
sinecures, and the posts of greatest honor in the army and at court be
closed to men of ignoble birth, as if a man were any better for the
possession of a high-sounding title?

Moreover, the bourgeoisie desired a more direct say in politics. In
England, to be sure, the sons of rich merchants were frequently
admitted to the nobility, and commercial interests were pretty well
represented in Parliament. In France, however, the feudal nobility was
more arrogant and exclusive, and the government less in harmony with
middle-class notions. The extravagant and wasteful administration of
royal money was censured by every good business man. It was argued that
if France might only have bourgeois representation in a national
parliament to regulate finance and to see that customs duties, trade-
laws, and foreign relations were managed in accordance with business
interests, then all would be well.


Thus far, in analyzing social and economic conditions in the eighteenth
century, we have concerned ourselves with the lowest class, the
peasants and day laborers, and with the middle class or bourgeoisie--
the "Third Estate" of France and the "Commons" of Great Britain. All of
these were technically unprivileged or ignoble classes. The highest
place in society was reserved for the classes of the privileged, the
clergy and the nobility, constituting the First and the Second Estates,
respectively. And it is to these that we must now direct our attention.

[Sidenote: Small Number of "Privileged"]

The privileged classes formed a very small minority of the population.
Of the 25,000,000 inhabitants of France, probably less than 150,000
were nobles and 130,000 clerics; about one out of every hundred of the
people was therefore privileged.

[Sidenote: Large Number of "Privileges"]

This small upper class was distinguished from the common herd by rank,
possessions, and privileges. The person of noble birth, _i.e._,
the son of a noble, was esteemed to be inherently finer and better than
other men; so much so that he would disdain to marry a person of the
lower class. He was addressed in terms of respect--"my lord," "your
Grace"; common men saluted him as their superior. His clothes were more
gorgeous than those of the plain people; on his breast glittered the
badges of honorary societies, and his coach was proudly decorated with
an ancestral coat of arms. His "gentle" birth admitted him to the
polite society of the court and enabled him to seek preferment in
church or army.

More substantial than marks of honor were the actual possessions of
nobles and clergy. Each noble bequeathed to his eldest son a castle or
a mansion with more or less territory from which to collect rents or
feudal dues. Bishops, abbots, and archbishops received their office by
election or appointment rather than by inheritance, and, being
unmarried, could not transmit their stations to children. But in
countries where the wealth of the Church had not been confiscated by
Protestants, the "prince of the Church" often enjoyed during his
lifetime magnificent possessions. The bishop of Strassburg had an
annual income approximating 500,000 francs. Castles, cathedrals,
palaces, rich vestments, invaluable pictures, golden chalices, rentals
from broad lands, tithes from the people,--these were the property of
the clergy. It is estimated that the clergy and nobility each owned
one-fifth of France, and that one-third of all the land of Europe, one-
half the revenue, and two-thirds the capital, were in the hands of
Christian churches.

The noble families, possessing thousands of acres, and monopolizing the
higher offices of church and army, were further enriched, especially in
France, by presents of money from the king, by pensions, by grants of
monopolies, and by high-salaried positions which entailed little or no
work. "One young man was given a salary of $3600 for an office whose
sole duty consisted in signing his name twice a year."

[Sidenote: Exemption from Taxation]

With all their wealth the first two orders contributed almost nothing
to lighten the financial burdens of the state. [Footnote: Exemption
from taxation was often and similarly granted to bourgeois incumbents
of government offices.] The Church in France claimed exemption from
taxation, but made annual gifts to the king of several hundred thousand
dollars, though such grants represented less than one per cent of its
income. The nobles, too, considered the payment of direct taxes a
disgrace to their gentle blood, and did not hesitate by trickery to
evade indirect taxation, leaving the chief burdens to fall upon the
lower classes, and most of all upon the peasantry.

[Sidenote: Failure of the Privileged to Perform Real Services]
[Sidenote: The Higher Nobility]

All these advantages, privileges, and immunities might be looked upon
as a fitting reward which medieval Europe had given to her nobles for
protecting peaceable plowmen from the marauding bands then so common,
and which she had bestowed upon her clergy for preserving education,
for encouraging agriculture, for fostering the arts, for tending the
poor, the sick, and the traveler, and for performing the offices of
religion. But long before the eighteenth century the protective
functions of feudal nobles had been transferred to the royal
government. No longer useful, the hereditary nobility was merely
burdensome, and ornamental. Such as could afford it, spent their lives
in the cities or at the royal court where they rarely did anything
worth while, unless it were to invent an unusually delicate compliment
or to fashion a flawless sonnet. Their morals were not of the best--it
was almost fashionable to be vicious--but their manners were perfect.

Meanwhile, the landed estates of these absentee lords were in charge of
flint-hearted agents, whose sole mission was to squeeze money from the
peasants, to make them pay well for mill, bridge, and oven, to press to
the uttermost every claim which might give the absent master a larger

[Sidenote: The Country Gentry]

The poorer noble, the "country gentleman," was hardly able to live so
extravagant a life, and accordingly remained at home, sometimes making
friends of the villagers, standing god-father to peasant-children, or
inviting heavy-booted but light-hearted plowmen to dance in the castle
courtyard. But often his life was dull enough, with rents hard to
collect, and only hunting, drinking, and gossip to pass the time away.

[Sidenote: The Clergy]

A similar and sharper contrast was observable between the higher and
lower clergy, in England as well as in Roman Catholic countries. Very
frequently dissipated young nobles were nominated bishops or abbots:
they looked upon their office as a source of revenue, but never dreamed
of discharging any spiritual duties. While a Cardinal de Rohan with
2,500,000 livres a year astonished the court of France with his
magnificence and luxury, many a shabby but faithful country curate,
with an uncertain income of less than $150 a year, was doing his best
to make both ends meet, with a little to spare for charity.


[Sidenote: The Catholic Church]

The great ecclesiastical organization that had dominated the middle
ages was no longer the one church of Europe, but was still the most
impressive. Although the Protestant Revolt of the sixteenth century had
established independent denominations in the countries of northern
Europe, as we have seen in Chapter IV, Roman Catholic Christianity
remained the state religion of Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Austria,
the Austrian Netherlands, Bavaria, Poland, and several of the Swiss
Cantons. Moreover, large sections of the population of Ireland,
Bohemia, Hungary, Asia, and America professed Catholic Christianity.

Orthodox Roman Catholics held fast to their faith in dogmas and
sacraments and looked for spiritual guidance, correction, and comfort
to the regular and secular clergy of their Church. The "secular"
hierarchy of pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, and
deacons, did not cease its pious labor "in the world"; nor was there
lack of zealous souls willing to forego the pleasures of this world,
that they might live holier lives as monks, nuns, or begging friars,--
the "regular" clergy.

[Sidenote: Relations of the Catholic Church with Lay States]

In its relations with lay states, the Roman Catholic Church had changed
more than in its internal organization. Many Protestant rulers now
recognized the pope merely as an Italian prince, [Footnote: The pope,
it will be remembered, ruled the central part of Italy as a temporal
prince.] and head of an undesirable religious sect--Roman Catholics
were either persecuted, or, as in Great Britain, deprived of political
and civil rights. The Pope, on the other hand, could hardly regard as
friends those who had denied the spiritual mission and confiscated the
temporal possessions of the Church.

In Roman Catholic countries, too, the power of the pope had been
lessened. The old dispute whether pope or king should control the
appointment of bishops, abbots, and other high church officers had at
last been settled in favor of the king. The pope consented to recognize
royal appointees, provided they were "godly and suitable" men; in
return he usually received a fee ("annate") from the newly appointed
prelate. Other taxes the pope rarely ventured to levy; but good Roman
Catholics continued to pay "Peter's Pence" as a free-will offering, and
the bishops occasionally taxed themselves for his benefit. In other
ways, also, the power of the Church was curtailed. Royal courts now
took cognizance of the greater part of those cases which had once been
within the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical courts;[Footnote: Blasphemy,
contempt of religion, and heresy were, however, still matters for
church courts.] the right of appeal to the Roman Curia was limited;
and the lower clergy might be tried in civil courts. Finally, papal
edicts were no longer published in a country without the sanction of
the king. These curtailments of papal privilege were doubtless
important, but they meant little or nothing to the millions of peasants
and humble workmen who heard Mass, were confessed, and received the
sacraments as their fathers had done before them.

[Sidenote: Surviving Privileges of the Church]

Besides their incalculable influence over the souls of men, the clergy
were an important factor in the civil life of Roman Catholic countries.
Education was mostly under their auspices; they conducted the hospitals
and relieved the poor. Marriages were void unless solemnized in the
orthodox manner, and, in the eye of the law, children born outside of
Christian wedlock might not inherit property. Heretics who died
unshriven, were denied the privilege of burial in Catholic cemeteries.

Of the exemption of the clergy from taxation, and of the wealth of the
Church, we have already spoken, as well as of the high social rank of
its prelates--a rank more in keeping with that of wealthy worldly
noblemen than with that of devout "servants of the Lord." But we have
yet to mention the influence of the Church in suppressing heresy.

In theory the Roman Catholic religion was still obligatory in Catholic
states. Uniformity of faith was still considered essential to political
unity. Kings still promised at coronation faithfully to extirpate
heretical sects. In Spain, during the first half of the eighteenth
century hundreds of heretics were condemned by the Inquisition and
burned at the stake; only toward the close of the century was there an
abatement of religious intolerance. In France, King Louis XIV had
revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, and in the eighteenth century one
might have found laws on the French statute-books directing that men
who attended Protestant services should be made galley-slaves, that
medical aid should be withheld from impenitent heretics, and that
writers of irreligious books should suffer death. Such laws were very
poorly enforced, however, and active religious persecution was dying
out in France in the second half of the eighteenth century. But
toleration did not mean equality; full civil and political rights were
still denied the several hundred thousand Huguenots in France.

[Sidenote: Summary of Weaknesses in the Catholic Church]

The strength of the Roman Catholic Church in the eighteenth century was
impaired by four circumstances: (1) the existence of bitterly
antagonistic Protestant sects; (2) the growth of royal power and of the
sentiment of nationalism, at the expense of papal power and of
internationalism; (3) the indolence and worldliness of some of the
prelates; and (4) the presence of internal dissensions. The first three
circumstances should be clear from what has already been said, but a
word of explanation is necessary about the fourth.

[Sidenote: Jansenism]

The first of these dissensions arose concerning the teachings of a
certain Flemish bishop by the name of Cornelius Janssen (1585-1638),
[Footnote: Janssen is commonly cited by the Latin version of his name--
Jansenius.] whose followers, known as Jansenists, had possessed
themselves of a sort of hermitage and nunnery at Port-Royal in the
vicinity of Paris. Jansenism found a number of earnest disciples and
able exponents, whose educational work and reforming zeal brought them
into conflict with the Jesuits. The Jesuits accused the Jansenists of
heresy, affirming that Janssen's doctrine of conversion-by-the-will-of-
God was in last analysis practically Calvin's predestination. For some
years the controversy raged. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), a famous
mathematician and experimenter in physics, defended the Jansenists
eloquently and learnedly, but Jesuits had the ear of Louis XIV and
broke up the little colony at Port-Royal. Four years later the pope
issued a famous bull, called "Unigenitus" (1713), definitively
condemning Jansenist doctrines as heretical; but the sect still lived
on, especially in Holland, and "Unigenitus" was disliked by many
orthodox Roman Catholics, who thought its condemnations too sweeping
and too severe.

[Sidenote: Febronianism]

A second dispute, questioning the authority of the papacy, centered in
a German theologian [Footnote: Johann Nikolaus von Hoatheim, auxiliary
bishop of Trier. His famous work was published in 1763.] who wrote
under the Latin name of Febronius. Febronianism was an attempted
revival of the conciliar movement of the fifteenth century and closely
resembled "Gallicanism," as the movement in favor of the "Liberties of
the Gallican Church" was called. These "Liberties" had been formulated
in a French declaration of 1682 and involved two major claims: (1) that
the pope had no right to depose or otherwise to interfere with temporal
monarchs, and (2) that in spiritual affairs the general council of
bishops (œcumenical council) was superior to the sovereign pontiff.
This twofold movement towards nationalism and representative church
government was most strongly controverted by the Jesuits, who took
their stand on the assertion that the pope was supreme in all things.
By the opponents of the Jesuits, this looking "beyond the mountains" to
the Roman Curia for ultimate authority was called Ultramontanism
(beyond-the-mountainism). In almost every Catholic country of Europe
the struggle between Ultramontanism and Febronianism aroused
controversy, and the nature of papal supremacy remained a mooted point
well into the nineteenth century.

[Sidenote: Suppression of the Jesuit Order]

Towards the close of the eighteenth century Ultramontanism received a
serious though temporary setback by the suppression of the Jesuits
(1773). For over two centuries members of the Society of Jesus had been
famed as schoolmasters, preachers, controversialists, and missionaries;
but in the eighteenth century the order became increasingly involved in
temporal business; its power and wealth were abused; its political
entanglements incurred the resentment of reforming royal ministers; and
some of its missionaries became scandalously lax in their doctrines.
The result was the suppression of the order, first in Portugal (1759),
then in other countries, and finally altogether by a papal decree of
1773. [Footnote: In Russia, where the order of suppression was not
enforced, the Jesuits kept their corporate organization. Subsequently,
on 7 August, 1814, the entire society was restored by papal bull, and
is now in a flourishing condition in many countries.]

[Sidenote: The Anglican Church]

We shall next consider the Anglican Church, whose complete independence
from the papacy, it will be remembered, was established by Henry VIII
of England, and whose doctrinal position had been defined in the
Thirty-nine Articles of Elizabeth's reign. It was the state Church of
England, Ireland, and Wales, and had scattering adherents in Scotland
and in the British colonies. Like the Roman Catholic Church in France,
the Anglican Church enjoyed in the British Isles, excepting Scotland,
special privileges, great wealth, and the collection of tithes from
Anglicans and non-Anglicans alike. It was intensely national,
independent of papal control or other foreign influence, and patriotic
in spirit. It retained a hierarchical government similar to that of the
Roman Catholics. As in France, the bishops were inclined to use the
emoluments without doing the work of their office, while the country
curates were very poor.

In its relations with others, the Anglican Church was not very liberal.
In England, Protestant (Calvinistic) Dissenters had been granted
liberty of worship in 1689 (Toleration Act) but still they might not
hold civil, military, or political office without the special
dispensation of Parliament. Baptism, registration of births and deaths,
and marriage could be performed legally only by Anglican clergymen.
Non-Anglicans were barred from Oxford and could take no degree at
Cambridge University.

Worst of all was the lot of the Roman Catholics. In England they had
practically no civil, political, or religious rights. By a law of 1700
[Footnote: Repealed in 1778, but on condition that Roman Catholics
should deny the temporal power of the pope and his right to depose
kings.] the Roman Catholic must abjure the Mass or lose his property,
and priests celebrating Mass were liable to life imprisonment. In
Ireland the communicants of the "Church of Ireland" (Anglican)
constituted a very small minority, [Footnote: Even in the nineteenth
century, there were only about 500,000 Anglicans out of a population of
somewhat less than 6,000,000.] while the native Roman Catholics,
comprising over four-fifths of the population, were not only seriously
hindered from exercising their own religion, not only deprived of their
political rights, not only made subservient to the economic interests
of the Protestants, but actually forced to pay the tithe to support
English bishops and curates, who too often lived in England, since
their parishioners were all Roman Catholics.

[Sidenote: Protestant Sects in England: Baptists]

The Dissenters from the Anglican Church embraced many different creeds.
We have already spoken of the Calvinistic Presbyterians and
Separatists. Besides these, several new sects had appeared. The Baptist
Church was a seventeenth-century off-shoot of Separatism. To
Calvinistic theology and Congregational Church government, the Baptists
had added a belief in adult baptism, immersion, and religious liberty.

[Sidenote: Unitarians]

A group of persons who denied the divinity of Christ, thereby departing
widely from usual Protestantism as well as from traditional
Catholicism, came into some prominence in the eighteenth century
through secessions from the Anglican Church and through the preaching
of the scientist Joseph Priestley, and gradually assumed the name of
Unitarians. It was not until 1844 that the sect obtained complete
religious liberty in England.

[Sidenote: Quakers]

A most remarkable departure from conventional forms was made under the
leadership of George Fox, the son of a weaver, whose followers, loosely
organized as the Society of Friends, were often derisively called
Quakers, because they insisted that true religion was accompanied by
deep emotions and quakings of spirit. Although severely persecuted,
[Footnote: In 1685 as many as 1460 Quakers lay in English prisons.] the
Quakers grew to be influential at home, and in the colonies, where they
founded Pennsylvania (1681). Their refusal to take oaths, their quaint
"thee" and "thou," their simple and somber costumes, and their habit of
sitting silent in religious meeting until the spirit should move a
member to speak, made them a most picturesque body. Professional
ministers and the ceremonial observance of Baptism and the Lord's
Supper, they held to be forms destructive of spontaneous religion. War,
they said, gave free rein to un-Christian cruelty, selfishness, and
greed; and, therefore, they would not fight. They were also vigorous
opponents of negro slavery.

[Sidenote: Methodists]

The Methodist movement did not come until the eighteenth century. By
the year 1740, a group of earnest Oxford students had won the nickname
of "Methodists" by their abstinence from frivolous amusements and their
methodical cultivation of fervor, piety, and charity. Their leader,
John Wesley (1703-1791), was a man of remarkable energy, rising at four
in the morning, filling every moment with work, living frugally on £28
a year, visiting prisons, and exhorting his companions to piety. The
Methodist leaders were very devout and orthodox Anglicans, but they
were so anxious "to spread Scriptural Holiness over the land" that they
preached in open fields as well as in churches. Wesley and other great
orators appealed to the emotions of thousands of miners, prisoners, and
ignorant weavers, and often moved them to tears. It is said that John
Wesley preached more than 40,000 sermons.

The Methodist preachers gradually became estranged from the Anglican
Church, established themselves as a new dissenting sect, and dropped
much of the Anglican ritual. The influence of their preaching was very
marked, however, and many orthodox Anglican clergymen traveled about
preaching to the lower classes. This "evangelical movement" is
significant because it showed that a new class of industrial workers
had grown up without benefit of the church or protection of the state.
We shall subsequently hear more of them in connection with the events
of the Industrial Revolution.

[Sidenote: Lutheran Churches on the Continent]

In the eighteenth century, Lutheranism was the state religion of
Denmark (including Norway), Sweden, and of several German states,
notably Prussia, Saxony, and Brunswick. The Lutheran churches retained
much of the old ritual and episcopal government. Ecclesiastical lands,
however, had been secularized, and Lutheran pastors were supported by
free-will offerings and state subventions. In Prussia, [Footnote:
Later, in 1817, the Lutherans and Calvinists of Prussia were brought
together, under royal pressure, to form the "Evangelical Church."
According to the king, this was not a fusion of the two Protestant
faiths, but merely an external union.] Denmark, and Sweden the church
recognized the king as its _summus episcopus_ or supreme head.

[Sidenote: Reformed Churches]

Zwinglian and Calvinistic churches were usually called "Reformed" or
"Presbyterian" and represented a more radical deviation than
Lutheranism from Roman Catholic theology and ritual, holding the Lord's
Supper to be but a commemorative ceremony, doing away with altar-
lights, crucifixes, and set prayers, and governing themselves by synods
of priests or presbyters. In the eighteenth century Presbyterianism was
still the established religion of Scotland, and of the Dutch
Netherlands. In France the Huguenots, in Switzerland the French-
speaking Calvinists and German-speaking Zwinglians, and numerous
congregations in southern Germany still represented the Reformed Church
of Calvin and Zwingli. [Footnote: For the Orthodox Church in Russia,
see above, pp. 122, 372, 380. Some reforms in the ritual had been
introduced by a certain Nikon, a patriarch of the seventeenth century.]

[Sidenote: Growth of Skepticism. Deism]

One of the most noteworthy features of the eighteenth century was the
appearance of a large number of doubters of Christianity. In the
comparatively long history of the Christian Church, there had often
been reformers, who attacked specific doctrines or abuses, but never
before, with the possible exception of Italian humanists of the
fifteenth century, [Footnote: See above, pp. 124, 182 ff.] had there
been such a considerable and influential number who ventured to assail
the very foundations of the Christian belief. During the last quarter
of the seventeenth century, a number of English philosophers, imbued
with enthusiasm for the discovery of scientific laws, went on to apply
the newer scientific methods to religion. They claimed that the Bible
was untrustworthy, that the dogmas and ceremonies of the churches were
useless if not actually harmful, and that true religion was quite
natural in man and independent of miraculous revelation. God, they
asserted, had created the universe and established laws for it. He
would not upset these laws to answer the foolish prayers of a puny
human being. Men served God best by discounting miracles, discrediting
"superstition," and living in accordance with natural law. Just what
this law was, they left largely to the common sense of each man to
determine. As a result, the positive side of Deism, as the body of the
new teachings was called, was lost in vagueness, and the negative side
--the mere denial of orthodox Christianity--became uppermost in men's

Deism was important in several ways, especially for France, whence it
was carried from England. (1) For a large part of the most intelligent
and influential classes, it _destroyed reverence_ for the Church,
and prepared the way for the religious experiments of the French
Revolution. (2) It gave an impetus to _philosophers_ who evolved
great systems and exhibited wonderful ingenuity and confidence in
formulating laws which would explain the why, what, whence, and whither
of human life. (3) While casting doubt on the efficacy of particular
religions, it demanded _toleration_ for all. (4) Finally, it was
responsible for a great increase of _indifference_ to religion.
People too lazy or too ignorant to understand the philosophic basis of
Deism, used the arguments of Deists in justification of their contempt
for religion, and to many people disbelief and intelligence seemed to
be synonymous. We have considered Deism here for its significant
bearing on the religious situation in the eighteenth century. In the
following section we shall see how it was part and parcel of the
scientific and intellectual spirit of the times.


[Sidenote: Art]

As we have observed in an earlier chapter, both science and art
flowered in the sixteenth century. The great men of the eighteenth
century, however, devoted themselves almost exclusively to science; and
the artists of the time were too insincere, too intent upon pleasing
shallow-brained and frivolous courtiers, to produce much that was worth
while. Great numbers of plays were written, it is true, but they were
hopelessly dull imitations of classic models. Imitative and uninspired
likewise were statues and paintings and poems. One merit they
possessed. If a French painter lacked force and originality, he could
at least portray with elegance and charm a group of fine ladies angling
in an artificial pool. Elegance, indeed, redeemed the eighteenth
century from imitative dullness and stupid ostentation: elegance
expressed more often in perfumes, laces, and mahogany than in paint or
marble. The silk-stockinged courtier accompanying his exquisitely
perfect bow with a nicely worded compliment was surely as much an
artist as the sculptor. Nor can one help feeling that the chairs of
Louis XV were made not to sit in, but to admire; for their curving
mahogany legs look too slenderly delicate, their carved and gilded
backs too uncomfortable, for mere use. Chairs and fine gentlemen were
alike useless, and alike elegant.

[Sidenote: The New Science]

More substantial were the achievements of eighteenth-century
scientists. From philosophers of an earlier century--Francis Bacon
(1561-1626) and René Descartes (1596-1650)--they learned to question
everything, to seek new knowledge by actual experiment, to think
boldly. You must not blindly believe in God, they said, you must first
prove His existence. Or, if you will learn how the body is made, it
will not do to believe what Hippocrates or any other Greek authority
said about it; you must cut rabbits open and see with your own eyes
where heart and lungs are hidden beneath the coat of fur. Seeing and
thinking for oneself were the twin principles of the new scientific

[Sidenote: Isaac Newton]

The new science found many able exponents in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, and of them all Sir Isaac Newton (1646-1727) was
probably the most illustrious. Coming from a humble family in a little
English village, Newton at an early age gave evidence of uncommon
intelligence. At Cambridge University he astonished his professors and
showed such great skill in mathematics that he was given a professor's
chair when only twenty-three years old.

For Descartes, Newton conceived great admiration, and, like Descartes,
he applied himself to experimentation as well as to formal mathematics.
His boyish ingenuity in the construction of windmills, kites, and
water-clocks was now turned to more serious ends. Like other scientists
of the day, he experimented with chemicals in his laboratory, and tried
different combinations of lenses, prisms, and reflectors, until he was
able to design a great telescope with which to observe the stars.

His greatest achievement was in astronomy. Galileo, Copernicus, and
other investigators had already concluded that the earth is but one of
many similar bodies moving around the sun, which in turn is only one of
countless suns--for every star is a sun. Now Newton wondered what held
these mighty spheres in their places in space, for they appeared to
move in definite and well-regulated orbits without any visible support
or prop. It is alleged that the answer to the problem was suggested by
the great philosopher's observation of a falling apple. The same
invisible force that made the apple fall to the ground must, he is said
to have reasoned, control the moon, sun, and stars. The earth is pulled
toward the sun, as the apple to the earth, but it is also pulled toward
the stars, each of which is a sun so far away that it looks to us very
small. The result is that the earth neither falls to the sun nor to any
one star, but moves around the sun in a regular path.

This suggestive principle by which every body in the universe is pulled
towards every other body, Newton called the law of universal
gravitation. Newton's law [Footnote: It was really only a shrewd guess,
but it appears to work so well that we often call it a "law."] was
expressed in a simple mathematical formula [Footnote: "The force
increases directly in proportion to the product of the masses, and
inversely in proportion to the square of the distance."] by means of
which physics and astronomy were developed as mathematical sciences.
When a modern astronomer foretells an eclipse of the sun or discusses
the course of a comet, or when a physicist informs us that he has
weighed the earth, he is depending directly or indirectly upon Newton's

[Sidenote: Experimental and Applied Science]

The brilliance of Sir Isaac Newton's individual achievement should not
obscure the fame of a host of other justly celebrated scientists and
inventors. One of Newton's contemporaries, the German philosopher
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz (1646-1716), elaborated a new and
valuable branch of mathematics, the differential calculus, [Footnote:
The credit for this achievement was also claimed by Newton.] which has
proved to be of immense service in modern engineering. At the same
time, the first experiments were being made with the mysterious
potencies of electricity: the electrical researches of Benjamin
Franklin (1706-1790), his discovery that flashes of lightning are
merely electrical phenomena and his invention of the lightning rod are
too familiar to need repeating; the work of Luigi Galvani (1737-1798)
and of Count Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), two famous Italian
physicists, is less well known, but their labors contributed much to
the development of physical science, and their memory is perpetuated
whenever the modern electrician refers to a "voltaic cell" or when the
tinsmith speaks of "galvanized" iron. In this same period, the first
important advances were made in the construction of balloons, and the
conquest of the air was begun. In the eighteenth century, moreover, the
foundations of modern chemistry were laid by Joseph Priestley (1733-
1804), Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794), and Henry Cavendish
(1731-1810); oxygen was discovered, water was decomposed into its
elements, and the nomenclature of modern chemistry had its inception.
In medicine and surgery, too, pioneer work was done by John Hunter
(1728-1793), a noted Scotch surgeon and anatomist, and by the Swiss
professor Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777), the "father of modern
physiology"; the facts which eighteenth-century physicians discovered
regarding the circulation of the blood made possible more intelligent
and more effective methods of treating disease; and just at the close
of the eighteenth century, Edward Jenner (1749-1823), an English
physician, demonstrated that the dread disease of smallpox could be
prevented by vaccination. Geographical knowledge was vastly extended by
the voyages of scientific explorers, like the English navigator Captain
James Cook [Footnote: The Captain Cook who discovered, or rediscovered,
Australia. See above, P. 340.] (1728-1779) and the French sailor Louis
de Bougainville (1739-1811), in the hitherto uncharted expanses of the
southern Pacific. Furthermore, since these explorers frequently brought
home specimens of unfamiliar tropical animals and plants, rich material
was provided for zoology and botany, which, thanks to the efforts of
the Frenchman Georges de Buffon (1707-1788) and of the Swede Carolus
Linnaeus (1707-1778), were just becoming important sciences.

[Sidenote: Popularity of the New Science]

One reason for the rapid development of natural science in the
eighteenth century was the unprecedented popularity and favor enjoyed
by scientists. Kings granted large pensions to scientists; British
ministers bestowed remunerative offices, and petty princes showered
valuable gifts upon them. Pretentious observatories with ponderous
telescopes were built, often at public expense, in almost every country
of Europe. Groups of learned men were everywhere banded together in
"academies" or "societies." The "Royal Society" of London, founded in
1662, listened to reports of the latest achievements in mathematics,
astronomy, and physics. The members of the _Académie française
(French Academy) were granted pensions by Louis XIV and even reckoned
Newton among their honorary members.

Never before had there been such interest in science, and never before
had there been such opportunity to learn. Printing was now well
developed; the learned societies and observatories published reports of
the latest development in all branches of knowledge. Encyclopedias were
gotten out professing to embody in one set of volumes the latest
information relative to all the new sciences. Books were too expensive
for the common person, but not so for the bourgeoisie, nor for numerous
nobles. Indeed, it became quite the fashion in society to be a
"savant," a scientist, a philosopher, to dabble in chemistry, perhaps
even to have a little laboratory or a telescope, and to dazzle one's
friends with one's knowledge.

[Sidenote: The Spirit of Progress and Reform]

It seemed as if the golden age was dawning: the human mind seemed to be
awakening from the slumber of centuries to con the world, to unravel
the mysteries of life, and to discover the secrets of the universe.
Confident that only a little thought would be necessary to free the
world from vice, ignorance, and superstition, thinkers now turned
boldly to attack the vexing problems of religion and morality, to
criticize state, society, and church, and to point the way to a new and
earthly paradise.

This tendency--this enthusiasm--has usually been styled "rationalism"
because its champions sought to make everything _rational_ or
reasonable. Its foremost representatives were to be found in Great
Britain between 1675 and 1725. They wrote many books discussing
abstruse problems of philosophy, which can have slight interest for us;
but certain ideas they had of very practical importance, ideas which
probably found their most notable expression in the writings of John
Locke (1632-1704). Locke argued (1) that all government exists, or
should exist, by consent of the governed--by a "social" contract, as it
were; (2) that education should be more widespread; (3) that
superstition and religious formalism should not be allowed to obscure
"natural laws" and "natural religion"; and (4) that religious
toleration should be granted to all but atheists.

The ideas of these English philosophers were destined to exercise a far
greater influence upon France than upon England. They found delighted
admirers among the nobility, ardent disciples among the bourgeoisie,
and eloquent apostles in Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau.

Without a doubt, the foremost figure in the intellectual world of the
eighteenth century was François Marie Arouet, or, as he called himself,
François M. A. de Voltaire (1694-1778). Even from his boyhood he had
been a clever hand at turning verses, and had fully appreciated his own
cleverness. His businesslike father did not enjoy the boy's poetry,
especially if it was written when young François should have been
studying law. But François had a mind of his own; he liked to show his
cleverness in gay society and relished making witty rhymes about the
foibles of public ministers or the stupidity of the prince regent of

His sharp tongue and sarcastic pen were a source of constant danger to
Voltaire. For libel the regent had him imprisoned a year in the
Bastille. Some years later he was beaten by the lackeys of an offended
nobleman, again sent to the Bastille, and then exiled three years in

At times he was the idol of Paris, applauded by _philosophes_ and
petted by the court, or again he would be a refugee from the wrath of
outraged authorities. For a great part of his life he resided at Cirey
in Lorraine,--with his mistress, his books, his half-finished plays,
and his laboratory--for Voltaire, like all _philosophes_, had to
play at science. Here he lived in constant readiness to flee over the
border if the king should move against him. For a time he lived in
Germany as the protégé of Frederick the Great, but he treated that
irascible monarch with neither tact nor deference, and soon left Berlin
to escape the king's ire. He visited Catherine the Great of Russia. He
also lived at Geneva for a while, but even there he failed to keep
peace with the magistrates.

Such conflicts with established authority only increased his fame.
Moreover, his three years' exile in England (1726-1729) had been of
untold value, for they had given him a first-hand acquaintance with
English rationalism. He had been brought up to discount religious
"superstition" but the English thinkers provided him with a well-
considered philosophy. Full of enthusiasm for the ideas of his English
friends, he wrote _Letters on the English_--a triumph of deistic
philosophy and sarcastic criticism of church and society.

The opinions which Voltaire henceforth never ceased to expound had long
been held by English rationalists. He combined (1) admiration for
experimental science with (2) an exalted opinion of his own ability to
reason out the "natural laws" which were supposed to lie at the base of
human nature, religion, society, the state, and the universe in
general. (3) He was a typical Deist, thinking that the God who had made
the myriad stars of the firmament and who had promulgated eternal laws
for the universe, would hardly concern Himself with the soul of Pierre
or Jean. To him all priests were impostors, and sacraments meaningless
mummery, and yet he would not abolish religion entirely. Voltaire often
said that he believed in a "natural religion," but never explained it
fully. Indeed, he was far more interested in tearing down than in
building up, and disposed rather to scoff at the priests, teachings,
and practices of the Catholic Church than to convert men to a better
religion. (4) Likewise in his criticism of government and of society,
he confined himself mostly to bitter denunciations of contemporaneous
conditions, without offering a substitute or suggesting practical
reforms. His nearest approach to the practical was his admiration for
English institutions, but he never explained how the "liberties" of
England were to be transplanted into France.

Voltaire was not an acutely original thinker. Nevertheless, his
innumerable tragedies, comedies, histories, essays, and letters
established his reputation as the most versatile and accomplished
writer of his age. But all the "hundred volumes" of Voltaire are rarely
read today. They are clever, to be sure, witty, graceful,--but
admittedly superficial. He thought that he could understand at a glance
the problems upon which more earnest men had spent their lives; he
would hurriedly dash off a tragedy, or in spare moments write a
pretentious history. He was not always accurate but he was always

Let us remember him as, at the age of eighty-four, he pays a famous
visit to Paris,--a sprightly old man with wrinkled face, and with sharp
old eyes peering out from either side of the long nose, beaming with
pride at the flattery of his admirers, sparkling with pleasure as he
makes a witty repartee. The ladies call him a most amusing old cynic.
Cynic he is, and old. His life work has been scoffing. Yet Voltaire is
unquestionably the intellectual dictator of Europe. His genius for
satire and his fearless attacks on long-standing abuses have made him
hated, and feared, and admired. He has given tone and character to the
Old Régime.

[Sidenote: Diderot and the Encyclopedists]

Voltaire was not alone in the work of spreading discontent. Less famous
but hardly less brilliant or versatile, was Denis Diderot (1713-1784).
His great achievement was the editing of the _Encyclopedia_. The
gathering of all human knowledge into one set of volumes--an
encyclopedia--had been for generations a favorite idea in Europe.
Diderot associated with himself the most distinguished mathematicians,
astronomers, scientists, and philosophers of the time in the
compilation of a work which in seventeen volumes [Footnote: Not
counting pictorial supplements.] undertook to summarize the latest
findings of the scholarship of the age. Over four thousand copies had
been subscribed when the _Encyclopedia_ appeared in 1765. It
proved to be more than a monument of learning: it was a manifesto of
radicalism. Its contributors were the apostles of rationalism and
deism, [Footnote: Some went even further and practically denied the
existence of God.] and their criticism of current ideas about religion,
society, and science won many disciples to the new ideas.

The mission of Voltaire and the Encyclopedists (as the editors of the
_Encyclopedia_ are called) was to disseminate knowledge and to
destroy prejudice, especially in religion. Practical specific reforms
were suggested by Montesquieu, Rousseau, Beccaria, and Adam Smith.

[Sidenote: Montesquieu]

Montesquieu (1689-1755), a French lawyer-nobleman, a student of natural
science, and an admirer of Newton, was the foremost writer of the
eighteenth century on the practice of government. In his _Persian
Letters_, and more especially in _The Spirit of the Laws_
(1748), he argued that government is a complicated matter and, to be
successful, must be adapted to the peculiarities of a particular
people. Theoretically he preferred a republic, and the Constitution of
the United States consciously embodied many of his theories.
Practically, he considered the government of Great Britain very
admirable, and although it sheltered many abuses, as we shall presently
see, [Footnote: See below, pp. 432 ff.] nevertheless he urged the
French to pattern their political organization after it. Moderation was
the motto of Montesquieu.

[Sidenote: Rousseau]

A more radical reformer was Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). In his
life Rousseau was everything he should not have been. He was a failure
as footman, as servant, as tutor, as secretary, as music copier, as
lace maker. He wandered in Turin, Paris, Vienna, London. His immorality
was notorious,--he was not faithful in love, and his children were sent
to a foundling asylum. He was poverty-stricken, dishonest,
discontented, and, in his last years, demented.

Yet this man, who knew so little how to live his own life, exercised a
wonderful influence over the lives of others. Sordid as was his career,
the man himself was not without beautiful and generous impulses. He
loved nature in an age when other men simply studied nature. He liked
to look at the clear blue sky, or to admire the soft green fields and
shapely trees, and he was not ashamed to confess it. The emotions had
been forgotten while philosophers were praising the intellect: Rousseau
reminded the eighteenth century that after all it may be as sane to
enjoy a sunset as to solve a problem in algebra. Rousseau possessed the
soul of a poet.

To him right feeling was as important as right thinking, and in this
respect he quarreled with the rationalists who claimed that common
sense alone was worth while. Rousseau was a Deist--at most he believed
but vaguely in a "Being, whatever He may be, Who moves the universe and
orders all things." But he detested the cold reasoning of philosophers
who conceived of God as too much interested in watching the countless
stars obey His eternal laws, to stoop to help puny mortals with their
petty affairs. "0 great philosophers!" cried Rousseau, "How much God is
obliged to you for your easy methods and for sparing Him work." And
again Rousseau warns us to "flee from those [Voltaire and his like]
who, under the pretense of explaining nature, sow desolating doctrines
in the hearts of men, and whose apparent skepticism is a hundred times
more ... dogmatic" than the teachings of priests. Rousseau was not an
orthodox Christian, nor a calmly rational Deist; he simply felt that
"to love God above all things, and your neighbor as yourself, is the
sum of the law."

This he reproached the philosophers with not doing. Rousseau had seen
and felt the bitter suffering of the poor, and he had perceived the
cynical indifference with which educated men often regarded it. Science
and learning seemed to have made men only more selfish. Indeed, the
ignorant peasant seemed to him humbler and more virtuous than the
pompous pedant. In a passionate protest--his _Discourse on Arts and
Sciences_ (1749)--Rousseau denounced learning as the badge of
selfishness and corruption, for it was used to gratify the pride and
childish curiosity of the rich, rather than to right the wrongs of the

In fact, it were better, he contended, that all men should be savages,
than that a few of the most cunning, cruel, and greedy should make
slaves of the rest. His love of nature, his contempt for the silly
showiness and shallow hypocrisy of eighteenth-century society, made the
idea a favorite one. He loved to dream of the times [Footnote: It must
be confessed that here Rousseau was dreaming of times that probably
never existed.] when men were all free and equal, when nobody claimed
to own the land which God had made for all, when there were no wars to
kill, no taxes to oppress, no philosophers to deceive the people.

In an essay inquiring _What is the Origin of Inequality among Men_
(1753), Rousseau sought to show how vanity, greed, and selfishness had
found lodgment in the hearts of these "simple savages," how the
strongest had fenced off plots of land for themselves and forced the
weak to acknowledge the right of private property. This, said Rousseau,
was the real origin of inequality among men, of the tyranny of the
strong over the weak; and this law of private property "for the profit
of a few ambitious men, subjected thenceforth all the human race to
labor, servitude, and misery."

The idea was applied to government in a treatise entitled the _Social
Contract_ (1761). The "social-contract" theory was not new, but
Rousseau made it famous. He taught that government, law, and social
conventions were the outcome of an agreement or contract by which at
the misty dawn of history all members of the state had voluntarily
bound themselves. All governments exercised their power in last
analysis by virtue of this social contract, by will of the people.
Laws, therefore, should be submitted to popular vote. The republic is
the best form of government, because it is the most sensitive to the
desires of the people. This idea of "popular sovereignty," or rule of
the people, was in men's minds when they set up a republic in France
fourteen years after the death of Rousseau.

Rousseau's cry, "Back to nature," had still another aspect. He said
that children should be allowed to follow their natural inclinations,
instead of being driven to study. They should learn practical, useful
things, instead of Latin and Greek. "Let them learn what they must do
when they are men, and not what they must forget."

It is hard to fix limits to the influence of Rousseau's writings. True,
both the orthodox Catholics and the philosophical Deists condemned him.
But his followers were many, both bourgeois and noble. "Back to nature"
became the fad of the day, and court ladies pretended to live a
"natural" life and to go fishing. His theory of the social contract,
his contention that wealth should not be divided among a few, his idea
that the people should rule themselves,--these were to be the
inspiration of the republican stage of the French Revolution, and in
time to permeate all Europe.

[Sidenote: Beccaria]

The spirit of reform was applied not only against the clergy, the
nobles, the monarchy, and faulty systems of law and education, but
likewise to the administration of justice. Hitherto the most barbarous
"punishments" had been meted out. A pickpocket might be hung for
stealing a couple of shillings [Footnote: In England.]; for a more
serious offense the criminal might have his bones broken and then be
laid on his back on a cart-wheel, to die in agony while crowds looked
on and jeered. In a book entitled _Crimes and Punishments_ (1764),
an Italian marquis of the name of Beccaria (1738-1794) held that such
punishments were not only brutal and barbarous, but did not serve to
prevent crimes as effectually as milder sentences, promptly and surely
administered. Beccaria's ideas are the basis of our modern laws,
although the death penalty still lingers in a few cases.

[Sidenote: Political Economy: the Physiocrats]

In yet another sphere--that of economics--philosophers were examining
the old order of things, and asking, as ever, "Is it reasonable?" As we
have repeatedly observed, most governments had long followed the
mercantilist plan more or less consistently. But in the eighteenth
century, François Quesnay, a bourgeois physician at the court of Louis
XV, announced to his friends that mercantilism was all wrong. He became
the center of a little group of philosophers who called themselves
"economists," and who taught that a nation's wealth comes from farming
and mining; that manufacturers and traders produce nothing new, but
merely exchange or transport commodities. The manufacturers and
merchants should therefore be untaxed and unhampered. _Laissez-
faire_--"Let them do as they will." Let the farmers pay the taxes.
The foremost disciple of _laisser-faire_ in France was Turgot
(1727-1781). As minister of finance under Louis XVI he attempted to
abolish duties and restrictions on commerce, but his efforts were only
partially successful.

[Sidenote: Adam Smith]

Meanwhile, a Scotchman, who had visited France and had known Quesnay,
was conveying the new ideas across the Channel. It was Adam Smith, the
"father of political economy." Smith was quite in harmony with the
philosophic spirit, with its "natural rights," "natural religion," and
"natural laws." He was a professor of "moral philosophy" in the
University of Glasgow, and as an incident of his philosophical
speculations, he thought out a system of political economy,
_i.e._, the "laws" by which a nation might increase its wealth, on
the lines suggested by Quesnay. Adam Smith's famous book _The Wealth
of Nations_ appeared in 1776, the year of American independence. It
was a declaration of independence for industry. Let each man, each
employer of labor, each seller of merchandise follow his own personal
business interests without let or hindrance, for in so doing he is "led
by an invisible hand" to promote the good of all. Let the government
abolish all monopolies, [Footnote: He was somewhat inconsistent in
approving joint-stock monopolies and shipping regulations.] all
restrictions on trade, all customs duties, all burdens on industry.
Thus only can the true wealth of a nation be promoted.

Smith's opinions were so plausible and his arguments so ingenious that
his doctrines steadily gained in influence, and in the first half of
the nineteenth century pretty generally triumphed. In actual practice
the abolition of restrictions on industry was destined to give free
rein to the avarice and cruelty of the most selfish employers, to
enrich the bourgeoisie, and to leave the lower classes more miserable
than ever. The "Wealth of Nations" was to be the wealth of the
bourgeoisie. But meanwhile, it was to destroy mercantilism.

[Sidenote: Conclusion]

We have now completed our survey of the social, religious, and
intellectual conditions in the Europe of the eighteenth century. Before
our eyes have passed poverty-stricken peasants plowing their fields,
prosperous merchants who demand power, frivolous nobles squandering
their lives and fortunes, worldly bishops neglecting their duties,
humble priests remaining faithful, sober Quakers refusing to fight,
earnest astronomers who search the skies, sarcastic Deists who scoff at
priests, and bourgeois philosophers who urge reform. The procession is
not quite done. Last of all come the kings in their royal ermine and
ministers in robes of state. To them we dedicate a new chapter. It will
be the last occasion on which kings will merit such detailed attention.


J. H. Robinson and C. A. Beard, _The Development of Modern Europe_,
Vol. I (1907), ch. viii, ix; H. E. Bourne, _The Revolutionary Period in
Europe, 1763-1815_ (1914), ch. i, iii; Clive Day, _History of Commerce_
(1907). More detailed accounts: _Cambridge Modern History_, Vol. VI;
and _Histoire générale_, Vol. VII, ch. xiii-xvii. The most scholarly
and exhaustive study of social conditions is that of Maxime Kovalevsky,
_Die oekonomische Entwicklung Europas bis zum Beginn der
kapitalistischen Wirtschaftsform_, trans. into German from Russian by
Leo Motzkin, 7 vols. (1901-1914), especially Vols. VI, VII.

French Revolution_ (reprint, 1912), ch. i-v, a clear summary; E. J.
Lowell, _The Eve of the French Revolution_ (1892), probably the best
introduction in English; Alexis de Tocqueville, _The State of Society
in France before the Revolution of 1789_, Eng. trans. by Henry Reeve,
3d ed. (1888), a brilliant and justly famous work; H. A. Taine, _The
Ancient Régime_, Eng. trans. by John Durand, new rev. ed. (1896),
another very celebrated work, better on the literary and philosophical
aspects of the Old Régime than on the economic; Albert Sorel, _L'Europe
et la Révolution française, Vol. I (1885) of this monumental history is
an able presentation of French social conditions in the eighteenth
century; Arthur Young, _Travels in France, 1787, 1788, and 1789_,
valuable observations of a contemporary English gentleman-farmer on
conditions in France, published in several editions, notably in the
Bohn Library. Detailed treatises in French: _Histoire de France_, Vol.
IX, Part I (1910), _Règne de Louis XVI, 1774-1789_, by H. Carré, P.
Sagnac, and E. Lavisse, especially livres III, IV; Emile Levasseur,
_Histoire des classes ouvrières et de l'industrie en France avant
1789_, Vol. II (1901), livre VII; Maxime Kovalevsky, _La France
économique et sociale à la veille de la Révolution_, 2 vols. (1909-
1911), an admirable study of common life both rural and urban; Georges
d'Avenel, _Histoire économique de la propriété, des salaires, etc.,
1200-1800_, 6 vols. (1894-1912), elaborate treatments of such topics as
money, land, salaries, the wealthy and bourgeois classes, the growth of
private expenses, etc.; Albert Babeau's careful monographs on many
phases of the Old Régime, such as _Les voyageurs en France_ (1885), _La
ville_ (1884), _La vie rurale_ (1885), _Les artisans et les
domestiques_ (1886), _Les bourgeois_ (1886), _La vie militaire_, 2
vols. (1890), _Le village_ (1891), _La province_, 2 vols. (1894);
Nicolas Karéiev, _Les paysans et la question paysanne en France dans le
dernier quart du XVIIIe siècle_, Fr. trans. (1899); Edmé Champion, _La
France d'après les cahiers de 1789_ (1897). Also see books listed under
THE FRENCH MONARCHY, 1743-1789, p. 463, below.

_History of England and Greater Britain_ (1914), ch. xliv; G. T.
Warner, _Landmarks in English Industrial History_, 11th ed. (1912), ch.
xiv; H. de B. Gibbins, _Industry in England_, 6th ed. (1910), ch. xvii-
xx; G. H. Perris, _The Industrial History of Modern England_ (1914),
ch. i. Fuller treatments: H. D. Traill and J. S. Mann (editors),
_Social England_, illus. ed., 6 vols. in 12 (1909), ch. xvi-xviii; W.
G. Sydney, _England and the English in the Eighteenth Century_, 2 vols.
(1891); E. S. Roscoe, _The English Scene in the Eighteenth Century_
(1912); Sir H. T. Wood, _Industrial England in the Middle of the
Eighteenth Century_ (1910); Sidney and Beatrice Webb, _English Local
Government from the Revolution to the Municipal Corporations Act, 1688-
1835, The Manor and the Borough_, 2 parts (1908), and _The Story of the
King's Highway_ (1913); W. E. H. Lecky, _A History of England in the
Eighteenth Century_, London ed., 7 vols. (1907), particularly full on
social and intellectual conditions. Special studies and monographs: A.
Andréadès, _History of the Bank of England_, Eng. trans. by Christabel
Meredith (1909), an authoritative review by a Greek scholar; Sir Walter
Besant, _London in the Eighteenth Century_ (1903), charmingly written
but not always trustworthy; J. L. and B. Hammond, _The Village
Labourer, 1760-1832_ (1911); J. E. Thorold Rogers, _History of
Agriculture and Prices in England_, 7 vols. (1866-1902), a monumental
work, of which Vol. VII deals with the eighteenth century; R. E.
Prothero, _English Farming Past and Present_ (1912); E. C. K. Gonner,
_Common Land and Inclosure_ (1912); A. H. Johnson, _The Disappearance
of the Small Landowner_ (1909); Wilhelm Hasbach, _A History of the
English Agricultural Labourer_, new ed. trans. into English by Ruth
Kenyon (1908); R. M. Gamier, _History of the English Landed Interest,
its Customs, Laws and Agriculture_, 2 vols. (1892-1893), and, by the
same author, _Annals of the British Peasantry_ (1895). For interesting
contemporary accounts of English agriculture in the eighteenth century,
see the journals of Arthur Young, _A Six Weeks' Tour through the
Southern Counties_ (1768), _A Six Months' Tour through the North of
England_, 4 vols. (1791), and _The Farmer's Tour through the East of
England_, 4 vols. (1791). Also see books listed under THE BRITISH
MONARCHY, 1760-1800, pp. 461 f., below.

H. G. Graham, _Social Life in Scotland in the Eighteenth Century_,
2 vols. (1900). For Hungary: Henry Marczali, _Hungary in the
Eighteenth Century_ (1910). For Russia: James Mavor, _An Economic
History of Russia_, Vol. I (1914), Book II, ch. i-iv. For Spain:
Georges Desdevises du Dezert, _L'Espagne de l'ancien régime_, 3
vols. (1897-1904). For the Germanies: Karl Biedermann, _Deutschland
im achtsehnten Jahrhundert_, 2 vols. in 3 (1867-1880).

of Christianity, cited in the bibliography to Chapter IV, above, should
be consulted. Additional information can be gathered from the
following. On the Catholic Church: William Barry, _The Papacy and
Modern Times_ (1911), ch. v; _Cambridge Modern History_, Vol. V (1908),
ch. iv, on Gallicanism and Jansenism, by Viscount St. Cyres, a vigorous
opponent of Ultramontanism; _Histoire générale_, Vol. VI, ch. vi, and
Vol. VII, ch. xvii, both by Émile Chénon; Joseph de Maistre, _Du pape_,
24th ed. (1876), and _De l'église gallicane_, most celebrated
treatments of Gallicanism from the standpoint of an Ultramontane and
orthodox Roman Catholic; C. A. Sainte-Beuve, _Port-Royal_, 2d ed., 5
vols. (1860), the best literary account of Jansenism; R. B. C. Graham,
_A Vanished Arcadia: being some account of the Jesuits in Paraguay,
1607 to 1767_ (1901); Paul de Crousaz-Crétet, _L'église et l'état, ou
les deux puissances au XVIIIe siècle, 1713-1789_ (1893), on the
relations of church and state; Léon Mention, _Documents relatifs aux
rapports du clergé avec la royauté de 1682 à 1789_, 2 vols. (1893-
1903), containing many important documents. On Protestantism in
England: H. O. Wakeman, _An Introduction to the History of the Church
of England_, 5th ed. (1898), ch. xviii, xix; J. H. Overton and Frederic
Relton, _A History of the Church of England, 1714-1800_ (1906), being
Vol. VII of a comprehensive work ed. by W. R. W. Stephens and William
Hunt; John Stoughton, _Religion under Queen Anne and the Georges, 1702-
1800_, 2 vols. (1878); H. W. Clark, _History of English Nonconformity_,
2 vols. (1911-1913), especially Vol. II, Book IV, ch. i, ii, on
Methodism; W. C. Braithwaite, _The Beginnings of Quakerism_ (1912); F.
J. Snell, _Wesley and Methodism_ (1900); and T. E. Thorpe, _Joseph
Priestley_ (1906).

_Cambridge Modern History_, Vol. V, ch. xxiii, and Vol. VIII, ch. i;
_Histoire générale_, Vol. VI, ch. x, and Vol. VII, ch. xv, two
excellent chapters on natural science, 1648-1788, by Paul Tannery; Sir
Oliver Lodge, _Pioneers of Science_ (1893); Sir Leslie Stephen,
_History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century_, 3d ed., 2 vols.
(1902), an interesting account of the English Deists and of the new
political and economic theorists, and, by the same author, _English
Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century_ (1909); Edmund Gosse,
_A History of Eighteenth Century Literature, 1660-1780_ (1911); J. M.
Robertson, _A Short History of Free Thought_, 3d rev. ed., 2 vols.
(1915), a sympathetic treatment of deism and rationalism; C. S. Devas,
_The Key to the World's Progress_ (1906), suggestive criticism of the
thought of the eighteenth century from the standpoint of a well-
informed Roman Catholic. On the most celebrated French philosophers of
the time, see the entertaining and enthusiastic biographies by John
(Viscount) Morley, _Rousseau_, 2 vols. (1873), _Diderot and the
Encyclopædists_, 2 vols. (1891), _Voltaire_ (1903), and the essays on
Turgot, etc., scattered throughout his _Critical Miscellanies_, 4 vols.
(1892-1908). There is a convenient little biography of _Montesquieu_ by
Albert Sorel, Eng. trans. by Gustave Masson (1887), and useful
monographs by J. C. Collins, _Bolingbroke, a Historical Study; and
Voltaire in England_ (1886). Such epochal works as Montesquieu's
_Spirit of the Laws_, Voltaire's _Letters on the English_ and
_Philosophical Dictionary_, and Rousseau's _Social Contract_ and
_Émile_, are readily procurable in English. On the rise of political
economy: Henry Higgs, _The Physiocrats_ (1897); Charles Gide and
Charles Rist, _A History of Economic Doctrines from the Time of the
Physiocrats_, Eng. trans. (1915), Book I, ch. i, ii; L. L. Price, _A
Short History of Political Economy in England from Adam Smith to Arnold
Toynbee_, 7th ed. (1911); R. B. (Viscount) Haldane, _Life of Adam
Smith_ (1887) in the "Great Writers" Series; John Rae, _Life of Adam
Smith_ (1895), containing copious extracts from Smith's letters and
papers; Georges Weulersse, _Le mouvement physiocratique en France de
1756 à 1770_, 2 vols. (1910), scholarly and elaborate. There is a two-
volume edition of Adam Smith's _Wealth of Nations_ (1910) in
"Everyman's Library," with an admirable introductory essay by E. R. A.



[Sidenote: General]

In the foregoing chapter we have seen how the social structure of the
eighteenth century rested on injustice, poverty, and suffering; we have
listened to the complaints of the bourgeoisie and to their demands for
reform. Philosophers might plead for reform, but only the king could
grant it. For in him were vested all powers of government: he was the
absolute monarch.

Such was the situation in virtually every important country in Europe.
In Great Britain alone were the people even reputed to have a share in
the government, and to Great Britain the Voltaires and the Montesquieus
of the Continent turned for a model in politics. Let us join them in
considering the peculiar organization of the British monarchy, and then
we shall observe how the other governments of Europe met the demand for


[Sidenote: England. Scotland]

In the eighteenth century, what was the British monarchy? It was, first
of all, the government of England (which included Wales). Secondly, it
embraced Scotland, for since 1603 Scotland and England had been subject
to the same king, and in 1707 by the Act of Union the two kingdoms had
been united to form the monarchy of "Great Britain," with a common king
and a common Parliament.

[Sidenote: Great Britain]

The British monarchy was properly, then, the government of united
England (Wales) and Scotland. But in addition the crown had numerous
subordinate possessions: the royal colonies, [Footnote: The royal
colonies were, in 1800: Newfoundland (1583), Barbados (1605), Bermudas
(1609), Gambia (c. 1618), St. Christopher (1623), Nevis (1628),
Montserrat (1632), Antigua (1632), Honduras (1638), St. Lucia (1638),
Gold Coast (c. 1650), St. Helena (1651), Jamaica (1655), Bahamas
(1666), Virgin Islands (1666), Gibraltar (1704), Hudson Bay Territory
(1713), Nova Scotia (1713), New Brunswick (1713), Quebec, Ontario, and
Prince Edward Island (1763), Dominica (17633), St. Vincent (1763),
Grenada (1763), Tobago (1763), Falkland (1765), Pitcairn (1780),
Straits Settlements (1786 ff.), Sierra Leone (1787), New South Wales
(1788), Ceylon (1795), Trinidad (1797), and, under the East India
Company, Madras (1639), Bombay (1661), and Bengal (1633-1765).] and
Ireland. For these dependencies the home government appointed
governors, made laws, and levied taxes, in theory at least; but they
were possessions rather than integral parts of the monarchy.

[Sidenote: Ireland]

A few words should be said in explanation of the political status of
Ireland under the British crown. The English kings had begun their
conquests in that island as far back as the twelfth century; and by
dint of much bloodshed and many efforts they had long maintained
possession. In the seventeenth century Oliver Cromwell had put down a
bitter revolt and had encouraged Protestant English and Scotch
immigrants to settle in the north and east, taking the land from the
native Irishmen, who were Roman Catholics. An Irish parliament had
existed since the middle ages, but from the close of the fifteenth
century its acts to be valid required the approval of the English Privy
Council, and from the middle of the seventeenth century Roman Catholics
were debarred from it. In 1782, however, while Great Britain was
engaged in the War of American Independence, the Protestants in Ireland
secured the right to make most of their own laws, and ten years later
the Catholic disqualifications were removed. From 1782 to 1801, Ireland
retained this half-way independence; but a Protestant minority actually
controlled the Irish Parliament, incurring the dislike of the Roman
Catholic Irish and of the British government, so that in 1800,
following an Irish revolt, an Act of Union was passed, according to
which, in 1801, Great Britain and Ireland became the United Kingdom.
Thenceforth Ireland was represented by 28 peers and 100 Commoners in
the Parliament of the United Kingdom (often called, carelessly, the
British Parliament).

It may be said, then, that except during the brief period of Irish
semi-independence (1782-1801), the British Parliament governed not only
Great Britain, but Ireland and the crown colonies as well. How the
British monarchy was governed, we have now to discover.

[Sidenote: The King and his Nominal Powers]

In theory the king was still the ruler of his kingdom. In his name all
laws were made, treaties sealed, governmental officials appointed. Like
other monarchs, he had his "Privy Councilors" to advise him, and
ministers (Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretaries of State, the
Lord Chancellor, etc.) to supervise various details of central
administration. But this was largely a matter of form. In fact, the
kings of Great Britain had lost most of their power, and retained only
their dignity; they were becoming figureheads.

[Sidenote: The British Constitution]

Ever since the signing of _Magna Carta_, back in 1215, the English
people had been exacting from their sovereigns written promises by
which the crown surrendered certain powers. Greatest progress in this
direction had been made amid those stirring scenes of the seventeenth
century which have been described already in the chapter on the Triumph
of Parliamentary Government in England. In addition to formal
documents, there had been slowly evolved a body of customs and usages,
which were almost as sacred and binding as if they had been inscribed
on parchment. Taken together, these written and customary limitations
on royal authority were called the "British Constitution."

[Sidenote: Limitations on the Actual Powers of the King]

This Constitution limited the king's power in four important ways. (1)
It deprived him of the right to levy taxes. For his household expenses
he was now granted an allowance, called the Civil List. William III,
for instance, was allowed £700,000 pounds a year. (2) The king had no
right either to make laws on his own responsibility or to prevent laws
being made against his will. The sovereign's prerogative to veto
Parliament's bills still existed in theory, but was not exercised after
the reign of Queen Anne. (3) The king had lost control of the judicial
system (_i.e._, the courts): he could not remove judges even if
they gave decisions unfavorable to him; and the Habeas Corpus Act of
1679 provided that any one thrown into prison should be told why, and
given a fair legal trial. (4) The king could not maintain a standing
army without consent of Parliament. These restrictions made Great
Britain a "limited," rather than an "absolute," monarchy.

[Sidenote: Parliament]

The powers taken from the king were now exercised by Parliament. The
constitutional conflict of the seventeenth century had left Parliament
not only in enjoyment of freedom of speech for its members but with
full power to levy taxes, to make laws, to remove or retain judges, and
essentially to determine the policy of the government in war and in
peace. Parliament had even taken upon itself on one celebrated occasion
(1689) to deprive a monarch of his "divine right" to rule, to establish
a new sovereign, and to decree that never again should Great Britain
have a king of the Roman Catholic faith.

French philosophers who saw so much power vested in a representative
body could not be too loud in their praise of "English liberty." Had
they investigated more closely, these same observers might have learned
to their surprise that Parliament represented the people of Great
Britain only in name.

[Sidenote: Undemocratic Character of Parliament]

As we have seen in an earlier chapter [Footnote: See above, pp. 265
f.], Parliament consisted of two legislative assemblies or "Houses,"
neither one of which could make laws without the consent of the other.
One of these houses, the House of Lords, was frankly aristocratic and
undemocratic. Its members were the "lords spiritual"--rich and
influential bishops of the Anglican Church,--and the "lords temporal,"
or peers, haughty descendants of the ancient feudal nobles or haughtier
heirs of millionaires recently ennobled by the king. [Footnote: A peer
was technically a titled noble who possessed an hereditary seat in the
House of Lords. George III created many peers: at his death there were
over 300 in all.] These proud gentlemen were mainly landlords, and as a
class they were almost as selfish and undemocratic as the courtiers of

But, the French philosopher replies, the representatives of the people
are found in the lower house, the House of Commons; the peers merely
give stability to the government. Let us see.

One thing at least is certain, that in the eighteenth century the
majority of the people of Great Britain had no voice in choosing their
"representatives." In the country, the "knights of the shire" were
supposedly elected, two for each shire or county. But a man could not
vote unless he had an estate worth an annual rent of forty shillings,
and, since the same amount of money would then buy a good deal more
than nowadays, forty shillings was a fairly large sum. Persons who
could vote were often afraid to vote independently, and frequently they
sold their vote to a rich noble, so that many "knights of the shire"
were practically named by the landed aristocracy, the wealthy and
titled landlords.

Matters were even worse in the towns, or "boroughs." By no means all of
the towns had representation. Moreover, for the towns that did choose
their two members to sit in the House of Commons, no method of election
was prescribed by law; but each borough followed its own custom. In one
town the aristocratic municipal corporation would choose the
representatives; in another place the gilds would control the election;
and in yet another city there might be a few so-called "freemen" (of
course everybody was free,--"freeman" was a technical term for a member
of the town corporation) who had the right to vote, and sold their
votes regularly for about £5 apiece. In general the town
representatives were named by a few well-to-do politicians, while the
common 'prentices and journeymen worked uninterruptedly at their
benches. It has been estimated that fewer than 1500 persons controlled
a majority in the House of Commons.

In many places a nobleman or a clique of townsmen appointed their
candidates without even the formality of an election. In other places,
where rival influences clashed, bribery would decide the day. For in
contested elections, the voting lasted forty days, during which time
the price of votes might rise to £25 or more. Votes might be purchased
with safety, too, for voting was public and any one might learn from
the poll-book how each man had voted. Not infrequently it cost several
thousand pounds to carry such an election.

[Sidenote: "Rotten Boroughs"]

We may summarize these evils by saying that the peasants and artisans
generally were not allowed to vote, and that the methods of election
gave rise to corruption. But this was not all. There was neither rhyme
nor reason to be found in the distribution of representation between
different sections of the country. Old Sarum had once been a prosperous
village and had been accorded representation, but after the village had
disappeared, leaving to view but a lonely hill, no one in England could
have told why two members should still sit for Old Sarum. Nor, for that
matter, could there have been much need of representation in Parliament
for the sea-coast town of Dunwich. Long ago the coast had sunk and the
salt-sea waves now washed the remains of a ruined town. Bosseney in
Cornwall was a hamlet of three cottages, but its citizens were entitled
to send two men to Parliament.

While these decayed towns and "rotten boroughs" continued to enjoy
representation, populous and opulent cities like Birmingham,
Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield were ignored. They had grown with the
growth of industry, while the older towns had declined. Yet
Parliamentary representation underwent no change from the days of
Charles II to the third decade of the nineteenth century. Thus
Parliament in the eighteenth century represented neither the different
classes of society nor the masses of population. Politics was a
gentleman's game. The nobleman who sat in the upper house had his
dummies in the lower chamber. A certain Sir James Lowther had nine
protégés in the lower house, who were commonly called "Lowther's
Ninepins." A distinguished statesman of the time described the position
of such a protégé: "He is sent here by the lord of this or the duke of
that, and if he does not obey the instructions which he receives, he is
held to be a dishonest man."

[Sidenote: Parliamentary Bribery and Corruption]

Under conditions such as these it is not hard to understand how seats
in Parliament were bought and sold like boxes at the opera or seats in
a stock-exchange. Nor is it surprising that after having paid a small
fortune for the privilege of representing the people, the worldly-wise
Commoner should be willing to indemnify himself by accepting bribes,
or, if perchance his tender conscience forbade monetary bribes, by
accepting a government post with fat salary and few duties except to
vote with the government.

[Sidenote: The Cabinet]

For many years (1714-1761) the arts of corruption were practiced with
astonishing success by a group of clever Whig politicians. As has been
noticed in an earlier chapter,[Footnote: See above, pp. 291 f.] it was
to their most conspicuous leader, Sir Robert Walpole, that the first
two Georges intrusted the conduct of affairs; and Walpole filled the
important offices of state with his Whig friends. Likewise it has been
noticed [Footnote: See above, p. 290.] that during the same period the
idea of the cabinet system became more firmly fixed. Just as Walpole
secured the appointment of his friends to the high offices of state, so
subsequent statesmen put their supporters in office. The practice was
not yet rigid, but it was customary for a dozen or so of the leaders of
the faction in power to hold "cabinet" meetings, in which they decided
in advance what measures should be presented to Parliament. If a
measure indorsed by the cabinet should be defeated by the Commons, the
leader of the party would normally resign, and the ministers he had
appointed would follow his example. In other words, the cabinet acted
in concert and resigned as a whole.

If the affairs of the government were all carried on by the cabinet,
and if the cabinet depended for its support on the majority in the
House of Commons, what remained for the king to do? Obviously, very

[Sidenote: British Government under George III]

George I and George II had not been averse from cabinet-government: it
was easy and convenient. But George III (1760-1820) was determined to
make his authority felt. He wished to preside at cabinet meetings; he
outbribed the Whigs; and he repeatedly asked his ministers to resign
because he disliked their policies.

Besides the friends he purchased, George III possessed a considerable
number of enthusiastic and conscientious supporters. The country
squires and clergy who believed in the Anglican Church and looked with
distrust upon the power of corrupt Whig politicians in Parliament, were
quite willing that a painstaking and gentlemanly monarch should do his
own ruling. Such persons formed the backbone of the Tory party and
sometimes called themselves the "king's friends." With their support
and by means of a liberal use of patronage, George III was able to keep
Lord North, a minister after his own heart, in power twelve years
(1770-1782). But as we have learned, [Footnote: See above, pp. 332 ff.]
the War of American Independence caused the downfall of Lord North, and
for the next year or two, politics were in confusion. During 1782-1783
the old Whig and Tory parties [Footnote: See above, pp. 285 f.] were
sadly broken up, and a new element was unmistakably infused into party-
warfare by the spirit of reform.

[Sidenote: Need and Demand for Reform]

Surely, if ever a country needed reform, it was Great Britain in 1783.
The country was filled with paupers maintained by the taxes; poor
people might be shut up in workhouses and see their children carted off
to factories; sailors were kidnapped for the royal navy; the farmhand
was practically bound to the soil like a serf; over two hundred
offenses, such as stealing a shilling or cutting down an apple tree,
were punishable by death; religious intolerance flourished--Quakers
were imprisoned and Roman Catholics were debarred from office and
Parliament. And Ireland was being ruined by the selfish and obstinate
minority which controlled its parliament.

But about these things English "reformers" were not much concerned. A
few altruistic souls decried the traffic in black slaves, but that evil
was quite far from English shores. The reform movement was chiefly
directed against parliamentary corruption and received its support from
the small country gentlemen who hated the great Whig owners of "pocket-
boroughs," [Footnote: Boroughs whose members were named by a political
"patron."] and from the lower and newer ranks of the bourgeoisie. For
the small shop-keepers and tradesmen, and especially the rich
manufacturers in new industrial towns like Birmingham, felt that
Parliament did not represent their interests, and they set up a cry for
pure politics and reformed representation.

[Sidenote: Wilkes]

The spirit of reform spread rapidly. In the 'sixties of the eighteenth
century, John Wilkes, a squint-eyed and immoral but very persuasive
editor, had raised a hubbub of reform talk. He had criticized the
policy of George III, had been elected to Parliament, and, when the
House of Commons expelled him, had insisted upon the right of the
people to elect him, regardless of the will of the House. His admirers
--and he had many--shouted for "Wilkes and Liberty," elected him Lord
Mayor of London, and enabled him to carry his point.

The founding of four newspapers furthered the reform movement. They
took it upon themselves to report parliamentary debates, and along with
information they spread discontent. Their activity was somewhat
checked, however, by the operation of the old laws which punished
libelous attacks on the king with imprisonment or exile, and also by a
stamp duty of 2-1/2d. a sheet (1789).

[Sidenote: Charles James Fox]

Under the new influence a number of Whigs became advocates of reform.
George III had outdone them at corruption; they now sought to
reëstablish their own power and Parliament's by advocating reform. Of
these Whigs, Charles James Fox (1749-1806) was the most prominent. Fox
had been taught to gamble by his father and took to it readily. Cards
and horse-racing kept him in constant bankruptcy; many of his nights
were spent in debauchery and his mornings in bed; and his close
association with the rakish heir to the throne was the scandal of
London. In spite of his eloquence and ability, the loose manner of his
life militated against the success of Fox as a reformer. His friends
knew him to be a free-hearted, impulsive sympathizer with all who were
oppressed, and they entertained no doubt of his sincere wish to bring
about parliamentary reform, complete religious toleration, and the
abolition of the slave trade. But strangers could not easily reconcile
his private life with his public words, and were antagonized by his
frequent lack of political tact.

[Sidenote: The Program of Reform]

Despite drawbacks Fox furthered the cause of reform to a considerable
extent. He it was who presided over a great mass meeting, held under
the auspices of a reform club, at which meeting was drawn up a program
of liberal reform, a program which was to be the battle-cry of British
political radicals for several generations. It comprised six demands:
(1) Votes for all adult males, (2) each district to have representation
proportionate to its population, (3) payment of the members of
Parliament so as to enable poor men to accept election, (4) abolition
of the property qualifications for members of Parliament, (5) adoption
of the secret ballot, and (6) Parliaments to be elected annually.

[Sidenote: William Pitt the Younger]

Such reform seemed less likely of accomplishment by Fox than by a
younger statesman, William Pitt (1759-1806), second son of the famous
earl of Chatham. When but seven years old, Pitt had said: "I want to
speak in the House of Commons like papa." Throughout his boyhood and
youth he had kept this ambition constantly before him; he had studied,
practiced oratory, and learned the arts of debate. At the age of
twenty-one, he was a tall, slender, and sickly youth, with sonorous
voice, devouring ambition, and sublime self-confidence. He secured a
seat in the Commons as one of Sir James Lowther's "ninepins," and
speedily won the respect of the House. He was the youngest and most
promising of the politicians of the day. At the outset he was a Whig.

[Sidenote: The "New Tories"]

By a combination of circumstances young Pitt was enabled to form an
essentially new political party--the "New Tories." By his scrupulous
honesty and earnest advocacy of parliamentary reform, he won to his
side the unrepresented bourgeoisie and the opponents of "bossism." On
the other hand, by accepting from King George III an appointment as
chief minister, and holding the position in spite of a temporarily
hostile majority in the House of Commons, Pitt won the respect of the
Tory country squires and the clergy, who stood for the king against
Parliament. And finally, being quite moral himself (if chronic
indulgence in port wine be excepted), and supporting a notoriously
virtuous king against corrupt politicians and against the gambling Fox,
Pitt became an idol of all lovers of "respectability."

In the parliamentary elections of 1784 Pitt won a great victory. In
that year he was prime minister with loyal majorities in both Houses of
Parliament, with royal favor, and with the support of popular
enthusiasm. He was feasted in Grocers' Hall in London; the shopkeepers
of the Strand illuminated their dwellings in his honor; and crowds
cheered his carriage.

Reform seemed to be within sight. The horrors of the slave trade were
mitigated, and greater freedom was given the press. Bills were
introduced to abolish the representation of "rotten" boroughs and to
grant representation to the newer towns.

[Sidenote: Halt of Reform in Great Britain]

It can hardly be doubted that Pitt would have gone further had not
affairs in France--the French Revolution--alarmed him at the critical
time and caused him fear a similar outbreak in England. [Footnote: For
the effect of the French Revolution upon England, see pp. 494 f., 504.]
The government and upper classes of Great Britain at once abandoned
their roles as reformers, and set themselves sternly to repress
anything that might savor of revolution.

[Sidenote: Conclusion]

Two important conclusions may now be drawn from our study of the
British government in the eighteenth century. In the first place,
despite the admiration with which the French philosophers regarded the
British monarchy as a model of political liberty and freedom, it was in
fact both corrupt and oppressive. Secondly, the spirit of reform seemed
for a time as active and as promising in Great Britain as in France,
but from the island kingdom it was frightened away by the tumult of
revolution across the Channel.


The spirit of progress and reform had slowly made itself felt in Great
Britain through popular agitation and in Parliament. On the Continent
it naturally took a different turn, for there government certainly was
not by Parliaments, but by sovereigns "by the Grace of God." In France,
Prussia, Austria, Spain, and Russia, therefore, the question was
always, "Will his Majesty be cruel, extravagant, and unprogressive; or
will he prove himself an able and liberal-minded monarch?"

[Sidenote: The Era of Benevolent Despotism on the Continent]

It happened during the eighteenth century that most of the Continental
rulers were of this latter sort--conscientious and well-meaning. On the
thrones of Austria, Prussia, Spain, Portugal, Tuscany, Sardinia,
Bavaria, and Sweden sat men of extraordinary ability, who sought rather
the welfare of their country than careless personal pleasure.

These were the benevolent despots. They were despots, absolute rulers,
countenancing no attempt to diminish royal authority, believing in
government by one strong hand rather than by the democratic many. But
with despotism they combined benevolence; they were anxious for the
glory of their nation, and no less solicitous for the happiness and
prosperity of their people. Thus the development of absolute monarchy
and the rationalism of the eighteenth century united to produce the
benevolent despot. For this reason the term "enlightened" (i.e.,
philosophical) despot is frequently applied to these autocrats who
attempted to rule in the light of reason.

[Sidenote: Frederick the Great of Prussia, 1740-1786]

One of the most successful of the enlightened despots was Frederick II
(the Great) of Prussia. In our chapter on the Germanies, [Footnote: See
above, ch. xi.] we have seen how he fought all Europe to gain prestige
and power for Prussia; we shall now see how he endeavored to apply
scientific methods to the government of his own country.

With the major intellectual interests of the eighteenth century,
Frederick II became acquainted quite naturally. As a boy he had been
fond of reading French plays, had learned Latin against his father's
will, had filled his mind with the ideas of deistic philosophers, and
had seemed likely to become a dreamer instead of a ruler. But the
dogged determination of his father, King Frederick William I, to make
something out of Frederick besides a flute-playing, poetizing
philosopher, had resulted in familiarizing him with elaborate financial
reports and monotonous minutes of tiresome official transactions. Young
Frederick, however, learned to like the details of administration and
when he came to the throne in 1740 he was not only enlightened but

The young king had a clear conception of his duties, and even wrote a
book in French about the theory of government. "The prince," he said,
"is to the nation he governs what the head is to the man; it is his
duty to see, think, and act for the whole community, that he may
procure it every advantage of which it is capable." "The monarch is not
the absolute master, but only the first servant of the state."
Frederick was indeed the first servant of Prussia, rising at five in
the morning, working on official business until eleven o'clock, and
spending the afternoon at committee meetings or army reviews.

He set about laboriously to make Prussia the best and most governed

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