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Critical and Historical Essays Volume 2 by Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 3 out of 16

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defiance to the combined forces of England and France. He left
the Hague, where he had been engaged in negotiating with the
States and the Emperor a defensive treaty against the ambitious
designs of the Bourbons. He flew to London. He remodelled the
Ministry. He dissolved the Parliament. The majority of the new
House of Commons was with the King; and the most vigorous
preparations were made for war.

Before the commencement of active hostilities William was no
more. But the Grand Alliance of the European Princes against the
Bourbons was already constructed. "The master workman died," says
Mr. Burke; "but the work was formed on true mechanical
principles, and it was as truly wrought." On the fifteenth of
May, 1702, war was proclaimed by concert at Vienna, at London,
and at the Hague.

Thus commenced that great struggle by which Europe, from the
Vistula to the Atlantic Ocean, was agitated during twelve years.
The two hostile coalitions were, in respect of territory, wealth,
and population, not unequally matched. On the one side were
France, Spain, and Bavaria; on the other, England, Holland, the
Empire, and a crowd of inferior Powers.

That part of the war which Lord Mahon has undertaken to relate,
though not the least important, is certainly the least
attractive. In Italy, in Germany, and in the Netherlands, great
means were at the disposal of great generals. Mighty battles were
fought. Fortress after fortress was subdued. The iron chain of
the Belgian strongholds was broken. By a regular and connected
series of operations extending through several years, the French
were driven back from the Danube and the Po into their own
provinces. The war in Spain, on the contrary, is made up of
events which seem to have no dependence on each other. The turns
of fortune resemble those which take place in a dream. Victory
and defeat are not followed by their usual consequences. Armies
spring out of nothing, and melt into nothing. Yet, to judicious
readers of history, the Spanish conflict is perhaps more
interesting than the campaigns of Marlborough and Eugene. The
fate of the Milanese and of the Low Countries was decided by
military skill. The fate of Spain was decided by the
peculiarities of the national character.

When the war commenced, the young King was in a most deplorable
situation. On his arrival at Madrid, he found Porto Carrero at
the head of affairs, and he did not think fit to displace the man
to whom he owed his crown. The Cardinal was a mere intriguer, and
in no sense a statesman. He had acquired, in the Court and in the
confessional, a rare degree of skill in all the tricks by which.
weak minds are managed. But of the noble science of government,
of the sources of national prosperity, of the causes of national
decay, he knew no more than his master. It is curious to observe
the contrast between the dexterity with which he ruled the
conscience of a foolish valetudinarian, and the imbecility which
he showed when placed at the head of an empire. On what grounds
Lord Mahon represents the Cardinal as a man "of splendid genius,"
"of vast abilities," we are unable to discover. Lewis was of a
very different opinion, and Lewis was very seldom mistaken in his
judgment of character. "Everybody," says he, in a letter to his
ambassador, "knows how incapable the Cardinal is. He is an object
of contempt to his countrymen."

A few miserable savings were made, which ruined individuals
without producing any perceptible benefit to the State. The
police became more and more inefficient. The disorders of the
capital were increased by the arrival of French adventurers, the
refuse of Parisian brothels and gaming-houses. These wretches
considered the Spaniards as a subjugated race whom the countrymen
of the new sovereign might cheat and insult with impunity. The
King sate eating and drinking all night, lay in bed all day,
yawned at the council table, and suffered the most important
papers to lie unopened for weeks. At length he was roused by the
only excitement of which his sluggish nature was susceptible. His
grandfather consented to let him have a wife. The choice was
fortunate. Maria Louisa, Princess of Savoy, a beautiful and
graceful girl of thirteen, already a woman in person and mind at
an age when the females of colder climates are still children,
was the person selected. The King resolved to give her the
meeting in Catalonia. He left his capital, of which he was
already thoroughly tired. At setting out he was mobbed by a gang
of beggars. He, however, made his way through them, and repaired
to Barcelona.

Lewis was perfectly aware that the Queen would govern Philip. He,
accordingly, looked about for somebody to govern the Queen. He
selected the Princess Orsini to be first lady of the bedchamber,
no insignificant post in the household of a very young wife, and
a very uxorious husband. The Princess was the daughter of a
French peer, and the widow of a Spanish grandee. She was,
therefore, admirably fitted by her position to be the instrument
of the Court of Versailles at the Court of Madrid. The Duke of
Orleans called her, in words too coarse for translation, the
Lieutenant of Captain Maintenon: and the appellation was well
deserved. She aspired to play in Spain the part which Madame de
Maintenon had played in France. But, though at least equal to her
model in wit, information, and talents for intrigue, she had not
that self-command, that patience, that imperturbable evenness of
temper, which had raised the widow of a buffoon to be the consort
of the proudest of kings. The Princess was more than fifty years
old, but was still vain of her fine eyes, and her fine shape;
she still dressed in the style of a girl; and she still carried
her flirtations so far as to give occasion for scandal. She was,
however, polite, eloquent, and not deficient in strength of mind.
The bitter Saint Simon owns that no person whom she wished to
attach could long resist the graces of her manners and of her

We have not time to relate how she obtained, and how she
preserved, her empire over the young couple in whose household
she was placed, how she became so powerful, that neither minister
of Spain nor ambassador from France could stand against her, how
Lewis himself was compelled to court her, how she received orders
from Versailles to retire, how the Queen took part with her
favourite attendant, how the King took part with the Queen, and
how, after much squabbling, lying, shuffling, bullying, and
coaxing, the dispute was adjusted. We turn to the events of the

When hostilities were proclaimed at London, Vienna, and the
Hague, Philip was at Naples. He had been with great difficulty
prevailed upon, by the most urgent representations from
Versailles, to separate himself from his wife, and to repair
without her to his Italian dominions, which were then menaced by
the Emperor. The Queen acted as Regent, and, child as she was,
seems to have been quite as competent to govern the kingdom as
her husband or any of his ministers.

In August 1702, an armament, under the command of the Duke of
Ormond, appeared off Cadiz. The Spanish authorities had no funds
and no regular troops. The national spirit, however, supplied, in
some degree, what was wanting. The nobles and farmers advanced
money. The peasantry were formed into what the Spanish writers
call bands of heroic patriots, and what General Stanhope calls "a
rascally foot militia." If the invaders had acted with vigour and
judgment, Cadiz would probably have fallen. But the chiefs of the
expedition were divided by national and professional feelings,
Dutch against English, and land against sea. Sparre, the Dutch
general, was sulky and perverse. Bellasys, the English general,
embezzled the stores. Lord Mahon imputes the ill-temper of Sparre
to the influence of the republican institutions of Holland. By
parity of reason, we suppose that he would impute the peculations
of Bellasys to the influence of the monarchical and
aristocratical institutions of England. The Duke of Ormond, who
had the command of the whole expedition, proved on this occasion,
as on every other, destitute of the qualities which great
emergencies require. No discipline was kept; the soldiers were
suffered to rob and insult those whom it was most desirable to
conciliate. Churches were robbed, images were pulled down; nuns
were violated. The officers shared the spoil instead of punishing
the spoilers; and at last the armament, loaded, to use the words
of Stanhope, "with a great deal of plunder and infamy," quitted
the scene of Essex's glory, leaving the only Spaniard of note who
had declared for them to be hanged by his countrymen. The fleet
was off the coast of Portugal, on the way back to England, when
the Duke of Ormond received intelligence that the treasure-ships
from America had just arrived in Europe, and had, in order to
avoid his armament, repaired to the harbour of Vigo. The cargo
consisted, it was said, of more than three millions sterling in
gold and silver, besides much valuable merchandise. The prospect
of plunder reconciled all disputes. Dutch and English admirals
and generals, were equally eager for action. The Spaniards might
with the greatest ease have secured the treasure by simply
landing it; but it was a fundamental law of Spanish trade that
the galleons should unload at Cadiz, and at Cadiz only. The
Chamber of Commerce at Cadiz, in the true spirit of monopoly,
refused, even at this conjuncture, to bate one jot of its
privilege. The matter was referred to the Council of the Indies.
That body deliberated and hesitated just a day too long. Some
feeble preparations for defence were made. Two ruined towers at
the mouth of the bay of Vigo were garrisoned by a few ill-armed
and untrained rustics; a boom was thrown across the entrance of
the basin; and a few French ships of war, which had convoyed the
galleons from America, were moored within. But all was to no
purpose. The English ships broke the boom; Ormond and his
soldiers scaled the forts; the French burned their ships, and
escaped to the shore. The conquerors shared some millions of
dollars; some millions more were sunk. When all the galleons had
been captured or destroyed came an order in due form allowing
them to unload.

When Philip returned to Madrid in the beginning of 1703, he found
the finances more embarrassed, the people more discontented and
the hostile coalition more formidable than ever. The loss of the
galleons had occasioned a great deficiency in the revenue. The
Admiral of Castile, one of the greatest subjects in Europe, had
fled to Lisbon and sworn allegiance to the Archduke. The King of
Portugal soon after acknowledged Charles as King of Spain, and
prepared to support the title of the House of Austria by arms.

On the other side, Lewis sent to the assistance of his grandson
an army of 12,000 men, commanded by the Duke of Berwick. Berwick
was the son of James the Second and Arabella Churchill. He had
been brought up to expect the highest honours which an English
subject could enjoy; but the whole course of his life was changed
by the revolution which overthrew his infatuated father. Berwick
became an exile, a man without a country; and from that time
forward his camp was to him in the place of a country, and
professional honour was his patriotism. He ennobled his wretched
calling. There was a stern, cold, Brutus-like virtue in the
manner in which he discharged the duties of a soldier of fortune.
His military fidelity was tried by the strongest temptations, and
was found invincible. At one time he fought against his uncle; at
another time he fought against the cause of his brother; yet he
was never suspected of treachery or even of slackness.

Early in 1704 an army, composed of English, Dutch, and
Portuguese, was assembled on the western frontier of Spain. The
Archduke Charles had arrived at Lisbon, and appeared in person at
the head of his troops. The military skill of Berwick held the
Allies, who were commanded by Lord Galway, in check through the
whole campaign. On the south, however, a great blow was struck.
An English fleet, under Sir George Rooke, having on board several
regiments commanded by the Prince of Hesse Darmstadt, appeared
before the rock of Gibraltar. That celebrated stronghold, which
nature has made all but impregnable, and against which all the
resources of the military art have been employed in vain, was
taken as easily as if it had been an open village in a plain. The
garrison went to say their prayers instead of standing on their
guard. A few English sailors climbed the rock. The Spaniards
capitulated; and the British flag was placed on those ramparts
from which the combined armies and navies of France and Spain
have never been able to pull it down. Rooke proceeded to Malaga,
gave battle in the neighbourhood of that port to a French
squadron, and after a doubtful action returned to England.

But greater events were at hand. The English Government had
determined to send an expedition to Spain, under the command of
Charles Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough. This man was, if not the
greatest, yet assuredly the most extraordinary character of that
age, the King of Sweden himself not excepted. Indeed,
Peterborough may be described as a polite, learned, and amorous
Charles the Twelfth. His courage had all the French impetuosity,
and all the English steadiness. His fertility and activity of
mind were almost beyond belief. They appeared in everything that
he did, in his campaigns, in his negotiations, in his familiar
correspondence, in his lightest and most unstudied conversation.
He was a kind friend, a generous enemy, and in deportment a
thorough gentleman. But his splendid talents and virtues were
rendered almost useless to his country, by his levity, his
restlessness, his irritability, his morbid craving for novelty
and for excitement. His weaknesses had not only brought him, on
more than one occasion, into serious trouble; but had impelled
him to some actions altogether unworthy of his humane and noble
nature. Repose was insupportable to him. He loved to fly round
Europe faster than a travelling courier. He was at the Hague one
week, at Vienna the next. Then he took a fancy to see Madrid; and
he had scarcely reached Madrid, when he ordered horses and set
off for Copenhagen. No attendants could keep up with his speed.
No bodily infirmities could confine him. Old age, disease,
imminent death, produced scarcely any effect on his intrepid
spirit. Just before he underwent the most horrible of surgical
operations, his conversation was as sprightly as that of a young
man in the full vigour of health. On the day after the operation,
in spite of the entreaties of his medical advisers, he would set
out on a journey. His figure was that of a skeleton. But his
elastic mind supported him under fatigues and sufferings which
seemed sufficient to bring the most robust man to the grave.
Change of employment was as necessary to him as change of place.
He loved to dictate six or seven letters at once. Those who had
to transact business with him complained that though he talked
with great ability on every subject, he could never be kept to
the point. "Lord Peterborough," said Pope, "would say very pretty
and lively things in his letters, but they would be rather too
gay and wandering; whereas, were Lord Bolingbroke to write to an
emperor, or to a statesman, he would fix on that point which was
the most material, would set it in the strongest and fiercest
light, and manage it so as to make it the most serviceable to his
purpose." What Peterborough was to Bolingbroke as a writer, he
was to Marlborough as a general. He was, in truth, the last of
the knights-errant, brave to temerity, liberal to profusion,
courteous in his dealings with enemies, the Protector of the
oppressed, the adorer of women. His virtues and vices were those
of the Round Table. Indeed, his character can hardly be better
summed up, than in the lines in which the author of that clever
little poem, Monks and Giants, has described Sir Tristram.

"His birth, it seems, by Merlin's calculation,
Was under Venus, Mercury, and Mars;
His mind with all their attributes was mixed,
And, like those planets, wandering and unfixed.

"From realm to realm he ran, and never staid:
Kingdoms and crowns he won, and gave away:
It seemed as if his labours were repaid
By the mere noise and movement of the fray:
No conquests or acquirements had he made;
His chief delight was, on some festive day
To ride triumphant, prodigal, and proud,
And shower his wealth amidst the shouting crowd.

"His schemes of war were sudden, unforeseen,
Inexplicable both to friend and foe;
It seemed as if some momentary spleen
Inspired the project, and impelled the blow;
And most his fortune and success were seen
With means the most inadequate and low;
Most master of himself, and least encumbered,
When overmatched, entangled, and outnumbered."

In June 1705, this remarkable man arrived in Lisbon with five
thousand Dutch and English soldiers. There the Archduke embarked
with a large train of attendants, whom Peterborough entertained
magnificently during the voyage at his own expense. From Lisbon
the armament proceeded to Gibraltar, and, having taken the Prince
of Hesse Darmstadt on board, steered towards the north-east along
the coast of Spain.

The first place at which the expedition touched, after leaving
Gibraltar, was Altea in Valencia. The wretched misgovernment of
Philip had excited great discontent throughout this province. The
invaders were eagerly welcomed. The peasantry flocked to the
shore, bearing provisions, and shouting, "Long live Charles the
Third." The neighbouring fortress of Denia surrendered without a

The imagination of Peterborough took fire. He conceived the hope
of finishing the war at one blow. Madrid was but a hundred and
fifty miles distant. There was scarcely one fortified place on
the road. The troops of Philip were either on the frontiers of
Portugal or on the coast of Catalonia. At the capital there was
no military force, except a few horse who formed a guard of
honour round the person of Philip. But the scheme of pushing into
the heart of a great kingdom with an army of only seven thousand
men, was too daring to please the Archduke.

The Prince of Hesse Darmstadt, who, in the reign of the late King
of Spain, had been Governor of Catalonia, and who overrated his
own influence in that province, was of opinion that they ought
instantly to proceed thither, and to attack Barcelona,
Peterborough was hampered by his instructions, and found it
necessary to submit.

On the sixteenth of August the fleet arrived before Barcelona;
and Peterborough found that the task assigned to him by the
Archduke and the Prince was one of almost insuperable difficulty.
One side of the city was protected by the sea; the other by the
strong fortifications of Monjuich. The walls were so extensive,
that thirty thousand men would scarcely have been sufficient to
invest them. The garrison was as numerous as the besieging army.
The best officers in the Spanish service were in the town. The
hopes which the Prince of Darmstadt had formed of a general
rising in Catalonia were grievously disappointed. The invaders
were joined only by about fifteen hundred armed peasants, whose
services cost more than they were worth.

No general was ever in a more deplorable situation than that in
which Peterborough was now placed. He had always objected to the
scheme of besieging Barcelona. His objections had been overruled.
He had to execute a project which he had constantly represented
as impracticable. His camp was divided into hostile factions and
he was censured by all. The Archduke and the Prince blamed him
for not proceeding instantly to take the town; but suggested no
plan by which seven thousand men could be enabled to do the work
of thirty thousand. Others blamed their general for giving up his
own opinion to the childish whims of Charles, and for sacrificing
his men in an attempt to perform what was impossible. The Dutch
commander positively declared that his soldiers should not stir:
Lord Peterborough might give what orders he chose; but to engage
in such a siege was madness; and the men should not be sent to
certain death when there was no chance of obtaining any

At length, after three weeks of inaction, Peterborough announced
his fixed determination to raise the siege. The heavy cannon were
sent on board. Preparations were made for re-embarking the
troops. Charles and the Prince of Hesse were furious, but most of
the officers blamed their general for having delayed so long the
measure which he had at last found it necessary to take. On the
twelfth of September there were rejoicings and public
entertainments in Barcelona for this great deliverance. On the
following morning the English flag was flying on the ramparts of
Monjuich. The genius and energy of one man had supplied the place
of forty battalions.

At midnight Peterborough had called out the Prince of Hesse, with
whom he had not for some time been on speaking terms, "I have
resolved, sir," said the Earl, "to attempt an assault; you may
accompany us, if you think fit, and see whether I and my men
deserve what you have been pleased to say of us." The Prince was
startled. The attempt, he said, was hopeless; but he was ready to
take his share; and, without further discussion, he called for
his horse.

Fifteen hundred English soldiers were assembled under the Earl. A
thousand more had been posted as a body of reserve, at a
neighbouring convent, under the command of Stanhope. After a
winding march along the foot of the hills, Peterborough and his
little army reached the walls of Monjuich. There they halted till
daybreak. As soon as they were descried, the enemy advanced into
the outer ditch to meet them. This was the event on which
Peterborough had reckoned, and for which his men were prepared.
The English received the fire, rushed forward, leaped into the
ditch, put the Spaniards to flight, and entered the works
together with the fugitives. Before the garrison had recovered
from their first surprise, the Earl was master of the outworks,
had taken several pieces of cannon, and had thrown up a
breastwork to defend his men. He then sent off for Stanhope's
reserve. While he was waiting for this reinforcement, news
arrived that three thousand men were marching from Barcelona
towards Monjuich. He instantly rode out to take a view of them;
but no sooner had he left his troops than they were seized with a
panic. Their situation was indeed full of danger; they had been
brought into Monjuich, they scarcely knew how; their numbers were
small; their general was gone: their hearts failed them, and they
were proceeding to evacuate the fort. Peterborough received
information of these occurrences in time to stop the retreat. He
galloped up to the fugitives, addressed a few words to them, and
put himself at their head. The sound of his voice and the sight
of his face restored all their courage, and they marched back to
their former position.

The Prince of Hesse had fallen in the confusion of the assault;
but everything else went well. Stanhope arrived; the detachment
which had marched out of Barcelona retreated; the heavy cannon
were disembarked, and brought to bear on the inner
fortifications of Monjuich, which speedily fell. Peterborough,
with his usual generosity, rescued the Spanish soldiers from the
ferocity of his victorious army, and paid the last honours with
great pomp to his rival the Prince of Hesse.

The reduction of Monjuich was the first of a series of brilliant
exploits. Barcelona fell; and Peterborough had the glory of
taking, with a handful of men, one of the largest and strongest
towns of Europe. He had also the glory, not less dear to his
chivalrous temper, of saving the life and honour of the beautiful
Duchess of Popoli, whom he met flying with dishevelled hair from
the fury of the soldiers. He availed himself dexterously of the
jealousy with which the Catalonians regarded the inhabitants of
Castile. He guaranteed to the province in the capital of which he
was now quartered all its ancient rights and liberties, and thus
succeeded in attaching the population to the Austrian cause.

The open country now declared in favour of Charles. Tarragona,
Tortosa, Gerona, Lerida, San Mateo, threw open their gates. The
Spanish Government sent the Count of Las Torres with seven
thousand men to reduce San Mateo. The Earl of Peterborough, with
only twelve hundred men, raised the siege. His officers advised
him to be content with this extraordinary success. Charles urged
him to return to Barcelona; but no remonstrances could stop such
a spirit in the midst of such a career. It was the depth of
winter. The country was mountainous. The roads were almost
impassable. The men were ill-clothed. The horses were knocked up.
The retreating army was far more numerous than the pursuing army.
But difficulties and dangers vanished before the energy of
Peterborough. He pushed on, driving Las Torres before him. Nules
surrendered to the mere terror of his name; and, on the fourth of
February, 1706 he arrived in triumph at Valencia. There he
learned that a body of four thousand men was on the march to join
Las Torres. He set out at dead of night from Valencia, passed the
Xucar, came unexpectedly on the encampment of the enemy, and
slaughtered, dispersed, or took the whole reinforcement. The
Valencians could scarcely believe their eyes when they saw the
prisoners brought in.

In the meantime the Courts of Madrid and Versailles, exasperated
and alarmed by the fall of Barcelona and by the revolt of the
surrounding country, determined to make a great effort. A large
army, nominally commanded by Philip, but really under the orders
of Marshal Tesse, entered Catalonia. A fleet under the Count of
Toulouse, one of the natural children of Lewis the Fourteenth,
appeared before the port of Barcelona, The city was attacked at
once by sea and land. The person of the Archduke was in
considerable danger. Peterborough, at the head of about three
thousand men, marched with great rapidity from Valencia. To give
battle, with so small a force, to a great regular army under the
conduct of a Marshal of France, would have been madness. The Earl
therefore made war after the fashion of the Minas and Empecinados
of our own time. He took his post on the neighbouring mountains,
harassed the enemy with incessant alarms, cut off their
stragglers, intercepted their communications with the interior,
and introduced supplies, both of men and provisions, into the
town. He saw, however, that the only hope of the besieged was on
the side of the sea. His commission from the British Government
gave him supreme power, not only over the army, but, whenever he
should be actually on board, over the navy also. He put out to
sea at night in an open boat, without communicating his design to
any person. He was picked up several leagues from the shore, by
one of the ships of the English squadron. As soon as he was on
board, he announced himself as first in command, and sent a
pinnace with his orders to the Admiral. Had these orders been
given a few hours earlier, it is probable that the whole French
fleet would have been taken. As it was, the Count of Toulouse put
out to sea. The port was open. The town was relieved. On the
following night the enemy raised the siege and retreated to
Roussillon. Peterborough returned to Valencia, a place which he
preferred to every other in Spain; and Philip, who had been some
weeks absent from his wife, could endure the misery of separation
no longer, and flew to rejoin her at Madrid.

At Madrid, however, it was impossible for him or for her to
remain. The splendid success which Peterborough had obtained on
the eastern coast of the Peninsula had inspired the sluggish
Galway with emulation. He advanced into the heart of Spain.
Berwick retreated. Alcantara, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Salamanca fell,
and the conquerors marched towards the capital.

Philip was earnestly pressed by his advisers to remove the seat
of government to Burgos. The advance guard of the allied army was
already seen on the heights above Madrid. It was known that the
main body was at hand. The unfortunate Prince fled with his Queen
and his household. The royal wanderers, after travelling eight
days on bad roads, under a burning sun, and sleeping eight nights
in miserable hovels, one of which fell down and nearly crushed
them both to death, reached the metropolis of Old Castile. In the
meantime the invaders had entered Madrid in triumph, and had
proclaimed the Archduke in the streets of the imperial city.
Arragon, ever jealous of the Castilian ascendency, followed the
example of Catalonia. Saragossa revolted without seeing an enemy.
The governor whom Philip had set over Carthagena betrayed his
trust, and surrendered to the Allies the best arsenal and the
last ships which Spain possessed.

Toledo had been for some time the retreat of two ambitious,
turbulent and vindicative intriguers, the Queen Dowager and
Cardinal Porto Carrero. They had long been deadly enemies. They
had led the adverse factions of Austria and France. Each had in
turn domineered over the weak and disordered mind of the late
King. At length the impostures of the priest had triumphed over
the blandishments of the woman; Porto Carrero had remained
victorious; and the Queen had fled in shame and mortification,
from the Court where she had once been supreme. In her retirement
she was soon joined by him whose arts had destroyed her
influence. The Cardinal, having held power just long enough to
convince all parties of his incompetency, had been dismissed to
his See, cursing his own folly and the ingratitude of the House
which he had served too well. Common interests and common
enmities reconciled the fallen rivals. The Austrian troops were
admitted into Toledo without opposition. The Queen Dowager flung
off that mournful garb which the widow of a King of Spain wears
through her whole life, and blazed forth in jewels. The Cardinal
blessed the standards of the invaders in his magnificent
cathedral, and lighted up his palace in honour of the great
deliverance. It seemed that the struggle had terminated in favour
of the Archduke, and that nothing remained for Philip but a
prompt flight into the dominions of his grandfather.

So judged those who were ignorant of the character and habits of
the Spanish people. There is no country in Europe which it is so
easy to overrun as Spain, there is no country in Europe which it
is more difficult to conquer. Nothing can be more contemptible
than the regular military resistance which Spain offers to an
invader; nothing more formidable than the energy which she puts
forth when her regular military resistance has been beaten down.
Her armies have long borne too much resemblance to mobs; but her
mobs have had, in an unusual degree, the spirit of armies. The
soldier, as compared with other soldiers, is deficient in
military qualities; but the peasant has as much of those
qualities as the soldier. In no country have such strong
fortresses been taken by surprise: in no country have unfortified
towns made so furious and obstinate a resistance to great armies.
War in Spain has, from the days of the Romans, had a character
of its own; it is a fire which cannot be raked out; it burns
fiercely under the embers; and long after it has, to all
seeming, been extinguished, bursts forth more violently than
ever. This was seen in the last war. Spain had no army which
could have looked in the face an equal number of
French or Prussian soldiers; but one day laid the Prussian
monarchy in the dust; one day put the crown of France at the
disposal of invaders. No Jena, no Waterloo, would have enabled
Joseph to reign in quiet at Madrid.

The conduct of the Castilians throughout the War of the
Succession was most characteristic. With all the odds of number
and situation on their side, they had been ignominiously beaten.
All the European dependencies of the Spanish crown were lost.
Catalonia, Arragon, and Valencia had acknowledged the Austrian
Prince. Gibraltar had been taken by a few sailors; Barcelona
stormed by a few dismounted dragoons. The invaders had penetrated
into the centre of the Peninsula, and were quartered at Madrid
and Toledo. While these events had been in progress, the nation
had scarcely given a sign of life. The rich could hardly be
prevailed on to give or to lend for the support of war; the
troops had shown neither discipline nor courage; and now at last,
when it seemed that all was lost, when it seemed that the most
sanguine must relinquish all hope, the national spirit awoke,
fierce, proud, and unconquerable. The people had been sluggish
when the circumstances might well have inspired hope; they
reserved all their energy for what appeared to be a season of
despair. Castile, Leon, Andalusia, Estremadura, rose at once;
every peasant procured a firelock or a pike; the Allies were
masters only of the ground on which they trod. No soldier could
wander a hundred yards from the main body of the invading army
without imminent risk of being poniarded. The country through
which the conquerors had passed to Madrid, and which, as they
thought, they had subdued, was all in arms behind them. Their
communications with Portugal were cut off. In the meantime, money
began, for the first time, to flow rapidly into the treasury of
the fugitive King. "The day before yesterday," says the Princess
Orsini, in a letter written at this time, "the priest of a
village which contains only a hundred and twenty houses brought a
hundred and twenty pistoles to the Queen. 'My flock,' said he,
'are ashamed to send you so little; but they beg you to believe
that in this purse there are a hundred and twenty hearts faithful
even to the death.' The good man wept as he spoke; and indeed we
wept too. Yesterday another small village, in which there are
only twenty houses, sent us fifty pistoles."

While the Castilians were everywhere arming in the cause of
Philip, the Allies were serving that cause as effectually by
their mismanagement. Galway staid at Madrid, where his soldiers
indulged in such boundless licentiousness that one half of them
were in the hospitals. Charles remained dawdling in Catalonia.
Peterborough had taken Requena, and wished to march from Valencia
towards Madrid, and to effect a junction with Galway; but the
Archduke refused his consent to the plan. The indignant general
remained accordingly in his favourite city, on the beautiful
shores of the Mediterranean, reading Don Quixote, giving balls
and suppers, trying in vain to get some good sport out of the
Valencia bulls, and making love, not in vain, to the Valencian

At length the Archduke advanced into Castile, and ordered
Peterborough to join him. But it was too late. Berwick had
already compelled Galway to evacuate Madrid; and, when the whole
force of the Allies was collected at Guadalaxara, it was found to
be decidedly inferior in numbers to that of the enemy.

Peterborough formed a plan for regaining possession of the
capital. His plan was rejected by Charles. The patience of the
sensitive and vainglorious hero was worn out. He had none of that
serenity of temper which enabled Marlborough to act in perfect
harmony with Eugene, and to endure the vexatious interference of
the Dutch deputies. He demanded permission to leave the army.
Permission was readily granted; and he set out for Italy. That
there might be some pretext for his departure, he was
commissioned by the Archduke to raise a loan in Genoa, on the
credit of the revenues of Spain.

From that moment to the end of the campaign the tide of fortune
ran strong against the Austrian cause. Berwick had placed his
army between the Allies and the frontiers of Portugal. They
retreated on Valencia, and arrived in that Province, leaving
about ten thousand prisoners in the hands of the enemy.

In January 1707, Peterborough arrived at Valencia from Italy, no
longer bearing a public character, but merely as a volunteer. His
advice was asked, and it seems to have been most judicious. He
gave it as his decided opinion that no offensive operations
against Castile ought to be undertaken. It would be easy, he
said, to defend Arragon, Catalonia, and Valencia, against Philip.
The inhabitants of those parts of Spain were attached to the
cause of the Archduke; and the armies of the House of Bourbon
would be resisted by the whole population. In a short time the
enthusiasm of the Castilians might abate. The government of
Philip might commit unpopular acts. Defeats in the Netherlands
might compel Lewis to withdraw the succours which he had
furnished to his grandson. Then would be the time to strike a
decisive blow. This excellent advice was rejected. Peterborough,
who had now received formal letters of recall from England,
departed before the opening of the campaign; and with him
departed the good fortune of the Allies. Scarcely any general had
ever done so much with means so small. Scarcely any general had
ever displayed equal originality and boldness. He possessed, in
the highest degree, the art of conciliating those whom he had
subdued. But he was not equally successful in winning the
attachment of those with whom he acted. He was adored by the
Catalonians and Valencians; but he was hated by the prince whom
he had all but made a great king, and by the generals whose
fortune and reputation were staked on the same venture with his
own. The English Government could not understand him. He was so
eccentric that they gave him no credit for the judgment which he
really possessed. One day he took towns with horse-soldiers; then
again he turned some hundreds of infantry into cavalry at a
minute's notice. He obtained his political intelligence chiefly
by means of love affairs, and filled his despatches with
epigrams. The ministers thought that it would be highly impolitic
to intrust the conduct of the Spanish war to so volatile and
romantic a person. They therefore gave the command to Lord
Galway, an experienced veteran, a man who was in war what
Moliere's doctors were in medicine, who thought it much more
honourable to fail according to rule, than to succeed by
innovation, and who would have been very much ashamed of himself
if he had taken Monjuich by means so strange as those which
Peterborough employed. This great commander conducted the
campaign of 1707 in the most scientific manner. On the plain of
Almanza he encountered the army of the Bourbons. He drew up his
troops according to the methods prescribed by the best writers,
and in a few hours lost eighteen thousand men, a hundred and
twenty standards, all his baggage and all his artillery. Valencia
and Arragon were instantly conquered by the French, and, at the
close of the year, the mountainous province of Catalonia was the
only part of Spain which still adhered to Charles.

"Do you remember, child," says the foolish woman in the Spectator
to her husband, "that the pigeon-house fell the very afternoon
that our careless wench spilt the salt upon the table?" "Yes, my
dear," replies the gentleman, "and the next post brought us an
account of the battle of Almanza." The approach of disaster in
Spain had been for some time indicated by omens much clearer than
the mishap of the salt-cellar; an ungrateful prince, an
undisciplined army, a divided council, envy triumphant over
merit, a man of genius recalled, a pedant and a sluggard
intrusted with supreme command. The battle of Almanza decided the
fate of Spain. The loss was such as Marlborough or Eugene could
scarcely have retrieved, and was certainly not to be retrieved by
Stanhope and Staremberg.

Stanhope, who took the command of the English army in Catalonia,
was a man of respectable abilities, both in military and civil
affairs, but fitter, we conceive, for a second than for a first
place. Lord Mahon, with his usual candour, tells us, what we
believe was not known before, that his ancestor's most
distinguished exploit, the conquest of Minorca, was suggested by
Marlborough. Staremberg, a methodical tactician of the German
school, was sent by the emperor to command in Spain. Two languid
campaigns followed, during which neither of the hostile armies
did anything memorable, but during which both were nearly

At length, in 1710, the chiefs of the Allied forces resolved to
venture on bolder measures. They began the campaign with a daring
move, pushed into Arragon, defeated the troops of Philip at
Almenara, defeated them again at Saragossa, and advanced to
Madrid. The King was again a fugitive. The Castilians sprang to
arms with the same enthusiasm which they had displayed in 1706.
The conquerors found the capital a desert. The people shut
themselves up in their houses, and refused to pay any mark of
respect to the Austrian prince. It was necessary to hire a few
children to shout before him in the streets. Meanwhile, the Court
of Philip at Valladolid was thronged by nobles and prelates.
Thirty thousand people followed their King from Madrid to his new
residence. Women of rank, rather than remain behind, performed
the journey on foot. The peasants enlisted by thousands. Money,
arms, and provisions, were supplied in abundance by the zeal of
the people. The country round Madrid was infested by small
parties of irregular horse. The Allies could not send off a
despatch to Arragon, or introduce a supply of provisions into the
capital. It was unsafe for the Archduke to hunt in the immediate
vicinity of the palace which he occupied.

The wish of Stanhope was to winter in Castile. But he stood alone
in the council of war; and, indeed it is not easy to understand
how the Allies could have maintained themselves, through so
unpropitious a season, in the midst of so hostile a population.
Charles, whose personal safety was the first object of the
generals, was sent with an escort of cavalry to Catalonia in
November; and in December the army commenced its retreat towards

But the Allies had to do with a master-spirit. The King of France
had lately sent the Duke of Vendome to command in Spain. This man
was distinguished by the filthiness of his person, by the
brutality of his demeanour, by the gross buffoonery of his
conversation, and by the impudence with which he abandoned
himself to the most nauseous of all vices. His sluggishness was
almost incredible. Even when engaged in a campaign, he often
passed whole days in his bed. His strange torpidity had been the
cause of some of the most serious disasters which the armies of
the House of Bourbon had sustained. But when he was roused by any
great emergency, his resources, his energy, and his presence of
mind, were such as had been found in no French general since the
death of Luxembourg.

At this crisis, Vendome was all himself. He set out from Talavera
with his troops, and pursued the retreating army of the Allies
with a speed perhaps never equalled, in such a season, and in
such a country. He marched night and day. He swam, at the head of
his cavalry, the flooded stream of Henares, and, in a few days,
overtook Stanhope, who was at Brihuega with the left wing of the
Allied army. "Nobody with me," says the English general, imagined
that they had any foot within some days' march of us and our
misfortune is owing to the incredible diligence which their army
made." Stanhope had but just time to send off a messenger to the
centre of the army, which was some leagues from Brihuega, before
Vendome was upon him. The town was invested on every side. The
walls were battered with cannon. A mine was sprung under one of
the gates. The English kept up a terrible fire till their powder
was spent. They then fought desperately with the bayonet against
overwhelming odds. They burned the houses which the assailants
had taken. But all was to no purpose. The British general saw
that resistance could produce only a useless carnage. He
concluded a capitulation; and his gallant little army became
prisoners of war on honourable terms.

Scarcely had Vendome signed the capitulation, when he learned
that Staremberg was marching to the relief of Stanhope.
Preparations were instantly made for a general action. On the day
following that on which the English had delivered up their arms,
was fought the obstinate and bloody fight of Villa Viciosa.
Staremberg remained master of the field. Vendome reaped all the
fruits of the battle. The Allies spiked their cannon, and retired
towards Arragon. But even in Arragon they found no place to rest.
Vendome was behind them. The guerilla parties were around them.
They fled to Catalonia; but Catalonia was invaded by a French
army from Roussillon. At length the Austrian general, with six
thousand harassed and dispirited men, the remains of a great and
victorious army, took refuge in Barcelona, almost the only place
in Spain which still recognised the authority of Charles.

Philip was now much safer at Madrid than his grandfather at
Paris. All hope of conquering Spain in Spain was at an end. But
in other quarters the House of Bourbon was reduced to the last
extremity. The French armies had undergone a series of defeats in
Germany, in Italy, and in the Netherlands. An immense force,
flushed with victory, and commanded by the greatest generals of
the age, was on the borders of France. Lewis had been forced to
humble himself before the conquerors. He had even offered to
abandon the cause of his grandson; and his offer had been
rejected. But a great turn in affairs was approaching.

The English administration which had commenced the war against
the House of Bourbon was an administration composed of Tories.
But the war was a Whig war. It was the favourite scheme of
William, the Whig King. Lewis had provoked it by recognising, as
sovereign of England, a prince peculiarly hateful to the Whigs.
It had placed England in a position of marked hostility to that
power from which alone the Pretender could expect efficient
succour. It had joined England in the closest union to a
Protestant and republican State, to a State which had assisted in
bringing about the Revolution, and which was willing to guarantee
the execution of the Act of Settlement. Marlborough and Godolphin
found that they were more zealously supported by their old
opponents than by their old associates. Those ministers who were
zealous for the war were gradually converted to Whiggism. The
rest dropped off, and were succeeded by Whigs. Cowper became
Chancellor. Sunderland, in spite of the very just antipathy of
Anne, was made Secretary of State. On the death of the Prince of
Denmark a more extensive change took place. Wharton became Lord
Lieutenant of Ireland, and Somers, President of the Council. At
length the administration was wholly in the hands of the Low
Church party.

In the year 1710 a violent change took place. The Queen had
always been a Tory at heart. Her religious feelings were all on
the side of the Established Church. Her family feelings pleaded
in favour of her exiled brother. Her selfish feelings disposed
her to favour the zealots of prerogative. The affection which she
felt for the Duchess of Marlborough was the great security of the
Whigs. That affection had at length turned to deadly aversion.
While the great party which had long swayed the destinies of
Europe was undermined by bedchamber women at St. James's, a
violent storm gathered in the country. A foolish parson had
preached a foolish sermon against the principles of the
Revolution. The wisest members of the Government were for letting
the man alone. But Godolphin, inflamed with all the zeal of a
new-made Whig, and exasperated by a nickname which was applied to
him in this unfortunate discourse, insisted that the preacher
should be impeached. The exhortations of the mild and sagacious
Somers were disregarded. The impeachment was brought; the doctor
was convicted; and the accusers were ruined. The clergy came to
the rescue of the persecuted clergyman. The country gentlemen
came to the rescue of the clergy. A display of Tory feelings,
such as England had not witnessed since the closing years of
Charles the Second's reign, appalled the ministers and gave
boldness to the Queen. She turned out the Whigs, called Harley
and St. John to power, and dissolved the Parliament. The
elections went strongly against the late Government. Stanhope,
who had in his absence, been put in nomination for Westminster,
was defeated by a Tory candidate. The new ministers, finding
themselves masters of the new Parliament, were induced by the
strongest motives to conclude a peace with France. The whole
system of alliance in which the country was engaged was a Whig
system. The general by whom the English armies had constantly
been led to victory, and for whom it was impossible to find a
substitute, was now whatever he might formerly have been, a Whig
general. If Marlborough were discarded it was probable that some
great disaster would follow. Yet if he were to retain his
command, every great action which he might perform would raise
the credit of the party in opposition.

A peace was therefore concluded between England and the Princes
of the House of Bourbon. Of that peace Lord Mahon speaks in terms
of the severest reprehension. He is, indeed, an excellent Whig of
the time of the first Lord Stanhope. "I cannot but pause for a
moment," says he, "to observe how much the course of a century
has inverted the meaning of our party nicknames, how much a
modern Tory resembles a Whig of Queen Anne's reign, and a Tory of
Queen Anne's reign a modern Whig."

We grant one half of Lord Mahon's proposition: from the other
half we altogether dissent. We allow that a modern Tory
resembles, in many things, a Whig of Queen Anne's reign. It is
natural that such should be the case. The worst things of one age
often resemble the best things of another. A modern shopkeeper's
house is as well furnished as the house of a considerable
merchant in Anne's reign. Very plain people now wear finer cloth
than Beau Fielding or Beau Edgeworth could have procured in Queen
Anne's reign. We would rather trust to the apothecary of a modern
village than to the physician of a large town in Anne's reign. A
modern boarding-school miss could tell the most learned professor
of Anne's reign some things in geography, astronomy, and
chemistry, which would surprise him.

The science of government is an experimental science; and
therefore it is, like all other experimental sciences, a
progressive science. Lord Mahon would have been a very good Whig
in the days of Harley. But Harley, whom Lord Mahon censures so
severely, was very Whiggish when compared even with Clarendon;
and Clarendon was quite a democrat when compared with Lord
Burleigh. If Lord Mahon lives, as we hope he will, fifty years
longer, we have no doubt that, as he now boasts of the
resemblance which the Tories of our time bear to the Whigs of the
Revolution, he will then boast of the resemblance borne by the
Tories of 1882 to those immortal patriots, the Whigs of the
Reform Bill.

Society, we believe, is constantly advancing in knowledge. The
tail is now where the head was some generations ago. But the head
and the tail still keep their distance. A nurse of this century
is as wise as a justice of the quorum and custalorum in Shallow's
time. The wooden spoon of this year would puzzle a senior
wrangler of the reign of George the Second. A boy from the
National School reads and spells better than half the knights of
the shire in the October Club. But there is still as wide a
difference as ever between justices and nurses, senior wranglers
and wooden spoons, members of Parliament and children at charity
schools. In the same way, though a Tory may now be very like what
a Whig was a hundred and twenty years ago, the Whig is as much in
advance of the Tory as ever. The stag, in the Treatise on the
Bathos, who "feared his hind feet would o'ertake the fore," was
not more mistaken than Lord Mahon, if he thinks that he has
really come up with the Whigs. The absolute position of the
parties has been altered; the relative position remains
unchanged. Through the whole of that great movement, which began
before these party-names existed, and which will continue after
they have become obsolete, through the whole of that great
movement of which the Charter of John, the institution of the
House of Commons, the extinction of Villanage, the separation
from the see of Rome, the expulsion of the Stuarts, the reform of
the Representative System, are successive stages, there have
been, under some name or other, two sets of men, those who were
before their age, and those who were behind it, those who were
the wisest among their contemporaries, and those who gloried in
being no wiser than their great-grandfathers. It is dreadful to
think, that, in due time, the last of those who straggle in the
rear of the great march will occupy the place now occupied by the
advanced guard. The Tory Parliament of 1710 would have passed for
a most liberal Parliament in the days of Elizabeth; and there are
at present few members of the Conservative Club who would not
have been fully qualified to sit with Halifax and Somers at the

Though, therefore, we admit that a modern Tory bears some
resemblance to a Whig of Queen Anne's reign, we can by no means
admit that a Tory of Anne's reign resembled a modern Whig. Have
the modern Whigs passed laws for the purpose of closing the
entrance of the House of Commons against the new interests
created by trade? Do the modern Whigs hold the doctrine of divine
right? Have the modern Whigs laboured to exclude all Dissenters
from office and power? The modern Whigs are, indeed, at the
present moment, like the Tories of 1712, desirous of peace, and
of close union with France. But is there no difference between
the France of 1712 and the France of 1832? Is France now the
stronghold of the "Popish tyranny" and the "arbitrary power"
against which our ancestors fought and prayed? Lord Mahon will
find, we think, that his parallel is, in all essential
circumstances, as incorrect as that which Fluellen drew between
Macedon and Monmouth, or as that which an ingenious Tory lately
discovered between Archbishop Williams and Archbishop Vernon.

We agree with Lord Mahon in thinking highly of the Whigs of Queen
Anne's reign. But that part of their conduct which he selects for
especial praise is precisely the part which we think most
objectionable. We revere them as the great champions of political
and of intellectual liberty. It is true that, when raised to
power, they were not exempt from the faults which power naturally
engenders. It is true that they were men born in the seventeenth
century, and that they were therefore ignorant of many truths
which are familiar to the men of the nineteenth century. But they
were, what the reformers of the Church were before them, and what
the reformers of the House of Commons have been since, the
leaders of their species in a right direction. It is true that
they did not allow to political discussion that latitude which to
us appears reasonable and safe; but to them we owe the removal of
the Censorship. It is true that they did not carry the principle
of religious liberty to its full extent; but to them we owe the
Toleration Act.

Though, however, we think that the Whigs of Anne's reign were, as
a body, far superior in wisdom and public virtue to their
contemporaries the Tories, we by no means hold ourselves bound to
defend all the measures of our favourite party. A life of action,
if it is to be useful, must be a life of compromise. But
speculation admits of no compromise. A public man is often under
the necessity of consenting to measures which he dislikes, lest
he should endanger the success of measures which he thinks of
vital importance. But the historian lies under no such necessity.
On the contrary, it is one of his most sacred duties to point out
clearly the errors of those whose general conduct he admires.

It seems to us, then, that, on the great question which divided
England during the last four years of Anne's reign, the Tories
were in the right, and the Whigs in the wrong. That question was,
whether England ought to conclude peace without exacting from
Philip a resignation of the Spanish crown?

No parliamentary struggle, from the time of the Exclusion Bill to
the time of the Reform Bill, has been so violent as that which
took place between the authors of the Treaty of Utrecht and the
War Party. The Commons were for peace; the Lords were for
vigorous hostilities. The Queen was compelled to choose which of
her two highest prerogatives she would exercise, whether she
would create Peers, or dissolve the Parliament.

The ties of party superseded the ties of neighbourhood and of
blood. The members of the hostile factions would scarcely speak
to each other, or bow to each other. The women appeared at the
theatres bearing the badges of their political sect. The schism
extended to the most remote counties of England. Talents, such as
had seldom before been displayed in political controversy, were
enlisted in the service of the hostile parties. On one side was
Steele, gay, lively, drunk with animal spirits and with factious
animosity, and Addison, with his polished satire, his
inexhaustible fertility of fancy, and his graceful simplicity of
style. In the front of the opposite ranks appeared a darker and
fiercer spirit, the apostate politician, the ribald priest, the
perjured lover, a heart burning with hatred against the whole
human race, a mind richly stored with images from the dung-hill
and the lazar-house. The ministers triumphed, and the peace was
concluded. Then came the reaction. A new sovereign ascended the
throne. The Whigs enjoyed the confidence of the King and of the
Parliament. The unjust severity with which the Tories had treated
Marlborough and Walpole was more than retaliated. Harley and
Prior were thrown into prison; Bolingbroke and Ormond were
compelled to take refuge in a foreign land. The wounds inflicted
in this desperate conflict continued to rankle for many years. It
was long before the members of either party could discuss the
question of the peace of Utrecht with calmness and impartiality.
That the Whig ministers had sold us to the Dutch; that the Tory
ministers had sold us to the French; that the war had been
carried on only to fill the pockets of Marlborough; that the
peace had been concluded only to facilitate the return of the
Pretender; these imputations and many others, utterly ungrounded,
or grossly exaggerated, were hurled backward and forward by the
political disputants of the last century. In our time the
question may be discussed without irritation. We will state, as
concisely as possible, the reasons which have led us to the
conclusion at which we have arrived.

The dangers which were to be apprehended from the peace were two;
first, the danger that Philip might be induced, by feelings of
private affection, to act in strict concert with the elder branch
of his house, to favour the French trade at the expense of
England, and to side with the French Government in future wars;
secondly, the danger that the posterity of the Duke of Burgundy
might become extinct, that Philip might become heir by blood to
the French crown, and that thus two great monarchies might be
united under one sovereign.

The first danger appears to us altogether chimerical. Family
affection has seldom produced much effect on the policy of
princes. The state of Europe at the time of the peace of Utrecht
proved that in politics the ties of interest are much stronger
than those of consanguinity or affinity. The Elector of Bavaria
had been driven from his dominions by his father-in-law; Victor
Amadeus was in arms against his sons-in-law; Anne was seated on a
throne from which she had assisted to push a most indulgent
father. It is true that Philip had been accustomed from childhood
to regard his grandfather with profound veneration. It was
probable, therefore, that the influence of Lewis at Madrid would
be very great. But Lewis was more than seventy years old; he
could not live long; his heir was an infant in the cradle. There
was surely no reason to think that the policy of the King of
Spain would be swayed by his regard for a nephew whom he had
never seen.

In fact, soon after the peace, the two branches of the House of
Bourbon began to quarrel. A close alliance was formed between
Philip and Charles, lately competitors for the Castilian crown. A
Spanish princess, betrothed to the King of France, was sent back
in the most insulting manner to her native country; and a decree
was put forth by the Court of Madrid commanding every Frenchman
to leave Spain. It is true that, fifty years after the peace of
Utrecht, an alliance of peculiar strictness was formed between
the French and Spanish Governments. But both Governments were
actuated on that occasion, not by domestic affection, but by
common interests and common enmities. Their compact, though
called the Family Compact, was as purely a political compact as
the league of Cambrai or the league of Pilnitz.

The second danger was that Philip might have succeeded to the
crown of his native country. This did not happen; but it might
have happened; and at one time it seemed very likely to happen. A
sickly child alone stood between the King of Spain and the
heritage of Lewis the Fourteenth. Philip, it is true, solemnly
renounced his claim to the French crown. But the manner in which
he had obtained possession of the Spanish crown had proved the
inefficacy of such renunciations. The French lawyers declared
Philip's renunciation null, as being inconsistent with the
fundamental law of the realm. The French people would probably
have sided with him whom they would have considered as the
rightful heir. Saint Simon, though much less zealous for
hereditary monarchy than most of his countrymen, and though
strongly attached to the Regent, declared, in the presence of
that prince, that he never would support the claims of the House
of Orleans against those of the King of Spain. "If such," he
said, "be my feelings, what must be the feelings of others?"
Bolingbroke, it is certain, was fully convinced that the
renunciation was worth no more than the paper on which it was
written, and demanded it only for the purpose of blinding the
English Parliament and people.

Yet, though it was at one time probable that the posterity of the
Duke of Burgundy would become extinct, and though it is almost
certain that, if the posterity of the Duke of Burgundy had become
extinct, Philip would have successfully preferred his claim to
the crown of France, we still defend the principle of the Treaty
of Utrecht. In the first place, Charles had, soon after the
battle of Villa-Viciosa, inherited, by the death of his elder
brother, all the dominions of the House of Austria. Surely, if to
these dominions he had added the whole monarchy of Spain, the
balance of power would have been seriously endangered. The union
of the Austrian dominions and Spain would not, it is true, have
been so alarming an event as the union of France and Spain. But
Charles was actually Emperor. Philip was not, and never might be,
King of France. The certainty of the less evil might well be set
against the chance of the greater evil.

But, in fact, we do not believe that Spain would long have
remained under the government either of an Emperor or of a King
of France. The character of the Spanish people was a better
security to the nations of Europe than any will, any instrument
of renunciation, or any treaty. The same energy which the people
of Castile had put forth when Madrid was occupied by the Allied
armies, they would have again put forth as soon as it appeared
that their country was about to become a French province. Though
they were no longer masters abroad, they were by no means
disposed to see foreigners set over them at home. If Philip had
attempted to govern Spain by mandates from Versailles, a second
Grand Alliance would easily have effected what the first had
failed to accomplish. The Spanish nation would have rallied
against him as zealously as it had before rallied round him. And
of this he seems to have been fully aware. For many years the
favourite hope of his heart was that he might ascend the throne
of his grandfather; but he seems never to have thought it
possible that he could reign at once in the country of his
adoption and in the country of his birth.

These were the dangers of the peace; and they seem to us to be of
no very formidable kind. Against these dangers are to be set off
the evils of war and the risk of failure. The evils of the war,
the waste of life, the suspension of trade, the expenditure of
wealth, the accumulation of debt, require no illustration. The
chances of failure it is difficult at this distance of time to
calculate with accuracy. But we think that an estimate
approximating to the truth may, without much difficulty, be
formed. The Allies had been victorious in Germany, Italy, and
Flanders. It was by no means improbable that they might fight
their way into the very heart of France. But at no time since the
commencement of the war had their prospects been so dark in that
country which was the very object of the struggle. In Spain they
held only a few square leagues. The temper of the great majority
of the nation was decidedly hostile to them. If they had
persisted, if they had obtained success equal to their highest
expectations, if they had gained a series of victories as
splendid as those of Blenheim and Ramilies, if Paris had fallen,
if Lewis had been a prisoner, we still doubt whether they would
have accomplished their object. They would still have had to
carry on interminable hostilities against the whole population of
a country which affords peculiar facilities to irregular warfare,
and in which invading armies suffer more from famine than from
the sword.

We are, therefore, for the peace of Utrecht. We are indeed no
admirers of the statesmen who concluded that peace. Harley, we
believe, was a solemn trifler, St. John a brilliant knave. The
great body of their followers consisted of the country clergy and
the country gentry; two classes of men who were then inferior in
intelligence to decent shopkeepers or farmers of our time. Parson
Barnabas, Parson Trulliber, Sir Wilful Witwould, Sir Francis
Wronghead, Squire Western, Squire Sullen, such were the people
who composed the main strength of the Tory party during the sixty
years which followed the Revolution. It is true that the means by
which the Tories came into power in 1710 were most disreputable.
It is true that the manner in which they used their power was
often unjust and cruel. It is true that, in order to bring about
their favourite project of peace, they resorted to slander and
deception, without the slightest scruple. It is true that they
passed off on the British nation a renunciation which they knew
to be invalid. It is true that they gave up the Catalans to the
vengeance of Philip, in a manner inconsistent with humanity and
national honour. But on the great question of Peace or War, we
cannot but think that, though their motives may have been selfish
and malevolent, their decision was beneficial to the State.

But we have already exceeded our limits. It remains only for us
to bid Lord Mahon heartily farewell, and to assure him that,
whatever dislike we may feel for his political opinions, we shall
always meet him with pleasure on the neutral ground of


(April 1842)

Frederic the Great and his Times. Edited, with an Introduction,
By THOMAS CAMPBELL, Esq. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1842.

THIS work, which has the high honour of being introduced to the
world by the author of Lochiel and Hohenlinden, is not wholly
unworthy of so distinguished a chaperon. It professes, indeed, to
be no more than a compilation; but it is an exceedingly amusing
compilation, and we shall be glad to have more of it. The
narrative comes down at present only to the commencement of the
Seven Years' War, and therefore does not comprise the most
interesting portion of Frederic's reign.

It may not be unacceptable to our readers that we should take
this opportunity of presenting them with a slight sketch of the
life of the greatest king that has, in modern times, succeeded by
right of birth to a throne. It may, we fear, be impossible to
compress so long and eventful a story within the limits which we
must prescribe to ourselves. Should we be compelled to break off,
we may perhaps, when the continuation of this work appears,
return to the subject.

The Prussian monarchy, the youngest of the great European,
states, but in population and revenue the fifth among them, and
in art, science, and civilisation entitled to the third, if not
to the second place, sprang from a humble origin. About the
beginning of the fifteenth century, the marquisate of Brandenburg
was bestowed by the Emperor Sigismund on the noble family of
Hohenzollern. In the sixteenth century that family embraced the
Lutheran doctrines. It obtained from the King of Poland, early in
the seventeenth century, the investiture of the duchy of Prussia.
Even after this accession of territory, the chiefs of the house
of Hohenzollern hardly ranked with the Electors of Saxony and
Bavaria. The soil of Brandenburg was for the most part sterile.
Even round Berlin, the capital of the province, and round
Potsdam, the favourite residence of the Margraves, the country
was a desert. In some places, the deep sand could with difficulty
be forced by assiduous tillage to yield thin crops of rye and
oats. In other places, the ancient forests, which the conquerors
of the Roman Empire had descended on the Danube, remained
untouched by the hand of man. Where the soil was rich it was
generally marshy, and its insalubrity repelled the cultivators
whom its fertility attracted. Frederic William, called the Great
Elector, was the prince to whose policy his successors have
agreed to ascribe their greatness. He acquired by the peace of
Westphalia several valuable possessions, and among them the rich
city and district of Magdeburg; and he left to his son Frederic a
principality as considerable as any which was not called a

Frederic aspired to the style of royalty. Ostentatious and
profuse, negligent of his true interests and of his high duties,
insatiably eager for frivolous distinctions, he added nothing to
the real weight of the state which he governed; perhaps he
transmitted his inheritance to his children impaired rather than
augmented in value; but he succeeded in gaining the great object
of his life, the title of King. In the year 1700 he assumed this
new dignity. He had on that occasion to undergo all the
mortifications which fall to the lot of ambitious upstarts.
Compared with the other crowned heads of Europe, he made a figure
resembling that which a Nabob or a Commissary, who had bought a
title, would make in the Company of Peers whose ancestors had
been attainted for treason against the Plantagenets. The envy of
the class which Frederic quitted, and the civil scorn of the
class into which he intruded himself, were marked in very
significant ways. The Elector of Saxony at first refused to
acknowledge the new Majesty. Lewis the Fourteenth looked down on
his brother King with an air not unlike that with which the Count
in Moliere's play regards Monsieur Jourdain, just fresh from the
mummery of being made a gentleman. Austria exacted large
sacrifices in return for her recognition, and at last gave it

Frederic was succeeded by his son, Frederic William, a prince who
must be allowed to have possessed some talents for
administration, but whose character was disfigured by odious
vices, and whose eccentricities were such as had never before
been seen out of a madhouse. He was exact and diligent in the
transacting of business; and he was the first who formed the
design of obtaining for Prussia a place among the European
powers, altogether out of proportion to her extent and population
by means of a strong military organisation. Strict economy
enabled him to keep up a peace establishment of sixty thousand
troops. These troops were disciplined in such a manner, that,
placed beside them, the household regiments of Versailles and St.
James's would have appeared an awkward squad. The master of such
a force could not but be regarded by all his neighbours as a
formidable enemy and a valuable ally.

But the mind of Frederic William was so ill regulated, that all
his inclinations became passions, and all his passions partook of
the character of moral and intellectual disease. His parsimony
degenerated into sordid avarice. His taste for military pomp and
order became a mania, like that of a Dutch burgomaster for
tulips, or that of a member of the Roxburghe Club for Caxtons.
While the envoys of the Court of Berlin were in a state of such
squalid poverty as moved the laughter of foreign capitals, while
the food placed before the princes and princesses of the blood-
royal of Prussia was too scanty to appease hunger, and so bad
that even hunger loathed it, no price was thought too extravagant
for tall recruits. The ambition of the King was to form a brigade
of giants, and every country was ransacked by his agents for men
above the ordinary stature. These researches were not confined to
Europe. No head that towered above the crowd in the bazaars of
Aleppo, of Cairo, or of Surat, could escape the crimps of
Frederic William. One Irishman more than seven feet high, who was
picked up in London by the Prussian ambassador, received a bounty
of near thirteen hundred pounds sterling, very much more than the
ambassador's salary. This extravagance was the more absurd,
because a stout youth of five feet eight, who might have been
procured for a few dollars, would in all probability have been a
much more valuable soldier. But to Frederic William, this huge
Irishman was what a brass Otho, or a Vinegar Bible, is to a
collector of a different kind.

It is remarkable, that though the main end of Frederic William's
administration was to have a great military force, though his
reign forms an important epoch in the history of military
discipline, and though his dominant passion was the love of
military display he was yet one of the most pacific of princes.
We are afraid that his aversion to war was not the effect of
humanity, but was merely one of his thousand whims. His feeling
about his troops seems to have resembled a miser's feeling about
his money. He loved to collect them, to count them, to see them
increase; but he could not find it in his heart to break in upon
the precious hoard. He looked forward to some future time when
his Patagonian battalions were to drive hostile infantry before
them like sheep; but this future time was always receding; and it
is probable that, if his life had been prolonged thirty years,
his superb army would never have seen any harder service than a
sham fight in the fields near Berlin. But the great military
means which he had collected were destined to be employed by a
spirit far more daring and inventive than his own.

Frederic, surnamed the Great, son of Frederic William, was born
in January 1712. It may safely be pronounced that he had received
from nature a strong and sharp understanding, and a rare firmness
of temper and intensity of will. As to the other parts of his
character, it is difficult to say whether they are to be ascribed
to nature, or to the strange training which he underwent. The
history of his boyhood is painfully interesting. Oliver Twist in
the parish workhouse, Smike at Dotheboys Hall, were petted
children when compared with this heir apparent of a crown. The
nature of Frederic William was hard and bad, and the habit of
exercising arbitrary power had made him frightfully savage. His
rage constantly vented itself to right and left in curses and
blows. When his Majesty took a walk, every human being fled
before him, as if a tiger had broken loose from a menagerie. If
he met a lady in the street, he gave her a kick, and told her to
go home and mind her brats. If he saw a clergyman staring at the
soldiers, he admonished the reverend gentleman to betake himself
to study and prayer, and enforced this pious advice by a sound
caning, administered on the spot. But it was in his own house
that he was most unreasonable and ferocious. His palace was hell,
and he the most execrable of fiends, a cross between Moloch and
Puck. His son Frederic and his daughter Wilhelmina, afterwards
Margravine of Bareuth, were in an especial manner objects of his
aversion. His own mind was uncultivated. He despised literature.
He hated infidels, papists, and metaphysicians, and did not very
well understand in what they differed from each other. The
business of life, according to him, was to drill and to be
drilled. The recreations suited to a prince, were to sit in a
cloud of tobacco smoke, to sip Swedish beer between the puffs of
the pipe, to play backgammon for three halfpence a rubber, to
kill wild hogs, and to shoot partridges by the thousand. The
Prince Royal showed little inclination either for the serious
employments or for the amusements of his father. He shirked the
duties of the parade; he detested the fume of tobacco; he had no
taste either for backgammon or for field sports. He had an
exquisite ear, and performed skilfully on the flute. His earliest
instructors had been French refugees, and they had awakened in
him a strong passion for French literature and French society.
Frederic William regarded these tastes as effeminate and
contemptible, and, by abuse and persecution, made them still
stronger. Things became worse when the Prince Royal attained that
time of life at which the great revolution in the human mind and
body takes place. He was guilty of some youthful indiscretions,
which no good and wise parent would regard with severity. At a
later period he was accused, truly or falsely, of vices from
which History averts her eyes, and which even Satire blushes to
name, vices such that, to borrow the energetic language of Lord
Keeper Coventry, "the depraved nature of man, which of itself
carrieth man to all other sin, abhorreth them." But the offences
of his youth were not characterised by any peculiar turpitude.
They excited, however, transports of rage in the King, who hated
all faults except those to which he was himself inclined, and who
conceived that he made ample atonement to Heaven for his
brutality, by holding the softer passions in detestation. The
Prince Royal, too, was not one of those who are content to take
their religion on trust. He asked puzzling questions, and brought
forward arguments which seemed to savour of something different
from pure Lutheranism. The King suspected that his son was
inclined to be a heretic of some sort or other, whether Calvinist
or Atheist his Majesty did not very well know. The ordinary
malignity of Frederic William was bad enough. He now thought
malignity a part of his duty as a Christian man, and all the
conscience that he had stimulated his hatred. The flute was
broken: the French books were sent out of the palace: the Prince
was kicked and cudgelled, and pulled by the hair. At dinner the
plates were hurled at his head: sometimes he was restricted to
bread and water: sometimes he was forced to swallow food so
nauseous that he could not keep it on his stomach. Once his
father knocked him down, dragged him along the floor to a window,
and was with difficulty prevented from strangling him with the
cord of the curtain. The Queen, for the crime of not wishing to
see her son murdered, was subjected to the grossest indignities.
The Princess Wilhelmina, who took her brother's part, was treated
almost as ill as Mrs. Brownrigg's apprentices. Driven to despair,
the unhappy youth tried to run away. Then the fury of the old
tyrant rose to madness. The Prince was an officer in the army:
his flight was therefore desertion; and, in the moral code of
Frederic William, desertion was the highest of all crimes.
"Desertion," says this royal theologian, in one of his half-crazy
letters, "is from hell. It is a work of the children of the
Devil. No child of God could possibly be guilty of it." An
accomplice of the Prince, in spite of the recommendation of a
court martial, was mercilessly put to death. It seemed probable
that the Prince himself would suffer the same fate. It was with
difficulty that the intercession of the States of Holland, of the
Kings of Sweden and Poland, and of the Emperor of Germany, saved
the House of Brandenburg from the stain of an unnatural murder.
After months of cruel suspense, Frederic learned that his life
would be spared. He remained, however, long a prisoner; but he
was not on that account to be pitied. He found in his gaolers a
tenderness which he had never found in his father; his table was
not sumptuous, but he had wholesome food in sufficient quantity
to appease hunger: he could read the Henriade without being
kicked, and could play on his flute without having it broken over
his head.

When his confinement terminated he was a man. He had nearly
completed his twenty-first year, and could scarcely be kept much
longer under the restraints which had made his boyhood miserable.
Suffering had matured his understanding, while it had hardened
his heart and soured his temper. He had learnt self-command and
dissimulation; he affected to conform to some of his father's
views, and submissively accepted a wife, who was a wife only in
name, from his father's hand. He also served with credit, though
without any opportunity of acquiring brilliant distinction, under
the command of Prince Eugene, during a campaign marked by no
extraordinary events. He was now permitted to keep a separate
establishment, and was therefore able to indulge with caution his
own tastes. Partly in order to conciliate the King, and partly,
no doubt, from inclination, he gave up a portion of his time to
military and political business, and thus gradually acquired
such an aptitude for affairs as his most intimate associates were
not aware that he possessed.

His favourite abode was at Rheinsberg, near the frontier which
separates the Prussian dominions from the Duchy of Mecklenburg.
Rheinsberg, is a fertile and smiling spot, in the midst of the
sandy waste of the Marquisate. The mansion, surrounded by woods
of oak and beech, looks out upon a spacious lake. There Frederic
amused himself by laying out gardens in regular alleys and
intricate mazes, by building obelisks, temples, and
conservatories, and by collecting rare fruits and flowers. His
retirement was enlivened by a few companions, among whom he seems
to have preferred those who, by birth or extraction, were French.
With these intimates he dined and supped well, drank freely, and
amused himself sometimes with concerts, and sometimes with
holding chapters of a fraternity which he called the Order of
Bayard; but literature was his chief resource.

His education had been entirely French. The long ascendency which
Lewis the Fourteenth had enjoyed, and the eminent merit of the
tragic and comic dramatists, of the satirists, and of the
preachers who had flourished under that magnificent prince, had
made the French language predominant in Europe. Even in countries
which had a national literature, and which could boast of names
greater than those of Racine, of Moliere, and of Massillon, in
the country of Dante, in the country of Cervantes, in the country
of Shakspeare and Milton, the intellectual fashions of Paris had
been to a great extent adopted. Germany had not yet produced a
single masterpiece of poetry or eloquence. In Germany, therefore,
the French taste reigned without rival and without limit. Every
youth of rank was taught to speak and write French. That he
should speak and write his own tongue with politeness, or even
with accuracy and facility, was regarded as comparatively an
unimportant object. Even Frederic William, with all his rugged
Saxon prejudices, thought it necessary that his children should
know French, and quite unnecessary that they should be well
versed in German. The Latin was positively interdicted. "My son,"
his Majesty wrote, "shall not learn Latin; and, more than that, I
will not suffer anybody even to mention such a thing to me." One
of the preceptors ventured to read the Golden Bull in the
original with the Prince Royal. Frederic William entered the
room, and broke out in his usual kingly style.

"Rascal, what are you at there?"

"Please your Majesty," answered the preceptor, "I was explaining
the Golden Bull to his Royal Highness."

"I'll Golden Bull you, you rascal! roared the Majesty of Prussia.
Up went the King's cane away ran the terrified instructor; and
Frederic's classical studies ended for ever. He now and then
affected to quote Latin sentences, and produced such exquisitely
Ciceronian phrases as these: "Stante pede morire"--"De gustibus
non est disputandus,"--"Tot verbas tot spondera." Of Italian, he
had not enough to read a page of Metastasio with ease; and of the
Spanish and English, he did not, as far as we are aware,
understand a single word.

As the highest human compositions to which he had access were
those of the French writers, it is not strange that his
admiration for those writers should have been unbounded. His
ambitious and eager temper early prompted him to imitate what he
admired. The wish, perhaps, dearest to his heart was, that he
might rank among the masters of French rhetoric and poetry. He
wrote prose and verse as indefatigably as if he had been a
starving hack of Cave or Osborn; but Nature, which had bestowed
on him, in a large measure, the talents of a captain and of an
administrator, had withheld from him those higher and rarer
gifts, without which industry labours in vain to produce immortal
eloquence and song. And, indeed, had he been blessed with more
imagination, wit, and fertility of thought, than he appears to
have had, he would still have been subject to one great
disadvantage, which would, in all probability, have for ever
prevented him from taking a high place among men of letters. He
had not the full command of any language. There was no machine of
thought which he could employ with perfect ease, confidence, and
freedom. He had German enough to scold his servants, or to give
the word of command to his grenadiers; but his grammar and
pronunciation were extremely bad. He found it difficult to make
out the meaning even of the simplest German poetry. On one
occasion a version of Racine's Iphigenie was read to him. He
held the French original in his hand; but was forced to own that,
even with such help, he could not understand the translation.
Yet, though he had neglected his mother tongue in order to bestow
all his attention on French, his French was, after all, the
French of a foreigner. It was necessary for him to have always at
his beck some men of letters from Paris to point out the
solecisms and false rhymes of which, to the last, he was
frequently guilty. Even had he possessed the poetic faculty, of
which, as far as we can judge, he was utterly destitute, the want
of a language would have prevented him from being a great poet.
No noble work of imagination, as far as we recollect, was ever
composed by any man, except in a dialect which he had learned
without remembering how or when, and which he had spoken with
perfect ease before he had ever analysed its structure. Romans of
great abilities wrote Greek verses; but how many of those verses
have deserved to live? Many men of eminent genius have, in modern
times, written Latin poems; but, as far as we are aware, none of
those poems, not even Milton's, can be ranked in the first class
of art, or even very high in the second. It is not strange,
therefore, that, in the French verses of Frederic, we can find
nothing beyond the reach of any man of good parts and industry,
nothing above the level of Newdigate and Seatonian poetry. His
best pieces may perhaps rank with the worst in Dodsley's
collection. In history, he succeeded better. We do not, indeed,
find, in any of his voluminous Memoirs, either deep reflection or
vivid painting. But the narrative is distinguished by clearness,
conciseness, good sense, and a certain air of truth and
simplicity, which is singularly graceful in a man who, having
done great things, sits down to relate them. On the whole,
however, none of his writings are so agreeable to us as his
Letters, particularly those which are written with earnestness,
and are not embroidered with verses.

It is not strange that a young man devoted to literature, and
acquainted only with the literature of France, should have looked
with profound veneration on the genius of Voltaire. "A man who
has never seen the sun," says Calderon, in one of his charming
comedies, "cannot be blamed for thinking that no glory can exceed
that of the moon. A man who has seen neither moon nor sun, cannot
be blamed for talking of the unrivalled brightness of the morning
star." Had Frederic been able to read Homer and Milton or even
Virgil and Tasso, his admiration of the Henriade would prove that
he was utterly destitute of the power of discerning what is
excellent in art. Had he been familiar with Sophocles or
Shakspeare, we should have expected him to appreciate Zaire more
justly. Had he been able to study Thucydides and Tacitus in the
original Greek and Latin, he would have known that there were
heights in the eloquence of history far beyond the reach of the
author of the Life of Charles the Twelfth. But the finest heroic
poem, several of the most powerful tragedies, and the most
brilliant and picturesque historical work that Frederic had ever
read, were Voltaire's. Such high and various excellence moved the
young Prince almost to adoration. The opinions of Voltaire on
religious and philosophical questions had not yet been fully
exhibited to the public. At a later period, when an exile from
his country, and at open war with the Church, he spoke out. But
when Frederic was at Rheinsberg, Voltaire was still a courtier;
and, though he could not always curb his petulant wit, he had as
yet published nothing that could exclude him from Versailles, and
little that a divine of the mild and generous school of Grotius
and Tillotson might not read with pleasure. In the Henriade, in
Zaire, and in Alzire, Christian piety is exhibited in the most
amiable form; and, some years after the period of which we are
writing, a Pope condescended to accept the dedication of Mahomet.
The real sentiments of the poet, however, might be clearly
perceived by a keen eye through the decent disguise with which he
veiled them, and could not escape the sagacity of Frederic, who
held similar opinions, and had been accustomed to practise
similar dissimulation.

The Prince wrote to his idol in the style of a worshipper; and
Voltaire replied with exquisite grace and address. A
correspondence followed, which may be studied with advantage by
those who wish to become proficients in the ignoble art of
flattery. No man ever paid compliments better than Voltaire. His
sweetest confectionery had always a delicate, yet stimulating
flavour, which was delightful to palates wearied by the coarse
preparations of inferior artists. It was only from his hand that
so much sugar could be swallowed without making the swallower
sick. Copies of verses, writing-desks, trinkets of amber, were
exchanged between the friends. Frederic confided his writings to
Voltaire; and Voltaire applauded, as if Frederic had been Racine
and Bossuet in one. One of his Royal Highness's performances was
a refutation of Machiavelli. Voltaire undertook to convey it to
the press. It was entitled the Anti-Machiavel, and was an
edifying homily against rapacity, perfidy, arbitrary government,
unjust war, in short, against almost everything for which its
author is now remembered among men.

The old King uttered now and then a ferocious growl at the
diversions of Rheinsberg. But his health was broken; his end was
approaching; and his vigour was impaired. He had only one
pleasure left, that of seeing tall soldiers. He could always be
propitiated by a present of a grenadier of six feet four or six
feet five; and such presents were from time to time judiciously
offered by his son.

Early in the year 1740, Frederic William met death with a
firmness and dignity worthy of a better and wiser man; and
Frederic, who had just completed his twenty-eighth year, became
King of Prussia. His character was little understood. That he had
good abilities, indeed, no person who had talked with him, or
corresponded with him, could doubt. But the easy Epicurean life
which he had led, his love of good cookery and good wine, of
music, of conversation, of light literature, led many to regard
him as a sensual and intellectual voluptuary. His habit of
canting about moderation, peace, liberty, and the happiness which
a good mind derives from the happiness of others, had imposed on
some who should have known better. Those who thought best of him,
expected a Telemachus after Fenelon's pattern. Others predicted
the approach of a Medicean age, an age propitious to learning and
art, and not unpropitious to pleasure. Nobody had the least
suspicion that a tyrant of extraordinary military and political
talents, of industry more extraordinary still, without fear,
without faith, and without mercy, had ascended the throne.

The disappointment of Falstaff at his old boon-companion's
coronation was not more bitter than that which awaited some of
the inmates of Rheinsberg. They had long looked forward to the
accession of their patron, as to the event from which their own
prosperity and greatness was to date. They had at last reached
the promised land, the land which they had figured to themselves
as flowing with milk and honey; and they found it a desert. "No
more of these fooleries," was the short, sharp admonition given
by Frederic to one of them. It soon became plain that, in the
most important points, the new sovereign bore a strong family
likeness to his predecessor. There was indeed a wide difference
between the father and the son as respected extent and vigour of
intellect, speculative opinions, amusements, studies, outward
demeanour. But the groundwork of the character was the same in
both. To both were common the love of order, the love of
business, the military taste, the parsimony, the imperious
spirit, the temper irritable even to ferocity, the pleasure in
the pain and humiliation of others. But these propensities had in
Frederic William partaken of the general unsoundness of his mind,
and wore a very different aspect when found in company with the
strong and cultivated understanding of his successor. Thus, for
example, Frederic was as anxious as any prince could be about the
efficiency of his army. But this anxiety never degenerated into a
monomania, like that which led his father to pay fancy prices for
giants. Frederic was as thrifty about money as any prince or any
private man ought to be. But he did not conceive, like his
father, that it was worth while to eat unwholesome cabbages for
the purpose of saving four or five rixdollars in the year.
Frederic was, we fear, as malevolent as his father; but
Frederic's wit enabled him often to show his malevolence in ways
more decent than those to which his father resorted, and to
inflict misery and degradation by a taunt instead of a blow.
Frederic, it is true, by no means relinquished his hereditary
privilege of kicking and cudgelling. His practice, however, as to
that matter, differed in some important respects from his
father's. To Frederic William, the mere circumstance that any
persons whatever, men, women, or children, Prussians or
foreigners, were within reach of his toes and of his cane,
appeared to be a sufficient reason for proceeding to belabour
them. Frederic required provocation as well as vicinity; nor was
he ever known to inflict this paternal species of correction on
any but his born subjects; though on one occasion M. Thiebault
had reason, during a few seconds, to anticipate the high honour
of being an exception to this general rule.

The character of Frederic was still very imperfectly understood
either by his subjects or by his neighbours, when events occurred
which exhibited it in a strong light. A few months after his
accession died Charles the Sixth, Emperor of Germany, the last
descendant, in the male line, of the House of Austria.

Charles left no son, and had, long before his death, relinquished
all hopes of male issue. During the latter part of his life, his
principal object had been to secure to his descendants in the
female line the many crowns of the House of Hapsburg. With this
view, he had promulgated a new law of succession, widely
celebrated throughout Europe under the name of the Pragmatic
Sanction. By virtue of this law, his daughter, the Archduchess
Maria Theresa, wife of Francis of Lorraine, succeeded to the
dominions of her ancestors.

No sovereign has ever taken possession of a throne by a clearer
title. All the politics of the Austrian cabinet had, during
twenty years, been directed to one single end, the settlement of
the succession. From every person whose rights could be
considered as injuriously affected, renunciations in the most
solemn form had been obtained. The new law had been ratified by
the Estates of all the kingdoms and principalities which made up
the great Austrian monarchy. England, France, Spain, Russia,
Poland, Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, the Germanic body, had bound
themselves by treaty to maintain the Pragmatic Sanction. That
instrument was placed under the protection of the public faith of
the whole civilised world.

Even if no positive stipulations on this subject had existed, the
arrangement was one which no good man would have been willing to
disturb. It was a peaceable arrangement. It was an arrangement
acceptable to the great population whose happiness was chiefly
concerned. It was an arrangement which made no change in the
distribution of power among the states of Christendom. It was an
arrangement which could be set aside only by means of a general
war; and, if it were set aside, the effect would be, that the
equilibrium of Europe would be deranged, that the loyal and
patriotic feelings of millions would be cruelly outraged, and
that great provinces which had been united for centuries would be
torn from each other by main force.

The sovereigns of Europe were, therefore, bound by every
obligation which those who are intrusted with power over their
fellow-creatures ought to hold most sacred, to respect and defend
the rights of the Archduchess. Her situation and her personal
qualities were such as might be expected to move the mind of any
generous man to pity, admiration, and chivalrous tenderness. She
was in her twenty-fourth year. Her form was majestic, her
features beautiful, her countenance sweet and animated, her voice
musical, her deportment gracious and dignified, In all domestic
relations she was without reproach. She was married to a husband
whom she loved, and was on the point of giving birth to a child,
when death deprived her of her father. The loss of a parent, and
the new cares of empire, were too much for her in the delicate
state of her health. Her spirits were depressed, and her cheek
lost its bloom. Yet it seemed that she had little cause for
anxiety. It seemed that justice, humanity, and the faith of
treaties would have their due weight, and that the settlement so
solemnly guaranteed would be quietly carried into effect.
England, Russia, Poland, and Holland, declared in form their
intention to adhere to their engagements. The French ministers
made a verbal declaration to the same effect. But from no quarter
did the young Queen of Hungary receive stronger assurances of
friendship and support than from the King of Prussia.

Yet the King of Prussia, the Anti-Machiavel, had already fully
determined to commit the great crime of violating his plighted
faith, of robbing the ally whom he was bound to defend, and of
plunging all Europe into a long, bloody, and desolating war; and
all this for no end whatever, except that he might extend his
dominions, and see his name in the gazettes. He determined to
assemble a great army with speed and secrecy, to invade Silesia
before Maria Theresa should be apprised of his design, and to add
that rich province to his kingdom.

We will not condescend to refute at length the pleas which the
compiler of the Memoirs before us has copied from Doctor Preuss.
They amount to this, that the House of Brandenburg had some
ancient pretensions to Silesia, and had in the previous century
been compelled, by hard usage on the part of the Court of Vienna,
to waive those pretensions. It is certain that, whoever might
originally have been in the right, Prussia had submitted. Prince
after prince of the House of Brandenburg had acquiesced in the
existing arrangement. Nay, the Court of Berlin had recently been
allied with that of Vienna, and had guaranteed the integrity of
the Austrian states. Is it not perfectly clear that, if
antiquated claims are to be set up against recent treaties and
long possession, the world can never be at peace for a day? The
laws of all nations have wisely established a time of limitation,
after which titles, however illegitimate in their origin, cannot
be questioned. It is felt by everybody, that to eject a person
from his estate on the ground of some injustice committed in the
time of the Tudors would produce all the evils which result from
arbitrary confiscation, and would make all property insecure. It
concerns the commonwealth--so runs the legal maxim--that there be
an end of litigation. And surely this maxim is at least equally
applicable to the great commonwealth of states; for in that
commonwealth litigation means the devastation of provinces, the
suspension of trade and industry, sieges like those of Badajoz
and St. Sebastian, pitched fields like those of Eylau and
Borodino. We hold that the transfer of Norway from Denmark to
Sweden was an unjustifiable proceeding; but would the King of
Denmark be therefore justified in landing, without any new
provocation in Norway, and commencing military operations there?
The King of Holland thinks, no doubt, that he was unjustly
deprived of the Belgian provinces. Grant that it were so. Would
he, therefore, be justified in marching with an army on Brussels?
The case against Frederic was still stronger, inasmuch as the
injustice of which he complained had been committed more than a
century before. Nor must it be forgotten that he owed the highest
personal obligations to the House of Austria. It may be doubted
whether his life had not been preserved by the intercession of
the prince whose daughter he was about to plunder.

To do the King justice, he pretended to no more virtue than he
had. In manifestoes he might, for form's sake, insert some idle
stories about his antiquated claim on Silesia; but in his
conversations and Memoirs he took a very different tone. His own
words are: "Ambition, interest, the desire of making people talk
about me, carried the day; and I decided for war."

Having resolved on his course, he acted with ability and vigour.
It was impossible wholly to conceal his preparations; for
throughout the Prussian territories regiments, guns, and baggage
were in motion. The Austrian envoy at Berlin apprised his court
of these facts, and expressed a suspicion of Frederic's designs;
but the ministers of Maria Theresa refused to give credit to so
black an imputation on a young prince, who was known chiefly by
his high professions of integrity and philanthropy. "We will
not," they wrote, "we cannot, believe it."

In the meantime the Prussian forces had been assembled. Without
any declaration of war, without any demand for reparation, in the
very act of pouring forth compliments and assurances of goodwill,
Frederic commenced hostilities. Many thousands of his troops were
actually in Silesia before the Queen of Hungary knew that he had
set up any claim to any part of her territories. At length he
sent her a message which could be regarded only as an insult. If
she would but let him have Silesia, he would, he said, stand by
her against any power which should try to deprive her of her
other dominions; as if he was not already bound to stand by her,
or as if his new promise could be of more value than the old one.

It was the depth of winter. The cold was severe, and the roads
heavy with mire. But the Prussians pressed on. Resistance was
impossible. The Austrian army was then neither numerous nor
efficient. The small portion of that army which lay in Silesia
was unprepared for hostilities. Glogau was blockaded; Breslau
opened its gates; Ohlau was evacuated. A few scattered garrisons
still held out; but the whole open country was subjugated: no
enemy ventured to encounter the King in the field; and, before
the end of January 1741, he returned to receive the
congratulations of his subjects at Berlin.

Had the Silesian question been merely a question between Frederic
and Maria Theresa, it would be impossible to acquit the Prussian
King of gross perfidy. But when we consider the effects which his
policy produced, and could not fail to produce, on the whole
community of civilised nations, we are compelled to pronounce a
condemnation still more severe. Till he began the war, it seemed
possible, even probable, that the peace of the world would be
preserved. The plunder of the great Austrian heritage was indeed
a strong temptation; and in more than one cabinet ambitious
schemes were already meditated. But the treaties by which the
Pragmatic Sanction had been guaranteed were express and recent.
To throw all Europe into confusion for a purpose clearly unjust,
was no light matter. England was true to her engagements. The
voice of Fleury had always been for peace. He had a conscience.
He was now in extreme old age, and was unwilling, after a life
which, when his situation was considered, must be pronounced
singularly pure, to carry the fresh stain of a great crime before
the tribunal of his God. Even the vain and unprincipled Belle-
Isle, whose whole life was one wild day-dream of conquest and
spoliation, felt that France, bound as she was by solemn
stipulations, could not, without disgrace, make a direct attack
on the Austrian dominions. Charles, Elector of Bavaria, pretended
that he had a right to a large part of the inheritance which the
Pragmatic Sanction gave to the Queen of Hungary; but he was not
sufficiently powerful to move without support. It might,
therefore, not unreasonably be expected that, after a short
period of restlessness, all the potentates of Christendom would
acquiesce in the arrangements made by the late Emperor. But the
selfish rapacity of the King of Prussia gave the signal to his
neighbours. His example quieted their sense of shame. His success
led them to underrate the difficulty of dismembering the Austrian
monarchy. The whole world sprang to arms. On the head of Frederic
is all the blood which was shed in a war which raged during many
years and in every quarter of the globe, the blood of the column
of Fontenoy, the blood of the mountaineers who were slaughtered
at Culloden. The evils produced by his wickedness were felt in
lands where the name of Prussia was unknown; and, in order that
he might rob a neighbour whom he had promised to defend, black
men fought on the coast of Coromandel, and red men scalped each
other by the Great Lakes of North America.

Silesia had been occupied without a battle; but the Austrian
troops were advancing to the relief of the fortresses which still
held out. In the spring Frederic rejoined his army. He had seen
little of war, and had never commanded any great body of men in
the field. It is not, therefore, strange that his first military
operations showed little of that skill which, at a later period,
was the admiration of Europe. What connoisseurs say of some
pictures painted by Raphael in his youth, may be said of this
campaign. It was in Frederic's early bad manner. Fortunately for
him, the generals to whom he was opposed were men of small
capacity. The discipline of his own troops, particularly of the
infantry, was unequalled in that age; and some able and
experienced officers were at hand to assist him with their
advice. Of these, the most distinguished was Field-Marshal
Schwerin, a brave adventurer of Pomeranian extraction, who had
served half the governments in Europe, had borne the commissions
of the States-General of Holland and of the Duke of Mecklenburg,
had fought under Marlborough at Blenheim, and had been with
Charles the Twelfth at Bender.

Frederic's first battle was fought at Molwitz; and never did the
career of a great commander open in a more inauspicious manner.
His army was victorious. Not only, however, did he not establish
his title to the character of an able general; but he was so
unfortunate as to make it doubtful whether he possessed the
vulgar courage of a soldier. The cavalry, which he commanded in
person, was put to flight. Unaccustomed to the tumult and carnage
of a field of battle, he lost his self-possession, and listened
too readily to those who urged him to save himself. His English
grey carried him many miles from the field, while Schwerin,
though wounded in two places, manfully upheld the day. The skill
of the old Field-Marshal and the steadiness of the Prussian
battalions prevailed; and the Austrian army was driven from the
field with the loss of eight thousand men.

The news was carried late at night to a mill in which the King
had taken shelter. It gave him a bitter pang. He was successful;
but he owed his success to dispositions which others had made,
and to the valour of men who had fought while he was flying. So
unpromising was the first appearance of the greatest warrior of
that age.

The battle of Molwitz was the signal for a general explosion
throughout Europe. Bavaria took up arms. France, not yet
declaring herself a principal in the war, took part in it as an
ally of Bavaria. The two great statesmen to whom mankind had owed
many years of tranquillity, disappeared about this time from the
scene, but not till they had both been guilty of the weakness of
sacrificing their sense of justice and their love of peace to the
vain hope of preserving their power. Fleury, sinking under age
and infirmity, was borne down by the impetuosity of Belle-Isle.
Walpole retired from the service of his ungrateful country to his
woods and paintings at Houghton; and his power devolved on the
daring and eccentric Carteret. As were the ministers, so were the
nations. Thirty years during which Europe had, with few
interruptions, enjoyed repose, had prepared the public mind for
great military efforts. A new generation had grown up, which
could not remember the siege of Turin or the slaughter of
Malplaquet; which knew war by nothing but its trophies; and
which, while it looked with pride on the tapestries at Blenheim,
or the statue in the Place of Victories, little thought by what
privations, by what waste of private fortunes, by how many bitter
tears, conquests must be purchased.

For a time fortune seemed adverse to the Queen of Hungary.
Frederic invaded Moravia. The French and Bavarians penetrated
into Bohemia, and were there joined by the Saxons. Prague was
taken. The Elector of Bavaria was raised by the suffrages of his
colleagues to the Imperial throne, a throne which the practice of
centuries had almost entitled the House of Austria to regard as a
hereditary possession.

Yet was the spirit of the haughty daughter of the Caesars
unbroken. Hungary was still hers by an unquestionable title; and
although her ancestors had found Hungary the most mutinous of all
their kingdoms, she resolved to trust herself to the fidelity of
a people, rude indeed, turbulent, and impatient of oppression,
but brave, generous, and simple-hearted. In the midst of distress
and peril she had given birth to a son, afterwards the Emperor
Joseph the Second. Scarcely had she arisen from her couch, when
she hastened to Presburg. There, in the sight of an innumerable
multitude, she was crowned with the crown and robed with the robe
of St. Stephen. No spectator could restrain his tears when the
beautiful young mother, still weak from child-bearing, rode,
after the fashion of her fathers, up the Mount of Defiance,
unsheathed the ancient sword of state, shook it towards north and
south, east and west, and, with a glow on her pale face,
challenged the four corners of the world to dispute her rights
and those of her boy. At the first sitting of the Diet she
appeared clad in deep mourning for her father, and in pathetic
and dignified words implored her people to support her just
cause. Magnates and deputies sprang up, half drew their sabres,
and with eager voices vowed to stand by her with their lives and
fortunes. Till then, her firmness had never once forsaken her
before the public eye; but at that shout she sank down upon her
throne, and wept aloud. Still more touching was the sight when, a
few days later, she came again before the Estates of her realm,
and held up before them the little Archduke in her arms. Then it
was that the enthusiasm of Hungary broke forth into that war-cry
which soon resounded throughout Europe, "Let us die for our King,
Maria Theresa!"

In the meantime, Frederic was meditating a change of policy. He
had no wish to raise France to supreme power on the Continent, at
the expense of the House of Hapsburg. His first object was to rob
the Queen of Hungary. His second object was that, if possible,
nobody should rob her but himself. He had entered into
engagements with the powers leagued against Austria; but these
engagements were in his estimation of no more force than the
guarantee formerly given to the Pragmatic Sanction. His plan now
was to secure his share of the plunder by betraying his
accomplices. Maria Theresa was little inclined to listen to any
such compromise; but the English Government represented to her so
strongly the necessity of buying off Frederic, that she agreed to
negotiate. The negotiation would not, however, have ended in a
treaty, had not the arms of Frederic been crowned with a second
victory. Prince Charles of Lorraine, brother-in-law to Maria
Theresa, a bold and active, though unfortunate general, gave
battle to the Prussians at Chotusitz, and was defeated. The King
was still only a learner of the military art. He acknowledged, at
a later period, that his success on this occasion was to be
attributed, not at all to his own generalship, but solely to the
valour and steadiness of his troops. He completely effaced,
however, by his personal courage and energy, the stain which
Molwitz had left on his reputation.

A peace, concluded under the English mediation, was the fruit of
this battle. Maria Theresa ceded Silesia: Frederic abandoned his
allies: Saxony followed his example; and the Queen was left at
liberty to turn her whole force against France and Bavaria. She
was everywhere triumphant. The French were compelled to evacuate
Bohemia, and with difficulty effected their escape. The whole

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