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The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 12 by Editor-In-Chief Rossiter Johnson

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Famous Historians








_With a staff of specialists VOLUME XII_

%The National Alumni% 1905



_An Outline Narrative of the Great Events_

_Louis XIV Establishes Absolute Monarchy (A.D. 1661)_

_New York Taken by the English (A.D. 1664)_

_Great Plague in London (A.D. 1665)_

_Great Fire in London (A.D. 1666)_

_Discovery of Gravitation (A.D. 1666)_

_Morgan, the Buccaneer, Sacks Panama (A.D. 1671)_

_Struggle of the Dutch against France and England (A.D. 1672)_

_Discovery of the Mississippi
La Salle Names Louisiana (A.D. 1673-1682)_

_King Philip's War (A.D. 1675)_

_Growth of Prussia under the Great Elector
His Victory at Fehrbellin (A.D. 1675)_

_William Penn Receives the Grant of Pennsylvania
Founding of Philadelphia (A.D. 1681)_

_Last Turkish Invasion of Europe Sobieski Saves Vienna (A.D. 1683)_

_Monmouth's Rebellion (A.D. 1685)_

_Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (A.D. 1685)_

_The English Revolution
Flight of James II (A.D. 1688)_

_Peter the Great Modernizes Russia
Suppression of the Streltsi (A.D. 1689)_

_Tyranny of Andros in New England
The Bloodless Revolution (A.D. 1689)_

_Massacre of Lachine (A.D. 1689)_

_Siege of Londonderry and Battle of the Boyne (A.D. 1689-1690)_

_Salem Witchcraft Trials (A.D. 1692)_

_Establishment of the Bank of England (A.D. 1694)_

_Colonization of Louisiana (A.D. 1699)_

_Prussia Proclaimed a Kingdom (A.D. 1701)_

_Founding of St. Petersburg (A.D. 1703)_

_Battle of Blenheim (A.D. 1704)
Curbing of Louis XIV_,

_Union of England and Scotland (A.D. 1707)_

_Downfall of Charles XII at Poltava (A.D. 1709)
Triumph of Russia_

_Capture of Port Royal (A.D. 1710)
France Surrenders Nova Scotia to England_

_Universal Chronology (A.D. 1661-1715)_



_Surrender of Marshal Tallard at the Battle of Blenheim_, Painting by R.
Caton Woodville.

_The Duke of Monmouth humiliates himself before King James II_, Painting by
J. Pettie, A.R.A.

_Charles XII carried on a litter during the Battle of Poltava_, Painting by
W. Hauschild.


Tracing Briefly The Causes, Connections, And Consequencies Of


(Age Of Louis XIV)


It is related that in 1661, on the day following the death of the great
Cardinal Mazarin, the various officials of the State approached their young
King, Louis XIV. "To whom shall we go now for orders, Your Majesty?" "To
me," answered Louis, and from that date until his death in 1715 they had
no other master. Whether we accept the tale as literal fact or only as the
vivid French way of visualizing a truth, we find here the central point
of over fifty years of European history. The two celebrated cardinals,
Richelieu and Mazarin, had, by their strength and wisdom, made France by
far the most powerful state in Europe. Moreover, they had so reduced the
authority of the French nobility, the clergy, and the courts of law as to
have become practically absolute and untrammelled in their control of the
entire government. Now, all this enormous power, both at home and abroad,
over France and over Europe, was assumed by a young man of twenty-three. "I
am the state," said Louis at a later period of his career. He might almost
have said, "I am Europe," looking as he did only to the Europe that
dominated, and took pleasure in itself, and made life one continued
glittering revel of splendor. Independent Europe, that claimed the right of
thinking for itself, the suffering Europe of the peasants, who starved and
shed their blood in helpless agony--these were against Louis almost from
the beginning, and ever increasingly against him.

At first the young monarch found life very bright around him. His courtiers
called him "the rising sun," and his ambition was to justify the title, to
be what with his enormous wealth and authority was scarcely difficult, the
Grand Monarch. He rushed into causeless war and snatched provinces from
his feeble neighbors, exhausted Germany and decaying Spain. He built huge
fortresses along his frontiers, and military roads from end to end of his
domains. His court was one continuous round of splendid entertainments. He
encouraged literature, or at least pensioned authors and had them clustered
around him in what Frenchmen call the Augustan Age of their development.[1]

[Footnote 1: See _Louis XIV Establishes Absolute Monarchy_, page 1.]

The little German princes of the Rhine, each of them practically
independent ruler of a tiny state, could not of course compete with Louis
or defy him. Nor for a time did they attempt it. His splendor dazzled them.
They were content to imitate, and each little prince became a patron of
literature, or giver of entertainments, or builder of huge fortresses
absurdly disproportioned to his territory and his revenues. Germany, it has
been aptly said, became a mere tail to the French kite, its leaders feebly
draggling after where Louis soared. Never had the common people of Europe
or even the nobility had less voice in their own affairs. It was an age of
absolute kingly power, an age of despotism.

England, which under Cromwell had bid fair to take a foremost place in
Europe, sank under Charles II into unimportance. Its people wearied with
tumult, desired peace more than aught else; its King, experienced in
adversity, and long a homeless wanderer in France and Holland, seemed to
have but one firm principle in life. Whatever happened he did not intend,
as he himself phrased it, to go on his "travels" again. He dreaded and
hated the English Parliament as all the Stuarts had; and, like his father,
he avoided calling it together. To obtain money without its aid, he
accepted a pension from the French King. Thus England also became a
servitor of Louis. Its policy, so far as Charles could mould it, was
France's policy. If we look for events in the English history of the
time we must find them in internal incidents, the terrible plague that
devastated London in 1665,[1] the fire of the following year, that checked
the plague but almost swept the city out of existence.[2] We must note the
founding of the Royal Society in 1660 for the advancement of science, or
look to Newton, its most celebrated member, beginning to puzzle out his
theory of gravitation in his Woolsthorpe garden.[3]

[Footnote 1: See _Great Plague in London_, page 29.]

[Footnote 2: See _Great Fire in London_, page 45.]

[Footnote 3: See _Discovery of Gravitation_, page 51.]


Louis's first real opponent he found in sturdy Holland. Her fleets and
those of England had learned to fight each other in Cromwell's time, and
they continued to struggle for the mastery of the seas. There were many
desperate naval battles. In 1664 an English fleet crossed the ocean to
seize the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, and it became New York.[4] In 1667
a Dutch fleet sailed up the Thames and burned the shipping, almost reaching
London itself.

[Footnote 4: See _New York Taken by the English_, page 19.]

Yet full as her hands might seem with strife like this, Holland did not
hesitate to stand forth against the aggression of Louis's "rising sun."
When in his first burst of kingship, he seized the Spanish provinces of the
Netherlands and so extended his authority to the border of Holland, its
people, frightened at his advance, made peace with England and joined an
alliance against him. Louis drew back; and the Dutch authorized a medal
which depicted Holland checking the rising sun. Louis never forgave them,
and in 1672, having secured German neutrality and an English alliance, he
suddenly attacked Holland with all his forces.[5]

[Footnote 5: See _Struggle of the Dutch against France and England_, page

For a moment the little republic seemed helpless. Her navy indeed withstood
ably the combined assaults of the French and English ships, but the French
armies overran almost her entire territory. It was then that her people
talked of entering their ships and sailing away together, transporting
their nation bodily to some colony beyond Louis's reach. It was then that
Amsterdam set the example which other districts heroically followed, of
opening her dykes and letting the ocean flood the land to drive out the
French. The leaders of the republic were murdered in a factional strife,
and the young Prince William III of Orange, descended from that William
the Silent who had led the Dutch against Philip II, was made practically
dictator of the land. This young Prince William, afterward King William III
of England, was the antagonist who sprang up against Louis, and in the end
united all Europe against him and annihilated his power.

Seeing the wonderful resistance that little Holland made against her
apparently overwhelming antagonists, the rest of Germany took heart; allies
came to the Dutch. Brandenburg and Austria and Spain forced Louis to fall
back upon his own frontier, though with much resolute battling by his great
general, Turenne.

Next to young William, Louis found his most persistent opponent in
Frederick William, the "Great Elector" of Brandenburg and Prussia,
undoubtedly the ablest German sovereign of the age, and the founder of
Prussia's modern importance. He had succeeded to his hereditary domains in
1640, when they lay utterly waste and exhausted in the Thirty Years' War;
and he reigned until 1688, nearly half a century, during which he was ever
and vigorously the champion of Germany against all outside enemies. He
alone, in the feeble Germany of the day, resisted French influence, French
manners, and French aggression.

In this first general war of the Germans and their allies against Louis,
Frederick William proved the only one of their leaders seriously to be
feared. Louis made an alliance with Sweden and persuaded the Swedes to
overrun Brandenburg during its ruler's absence with his forces on the
Rhine. But so firmly had the Great Elector established himself at home, so
was he loved, that the very peasantry rose to his assistance. "We are only
peasants," said their banners, "but we can die for our lord." Pitiful cry!
Pitiful proof of how unused the commons were to even a little kindness, how
eagerly responsive! Frederick William came riding like a whirlwind from the
Rhine, his army straggling along behind in a vain effort to keep up. He
hurled himself with his foremost troops upon the Swedes, and won the
celebrated battle of Fehrbellin. He swept his astonished foes back into
their northern peninsula. Brandenburg became the chief power of northern

[Footnote 1: See _Growth of Prussia under the Great Elector: His Victory at
Fehrbellin_, page 138.]

In 1679 the Peace of Ryswick ended the general war, and left Holland
unconquered, but with the French frontier extended to the Rhine, and Louis
at the height of his power, the acknowledged head of European affairs.
Austria was under the rule of Leopold I, Emperor of Germany from 1657 to
1705, whose pride and incompetence wholly prevented him from being what
his position as chief of the Hapsburgs would naturally have made him, the
leader of the opposition, the centre around whom all Europe could rally to
withstand Louis's territorial greed. Leopold hated Louis, but he hated also
the rising Protestant "Brandenburger," he hated the "merchant" Dutch,
hated everybody in short who dared intrude upon the ancient order of his
superiority, who refused to recognize his impotent authority. So he would
gladly have seen Louis crush every opponent except himself, would have
found it a pleasant vengeance indeed to see all these upstart powers
destroying one another.

Moreover, Austria was again engaged in desperate strife with the Turks.
These were in the last burst of their effort at European conquest. No
longer content with Hungary, twice in Leopold's reign did they advance to
attack Vienna. Twice were they repulsed by Hungarian and Austrian valor.
The final siege was in 1683. A vast horde estimated as high as two hundred
thousand men marched against the devoted city. Leopold and most of the
aristocracy fled, in despair of its defence. Only the common people who
could not flee, remained, and with the resolution of despair beat off the
repeated assaults of the Mahometans.[2]

[Footnote 2: See _Last Turkish Invasion of Europe: Sobieski Saves Vienna_,
page 164.]

They were saved by John Sobieski, a king who had raised Poland to one of
her rare outflashing periods of splendor. With his small but gallant Polish
army he came to the rescue of Christendom, charged furiously upon the huge
Turkish horde, and swept it from the field in utter flight. The tide of
Turkish power receded forever; that was its last great wave which broke
before the walls of Vienna. All Hungary was regained, mainly through the
efforts of Austria's greatest general, Prince Eugene of Savoy. The centre
of the centuries of strife shifted back where it had been in Hunyady's
time, from Vienna to the mighty frontier fortress of Belgrad, which was
taken and retaken by opposing forces.


The earlier career of Louis XIV seems to have been mainly influenced by his
passion for personal renown; but he had always been a serious Catholic, and
in his later life his interest in religion became a most important factor
in his world. The Protestants of France had for wellnigh a century held
their faith unmolested, safeguarded by that Edict of Nantes, which had been
granted by Henry IV, a Catholic at least in name, and confirmed by Cardinal
Richelieu, a Catholic by profession. Persuasive measures had indeed been
frequently employed to win the deserters back to the ancient Church; but
now under Louis's direction, a harsher course was attempted. The celebrated
"dragonades" quartered a wild and licentious soldiery in Protestant
localities, in the homes of Protestant house-owners, with special orders to
make themselves offensive to their hosts. Under this grim discouragement
Protestantism seemed dying out of France, and at last, in 1685, Louis,
encouraged by success, took the final step and revoked the Edict of Nantes,
commanding all his subjects to accept Catholicism, while at the same time
forbidding any to leave the country. Huguenots who attempted flight were
seized; many were slain. Externally at least, the reformed religion
disappeared from France.[1]

[Footnote 1: See _Revocation of the Edict of Nantes_, page 180.]

Of course, despite the edict restraining them, many Huguenots, the most
earnest and vigorous of the sect, did escape by flight; and some hundred
thousands of France's ablest citizens were thus lost to her forever. Large
numbers found a welcome in neighboring Holland; the Great Elector stood
forward and gave homes to a wandering host of the exiles. England received
colonies of them; and even distant America was benefited by the numbers who
sought her freer shores. No enemy to France in all the world but received a
welcome accession to its strength against her.

In the same year that Protestant Europe was thus assailed and terrified by
the reviving spectre of religious persecution, Charles II of England died
and his brother James II succeeded him. Charles may have been Catholic at
heart, but in name at least he had retained the English religion. James
was openly Catholic. A hasty rebellion raised against him by his nephew,
Monmouth, fell to pieces;[1] and James, having executed Monmouth and
approved a cruel persecution of his followers, began to take serious steps
toward forcing the whole land back to the ancient faith.

[Footnote 1: See _Monmouth's Rebellion_, page 172.]

So here was kingly absolutism coming to the aid of the old religious
intolerance. The English people, however, had already killed one king in
defence of their liberties; and their resolute opposition to James began to
suggest that they might kill another. Many of the leading nobles appealed
secretly to William of Orange for help. William was, as we have said, the
centre of opposition to Louis, and that began to mean to Catholicism as
well. Also, William had married a daughter of King James and had thus some
claim to interfere in the family domains. And, most important of all, as
chief ruler of Holland, William had an army at command. With a portion of
that army he set sail late in 1688 and landed in England. Englishmen of all
ranks flocked to join him. King James fled to France, and a Parliament,
hastily assembled in 1689, declared him no longer king and placed William
and his wife Mary on the throne as joint rulers.[2] Thus William had two
countries instead of one to aid him in his life-long effort against Louis.

[Footnote 2: See _The English Revolution: Flight of James II_, page 200.]

Louis, indeed, accepted the accession of his enemy as a threat of war and,
taking up the cause of the fugitive James, despatched him with French
troops to Ireland, where his Catholic faith made the mass of the people his
devoted adherents. There were, however, Protestant Irish as well, and these
defied James and held his troops at bay in the siege of Londonderry, while
King William hurried over to Ireland with an army. Father-in-law and
son-in-law met in the battle of the Boyne, and James was defeated in war
as he had been in diplomacy. He fled back to France, leaving his Catholic
adherents to withstand William as best they might. Limerick, the Catholic
stronghold, was twice besieged and only yielded when full religious freedom
had been guaranteed. Irishmen to this day call it with bitterness "the city
of the violated treaty."[1]

[Footnote 1: See _Siege of Londonderry and the Battle of the Boyne_, page

Meanwhile the strife between Louis and William had spread into another
general European war. William had difficulties to encounter in his new
kingdom. Its people cared little for his Continental aims and gave him
little loyalty of service. In fact, peculation among public officials was
so widespread that, despite large expenditures of money, England had only
a most feeble, inefficient army in the field, and William was in black
disgust against his new subjects. It was partly to aid the Government in
its financial straits that the Bank of England was formed in 1694.[2]

[Footnote 2: See _Establishment of the Bank of England_, page 286.]

Yet Louis's troubles were greater and of deeper root. Catholic Austria and
even the Pope himself, unable to submit to the arrogance of the "Grand
Monarch," took part against him in this war. It can therefore no longer be
regarded as a religious struggle. It marks the turning-point in Louis's
fortunes. His boundless extravagance had exhausted France at last. Both in
wealth and population she began to feel the drain. The French generals won
repeated victories, yet they had to give slowly back before their more
numerous foes; and in 1697 Louis purchased peace by making concessions of
territory as well as courtesy.

This peace proved little more than a truce. For almost half a century the
European sovereigns had been waiting for Charles II of Spain to die. He
was the last of his race, last of the Spanish Hapsburgs descended from
the Emperor Charles V, and so infirm and feeble was he that it seemed the
flickering candle of his life must puff out with each passing wind. Who
should succeed him? In Mazarin's time, that crafty minister had schemed
that the prize should go to France, and had wedded young Louis XIV to a
Spanish princess. The Austrian Hapsburgs of course wanted the place for
themselves, though to establish a common ancestry with their Spanish kin
they must turn back over a century and a half to Ferdinand and Isabella.

But strong men grew old and died, while the invalid Charles II still clung
to his tottering throne. Louis ceased hoping to occupy it himself and
claimed it for his son, then for his grandson, Philip. Not until 1700,
after a reign of nearly forty years, did Charles give up the worthless game
and expire. He declared Philip his heir, and the aged Louis sent the youth
to Spain with an eager boast, "Go; there are no longer any Pyrenees." That
is, France and Spain were to be one, a mighty Bourbon empire.

That was just what Europe, experienced in Louis's unscrupulous aggression,
dared not allow. So another general alliance was formed, with William of
Holland and England at its head, to drive Philip from his new throne in
favor of a Hapsburg. William died before the war was well under way, but
the British people understood his purposes now and upheld them. Once more
they felt themselves the champions of Protestantism in Europe. Anne, the
second daughter of the deposed King James, was chosen as queen; and under
her the two realms of England and Scotland were finally joined in one by
the Act of Union (1707), with but a single Parliament.[1]

[Footnote 1: See _Union of England and Scotland_, page 341.]

Meanwhile Marlborough was sent to the Rhine with a strong British army.
Prince Eugene paused in fighting the Turks and joined him with Austrian and
German troops. Together they defeated the French in the celebrated battle
of Blenheim (1704),[2] and followed it in later years with Oudenarde and
Malplaquet. Louis was beaten. France was exhausted. The Grand Monarch
pleaded for peace on almost any terms.

[Footnote 2: See _Battle of Blenheim: Curbing of Louis XIV_, page 327.]

Yet his grandson remained on the Spanish throne. For one reason, the
Spaniards themselves upheld him and fought for him. For another, the
allies' Austrian candidate became Emperor of Germany, and to make him ruler
of Spain as well would only have been to consolidate the Hapsburg power
instead of that of the Bourbons. Made dubious by this balance between
evils, Europe abandoned the war. So there were two Bourbon kingdoms after
all--but both too exhausted to be dangerous.

Louis had indeed outlived his fame. He had roused the opposition of all his
neighbors, and ruined France in the effort to extend her greatness. The
praises and flattery of his earlier years reached him now only from the
lips of a few determined courtiers. His people hated him, and in 1715
celebrated his death as a release. Frenchmen high and low had begun the
career which ended in their terrific Revolution. Lying on his dreary
death-bed, the Grand Monarch apologized that he should "take so long in
dying." Perhaps he, also, felt that he delayed the coming of the new age.
What his career had done was to spread over all Europe a new culture and
refinement, to rouse a new splendor and recklessness among the upper
classes, and to widen almost irretrievably the gap between rich and poor,
between kings and commons. In the very years that parliamentary government
was becoming supreme in England, absolutism established itself upon the


Toward the close of this age the balance of power in Northern Europe
shifted quite as markedly as it had farther south. Three of the German
electoral princes became kings. The Elector of Saxony was chosen King of
Poland, thereby adding greatly to his power. George, Elector of Hanover,
became King of England on the death of Queen Anne. And the Elector of
Brandenburg, son of the Great Elector, when the war of 1701 against France
and Spain broke out, only lent his aid to the European coalition on
condition that the German Emperor should authorize him also to assume the
title of king, not of Brandenburg but of his other and smaller domain of
Prussia, which lay outside the empire. Most of the European sovereigns
smiled at this empty change of title without a change of dominions; but
Brandenburg or Prussia was thus made more united, more consolidated, and
it soon rose to be the leader of Northern Germany. A new family, the
Hohenzollerns, contested European supremacy with the Hapsburgs and the

[Footnote 1: See _Prussia Proclaimed a Kingdom_, page 310.]

More important still was the strife between Sweden and Russia. Sweden had
been raised by Gustavus Adolphus to be the chief power of the North, the
chosen ally of Richelieu and Mazarin. Her soldiers were esteemed the best
of the time. The prestige of the Swedes had, to be sure, suffered somewhat
in the days when the Great Elector defeated them so completely at
Fehrbellin and elsewhere. But Louis XIV had stood by them as his allies,
and saved them from any loss of territory, so that in 1700 Sweden still
held not only the Scandinavian peninsula but all the lands east of the
Baltic as far as where St. Petersburg now stands, and much of the German
coast to southward. The Baltic was thus almost a Swedish lake, when in
1697 a new warrior king, Charles XII, rose to reassert the warlike
supremacy of his race. He was but fifteen when he reached the throne; and
Denmark, Poland, and Russia all sought to snatch away his territories. He
fought the Danes and defeated them. He fought the Saxon Elector who had
become king of Poland. Soon both Poland and Saxony lay crushed at the feet
of the "Lion of the North," as they called him then--"Madman of the
North," after his great designs had failed. Only Russia remained to oppose
him--Russia, as yet almost unknown to Europe, a semi-barbaric frontier
land, supposedly helpless against the strength and resources of

Russia was in the pangs of a most sudden revolution. Against her will she
was being suddenly and sharply modernized by Peter the Great, most famous
of her czars. He had overthrown the turbulent militia who really ruled the
land, and had waded through a sea of bloody executions to establish his
own absolute power.[1] He had travelled abroad in disguise, studied
shipbuilding in Holland, the art of government in England, and
fortification and war wheresoever he could find a teacher. Removing from
the ancient, conservative capital of Moscow, he planted his government,
in defiance of Sweden, upon her very frontier, causing the city of St.
Petersburg to arise as if by magic from a desolate, icy swamp in the far

[Footnote 1: See _Peter the Great Modernizes Russia: Suppression of the
Streltsi_, page 223.]

[Footnote 2: See _Founding of St. Petersburg_, page 319.]

Charles of Sweden scorned and defied him. At Narva in 1700, Charles with
a small force of his famous troops drove Peter with a huge horde of his
Russians to shameful flight. "They will teach us to beat them," said Peter
philosophically; and so in truth he gathered knowledge from defeat after
defeat, until at length at Poltava in 1709 he completely turned the tables
upon Charles, overthrew him and so crushed his power that Russia
succeeded Sweden as ruler of the extreme North, a rank she has ever since

[Footnote 1: See _Downfall of Charles XII at Poltava: Triumph of Russia_,
page 352.]


The vast political and social changes of Europe in this age found their
echo in the New World. The decay of Spain left her American colonies to
feebleness and decay. The islands of the Caribbean Sea became the haunt of
the buccaneers, pirates, desperadoes of all nations who preyed upon Spanish
ships, and, as their power grew, extended their depredations northward
along the American coast. So important did these buccaneers become that
they formed regular governments among themselves. The most famed of their
leaders was knighted by England as Sir Henry Morgan; and the most renowned
of his achievements was the storm and capture of the Spanish treasure city,

[Footnote 2: See _Morgan, the Buccaneer, Sacks Panama_, page 66.]

As Spain grew weak in America, France grew strong. From her Canadian
colonies she sent out daring missionaries and traders, who explored the
great lakes and the Mississippi valley.[3] They made friends with the
Indians; they founded Louisiana.[4] All the north and west of the continent
fell into their hands.

[Footnote 3: See _Discovery of the Mississippi_, page 108.]

[Footnote 4: See _Colonization of Louisiana_, page 297.]

Never, however, did their numbers approach those of the English colonists
along the Atlantic coast. Both Massachusetts and Virginia were grown into
important commonwealths, almost independent of England, and well able to
support the weaker settlements rising around them. After the great Puritan
exodus to New England to escape the oppression of Charles I, there had come
a Royalist exodus to Virginia to escape the Puritanic tyranny of Cromwell's
time. Large numbers of Catholics fled to Maryland. Huguenots established
themselves in the Carolinas and elsewhere. Then came Penn to build a great
Quaker state among the scattered Dutch settlements along the Delaware.[1]
The American seaboard became the refuge of each man who refused to bow his
neck to despotism of whatever type.

[Footnote 1: See _William Penn Receives the Grant of Pennsylvania: Founding
of Philadelphia_, page 153.]

Under such settlers English America soon ceased to be a mere offshoot of
Europe. It became a world of its own; its people developed into a new race.
They had their own springs of action, their own ways of thought, different
from those of Europe, more simple and intense as was shown in the Salem
witchcraft excitement, or more resolute and advanced as was revealed in
Bacon's Virginia rebellion.[2]

[Footnote 2: See _Salem Witchcraft Trials_, page 268.]

The aboriginal inhabitants, the Indians, found themselves pressed ever
backward from the coast. They resisted, and in 1675 there arose in New
England, King Philip's war, which for that section at least settled the
Indian question forever. The red men of New England were practically
exterminated.[3] Those of New York, the Iroquois, were more fortunate or
more crafty. They dwelt deeper in the wilderness, and formed a buffer state
between the French in Canada and the English to the south, drawing aid now
from one, now from the other.

[Footnote 3: See _King Philip's War_, page 125.]

Each war between England and Louis XIV was echoed by strife between their
rival colonies. When King William supplanted James in 1688 there followed
in America also a "bloodless revolution."[4] Governor Andros, whom James
had sent to imitate his own harsh tyranny in the colonies, was seized and
shipped back to England. William was proclaimed king. The ensuing strife
with France was marked by the most bloody of all America's Indian
massacres. The Iroquois descended suddenly on Canada; the very suburbs
of its capital, Montreal, were burned, and more than a thousand of the
unsuspecting settlers were tortured, or more mercifully slain outright.[5]

[Footnote 4: See _Tyranny of Andros in New England: The Bloodless
Revolution_, page 241.]

[Footnote 5: See _Massacre of Lachine_, page 248.]

In the later war about the Spanish throne, England captured Nova Scotia,
the southern extremity of the French Canadian seaboard; and part of the
price Louis XIV paid for peace was to leave this colony in England's
hands.[1] The scale of American power began to swing markedly in her favor.
Everywhere over the world, as the eighteenth century progressed, England
with her parliamentary government was rising into power at the expense of
France and absolutism.

[Footnote 1: See _Capture of Port Royal: France Surrenders Nova Scotia to
England_, page 373.]



A.D. 1661


Not only was the reign of Louis XIV one of the longest in the world's
history, but it also marked among Western nations the highest development
of the purely monarchical principle. Including the time that Louis ruled
under the guardianship of his mother and the control of his minister,
Cardinal Mazarin, the reign covered more than seventy years (1643-1715).

The sovereign who could say, "I am the state" ("_l'État c'est moi_"), and
see his subjects acquiesce with almost Asiatic humility, while Europe
looked on in admiration and fear, may be said to have embodied for modern
times the essence of absolutism.

That all things, domestic and foreign, seemed to be in concurrence for
giving practical effect to the Grand Monarque's assumption of supremacy is
shown by the fact that his name dominates the whole history of his time.
His reign was not only "the Augustan Age of France"; it marked the
ascendency of France in Europe.

Of such a reign no adequate impression is to be derived from reading even
the most faithful narrative of its thronging events. But the reign as well
as the personality of Louis is set in clear perspective for us by Morison's
picturesque and discriminating treatment.

The reign of Louis XIV was the culminating epoch in the history of the
French monarchy. What the age of Pericles was in the history of the
Athenian democracy, what the age of the Scipios was in the history of the
Roman Republic, that was the reign of Louis XIV in the history of the old
monarchy of France. The type of polity which that monarchy embodied, the
principles of government on which it reposed or brought into play, in this
reign attain their supreme expression and development. Before Louis XIV the
French monarchy has evidently not attained its full stature; it is thwarted
and limited by other forces in the state. After him, though unresisted from
without, it manifests symptoms of decay from within. It rapidly declines,
and totally disappears seventy-seven years after his death.

But it is not only the most conspicuous reign in the history of France--it
is the most conspicuous reign in the history of monarchy in general. Of
the very many kings whom history mentions, who have striven to exalt the
monarchical principle, none of them achieved a success remotely comparable
to his. His two great predecessors in kingly ambition, Charles V and Philip
II, remained far behind him in this respect. They may have ruled over wider
dominions, but they never attained the exceptional position of power and
prestige which he enjoyed for more than half a century. They never were
obeyed so submissively at home nor so dreaded and even respected abroad.
For Louis XIV carried off that last reward of complete success, that he
for a time silenced even envy, and turned it into admiration. We who can
examine with cold scrutiny the make and composition of this colossus of
a French monarchy; who can perceive how much the brass and clay in it
exceeded the gold; who know how it afterward fell with a resounding ruin,
the last echoes of which have scarcely died away, have difficulty in
realizing the fascination it exercised upon contemporaries who witnessed
its first setting up.

Louis XIV's reign was the very triumph of commonplace greatness, of
external magnificence and success, such as the vulgar among mankind can
best and most sincerely appreciate. Had he been a great and profound ruler,
had he considered with unselfish meditation the real interests of France,
had he with wise insight discerned and followed the remote lines of
progress along which the future of Europe was destined to move, it is
lamentably probable that he would have been misunderstood in his lifetime
and calumniated after his death.

Louis XIV was exposed to no such misconception. His qualities were on the
surface, visible and comprehensible to all; and although none of them was
brilliant, he had several which have a peculiarly impressive effect when
displayed in an exalted station. He was indefatigably industrious; worked
on an average eight hours a day for fifty-four years; had great tenacity
of will; that kind of solid judgment which comes of slowness of brain, and
withal a most majestic port and great dignity of manners. He had also as
much kindliness of nature as the very great can be expected to have; his
temper was under severe control; and, in his earlier years at least, he
had a moral apprehensiveness greater than the limitations of his intellect
would have led one to expect.

His conduct toward Molière was throughout truly noble, and the more so that
he never intellectually appreciated Molière's real greatness. But he must
have had great original fineness of tact, though it was in the end nearly
extinguished by adulation and incense. His court was an extraordinary
creation, and the greatest thing he achieved. He made it the microcosm of
all that was the most brilliant and prominent in France. Every order of
merit was invited there and received courteous welcome. To no circumstance
did he so much owe his enduring popularity. By its means he impressed into
his service that galaxy of great writers, the first and the last classic
authors of France, whose calm and serene lustre will forever illumine the
epoch of his existence. It may even be admitted that his share in that
lustre was not so accidental and undeserved as certain king-haters have

That subtle critic, M. Sainte-Beuve, thinks he can trace a marked rise even
in Bossuet's style from the moment he became a courtier of Louis XIV.
The King brought men together, placed them in a position where they
were induced and urged to bring their talents to a focus. His court was
alternately a high-bred gala and a stately university. If we contrast his
life with those of his predecessor and successor, with the dreary existence
of Louis XIII and the crapulous lifelong debauch of Louis XV, we become
sensible that Louis XIV was distinguished in no common degree; and when we
further reflect that much of his home and all of his foreign policy was
precisely adapted to flatter, in its deepest self-love, the national spirit
of France, it will not be quite impossible to understand the long-continued
reverberation of his fame.

But Louis XIV's reign has better titles than the adulations of courtiers
and the eulogies of wits and poets to the attention of posterity. It marks
one of the most memorable epochs in the annals of mankind. It stretches
across history like a great mountain range, separating ancient France
from the France of modern times. On the further slope are Catholicism and
feudalism in their various stages of splendor and decay--the France of
crusade and chivalry, of St. Louis and Bayard. On the hither side are
freethought, industry, and centralization--the France of Voltaire, Turgot,
and Condorcet.

When Louis came to the throne the Thirty Years' War still wanted six years
of its end, and the heat of theological strife was at its intensest glow.
When he died the religious temperature had cooled nearly to freezing-point,
and a new vegetation of science and positive inquiry was overspreading the
world. This amounts to saying that his reign covers the greatest epoch
of mental transition through which the human mind has hitherto passed,
excepting the transition we are witnessing in the day which now is. We need
but recall the names of the writers and thinkers who arose during Louis
XIV's reign, and shed their seminal ideas broadcast upon the air, to
realize how full a period it was, both of birth and decay; of the passing
away of the old and the uprising of the new forms of thought.

To mention only the greatest; the following are among the chiefs who
helped to transform the mental fabric of Europe in the age of Louis XIV:
Descartes, Newton, Leibnitz, Locke, Boyle. Under these leaders the first
firm irreversible advance was made out of the dim twilight of theology into
the clear dawn of positive and demonstrative science.

Inferior to these founders of modern knowledge, but holding a high rank as
contributors to the mental activity of the age, were Pascal, Malebranche,
Spinoza, and Bayle. The result of their efforts was such a stride forward
as has no parallel in the history of the human mind. One of the most
curious and significant proofs of it was the spontaneous extinction of the
belief in witchcraft among the cultivated classes of Europe, as the English
historian of rationalism has so judiciously pointed out. The superstition
was not much attacked, and it was vigorously defended, yet it died a
natural and quiet death from the changed moral climate of the world.

But the chief interest which the reign of Louis XIV offers to the student
of history has yet to be mentioned. It was the great turning-point in the
history of the French people. The triumph of the monarchical principle was
so complete under him, independence and self-reliance were so effectually
crushed, both in localities and individuals, that a permanent bent was
given to the national mind--a habit of looking to the government for all
action and initiative permanently established.

Before the reign of Louis XIV it was a question which might fairly be
considered undecided: whether the country would be able or not, willing or
not, to coöperate with its rulers in the work of the government and the
reform of abuses. On more than one occasion such coöperation did not seem
entirely impossible or improbable. The admirable wisdom and moderation
shown by the Tiers-État in the States-General of 1614, the divers efforts
of the Parliament of Paris to check extravagant expenditure, the vigorous
struggles of the provincial assemblies to preserve some relic of their
local liberties, seemed to promise that France would continue to advance
under the leadership indeed of the monarchy, yet still retaining in large
measure the bright, free, independent spirit of old Gaul, the Gaul of
Rabelais, Montaigne, and Joinville.

After the reign of Louis XIV such coöperation of the ruler and the ruled
became impossible. The government of France had become a machine depending
upon the action of a single spring. Spontaneity in the population at large
was extinct, and whatever there was to do must be done by the central
authority. As long as the government could correct abuses it was well; if
it ceased to be equal to this task, they must go uncorrected. When at last
the reform of secular and gigantic abuses presented itself with imperious
urgency, the alternative before the monarchy was either to carry the reform
with a high hand or perish in the failure to do so. We know how signal the
failure was, and could not help being, under the circumstances; and through
having placed the monarchy between these alternatives, it is no paradox
to say that Louis XIV was one of the most direct ancestors of the "Great

Nothing but special conditions in the politics both of Europe and of France
can explain this singular importance and prominence of Louis XIV's reign.
And we find that both France and Europe were indeed in an exceptional
position when he ascended the throne. The Continent of Europe, from one
end to the other, was still bleeding and prostrate from the effect of the
Thirty Years' War when the young Louis, in the sixteenth year of his age,
was anointed king at Rheims. Although France had suffered terribly in that
awful struggle, she had probably suffered less than any of the combatants,
unless it be Sweden.

It happened by a remarkable coincidence that precisely at this moment, when
the condition of Europe was such that an aggressive policy on the part of
France could be only with difficulty resisted by her neighbors, the power
and prerogatives of the French crown attained an expansion and preeminence
which they had never enjoyed in the previous history of the country. The
schemes and hopes of Philip the Fair, of Louis XI, of Henry IV, and of
Richelieu had been realized at last; and their efforts to throw off the
insolent coercion of the great feudal lords had been crowned with complete
success. The monarchy could hardly have conjectured how strong it had
become but for the abortive resistance and hostility it met with in the

The flames of insurrection which had shot up, forked and menacing, fell
back underground, where they smouldered for four generations yet to come.
The kingly power soared, single and supreme, over its prostrate foes. Long
before Louis XIV had shown any aptitude or disposition for authority, he
was the object of adulation as cringing as was ever offered to a Roman
emperor. When he returned from his consecration at Rheims, the rector of
the University of Paris, at the head of his professorial staff, addressed
the young King in these words: "We are so dazzled by the new splendor which
surrounds your majesty that we are not ashamed to appear dumfounded at the
aspect of a light so brilliant and so extraordinary"; and at the foot of an
engraving at the same date he is in so many words called a demigod.

It is evident that ample materials had been prepared for what the vulgar
consider a great reign. Abundant opportunity for an insolent and
aggressive foreign policy, owing to the condition of Europe. Security from
remonstrance or check at home, owing to the condition of France. The temple
is prepared for the deity; the priests stand by, ready to offer victims on
the smoking altar; the incense is burning in anticipation of his advent. On
the death of Mazarin, in 1661, he entered into his own.

Louis XIV never forgot the trials and humiliations to which he and his
mother had been subjected during the troubles of the Fronde. It has often
been remarked that rulers born in the purple have seldom shown much
efficiency unless they have been exposed to exceptional and, as it were,
artificial probations during their youth. During the first eleven years
of Louis' reign--incomparably the most creditable to him--we can trace
unmistakably the influence of the wisdom and experience acquired in that
period of anxiety and defeat. He then learned the value of money and the
supreme benefits of a full exchequer. He also acquired a thorough dread of
subjection to ministers and favorites--a dread so deep that it implied a
consciousness of probable weakness on that side. As he went on in life he
to a great extent forgot both these valuable lessons, but their influence
was never entirely effaced. To the astonishment of the courtiers and even
of his mother he announced his intention of governing independently, and
of looking after everything himself. They openly doubted his perseverance.
"You do not know him," said Mazarin. "He will begin rather late, but he
will go further than most. There is enough stuff in him to make four kings
and an honest man besides."

His first measures were dictated less by great energy of initiative than by
absolute necessity. The finances had fallen into such a chaos of jobbery
and confusion that the very existence of the government depended upon a
prompt and trenchant reform. It was Louis' rare good-fortune to find
beside him one of the most able and vigorous administrators who have ever
lived--Colbert. He had the merit--not a small one in that age--of letting
this great minister invent and carry out the most daring and beneficial
measures of reform, of which he assumed all the credit to himself. The
first step was a vigorous attack on the gang of financial plunderers,
who, with Fouquet at their head, simply embezzled the bulk of the state
revenues. The money-lenders not only obtained the most usurious interest
for their loans, but actually held in mortgage the most productive sources
of the national taxation: and, not content with that, they bought up, at 10
per cent. of their nominal value, an enormous amount of discredited bills,
issued by the government in the time of the Fronde, which they forced the
treasury to pay off at par; and this was done with the very money they had
just before advanced to the government.

Such barefaced plunder could not be endured, and Colbert was the last man
to endure it. He not only repressed peculation, but introduced a number of
practical improvements in the distribution, and especially in the mode of
levying the taxes. So imperfect were the arrangements connected with the
latter that it was estimated that of eighty-four millions paid by the
people, only thirty-two millions entered into the coffers of the state. The
almost instantaneous effects of Colbert's measures--the yawning deficit
was changed into a surplus of forty-five millions in less than two
years--showed how gross and flagrant had been the malversation preceding.

Far more difficult, and far nobler in the order of constructive
statesmanship, were his vast schemes to endow France with manufactures,
with a commercial and belligerent navy, with colonies, besides his manifold
reforms in the internal administration--tariffs and customs between
neighboring provinces of France; the great work of the Languedoc canal; in
fact, in every part and province of government. His success was various,
but in some cases really stupendous. His creation of a navy almost
surpasses belief. In 1661, when he first became free to act, France
possessed only thirty vessels-of-war of all sizes. At the peace of
Nimwegen, in 1678, she had acquired a fleet of one hundred twenty ships,
and in 1683 she had got a fleet of one hundred seventy-six vessels; and
the increase was quite as great in the size and armament of the individual
ships as in their number.

A perfect giant of administration, Colbert found no labor too great for
his energies, and worked with unflagging energy sixteen hours a day for
twenty-two years. It is melancholy to be forced to add that all this toil
was as good as thrown away, and that the strong man went broken-hearted to
the grave, through seeing too clearly that he had labored in vain for an
ungrateful egotist. His great visions of a prosperous France, increasing in
wealth and contentment, were blighted; and he closed his eyes upon scenes
of improvidence and waste more injurious to the country than the financial
robbery which he had combated in his early days. The government was not
plundered as it had been, but itself was exhausting the very springs of
wealth by its impoverishment of the people.

Boisguillebert, writing in 1698, only fifteen years after Colbert's death,
estimated the productive powers of France to have diminished by one-half
in the previous thirty years. It seems, indeed, probable that the almost
magical rapidity and effect of Colbert's early reforms turned Louis XIV's
head, and that he was convinced that it only depended on his good pleasure
to renew them to obtain the same result. He never found, as he never
deserved to find, another Colbert; and he stumbled onward in ever deeper
ruin to his disastrous end.

His first breach of public faith was his attack on the Spanish Netherlands,
under color of certain pretended rights of the Queen, his wife--the Infanta
Marie Thérèse; although he had renounced all claims in her name at his
marriage. This aggression was followed by his famous campaign in the Low
Countries, when Franche-Comté was overrun and conquered in fifteen days. He
was stopped by the celebrated triple alliance in mid career. He had not yet
been intoxicated by success and vanity; Colbert's influence, always exerted
on the side of peace, was at its height, the menacing attitude of Holland,
England, and Sweden awed him, and he drew back. His pride was deeply
wounded, and he revolved deep and savage schemes of revenge. Not on
England, whose abject sovereign he knew could be had whenever he chose to
buy him, but on the heroic little republic which had dared to cross his
victorious path. His mingled contempt and rage against Holland were indeed
instinctive, spontaneous, and in the nature of things. Holland was the
living, triumphant incarnation of the two things he hated most--the
principle of liberty in politics and the principle of free inquiry in

With a passion too deep for hurry or carelessness he made his preparations.
The army was submitted to a complete reorganization. A change in the
weapons of the infantry was effected, which was as momentous in its day as
the introduction of the breech-loading rifle in ours. The old inefficient
firelock was replaced by the flint musket, and the rapidity and certainty
of fire vastly increased. The undisciplined independence of the officers
commanding regiments and companies was suppressed by the rigorous and
methodical Colonel Martinet, whose name has remained in other armies
besides that of France as a synonyme of punctilious exactitude.

The means of offence being thus secured, the next step was to remove the
political difficulties which stood in the way of Louis' schemes; that is,
to dissolve Sir W. Temple's diplomatic masterpiece, the triple alliance.
The effeminate Charles II was bought over by a large sum of money and the
present of a pretty French mistress. Sweden also received a subsidy, and
her schemes of aggrandizement on continental Germany were encouraged.
Meanwhile the illustrious man who ruled Holland showed that kind of
weakness which good men often do in the presence of the unscrupulous and
wicked. John de Witt could not be convinced of the reality of Louis'
nefarious designs. France had ever been Holland's best friend, and he could
not believe that the policy of Henry IV, of Richelieu and Mazarin, would
be suddenly reversed by the young King of France. He tried negotiations in
which he was amused by Louis so long as it suited the latter's purpose. At
last, when the King's preparations were complete, he threw off the mask,
and insultingly told the Dutch that it was not for hucksters like them, and
usurpers of authority not theirs, to meddle with such high matters.

Then commenced one of the brightest pages in the history of national
heroism. At first the Dutch were overwhelmed; town after town capitulated
without a blow. It seemed as if the United Provinces were going to be
subdued, as Franche-Comté had been five years before. But Louis XIV had
been too much intoxicated by that pride which goes before a fall to retain
any clearness of head, if indeed he ever had any, in military matters. The
great Condé, with his keen eye for attack, at once suggested one of those
tiger-springs for which he was unequalled among commanders. Seeing the
dismay of the Dutch, he advised a rapid dash with six thousand horse on
Amsterdam. It is nearly certain, if this advice had been followed, that the
little commonwealth, so precious to Europe, would have been extinguished;
and that that scheme, born of heroic despair, of transferring to Batavia,
"under new stars and amid a strange vegetation," the treasure of freedom
and valor ruined in its old home by the Sardanapalus of Versailles, might
have been put in execution. But it was not to be.

Vigilant as Louis had been in preparation, he now seemed to be as careless
or incompetent in execution. Not only he neglected the advice of his best
general, and wasted time, but he did his best to drive his adversaries
to despair and the resistance which comes of despair. They were told by
proclamation that "the towns which should try to resist the forces of his
majesty by opening the dikes or by any other means would be punished with
the utmost rigor; and when the frost should have opened roads in all
directions, his majesty would give no sort of quarter to the inhabitants of
the said towns, but would give orders that their goods should be plundered
and their houses burned."

The Dutch envoys, headed by De Groot, son of the illustrious Grotius, came
to the King's camp to know on what terms he would make peace. They were
refused audience by the theatrical warrior, and told not to return except
armed with full powers to make any concessions he might dictate. Then the
"hucksters" of Amsterdam resolved on a deed of daring which is one of the
most exalted among "the high traditions of the world." They opened the
sluices and submerged the whole country under water. Still, their position
was almost desperate, as the winter frosts were nearly certain to restore a
firm foothold to the invader.

They came again suing for peace, offering Maestricht, the Rhine fortresses,
the whole of Brabant, the whole of Dutch Flanders, and an indemnity of ten
millions. This was proffering more than Henry IV, Richelieu, or Mazarin had
ever hoped for. These terms were refused, and the refusal carried with
it practically the rejection of Belgium, which could not fail to be soon
absorbed when thus surrounded by French possessions. But Louis met these
offers with the spirit of an Attila. He insisted on the concession of
Southern Gueldres and the island of Bommel, twenty-four millions of
indemnity, the endowment of the Catholic religion, and an extraordinary
annual embassy charged to present his majesty with a gold medal, which
should set forth how the Dutch owed to him the conservation of their
liberties. Such vindictive cruelty makes the mind run forward and dwell
with a glow of satisfied justice on the bitter days of retaliation and
revenge which in a future, still thirty years off, will humble the proud
and pitiless oppressor in the dust; when he shall be a suppliant, and
a suppliant in vain, at the feet of the haughty victors of Blenheim,
Ramillies, and Oudenarde.

But Louis' mad career of triumph was gradually being brought to a close.
He had before him not only the waste of waters, but the iron will and
unconquerable tenacity of the young Prince of Orange, "who needed neither
hope to made him dare nor success to make him persevere." Gradually, the
threatened neighbors of France gathered together and against her King.
Charles II was forced to recede from the French alliance by his Parliament
in 1674. The military massacre went on, indeed, for some years longer in
Germany and the Netherlands; but the Dutch Republic was saved, and peace
ratified by the treaty of Nimwegen.

After the conclusion of the Dutch War the reign of Louis XIV enters on a
period of manifest decline. The cost of the war had been tremendous. In
1677 the expenditure had been one hundred ten millions, and Colbert had to
meet this with a net revenue of eighty-one millions. The trade and commerce
of the country had also suffered much during the war. With bitter grief the
great minister saw himself compelled to reverse the beneficent policy of
his earlier days, to add to the tax on salt, to increase the ever-crushing
burden of the _taille_, to create new offices--hereditary employments in
the government--to the extent of three hundred millions, augmenting the
already monstrous army of superfluous officials, and, finally, simply to
borrow money at high interest. The new exactions had produced widespread
misery in the provinces before the war came to an end. In 1675 the Governor
of Dauphiné had written to Colbert, saying that commerce had entirely
ceased in his district, and that the larger part of the people had lived
during the winter on bread made from acorns and roots, and that at the time
of his writing they were seen to be eating the grass of the fields and the
bark of trees. The long-continued anguish produced at last despair and

In Bordeaux great excesses were committed by the mob, which were punished
with severity. Six thousand soldiers were quartered in the town, and were
guilty of such disorders that the best families emigrated, and trade was
ruined for a long period. But Brittany witnessed still worse evils. There
also riots and disturbances had been produced by the excessive pressure of
the imposts. An army of five thousand men was poured into the province, and
inflicted such terror on the population that the wretched peasants, at the
mere sight of the soldiers, threw themselves on their knees in an attitude
of supplication and exclaimed, "_Mea culpa_." The lively Madame de Sévigné
gives us some interesting details concerning these events in the intervals
when court scandal ran low and the brave doings of Madame de Montespan
suffered a temporary interruption. "Would you like," says the
tender-hearted lady to her daughter, "would you like to have news of
Rennes? There are still five thousand soldiers here, as more have come
from Nantes. A tax of one hundred thousand crowns has been laid upon the
citizens, and if the money is not forthcoming in twenty-four hours the tax
will be doubled and levied by the soldiers. All the inhabitants of a large
street have already been driven out and banished, and no one may receive
them under pain of death; so that all these poor wretches, old men, women
recently delivered, and children, were seen wandering in tears as they left
the town, not knowing whither to go or where to sleep or what to eat. The
day before yesterday one of the leaders of the riot was broken alive on
the wheel. Sixty citizens have been seized, and to-morrow the hanging will
begin." In other letters she writes that the tenth man had been broken on
the wheel, and she thinks he will be the last, and that by dint of hanging
it will soon be left off.

Such was the emaciated France which Louis the Great picked systematically
to the bone for the next thirty-five years. He had long ceased to be guided
by the patriotic wisdom of the great Colbert. His evil genius now was the
haughty and reckless Louvois, who carefully abstained from imitating the
noble and daring remonstrances against excessive expenditure which Colbert
addressed to his master, and through which he lost his influence at court.
Still, with a self-abnegation really heroic, Colbert begged, urged,
supplicated the King to reduce his outlay. He represented the misery of
the people. "All letters that come from the provinces, whether from the
intendants, the receivers-general, and even the bishops, speak of it," he
wrote to the King. He insisted on a reduction of the taille by five or six
millions; and surely it was time, when its collection gave rise to such
scenes as have just been described. It was in vain. The King shut his eyes
to mercy and reason. His gigantic war expenditure, when peace came, was
only partially reduced. For, indeed, he was still at war, but with nature
and self-created difficulties of his own making.

He was building Versailles: transplanting to its arid sands whole groves
of full-grown trees from the depths of distant forests, and erecting the
costly and fantastic marvel of Marli to afford a supply of water. Louis'
buildings cost, first and last, a sum which would be represented by about
twenty million pounds. The amount squandered on pensions was also very
great. The great Colbert's days were drawing to a close, and he was very
sad. It is related that a friend on one occasion surprised him looking out
of a window in his château of Sceau, lost in thought and apparently gazing
on the well-tilled fields of his own manor. When he came out of his reverie
his friend asked him his thoughts. "As I look," he said, "on these fertile
fields, I cannot help remembering what I have seen elsewhere. What a rich
country is France! If the King's enemies would let him enjoy peace it would
be possible to procure the people that relief and comfort which the great
Henry promised them. I could wish that my projects had a happy issue, that
abundance reigned in the kingdom, that everyone were content in it, and
that without employment or dignities, far from the court and business, I
saw the grass grow in my home farm."

The faithful, indefatigable worker was breaking down, losing strength,
losing heart, but still struggling on manfully to the last. It was noticed
that he sat down to his work with a sorrowful, despondent look, and not,
as had been his wont, rubbing his hands with the prospect of toil, and
exulting in his almost superhuman capacity for labor. The ingratitude of
the King, whom he had served only too well, gave him the final blow. Louis,
with truculent insolence, reproached him with the "frightful expenses" of
Versailles. As if they were Colbert's fault. Colbert, who had always urged
the completion of the Louvre and the suppression of Versailles.

At last the foregone giant lay down to die. A tardy touch of feeling
induced Louis to write him a letter. He would not read it. "I will hear no
more about the King," he said; "let him at least allow me to die in
peace. My business now is with the King of kings. If," he continued,
unconsciously, we may be sure, plagiarizing Wolsey, "if I had done for God
what I have done for that man, my salvation would be secure ten times over;
and now I know not what will become of me."

Surely a tender and touching evidence of sweetness in the strong man
who had been so readily accused of harshness by grasping courtiers. The
ignorant ingratitude of the people was even perhaps more melancholy than
the wilful ingratitude of the King. The great Colbert had to be buried by
night, lest his remains should be insulted by the mob. He, whose heart had
bled for the people's sore anguish, was rashly supposed to be the cause of
that anguish. It was a sad conclusion to a great life. But he would have
seen still sadder days if he had lived.

The health of the luxurious, self-indulgent Louis sensibly declined after
he had passed his fortieth year. In spite of his robust appearance he had
never been really strong. His loose, lymphatic constitution required much
support and management. But he habitually over-ate himself. He was indeed a
gross and greedy glutton. "I have often seen the King," says the Duchess
of Orleans, "eat four platefuls of various soups, a whole pheasant, a
partridge, a large dish of salad, stewed mutton with garlic, two good
slices of ham, a plate of pastry, and then fruit and sweetmeats." A most
unwholesome habit of body was the result.

An abscess formed in his upper jaw, and caused a perforation of the palate,
which obliged him to be very careful in drinking, as the liquid was apt to
pass through the aperture and come out by the nostrils. He felt weak and
depressed, and began to think seriously about "making his salvation."
His courtly priests and confessors had never inculcated any duties but
two--that of chastity and that of religious intolerance--and he had been
very remiss in both. He now resolved to make hasty reparation. The ample
charms of the haughty Montespan fascinated him no more. He tried a new
mistress, but she did not turn out well. Madame de Fontanges was young and
exquisitely pretty, but a giddy, presuming fool. She moreover died shortly.
He was more than ever disposed to make his salvation--that is, to renounce
the sins of the flesh, and to persecute his God-fearing subjects, the

The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, one of the greatest crimes and
follies which history records, was too colossal a misdeed for the guilt
of its perpetration to be charged upon one man, however wicked or however
powerful he may have been. In this case, as in so many others, Louis was
the exponent of conditions, the visible representative of circumstances
which he had done nothing to create. Just as he was the strongest king
France ever had, without having contributed himself to the predominance of
the monarchy, so, in the blind and cruel policy of intolerance which led to
the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, he was the delegate and instrument
of forces which existed independently of him. A willing instrument, no
doubt; a representative of sinister forces; a chooser of the evil part when
mere inaction would have been equivalent to a choice of the good. Still, it
is due to historic accuracy to point out that, had he not been seconded by
the existing condition of France, he would not have been able to effect the
evil he ultimately brought about.

Louis' reign continued thirty years after the Revocation of the Edict of
Nantes, years crowded with events, particularly for the military historian,
but over the details of which we shall not linger on this occasion. The
brilliant reign becomes unbearably wearisome in its final period. The
monotonous repetition of the same faults and the same crimes--profligate
extravagance, revolting cruelty, and tottering incapacity--is as fatiguing
as it is uninstructive. Louis became a mere mummy embalmed in etiquette,
the puppet of his women and shavelings. The misery in the provinces grew
apace, but there was no disturbance: France was too prostrate even to

In 1712 the expenditure amounted to two hundred forty millions, and the
revenue to one hundred thirteen millions; but from this no less than
seventy-six millions had to be deducted for various liabilities the
government had incurred, leaving only a net income of thirty-seven
millions--that is to say, the outlay was more than six times the income.

The armies were neither paid nor fed, the officers received "food-tickets"
(_billets de subsistance_), which they got cashed at a discount of 80 per
cent. The government had anticipated by ten years its revenues from the
towns. Still, this pale corpse of France must needs be bled anew to gratify
the inexorable Jesuits, who had again made themselves complete masters of
Louis XIV's mind. He had lost his confessor, Père la Chaise (who died in
1709), and had replaced him by the hideous Letellier, a blind and fierce
fanatic, with a horrible squint and a countenance fit for the gallows. He
would have frightened anyone, says Saint-Simon, who met him at the corner
of a wood. This repulsive personage revived the persecution of the
Protestants into a fiercer heat than ever, and obtained from the moribund
King the edict of March 8,1715, considered by competent judges the clear
masterpiece of clerical injustice and cruelty. Five months later Louis XIV
died, forsaken by his intriguing wife, his beloved bastard (the Due de
Maine), and his dreaded priest.

The French monarchy never recovered from the strain to which it had been
subjected during the long and exhausting reign of Louis XIV. Whether it
could have recovered in the hands of a great statesman summoned in time is
a curious question. Could Frederick the Great have saved it had he been
_par impossible_ Louis XIV's successor? We can hardly doubt that he would
have adjourned, if not have averted, the great catastrophe of 1789. But
it is one of the inseparable accidents of such a despotism as France had
fallen under, that nothing but consummate genius can save it from ruin;
and the accession of genius to the throne in such circumstances is a
physiological impossibility.

The house of Bourbon had become as effete as the house of Valois in the
sixteenth century; as effete as the Merovingians and Carlovingians had
become in a previous age; but the strong chain of hereditary right bound up
the fortunes of a great empire with the feeble brain and bestial instincts
of a Louis XV. This was the result of concentrating all the active force of
the state in one predestined irremovable human being. This was the logical
and necessary outcome of the labors of Philip Augustus, Philip the Fair, of
Louis XI, of Henry IV, and Richelieu. They had reared the monarchy like
a solitary obelisk in the midst of a desert; but it had to stand or fall
alone; no one was there to help it, as no one was there to pull it down.
This consideration enables us to pass into a higher and more reposing order
of reflection, to leave the sterile impeachment of individual incapacity,
and rise to the broader question, and ask why and how that incapacity was
endowed with such fatal potency for evil. As it has been well remarked, the
loss of a battle may lead to the loss of a state; but then, what are the
deeper reasons which explain why the loss of a battle should lead to the
loss of a state? It is not enough to say that Louis XIV was an improvident
and passionate ruler, that Louis XV was a dreary and revolting voluptuary.
The problem is rather this: Why were improvidence, passion, and debauchery
in two men able to bring down in utter ruin one of the greatest monarchies
the world has ever seen? In other words, what was the cause of the
consummate failure, the unexampled collapse, of the French monarchy?

No personal insufficiency of individual rulers will explain it; and,
besides, the French monarchy repeatedly disposed of the services of
admirable rulers. History has recorded few more able kings than Louis le
Gros, Philip Augustus, Philip le Bel, Louis XI, and Henry IV; few abler
ministers than Sully, Richelieu, Colbert, and Turgot. Yet the efforts of
all these distinguished men resulted in leading the nation straight into
the most astounding catastrophe in human annals. Whatever view we take of
the Revolution, whether we regard it as a blessing or as a curse, we must
needs admit it was a reaction of the most violent kind--a reaction contrary
to the preceding action.

The old monarchy can only claim to have produced the Revolution in the
sense of having provoked it; as intemperance has been known to produce
sobriety, and extravagance parsimony. If the _ancien régime_ led in the
result to an abrupt transition to the modern era, it was only because it
had rendered the old era so utterly execrable to mankind that escape in any
direction seemed a relief, were it over a precipice.


A.D. 1664


For half a century the Dutch colony in New York, then called New
Netherlands, had developed under various administrations, when British
conquest brought it under another dominion. This transfer of the government
affected the whole future of the colony and of the great State into which
it grew, although the original Dutch influence has never disappeared from
its character and history.

Under Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch Governor (1647-1664), the colony
made great progress. He conciliated the Indians, agreed upon a boundary
line with the English colonists at Hartford, Connecticut, and took
possession of the colony of New Sweden, in Delaware.

Meanwhile the English colonists in different parts of North America were
carrying on illicit trade with the Dutch at New Amsterdam (New York city).
The English government, already jealous of the growing commerce of Holland,
was irritated by the loss of revenue, and resolved in 1663 upon the
conquest of New Netherlands. Brodhead, the historian of New York, recounts
the steps of this conquest in a manner which brings the rival powers and
their agents distinctly before us.

England now determined boldly to rob Holland of her American province. King
Charles II accordingly sealed a patent granting to the Duke of York and
Albany a large territory in America, comprehending Long Island and
the islands in its neighborhood--his title to which Lord Stirling
had released--and all the lands and rivers from the west side of the
Connecticut River to the east side of Delaware Bay. This sweeping grant
included the whole of New Netherlands and a part of the territory of
Connecticut, which, two years before, Charles had confirmed to Winthrop and
his associates.

The Duke of York lost no time in giving effect to his patent. As lord high
admiral he directed the fleet. Four ships, the Guinea, of thirty-six guns;
the Elias, of thirty; the Martin, of sixteen; and the William and Nicholas,
of ten, were detached for service against New Netherlands, and about four
hundred fifty regular soldiers, with their officers, were embarked. The
command of the expedition was intrusted to Colonel Richard Nicolls, a
faithful Royalist, who had served under Turenne with James, and had been
made one of the gentlemen of his bedchamber. Nicolls was also appointed to
be the Duke's deputy-governor, after the Dutch possessions should have been

With Nicolls were associated Sir Robert Carr, Colonel George Cartwright,
and Samuel Maverick, as royal commissioners to visit the several colonies
in New England. These commissioners were furnished with detailed
instructions; and the New England governments were required by royal
letters to "join and assist them vigorously" in reducing the Dutch to
subjection. A month after the departure of the squadron the Duke of York
conveyed to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret all the territory between
the Hudson and Delaware rivers, from Cape May north to 41° 40' latitude,
and thence to the Hudson, in 41° latitude, "hereafter to be called by the
name or names of Nova Caesarea or New Jersey."

Intelligence from Boston that an English expedition against New Netherlands
had sailed from Portsmouth was soon communicated to Stuyvesant by Captain
Thomas Willett; and the burgomasters and _schepens_ of New Amsterdam were
summoned to assist the council with their advice. The capital was ordered
to be put in a state of defence, guards to be maintained, and _schippers_
to be warned. As there was very little powder at Fort Amsterdam a supply
was demanded from New Amstel, and a loan of five or six thousand guilders
was asked from Rensselaerswyck. The ships about to sail for Curaçao were
stopped; agents were sent to purchase provisions at New Haven; and as the
enemy was expected to approach through Long Island Sound, spies were sent
to obtain intelligence at West Chester and Milford.

But at the moment when no precaution should have been relaxed, a despatch
from the West India directors, who appear to have been misled by advices
from London, announced that no danger need be apprehended from the English
expedition, as it was sent out by the King only to settle the affairs of
his colonies and establish episcopacy, which would rather benefit the
company's interests in New Netherlands. Willett now retracting his previous
statements, a perilous confidence returned. The Curaçao ships were allowed
to sail; and Stuyvesant, yielded to the solicitation of his council, went
up the river to look after affairs at Fort Orange.

The English squadron had been ordered to assemble at Gardiner's Island.
But, parting company in a fog, the Guinea, with Nicolls and Cartwright on
board, made Cape Cod, and went on to Boston, while the other ships put in
at Piscataway. The commissioners immediately demanded the assistance of
Massachusetts, but the people of the Bay, who feared, perhaps, that the
King's success in reducing the Dutch would enable him the better to put
down his enemies in New England, were full of excuses. Connecticut,
however, showed sufficient alacrity; and Winthrop was desired to meet the
squadron at the west end of Long Island, whither it would sail with the
first fair wind.

When the truth of Willett's intelligence became confirmed, the council sent
an express to recall Stuyvesant from Fort Orange. Hurrying back to the
capital, the anxious director endeavored to redeem the time which had been
lost. The municipal authorities ordered one-third of inhabitants, without
exception, to labor every third day at the fortifications; organized a
permanent guard; forbade the brewers to malt any grain; and called on the
provincial government for artillery and ammunition. Six pieces, besides
the fourteen previously allotted, and a thousand pounds of powder were
accordingly granted to the city. The colonists around Fort Orange, pleading
their own danger from the savages, could afford no help; but the soldiers
of Esopus were ordered to come down, after leaving a small garrison at

In the mean time the English squadron had anchored just below the Narrows,
in Nyack Bay, between New Utrecht and Coney Island. The mouth of the river
was shut up; communication between Long Island and Manhattan, Bergen and
Achter Cul, interrupted; several yachts on their way to the South River
captured; and the blockhouse on the opposite shore of Staten Island seized.
Stuyvesant now despatched Counsellor de Decker, Burgomaster Van der Grist,
and the two domines Megapolensis with a letter to the English commanders
inquiring why they had come, and why they continued at Nyack without
giving notice. The next morning, which was Saturday, Nicolls sent Colonel
Cartwright, Captain Needham, Captain Groves, and Mr. Thomas Delavall up to
Fort Amsterdam with a summons for the surrender of "the town situate on
the island and commonly known by the name of Manhatoes, with all the forts
thereunto belonging."

This summons was accompanied by a proclamation declaring that all who would
submit to his majesty's government should be protected "in his majesty's
laws and justice," and peaceably enjoy their property. Stuyvesant
immediately called together the council and the burgomasters, but would not
allow the terms offered by Nicolls to be communicated to the people, lest
they might insist on capitulating. In a short time several of the burghers
and city officers assembled at the Stadt-Huys. It was determined to prevent
the enemy from surprising the town; but, as opinion was generally against
protracted resistance, a copy of the English communication was asked from
the director. On the following Monday the burgomasters explained to a
meeting of the citizens the terms offered by Nicolls. But this would not
suffice; a copy of the paper itself must be exhibited. Stuyvesant then went
in person to the meeting. "Such a course," said he, "would be disapproved
of in the Fatherland--it would discourage the people." All his efforts,
however, were in vain; and the director, protesting that he should not be
held answerable for the "calamitous consequences," was obliged to yield to
the popular will.

Nicolls now addressed a letter to Winthrop, who with other commissioners
from New England had joined the squadron, authorizing him to assure
Stuyvesant that, if Manhattan should be delivered up to the King, "any
people from the Netherlands may freely come and plant there or thereabouts;
and such vessels of their own country may freely come thither, and any of
them may as freely return home in vessels of their own country." Visiting
the city under a flag of truce Winthrop delivered this to Stuyvesant
outside the fort and urged him to surrender. The director declined; and,
returning to the fort, he opened Nicolls' letter before the council and the
burgomasters, who desired that it should be communicated, as "all which
regarded the public welfare ought to be made public." Against this
Stuyvesant earnestly remonstrated, and, finding that the burgomasters
continued firm, in a fit of passion he "tore the letter in pieces." The
citizens, suddenly ceasing their work at the palisades, hurried to the
Stadt-Huys, and sent three of their numbers to the fort to demand the

In vain the director hastened to pacify the burghers and urge them to go on
with the fortifications. "Complaints and curses" were uttered on all sides
against the company's misgovernment; resistance was declared to be idle;
"The letter! the letter!" was the general cry. To avoid a mutiny Stuyvesant
yielded, and a copy, made out from the collected fragments, was handed to
the burgomasters. In answer, however, to Nicolls' summons he submitted a
long justification of the Dutch title; yet while protesting against any
breach of the peace between the King and the States-General, "for the
hinderance and prevention of all differences and the spilling of innocent
blood, not only in these parts, but also in Europe," he offered to treat.
"Long Island is gone and lost;" the capital "cannot hold out long," was the
last despatch to the "Lord Majors" of New Netherlands, which its director
sent off that night "in silence through Hell Gate."

Observing Stuyvesant's reluctance to surrender, Nicolls directed Captain
Hyde, who commanded the squadron, to reduce the fort. Two of the ships
accordingly landed their troops just below Breuckelen (Brooklyn), where
volunteers from New England and the Long Island villages had already
encamped. The other two, coming up with full sail, passed in front of Fort
Amsterdam and anchored between it and Nutten Island. Standing on one of
the angles of the fortress--an artilleryman with a lighted match at his
side--the director watched their approach. At this moment the two domines
Megapolensis, imploring him not to begin hostilities, led Stuyvesant from
the rampart, who then, with a hundred of the garrison, went into the city
to resist the landing of the English. Hoping on against hope, the director
now sent Counsellor de Decker, Secretary Van Ruyven, Burgomaster Steenwyck,
and "Schepen" Cousseau with a letter to Nicolls stating that, as he
felt bound "to stand the storm," he desired if possible to arrange on
accommodation. But the English commander merely declared, "To-morrow I will
speak with you at Manhattan."

"Friends," was the answer, "will be welcome if they come in a friendly

"I shall come with ships and soldiers," replied Nicolls; "raise the white
flag of peace at the fort, and then something may be considered."

When this imperious message became known, men, women, and children flocked
to the director, beseeching him to submit. His only answer was, "I would
rather be carried out dead." The next day the city authorities, the
clergymen, and the officers of the burgher guard, assembling at the
Stadt-Huys, at the suggestion of Domine Megapolensis adopted a remonstrance
to the director, exhibiting the hopeless situation of New Amsterdam, on all
sides "encompassed and hemmed in by enemies," and protesting against any
further opposition to the will of God. Besides the _schout_, burgomasters,
and schepens, the remonstrance was signed by Wilmerdonck and eighty-five of
the principal inhabitants, among whom was Stuyvesant's own son, Balthazar.

At last the director was obliged to yield. Although there were now fifteen
hundred souls in New Amsterdam, there were not more than two hundred fifty
men able to bear arms, besides the one hundred fifty regular soldiers. The
people had at length refused to be called out, and the regular troops were
already heard talking of "where booty is to be found, and where the young
women live who wear gold chains." The city, entirely open along both
rivers, was shut on the northern side by a breastwork and palisades, which,
though sufficient to keep out the savages, afforded no defence against
a military siege. There were scarcely six hundred pounds of serviceable
powder in store.

A council of war had reported Fort Amsterdam untenable for though it
mounted twenty-four guns, its single wall of earth not more than ten feet
high and four thick, was almost touches by the private dwellings clustered
around, and was commanded, within a pistol-shot, by hills on the north,
over which ran the "Heereweg" or Broadway.

Upon the faith of Nicolls' promise to deliver back the city and fort "in
case the difference of the limits of this province be agreed upon betwixt
his majesty of England and the high and mighty States-General," Stuyvesant
now commissioned Counsellor John de Decker, Captain Nicholas Varlett, Dr.
Samuel Megapolensis, Burgomaster Cornelius Steenwyck, old Burgomaster Oloff
Stevenson van Cortlandt, and old Schepen Jacques Cousseau to agree upon
articles with the English commander or his representatives. Nicolls, on
his part, appointed Sir Robert Carr and Colonel George Cartwright, John
Winthrop, and Samuel Willys, of Connecticut, and Thomas Clarke and John
Pynchon, of Massachusetts. "The reason why those of Boston and Connecticut
were joined," afterward explained the royal commander, "was because those
two colonies should hold themselves the more engaged with us if the Dutch
had been overconfident of their strength."

At eight o'clock the next morning, which was Saturday, the Commissioners
on both sides met at Stuyvesant's "bouwery" and arranged the terms of
capitulation. The only difference which arose was respecting the Dutch
soldiers, whom the English refused to convey back to Holland. The articles
of capitulation promised the Dutch security in their property, customs of
inheritance, liberty of conscience and church discipline. The municipal
officers of Manhattan were to continue for the present unchanged, and the
town was to be allowed to choose deputies, with "free voices in all public
affairs." Owners of property in Fort Orange might, if they pleased, "slight
the fortifications there," and enjoy their houses "as people do where there
is no fort."

For six months there was to be free intercourse with Holland. Public
records were to be respected. The articles, consented to by Nicolls, were
to be ratified by Stuyvesant the next Monday morning at eight o'clock, and
within two hours afterward, the "fort and town called New Amsterdam, upon
the Isle of Manhatoes," were to be delivered up, and the military officers
and soldiers were to "march out with their arms, drums beating, and colors
flying, and lighted matches."

On the following Monday morning at eight o'clock Stuyvesant, at the head of
the garrison, marched out of Fort Amsterdam with all the honors of war, and
led his soldiers down the Beaver Lane to the water-side, whence they were
embarked for Holland. An English corporal's guard at the same time took
possession of the fort; and Nicolls and Carr, with their two companies,
about a hundred seventy strong, entered the city, while Cartwright took
possession of the gates and the Stadt-Huys. The New England and Long Island
volunteers, however, were prudently kept at the Breuckelen ferry, as the
citizens dreaded most being plundered by them. The English flag was hoisted
on Fort Amsterdam, the name of which was immediately changed to "Fort
James." Nicolls was now proclaimed by the burgomasters deputy-governor for
the Duke of York, in compliment to whom he directed that the city of New
Amsterdam should thenceforth be known as "New York."

To Nicolls' European eye the Dutch metropolis, with its earthen fort
enclosing a windmill and high flag-staff, a prison and a governor's house,
and a double-roofed church, above which loomed a square tower, its gallows
and whipping-post at the river's side, and its rows of houses which hugged
the citadel, presented but a mean appearance. Yet before long he described
it to the Duke as "the best of all his majesty's towns in America," and
assured his royal highness that, with proper management, "within five years
the staple of America will be drawn hither, of which the brethren of Boston
are very sensible."

The Dutch frontier posts were thought of next. Colonel Cartwright, with
Captains Thomas Willett, John Manning, Thomas Breedon, and Daniel Brodhead,
were sent to Fort Orange, as soon as possible, with a letter from Nicolls
requiring La Montagne and the magistrates and inhabitants to aid in
prosecuting his majesty's interest against all who should oppose a
peaceable surrender. At the same time Van Rensselaer was desired to bring
down his patent and papers to the new governor and likewise to observe
Cartwright's directions.

Counsellor de Decker, however, travelling up to Fort George ahead of the
English commissioners, endeavored, without avail, to excite the inhabitants
to opposition; and his conduct being judged contrary to the spirit of the
capitulation which he had signed, he was soon afterward ordered out of
Nicolls' government. The garrison quietly surrendered, and the name of Fort
Orange was changed to that of "Fort Albany," after the second title of the
Duke of York. A treaty was immediately signed between Cartwright and
the sachems of the Iroquois, who were promised the same advantages "as
heretofore they had from the Dutch"; and the alliance which was thus
renewed continued unbroken until the beginning of the American Revolution.

It only remained to reduce the South River; whither Sir Robert Carr was
sent with the Guinea, the William and Nicholas, and "all the soldiers which
are not in the fort." To the Dutch he was instructed to promise all their
privileges, "only that they change their masters." To the Swedes he was to
"remonstrate their happy return under a monarchical government." To Lord
Baltimore's officers in Maryland he was to say that, their pretended rights
being a doubtful case, "possession would be kept until his majesty is
informed and satisfied otherwise."

A tedious voyage brought the expedition before New Amstel. The burghers and
planters, "after almost three days' parley," agreed to Carr's demands,
and Ffob Oothout with five others signed articles of capitulation which
promised large privileges. But the Governor and soldiery refusing the
English propositions, the fort was stormed and plundered, three of the
Dutch being killed and ten wounded. In violation of his promises, Carr now
exhibited the most disgraceful rapacity; appropriated farms to himself, his
brother, and Captains Hyde and Morely, stripped bare the inhabitants, and
sent the Dutch soldiers to be sold as slaves in Virginia. To complete the
work, a boat was despatched to the city's colony at the Horekill, which was
seized and plundered of all its effects, and the marauding party even took
"what belonged to the Quacking Society of Plockhoy, to a very naile."

The reduction of New Netherlands was now accomplished. All that could
be further done was to change its name; and, to glorify one of the most
bigoted princes in English history, the royal province was ordered to be
called "New York." Ignorant of James' grant of New Jersey to Berkeley
and Carteret, Nicolls gave to the region west of the Hudson the name of
"Albania," and to Long Island that of "Yorkshire," so as to comprehend
all the titles of the Duke of York. The flag of England was at length
triumphantly displayed, where, for half a century, that of Holland had
rightfully waved; and from Virginia to Canada, the King of Great Britain
was acknowledged as sovereign.

Viewed in all its aspects, the event which gave to the whole of that
country a unity in allegiance, and to which a misgoverned people
complacently submitted, was as inevitable as it was momentous. But whatever
may have been its ultimate consequences, this treacherous and violent
seizure of the territory and possessions of an unsuspecting ally was no
less a breach of private justice than of public faith.

It may, indeed, be affirmed that, among all the acts of selfish perfidy
which royal ingratitude conceived and executed, there have been few more
characteristic and none more base.


A.D. 1665


None of the great visitations of disease that have afflicted Europe within
historic times has wholly spared England. But from the time of the "Black
Death" (1349) the country experienced no such suffering from any epidemic
as that which fell upon London in 1665. That year the "Great Plague" is
said to have destroyed the lives of nearly one hundred thousand people in
England's capital. The plague had previously cropped up there every few
years, from lack of proper sanitation. At the time of this outbreak the
water-supply of the city was notoriously impure. In 1665 the heat was
uncommonly severe. Pepys said that June 7th of that year was the hottest
day that he had ever known.

The plague of 1665 is said, however, to have been brought in merchandise
directly from Holland, where it had been smouldering for several years.
Its ravages in London have often been described, and Defoe found in the
calamity a subject for a special story on history. Probably he was not more
than six years old when the plague appeared; but he assumes throughout the
pose of a respectable and religious householder of the period. All his own
recollections, all the legends of the time, and the parish records are
grouped in masterly fashion to form a single picture. The account has been
described as a "masterpiece of verisimilitude."

In the first place a blazing star or comet appeared for several months
before the plague, as there did the year after, a little before the great
fire; the old women and the weak-minded portion of the other sex, whom I
could almost call old women too, remarked--especially afterward, though not
till both those judgments were over--that those two comets passed directly
over the city, and that so very near the houses that it was plain they
imported something peculiar to the city alone; that the comet before the
pestilence was of a faint, dull, languid color, and its motion very heavy,
solemn, and slow; but that the comet before the fire was bright and
sparkling, or, as others said, flaming, and its motion swift and furious;
and that, accordingly, one foretold a heavy judgment, slow, but severe,
terrible, and frightful, as the plague was; but the other foretold
a stroke, sudden, swift, and fiery, like the conflagration. Nay, so
particular some people were that, as they looked upon that comet preceding
the fire, they fancied that they not only saw it pass swiftly and fiercely,
and could perceive the motion with the eye, but they even heard it; that it
made a rushing, mighty noise, fierce and terrible, though at a distance and
but just perceivable.

I saw both these stars, and I must confess, had so much of the common
notion of such things in my head that I was apt to look upon them as the
forerunners and warnings of God's judgments; and especially, when after the
plague had followed the first, I yet saw another of the like kind, I could
not but say, God had not yet sufficiently scourged the city.

But I could not at the same time carry these things to the height that
others did, knowing, too, that natural causes are assigned by the
astronomers for such things; and that their motions, and even their
evolutions, are calculated, or pretended to be calculated; so that they
cannot be so perfectly called the forerunners or foretellers, much less the
procurers of such events as pestilence, war, fire, and the like.

But let my thoughts, and the thoughts of the philosophers, be or have been
what they will, these things had a more than ordinary influence upon the
minds of the common people, and they had, almost universally, melancholy
apprehensions of some dreadful calamity and judgment coming upon the city;
and this principally from the sight of this comet, and the little alarm
that was given in December by two people dying in St. Giles.

The apprehensions of the people were likewise strangely increased by the
error of the times; in which, I think the people, from what principles
I cannot imagine, were more addicted to prophecies, and astrological
conjurations, dreams, and old wives' tales, than ever they were before or
since. Whether this unhappy temper was originally raised by the follies of
some people who got money by it--that is to say, by printing predictions
and prognostications--I know not; but certain it is books frightened them
terribly; such as _Lilly's Almanack, Gadbury's Allogical Predictions,
Poor Robin's Almanack_, and the like; also several pretended religious
books--one entitled _Come out of her, my people, lest you be partaker
of her plagues_; another, called _Fair Warning_; another, _Britain's
Remembrancer_; and many such, all or most part of which foretold directly
or covertly the ruin of the city: nay, some were so enthusiastically bold
as to run about the streets with their oral predictions, pretending they
were sent to preach to the city; and one in particular, who like Jonah
to Nineveh, cried in the streets, "Yet forty days, and London shall be
destroyed." I will not be positive whether he said "yet forty days" or "yet
a few days."

Another ran about naked, except a pair of drawers about his waist, crying
day and night. As a man that Josephus mentions, who cried, "Woe to
Jerusalem!" a little before the destruction of that city, so this poor
naked creature cried, "O the great and the dreadful God!" and said no more,
but repeated these words continually, with a voice and countenance full of
horror, a swift pace; and nobody could ever find him to stop or rest or
take any sustenance, at least that ever I could hear of. I met this poor
creature several times in the streets, and would have spoken to him, but he
would not enter into conversation with me, or anyone else, but held on his
dismal cries continually. These things terrified the people to the last
degree; and especially when two or three times, as I have mentioned
already, they found one or two in the bills dead of the plague at St.

The justices of peace for Middlesex, by direction of the secretary
of state, had begun to shut up houses in the parishes of St.
Giles-in-the-Fields, St. Martin's, St. Clement Danes, etc., and it was with
good success; for in several streets where the plague broke out, after
strictly guarding the houses that were infected, and taking care to bury
those that died immediately after they were known to be dead, the plague
ceased in those streets. It was also observed that the plague decreased
sooner in those parishes, after they had been visited in detail, than it
did in the parishes of Bishopsgate, Shoreditch, Aldgate, Whitechapel,
Stepney, and others; the early care taken in that manner being a great
check to it.

This shutting up of houses was a method first taken, as I understand, in
the plague which happened in 1603, on the accession of King James I to the
crown; and the power of shutting people up in their own houses was granted
by an act of Parliament entitled "An act for the charitable relief and
ordering of persons infected with the plague." On which act of Parliament
the lord mayor and aldermen of the city of London founded the order they
made at this time, viz., June, 1665; when the numbers infected within the
city were but few, the last bill for the ninety-two parishes being but
four. By these means, when there died about one thousand a week in the
whole, the number in the city was but twenty-eight; and the city was more
healthy in proportion than any other place all the time of the infection.

These orders of my lord mayor were published, as I have said, toward the
end of June. They came into operation from July ist, and were as follows:

"_Orders conceived and published by the lord mayor and aldermen
of the city of London, concerning the infection of the plague_,

"Whereas, in the reign of our late sovereign, King James, of happy memory,
an act was made for the charitable relief and ordering of persons infected
with the plague; whereby authority was given to justices of the peace,
mayors, bailiffs, and other head officers, to appoint within their several
limits, examiners, searchers, watchmen, surgeons, and nurse-keepers, and
buriers, for the persons and places infected, and to minister unto them
oaths for the performance of their offices. And the same statute did also
authorize the giving of other directions, as unto them for the present
necessity should seem good in their discretions. It is now upon special
consideration thought very expedient for preventing and avoiding of
infection of sickness (if it shall so please Almighty God) that these
officers be appointed, and these orders hereafter duly observed."

Then follow the orders giving these officers instructions in detail and
prescribing the extent and limits of their several duties. Next, "_Orders
concerning infected houses and persons sick of the plague._" These had
reference to the "notice to be given of the sickness," "sequestration of
the sick," "airing the stuff," "shutting up of the house," "burial of
the dead," "forbidding infected stuff to be sold, and of persons leaving
infected houses," "marking of infected houses," and "regulating hackney
coaches that have been used to convey infected persons."

Lastly there followed "_Orders for cleansing and keeping the streets and
houses sweet_" and "_Orders concerning loose persons and idle assemblies_"
such as "beggars," "plays," "feasts," and "tippling-houses."

"(Signed) SIR JOHN LAWRENCE, _Lord Mayor_.

I need not say that these orders extended only to such places as were
within the lord mayor's jurisdiction; so it is requisite to observe that
the justices of the peace, within those parishes, and those places called
the hamlets and out-parts, took the same method: as I remember, the orders
for shutting up of houses did not take place so soon on our side, because,
as I said before, the plague did not reach the eastern parts of the town,
at least not begin to be very violent, till the beginning of August.

Now, indeed, it was coming on amain; for the burials that same week were in
the next adjoining parishes thus:

The next week To the
prodigiously 1st of
increased, as Aug. thus

St. Leonard's, Shoreditch ... 64 84 110
St. Botolph, Bishopsgate .... 65 105 116
St. Giles, Cripplegate.......213 421 554
--- --- ---
342 610 780

The shutting up of houses was at first considered a very cruel and
unchristian thing, and the poor people so confined made bitter
lamentations; complaints were also daily brought to my lord mayor, of
houses causelessly--and some maliciously--shut up. I cannot say, but, upon
inquiry, many that complained so loudly were found in a condition to be
continued; and others again, inspection being made upon the sick person, on
his being content to be carried to the pesthouse, were released.

Indeed, many people perished in these miserable confinements, which it
is reasonable to believe would not have been distempered if they had had
liberty, though the plague was in the house; at which the people were
at first very clamorous and uneasy, and several acts of violence were
committed on the men who were set to watch the houses so shut up; also
several people broke out by force, in many places, as I shall observe by
and by; still it was a public good that justified the private mischief;
and there was no obtaining the least mitigation by any application to
magistrates. This put the people upon all manner of stratagems, in order,
if possible, to get out; and it would fill a little volume to set down the
arts used by the people of such houses to shut the eyes of the watchmen who
were employed, to deceive them, and to escape or break out from them. A few
incidents on this head may prove not uninteresting.

As I went along Houndsditch one morning, about eight o'clock, there was a
great noise; it is true, indeed, there was not much crowd, because people
were not very free to gather or to stay long together; but the outcry was
loud enough to prompt my curiosity, and I called to one that looked out of
a window, and asked what was the matter.

A watchman, it seems, had been employed to keep his post at the door of a
house which was infected, or said to be infected, and was shut up; he had
been there all night for two nights together, as he told his story, and the
day watchman had been there one day, and had now come to relieve him; all
this while no noise had been heard in the house, no light had been seen;
they called for nothing, sent him no errands, which was the chief business
of the watchman; neither had they given him any disturbance, as he said,
from the Monday afternoon, when he heard great crying and screaming in the
house, which, as he supposed, was occasioned by some of the family dying
just at that time. It seems the night before, the dead-cart, as it was
called, had been stopped there, and a servant-maid had been brought down
to the door dead, and the buriers or bearers, as they were called, put her
into the cart, wrapped only in a green rug, and carried her away.

The watchman had knocked at the door, it seems, when he heard that noise
and crying, as above, and nobody answered a great while; but at last one
looked out, and said, with an angry, quick tone, "What do ye want, that ye
make such a knocking?" He answered: "I am the watchman! how do you do?
what is the matter?" The person answered: "What is that to you? Stop the
dead-cart." This, it seems, was about one o'clock; soon after, as the
fellow said, he stopped the dead-cart, and then knocked again, but nobody
answered: he continued knocking, and the bellman called out several times,
"Bring out your dead!" but nobody answered, till the man that drove the
cart, being called to other houses, would stay no longer, and drove away.

The watchman knew not what to make of all this, so he let them alone
till the day watchman came to relieve him, giving him an account of the
particulars. They knocked at the door a great while, but nobody answered;
and they observed that the window or casement at which the person had
looked out continued open, being up two pair of stairs. Upon this the two
men, to satisfy their curiosity, got a long ladder, and one of them went
up to the window and looked into the room, where he saw a woman lying dead
upon the floor in a dismal manner, having no clothes on her but her shift.
Although he called aloud, and knocked hard on the floor with his long
staff, yet nobody stirred or answered; neither could he hear any noise in
the house.

Upon this he came down again and acquainted his fellow, who went up also,
and, finding the case as above, they resolved either to acquaint the lord
mayor or some other magistrate with it. The magistrate, it seems, upon
the information of the two men, ordered the house to be broken open, a
constable and other persons being appointed to be present, that nothing
might be plundered; and accordingly it was so done, when nobody was found
in the house but that young woman, who, having been infected, and past
recovery, the rest had left her to die by herself. Everyone was gone,
having found some way to delude the watchman and to get open the door or
get out at some back door or over the tops of the houses, so that he knew
nothing of it; and as to those cries and shrieks which the watchman had
heard, it was supposed they were the passionate cries of the family at
the bitter parting, which, to be sure, it was to them all, this being the
sister to the mistress of the house.

Many such escapes were made out of infected houses, as particularly when
the watchman was sent some errand, that is to say, for necessaries, such as
food and physic, to fetch physicians if they would come, or surgeons, or
nurses, or to order the dead-cart, and the like. Now, when he went it was
his duty to lock up the outer door of the house and take the key away with
him; but to evade this and cheat the watchman, people got two or three keys
made to their locks, or they found means to unscrew the locks, open the
door, and go out as they pleased. This way of escape being found out, the
officers afterward had orders to padlock up the doors on the outside and
place bolts on them, as they thought fit.

At another house, as I was informed, in the street near Aldgate, a whole
family was shut up and locked in because the maidservant was ill: the
master of the house had complained, by his friends, to the next alderman
and to the lord mayor, and had consented to have the maid carried to the
pesthouse, but was refused, so the door was marked with a red cross, a
padlock on the outside, as above, and a watchman set to keep the door
according to public order.

After the master of the house found there was no remedy, but that he, his
wife, and his children were to be locked up with this poor distempered
servant, he called to the watchman and told him he must go then and fetch a
nurse for them to attend this poor girl, for that it would be certain death
to them all to oblige them to nurse her; and that if he would not do this
the maid must perish, either of the distemper, or be starved for want of
food, for he was resolved none of his family should go near her, and she
lay in the garret, four-story high, where she could not cry out or call to
anybody for help.

The watchman went and fetched a nurse as he was appointed, and brought her
to them the same evening; during this interval the master of the house took
the opportunity of breaking a large hole through his shop into a stall
where formerly a cobbler had sat, before or under his shop window, but the
tenant, as may be supposed, at such a dismal time as that, was dead or
removed, and so he had the key in his own keeping. Having made his way
into this stall, which he could not have done if the man had been at the
door--the noise he was obliged to make being such as would have alarmed the
watchman--I say, having made his way into this stall, he sat still till the
watchman returned with the nurse, and all the next day also. But the night
following, having contrived to send the watchman another trifling errand,
he conveyed himself and all his family out of the house, and left the nurse
and the watchman to bury the poor woman, that is, to throw her into the
cart and take care of the house.

I could give a great many such stories as these which in the long course of
that dismal year I met with, that is, heard of, and which are very certain
to be true or very near the truth; that is to say, true in general, for no
man could at such a time learn all the particulars. There was, likewise,
violence used with the watchmen, as was reported, in abundance of places;
and I believe that, from the beginning of the visitation to the end, not

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