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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 9, No. 55, May, 1862 by Various

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thousand parts of air afford one part of nitrogenous bodies, if the
whole quantity be abstracted! A portion only of this quantity can be
withdrawn in natural operations, such as the falling of rain and the
deposition of dew,--the larger part always remaining behind.

When the oxygen of our atmosphere is exposed, while in its usual
hygrometric state, to the influence of bodies attracting a portion of
it, such as decomposing substances, or when it forms the medium of
electrical discharges, it suddenly assumes new powers, acquires a
greatly increased activity, affects our organs of smell, dissolves
in fluids, and has been mistaken for a new substance, and even named
"ozone." Among the new characters thus conferred on it is the power of
uniting with or burning many substances. This ozonized oxygen, when
brought into mixture with many nitrogenized bodies, forms with them
nitrous acids, completely destroying their former condition and
composition; hence, in the atmosphere, this part of the oxygen becomes
a purifier of the whole mass, from which it removes putrescent
exhalations, miasmatic vapors, and the effluvia from every source of sea
or land. Very curious are the effects of this active oxygen, which is
ever present in some portion of the atmosphere. Moved by the wind, mixed
with the impure upward currents rising from cities, it seizes on
and changes rapidly all foulness, and if the currents are not too
voluminous, the impure air becomes changed to pure. As ozonized oxygen
can be easily detected, we may pass from the city, where (overpowered
by the exhalations) it does not exist, and find it in the air of the
vicinity; and moving away several miles, ascertain that a normal amount
there prevails, and that step by step, on our return to abodes of a
dense population, the quantity diminishes and finally all disappears.

We are now prepared to answer the second part of the question which was
suggested, and to find that nitrous acids formed in the atmosphere
by direct oxidation of nitrogenous matter may unite with the ammonia
present to produce one kind of saltpetre; and when the rains or the dews
carry this to the earth, the salts of lime, potash, and soda there found
will decompose this ammoniacal saltpetre, and set the ammonia free, to
act over again its part. So in regard to decomposing organic matters in
the soil: ozonized oxygen changes them in the same way. The earth
and calcareous rocks of caves, penetrated by the air, slowly produce
saltpetre, and before the theory of the action was understood,
artificial imitation of natural conditions enabled us to manufacture
saltpetre. Animal remains, stratified with porous earth or the sweepings
of cities, and disposed in long heaps or walls, protected from rain, but
exposed to the prevailing winds, soon form nitrous salts, and a large
space covered with these deposits carefully tended forms a saltpetre
plantation. France, Prussia, Sweden, Switzerland, and other countries,
have been supplied with saltpetre from similar artificial arrangements.

But the atmosphere is washed most thoroughly by the rains falling in and
near tropical countries, and the changes there are most rapid, so that
the production of saltpetre, favored by moisture and hot winds, attains
its highest limit in parts of India and the bordering countries.

During the prevalence of dry winds, the earth in many districts of India
becomes frosted over with nitrous efflorescences, and the great quantity
shipped from the commercial ports, and that consumed in China, is thus a
natural production of that region. The increased amount due to tropical
influences will be seen in the instances here given of the produce from
the rich earths of different countries:--


France, Church of Mousseau, 5-3/8 per cent.
" Cavern of Fouquieres, 3-1/2 "
U. States, Tennessee, dirt of caves, 0.86 "
Ceylon, Cave of Memoora, 3-1/10 "
Upper Bengal, Tirhoot, earth simply, 1-6/10 "
Patree in Guzerat, best sweepings, 8-7/10 "

In each case the salt is mixed saltpetres.


France, 100 lbs. earth from
plantations afford 8 to 9 oz.
Hungary and Sweden, from
the same, 1/2 to 2-3/10 per cent.

It may be calculated that the flesh of animals, free from bone,
carefully decomposed, will afford ninety-five pounds of saltpetre for
one thousand pounds thus consumed.

In the manufacture of saltpetre, the earths, whether naturally or
artificially impregnated, are mixed with the ashes from burnt wood, or
salts of potash, so that this base may take the place of all others, and
produce long prisms of potash saltpetre.

In this country there are numerous caves of great extent in Kentucky,
Tennessee, and Missouri, from which saltpetre has been manufactured.
Under the most favorable conditions of abundance of labor, obtainable
at a low price, potash saltpetre can be made at a cost about one-fourth
greater than the average price of India saltpetre, and those sources of
supply are the best natural deposits known on this side of the Rocky
Mountains. Where there is an insufficient supply of manure in a country,
resort to the artificial production of saltpetre is simply a robbery
committed on the resources of the agriculturists, and it is only during
the pressure of a great struggle like that of the wars of Napoleon, that
the conversion into saltpetre of materials which can become food for the
community would be permitted.

Hitherto, in peaceful times, our supply of saltpetre has come from India
through commercial channels; but twice within a few years this course of
trade has been interrupted by the British Government, and the price of a
necessary article has been greatly enhanced,--leading reflecting minds
to the inquiry after other sources whence to draw the quantity required
for an increasing consumption. On the boundary between Peru and Chili,
in South Peru, about forty miles from the ports of Conception and
Iquique, is a depression in the general surface of a saline desert,
where a bed of soda saltpetre, about two and a half feet thick and
one hundred and fifty miles long, exists. The salt is massive, and,
occurring in a rainless climate, it is dry, and contains about sixty per
cent. of pure soda saltpetre. In Brazil, on the San Francisco, the same
salt is found extending sixty or seventy miles,--and again near the town
of Pilao Arcado, the beds being about two hundred and forty miles from
Bahia, but at present inaccessible for want of roads. The Peruvian
native saltpetre is rudely refined in the desert, and then transported
on the backs of mules to the shipping-port. As found in commerce, it is
less impure than India saltpetre; and it might be usefully substituted
for the latter in the manufacture of gunpowder, were it less
deliquescent in damp atmospheres. For chemical purposes it now replaces
India saltpetre, but the larger consumption is perhaps as a fertilizer
of land, in the cool and humid climate of England, the low price it
bears in the market permitting this consumption.

We have found that the various saltpetres of natural production, or
those obtained in artificial arrangements, are converted by the use of
potash salts into potash saltpetre, and among the products so changed is
natural soda saltpetre. Now to us in this country, so near the sources
of abundant supply of soda saltpetre, this substitution becomes a matter
of great interest. We possess and can produce the alkaline salt of
potash in almost unlimited quantity, and, excepting for some special
purposes, it is consumed for its alkaline energy alone. When soda
saltpetre in proper proportion is dissolved and thus mixed with potash
salt, an exchange of bases takes place, and no loss of alkaline energy
follows. The soda in a quite pure state is eliminated from the soda
saltpetre, and will serve for the manufactures of glass and soap; while
the potash, taking the oxygen compound of the soda saltpetre, produces,
as a final result, a pure and beautiful prismatic saltpetre, most
economically and abundantly.

Instead of working on a hundred pounds of earth to obtain at most eight
or nine pounds of saltpetre, a hundred pounds of soda saltpetre will
afford more than one hundred and nine pounds of potash saltpetre, when
skilfully treated. Here, then, we have, by simple chemical treatment
of an imported, but very cheap salt, a result constituting a source of
abundant supply of potash saltpetre, _without the loss of the agent_
concerned in the transformation.

We have traced slightly in outline the formation of saltpetre to the
action of ozonized oxygen on nitrogen compounds, in the atmosphere, or
in the earth,--the conditions being the same in both cases. If we pursue
the study of this action of ozonized oxygen farther, we shall not
restrict its combining disposition to these compounds, but prove that it
has the power of uniting directly with the nitrogen naturally forming
part of the pure air. While nitrogenized bodies are present, however,
in the atmosphere, or in the humid artificial heaps of saltpetre
plantations, the action of ozonized oxygen is on these, and the nitrous
compounds formed unite with the bases lime, soda, and potash, also
present, to form saltpetre.

Under all the conditions necessary, we see the permanent gases, oxygen
and nitrogen, leaving the atmosphere and changing from their gaseous to
a solid dry state, when they become chemically combined with potash, and
there are 53-46/100 parts of the gaseous matter and 46-54/100 parts of
the potash in 100 parts of the saltpetre by weight.

Having now found what saltpetre is and how it is formed, let us advance
to the consideration of it as a source of power.

Through the exertion of chemical attraction the gaseous elements of the
atmosphere have become solid in the saltpetre; and as we know the weight
of this part in a cubic inch of saltpetre, the volume of the gases
combined is easily ascertained to be about eight hundred times that of
the saltpetre. Hence, as every cubic inch of condensation represents
an atmosphere as large as the cubic inch of saltpetre formed, we may
roughly estimate that the condensing force arising from chemical
attraction in this case is 800 times 15 lbs., or 12,000 lbs.!

Strictly speaking, only about four-tenths of a cubic inch of potash
holds this enormous power in connection with it so as to form a cubic
inch of saltpetre, which we may handle and bruise, may melt and cool,
dissolve and crystallize, without explosion or change. It contains
conserved a force which represents the aggregate result of innumerable
minute actions, taking place among portions of matter which escape
our senses from their minuteness and excite our wonder by their
transformation. Closely similar are these actions to the agencies in
vegetation which build up the wood of the tree or the material of
the coal destined to serve for the production of fire in all the
applications of steam which we have briefly noticed in illustration.

In availing ourselves of the concentrated power accumulated in
saltpetre, we resort to bodies which easily kindle when fire is applied,
such as sulphur and finely powdered charcoal: these substances are
most intimately mixed with the saltpetre in a powdered state, and the
dampened mass subjected to great pressure is afterwards broken into
grains of varied size, constituting gunpowder.

The substances thus added to the saltpetre have both the disposition and
the power of burning with and decomposing the nitrous element of the
saltpetre, and in so doing they do not simply open the way for the
energetic action of the gases escaping, but, owing to the high
temperature produced, a new force is added.

If the gases escaped from combination simply, they would exert for every
cubic inch of saltpetre, as we have here considered it, the direct power
of 12,000 lbs.; but under the new conditions, the volume of escaping gas
has a temperature above 2,000 deg. Fahrenheit, and consequently its force
in overcoming resistance is more than four times as great, or at least
48,000 lbs.

Such, then, is the power which can be obtained from a cubic inch of
saltpetre, when it is so compounded as to form some of the kinds of
gunpowder; and the fact of greatest importance in this connection is the
control we have over the amount of the force exerted and the time in
which the energy can be expended, by variations in the proportions of
the eliminating agents employed.

We have used the well-known term Gunpowder to express the compound by
which we easily obtain the power latent in saltpetre; and the use of the
term suggests the employment of guns, which is secondary to the main
point we are illustrating. As the enormous consumption of power takes
place during peaceful times, so the consumption of saltpetre during a
state of war is much lessened, because the prosecution of public and
private works is then nearly suspended.

The value and importance of saltpetre as a source of power is seen in
the adaptation of its explosive force to special purposes. It performs
that work well which we cannot carry on so perfectly by means of any
other agent, and the great mining and engineering works of a country are
dependent on this source for their success, and for overcoming obstacles
where other forces fail. With positive certainty the engineer can remove
a portion of a cliff or rock without breaking it into many parts, and
can displace masses to convenient distances, under all the varying
demands which arise in the process of mining, tunnelling, or cutting
into the earth.

In all these cases of application we see that the powder contains within
itself both the material for producing force and the means by which that
force is applied, no other motor being necessary in its application.

Modern warfare has become in its simplest expression the intelligent
application of force, and that side will successfully overcome or resist
the other which can in the shortest time so direct the greater force.
In artillery as well as infantry practice, the control over the time
necessary in the decomposition of the powder has been obtained through
the refinements already made in the manufacture, and the best results
of the latest trials confirm in full the conclusion that saltpetre is a
source of great and easily controlled power, which can act through short
or extended space.

Under the view here presented, it is evident that saltpetre is
indispensable to progress in the arts of civilization and peace, as well
as in military operations, and that no nation can advance in material
interests, or even maintain strict independence, without possessing
within its boundaries either saltpetre or the sources from which it
can be drawn at all times. In its use for protecting the property of
a nation from the attacks of an enemy, and as the means of insuring
respect, we may consider saltpetre as an element of strength in a State,
and as such deserving a high place in the consideration of those who
direct the counsels or form the policy of a country.

Has the subject of having an exhaustless supply of this important
product or the means of producing it been duly considered?

* * * * *


It is not very flattering to that glory-loving, battle-seeking creature,
Man, that his best-arranged schemes for the destruction of his fellows
should often be made to fail by the condition of the weather. More
or less have the greatest of generals been "servile to all the skyey
influences." Upon the state of the atmosphere frequently depends the
ability of men to fight, and military hopes rise and fall with the
rising and falling of the metal in the thermometer's tube. Mercury
governs Mars. A hero is stripped of his plumes by a tempest, and his
laurels fly away on the invisible wings of the wind, and are seen no
more forever. Empires fall because of a heavy fall of snow. Storms of
rain have more than once caused monarchs to cease to reign. A hard
frost, a sudden thaw, a "hot spell," a "cold snap," a contrary wind, a
long drought, a storm of sand,--all these things have had their part in
deciding the destinies of dynasties, the fortunes of races, and the fate
of nations. Leave the weather out of history, and it is as if night were
left out of the day, and winter out of the year. Americans have fretted
a little because their "Grand Army" could not advance through mud that
came up to the horses' shoulders, and in which even the seven-league
boots would have stuck, though they had been worn as deftly as Ariel
could have worn them. They talked as if no such thing had ever before
been known to stay the march of armies; whereas all military operations
have, to a greater or a lesser extent, depended for their issue upon the
softening or the hardening of the earth, or upon the clearing or the
clouding of the sky. The elements have fought against this or that
conqueror, or would-be conqueror, as the stars in their courses fought
against Sisera; and the Kishon is not the only river that has through
its rise put an end to the hopes of a tyrant. The condition of rivers,
which must be owing to the condition of the weather, has often colored
events for ages, perhaps forever. The melting of the snows of the
Pyrenees, causing a great rise of the rivers of Northern Spain, came
nigh bringing ruin upon Julius Caesar himself; and nothing but the
feeble character of the opposing general saved him from destruction.

The preservation of Greece, with all its incalculable consequences, must
be credited to the weather. The first attempt to conquer that country,
made by the Persians, failed because of a storm that disabled their
fleet. Mardonius crossed the Hellespont twelve or thirteen years before
that feat was accomplished by Xerxes, and he purposed marching as far as
Athens. His army was not unsuccessful, but off Mount Athos the Persian
fleet was overtaken by a storm, which destroyed three hundred ships
and twenty thousand men. This compelled him to retreat, and the Greeks
gained time to prepare for the coming of their enemy. But for that
storm, Athens would have been taken and destroyed, the Persians having
an especial grudge against the Athenians because of their part in the
taking and burning of Sardis; and Athens was destined to become Greece
for all after-time, so that her as yet dim light could not have been
quenched without darkening the whole world. When Xerxes himself entered
Europe, and was apparently about to convert Hellas into a satrapy, it
was a storm, or a brace of storms, that saved that country from so sad a
fate, and preserved it for the welfare of all after generations of men.
The Great King, in the hope of escaping "the unseen atmospheric enemies
which howl around that formidable promontory," had caused Mount Athos to
be cut through, but, as the historian observes, "the work of destruction
to his fleet was only transferred to the opposite side of the
intervening Thracian sea." That fleet was anchored on the Magnesian
coast, when a hurricane came upon it, known to the people of the country
as the _Hellespontias_, and which blew right upon the shore. For three
days this wind continued to blow, and the Persians lost four hundred
warships, many transports and provision craft, myriads of men, and an
enormous amount of _materiel_. The Grecian fleet, which had fled before
that of Persia, now retraced its course, believing that the latter was
destroyed, and would have fled again but for the arts and influence
of Themistocles. The sea-fights of Artemisium followed, in which the
advantage was, though not decisively, with the Greeks; and that
they finally retreated was owing to the success of the Persians at
Thermopylae. Between the first and second battle of Artemisium the
Persians suffered from another storm, which inflicted great losses upon
them. These disasters to the enemy greatly encouraged the Greeks,
who believed that they came directly from the gods; and they made it
possible for them to fight the naval battle of Salamis, and to win it.
So great was the alarm of Xerxes, who thought that the victors would
sail to the Hellespont, and destroy the bridge he had thrown over that
strait, that he ordered his still powerful fleet to hasten to its
protection. He himself fled by land, but on his arrival at the
Hellespont he found that the bridge had been destroyed by a storm; and
he must have been impressed as deeply as Napoleon was in this century,
that the elements had leagued themselves with his mortal enemies. After
his flight, and the withdrawal of his fleet from the war, the Persians
had not a chance left, and the defeat of his lieutenant Mardonius, at
Plataea, was of the nature of a foregone conclusion.

It is not possible to exaggerate the importance of the assistance which
the Greeks received from the storms mentioned, and it is not strange
that they were lavish in their thanks and offerings to Poseidon the
Saviour, or that they continued piously to express their gratitude
in later days. Mankind at large have reason to be thankful for the
occurrence of those storms; for if they had not happened, Greece must
have been conquered, and all that she has been to the world would have
been that world's loss. It was not until after the overthrow of the
Persians that Athens became the home of science, literature, art, and
commerce; and if Athens had been removed from Greece, there would have
been little of Hellenic genius left for the delight of future days. Not
only was most of that which is known as Greek literature the production
of the years that followed the failure of Xerxes, but the success of the
Greeks was the means of preserving all of their earlier literature. The
Persians were not barbarians, and, had they achieved their purpose, they
might have promoted civilisation in Europe; but that civilization would
have been Asiatic in its character, and it might have been as fleeting
as the labors of the Carthaginians in Europe and Africa. Nor would they
have felt any interest in the preservation of the works of those Greeks
who wrote before the Marathonian time, which they would have regarded
with that contempt with which most conquerors look upon the labors of
those whom they have enslaved. That most brilliant of ages, the age of
Pericles, could never have come to pass under the dominion of Persia;
and the Greeks of Europe, when ruled by satraps from Susa, would have
been of as little weight in the ancient world as, under that kind of
rule, were the Greeks of Ionia. All future history was involved in the
decision of the Persian contest, and we may well feel grateful that the
event was not left for the hands of men to decide, but that the winds
and the waves of the Grecian seas so far equalized the power of the
combatants as to enable the Greeks, who fought for us as well as for
themselves, to roll back the tide of Oriental conquest. We might not
have had even the Secession War, if there had been no storms in the
Thracian seas in a summer the roses of which perished more than two
thousand three hundred years ago.[A]

[Footnote A: When the Athenian patriots under Thrasybulus occupied
Phyle, they would have been destroyed by the forces of the Thirty
Tyrants, had not a violent snow-storm happened, which compelled
the besiegers to retreat. The patriots characterized this storm as
Providential. Had the weather remained fair, the patriots would have
been beaten, the democracy would not have been restored, and we should
never have had the orations of Demosthenes; and perhaps even Plato might
not have written and thought for all after time.]

The modern contest which most resembles that which was waged between the
Greeks and the Persians is that war between England and Spain which
came to a crisis in 1588, when the Spanish Armada was destroyed by the
tempests of the Northern seas, after having been well mauled by the
English fleet. The English seamen behaved well, as they always do; but
the Spanish loss would not have been irreparable, if the weather had
remained mild. What men had begun so well storms completed. A contrary
wind prevented the Spanish Admiral from pursuing his course in a
direction that would have proved favorable to his second object, which
was the preservation of his fleet. He was forced to stand to the North,
so that he rushed right into the jaws of destruction. He encountered
in those remote and almost unknown waters tempests that were even more
merciless than the fighting ships and fireships of the island heretics.
Philip II. bore his loss with the same calmness that he bore the victory
of Lepanto. As, on hearing of the latter, he merely said, "Don John
risked a great deal," so, when tidings came to him that the Invincible
Armada had been found vincible, he quietly remarked, "I sent it out
against men, and not against the billows." Down to the very last year,
it had been the common, and all but universal opinion, that, if the
Spaniards had succeeded in landing in England, they would have been
beaten, so resolute were the English in their determination to oppose
them, and so extensive were their preparations for resistance. Elizabeth
at Tilbury had been one of the stock pieces of history, and her words of
defiance to Parma and to Spain have been ringing through the world ever
since they were uttered _after_ the Armada had ceased to threaten her
throne. We now know that the common opinion on this subject, like the
common opinion respecting some other crises, was all wrong, a delusion
and a sham, and based on nothing but plausible lies. Mr. Motley has put
men right on this point, as on some others; and it is impossible to
read his brilliant and accurate narrative of the events of 1588 without
coming to the conclusion that Elizabeth was in the summer of that year
in the way to receive punishment for the cowardly butchery which had
been perpetrated, in her name, if not by her direct orders, in the great
hall of Fotheringay. She was saved by those winds which helped the Dutch
to blockade Parma's army, in the first instance, and then by those
Orcadian tempests which smote the Armada, and converted its haughty
pride into a by-word and a scoffing. The military preparations of
England were of the feeblest character; and it is not too much to say,
that the only parallel case of Governmental weakness is that which is
afforded by the American history of last spring, when we had not an
efficient company or a seaworthy armed ship with which to fight the
Secessionists, who had been openly making their preparations for war for
months. The late Mr. Richard Rush mentions, in the second series of his
"Residence at the Court of London," that at a dinner at the Marquis of
Lansdowne's, in 1820, the conversation turned on the Spanish Armada; and
he was surprised to find that most of the company, which was composed of
members of Parliament and other public men, were of the opinion that the
Spaniards, could they have been landed, would have been victorious. With
genuine American faith in English invincibility, he wondered what the
company could mean, and also what the English armies would have been
about. It was not possible for any one then to have said that there were
no English armies at that time to be about anything; but now we see
that those armies were but imaginary bodies, having not even a paper
existence. Parma, who was even an abler diplomatist than soldier,--that
is, he was the most accomplished liar in an age that was made up of
falsehood,--had so completely gulled the astute Elizabeth that she was
living in the fools' paradise; and so little did she and most of her
counsellors expect invasion, that a single Spanish regiment of infantry
might, had it then been landed, have driven the whole organized force
of England from Sheerness to Bristol. Those Englishmen who sneer so
bitterly at the conduct of our Government but a year ago would do well
to study closely the history of their own country in 1588, in which they
will find much matter calculated to lessen their conceit, and to teach
them charity. The Lincoln Government of the United States had been in
existence but little more than thirty days when it found itself involved
in war with the Rebels; the Elizabethan Government had been in existence
for thirty years when the Armada came to the shores of England, to the
astonishment and dismay of those "barons bold and statesmen old in
bearded majesty" whom we have been content to regard as the bravest and
the wisest men that have lived since David and Solomon. Elizabeth, who
had a beard that vied with Burleigh's,--the evidence of her virgin
innocence,--felt every hair of her head curling from terror when she
learned how she had been "done" by Philip's lieutenant; and old Burleigh
must have thought that his mistress was in the condition of Jockey of
Norfolk's master at Bosworth,--"bought and sold." Fortunately for both
old women, and for us all, the summer gales of 1588 were adverse to the
Spaniards, and protected Old England. We know not whence the wind cometh
nor whither it goeth, but we know that its blows have often been given
with effect on human affairs; and it never blew with more usefulness,
since the time when it used up the ships of Xerxes, than when it sent
the ships of Philip to join "the treasures that old Ocean hoards." Had
England then been conquered by Spain, though but temporarily, Protestant
England would have ceased to exist, and the current of history would
have been as emphatically changed as was the current of the Euphrates
under the labors of the soldiers of Cyrus. We should have had no
Shakspeare, or a very different Shakspeare from the one that we have;
and the Elizabethan age would have presented to after centuries an
appearance altogether unlike that which now so impressively strikes the
mind. As that was the time out of which all that is great and good in
England and America has proceeded, in letters and in arms, in religion
and in politics, we can easily understand how vast must have been the
change, had not the winds of the North been so unpropitious to the
purposes of the King of the South.

The English are very proud of the victories of Crecy and Agincourt, as
well they may be; for, though gained in the course of as unjust and
unprovoked and cruel wars as ever were waged even by Englishmen, they
are as splendid specimens of slaughter-work as can be found in the
history of "the Devil's code of honor." But they owe them both to the
weather, which favored their ancestors, and was as unfavorable to the
ancestors of the French. At Crecy the Italian cross-bow men in the
French army not only came into the field worn down by a long march on a
hot day in August, but immediately after their arrival they were
exposed to a terrible thunder-storm, in which the rain fell in absolute
torrents, wetting the strings of their bows, and rendering them
unserviceable. The English archers, who carried the far more useful
long-bow, kept their bows in their cases until the rain ceased, and then
took them out dry, and in perfect condition; besides which, even if
the strings of the long-bows had been wetted, they could not have been
materially injured, as they were thin and pliable, while those of the
cross-bows were so thick and unpliable that they could not be tightened
or slackened at pleasure. In after-days this defect in the cross-bow was
removed, but it existed in full force in 1346. When the battle began,
the Italian _quarrel_ was found to be worthless, because of the strings
of the arbalists having absorbed so much moisture, while the English
arrows came upon the poor Genoese in frightful showers, throwing them
into a panic, and inaugurating disaster to the French at the very
beginning of the action. The day was lost from that moment, and there
was not a leader among the French capable of restoring it.

At Agincourt the circumstances were very different, but quite as fatal
to the French. That battle was fought on the 25th of October, 1415, and
the French should have won it according to all the rules of war,--but
they did not win it, because they had too much valor and too little
sense. A cautious coward makes a better soldier than a valiant fool, and
the boiling bravery of the French has lost them more battles than any
other people have lost through timidity. Henry V.'s invasion of France
was the most wicked attack that ever was made even by England on a
neighboring nation, and it was meeting with its proper reward, when
French folly ruined everything. The French overtook the English on the
24th of October, and by judicious action might have destroyed them, for
they were by far the more numerous,--though most English authorities,
with characteristic "unveracity," grossly exaggerate the inequality of
numbers that really did exist between the two armies. On the night of
the 24th the rain fell heavily, making the ground quite unfit for
the operations of heavy cavalry, in which the strength of the French
consisted, while the English had their incomparable archers, the
worthy predecessors of the English infantry of to-day, one of whom was
calculated to do more efficient service than could have been expected,
as the circumstances of the field were, from ten knights cumbered with
bulky mail. Sir Harris Nicolas, the most candid English historian of the
battle, and who prepared a very useful, but unreadable volume concerning
it, after speaking of the bad arrangements adopted by the French,
proceeds to say,--"The inconveniences under which the French labored
were much increased by the state of the ground, which was not only soft
from heavy rains, but was broken up by their horses during the preceding
night, the weather having obliged the valets and pages to keep them in
motion. Thus the statement of French historians may readily be credited,
that, from the ponderous armor with which the men-at-arms were
enveloped, and the softness of the ground, it was with the utmost
difficulty they could either move or lift their weapons, notwithstanding
their lances had been shortened to enable them to fight closely,--that
the horses at every step sunk so deeply into the mud, that it required
great exertion to extricate them,--and that the narrowness of the place
caused their archers to be so crowded as to prevent them from drawing
their bows." Michelet's description of the day is the best that can be
read, and he tells us, that, when the signal of battle was given by Sir
Thomas Erpingham, the English shouted, but "the French army, to their
great astonishment, remained motionless. Horses and knights appeared to
be enchanted, or struck dead in their armor. The fact was, that their
large battle-steeds, weighed down with their heavy riders and lumbering
caparisons of iron, had all their feet completely sunk in the deep wet
clay; they were fixed there, and could only struggle out to crawl on a
few steps at a walk," Upon this mass of chivalry, all stuck in the mud,
the cloth-yard shafts of the English yeomen fell like hailstones upon
the summer corn. Some few of the French made mad efforts to charge, but
were annihilated before they could reach the English line. The English
advanced upon the "mountain of men and horses mixed together," and
butchered their immovable enemies at their leisure. Plebeian hands that
day poured out patrician blood in torrents. The French fell into a
panic, and those of their number who could run away did so. It was the
story of Poitiers over again, in one respect; for the Black Prince owed
his victory to a panic that befell a body of sixteen thousand French,
who scattered and fled without having struck a blow. Agincourt was
fought on St. Crispin's day, and a precious strapping the French got.
The English found that there was "nothing like leather." It was the last
battle in which the oriflamme was displayed; and well it might be; for,
red as it was, it must have blushed a deeper red over the folly of the
French commanders.

The greatest battle ever fought on British ground, with the exceptions
of Hastings and Bannockburn,--and greater even than Hastings, if numbers
are allowed to count,--was that of Towton, the chief action in the Wars
of the Roses; and its decision was due to the effect of the weather on
the defeated army. It was fought on the 29th of March, 1461, which was
the Palm-Sunday of that year. Edward, Earl of March, eldest son of the
Duke of York, having made himself King of England, advanced to the North
to meet the Lancastrian army. That army was sixty thousand strong, while
Edward IV. was at the head of less than forty-nine thousand. After some
preliminary fighting, battle was joined on a plain between the villages
of Saxton and Towton, in Yorkshire, and raged for ten hours. Palm-Sunday
was a dark and tempestuous day, with the snow falling heavily. At first
the wind was favorable to the Lancastrians, but it suddenly changed, and
blew the snow right into their faces. This was bad enough, but it was
not the worst, for the snow slackened their bow-strings, causing their
arrows to fall short of the Yorkists, who took them from the ground, and
sent them back with fatal effect. The Lancastrian leaders then sought
closer conflict, but the Yorkists had already achieved those advantages
which, under a good general, are sure to prepare the way to victory. It
was as if the snow had resolved to give success to the pale rose. That
which Edward had won he was resolved to increase, and his dispositions
were of the highest military excellence; but it is asserted that he
would have been beaten, because of the superiority of the enemy in men,
but for the coming up, at the eleventh hour, of the Duke of Norfolk, who
was the Joseph Johnston of 1461, doing for Edward what the Secessionist
Johnston did for Beauregard in 1861. The Lancastrians then gave way,
and retreated, at first in orderly fashion, but finally falling into
a panic, when they were cut down by thousands. They lost twenty-eight
thousand men, and the Yorkists eight thousand. This was a fine piece of
work for the beginning of Passion-Week, bloody laurels gained in civil
conflict being substituted for palm-branches! No such battle was ever
fought by Englishmen in foreign lands. This was the day when

"Wharfe ran red with slaughter,
Gathering in its guilty flood
The carnage, and the ill-spilt blood
That forty thousand lives could yield.
Crecy was to this but sport,
Poitiers but a pageant vain,
And the work of Agincourt
Only like a tournament.
Half the blood which there was spent
Had sufficed to win again
Anjou and ill-yielded Maine,
Normandy and Aquitaine."

Edward IV., it should seem, was especially favored by the powers of the
air; for, if he owed victory at Towton to wind and snow, he owed it to a
mist at Barnet. This last action was fought on the 14th of April, 1471,
and the prevalence of the mist, which was very thick, enabled Edward so
to order his military work as to counterbalance the enemy's superiority
in numbers. The mist was attributed to the arts of Friar Bungay, a
famous and most rascally "nigromancer." The mistake made by Warwick's
men, when they thought Oxford's cognizance, a star paled with rays,
was that of Edward, which was a sun in full glory, (the White Rose _en
soleil,_) and so assailed their own friends, and created a panic, was in
part attributable to the mist, which prevented them from seeing clearly;
and this mistake was the immediate occasion of the overthrow of the army
of the Red Rose. That Edward was enabled to fight the Battle of Barnet
with any hope of success was also owing to the weather. Margaret of
Anjou had assembled a force in France, Louis XI. supporting her cause,
and this force was ready to sail in February, and by its presence
in England victory would unquestionably have been secured for the
Lancastrians. But the elements opposed themselves to her purpose with so
much pertinacity and consistency that it is not strange that men should
have seen therein the visible hand of Providence. Three times did she
embark, but only to be driven back by the wind, and to suffer loss. Some
of her party sought to persuade her to abandon the enterprise, as Heaven
seemed to oppose it; but Margaret was a strong-minded woman, and would
not listen to the suggestions of superstitious cowards. She sailed a
fourth time, and held on in the face of bad weather. Half a day of good
weather was all that was necessary to reach England, but it was not
until the end of almost the third week that she was able to effect a
landing, and then at a point distant from Warwick. Had the King-maker
been the statesman-soldier that he has had the credit of being, he never
would have fought Edward until he had been joined by Margaret; and he
must have known that her non-arrival was owing to contrary winds,
he having been himself a naval commander. But he acted like a
knight-errant, not like a general, gave battle, and was defeated and
slain, "The Last of the Barons." Having triumphed at Barnet, Edward
marched to meet Margaret's army, which was led by Somerset, and defeated
it on the 4th of May, after a hardly-contested action at Tewkesbury. It
was on that field that Prince Edward of Lancaster perished; and as his
father, Henry VI., died a few days later, "of pure displeasure and
melancholy," the line of Lancaster became extinct.

In justice to the memory of a monarch, to whom justice has never been
done, it should be remarked, in passing, that Edward IV. deserved the
favors of Fortune, if talent for war insures success in war. He was, so
far as success goes, one of the greatest soldiers that ever lived. He
never fought a battle that he did not win, and he never won a battle
without annihilating his foe. He was not yet nineteen when he commanded
at Towton, at the head of almost fifty thousand men; and two months
before he had gained the Battle of Mortimer's Cross, under circumstances
that showed skillful generalship. No similar instance of precocity is
to be found in the military history of mankind. His victories have been
attributed to Warwick, but it is noticeable that he was as successful
over Warwick as he had been over the Lancastrians, against whom Warwick
originally fought. Barnet was, with fewer combatants, as remarkable an
action as Towton; and at Mortimer's Cross Warwick was not present, while
he fought and lost the second battle of St. Alban's seventeen days after
Edward had won his first victory. Warwick was not a general, but a
magnificent paladin, resembling much Coeur de Lion, and most decidedly
out of place in the England of the last half of the fifteenth century.
What is peculiarly remarkable in Edward's case is this: he had received
no military training beyond that which was common to all high-born
youths in that age. The French wars had long been over, and what had
happened in the early years of the Roses' quarrel was certainly not
calculated to make generals out of children. In this respect Edward
stands quite alone in the list of great commanders. Alexander, Hannibal,
the first Scipio Africanus, Pompeius, Don John of Austria, Conde,
Charles XII., Napoleon, and some other young soldiers of the highest
eminence, were either all regularly instructed in the military art, or
succeeded to the command of veteran armies, or were advised and assisted
by old and skilful generals. Besides, they were all older than Edward
when they first had independent command. Gaston de Foix approaches
nearest to the Yorkist king, but he gained only one battle, was older at
Ravenna than Edward was at Towton, and perished in the hour of victory.
Clive, perhaps, may be considered as equalling the Plantagenet king in
original genius for war, but the scene of his actions, and the materials
with which he wrought, were so very different from those of other
youthful commanders, that no just comparison can be made between him and
any one of their number.

The English have asserted that they lost the Battle of Falkirk, in 1746,
because of the severity of a snow-storm that took place when they went
into action, a strong wind blowing the snow straight into their faces;
and one of the causes of the defeat of the Highlanders at Culloden,
three months later, was another fall of snow, which was accompanied by
wind that then blew into their faces. Fortune was impartial, and made
the one storm to balance the other.

That the American army was not destroyed soon after the Battle of Long
Island must be attributed to the foggy weather of the 29th of August,
1776. But for the successful retreat of Washington's army from Long
Island, on the night of the 29th-30th, the Declaration of Independence
would have been made waste paper in "sixty days" after its adoption; and
that retreat could not have been made, had there not been a dense fog
under cover of which to make it, and to deter the enemy from action.
Washington and his whole army would have been slain or captured, could
the British forces have had clear weather in which to operate. "The
fog which prevailed all this time," says Irving, "seemed almost
Providential. While it hung over Long Island, and concealed the
movements of the Americans, the atmosphere was clear on the New York
side of the river. The adverse wind, too, died away, the river became
so smooth that the rowboats could be laden almost to the gunwale; and a
favoring breeze sprang up for the sail-boats. The whole embarkation of
troops, ammunition, provisions, cattle, horses, and carts, was happily
effected, and by daybreak the greater part had safely reached the city,
thanks to the aid of Glover's Marblehead men. Scarce anything was
abandoned to the enemy, excepting a few heavy pieces of artillery. At
a proper time, Mifflin with his covering party left the lines, and
effected a silent retreat to the ferry. Washington, though repeatedly
entreated, refused to enter a boat until all the troops were embarked,
and crossed the river with the last." Americans should ever regard a fog
with a certain reverence, for a fog saved their country in 1776.

That Poland was not restored to national rank by Napoleon I. was in some
measure owing to the weather of the latter days of 1806. Those of the
French officers who marched through the better portions of that country
were for its restoration, but others who waded through its terrible
mud took different ground in every sense. Hence there was a serious
difference of opinion in the French councils on this vitally important
subject, which had its influence on Napoleon's mind. The severe
winter-weather of 1806-7, by preventing the Emperor from destroying the
Russians, which he was on the point of doing, was prejudicial to the
interests of Poland; for the ultimate effect was, to compel France to
treat with Russia as equal with equal, notwithstanding the crowning
victory of Friedland. This done, there was no present hope of Polish
restoration, as Alexander frankly told the French Emperor that the world
would not be large enough for them both, if he should seek to renew
Poland's rank as a nation. So far as the failure of the French in 1812
is chargeable upon the weather, the weather must be considered as having
been again the enemy of Poland; for Napoleon would have restored that
country, had he succeeded in his Russian campaign. Such restoration
would then have been a necessity of his position. But it was not the
weather of Russia that caused the French failure of 1812. That failure
was all but complete before the invaders of Russia had experienced any
very severe weather. The two powers that conquered Napoleon were those
which General Von Knesebeck had pointed out to Alexander as sure to
be too much for him,--Space and Time. The cold, frosts, and snows of
Russia simply completed what those powers had so well begun, and so well

In the grand campaign of 1813, the weather had an extraordinary
influence on Napoleon's fortunes, the rains of Germany really doing him
far more mischief than he had experienced from the snows of Russia; and,
oddly enough, a portion of this mischief came to him through the gate
of victory. The war between the French and the Allies was renewed the
middle of August, and Napoleon purposed crushing the Army of Silesia,
under old Bluecher, and marched upon it; but he was recalled by the
advance of the Grand Army of the Allies upon Dresden; for, if that city
had fallen into their hands, his communications with the Rhine would
have been lost. Returning to Dresden, he restored affairs there on the
26th of August; and on the 27th, the Battle of Dresden was fought, the
last of his great victories. It was a day of mist and rain, the mist
being thick, and the rain heavy. Under cover of the mist, Murat
surprised a portion of the Austrian infantry, and, as their muskets were
rendered unserviceable by the rain, they fell a prey to his horse, who
were assisted by infantry and artillery, more than sixteen thousand men
being killed, wounded, or captured. The left wing of the Allies was
annihilated. So far all was well for the Child of Destiny; but Nemesis
was preparing to exact her dues very swiftly. A victory can scarcely be
so called, unless it be well followed up; and whether Dresden should be
another Austerlitz depended upon what might be done during the next two
or three days. Napoleon did _not_ act with his usual energy on that
critical occasion, and in seven months he had ceased to reign. Why did
he refrain from reaping the fruits of victory? Because the weather,
which had been so favorable to his fortunes on the 27th, was quite as
unfavorable to his person. On that day he was exposed to the rain for
twelve hours, and when he returned to Dresden, at night, he was wet to
the skin, and covered with mud, while the water was streaming from his
chapeau, which the storm had knocked _out_ of a cocked hat. It was a
peculiarity of Napoleon's constitution, that he could not expose himself
to damp without bringing on a pain in the stomach; and this pain seized
him at noon on the 28th, when he had partaken of a repast at Pirna,
whither he had gone in the course of his operations against the beaten
enemy. This illness caused him to cease his personal exertions, but not
from giving such orders as the work before him required him to issue.
Perhaps it would have had no evil effect, had it not been, that, while
halting at Pirna, news came to him of two great failures of distant
armies, which led him to order the Young Guard to halt at that
place,--an order that cost him his empire. One more march in advance,
and Napoleon would have become greater than ever he had been; but
that march was not made, and so the flying foe was converted into a
victorious army. For General Vandamme, who was at the head of the chief
force of the pursuing French, pressed the Allies with energy, relying on
the support of the Emperor, whose orders he was carrying out in the best
manner. This led to the Battle of Kulm, in which Vandamme was defeated,
and his army destroyed for the time, because of the overwhelming
superiority of the enemy; whereas that action would have been one of the
completest French victories, had the Young Guard been ordered to march
from Pirna, according to the original intention. The roads were in a
most frightful state, in consequence of the wet weather; but, as a
victorious army always finds food, so it always finds roads over which
to advance to the completion of its task, unless its chief has no head.
Vandamme had a head, and thought he was winning the Marshal's staff
which Napoleon had said was awaiting him in the midst of the enemy's
retiring masses. So confident was he that the Emperor would support him,
that he would not retreat while yet it was in his power to do so; and
the consequence was that his _corps d'armee_ was torn to pieces, and
himself captured. Napoleon had the meanness to charge Vandamme with
going too far and seeking to do too much, as he supposed he was slain,
and therefore could not prove that he was simply obeying orders, as
well as acting in exact accordance with sound military principles. That
Vandamme was right is established by the fact that an order came from
Napoleon to Marshal Mortier, who commanded at Pirna, to reinforce him
with two divisions; but the order did not reach Mortier until after
Vandamme had been defeated. Marshal Saint-Cyr, who was bound to aid
Vandamme, was grossly negligent, and failed of his duty; but even he
would have acted well, had he been acting under the eye of the Emperor,
as would have been the case, had not the weather of the 27th broken down
the health of Napoleon, and had not other disasters to the French, all
caused by the same storm that had raged around Dresden, induced Napoleon
to direct his personal attention to points remote from the scene of his
last triumph.[B]

[Footnote B: There was a story current that Napoleon's indisposition on
the 28th of August was caused by his eating heartily of a shoulder of
mutton stuffed with garlic, not the wholesomest food in the world; and
the digestive powers having been reduced by long exposure to damp, this
dish may have been too much for them. Thiers says that the Imperial
illness at Pirna was "a malady invented by flatterers," and yet only a
few pages before he says that "Napoleon proceeded to Pirna, where he
arrived about noon, and where, after having partaken of a slight repast,
he was seized with a pain in the stomach, to which he was subject after
exposure to damp." Napoleon suffered from stomach complaints from an
early period of his career, and one of their effects is greatly to
lessen the powers of the sufferer's mind. His want of energy at Borodino
was attributed to a disordered stomach, and the Russians were simply
beaten, not destroyed, on that field. When he beard of Vandamme's
defeat, Napoleon said, "One should make a bridge of gold for a flying
enemy, where it is impossible, as in Vandamme's case, to oppose to him
a bulwark of steel." He forgot that his own plan was to have opposed to
the enemy a bulwark of steel, and that the non-existence of that bulwark
on the 30th of August was owing to his own negligence. Still, the
reverse at Kulm might not have proved so terribly fatal, had it not been
preceded by the reverses on the Katzbach, which also were owing to the
heavy rains, and news of which was the cause of the halting of so large
a portion of his pursuing force at Pirna, and the march of many of his
best men back to Dresden, his intention being to attempt the restoration
of affairs in that quarter, where they had been so sadly compromised
under Macdonald's direction. He was as much overworked by the necessity
of attending to so many theatres of action as his armies were
overmatched in the field by the superior numbers of the Allies. He is
said to have repeated the following lines, after musing for a while on
the news from Kulm:--

"J'ai servi, commande, vaincu quarante annees;
Du monde entre mes mains j'ai tu les destinees,
Et j'ai toujours connu qu'en chaque evenement
Le destin des etats dependait d'un moment."

But he had hours, we might say days, to settle his destiny, and was not
tied down to a moment. Afterward he had the fairness to admit that he
had lost a great opportunity to regain the ascendency in not supporting
Vandamme with the whole of the Young Guard.]

When Napoleon was called from the pursuit of Bluecher by Schwarzenberg's
advance upon Dresden, he confided the command of the army that was to
act against that of Silesia to Marshal Macdonald, a brave and honest
man, but a very inferior soldier, yet who might have managed to hold his
own against so unscientific a leader as the fighting old hussar, had it
not been for the terrible rainstorm that began on the night of the 25th
of August. The swelling of the rivers, some of them deep and rapid, led
to the isolation of the French divisions, while the rain was so severe
as to prevent them from using their muskets. Animated by the most ardent
hatred, the new Prussian levies, few of whom had been in service half as
long as our volunteers, and many of whom were but mere boys, rushed upon
their enemies, butchering them with butt and bayonet, and forcing
them into the boiling torrent of the Katzbach. Puthod's division was
prevented from rejoining its comrades by the height of the waters, and
was destroyed, though one of the best bodies in the French army. The
state of the country drove the French divisions together on the same
lines of retreat, creating immense confusion, and leading to the most
serious losses of men and _materiel_. Macdonald's blunder was in
advancing after the storm began, and had lasted for a whole night. His
officers pointed out the danger of his course, but he was one of those
men who think, that, because they are not knaves, they can accomplish
everything; but the laws of Nature no more yield to honest stupidity
than to clever roguery. The Baron Von Mueffling, who was present in
Bluecher's army, says, that, when the French attempted to protect their
retreat at the Katzbach with artillery, the guns stuck in the mud; and
he adds,--"The field of battle was so saturated by the incessant rain,
that a great portion of our infantry left their shoes sticking in
the mud, and followed the enemy barefoot." Even a brook, called the
Deichsel, was so swollen by the rain that the French could cross it at
only one place, and there they lost wagons and guns. Old Bluecher issued
a thundering proclamation for the encouragement of his troops. "In the
battle on the Katzbach," he said to them, "the enemy came to meet you
with defiance. Courageously, and with the rapidity of lightning, you
issued from behind your heights. You scorned to attack them with
musketry-fire: you advanced without a halt; your bayonets drove them
down the steep ridge of the valley of the raging Neisse and Katzbach.
Afterwards you waded through rivers and brooks swollen with rain. You
passed nights in mud. You suffered for want of provisions, as the
impassable roads and want of conveyance hindered the baggage from
following. You struggled with cold, wet, privations, and want of
clothing; nevertheless you did not murmur,--with great exertions you
pursued your routed foe. Receive my thanks for such laudable conduct.
The man alone who unites such qualities is a true soldier. One hundred
and three cannons, two hundred and fifty ammunition-wagons, the enemy's
field-hospitals, their field-forges, their flour-wagons, one general of
division, two generals of brigade, a great number of colonels, staff
and other officers, eighteen thousand prisoners, two eagles, and other
trophies, are in your hands. The terror of your arms has so seized upon
the rest of your opponents, that they will no longer bear the sight of
your bayonets. You have seen the roads and fields between the Katzbach
and the Bober: they bear the signs of the terror and confusion of your
enemy." The bluff old General, who at seventy had more "dash" than all
the rest of the leaders of the Allies combined, and who did most of the
real fighting business of "those who wished and worked" Napoleon's fall,
knew how to talk to soldiers, which is a quality not always possessed
by even eminent commanders. Soldiers love a leader who can take them to
victory, and then talk to them about it. Such a man is "one of them."

Napoleon never recovered from the effects of the losses he experienced
at Kulm and on the Katzbach,--losses due entirely to the wetness of the
weather. He went downward from that time with terrible velocity, and was
in Elba the next spring, seven months after having been on the Elbe. The
winter campaign of 1814, of which so much is said, ought to furnish
some matter for a paper on weather in war; but the truth is, that that
campaign was conducted politically by the Allies. There was never a
time, after the first of February, when, if they had conducted the war
solely on military principles, they could not have been in Paris in a

Napoleon's last campaign owed its lamentable decision to the peculiar
character of the weather on its last two days, though one would not look
for such a thing as severe weather in June, in Flanders. But so it was,
and Waterloo would have been a French victory, and Wellington where
_Henry_ was when he ran against _Eclipse_,--nowhere,--if the rain that
fell so heavily on the 17th of June had been postponed only twenty-four
hours. Up to the afternoon of the 17th, the weather, though very warm,
was dry, and the French were engaged in following their enemies. The
Anglo-Dutch infantry had retreated from Quatre-Bras, and the cavalry was
following, and was itself followed by the French cavalry, who pressed it
with great audacity. "The weather," says Captain Siborne, "during the
morning, had become oppressively hot; it was now a dead calm; not a leaf
was stirring; and the atmosphere was close to an intolerable degree;
while a dark, heavy, dense cloud impended over the combatants. The 18th
[English] Hussars were fully prepared, and awaited but the command to
charge, when the brigade guns on the right commenced firing, for the
purpose of previously disturbing and breaking the order of the enemy's
advance. The concussion seemed instantly to rebound through the still
atmosphere, and communicate, as an electric spark, with the heavily
charged mass above. A most awfully loud thunder-clap burst forth,
immediately succeeded by a rain which has never, probably, been exceeded
in violence even within the tropics. In a very few minutes the ground
became perfectly saturated,--so much so, that it was quite impracticable
for any rapid movement of the cavalry." This storm prevented the French
from pressing with due force upon their retiring foes; but that would
have been but a small evil, if the storm had not settled into a steady
and heavy rain, which converted the fat Flemish soil into a mud that
would have done discredit even to the "sacred soil" of Virginia, and the
latter has the discredit of being the nastiest earth in America. All
through the night the windows of heaven were open, as if weeping over
the spectacle of two hundred thousand men preparing to butcher each
other. Occasionally the rain fell in torrents, greatly distressing the
soldiers, who had no tents. On the morning of the 18th the rain ceased,
but the day continued cloudy, and the sun did not show himself until the
moment before setting, when for an instant he blazed forth in full glory
upon the forward movement of the Allies. One may wonder if Napoleon
then thought of that morning "Sun of Austerlitz," which he had so often
apostrophized in the days of his meridian triumphs. The evening sun of
Waterloo was the practical antithesis to the rising sun of Austerlitz.

The Battle of Waterloo was not begun until about twelve o'clock, because
of the state of the ground, which did not admit of the action of cavalry
and artillery until several hours had been allowed for its hardening.
That inevitable delay was the occasion of the victory of the Allies;
for, if the battle had been opened at seven o'clock, the French would
have defeated Wellington's army before a Prussian regiment could have
arrived on the field. It has been said that the rain was as baneful to
the Allies as to the French, as it prevented the early arrival of the
Prussians; but the remark comes only from persons who are not familiar
with the details of the most momentous of modern pitched battles.
Buelow's Prussian corps, which was the first to reach the field, marched
through Wavre in the forenoon of the 18th; but no sooner had its
advanced guard--an infantry brigade, a cavalry regiment, and one
battery--cleared that town, than a fire broke out there, which greatly
delayed the march of the remainder of the corps. There were many
ammunition-wagons in the streets, and, fearful of losing them, and of
being deprived of the means of fighting, the Prussians halted, and
turned firemen for the occasion. This not only prevented most of the
corps from arriving early on the right flank of the French, but it
prevented the advanced guard from acting, Buelow being too good a soldier
to risk so small a force as that immediately at his command in an attack
on the French army. It was not until about half-past one that the
Prussians were first seen by the Emperor, and then at so great a
distance that even with glasses it was difficult to say whether the
objects looked at were men or trees. But for the bad weather, it is
possible that Buelow's whole corps, supposing there had been no fire at
Wavre, might have arrived within striking distance of the French army
by two o'clock, P.M.; but by that hour the battle between Napoleon and
Wellington would have been decided, and the Prussians would have come
up only to "augment the slaughter," had the ground been hard enough for
operations at an early hour of the day. As the battle was necessarily
fought in the afternoon, because of the softness of the soil consequent
on the heavy rains of the preceding day and night, there was time gained
for the arrival of Buelow's corps by four o'clock of the afternoon of the
18th. Against that corps Napoleon had to send almost twenty thousand of
his men, and sixty-six pieces of cannon, all of which might have been
employed against Wellington's army, had the battle been fought in the
forenoon. As it was, that large force never fired a shot at the English.
The other Prussian corps that reached the field toward the close of the
day, Zieten's and Pirch's, did not leave Wavre until about noon. The
coming up of the advanced guard of Zieten, but a short time before the
close of the battle, enabled Wellington to employ the fresh cavalry of
Vivian and Vandeleur at another part of his line, where they did eminent
service for him at a time which is known as "the crisis" of the day.
Taking all these facts into consideration, it must be admitted that
there never was a more important rain-storm than that which happened on
the 17th of June, 1815. Had it occurred twenty-four hours later, the
destinies of the world might, and most probably would, have been
completely changed; for Waterloo was one of those decisive battles which
dominate the ages through their results, belonging to the same class
of combats as do Marathon, Pharsalia, Lepanto, Blenheim, Yorktown, and
Trafalgar. It was decided by water, and not by fire, though the latter
was hot enough on that fatal field to satisfy the most determined lover
of courage and glory.

If space permitted, we could bring forward many other facts to show the
influence of weather on the operations of war. We could show that it was
owing to changes of wind that the Spaniards failed to take Leyden, the
fall of which into their hands would probably have proved fatal to the
Dutch cause; that a sudden thaw prevented the French from seizing the
Hague in 1672, and compelling the Dutch to acknowledge themselves
subjects of Louis XIV.; that a change of wind enabled William of Orange
to land in England, in 1688, without fighting a battle, when even
victory might have been fatal to his purpose; that Continental
expeditions fitted out for the purpose of restoring the Stuarts to the
British throne were more than once ruined by the occurrence of tempests;
that the defeat of our army at Germantown was in part due to the
existence of a fog; that a severe storm prevented General Howe from
assailing the American position on Dorchester Heights, and so enabled
Washington to make that position too strong to be attacked with hope
of success, whereby Boston was freed from the enemy's presence; that a
heavy fall of rain, by rendering the River Catawba unfordable, put
a stop, for a few days, to those movements by which Lord Cornwallis
intended to destroy the army of General Morgan, and obtain compensation
for Tarleton's defeat at the Cowpens; that an autumnal tempest compelled
the same British commander to abandon a project of retreat from
Yorktown, which good military critics have thought well conceived, and
promising success; that the severity of the winter of 1813 interfered
effectively with the measures which Napoleon had formed with the view of
restoring his affairs, so sadly compromised by his failure in Russia;
that the "misty, chilly, and insalubrious" weather of Louisiana, and its
mud, had a marked effect on Sir Edward Pakenham's army, and helped us to
victory over one of the finest forces ever sent by Europe to the West;
that in 1828 the Russians lost myriads of men and horses, in the
Danubian country and its vicinity, through heavy rains and hard frosts;
that the November hurricane of 1854 all but paralyzed the allied forces
in the Crimea;--and many similar things that establish the helplessness
of men in arms when the weather is adverse to them. But enough has been
said to convince even the most skeptical that our Potomac Army did not
stand alone in being forced to stand still before the dictation of the
elements. Our armies, indeed, have suffered less from the weather than
it might reasonably have been expected they would suffer, having simply
been delayed at some points by the occurrence of winds and thaws; and
over all such obstacles they are destined ultimately to triumph, as
the Union itself will bid defiance to what Bacon calls "the waves and
weathers of time."

* * * * *



O Knightly soldier bravely dead!
O poet-soul too early sped!
O life so pure! O life so brief!
Our hearts are moved with deeper grief,
As, dwelling on thy gentle face,
Its twilight smile, its tender grace,
We fill the shadowy years to be
With what had been thy destiny.
And still, amid our sorrow's pain,
We feel the loss is yet our gain;
For through the death we know the life,
Its gold in thought, its steel in strife,--
And so with reverent kiss we say
Adieu! O Bayard of our day!


Much that is in itself undesirable occurs in obedience to a general law
which is not only desirable, but of infinite necessity and benefit. It
is not desirable that Topper and Macaulay should be read by tens of
thousands, and Wilkinson only by tens. It is not desirable that a
narrow, selfish, envious Cecil, who could never forgive his noblest
contemporaries for failing to be hunchbacks like himself, should steer
England all his life as it were with supreme hand, and himself sail on
the topmost tide of fortune; while the royal head of Raleigh goes to the
block, and while Bacon, with his broad and bountiful nature,--Bacon,
one of the two or three greatest and humanest statesmen ever born to
England, and one of the friendliest men toward mankind ever born into
the world,--dies in privacy and poverty, bequeathing his memory "to
foreign nations and the next ages." But it is wholly desirable that
he who would consecrate himself to excellence in art or life should
sometimes be compelled to make it very clear to himself whether it be
indeed excellence that he covets, or only plaudits and pounds sterling.
So when we find our purest wishes perpetually hindered, not only in the
world around us, but even in our own bosoms, many of the particular
facts may indeed merit reproach, but the general fact merits, on the
contrary, gratitude and gratulation. For were our best wishes not, nor
ever, hindered, sure it is that the still better wishes of destiny
in our behalf would be hindered yet worse. Sure it is, I say, that
Hindrance, both outward and inward, comes to us not through any
improvidence or defect of benignity in Nature, but in answer to our
need, and as part of the best bounty which enriches our days. And to
make this indubitably clear, let us hasten to meditate that simple and
central law which governs this matter and at the same time many others.

And the law is, that every definite action is conditioned upon a
definite resistance, and is impossible without it. We walk in virtue of
the earth's resistance to the foot, and are unable to tread the elements
of air and water only because they are too complaisant, and deny the
foot that opposition which it requires. Precisely that, accordingly,
which makes the difficulty of an action may at the same time make its
possibility. Why is flight difficult? Because the weight of every
creature draws it toward the earth. But without this downward
proclivity, the wing of the bird would have no power upon the air.
Why is it difficult for a solid body to make rapid progress in water?
Because the water presses powerfully upon it, and at every inch of
progress must be overcome and displaced. Yet the ship is able to float
only in virtue of this same hindering pressure, and without it would not
sail, but sink. The bird and the steamer, moreover,--the one with
its wings and the other with its paddles,--apply themselves to this
hindrance to progression as their only means of making progress; so
that, were not their motion obstructed, it would be impossible.

The law governs not actions only, but all definite effects whatsoever.
If the luminiferous ether did not resist the sun's influence, it could
not be wrought into those undulations wherein light consists; if the
air did not resist the vibrations of a resonant object, and strive
to preserve its own form, the sound-waves could not be created and
propagated: if the tympanum did not resist these waves, it would not
transmit their suggestion to the brain; if any given object does not
resist the sun's rays,--in other words, reflect them,--it will not be
visible; neither can the eye mediate between any object and the brain
save by a like opposing of rays on the part of the retina.

These instances might be multiplied _ad libitum_, since there is
literally _no_ exception to the law. Observe, however, what the law is,
namely, that _some_ resistance is indispensable,--by no means that this
alone is so, or that all modes and kinds of resistance are of equal
service. Resistance and Affinity concur for all right effects; but it is
the former that, in some of its aspects, is much accused as a calamity
to man and a contumely to the universe; and of this, therefore, we
consider here.

Not all kinds of resistance are alike serviceable; yet that which is
required may not always consist with pleasure, nor even with safety. Our
most customary actions are rendered possible by forces and conditions
that inflict weariness at times upon all, and cost the lives of many.
Gravitation, forcing all men against the earth's surface with an energy
measured by their weight avoirdupois, makes locomotion feasible; but by
the same attraction it may draw one into the pit, over the precipice, to
the bottom of the sea. What multitudes of lives does it yearly destroy!
Why has it never occurred to some ingenious victim of a sluggish liver
to represent Gravitation as a murderous monster revelling in blood?
Surely there are woful considerations here that might be used with the
happiest effect to enhance the sense of man's misery, and have been too
much neglected!

Probably there are few children to whom the fancy has not occurred, How
convenient, how fine were it to weigh nothing! We smile at the little
wiseacres; we know better. How much better do we know? That ancient
lament, that ever iterated accusation of the world because it opposes a
certain hindrance to freedom, love, reason, and every excellence which
the imagination of man can portray and his heart pursue,--what is it, in
the final analysis, but a complaint that we cannot walk without weight,
and that therefore climbing _is_ climbing?

Instead, however, of turning aside to applications, let us push forward
the central statement in the interest of applications to be made by
every reader for himself,--since he says too much who does not leave
much more unsaid. Observe, then, that objects which so utterly submit
themselves to man as to become testimonies and publications of his
inward conceptions serve even these most exacting and monarchical
purposes only by opposition to them, and, to a certain extent, in the
very measure of that opposition. The stone which the sculptor carves
becomes a fit vehicle for his thought through its resistance to his
chisel; it sustains the impress of his imagination solely through its
unwillingness to receive the same. Not chalk, not any loose and friable
material, does Phidias or Michel Angelo choose, but ivory, bronze,
basalt, marble. It is quite the same whether we seek expression or
uses. The stream must be dammed before it will drive wheels; the steam
compressed ere it will compel the piston. In fine, Potentiality combines
with Hindrance to constitute active Power. Man, in order to obtain
instrumentalities and uses, blends his will and intelligence with a
force that vigorously seeks to pursue its own separate free course; and
while this resists him, it becomes his servant.

But why not look at this fact in its largest light? For do we not here
touch upon the probable reason why God must, as it were, be offset by
World, Spirit by Matter, Soul by Body? The Maker must needs, if it be
lawful so to speak, heap up in the balance against His own pure, eternal
freedom these numberless globes of cold, inert matter. Matter is,
indeed, movable by no fine persuasions: brutely faithful to its own law,
it cares no more for AEschylus than for the tortoise that breaks his
crown; the purpose of a cross for the sweetest saint it serves no less
willingly than any other purpose,--stiffly holding out its arms there,
about its own wooden business, neither more nor less, centred utterly
upon itself. But is it not this stolid self-centration which makes it
needful to Divinity? An infinite energy required a resisting or doggedly
indifferent material, itself _quasi_ infinite, to take the impression of
its life, and render potentiality into power. So by the encountering of
body with soul is the product, man, evolved. Philosophers and saints
have perceived that the spiritual element of man is hampered and
hindered by his physical part: have they also perceived that it is the
very collision between these which strikes out the spark of thought
and kindles the sense of law? As the tables of stone to the finger of
Jehovah on Sinai, so is the firm marble of man's material nature to the
recording soul. But even Plato, when he arrives at these provinces of
thought, begins to limp a little, and to go upon Egyptian crutches. In
the incomparable apologues of the "Phaedrus" he represents our inward
charioteer as driving toward the empyrean two steeds, of which the one
is virtuously attracted toward heaven, while the other is viciously
drawn to the earth; but he countenances the inference that the earthward
proclivity of the latter is to be accounted pure misfortune. But to the
universe there is neither fortune nor misfortune; there is only the
reaper, Destiny, and his perpetual harvest. All that occurs on a
universal scale lies in the line of a pure success. Nor can the universe
attain any success by pushing past man and leaving him aside. That
were like the prosperity of a father who should enrich himself by
disinheriting his only son.

Principles necessary to all action must of course appear in moral
action. The moral imagination, which pioneers and produces inward
advancement, works under the same conditions with the imagination of
the artist, and must needs have somewhat to work _upon_. Man is both
sculptor and quarry,--and a great noise and dust of chiselling is there
sometimes in his bosom. If, therefore, we find in him somewhat which
does not immediately and actively sympathize with his moral nature, let
us not fancy this element equally out of sympathy with his pure destiny.
The impulsion and the resistance are alike included in the design of our
being. Hunger--to illustrate--respects food, food only. It asks leave to
be hunger neither of your conscience, your sense of personal dignity,
nor indeed of your humanity in any form; but exists by its own
permission, and pushes with brute directness toward its own ends. True,
the soul may at last so far prevail as to make itself felt even in
the stomach; and the true gentleman could as soon relish a lunch of
porcupines' quills as a dinner basely obtained, though it were of
nightingales' tongues. But this is sheer conquest on the part of
the soul, not any properly gastric inspiration at all; and it is in
furnishing opportunity for precisely such conquest that the lower nature
becomes a stairway of ascent for the soul.

And now, if in the relations between every manly spirit and the world
around him we discover the same fact, are we not by this time prepared
to contemplate it altogether with dry eyes? What if it be true, that
in trade, in politics, in society, all tends to low levels? What if
disadvantages are to be suffered by the grocer who will not sell
adulterated food, by the politician who will not palter, by the
diplomatist who is ashamed to lie? For this means only that no one can
be honest otherwise than by a productive energy of honesty in his own
bosom. In other words,--a man reaches the true welfare of a human
soul only when his bosom is a generative centre and source of noble
principles; and therefore, in pure, wise kindness to man, the world
is so arranged that there shall be perpetual need of this access and
reinforcement of principle. Society, the State, and every institution,
grow lean the moment there is a falling off in this divine fruitfulness
of man's heart, because only in virtue of bearing such fruit is man
worthy of his name. Honor and honesty are constantly consumed _between_
men, that they may be forever newly demanded _in_ them.

We cannot too often remind ourselves that the aim of the universe is
a personality. As the terrestrial globe through so many patient
aeons climbed toward the production of a human body, that by this
all-comprehending, perfect symbol it might enter into final union with
Spirit, so do the uses of the world still forever ascend toward man, and
seek a continual realization of that ancient wish. When, therefore,
Time shall come to his great audit with Eternity, persons alone will be
passed to his credit. "So many wise and wealthy souls,"--that is what
the sun and his household will have come to. The use of the world is not
found in societies faultlessly mechanized; for societies are themselves
but uses and means. They are the soil in which persons grow; and I no
more undervalue them than the husbandman despises his fertile acres
because it is not earth, but the wheat that grows from it, which comes
to his table. Society is the culmination of all uses and delights;
persons, of all results. And societies answer their ends when they
afford two things: first, a need for energy of eye and heart, of noble
human vigor; and secondly, a generous appreciation of high qualities,
when these may appear. The latter is, indeed, indispensable; and
whenever noble manhood ceases to be recognized in a nation, the days of
that nation are numbered. But the need is also necessary. Society must
be a consumer of virtue, if individual souls are to be producers of it.
The law of demand and supply has its applications here also. New waters
must forever flow from the fountain-heads of our true life, if the
millwheel of the world is to continue turning; and this not because the
supernal powers so greatly cared to get corn ground, but because the
Highest would have rivers of His influence forever flowing, and would
call them men. Therefore it is that satirists who paint in high colors
the resistances, but have no perception of the law of conversion into
opposites, which is the grand trick of Nature,--these pleasant gentlemen
are themselves a part of the folly at which they mock.

As a man among men, so is a nation among nations. Very freely I
acknowledge that any nation, by proposing to itself large and liberal
aims, plucks itself innumerable envies and hatreds from without, and
confers new power for mischief upon all blindness and savagery that
exist within it. But what does this signify? Simply that no nation can
be free longer than it nobly loves freedom; that none can be great in
its national purposes when it has ceased to be so in the hearts of its
citizens. Freedom must be perpetually won, or it must be lost; and this
because the sagacious Manager of the world will not let us off from
the disciplines that should make us men. The material of the artist is
passive, and may be either awakened from its ancient rest or suffered
to sleep on; but that marble from which the perfections of manhood and
womanhood are wrought quits the quarry to meet us, and converts us to
stone, if we do not rather transform that to life and beauty.
Hostile, predatory, it rushes upon us; and we, cutting at it in brave
self-defence, hew it above our hope into shapes of celestial and
immortal comeliness. So that angels are born, as it were, from the noble
fears of man,--from an heroic fear in man's heart that he shall fall
away from the privilege of humanity, and falsify the divine vaticination
of his soul.

Hence follows the fine result, that in life to hold your own is to make
advance. Destiny comes to us, like the children in their play, saying,
"Hold fast all I give you"; and while we nobly detain it, the penny
changes between our palms to the wealth of cities and kingdoms. The
barge of blessing, freighted for us by unspeakable hands, comes floating
down from the head-waters of that stream whereon we also are afloat; and
to meet it we have only to wait for it, not ourselves ebbing away, but
loyally stemming the tide. It may be, as Mr. Carlyle alleges, that the
Constitution of the United States is no supreme effort of genius; but
events now passing are teaching us that every day of fidelity to the
spirit of it lends it new preciousness; and that an adherence to it, not
petty and literal, but at once large and indomitable, might almost make
it a charter of new sanctities both of law and liberty for the human


Thus far, the struggles of the world have developed its statesmanship
after three leading types.

First of these is that based on faith in some great militant principle.
Strong among statesmen of this type, in this time, stand Cavour, with
his faith in constitutional liberty,--Cobden, with his faith in freedom
of trade,--the third Napoleon, with his faith that the world moves, and
that a successful policy must keep the world's pace.

The second style of statesmanship is seen in the reorganization of old
States to fit new times. In this the chiefs are such men as Cranmer and

But there is a third class of statesmen sometimes doing more brilliant
work than either of the others. These are they who serve a State in
times of dire chaos,--in times when a nation is by no means ripe for
revolution, but only stung by desperate revolt: these are they who are
quick enough and firm enough to bind all the good forces of the State
into one cosmic force, therewith to compress or crush all chaotic
forces: these are they who throttle treason and stab rebellion,--who
fear not, when defeat must send down misery through ages, to insure
victory by using weapons of the hottest and sharpest. Theirs, then, is a
statesmanship which it may be well for the leading men of this land and
time to be looking at and thinking of, and its representative man shall
be Richelieu.

Never, perhaps, did a nation plunge more suddenly from the height of
prosperity into the depth of misery than did France on that fourteenth
of May, 1610, when Henry IV. fell dead by the dagger of Ravaillac.
All earnest men, in a moment, saw the abyss yawning,--felt the State
sinking,--felt themselves sinking with it. And they did what, in such a
time, men always do: first all shrieked, then every man clutched at the
means of safety nearest him. Sully rode through the streets of Paris
with big tears streaming down his face,--strong men whose hearts had
been toughened and crusted in the dreadful religious wars sobbed
like children,--all the populace swarmed abroad bewildered,--many
swooned,--some went mad. This was the first phase of feeling.

Then came a second phase yet more terrible. For now burst forth that old
whirlwind of anarchy and bigotry and selfishness and terror which Henry
had curbed during twenty years. All earnest men felt bound to protect
themselves, and seized the nearest means of defence. Sully shut himself
up in the Bastille, and sent orders to his son-in-law, the Duke of
Rohan, to bring in six thousand soldiers to protect the Protestants.
All un-earnest men, especially the great nobles, rushed to the Court,
determined, now that the only guardians of the State were a weak-minded
woman and a weak-bodied child, to dip deep into the treasury which Henry
had filled to develop the nation, and to wrench away the power which he
had built to guard the nation.

In order to make ready for this grasp at the State treasure and power by
the nobles, the Duke of Epernon, from the corpse of the King, by
whose side he was sitting when Ravaillac struck him, strides into the
Parliament of Paris, and orders it to declare the late Queen, Mary of
Medici, Regent; and when this Parisian court, knowing full well that it
had no right to confer the regency, hesitated, he laid his hand on his
sword, and declared, that, unless they did his bidding at once, his
sword should be drawn from its scabbard. This threat did its work.
Within three hours after the King's death, the Paris Parliament, which
had no right to give it, bestowed the regency on a woman who had no
capacity to take it.

At first things seemed to brighten a little. The Queen-Regent sent such
urgent messages to Sully that he left his stronghold of the Bastille and
went to the palace. She declared to him, before the assembled Court,
that he must govern France still. With tears she gave the young King
into his arms, telling Louis that Sully was his father's best friend,
and bidding him pray the old statesman to serve the State yet longer.

But soon this good scene changed. Mary had a foster-sister, Leonora
Galligai, and Leonora was married to an Italian adventurer, Concini.
These seemed a poor couple, worthless and shiftless, their only stock in
trade Leonora's Italian cunning; but this stock soon came to be of
vast account, for thereby she soon managed to bind and rule the
Queen-Regent,--managed to drive Sully into retirement in less than a
year,--managed to make herself and her husband the great dispensers at
Court of place and pelf. Penniless though Concini had been, he was in a
few months able to buy the Marquisate of Ancre, which cost him nearly
half a million livres,--and, soon after, the post of First Gentleman of
the Bedchamber, and that cost him nearly a quarter of a million,--and,
soon after that, a multitude of broad estates and high offices at
immense prices. Leonora, also, was not idle, and among her many
gains was a bribe of three hundred thousand livres to screen certain
financiers under trial for fraud.

Next came the turn of the great nobles. For ages the nobility of France
had been the worst among her many afflictions. From age to age attempts
had been made to curb them. In the fifteenth century Charles VII. had
done much to undermine their power, and Louis XI. had done much to crush
it. But strong as was the policy of Charles, and cunning as was the
policy of Louis, they had made one omission, and that omission left
France, though advanced, miserable. For these monarchs had not cut
the root of the evil. The French nobility continued practically a
serf-holding nobility.

Despite, then, the curb put upon many old pretensions of the nobles, the
serf-owning spirit continued to spread a net-work of curses over every
arm of the French government, over every acre of the French soil, and,
worst of all, over the hearts and minds of the French people. Enterprise
was deadened; invention crippled. Honesty was nothing; honor everything.
Life was of little value. Labor was the badge of servility; laziness the
very badge and passport of gentility. The serf-owning spirit was an iron
wall between noble and not-noble,--the only unyielding wall between
France and prosperous peace.

But the serf-owning spirit begat another evil far more terrible: it
begat a substitute for patriotism,--a substitute which crushed out
patriotism just at the very emergencies when patriotism was most needed.
For the first question which in any State emergency sprang into the mind
of a French noble was not,--How does this affect the welfare of the
nation? but,--How does this affect the position of my order? The
serf-owning spirit developed in the French aristocracy an instinct which
led them in national troubles to guard the serf-owning class first and
the nation afterward, and to acknowledge fealty to the serf-owning
interest first and to the national interest afterward.

So it proved in that emergency at the death of Henry. Instead of
planting themselves as a firm bulwark between the State and harm, the
Duke of Epernon, the Prince of Conde, the Count of Soissons, the Duke of
Guise, the Duke of Bouillon, and many others, wheedled or threatened
the Queen into granting pensions of such immense amount that the great
treasury filled by Henry and Sully with such noble sacrifices, and to
such noble ends, was soon nearly empty.

But as soon as the treasury began to run low the nobles began a worse
work, Mary had thought to buy their loyalty; but when they had gained
such treasures, their ideas mounted higher. A saying of one among them
became their formula, and became noted:--"The day of Kings is past; now
is come the day of the Grandees."

Every great noble now tried to grasp some strong fortress or rich city.
One fact will show the spirit of many. The Duke of Epernon had served
Henry as Governor of Metz, and Metz was the most important fortified
town in France; therefore Henry, while allowing D'Epernon the honor of
the Governorship, had always kept a Royal Lieutenant in the citadel, who
corresponded directly with the Ministry. But, on the very day of the
King's death, D'Epernon despatched commands to his own creatures at Metz
to seize the citadel, and to hold it for him against all other orders.

But at last even Mary had to refuse to lavish more of the national
treasure and to shred more of the national territory among these
magnates. Then came their rebellion.

Immediately Conde and several great nobles issued a proclamation
denouncing the tyranny and extravagance of the Court,--calling on
the Catholics to rise against the Regent in behalf of their
religion,--calling on the Protestants to rise in behalf of
theirs,--summoning the whole people to rise against the waste of their
State treasure.

It was all a glorious joke. To call on the Protestants was wondrous
impudence, for Conde had left their faith, and had persecuted them; to
call on the Catholics was not less impudent, for he had betrayed their
cause scores of times; but to call on the whole people to rise in
defence of their treasury was impudence sublime, for no man had besieged
the treasury more persistently, no man had dipped into it more deeply,
than Conde himself.

The people saw this and would not stir. Conde could rally only a few
great nobles and their retainers, and therefore, as a last tremendous
blow at the Court, he and his followers raised the cry that the Regent
must convoke the States-General.

Any who have read much in the history of France, and especially in the
history of the French Revolution, know, in part, how terrible this cry
was. By the Court, and by the great privileged classes of France, this
great assembly of the three estates of the realm was looked upon as the
last resort amid direst calamities. For at its summons came stalking
forth from the foul past the long train of Titanic abuses and Satanic
wrongs; then came surging up from the seething present the great hoarse
cry of the people; then loomed up, dim in the distance, vast shadowy
ideas of new truth and new right; and at the bare hint of these, all
that was proud in France trembled.

This cry for the States-General, then, brought the Regent to terms at
once, and, instead of acting vigorously, she betook herself to her old
vicious fashion of compromising,--buying off the rebels at prices more
enormous than ever. By her treaty of Sainte-Menehould, Conde received
half a million of livres, and his followers received payments
proportionate to the evil they had done.

But this compromise succeeded no better than previous compromises. Even
if the nobles had wished to remain quiet, they could not. Their lordship
over a servile class made them independent of all ordinary labor and of
all care arising from labor; some exercise of mind and body they must
have; Conde soon took this needed exercise by attempting to seize the
city of Poitiers, and, when the burgesses were too strong for him, by
ravaging the neighboring country. The other nobles broke the compromise
in ways wonderfully numerous and ingenious. France was again filled with

Dull as Regent Mary was, she now saw that she must call that dreaded
States-General, or lose not only the nobles, but the people: undecided
as she was, she soon saw that she must do it at once,--that, if she
delayed it, her great nobles would raise the cry for it, again and
again, just as often as they wished to extort office or money.
Accordingly, on the fourteenth of October, 1614, she summoned the
deputies of the three estates to Paris, and then the storm set in.

Each of the three orders presented its "portfolio of grievances" and its
programme of reforms. It might seem, to one who has not noted closely
the spirit which serf-mastering thrusts into a man, that the nobles
would appear in the States-General not to make complaints, but to answer
complaints. So it was not. The noble order, with due form, entered
complaint that theirs was the injured order. They asked relief from
familiarities and assumptions of equality on the part of the people.
Said the Baron de Senece, "It is a great piece of insolence to pretend
to establish any sort of equality between the people and the nobility":
other nobles declared, "There is between them and us as much difference
as between master and lackey."

To match these complaints and theories, the nobles made
demands,--demands that commoners should not be allowed to keep
fire-arms,--nor to possess dogs, unless the dogs were hamstrung,--nor to
clothe themselves like the nobles,--nor to clothe their wives like the
wives of nobles,--nor to wear velvet or satin under a penalty of five
thousand livres. And, preposterous as such claims may seem to us, they
carried them into practice. A deputy of the Third Estate having been
severely beaten by a noble, his demands for redress were treated as
absurd. One of the orators of the lower order having spoken of the
French as forming one great family in which the nobles were the elder
brothers and the commoners the younger, the nobles made a formal
complaint to the King, charging the Third Estate with insolence

Next came the complaints and demands of the clergy. They insisted on
the adoption in France of the Decrees of the Council of Trent, and the
destruction of the liberties of the Gallican Church.

But far stronger than these came the voice of the people.

First spoke Montaigne, denouncing the grasping spirit of the nobles.
Then spoke Savaron, stinging them with sarcasm, torturing them with
rhetoric, crushing them with statements of facts.

But chief among the speakers was the President of the Third Estate,
Robert Miron, Provost of the Merchants of Paris. His speech, though
spoken across the great abyss of time and space and thought and custom
which separates him from us, warms a true man's heart even now. With
touching fidelity he pictured the sad life of the lower orders,--their
thankless toil, their constant misery; then, with a sturdiness which
awes us, he arraigned, first, royalty for its crushing taxation,--next,
the whole upper class for its oppressions,--and then, daring death, he
thus launched into popular thought an _idea_:--

"It is nothing less than a miracle that the people are able to answer so
many demands. On the labor of _their_ hands depends the maintenance
of Your Majesty, of the clergy, of the nobility, of the commons. What
without _their_ exertions would be the value of the tithes and great
possessions of the Church, of the splendid estates of the nobility,
or of our own house-rents and inheritances? With their bones scarcely
skinned over, your wretched people present themselves before you, beaten
down and helpless, with the aspect rather of death itself than of living
men, imploring your succor in the name of Him who has appointed you to
reign over them,--who made you a man, that you might be merciful to
other men,--and who made you the father of your subjects, that you might
be compassionate to these your helpless children. If Your Majesty shall
not take means for that end, _I fear lest despair should teach the
sufferers that a soldier is, after all, nothing more than a peasant
bearing arms; and lest, when the vine-dresser shall have taken up his
arquebuse, he should cease to become an anvil only that he may become a

After this the Third Estate demanded the convocation of a general
assembly every ten years, a more just distribution of taxes, equality
of all before the law, the suppression of interior custom-houses, the
abolition of sundry sinecures held by nobles, the forbidding to leading
nobles of unauthorized levies of soldiery, some stipulations regarding
the working clergy and the non-residence of bishops; and in the midst of
all these demands, as a golden grain amid husks, they placed a demand
for the emancipation of the serfs.

But these demands were sneered at. The idea of the natural equality in
rights of all men,--the idea of the personal worth of every man,--the
idea that rough-clad workers have prerogatives which can be whipped out
by no smooth-clad idlers,--these ideas were as far beyond serf-owners
of those days as they are beyond slave-owners of these days. Nothing was
done. Augustin Thierry is authority for the statement that the clergy
were willing to yield something. The nobles would yield nothing. The
different orders quarrelled until one March morning in 1615, when, on
going to their hall, they were barred out and told that the workmen were
fitting the place for a Court ball. And so the deputies separated,--to
all appearance no new work done, no new ideas enforced, no strong men
set loose.

So it was in seeming,--so it was not in reality. Something had been
done. That assembly planted ideas in the French mind which struck more
and more deeply, and spread more and more widely, until, after a century
and a half, the Third Estate met again and refused to present petitions
kneeling,--and when king and nobles put on their hats, the commons put
on theirs,--and when that old brilliant stroke was again made, and the
hall was closed and filled with busy carpenters and upholsterers, the
deputies of the people swore that great tennis-court oath which blasted
French tyranny.

But something great was done _immediately_; to that suffering nation a
great man was revealed. For, when the clergy pressed their requests,
they chose as their orator a young man only twenty-nine years of age,

He spoke well. His thoughts were clear, his words pointed, his bearing
firm. He had been bred a soldier, and so had strengthened his will;
afterwards he had been made a scholar, and so had strengthened his mind.
He grappled with the problems given him in that stormy assembly with
such force that he seemed about to _do_ something; but just then came
that day of the Court ball, and Richelieu turned away like the rest.

But men had seen him and heard him. Forget him they could not. From that
tremendous farce, then, France had gained directly one thing at least,
and that was a sight at Richelieu.

The year after the States-General wore away in the old vile fashion.
Conde revolted again, and this time he managed to scare the Protestants
into revolt with him. The daring of the nobles was greater than ever.
They even attacked the young King's train as he journeyed to Bordeaux,
and another compromise had to be wearily built in the Treaty of Loudun.
By this Conde was again bought off,--but this time only by a bribe of
a million and a half of livres. The other nobles were also paid
enormously, and, on making a reckoning, it was found that this
compromise had cost the King four millions, and the country twenty
millions. The nation had also to give into the hands of the nobles some
of its richest cities and strongest fortresses.

Immediately after this compromise, Conde returned to Paris, loud,
strong, jubilant, defiant, bearing himself like a king. Soon he and his
revolted again; but just at that moment Concini happened to remember
Richelieu. The young bishop was called and set at work.

Richelieu grasped the rebellion at once. In broad daylight he seized
Conde and shut him up in the Bastille; other noble leaders he declared
guilty of treason, and degraded them; he set forth the crimes and
follies of the nobles in a manifesto which stung their cause to death in
a moment; he published his policy in a proclamation which ran through
France like fire, warming all hearts of patriots, withering all hearts
of rebels; he sent out three great armies: one northward to grasp
Picardy, one eastward to grasp Champagne, one southward to grasp Berri.
There is a man who can _do_ something! The nobles yield in a moment:
they _must_ yield.

But, just at this moment, when a better day seemed to dawn, came an
event which threw France back into anarchy, and Richelieu out into the
world again.

The young King, Louis XIII., was now sixteen years old. His mother the
Regent and her favorite Concini had carefully kept him down. Under their
treatment he had grown morose and seemingly stupid; but he had wit
enough to understand the policy of his mother and Concini, and strength
enough to hate them for it.

The only human being to whom Louis showed any love was a young falconer,
Albert de Luynes,--and with De Luynes he conspired against his mother's
power and her favorite's life. On an April morning, 1617, the King and
De Luynes sent a party of chosen men to seize Concini. They met him at
the gate of the Louvre. As usual, he is bird-like in his utterance,
snake-like in his bearing. They order him to surrender; he chirps forth
his surprise,--and they blow out his brains. Louis, understanding the
noise, puts on his sword, appears on the balcony of the palace, is
saluted with hurrahs, and becomes master of his kingdom.

Straightway measures are taken against all supposed to be attached
to the Regency. Concini's wife, the favorite Leonora, is burned as a
witch,--Regent Mary is sent to Blois,--Richelieu is banished to his

And now matters went from bad to worse. King Louis was no stronger
than Regent Mary had been,--King's favorite Luynes was no better than
Regent's favorite Concini had been. The nobles rebelled against the new
rule, as they had rebelled against the old. The King went through the
same old extortions and humiliations.

Then came also to full development yet another vast evil. As far back
as the year after Henry's assassination, the Protestants, in terror of
their enemies, now that Henry was gone and the Spaniards seemed to grow
in favor, formed themselves into a great republican league,--a State
within the State,--regularly organised in peace for political effort,
and in war for military effort,--with a Protestant clerical caste which
ruled always with pride, and often with menace.

Against such a theocratic republic war must come sooner or later, and in
1617 the struggle began. Army was pitted against army,--Protestant Duke
of Rohan against Catholic Duke of Luynes. Meanwhile Austria and the
foreign enemies of France, Conde and the domestic enemies of France,
fished in the troubled waters, and made rich gains every day. So France
plunged into sorrows ever deeper and blacker. But in 1624, Mary
de Medici, having been reconciled to her son, urged him to recall

The dislike which Louis bore Richelieu was strong, but the dislike he
bore toward compromises had become stronger. Into his poor brain, at
last, began to gleam the truth, that a serf-mastering caste, after a
compromise, only whines more steadily and snarls more loudly,--that, at
last, compromising becomes worse than fighting. Richelieu was called and
set at work.

Fortunately for our studies of the great statesman's policy, he left at
his death a "Political Testament" which floods with light his steadiest
aims and boldest acts. In that Testament he wrote this message:--

"When Your Majesty resolved to give
me entrance into your councils and a
great share of your confidence, I can declare
with truth that the Huguenots divided
the authority with Your Majesty, that
the great nobles acted not at all as subjects,
that the governors of provinces took
on themselves the airs of sovereigns, and
that the foreign alliances of France were
despised. I promised Your Majesty to
use all my industry, and all the authority
you gave me, to ruin the Huguenot party,
to abase the pride of the high nobles,
and to raise your name among foreign
nations to the place where it ought to

Such were the plans of Richelieu at the outset. Let us see how he
wrought out their fulfilment.

First of all, he performed daring surgery and cautery about the very
heart of the Court. In a short time he had cut out from that living
centre of French power a number of unworthy ministers and favorites, and
replaced them by men, on whom he could rely.

Then he began his vast work. His policy embraced three great objects:
First, the overthrow of the Huguenot power; secondly, the subjugation
of the great nobles; thirdly, the destruction of the undue might of

First, then, after some preliminary negotiations with foreign
powers,--to be studied hereafter,--he attacked the great
politico-religious party of the Huguenots.

These held, as their great centre and stronghold, the famous seaport of
La Rochelle. He who but glances at the map shall see how strong was this
position: he shall see two islands lying just off the west coast at that
point, controlled by La Rochelle, yet affording to any foreign allies
whom the Huguenots might admit there facilities for stinging France
during centuries. The position of the Huguenots seemed impregnable. The
city was well fortressed,--garrisoned by the bravest of men,--mistress
of a noble harbor open at all times to supplies from foreign ports,--and
in that harbor rode a fleet, belonging to the city, greater than the
navy of France.

Richelieu saw well that here was the head of the rebellion. Here, then,
he must strike it.

Strange as it may seem, his diplomacy was so skillful that he obtained
ships to attack Protestants in La Rochelle from the two great Protestant
powers,--England and Holland. With these he was successful. He attacked
the city fleet, ruined it, and cleared the harbor.

But now came a terrible check. Richelieu had aroused the hate of that
incarnation of all that was and Is offensive in English politics,--the
Duke of Buckingham. Scandal-mongers were wont to say that both were in
love with the Queen,--and that the Cardinal, though unsuccessful in his
suit, outwitted the Duke and sent him out of the kingdom,--and that the
Duke swore a great oath, that, if he could not enter France in one way,
he would enter in another,--and that he brought about a war, and came
himself as a commander: of this scandal believe what you will. But, be
the causes what they may, the English policy changed, and Charles I.
sent Buckingham with ninety ships to aid La Rochelle.

But Buckingham was flippant and careless; Richelieu, careful when there
was need, and daring when there was need. Buckingham's heavy blows
were foiled by Richelieu's keen thrusts, and then, in his confusion,
Buckingham blundered so foolishly, and Richelieu profited by his
blunders so shrewdly, that the fleet returned to England without any
accomplishment of its purpose. The English were also driven from that
vexing position in the Isle of Rhe.

Having thus sent the English home, for a time at least, he led king and
nobles and armies to La Rochelle, and commenced the siege in full force.
Difficulties met him at every turn; but the worst difficulty of all was
that arising from the spirit of the nobility.

No one could charge the nobles of France with lack of bravery. The only
charge was, that their bravery was almost sure to shun every useful
form, and to take every noxious form. The bravery which finds outlet
in duels they showed constantly; the bravery which finds outlet in
street-fights they had shown from the days when the Duke of Orleans
perished in a brawl to the days when the _"Mignons"_ of Henry III.
fought at sight every noble whose beard was not cut to suit them. The
pride fostered by lording it over serfs, in the country, and by lording
it over men who did not own serfs, in the capital, aroused bravery of
this sort and plenty of it. But that bravery which serves a great, good
cause, which must be backed by steadiness and watchfulness, was not so
plentiful. So Richelieu found that the nobles who had conducted the
siege before he took command had, through their brawling propensities
and lazy propensities, allowed the besieged to garner in the crops from
the surrounding country, and to master all the best points of attack.

But Richelieu pressed on. First he built an immense wall and earthwork,
nine miles long, surrounding the city, and, to protect this, he raised
eleven great forts and eighteen redoubts.

Still the harbor was open, and into this the English fleet might return
and succor the city at any time. His plan was soon made. In the midst of
that great harbor of La Rochelle he sank sixty hulks of vessels filled
with stone; then, across the harbor,--nearly a mile wide, and, in
places, more than eight hundred feet deep,--he began building over these
sunken ships a great dike and wall,--thoroughly fortified, carefully
engineered, faced with sloping layers of hewn stone. His own men scolded
at the magnitude of the work,--the men in La Rochelle laughed at
it. Worse than that, the Ocean sometimes laughed and scolded at it.
Sometimes the waves sweeping in from that fierce Bay of Biscay destroyed
in an hour the work of a week. The carelessness of a subordinate once
destroyed in a moment the work of three months.

Yet it is but fair to admit that there was one storm which did not beat
against Richelieu's dike. There set in against it no storm of hypocrisy
from neighboring nations. Keen works for and against Richelieu were put
forth in his day,--works calm and strong for and against him have been
issuing from the presses of France and England and Germany ever since;
but not one of the old school of keen writers or of the new school of
calm writers is known to have ever hinted that this complete sealing of
the only entrance to a leading European harbor was unjust to the world
at large or unfair to the besieged themselves.

But all other obstacles Richelieu had to break through or cut through
constantly. He was his own engineer, general, admiral, prime-minister.
While he urged on the army to work upon the dike, he organized a French
navy, and in due time brought it around to that coast and anchored it so
as to guard the dike and to be guarded by it.

Yet, daring as all this work was, it was but the smallest part of his
work. Richelieu found that his officers were cheating his soldiers
in their pay and disheartening them; in face of the enemy he had to
reorganize the army and to create a new military system. He made the
army twice as effective and supported it at two-thirds less cost than
before. It was his boast in his "Testament," that, from a mob, the
army became "like a well-ordered convent." He found also that his
subordinates were plundering the surrounding country, and thus rendering
it disaffected; he at once ordered that what had been taken should be
paid for, and that persons trespassing thereafter should be severely
punished. He found also the great nobles who commanded in the army
half-hearted and almost traitorous from sympathy with those of their own
caste on the other side of the walls of La Rochelle, and from their fear
of his increased power, should he gain a victory. It was their common
saying, that they were fools to help him do it. But he saw the true
point at once--He placed in the most responsible positions of his army
men who felt for his cause, whose hearts and souls were in it,--men not
of the Dalgetty stamp, but of the Cromwell stamp. He found also, as he
afterward said, that he had to conquer not only the Kings of England and
Spain, but also the King of France. At the most critical moment of the
siege Louis deserted him,--went back to Paris,--allowed courtiers to
fill him with suspicions. Not only Richelieu's place, but his life,
was in danger, and he well knew it; yet he never left his dike and
siege-works, but wrought on steadily until they were done; and then the
King, of his own will, in very shame, broke away from his courtiers, and
went back to his master.

And now a Royal Herald summoned the people of La Rochelle to surrender.
But they were not yet half conquered. Even when they had seen two
English fleets, sent to aid them, driven back from Richelieu's dike,
they still held out manfully. The Duchess of Rohan, the Mayor Guiton,
and the Minister Salbert, by noble sacrifices and burning words, kept
the will of the besieged firm as steel. They were reduced to feed on
their horses,--then on bits of filthy shell-fish,--then on stewed
leather. They died in multitudes.

Guiton the Mayor kept a dagger on the city council-table to stab any man
who should speak of surrender; some who spoke of yielding he ordered
to execution as seditious. When a friend showed him a person dying of
hunger, be said, "Does that astonish you? Both you and I must come to
that." When another told him that multitudes were perishing, he said,
"Provided one remains to hold the city-gate, I ask nothing more."

But at last even Guiton had to yield. After the siege had lasted more
than a year, after five thousand were found remaining out of fifteen
thousand, after a mother had been seen to feed her child with her own
blood, the Cardinal's policy became too strong for him. The people
yielded, and Richelieu entered the city as master.

And now the victorious statesman showed a greatness of soul to which all
the rest of his life was as nothing. He was a Catholic cardinal,--the
Rochellois were Protestants; he was a stern ruler,--they were
rebellious subjects who had long worried and almost impoverished
him;--all Europe, therefore, looked for a retribution more terrible than
any in history.

Richelieu allowed nothing of the sort. He destroyed the old franchises
of the city, for they were incompatible with that royal authority
which he so earnestly strove to build. But this was all. He took no
vengeance,--he allowed the Protestants to worship as before,--he took
many of them into the public service,--and to Guiton he showed marks of
respect. He stretched forth that strong arm of his over the city, and
warded off all harm. He kept back greedy soldiers from pillage,--he kept
back bigot priests from persecution. Years before this he had said, "The
diversity of religions may indeed create a division in the other world,
but not in this"; at another time he wrote, "Violent remedies only
aggravate spiritual diseases." And he was now so tested, that these
expressions were found to embody not merely an idea, but a belief. For,
when the Protestants in La Rochelle, though thug owing tolerance
and even existence to a Catholic, vexed Catholics in a spirit most
intolerant, even that could not force him to abridge the religious
liberties he had given.

He saw beyond his time,--not only beyond Catholics, but beyond
Protestants. Two years after that great example of toleration in La
Rochelle, Nicholas Antoine w as executed for apostasy from Calvinism at
Geneva. And for his leniency Richelieu received the titles of Pope of
the Protestants and Patriarch of the Atheists. But he had gained the
first great object of his policy, and he would not abuse it: he had
crushed the political power of the Huguenots forever.

Let us turn now to the second great object of his policy. He must break
the power of the nobility: on that condition alone could France have
strength and order, and here he showed his daring at the outset. "It is
iniquitous," he was wont to tell the King, "to try to make an example by
punishing the lesser offenders: they are but trees which cast no shade:
it is the great nobles who must be disciplined."

It was not long before he had to begin this work,--and with
the highest,--with no less a personage than Gaston, Duke of
Orleans,--favorite son of Mary,--brother of the King. He who thinks
shall come to a higher idea of Richelieu's boldness, when he remembers
that for many years after this Louis was childless and sickly, and
that during all those years Richelieu might awake any morning to find

In 1626, Gaston, with the Duke of Vendome, half-brother of the King, the
Duchess of Chevreuse, confidential friend of the Queen, the Count
of Soissons, the Count of Chalais, and the Marshal Ornano, formed a
conspiracy after the old fashion. Richelieu had his hand at their lofty
throats in a moment. Gaston, who was used only as a makeweight, he
forced into the most humble apologies and the most binding pledges;
Ornano he sent to die in the Bastille; the Duke of Vendome and the
Duchess of Chevreuse he banished; Chalais he sent to the scaffold.

The next year he gave the grandees another lesson. The serf-owning
spirit had fostered in France, through many years, a rage for duelling.
Richelieu determined that this should stop. He gave notice that the law
against duelling was revived, and that he would enforce it. It was
soon broken by two of the loftiest nobles in France,--by the Count of
Bouteville-Montmorency and the Count des Chapelles. They laughed at the
law: they fought defiantly in broad daylight. Nobody dreamed that the
law would be carried out against _them_. The Cardinal would, they
thought, deal with them as rulers have dealt with serf-mastering
law-breakers from those days to these,--invent some quibble and screen

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