Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XIII.: THE TAKING OF STRASBURG—THE BOMBARDING OF ALGIERS—THE SUBMISSION OF THE GENOESE—THE EMBASSY FROM THE EMPEROR OF SIAM—THE POPE BRAVED IN ROME—THE SUCCESSION TO THE ELECTORATE OF COLOGNE DISPUTED. - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV)
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CHAPTER XIII.: THE TAKING OF STRASBURG—THE BOMBARDING OF ALGIERS—THE SUBMISSION OF THE GENOESE—THE EMBASSY FROM THE EMPEROR OF SIAM—THE POPE BRAVED IN ROME—THE SUCCESSION TO THE ELECTORATE OF COLOGNE DISPUTED. - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. XII (Age of Louis XIV) 
The Works of Voltaire. A Contemporary Version. A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901). In 21 vols. Vol. XII.
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THE TAKING OF STRASBURG—THE BOMBARDING OF ALGIERS—THE SUBMISSION OF THE GENOESE—THE EMBASSY FROM THE EMPEROR OF SIAM—THE POPE BRAVED IN ROME—THE SUCCESSION TO THE ELECTORATE OF COLOGNE DISPUTED.
The general peace proved no restraint upon Louis’s ambition. The empire, Spain, and Holland disbanded their extraordinary troops, but he still kept his in pay. Peace was to him a time of conquests. He was so secure in his power at that time that he established courts of jurisdiction in Mentz and Breisach for annexing to the crown all the territories which were formerly dependent upon Alsace or the three bishoprics; but which had from time immemorial been in the hands of other masters. Several sovereign princes of the empire, the elector palatine, the king of Spain himself, who had several bailiwicks in these countries, and the king of Sweden, as duke of Deux Ponts, were summoned before these courts, to do homage to the king of France, under pain of having their possessions forfeited. He was the only prince since the time of Charlemagne who had acted thus like the lord and judge of crowned heads, and conquered countries by judicial decrees.
The elector palatine, and the elector of Trier, were dispossessed of the lordships of Falkenberg, Germersheim, Velden, etc. They carried their complaints before the diet of the empire, assembled at Ratisbon, but in vain; for that assembly contented itself with entering protests against these proceedings.
The king did not think it sufficient to be thus master of ten free cities of Alsace, by the same titles which the emperors formerly had: no one dared even to mention liberty in any of those cities. Strasburg yet remained a great and opulent city, and mistress of the Rhine, by means of the bridge which it had over that river; of itself a powerful republic, and famous for its arsenal, which contained nine hundred pieces of cannon.
Louvois had for a long time cherished the design of putting this city into his master’s hands. He had already prepared the way by bribery, intrigues, and menaces. The magistrates were seduced, and the people were struck with consternation at seeing their ramparts on a sudden surrounded by twenty thousand French; their forts, by which they were guarded on the side of the Rhine, attacked and taken in an instant; Louvois at their gates, and their burgomasters talking of surrendering, which Louvois accepted, taking possession of the town on Sept. 30, 1681. Vauban has since fortified it in such a manner that it has become the strongest barrier of France.
The king kept no better measures with Spain; he claimed the town of Alost, in the Netherlands, together with its whole bailiwick, which, as was pretended, his ministers had ministers had forgotten to insert in the articles of peace; and upon the Spanish court making some hesitation in complying with his demand, he ordered the city of Luxemburg to be blockaded.
At the same time he purchased the city of Casal of the petty duke of Mantua, who would have sold all his dominions to supply his pleasures.
Europe began to be alarmed at seeing a power which thus extended itself on all sides, and had acquired in the midst of peace more than ten preceding monarchs of France had gained by all their wars. The emperor, the Dutch, and even the Swedes themselves, finding great reason to be displeased with Louis’s proceedings, entered into a treaty of association. The English threw out some threats, the Spaniards resolved on war, and the prince of Orange left no stone unturned to fan the flame; but no power as yet dared to strike the first blow.
The king, who was feared everywhere, sought only how to make himself more formidable. He increased the power of his marine beyond the most sanguine hopes of his subjects, or the liveliest apprehensions of his enemies. He had sixty thousand sailors in pay; and this rude body of men were kept to their duty by laws as severe as those observed with respect to the military forces. The English and Dutch, on the contrary, though such powerful maritime nations, had neither so many seamen, nor such good regulations. Several companies of cadets and marine guards were formed and stationed in the frontier towns and the seaports, who were trained in all the arts requisite to their profession, under the care of masters paid out of the public treasury.
The harbor of Toulon, in the Mediterranean, was formed at immense expense, capable of containing a hundred ships of war, with an arsenal and magnificent storehouses. The port of Brest was formed in the western ocean at an equal expense. Dunkirk and Havre-de-Grâce were filled with shipping, and nature herself was forced at Rochefort.
At length Louis had above a hundred ships of the line, of which several mounted a hundred guns, and others more. These were not suffered to lie idle in port. His squadrons under the command of Duquesne cleared the seas of the Algerine and Tripoline pirates which infested them, and punished Algiers by the help of a new art, the discovery of which was owing to the care he took to encourage all kinds of genius in his reign. This fatal but admirable art is that of bomb-vessels, with which seaport towns may be reduced to ashes. There was a young man named Bernard Renaud, better known by the name of Little Renaud, who, by mere strength of genius, became an excellent mariner, without ever having served on board a ship. Colbert, who found out merit wherever it was hidden, had frequently sent for this man to the council of marine, even when the king was present: it was in pursuance of his diligent observations and instructions that they afterward devised a more uniform and easy method of building ships. Renaud had the boldness to propose in council to bombard Algiers with a fleet of ships. Everyone present started at the proposal, not having the least conception that a mortar could be fired anywhere but on solid ground: in short, he underwent all the raillery and contradiction which one must expect who offers a new invention; but his firmness, and that eloquence which naturally accompanies those who are forcibly struck with their own invention, prevailed upon the king to permit a trial of this new project.
Renaud then caused five vessels to be built of a lesser size than common, but much stronger, without any upper decks, and only a platform or false deck on the keel, in which hollow spaces were formed for receiving the mortars as in beds. Thus equipped he set sail under the command of old Duquesne, who had charge of this expedition, from which he expected little success: but the effect of the bombs filled both the admiral and the Algerines with surprise, half of the town being beaten down and laid in ashes, on Oct. 28, 1681. However, this art being soon communicated to other nations, served only to multiply the calamities of humankind, and proved more than once fatal to France, where it was invented.
This improvement in the marine within a few years was wholly owing to the care and vigilance of Colbert. Louvois was continually employed in fortifying upward of one hundred citadels; besides building the new ones of Hüningen, Saarlouis, the fortresses of Saarburg, Mont-Royal, and others, and while the kingdom was acquiring this exterior strength, the arts flourished within, and pleasure and abundance reigned everywhere. Strangers came in crowds to admire the court of Louis XIV. whose name was carried to the most distant nations of the earth.
His glory and success received a further addition from the weakness of most of the other crowned heads in Europe, and the miserable state of their people. The emperor Leopold was at that time in fear of the rebellious Hungarians, and especially of the Turks, whom they had called in to their assistance, and were preparing to invade Germany. Louis thought it politic to persecute the Protestants of his own kingdom, in order to prevent them from being able to create any disturbance; but he underhandedly protected the Protestants and rebels in Hungary, because they might be of service to him. His ambassadors at the Turkish court had importuned the sultan to fit out an armament before the Peace of Nimeguen. The divan by an unaccountable singularity has almost always waited till the emperor was at peace to break with him. The war in Hungary was not begun until 1682, and the ensuing year the Turkish army of two hundred thousand men, reinforced by several bodies of Hungarian troops, meeting with no fortified towns, such as there are in France, nor any regular army to oppose its progress, advanced to the very gates of Vienna, after laying all waste in its march.
The emperor Leopold, at the approach of the Turks, quitted Vienna with the utmost precipitation, and retired to Linz; and when he heard that they had invested his capital, he only retired to a still greater distance, to Passau, leaving the duke of Lorraine at the head of a small army, which had already been attacked by the Turks in their march, to defend the empire as well as he could.
No one had the least doubt that the grand vizier, Cara-Mustapha, who commanded the Ottoman army, would soon be master of Vienna, a badly fortified city, abandoned by its sovereign, and defended only by a garrison of ten thousand effective men, though called sixteen thousand. In short, a dreadful revolution was momentarily expected.
Louis XIV. had the greatest reason to expect that Germany, thus distressed by the Turks, and having no resource but in a chief whose flight had increased the general terror, would soon be forced to fly to the protection of France. He had an army on the borders of the empire ready to defend it against those very Turks whom he had brought thither by his former negotiations. By this means he hoped to become protector of the empire, and to make his son king of the Romans.
At first, when the Turks threatened Austria with an invasion, he added generosity to his political views; not that he sent help a second time to the emperor, but he declared that he would not attack the Low Countries; but would leave the Austrian-Spanish branch at liberty to assist that of Germany, which was on the point of being overwhelmed. All that he asked in return for lying quiet was to be satisfied with respect to some disputable points in the Treaty of Nimeguen, and chiefly relating to the bailiwick of Alost, which had by mistake been omitted in the treaty. He actually ordered the blockade of Luxemburg to be raised in 1682, without waiting to be satisfied, and abstained from all hostilities for one whole year. But he did not observe the same generosity afterward, during the siege of Vienna. The Spanish council, instead of soothing, incensed him; and he renewed hostilities in the Netherlands, at the very time that Vienna was on the point of falling into the hands of the Turks: this was in the beginning of September; but, contrary to all expectation, Vienna was relieved. The presumption, effeminacy, ignorance, and slothfulness of the grand vizier, together with his brutal contempt for the Christians, proved his ruin. Nothing less than such a combination of faults could have preserved the capital of the empire. John Sobieski, king of Poland, had time to march to its relief; and having joined the duke of Lorraine, he presented himself before the Ottoman army on Sept. 12, 1683, who fled at his first appearance. The emperor returned to his capital, grieved and astonished at having quitted it. He entered just as his deliverer was coming out of the high church, where they had been singing Te Deum, and the preacher had taken these words for his text: “There was a man sent from God, and his name was John.” You may have already observed that the same words were applied by Pope Pius V. to Don John of Austria after the victory of Lepanto. You know that what at first appears new is frequently no other than a repetition. The emperor Leopold was at once triumphant and humbled. The French king, having no longer any measures to keep, bombarded Luxemburg, and seized upon Courtrai and Dixmude, in Flanders: he then made himself master of Trier, and demolished its fortifications; and all this, as he said, to fulfil the spirit of the Treaty of Nimeguen. The Imperialists and Spaniards entered into a negotiation with him at Ratisbon, while he was taking their towns; and the Treaty of Nimeguen, which had been infringed, was changed into a truce for twenty years, by which the king was left in possession of the city of Luxemburg, and its principality, which he had lately conquered.
Louis was still more formidable on the coast of Barbary, where, till his time, the French had been known only by some of their nation, which fell into the hands of the barbarians, and were made slaves.
The inhabitants of Algiers, after their city had been twice bombarded, sent deputies to make their submission, and demand peace. They delivered up all the Christian captives in their possession, besides paying a considerable sum of money, which is the greatest punishment that can be inflicted on a corsair.
Tunis and Tripoli made like submission; and here it may not be impertinent to relate the following anecdote. One d’Amfreville, captain of a French ship of war, having come to Algiers to release all the Christian captives there, in the French king’s name, found several Englishmen among them, who, after they were on board, insisted to d’Amfreville that it was on the king of England’s account that they had been set at liberty; upon which the French captain sent for the Algerine officers, and putting the English into their hands again, said: “These people pretend that they are released wholly in their own king’s name; mine, therefore, will not take the liberty of offering them his protection; I therefore deliver them up to you again. It now remains with you to show what you owe the king of England.” The English were carried back to their former slavery. This anecdote may serve to show the pride of the English, the weakness of Charles II., and the respect which all nations had for Louis XIV.
This respect was so general that new honors were granted to his ambassador at the Ottoman Porte, the same as to the sufis, at the very time that he was humbling the people of Barbary, who are immediately under the protection of the Grand Seignior.
The republic of Genoa humbled itself before him still more than that of Algiers. The Genoese had sold powder and bombs to the Algerines; they were also building four galleys for the service of the king of Spain. The king sent St. Olon, one of his gentlemen in ordinary, in character of an envoy, to forbid their launching those galleys, threatening them with instant punishment if they did not comply with his will. The Genoese, incensed at this attempt on their liberties, and reckoning too much upon the assistance of Spain, refused to give the king any satisfaction. Immediately fourteen large ships, twelve galleys, six bomb-vessels, and several frigates set sail from the port of Toulon, having on board the new secretary of the marine, Seignelay, son of the famous Colbert, who had procured him this post before his death. This young man was full of ambition, courage, wit, and vivacity, and wanted to be at once the soldier and the minister; he was greedy for honor, ardent in all his undertakings, and knew how to blend pleasures with business, without impeding either. Old Duquesne had the command of the large ships, and the duke of Mortemart of the galleys; but they were both dependents on the secretary of state. The fleet arrived before Genoa on March 17, 1684, and the ten bomb-vessels threw fourteen thousand shells into the town, by which a part of those noble marble buildings, whence Genoa had its name of superb, were reduced to ashes. Four thousand men were then landed from the fleet, who advanced to the gates of the city and burned the suburb of St. Pietro d’Arena. The inhabitants now found it necessary to submit, in order to avoid total ruin. The king insisted that the doge and four of the principal senators of Genoa should repair to his palace at Versailles, there to implore his clemency; and lest the Genoese should elude the required satisfaction, and diminish his glory on this occasion, he further insisted that the doge should be continued in his office, notwithstanding a perpetual law in Genoa, by which any doge who is absent but a moment from the city is deprived of his dignity.
Imperialo Lescaro, doge of Genoa, accompanied by senators Lomelino, Garebardi, Durazzo, and Salvago, arrived in Versailles Feb. 22, 1685, to perform all that the king demanded of them. The doge, dressed in his robes of state, with a red velvet cap on his head, which he frequently took off while he spoke, made his submission; the words and gestures he used on this occasion were all dictated by Seignelay. The king gave him audience sitting, and covered; but, as in every action of his life he always joined politeness with dignity, he behaved toward Lescaro and the senators with as much goodness as pomp. His ministers, Louvois, Croissi, and Seignelay, treated them more haughtily, which made the doge say: “The king deprives our hearts of liberty, by the manner in which he receives us; but his ministers restore it to us again.” This doge was a man of great wit and understanding. Everyone knows the answer he made to the marquis of Seignelay, when he asked him what he thought most remarkable at Versailles: “To see myself there,” replied he.
The great fondness which Louis XIV. had for pomp and show was still more gratified by an embassy which he received from Siam, a country which, till that time, had never heard of such a kingdom as France. It happened by one of those extraordinary events which prove the superiority of the Europeans over all other nations, that a Greek, named Faulcon Constance, the son of a tavern-keeper at Cephalonia, was made barcalon, that is prime minister, or grand vizier, of the kingdom of Siam. This man, desirous of strengthening and increasing his authority, wanted for that purpose to call in some foreign assistance, but did not dare to trust either the Dutch or the English, who are dangerous neighbors in the Indies. The French had lately settled some factories on the coast of Coromandel, and had brought the fame of their monarch with them into that extreme part of Asia. Constance thought Louis XIV. a proper person to be flattered by homage coming from so distant a place, and so little expected. Religion, which is the master-spring of worldly politics from Siam to Paris, proved subservient to his design; accordingly in 1684 he sent a solemn embassy and magnificent presents, in the name of the king of Siam, his master, to Louis XIV., to acquaint him that the Indian monarch, charmed with his fame, was resolved to enter into a treaty of commerce with no other nation than the French, and that he even had some thoughts of becoming a Christian. The king thus flattered in his greatness, and deceived on the side of religion, engaged to send the king of Siam two ambassadors and six Jesuits, to whom he afterward added some officers and eight hundred soldiers. But the pomp of this embassy was all the fruit it produced. Constance, four years afterward, fell a victim to his own ambition. Part of the French who remained with him were massacred, and the rest were obliged to fly; while his widow, after having been on the point of becoming queen, was, by the king of Siam’s successor, condemned to serve in his kitchen as a cook, an employment which suited her birth.
That thirst for glory which led Louis XIV. to distinguish himself in everything from other kings, showed itself again in the haughty manner with which he affected to treat the court of Rome. Odescalchi, the son of a banker of Milan, was at that time in the papal chair, with the name of Innocent XI. He was a virtuous man, a prudent pontiff, a middling divine, and a courageous, resolute, and magnificent prince. He assisted the empire and the Poles against the Turks with his money, and the Venetians with his galleys. He blamed Louis XIV., in the severest terms, for joining with the Turks against the Christians. It was surprising to see a pope thus warmly espousing the cause of the emperors, who style themselves kings of the Romans, and would, if they could, establish the seat of their empire in Rome; but Odescalchi was born under the Austrian dominion, and had even made two campaigns in the army of Milan. All men are governed by habit and humor: his pride was hurt by the haughtiness of Louis XIV., who on his side did everything to mortify him that a king of France can do to a pope, without absolutely separating from his communion. An abuse had prevailed for a long time in Rome, which was the more difficult to be eradicated as it was founded on a point of honor upon which the Catholics piqued themselves. Their ambassadors at Rome extended the right of franchise and asylum belonging to their palaces to a great distance, under the general name of quarters. These privileges, which were strictly maintained, made one-half of Rome an asylum for all kinds of villainy. By another abuse, whatever was brought into Rome under the ambassador’s name was free from all duty. By this means trade suffered, and the state was impoverished.
At length Pope Innocent XI. prevailed on the emperor, the kings of Spain and Poland, and on the new king of England, James II., who was a Catholic, to give up these odious privileges. The nuncio Ranucci proposed to Louis to concur with these princes in restoring the peace and good order of Rome; but Louis, who in his heart hated the pope, returned for answer that he never regulated his conduct by the example of others, who rather ought himself to serve as an example for them. He then sent the marquis de Lavardin on an embassy to Rome, purposely to insult the pope. Lavardin accordingly made his entrance into that city in November, 1687, in spite of the pope’s prohibition, and escorted by four hundred of the marine guards, the same number of volunteer officers, and two hundred men in livery, all armed. He immediately went and took possession of his palace, the quarters thereunto belonging, and the church of St. Louis, round which he ordered sentinels to be placed, and to go the rounds as in a garrison. The pope is the only sovereign to whom such an embassy can be sent; for the superiority which he always affects over crowned heads makes them always desirous of humbling him, and the weakness of his dominions permits them to insult him with impunity. All that Innocent XI. could do was to attack the marquis de Lavardin with the worn-out weapon of excommunication, a weapon which is now as little regarded in Rome as elsewhere, but which nevertheless was employed by an ancient ceremonial, in the same manner as the pope’s soldiers carry arms, merely for form’s sake.
Cardinal d’Estrées, a man of sense, but generally unfortunate in his negotiations, was at that time resident from the court of France at Rome. D’Estrées, being obliged to make frequent visits to the marquis de Lavardin, could not afterward be admitted to an audience of the pope without receiving absolution; he in vain endeavored to evade this ceremony; Innocent persisted in giving it to him, in order to keep up an imaginary power, by the customs on which it was founded.
Louis, through the same motives of pride, though secretly supported by politics, endeavored to make an elector of Cologne. Full of the scheme of dividing or making war with the empire, he thought to confer this electorate on Cardinal Fürstemberg, bishop of Strasburg, his creature and the victim of his interests, and an irreconcilable enemy to the emperor, who had ordered him to be imprisoned in the preceding war as a German who had sold himself to France.
The chapter of Cologne, like all the other chapters of Germany, has a right to nominate its bishop who by that becomes elector. The person who then filled this see was Ferdinand of Bavaria, formerly the ally, and afterward the enemy, of Louis, as many other princes had been. He now lay at the point of death. The king, by money, intrigues, and promises, prevailed on the canons to choose Fürstemberg coadjutor; and after the death of Ferdinand he was chosen a second time by a majority of votes. By the Germanic concordat the pope has the right of conferring the bishopric on the bishop-elect, and the emperor that of confirming him in the electorate. The emperor and Pope Innocent, persuaded that to leave Fürstemberg in possession of the electoral dignity was the same as if they had given it to Louis XIV., joined together to bestow this principality upon young Bavaria, brother to the deceased prince. The king avenged himself on the pope by taking Avignon from him in October, 1688, and made preparations for a war against the emperor. At the same time he disturbed the elector palatine, on account of the rights of the princess palatine, second wife of the duke of Orleans, rights which she had renounced by her marriage articles. The war began in Spain, in the year 1667, on account of the claims of Maria Theresa, notwithstanding that a like renunciation made, which plainly proves that contracts can only bind private persons.
In this manner did the king, in the height of his greatness, perplex, strip, or humble almost all the princes of Europe, but they in return almost all joined in league against him.