Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV: History of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries - Judgments on History and Historians
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IV: History of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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History of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
Introduction to the History of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1598–1763)
(I) [May 4, 1869.] The preceding lectures presented the break with the Middle Ages.
The Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times differ in great, essential ways: In the former, there is the endless division of power and the still slight contrast among the nations; in the latter we have concentration of power, the wars of conquest with national development of power at any price, and the crude beginnings of the so-called state system.
In the Middle Ages, moreover, there is a limitation to the European West and to ecclesiastical unity. In the age which succeeded them, the European nations spread over all continents, Catholicism is divided into great ecclesiastical parties whose conflicts threaten to absorb all other conflicts and affinities.
At one time culture was determined by the church and was homogeneous all over Europe, partly because of the church, partly because of the specific spirit of the Middle Ages, and still differentiated by race. But now culture is refashioned out of antiquity and new research into nature, and alongside all ecclesiastical influences it is nevertheless secular in essence, as well as multiform nationally and yet highly individual.
Now there takes place a truly endless crossing and entangling of all these strands. An unprecedented variety of life becomes characteristic, and this is developed further in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The ordinary value judgment of history is in the habit of demanding the immediate and complete victory of one element. It cannot stand variety. Clerics of all denominations, fanatics of all denominations and non-denominations, popular philosophers, dynasts, and radical politicians who in history cannot stand the sight of rival forces and their fights demand one thing, completely and immediately, too, although this would make the world dead and colorless until those concerned killed one another out of sheer boredom or produced a new conflict. For it is an illusion to expect lasting contentment with any victory, something for which man lacks the organ anyway.
Of course, man must in this life want and represent something definite, but must reserve higher judgment.
One thing that we need not wish for but encounter as a reality, whether we rejoice at it or deplore it, is Europe as an old and new focus of multifarious life, a place where the richest formations originate, a home of all contrasts which dissolve into the one unity that here everything intellectual is given voice and expression.
This is European: the self-expression of all forces, in monuments, pictures and words, institutions and parties, down to the individual; the full life of the intellect in all aspects and directions; the striving of the intellect to leave behind knowledge about everything that it experiences, not to surrender mutely to world monarchies and theocracies, as did the East with its monolithic monarchies. From a high and distant vantage point, such as a historian’s ought to be, bells harmonize beautifully, regardless of whether they may be in disharmony when heard from close by: Discordia concors [discord becomes harmony].
The old peoples could have founded in Asia still more great, powerful empires, such as Iran and Assyria, one after the other, but every one of these would have had only one kind of strength, spirit, and tone, like other Oriental empires. They, too, had to exist as the soil of certain civilizations.
An obscure impulse may have driven a few branches of the Indo- Europeans to the West, toward the setting sun, because here there were waiting for them a different soil and a different climate, that of freedom and variety, a craggy world of promontories and islands. For it is European to love not only power and idols and money, but also the spirit. They created the Hellenic, Roman, Celtic, and Germanic civilizations, and did so in constant transformations and conflicts which in the periods concerned were always painful, but ever accompanied by the release of new forces, unlike what happened in Byzantium, quite estimable in itself, where for seven hundred years the same revolution of throne and army kept repeating itself. These civilizations are far superior to the Asiatic ones by their being multiform and by the fact that in them the individual could develop fully and render the greatest service to the whole.
The church created a great new framework for European life. Bound and yet infinitely free and myriad-formed, the Middle Ages and finally the transitional epoch rose into modern times, the fully expressive ones.
History should rejoice at this profusion and leave the mere victor’s desires to those with an ax to grind. It is the function of history not to deplore this struggle of the European West, but to study and present it. From its vantage point, as high and free as possible, it perceives discordia as concors. It should rejoice at all forces of the past, not merely those that happen to be congenial to a contemporary decade, and regard them as riches. Considering the great violence of the struggles at that time and the desire for the destruction of the adversaries, we humane latecomers could not keep absolute sympathy with any side, not even the one we consider ours.
A concealed supreme power here produces epochs, nations, and individuals of endlessly rich life.
The development of the West has the most genuine characteristic of life: out of the struggle of its opposites something really new develops; new contrasts supplant the old; it is not a mere inconsequential, almost identical repetition of military, palace, and dynastic revolutions, as happened for seven hundred years in Byzantium and even longer in Islam. At each struggle people become different and give evidence of it; we have insight into a thousand individual souls and can date the styles of the spirit by decades, while at the same time national, religious, regional, and other elements add countless spiritual nuances. These things in their time were not pleasant and enjoyable, but struggles for life or death.
Only one thing has always appeared to be fatal to Europe: crushing mechanical power, whether it emanated from a conquering barbarian people or from accumulated local instruments of power in the service of a single state (the ambition of Louis XIV) or of a single leveling tendency, be it political, religious, or social, such as the present-day masses. Against such crushing powers Europe will always gather its last strength, and it has always found its deliverers (William III of Orange).
At that time there were no primitive barbarian forces or invading barbarians, with the exception of the Ottomans, and even they had been at a relative standstill since Suleiman II. Modern Russia was still a relatively small state and separated from Europe by a very large Poland. But the Spanish “world monarchy” did seem dangerous. The fight of all the others against it occupies the sixteenth century and part of the seventeenth. Added to the original elements of power of this world monarchy was its alliance with the strongest old faction, the Catholic church; thus it could hope to break through all merely political opposition.
Under Philip II, once he was involved in the quarrels of the entire West, it became a fight between Spain and its dependencies, which for a considerable period included the Roman See, and the entire heretic world, based especially on the thirty years’ powerlessness of France which Philip promoted in every way so that France, too, might fall prey to him.
(At this point a more detailed survey should be added, as an introduction to the history of the seventeenth and eighteenth century and continuing up to the Treaty of Vervins.)
The saviors of Europe were not the greatest enemies of Rome, but the most persistent enemies of Spain: the Dutch, Catholic as well as Protestant England, and Henry IV, despite his conversion. The savior of Europe is, above all, he who saves it from the danger of an imposed politico-religious-social unity and forced leveling which threaten its special character, the varied richness of its spirit. It is a banal objection that the spirit is unconquerable and will always be victorious. Actually, it may depend on the particular degree of strength of one man at one certain moment whether peoples or civilizations are to be lost or not. Great individuals are needed, and they need success. But at moments of crisis Europe frequently did find great individuals.
As the main content of this course of lectures the following might be set forth:
From the beginning of the seventeenth century a growing inflammation from Germany and Austria can be noticed. The greatest individuals, Henry IV and Gustavus Adolphus, fell early, by violent death, at the moment when they saw their greatest ambition within their grasp. Spain, inwardly a corpse, again becomes a world power, just strong enough to interfere everywhere, but not to determine events. In 1612, 1626, and at other times France bows to Spanish policies, and Richelieu who frees the country from this domination is able to do it only through an inhumane regime on the inside, and Mazarin has to fight Spain once more de imperio [for the first position]. Italy, politically dead, lives only through its culture and no longer derives any benefit from the decline of Spain, until then its tyrannical master. Germany collapses in the misery of the Thirty Years’ War. Sweden and France have it at their disposal. To be sure, alongside this there is the highest flowering of Holland, and the English Revolution breaks out. Even though it was only a thinly disguised military revolution, it left the English people very powerful and inwardly in a condition in which no permanent forcible rule was any longer conceivable.
However, once more Spain arises from the grave, and in its most dangerous guise, as a Hispanicized France under Louis XIV. (? The blame for this must no longer be placed on Spain.) The Spanish program is grafted onto a nation which possesses disproportionately more real means and a central location for the gagging of Europe. Once again there arises the danger of a Catholic world monarchy, and the opponents, too, have been infected by “sultanism.” The political repulse is accomplished in part through terrible wars whose physiognomy is almost entirely military, political, financial, and commercial, without the psyche of the peoples being clearly expressed in them.
However, culturally France was victorious. Louis XIV brought it about that in the eighteenth century French becomes tantamount to European; to him France owes her general capacity for contagion.
In the meantime, while the heritage of Spain was being fought for, Sweden, the same great power which had once wanted to form, with part of Germany, a great German-Scandinavian empire, was blown up in the air by a mad hero. Out of and beside the powerlessness of Sweden and Poland there arises Russia, starting with Peter the Great, immediately bent on shaking up and inciting the West and on its own business in the East. And Prussia, the last great power that was emerging with an unspeakable effort from the debris of Germany, after the Seven Years’ War must acknowledge itself as the permanent and inevitable ally of this Russia. Meanwhile England puts Holland in the shade as regards colonial and commercial greatness. Finally, with the aid of France, which had been humiliated in the Seven Years’ War and was thirsting for vengeance, there arose the beginnings of a future great power, North America.
All this is happening as the great crisis of the entire old system of what we consider authoritarian states and religions approaches perceptibly and with strangely increasing clarity—the revolution.
(II) [May 4, 1871.] The following may be said regarding the justification for the course of lectures as regards its scope, apart from its being recognized academically.
Any limitation is really made only out of necessity. There is always something arbitrary in detaching one sequence or view from the stormy sea of world history, beginning with the most remote past and flowing on into the most distant future, and yet even a painter of seascapes proceeds no differently.
But it is still arbitrary and dictated only by necessity to lift out of the great intellectual continuum of all things only one thing, out of all knowledge only one branch of knowledge, and to give it special treatment.
Actually, we ought to live constantly in the intuition of the world as a whole. But this would require a superhuman intelligence that would be above temporal succession and spatial limitation, and yet in constant contemplative communion with it, and, on top of that, in sympathy with it.
And when the starting and finishing points of a course have been established, the most arbitrary limitation has only begun.
To be sure, from presentation to presentation there has evolved a certain consensus of treatment, for large-scale classification, evaluation of data according to their significance or lack of it, but in the main this applies to objective facts only.
Now there arises the question as to the nature and quantity of what is to be imparted, according to what principle the lecturer should include or omit material. There is no uniform standard; in books standards differ greatly, on the platform they are limited. A writer has no necessary limits, but a speaker has.
And this is where arbitrariness inevitably enters into the selection. Of all scholarly disciplines history is the most unscientific, because it possesses or can possess least of all an assured, approved method of selection; that is, critical research has a very definite method, but the presentation of it has not.
It is on every occasion the record of what one age finds worthy of note in another.
Every historian will have a special selection, a different criterion for what is worth communicating, according to his nationality, subjectivity, training, and period.
Nevertheless, the chronological definition of this course has at least a relative justification. The Treaty of Vervins, with which we begin, marks a real intermission for all the chief peoples of Europe, such a suitable one as would not occur in history far and wide. And to conclude before the preliminaries to the French Revolution, perhaps with the Treaty of Hubertusburg, 1763, is imperative if a finish is to be made anywhere.
Starting with the last decades before the French Revolution, events and personalities are of a specifically new kind, even though their origin from what preceded may be quite apparent to us. The classes of men and the number of people that participate in things now become substantially different from what they were previously.
The Peace of Vervins and the time of Henry IV are the intermission between those two great periods of the Counter Reformation which may be named, after their main phenomena, those of the French religious wars and the Thirty Years’ War.
Today all merely political and especially military events of the past are reduced in value by the events of our times. If the quantitative differences among events are great, the qualitative ones are especially so.
At that time there was nothing but cabinet politics and cabinet wars. Now there are operative latent or open national movements and (to be sure, technically perfectly conceived and led) national wars and race wars (and in the end perhaps religious wars again).
About the wars of those times one has the feeling, right or wrong, that the rulers could have waged them or abstained from them. Of present-day wars we suspect that they are undertaken in order to cut off revolutions or to channel them, something that need not always be successful, of course. Hence the slight current interest in, e.g., the wars of Louis XIV, with the possible exception of those moments in which a real popular movement is discernible among his opponents or allies— Holland, and Spain in the War of Succession.
The relative contribution of the generals we cannot judge expertly, and we seldom get the expression of a great political tie-up with the military. Therefore anything military should be given only briefly, in the form of results; of the political elements, not every single intrigue should be noted, but only those in which there is expressed an agitation arising from actual conditions, one which has a connection with the past and the future.
It will thus be our main task here to bring world history as close to intellectual history as is possible; there is an abundance of means for this. Viewed superficially, the history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries deals only with power relationships, but the intellect is present as well.
To be omitted is the mere external debris of data, especially excerpts from dispatches and counter-dispatches. A subject worthier of consideration would be the cocky humor with which diplomacy and bold strokes alternate, particularly in the first decades of the eighteenth century; those were the times of Görtz, Dubois, Alberoni, and diplomats and courtiers of a similar kidney.
(III) This course is in the nature of an “entracte,” or, rather, an “interlude.”
In relation to the great beginnings of the modern world epoch after 1450 it is a continuation; in relation to the age of revolution it is only the termination of an earlier age and a preparation for the coming one. At the same time, however, it retains a wealth of specific interest. Not all ages can be of primary interest; the pulse beat of world history is a very uneven one. But here the movements are still powerful enough and the evidence for the entire external and spiritual existence is plentiful and, in part, of the highest caliber.
In relation to the sixteenth century, the seventeenth has been designated as retarding, as a reaction. There is an impatient point of view for which world history does not move rapidly enough and which holds, for instance, that as early as the sixteenth century complete modernity wanted to appear and should have done so, and that the fight against these forces was nothing but a wasted effort. People simply call something progress and then deplore its prolonged failure to appear.
If one asks such people whether they are satisfied with the goals now attained, they have a thousand different opinions, especially about the desirability of what has already been attained or is in process of coming into being, and one could invite them to agree for the time being on one opinion in this regard at least. And along with them there are other people, those who want still more.
But for the present, history will do well to turn its back completely on mere desiderata and devote itself to contemplating and depicting as objectively as possible past struggles, conflicts, and multiplicity.
For the life of the West is struggle.
As far as he is personally concerned, a historian may not be able to separate himself from the struggle of his locality. As a man existing in time he must desire and represent some definite thing, but as an historian he must maintain a loftier view.
A great many people get beside themselves if someone else has a different opinion and want to convert the other fellow as soon as they see a corner of his coat. But if one becomes silent or continues to express different opinions, one enjoys their hate or their pity, depending on their temperament. To be sure, we admit that forces opposed to our taste are forces as well, because they are palpably in front of us, but we do this with unspeakable wailing and abuse.
The meddling of values in world history is as if in the sea of time one wave wanted to shout insults against all the other waves.
(IV) [May 5, 1873.] The character of the spirit in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is determined by the classes which were at that time the principal participants, and by the contemporary way of life in general.
Most important, the state, with a few exceptions, is absolutistic or administered absolutistically. It is the time of authority rather than majority. Changes are not easily conceivable. Any striving for change is considered a crime as a matter of course, even in the non-monarchic states; in this respect, aristocracies are just as inexorable. Everything is calculated to last forever. People know nothing as yet of the mutability of all conditions.
The classes are still separated by different rights. The only thing that encompasses all classes, the religions, is even in the eighteenth century somewhat in decline among the upper classes.
Real estate is still generally non-transferable; capital, i.e., disposable values, is still in very moderate supply and of little service to industry.
Despite all velleities toward the mercantile system on the part of individual states, the general tenor of life is still far from being an industrial one (the consequences of what people would like are often not even thought out; e.g., customs boundaries continue to exist within the great states themselves). The biggest business at the time is the overseas trade of some few colonial powers, not yet industry as such, as an untrammeled activity, an absolute material exploitation of the world. And where it does exist it is not yet in control and cannot unleash its fearsome competitive system on the nations.
The middle class as a political force, e.g., in the German imperial cities and elsewhere, had either died out or shrunk completely. In art, literature, and way of life it does not set the tone anywhere, with the possible exception of Holland, but receives it from the other classes, whereas in the Middle Ages it had a culture of its own. And even in Holland the life of the upper classes is not so very bourgeois, but more aristocratic than is usually assumed.
The predominant character of society is determined by aristocratic revenues, ground rents, state and army offices which belong to the particular caste, and ecclesiastical income. In individual instances, especially in weaker states, such an aristocracy becomes subject to corruption by foreign cabinets out of a desire for display (Sweden, at times even England), and in the strongest states it is certainly highly dependent on its own potentate; almost nowhere is it an element of political freedom any more, except for the better times of the English nobility. But its social significance was still very great, greater even than it had been around 1500. For at that time there still existed a bourgeois culture in the North and an aristocratic-bourgeois one in Italy. Above all, this aristocratic society is still Western and not merely national. The aristocrats are still as close to one another throughout Europe as they are to their own states.
Their life is made up of leisure and the activities that are considered aristocratic, like military service, individual heroism, famous love affairs. Despite the often very dissolute living, social intercourse in the eighteenth century is more refined, more generous, and intellectually livelier than it has ever been since. People still have time to read, i.e., for lively intellectual intercourse. They have not yet surrendered to business.
Talent, no matter where it may come from, easily finds patronage, positions, and a wealth of occupations. Here all arrogance ceases, because people really want to have enjoyment.
Scholarship is partly in the hands of secure corporations, partly in those of independent dilettantes.
At length, to be sure, this nobility, because of all its noble leisure and abstract generosity, comes upon liberal principles and begins to take the real institutions of the state lightly. This lends it one last, exceedingly noble resplendence. Meanwhile, to be sure, other strata, together with their “public opinion,” have started to take control of matters.
It was for this aristocratic class, in the main, and not as yet for publishers and a mass public, that artists wrote, created literature, composed, painted, and so on. Also, the whole incipient opposition in the state and the innovations in all intellectual matters are essentially in their hands.
Our view must become accustomed to this nature of the intellectual life in those times.
The states are organized along class lines, approximating the so-called constitutional state, with safeguards for the individual in respect to life, property, and freedom of action. The class state was realized in some measure of completeness only in Holland and England, amidst great struggles. Here the opinion prevailed that the internal and external strength of the nation was substantially connected with it.
In Germany at the beginning of the seventeenth century there were very strong revolutionary classes only in Austria. In the other states the class system was already very weakened and the princes were actually close to absolutism. In the Thirty Years’ War the class system in both regions really goes under and at best survives formally. Later the model of Louis XIV—people imitated his sultanism at least—and the princely type of the eighteenth century held full sway. Finally we see the most brilliant handling of absolutism in Frederick the Great, as the highest example of what can be achieved with a submissive and admiring people.
Apart from Holland and England, the universal opinion is that only absolutism gives strength to the state and knows how to govern.
In Scandinavia, Denmark becomes an absolutist state out of revulsion against the power of the nobility. In Sweden, on the other hand, the latter maintains itself and in the most depraved form, too, with Charles XI as the sole interruption. There is venality toward the outside and, after the end of Charles XII, complete impotence. In Poland, all “misfortune,” i.e., all political powerlessness, is obviously due to the aristocratic government; it is regarded as a model of the way a state should not be.
Italy has a completely absolutist government, with the exception of Venice, which has every reason to remain quiet. Italy passively bears the War of the Spanish Succession, the War of the 1730’s, and the War of the Austrian Succession, with all their consequences. Countries silently pass over into the hands of other masters (Italy in consequence of the War of the Spanish Succession, etc.).
Spain is internally absolutist under the last Hapsburgs. In part it is already under the pressure of the approaching problem of the succession. But it is powerless against its own tools and elements; the machinery of the state stands still. Under the Bourbons there appear absolutist beginnings of reform and renewed self-assertion in European politics.
The power of the Ottomans is clearly on the wane after the period of the Kuprili (second half of the seventeenth century) and they are incapable of making new attacks upon Europe.
Finally, Russia before and after Peter the Great. Here there is effective an absolutism which suddenly becomes aware of its potential strength and observes a certain system toward Ottomans and Europeans. For the time being the Russian people with its hatred has been silenced completely.
European politics and the supposed balance of power are characterized by a desire for expansion, but this is not yet done in the name of nations, but for the time being only in order to gain more subjects and revenues. From the conflicts of these absolutisms which mistake power for happiness there emerges the idea of a supposed balance of power.
The major achievement is that France is periodically told to keep within its bounds. This is a typically European matter: against a one- sided dominance all the others rise. Europe wants to remain varied.
Negotiations include tariff problems; in fact, here and there they are already of predominant importance.
The rulers in general equate power with good fortune and the peoples at least equate impotence with misfortune, because it tempts powerful neighbors to invade and constantly steal land.
All states in general, however, are still based on authority, even where decisions are actually made by majorities, for these are not yet head- count majorities.
THE GREAT POWER AND INDUSTRY
The first thing everywhere is the desire of the rulers themselves to get money; the merchants and industrialists are supposed to be chiefly tax channels. The Islamitic states of the Middle Ages and the Italian states from the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries laid the groundwork for this; fiscal management has been developed into a science.
Real property gradually ceases to be the sole basis for existence, although it is still enormously predominant and safeguarded. There arise great fortunes and businesses that are independent of it. Trade and commerce gradually lose their rather local character and there begins a greater concern with distant places.
With the oceanic peoples there is added the exploitation of their colonies; these are still regarded entirely as the possession of the mother country. However, it takes a long time for the so-called normal cycle to occur: importation of colonial raw materials and forced consumption of the products of domestic industry by the colonies.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries colonization increases. Great French territories are created in North America and later in India; in addition to this are the Dutch occupations in the East and West Indies. Only England establishes larger English populations in distant areas, because they do not settle in tropical regions and many more Englishmen than Frenchmen emigrate.
Spain fades away, not only because of taxes, the mortmain, the monasteries, and other things, but because of its completely unindustrial mentality in a Europe which was otherwise becoming industrial.
France has its miseries. There rules a king who is terribly wasteful and eager for conquest and devours more than his Colbert can supply him, with the utmost overstraining of the country; and yet he is an envied model for other dynasts. The Colbert system which conceives of industry as an enriching force gains European validity. However, the industrialists are not as yet the ruling class here, nor are they in England.
The French Revolution and its monarchic continuation by Napoleon have pointed up the model of Louis XIV and his system; before and alongside them there existed the imitating states. At the same time, after 1815 the model of England begins to be effective.
Europe becomes the mill for all five continents; industrial and political superiority are regarded as going hand in hand. Through the confiscation of church property, the abolition of mortmain, a huge mass of energy and property as well as the people living there become available to industry.
Machines and mass production gradually rise. The great capital needed for them is accumulated and there is a progressively smaller number of people governing their destiny. Competition and mutual throat-cutting set in.
At the same time, however, with J.-J. Rousseau and the French Revolution ideas of equality and human rights as well as the expression “existence worthy of a human being” begin to have an influence. The greatest political freedom is combined with the largest measure of economic dependence; the middle class declines perceptibly.
An absurdly lamentable addition to this is the fact that the state incurs those well-known debts for politics, wars, and other higher causes and “progress,” thus mortgaging future production with the claim that it was in part providing for it. The assumption is that the future will honor this relationship in perpetuity. The state has learned from the merchants and industrialists how to exploit credit; it defies the nation ever to let it go into bankruptcy.
Alongside all swindlers the state now stands there as swindler-in- chief.
First of all, thought and research (an intellectual situation which is enormously different from today’s, but had its raison d’être and its style): both are still impeded in many ways by the existing forces, especially narrow-minded creeds, and yet in essence they were not at all so restricted as is believed; a case in point is Leibnitz and the Théodicée. This is true if one admits that a thinker’s happiness is not yet absolutely bound up with a vociferous preaching of materialism and that the final reasons for existence are not decided by mere individual reflection, least of all with the right to coerce others.
Actually, the study of nature was, despite the story of Galileo, completely free, even in Catholic areas. In Spain, at any rate, it did not exist. In discoveries, to be sure, the nineteenth century and even the end of the eighteenth enormously outdistanced the two preceding centuries; the latter, however, may have had a greater appreciation of the blessings of scientific pursuits, as seems to be indicated by the large number of amateurs in physics and other sciences. Newton and the law of gravitation were of basic importance. In those times people were more disposed toward leisurely contemplation.
The history of that period is set forth in a great number of fairly well written works; it has a predominantly politico-military character and is colored by the nationality of the historian. In addition, there is a wealth of important and excellent memoirs.
Past historical research still follows ecclesiastical or legal interest; a magnificent collector’s spirit and often a very efficient critical mind are at work here. A very weak spot is research into origins in every sense. And yet even here there is the achievement of a man like Giambattista Vico.
Geography was still in its infancy; despite colonial life the earth was still known infinitely little as compared to present-day knowledge. But there was a good deal of interest at that time; the eighteenth century excelled in the eager reading of travel books. People were still able to master discoveries and knowledge, and in this area, too, had not yet been caught up in specialized research.
“Man” was known as well as we know him.
Universal knowledge was still possible at that time and in practice, too (Leibnitz). Collections and cabinets still contained, unseparated, objects of natural history, historical curios, and even works of art. The criterion of “rarity” was often decisive. Where the advancement of knowledge as such is concerned, present-day scientific methods are infinitely superior, because of the division of labor and the specialization ad infinitum. But today the faculty for all-encompassing presentation is probably found less and less frequently. And those polymaths and amateurs of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries may have derived more joy from their knowledge than today’s specialist does from his.
The secular basis for all scholarship was a teaching position or membership in a corporation which was usually still clerical. For bookdealers the main thing was the very great number of learned libraries, those of corporations as well as of wealthy collectors; the property in both categories was assured and indivisible, safeguarded by entail, among other things. In addition, there was the patronage of princes and important people, with the corresponding dedications.
On the other hand, there was as yet no relationship to an “educated public,” no concessions to its sympathies. There was no “critique of the daily press” to go with such a “public,” and thus no degradation. Patronage and dedications degraded a man less than do today’s concessions to the opinions and tastes of the masses.
Latin continued to be the language of scholarship, with its disadvantages as well as advantages; the latter are stressed especially in Schopenhauer. Think, for example, of the Latin of Francis Bacon. The desire to be effective through the vernacular does not assert itself until Thomasius and Voltaire.
FREE CREATION: POETRY
Here one must start from its premises. A big reading public and a mania for reading either did not yet exist or were in their infancy. Boredom was not yet fought by reading. Thus Don Quixote becomes a ridiculous figure.
In his composition a writer nowhere had in mind his popularity or mass effectiveness, and there was no such thing as yet as a modern publisher who must count on these things. There still was no literary industry. All of Simplizius Simplizissimus is as though written for the author himself, with no thought of any reading public. The reading public was still relatively aristocratic and exclusive. Here, too, there was patronage on the part of important people and select circles. Women did little reading as yet.
Then, too, a writer did not write for a particular moment, a political or social mood of the hour, and thus did not become subject to the transitoriness of today’s productions.
Furthermore, the peoples were not yet being made lustful or terrorized through spiced-up depictions of the imagined life of big cities; these cities did not even exist in the present-day sense. Thus the picaresque novel was still entirely humorous and highly didactic. All of Don Quixote is set on highways and in solitary places.
On the whole, there was no whipping up of the sluggish imaginations of such people as are receptive only to the most adventurous and coarsest things and want to be continually amused or kept in suspense. There was as yet no production of reading fodder, i.e., no consideration for empty and substandard minds.
All in all, this is a truly refined literature, not one that merely pretends to be so; it depicts life in general the way a refined person wants it presented. It portrays people, therefore life among the people. On the other hand, it almost never gives a worm’s eye view of life among the aristocrats themselves, as does present-day literature.
This is the literature from Shakespeare to Voltaire, who still wrote entirely for the upper classes and has been understood and appreciated by the middle classes, too, only by virtue of his malice. There are a large number of books from that period which are still at least widely known, although the interest in them is predominantly historical.
In the field of poetry there is already a decided predominance of the theater in England, France, and Spain, with great, richly developed styles.
On the whole, the seventeenth century and a large part of the eighteenth are still times of strong feeling. Frequently, some general moral reservation is directly emphasized, albeit more often in the case of scabrous material.
Antiquity—essentially Roman antiquity—constitutes the general criterion of the excellent. Whoever does any writing knows and esteems it, even though he may betray it only indirectly, notably through lucidity.
The general advantage of that period over ours lies in the fact that it has claimed the attention of perceptive and appreciative people for one or two centuries, while our time faces a future in which perhaps precious little notice will be taken of anything past.
THE PLASTIC ARTS
The great main difference from present-day art lies in the obviousness of the subjects and in the homogeneous way of thinking of those who commissioned works of art. This way of thinking is still completely independent of any art journals. All information about the artists during their lifetime was conveyed by word of mouth or by letter. Recommendations from court to court and place to place were the decisive thing. The church painters were almost the only ones to become publicly known through their altar paintings and frescoes, and even this happened only in the Catholic countries. Critical articles on art were completely lacking. Only patrons, independent of anything printed, decided about secular commissions. There were no exhibitions whatever before the Paris Salon of the 1760’s with Diderot’s feuilletons. The accumulation of heterogeneous objects and their mutual murder through bedazzlement were still completely unknown. There was as yet no public and no public taste. The princely collections were not accessible to any “public,” but could be used by artists for study.
The subjects were predominantly religious, mythological-allegorical, or those of Dutch realism, especially in genre and landscape painting and allied subjects.
Only in France was there general direction from above and a predominant concentration of art around the court. Other princes were only on a par with wealthy art lovers. But Louis XIV was not even an art lover, because what would he have loved anyway?
To sum up: Nothing but patronage from above, and not by nouveaux riches. That way art was better off than it is with today’s support from below. There were a lot of painters who rose from the poorest classes through the help of higher-ups. Talented individuals were at least as sure of getting ahead as they are today, and were not nearly so much led astray as they are now when an artist has to devise his own subjects. In those times there occurred an ever new creation of actual given conditions.
It creates two great new forms, the oratorio and the opera. Its social significance varies greatly from nation to nation. Here and there it is no longer entirely ecclesiastical and courtly, but is fostered through associations, as yet only of select people. For on the whole it is still very much regarded as a real art.
From the end of the seventeenth century it rises spontaneously and very mightily in Italy and in the North (here especially Handel and Bach), and in the course of the eighteenth century it becomes the highest power in all contemporary art. The stylistic laws of music which were achieved at that time will, at least in broad outline, remain in force as long as our present tonal system.
The Character of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
To what extent can the thesis be supported that the sixteenth century was fanatical, and the seventeenth bigoted? At any rate, there is a spiritual difference between the first and the second phase of the Counter Reformation, between which stands Henry IV. The first period is more popular and lives more among the masses; that is the case especially in France. Then, too, its guiding personalities still have a shade more passion, they still experience the issues directly, while the men of the second period take them over complete and decided, and now administer them mechanically.
For men with a Jesuit upbringing, like Ferdinand II, it was a foregone conclusion that the world must be brought back again by any methods; they never knocked their heads out or wavered about the main goal.
On the other hand, the peoples (the middle-class elements were far less significant than in the sixteenth century) were appreciably more tired and less spontaneous, e.g., the French Huguenots and Catholics. In Germany the great danger did not produce any popular stirring any more, except in Upper Austria and Bohemia. The Thirty Years’ War remained merely a matter of the governments long after the populations had been fleeced, and on the Protestant side most of these governments were small and weak.
Afterwards, Gustavus Adolphus with his vigor is in great contrast to all the others. That is true also of the earlier Upper Austrian Peasants’ War. Catholicism was at an enormous advantage. As long as it was united (but after Urban VIII it no longer was), it also knew what it wanted; in comparison with Protestantism, which was divided and consisted of mere governments, it had an ecumenical mentality or, at least, basis.
But the behavior of Spain remains symptomatic of the change from one century to the other. Here there is actually a difference between fanaticism and bigotry. Philip II stands spontaneously at the head of all Catholic activity; Philip III (overthrow of the Duke of Lerma) and Philip IV (proclamation of the Netherlands armistice) let themselves be drawn into the cause again only out of “fausse honte” [false shame].
A peculiar interlude was Lerma’s period. A pleasure-seeking parvenu has established himself in the fanatical, world-monarchical state of the Spaniards, to the grief of all those working for the cause, apparently with a very bad conscience toward the house of Austria. To be sure, the high Spanish officials act without him, too, on their own account.
The Huguenots Under Henry IV
Henry IV had a much harder time with them than appears at first glance. His optimistic delusion that they would be converted together with him had not been fulfilled, or at any rate, only very slightly. For the 60,000 conversions which did take place were not of much consequence. In this Henry had completely misjudged the Huguenots among the people (middle class and peasants), because he did not know their kind of religiousness despite having lived among them for a long time. But the Huguenot leaders, false and treacherous, stuck to their creed as to a political position; they now remained with it all the more, counting on unrest if the king should die suddenly. Subsequently they and their families all became converted when it was convenient to do so and Richelieu had drawn their teeth. In addition, there was the unreasonableness of the Assemblies which in 1602 and 1607 declared the pope to be the anti-Christ, merely out of theoretical stubbornness. To the parliamentary deputation Henry had said in 1599: “Il faut que les catholiques convertissent les Huguenots par l’exemple de leur bonne vie!” [The Catholics must convert the Huguenots by the example of the good lives they lead!] How long did the crown actually give the Huguenots the money for manning strategic places?
Gomarists and Arminians
Even Calvin himself with his eternal predestination and eternal damnation of the vast majority is a caricature. Then he much more poisoned his life by suspecting and persecuting the presumably or certainly damned than he transfigured it by guiding the elect. This had to be so and must necessarily repeat itself with all orthodox Calvinist believers in predestination in a cultural epoch which is superior to them through its imagination and irritates them.
As long as there was armed combat in the Netherlands and the theologians receded to the second and third lines, Calvinist doctrine remained inactive. But when peaceful times came and the clergy (to the great detriment of their parties) were able to regain their voices in France, the Netherlands, and especially Scotland, they started operating with predestination again. Damnation was even much more strongly emphasized here than by the Catholics. After all, Calvin assures only the tiniest fraction even of his own adherents.
Now the doctrine penetrates the masses in Scotland and the Netherlands. This was incomparably more disagreeable than had been the debates of the Constantinople shopkeepers over the second person of the Deity in Chrysostom’s times.
Yet in the Dutch cities all the educated and more refined people clearly turned away from the abominable doctrine represented by the Gomarists and toward the far milder doctrine of the Arminians. This showed the Gomarists what people basically took them for; at best they were regarded by the educated Netherlanders as isolated zealots. This made them more furious; they incited the masses more and more, and Maurice came and reaped the advantage for himself.
Oldenbarneveldt, as leader of the Estates party, desired that the religion of the individual provinces not be decided by the religion of the majority in each province and that the particular mercenary troops of the individual provinces not eo ipso be under the command of the stadholder as commander-in-chief of the whole nation. Maurice of Orange, the stadholder-general, as the alleged “representative of the whole nation,” with designs on a monarchy of his own, allies himself with an aggressive religious party, the very same Gomarists, which claims to represent the religion of the whole state against the religions of the provinces. He manages to rescind the sovereignty and arming of the provinces and to destroy the most important opposing statesmen, such as Oldenbarneveldt, while at Dordrecht a council of the vehement religious party, a veritable parody of Trent, sharpens the dogma.
Powers and Society in Europe Before the Thirty Years’ War
The three powers which had defended themselves against Spain in world-historic struggle were the following:
France. It was highly problematical how long beyond Henry IV’s lifetime it would be able to maintain an independent policy.
England. It was capable of remaining neutral in a great new contest.
Holland. It alone would have to participate on the Protestant side if war broke out again. On the seas its opposition to Spain had already become a colossal business.
The North was still dormant. Did anyone at the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War have any inkling of the impending world position of Sweden?
Only one thing was to be foreseen with certainty: when war among the political and religious adversaries began, Germany would be the object and the chief battleground.
If one examines the Catholic-Spanish forces one by one, they seem scarcely adequate for a great contest. Neither in strength of inner impetus nor in resources would they have been at all equal to the opposition if the latter had stuck together. But there, too, the inner impetus had been extinguished, and there was no unity.
A branch of the Hapsburg dynasty, allied with many Catholic individual interests and the house of Bavaria, then finds itself strong enough to risk the combat.
To what extent were the Protestant countries principally dominated by middle-class culture and outlook, the Catholic countries mainly by aristocratic culture and mentality? The difference between the two was not as great as it seems to have been.
The seventeenth century is substantially aristocratic on the Protestant side, too—more so than the period 1500–1550 had been.
The more middle-class character of the sixteenth century had given way before a reaction of the privileged. Italian private life, in particular, had been Hispanicized. The middle class existed everywhere, but no longer with a culture of its own; it now adopted modes of living and ways of thinking more from the upper classes. Even in Holland the life of the upper classes was much more aristocratic than is believed.
Italy in the Seventeenth Century
Italy was Hispanicized and immobilized. Its sterility manifested itself in its political death and intellectual decline (the latter, however, must be taken with a grain of salt). Economically it decayed while its needs increased. Sismondi (History of the Italian Republics in the Middle Ages) breaks out in especially great lamentations over the general practice of married women having a lover (cicisbeo). This practice had emanated from the court and come into being as a contrast to Spanish jealousy; it was a reaction to it. In the end, no one any longer knew in any respected Italian family whose son, father, or brother he was. At the same time, it was an excellent remedy for the general depression of spirits.
But Hispanicization also took the guise of “noble leisure.” The bankers and businessmen invested their fortunes in real property with entail (I am not shedding any tears over the banking houses that went out of business). People generally were doomed to become idle—the earlier ones because they were arrogant, those born later because they could do nothing about it. For the latter, the cicisbeo practice came to be their chief amusement.
Two rules were in force here: No lady may appear in public unescorted; no man may escort his wife. Morals had been no better before this, but only now was adultery declared harmless. (Who said so, anyway?) For the most part, incidentally, this practice was innocuously boring. To what extent did the practice spread to the people? Sismondi says: “Ces moeurs nouvelles … imitées par la masse entière du peuple” [These new customs … imitated by the entire mass of the people].
In any case, the ruin of commerce was caused by the disappearance of the industrialists and the withdrawal of capital. On top of this, Hispanicized Italy was steered in this direction by the monopolies and the absurd trade taxes which smacked of Alcavala.
Something else that can be traced back to Spanish influence was the increase of pomp as a matter of social position, at the expense of real needs and the comforts of life. People began to live purely for display.
This is true also of titles and ceremony, beginning with the wrangles over precedence at the courts (Este, Medici, Savoy, Farnese, and others), which, after all, were all in the pockets of Spain or France, and of the cardinals who only now (1630) became Eminences. This reached so far down that people wound up addressing their cobblers in writing as “molto illustre” [very illustrious]. Everyone simply became more and more discontented about the titles that were still denied him.
The father of a family, who had originally been married off without his own consent, was not honored by his own (or other men’s) children. Half of his brothers and sisters were in convents, the other half were enjoying free board at his table. He was considered only the administrator of the family estate, while all the others were secretly bent on their own pleasure. He could no longer augment the property; on the contrary, it was decreasing through taxes, misfortune, and extravagance. (? Then there would long since have been nothing left!) He could neither mortgage nor sell it; creditors could reach only his income, not his property. (Am I not right, citoyen Sismondi? Everything should have got into the hands of the speculators even then. For it would not have got into the hands of the peasants.)
“Pour chaque besoin imprévu il prenait sur le fonds déstiné à la culture” [For each unforeseen need he drew upon the funds earmarked for farming], which he should have spared; “il ruinait ses terres, parce qu’ il n’avait pas droit de les vendre” [he ruined his lands because he had no right to sell them]; the tenants suffered along with him.
Added to this were the indolent or venal judiciary, the secret enemies and informers, the tribunaux arbitraires [arbitrary tribunals].
People let themselves go and had as much fun as they could.
This description of “Hispanicized” life actually applies also to most other European peoples of the time.
Yet Italy lived on in its fashion without declining further. Sismondi is the mouthpiece of utilitarianism. The race did not degenerate.
To be sure, in those days people were a long way from the present- day utilization of manpower and of the earth. Periods of so-called lying fallow, materially speaking, have a value of their own.
(I) He is the great accelerator of France’s later political development, for good as well as for bad.
Alone with his idea of the state, which he completely identifies with his person, he confronts a world of egoism.
He must constantly control himself in order to employ the methods necessary to deal with and subdue this mountain of malice. In this he is aided by his satisfaction in the toppling of every single traitor. He is absolutely indifferent to morality in his methods. If he catches the nobility fighting duels, so much the better, as far as he is concerned.
His regal manner becomes manifest through the splendor of Richelieu Castle, through the city of Richelieu, through his domination, which seemed natural to him, of a literature which has become lacking in purpose, which he severs from its “Air de Spadassin” (Les Grotesques) and prepares for its future reign.
As for his relationship with the royal house, the latter has a deadly hatred for him, yet he cannot and will not do without it or replace it. He works only for people who would like to have him poisoned or hanged, i.e., for the idea of which possibly only these people or their successors will be the bearers. He is in an infinitely less favorable position than Henry IV, who was a king and commander in battle. But Richelieu is merely the most hated of all ministers and is allowed to be present at military campaigns only because without him everything would be disjointed.
He has to be friendly at all times to Gaston, the brother of Louis XIII, the heir presumptive to the throne or possible regent for Louis XIV if the king should die soon, and he must take all his pater peccavi’s [Father, I have sinned] as cash payment, although he knows what Gaston would do with him if he became king. He resigned himself early to Gaston’s utter infamy as well as the meanness of the two queens. He does not waste any energy on moral indignation, but goes on ruling.
The king belongs to him only in the sense that he distrusts others even more than he distrusts Richelieu and that Richelieu supplies him with pocket money. Louis XIII gradually gets the feeling that Spain and high treason against him are one and the same thing. The constant danger to Richelieu lies only in the fact that the king feels himself over shadowed by him and must confess to Richelieu time and again that he has wanted to dismiss him.
(II) Let us once more survey the thoroughly rotten situation out of which Richelieu had to pull France, indeed, Europe.
His opponent was Spanish-Hapsburg politics which was, at the same time, a way of thinking, Catholic propaganda, and as such carried its compass within itself, while the French courtiers and leaders had increasingly become separate appendages to this Spain.
Richelieu was obliged to begin by breaking one single element of French strength which was drifting along between these storms, that is, by subduing the Huguenots. It was his intention that they should henceforth be treated decently, but should no longer form a state within the state.
From then on Richelieu was stamped as a good Catholic to the extent that now the French clergy was allowed to support him without reservation; several orders sought his protection; the Jesuits (at least the French ones, for those in Hapsburg lands thought more along Hapsburg lines, something that was winked at in the Gesὺ in Rome) took his side. Urban VIII was able to enter into an alliance with him; he called him to Italy, was privy to the Swedish-French alliance, gave no money at Wallenstein’s reactivation, and at Gustavus Adolphus’s death spoke of him in edifying terms.
But in domestic politics Richelieu had to defend by the most fearful means the welfare and the independence of France against those who ought to have been the born protectors of the state. Thus France became subject to general pressure, and Richelieu became “le dictateur du désespoir” [the dictator of despair].
Where independent action might still want to assert itself, it did so in a manner harmful to the community, e.g., in the case of the parliaments which wanted to debate Richelieu’s just decisions. If Richelieu had wanted to keep France free of strife, he could actually have done so only by taking the attitude “je mourrai en la peine ou je réduirai ce royaume au gouvernement d’Espagne” [I will die in agony or I will reduce this kingdom to the condition of the government of Spain]. For his king he procured pocket money, but he also lectured him, as for example after the capture of La Rochelle.
When the German war continued, a war from which the king would never have found a way out without Richelieu, he had to keep his minister.
(III) In France the spirit of the nation or the state is personified more than in other nations. It does not always have to be the person of the king; Joan of Arc, e.g., was the embodied spirit of the nation. In Richelieu we have the embodiment of a certain idea of the state—it is the idea since then approved of by France and almost all of modern Europe—at a moment when one may hardly ask how things would have turned out without him.
For this it took a man who, completely against his own safety and comfort, exercised a tremendous will which appears to have been stronger than he himself.
Richelieu’s methods were utterly unscrupulous. He was sure of his tools only if he never faltered. Typical of his tools was tricky Père Joseph. He had his spies everywhere, even in the Val de Grâce. He defended the good of his country against those who should have been its guardians. But he was not able to proceed nearly as systematically as his memoirs would have one believe.
Richelieu enforced a system of universal obedience. Any independence, inherited from earlier times, expressed itself only harmfully; this includes the parliaments which knew nothing about affairs of state. For Richelieu the purpose of the state takes precedence over everything, unaffected by compassion or favoritism. Failure to punish appears to him to be the greatest crime against the public welfare. The state must neither forget nor forgive. For political crimes the mere probability of guilt is sufficient.
Richelieu stands alone with his idea of the state. He constantly has to control himself in the face of scoundrels; he beats people down one by one and does not care about the methods: he catches the nobles dueling. He works for people who would like to hang him. He is no king, but only a hated minister. He acquiesces in Gaston’s explanations and the wretchedness of the two queens.
He has no sunny disposition, like Henry IV. He wins no hearts, but conquers people by force only. He is not a king, but he is more than a king, namely, the receptacle of the conception of state which without him would perish because of the dereliction of duty on the part of all those who ought to be its promulgators, but instead commit treason against it.
The thing that especially ennobles Richelieu and makes him invulnerable in history is the constant presence of mortal danger. This he has in common with Henry IV.
On Germany’s Situation Before the Thirty Years’ War
The German Empire was a community whose parts had just enough connection with, and influence upon, one another to arouse the utmost mutual indignation, but not enough to subdue one another easily. Basically, all these elements tended to diverge and desired sovereignty; but then each did try to assert a will of its own through separate alliances with one another and with foreign countries.
The entire period of Charles V had been spent in taking advantage of the Reformation either to weaken the emperor and the Empire to the utmost or to get the central power into other hands.
In our unenlightened judgment it would have been the most desirable thing for people to leave one another alone. However, people so much enjoy forcing their will upon other people, and the religious mentality of all factions is so bent on compulsion that this would have been inconceivable.
Through the confiscation of church property and entire ecclesiastical sovereignties all the wrangling had the character of offended and contentious jura quaesita [vain quest for rights]; next to and above the issue of creed everywhere there was a material and political issue.
To this must be added the insufficiency of the peace settlements of Passau and Augsburg, in fact, of any conceivable treaty. Certain struggles may be declared at a standstill for a while because of exhaustion, but nevertheless their continuation will be quite inevitable, until they end with the decisive victory of one party or the dead exhaustion of both, as happened in this case. It is fruitless to grumble that the opposition is still in existence.
The Swedes in Germany
It is correct that at first glance German Protestantism seems to have been saved only by the appearance of the Swedes; to be sure, one has to put up with the subsequent conduct of Sweden, its armies, and other things. (The Swedes came; Protestantism lived on. Now the two things seem to be causally inseparable.)
However, the question is permissible whether German Protestantism would not have been helped without this horrible remedy, too. (Any miserable government had long ago become accustomed to seeking foreign intervention for whatever cause.)
In the first place, it is scandalous for a creed, no matter whether it is Catholic or Protestant, to place its salvation above the integrity of the nation. Thus Germany could be torn to shreds for metaphysical reasons. If one approves of such behavior, one must also approve of the fact that the popes led the German princes to weaken the Empire.
Secondly, no German government or faction helped to call Gustavus Adolphus; it was, rather, foreign countries—Richelieu and his followers, Holland, to a slight extent England as well. But it was Gustavus Adolphus himself who had the strongest desire to force himself on Germany. The Duke of Pomerania was immediately horrified at his arrival.
Well, if one imagines things without him:
Either Wallenstein would have remained at the helm and asserted his command over North Germany in his own spirit as we know it, involving non-observance of the Edict of Restitution, parity, even a coup d’état which would easily have been possible for him because of his army’s indifference to creed; or, as actually happened, after Wallenstein’s dismissal his army, too, would have been greatly curtailed, i.e., made incapable of continuing to enforce the Edict of Restitution even if it had wanted to.
And finally: even assuming a completely tenacious imperial army and government, would it not have been better and more desirable for the whole future if the North German people had at least done what the Upper Austrians did with infinitely slighter prospects, namely, fight a national fight for their religion?
But people were not prepared for this, because in the sixteenth century the Reformation had been accomplished so very easily, with people actually receiving it as a gift. In Magdeburg some real desperation finally made an appearance.
Because of that, people now had to submit to a foreign king who stepped on imperial soil, intending to deprive the Empire of the entire Baltic coast. Scandinavia desired a slice of Germany. Christian IV, at least, was still a German prince, on account of Holstein, when he directed his greed at Hanseatic cities and ecclesiastical lands and then waged war in Germany as the head of the Lower Saxon Circle. Gustavus Adolphus had no connections whatever with Germany.
The religious situation here was as follows:
If Ferdinand II had quite forcibly and cruelly made all of Northern Germany Catholic only about as far as the Elbe, but had left the rest unmolested, Gustavus Adolphus would have stayed at home. If, on the other hand, a Protestant emperor, or a Wallenstein turned indifferent to creed, had subjugated, or wanted to subjugate, the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, Gustavus Adolphus would have set out against him.
The Swedes, no less than the French, simply could not bear to see German imperial power gain strength in any way.
On Wallenstein’s End
The main excuse that he wanted to avoid war with France, in which the Empire was to become involved for Spain’s sake, is an empty and worthless one, for the French were already inside the Empire, and, as long as the war continued, France probably would interfere anyway.
Then, too, there are his inordinate desires. Ferdinand II was supposed to look on while Wallenstein, with imperial resources, established within the Empire a big hostile state which he wanted to set up for himself with the aid of parity and toleration.
Now there set in the accidental development of the crisis because of the desire of the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Spain to lead German troops from Milan to the Netherlands through the Empire. To be sure, Spain wanted not only the Netherlands, but also its military road which the French had broken through in places. But if Wallenstein was against it, this was surely not due to abstract enthusiasm for the integrity of the Empire, but because he himself would have liked to have the Palatinate, among other things. Here he pitted his will against that of Spain, which had previously, including in 1632, helped to boost him. At the same time, he let the League’s interests in South Germany suffer bitter distress, so that, e.g., Regensburg became Swedish in November of 1633, and he was stationed in the emperor’s own land rather than outside. He had demonstrable immediate designs on the crown of Bohemia, with the aid of France—and for his reluctance to fight against this same France he is given so much credit. Finally, because of the sentiment in favor of the Infante he threatens to “abdicate,” i.e., he starts agitation among his officers, and this is inevitably the beginning of the contest between the emperor and the general for the army. Then comes the 12th of February, 1634, at Pilsen, the banquet and the signing of the declaration by his lieutenants; the rest is the consequence of the latter.
For Ferdinand II it is simply a matter of outbidding Wallenstein with the generals, or at least of reassuring them as to their credit and other things. The two manifestoes contain nothing about an assassination, although the second one does mention qualified high treason. In addition, there was Piccolomini’s orally transmitted instruction to Butler to bring in Wallenstein alive or dead. When at the publication of the second manifesto not a soldier stirred in Prague, it was shown how empty the power of such a condottiere is at bottom. Wallenstein’s final machinations with Bernhard as well as his movement toward Eger were mere attempts to save himself. He no longer would have brought the Swedes an appreciable number of men.
If Ferdinand had let him have his own way and had lost all his crowns in the process, he would have reaped, by way of thanks, the mocking laughter of half the world.
Wallenstein’s assassination was of great benefit to the emperor. He suddenly became the master of his army which was now an imperial army, and remained so in the future. Then, too, Ferdinand got rid of a financial obligation to Wallenstein which he would hardly ever have met after a peace. The military leaders, with their prospects of Wallenstein’s estates and more, given the alternative of betraying Ferdinand or Wallenstein, were able to betray the latter with more safety and fewer pangs of conscience. Not one foreign cabinet accused Ferdinand of a wicked deed or defended Wallenstein against the charge of treason.
Does the fondness for Wallenstein, apart from Schiller, stem from Friedrich Förster? (Later addition: No, apart from the hatred for Ferdinand it has a general reason. Wallenstein, like Magdeburg in 1631, had become a trump card in the game of the Protestant faction.)
Why did the electorates of Saxony and Brandenburg not want to listen to him in the autumn of 1633? Was it perhaps because they already knew too much and because Ferdinand II, in the final analysis, was more agreeable to them than this Wallenstein?
The Great Elector
He is the great-grandfather of Frederick the Great and a sixth- generation ancestor of Emperor William. The subsequent growth of Prussian power dazzles our evaluation of its beginnings.
His main characteristic, similar, perhaps, to that of his great-grandson Frederick the Great, is his hardness of soul, a special characteristic of rulers, which cannot be replaced by mere majority decisions of chambers or assemblies chosen by mass democracies.
England Before the First Revolution
The crown was not by any means so much the only support of the nation as it was in France. Its insular location was still more important to it. Unity was never disturbed through the issuing of provinces to branches of the royal house as hereditary individual fiefs to the extent that it was in France. Thus even the greatest hostility within the house of Plantagenet was not capable of splitting the kingdom apart. There are no princes of the blood, no secondary dynasties with secular possessions ruling individual regions, let alone any with the permanent custom of conspiracy with foreign countries. To be sure, from time to time there are foreign alliances. The Plantagenets and Tudors have died out, the Stuart line has almost run out. There are no princes of the blood, and certainly no mutinous ones.
In comparison with the French Estates General, Parliament has the advantage of periodicity which is never interrupted for long, and of the compatibility of the two houses because they are aware of their mutual interests. The Lords do not declare the commoners to be beneath contempt, as did the French nobles with the Third Estate at the Estates General of 1614. Rather, the theory of the lower house that it should be exalted grew beyond the control of the upper house. The English Parliament also possesses the advantage of an old, firmly rooted tradition and conception in people’s minds according to which the crown and the people are in a contractual relationship to each other.
England had not been unified and saved through the power of individual princes, as had repeatedly happened in France. Except for a brief period in the age of Elizabeth, it had not been obliged to stand in the breach against the Hapsburgs on behalf of all Europe; thus there had been no need for it to get accustomed internally to situations that were always violent. The middle class had long since developed more than it had done in France, although with a lesser culture; it had Protestantism within itself.
The Puritan mentality, with its only really justified protest, that against the royal supremacy, was one that pressed onward and upward and was inevitably republican in its consequences. Even with the crown acting quite correctly it would have ventured to make its bid for control, out of its exalted view of its own importance. It cannot bear to see or tolerate alongside itself anything at all that is different from it. All such things it calls idolatry and presses for their destruction. Added to this was the horrible arrogance of belonging to the “elect.” It is this party, rather than the Anglican-royalist and Arminian, that works for the downfall of Catholicism in England, and in this quite natural way the kings are driven to protect it. This was foreseeable, however, and the royal protection of the Catholics later became the main leverage for the overthrow of the crown. This party is not an element with which a clever ruler could have governed as with an “available force.” Royalty was not to its taste because it had not emanated from it. Even the Lollards once said that populares [commoners] were allowed to corrigere [straighten out] a prince who neglected his duties.
The true core and main moving force of this party is the Independent mind which subsequently throws aside its previous guises (Presbyterianism, etc.) with a few vigorous motions.
The parliaments under the Tudors had put up with anything, and the genuine parliamentary tradition had been cut off. But now it is not only resuscitated, but puts forth new growth. Think of the decisions of 1621.
Parliamentary method had never been forgotten, because it had lived on in smaller spheres (the administration of shires and cities, etc.); added to this was the Puritan element which now supplied will and strength.
English Royalty and Its Task
Under the first Stuart ruler the parliamentary system again raises its head and seeks to set up its boundary posts as far inside the region of royal power as possible. But it is able to do this only because it has allied itself, in large measure even become identical, with a religious-moral view of life which long ago had become powerful and at the same time has increasingly turned into a sect; this is Puritanism. But the crown had to represent the entire people and afford equal protection to all, including the Catholics, who were no longer a menace in England and existed as an excessive majority only in Ireland; but it was in England that the Puritan screams about idolatry were the loudest. Moreover, the crown had to protect the remnants of popular enjoyment and fun still left from Elizabeth and her Poor Laws (the legislation relating to paupers and mendicants), as well as the drama (Shakespeare, died 1616; period of Massinger, Beaumont, Ben Jonson), and, in general, all of higher secular culture, including the world of Francis Bacon’s thought (ousted 1621, died 1626).
For Puritanism, at bottom, wanted to tolerate only itself and what issued from it. Everything else was “idolatry.” But the crown did not derive from it, and Puritanism more or less consciously sought its downfall through litigation.
Subsequent English historical thought, to be sure, is not interested merely in rights, but asks: “Can you govern England?” The answer is: “Yes, indeed, and Scotland and Ireland, too.” And they tried it with the full arrogance of the elect and the awakened, until about 1644 they became aware that the helm had actually been seized by a most violent faction within them and by a powerful individual within this faction.
The decisive moment came in 1625 when parliament denied the new, as yet completely inactive, king tonnage and poundage, i.e., the resources for any kind of government.
It became the doctrine of the parliamentary party that everything that any parliament had ever wrung from the crown must become the permanent law of the state.
(I) How would things have happened after 1645 without Cromwell? To be sure, the Presbyterians and the classes of the people who needed peace would have sought to make a peace with Charles I. However, the question is whether they would have had a chance to do this (instead of the Independents, would not others have seized the power?), because with the exhaustion of the “good people,” the revolutionaries, the “Jacobins,” who had got the floor through these same good people, would have seized control. Because of the fact that Cromwell represented them and at the same time controlled them he is a sauveur [deliverer], after all.
(II) In 1648 Cromwell becomes a sauveur against anarchy which, to be sure, would not have become dangerous without his actions. (? I have my doubts again; with the exhaustion of Presbyterianism a destructive kind of radicalism would have had a chance if Cromwell and the army had not been there.) He presently brings the Levelers to their senses with his sabers, and soon he thunders the loquacious Presbyterians to the ground through his enthusiasts.
(III) Why did Cromwell and the Independents alone hit it off so well together?
This anarchic sort of people inconvenienced him the least. They were communities which rise like water bubbles from a boiling pot and can vanish again, too. In that way he got rid of the entire previous personnel of the Revolution, those Puritan and Presbyterian notables who had been thinking that things would not work without them.
Only in the Independents did he find that mixture of fanatics whom he could take in and scoundrels whom he could make use of. Only with the Independents was he able to be the religious leader as well; only here was he able to appeal to inspiration at all times and to choose his own texts for his sermons before battles and other great moments. The arrogance of the Independents toward all other people and the army was enormous. Of course, this could not go on forever, and it had to be Cromwell’s further task to make out of the Independent army one loyal to him personally.
(IV) It is in England’s urgent interest to think of him as great, mythical, portentous, for it is too humiliating when the real Cromwell is recognized, a man who spoils for the other English parties their politico-liberal attitude and their ephemeral sectarian nuances of creed, and who with his army simply puts the English Revolution in his pocket as he goes. Thereupon they make out of him not only one of the most gifted Englishmen (for he was that), but a genius of the highest rank and a national hero.
There are people who are born rulers, and he was one. But it is a nice question whether a nation that has produced such a man should abandon itself to a special feeling of exultation. His authority consists of two elements, his greatness and the baseness of the vast majority of those who obeyed him.
The modern appraisers of Cromwell can be classified as follows: There are those who believe that they serve the English view, and even the nation, best if they elevate the whole phenomenon to unmeasured heights; then it is easy for them to proscribe as pedantry the mention of, or emphasis on, “individual shortcomings.” Once this kind of opinion gets in full stride and, through the press and other media, takes hold of large semi-educated and ignorant parts of the population, blind jubilation can take possession of the people, as with Victor Hugo’s corpse.
There are those who regard Cromwell as a basically pious spirit, albeit one afflicted with great weaknesses, and all in all a religious, or at least pietistic, tool of God.
There are those who have at certain moments clearly recognized in him the hypocrite and crown hunter and have taken a general dislike to him. They consider him an out-and-out dissembler. But since they do not deny his great talents and actual lordship, in their accounting the English nation of the time must appear all the more stupid and cowardly.
Then there are those who explain him analogously to the way Mohammed is explained: From an earlier, more or less fanatical period and accustomed reverence a general style is left. In the meantime, the profession of ruler has highly developed all the specific endowments required for it, primarily a lucid intellect which necessarily and inevitably fights pious narrowness. In the course of successes there then develops a kind of secondary piety and honesty which, to be sure, deems the most horrible blows at the heads of others permissible. Then, too, Mohammed’s devotional character is less offensive than that of Cromwell the dictator in whose mouth the Puritan expressions sound truly scandalous and yet seem comical. Caesar did not have to preach to his soldiers, although he at least was Pontifex Maximus.
But at bottom it is true that Cromwell is terrible, in this respect: he destroys what is in his way or could some day stand in his way, from Charles I to the Irishmen of Drogheda and Wexford.
(V) The difficulty in our evaluation of Cromwell is this: Though in theory we have a very high opinion of power politicians (of whom Cromwell was one), in fact they often seem to us inadequate. For we do not see the many individual elements of power as well as of resistance which they have to take into account, but give rein to our armchair politician’s views, composed of imagination and impatience.
Cromwell, who, above all, wanted to rule and had to rule, tried to make this clear to the nation in a great variety of ways.
His real weak point was that everything inevitably had to stand and fall on his personality and that he could never seriously think of being succeeded by his family. He was aware of all who were waiting for his death, and death by assassination could occur at any moment. In such a mood he continued to rule at home and abroad, powerfully and often magnificently. The English state under him was more powerful than ever before and for a long time afterwards.
One of the strongest ideas in people’s minds at that time was that valid taxes could be voted only by a parliament.
But Cromwell’s basis still was his army which he seems to have maintained at full numerical strength despite all periods of peace. And between this army and any kind of parliament there was an inevitable antagonism.
Had he lived longer he would probably have been obliged to use this army for foreign wars, presumably in the spirit of a Protestant- Independent crusade. For to dismiss it or to keep fattening an inactive army in England was equally dangerous. They would probably have set out against the “idolators,” i.e., gone to war and committed depredations and all sorts of acts of violence against Catholic peoples. At any rate, Cromwell’s threat concerning the pope betrays a thought of this kind.
It is questionable whether Cromwell, as Protector with the civil power, would have waged such wars in person or have left them to admirals or generals. Toward the Catholics still in England he was and remained cruel and would not tolerate any of them in the country. His was a regime which, to be sure, for long years dealt daily and deadly insult to the convictions and especially the tastes of innumerable people, but a regime under which people were able to live and engage in business.
The Fronde and the French Aristocracy
In France the princes of the blood, the bigwigs, and all the other nobles after the Middle Ages were incapable of forming a true aristocracy.
The crown, which long ago achieved a de facto absolutism (the fight with England had made French royalty a war royalty), either is strong enough to keep everyone in check or to make them take what it gives them, or it is weak, and then everything breaks down into egoistic factions. No organic form for a permanent, legal counterbalance to royal absolutism has ever been able to take shape. Out of turbulence again and again the power of the crown rises to the top, and again everyone eats at its table.
The Fronde was noteworthy as the last clear occasion for the nobles to show themselves capable of forming a true political aristocracy which would have become a lasting force for legal freedom, a genuine organ in the life of the state. Independence here never manifested itself as law, but as the privilege of a caste and prerogative of the individual.
However, instead of true political effectiveness as a group, every individual only wanted to create or preserve “importance” for himself. The relationship of the Fronde to the Paris parlement and especially to the peuple was a ruthless or scurrilous one. Under intelligent leadership the whole movement could have used the favoring wind which undeniably was blowing over from the English Revolution.
The Fronde and the Parlement of Paris
Any truly legal shaping of public affairs was hardly conceivable in those days. Between ruthless seigneurs and a dangerous city mob there was maintained the highly dubious legality of an authority like the parlement of Paris. Even if it was allied with all provincial parliaments and in all of France the noblesse de robe behaved blamelessly and harmoniously, it nevertheless was only one class against which all the others would have conspired. And it was a curious class to rule, too, what with its filling of offices through purchase and inheritance.
The critical moment is January, 1649, when the parliaments called in the seigneurs, who, after all, were well enough known! With the seigneurs they inevitably opened the door to the old Spanish conspiracy against the French state as such.
From that point on the entire parliamentary system along with the whole question of relief of the people is only an appendage to the struggles of the mighty, in which, oddly enough, the “people,” too, take an interest, for or against. No matter how loudly Condé, e.g., may in all phases of the Fronde voice his naive contempt for parlement and Parisians, the people and the parlement nevertheless help to demand his release.
Although in the 1640’s the mere threatening of parliamentary councilors had caused great outbreaks, afterwards any act of violence could take place with impunity. Especially in 1651 the parlement was egged on to the most extreme and most foolish decisions only in the interest of the seigneurs. It persistently joined in the clamor that Mazarin must never be allowed inside the country again.
Condé had become so blindly set in his arrogance and his contempt of Mazarin that gradually whatever vestiges of royalism were still within Frenchmen had to turn against him.
French royalism of the time is described thus (in Hiob Ludolf, Schaubühne der Welt, Frankfurt, 1713, III, 395): “For this praise must be given to the French: whether their king may do them good or harm, act justly or unjustly, they still stick by him and always speak well of him.”
A very base thing was the last union of Condé, in the spring of 1652, with Gaston, the uncle of Louis XIV, who brought with him the Duke of Lorraine.
In the affairs of the Faubourg St. Antoine, Gaston’s daughter, Princess de Montpensier, helped to save Condé, and the parlement ruined itself for all time by “conferring” upon the two conspirators (who were now openly allied with Spain) the two highest powers of the state—and this in the face of the king who had attained his majority. All this was done only out of rage against “le Mazarin,” the foreigner, the extortionist, the tyrant, without their stopping to realize that they would hardly have acted better toward any possessor of the supreme state power.
And now there ensued what always happens at some time in unpredictable phases of a movement: the peace-loving elements gained strength.
Later, in February, 1653, when Condé was a fugitive, the royal uncle Gaston was semi-pardoned, and Retz was in prison, Mazarin was able to move into Paris again and manage a satiated despotism without any longer having to speak politely to the seigneurs.
(I) After the terrorism of Richelieu who had had at his side an adult and, at least later, completely docile king, ruling was difficult for the female regent of a five-year-old child and for a minister, no matter who he might be. And in the beginning Anne of Austria, importuned from all sides, resisted Mazarin and sought to make shift with the Bishop of Beauvais. Her background is a blind predilection for her homeland, and as recently as 1637 she had carried on a dangerous correspondence. Richelieu, however, had virtually bequeathed Mazarin to the dynasty by using him for the most difficult and secret matters. Just as people would not have known how to carry on without Richelieu, now they cannot get along without Mazarin.
(II) This remark reveals the main traits of his personality: “Je ne suis pas esclave de ma parole” [I am not a slave to my word]; this also goes for all other active participants at that time. No matter how things stood: in the Fronde, Mazarin was the standard-bearer of the French state’s strength and independence of Spain. He could not be reached by bribes from the outside, like the Russian ministers of the eighteenth century, if only because he had learned how to make France tributary directly to himself. And for the French he has that abysmal, at times scarcely concealed, contempt which in his dealings with every person makes him ask only about his price and confiscate lampoons in order to have them sold at a high price. To be sure, his opponents can apparently not be bought—but only for as long as ambition and vanity are involved. It was Mazarin’s task to find the moment at which an individual was to be had. With the individuals whom he wanted to use, he asked, in addition to their price, about their happiness, their luck—e.g., in the case of a general: “Est-il heureux?” [Is he happy?].
Styles of Life and Art Around 1650
The peoples with strong feeling are the Romanic ones and the Catholics. The Hollanders are the realists and the bourgeois. England does not count in this period, and Germany has, for the time being, salvaged only its scholarship from the Thirty Years’ War.
The emotional peoples: Their style of life and fashion still follows the Spanish prototype, even in the higher Catholic circles of Germany and especially at the imperial court.
Art and literature are shaped by the Catholic church, the old Roman culture (still without an idea of the Greek); literature is also partially influenced by Spanish literature, which was being widely translated (Corneille’s Cid).
The baroque style of the three arts is derived from Michelangelo in architecture, in sculpture and painting mostly from Correggio and Titian, through the Caracci family. To what extent is it realistic? Its main goal is the great, stately effect. This is the time of Bernini and Pietro da Cortona, of Rubens, Van Dyck, and their school, of Velázquez and Murillo. In this art there is life and coloring, with relatively little attention to the deepest aspects of the subjects.
For the less stirring moods, we may mention, first of all, elegiac themes, pastorales, and landscapes, then realistic secondary genres. Here, too, there are Bambocciads and the like.
Lyric poetry is heroic-pastoral and lyric-elegiac. In Italy and Spain there is artificial lyric poetry. Representative of those two forms of poetry are Marino’s Adone, Tasso’s successors, Chapelain. In addition, epistolary literature and satire are practiced. As for the drama, in France it is either heroic or comic, in Italy only comic or non-existent, in Spain by turns sacred, heroic-tragic, intrigue, comedy.
Finally, in Italy the opera has its start and is transplanted to all the courts; this is the beginning of the modern stature of music generally.
The realistic and bourgeois peoples: They, too, express themselves through knowledge and feeling, and in this are indebted to antiquity and the Romanic peoples. But side by side with this there prevails Dutch realism in genre painting and the elegiac reaction in landscape painting.
Moreover, an obeisance to the sacred element is made in the form of Biblical painting, which, of course, was in the hands of Rembrandt and his school.
The highest level in the free treatment of Biblical material is represented by Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Sweden Under King Charles X Gustavus
Vivitur ex raptu [people live on stolen goods]. The inner restlessness of a nation brutalized by great successes coincides with a king from a new family who is already known to the nation as a bold general and now acquires unlimited finances. A mere domestic government is hardly conceivable with someone like Charles Gustavus. Then, too, Sweden’s artificial hegemony over its outlying lands could best be maintained fataliter [by destruction], by the conquest of further outlying lands. All of Sweden’s neighbors considered themselves at an unfair disadvantage because of extorted peace treaties. Sweden thought it would be most useful to keep powder-smoke constantly under its neighbors’ noses.
Of these neighbors, the non-Swedish Scandinavians, namely the Danes and Norwegians, were actually the most hated. If these had been able to unite themselves with the Swedes right at the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War, a very large part of Germany probably would have become their permanent booty.
The “Pyrrhus of the North” was in tune with his men in their boldness and a rapidity of movement which seems adventurous. Moreover, he appears to have been no drunkard, but rather constantly capable of diplomatic duties. At a decisive moment he was able to intone, say, a Lutheran song. But at table, where he ate a lot of butter, he always drank his first toast to all cuckolds, and that presumably put him in tune with the temper of his surroundings.
The Age of Unlimited Princely Power
The age of ecclesiastical dispute is definitely at an end, but appearances still deceive insofar as intolerance continues and there are isolated notable conversions.
Within the different creeds it appears that religious ideas no longer dominate the world. A wholly secular cabinet policy has not only taken the place of spiritual motives, but, with the exception of England, overmastered worldly-constitutional class forces. The nobility has little use any more for political effectiveness and everywhere seeks only dispensation and display.
It is of little moment that Rome, too, has again secularized itself. Since Alexander VII the popes have lacked any European stature; they are no more important than the church state is able to make them. Even against the Peace of Westphalia Rome has only a feeble protest. It is of little importance, further, that the Jesuits are now only bent on possession and power and are inclined to take the side of the individual countries in which they reside. Even if things were different, cabinet despotism and sultanism would carry the day and take into their service art, splendor, and every higher form of life, on the Protestant as well as the Catholic side. (Unfortunately this does not prevent intolerant actions in individual countries, nor the attitude that uniformity of faith is politically convenient. This is part of negative religion which essentially consists in hating the others.)
Given this absolutist state of affairs, the primacy of one state was inevitable, in keeping with the inner necessity of despotism which in addition to power at home also demands power abroad.
Just as surely as Spain had formerly striven for this position, France now had to do it, a country which at that time was infinitely more powerful, relatively speaking, than it is today, with by far the strongest army, conservatively estimated at 120,000 men. Russia and North America did not yet exist as far as European politics were concerned, Brandenburg was as yet no more powerful than Saxony, Austria (and for a long time England as well) had been bought by bribing the ministers, and Spain was mortally weak.
Internally, the princes, the clergy, the nobility, and parliament had hitherto passed themselves off as the state, and the middle class, let alone the masses, could not yet pretend to be the state. Any attempts at group action, special privilege, political organization, and so on had regularly fallen before ruthless monarchs. Then Louis said, “L’état c’est moi.”
The creed does not matter. Except for England, the Protestant rulers have become as despotic as the Catholic ones, and in matters of creed they are fully as intolerant. For the Catholic rulers’ authorization of perjury and other questionable things they have substitutes of their own.
The Protestant nobility for its part (Sweden and elsewhere) squeezes the people dry, like their Catholic counterparts, and even more ruthlessly.
On Louis XIV
He engages in the enlargement of power and property if only for the sake of their preservation, but later as an admitted personal predilection. With his fearsome power of all of France’s resources at his disposal, Louis of necessity reached the point of striving for a universal monarchy.
Characteristic of Louis is a statement which he made in his later period, in 1688, intended for Maximilian Emmanuel of Bavaria. He said that the Elector should use the opportunities presented to him by for tune for his aggrandizement, “the worthiest and most beautiful aim of a prince.”
Louis XIV as Lord of the Church
(This is by way of introduction to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.) There are clear manifestations of a period in which the main impulses of Catholicism no longer emanate from the papacy, but are now and then even directed against it. Thus, these impulses now originate rather from the cosmopolitan Jesuit order in its period of externalization and orientation toward power, and then from the French king. In the latter there reigns a mixture of mania for territorial power, which will no longer brook any differences, and of stupid bigotry which wants to do penance on other people’s backs and strikes out all the more blindly and fanatically because at the same time the pope is being hurt and the Turks and Hungarians are being used against Austria- Germany.
In the Catholicism of France and other countries, more refined and more intellectual currents sought to maintain themselves and to prevail, laboriously enough, in the fact of the cold lust for power, the bad confessional morality, and the coarser piety of the Jesuits as manifested after 1675 in the cult of the “sacré coeur” [sacred heart]; cases in point are Jansenism, constantly persecuted from Richelieu’s time on, then mysticism, and quietism, as practiced by Molinos.
The crown had the French Jesuits completely on its side, and on the subject of Molinos Innocent XI himself had to submit to a hearing before the Inquisition. There also arose a quarrel with the pope over the royal prerogatives, which was intensified up to the formulation of the Gallican Articles of 1682. Later, in 1687–1689, there was added the quarrel with Innocent XI over diplomatic immunity.
But along with all this the dominating realities were the resumed persecution of the Huguenots and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. For this price the clergy sided with the king against the pope.
The church of the Counter Reformation, in its form of Jesuitism, was much more sensitive to matters of dogma and hierarchy than the earlier church, which would have endured or ignored movements like Jansenism. The papacy would have let Jansenism and quietism pass unnoticed but for the French Jesuits. The Jesuits, however, feel jeopardized by any deeper view of the concepts of sin and grace.
Even mysticism, which the earlier church tolerated to such a large extent or even placed in its service, soon became suspect.
And the Huguenots were destroyed as soon as the state power was compliant enough to the church and great and unscrupulous enough to do this.
For all this France was the proper soil, for the reason that it was the active country. The Jesuit church and its friend, the state, still found people to fight. Louis XIV had taken possession of a France full of self- willed minds. In the beginning, the spirit of the Fronde still lived in many. People did not realize immediately how much it would cost to want to be something special under this king.
In this connection should be mentioned Louis’ low esteem for the members of the French clergy. Specifically, this is clearly reflected by the tone of Le Lutrin. Boileau would not have ventured such persiflage if the king had not been pleased with it.
The French Spirit of Uniformity and the Huguenots
The French spirit of uniformity in the monarchy and the restlessness of French Jesuitism at the slightest breath of anything different brought about an initial persecution of the Jansenists, who could certainly have been overlooked, as well as a persecution of quietism to the point of defiance of Innocent XI. The Jesuits simply have their patented mysticism in the form of the “sacré coeur.”
Gradually this French spirit of uniformity and Jesuitism quite consciously takes its stand against the great and universal Catholicism. On the occasion of the disputes over the royal prerogatives it solidifies into the Gallican Articles; added to this are the brutal acts which Louis orders committed in the matter of the asylum of the French-curial legations, and the occupation of Avignon. Later there is contrasted with this, on the approach of the War of the Spanish Succession, Louis’ retreat, the written revocation of the Gallican Articles, and, finally, the papal bull Unigenitus.
The Huguenots were the principal victims of the spirit of uniformity and Jesuitism. An intelligent king would have spared such useful and loyal subjects under any circumstances and let the clergy scream and the idle castes grumble.
And if the French crown had wanted to be great and powerful by any means, it could have become the most exalted in the world if it had been the only one in all of Europe to give the example of equality for both creeds. Louis XIV could have supplied such an example simply by observing the Edict of Nantes.
Louis XIV Prior to the War of the Spanish Succession
[Inserted after the summer vacation, 1869.] Every situation of power is dominated by greed for more and “rounding off,” as soon as the internal situation permits it. It attacks small adjacent lands with insecure governments and may assert that annexation is necessary for their own good. In those days people claimed hereditary rights, rights to compensation, and the like. There was also this excuse: If we do not do it, someone else will. One creates an opportunity and then says that he must use it. In this sense every real power is evil.
Louis XIV, however, had already ventured forward astonishingly far at home and abroad, in theory (in his arrogance) and practice (in his sacrilege). Everything that ran counter to his concept of power was pulverized. He found himself bound by no law. Internally, there were exploitation, bondage, and the most heinous religious persecution; on the outside, wars of conquest were undertaken on the emptiest pretexts.
At the Peace of Nimwegen Louis had secured for himself Franche- Comté, the southern edge of Belgium, and actually almost all of Alsace; inside France no voice was allowed to be raised against the royal concept of religion, which was at the same time the royal concept of power.
But how were things to go on like this? Holland had emerged from the war in splendid shape, and thus Louis had already failed in his main purpose in the war. Moreover, he became short of resources; unscrupulous extortions could help here for a long time, to be sure. More serious were the facts that there developed a shortage of men, that Louis himself began to work with ministers who were essentially only clerks (Louvois died in 1691), and that promotions were made increasingly on the basis of tractability (on the whole, these were made according to seniority).
And now the problem of the Spanish succession gradually approached, already pregnant with a great war for which good alliances were needed. Instead of this, all Europe was stirred up and full of hatred. For the time being it was probably helpless, for the Great Elector was in alliance with the French, the emperor was ensnared and busy with the Turks, and the house of Stuart was on the throne in England. France with its central position was able to carry out the most ambitious projects.
Yet against his will Louis had elevated to power an adversary, William of Orange, whom he should have known by then because he had again and again appeared on the battlefield after lost or indecisive battles and rejected all of Louis’ overtures. But Louis may have hoped to stir up sufficient opponents for him within Holland itself.
The degree of Louis’ arrogance after the Peace of Nijmegen, apart from the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, becomes clear from the political outrages from the reunions on.
On the Second English Revolution
(I) Concerning the lofty talk about this second English Revolution: It was enough for the conspirators to know that the nation would not stir. It was indolent and preoccupied with business. Its hatred for the king was not yet great enough for it to overthrow him, but it just sufficed for it to stand by and watch others overthrow him. Afterwards it watched what the army was doing and ran or crept behind it. Since the engineers of the Revolution were clever and lucky enough to give the whole matter the appearance of a mere change within the royal family, the people let it pass.
The nation certainly had an antipathy toward Holland’s friendship, but its hatred for France was probably even greater. However, the active pursuit of those who were truly active was, for Whigs as well as Tories (to the extent that both participated), the saving of Anglicanism from the dissenters. And even so, most of them did not participate until William was there. But this reproach sticks with England, that it took a Dutch army to make England really reform herself.
In addition to the well-founded concern of the ruling Anglican caste over the rise of the dissenters due to the Toleration Acts, there probably still existed as well a vestige of fear of the vestige of Catholicism. The masses, to be sure, were averse to it and alienated from it by a hundred years of disuse; but, after all, this time the masses had no say whatever. At any rate, with real and complete freedom, Catholicism would have achieved an appreciable stature along with the dissenters, though less because of court favor than in spite of it. But the dissenters, who had become even more powerful in the meantime, would then have started a war of destruction against the “idolators.”
(II) As to the shabby course the Revolution took, the English view consoles itself with the well-known idea of how very well God finally dealt with England and how execrably with other nations.
But the real achievement of England (which, being an island, got away with many things with impunity), something that no continental country could have achieved at that time, was to produce two aristocratic parties which not only took turns governing, but were really capable of governing, i.e., possessed the necessary credit with the rest of the nation and, through the parliamentary elections, were dependent on the people. A safeguard against destructive activities was the rather restricted electorate, numbering 200,000 for England and Wales.
To be sure, in the beginning the Whigs were not yet completely separated from the Republicans, nor were the Tories from the Jacobites. At first a large Jacobite party survived, which, given the dubiousness of the new succession, could very well hope to rise once more. Here everything hinged on whether the new, anti-Jacobite England would prosper in the decisive decades. And it did produce a splendid prosperity, in its political influence on Europe, in acquisitions, in industry and commerce.
Thereupon the Jacobites withdrew into ever narrower circles, became easier and easier to count, and finally became extinguished. They had had the better right on their side, but one day they were no longer there.
England’s Defense Against Militarism
When William III ascended the throne, public opinion was charged with hatred for Cromwell’s military despotism and the threatened military measures of Charles II and James II. Therefore Parliament stipulated for all time in the Declaration of Rights (January 22, 1689), which called William to the throne, that the sovereign must not maintain any standing army within the United Kingdom in peacetime without the permission of Parliament. In the spring of 1689 the Mutiny Act sharpened this further by making the right of the crown to hold courts- martial for mutinous soldiers dependent on the annual consent of Parliament. Parliament was authorized to fix the number of officers and soldiers subject to martial law and stationed on British soil each time it passed the budget. The army that was approved at that time numbered 10,000 men (?).
The fact that English military institutions were not wholly dissolved is attributable only to the traditional political moderation. In almost 200 years there has been no parliament which tried either to paralyze the government completely by refusing it permission to maintain its instruments of power, or to force it to violate the constitution.
William III had to send his Dutch guards, the companions of his glory and the saviors of England, home over the Channel. On the other hand, Parliament has always granted even the most unpopular governments enough troops, though a modest number, to maintain internal peace and external security.
On the Characteristics of the Seventeenth Century
Before the War of the Spanish Succession leave must be taken of this seventeenth century with its bad and good points.
In comparison with the sixteenth century, to what extent was it a retrogression politically?
On the basis of the many original minds which it produced we have too splendid a general conception of the sixteenth century and are too quick to believe that the world at that time wanted to merge directly into an age that was completely modern, i.e., in tune with our preconceptions, and that this was prevented only by the Counter Reformation, worldwide monarchism, and other things. The sixteenth century may well have been more “modern,” as compared with the seventeenth.
But the seventeenth century was wholly aristocratic at least. Apart from the two great states in which the aristocracy was in direct control, Holland and England, it was substantially in control in the despotic states as well.
Both centuries have their advantages and disadvantages as regards higher intellectual life. In both periods political and religious conditions are firmly established. At first the Catholic and Protestant churches have almost everywhere established the closest contact with the state and middle-class society. Scholarship is subordinated to the church, research is dependent on its permission. Dissenters must remain silent or leave the country.
But in the seventeenth century individual thinkers gradually collect a following extending into the ranks of the mighty and even influence the theologians. Their influence is European, cosmopolitan, no longer national. There is a regeneration of epistemology in general (Bacon). Philosophy frees itself from religion (Descartes). Necessity is understood as causality (Spinoza). Skepticism becomes universal (Bayle). Reason appears as the mistress of religion (the English freethinkers). Applied to the state, this means that it is no longer founded on divine right, but on reason and expediency and a presumed contract. The groundwork for this way of thinking had been laid by the uprising of the Dutch in the sixteenth century and the English Revolution in the seventeenth. Gradually there comes into being an atmosphere of Western enlightenment.
For the time being, however, the seventeenth century is everywhere a time in which the state’s power over everything individual increases, whether that power be in absolutist hands or may be considered the result of a contract, etc. People begin to dispute the sacred right of the individual ruler or authority without being aware that at the same time they are playing into the hands of a colossal state power.
Up to that time the Romanic and Germanic nations of the West had had alongside them in the East the Turks as an antithesis and archenemy. They were a purely destructive element which allied itself with the West only in time of war, and then only with the side that seemed to have the upper hand. Otherwise they maintained their exclusive Mohammedan-Tartar culture and looked down upon Western civilization. The influence of the Turks upon Europe was exerted only through conquest and external force.
Now there arises in the East a state which appears to be most eager to attach itself to European culture, but in order to dominate Europe by any means! It utilizes foreign brainpower, but shuts out foreign ideas.
If the nation in question had its way, it would remain racially as Oriental as possible. In addition to the culture it is forced to adopt, it has preserved its old native customs with extraordinary tenacity, so that a startling contrast between the two prevails.
Meanwhile, however, in the hands of a “government with a definite program” it has for 150 years constituted one of the most powerful machines ever set in motion for world dominion.
For, in addition to possessing its old traditions it is thoroughly drillable and, on top of that, from its store of healthy barbarism it continually supplies a wealth of elemental strength for the purposes of the government. The Russian element at least can flow into European civilization, because it has no Koran.
Could the Russians have remained secluded barbarians? Certainly not in the long run. Even tyrants of moderate stature, e.g., Ivan IV, managed to develop power and culture from this talent for being drilled and to make themselves terrible to their neighbors. In the office of the czar there seems to have been a permanent temptation to do this; the world experienced its strongest and definitive outburst in Peter the Great. It has ever been thus with barbarians; their strong rulers are invariably conquerors.
The tragic element in the subsequent destiny of Europe lies in the fact that the Western peoples, while engaged in constant transformations and revolutions from within, are at the same time affected by an almost wholly mechanical force from without which has virtually no share in their joys and sorrows, their mind and higher aspirations, yet constitutes a major weight on the scale and helps to stabilize or revolutionize, according to its convenience. (n.b. In most recent times this has become different. What has been won so far is beginning to take revenge and hit back at its master.)
In their methods of ruling, the czars are completely unconstrained and capable of things that the West with all its Caesarism no longer has the heart to do.
The Russians attain to one of the highest positions in world history with utter abuse of their own character and profound inward unhappiness for the greatest part of the nation.
Whether without Peter they still would have fallen into all sorts of evil and dangerous ways, only of a different kind, we do not know.
And even if the Russian nation does want to be great and powerful, i.e., bad, toward the outside, like other great nations, it may still have the goodness to recognize the excellence of Peter and his institutions.
Will the fate of individualization, that is, the atomistic revolution, ever reach the Russian people, and if so, how soon? And will this render it ineffective or all the more influential for Europe?
England After George I
Broken forever was the crown as an absolute authority, and the royal church supremacy as well. The political advantage of the latter now devolved upon the cabinet minister of the moment. It was he who from then on had substantial control of ecclesiastical job patronage, which naturally strengthened his party.
In the beginning the sympathies of the crown even veered toward the dissenters, as long as the high Anglican clergy still had Jacobite leanings.
England and Scotland were now completely united; but opposed to the Anglican church in England there existed a hostile Calvinist-Presbyterian church in Scotland, which likewise was a state church.
To England Hallam’s words apply: “The Supremacy of the legislature is like the collar of the watch-dog,” which the state puts on a church endowed and raised to a state institution by it, as the price for sustenance and shelter.
On the other hand, in time all sects or religious associations which are already formed or are to come into being in the future govern themselves in complete freedom.
What had been achieved was religious freedom, i.e., freedom not to belong to the state church (likewise Protestant), and this achievement was in conflict with the principles of original Protestantism. What had been won back was civil liberties, part of which had been destroyed by the Protestant state church of the sixteenth century; these were now extended, too. Protestantism in its previous official form had been a mortal enemy of civil liberties. In its later state of further fragmentation, in its secondary forms (sects), it actually had some share in their restoration.
Not that they were tolerant willingly and themselves gave evidence of freedom. Each would have liked to suppress the others and impose its yoke of views and institutions upon the whole nation.
The Presbyterians in England dissolved themselves completely and were supplanted by other new sects.
Since the eighteenth century the crown has been a powerless phantom; instead, there is rule by the majority of the lower house.
In 1715 Addison wrote that the nation had become a nation of statesmen, each age, each sex, and each profession had its own list of ministers on its lips, and “Whig” and “Tory” were the first words a babe babbled on its mother’s breast.
Frederick the Great
The change in his character, his final maturing, must have come about as the consequence of his attempt at escape in 1730. This marks the beginning of his inevitable contempt for people and undoubtedly his particular contempt for everything that existed in the Prussian states, while through his father he got to know the enormous fist of royalty. This time the methods of utter debasement had been applied, not in anima vili [in a spirit of wickedness], but to him as the successor to the throne, when Katte had been killed before his eyes and he had then been locked up with a Bible, a songbook, and Arndt’s True Christianity, and besides had been permitted to study the archives of Margrave Hans. In opposition to the king’s semi-Lutheran view of universal grace, Frederick took up with “Calvinist” predestination (William III of Orange had also been a vehement predestinationist). As late as 1737–1738 Voltaire most urgently remonstrates with him in behalf of human liberty as against his fatalism which, he says, hardens hearts.
Frederick’s sojourn at Küstrin had the great value of breaking his narrow orientation toward intellectual pleasures, which would later have impeded his great political development. He learned the knack of administration and military command in miniature. Then came the forced marriage to Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, with whom he lived at Rheinsberg for the sake of appearances.
His adherence to things French is sufficient evidence of his desire to live separated from his state and people, above his people. If intellectual things had come his way in German, he would have been in danger of having to respect Germany.
On the very first day upon receiving the news of Charles VI’s death, his decision to get control of Silesia was made.
If he had foreseen all those with whom he would have to deal in consequence, if he had been older and more experienced, he probably would hardly have risked it.
Through his first martial act, the necessity for a personal dictatorship to the end of his life was determined for Frederick II.