Front Page Titles (by Subject) 107.: Louis XIV Prior to the War of the Spanish Succession - Judgments on History and Historians
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107.: Louis XIV Prior to the War of the Spanish Succession - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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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.