Amour à Sahen (French Edition)
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Ranke, who was my own master, rejected the view that I have stated; 36 Comte, the master of better men, believed that we drag a lengthening chain under the gathered weight of the dead hand; 37 and many of our recent classics—Carlyle, Newman, Froude—were persuaded that there is no progress justifying the ways of God to man, and that the mere consolidation of liberty is like the motion of creatures whose advance is in the direction of their tails. They deem that anxious precaution against bad government is an obstruction to good, and degrades morality and mind by placing the capable at the mercy of the incapable, dethroning enlightened virtue for the benefit of the average man.
They hold that great and salutary things are done for mankind by power concentrated, not by power balanced and cancelled and dispersed, and that the whig theory, sprung from decomposing sects, the theory that authority is legitimate only by virtue of its checks, and that the sovereign is dependent on the subject, is rebellion against the divine will manifested all down the stream of time.
I state the objection not that we may plunge into the crucial controversy of a science that is not identical with ours, but in order to make my drift clear by the defining Edition: current; Page: [ 12 ] aid of express contradiction. Like the economic precept laissez faire, 38 which the eighteenth century derived from Colbert, it has been an important, if not a final step in the making of method.
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The strongest and most impressive personalities, it is true, like Macaulay, Thiers, and the two greatest of living writers, Mommsen and Treitschke, project their own broad shadow upon their pages. This is a practice proper to great men, and a great man may be worth several immaculate historians.
Otherwise there is virtue in the saying that a historian is seen at his best when he does not appear. It would be an imperfect and a fallacious induction. But I hope that even this narrow and disedifying section of history will aid you to see that the action of Christ who is risen on mankind whom he redeemed fails not, but increases; 41 that the wisdom of divine rule appears not in the perfection but in the improvement of the world; 42 and that achieved liberty is the one ethical result that rests on the converging and combined conditions of advancing civilisation.
But what do people mean who proclaim that liberty is the palm, and the prize, and the crown, seeing that it is an idea of which there are two hundred definitions, and that this wealth of interpretation has caused more bloodshed than anything, except theology? Is it Democracy as in France, or Federalism as in America, or the national independence which bounds the Italian view, or Edition: current; Page: [ 13 ] the reign of the fittest, which is the ideal of Germans? All that we require is a workday key to history, and our present need can be supplied without pausing to satisfy philosophers.
Without inquiring how far Sarasa or Butler, Kant or Vinet, is right as to the infallible voice of God in man, we may easily agree in this, that where absolutism reigned, by irresistible arms, concentrated possessions, auxiliary churches, and inhuman laws, it reigns no more; that commerce having risen against land, labour against wealth, the State against the forces dominant in society, 48 the division of power against the State, the thought of individuals against the practice of ages, neither authorities, nor minorities, nor majorities can command implicit obedience; and, where there has been long and arduous experience, a rampart of tried conviction and accumulated knowledge, 49 where there is a fair level of general morality, education, courage, and self—restraint, there, if there only, a society may be found that exhibits the condition of life towards which, by elimination of failures, the world has been moving through the allotted space.
Here we reach a point at which my argument threatens to abut on a contradiction. If the supreme conquests of society are won more often by violence than by lenient arts, if the trend and drift of things is towards convulsions and catastrophes, 52 if the world owes religious liberty Edition: current; Page: [ 14 ] to the Dutch Revolution, constitutional government to the English, federal republicanism to the American, political equality to the French and its successors, 53 what is to become of us, docile and attentive students of the absorbing Past?
The triumph of the Revolutionist annuls the historian. Their followers renounced acquaintance with it, and were ready to destroy its records and to abolish its inoffensive professors. But the unexpected truth, stranger than fiction, is that this was not the ruin but the renovation of history. Directly and indirectly, by process of development and by process of reaction, an impulse was given which made it infinitely more effectual as a factor of civilisation than ever before, and a movement began in the world of minds which was deeper and more serious than the revival of ancient learning.
The Conservative line of writers, under the name of the Romantic or Historical School, had its seat in Germany, looked upon the Revolution as an alien episode, the error of an age, a disease to be treated by the investigation of its origin, and strove to unite the broken threads and to restore the normal conditions of organic evolution.
The Liberal School, whose home was France, explained and justified the Revolution as a true development, and the ripened fruit of all history. Severally, the innovators were not superior to the men of old. Nevertheless, in the second quarter of this century, a new era began for historians. I would point to three things in particular, out of many, which constitute the amended order. Of the incessant deluge of new and unsuspected matter I need say little. For some years, the secret archives of the papacy were accessible at Paris; but the time was not ripe, and almost the only man whom they availed was the archivist himself.
Michelet, who claims, towards , to have been the pioneer, 58 was preceded by such rivals as Mackintosh, Bucholtz, and Mignet. A new and more productive period began thirty years later, when the war of laid open the spoils of Italy. Every country in succession has now allowed the exploration of its records, and there is more fear of drowning than of drought. The result has been that a lifetime spent in the largest collection of printed books would not suffice to train a real master of modern history. After he had turned from literature to sources, from Burnet to Pocock, from Macaulay to Madame Campana, from Thiers to the interminable correspondence of the Bonapartes, he would still feel instant need of inquiry at Venice or Naples, in the Ossuna library or at the Hermitage.
These matters do not now concern us. For our purpose, the main thing to learn is not the art of accumulating material, but the sublimer art of investigating it, of discerning truth from falsehood and certainty from doubt. It is by solidity of criticism more than by the plenitude of erudition, that the study of history strengthens, and straightens, and extends the mind. For the critic is one who, when he lights on an interesting statement, begins by suspecting it.
He remains in suspense until he has subjected his authority to three operations. First, he asks whether he has read the passage as the author wrote it. Edition: current; Page: [ 16 ] For the transcriber, and the editor, and the official or officious censor on the top of the editor, have played strange tricks, and have much to answer for.
And if they are not to blame, it may turn out that the author wrote his book twice over, that you can discover the first jet, the progressive variations, things added, and things struck out. Next is the question where the writer got his information. If from a previous writer, it can be ascertained, and the inquiry has to be repeated. If from unpublished papers, they must be traced, and when the fountain—head is reached, or the track disappears, the question of veracity arises.
For a historian has to be treated as a witness, and not believed unless his sincerity is established. For us, then, the estimate of authorities, the weighing of testimony, is more meritorious than the potential discovery of new matter. Antony; and to learn from Schwegler how this analytical work began. More satisfying because more decisive has been the critical treatment of the medieval writers, parallel with the new editions, on which incredible labour has been lavished, and of which we have no better examples than the prefaces of Bishop Stubbs.
An important event in this series was the attack on Dino Compagni, which, for the sake of Edition: current; Page: [ 17 ] Dante, roused the best Italian scholars to a not unequal contest. When we are told that England is behind the Continent in critical faculty, we must admit that this is true as to quantity, not as to quality of work.
As they are no longer living, I will say of two Cambridge professors, Lightfoot and Hort, that they were critical scholars whom neither Frenchman nor German has surpassed. The third distinctive note of the generation of writers who dug so deep a trench between history as known to our grandfathers and as it appears to us, is their dogma of impartiality. To an ordinary man the word means no more than justice. He considers that he may proclaim the merits of his own religion, of his prosperous and enlightened country, of his political persuasion, whether democracy, or liberal monarchy, or historic conservatism, without transgression or offence, so long as he is fair to the relative, though inferior, merits of others, and never treats men as saints or as rogues for the side they take.
There is no impartiality, he would say, like that of a hanging judge. The men who, with the compass of criticism in their hands, sailed the uncharted sea of original research proposed a different view.
History, to be above evasion or dispute, must stand on documents, not on opinions. They had their own notion of truthfulness, based on the exceeding difficulty of finding truth, and the still greater difficulty of impressing it when found. They thought it possible to write, with so much scruple, and simplicity, and insight, as to carry along with them every man of good will, and, whatever his feelings, to compel his assent. Ideas which, in religion and in politics, are truths, in history are forces.
They must be respected; they must not be affirmed. By dint of a supreme reserve, by much self—control, by a timely and discreet indifference, by secrecy in the matter of the black cap, history might be lifted above contention, and made an accepted tribunal, and the same for all. I speak of this school with reverence, for the good it has done, by the assertion of historic truth and of its legitimate authority over the minds of men.
It provides a discipline which every one of us does well to undergo, and perhaps also well to relinquish. For it is not the whole truth. Renan calls it the luxury of an opulent and aristocratic society, doomed to vanish in an age of fierce and sordid striving. In our universities it has a magnificent and appointed refuge; and to serve its cause, which is sacred, because it is the cause of truth and honour, we may import a profitable lesson from the highly unscientific region of public life.
There a man does not take long to find out that he is opposed by some who are abler and better than himself. And, in order to understand the cosmic force and the true connection of ideas, it is a source of power, and an excellent school of principle, not to rest until, by excluding the fallacies, the prejudices, the exaggerations which perpetual contention and the consequent precautions breed, we have made out for our opponents a stronger and more impressive case than they present themselves.
Ranke is the representative of the age which instituted the modern study of History. He taught it to be critical, to be colourless, and to be new. We meet him at every step, and he has done more for us than any other man. There are stronger books than any one of his, and some may have surpassed him in political, religious, philosophic insight, in vividness of the creative imagination, in originality, elevation, and depth of thought; but by the extent of important work well executed, by his influence on able Edition: current; Page: [ 19 ] men, and by the amount of knowledge which mankind receives and employs with the stamp of his mind upon it, he stands without a rival.
I saw him last in , when he was feeble, sunken, and almost blind, and scarcely able to read or write. He uttered his farewell with kindly emotion, and I feared that the next I should hear of him would be the news of his death. Two years later he began a Universal History, which is not without traces of weakness, but which, composed after the age of eighty—three, and carried, in seventeen volumes, far into the Middle Ages, brings to a close the most astonishing career in literature. His course had been determined, in early life, by Quentin Durward. He decided effectually to repress the poet, the patriot, the religious or political partisan, to sustain no cause, to banish himself from his books, and to write nothing that would gratify his own feelings or disclose his private convictions.
There is a gulf between us. It was a moral triumph for him when he could refrain from judging, show that much might be said on both sides, and leave the rest to Providence. The head of the family insisted on a positive opinion. They answered that they were unable to give one, but he might easily find fifty doctors who could. Niebuhr had pointed out that chroniclers who wrote Edition: current; Page: [ 20 ] before the invention of printing generally copied one predecessor at a time, and knew little about sifting or combining authorities.
The many excellent dissertations in which he displayed this art, though his successors in the next generation matched his skill and did still more thorough work, are the best introduction from which we can learn the technical process by which within living memory the study of modern history has been renewed. We who have to learn them, must immerse ourselves in the study of the great examples. Apart from what is technical, method is only the reduplication of common sense, and is best acquired by observing its use by the ablest men in every variety of intellectual employment.
If men of science owe anything to us, we may learn much from them that is essential. It is they who hold the secret of the mysterious property of the mind by which error ministers to truth, and truth slowly but irrevocably prevails. And they often give us invaluable counsel when they attend to their own subjects and address their own people. Remember Darwin taking note only of those passages that raised difficulties in his way; the French philosopher complaining that his work stood still, because he found no more contradicting facts; Baer, who thinks error treated thoroughly nearly as remunerative as truth, by the discovery of new objections; for, as Sir Robert Ball warns us, it is by considering objections that we often learn.
From the first years of the century we have been quickened and enriched by contributors from every quarter. The jurists brought us that law of continuous growth which has transformed history from a chronicle of casual occurrences into the likeness of something organic. They taught that philosophy is only the amended sum of all philosophies, that systems pass with the age whose impress they bear, 79 that the problem is to focus the rays of wandering but extant truth, and that history is the source of philosophy, if not quite a substitute for it.
There are certain faults which are corrigible mental defects on which I ought to say a few denouncing words, because they are common to us all. First: the want of an energetic understanding of the sequence and real significance of events, which would be fatal to a practical politician, is ruin to a student of history, who is the politician with his face turned backwards. Then we have a curious proclivity to neglect, and by degrees to forget, what has been certainly known. An instance or two will explain my idea.
The most popular English writer relates how it happened in his presence that the title of Tory was conferred upon the Conservative party. For it was an opprobrious name at the time, applied to men for whom the Irish Government offered head—money; so that if I have made too sure of progress, I may at least complacently point to this instance of our mended manners.
One day, Titus Oates lost his temper with the men who refused to believe him, and, after looking about for a scorching imprecation, he began to call them Tories. You all know, I am sure, the story of the news of Trafalgar, and how, two days after it had arrived, Mr. Pitt, drawn by an enthusiastic crowd, went to dine in the city. When they drank the health of the minister who had saved his country, he declined the praise. Now it was just at the time of his last appearance in public that Mr.
Pitt heard of the overwhelming success of the French in Germany, and of the Austrian surrender at Ulm. His friends concluded that the contest on land was hopeless, and that it was time to abandon the Continent to the conqueror, and to fall back upon our new empire of the sea. Pitt did not agree with them. He said that Napoleon would meet with a check whenever he encountered a national resistance; and he declared that Spain was the place for it, and that then England would intervene. Ten years later, when he had accomplished that which Pitt had seen in the lucid prescience of his last days, he related at Paris what I scarcely hesitate to call the most astounding and profound prediction in all political history, where such things have not been rare.
I shall never again enjoy the opportunity of speaking my thoughts to such an audience as this, and on so privileged an occasion a lecturer may well be tempted to bethink himself whether he knows of any neglected truth, any cardinal proposition, that might serve as his selected epigraph, as a last signal, perhaps even as a target. I Edition: current; Page: [ 24 ] am not thinking of those shining precepts which are the registered property of every school; that is to say — Learn as much by writing as by reading; be not content with the best book; seek sidelights from the others; have no favourites; keep men and things apart; guard against the prestige of great names; 86 see that your judgments are your own, and do not shrink from disagreement; no trusting without testing; be more severe to ideas than to actions; 87 do not overlook the strength of the bad cause or the weakness of the good; 88 never be surprised by the crumbling of an idol or the disclosure of a skeleton; judge talent at its best and character at its worst; suspect power more than vice, 89 and study problems in preference to periods; for instance: the derivation of Luther, the scientific influence of Bacon, the predecessors of Adam Smith, the medieval masters of Rousseau, the consistency of Burke, the identity of the first Whig.
Most of this, I suppose, is undisputed, and calls for no enlargement. But the weight of opinion is against me when I exhort you never to debase the moral currency or to lower the standard of rectitude, but to try others by the final maxim that governs your own lives, and to suffer no man and no cause to escape the undying penalty which history has the power to inflict on wrong. At every step we are met by arguments which go to excuse, to palliate, to confound right and wrong, and reduce the just man to the level of the reprobate. The men who plot to baffle and resist us are, first of all, those who made history what it has become.
They set up the principle that only a foolish Conservative judges the present time with the ideas of the past; that only a foolish Liberal judges the past with the ideas of the present. The mission of that school was to make distant times, and especially the Middle Ages, then most distant of all, intelligible and acceptable to a society issuing from the eighteenth century. There were difficulties in the way; and among others this, that, in the first fervour of the Crusades, the men who took the Cross, after receiving Edition: current; Page: [ 25 ] communion, heartily devoted the day to the extermination of Jews.
To judge them by a fixed standard, to call them sacrilegious fanatics or furious hypocrites, was to yield a gratuitous victory to Voltaire. It became a rule of policy to praise the spirit when you could not defend the deed. So that we have no common code; our moral notions are always fluid; and you must consider the times, the class from which men sprang, the surrounding influences, the masters in their schools, the preachers in their pulpits, the movement they obscurely obeyed, and so on, until responsibility is merged in numbers, and not a culprit is left for execution.
The depression of morality was flagrant; but the motives were those which have enabled us to contemplate with distressing complacency the secret of unhallowed lives. The code that is greatly modified by time and place, will vary according to the cause. The amnesty is an artifice that enables us to make exceptions, to tamper with weights and measures, to deal unequal justice to friends and enemies.
It is associated with that philosophy which Cato attributes to the gods. For we have a theory which justifies Providence by the event, and holds nothing so deserving as success, to which there can be no victory in a bad cause; prescription and duration legitimate; 93 and whatever exists is right and reasonable; and as God manifests His will by that which He tolerates, we must conform to the divine decree by living to shape the future after the ratified image of the past.
It is suspicious of illusions in success, and, though there may be hope of ultimate triumph for what is true, if not by its own attraction, by the gradual Edition: current; Page: [ 26 ] exhaustion of error, it admits no corresponding promise for what is ethically right.
It deems the canonisation of the historic past more perilous than ignorance or denial, because it would perpetuate the reign of sin and acknowledge the sovereignty of wrong, and conceives it the part of real greatness to know how to stand and fall alone, stemming, for a lifetime, the contemporary flood. Ranke relates, without adornment, that William III.
But when he comes to the death and character of the international deliverer, Glencoe is forgotten, the imputation of murder drops, like a thing unworthy of notice. This artless statement might not be approved by rigid lawyers as a faithful and felicitous indication of the manner of that mysterious growth of ages, from occult beginnings, that was never profaned by the invading wit of man; 97 but it is less grotesque than it appears. Lord Halifax was the most original writer of political tracts in the pamphleteering crowd between Harrington and Bolingbroke; and in the Exclusion struggle he produced a scheme of limitations which, in substance, if not in form, foreshadowed the position of the monarchy in the later Hanoverian reigns.
Although Halifax did not believe in the plot, 98 he insisted that innocent victims should be sacrificed to content the multitude. And upon his affirming that the plot must be handled as if it were true, whether it were so or no, in those points that were so generally believed. If, in our uncertainty, we must often err, it may be sometimes better to risk excess in rigour than in indulgence, for then at least we do no injury by loss of principle.
As Bayle has said, it is more probable that the secret motives of an indifferent action are bad than good; 99 and this discouraging conclusion does not depend upon theology, for James Mozley supports the sceptic from the other flank, with all the artillery of Tractarian Oxford. He sees it where others do not; his instinct is divinely strengthened; his eye is supernaturally keen; he has a spiritual insight, and senses exercised to discern.
He owns the doctrine of original sin; that doctrine puts him necessarily on his guard against appearances, sustains his apprehension under perplexity, and prepares him for recognising anywhere what he knows to be everywhere. Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity.
History is a preceptor of prudence, not of principles. The principles of true politics are those of morality enlarged; and I neither now do, nor ever will admit of any other. Under the name of History, they cover the articles of his philosophic, his religious, and his political creed. Modern History touches us so nearly, it is so deep a question of life and death, that we are bound to find our own way through it, and to owe our insight to ourselves. The historians of former ages, unapproachable for us in knowledge and in talent, cannot be our limit. We have the power to be more rigidly impersonal, disinterested and just than they; and to learn from undisguised and genuine records to look with remorse upon the past, and to the future with assured hope of better things; bearing this in mind, that if we lower our standard in History, we cannot uphold it in Church or State.
Modern History tells how the last four hundred years have modified the medieval conditions of life and thought. In comparison with them, the Middle Ages were the domain of stability, and continuity, and instinctive evolution, seldom interrupted by such originators as Gregory VII. Francis of Assisi. Ignorant of History, they allowed themselves to be governed by the unknown Past; ignorant of Science, they never believed in hidden forces working onwards to a happier future. The sense of decay was upon them; and each generation seemed so inferior to the last, in ancient wisdom and ancestral virtue, that they found comfort in the assurance that the end of the world was at hand.
Yet the most profound and penetrating of the causes that have transformed society is a medieval inheritance. It was late in the thirteenth century that the psychology of Conscience was closely studied for the first time, and men began to speak of it as the audible voice of God, that never misleads or fails, and that ought to be obeyed always, whether enlightened or darkened, right or wrong. The notion was restrained, on its appearance, by the practice of regarding opposition to Church power as equivalent to specific heresy, which depressed the secret monitor below the public and visible authority.
With the decline of coercion the claim of Conscience rose, and the ground abandoned by the inquisitor was gained by the individual. There was less reason then for men to be cast of the same type; there was a more vigorous Edition: current; Page: [ 32 ] growth of independent character, and a conscious control over its formation. The knowledge of good and evil was not an exclusive and sublime prerogative assigned to states, or nations, or majorities. When it had been defined and recognised as something divine in human nature, its action was to limit power by causing the sovereign voice within to be heard above the expressed will and settled custom of surrounding men.
By that hypothesis, the soul became more sacred than the state, because it receives light from above, as well as because its concerns are eternal, and out of all proportion with the common interests of government. That is the root from which liberty of Conscience was developed, and all other liberty needed to confine the sphere of power, in order that it may not challenge the supremacy of that which is highest and best in man. The securities by which this purpose has been attempted compose the problem of all later history, and centuries were spent in ascertaining and constructing them.
If in the main the direction has been upward, the movement has been tardy, the conflict intense, the balance often uncertain. The passion for power over others can never cease to threaten mankind, and is always sure of finding new and unforeseen allies in continuing its martyrology. Therefore, the method of modern progress was revolution. By a series of violent shocks the nations in succession have struggled to shake off the Past, to reverse the action of Time and the verdict of success, and to rescue the world from the reign of the dead.
They have been due less to provocation by actual wrong than to the attraction of ideal right, and the claims that inspired them were universal and detached. Progress has imposed increasing sacrifices on society, in behalf of those who can make no return, from whose welfare it derives no equivalent benefit, whose existence is a burden, an evil, eventually a peril to the community. The mean duration of life, the compendious test of improvement, is prolonged by all the chief agents of civilisation, moral and material, religious and scientific, working together, Edition: current; Page: [ 33 ] and depends on preserving, at infinite cost, which is infinite loss, the crippled child and the victim of accident, the idiot and the madman, the pauper and the culprit, the old and infirm, curable and incurable.
This growing dominion of disinterested motive, this liberality towards the weak, in social life, corresponds to that respect for the minority, in political life, which is the essence of freedom. It is an application of the same principle of self—denial, and of the higher law. Taking long periods, we perceive the advance of moral over material influence, the triumph of general ideas, the gradual amendment.
The line of march will prove, on the whole, to have been from force and cruelty to consent and association, to humanity, rational persuasion, and the persistent appeal to common, simple, and evident maxims. We have dethroned necessity, in the shape both of hunger and of fear, by extending the scene from Western Europe to the whole world, so that all shall contribute to the treasure of civilisation, and by taking into partnership in the enjoyment of its rewards those who are far off as well as those who are below.
We shall give our attention to much that has failed and passed away, as well as to the phenomena of progress, which help to build up the world in which we live. For History must be our deliverer not only from the undue influence of other times, but from the undue influence of our own, from the tyranny of environment and the pressure of the air we breathe. It requires all historic forces to produce their record and submit to judgment, and it promotes the faculty of resistance to contemporary surroundings by familiarity with other ages and other orbits of thought.
In these latter days the sum of differences in international character has been appreciably bound down by the constant process of adaptation and adjustment, and by exposure to like influences. The people of various countries are swayed by identical interests, they are absorbed in the same problems, and thrill with the same emotions; their classics are interchangeable, authorities in science are nearly alike for all, and they readily combine Edition: current; Page: [ 34 ] to make experiments and researches in common.
Towards , European nations, having been fashioned and composed out of simple elements during the thousand years between the fall of the Roman Empire and that of its successor in the East, had reached full measure of differentiation. They were estranged from each other, and were inclined to treat the foreigner as the foe. Ancient links were loosened, the Pope was no longer an accepted peacemaker; and the idea of an international code, overriding the will of nations and the authority of sovereigns, had not dawned upon philosophy.
Between the old order that was changing and the new that was unborn, Europe had an inorganic interval to go through. Modern History begins under stress of the Ottoman Conquest. Constantinople fell, after an attempt to negotiate for help, by the union of the Greek and Latin Churches. The agreement come to at Florence was not ratified at home; the attempt was resented, and led to an explosion of feeling that made even subjugation by the Turk seem for the moment less intolerable, and that hastened the catastrophe by making Western Christians slow to sacrifice themselves for their implacable brethren in the East.
Offers of help were made, conditional on acceptance of the Florentine decree, and were rejected with patriotic and theological disdain. A small force of papal and Genoese mercenaries shared the fate of the defenders, and the end could not have been long averted, even by the restoration of religious unity.
The Powers that held back were not restrained by dogmatic arguments only. The dread of Latin intolerance was the most favourable circumstance encountered by the Turks in the Eastern Empire, and they at once offered protection and immunities to the patriarch and his prelates. The conquest of the entire peninsula, with the islands, occupied a generation, and it was good policy meanwhile to do nothing that would diminish the advantage or awaken alarm of persecution. Their system required the increase rather than the conversion of Christian subjects, for the Edition: current; Page: [ 35 ] tribute of gold as well as the tribute of blood.
The Janissaries were selected among the sons of Christian parents, who became renegades, and who, having neither home nor family, no life but in camp, no employment but arms, became not only the best professional soldiers in the world, but a force constantly active to undo the work of pacific statesmen and to find fresh occasion for war. There were occasional outbreaks of blind ferocity, and at all times there was the incapacity of an uncivilised race to understand the character and the interest of alien subjects more cultivated than themselves.
But there was not at first the sense of unmitigated tyranny that arose later; and there was not so great a contrast with life as it was under Italian despots as to make Christians under the Sultan passionately long for deliverance. From the perjury of Varna, in , when the Christians broke the treaty just concluded at Sregedin, it was understood that they could never be trusted to keep engagements entered into with people of another religion. It seemed a weak—minded exaggeration of hypocrisy to abstain from preying on men so furiously divided, so full of hatred, so incapable of combining in defence of their altars and their homes, so eager in soliciting aid and intervention from the infidel in their own disputes.
The several principalities of the circumference, Servia, Bosnia, Wallachia, the Morea, and the islands, varying in nationality and in religion, were attacked separately, and made no joint defence. In Epirus, Scanderbeg, once a renegade, then in communion with Rome, drawing his supplies from the opposite coast of Apulia, which his sentinels on Cape Linguetta could see at sunrise, maintained himself for many years victoriously, knowing that his country would perish with him.
John Hunyadi had defended Christendom on the Hungarian frontier so well that the monarchy of his son stemmed the tide of invasion for seventy years. While the Turkish outposts kept watch on the Danube, Mahomet seized Otranto, and all the way upwards to the Alps there was no force capable of resisting him. Just then, he died, Otranto was lost, and the enterprise was Edition: current; Page: [ 36 ] not renewed. His people were a nation of soldiers, not a nation of sailors.
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Under Bajazet, the successor, there was some rest for Europe. His brother, who was a dangerous competitor, as the crown went to the one who survived, fled for safety to the Christians, and was detained as a hostage, beyond the possibility of ransom, by the Knights of St. John, and then by the Pope.
The Sultan paid, that he might be kept quiet. For years the Turks were busy in the East. Selim conquered Syria and part of Persia. He conquered Arabia, and was acknowledged by the Sheriff of Mecca caliph and protector of the holy shrine. He conquered Egypt and assumed the prerogative of the Imaum, which had been a shadow at Cairo, but became, at Constantinople, the supreme authority in Islam.
Gathering up the concentrated resources of the Levant, Solyman the Magnificent turned, at last, against the enemy who guarded the gates of civilised Europe. Having taken Belgrade, he undertook, in , the crowning campaign of Turkish history. At the battle of Mohacs Hungary lost her independence. The Turks found a Transylvanian magnate who was willing to receive the crown from them; and the broad valley of the Danube continued to be their battlefield until the days of Sobieski and Eugene. The Turks were repulsed at Vienna in , at Malta in This was their limit in Western Europe; and after Lepanto, in , their only expansion was at the expense of Poland at Muscovy.
They still wielded almost boundless Edition: current; Page: [ 37 ] resources; the entire seaboard from Cattaro all round by the Euxine to the Atlantic was Mahomedan, and all but one—fourth of the Mediterranean was a Turkish lake. It was long before they knew that it was not their destiny to be masters of the Western as well as of the Eastern world. While this heavy cloud overhung the Adriatic and the Danube, and the countries within reach of the Turk were in peril of extinction, the nations farther west were consolidating rapidly into unity and power.
By the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, by their conquest of Granada and the rise of a new hemisphere at their command, Spain for the first time became a great Power; while France, having expelled the English, having instituted a permanent army, acquired vast frontier provinces, and crushed the centrifugal forces of feudalism, was more directly formidable and more easily aggressive.
These newly created Powers portended danger in one direction. Their increase was not in comparison with England or with Portugal, so much as in contrast with Italy. England, by the Tudors, had achieved internal tranquillity; and Portugal was already at the head of Europe in making the ocean tributary to trade. But Italy was divided, unwarlike, poor in the civic virtues that made Switzerland impregnable, rich in the tempting luxuries of civilisation, an inexhaustible treasure—house of much that the neighbours greatly needed and could never find elsewhere.
The best writers and scholars and teachers, the most consummate artists, the ablest commanders by land and sea, the deepest explorers of the mystery of State that have been known before or since, all the splendours of the Renaissance, and the fruits of a whole century of progress were there, ready to be appropriated and employed for its own benefit by a paramount Power. It was obvious that the countries newly strengthened, the countries growing in unity and concentration and superfluous forces, should encroach upon those that were demoralised and weakened.
By strict reason of State, this was not the policy of France; for the French frontiers Edition: current; Page: [ 38 ] were assigned by nature everywhere but in the northeast. But the French were invited into Italy with promise of welcome, because the Angevin claim to Naples, defeated in , had passed to the King of France. The Aragonese, who had been successful in resisting it, was not legitimate, and had been compelled again to struggle for existence by the Rising of the Barons. The rising was suppressed; the discontented Neapolitans went into exile; and they were now in France, prophesying easy triumphs if Charles VIII.
They were followed by the most important of the Italian Cardinals, Della Rovere, nephew of a former Pope, himself afterwards the most famous pontiff who had appeared for centuries. The advent of the French, heralded by the passionate eloquence of Savonarola, was also hailed by Florence and its dependencies, in their impatience of the Medicean rule, now that it had dropped from the hands of the illustrious Lorenzo, into those of his less competent son. Lodovico Sforza, the Regent of Milan, was also among those who called in the French, as he had a family quarrel with Naples.
From my enemies I can defend myself. His horsemen still displayed the medieval Edition: current; Page: [ 39 ] armour, wrought by the artistic craftsmen of the Renaissance. They were followed by artillery, the newer arm which, in another generation, swept the steel—clad knight away. French infantry was not thought so well of. But the Swiss had become, in their wars with Burgundy, the most renowned of all foot—soldiers.
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At Pavia they were cut down by the Spaniards and their fame began to wane. They were Germans, hating Austria, and their fidelity to the golden lilies is one of the constant facts of French history, until the Swiss guard and the white flag vanished together, in July Charles reached Naples early in , having had no resistance to overcome, but having accomplished nothing, and having manifested no distinct purpose on his way, when he found himself, for a moment, master of Florence and of Rome.
The deliverance of Constantinople was an idea that occurred inevitably to a man of enterprise who was in possession of Southern Italy. It was the advanced post of Europe against the East, of Christendom against Islam; the proper rendezvous of Crusaders; the source of supplies; the refuge of squadrons needing to refit. The Sultan was not an overwhelming warrior, like his father; he had not, like Selim, his successor, control of the entire East, and he was held in check by the existence of his brother, whom Charles took with him, on leaving Rome, with a view to ulterior service, but whom he lost soon after.
Charles VIII. But he also called himself King of Sicily, as representing the Anjous, and this was not a disused and neglected derelict. For the island belonged to the King of Aragon, the most politic and capable of European monarchs. The basis of this agreement was shattered by the immediate unexpected and overwhelming success of the French arms. From his stronghold in the South it would be easy for Charles to make himself master of Rome, of Florence, of all Italy, until he came in sight of the lion of St.
So vast and sudden a superiority was a serious danger. A latent jealousy of Spain underlay the whole expedition. The realm of the Catholic kings was expanding, and an indistinct empire, larger, in reality, than that of Rome, was rising out of the Atlantic. By a very simple calculation of approaching contingencies, Ferdinand might be suspected of designs upon Naples.
Now that the helplessness of the Neapolitans had been revealed, it was apparent that he had made a false reckoning when he allowed the French to occupy what he might have taken more easily himself, by crossing the Straits of Messina. Ferdinand joined the Italians of the North in declaring against the invader, and his envoy Fonseca tore up the Treaty of Barcelona before the face of the French king. Having been crowned in the Cathedral, and having garrisoned his fortresses, Charles set out for France, at the head of a small army.
As he came over the Apennines into Lombardy, at Fornovo he was met by a larger force, chiefly provided by Venice, and had to fight his way through. A fortnight after his departure the Spaniards, under Gonsalvo of Cordova, landed in Calabria, as auxiliaries of the dethroned king.
The throne was once more occupied by the fallen family, and Charles retained nothing of his easy and inglorious conquests when he died in His successor, Lewis XII. He allied himself against his rival, Sforza, with Venice, and with Pope Alexander. That he might marry the widowed queen, and preserve Edition: current; Page: [ 41 ] her duchy of Brittany for the Crown, he required that his own childless marriage should be annulled.
Upon the Legate who brought the necessary documents the grateful king bestowed a principality, a bride of almost royal rank, and an army wherewith to reconquer the lost possessions of the Church in Central Italy. The rich Lombard plain, the garden of Italy, was conquered as easily as Naples had been in the first expedition. At Novara, in , his mercenaries betrayed him and he ended his days in a French prison. On their way home from the scene of their treachery, the Swiss crowned their evil repute by seizing Bellinzona and the valley of the Ticino, which has remained one of their cantons.
Lewis, undisputed master of Milan and Genoa, assured of the Roman and the Venetian alliance, was in a better position than his predecessor to renew the claim on the throne of Naples. But now, behind Frederic of Naples, there was Ferdinand of Aragon and Sicily, who was not likely to allow the king for whom he had fought to be deposed without resistance.
Therefore it was a welcome suggestion when Ferdinand proposed that they should combine to expel Frederic and to divide his kingdom. As it was Ferdinand who had just reinstated him, this was an adaptation to the affairs of Christendom of the methods which passed for justice in the treatment of unbelievers, and were applied without scruple by the foremost men of the age, Albuquerque and Cortez. Frederic turned for aid to the Sultan, and this felonious act was put forward as the justification of his aggressors. The Pope sanctioned the Treaty of Partition, and as the Crown of Naples was technically in his gift, he deprived the king on the ground stated by the allies.
The exquisite significance of the plea was that the Pope himself had invited Turkish intervention in Italy, and now declared it Edition: current; Page: [ 42 ] a cause of forfeiture. In French and Spaniards occupied their allotted portions, and then quarrelled over the distribution of the spoil.
Naples remained a dependency of Spain, for all purposes, in modern history. In the midst of foreign armies, and of new combinations disturbing the established balance of Italian Powers, the lesser potentates were exposed to destruction; and there were forces about sufficient, under capable guidance, to remodel the chaotic centre of Italy, where no strong government had ever been constituted. His sister just then became Duchess of Ferrara, on the border of the defenceless region which he coveted; and the dominions of the King of France, his patron and ally, extended to the Adda and the Po.
Never had such advantages been united in such a man. He was fearless of difficulties, of dangers, and of consequences; and having no preference for right or wrong, he weighed with an equal and dispassionate mind whether it was better to spare a man or to cut his throat. As he did not attempt more than he could perform, his rapid success awakened aspirations for a possible future. He was odious to Venice, but a Venetian, who watched his meteoric course, wonders, in his secret diary, whether this unerring schemer was to be the appointed deliverer.
He was a terror to Florence, yet the Florentine secretary, to whom he confided his thoughts in certain critical hours, wrote of him as men have written of Napoleon, and erected a monument to his memory that has secretly fascinated half the politicians in the world. With his double equipment as a lieutenant of the French king and as a condottiere of the Pope, he began by reviving the dormant authority of Rome, where nominal Edition: current; Page: [ 43 ] feudatories held vicarious sway.
In the place of many despots struggling not for objects of policy, but for their own existence, there appeared a single state, reaching from sea to sea, from the Campagna to the salt—marshes by the delta of the Po, under a papal prince and gonfaloniere, invested with rights and prerogatives to protect the Holy See, and with power to control it. Rome would have become a dependency of the reigning house of Borgia, as it had been of less capable vassals, and the system might have lasted as long as the brain that devised it.
He served both Pope and king, and his French alliance carried farther than the recovery of the Romagna. Florence became tributary by taking him into pay. Bologna bought him off with a heavy ransom. Venice inscribed his name in the illustrious record of its nobility. None could tell where his ambition or his resources would end, how his inventive genius would employ the rivalry of the invaders, what uses he would devise for the Emperor and the Turk. The era of petty tyranny was closed by the apparition of one superior national tyrant, who could be no worse than twenty, for though his crimes would be as theirs, they would not be useless to the nation, but were thoughtfully designed and executed for the sake of power, the accepted object of politics in a country where the right was known by the result.
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The death of Alexander and the decline of the French cause in the South cut short his work in the autumn of Julius had resisted Alexander, as a man unfit for his function, and it soon appeared that this was not a private feud, but a total reversal of ideas and policy. The change was not felt in religious reform or in patronage of learning, but first in the notion of territorial politics.
The Borgias had prevailed by arms, and Julius would not consent to be their inferior and to condemn his whole career. He must draw the sword; but, unlike them, he would draw it in the direct interest of the Church.
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He had overthrown the conqueror, not that the conquests might be dissolved, or might go to Venice, but in order that he himself and his successors might have power in Italy, and through Italians, over the world. Upon this foundation he instituted the temporal power, as it subsisted for three centuries. The jealous municipal spirit of the Middle Ages had dissolved society into units, and nothing but force could reverse the tradition and weld the fragments into great communities.
Borgia had shown that this could be done; but also that no victorious condottiere, were he even his own son, could be trusted by a Pope. Julius undertook to command his army himself, and to fight at the head of his troops. Letting his white beard grow, putting on armour, and proudly riding his war—horse under fire, he exhibited the most picturesque and romantic figure of his time.
The Venetians, commanding the seaboard with their galleys, were not easy to dislodge from the towns they occupied. Essentially a maritime and commercial Power, their centre of gravity lay so far east that it was once proposed to move the capital from the Lagoons to the Edition: current; Page: [ 45 ] Bosphorus. When the advancing Turk damaged their trade and threatened their Colonial empire, they took advantage of Italian disintegration to become a continental state, and the general insecurity and oppression of miniature potentates made it a happy fate to be subject to the serene and politic government, whose three thousand ships still held the sea, flying the Christian flag.
Renouncing non—intervention on the mainland, they set power above prosperity, and the interest of the State above the welfare and safety of a thousand patrician houses. Wherever there were troubled waters, the fisher was Venice. All down the Eastern Coast, and along the Alpine slopes to the passes which were the trade route to Northern Europe, and still farther, at the expense of Milan and Naples, the patriarch of Aquileia and the Duke of Ferrara, the Emperor and the Pope, the Queen of the Adriatic extended her intelligent sway.
Their ambition was evident to their neighbours, and those whom they had despoiled, under every plausible pretext, awaited the opportunity of retribution.