The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 13

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Title: The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 13

Editor: Rossiter Johnson

Charles F. Horne

LL. D. John Rudd

Release date: October 6, 2009 [eBook #30186]
Most recently updated: January 5, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Jane Hyland and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at












With a staff of specialists


The National Alumni

Copyright, 1905, By THE NATIONAL ALUMNI

[Pg vii]



An Outline Narrative of the Great Events,xiii
John Law Promotes the Mississippi Scheme (A.D. 1716),1
Prince Eugene Vanquishes the Turks
Siege and Battle of Belgrad (A.D. 1717),16
Bursting of the South Sea Bubble (A.D. 1720),22
Bach Lays the Foundation of Modern Music (A.D. 1723),31
Settlement of Georgia (A.D. 1732),44
Rise of Methodism (A.D. 1738)
Preaching of the Wesleys and of Whitefield,57
Conquests of Nadir Shah
Capture of Delhi (A.D. 1739),72
First Modern Novel (A.D. 1740),100
Frederick the Great Seizes Silesia (A.D. 1740)
Maria Theresa Appeals to the Hungarians,108
[Pg viii]
Defeat of the Young Pretender at Culloden (A.D. 1746)
Last of the Stuarts,117
Benjamin Franklin Experiments with Electricity (A.D. 1747),130
Voltaire Directs European Thought from Geneva (A.D. 1755),144
Braddock's Defeat (A.D. 1755),163
Exile of the Acadian Neutrals (A.D. 1755),181
Clive Establishes British Supremacy in India
Black Hole of Calcutta: Battle of Plassey (A.D. 1756),185
Seven Years' War (A.D. 1756-1763)
Battle of Torgau,204
Conquest of Canada
Victory of Wolfe at Quebec (A.D. 1759),229
Usurpation of Catharine II in Russia (A.D. 1762),250
Conspiracy of Pontiac (A.D. 1763),267
American Colonies Oppose the Stamp Act (A.D. 1765)
[Pg ix]
Patrick Henry's Speech,299
Watt Improves the Steam-engine (A.D. 1769),302
First Partition of Poland (A.D. 1772),313
The Boston Tea Party (A.D. 1773),333
Cotton Manufacture Developed (A.D. 1774),341
Intellectual Revolt of Germany
Goethe's Werther Arouses Romanticism (A.D. 1775),347
Pestalozzi's Method of Education (A.D. 1775),364
Universal Chronology (A.D. 1716-1775),379

[Pg x-xi]



The charge of the British at Quebec (page 248),
Painting by R. Caton Woodville.Frontispiece
The British officer reads the decree of exile of the Acadian Neutrals, in the village church,184
Painting by Frank Dicksee.

[Pg xii-xiii]






uring the eighteenth century a remarkable change swept over Europe. The dominant spirit of the time ceased to be artistic as in the Renaissance, or religious as in the Reformation, or military as during the savage civil wars that had followed. The central figure of the world was no longer a king, nor a priest, nor a general. Instead, the man on whom all eyes were fixed, who towered above his fellows, was a mere author, possessed of no claim to notice but his pen. This was the age of the arisen intellect.

The rule of Louis XIV, both in its splendor and its wastefulness, its strength and its oppression, its genius and its pride, had well prepared the way for what should follow. Not only had French culture extended over Europe, but the French language had grown everywhere to be the tongue of polite society, of the educated classes. It had supplanted Latin as the means of communication between foreign courts. Moreover, the most all-pervading and obtrusive of French monarchs was succeeded by the most retiring, the one most ready of all to let the world take what course it would. Louis XV chanced to reign during this entire period, from 1715 to 1774, and that is equivalent to saying that France, which had become the chief state of Europe, was ungoverned, was only robbed and bullied for the support of a [Pg xiv]profligate court. So long as citizens paid taxes, they might think—and say—wellnigh what they pleased.

The elder Louis had realized something of the error of his own career and had left as his last advice to his successor, to abstain from war. We are told that the obedient legatee accepted the caution as his motto, and had it hung upon his bedroom wall, where it served him as an excellent excuse for doing nothing at all. His government was notoriously in the hands of his mistresses, Pompadour and the others, and their misrule was to the full as costly to France as the wars of the preceding age. They drained the country quite as deeply of its resources and renown; they angered and insulted it far more.

Meanwhile the misery of all Europe, caused by the continued warfare, cried out for reform, demanded it imperatively if the human race were not to disappear. The population of France had diminished by over ten per cent. during the times of the "Grand Monarch"; the cost of the Thirty Years' War to Germany we have already seen. Hence we find ourselves in a rather thoughtful and anxious age. Even kings begin to make some question of the future. Governments become, or like to call themselves, "benevolent despotisms," and instead of starving their subjects look carefully, if somewhat dictatorially, to their material prosperity.

England, to be sure, but England alone, stands out as an exception to the prevalence of despotic rule. There the commons had already won their battle. King George I, the German prince whom they had declared their sovereign after the death of Anne (1714), did not even know his subjects' language, communicated with his ministers in barbaric Latin, and left the governing wholly in their hands. The "cabinet" system thus sprang up; the ministers were held responsible to Parliament and obeyed its will. The exiled Stuart kings made one or two feeble attempts to win back their throne, but the tide of progress was against them and their last hope vanished in the slaughter of Culloden.[1]

By that defeat Great Britain was finally and firmly established as a parliamentary government; and the most marked of all the physical changes of the century was the rapid expansion [Pg xv]of her power under this new form of rule. She grew to be really "mistress of the seas," extended her sceptre over distant lands, ceased to be an island, and became a world-wide empire. Her trade increased enormously; her manufactures developed. By his invention of the "spinning-jenny," Arkwright placed England's cotton manufacture among the most giant industries of the world.[2] The land grew vastly rich. It was her reward for political progress, for having been able so to "get the start of the majestic world."


At the opening of this period the talk of the town, both in Paris and in London, ran on colonies and the tremendous wealth to be gained from them as the Spaniards and the Dutch had done. During the minority of Louis XV, even the Prince Regent of France dabbled in colonial investments. The stock market became suddenly a prominent feature of politics. John Law planned his dazzling "Mississippi Scheme," by which all Frenchmen were to become millionaires. Only, unfortunately, the bubble burst, and the industrious were ruined instead.[3] England had its "South Sea Bubble," with the same madness of speculation, vanishing fortunes, and blasted reputations.[4] The nobility having been driven by gunpowder from their ancient occupation as warrior chiefs, having lost to kings and people their rights as governors, became traders instead. We approach a period in which they cease to be the leading order of society, we approach the "reign of the middle classes."

From England, according to the English view, sprang also the great intellectual movement of the age. Voltaire visited the England of Addison and Pope; Montesquieu studied the English Constitution of 1689; and these two men were the writers who overthrew absolutism in Europe, who paved the way for the epoch of Revolution that was to follow. Montesquieu's Persian Letters, satirizing French society, appeared as early as 1721. Voltaire's sarcasms and witty sneers got him into trouble with the French Government as early as 1715. He was imprisoned[Pg xvi] in the Bastille, but released and at last driven from his country, a firebrand cast loose upon Europe to spread the doctrine of man's equality, to cry out everywhere for justice against oppression, and to mock with almost satanic ingenuity against the religion in whose name Europe had plunged into so many wars. By 1740 Voltaire was the most prominent figure of his world, if we except perhaps the quarrelling sovereigns, Maria Theresa and Frederick the Great. He dwelt for a time with Frederick in Berlin; but the two disagreed as great potentates will, and Voltaire withdrew to Geneva (1755), the little independent city republic which had served as a refuge to so many fugitives on France's border.[5]

From Geneva, Voltaire corresponded with most of the crowned heads of Europe. His advice was eagerly sought by "benevolent despotism." The aid of his mighty pen was claimed by every victim of oppression. In Paris, Diderot and his companions brought out the famous Cyclopædia, a mighty monument of human learning indeed, but even more a mighty sermon against tyranny, a scornful protest against Christianity, a teacher spreading over all the earth the preachings of Voltaire.

If there was evil in this movement there was also good. Thought was aroused, was stimulated, and everywhere the products of awakened genius began to appear. The marvellous development of modern music had its origin in this period with the creations of Bach.[6] The modern novel began its tremendously important career with Richardson and Fielding.[7] Inventive genius achieved the first great triumph of modern mechanicism in Watt's steam-engine.[8] Even across the ocean spread the intellectual impulse, and the New World had its Franklin to astonish and delight the old with his experiments in electricity—childish experiments at first, as man reached out slowly, shudderingly, toward control of this last and most marvellous of his servants.[9]

Philanthropy awoke also. Serious folk began to have vague self-questionings as to the righteousness of human slavery. The [Pg xvii]prison system was investigated; in England there were vague attempts at its reform. The noble Oglethorpe did what he could to arouse public sentiment against imprisonment for debt, and in his own person led to America a colony of the unfortunate victims of the system. They founded Georgia, the latest of the colonies; and the chain of settlements along the Atlantic coastline was complete.[10]

Who would find waste land to live on after that, must journey farther west, must seek the interior of the new continent—a simple fact, but one that was soon destined to produce tempestuous results.

In this age also, as if in answer to the spiritual apathy of which Voltaire was only the expression, not the cause, there arose Methodism, which in externals at least showed itself the most passionate and the most expressive form of devotion to Christianity. Wesley and Whitefield, the celebrated preachers, spread their doctrines over England in the face of insult and persecution. They penetrated the American colonies; their doctrines reached even beyond their language and affected the entire European Continent. The revival of devotion may have been hysterical, yet a vast revival it assuredly was; it has been called by some critics the most important religious movement since the Reformation.[11]


In face of such events as these, we learn to attach less importance to the schemes of kings, and their selfish territorial wars, horrible as these may be in their exhibitions of human heartlessness and blood-guilt, destructive as they have ever been in their consequences of suffering and degeneration.

The Turks were now finally beaten back from their conquests in Hungary. The war which they had begun with the siege of Vienna was continued by the celebrated Austrian general, Prince Eugene, the companion of Marlborough against Louis XIV. Eugene won victory after victory, and finally by the capture of Belgrad (1717) drove the Mahometans forever from Hun[Pg xviii]garian territory, reduced them from a universal menace to become an ever-fading "Eastern question."[12]

Russia also, at first under Peter the Great and later under Catherine II, began to reach out for Turkish territory. The Turks had risen by the sword, and now, as other nations progressed and they stood still, the power of the sword was failing them. Russia expanded toward the Black Sea, as before she had expanded toward the Baltic, feeling out from her boundaries everywhere, moving along the line of least resistance, already looking toward Poland as her next tempting mouthful.

In Asia too the Turks had troubles to encounter. Asia, the vastly productive, multitudinous through unprogressive, could still raise up conquerors of the Turkish type to stand against them. The last of those sudden waves of temporary, meaningless, barbarian conquest swept over the Asian plains. Nadir Shah, a Persian bandit, freed his country from the yoke of its Afghan tyrants, assumed its throne, and by repeated battles enlarged his domains at Turkish expense. He subdued Afghanistan, and then extending his attention to India made a sudden invasion of that huge land, overthrew the forces of the Great Mogul, and, having captured both him and his capital, permitted him to continue to reign as a sort of subject prince. Returning from this distant expedition, Nadir Shah was beginning to push his conquests over Northeastern Asia when he was slain by a conspiracy among his Persian followers, driven to desperation by his savage tyranny. His dominions fell to pieces with his death.[13]

Europe meanwhile was going through a series of wars which seem small improvement over those of Nadir, except that they have had more polished historians. The selfish principles of Louis XIV had not lost their influence, the passion for territorial aggrandizement had not disappeared. In all history it would be hard to find a war more brazen in the avowed selfishness of its beginning, more utterly callous in its persistence, than that into which all Europe plunged in 1740.

This astonishing turmoil is known as the War of the Austrian Succession. We have seen how the extinction of the line of[Pg xix] the Spanish Hapsburgs had given rise to kingly jealousies and strife in 1700. Next the Austrian Hapsburgs, or at least the male line of them, became extinct in 1740. Their surviving representative was a daughter, a young and energetic woman, Maria Theresa, the "Empress Queen." Her father, the Emperor Charles VI, foreseeing the difficulties she must encounter, had during his lifetime made treaties with every important court of Europe, by which he yielded them valuable concessions in return for their guarantee that on his death his daughter should succeed to his throne and his possessions undisturbed. Her husband was to be made emperor.

The moment Charles was gone, every treaty was thrown to the winds, and every hand seemed extended by a common impulse to clutch what it could from a woman's weakness.[14] The first to move was Frederick II, King of Prussia, he whom his admirers have called the Great. He was a young man, he had just succeeded to the Prussian kingdom which his father had left peaceful and prosperous, guarded by a powerful and well-trained army, made secure by a well-filled treasury. Young Frederick was undoubtedly great in intellect and in cynical frankness. He saw his opportunity, he made no pretence of keeping his promises; marching his army forward he seized the nearest Austrian province, the rich and extensive land of Silesia. The other kingdoms rushed to get their share of the spoils; France, Bavaria, Saxony, Sardinia, and Spain formed an alliance with Prussia. Only England, in her antagonism to France, made protest—purely diplomatic. Austria was assailed from every side. Her overthrow seemed certain. A French army was within three days' march of Vienna; it captured the Bohemian capital, Prague.

It was then that Maria Theresa made her famous appeal to the Hungarians, and the impressionable Magyars swore to die in her defence. She gathered armies, Austrian and Hungarian. She made a desperate alliance with Frederick, consenting to give him Silesia so as to save her other domains. The members of the coalition quarrelled among themselves. The French were driven to a disastrous retreat from Prague. Louis XV remembered his disapproval of war, as soon as it became disastrous; and[Pg xx] the whole assault on the Empress Queen faded away as selfishly as it had risen.

The only result was that Frederick had Silesia, and Maria Theresa intended to have it back; and so they plotted and plotted, fought and fought. War followed war, and battle, battle. Silesia became a desert at last and of little value to either party. As to the Silesians who had once existed there, a few of them escaped starvation and massacre, not many, some hundred thousands, a mere matter of figures this in the kingly game and not accurately kept count of.


The final upshot of this Silesian argument was the Seven Years' War. Maria Theresa made friends with the mistress of Louis XV, and so secured a French alliance. Frederick offended the Empress of Russia by his witty tongue, and she also joined in the "ladies' war" against him. Saxony, the nearest state to Prussia, was ever on the side of the strongest. So here was the European coalition hurled against Frederick in his turn. He proved the ablest general of his age, one of the master minds of military skill. For seven years he withstood all his enemies, Austria and Russia mainly, for Saxony he soon conquered, and France showed no great military powers—disgraced herself if further disgrace were possible to her condition.

Over the military details of the contest we need not pause.[15] Prussia had always been regarded as one of the lesser European states, Austria and France as the chief powers. Russia now proved herself of equal weight with the greatest, so that even the genius of Frederick began to fail against the enormous odds which crushed him down. His land was laid waste, his capital seized by a sudden attack and held for ransom. He was saved by the death of the Russian Empress; her son and successor, an admirer of Frederick, promptly changed sides in the war. By degrees everyone abandoned it but Maria Theresa; and she, finding her single strength insufficient against Prussia, was compelled to yield at last. Frederick kept his dear-bought desert of Silesia.

This Seven Years' War caused what that of the Austrian Succession had attempted, a complete redistribution of the bal[Pg xxi]ance of European power, England, Russia, and Prussia rising to at least equality with Austria and France. Even before the opening of the formal war France and England had been engaged in a colonial strife, which had caused England to declare herself Frederick's ally; and, while in Europe the grapple between England and France did not assume serious proportions, it was of enormous consequence to their colonies in India and America.

In India both countries had trading-stations, but the French were popular with the natives and the English were not. The weakness of the native support was not realized by either party. The conquests of Nadir Shah were scarcely known to them; the name of the Great Mogul at Delhi was one of vagueness and mysterious power; it seemed to the French that with Indian aid they could easily drive the English into the sea; and the attempt was made. It must have been successful but for Clive. That remarkable young warrior rose from his subordinate desk, laid aside his clerkly pen, and gathering a little band of fighters round him, defeated both French and natives in the remarkable siege of Arcot. Then came the hideous tale of the "black hole of Calcutta," and Clive achieved revenge and completed his work of conquest at Plassey (1757).[16]

Centuries had elapsed since Europeans had encountered, in serious battle, any Asiatics except the Turks—and these had proved quite equal to the strife. Hence the vast superiority which the more progressive civilization had attained was little realized. The American aborigines had indeed fallen an easy prey to Europe, but the conquest of Asia and Africa had not yet been begun. Thus the victories of Clive seemed to his contemporaries even more marvellous than they were. They won for England not only an empire in India, but a high prestige in Europe also.


In America the British success was equally decisive though more dearly bought. Here the war had originated in the Ohio valley. Finding no more room upon the coast, the English col[Pg xxii]onists were pressing westward and there met the French. The vast wilderness which had lain unoccupied for centuries, even though men knew of its existence, now became suddenly of importance. Frenchmen needed it for their fur trade; Britons for colonization. They fought for it.

Here as in India the natives had been won by the diplomatic French, but their aid proved of no avail. The British Parliament sent over General Braddock in 1757, and he perished with a large portion of his army in the celebrated ambuscade from which Washington escaped.[17] For a time French energy made the war seem not unequal; but the number of French in America was small; the home Government of Louis XV seemed wholly lost in sloth and indifferent to the result. The English Government was doggedly resolute. Its unwilling subjects, the French colonists of Acadia, were driven from their homes.[18] Troops were poured into America, and in 1759 Wolfe won his famous victory at Quebec.[19] The next year Montreal also fell into the hands of the British, and the conquest of Canada was complete.

The treaty of 1763, which ended the Seven Years' War for Prussia, brought peace also between England and France. The latter surrendered her colonial pretensions, partly in India, wholly in America, without having really exerted herself to retain them. Perhaps her experience in the Mississippi Scheme of Law had convinced her they were of but little worth.


The latter half of the reign of Frederick the Great was very different from its beginning. He had encountered war sufficient to satiate even his reckless appetite, and he clung to peace. Prussia became for a while the centre of European government and intrigue; and Frederick, by far the ablest sovereign of his time, remained until his death (1786) the leader in that system of paternal government, of kindly tyranny, which typifies the age. He husbanded the resources of his country with jealous care; he compelled his people to work, and be provident, and prosper,[Pg xxiii] whether they would or no. Maria Theresa treated her subjects with much the same benevolence; and her son and successor Joseph II became the most ardent of the admirers of Frederick. Russia also came under a ruler of similar ideas, Catharine II,[20] a German princess by birth, who wedded a czar, deposed him, and, ruling in his stead, became the most Russian of the Russians. She ruled her land wisely and well, with a little more than Frederick's tyranny, a little less than his benevolence. She was cynical, as was the fashion, and her moral life shocked even that easy-going age. Also she was a philosopher, and invited Diderot, chief of the French Cyclopædists, to dwell at her court, much as Voltaire had dwelt at Frederick's. French literature was still the literature of Europe, and both Frederick and Catharine openly despised the tongue of their own lands.

It was among these three congenial rulers, of Russia, Prussia, and young Joseph of Austria, that the scheme arose of dividing Poland among themselves.[21] This has been termed "the crime of the century," but it was in strict accordance with what the rest of Europe had attempted to do to Austria and then to Prussia. Only, the first two victims had proved unexpectedly capable of resistance, the third was more shrewdly selected. Kindly benevolent despotism had also a voice in the matter, for Poland was wretchedly misgoverned, a source of constant danger to herself and to her neighbors. It was really a kindness, as those neighbors explained, to relieve her of half her territories. So well were their successors of the next generation pleased with the results, that they took each another slice, and then, fully convinced of the ancestral wisdom and good-will, divided what was left.


The new cynicism and philosophy which was thus spreading even among monarchs, was soon destined to have most explosive results. It found expression first in a further revolt against the dominion of the Roman Church. Most of the sovereigns joined in a determined attack against the Jesuits, the enthusiastic and devoted priests who had become the mainstay of the papal power.[Pg xxiv] After a long resistance, the Jesuits succumbed; their order was abolished by Pope Clement XIV in 1773.

The next startling symptom of the changing times was the rapid literary development of Germany. Its young men had been left free to think and talk. Frederick half contemptuously declared that his people might believe what nonsense they pleased so long as they remained orderly. The poet Lessing by his books roused the ancient spirit of liberty, long dormant in the German mind. Goethe and Schiller became the foremost of a crowd of younger men whose revolt at first took the form of an extravagant devotion to romance as opposed to the dull workaday world about them.[22] Pestalozzi, a Swiss, conceived the idea of reforming the world through its children, encouraging the little ones by constant, loving example to develop all the strength and goodness that was in them.[23]

Yet the first open defiance given to despotism by the fast-growing spirit of freedom came not from Europe but from America; was a revolt not against the lazy tyranny in France or the kindly tyranny of Eastern Europe, but against the constitutional government of England. When the French minister signed the treaty surrendering to England all his country's possessions in America he justified himself with a well-turned phrase, "I give her all, on purpose to destroy her."

The words seemed prophetic, England's loss came through her gain. The Indians, devoted to the French, refused to submit peacefully to the change of rule. Pontiac, often regarded as the ablest statesman of his fading race, gathered them into a widespread confederacy, and for years held the English at bay in the region of the Great Lakes.[24] The expenses involved both upon England and upon her American colonists by this strife and by the French war itself were a constant source of friction. England insisted that she had spent her substance in defence of the colonists, and should be repaid by them. They on the other hand asserted that she had fought for her own glory, and had been well repaid by her vast increases of territory both in India and America; that they had become impoverished, while she[Pg xxv] had now the richest trade in the world, and stood upon the top-most pinnacle of national grandeur with wealth pouring in to her from every quarter of the globe.

Neither side being able to convince the other by abstract argument, England exerted her authority and passed the "Stamp Act," laying new taxes on the colonists.[25] They responded with protests, argumentative, eloquent, fiery, and defiant. They refused to trade with Great Britain, and became self-supporting. Thus the obnoxious laws, instead of bringing money to the mother country, caused her heavy losses. English merchants joined the Americans in petitioning for the repeal of the offensive acts of Parliament; and soon every tax was withdrawn except a tiny one on tea, so small that the money involved was trifling. But it was not the money, it was the principle involved, which had aroused the Americans; and their resistance continued as vigorous as against the previous really burdensome taxation. The tea which King George commanded should be sent forcibly to the colonists, they refused to receive. In Boston it was dumped into the harbor.[26]

The English Parliament drew back in amazement; its members found themselves dealing, as one of them put it, with a nation of lawyers. They were wrong; they had encountered a force far more potent, a nation of freemen who had been permitted for a century and a half to rule themselves, who had reached the fullest measure of self-reliance and self-assertion. America had become earliest ripe for the Age of Revolution toward which the European middle classes, more lately left to themselves, were more slowly, but not less surely, developing.

[for the next section of this general survey see volume xiv]

[Pg xxvi]


[1] See Defeat of the Young Pretender at Culloden, page 117.

[2] See Cotton Manufacture Developed, page 341.

[3] See John Law Promotes the Mississippi Scheme, page 1.

[4] See Bursting of the South Sea Bubble, page 22.

[5] See Voltaire Directs European Thought from Geneva, page 144.

[6] See Bach Lays the Foundation of Modern Music, page 31.

[7] See First Modern Novel, page 100.

[8] See Watt Improves the Steam-engine, page 302.

[9] See Benjamin Franklin Experiments with Electricity, page 130.

[10] See Settlement of Georgia, page 44.

[11] See Rise of Methodism: Preaching of the Wesleys and of Whitefield, page 57.

[12] See Prince Eugene Vanquishes the Turks: Siege and Battle of Belgrad, page 16.

[13] See Conquests of Nadir Shah: Capture of Delhi, page 72.

[14] See Frederick the Great Seizes Silesia: Maria Theresa Appeals to the Hungarians, page 108.

[15] See Seven Years' War: Battle of Torgau, page 204.

[16] See Clive Establishes British Supremacy in India: The Black Hole of Calcutta: Battle of Plassey, page 185.

[17] See Braddock's Defeat, page 163.

[18] See Exile of the Acadian Neutrals, page 181.

[19] See Conquest of Canada: Victory of Wolfe at Quebec, page 229.

[20] See Usurpation of Catharine II in Russia, page 250.

[21] See First Partition of Poland, page 313.

[22] See Intellectual Revolt of Germany, page 347.

[23] See Pestalozzi's Method of Education, page 364.

[24] See Conspiracy of Pontiac, page 267.

[25] See American Colonies Oppose the Stamp Act, page 289.

[26] See Boston Tea Party, page 333.


[Pg 1]

A.D. 1716


Known under the various titles of the "Mississippi Scheme," the "Mississippi Bubble," and the "System," the financial enterprise originated by John Law, under authority of the French government, proved to be the most disastrous experiment of the kind ever made by a civilized state.

Louis XIV ended his long reign in 1715, leaving his throne to his great-grandson, a child of five years, Louis XV. The impoverished country was in the hands of a regent, Philippe, Duke of Orléans, whose financial undertakings were all unfortunate. John Law, the son of a Scotch banker, was an adventurer and a gambler who yet became celebrated as a financier and commercial promoter. After killing an antagonist in a duel in London, he escaped the gallows by fleeing to the Continent, where he followed gaming and at the same time devised financial schemes which he proposed to various governments for their adoption. His favorite notion was that large issues of paper money could be safely circulated with small security.

Law offered to relieve Orléans from his financial troubles, and the Regent listened with favor to his proposals. In 1716 Law, with others, organized what he called the General Bank. It was ably managed, became popular, and by means of it Law successfully carried out his paper-currency ideas. His notes were held at a premium over those of the government, whose confidence was therefore won. Two years later Law's institution was adopted by the state and became the Royal Bank of France. The further undertakings of this extraordinary "new light of finance," the blowing and bursting of the great "bubble," are recorded by Thiers, the French statesman and historian, himself eminent as his country's chief financier during her wonderful recovery after the Franco-German War.

Law was always scheming to concentrate into one establishment his bank, the administration of the public revenues, and the commercial monopolies. He resolved, in order to attain this end, to organize, separately, a commercial company, to which he would add, one after another, different privileges in[Pg 2] proportion to its success, and which he would then incorporate with the General Bank. Constructing thus separately each of the pieces of his vast machine, he proposed ultimately to unite them and form the grand whole, the object of his dreams and his ardent ambition.

An immense territory, discovered by a Frenchman, in the New World, presented itself for the speculations of Law. The Chevalier de la Salle, the famous traveller of the time, having penetrated into America by Upper Canada, descended the river Illinois, arrived suddenly at a great river half a league wide, and, abandoning himself to the current, was borne into the Gulf of Mexico. This river was the Mississippi. The Chevalier de la Salle took possession of the country he had passed through for the King of France, and gave it the beautiful name of Louisiana.

There was much said of the magnificence and fertility of this new country, of the abundance of its products, of the richness of its mines, which were reported to be much more extensive than those of Mexico or Peru. Law, taking advantage of this current of opinion, projected a company which should unite the commerce of Louisiana with the fur trade of Canada. The Regent granted all he asked, by an edict given in August, 1717, fifteen months after the first establishment of the bank.

The new company received the title of the "West Indian Company." It was to have the sovereignty of all Louisiana on the condition only of liege homage to the King of France, and of a crown of gold of thirty marks at the commencement of every new reign. It was to exercise all the rights of sovereignty, such as levying troops, equipping vessels-of-war, constructing forts, establishing courts, working mines, etc. The King relinquished to it the vessels, forts, and munitions of war which belonged to the Crozat Company,[27] and conceded, furthermore, the exclusive right of the fur trade of Canada. The arms of this sovereign company represented the effigy of an old river-god leaning upon a horn of plenty.

Law revolved in his mind many other projects relating to his Western company. He spoke, at first mysteriously, of the bene[Pg 3]fits which he was preparing for it. Associating with a large number of noblemen, whom his wit, his fortune, and the hope of considerable gains attracted around him, he urged them strongly to obtain for themselves some shares, which would soon rise rapidly in the market. He was himself soon obliged to buy some above par. The par value being five hundred francs, two hundred of them represented at par a sum of one hundred thousand francs. The price for the day being three hundred francs, sixty thousand francs were sufficient to buy two hundred shares. He contracted to pay one hundred thousand francs for two hundred shares at a fixed future time; this was to anticipate that they would gain at least two hundred francs each, and that a profit of forty thousand francs could be realized on the whole. He agreed, in order to make this sort of wager more certain, to pay the difference of forty thousand francs in advance, and to lose the difference if he did not realize a profit from the proposed transfer.

This was the first instance of a sale at an anticipated advance. This kind of trade consisted in giving "earnest-money" called a premium, which the purchaser lost if he failed to take the property. He who made the bargain had the liberty of rescinding it if he would lose more by adhering to it than by abandoning it. No advantage would accrue to Law for the possible sacrifice of forty thousand francs, unless at the designated time the shares had not been worth as much as sixty thousand francs, or three hundred francs each; for having engaged to pay one hundred thousand francs for what was worth only fifty thousand, for instance, he would suffer less to lose his forty thousand francs than to keep his engagement. But, evidently, if Law did wish by this method to limit the possible loss, he hoped nevertheless not to make any loss at all; and, on the contrary, he believed firmly that the two hundred shares would be worth at least the hundred thousand francs, or five hundred francs each, at the time fixed for the expiration of the contract. This large premium attracted general attention, and people were eager to purchase the Western shares. They rose sensibly during the month of April, 1719, and went nearly to par. Law disclosed his projects; the Regent kept his promise, and authorized him to unite the great commercial companies of the East and West Indies.[Pg 4]

The two companies of the East Indies and of China, chartered in 1664 and 1713, had conducted their affairs very badly: they had ceased to carry on any commerce, and had underlet their privileges at a charge which was very burdensome to the trade. The merchants who had bought it of them did not dare to make use of their privileges, for fear that their vessels would be seized by the creditors of the company. Navigation to the East was entirely abandoned, and the necessity of reviving it had become urgent. By a decree of May, 1719, Law caused to be accorded to the West India Company the exclusive right of trading in all seas beyond the Cape of Good Hope. From this time it had the sole right of traffic with the islands of Madagascar, Bourbon, and France, the coast of Sofola in Africa, the Red Sea, Persia, Mongolia, Siam, China, and Japan. The commerce of Senegal, an acquisition of the company which still carried it on, was added to the others, so that the company had the right of French trade in America, Africa, and Asia. Its title, like its functions, was enlarged; it was no longer called the "West India Company," but the "Indian Company." Its regulations remained the same as before. It was authorized to issue another lot of shares, in order to raise the necessary funds either to pay the debts of the companies which it succeeded or for organizing the proper establishments. Fifty thousand of these shares were issued at a par of five hundred francs, which made a nominal capital of twenty-five millions. But the company demanded five hundred fifty francs in cash for them, or a total of twenty-seven millions two hundred fifty thousand francs, inasmuch as it esteemed its privileges as very great and its popularity certain. It required fifty francs to be paid in advance, and the remaining five hundred in twenty equal monthly payments. In case the payments should not be fully made, the fifty francs paid in advance were forfeited by the subscriber. It was nothing but a bargain made at a premium with the public.

The prompt realization of the promises of Law, the importance and extent of the last privileges granted to the company, the facilities accorded to the subscribers, everything, induced a subscription to the new shares. The movement became animated. One could, by the favorable terms offered, by paying out five hundred fifty francs, obtain eleven shares instead of one, and[Pg 5] thus, with a little money, speculate to a considerable amount. To this method of attracting speculators Law added another; he procured a decision that no one should subscribe for the new shares without exhibiting four times as many old ones. It was necessary, therefore, to hasten to obtain them in order to fulfil the requisite condition. In a short time they were carried up to par, and far above that. From three hundred francs, at which they were at the start, they rose to five hundred, five hundred fifty, six hundred, and seven hundred fifty francs; that is, they gained 150 per cent. These second shares were called the "daughters," to distinguish them from the first.

Law contemplated at last the completion of his project by uniting the collection of the revenues to the other privileges of the Indian Company, and redeeming the national debt. This was the greatest and most difficult part of his plan.

The national debt was fifteen to sixteen hundred millions, partly in contracts for perpetual annuities, partly in State notes which would soon be due. The interest on the debt was eighty millions, or one-half the revenue of the government. Some combination was necessary to meet the state notes at their maturity, and to reduce the annual charges which the public treasury could no longer sustain.

Law conceived the idea of substituting the company for the government, and converting the whole national debt into shares in the Indian Company. To accomplish this he wished the company to lend the treasury the fifteen to sixteen hundred millions which would redeem the debt; and that, to obtain this enormous sum, it should issue shares to that amount. In this manner the fifteen or sixteen hundred millions furnished to the government by the company, and paid out by the government to its creditors, must return to the company by the sale of its shares. Let us see the means which Law had devised to insure the success of his scheme. The government would pay 3 per cent. interest for the sum loaned to it, which would make forty-five or forty-eight millions a year. The treasury would thus effect an annual saving of thirty-two or thirty-five millions in the interest on the debt. In return, the collection of the revenue must be transferred to the company, notwithstanding that it had been actually granted to the brothers Paris. The collection would[Pg 6] pay the collectors a net profit of fifteen or sixteen millions. The company, receiving 3 per cent. interest on the capital invested, and reaping from another source a profit of fifteen or sixteen millions, would be in a position to pay 4 per cent. on the sixteen hundred millions of the debt converted into shares.

The profits from commerce and its future success might soon enable it to increase this dividend. According to the prevailing rates of interest, which had fallen to 3 per cent. since the establishment of the bank, this was a sufficient remuneration on the shares. They had, besides, the hope of increasing their capital. The shares having, in fact, doubled in value during the opposition of the "Antisystem," they ought to increase still more rapidly since they were relieved from this opposition. The expectation that the fifteen or sixteen hundred millions of the debt would be invested in the shares was well founded. There was even a certainty of it; for this immense capital, forcibly expelled from its investment in state securities, could find no other place for investment than in the company.

This plan of Law's was vast and bold. Its success would liquidate the state debt and diminish the annual charges on the treasury, reducing the interest from eighty millions to forty-five or forty-eight millions. The annual charges from which the treasury was to be relieved were to be paid from the profits on the collection of the revenue and the contingent profits of commerce. The whole operation was to pay the creditors of the state 3 per cent. per annum, and the profits and monopolies heretofore granted to farmers of the revenue and commercial companies. This 3 per cent. interest, these profits, and these monopolies, as we shall soon see, might easily amount to the sum of eighty millions annually, which the creditors were formerly paid. Thus far they were not defrauded by this forced conversion of securities; a credit entirely new was substituted for one which was worn out; an establishment had been created, which, combining the functions of a commercial bank and the administration of the finances, must become the most colossal financial power ever known.

The first subscription having been taken up in a few days, Law opened a new one on September 28th, for the same amount and on exactly the same conditions as the preceding.[Pg 7]

The eagerness of subscribers was the same. The creditors passed whole days at the offices of the treasury to obtain their receipts, and there were some even who had their meals brought to them there, so that they might not lose their turn in the ranks. The state notes were, of course, much in demand, and had rapidly risen to par. They had even given rise to a most reprehensible speculation. A confidential clerk of Law, the Prussian Versinobre, having known in advance of the decree regarding the payment, abused his knowledge of the secret, and caused to be bought by brokers with whom he was associated a large amount of state notes at 50 or 60 per cent. below their nominal value, and employed them for the subscriptions when they were received at par. When it is considered that the subscriptions, already, were sold at a large advance, and that by means of the state notes they were bought at about half price, it will be understood what a profit this company of brokers must have realized.

Those who intended to subscribe had accomplished comparatively little by obtaining receipts or state notes; it was still necessary to go to the Hôtel de Nevers, where the subscriptions were received. The entrances there were crowded to suffocation. The hall servants made considerable sums by subscribing for those who could not get through the crowd to the offices. Some adventurers, assuming the livery of Law, performed this service, charging and obtaining a very large fee. The most humble employees of the company became patrons who were very much courted. As to the higher officers and Law himself, they received as much adulation as if they were the actual dispensers of the favors of Fortune. The approaches to Law's residence were encumbered with carriages. All that was most brilliant among the nobility of France came to beg humbly for the subscriptions, which were already much above the nominal price of shares, and which were sure to rise much higher. By a clause creating the company, the ownership of the shares entailed nothing derogatory to rank. The nobility, therefore, could indulge in this speculation without endangering its titles. It was as much in debt as the King, thanks to its prodigality and the long wars of that century, and it sought to win, at least, the amount of its debt by fortunate speculations. It surrounded, it fawned upon Law, who, very anxious to gain partisans, reserved[Pg 8] very few shares for himself, but distributed them among his friends of the court.

This new subscription was also taken up in a few days. If we reflect that fifty millions in cash was sufficient to secure five hundred millions of each issue, we shall understand how the state notes which remained in market and the receipts already delivered would suffice to monopolize the shares offered to the public. The creditors who had not liquidated their claims—and the greater number had not—could not avail themselves of the right to subscribe for shares, and were obliged to buy them in the market at an exorbitant price. The shares subscribed for at the Hôtel de Nevers for five thousand francs were re-sold in the Rue Quincampoix for six, seven, and eight thousand francs. To the need of having some of this investment was joined the hope of seeing the shares rise in the market to an indefinite extent, and it is not surprising that the eagerness to obtain them soon increased to frenzy. In order to satisfy this demand a third subscription was opened on October 2d, three days after the second. Similar in every respect to the first two, it ought to bring in a capital of five hundred millions and complete the fifteen hundred millions which the company needed to redeem the public debt.

The concourse of people was as great as ever at the treasury, where the receipts were given and at the Hôtel de Nevers, where the applications for shares were received. The occasion of this eagerness is evident, since that which was obtained at the Hôtel de Nevers for five thousand francs was worth seven and eight thousand in the Rue Quincampoix. This new issue at five thousand francs caused the rates in the Rue Quincampoix to diminish: in an instant they were below five thousand francs—even as low as four thousand—so blind were these movements, and, so to speak, convulsive, during this period of feverish excitement. There was no possible reason for selling in one place for four thousand francs that for which they paid five thousand at another. But this phenomenon lasted only a few hours; the rates rose again rapidly, and, the subscription being taken up, the shares sold again for seven and eight thousand francs. The crafty brokers had already had two opportunities of making some profitable operations.[Pg 9]

Having obtained the state notes at a very small price, they procured shares at the most moderate rates, between five hundred and a thousand francs; then they sold them for from seven to eight thousand francs; and October 2d, the day of the decline, they repurchased them for four thousand, to sell them again the next day for seven or eight thousand. It will be seen how they must have made money with these opportunities.

It was no longer a few scattered groups which were seen in the Rue Quincampoix, but a compact crowd engaged in speculating from morning till night. The subscriptions had been divided into coupons, transferable, like notes, to the bearer by an indorsement simply formal. During the course of October the shares had already risen above ten thousand francs, and it was impossible to know where they would stop.

The end of the month of December, 1719, was the term of this delusion of three months. A certain number of stock-jobbers, better advised than others, or more impatient to enter upon the enjoyment of their riches, combined to dispose of their shares. They took advantage of the rage which led so many to sell their estates—they purchased them, and thus obtained the real for the imaginary. They established themselves in splendid mansions, upon magnificent domains, and made a display of their fortunes of thirty or forty millions. They possessed themselves of precious stones and jewels, which were still eagerly offered, and secured solid value in exchange for the semblance of it, which had become so prized by the crowd of dupes. The first effect of this desire to realize was a general increase in the price of everything. An enormous mass of paper being put in the balance with the existing quantity of merchandise and other property, the more paper there was offered against purchasable objects the more rapid the increase became. Cloth which heretofore brought fifteen to eighteen francs a yard rose to one hundred twenty-five francs a yard. In a cook-shop a "Mississippian," bidding against a nobleman for a fowl, ran the price up to two hundred francs.

From this instant the shares suffered their first decline, and a heavy uneasiness began to spread abroad. The extent of the fall was not measured by those whom it menaced; but people wondered, doubted, and began to be alarmed. The shares de[Pg 10]clined to fifteen thousand francs. However, the bank-notes were not yet distrusted. The bank was, in fact, entirely distinct from the company, and their fate, up to this time, appeared in no way dependent the one on the other. The notes had not undergone any fictitious and extraordinary advance. Large amounts had been issued, certainly, but for gold and silver, and upon the deposit of shares. The portion which had been issued upon the deposit of shares partook of the danger of the shares themselves; but no one thought of that, and the bank-notes still possessed the entire confidence of the public; only they no longer had the same advantage over specie since the latter had been so much sought by the "realizers." The notes already began to be presented at the bank for coin, and the vast reserve which it had possessed began to diminish perceptibly.

Law did then what governments do so often, and always with ill-success: he resorted to forced measures. He declared, in the first place, by decree, that the bank-notes should always be worth 5 per cent. more than coin.

In consideration of this superiority in value the prohibition which forbade the deposits of gold and silver for bills, at Paris, was taken off, so that notes could be procured at the bank for coin. This permission was simply ridiculous, for no one now wished to exchange specie for paper, even at par. But this was not all; the decree declared that thereafter silver should not be used in payments of over one hundred francs nor gold in those over three hundred francs. This was forcing the circulation of notes in large payments, and that of specie in small, and was designed to accomplish by violence what could only be expected from the natural success of the bank.

These measures did not bring any more gold and silver to the bank. The necessity of using bank-notes in payment of over three hundred francs gave them a certain forced employment, but did not procure them confidence. Notes were used for large payments, but coin was amassed secretly as a value more real and more assured. The creditors of the state ceased to carry their receipts to the Rue Quincampoix, because they already distrusted the shares; they could not decide to buy real estate, because the price had been quadrupled; they suffered the most painful anxiety, and in their turn embarrassed the holders of[Pg 11] shares who needed the receipts to pay their instalments of one-tenth. The catastrophe approached, and nothing could avert it, unless some magic wand could give the company an income of four or five hundred millions a year, which was now only seventy or eighty millions.

Law, adding measures to measures, at last prohibited the circulation of gold, because this metal was, by its convenience, a rival of bank-notes infinitely more dangerous than silver. He then announced an approaching reduction in the value of coin, which he had raised by a decree in February, only to reduce it again in a short time. The mark, in silver, raised from sixty to eighty francs, was reduced to seventy on April 1st, and sixty-five on May 1st. But this measure was utterly insufficient to bring it to the bank.

The situation grew worse every day; the issue of notes to pay for the shares presented at the bank had risen to two billions six hundred ninety-six millions; their depreciation increased; and creditors of every description, being paid in paper which was at a discount of 60 per cent., complained bitterly of the theft authorized by law.

In this juncture there remained but one step to be taken. As the necessary sacrifice had not been made in the first place, and the shares abandoned to their fate in order to protect the notes, both must now be sacrificed, shares and notes together, in order to finish this wicked fiction. The falsehood of this nominal value, which obliged men to receive at par what was depreciated 30 or 40 per cent., could not be prolonged. The immediate reduction of the nominal value of the shares and bank-notes was the only resource. Sacrifices cannot be too hastily made when they are inevitable.

M. d'Argenson, although dismissed from the treasury, still remained keeper of the seals; he had risen in the esteem of the Regent as Law had declined, and he advised the reduction of the nominal value of the shares and notes as an urgent necessity. Law, who saw in this reduction an avowal of the fiction in the legal values, and a blow which must hasten the fall of the "System," opposed it with his whole strength. Nevertheless, M. d'Argenson prevailed. On May 21, 1720, a decree, which remains famous in the history of the "System," advertised the[Pg 12] progressive reduction in the value of shares and notes. This reduction was to begin on the very day of the publication of the decree, and to continue from month to month until December 1st. At this last term the shares were to be estimated at five thousand francs, and a bank-note of ten thousand francs at five thousand; one of a thousand at five hundred, etc. The notes were thus reduced 50 per cent., and the shares only four-ninths per cent. Law, although opposed to the decree, consented to promulgate it.

Scarcely was it published when a fearful clamor was raised on all sides. The reduction was called a bankruptcy; the government was reproached with being the first to throw discredit upon the values which it had created, with having robbed its own creditors, a number of whom had just been paid in bank-notes, even as late as the preceding day—in a word, with assailing the fortunes of all the citizens. The crowd wished to sack Law's hotel and to tear him in pieces. Nothing that could have happened would have produced a greater clamor; but in times like those it was not only necessary not to fear these clamors: it was even a duty to defy them.

The reply to the complaints would have soon been evident to the intelligence of everybody. Without doubt the creditors of the state, and some private individuals, who had been paid in bank-notes, were half ruined by the reduction, but this was not the fault of the decree of May 21st—the real reduction was long before this; the decree only stated a loss already experienced, and the notes were worth still less than the decree declared. Because a number of creditors had been ruined by the falsity of nominal values, was it a reason to continue the fiction that it might extend the ruin? On the contrary, it was necessary to put an end to it, to save others from becoming victims. The official declaration of the fact, although it was known before, must produce a shock and hasten the discredit, but it was of little importance that it was hastened, since it was inevitable.

The public thought Law the author of this measure, advised exclusively by M. d'Argenson, and he became the sole object of hatred. The Parliament, making common cause with the public, thought it a good opportunity to take up arms. It did not perceive, in its blind hatred of the "System," that it was going[Pg 13] to render a service to its author, and that to declare itself against the reduction of the bank-notes was to maintain that the values created by Law had a solid foundation. It assembled on May 27th to demand a revocation of the decree of the 21st. At the very moment when it was deliberating, the Regent sent one of his officers to prohibit all discussion, announcing the revocation of the decree.

The Regent had the weakness to yield to the public clamor. Had the decree been bad, its revocation would have been worse. To declare that the shares and notes were still worth what they purported to be availed nothing, for no one believed it, and their credit was not restored by it. A legal falsehood was reaffirmed, and, without rendering any service to those who were already ruined, the ruin of those who were obliged to receive the notes at their nominal value was insured. The decree of May 21st, wise if it had been sustained, became disastrous as soon as it was revoked. Its only effect was to hasten the general discredit, without the essential advantage of reëstablishing a real, legal value.

We have just said that the bank was not obliged to pay notes of over one hundred francs. It paid them slowly, and employed all imaginable artifices to avoid the payment of them. Nevertheless, its coffers were almost exhausted, and it was necessary to authorize it to confine its disbursements to the payment of notes of ten francs only. The people rushed to the bank in crowds to realize their notes of ten francs, fearing that these would soon share the fate of those of one hundred. The pressure was so great that three persons were suffocated. The indignant mob, ready for any excess, already menaced the house of Law. He fled to the Palais Royal to seek an asylum near the Regent. The mob followed him, carrying the bodies of the three who had been suffocated. The carriage which had just conveyed him was broken to pieces, and it was feared that even the residence of the Regent would not be respected.

The gates of the court of the Palais Royal had been closed; the Duke of Orléans, with great presence of mind, ordered them to be opened. The crowd rushed into the court and suddenly stopped upon the steps of the palace. Leblanc, the chief of police, advanced to those who bore the corpses, and said, "My[Pg 14] friends, go place these bodies in the Morgue, and then return to demand your payment." These words calmed the tumult; the bodies were carried away and the sedition was quelled.

Severities against the rich "Mississippians" were commenced in this same month of October. For a long time it had been suspected that the government, following an ancient usage, would deprive them, by means of visas and chambres-ardentes, of what they had acquired by stock-jobbing. A list was made of those known to have speculated in shares. A special commission arbitrarily placed on this list the names of those whom public opinion designated as having enriched themselves by speculation in paper. They were ordered to deposit a certain number of shares at the offices of the company, and to purchase the required number if they had sold their own. The "realizers" were thus brought back by force to the company which they had deserted. Eight days were given to speculators of good faith to make, voluntarily, the prescribed deposit. To prevent flight from the country, it was prohibited, under pain of death, to travel without a passport.

These measures increased still more the decline of the shares. All those whose names were not upon the list of rich speculators, and who could not tell what became of the shares not yet deposited, hastened to dispose of all they retained.

The "System" wholly disappeared in November, 1720, one year after its greatest credit. All the notes were converted into annuities or preferred shares, and all the shares were deposited with the company. Then a general visa was ordered, consisting of an examination of the whole mass of shares, with the purpose of annulling the greater portion of those which belonged to the enriched stock-jobbers.

Law, foreseeing the renewed rage which the visa would excite, determined to leave France. The hatred against him had been so violent since the scene of July 17th that he had not dared to quit the Palais Royal. The following fact will give an idea of the fury excited against him: A hackman, having a quarrel with the coachman of a private carriage, cried out, "There is Law's carriage!" The crowd rushed upon the carriage, and nearly tore in pieces the coachman and his master before it could be undeceived.[Pg 15]

Law demanded passports of the Duke of Orléans, who granted them immediately. The Duke of Bourbon, made rich by the "System," felt under obligations to Law, and offered money and the carriage of Madame de Prie, his mistress. Law refused the money and accepted the carriage. He repaired to Brussels, taking with him only eight hundred louis. Scarcely was he gone when his property, consisting of lands and shares, was sequestrated.[Pg 16]


[27] A company headed by Anthony Crozat. It was chartered in 1712, and formed a commercial monopoly in Louisiana.—Ed.



A.D. 1717


This struggle marked the disastrous end of a determined effort of the Ottoman empire to recover lost possessions. It also resulted in giving all Hungary, with Belgrad and a part of Servia, permanently to Austria. After their last great invasion of Austrian territory and their crushing defeat by Sobieski and the Imperialists (1683), the Turks suffered many losses of territory at the hands of various European powers. In 1696 Peter the Great took from them Azov, an important entrance to the Black Sea. By the treaty of the Pruth (1711) this, with other Russian possessions, was again ceded to the Turks.

The temporary success led them to seek further recoveries. Their aim was chiefly directed against Austria and Venice, which had aggrandized themselves at the expense of the Moslem power. Turkish victories caused the Venetians to call in the aid of Austria. The Austrian intervention not only saved Venice, but once more checked the Turkish arms.

The Emperor Charles VI appointed as leader of the Austrian forces Prince Eugene of Savoy, already distinguished through a long series of wars as one of the greatest soldiers of his time, the companion of Marlborough. In 1716 Eugene defeated the grand vizier at Temesvar, and in the following year took Belgrad and destroyed the Turkish army, as told in his own racy and cavalier style.

From all sides men flocked to serve under me. There were enough to form a squadron of princes and volunteers. Among the former a Prince of Hesse, two of Bavaria, a Bevern, a Culenbach, one of Wuertemberg, two of Ligne, one of Lichtenstein, of Anhalt-Dessau, the Count of Charolai, the Princes of Dombes, of Marsillac, of Pons, etc.

The Emperor made me a present of a magnificent diamond crucifix, and strongly assured me that all my victories came, and would come, from God; this was getting rid of gratitude toward me; and I set off for Futack, where I assembled my army toward the end of May, 1717.[Pg 17]

It was necessary to possess myself of Belgrad, which for three centuries had been so many times taken and retaken. Luckily, I did not find there the cordelier, John de Capistran, who, with the crucifix in his hand, and in the hottest part of the fire during the whole day, defended the place so well: and Hunyady, who commanded there, against Mahomet II in 1456. Hunyady died of his wounds. The Emperor lost Belgrad; Mahomet lost an eye, and the cordelier was canonized.

Unfortunately the Grand Seignior had but too well replaced the wrong-headed grand vizier, who had been killed. It was the Pacha of Belgrad, who supplied the vacancy, called Hastchi Ali, who made the most judicious arrangements for the preservation of the place, and caused me a great deal of embarrassment. On June 10th I passed the Danube: my volunteer princes threw themselves into boats to arrive among the first, and to charge the spahis with some squadrons of Mercy, which had already passed below Panczova, to protect the disembarkation of some, and the bridge constructed for the others, with eighty-four boats. On the 19th I went, with a large escort, to reconnoitre the place where I wished to pitch my camp. Twelve hundred spahis rushed upon us with unequalled fury, and shouted "Allah! Allah!" I know not why one of their officers broke through a squadron which was in front, to find me at the head of the second, where I placed myself from prudential motives, having many orders to give. He missed me, and I was going to obtain satisfaction with my pistol when a dragoon at my side knocked him under his horse. On the same day we had a naval combat, which lasted two hours; and our saics having the advantage I remained master of the operations on the Danube. On the 20th I continued working on the lines of contravallation, under a dreadful fire from the place. Toward the end of June I advanced my camp so near Belgrad that the bullets were constantly flying over my head. A storm destroyed all my bridges: and, but for the courage of a Hessian officer, in a redoubt, I do not know how I should have been able to reëstablish the one upon the Save.

Wishing to take the place on the side next the water, I caused a fort at the mouth of the Donawitz to be attacked by Mercy, who fell from his horse, in an apoplectic fit. They carried him away, thinking him dead. He was afterward success[Pg 18]fully cured; but, being informed of his accident I went to replace him, and the fort was taken. The Prince of Dombes narrowly escaped being killed at my side by a bullet which made my horse rear. Marcilly was killed in bravely defending a post which I had charged him to intrench. He demanded succor from Rudolph Heister, who refused him, and who was deservedly killed as a punishment for his cowardice, by a cannon-ball which reached him behind his chevaux-de-frise. I arrived, accidentally at first, with a large escort; I sent for a large detachment; I halted, and completely beat the janizaries, leaving, indeed, five hundred men killed upon the field, Taxis, Visconti, Suger, etc. The Pacha of Roumelia, the best officer of the Mussulmans, lost his life also.

On July 22d my batteries were finished. I bombarded, burned, and destroyed the place so much that they would have capitulated if they had not heard that the grand vizier had arrived at Missa, on the 30th, with two hundred fifty thousand men.

On August 1st we saw them on the heights which overlooked my camp, extending in a semicircle from Krotzka as far as Dedina. The Mussulmans formed the most beautiful amphitheatre imaginable, very agreeable to look at, excellent for a painter, but hateful to a general. Enclosed between this army and a fortress which had thirty thousand men in garrison, the Danube on the right, and the Save on the left, my resolution was formed. I intended to quit my lines and attack them, notwithstanding their advantage of ground: but the fever, which had already raged in my army, did not spare me. Behold me seriously ill, and in my bed, instead of being at the head of my troops, whom I wished to lead the road to honor.

I can easily conceive that this caused a little uneasiness at the court, in the city, and even in my army. It required boldness and good-fortune to extricate one's self from it. The general who might have succeeded me would, and indeed, almost must, have thought that he should be lost if he retreated, and be beaten if he did not retreat. Every day made our situation worse. The numerous artillery of the Turks had arrived on the heights of which I have spoken. We were so bombarded with it, as well as with that from the garrison, that I knew not where[Pg 19] to put my tent, for, in going in and out, many of my domestics had been killed. In the small skirmishes which we often had with the spahis, my young volunteers did not fail to be among them, discharging their pistols, though cannon-balls intermingled also. And one day, D'Esrade, the governor of the Prince of Dombes, had his leg shot off by his side, and one of his pages was killed. All our princes, whom I have enumerated above, distinguished themselves, and loved me like their father.

I had caused the country in the rear of the grand vizier's army to be ravaged: but these people, as well as their horses and especially their camels, will live almost upon nothing. Scarcely an hour passed in which I did not lose a score of men by the dysentery, or by the cannon from the lines, which the infidels advanced more and more every night toward my intrenchments. I was less the besieger than the besieged. My affairs toward the city went on better. A bomb which fell into a magazine of powder completed its destruction and occasioned the loss of three thousand men.

At length I recovered from my illness; and, on August 15th, notwithstanding the ill-advice of persons who were not fond of battles, the matter was fixed. I calculated that listlessness and despair would produce success.

I did not sleep, as Alexander did before the battle of Arbela; but the Turks did, who were no Alexanders: opium and predestination will make philosophers of us. I gave brief and explicit instructions touching whatever might happen. I quitted my intrenchments one hour after midnight: the darkness first and then a fog rendered my first undertakings mere chance. Some of my battalions, on the right wing, fell, unintentionally, while marching, into a part of the Turkish intrenchments. A terrible confusion among them, who never have either advanced posts or spies; and, among us, a similar confusion, which it would be impossible to describe: they fired from the left to the centre, on both sides, without knowing where. The janizaries fled from their intrenchments: I had time to throw into them fascines and gabions, to make a passage for my cavalry who pursued them, I know not how: the fog dispersed and the Turks perceived a dreadful breach. But for my second line, which I ordered to march there immediately, to stop this breach, I[Pg 20] should have been lost. I then wished to march in order: impossible! I was better served than I expected. La Colonie, at the head of his Bavarians, rushed forward and took a battery of eighteen pieces of cannon. I was obliged to do better than I wished. I sustained the Bavarians; and the Turks, after having fled to the heights, lost all the advantages of their ground. A large troop of their cavalry wished to charge mine, which were too much advanced; a whole regiment was cut in pieces; but two others, who arrived opportunely to their aid, decided the victory. It was then that I received a cut from a sabre; it was, I believe, my thirteenth wound, and probably my last. Everything was over at eleven o'clock in the morning. Viard, during the battle, retained the garrison of Belgrad, which capitulated the same day. I forgot that there was no Boufflers there: I played the generous man: I granted the honors of war to the garrison, who, not knowing what they meant, did not avail themselves of them. Men, women, and children, chariots and camels, issued forth all at once, pell-mell, by land and by water.

At Vienna the devotees cried out, "A miracle!" those who envied me cried out, "Good-fortune!" Charles VI was, I believe, among the former: and Guido Stahrenberg among the latter. I was well received, as might have been expected.

Here is my opinion respecting this victory, in which I have more cause for justification than for glory; my partisans have spoken too favorably of it, and my enemies too severely. They would have had much more reason to propose cutting off my head on this occasion than on that of Zenta, for there I risked nothing. I was certain of conquering: but here, not only I might have been beaten, but totally ruined and lost in a storm, for the enemy's artillery to the left, on the shores of the Danube, had destroyed my bridges. I was, indeed, superior in saics and in workmen and artillerymen to protect or repair them: I had a corps also at Semlin.

Could I anticipate the tardiness or disinclination of the authorities who engaged in this war, where there were so many vices of the interior in administration, and so much ignorance in the chiefs of the civil and commissariat departments? Hence it was that I was in want of everything necessary to commence the[Pg 21] siege, and to take Belgrad before the arrival of the grand vizier, and which hindered me afterward from checking him on the heights. This, however, I should have done—but for my cursed fever—before his artillery arrived. And then that unlucky dysentery, which put my army into the hospital, or rather into the burying-ground, for each regiment had one behind its camp—could I anticipate that also? These were the two motives which induced me to attack, and to risk all or nothing, for I was as certainly lost one way as another. I threw up intrenchments against intrenchments: I knew a little more upon that subject than my comrade the grand vizier; and I had plenty of troops in health to guard them. I obliged him for want of provisions—for, as I have already said, I caused all the country in his rear to be ravaged—to decamp, and, consequently, Belgrad to surrender. Thus, if this manuscript should be read, give me neither praise, my dear reader, nor blame. After all, I extricated myself, perhaps, as Charles VI said, his confessor, and the pious souls who trust in God, and who wished me at the Devil, by the protection of the Virgin Mary, for the battle was fought on Assumption Day.

Europe was getting embroiled elsewhere. Some charitable souls advised the Emperor to send me to negotiate at London, reckoning that they might procure for another the easy glory of terminating the war.

I was not such a fool as to fall into this snare, and I set off for Hungary at the commencement of June, with a fine sword worth eighty thousand florins which the Emperor had presented to me.[Pg 22]


A.D. 1720


Never, perhaps, was there a time when rash monetary speculation seized with a firmer grip upon people and governments than during the early part of the eighteenth century. Concurrently with the delusive "Mississippi Scheme" of John Law (1717), which resulted in financial panic in France, a similarly disastrous enterprise was carried on in England. This was the attempt to turn the South Sea Company into a concern for enriching quickly both its private and its governmental investors. The collapse of this scheme, in the same year as that of Law's, caused even more serious and widespread ruin.

Thiers' relation of the origin and development of the South Sea Company, of the forming and collapse of the "bubble," and of the spread of the speculative mania which manifested itself in so many other extravagant projects, makes a fitting counterpart to this historian's narrative of the rise and fall of the contemporary scheme in his own country.

The South Sea Company was originated by the celebrated Harley, Earl of Oxford, in the year 1711, with the view of restoring public credit, which had suffered by the dismissal of the Whig ministry, and of providing for the discharge of the army and navy debentures and other parts of the floating debt, amounting to nearly ten millions sterling. A company of merchants, at that time without a name, took his debt upon themselves, and the government agreed to secure them for a certain period the interest of 6 per cent. To provide for this interest, amounting to six hundred thousand pounds per annum, the duties upon wines, vinegar, India goods, wrought silks, tobacco, whale-fins, and some other articles were rendered permanent. The monopoly of the trade to the South Seas was granted, and the company, being incorporated by act of Parliament, assumed the title by which it has ever since been known. The minister took great credit to himself for his share in this transaction, and the scheme was always called by his flatterers "the Earl of Oxford's masterpiece."[Pg 23]

Even at this early period of its history the most visionary ideas were formed by the company and the public of the immense riches of the eastern coast of South America. Everybody had heard of the gold and silver mines of Peru and Mexico; everyone believed them to be inexhaustible, and that it was only necessary to send the manufactures of England to the coast to be repaid a hundred-fold in gold and silver ingots by the natives. A report industriously spread, that Spain was willing to concede four ports on the coasts of Chile and Peru for the purposes of traffic, increased the general confidence, and for many years the South Sea Company's stock was in high favor.

Philip V of Spain, however, never had any intention of admitting the English to a free trade in the ports of Spanish America. Negotiations were set on foot, but their only result was the assiento contract, or the privilege of supplying the colonies with negroes for thirty years, and of sending once a year a vessel, limited both as to tonnage and value of cargo, to trade with Mexico, Peru, or Chile. The latter permission was only granted upon the hard condition that the King of Spain should enjoy one-fourth of the profits, and a tax of 5 per cent. on the remainder. This was a great disappointment to the Earl of Oxford and his party, who were reminded, much oftener than they found agreeable, of the

"Parturiunt montes, nascitur ridiculus mus."

But the public confidence in the South Sea Company was not shaken. The Earl of Oxford declared that Spain would permit two ships, in addition to the annual ship, to carry out merchandise during the first year; and a list was published in which all the ports and harbors of these coasts were pompously set forth as open to the trade of Great Britain. The first voyage of the annual ship was not made till the year 1717, and in the following year the trade was suppressed by the rupture with Spain.

The name of the South Sea Company was thus continually before the public. Though their trade with the South American states produced little or no augmentation of their revenues, they continued to flourish as a monetary corporation. Their stock was in high request, and the directors, buoyed up with success, began to think of new means for extending their influence. The Mississippi scheme of John Law, which so dazzled and capti[Pg 24]vated the French people, inspired them with an idea that they could carry on the same game in England. The anticipated failure of his plans did not divert them from their intention. Wise in their own conceit, they imagined they could avoid his faults, carry on their schemes forever, and stretch the cord of credit to its extremest tension without causing it to snap asunder.

It was while Law's plan was at its greatest height of popularity, while people were crowding in thousands to the Rue Quincampoix, and ruining themselves with frantic eagerness, that the South Sea directors laid before Parliament their famous plan for paying off the national debt. Visions of boundless wealth floated before the fascinated eyes of the people in the two most celebrated countries of Europe. The English commenced their career of extravagance somewhat later than the French; but as soon as the delirium seized them they were determined not to be outdone.

Upon January 22, 1720, the House of Commons resolved itself into a committee of the whole house to take into consideration that part of the King's speech at the opening of the session which related to the public debts, and the proposal of the South Sea Company toward the redemption and sinking of the same. The proposal set forth at great length, and under several heads, the debts of the state, amounting to thirty million nine hundred eighty-one thousand seven hundred twelve pounds, which the company was anxious to take upon itself, upon consideration of 5 per cent. per annum, secured to it until midsummer, 1727; after which time the whole was to become redeemable at the pleasure of the legislature, and the interest to be reduced to 4 per cent. It was resolved, on February 2d, that the proposals were most advantageous to the country. They were accordingly received, and leave was given to bring in a bill to that effect.

Exchange Alley was in a fever of excitement. The company's stock, which had been at 130 the previous day, gradually rose to 300, and continued to rise with the most astonishing rapidity during the whole time that the bill in its several stages was under discussion. Sir Robert Walpole was almost the only statesman in the House who spoke out boldly against it. He warned them, in eloquent and solemn language, of the evils that[Pg 25] would ensue. It countenanced, he said, "the dangerous practice of stock-jobbing, and would divert the genius of the nation from trade and industry. It would hold out a dangerous lure to decoy the unwary to their ruin, by making them part with the earnings of their labor for a prospect of imaginary wealth. The great principle of the project was an evil of first-rate magnitude; it was to raise artificially the value of the stock by exciting and keeping up a general infatuation, and by promising dividends out of funds which could never be adequate to the purpose."

The bill was two months in its progress through the House of Commons. During this time every exertion was made by the directors and their friends, and more especially by the chairman, the noted Sir John Blunt, to raise the price of the stock. The most extravagant rumors were in circulation. Treaties between England and Spain were spoken of whereby the latter was to grant a free trade to all her colonies; and the rich produce of the mines of Potosi-la-Paz was to be brought to England until silver should become almost as plentiful as iron. For cotton and woollen goods, which could be supplied to them in abundance, the dwellers in Mexico were to empty their golden mines. The company of merchants trading to the South Seas would be the richest the world ever saw, and every hundred pounds invested in it would produce hundreds per annum to the stockholder. At last the stock was raised by these means to near 400, but, after fluctuating a good deal, settled at 330, at which price it remained when the bill passed the Commons by a majority of 172 against 55.

Contrary to all expectation South Sea stock fell when the bill received the royal assent. On April 7th the shares were quoted at 310, and on the following day at 290. Already the directors had tasted the profits of their scheme, and it was not likely that they should quietly allow the stock to find its natural level without an effort to raise it. Immediately their busy emissaries were set to work. Every person interested in the success of the project endeavored to draw a knot of listeners round him, to whom he expatiated on the treasures of the South American seas. Exchange Alley was crowded with attentive groups. One rumor alone, asserted with the utmost confidence, had an immediate effect upon the stock. It was said that Earl Stanhope had re[Pg 26]ceived overtures in France from the Spanish government to exchange Gibraltar and Port Mahon for some places on the coast of Peru, for the security and enlargement of the trade in the South Seas. Instead of one annual ship trading to those ports, and allowing the King of Spain 25 per cent. out of the profits, the company might build and charter as many ships as it pleased, and pay no percentage whatever to any foreign potentate.

"Visions of ingots danced before their eyes," and stock rose rapidly. On April 12th, five days after the bill had become law, the directors opened their books for a subscription of a million, at the rate of three hundred pounds for every one hundred pounds capital. Such was the concourse of persons of all ranks that this first subscription was found to amount to above two millions of original stock. It was to be paid in five payments, of sixty pounds each for every one hundred pounds. In a few days the stock advanced to 340, and the subscriptions were sold for double the price of the first payment. To raise the stock still higher it was declared in a general court of directors, on April 21st, that the midsummer dividend should be 10 per cent., and that all subscriptions should be entitled to the same. These resolutions answering the end designed, the directors, to improve the infatuation of the moneyed men, opened their books for a second subscription of a million, at 4 per cent. Such was the frantic eagerness of people of every class to speculate in these funds that in the course of a few hours no less than a million and a half was subscribed at that rate.

In the mean time innumerable joint-stock companies started up everywhere. They soon received the name of "bubbles," the most appropriate that imagination could devise. The populace are often most happy in the nicknames they employ. None could be more apt than that of "bubbles." Some of them lasted for a week or a fortnight, and were no more heard of, while others could not even live out that short span of existence. Every evening produced new schemes and every morning new projects. The highest of the aristocracy were as eager in this hot pursuit of gain as the most plodding jobber in Cornhill. The Prince of Wales became governor of one company, and is said to have cleared forty thousand pounds by his speculations. The Duke of Bridgewater started a scheme for the improvement of[Pg 27] London and Westminster, and the Duke of Chandos another. There were nearly a hundred different projects, each more extravagant and deceptive than the other. To use the words of the Political State, they were "set on foot and promoted by crafty knaves, then pursued by multitudes of covetous fools, and at last appeared to be, in effect, what their vulgar appellation denoted them to be—bubbles and mere cheats." It was computed that near one million and a half sterling was won and lost by these unwarrantable practices, to the impoverishment of many a fool and the enriching of many a rogue.

Some of these schemes were plausible enough, and, had they been undertaken at a time when the public mind was unexcited, might have been pursued with advantage to all concerned. But they were established merely with a view of raising the shares in the market. The projectors took the first opportunity of a rise to sell out, and next morning the scheme was at an end. Maitland, in his History of London, gravely informs us that one of the projects which received great encouragement was for the establishment of a company "to make deal boards out of sawdust." This is, no doubt, intended as a joke; but there is abundance of evidence to show that dozens of schemes, hardly a whit more reasonable, lived their little day, ruining hundreds ere they fell. One of them was for a wheel for perpetual motion—capital one million; another was "for encouraging the breed of horses in England, and improving of glebe and church lands, and repairing and rebuilding parsonage and vicarage houses." Why the clergy, who were so mainly interested in the latter clause, should have taken so much interest in the first, is only to be explained on the supposition that the scheme was projected by a knot of the fox-hunting parsons, once so common in England. The shares of this company were rapidly subscribed for.

But the most absurd and preposterous of all, and which showed, more completely than any other, the utter madness of the people, was one started by an unknown adventurer, entitled "A Company for carrying on an Undertaking of Great Advantage, but Nobody to know What It Is." Were not the facts stated by scores of credible witnesses, it would be impossible to believe that any person could have been duped by such a project. The man of genius who essayed this bold and successful inroad upon[Pg 28] public credulity merely stated in his prospectus that the required capital was half a million, in five thousand shares of one hundred pounds each, deposit two pounds per share. Each subscriber paying his deposit would be entitled to one hundred pounds per annum per share. How this immense profit was to be obtained he did not condescend to inform them at that time, but promised that in a month full particulars should be duly announced, and a call made for the remaining ninety-eight pounds of the subscription. Next morning, at nine o'clock, this great man opened an office in Cornhill. Crowds of people beset his door, and when he shut up, at three o'clock, he found that no less than one thousand shares had been subscribed for and the deposits paid. He was thus, in five hours, the winner of two thousand pounds. He was philosopher enough to be contented with his venture, and set off the same evening for the Continent. He was never heard of again.

It is time, however, to return to the great South Sea gulf, that swallowed the fortunes of so many thousands of the avaricious and the credulous. On May 29th the stock had risen as high as 500, and about two-thirds of the government annuitants had exchanged the securities of the state for those of the South Sea Company. During the whole of the month of May the stock continued to rise, and on the 28th it was quoted at 550. In four days after this it took a prodigious leap, rising suddenly from 550 to 890. It was now the general opinion that the stock could rise no higher, and many persons took that opportunity of selling out, with a view of realizing their profits. Many noblemen and persons in the train of the King, and about to accompany him to Hanover, were also anxious to sell out. So many sellers and so few buyers appeared in the alley on June 3d that the stock fell at once from 890 to 640. The directors were alarmed and gave their agents orders to buy. Their efforts succeeded. Toward evening confidence was restored, and the stock advanced to 750. It continued at this price with some slight fluctuation, until the company closed its books on June 22d.

It would be needless and uninteresting to detail the various arts employed by the directors to keep up the price of stock. It will be sufficient to state that it finally rose to 1000 per cent. It was quoted at this price in the commencement of August. The[Pg 29] bubble was then full-blown and began to quiver and shake preparatory to its bursting.

Many of the government annuitants expressed dissatisfaction against the directors. They accused them of partiality in making out the lists for shares in each subscription. Further uneasiness was occasioned by its being generally known that Sir John Blunt, the chairman, and some others had sold out. During the whole of the month of August the stock fell, and on September 2d it was quoted at 700 only.

Day after day it continued to fall, until it was as low as 400. In a letter dated September 13th, from Mr. Broderick, M.P., to Lord Chancellor Middleton, and published in Coxe's Walpole, the former says: "Various are the conjectures why the South Sea directors have suffered the cloud to break so early. I made no doubt but they would do so when they found it to their advantage. They have stretched credit so far beyond what it would bear that specie proves insufficient to support it. Their most considerable men have drawn out, securing themselves by the losses of the deluded, thoughtless numbers, whose understandings have been overruled by avarice and the hope of making mountains out of mole-hills. Thousands of families will be reduced to beggary. The consternation is inexpressible—the rage beyond description, and the case altogether so desperate that I do not see any plan or scheme so much as thought of for averting the blow; so that I cannot pretend to guess what is next to be done." Ten days afterward, the stock still falling, he writes: "The company have yet come to no determination, for they are in such a wood that they know not which way to turn. By several gentlemen lately come to town, I perceive the very name of a South Sea man grown abominable in every country. A great many goldsmiths are already run off, and more will; daily I question whether one-third, nay, one-fourth, of them can stand it."

At a general court of the Bank of England, held soon afterward, the governor informed them of the several meetings that had been held on the affairs of the South Sea Company, adding that the directors had not yet thought fit to come to any decision upon the matter. A resolution was then proposed, and carried without a dissentient voice, empowering the directors to agree with those of the South Sea to circulate their bonds to what sum[Pg 30] and upon what terms and for what time they might think proper. Thus both parties were at liberty to act as they might judge best for the public interest.

Books were opened at the bank for subscription of three millions for the support of public credit, on the usual terms of 15 pounds per cent. deposit, 3 pounds per cent. premium, and 5 pounds per cent. interest. So great was the concourse of people in the early part of the morning, all eagerly bringing their money, that it was thought the subscription would be filled that day; but before noon the tide turned. In spite of all that could be done to prevent it, the South Sea Company's stock fell rapidly. Its bonds were in such discredit that a run commenced upon the most eminent goldsmiths and bankers, some of whom, having lent out great sums upon South Sea stock, were obliged to shut up their shops and abscond. The Sword-blade Company, which had hitherto been the chief casher of the South Sea Company, stopped payment. This, being looked upon as but the beginning of evil, occasioned a great run upon the bank, which was now obliged to pay out money much faster than it had received it upon the subscription in the morning. The day succeeding was a holiday (September 29th), and the bank had a little breathing-time. It bore up against the storm; but its former rival, the South Sea Company, was wrecked upon it. Its stock fell to 150, and gradually, after various fluctuations, to 135.

The bank, finding it was not able to restore public confidence and stem the tide of ruin, without running the risk of being swept away, with those it intended to save, declined to carry out the agreement into which it had partially entered. "And thus," to use the words of the Parliamentary History, "were seen, in the space of eight months, the rise, progress, and fall of that mighty fabric, which, being wound up by mysterious springs to a wonderful height, had fixed the eyes and expectations of all Europe, but whose foundations, being fraud, illusion, credulity, and infatuation, fell to the ground as soon as the artful management of its directors was discovered."[Pg 31]


A.D. 1723


Our first recognized triumph in the marvellous modern development of music, the first great masterpiece which taught the world the beauty of which the art is capable, was Bach's Das Wohltemperirte Clavier. The production marks, therefore, "the first great climax of musical art."

Like the other arts and sciences, the story of music is that of a slow building up. Music "divinest of arts, exactest of sciences"—for music is both an art and a science—has developed from the crude two-or three-note scale melody, without semitones, to the elaborate, ornate lucubrations of the modern oratorio, opera, or symphony. From the beginning the "half-sister of Poetry" has been the handmaid of Religion. The ancients ascribed miraculous properties to music. Of the actual system of the Egyptians our information is very scant; but we learn from the monuments depicting the number and variety of their instruments that they had advanced from childish practice to orchestration and harmony. According to Plato, "In their possession are songs having the power to exalt and ennoble mankind." The harp is undoubtedly of Egyptian origin.

In Israel plastic art was discouraged; the natural emotion of the people was, therefore, expressed in poetry and music. Miriam, the daughter of Jephthah, Deborah, and later the Virgin, whose grand chant, the Magnificat, is ever being upraised from Christendom's heart, portray the deep emotional temperament of this great religious race.

The artistic standard of the music of the Greeks was far behind that of their observation and intelligence in other matters. Their theories on the combinations, of which they never made use, and analysis of their scales show much ingenuity, but their accounts are so vague that one cannot get any clear idea of what these were really like. When art is mature, people do not tell of city walls being overthrown, of savage animals being tamed—as run the stories of Orpheus and Amphion. One Greek there was, Pythagoras, who discerned the association between the distant music of the spheres with the seven notes of the scale. "He discovered the numerical relation of one tone to another."[28] It was about the time of Pythagoras that a scheme of tetrachords which did not overlap was adopted.

[Pg 32]In Persia and Arabia was obtained a perfect system of intonation. The Chinese system is minutely exact in theory, bombastic in fancy. The Hindus sedulously avoided applying mathematics to their scales. The development of the scale is shown in the construction of the ancient Greek scale, the modern Japanese, and the aboriginal Australian scale, and the phonographed tunes of some of the Red Indians of North America. Here a reference must be made to the scale of the Scotch bagpipe, a highly artificial product, without historical materials available to assist in unravelling its development. It comprises a whole diatonic series of notes, and modes may be selected therefrom.

But it is to Rome that we owe the seed of our modern methods of treatment. The Netherland school had been highly developed there by a long line of distinguished masters, who paved the way for the gifted Palestrina, who exalted polyphony to a secure eminence equal to that attained by the arts of painting and architecture. He brought forth a perception of the needs which music suffered, adding an earnestness and science to a profound quality of simpleness and grace. It was between 1561 and 1571 that his genius mellowed and his style took on those characteristics upon which was based the future music of the Catholic Church. It was while he was Maestro at the Vatican that he submitted to the Church the famed Missa Papæ Marcelli, which determined the future of church music.

The culmination of art in music is strikingly shown in the subjoined article from the pen of that great authority, Mr. H. Tipper.

The first tonal prophet and poet of the modern era, the era in which reason made tremendous protest against mere dogma, and the best religious instincts of human nature called imperatively for emancipation and for nearer individual contact with God, is Johann Sebastian Bach. We look dazzled at the brilliant victories of the Italian Renaissance, and amid tumultuous beauty run riot with imagination we hear the voice of Savonarola at the close of the period uttering his lamentations. The great Italian reformer saw and felt that in his own day and in his own country the glory and beauty of the movement had vanished in sensuality; that hardness of heart and indifference to primary human needs had diverted the waters of the Renaissance from their main fertilizing channel.

The deep need of the epoch was social, not mental, sociality in its widest sense: the right of the individual; his inherent majesty, which the accident of birth should not be able to impair—this and this only was the natural outcome of the new birth which came to humanity; this and this only was the sequel[Pg 33] which German profundity and integrity, not Italian brilliancy and carelessness, placed before the mind of Europe.

The Reformation, then, this Protestantism, is distinctive of the new era. It was a protest, not only religious, as the word is usually applied, but scientific. It is the basis in the modern Western world of those laws of criticism which have submitted, or will submit, everything to searching analytical investigation, and as in the case of the natural world, so in the moral and ethical, men, by the light of revealed truth, or by those higher instincts of nobility which emanate from the Eternal Love, seek to apply to the reformation of society those principles of love, justice, and recompense which each would wish applied individually to self.

As an inspirer of thought and man of action, the world has seen few such men as Luther. His genius, as it were, discovered and laid bare the inexhaustible treasures of the German language; his sympathy and genial humanity sent a thrill of song, poetical and tonal, throughout the fatherland. He was the great awakener of German emotion. To Luther, a man who cared not for song was without the pale of humanity. But his enthusiasm was practical. In the church, as we have seen, he gathered from all sources whatever was of the best, and gave it to the people. In the schools he advocated the cause of song. In the streets the people needed not advocacy. Wherever two or three gathered together, song was in the midst of them, and it is not too much to say that the Lutheran hymn was the saviour of German poetry and a font of German song. In the seventeenth century there was in Germany little poetry worthy of the name save that inspired by the devotional character of Luther's genius. His heir and successor in the realm of tone was Sebastian Bach.

True, two centuries had elapsed between the death of the great reformer in morals and the birth of the great reformer in tone; but the work of the latter could not have been without the former. The chorale was introduced by Luther; it was perfected by Bach. To what other influence than the Lutheran can we attribute the growth of Bach? Are there any other resources of German art and thought which can account for the advent of the great musician? In art Duerer stood by the side of Luther.[Pg 34] In him again we find a man. Thought, thought! help me to express my native thought. Teach me to express in my art the reality of Nature, its wonderful beauty, thrice beautiful to me an artist; the pathos of life, its realism, far apparently from the ideal, yet most precious to me as a man. This was the aim of Duerer, and he seems a man after the Lutheran mould.

The aim of Duerer may be found in some respects in Bach's work, because both men were men of integrity, great and patient in soul. This, of course, is not to say that Bach was affected by Duerer, but is merely an endeavor to find what was noblest in Germany preceding Bach. One more allusion. In Bach's art we trace the mystic; not shadowy outpourings of hysterical emotion, but beauties of eternal verities disclosed in vision—faint, it is true—to none save the noblest of mortals.

One such kindred spirit preceding Bach was Boehme, the father of German mysticism, the poor cobbler, whose soul lay far away in the regions of celestial love, and whose utterance is of the realities thereof. These three men, Luther, Duerer, Boehme, are those to whom the great musician Bach is akin, but he is truly the child of the former, and the father of the highest aspirations in instrumental music.

For confirmatory evidence we have only to trace the growth of the Bach family. The progenitor, Veit Bach, was born at Wechmar, near Gotha, in 1550, and, following his trade as a baker, settled, after considerable wanderings, near the Hungarian frontier. Veit Bach was a stanch Lutheran. Whether the Lutheran services had given him a love of music, or whether they had only quickened a constitutional sympathy, it is impossible to say. Certain it is that he was passionately fond of music, and, cast for a period among a population whose emotions found constant and ready utterance in tone, he brought back to Wechmar, whither he had returned on account of religious persecution, his beloved cythringa and the art of playing it. There is evidence that this knowledge afforded him consolation and enjoyment in the quiet monotony of his life. While the mill was working, Veit Bach was often playing; and doubtless the peculiar charm and rhythm of old Hungarian melodies, songs of the people, which he had learned from the wandering gypsies, recurred to him, as well as those grand devotional hymns[Pg 35] on which he had been nourished from childhood. We have said that Veit Bach was a stanch Lutheran. From father to son through generations, the Lutheran doctrine, pure and undefiled, had been handed down, accompanied by the musical gift, until both, uniting in Sebastian Bach, born at Eisenach in 1685, served to glorify the Lutheran chorale and the art which perfected it.

Again, the traditions of the great reformer must have been imbibed by Sebastian Bach from infancy. Surrounding his native town lay a circle of wooded heights, from one of which arose the Wartburg, that illustrious shrine of the German nation whither in mediæval and modern times her sons have repaired to exhibit and replenish their lamp of genius. There the minnesingers had gathered in contest a song; thither as a modern Elijah came the great monk, weary of soul, yet whose immortal genius unfolded the page of Sacred Writ; and down the wood-clad slope came issuing the melody of the Hebrew psalmist, translated into German speech and entering into German hearts, mingled with the narrative of the Redeemer's passion lit by awful and solemn glory of Eternal Love. Who shall say that young Bach knew not of these things? Who will contend that, when his genius matured and ripened, the immortal tones in which the eternal passion was portrayed owed nothing to this sympathy of association, this spiritual life with the great reformer born two centuries before?

Yet once more. The Bach family was full of affection and sympathy one toward the other. Each year witnessed a reunion of the various members of the family scattered throughout Thuringia, and each came bearing the gift of music. As a child among the elders we can imagine how the young Sebastian revered his uncles, Johann Christopher and Michael Sebastian, in whom were conserved and developed the Lutheran tonal principles and traditions; how he somewhat feared the austere character of his elder brother, Johann Christopher, to whose charge he was intrusted upon the death of his father.

But we need not imagine how the soul of the young boy was filled with inexpressible yearning for the art of music. We know that it was so. His brother, who instructed him, gauged not the nature of the lad. Often and often did the boy's wistful eyes[Pg 36] and loving heart covet the possession of a manuscript book kept by his brother in strict reserve, containing a priceless collection of compositions by the great German masters and mediators. The boy extracted them from their resting-place, and we see the young tone-prophet striving to master the art-forms of Reinken, Buxtehude, Frescobaldi, Kerl, Froberger, and Pachelbel, endeavoring to wrest from them their style and inmost meaning by the light of the moon's pale rays, which led, alas! in after-years to blindness.

What revelations came to the soul of the young musician we know not. But his genius thus directed knew no pause until it had won forever the freedom of the tonal art, until the last fetter of conventionality had been removed, until in all dignity and beauty music came forth, henceforth to comfort and solace the human heart. But of this anon. We trace the young boy to school; we see him a chorister in the choir of St. Michael's, Lueneburg. Here he entered the gymnasium, studying Greek and Latin, organ-and violin-playing. Here, too, he exhausted the treasures of the musical library. But at Hamburg the great Reinken was giving a series of organ recitals. Thither young Bach repaired. At Celle he became acquainted with several suites and other compositions of celebrated French masters. In 1703 he became violinist in the Saxe-Weimar orchestra, and in the same year, aged eighteen, he was appointed organist at the new church at Arnstadt, where other members of his family had held similar positions. Thus already we have ample evidence both of intense activity and catholicity of taste, and now, a mere youth, he enters upon his life-work: the perfecting of church music, especially the chorale form, and the emancipation of the art from any influence whatsoever other than derives from contact with nature and emotion. If we ask what equipment he had for his task, we answer: enthusiasm, so deep, so tempered in all its qualities, that, though in a few years he became the ablest performer of his time upon the harpsichord and organ, yet never once is the term "virtuoso" associated in our thought with the purity of aspiration which characterized him. His enthusiasm was religious, deep-seated, his vision far and wide, and no temporary triumph, no sunlit cloud of fame, could satisfy the imperative needs of his inmost nature. And this nature was calm,[Pg 37] with the calmness of strength and with that tender purity and homely virtue which characterized the surroundings of his boyhood.

This enthusiasm, this religious instinct, for what was noblest and best, led him early, as we have seen, to seek inspiration from the works of men who combined in their compositions all that the great previously existing schools had taught. Bach was never weary of learning if perchance he could attain a more lucid or more beautiful expression of his thought. We have, then, this enthusiasm, this capacity for at once discerning what was best. Add to it one more quality—the religious, in its best sense, which young Bach possessed to the uttermost, the feeling that his art was but the medium of expression for the deep things of God—and we have the equipment with which the young musician started on his quest.

Young Bach had received no great instruction in the schools of composition. That which he had he gathered with a catholicity of taste from all the renowned masters. Not one of his immediate ancestors had stirred beyond the confines of their simple home. Well for him was it so. No late meretricious Neapolitan tinsel could exist in the quiet, calm beauty of his Thuringian dwelling-place. Nature lay before him. "Come," she said, "seek to understand me. I have treasures that ye know not of, treasures that can only be gathered by the pure in heart and patient in spirit. Here around you, in your quiet German home, are the elements of all your strength. Here there is no distraction. Riches shall not allure you. Honorable poverty shall minister to your purity"; and young Bach knew that the voice was true, and, heeding it, there came to him likewise an inner voice, relating spiritual things, even as the voice of Nature related natural things.

Comprehending, then, his character, we pass on. His work at this period was formal. He felt, but could not express. But at Lubeck the noble-hearted Buxtehude was endeavoring to bring home to the hearts of the people the mission of music. Bach went thither. Fascinated by the grand organ-playing of the Lubeck master, and listening with heart-felt love to those memorable concerts of which we have previously spoken, Bach forgot both time and engagements. When he returned to Arn[Pg 38]stadt, the spirit of Buxtehude was upon him. Henceforth the quiet people of Arnstadt knew no rest. Variations, subtle, beautiful, a refined and fuller contrapuntal treatment, mingled with the chorale. The conservatism of Arnstadt received a severe shock—a dreadful experience, doubtless, to the quiet German town. Such genius could come to no good end, and so the consistory and Bach agreed to part.

Bach had married in October, 1707. In 1708, while at Muehlhausen, his first considerable work, composed for the municipal elector, appeared. His election at Saxe-Weimar was undoubtedly owing to his playing before the Duke Wilhelm Ernst, and we can imagine with what pleasure the young musician, conscious of great power, looked forward to the intellectual and cultured life for which Weimar was renowned. In the course of a few years Bach was appointed orchestral and concert director to the Duke.

The liberal atmosphere of Weimar, the appreciation of men whose opinion was of worth, could but stimulate the mental faculties and widen the range of thought, and there is a breadth of conception and majesty in Bach at this period unknown before. With the assiduity of genius he labored for the realization of his ideal. Palestrina, Lotti, and Caldara were laid under contribution. The master transcribed the works of these composers with his own hands, and arranged the violin concertos of Vivaldi for the harpsichord and organ. It is ever with the greatest artists. They assimulate all the forms of kindred art, yet never sacrifice their individuality. The means enabling them to express their inmost soul must be found, but their soul will alone dictate the form which its expression will assume.

But Bach is approaching the close of the first period of his career. An invitation has been given him (1717) to become conductor of the orchestra at the court of Leopold of Anhalt-Koethen, a prince remarkable for his benevolence and cultured attainments. Here his duties were comparatively slight and his leisure abundant. Hitherto he had been engaged, as it were, in the temple service. At Weimar he had developed into a great tone-poet of sacred song. With refined strength and exquisite perception he had gathered up the related parts of song, weaving them into a unity of impassioned and majestic utterance.[Pg 39]

But the great poet must have a wider experience. He must enter, as it were, into the great deeps of sacred emotion in things natural; he must perceive in the universe a deeper, a more majestic beauty even than in the temple. Then he will become a great prophet among his fellows, and illumine for all time the pathway of life, giving strength to the weak, consolation to the weary, and song to the blithe and pure of heart. This is what Bach became in tone. His attention at Koethen was directed mainly to instrumental music.

We have previously remarked upon the endeavors which certain German masters made to bring home to their countrymen an appreciation of instrumental music. How long the seed lay germinating in Bach's mind we know not. A new idea had taken possession of him, or, rather, he contemplated the application of the principle of his former labors in polyphony to instrumental music pure and simple.

At Koethen he supplemented his labors at Weimar. At Leipsic, whither we shall presently follow him, he brought them to completion.

But we are anticipating. We have seen how patiently, how toilsomely, Music has broken one by one the fetters of conventionality; how she has grown in strength and beauty, anticipating the moment of her final deliverance. It has come at last. With the patience and impatience of genius Bach strikes in twain the last fetter of conventionality. He has realized his quest. The boy who, far away in future thought, studied the art-forms of his great predecessors and contemporaries in the lowly chamber or by the light of the silent moon, has found his beloved, the Tonal Muse. She stands free before him to serve his will—his will purified by conception and incessant effort—and he will lead her in her new-found freedom and place her in the path of progress.

Bach's compositions at this time include the early part of one of the greatest of his works, the Wohltemperirte Clavier. In this work—the second part of which was composed at Leipsic—Bach attained the full mastery of form. The strivings and efforts of the great Netherland masters found completion in this work of Bach. In it are compressed the labors of centuries. The works of the masters, Okeghem, Dufay, Josquin des Pres, and[Pg 40] others, are but prophecies in tone, announcing a realization of their ideal in the centuries yet to come, that ideal which they felt so particularly, yet could not express. The Wohltemperirte Clavier then marks the first great climax of musical art.

The evolution was certain, and it consummated in a kindred mind. The deepest expression of human feeling, the agony of the dire distress and conflict of life, the calm majesty of faith which enables the soul to overcome every obstacle, its pathetic appeal to God for rest and comfort, the strength of victory, are possible in music, are expressed in music as no other art can express them, because of Bach.

True to his trust, he extracted all that was best in the works of his predecessors and, vivifying it by his genius, created forms of expression which the greatest that have followed him have utilized and extolled.

But, as we have said, the great poet must perceive in things natural, in the beauty of the universe around him, in the sacred feelings of human emotion, a sacredness as worthy and as earnest, though less concentrated in character, as that which exists in the more direct function of religious worship. To the great poet, however he works, all things are sacred. He it is who reveals the heaven that lies around us. He opens the portals of Nature, and we enter in to find strength and consolation.

Bach does all this in the masterly work we are considering. Not to the Italian, but to the German, did Nature at length disclose her choicest method of expression, and this because the German had ever lived in close contact with her. In all Bach's works at this period the work of emancipation goes forward. Take, for instance, the Brandenburg concertos leading to the combination of the present orchestra.

But a new sphere of action here again opens to Bach. His master and friend, the Prince of Koethen, was distracted from the pursuit of music by his wife's want of interest therein, and so Bach sorrowfully looks around him for a more congenial appointment. This he found at Leipsic, in 1723, as cantor to the school of St. Thomas. Leipsic, like Weimar, was celebrated for its intellectual life; but the various vexations which the great musician encountered from the action of the authorities reflects but little credit upon them. Bach's labors here were simply[Pg 41] Titanic. There were four churches at Leipsic, the principal being St. Nicholas and St. Thomas. Bach seems to have been responsible for the musical service at each. How innate and healthy was his genius may be inferred from the fact that for these musical services alone three hundred eighty cantatas seem to have been composed. Bach entered upon his labors at Leipsic at the age of thirty-eight, and continued therein until his death, in 1750. Let us examine briefly the nature of these labors, and endeavor to glean from them their characteristic principles.

When Bach came to Leipsic he came full of experience and power. As a youth he had devoted himself to the perfecting of church music. Untiringly, unceasingly, with steadfast love, he had brought the laws of counterpoint and fugue to mingle with the grace of melody and the genius of a noble imagination. At Koethen his poetic and artistic temperament roamed through the realms of nature, and brought us near to the understanding of their varied utterance. At Leipsic he finished the education of his life and his career as a tone-poet. He seeks again the shelter of the temple, but his genius has matured and ripened. He has examined the mysteries of life. His enthusiasm for the pure and good is stronger than ever, but life is still a mystery. Evil, pain, love deep as hell and high as heaven, the Titanic conflict of opposing principles, Nature and her decrees, sorrow, remorse, sweet, unaffected joy, and tranquil resignation—what mean they all? The answer, the solution, is on Calvary. There is no other solution. Intellect, deny it how it will, is baffled by the complex problem. The solution is of love through trouble and anguish. The Passion music of Bach rises to the sublime understanding of this grand mystery, and again the evolution of the old mystery and Passion-play consummates in a kindred mind. Again the triumph of faith is with the German. Luther frees the understanding from tyranny. Bach raises it to the region of genius and sympathy, and closes the labors of a thousand years of Christian tonal effort by his Passion music of the Redeemer. But while this is so, he initiated the modern period of tonal art, leaving, however, this Passion music as his noblest legacy, as if to warn men that no other solution of life exists.

But though Bach's genius was thus supreme, it was not be[Pg 42]cause he was undisturbed by the vexations of daily life. Rarely, if ever, has an artist equally great produced in such boundless profusion the highest works of genius, when engaged with men most frequently unable to understand his thought, and immersed in the arduous duties of teacher in an art noteworthy of producing fatigue and exhaustion of spirit. But his enthusiasm and strength were equal to the task. With grand integrity, and desire for the welfare of the congregations of the churches alluded to, he obtained from their respective ministers the texts of their discourses for the ensuing Sundays, and produced, apparently without effort, hundreds of cantatas to convey to the hearers the inner meaning of the words which fell from the preacher's lips. These cantatas frequently opened with orchestral introduction followed by a chorus, usually very impressive, and imbued with the meaning of the text. The recitatives and solo airs would still further convey this meaning, while a chorale or hymn in four parts, with elaborate instrumental accompaniment, served to express the feelings of the whole congregation. To each instrument was assigned a separate part, and the whole accompaniment was separate from the singing.

But if Bach in the consummation of the chorale perfected Luther's work in the realm of music, he in his Passion music finds worthy expression of a nation's devotion. His genius, as it were, felt the spirit-life of the past. His soul vibrated to the yearnings of the unknown millions of his race who had passed away in the centuries preceding him, and whose consolation in their humble toil, in the various hardships of their lives, was the narrative of this Passion music of the Saviour Christ. The rough, dramatic presentation accorded to this narrative gathered, as time went on, elements of beauty and traditional treatment around it. It was powerfully to affect the drama proper and oratorio, but in its direct and proper functions it was to inspire the first, and in some respects the greatest, of the great musicians of Germany to his utmost effort, to his most lofty flight of genius, as his winged spirit soared through the ages of the past toward the future ages yet to come.

This Passion music of St. Matthew is the noblest presentment of the characteristics of the German mind, and is unsurpassed in the realm of religious art. It is an unfolding of the[Pg 43] German spirit, and evidences qualities the possession of which makes for national greatness.

As we have said, Bach is the great lyric poet of his nation, the first great German genius after the devastating horrors of war. Looming on the sight, or as contemporaries, are Handel, Leibnitz, Wolf, Klopstock, Lessing, and Winckelmann. The modern era, with its philosophy and revolution, has arrived. The domain of thought is enwidened, and the Middle Ages blend and fade in the historic vista of the past. But the modern era commences with these great affirmations in art and poetry. Bach takes the narrative of the Passion, and erects the Cross anew with sympathetic genius of art and love. Handel, as if he had caught Isaiah's prophetic fire, gave to Europe its most beautiful and noble epic, the Messiah; and Klopstock, the first of the great line of Germany's modern poets, devoted his genius and labor to the same subject. But with Bach and Handel no miserable conflicting elements of theology sully the conception of the Saviour Christ. These great artists rise to the universal and the true. The highest art is absolute and knows no appeal. It is in harmony with universal law, both spiritual and physical.[Pg 44]


[28] Naumann.


A.D. 1732


It was not only the beginning of a new commonwealth, destined to become an important State of the American Union, but also the spirit and purpose which led to it, that made the English colonization of Georgia a great and unique event in the history of this country.

Seldom have military and philanthropic achievements been combined in the career of one man. James Oglethorpe was already a distinguished soldier and a member of the English Parliament when in 1732 he sailed with one hundred twenty men and founded Savannah. His express object was the settlement of Georgia, not only as a home for insolvent debtors, who suffered in English jails, but also for persecuted Protestants of the Continent. It was not the least of his services that on his second visit to the future "Empire State of the South" he took with him John and Charles Wesley, whose influence has been so marked among the American people.

Prior to the undertaking of Sir Robert Montgomery in 1717, with which Stevens' narrative begins, few white men had visited the Georgia country, which was the home of various Indian tribes. De Soto traversed it on his great westward expedition (1539-1542), but little was known of it when in 1629 it was included in King Charles I's Carolina grant to Sir Robert Heath, or even at the time of the next Carolina grant (1663), when it passed to Monk, Clarendon, and others. Under the later proprietors it became known to Englishmen through such glowing descriptions as naturally aroused an interest in its settlement.

It was not until 1717 that any effort was made to improve the lands between the Savannah and the Altamaha. In that year Sir Robert Montgomery, Bart., whose father was joined with Lord Cardross in his measures for establishing a Scots colony in Port Royal, published A Discourse Concerning the Designed Establishment of a new Colony to the South of Carolina, in what he termed "the most delightful country in the universe." This pamphlet was accompanied by a beautiful but fanciful plan representing the form of settling the districts or county divisions in his province, which he styled "the Margraviate of Azilia." In his[Pg 45] description of the country he writes "that Nature has not blessed the world with any tract which can be preferable to it; that Paradise, with all her virgin beauties, may be modestly supposed, at most, but equal to its native excellencies."

Having obtained, from the Lords Proprietors of Carolina a grant of the lands between Savannah and the Altamaha, he issued his proposals for settling this "future Eden"; but, though garnished with the most glowing descriptions, and set forth under the most captivating attractions, they were issued in vain; and the three years having expired within which he was to make the settlement or forfeit the land, the territory reverted to Carolina, and his scheme of colonization came to an end. The Margraviate of Azilia was magnificent upon the map, but was impracticable in reality.

The Lords Proprietors of Carolina having failed in their scheme of government, and their authority being crushed by the provincial revolution of 1719, they sold their titles and interest in that province to Parliament in 1729; reserving to Lord John Carteret, one of their number, the remaining eight shares of the country, as he refused to join the others in disposing of the colony. After the purchase of the territory of Carolina, which then extended from the St. John's to Albemarle Sound, it was deemed too large for one government, and was therefore divided into two provinces, under the respective titles of North and South Carolina. The territorial boundary of South Carolina, however, on the south, was the Savannah River; the remaining portion being then held in reserve by the British Crown.

The same year that the House of Commons resolved on an address to the King to purchase the rights of the Lords Proprietors to this territory, a committee was appointed by Parliament "to inquire into the state of the gaols of the kingdom, and to report the same and their opinion thereupon to the House." This committee, raised on the motion of James Oglethorpe, Esq., in consequence of the barbarities which had fallen under his own observation while visiting some debtors in the Fleet and Marshalsea prisons, consisted of ninety-six persons, and Oglethorpe was made its chairman. A more honorable or effective committee could scarcely have been appointed. It embraced some of the first men in England; among them thirty-eight noblemen,[Pg 46] the chancellor of the exchequer, the master of rolls, Admiral Vernon and Field Marshal Wade. They entered upon their labors with zeal and diligence, and not only made inquiries, through the Fleet prison, but also into the Marshalsea, the prison of the king's bench, and the jail for the county of Surrey.

The philanthropy of Oglethorpe, whose feelings were easily enlisted in the cause of misery, rested not with the discharge of his Parliamentary duty, nor yet in the further benefit of relaxing the rigorous laws which thrust the honest debtor into prisons which seemed to garner up disease in its most loathsome forms—crime in its most fiend-like works—humanity in its most shameless and degraded aspect; but it prompted still further efforts—efforts to combine present relief with permanent benefits, by which honest but unfortunate industry could be protected, and the laboring poor be enabled to reap some gladdening fruit from toils which now wrung out their lives with bitter and unrequited labors. To devise and carry out such efforts himself Lord Percival and a few other noblemen and gentlemen addressed a memorial to the privy council, stating "that the cities of London, Westminster, and parts adjacent do abound with great numbers of indigent persons who are reduced to such necessity as to become burthensome to the public, and who would be willing to seek a livelihood in any of his majesty's plantations in America if they were provided with a passage and means of settling there."

The memorialists promised to take upon themselves the entire charge of this affair, to erect a province into a proprietary government, provided the crown would grant them a portion of the land bought in 1729 by Parliament from the Lords Proprietors of South Carolina, lying south of the Savannah River; together with such powers as shall enable them to receive the charitable contributions and benefactions of all such persons as are willing to encourage so good a design.

This petition, referred at first to a committee of the privy council, was by them submitted to the consideration of the board of trade, who, after a second commitment, made their report, that the attorney and solicitor-general should be directed to prepare a draft of the charter. This report, being laid before his majesty, was by him approved and he directed the proper officer[Pg 47] to make out the charter. The charter thus prepared was approved by the King, but in consequence of the formalities of office did not pass under the great seal until June 9, 1732.

This instrument constituted twenty noblemen and gentlemen a body corporate, by the name and style of "The Trustees for establishing a Colony of Georgia, in America"; giving to the projected colony the name of the monarch who had granted to them such a liberal territory for the development of their benevolence.

The charter revealed two purposes as the object of this colonization: the settling of poor but unfortunate people on lands now waste and desolate, and the interposing of this colony as a barrier between the northern colonies and the French, Spanish, and Indians on the south and west. These designs the trustees amplified and illustrated in their printed papers and official correspondence.

Oglethorpe, in his New and Accurrate Account, declares: "These trustees not only give land to the unhappy who go thither, but are also empowered to receive the voluntary contributions of charitable persons to enable them to furnish the poor adventurers with all necessaries for the expense of the voyage, occupying the land, and supporting them till they find themselves comfortably settled. So that now the unfortunate will not be obliged to bind themselves to a long servitude, to pay for their passage, for they may be carried gratis into a land of liberty and plenty, where they immediately find themselves in possession of a competent estate in a happier climate than they knew before; and they are unfortunate, indeed, if here they cannot forget their sorrows."

This was the main purpose of the settlement; and such noble views were "worthy to be the source of an American republic." Other colonies had been planted by individuals and companies for wealth and dominion; but the trustees of this, at their own desire, were restrained by the charter "from receiving any grant of lands in the province, or any salary, fee, perquisite, or profit whatsoever, by or from this undertaking." The proprietors of other colonies were looking to their own interests; the motto of the trustees of this was "Non sibi, sed aliis." The proprietors of other colonies were anxious to build up cities and erect states[Pg 48] that should bear their names to a distant posterity; the trustees of this only busied themselves in erecting an asylum, whither they invited the indigent of their own and the exiled Protestants of other lands. It was the first colony ever founded by charity. New England had been settled by Puritans, who fled thither for conscience' sake; New York by a company of merchants and adventurers in search of gain; Maryland, by papists retiring from Protestant intolerance; Virginia, by ambitious cavaliers; Carolina by the scheming and visionary Shaftesbury, and others, for private aims and individual aggrandizement; but Georgia was planted by the hand of benevolence, and reared into being by the nurturings of a disinterested charity.

But the colony was not to be confined to the poor and unfortunate. The trustees granted portions of five hundred acres to such as went over at their own expense, on condition that they carried over one servant to every fifty acres, and did military service in time of war or alarm. Thus the materials of the new colony consisted of three classes: the upper, or large landed proprietors and officers; the middle, or freeholders, sent over by the trustees; and the servants indented to that corporation or to private individuals.

Subsidiary to the great design of philanthropy was the further purpose of making Georgia a silk, wine, oil, and drug-growing colony. "Lying," as the trustees remark, "about the same latitude with part of China, Persia, Palestine, and the Madeiras, it is highly probable that when hereafter it shall be well peopled and rightly cultivated England may be supplied from thence with raw silk, wine, oil, dyes, drugs, and many other materials for manufactures which she is obliged to purchase from southern countries."

Such were the principal purposes of the trustees in settling Georgia. Extravagance was their common characteristic; for in the excited visions of its enthusiastic friends, Georgia was not only to rival Virginia and South Carolina, but to take the first rank in the list of provinces depending on the British Crown. Neither the El Dorado of Raleigh nor the Utopia of More could compare with the garden of Georgia; and the poet, the statesman, and the divine lauded its beauties and prophesied its future greatness. Oglethorpe, in particular, was quite enthusiastic in his descrip[Pg 49]tion of the climate, soil, productions, and beauties of this American Canaan. "Such an air and soil," he writes, "can only be fitly described by a poetical pen, because there is but little danger of exceeding the truth."

With such blazoned exaggerations, strengthened by the interested efforts of a noble and learned body of trustees, and by the personal supervision of its distinguished originator, it is no matter of wonder that all Europe was aroused to attention; and that Swiss and German, Scotch and English, alike pressed forward to this promised land. Appeals were made by the trustees to the liberal, the philanthropic, the public-spirited, the humane, the patriotic, the Christian, to aid in this design of mercy, closing their arguments with the noble thought: "To consult the welfare of mankind, regardless of any private views, is the perfection of virtue, as the accomplishing and consciousness of it are the perfection of happiness."

These preliminaries settled, we are brought to the period when the plan, the charity, the labors of the trustees, were to be put into efficient operation. Fortunate was it for the corporation that they had among their number one whose benevolence, whose fortune, and whose patriotism, as well as his military distinction conspired to make him the fittest leader and pioneer of so noble an undertaking. That one was James Oglethorpe, the originator, the chief promotor, the most zealous advocate of the colony; an honor conceded by his associates, and acknowledged by all.

We are brought now to the dock-yard at Deptford, to behold the first embarkation of the Georgia pilgrims.

The trustees, having selected from the throng of emigrants thirty-five families, numbering in all about one hundred twenty-five "sober, industrious, and moral persons," chartered the Ann, a galley of two hundred tons, Captain John Thomas, and stationed her at Deptford, four miles below London, to receive her cargo and passengers. In the mean time the men were drilled to arms by sergeants of the guards; and all needed stores were gathered to make them comfortable on the voyage and to establish them on land.

It was not until the early part of November that the embarkation was ready for sailing.[Pg 50]

On the 16th they were visited by the trustees, "to see nothing was wanting, and to take leave" of Oglethorpe; and having called the families separately before them in the great cabin they inquired if they liked their usage and voyage; or if they had rather return, giving them even then the alternative of remaining in England if they preferred it; and having found but one man who declined—on account of his wife, left sick in Southwark—they bid Oglethorpe and the emigrants an affectionate farewell. The ship sailed the next day, November 17, 1732, from Gravesend, skirted slowly along the southern coast of England, and, taking its departure from Sicily light, spread out its white sails to the breezes of the Atlantic.

Day after day and week after week the voyagers seem the centre of the same watery circle canopied by the same bending sky. No mile-stones tell of their progress. The way-marks of the mariner are the sun by day and the moon and stars by night; no kindred ship answers back its red-cross signal; but there they float, the germ of a future nation, upon the desert waters. Sailing a circuitous route, they did not reach the coast of America until January 13, 1733, when they cast anchor in Rebellion Roads, and furled their sails at last in the harbor of Charleston.

Oglethorpe immediately landed, and was received by the Governor and Council of South Carolina with every mark of civility and attention. The King's pilot was directed by them to carry the ship into Port Royal, and small vessels were furnished to take the emigrants to the river Savannah. Thus assisted, in about ten hours they resumed their voyage and shortly dropped anchor within Port Royal bar.

The colony landed at Beaufort on January 20th, and had quarters given them in the new barracks. Here they received every attention from the officers of His Majesty's Independent Company and the gentlemen of the neighborhood, and refreshed themselves after the fatigues and discomforts of their long voyage and cramped accommodations.

Leaving his people here, Oglethorpe, accompanied by Colonel William Bull, of South Carolina, went forward to the Savannah River to select a site for the projected settlement. Winding among the inlets, which break into numerous islands the low flat[Pg 51] seaboard, their canoe at last shot into the broad stream of the Savannah; and bending their course upward they soon reached a bold, pine-crowned bluff, at the foot of which they landed to inspect its localities.

Reaching its top, a beautiful prospect met their eyes. At their feet, some fourteen yards below, flowed the quiet waters of the Savannah, visible for some distance above and traceable through its green landscape till it emptied itself into the ocean. Before them lay a beautiful island of richest pasturage, beyond which was seen the north branch of the Savannah bordered by the slopes of Carolina, with a dark girdle of trees resting against the horizon. Behind them was the unbroken forest of tall green pines, with an occasional oak draperied with festoons of gray moss or the druidical mistletoe. A wide expanse of varied beauty was before them; an ample and lofty plain around them; and, though spring had not yet garnished the scene with her vernal glories, sprinkling the woods with gay wild-flowers and charming creepers, and making the atmosphere balmy with the bay, the jessamine, and the magnolia, yet, even in winter, were there sufficient charms in the spot to fix on it the heart of Oglethorpe, and cause him to select it as the home of his waiting colony. "The landscape," he writes, "is very agreeable, the stream being wide and bordered with high woods on both sides," On the northern end of this bluff they found a trading-house and an Indian village called Yamacraw. The chief of this little tribe was Tomochichi; and the trader's name was Musgrove, married to a half-breed, named Mary. By an ancient treaty of the Creeks with the Governor of South Carolina, no white settlement was allowed to be made south of the Savannah River without their consent.

Satisfied with the eligibility of this situation, Oglethorpe applied to Mary Musgrove, who could speak both Indian and English, to obtain from the tribe their agreement to his settlement. They at first appeared uneasy and threatened to take up arms, but were pacified by her representations of the benefits which would accrue to them; and she gained from them a provisional treaty, until the consent of the whole nation could be obtained. The Indians, once made sensible of the advantages they would derive from the erection of a town within their limits, hailed their coming with joy and busied themselves in many offices of service[Pg 52] and regard. The land selected, the consent of the tribe obtained, and the services of Mary secured as an interpreter in their subsequent intercourse with the red men, Oglethorpe returned to Beaufort on January 24th; and the Sunday after was made a day of praise and thanksgiving for their safe arrival in America, and the happy auspices which clustered round the opening prospects of Georgia. During the stay of the colonists in South Carolina they were treated with genuine hospitality, and when they departed they were laden with most substantial and valuable tokens of interest and benevolence.

Leaving the ship at Port Royal, Oglethorpe engaged a sloop of seventy tons, and five plantation-boats, and embarked the colonists on Tuesday, the 30th, but, detained by a storm, they did not reach their destination until the afternoon of Thursday, February 12 (new style), 1733. The people immediately pitched four large tents, being one for each tithing, into which municipal divisions they had already been divided; and, landing their bedding and other necessaries, spent their first night in Georgia.

As soon as the tents had been pitched, the Indians came forward with their formal salutations. In front advanced, with antic dancings, the "medicine man," bearing in each hand a spread fan of white feathers fastened to a rod hung from top to bottom with little bells; marching behind this jingling symbol of peace and friendship, came the King and Queen, followed by about twenty others, making the air ring with their uncouth shouts. Approaching Oglethorpe, who walked out a few steps from his tent to meet them, the medicine man came forward with his fans, declaiming the while the deeds of their ancestors, and stroked him on every side with the emblems of amity. This over, the King and Queen bade him welcome and, after an interchange of compliments, they were conducted to Oglethorpe's tent and partook of a pleasant entertainment hastily prepared for the occasion.

And now all was bustle upon the bluff. The unlading of goods, the felling of trees, the hewing of timber, the clearing of land, the erection of palisades—all supervised by the watchful eye and directed by the energetic mind of their leader—gave a brisk and industrious air to the novel scene.

On the 9th Oglethorpe and Colonel Bull marked out the[Pg 53] square, the streets, and forty lots for houses; and the first clapboard-house of the colony of Georgia was begun that day. On March 12th Oglethorpe writes: "Our people still lie in tents; there being only two clapboard houses built, and three sawed houses framed. Our crane, our battery of cannon, and magazine are finished. This is all we have been able to do by reason of the smallness of our numbers, of which many have been sick, and others unused to labor, though I thank God they are now pretty well, and we have not lost one since our arrival."

The most generous assistance was given them by South Carolina. The Assembly, which met in Charleston three days after the arrival of the emigrants, immediately resolved to furnish the colony with large supplies of cattle and rice; to provide boats for the transportation of the people from Port Royal to Savannah; and placed under Oglethorpe's command the scout-boats and a troop of fifteen rangers for his protection. They further appointed Colonel William Bull one of the Governor's council, and a gentleman esteemed "most capable of assisting Oglethorpe in settling the colony by reason of his experience in colonial affairs, the nature of lands and the intercourse with Indians," to attend him and offer him his advice and assistance. Such was the readiness of all to assist him that the Governor wrote, "Had not our Assembly been sitting I would have gone myself."

Nor was private benevolence in any way behind public munificence. It is pleasant, in looking over the list of individual benefactions, to read such records as these:

February.—"Colonel Bull came to Savannah with four laborers, and assisted the colony for a month; he himself measuring the scantling, and setting out the work for the sawyers, and giving the proportion of the houses. Mr. Whitaker and his friends sent the colony one hundred head of cattle. Mr. St. Julian came to Savannah and stayed a month, directing the people in building their houses and other work. Mr. Hume gave a silver boat and spoon for the first child born in Georgia, which being born of Mrs. Close, were given accordingly. Mr. Joseph Bryan himself, with four of his sawyers, gave two months' work in the colony. The inhabitants of Edisto sent sixteen sheep. Mr. Hammerton gave a drum. Mrs. Ann Drayton sent two pair of sawyers to work in the colony. Colonel Bull and Mr. Bryan came to Savan[Pg 54]nah with twenty servants, whose labor they gave to the colony. His excellency Robert Johnson gave seven horses, valued at twenty-five pounds, Carolina currency."

These, with many other like records, evince their spirit in promoting the settlement of Georgia. And well they might; for the planting of this colony to the south of the Savannah increased their security from invasion by the Spaniards, and from the incursions and massacres of the Indian tribes, and still further operated as a preventive to the enticing lures held out to the negroes, by which desertion was rendered common and insurrection always dreaded. They were prepared, therefore, to hail the new colony as a bulwark against their Floridian and savage enemies, as opening further opportunities of trade, and as enhancing the value of their frontier possessions, which, according to the best authorities, were raised to five times their former value about Port Royal and the Savannah River.

The fostering care of South Carolina was to be repaid by the protecting service of Georgia. The labors of the colonists were great, but they had much to cheer them; and the assiduity and attention of Oglethorpe won upon their hearts so that they styled him "Father," and he exercised his paternal care by unremitting efforts to advance their welfare. He spared not himself in any personal efforts, but took his turn regularly in doing night-guard duty, as an example to the rest, and at times worked at the hardest labor to encourage their industry.

Having put Savannah in a posture of defence, supplied it with provisions, and taken hostages of the Indians, Oglethorpe set out for Charleston, attended by Tomochichi and his two nephews, being desirous of cultivating the acquaintance and securing the good offices of the Governor, council, and Assembly of South Carolina. At Charleston he was met at the water-side by his excellency the Governor and council, who conducted him to Governor Johnson's house, where the speaker and House of Assembly came to present their official congratulations on his arrival. His solicitations for assistance were promptly answered. The Assembly voted two thousand pounds currency for the assistance of Georgia the first year, and soon after the committee of supply brought in a bill for granting eight thousand pounds currency for the use of the new colony the ensuing year. The citizens also subscribed[Pg 55] one thousand pounds currency, five hundred pounds of which were immediately paid down.

Grateful for this munificence Oglethorpe returned to Georgia to meet the great council of the towns of the Lower Creeks, whom he had desired to meet him in Savannah to strengthen the provisional treaty already made with Tomochichi, and secure their abiding amity for the future. In answer to this desire, eighteen chief men and their attendants, making in all about fifty, came together from the nine tribes of the nation, and met him in solemn council on the afternoon of May 18th. Speeches, not lacking in interest, but full of Indian hyperbole and the inflations of interpreters, were made by the chiefs, and answered by Oglethorpe through the medium of Messrs. Wiggin and Musgrove; and on May 21st the treaty was concluded.

The principal stipulations of it were that the trustees' people should trade in the Indian towns; their goods being sold according to fixed rates mutually agreed upon: thus, a white blanket was set down at five buckskins, a gun at ten; a hatchet at three doeskins, a knife at one, and so on. Restitution and reparation were to be made for injuries committed and losses sustained by either party; the criminals to be tried by English law. Trade to be stopped with any town violating any article of the treaty. All lands not used by the Indians were to be possessed by the English, but, upon the settling of any new town, certain lands agreed on between the chiefs and the magistrates were to be reserved for the former. All runaway negroes were to be restored to Carolina, the Indians receiving for each one thus recovered four blankets and two guns, or the value thereof in other goods. And lastly, they agreed, with "straight hearts" and "true love," to allow no other white people to settle on their lands, but ever to protect the English. The Indians, having received suitable presents, were dismissed in amity and peace; while Oglethorpe left the same day for Charleston, satisfied at having obtained, by such honorable means, the cession of such a fine country to the crown of England. This treaty was ratified by the trustees the following October.

The judicious and honorable conduct of Oglethorpe toward the Indians was of more security to the colony than its military defences. For a long time he had regarded the Indians with[Pg 56] kindly feelings. At his suggestion Bishop Wilson, one of the bright and shining lights of the English Church, wrote An Essay Toward an Instruction for the Indians, which he dedicated to Oglethorpe; and, now that he met them on their native soil, he evinced the same care for their interests, and through life manifested in all his acts his regard for their welfare. He was the red man's friend; showing in his intercourse with him the honorableness of William Penn, without his private interests to subserve; the generosity of Lord Baltimore, without a patent of immense tracts to secure to his descendants; the compassion of Roger Williams, without his mercantile views, to incite him to foster among the Indians kindness and regard.

Oglethorpe stands superior to all, because he had no private end to gratify, no lands to secure, no property to invest, no wealth to accumulate from or among the tribes whose amity he cultivated.

The art of the painter has commemorated the treaty of Penn with the Leni Lenapes, under the elm-tree of Shakamaxon; but neither this scene on the north edge of Philadelphia, nor the treaty of Roger Williams with "the old Prince Caconicas" at Seconke, nor the alliance of Leonard Calvert with the Susquehannas at Yoacomoco, excels, in any element of philanthropy or in any trait of nobleness, the treaty of Oglethorpe with the tribes of the Muscogees, under the "four pine-trees" on the bluff of Yamacraw.[Pg 57]



A.D. 1738


Next to the founders of the world's great religions, the principal figures in religious history are the leaders of its new movements, the founders of sects or denominations. In this subordinate class few names outrank that of John Wesley, while those of his brother, Charles, and George Whitefield, their eloquent colleague, are inseparably associated with that of the great founder of Methodism, one of the most striking of the epochal religious movements of modern times.

Although not intending to break with the Anglican Church, Wesley and his followers were carried out upon independent lines which led to the upbuilding of a distinct type of religious faith and organization, whose power has been especially marked in Great Britain and America, and has been increasingly spread throughout the world.

Between Whitefield and John Wesley, in 1741, a separation occurred on points of doctrine, Whitefield adhering to a rigid Calvinism, while Wesley inclined to Arminianism, and thenceforth they followed their several paths. Although Whitefield founded no sect, he exerted a widespread influence by his presence and voice. Before their separation both preachers had been in America, and the personality and eloquence of Whitefield not only wrought a spell upon the multitude, but even exercised a degree of fascination over such a philosophical spirit as Franklin. Wesley's work in America was deeper and more enduring, and is still a growing feature of the country's religious development.

Nothing could be happier for the present purpose than the treatment of this great religious movement, in its beginnings, as it is here dealt with by the dispassionate historian of England during the century in which the movement arose.

The Methodist movement was a purely religious one. All explanations which ascribe it to the ambition of its leaders, or to merely intellectual causes, are at variance with the facts of the case. The term Methodist was a college nickname bestowed upon a small society of students at Oxford who met together,[Pg 58] between 1729 and 1735, for the purpose of mutual improvement. They were accustomed to communicate every week, to fast regularly on Wednesdays and Fridays and on most days during Lent; to read and discuss the Bible in common, to abstain from most forms of amusement and luxury, and to visit sick persons, and prisoners in the jail.

John Wesley, the master spirit of this society, and the future leader of the religious revival of the eighteenth century, was born in 1703, and was the second surviving son of Samuel Wesley, the rector of Epworth, in Lincolnshire. His father, who had early abandoned Nonconformity, and acquired some reputation by many works both in prose and verse, had obtained his living from the government of William, and had led for many years a useful and studious life, maintaining a far higher standard of clerical duty than was common in his time. His mother was the daughter of an eminent Nonconformist minister, who had been ejected in 1662, and was a woman of rare mental endowments, of intense piety, and of a strong, original, and somewhat stern character.

Their home was not a happy one. Discordant dispositions and many troubles darkened it. The family was very large. Many children died early. The father sank slowly into debt. His parishioners were fierce, profligate, and recalcitrant. When John Wesley was only six years old the rectory was burned to the ground, and the child was forgotten among the flames, and only saved at the last moment by what he afterward deemed an extraordinary providence.

All these circumstances doubtless deepened the natural and inherited piety for which he was so remarkable; and some strange and unexplained noises which during a long period were heard in the rectory, and which its inmates concluded to be supernatural, contributed to that vein of credulity which ran through his character. He was sent to the Charterhouse, and from thence to Oxford, where at the age of twenty-three he was elected fellow of Lincoln. He had some years before acquired from his brother a certain knowledge of Hebrew, and he was speedily distinguished by his extraordinary logical powers, by the untiring industry with which he threw himself into the studies of the place, and above all by the force and energy of his character.[Pg 59]

His religious impressions, which had been for a time somewhat obscured, revived in their full intensity while he was preparing for ordination in 1725. He was troubled with difficulties, which his father and mother gradually removed, about the damnatory clauses in the Athanasian Creed, and about the compatibility of the articles with his decidedly Arminian views concerning election; and he was deeply influenced by the Imitation of St. Thomas à Kempis, by the Holy Living and Dying of Jeremy Taylor, and by Law's Serious Call. His life at Oxford became very strict. He rose every morning at four, a practice which he continued till extreme old age. He made pilgrimages on foot to William Law to ask for spiritual advice. He abstained from the usual fashion of having his hair dressed, in order that he might give the money so saved to the poor. He refused to return the visits of those who called on him, that he might avoid all idle conversation. His fasts were so severe that they seriously impaired his health, and extreme abstinence and gloomy views about religion are said to have contributed largely to hurry one of the closest of his college companions to an early and a clouded death.

The society hardly numbered more than fifteen members, and was the object of much ridicule at the university; but it included some men who afterward played considerable parts in the world. Among them was Charles, the younger brother of John Wesley, whose hymns became the favorite poetry of the sect, and whose gentler, more submissive, and more amiable character, though less fitted than that of his brother for the great conflicts of public life, was very useful in moderating the movement and in drawing converts to it by personal influence. Charles Wesley appears to have been the first to originate the society at Oxford; he brought Whitefield into its pale, and, besides being the most popular poet, he was one of the most persuasive preachers of the movement.

There, too, was James Hervey, who became one of the earliest links connecting Methodism with general literature. During most of his short life he was a confirmed invalid. His affected language, his feeble, tremulous, and lymphatic nature formed a curious contrast to the robust energy of Wesley and Whitefield; but he was a great master of a kind of tumid and over-ornamented[Pg 60] rhetoric which has an extraordinary attraction to half-educated minds. His Meditations was one of the most popular books of the eighteenth century. His Theron and Aspasio, which was hardly less successful, was an elaborate defence of evangelical opinions; and though at this time the pupil and one of the warmest admirers of Wesley, he afterward became conspicuous in the Calvinistic section of the party, and wrote with much acerbity against his old master.

There, too, above all, was George Whitefield, in after-years the greatest pulpit orator of England. He was born in 1714, in Gloucester, in the Bell Inn, of which his mother was proprietor, and where upon the decline of her fortunes he was for some time employed in servile functions. He had been a wild, impulsive boy, alternately remarkable for many mischievous pranks and for strange outbursts of religious zeal. He stole money from his mother, and he gave part of it to the poor. He early declared his intention one day to preach the Gospel, but he was the terror of the Dissenting minister of his neighborhood, whose religious services he was accustomed to ridicule and interrupt. He bought devotional books, read the Bible assiduously, and on one occasion, when exasperated by some teasing, he relieved his feelings, as he tells us, by pouring out in his solitude the menaces of Psalm cxviii; but he was also passionately fond of card-playing, novel-reading, and the theatre; he was two or three times intoxicated, and he confesses with much penitence to "a sensual passion" for fruits and cakes. His strongest natural bias was toward the stage. He indulged it on every possible occasion, and at school he wrote plays and acted in a female part.

Owing to the great poverty of his mother, he could only go to Oxford as a servitor, and his career there was a very painful one. St. Thomas à Kempis, Drelincourt's Defence against Death, and Law's devotional works had all their part in kindling his piety into a flame. He was haunted with gloomy and superstitious fancies, and his religion assumed the darkest and most ascetic character. He always chose the worst food, fasted twice a week, wore woollen gloves, a patched gown, and dirty shoes, and was subject to paroxysms of a morbid devotion. He remained for hours prostrate on the ground in Christ Church Walk in the midst of the night, and continued his devotions till his hands grew black[Pg 61] with cold. One Lent he carried his fasting to such a point that when Passion Week arrived he had hardly sufficient strength to creep upstairs, and his memory was seriously impaired. In 1733 he came in contact with Charles Wesley, who brought him into the society. To a work called The Life of God in the Soul of Man, which Charles Wesley put into his hands, he ascribed his first conviction of that doctrine of free salvation which he afterward made it the great object of his life to teach.

With the exception of a short period in which he was assisting his father at Epworth, John Wesley continued at Oxford till the death of his father, in 1735, when the society was dispersed, and the two Wesleys soon after accepted the invitation of General Oglethorpe to accompany him to the new colony of Georgia. It was on his voyage to that colony that the founder of Methodism first came in contact with the Moravians, who so deeply influenced his future life. He was surprised and somewhat humiliated at finding that they treated him as a mere novice in religion; their perfect composure during a dangerous storm made a profound impression on his mind, and he employed himself while on board ship in learning German, in order that he might converse with them. On his arrival in the colony he abandoned, after a very slight attempt, his first project of converting the Indians, and devoted himself wholly to the colonists at Savannah. They were of many different nationalities, and it is a remarkable proof of the energy and accomplishments of Wesley that, in addition to his English services, he officiated regularly in German, French, and Italian, and was at the same time engaged in learning Spanish, in order to converse with some Jewish parishioners.

His character and opinions at this time may be briefly described. He was a man who had made religion the single aim and object of his life, who was prepared to encounter for it every form of danger, discomfort, and obloquy; who devoted exclusively to it an energy of will and power of intellect that in worldly professions might have raised him to the highest positions of honor and wealth. Of his sincerity, of his self-renunciation, of his deep and fervent piety, of his almost boundless activity, there can be no question. Yet with all these qualities he was not an amiable man. He was hard, punctilious, domineering, and in a[Pg 62] certain sense even selfish. A short time before he left England, his father, who was then an old and dying man, and who dreaded above all things that the religious fervor which he had spent the greater part of his life in kindling in his parish should dwindle after his death, entreated his son in the most pathetic terms to remove to Epworth, in which case he would probably succeed to the living, and be able to maintain his mother in her old home.

Wesley peremptorily refused to leave Oxford, and the reason he assigned was very characteristic. "The question," he said, "is not whether I could do more good to others there than here; but whether I could do more good to myself, seeing wherever I can be most holy myself there I can most promote holiness in others." "My chief motive," he wrote when starting for Georgia, "is the hope of saving my own soul. I hope to learn the true sense of the Gospel of Christ by preaching it to the heathen." He was at this time a High-Churchman of a very narrow type, full of exaggerated notions about church discipline, extremely anxious to revive obsolete rubrics, and determined to force the strictest ritualistic observances upon rude colonists, for whom of all men they were least adapted. He insisted upon adopting baptism by immersion, and refused to baptize a child whose parents objected to that form. He would not permit any non-communicant to be a sponsor, repelled one of the holiest men in the colony from the communion-table because he was a Dissenter; refused for the same reason to read the burial-service over another; made it a special object of his teaching to prevent ladies of his congregation from wearing any gold ornament or any rich dress, and succeeded in inducing Oglethorpe to issue an order forbidding any colonist from throwing a line or firing a gun on Sunday. His sermons, it was complained, were all satires on particular persons. He insisted upon weekly communions, desired to rebaptize Dissenters who abandoned their Nonconformity, and exercised his pastoral duties in such a manner that he was accused of meddling in every quarrel and prying into every family.

A more unpropitious commencement for a great career could hardly be conceived. Wesley returned to England in bad health and low spirits. He redoubled his austerities and his zeal in[Pg 63] teaching, and he was tortured by doubts about the reality of his faith. It was at this time and in this state of mind that he came in contact with Peter Boehler, a Moravian teacher, whose calm and concentrated enthusiasm, united with unusual mental powers, gained a complete ascendency over his mind. From him Wesley for the first time learned that form of the doctrine of justification by faith which he afterward regarded as the fundamental tenet of Christianity. He had long held that in order to be a real Christian it was necessary to live a life wholly differing from that of the world around him, and that such a renewal of life could only be effected by the operation of the divine Spirit; and he does not appear to have had serious difficulties about the doctrine of imputed righteousness, although the ordinary evangelical doctrine on this matter was emphatically repudiated and denounced by Law.

From Boehler he first learned to believe that every man, no matter how moral, how pious, or how orthodox he may be, is in a state of damnation, until, by a supernatural and instantaneous process wholly unlike that of human reasoning, the conviction flashes upon his mind that the sacrifice of Christ has been applied to and has expiated his sins; that this supernatural and personal conviction or illumination is what is meant by saving faith, and that it is inseparably accompanied by an absolute assurance of salvation and by a complete dominion over sin. It cannot exist where there is not a sense of the pardon of all past and of freedom from all present sins. It is impossible that he who has experienced it should be in serious and lasting doubt as to the fact; for its fruits are constant peace—not one uneasy thought; "freedom from sin—not one unholy desire." Repentance and fruits meet for repentance, such as the forgiveness of those who have offended us, ceasing from evil and doing good, may precede this faith, but good works in the theological sense of the term spring from, and therefore can only follow, faith.

Such, as clearly as I can state it, was the fundamental doctrine which Wesley adopted from the Moravians. His mind was now thrown, through causes very susceptible of a natural explanation, into an exceedingly excited and abnormal condition, and he has himself chronicled with great minuteness in his jour[Pg 64]nal the incidents that follow. On Sunday, March 5, 1738, he tells us that Boehler first fully convinced him of the want of that supernatural faith which alone could save. The shock was very great, and the first impulse of Wesley was to abstain from preaching, but his new master dissuaded him, saying: "Preach faith till you have it; and then because you have faith you will preach faith." He followed the advice, and several weeks passed in a state of extreme religious excitement, broken, however, by strange fits of "indifference, dulness, and coldness." While still believing himself to be in a state of damnation, he preached the new doctrine with such passionate fervor that he was excluded from pulpit after pulpit. He preached to the criminals in the jails. He visited, under the superintendence of Boehler, some persons who professed to have undergone the instantaneous and supernatural illumination. He addressed the passengers whom he met on the roads or at the public tables in the inns. On one occasion, at Birmingham, he abstained from doing so, and he relates, with his usual imperturbable confidence, that a heavy hailstorm which he afterward encountered was a divine judgment sent to punish him for his neglect.

This condition could not last long. At length, on May 24th, a day which he ever after looked back upon as the most momentous in his life—the cloud was dispelled. Early in the morning, according to his usual custom, he opened the Bible at random, seeking for a divine guidance, and his eye lighted on the words, "There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that we would be partakers of the divine nature." Before he left the house he again consulted the oracle, and the first words he read were, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." In the afternoon he attended service in St. Paul's Cathedral, and the anthem, to his highly wrought imagination, seemed a repetition of the same hope. The sequel may be told in his own words: "In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed; I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me[Pg 65] from the law of sin and death. I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all what I now first felt in my heart."

Pictures of this kind are not uncommon in the lives of religious enthusiasts, but they usually have a very limited interest and importance. It is, however, scarcely an exaggeration to say that the scene which took place at that humble meeting in Aldersgate Street forms an epoch in English history. The conviction which then flashed upon one of the most powerful and most active intellects in England is the true source of English Methodism. Shortly before this, Charles Wesley, who had also fallen completely under the influence of Boehler, had passed through a similar change; and Whitefield, without ever adopting the dangerous doctrine of perfection which was so prominent in the Methodist teaching, was at a still earlier period an ardent preacher of justification by faith of the new birth. It was characteristic of John Wesley that ten days before his conversion he wrote a long, petulant, and dictatorial letter to his old master, William Law, reproaching him with having kept back from him the fundamental doctrine of Christianity, and intimating in strong and discourteous language his own conviction, and that of Boehler, that the spiritual condition of Law was a very dangerous one.

It was no less characteristic of the indefatigable energy which formed another and a better side of his nature, that immediately after this change he started on a pilgrimage to Herrnhut, the head-quarters of Moravianism, in order that he might study to the best advantage what he now regarded as the purest type of a Christian church. He returned objecting to many things, but more than ever convinced of his new doctrine, and more than ever resolved to spend his life in diffusing it. In the course of 1738 the chief elements of the movement were already formed. Whitefield had returned from Georgia. Charles Wesley had begun to preach the doctrine with extraordinary effect to the criminals in Newgate and from every pulpit into which he was admitted. Methodist societies had already sprung up under Moravian influence. The design of each was to be a church within a church, a seed-plot of a more fervent piety, the centre of[Pg 66] a stricter discipline and a more energetic propagandism, than existed in religious communities at large.

In these societies the old Christian custom of love-feasts was revived. The members sometimes passed almost the whole night in the most passionate devotions, and voluntarily submitted to a spiritual tyranny that could hardly be surpassed in a Catholic monastery. They were to meet every week, to make an open and particular confession of every frailty, to submit to be cross-examined on all their thoughts, words, and deeds. The following, among others, were the questions asked at every meeting: "What known sin have you committed since our last meeting? What temptations have you met with? How were you delivered? What have you thought, said, or done of which you doubt whether it be sin or not? Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?"

Such rules could only have been accepted under the influence of an overpowering religious enthusiasm, and there was much truth in the judgment which the elder brother of John Wesley passed upon them in 1739. "Their societies," he wrote to their mother, "are sufficient to dissolve all other societies but their own. Will any man of common-sense or spirit suffer any domestic to be in a band engaged to relate to five or ten people anything without reserve that concerns the person's conscience, how much soever it may concern the family? Ought any married person to be there unless husband and wife be there together?"

From this time the leaders of the movement became the most active of missionaries. Without any fixed parishes they wandered from place to place, proclaiming their new doctrine in every pulpit to which they were admitted, and they speedily awoke a passionate enthusiasm and a bitter hostility in the Church. Nothing, indeed, could appear more irregular to the ordinary parochial clergyman than those itinerant ministers who broke away violently from the settled habits of their profession, who belonged to and worshipped in small religious societies that bore a suspicious resemblance to conventicles, and whose whole tone and manner of preaching were utterly unlike anything to which he was accustomed. They taught in language of the most vehement emphasis, as the cardinal tenet of Christianity, the doctrine[Pg 67] of a new birth in a form which was altogether novel to their hearers. They were never weary of urging that all men are in a condition of damnation who have not experienced a sudden, violent, and supernatural change, or of inveighing against the clergy for their ignorance of the very essence of Christianity. "Tillotson," in the words of Whitefield, "knew no more about true Christianity than Mahomet." The Whole Duty of Man, which was the most approved devotional manual of the time, was pronounced by the same preacher, on account of the stress it laid upon good works, to have "sent thousands to hell."

The Methodist preacher came to an Anglican parish in the spirit and with the language of a missionary going to the most ignorant heathens; and he asked the clergyman of the parish to lend him his pulpit, in order that he might instruct the parishioners—perhaps for the first time—in the true Gospel of Christ. It is not surprising that the clergy should have resented such a movement; and the manner of the missionary was as startling as his matter. The sermons of the time were almost always written, and the prevailing taste was cold, polished, and fastidious. The new preachers preached extempore, with the most intense fervor of language and gesture, and usually with a complete disregard of the conventionalities of their profession. Wesley frequently mounted the pulpit without even knowing from what text he would preach, believing that when he opened his Bible at random the divine Spirit would guide him infallibly in his choice. The oratory of Whitefield was so impassioned that the preacher was sometimes scarcely able to proceed for his tears, while half the audience were convulsed with sobs. The love of order, routine, and decorum, which was the strongest feeling in the clerical mind, was violently shocked. The regular congregation was displaced by an agitated throng who had never before been seen within the precincts of the church. The usual quiet worship was disturbed by violent enthusiasm or violent opposition, by hysterical paroxysms of devotion or remorse, and when the preacher had left the parish he seldom failed to leave behind him the elements of agitation and division.

We may blame, but we can hardly, I think, wonder at the hostility all this aroused among the clergy. It is, indeed, certain that Wesley and Whitefield were at this time doing more than[Pg 68] any other contemporary clergymen to kindle a living piety among the people. It is equally certain that they held the doctrines of the Articles and the Homilies with an earnestness very rare among their brother-clergymen, that none of their peculiar doctrines were in conflict with those doctrines, and that Wesley at least was attached with an even superstitious reverence to ecclesiastical forms. Yet before the end of 1738 the Methodist leaders were excluded from most of the pulpits of the Church, and were thus compelled, unless they consented to relinquish what they considered a divine mission, to take steps in the direction of separation.

Two important measures of this nature were taken in 1739. One of them was the creation of Methodist chapels, which were intended, not to oppose or replace, but to be supplemental and ancillary to, the churches, and to secure that the doctrine of the new birth should be faithfully taught to the people. The other, and still more important event, was the institution by Whitefield of field-preaching. The idea had occurred to him in London, where he found congregations too numerous for the church in which he preached, but the first actual step was taken in the neighborhood of Bristol. At a time when he was thus deprived of the chief normal means of exercising his talents his attention was called to the condition of the colliers of Kingswood. He was filled with horror and compassion at finding in the heart of a Christian country, and in the immediate neighborhood of a great city, a population of many thousands sunk in the most brutal ignorance and vice, and entirely excluded from the ordinances of religion. Moved by such feelings, he resolved to address the colliers in their own haunts. The resolution was a bold one, for field-preaching was then utterly unknown in England, and it needed no common courage to brave all the obloquy and derision it must provoke, and to commence the experiment in the centre of a half-savage population.

Whitefield, however, had a just confidence in his cause and in his powers. Standing himself upon a hillside, he took for his text the first words of the Sermon which was spoken from the Mount, and he addressed with his accustomed fire an astonished audience of some two hundred men. The fame of his eloquence spread far and wide. On successive occasions five, ten, fifteen,[Pg 69] even twenty thousand were present. It was February, but the winter sun shone clear and bright. The lanes were filled with the carriages of the more wealthy citizens, whom curiosity had drawn from Bristol. The trees and hedges were crowded with humbler listeners, and the fields were darkened by a compact mass. The face of the preacher paled with a thrilling power to the very outskirts of that mighty throng. The picturesque novelty of the occasion and of the scene, the contagious emotion of so great a multitude, a deep sense of the condition of his hearers and of the momentous importance of the step he was taking, gave an additional solemnity. His rude auditors were electrified. They stood for a time in rapt and motionless attention. Soon tears might be seen forming white gutters down cheeks blackened from the coal-mine. Then sobs and groans told how hard hearts were melting at his words. A fire was kindled among the outcasts of Kingswood, which burned long and fiercely, and was destined in a few years to overspread the land.

It was only with great difficulty that Whitefield could persuade the Wesleys to join him in this new phase of missionary labor. John Wesley has left on record, in his journal, his first repugnance to it, "having," as he says, "been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church." Charles Wesley, on this as on most other occasions, was even more strongly conservative. The two brothers adopted their usual superstitious practice of opening their Bibles at random, under the belief that the texts on which their eyes first fell would guide them in their decision. The texts were ambiguous and somewhat ominous, relating for the most part to violent deaths; but on drawing lots the lot determined them to go. It was on this slender ground that they resolved to give the weight of their example to this most important development of the movement. They went to Bristol, from which Whitefield was speedily called, and continued the work among the Kingswood colliers and among the people of the city; while Whitefield, after a preaching tour of some weeks in the country, reproduced on a still larger scale the triumphs of Kingswood by preaching with marvellous effect to immense throngs of the London rabble at Moorfields and on Kennington Common. From[Pg 70] this time field-preaching became one of the most conspicuous features of the revival.

The character and genius of the preacher to whom this most important development of Methodism was due demand a more extended notice than I have yet given them. Unlike Wesley, whose strongest enthusiasm was always curbed by a powerful will, and who manifested at all times and on all subjects an even exaggerated passion for reasoning, Whitefield was chiefly a creature of impulse and emotion. He had very little logical skill, no depth or range of knowledge, not much self-restraint, nothing of the commanding and organizing talent, and, it must be added, nothing of the arrogant and imperious spirit so conspicuous in his colleague. At the same time a more zealous, a more single-minded, a more truly amiable, a more purely unselfish man it would be difficult to conceive. He lived perpetually in the sight of eternity, and a desire to save souls was the single passion of his life. Of his labors it is sufficient to say that it has been estimated that in the thirty-four years of his active career he preached eighteen thousand times, or on an average ten times a week; that these sermons were delivered with the utmost vehemence of voice and gesture, often in the open air, and to congregations of many thousands; and that he continued his exertions to the last, when his constitution was hopelessly shattered by disease. During long periods he preached forty hours, and sometimes as much as sixty hours, a week. In the prosecution of his missionary labors he visited almost every important district in England and Wales. At least twelve times he traversed Scotland, three times he preached in Ireland, thirteen times he crossed the Atlantic.

Very few men placed by circumstances at the head of a great religious movement have been so absolutely free from the spirit of sect. Very few men have passed through so much obloquy with a heart so entirely unsoured, and have retained amid so much adulation so large a measure of deep and genuine humility. There was indeed not a trace of jealousy, ambition, or rancor in his nature. There is something singularly touching in the zeal with which he endeavored to compose the differences between himself and Wesley, when so many of the followers of each leader were endeavoring to envenom them; in the profound respect he continually expressed for his colleague at the time of[Pg 71] their separation; in the exuberant gratitude he always showed for the smallest act of kindness to himself; in the tenderness with which he guarded the interests of the inmates of that orphanage at Georgia around which his strongest earthly affections were entwined; in the almost childish simplicity with which he was always ready to make a public confession of his faults.[Pg 72]



A.D. 1739


It was the fortune of Persia to be delivered from the Afghan yoke at a time when, under a feeble and corrupt ruler, the national life had been almost crushed out by foreign tyranny. This deliverance was wrought by a man who raised himself from the lowest condition to the head of the kingdom which he restored. Besides this achievement for Persia, Nadir Shah performed deeds of conquest which placed his name among those who have won lasting celebrity by the subjugation of empires.

The Afghans had in 1722 captured Ispahan, the Persian capital, then an important metropolis with six hundred thousand inhabitants. They sacked the city and killed all of the royal family except Hasan, the weak ruler, his son Tamasp, and two grandchildren. From this blow the once magnificent capital of Persia has never recovered. Tamasp became shah in 1727.

How the brief rule of the conquering Afghans was terminated by Nadir Shah, and how he pursued his own bloody path of conquest, Sir John Malcolm, the historian of Persia, relates in a most graphic and comprehensive manner.

Nadir Shah was born in the province of Khorasan. Persian historians pass over the early occurrences of his life, and the first event that these notice is the birth of his eldest son, Reza Kuli, which occurred when he was thirty-one years of age. He had before that experienced great vicissitudes of fortune, and had given proofs both of valor and talent. When only seventeen he was taken prisoner by the Usbegs, who made annual incursions into Khorasan; but he effected his escape after a captivity of four years. His occupation from that period till he entered into the service of Shah Tamasp can only merit notice as it is calculated to show that the character of this extraordinary man was always the same. He was at one time in the service of a petty chief of his native province, whom he murdered, and whose daughter he carried off and married. After this, he obtained a precarious[Pg 73] subsistence by heading a band of robbers; from which occupation he passed, by an easy transition in such troubled times, into the employment of the Afghan Governor of Khorasan, by whom he was at first raised to rank and command, as a reward for his valor in actions with the Usbegs, and afterward degraded and punished with the bastinado on account of his insolent and turbulent conduct.

Irritated at the disgrace he had suffered, Nadir left the city of Mushed, and went to the fort of Khelat in the same province, which was in the possession of his uncle, who appears at this period to have been at the head of a small branch of the Affshars. He resided there but a short time, before his relation, alarmed at his violence and ambition, compelled him to retire. He appears next to have resumed his occupation of a robber; but his depredations were now on a more extended scale. The Afghans had become masters of Ispahan; and the rule of the Suffavean monarchs over the distant provinces of the kingdom was subverted, without that of their conquerors being firmly established. At such a moment a plunderer of known valor and experience could not want followers; and in the course of a short time we find Nadir, a chief of reputation, at the head of a body of three thousand men, levying large contributions on the inhabitants of Khorasan.

His uncle, alarmed at his increasing power, sought his friendship. He addressed a kind letter to him, and proposed that he should enter the service of Shah Tamasp, and aid that Prince in expelling the Afghans from Persia. Nadir pretended to listen to this overture, and earnestly desired that the King should grant him a pardon for his past offences. This was easily obtained; and he went to Khelat to receive it. He appears to have always deemed the Governor of that place as the chief obstacle to his rise; and at this moment he laid a plan to destroy him and to seize his fortress. He completely succeeded in both; and, after having slain his uncle with his own hand, he proceeded to employ the means he had acquired by this crime in overthrowing the Afghan ruler of Khorasan. This popular attack upon the enemies of his country enabled him to obtain a second pardon from Shah Tamasp, whose service he entered, and to whose cause he brought a great accession of strength and reputation.[Pg 74]

Shah Tamasp early entertained the greatest jealousy of Nadir: and upon his disobeying a mandate he had sent him to return from an expedition on which he was engaged, the weak monarch ventured to proclaim him a rebel and a traitor. The indignant chief, the moment he heard of these proceedings, marched against the court, which he soon compelled to submit on the terms he chose to dictate. From the occurrence of this open rupture we may date the annihilation of the little power Tamasp had ever enjoyed. Nadir continued to treat him with respect till he deemed the time mature for his usurpation of the throne; but we discover that, as early as his first expedition into Khorasan, he began to prepare the minds of his countrymen for his future elevation.

Like Ardisheer, the founder of the Sassanian race of Persian kings, he had his visions of future grandeur. He saw, we are told, in one of these, a water-fowl and a white fish with four horns; he dreamt that he shot the bird; and, after all his attendants had failed in their attempts to seize the extraordinary fish, he stretched out his hand and caught it with the greatest ease. The simple fact of his dreaming of a bird and a fish, he was informed by flattering astrologers, was a certain presage of his attaining imperial power; and his historian has had a less difficult task in discovering, from subsequent events, that the four horns of the fish were types of the kingdoms of Persia, Khaurizm, India, and Tartary, which were all destined to be conquered by this hero. Such trifles are not unworthy of notice; they show the art or superstition of him who uses or believes in them, and portray better than the most elaborate descriptions the character of those minds upon which they make an impression.

The expulsion of the Afghans from Persia seemed the sole effort of the genius of Nadir; and no reward, therefore, appeared too great for the man who was liberating his country from its cruel oppressors. The grant made by Tamasp to this chief, of the four finest provinces of the empire, was considered only as a just recompense for the great services that he had performed. We are told that in the same letter by which Tamasp conveyed the grant of these countries, or, in other words, alienated half his kingdom, his victorious general was requested to assume the title of sultan, and a diadem, richly set with jewels, was sent by one of[Pg 75] the noblemen of the court. Nadir accepted all the honors except the title of sultan; that high name he thought would excite envy without conferring benefit; he, however, took advantage of this proffered elevation to the rank of a prince, to exercise one of the most important privileges which attach to monarchs. He directed that his army should be paid in coin brought from the province of Khorasan, and that it should be struck in his own name, which virtually amounted to an assumption of the independent sovereignty of that country.

The armies of the Turks occupied some of the finest parts of the province of Irak and all Azerbaijan. Nadir marched against them as soon as his troops were refreshed from the fatigues they had endured in the pursuit of the Afghans. He encountered the united force of two Turkish pachas on the plains of Hamadan, overthrew them, and made himself master, not only of the city, but of all the country in its vicinity. He hastened to Azerbaijan, where the same success attended him. Tabriz, Ardabil, and all the principal cities of that quarter had surrendered; and the conqueror was preparing to besiege Erivan, the capital of Armenia, when he received from his brother, whom he had left in the government of Khorasan, an account of an alarming rebellion of the Afghans of that province. He hastened to its relief; and his success against the rebels was completed by the reduction of the fortresses of Furrah and Herat. An event occurred, during the siege of the latter city, which marked the barbarous character of this war. Nadir had obtained a victory over a large division of the Afghan force, and resolved to celebrate it with a splendid feast. Among other guests were several prisoners of high rank. During the festivities the heads of three hundred Afghans, who had been slain in the action, were held up on the tops of spears. "At this sight," says the flattering historian of Nadir, "the chiefs of our enemies fixed their eyes upon the ground, and never dared to raise them again, notwithstanding the extraordinary kindness with which they were treated by their great and generous conqueror!"

While Nadir was employed at the siege of Herat the Persian nobles at Ispahan persuaded the weak Tamasp to place himself at the head of an army and march against the Turks, who were again assembling on the frontier. The reverses which the arms[Pg 76] of that nation had sustained in Persia had caused a revolution at Constantinople, where the janizaries had first murdered the vizier, and afterward dethroned Achmet, and placed his nephew, Mahmud, upon the throne. To this Prince Nadir had sent an envoy, demanding that the Turks should evacuate the province of Azerbaijan; and Shah Tamasp had sent another with what a Persian historian indignantly terms "a sweet-scented letter of congratulation" upon his elevation to the throne. Before the result of the mission sent by Nadir could be known, Tamasp had marched to besiege Erivan, had retreated from before that fortress, been defeated by a Turkish army, and had lost in one month all that the genius and valor of his general had gained during the preceding season. To render the effects of his weakness complete, the alarmed monarch had agreed to a peace, by which he abandoned the whole of the country beyond the Araxes to the Turks, and ceded five districts of the province of Kirmanshahan to Achmet, the reigning pacha of Bagdad, by whom this treaty was negotiated. The disgrace of this engagement was aggravated by its containing no stipulation for the release of the Persians who had been made prisoners during the war.

The moment that Nadir received accounts of the peace it seems to have occurred to his mind that it afforded an excellent pretext for the consummation of those projects he had so long cherished: but, although bold and impatient, he was compelled to proceed with caution to the extinction of a race of kings to whom obedience had become a habit, and who were at that moment represented by a prince who, though weak and despicable, was endeared to many of his subjects by his misfortunes. His first step was to issue a proclamation, in which he inveighed with bitterness against a treaty which bounded the great empire of Persia by the river Araxes, and left many of the inhabitants of that kingdom prisoners in the hands of cruel enemies. "Such a treaty," he said, "is contrary to the will of Heaven: and the angels who guard the tomb of the holy Ali call aloud for the deliverance of his followers from the bondage in which they are now held by vile heretics."

There is no country, however abject its inhabitants may appear, where the most daring and ambitious can venture to usurp the supreme power without first obtaining a hold on public opin[Pg 77]ion; we cannot have a stronger proof of this fact, as applicable to Persia, than what we find in the conduct of Nadir upon this memorable occasion. Though that chief had revived the military spirit of his country, and roused a nation sunk in sloth and luxury to great and successful exertion, yet neither this success, the imbecility of Shah Tamasp, nor a reliance upon his own fame and strength could induce him to take the last step of usurpation, until he had, by his arts, excited in the minds of his countrymen that complete contempt for the reigning sovereign, and that pride in his glory, which were likely to make his elevation appear more the accomplishment of their wishes than of his ambition.

At the same time that Nadir published the proclamation which has been mentioned, he addressed letters to all the military chiefs of the country. In that to the Governor of Fars, which has been preserved, he informs him of the great success he has had against the Afghans and of the conquest of Herat. He then proceeds to state the astonishment and indignation with which he has learnt the particulars of the treaty concluded with Turkey. "You will no doubt," he observes, "be rejoiced to hear that, as it was to be hoped from the goodness of God, this peace with the Turks is not likely to endure; and you may rest in expectation of my approach; for, by the blessing of the Most High, I will advance immediately, with an army elated with success, skilled in sieges, numerous as emmets, valiant as lions, and combining with the vigor of youth the prudence of age. Let the cup-bearer," he exclaims, quoting from a popular poet, "tell our enemy, the worshipper of fire, to cover his head with dust, for the water that had departed is returned into its channel." He concludes this letter by threatening, with excommunication and destruction, all Shiahs, or, in other words, all Persians who are adverse to the renewal of hostilities. "Those Shiahs," he observes, "who are backward on this great occasion, and are reconciled to this shameful peace, shall be expelled from the faithful sect and forever counted among its enemies. To slaughter them will be meritorious; to permit their existence impious."

The actions of Nadir corresponded with these declarations. He sent an officer to Constantinople, the duties of whose mission to the Emperor Mahmud were limited to this short message: "Restore the provinces of Persia or prepare for war." A mes[Pg 78]senger was deputed to Achmet, the Pacha of Bagdad, to apprise him that "the deliverer of Persia" was approaching. A peace had been concluded with the Russians, by which it was stipulated that they should abandon all the conquests they had made on the shores of the Caspian; and Nadir despatched two officers to that quarter to see that there was no delay in the execution of this treaty.

After adopting these measures Nadir marched to Ispahan. He first upbraided Shah Tamasp, and then pretended to be reconciled to him; but the scene of his mock submission to this Prince drew to a close. Tamasp was invited to the tents of his general to share in the joys of a feast, which terminated in his being seized and dethroned. He was sent to Khorasan. The Mahometan author who records these events is careful in informing us that the generosity of Nadir desired that Tamasp, though a prisoner, should be accompanied by all his ladies, and enjoy every other comfort that could be deemed necessary to pleasurable existence.

The time did not yet appear to Nadir to be ripe for his seizing the crown of Persia. The officers of his army and some venal nobles of the court earnestly requested that he, who was alone worthy to wear the diadem, would place it upon his head; but he rejected their entreaties, from pretended respect for the blood of the Suffavean kings. The son of Tamasp, an infant only eight months old, was seated upon the throne, and Nadir accepted the name and power of regent of the empire.

When the ceremonies necessary at this coronation were over, Nadir marched with a large army to the attack of Bagdad. The Governor of that city, Achmet Pacha, was not more distinguished for his talents as a soldier than a statesman; and the Persian leader had made his preparations in the expectation of an obstinate defence; but neither the valor nor skill of Achmet would have saved his city had not the Turkish general Topal Osman advanced, at the head of an immense army, to his relief. Nadir instantly resolved to hazard a battle. He left a small part of his army in his lines, and led the remainder to attack Topal Osman, who was encamped on the banks of the Tigris, near the village of Samarra, which is situated about sixty miles from Bagdad. The action that ensued was one of the most bloody ever fought be[Pg 79]tween the Turks and Persians. It was at first favorable to the latter, whose cavalry put the enemy to flight; but the Turkish infantry advanced and restored the battle. A corps of Arabs, from whom Nadir expected support, fell upon one of his flanks. His men, who had been exposed all day to the intense rays of a summer sun, fainted with heat and thirst. He himself twice fell to the ground, in the midst of his enemies, from his horses being shot; and his standard-bearer, conceiving him slain, fled from the field. All these causes combined to give the victory to Topal Osman; and, after a contest of more than eight hours, the army of Nadir was completely defeated. The moment the news of this event reached Bagdad, the inhabitants of that city fell on the troops left to guard the trenches, who were also routed. The loss of the Persians in this battle was estimated by their enemies at sixty thousand men; and it probably amounted to more than one-third of that number. The Turks suffered almost as severely; but their triumph was very complete; for Nadir did not reassemble the whole of his broken and dispersed army till he reached the plains of Hamadan, a distance of more than two hundred miles from the field of action.

There is no period in the life of Nadir at which he appears to more advantage than after this great misfortune. Instead of reproaching his soldiers with their defeat, he loaded them with praises and with favors. Their losses in money and horses were more than repaid, and they were encouraged by the exhortations as well as the actions of their politic commander to desire nothing so much as an opportunity of revenging themselves upon their enemies. This conduct increased his reputation and popularity to so great a degree that recruits from every part of Persia hastened to join his standard; and in less than three months after this action Nadir descended again into the plains of Bagdad with an army more numerous than before.

His brave antagonist, Topal Osman, had jealous rivals at the court of Constantinople; and these, alarmed at the great fame he had acquired, not only prevented, by their intrigues, his being reënforced with men, but, by withholding the supplies of money that were necessary to pay his troops, compelled him to separate his force. He, nevertheless, made the greatest efforts to oppose [Pg 80]this second invasion of Nadir. He sent a corps of cavalry to arrest the progress of the Persians; but the latter, eager for revenge, made such a sudden and furious attack on this body that they completely routed it. On hearing this intelligence, the Turkish general advanced with all the troops he had been able to draw together to his support; but his own army partook of the panic of their flying comrades. Topal Osman endeavored in vain to rally them. He was himself so infirm that he always rode in a litter. His attendants, in the hope that he might escape, lifted him, when the flight became general, upon a horse; but his rich dress attracted the eye of a Persian soldier, who pierced him with his lance, and then, separating his head from his body, carried it to his commander. We are pleased to find that Nadir respected the remains of his former conqueror. His head and corpse were sent by an officer of rank to the Turkish army, that they might receive those honorable rites of sepulture which in all nations are considered due to a great and valiant soldier.

After the death of Topal Osman and the defeat of his army Nadir proceeded to invest Bagdad; but being alarmed at the account of a serious revolt in the province of Fars, he readily listened to the terms which the ruler of the city proposed, which were that the governments of Turkey and Persia should repossess the countries that belonged to them in the reign of Sultan Hasan before the Afghan invasion. The rebellion which had compelled him to retire from the Turkish territories had hardly been suppressed before he learned that the Emperor of Constantinople had refused to ratify the engagements made by the Pacha of Bagdad, and had sent a general, named Abdallah, at the head of a large force, with orders either to conclude peace or to continue the war, as circumstances should render it expedient. Nadir hastened to occupy Armenia and Georgia, which were the principal of the disputed provinces. He threw a bridge over the rapid Araxes; and at once invested the cities of Tiflis, Gunjah, and Erivan, in the hope that the danger with which they were threatened would lead the Turkish general to hazard an action. Nor was he deceived.

Abdallah, encouraged by his superior numbers, left the intrenchments with which he had covered his army, and attacked the Persians on the plains of Baghavund, near Erivan. The Persian leader, when he saw him advancing, addressed his troops[Pg 81] in the most animated language. "Their enemies," he said, "outnumbered them eight to one; but that was only an incitement to glorious exertion. He had dreamt on the past night," he told them, "that a furious animal had rushed into his tent, which, after a long struggle, he had slain. With such an omen," he exclaimed, "success is certain to those who fight under the protection of his great arm, who raiseth the weak to glory, and casteth down the proudest oppressors." If his troops were encouraged by this speech, they were still more so by his example. After his skill had made the most able disposition of his army, he rushed upon the enemy at the head of his bravest men; and wherever he led, the Persians were irresistible. In one of these charges Abdallah Pacha was slain by a soldier, who brought his head to Nadir; and as the battle still raged, he directed it to be fixed upon a spear and to be displayed where it would be best seen by the enemy. The effect was as he anticipated. The Turks, perceiving their general was slain, fled in every direction and left the plain covered with their dead. This victory was followed by the submission of the cities of Gunjah and Tiflis; and those of Kars and Erivan, with all the former possessions of the Persians in that quarter, were soon afterward ceded to him by the policy of the Ottoman court, who, taught by misfortune, were glad to conclude a peace on the basis which had been before settled by the Pacha of Bagdad.

The period was now arrived when Nadir thought he might lay aside the veil which he had hitherto used. An account was brought that the infant sovereign of Persia had died at Ispahan, and consequently that the throne was vacant. It has always been the usage of the kings of Persia to observe the Nuroze, or vernal equinox, as a great festival; and on it all the chief officers, civil and military, of the government appear at court. Nadir issued an order that not only these, but every person of rank and consideration in the kingdom, should meet him on the day of that festival, on the plains of Chowal Mogam, where he ordered a number of temporary buildings to be erected and made every preparation to receive them with splendor and magnificence. We are informed that upward of one hundred thousand persons attended this celebrated meeting; and if this includes the troops, the amount is probably not exaggerated.[Pg 82]

Nadir, his historian informs us, assembled the principal nobles and officers on the morning of the festival, and addressed them in the following terms: "Shah Tamasp and Shah Abbas were your kings, and the princes of their blood are the heirs to the throne. Choose one of them for your sovereign, or some other person whom you know to be great and virtuous. It is enough for me that I have restored the throne to its glory and delivered my country from the Afghans, the Turks, and the Russians." He retired, that their deliberations might seem more free, but was soon recalled to hear their unanimous request that he who had saved his country and was alone able to protect it, would accept the crown. He refused this offer, protesting solemnly that the idea of ascending the throne of Persia had never once entered his imagination! The same scene was enacted every day for a month, till Nadir, appearing to be subdued by their earnest solicitations, agreed to comply with their wishes, but said, when he made this apparent concession: "I must insist that, as I sacrifice so much for Persia, the inhabitants of that nation shall, in consideration for one who has no object but their tranquillity, abandon that belief which was introduced by Shah Ismail, the founder of the Suffavean dynasty, and once more acknowledge the legitimate authority of the four first caliphs. Since the schism of Shiah has prevailed," he added, "this country has been in continued distraction; let us all become Sunnis, and that will cease. But as every national religion should have a head, let the holy imam Jaffer, who is of the family of the Prophet, and whom we all venerate, be the head of ours." After the assembly had consented to this change, and a royal mandate had been issued to proclaim it, Nadir informed them that he would communicate what had been done to the Emperor of Constantinople, and require that monarch to give full effect to this advance to general concord among Mahometans; and he would also insist that, as there were now four orthodox sects among Sunnis, the Persians, under the name of the sect of Jaffer, should be admitted as the fifth, and that another column should be added to the four which already decorated the temple at Mecca, in honor of this new branch of the true religion.

The historian of Nadir is careful in informing us that the crown of Persia was placed upon the head of the conqueror exactly at twenty minutes past eight on the morning of February 26,[Pg 83] 1736. The moment, no doubt, had been fixed by the most skilful astrologers. The ceremony was performed in a splendid hall erected for the occasion, and Nadir was seated on a throne covered with precious jewels. Various coins were immediately struck in his name, on which was the following inscription: "The impression stamped on this gold proclaims to the world the sovereignty of Nadir, native of the land of Persia, and the monarch who subdues the earth." On the reverse was a short Arabic sentence, which signified "That which has happened is the best." But even the flatterer who records these particulars confesses that there were malicious wits who made free with the latter sentence, and, by the alteration of the position of one letter, made it signify "That which has happened is not the best."

Nadir Shah, soon after his elevation to the throne, marched to Ispahan; but the short time he spent in that capital was solely devoted to military preparations; he had resolved on the entire extinction of the Afghans as a separate power, and that could not be effected without the reduction of the city and province of Kandahar, which was then in possession of a prince called Hasan Khan, the brother of the celebrated Mahmud; but before he proceeded upon this expedition he adopted every measure that could secure the internal tranquillity of Persia during his absence. The peace of the country round Ispahan had been much disturbed by the depredations of a numerous and barbarous tribe, called Bukhteearees, who inhabit the mountains that stretch from near this capital to the vicinity of Shuster. The subjugation of these plunderers had ever been deemed possible. Their lofty and rugged mountains abound with rocks and caverns, which in times of danger serve them as fastnesses and dens. But Nadir showed that this fancied security, which had protected them for ages, was a mere delusion. He led his veteran soldiers to the tops of their highest mountains; parties of light troops hunted them from the cliffs and glens in which they were concealed, and in the space of one month the tribe was completely subdued. Their chief was taken prisoner and put to death; but the policy of Nadir treated those of his followers who escaped the first fury of his troops with lenity and favor; he assigned them better but more accessible lands than what they before possessed; he also took a number of them into his army; and this corps, by its extraordinary bravery[Pg 84] at the siege of Kandahar, confirmed the wisdom of his generous conduct.

Nadir marched with an army of eighty thousand men through Khorasan and Sistan to Kandahar. He met with no resistance of any consequence before he reached that city; but he found its defences were too formidable to give him hopes of its early surrender. His first resolution was to subdue it by blockade; and he not only made permanent cantonments for his army in its vicinity, but ordered the lines of a new city to be traced out, which he called Nadirabad, or the "Abode of Nadir." He also built towers all around Kandahar, and so connected them with small batteries that it became impossible for the besieged to maintain any intercourse with the surrounding country. Observing, however, that the Afghans were not intimidated by the indications which his conduct gave of his determined resolution to conquer them, and that they had still abundance of provisions, he was compelled, after a year had been wasted in the blockade, to commence a more active course of operations.

The city of Kandahar stood on the face of a hill, and was defended by a wall and by a number of small towers. The Persians made themselves masters of some of the most commanding eminences, to which they conveyed, with incredible labor, both cannon and mortars. Aided by the fire of these, they successively assailed the different towers. At some they were repulsed with great loss; at others they succeeded; but the bravery of the corps of Bukhteearees, who have been before mentioned, was successful in carrying a principal tower, which enabled them to enter the citadel, and placed the whole town at their mercy. The Governor, however, with the principal part of the garrison, still held out in a detached fort; but seeing that resistance was vain, he offered to capitulate, and Nadir readily gave him a promise of forgiveness and protection. It appears at this period to have been the policy of the conqueror to conciliate the Afghans. He had in a very great degree disarmed the prejudices of that nation, by the proclamation which he issued, on ascending the throne, against the tenets of the Shiahs; and he now sought, not merely to soften that resentment, but to attach them to his person and government by favors. He completely succeeded; some of the tribes of that nation continued during his life to rank among the[Pg 85] bravest soldiers of his army and formed a powerful check upon the discontent and turbulence of his own countrymen.

While Nadir was employed in besieging Kandahar his generals had been successful in reducing the strongholds in its vicinity; and his eldest son, Reza Kuli, had, during this short period, obtained a fame which seemed to promise that his name would one day equal that of his father. The Afghan Prince of Kandahar had expected aid from the chief of Bulkh, against whom Nadir detached his son, with a chosen body of twelve thousand horse. The Prince not only defeated this ruler and took his capital, but passed the Oxus, and did not hesitate to give battle to the monarch of the Usbegs, who had advanced from Bokhara with an army far outnumbering the Persians. The rash valor of Reza Kuli was crowned with a signal victory; and the career of the young hero was only arrested by a mandate from his father, who desired him to recross the Oxus.

Nadir at the same time addressed two letters to the King of the Usbegs, and to the other chiefs of that part of Tartary, informing them that he had sent orders to his son to retreat within the limits of the Persian empire, and not to disturb countries which were the inheritance of the race of Genghis Khan and of high Turkoman families.

This conduct, which was evidently the result of that policy which affects moderation, that it may better accomplish its ambitious purposes, has been ascribed by some to a jealousy which they conceive Nadir, even at this early period, entertained of the rising reputation of his son; but those who impute it to this cause forget that Reza Kuli, when he returned, was not only received with extraordinary favor and affection, but soon afterward was intrusted with all the power of a sovereign, and left to govern Persia, while his father proceeded with his vast designs of subjugating to his authority the distant regions of India.

When Nadir Shah marched against the Afghans he had sent an ambassador to Delhi requesting the monarch of India would give orders to the governors of his northern provinces not to permit the enemies of Persia to find a refuge from an avenging sword in the territories of an ally. No satisfactory answer had been received to this mission; and, while the Afghans were allowed to take shelter within the limits of the Indian empire, obstacles were[Pg 86] thrown in the way of the return of the Persian envoy. Nadir, incensed at these proceedings, pursued the fugitives to Kabul, and not only made himself master of that city, but of all the country in its vicinity. After this conquest he addressed another letter to the Emperor of India, in which he reproached him, in the bitterest terms, for his past conduct, but still professed a desire of maintaining the relations of friendship. The bearer of this letter was slain by the Afghan chief: and Nadir, perhaps, did not regret an event which added to the pretexts that before existed to justify him to the world in undertaking the most splendid of all his enterprises—the invasion of India (1738).

The progress of Nadir from Kabul to India was rapid and successful: almost all the governors of the principal provinces through which he passed anticipated the fate of the empire by their submission; but the conqueror has, in a letter to his son, Reza Kuli, given us the most authentic account we could desire to possess of events from the day on which he left Lahore till that on which he resolved to restore the vanquished Mahomet Shah to the throne of his ancestors. After informing that Prince of an advantage which his troops had gained over an advanced party of his enemies, and describing an ineffectual attempt he had made to prevent the junction of an army under Saadut Khan with Mahomet Shah, he states that the Indian monarch considered himself so strong from his reënforcement that he left his intrenchments, and drew up his troops in order of battle. The result will be best told in Nadir's own words.

"We," he observes, "who wished for such a day, after appointing guards for our camp, and invoking the support of an all-powerful Creator, mounted, and advanced to the charge. For two complete hours the action raged with violence, and a heavy fire from cannon and musketry was kept up. After that, by the aid of the Almighty, our lion-hunting heroes broke the enemy's line and chased them from the field of battle, dispersing them in every direction. This battle lasted two hours; and for two hours and a half more were our conquering soldiers engaged in pursuit. When one hour of the day remained, the field was entirely cleared of the enemy; and as the intrenchments of their camp were strong and the fortifications formidable, we would not permit our army to assault it.[Pg 87]

"An immense treasure, a number of elephants, part of the artillery of the Emperor, and rich spoils of every description were the reward of our victory. Upward of twenty thousand of the enemy were slain on the field of battle, and a much greater number were made prisoners. Immediately after the action was over we surrounded the Emperor's army, and took measures to prevent all communication with the adjacent country; preparing at the same time our cannon and mortars to level with the ground the fortifications which had been erected.

"As the utmost confusion reigned in the imperial camp, and all discipline was abandoned, the Emperor, compelled by irresistible necessity, after the lapse of one day, sent Nizam-ul-mulk, on Thursday, the 17th Zilkadeh, to our royal camp; and the day following, Mahomet Shah himself, attended by his nobles, came to our heaven-like presence, in an afflicted state.

"When the Emperor was approaching, as we ourselves are of a Turkoman family, and Mahomet Shah is a Turkoman and the lineal descendant of the noble house of Gurgan, we sent our dear son, Nassr Ali Khan, beyond the bounds of our camp to meet him. The Emperor entered our tents, and we delivered over to him the signet of our empire. He remained that day a guest in our royal tent. Considering our affinity as Turkomans, and also reflecting on the honors that befitted the majesty of a king of kings, we bestowed such upon the Emperor, and ordered his royal pavilions, his family, and his nobles to be preserved; and we have established him in a manner equal to his great dignity.

"At this time the Emperor, with his family and all the lords of Hindustan, who marched from camp, are arrived in Delhi; and on Thursday, the 29th of Zilkadeh, we moved our glorious standard toward that capital.

"It is our royal intention, from the consideration of the high birth of Mahomet Shah, of his descent from the house of Gurgan, and of his affinity to us as a Turkoman, to fix him on the throne of the empire and to place the crown of royalty upon his head. Praise be to God, glory to the Most High, who has granted us the power to perform such an action! For this great grace which we have received from the Almighty we must ever remain grateful.

"God has made the seven great seas like unto the vapor of the desert, beneath our glorious and conquering footsteps and those[Pg 88] of our faithful and victorious heroes. He has made in our royal mind the thrones of kings and the deep ocean of earthly glory more despicable than the light bubble that floats upon the surface of the wave; and no doubt his extraordinary mercy, which he has now shown, will be evident to all mankind."

The facts stated in this letter are not contradicted either by Persian of Indian historians; though the latter find reasons for the great defeat of their countrymen suffered at Karnal, in the rashness of some of their leaders and the caution of others; and they state that even after the victory the conqueror would have returned to Persia on receiving two millions sterling, if the disappointed ambition of an Indian minister had not urged him to advance to Delhi. But it is not necessary to seek for causes for the overthrow of an army who were so panic-struck that they fled at the first charge, and nearly twenty thousand of whom were slain with hardly any loss to their enemies; and our knowledge of the character of Nadir Shah forbids our granting any belief to a tale which would make it appear that the ultimate advantages to be obtained from this great enterprise, and the unparalleled success with which it had been attended, depended less upon his genius than upon the petty jealousies and intrigues of the captive ministers of the vanquished Mahomet Shah.

The causes which led Nadir to invade India have been already stated; nor were they groundless. The court of Delhi had certainly not observed the established ties of friendship. It had given shelter to the Afghans who fled from the sword of the conqueror; and this protection was likely to enable them to make another effort to regain their lost possessions, and consequently to reinvolve Persia in war. The ambassadors of Nadir, who had been sent to make remonstrances on this subject, had not only been refused an answer, but were prevented from returning, in defiance of the reiterated and impatient applications of that monarch. This proceeding, we are told, originated more in irresolution and indecision than from a spirit of hostility; but it undoubtedly furnished a fair and justifiable pretext for Nadir's advance. Regarding the other motives which induced him to undertake this enterprise, we can conjecture none but an insatiable desire of plunder, a wish to exercise that military spirit he had kindled in the Persians, or the ambitious view of annexing the vast domin[Pg 89]ions of the sovereign of Delhi to the crown of Persia. But if he ever cherished this latter project he must have been led by a near view of the condition of the empire of India, to reject it as wholly impracticable. We are, however, compelled to respect the greatness of that mind which could resolve, at the very moment of its achievement, upon the entire abandonment of so great a conquest; for he did not even try to establish a personal interest at the court of Delhi, except through the operation of those sentiments which his generous conduct in replacing him upon his throne might make upon the mind of Mahomet Shah.

Nadir claimed, as a prize which he had won, the wealth of the Emperor and a great proportion of that of his richest nobles and subjects. The whole of the jewels that had been collected by a long race of sovereigns, and all the contents of the imperial treasury, were made over by Mahomet Shah to the conqueror. The principal nobles, imitating the example of their monarch, gave up all the money and valuables which they possessed. After these voluntary gifts, as they were termed, had been received, arrears of revenue were demanded from distant provinces, and heavy impositions were laid upon the richest of the inhabitants of Delhi. The great misery caused by these impositions was considerably augmented by the corrupt and base character of the Indian agents employed, who actually farmed the right of extortion of the different quarters of the city to wretches who made immense fortunes by the inhuman speculation, and who collected, for every ten thousand rupees they paid into Nadir's treasury, forty and fifty thousand from the unhappy inhabitants, numbers of whom perished under blows that were inflicted to make them reveal their wealth; while others, among whom were several Hindus of high rank, became their own executioners rather than bear the insults to which they were exposed, or survive the loss of that property which they valued more than their existence.

The approach of Nadir Shah to Delhi had filled the inhabitants of that city with dread; but the strict discipline which his troops observed on their first arrival restored confidence to all. This, however, was but of short duration. The monarch himself had occupied a palace in the city, and had sent some troops to different quarters of it to maintain tranquillity and to protect the inhabitants from insult and injury. The conqueror entered the[Pg 90] capital on March 8th, and on that and the two succeeding days all was quiet; but on the night of the 10th it was reported that Nadir was dead. This report, which was first circulated by some designing persons, instantly spread, and a thoughtless mob made a furious assault upon the Persians who were scattered about the town as safeguards. These, who were divided in small parties, and quite unsuspicious of attack, were almost all murdered; and we must cease to cherish any general sentiments of pity for the depraved nobles of Delhi, when assured by concurring authorities that most of those at whose palaces troops were stationed for their protection gave them up without effort to the fury of the populace, and even in some instances assisted in their destruction.

Nadir, when he first heard of this tumult, sent several persons to explain to the populace their delusion and their danger; but his messengers were slain. He remained with all the Persians he could assemble in the palace which he occupied till the day dawned, when he mounted his horse and rode forth to endeavor, by his presence, to quell the tumult. But his moderation only inflamed the insolence and fury of those whom, even Indian historians inform us, it was his desire to spare; and he at last gave his troops, who had arrived from their encampment near the city, orders for a general massacre. He was too well obeyed: the populace, the moment the Persians began to act, lost all their courage; and from sunrise till twelve o'clock Delhi presented a scene of shocking carnage, the horrors of which were increased by the flames that now spread to almost every quarter of that capital.

Nadir, after he had issued the fatal orders, went into the small mosque of Roshin-u-dowlah, which stands near the centre of the city, and remained there in a deep and silent gloom that none dared to disturb. At last the unhappy Mahomet Shah, attended by two of his ministers, rushed into his presence, exclaiming, "Spare my people!" Nadir replied, "The Emperor of India must never ask in vain," and he instantly commanded that the massacre should cease. The prompt obedience which was given to this command is remarked by all his historians as the strongest proof of the strict discipline which he had introduced into his army.[Pg 91]

The number of persons slain on this occasion has been differently estimated, and from the nature of the scene it could not be correctly ascertained. An author who has been often referred to conjectures that about one hundred twenty thousand perished; while another European writer nearly doubles this amount. But an Indian historian of respectability reduces this exaggerated estimate to the moderate calculation of eight thousand persons: and there is every reason to conclude that his statement is nearer the truth than any of those which have been mentioned. Two nobles who were supposed to have caused the riot fled, with conscious guilt, to a small fortress near Delhi. They were pursued, taken, and put to death with those who were deemed their accomplices, who amounted to about four hundred persons.

A very few days after the occurrence of these events, a marriage was celebrated between the second son of Nadir and a princess of the imperial house of Timur; and the succession of festivities that attended these nuptials gave a color of joy to scenes which abounded with misery; but the majority of the inhabitants of Delhi appear to have been of a light and dissolute character. We are indeed told by an Indian author that numbers regretted the departure of the Persians. The drolls and players of the capital began, immediately after they went away, to amuse their countrymen with a ludicrous representation of their own disgrace; and the fierce looks and savage pride of their conquerors, which had been so late their dread, became in these imitations one of their chief sources of entertainment.

Nadir remained at Delhi fifty-eight days (1739). Before he quitted it, he had a long and secret conference with Mahomet Shah, in which it is supposed he gave him such counsel as he deemed best to enable him to preserve that power to which he was restored. To all the nobles of the court he spoke publicly, and warned them to preserve their allegiance to the Emperor, as they valued his favor or dreaded his resentment. To those who were absent he wrote in similar terms; he informed them that he was so united in friendship with Mahomet Shah that they might be esteemed as having one soul in two bodies; and, after desiring them to continue to walk in the path of duty to the imperial house of Timur, he concluded these circular-letters in the following words: "May God forbid! but if accounts of your rebelling[Pg 92] against your Emperor should reach our ears we will blot you out of the pages of the book of creation."

The conqueror had behaved with considerable moderation and kindness toward the chief omrahs of the court of Delhi; but he must have despised their luxurious and effeminate habits. We, indeed, learn his sentiments from a remarkable anecdote. When speaking one day to Kummer-u-din, who was then vizier, he demanded how many ladies he had? "Eight hundred fifty," was the reply. "Let one hundred fifty of our female captives," said Nadir, "be sent to the vizier, who will then be entitled to the high military rank of a mim-bashee, or commander of a thousand."

The march of Nadir from India was literally encumbered with spoil. The amount of the plunder that he carried from that country has been estimated variously. The highest calculation makes it upward of seventy millions sterling; the lowest is considerably more than thirty. A great part of this was in precious stones, of which Nadir was immoderately fond. When on his march from India he was informed that several of the most valuable crown-jewels had been secreted by some of his followers, he made this a pretext for searching the baggage of every man in his army, and appropriating all the jewels that were found to himself. The soldiers murmured, but submitted; and their not resisting this despotic act is an extraordinary proof of the subordination which he had established. He was, however, in general kind and liberal to his troops: he had given to each man a gratuity of three months' pay at the fall of Kandahar; he gave them as much more after the victory of Karnal; and they received a still greater bounty before he marched from Delhi.

The troops of Nadir, we are told, suffered much in their retreat from India by the intense heat to which they were exposed. Their passage over the rivers of the Punjab and the Indus was delayed by accidents to the temporary bridges which he had constructed, and in one instance by the threatened attack of the mountaineers of Kabul, whose forbearance the proud conqueror did not disdain to purchase; and when we consider the nature of the country through which he had to pass, the immense train of baggage with which his army was accompanied, and the danger that might have arisen from the slightest confusion, we cannot blame the prudence with which he acted upon this occasion.[Pg 93]

The greatest expectation was excited in Persia at the prospect of the return of their victorious monarch. The inhabitants of that country had already felt the benefit of his triumphs. He had commanded that all taxes should be remitted for three years: and they began to anticipate scenes of unheard-of joy and abundance. The most exaggerated reports were circulated of the vast riches which their sovereign and his soldiers had acquired; and all conceived that Nadir was disposed to enjoy himself, from the number of artificers and musicians which he brought from India. Curiosity, too, was eager to behold the train of elephants which attended his march. That noble animal had become a stranger to the plains of Persia; and the natives of that country were only familiar with its shape from seeing its figure represented in the sculpture of ancient times. Sanguine minds were led, by a natural association of ideas, to believe that their present ruler was the destined restorer of their country to its former glory; and the conqueror was hailed, at his return, as a hero whose fame had eclipsed that of a Sapor or a Nushirwan.

The soldiers of Nadir were, we are informed, after the expedition to India, most anxious for repose; but that Prince was too well acquainted with the consequences of this indulgence to permit them to enjoy it. He had, after he passed the Indus, led them through the deserts of Sind to the attack of a feudatory chief, who had established himself in the government of that province. This ruler had courted Nadir Shah when he first threatened the invasion of India, as he deemed such a measure favorable to his views of independence; but when his possessions were made over to the Persian monarch he changed his policy; and, lodging all his treasure and property in the fortress of Amerkote, made a feeble attempt at opposition; but his capital was taken and plundered, and he was compelled to surrender himself to the mercy of the conqueror; who, however, satisfied with his submission and the possession of his wealth, restored him to the government of the province, which he agreed henceforth to hold as a tributary to the crown of Persia.

After this expedition Nadir marched to Herat, where he made a proud display of the jewels and plunder he had acquired in India; among which the most remarkable was the celebrated throne of the Emperor of Delhi, made in the shape of a peacock,[Pg 94] and ornamented with precious stones of every description. This gorgeous exhibition took place on June 4, 1740; and on that day and several others the court, army, and populace were amused with pageants, shows, and entertainments of every kind; but Nadir, though satisfied that this public celebration of triumph was calculated to raise his fame with his subjects and to gratify the vanity of his soldiers, appears always to have dreaded the danger of inaction. He moved his army from Herat; and after meeting his son, Reza Kuli, and bestowing valuable presents upon him and the other princes of his family, he moved toward Bulkh, where he had ordered preparations to be made for his crossing the Oxus to punish the sovereign of Bokhara, who, unmindful of his established alliance, had taken advantage of his absence in India to make inroads into the province of Khorasan.

The motives which induced Nadir to proceed upon this expedition were soon apparent. He had no desire to extend the boundary of his empire in a direction where he knew it could not be maintained, but he wished to visit upon the inhabitants of this part of Tartary those calamities which they were in the annual habit of inflicting upon the frontier provinces of Persia. Abul Fyze Khan, who was the ruler of the Usbegs at this period, boasted a lineal descent from Genghis; but he appears to have inherited none of the spirit of his great ancestor. He was terrified into submission at the approach of Nadir, and sent his vizier to deprecate the wrath of that monarch. The minister was well received, but told that his master must immediately surrender if he desired to save himself from destruction and his country from ruin. While these negotiations were carried on the Persian army advanced by rapid marches to Bokhara, and on August 23d, five days after they had crossed the Oxus, encamped within twelve miles of that capital, where his short expedition was brought to a close by the personal submission of Abul Fyze Khan, who, attended by all his court, proceeded to the tents of Nadir Shah, and laid his crown and other ensigns of royalty at the feet of the conqueror, who assigned him an honorable place in his assembly; and a few days afterward restored him to his throne on the condition that the Oxus should remain, as it had been in former periods, the boundary of the two empires. This treaty was cemented by an alliance between the daughter of the ruler of Bokhara and[Pg 95] the nephew of his conqueror; and after its conclusion a great number of Tartars were, with the concurrence of their own monarch, enrolled in the Persian army, whose commander probably esteemed the services of these hardy warriors as of more consequence to the peace of his own dominions and the fulfilment of his future views of ambition than all the wealth he had brought from India.

The arms of Nadir were next directed against the kingdom of Khaurizm, which is situated to the westward of Bokhara, and stretches along both banks of the Oxus to the shores of the Caspian Sea. The Prince of this country, whose name was Ilburz, neither merited nor received such human treatment as Abul Fyze Khan. He had committed frequent depredations upon the Persian territories; and, conceiving that the strength of his fortresses would secure him from vengeance, he resolved on resistance. The King of Bokhara had sent a mission to advise him to submit to the arms of Nadir: he not only treated this friendly counsel with disdain, but, in violation of laws which the most savage nations respect, he slew those through whom it was conveyed. This conduct greatly irritated the monarch of Persia, who, after he had defeated his army and made him prisoner, doomed him and twenty of his chief officers to death. The possessions of Ilburz were bestowed upon Taher Khan, a cousin of the sovereign of Bokhara, and consequently a direct descendant of the celebrated Genghis.

When the winter of this year was far advanced, Nadir marched to Khelat, to which place he continued from his most early years to be much attached. He had directed that its fortifications should be improved, that a palace should be built, and that aqueducts should be constructed to improve the fertility of its fields. He had also ordered that all his treasures should be carried thither; and a peaceful retirement to this cherished spot, after the toils and dangers of war were at an end, was one of the most innocent of those dreams which amused the fancy of this indefatigable conqueror.

After a short residence at Khelat Nadir proceeded to Mushed, which he made the capital of his empire; and during three months that he remained in this city his time was passed in constant festivities. Five monarchs had been subdued in five years. The[Pg 96] empire of Persia had not only been rescued from a foreign yoke, but its limits had been extended as far as the Oxus to the north and the Indus to the east; and the hero by whom all this had been accomplished promised his exulting subjects that the Turks should soon be driven from the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates; but honor required that, before any other expedition was undertaken, Nadir should revenge the blood of his brother, Ibrahim Khan, who had been slain in an attack of the Lesghis.

When the army was on its march to Daghestan an event occurred which cast a dark cloud over all the fair prospects that dawned upon Persia, and exhibited in the strongest view the miserable condition of those empires whose fate hangs upon the disposition and talents of a despotic sovereign. An advanced corps, chiefly composed of Afghans, had, by their extraordinary valor, gained the greatest advantages over the Lesghis; and Nadir was hastening by the way of Mazandaran to their support, when, pursuing his march through one of the forests in that country, a ball from an assassin, who had concealed himself behind a tree, wounded him in the hand and killed his horse. The Prince, Reza Kuli, who was near him, galloped toward the spot from which the shot had been fired; but neither his efforts nor those of his guards that aided him could succeed in the attempts to seize the fugitive, who, favored by the thickness of the wood, effected his escape. He was afterward taken; and the historian of Nadir asserts that he was the agent of a chief of a barbarous tribe who cherished a secret resentment against the conqueror.

This accident, though it made a deep and indelible impression upon the mind of Nadir, did not prevent his proceeding to attack the Lesghis; but he never engaged in an enterprise of more hazard. These mountaineers defended themselves with the most desperate bravery; and the rugged nature of the whole country of Daghestan, which they inhabit, made it almost impossible to subdue them. The bravest troops of the Persian army were worn out with the fatigue of this harassing war; and the preparations which the Russians began to make at Astrakhan, though dictated by a fear that Nadir meant to invade their country after he had subdued the Lesghis, gave the latter every encouragement to persevere in their resistance; and the Persian monarch was[Pg 97] compelled to retire from this expedition with very partial success and very great loss.

Nadir had, from the day on which his life was attempted, entertained suspicions of his eldest son, Reza Kuli. He summoned him to his presence. The Prince instantly obeyed, and was on his arrival made prisoner and deprived of sight. A respectable European writer, who went to Persia two years after this event, asserts that the assassin who fired at Nadir in the wood of Mazandaran was employed by the prince Reza Kuli; who, he informs us, though brave and able, was violent and oppressive. He had, this author asserts, on hearing that Nadir was dead when on his expedition to India, declared himself king, and at the same time put the unfortunate Shah Tamasp, who was confined at Subzawar, in Khorasan, to death. The same writer assures us that Nadir, though convinced of the guilt of his son, addressed him in the mildest and most human terms, and offered him complete pardon if he would only confess his crime and promise repentance; but that the fierce youth rejected this offer, and said he gloried in the attempt he had made to rid the world of a tyrant, and provoked his fate by the coarsest abuse of his father and sovereign. It is probable that this author received the account which he has given of this transaction from some person who was desirous of palliating the guilt of a reigning tyrant; but we are compelled to refuse our credit of this statement.

The flattering historian of Nadir expressly informs us that that sovereign was deceived, by the gross misrepresentations of infamous men, into the commission of this great crime. The European physician who attended that monarch during the latter years of his life asserts the innocence of Reza Kuli. He adds that Nadir was so penetrated with remorse after the deed of horror was done that he vented his fury on all around him; and fifty noblemen, who had witnessed the dreadful act, were put to death on the pretext that they should have offered their lives as sacrifices to save the eyes of a prince who was the glory of their country. It is also to be remarked that the impressions which have been transmitted regarding a fact comparatively recent are all against Nadir, who is believed to have had no evidence of his son's guilt but his own suspicions. From the moment that his life had been attempted in Mazandaran that monarch had become gloomy[Pg 98] and irritable. His bad success against the Lesghis had increased the natural violence of his temper and, listening to the enemies of Reza Kuli, he, in a moment of rage, ordered him to be blinded.

"Your crimes have forced me to this dreadful measure," was, we are told, the speech that Nadir made to his son. "It is not my eyes you have put out," replied Reza Kuli, "but those of Persia." The prophetic truth of this answer sunk deep into the soul of Nadir; and we may believe his historian, who affirms that he never afterward knew happiness nor desired that others should enjoy it. All his future actions were deeds of horror, except the contest which he carried on against the Turks for three years; and even in it he displayed none of that energy and heroic spirit which marked his first wars with that nation.

The Persian army had made unsuccessful efforts to reduce the cities of Basra, of Bagdad, and of Mussul. Nadir marched early in the succeeding year to meet a large Turkish force which had advanced to near Erivan; and we are told that he desired to encounter his enemies in battle on the same plain where he had ten years before acquired such renown; but their general, subdued by his own fears, fled and was massacred by his soldiers; who, thrown into confusion at this event, were easily routed by the Persians. This was the last victory of Nadir, and it was gained merely by the terror of his name. Sensible of his own condition he hastened to make peace. His pretensions regarding the establishment of a fifth sect among orthodox Mahometans and the erection of a fifth pillar in the Mosque of Mecca were abandoned. It was agreed that prisoners on both sides should be released; that Persian pilgrims going to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina should be protected; and that the whole of the provinces of Irak and Azerbaijan should remain with Persia, except an inconsiderable territory that had belonged to the Turkish government in the time of Shah Ismail, the first of the Suffavean kings.

The conduct of Nadir to his own subjects during the last five years of his reign had been described, even by a partial historian, as exceeding in barbarity all that has been recorded of the most bloody tyrants. The acquisition of the wealth of India had at first filled the mind of this monarch with the most generous and patriotic feelings. He had proclaimed that no taxes should be[Pg 99] collected from Persia for three years. But the possession of riches had soon its usual effect of creating a desire for more; and while the vast treasures he had acquired were hoarded at the fort of Kelat, which, with all the fears of a despot, he continually labored to render inaccessible, he not only paid his armies, but added to his golden heaps, from the arrears of remitted revenue, which he extorted with the most inflexible rigor.

Nadir knew that the attack which he had made upon the religion of his country had rendered him unpopular, and that the priests, whom he peculiarly oppressed, endeavored to spread disaffection. This made him suspect those who still adhered to the tenets of the Shiah sect, or, in other words, almost all the natives of Persia. The troops in his army upon whom he placed most reliance were the Afghans and Tartars, who were of the Sunni persuasion. Their leaders were his principal favorites; and every pretext was taken to put to death such Persian chiefs as possessed either influence or power. These proceedings had the natural effect of producing rebellion in every quarter, and the spirit of insurrection which now displayed itself among his subjects changed the violence of Nadir into outrageous fury. His murders were no longer confined to individuals: the inhabitants of whole cities were massacred; and men, to use the words of his historian, left their abodes, and took up their habitations in caverns and deserts, in the hope of escaping his savage ferocity. We are told—and the events which preceded render the tale not improbable—that when on his march to subdue one of his nephews who had rebelled in Sistan, he proposed to put to death every Persian in his army. There can be little doubt that his mind was at this moment in a state of frenzy which amounted to insanity. Some of the principal officers of his court, who learned that their names were in the list of proscribed victims, resolved to save themselves by the assassination of Nadir. The execution of the plot was committed to four chief men who took advantage of their stations, and, under the pretext of urgent business, rushed past the guards into the inner tents, where the tyrant was asleep. The noise awoke him; and he had slain two of the meaner assassins, when a blow from Salah Beg deprived him of existence.[Pg 100]


A.D. 1740


"Let me make the ballads of a nation," said Fletcher of Saltoun, "and I care not who makes the laws." The place which the ancient ballads held in forming the characters of the people is in our day more than filled by the novels. Everybody reads them, especially in the younger generation, and every character is more or less moulded by the sentiments and teachings they contain.

The novel has been almost entirely a modern English development. Two centuries ago our ancestors did not read fiction: they had practically none to read. So that the production of the first English novel in 1740, leading as it has to the present state of affairs, may fairly be counted a most important event in the history of our race. Nowadays ten thousand novels are published every year, and for some of these is claimed the enormous circulation of half a million copies.

There is nothing offensive to the dignity of literary history in acknowledging that the most prominent piece of work effected by literature in England during the eighteenth century is the creation—for it can be styled nothing less—of the modern novel. In the seventeenth century there had been a very considerable movement in the direction of prose fiction. The pastoral romances of the Elizabethans had continued to circulate; France had set an example in the heroic stories of D'Urfé and La Calprenède, which English imitators and translators had been quick to follow, even as early as 1647. The Francion of Sorel and the Roman Bourgeois of Furetière—the latter, published in 1666, of especial interest to students of the English novel—had prepared the way for the exact opposite to the heroic romance; namely, the realistic story of every-day life. Bunyan and Richard Head, Mrs. Behn and Defoe—each had marked a stage in the development of English fiction. Two noble forerunners of the modern novel, Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels, had inflamed the curiosity and awakened the appetite of British read[Pg 101]ers; but, although there were already great satires and great romances in the language, the first quarter of the eighteenth century passed away without revealing any domestic genius in prose fiction, any master of the workings of the human heart. Meanwhile the drama had decayed. The audiences which had attended the poetic plays of the beginning and the comedies of the close of the seventeenth century now found nothing on the boards of the theatre to satisfy their craving after intellectual excitement. The descendants of the men and women who had gone out to welcome the poetry of Shakespeare and the wit of Congreve were now rather readers than play-goers, and were most ready to enjoy an appeal to their feelings when that appeal reached them in book form. In the playhouse they came to expect bustle and pantomime rather than literature. This decline in theatrical habits prepared a domestic audience for the novelists, and accounts for that feverish and apparently excessive anxiety with which the earliest great novels were awaited and received.

Meanwhile the part taken by Addison and Steele in preparing for this change of taste must not be overlooked, and the direct link between Addison, as a picturesque narrative essayist, and Richardson, as the first great English novelist, is to be found in Pierre de Marivaux (1688-1763), who imitated the Spectator, and who is often assumed, though somewhat too rashly, to have suggested the tone of Pamela. Into this latter question we shall presently have need to inquire again. It is enough to point out here that when the English novel did suddenly and irresistibly make its appearance, it had little in common with the rococo and coquettish work which had immediately preceded it in France, and which at first, even to judges so penetrating as the poet Gray, was apt to seem more excellent because more subtle and refined. The rapidity with which the novel became domiciled among us, and the short space of time within which the principal masterpieces of the novelists were produced, are not more remarkable than the lassitude which fell upon English fiction as soon as the first great generation had passed away. The flourishing period of the eighteenth-century novel lasted exactly twenty-five years, during which time we have to record the publication of no less than fifteen eminent works of fiction.[Pg 102]

These fifteen are naturally divided into three groups. The first contains Pamela, Joseph Andrews, David Simple, and Jonathan Wild. In these books the art is still somewhat crude, and the science of fiction incompletely understood. After a silence of five years we reach the second and greatest section of this central period, during which there appeared in quick succession Clarissa, Roderick Random, Tom Jones, Peregrine Pickle, Amelia, and Sir Charles Grandison. As though invention had been exhausted by the publication of this incomparable series of masterpieces, there followed another silence of five years, and then were issued, each on the heels of the other, Tristram Shandy, Rasselas, Chrysal, The Castle of Otranto, and The Vicar of Wakefield. Five years later still, a book born out of due time appeared, Humphrey Clinker, and then, with one or two such exceptions as Evelina and Caleb Williams, no great novel appeared again in England for forty years, until, in 1811, the new school of fiction was inaugurated by Sense and Sensibility. The English novel, therefore, in its first great development, should be considered as comprised within the dates 1740 and 1766; and it may not be uninstructive, before entering into any critical examination of the separate authors, to glance at this chronological list of the first fifteen great works of English fiction.

The novels contained in the catalogue just given, however widely they differed from one another in detail, had this in common: that they dealt with mental and moral phenomena. Before 1740 we possessed romances, tales, prose fiction of various sorts, but in none of these was essayed any careful analysis of character or any profound delineation of emotion. In Defoe, where the record of imaginary fact was carried on with so much ingenuity and knowledge, the qualities we have just mentioned are notably absent; nor can it be said that we find them in any prose-writer of fiction earlier than Richardson, except in some very slight and imperfect degree in Aphra Behn, especially in her Rousseauish novel of Oroonoko.

The first great English novelist, Samuel Richardson (1689-1761), was born and bred in Derbyshire. He records of himself that when still a little boy he had two peculiarities: he loved the society of women best, and he delighted in letter-writing. Indeed, before he was eleven, he wrote a long epistle to a widow[Pg 103] of fifty, rebuking her for unbecoming conduct. The girls of the neighborhood soon discovered his insight into the human heart, and his skill in correspondence, and they employed the boy to write their love-letters for them. In 1706 Richardson was apprenticed to a London printer, served a diligent apprenticeship, and worked as a compositor until he rose, late in life, to be master of the Stationers' Company. He was fifty years of age before he showed symptoms of any higher ambition than that of printing correctly acts of Parliament and new editions of law-books. In 1739 the publishers, Rivington and Osborne, urged him to compose for them a volume of Familiar Letters, afterward actually produced as an aid to illiterate persons in their correspondence. Richardson set about this work, gave it a moral flavor, and at last began to write what would serve as a caution to young serving-women who were exposed to temptation. At this point he recollected a story he had heard long before, of a beautiful and virtuous maid-servant who succeeded in marrying her master; and then, laying the original design aside, Richardson, working rapidly, wrote in three months his famous story of Pamela.

All Richardson's novels are written in what Mrs. Barbauld has ingeniously described as "the most natural and the least probable way of telling a story," namely, in consecutive letters. The famous heroine of his first book is a young girl, Pamela Andrews, who describes in letters to her father and mother what goes on in the house of a lady with whom she had lived as maid, and who is just dead when the story opens. The son of Pamela's late mistress, a Mr. B.—it was Fielding who wickedly enlarged the name to Booby—becomes enamoured of her charms, and takes every mean advantage of her defenceless position; but, fortunately, Pamela is not more virtuous than astute, and after various agonies, which culminate in her thinking of drowning herself in a pond, she brings her admirer to terms, and is discovered to us at last as the rapturous though still humble Mrs. B. There are all sorts of faults to be found with this crude book. The hero is a rascal, who comes to a good end, not because he has deserved to do so, but because his clever wife has angled for him with her beauty, and has landed him at last, like an exhausted salmon.

So long as Pamela is merely innocent and frightened, she is[Pg 104] charming, but her character ceases to be sympathetic as she grows conscious of the value of her charms, and even the lax morality of the day was shocked at the craft of her latest manœuvres. But all the world went mad with pleasure over the book. What we now regard as tedious and prolix was looked upon as so much linked sweetness long drawn out. The fat printer had invented a new thing, and inaugurated a fresh order of genius. For the first time the public was invited, by a master of the movements of the heart, to be present at the dissection of that fascinating organ, and the operator could not be leisurely enough, could not be minute enough, for his breathless and enraptured audience.

In France, for some ten years past there had been writers—Crébillon, Marivaux, Prévost—who had essayed this delicate analysis of emotion, but these men were the first to admit the superiority of their rough English rival. In Marianne, where the heroine tells her own story, which somewhat resembles that of Pamela, the French novelist produced a very refined study of emotion, which will probably be one day more largely read than it now is, and which should be looked through by every student of the English novel. This book is prolix and languid in form, and undoubtedly bears a curious resemblance to Richardson's novel. The English printer, however, could not read French,[29] and there is sufficient evidence to show that he was independent of any influences save those which he took from real life. None the less, of course, Marivaux, who has a name for affectation which his writings scarcely deserve, has an interest for us as a harbinger of the modern novel. Pamela was published in two volumes in 1740. The author was sufficiently ill-advised to add two more in 1741. In this latter instalment Mrs. B. was represented as a dignified matron, stately and sweet under a burden of marital infidelity. But this continuation is hardly worthy to be counted among the works of Richardson.

The novelist showed great wisdom in not attempting to repeat too quickly the success of his first work. He allowed the romances of Henry and Sarah Fielding, the latter as grateful to him as the former were repugnant, to produce their effect upon[Pg 105] the public, and it was to an audience more able to criticise fiction that Richardson addressed his next budget from the mail-bag. Clarissa; or, The History of a Young Lady, appeared, in instalments, but in seven volumes in all, in 1748, with critical prefaces prefixed to the first and fourth volumes. In this book the novelist put his original crude essay completely into the shade, and added one to the masterpieces of the world. Released from the accident which induced him in the pages of Pamela to make his heroine a servant-girl, in Clarissa, Richardson depicted a lady, yet not of so lofty a rank as to be beyond the range of his own observation. The story is again told entirely in letters; it is the history of the abduction and violation of a young lady by a finished scoundrel, and ends in the death of both characters. To enable the novelist to proceed, each personage has a confidant. The beautiful and unhappy Clarissa Harlowe corresponds with the vivacious Miss Howe; Robert Lovelace addresses his friend and quondam fellow-reveller, John Belford. The character of Clarissa is summed up in these terms by her creator: "A young Lady of great Delicacy, Mistress of all the Accomplishments, natural and acquired, that adorn the Sex, having the strictest Notions of filial Duty." Her piety and purity, in fact, are the two loadstars of her moral nature, and the pursuit of each leads her life to shipwreck.

By the universal acknowledgment of novel-readers, Clarissa is one of the most sympathetic, as she is one of the most lifelike, of all the women in literature, and Richardson has conducted her story with so much art and tact that her very faults canonize her, and her weakness crowns the triumph of her chastity. In depicting the character of Lovelace, the novelist had a difficult task, for to have made him a mere ruffian would have been to ruin the whole purpose of the piece. He is represented as witty, versatile, and adroit, the very type of the unscrupulous gentleman of fashion of the period. He expiates his crimes, at the close of a capital duel, by the hands of Colonel Morden, a relative of the Harlowe family, who has seen Clarissa die. The success of Clarissa, both here and in France, was extraordinary. As the successive volumes appeared, and readers were held in suspense as to the fate of the exquisite heroine, Richardson was deluged with letters entreating him to have mercy. The women[Pg 106] of England knelt sobbing round his knees, and addressed him as though he possessed the power of life and death.

The slow and cumbrous form of Clarissa has tended to lessen the number of its students, but there is probably no one who reads at all widely who has not at one time or another come under the spell of this extraordinary book. In France its reputation has always stood very high. Diderot said that it placed Richardson with Homer and Euripides, Rousseau openly imitated it, and Alfred de Musset has styled it the best novel in the world. To those who love to see the passions taught to move at the command of sentiment, and who are not wearied by the excessively minute scale, as of a moral miniature-painter, on which the author designs his work, there can scarcely be recommended a more thrilling and affecting book. The author is entirely inexorable, and the reader must not hope to escape until he is thoroughly purged with terror and pity.

After the further development of Fielding's genius, and after the advent of a new luminary in Smollett, Richardson once more presented to the public an elaborate and ceremonious novel of extreme prolixity. The History of Sir Charles Grandison, in seven (and six) volumes, appeared in the spring of 1754, after having been pirated in Dublin during the preceding winter. Richardson's object in this new adventure was, having already painted the portraits of two virtuous young women—the one fortunate, the other a martyr—to produce this time a virtuous hero, and to depict "the character and actions of a man of true honor," as before, in a series of familiar letters. There is more movement, more plot, in this novel than in the previous ones; the hero is now in Italy, now in England, and there is much more attempt than either in Pamela or Clarissa to give the impression of a sphere in which a man of the world may move. Grandison is, however, a slightly ludicrous hero. His perfections are those of a prig and an egoist, and he passes like the sun itself over his parterre of adoring worshippers. The ladies who are devoted to Sir Charles Grandison are, indeed, very numerous, but the reader's interest centres in three of them—the mild and estimable Harriet Byron, the impassioned Italian Clementina della Porretta, and the ingenuous ward Emily Jervois. The excuse for all this is that this paragon of manly virtue has "the[Pg 107] most delicate of human minds," and that women are irresistibly attracted to him by his splendid perfections of character. But posterity has admitted that the portrait is insufferably overdrawn, and that Grandison is absurd. The finest scenes in this interesting but defective novel are those in which the madness of Clementina is dwelt upon in that long-drawn patient manner of which Richardson was a master. The book is much too long.

Happy in the fame which "the three daughters" of his pen had brought him, and enjoying prosperous circumstances, Richardson's life closed in a sort of perpetual tea-party, in which he, the only male, sat surrounded by bevies of adoring ladies. He died in London, of apoplexy, on July 4, 1761. His manners were marked by the same ceremonious stiffness which gives his writing an air of belonging to a far earlier period than that of Fielding or Smollett; but his gravity and sentimental earnestness only helped to endear him to the women. Of the style of Richardson there is little to be said; the reader never thinks of it. If he forces himself to regard it, he sees that it is apt to be slipshod, although so trim and systematic. Richardson was a man of unquestionable genius, dowered with extraordinary insight into female character, and possessing the power to express it; but he had little humor, no rapidity of mind, and his speech was so ductile and so elaborate that he can scarcely compete with later and sharper talents.[Pg 108]


[29] It is, however, now certain that there existed an English version of Marianne.



A.D. 1740


Maria Theresa, the "Empress Queen," stands out among the most heroic and romantic figures of the eighteenth century. She was the daughter of Charles VI, last of the real Hapsburg emperors of Germany and rulers of Austria. With him ended the male line of the mighty family, but the descendants of his daughter and her husband, the Duke of Lorraine, were known as the house of Hapsburg-Lorraine, and gradually the second name disappeared from common usage, leaving only the more famous half.

Having no male heirs Charles was determined that his daughter, Maria, should succeed to all the vast Hapsburg estates, and he entered into treaties upon the subject with the various chief powers of Europe, yielding them substantial advantages in return for their gossamer promise to support her in her inheritance. The moment Charles died (1740) these treaties were thrown to the winds. Each state planned to snatch what territory it could from the young and apparently helpless Maria Theresa.

Frederick II of Prussia, afterward called the Great, was the first of the robbers to move. He also had just come into power in the new kingdom, which his father, Frederick I, had created. Part of his inheritance was a splendid standing army, the best-drilled and most powerful in Europe. With this he promptly overran Silesia, a borderland composed of many little duchies and accounted one of the most valuable provinces of the Austrian crown. Frederick openly and cynically announced the maxim which seems in secret to have guided many monarchs, that personal honesty had no part in the business of being a king. His rash and conscienceless seizure of Silesia was successful, but it proved the prelude to a quarter-century of repeated wars which involved almost the whole of Europe and brought his own country to the verge of ruin.

In 1740 Maria Theresa ascends the throne of her ancestors—possessed, it seems, of a commanding figure, great beauty, animation and sweetness of countenance, a pleasing tone of voice, fascinating manners, and uniting feminine grace with a strength of understanding and an intrepidity above her sex. But[Pg 109] her treasury contained only one hundred thousand florins, and these claimed by the Empress Dowager; her army, exclusive of the troops in Italy and the Low Countries, did not amount to thirty thousand effective men; a scarcity of provisions and great discontent existed in the capital; rumors were circulated that the government was dissolved, that the Elector of Brunswick was hourly expected to take possession of the Austrian territories; apprehensions were entertained of the distant provinces—that the Hungarians, supported by the Turks, might revive the elective monarchy; different claimants on the Austrian succession were expected to arise; besides, the Elector of Bavaria, the Elector of Cologne, and the Elector Palatine were evidently hostile; the ministers themselves, while the Queen was herself without experience or knowledge of business, were timorous, desponding, irresolute, or worn out with age. To these ministers, says Mr. Robinson, in his despatches to the English court, "the Turks seemed already in Hungary, the Hungarians themselves in arms, the Saxons in Bohemia, the Bavarians at the gates of Vienna, and France the soul of the whole." The Elector of Bavaria, indeed, did not conceal his claims to the kingdom of Bohemia and the Austrian dominions; and, finally, while the Queen had scarcely taken possession of her throne, a new claimant appeared in the person of Frederick of Prussia, who acted with "such consummate address and secrecy"—as it is called by the historian—that is, with such unprincipled hypocrisy and cunning, that his designs were scarcely even suspected when his troops entered the Austrian dominions.

Silesia was the province which he resolved, in the present helpless situation of the young Queen, to wrest from the house of Austria. He revived some antiquated claims on parts of that duchy. The ancestors of Maria Theresa had not behaved handsomely to the ancestors of Frederick, and the young Queen was now to become a lesson to all princes and states of the real wisdom that always belongs to the honorable and scrupulous performance of all public engagements. Little or nothing, however, can be urged in favor of Frederick. Prescription must be allowed at length to justify possession in cases not very flagrant. The world cannot be perpetually disturbed by the squabbles and collisions of its rulers; and the justice of his cause was, indeed,[Pg 110] as is evident from all the circumstances of the case, and his own writings, the last and the least of all the many futile reasons which he alleged for the invasion of the possessions of Maria Theresa, the heiress of the Austrian dominions, young, beautiful, and unoffending, but inexperienced and unprotected.

The common robber has sometimes the excuse of want; banditti, in a disorderly country, may pillage, and, when resisted, murder; but the crimes of men, even atrocious as these, are confined at least to a contracted space, and their consequences extend not beyond a limited period. It was not so with Frederick. The outrages of his ambition were to be followed up by an immediate war. He could never suppose that, even if he succeeded in getting possession of Silesia, the house of Austria could ever forget the insult and the injury that had thus been received; he could never suppose, though Maria Theresa might have no protection from his cruelty and injustice, that this illustrious house would never again have the power, in some way or other, to avenge their wrongs. One war, therefore, even if successful, was not to be the only consequence; succeeding wars were to be expected; long and inveterate jealousy and hatred were to follow; and he and his subjects were, for a long succession of years, to be put to the necessity of defending, by unnatural exertions, what had been acquired—if acquired—by his own unprincipled ferocity. Such were the consequences that were fairly to be expected. What, in fact, took place?

The seizure of this province of Silesia was first supported by a war, then by a revival of it, then by the dreadful Seven Years' War. Near a million of men perished on the one side and on the other. Every measure and movement of the King's administration flowed as a direct consequence from this original aggression: his military system, the necessity of rendering his kingdom one of the first-rate powers of Europe, and, in short, all the long train of his faults, his tyrannies, and his crimes. We will cast a momentary glance on the opening scenes of this contest between the two houses.

As a preparatory step to his invasion of Silesia, the King sent a message to the Austrian court. "I am come," said the Prussian envoy to the husband of Maria Theresa, "with safety for the house of Austria in one hand, and the imperial crown for your[Pg 111] royal highness in the other. The troops and money of my master are at the service of the Queen, and cannot fail of being acceptable at a time when she is in want of both, and can only depend on so considerable a prince as the King of Prussia and his allies, the maritime powers, and Russia. As the King, my master, from the situation of his dominions, will be exposed to great danger from this alliance, it is hoped that, as an indemnification, the Queen of Hungary will not offer him less than the whole duchy of Silesia." "Nobody," he added, "is more firm in his resolutions than the King of Prussia: he must and will enter Silesia; once entered, he must and will proceed; and if not secured by the immediate cession of that province, his troops and money will be offered to the electors of Saxony and Bavaria." Such were the King's notifications to Maria Theresa. Soon after, in a letter to the same Duke of Lorraine, the husband of Maria Theresa, "My heart," says Frederick—for he wrote as if he conceived he had one—"My heart," says Frederick, "has no share in the mischief which my hand is doing to your court."

The feelings of the young Queen may be easily imagined, powerful in the qualities of her understanding, with all the high sensibilities which are often united to a commanding mind, and educated in all the lofty notions which have so uniformly characterized her illustrious house. She resisted; but her arms proved in the event unsuccessful. She was not prepared; and even if she had been, the combination was too wide and powerful against her. According to the plan of her enemies, more particularly of France (her greatest enemy), Bohemia and Upper Austria, spite of all her efforts, were likely to be assigned to the Elector of Bavaria; Moravia and Upper Silesia to the Elector of Saxony; Lower Silesia and the country of Glatz to the King of Prussia; Austria and Lombardy to Spain; and some compensation to be allotted to the King of Sardinia.

It was therefore, at last, necessary to detach the King of Prussia from the general combination by some important sacrifice. The sufferings, the agonies, of the poor Queen were extreme. Lord Hyndford, on the part of England as a mediating power, prevailed on the helpless Maria Theresa to abate something of her lofty spirit, and make some offers to the King. "At[Pg 112] the beginning of the war," said Frederick, "I might have been contented with this proposal, but not now. Shall I again give the Austrians battle, and drive them out of Silesia? You will then see that I shall receive other proposals. At present I must have four duchies, and not one. Do not, my lord," said the King, "talk to me of magnanimity; a prince ought first to consult his own interests. I am not averse to peace; but I expect to have four duchies, and will have them."

At a subsequent period the same scene was to be renewed, and Mr. Robinson, the English ambassador, who was very naturally captivated with the attractions and spirit of Maria Theresa, endeavored to rouse her to a sense of her danger. "Not only for political reasons," replied the Queen, "but from conscience and honor, I will not consent to part with much in Silesia. No sooner is one enemy satisfied than another starts up; another, and then another, must be contented, and all at my expense." "You must yield to the hard necessity of the times," said Mr. Robinson. "What would I not give, except in Silesia?" replied the impatient Queen. "Let him take all we have in Gelderland; and if he is not to be gained by that sacrifice, others may. Let the King, your master, only speak to the Elector of Bavaria! Oh, the King, your master—let him only march! let him march only!"

But England could not be prevailed upon to declare war. The dangers of Maria Theresa became more and more imminent, and a consent to further offers was extorted from her. "I am afraid," said Mr. Robinson, "some of these proposals will be rejected by the King." "I wish he may reject them," said the Queen. "Save Limburg, if possible, were it only for the quiet of my conscience. God knows how I shall answer for the cession, having sworn to the states of Brabant never to alienate any part of their country."

Mr. Robinson, who was an enthusiast in the cause of the Queen, is understood to have made some idle experiment of his own eloquence on the King of Prussia; to have pleaded her cause in their next interview; to have spoken, not as if he was addressing a cold-hearted, bad man, but as if speaking in the House of Commons of his own country, in the assembly of a free people, with generosity in their feelings and uprightness[Pg 113] and honor in their hearts. The King, in all the malignant security of triumphant power, in all the composed consciousness of great intellectual talents, affected to return him eloquence for eloquence; said his ancestors would rise out of their tombs to reproach him if he abandoned the rights that had been transmitted to him; that he could not live with reputation if he lightly abandoned an enterprise which had been the first act of his reign; that he would sooner be crushed with his whole army, etc. And then, descending from his oratorical elevation, declared that he would now "not only have the four duchies, but all Lower Silesia, with the town of Breslau. If the Queen does not satisfy me in six weeks, I will have four duchies more. They who want peace will give me what I want. I am sick of ultimatums; I will hear no more of them. My part is taken; I again repeat my demand of all Lower Silesia. This is my final answer, and I will give no other." He then abruptly broke off the conference, and left Mr. Robinson to his own reflections.

The situation of the young Queen now became truly deplorable. The King of Prussia was making himself the entire master of Silesia; two French armies poured over the countries of Germany; the Elector of Bavaria, joined by one of them, had pushed a body of troops within eight miles of Vienna, and the capital had been summoned to surrender. The King of Sardinia threatened hostilities; so did the Spanish army. The Electors of Saxony, Cologne, and Palatine joined the grand confederacy; and abandoned by all her allies but Great Britain, without treasure, without an army, and without ministers, she appealed, or rather fled for refuge and compassion, to her subjects in Hungary.

These subjects she had at her accession conciliated by taking the oath which had been abolished by her ancestor Leopold, the confirmation of their just rights, privileges, and approved customs. She had taken this oath at her accession, and she was now to reap the benefit of that sense of justice and real magnanimity which she had displayed, and which, it may fairly be pronounced, sovereigns and governments will always find it their interest, as well as their duty, to display, while the human heart is constituted, as it has always been, proud and eager to acknowledge with gratitude and affection the slightest condescensions of[Pg 114] kings and princes, the slightest marks of attention and benevolence in those who are illustrious by their birth or elevated by their situation.

When Maria Theresa had first proposed to repair to these subjects, a suitor for their protection, the gray-headed politicians of her court had, it seems, assured her that she could not possibly succeed; that the Hungarians, when the Pragmatic Sanction had been proposed to them by her father, had declared that they were accustomed to be governed only by men; and that they would seize the opportunity of withdrawing from her rule, and from their allegiance to the house of Austria.

Maria Theresa, young and generous and high-spirited herself, had confidence in human virtue. She repaired to Hungary; she summoned the states of the Diet; she entered the hall, clad in deep mourning; habited herself in the Hungarian dress; placed the crown of St. Stephen on her head, the cimeter at her side; showed her subjects that she could herself cherish and venerate whatever was dear and venerable in their sight; separated not herself in her sympathies and opinions from those whose sympathies and opinions she was to awaken and direct, traversed the apartment with a slow and majestic step, ascended the tribune whence the sovereigns had been accustomed to harangue the states, committed to her chancellor the detail of her distressed situation, and then herself addressed them in the language which was familiar to them, the immortal language of Rome, which was not now for the first time to be employed against the enterprises of injustice and the wrongs of the oppressor.

To the cold and relentless ambition of Frederick, to a prince whose heart had withered at thirty, an appeal like this had been made in vain; but not so to the freeborn warriors, who saw no possessions to be coveted like the conscious enjoyment of honorable and generous feelings—no fame, no glory like the character of the protectors of the helpless and the avengers of the innocent. Youth, beauty, and distress obtained that triumph, which, for the honor of the one sex, it is to be hoped will never be denied to the merits and afflictions of the other. A thousand swords leaped from their scabbards and attested the unbought generosity and courage of untutored nature. "Moriamur pro[Pg 115] rege nostro, Maria Theresa!" was the voice that resounded through the hall ("We will die for our sovereign, Maria Theresa!"). The Queen, who had hitherto preserved a calm and dignified deportment, burst into tears—I tell but the facts of history. Tears started to the eyes of Maria Theresa, when standing before her heroic defenders—those tears which no misfortunes, no suffering, would have drawn from her in the presence of her enemies and oppressors. "Moriamur pro rege nostro, Maria Theresa!" was again and again heard. The voice, the shout, the acclamation that reëchoed around her, and enthusiasm and frenzy in her cause, were the necessary effect of this union of every dignified sensibility which the heart can acknowledge and the understanding honor.

It is not always that in history we can pursue the train of events, and find our moral feelings gratified as we proceed; but in general we may, Philip II overpowered not the Low Countries, nor Louis, Holland; and even on this occasion of the distress and danger of Maria Theresa we may find an important, though not a perfect and complete, triumph. The resolutions of the Hungarian Diet were supported by the nation; Croats, Pandours, Slavonians, flocked to the royal standard, and they struck terror into the disciplined armies of Germany and France. The genius of the great General Kevenhuller was called into action by the Queen; Vienna was put into a state of defence; divisions began to rise among the Queen's enemies; a sacrifice was at last made to Frederick—he was bought off by the cession of Lower Silesia and Breslau; and the Queen and her generals, thus obtaining a respite from this able and enterprising robber, were enabled to direct, and successfully direct, their efforts against the remaining hosts of plunderers that had assailed her. France, that with perfidy and atrocity had summoned every surrounding power to the destruction of the house of Austria, in the moment of the helplessness and inexperience of the new sovereign—France was at least, if Frederick was not, defeated, disappointed, and disgraced.

The interest that belongs to a character like that of Maria Theresa, of strong feelings and great abilities, never leaves the narrative, of which she is the heroine. The student cannot expect that he should always approve the conduct or the sentiments[Pg 116] that but too naturally flowed from qualities like these, when found in a princess like Maria Theresa—a princess placed in situations so fitted to betray her into violence and even rancor—a princess who had been a first-rate sovereign of Europe at four-and-twenty, and who had never been admitted to that moral discipline to which ordinary mortals, who act in the presence of their equals, are so happily subjected. That the loss of Silesia should never be forgotten—the King of Prussia never forgiven—that his total destruction would have been the highest gratification to her, cannot be objects of surprise. The mixed character of human nature seldom affords, when all its propensities are drawn out by circumstances, any proper theme for the entire and unqualified praises of a moralist; but everything is pardoned to Maria Theresa, when she is compared, as she must constantly be, with her great rival, Frederick. Errors and faults we can overlook when they are those of our common nature; intractability, impetuosity, lofty pride, superstition, even bigotry, an impatience of wrongs, furious and implacable—all these, the faults of Maria Theresa, may be forgiven, may at least be understood. But Frederick had no merits save courage and ability; these, great as they are, cannot reconcile us to a character with which we can have no sympathy—of which the beginning, the middle, and the end, the foundation and the essence, were entire, unceasing, inextinguishable, concentrated selfishness.

I do not detain my hearers with any further reference to Maria Theresa. She long occupies the pages of history—the interesting and captivating princess—the able and still attractive Queen—the respected and venerable matron, grown prudent by long familiarity with the uncertainty of fortune, and sinking into decline amid the praises and blessings of her subjects.[Pg 117]



A.D. 1746


Obstinate tenacity of purpose—a leading characteristic of the Stuart sovereigns—showed a remarkable survival in the vain attempt of the grandson of James II to recover the throne of England. The chief historical significance of that attempt lies in the fact that its failure marks the end of the Stuart endeavor for renewed power.

Charles Edward Louis Philip Casimir, known as the "Young Pretender," also as the "Young Chevalier" and "Bonnie Prince Charlie," was born in Rome in 1720. From his earliest years he was the hope of the Jacobites, as the political descendants of the partisans of James II were called. In 1743 Charles headed an abortive expedition for the invasion of England from France. In August, 1745, he landed with seven followers in the Hebrides, and on the 19th raised the standard of his father in Glenfinnan, Scotland. There at once the Highland clans rallied to his support and began what is known as the "Rising of '45" or the "Forty-five," the beginning and ending of which are told here in McCarthy's most brilliant manner.

From the first young Charles Stuart might well have come to regard himself as the favorite of fortune. The history of the "Forty-five" divides itself into two distinct parts: the first a triumphant record of brilliant victories, and the picture of a young prince marching through conquest after conquest to a crown; the second part prefaced by a disastrous resolution leading to overwhelming defeat and ending in ignominious flight and the extinction of the last Stuart hope. From the moment when the Stuart standard fluttered its folds of white and crimson on the Highland wind it seemed as if the Stuart luck had turned. Charles might well conceive himself happy. Upon his sword sat laurel victory. Smooth success was strewn before his feet. The[Pg 118] blundering and bewildered Cope[30] actually allowed Charles and his army to get past him. Cope was neither a coward nor a traitor, but he was a terrible blunderer, and while the English general was marching upon Inverness Charles was triumphantly entering Perth. From Perth the young Prince, with hopeless, helpless Cope still in his rear, marched on Edinburgh.

The condition of Edinburgh was peculiar: although a large proportion of its inhabitants, especially those who were well-to-do, were stanch supporters of the house of Hanover, there were plenty of Jacobites in the place, and it only needed the favor of a few victories to bring into open day a great deal of latent Jacobitism that was for the moment prudently kept under by its possessors. The lord-provost himself was more than suspected of being a Jacobite at heart. The city was miserably defended. Such walls as it possessed were more ornamental than useful, and in any case were sadly in want of repair. All the military force it could muster to meet the advance of the clans was the small but fairly efficient body of men who formed the town guard; the train-bands, some thousand strong, who knew no more than so many spinsters of the division of a battle; the small and undisciplined Edinburgh regiment, and a scratch collection of volunteers hurriedly raked together from among the humbler citizens of the town, and about as useful as so many puppets to oppose to the daring and the ferocity of the clans.

Edinburgh opinion had changed very rapidly with regard to that same daring and ferocity. When the first rumors of the Prince's advance were bruited abroad the adherents of the house of Hanover in Edinburgh made very merry over the gang of ragged rascals, hen-roost robbers, and drunken rogues upon whom the Pretender relied in his effort to "enjoy his ain again." But as the clans came nearer and nearer, as the air grew thicker with flying rumors of the successes that attended upon the Prince's progress, as the capacity of the town seemed weaker for holding out, and as the prospect of reënforcements seemed to grow fainter and fainter, the opinion of Hanoverian Edinburgh concerning the clans changed mightily. Had the Highlanders been a race of giants, endowed with more than mortal prowess, and invulnerable as Achilles, they could hardly have struck[Pg 119] more terror into the hearts of loyal and respectable Edinburgh citizens.

Still, there were some stout hearts in Edinburgh who did their best to keep up the courage of the rest and to keep out the enemy. Andrew Fletcher and Duncan Forbes were of the number. M'Laurin, the mathematician, turned his genius to the bettering of the fortifications. Old Dr. Stevenson, bedridden but heroic, kept guard in his arm-chair for many days at the Netherbow gate. The great question was, would Cope come in time? Cope was at Aberdeen. Cope had put his army upon transports. Cope might be here to-morrow, the day after to-morrow, to-day, who knows? But in the mean time the King's Dragoons, whom Cope had left behind him when he first started out to meet the Pretender, had steadily and persistently retreated before the Highland advance. They had now halted—they can hardly be said to have made a stand—at Corstorphine, some three miles from Edinburgh, and here it was resolved to do something to stay the tide of invasion. Hamilton's Dragoons were at Leith. These were ordered to join the King's Dragoons at Corstorphine and to collect as many Edinburgh volunteers as they could on their way. Inside the walls of Edinburgh it was easy enough to collect volunteers, and quite a little army of them marched out with drums beating and colors flying at the heels of Hamilton's Dragoons. But on the way to the town gates the temper of the volunteers changed, and by the time that the town gates were reached and passed the volunteers had dwindled to so pitiable a handful that they were dismissed, and Hamilton's Dragoons proceeded alone to join Cope's King's Dragoons at Corstorphine.

But the united force of dragoons did not stay long at Corstorphine. The fame of the fierce Highlanders had unhinged their valor, and it only needed a few of the Prince's supporters to ride within pistol-shot and discharge their pieces at the royal troops to set them into as disgraceful a panic as ever animated frightened men. The dragoons, ludicrously unmanned, turned tail and rode for their lives, rode without drawing bridle and without staying spur till they came to Leith, paused there for a little, and then, on some vague hint that the Highlanders were on their track, they were in the saddle again and riding for their lives once more. Dismayed Edinburgh citizens saw them sweep[Pg 120] along what now is Prince's Street, a pitiable sight; saw them, bloody with spurring, fiery hot with haste, ride on—on into the darkness. On and on the desperate cowards scampered, sheep-like in their shameful fear, till they reached Dunbar, and behind its gates allowed themselves to breathe more freely and to congratulate themselves upon the dangers they had escaped. Such is the story of the famous, or infamous, "Canter of Coltbrigg," one of the most disgraceful records of the abject collapse of regular troops before the terror of an almost unseen foe that are to be found in history. Well might loyal Edinburgh despair if such were its best defenders. The town was all tumult, the loyalists were in utter gloom, the secretly exulting Jacobites were urging the impossibility of resistance, and the necessity for yielding while yielding was still an open question.

On the top of all this came a summons from the Prince demanding the immediate surrender of the city. A deputation was at once despatched to Gray's Mill, where the Prince had halted, to confer with him. Scarcely had the deputation gone when rumor spread abroad in the town that Cope—Cope the long expected, the almost given up—was actually close at hand, and the weather-cock emotions of the town veered to a new quarter. Perhaps they might be able to hold out after all. The great thing was to gain time. The deputation came back to say that Prince Charles must have a distinct answer to his summons before two o'clock in the morning, and it was now ten at night. Still spurred by the hope of gaining time, and allowing Cope to arrive, if, indeed, he were arriving, the deputation was sent back again. But the Prince refused to see them, and the deputation returned to the city and all unconsciously decided the fate of Edinburgh. Lochiel and Murray, with some five hundred Camerons, had crept close to the walls under the cover of the darkness of the night, in the hope of finding some means of surprising the city. Hidden close by the Netherbow port they saw the coach which had carried the deputation home drive up and demand admittance. The admittance, which was readily granted to the coach, could not well be refused to the Highlanders, who leaped up the moment the doors were opened, overpowered the guard, and entered the town. Edinburgh awoke in the morning to find its doubts at an end. It was in the hands of the Highlanders.[Pg 121]

Jacobite Edinburgh went wild with delight over its hero Prince. He entered Holyrood with the white rose in his bonnet and the star of St. Andrew on his breast, through enthusiastic crowds that fought eagerly for a nearer sight of his face or the privilege of touching his hand. The young Prince looked his best; the hereditary melancholy which cast its shadow over the faces of all the Stuarts was for the moment dissipated. Flushed with easy triumph, popular applause, and growing hope, the young Prince entered the palace of his ancestors like a king returning to his own. James Hepburn, of Keith, with drawn sword, led the way; beautiful women distributed white cockades to enraptured Jacobites; the stateliest chivalry of Scotland made obeisance to its rightful Prince. The intoxicating day ended with a great ball at the palace, at which the youthful grace of Charles Stuart confirmed the charm that already belonged to the adventurous and victorious Prince of Wales. September 17, 1745, was one of the brightest days in the Stuart calendar.

The conquest of Edinburgh was but the prelude to greater glories. Cope was rallying his forces at Dunbar—was marching to the relief of Edinburgh. Charles, acting on the advice of his generals, marched out to meet him. Cope's capacity for blundering was by no means exhausted. He affected a contemptuous disregard for his foes, delayed attack in defiance of his wisest generals, was taken unawares in the gray morning of the 21st, at Prestonpans, and routed completely and ignominiously in five minutes.

Seldom has it been the misfortune of an English general to experience so thorough, so humiliating a defeat. The wild charges of the Highlandmen broke up the ordered ranks of the English troops in hopeless confusion; almost all the infantry was cut to pieces, and the cavalry escaped only by desperate flight. Cope's Dragoons were accustomed to flight by this time; the clatter of their horses' hoofs as they cantered from Coltbrigg was still in their ears, and as they once again tore in shameless flight up the Edinburgh High Street they might well have reflected upon the rapidity with which such experiences repeated themselves. General Preston, of the castle, refused to admit the cowards within his gate, so there was nothing for them but to turn their horses' heads again, and spur off into the west country.[Pg 122] As for Cope, he managed to collect some ragged remnant of his ruined army about him, and to make off with all speed to Berwick, where he was received by Lord Mark Ker with the scornful assurance that he was the first commander-in-chief in Europe who had brought with him the news of his own defeat.

The victorious Highlanders were unable, if they had wished, to follow up the flight, owing to their lack of cavalry. They remained on the field to ascertain their own losses and to count their spoil. The losses were trifling, the gain was great. Only thirty Highlanders were killed, only seventy wounded, in that astonishing battle. As for the gain, not merely were the honorable trophies of victory, the colors and the standards, left in Highland hands, but the artillery and the supplies, with some two thousand pounds in money, offered the Prince's troops a solid reward for their daring. It is to the credit of Charles that after the fury of attack was over he insisted upon the wounded enemy and the prisoners being treated with all humanity. An incident is told of him which brings into relief the better qualities of his race. One of his officers, pointing to the ghastly field all strewn with dead bodies, with severed limbs and mutilated trunks, said to the Prince, "Sir, behold your enemies at your feet." The Prince sighed. "They are my father's subjects," he said sadly, as he turned away.

The battle of Prestonpans is enshrined in Jacobite memories as the battle of Gladsmuir, for a reason very characteristic of the Stuarts and their followers. Some queer old book of prophecies had foretold, more than a century earlier, that there should be a battle at Gladsmuir. The battle of Prestonpans was not fought really on Gladsmuir at all. Gladsmuir lies a good mile away from the scene of Charles' easy triumph and Cope's inglorious rout; but for enthusiastic Jacobite purposes it was near enough to seem an absolute fulfilment of the venerable prediction. A battle was to be fought at Gladsmuir; go to, then—a battle was fought at Gladsmuir, or near Gladsmuir, which is very much the same thing: anyhow, not very far away from Gladsmuir. And so the Jacobites were contented, and more than ever convinced of the advantages of prophecy in the affairs of practical politics.

Some busy days were passed in Edinburgh in which councils[Pg 123] of war alternated with semiregal entertainments, and in which the Prince employed his ready command of language in paying graceful compliments to the pretty women who wore the white cockade, and in issuing proclamations in which the Union was dissolved and religious liberty promised. One thing the young Prince could not be induced to do: none of the arguments of his counsellors could prevail upon him to threaten severe measures against the prisoners fallen into his hands. It was urged that unless the government treated their prisoners as prisoners of war and not as rebels, the Prince would be well advised to retaliate by equal harshness to the captives in his power. But on this point the Prince was obdurate. He would not take in cold blood the lives that he had saved in the heat of action.

Then, and all through this meteoric campaign, the conduct of Charles was characterized by a sincere humanity, which stands out in startling contrast with the cruelties practised later by his enemy, the "Butcher of Cumberland." It prevented the Prince from gaining an important military advantage by the reduction of Edinburgh castle. He attempted the reduction of the castle by cutting off its supplies, but, when the general in command threatened to open fire upon the town in consequence, Charles immediately rescinded the order, although his officers urged that the destruction of a few houses, and even the loss of a few lives, was, in a military sense, of scant importance in comparison with the capture of so valuable a stronghold as Edinburgh castle. The Prince held firmly to his resolve, and Edinburgh castle remained to the end in the hands of the royal troops. Charles displayed a great objection, too, to any plundering or lawless behavior on the part of his wild Highland army. We learn from the Bland Burges papers that when the house of Lord Somerville, who was opposed to the Prince, was molested by a party of Highlanders, the Prince, on hearing of it, sent an apology to Lord Somerville, and an officer's guard to protect him from further annoyance.

But time was running on, and it was necessary to take action again. England was waking up to a sense of its peril. Armies were gathering. The King had come back from Hanover, the troops were almost all recalled from Flanders. It was time to make a fresh stroke. Charles resolved upon the bold course of[Pg 124] striking south at once for England, and early in November he marched. He set off on the famous march south. In this undertaking, as before, the same extraordinary good-fortune attended upon the Stuart arms. His little army of less than six thousand men reached Carlisle, reached Manchester, without opposition. On December 4th he was at Derby, only one hundred twenty-seven miles from London. Once again, by skill or by good-fortune, he had contrived to slip past the English general sent out to bar his way. Cumberland with his forces was at Stafford, nine miles farther from the capital than the young Prince, who was now only six days from the city, with all his hopes and his ambitions ahead of him, and behind him the hostile army of the general he had eluded.

Never, perhaps, in the history of warfare did an invader come so near the goal of his success and throw it so wantonly away; for that is what Charles did. With all that he had come for apparently within his reach, he did not reach out to take it; the crown of England was in the hollow of his hand, and he opened his hand and let the prize fall from it. It is difficult to understand now what curious madness prompted the Prince's advisers to counsel him as they did, or the Prince to act upon their counsels. He was in the heart of England; he was hard by the capital, which he would have to reach if he was ever to mount the throne of his fathers. He had a devoted army with him—it would seem as if he had only to advance and to win—and yet, with a fatuity which makes the student of history gasp, he actually resolved to retreat, and did retreat.

It is true, and must not be forgotten, that Charles did not know, and could not know, all his advantages; that many of the most urgent arguments for advance could not present themselves to his mind. He could not know the panic in which Hanoverian London was cast; he could not know that desperate thoughts of joining the Stuart cause were crossing the craven mind of the Duke of Newcastle; he could not know that the frightened bourgeoisie were making a maddened rush upon the Bank of England; he could not know that the King of England had stored all his most precious possessions on board of yachts that waited for him at the Tower stairs, ready at a moment's notice to carry him off again into the decent obscurity of the elec[Pg 125]torship of Hanover. He could not know the exultation of the metropolitan Jacobites; he could not know the perturbation of the Hanoverian side; he could not know the curious apathy with which a large proportion of the people regarded the whole proceeding, people who were as willing to accept one king as another, and who would have witnessed with absolute unconcern "George the Elector" scuttling away from the Tower stairs at one end of the town, while "Charles the Prince" entered it from another. These factors in his favor he did not know, could not know, could hardly be expected even to guess.

But what he could know, what he did know, was this: he was at the head of a devoted army, which if it was small had hitherto found its career marked by triumph after triumph. He was in the heart of England, and had already found that the Stuart war-cry was powerful enough to rally many an English gentleman to his standard. Sir Walter Williams Wynn, whom men called the "King of Wales," was on his way to join the Prince of Wales. So was Lord Barrymore, the member of Parliament; so was many another gallant gentleman of name, of position, of wealth. Manchester had given him the heroic, the ill-fated, James Dawson, and a regiment three hundred strong. Lord James Drummond had landed at Montrose with men, money, and supplies. The Young Chevalier's troops were eager to advance; they were flushed with victories, their hearts were high; they believed, in the wild Gaelic way, in the sanctity of their cause; they believed that the Lord of Hosts was on their side, and such a belief strengthened their hands.

For a prince seeking his principality it would seem that there was one course, and one only, to pursue. He might go and take it, and win the great game he played for; or, failing that, he might die as became a royal gentleman, sword in hand and fighting for his rights. The might-have-beens are indeed for the most part a vanity, but we can fairly venture to assert now that if Charles had pushed on he would, for the time at least, have restored the throne of England to the house of Stuart. We may doubt, and doubt with reason, whether any fortuitous succession of events could have confirmed the Stuart hold upon the English crown; but we can scarcely doubt that the hold would have been for the time established, that the Old Pretender would[Pg 126] have been King James III, and that George the Elector would have been posting, bag and baggage, to the rococo shades of Herrenhausen. But, as we have said, failing that, if Charles had fallen in battle at the head of his defeated army, how much better that end would have been than the miserable career which was yet to lend no tragic dignity to the prolonged, pitiful, pitiable life of the Young Pretender!

However, for good or evil, the insane decision was made. Charles' council of war persistently argued for retreat. There were thirty thousand men in the field against them. If they were defeated they would be cut to pieces, and the Prince, if he escaped slaughter, would escape it only to die as a rebel on Tower Hill, whereas, if they were once back in Scotland, they would find new friends, new adherents, and even if they failed to win the English crown, might at least count, with reasonable security, upon converting Scotland, as of old, into a separate kingdom with a Stuart king on its throne. By arguments such as these the Prince's officers caused him to throw away the one chance he had of gaining all that he had crossed the seas to gain.

It is only fair to remember that the young Prince himself was from the first to last in favor of the braver course of boldly advancing upon London. When his too prudent counsellors told him that if he advanced he would be in Newgate in a fortnight, he still persisted in pressing his own advice. Perhaps he thought that where the stake was so great, and the chance of success not too forbidding, failure might as well end in Newgate as in the purlieus of petty foreign courts. But, with the exception of his Irish officers, he had nobody on his side. The Duke of Perth and Sir John Gordon had a little plan of their own. They thought that a march into Wales would be a good middle course to adopt, but their suggestion found no backers. All Charles' other counsellors were to a man in favor of retreat, and Charles, after at first threatening to regard as traitors all who urged such a course, at last gave way. Sullenly he issued the disastrous order to retreat, sullenly he rode in the rear of that retreat, assuming the bearing of a man who is no longer responsible for failure. The cheery good-humor, the bright heroism, which had so far characterized him he had now completely lost, and he rode, a dejected, a despairing, almost a doomed man, among his dis[Pg 127]heartened followers. It is dreary reading the record of that retreat; yet it is starred by some bright episodes. At Clifton there was an engagement where the retreating Highlanders held their own, and inflicted a distinct defeat upon Cumberland's army. Again, when they were once more upon Scottish soil, they struck a damaging blow at Hawley's army at Falkirk. But the end came at last on the day when the dwindling, discouraged, retreating army tried its strength with Cumberland at Culloden.

Men of the Cumberland type are to be found in all ages and in history of all nations. Men in whom the beast is barely under the formal restraint of ordered society, men in whom a savage sensuality is accompanied by a savage cruelty, men who take a hideous physical delight in bloodshed, darken the pages of all chronicles. It would be unjust to the memory of Cumberland to say that in his own peculiar line he had many, if any, superiors; that many men are more worthy of the fame which he won. To be remembered with a just loathing as a man by whom brutalities of all kinds were displayed, almost to the point of madness, is not the kind of memory most men desire; it is probably not the kind of memory that even Cumberland himself desired to leave behind him. But if he had cherished the ambition of handing down his name to other times, "linked with one virtue and a thousand crimes"; if he had deliberately proposed to force himself upon the attention of posterity as a mere abominable monster, he could hardly have acted with more persistent determination toward such a purpose. In Scotland, for long years after he was dead and dust, the mention of his name was like a curse; and even in England, where the debt due to his courage counted for much, no one has been found to palliate his conduct or to whitewash his infamy. As "Butcher" Cumberland he was known while he lived; as Butcher Cumberland he will be remembered so long as men remember the "Forty-five" and the horrors after Culloden fight. Some of those horrors no doubt were due to the wild fury of revenge that always follows a wild fear. The invasion of the young Stuart had struck terror; the revenge for that terror was bloodily taken.

Everything contributed to make Culloden fatal to the fortunes of the Pretender. The discouragement of some of the clans, the disaffection of others, the wholesale desertions which had[Pg 128] thinned the ranks of the rebel army, the Prince's sullen distrust of his advisers, the position of the battle-field, the bitter wintry weather, which drove a blinding hail and snow into the eyes of the Highlanders—all these were so many elements of danger that would have seriously handicapped a better conditioned army than that which Charles Stuart was able to oppose to Cumberland. But the Prince's army was not well conditioned: it was demoralized by retreat, hungry, ragged, dizzy with lack of sleep. Even the terrors of the desperate Highland attack were no longer so terrible to the English troops. Cumberland had taught his men, in order to counteract the defence which the target offered to the bodies of the Highlanders, to thrust with their bayonets in a slanting direction—not against the man immediately opposite to its point, but at the unguarded right side of the man attacking their comrade on the right.

After enduring for some time the terrible cannonade of the English, the battle began when the Macintoshes charged with all their old desperate valor upon the English. But the English were better prepared than before, and met the onslaught with such a volley as shattered the Highland attack and literally matted the ground with Highland bodies. Then the royal troops advanced, and drove the rebels in helpless rout before them. The fortunes of the fight might have gone very differently if all the Highlanders had been as true to their cause as those who formed this attacking right wing. "English gold and Scotch traitors," says an old ballad of another fight, "won," "but no Englishman." To no English gold can the defeat of Culloden be attributed, but unhappily Scotch treason played its part in the disaster.

The Macdonalds had been placed at the left wing of battle instead of at the right, which they considered to be their proper place. Furious at what they believed to be an insult, they took no part whatever in the fight after they had discharged a single volley, but stood and looked on in sullen apathy while the left wing and centre of the Prince's army were being whirled into space by the Royalist advance. The Duke of Perth appealed desperately and in vain to their hearts, reminded them of their old-time valor, and offered, if they would only follow his cry of "Claymore," to change his name and be henceforward called[Pg 129] Macdonald. In vain Keppoch rushed forward almost alone, and met his death, moaning that the children of his tribe had deserted him. There are few things in history more tragic than the picture of that inert mass of moody Highlanders, frozen into traitors through an insane pride and savage jealousy, witnessing the ruin of their cause and the slaughter of their comrades unmoved, and listening impassively to the entreaties of the gallant Perth and the death groans of the heroic Keppoch. In a few minutes the battle was over, the rout was complete; the rebel army was in full retreat, with a third of its number lying on the field of battle; the Duke of Cumberland was master of the field, of all the Highland baggage and artillery, of fourteen stands, and more than two thousand muskets. Culloden was fought and won.

It is not necessary to believe the stories that have been told of Charles Stuart, attributing to him personal cowardice on the fatal day of Culloden. The evidence in favor of such stories is of the slightest; there is nothing in the Prince's earlier conduct to justify the accusation, and there is sufficient evidence in favor of the much more likely version, that Charles was with difficulty prevented from casting away his life in one desperate charge when the fortune of the day was decided. It is part of a prince's business to be brave, and if Charles Stuart had been lacking in that essential quality of sovereignty he could scarcely have concealed the want until the day of Culloden, or have inspired the clans with the personal enthusiasm which they so readily evinced for him. Through all those stormy and terrible days, over which poetry and romance have so often and so fondly lingered, the fugitive found that he had still in the season of his misfortunes friends as devoted as he had known in the hours of his triumph. His adventures in woman's dress, his escape from the English ship, the touching devotion of Flora Macdonald, the loyalty of Lochiel, the fidelity of Cluny Macpherson—all these things have been immortalized in a thousand tales and ballads, and will be remembered in the North Country as long as tales and ballads continue to charm. At last, at Lochnanuagh, the Prince embarked upon a French ship that had been sent for him, and early in October, 1746, he landed in Brittany.[Pg 130]


[30] Sir John Cope, commander-in-chief of King George's forces.


A.D. 1747


It was not only by his demonstration that lightning is identical with electricity that Franklin did an important work in connection with electrical science. He is also entitled to great credit for the stimulus imparted by his experiments and writings to further discoveries in this field. Franklin was by far the most practical among the natural philosophers of his time; and the development of science in the knowledge and application of electricity has continued to reflect upon mankind his genius for the useful.

The ancients had no scientific acquaintance with electricity. The early Greeks, so far as known, observed but a single phenomenon in connection with it—the electrification of amber by friction. Aristotle and Pliny note the production of electricity by certain fishes, especially the torpedo, a ray possessing an electrical apparatus with which it kills or stuns its prey and defends itself against its enemies. Not before the sixteenth century of the Christian era was there any recorded scientific study of electrical phenomena. The early predecessors of Franklin, such as Gilbert, Boyle, and others, are considered to have created the science of electricity and magnetism. The invention of the Leyden jar or vial, in 1745, said to have been "hit upon by at least three persons working independently," was a very important advance.

The work of Franklin, following so soon upon the then latest step of progress in Europe, is best made known to the world through his own writings, particularly in the letters, selected by Bigelow, which appear in the present account of the philosopher's experiments.

While on a visit to Boston in 1746 Franklin witnessed some electrical experiments performed by a Mr. Spence, recently arrived from Scotland. Shortly after his return to Philadelphia the Library Company received from Mr. Collinson, of London, and a member of the Royal Society, a glass tube, with instructions for making experiments with it. With this tube Franklin began a course of experiments which resulted in discoveries which, humanly speaking, seem to be exerting a larger material influ[Pg 131]ence upon the industries of the world than any other discovery of the human intellect. Dr. Stuber, then a resident of Philadelphia, and author of the first continuation of Franklin's Life, who seems to have enjoyed peculiar opportunities of obtaining full and authentic information upon the subject, gives us the following account of the observations which this letter brought for the first time to the notice of the world through Mr. Collinson.

"His observations," says Dr. Stuber, "he communicated, in a series of letters, to his friend Collinson, the first of which is dated March 28, 1747. In these he shows the power of points in drawing and throwing off the electrical matter which had hitherto escaped the notice of electricians. He also made the grand discovery of a plus and minus, or of a positive and negative, state of electricity. We give him the honor of this without hesitation; although the English have claimed it for their countryman, Dr. Watson. Watson's paper is dated January 21, 1748; Franklin's, July 11, 1747, several months prior. Shortly after Franklin, from his principles of the plus and minus state, explained in a satisfactory manner the phenomena of the Leyden vial, first observed by Mr. Cuneus, or by Professor Muschenbroeck, of Leyden, which had much perplexed philosophers. He showed clearly that when charged the bottle contained no more electricity than before, but that as much was taken from one side as was thrown on the other; and that to discharge it nothing was necessary but to produce a communication between the two sides, by which the equilibrium might be restored, and that then no sign of electricity would remain. He afterward demonstrated by experiments that the electricity did not reside in the coating, as had been supposed, but in the pores of the glass itself. After a vial was charged he removed the coating, and found that upon applying a new coating the shock might still be received. In the year 1749 he first suggested his idea of explaining the phenomena of thunder-gusts and of the aurora borealis upon electrical principles. He points out many particulars in which lightning and electricity agree, and he adduces many facts, and reasonings from facts, in support of his positions.

"In the same year he received the astonishingly bold and grand idea of ascertaining the truth of his doctrine by actually drawing down the lightning, by means of sharp-pointed iron rods[Pg 132] raised into the region of the clouds. Even in this uncertain state his passion to be useful to mankind displayed itself in a powerful manner. Admitting the identity of electricity and lightning, and knowing the power of points in repelling bodies charged with electricity, and in conducting their fires silently and imperceptibly, he suggested the idea of securing houses, ships, etc., from being damaged by lightning, by erecting pointed rods that should rise some feet above the most elevated part, and descend some feet into the ground or water. The effect of these he concluded would be either to prevent a stroke by repelling the cloud beyond the striking distance, or by drawing off the electrical fire which it contained; or, if they could not effect this, they would at least conduct the electric matter to the earth without any injury to the building.

"It was not till the summer of 1752 that he was enabled to complete his grand and unparalleled discovery by experiment. The plan which he had originally proposed was to erect, on some high tower or other elevated place, a sentry-box, from which should rise a pointed iron rod, insulated by being fixed in a cake of resin. Electrified clouds passing over this would, he conceived, impart to it a portion of their electricity, which would be rendered evident to the senses by sparks being emitted when a key, the knuckle, or other conductor was presented to it. Philadelphia at this time afforded no opportunity of trying an experiment of this kind. While Franklin was waiting for the erection of a spire, it occurred to him that he might have more ready access to the region of clouds by means of a common kite. He prepared one by fastening two cross sticks to a silken handkerchief, which would not suffer so much from the rain as paper. To the upright stick was affixed an iron point. The string was, as usual, of hemp, except the lower end, which was silk. Where the hempen string terminated, a key was fastened. With this apparatus, on the appearance of a thunder-gust approaching he went out into the commons, accompanied by his son, to whom alone he communicated his intentions, well knowing the ridicule which, too generally for the interest of science, awaits unsuccessful experiments in philosophy. He placed himself under a shed, to avoid the rain; his kite was raised, a thunder-cloud passed over it, no sign of electricity appeared. He almost despaired of suc[Pg 133]cess, when suddenly he observed the loose fibres of his string to move toward an erect position. He now presented his knuckle to the key and received a strong spark. How exquisite must his sensations have been at this moment! On this experiment depended the fate of his theory. If he succeeded, his name would rank high among those who had improved science; if he failed, he must inevitably be subjected to the derision of mankind, or, what is worse, their pity, as a well-meaning man, but a weak, silly projector. The anxiety with which he looked for the result of his experiment may be easily conceived. Doubts and despair had begun to prevail, when the fact was ascertained, in so clear a manner that even the most incredulous could no longer withhold their assent. Repeated sparks were drawn from the key, a vial was charged, a shock given, and all the experiments made which are usually performed with electricity.

"About a month before this period some ingenious Frenchman had completed the discovery in the manner originally proposed by Dr. Franklin. The letters which he sent to Mr. Collinson, it is said, were refused a place in the Transactions of the Royal Society of London. However this may be, Collinson published them in a separate volume, under the title of New Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia, in America. They were read with avidity, and soon translated into different languages. A very incorrect French translation fell into the hands of the celebrated Buffon, who, notwithstanding the disadvantages under which the work labored, was much pleased with it, and repeated the experiments with success. He prevailed on his friend, M. Dalibard, to give his countrymen a more correct translation of the works of the American electrician. This contributed much toward spreading a knowledge of Franklin's principles in France. The King, Louis XV, hearing of these experiments, expressed a wish to be a spectator of them. A course of experiments was given at the seat of the Duc d'Ayen, at St. Germain, by M. de Lor. The applause which the King bestowed upon Franklin excited in Buffon, Dalibard, and De Lor an earnest desire of ascertaining the truth of his theory of thunder-gusts. Buffon erected his apparatus on the tower of Montbar, M. Dalibard at Marly-la-Ville, and De Lor at his house in the Estrapade at Paris, some of the highest ground in that capital.[Pg 134] Dalibard's machine first showed signs of electricity. On May 16, 1752, a thunder-cloud passed over it, in the absence of M. Dalibard, and a number of sparks were drawn from it by Coiffier, joiner, with whom Dalibard had left directions how to proceed, and by M. Paulet, the prior of Marly-la-Ville.

"An account of this experiment was given to the Royal Academy of Sciences, by M. Dalibard, in a memoir dated May 13, 1752. On May 18th, M. de Lor proved equally as successful with the apparatus erected at his own house. These philosophers soon excited those of other parts of Europe to repeat the experiment; among whom none signalized themselves more than Father Beccaria, of Turin, to whose observations science is much indebted. Even the cold regions of Russia were penetrated by the ardor for discovery. Professor Richmann bade fair to add much to the stock of knowledge on this subject, when an unfortunate flash from his conductor put a period to his existence.

"By these experiments Franklin's theory was established in the most convincing manner.

"Besides these great principles Franklin's letters on electricity contain a number of facts and hints which have contributed greatly toward reducing this branch of knowledge to a science. His friend, Mr. Kinnersley, communicated to him a discovery of the different kinds of electricity excited by rubbing glass and sulphur. This was first observed by M. du Faye, but it was for many years neglected. The philosophers were disposed to account for the phenomena rather from a difference in the quantity of electricity collected, and even Du Faye himself seems to have at last adopted this doctrine. Franklin at first entertained the same idea, but upon repeating the experiments he perceived that Mr. Kinnersley was right, and that the vitreous and resinous electricity of Du Faye were nothing more than the positive and negative states, which he had before observed, and that the glass globe charged positively, or increased, the quantity of electricity on the prime conductor, while the globe of sulphur diminished its natural quantity, or charged negatively. These experiments and observations opened a new field for investigation, upon which electricians entered with avidity; and their labors have added much to the stock of our knowledge.

"Franklin's letters have been translated into most of the Eu[Pg 135]ropean languages, and into Latin. In proportion as they have become known, his principles have been adopted."

In speaking of the first publication of his papers on electricity, Franklin himself says: "Obliged as we were to Mr. Collinson for the present of the tube, etc., I thought it right he should be informed of our success in using it, and wrote him several letters containing accounts of our experiments. He got them read in the Royal Society, where they were at first not thought worth so much notice as to be printed in their Transactions. One paper, which I wrote to Mr. Kinnersley, on the sameness of lightning with electricity, I sent to Mr. Mitchel, an acquaintance of mine, and one of the members also of that society, who wrote me word that it had been read, but was laughed at by the connoisseurs. The papers, however, being shown to Dr. Fothergill, he thought them of too much value to be stifled, and advised the printing of them. Mr. Collinson then gave them to Cave for publication in his Gentleman's Magazine, but he chose to print them separately in a pamphlet, and Dr. Fothergill wrote the preface. Cave, it seemed, judged rightly for his profession, for by the additions that arrived afterward they swelled to a quarto volume, which has had five editions and cost him nothing for copy-money."

The following is an extract from the preface to the first edition of the pamphlet published by Cave, as above mentioned:

"It may be necessary to acquaint the reader that the following observations and experiments were not drawn up with the view to their being made public, but were communicated at different times, and most of them in letters, written on various topics, as matter only of private amusement.

"But some persons to whom they were read, and who had themselves been conversant in electrical disquisitions, were of opinion they contained so many curious and interesting particulars relative to this affair, that it would be doing a kind of injustice to the public to confine them solely to the limits of a private acquaintance.

"The editor was therefore prevailed upon to commit such extracts of letters and other detached pieces as were in his hands to the press, without waiting for the ingenious author's permission so to do; and this was done with the less hesitation, as it was apprehended the author's engagements in other affairs would[Pg 136] scarce afford him leisure to give the public his reflections and experiments on the subject, finished with that care and precision of which the treatise before us shows he is alike studious and capable."

Dr. Priestley, in his History of Electricity, published in the year 1767, gives a full account of Franklin's experiments and discoveries.

"Nothing was ever written upon the subject of electricity," he says, "which was more generally read and admired in all parts of Europe than these letters. There is hardly any European language into which they have not been translated; and, as if this were not sufficient to make them properly known, a translation of them has lately been made into Latin. It is not easy to say whether we are most pleased with the simplicity and perspicuity with which these letters are written, the modesty with which the author proposes every hypothesis of his own, or the noble frankness with which he relates his mistakes, when they were corrected by subsequent experiments.

"Though the English have not been backward in acknowledging the great merit of this philosopher, he has had the singular good-fortune to be, perhaps, even more celebrated abroad than at home; so that, to form a just idea of the great and deserved reputation of Dr. Franklin, we must read the foreign publications on the subject of electricity, in many of which the terms Franklinism,' 'Franklinist,' and the 'Franklinian System' occur in almost every page. In consequence of this, Dr. Franklin's principles bid fair to be handed down to posterity as equally expressive of the true principles of electricity, as the Newtonian philosophy is of the system of nature in general."

The observations and theories of Franklin met with high favor in France, where his experiments were repeated and the results verified to the admiration of the scientific world. In the year 1753 his friend Peter Collinson wrote to him from London: "The King of France strictly commands the Abbé Mazéas to write a letter in the politest terms to the Royal Society, to return the King's thanks and compliments, in an express manner, to Mr. Franklin, of Pennsylvania, for his useful discoveries in electricity, and the application of pointed rods to prevent the terrible effect of thunder-storms." And the same Mr. Collinson wrote as follows[Pg 137] to the Reverend Jared Eliot, of Connecticut, in a letter dated London, November 22, 1753: "Our friend Franklin will be honored on St. Andrew's Day, the 30th instant, the anniversary of the Royal Society, when the Right Honorable the Earl of Macclesfield will make an oration on Mr. Franklin's new discoveries in electricity, and, as a reward and encouragement, will bestow on him a gold medal." This ceremony accordingly took place, and the medal was conferred.

"Philadelphia, 28 Mch., 1747.

"To Peter Collinson:

"Sir—Your kind present of an electric tube, with directions for using it, has put several of us on making electrical experiments, in which we have observed some particular phenomena that we look upon to be new. I shall therefore communicate them to you in my next, though possibly they may not be new to you, as among the numbers daily employed in those experiments on your side of the water, it is probable some one or other has hit upon the same observations. For my own part, I never was before engaged in any study that so totally engrossed my attention and my time as this has lately done; for what with making experiments when I can be alone, and repeating them to my friends and acquaintance, who, from the novelty of the thing, come continually in crowds to see them, I have, during some months past, had little leisure for anything else.            I am, etc.,

"B. Franklin."

"Philadelphia, 11 July, 1747.

"To Peter Collinson:

"Sir—In my last I informed you that in pursuing our electrical inquiries we had observed some particular phenomena which we looked upon to be new, and of which I promised to give you some account, though I apprehended they might not possibly be new to you, as so many hands are daily employed in electrical experiments on your side of the water, some or other of which would probably hit on the same observations.

"The first thing is the wonderful effect of pointed bodies, both in drawing off and throwing off the electrical fire. For example:

"Place an iron shot of three or four inches diameter on the [Pg 138]mouth of a clean, dry glass bottle. By a fine silken thread from the ceiling, right over the mouth of the bottle, suspend a small cork ball about the bigness of a marble, the thread of such a length as that the cork ball may rest against the side of the shot. Electrify the shot, and the ball will be repelled to the distance of four or five inches, more or less, according to the quantity of electricity. When in this state, if you present to the shot the point of a long, slender, sharp bodkin, at six or eight inches distance, the repellency is instantly destroyed, and the cork flies to the shot. A blunt body must be brought within an inch and draw a spark to produce the same effect. To prove that the electrical fire is drawn off by the point, if you take the blade of the bodkin out of the wooden handle and fix it in a stick of sealing-wax, and then present it at the distance aforesaid, or if you bring it very near, no such effect follows; but sliding one finger along the wax till you touch the blade, the ball flies to the shot immediately. If you present the point in the dark you will see, sometimes at a foot distance and more, a light gather upon it, like that of a firefly or glow-worm; the less sharp the point, the nearer you must bring it to observe the light; and at whatever distance you see the light you may draw off the electrical fire and destroy the repellency. If a cork ball so suspended be repelled by the tube, and a point be presented quick to it, though at a considerable distance, it is surprising to see how suddenly it flies back to the tube. Points of wood will do near as well as those of iron, provided the wood is not dry, for perfectly dry wood will no more conduct electricity than sealing-wax.

"To show that points will throw off as well as draw off the electrical fire, lay a long sharp needle upon the shot, and you cannot electrize the shot so as to make it repel the cork ball. Or fix a needle to the end of a suspended gun-barrel or iron rod so as to point beyond it like a little bayonet, and while it remains there the gun-barrel or rod cannot, by applying the tube to the other end, be electrized so as to give a spark, the fire continually running out silently at the point. In the dark you may see it make the same appearance as it does in the case before mentioned.

"The repellency between the cork ball and the shot is likewise destroyed, 1st, by sifting fine sand on it—this does it gradually; [Pg 139]2dly, by breathing on it; 3dly, by making a smoke about it from burning wood; 4thly, by candle-light, even though the candle is at a foot distance—these do it suddenly. The light of a bright coal from a wood fire, and the light of a red-hot iron, do it likewise, but not at so great a distance. Smoke from dry rosin dropped on hot iron does not destroy the repellency, but is attracted by both shot and cork ball, forming proportionable atmospheres round them, making them look beautifully, somewhat like some of the figures in Burnet's or Whiston's Theory of the Earth.

"N.B.—This experiment should be made in a closet where the air is very still, or it will be apt to fail.

"The light of the sun thrown strongly upon both cork and shot by a looking-glass, for a long time together, does not impair the repellency in the least. This difference between firelight and sunlight is another thing that seems new and extraordinary to us.

"We had for some time been of opinion that the electrical fire was not created by friction, but collected, being really an element diffused among and attracted by other matter, particularly by water and metals. We had even discovered and demonstrated its afflux to the electrical sphere, as well as its efflux, by means of little, light windmill wheels made of stiff paper vanes fixed obliquely, and turning freely on fine wire axes; also by little wheels of the same matter, but formed like water-wheels. Of the disposition and application of which wheels, and the various phenomena resulting, I could, if I had time, fill you a sheet. The impossibility of electrizing one's self, though standing on wax, by rubbing the tube, and drawing the fire from it; and the manner of doing it by passing it near a person or thing standing on the floor, etc., had also occurred to us some months before. Mr. Watson's ingenious Sequel came to hand; and these were some of the new things I intended to have communicated to you. But now I need only mention some particulars not hinted in that piece, with our reasonings thereupon; though perhaps the latter might well enough be spared.

"1. A person standing on wax and rubbing the tube, and another person on wax drawing the fire, they will both of them (provided they do not stand so as to touch one another) appear to be electrized to a person standing on the floor; that is, he will perceive a spark on approaching each of them with his knuckle.

[Pg 140]

"2. But if the persons on wax touch one another during the exciting of the tube, neither of them will appear to be electrized.

"3. If they touch one another after exciting the tube, and drawing the fire as aforesaid, there will be a stronger spark between them than was between either of them and the person on the floor.

"4. After such strong spark neither of them discover any electricity.

"These appearances we attempt to account for thus: We suppose, as aforesaid, that electrical fire is a common element, of which every one of the three persons above mentioned has his equal share, before any operation is begun with the tube. A, who stands on wax and rubs the tube, collects the electrical fire from himself into the glass; and, his communication with the common stock being cut off by the wax, his body is not again immediately supplied. B (who stands on wax likewise), passing his knuckle along near the tube, receives the fire which was collected by the glass from A; and his communication with the common stock being likewise cut off, he retains the additional quantity received. To C, standing on the floor, both appear to be electrized; for he, having only the middle quantity of electrical fire, receives a spark upon approaching B, who has an over quantity; but gives one to A, who has an under quantity. If A and B approach to touch each other, the spark is stronger, because the difference between them is greater. After such touch there is no spark between either of them and C, because the electrical fire in all is reduced to the original equality. If they touch while electrizing, the equality is never destroyed, the fire only circulating. Hence have arisen some new terms among us. We say B (and bodies like circumstanced) is electrized positively; A, negatively. Or rather, B is electrized plus; A, minus. And we daily in our experiments electrize bodies plus or minus, as we think proper. To electrize plus or minus no more needs to be known than this: that the parts of the tube or sphere that are rubbed do, in the instant of the friction, attract the electrical fire, and therefore take it from the thing rubbing; the same parts immediately, as the friction upon them ceases, are disposed to give the fire they have received to any body that has less. Thus you may circulate [Pg 141]it as Mr. Watson has shown; you may also accumulate it or subtract it, upon or from any body, as you connect that body with the rubber or with the receiver, the communication with the common stock being cut off. We think that ingenious gentleman was deceived when he imagined (in his Sequel) that the electrical fire came down the wire from the ceiling to the gun-barrel, thence to the sphere, and so electrized the machine and the man turning the wheel, etc. We suppose it was driven off, and not brought on through that wire; and that the machine and man, etc., were electrized minus—that is, had less electrical fire in them than things in common.

"As the vessel is just upon sailing, I cannot give you so large an account of American electricity as I intended; I shall only mention a few particulars more. We find granulated lead better to fill the vial with than water, being easily warmed, and keeping warm and dry in damp air. We fire spirits with the wire of the vial. We light candles, just blown out, by drawing a spark among the smoke between the wire and snuffers. We represent lightning by passing the wire in the dark over a China plate that has gilt flowers, or applying it to gilt frames of looking-glasses, etc. We electrize a person twenty or more times running, with a touch of the finger on the wire, thus: He stands on wax. Give him the electrized bottle in his hand. Touch the wire with your finger and then touch his hand or face; there are sparks every time. We increase the force of the electrical kiss vastly, thus: Let A and B stand on wax, or A on wax and B on the floor; give one of them the electrized vial in hand; let the other take hold of the wire; there will be a small spark; but when their lips approach they will be struck and shocked. The same if another gentleman and lady, C and D, standing also on wax, and joining hands with A and B, salute or shake hands. We suspend by fine silk thread a counterfeit spider made of a small piece of burnt cork, with legs of linen thread, and a grain or two of lead stuck in him to give him more weight. Upon the table, over which he hangs, we stick a wire upright, as high as the vial and wire, four or five inches from the spider; then we animate him by setting the electrical vial at the same distance on the other side of him; he will immediately fly to the wire of the vial, bend his legs [Pg 142]in touching it, then spring off and fly to the wire of the vial, playing with his legs against both, in a very entertaining manner, appearing perfectly alive to the persons unacquainted. He will continue this motion an hour or more in dry weather. We electrify, upon wax in the dark, a book that has a double line of gold round upon the covers, and then apply a knuckle to the gilding; the fire appears everywhere upon the gold like a flash of lightning; not upon the leather, nor if you touch the leather instead of the gold. We rub our tubes with buckskin and observe always to keep the same side to the tube and never to sully the tube by handling; thus they work readily and easily without the least fatigue, especially if kept in tight pasteboard cases lined with flannel, and sitting close to the tube. This I mention because the European papers on electricity frequently speak of rubbing the tubes as a fatiguing exercise. Our spheres are fixed on iron axes which pass through them. At one end of the axes there is a small handle with which you turn the sphere like a common grindstone. This we find very commodious, as the machine takes up but little room, is portable, and may be enclosed in a tight box when not in use. It is true the sphere does not turn so swift as when the great wheel is used; but swiftness we think of little importance, since a few turns will charge the vial, etc., sufficiently.                I am, etc.,

"B. Franklin."

(Read before the Royal Society, December 21, 1752.)

"Philadelphia, 19 October, 1752.

To Peter Collinson:

Sir—As frequent mention is made in publick papers from Europe of the success of the Philadelphia Experiment for drawing the electric fire from clouds by means of pointed rods of iron erected on high buildings, etc., it may be agreeable to the curious to be informed that the same experiment has succeeded in Philadelphia, though made in a different and more easy manner, which is as follows: Make a small cross of two light strips of cedar, the arms so long as to reach to the four corners of a large thin silk handkerchief when extended; tie the corners of the handkerchief to the extremities of the cross, so you have the body of a kite; which, being properly accommodated with a tail, loop, and string, will rise in the air, like those made of paper; but this [Pg 143]being of silk is fitter to bear the wet and wind of a thunder-gust without tearing. To the top of the upright stick of the cross is to be fixed a very sharp-pointed wire, rising a foot or more above the wood. To the end of the twine, next the hand, is to be tied a silk ribbon; and where the silk and twine join, a key may be fastened. This kite is to be raised when a thunder-gust appears to be coming on, and the person who holds the string must stand within a door or window, or under some cover, so that the silk ribbon may not be wet; and care must be taken that the twine does not touch the frame of the door or window. As soon as any of the thunder-clouds come over the kite, the pointed wire will draw the electric fire from them, and the kite, with all the twine, will be electrified, and the loose filaments of the twine will stand out every way, and be attracted by an approaching finger. And when the rain has wetted the kite and twine, so that it can conduct the electric fire freely, you will find it stream out plentifully from the key on the approach of your knuckle. At this key the vial may be charged; and from electric fire thus obtained spirits may be kindled, and all the other electric experiments be performed which are usually done by the help of a rubbed glass globe or tube, and thereby the sameness of the electric matter with that of lightning completely demonstrated.

"B. Franklin."

[Pg 144]


A.D. 1755


To set an exact date as marking the culmination of the vast influence of Voltaire upon the world is not easy. He was the chief leader, the most prominent and central figure, of that widespread intellectual revolt which extended from France over Europe during the middle of the eighteenth century. The spirit of doubt, questioning all ancient institutions, challenging them to prove their truth, arose everywhere, at times mocking, bitter, and superficial, or again earnest, thoughtful, deep as the deepest springs of human being. It has become almost a commonplace to say that Voltaire and his chief successor, Rousseau, caused the French Revolution.

François Marie Arouet, who himself assumed his literary name, Voltaire, was born in 1694. He was recognized as among the foremost writers of France at least as early as 1723, and Frederick the Great of Prussia established a friendship with him which resulted in Voltaire's living at the Prussian court as king's chamberlain for nearly three years (1750-1753). It was largely due to Voltaire's influence that the celebrated French Encyclopædia, the first volume of which appeared in 1751, took its tone of scepticism, of cold, scientific criticism. It preached heresy and revolution. The publication was repeatedly stopped by the government, but was encouraged by Madame Pompadour and others, and finally finished in 1765.

Meanwhile Voltaire, who had been repeatedly exiled from the French court for the daring of his writings, settled near Geneva in 1755 and resided there during his active and fiery old age. The beginning of this residence has, therefore, been selected as marking the acme of his power. From his mountain château his writings poured like a torrent over the surrounding countries. Wherever there was oppression, his voice was raised in protest; wherever there was falsity, his rapier wit assailed it. He held correspondence with and influenced most of the crowned heads of Europe. He became the hero of his countrymen. Christianity, and especially Catholicism, served only too often as his subjects of assault, but he was never, as his enemies called him, an atheist.

In 1778, an old man of eighty-three, he ventured to return to Paris to see the production of his last tragedy, Irene. Tremendous was the en[Pg 145]thusiasm. Paris, grown more Voltairean than Voltaire himself, went mad in its reception of its teacher. The excitement proved too much for his feeble frame, and he died in the full tide of his triumph.


When the right sense of historical proportion is more fully developed in men's minds, the name of Voltaire will stand out like the names of the great decisive movements in the European advance, like the Revival of Learning or the Reformation. The existence, character, and career of this extraordinary person constituted in themselves a new and prodigious era. The peculiarities of his individual genius changed the mind and spiritual conformation of France, and in a less degree of the whole of the West, with as far-spreading and invincible an effect as if the work had been wholly done, as it was actually aided, by the sweep of deep-lying collective forces. A new type of belief, and of its shadow, disbelief, was stamped by the impression of his character and work into the intelligence and feeling of his own and the following times. We may think of Voltairism in France somewhat as we think of Catholicism or the Renaissance or Calvinism. It was one of the cardinal liberations of the growing race, one of the emphatic manifestations of some portion of the minds of men, which an immediately foregoing system and creed had either ignored or outraged.

Voltairism may stand for the name of the Renaissance of the eighteenth century, for that name takes in all the serious haltings and shortcomings of this strange movement, as well as all its terrible fire, swiftness, sincerity, and strength. The rays from Voltaire's burning and far-shining spirit no sooner struck upon the genius of the time, seated dark and dead like the black stone of Memnon's statue, than the clang of the breaking chord was heard through Europe, and men awoke in new day and more spacious air. The sentimentalist has proclaimed him a mere mocker. To the critic of the schools, ever ready with compendious label, he is the revolutionary destructive. To each alike of the countless orthodox sects his name is the symbol for the prevailing of the gates of hell. Erudition figures him as shallow and a trifler; culture condemns him for pushing his hatred of spiritual falsehood much too seriously; Christian charity feels constrained to unmask a demon from the depths of the pit. The[Pg 146] plain men of the earth, who are apt to measure the merits of a philosopher by the strength of his sympathy with existing sources of comfort, would generally approve the saying of Dr. Johnson, that he would sooner sign a sentence for Rousseau's transportation than that of any felon who had gone from the Old Bailey these many years, and that the difference between him and Voltaire was so slight that "it would be difficult to settle the proportion of iniquity between them." Those of all schools and professions who have the temperament which mistakes strong expression for strong judgment, and violent phrase for grounded conviction, have been stimulated by antipathy against Voltaire to a degree that in any of them with latent turns for humor must now and then have even stirred a kind of reacting sympathy. The rank vocabulary of malice and hate, that noisome fringe of the history of opinion, has received many of its most fulminant terms from critics of Voltaire, along with some from Voltaire himself, who unwisely did not always refuse to follow an adversary's bad example.

Yet Voltaire was the very eye of eighteenth-century illumination. It was he who conveyed to his generation in a multitude of forms the consciousness at once of the power and the rights of human intelligence. Another might well have said of him what he magnanimously said of his famous contemporary, Montesquieu, that humanity had lost its title-deeds, and he had recovered them. The fourscore volumes which he wrote are the monument, as they were in some sort the instrument, of a new renaissance. They are the fruit and representation of a spirit of encyclopædic curiosity and productiveness. Hardly a page of all these countless leaves is common form. Hardly a sentence is there which did not come forth alive from Voltaire's own mind or which was said because someone else had said it before. His works as much as those of any man that ever lived and thought are truly his own. It is not given, we all know, even to the most original and daring of leaders, to be without precursors, and Voltaire's march was prepared for him before he was born, as it is for all mortals. Yet he impressed on all he said, on good words and bad alike, a marked autochthonic quality, as of the self-raised spontaneous products of some miraculous soil, from which prodigies and portents spring. Many of his ideas were in the[Pg 147] air, and did not belong to him peculiarly; but so strangely rapid and perfect was his assimilation of them, so vigorous and minutely penetrative was the quality of his understanding, so firm and independent his initiative, that even these were instantly stamped with the express image of his personality. In a word, Voltaire's work from first to last was alert with unquenchable life. Some of it, much of it, has ceased to be alive for us now in all that belongs to its deeper significance, yet we recognize that none of it was ever the dreary still-birth of a mind of hearsays. There is no mechanical transmission of untested bits of current coin. In the realm of mere letters Voltaire is one of the little band of great monarchs, and in style he remains of the supreme potentates. But literary variety and perfection, however admirable, like all purely literary qualities are a fragile and secondary good which the world is very willing to let die, where it has not been truly begotten and engendered of living forces.

Voltaire was a stupendous power, not only because his expression was incomparably lucid, or even because his sight was exquisitely keen and clear, but because he saw many new things after which the spirits of others were unconsciously groping and dumbly yearning. Nor was this all. Fontenelle was both brilliant and far-sighted, but he was cold, and one of those who love ease and a safe hearth, and carefully shun the din, turmoil, and danger of the great battle. Voltaire was ever in the front and centre of the fight. His life was not a mere chapter in a history of literature. He never counted truth a treasure to be discreetly hidden in a napkin. He made it a perpetual war-cry and emblazoned it on a banner that was many a time rent, but was never out of the field.

There are things enough to be said of Voltaire's moral size, and no attempt is made in these pages to dissemble in how much he was condemnable. It is at least certain that he hated tyranny, that he refused to lay up his hatred privily in his heart, and insisted on giving his abhorrence a voice, and tempering for his just rage a fine sword, very fatal to those who laid burdens too hard to be borne upon the conscience and life of men. Voltaire's contemporaries felt this. They were stirred to the quick by the sight and sound and thorough directness of those ringing blows.[Pg 148]

If he was often a mocker in form, he was always serious in meaning and laborious in matter. If he was unflinching against theology, he always paid religion respect enough to treat it as the most important of all subjects.

The old-fashioned nomenclature puts him down among sceptics, because those who had the official right to affix these labels could think of no more contemptuous name, and could not suppose the most audacious soul capable of advancing even under the leadership of Satan himself beyond a stray doubt or so. He had perhaps as little of the sceptic in his constitution as Bossuet or Butler, and was much less capable of becoming one than De Maistre or Paley. This was a prime secret of his power, for the mere critic and propounder of unanswered doubts never leads more than a handful of men after him. Voltaire boldly put the great question, and he boldly answered it. He asked whether the sacred records were historically true, the Christian doctrine divinely inspired and spiritually exhaustive, and the Christian Church a holy and beneficent organization. He answered these questions for himself and for others beyond possibility of misconception. The records he declared saturated with fable and absurdity, the doctrine imperfect at its best, and a dark and tyrannical superstition at its worst, and the Church was the arch-curse and infamy. Say what we will of these answers, they were free from any taint of scepticism. Our lofty new idea of rational freedom as freedom from conviction, and of emancipation of understanding as emancipation from the duty of settling whether important propositions are true or false, had not dawned on Voltaire.

He had just as little part or lot in the complaisant spirit of the man of the world, who from the depths of his mediocrity and ease presumes to promulgate the law of progress, and as dictator to fix its speed. Who does not know this temper of the man of the world, that worst enemy of the world? His inexhaustible patience of abuses that only torment others; his apologetic word for beliefs that may perhaps not be so precisely true as one might wish, and institutions that are not altogether so useful as some might think possible; his cordiality toward progress and improvement in a general way, and his coldness or antipathy to each progressive proposal in particular; his pygmy hope that[Pg 149] life will one day become somewhat better, punily shivering by the side of his gigantic conviction that it might well be infinitely worse. To Voltaire, far different from this, an irrational prejudice was not the object of a polite coldness, but a real evil to be combated and overthrown at every hazard. Cruelty was not to him as a disagreeable dream of the imagination, from thought of which he could save himself by arousing to a sense of his own comfort, but a vivid flame burning into his thoughts and destroying peace. Wrong-doing and injustice were not simple words on his lips; they went as knives to the heart; he suffered with the victim, and consumed with an active rage against the oppressor.

To Voltaire reason and humanity were but a single word, and love of truth and passion for justice but one emotion. None of the famous men who have fought, that they themselves might think freely and speak truly, has ever seen more clearly that the fundamental aim of the contest was that others might live happily. Who has not been touched by that admirable word of his, of the three years in which he labored without remission for justice to the widow and descendants of Calas—"During that time not a smile escaped me without my reproaching myself for it as for a crime"? Or by his sincere avowal that of all the words of enthusiasm and admiration which were so prodigally bestowed upon him on the occasion of his last famous visit to Paris in 1778, none went to his heart like that of a woman of the people, who in reply to one asking the name of him whom the crowd followed gave answer, "Do you not know that he is the preserver of the Calas?"

The same kind of feeling, though manifested in ways of much less unequivocal nobleness, was at the bottom of his many efforts to make himself of consequence in important political business. We know how many contemptuous sarcasms have been inspired by his anxiety at various times to perform diplomatic feats of intervention between the French government and Frederick II. In 1742, after his visit to the Prussian King at Aix-la-Chapelle, he is supposed to have hinted to Cardinal Fleury that to have written epic and drama does not disqualify a man for serving his king and country on the busy fields of affairs. The following year, after Fleury's death, when French fortunes[Pg 150] in the war of the Austrian succession were near their lowest, Voltaire's own idea that he might be useful from his intimacy with Frederick seems to have been shared by Amelot, the secretary of state, and at all events he aspired to do some sort of active, if radically futile, diplomatic work. In later times when the tide had turned, and Frederick's star was clouded over with disaster, we again find Voltaire the eager intermediary with Choiseul, pleasantly comparing himself to the mouse of the fable, busily striving to free the lion from the meshes of the hunter's net.

In short, on all sides, whatever men do and think was real and alive to Voltaire. Whatever had the quality of interesting any imaginable temperament had the quality of interesting him. There was no subject which any set of men have ever cared about which, if he once had mention of it, Voltaire did not care about likewise. And it was just because he was so thoroughly alive himself that he filled the whole era with life. The more closely one studies the various movements of that time, the more clear it becomes that, if he was not the original centre and first fountain of them all, at any rate he made many channels ready and gave the sign. He was the initial principle of fermentation throughout that vast commotion. We may deplore, if we think fit, as Erasmus deplored in the case of Luther, that the great change was not allowed to work itself out slowly, calmly, and without violence and disruption. These graceful regrets are powerless, and on the whole they are very enervating. Let us make our account with the actual, rather than seek excuses for self-indulgence in pensive preference of something that might have been. Practically in these great circles of affairs, what only might have been is as though it could not be; and to know this may well suffice for us. It is not in human power to choose the kind of men who rise from time to time to the supreme control of momentous changes. The force which decides this immensely important matter is as though it were chance. We cannot decisively pronounce any circumstance whatever an accident, yet history abounds with circumstances which in our present ignorance of the causes of things are as if they were accidents.

It was one of the happy chances of circumstance that there arose in France on the death of Louis XIV a man with all Vol[Pg 151]taire's peculiar gifts of intelligence, who added to them an incessant activity in their use, and who besides this enjoyed such length of days as to make his intellectual powers effective to the very fullest extent possible. This combination of physical and mental conditions so amazingly favorable to the spread of the Voltairean ideas was a circumstance independent of the state of the surrounding atmosphere, and was what in the phraseology of prescientific times might well have been called providential. If Voltaire had seen all that he saw, and yet been indolent; or if he had been as clear-sighted and as active as he was, and yet had only lived fifty years, instead of eighty-four, Voltairism would never have struck root. As it was, with his genius, his industry, his longevity, and the conditions of the time being what they were, that far-spreading movement of destruction was inevitable.

There are more kinds of Voltaireans than one, but no one who has marched ever so short a way out of the great camp of old ideas is directly or indirectly out of the debt and out of the hand of the first liberator, however little willing he may be to recognize one or the other. Attention has been called by every writer on Voltaire to the immense number of the editions of his works, a number probably unparalleled in the case of any author within the same limits of time. Besides being one of the most voluminous book-writers, he is one of the cheapest. We can buy one of Voltaire's books for a few halfpence, and the keepers of the cheap stalls in the cheap quarters of London and Paris will tell you that this is not from lack of demand, but the contrary. So clearly does that light burn for many even now, which scientifically speaking ought to be extinct, and for many indeed is long ago extinct and superseded. The reasons for this vitality are that Voltaire was himself thoroughly alive when he did his work, and that the movement which that work began is still unexhausted.

How shall we attempt to characterize this movement? The historian of the Christian church usually opens his narrative with an account of the depravation of human nature and the corruption of society which preceded the new religion. The Reformation in like manner is only to be understood after we have perceived the enormous mass of superstition, injustice, and[Pg 152] wilful ignorance by which the theological idea had become so incrusted as to be wholly incompetent to guide society, because it was equally repugnant to the intellectual perceptions and the moral sense, the knowledge and the feelings, of the best and most active-minded persons of the time. The same sort of consideration explains and vindicates the enormous power of Voltaire. France had outgrown the system that had brought her through the Middle Ages. The further development of her national life was fatally hindered by the tight bonds of an old order, which clung with the hardy tenacity of a thriving parasite, diverting from the roots all their sustenance, eating into the tissue, and feeding on the juices of the living tree. The picture has often been painted, and we need not try to paint it once more in detail here. The whole power and ordering of the nation were with the sworn and chartered foes of light, who had every interest that a desire to cling to authority and wealth can give in keeping the understanding subject.

The glories of the age of Louis XIV were the climax of a set of ideas that instantly afterward lost alike their grace, their usefulness, and the firmness of their hold on the intelligence of men. A dignified and venerable hierarchy, an august and powerful monarch, a court of gay and luxurious nobles, all lost their grace because the eyes of men were suddenly caught and appalled by the awful phantom, which was yet so real, of a perishing nation. Turn from Bossuet's orations to Boisguillebert's Détail de la France; from the pulpit rhetorician's courtly reminders that even majesty must die, to Vauban's pity for the misery of the common people;[31] from Corneille and Racine to La Bruyère's picture of "certain wild animals, male and female, scattered over the fields, black, livid, all burned by the sun, bound to the earth that they dig and work with unconquerable pertinacity; they have a sort of articulate voice, and when they rise on their feet they show a human face, and, in fact, are men." The contrast had existed for generations. The material misery caused by the wars of the great Louis deepened the dark side, and the lustre of genius consecrated to the glorification of traditional authority and the order of the hour heightened the brightness of[Pg 153] the bright side, until the old contrast was suddenly seen by a few startled eyes, and the new and deepest problem, destined to strain our civilization to a degree that not many have even now conceived, came slowly into pale outline.

There is no reason to think that Voltaire ever saw this gaunt and tremendous spectacle. Rousseau was its first voice. Since him the reorganization of the relations of men has never faded from the sight either of statesmen or philosophers, with vision keen enough to admit to their eyes even what they dreaded and execrated in their hearts. Voltaire's task was different and preparatory. It was to make popular the genius and authority of reason. The foundations of the social fabric were in such a condition that the touch of reason was fatal to the whole structure, which instantly began to crumble. Authority and use oppose a steadfast and invincible resistance to reason, so long as the institutions which they protect are of fair practicable service to a society. But after the death of Louis XIV, not only the grace and pomp, but also the social utility of spiritual and political absolutism, passed obviously away. Spiritual absolutism was unable to maintain even a decent semblance of unity and theological order. Political absolutism by its material costliness, its augmenting tendency to repress the application of individual energy and thought to public concerns, and its pursuit of a policy in Europe which was futile and essentially meaningless as to its ends, and disastrous and incapable in its choice of means, was rapidly exhausting the resources of national well-being and viciously severing the very tap-root of national life. To bring reason into an atmosphere so charged was, as the old figure goes, to admit air to the chamber of the mummy. And reason was exactly what Voltaire brought; too narrow, if we will, too contentious, too derisive, too unmitigatedly reasonable, but still reason. And who shall measure the consequence of this difference in the history of two great nations: that in France absolutism in church and state fell before the sinewy genius of stark reason, while in England it fell before a respect for social convenience, protesting against monopolies, benevolences, ship-money? that in France speculation had penetrated over the whole field of social inquiry, before a single step had been taken toward application, while in England social principles were ap[Pg 154]plied before they received any kind of speculative vindication? that in France the first effective enemy of the principles of despotism was Voltaire, poet, philosopher, historian, critic; in England, a band of homely squires?

Voltaire, there can be little doubt, never designed a social revolution, being in this the representative of the method of Hobbes. His single object was to reinstate the understanding in its full rights, to emancipate thought, to extend knowledge, to erect the standard of critical common-sense. He either could not see, or else, as one sometimes thinks, he closes his eyes and refuses for his part to see, that it was impossible to revolutionize the spiritual basis of belief without touching the social forms, which were inseparably connected with the old basis by the strong bonds of time and a thousand fibres of ancient association and common interest. Rousseau began where Voltaire left off. He informs us that, in the days when his character was forming, nothing which Voltaire wrote escaped him, and that the Philosophical Letters (that is, the Letters on the English), though assuredly not the writer's best work, were what first attracted him to study, and implanted a taste which never afterward became extinct. The correspondence between Voltaire and the Prince of Prussia, afterward the great Frederick, inspired Rousseau with a passionate desire to learn how to compose with elegance, and to imitate the coloring of so fine an author.[32] Thus Voltaire, who was eighteen years his elder, gave this extraordinary genius his first productive impulse. But a sensibility of temperament, to which perhaps there is no parallel in the list of prominent men, impelled Rousseau to think, or rather to feel, about the concrete wrongs and miseries of men and women, and not the abstract rights of their intelligence. Hence the two great revolutionary schools, the school which appealed to sentiment, and the school which appealed to intelligence. The Voltairean principles of the strictest political moderation and of literary common-sense, negative, merely emancipatory, found their political outcome, as French historians early pointed out, in the Constituent Assembly, which was the creation of the upper and middle class, while the spirit of Rousseau, ardent, generous, passionate for the relief of the suffering, overwhelmed by the crowding forms of[Pg 155] manhood chronically degraded and womanhood systematically polluted, came to life and power in the Convention and the sections of the Commune of Paris which overawed the Convention.

"It will not do," wrote D'Alembert to Voltaire as early as 1762, "to speak too loudly against Jean Jacques or his book, for he is rather a king in the Halles."[33] This must have been a new word in the ears of the old man, who had grown up in the habit of thinking of public opinion as the opinion, not of markets where the common people bought and sold, but of the galleries of Versailles. Except for its theology, the age of Louis XIV always remained the great age to Voltaire, the age of pomp and literary glory, and it was too difficult a feat to cling on one side to the Grand Monarch, and to stretch out a hand on the other to the Social Contract. It was too difficult for the man who had been embraced by Ninon de l'Enclos, who was the correspondent of the greatest sovereigns in Europe, and the intimate of some of the greatest nobles in France, to feel much sympathy with writings that made their author king of the Halles. Frederick offered Rousseau shelter, and so did Voltaire; but each of them disliked his work as warmly as the other. They did not understand one who, if he wrote with an eloquence that touched all hearts, repulsed friends and provoked enemies like a madman or a savage. The very language of Rousseau was to Voltaire as an unknown tongue, for it was the language of reason clothing the births of passionate sensation. Émile only wearied him, though there were perhaps fifty pages of it which he would have had bound in morocco.[34] It is a stale romance, he cries, while the Social Contract is only remarkable for some insults rudely thrown at kings by a citizen of Geneva, and for four insipid pages against the Christian religion, which are simply plagiarized from Bayle's centos.[35] Partly, no doubt, this extreme irritation was due to the insults with which Jean Jacques had repulsed his offers of shelter and assistance, had repudiated Voltaire's attempts to defend him, and had held up Voltaire himself as a proper object for the persecutions of Geneva. But there[Pg 156] was a still deeper root of discrepancy, which we have already pointed out. Rousseau's exaggerated tone was an offence to Voltaire's more just and reasonable spirit; and the feigned austerity of a man whose life and manners he knew assumed in his eyes a disagreeable shade of hypocrisy.[36] Besides these things, he was clearly apprehensive of the storms which Rousseau's extraordinary hardihood had the very natural effect of raising in the circles of authority, though it is true that the most acute observers of the time thought that they noticed a very perceptible increase of Voltaire's own hardihood as a consequence of the example which the other set him.

The rivalry between the schools of Rousseau and Voltaire represents the deadlock to which social thought had come; a deadlock of which the catastrophe of the Revolution was both expression and result. At the time of Voltaire's death there was not a single institution in France with force enough to be worth a month's purchase. The monarchy was decrepit; the aristocracy was as feeble and impotent as it was arrogant; the bourgeoisie was not without aspiration, but it lacked courage and it possessed no tradition; and the Church was demoralized, first by the direct attack of Voltaire and the not less powerful indirect attack of the Encyclopædia, and second by the memory of its own cruelty and selfishness in the generation just closing. But Voltaire's theory, so far as he ever put it into its most general form, was that the temporal order was safe and firm, and that it would endure until criticism had transformed thought and prepared the way for a régime of enlightenment and humanity. Rousseau, on the contrary, directed all the engines of passion against the whole temporal fabric, and was so little careful of freedom of thought, so little confident in the plenary efficacy of rational persuasion, as to insist upon the extermination of atheists by law. The position of each was at once irrefragable and impossible. It was impossible to effect a stable reconstitution of the social order until men had been accustomed to use their minds freely, and had gradually thrown off the demoralizing burden of superstition. But then the existing social order had become intolerable, and its forces were practically extinct, and consequently such an attack as Rousseau's was inevitable,[Pg 157] and was at the same time and for the same reasons irresistible. To overthrow the power of the Church only was to do nothing in a society perishing from material decay and political emasculation. Yet to regenerate such a society without the aid of moral and spiritual forces, with whose activity the existence of a dominant ecclesiastical power was absolutely incompatible, was one of the wildest feats that ever passionate sophist attempted.


Two sayings which characterize the two speakers are recorded of this time. The one is that of Louis XV, who with all his odious vices, his laziness, and unkingly seclusion, was not devoid of intelligence. "All this," he said, "will last as long as I shall," and his forecast was justified: the "deluge" came long after he had gone to his account; and the phrase stands against him as an expression of his base selfishness, which saw the coming troubles without caring about them, because he believed that they would not come in his day. The other saying is that of Voltaire, who, in 1762, exclaimed in an ecstasy of hope and prophecy, "Happy the young men, for they shall see many things." And yet those youths were mostly gray-headed when the "many things" began, and not a few of them lost those gray heads, instead of looking on as interested spectators of a new order of things.

The writers of this time, whatever their faults, form the true aristocracy of France: the rest of the nation, sinking lower and lower, left their superiority all the more marked and uncontested. The series of great writers of the age may be said to begin with Montesquieu, though Voltaire had published his Œdipus in 1718, and the Lettres Persanes did not appear till 1721. Montesquieu, a man of noble birth, was brought up as a lawyer. We trace in him accordingly an aristocratic and legal tone of mind, which naturally took pleasure in England and the law-abiding conservatism of her constitution, as it appeared to him in the middle of the eighteenth century. Like so many of his fellows, Montesquieu chafed under the influence of a corrupt clergy, and declared against them, with the philosophers. This was almost the only point he had in common with Voltaire, whom he heartily disliked. We may say that he represents the[Pg 158] aristocratic and constitutional resistance to the state of things in France, while Voltaire is champion of liberty of thought and tolerance. Montesquieu resists the Jesuit influences of his day on conservative grounds alone; Voltaire resists them by resting on the enlightened despotism of his time, and appealing to it, rather than to the laws or constitution of his country. Lastly, at a later day, Rousseau, sworn foe to society, from which he had suffered much, the sentimentalist, enemy of aristocracy and monarchy, instinctively antagonistic to the legal temperament, speaks directly to the people, even as Montesquieu had spoken to the educated and the well-to-do, and Voltaire to kings; and they, stirred to the heart by his appeals, elected him the prophet of their cause, believed in him, and at his bidding subverted the whole fabric of society.

Montesquieu's great work, the Esprit des Lois, which followed his Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness and Fall of the Romans (1734), and appeared in 1748, forms an epoch in French prose style. He and Voltaire are the two parents of modern French prose literature. The Esprit des Lois was far more greedily read in England than in France. Society there had little taste for so solid a work; they vastly preferred the lively sparkle of the Persian Letters; the book was perhaps too clearly influenced by an admiration for the Constitution of England, and by a love for liberty, face to face with the weak arbitrary despotism which was dragging France to a catastrophe.

If Montesquieu is the advocate of political freedom, Voltaire is the champion of tolerance and freedom of conscience; and that, in his day and with his surroundings, meant that he was the deadly foe of the established faith, as he saw it in its acts in France. When we regard this apostle of toleration, and watch his pettinesses and vanity, note him at kings' courts, see him glorifying Louis XIV, that great antagonist of all tolerance, whether religious or political or social, we are inclined to think that the most difficult of all toleration is that of having to endure its champion and to try to do him justice.

Voltaire was no deep thinker: he had amazing cleverness, was very susceptible of the influence of thought, and unrivalled in expression. We shall expect to find him taking color from what was round him, nor shall we be astonished if that color is[Pg 159] dazzling and brilliant. Five successive influences marked his earlier life. First, his education under the Jesuits, which gave him an insight into their system; secondly, his introduction to the irreligious and immoral society of the fashionable abbes of the day, which showed him another side of the official religion of the time; thirdly, the beneficent friendship of the Abbé de Caumartin, who set him thinking about great and ambitious subjects, and led him to write the Henriade, and probably also to begin projecting his Siècle de Louis XIV; fourthly, the enforced leisure of the Bastille, whither he went a second time in 1726 for having resented an insult put on him by a coarse nobleman, one of the Rohans; lastly—thanks to the order for his exile—his sojourn in England after release from the Bastille, and his friendship for the chief writers and thinkers of this country. Hitherto he had been a purely literary man; henceforth he was fired with an ambition to be a philosopher and a liberator. Certainly France was unfortunate in the education she gave this brilliant and wayward child of her genius.

There was hardly a Frenchman of eminence in this period who did not either visit England or learn the English language, many doing both. And one so bright and receptive as Voltaire could not fail to notice many things. He could see how free thought was: he could make a contrast between the respect paid to letters in London, and their degradation under Louis XIV and later; he saw Newton and Locke in places of honor, Prior and Gay acting as ambassadors, Addison as secretary of state; he reached England in time to see the national funeral given to the remains of Newton. Bolingbroke took him in hand; he was astonished to find a learned and literary noblesse; Locke was his true teacher.

He went back to France another man, after three years' absence: above all, he carried with him the then popular English way of thinking as to the supernatural, and became a somewhat cold, common-sense deist, opposed to the atheism of some and the dull bigotry of the established creed in the hands of others. God was to him conscious creator of the world, and only faintly, if at all, its ruler; he recognized the need of a deity as a starting-point for his system, though he did not feel the need of his care and presence in life; not God our Father, only God our Creator.[Pg 160]

He brought over with him a great ripening of humane feelings: this is his noblest quality and parent of his best acts. When we see him as a champion of oppressed Huguenots, combating wrong and ill-doing with all the vehemence of his fiery soul, we find a common ground, which is lost sight of as we contemplate his equally hot attacks on Christianity, or his dwelling in kings' courts, or his panegyrics on great sovereigns who had so fiercely crushed down that liberty of thought of which he was the life-long defender.

In his Œdipus he had assaulted priestcraft with not undeserved severity; we must always remember what he saw around him. In his Henriade (1725), perhaps almost unintentionally, he had glorified Henry IV at the expense of the Great Monarch. After his stay in England we have his Brutus (1730), an attack on kingcraft, and his Zaïre (1732), a Parisian Othello, both based on Shakespeare. From this time onward he plunges into a supple and dexterous, if sometimes rather disingenuous, strife with a superior power. Throughout, the poet and man of taste struggles against the philosophic freethinker: he loves the surface impressions, perhaps the reflective illusions; "his sentiments are worth more than his ideas." The English Letters of 1735, written some years before, and now issued with much hesitation, created a great storm: they boldly attacked the royal power, the clergy, the faith; they were burned by the hangman; and Voltaire had to go into voluntary exile for a while. There his literary activity was unwearied: many of his works were written, or at least sketched, during the next five years. Strange problem of the human mind. While he here composed his Mahomet and other serious works, he also wrote his scandalous Pucelle; as if he could not rest without destroying all nobility of sentiment and faith in heroism. While Jeanne d'Arc is the helpless victim of his shameless attack, he is also busy with his Siècle de Louis XIV, a hero apparently more to his taste than the great Maid of Orléans.

The influence of Voltaire on opinion grew slowly but steadily through these years: no one more sedulously undermined the established faiths. It was in these years that he enjoyed a passing favor at the French court, whence his febrile energy, his roughnesses, his want of the true gloss of courtiership, soon lost[Pg 161] him the good-will of his old friend Madame de Pompadour. He then tried Berlin, finding it equally untenable ground; eventually he withdrew to Ferney in the territory of Geneva, whence he kept up incessant war against all the injustices which touched his heart. His defence of Calas, of Servin, of the luckless Lally, all date from this time. In these days he animated the Encyclopædists with his spirit, encouraging them in their gigantic undertaking, the "Carroccio of the battle of the eighteenth century." It was a huge dictionary of human knowledge, written in direct antagonism to all belief in spiritual powers or religion. It sold incredibly, and the effect of it on society was immense. This great edifice, "built half of marble, half of mud," as Voltaire himself said, had as its chief architects Diderot and D'Alembert. Nothing contributed more to undermine the foundations on which all institutions, and not least royalty, were built.

A little later than Voltaire came Rousseau, "the valet who did not become a cardinal." His influences are also later, and touched society far more widely. Voltaire had spoken to society; Rousseau spoke to the heart of the people. He was above all things a sentimentalist, this son of a Genevan clockmaker. Society treated him harshly; and he avenged himself by making fierce war on society. The savage state is the best—society being revolting in its falseness and shallow varnish: all men are naturally equal and free; society is nothing but an artificial contract, an arrangement by which, in the end, the strong domineer over the weak; the state of nature is divine: there is a Garden of Eden for those who will cast society behind them. Sciences and arts, civilization and literature, Encyclopædists included, are hateful as corrupters of mankind; all progress has been backward, if one may venture to say so—downward, certainly. Rousseau embroidered these paradoxes with a thousand sweet sentiments: he shut his eyes to history, to facts, to the real savage, the very disagreeable "primitive man," as he may yet sometimes be seen. "Follow nature" was his one great precept: then you will scourge away the false and conventional, and life will grow pure and simple; there will be no rank, no cunning law devised to keep men from their rights, no struggle for life, no competition. All France panted and groaned to emulate the "noble savage"—with what success, we know.[Pg 162]

These were the chief literary luminaries of this time: and they all helped to pull down the fabric of the old society. That society, however, little understood the tendency of things; to a large extent it became the fashion to be philosophic, to be free-minded, to attack religion: with pride in their rank, and cold scorn for their humbler brethren, and high-bred contempt for their clergy, and ruinous vices sometimes made amusing by their brightness and their vivacious vanity, the French upper classes thought it great sport to pull merrily at the old walls of their country's institutions, never dreaming that they could be so ill-ordered as to fall down and crush them in their ruin.[Pg 163]


[31] Vauban and Boisguillebert are both to be found in Les Economiste Financiers du XVIIIième Siècle, published by Guillaumin, 1851.

[32] Confessions, pt. i. liv. v. Date of 1736.

[33] Œuvres, lxxv. 182.

[34] Corr. 1762. Œuvres, lxxv. 188.

[35] Œuvres, lxvii. 432.

[36] Condorcet, 170.


A.D. 1755


The repeated wars between France and England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had involved also their colonies in America and India. In America the Indians had been employed as allies upon both sides, and thus encouraged in their hideous deeds of massacre and torture. Hence there had grown an ever-increasing bitterness between the French in Canada and the English colonists along the Atlantic coasts, and this finally led to the momentous French and Indian war, which, contrary to the course of the earlier contests, originated in America and spread thence to Europe.

Its immediate cause was the disputed possession of the interior of the continent, the Mississippi and Ohio valleys. These had been first explored by the French, and when English pioneers began to penetrate thither the French built a chain of forts to resist them. An expedition of Virginians under the command of their youthful leader, Major George Washington, had a sharp encounter with the enemy in 1754; and then the English government determined to assert its authority by an overwhelming force. No war was declared against France, nor even against Canada; but a distinguished English general, Braddock, was sent over with three thousand regular troops to seize the French forts in the Ohio Valley, especially Fort Duquesne, on the site of the modern city of Pittsburg.

Braddock's expedition thus started the war which ended in the expulsion of France from the North American continent. It did more than that: it sowed the seeds of lasting dissension between the American colonial troops and the British regulars. The British despised their uninformed allies, and the latter soon learned in their turn to despise the regulars.

The English general liked the young Virginian major, Washington, and invited him, as one who knew the ground, to accompany the projected expedition and give advice—which Braddock never took. Its caution seemed to him to savor too much of cowardice, and he persisted in marching through the wilderness toward Fort Duquesne as though his forces had been upon parade, with drums beating and colors flying. The French were very near to being frightened into flight, but determined on [Pg 164]making one effort at resistance. Its results are here told by the standard Pennsylvania historian, Sargent, and also in briefer form by Washington himself in a letter to the Virginian Governor, and by the French commander of Fort Duquesne in his official report.


With a commendable discretion—the utmost, perhaps, that he was capable of—Braddock had concluded his arrangements for passing what he regarded as the only perilous place between his army and the fort, which he designed to reach early on the 10th. Had the proposition, started and abandoned by St. Clair, to push forward that very night a strong detachment to invest it before morning, been actually made to him, it is very probable he would have discountenanced it. As in all human likelihood it would have been crowned with success, it is as well for the general's reputation that the suggestion aborted.

What precautionary steps his education and capacity could suggest were here taken by Braddock. Before three o'clock on the morning of the 9th Gage was sent forth with a chosen band to secure both crossings of the river, and to hold the farther shore of the second ford till the rest of the army should come up. At four, St. Clair, with a working party, followed to make the roads. At 6 A.M. the general set out, and, having advantageously posted about four hundred men upon the adjacent heights, made, with all the wagons and baggage, the first crossing of the Monongahela. Marching thence in order of battle toward the second ford, he received intelligence that Gage had occupied the shore, according to orders, and that the route was clear. The only enemy he had seen was a score of savages, who fled without awaiting his approach. By eleven o'clock the army reached the second ford; but it was not until after one that the declivities of the banks were made ready for the artillery and wagons, when the whole array, by a little before two o'clock, was safely passed over. Not doubting that from some point on the stream the enemy's scouts were observing his operations, Braddock was resolved to strongly impress them with the numbers and condition of his forces; and accordingly the troops were ordered to appear as for a dress-parade. In after-life Washington was accustomed to observe that he had never seen elsewhere so beautiful a sight as was exhibited during this passage of the Mononga[Pg 165]hela. Every man was attired in his best uniform; the burnished arms shone bright as silver in the glistening rays of the noonday sun, as, with colors waving proudly above their heads, and amid inspiring bursts of martial music, the steady files, with disciplined precision, and glittering in scarlet and gold, advanced to their position. While the rear was yet on the other side, and the van was falling into its ordained course, the bulk of the army was drawn up in battle array on the western shore, hard by the spot where one Frazier, a German blacksmith in the interest of the English, had lately had his home. Two or three hundred yards above the spot where it now stood was the mouth of Turtle Creek—the "Tulpewi Sipu" of the Lenape—which, flowing in a southwestwardly course to the Monongahela, that here has a northwestward direction, embraces, in an obtuse angle of about one hundred twenty-five degrees, the very spot where the brunt of the battle was to be borne.

The scene is familiar to tourists, being, as the crow flies, but eight miles from Pittsburg, and scarce twelve by the course of the river. For three-quarters of a mile below the entrance of the creek the Monongahela was unusually shallow, forming a gentle rapid or "ripple," and easily fordable at almost any point. Its common level is from three to four hundred feet below that of the surrounding country; and along its upper banks, at the second crossing, stretches a fertile bottom of a rich pebbled mould, about a fourth of a mile in width and twenty feet above low-water mark. At this time it was covered by a fair, open walnut-wood, uncumbered with bush or undergrowth.

The ascent from the river, however, is rarely abrupt; but by a succession of gentle alluvial slopes or bottoms the steep hillsides are approached, as though the waters had gradually subsided from their original glory to a narrow bed at the very bottom of the ancient channel. At this particular place the rise of the first bottom does not exceed an angle of three degrees. Above it again rises a second bottom of the same width and about fifty feet higher than the first, and gradually ascending until its farther edge rests upon the bold, rocky face of the mountain line, climbing at once some two hundred feet to the usual level of the region around. A firm clay, overlaid with mould, forms the soil of the second bottom, which was heavily and more densely tim[Pg 166]bered than the first; and the underwood began to appear more plentifully where the ground was less exposed to the action of the spring floods. In the bosom of the hill several springs unite their sources to give birth to a petty rivulet that hurries down the steep to be lost in the river. Its cradle lies in the bed of a broad ravine, forty or fifty feet deep, that rises in the hill-side, and, crossing the whole of the second bottom, debouches on the first, where the waters whose current it so far guides, trickle oozily down through a swampy bed. Great trees grew within and along this chasm, and the usual smaller growth peculiar to such a situation; and a prodigious copse of wild grape-vines, not yet entirely gone, shrouded its termination upon the first bottom and shadowed the birth of the infant brook.

About two hundred yards from the line of hills, and three hundred south of the ravine just described, commences another of a more singular nature; with its steep sides, almost exactly perpendicular, it perfectly resembles a ditch cut for purposes of defence. Rising near the middle of the second bottom, it runs westwardly to the upper edge of the first, with a depth at its head of four or five feet, increasing as it descends, and a width of eight or ten. A century ago its channel was overhung and completely concealed by a luxurious thicket of pea-vines and trailers, of bramble-bushes and the Indian plum; its edges closely fringed with the thin, tall wood-grass of summer. But even now, when the forests are gone and the plough long since passed over the scene, the ravine cannot be at all perceived until one is directly upon it; and hence arose the chief disasters of the day. Parallel with and about one hundred fifty yards north of this second gulley ran a third; a dry, open hollow, and rather thinly wooded; but which afforded a happy protection to the enemy from the English fire. Either of these ravines would have sheltered an army; the second—the most important, though not the largest—would of itself afford concealment to a thousand men.

There is little reason to doubt that as Braddock drew near, M. de Contrecœur was almost decided to abandon his position without striking a blow, and, withdrawing his men, as did his successor, in 1758, leave to the English a bloodless victory. He certainly was prepared to surrender on terms of honorable capit[Pg 167]ulation. A solitary gun was mounted upon a carriage to enable the garrison to evacuate with the honors of war; it being a point of nice feeling with a defeated soldier that he should retire with drums beating a national march, his own colors flying, and a cannon loaded, with a lighted match. This deprives the proceeding of a compulsory air; and to procure this gratification, Contrecœur made his arrangements. The British army was so overwhelming in strength, so well appointed and disciplined, that he perhaps deemed any opposition to its advance would be not less fruitless than the defence of the works. However this may be, he had as yet on July 7th announced no definite conclusion, though possibly his views were perceptible enough to his subordinates. On that day it was known that the enemy, whose numbers were greatly magnified, were at the head-waters of Turtle Creek. On the 8th, where his route was changed, M. de Beaujeu, a captain in the regulars, proposed to the commander that he might be permitted to go forth with a suitable band to prepare an ambuscade for the English on the banks of the Monongahela, and to dispute with them the passage of the second ford. If we may believe tradition, it was with undisguised reluctance that Contrecœur complied with this request, and even then, it is said, refused to assign troops for the enterprise, bidding him call for volunteers as for a forlorn hope. To that summons the whole garrison responded.

If this tale be true, Contrecœur recanted his determination, and wisely preferred making him a regular detachment, conditioned on his success in obtaining the union of the Indians, who, to the number of nearly a thousand warriors, were gathered at the place. Accordingly, the savages were at once called to a council. These people, consisting of bands assembled from a dozen different nations, listened with unsuppressed discontent to the overtures of the Frenchman. Seated under the palisades that environed the fort, or standing in knots about the speaker, were gathered a motley but a ferocious crew. Alienated from their ancient friends, here were Delawares from the Susquehanna eager to speed the fatal stroke, and Shawanoes from Grave Creek and the Muskingum; scattered warriors of the Six Nations; Ojibwas, Pottawottomis from the far Michigan; Abenakis and Caughnawagas from Canada; Ottawas from Lake[Pg 168] Superior, led on by the royal Pontiac; and Hurons from the falls of Montreal and the mission of Lorette, whose barbarous leader gloried in a name torn from the most famous pages of Christian story.

To these reluctant auditors Beaujeu stated his designs. "How, my father," said they in reply, "are you so bent upon death that you would also sacrifice us? With our eight hundred men do you ask us to attack four thousand English? Truly, this is not the saying of a wise man. But we will lay up what we have heard, and to-morrow you shall know our thoughts." On the morning of July 9th the conference was repeated, and the Indians announced their intention of refusing to join in the expedition. At this moment a runner—probably one of those dislodged by Gage in the early dawn—burst in upon the assembly and heralded the advent of the foe. Well versed in the peculiar characteristics of the savages, by whom he was much beloved, and full of tact and energy, Beaujeu took ready advantage of the excitement which these tidings occasioned. "I," said he, "am determined to go out against the enemy. I am certain of victory. What! will you suffer your father to depart alone?" Fired by his language and the reproach it conveyed, they at once resolved by acclamation to follow him to the fray.

In a moment the scene was alive with frantic enthusiasm. Barrels of bullets and flints and casks of powder were hastily rolled to the gates: their heads were knocked out, and every warrior left to supply himself at his own discretion. Then, painted for war and armed for the combat, the party moved rapidly away, in numbers nearly nine hundred strong, of whom six hundred thirty-seven were Indians, one hundred forty-six Canadians, and seventy-two regular troops. Subordinate to Beaujeu were MM. Dumas and De Ligneris, both captains in the regular army, four lieutenants, six ensigns, and twenty cadets. Though his numbers were thus not so greatly inferior to Braddock's, it is not likely that Beaujeu calculated on doing more than giving the English a severe check and perhaps delaying for a few days their advance. It is impossible that he should have contemplated the complete victory that was before him.

On the evening of July 8th the ground had been carefully reconnoitred and the proper place for the action selected. The[Pg 169] intention was to dispute as long as possible the passage of the second ford, and then to fall back upon the ravines. But long ere they reached the scene the swell of the military music, the crash of falling trees apprised them that the foe had already crossed the river, and that his pioneers were advanced into the woodlands. Quickening their pace into a run, they managed to reach the broken ground just as the van of the English came in sight. Braddock had turned from the first bottom to the second, and mounting to its brow was about to pass around the head of the ravines to avoid the little morass caused by the water-course before described. His route did not lie parallel with the most dangerous defile, where the banks are so steep and the cover so perfect, but passed its head at an angle of about forty-five degrees; thus completely exposing his face and flanks from a point on the second bottom, at a hundred yards distance, to another within thirty, where he would turn the ravine. Of course the farther he advanced the nearer he would approach to its brink, till the whole should finally be left behind; thus opening a line of two hundred yards long, at an average distance of sixty, to the enemy's fire. Had he possessed the least knowledge of these defiles, he would undoubtedly have secured them in season, since nothing would have been easier than their occupation by Gage's advanced party. But not a man in his army had ever dreamed of their existence.

The arrangement of the march from the river's bank had been made as follows: The engineers and guides and six light-horsemen proceeded immediately before the advanced detachment under Gage, and the working-party under St. Clair, who had with them two brass six-pounders and as many tumbrils or tool-carts. On either flank, parties to the number of eight were thrown out to guard against surprises. At some distance behind Gage followed the line, preceded by the light horse, four squads of whom also acted as extreme flankers at either end of the column. Next came the seamen, followed by a subaltern with twenty grenadiers, a twelve-pounder and a company of grenadiers. Then the vanguard succeeded, and the wagon and artillery train, which began and ended with a twelve-pounder: and the rear-guard closed the whole. Numerous flanking-parties, however, protected each other; and six subalterns, each with twenty[Pg 170] grenadiers, and ten sergeants, with ten men each, were detached for this purpose.

The greater part of Gage's command was actually advanced beyond the spot where the main battle was fought, and was just surmounting the second bottom, when Mr. Gordon, one of the engineers who were in front marking out the road, perceived the enemy bounding forward. Before them, with long leaps, came Beaujeu, the gayly colored fringes of his hunting-shirt and the silver gorget on his bosom at once bespeaking the chief. Comprehending in a glance the position he had attained, he suddenly halted and waved his hat above his head. At this preconcerted signal the savages dispersed to the right and left, throwing themselves flat upon the ground, and gliding behind rocks or trees or into the ravines. Had the earth yawned beneath their feet and reclosed above their heads, they could not have more instantaneously vanished. The French—some of whom, according to Garneau, were mounted—held the centre of the semicircular disposition so instantly assumed; and a tremendous fire was at once opened on the English. For a moment Gage's troops paused aghast at the furious yells and strangeness of the onset. Rallying immediately, he returned their fire, and halted a moment till St. Clair's working-party came up; when he bade his men advance at once upon the centre of the concentric line. As he drew near he was again greeted with a staggering discharge, and again his ranks were shaken. Then in return, they opened a fire of grape and musketry so tremendous as to sweep down every unsheltered foe who was upon his feet, and to utterly fright the savages from their propriety. Beaujeu and a dozen more fell dead upon the spot, and the Indians already began to fly, their courage being unable to endure the unwonted tumult of such a portentous detonation.

But reanimated by the clamorous exhortations of Dumas and De Ligneris, and observing that the regulars and militia still preserved a firm front, they returned once more to their posts and resumed the combat. For a time the issue seemed doubtful, and the loud cries of "Vive le Roi!" of the French were met by the charging cheers of the English. But precision of aim soon began to prevail over mere mechanical discipline. In vain the Forty-fourth continued their fire; in vain their officers, with waving[Pg 171] swords, led them to the charge; hidden beneath great trees or concealed below the level of the earth, the muzzles of their pieces resting on the brink of the ravine, and shooting with a secure and steady aim, the majority of the enemy rested secure and invisible to their gallant foemen.

In the mean time Braddock, whose extreme rear had not yet left the river's bank, hearing the uproar in advance, ordered Burton to press forward with the vanguard, and the rest of the line to halt; thus leaving Halket with four hundred men to protect the baggage while eight hundred engaged the enemy. But just as Burton, under a galling fire, was forming his troops upon the ground, Gage's party gave way and precipitately endeavored to fall into his rear; confusing men who were confused before. The manœuvre was unsuccessfully executed, and the two regiments became inextricably commingled. Vainly Braddock strove to separate the soldiers, huddling together like frightened sheep. Vainly the regimental colors were advanced on opposite directions as rallying-points.

"Ut conspicuum in prœlio
Haberent signum quod sequerentur milites.

The officers sought to collect their men together and lead them on in platoons. Nothing could avail. On every hand the officers, distinguished by their horses and their uniforms, were the constant mark of hostile rifles; and it was soon as impossible to find men to give orders as it was to have them obeyed. In a narrow road twelve feet wide, shut up on either side and overpent by the primeval forest, were crowded together the panic-stricken wretches, hastily loading and reloading, and blindly discharging their guns in the air, as though they suspected their mysterious murderers were sheltered in the boughs above their heads; while all around, removed from sight, but making day hideous with their war-whoops and savage cries, lay ensconced a host insatiate for blood.

Foaming with rage and indignation, Braddock flew from rank to rank, with his own hands endeavoring to force his men into position. Four horses were shot under him, but mounting a fifth he still strained every nerve to retrieve the ebbing fortunes of the day. His subordinates gallantly seconded his endeavors,[Pg 172] throwing themselves from the saddle and advancing by platoons, in the idle hope that their men would follow; but only to rush upon their fate. The regular soldiery, deprived of their immediate commanders and terrified at the incessant fall of their comrades, could not be brought to the charge, while the provincials, better skilled, sought in vain to cover themselves and to meet the foe upon equal terms; for to the urgent entreaties of Washington and Sir Peter Halket, that the men might be permitted to leave the ranks and shelter themselves, the general turned a deaf ear. Wherever he saw a man skulking behind a tree, he flew at once to the spot and, with curses on his cowardice and blows with the flat of his sword, drove him back into the open road.

Wherever the distracted artillerymen saw a smoke arise, thither did they direct their aim; and many of the flankers who had succeeded in obtaining the only position where they could be of any service, were thus shot down. Athwart the brow of the hill lay a large log, five feet in diameter, which Captain Waggoner, of the Virginia Levies, resolved to take possession of. With shouldered firelocks he marched a party of eighty men to the spot, losing but three on the way; and at once throwing themselves behind it, the remainder opened a hot fire upon the enemy. But no sooner were the flash and the report of their pieces perceived by the mob behind, than a general discharge was poured upon the little band, by which fifty were slain outright and the rest constrained to fly.

By this time the afternoon was well advanced and the whole English line surrounded. The ammunition began to fail and the artillery to flag; the baggage was warmly attacked; and a runner was despatched to the fort with the tidings that by set of sun not an Englishman would be left alive upon the ground. Still, gathering counsel from despair, Braddock disdained to yield; still, strong in this point only of their discipline, his soldiers died by his side, palsied with fear, yet without one thought of craven flight. At last, when every aide but Washington was struck down; when the lives of the vast majority of the officers had been sacrificed with a reckless intrepidity, a sublime self-devotion, that surpasses the power of language to express; when scarce a third part of the whole army remained unscathed, and these incapable [Pg 173]of aught save remaining to die or till the word to retire was given—at last, Braddock abandoned all hope of victory, and, with a mien undaunted as in his proudest hour, ordered the drums to sound a retreat. The instant their faces were turned, the poor regulars lost every trace of the sustaining power of custom; and the retreat became a headlong flight. "Despite of all the efforts of the officers to the contrary, they ran," says Washington, "as sheep pursued by dogs, and it was impossible to rally them."

Beneath a large tree standing between the heads of the northernmost ravines, and while in the act of giving an order, Braddock received a mortal wound; the ball passing through his right arm into the lungs. Falling from his horse, he lay helpless on the ground, surrounded by the dead, abandoned by the living. Not one of his transatlantic soldiery "who had served with the Duke" could be prevailed upon to stay his headlong flight and aid to bear his general from the field. Orme thought to tempt them with a purse containing sixty guineas; but in such a moment even gold could not prevail upon a vulgar soul, and they rushed unheeding on. Disgusted at such pusillanimity, and his heart big with despair, Braddock refused to be removed, and bade the faithful friends who lingered by his side to provide for their own safety. He declared his resolution of leaving his own body on the field; the scene that had witnessed his dishonor he desired should bury his shame. With manly affection, Orme disregarded his injunctions; and Captain Stewart, of Virginia, the commander of the light-horse which were attached to the general's person, with another American officer, hastening to Orme's relief, his body was placed first in a tumbrel, and afterward upon a fresh horse, and thus borne away. Stewart seems to have cherished a sense of duty or of friendship toward his chief that did not permit him to desert him for a moment while life remained.

It was about five o'clock in the afternoon when the English abandoned the field. Pursued to the water's edge by about fifty savages the regular troops cast from them guns, accoutrements, and even clothing, that they might run the faster. Many were overtaken and tomahawked here; but where they had once crossed the river, they were not followed. Soon turning from the chase, the glutted warriors made haste to their unhallowed[Pg 174] and unparalleled harvest of scalps and plunder. The provincials, better acquainted with Indian warfare, were less disconcerted; and though their losses were as heavy, their behavior was more composed. In full possession of his courage and military instincts, Braddock still essayed to procure an orderly and soldier-like retreat; but the demoralization of the army now rendered this impossible. With infinite difficulty, a hundred men, after running about half a mile, were persuaded to stop at a favorable spot where Braddock proposed to remain until Dunbar should arrive, to whose camp Washington was sent with suitable orders. It will thus be seen how far was his indomitable soul from succumbing in the discharge of his duties, beneath the unexpected burthen that had been laid upon him. By his directions Burton posted sentries here, and endeavored to form a nucleus around which to gather the shattered remains of the troops, and where the wounded might be provided for.

But all was idle. In an hour's time almost every soldier had stolen away, leaving their officers deserted. These, making the best of their way off, were joined beyond the other ford by Gage, who had rallied some eighty men; and this was all that remained of that gallant army which scarce six hours before was by friend and foe alike deemed invincible. With little interruption the march was continued through that night and the ensuing day, till at 10 P.M. on July 10th they came to Gist's plantation; where early on the 11th some wagons and hospital stores arrived from Dunbar for their relief. Despite the intensity of his agonies, Braddock still persisted in the exercise of his authority and the fulfilment of his duties. From Gist's he detailed a party to return toward the Monongahela with a supply of provisions to be left on the road for the benefit of stragglers yet behind, and Dunbar was commanded to send to him the only two remaining old companies of the Forty-fourth and Forty-eighth, with more wagons to bring off the wounded; and on Friday, July 11th, he arrived at Dunbar's camp. Through this and all the preceding day men half famished, without arms and bewildered with terror, had been joining Dunbar; his camp was in the utmost confusion, and his soldiers were deserting without ceremony.

Braddock's strength was now fast ebbing away. Informed[Pg 175] of the disorganized condition of the remaining troops, he abandoned all hope of a prosperous termination to the expedition. He saw that not only death, but utter defeat, was inevitable. But conscious of the odium the latter event would excite, he nobly resolved that the sole responsibility of the measure should rest with himself, and consulted with no one upon the steps he pursued. He merely issued his orders, and insisted that they were obeyed. Thus, after destroying the stores to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy—of whose pursuit he did not doubt—the march was to be resumed on Saturday, July 12th, toward Will's Creek. Ill-judged as these orders were, they met with but too ready acquiescence at the hands of Dunbar, whose advice was neither asked nor tendered on the occasion. Thus the great mass of those stores which had been so painfully brought thither were destroyed. Of the artillery but two six-pounders were preserved; the cohorns were broken or buried, and the shells bursted. One hundred fifty wagons were burned; the powder-casks were staved in, and their contents, to the amount of fifty thousand pounds, cast into a spring; and the provisions were scattered abroad upon the ground or thrown into the water. Nothing was saved beyond the actual necessities for a flying march; and when a party of the enemy some time afterward visited the scene, they completed the work of destruction. For this service—the only instance of alacrity that he displayed in the campaign—Dunbar must not be forgiven. It is not perfectly clear that Braddock intelligently ever gave the orders; but in any case they were not fit for a British officer to give or to obey. Dunbar's duty was to have maintained here his position, or at the least not to have contemplated falling back beyond Will's Creek. That he had not horses to remove his stores was, however, his after-excuse.

It was not until Sunday, July 13th, that all this was finished; and the army with its dying general proceeded to the Great Meadows, where the close was to transpire:

"Last scene of all,
That ends this strange, eventful history."

Ever since the retreat commenced Braddock had preserved a steadfast silence, unbroken save when he issued the necessary[Pg 176] commands. That his wound was mortal he knew; but he also knew that his fame had received a not less fatal stab; that his military reputation, dearer than his own life to a veteran or those of a thousand others, was gone forever. These reflections embittered his dying hours; nor were there any means at hand of diverting the current of his thoughts or ministering to the comfort of his body; even the chaplain of the army was among the wounded. He pronounced the warmest eulogiums upon the conduct of his officers—who, indeed, had merited all he could say of them—and seems to have entertained some compunctions at not having more scrupulously followed the advice of Washington, or perhaps at the loss of power to provide for that young soldier's interests as thoroughly as he would have done had he returned victorious.

At all events, we find him singling out his Virginia aide as his nuncupative legatee, bequeathing to him his favorite charger and his body-servant Bishop, so well known in after-years as the faithful attendant of the patriot chief. The only allusion he made to the fate of the battle was to softly repeat once or twice to himself, "Who would have thought it?" Turning to Orme, "We shall better know how to deal with them another time," were his parting words. A few moments later and he breathed his last. Thus at about eight on the night of Sunday, July 13th, honorably died a brave old soldier, who, if wanting in temper and discretion, was certainly, according to the standard of the school in which he had been educated, an accomplished officer; and whose courage and honesty are not to be discussed. The uttermost penalty that humanity could exact he paid for his errors; and if his misfortune brought death and woe upon his country, it was through no shrinking on his part from what he conceived to be his duty. He shared the lot of the humblest man who fell by his side.

So terminated the bloody battle of the Monongahela; a scene of carnage which has been truly described as unexampled in the annals of modern warfare. Of the 1460 souls, officers and privates, who went into the combat, 456 were slain outright and 421 were wounded; making a total of 877 men. Of 89 commissioned officers, 63 were killed or wounded; not a solitary field-officer escaping unhurt.[Pg 177]


"Fort Cumberland, 18 July, 1755.

"To Governor Dinwiddie:

"Honbl. Sir—As I am favored with an opportunity, I should think myself inexcusable was I to omit giving you some account of our late Engagement with the French on the Monongahela, the 9th instant.

"We continued our march from Fort Cumberland to Frazier's (which is within 7 miles of Duquesne) without meeting any extraordinary event, having only a straggler or two picked up by the French Indians. When we came to this place, we were attacked (very unexpectedly) by about three hundred French and Indians. Our numbers consisted of about thirteen hundred well-armed men, chiefly Regulars, who were immediately struck with such an inconceivable panick that nothing but confusion and disobedience of orders prevailed among them. The officers, in general, behaved with incomparable bravery, for which they greatly suffered, there being near sixty killed and wounded—a large proportion, out of the number we had!

"The Virginia companies behaved like men and died like soldiers; for I believe out of three companies that were on the ground that day scarce thirty were left alive. Capt. Peyroney and all his officers, down to a corporal, were killed; Captn. Polson had almost as hard a fate, for only one of his escaped. In short, the dastardly behavior of the Regular troops (so called)[Pg 178][37] exposed those who were inclined to do their duty to almost certain death, and, at length, in despite of every effort to the contrary, broke and ran as sheep before hounds, leaving the artillery, ammunition, provisions, baggage, and, in short, everything a prey to the enemy. And when we endeavored to rally them, in hopes of regaining the ground and what we had left upon it, it was with as little success as if we had attempted to have stopped the wild bears of the mountains or rivulets with our feet; for they would break by, in despite of every effort that could be made to prevent it.

"The General was wounded in the shoulder and breast, of which he died three days after; his two aids-de-camp were both wounded, but are in a fair way of recovery; Colo. Burton and Sr. John St. Clair are also wounded and I hope will get over it; Sir Peter Halket, with many other brave officers, were killed in the field. It is supposed that we had three hundred or more killed; about that number we brought off wounded, and it is conjectured (I believe with much truth) that two-thirds of both received their shot from our own cowardly Regulars, who gathered themselves into a body, contrary to orders, ten or twelve deep, would then level, fire and shoot down the men before them.

"I tremble at the consequences that this defeat may have upon our back settlers, who, I suppose, will all leave their habitations unless there are proper measures taken for their security.

"Colo. Dunbar, who commands at present, intends, as soon as his men are recruited at this place, to continue his march to Philadelphia for winter quarters,[38] consequently there will be no men left here, unless it is the shattered remains of the Virginia troops, who are totally inadequate to the protection of the frontiers."

[Pg 179]


Monsieur de Contrecœur, captain of infantry commanding at Fort Duquesne, having been informed that the English would march out from Virginia to come to attack him, was warned a little time afterward that they were on the road. He put spies through the country who would inform him faithfully of their route. The 7th of this month (July) he was warned that the army, composed of 3,000 men of the regular English forces were only six leagues from his fort. The commander employed the next day in making his arrangements, and on the 9th of the month he sent Monsieur de Beaujeu against the enemy and gave him for second in command Monsieurs Dumas and de Lignery, all three of them being captains, with four lieutenants, six ensigns, 20 cadets, 100 soldiers, 100 Canadians, and 600 savages, with orders to hide themselves in a favorable place that had previously been reconnoitred. The detachment found itself in the presence of the enemy at three leagues from the fort before being able to gain its appointed post. Monsieur de Beaujeu seeing that his ambuscade had failed, began a direct attack. He did this with so much energy that the enemy, who awaited us in the best order in the world, seemed astounded at the assault. Their artillery, however, promptly commenced to fire and our forces were confused in their turn. The savages also, frightened by the noise of the cannon rather than their execution, commenced to lose ground. Monsieur de Beaujeu was killed, and Monsieur Dumas rallied our forces. He ordered his officers to lead the savages and spread out on both wings, so as to take the enemy in flank. At the same time he, Monsieur de Lignery, and the other officers who were at the head of the French attacked in front. This order was executed so promptly that the enemy, who were already raising cries of victory, were no longer able even to defend themselves. The combat wavered from one side to the other and success was long doubtful, but at length the enemy fled.

They struggled unavailingly to keep some order in their retreat. The cries of the savages with which the woods echoed, carried fear into the hearts of the foe. The rout was complete. The field of battle remained in our possession, with six large cannons and a dozen smaller ones, four bombs, eleven mortars, all[Pg 180] their munitions of war and almost all their baggage. Some deserters who have since come to us tell us that we fought against two thousand men, the rest of the army being four leagues farther back. These same deserters tell us that our enemies have retired to Virginia. The spies that we have sent out report that the thousand men who had no part in the battle, also took fright and abandoned their arms and provisions along the road. On this news we sent out a detachment which destroyed or burned all that remained by the roadside. The enemies have lost more than a thousand men on the field of battle; they have lost a great part of their artillery and provisions, also their general, named Monsieur Braddock, and almost all their officers. We had three officers killed and two wounded, two cadets wounded. This remarkable success, which scarcely seemed possible in view of the inequality of the forces, is the fruit of the experience of Monsieur Dumas and of the activity and valor of the officers that he had under his orders.[Pg 181]


[37] The regulars laid the responsibility of defeat on the provincials, alleging "that they were harassed by duties unequal to their numbers, and dispirited through want of provisions; that time was not allowed them to dress their food; that their water (the only liquor, too, they had) was both scarce and of a bad quality; in fine, that the provincials had disheartened them by repeated suggestions of their fears of a defeat should they be attacked by Indians, in which case the European method of fighting would be entirely unavailing."—Review of the Military Operations in North America from 1753 to 1756. The Gentleman's Magazine asserted these same forces—Irish, Scotch, and English—ran away "shamefully" at Prestonpans. The news of Braddock's defeat "struck a general damp on the spirits of the soldiers" in Shirley's and Pepperell's regiments, and many deserted.

"I must leave a proper number in each county to protect it from the combinations of the Negro slaves, who have been very audacious on the defeat on the Ohio. These poor creatures imagine the French will give them their freedom."—Dinwiddie to Earl of Halifax, 23 July, 1755.

[38] "Fearful of an unpursuing foe, all the ammunition, and so much of the provisions were destroyed for accelerating their flight, that Dunbar was actually obliged to send for thirty horse-loads of the latter before he reached Fort Cumberland, where he arrived a very few days after, with the shattered remains of the English troops."—Review of the Military Operations in North America. Dinwiddie wished Dunbar to remain and make a new attempt on Duquesne; but a council of officers unanimously decided the scheme was impracticable, and on the next day (August 2d) began his march toward Philadelphia.


A.D. 1755


The deportation and dispersion of the French Neutrals from their Acadian homes at Grandpré, on the peninsula that projects into Minas Basin, Nova Scotia, was one of the most pitiful incidents in the French and Indian war, known as the American phase of the Seven Years' War. The region is familiar to Americans, through the epic of the poet Longfellow, as the Land of Evangeline. The district around Minas Basin was settled in the early years of the seventeenth century by immigrants from La Rochelle, Saintonge, and Poitou. During the wars between France and England the Acadians, as a Nova Scotian historian relates, "were strongly patriotic, and took up arms in the cause of their native land. Intensely devoted to the Roman Catholic Church, and considering these wars as in the nature of crusades, they fought valiantly and well. But when Nova Scotia was finally ceded to Great Britain (in 1713) their position became very awkward and painful. Many of them refused to take the oath of allegiance, and for others a modified formula was framed. Emissaries of the French power at Louisburg and Quebec circulated among them and maintained their loyalty to France at a fever heat, while their priests pursued the same policy and kept up the hostility to the conquerors.

The British provincial government was located at Annapolis, and though its laws were mild and clement, it could not command respect on account of its physical weakness. Under these circumstances hundreds of Acadians joined the French armies during every war between the two powers, and proved dangerous foemen on account of their knowledge of the region. British settlers were unwilling to locate among these people on account of their racial hostility, and the fairest lands of the province were thus held by an alien and hostile population.

The expulsion and exile of the French Neutrals from their homes in Acadia—the region now included in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick—are one of the saddest episodes in history. The occasion for their removal and dispersion was the alleged charge that they secretly took sides with their French compatriots against the English in every struggle on[Pg 182] this continent between the two nations, each seeking supreme dominion in the New World, and were thus a constant menace to the English colonists on the seaboard. The trouble at this period was complicated by disputed boundary lines, the whole interior of the continent being claimed by France, while the English were shut in between the mountain ranges of the Alleghanies and the sea. But the English colonies would not be hemmed in either by nature or by France. Their hardy sons sought adventure and gain in the Far West, while not a few for this purpose pushed their way to the St. Lawrence and the Lakes by the water-ways and woodland valleys of the continent. The French, resenting this intrusion, began to erect a series of forts to mark the boundaries of their possessions and conserve the inland fur trade.

Already, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the first scene in the opening drama had been enacted at Louisburg. This stronghold in Cape Breton, which guarded the marine highway to New France, had surrendered in 1745 to the forces of England and her colonial levies on the Atlantic. French pride was hurt at this disaster and the loss of the important naval station in the gulf. To recover the lost prestige, Count de la Galissonière was sent as governor to Canada. This nobleman's extravagant assumptions of the extent of the territorial possessions of New France, however, offended the English colonists and roused the jealousy of many of the Indian tribes. Nor was this feeling allayed when France, by the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, recovered Louisburg, and when her boundary commissioners claimed all the country north of the Bay of Fundy as not having been ceded to England by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), the inevitable result followed; hostilities between the two nations were precipitated in the valley of the Ohio by the persistent encroachment of the English.

English successes in other parts of the continent in some measure atoned for Braddock's defeat. Beauséjour fell before an expeditionary force sent out from Massachusetts, while Dieskau was routed and made a prisoner near Lake George by Colonel (afterward Sir William) Johnson, in command of the colonial militia and a band of Mohawk warriors.

The command of the expedition against Beauséjour, in the Acadian isthmus, to which the French still laid claim, had been given to Colonel Monckton, who, in the spring of 1755, sailed[Pg 183] from Boston with forty-one vessels and two thousand men. Ill-manned by a few hundred refugees and a small body of soldiers it soon capitulated and was renamed Fort Cumberland. The Acadian peasants, on the beautiful shores of the Bay of Fundy, Canadian historians tell us, "were a simple, virtuous, and prosperous community," though other writers give them less favorable character, speaking of them as turbulent, aggressive, and meddlesome. With remarkable industry they had reclaimed from the sea by dikes many thousand of fertile acres, which produced abundant crops of grain and orchard fruits; and on the sea meadows at one time grazed as many as sixty thousand head of cattle. The simple wants of the peasants were supplied by domestic manufacture or by importations from Louisburg. So great was their attachment to the government and institutions of their fatherland that during the aggressions of the English after the conquest of the region a great part of the population—some ten thousand in number, it is said, though the figures are disputed—abandoned their homes and migrated to that portion of Acadia still claimed by the French, while others removed to Cape Breton or to Canada. About seven thousand still remained in the peninsula of Nova Scotia, but they claimed a political neutrality, resolutely refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the alien conquerors. They were accused of intriguing with their countrymen at Louisburg, with resisting the English authority, and with inciting, and even leading, the Indians to ravage the English settlements.

The cruel Micmacs needed little instigation. They swooped down on the little town of Dartmouth, opposite Halifax, and within gunshot of its forts, and reaped a rich harvest of scalps and booty. The English prisoners they sometimes sold at Louisburg for arms and ammunition. The Governor asserted that pure compassion was the motive of this traffic, in order to rescue the captives from massacre. He demanded, however, an excessive ransom for their liberation. The Indians were sometimes, indeed generally, it was asserted, led in these murderous raids by French commanders. These violations of neutrality, however, were chiefly the work of a few turbulent spirits. The mass of the Acadian peasants seem to have been a peaceful and inoffensive people, although they naturally sympathized with their coun[Pg 184]trymen, and rejoiced at the victory of Du Quesne, and sorrowed at the defeat of Lake George. They were, nevertheless, declared rebels and outlaws, and a council at Halifax, confounding the innocent with the guilty, decreed the expulsion of the entire French population.

The decision was promptly given effect. Ships soon appeared before the principal settlement in the Bay of Fundy. All the male inhabitants over ten years of age were summoned to hear the King's command. At Grandpré four hundred assembled in the village church, when the British officer read from the altar the decree of their exile. Resistance was impossible; armed soldiers guarded the door, and the men were imprisoned. They were marched at the bayonet's point, amid the wailings of their relatives, on board the transports. The women and children were shipped in other vessels. Families were scattered; husbands and wives separated—many never to meet again. Hundreds of comfortable homesteads and well-filled barns were ruthlessly given to the flames. A number, variously estimated at from three to seven thousand, were dispersed along the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Georgia. Twelve hundred were carried to South Carolina. A few planted a New Acadia among their countrymen in Louisiana. Some sought to return to their blackened hearths, coasting in open boats along the shore. These were relentlessly intercepted when possible, and sent back into hopeless exile. An imperishable interest has been imparted to this sad story by Longfellow's beautiful poem Evangeline, which describes the sorrows and sufferings of some of the inhabitants of the little village of Grandpré.[Pg 185]


[39] By permission of the author.



A.D. 1756


Robert Clive is recognized as the man to whom, above all others, England owes the establishment of her empire in India. Born in 1725 in Shropshire, he was raised to the Irish peerage in 1760 as Baron Clive of Plassey. The son of a poor country squire, at eighteen he entered the service of the East India Company at Madras.

For over a century the company had competed with its Dutch rival in India, and Clive went to his post at a time when French rivalry with the English was becoming formidable. In 1744 war broke out between the English and French, and Clive saw his first military service. In the second war with the French (1751-1754), he bore the leading part, capturing Arcot (1751), and successfully defending it against a vastly superior force of natives, who were aided by the French. By these successes he won a brilliant reputation. His later career proved him to be as efficient in civil as in military affairs, and he stands in English history distinguished among great administrators, although he has been no less the object of censure than of praise by his country's historians. A parliamentary inquiry into his official conduct resulted (1773) in his practical vindication. Whatever the truth in the case may be, Clive must ever hold his place among the "builders of Greater Britain."

In 1753 Clive returned to England, and two years later went back to India as governor of Fort St. David, in the Madras presidency. Of his proceedings in this government and his further successful military enterprises, which went so far to win India for England, Arbuthnot, late member of the Council of India, gives an authoritative account, based on the fullest information available at the close of the nineteenth century.

Clive returned to the Madras Presidency at a critical moment. War with France was imminent, and broke out in the course of a few months. The very day that Clive assumed the government of Fort St. David, Calcutta was captured by the Nawab[40] of Bengal, and the tragedy of the Black Hole took place.[Pg 186] The acquisition of Calcutta by the East India Company was somewhat later than that of Madras. It dates from 1686, when the representatives of the company, driven by the Mogul authorities from Hugli, where they had established a factory, moved under the leadership of Job Charnock some twenty-six miles down the river to Satanati, now one of the northern suburbs of Calcutta. Ten years afterward they built the original Fort William, and in 1700 they purchased the villages of Satanti, Kalikata, and Govindpur from the son of the Emperor.

In 1707 the East India Company declared Calcutta a separate presidency. Here, surrounded by the richest districts in India, amid a teeming population, on the banks of a river which was the chief highway of Eastern commerce, the servants of the company drove a thriving trade, threatened only, but never actually assailed, by the raids of the Mahrattas, the memory of which is still kept alive by the famous Mahratta ditch. They were in the same relation to the Nawab of Bengal as the servants of the company at Madras were to the Nawab of the Carnatic. In April, 1756, Aliverdi Khan, who was a just and strong ruler, died, and was succeeded by his grandson, Suraj ud Daulah, a youth under twenty years of age, whose training had been of the worst description. One of the whims of this youth was hatred toward the English, and he had not been two months on the throne when he found a pretext for indulging this sentiment in the fact that the English, in anticipation of difficulties with the French, were strengthening the fortifications of Fort William. On June 4th he seized the English factory at Kasimbazar, and on the 15th attacked Calcutta. The women and children in the fort were removed on board ship on the 18th, and on the same day the Governor, Mr. Drake, and the military commandant, Captain Minchin, deserted their posts, and to their lasting disgrace betook themselves to the ships. Mr. Holwell, a member of the council, assumed command in the fort, but on the 25th the place was taken.

All the Englishmen in the fort, one hundred forty-six persons, were thrust at the point of a sword into a small room, the prison of the garrison, commonly known as the Black Hole, only twenty feet square. The Nawab had promised to spare their lives, but had gone to sleep after a debauch. No expostulations on the part[Pg 187] of the prisoners, not even bribes, would induce the guards to awake the Nawab and obtain his leave to liberate the prisoners, until the morning, when, having slept off his debauch, he allowed the door to be opened. By that time, out of one hundred forty-six prisoners, one hundred twenty-three had miserably perished. The survivors, among whom was the acting Governor, Holwell, were brought before the tyrant, insulted and reproached by him, and detained in custody in wretched sheds and fed upon grain and water. An Englishwoman who was one of the survivors, was placed in the Nawab's harem. The details of this terrible tragedy and of the sufferings which the survivors subsequently underwent, are given in a letter from Mr. Holwell, from which it appears that his eventual release was brought about by the intercession of Aliverdi Khan's widow, who had in vain endeavored to dissuade the Nawab from attacking Calcutta, and had predicted that his doing so would be his ruin.

Intelligence of the outrage did not reach Madras until August 16th, when it was at once decided to send a force under Clive to Calcutta to avenge it. Clive was appointed commander-in-chief, with full military and political control. He took with him 900 English soldiers and 1200 Sepoys and some artillery. Owing, however, to the obstinacy of Admiral Watson, and to jealousy of Clive on the part of Colonel Aldercron, who had recently arrived at Madras in command of the Thirty-ninth foot, a delay of two months took place before the expedition sailed. Watson declined to undertake it at all unless the government of the Bengal settlement, which the Madras council proposed to assume pending orders from home, was intrusted to the survivors of the Bengal Council, the leaders of which had so shamefully deserted their posts; while Aldercron, on being informed that Clive was to exercise the military command, actually went so far as to disembark the greater part of his regiment, together with guns and stores which had already been put on board ship, allowing only two hundred fifty men to remain, who were to serve as marines under Watson.

The delay was unfortunate; for before the squadron sailed the northeast monsoon had set in, and in consequence none of the ships reached the Hugli until the middle of December, and even then two of the largest ships were missing; the Marlbor[Pg 188]ough, with most of the artillery, and the Cumberland, with Admiral Pocock and two hundred fifty English soldiers, having failed to make their way against the monsoon. Clive's orders were to recapture Calcutta, to attack the Nawab at his capital, Murshidabad, and, in the event of war between England and France being declared, to capture the French settlement of Chandernagor (Chandranagar). When the expedition reached the Hugli, Clive wished the men under his command to be taken on in the ships as far as Budge Budge (Bajbaj)—a fortified place about ten miles from Calcutta, which it was necessary to capture; but Watson, with his habitual perversity, insisted upon the troops being landed at Mayapur, some miles farther down, thus obliging them to make a most fatiguing night march through a swampy country covered with jungle. The result was that they reached Budge Budge in an exhausted condition, and being surprised by the Nawab's troops shortly after their arrival, had a very narrow escape from destruction, which was averted only by Clive's presence of mind and readiness of resource.

Clive says, in a letter to Pigot, reporting this affair a few days afterward: "You must know our march from Mayapur to the northward of Budge Budge was much against my inclinations. I applied to the admiral for boats to land us at the place we arrived at after sixteen hours' march by land. The men suffered hardships not easily to be described; it was four in the afternoon when we decamped from Mayapur, and we did not arrive off Budge Budge until past eight the next morning. At nine the Grenadier company and all the Sepoys were despatched to the fort, where I heard Captain Coote was landed with the King's troops. At ten, Manickchand, the Governor of Calcutta, attacked us with between two and three thousand horse and foot, and was worsted. Manickchand himself received a shot in his turban. Our two field pieces were of little or no service to us, having neither tubes nor port-fires, and heavy carriages were sent with them from Fort St. David. Indeed, we still labor under every disadvantage in the world for want of the Marlborough. It seems the enemy were encamped within two miles of us, and we ignorant of the matter. So much for the intelligence of the country."

There can be no doubt that Clive sustained a surprise that might have been prevented had the ordinary precautions been[Pg 189] used; but in the circumstances there is much allowance to be made. Clive himself was ill, and had suffered much from the fatiguing march which he and his men had gone through, owing to Watson's wrong-headed obstinacy. But notwithstanding illness and fatigue, and the unexpected appearance of a hostile force, Clive on this, as on other occasions, never for a moment lost his nerve. He at once rallied his men, who, awakened out of their sleep by being fired upon, were at first thrown into confusion, and then with scarcely a pause made dispositions which retrieved the situation, although not without heavy loss to the English.

When Watson and Clive entered the river, they found at Falta some of the fugitives from Calcutta, and the scanty remains of a small force which, on the receipt of intelligence of the seizure of Kasimbazar, but before the news of the Black Hole tragedy had arrived, the Madras authorities had sent to Bengal under Major Kilpatrick. Clive, after beating off Manickchand's army, was met by Major Kilpatrick, who had been sent to his aid with reënforcements. In the mean time Watson had bombarded Budge from his ships, and had effected a breach in the ramparts of the fort. Clive had arranged to assault the fort the next day, when a drunken sailor, discovering the breach, entered it alone, and firing his pistol among a small group of the defenders who were sitting near, shouted out, "The fort is mine," accompanying the exclamation by three loud cheers. He was at once attacked, but defended himself valiantly, and, some of the English soldiers and Sepoys coming up, the garrison abandoned the fort, which was taken possession of by Captain Eyre Coote, who had come up from Madras with a detachment of the Thirty-ninth foot. The squadron, with the troops, then moved on to Calcutta, which surrendered on January 2d, Manickchand having evacuated the place and returned with his army to the head-quarters of the Nawab at Murshidabad. Then occurred another of Watson's arbitrary and ill-judged proceedings. Notwithstanding the orders of the Madras government, investing Clive with military and political control in Bengal, Watson appointed Coote, whose rank was that of captain, to be governor of Fort William. Clive declined to permit this arrangement, claiming the command as the senior officer, and threatened to place Coote under arrest if he[Pg 190] disobeyed his orders. Thereupon Watson threatened to fire upon the fort unless Clive gave it up. The matter ended in a compromise, Clive surrendering the fort to Watson on condition that it was afterward handed over to the representatives of the company. In this, and in other disputes with Watson, Clive appears to have kept his temper, while acting with firmness. Writing to Mr. Pigot, Clive describes this affair in the following words:

"I cannot help regretting that I ever undertook this expedition. The mortifications I have received from Mr. Watson[41] and the gentlemen of the squadron in point of prerogative are such that nothing but the good of the service could induce me to submit to them. The morning the enemy quitted Calcutta, a party of our Sepoys entered the fort at the same time with a detachment from the ships, and were ignominiously thrust out. Upon coming near the fort myself, I was informed that there were orders that none of the company's officers or troops should have entrance. This, I own, enraged me to such a degree that I was resolved to enter if possible, which I did, though not in the manner maliciously reported, by forcing the sentries; for they suffered me to pass very patiently upon being informed who I was. At my entrance Captain Coote presented me with a commission from Admiral Watson, appointing him governor of Fort William which I knew not a syllable of before; and it seems this dirty underhand contrivance was carried on in the most secret manner, under a pretence that I intended the same thing, which I declare never entered my thoughts. The affair was compromised by the admiral consenting that I should be governor and that the company's troops should remain in the fort. The next day the admiral delivered up the fort to the company's representatives in the King's name."

Watson, it would seem, could not bring himself to recognize the fact that Clive was not only an officer of the East India Company, but had been granted a royal commission. In this he showed himself both stupid and headstrong. Notwithstanding this petty jealousy of the company's service, a jealousy in which he was by no means singular, he was an honorable man, desirous,[Pg 191] according to his lights, to serve his King and country; and in the important transactions which afterward took place, his cooperation with Clive appears to have been fairly cordial.

It was otherwise with the council at Calcutta, who greatly resented the independent powers which had been conferred upon Clive by the Madras authorities. At that early period those presidential jealousies which have so often interfered with the efficient administration of Indian affairs, and even now are not entirely extinguished, appear to have existed in full force. The select committee at Calcutta, as the Governor's council was then designated, called upon Clive to surrender the powers with which he had been invested, and to place himself under them. His reply was a decided refusal. "I do not," he wrote, "intend to make use of my power for acting separately from you, without you reduce me to the necessity of so doing; but as far as concerns the means of executing these powers, you will excuse me, gentlemen, if I refuse to give them up. I cannot do it without forfeiting the trust reposed in me by the select committee of Fort St. George. It does not become me, as an individual, to give my opinion whether the conduct of the gentlemen of Fort St. George has been faulty or not. That point must be determined by our superiors."

The attitude of the Calcutta committee was described by Clive in a letter to his friend Pigot in the following terms: "I am sorry to say that the loss of private property and the means of recovering it seem to be the only objects which take up the thoughts of the Bengal gentlemen. Believe me, they are bad subjects and rotten at heart, and will stick at nothing to prejudice you and the gentlemen of the committee. Indeed, how should they do otherwise when they have not spared one another? I shall only add, their conduct at Calcutta finds no excuse even among themselves, and that the riches of Peru and Mexico should not induce me to dwell among them."

Immediately after the recapture of Calcutta, Clive, in conjunction with Watson, moved up the river to Hugli, and captured that place without difficulty, securing booty which was estimated at fifteen thousand pounds, and destroying some large and valuable granaries. They had also planned an expedition to Dacca, the capital of Eastern Bengal, when they learned that the Nawab[Pg 192] was again marching upon Calcutta with a large force. A battle ensued on February 5th, in which Clive, with 1350 Europeans, 800 Sepoys, and 7 field-guns, beat the Nawab's force of 40,000 men, including 18,000 cavalry, 40 guns, and 50 elephants. The greater part of the battle was fought in a dense fog, and Clive's men, losing their way, came under the fire of their own guns and of those in Fort William. At one time the position of the troops was very critical. The English loss was heavy, amounting to 57 killed and 117 wounded, of whom 39 and 82 respectively were Europeans, and it included Clive's aide-de-camp and secretary, who were killed by his side. But the battle, although attended by this heavy loss to the English, was even more disastrous to the Nawab's troops, whose casualties amounted to 1300, among whom were 2 noblemen of high rank and 22 of lesser note.

Clive's account of this engagement is contained in the following letter, addressed by him, a few weeks after it was fought, to the Duke of Newcastle. It has been for many years deposited among the manuscripts in the British Museum, whence, by the kindness of Dr. Richard Garnett, a copy has been furnished to the writer of this memoir. It is believed that the letter has not been published before.

"From Lieutenant-colonel Robert Clive to Thomas Pelham Holles, Duke Of Newcastle, First Lord Of the Treasury:

"May it please your Grace: The countenance your Grace was pleased to shew me when I left England encourages me to address you on the subject of the East India Company.

"No doubt your Grace hath been acquainted with the capture of the Town of Calcutta and Fort William by the Moors, the principal settlement in the Kingdom of Bengall and of the utmost consequence to the E. India Company. The loss of private property only is computed at more than 2 millions sterling.

"When this unfortunate news arrived at Madrass, the President and Council aplyed to Vice-Admiral Watson for assistance in recovering the rights and possessions of the Province of Bengal, and for the same purpose ordered a large body of land forces to embark under my command; and I have the pleasure to inform your Grace this expedition by sea and land has been crown'd with all the success that could be wished.

[Pg 193]

"The Town of Calcutta and Fort William was soon retaken, with several other Forts belonging to the Enemy. This news brought down the Nabob, or Prince of the Country, himselfe at the head of 20,000 horse and 30,000 foot, 25 pieces of cannon, with a great number of elephants—our little army, consisting of 700 Europeans and 1200 blacks, arm'd and disciplined after the English manner, lay encamped about 5 miles from the Town of Calcutta. On the 4th of February the Nabob's Army appear'd in sight, and past our camp at the distance of 1½ miles, and encamp'd on the back of the town. Several parties of their horse past within 400 yards of our advanc'd battery, but as wee entertain'd great hopes of a peace from the Nabob's promises, wee did not fire upon them.

"On the 5th, agreeable to the Nabob's desire, I despatch'd two gentlemen to wait upon him, in hopes everything might be settled without drawing the sword, but the haughtiness and disrespect with which he treated them convinced me nothing could be expected by mild measures. This determin'd me to attack his camp in the night time, for which purpose I aply'd to Admiral Watson for 500 sailors to draw our cannon, which he readily sent me, and at 3 o'clock in the morning our little army, consisting of 600 Europeans, 500 blacks, 7 field-pieces and the sailors above mentioned, set out for the attack.

"A little before daybreak wee entred the camp, and received a very brisk fire. This did not stop the progress of our troops, which march'd thro' the enemie's camp upwards of 4 miles in length. Wee were more than 2 hours passing, and what escaped the van was destroy'd by the rear. Wee were obliged to keep a constant fire of artillery and musketry the whole time. A body of 300 of the enemy's horse made a gallant charge, but were received with so much coolness by the military that few escaped. Several other brisk charges were made on our rear, but to no purpose, and wee returned safe to camp, having killed by the best accounts 1300 men and between 5 and 600 horse, with 4 elephants, the loss on our side 200 men killed and wounded. This blow had its effect, for the next day the army decamp'd and the Nabob sent me a letter offering terms of accommodation; and I have the pleasure of acquainting your Grace a firm peace is concluded, greatly to the honour and advantage of the Company, and the Nabob has [Pg 194]entered into an alliance offensive and defensive with them, and is returned to his capital at Muxadavad.

"As I have already been honour'd with your Grace's protection and favour, I flatter my selfe with the continuance of it, and that, if your Grace thinks me deserving, your Grace will recommend me to the Court of Directors.—I am, with the greatest respect, your Grace's most devoted humble servant,

"Robert Clive.

"Camp near Calcutta,
"23d Febry. 1757."

The terms of the treaty were exceedingly favorable to the company. All the privileges formerly granted to the English were renewed, all trade covered by English passes was freed, all property of the company or of its servants or tenants which had been taken by the Nawab's officers to servants was to be restored; the English were to fortify Calcutta, and to coin money as they might deem proper. The Nawab, on February 11th, began his return march to his capital, previously commissioning Omichand, in whose garden the late battle had been fought, to propose a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, with the English. This treaty was accepted and signed by Clive and Watson, not without some hesitation on the part of the latter, who, the day after the fight in the outskirts of Calcutta, advised Clive to renew his attack. Clive, however, dreaded a combination between the French and the Nawab, and regarded the French settlement at Chandernagor as a serious danger to Calcutta. He had learned, when at Hugli, that war had been again declared between England and France, and before leaving Madras he had been instructed by the government there that, in the event of a war with France again breaking out in Europe, he was to capture Chandernagor.

After the capture of Chandernagor, Clive's distrust of the Nawab was intensified, not only by the information supplied by Mr. Watts of his intrigues with the French, but by his refusal to allow the passage of a few Sepoys and of supplies of ammunition and stores to the English factory at Kasimbazar. Meanwhile Clive received from Watts information of a plot which had been formed by some of the leading personages at the Nawab's court[Pg 195] to dethrone him. These persons were Raja Dulab Ram, the finance minister; Mir Jafar, the commander-in-chief of the army; and Yar Latif Khan, a man not of the first rank, who would seem to have started the conspiracy, stipulating that, if it succeeded, he should be made nawab. There is some ground, however, for supposing that the original suggestion emanated from Jaggat Seth, a wealthy banker, who had received personal insults from the Nawab. Another person of considerable weight who was also implicated in the plot was Omichand, the wealthy Hindu in whose garden the Nawab's camp had been pitched on that foggy night in February when Clive marched through it. On that occasion he sustained a somewhat heavy loss, but inflicted a much heavier loss upon the troops of the Nawab, and thereby frightened the latter into treating for peace. At an early stage of the proceedings Clive received overtures from Mir Jafar, the commander-in-chief, who offered to aid the English against the Nawab on condition that he should succeed him. The events which followed included what in some respects were the most brilliant, and were certainly the most questionable, incidents in Clive's career. While his military reputation, already established by the defence of Arcot, the victory at Kaveripak, and the operations before Trichinopoli, rose higher than ever, and while he developed a capacity for civil and political administration of the highest order, the fame of his exploits was tarnished by a breach of faith which it is impossible to justify, and by the acceptance of large sums of money from the native prince whom he placed upon the throne of Bengal after the deposition of Suraj ud Daulah.

The treaty provided for an offensive and defensive alliance with Mir Jafar; for a prohibition against any resettlement of the French in Bengal, and for the transfer of their factories to the English company; for compensation for English losses at Calcutta, viz., to the company, £1,000,000; to the European inhabitants, £500,000; to the native inhabitants, £200,000; to the Armenians, £70,000; for the cession of all land within the Mahratta ditch and 600 yards beyond it; for the cession to the company of the Zemidari of the country to the south of Calcutta as far as Kalpi, subject to the payment of the customary rent; for the payment by the Nawab of all English troops sent to his assistance, and for a prohibition against the erection of any new forts below[Pg 196] Hugli. Under a supplementary treaty Mir Jafar was to pay £500,000 to the army and navy and £120,000 to the members of council.

Mir Jafar's signature to the treaty was received on June 12th, and Clive's force at once advanced. On that day all the troops quartered at Calcutta, together with one hundred fifty sailors from the fleet, crossed over to Chandernagor, where they joined the remainder of the force already quartered at the latter place. The Europeans, including the artillery, were sent up the river in two hundred boats, the Sepoys marching by land. On June 13th Clive despatched to the Nawab a letter which was practically a declaration of war. It arraigned the Nawab for his breach of treaty, and informed him that Clive had determined, with the approbation of all who were charged with the company's affairs, to proceed immediately to Kasimbazar, and to submit the dispute with the Nawab to the arbitration of Mir Jafar, Raja Dulab Ram, Jaggat Seth, and "others of your highness' great men." "If these," he wrote, "decide that I have deviated from the treaty, then I swear to give up all further claims upon your highness; but if it should appear that your highness has broken faith, then I shall demand satisfaction for all the losses sustained by the English, and all the charges of the army and navy." The letter ended with an intimation that as the rains were at hand, and it would take many days to receive an answer, the writer would "wait upon the Nawab at his capital to receive satisfaction." The attitude which Clive adopted was bold and defiant, but, for all that, Clive was by no means free from anxiety. It was not at all certain that Mir Jafar would adhere to his agreement. He was to have joined Clive at Katwa with a friendly force, but instead of doing so he merely sent Clive a letter promising to join him on the field of battle. On the 14th Clive's force reached Kalna, where it was joined by Watts, who had escaped from Murshidabad on the previous day. On the 17th they captured Katwa, with its fortress, after a slight resistance, and found the place well stocked with grain. On the 19th, while they halted at Katwa, the monsoon rains set in, and the troops, who were lodged in tents, had to take shelter in huts and small houses. On the same day Clive, whose anxiety continued to be very great, addressed the following letter to the committee at Calcutta:[Pg 197]

"I feel the greatest anxiety at the little intelligence I receive from Mir Jafar, and if he is not treacherous, his sang froid or want of strength will, I fear, overset the expedition. I am trying a last effort by means of a Brahmin to prevail upon him to march out and join us. I have appointed Plassey as the place of rendezvous, and have told him at the same time that unless he gives this or some other sufficient proof of the sincerity of his intentions I will not cross the river. This, I hope, will meet with your approbation. I shall act with such caution as not to risk the loss of our forces; and whilst we have them, we may always have it in our power to bring about a revolution, though the present should not succeed. They say there is a considerable quantity of grain in and about the place. If we collect eight or ten thousand maunds" (eight or ten hundred thousand pounds), "we may maintain our situation during the rains, which will greatly distress the Nawab, and either reduce him to terms which may be depended upon, or give us time to bring in the Birbhum Raja, the Mahrattas, or Ghazi ud din. I desire you will give your sentiments freely how you think I should act if Mir Jafar can give us no assistance."

The situation was certainly a very alarming one. Clive had only 3200 men to oppose what proved to be an army of 50,000. He had no cavalry, and only a few guns, while the enemy had a large artillery force. In the circumstances, it is perhaps hardly to be wondered at that Clive should desire to share the responsibility. This he did, for what proved to be the first and last time in his life, by holding a council of war, to which he propounded the following question: "Whether, in our present situation, without assistance, and on our own bottom, it would be prudent to attack the Nawab, or whether we should wait till joined by some country power." Of the sixteen members of the council, nine, including Clive, voted for delay, and seven, including Eyre Coote, were for an immediate attack. But Clive did not adhere to his original vote. After the council had risen, he withdrew to a clump of trees, and having passed an hour in thinking over all the arguments for and against delay, he determined to move forward at once. Meeting Eyre Coote on his way back to camp, he told him he had changed his mind, and intended to march the next morning. Accordingly, in the early morning of[Pg 198] June 22d, the force marched down the bank of the Bhagirathi, and crossed the river the same afternoon without meeting with any opposition. There still remained fifteen miles to be traversed in order to reach Plassey. Clive's force, after struggling through mud and water in a continued torrent of rain, did not arrive at the village until one o'clock on the morning of the 23d. Clive had heard from Mir Jafar that the Nawab's army would halt at Mankarah, a place some miles short of Plassey; but the Nawab had changed his plans, and reached Plassey twelve hours before Clive. Thus, on his arrival, Clive found that the enemy were close at hand. He spent the remainder of the night making his dispositions, while his troops bivouacked in an extensive mango-grove on ground already soaked by the rain, which was still falling. The mango-grove was 800 yards in length and 300 in breadth, and was surrounded by a bank and a ditch. About fifty yards beyond it stood a hunting-box belonging to the Nawab of Oude. Of this Clive at once took possession. The grove was little more than a mile from the Nawab's encampment. The force under Clive, as stated, did no exceed 3200 men, of whom 900 were English, 200 were Eurasians, and 2100 native Sepoys. There was a small artillery train, composed of eight six-pounders and two small howitzers. The Nawab's army, so far as numerical strength was concerned, was enormously superior to Clive's force. It consisted of 35,000 infantry—for the most part imperfectly trained and undisciplined—and 15,000 cavalry well mounted and well armed. He had 53 pieces of artillery, most of them of heavy calibre, and with them 40 or 50 Frenchmen commanded by M. St. Frais, who had been a member of the French council at Chandernagor. His army occupied a strongly intrenched position. His right rested on the river, while his left stretched out into the open plain.

The following is a brief description of the battle, taken from Clive's journal of military proceedings:

"At daybreak we discovered the Nawab's army at the distance of about three miles in full march towards us, upon which the whole were ordered under arms, being in two battalions. The Europeans were told off in four grand divisions, the artillery distributed between them, and the Sepoys on the right and left of the whole.[Pg 199]

"Our situation was very advantageous, being in a grove surrounded by high mud-banks. Our right and front were entirely covered by those mud-banks, our left by Placis' house and the river, our rear by the grove and a large village. The enemy approached apace, covered a fine extensive plain in front of us as far as the eye could discern from right to left, and consisted, as we have since learned, of 15,000 horse and 35,000 foot, with more than 40 pieces of cannon, from thirty-two to nine pounders. They began to cannonade from this heavy artillery, which, though well pointed, could do little execution, our people being lodged under the banks. We could not hope to succeed in an attempt on their cannon, as they were planted almost round, and at a considerable distance both from us and each other. We therefore remained quiet in front, in hopes of a successful attack on their camp at night. At 300 yards from the bank under which we were posted was a pool of water with high banks all round it, and was apparently a post of strength. This the enemy presently took possession of, and would have galled us much from thence but for our advantageous position, with some cannon managed by 50 Frenchmen. This heavy artillery continued to play very briskly on the grove.

"As their army, exclusive of a few advanced parties, were drawn up at too great a distance for our short sixes to reach them, one field-piece with a howitzer was advanced 200 yards in front, and we could see that they played with great success amongst those that were of the first rank, by which the whole army was dispirited and thrown into confusion.

"A large body of their horse starting out on our right, and as by that movement we supposed they intended an attempt on the advanced field-piece and howitzer, they were both ordered back.

"About eleven o'clock a very heavy shower of rain came on, and we imagined the horse would now, if ever, have attacked in hopes of breaking us, as they might have thought we could not then make use of our firelocks; but their ignorance or the brisk firing of our artillery prevented them from attempting it.

"At noon, a report being made that a party of horse had attacked and taken our boats, the pickets were ordered, but, the account proving false, they were countermanded.[Pg 200]

"The enemy's fire now began to slacken, and soon after entirely ceased. In this situation we remained until two o'clock, when, perceiving that most of the enemy were returned to their camp, it was thought a proper opportunity to seize one of the eminences from which the enemy had much annoyed us in the morning. Accordingly, the Grenadiers, of the 1st Battalion, with two field-pieces and a body of Sepoys, supported by four platoons and two field-pieces from the 2d Battalion, were ordered to take possession of it, which accordingly they did.

"This encouraged us to take possession of another advanced post within 300 yards of the entrance to the enemy's camp.

"All these motions brought the enemy out a second time, but in attempting to bring out their cannon they were so galled by our artillery that they could not effect it, notwithstanding they made several attempts. Their horse and foot, however, advanced much nearer than in the morning, and by their motions made as if they intended to charge; two or three large bodies being within 150 yards. In this situation they stood a considerable time a very brisk and severe cannonade, which killed them upwards of 400 men, among whom were four or five principal officers. This loss put the enemy into great confusion, and encouraged us to attack the entrance into their camp and an adjacent eminence at the same time. This we effected with little or no loss, although the former was defended by the 50 French and a very large body of black infantry, and the latter by a large body of horse and foot intermixt together. During the heat of the action the remainder of the forces were two or three times ordered to join us, and that order as often countermanded on account of the movement of a large body of horse towards the grove, whom we had often fired upon to keep at a proper distance. Those afterwards proved to be our friends, commanded by Mir Jafar. The entrance to the camp being gained, a general rout ensued, and the whole army continued the pursuit for upwards of six miles, which, for want of horse, answered no other purpose than that of taking all their artillery, consisting of forty pieces of cannon, and all their baggage."

Such is the account which Clive gave of the battle in a journal written by him very shortly after, if not on the day after, it was fought. It cannot be said that it furnishes a very clear or full[Pg 201] narrative of the events of the day. It does not mention the death of Mir Mudin, the Nawab's only faithful general, which appears to have occurred shortly after eleven o'clock, and was really the crisis of the battle. It contains no statement of the loss sustained, which, however, was very slight. Orme gives some particulars, but as regards the Europeans in a very imperfect form. He states: "This important victory was gained with little loss: only sixteen Sepoys were killed and thirty-six wounded. And of the Europeans about twenty were killed and wounded, of which number six of the killed and ten of the wounded were of the artillery, as were likewise the two officers who were wounded during the different operations of the day." The numbers of killed and wounded are given somewhat more in detail by Malleson, although his totals agree with those given by Orme. By Malleson's account, seven Europeans were killed and sixteen wounded. According to both these writers, the total number of killed and wounded in Clive's force was seventy-two. The loss on the Nawab's side appears to have been between five and six hundred.

Considering the great disparity of numbers, the loss to Clive's force was ridiculously small. Indeed, as Sir Alfred Lyall justly observes in his interesting review of The Rise and Expansion of the British Dominion in India, the so-called battle of Plassey was a rout rather than a battle. As a military achievement it cannot be compared with the defence of Arcot, or with the fight at Kaveripak, or with some other actions in which Clive was engaged. At the same time its results were far-reaching and of the greatest political importance. Indeed, it is universally regarded by historians as the starting-point of British dominion in India.

Had Plassey been lost, the establishment of British rule in India would in all probability never have taken place; and although Plassey was followed in a very few years by other contests far more severe, such as Adams' fights at Gheria and at Andhanala, and Sir Hector Munro's victory over the Mogul's and the Nawab Vazir's troops at Buxar, the political importance of Plassey, which placed the ruler of the richest provinces in India in subjection to the English company, can hardly be overestimated. Nor, although the victory was so easily won, was it less remarkable than Clive's other military achievements for the strategy which he displayed or for the unfailing nerve and coolness with[Pg 202] which he encountered the enormous odds against him. Clive had not anticipated that the Nawab would be able to array against him so large a force. When day broke on that June morning, and revealed to his astonished gaze the 50,000 horse and foot and the large artillery force, to which he had to oppose his 3200 infantry, his eight light field-pieces and no cavalry, it must have needed an amount of nerve which is rarely possessed even by the bravest men to make his dispositions for the approaching battle. But on this, as on other occasions, Clive's nerve never failed. Indeed, the greater the danger, the more clear was his judgment and the more keen his courage.

The position which Clive took up in the mango-grove, protected as it was by the trees and by the mud-bank surrounding it, which rendered the heavy artillery of the enemy practically innocuous, and the skill with which his few field-pieces were directed, were important elements in securing the victory. Indeed, the most remarkable feature in the battle is that while the artillery force of the enemy was enormously superior in the weight of metal and in the number of guns to that of Clive, the contest was mainly an artillery contest, and was practically decided by that arm. The death of the Nawab's only faithful general, Mir Mudin, who was mortally wounded by a cannon-shot, was, as we have said, the crisis of the battle. It so disheartened the Nawab that from that moment he gave himself up in despair, and became only too ready to listen to the insidious advice of the leaders who had betrayed him, that he should quit the field and leave it to them to continue the battle. Important as Plassey was, and well as it was fought by Clive and his small force, it is not a battle that can be held to redound to the credit of British arms. Looking to the enormous disparity of numbers, and making every allowance for the superior courage and training of the victorious force, it can hardly be supposed that the result could have been what it was had it not been for the treachery of the Nawab's principal generals.

On the evening after the battle, Clive's force halted at Daudpur, six miles beyond Plassey. There on the next day he was joined by Mir Jafar, the latter not altogether at ease as to the reception he might meet with after his somewhat ambiguous attitude both before and during the engagement; but Clive at once[Pg 203] reassured him, and saluted him as the Nawab of Bengal, Behar and Orissa, advising him to proceed at once to Murshidabad, to secure the person of Suraj ud Daulah and prevent the place being plundered.

Suraj ud Daulah had fled from the battle-field some time before the issue was finally decided, and had arrived that same night at Murshidabad. On the following night Mir Jafar reached that place. The whole of that day Suraj ud Daulah had passed in a state of the greatest perplexity as to the course he should pursue, whether he should submit to the English or should make a stand in the city. Some of his principal officers advised the former, some the latter, course. He had decided to resist, and had ordered his troops to be massed for this purpose, when he heard of the arrival of Mir Jafar. Then he resolved upon flight, and accompanied by his favorite wife and a single eunuch, he left his palace in disguise, and entering a boat which had been engaged for the purpose, reached Rajmahal, ninety miles distant, on the evening of the fourth day. There the rowers were obliged to halt for a rest, and taking refuge in a deserted garden, the Nawab was seen by a fakir whose ears he had caused to be cut off thirteen months before and was handed over to Mir Jafar's brother, who resided at Rajmahal. He was at once captured, sent back to Murshidabad, and handed over to Mir Jafar on July 2d. He pleaded earnestly for his life, offering to give up everything else, and Mir Jafar, probably remembering the kindness he had received from the grandfather of his prisoner, was at first disposed to spare him, but afterward consulted with his higher officials, some of whom advocated a policy of clemency, while others, including Mir Jafar's son, Miran, a truculent youth, not unlike Suraj ud Daulah in disposition, urged that the only security against a fresh revolution lay in the death of the prisoner. The latter accordingly was made over to Miran, by whose orders he was brutally murdered in the course of the night.[Pg 204]


[40] Nabob.

[41] It should be remembered that at that time it was the fashion in private letters and in society to describe naval and military officers as if they were civilians, and not by their naval or military rank.



A.D. 1756-1763


In the Seven Years' War Prussia stood practically alone against the united strength of all Europe; and it was the success of her King, Frederick, in withstanding the assaults of the vast and determined coalition that won him from the unanimous voice of military critics the title of the "Great." The tremendous conflict, the most gigantic in Europe, between the Thirty Years' War and the French Revolution, was the natural outcome of that earlier contest in which Frederick had seized Silesia. If this strong and able monarch was the type of the new spirit of doubt and endless questioning which had begun to permeate Europe, his chief antagonist, Maria Theresa, was no less emblematic of all that was noblest in the older, conservative Catholicism which Frederick defied. Maria Theresa never forgot her loss of Silesia. It was said of her that she could not see a Silesian without weeping, and with steady patience she set herself to draw all Europe into an alliance against Frederick.

Her rival's caustic tongue helped her purpose. He gave personal offence not only to Elizabeth, the ruler of Russia, but to Madame Pompadour, the real sovereign of France under Louis XV. Both of these ladies urged their countries against the insulter. The three leading powers of continental Europe having thus leagued against Prussia, the lesser states soon joined them. Only England stood outside the coalition. Her war with France originating in the colonies and on the ocean, led her into an alliance with Prussia. But England was safe on her island, and few of her troops fought upon the Continent. She sent Frederick some money help; part of the time she kept the French troops from his frontier; that was all.

The succession of Frederick's remarkable battles are too numerous to detail. In one campaign he crushed the French at Rossbach, and overthrew the Austrians at Leuthen. Then he defeated the Russians at Zorndorf. Torgau was his last great triumph, and therefore his own account of that contest is here presented in connection with the concise narrative of the entire war by the standard German historian, Menzel. Frederick was a vigorous writer as well as a great fighter, and it is only [Pg 205]fair to caution the reader against accepting too fully the perhaps unconscious egotism of the monarch's personal view. Some critics consider General Zieten the real winner of this battle.


In the autumn of 1756, Frederick, unexpectedly and without previously declaring war, invaded Saxony, of which he speedily took possession, and shut up the little Saxon army, thus taken unawares on the Elbe at Pirna. A corps of Austrians, who were also equally unprepared to take the field, hastened, under the command of Browne, to their relief, but were, on October 1st, defeated at Lowositz, and the fourteen thousand Saxons under Rutowsky at Pirna were in consequence compelled to lay down their arms, the want to which they were reduced by the failure of their supplies having already driven them to the necessity of eating hair-powder mixed with gunpowder. Augustus III and Bruhl fled with such precipitation that the secret archives were found by Frederick at Dresden.

The Electress vainly strove to defend them by placing herself in front of the chest; she was forcibly removed by the Prussian grenadiers, and Frederick justified the suddenness of his attack upon Saxony by the publication of the plans of his enemies. He remained during the whole of the winter in Saxony, furnishing his troops from the resources of the country. It was here that his chamberlain, Glasow, attempted to take him off by poison, but, meeting by chance one of the piercing glances of the King, tremblingly let fall the cup and confessed his criminal design, the inducement for which has ever remained a mystery, to the astonished King.

The allies, surprised and enraged at the suddenness of the attack, took the field, in the spring of 1757, at the head of an enormous force. Half a million men were levied, Austria and France furnishing each about one hundred fifty thousand, Russia one hundred thousand, Sweden twenty thousand, the German empire sixty thousand. These masses were, however, not immediately assembled on the same spot, were, moreover, badly commanded and far inferior in discipline to the seventy thousand Prussians brought against them by Frederick. The war was also highly unpopular, and created great discontent among the Protestant party in the empire.[Pg 206]

On the departure of Charles of Wuertemberg for the Imperial army, his soldiery mutinied, and, notwithstanding their reduction to obedience, the general feeling among the Imperial troops was so much opposed to the war that most of the troops deserted and a number of the Protestant soldiery went over to Frederick. The Prussian King was put out of the ban of the empire by the Diet, and the Prussian ambassador at Ratisbon kicked the bearer of the decree out of the door.

Frederick was again the first to make the attack, and invaded Bohemia (1757). The Austrian army under Charles of Lorraine lay before Prague. The King, resolved at all hazards to gain the day, led his troops across the marshy ground under a terrible and destructive fire from the enemy. His gallant general, Schwerin, remonstrated with him. "Are you afraid?" was the reply. Schwerin, who had already served under Charles XII in Turkey and had grown gray in the field, stung by this taunt, quitted his saddle, snatched the colors, and shouted, "All who are not cowards follow me!" He was at that moment struck by several cartridge-balls and fell to the ground enveloped in the colors. The Prussians rushed past him to the attack.

The Austrians were totally routed; Browne fell, but the city was defended with such obstinacy that Daun, one of Maria Theresa's favorites, was meanwhile able to levy a fresh body of troops. Frederick consequently raised the siege of Prague and came upon Daun at Kolin, where he had taken up a strong position. Here again were the Prussians led into the thickest of the enemy's fire, Frederick shouting to them, on their being a third time repulsed with fearful loss, "Would ye live forever?" Every effort failed, and Benkendorf's charge at the head of four Saxon regiments, glowing with revenge and brandy, decided the fate of the day. The Prussians were completely routed. Frederick lost his splendid guard and the whole of his luggage. Seated on the verge of a fountain and tracing figures in the sand, he reflected upon the means of realluring fickle Fortune to his standard.

A fresh misfortune befell him not many weeks later. England had declared in his favor, but the incompetent English commander, nicknamed, on account of his immense size, the Duke of Cumberland, allowed himself to be beaten by the French at Hastenbeck and signed the shameful Treaty of Closter Seven,[Pg 207] by which he agreed to disband his troops.[42] This treaty was confirmed by the British monarch. The Prussian general Lewald, who had merely twenty thousand men under his command, was, at the same time, defeated at Gross-Zagerndorf by an overwhelming Russian force under Apraxin. Four thousand men were all that Frederick was able to bring against the Swedes. They were, nevertheless, able to keep the field, owing to the disinclination to the war evinced by their opponents.

Autumn fell, and Frederick's fortune seemed fading with the leaves of summer. He had, however, merely sought to gain time in order to recruit his diminished army, and Daun having, with his usual tardiness, neglected to pursue him, he suddenly took the field against the Imperialists under the Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen and the French under Soubise. The two armies met on November 5, 1757, on the broad plain around Leipsic, near the village of Rossbach, not far from the scene of the famous encounters of earlier times. The enemy, three times superior in number to the Prussians, lay in a half-circle with a view of surrounding the little Prussian camp, and, certain of victory, had encumbered themselves with a numerous train of women, wigmakers, barbers, and modistes from Paris. The French camp was one scene of confusion and gayety.

On a sudden Frederick sent General Seydlitz with his cavalry among them, and an instant dispersion took place, the troops flying in every direction without attempting to defend themselves, some Swiss, who refused to yield, alone excepted. The Germans on both sides showed their delight at the discomfiture of the French. An Austrian coming to the rescue of a Frenchman who had just been captured by a Prussian, "Brother German," exclaimed the latter, "let me have this French rascal!" "Take him and keep him!" replied the Austrian, riding off. The scene more resembled a chase than a battle. The Imperial army (Reichsarmee) was thence nicknamed the "Runaway" (Reissaus) army. Ten thousand French were taken prisoners. The loss on the side of the Prussians amounted to merely one hundred sixty men. The booty chiefly consisted in objects of gallantry[Pg 208] belonging rather to a boudoir than to a camp. The French army perfectly resembled its mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour.

The Austrians had meanwhile gained great advantages to the rear of the Prussian army, had beaten the King's favorite, General Winterfeld, at Moys in Silesia, had taken the important fortress at Schweidnitz and the metropolis, Breslau, whose commandant, the Duke of Bevern—a collateral branch of the house of Brunswick—had fallen into their hands while on a reconnoitring expedition. Frederick, immediately after the battle of Rossbach, hastened into Silesia, and, on his march thither, fell in with a body of two thousand young Silesians, who had been captured in Schweidnitz, but, on the news of the victory gained at Rossbach, had found means to regain their liberty, and had set off to his rencounter.

The King, inspired by this reënforcement, hurried onward, and, at Leuthen, near Breslau, gained one of the most brilliant victories over the Austrians during this war. Making a false attack upon the right wing, he suddenly turned upon the left. "Here are the Wurtembergers," said he, "they will be the first to make way for us!" He trusted to the inclination of these troops, who were zealous Protestants, in his favor. They instantly gave way and Daun's line of battle was destroyed. During the night he threw two battalions of grenadiers into Lissa, and, accompanied by some of his staff, entered the castle, where, meeting with a number of Austrian generals and officers, he civilly saluted them and asked, "Can one get a lodging here, too?" The Austrians might have seized the whole party, but were so thunderstruck that they yielded their swords, the King treating them with extreme civility.

Charles of Lorraine, weary of his unvarying ill-luck, resigned the command and was nominated stadtholder of the Netherlands, where he gained great popularity. At Leuthen twenty-one thousand Austrians fell into Frederick's hands; in Breslau, which shortly afterward capitulated, he took seventeen thousand more, so that his prisoners exceeded his army in number.

Fresh storms rose on the horizon and threatened to overwhelm the gallant King, who, unshaken by the approaching peril, firmly stood his ground. The Austrians gained an excellent gen[Pg 209]eral in the Livonian, Gideon Laudon, whom Frederick had refused to take into his service on account of his extreme ugliness, and who now exerted his utmost endeavors to avenge the insult. The great Russian army, which had until now remained an idle spectator of the war, also set itself in motion. Frederick advanced in the spring of 1758 against Laudon, invaded Moravia, and besieged Olmuetz, but without success; Laudon ceaselessly harassed his troops and seized a convoy of three hundred wagons. The King was finally compelled to retreat, the Russians, under Fermor, crossing the Oder, murdering and burning on their route, converting Kuestrin, which refused to yield, into a heap of rubbish, and threatening Berlin. They were met by the enraged King at Zorndorf.

Although numerically but half as strong as the Russians, he succeeded in beating them, but with the loss of eleven thousand of his men, the Russians standing like walls. The battle was carried on with the greatest fury on both sides; no quarter was given, and men were seen, when mortally wounded, to seize each other with their teeth as they rolled fighting on the ground. Some of the captured Cossacks were presented by Frederick to some of his friends with the remark, "See with what vagabonds I am reduced to fight!" He had scarcely recovered from this bloody victory when he was again compelled to take the field against the Austrians, who, under Daun and Laudon, had invaded Lusatia. He for some time watched them without hazarding an engagement, under an idea that they were themselves too cautious and timid to venture an attack. He was, however, mistaken. The Austrians surprised his camp at Hochkirch during the night of October 14th. The Prussians—the hussar troop of the faithful Zieten, whose warnings had been neglected by the King, alone excepted—slept, and were only roused by the roaring of their own artillery, which Laudon had already seized and turned upon their camp.

The excellent discipline of the Prussian soldiery, nevertheless, enabled them, half naked as they were, and notwithstanding the darkness of the night, to place themselves under arms, and the King, although with immense loss, to make an orderly retreat. He lost nine thousand men, many of his bravest officers, and upward of a hundred pieces of artillery. The principal object of[Pg 210] the Austrians, that of taking the King prisoner or of annihilating his army at a blow, was, however, frustrated. Frederick eluded the pursuit of the enemy and went straight into Silesia, whence he drove the Austrian general, Harsch, who was besieging Neisse, across the mountains into Bohemia. The approach of winter put a stop to hostilities on both sides.

During this year Frederick received powerful aid from Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, brother to Charles, the reigning Duke, who replaced Cumberland in the command of the Hanoverians and Hessians, with great ability covered the right flank of the Prussians, manœuvred the French, under their wretched general, Richelieu, who enriched himself with the plunder of Halberstadt, across the Rhine, and defeated Clermont, Richelieu's successor, at Crefeld. His nephew, the Crown Prince Ferdinand, served under him with distinction.

Toward the conclusion of the campaign an army under Broglio again pushed forward and succeeded in defeating the Prince von Ysenburg, who was to have covered Hesse with seven thousand men at Sangerhausen; another body of troops under Soubise also beat Count Oberg, on the Lutterberg. The troops on both sides then withdrew into winter quarters. The French had, during this campaign, also penetrated as far as East Friesland, whence they were driven by the peasantry until Wurmser of Alsace made terms with them and maintained the severest discipline among his troops.

The campaign of 1759 was opened with great caution by the allies. The French reënforced the army opposed to the Duke of Brunswick, and attacked him on two sides, Broglio from the Main, Contades from the Lower Rhine. The Duke was pushed back upon Bergen, but nevertheless gained a glorious victory over the united French leaders at Minden. His nephew, the Crown Prince Ferdinand, also defeated another French army under Brissac, on the same day, at Herford. The Imperial army, commanded by its newly nominated leader, Charles of Wurtemberg, advanced, but was attacked by the Crown Prince, while its commander was amusing himself at a ball at Fulda, and ignominiously put to flight.

Frederick, although secure against danger from this quarter, was threatened with still greater peril by the attempted junction of the Russians and Austrians, who had at length discovered that[Pg 211] the advantages gained by Frederick had been mainly owing to the want of unity in his opponents. The Russians under Soltikoff, accordingly, approached the Oder. Frederick, at that time fully occupied with keeping the main body of the Austrians under Daun at bay in Bohemia, had been unable to hinder Laudon from advancing with twenty thousand men for the purpose of forming a junction with the Russians. In this extremity he commissioned the youthful general, Wedel, to use every exertion to prevent the further advance of the Russians. Wedel was, however, overwhelmed by the Russians near the village of Kay, and the junction with Laudon took place.

Frederick now hastened in person to the scene of danger, leaving his brother, Henry, to make head against Daun. On the banks of the Oder at Kunersdorf, not far from Frankfort, the King attempted to obstruct the passage of the enemy, in the hope of annihilating him by a bold manœuvre, which, however, failed, and he suffered the most terrible defeat that took place on either side during this war (August 12, 1759). He ordered his troops to storm a sand-mountain, bristling with batteries, from the bottom of the valley of the Oder; they obeyed, but were unable to advance through the deep sand, and were annihilated by the enemy's fire. A ball struck the King, whose life was saved by the circumstance of its coming in contact with an étui in his waistcoat pocket. He was obliged to be carried almost by force off the field when all was lost. The poet Kleist, after storming three batteries and crushing his right hand, took his sword in his left hand and fell while attempting to carry a fourth.

Soltikoff, fortunately for the King, ceased his pursuit. The conduct of the Russian generals was, throughout this war, often marked by inconsistency. They sometimes left the natural ferocity of their soldiery utterly unrestrained; at others, enforced strict discipline, hesitated in their movements, or spared their opponent. The key to this conduct was their dubious position with the Russian court. The Empress, Elizabeth, continually instigated by her minister, Bestuzheff, against Prussia, was in her dotage, was subject to daily fits of drunkenness, and gave signs of approaching dissolution. Her nephew, Peter, the son of her sister, Anna, and of Charles Frederick, Prince of Holstein-Gottorp, the heir to the throne of Russia, was a profound admirer of the[Pg 212] great Prussian monarch, took him for his model, secretly corresponded with him, became his spy at the Russian court, and made no secret of his intention to enter into alliance with him on the death of the Empress. The generals, fearful of rendering themselves obnoxious to the future emperor, consequently showed great remissness in obeying Bestuzheff's commands.

Frederick, however, although unharassed by the Russians, was still doomed to suffer fresh mishaps. His brother, Henry, had, with great prudence, cut off the magazines and convoys to Daun's rear, and had consequently hampered his movements. The King was, notwithstanding, discontented, and, unnecessarily fearing lest Daun might still succeed in effecting a junction with Soltikoff and Laudon, recalled his brother, and by so doing occasioned the very movement it was his object to prevent. Daun advanced; and General Finck, whom Frederick had despatched against him at the head of ten thousand men, fell into his hands. Shut up in Maxen, and too weak to force its way through the enemy, the whole corps was taken prisoner. Dresden also fell; Schmettau, the Prussian commandant, had, up to this period, bravely held out, notwithstanding the smallness of the garrison, but, dispirited by the constant ill-success, he at length resolved at all events to save the military chest, which contained three million dollars, and capitulated on a promise of free egress. By this act he incurred the heavy displeasure of his sovereign, who dismissed both him and Prince Henry.

Fortune, however, once more favored Frederick; Soltikoff separated his troops from those of Austria and retraced his steps. The Russians always consumed more than the other troops, and destroyed their means of subsistence by their predatory habits. Austria vainly offered gold; Soltikoff persisted in his intention and merely replied, "My men cannot eat gold." Frederick was now enabled, by eluding the vigilance of the Austrians, to throw himself upon Dresden, for the purpose of regaining a position indispensable to him on account of its proximity to Bohemia, Silesia, the Mere, and Saxony. His project, however, failed, notwithstanding the terrible bombardment of the city, and he vented his wrath at this discomfiture on the gallant regiment of Bernburg, which he punished for its want of success by stripping it of every token of military glory.[Pg 213]

The constant want of ready money for the purpose of recruiting his army, terribly thinned by the incessant warfare, compelled him to circulate a false currency, the English subsidies no longer covering the expenses of the war, and his own territory being occupied by the enemy. Saxony consequently suffered, and was, owing to this necessity, completely drained, the town council at Leipsic being, for instance, shut up in the depth of winter without bedding, light, or firing, until it had voted a contribution of eight tons of gold; the finest forests were cut down and sold, etc.

Berlin meanwhile fell into the hands of the Russians, who, on this occasion, behaved with humanity. General Todleben even ordered his men to fire upon the allied troop, consisting of fifteen thousand Austrians, under Lacy and Brentano, for attempting to infringe the terms of capitulation by plundering the city. The Saxons destroyed the château of Charlottenburg and the superb collection of antiques contained in it, an irreparable loss to art, in revenge for the destruction of the palaces of Bruhl by Frederick. No other treasures of art were carried away or destroyed either by Frederick in Dresden or by his opponents in Berlin. This campaign offered but a single pleasing feature: the unexpected relief of Kolberg, who was hard pushed by the Russians in Pomerania, by the Prussian hussars under General Werner.

Misfortune continued to pursue the King throughout the campaign of 1760. Fouquet, one of his favorites, was, with eight thousand men, surprised and taken prisoner by Laudon in the Giant Mountains near Landshut; the mountain country was cruelly laid waste. The important fortress of Glatz fell, and Breslau was besieged. This city was defended by General Tauenzien, a man of great intrepidity. The celebrated Lessing was at that time his secretary. With merely three thousand Prussians he undertook the defence of the extensive city, within whose walls were nineteen thousand Austrian prisoners.

He maintained himself until relieved by Frederick. The King hastened to defend Silesia, for which Soltikoff's procrastination allowed him ample opportunity. Daun had, it is true, succeeded in forming a junction with Laudon at Liegnitz, but their camps were separate, and the two generals were on bad terms.[Pg 214] Frederick advanced close in their vicinity. An attempt made by Laudon, during the night of August 15th, to repeat the disaster of Hochkirch, was frustrated by the secret advance of the King to his rencounter, and a brilliant victory was gained by the Prussians over their most dangerous antagonist. The sound of the artillery being carried by the wind in a contrary direction, the news of the action and of its disastrous termination reached Daun simultaneously; at all events, he put this circumstance forward as an excuse, on being, not groundlessly, suspected of having betrayed Laudon from a motive of jealousy. He retreated into Saxony. The regiment of Bernburg had greatly distinguished itself in this engagement, and on its termination an old subaltern officer stepped forward and demanded from the King the restoration of its military badges, to which Frederick gratefully acceded.

Scarcely, however, were Breslau relieved and Silesia delivered from Laudon's wild hordes than his rear was again threatened by Daun, who had fallen back upon the united Imperial army in Saxony and threatened to form a junction with the Russians then stationed in his vicinity in the Mere. Frederick, conscious of his utter inability to make head against this overwhelming force, determined, at all risks, to bring Daun and the Imperial army to a decisive engagement before their junction with the Russians, and, accordingly, attacked them at Torgau. Before the commencement of the action he earnestly addressed his officers and solemnly prepared for death. Daun, naturally as anxious to evade an engagement as Frederick was to hazard one, had, as at Collin, taken up an extremely strong position, and received the Prussians with a well-sustained fire.

A terrible havoc ensued; the battle raged with various fortune during the whole of the day, and, notwithstanding the most heroic attempts, the position was still uncarried at fall of night. The confusion had become so general that Prussian fought with Prussian, whole regiments had disbanded, and the King was wounded when Zieten, the gallant hussar general, who had during the night cut his way through the Austrians, who were in an equal state of disorder and had taken the heights, rushed into his presence. Zieten had often excited the King's ridicule by his practice of brandishing his sabre over his head in sign of the cross, as[Pg 215] an invocation for the aid of Heaven before making battle; but now, deeply moved, he embraced his deliverer, whose work was seen at break of day. The Austrians were in full retreat. This bloody action, by which the Prussian monarchy was saved, took place on November 3, 1760.

George II, King of England, expired during this year. His grandson, George III, the son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, who had preceded his father to the tomb, at first declared in favor of Prussia, and fresh subsidies were voted to her monarch by the English Parliament, which at the same time expressed "its deep admiration of his unshaken fortitude and of the inexhaustible resources of his genius." Female influence, however, erelong placed Lord Bute in Pitt's stead at the helm of state, and the subsidies so urgently demanded by Prussia were withdrawn.

The Duke of Brunswick was, meanwhile, again victorious at Billinghausen over the French, and covered the King on that side. On the other hand, the junction of the Austrians with the Russians was effected in 1761; the allied army amounted in all to one hundred thirty thousand men, and Frederick's army, solely consisting of fifty thousand, would in all probability have again been annihilated had he not secured himself behind the fortress of Schweidnitz, in the strong position at Bunzelwitz. Butterlin, the Russian general, was moreover little inclined to come to an engagement on account of the illness of the Empress and the favor with which Frederick was beheld by the successor to the throne. It was in vain that Laudon exerted all the powers of eloquence; the Russians remained in a state of inactivity and finally withdrew.

Laudon avenged himself by unexpectedly taking Schweidnitz under the eyes of the King by a clever coup-de-main, and had not a heroic Prussian artilleryman set fire to a powder-magazine, observing as he did so, "All of ye shall not get into the town!" and blown himself with an immense number of Austrians into the air, he would have made himself master of this important stronghold almost without losing a man. Frederick retreated upon Breslau.

The Empress Elizabeth expired in the ensuing year, 1762, and was succeeded by Peter III, who instantly ranged himself on the side of Prussia. Six months afterward he was assassinated,[Pg 216] and his widow seized the reins of government under the title of Catharine II. Frederick was on the eve of giving battle to the Austrians at Reichenbach in Silesia, and the Russians under Czernichef were under his command, when the news arrived of the death of his friend and of the inimical disposition of the new Empress, who sent Czernichef instant orders to abandon the Prussian banner. Such was, however, Frederick's influence over the Russian general that he preferred hazarding his head rather than abandon the King at this critical conjuncture, and, deferring the publication of the Empress' orders for three days, remained quietly within the camp. Frederick meanwhile was not idle, and gained a complete victory over the Austrians (July 21, 1762).

The attempt made by a Silesian nobleman, Baron Warkotsch, together with a priest named Schmidt, secretly to carry off the King from his quarters at Strehlen, failed. In the autumn Frederick besieged and took Schweidnitz. The two most celebrated French engineers put their new theories into practice on this occasion: Lefévre, for the Prussians against the fortress; Griboval, for the Austrians engaged in its defence. Frederick's good-fortune was shared by Prince Henry, who defeated the Imperial troops at Freiburg in Saxony, and by Ferdinand of Brunswick, who gained several petty advantages over the French, defeating Soubise at Wilhelmsthal and the Saxons on the Lutterbach. The spiritless war on this side was finally terminated during the course of this year (1762) by a peace between England and France.

Goltz had at the same time instigated the Tartars in Southern Russia to revolt, and was on the point of creating a diversion with fifty thousand of them in Frederick's favor. Frederick, with a view of striking the empire with terror, also despatched General Kleist into Franconia, with a flying corps, which no sooner made its appearance in Nuremberg and Bamberg than the whole of the South was seized with a general panic, Charles, Duke of Wurtemberg, for instance, preparing for instant flight from Stuttgard. Sturzebecher, a bold cornet of the Prussian hussars, accompanied by a trumpeter and by five-and-twenty men, advanced as far as Rothenburg on the Tauber, where, forcing his way through the city gate, he demanded a contribution of eighty thousand dollars from the town council. The citizens of this town, which had[Pg 217] once so heroically opposed the whole of Tilly's forces, were chased by a handful of hussars into the Bockshorn, and were actually compelled to pay a fine of forty thousand florins, with which the cornet scoffingly withdrew, carrying off with him two of the town councillors as hostages. So deeply had the citizens of the free towns of the empire at that time degenerated.

Frederick's opponents at length perceived the folly of carrying on war without the remotest prospect of success. The necessary funds were, moreover, wanting. France was weary of sacrificing herself for Austria. Catharine of Russia, who had views upon Poland and Turkey, foresaw that the aid of Prussia would be required in order to keep Austria in check, and both cleverly and quickly entered into an understanding with her late opponent. Austria was, consequently, also compelled to succumb. The rest of the allied powers had no voice in the matter.

Peace was concluded at Hubertsburg, one of the royal Saxon residences, February 15, 1763. Frederick retained possession of the whole of his dominions. The machinations of his enemies had not only been completely frustrated, but Prussia had issued from the Seven Years' War with redoubled strength and glory; she had confirmed her power by her victories, had rendered herself feared and respected, and had raised herself from her station as one of the principal potentates of Germany on a par with the great powers of Europe.


The Russians entered Berlin the same day. It was agreed the citizens should, by tax, raise the sum of two millions, which should be paid in lieu of pillage. Generals Lacy and Czernichef were nevertheless tempted to burn a part of the city; and something fatal might have happened had it not been for the remonstrances of M. Verelst, the Dutch ambassador. This worthy republican spoke to them of the rights of nations, and depicted their fervidity in colors so fearful as to excite flame. Their fury and vengeance turned on the royal palaces of Charlottenburg and Schoenhausen, which were pillaged by the Cossacks and Saxons.

The rumor of the march of the King [Frederick] gained credit. Information was received by Lacy and Czernichef that he in[Pg 218]tended to cut off their retreat. This hastened their departure, and they retired on October 12th. The Russians repassed the Oder at Frankfort and Schwedt; and on the 15th Soltikoff marched toward Landsberg on the Warthe. Lacy pillaged whatever he could find on his route, and in three days regained Torgau. The Prince of Wurtemberg and Hulsen, embarrassed as to how to act, had turned toward Coswig, and cantoned there for want of knowing where to go.

At Gross-Morau the King heard these different accounts. As there were no more Russians to combat, he was at liberty to direct all his efforts against Saxony; therefore, instead of taking the route to Koepenick, he took that of Lueben. Marshal Daun, however, had followed the King into Lusatia. He then approached Torgau, and, as it was known that he had left Laudon at Loewenberg, General Goltz had orders to return into Silesia, to oppose the attempts of the Austrians with his utmost abilities. On the 22d the army of the King arrived at Jessen. The troops of the Prince de Deuxponts extended wholly along the left shore of the Elbe. He and the greatest part of his forces were at Prata, opposite Wittenberg; this fortress he evacuated as soon as the van of the Prussians appeared near the town.

The sudden changes that had happened during this campaign required new measures to be taken and other dispositions to be made. The Prussians had not a single magazine in all Saxony. The army of the King existed from day to day; he drew some little flour from Spandau, but this began to fail; add to this, the enemy occupied all Saxony. Daun had arrived at Torgau, the troops of the circles held the course of the Elbe, and the Duke of Wurtemberg occupied the environs of Dessau. To free himself from so many enemies, the King ordered Hulsen and the Prince of Wurtemberg to march to Magdeburg, there to pass the Elbe, and escort the boats loaded with flour which were to come to Dessau, where the King resolved to pass the Elbe with the right of his army, and afterward join Hulsen.

In the principality of Halberstadt the Prince of Wurtemberg had a rencounter with a detachment of the Duke, his brother, which was entirely destroyed. The Duke returned with all speed through Merseburg and Leipsic to Naumburg. The right of the King passed the Elbe on the 26th, and joined Hulsen and the[Pg 219] Prince near Dessau. On this movement the Prince de Deuxponts abandoned the banks of the Elbe, and retired through Duben to Leipsic. He had left Ried in the rear, in a forest between Oranienbaum and Kemberg, where this officer had taken post, with little judgment; having garnished the woods with his hussars, and posted his pandoors in the plain.

The van of the Prussians attacked Ried; his scattered troops were beaten in detail and his corps almost destroyed. Of thirty-six hundred men he could only assemble one thousand seven hundred, at Pretsch, to which place he was driven after the action.

When the army of the King had obtained Kemberg, Zieten, who with the left had stopped the enemy at Wittenberg, passed the Elbe and joined the main army. Marshal Daun had, however, come up with Lacy at Torgau. As certain information was received that his vanguard had taken the road to Eulenburg, he could be supposed to have no other intention than that of joining the army of the circles. On this the army marched to Duben, to oppose a junction so prejudicial to the interests of the King.

Here arriving, a battalion of Croats was found, who were all either taken or put to the sword. At this place the King formed a magazine: it seemed the most convenient post because it is a peninsula and nearly surrounded by the Mulde. Some redoubts were constructed; and ten battalions under Sydow were left for its defence.

The army of the King thence marched to Eulenburg. The Austrian troops that had encamped in that vicinity retired, through Mochrena to Torgau, with so much precipitate haste that they abandoned a part of their tents. The army encamped with the right at Thalwitz and the left at Eulenburg. Hulsen was obliged to pass the Mulde with some battalions. He took a position between Belzen and Gostevra, opposite the Prince de Deuxponts, whose army was at Taucha. Under the present circumstances the first thing necessary was to drive the troops of the circles to a distance, as well because they were on the rear of the Prussians as to prevent their union with the Austrians. This cost but little trouble; Hulsen gave them the alarm, and they decamped the same night, passed the Pleisse, and then the Elster,[Pg 220] and retreated to Zeitz. Major Quintus, with his free battalion, vigorously charged their rear-guard; from which he took four hundred prisoners. After so happily terminating this expedition, the Prussians recovered possession of Leipsic, and Hulsen rejoined the army.

Every event hitherto (November) had turned to the advantage of the King. The irruption of the Russians and the taking of Berlin, which might appear to induce consequences so great, ended in a manner less afflicting than could have been expected. Contributions and money only were lost. The enemy was driven from the frontiers of Brandenburg. Wittenberg and Leipsic were recovered; and the troops of the circle were repulsed to a distance too considerable for it to be feared they should join the Imperialists with promptitude; but all was not yet done, and the projects that remained were the most difficult part of the whole.

The Russians kept at Landsberg on the Wartha and there might remain peaceful spectators of what should pass in Saxony. The King, however, was informed that other reasons engaged them not to march to too great a distance; for their design was, should the Austrians obtain any advantages over the army of the King, or should Marshal Daun maintain Torgau, to reënter the electorate of Brandenburg, and, conjointly with the Austrians, to take up their quarters on the banks of the Elbe. The consequence of such a project would have been fatally desperate to Prussia. By this position they would cut off the army, not only from Silesia and Pomerania, but from Berlin itself—that nursing mother which supplied clothing, arms, baggage, and every necessary for the men. Add to which the troops would have no quarters to take except beyond the Mulde, between the Pleisse, the Saale, the Elster, and the Unstrut. This would have been a space too narrow to supply the army with subsistence through the winter. And whence should magazines for the spring, uniforms, and recruits be obtained?

The army thus pressed, and thrown back upon the allies, would have starved them by starving itself.

Without any profound military knowledge every rational man would comprehend that, had the King remained quiet during autumn, and formed no new attempts, he would but have deliv[Pg 221]ered himself, tied hand and foot, into the power of the enemy. Let us still further add that the provisions that had been deposited at Duben scarcely would supply the troops for the space of a month; that the frost, which began to be felt, would soon impede the navigation of the Elbe; consequently the boats could no longer bring provisions from Magdeburg; and, in fine, that the very last distress must have succeeded had not good measures been taken to remove the enemy, and gain ground on which the army might encamp and subsist.

After having maturely examined and weighed all these reasons, it was determined to commit the fortune of Prussia to the issue of a battle, if no other means by manœuvring could be found of driving Marshal Daun from his post at Torgau. It will be proper to observe that the fears with which he might be inspired could only relate to two objects: the first, that of gaining Dresden before him, in which there was but a feeble garrison; and the second, of approaching the Elbe and disturbing him concerning subsistence, which was brought from Dresden by the river. It must be confessed that this last manœuvre could not give him much uneasiness, because he was entirely master of the right shore of the Elbe, and might bring the provisions he wanted by land when they could no more be transported by water.

The greatest difficulty in executing this plan was that two things nearly contradictory were to be reconciled: the march of the army to the Elbe, and the security of the magazine. Not to forget all rule, the army of the King, in advancing, ought not to depart too far from the line of defence by which it covered its subsistence; and the motion it was to make upon the Elbe threw it entirely to the right and uncovered its rear. It was still endeavored to reconcile this enterprise on the enemy with the security of the magazine. The King proposed to incline to Schilda, that he might prove the countenance of Daun, and attack him at Torgau should he obstinately persist in remaining there. As it was but one march to Schilda, should the marshal retire on this motion, there was no fear that he should attempt Duben, and, if he remained at Torgau, by attacking him on the morrow, it seemed apparent that he would have so many occupations he would have no time to form projects against the magazine.[Pg 222]

Everything conspiring to confirm the King in his resolution, he, on November 2d, marched the army to Schilda. During the whole route he continued with the vanguard of the hussars, that he might observe to which side the advanced posts of the enemy retired as they were repulsed by the troops of the King. This did not long remain a subject of doubt. The detachments all withdrew to Torgau, except Brentano, who was attacked at Belgern, and taken in such a direction that he could only escape toward Strebla. Kleist took eight hundred prisoners. The army of the King encamped from Schilda through Probsthain to Langen-Reichenbach, and Marshal Daun remained firm and motionless at Torgau. There no longer was any doubt that he had received positive orders from his court to maintain his post at any price.

The following dispositions were made for the attack on the morrow. The right of the Imperialists was supported behind the ponds of Groswich; their centre covered the hill of Sueptitz; the left terminated beyond Zinna, extending toward the ponds of Torgau. Exclusive of this, Ried observed the Prussian army from beside the forest of Torgau. Lacy, with a reserve of twenty thousand men, covered the causeway and the ponds that lie at the extremity of the place where the Imperialists had supported their left. Still the ground on which the enemy stood wanted depth, and the lines had not an interval of above three hundred paces. This was a very favorable circumstance for the Prussians; because, by attacking the centre in front and rear, the foe would be placed between two fires, and could not avoid being beaten.

To produce this effect the King divided his army into two bodies. The one destined to approach from the Elbe, after having passed the forest of Torgau, was to attack the enemy in the rear, from the hill of Sueptitz; while the other, following the route of Eulenburg to Torgau, was to fix a battery on the eminence of Groswich, and at the same time attack the village of Sueptitz. These two corps, acting in concert, must necessarily divide the centre of the Austrians; after which it would be easy to drive the remnant toward the Elbe, where the ground was one continued gentle declivity, excellently advantageous to the Prussians, and must have procured them a complete victory.[Pg 223]

The King began his march at the dawn of day, on the 3d, and was followed by thirty battalions and fifty squadrons of his left. The troops crossed the forest of Torgau in three columns. The route of the first line of infantry led through Mochrena, Wildenhayn, Groswich, and Neiden; the route of the second through Pechhutte, Jaegerteich, and Bruckendorf, to Elsnich. The cavalry that composed the third column passed the wood of Wildenhayn, to march to Vogelsang. Zieten at the same time led the right of the army, consisting of thirty battalions and seventy squadrons, and filed off on the road that goes from Eulenburg to Torgau. The corps headed by the King met with General Ried, posted at the skirts of the forest of Torgau, with two regiments of hussars, as many dragoons, and three battalions of pandoors. Some volleys of artillery were fired, and he fell back on the right of the Imperialists.

Near Wildenhayn there is a small plain in the forest, where ten battalions of grenadiers were seen, well posted, who affected to dispute the passage of the Prussians. They made some discharges of artillery on the column of the King, which were answered by the Prussians. A line of infantry was formed to charge, but they reclined toward their army. The hussars brought word at the same time that the regiment of St. Ignon was in the wood, between the two columns of infantry, and that it had even dismounted. It was incontinently attacked; and, as these dragoons found no outlet for escape, the whole regiment was destroyed. These grenadiers and this regiment were mutually to depart on an expedition against Dobeln, and the commanding officer, St. Ignon, who was taken, bitterly complained that Ried had not informed him of the approach of the Russians. This trifling affair only cost the troops a few moments; they pursued their road, and the heads of the columns arrived, at one o'clock, on the farther side of the forest, in the small plain of Neiden.

Here were seen some dragoons of Bathiani, and four battalions, who coming from the village of Elsnich made some discharges of artillery at a venture and fired with their small arms. This no doubt was a motion of surprise, occasioned perhaps by having seen some Prussian hussars. They retired upon a height behind the defile of Neiden. In this place is a large marsh, which[Pg 224] begins at Groswich and goes to the Elbe, and over which there is no other passage but two narrow causeways. Had this corps taken advantage of its ground there certainly would have been no battle. However determined the King might be to attack the Imperialists, such an attack would have become impossible: he must have renounced his project, and returned full speed to regain Eulenburg.

But it happened far otherwise; these battalions hastened to rejoin the army, to which they were invited by a heavy cannonade which they heard from the side of Zieten. The King supposed, as was very probable, that the troops of Zieten already were in action with the enemy. This induced him to pass the defile of Neiden with his hussars and infantry; for the cavalry which ought to have proceeded was not yet come up. The King glided into a little wood, and personally reconnoitred the position of the enemy. He judged there was no ground on which it was proper to form, in presence of the Austrians, but by passing this small wood, which would in some measure conceal his troops, and whence a considerable ravine might be gained, to protect the soldiers, while they formed, from the enemy's artillery. This ravine was not indeed above eight hundred paces from the Austrian army; but the remainder of the ground, which from Sueptitz descended like a glacis to the Elbe, was such that, had the army here been formed, one-half must have been cut off before it could approach the enemy.

Marshal Daun scarcely could credit the report that the Prussians were marching to the attack; nor was it till after reiterated information that he ordered his second line to face about and that the greatest part of the artillery of the first line was brought to the second. Whatever precaution the King might take to cover the march of his troops, the enemy, who had four hundred pieces of artillery in battery, could not fail to kill many of his men. Eight hundred soldiers fell, and thirty cannon were destroyed, with their horses, train, and gunners, before the columns arrived at the place where they were to be put in order of battle. The King formed his infantry in three lines, each of ten battalions, and began the attack. Had his cavalry been present, he would have thrown two regiments of dragoons into a bottom, that was on the right of his infantry, to cover its flank; but the Prince of Holstein,[Pg 225] whose phlegm was invincible, did not come up till an hour after the action had begun. According to the regulations that had been agreed on, the attacks were to be made at the same time, and the result ought to have been that either the King or Zieten should penetrate through the centre of the enemy at Sueptitz. But General Zieten, instead of attacking, amused himself for a considerable time with a body of pandoors, whom he encountered in the forest of Torgau. He next cannonaded the corps of Lacy, who as we have said was posted behind the ponds of Torgau. In a word, the orders were not executed; the King attacked singly, without being seconded by Zieten, and without his cavalry being present. This still did not prevent him from pursuing his purpose. The first line of the King left the ravine and boldly marched to the enemy; but the prodigious fire of the Imperial artillery, and the descent of the ground, were too disadvantageous. Most of the Prussian generals, commanders of battalions, and soldiers, were killed or wounded. The line fell back, and returned in some disorder. By this the Austrian carbineers profited, pursued, and did not retreat till they had received some discharges from the second line. This line also approached, was disturbed, and, after a more bloody and obstinate combat than the preceding, was in like manner repulsed. Buelow, who led it to the attack, was taken.

At length the much-expected Prince of Holstein and his cavalry arrived. The third line of the Prussians was already in action; the regiment of Prince Henry, attacking the enemy, was in turn charged by the Austrian cavalry, and supported by the hussars of Hund, Reitzenstein, and Prittwitz, against all the efforts of the enemy to break its ranks. The dreadful fire of the artillery of the Austrians had too hastily consumed the ammunition. They had left their reserve of cannon on the other side of the Elbe, and their close lines did not admit of ammunition-wagons to pass and make proper distribution to the batteries.

The King profited by the moment when their fire slackened, and ordered the dragoons of Bayreuth to attack their infantry. They were led on with so much valor and impetuosity by Buelow that, in less than three minutes, they took prisoners the regiments of the Emperor, Neuperg, Geisruck, and Imperial-Bayreuth. The cuirassiers of Spaen and Frederick at the same time made an[Pg 226] assault on that part of the enemy's infantry which was most to the right of the Prussians, put it to the rout, and brought back many prisoners. The Prince of Holstein was placed to cover the left flank of the infantry, which his right wing joined, and his left inclined toward the Elbe. The enemy soon presented himself before the Prince, with eighty squadrons; the right toward the Elbe, the left toward Zinna. O'Donnel commanded the Imperial cavalry. Had he resolutely attacked the Prince, the battle must have been lost without resource, but he was respectful of a ditch of a foot and a half wide, which those who skirmished were forbidden to pass. The enemy believed it to be considerable, because the Prussians made a pretence of fearing to cross it; and the Imperialists remained, in the presence of the Prince, inactive.

The dragoons of Bayreuth had just cleared the height of Sueptitz. The King sent thither the regiment of Maurice, which had not engaged, and a brave and worthy officer, Lestwitz, brought up a corps of a thousand men, which he had formed from the different regiments that had been repulsed in previous attacks. With these troops the Prussians seized on the eminence of Sueptitz, and there fixed themselves, with all the cannon they could hastily collect. Zieten at length, having arrived at his place of destination, attacked on his side. It began to be dark, and to prevent Prussians from combating Prussians, the infantry of Sueptitz beat the march. They were presently joined by Zieten; and scarcely had the Prussians begun to form with order on the ground before Lacy came up, with his corps, to dislodge the King's forces. He came too late: he was twice repulsed. Offended at his ill-reception, at half-past nine he retired toward Torgau. The Prussians and Imperialists were so near each other, among the vineyards of Sueptitz, that many officers and soldiers, on both parts, wandering in the dark, were made prisoners after the battle was over and all was tranquil. The King himself, as he was repairing to the village of Neiden, as well to expedite orders relative to the victory as to send intelligence of it through Brandenburg and Silesia, heard the sound of a carriage near the army. The word was demanded, and the reply was "Austrian." The escort of the King fell on and took two field-pieces and a battalion of pandoors, that had lost them[Pg 227]selves in the night. A hundred paces farther he came up with a troop of horse; that again gave the word "Austrian carbineers." The King's escort attacked and dispersed them in the forest. Those who were taken related that they had lost their road with Ried in the wood, and that they had imagined the Imperialists remained masters of the field.

The whole forest that had been crossed by the Prussians before the battle, and beside which the King was then riding, was full of large fires. What these might mean no one could divine, and some hussars were sent to gain information. They returned, and related that soldiers sat round the fires, some in blue uniforms and others in white. As intelligence more exact was necessary, officers were then sent, who learned a very singular fact, of which I doubt whether any example in history may be found: The soldiers were of both armies, and had sought refuge in the woods, where they had passed an act of neutrality, to wait till fortune had decided in favor of the Prussians or Imperialists; and they had mutually agreed to follow the victorious party.

This battle cost the Prussians thirteen thousand men, three thousand of whom were killed, and three thousand fell into the enemy's hands, during the first attacks, while the Austrians were victorious; Buelow and Finck were among these. The breast of the King was grazed by a ball, and the margrave, Charles, received a contusion: several generals were wounded. The battle was obstinately disputed by both armies; its fury cost the Imperialists twenty thousand men, eight thousand of whom were taken, with four generals. They lost twenty-seven pair of colors and fifty cannon. Marshal Daun was wounded at the commencement of the battle.

When the enemy saw the first line of the Prussians give ground, with hopes too frivolous, they despatched couriers to Vienna and Warsaw to announce their victory; but the same night they abandoned the field of battle, and crossed the Elbe at Torgau. On the morning of the following day (the 4th), Torgau capitulated to General Hulsen. The Prince of Wurtemberg was sent over the Elbe to pursue the foe, who fled in disorder: he augmented the number of prisoners already made. The Imperialists would have been totally defeated had not General Beck, who was not in the engagement, covered their retreat by posting his corps be[Pg 228]tween Arzberg and Triestewitz, behind the Landgraben. It was wholly in the power of Daun to have avoided a battle. Had he placed Lacy behind the defile of Neiden, instead of the ponds of Torgau, which six battalions would have been sufficient to defend, his camp would have been impregnable, so great may the consequences be of the least inadvertency in the difficult trade of war.

When the Russians were informed of the fate of the day of Torgau, they retired to Thorn, where they crossed the Vistula. The army of the King, on the 5th, advanced to Strebla, and on the 6th to Meissen. The Imperialists had left Lacy on that side of the Elbe, that he might cover the bottom of Plauen before their arrival. He attempted to dispute the defile of Zehren with the vanguard; but, when he saw the cavalry in motion to turn him by Lommatsch, he fled to Meissen, where he crossed the Tripsche; but, in spite of the celerity of his march, his rear-guard was attacked, and lost four hundred men. The pursuit was continued that an attempt might be made, favored by the fears and disorder of the foe, to pass the bottom of Plauen with him and seize on this important post. But no diligence could accomplish this; the troops were two hours too late; for, on arriving at Ukersdorf, another corps of the enemy was discovered, that had already taken post at the Windberg, the right of which extended to the Trompeter Schloesgen. This was the corps of Haddick, who, with the Prince de Deuxponts, quitting Leipsic, had marched to Zeitz, and afterward to Rosswein. No sooner were they informed of the Imperial defeat at Torgau than they diligently advanced to cover Dresden before the Prussians could come up.[Pg 229]


[42] The Hanoverian nobility, who hoped thereby to protect their property, were implicated in this affair. They were shortly afterward well and deservedly punished, being laid under contribution by the French.



A.D. 1759


With the opening of the Seven Years' War the two races, French and English, once more began to contend for the prize of empire in the New World. For a while the advantage in the struggle was on the side of France, though the preponderance of population was vastly on the side of the English colonies. Louis XV, however, had one general in Canada worthy of the gallant race from which he had sprung, and who strenuously endeavored to uphold the fortunes of his country. This was the Marquis de Montcalm, a cultured and far-seeing French nobleman, whose ability and enthusiasm in the profession of arms had procured for him the chief military command in Canada, and who was now seeking to expel the English from the colonial possessions of France on the Continent.

But, unfortunately for his country, Montcalm was ill-supported by Old France, and his difficulties were increased by the maladministration of affairs in the colony. Despite these drawbacks, he was for some years the means of protracting the gallant struggle in America and of bringing many disasters on the English arms.

Concentrating his forces in the neighborhood of Lake Champlain, he attacked Fort William Henry, on Lake George, and with a body of Indian auxiliaries from the Ottawa forced the English to capitulate. The victory was marred by horrible Indian atrocities on the English prisoners of war, which Montcalm was unable to prevent. During the year 1757 Montcalm acted solely on the defensive, while the English, having incompetent generals, accomplished little and failed in an attempt to wrest Louisburg from the French. The following year, however, William Pitt, "the Great English Commoner," was called to the councils of his nation, and infused new vigor into the war which had now been formally declared between the two countries. Pitt, aiming at the extinction of French power in America, fitted out a fleet of one hundred fifty sail, under Admiral Boscawen, with a land force of some fourteen thousand men, under General Amherst and Brigadier-General James Wolfe, and despatched both to Canada.

The first operation was the siege of Louisburg, which surrendered with about five thousand prisoners, and in the capture of which young [Pg 230]Wolfe greatly distinguished himself. Later in the year the French were compelled to abandon Fort Duquesne, in the Ohio Valley, which the English now named Pittsburg, in honor of War Minister Pitt; and Frontenac (Kingston), the marine arsenal of the French at the foot of Lake Ontario, surrendered and was destroyed. The effect of these losses was disheartening to the French, though before the season's campaign closed Montcalm defeated the English, under General Abercrombie, in an attack on the French post on Lake Champlain, afterward named Ticonderoga. When the year 1759 opened, the English were ready to resume operations with spirit and effect. Amherst's army advanced upon Crown Point and Ticonderoga, from which the French retired, and Sir William Johnson captured Niagara and drove the French from the Lakes. Wolfe, now general of the forces of the St. Lawrence, sailed in June with his army from Louisburg to Quebec. The story of this eventful expedition and its result here given is by the able pen of the historian A.G. Bradley.

When the flag of Britain supplanted the emblem of France on the ramparts of Quebec the city was held by an English garrison under General Murray, and in the spring of 1760 it narrowly escaped recapture by De Levis, at the head of seven thousand men, who had come from Montreal to attack it. The timely arrival of a British fleet saved the now British stronghold, while Montreal was in turn invested, and that post and all Canada surrendered to the British Crown. Three years later the Peace of Paris confirmed the cession of the country to Britain, and closed the dominion of France in Canada.

England rang with the triumphs of her ally, Frederick of Prussia, and, by a perversion peculiarly British, the scoffing freethinker became the "Protestant hero" in both church and taproom. Pitt was omnipotent in Parliament; only a single insignificant member ever ventured to oppose him. "Our unanimity is prodigious," wrote Walpole. "You would as soon hear a 'No' from an old-maid as from the House of Commons." Newcastle was supremely happy among jobbers and cringing place-hunters under the full understanding that neither he nor his kind trespassed within the sphere of foreign politics. The estimates had exceeded all former limits, and reached for those days the enormous sum of twelve and a half millions. The struggle with France was vigorously waged, too, upon the ocean, warships, privateers, and merchantmen grappling to the death with one another in many a distant sea, while the main fleets of the enemy were for the most part blockaded in their ports by vigilant British armaments. Everywhere were exhilaration and a superb feeling of confidence, engendered by incipient successes and by the[Pg 231] consciousness that the nation was united in purpose and that the leaders of its enterprises were not chosen because they were "rich in votes or were related to a duke."

James Wolfe had certainly neither of these qualifications, and he it was whom Pitt designed to act the leading part in the coming year, "a greater part," he modestly wrote after receiving his appointment, "than I wished or desired. The backwardness of some of the older officers has in some measure forced the Government to come down so low. I shall do my best and leave the rest to fortune, as perforce we must when there are not the most commanding abilities."

Pitt's plan for the coming season in America was to strike two great blows at Canada, and a lesser one, which, if successful, would involve the conquest of that country. Wolfe, aided by a fleet, was to attack Quebec; Amherst with another force was to push through by the Lake Champlain route and unite with him if possible. A further expedition was to be sent against Niagara under Prideaux; but for the present we are concerned only with the first and by far the most memorable of the three.

Wolfe at this time was colonel of the Sixty-seventh regiment. He was to have local rank only of major-general while in America, since more substantial elevation would, in the eyes of Newcastle and his friends, have been almost an outrage on the British Constitution as by them interpreted. Pitt and his young officers, however, were well content to waive such trifles for the present, and concede so much of consolation to the long list of rejected incapables, in return for such honor and glory as might perchance be theirs.

The land force was to consist of twelve thousand men, a few of whom were to sail from England, but the bulk were to be drawn from the American and West Indian garrisons. The latter, however, were counter-ordered; the former proved to be below the estimated strength, and the actual number that gathered in Louisburg, the point of rendezvous, was only about eight thousand five hundred. The command of the fleet was given to Admiral Saunders, and this appointment demanded great discretion, as the sailor in this instance had not only to be efficient on his own element, but to be a man of tact, and one who at the same time would put patriotism above professional[Pg 232] jealousy, and could be trusted to work heartily with the land forces.

It was late in February when Saunders' fleet, convoying Wolfe, his stores, and a few troops, sailed from Spithead. The winds being adverse and the seas running high, May had opened before the wild coast of Nova Scotia was dimly seen through the whirling wreaths of fog. It was a late season, and Louisburg harbor was still choked with ice, so that the fleet had to make southward for Halifax at the cost of much of that time which three years' experience had at length taught the British was so precious in all North American enterprises. At Halifax Wolfe found the troops from the American garrisons awaiting him. Among them was the Forty-third regiment, with the gallant Major Knox, our invaluable diarist, filled with joy at the prospect of active service after twenty months' confinement in a backwoods fort, and ready with his sword as happily for us he was with his pen. In a fortnight Louisburg was open, and both fleet and transports were grinding amid the still drifting ice in its harbor. Here again the army was landed, and its numbers completed from the Louisburg garrison.

There was naturally much to be done with an army brought together from so many various quarters. The force, too, proved, as I have said, far short of the estimate, being considerably under nine thousand men; but, on the other hand, these were all good troops and mostly veterans. Though the benefits of Bath waters had been more than neutralized by nearly three months of buffeting on the element he so loathed, Wolfe spared himself no effort. He was not only a fighting, but to the highest degree an organizing, general. Every sickly and unlikely man, small as was his force, was weeded out. Every commissariat detail down to the last gaiter-button was carefully scrutinized. Seldom had England sent out a body of men so perfect in discipline, spirit, and material of war, and assuredly none so well commanded since the days of Marlborough. It was well it was so, seeing that they were destined to attack one of the strongest posts in the world, defended by an army nearly twice as numerous as themselves, and fighting, moreover, in defence of its home and country and, as it fully believed, of its religion. The young general was thoroughly alive to the numerical weakness of his force,[Pg 233] but that he rejoiced in its efficiency is evident from his letters, and he was hard to please. "If valor can make amends for want of numbers," he wrote to Pitt, "we shall succeed."

Admiral Durell, with ten ships, had been sent forward early in May to stop French supply- or war-ships from ascending the St. Lawrence when navigation opened. It was June 1st when Wolfe and Saunders with the main army followed him, owing to fog and ice and contrary winds, in somewhat straggling fashion. The bands played the time-honored air of The Girl I Left Behind Me, and the men cheered lustily as the ships cleared the bar, while at the mess-tables, says Knox, there was only one toast among the officers—"British colors on every French fort, post, and garrison in America." With Saunders went twenty-two ships of the line—five frigates and seventeen sloops-of-war, besides the transports. All went smoothly till the 20th, when, the wind dropping, they were caught in the cross-currents caused by the outpouring waters of the Saguenay, which, draining a vast mountain wilderness to the northward, would be accounted a mighty river if it were not for the still mightier one that absorbs it. Here the ships ran some risk of fouling, but escaped any serious damage, and in three days were at the Île aux Coudres, where the real dangers of the navigation began. It must be remembered that such a venture was unprecedented, and regarded hitherto as an impossibility for large ships without local pilots. The very presence of the first made the second possible, for some of the vessels approaching the shore ran up French flags, whereupon numbers of the country people, in response to an invitation, came on board, little guessing the visitors could be their enemies.

Pilots were by this ruse secured, and their services impressed under pain of death. Knox, who understood French, tells us that the poor unwilling pilot who took his ship up the tortuous channel made use of the most frightful imprecations, swearing that most of the fleet and the whole army would find their graves in Canada. An old British tar, on the other hand, master of a transport and possessed of an immense scorn for foreigners, would not allow a French pilot to interfere, and insisted, in the teeth of all remonstrance, on navigating his own ship. "D—n me," he roared, "I'll convince you that an Englishman shall go[Pg 234] where a Frenchman daren't show his nose," and he took it through in safety. "The enemy," wrote Vaudreuil soon after this to his Government, "have passed sixty ships-of-war where we dare not risk a vessel of a hundred tons by night or day." The British navy has not been sufficiently remembered in the story of Quebec.

Let us now turn for a moment to Montcalm and see what he has been doing all this time to prepare for the attack. It was an accepted axiom in Canada that no armament strong enough to seriously threaten Quebec could navigate the St. Lawrence. In the face of expected invasion it was the Lake George and Champlain route that mostly filled the public mind. Bougainville, however, had returned from France early in May with the startling news that a large expedition destined for Quebec was already on the sea. A former opinion of this able officer's declared that three or four thousand men could hold the city against all comers. There was now four times that strength waiting for Wolfe, while his own, so far as numbers went, we know already. Eighteen transport ships, carrying supplies and some slight reënforcements, had slipped past the English cruisers in the fogs, and brought some comfort to Montcalm. The question now was how best to defend Quebec, as well as make good the two land approaches at Ticonderoga and Lake Ontario respectively.

For the defence of the city, when every able-bodied militia-man had been called out, nearly sixteen thousand troops of all arms would be available. About the disposition of these and the plan of defence there was much discussion. Montcalm himself was for a long time undecided. The alternative plans do not concern us here; the one finally adopted is alone to the point. Everyone knows that the ancient capital of Canada is one of the most proudly placed among the cities of the earth. But it may be well to remind those who have not seen it, that it occupies the point of a lofty ridge, forming the apex of the angle made by the confluence of the St. Charles River and the St. Lawrence. Westward from the city this ridge falls so nearly sheer into the St. Lawrence for several miles that, watched by a mere handful of men, it was impregnable. Moreover, the river suddenly narrows to a breadth of three-quarters of a mile opposite[Pg 235] the town, whose batteries were regarded as being fatal to any attempt of an enemy to run past them. On the other side of the town the St. Charles River, coming in from the northwest immediately below its walls, formed a secure protection.

Montcalm, however, decided to leave only a small garrison in the city itself and go outside it for his main defence. Now, from the eastern bank of the mouth of the St. Charles, just below the city, there extends in an almost straight line along the northern shore of the St. Lawrence a continuous ridge, the brink, in fact, of a plateau, at no point far removed from the water's edge. Six miles away this abruptly terminates in the gorge of the Montmorency River, which, rushing tumultuously toward the St. Lawrence, makes that final plunge on to its shore level which is one of the most beautiful objects in a landscape teeming with natural and human interest. Along the crown of this six-mile ridge, known in history as "the Beauport lines," Montcalm decided to make his stand. So, throughout the long days of May and June the French devoted themselves to rendering impregnable from the front a position singularly strong in itself, while the Montmorency and its rugged valley protected the only flank which was exposed to attack. Below him spread the river, here over two miles in width from shore to shore, with the western point of the island of Orleans overlapping his left flank. Above the woods of this long, fertile island, then the garden of Canada, the French, upon June 27th, first caught sight of the pennons flying from the topmasts of the English battle-ships, and before evening they witnessed the strange sight of red-coated infantry swarming over its well-tilled fields.

Wolfe had not much time that evening to consider the situation, which might well have appalled a less stout heart than his, for the troops had scarcely landed when a sudden summer storm burst upon the scene, churned the river into angry waves, broke some of the smaller ships from their moorings, casting them upon the rocks, and staving in many of the boats and rafts. The people of Quebec, who for weeks had been urging upon the Divinity in their peculiar way that they, his chosen people, were in danger, would not have been Canadian Catholics of their generation had they not been jubilant at this undoubted sign of divine intervention. But Montcalm was the last man to presume[Pg 236] on such favor by any lack of energy. The very next night the British, having in the mean time pitched their camp upon the Isle of Orleans, were thrown into no small alarm by the descent of a fleet of fire-ships.

The only men awake were the guards and sentries at the point, and as the matches were not applied to the drifting hulks till they were close at hand, the sudden effect in the darkness of the night upon the soldiers' nerves was more than they could stand, having beheld nothing like it in their lives, and they rushed in much confusion on the sleeping camp, causing still more there. For it was not alone the flames and the explosives that were a cause of perturbation, but a hail of grape-shot and bullets from the igniting guns poured hurtling through the trees. The chief object of the fire-ships, however, was the fleet which lay in the channel between the Isle of Orleans and the shore, and toward it they came steadily drifting. Knox describes the pandemonium as awful, and the sight as inconceivably superb of these large burning ships, crammed with every imaginable explosive and soaked from their mast-heads to their water-line in pitch and tar. It was no new thing, however, to the gallant sailors, who treated the matter as a joke, grappling fearlessly with the hissing, spitting demons, and towing them ashore. "Damme, Jack," they shouted, "didst ever take h—ll in tow before?"

This exploit seems to have been a venture of Vaudreuil's, and its failure, an extremely expensive one, cost that lively egotist and his friends a severe pang. The next day Wolfe published his first manifesto to the Canadian people. "We are sent by the English King," it ran, "to conquer this province, but not to make war upon women and children, the ministers of religion, or industrious peasants. We lament the sufferings which our invasion may inflict upon you: but if you remain neutral, we proffer you safety in person and property and freedom in religion. We are masters of the river; no succor can reach you from France. General Amherst, with a large army, assails your southern frontier. Your cause is hopeless, your valor useless. Your nation have been guilty of great cruelties to our unprotected settlers, but we seek not revenge. We offer you the sweets of peace amid the horrors of war. England, in her strength, will befriend you; France, in her weakness, leaves you to your fate."[Pg 237]

Wolfe could hardly have felt the confidence he here expressed. The longer he looked upon the French position the less he must have liked it, and the larger must Amherst and his eventual cooperation have loomed in his mind as a necessary factor to success. But would Amherst get through to Montreal and down the St. Lawrence in time to be of use before the short season had fled? Those who were familiar with the difficulties would certainly have discouraged the hope which Wolfe for a time allowed himself to cherish; and Wolfe, though he admired his friend and chief, did not regard celerity of movement as his strongest point.

About the first move, however, in the game Wolfe had to play there could be no possible doubt, and that was the occupation of Point Lévis. This was the high ground immediately facing Quebec, where the river, narrowing to a width of twelve hundred yards, brought the city within cannon-shot from the southern bank. It was the only place, in fact, from which it could be reached. It is said Montcalm had been anxious to occupy it, and intrench it with four thousand men, but was overruled on the supposition that the upper town, about which official Quebec felt most concern, would be outside its range of fire. If this was so, they were soon to be undeceived.

The occupation of Point Lévis by Monckton's brigade, which Wolfe now ordered on that service, need not detain us. They crossed from the camp of Orleans to the village of Beaumont, which was seized with slight resistance. Thence moving on along the high road to Point Lévis, they found the church and village occupied by what Knox, who was there, estimates at a thousand riflemen and Indians. The Grenadiers charging the position in front, and the Highlanders and light infantry taking it in the rear, it was stormed with a loss of thirty men, and Monckton then occupied a position which, so far as artillery fire was concerned, had Quebec at its mercy. The brigadier, who had fully expected to find French guns there, at once began to intrench himself on this conspicuous spot, while floating batteries now pushed out from Quebec and began throwing shot and shell up at his working-parties, till Saunders sent a frigate forward to put an end to what threatened to be a serious annoyance.[Pg 238]

The French had changed their minds about the danger of Monckton's guns, though not a shot had yet been fired, and agitated loudly for a sortie across the river. Montcalm thought poorly of the plan; but a miscellaneous force of fifteen hundred Canadians, possessed of more ardor than cohesion, insisted on attempting a night assault. They landed some way up the river, but did not so much as reach the British position. The difficulties of a combined midnight movement were altogether too great for such irregulars, and they ended by firing upon one another in the dark and stampeding for their boats, with a loss of seventy killed and wounded.

Two brigades were now in midstream on the Isle of Orleans and one on Point Lévis. Landing artillery and stores, intrenching both positions, and mounting siege-guns at the last-named one consumed the first few days of July. Wolfe's skill in erecting and firing batteries had been abundantly demonstrated at Louisburg; and though his head quarters were on the island, he went frequently to superintend the preparations for the bombardment of Quebec. On July 12th a rocket leaped into the sky from Wolfe's camp. It was the signal for the forty guns and mortars that had been mounted on Point Lévis to open on the city that Vaudreuil and his friends had fondly thought was out of range. The first few shots may have encouraged the delusion, as they fell short; but the gunners quickly got their distance, and then began that storm of shot and shell which rained upon the doomed city, with scarce a respite, for upward of eight weeks.

Houses, churches, and monasteries crashed and crumbled beneath the pitiless discharge. The great cathedral, where the memories and the trophies of a century's defiance of the accursed heretic had so thickly gathered, was gradually reduced to a skeleton of charred walls. The church of Notre Dame de la Victoire, erected in gratitude for the delivery of the city from the last and only previous attack upon it sixty years before, was one of the first buildings to suffer from the far more serious punishment of this one. Wolfe, though already suffering from more than his chronic ill-health, was ubiquitous and indefatigable; now behind Monckton's guns at Point Lévis, now with Townshend's batteries at Montmorency, now up the river, ranging with[Pg 239] his glass those miles of forbidding cliffs which he may already have begun to think he should one day have to climb. Some of Saunders' ships were in the Basin, between Orleans and Quebec, and frequently engaged with Montcalm's floating batteries; while in the mean time the roar of artillery from a dozen different quarters filled the simmering July days, and lit the short summer nights with fiery shapes, and drew in fitful floods the roving thunder-clouds that at this season of the year in North America are apt to lurk behind the serenest sky.

Fighting at close quarters there was, too, in plenty, though of an outpost and backwoods kind. Bois Herbert, with his painted Canadians and Abernakis Indians, and Stark and young Rogers with their colonial rangers—Greek against Greek—scalped each other with a hereditary ferocity that English and French regulars knew nothing of. In bringing a fleet up to Quebec, British sailors had already performed one feat pronounced impossible by Canadian tradition. They now still further upset their enemies' calculations by running the gauntlet of the batteries of Quebec and placing the Sutherland, with several smaller ships, at some distance up the river. This cost Montcalm six hundred men, whom he had to send under Dumas to watch the squadron. But all this brought the end no nearer. Time was exceeding precious, and July was almost out. Necessary messages were continually passing under flags of truce, and superfluous notes of defiance sometimes accompanied them. "You may destroy the town," said De Ramezay to Wolfe, "but you will never get inside it." "I will take Quebec," replied the fiery stripling, "if I stay here till November."

Through the whole weary month of August little occurred that the exigencies of our space would justify recording. Montcalm considered himself safe, and he even allowed two thousand Canadians to leave for the harvest. Wolfe had a thousand men of his small force sick or wounded in hospital. Amherst, it was reported, had taken Ticonderoga, but there was little likelihood of his getting through to their assistance. Prideaux, in the Far West, as it then was, had captured Niagara. It was a great success, but it in no way helped Wolfe. It must not be supposed, however, that August had passed away in humdrum fashion. The guns had roared with tireless throats, and the lower town[Pg 240] was a heap of ruins. Far away down both banks of the St. Lawrence the dogs of war had raged through seigniories and hamlets. Between the upper and the nether millstone of Wolfe's proclamations and Montcalm's vengeance, the wretched peasantry were in a sore plight. Raided through and through by the fierce guerillas of North American warfare, swept bare of grain and cattle for Wolfe's army, the fugitives from smoking farms and hamlets were glad to seek refuge in the English lines, where the soldiers generously shared with them their meagre rations. More than one expedition had been sent up the river. Admiral Holmes, with over twenty ships, was already above the town, and had driven the French vessels, which had originally taken refuge there, to discharge their crews and run up shallow tributaries.

Wolfe's intention now was to place every man that he could spare on board the ships in the upper river, and his entire force was reduced by death, wounds, and sickness to under seven thousand men. On September 3d, with slight annoyance from an ill-directed cannon fire, he removed the whole force at Montmorency across the water to the camps of Orleans or Point Lévis. On the following day all the troops at both these stations which were not necessary for their protection were paraded; for what purpose no one knew, least of all the French, who from their lofty lines could mark every movement in the wide panorama below, and were sorely puzzled and perturbed. Some great endeavor was in the wind, beyond a doubt; but both Wolfe and his faithful ally, the admiral, did their utmost to disguise its import. And for this very reason it would be futile, even if necessary, to follow the fluctuating manœuvres that for the next few days kept the enemy in constant agitation: the sudden rage of batteries here, the threatening demonstrations of troop-laden boats there, the constant and bewildering movement of armed ships at every point. It was well designed and industriously maintained, for the sole purpose of harassing the French and covering Wolfe's real intention.

On the night of September 4th the general was well enough to dine with Monckton's officers at Point Lévis, but the next day he was again prostrate with illness, to the great anxiety of his army. He implored the doctor to "patch him up sufficiently for[Pg 241] the work in hand; after that nothing mattered." Chronic gravel and rheumatism, with a sharp low fever, aggravated by a mental strain of the severest kind, all preying on a sickly frame, were what the indomitable spirit there imprisoned had to wrestle with. On the 6th, however, Wolfe struggled up, and during that day and the next superintended the march of his picked column, numbering some four thousand men, up the south bank of the river. Fording, near waist-deep, the Etchemain River, they were received beyond its mouth by the boats of the fleet, and, as each detachment arrived, conveyed on board. The Forty-eighth, however, seven hundred strong, were left, under Colonel Burton, near Point Lévis to await orders.

The fleet, with Wolfe and some thirty-six hundred men on board, now moved up to Cap Rouge, behind which, at the first dip in the high barrier of cliffs, was Bougainville with fifteen hundred men (soon afterward increased), exclusive of three hundred serviceable light cavalry. The cove here was intrenched, and the French commander was so harried with feigned attacks that he and his people had no rest. At the same time, so well was the universal activity maintained that Montcalm, eight miles below, was led to expect a general attack at the mouth of the Charles River, under the city. Throughout the 8th and 9th the weather was dark and rainy and the wind from the east, an unfavorable combination for a movement requiring the utmost precision. On the 10th the troops from the crowded ships were landed to dry their clothes and accoutrements. Wolfe and his brigadiers now finally surveyed that line of cliffs which Montcalm had declared a hundred men could hold against the whole British army. It was defended here and there by small posts. Below one of these, a mile and a half above the city, the traces of a zigzag path up the bush-covered precipice could be made out, though Wolfe could not see that even this was barricaded. Here, at the now famous Anse du Foulon, he decided to make his attempt.

The ships, however, kept drifting up and down between Cap Rouge and the city, with a view to maintaining the suspense of the French. Each morning Wolfe's general orders to the soldiers were to hold themselves in readiness for immediate action, with as full directions for their conduct as was compatible with[Pg 242] the suppression of the spot at which they were to fight. On the night of the 11th the troops were reëmbarked, and instructions sent to Burton to post the Forty-eighth on the south shore opposite the Anse du Foulon. On the following day Wolfe published his last orders, and they contained a notable sentence: "A vigorous blow struck by the army at this juncture may determine the fate of Canada." Almost at the same moment his gallant opponent from his head-quarters at Beauport was writing to Bourlamaque at Montreal that he gave the enemy a month or less to stay, but that he himself had no rest night or day, and had not had his boots or clothes off for a fortnight. Another Frenchman was informing his friends that what they knew of that "impetuous, bold, and intrepid warrior, Monsieur Wolfe," gave them reason to suppose he would not leave them without another attack.

A suspicious calm brooded over the British squadron off Cap Rouge as Bougainville watched it from the shore throughout the whole of the 12th. The men were under orders to drop into their boats at nine, and were doubtless busy looking to their arms and accoutrements. By a preconcerted arrangement the day was spent after a very different fashion in the Basin of Quebec. Constant artillery fire and the continual movement of troops against various parts of the Beauport lines engaged the whole attention of Montcalm, who had, in fact, little notion what a number of men had gone up the river with Wolfe.

When night fell upon the ruined city and the flickering campfires of the long French lines, the tumult grew louder and the anxiety greater. The batteries of Point Lévis and the guns of Saunders' ships redoubled their efforts. Amid the roar of the fierce artillery, served with an activity not surpassed during the whole siege, Montcalm, booted and spurred, with his black charger saddled at the door, awaited some night attack. The horse would be wanted yet, but for a longer ride than his master anticipated, and, as it so turned out, for his last one. Up the river at Cap Rouge all was silence, a strange contrast to the din below. The night was fine, but dark, and was some three hours old when a single light gleamed of a sudden from the Sutherland's main-mast. It was the signal for sixteen hundred men to drop quietly into their boats. A long interval of silence and suspense[Pg 243] then followed, till at two o'clock the tide began to ebb, when a second lantern glimmered from Wolfe's ship. The boats now pushed off and drifted quietly down in long procession under the deep shadow of the high northern shore.

The ships followed at some distance with the remainder of the force under Townshend, the Forty-eighth, it will be remembered, awaiting them below. The distance to be traversed was six miles, and there were two posts on the cliffs to be passed. French provision-boats had been in the habit of stealing down in the night, and to this fact, coupled with the darkness, it seems Wolfe trusted much. He was himself in one of the leading boats, and the story of his reciting Gray's Elegy, in solemn tones while he drifted down, as he hoped, to victory and, as he believed, to death, rests on good authority.[43]

The tide was running fast, so that the rowers could ply their oars with a minimum of disturbance. From both posts upon the cliff their presence was noticed, and the challenge of a sentry rang out clear upon the silent night. On each occasion a Highland officer, who spoke French perfectly, replied that they were a provision convoy, to the satisfaction of the challengers. But the risk was undeniable, and illustrates the hazardous nature of the enterprise. Wolfe's friend, Captain Howe, brother of the popular young nobleman who fell at Ticonderoga, with a small body of picked soldiers, was to lead the ascent, and as the boats touched the narrow beach of the Anse du Foulon he and his volunteers leaped rapidly on shore. Some of the boats accidentally overran the spot, but it made little difference, as the narrow path was, in any case, found to be blocked, and the eager soldiers were forced to throw themselves upon the rough face of the cliff, which was here over two hundred feet high, but fortunately sprinkled thick with stunted bushes. Swiftly and silently Howe and his men scrambled up its steep face. No less eagerly the men behind, as boat after boat discharged its load of red-coats under Wolfe's eye on the narrow shore, followed in their precarious steps.

Day was just beginning to glimmer as the leading files leaped out onto the summit and rushed upon the handful of astonished[Pg 244] Frenchmen before them, who fired a futile volley and fled. The shots and cries alarmed other posts at some distance off, yet near enough to fire in the direction of the landing-boats. It was too late, however; the path had now been cleared of obstacles, and the British were swarming onto the plateau. The first sixteen hundred men had been rapidly disembarked, and the boats were already dashing back for Townshend's brigade, who were approaching in the ships, and for the Forty-eighth, awaiting them on the opposite shore.

The scattered French posts along the summit were easily dispersed, while the main army at Beauport, some miles away, on the far side of the city, were as yet unconscious of danger. Bougainville and his force back at Cap Rouge were as far off and as yet no wiser. Quebec had just caught the alarm, but its weak and heterogeneous garrison had no power for combined mobility. By six o'clock Wolfe had his whole force of forty-three hundred men drawn up on the plateau, with their backs to the river and their faces to the north. Leaving the Royal Americans, five hundred forty strong, to guard the landing-place, and with a force thus reduced to under four thousand he now marched toward the city, bringing his left round at the same time in such fashion as to face the western walls, scarcely a mile distant.

As Wolfe drew up his line of battle on that historic ridge of table-land known as the Plains of Abraham, his right rested on the cliff above the river, while his left approached the then brushy slope which led down toward the St. Charles Valley. He had outmanœuvred Montcalm; it now remained only to crush him. Of this Wolfe had not much doubt, though such confidence may seem sufficiently audacious for the leader of four thousand men, with twice that number in front of him and half as many in his rear, both forces commanded by brave and skilful generals. But Wolfe counted on quality, not on numbers, which Montcalm himself realized were of doubtful efficacy at this crucial moment.

The French general, in the mean time, had been expecting an attack all night at Beauport, and his troops had been lying on their arms. It was about six o'clock when the astounding news was brought him that the British were on the plateau be[Pg 245]hind the city. The Scotch Jacobite, the Chevalier Johnstone, who has left us an account of the affair, was with him at the time, and they leaped on their horses—he to give the alarm toward Montmorency, the general to hasten westward by Vaudreuil's quarters to the city. "This is a serious business," said Montcalm to Johnstone as he dug his spurs into his horse's flanks. Vaudreuil, who in his braggart, amateur fashion had been "crushing the English" with pen and ink and verbal eloquence this last six weeks, now collapsed, and Montcalm, who knew what a fight in the open with Wolfe meant, hastened himself to hurry forward every man that could be spared.

Fifteen hundred militia were left to guard the Beauport lines, while the bulk of the army poured in a steady stream along the road to Quebec, over the bridge of the St. Charles, some up the slopes beyond, others through the tortuous streets of the city, on to the Plains of Abraham. Montcalm, by some at the time, and by many since, has been blamed for precipitating the conflict, but surely not with justice! He had every reason to count on Bougainville and his twenty-three hundred men, who were no farther from Wolfe's rear than he himself was from the English front. The British held the entire water. Wolfe once intrenched on the plateau, the rest of his army, guns, and stores could be brought up at will, and the city defences on that side were almost worthless. Lastly, provisions with the French were woefully scarce; the lower country had been swept absolutely bare. Montcalm depended on Montreal for every mouthful of food, and Wolfe was now between him and his source of supply.

By nine o'clock Montcalm had all his men in front of the western walls of the city and was face to face with Wolfe, only half a mile separating them. His old veterans of William Henry, Oswego, and Ticonderoga were with him, the reduced regiments of Béarn, Royal Rousillon, Languedoc, La Sarre, and La Guienne, some thirteen hundred strong, with seven hundred colony regulars and a cloud of militia and Indians. Numbers of these latter had been pushed forward as skirmishers into the thickets, woods, and cornfields which fringed the battle-field, and had caused great annoyance and some loss to the British, who were lying down in their ranks, reserving their strength and their ammunition for a supreme effort. Three pieces of cannon, too, had[Pg 246] been brought to play on them—no small trial to their steadiness; for, confident of victory, it was not to Wolfe's interest to join issue till Montcalm had enough of his men upon the ridge to give finality to such a blow. At the same time the expected approach of Bougainville in the rear had to be watched for and anticipated.

It was indeed a critical and anxious moment! The Forty-eighth regiment were stationed as a reserve of Wolfe's line, though to act as a check rather to danger from Bougainville than as a support to the front attacks in which they took no part. Part, too, of Townshend's brigade, who occupied the left of the line nearest to the wooded slopes in which the plain terminated, were drawn up en potence, or at right angles to the main column, in case of attacks from flank or rear. The Bougainville incident is, in fact, a feature of this critical struggle that has been too generally ignored, but in such a fashion that inferences might be drawn, and have been drawn, detrimental to that able officer's sagacity. Theoretically he should have burst on the rear of Wolfe's small army, as it attacked Montcalm, with more than twenty-three hundred tolerable troops.

He was but six miles off, and it was now almost as many hours since the British scaled the cliff. Pickets and a small battery or two between himself and Wolfe had been early in the morning actually engaged. The simple answer is that Bougainville remained ignorant of what was happening. Nothing but an actual messenger coming through with the news would have enlightened him, and in the confusion none came till eight o'clock. The sound of desultory firing borne faintly against the wind from the neighborhood of the city had little significance for him. It was a chronic condition of affairs, and Bougainville's business was to watch the upper river, where an attack was really expected. It was a rare piece of good-fortune for Wolfe that the confusion among the French was so great as to cause this strange omission. But then it was Wolfe's daring that had thus robbed a brave enemy of their presence of mind and created so pardonable a confusion.

The constituents of that ever-memorable line of battle which Wolfe drew up on the Plains of Abraham must of a surety not be grudged space in this account. On the right toward the cliffs[Pg 247] of the St. Lawrence were the Twenty-eighth, the Thirty-fifth, the Forty-third, and the Louisburg Grenadiers under Monckton; in the centre, under Murray, were the Forty-seventh, Fifty-eighth, and the Seventy-eighth Highlanders; with Townshend on the left were the Fifteenth (en potence) and the Second battalion of the Sixtieth or Royal Americans—in all somewhat over three thousand men. In reserve, as already stated, was Burton with the Forty-eighth, while Howe with some light infantry occupied the woods still farther back, and the Third battalion of the Sixtieth guarded the landing-place. None of these last corps joined in the actual attack.

When Montcalm, toward ten o'clock, under a cloudy but fast-clearing sky, gave the order to advance, he had, at the lowest estimate from French sources, about thirty-five hundred men, exclusive of Indians and flanking skirmishers, who may be rated at a further fifteen hundred. The armies were but half a mile apart, and the French regulars and militia, being carefully but perhaps injudiciously blended along their whole line, went forward with loud shouts to the attack.

The British, formed in a triple line, now sprang to their feet and moved steadily forward to receive the onset of the French. Wolfe had been hit on the wrist, but hastily binding up the shattered limb with his handkerchief, he now placed himself at the head of the Louisburg Grenadiers, whose temerity against the heights of Beauport, in July, he had soundly rated. He had issued strict orders that his troops were to load with two bullets, and to reserve their fire till the enemy were at close quarters. He was nobly obeyed, though the French columns came on firing wildly and rapidly at long range, the militia throwing themselves down, after their backwoods custom, to reload, to the disadvantage of the regular regiments among whom they were mixed. The British fire, in spite of considerable punishment, was admirably restrained, and when delivered it was terrible.

Knox tells us that the French received it at forty paces, that the volleys sounded like single cannon-shots, so great was the precision, and French officers subsequently declared they had never known anything like it. Whole gaps were rent in the French ranks, and in the confusion which followed the British reloaded with deliberation, poured in yet another deadly volley,[Pg 248] and with a wild cheer rushed upon the foe. They were the pick of a picked army, and the shattered French, inured to arms in various ways though every man of them was, had not a chance. Montcalm's two thousand regulars were ill-supported by the still larger number of their comrades, who, unsurpassed behind breastworks or in forest warfare, were of little use before such an onslaught. The rush of steel, of bayonet on the right and centre, of broadsword on the left, swept everything before it and soon broke the French into a flying mob, checked here and there by brave bands of white-coated regulars, who offered a brief but futile resistance.

Wolfe, in the mean time, was eagerly pressing forward at the head of his Grenadiers, while behind him were the Twenty-eighth and the Thirty-fifth, of Lake George renown. One may not pause here to speculate on the triumph that must at such a moment have fired the bright eyes that redeemed his homely face and galvanized the sickly frame into a very Paladin of old, as sword in hand he led his charging troops. Such inevitable reflections belong rather to his own story than to that of the long war which he so signally influenced, and it was now, in the very moment of victory, as all the world well knows, that he fell.

He was hit twice in rapid succession—a ball in the groin which did not stop him, and a second through the lungs, against which his high courage fought in vain. He was seen to stagger by Lieutenant Browne of the Grenadiers and Second regiment, who rushed forward to his assistance. "Support me," exclaimed Wolfe, "lest my gallant fellows should see me fall." But the lieutenant was just too late, and the wounded hero sank to the ground; not, however, before he was also seen by Mr. Henderson, a volunteer, and almost immediately afterward by an officer of artillery, Colonel Williamson, and a private soldier whose name has not been preserved. The accurate Knox himself was not far off, and this is the account given him by Browne that same evening, and seems worthy to hold the field against the innumerable claims that have been set up in the erratic interests of "family tradition."

These four men carried the dying general to the rear, and by his own request, being in great pain, laid him upon the ground. He refused to see a surgeon, declared it was all over with him,[Pg 249] and sank into a state of torpor. "They run; see how they run!" cried out one of the officers. "Who run?" asked Wolfe, suddenly rousing himself. "The enemy, sir; egad, they give way everywhere." "Go, one of you, my lads," said the dying general, "with all speed to Colonel Burton, and tell him to march down to the St. Charles River and cut off the retreat of the fugitives to the bridge." He then turned on his side, and exclaiming, "God be praised, I now die in peace," sank into insensibility, and in a short time, on the ground of his victory which for all time was to influence the destinies of mankind, gave up his life contentedly at the very moment, to quote Pitt's stirring eulogy, "when his fame began."[Pg 250]


[43] That of Professor Robinson, of Edinburgh University, who was present as a midshipman.


A.D. 1762


"No sovereign since Ivan the Terrible," says Rambaud, "extended the frontiers of the empire by such vast conquests" as those of Catharine II. "She gave Russia for boundaries the Niemen, the Dniester, and the Black Sea." This aggrandizement, which was her own boast, was a sufficient compensation to Russia, if not to history, for the crimes charged against Catharine both at home and elsewhere in the scenes of her political and military triumphs. Her participation in the three partitions of Poland (1772, 1793, 1795) associated her name forever with the long and pathetic tragedy of that nation.

Voltaire, whose admiration for Catharine engages Johnson's attention, seems really to have regarded her as the political teacher of Europe, for, referring to her, he said, "Light now comes from the North." The woman who so enslaved men of genius and enlarged the empire which Peter the Great had already made powerful, was not herself a Russian. She was born at Stettin, Prussian Pomerania, in 1729, the daughter of Christian Augustus, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst and Governor of Stettin.

Johnson gives an interesting account of her introduction to the court of the Empress (Czarina) Elizabeth Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great and Catharine I. His story of her marriage and sudden usurpation of the throne is a spirited picture of a dark event in her career. Above all, he furnishes a most animated and searching analysis of her character and acts, and of her relations with great personages of her day. His critical observations, happily blending with the historical review, shed a revealing light upon this famous ruler and her reign.

It is January, 1744, and the commandant of Stettin, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst zu Dornburg, is keeping New-Year festivities at his castle of Zerbst, when suddenly couriers from Berlin, couriers from St. Petersburg, throw everyone into wild commotion. For the Czarina Elizabeth, casting about for a wife for her nephew, the young grand duke Peter of Holstein, nominated heir-presumptive to all the Russias, has accepted advice from Frederick, soon to become "the Great." She is formally desirous of a visit from the Princess of Zerbst and her daughter,[Pg 251] Sophie Frederika, now fifteen years of age, and already noticeable for her good looks and good-sense. Not a moment is to be lost. So eastward, northward, the sleighs hurry them through the white leagues of snow, to arrive within six weeks at the Russian court, now established in Moscow; with little state or ceremony, nevertheless, for the princely house of Zerbst is poor as it is ancient. Sophie's wardrobe, she informs us herself, consists just of three, or it may be four, dresses, with twelve chemises. For here begins that singular autobiography; an unauthenticated fragment, it is true, but a self-portraiture convincing as any in literature.

At Moscow they made the best of impression; the Czarina was graciousness itself, and within eighteen months the young Princess had been received into the Greek Church as Catharine, and married to the Grand Duke, himself only seventeen years old.

But already she had learned not to expect happiness. He was, if we believe the accounts of him, senseless and boorish in the extreme. Certainly he did not pretend to the least affection for Catharine. A few days after her arrival, he had confided to her, "as his cousin," that he was "ardently in love with one of the maids-of-honor; since, however, the Empress desired it, he had resigned himself, and was willing to marry her instead!" She was forced, according to her assertion, to listen to confidences of a like nature during many years. His puerilities and eccentricities, we are told, amounted almost to madness. He was fond of drilling dogs and tin soldiers, together with his disgusted suite. But, like everyone else about the court, he lived in terror of the strong-willed, strong-drinking Czarina. His kennel must be kept a secret, and was accordingly located in his wife's bedroom. He would spend hours indoors cracking whips or emitting weird sounds on musical instruments. At night, after Madame Tchoglokoff, who was charged with the surveillance of the grand-ducal ménage, had retired, under the impression that she had locked everyone up safely, he would call for lights again, like a schoolboy, and make Catharine and her attendants play with marionettes on the counterpane till one, two, three o'clock in the morning.

He had been more or less drunk, to credit his enemies, since[Pg 252] the age of ten; and Catharine declares he had a mortal aversion to the bath, which it seems was then a Russian, not a German, observance. When ordered by the Empress to take one as penance during Lent, he replied that it was repugnant to his moral nature and unsuited to his physical constitution: nothing, he said, but the most vital considerations could induce him to risk the Empress' displeasure, but he was not prepared to die; and life was dearer to him than her majesty's approbation. Both were obstinate, and the dispute led to the most terrific outburst of rage on the part of the Czarina that Catharine had yet witnessed.

On another occasion his wife discovered him presiding over a court-martial in full regimentals, with a large rat in the centre of the room, which had just been suspended with all the formalities of a military execution. It appeared that the unfortunate beast had transgressed the laws of war; it had climbed the ramparts of a card-board fortress, and had actually eaten two pith sentries on duty at the bastions. It was to be exposed to the public view as an example during three days following! Catharine, unluckily, was so lost to the fitness of things as to betray open merriment. The Grand Duke was furious; and she had to retire, excusing herself with difficulty on account of her ignorance of military discipline. The affair sensibly aggravated the estrangement between them.

Of Elizabeth, who led an eccentric life with her own peculiar intimates, Catharine knew little; but she was the victim of an unrelenting if petty tyranny, which kept jealous watch over every word and movement, deprived her of any attendant of whom she made a friend, and dictated every minute circumstance of her life. It was like nothing so much as a dame school, even to the various tutors and governesses ordered her by the Czarina. When her father died she was allowed a week's mourning; at the end of that time the Empress sent a command to leave off; "she was a grand duchess, and her father was not a king." But Catharine was not of the stuff from which are modelled the monuments of docility. Little by little, as her character develops, she acquires a proud and lonely self-dependence. She awakens to intellectual interests; from the first, indeed, she had flung herself with ardor into the study of Russian history and language.[Pg 253] During these early years books are her great distraction; "dixhuit années d'ennui et de solitude," we read in a epitaph written by herself, "lui firent lire bien des livres."

After a trial in the wilderness of third-rate contemporary fiction, Voltaire stirs her intellect. And he leads her, too, spellbound by that incomparable verve and intellectual agility of his; she surrenders herself to the illusion of his brilliant assurances, dancing like some triumphant will-o'-the-wisp over the obscure deeps and perplexities of things. In a hundred ways, evil and good, she will remain the pupil of Voltaire. He has his part in her social test of philosophical speculations; he has his part also, be sure of it, in her long devotion to ideals of monarchy expressed for her in Henri Quatre and Louis Quatorze.

After Voltaire and Madame de Sévigné, Montesquieu, Baronius, Tacitus, Bayle, Brantôme, and the early volumes of the Encyclopædia. But her gay, expansive nature was not capable, for long, of purely intellectual or stoic consolation. In a moral environment such as that of Elizabeth's court it was too easy for the reader of Brantôme to seek elsewhere the "love" romances had spoken of, but marriage had denied her. She was remarked by all in her day for her gift of fascination. To outward observers she seemed at this time a radiant and happy presence, as Burke saw Marie Antoinette, the morning-star of a pleasure-loving society, "full of life, and splendor, and joy." She says that she never considered herself extremely beautiful, but "she was able to please, et cela était mon fort." All contemporary testimony bears out this singular faculty of attracting others, rarest of natural gifts, but to a woman such as Catharine a very perilous one.

Not even those set to spy upon her could resist her personal magnetism. She could be beautiful or terrible, playful or majestic, at pleasure. At St. Petersburg there were few wits, and her intellectual superiority to those about her was sufficient to gain her the nickname among her husband's friends of "Madame la Ressource." Despite Peter's difficult relations with her, he would refer to her in most of his perplexities, especially when political, connected with his duchy of Holstein. "I don't understand things very well myself," he would explain to strangers, "but my wife understands everything." We observe in the[Pg 254] Autobiography a fixed idea to "gain over" as many people as possible, to attach them to her interests; partly because of the opposition to the Czarina's circle, which gradually came to characterize the "Jeune Cour," but specially in the service of those vague, ambitious foreshadowings which from her first years in Russia had possessed her mind. Clear-sighted, with a keen sense of her husband's inadequacy to his position, warned by the implacable hostility of his mistress Elizabeth Vorontsoff and her relations, above all with a passionate thirst to realize her presentiment of greatness, she was instinctively preparing for some emergency, she knew not exactly what. As for the more precise premonitions of the memoirs, they are what would naturally appear to her after the fait accompli. Ambition, calculation looking before and after, patience in adversity, quickness to note and use the weakness of those about her, a steady indifference to unessentials, a political intelligence unhampered by the keener sensibilities—these are the master traits of the Catharine of the Autobiography.

So far, then, of these earlier years, while we have the memoirs with us. We must now pass quickly over many things. The motto of the Romanoffs might be taken from Macbeth: "The near in blood, the nearer bloody."[44] But in that sombre history there is no darker page than the conspiracy of 1762.

In January Elizabeth died and the Grand Duke ascended the throne, quietly enough, as Peter III. But the position of Catharine was worse than before. The Czar was completely under the influence of her enemies; he insulted her in public; and it seemed certain that his next step would be to divorce her, throw her into prison, and marry Elizabeth Vorontsoff. He had once already ordered her arrest, which his uncle had afterward persuaded him to retract. The very reforms with which he had begun his reign worked against him. He had made himself unpopular not only with the clergy, but with the Preobrajenski Guards, which, like the prætorians of the Roman Empire, disposed of the throne. He smoked and drank till three or five o'clock in the morning, writes the French ambassador; yet he[Pg 255] would be up again at seven manœuvring his troops. He would order a hundred cannon to be fired together that he might have a foretaste of war, and his eccentricities in general were intensified by absolute power. The history of the coup-d'état is still obscure. A considerable party, however, formed round Catharine: the brothers Gregory and Alexis Orloff won over several regiments, and the princess Dashkoff gained adherents in society. Matters were precipitated by the accidental arrest of one of the conspirators; and although their plans were incoherent, the good-fortune of Catharine carried her through. At five o'clock in the morning of July 9th Alexis Orloff entered her room at Peterhoff, and told her to set out for St. Petersburg, where she was to be proclaimed immediately. She hastened there with the Orloffs. Three regiments, to whom vodka had judiciously been dispensed beforehand, took the oath of allegiance with enthusiasm; and others followed suit. Peter was thunderstruck. On the advice of Marshal Muennich he embarked for Cronstadt, where he was challenged, and demanded admittance as emperor. "Il n'y a plus d'empéreur!" replied the commandant, Talitsine. He hurried back again, and after agonies of indecision finally abdicated. "He had lost his crown," as Frederick said scornfully, "like a naughty child sent to bed with a whipping."

So far the revolution had been bloodless, but its darker hour was to come. "I placed the deposed Emperor under the command of A. Orloff, with four 'chosen' officers and a detachment of 'quiet' and 'sober' men, and sent him to a distance of twenty-seven versts from St. Petersburg to a place called Ropsha, 'very retired,' but very pleasant"—so runs Catharine's account to Poniatowski. On the 15th he was dead; of "hemorrhoidal colic," said the official announcement; strangled, as Europe rightly believed, by Alexis Orloff with his own hands. It is hardly possible that this hideous murder was without Catharine's at least tacit consent. She certainly condoned the crime. There was danger in a name; and her sentiment was doubtless that of Lord Essex when the fate of Stafford hung in the balance: "Stone dead hath no fellow!" Already, where the Neva turns toward the Baltic, one wretched boy-Czar languished beneath the melancholy fortress of the Schluesselburg. Two years, and he too, after having known the bitterness of life, will[Pg 256] be violently done to death in his turn. But Voltaire wrote to Madame du Deffand: "I am aware that people reproach her with some bagatelles à propos of that husband of hers; however, one really cannot intermeddle in these family squabbles!"

Such was the tragedy of Peter III. He dies, as Catharine said, unpitied: a fool, echo her friends, who perished in his folly. But history is precise and simple; truth complex and difficult. Was there no light, no touch of nobility at all in that strange chaotic temperament? No reverence in the boy who would kneel to the picture of the great Frederick? No generosity in the Czar who sacrificed victory to a sentiment; who abolished the hateful "secret chancery," torture, monopolies, and refused a statue of gold offered by St. Petersburg, "desiring rather to raise a monument in the hearts of the people"? There was something inarticulate there, surely—in the would-be musician who must shut himself up for hours to scrawk madly, passionately, on a crazy violin, and whose last request was for his confidant and instrument. "What is history," said Napoleon, "but a fiction agreed upon?" Such, nevertheless, is the form and spirit of the hapless Peter as portrayed by his enemies.

This was the Catharine of Elizabeth's court, and protagonist of that revolution which first made her known to Europe. But it was the sovereign who dazzled her contemporaries, and still lives splendidly with the "Great Czar" in the annals of Russia. That exuberant personality of hers is so eloquent, so omnipresent in the sphere of politics, that one is often the most luminous illustration of the other. There is a note you will find common to her grandiose schemes of territorial expansion, of intellectual enlightenment and domestic reform. It is the note of theatricality, of extravagance, of excess. The strangest chimeric phantasy sometimes here possesses her, hitherto prosaic enough in so many ways; and it communicates itself to men like the Orloffs, Patiomkin, Suvaroff. It is, I think, M. Leroy-Beaulieu, who remarks that in Russia the shows of things are more important than reality. So rite, ceremonial, the spectacular, the symbolic, seem to have a power there greater than in any other people of civilization.

But stronger still was Catharine's overmastering desire to play to the applause of Europe. She had conceived herself as[Pg 257] the heroine of a grandiose drama. It was her ambition to be the "Grand Monarque" of the North, and to show the Paris of Louis Quinze that the age of Olympian sovereignty was not yet past. Hence her sensitiveness to Western opinion, her assiduous court to the men of intellect, her anxiety to be admired and feared in Europe. Nowhere is this pose, this consciousness of a gallery, more evident than in the sphere of foreign policy. The great Peter had fulfilled the dream of Ivan in reaching the Baltic, and so, in her wars with the Turk, Catharine realized the aim of Peter by forcing her way to the Black Sea.

But a Hellenic empire at Constantinople haunts her dreams. She stirs up Greek against Ottoman, and her trumpeter Voltaire heralds a new Sparta and Athens; she calls her grandson Constantine, and surrounds him with Greek nurse and servants. Her famous progress southward, the most eccentric pageant in history, is typical of Patiomkin's régime. This extraordinary man—mountebank, writes the English envoy, "esprit réveur," says the keener-eyed Prince de Ligne—a barbarian, of terrific appearance; fantastic beyond the verge of madness, acquired a greater influence with Catharine than any other man of her reign. He had been created "Prince of Taurida" (the Crimea) after the conquest of the southern provinces; and was resolved to dazzle Europe and his sovereign with her new acquisitions.

In January, 1787, she set out on her triumphal journey. A huge retinue accompanied her, together with the foreign ambassadors, Cobenzl, Fitzherbert, and Ségur, the last of whom has described this strange procession. Forty miles were covered every day. There is a palace at every stopping-place; towns and villages dot what six months ago had been a howling wilderness. Painted forests seem to clothe the horizon: fertile solitudes swarm with gayly dressed peasants—imported for this occasion only. From Kiev floating pavilions carry them down the Dnieper: the prince-magician alone has a hundred twenty of his beloved musicians. Again the same mise-en-scène: operatic Cossacks rowing out from either shore, the village of yesterday in the foreground, roofless façades in the middle distance; the same reviews in successive provinces of hussars out of her own escort! The greatest of optimists saw everything and affected to see through nothing—the works of his highness sur[Pg 258]pass conception. Suddenly spring appears, glittering on the enamelled meadows and majestic river; they journey to the music of the galleys between throngs of spectators from thirty nations. Every morning a fresh scene opens, the days "travel more quickly than they themselves."

At Kanioff she is met by his majesty of Poland, none other than Poniatowski, the lover, of Peterhoff in the old days! At Kherson, on an eastern gate, appears the famous legend "The road to Byzantium"; and there it is the Holy Roman Emperor who is drawn into her train—they have already mapped out the Ottoman dominions. So with excursions and alarums eastward by Poltava of glorious memory to the new "Glory of Catharine," her city of Ekaterinoslaff; and last of all through undulating steppes to the gorgeous palace piled upon the sand at Inkerman, where after banquetings a curtain falls away, and behold—the pasteboard fortifications of Sebastopol! where a green-wood squadron anchored beneath them splutters forth its husky artillery. Splendide mendax! The West applauded frantically: never had such a travelling-show been seen in Europe.

At home, too, the cult of appearances went hand in hand with generosity and enthusiasm. "C'est presque un monde," she writes to Voltaire, "à créer, à unir, à conserver!" First comes the administration of justice, and her ukase of 1762, on its abuses, has a ring of sincerity that can hardly be mistaken. There is a real courage again in her dealings with the clergy. Four years later she summons a great assembly to Moscow to consider a new code; and her "Instruction" to the delegates, saturated as it is with Montesquieu and the rest, shows her abreast of her time. Politicians of the old school, indeed, shuddered at its array of grandiloquent maxims—"there are bombs enough in it," cried Panin, "to bring the walls about our ears." She is here, in spite of all that has been said, exactly where we invariably find her, neither a day in front of her age nor a day behind.

Reform of the ex cathedra sort was just then in the air. From the Tagus to the Dnieper, and from Copenhagen to the Vatican, Europe was crowded with paternal monarchs and earnest ministers, who were willing to do almost everything for the people and nothing by them. The world had not seen statesmen so sincere, enlightened, and plausible. A generation later, on the[Pg 259] meeting of the National Assembly, the despotic reformation of Montesquieu and Voltaire will still seem about to be translated into action. Men read their Rousseau: soon they will understand him; they will also understand that Non de nobis sine nobis, which was the haughty motto of the Hungarian magnates.

But her attention soon became diverted. She was not, as Gunning thought, insincere, only fickle; she wanted patience and continuity of aim. The "States-General" had produced an excellent effect in the world, and, in fact, had afforded her information afterward turned to account. Her eye is on the Turk: as with the second Pitt, had it not been for this cursed war we should have seen greater things. "Beginnings—only beginnings!" exclaims an eye-witness, "there are plenty of sketches to be seen, but where is the finished picture?" Another reports that shoals of academies and secondary schools bear witness to Catharine's enthusiasm for education, but that some exist only on paper, while others seem to have everything except scholars. Things are done hastily, and without just measure or proportion; the imitative talent of the Russian does not seem to carry him quite far enough. At her death, says a historian who wrote eight years after it, most of her foundations were already in ruins; everything seemed to have been abandoned before completion. Yet we must not forget that liberal ideas were in themselves a revelation to the Russia of her days, and that after a succession of contemptible sovereigns she appeared as the first worthy successor of Peter. It was already something for a woman there to be governed by large social conceptions; has it not been said even elsewhere that the politics of women are proper names? You may say what you will: she saved the European tradition of Peter the Great, and was in a sense the creator of modern Russia.

But to her philosophic friends at Paris it mattered little whether her designs were in the parchment or any other stage. Since Voltaire had hailed her as the "Northern Semiramis," no adulation was enough to translate their enthusiasm: the "charms of Cleopatra," for example, were united in her to "the soul of Brutus." On her side she "distributed compliments in abundance, gold medals also (but more often in bronze?), and from time to time even a little money." La Harpe, Marmontel, Volney, Galiani, and many others fallen silent in these days were[Pg 260] sharers in her bounty. She would buy the books of some specially favored and instal them at home again as "her librarians." Only one or two, D'Alembert, Raynal, stood aloof, with the mistrustful Jean Jacques, who refused the demesne of Gatschina. Diderot came to St. Petersburg in those days, declaiming for two, three, five hours with unmatched copiousness of discourse, astounding Catharine with his large argument and fiery eloquence, and entertaining her hugely by his oblivion of everything once fairly launched on his foaming torrent. The philosopher who, borne on spiritual hurricanes, would leap from his chair at Princess Dashkoff's, striding to and fro as he spat upon the floor in his excitement, forgot himself equally in the presence of "Semiramis." "In the heat of exposition he brought his hands down on the imperial knees with such force and iteration" that Catharine complained they had turned black and blue. But for all that she would egg on this strange wild-fowl. "Allons," she would exclaim, a table once set safely between them, "entre hommes tout est permis!"

As for Voltaire, his proudest title was that of "lay preacher of the religion of 'St.' Catharine." Her correspondence with him, which begins the year after her accession and continues until his death, is in truth a kind of journalism, written partly by herself, partly by others. Its object is to keep the friend of princes and dictator of literary opinion au courant with her ideas, measures, and general policy. She is not content now, however, with the applause of her generation; she aims at commanding the sources of history itself. Here she motions posterity to take its stand behind contemporaries in the church of Voltaire's foundation, while the archpriest of Ferney prostrates himself with iterated formula, "Te Cathariniam laudamus, te Dominam confitemur." For St. Catharine was an interested reader of that correspondence of Diderot's with her sculptor Falconet, whose theme is the solidity of posthumous fame. Rulihière had already written an account of the events of 1762, of which he had been an eye-witness; she had tried first to buy him, and then to have him thrown into the Bastille. She will search Venice for a pliable historian; and her own letter on the coup-d'état, together with her memoirs, shows how strong in her was that "besoin de parolier" analyzed by the great Pascal a century before. Catha[Pg 261]rine, be quite certain of it, is no earnest seeker after truth; rather "the plain man," with something of the acuteness as well as the insensibility of common-sense. The Philosophes were the interest of the cultivated "as scholars had been in one century, painters in another, theologians in a third." They had the ear of Europe, who rest now in Mr. Morley's bosom. But Catharine confessed years after: "Your learned men in 'ist' bored me to extinction. There was only my good protector Voltaire. Do you know it was he who made me the mode?"

With what a quaint inconsequence her truer self appeared at the Revolution! She, who will foresee Napoleon, was rudely shocked by the fall of the Bastille. The Revolution touched her in her tenderest point. With every year, in spite of her sentiments and cosmopolitan culture, this Princess of Zerbst became more and more fervently autocratic and Russian. She had jestingly asked her doctor to bleed away the last drop of her German blood. No one ever had a more fanatical hero-worship for the Russian himself, or a deeper enthusiasm for the greatness in his history. It was in the political sphere that her convictions play, and she had a vague but passionate belief in what she and Russia might do together. Yet here were these declaimers threatening to overrun Europe, and "Equality setting peoples at the throats of kings!" The cant about fraternity, the catch-words and sentiments, vanish like smoke. No anathemas on the Revolution were fiercer than those of the "Ame Républicaine," who had burned to restore the ancient institutions of Athens. The hostess of Diderot breathed fiery indignation against "these Western atheists"; and the nationalization of church property, the very first of her own reforms, becomes, in the men of '89, an "organized brigandage." "There is an economy of truth," said Burke. "Semiramis," like Romeo, "hung up philosophy," and the bust of her "preceptor," Voltaire, accompanied Fox to the basement!

"Enfin tout philosophe est banni de céans,
Et nous ne vivons plus qu'avec les honnétes gens."

The advantage of women in affairs of this sort is, that they are natural opportunists, and care nothing for the tyranny of your system. There is a wise inconsequence in their ideas, for the[Pg 262] logic of the universe is not professed from an academic chair. "Moi," she says, "je ne suis qu'un composé de batons rompus!" Voltaire had learned from Bayle, and Catharine tells us she had learned from Voltaire, to distrust "the men of a system." "Stulti sunt innumerabiles," said Erasmus, and theirs was but an ingenious foolishness. Diderot, on that adventurous visit of his, was bursting with eagerness to take Russia off the wall, and put it "in the kettle of magicians." Never before now had such projects been seen in a government office! He gesticulated by the hour: she was delighted to listen. He drew up scores of schemes; they were as well ordered, as regular, as his own meals. But presently he realized that no one had taken him seriously! Catharine once remarked herself that she wrote on "sensitive skins, while his material was foolscap." And finally, like Mercier de la Rivière, he departed wiser, and a little hurt. "A wonderful man," she said afterward to Ségur, "but a little too old—and a little too young!" His Plan of a University for Russia, which had an appreciable influence on education elsewhere, "has never to this day," says Waliszewski, "been translated into Russian."

How natural again, and with what vivid abandon, she presents herself in her correspondence with Grimm! He lives in Paris, factotum and confidant, passes his life in executing her commissions. To him she talks, rather than writes, as she talks to her intimates, in overwhelming voluble fashion, gossiping, punning, often playing the buffoon, as she does with that little set of hers at her retreat of the "Hermitage." Persons, even places, have their nicknames. St. Petersburg is the "Duck-pond"; Grimm himself the "Fag," "Souffredouleur," George Dandin, "M. le Baron de Thunder-ten-Tronck." Frederick the Great appears as "Herod" (a palpable hit that!), the diplomats as "Wind-bags," "Pea-soup," "Die Perrueckirte Haeupter;" Maria Theresa becomes "Maman;" Gustavus of Sweden, "Falstaff;" and so on. There is no question here of making a figure; often she has nothing to say; she writes purely to give extravagance an outlet. We have her here as though we had been present at one of those sparkling conversations which, in old days, used to send Grimm sleepless to his rooms, but of which nothing remained memorable, which in truth charmed by their[Pg 263] vivacity rather than by wit—by that verve which so often supplies the place of brilliancy. This familiar note will appear again in her letters to the Emperor Joseph; as unlike those addressed to Herod as the letters to Grimm are unlike those to Madame Geoffrin or Voltaire. He was also des nôtres. She, who judged men in general poorly enough, though she used them incomparably well, not only recognized—unlike most of his contemporaries—but was fascinated by the elements of greatness in that extraordinary man. She used him, it is true, as she used Orloff and Patiomkin; her good-fortune helped her as it did before, and will again; their great alliance against the Ottoman brought her everything, and him nothing. Still, no foreigner ever dazzled her as he, who could so little impose himself on his age. "He will live unrivalled," she wrote in her enthusiasm; "his star is in the ascendant, he will leave all Europe behind!" A wandering star, alas! He will go before her to the grave, the great failure of his generation, in the bitterness of death dictating that saddest of epitaphs, "Here lies one who never fulfilled an aim." Impar congressus! like Michelet's Charles the Bold, "il avait trop voulu, des choses infinies."

The arts were indifferent to her, and she was insensible to the simplicity of true greatness. She idolized a Zuboff, but Kosciuszko was immured at St. Petersburg till the day of her death, and she never even learned his precise name. Yet she brought to society and politics much of that protean activity which was the distinction of her teacher Voltaire in the field of letters. She did much for education, and something for Russian literature. She herself wrote or collaborated in plays, whose performances the Holy Synod had to attend—and applaud—in a body. She also published translations, pamphlets, books for her grandchildren, a history of Russia to the fourteenth century, and even helped to edit a newspaper. Unlike Frederick, she did not despise the language of her country. She put her court to school, and at the "Hermitage" so many lines of Russian were learned every day. But Radistchev said: "Fear and silence reign round Czarkoe-Sielo. The silence of Death is there, for there despotism has its abode." He received the knout and Siberia, because his words were true. She lived, as he said, remote from her people. Beggars were forbidden to enter Moscow, lest she[Pg 264] should see them; but a rumor ran after her return from the South that Alexis Orloff led her into a barn where were laid out the bodies of all who had died of hunger on the day of her triumphal entry. Like Peter the Great, she even in some ways intensified serfdom. A hundred fifty thousand "peasants of the crown" were handed over by her as serfs to her lovers. Their proprietors could send them with hard labor to Siberia; they could give them fifteen thousand blows for a trifling offence; a Soltikoff tortured seventy-five to death. Sed ignoti perierunt mortibus illi! the day will come, but not yet.

This is not the place to describe the campaigns of Rumaintsoff, Patiomkin, and the rest, against Sweden and the Ottomans. Her own ideas in the field of foreign policy we have already seen. After the Revolution another policy, that of spurring on Gustavus and the Western powers to a crusade against France, takes the first place. It gave them something to think about, she explained to Ostermann, and she "wanted elbow-room." The third Polish partition explains why she was so anxious for "elbow-room." Schemes of the kind were common enough in the eighteenth century, everybody was dismembered on paper by everybody else; it was but a delicate attention reserved for a neighbor in times of trouble and sickness. And John Sobieski had foretold the doom of Poland a hundred years before. But it remains a blot upon her name. For her final fate overtook Poland, not, as is commonly said, because of her internal anarchy—sedulously fostered by the foreign powers—but because that anarchy seemed about to disappear. The spirit of reform had penetrated to Warsaw, and after the Constitution of May 3d Catharine was afraid of a revival of the national forces similar to that which had followed the reforms of 1772 in her neighbor Sweden. She was aided by traitors from within, a'quali era piu cara la servitu che la liberta della loro patria; and on the field of Maciejovitsy they were able to cry, "Finis Poloniæ!" No question has been more obscured. The fashion of liberal thought has changed, the history, like that of town and gown, has been written by the victorious aggressors, and Poland is become the rendezvous of the political sophistries, as it has been the cockpit of the political ruffianism, of all Europe. But Catharine could boast that she had pushed the frontiers of Russia farther than any[Pg 265] sovereign since Ivan the Terrible. "I came to Russia a poor girl. Russia has dowered me richly, but I have paid her back with Azov, the Crimea, and the Ukraine."

There remains the side of her which attracted Byron, and which no one has failed to seize. The beginnings of her moral descent are there before us in the memoirs; ennui and solitude weighed upon her, and as she gained greater liberty she sought distractions which, at first, were harmless. The third stage was the infamous command of the Empress—the Grand Duke and she have no children; the succession must be secured. If Soltikoff, as Catharine implies, were the father of her son Paul, the sovereigns who have since occupied the throne of Russia are Romanoffs only in name. From this point till her death, in 1796, she entirely ignored the code of morality convenient in a society whose basis is the family. In the succession of her "lovers" only Patiomkin, and for a moment Gregory Orloff, acquired a position of the first political importance; and Patiomkin's was maintained long after his first relation had come to an end. It has been ascribed to her as a merit that she pensioned these worthies handsomely, instead of dealing with them after the manner of Christina of Sweden; and that she was able to make passion, which has lost others, coincident with her calculated self-interest.

Certainly she entered, a child, into a society "rotten before it was ripe." She was surrounded with a court long demoralized by a succession of drunken and dissolute czarinas, which aped the corruption of Versailles more consummately than its refinement. The age was that of Louis XV, of Lord Sandwich, of Augustus the Strong: in it even a Burke had persuaded himself that "vice lost half its evil by losing all its grossness." The reader of Bayle and Brantôme had been introduced to a bizarre sort of morality; her "spiritual father," Voltaire, was the author of La Pucelle and Jacques le Fataliste proceeded from the same pen as the University for Russia. Diderot, indeed, whose moral obscenity was not the whole of the man, but was, nevertheless, sincere and from the centre, was able to compliment her on the freedom from "the decencies and virtues, the worn-out rags of her sex." She had no fund of theoretical cynicism on such matters, nor, on the other hand, the slightest moral pretence. The revo[Pg 266]lutionary Moniteur branded her as Messalina. "Cela ne regarde que moi," she said haughtily, and the sheet circulated throughout the empire. Such is the summary of the gallons of printers' ink that have soiled paper on this account. It is the aspect of her allowed to escape no one, and therefore we say no more of it here. How easy it is to "hint and chuckle and grin" with the "chroniques scandaleuses!" easier still to be incontinent of one's moral indignation. The truth is that this back-stair gossip misses, on the whole, that just proportion necessary if you would not only see but also perceive. Catharine, whom her generation called "the Great," had one absorbing passion; it was the greatness of Russia, and of herself as ruler of Russia—"mon petit ménage," as she would call it, with her touch of lightness—and she desired to be the first amateur of "la grande politique" in Europe.

"Elle brillait surtout par le caractère," says Waliszewski, whose volumes, collecting most of what is known about Catharine, I have freely consulted. It is only natural that her biographer should regard her as a strikingly complex and exceptional being. Nous sommes tous des exceptions. Yet she is not essentially different from the "woman of character" you may meet in every street. Given her splendid physical constitution there is nothing prodigious about her except her good-fortune in every crisis and important action of her career. In one of his Napoleonic fits of incoherence, Patiomkin said vividly enough that the Empress and himself were "the spoilt children of God." For herself, she says in that introductory page, which Sainte-Beuve has well compared with Machiavelli, that what commonly passes for good-fortune is in reality the result of natural qualities and conduct. If that satisfies, it is so much to her credit. Certainly, "the stars connived" with her from the day in 1762 when she galloped in her cuirassier's uniform through the streets of St. Petersburg. "Toute la politique," she said, "est fondée sur trois mots circonstances, conjectures et conjonctures;" and like many leaders of action she was in her moments a fatalist, for then she saw how little after all, the greatest, as Bismarck says, can control events.[Pg 267]


[44] Macbeth, ii, 3. That is, the nearer in relationship the heirs of power to the source of their inheritance, the greater their danger at the hands of bloody usurpers (like Macbeth).—Ed.


A.D. 1763


With the fall of Quebec and De Vaudreuil's capitulation of Montreal, Canada passed from the dominion of France to Britain, and for a time came under military rule. In the West, around the shores of the Great Lakes and the country watered by the Ohio, though small English garrisons occupied the forts of the region, the French still held posts on the Wabash and the Mississippi, and had a considerable settlement at New Orleans. About the Lakes and in the Ohio Valley discontent smouldered among the Indians, many of whom bewailed the fate of their old allies, the French, while they feared the English, whom they dreaded as likely to drive them from their hunting-grounds and treat them with injustice or neglect.

Their fears in this respect were worked upon and disaffection among them was fomented by French traders from Montreal and St. Louis; the results of which were presently seen in the rising of all the Western tribes under the wily leadership of Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa warriors, who sought to exterminate the English and restore the supremacy of the French and Indian races. The incidents of this conspiracy of Pontiac are related in an edifying paper by the Hon. E.O. Randall, of Columbus, Ohio, contributed to the Transactions of the Ohio Archæological and Historical Society, and here, by kind permission, reproduced.

The conquest of Canada left the Indians of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys subject to British domination. The red men were repulsed but not conquered. They were scattered over a vast territory; their total number between the Mississippi on the west, the ocean on the east, between the Ohio on the south, and the Great Lakes on the north was probably not in excess of two hundred thousand, and their fighting warriors not more than ten thousand.[45] Fort Duquesne was in November,[Pg 268] 1758, captured from the French by the British forces under General John Forbes. The military posts of the French in the East, on the waters of Lake Erie and the Allegheny, viz., Presqu'île, Le Bœuf, and Venango, passed into the hands of the British soon after the taking of Fort Duquesne. Most of the Western forts were transferred to the English during the autumn of 1760; but the extreme Western settlements on the Illinois, viz., Forts Ouatanon, Vincennes, Kaskaskia, Chartres, and Cahokia, remained several years longer under French control. In the fall of 1760 Major Robert Rogers was directed by the then British commander, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, to traverse the Great Lakes with a detachment of provincial troops and, in the name of England, take possession of Detroit, Michilimackinac, and the other Western forts included in the surrender of the French.

Major Rogers, with two hundred rangers, left Montreal, ascended the St. Lawrence, crossed Lakes Ontario and Erie, and reached the mouth of the Cuyahoga[46] on November 7th. No body of troops under the British flag had ever before penetrated so far west on the Lakes. Rogers and his men encamped in the neighboring forest. Shortly after their arrival a party of Indian chiefs and warriors appeared at the camp and declared they were envoys from Pontiac, "ruler of all that country," and demanded, in his name, that the British soldiers "should advance no farther" until they had conferred with the great chief, who was rapidly approaching. That same day Pontiac himself appeared; and "it is here," says Parkman, "for the first time, that this remarkable man stands forth distinctly on the page of history."

The place and date of birth of Pontiac are both matters of dispute. There seems to be no doubt that he was the son of an Ottawa chief; his mother is variously stated to have been an Ojibwa, a Miami, and a Sac. Preponderance of evidence, as the lawyers say, seems to favor the Ojibwas. Authorities also vary as to the date of his nativity from 1712 to 1720.[47] Historical writers usually content themselves with the vague statement that[Pg 269] he was born "on the Ottawa River," without designating which Ottawa River, for many were so called; indeed, the Ottawas were in the habit of calling every stream upon which they sojourned any length of time "Ottawa," after their own tribe. The Miami chief Richardville is on record as often asserting that Pontiac was born by the Maumee at the mouth of the Auglaize.[48] In any event, Pontiac, like his great successor, the incomparable Shawano chief, Tecumseh, was a native of Ohio.

The Ottawas, Ojibwas, and the Pottawottomis had formed a sort of alliance of which Pontiac was the virtual head. He was of a despotic and commanding temperament, and he wielded practical authority among all the tribes of the Illinois country, and was known to all the Indian nations of America. Pontiac, conscious of his power and position, haughtily asked Major Rogers, "What his business was in that country?" and how he dared enter it without Pontiac's permission? Rogers informed the chief that the war was over, the French defeated, the country surrendered to the British, and he was on his way to receive the posts from the French occupiers. Pontiac was wily and diplomatic. He received the news stolidly, reserved his answer till next morning, when his reply was that as he desired to live in peace with the British, he would let them remain in his country as long as "they treated him with due respect and deference." Both parties smoked the calumet and protested friendship. Rogers proceeded on his errand. On November 29, 1760, the French garrison at Detroit transferred that historic and most important Western station to British possession.[49]

[Pg 270]

The stormy season prevented Rogers from advancing farther. Michilimackinac and the three remoter posts of Ste. Marie, La Baye (Green Bay), and St. Joseph remained in the hands of the French until the next year. The interior posts of the Illinois country were also retained by the French, but the British conquest of America was completed. The victory of England and the transfer of the French strongholds to British commanders were a terrible and portentous blow to the Indian. He could not fail to foresee therein dire results to his race. His prophetic vision read the handwriting on the wall! Expressions and signs of discontent and apprehension began to be audible among the Indian tribes; "from the Potomac to Lake Superior, and from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi, in every wigwam and hamlet of the forest, a deep-rooted hatred of the English increased with rapid growth." When the French occupied the military posts of the lakes and the rivers they freely supplied the neighboring Indians with weapons, clothing, provisions, and fire-water. The sudden cessation of these bounties was a grievous and significant calamity.

The English fur-trader and incomer was rude and coarse and domineering as compared with the agreeable and docile Frenchman. Worse and more alarming than all was the intrusion into the forest solitude and hunting-ground of the Indian by the English settler, who regarded the red man as having no rights he was bound to respect. While the rivalry between the two white nations was in progress, the red man was courted by each as holding in large degree the balance of power. But the war over, the ascendant Briton no longer regarded the Indians as necessary allies, and they were in large measure treated with indifference and injustice. The hostility of the Indian against the British was, of course, assiduously promoted by the French, who saw in it trouble for the British, possibly a regaining of their lost ground. The warlike and revengeful spirit of the Indian began to give itself vent. The smouldering fires were bound to burst forth. During the years 1761 and 1762 plots were hatched[Pg 271] in various tribes to stealthily approach, and, by attack or treacherous entrance, destroy the posts of Detroit, Fort Pitt, and others. These plots were severally discovered in time to forestall their attempt. Indian indignation reached its height when in 1763 it was announced to the tribes that the King of France had ceded all their (Indian) country to the King of England, without consulting them in the matter. At once a plot was contrived, "such as was never before or since conceived or executed by North American Indians."

It was determined and planned to make an assault upon all the British posts on the same day; "then, having destroyed the garrisons, to turn upon the defenceless frontier and ravage and lay waste the white settlements." It was fondly believed by thousands of braves that then the British might be exterminated, or at least driven to the seaboard and confined to their coast settlements. It was the great chief, Pontiac, who if he did not originally instigate, fostered, directed, and personally commanded this secretly arranged universal movement. His mastermind comprehended the importance and necessity of combined and harmonious effort. He proposed to unite all the tribes into one confederacy for offensive operations. At the close of 1762 he despatched ambassadors to the different nations—to the tribes of the North on the Lakes; to the northwest, the head-waters of the Mississippi and south to its mouth; to the east and the southeast. The Indians thus enlisted and banded together against the British comprised, "with few unimportant exceptions, the whole Algonquin stock." Especially were the Ohio tribes solicited and secured; the Shawanoes, the Miamis, the Wyandots, and the Delawares. The Senecas were the only members of the Iroquois confederacy that joined the league. The onslaught was to be made in the month of May, 1763, the tribes to rise simultaneously at the various points and each tribe destroy the British garrison in its neighborhood.

It was a vast scheme, worthy the brain and courage of the greatest general and shrewdest statesman. The plan was divulged by individual Indians to officers at two or three of the posts, but was either disbelieved or its importance ignored. While this gigantic and almost chimerical plot was being developed by Pontiac and his associate chiefs, the treaty of peace[Pg 272] between France and England was signed at Paris, February 10, 1763. By this compact France yielded to England all her territory north of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence and east of the Mississippi. The Spanish possessions on the Gulf of Mexico were ceded to England, the territory west of the Mississippi going to Spain. France was left no foothold in North America. While the powers of England, France, and Spain were in the French capital arranging this result, as Parkman remarks, "countless Indian warriors in the American forests were singing the war-song and whetting their scalping-knives."

The chief centre of Indian activity and the main point of attack was the post of Detroit, the Western head-quarters of the British government. Pontiac was personally to strike the first blow. The rendezvous of his painted and armed warriors was to be the banks of the little river Ecorces, which empties into the Detroit River a few miles below the Fort, now the city of Detroit. It was April 27th when the assembled warriors listened to the final war-speech of the great chief.

Pontiac was an orator of a high order, fierce and impassioned in style. He presented at length the injustice of the British as compared with that of the French; he set forth the danger to his race from the threatened supremacy of the British power; he predicted the awakening of "their great father the King of France," during whose sleep the English had robbed the Indian of his American possessions. In passionate appeals he aroused the vengeance and superstition of his people and warned them that the white man's civilization was poisoning and annihilating the red race. In his dramatic way he related to the superstitious Indians a dream wherein the Great Spirit sent his message that they were to cast aside the weapons, the utensils of civilization, and the "deadly rum" of the white men, and, with aid from the Great Spirit, drive the dogs in red from every post in their (Indian) country. He revealed his plans of destruction of the whites and the details of the plot to secure Detroit. He and a few of his chosen chiefs were to visit the Fort, under pretence of a peaceful visit, gain admittance, seek audience with Major Henry Gladwyn, the commandant, and his officers, and then at an agreed signal the chiefs were to draw their weapons, previ[Pg 273]ously concealed beneath their blankets, raise the war-whoop, rush upon the officers and strike them down.

The Indian forces waiting meanwhile at the gate were then to assail the surprised and half-armed soldiers. Thus through this perfidious murder Detroit would fall an easy prey to the savages and Pontiac's conspiracy have a successful inauguration. His plan was approved. Just below Detroit, on the same side of the river, was a Pottawottomi village; across the river some three miles up the current was an Ottawa village; on the same eastern side about a mile below Detroit was the Wyandot village. Along each side of the river for two or three miles were houses of the French settlers. "The king and lord of all this country," as Major Rogers called Pontiac, had located one of his homes, where he spent the early summer, on a little island (Île à Pêche) at the opening of Lake St. Clair. Here he had a small oven-shaped cabin of bark and rushes. Here he dwelt with his squaws and children, and here doubtless he might often have been seen, lounging, Indian style, half naked, on a rush mat or bear-skin.

The number of warriors under the command of Pontiac is variously estimated from six hundred to two thousand. The garrison consisted of one hundred twenty soldiers, eight officers, and about forty others capable of bearing arms. Two armed schooners, The Beaver and The Gladwyn, were anchored in the river near the Fort. Pontiac's plot was revealed to Gladwyn the night before its proposed execution by an Ojibwa girl from the Pottawottomi village.[50] Gladwyn, thus warned, was forearmed. Pontiac and his six chiefs were admitted to the council-chamber. Pontiac began the harangue of peace and friendly palaver and was about to give the preconcerted signal when Gladwyn raised his hand and the sound of clashing arms and drum-beating was heard without. Pontiac feared he was foiled, and announcing that he would "call again," next time with his squaws and children, he and his party withdrew.

[Pg 274]

The next morning, Pontiac, in hopes of regaining Gladwyn's confidence, repaired to the Fort with but three of his chiefs, and bearing in his hand the pipe of peace. Offering it to Gladwyn he again protested his friendship for the British, whom he declared "we love as our brothers." A few days later, the Indians thronged the open field behind the Fort gate. It was closed and barred. Pontiac, advancing, demanded admittance. Gladwyn replied that he might enter, but only alone. The great chief, baffled and enraged, then "threw off the mask he had so long worn" and boldly declared his intention to make war. A day or two later the four tribes, Ottawas, Ojibwas, Pottawottomis, and Wyandots, clamored about the Fort, and the attack was begun by volleys of bullets fired at the palisade walls. Thus opened the famous siege of Detroit, which lasted six months, from May 1 to November 1 (1763), one of the longest and most bitterly contested sieges in the history of Western Indian warfare.

The incomparable treachery of Pontiac in endeavoring to secure the Fort by dissemblance of friendship was further evidenced by his pretence at a truce. Pontiac declaring his earnest desire for "firm and lasting peace," requested Gladwyn to send to the camp of the chief, Captain Campbell, Gladwyn's second in command, a veteran officer and most upright and manly in character. Campbell went, was made prisoner, and subsequently was foully and hideously murdered. Pontiac neglected no expedient known to Indian perfidy, cruelty, or deviltry. He surpassed his race in all the detestable elements of their nature. His conduct from first to last was only calculated to create distrust, contempt, and loathing. His warriors murdered the British settlers in the vicinity of the Fort, burned their huts, robbed the Canadians, and committed every variety of depredation.

Pontiac, realizing the seriousness of the situation and the obstinate courage of the British garrison, prepared for a lengthy campaign. He ordered the Ottawa village moved across the river to the Detroit side, where it was located about a mile and a half northeast of the Fort, at the mouth of Parent's Creek, afterward known as Bloody Run.

The garrison bravely and patiently withstood all assaults and[Pg 275] bided the time of rescue. By midnight sallies and other expedients they removed all exterior buildings, fences, trees, and other obstacles that lay within the range of their guns or that might afford protection to sneaking and stealthy Indians who would crawl snakelike close to the palisade and fire at the sentinels and loop-holes, or shoot their arrows tipped with burning tow upon the roofs of the structures within the Fort. Fortunately the supply of water was inexhaustible; the provisions were wisely husbanded; friendly Canadians across the river, under cover of night, brought supplies.

These Canadian farmers were also subject to tribute to the Indians, who seized their supplies by theft or open violence. They appealed to Pontiac, and about the only creditable act recorded of that perfidious chief was his agreement to make restitution to the robbed settlers. Pontiac gave them in payment for their purloined property promissory notes drawn on birch-bark and signed with the figure of an otter—the totem to which he belonged—all of which promises to pay, it is said, were redeemed.

Day after day passed with varying incidents of attack and repulse. The keen-eyed watchfulness of the Indians never for an instant abated; their vigils were tireless and ceaseless; woe to the soldier who ventured without the Fort or even lifted his head above the palisade. Pontiac's patience was strengthened with the delusive idea that the French were only temporarily defeated and would rally to his assistance. He even despatched messengers across the interior to the French commandant, Neyon, at Fort Chartres on the Mississippi, requesting that French troops be sent without delay to his aid. Meanwhile Gladwyn had sent one of his schooners to Fort Niagara to hasten promised reënforcements from the British.

Lieutenant Cuyler had already (May 13th) left Niagara with convoy of seven boats, ninety-six men, and quantities of supplies and ammunition. This little fleet coasted along the northern shore of Lake Erie until near the mouth of the Detroit River. The force attempted to land, when a band of Wyandot Indians suddenly burst from the woods, seized five of the boats, and killed or captured sixty of the soldiers. Cuyler with the remaining men (thirty-six), many of whom were wounded, escaped in the[Pg 276] other boats and crossed to Fort Sandusky, which they found had been taken and burned by the Wyandots; the garrison had been slaughtered and Ensign Paully sent prisoner to Pontiac's camp. Cuyler with his escaping companions slowly wended his way back, where he reported the result of his expedition to the commanding officer, Major Wilkins.

At the same time the Wyandots, with the captured boats and prisoners, proceeded up the Detroit to Pontiac's quarters, arriving in full sight of the Fort's garrison, when Gladwyn, of course, learned of the destruction of the Cuyler flotilla. The disappointment to the inmates of the Fort was almost unbearable. Gladwyn's schooner, however, reached Fort Niagara and returned about July 1st, laden with food, ammunition, and reënforcements, and the most welcome news of the Treaty of Paris. Pontiac, undismayed, continued his efforts. His forces now numbered, it is recorded, about eight hundred twenty warriors: two hundred fifty Ottawas, his own tribe and under his immediate command; one hundred fifty Pottawottomis, under Ninivay; fifty Wyandots, under Takee; two hundred Ojibwas, under Wasson; and one hundred seventy of the same tribe, under Sekahos.

The two schooners were a serious menace to the movements of the Indians, and many desperate attempts were made to burn them by midnight attacks, and the floating of fire-rafts down upon them; but all to no avail. Pontiac had the stubborn persistency of a later American general who said he would fight it out on that line if it took all summer. He exerted himself with fresh zeal to gain possession of the Fort. He demanded the surrender of Gladwyn, saying a still greater force of Indians was on the march to swell the army of besiegers. Gladwyn was equally tenacious and unyielding; he proposed to "hold the fort" till the enemy were worn out or reënforcements arrived. Pontiac sought to arouse the active aid of the neighboring Canadians, but the Treaty of Paris had made them British subjects, and they dared not war on their conquerors. History scarcely furnishes a like instance of so large an Indian force struggling so long in an attack on a fortified place.

The Wyandots and Pottawottomis, however, never as enthusiastic in this war as the other tribes, late in July decided to[Pg 277] withdraw from the besieging confederacy and make peace with the British. They did so, and exchanged prisoners with Gladwyn. The Ottawas and Ojibwas, however, still held on, watching the Fort and keeping up a desultory fusillade. The end was drawing nigh. On July 29th, Captain James Dalzell arrived from Niagara with artillery supplies and two hundred eighty men in twenty-two barges. Their approach to the Fort was bravely contested by the combined Indian forces, even the Wyandots and Pottawottomis breaking their treaty and treacherously joining in the assault. Dalzell's troops entered the Fort, and he proposed an immediate sortie. Dalzell was bravery personified, and he had fought with Israel Putnam.

On the morning after his arrival (July 31st) at two o'clock, he led a force of two hundred fifty men out of the Fort. They silently in the darkness marched along the river toward the Ottawa village just across Parent's Creek. The Indians were prepared and had ambuscaded both sides of the road. They were, Indian fashion, secreted behind trees and fences and Canadian houses. Their presence was not discovered till the van of Dalzell's column reached the bridge over the creek, when a terrible fire was opened upon the soldiers from all sides. It was still dark; the Indians could not be seen.

A panic ensued. The troops in disorder retreated amid an awful slaughter. Dalzell himself was killed, and Major Robert Rogers assumed command, and the fleeing soldiers were only spared from total destruction by two of the British boats coming to the rescue. About sixty men were killed or wounded. It was known as the Battle of Bloody bridge. Upon the retreating into the Fort of Major Rogers' survivors the siege was renewed. Pontiac was greatly encouraged over this victory, and his Indians showed renewed zeal. The schooner Gladwyn was sent to Niagara for help. On its return, it was attacked and its crew and supplies practically destroyed. Another relief expedition under Major Wilkins in September was overwhelmed in a lake storm and seventy soldiers were drowned.

But even Indian persistency began to tire. The realization that the French were beaten and time only would bring victory to the British led all the tribes, except the Ottawas, to sue for[Pg 278] peace. This was on October 12th. Pontiac could only hold his own tribe in line. The Ottawas sustained their hostility until October 30th, when a French messenger arrived from Neyon, who reported to Pontiac that he must expect no help from the French, as they were now completely and permanently at peace with the British.[51] Pontiac was advised to quit the war at once. His cause was doomed. The great chief who had so valiantly and unremittently fought for six months suddenly raised the siege and retired into the country of the Maumee, where he vainly endeavored to arouse the Miamis and neighboring tribes to another war upon the invading British.

Though the memorable siege of Detroit, personally conducted by Pontiac, ended in failure to the great chief, his conspiracy elsewhere met with unparalleled success. The British posts planned to be simultaneously attacked and destroyed by the savages were some dozen in number, including besides Detroit, St. Joseph, Michilimackinac, Ouiatenon, Sandusky, Miami, Presqu'île, Niagara, Le Bœuf, Venango, Fort Pitt, and one or two others of lesser importance. Of all the posts from Niagara and Pitt westward, Detroit alone was able to survive the conspiracy. For the rest "there was but one unvaried tale of calamity and ruin." It was a continued series of disasters to the white men. The victories of the savages marked a course of blood from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi.

On May 16, 1763, the Wyandots surrounded Fort Sandusky, and under pretence of a friendly visit several of them well known to Ensign Paully, the commander, were admitted. While smoking the pipe of peace the treacherous and trusted Indians suddenly arose, seized Paully, and held him prisoner while their tribesmen killed the sentry, entered the fort, and in cold blood murdered and scalped the little band of soldiers. The traders in the post were likewise killed and their stores plundered. The stockade was fired and burned to the ground. Paully was taken to Detroit where he was "adopted" as the husband of an old[Pg 279] widowed squaw, from whose affectionate toils he finally escaped to his friends in the Detroit Fort.

St. Joseph was located at the mouth of the river St. Joseph, near the southern end of Lake Michigan.[52] Ensign Schlosser was in command with a mere handful of soldiers, fourteen in number. On the morning of May 25th the commander was informed that a large "party" of Pottawottomis had arrived from Detroit "to visit their relations," and the chief (Washashe) and three or four of his followers wished to hold a "friendly talk" with the commander. Disarmed of suspicion, the commander-ensign admitted the callers; the result is the oft-repeated story. The entering Indians rushed to the gate, tomahawked the sentinel, let in their associates, who instantly pounced upon the garrison, killed eleven of the soldiers, plundered the fort, and later carried Schlosser and his three surviving companions captives to Detroit.

Fort Michilimackinac was the most important point on the Upper Lakes, commanding as it did the Straits of Mackinac, the passage from Lake Huron into Lake Michigan. Great numbers of the Chippewas (Ojibwas), in the last of May, began to assemble in the vicinity of the fort, but with every indication of friendliness. June 4th was King George's birthday. It must be celebrated with pastimes. The discipline of the garrison, some thirty-five in number, was relaxed. Many squaws were admitted as visitors into the fort, while their "braves" engaged in their favorite game of ball just outside the garrison entrance. It was a spirited contest between the Ojibwas and Sacs.

Captain George Etherington, commander of the fort, and his lieutenant, Leslie, stood without the palisades to watch the sport. Suddenly the ball was thrown near the open gate and behind the two officers. The Indians pretending to rush for the ball instantly encircled and seized Etherington and Leslie, and crowded their way into the fort, where the squaws supplied them with tomahawks and hatchets, which they had carried in, hidden under their blankets. Quick as a flash, the instruments of death were gleaming in the sunlight, and Lieutenant Jamet and fifteen[Pg 280] soldiers and a trader were struck down, never to rise. The rest of the garrison were made prisoners and five of them afterward tomahawked. All of the peaceful traders were plundered and carried off. The prisoners were conveyed to Montreal. The French population of the post was undisturbed. Captain Etherington succeeded in sending timely warning to the little garrison at La Baye; Lieutenant Gorrell, the commandant, and his men were brought as prisoners to the Michilimackinac fort and thence sent with Etherington and Leslie to the Canadian capital. The little post of Ste. Marie (the Sault) had been partially destroyed and abandoned. The garrison inmates had withdrawn to Michilimackinac and shared its fate.

The garrison at Ouiatenon situated on the Wabash (Indian Ouabache), near the present location of Lafayette (Indiana), then in the very heart of the Western forest, as planned, was to have been massacred on June 1st. Through the information given by the French at the post, the soldiers were apprised of their intended fate, and, through the intervention of the same French friends, the Indians were dissuaded from executing their sanguinary purpose. Lieutenant Jenkins and several of his men were made prisoners by stratagem; the remainder of the garrison readily surrendered.

On the present site of Fort Wayne (Indiana) was Fort Miami,[53] at the confluence of the Rivers St. Joseph and St. Mary, which unite to form the Maumee. The fort at this time was in charge of Ensign Holmes. On May 27th the commander was decoyed from the Fort by the story of an Indian girl, that a squaw lay dangerously ill in a wigwam near the stockade, and needed medical assistance. The humane Holmes, forgetting his caution on an errand of mercy, walked without the gate and was instantly shot dead. The soldiers in the palisades, seeing the corpse of their leader and hearing the yells and whoopings of the exultant Indians, offered no resistance, admitted the red men and gladly surrendered on promise of having their lives spared.

Fort Presqu'île stood on the southern shore of Lake Erie at the site of the present town of Erie. The block-house, an un[Pg 281]usually strong and commodious one, was in command of Ensign Christie, with a courageous and skilful garrison of twenty-seven men. Christie, learning of the attack on the other posts, "braced up" for his "visit from the hell-hounds" as he appropriately called the enemy. He had not long to wait. On June 15th about two hundred of them put in an appearance from Detroit. They sprang into the ditch around the fort, and with reckless audacity approached to the very walls and threw fire-balls of pitch upon the roof and sides of the fortress. Again and again the wooden retreat was on fire, but amid showers of bullets and arrows the flames were extinguished by the fearless soldiers.

The savages rolled logs before the fort and erected strong breastworks, from behind which they could discharge their shots and throw their fire-balls. For nearly three days a terrific contest ensued. The savages finally undermined the palisades to the house of Christie, which was at once set on fire, nearly stifling the garrison with the smoke and heat, for Christie's quarters were close to the block-house. Longer resistance was vain, "the soldiers, pale and haggard, like men who had passed through a fiery furnace, now issued from their scorched and bullet-pierced stronghold." The surrendering soldiers were taken to Pontiac's quarters on the Detroit River.

Three days after the attack on Presqu'île, Fort le Bœuf, twelve miles south on Le Bœuf Creek, one of the head sources of the Allegheny River, was surrounded and burned. Ensign Price and a garrison of thirteen men miraculously escaped the flames and the encircling savages and endeavored to reach Fort Pitt. About half of them succeeded; the remainder died of hunger and privation by the way.

Fort Venango, still farther south, on the Allegheny River, was captured by a band of Senecas, who gained entrance by resorting to the oft-employed treachery of pretending friendliness. The entire garrison was butchered, Lieutenant Gordon, the commander, being slowly tortured to death, and the fort was burned to the ground. Not a soul escaped to tell the horrible tale.

Fort Ligonier, another small post, commanded by Lieutenant Archibald Blane, forty miles southeast of Fort Pitt, was attacked but successfully held out till relieved by Bouquet's expedition.[Pg 282]

Thus within a period of about a month from the time the first blow was struck at Detroit, Pontiac was in full possession of nine out of the twelve posts, so recently belonging to and, it was thought, securely occupied by the British. The fearful threat of the great Ottawa conspirator that he would exterminate the whites west of the Alleghanies was wellnigh fulfilled. Over two hundred traders with their servants fell victims to his remorseless march of slaughter and rapine, and goods estimated at over half a million dollars became the spoils of the confederated tribes.

The result of Pontiac's widespread and successful uprising struck untold terror to the settlers along the Western frontier of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The savages, roused to the highest pitch of fury and weltering in the blood of their victims, were burning the cabins and crops of the defenceless whites and massacring the men, women, and children. Many hundreds of the forest-dwellers with their families flocked to the stockades and protected posts. Particularly in the Pennsylvania country did dread and consternation prevail. The frontiersmen west of the Alleghanies fled east over the mountains to Carlisle, Lancaster, and numbers even continued their flight to Philadelphia. Pontiac was making good his threat that he would drive the pale-faces back to the sea.

But Forts Niagara and Pitt were still in the possession of the "red-coats," as the British soldiers were often called by the forest "redskins." Following the total destruction of Le Bœuf and Venango, the Senecas made an attack on Fort Niagara, an extensive work on the east side of Niagara River, near its mouth as it empties into Lake Ontario. This fort guarded the access to the whole interior country by way of Canada and the St. Lawrence. The fort was strongly built and fortified and was far from the centre of the country of the warpath Indians, for, with the exception of the Senecas, the Iroquois tribes inhabiting Eastern Canada and New York did not participate in Pontiac's conspiracy. The attack on Fort Niagara, therefore, was half-hearted, and after a feeble effort the besiegers despaired of success or assistance and abandoned the blockade, which only lasted a few days.

Fort Pitt was the British military head-quarters of the West[Pg 283]ern frontier. It was the Gibraltar of defence, protecting the Eastern colonies from invasion by the Western Indians. The consummation of Pontiac's gigantic scheme depended upon the capture of Fort Pitt. It was a strong fortification at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. Its northern ramparts were faced with brick on the side looking down the Ohio. Fort Pitt stood "far aloof in the forest, and one might journey eastward full two hundred miles before the English settlements began to thicken." The garrison consisted of three hundred thirty soldiers, traders, and backwoodsmen, besides about one hundred women and a greater number of children. Captain Simeon Ecuyer, a brave Swiss officer, was in command. Every preparation was made for the expected attack. All houses and cabins outside the palisade were levelled to the ground. A rude fire-engine was constructed to extinguish any flames that might be kindled by the burning arrows of the Indians.

In the latter part of May the hostile savages began to approach the vicinity of the fort. On June 22d they opened fire "upon every side at once." The garrison replied by a discharge of howitzers, the shells of which, bursting in the midst of the Indians, greatly amazed and disconcerted them. The Indians then boldly demanded a surrender of the fort, saying vast numbers of braves were on the way to destroy it. Ecuyer displayed equal bravado and replied that several thousand British soldiers were on the way to punish the tribes for their uprising. The fort was now in a state of siege. For about a month "nothing occurred except a series of petty and futile attacks," in which the Indians, mostly Ottawas, Ojibwas, and Delawares, did small damage. On July 26th, under a flag of truce, the besiegers again demanded surrender. It was refused and Ecuyer told the savages that if they again showed themselves near the Fort he would throw "bombshells" among them and "blow them to atoms." The assault was continued with renewed fury.

Meanwhile Sir Jeffrey Amherst, the commander-in-chief of the British forces, awakening to the gravity of the situation, ordered Colonel Bouquet, a brave and able officer in his majesty's service, to take command of certain specified forces and proceed as rapidly as possible to the relief of Fort Pitt, and then make aggressive warfare on the Western tribes. Bouquet, leav[Pg 284]ing his head-quarters at Philadelphia, reached Carlisle late in June, where he heard for the first time of the calamities at Presqu'île, Le Bœuf, and Venango. He left Carlisle with a force of five hundred men, some of them the pick of the British regulars, but many of them aged veterans enfeebled by disease and long, severe exposure. Bouquet had seen considerable service in Indian warfare. He was not likely to be caught napping. He marched slowly along the Cumberland Valley and crept cautiously over the mountains, passing Forts Loudon and Bedford, the latter surrounded with Indians, to Fort Ligonier, which, as noted above, had been blockaded for weeks by the savages who, as at Bedford, fled at Bouquet's approach.

On August 5th the little army, footsore and tired and half-famished, reached a small stream within twenty-five miles of Fort Pitt, known as Bushy Run. Here in the afternoon they were suddenly and fiercely fired upon by a superior number of Indians. A terrific contest ensued, only ended by the darkness of night. The encounter was resumed next day; the odds were against the British, who were surrounded and were being cut down in great numbers by the Indians who skulked behind trees and logs and in the grass and declivities. Bouquet resorted to a ruse which was signally successful. He formed his men in a wide semicircle, and from the centre advanced a company toward the enemy; the advancing company then made a feint of retreat, the deceived Indians followed close after and fell into the ambuscade. The outwitted savages were completely routed and fled in hopeless confusion. Bouquet had won one of the greatest victories in Western Indian warfare. His loss was about one hundred fifty men, nearly a third of his army. The loss of the Indians was not so great.

As rapidly as possible Bouquet pushed on to Fort Pitt, which he entered without molestation on August 25th. The extent and the end of Pontiac's conspiracy had at last been reached. The Pennsylvania Assembly, and King George, even, formally thanked Bouquet.

Forts Detroit and Pitt, as has been seen, proved impregnable; neither the evil cunning nor the persistent bravery of the savage could dislodge the occupants of those important posts. The siege of Detroit had been abandoned by the combined forces of[Pg 285] Pontiac, but the country round about continued to be infested with the hostile Indians, who kept up a sort of petty bushwhacking campaign that compelled the soldiers and traders of the fort, for safety, to remain "in doors" during the winter of 1763-1764. Bouquet, on gaining Fort Pitt, desired to pursue the marauding and murderous savages to their forest retreats and drive them hence, but he was unable to accomplish anything until the following year.

In the spring of 1764 Sir Jeffrey Amherst resigned his office, and General Thomas Gage succeeded him as commander-in-chief of the British forces in America, with head-quarters in Boston. Shortly after assuming office, General Gage determined to send two armies from different points into the heart of the Indian country. The first, under Bouquet, was to advance from Fort Pitt into the midst of the Delaware and Shawano settlements of the Ohio Valley; and the other, under Bradstreet, was to pass from Fort Niagara up the Lakes and force the tribes of Detroit and the region round about to unconditional submission.

Colonel John Bradstreet left Fort Niagara in July, 1764, with the formidable force of over a thousand soldiers. In canoes and bateaux this imposing army of British regulars coasted along the shore of Lake Erie, stopping at various points to meet and treat with the Indians, who, realizing their inability to cope with so powerful an antagonist, made terms of peace or went through the pretence of so doing. At Sandusky (Fort), particularly, Bradstreet accepted the false promises of the Wyandots, Ottawas, Miamis, Delawares, and Shawanoes. On August 26th he arrived at Detroit, to the great joy and relief of the garrison, which now, for more than a year, had been "cut off from all communication with their race" and had been virtually prisoners confined within the walls of their stockade. Bradstreet forwarded small detachments to restore or retake, as the case might be, the farther western British posts, which had fallen into the hands of Pontiac's wily and exultant warriors.

In October (1764) Bouquet, with an army of fifteen hundred troops, defiled out of Fort Pitt, and, taking the Indian trail westward, boldly entered the wilderness, "which no army had ever before sought to penetrate." It was a novel sight, this regi[Pg 286]ment of regulars, picking its way through the woods and over the streams to the centre of the Ohio country. Striking the Tuscarawas River he followed down its banks, halting at short intervals to confer with delegations of Indians until October 25th, when he encamped on the Muskingum, near the forks of that river formed by the confluence of the Tuscarawas and Walhonding rivers. Here with much display of the pomp and circumstance of war on the part of Bouquet, to impress and over-awe the savages, he held conferences with the chiefs of the various tribes. They agreed to lay down their arms and live for the future in friendship with the white invaders. All prisoners heretofore taken and then held by the Indians were to be surrendered to Bouquet. Over two hundred of these, captives, including women and children, were delivered up, and with these Bouquet, with his successful soldiery, retraced his course to Fort Pitt, arriving there on November 28th. It was one of the most memorable expeditions in the pre-State history of Ohio.

The sudden and surprising victories of Pontiac were being rapidly undone. The great Ottawa chief saw his partially accomplished scheme withering into ignominious failure. Sullen, disappointed, consumed with humiliation and revenge, he withdrew from active prominence to his forest wigwam. He sought the banks of the Maumee, the scene of his birth and the location of the villages of many tribes who were his sympathetic adherents. He did not participate in any of the councils held by Bradstreet and the chiefs. "His vengeance was unslaked and his purpose unshaken." But his glory was growing dim and his power was withering into dust. From the scenes of his promising but short-lived triumphs, he retired into the country of the Illinois and the Mississippi. He tried to arouse the aid of the French. He gathered a band of four hundred warriors on the Maumee, and with these faithful followers revisited the Western tribes, in hopes of creating another confederation.[54] Not even would the southern tribes, however, respond to his appeals. All was lost. His allies were falling off; his followers, discouraged, were deserting him. Again and again he went back to his chosen haunts[Pg 287] and former faithful followers on the Maumee. But his day had passed.

In the spring of 1766 Pontiac met Sir William Johnson[55] at Oswego. In his peace speech at that time he said: "I speak in the name of all the nations westward, of whom I am the master. It is the will of the Great Spirit that we should meet here to-day; and before him I now take you by the hand. I call him to witness that I speak from my heart; for since I took Colonel Croghan[56] by the hand last year, I have never let go my hold, for I see that the Great Spirit will have us friends.

"Moreover, when our great father, of France, was in this country, I held him fast by the hand. Now that he is gone, I take you, my English father, by the hand, in the name of all the nations, and promise to keep this covenant as long as I shall live."

But he did not speak from the heart; on the contrary, only from the head. Leaving the Oswego conference, "his canoe laden with the gifts of his enemy," Pontiac steered homeward for the Maumee; and in that vicinity he spent the following winter. From now on for some two years the great Ottawa chief disappeared as if lost in the forest depths.

In April, 1769, he is found at Fort St. Louis, on the west side of the Mississippi, where he gave himself mainly to the temporary oblivion of "fire-water," the dread destroyer of his race. He was wont to cross the "Father of Waters" to the fort on the British side at Cahokia, where he would revel with the friendly creoles. In one of these visits, in the early morning, after drinking deeply, he strode with uncertain step into the adjacent for[Pg 288]est. He was arrayed in the uniform of a French officer, which apparel had been given him many years before by the Marquis of Montcalm. His footsteps were stealthily dogged by a Kaskaskia Indian, who in the silence and seclusion of the forest, at an opportune moment, buried the blade of a tomahawk in the brain of the Ottawa conqueror, the champion of his race.

The murderer had been bribed to the heinous act by a British trader named Williamson, who thought to thus rid his country (England) of a dangerous foe. The unholy price of the assassination was a barrel of liquor. It was supposed that the Illinois, Kaskaskia, Peoria, and Cahokia Indians were more or less guilty as accomplices in the horrible deed. That an Illinois Indian was guilty of the act was sufficient. The Sacs and Foxes, and other Western tribes friendly to Pontiac and his cause were aroused to furious revenge. They went upon the warpath against the Illinois Indians. A relentless war ensued, and, says Parkman, "over the grave of Pontiac more blood was poured out in atonement than flowed from the veins of the slaughtered heroes on the corpse of Patroclus."

The body of the murdered chief was borne across the river and buried near Fort St. Louis. No monument ever marked the resting-place of the great hero and defender of his people.[Pg 289]


[45] Estimate of Sir William Johnson in 1763: Iroquois, 1950; Delawares, 600; Shawnees, 300; Wyandots, 450; Miamis and Kickapoos, 800; Ottawas, Ojibwas, and other wandering tribes of the Northwest "defy all efforts at enumeration." The British population in the colonies was then about 1,000,000; the French, something like 100,000.

[46] Rogers called this river Chocage. Rogers' camp was on the present site of the city of Cleveland.

[47] Parkman says he was about fifty years old when he met Major Rogers, which was in 1760.

[48] Chief Richardville also asserted that Pontiac was born of an Ottawa father and a Miami mother. The probability of this tradition is allowed by Knapp, and accepted by Dr. C.E. Slocum, of Defiance, a very careful and reliable authority. Dodge says some claimed Pontiac was a Catawba prisoner, adopted into the Ottawa tribe.

[49] Detroit was first settled by Cadillac, July 24, 1701, with fifty soldiers and fifty artisans and traders. So it had been the chief Western stronghold of the French for one hundred fifty years. Detroit at this time (1760) contained about two thousand inhabitants. The centre of the settlement was a fortified town, known as the "Fort," to distinguish it from the dwellings scattered along the river-banks. The Fort stood on the western bank of the river and contained about a hundred small wood houses with bark or thatch-straw roofs. These primitive dwellings were packed closely together and surrounded and protected by a palisade about twenty-five feet high; at each corner was a wooden bastion, and a block-house was erected over each gateway. The only public buildings in the enclosure were a council-house, the barracks, and a rude little church.

[50] There are many versions of the divulging of the plot; one that it was by an old squaw; another that a young squaw of doubtful character told it to one of the subordinate officers; still another, that it was by an Ottawa warrior. Parkman seems to favor the Ojibwa girl, called Catherine, and said to be the mistress of Gladwyn.

[51] True to his Indian nature, Pontiac determined to assume a mask of peace and bide his time. Gladwyn wrote as follows to Lord Jeffrey Amherst: "This moment I received a message from Pontiac telling me that he should send to all the nations concerned in the war to bury the hatchet; and he hopes your excellency will forget what has passed."—Ed.

[52] This post of St. Joseph was the site of a Roman Catholic mission founded about the year 1700. Here was one of the most prominent French military posts.

[53] There were several forts called Miami in those early days. This one was built in 1749-1750 by the French commandant, Raimond.

[54] Pontiac sought the aid of the Kickapoos, Piankishaws, Sacs, Foxes, Dakotas, Missouris, and other tribes on the Mississippi and its head-waters.

[55] Sir William Johnson was at this time superintendent of Indian affairs in the North (of the colonies) by appointment from the King. Johnson was a great favorite with the Indians, and exerted great power over them, especially among the Six Nations. He married a sister of Brant, the Mohawk chief; he was, moreover, adopted into the Mohawk tribe and made a sachem.

[56] George Croghan was a deputy Indian agent under Sir William Johnson. In 1765, at the instance of Johnson, Croghan proceeded from Fort Pitt down the Ohio to the mouth of the Wabash, up which he journeyed and thence across the country to Detroit, treating with the Indians as he passed. On this journey Croghan met Pontiac, who made promises of peace and friendship.



A.D. 1765


Although the Stamp Act passed by the English Parliament in 1765 was repealed in the following year, the opposition which led to its repeal became also one of the principal causes of the American Revolution. The passage of this act and the laying of its impositions upon the colonies formed the climax of England's mercantile policy there, where irritating revenue laws had already, as in Massachusetts, for some years been in force.

In 1763 England determined to levy upon the colonies direct taxes, not only for their own military defence, but also as a contribution to the payment of the British war debt. George Grenville, who, says Macaulay, knew of "no national interests except those which are expressed by pounds, shillings, and pence," became prime minister in 1763. His first measure was that known as the "Molasses or [Sugar] Act," reviving an old law for enforcement in the American colonies. The act was meant to "protect" West Indian sugar-planters, and it laid a heavy duty upon all sugar and molasses imported into North America from the French West Indies.

The outbreak of indignation, especially in New England, against this imposition was a prelude to the more general and determined resistance to the Stamp Act, which was Grenville's second obnoxious measure. The history of "Grenville's Stamp Act" is adequately set forth by Grahame and Bancroft, whose respective accounts present its most important features and its fate in the hands of American patriots.


The calamities of the French and Indian War (1755) had scarcely ended when the germ of another war was planted which soon grew up and produced deadly fruit. At that time sundry resolutions passed the British Parliament relative to the imposition of a stamp duty in America, which gave a general alarm. By them the right, the equity, the policy, and even the[Pg 290] necessity of taxing the colonies were formally avowed. These resolutions, being considered as the preface of a system of American revenue, were deemed an introduction to evils of much greater magnitude. They opened a prospect of oppression, boundless in extent and endless in duration. They were, nevertheless, not immediately followed by any legislative act. Time and an invitation were given to the Americans to suggest any other mode of taxation that might be equivalent in its produce to the Stamp Act; but they objected not only to the mode, but the principle; and several of their assemblies, though in vain, petitioned against it.

An American revenue was, in England, a very popular measure. The cry in favor of it was so strong as to silence the voice of petitions to the contrary. The equity of compelling the Americans to contribute to the common expenses of the empire satisfied many who, without inquiring into the policy or justice of taxing their unrepresented fellow-subjects, readily assented to the measures adopted by the Parliament for this purpose. The prospect of easing their own burdens at the expense of the colonists dazzled the eyes of gentlemen of landed interest, so as to keep out of their view the probable consequences of the innovation. The omnipotence of Parliament was so familiar a phrase on both sides of the Atlantic that few in America, and still fewer in Great Britain, were impressed, in the first instance, with any idea of the illegality of taxing the colonists.

Illumination on that subject was gradual. The resolutions in favor of an American stamp act, which passed in March, 1764, met with no opposition. In the course of the year which intervened between these resolutions and the passing of a law grounded upon them, the subject was better understood, and constitutional objections against the measure were urged by several, both in Great Britain and America. This astonished and chagrined the British ministry; but as the principle of taxing America had been for some time determined upon, they were unwilling to give it up. Impelled by partiality for a long-cherished idea, Grenville, in March, 1765, brought into the House of Commons his long-expected bill for laying a stamp duty in America. By this, after passing through the usual forms, it was enacted that the instruments of writing in daily use among a commercial people[Pg 291] should be null and void unless they were executed on stamped paper or parchment, charged with a duty imposed by the British Parliament.

When the bill was brought in, Charles Townshend concluded a speech in its favor with words to the following effect: "And now will these Americans, children planted by our care, nourished up by our indulgence, till they are grown to a degree of strength and opulence, and protected by our arms—will they grudge to contribute their mite to relieve us from the heavy weight of that burden which we lie under?" To which Colonel Barre replied: "They planted by your care? No, your oppressions planted them in America! They fled from tyranny to a then uncultivated and inhospitable country, where they exposed themselves to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable; and, among others, to the cruelty of a savage foe the most subtle, and I will take upon me to say the most formidable, of any people upon the face of God's earth! And yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, they met all hardships with pleasure, compared with those they suffered in their own country from the hand of those that should have been their friends.

"They nourished up by your indulgence? They grew by your neglect of them! As soon as you began to care about them, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule them, in one department and another, who were, perhaps, the deputies of deputies to some members in this House, sent to spy out their liberties, to misrepresent their actions, and to prey upon them: men whose behavior on many occasions has caused the blood of those sons of liberty to recoil within them; men promoted to the highest seats of justice—some who to my knowledge were glad, by going to a foreign country, to escape being brought to the bar of a court of justice in their own.

"They protected by your arms? They have nobly taken up arms in your defence, have exerted a valor, amid their constant and laborious industry, for the defence of a country whose frontier was drenched in blood, while its interior parts yielded all its little savings to your emolument. And, believe me, that same spirit of freedom which actuated these people at first will accompany them still: but prudence forbids me to explain myself further. God knows I do not at this time speak from any motives of[Pg 292] party heat. I deliver the genuine sentiments of my heart. However superior to me, in general knowledge and experience, the respectable body of this House may be, yet I claim to know more of America than most of you; having seen and been conversant in that country. The people, I believe, are as truly loyal as any subjects the King has; but a people jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them if ever they should be violated: but the subject is too delicate. I will say no more."

During the debate on the bill, the supporters of it insisted much on the colonies being virtually represented in the same manner as Leeds, Halifax, and some other towns were. A recurrence to this plea was a virtual acknowledgment that there ought not to be taxation without representation. It was replied that the connection between the electors and non-electors of Parliament, in Great Britain, was so interwoven from both being equally liable to pay the same common tax as to give some security of property to the latter: but with respect to taxes laid by the British Parliament, and paid by the Americans, the situation of the parties was reversed. Instead of both parties bearing a proportional share of the same common burden, what was laid on the one was exactly so much taken off from the other.

The bill met with no opposition in the House of Lords; and, on March 22, 1765, it received the royal assent. The night after it passed, Dr. Franklin wrote to Charles Thomson: "The sun of liberty is set; you must light up the candles of industry and economy." Thomson answered, "I was apprehensive that other lights would be the consequence"; and he foretold the opposition which shortly took place. On its being suggested from authority that the stamp officers would not be sent from Great Britain, but selected from among the Americans, the colony agents were desired to point out proper persons for that purpose. They generally nominated their friends, which affords a presumptive proof that they supposed the act would have gone down. In this opinion they were far from being singular.

That the colonists would be ultimately obliged to submit to the Stamp Act was at first commonly believed, both in England and America. The framers of it, in particular, flattered themselves that the confusion which would arise upon the disuse of writings, and the insecurity of property which would result[Pg 293] from using any other than that required by law, would compel the colonies, however reluctant, to use the stamped paper, and consequently to pay the taxes imposed thereon. They therefore boasted that it was a law which would execute itself. By the term of the Stamp Act, it was not to take effect till November 1st—a period of more than seven months after its passing. This gave the colonists an opportunity of leisurely canvassing the new subject and examining fully on every side. In the first part of this interval, struck with astonishment, they lay in silent consternation, and could not determine what course to pursue. By degrees they recovered their recollection. Virginia led the way in opposition to the Stamp Act. Patrick Henry, on May 29, 1765, brought into the House of Burgesses of that colony vigorous resolutions, which were substantially adopted. [See Bancroft's account.]

They were well received by the people and immediately forwarded to the other provinces. They circulated extensively and gave a spring to the discontented. Till they appeared, most were of opinion that the act would be quietly adopted. Murmurs, indeed, were common, but they seemed to be such as would soon die away. The countenance of so respectable a colony as Virginia confirmed the wavering and emboldened the timid. Opposition to the Stamp Act, from that period, assumed a bolder face. The fire of liberty blazed forth from the press. Some well-judged publications set the rights of the colonists in a plain but strong point of view. The tongues and the pens of the well-informed citizens labored in kindling the latent sparks of patriotism. The flame spread from breast to breast till the conflagration became general. In this business, New England had a principal share. The inhabitants of that part of America, in particular, considered their obligations to the mother-country, for past favors, to be very inconsiderable. They were fully informed that their forefathers were driven by persecution to the woods of America, and had there, without any expense to the parent state, effected a settlement on bare creation. Their resentment, for the invasion of their accustomed right of taxation, was not so much mitigated by the recollection of late favors as it was heightened by the tradition of grievous sufferings to which their ancestors, by the rulers of England, had been subjected.[Pg 294]

The heavy burdens which the operation of the Stamp Act would have imposed on the colonists, together with the precedent it would establish of future exactions, furnished the American patriots with arguments calculated as well to move the passions as to convince the judgments of their fellow-colonists. In great warmth they exclaimed: "If the Parliament have a right to levy the stamp duties, they may by the same authority lay on us imposts, excises, and other taxes without end, till their rapacity is satisfied or our abilities are exhausted. We cannot, at future elections, displace these men who so lavishly grant away our property. Their seat and their power are independent of us, and it will rest with their generosity where to stop in transferring the expenses of government from their own to our shoulders."

It was fortunate for the liberties of America that newspapers were the subject of a heavy stamp duty. Printers, when uninfluenced by government, have generally arranged themselves on the side of liberty, nor are they less remarkable for their attention to the profits of their profession. A stamp duty, which openly invaded the first and threatened a diminution of the last provoked their united zealous opposition. They daily presented to the public original dissertations tending to prove that if the Stamp Act were suffered to operate, the liberties of Americans were at an end, and their property virtually transferred to their transatlantic fellow-subjects. The writers among the Americans, seriously alarmed for the fate of their country, came forward with essays to prove that, agreeably to the British Constitution, taxation and representation were inseparable; that the only constitutional mode of raising money from the colonists was by acts of their own legislatures; that the crown possessed no further power than that of requisition; and that the Parliamentary right of taxation was confined to the mother-country, where it originated from the natural right of man to do what he pleased with his own, transferred by consent from the electors of Great Britain to those whom they chose to represent them in Parliament.

They also insisted much on the misapplication of public money by the British ministry. Great pains were taken to inform the colonists of the large sums annually bestowed on pensioned favorites and for the various purposes of bribery.[Pg 295] Their passions were inflamed by high-colored representations of the hardship of being obliged to pay the earnings of their industry into a British treasury, well known to be a fund for corruption.

While a variety of legal and illegal methods were adopted to oppose the Stamp Act, November 1st, on which it was to commence its operation, approached. At Boston the day was ushered in by a funereal tolling of bells. Many shops and stores were shut. The effigies of the planners and friends of the Stamp Act were carried about the streets in public derision, and then torn in pieces by the enraged populace. It was remarkable that, though a large crowd was assembled, there was not the least violence or disorder.

At Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, the morning was ushered in with tolling all the bells in town. In the course of the day notice was given to the friends of Liberty to attend her funeral. A coffin, neatly ornamented and inscribed with the word "Liberty" in large letters was carried to the grave. The funeral procession began from the State House, attended with two unbraced drums. While the inhabitants who followed the coffin were in motion, minute-guns were fired, and continued till the coffin arrived at the place of interment. Then an oration in favor of the deceased was pronounced. It was scarcely ended before the coffin was taken up; it having been perceived that some remains of life were left, on which the inscription was immediately altered to "Liberty revived." The bells immediately exchanged their melancholy for a more joyful sound; and satisfaction appeared in every countenance. The whole was conducted with decency and without injury or insult to any man's person or property.

The general aversion to the Stamp Act was, by similar methods, in a variety of places, demonstrated. It is remarkable that the proceedings of the populace on these occasions were carried on with decorum and regularity. They were not ebullitions of a thoughtless mob, but for the most part planned by leading men of character and influence, who were friends to peace and order. These, knowing well that the bulk of mankind are more led by their senses than by their reason, conducted the public exhibitions on that principle, with a view of making the Stamp Act and its friends both ridiculous and odious.[Pg 296]

Though the Stamp Act was to have operated from November 1st, yet legal proceedings in the courts were carried on as before. Vessels entered and departed without stamped papers. The printers boldly printed and circulated their newspapers, and found a sufficient number of readers; though they used common paper in defiance of the acts of Parliament. In most departments, by common consent, business was carried on as though no Stamp Act had existed. This was accompanied by spirited resolutions to risk all consequences rather than submit to use the paper required by law. While these matters were in agitation, the colonists entered into associations against importing British manufactures till the Stamp Act should be repealed. In this manner British liberty was made to operate against British tyranny. Agreeably to the free Constitution of Great Britain, the subject was at liberty to buy or not to buy, as he pleased. By suspending their future purchases on the repeal of the Stamp Act, the colonists made it the interest of merchants and manufacturers to solicit for that repeal. They had usually taken so great a proportion of British manufactures that the sudden stoppage of all their orders, amounting, annually, to two or three millions sterling, threw some thousands in the mother-country out of employment, and induced them, from a regard to their own interest, to advocate the measures wished for by America. The petitions from the colonists were seconded by petitions from the merchants and manufacturers of Great Britain. What the former prayed for as a matter of right, and connected with their liberties, the latter also solicited from motives of immediate interest.

In order to remedy the deficiency of British goods, the colonists betook themselves to a variety of necessary domestic manufactures. In a little time large quantities of common cloths were brought to market; and these, though dearer and of a worse quality, were cheerfully preferred to similar articles imported from Britain. That wool might not be wanting, they entered into resolutions to abstain from eating lambs. Foreign elegancies were laid aside. The women were as exemplary as the men in various instances of self-denial. With great readiness they refused every article of decoration for their persons and luxuries for their tables. These restrictions, which the colonists[Pg 297] had voluntarily imposed on themselves, were so well observed that multitudes of artificers in England were reduced to great distress, and some of their most flourishing manufactories were in a great measure at a stand. An association was entered into by many of the "Sons of Liberty"—the name given to those who were opposed to the Stamp Act—by which they agreed, "to march with the utmost expedition, at their own proper costs and expense, with their whole force, to the relief of those that should be in danger from the Stamp Act or its promoters and abettors, or anything relative to it, on account of anything that may have been done in opposition to its obtaining." This was subscribed by so many in New York and New England that nothing but a repeal could have prevented the immediate commencement of a civil war.

From the decided opposition to the Stamp Act which had been adopted by the colonies, it became necessary for Great Britain to enforce or to repeal it. Both methods of proceeding had supporters. The opposers of a repeal urged arguments, drawn from the dignity of the nation, the danger of giving way to the clamors of the Americans, and the consequences of weakening Parliamentary authority over the colonies. On the other hand, it was evident, from the determined opposition of the colonies, that it could not be enforced without a civil war, by which event the nation must be a loser. In the course of these discussions Dr. Franklin was examined at the bar of the House of Commons, and gave extensive information on the state of American affairs, and the impolicy of the Stamp Act, which contributed much to remove prejudices and to produce a disposition that was friendly to a repeal.

Some speakers of great weight, in both Houses of Parliament, denied their right of taxing the colonies. The most distinguished supporters of this opinion were Lord Camben, in the House of Lords, and William Pitt, in the House of Commons. The former, in strong language, said: "My position is this; I repeat it; I will maintain it to my last hour: taxation and representation are inseparable. This position is founded on the laws of nature. It is more; it is itself an eternal law of nature. For whatever is a man's own is absolutely his own. No man has a right to take it from him without his consent. Whoever attempts[Pg 298] to do it attempts an injury. Whoever does it commits a robbery."

Pitt, with an original boldness of expression, justified the colonists in opposing the Stamp Act. "You have no right," said he, "to tax America. I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions of our fellow-subjects, so lost to every sense of virtue as tamely to give up their liberties, would be fit instruments to make slaves of the rest." He concluded with giving his advice that the Stamp Act be repealed absolutely, totally, and immediately; that reasons for the repeal be assigned; that it was founded on an erroneous principle. "At the same time," said he, "let the sovereign authority of this country over the colonies be asserted in as strong terms as can be devised, and be made to extend to every point of legislation whatsoever, that we may bind their trade, confine their manufactures, and exercise every power except that of taking their money out of their pockets without their consent."

The approbation of this illustrious statesman, whose distinguished abilities had raised Great Britain to the highest pitch of renown, inspired the Americans with additional confidence in the rectitude of their claims of exemption from parliamentary taxation, and emboldened them to further opposition, when, at a future day, the project of an American revenue was resumed. After much debating, two protests in the House of Lords, and passing an act, "For securing the dependence of America on Great Britain," the repeal of the Stamp Act was carried, in March, 1766. This event gave great joy in London. Ships in the River Thames displayed their colors, and houses were illuminated all over the city. It was no sooner known in America, than the colonists rescinded their resolutions, and recommenced their mercantile intercourse with the mother-country. They presented their homespun clothes to the poor, and imported more largely than ever. The churches responded with thanksgivings, and public and private rejoicings knew no bounds. By letters, addresses, and other means, almost all the colonies showed unequivocal marks of acknowledgment and gratitude. So sudden a calm after so violent storm is without a parallel in history. By the judicious sacrifice of one law, the Parliament of Great Britain procured an acquiescence in all that remained.[Pg 299]


Virginia received the plan to tax America by Parliament with consternation. At first the planters foreboded universal ruin; but soon they resolved that the act should recoil on England, and began to be proud of frugality; articles of luxury of English manufacture were banished, and threadbare coats were most in fashion. A large and embarrassing provincial debt enforced the policy of thrift.

Happily the Legislature of Virginia was then assembled; and the electors of Louisa County had just filled a sudden vacancy in their representation by making choice of Patrick Henry. He had resided among them scarcely a year, but his benignity of temper, pure life, and simplicity of habits had already won their love. Devoted from his heart to their interest, he never flattered the people and was never forsaken by them. As he took his place, not yet acquainted with the forms of business in the House, or with its members, he saw the time for the enforcement of the Stamp Tax drawing near, while all the other colonies, through timid hesitation or the want of opportunity, still remained silent, and cautious loyalty hushed the experienced statesmen of his own. More than half the assembly had made the approaching close of the session an excuse for returning home.

But Patrick Henry disdained submission. Alone, a burgess of but a few days, unadvised and unassisted, in an auspicious moment, of which the recollection cheered him to his latest day, he came forward in the committee of the whole House, and while Thomas Jefferson, a young collegian from the mountain frontier, stood outside of the closed hall, eager to catch the first tidings of resistance, and George Washington, as is believed, was in his place as a member, he maintained by resolutions that the inhabitants of Virginia inherited from the first adventurers and settlers of that dominion equal franchises with the people of Great Britain; that royal charters had declared this equality; that taxation by themselves, or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them, was the distinguishing characteristic of British freedom and of the constitution; that the people of that most ancient colony had uninterruptedly enjoyed the right of being thus governed by their own laws respecting their internal polity and tax[Pg 300]ation; that this right had never been forfeited, nor in any other way given up, but had been constantly recognized by the King and people of Great Britain.

Such was the declaration of colonial rights adopted at his instance by the Assembly of Virginia. It followed from these resolutions—and Patrick Henry so expressed it in a fifth supplementary one—that the General Assembly of the whole colony have the sole right and power to lay taxes on the inhabitants of the colony, and that any attempt to vest such power in any other persons whatever tended to destroy British as well as American freedom. It was still further set forth, yet not by Henry, in two resolutions, which, though they were not officially produced, equally embodied the mind of the younger part of the Assembly, that the inhabitants of Virginia were not bound to yield obedience to any law designed to impose taxation upon them, other than the laws of their own General Assembly, and that anyone who should, either by speaking or writing, maintain the contrary, should be deemed an enemy to the colony.

A stormy debate arose and many threats were uttered. Robinson, the speaker, already a defaulter; Peyton Randolph, the King's attorney, and the frank, honest, and independent George Wythe, a lover of classic learning, accustomed to guide the House by his strong understanding and single-minded integrity, exerted all their powers to moderate the tone of "the hot and virulent resolutions"; while John Randolph, the best lawyer in the colony, "singly" resisted the whole proceeding. But, on the other side, George Johnston, of Fairfax, reasoned with solidity and firmness, and Henry flamed with impassioned zeal. Lifted beyond himself, "Tarquin," he cried, "and Cæsar, had each his Brutus; Charles the First, his Cromwell; and George the Third——" "Treason!" shouted the speaker, "treason, treason!" was echoed round the house, while Henry, fixing his eye on the first interrupter, continued without faltering, "may profit by their example!"

Swayed by his words, the committee of the whole showed its good-will to the spirit of all the resolutions enumerated; but the five offered by Patrick Henry were alone reported to the House, and on Thursday, May 30th, having been adopted by small majorities, the fifth by a vote of twenty to nineteen, they became[Pg 301] a part of the public record. "I would have given five hundred guineas for a single vote," exclaimed the attorney-general, aloud, as he came out past young Jefferson, into whose youthful soul the proceedings of that day sank so deeply that resistance to tyranny became a part of his nature. But Henry "carried all the young members with him." That night, thinking his work done, he rode home, but the next day, in his absence, an attempt was made to strike all the resolutions off the journals, and the fifth, and the fifth only, was blotted out. The Lieutenant-Governor, though he did not believe new elections would fall on what he esteemed cool, reasonable men, dissolved the assembly; but the four resolutions which remained on the journals, and the two others, on which no vote had been taken, were published in the newspapers throughout America, and by men of all parties, by royalists in office, not less than by public bodies in the colonies, were received without dispute as the avowed sentiment of the "Old Dominion."

This is the "way the fire began in Virginia." Of the American colonies, "Virginia rang the alarum bell. Virginia gave the signal for the continent."[Pg 302]


A.D. 1769


No greater service has been rendered to the world through mechanical invention than that performed by James Watt in his improvement of the steam-engine. Watt was born at Greenock, Scotland, in 1736. During the eighty-three years of his life much progress was made in mechanics and engineering in different countries, but the name of Watt remains the most brilliant among contemporary workers in these departments of practical science.

The first contriver of a working steam-engine is supposed to have been Edward, second Marquis of Worcester (1601-1667). No complete description of his engine is known to exist, and conjectures about it disagree; but it is not questioned that he made important contributions to the great invention, upon which others at the same time were engaged. The construction of the first actual working steam-engine is usually credited to Thomas Savery, born in England about 1650. He devised a "fire-engine," as he called it, for the raising of water, but, owing to the want of strong boilers and a suitable form of condenser, it imperfectly served its purpose, and was soon superseded by the better engine of Thomas Newcomen, here referred to by Arago.

Newcomen was an English inventor, born in 1663. With Savery and Cawley, he invented and in 1705 patented the atmospheric steam-engine by which he is known, and which, as told by Arago, gave place to the superior invention of Watt.

Arago was an eminent French physicist and astronomer (1786-1853), who is even better known through his biographies of other great workers in science. His account of "the fruitful inventions which will forever connect the name of Watt with the steam-engine" is all the more valuable for preservation because written while the steam-engine was still in an early stage of its development. Of its later improvements and varied uses, numerous descriptions are within easy reach of all readers.

In physical cabinets we find a good many machines on which industry had founded great hopes, though the expense of their manufacture or that of keeping them at work has reduced them to be mere instruments of demonstration. This would have been the final fate of Newcomen's machine, in localities at least not[Pg 303] rich in combustibles, if Watt's efforts had not come in to give it an unhoped-for degree of perfection. This perfection must not be considered as the result of some fortuitous observation or of a single inspiration of genius; the inventor achieved it by assiduous labor, by experiments of extreme delicacy and correctness. One would say that Watt had adopted as his guide that celebrated maxim of Bacon's: "To write, speak, meditate, or act when we are not sufficiently provided with facts to stake out our thoughts is like navigating without a pilot along a coast strewed with dangers or rushing out on the immense ocean without compass or rudder."

In the collection belonging to the University of Glasgow there was a little model of a steam-engine by Newcomen that had never worked well. The professor of physics, Anderson, desired Watt to repair it. In the hands of this powerful workman the defects of its construction disappeared; from that time the apparatus was made to work annually under the inspection of the astonished students. A man of common mind would have rested satisfied with this success. Watt, on the contrary, as usual with him, saw cause in it for deep study. His researches were successively directed to all the points that appeared likely to clear up the theory of the machine. He ascertained the proportion in which water dilates in passing from a state of fluidity into that of vapor; the quantity of water that a certain weight of coal can convert into vapor; the quantity and weight of steam expended at each oscillation by one of Newcomen's engines of known dimensions; the quantity of cold water that must be injected into the cylinder to give a certain force to the piston's descending oscillation; and finally the elasticity of steam at various temperatures.

Here was enough to occupy the life of a laborious physicist, yet Watt found means to conduct all these numerous and difficult researches to a good termination, without the work of the shop suffering thereby. Dr. Cleland wished, not long since, to take me to the house, near the port of Glasgow, whither our associate[57] retired, on quitting his tools, to become an experimenter. It was razed to the ground! Our anger was keen but of short duration. Within the area still visible of the foundations ten or twelve vig[Pg 304]orous workmen appeared to be occupied in sanctifying the cradle of modern steam-engines; they were hammering with redoubled blows various portions of boilers, the united dimensions of which certainly equalled those of the humble dwelling that had disappeared there. On such a spot, and under such circumstances, the most elegant mansion, the most sumptuous monument, the finest statue, would have awakened less reflection than those colossal boilers.

If the properties of steam are present to your mind, you will perceive at a glance that the economic working of Newcomen's engine seems to require two irreconcilable conditions. When the piston descends, the cylinder is required to be cold, otherwise it meets some steam there, still very elastic, which retards the operation very much, and diminishes the effect of the external atmosphere. Then, when steam at the temperature of 100° flows into the same cylinder and finds it cold, the steam restores its heat by becoming partially fluid, and until the cylinder has regained the temperature of 100° its elasticity will be found considerably attenuated; thence will ensue slowness of motion, for the counterpoise will not raise the piston until there is sufficient spring contained in the cylinder to counterbalance the action of the atmosphere; thence there will also arise an increase of expense.

No doubt will remain on the immense importance of this economical observation, when I shall have stated that the Glasgow model at each oscillation expended a volume of steam several times larger than that of the cylinder. The expense of steam, or, what comes to the same thing, the expense of fuel, or, if we like it better, the pecuniary cost of keeping on the working of the machine, would be several times less if the successive heatings and coolings, the inconveniences of which have just been described, could be avoided.

This apparently insolvable problem was solved by Watt in the most simple manner. It sufficed for him to add to the former arrangement of the engine a vessel totally distinct from the cylinder, and communicating with it only by a small tube furnished with a tap. This vessel, now known as "the condenser," is Watt's principal invention.

Still another invention by Watt deserves a word, the advan[Pg 305]tages of which will become evident to everybody. When the piston descends in Newcomen's engine, it is by the weight of the atmosphere. The atmosphere is cold; hence it must cool the sides of the metal cylinder, which is open at the top, in proportion as it expands itself over the entire surface. This cooling is not compensated during the whole ascension of the piston, without the expense of a certain quantity of steam. But there is no loss of this sort in the engines modified by Watt. The atmospheric action is totally eliminated by the following means:

The top of the cylinder is closed by a metal cover, only pierced in the centre by a hole furnished with greased tow stuffed in hard, but through which the rod of the piston has free motion, though without allowing free passage either to air or steam. The piston thus divides the capacity of the cylinder into two distinct and well-closed areas. When it has to descend, the steam from the caldron reaches freely the upper area through a tube conveniently placed, and pushes it from top to bottom as the atmosphere did in Newcomen's engine. There is no obstacle to this motion, because, while it is going on, only the base of the cylinder is in communication with the condenser, wherein all the steam from that lower area resumes its fluid state. As soon as the piston has quite reached the bottom, the mere turning of a tap suffices to bring the two areas of the cylinder, situated above and below the piston, into communication with each other, so that both shall be filled with steam at the same degree of elasticity; and the piston being thus equally acted upon, upward and downward, ascends again to the top of the cylinder, as in Newcomen's atmospheric engine, merely by the action of a slight counterpoise.

Pursuing his researches on the means of economizing steam, Watt also reduced the result of the refrigeration of the external surface of the cylinder containing the piston, almost to nothing. With this view he enclosed the metal cylinder in a wooden case of larger diameter, filling the intermediate annular space with steam.

Now the engine was complete. The improvements effected by Watt are evident; there can be no doubt of their immense utility. As a means of drainage, then, you would expect to see them substituted for Newcomen's comparatively ruinous engines. Undeceive yourselves: the author of a discovery has always to con[Pg 306]tend against those whose interest may be injured, the obstinate partisans of everything old, and finally the envious. And these three classes united, I regret to acknowledge it, form the great majority of the public. In my calculation I even deduct those who are doubly influenced to avoid a paradoxical result. This compact mass of opponents can only be disunited and dissipated by time; yet time is insufficient; it must be attacked with spirit and unceasingly; our means of attack must be varied, imitating the chemist in this respect—he learning from experience that the entire solution of certain amalgams requires the successive application of several acids. Force of character and perseverance of will, which in the long run disintegrate the best woven intrigues, are not always found conjoined with creative genius. In case of need, Watt would be a convincing proof of this. His capital invention—his happy idea on the possibility of condensing steam in a vessel separate from the cylinder in which the mechanical action goes on—was in 1765.

Two years elapsed without his scarcely making an effort to apply it on a large scale. His friends at last put him in communication with Dr. Roebuck, founder of the large works at Carron, still celebrated at the present day. The engineer and the man of projects enter into partnership; Watt cedes two-thirds of his patent to him. An engine is constructed on the new principles; it confirms all the expectations of theory; its success is complete. But in the interim Dr. Roebuck's affairs receive various checks. Watt's invention would undoubtedly have restored them; it would have sufficed to borrow money; but our associate felt more inclined to give up his discovery and change his business. In 1767, while Smeaton was carrying on some triangulations and levellings between the two rivers of the Forth and the Clyde, forerunners of the gigantic works of which that part of Scotland was to be the theatre, we find Watt occupied with similar operations along a rival line crossing the Lomond passage. Later he draws the plan of a canal that was to bring coals from Monkland to Glasgow, and superintends the execution of it. Several projects of a similar nature, and, among others, that of a navigable canal across the isthmus of Crinan, which Rennie afterward finished; some deep studies on certain improvements in the ports of Ayr, Glasgow, and Greenock; the construction of the[Pg 307] Hamilton and Rutherglen bridges; surveys of the ground through which the celebrated Caledonian Canal was to pass, occupied our associate up to the end of 1773. Without wishing at all to diminish the merit of these enterprises, I may be permitted to say that their interest and importance were chiefly local, and to assert that neither their conception, direction, nor execution required a man called James Watt.

In the early part of 1774, after contending with Watt's indifference, his friends put him into communication with Mr. Boulton, of Soho, near Birmingham, an enterprising, active man, gifted with various talents. The two friends applied to Parliament for a prolongation of privilege, since Watt's patent, dated 1769, had only a few more years to run. The bill gave rise to the most animated discussion. The celebrated mechanic wrote as follows to his aged father: "This business could not be carried on without great expense and anxiety. Without the aid of some warm-hearted friends we should not have succeeded, for several of the most powerful in the House of Commons were opposed to us." It seemed to me interesting to search out to what class of society these Parliamentary persons belonged to whom Watt alluded, and who refused to the man of genius a small portion of the riches that he was about to create. Judge of my surprise when I found the celebrated Burke at their head. Is it possible, then, that men may devote themselves to deep studies, possess knowledge and probity, exercise to an eminent degree oratorical powers that move the feelings, and influence political assemblies, yet sometimes be deficient in plain common-sense? Now, however, owing to the wise and important modifications introduced by Lord Brougham in the laws relative to patents, inventors will no longer have to undergo the annoyances with which Watt was teased.

As soon as Parliament had granted a prolongation of twenty-five years to Watt's patent, he and Boulton together began the establishments at Soho, which have become the most useful school in practical mechanics for all England. The construction of draining-pumps of very large dimensions was soon undertaken there, and repeated experiments showed that, with equal effect, they saved three-quarters of the fuel that was consumed by Newcomen's previous engines. From that moment the new pumps[Pg 308] were spread through all the mining counties, especially in Cornwall. Boulton and Watt received as a duty the value of one-third of the coal saved by each of their engines. We may form an opinion of the commercial importance of the invention from an authentic fact: in the Chace-water mine alone, where three pumps were at work, the proprietors found it to their advantage to buy up the inventor's rights for the annual sum of sixty thousand francs (two thousand four hundred pounds). Thus in one establishment alone, the substitution of the condenser for internal injection had occasioned an annual saving in fuel of upward of one hundred eighty thousand francs (seven thousand pounds).

Men are easily reconciled to paying the rent of a house or the price of a farm. But this good-will disappears when an idea is the subject treated of, whatever advantage, whatever profit, it may be the means of procuring. Ideas! are they not conceived without trouble or labor? Who can prove that with time the same might not have occurred to everybody? In this way days, months, and years of priority would give no force to the patent!

Such opinions, which I need not here criticise, had obtained a footing from mere routine as decided. Men of genius, the "manufacturers of ideas," it seemed, were to remain strangers to material enjoyments; it was natural that their history should continue to resemble a legend of martyrs!

Whatever may be thought of these reflections, it is certain that the Cornwall miners paid the dues that were granted to the Soho engineers with increased repugnance from year to year. They availed themselves of the very earliest difficulties raised by plagiarists, to claim release from all obligation. The discussion was serious; it might compromise the social position of our associate: he therefore bestowed his entire attention to it and became a lawyer. The long and expensive lawsuits that resulted therefrom, but which they finally gained, would not deserve to be now exhumed; but having recently quoted Burke as one of the adversaries to our great mechanic, it appears only a just compensation here to mention that the Roys, Mylnes, Herschels, Delucs, Ramsdens, Robisons, Murdocks, Rennies, Cummings, Mores, Southerns, eagerly presented themselves before the magistrates to maintain the rights of persecuted genius. It may be also advisable to add, as a curious trait in the history of the human mind, that the[Pg 309] lawyers—I shall here prudently remark that we treat only of the lawyers of a neighboring country—to whom malignity imputes a superabundant luxury in words, reproached Watt, against whom they had leagued in great numbers, for having invented nothing but ideas. This, I may remark in passing, brought upon them before the tribunal the following apostrophe from Mr. Rous: "Go, gentlemen, go and rub yourselves against those untangible combinations, as you are pleased to call Watt's engines; against those pretended abstract ideas; they will crush you like gnats, they will hurl you up in the air out of sight!"

The persecutions which a warm-hearted man meets with, in the quarters where strict justice would lead him to expect unanimous testimonies of gratitude, seldom fail to discourage, and to sour his disposition. Nor did Watt's good-humor remain proof against such trials. Seven long years of lawsuits had excited in him such a sentiment of indignation, that it occasionally showed itself in severe expressions; thus he wrote to one of his friends: "What I most detest in this world are plagiarists! The plagiarists. They have already cruelly assailed me; and if I had not an excellent memory, their impudent assertions would have ended by persuading me that I have made no improvement in steam-engines. The bad passions of those men to whom I have been most useful (would you believe it?) have gone so far as to lead them to maintain that those improvements, instead of deserving this denomination, have been highly prejudicial to public wealth."

Watt, though greatly irritated, was not discouraged. His engines were not, in the first place, like Newcomen's, mere pumps, mere draining-pumps. In a few years he transformed them into universal motive powers, and of indefinite force. His first step in this line was the invention of a double-acting engine (à double effet).

In the engine known under this name, as well as in the one denominated the "modified" engine, the steam from the boiler, when the mechanic wishes it, goes freely above the piston and presses it down without meeting any obstacle; because at that same moment, the lower area of the cylinder is in communication with the condenser. This movement once achieved, and a certain cock having been opened, the steam from the caldron can[Pg 310] enter only below the piston and elevates it. The steam above it, which had produced the descending movement, then goes to regain its fluid state in the condenser, with which it has become, in its turn, in free communication. The contrary arrangement of the cocks replaces all things in their primitive state, as soon as the piston has regained its maximum height. Thus similar effects are reproduced indefinitely.

Power is not the only element of success in industrial works. Regularity of action is not less important; but what regularity could be expected from a motive power engendered by fire fed by shovelfuls, and the coal itself of various qualities; and this under the direction of a workman, sometimes not very intelligent, almost always inattentive? The motive steam will be more abundant, it will flow more rapidly into the cylinder, it will make the piston work faster in proportion as the fire is more intense. Great inequalities of movement then appear to be inevitable. Watt's genius had to provide against this serious defect. The throttle-valves by which the steam issues from the boiler to enter the cylinder are constantly open. When the working of the engine accelerates, these valves partly close; a certain volume of steam must therefore occupy a longer time in passing through them, and the acceleration ceases. The aperture of the valves, on the contrary, dilates when the motion slackens. The pieces requisite for the performance of these various changes connect the valves with the axes which the engine sets to work, by the introduction of an apparatus, the principle of which Watt discovered in the regulator of the sails of some flour-mills: this he named the "governor," which is now called the "centrifugal regulator." Its efficacy is such, that a few years ago, in the cotton-spinning manufactory of a renowned mechanic, Mr. Lee, there was a clock set in motion by the engine of the establishment, and it showed no great inferiority to a common spring clock.

Watt's regulator, and an intelligent use of the revolving principle—that is the secret, the true secret, of the astonishing perfection of the industrial products of our epoch; this is what now gives to the steam-engine a rate entirely free from jerks. That is the reason why it can, with equal success, embroider muslins and forge anchors, weave the most delicate webs and communicate a rapid movement to the heavy stones of a flour-mill. This also[Pg 311] explains how Watt had said, fearless of being reproached for exaggeration, that to prevent the comings and goings of servants, he would be served, he would have gruel brought to him, in case of illness, by tables connected with his steam-engine. I am aware it is supposed by the generality of people that this suavity of motion is obtained only by a loss of power; but it is an error, a gross error: the saying, "much noise and little work," is true, not only in the moral world, but is also an axiom in mechanics.

A few words more and we shall reach the end of our technical details. Within these few years great advantage has been found in not allowing a free access of steam from the boiler into the cylinder, during the whole time of each oscillation of the engine. This communication is interrupted, for example, when the piston has reached one-third of its course. The two remaining thirds of the cylinder's length are then traversed by virtue of the acquired velocity, and especially by the detention of the steam. Watt had already indicated such an arrangement. Some very good judges esteem the economical importance of the steam-detent as equal to that of the condenser. It seems certain that since its adoption the Cornwall engines give unhoped-for results; that with one bushel of coal they equal the labor of twenty men during ten hours. Let us keep in mind that in the coal districts a bushel of coal only costs ninepence, and it will be demonstrated that over the greater part of England Watt reduced the price of a man's day's work, a day of ten hours' labor, to less than a sou (one halfpenny).

Numerical valuations make us appreciate so well the importance of his inventions that I cannot resist the desire to present two more improvements. I borrow them from one of the most celebrated correspondents of the Academy—from Sir John Herschel.

The ascent of Mont Blanc, starting from the valley of Chamounix, is justly considered as the hardest work that a man can accomplish in two days. Thus the maximum mechanical work of which we are capable in twice twenty-four hours is measured by transporting the weight of our body to the elevation of Mont Blanc. This work or its equivalent would be accomplished by a steam-engine in the course of burning one kilogram (two[Pg 312] pounds) of coal. Watt has, therefore, ascertained that the daily power of a man does not exceed what is contained in half a kilogram (one pound) of coal.

Herodotus records that the construction of the great Pyramid of Egypt employed 100,000 men during 20 years. The pyramid consists of calcareous stone; its volume and its weight can be easily calculated; its weight has been found to be about 5,900,000 kilograms (nearly 5,000 tons). To elevate this weight to 38 metres, which is the pyramid's centre of gravity, it would require to burn 8244 hectolitres of coal. Our English neighbors have some foundries where they consume this quantity every week.[Pg 313]


[57] Watt was one of the eight foreign associates of the French Academy of Sciences, which body Arago was addressing.—Ed.


A.D. 1772


Of the three partitions which Poland underwent in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the first was due to the jealousies of European powers. It was an event of great significance for the Polish kingdom, ominous of future spoliations, which indeed followed, to the destruction of its political life. It had been long since Poland passed her golden age—two centuries and more. In the mean time she had undergone many vicissitudes, yet had preserved her identity as a state.

When Russia had won successes in the war of 1768-1774 with Turkey, she seized the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. Austria, seeing in this acquisition a menace to her eastern frontier, opposed it. Russia, in order to appease Austria, looked about for territory that might be obtained for her in compensation. The state of affairs in Poland presented a tempting opportunity for interference which might lead to a division of the kingdom. Stanislaus II, King of Poland, had been elected in 1764, mainly through the influence of Russia—he was one of Catharine II's lovers. His people had risen against him when Russia adopted her policy of spoliation. Prussia, as well as Austria, advanced territorial claims, and the partition of 1772, really planned by Frederick the Great, was consummated on the basis of a secret treaty of those powers with Catharine's government.

Some writers, possessed with the love of reducing political transactions to one rigid scale of cause and effect, and at the same time of exhibiting their acumen by threading the mazes of events up to remote circumstances, pretend to trace the design of the partition of Poland for more than a century back. Rulhière seems to plume himself on the idea. "The projects executed in our days against Poland," he observes, "were proposed more than a hundred years ago. I have discovered this important and hitherto unknown circumstance in the archives of foreign affairs of France." This point had been canvassed under the reign of John Casimir; and it only remains to be remarked that such very subtle analysis of the motives and progress of actions generally overshoots the mark, since no men can[Pg 314] act always according to rule, but are in some degree influenced by circumstances and caprice. It would be equally absurd to imagine that Frederick, in the complicated intrigues which preceded the first partition, was actuated by one deeply laid scheme of policy to arrive at one end: the possession of Polish Prussia. It was, indeed, absolutely essential for him to obtain this province, to consolidate and open a communication between his scattered dominions, which then, as Voltaire says, were stretched out like a pair of gaiters; but it remained a desideratum rather than a design, since he knew that neither Russia nor Austria would be inclined to permit the aggression; for the former had evidently marked out the whole of Poland for herself, and would consider Frederick an unwelcome intruder; while Austria, which had lately experienced the Prussian King's encroachments, was more jealous than ever of his obtaining the slightest aggrandizement, and had openly declared that she would not allow the seizure of the least Polish village. His views, however, widened as he advanced, and no doubt he spoke with sincerity when he told the Emperor Joseph that "he had never followed a plan in war, much less any plan in policy, and that events alone had suggested all his resolutions." Admitting the truth of this, we proceed to trace out the circumstances which produced this crisis.

The relations of the three courts, at the commencement of the war between Russia and Turkey (1768), did not portend anything like a coalition; Frederick, indeed, was in alliance with Russia, but also secretly favored the Sultan; Austria was all but an open enemy of both Russia and Prussia. Circumstances, however, obliged Austria to forget her hatred to Prussia, and Frederick thus became the mediator between the courts of Vienna and St. Petersburg. Frederick had every reason to wish to lull the suspicions and jealousies of Austria, that he might be left in undisputed possession of Silesia; and that power, moreover, was no longer an object of dread or jealousy to him, for the Seven Years' War had reduced its resources to the lowest ebb. The dispositions of the court of Vienna cannot be comprised in so few words: its situation was much more complicated, its policy more embarrassed, and the persons who governed it will be much more difficult to make known.[Pg 315]

Maria Theresa was now not very far from the tomb, and after all the arduous struggles she had undergone for the defence of her states, vicissitudes she had experienced, and the exhaustion of her resources, she determined to end her days in peace. She devoted almost the whole of her time to superstitious devotions in a gloomy chamber hung round with death's heads, and a portrait of her late husband in the act of expiring. She yet cherished, however, some of the feelings of mortality, implacable hatred to Frederick, and contempt mingled with hate for Catharine II, of whom she never spoke but with disdain, calling her "that woman." Besides, she could sometimes also silence the reproaches of conscience, so as to seize for the public use the bequests of the pious for religious purposes, and to confiscate the revenues of rich monasteries apparently without any compunction. Men fancied, says our author, that they could foresee in all this conduct that if this just and religious Princess had power enough over herself to silence her generosity and even sometimes her piety, she might perhaps be capable in some state crisis of incurring still greater remorse and silence justice.

Her minister, Kaunitz, to whom she intrusted all the management of affairs, is not the least important personage in this drama, nor did he underrate his own consequence. "Heaven," said he, "is a hundred years in forming a great mind for the restoration of an empire, and it then rests another hundred years; on this account I tremble for the fate which awaits this monarchy after me." Throughout a long and arduous ministry he had shown himself the most subtle and refined politician, unfettered in his schemes by any remorse or feeling, and making a boast that he had no friends. Such a man was well fitted to play the part allotted to him. After the conclusion of the long war, he had made it his policy to repair the damages the empire had sustained by alliances, and even his opposition to Frederick daily subsided.

But it was another agent who commenced the connection between Austria and Prussia. Joseph, Maria Theresa's son and coregent with his mother, detested this pacific policy and longed for war. He was, however, obliged to submit; for Maria dreaded the effects of this warlike propensity, and kept the government in the hands of her ministers. He had continual con[Pg 316]tentions with the Empress, and urged her to improve her finances by conquest or aggression; but all the power he could obtain was the command of the troops, which he augmented to two hundred thousand men, and organized them under the counsel of his field marshal, Lacy. In his mania for military matters he visited in 1768 all the fields of battle of the last war, and after traversing Bohemia and Saxony, and learning from his generals the causes of the defeats and victories, he approached in the course of his tour the borders of Prussian Silesia, where Frederick was engaged in his annual reviews. The King sent a polite message, and expressed a great desire to be personally acquainted with him. The young Prince could not pay a visit to the former enemy of his family without previously consulting his mother, the Empress; and the interview was deferred till the next year; when it took place on August 25th, at Neisse, a town in Silesia.

At this period the war between Russia and Turkey engrossed general attention, and seems to have formed the principal subject of the conference; but no resolutions of any importance were agreed to. The flattering manner in which Frederick received the young Prince must have made a great impression on his mind; and the extravagant compliments which were lavished on him were highly gratifying to youthful vanity, from such a great man. Frederick frequently repeated that Joseph would surpass Charles V; and though it has the appearance of irony to those acquainted with the dénouement of this youthful monarch's character, it was probably not intended so, for Frederick, we have seen before, could stoop to the most servile adulation when it answered his purpose. Be that as it may, the effect on Joseph was the same, for on his return he spoke of the Prussian monarch with the highest enthusiasm.

Maria Theresa was growing old, and the Austrian ministers began to turn to the rising sun; the eyes of Kaunitz were opened to the policy of cultivating a friendship with Prussia; and the correspondence between the two courts became every day more frequent. This led to another conference between the two princes at Neustadt, in Moravia, which was held on September 3, 1770, and at which Kaunitz was present. The King was more courteous than ever; he appeared in the military uniform of[Pg 317] Austria, and continued to wear it as long as he remained in the Austrian territory. He made use of every species of compliment. One day, as they were leaving the dining-room and the Emperor made a motion to give him the precedence, he stepped back, saying with a significant smile and double entendre, not lost on Joseph, "Since your imperial majesty begins to manœuvre, I must follow wherever you lead." Nor did he spare his civilities to Kaunitz, with the view of removing the rankling feeling which had often made that conceited minister exclaim, "The King of Prussia is the only man who denies me the esteem which is due to me."

Kaunitz insisted on the necessity of opposing the ambitious views of Russia, and stated that the Empress would never allow Catharine to take possession of Moldavia and Wallachia, which would make her states adjoin those of Austria; nor permit her to penetrate farther into Turkey. He added that an alliance between Austria and Prussia was the only means of checking Catharine's overbearing power. To this Frederick replied that being in alliance with the court of St. Petersburg, his only practicable measure was to prevent the war from becoming general by conciliating the friendly feelings of Catharine toward Austria. On the day after this conference a courier arrived from Constantinople, with the news of the destruction of the Turkish fleet and the rout of their army, and to request the mediation of the courts of Vienna and Berlin. To this both readily assented, but without agreeing upon any terms.

Frederick did not forget to follow up his former mode of tactics with the Emperor; he pretended to make him the confidant of all his designs, a species of flattery most gratifying to a young prince. On his return to Berlin, also, the King affected to imitate the Austrian manners, and uttered several pompous panegyrics on the talents of Joseph, who had recited to him some of Tasso's verses, and nearly a whole act of the Pastor Fido.

Thus did Frederick avail himself of circumstances to commence an amicable correspondence with Austria, and he thus became the medium of communication between the hostile courts of Vienna and St. Petersburg. No more direct intelligence, however, existed between these two states than before; for great as was Theresa's hatred against Catharine, Catharine's was no less[Pg 318] violent; and even when Austria made friendly overtures, through Frederick, concerning mediation between Turkey and Russia, she desired Frederick to desist, and rejected the interference.

A channel of communication, however, was opened between the three conspiring powers; and the next step was for one of the triumvirate to broach the iniquitous partition plot. It is made a matter of much dispute which of them started the project, and they all equally disclaim the infamy of being its author. The fact, no doubt, was, that in this, as in all other unjust coalitions, they did not, in the first instance, act on a preconcerted plan; but each individual power cherished secretly its design, and like designing villains, who understand one another, almost

"Without eyes, ears, and harmful sound of words,"

the conspiring parties were naturally drawn together by the similarity of reckless atrocity in their designs.

It cannot be imagined that the scheme of partition originated with Catharine; she had long been the real mistress of Poland, the King was nothing more than her tenant at will, and it required only a little time for the whole kingdom to sink into a Russian province. The intentions of the other powers began to evince themselves more plainly in 1770. Frederick began to throw out hints of claims on certain Polish districts; he obliged the Polish Prussians to furnish his troops with horses and corn in exchange for debased money, which was either forged Polish silver coin, only one-third of its nominal value, or false Dutch ducats, 17 per cent. under the proper value. By this disgraceful species of swindling it is calculated he gained seven million dollars.

The young Poles were enrolled in the armies by force; and every town and village in Posnania was taxed at a stated number of marriageable girls, who were sent to stock the districts of the Prussian dominions depopulated by the long wars. Each girl's portion was to be a bed, two pigs, a cow, and three ducats of gold. It is said that one town alone was obliged to furnish the Prussian general, Belling, with fifty girls. Under pretence that the magistrates of Dantzic prevented the levies, troops were marched into the territories of the city, a contribution of one hundred thousand ducats was exacted, and one thousand young[Pg 319] men were pressed for the Prussian service. Frederick's military possession of Posnania, as well as the greater part of Polish Prussia, seemed to be but too consonant with his hinted claims, and his arbitrary levies evinced not merely intended, but actual possession.

Austria, too, was playing a similar part on the south. In the spring of 1769 Birzynski, at the head of a small troop of confederates, entered Lubowla, one of the towns in the starosty or district of Zips, or Spiz, with the intention of levying contributions, as he was accustomed, in a disorderly manner. This little district is situated to the south of the palatinate of Cracow, among the Carpathian Mountains, and has been originally a portion of the kingdom of Hungary. The confederates were followed by the Russians, and took refuge in Hungary, as was their custom. This near approach of the Russians to the imperial frontiers was made a pretext by the court of Vienna for concentrating a body of troops there; and at the same time hints were thrown out of Austria's claims, not only to this but some of the adjacent districts. Researches were ordered to be made into old records, to establish these pretensions; the Austrian troops seized the territory of Zips, and engineers were employed by the Empress to mark out the frontier. They advanced the boundary line along the districts of Sandecz, Nowitarg, and Czorsztyn, and marked it out with posts furnished with the imperial eagle. Stanislaus had complained of this proceeding in a letter of October 28, 1770; to which the Empress returned for answer, in January, 1771, that she would willingly make an amicable arrangement, after peace was established, to settle the disputed frontier, but that she was determined to claim her right to the district of Zips, and that for the present it was requisite to pursue the operation of demarcation.

The Empress seems to have been instigated not only by the characteristic avidity of Austrian policy, but by jealousies awakened by the near approaches of the Russian troops. Besides, it is a point of some consequence to be remembered—though it seems to have escaped the observation of most historians—that she had before her eyes a fearful proof of the danger of an uncertain frontier in the affair of Balta, which was the ostensible cause of the war between Turkey and Russia.[Pg 320]

This open encroachment on the Polish territory, however, was a fatal precedent; Catharine and Frederick could advance, as excuses for their proceedings, that they were solely intended to restore tranquillity to Poland; and that their possession was only temporary, whereas Theresa's was a permanent seizure. Frederick, therefore, endeavors strenuously in his writings to exonerate his intentions from censure, and shifts the odium of this step on Austria; but whether he is absolutely innocent of the "injustice," as he himself calls it, or adds to his guilt by the height of hypocrisy and cant, is a question not very difficult of solution.

The three powers could now readily understand each other's designs; but the first communication which took place between them on the subject occurred in December, 1770, and January, 1771. In the former month Catharine invited Prince Henry, Frederick's brother, who had before been a personal acquaintance, to her court; and the wily despot of Prussia urged him earnestly to accept the invitation. He reached St. Petersburg in the midst of the festivities and rejoicings for the victories over the Turks; and having, like his brother, abundant flattery at will, he seized the opportunity of loading Catharine with compliments. It would be absurd to suppose that the Empress, masculine as her mind was, could be insensible to this species of attack; she, like all other followers of ambition and conquest, made the applause and admiration, even of the vulgar, the aim of her life; and it can only be affectation in those who pretend to despise the adulation which they so eagerly labor for. Henry was admitted to confidential conferences, and so well did he avail himself of his opportunities and influence that he succeeded in persuading the Empress to accept the mediation of Austria between Turkey and Russia—a commission with which he was charged by his brother.

It was in these conferences that the fate of Poland was decided. While Catharine was hesitating about accepting the terms Austria proposed, which were that she should renounce her design upon Moldavia and Wallachia, the news arrived at St. Petersburg that the Austrian troops had taken possession of Zips. Catharine was much astonished at the proceeding, and remarked that if Austria seized the Polish territory, the two other[Pg 321] neighboring powers must imitate her example until she desisted. This hint suggested to Henry a mode of removing those objections of Austria which impeded the negotiation. He knew that the court of Vienna was as eager for aggrandizement as Russia, and that all her jealousies would be allayed by a similar accession of territory; that at the same time she would never consent to have the Russians as her neighbors in Moldavia and Wallachia, but would have no objection to their making an equal increase to that immense empire elsewhere. Frederick's consent, also, must be purchased by an equal allotment; where, then, he thought, were there three such portions to be found but where Austria pointed out? Catharine approved of the plan after a few moments' reflection, but mentioned two impediments: first, that when her troops had entered Poland she had solemnly declared that she would maintain the integrity of the kingdom; the next, that Austria would not receive such a proposal from her without suspicion. These difficulties were readily removed—the first by breaking the engagement, and the second by making Frederick the negotiator with the court of Vienna.

Frederick's admirers pretend that he was unacquainted with this intrigue, and, when the plan was made known to him, opposed it strenuously; "but that on the following day, having reflected on the misfortunes of the Poles, and on the impossibility of reëstablishing their liberty, he showed himself more tractable." It is to be hoped that, for the sake of Frederick's remnant of character, that is not true; after the singular manner in which he had evinced his concern for "the misfortunes of the Poles," and his solicitude for their "liberty" in Polish Prussia, such pretensions would have been the very height of hypocrisy. His scruples, at any rate, if any such existed, were soon dispelled; and he exerted himself in persuading the court of Vienna to enter into the plot.

Austria was but too ready to fall into the design; the conflicting views, indeed, between Maria Theresa, Joseph, and their minister Kaunitz gave rise to some complication of politics and consequent delay. Frederick, strongly as he is said to have disclaimed the plan in the present instance, was now the only party impatient to conclude it. "The slowness and irreso[Pg 322]lution of the Russians," he says in his Mémoires, "protracted the conclusion of the treaty of partition; the negotiation hung chiefly on the possession of the city of Dantzic. The Russians pretended they had guaranteed the liberty of this little republic, but it was in fact the English, who, jealous of the Prussians, protected the liberty of this maritime town, and who prompted the Empress of Russia not to consent to the demands of his Prussian majesty. It was requisite, however, for the King to determine; and as it was evident that the master of the Vistula and the port of Dantzic would, in time, subject that city, he decided that it was not necessary to stop such an important negotiation, for an advantage which in fact was only deferred; therefore his majesty relaxed in this demand. After so many obstacles had been removed this secret contract was signed at St. Petersburg, February 17, 1772. The month of June was fixed on for taking possession, and it was agreed that the Empress-Queen should be invited to join the two contracting powers and share in the partition."

It now remained to persuade Austria to join the coalition. Joseph and Kaunitz were soon won over, but Maria Theresa's conscience made a longer resistance. The fear of hell, she said, restrained her from seizing another's possessions. It was represented to her, however, that her resistance could not prevent the other two powers from portioning out Poland, but might occasion a war which would cost the valuable lives of many; whereas the peaceable partition would not spill a drop of blood. She was thus, she imagined, placed in a dilemma between two sins; and forgetting the command, "Do not evil that good may come," she endeavored to persuade herself that she was doing her duty in choosing the least. She yielded at length with the air of some religious devotee who exclaims to her artful seducer, "May God forgive you!" and at the same time sinks into his arms. The contract was signed between Prussia and Austria on March 4th, and the definite treaty of partition which regulated the three portions was concluded on August 5, 1772.

Russia was to have, by this first partition, the palatinates of Polotsk, Vitebsk, and Mstislavl, as far as the rivers of Dwina and Dnieper, more than three thousand square leagues; Austria had for her share Red Russia (Galicia), and a portion of Podolia[Pg 323] and Little Poland as far as the Vistula, about twenty-five hundred square leagues; and Prussia was to be contented with Polish Prussia (excepting Dantzic and Thorn with their territory), and part of Great Poland as far as the river Notec (or Netze), comprising about nine hundred square leagues. All the rest of the kingdom was to be insured to Stanislaus under the old constitution.

All the three powers thought it necessary to publish some defence of their conduct; and, in separate pamphlets, they attempted to prove that they had legitimate claims on Poland, and that their present violent seizures were only just resumptions of their own territory or equivalent to it.

Rulhière says that Catharine only made her claim as a just indemnification for the trouble and expense which she had devoted to Poland; this, however, it will be found by referring to her defence, is not the case. She sets forth the great kindness she had shown the republic by insuring the election of a Piast (Stanislaus), and uses these remarkable words on the subject: "That event was necessary to restore the Polish liberty to its ancient lustre, to insure the elective right of the monarchy, and to destroy foreign influence, which was so rooted in the state, and which was the continual source of trouble and contest." She then exclaims against the confederates:

"Their ambition and cupidity, veiled under the phantom of religion and the defence of their laws, pervade and desolate this vast kingdom, without the prospect of any termination of this madness but its entire ruin." She then proceeds with her "Deduction," endeavoring to prove, from old authors, that it was not till 1686 that the Polish limits were extended beyond the mouth of the Dwina and the little town of Stoika on the Dnieper, five miles below Kiow. The following is a specimen of the lawyer-like sophistry which the Empress employs to establish her claim to the Russian territory, which remained in the hands of the Poles after the treaty in 1686:

"The design of such a concession being only to put an end to a bloody war more promptly, and by a remedy as violent as a devastation (aussi violent qu'une devastation), to insure tranquillity of neighborhood between two rival and newly reconciled nations, it necessarily follows that every act on the part of[Pg 324] the subjects of the republic of Poland, contrary to such intention, has, ipso facto, revived Russia's indisputable and unalienated right to all that extent of territory. It must be observed, also, that this arrangement about the frontier was only provisional and temporary, since it is expressly said that it shall only remain so until it has been otherwise amicably settled.

"The object was, therefore, to give the nations time to lay aside their inveterate hatred; and to remove immediate causes of dispute between the different subjects, and consequent rupture between the two states. Russia sacrificed for a time the possession of the territory which extends from the fertile town of Stoika to the river Tecmine, and from the right bank of the Dnieper, fifty versts in breadth along the frontiers of Poland. There is no idea of cession here on the part of Russia; it is a pledge (gage) which she advances for the solidity of the peace, which ought to be returned to her when the object of it is effected. This is the only reasonable construction which can be put upon the stipulation, 'until it has been otherwise amicably settled.' Russia is not to be a loser because the confusion of the internal affairs of Poland has never allowed that country to come to a definite agreement on this subject, notwithstanding the requests of Russia."

It does not demand much acumen to unveil such impudent sophistry as this. The assertion that the arrangement was only provisional and temporary is false; the treaty indeed left the detail of the boundary line to be drawn out by commissioners, as must always be the case in arrangements of this kind, and as was meant to be implied by the words which the Russian minister transforms into "until it has been otherwise amicably arranged."

Such was the weak manner in which the Russian diplomatists imagined to deceive Europe; their defence indeed is as triumphant a proof of the badness of their cause as the most earnest friend of Poland could desire. Our surprise may well be excited at the weakness of the argument, particularly when we remember that Catharine's servants had long been trained in glossing over the basest and most shameful transactions. "The ministers of St. Petersburg," said a contemporary writer, "are accustomed to appear without blushing at the tribunal of the[Pg 325] public in defence of any cause; the death of Peter and assassination of Prince John inured them to it."

Such a work hardly requires refutation. Every sophism and every falsehood is a damning argument against the Russian cause. Truth, in fact, is outraged in every page of the writing; and one striking instance will suffice. Catharine states that the Polish Government would never make any arrangement about the frontier; but the fact is that even as late as 1764 commissioners were appointed at the diet of coronation for this very purpose, but the Russians refused to nominate theirs; again in 1766, when Count Rzewinski, Polish ambassador to St. Petersburg, made a similar application, he was answered that the affairs of the dissidents must be first settled.

The Austrian pretensions were even more elaborately drawn up than those of Russia. In the first place, the district of Zips, the first sacrifice to Austrian rapacity, came under consideration. Sigismund, who came to the Hungarian throne in 1387, mortgaged this district to Wladislas II (Jagello), King of Poland, in 1412, for a stipulated sum of money. It is commonly called the "Thirteen Towns of Zips," but the district contains sixteen. No reclamation of it had been made till the present time; it had then been in the undisputed possession of Poland nearly three hundred sixty years. The chief demur which the Austrians now made to the mortgage was that the King of Hungary was restricted by the constitution, as expressed in the coronation-oath, from alienating any portion of the kingdom. But even this plea, weak as it is under such circumstances, is not available; since it is proved that this article was never made a part of the coronation-oath until the accession of Ferdinand I in 1527.

The Austrian minister endeavored also to establish the right of his mistress to Galicia and Podolia, as Queen of Hungary, and the duchies of Oswiecim and Zator, as Queen of Bohemia. "What lastly establishes indisputably the ancient claim of Hungary to the provinces in question is that in several seals and documents of the ancient kings of Hungary preserved in our archives, the titles and arms of Galicia are always used." After exhausting the records, and stating that the crown of Hungary has never in any way renounced its rights and pretensions, the[Pg 326] author modestly winds up his arguments in the following way: "Consequently, after such a long delay, the house of Austria is well authorized in establishing and reclaiming the lawful rights and pretensions of her crowns of Hungary and Bohemia, and to obtain satisfaction by the means which she now employs; in the use of which she has exhibited the greatest moderation possible, by confining herself to a very moderate equivalent for her real pretensions to the best provinces of Poland, such as Podolia, etc."

Frederick argues his cause on the general principles of civil law. "Since then," he says, "the crown of Poland cannot prove express cessions, which are the only good titles between sovereigns to confer a legitimate possession of disputed provinces, it will perhaps have recourse to prescription and immemorial possession. We all know the famous dispute among the learned on the question of prescription and natural right, whether it obtains between sovereigns and free nations. The affirmative is founded only on that very weak argument that he who for a long time has not made use of his rights is presumed to have abandoned them; a presumption which is at best doubtful, and cannot destroy the right and established property of a monarch. Besides, even this presumption altogether vanishes when the superior strength of a usurper has prevented the lawful proprietor from claiming his rights, which has been the case in the present instance.

"Time alone cannot render a possession just which has not been so from its origin; and as there is no judge between free nations, no one can decide if the time past is sufficient to establish prescription, or if the presumption of the desertion [of rights] is sufficiently proved. But even leaving this point undetermined, the prescription which the republic of Poland could allege in the present case has not any of the qualities which the advocates of prescription require, to render it valid between free states."

We do not imagine that our readers will coincide with Frederick in the following opinion: "We flatter ourselves that when the impartial public has weighed without prejudice all that has just been detailed in this expose, they will not find in the step which his majesty has taken anything which is not conformable[Pg 327] to justice, to natural right, to the general use of nations, and, lastly, to the example which the Poles themselves have given in seizing all these countries by simple matter of fact. We trust also that the Polish nation will eventually recover from its prejudices; that it will acknowledge the enormous injustice which it has done to the house of Brandenburg, and that it will bring itself to repair it by a just and honorable arrangement with which his majesty will willingly comply, sincerely wishing to cultivate the friendship and good-fellowship of this illustrious nation, and to live with the republic in good union and harmony."

We have thus given the three monarchs liberty to plead for themselves; and no one can rise from the perusal of their "Defences" without feeling additional conviction of their injustice, and resentment at their hypocrisy. We must own we are almost inclined to interpret Frederick's appeal as a sneering parody on the cant of diplomacy in general; but, in whatever light it be viewed, it gives additional insight into the heart and head of that military despot and disciple of Machiavelli.

Iniquity almost invariably pays virtue the compliment of attempting to assume her semblance; and the three wholesale plunderers—Russia, Austria, and Prussia—therefore determined to give some show of justice to their violent seizure, by wringing from their victims a ratification of their claims. But "the children of this world" with all their wisdom cannot always preserve consistency, and, cunning as the villain may sometimes be, he will, at some time or other, make the most disgraceful mistakes.

By requiring further ratification, the three powers admitted that their anterior claims were not well founded; and common-sense ought to have told them that, if the former claims were not just, the latter, depending on the same title, were rendered still less so by aggravated violence. Every show of justice in a villainous action rises up in sterner judgment against the perpetrator, inasmuch as it evinces design, and makes him responsible for the motive.

These remarks might be applied to Catharine, Frederick, Maria Theresa, or Joseph; for though they may shield themselves from personal accusation by acting under the vague titles[Pg 328] of "powers," "states," or "governments," the evasion is mean and cowardly; for particularly in such despotic governments as theirs the passions and wills of the rulers are the directors of every political scheme.

The three powers fixed on April 19, 1773, for the opening of a diet at Warsaw to ratify their claims. Their troops were in possession of all Poland; the capital in particular was strongly invested; and Rewiski, Benoit, and Stakelberg, the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian ministers, were on the spot to overrule and direct all the debates. They declared that every deputy who opposed their proposals should be treated as an enemy of his country and of the three powers. Frederick himself states, in his description of this transaction, that the deputies were informed if they continued refractory that the whole kingdom would be dismembered; but, on the contrary, that if they were submissive the foreign troops would evacuate by degrees the territory they intended to leave to the republic. The Diet was to be confederated, that the Poles might be deprived of their last resource, the liberum veto.

Some few patriots still raised their voices, even in the midst of the united armies of Russia, Austria, and Prussia; and among these Reyten was the most distinguished. He was a Lithuanian by descent, had acted a good part in the confederacy of Bar, and had earned a character which made the electors of Nowogrodek select him for their representative in the present memorable Diet. His colleague was Samuel Korsak, a worthy coadjutor, who did not turn a deaf ear to his father's parting words: "My son, I send you to Warsaw accompanied by my oldest domestics; I charge them to bring me your head if you do not oppose with all your might what is now plotting against your country."

Poninski, a creature of the allied powers, was the marshal of the Diet, appointed by the intervention of the ambassadors; and when the session opened one of the deputies nominated him, and he was immediately proceeding to take the seat, without waiting for the election; but several members rose to protest against this breach of privilege, and Reyten exclaimed: "Gentlemen, the marshal cannot be thus self-appointed; the whole Assembly must choose him; I protest against the nomination of[Pg 329] Poninski; name him who is to be your president." Some voices instantly shouted, "Long live the true son of his country, Marshal Reyten!" Poninski retired, adjourning the session to the next day.

On the following morning Poninski again made his appearance, merely to postpone the Assembly one day more. When this period arrived he went to the hall with a guard of foreign soldiers, to station some of his faction at the doors and to prevent the entrance of the public. Reyten, Korsak, and their little band of patriots were soon at their posts, when Reyten, perceiving that the people were not allowed to enter, exclaimed: "Gentlemen, follow me. Poninski shall not be marshal of the Diet to-day, if I live!" It was already twelve o'clock, and Poninski did not appear, but a messenger arrived to state that he adjourned the meeting. "We do not acknowledge Poninski for marshal," replied Reyten; and seeing many of the members about to retire, he placed himself before the door with his arms crossed, and attempted to stop the deserters. But his exertions proving useless he threw himself along the doorway, exclaiming, with a wearied but determined voice, "Go, go, and seal your own eternal ruin, but first trample on the breast which will only beat for honor and liberty."

There were now only fifteen members in the hall, and of these but six persevered in their patriotic determination; namely, Reyten, Korsak, Durin, Terzmanowski, Kozuchowski, and Penczkowski. At ten a message arrived from the Russian ambassador, inviting the resolute deputies to a conference at his house. Four of them, among whom was Korsak, accordingly went; and Stakelberg at first addressed them mildly, but, finding them resolute, began to threaten them with confiscation of their estates. On this Korsak rose and declared, since they wished to seize his possessions—which were already, however, mostly plundered by the Russian armies—there was no occasion for so many preliminaries; and he actually put into his hands a list of all his property, adding: "This is all I have to sacrifice to the avarice of the enemies of my country. I know that they also can dispose of my life; but I do not know any despot on earth rich enough to corrupt or powerful enough to intimidate me!"[Pg 330]

Reyten remained still at his post, and the four patriots on returning found the doors closed, and lay down without for the night. On the following day the ministers of the three powers repaired to the King's palace, and Stakelberg threatened him with the immediate destruction of his capital unless he gave his sanction to the forced confederation. Stanislaus demanded the advice of his council, but received no reply; and taking their silence for an assent, and not knowing how to evade a direct answer, he yielded to the ministers' demands. The corrupt Diet held their assembly without the hall, because Reyten was still at his post—such was their dread of even one patriotic individual.

On April 23d, when Poninski and the confederates entered, they found Reyten stretched senseless on the floor, in which state he must have lain thirty-six hours. Such was the determination with which he resisted the oppression of his country, and so entirely were all the energies of his mind devoted to the cause, that when he learned its fall he lost his reason.

The allies began to redouble their threats, and signified to the deputies their intention of portioning out the whole of the kingdom, if any more opposition were offered; but, notwithstanding, the Diet continued stormy, and many bold speeches were made. Of all situations the King's must have been the most perplexing and irksome; but no person was better adapted to act such a part than Stanislaus. He made the most pathetic appeals to his subjects, and frequently spoke in a strain more fit for an unfortunate but patriotic hero than for one who had done nothing but affect a few tears—for we can hardly doubt that they were hypocritical—over the misfortunes which he had brought on his country. The following sentence must have sounded strangely in his mouth: "Fecimus quod potuimus, omnia tentavimus, nihil omisimus." Again, on May 10th, he absolutely had the audacity to defend his political conduct, stating that he had always done his duty whenever any business depended on him.

On May 17th the Diet agreed to Poninski's motion to appoint a commission that, in conjunction with the three ambassadors, should regulate the limits of the four countries, and determine upon the changes in the Polish Government. On the[Pg 331] 18th the commissioners were nominated by the King and Poninski.

Some small remains of liberty lingered even among the commissioners, and called for fresh threats and violence from the allied powers. At length they agreed to ratify the treaty of August 5th, and establish a permanent council in whom the executive power was to be vested. This council consisted of forty members, and was divided into four departments, which engrossed every branch of administration. The King was the nominal president, but the real authority was possessed by the Russian ambassador. The partition was not fully arranged till 1774, and then Prussia and Austria began to extend their bounds beyond the agreed limits. L'appetit vient en mangeant, and these encroachments were a sad augury of future partitions to the Poles.

The indifference with which other states regarded this partition was indeed surprising. France, in particular, might have been expected to protest against it; but the imbecility and dotage of Louis XV, and the weakness of his minister, paid too little attention to the interests of their own nation to be likely to think of others. They made the most frivolous excuses, and even had the meanness to attempt to shift the blame on the shoulders of their ambassador at Vienna, pretending that he amused himself with hunting instead of politics, and had no knowledge of the design of partition until it was consummated. Louis contented himself with saying, with an affectation of rage, "It would not have happened if Choiseul had been here!" Some few patriots in England declaimed on the injustice of the proceeding; but the spirit of the ministry, which was occupied in wrangling with the American colonies about the imposition of taxes, was not likely to be very attentive to the cries of oppressed liberty.

The partition is not one of those equivocal acts which seem to vibrate between right and wrong, justice and injustice, and demand the most accurate analysis to ascertain on which side they preponderate. Argument is thrown away on such a subject; for to doubt about the nature of a plain decisive act like this must necessarily proceed from something even worse than uncertainty and scepticism concerning the simple fundamental[Pg 332] principles of moral action. A little reflection, however, will not be lost on so memorable a portion of history, which opens a wider field for instruction than the "thousand homilies" on the ambition and glory and other commonplaces of Greek and Roman history.

Such great political crimes reveal a corresponding system of motives of as black a hue, and even the narrowest experience teaches us that motives are never so well traced as in their results. The corrupt principle which prompts injustice and deceit in foreign transactions would operate equally in domestic affairs; and the minister who uses hypocrisy and falsehood in manifestoes and treaties would not scruple to do the same in matters of private life. An implicit confidence in enemies like these was one of the amiable "crimes" for which "Sarmatia fell unwept."[Pg 333]


A.D. 1773


One of the most famous demonstrations of the purpose of the American colonies to resist what they regarded as the unjust taxation laid upon them by Great Britain was this unique occurrence in Boston harbor. Everywhere in the colonies the people had begun to go without articles that were subject to taxes. They ceased to import goods for clothing, and wore homespun. It was not easy to find a substitute for tea, but various plants and leaves were used instead of it, and "store tea" became a popular designation of real tea as distinguished from domestic herbs. At last the English Government abandoned all taxes except that laid on tea; this the Government insisted upon laying as strictly as ever. Ships with cargoes of tea were sent with the expectation that the colonists would pay the tax. What followed upon the arrival of the tea-ships at Boston and Charlestown, and gave to American history the "Boston Tea-party," is fully told in Bancroft's pages.

On Sunday, November 28th, the ship Dartmouth appeared in Boston harbor with one hundred fourteen chests of the East India Company's tea. To keep the Sabbath strictly was the New England usage. But hours were precious; let the tea be entered, and it would be beyond the power of the consignees to send it back. The selectmen held one meeting by day and another in the evening, but they sought in vain for the consignees, who had taken sanctuary in the Castle.

The committee of correspondence was more efficient. They met also on Sunday, and obtained from the Quaker Rotch, who owned the Dartmouth, a promise not to enter his ship till Tuesday; and authorized Samuel Adams to invite the committees of the five surrounding towns, Dorchester, Roxbury, Brookline, Cambridge, and Charlestown, with their own townsmen and those of Boston, to hold a mass meeting the next morning. Faneuil Hall could not contain the people that poured in on Monday. The concourse was the largest ever known. Adjourning to "the Old South" Meeting-house, Jonathan Williams[Pg 334] did not fear to act as moderator, nor Samuel Adams, Hancock, Molineux, and Warren to conduct the business of the meeting. On the motion of Samuel Adams, who entered fully into the question, the assembly, composed of upward of five thousand persons, resolved unanimously that "the tea should be sent back to the place from whence it came at all events, and that no duty should be paid on it." "The only way to get rid of it," said Young, "is to throw it overboard." The consignees asked for time to prepare their answer; and "out of great tenderness" the body postponed receiving it to the next morning. Meantime the owner and master of the ship were converted and forced to promise not to land the tea. A watch was also proposed. "I," said Hancock, "will be one of it, rather than that there should be none," and a party of twenty-five persons, under the orders of Edward Proctor as its captain, was appointed to guard the tea-ship during the night.

On the same day the council who had been solicited by the Governor and the consignees to assume the guardianship of the tea, coupled their refusal with a reference to the declared opinion of both branches of the General Court that the tax upon it by Parliament was unconstitutional. The next morning the consignees jointly gave as their answer: "It is utterly out of our power to send back the teas; but we now declare to you our readiness to store them until we shall receive further directions from our constituents"; that is, until they could notify the British Government. The wrath of the meeting was kindling, when the sheriff of Suffolk entered with a proclamation from the Governor, "warning, exhorting, and requiring them, and each of them there unlawfully assembled, forthwith to disperse, and to surcease all further unlawful proceedings, at their utmost peril." The words were received with hisses, derision, and a unanimous vote not to disperse. "Will it be safe for the consignees to appear in the meeting?" asked Copley; and all with one voice responded that they might safely come and return; but they refused to appear. In the afternoon Rotch, the owner, and Hall, the master, of the Dartmouth, yielding to an irresistible impulse, engaged that the tea should return as it came, without touching land or paying a duty. A similar promise was exacted of the owners of the other tea-ships whose arrival was daily expected. In this[Pg 335] way "it was thought the matter would have ended." "I should be willing to spend my fortune and life itself in so good a cause," said Hancock, and this sentiment was general; they all voted "to carry their resolutions into effect at the risk of their lives and property."

Every shipowner was forbidden, on pain of being deemed an enemy to the country, to import or bring as freight any tea from Great Britain till the unrighteous act taxing it should be repealed, and this vote was printed and sent to every seaport in the province and to England.

Six persons were chosen as post-riders to give due notice to the country towns of any attempt to land the tea by force, and the committee of correspondence, as the executive organ of the meeting, took care that a military watch was regularly kept up by volunteers armed with muskets and bayonets, who at every half-hour in the night regularly passed the word "All is well," like sentinels in a garrison. Had they been molested by night, the tolling of the bells would have been the signal for a general uprising. An account of all that had been done was sent into every town in the province.

The ships, after landing the rest of their cargo, could neither be cleared in Boston with the tea on board nor be entered in England, and on the twentieth day from their arrival would be liable to seizure. "They find themselves," said Hutchinson, "involved in invincible difficulties." Meantime in private letters he advised to separate Boston from the rest of the province; and to begin criminal prosecutions against its patriot sons.

The spirit of the people rose with the emergency. Two more tea-ships which arrived were directed to anchor by the side of the Dartmouth at Griffin's wharf, that one guard might serve for all. The people of Roxbury, on December 3d, voted that they were bound by duty to themselves and posterity to join with Boston and other sister-towns to preserve inviolate the liberties handed down by their ancestors. The next day the men of Charlestown, as if foreseeing that their town was destined to be a holocaust, declared themselves ready to risk their lives and fortunes. On Sunday, the 5th, the committee of correspondence wrote to Portsmouth in New Hampshire, to Providence, Bristol, and Newport in Rhode Island, for advice and coopera[Pg 336]tion. On the 6th they entreat New York, through MacDougall and Sears; Philadelphia, through Mifflin and Clymer, to insure success by "a harmony of sentiment and concurrence in action." As for Boston itself, the twenty days are fast running out; the consignees conspire with the revenue officers to throw on the owner and master of the Dartmouth the whole burden of landing the tea, and will neither agree to receive it nor give up their bill of lading nor pay freight. Every movement was duly reported, and "the town became furious as in the time of the Stamp Act."

On the 9th there was a vast gathering at Newburyport of the inhabitants of that and the neighboring towns, and, none dissenting, they agreed to assist Boston, even at the hazard of their lives. "This is not a piece of parade," they say, "but if an occasion should offer, a goodly number from among us will hasten to join you."

On Saturday, the 11th, Rotch, the owner of the Dartmouth, is summoned before the Boston committee with Samuel Adams in the chair, and asked why he has not kept his engagement to take his vessel and the tea back to London within twenty days of its arrival. He pleaded that it was out of his power. "The ship must go," was the answer; "the people of Boston and the neighboring towns absolutely require and expect it;" and they bade him ask for a clearance and pass, with proper witnesses of his demand. "Were it mine," said a leading merchant, "I would certainly send it back." Hutchinson acquainted Admiral Montagu with what was passing; on which the Active and the Kingfisher, though they had been laid up for the winter, were sent to guard the passages out of the harbor. At the same time orders were given by the Governor to load guns at the Castle, so that no vessel, except coasters, might go to sea without a permit. He had no thought of what was to happen; the wealth of Hancock, Phillips, Rowe, Dennie, and so many other men of property seemed to him a security against violence; and he flattered himself that he had increased the perplexities of the committee.

The decisive day draws nearer and nearer; on the morning of Monday, the 13th, the committees of the five towns are at Faneuil Hall, with that of Boston. Now that danger was[Pg 337] really at hand, the men of the little town of Malden offered their blood and their treasure; for that which they once esteemed the mother-country had lost the tenderness of a parent and become their great oppressor. "We trust in God," wrote the men of Lexington, "that should the state of our affairs require it, we shall be ready to sacrifice our estates and everything dear in life, yea, and life itself, in support of the common cause." Whole towns in Worcester County were on tiptoe to come down. "Go on as you have begun," wrote the committee of Leicester on the 14th; "and do not suffer any of the teas already come or coming to be landed or pay one farthing of duty. You may depend on our aid and assistance when needed."

The line of policy adopted was, if possible, to get the tea carried back to London uninjured in the vessel in which it came. A meeting of the people on Tuesday afternoon directed and, as it were, "compelled" Rotch, the owner of the Dartmouth, to apply for a clearance. He did so, accompanied by Kent, Samuel Adams, and eight others as witnesses. The collector was at his lodgings, and refused to answer till the next morning; the assemblage, on their part, adjourned to Thursday, the 16th, the last of the twenty days before it would become legal for the revenue officers to take possession of the ship and so land the teas at the Castle. In the evening the Boston committee finished their preparatory meetings. After their consultation on Monday with the committees of the five towns, they had been together that day and the next, both morning and evening; but during the long and anxious period their journal has only this entry: "No business transacted; matter of record."

At ten o'clock on the 15th, Rotch was escorted by his witnesses to the custom-house, where the collector and comptroller unequivocally and finally refused to grant his ship a clearance till it should be discharged of the teas.

Hutchinson began to clutch at victory; "for," said he, "it is notorious the ship cannot pass the Castle without a permit from me, and that I shall refuse." On that day the people of Fitchburg pledged their word "never to be wanting according to their small ability"; for "they had indeed an ambition to be known to the world and to posterity as friends to liberty." The men of Gloucester also expressed their joy at Boston's glorious opposi[Pg 338]tion, cried with one voice that "no tea subject to a duty should be landed" in their town, and held themselves ready for the last appeal.

The morning of Thursday, December 16, 1773, dawned upon Boston, a day by far the most momentous in its annals. Beware, little town; count the cost, and know well, if you dare defy the wrath of Great Britain, and if you love exile and poverty and death rather than submission. The town of Portsmouth held its meeting on that morning, and, with six only protesting, its people adopted the principles of Philadelphia, appointed their committee of correspondence, and resolved to make common cause with the colonies. At ten o'clock the people of Boston, with at least two thousand men from the country, assembled in the Old South. A report was made that Rotch had been refused a clearance from the collector. "Then," said they to him, "protest immediately against the custom-house, and apply to the Governor for his pass, so that your vessel may this very day proceed on her voyage for London."

The Governor had stolen away to his country house at Milton. Bidding Rotch make all haste, the meeting adjourned to three in the afternoon. At that hour Rotch had not returned. It was incidentally voted, as other towns had already done, to abstain totally from the use of tea; and every town was advised to appoint its committee of inspection, to prevent the detested tea from coming within any of them. Then, since the Governor might refuse his pass, the momentous question recurred, "Whether it be the sense and determination of this body to abide by their former resolutions with respect to the not suffering the tea to be landed." On this question Samuel Adams and Young addressed the meeting, which was become far the most numerous ever held in Boston, embracing seven thousand men. There was among them a patriot of fervid feeling, passionately devoted to the liberty of his country, still young, his eye bright, his cheek glowing with hectic fever. He knew that his strength was ebbing. The work of vindicating American freedom must be done soon, or he will be no party to the great achievement. He rises, but it is to restrain, and being truly brave and truly resolved he speaks the language of moderation: "Shouts and hosannas will not terminate the trials of this day, nor popular resolves, ha[Pg 339]rangues, and acclamations vanquish our foes. We must be grossly ignorant of the value of the prize for which we contend, of the power combined against us, of the inveterate malice and insatiable revenge which actuate our enemies, public and private, abroad and in our bosom, if we hope that we shall end this controversy without the sharpest conflicts. Let us consider the issue before we advance to those measures which must bring on the most trying and terrible struggle this country ever saw." Thus spoke the younger Quincy. "Now that the hand is to the plough," said others, "there must be no looking back," and the whole assembly of seven thousand voted unanimously that the tea should not be landed.

It had been dark for more than an hour. The church in which they met was dimly lighted, when at a quarter before six Rotch appeared, and satisfied the people by relating that the Governor had refused him a pass, because his ship was not properly cleared. As soon as he had finished his report, Samuel Adams rose and gave the word: "This meeting can do nothing more to save the country." On the instant a shout was heard at the porch; the war-whoop resounded; a body of men, forty or fifty in number, disguised as Indians, passed by the door, and, encouraged by Samuel Adams, Hancock, and others, repaired to Griffin's wharf, posted guards to prevent the intrusion of spies, took possession of the three tea-ships, and in about three hours three hundred forty chests of tea, being the whole quantity that had been imported, were emptied into the bay without the least injury to other property. "All things were conducted with great order, decency, and perfect submission to Government." The people around, as they looked on, were so still that the noise of breaking open the tea-chests was plainly heard. A delay of a few hours would have placed the tea under the protection of the Admiral at the Castle. After the work was done, the town became as still and calm as if it had been holy time. The men from the country that very night carried back the great news to their villages.

The next morning the committee of correspondence appointed Samuel Adams and four others to draw up a declaration of what had been done. They sent Paul Revere as express with the information to New York and Philadelphia.[Pg 340]

The height of joy that sparkled in the eyes and animated the countenances and the hearts of the patriots as they met one another is unimaginable. The Governor, meantime, was consulting his books and his lawyers to make out that the resolves of the meeting were treasonable. Threats were muttered of arrests, of executions, of transportation of the accused to England; while the committee of correspondence pledged themselves to support and vindicate each other and all persons who had shared in their effort. The country was united with the town, and the colonies with one another more firmly than ever. The Philadelphians unanimously approved what Boston had done. New York, all impatient at the winds which had driven its tea-ship off the coast, was resolved on following the example.

In South Carolina the ship with two hundred fifty-seven chests of tea arrived on December 2d; the spirit of opposition ran very high; but the consignees were persuaded to resign, so that, though the collector after the twentieth day seized the dutiable article, there was no one to vend it or to pay the duty, and it perished in the cellars where it was stored.

Late on Saturday, the 25th, news reached Philadelphia that its tea-ship was at Chester. It was met four miles below the town, where it came to anchor. On Monday, at an hour's notice, five thousand men collected in a town meeting; at their instance the consignee, who came as passenger, resigned; and the captain agreed to take his ship and cargo directly back to London and to sail the very next day. "The ministry had chosen the most effectual measures to unite the colonies. The Boston committee were already in close correspondence with the other New England colonies, with New York and Pennsylvania. Old jealousies were removed and perfect harmony subsisted between all." "The heart of the King was hardened against them like that of Pharaoh," and none believed he would relent. Union therefore was the cry; a union which should reach "from Florida to the icy plains" of Canada. "No time is to be lost," said the Boston press; "a congress or a meeting of the American States is indispensable; and what the people wills shall be effected." Samuel Adams was in his glory. He had led Boston to be foremost in duty and cheerfully offer itself as a sacrifice for the liberties of mankind.[Pg 341]


A.D. 1774


Up to the time when James Hargreaves, an English mechanic, invented (1767) and brought into use the spinning-jenny—so named after his wife, Jenny—the spinning of yarn was done altogether by hand. Richard Arkwright added to the jenny of Hargreaves a much more useful invention, the cotton-spinning frame, called a "water-frame" because it was driven by water. In 1779 Samuel Crompton invented a still better machine, the spinning-mule. In this he utilized the principles of the jenny and of the frame, adding drawing-rollers, and thereby making a machine that could draw, stretch, and twist yarn at one operation. From this combination of features the mule received its name. Since the time of Crompton it has been greatly improved, and the spinning-room of a modern cotton-mill contains machinery as highly perfected as any that has been invented.

Spinning by machinery is the foundation of the modern textile industry. Soon after Arkwright's invention of the spinning-frame, Edmund Cartwright invented the power-loom, the idea of which came to him while he was visiting Arkwright's cotton-mills at Cromford. Cartwright took out his first patent in 1785. Within fifty years from that time there were at least one hundred thousand power-looms at work in Great Britain.

Arkwright's invention quickly gave a great impetus to the cotton industry. Both the cultivation and the manufacture of cotton rapidly increased. Eli Whitney's timely invention of the cotton-gin in 1793 hastened the general introduction of the new manufacturing machinery. For more than a century the making of cotton goods has been one of the leading industries of the world.

The first cotton-mill was built by Arkwright and Hargreaves at Nottingham, England. Not long afterward the earliest cotton-mill in America was built at Beverly, Massachusetts (1787). To aid the new industry, the Legislature of that State made a grant of five hundred dollars. Cotton manufacture rapidly increased in New England, and there until recently was the centre of the American industry. Within the past few years, however, many cotton-mills have been built in various Southern States, and the cotton-belt region bids fair soon to become the chief seat of manufacture of its own great staple.

Since 1866 the cotton supply of the United States has increased from somewhat more than two million bales to about twelve million bales (1904). The world's consumption of cotton in 1903 was nearly fifteen [Pg 342]million bales. In the United States the annual consumption in cotton-mills is now about four million bales; in Great Britain, over three million bales; in Continental Europe, about five million bales. The number of spindles represented in the world's cotton manufacture in 1903 was nearly 112,000,000; in the United States, about 22,240,000; Great Britain, 42,200,000; Continental Europe, 34,000,000. In 1903 the exports of cotton manufactures from the United States were valued at over $32,000,000. Nearly one-half of the exports went to China, the rest being divided among many countries.

These figures only furnish a slight concrete suggestion of the immense industrial and commercial importance of the invention that Arkwright and his associates and successors produced and perfected for mankind. What Eli Whitney did for the cultivation and handling of cotton they have done for the world-wide interests connected with its manufacture.

The gradual disuse of wigs is assigned by some as the reason that Richard Arkwright began to turn his attention to mechanical inventions as likely to afford him a new source of income; but as during his journeys he was brought into constant intercourse with persons engaged in weaving and spinning, his inquisitive and strongly practical intelligence would in any case have been naturally led to take a keen interest in inventions which were a constant topic of conversation among the manufacturing population. The invention of the fly-shuttle by Kay of Bury had so greatly increased the demand for yarn that it became difficult to meet it merely by hand labor. A machine for carding cotton had been introduced into Lancashire about 1760, but until 1767 spinning continued to be done wholly with the old-fashioned hand-wheel. In that year James Hargreaves completed his invention of the spinning-jenny, which he patented in 1770. The thread spun by the jenny was, however, suitable only for weft, and the roving process still required to be performed by hand. Probably Arkwright knew nothing of the experiments of Hargreaves, when, in 1767, he asked John Kay, a clockmaker then residing in Warrington, to "bend him some wires and turn him some pieces of brass." Shortly afterward Arkwright gave up his business at Bolton, and devoted his whole attention to the perfecting of a contrivance for spinning by rollers. After getting Kay to construct for him certain wooden models, which convinced him that the solution of the problem had been accomplished, he is said to have applied to a Mr. Atherton, of Warrington, to make the spinning-[Pg 343]machine, who, from the poverty of Arkwright's appearance, declined to undertake it. He, however, agreed to lend Kay a smith and watch-tool maker to do the heavier part of the engine, and Kay undertook to make the clockmaker's part of it. Arkwright and Kay then went to Preston, where, with the cooperation of a friend of Arkwright, John Smalley, described as a "liquor-merchant and painter," the machine was constructed and set up in the parlor of the house belonging to the Free Grammar-school. The room appears to have been chosen for its secluded position, being hidden by a garden filled with gooseberry-trees; but the very secrecy of their operations aroused suspicion, and popular superstition at once connected them with some kind of witchcraft or sorcery. Two old women who lived close by averred that they heard strange noises in it of a humming nature, as if the devil were tuning his bagpipes, and Arkwright and Kay were dancing a reel, and so much consternation was produced that many were inclined to break open the place. The building has since been changed into a public-house, which is known as the Arkwright Arms. As a proof of the straits to which Arkwright was then reduced, and the degree to which he had sacrificed his comfort in order to obtain the means of completing his invention, it is said that his clothes were in such a ragged state that he declined, unless supplied with a new suit, to go to record his vote at the Preston election in 1768, which took place while he was engaged in setting up his machine. Having thoroughly satisfied himself of the practical value of his invention, he removed to Nottingham, an important seat of the stocking trade, whither Hargreaves, the inventor of the spinning-jenny, had removed the year previously, after his machines had been destroyed by a mob at Blackburn. Arkwright entered into partnership with Smalley from Preston, Kay continuing with him under a bond as a workman, and they erected a spinning-mill between Hockley and Woolpack Lane, a patent being taken out by Arkwright for the machine, July 3, 1769.

The spinning-frame of Arkwright was the result of inventive power of a higher and rarer order than that necessary to originate the spinning-jenny. It was much more than a mere development of the old hand-wheel. It involved the application of a[Pg 344] new principle, that of spinning by rollers, and in the delicate adjustment of its various parts and the nice regulation of the different mechanical forces called into operation, so as to make them properly subordinate to the accomplishment of one purpose, we have the first adequate examples of those beautiful and intricate mechanical contrivances that have transformed the whole character of the manufacturing industries. The spinning-frame consisted of four pairs of rollers, acting by tooth and pinion. The top roller was covered with leather to enable it to take hold of the cotton, the lower one fluted longitudinally to let the cotton pass through it. By one pair of rollers revolving quicker than another the rove was drawn to the requisite fineness for twisting, which was accomplished by spindles or flyers placed in front of each set of rollers. The original invention of Arkwright has neither been superseded nor substantially modified, although it has of course undergone various minor improvements.

The first spinning-mill of Arkwright was driven by horses, but finding this method too expensive, as well as incapable of application on a sufficiently large scale, he resolved to use water-power, which had already been successfully applied for a similar purpose, notably in the silk-mill erected by Thomas Lombe, on the Derwent at Derby in 1717. In 1771 Arkwright therefore went into partnership with Mr. Reed, of Nottingham, and Mr. Strutt, of Derby, the possessors of patents for the manufacture of ribbed stockings, and erected his spinning-frame at Cromford, in Derbyshire, in a deep, picturesque valley near the Derwent, where he could obtain an easy command of water-power from a never-failing spring of warm water, which even during the severest frost scarcely ever froze. From the fact that the spinning-frame was driven by water, it came to be known as the water-frame; since the application of steam it has been known as the throstle. As the yarn it produced was of a much harder and firmer texture than that spun by the jenny, it was specially suited for warp, but the Lancashire manufacturers declined to make use of it. Arkwright and his partners therefore wove it at first into stockings, which, on account of the smoothness and equality of the yarn, were greatly superior to those woven from the hand-spun cotton.[Pg 345]

In 1773 he began to use the thread as warp for the manufacture of calicoes, instead of the linen warp formerly used together with the cotton weft, and thus a cloth solely of cotton was for the first time produced in England. It met at once with a great demand, but, on account of an act passed in 1736 for the protection of the woollen manufactures of England against the calicoes of India, it was liable to a double duty, which at the instance of the Lancashire manufacturers was speedily enforced. Notwithstanding their strenuous opposition, Arkwright, however, in 1774 obtained an act specially exempting from extra duty the "new manufacture of stuffs wholly made of raw cotton-wool." Up to this time more than twelve thousand pounds had been expended by Arkwright and his partners on machinery, with little or no return; but after the new act the cotton manufacture created by his energy and genius developed with amazing rapidity, until it became the leading industry of the North of England.

While struggling against the mingled inertness and active opposition of the manufacturers, Arkwright had all the while been busily engaged in augmenting the capability and efficiency of his machinery, and in 1775 he brought out a patent for a series of adaptations and inventions by means of which the whole process of yarn manufacture—including carding, drawing, roving, and spinning—was performed by a beautifully arranged succession of operations on one machine. With the grant of this patent, every obstacle in the way of a sufficient supply of yarn was overcome, and, whatever might happen to Arkwright, the prosperity of the cotton manufacture was guaranteed. Afterward the invention was adapted for the woollen and worsted trade with equal success.

The machine of Arkwright was adapted for roving by means of a revolving cam. For the process of carding, additions and improvements of great ingenuity were affixed to the carding-cylinder patented by Lewis Paul in 1748, transforming it into an entirely new machine. The most important of these were the crank and comb, said to have been used by Hargreaves, but which it is now known that Hargreaves stole from Arkwright; the perpetual revolving cloth called the feeder, said to have been used by John Lees, a Quaker of Manchester, in 1778, but which[Pg 346] Arkwright had undoubtedly used previously at Cromford; and filleted cards on the second cylinder, which also must have been used by Arkwright in 1778, although a manufacturer named Wood claimed to have first used them in 1774. Indeed, the whole of the complicated self-acting machinery, which without the intervention of hand labor performed the different processes necessary to change raw cotton into thread suitable for warp, was substantially the invention of Arkwright; and while each separate machine was in itself a remarkable triumph of inventive skill, the construction of the whole series, and the adaptation of each to its individual function in the continuous succession of operations, must be regarded as an almost unique achievement in the history of invention.[Pg 347]



A.D. 1775


The latter half of the eighteenth century was, throughout Europe, a period of revolt against the old ideas, the outworn bonds of mediæval society. In art and literature the older system, with its elaborately planned rules and formulas, is technically called "classicism"; and the outburst against it established "romanticism," the spirit of desire, the longing for higher things, an impulse which ruled the intellectual world for generations, and which many critics still believe to be the chief hope for the future.

Romanticism found expression, more or less impassioned and defiant, in every land, but its earliest and strongest impulse is generally regarded as having sprung from Germany. The sceptical, half-cynical rule of Frederick the Great had left men's minds free, and imagination was everywhere aroused. The early culmination of its extravagance is found in the youth of Goethe and Schiller, Germany's two greatest poets; and Goethe's famous novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, became the text-book of the rising generation of romanticists. Werther kills himself for disappointed love, and the book has been seriously accused of creating an epidemic of suicide in Germany. Hillebrand, writer of the following analysis of the period and the movement, is among the foremost of present-day German authorities upon the subject.

Goethe was twenty-six years old when he accepted (1775) the invitation of Charles Augustus, and transported to Weimar the tone and the allures of the literary bohemia of Strasburg. There, to the terror of the good burghers of that small residence, to the still greater terror of the microscopic courtiers, began that "genial" and wild life which he and his august companion led during several years. Hunting, riding on horseback, masquerades, private theatricals, satirical verse, improvisation of all sorts, flirtation particularly, filled up day and night, to the scandal of all worthy folk, who were utterly at a loss to account for his serene highness saying "Du" to this Frankfort roturier.[Pg 348] The gay Dowager Duchess, Wieland's firm friend, looked upon these juvenile freaks with a more lenient eye; for she well knew that the fermentation once over, a noble, generous wine would remain. "We are playing the devil here," writes Goethe to Merck; "we hold together, the Duke and I, and go our own way. Of course, in doing so we knock against the wicked, and also against the good; but we shall succeed; for the gods are evidently on our side." Soon Herder was to join them there, unfortunately not always satisfied with the results of his teaching about absolute liberty of genius.

The whole generation bore with impatience the yoke of the established order, of authority under whatever form, whether the fetters were those of literary convention or social prejudice, of the state or the church. The ego affirmed its absolute, inalienable right; it strove to manifest itself according to its caprices, and refused to acknowledge any check. Individual inspiration was a sacred thing, which reality with its rules and prejudices could only spoil and deflower. Now, according to the temperament of each, they rose violently against society and its laws, or resigned themselves silently to a dire necessity. The one in Titanic effort climbed Olympus, heaving Pelion on Ossa; the other wiped a furtive tear out of his eye, and, aspiring to deliverance, dreamed of an ideal happiness. Sometimes in the same poet the two dispositions succeed each other.

"Cover thy sky with vapor and clouds, O Zeus," exclaims Goethe's Prometheus, "and practise thy strength on tops of oaks and summits of mountains like the child who beheads thistles. Thou must, nevertheless, leave me my earth and my hut, which thou hast not built, and my hearth, whose flame thou enviest. Is it not my heart, burning with a sacred ardor, which alone has accomplished all? And should I thank thee, who wast sleeping whilst I worked?"

The same young man who had put into the mouth of the rebellious Titan this haughty and defiant outburst, at other moments, when he was discouraged and weary of the struggle, took refuge within himself. Like Werther, "finding his world within himself, he spoils and caresses his tender heart, like a sickly child, all whose caprices we indulge." One or the other of those attitudes toward reality, the active and the passive, were soon taken by the[Pg 349] whole youth of the time; and just as Schiller's Brigands gave birth to a whole series of wild dramas, Werther left in the novels of the time a long line of tears. More than that, even in reality Karl Moor found imitators who engaged in an open struggle against society, and one met at every corner languishing Siegwarts, whose delicate soul was hurt by the cruel contact of the world.

What strikes us most in this morbid sentimentality is the eternal melancholy sighing after nature. Ossian's cloudy sadness and Young's dark Nights veil every brow. They fly into the solitudes of the forests in order to dream freely of a less brutal world. They must, indeed, have been very far from nature to seek for it with such avidity. Many, in fact, of these ardent, feverish young men became in the end a prey, some to madness, others to suicide. A species of moral epidemic, like that which followed upon the apparent failure of the Revolution in 1799, had broken out. The germ of Byronism may be clearly detected already in the Wertherism of those times. Exaggerated and overstrained imaginations found insufficient breathing-room in the world, and met on all sides with boundaries to their unlimited demands. Hearts, accustomed to follow the dictates of their own inspiration alone, bruised themselves against the sharp angles of reality. The thirst for action which consumed their ardent youth could not be quenched, in fact, in the narrow limits of domestic life; and public life did not exist. Frederick had done great things, but only, like the three hundred other German governments, to exclude the youth of the middle classes from active life. Thence the general uneasiness. Werther was as much an effect as a cause of this endemic disease; above all, it was the expression of a general state of mind. It is this which constitutes its historical importance, while the secret of its lasting value is to be found in its artistic form.

Besides, if I may say so without paradox, the disease was but an excess of health, a juvenile crisis through which Herder, young Goethe, Schiller, and indeed the whole generation had to pass.

"Oh," exclaimed old Goethe fifty years later in a conversation with young Felix Mendelssohn, "oh, if I could but write a fourth volume of my life! It should be a history of the year[Pg 350] 1775, which no one knows or can write better than I. How the nobility, feeling itself outrun by the middle classes, began to do all it could not to be left behind in the race; how liberalism, Jacobinism, and all that devilry awoke; how a new life began; how we studied and poetized, made love and wasted our time; how we young folk, full of life and activity, but awkward as we could be, scoffed at the aristocratic propensities of Messrs. Nicolai and Co., in Berlin, who at that time reigned supreme." "Ah, yes, that was a spring, when everything was budding and shooting, when more than one tree was yet bare, while others were already full of leaves. All that in the year 1775!"

Old pedantic Nicholai, at whom he scoffed thus, foresaw, with his prosy common-sense, what would happen "with all those confounded striplings," as Wieland called them, "who gave themselves airs as if they were accustomed to play at blind-man's buff with Shakespeare." "In four or five years," said he in 1776, "this fine enthusiasm will have passed away like smoke; a few drops of spirit will be found in the empty helmet, and a big caput mortuum in the crucible." This proved true certainly for the great majority, but not so as regards the two coursers which then broke loose, and for him who had cut their traces and released them. Goethe, indeed, modified, or at least cleared up, his early views under the influence of a deeper study of nature and the sight of ancient and Renaissance art in Italy (1786-1788); Schiller put himself to school under Kant (1790), and went out of it with a completely altered philosophy: Kant himself became another after, if not in consequence of, the great King's death (1786); Herder alone remained faithful throughout to the creed he had himself preached.

The way opened by Herder, although partly and temporarily abandoned during the classical period which intervened, was followed again by the third generation of the founders of German culture, the so-called Romanticists, and by all the great scholars, who, in the first half of this century, revived the historical sciences in Germany. Herder's ideas have, indeed, penetrated our whole thought to such a degree, while his works are so unfinished and disconnected, that it is hardly possible for us to account for the extraordinary effect these ideas and works produced in their day, except by marking the contrast which they present with the then[Pg 351] reigning methods and habits as well as the surprising influence exercised by Herder personally. From his twenty-fifth year, indeed, he was a sovereign. His actual and uncontested sway was not, it is true, prolonged beyond a period of about sixteen years, albeit his name figured to a much later time on the list of living potentates. It is also true that when the seeds thrown by him had grown luxuriantly, and were bearing fruit, the sower was almost entirely forgotten or wilfully ignored. The generation, however, of the "Stuermer und Draenger,"[58] or, as they were pleased to denominate themselves, the "original geniuses," looked up to Herder as their leader and prophet. Some of them turned from him later on and went back to the exclusive worship of classical antiquity; but their very manner of doing homage to it bore witness to Herder's influence. The following generation threw itself no less exclusively into the Middle Ages; but what, after all, was it doing if not following Herder's example, when it raked up Dantes and Calderons out of the dust in order to confront them with and oppose them to Vergils and Racines? However they might repudiate, nay, even forget, their teacher, his doctrines already pervaded the whole intellectual atmosphere of Germany, and men's minds breathed them in with the very air they inhaled. To-day they belong to Europe.

Herder, I repeat, is certainly neither a classical nor a finished writer. He has no doubt gone out of fashion, because his style is pompous and diffuse, his composition loose or fragmentary; because his reasoning lacks firmness and his erudition solidity. Still, no other German writer of note exercised the important indirect influence which was exercised by Herder. In this I do not allude to Schelling and his philosophy, which received more than one impulse from Herder's ideas; nor to Hegel, who reduced them to a metaphysical system and defended them with his wonderful dialectics. But F.A. Wolf, when he points out to us in Homer the process of epic poetry; Niebuhr, in revealing to us the growth of Rome, the birth of her religious and national legends, the slow, gradual formation of her marvellous constitution; Savigny, when he proves that the Roman civil law, that masterpiece of human ingenuity, was not the work of a wise legislator,[Pg 352] but rather the wisdom of generations and of centuries; Eichhorn, when he wrote the history of German law and created thereby a new branch of historical science which has proved one of the most fertile; A.W. Schlegel and his school, when they transplanted all the poetry of other nations to Germany by means of imitations which are real wonders of assimilation; Frederick Schlegel, when, in the Wisdom of the Hindoos he opened out that vast field of comparative linguistic science, which Bopp and so many others have since cultivated with such success; Alexander von Humboldt and Karl Ritter, when they gave a new life to geography by showing the earth in its growth and development and coherence; W. von Humboldt, when he established the laws of language as well as those of self-government; Jacob Grimm, when he brought German philology into existence, while his brother Wilhelm made a science of Northern mythology; still later on, D.F. Strauss, when, in the days of our own youth, he placed the myth and the legend, with their unconscious origin and growth, not alone in opposition to the idea of Deity intervening to interrupt established order, but also to that of imposture and conscious fraud; Otfr. Mueller, when he proved that Greek mythology, far from containing moral abstractions or historical facts, is the involuntary personification of surrounding nature, subsequently developed by imagination; Max Mueller, even, when he creates the new science of comparative mythology—what else are they doing but applying and working out Herder's ideas? And if we turn our eyes to other nations, what else were Burke and Coleridge, B. Constant and A. Thierry, Guizot and A. de Tocqueville—what are Renan and Taine, Carlyle and Darwin doing, each in his own branch, but applying and developing Herder's two fundamental principles, that of organic evolution and that of the entireness of the individual? For it was Herder who discovered the true spirit of history, and in this sense it is that Goethe was justified in saying of him:

"A noble mind, desirous of fathoming man's soul in whatever direction it may shoot forth, searcheth throughout the universe for sound and word which flow through the lands in a thousand sources and brooks; wanders through the oldest as the newest regions and listens in every zone." "He knew how to find this soul wherever it lay hid, whether robed in grave disguise, or[Pg 353] lightly clothed in the garb of play, in order to found for the future this lofty rule: Humanity be our eternal aim!"

Among the young literary rebels who, under Herder's guidance, attempted, toward and after 1775, to overthrow all conventionalism, all authority, even all law and rule, in order to put in their stead the absolute self-government of genius, freed from all tutorship—the foremost were the two greatest German poets, Goethe and Schiller. Goethe's Goetz and Werther, Schiller's Brigands and Cabal and Love, were greeted as the promising forerunners of the national literature to come. Their subjects were German and modern, not French or classic; in their plan they affected Shakespearean liberty; in their language they were at once familiar, strong, and original; in their inspiration they were protests against the social prejudices and political abuses of the time, vehement outbursts of individuality against convention.

Not twenty years had passed away, when both the revolutionists had become calm and resigned liberal conservatives, who understood and taught that liberty is possible only under the empire of law; that the real world with all its limits had a right as well as the inner world, which knows no frontiers; that to be completely free man must fly into the ideal sphere of art, science, or formless religion. Not that they abjured "the dreams of their youth." The nucleus of their new creed was contained in their first belief; but it had been developed into a system of social views more in harmony with society and its exigencies, of æsthetic opinions more independent of reality and its accidents, of philosophical ideas more speculative and methodical. In other words, Goethe and Schiller never ceased to believe, as they had done at twenty, that all vital creations in nature as in society are the result of growth and organic development, not of intentional, self-conscious planning, and that individuals on their part act powerfully only through their nature in its entirety, not through one faculty alone, such as reason or will, separated from instinct, imagination, temperament, passion, etc. Only they came to the conviction that here existed general laws which presided over organic development, and that there was a means of furthering in the individual the harmony between temperament, character, understanding, and imagination, without sacrificing one to the others.[Pg 354] Hence they shaped for themselves a general view of nature and mankind, society and history, which may not have become the permanent view of the whole nation; but which for a time was predominant, which even now is still held by many, and which in some respects will always be the ideal of the best men in Germany, even when circumstances have wrought a change in the intellectual and social conditions of their country, so as to necessitate a total transformation and accommodation of those views.

We cannot regard it merely as the natural effect of advancing years if Goethe and Schiller modified and cleared their views; if Kant, whose great emancipating act, the Critique of Pure Reason, falls chronologically in the same period (1781), corrected what seemed to him too absolute in his system, and reconstructed from the basis of the conscience that metaphysical world which he had destroyed by his analysis of the intellect. The world just then was undergoing profound changes. The great "Philosopher-king" had descended to the tomb (1786), and with him the absolute liberty of thought which had reigned for forty-six years. The French Revolution, after having exalted all generous souls, and seemingly confirmed the triumph of liberty and justice which the generation had witnessed in America, took a direction and drifted into excesses which undeceived, sobered, and saddened even the most hopeful believers. As regards personal circumstances, the Italian journey of Goethe (1786-1788) and his scientific investigations into nature, the study of Kant's new philosophy to which Schiller submitted his undisciplined mind (1790 and 1791), were the high-schools out of which their genius came strengthened and purified, although their æsthetic and moral doctrines did not remain quite unimpaired by them. I shall endeavor to give an idea of this double process and its results at the risk of being still more abstract and dry than before.

Man is the last and highest link in nature; his task is to understand what she aims at in him and then to fulfil her intentions. This view of Herder's was Goethe's starting-point in the formation of his Weltanschauung (or general view of things).

"All the world," says one of the characters in Wilhelm[Pg 355] Meister, "lies before us, like a vast quarry before the architect. He does not deserve the name if he does not compose with these accidental natural materials an image whose source is in his mind, and if he does not do it with the greatest possible economy, solidity, and perfection. All that we find outside of us, nay, within us, is object-matter; but deep within us lives also a power capable of giving an ideal form to this matter. This creative power allows us no rest till we have produced that ideal form in one or the other way, either without us in finished works or in our own life."

Here we already have in germ Schiller's idea that life ought to be a work of art. But how do we achieve this task, continually impeded as we are by circumstances and by our fellow-creatures, who will not always leave us in peace to develop our individual characters in perfect conformity with nature? In our relations with our neighbor, Goethe—like Lessing and Wieland, Kant and Herder, and all the great men of his and the preceding age, in England and France as well as in Germany—recommended absolute toleration, not only of opinions, but also of individualities, particularly those in which Nature manifests herself "undefiled." As to circumstances, which is only another name for fate, he preached and practised resignation. At every turn of our life, in fact, we meet with limits; our intelligence has its frontiers which bar its way; our senses are limited and can only embrace an infinitely small part of nature; few of our wishes can be fulfilled; privation and sufferings await us at every moment. "Privation is thy lot, privation! That is the eternal song which resounds at every moment, which, our whole life through, each hour sings hoarsely to our ears!" laments Faust. What remains, then, for man? "Everything cries to us that we must resign ourselves." "There are few men, however, who, conscious of the privations and sufferings in store for them in life, and desirous to avoid the necessity of resigning themselves anew in each particular case, have the courage to perform the act of resignation once for all;" who say to themselves that there are eternal and necessary laws to which we must submit, and that we had better do it without grumbling; who "endeavor to form principles which are not liable to be destroyed, but are rather confirmed by contact with reality." In other words, when man[Pg 356] has discovered the laws of nature, both moral and physical, he must accept them as the limits of his actions and desires; he must not wish for eternity of life or inexhaustible capacities of enjoyment, understanding, and acting, any more than he wishes for the moon. For rebellion against these laws must needs be an act of impotency as well as of deceptive folly. By resignation, on the contrary, serene resignation, the human soul is purified; for thereby it becomes free of selfish passions and arrives at that intellectual superiority in which the contemplation and understanding of things give sufficient contentment, without making it needful for man to stretch out his hands to take possession of them; a thought which Goethe's friend, Schiller, has magnificently developed in his grand philosophical poems. Optimism and pessimism disappear at once, as well as fatalism; the highest and most refined intellect again accepts the world, as children and ignorant toilers do: as a given necessity. He does not even think the world could be otherwise, and within its limits he not only enjoys and suffers, but also works gayly, trying like Horace, to subject things to himself, but resigned to submit to them when they are invincible. Thus the simple Hellenic existence which, contrary to Christianity, but according to nature, accepted the present without ceaselessly thinking of death and another world, and acted in that present and in the circumstances allotted to each by fate, without wanting to overstep the boundaries of nature, would revive again in our modern world and free us forever from the torment of unaccomplished wishes and of vain terrors.

The sojourn in Italy, during which Goethe lived outside the struggle for life, outside the competition and contact of practical activity, in the contemplation of nature and art, developed this view—the spectator's view—which will always be that of the artist and of the thinker, strongly opposed to that of the actor on the stage of human life. Iphigenie, Torquato Tasso, Wilhelm Meister, are the fruits and the interpreters of this conception of the moral world. What ripened and perfected it so as to raise it into a general view, not only of morality, but also of the great philosophical questions which man is called upon to answer, was his study of nature, greatly furthered during his stay in Italy. The problem which lay at the bottom of all the vague longing[Pg 357] of his generation for nature he was to solve. It became his incessant endeavor to understand the coherence and unity of nature.

"You are forever searching for what is necessary in nature," Schiller wrote to him once, "but you search for it by the most difficult way. You take the whole of nature in order to obtain light on the particular case; you look into the totality for the explanation of the individual existence. From the simplest organism (in nature) you ascend step by step to the more complicated, and finally construct the most complicated of all—man—out of the materials of the whole of nature. In thus creating man anew under the guidance of nature, you penetrate into his mysterious organism."

And, indeed, as there is a wonderful harmony with nature in Goethe the poet and the man, so there is the same harmony in Goethe the savant and the thinker; nay, even science he practised as a poet. As one of the greatest physicists of our days, Helmholtz, has said of him, "He did not try to translate nature into abstract conceptions, but takes it as a complete work of art, which must reveal its contents spontaneously to an intelligent observer." Goethe never became a thorough experimentalist; he did not want "to extort the secret from nature by pumps and retorts." He waited patiently for a voluntary revelation, i.e., until he could surprise that secret by an intuitive glance; for it was his conviction that if you live intimately with Nature she will sooner or later disclose her mysteries to you. If you read his Songs, his Werther, his Wahlverwandtschaften, you feel that extraordinary intimacy—I had almost said identification—with nature, present everywhere. Werther's love springs up with the blossom of all nature; he begins to sink and nears his self-made tomb while autumn, the death of nature, is in the fields and woods. So does the moon spread her mellow light over his garden, as "the mild eye of a true friend over his destiny." Never was there a poet who humanized nature or naturalized human feeling, if I might say so, to the same degree as Goethe. Now, this same love of nature he brought into his scientific researches.

He began his studies of nature early, and he began them as he was to finish them—with geology. Buffon's great views on the[Pg 358] revolutions of the earth had made a deep impression upon him, although he was to end as the declared adversary of that vulcanism which we can trace already at the bottom of Buffon's theory—naturally enough, when we think how uncongenial all violence in society and nature was to him, how he looked everywhere for slow, uninterrupted evolution. From theoretical study he had early turned to direct observation; and when his administrative functions obliged him to survey the mines of the little dukedom, ample opportunity was offered for positive studies. As early as 1778, in a paper, Granite, he wrote: "I do not fear the reproach that a spirit of contradiction draws me from the contemplation of the human heart—this most mobile, most mutable and fickle part of the creation—to the observation of (granite) the oldest, firmest, deepest, most immovable son of nature. For all natural things are in connection with each other." It was his life's task to search for the links of this coherence in order to find that unity which he knew to be in the moral as well as material universe.

From those "first and most solid beginnings of our existence" he turned to the history of plants and to the anatomy of the animals which cover this crust of the earth. The study of Spinoza confirmed him in the direction thus taken. "There I am on and under the mountains, seeking the divine in herbis et lapidibus," says he, in Spinoza's own words; and again: "Pardon me if I like to remain silent when people speak of a divine being which I can know only in rebus singularibus." This pantheistic view grew stronger and stronger with years; but it became a pantheism very different from that of Parmenides, for whom being and thinking are one, or from that of Giordano Bruno, which rests on the analogy of a universal soul with the human soul, or even from that of Spinoza himself, which takes its start from the relations of the physical world with the conceptive world, and of both with the divine one. Goethe's pantheism always tends to discover the cohesion of the members of nature, of which man is one: if once he has discovered this universal unity, where there are no gaps in space nor leaps in time, he need not search further for the divine.

It is analogy which helps us to form these intuitive or platonic ideas. It was through analogy that Goethe arrived at his great[Pg 359] discoveries in natural science, and I only repeat what such men as Johannes Mueller, Baer, and Helmholtz have been willing to acknowledge, when I say that the poet's eye has been as keen as that of any naturalist. Kant had contended that there might be a superior intelligence, which, contrary to human intelligence, goes from the general to the particular; and Goethe thought—he proved, I might say—that in man too some of this divine intelligence can operate and shine, if only in isolated sparks. It was a spark of this kind which, first at Padua on the sight of a fanpalm-tree, then again, on the eve of his departure from Palermo, during a walk in the public garden amid the Southern vegetation, revealed to him the law of the metamorphosis of plants. He found an analogy between the different parts of the same plant which seemed to repeat themselves: unity and evolution were revealed to him at once.

Three years later the sight of a half-broken sheep-skull, which he found by chance on the sand of the Venetian Lido, taught him that the same law, as he had suspected, applied also to vertebrate animals, and that the skull might be considered as a series of strongly modified vertebræ. He had, in fact, already hinted at the principle, shortly after put forward by Lamarck, and long afterward developed and firmly established by Darwin. He considered the difference in the anatomical structure of animal species as modifications of a type or planned structure, modifications brought about by the difference of life, food, and dwellings. He had discovered as early as 1786 the intermaxillary bone in man, i.e., the remnant of a part which had had to be adapted to the exigencies of the changed structure; and proved thereby that there had been a primitive similarity of structure, which had been transformed by development of some parts and atrophy of others. Goethe's sketch of an Introduction into Comparative Anatomy, which he wrote in 1795, urged by A. von Humboldt, has remained, if I may believe those competent to judge, a fundamental stone of modern science. And I may be allowed, as I am unversed in such matters, to invoke the authority of one of the most eminent living physiologists, Helmholtz, who says of Goethe's anatomical essay, that in it the poet "teaches, with the greatest clearness and decision, that all differences in the structure of animal species are to be considered as[Pg 360] changes of one fundamental type, which have been brought about by fusion, transformation, aggrandizement, diminution, or total annihilation of several parts. This has, indeed, become, in the present state of comparative anatomy, the leading idea of this science. It has never since been expressed better or more clearly than by Goethe: and after-times have made few essential modifications."[59]

Now, the same may be said, I am told, in spite of some differences as to details, of his metamorphosis of plants. I do not mean by this to say that Goethe is the real author of the theory of evolution. There is between him and Mr. Darwin the difference which there is between Vico and Niebuhr, Herder and F.A. Wolf. In the one case we have a fertile hint, in the other a well-established system, worked out by proofs and convincing arguments. Nevertheless, when a man like Johannes Mueller sees in Goethe's views "the presentiment of a distant ideal of natural history," we may be allowed to see in Goethe one of the fathers of the doctrine of evolution, which, after all, is only an application of Herder's principle of fieri to the material world.

After having thus gone through the whole series of organisms, from the simplest to the most complicated, Goethe finds that he has laid, as it were the last crowning stone of the universal pyramid, raised from the materials of the whole quarry of nature; that he has reconstructed man. And here begins a new domain; for after all for mankind the highest study must be man himself. The social problems of property, education, marriage, occupied Goethe's mind all his life through, although more particularly in the last thirty years. The relations of man with nature, the question how far he is free from the laws of necessity, how far subject to them, are always haunting him. If you read the Wahlverwandtschaften, the Wanderjahre, the second Faust, you will find those grave questions approached from all sides. I shall not, however, enter here into an exposition of Goethe's political, social, and educational views, not only because they mostly belong to a later period, but especially because they have never found a wide echo, nor determined the opinions of an important[Pg 361] portion of the nation, nor entered as integrating principles into its lay creed. Not so with the metaphysical conclusion which he reached by this path, and which is somewhat different from the pantheism of his youth, inasmuch as he combines with it somewhat of the fundamental ideas of Leibnitz, which were also Lessing's, and which, after all, form a sort of return to Christianity, as understood in its widest sense, in the sense in which it harmonizes with Plato's idealism. "Thinking is not to be severed from what is thought, nor will from movement." Nature consequently is God, and God is nature, but in this God-nature man lives as an imperishable monad, capable of going through thousands of metamorphoses, but destined to rest on each stage of this unlimited existence, in full possession of the present, in which he has to expand his whole being by action or enjoyment. This conception of life was not, as you will see, the creation of an imagination longing to pass beyond the conditions of human existence—which is the idealism of the "general"—but the highest result of the poet's insight into the order of nature.

I have said that there was an antagonism between Kant's views and those of Herder and Goethe, and that this antagonism has been ever since sensibly felt in the intellectual history of Germany. Some efforts were made to reconcile them, as for instance by Schiller. Sometimes a sort of alliance took place, as in 1813, when the Romanticists, who were quite under the spell of the Herder-Goethe ideas, invoked the aid of the moral energy, which was a special characteristic of Kant's disciples; but the antagonism lives on not the less even now in the German nation, as the antagonism between Hume and Burke, Locke and Berkeley, Fielding and Richardson, Shakespeare and Milton, nay, between Renaissance and Puritanism in spite of their apparent death, is still living in the English nation. This difference is, as will happen in this world, much more the difference between two dispositions of mind, character, and temperament, than between two opposite theories; or at least the conflicting opinions are much more the result of our moral and intellectual dispositions than of objective observation and abstract argumentation. Germany owes much to the stern unflinching moral principles of Kant; she owes still more, however, to the serene and large views of Goethe. The[Pg 362] misfortune of both ideals is that they cannot and will never be accessible save to a small élite, that of Kant to a moral, that of Goethe to an intellectual, élite. But are not all ideals of an essentially aristocratic nature? The German ideals, however, are so more than others, and the consequence has been a wide gap between the mass of the nation and the minority which has been true to those ideals. The numerical majority, indeed, of the German nation has either remained faithful to the Church, though without fanaticism, or has become materialistic and rationalistic. It is a great misfortune for a nation when its greatest writer in his greatest works is only understood by the happy few, and when its greatest moralist preaches a moral which is above the common force of human nature. The only means of union between the nation and the intellectual and moral aristocracy, which has kept and guarded that treasure, as well as the only link between these two aristocratic views of life themselves, would be furnished by religion, a religion such as Lessing, Mendelssohn, and above all Schleiermacher, propounded, such as reigned all over Germany forty or fifty years ago, before party spirit had set to work, and the flattest of rationalisms had again invaded the nation—a religion corresponding, for the mass, to what Goethe's and Kant's philosophy, which is neither materialism nor spiritualism, is for the few—a religion based on feeling and intuition, on conscience and reverence, but a religion without dogmas, without ritual, without forms, above all without exclusiveness and without intolerance. I doubt whether this mild and noble spirit, which is by no means indifferentism, will soon revive, as I doubt whether Germany will quickly get over the conflict between the traditional and the rationalistic spirit which mars her public life; whether too she will soon reach that political ideal which England realized most fully in the first half of this century, and which consists in a perfect equilibrium between the spirit of tradition and that of rationalism. However, although Kant's lofty and Goethe's deep philosophy of life is now the treasure of a small minority only, it has none the less pervaded all the great scientific and literary work done up to the middle of this century. It has presided over the birth of our new state; and the day will certainly come when public opinion in Germany will turn away from the tendency of her present literature, science,[Pg 363] and politics—a somewhat narrow patriotism, a rather shallow materialism, and a thoroughly false parliamentary régime—and come back to the spirit of the generations to whom, after all, she owes her intellectual, though not perhaps her political and material, civilization.[Pg 364]


[58] "Storm and stress," the period of intellectual revolt, struggle, and emancipation in Germany.—Ed.

[59] Written in 1853, five years before the appearance of Mr. Darwin's great work.


A.D. 1775


Modern education began when Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi established his experimental school at Neuhof in 1775. Comenius had shown the true path of teaching. Pestalozzi was the enthusiast who felt with burning passion the injustice done to the child in the schoolhouses of his day. He protested that the old education was all wrong, and he proved this by his achievements, establishing a little school in his own home at Neuhof, and then in 1800 a larger one at Burgdorf.

The Swiss Government adopted his ideas. Teachers were sent to learn of him. From Burgdorf is sprung the whole school system of to-day. As a practical school-teacher Pestalozzi was nevertheless a failure in the end, because he relied on no force but that of personal affection to control his pupils. This divinest of methods succeeded remarkably while his schools were so small as to bring him into close paternal contact with every child. But at the large institution at Yverdon, of which he was master in his later years, the method broke down badly. Hence there were not wanting in his own times critics who pronounced him a failure. They did not see that beside his insistence on love as the "way," the reformer had an even more important message for the world. "The grand change advocated by Pestalozzi," says Mr. Quick, "was a change of object. The main object of the school should not be to teach, but to develop." In this sentence we have the key to all modern education, though not every teacher even to-day has digested fully the idea that his duty is less that of stuffing a child full of facts than of developing its character and abilities, encouraging whatever of value exists within itself.

The full importance of Pestalozzi's work was recognized by keener intellects even in his own lifetime. Queen Louise, the heroine of Prussia, wished she could fly to Switzerland to grasp Pestalozzi's hand. His system was introduced throughout Northern Germany and did wonders for the development of the German people. To-day it is the system of the world.

After completing the usual course of education, Pestalozzi continued his studies, with a view to engaging in the ministry of the gospel, to which the wishes of his friends, as well as his own deep religious feelings, had early destined him. This course,[Pg 365] however, was soon abandoned. He appeared for the first and only time in the pulpit as a candidate, and then, discouraged by the ill-success of the experiment, renounced all aspirations to the sacred office. Soon after, he applied himself to the law, but with a strong predilection for political studies. At this time his inquiries seem to have taken the direction which ultimately led him to the discoveries that characterize his name. He saw clearly the great abuses in society which prevailed in his native country; and by dwelling on their enormity his active mind suggested means of relief which could be realized only by a more thorough and judicious education of the people at large. His first publication, issued while a student at law, contained his views on this subject. It was an essay on the bearing which education ought to have upon our respective callings.

It was not for a mind like Pestalozzi's to behold the evils which had been brought to his notice without deep and painful emotion. This was experienced to such a degree that he was thrown into a state of morbid excitement; and, at length, a dangerous illness broke off his ardent researches. Still his mind was not quieted. His thoughts could not be prevented from dwelling on the painful subjects to which he had given his whole soul. Prostrate on the bed of sickness, he continued to indulge himself in dark musings; and his fancy represented the prospects of the future, both for society and for himself, in gloomy colors. The strength of his constitution, however, carried him through the disorder; and from the moment of his recovery he resolved to follow the leadings of Providence, and, setting aside all human considerations, to act up to the full extent of his conceptions, and if possible to put his views to the test of experience.

He now abandoned all his former studies, committed his papers to the flames, and believing that the evils into which society was plunged were mainly owing to a departure from the straight and simple path of nature, to the school of nature he resolved to go. Accordingly he quitted Zurich and went to Kirchberg, in the Canton of Bern, where he became an apprentice to a farmer of the name of Tschiffeli.

After qualifying himself under the direction of Tschiffeli for the charge of a farm, he purchased a tract of waste land in the neighborhood of Lensburg, in the Canton of Bern, on which he[Pg 366] erected a dwelling-house, with suitable buildings, and gave it the name of Neuhof. The work of his hands here was prospered. He soon brought himself into comfortable circumstances, and saw his prospects as bright and happy as could be wished. At this time he formed a connection in marriage with Ann Schulthess, the daughter of one of the wealthiest merchants in Zurich, a young lady of a refined education and great dignity of character. This marriage, while it increased the happiness of his domestic circle, offered him a new sphere of useful exertion, by giving him an interest in a flourishing cotton manufactory.

After eight years of successful industry at Neuhof, Pestalozzi resolved to make a fair trial of the plan, which he had long had at heart, of giving the lower orders such an education as should raise them to a condition more consistent with the capacities of their nature and with the spirit of Christianity.

To avoid the interference of others as much as possible, and to place the beneficial results of his system in a clearer light, he selected the objects of his experiment from the very dregs of the people. If he found a child who was left in destitute circumstances from the death of its parents or from their incompetency and vice, he immediately took him home, so that, in a short time, his house was converted into an asylum, in which fifty orphan or pauper children were fed, clothed, and instructed in the different employments from which they might afterward be able to gain a livelihood, and for the exercise of which his farm and the cotton manufactory, in which he was a partner, afforded an ample opportunity.

But this experiment, so happily conceived by Pestalozzi, was destined to prove unsuccessful. He possessed few of the means necessary to bring it to a prosperous issue. His zeal, which led him to undertake the most magnificent enterprises, was not combined with sufficient patience, practical knowledge of human nature, and fixed habits of order and economy to enable him to realize the plans which he proposed; and at length he was obliged to abandon his experiment in despair. It was not, however, altogether useless. He had the satisfaction of knowing that he had rescued more than a hundred children from the degrading influences under which they were born, and planted the seeds of virtue and religion in their hearts; and, in addition to this,[Pg 367] his qualifications for the task to which his life was now devoted were greatly increased by this insight he had acquired into its real nature, and the means of its accomplishment. The results of his experience at Neuhof, from the time of opening his asylum in 1775, to its close in 1790, are left on record in the valuable works which he published during that interval. The first of these, entitled Leonard and Gertrude, is a popular novel, under which form he chose to convey his ideas respecting the condition of the lower classes, and the means of their improvement. The success of this work was not what he expected. Though universally popular as a novel, there were few who entered into the spirit of the deep wisdom which it contained. This was published in 1781, and, in order to draw the attention of its readers to the great object which he had in view, he published another work in the following year, entitled Christopher and Eliza. But this also failed of the purpose for which it was principally intended. Still Pestalozzi was not discouraged in his attempts to make the public acquainted with his new ideas. He now addressed himself to the literary world, as he had before written expressly for the common people. In a journal published at Basel, under the direction of Iselin, a distinguished philanthropist, he inserted a series of essays, entitled Evening Hours of a Hermit, which contained a more systematic account of his mode of instruction and his plans for national improvement. But the current of public thought was in an opposite direction, and little attention could be gained to the plans which he labored to introduce. His success was somewhat better in a weekly publication, which he undertook at the beginning of 1782, under the title of the Swiss Journal. This was continued for one year, and forms two octavo volumes in which a great variety of subjects is discussed, connected with his favorite purpose of national improvement.

Soon after the breaking up of his establishment at Neuhof, the country began to be agitated with the excesses of the French Revolution, and Pestalozzi, disappointed in the sanguine hopes which he had formed at the commencement of that event, and disgusted with the scenes of brutality and lawlessness which it had occasioned, wrote his Inquiry into the Course of Nature in the Developement of the Human Species. This work, published in 1797, marks a new epoch in the development of his[Pg 368] views. It was written at a moment when his mind was covered with the deepest gloom, and he was almost ready to sink under the struggle between the bright conceptions of improvement which he had formed and the darkness which hung over the existing institutions of society. The following questions, which he proposes to himself at the commencement of the work, will give some idea of its plan and of the spirit in which it was composed:

"What am I? What is the human species? What have I done? What is the human species doing?

"I want to know what the course of my life, such as it has been, has made of me? and I want to know what the course of life, such as it has been, has made of the human species?

"I want to know on what ground the volition of the human species and its opinions rest under the circumstances in which it is placed?"

The following portrait of himself, which he draws at the close of the volume, is highly characteristic of his feelings at this time:

"Thousands pass away, as nature gave them birth, in the conception of sensual gratification, and they seek no more. Tens of thousands are overwhelmed by the burdens of craft and trade; by the weight of the hammer, the ell, or the crane, and they are no more. But I know a man, who did seek more; the joy of simplicity dwelt in his heart, and he had faith in mankind such as few men have; his soul was made for friendship; love was his element, and fidelity his strongest tie. But he was not made by this world nor for it; and wherever he was placed in it he was found unfit.

"And the world that found him thus, asked not whether it was his fault or the fault of another; but it bruised him with an iron hammer, as the bricklayers break an old brick to fill up crevices. But though bruised, he yet trusted in mankind more than in himself; and he proposed to himself a great purpose, which to attain he suffered agonies and learned lessons such as few mortals had learned before.

"He could not, nor would he, become generally useful, but for his purpose he was more useful than most men are for theirs; and he expected justice at the hands of mankind, whom he still[Pg 369] loved with an innocent love. But he found none. Those that made themselves his judges, without further examination confirmed the former sentence, that he was generally and absolutely useless. This was the grain of sand which decided the doubtful balance of his wretched destinies.

"He is no more; thou mayest know him no more; all that remains of him is the decayed remnants of his destroyed existence. He fell as a fruit that falls before it is ripe, whose blossom has been nipped by the northern gale, or whose core is eaten out by the gnawing worm.

"Stranger that passest by, refuse not a tear of sympathy; even in falling, this fruit turned itself toward the trunk, on the branches of which it lingered through the summer, and it whispered to the tree: 'Verily, even in my death will I nourish thy roots.'

"Stranger that passest by, spare the perishing fruit, and allow the dust of its corruption to nourish the roots of the tree, on whose branches it lived, sickened, and died."

But a brighter day for Pestalozzi was about to dawn. He now became sensible of the great error of his former plans, which made too much account of external circumstances, without exerting sufficient influence on the inward nature, which it was his object to elevate. His mind gradually arrived at the important truth, which is the keystone of the system he afterward matured: "That the amelioration of outward circumstances will be the effect, but can never be the means, of mental and moral improvement."

He had now succeeded in awakening the attention of the Swiss Government to the importance of his plans for national education, and was invited to take charge of an asylum for orphans and other destitute children, which should be formed under his own direction and supported at the public expense. The place selected for this experiment was Stanz, the capital of the Canton of Underwalden, which had been recently burned and depopulated by the French Revolutionary troops. A new Ursuline convent, which was then building, was assigned to Pestalozzi as the scene of his future operations. On his arrival there he found only one apartment finished, a room about twenty-four feet square, and that unfurnished. The rest of the building[Pg 370] was occupied by the carpenters and masons; and even had there been rooms, the want of beds and kitchen furniture would have made them useless. In the mean time, it having been announced that an asylum was to be opened, crowds of children came forward, some of them orphans, and others without protection or shelter, whom it was impossible, under such circumstances, to send away. The one room was devoted to all manner of purposes. In the day it served as a schoolroom, and at night, furnished with some scanty bedding, was occupied by Pestalozzi with as many of the scholars as it would hold. The remainder were quartered out for the night in some of the neighboring houses and came to the asylum only in the day. Of course, under such circumstances, anything like order or regularity was out of the question. Even personal cleanliness was impossible; and this, added to the dust occasioned by the workmen, the dampness of the new walls, and the closeness of the atmosphere in a small and crowded apartment, made the asylum an unhealthy abode.

The character of the children, too, was a great obstacle to Pestalozzi's success. Many of them were the offspring of beggars and outlaws and had long been inured to wretchedness and vice; others had seen better days, and, oppressed by disappointment and suffering, had lost all disposition to exert themselves; while a few, who were from the higher classes of society, had been spoiled by indulgence and luxury, and were now conceited, petulant, and full of scornful airs toward their companions.

The whole charge of the establishment thus composed devolved upon Pestalozzi. From motives of economy and from the difficulty of procuring suitable assistants, he employed no one but a housekeeper. The burden of this task was increased by the caprice and folly of many of the parents, whose children had been sent to the asylum. They were prejudiced against him as a Protestant and an agent of the Helvetic Government, and spared no complaints which their unreasonableness or ignorance could suggest. Mothers who were in the daily practice of begging from door to door would come on some silly pretext and take away their children because they would be no worse off at home. On Sundays especially the whole family circle, from parents to the remotest cousin, would assemble in a body at the asylum, and, after filling the minds of the children with their idle[Pg 371] whims, would either take them home or leave them peevish and unhappy.

Sometimes children were brought to the asylum merely to obtain clothing, which being done they were soon removed and no reasons given. In many instances, parents required payment for leaving their children, to compensate for the loss occasioned by taking them off from their begging. In others, they desired to make an agreement for a certain number of days in the week, in which they could have permission to send them out to beg; and this being refused, they indignantly declared that they would remove them forthwith—a threat which was not unfrequently executed.

Such was the character of the materials on which Pestalozzi was obliged to commence his great experiments. He was deprived of the ordinary means of instruction and authority; and thus thrown entirely upon his own resources, the inventive genius, for which he was afterward distinguished, was awakened within him, and the spirit of humanity received a fresh impulse. One of the first benefits which he derived from his apparently untoward circumstances was the necessity of resorting to the power of love in the child's heart as the only source of obedience. There was nothing either in the disposition of the parents or the children to aid him in his efforts; on the contrary, a spirit of contempt on the one side and of open hostility on the other placed those obstacles in his way which a less original and energetic mind than his would not have been able to surmount. The usual methods of punishment could not be applied with any success; accordingly, he discarded them all. He made no attempt to frighten his refractory troop into order and obedience, but used only the instrument of an all-forbearing kindness. Even when obliged to apply coercive measures, he employed them with such a spirit as showed the children that he did not have recourse to them through anger, but that their use occasioned no less distress to him than to themselves.

His mode of instruction partook of the character of his discipline. Both were marked with the simplicity of nature. He had none of the ordinary apparatus of teaching, not even books. Himself and his pupils were all. The result was that he abandoned the common artificial systems of instruction and gave his[Pg 372] whole attention to the original elements of knowledge which exist in every mind. He taught numbers instead of ciphers, living sounds instead of dead characters, deeds of faith and love instead of abstruse creeds, substances instead of shadows, realities instead of signs. He led the intellect of his children to the discovery of truths which, in the nature of things, they could never understand.

In the midst of his children he forgot that there was any world beside his asylum. And as their circle was a universe to him, so was he to them all in all. From morning till night he was the centre of their existence. To him they owed every comfort and every enjoyment; and, whatever hardships they had to endure, he was their fellow-sufferer. He partook of their meals and slept among them. In the evening he prayed with them before they went to bed; and from his conversation they dropped into the arms of slumber. At the first dawn of day it was his voice that called them to the light of the rising sun and to the praise of their heavenly Father. All day he stood among them, teaching the ignorant and assisting the helpless; encouraging the weak and admonishing the transgressor. His hand was daily with them, joined in theirs; his eye, beaming with benevolence, rested on theirs. He wept when they wept, and rejoiced when they rejoiced. He was to them a father, and they were to him as children. Seventy or eighty children, whose dispositions were of the most unpromising character, were converted, in a short time, into a peaceful and happy family circle. Their tempers were meliorated, their manners softened, their health improved, and their whole appearance so changed that it was almost impossible to recognize them as the same persons whose haggard and stupid faces had formerly been noticed by every visitor at the asylum.

He wished to give to his establishment the character of a family, rather than of a public school. He often related to his pupils narratives of a happy and well-regulated household; and endeavored to awaken their hearts to a sense of the blessings which men may bestow upon each other by the exercise of Christian love. He taught this, whenever he could, by examples taken from real life. Thus when Altorf, the capital of the Canton of Uri, was laid in ashes, having informed them of the event he sug[Pg 373]gested the idea of receiving some of the sufferers into the asylum. "Hundreds of children," said he, "are at this moment wandering about as you were last year, without a home, perhaps without food or clothing. What would you say of applying to the Government, which has so kindly provided for you, for leave to receive about twenty of these poor children among you?"

"Oh, yes," exclaimed his pupils; "yes, dear Mr. Pestalozzi, do apply if you please."

"Nay, my children," replied he, "consider it well first. You must know I cannot get as much money as I please for our house-keeping; and if you invite twenty children among us, I shall, very likely, not get any more for that. You must, therefore, make up your minds to share your bedding and clothing with them, and to eat less and work more than before; and if you think you cannot do that readily and cheerfully, you had better not invite them!"

"Never mind," said the children; "though we should not be so well off ourselves, we should be very glad to have these poor children among us."

But the prosperity which Pestalozzi here enjoyed proved to be of short duration. Before the expiration of a year from the commencement of his undertaking, Stanz was taken by the Austrians, and he was obliged to abandon his experiment at the very moment of its greatest success. This took place in the summer of 1799. He was now exposed to the ridicule of many, who had always derided his plan as visionary and enthusiastic, and to whom he was prevented, by this untimely removal, from giving the evidence of facts in demonstration of its excellence. His disappointment and sufferings on this account were severe. Depressed and unhappy, he retired into the solitude of the Alps, and amid the rocks and the steeps of the Gurnigal sought rest for his weary soul, and health for his exhausted nerves. But he could not long remain inactive. The enjoyment of the majestic scenes of nature among which he was placed, and the kindness and sympathy of a friend named Zehender, soon restored him to a cheerful state of mind; and he descended from the mountains, determined to resume his experiment from the point where it had been cut short at Stanz.

The Helvetic Government at this time made him a grant of[Pg 374] about thirty pounds a year, which in 1801 was raised to one hundred, but was stopped entirely in 1803, by the dissolution of the Government. This was barely sufficient for his own subsistence, and the small remains of his private fortune were absorbed in the maintenance of his family.

In the autumn of 1799, by the advice of his friends, Pestalozzi removed to Burgdorf, an ancient Swiss city, in the Canton of Bern, where after several unsatisfactory attempts, on a small scale, to carry his plans into execution, he at last succeeded by the end of the year in opening an establishment which in 1800 numbered twenty-six pupils, and in 1801 thirty-seven. About one-third of these were sons of representatives of different cantons in Switzerland, and a part belonged to wealthy tradesmen and agriculturists, and the rest were children of respectable families reduced in their circumstances, who were placed by their friends under the care of Pestalozzi. The expenses of this undertaking were defrayed, at first, by a loan, which he was afterward enabled, but with great difficulty, to repay. But it would have been impossible to continue the institution had not the Helvetic Government voted him, in addition to the grant before mentioned, an annual supply of fuel, and a salary of twenty-five pounds each to two of his assistants, Kruesi and Buss, who, however, generously declined receiving it themselves, but devoted it to the general funds of the institution, from which they received nothing but their board and lodging.

At this time Pestalozzi published a work at the request of his friend Gessner, of Zurich, under the title of How Gertrude Teaches her Children, in which he gave a historical account of his experiments up to that period, and a general outline of his principles of education. This book made a very favorable impression upon the public; it excited a greater attention to his plans, confirmed the hopes of his friends, and convinced many of the soundness of his ideas who had heretofore regarded them as wild speculations.

The current of popularity now set so strong in his favor that he was chosen in 1802 as one of the deputies to Paris, pursuant to a proclamation of the French Consul, to frame a new constitution for Switzerland. He now made his appearance again as a political writer, and presented his views on the state of the coun[Pg 375]try and the means of improving it, in a pamphlet entitled View of the Objects to which the Legislature of Switzerland has chiefly to direct its Attention. The moderate and liberal opinions expressed in this publication, and the wisdom of the proposals which it suggested, conciliated the best men of all parties, and offended none but the few who cherished an extravagant and bigoted attachment to the ancient order of things.

In all his labors Pestalozzi had a most efficient assistant in his wife, who interested herself especially in cultivating the affections of the younger pupils; while the different branches of domestic economy fell upon his daughter-in-law and an old housekeeper who had been in his family for more than thirty years and lived in it rather as a friend than a servant. The domestic arrangements had for their object to form habits of order, and to insure the enjoyment of good health to the children. In the morning, half an hour before six, the signal was given for getting up: six o'clock found the pupils ready for their first lesson, after which they were assembled for morning prayer. Between this and breakfast, the children had time left them for preparing themselves for the day; and at eight o'clock they were again called to their lessons, which continued, with the interruption of from five to seven minutes' recreation between every two hours, till twelve o'clock. Half an hour later, dinner was served up; and afterward the children were allowed to take moderate exercise till half-past two, when the afternoon lessons began, and were continued till half-past four. From half-past four till five there was another interval of recreation, during which the children had fruit and bread distributed to them. At five, the lessons were resumed till the time of supper at eight o'clock, after which, the evening prayer having been held, they were conducted to bed about nine. The hours of recreation were mostly spent in innocent games on a fine common situated between the castle and the lake and crossed in different directions by beautiful avenues of chestnut and poplar trees.

On Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, if the weather permitted, excursions of several miles were made through the beautiful scenery of the surrounding country. In summer the children went frequently to bathe in the lake, the borders of which offered, in winter, fine opportunities for skating. In bad weather[Pg 376] they resorted to gymnastic exercises in a large hall expressly fitted up for that purpose. This constant attention to regular bodily exercise, together with the excellent climate of Yverdon, and the simplicity of their mode of living, proved so effectual in preserving the health of the children that illness of any kind made its appearance but very rarely, notwithstanding that the number of pupils amounted at one time to upward of one hundred eighty. Such was the care bestowed upon physical education in Pestalozzi's establishment; and an equal degree of solicitude was evinced for the intellectual and moral well-being of the children.

Successful, however, as the purposes of Pestalozzi were at Yverdon, the scene which is most intimately associated with his name, and which was the theatre of his brightest and most useful achievements, he was destined again to meet with bitter disappointment, and finally to go down to his grave in sorrow. After a series of embarrassments, occasioned principally by the artifices of an unprincipled and intriguing adventurer among his teachers, and having suffered in his property, his happiness, and to a certain extent in his character, and witnessed the gradual destruction of his establishment, he died at Brugg, in the Canton of Basel, on February 17, 1827, at the advanced age of eighty-two years.[Pg 377]


[Pg 378]


A.D. 1716-1775


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Events treated at length are here indicated in large type; the numerals following give volume and page.

Separate chronologies of the various nations, and of the careers of famous persons, will be found in the Index Volume, with volume and page references showing where the several events are fully treated.


1716. Establishment of Law's bank in Paris in connection with the Mississippi Scheme. See "John Law Promotes the Mississippi Scheme," xiii, 1.

Parliament passes the Septennial Act limiting the duration of a parliament to seven years.

Unsuccessful invasion of Norway by Charles XII.

War on Turkey by Austria; Battle of Peterwardein; victory of Prince Eugene.

1717. Occupation of Sardinia by Philip V of Spain.

Walpole resigns the English ministry.

A triple alliance formed between Britain, Holland, and France.

Battle of Belgrad; defeat of the Turks by Prince Eugene. See "Prince Eugene Vanquishes the Turks," xiii, 16.

1718. Foundation of New Orleans, Louisiana, by the French.

Invasion of Sicily by the Spaniards; Austria joins the Triple Alliance; the Spanish fleet defeated off Cape Passaro.

Another attempt on Norway by Charles XII; he is killed while besieging Frederikshald.

St. Petersburg becomes the capital of Russia.

1719. Philip V submits to the alliance; the Spaniards evacuate Sicily and Sardinia.

Ravaging of the coast of Sweden by the Russian fleet.

Great speculative craze in England.

[Pg 380]

1720. "Bursting of the South Sea Bubble." See xiii, 22.

Disastrous end of Law's financial schemes in France.

Sweden and Prussia arrange the Treaty of Stockholm; Prussia acquires a large portion of Hither Pomerania.

Sardinia becomes a kingdom, raised out of the Savoy dominions.

1721. Walpole again First Lord of the Treasury (prime minister) of England.

France becomes financially bankrupt.

1722. A patent granted Wood for the coinage of copper coin for Ireland; this led Swift to write of the "wooden halfpence."

Persia conquered by the Afghans.

A Jacobite plot against George I of England discovered.

Founding of a Moravian brotherhood at Herrnhut, Saxony.

War on Persia by Peter the Great.

1723. Majority of Louis XV of France.

Large territories secured from Persia by Peter the Great.

"Bach Lays the Foundation of Modern Music." See xiii, 31.

1724. A professorship of modern history founded by George I at Oxford and at Cambridge university.

Resignation of the Spanish crown by Philip V in favor of his son, Louis; the latter dies after a short reign, and his father reassumes the government.

1725. Treaty of Vienna between Austria and Spain, assenting to the Pragmatic Sanction of Charles VI.

Treaty of Hanover between Great Britain, France, and Prussia.

Death of Peter the Great; his widow, Catharine I, succeeds to the throne of Russia.

1726. Russia joins in the Treaty of Vienna.

1727. Spain makes an unsuccessful attempt to blockade and fails in her siege of Gibraltar.

Death of George I; George II succeeds to the throne of England.

Persia freed from the Afghans by Nadir Kuli, Shah of Persia.

For having published the proceedings in the British House of Commons Edward Cane is taken into custody by the sergeant-at-arms.

1728. Assembling at Soissons of a congress of the great powers.

Discovery of the strait bearing his name by Bering.

1729. Great Britain, France, and Spain arrange the Treaty of Seville.

Purchase of Carolina by the crown; two royal provinces instituted, North and South Carolina; plot of the negroes in the latter to murder their masters.

Revolt of Corsica against the Genoese.

1730. Introduction by Réaumur of his thermometer.

Baltimore, Maryland, founded.

Opening of the first railway, between Manchester and Liverpool, England.

1731. An earthquake convulses Chile for twenty-seven days; Santiago nearly engulfed.[Pg 381]

Origin of Methodism by the preaching of Wesley and Whitefield.

1732. Oglethorpe founds a settlement in Georgia. See "Settlement of Georgia," xiii, 44.

Franklin establishes the first subscription library in the United Colonies.

Expulsion of the Protestants from Salzburg.

1733. Death of Augustus II of Poland; War of the Polish Succession between Austria and France.

Invention in England of the fly-shuttle for weaving, by John Kay, aided by Arkwright.

1734. Austrian campaign against France and Sardinia in Northern Italy; Philip V enters Naples and proclaims himself king. Battle of Bitonto; defeat of the Austrians, May 25; Capua falls in November.

Siege of Philippsburg by the French under Berwick; the fortress taken, Berwick slain.

Trial of Zenger in New York, establishing the principle of freedom of the English colonial press.

1735. First settlement of the Moravians in America, made at Georgia.

Don Carlos conquers Sicily; is crowned king as Charles III.

1736. Issue of a papal bull against freemasonry.

Glass lamps used in the streets of London.

War of Russia against Turkey; capture of Azov by the former.

Nadir Shah (Kuli Khan) succeeds to the Persian throne.

1737. War on Turkey by Charles VI.

End of the Medici line in Tuscany; Francis Stephen becomes grand duke.

English theatres are placed under control of the lord chamberlain.

Birth of Edward Gibbon, historian.

1738. Conquest of Afghanistan by Nadir (Kuli) Shah.

At Vienna is signed the definitive treaty between Charles VI of Germany and Louis XV of France.

Forming of the first Methodist Society in England, by John Wesley. See "Rise of Methodism," xiii, 57.

1739. War of Jenkins's Ear between England and Spain; in 1731 an English merchant-vessel was boarded by a Spanish guardship, and the captain, Robert Jenkins, cruelly used, an ear being torn off.

Nadir Shah captures Delhi; he sacks the city and massacres the people. See "Conquests of Nadir Shah," xiii, 72.

Recovery of Belgrad and Servian territory by the Turks, arranged by treaty between Austria and Turkey.

1740. Death of Frederick William I; accession of Frederick the Great to the Prussian throne. Treachery of the powers which had guaranteed the succession of the Austrian throne to Maria Theresa. See "Frederick the Great Seizes Silesia," xiii, 108.

A Moravian settlement formed at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

"First Modern Novel." See xiii, 100.

[Pg 382]

1741. A revolution places Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, on the throne of Russia; Ivan, an infant, and his parents are imprisoned.

Alliance between England and Austria.

War between Sweden and Russia.

Unsuccessful attack of Admiral Vernon on Cartagena, New Granada.

Final separation of New Hampshire from Massachusetts.

Pretended negro plot in New York.

1742. Election and coronation of the Elector of Bavaria as Emperor Charles VII of Germany.

Silesia and Glatz ceded to Frederick the Great.

The French are expelled Bohemia.

1743. Second Bourbon Family Compact between the kings of France and Spain.

Great Britain supports the cause of Maria Theresa. Battle of Dettingen; victory of the English and Hanoverian army.

1744. War renewed with Austria by Frederick the Great; he invades Bohemia, captures Prague, but is forced to retreat.

Beginning of King George's War in America.

1745. Last Jacobite rebellion in Britain; Scotland rises for the Young Pretender, Charles Edward; Battle of Prestonpans; he is victorious and advances into England, but is compelled to retreat.

Capture of Louisburg by British-American colonists.

Death of Emperor Charles VII; Maximilian Joseph, his successor in Bavaria, makes peace with Maria Theresa. Battle of Fontenoy; victory of the French, under Marshal Saxe, over the allies under the Duke of Cumberland. Victories of the Prussians at Hohenfriedberg, Sohr, Hennersdorf, and Kesseldorf. Francis I, husband of Maria Theresa, elected to the imperial throne. Peace between Austria and Prussia.

Invention of the Leyden jar, named from the city where first used.

1746. Battle of Falkirk; victory of the Young Pretender; he is overthrown at the Battle of Culloden. See "Defeat of the Young Pretender at Culloden," xiii, 117.

Conquest of the Austrian Netherlands by the French.

Madras, India, surrenders to the French.

Genoa surrenders to the Austrians; they are expelled by a popular rising.

1747. Naval victory of the English, off Cape Finisterre, under Anson and Warren, over the French. They suffer another defeat at the hand of Admiral Hawke at Belle-Isle. Battle of Rocourt; Marshal Saxe defeats the allies under the Duke of Cumberland, at Lawfeld. Russia supports the cause of Maria Theresa.

"Franklin Experiments with Electricity." See xiii, 130.

1748. Marshal Saxe captures Maestricht; Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, ending the War of the Austrian Succession.

Excavations begin at Pompeii.

Pompadour's ascendency over the French King.

[Pg 383]

Pondicherry successfully defended by Dupleix against the English under Boscawen and Lawrence.

1749. George II grants a charter to the Ohio Company.

1750. Bounties granted and a company formed in England to encourage the herring and cod fisheries.

1751. Clive begins his successful career in India.

1752. Change from the Old to the New (or Gregorian) style of calendar in England.

1753. Founding of the British Museum, due to the legacy of Sir Hans Sloane, who bequeaths his library, antiquities, and collection of natural curiosities for that purpose.

1754. Encroachments of the French in North America; Washington, colonel of a provincial regiment, sent from Virginia to drive them from the Ohio, is defeated and made prisoner.

King's College, now Columbia, founded at New York.

A congress of the American colonies at Albany; union discussed.

1755. Braddock defeated and slain near Fort Duquesne. See "Braddock's Defeat," xiii, 163.

Great earthquake at Lisbon, Portugal, November 1st.

"Voltaire Directs European Thought." See xiii, 144.

Dispersion of the French colonists of Acadia. See "Exile of the Acadian Neutrals," xiii, 181.

1756. Treaty of Defence between England and Prussia. Treaty of alliance between France and Austria against Prussia. Beginning of the Seven Years' War. See "Seven Years' War," xiii, 204.

Calcutta captured by Surajah Dowlah; he throws the English prisoners into the Black Hole. See "Clive Establishes British Supremacy in India," xiii, 185.

Conquest of Minorca by the French from the English.

Fort Oswego, New York, captured by Montcalm's troops.

1757. Calcutta retaken by Watson and Clive. Capture by the English of the French fort Charlemagne, on the Ganges.

An army levied by the German Diet against Frederick the Great.[60] France and Sweden declare war against Prussia. Battle of Prague; the Austrians defeated by Frederick. His army beaten by the Austrians under Daun, at Kolin; a Russian army overruns East Prussia. The Duke of Cumberland defeated by the French at Hastenbeck. Defeat of the Prussian general Lehwald by the Russians. The French and Imperialists, under Soubise, defeated by Frederick at Rossbach. After occupying Silesia the Austrians are defeated at Leuthen.

Capture of Fort William Henry, at the south end of Lake George, by Montcalm.

Mission by Franklin to England in behalf of the Pennsylvanians.

[Pg 384]

1758. Expulsion of the French from Hanover, by Ferdinand of Brunswick. Frederick defeats the Russians at Zorndorf; Daun defeats him at Hochkirchen.

Arcot, India, taken by the French, who then besiege Madras.

Battle of Ticonderoga; victory of Montcalm over Abercrombie, July 8. Louisburg reduced and occupied by Amherst and Boscawen; loss to the French of forts Frontenac and Duquesne.

The French fleet is driven out of the Indian seas by the English admiral, Peacocke.

1759. Battle of Minden; defeat of the French by Ferdinand of Brunswick. Kunersdorf: overwhelming defeat of Frederick the Great by the Austrians and Russians. Boscawen, the English Admiral, defeats the French off Lagos; Admiral Hawke gains a naval victory over them, under Conflans, in Quiberon Bay. Fink, the Prussian General, surrenders at Maxen. Havre de Grace bombarded by Rodney, the British Admiral.

Quebec captured by the British under Wolfe. See "Conquest of Canada," xiii, 229.

Opening of the British Museum.

Expulsion of the Jesuits from Portugal by King John.

Guadelupe taken from the French by the English.

1760. George III succeeds to the English throne on the death of his grandfather, George II.

Montreal captured by the English; completion of the conquest of Canada.

Battles of Liegnitz, Torgau, and Warburg; Berlin occupied by Austrians and Russians.

Destructive eruption of Vesuvius, February 21st.

Battle of Wandiwash, India; the English defeat the French.

1761. Pitt resigns from the British ministry.

Third Family Compact of the Bourbons of France, Spain, Naples, and Parma.

Belle-Isle captured from the French by the English.

Pondicherry surrendered to the English by the French.

Otis, at Boston, speaks against the Writs of Assistance.

1762. Declaration of war against Spain by England; Havana conquered.

Martinique captured from the French by the English: restored the year following.

Death of Elizabeth, Empress of Russia; deposition and murder of her successor, Peter III; Catharine II usurps the throne. See "Usurpation of Catharine II in Russia," xiii, 250.

1763. Peace of Paris, ending of the Seven Years' War: Canada, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton ceded to England by France, and Florida by Spain; Louisiana to France by Spain.

Peace of Hubertsburg: Silesia confirmed to Frederick the Great.

Indians unsuccessfully besiege the English at Fort Detroit. See "Conspiracy of Pontiac," xiii, 267.

[Pg 385]

1764. Catharine II secures the election of Stanislas Poniatowski as king of Poland.

Mason and Dixon begin the survey of the line determining the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

1765. Parliament passes the Stamp Act; formation of the Sons of Liberty; convening of the Stamp Act Congress. See "American Colonies Oppose the Stamp Act," xiii, 289.

Formal ceding of Bengal, Behar, and Orissa by the Mogul Emperor to the English.

1766. Repeal of the Stamp Act by the British Parliament.

Hydrogen discovered by Henry Cavendish.

Protestants refused concessions by the Diet of Poland; Russia and Prussia intervene; first step toward the partition of Poland.

1767. Parliament imposes duties on imports into the American colonies.

Beginning of the war between the English and the rajah of Mysore, Hyder Ali.

Hargreaves invents the spinning-jenny for cotton-weaving.

1768. Elections in England; repeated expulsion and reëlection of Wilkes.

A military force stationed at Boston by the British; a circular-letter of Massachusetts to the other American colonies.

Corsica, in revolt, is ceded by Genoa to France.

Cook sails on his first voyage around the world.

James Bruce sets out on his expedition to discover the sources of the Nile.

Foundation of the Royal Academy, London; Sir Joshua Reynolds first president.

1769. "Watt Improves the Steam-engine." See xiii, 302.

The Letters of Junius begin to appear.

Patent issued in England to Richard Arkwright for his roller-spinning "water-frame."

Daniel Boone migrates from North Carolina into Kentucky.

1770. Lord North's ministry succeeds that of Grafton in England; Burke introduces resolutions condemning the course adopted in America.

Boston Massacre, March 5.

Military and naval successes of the Russians against Turkey.

1771. Parliament concedes the freedom of reporting its proceedings.

Battle of the Alamance; insurrection of the North Carolina Regulators.

Russia conquers the Crimea.

1772. "First Partition of Poland." See xiii, 313.

Appointment of Warren Hastings as president of the Supreme Council of Bengal.

A revenue cutter burned by the populace of Rhode Island while it was attempting to suppress smuggling.

Lord Mansfield, in the case of the negro Somerset, decides that a slave cannot be held in England.

[Pg 386]

The Watauga Association, from which grew the State of Tennessee, founded.

1773. "The Boston Tea Party." See xiii, 333.

A pseudo Peter III, Pugatcheff, raises a rebellion against Catharine II of Russia.

1774. Passing by the British Parliament of the Boston Port Bill, closing the port; meeting of the first Continental Congress at Philadelphia, September 5th.

John Howard, the philanthropist, receives the thanks of Parliament for his attention to the condition of prisons.

"Cotton Manufacture Developed." See xiii, 341.

Oxygen discovered by Joseph Priestley, England.

1775. "Intellectual Revolt of Germany." See xiii, 347.

Outrages of the Whiteboys in Ireland.

Execution in Russia of Pugatcheff, pseudo Peter III.

Stereotype printing first attempted at Philadelphia by Benjamin Mecon, Franklin's nephew.


[60] It should be remembered that the German empire of those days was not the same as the German Empire of to-day. Austria was formerly the paramount state.

[Pg 387]