The Old Regime in Europe
ANY ONE who seeks to understand the stirring period in which we are now living becomes quickly aware that he must first know the history of the French Revolution, a movement that inaugurated a new era, not only for France but for the world. The years from 1789 to 1815, the years of the Revolution and of Napoleon, effected one of the greatest and most difficult transitions of which history bears record, and to gain any proper sense of its significance one must have some glimpse of the background, some conception of what Europe was like in 1789. That background can only be sketched here in a few broad strokes, far from adequate to a satisfactory appreciation, but at least indicating the point of departure.
What was Europe in 1789? One thing, at least, it was not: it was not a unity. There were states of every size and shape and with every form of government. The States of the Church were theocratic; capricious and cruel despotism prevailed in Turkey; absolute monarchy in Russia, Austria, France, Prussia; constitutional monarchy in England; while there were various kinds of so-called republics — federal republics in Holland and Switzerland, a republic whose head was an elective king in Poland, aristocratic republics in Venice and Genoa and in the free cities of the Holy Roman Empire.
Of these states the one that was to be the most persistent enemy of France and of French ideas throughout the period we are about to describe was England, a commercial and colonial empire of the first importance. This empire, of long, slow growth, had passed through many highly significant experiences during the eighteenth century. Indeed, that century is one of the most momentous in English history, rendered forever memorable by three great series of events which in important respects transformed her national life and her international relations, giving them the character and tendency which have been theirs ever since. These three streams of tendency or lines of evolution out of which the modern power of Britain has emerged were: the acquisition of what are still the most valuable parts of her colonial empire, Canada and India; the establishment of the parliamentary system of government, that is, government of the nation by its representatives, not by its royal house, the undoubted supremacy of Parliament over the Crown; and the beginnings of what is called the Industrial Revolution, that is, of the modern factory system of production on a vast scale which during the course of the nineteenth century made England easily the chief industrial nation of the world.
The evolution of the parliamentary system of government had, of course, been long in progress but was immensely furthered by the advent in 1714 of a new royal dynasty, the House of Hanover, still at this hour the reigning family. The struggle between Crown and Parliament, which had been long proceeding and had become tense and violent in the seventeenth century in connection with the attempts of the Stuart kings to make the monarchy all-powerful and supreme, ended finally in the eighteenth century with the victory of Parliament, and the monarch ceased to be, what he remained in the rest of Europe, the dominant element in the state.
In 1701 Parliament, by mere legislative act, altered the line of succession by passing over the direct, legitimate claimant because he was a Catholic, and by calling to the throne George, Elector of Hanover, because he was a Protestant. Thus the older branch of the royal family was set aside and a younger or collateral branch was put in its place. This was a plain defiance of the ordinary rules of descent which generally underlie the monarchical system everywhere. It showed that the will of Parliament was superior to the monarchical principle, that, in a way, the monarchy was elective. Still other important consequences followed from this act.
George I, at the time of his accession to the English throne in 1714 fifty-four years of age, was a German. He continued to be a German prince, more concerned with his electorate of Hanover than with his new kingdom. He did not understand a word of English, and as his ministers were similarly ignorant of German, he was compelled to resort to a dubious Latin when he wished to communicate with them. He was king from 1714 to 1727, and was followed by his son, George II, who ruled from 1727 to 1760 and who, though he knew English, spoke it badly and was far more interested in his petty German principality than in imperial Britain.
The first two Georges, whose chief interest in England was the money they could get out of it, therefore allowed their ministers to carry on the government and they did not even attend the meetings of the ministers where questions of policy were decided. For forty-six years this royal abstention continued. The result was the establishment of a regime never seen before in any country. The royal power was no longer exercised by the king, but was exercised by his ministers, who, moreover, were members of Parliament. In other words, to use a phrase that has become famous, the king reigns but does not govern. Parliament really governs, through a committee of its members, the ministers.
The ministers must have the support of the majority party in Parliament, and during all this period they, as a matter of fact, relied upon the party of the Whigs. It had been the Whigs who had carried through the revolution of 1688 and who were committed to the principle of the limitation of the royal power in favor of the sovereignty of Parliament. As George I and George II owed their throne to this party, and as the adherents of the other great party, the Tories, were long supposed to be supporters of the discarded Stuarts, England entered upon a period of Whig rule, which steadily undermined the authority of the monarch. The Hanoverian kings owed their position as kings to the Whigs. They paid for their right to reign by the abandonment of the powers that had hitherto inhered in the monarch.
The change that had come over their position did not escape the attention of the monarchs concerned. George II, compelled to accept ministers he detested, considered himself “ a prisoner upon the throne.” “Your ministers, Sire,” said one of them to him, “are but the instruments of your government.” George smiled and replied, “In this country the ministers are king.”
Besides the introduction of this unique form of government the other great achievement of the Whigs during this period was an extraordinary increase in the colonial possessions of England, the real launching of Britain upon her career as a world-power, as a great imperial state. This sudden, tremendous expansion was a result of the Seven Years’ War, which raged from 1756 to 1763 in every part of the world, in Europe, in America, in Asia, and on the sea. Many nations were involved and the struggle was highly complicated, but two phases of it stand out particularly and in high relief, the struggle between England and France, and the struggle between Prussia on the one hand and Austria, France, and Russia on the other. The Seven Years’ War remains a mighty landmark in the history of England and of Prussia, its two conspicuous beneficiaries.
England found in William Pitt, later Earl of Chatham, an incomparable leader, a great orator of a declamatory and theatrical type, an incorruptible statesman, a passionate patriot, a man instinct with energy, aglow with pride and confidence in the splendor of the destinies reserved for his country. Pitt infused his own energy, his irresistible driving power into every branch of the public service. Head of the ministry from 1757 to 1761, he aroused the national sentiment to such a pitch, he directed the national efforts with such contagious and imperious confidence, that he turned a war that had begun badly into the most glorious and successful that England had ever fought. On the sea, in India, and in America, victory after victory over the French rewarded the nation’s extraordinary efforts. Pitt boasted that he alone could save the country. Save it he surely did. He was the greatest of war ministers, imparting his indomitable resolution to multitudes of others. No one, it was said, ever entered his office without coming out a braver man. His triumph was complete when Wolfe defeated Montcalm upon the Plains of Abraham.
By the Peace of Paris, which closed this epochal struggle, England acquired from France the vast stretches of Nova Scotia, Canada, and the region between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi River, and also acquired Florida from Spain. From France, too, she snatched at the same time supremacy in India. Thus England had become a veritable world-empire under the inspiring leadership of the “ Great Commoner.” Her horizons, her interests, had grown vastly more spacious by this rapid increase in military renown, in power, in territory. She had mounted to higher influence in the world, and that, too, at the expense of her old, historic enemy just across the Channel.
But all this prestige and greatness were imperiled and gravely compromised by the reign that had just begun. George III had, in 1760, come to the throne which he was not to leave until claimed by death sixty years later. “ The name of George III,” writes one English historian, “ cannot be penned without a pang, can hardly be penned without a curse, such mischief was he fated to do the country.” Unlike his two predecessors, he was not a German, but was a son of England, had grown up in England and had been educated there, and on his accession, at the age of twenty-two, had announced in his most famous utterance that he “ gloried in the name of Briton.” But wisdom is no birthright, and George III was not destined to show forth in his life the saving grace of that quality. With many personal virtues, he was one of the least wise of monarchs and one of the most obstinate.
His mother, a German princess, attached to all the despotic notions of her native land, had frequently said to him, “ George, be a king.” This maternal advice, that he should not follow the example of the first two Georges but should mix actively in public affairs, fell upon fruitful soil. George was resolved not only to reign but to govern in the good old monarchical way. This determination brought him into a sharp and momentous clash with the tendency and the desire of his age. The historical significance of George III lies in the fact that he was resolved to be the chief directing power in the state, that he challenged the system of government which gave that position to Parliament and its ministers, that he threw himself directly athwart the recent constitutional development, that he intended to break up the practices followed during the last two reigns and to rule personally as did the other sovereigns of the world. As the new system was insecurely established, his vigorous intervention brought on a crisis in which it nearly perished.
George III, bent upon being king in fact as well as in name, did not formally oppose the cabinet system of government, but sought to make the cabinet a mere tool of his will, filling it with men who would take orders from him, and aiding them in controlling Parliament by the use of various forms of bribery and influence. It took several years to effect this real perversion of the cabinet system, but in the end the King absolutely controlled the ministry and the two chambers of Parliament. The Whigs, who since 1688 had dominated the monarch and had successfully asserted the predominance of Parliament, were gradually disrupted by the insidious royal policy, and were supplanted by the Tories, who were always favorable to a strong kingship and who now entered upon a period of supremacy which was to last until well into the nineteenth century.
After ten years of this mining and sapping the King’s ideas triumphed in the creation of a ministry which was completely submissive to his will. This ministry, of which Lord North was the leading member, lasted twelve years, from 1770 to 1782. Lord North was minister after the King’s own heart. He never pretended to be the head of the government, but accepted and executed the King’s wishes with the ready obedience of a lackey. The royal autocracy was scarcely veiled by the mere continuance of the outer forms of a free government.
Having thus secured entire control of ministry and Parliament, George III proceeded to lead the British Empire straight toward destruction, to what Goldwin Smith has called “ the most tragical disaster in English history.” The King and his tools initiated a policy which led swiftly and inevitably to civil war. For the American Revolution was a civil war within the British Empire. The King had his supporters both in England and in America; he had opponents both in America and England. Party divisions were much the same in the mother country and in the colonies, Whigs versus Tories, the upholders of the principle of self-government against the upholders of the principle of the royal prerogative. In this appalling crisis not only was the independence of America involved, but parliamentary government as worked out in England was also at stake. Had George III triumphed not only would colonial liberties have disappeared, but the right of Parliament to be predominant in the state at home would have vanished. The Whigs of England knew this well, and their leaders, Pitt, Fox, Burke, gloried in the victories of the rebellious colonists.
The struggle for the fundamental rights of free men, for that was what the American Revolution signified for both America and England, was long doubtful. France now took her revenge for the humiliations of the Seven Years’ War by aiding the thirteen colonies, hoping thus to humble her arrogant neighbor, grown so great at her expense. It was the disasters of the American war that saved the parliamentary system of government for England by rendering the King unpopular, because disgracefully unsuccessful. In 1782 Lord North and all his colleagues resigned. This was the first time that an entire ministry had been overthrown.
George the Third’s attempt to be master in the state had failed, and although the full consequences of his defeat did not appear for some time, nevertheless they were decisive for the future of England. The king might henceforth reign but he was not to govern. To get this cardinal principle of free government under monarchical forms established an empire was disrupted. From that disruption flowed two mighty consequences. The principles of republican government gained a field for development in the New World, and those of constitutional or limited monarchy a field in one of the famous countries of the Old. These two types of government have since exerted a powerful and an increasing influence upon other peoples desirous of controlling their own destinies. Their importance as models worthy of imitation has not yet been exhausted. But the disaster of the American war was so great that the immediate effect was a decided impairment of England’s prestige. It is a curious fact that after that she was considered by most of the rulers of Europe a decaying nation. She had lost her most valuable colonies in America. The notion was prevalent that her successes in the Seven Years’ War had not been due to her own ability but to the incapacity of Louis XV, whereas they had been due to both. The idea that it was possible to destroy England was current in France, the idea that her empire was really a phantom empire which would disappear at the first hostile touch, that India could be detached far more easily than the thirteen colonies had been. It was considered that as she had grown rich she had lost her virility and energy and was undermined by luxury and sloth. At the same time, although in flagrant contradiction to the sentiments just described, there was a vague yet genuine fear of her. Though she had received so many blows, yet she had herself in the past given so many to her rivals, and especially to France, that they did well to have a lurking suspicion after all as to her entire decadence. The rivalry, centuries old, of France and England was one of the chief elements of the general European situation. It had shown no signs of abating. The issues of the Revolution were to cause it to flame up portentously. It dominated the whole period down to Waterloo. In Eng- land the French Revolution was destined to find its most redoubtable and resolute enemy.
In Italy, on the other hand, it was to find, partly a receptive pupil, partly an easy prey. The most important thing about Italy was that it was unimportant. Indeed, there was no Italy, no united, single country, but only a collection of petty states, generally backward in their political and economic development. Once masters in their own house, the Italians had long ago fallen from their high estate and had for centuries been in more or less subjection to foreigners, to Spaniards, to Austrians, sometimes to the French. This had reacted unfavorably upon their characters, and had made them timid, time-serving, self-indulgent, pessimistic. They had no great attachment to their governments, save possibly in Piedmont and in the republics of Venice and Genoa, and there was no reason why they should have. Several of the governments were importations from abroad, or rather impositions, which had never struck root in the minds or interests of the peoples. The political atmosphere was one of indifference, weariness, disillusionment. However, toward the end of the eighteenth century there were signs of an awakening. The Italians could never long be unmindful of the glories of their past. They had their haunting traditions which would never allow them to forget or renounce their rights, however oppressed they might be. They were a people of imagination and of fire, though they long appeared to foreigners quite the reverse, as in fact the very stuff of which willing slaves are made, a view which was seriously erroneous. It cannot be said that there was in the eighteenth century any movement aiming at making Italy a nation, but there were poets and historians who flashed out, now and then, with some patriotic phrase or figure that revealed vividly a shining goal on the distant horizon toward which all Italians ought to press. “ The day will come,” said Alfieri, “ when the Italians will be born again, audacious on the field of battle.” Humanity was not meant to be shut in by such narrow horizons as those presented by these petty states, but was entitled to more spacious destinies. This longing for national unity was as yet the passion of only a few, of men of imagination who had a lively sense of Italy’s great past and who also possessed an instinct for the future. A French writer expressed a mood quite general with cultivated people when she said: “The Italians are far more remarkable because of what they have been and because of what they might be than because of what they now are.” Seeds of a new Italy were already germinating. They were not, however, to yield their fruit until well into the nineteenth century. Turning to the east of France we find Germany, the country that was to be the chief battlefield of Europe for many long years, and that was to undergo the most surprising transformations. Germany, like Italy, was a collection of small states, only these states were far more numerous than in the peninsula to the south. Ger- many had a form of unity, at least it pretended to have, in the so-called Holy Roman Empire. How many states were included in it, it is difficult to say; at least 360, if in the reckoning are included all the nobles who recognized no superior save the emperor, who held their power directly from him and were subject to no one else. There were more than fifty free or imperial cities, holding directly from the emperor and managing their own affairs; and numerous ecclesiastical states, all independent of each other. Then there were small states like Baden and Wiirtemberg and Bavaria and many others. In all this empire there were only two states of any importance in the general affairs of Europe, Prussia and Austria, This empire, with its high-sounding names, “ Holy “ and “ Roman,” was incredibly weak and inefficient. Its emperor, not hereditary but elec- tive, was nothing but a pompous, solemn pretense. He had no real authority, could give no orders, could create no armies, could follow out no policies, good or bad, for the German princes had during the course of the centuries robbed him of all the usual and necessary attributes of power. He was little more than a gorgeous figure in a pageant. There were, in addition, an Imperial Diet or national assembly, and an imperial tribunal, but they were as palsied as was the emperor.
What was important in Germany was not the empire, which was powerless for defense, useless for any serious purpose, but the separate states that composed it, and indeed only a few of these had any significance. All these petty German princelings responded to two emotions. All were jealous of their independence and all were eager to annex each other’s territory. They never thought of the interests of Germany, of the empire, of the Fatherland. What power they had they had largely secured by despoiling the empire. Patriotism was not one of their weaknesses. Each was looking out emphatically for himself, To make a strong, united nation out of such mutually repellent atoms would be nothing less than magical. The material was most unpromising. Nevertheless the feat has been accomplished, as we shall see, although, as in the case of Italy, not until well on into the nineteenth century.
The individual states were everything, the empire was nothing, and with it the French Revolutionists and Napoleon were destined to play great havoc. Two states, as has been said, counted particularly, Austria and Prussia, enemies generally, rivals always, allies sometimes. Austria was old and famous, Prussia really quite new but rapidly acquiring a formidable reputation. Then, as now, the former was ruled by the House of Hapsburg, the latter by the House of Hohenzollern. There was no Austrian nation, but there was the most extraordinary jumble of states and races and languages to be found in Europe, whose sole bond of union was loyalty to the reigning house. The Hapsburg dominions were widely, loosely scattered, though the main bulk of them was in the Danube valley. There was no common Austrian patriotism; there were Bohemians, Hungarians, Milanese, Netherlanders, Austrians proper, each with a certain sense of unity, a certain self-consciousness, but there was no single nation comprehending, fusing all these elements. Austria was not like France or England. Nevertheless there were twenty-four millions of people under the direction of one man, and therefore they were an important factor in the politics of Europe.
In the case of Prussia, however, we have a real though still rudimentary nation, hammered together by hard, repeated, well-directed blows delivered by a series of energetic, ambitious rulers. Prussia as a kingdom dated only from 1701, but the heart of this state was Brandenburg, and Brandenburg had begun a slow upward march as early as the fifteenth century, when the Hohenzollerns came from South Germany to take control of it. In the sixteenth century the possessions of this family were scattered from the region of the Rhine to the borders of Russia. How to make them into a single state, responsive to a single will, was the problem. In each section there were feudal estates, asserting their rights against their ruler. But the Hohenzollerns had a very clear notion of what they wanted. They wished and intended to increase their own power as rulers, to break down all opposition within, and without steadily to aggrandize their domains. In the realization of their program, to which they adhered tenaciously from generation to generation, they were successful. Prussia grew larger and larger, the government became more and more autocratic, and the emphasis in the state came to be more and more placed upon the army. Mirabeau was quite correct when he said that the great national industry of Prussia was war. Prussian rulers were hard-working, generally conceiving their mission soberly and seriously as one of service to the state, not at all as one inviting to personal self-indulgence. They were hard-headed and intelligent in developing the economic resources of a country originally little favored by nature. They were attentive to the opportunities afforded by German and European politics for the advancement of rulers who had the necessary intelligence and audacity. In the long reign of Frederick II, called the Great (1740- 1786), and unquestionably far and away the ablest of all the rulers of the Hohenzollern dynasty, we see the brilliant and faithful expression of the most characteristic features, methods, and aspirations of this vigorous royal house.
The successive monarchs of Prussia justified the extraordinary emphasis they put upon military force by pointing to the fact that their country had no natural boundaries but was simply an undifferentiated part of the great sandy plain of North Germany, that no river or no mountain range gave protection, that the way of the invader was easy. This was quite true, but it was also equally true that Prussia’s neighbors had no greater protection from her than she from them. As far as geography was concerned, invasion of Prussia was no easier than aggression from Prussia. At any rate every Prussian ruler felt himself first a general, head of an army which it was his pride to increase. Thus the Great Elector, who had ruled from 1640 to 1688, had inherited an army of less than 4,000 men, and had bequeathed one of 24,000 to his successor. The father of Frederick II had inherited one of 38,000 and had left one of 83,000. Thus Prussia with a population of two and a half millions had an army of 83,000, while Austria with a population of 24,000,000 had one of less than 100,000. With this force, highly drilled and amply provided with the sinews of war by the systematic and rigorous economies of his father, Frederick was destined to go far. He is one of the few men who have changed the face of Europe. By war, and the subsidiary arts that minister unto it, Frederick pushed his small state into the very forefront of European politics. Before his reign was half over he had made it one of the great powers, everywhere reckoned as such, although in population, area, and wealth, compared with the other great powers, it was small indeed.
As a youth all of Frederick’s tastes had been for letters, for art, for music, for philosophy and the sciences, for conversation, for the delicacies and elegancies of culture. The French language and French literature were his passion and remained his chief source of enjoyment all through his life. He wrote French verses, he hated military exercises, he played the flute, he detested tobacco, heavy eating and drinking, and the hunt, which appeared to his father as the natural manly and royal pleasures. The thought that this youth, so indifferent or hostile to the stern, bleak, serious ideals of duty incumbent upon the royal house for the welfare of Prussia, so interested in the frivolities and fripperies of life, so carelessly self-indulgent, would one day be king and would probably wreck the state by his incompetence and his levity, so enraged the father, Frederick William I, a rough, boorish, tyrannical, hard-working, and intensely patriotic man, that he subjected the Crown Prince to a Draconian discipline which at times attained a pitch of barbarity, caning him in the presence of the army, boxing his ears before the common people, compelling him from a prison window to witness the execution of his most intimate friend, who had tried to help him escape from this odious tyranny by attempted flight from the country. In such a furnace was the young prince’s mettle steeled, his heart hardened. Frederick came out of this ordeal self-contained, cynical, crafty, but sobered and submissive to the fierce paternal will. He did not, according to his father’s expression, “ kick or rear “ again. For several years he buckled to the prosaic task of learning his future trade in the traditional Hohenzollern manner, discharging the duties of minor offices, familiarizing himself with the dry details of administration, and invested with larger responsibilities as his reformation seemed, in the eyes of his father, satisfactorily to progress.
When he came to the throne in 1740 at the age of twenty-eight he came equipped with a free and keen intellect, with a character of iron, and with an ambition that was soon to set the world in flame. He ruled for forty-six years and before half his reign was over it was evident that he had no peer in Europe. It was thought that he would adopt a manner of life quite different from his father’s. Instead, however, there was the same austerity, the same simplicity, the same intense devotion to work, the same singleness of aim, that aim being the exaltation of Prussia. The machinery of government was not altered, but it was now driven at unprecedented speed by this vigorous, aggressive, supple personality. For Frederick possessed supreme ability and displayed it from the day of his accession to the day of his death. He was, as Lord Acton has said, “ the most consummate practical genius that, in modern times, has inherited a throne.”
His first important act revealed the character and the intentions of the ruler. For this man who as a youth had loathed the life of a soldier and had shirked its obligations as long as he could was now to prove himself one of the great mili- tary commanders of the world’s history. He was the most successful of the robber barons in which the annals of Germany abounded, and he had the ethics of the class. He invaded Silesia, a large and rich province belonging to Austria and recognized as hers by a peculiarly solemn treaty signed by Prussia. But Frederick wanted it and considered the moment opportune as an inexperienced young woman, Maria Theresa, had just ascended the Austrian throne. “ My soldiers were ready, my purse was full,” said Frederick concerning this famous raid. Of all the inheritance of Maria Theresa “ Silesia,” said he, “ was that part which was most useful to the House of Brandenburg.” “ Take what you can,” he also remarked, “ you are never wrong unless you are obliged to give back.” In these utterances Frederick paints himself and his reign in imperishable colors. Success of the most palpable sort was his reward. Neither plighted faith, nor chivalry toward a woman, nor any sense of personal honor ever deterred him from any policy that might promise gain to Prussia. One would scarcely suspect from such hardy sentiments that Frederick had as a young man written a treatise against the statecraft of Machiavelli. That eminent Florentine would, it is safe to say, have been entirely content with the practical precepts according to which his titled critic fashioned his actual conduct. The true, authentic spirit of Machiavelli’s political philosophy has never been expressed with greater brevity and precision than by Frederick. “ If there is anything to be gained by being honest, honest we will be; and if it is necessary to deceive, let us be scoundrels.”
If there is any defense for Frederick’s conduct to be found in the fact that his principles or his lack of them were shared by most of his crowned contemporaries and by many other rulers before and since, he is entitled to that defense. He himself, however, was never much concerned about this aspect of the matter. It was, in his opinion, frankly negligible.
Frederick seized Silesia with ease in 1740, so unexpected was the attack. He thus added to Prussia a territory larger than Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island combined, and a population of over a million and a quarter. But having seized it, he was forced to fight intermittently for twenty-three years before he could be sure of his ability to retain it. The first two Silesian wars (1740-1748) are best known in history as the wars of the Austrian Succession. The third was the Seven Years’ War, a world conflict, as we have seen, involving most of the great states of Europe, but important to Frederick mainly because of its relation to his retention of Silesia.
It was the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) that made the name and fame of Frederick ring throughout the world. But that deadly struggle several times seemed about to engulf him and his country in utter ruin. Had England not been his ally, aiding with her subsidies and with her campaigns against France, in Europe, Asia, America, and on the high seas, thus preventing that country from fully cooperating against Prussia, Frederick must have failed. The odds against him were stupendous.
He, the ruler of a petty state with not more than 4,000,000 inhabitants, was confronted by a coalition of Austria, France, Russia, Sweden, and many little German states, with a total population perhaps twenty times as large as Prussia’s. This coalition had already arranged for the division of his kingdom. He was to be left only Brandenburg, the primitive core of the state, the original territory given to the House of Hohenzollern in 141 5 by the emperor.
Practically the entire continent was united against this little state which a short time before had hardly entered into the calculations of European politics. But Frederick was undaunted. He overran Saxony, a neutral country, seized its treasury because he needed it, and, by a flagrant breach of international usage, forced its citizens to fight in his armies, which were thus considerably increased. When reproached for this unprecedented act he laconically replied that he rather prided himself on being original.
The war thus begun had its violent ups and downs. Attacked from the south by the Austrians, from the east by the Russians, and always outnumbered, Frederick, fighting a defensive war, owed his salvation to the rapidity of his manoeuvres, to the slowness of those of his enemies, to his generally superior tactics, and to the fact that there was an entire lack of co- ordination among his adversaries. He won the battle of Rossbach in 1757, his most brilliant victory, whose fame has not yet died away. With an army of only 20,000 he defeated a combined French and German army of 55,000 in an engagement that lasted only an hour and a half, took 16,000 prisoners, seventy-two cannon, and sustained a loss of less than a thousand men himself. Immense was the enthusiasm evoked by this Prussian triumph over what was reputed to be the finest army in Europe. It mattered little that the majority of the conquered army were Germans. The victory was popularly considered one of Germans over French, and such has remained its reputation ever since in the German national consciousness, thus greatly stirred and vivified.
Two years later Frederick suffered an almost equally disastrous defeat at the hands of the Austrians and Russians at Kunersdorf. “I have had two horses killed under me,” he wrote the night after this battle, “and it is my misfortune that I still live myself…. Of an army of 48,000 men I have only 3,000 left. … I have no more resources and, not to lie about it, I think everything is lost.”
Later, after another disaster, he wrote: “I should like to hang myself, but we must act the play to the end.” In this temper he fought on, year after year, through elation, through depression, with defeat behind him and defeat staring him in the face, relieved by occasional successes, saved by the incompetence and folly of his enemies, then plunged in gloom again, but always fighting for time and for some lucky stroke of fortune, such as the death of a hostile sovereign with its attendant interruption or change of policy. The story is too crowded, too replete with incident, to be condensed here. Only the general impression of a prolonged, racking, desperate struggle can be indicated. Gritty, cool, alert, and agile, Frederick managed to hold on until his enemies were ready and willing to make peace.
He came out of this war with his territories intact but not increased. Silesia he retained, but Saxony he was forced to relinquish. He came out of it, also, prematurely old, hard, bitter, misanthropic, but he had made upon the world an indelible impression of his genius. His people had been decimated and appallingly impoverished; nevertheless he was the victor and great was his renown. Frederick had conquered Silesia in a month and had then spent many years fighting to retain it. All that he had won was fame, but that he enjoyed in full and overflowing measure.
Frederick lived twenty-three years longer, years of unremitting and very fruitful toil. In a hundred ways he sought to hasten the recuperation and the development of his sorely visited land, draining marshes, clearing forests, encouraging industries, opening schools, welcoming and favoring immigrants from other countries. Indeed, over 300,000 of these responded to the various inducements offered, and Frederick founded more than 800 villages. He reorganized the army, replenished the public treasury, remodeled the legal code. In religious affairs he was the most tolerant ruler in Europe, giving refuge to the Jesuits when they were driven out of Catholic countries — France, Portugal, Spain — and when their order was abolished by the Pope himself. “ In Prussia,” said he, “ every one has the right to win salvation in his own way.”
In practice this was about the only indubitable right the individual possessed, for Frederick’s government was unlimited, although frequently enlightened, despotism. His was an absolute monarchy, surrounded by a privileged nobility, resting upon an impotent mass of peasantry. His was a militarist state and only nobles could become general officers. Laborious, rising at three in summer, at four in the winter, and holding himself tightly to his mission as “ first servant to the King of Prussia,” Frederick knew more drudgery than pleasure. But he was a tyrant to his finger tips, and we do not find in the Prussia of his day any room made for that spirit of freedom which was destined in the immediate future to wrestle in Europe with this outworn system of autocracy.
In 1772 the conqueror of Silesia proceeded to gather new laurels of a similar kind. In conjunction with the monarchs of Russia and Austria he partially dismembered Poland, a crime of which the world has not yet heard the last. The task was easy of accomplishment, as Poland was defenseless. Frederick frankly admitted that the act was that of brigands, and his opinion has been ratified by the general agreement of posterity.
When Frederick died in 1786, at the age of seventy-four, he left his kingdom nearly doubled in size and with a population more than doubled. In all his actions he thought, not of Germany, but of Prussia, always Prussia. Germany was an abstraction that had no hold upon his practical mind. He considered the German language boorish, “ a jargon, devoid of every grace,” and he was sure that Germany had no literature worthy of the name. Nevertheless he was regarded throughout German lands, beyond Prussia, as a national hero, and he filled the national thought and imagination as no other German had done since Luther. His personality, his ideas, and his methods became an enduring and potent factor in the development of Germany.
But the trouble with despotism as a form of government is that a strong or enlightened despot may so easily be succeeded by a feeble or foolish one, as proved to be the case when Frederick died and was succeeded in 1786 by Frederick William II, under whom and under whose successor came evil days, contrasting most unpleasantly with the brilliant ones that had gone before.
Lying beyond Austria and Prussia, stretching away indefinitely into the east, was the other remaining great power in European politics, Russia.
Though the largest state on the continent, Russia did not enter upon the scene of European politics as a factor of importance until very late, indeed until the eighteenth century. During that century she took her place among the great European powers and her influence in the world has gone on increasing down to the present moment. Her previous history had been peculiar, differing in many and fundamental respects from that of her western neighbors. She had lived apart, unnoticed and unknown. She was connected with Europe by two ties, those of race and religion. The Russians were a Slavic people, related to the Poles, the Bohemians, the Serbs, and the other branches of that great family which spreads over eastern Europe. And as early as the tenth century they had been converted to Christianity, not to that form that prevailed in the West, but to the Orthodox Greek form, which had its seat in Constantinople. The missionaries who had brought religion and at the same time the beginnings of civilization had come from that city. After the conquest of Con- stantinople by the infidel Turks in 1453 the Russians considered themselves its legitimate heirs, the representatives of its ideas and traditions. Constantinople exercised over their imaginations a spell that has only increased with time.
But the great central fact of Russian history for hundreds of years was not her connection with Europe, which, after all, was slight, but her connection with Asia, which was close and profound in its effects. The Principality of Muscovy, as Russia was then called from its capital Moscow, was conquered by the Mongols, barbarians from Asia, in the thirteenth century, and for nearly three hundred years Russian princes paid tribute and made occasional visits of submission to the far-off Great Khan. Though constantly resenting this subjection, they did not escape its effects. They themselves became half-Asiatic. The men of Russia dressed in Oriental fashion, wearing the long robes with long sleeves, the turbans and slippers of the East. They wore their hair and beards long. The women were kept secluded and were heavily veiled when in public. A young girl saw her husband for the first time the day of her marriage. There was no such thing as society as we understand the term. The government was an Oriental tyranny, unrestrained, regardless of human life. In addressing the ruler a person must completely prostrate himself, his forehead touching the floor, a difficult as well as a degrading attitude for one human being to assume toward another.
In time the Russians threw off the Mongol domination, after terrible struggles, and themselves in turn conquered northern Asia, that is, Siberia. A new royal house came to the throne in 1613, the House of Romanoff, still the reigning family of Russia.
But the Russians continued to have only the feeblest connection with Europe, knowing little of its civilization, caring less, content to vegetate in indolence and obscurity. Out of this dull and laggard state they were destined to be roughly and emphatically roused by one of the most energetic rulers known to history, Peter the Great, whose reign of thirty-six years (1689- 1725) marks a tremendous epoch, both by what it actually accomplished and by what it indicated ought to be the goal of national endeavor. As a boy Peter had been given no serious instruction, no training in self-control, but had been allowed to run wild, and had picked up all sorts of acquaintances and companions, many of them foreigners. It was the chance association with Europeans living in the foreign quarter of Moscow that proved the decisive fact of his life, shaping his entire career. From them he got a most irregular, haphazard, but original education, learning a little German, a little Dutch, some snatches of science, arithmetic, geometry. His chief boyish interest was in mechanics and its relation to the military art. With him, playing soldier was more serious than with most boys. He used to build wooden fortresses, surrounded with walls and moats and bastions. Some of his friends would defend the redoubt while he and the others attacked it. Sometimes lives were lost, always some were wounded.
Such are the fortunes of war, though not usually of juvenile war. “ The boy is amusing himself,” was the comment of his sister, who was exercising the regency in his name. Passionately fond of military games, Peter was also absorbingly interested in boats and ships, and eagerly learned all he could of navigation, which was not much, for the arts of shipbuilding and navigation were in their very infancy in Russia.
Learning that his sister Sophia was planning to ignore his right to the throne and to become ruler herself, he dropped his sham fights and his sailing, swept his sister aside into a nunnery, and assumed control of the state. Convinced that Europe was in every way superior to Russia, that Russia had everything to gain and nothing to lose from a knowledge of the ways and insti- tutions of the western countries, Peter’s policy from the beginning to the end of his reign was to bring about the closest possible connection between his backward country and the progressive and brilliant civilization which had been built up in England, France, Holland, Italy, and Germany.
But even with the best intentions this was not an easy task. For Russia had no point of physical contact with the nations of western Europe. She could not freely communicate with them, for between her and them was a wall consisting of Sweden, Poland, and Turkey. Russia was nearly a land-locked country. Sweden controlled all that coast-line along the Baltic which is now Russian, Turkey controlled all the coast-line of the Black Sea. The only port Russia possessed was far to the north, at Archangel, and this was frozen during nine months of the year. To communicate freely and easily with the West, Russia must “ open a window “ somewhere, as Peter expressed it. Then the light could stream in. He must have an ice-free port in European waters. To secure this he fought repeated campaigns against Turkey and Sweden. With the latter power there was intermittent war for twenty years, very successful in the end, though only after distressing reverses. He conquered the Baltic Provinces from Sweden, Courland, Esthonia, and Livonia, and thus secured a long coast-line. Russia might now have a navy and a merchant fleet and sea-borne commerce. “ It is not land I want, but water,” Peter had said. He now had enough, at least to begin with.
Meanwhile he had sent fifty young Russians of the best families to England, Holland, and Venice to learn the arts and sciences of the West, especially shipbuilding and fortifications. Later he had gone himself for the same purpose, to study on the spot the civilization whose superiority he recognized and intended to impose upon his own country, if that were possible. This was a famous voyage. Traveling under the strictest incognito, as “ Peter Mikailovitch,” he donned laborer’s clothes and worked for months in the shipyards of Holland and England. He was interested in everything. He visited mills and factories of every kind, asking innumerable questions: “What is this for? How does that work? “ He made a sheet of paper with his own hands. During his hours of recreation he visited museums, theaters, hospitals, galleries. He saw printing presses in operation, attended lectures on anatomy, studied surgery a little, and even acquired some proficiency in the humble and useful art of pulling teeth. He bought collections of laws, and models of all sorts of machines, and engaged many officers, mechanics, printers, architects, sailors, and workmen of every kind, to go to Russia to engage in the task of imparting instruction to a nation which, in Peter’s opinion, needed it and should receive it, willy-nilly.
Peter was called home suddenly by the news of a revolt among the imperial troops devoted to the old regime and apprehensive of the coming innovations. They were punished with every refinement of savage cruelty, their regiments disbanded, and a veritable reign of terror preceded the introduction of the new system.
Then the Czar began with energy his transformation of Russia, as he described it. The process continued all through his reign. It was not an elaborate, systematic plan, deliberately worked out beforehand, but first this reform, then that, was adopted and enforced, and in the end the sum-total of all these measures of detail touched the national life at nearly every point. Some of them concerned manners and customs, others economic matters, others matters purely political. Peter at once fell upon the long beards and Oriental costumes, which, in his opinion, symbolized the conservatism of Old Russia, which he was resolved to shatter. Arming himself with a pair of shears, he himself clipped the liberal beards and mustaches of many of his nobles, and cut their long coats at the knee. They must set the style, and the style must be that of France and Germany. Having given this sensational exhibition of his imperial purpose, he then compromised somewhat, allowing men to wear their beards long, but only on condition of submitting to a graduated tax upon these ornaments. The approbation of the Emperor, the compulsion of fashion, combined with considerations of economy, rapidly wrought a surprising change in the appearance of the manhood of Russia. Barbers and tailors were stationed at the entrances of towns to facilitate the process by slashing the offending members until they conformed to European standards. Women were forbidden to wear the veil and were released from the captivity of the harem, or terem, as it was called in Russia. Peter had attended the “ assemblies “ of France and England and had seen men and women dancing and conversing together in public. He now ordered the husbands and fathers of Russia to bring their wives and daughters to all social entertainments. The adjustments were awkward at first, the women frequently standing or sitting stiffly apart at one end of the room, the men smoking and drinking by themselves at the other. But finally society as understood in Eu- rope emerged from these temporary and amusing difficulties. Peter gave lessons in dancing to some of his nobles, having himself acquired that accomplishment while on his famous trip. They were expected, in turn, to pass the secret on to others.
The organs of government, national and local, were remodeled by the adoption of forms and methods known to Sweden, Germany, and other countries, and the state became more efficient and at the same time more powerful. The army was enlarged, equipped, and trained mainly in imitation of Germany. A navy was created and the importance of the sea to the general life of the nation gradually dawned upon the popular intelligence. The economic development of the country was begun, factories were established, mines were opened, and canals were cut. The church was brought into closer subjection to the state. Measures were taken against vagabond-age and robbery, widely prevalent evils. Education of a practical sort was encouraged. The Julian calendar was introduced and is still in force, though the other nations of Europe have since adopted another and more accurate chronology. Peter even undertook to reform the language of Russia, striking out eight of the more cumbersome letters of the alphabet and simplifying the form of some of the others.
All these changes encountered resistance, resistance born of indolence, of natural conservatism, of religious scruples — was it not impious for Holy Russia to abandon her native customs and to imitate the heretics of the West? But Peter went on smashing his way through as best he could, crushing opposition by fair means and by foul, for the quality of the means was a matter of indifference to him, if only they were successful. Here we have the spectacle of a man who, himself a semi-barbarian, was bent upon civilizing men more barbarous than he.
As the ancient capital, Moscow, was the stronghold of stiff conservatism, was wedded to the old ideas and customs, Peter resolved to build a new capital on the Baltic. There, on islands and marshes at the mouth of a river which frequently overflowed, he built at frightful cost in human life and suffering the city of St. Petersburg. Everything had to be created literally from the ground up. Forests of piles had to be driven into the slime to the solid earth beneath to furnish the secure foundations. Tens of thousands of soldiers and peasants were drafted for the work. At first they had no implements, but were forced to dig with sticks and carry the rubbish away in their coats. No adequate provisions were made for them; they slept unprotected in the open air, their food was insufficient and they died by thousands, only to be replaced by other thousands. All through the reign the desperate, rough process went on. The will of the autocrat, rich in expedients, triumphed over all obstacles. Every great landowner was required to build in the city a residence of a certain size and style. No ship might enter without bringing a certain quantity of stone for building purposes. St. Petersburg was cut by numerous canals, as were the cities of Holland. The Czar required the nobles to possess boats. Some of them, not proficient in the handling of these novel craft, were drowned. Toward the close of his reign Peter transferred the government to this city which stood on the banks of the Neva, a monument to his imagination, his energy, and his persistence, a city with no hampering traditions, with no past, but with only an untrammeled future, an appropriate expression of the spirit of the New Russia which Peter was laboring to create.
He was, indeed, a strange leader for a people which needed above all to shake itself free from what was raw and crude, he was himself so raw and crude. A man of violent passions, capable and guilty of orgies of dissipation, of acts of savage cruelty, hard and fiendish in his treatment even of those nearest to him, his sister, his wife, and his son, using willingly as instruments of progress the atrocious knout and wheel and stake, Peter was neither a model ruler, nor a model man. Yet, with all these traits of primal barbarism in his nature, he had many redeeming points. Good- humored, frank, and companionable under ordinary circumstances, he was entirely natural, as loyal in his friendships as he was bitter in his enmities. Masterful, titanic, there was in him a wild vitality, an immense energy, and he was great in the singleness of his aim. He did not succeed in transforming Russia; that could not be accomplished in one generation or in two. But he left an army of two hundred thousand men, he connected Russia with the sea by the coast-line of the Baltic, thus opening a contact with countries that were more advanced, intellectually and socially, and he raised a standard and started a tradition.
Then followed, upon his death, a series of mediocre rulers, under whom it seemed likely that the ground gained might be lost. But under Elizabeth (1741-1762) Russia played an important part in the Seven Years’ War, thus showing her altered position in Europe, and with the advent of Catherine II (1762-1796) the process of Europeanizing Russia and of expanding her territories and magnifying her position in international politics was resumed with vigor and carried out with success.
Catherine was a German princess, the wife of the Czar Peter III, who, proving a worthless ruler, was deposed, after a reign of a few months, then done to death, probably with the connivance of his wife. Catherine became empress, and for thirty-four years ruled Russia with an iron hand. Fond of pleasure, fond of work, a woman of intellectual tastes, or at least pretensions, which she satisfied by intimate correspondence with Voltaire, Diderot, and other French philosophers of the day, being rewarded for her condescension and her favors by their enthusiastic praise of her as the “ Semiramis of the North,” Catherine passes as one of the enlightened despots of her century. Being of western birth, she naturally sympathized with the policy of introducing western civilization into Russia, and gave that policy her vigorous support.
But her chief significance in history is her foreign policy. Three countries, we have seen, stood between Russia and the countries of western Europe, Sweden, Poland, and Turkey. Peter had conquered the first and secured the water route by the Baltic. Catherine devoted her entire reign to conquering the other two. The former she accomplished by infamous means and with rare completeness. By the end of her reign Poland had been utterly destroyed and Russia had pushed her boundaries far westward until they touched those of Prussia and Austria. Catherine was not able to dismember Turkey as Poland was dismembered, but she gained from her the Crimea and the northern shores of the Black Sea from the Caucasus to the Dniester. She had even dreamed of driving the Turk entirely from Europe and of extending her own influence down to the Mediterranean by the establishment of a Byzantine empire that should be dependent upon Russia. But any dream of getting to Constantinople was a dream indeed, as the troubled history of a subsequent century was to show. Henceforth, however, Europe could count on one thing with certainty, namely, that Russia would be a factor to be considered in any rearrangement of the map of the Balkan peninsula, in any determination of the Eastern question.
This rise of Russia, like the rise of Prussia, to a position of commanding importance, in European politics, was the work of the eighteenth century. Both were characteristic products of that age.
The more one examines in general the governments of Europe in the eighteenth century, and the policies which they followed or attempted to follow, the less is one impressed with either their wisdom or their morality. The control was everywhere in the hands of the few and was everywhere directed to the advantage of the few. The idea that it was the first duty of the state to assure, if possible, the welfare of the great majority of the people was not the idea recognized in actual practice. The first duty of the state was to increase its dominions by hook or crook, and to provide for the satisfaction of the rulers and the privileged classes. One could find in all Europe hardly a trace of what we call democracy. Europe was organized aristocratically, and for the benefit of aristocracies. This was true even in such a country as England, which had a parliament and established liberties; even in republics, like Venice or Genoa or the cantons of Switzerland.
The condition of the vast mass of the people in every country was the thing least considered. It was everywhere deplorable, though varying, more or less, in different countries. The masses, who were peasants, were weighed down and hemmed in by laws and institutions and customs that took no account of their well-being. In one way or another they were outrageously taxed, so that but a small fraction of what they earned went for their own support. Throughout most of Europe they did not possess what we regard as the mere beginnings of personal liberty, for, except in England and France, serfdom, with all its paralyzing restrictions, was in force. No one dreamed that the people were entitled to education so that they might be better equipped for life. The great substructure of European society was an unhappy, unfree, unprotected, un- developed mass of human beings, to whom opportunity for growth and improvement was closed on every side.
If the governments of Europe did not seriously consider the interests of the most numerous and weakest class, on whose well-being depended absolutely the ultimate well-being of the nations, did they discharge their other obligations with any greater understanding or sense of justice? It cannot be said that they did. The distempers in every state were numerous and alarming. The writings of contemporaries abound in gloomy prophecies. There was a widespread feeling that revolutions, catastrophes, ruin were impending, that the body politic was nowhere in sound condition. Excessive expenditures for the maintenance of extravagant courts, for sumptuous buildings, for favorites of every stripe and feather, excessive expenditures for armies and for wars, which were frequent, resulted in increasing disorder in the finances of the various nations. States resorted more and more to loans, with the result that the income had to go for the payment of the interest. Deficits were chronic, and no country except England had a budget, or public and official statement of expenditures and receipts. Taxes were increasing and were detestably distributed. Everywhere in Europe the richer a man was the less he paid proportionately. As new taxes were imposed, exemptions, complete or partial, went with them, and the exemptions were for the nobility and, in part, for the middle classes, where such existed. Crushing therefore was the burden of the lower orders. It was truly a vicious circle.
These evils were so apparent that now and then they prompted the governing authorities to attempt reform. Several rulers in various countries made earnest efforts to improve conditions. These were the “benevolent despots” of the eighteenth century who tried reform from above before the French tried it from below. On the whole they had no great or permanent success, and the need of thoroughgoing changes remained to trouble the future.
Not only were the governments of Europe generally inefficient in all that concerned the full, symmetrical development of the economic, intellectual, and moral resources of the people, not only were they generally repressive and oppressive, allowing little scope to the principle of liberty, but they were, in their relations to each other, unprincipled, unscrupulous. The state was conceived as force, not at all as a moral being, subject to moral obligations and restraints. The glory of rulers consisted in extending the boundaries of their states, regardless of the rights of other peoples, regardless even of the rights of other rulers. The code that governed their relations with each other was primitive indeed. Any means were legitimate, success was the only standard of right or wrong. “ He who gains nothing, loses,” wrote Catherine of Russia, one of the “ enlightened “ despots. The dominant idea in all government circles was that the greatness of the state was in proportion to its territorial extent, not in proportion to the freedom, the prosperity, the education of its people. The prevalence of this idea brought it about that every nation sought to be ready to take advantage of any weakness or distress that might appear in the situation of its neighbors. Armies must be constantly at hand and diplomacy must be ready for any scurvy trick or infamous crime that might promise hope of gain. It followed that treaties were to be broken whenever there was any advantage in breaking them. “It is a mistake to break your word without reason,” said Frederick II,” for thus you gain the reputation of being light and fickle.” To keep faith with each other was no duty of rulers.
There was consequently no certainty in international agreements.
This indifference to solemn promises was nothing new. The eighteenth century was full of flagrant violations of most explicit international agreements. There was no honor among nations. No state had any rights which any other state was bound to respect. These monarchs, “ enlightened “ and “ benevolent “ or not, as the case might be, all agreed that they ruled by divine right, by the will of God. Yet this decidedly imposing origin of their authority gave them no sense of security in their relations with each other, nor did it give to their reigns any exceptional purity or unworldly character. The maxims of statecraft which they followed were of the earth earthy. While bent upon increasing their own power they did not neglect the study of the art of undermining each other’s power, however divinely buttressed in theory it might be. Monarchs were dethroned, states were extinguished, boundaries were changed and changed again, as the result of aggressive wars, during the eighteenth century. Moreover the wars of that time were famous for the exactions of the victors and for the scandalous fortunes made by some of the commanders. It was not the French Revolutionists nor was it Napoleon who introduced these customs into Europe. They could not, had they tried, have lowered the tone of war or statecraft in Europe. At the worst they might only imitate their predecessors.
The Old Regime in Europe was to be brought tumbling down in unutterable confusion as a result of the storm which was brewing in France and which we are now to study. But that regime had been undermined, the props that supported it had been destroyed, by its own official beneficiaries and defenders. The Old Regime was disloyal to the very principles on which it rested, respect for the established order, for what was old and traditional, for what had come down from the past, regard for legality, for engagements, loyalty to those in authority. How little regard the monarchs of Europe themselves had for principles which they were accustomed to pronounce sacred, for principles in which alone lay their own safety, was shown by the part they played in the great events of the eighteenth century already alluded to, the war of the Austrian Succession, and the Partition of Poland. By the first the ruler of Austria, Maria Theresa, was robbed of the large and valuable province of Silesia by Prussia, aided by France, both of which states had recently signed a peculiarly solemn treaty called the Pragmatic Sanction, by which her rights had been explicitly and emphatically recognized. Frederick II, however, wanted the province, took it, and kept it. This case shows how lightly monarchs regarded legal obligations, when they conflicted with their ambitions.
The other case, the Partition of Poland, was the most iniquitous act of the century. Poland was in geographical extent the largest state in Europe, next to Russia. Its history ran far back. But its government was utterly weak. Therefore in 1772 Prussia, Austria, and Russia attacked it for no cause save their own cupidity, and tore great fragments away, annexing them to their own territories. Twenty years later they completed the process in two additional partitions, in 1793 and 1795, thus entirely annihilating an ancient state. This shows how much regard the monarchs of Europe had for established institutions, for established authorities.
Two things only counted in Old Europe — force and will, the will of the sovereign. But force and will may be used quite as easily for revolution, for the overthrow of what is old and sacred, as for its preservation. There need be no surprise at anything that we may find Napoleon doing. He had a sufficient pattern and exemplar in Frederick the Great and in Catherine of Russia, only recently deceased when his meteoric career began.
The eighteenth century attained its legitimate climax in its closing decade, a very memorable period in the history of the world. The Old Regime in Europe was rudely shattered by the overthrow of the Old Regime in France, which country, by its astonishing actions, was to dominate the next quarter of a century.