XLIV. LOUIS XIV., HIS WARS AND HIS CONQUESTS. 1661-1697.
Cardinal Mazarin on his death-bed had given the young king this advice: "Manage your affairs yourself, sir, and raise no more premier ministers to where your bounties have placed me; I have discovered, by what I might have done against your service, how dangerous it is for a king to put his servants in such a position." Mazarin knew thoroughly the king whose birth he had seen. "He has in him the making of four kings and one honest man," he used to say. Scarcely was the minister dead, when Louis XIV. sent to summon his council: Chancellor Seguier, Superintendent Fouquet, and Secretaries of State Le Tellier, de Lionne, Brienne, Duplessis-Gueneguaud, and La Vrilliere. Then, addressing the chancellor, "Sir," said he, "I have had you assembled together with my ministers and my secretaries of state to tell you that until now I have been well pleased to leave my affairs to be governed by the late cardinal; it is time that I should govern them myself; you will aid me with your counsels when I ask for them. Beyond the general business of the seal, in which I do not intend to make any alteration, I beg and command you, Mr. Chancellor, to put the seal of authority to nothing without my orders and without having spoken to me thereof, unless a secretary of state shall bring them to you on my behalf. . . . And for you, gentlemen," addressing the secretaries of state, "I warn you not to sign anything, even a safety-warrant or passport, without my command, to report every day to me personally, and to favor nobody in your monthly rolls. Mr. Superintendent, I have explained to you my intentions; I beg that you will employ the services of M. Colbert, whom the late cardinal recommended to me."
The king's councillors were men of experience; and they, all recognized the master's tone. From timidity or respect, Louis XIV. had tolerated the yoke of Mazarin, not, however, without impatience and in expectation of his own turn. [Portraits de la Cour, Archives curieuses, t. viii. p. 371.] "The cardinal," said he one day, "does just as he pleases, and I put up with it because of the good service he has rendered me, but I shall be master in my turn;" and he added, "the king my grandfather did great things, and left some to do; if God gives me grace to live twenty years longer, perhaps I may do as much or more." God was to grant Louis XIV. more time and power than he asked for, but it was Henry IV.'s good fortune to maintain his greatness at the sword's point, without ever having leisure to become intoxicated with it. Absolute power is in its nature so unwholesome and dangerous that the strongest mind cannot always withstand it. It was Louis XIV.'s misfortune to be king for seventy-two years, and to reign fifty-six as sovereign master.
"Many people made up their minds," says the king in his Memoires [t. ii. p. 392], "that my assiduity in work was but a heat which would soon cool; but time showed them what to think of it, for they saw me constantly going on in the same way, wishing to be informed of all that took place, listening to the prayers and complaints of my meanest subjects, knowing the number of my troops and the condition of my fortresses, treating directly with foreign ministers, receiving despatches, making in person part of the replies and giving my secretaries the substance of the others, regulating the receipts and expenditures of my kingdom, having reports made to myself in person by those who were in important offices, keeping my affairs secret, distributing graces according to my own choice, reserving to myself alone all my authority, and confining those who served me to a modest position very far from the elevation of premier ministers."
The young king, from the first, regulated his life and his time: "I laid it down as a law to myself," he says in his Instructions au Dauphin, "to work regularly twice a day. I cannot tell you what fruit I reaped immediately after this resolution. I felt myself rising as it were both in mind and courage; I found myself quite another being; I discovered in myself what I had no idea of, and I joyfully reproached myself for having been so long ignorant of it. Then it dawned upon me that I was king, and was born to be."
A taste for order and regularity was natural to Louis XIV., and he soon made it apparent in his councils. "Under Cardinal Mazarin, there was literally nothing but disorder and confusion; he had the council held whilst he was being shaved and dressed, without ever giving anybody a seat, not even the chancellor or Marshal Villeroy, and he was often chattering with his linnet and his monkey all the time he was being talked to about business. After Mazarin's death the king's council assumed a more decent form. The king alone was seated, all the others remained standing, the chancellor leaned against the bedrail, and M. de Lionne upon the edge of the chimney-piece. He who was making a report placed himself opposite the king, and, if he had to write, sat down on a stool which was at the end of the table where there was a writing-desk and paper." [Histoire de France, by Le P. Daniel, t. xvi. p. 89.] "I will settle this matter with your Majesty's ministers," said the Portuguese ambassador one day to the young king. "I have no ministers, Mr. Ambassador," replied Louis XIV.; "you mean to say my men of business."
Long habituation to the office of king was not destined to wear out, to exhaust, the youthful ardor of King Louis XIV. He had been for a long while governing, when he wrote, "You must not imagine, my son, that affairs of state are like those obscure and thorny passages in the sciences which you will perhaps have found fatiguing, at which the mind strives to raise itself, by an effort, beyond itself, and which repel us quite as much by their, at any rate apparent, uselessness as by their difficulty. The function of kings consists principally in leaving good sense to act, which always acts naturally without any trouble. All that is most necessary in this kind of work is at the same time agreeable; for it is, in a word, my son, to keep an open eye over all the world, to be continually learning news from all the provinces and all nations, the secrets of all courts, the temper and the foible of all foreign princes and ministers, to be informed about an infinite number of things of which we are supposed to be ignorant, to see in our own circle that which is most carefully hidden from us, to discover the most distant views of our own courtiers and their most darkly cherished interests which come to us through contrary interests, and, in fact, I know not what other pleasure we would not give up for this, even if it were curiosity alone that caused us to feel it." [Memoires de Louis XIV., t. ii. p. 428.]
At twenty-two years of age, no more than during the rest of his life, was Louis XIV. disposed to sacrifice business to pleasure, but he did not sacrifice pleasure to business. It was on a taste so natural to a young prince, for the first time free to do as he pleased, that Superintendent Fouquet counted to increase his influence and probably his power with the king. "The attorney-general [Fouquet was attorney-general in the Parliament of Paris], though a great thief, will remain master of the others," the queen-mother had said to Madame de Motteville at the time of Mazarin's death. Fouquet's hopes led him to think of nothing less than to take the minister's place.
Fouquet, who was born in 1615, and had been superintendent of finance in conjunction with Servien since 1655, had been in sole possession of that office since the death of his colleague in 1659. He had faithfully served Cardinal Mazarin through the troubles of the Fronde. The latter had kept him in power in spite of numerous accusations of malversation and extravagance. Fouquet, however, was not certain of the cardinal's good faith; he bought Belle-Ile to secure for himself a retreat, and prepared, for his personal defence, a mad project which was destined subsequently to be his ruin. From the commencement of his reign, the counsels of Mazarin on his death-bed, the suggestions of Colbert, the first observations made by the king himself, irrevocably ruined Fouquet in the mind of the young monarch. Whilst the superintendent was dreaming of the ministry and his friends calling him the Future, when he was preparing, in his castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte, an entertainment in the king's honor at a cost of forty thousand crowns, Louis XIV., in concert with Colbert, had resolved upon his ruin. The form of trial was decided upon. The king did not want to have any trouble with the Parliament; and Colbert suggested to Fouquet the idea of ridding himself of his office of attorney-general. Achille de Harlay bought it for fourteen hundred thousand livres; a million in ready money was remitted to the king for his Majesty's urgent necessities; the superintendent was buying up everybody, even the king.
On the 17th of August, 1661, the whole court thronged the gardens of Vaux, designed by Le Netre; the king, whilst admiring the pictures of Le Brun, the Facheux of Moliere represented that day for the first time, and the gold and silver plate which encumbered the tables, felt his inward wrath redoubled. "Ah! Madame," he said to the queen his mother, "shall not we make all these fellows disgorge?" He would have had the superintendent arrested in the very midst of those festivities, the very splendor of which was an accusation against him. Anne of Austria, inclined in her heart to be indulgent towards Fouquet, restrained him. "Such a deed would scarcely be to your honor, my son," she said; "everybody can see that this poor man is ruining himself to give you good cheer, and you would have him arrested in his own house!"
"I put off the execution of my design," says Louis XIV. in his Memoires, "which caused me incredible pain, for I saw that during that time he was practising new devices to rob me. You can imagine that at the age I then was it required my reason to make a great effort against my feelings in order to act with so much self-control. All France commended especially the secrecy with which I had for three or four months kept a resolution of that sort, particularly as it concerned a man who had such special access to me, who had dealings with all that approached me, who received information from within and from without the kingdom, and who, of himself, must have been led by the voice of his own conscience to apprehend everything." Fouquet apprehended and became reassured by turns; the king, he said, had forgiven him all the disorder which the troubles of the times and the absolute will of Mazarin had possibly caused in the finances. However, he was anxious when he followed Louis XIV. to Nantes, the king being about to hold an assembly of the states of Brittany. "Nantes, Belle-Ile! Nantes, Belle-Ile!" he kept repeating. On arriving, Fouquet was ill and trembled as if he had the ague; he did not present himself to the king.
On the 5th of September, in the evening, the king himself wrote to the queen-mother: "My dear mother, I wrote you word this morning about the execution of the orders I had given to have the superintendent arrested; you know that I have had this matter for a long while on my mind, but it was impossible to act sooner, because I wanted him first of all to have thirty thousand crowns paid in for the marine, and because, moreover, it was necessary to see to various matters which could not be done in a day; and you cannot imagine the difficulty I had in merely finding means of speaking in private to D'Artagnan. I felt the greatest impatience in the world to get it over, there being nothing else to detain me in this district.
At last, this morning, the superintendent having come to work with me as usual, I talked to him first of one matter and then of another, and made a show of searching for papers, until, out of the window of my closet, I saw D'Artagnan in the castle-yard; and then I dismissed the superintendent, who, after chatting a little while at the bottom of the staircase with La Feuillade, disappeared during the time he was paying his respects to M. Le Tellier, so that poor D'Artagnan thought he had missed him, and sent me word by Maupertuis that he suspected that somebody had given him warning to look to his safety; but he caught him again in the place where the great church stands, and arrested him for me about midday. They put the superintendent into one of my carriages, followed by my musketeers, to escort him to the castle of Angers, whilst his wife, by my orders, is off to Limoges. . . . I have told those gentlemen who are here with me that I would have no more superintendents, but myself take the work of finance in conjunction with faithful persons who will do nothing without me, knowing that this is the true way to place myself in affluence and relieve my people. During the little attention I have as yet given thereto, I observed some important matters which I did not at all understand. You will have no difficulty in believing that there have been many people placed in a great fix; but I am very glad for them to see that I am not such a dupe as they supposed, and that the best plan is to hold to me."
Three years were to roll by before the end of Fouquet's trial. In vain had one of the superintendent's valets, getting the start of all the king's couriers, shown sense enough to give timely warning to his distracted friends; Fouquet's papers were seized, and very compromising they were for him as well as for a great number of court-personages, of both sexes. Colbert prosecuted the matter with a rigorous justice that looked very like hate; the king's self-esteem was personally involved in procuring the condemnation of a minister guilty of great extravagances and much irregularity rather than of intentional want of integrity. Public feeling was at first so greatly against the superintendent that the peasants shouted to the musketeers told off to escort him from Angers to the Bastille, "No fear of his escaping; we would hang him with our own hands." But the length and the harshness of the proceedings, the efforts of Fouquet's family and friends, the wrath of the Parliament, out of whose hands the case had been taken in favor of carefully chosen commissioners, brought about a great change; of the two prosecuting counsel (conseillers rapporteurs), one, M. de Sainte-Helene, was inclined towards severity; the other, Oliver d'Ormesson, a man of integrity and courage, thought of nothing but justice, and treated with contempt the hints that reached him from the court. Colbert took the trouble one day to go and call upon old M. d'Ormesson, the counsel's father, to complain of the delays that the son, as he said, was causing in the trial: "It is very extraordinary," said the minister, "that a great king, feared throughout Europe, cannot finish a case against one of his own subjects." "I am sorry," answered the old gentleman, "that the king is not satisfied with my son's conduct; I know that he practises what I have always taught him,—to fear God, serve the king, and render justice without respect of persons. The delay in the matter does not depend upon him; he works at it night and day, without wasting a moment." Oliver d'Ormesson lost the stewardship of Soissonness, to which he had the titular right, but he did not allow himself to be diverted from his scrupulous integrity. Nay, he grew wroth at the continual attacks of Chancellor Seguier, more of a courtier than ever in his old age, and anxious to finish the matter to the satisfaction of the court. "I told many of the Chamber," he writes, "that I did not like to have the whip applied to me every morning, and that the chancellor was a sort of chastiser I would not put up with." [Journal d' Oliver d' Ormesson, t. ii. p. 88.]
Fouquet, who claimed the jurisdiction of the Parliament, had at first refused to answer the interrogatory; it was determined to conduct his case "as if he were dumb," but his friends had him advised not to persist in his silence. The courage and presence of mind of the accused more than once embarrassed his judges. The ridiculous scheme which had been discovered behind a looking-glass in Fouquet's country-house was read; the instructions given to his friends in case of his arrest seemed to foreshadow a rebellion; Fouquet listened, with his eyes bent upon the crucifix. "You cannot be ignorant that this is a state-crime," said the chancellor. "I confess that it is outrageous, sir," replied the accused; "but it is not a state-crime. I entreat these gentlemen," turning to the judges, "to kindly allow me to explain what a state-crime is. It is when you hold a chief office, when you are in the secrets of your prince, and when, all at once, you range yourself on the side of his enemies, enlist all your family in the same interest, cause the passes to be given up by your son-in-law, and the gates to be opened to a foreign army, so as to introduce it into the heart of the kingdom. That, gentlemen, is what is called a state-crime." The chancellor could not protest; nobody had forgotten his conduct during the Fronde. M. d'Ormesson summed up for banishment, and confiscation of all the property of the accused; it was all that the friends of Fouquet could hope for. M. de Sainte-Helene summed up for beheadal. "The only proper punishment for him would be rope and gallows," exclaimed M. Pussort, the most violent of the whole court against the accused; "but, in consideration of the offices he has held, and the distinguished relatives he has, I relent so far as to accept the opinion of M. de Sainte-Helene." "What say you to this moderation?" writes Madame de Sevigne to M. de Pomponne, like herself a faithful friend of Fouquet's: "it is because he is Colbert's uncle, and was objected to, that he was inclined for such handsome treatment. As for me, I am beside myself when I think of such infamy. . . . You must know that M. Colbert is in such a rage that there is apprehension of some atrocity and injustice which will drive us all to despair. If it were not for that, my poor dear sir, in the position in which we now are, we might hope to see our friend, although very unfortunate, at any rate with his life safe, which is a great matter."
"Pray much to your God and entreat your judges," was the message sent to Mesdames Fouquet by the queen-mother, "for, so far as the king is concerned, there is nothing to be expected." "If he is sentenced, I shall leave him to die," proclaimed Louis XIV. Fouquet was not sentenced; the court declared for the view of Oliver d'Ormesson. "Praise God, sir, and thank Him," wrote Madame de Sevigne, on the 20th of December, 1664, "our poor friend is saved; it was thirteen for M. d'Ormesson's summing-up, and nine for Sainte-Helene's. It will be a long while before I recover from my joy; it is really too overwhelming; I can hardly restrain it. The king changes exile into imprisonment, and refuses him permission to see his wife, which is against all usage; but take care not to abate one jot of your joy; mine is increased thereby, and makes me see more clearly the greatness of our victory." Fouquet was taken to Pignerol, and all his family were removed from Paris. He died piously in his prison, in 1680, a year before his venerable mother, Marie Maupeou, who was so deeply concerned about her son's soul at the very pinnacle of greatness, that she threw herself upon her knees on hearing of his arrest, and exclaimed, "I thank thee, O God; I have always prayed for his salvation, and here is the way to it!" Fouquet was guilty; the bitterness of his enemies and the severities of the king have failed to procure his acquittal from history any more than from his judges.
Even those who, like Louis XIV. and Colbert, saw the canker in the state, deceived themselves as to the resources at their disposal for the cure of it; the punishment of the superintendent and the ruin of the farmers of taxes (traitants) might put a stop for a while to extravagances; the powerful hand of Colbert might re-establish order in the finances, found new manufactures, restore the marine, and protect commerce; but the order was but momentary, and the prosperity superficial, as long as the sovereign's will was the sole law of the state. Master as he was over the maintenance of peace in Europe, after so many and such long periods of hostility, young Louis XIV. was only waiting for an opportunity of recommencing war. "The resolutions I had in my mind seemed to me very worthy of execution," he says: "my natural activity, the ardor of my age, and the violent desire I felt to augment my reputation, made me very impatient to be up and doing; but I found at this moment that love of glory has the same niceties, and, if I may say so, the same timidities, as the most tender passions; for, the more ardent I was to distinguish myself, the more apprehensive I was of failing, and, regarding as a great misfortune the shame which follows the slightest errors, I intended, in my conduct, to take the most extreme precautions."
The day of reverses was farther off from Louis XIV. than that of errors. God had vouchsafed him incomparable instruments for the accomplishment of his designs. Whilst Colbert was replenishing the exchequer, all the while diminishing the imposts, a younger man than the king himself, the Marquis of Louvois, son of Michael Le Tellier, admitted to the council at twenty years of age, was eagerly preparing the way for those wars which were nearly always successful so long as he lived, however insufficient were the reasons for them, however unjust was their aim.
Foreign affairs were in no worse hands than the administration of finance and of war. M. de Lionne was an able diplomatist, broken in for a long, time past to important affairs, shrewd and sensible, more celebrated amongst his contemporaries than in history, always falling into the second rank, behind Mazarin or Louis XIV., "who have appropriated his fame," says M. Mignet. The negotiations conducted by M. de Lionne were of a delicate nature. Louis XIV. had never renounced the rights of the queen to the succession in Spain. King Philip IV. had not paid his daughter's dowry, he said; the French ambassador at Madrid, the Archbishop of Embrun, was secretly negotiating to obtain a revocation of Maria Theresa's renunciation, or, at the very least, a recognition of the right of devolution over the Catholic Low Countries. This strange custom of Hainault secured to the children of the first marriage succession to the paternal property, to the exclusion of the offspring of the second marriage. Louis XIV. claimed the application of it to the advantage of the queen his wife, daughter of Elizabeth of France. "It is absolutely necessary that justice should sooner or later be done the queen, as regards the rights that may belong to her, or that I should try to exact it myself," wrote Louis XIV. to the Archbishop of Embrun. This justice and these rights were, sooth to say, the pivot of all the negotiations and all the wars of King Louis XIV. "I cannot, all in a moment, change from white to black all the ancient maxims of this crown," said the king. He obtained no encouragement from Spain, and he began to make preparations, in anticipation, for war.
In this view and with these prospects, he needed the alliance of the Hollanders. Shattered as it had been by the behavior of the United Provinces at the Congress of Munster and by their separate peace with Spain, the friendship between the States General and France had been re-soldered by the far-sighted policy of John Van Witt, grand pensionary of Holland, and preponderant, with good right, in the policy of his country. Bold and prudent, courageous and wise, he had known better than anybody how to estimate the true interests of Holland, and how to maintain them everywhere, against Cromwell as well as Mazarin, with high-spirited moderation. His great and cool judgment had inclined him towards France, the most useful ally Holland could have. In spite of the difficulties put in the way of their friendly relations by Colbert's commercial measures, a new treaty was concluded between Louis XIV. and the United Provinces. "I am informed from a good quarter," says a letter to John van Witt from his ambassador at Paris, Boreel, June 8, 1662, "that his Majesty makes quite a special case of the new alliance between him and their High Mightinesses, which he regards as his own particular work. He expects great advantages from it as regards the security of his kingdom and that of the United Provinces, which, he says, he knows to have been very affectionately looked upon by Henry the Great and he desires that, if their High Mightinesses looked upon his ancestor as a father, they should love him from this moment as a son, taking him for their best friend and principal ally." A secret negotiation was at the same time going on between John van Witt and Count d'Estrades, French ambassador in Holland, for the formation and protection of a Catholic republic in the Low Countries, according to Richelieu's old plan, or for partition between France and the United Provinces. John van Witt was anxious to act; but Louis XIV. seemed to be keeping himself hedged, in view of the King of Spain's death, feeling it impossible, he said, with propriety and honor, to go contrary to the faith of the treaties which united him to his father-in-law. "That which can be kept secret for some time cannot be forever, nor be concealed from posterity," he said to Count d'Estrades, in a private letter: "any how, there are certain things which are good to do and bad to commit to writing." An understanding was come to without any writing. Louis XIV. well understood the noble heart and great mind with which he had to deal, when he wrote to Count d'Estrades, April 20, 1663, "It is clear that God caused M. de Witt to be born [in 1632] for great things, seeing that, at his age, he has already for many years deservedly been the most considerable person in his state; and I believe, too, that my having obtained so good a friend in him was not a simple result of chance, but of Divine Providence, who is thus early arranging the instruments of which He is pleased to make use for the glory of this crown, and for the advantage of the United Provinces. The only complaint I make of him is, that, having so much esteem and affection as I have for his person, he will not be kind enough to let me have the means of giving him some substantial tokens of it, which I would do with very great joy." Louis XIV. was not accustomed to meet, at foreign courts, with the high-spirited disinterestedness of the burgess-patrician, who, since the age of five and twenty, had been governing the United Provinces.
Thus, then, it was a case of strict partnership between France and Holland, and Louis XIV. had remained faithful to the policy of Henry IV. and Richelieu when Philip IV. died, on the 17th of September, 1665. Almost at the same time the dissension between England and Holland, after a period of tacit hostility, broke out into action. The United Provinces claimed the aid of France.
Close ties at that time united France and England. Monsieur, the king's only brother, had married Henrietta of England, sister of Charles II. The King of England, poor and debauched, had scarcely been restored to the throne when he sold Dunkerque to France for five millions of livres, to the great scandal of Cromwell's old friends, who had but lately helped Turenne to wrest it from the Spaniards. "I knew without doubt that the aggression was on the part of England," writes Louis XIV. in his Memoires, "and I resolved to act with good faith towards the Hollanders, according to the terms of my treaty: but as I purposed to terminate the war on the first opportunity, I resolved to act towards the English as handsomely as could be, and I begged the Queen of England, who happened to be at that time in Paris, to signify to her son that, with the singular regard I had for him, I could not without sorrow form the resolution which I considered myself bound by the obligation of my promise to take; for, at the origin of this war, I was persuaded that he had been carried away by the wishes of his subjects farther than he would have been by his own, insomuch that, between ourselves, I thought I had less reason to complain of him than for him. It is certain that this subordination which places the sovereign under the necessity of receiving the law from his people is the worst calamity that can happen to a man of our rank. I have pointed out to you elsewhere, my son, the miserable condition of princes who commit their people and their own dignity to the management of a premier minister; but it is little beside the misery of those who are left to the indiscretion of a popular assembly; the more you grant, the more they claim; the more you caress, the more they despise; and that which is once in their possession is held by so many arms that it cannot be wrenched away without an extreme amount of violence." In his compassion for the misery of the king of a free country, Louis XIV. contented himself with looking on at the desperate engagements between the English and the Dutch fleets. Twice the English destroyed the Dutch fleet under the orders of Admiral van Tromp. John van Witt placed himself at the head of the squadron. "Tromp has courage enough to fight," he said, "but not sufficient prudence to conduct a great action. The heat of battle is liable to carry officers away, confuse them, and not leave them enough independence of judgment to bring matters to a successful issue. That is why I consider myself bound by all the duties of manhood and conscience to be myself on the watch, in order to set bounds to the impetuosity of valor when it would fain go too far." The resolution of the grand pensionary and the skill of Admiral Ruyter, who was on his return from an expedition in Africa, restored the fortunes of the Hollanders; their vessels went and offered the English battle at the very mouth of the Thames. The French squadron did not leave the Channel. It was only against the Bishop of Munster, who had just invaded the Dutch territory, that Louis XIV. gave his allies effectual aid; M. de Turenne marched against the troops of the bishop, who was forced to retire, in the month of April, 1666. Peace was concluded at Breda, between England and Holland, in the month of July, 1667. Louis XIV. had not waited for that moment to enter Flanders.
Everything, in fact, was ready for this great enterprise: the regent of Spain, Mary Anne of Austria, a feeble creature, under the thumb of one Father Nithard, a Jesuit, had allowed herself to be sent to sleep by the skilful manoeuvres of the Archbishop of Embrun; she had refused to make a treaty of alliance with England and to recognize Portugal, to which Louis XIV. had just given a French queen, by marrying Mdlle. de Nemours to King Alphonso VI. The league of the Rhine secured to him the neutrality, at the least, of Germany; the emperor was not prepared for war; Europe, divided between fear and favor, saw with astonishment Louis XIV. take the field in the month of May, 1667. "It is not," said the manifesto sent by the king to the court of Spain, "either the ambition of possessing new states, or the desire of winning glory by arms, which inspires the Most Christian King with the design of maintaining the rights of the queen his wife; but would it not be shame for a king to allow all the privileges of blood and of law to be violated in the persons of himself, his wife, and his son? As king, he feels himself obliged to prevent this injustice; as master, to oppose this usurpation; and, as father, to secure the patrimony to his son. He has no desire to employ force to open the gates, but he wishes to enter, as a beneficent sun, by the rays of his love, and to scatter everywhere, in country, towns, and private houses, the gentle influences of abundance and peace, which follow in his train." To secure the gentle influences of peace, Louis XIV. had collected an army of fifty thousand men, carefully armed and equipped under the supervision of Turenne, to whom Louvois as yet rendered docile obedience. There was none too much of this fine army for recovering the queen's rights over the duchy of Brabant, the marquisate of Antwerp, Limburg, Hainault, the countship of Namur, and other territories. "Heaven not having ordained any tribunal on earth at which the Kings of France can demand justice, the Most Christian King has only his own arms to look to for it," said the manifesto. Louis XIV. set out with M. de Turenne. Marshal Crequi had orders to observe Germany.
The Spaniards were taken unprepared: Armentieres, Charleroi, Douai, and Tournay had but insufficient garrisons, and they fell almost without striking a blow. Whilst the army was busy with the siege of Courtray, Louis XIV. returned to Compiegne to fetch the queen. The whole court followed him to the camp. "All that you have read about—the magnificence of Solomon and the grandeur of the King of Persia, is not to be compared with the pomp that attends the king in his expedition," says a letter to Bussy-Rabutin from the Count of Coligny. "You see passing along the streets nothing but plumes, gold-laced uniforms, chariots, mules superbly harnessed, parade-horses, housings with embroidery of fine gold." "I took the queen to Flanders," says Louis XIV., "to show her to the peoples of that country, who received her, in point of fact, with all the delight imaginable, testifying their sorrow at not having had more time to make preparations for receiving her more befittingly." The queen's quarters were at Courtrai. Marshal Turenne had moved on Dendermonde, but the Flemings had opened their sluices; the country was inundated; it was necessary to fall back on Audenarde; the town was taken in two days; and the king, still attended by the court, laid siege to Lille. Vauban, already celebrated as an engineer, traced out the lines of circumvallation; the army of M. de Crequi formed a junction with that of Turenne; there was expectation of an attempt on the part of the governor of the Low Countries to relieve the place; the Spanish force sent for that purpose arrived too late, and was beaten on its retreat; the burgesses of Lille had forced the garrison to capitulate; and Louis XIV. entered it on the 27th of August, after ten days' open trenches. On the 2d of September, the king took the road back to St. Germain; but Turenne still found time to carry the town of Alost before taking up his winter-quarters.
Louis XIV.'s first campaign had been nothing but playing at war, almost entirely without danger or bloodshed; it had, nevertheless, been sufficient to alarm Europe. Scarcely had peace been concluded at Breda, when another negotiation was secretly entered upon between England, Holland, and Sweden.
It was in vain that King Charles II. leaned personally towards an alliance with France; his people had their eyes "opened to the dangers" —incurred by Europe from the arms of Louis XIV. "Certain persons of the greatest influence in Parliament come sometimes to see me, without any lights and muffled in a cloak in order not to be recognized," says a letter of September 26, 1669, from the Marquis of Ruvigny to M. de Lionne; "they give me to understand that common sense and the public security forbid them to see, without raising a finger, the whole of the Low Countries taken, and that they are bound in good policy to oppose the purposes of this conquest if his Majesty intend to take all for himself." On the 23d of January, 1668, the celebrated treaty of the Triple Alliance was signed at the Hague. The three powers demanded of the King of France that he should grant the Low Countries a truce up to the month of May, in order to give time for treating with Spain and obtaining from her, as France demanded, the definitive cession of the conquered places or Franche-Comte in exchange. At bottom, the Triple Alliance was resolved to protect helpless Spain against France; a secret article bound the three allies to take up arms to restrain Louis XIV., and to bring him back, if possible, to the peace of the Pyrenees. At the same moment, Portugal was making peace with Spain, who recognized her independence.
The king refused the long armistice demanded of him. "I will grant it up to the 31st of March," he had said, "being unwilling to miss the first opportunity of taking the field." The Marquis of Castel-Rodriguo made merry over this proposal. "I am content," said he, "with the suspension of arms that winter imposes upon the King of France." The governor of the Low Countries made a mistake: Louis XIV. was about to prove that his soldiers, like those of Gustavus Adolphus, did not recognize winter. He had intrusted the command of his new army to the Prince of Conde, amnestied for the last nine years, but, up to that time, a stranger to the royal favor. Conde expressed his gratitude with more fervor than loftiness when he wrote to the king on the 20th of December, 1667, "My birth binds me more than any other to your Majesty's service, but the kindnesses and the confidence you deign to show me after I have so little deserved them bind me still more than my birth. Do me the honor to believe, sir, that I hold neither property nor life but to cheerfully sacrifice them for your glory and for the preservation of your person, which is a thousand times dearer to me than all the things of the world."
"On pretence of being in Burgundy at the states," writes Oliver d'Ormesson, the prosecutor of Fouquet, "the prince had obtained perfect knowledge that Franche-Comte was without troops and without apprehension, because they had no doubt that the king would accord them neutrality as in the last war, the inhabitants having sent to him to ask it of him. He kept them amused. Meanwhile the king had set his army in motion without disclosing his plan, and the inhabitants of Franche-Comte found themselves attacked without having known that they were to be. Besancon and Salins surrendered at sight of the troops. The king, on arriving, went to Dole, and superintended an affair of counterscarps and some demilunes, whereat there were killed some four or five hundred men. The inhabitants, astounded, and finding themselves without troops or hope of succor, surrendered on Shrove Tuesday, February 14. The king at the same time marched to Gray. The governor made some show of defending himself, but the Marquis of Yenne, governor-general under Castel-Rodriguo, who belongs to the district and has all his property there, came and surrendered to the king, and then, having gone to Gray, persuaded the governor to surrender. Accordingly, the king entered it on Sunday, February 19, and had a Te Deum sung there, having at his right the governor-general, and at his left the special governor of the town; and, the same day, he set out on his return. And so, within twenty-two days of the month of February, he had set out from St. Germain, been in Franche-Comte, taken it entirely, and returned to St. Germain. This is a great and wonderful conquest from every point of view. Having paid a visit to the prince to make my compliments, I said that the glory he had won had cost him dear, as he had lost his shoes; he replied, laughing, that it had been said so, but the truth was, that, happening to be at the guards' attack, somebody came and told him that the king had pushed forward to M. de Gadaignes' attack, that he had ridden up full gallop to bring back the king, who had put himself in too great peril, and that, having dismounted at a very moist spot, his shoe had come off, and he had been obliged to re-shoe himself in the king's presence." [Journal d' Oliver d' Ormesson, t. ii. p. 542.]
Louis XIV. had good reason to "push forward to the attack and put himself in too great peril;" a rumor had circulated that, having run the same risk at the siege of Lille, he had let a moment's hesitation appear; the old Duke of Charost, captain of his guards, had come up to him, and, "Sir," he had whispered in the young king's ear, "the wine is drawn, and it must be drunk." Louis XIV. had finished his reconnoissance, not without a feeling of gratitude towards Charost for preferring before his life that honor which ended by becoming his idol.
The king was back at St. Germain, preparing enormous armaments for the month of April. He had given the Prince of Conde the government of Franche-Comte. "I had always esteemed your father," he said to the young Duke of Enghien, "but I had never loved him; now I love him as much as I esteem him." Young Louvois, already in high favor with the king, as well as his father, Michael Le Tellier, had contributed a great deal towards getting the prince's services appreciated; they still smarted under the reproaches of M. de Turenne touching the deficiency of supplies for the troops before Lille in 1667.
War seemed to be imminent; the last days of the armistice were at hand. "The opinion prevailing in France as to peace is a disease which is beginning to spread very much," wrote Louvois in the middle of March, "but we shall soon find a cure for it, as here is the time approaching for taking the field. You must publish almost everywhere that it is the Spaniards who do not want peace." Louvois lied brazenfacedly; the Spaniards were without resources, but they had even less of spirit than of resources; they consented to the abandonment of all the places won in the Low Countries during 1667. A congress was opened at Aix-la-Chapelle, presided over by the nuncio of the new pope, Clement IX., as favorable to France as his predecessor, Innocent X., had been to Spain. "A phantom arbiter between phantom plenipotentiaries," says Voltaire, in the Siecle de Louis XIV. The real negotiations were going on at St. Germain. "I did not look merely," writes Louis XIV., "to profit by the present conjuncture, but also to put myself in a position to turn to my advantage those which might probably arrive. In view of the great increments that my fortune might receive, nothing seemed to me more necessary than to establish for myself amongst my smaller neighbors such a character for moderation and probity as might assuage in them those emotions of dread which everybody naturally experiences at sight of too great a power. I was bound not to lack means of breaking with Spain when I pleased; Franche-Comte, which I gave up, might become reduced to such a condition that I should be master of it at any moment, and my new conquests, well secured, would open for me a surer entrance into the Low Countries." Determined by these wise motives, the king gave orders to sign the peace. "M. de Turenne appeared yesterday like a man who had received a blow from a club," writes Michael Le Tellier to his son: "when Don Juan arrives, matters will change; he says that, meanwhile, all must go on just the same, and he repeated it more than a dozen times, which made the prince laugh." Don Juan did not protest, and on the 2d of May, 1668, the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was concluded. Before giving up Franche-Comte, the king issued orders for demolishing the fortifications of Dole and Gray; he at the same time commissioned Vauban to fortify Ath, Lille, and Tournay. The Triple Alliance was triumphant, the Hollanders at the head. "I cannot tell your Excellency all that these beer-brewers write to our traders," said a letter to M. de Lionne from one of his correspondents; "as there is just now nothing further to hope for, in respect of they Low Countries, I vent all my feelings upon the Hollanders, whom I hold at this day to be our most formidable enemies, and I exhort your Excellency, as well for your own reputation as for the public satisfaction, to omit from your policy nothing that may tend to the discovery of means to abase this great power, which exalts itself too much."
Louis XIV. held the same views as M. de Lionne's correspondent, not merely from resentment against the Hollanders, who had stopped him in his career of success, but because he quite saw that the key to the barrier between the Catholic Low Countries and himself remained in the hands of the United Provinces. He had relied upon his traditional influence in the Estates as well as on the influence of John van Witt; but the latter's position had been shaken. "I learn from a good quarter that there are great cabals forming against the authority of M. de Witt, and for the purpose of ousting him from it," writes M. de Lionne on the 30th of March, 1668; Louis XIV. resolved to have recourse to arms in order to humiliate this insolent republic which had dared to hamper his designs. For four years, every effort of his diplomacy tended solely to make Holland isolated in Europe.
It was to England that France would naturally first turn her eyes. The sentiments of King Charles II. and of his people, as regarded Holland, were not the same. Charles had not forgiven the Estates for having driven him from their territory at the request of Cromwell; the simple and austere manners of the republican patricians did not accord with his taste for luxury and debauchery; the English people, on the contrary, despite of that rivalry in, trade and on the seas which had been the source of so much ancient and recent hostility between the two nations, esteemed the Hollanders and leaned towards an alliance with them. Louis XIV., in the eyes of the English Parliament, was the representative of Catholicism and absolute monarchy, two enemies which it had vanquished, but still feared. The king's proceedings with Charles II. had, therefore, necessarily to be kept secret; the ministers of the King of England were themselves divided; the Duke of Buckingham, as mad and as prodigal as his father, was favorable to France; the Earl of Arlington had married a Hollander, and persisted in the Triple Alliance. Louis XIV. employed in this negotiation his sister-in-law, Madame Henriette, who was much attached to her brother, the King of England, and was intelligent and adroit; she was on her return from a trip to London, which she had with great difficulty snatched from the jealous susceptibilities of Monsieur, when she died suddenly at Versailles on the 30th of June, 1670. "It were impossible to praise sufficiently the incredible dexterity of this princess in treating the most delicate matters, in finding a remedy for those hidden suspicions which often keep them in suspense, and in terminating all difficulties in such a manner as to conciliate the most opposite interests; this was the subject of all talk, when on a sudden resounded, like a clap of thunder, that astounding news, Madame is dying! Madame is dead! And there, in spite of that great heart, is this princess, so admired and so beloved; there, as death has made her for us!" [Bossuet, Oraison funebre d'Henriette d'Angleterre.]
Madame's work was nevertheless accomplished, and her death was not destined to interrupt it. The treaty of alliance was secretly concluded, signed by only the Catholic councillors of Charles II.; it bore that the King of England was resolved to publicly declare his return to the Catholic church; the King of France was to aid him towards the execution of this project with assistance to the amount of two millions of livres of Tours; the two princes bound themselves to remain faithful to the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle as regarded Spain, and to declare war together against the United Provinces the King of France would have to supply to his brother of England, for this war, a subsidy of three million livres of Tours every year. When the Protestant ministers were admitted to share the secret, silence was kept as to the declaration of Catholicity, which was put off till after the war in Holland; Parliament had granted the king thirteen hundred thousand pounds sterling to pay his debts, and eight hundred thousand pounds to "equip in the ensuing spring" a fleet of fifty vessels, in order that he might take the part he considered most expedient for the glory of his kingdom and the welfare of his subjects. "The government of our country is like a great bell which you cannot stop when it is once set going," said King Charles II., anxious to commence the war in order to handle the subsidies the sooner; he was, nevertheless, obliged to wait. Louis XIV. had succeeded in dragging him into an enterprise contrary to the real interests of his country as well as of his national policy; in order to arrive at his ends he had set at work all the evil passions which divided the court of England; he had bought up the king, his mistresses, and his ministers; he had dangled before the fanaticism of the Duke of York the spectacle of England converted to Catholicism; but his work was not finished in Europe; he wished to assure himself of the neutrality of Germany in the great duel he was meditating with the republic of the United Provinces.
As long ago as 1667 Louis XIV. had practically paved the way towards the neutrality of the empire by a secret treaty regulating the eventual partition of the Spanish, monarchy. In case the little King of Spain died without children, France was to receive the Low Countries, Franche-Comte, Navarre, Naples, and Sicily; Austria was to keep Spain and Milaness. The Emperor Leopold therefore turned a deaf ear to the entreaties of the Hollanders who would fain have bound him down to the Triple Alliance; a new convention between France and the empire, secretly signed on the 1st of November, 1670, made it reciprocally obligatory on the two princes not to aid their enemies. The German princes were more difficult to win over; they were beginning to feel alarm at the pretensions of France. The electors of Treves and of Mayence had already collected some troops on the Rhine; the Duke of Lorraine seemed disposed to lend them assistance; Louis XIV. seized the pretext of the restoration of certain fortifications contrary to the treaty of Marsal; on the 23d of August, 1675, he ordered Marshal Crequi to enter Lorraine; at the commencement of September, the whole duchy was reduced, and the duke a fugitive. "The king had at first been disposed to give up Lorraine to some one of the princes of that house," writes Louvois; "but, just now, he no longer considers that province to be a country which he ought to quit so soon, and it appears likely that, as he sees more and more every day how useful that conquest will be for the unification of his kingdom, he will seek the means of preserving it for himself." In point of fact, the king, in answer to the emperor's protests, replied that he did not want to turn Lorraine to account for his own profit, but that he would not give it up at the solicitations of anybody. Brandenburg and Saxony alone refused point blank to observe neutrality; France had renounced Protestant alliances in Germany, and the Protestant electors comprehended the danger that threatened them. Sweden also comprehended it, but Gustavus Adolphus and Oxenstiern were no longer there; there remained nothing but the remembrance of old alliances with France; the Swedish senators gave themselves up to the buyer one after another. "When you have made some stay at Stockholm," wrote Courtin, the French ambassador in Sweden, to M. do Pomponne, "and seen the vanity of the Gascons of the North, the little honesty there is in their conduct, the cabals which prevail in the Senate, and the feebleness and inertness of those who compose it, you cannot be surprised at the delays and changes which take place. If the Senate of Rome had shown as little inclination as that of Sweden at the present time for war, the Roman empire would not have been of so great an extent." The treaty, however, was signed on the 14th of April, 1672; in consideration of an annual subsidy of six hundred thousand livres Sweden engaged to oppose by arms those princes of the empire who should determine to support the United Provinces. The gap was forming round Holland.
In spite of the secrecy which enveloped the negotiations of Louis XIV., Van Witt was filled with disquietude; favorable as ever to the French alliance, he had sought to calm the irritation of France, which set down the Triple Alliance to the account of Holland. "I remarked," says a letter in 1669, from M. de Pomponne, French ambassador at the Hague, "that it seemed to me a strange thing that, whereas this republic had two kings for its associates in the triple alliance, it affected in some sort to put itself at their head so as to do all the speaking, and that it was willing to become the seat of all the manoeuvres that were going on against France, which was very likely to render it suspected of some prepossession in favor of Spain." John Van Witt defended his country with dignified modesty. "I know not whether to regard as a blessing or a curse," said he, "the incidents which have for several years past brought it about that the most important affairs of Europe have been transacted in Holland. It must no doubt be attributed to the situation and condition of this state, which, whilst putting it after all the crowned heads, cause it to be readily agreed to as a place without consequence; but, as for the prepossession of which we are suspected in favor of Spain, it cannot surely be forgotten what aversion we have as it were sucked in with our milk towards that nation, the remnants that still remain of a hatred fed by so much blood and such long wars, which make it impossible, for my part, that my inclinations should ever turn towards that crown."
Hatred to Spain was not so general in Holland as Van Witt represented; and internal dissensions amongst the Estates, sedulously fanned by France, were slowly ruining the authority of the aristocratic and republican party, only to increase the influence of those who favored the house of Nassau. In his far-sighted and sagacious patriotism, John van Witt had for a long time past foreseen the defeat of his cause, and he had carefully trained up the heir of the stadtholders, William of Nassau, the natural head of his adversaries. It was this young prince whom the policy of Louis XIV. at that time opposed to Van Witt in the councils of the United Provinces, thus strengthening in advance the indomitable foe who was to triumph over all his greatness and vanquish him by dint of defeats. The despatch of an ambassador to Spain, to form there an alliance offensive and defensive, was decided upon. "M. de Beverninck, who has charge of this mission, is without doubt a man of strength and ability," said M. de Pomponne, "and there are many who put him on a par with M. de Witt; it is true that he is not on a par with the other the whole day long, and that with the sobriety of morning he often loses the desert and capacity that were his up to dinner-time." The Spaniards at first gave but a cool reception to the overtures of the Hollanders. "They look at their monarchy through the spectacles of Philip II.," said Beverninck, "and they take a pleasure in deceiving themselves whilst they flatter their vanity." Fear of the encroachments of France carried the day, however. "They consider," wrote M. de Lionne, "that, if they left the United Provinces to ruin, they would themselves have but the favor granted by the Cyclops, to be eaten last;" a defensive league was concluded between Spain and Holland, and all the efforts of France could not succeed in breaking it.
John van Witt was negotiating in every direction. The treaty of Charles II. with France had remained a profound secret, and the Hollanders believed that they might calculate upon the good-will of the English nation. The arms of England were effaced from the Royal Charles, a vessel taken by Van Tromp in 1667, and a curtain was put over a picture, in the town-hall of Dordrecht, of the victory at Chatham, representing the ruart [inspector of dikes] Cornelius van Witt leaning on a cannon. These concessions to the pride of England were not made without a struggle. "Some," says M. de Pomponne, "thought it a piece of baseness to despoil themselves during peace, of tokens of the glory they had won in the war; others, less sensitive on this point of delicacy, and more affected by the danger of disobliging a crown which formed the first and at this date the most necessary of their connections, preferred the less spirited but safer to the honorable but more dangerous counsels." Charles II. played with Boreel, ambassador of the United Provinces at the court of London; taking advantage of the Estates' necessity in order to serve his nephew the Prince of Orange, he demanded for him the office of captain-general, which had been filled by his ancestors. Already the prince had been recognized as premier noble of Zealand, and he had obtained entrance to the council; John van Witt raised against him the vote of the Estates of Holland, still preponderant in the republic. "The grand pensionary soon appeased the murmurs and complaints that were being raised against him," writes M. de Pomponne. "He prefers the greatest dangers to the re-establishment of the Prince of Orange, and to his re-establishment on the recommendation of the King of England; he would consider that the republic accepted a double yoke, both in the person of a chief who, from the post of captain general, might rise to all those which his fathers had filled, and in accepting him at the instance of a suspected crown." The grand pensionary did not err. In the spring of 1672, in spite of the loss of M. de Lionne, who died September 1, 1671, all the negotiations of Louis XIV. had succeeded; his armaments were completed; he was at last about to crush that little power which had for so long a time past presented an obstacle to his designs. "The true way of arriving at the conquest of the Spanish Low Countries is to abase the Hollanders and annihilate them if it be possible," said Louvois to the Prince of Conde on the 1st of November, 1671; and the king wrote in an unpublished memorandum, "In the midst of all my successes during my campaign of 1667, neither England nor the empire, convinced as they were of the justice of my cause, whatever interest they may have had in checking the rapidity of my conquests, offered any opposition. I found in my path only my good, faithful, and old friends the Hollanders, who, instead of interesting themselves in my fortune as the foundation of their dominion, wanted to impose laws upon me and oblige me to make peace, and even dared to use threats in case I refused to accept their mediation. I confess that their insolence touched me to the quick, and that, at the risk of whatever might happen to my conquests in the Spanish Low Countries, I was very near turning all my forces against this proud and ungrateful nation; but, having summoned prudence to my aid, and considered that I had neither number of troops nor quality of allies requisite for such an enterprise, I dissimulated, I concluded peace on honorable conditions, resolved to put off the punishment of such perfidy to another time." The time had come; to the last attempt towards conciliation, made by Van Groot, son of the celebrated Grotius, in the name of the States General, the king replied with threatening haughtiness. "When I discovered that the United Provinces were trying to debauch my allies, and were soliciting kings, my relatives, to enter into offensive leagues against me, I made up my mind to put myself in a position to defend myself, and I levied some troops; but I intend to have more by the spring, and I shall make use of them at that time in the manner I shall consider most proper for the welfare of my dominions and for my own glory."
"The king starts to-morrow, my dear daughter," writes Madame de Sevigne to Madame de Grignan on the 27th of April "there will be a hundred thousand men out of Paris; the two armies will form a junction; the king will command Monsieur, Monsieur the prince, the prince M. de Turenne, and M. de Turenne the two marshals and even the army of Marshal Crequi. The king spoke to M. de Bellefonds and told him that his desire was that he should obey M. de Turenne without any fuss. The marshal, without asking for time (that was his mistake), said that he should not be worthy of the honor his Majesty had done him if he dishonored himself by an obedience without precedent. Marshal d'Humieres and Marshal Crequi said much the same. M. de la Rochefoucauld says that Bellefonds has spoilt everything because he has no joints in his mind. Marshal Crequi said to the king, 'Sir, take from me my baton, for are you not master? Let me serve this campaign as Marquis of Crequi; perhaps I may deserve that your Majesty give me back the baton at the end of the war.' The king was touched; but the result is, that they have all three been at their houses in the country planting cabbages (have ceased to serve)."
"You will permit me to tell you that there is nothing for it but to obey a master who says that he means to be obeyed," wrote Louvois to M. de Crequi. The king wanted to have order and one sole command in his army: and he was right.
The Prince of Orange, who had at last been appointed captain-general for a single campaign, possessed neither the same forces nor the same authority; the violence of party-struggles had blinded patriotic sentiment and was hampering the preparations for defence. Out of sixty-four thousand troops inscribed on the registers of the Dutch army, a great number neglected the summons; in the towns, the burgesses rose up against the magistrates, refusing to allow the faubourgs to be pulled down, and the peasants threatened to defend the dikes and close the sluices. "When word was sent yesterday to the peasants to come and work on the Rhine at the redoubts and at piercing the dikes, not a man presented himself," says a letter of June 28, from John van Witt to his brother Cornelius; "all is disorder and confusion here." "I hope that, for the moment, we shall not lack gunpowder," said Beverninck; "but as for guncarriages there is no help for it; a fortnight hence we shall not have more than seven." Louvois had conceived the audacious idea of purchasing in Holland itself the supplies of powder and ball necessary for the French army and the commercial instincts of the Hollanders had prevailed over patriotic sentiment. Ruyter was short of munitions in the contest already commenced against the French and English fleet. "Out of thirty-two battles I have been in I never saw any like it," said the Dutch admiral after the battle of Soultbay (Solebay) on the 7th of June. "Ruyter is admiral, captain, pilot, sailor, and soldier all in one," exclaimed the English. Cornelius van Witt in the capacity of commissioner of the Estates had remained seated on the deck of the admiral's vessel during the fight, indifferent to the bullets that rained around him. The issue of the battle was indecisive; Count d'Estrees, at the head of the French flotilla, had taken little part in the action.
It was not at sea and by the agency of his lieutenants that Louis XIV. aspired to gain the victory; he had already arrived at the banks of the Rhine, marching straight into the very heart of Holland. "I thought it more advantageous for my designs, and less common on the score of glory," he wrote to Colbert on the 31st of May, "to attack four places at once on the Rhine, and to take the actual command in person at all four sieges... I chose, for that purpose, Rheinberg, Wesel, Burick, and Orsoy, and I hope that there will be no complaint of my having deceived public expectation." The four places did not hold out four days. On the 12th of June, the king and the Prince of Conde appeared unexpectedly on the right bank of the intermediary branch of the Rhine, between the Wahal and the Yssel. The Hollanders were expecting the enemy at the ford of, the Yssel, being more easy to pass; they were taken by surprise; the king's cuirassier regiment dashed into the river, and crossed it partly by fording and partly by swimming; the resistance was brief; meanwhile the Duke of Longueville was killed, and the Prince of Conde was wounded for the first time in his life. "I was present at the passage, which was bold, vigorous, full of brilliancy, and glorious for the nation," writes Louis XIV. Arnheim and Deventer had just surrendered to Turenne and Luxembourg; Duisbourg resisted the king for a few days; Monsieur was besieging Zutphen. John van Witt was for evacuating the Hague and removing to Amsterdam the centre of government and resistance; the Prince of Orange had just abandoned the province of Utrecht, which was immediately occupied by the French; the defensive efforts were concentrated upon the province of Holland; already Naarden, three leagues from Amsterdam, was in the king's hands. "We learn the surrender of towns before we have heard of their investment," wrote Van Witt. A deputation from the States was sent on the 22d of June to the king's headquarters to demand peace. Louis XIV. had just entered Utrecht, which, finding itself abandoned, opened its gates to him. On the same day, John van Witt received in a street of the Hague four stabs with a dagger from the hand of an assassin, whilst the city of Amsterdam, but lately resolved to surrender and prepared to send its magistrates as delegates to Louis XIV., suddenly decided upon resistance to the bitter end. "If we must perish, let us at any rate be the last to fall," exclaimed the town-councillor Walkernier, "and let us not submit to the yoke it is desired to impose upon us until there remain no means of securing ourselves against it." All the sluices were opened and the dikes cut. Amsterdam floated amidst the waters. "I thus found myself under the necessity of limiting my conquests, as regarded the province of Holland, to Naarden, Utrecht, and Werden," writes Louis XIV. in his unpublished Memoire touching the campaign of 1672, and he adds, with rare impartiality, "the resolution to place the whole country under water was somewhat violent; but what would not one do to save one's self from foreign domination? I cannot help admiring and commending the zeal and stout-heartedness of those who broke off the negotiation of Amsterdam, though their decision, salutary as it was for their country, was very prejudicial to my service; the proposals made to me by the deputies from the States General were very advantageous, but I could never prevail upon myself to accept them."
Louis XIV. was as yet ignorant what can be done amongst a proud people by patriotism driven to despair; the States General offered him Maestricht, the places on the Rhine, Brabant and Dutch Flanders, with a war-indemnity of ten millions; it was an open door to the Spanish Low Countries, which became a patch enclosed by French possessions; but the king wanted to annihilate the Hollanders; he demanded Southern Gueldres, the Island of Bonmel, twenty-four millions, the restoration of Catholic worship, and, every year, an embassy commissioned to thank the king for having a second time given peace to the United Provinces. This was rather too much; and, whilst the deputies were negotiating with heavy hearts, the people of Holland had risen in wrath.
From the commencement of the war, the party of the house of Nassau had never ceased to gain ground. John van Witt was accused of all the misfortunes of the state; the people demanded with loud outcries the restoration of the stadtholderate, but lately abolished by a law voted by the States under the presumptuous title of perpetual edict. Dordrecht, the native place of the Van Witts, gave the signal of insurrection. Cornelius van Witt, who was confined to his house by illness, yielded to the prayers of his wife and children, and signed the municipal act which destroyed his brother's work; the contagion spread from town to town, from province to province; on the 4th of July the States General appointed William of Orange stadtholder, captain-general, and admiral of the Union; the national instinct had divined the savior of the country, and with tumultuous acclamations placed in his hands the reins of the state.
William of Orange was barely two and twenty when the fate of revolutions suddenly put him at the head of a country invaded, devastated, half conquered; but his mind as well as his spirit were up to the level of his task. He loftily rejected at the assembly of the Estates the proposals brought forward in the king's name by Peter van Groot. "To subscribe them would be suicide," he said: "even to discuss them is dangerous; but, if the majority of this assembly decide otherwise, there remains but one course for the friends of Protestantism and liberty, and that is, to retire to the colonies in the West Indies, and there found a new country, where their consciences and their persons will be beyond the reach of tyranny and despotism." The States General decided to "reject the hard and intolerable conditions proposed by their lordships the Kings of France and Great Britain, and to defend this state and its inhabitants with all their might." The province of Holland in its entirety followed the example of Amsterdam; the dikes were everywhere broken down, at the same time that the troops of the electors of Brandenburg and Saxony were advancing to the aid of the United Provinces, and that the emperor was signing with those two princes a defensive alliance for the maintenance of the treaties of Westphalia, the Pyrenees, and Aix-la-Chapelle.
Louis XIV. could no longer fly from conquest to conquest; henceforth his troops had to remain on observation; care for his pleasures recalled him to France; he left the command-in-chief of his army to M. de Turenne, and set out for St. Germain, where he arrived on the 1st of August. Before leaving Holland, he had sent home almost without ransom twenty thousand prisoners of war, who before long entered the service of the States again. "It was an excess of clemency of which I had reason afterwards to repent," says the king himself. His mistake was, that he did not understand either Holland or the new chief she had chosen.
Dispirited and beaten, like his country, John van Witt had just given in his resignation as councillor pensionary of Holland. He wrote to Ruyter on the 5th of August, as follows: "The capture of the towns on the Rhine in so short a time, the irruption of the enemy as far as the banks of the Yssel, and the total loss of the provinces of Gueldres, Utrecht, and Over-Yssel, almost without resistance and through unheard-of poltroonery, if not treason, on the part of certain people, have more and more convinced me of the truth of what was in olden times applied to the Roman republic: Successes are claimed by everybody, reverses are put down to one (Prospera omnes sibi vindicant, adversa uni imputantur). That is my own experience. The people of Holland have not only laid at my door all the disasters and calamities that have befallen our republic; they have not been content to see me fall unarmed and defenceless into the hands of four individuals whose design was to murder me; but when, by the agency of Divine Providence, I escaped the assassins' blows and had recovered from my wounds, they conceived a violent hatred against such of their magistrates as they believed to have most to do with the direction of public affairs; it is against me chiefly that this hatred has manifested itself, although I was nothing but a servant of the state; it is this that has obliged me to demand my discharge from the office of councillor-pensionary." He was at once succeeded by Gaspard van Fagel, passionately devoted to the Prince of Orange.
Popular passion is as unjust as it is violent in its excesses. Cornelius van Witt, but lately sharing with his brother the public confidence, had just been dragged, as a criminal, to the Hague, accused by a wretched barber of having planned the assassination of the Prince of Orange. In vain did the magistrates of the town of Dordrecht claim their right of jurisdiction over their fellow-citizen. Cornelius van Witt was put to the torture to make him confess his crime. "You will not force me to confess a thing I never even thought of," he said, whilst the pulleys were dislocating his limbs. His baffled judges heard him repeating Horace's ode: Just um et tenacem propositi virum. . . . At the end of three hours he was carried back to his cell, broken but indomitable. The court condemned him to banishment; his accuser, Tichelaer, was not satisfied.
Before long, at his instigation, the mob collected about the prison, uttering imprecations against the judges and their clemency. "They are traitors!" cried Tichelaer, "but let us first take vengeance on those whom we have." John van Witt had been brought to the prison by a message supposed to have come from the ruart. In vain had his daughter conjured him not to respond to it. "What are you come here for?" exclaimed Cornelius, on seeing his brother enter. "Did you not send for me?" "No, certainly not." "Then we are lost," said John van Witt, calmly. The shouts of the crowd redoubled; a body of cavalry still preserved order; a rumor suddenly spread that the peasants from the environs were marching on the Hague to plunder it; the States of Holland sent orders to the Count of Tilly to move against them; the brave soldier demanded a written order. "I will obey," he said, "but the two brothers are lost."
The troops had scarcely withdrawn, and already the doors of the prison were forced; the ruart, exhausted by the torture, was stretched upon his bed, whilst his brother sat by his side reading the Bible aloud; the madmen rushed into the chamber, crying, "Traitors, prepare yourselves; you are going to die." Cornelius van Witt started up, joining his hands in prayer; the blows aimed at him did not reach him. John was wounded. They were both dragged forth; they embraced one another; Cornelius, struck from behind, rolled to the bottom of the staircase; his brother would have defended him; as he went out into the street, he received a pike-thrust in the face; the ruart was dead already; the murderers vented their fury on John van Witt; he had lost nothing of his courage or his coolness, and, lifting his arms towards heaven, he was opening his mouth in prayer to God, when a last pistol-shot stretched him upon his back. "There's the perpetual edict floored!" shouted the assassins, lavishing upon the two corpses insults and imprecations. It was only at night, and after having with difficulty recognized them, so disfigured had they been, that poor Jacob van Witt was able to have his sons' bodies removed; he was before long to rejoin them in everlasting rest.
William of Orange arrived next day at the Hague, too late for his fame, and for the punishment of the obscure assassins, whom he allowed to escape. The compassers of the plot obtained before long appointments and rewards. "He one day assured me," says Gourville, "that it was quite true he had not given any orders to have the Witts killed, but that, having heard of their death without having contributed to it, he had certainly felt a little relieved." History and the human heart have mysteries which it is not well to probe to the bottom.
For twenty years John van Witt had, been the most noble exponent of his country's traditional policy. Long faithful to the French alliance, he had desired to arrest Louis XIV. in his dangerous career of triumph; foreseeing the peril to come, he had forgotten the peril at hand; he had believed too much and too long in the influence of negotiations and the possibility of regaining the friendship of France. He died unhappy, in spite of his pious submission to the will of God; what he had desired for his country was slipping from him abroad as well as at home; Holland was crushed by France, and the aristocratic republic was vanquished by monarchical democracy. With the weakness characteristic of human views, he could not open his eyes to a vision of constitutional monarchy freely chosen, preserving to his country the independence, prosperity, and order which he had labored to secure for her. A politician as, bold as and more far-sighted than Admiral Coligny, twice struck down, like him, by assassins, John van Witt remained in history the unique model of a great republican chief, virtuous and able, proud and modest, up to the day at which other United Provinces, fighting like Holland for their liberty, presented a rival to the purity of his fame, when they chose for their governor General Washington.
For all their brutal ingratitude, the instinct of the people of Holland saw clearly into the situation. John van Witt would have failed in the struggle against France; William of Orange, prince, politician, and soldier, saved his country and Europe from the yoke of Louis XIV.
On quitting his army, the king had inscribed in his notebook, "My departure.—I do not mean to have anything more done." The temperature favored his designs; it did not freeze, the country remained inundated and the towns unapproachable; the troops of the Elector of Brandenburg, together with a corps sent by the emperor, had put themselves in motion towards the Rhine; Turenne kept them in check in Germany. Conde covered Alsace; the Duke of Luxembourg, remaining in Holland, confined himself to burning two large villages—Bodegrave and Saammerdam. "There was a grill of all the Hollanders who were in those burghs," wrote the marshal to the Prince of Conde, "not one of whom was let out of the houses. This morning we were visited by two of the enemy's drummers, who came to claim a colonel of great note amongst them (I have him in cinders at this moment), as well as several officers that we have not, and that are demanded of us, who, I suppose, were killed at the approaches to the villages, where I saw some rather pretty little heaps." The attempts of the Prince of Orange on Charleroi had failed, as well as those of Luxembourg on the Hague; the Swedes had offered their mediation, and negotiations were beginning at Cologne; on the 10th of June, 1673, Louis XIV. laid siege to Maestricht; Conde was commanding in Holland, with Luxembourg under his orders; Turenne was observing Germany. The king was alone with Vauban. Maestricht held out three weeks. "M. de Vauban, in this siege as in many others, saved a number of lives by his ingenuity," wrote a young subaltern, the Count of Alligny. "In times past it was sheer butchery in the trenches, now he makes them in such a manner that one is as safe as if one were at home." "I don't know whether it ought to be called swagger, vanity, or carelessness, the way we have of showing ourselves unadvisedly and without cover," Vauban used to say; "but it is an original sin of which the French will never purge themselves, if God, who is all-powerful, do not reform the whole race." Maestricht taken, the king repaired to Elsass, where skilful negotiations delivered into his hands the towns that had remained independent: it was time to consolidate past conquests; the coalition of Europe was forming against France; the Hollanders held the sea against the hostile fleets; after three desperate fights, Ruyter had prevented all landing in Holland; the States no longer entertained the proposals they had but lately submitted to the king at Utrecht; the Prince of Orange had recovered Naarden, and just carried Bonn, with the aid of the Imperialists, commanded by Montecuculli; Luxembourg had already received orders to evacuate the province of Utrecht; at the end of the campaign of 1673, Gueldres and Over-Yssel were likewise delivered from the enemies who had oppressed and plundered them; Spain had come forth from her lethargy; and the emperor, resuming the political direction of Germany, had drawn nearly all the princes after him into the league against France. The Protestant qualms of the English Parliament had not yielded to the influence of the Marquis of Ruvigny, a man of note amongst the French Reformers, and at this time ambassador of France in London; the nation desired peace with the Hollanders; and Charles II. yielded, in appearance at least, to the wishes of his people.
On the 21st of February, 1674, he repaired to Parliament to announce to the two Houses that he had concluded with the United Provinces "a prompt peace, as they had prayed, honorable, and, as he hoped, durable." He at the same time wrote to Louis XIV., to beg to be condoled with, rather than upbraided, for a consent which had been wrung from him. The regiments of English and Irish auxiliaries remained quietly in the service of France; and the king did not withdraw his subsidies from his royal pensioner.
Thus was being undone, link by link, the chain of alliances which Louis XIV. had but lately twisted round Holland. France, in her turn, was finding herself alone, with all Europe against her; scared, and, consequently, active and resolute; the congress of Cologne had broken up; not one of the belligerents desired peace; the Hollanders had just settled the heredity of the stadtholderate in the house of Orange. Louis XIV. saw the danger. "So many enemies," says he in his Memoires, "obliged me to take care of myself, and think what I must do to maintain the reputation of my arms, the advantage of my dominions, and my personal glory." It was in Franche-Comte that Louis XIV. went to seek these advantages. The whole province was reduced to submission in the month of June, 1674. Turenne had kept the Rhine against the Imperialists; the marshal alone escaped the tyranny of the king and Louvois, and presumed to conduct the campaign in his own way; when Louis XIV. sent him instructions, he was by this time careful to add, "You will not bind yourself down to what I send you hereby as to my intentions, save when you think that the good of my service will permit you, and you will give me of your news the oftenest you find it possible." (30th of March, 1674.) Turenne did not always write, and it sometimes happened that he did not obey.
This redounded to his honor in the campaign of 1674. Conde had gained, on the 11th of August, the bloody victory of Seneffe over the Prince of Orange and the allied generals; the four squadrons of the king's household, posted within range of the fire, had remained for eight hours in order of battle, without any movement but that of closing up as the men fell. Madame de Sevigne, to whom her son, standard-bearer in the dauphin's gendarmes, had told the story, wrote to M. de Bussy-Rabutin, "But for the Te Deum, and some flags brought to Notre-Dame, we should have thought we had lost the battle." The Prince of Orange, ever indomitable in his cold courage, had attacked Audenarde on the 15th of September; but he was not in force, and the, approach of Conde had obliged him to raise the siege; to make up, he had taken Grave, spite of the heroic resistance made by the Marquis of Chemilly, who had held out ninety-three days. Advantages remained balanced in Flanders; the result of the campaign depended on Turenne, who commanded on the Rhine. "If the king had taken the most important place in Flanders," he wrote to Louvois, "and the emperor were master of Alsace, even without Philipsburg or Brisach, I think the king's affairs would be in the worst plight in the world; we should see what armies we should have in Lorraine, in the Bishoprics, and in Champagne. I do assure you that, if I had the honor of commanding in Flanders, I would speak as I do." On the 16th of June he engaged in battle, at Sinzheim, with the Duke of Lorraine, who was coming up with the advance-guard. "I never saw a more obstinate fight," said Turenne: "those old regiments of the emperor's did mighty well." He subsequently entered the Palatinate, quartering his troops upon it, whilst the superintendents sent by Louvois were burning and plundering the country, crushed as it was under war-contributions. The king and Louvois were disquieted by the movement of the enemy's troops, and wanted to get Turenne back into Lothringen. "An army like that of the enemy," wrote the marshal to Louvois, on the 13th of September, "and at the season it is now, cannot have any idea but that of driving the king's army from Alsace, having neither provisions nor means of getting into Lorraine, unless I be driven from the country." On the 20th of September, the burgesses of the free city of Strasburg delivered up the bridge over the Rhine to the Imperialists who were in the heart of Elsass. The victory of Ensheim, the fights of Mulhausen and Turckheim, sufficed to drive them back; but it was only on the 22d of January, 1675, that Turenne was at last enabled to leave Elsass reconquered. "There is no longer in France an enemy that is not a prisoner," he wrote to the king, whose thanks embarrassed him. "Everybody has remarked that M. de Turenne is a little more bashful than he was wont to be," said Pellisson.
The coalition was proceeding slowly; the Prince of Orange was ill; the king made himself master of the citadel of Liege and some small places. Limburg surrendered to the Prince of Conde, without the allies having been able to relieve it; Turenne was posted with the Rhine in his rear, keeping Montecuculli in his front; he was preparing to hem him in, and hurl him back upon Black Mountain. His army was thirty thousand strong. "I never saw so many fine fellows," Turenne would say, "nor better intentioned." Spite of his modest reserve, he felt sure of victory. "This time I have them," he kept saying; "they cannot escape me."
On the 27th of June, 1675, in the morning, Turenne ordered an attack on the village of Salzbach. The young Count of St. Hilaire found him at the head of his infantry, seated at the foot of a tree, into which he had ordered an old soldier to climb, in order to have a better view of the enemy's manoeuvres. The Count of Roye sent to conjure him to reconnoitre in person the German column that was advancing. "I shall remain where I am," said Turenne, "unless something important occur;" and he sent off re-enforcements to M. de Roye; the latter repeated his entreaties; the marshal asked for his horse, and, at a hard gallop, reached the right of the army, along a hollow, in order to be under cover from two small pieces of cannon, which kept up an incessant fire. "I don't at all want to be killed to-day," he kept saying. He perceived M. de St. Hilaire, the father, coming to meet him, and asked him what column it was on account of which he had been sent for. "My father was pointing it out to him," writes young St. Hilaire, "when, unhappily, the two little pieces fired: a ball, passing over the quarters of my father's horse, carried away his left arm and the horse's neck, and struck M. de Turenne in the left side; he still went forward about twenty paces on his horse's neck, and fell dead. I ran to my father, who was down, and raised him up. 'No need to weep for me,' he said; 'it is the death of that great man; you may, perhaps, lose your father, but neither your country nor you will ever have a general like that again. O, poor army, what is to become of you?' Tears fell from his eyes; then, suddenly recovering himself, 'Go, my son, and leave me,' he said; 'with me it will be as God pleases; time presses; go and do your duty.'" [Memoires du Marquis de St. Hilaire, t. i. p. 205.] They threw a cloak over the corpse of the great general, and bore it away. "The soldiers raised a cry that was heard two leagues off," writes Madame de Sevigne; "no consideration could restrain them; they roared to be led to battle, they wanted to avenge the death of their father, with him they had feared nothing, but they would show how to avenge him, let it be left to them; they were frantic, let them be led to battle." Montecuculli had for a moment halted. "Today a man has fallen who did honor to man," said he, as he uncovered respectfully. He threw himself, however, on the rearguard of the French army, which was falling back upon Elsass, and recrossed the Rhine at Altenheim. The death of Turenne was equivalent to a defeat.
The Emperor Napoleon said of Turenne, "He is the only general whom experience ever made more daring." He had been fighting for forty years, and his fame was still increasing, without effort or ostentation on his part. "M. de Turenne, from his youth up, possessed all good qualities," wrote Cardinal de Retz, who knew him well, "and the great he acquired full early. He lacked none but those that he did not think about. He possessed nearly all virtues as it were by nature; he never possessed the glitter of any. He was believed to be more fitted for the head of an army than of a party, and so I think, because he was not naturally enterprising; but, however, who knows? He always had in everything, just as in his speech, certain obscurities, which were never cleared up save by circumstances, but never save to his glory." He had said, when he set out, to this same Cardinal de Retz, then in retirement at Commercy, "Sir, I am no talker (diseur), but I beg you to believe that, if it were not for this business in which perhaps I may be required, I would go into retirement as you have gone, and I give you my word that, if I come back, I, like you, will put some space between life and death." God did not leave him time. He summoned suddenly to Him this noble, grand, and simple soul. "I see that cannon loaded with all eternity," says Madame de Sevigne: "I see all that leads M. de Turenne thither, and I see therein nothing gloomy for him. What does he lack? He dies in the meridian of his fame. Sometimes, by living on, the star pales. It is safer to cut to the quick, especially in the case of heroes whose actions are all so watched. M. de Turenne did not feel death: count you that for nothing?" Turenne was sixty-four; he had become a convert to Catholicism in 1668, seriously and sincerely, as he did everything. For him Bossuet had written his Exposition of faith. Heroic souls are rare, and those that are heroic and modest are rarer still: that was the distinctive feature of M. de Turenne. "When a man boasts that he has never made mistakes in war, he convinces me that he has not been long at it," he would say. At his death, France considered herself lost. "The premier-president of the court of aids has an estate in Champagne, and the farmer of it came the other day to demand to have the contract dissolved; he was asked why: he answered that in M. de Turenne's time one could gather in with safety, and count upon the lands in that district, but that, since his death, everybody was going away, believing that the enemy was about to enter Champagne." [Lettres de Madame de Sevigne.] "I should very much like to have only two hours' talk with the shade of M. de Turenne," said the Prince of Conde, on setting out to take command of the army of the Rhine, after a check received by Marshal Crequi. "I would take the consequences of his plans if I could only get at his views, and make myself master of the knowledge he had of the country, and of Montecuculli's tricks of feint." "God preserves you for the sake of France, my lord," people said to him; but the prince made no reply beyond a shrug of the shoulders.
It was his last campaign. The king had made eight marshals, "change for a Turenne." Crequi began by getting beaten before Treves, which surrendered to the enemy. "Why did—the marshal give battle?" asked a courtier. The king turned round quickly. "I have heard," said he, "that the Duke of Weimar, after the death of the great Gustavus, commanded the Swedish allies of France; one Parabere, an old blue ribbon, said to him, speaking of the last battle, which he had lost, 'Sir, why did you give it?' 'Sir,' answered Weimar, 'because I thought I should win it.' Then, leaning over towards somebody else, he asked, 'Who is that fool with the blue ribbon?'" The Germans retired. Conde returned to Chantilly once more, never to go out of it again. Montecuculli, old and ill, refused to serve any longer. "A man who has had the honor of fighting against Mahomet Coprogli, against the prince, and against M. de Turenne, ought not to compromise his glory against people who are only just beginning to command armies," said the, veteran general to the emperor on taking his retirement. The chiefs were disappearing from the scene, the heroic period of the war was over.
Europe demanded a general peace; England and Holland desired it passionately. "I am as anxious as you for an end to be put to the war," said the Prince of Orange to the deputies from the Estates, "provided that I get out of it with honor." He refused obstinately to separate from his allies. "It is not astonishing that the Prince of Orange does not at once give way even to things which he considers reasonable," said Charles II., "he is the son of a father and mother whose obstinacy was carried to extremes; and he resembles them in that." Meanwhile, William had just married (November 15, 1677), the Princess Mary, eldest daughter of the Duke of York and Anne Hyde. An alliance offensive and defensive between England and Holland was the price of this union, which struck Louis XIV. an unexpected blow. He had lately made a proposal to the Prince of Orange to marry one of his natural daughters. "The first notice I had of the marriage," wrote the king, "was through the bonfires lighted in London." "The loss of a decisive battle could not have scared the King of France more," said the English ambassador, Lord Montagu. For more than a year past negotiations had been going on at Nimeguen; Louis XIV. resolved to deal one more great blow.
The campaign of 1676 had been insignificant, save at sea. John Bart, a corsair of Dunkerque, scoured the seas and made foreign commerce tremble; he took ships by boarding, and killed with his own hands the Dutch captain of the Neptune, who offered resistance. Messina, in revolt against the Spaniards, had given herself up to France; the Duke of Vivonne, brother of Madame de Montespan, who had been sent thither as governor, had extended his conquests; Duquesne, quite young still, had triumphantly maintained the glory of France against the great Ruyter, who had been mortally wounded off Catana; on the 21st of April. But already the possession of Sicily was becoming precarious, and these distant successes had paled before the brilliant campaign of 1677; the capture of Valenciennes, Cambrai, and St. Omer, the defence of Lorraine, the victory of Cassel, gained over the Prince of Orange, had confirmed the king in his intentions. "We have done all that we were able and bound to do," wrote William of Orange to the Estates, on the 13th of April, 1677, "and we are very sorry to be obliged to tell your High Mightinesses that it has not pleased God to bless on this occasion the arms of the state under our guidance."
"I was all impatience," says Louis XIV. in his Memoires, "to commence the campaign of 1678, and greatly desirous of doing something therein as glorious as, and more useful than, what had already been done; but it was no easy matter to come by it, and to surpass the lustre conferred by the capture of three large places and the winning of a battle. I examined what was feasible, and Ghent being the most important of all I could attack, I fixed upon it to besiege." The place was invested on the 1st of March, and capitulated on the 11th; Ypres, in its turn, succumbed on the 25th, after a vigorous resistance. On the 7th of April the king returned to St. Germain, "pretty content with what I had done," he says, "and purposing to do better in the future, if the promise I had given not to undertake anything for two months were not followed by the conclusion of peace." Louis XIV. sent his ultimatum to Nimeguen.
Holland had weight in congress as well as in war, and her influence was now enlisted on the side of peace. "Not only is it desired," said the grand pensionary Fagel, "but it is absolutely indispensable, and I would not answer for it that the States General, if driven to extremity by the sluggishness of their allies, will not make a separate peace with France. I know nobody in Holland who is not of the same opinion." The Prince of Orange flew out at such language. "Well, then, I know somebody," said he, "and that is myself; I will oppose it to the best of my ability; but," he added more slowly, upon reflection, "if I were not here, I know quite well that peace would be concluded within twenty-four hours."
One man alone, though it were the Prince of Orange, cannot long withstand the wishes of a free people. The republican party, for a while cast down by the death of John van Witt, had taken courage again, and Louis XIV. secretly encouraged it. William of Orange had let out his desire of becoming Duke of Gueldres and Count of Zutphen: these foreshadowings of sovereignty had scared the province of Holland, which refused its consent; the influence of the stadtholder was weakened thereby; the Estates pronounced for peace, spite of the entreaties of the Prince of Orange. "I am always ready to obey the orders of the state," said he, "but do not require me to give my assent to a peace which appears to me not only ruinous, but shameful as well." Two deputies from the United Provinces set out for Brussels.
"It is better to throw one's self out of the window than from the top of the roof," said the Spanish plenipotentiary to the nuncio, when he had cognizance of the French proposals, and he accepted the treaty offered him. "The Duke of Villa Hermosa says that he will accept the conditions; for ourselves, we will do the same," said the Prince of Orange, bitterly, "and so here is peace made, if France continues to desire it on this footing, which I very much doubt."
At one moment, in fact, Louis XIV. raised fresh pretensions. He wished to keep the places on the Meuse, until the Swedes, almost invariably unfortunate in their hostilities with Denmark and Brandenburg, should have been enabled to win back what they had lost. This was to postpone peace indefinitely. The English Parliament and Holland were disgusted, and concluded a new alliance. The Spaniards were preparing to take up arms again. The king, who had returned to the army, all at once cut the knot. "The day I arrived at the camp," writes Louis XIV., "I received news from London apprising me that the King of England would bind himself to join me in forcing my enemies to make peace, if I consented to add something to the conditions he had already proposed. I had a battle over this proposal, but the public good, joined to the glory of gaining a victory over myself, prevailed over the advantage I might have hoped for from war. I replied to the King of England that I was quite willing to make the treaty he proposed to me, and, at the same time, I wrote to the States General a letter, stronger than the first, being convinced that, since they were wavering, they ought not to have time given them to take counsel upon the subject of peace with their allies, who did not want it." Beverninck went to visit the king at Ghent; and he showed so much ability that the special peace concluded by his pains received, in Holland, the name of Beverninck's peace. "I settled more business in an hour with M. de Beverninck than the plenipotentiaries would have been able to conclude in several days," said Louis XIV.; "the care I had taken to detach the allies one from another, overwhelmed them to such an extent, that they were constrained to submit to the conditions of which I had declared myself in favor at the commencement of my negotiations. I had resolved to make peace, but I wished to conclude one that would be glorious for me and advantageous for my kingdom. I wished to recompense myself, by means of the places that were essential, for the probable conquests I was losing, and to console myself for the conclusion of a war which I was carrying on with pleasure and success. Amidst such turmoil, then, I was quite tranquil, and saw nothing but advantage for myself, whether the war went on or peace were made."
All difficulties were smoothed away Sweden had given up all stipulations for her advantage; the firm will of France had triumphed over the vacillations of Charles II. and the allies. "The behavior of the French in all this was admirable," says Sir W. Temple, an experienced diplomatist, long versed in all the affairs of Europe, "whilst our own counsels and behavior resembled those floating islands which winds and tide drive from one side to the other."
On the 10th of August, in the evening, the special peace between Holland and France was signed after twenty-four hours' conference. The Prince of Orange had concentrated all his forces near Mons, confronting Marshal Luxembourg, who occupied the plateau of Casteau; he had no official news as yet from Nimeguen, and on the 14th he began the engagement outside the abbey of St. Denis. The affair was a very murderous one, and remained indecisive: it did more honor to the military skill of the Prince of Orange than to his loyalty. Holland had not lost an inch of her territory during this war; so long, so desperate, and notoriously undertaken in order to destroy her; she had spent much money, she had lost many men, she had shaken the confidence of her allies by treating alone and being the first to treat, but she had furnished a chief to the European coalition, and she had shown an example of indomitable resistance; the States General and the Prince of Orange alone, besides Louis XIV., came the greater out of the struggle. The King of England had lost all consideration both at home and abroad, and Spain paid all the expenses of the war.
Peace was concluded on the 17th of September, thanks to the energetic intervention of the Hollanders. The king restored Courtray, Audenarde, Ath, and Charleroi, which had been given him by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Ghent, Limburg, and St. Ghislain; but he kept by definitive right St. Omer, Cassel, Aire, Ypres, Cambray, Bouchain, Valenciennes, and all Franche-Comte; henceforth he possessed in the north of France a line of places extending from Dunkerque to the Meuse; the Spanish monarchy was disarmed.
It still required a successful campaign under Marshal Crequi to bring the emperor and the German princes over to peace; exchanges of territory and indemnities re-established the treaty of Westphalia on all essential points. The Duke of Lorraine refused the conditions on which the king proposed to restore to him his duchy; so Louis XIV. kept Lorraine.
The King of France was at the pinnacle of his greatness and power. "Singly against all," as Louvois said, he had maintained the struggle against Europe, and he came out of it victorious; everywhere, with good reason, was displayed his proud device, Nec pluribus impar. "My will alone," says Louis XIV. in his Memoires, "concluded this peace, so much desired by those on whom it did not depend; for, as to my enemies, they feared it as much as the public good made me desire it, and that prevailed on this occasion over the gain and personal glory I was likely to find in the continuation of the war. . . . I was in full enjoyment of my good fortune and the fruits of my good conduct, which had caused me to profit by all the occasions I had met with for extending the borders of my kingdom at the expense of my enemies."
"Here is peace made," wrote Madame de Sevigne to the Count of Bussy. "The king thought it handsomer to grant it this year to Spain and Holland than to take the rest of Flanders; he is keeping that for another time."
The Prince of Orange thought as Madame de Seigne: he regarded the peace of Nimeguen as a truce, and a truce fraught with danger to Europe. For that reason did he soon seek to form alliances in order to secure the repose of the world against the insatiable ambition of King Louis XIV. Intoxicated by his successes and the adulation of his court, the King of France no longer brooked any objections to his will or any limits to his desires. The poison of absolute power had done its work. Louis XIV. considered the "office of king" grand, noble, delightful, "for he felt himself worthy of acquitting himself well in all matters in which he engaged." "The ardor we feel for glory," he used to say, "is not one of those feeble passions which grow dull by possession; its favors, which are never to be obtained without effort, never, on the other hand, cause disgust, and whoever can do without longing for fresh ones is unworthy of all he has received."
Standing at the king's side and exciting his pride and ambition, Louvois had little by little absorbed all the functions of prime minister without bearing the title. Colbert alone resisted him, and he, weary of the struggle, was about to succumb before long (1683), driven to desperation by the burdens that the wars and the king's luxury caused to weigh heavily upon France. Peace had not yet led to disarmament; an army of a hundred and forty thousand men remained standing, ever ready to uphold the rights of France during the long discussions over the regulation of the frontiers. In old papers ancient titles were found, and by degrees the villages, Burghs, and even principalities, claimed by King Louis XIV. were re-united quietly to France; King Charles XI. was thus alienated, in consequence of the seizure of the countship of Deux-Ponts, to which Sweden laid claim. Strasburg was taken by a surprise. This free city had several times violated neutrality during the war; Louvois had kept up communications inside the place; suddenly he had the approaches and the passage over the Rhine occupied by thirty-five thousand men on the night between the 16th and 17th of September, 1681; the burgesses sent up to ask aid from the emperor, but the messengers were arrested; on the 30th Strasburg capitulated, and Louis XIV. made his triumphant entry there on the 24th of October. "Nobody," says a letter of the day, "can recover from the consternation caused by the fact that the French have taken Strasburg without firing a single shot; everybody says it is one of the wheels of the chariot to be used for a drive into the empire, and that the door of Elsass is shut from this moment."
The very day of the surrender of Strasburg (September 30, 1681), Catinat, with a corps of French troops, entered Casale, sold to Louis XIV. by the Duke of Mantua. The king thought to make sure of Piedmont by marrying his niece, Monsieur's daughter, to the Duke of Savoy, Victor-Amadeo, quite a boy, delicate and taciturn, at loggerheads with his mother and with her favorites. Marie Louise d'Orleans, elder sister of the young Duchess of Savoy, had married the King of Spain, Charles II., a sickly creature of weak intellect. Louis XIV. felt the necessity of forming new alliances; the old supports of France had all gone over to the enemy. Sweden and Holland were already allied to the empire; the German princes joined the coalition. The Prince of Orange, with an ever-vigilant eye on the frequent infractions of the treaties which France permitted herself to commit, was quietly negotiating with his allies, and ready to take up arms to meet the common danger. "He was," says Massillon, "a prince profound in his views, skilful in forming leagues and banding spirits together, more successful in exciting wars than on the battle-field, more to be feared in the privacy of the closet than at the head of armies, a prince and an enemy whom hatred of the French name rendered capable of conceiving great things and of executing them, one of those geniuses who seem born to move at their will both peoples and sovereigns." French diplomacy was not in a condition to struggle with the Prince of Orange. M. de Pomponne had succeeded Lionne; he was disgraced in 1679. "I order his recall," said the king, "because all that passes through his hands loses the grandeur and force which ought to be shown in executing the orders of a king who is no poor creature." Colbert de Croissy, the minister's brother, was from that time employed to manage with foreign countries all the business which Louvois did not reserve to himself.
Duquesne had bombarded Algiers in 1682; in 1684, he destroyed several districts of Genoa, which was accused of having failed in neutrality between France and Spain; and at the same time Marshals Humieres and Crequi occupied Audenarde, Courtray, and Dixmude, and made themselves masters of Luxemburg; the king reproached Spain with its delays in the regulation of the frontiers, and claimed to occupy the Low Countries pacifically; the diet of Ratisbonne intervened; the emperor, with the aid of Sobieski, King of Poland, was occupied in repelling the invasions of the Turks; a truce was concluded for twenty-four years; the empire and Spain acquiesced in the king's new conquests. "It seemed to be established," said the Marquis de la Fare, "that the empire of France was an evil not to be avoided by other nations." Nobody was more convinced of this than King Louis XIV.
He was himself about to deal his own kingdom a blow more fatal than all those of foreign wars and of the European coalition. Intoxicated by so much success and so many victories, he fancied that consciences were to be bent like states, and he set about bringing all his subjects back to the Catholic faith. Himself returning to a regular life, under the influence of age and of Madame de Maintenon, he thought it a fine thing to establish in his kingdom that unity of religion which Henry IV. and Richelieu had not been able to bring about. He set at nought all the rights consecrated by edicts, and the long patience of those Protestants whom Mazarin called "the faithful flock;" in vain had persecution been tried for several years past; tyranny interfered, and the edict of Nantes was revoked on the 13th of October, 1685. Some years later, the Reformers, by hundreds of thousands, carried into foreign lands their industries, their wealth, and their bitter resentments. Protestant Europe, indignant, opened her doors to these martyrs to conscience, living witnesses of the injustice and arbitrary power of Louis XIV. All the princes felt themselves at the same time insulted and threatened in respect of their faith as well as of their puissance. In the early months of 1686, the league of Augsburg united all the German princes, Holland, and Sweden; Spain and the Duke of Savoy were not slow to join it. In 1687, the diet of Ratisbonne refused to convert the twenty years' truce into a definitive peace. By his haughty pretensions the king gave to the coalition the support of Pope Innocent XI.; Louis XIV. was once more single-handed against all, when he invaded the electorate of Cologne in the month of August, 1686. Philipsburg, lost by France in 1676, was recovered on the 29th of October; at the end of the campaign, the king's armies were masters of the Palatinate. In the month of January, 1689, war was officially declared against Holland, the emperor, and the empire. The commander-in-chief of the French forces was intrusted to the dauphin, then twenty-six years of age. "I give you an opportunity of making your merit known," said Louis XIV. to his son: "exhibit it to all Europe, so that when I come to die it shall not be perceived that the king is dead."
The dauphin was already tasting the pleasures of conquest, and the coalition had not stirred. They were awaiting their chief; William of Orange was fighting for them in the very act of taking possession of the kingdom of England. Weary of the narrow-minded and cruel tyranny of their king, James II., disquieted at his blind zeal for the Catholic religion, the English nation had summoned to their aid the champion of Protestantism; it was in the name of the political liberties and the religious creed of England that the Prince of Orange set sail on the 11th of November, 1688; on the flags of his vessels was inscribed the proud device of his house, I will maintain; below were the words, Pro libertate et Protestante religione. William landed without obstacle at Torbay, on the 15th of November; on the 4th of January, King James, abandoned by everybody, arrived in France, whither he had been preceded by his wife, Mary of Modena, and the little Prince of Wales; the convention of the two Houses in England proclaimed William and Mary kings (rois—? king and queen); the Prince of Orange had declined the modest part of mere husband of the queen. "I will never be tied to a woman's apron-strings," he had said.
By his personal qualities as well as by the defects and errors of his mind Louis XIV. was a predestined acquisition to the cause of James II.; he regarded the revolution in England as an insolent attack by the people upon the kingly majesty, and William of Orange was the most dangerous enemy of the crown of France. The king gave the fallen monarch a magnificent reception. "The king acts towards these majesties of England quite divinely," writes Madame de Sevigne, on the 10th of January, 1689: "for is it not to be the image of the Almighty to support a king out-driven, betrayed, abandoned as he is? The king's noble soul is delighted to play such a part as this. He went to meet the Queen of England with all his household and a hundred six-horse carriages; he escorted her to St. Germain, where she found herself supplied, like the queen, with all sorts of knick-knacks, amongst which was a very rich casket with six thousand louis d'or. The next day the King of England arrived late at St. Germain; the king was there waiting for him, and went to the end of the Guards' hall to meet him; the King of England bent down very low, as if he meant to embrace his knees; the king prevented him, and embraced him three or four times over, very cordially. At parting, his Majesty would not be escorted back, but said to the King of England, 'This is your house; when I come hither you shall do me the honors of it, as I will do you when you come to Versailles.' The king subsequently sent the King of England ten thousand louis. The latter looked aged and worn, the queen thin and with eyes that have wept, but beautiful black ones; a fine complexion, rather pale, a large mouth, fine teeth, a fine figure and plenty of wits; all that makes up a very pleasing person. All she says is quite just and full of good sense. Her husband is not the same; he has plenty of spirit, but a common mind which relates all that has passed in England with a want of feeling which causes the same towards him. It is so extraordinary to have this court here that it is the subject of conversation incessantly. Attempts are being made to regulate ranks and prepare for permanently living with people so far from their restoration."
In his pride and his kingly illusions, Louis XIV. had undertaken a burden which was to weigh heavily upon him to the very end of his reign.
Catholic Ireland had not acquiesced in the elevation of William of Orange to the throne of England; she invited over King James. Personally brave, and blinded by his hopes, he set out from St. Germain on the 25th of February, 1689. "Brother," said the king to him on taking leave, "the best I can wish you is not to see you back." He took with him a corps of French troops commanded by M. de Rosen, and the Count of Avaux as adviser. "It will be no easy matter to keep any secret with the King of England," wrote Avaux to Louis XIV.; "he has said before the sailors of the St. Michael what he ought to have reserved for his greatest confidants. Another thing which may cause us trouble is his indecision, for he has frequent changes of opinion, and does not always determine upon the best. He lays great stress on little things, over which he spends all his time, and passes lightly by the most essential. Besides, he listens to everybody, and as much time has to be spent in destroying the impressions which bad advice has produced upon him as in inspiring him with good. It is said here that the Protestants of the north will intrench themselves in Londonderry, which is a pretty strong town for Ireland, and that it is a business which will probably last some days."
The siege of Londonderry lasted a hundred and five days; most of the French officers fell there; the place had to be abandoned; the English army had just landed at Carrickfergus (August 25), under the orders of Marshal Schomberg. Like their leader, a portion of Schomberg's men were French Protestants who had left their native country after the revocation of the edict of Nantes; they fought to the bitter end against the French regiments of Rosen. The Irish Parliament was beginning to have doubts about James II. "Too English," it was said, "to render full justice to Ireland." There was disorder everywhere, in the government as well as in the military operations; Schomberg held the Irish and French in check; at last William III. appeared.
He landed on the 14th of June, and at once took the road to Belfast; the Protestant opposition was cantoned in the province of Ulster, peopled to a great extent by Cromwell's Scotch colonists; three parts of Ireland were still in the hands of the Catholics and King James. "I haven't come hither to let the grass grow under my feet," said William to those who counselled prudence. He had brought with him his old Dutch and German regiments, and numbered under his orders thirty-five thousand men; representatives from all the Protestant churches of Europe were there in arms against the enemies of their liberties.
The forces of King James were scarcely inferior to those of his son-in-law; Louis XIV. had sent him a re-enforcement of eight thousand men under the orders of the Duke of Lauzun. On the 1st of July the two armies met on the banks of the Boyne, near the town of Drogheda. William had been slightly wounded in the shoulder the evening before during a reconnaissance. "There's no harm done," said he at once to his terrified friends, "but, as it was, the ball struck quite high enough." He was on horseback at the head of his troops; at daybreak the whole army plunged into the river; Marshal Schomberg commanded a division; he saw that the Huguenot regiments were staggered by the death of their leader, M. de Caillemotte, younger brother of the Marquis of Ruvigny. He rushed his horse into the river, shouting, "Forward, gentlemen; yonder are your persecutors." He was killed, in his turn, as he touched the bank. King William himself had just entered the Boyne; his horse had taken to swimming, and he had difficulty in guiding it with his wounded arm; a ball struck his boot, another came and hit against the butt of his pistol; the Irish infantry, ignorant and undisciplined, everywhere took flight. "We were not beaten," said a letter to Louvois from M. de la Hoguette, a French officer, "but the enemy drove the Irish troops, like sheep, before them, without their having attempted to fire a single musket-shot." All the burden of the contest fell upon the troops of Louis XIV. and upon the Irish gentlemen, who fought furiously; William rallied around him the Protestants of Enniskillen, and led them back to the charge; the Irish gave way on all sides; King James had prudently remained at a distance, watching the battle from afar; he turned bridle, and hastily took the road back to Dublin. On the 3d of July he embarked at Waterford, himself carrying to St. Germain the news of his defeat. "Those who love the King of England must be very glad to see him in safety," wrote Marshal Luxembourg to Louvois; "but those who love his glory have good reason to deplore the figure he made." "I was in trouble to know what had become of the king my father," wrote Queen Mary to William III.; "I dared not ask anybody but Lord Nottingham, and I had the satisfaction of learning that he was safe and sound. I know that I need not beg you to spare him, but to your tenderness add this, that for my sake the world may know that you would not have any harm happen to him. You will forgive me this." The rumor had spread at Paris that King William was dead; the populace lighted bonfires in the streets; and the governor of the Bastille fired a salute. The anger and hatred of a people are perspicacious.
The insensate pride of king and nation was to be put to other trials; the campaign of 1689 had been without advantage or honor to the king's arms. Disembarrassed of the great Conde, of Turenne, and even of Marshal Luxembourg, who was compromised in some distressing law proceedings, Louvois exercised undisputed command over generals and armies; his harsh and violent genius encountered no more obstacles. He had planned a defensive war which was to tire out the allies, all the while ravaging their territories. The Palatinate underwent all its horrors. Manheim, Heidelberg, Spires, Worms, Bingen, were destroyed and burned. "I don't think," wrote the Count of Tesse to Louvois, "that for a week past my heart has been in its usual place. I take the liberty of speaking to you naturally, but I did not foresee that it would cost so much to personally look to the burning of a town with a population, in proportion, like that of Orleans. You may rely upon it that nothing at all remains of the superb castle of Heidelberg. There were yesterday at noon, besides the castle, four hundred and thirty-two houses burned; and the fire was still going on. I merely caused to be set apart the family pictures of the Palatine House; that is, the fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and relatives of Madame; intending, if you order me or advise me so, to make her a present of them, and have them sent to her when she is somewhat distracted from the desolation of her native country; for, except herself, who can take any interest in them? Of the whole lot there is not a single copy worth a dozen livres." The poor Princess Palatine, Monsieur's second wife, was not yet distracted from her native country, and she wrote in March, 1689, "Should it cost me my life, it is impossible for me not to regret, not to deplore, having been, so to speak, the pretext for the destruction of my country. I cannot look on in cold blood and see the ruin at a single blow, in poor Manheim, of all that cost so much pains and trouble to the late prince-elector, my father. When I think of all the explosions that have taken place, I am so full of horror that every night, the moment I begin to go to sleep, I fancy myself at Heidelberg or Manheim, and an eye-witness of the ravages committed. I picture to myself how it all was in my time, and to what condition it has been reduced now, and I cannot refrain from weeping hot tears. What distresses me above all is, that the king waited to reveal his orders until the very moment of my intercession in favor of Heidelberg and Manheim. And yet it is thought bad taste for me to be afflicted!"
The Elector of Bavaria, an able prince and a good soldier, had roused Germany to avenge his wrongs; France had just been placed under the ban of the empire; and the grand alliance was forming. All the German princes joined it; the United Provinces, England, and Spain combined for the restoration of the treaties of Westphalia and of the Pyrenees. Europe had mistaken hopes of forcing Louis XIV. to give up all his conquests. Twenty years of wars and reverses were not to suffice for that. Fortune, however, was tiring of being favorable to France; Marshals Duras and Humieres were unable to hamper the movements of the Duke of Lorraine, Charles V., and of the Elector of Bavaria; the French garrisons of Mayence and of Bonn were obliged to capitulate after an heroic defence their munitions failed. The king recalled Marshal Luxembourg to the head of his armies. The able courtier had managed to get reconciled with Louvois. "You know, sir," he wrote to him on the 9th of May, 1690, "with what pleasure I shall seek after such things as will possibly find favor with the king and give you satisfaction. I am too well aware how far my small authority extends to suppose that I can withdraw any man from any place without having written to you previously. It is with some repugnance that I resolve to put before you what comes into my head, knowing well that all that is good can come only from you, and looking upon anything I conceive as merely simple ideas produced by the indolence in which we are living here."
The wary indolence and the observations of Luxembourg were not long in giving place to activity. The marshal crossed the Sambre on the 29th of June, entered Charleroi and Namur, and on the 2d of July attacked the Prince of Waldeck near the rivulet of Fleurus. A considerable body of troops had made a forced march of seven leagues during the night, and came up to take the enemy in the rear; it was a complete success, but devoid of result, like the victory of Stafarde, gained by Catinat over the Duke of Savoy, Victor-Amadeo, who had openly joined the coalition. The triumphant naval battle delivered by Tourville to the English and Dutch fleets off Beachy Head was a great humiliation for the maritime powers. "I cannot express to you," wrote William III. to the grand pensionary Heinsius, holding in his absence the government of the United Provinces, "how distressed I am at the disasters of the fleet; I am so much the more deeply affected as I have been informed that my ships did not properly support those of the Estates, and left them in the lurch."
William had said, when he left Holland, "The republic must lead off the dance." The moment had come when England was going to take her part in it.
In the month of January, 1691, William III. arrived in Holland. "I am languishing for that moment," he wrote six months before to Heinsius. All the allies had sent their ambassadors thither. "It is no longer the time for deliberation, but for action," said the King of England to the congress "the King of France has made himself master of all the fortresses which bordered on his kingdom; if he be not opposed, he will take all the rest. The interest of each is bound up in the general interest of all. It is with the sword that we must wrest from his grasp the liberties of Europe, which he aims at stifling, or we must submit forever to the yoke of servitude. As for me, I will spare for that purpose neither my influence, nor my forces, nor my person, and in the spring I will come, at the head of my troops, to conquer or die with my allies."
The spring had not yet come, and already (March 15) Mons was invested by the French army. The secret had been carefully kept. On the 21st, the king arrived in person with the dauphin; William of Orange collected his troops in all haste, but he did not come up in time: Mons capitulated on the 8th of April; five days later, Nice, besieged by Catinat, surrendered like Mons; Louis XIV. returned to Versailles, according to his custom after a brilliant stroke. Louvois was pushing on the war furiously; the naturally fierce temper of the minister was soured by excess of work and by his decline in the king's favor; he felt his position towards the king shaken by the influence of Madame de Maintenon; venting his wrath on the enemy, he was giving orders everywhere for conflagration and bombardment, when on the 17th of July, 1691, after working with the king, Louvois complained of pain; Louis XIV. sent him to his rooms; on reaching his chamber he fell down fainting; the people ran to fetch his third son, M. de Barbezieux; Madame do Louvois was not at Versailles, and his two elder sons were in the field; he arrived too late; his father was dead.
"So he is dead, this great minister, this man of such importance, whose egotism (le moi), as M. Nicole says, was so extensive, who was the centre of so many things! What business, what designs, what projects, what secrets, what interests to unfold, what wars begun, what intrigues, what beautiful moves-in-check to make and to superintend! Ah! my God, grant me a little while; I would fain give check to the Duke of Savoy and mate to the Prince of Orange! No, no, thou shalt not have one, one single moment!" Thus wrote Madame do Sevigne to her daughter Madame de Grignan. Louis XIV., in whose service Louvois had spent his life, was less troubled at his death. "Tell the King of England that I have lost a good minister," was the answer he sent to the complimentary condolence of King James, "but that his affairs and mine will go on none the worse."
In his secret heart, and beneath the veil of his majestic observance of the proprieties, the king thought that his business, as well as the agreeableness of his life, would probably gain from being no longer subject to the tempers and the roughnesses of Louvois. The Grand Monarque considered that he had trained (instruit) his minister, but he felt that the pupil had got away from him. He appointed Barbezieux secretary for war. "I will form you," said he. No human hand had formed Louvois, not even that of his father, the able and prudent Michael le Tellier; he had received straight from God the strong qualities, resolution, indomitable will, ardor for work, the instinct of organization and command, which had made of him a minister without equal for the warlike and ambitious purposes of his master. Power had spoiled him, his faults had prevailed over his other qualities without destroying them; violent, fierce, without principle and without scruple in the execution of his designs, he had egged the king on to incessant wars, treating with disdain the internal miseries of the kingdom as well as any idea of pity for the vanquished; he had desired to do everything, order everything, grasp everything, and he died at fifty-three, dreaded by all, hated by a great many, and leaving in the government of the country a void which the king felt, all the time that he was angrily seeking to fill it up.
Louvois was no more; negotiations were beginning to be whispered about, but the war continued by land and sea; the campaign of 1691 had completely destroyed the hopes of James II. in Ireland; it was decided to attempt a descent upon England; a plot was being hatched to support the invasion. Tourville was commissioned to cover the landing. He received orders to fight, whatever might be the numbers of the enemy. The wind prevented his departure from Brest; the Dutch fleet had found time to join the English. Tourville wanted to wait for the squadrons of Estrees and Rochefort; Pontchartrain had been minister of finance and marine since the death of Seignelay, Colbert's son, in 1690; he replied from Versailles to the experienced sailor, familiar with battle from the age of fourteen, "It is not for you to discuss the king's orders; it is for you to execute them and enter the Channel; if you are not ready to do it, the king will put in your place somebody more obedient and less discreet than you." Tourville went out and encountered the enemy's squadrons between the headlands of La Hogue and Barfleur; he had forty-four vessels against ninety-nine, the number of English and Dutch together. Tourville assembled his council of war, and all the officers were for withdrawing; but the king's orders were peremptory, and the admiral joined battle. After three days' desperate resistance, backed up by the most skilful manoeuvres, Tourville was obliged to withdraw beneath the forts of La Hogue in hopes of running his ships ashore; but in this King James and Marshal Bellefonds opposed him.
Tourville remained at sea, and lost a dozen vessels. The consternation in France was profound; the nation had grown accustomed to victory; on the 20th of June the capture of Namur raised their hopes again; this time again William III. had been unable to succor his allies; he determined to—revenge himself on Luxembourg, whom he surprised on the 31st of August, between Enghaep and Steinkirk; the ground was narrow and uneven, and the King of England counted upon thus paralyzing the brilliant French cavalry. M. de Luxembourg, ill of fever as he was, would fain have dismounted to lead to the charge the brigades of the French guards and of the Swiss, but he was prevented; the Duke of Bourbon, the Prince of Conti, the Duke of Chartres, and the Duke of Vendome, placed themselves at the head of the infantry, and, sword in hand, led it against the enemy; a fortunate movement on the part of Marshal Boufflers resulted in rendering the victory decisive. Next year at Neerwinden (29th of July, 1693) the success of the day was likewise due to the infantry. On that day the French guards had exhausted their ammunition; putting the bayonet at the end of their pieces they broke the enemy's battalions; this was the first charge of the kind in the French armies. The king's household troops had remained motionless for four hours under the fire of the allies: William III. thought for a moment that his gunners made bad practice; he ran up to the batteries; the French squadrons did not move except to close up the ranks as the files were carried off; the King of England could not help an exclamation of anger and admiration. "Insolent nation!" he cried.
The victory of Neerwinden ended in nothing but the capture of Charleroi; the successes of Catinat at Marsaglia, in Piedmont, had washed out the shame of the Duke of Savoy's incursion into Dauphiny in 1692. Tourville had remained with the advantage in several maritime engagements off Cape St. Vincent, and burned the English vessels in the very roads of Cadiz. On every sea the corsairs of St. Malo and Dunkerque, John Bart and Duguay-Trouin, now enrolled in the king's navy, towed at their sterns numerous prizes; the king and France, for a long time carried away by a common passion, had arrived at that point at which victories no longer suffice in the place of solid and definitive success. The nation was at last tiring of its glory. "People were dying of want to the sound of the Te Deum," says Voltaire in the Siecle de Louis XIV.; everywhere there was weariness equal to the suffering. Madame de Maintenon and some of her friends at that time, sincerely devoted to the public good, rather Christians than warriors, Fenelon, the Dukes of Beauvilliers and Chevreuse, were laboring to bring, the king over to pacific views; he saw generals as well as ministers falling one after another; Marshal Luxembourg, exhausted by the fatigues of war and the pleasures of the court, died on the 4th of January, 1695, at sixty-seven years of age. An able general, a worthy pupil of the great Conde, a courtier of much wits and no shame, he was more corrupt than his age, and his private life was injurious to his fame; he died, however, as people did die in his time, turning to God at the last day. "I haven't lived like M. de Luxembourg," said Bourdaloue, "but I should like to die like him." History has forgotten Marshal Luxembourg's death and remembered his life.
Louis XIV. had lost Conde and Turenne, Luxembourg, Colbert, Louvois, and Seignelay; with the exception of Vauban, he had exhausted the first rank; Catinat alone remained in the second; the king was about to be reduced to the third: sad fruits of a long reign, of an incessant and devouring activity, which had speedily used up men and was beginning to tire out fortune; grievous result of mistakes long hidden by glory, but glaring out at last before the eyes most blinded by prejudice! "The whole of France is no longer anything but one vast hospital," wrote Fenelon to the king under the veil of the anonymous. "The people who so loved you are beginning to lose affection, confidence, and even respect; the allies prefer carrying on war with loss to concluding a peace which would not be observed. Even those who have not dared to declare openly against you are nevertheless impatiently desiring your enfeeblement and your humiliation as the only resource for liberty and for the repose of all Christian nations. Everybody knows it, and none dares tell you so. Whilst you in some fierce conflict are taking the battle-field and the cannon of the enemy, whilst you are storming strong places, you do not reflect that you are fighting on ground which is sinking beneath your feet, and that you are about to have a fall in spite of your victories. It is time to humble yourself beneath the mighty hand of God; you must ask peace, and by that shame expiate all the glory of which you have made your idol; finally you must give up, the soonest possible, to your enemies, in order to save the state, conquests that you cannot retain without injustice. For a long time past God has had His arm raised over you; but He is slow to smite you because He has pity upon a prince who has all his life been beset by flatterers." Noble and strong language, the cruel truth of which the king did not as yet comprehend, misled as he was by his pride, by the splendor of his successes, and by the concert of praises which his people as well as his court had so long made to reverberate in his ears.
Louis XIV. had led France on to the brink of a precipice, and he had in his turn been led on by her; king and people had given themselves up unreservedly to the passion for glory and to the intoxication of success; the day of awakening was at hand.
Louis XIV. was not so blind as Fenelon supposed; he saw the danger at the very moment when his kingly pride refused to admit it. The King of England had just retaken Namur, without Villeroi, who had succeeded Marshal Luxembourg, having been able to relieve the place. Louis XIV. had already let out that he "should not pretend to avail himself of any special conventions until the Prince of Orange was satisfied as regarded his person and the crown of England." This was a great step towards that humiliation recommended by Fenelon.
The secret negotiations with the Duke of Savoy were not less significant. After William III., Victor-Amadeo was the most active and most devoted as well as the most able and most stubborn of the allied princes. In the month of June, 1696, the treaty was officially declared. Victor-Amadeo would recover Savoy, Suza, the countship of Nice and Pignerol dismantled; his eldest daughter, Princess Mary Adelaide, was to marry the Duke of Burgundy, eldest son of the dauphin, and the ambassadors of Piedmont henceforth took rank with those of crowned heads. In return for so many concessions, Victor-Amadeo guaranteed to the king the neutrality of Italy, and promised to close the entry of his dominions against the Protestants of Dauphiny who came thither for refuge. If Italy refused her neutrality, the Duke of Savoy was to unite his forces to those of the king and command the combined army.
Victory would not have been more advantageous for Victor-Amadeo than his constant defeats were; but, by detaching him from the coalition, Louis XIV. had struck a fatal blow at the great alliance: the campaign of 1696 in Germany and in Flanders had resolved itself into mere observations and insignificant engagements; Holland and England were exhausted, and their commerce was ruined; in vain did Parliament vote fresh and enormous supplies. "I should want ready money," wrote William III. to Heinsius, "and my poverty is really incredible."
There was no less cruel want in France. "I calculate that in these latter days more than a tenth part of the people," said Vauban, "are reduced to beggary, and in fact beg." Sweden had for a long time been proffering mediation: conferences began on the 9th of May, 1697, at Nieuburg, a castle belonging to William III., near the village of Ryswick. These great halls opened one into another; the French and the plenipotentiaries of the coalition of princes occupied the two wings, the mediators sat in the centre. Before arriving at Ryswick, the most important points of the treaty between France and William III. were already settled.
Louis XIV. had at last consented to recognize the king that England had adopted; William demanded the expulsion of James II. from France; Louis XIV. formally refused his consent. "I will engage not to support the enemies of King William directly or indirectly," said he: "it would not comport with my honor to have the name of King James mentioned in the treaty." William contented himself with the concession, and merely desired that it should be reciprocal. "All Europe has sufficient confidence in the obedience and submission of my people," said Louis XIV., "and, when it is my pleasure to prevent my subjects from assisting the King of England, there are no grounds for fearing lest he should find any assistance in my kingdom. There can be no occasion for reciprocity; I have neither sedition nor faction to fear." Language too haughty for a king who had passed his infancy in the midst of the troubles of the Fronde, but language explained by the patience and fidelity of the nation towards the sovereign who had so long lavished upon it the intoxicating pleasures of success.
France offered restitution of Strasburg, Luxembourg, Mons, Charleroi, and Dinant, restoration of the house of Lorraine, with the conditions proposed at Nimeguen, and recognition of the King of England. "We have no equivalent to claim," said the French plenipotentiaries haughtily; "your masters have never taken anything from ours."
On the 27th of July a preliminary deed was signed between Marshal Boufflers and Bentinck, Earl of Portland, the intimate friend of King William; the latter left the army and retired to his castle of Loo; there it was that he heard of the capture of Barcelona by the Duke of Vendime; Spain, which had hitherto refused to take part in the negotiations, lost all courage, and loudly demanded peace; but France withdrew her concessions on the subject of Strasburg, and proposed to give as equivalent Friburg in Brisgau and Brisach. William III. did not hesitate. Heinsius signed the peace in the name of the States General on the 20th of September at midnight; the English and Spanish plenipotentiaries did the same; the emperor and the empire were alone in still holding out: the Emperor Leopold made pretensions to regulate in advance the Spanish succession, and the Protestant princes refused to accept the maintenance of the Catholic worship in all the places in which Louis XIV. had restored it.
Here again the will of William III. prevailed over the irresolution of his allies. "The Prince of Orange is sole arbiter of Europe," Pope Innocent XII. had said to Lord Perth, who had a commission to him from James II; "peoples and kings are his slaves; they will do nothing which might displease him."
"I ask," said William, "where anybody can see a probability of making France give up a succession for which she would maintain, at need, a twenty years' war; and God knows if we are in a position to dictate laws to France." The emperor yielded, despite the ill humor of the Protestant princes. For the ease of their consciences they joined England and Holland in making a move on behalf of the French Reformers. Louis XIV. refused to discuss the matter, saying, "It is my business, which concerns none but me." Up to this day the refugees had preserved some hope, henceforth their country was lost to them; many got themselves naturalized in the countries which had given them asylum.
The revolution of 1789 alone was to re-open to their children the gates of France.
For the first time since Cardinal Richelieu, France moved back her frontiers by the signature of a treaty. She had gained the important place of Strasburg, but she lost nearly all she had won by the treaty of Nimeguen in the Low Countries and in Germany; she kept Franche-Comte, but she gave up Lothringen. Louis XIV. had wanted to aggrandize himself at any price and at any risk; he was now obliged to precipitately break up the grand alliance, for King Charles II. was slowly dying at Madrid, and the Spanish Succession was about to open. Ignorant of the supreme evils and sorrows which awaited him on this fatal path, the King of France began to forget, in this distant prospect of fresh aggrandizement and war, the checks that his glory and his policy had just met with.