Great Men and Famous Women. Vol. 4 of 8
Author: Various
1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Transcriber's note: Obvious printer's errors have been corrected, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's spelling has been maintained.

Captions marked with [TN] have been added while producing this file.]


A Series of Pen and Pencil Sketches of



Copyright, 1894, BY SELMAR HESS

edited by Charles F. Horne

New-York: Selmar Hess Publisher

Copyright, 1894, by SELMAR HESS.



JOHN ADAMS, Edwin Williams, 251 Letter from Adams to a friend on the "Destiny of America," 252 LOUIS AGASSIZ, Asa Gray, 350 PRINCE VON BISMARCK, Prince Outisky, 385 SIMON BOLIVAR, Hon. John P. St. John, 306 EDMUND BURKE, Dr. Heinrich Geffcken, 226 JEAN FRANCOIS CHAMPOLLION, Georg Ebers, 311 GROVER CLEVELAND, Clarence Cook, 403 GEORGES CUVIER, John Stoughton, D.D., 287 CHARLES DARWIN, Arch. Geikie, LL.D., F.R.S., 355 BENJAMIN DISRAELI, Harriet Prescott Spofford, 370 BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 231 LEON GAMBETTA, 363 WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE, Justin McCarthy, 377 HORACE GREELEY, Noah Brooks, 345 ALEXANDER HAMILTON, 265 PATRICK HENRY, General Bradley T. Johnson, 236 ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT, Louis Agassiz, 292 ANDREW JACKSON, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 317 THOMAS JEFFERSON, Hon. John B. Henderson, 256 ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Terence Vincent Powderly, 338 WILLIAM MCKINLEY, Rossiter Johnson, 398 MARIA THERESA, Anna C. Brackett, 221 COUNT DE MIRABEAU, Charles S. Hathaway, 273 ISAAC NEWTON, John Stoughton, D.D., 211 DANIEL O'CONNELL, Justin McCarthy, 300 CHARLES STEWART PARNELL, Thomas Davidson, 395 JEAN HENRI PESTALOZZI, Harriet Martineau, 282 PETER THE GREAT, 215 MAXIMILIEN ROBESPIERRE, 278 WILLIAM HENRY SEWARD, Hon. Charles E. Fitch, 332 LOUIS ADOLPHE THIERS, 360 GEORGE WASHINGTON, 242 Letter from Washington to his adopted daughter on the subject of "Love," 250 DANIEL WEBSTER, Rev. Dr. Tweedy, 326 Letter from Webster to his friend Brigham on the "Choice of a Profession," 331 WILLIAM III. OF ENGLAND, 205











William, Prince of Orange, the third king of England of that name, born November 14, 1650, was the posthumous son of William II., Prince of Orange, and Mary Stuart, daughter of Charles I. of England. The fortunes of his childhood did not promise that greatness which he attained. His father had been thought to entertain designs hostile to the liberties of the United Provinces, and the suspicions of the father produced distrust of the son. When Cromwell dictated terms of peace to the Dutch in 1654, one of the articles insisted on the perpetual exclusion of the Prince of Orange from all the great offices formerly held by his family; and this sentence of exclusion was confirmed, so far as Holland was concerned, thirteen years after, by the enactment of the Perpetual Edict, by which the office of Stadtholder of Holland was forever abolished. The restoration of the Stuarts, however, was so far favorable to the interests of the House of Orange, as to induce the princess-royal to petition, on her son's behalf, that he might be invested with the offices and dignities possessed by his ancestors. The provinces of Zealand, Friesland, and Guelderland warmly espoused her cause: even the States of Holland engaged to watch over his education, "that he might be rendered capable of filling the posts held by his forefathers." They formally adopted him as "a child of the state," and surrounded him with such persons as were thought likely to educate him in a manner suited to his station in a free government.

A storm broke upon Holland just as William was ripening into manhood; and discord at home threatened to aggravate the misfortunes of the country. The House of Orange had again become popular; and a loud cry was raised for the instant abolition of the Perpetual Edict, and for installing the young prince in all the offices enjoyed by his ancestors. The Republican party, headed by the De Witts, prevented this; but they were forced to yield to his being chosen captain-general and high-admiral. Many persons hoped that William's military rank and prospects would incline his uncle Charles II. to make common cause with the friends of liberty and independence; but the English monarch was the pensioner of the French king, and France and England jointly declared war against the States, April 7, 1672. The Dutch made large preparations; but new troops could not suddenly acquire discipline and experience. The enemy meditated, and had nearly effected, the entire conquest of the country; the populace became desperate; a total change of government was demanded; the De Witts were brutally massacred, and William was invested with the full powers of stadtholder. His fitness for this high office was soon demonstrated by the vigor and the wisdom of his measures. Maestricht was strongly garrisoned; the prince of Orange, with a large army, advanced to the banks of the Issel; the Dutch fleet cruised off the mouth of the Thames, to prevent the naval forces of England and France from joining. The following year, 1763, Louis XIV. took Maestricht; while the Prince of Orange, not having forces sufficient to oppose the French army, employed himself in retaking other towns from the enemy. New alliances were formed; and the prince's masterly conduct not only stopped the progress of the French, but forced them to evacuate the province of Utrecht. In 1674 the English Parliament compelled Charles II. to make peace with Holland. The Dutch signed separate treaties with the Bishop of Munster and the Elector of Cologne. The gallantry of the prince had so endeared him to the States of Holland, that the offices of stadtholder and captain-general were declared hereditary in his male descendants. Meanwhile he continued to display both courage and conduct in various military operations against the French. The battle of Seneffe was desperately fought. After sunset, the conflict was continued by the light of the moon; and darkness, rather than the exhaustion of the combatants, put an end to the contest, and left the victory undecided. The veteran Prince of Conde gave a candid and generous testimonial to the merit of his young antagonist: "The Prince of Orange," said he, "has in every point acted like an old captain, except in venturing his life too much like a young soldier."

In 1675 the sovereignty of Guelderland and of the county of Zutphen was offered to William, with the title of duke, which was asserted to have been formerly vested in his family. Those who entertained a bad opinion of him, and attributed whatever looked like greatness in his character to ambition rather than patriotism, insinuated that he was himself the main-spring of this manifest intrigue. He had at least prudence enough to deliberate on the offer, and to submit it to the judgment of the States of Holland, Zealand, and Utrecht. They viewed with jealousy the aristocratic dignity, and he wisely refused it. This forbearance was rewarded by the province of Utrecht, which adopted the precedent of Holland, in voting the stadtholdership hereditary in the heirs-male of his body.

The campaign of 1675 passed without any memorable event in the Low Countries. In the following year hopes of peace were held out from the meeting of a congress at Nimeguen; but the articles of peace were to be determined rather by the events of the campaign than by the deliberations of the negotiators. The French took Conde and several other places; the Prince of Orange, bent on retaliation, sat down before Maestricht, the siege of which he urged impetuously; but the masterly movements of the enemy, and a scarcity of forage, frustrated his plans. Aire had already been taken; the Duke of Orleans had made himself master of Bouchain; Marshal Schomberg, to whom Louis had intrusted his army on retiring to Versailles, was on the advance; and it was found expedient to raise the siege of Maestricht. It was now predicted that the war in Flanders would be unfortunate in its issue; but the Prince of Orange, influenced by the mixed motives of honor, ambition, and animosity, kept the Dutch Republic steady to the cause of its allies, and refused to negotiate a separate peace with France. In October, 1677, he came to England, and was graciously received by the king, his uncle. His marriage with Mary, eldest daughter of the Duke of York, was the object of his visit. That event gave general satisfaction at the time; the consequences which arose from it were unsuspected by the most far-sighted. At first the king was disinclined to the match, then neutral; and at last favorable, in the hope of engaging William to fall in with his designs, and listen to the separate proposals of the French monarch. The prince, on his part, was pleased with the prospect, because he expected that the King of England would, at length, find himself obliged to declare against Louis, and because he imagined that the English nation would be more strongly engaged in his interest, and would adopt his views with respect to the war. In this he was disappointed, though the Parliament was determined on forcing the king to renounce his alliance with Louis. But the States had gained no advantage commensurate with the expense and danger of the contest in which they were engaged, and were inclined to conclude a separate treaty. Mutual discontent among the allies led to the dissolution of the confederacy, and a peace advantageous to France was concluded at Nimeguen in 1678; but causes of animosity still subsisted. The Prince of Orange, independent of political enmity, had now personal grounds of complaint against Louis, who deeply resented the zeal with which William had espoused the liberties of Europe and resisted his aggressions. He could neither bend so haughty a spirit to concessions, nor warp his integrity even by the suggestions of his dominant passion, ambition. But it was in the power of the French monarch to punish this obstinacy, and by oppressing the inhabitants of the principality of Orange, to take a mean revenge on an innocent people for the imputed offences of their sovereign. In addition to other injuries, when the Duchy of Luxembourg was invaded by the French troops, the commanding officer had orders to expose to sale all the lands, furniture, and effects of the Prince of Orange, although they had been conferred on him by a formal decree of the States of the country. Whether to preserve the appearance of justice, or merely as an insult, Louis summoned the Prince to appear before his Privy Council in 1682, by the title of Messire Guillaume Comte de Nassau, living at The Hague in Holland. In the emergency occasioned by the probability of the Dutch frontier being attacked in 1683, the Prince of Orange exerted all his influence to procure an augmentation of the troops of the republic; but he had the mortification to experience an obstinate resistance in several of the States, especially in that of Holland, headed by the city of Amsterdam. His coolness and steadiness, qualities invaluable in a statesman, at length prevailed, and he was enabled to carry his measures with a high hand.

The accession of James II. to the throne of Great Britain, in 1685, was hailed as an opportunity for drawing closer both the personal friendship and the political alliance between the stadtholder of the one country and the king of the other; but a totally different result took place. The headstrong violence of James brought about a coalition of parties to resist him; and many of the English nobility and gentry concurred in an application to the Prince of Orange for assistance. At this crisis, William acted with such circumspection as befitted his calculating character. The nation was looking forward to the prince and princess as its only resource against tyranny, civil and ecclesiastical. Were the presumptive heir to concur in the offensive measures, he must partake with the king of the popular hatred. Even the continental alliances, which William was setting his whole soul to establish and improve, would become objects of suspicion to the English, and Parliament might refuse to furnish the necessary funds. Thus by one course he might risk the loss of a succession which was awaiting him; by an opposite conduct, he might profit by the king's indiscretion, and even forestall the time when the throne was to be his in the course of nature. The birth of a son and heir, in June, 1688, seemed to turn the scale in favor of James; but the affections of his people were not to be recovered; it was even asserted that the child was supposititious. This event, therefore, confirmed William's previous choice of the side which he was to take; and his measures were well and promptly concerted. A declaration was dispersed throughout Great Britain, setting forth the grievances of the kingdom, and announcing the immediate introduction of an armed force from abroad, for the purpose of procuring the convocation of a free parliament. In a short time, full four hundred transports were hired; the army rapidly fell down the rivers and canals from Nimeguen; the artillery, arms, stores, and horses were embarked; and, on October 21, 1668, the prince set sail from Helvoetsluys, with a fleet of near five hundred vessels, and an army of more than fourteen thousand men. He was compelled to put back by a storm; but, on a second attempt, he had a prosperous voyage, while the king's fleet was wind-bound. He arrived at Torbay on November 4th, and disembarked on the 5th, the anniversary of the gunpowder treason. The remembrance of Monmouth's ill-fated rebellion prevented the western people from joining him; but at length several persons of consideration took up the cause, and an association was formed for its support. At this last hour James expressed his readiness to make concessions; but it was too late, they were looked on only as tokens of fear; the confidence of the people in the king's sincerity was gone forever. But, how much soever his conduct deserved censure, his distresses entitled him to pity. One daughter was the wife of his opponent; the other threw herself into the hands of the insurgents. In the agony of his heart the father exclaimed, "God help me! my own children have forsaken me!" He sent the queen and infant prince to France. Public affairs were in the utmost confusion, and seemed likely to remain so while he stayed in the island. After many of those perplexing adventures and narrow escapes which generally befall dethroned royalty, he at length succeeded in embarking for the continent.

The prince issued circular letters for the election of members to a convention, which met January 22, 1689. It appeared at once that the House of Commons, agreeably to the prevailing sentiments both of the nation and of those in present authority, was chiefly chosen from among the Whig party. The throne was declared vacant by the following vote: "That King James the Second, having endeavored to subvert the constitution of the kingdom by breaking the original contract between king and people; and having, by the advice of Jesuits and other wicked persons, violated the fundamental laws, and withdrawn himself out of the kingdom, has abdicated the government, and that the throne is thereby vacant." By the national consent, the vacancy was supplied by his daughter Mary and her husband William jointly.

The Prince of Orange lost no time in apprising the States-General of his accession to the British throne. He assured them of his persevering endeavors to promote the well-being of his native country, which he was so far from abandoning, that he intended to retain his high offices in it. War with France was renewed early in 1689 by the States, supported by the house of Austria and some of the German princes; nor was it difficult for William to procure the concurrence of the English Parliament, when the object was the humiliation of France and her arbitrary sovereign. In the spring of 1689, James landed in Ireland with a French force, and was received by the Catholics with marks of strong attachment. Marshal Schomberg was sent to oppose him, but was able to effect little during the campaign of that year. William, in the meantime, had been successful in suppressing a Jacobite insurrection in Scotland, and embarked for Ireland with a reinforcement in the summer of 1690. He immediately marched against James, who was strongly posted on the River Boyne. Schomberg passed the river in person, and put himself at the head of a corps of French Protestants. Pointing to the enemy, he said, "Gentlemen, behold your persecutors!" With these words he advanced to the attack, but was killed by a random shot from the French regiments. The death of this general was near proving fatal to the English army; but William retrieved the fortune of the day, and totally dispersed the opposite force. In this engagement the Irish lost 1,500 men, and the English about one-third of that number.

Disturbances again took place among the Jacobites in the Scotch Highlands. A simultaneous insurrection was planned in both kingdoms, while a descent from the French coast was to have divided the attention of the friends of government; but the defeat of the French fleet near Cape La Hogue, in 1692, frustrated this combined attempt, and relieved the nation from the dread of civil war. In 1691 the king had placed himself at the head of the Grand Alliance against France, of which he had been the prime mover; he was, therefore, absent on the continent during the dangers to which his new kingdom was exposed. His repeated losses in the following campaigns rather impaired than enhanced his military renown, though they increased his already high reputation for personal courage. The death of Queen Mary, which took place early in 1695, proved a severe calamity, both to the king and the nation. She had been a vigilant guardian of her husband's interests, which were constantly exposed to hazard by the conflicts of party and by the disadvantages under which he labored as a foreigner. In 1696 a congress was opened at Ryswick, to negotiate a general peace; and William did not interpose any obstacles. In the following year the treaty was concluded.

The King of Spain's death led to the last event of great importance in William's reign. The powers of Europe had arranged plans to prevent the accumulation of the Spanish possessions in the houses of Bourbon and Austria; but the French king violated all his solemn pledges, by accepting the deceased monarch's will in favor of his own grandson, the Duke of Anjou. In consequence of this breach of faith, preparations were made by England and Holland for a renewal of war with France; but a fall from his horse prevented William from further pursuing his military career, and the glory of reducing Louis XIV. within the bounds of his own kingdom was left to be earned by the generals of Queen Anne. The king was nearly recovered from the lameness consequent on his fall, when fever supervened; and he died March 8, 1702, in the fifty-second year of his age and thirteenth of his reign.

The character of King William has been drawn with all the exaggeration of panegyric and obloquy by opposing partisans. His native country owes him a lasting debt of gratitude, as the second founder of its liberty and independence; and his adopted country is bound to uphold his memory, as its champion and deliverer from civil and religious thraldom. In short, the attachment of the English nation to constitutional rights and liberal government may be measured by its adherence to the principles established at the Revolution of 1688 and its just estimate of that sovereign and those statesmen who placed the liberties of Great Britain on a solid and lasting foundation.





As a literary philosopher, Bacon surpasses Newton; as an experimental philosopher, Newton surpasses Bacon. Newton's works contain nothing in point of style and illustration comparable to Bacon's essays; Bacon's works contain nothing in point of scientific discovery and mathematical calculation comparable to Newton's "Optics" and "Principia."

Newton has been the great glory of the Royal Society; and the Royal Society is justly proud of its most illustrious ornament. He joined it in January, 1674, when he was excused the ordinary payment of a shilling a week, "on account of his low circumstances as he represented." In 1703 he was elected to the presidential chair, which he continued to occupy until his death, in 1727. Characteristic mementoes of him are preserved among the Royal Society's treasures. There is a solar dial made by the boy Isaac, when, instead of studying his grammar and learning Virgil and Horace, he was busy making windmills and water-clocks. We fancy we see him going along the road to Grantham on a market day with the old servant whom his mother sent to take care of him, and then stopping by the wayside to watch the motions of a water-wheel, reflecting upon the mechanical principles involved in the simplest contrivances. It is pleasant, with our knowledge of what he afterward became, to sit down on the green bank by the river side, and to speculate upon the ignorance of the old servant who accompanied him, and of the farmers they saluted by the way, as to the illustrious destiny which awaited the widow's son who lived in the manor house of Woolsthorpe. The reflecting telescope, preserved along with the dial, was made by Newton in his thirtieth year, and reminds us of the deep mathematical studies he was then pursuing at Cambridge. The autograph MS. of the "Principia," also in the possession of the Royal Society, gives increased vividness to the picture of this extraordinary person in his study, solving mysterious problems, and suggesting others still more mysterious; and then the lock of silvery hair adds the last touch to fancy's picture—like a stroke of the pencil which, when a portrait is nearly complete, gives life and expression to the whole.

Newton was portly but not tall, his silvery locks were abundant without any baldness, and his eyes were sparkling and piercing, though perhaps they failed to indicate the profound genius which through them looked into the secrets of the universe. Wonderful humility blended with his intellectual greatness. To other men he seemed a spirit of higher rank, having almost superhuman faculties of mental vision, wont to soar into regions which the vulture's eye hath never seen; to himself he was but a boy playing with the shells on the seashore, while the ocean lay undiscovered before him. Others were taken up with what Newton accomplished, Newton was taken up with what remained to be done. So it is ever with the highest genius; the broader the range of view, the wider the horizon of mystery. He who understands more than others is conscious beyond others of what still remains to be understood.

Isaac Newton was born at Woolsthorpe, in Lincolnshire, on December 25, 1642, one year after the death of Galileo, and just as England was being plunged into the confusion and miseries of civil war. Strange to say, as a lad, at first he was inattentive to study; but being struck a severe blow by a school-fellow, he strangely retaliated by determining to get above him in the class, which he accomplished, and ere long became head of the school. His play hours were employed in mechanical contrivances, and a windmill in the course of erection on the Grantham road was an object of intense curiosity and a source of immense instruction. He soon had a windmill of his own, at the top of the house in which he lived. He had also a water-clock in his bedroom, and a mechanical carriage in the parlor, in which he could wheel himself. Paper kites and paper lanterns were his favorite toys. In the yard of the house he traced on a wall the movements of the sun by means of fixed pins; the contrivance received the name of "Isaac's dial," and was a standard of time to the country people in the neighborhood.

He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, June 5, 1660, just as England was astir with restoration festivities, and he soon devoted himself to mathematical studies. Euclid he took in at a glance, and afterward proceeded to master Descartes's geometry. Isaac Barrow, then Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, became his friend and tutor; and the pupil repaid the master's kind attention by services rendered to him in connection with his optical lectures. In 1669, Newton succeeded Barrow in his professorship. He rose to eminence in the university, and in 1688 was chosen its representative in the Convention parliament. In 1695 he was appointed Warden of the Mint, and was promoted to the Mastership in 1699. After his appointment to a government office he left Cambridge to reside in London, and occupied for a time a house in Jermyn Street. From 1710 till two years before his death he lived close to Leicester Square. Next door to Orange Street Chapel there stands an old house which has seen a good many changes, and is identified as the abode of Sir Isaac, who had been knighted by Queen Anne in 1705. We visited it many years ago. The part of the house most intimately associated with his name is the little observatory perched on the roof. We were permitted to ascend into that spot, to see it desecrated by its present use, for there we found a shoemaker busy at his toil. A glass cupola probably crowned the observatory in Newton's time, and evidently there was a window in each of the four walls. So here he looked out on the London of nearly a century and a half ago, hardly less crowded and smoky about the neighborhood than now. Overhead, where Newton turned his eyes with most interest, we know it was just the same; the same beautiful stars shining out on a cold winter's night, the same planets sailing along the same blue ocean, the same moon throwing its light over the same old city. What observations, keen and searching, what calculations, intricate and profound, what speculations, far-reaching and sublime, must there have been, when one of the most gifted of mortals from that spot looked out upon the heavens, and in thought went forth on voyages of discovery into the distant regions of the universe! At the calm, still hour of midnight, Sirius watching over the city of sleepers, Jupiter carrying his brilliant lamp along his ancient pathway, every one of the luminaries in the place appointed by Him who calleth them all by their names—there stood the thoughtful man, with his reflecting telescope, occupied with thoughts which we common mortals in vain endeavor to conjecture.

The first department in the field which Newton explored with characteristic success was the study of optics. Philosophers were busy with inquiries into the nature of light. It had been long believed that every colored ray is equally refracted when passing through a lens. Newton determined to analyze the prismatic hues. He made a hole in a window-shutter, and darkening the room, let in a portion of light, which he passed through a prism. The white sunbeam formed a circular image on the opposite wall, but the prismatic colors formed an image five times as long as it was broad. He was curious to know how this came to pass. Satisfied that the length of the image in the latter case did not arise from any irregularity in his glass, or from any differences in the incidence of light from different parts of the sun's disk, or from any curvature in the direction of the rays, he concluded, after thorough reflection, that light is not homogeneous, but that it consists of rays of diverse refrangibility. The red hue he saw was less refracted than the orange, the orange less refracted than the yellow, and the violet more than any of the rest. These important conclusions he applied in the construction of the first reflecting telescope ever used in the survey of the heavens, and an instrument is preserved in Trinity College Library bearing the inscription, "Invented by Sir Isaac Newton, and made with his own hands, 1671."

At the request of the Royal Society, he published in the "Transactions" an account of his optical discoveries, and proved that white light is a compound of seven prismatic colors.

Everybody is familiar with the story of Newton's watching the apple fall from the tree. The tradition is fondly cherished on the spot where the philosopher is said to have been struck by the fact. The law by which the apple falls, not the reason which underlies the law, formed the subject of Newton's reflections, and led to the grandest of modern discoveries. The unknown cause of the apple's descent is the unknown cause of the planet's motion. That was the truth, simple and grand, which he brought to light and inculcated on the world. He undertook long calculations which he expected would prove this theory, but they failed to give the desired result. He consequently for a time desisted from the inquiry and turned his attention to other subjects. The error in Newton's first calculation arose from his taking the radius of the earth according to the received notion that a degree measured sixty miles, whereas Picard had determined it to be sixty-nine and a half miles. This was mentioned at a meeting of the Royal Society in 1682, at which Newton was present. "It immediately struck him that the value of the earth's radius was the erroneous element in his first calculation. With a feverish interest in this result, little imagined by those present, he hurried home, resumed his calculation with the new value, and having proceeded some way in it, was so overpowered by nervous agitation at its anticipated result, that he was unable to go on, and requested a friend to finish it for him, when it came out, exactly establishing the inverse square as the true measure of the moon's gravitation, and thus furnishing the key to the whole system." Hence proceeded Newton's immortal work, the "Principia."

The sublimest conclusion which Newton drew from his cautious and successful investigations of the laws of nature is put, with his characteristic humility, in the form of a query: "These things being rightly described, does it not appear from the phenomena that there is a Being incorporeal, living, intelligent, omnipresent, who, in infinite space (as it were in His sensory), sees the things themselves intimately, and thoroughly perceives them, and comprehends them wholly by their immediate presence to Himself?"

Newton spent his last days in Kensington. "I was, Sunday night," says his nephew, "March 7, 1725, at Kensington, with Sir Isaac Newton in his lodgings, just after he was come out of a fit of the gout, which he had in both of his feet for the first time, in the eighty-third year of his age. He was better after it, and had his health clearer and memory stronger than I had known them for some years." A year later the same diarist says: "April 15, 1726. I passed the whole day with Sir Isaac Newton, at his lodgings, Orbell's Buildings, Kensington, which was the last time I saw him." The house was lately in existence, situated in what is called Bullingham Place, retaining, when we visited it, a mansion-like aspect, with a large garden and tall trees. There he died, March 20, 1727, having on the previous day been able to read the newspaper and to hold a long conversation with Dr. Mead.

His body was laid in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, and then buried in Westminster Abbey.




At the close of the sixteenth century, the dominions of Russia, or Muscovy, as it was then more generally called, were far thrown back from the more civilized nations of southern Europe, by the intervention of Lithuania, Livonia, and other provinces now incorporated in the Russian empire, but then belonging either to Sweden or Poland. The Czar of Muscovy, therefore, possessed no political weight in the affairs of Europe, and little intercourse existed between the court of Moscow and the more polished potentates whom it affected to despise as barbarians, even for some time after the accession of the reigning dynasty, the house of Romanoff, in 1613, and the establishment of a more regular government than had previously been known. We only read occasionally of embassies being sent to Moscow, in general for the purpose of arranging commercial relations. From this state of insignificance, Peter, the first Emperor of Russia, raised his country, by introducing into it the arts of peace, by establishing a well-organized and disciplined army in the place of a lawless body of tumultuous mutineers, by creating a navy, where scarce a merchant vessel existed before, and, as the natural result of these changes, by important conquests on both the Asiatic and European frontiers of his hereditary dominions. For these services his countrymen bestowed on him, yet living, the title of Great; and it is well deserved, whether we look to the magnitude of those services, the difficulty of carrying into effect his benevolent designs, which included nothing less than the remodelling a whole people, or the grasp of mind and the iron energy of will, which were necessary to conceive such projects and to overcome the difficulties which beset them. It will not vitiate his claim to the epithet that his manners were coarse and boisterous, his amusements often ludicrous and revolting to a polished taste; if that claim be questionable, it is because he who aspired to be the reformer of others was unable to control the violence of his own passions.

The Czar Alexis, Peter's father, was actuated by somewhat of the spirit which so distinguished the son. He endeavored to introduce the European discipline into his armies; he had it much at heart to turn the attention of the Russians to maritime pursuits; and he added the fine provinces of Plescow and Smolensko to his paternal dominions. At the death of Alexis, in 1677, Peter was but five years old. His eldest brother Theodore succeeded to the throne. Theodore died after a reign of five years, and named Peter his successor, passing over the second brother, Ivan, who was weak-minded. Their ambitious sister, Sophia, stirred the strelitzi, or native militia, to revolt in favor of Ivan, and Peter and his mother had to take refuge in the Troitski convent. This retreat being discovered, they were driven for protection to the church altar itself, where the religion or superstition of the wild soldiery saved the intended victims. We pass in silence over the remaining intrigues and insurrections which troubled the young czar's minority. It was not until the close of the year 1689, in the eighteenth year of his age, that he finally shook off the trammels of his ambitious sister, and assumed in reality, as well as in name, the direction of the state. How he had been qualified for this task by education does not clearly appear; but even setting aside the stories which attribute to his sister the detestable design of leading him into all sorts of excess, and especially drunkenness, with the hope of ruining both his constitution and intellect, it is probable that no pains whatever had been taken to form his intellect or manners for the station which he was to occupy. One of the few anecdotes told of his early life is, that being struck by the appearance of a boat on the river Yausa, which runs through Moscow, and noticing it to be of different construction from the flat-bottomed vessels commonly in use, he was led to inquire into the method of navigating it. It had been built for the Czar Alexis by a Dutchman, who was still in Moscow. He was immediately sent for; he rigged and repaired the boat, and under his guidance the young prince learned how to sail her, and soon grew passionately fond of his new amusement. He had five small vessels built at Plescow, on the lake Peipus; and not satisfied with this fresh-water navigation, hired a ship at Archangel, in which he made a voyage to the coast of Lapland. In these expeditions his love of sailing was nourished into a passion which lasted through life. He prided himself upon his practical skill as a seaman; and both at this time and afterward exposed himself and his friends to no small hazard by his rashness in following this favorite pursuit.

The first serious object of Peter's attention was to reform the army. In this he was materially assisted by a Swiss gentleman named Lefort; at whose suggestion he raised a company of fifty men, who were clothed and disciplined in the European manner, the Russian army at that time being little better than a tribe of Tartars. As soon as the little corps was formed, Peter caused himself to be enrolled in it as a private soldier. It is a remarkable trait in the character of the man, that he thought no condescension degrading which forwarded any of his ends. In the army he entered himself in the lowest rank, and performed successively the duties of every other; in the navy he went still further, for he insisted on performing the menial duties of the lowest cabin-boy, rising step by step, till he was qualified to rate as an able seaman. Nor was this done merely for the sake of singularity; he had resolved that every officer of the sea or land service should enter in the lowest rank of his profession, that he might obtain a practical knowledge of every task or manoeuvre which it was his duty to see properly executed; and he felt that his nobility might scarcely be brought to submit to what in their eyes would be a degradation, except by the personal example of the czar himself. Meanwhile he had not been negligent of the other arm of war; for a number of Dutch and Venetian workmen were employed in building gunboats and small ships of war at Voronitz, on the river Don, intended to secure the command of the Sea of Azof, and to assist in capturing the strong town of Azof, then held by the Turks. The possession of this place was of great importance, from its situation at the mouth of the Don, commanding access to the Mediterranean Sea. His first military attempts were accordingly directed against it, and he succeeded in taking it in 1696.

In the spring of the ensuing year, the empire being tranquil and the young czar's authority apparently established on a safe footing, he determined to travel into foreign countries, to view with his own eyes, and become personally and practically familiar with the arts and institutions of refined nations. There was a grotesqueness in his manner of executing this design, which has tended, more probably than even its real merit, to make it one of the common-places of history. Every child knows how the Czar of Muscovy worked in the dock-yard of Saardam in Holland, as a common carpenter. In most men this would have been affectation; and perhaps there was some tinge of that weakness in the earnestness with which Peter handled the axe, obeyed the officers of the dock-yard, and in all points of outward manners and appearance, put himself on a level with the shipwrights who were earning their daily bread. It seems, however, to have been the turn of Peter's mind always to begin at the beginning; a sound maxim, though here, perhaps, pushed beyond reasonable bounds. And his abode and occupations in Holland formed only part of an extensive plan. On quitting Russia he sent sixty young Russians to Venice and Leghorn to learn ship-building and navigation, and especially the construction and management of galleys moved by oars, which were so much used by the Venetian republic. Others he sent into Holland, with similar instructions; others into Germany, to study the art of war, and make themselves well acquainted with the discipline and tactics of the German troops. So that while his personal labor at Saardam may have been stimulated in part by affectation of singularity, in part, perhaps, by a love of bodily exertion common in men of his busy and ardent temper, it would be unjust not to give him credit for higher motives; such as the desire to become thoroughly acquainted with the art of ship-building, which he thought so important, and to set a good example of diligence to those whom he had sent out on a similar voyage of education.

Peter remained nine months in Holland, the greatest part of which he spent in the dock-yard of Saardam. He displayed unwearied zeal in seeking out and endeavoring to comprehend everything of interest in science and art, especially in visiting manufactories. In January, 1698, he sailed for London in an English man-of-war, sent out expressly to bring him over. His chief object was to perfect himself in the higher branches of ship-building. With this view he occupied Mr. Evelyn's house, adjoining the dock-yard of Deptford; and there remain in that gentleman's journal some curious notices of the manners of the czar and his household, which were of the least refined description. During his stay he showed the same earnestness in inquiring into all things connected with the maritime and commercial greatness of the country, as before in Holland; and he took away nearly five hundred persons in his suite, consisting of naval captains, pilots, gunners, surgeons, and workmen in various trades, especially those connected with the naval service. In England, without assuming his rank, he ceased to wear the attire and adopt the habits of a common workman; and he had frequent intercourse with William III., who is said to have conceived a strong liking for him, notwithstanding the uncouthness of his manners. Kneller painted a portrait of him for the king, which is said to have been a good likeness.

He left London in April, 1698, and proceeded to Vienna, principally to inspect the Austrian troops, then esteemed among the best in Europe. He had intended to visit Italy; but his return was hastened by the tidings of a dangerous insurrection having broken out, which, though suppressed, seemed to render a longer absence from the seat of government inexpedient. The insurgents were chiefly composed of the Russian soldiery, abetted by a large party who thought everything Russian good, and hated and dreaded the czar's innovating temper. Of those who had taken up arms, many were slain in battle; the rest, with many persons of more rank and consequence, suspected of being implicated in the revolt, were retained in prison until the czar himself should decide their fate. Numerous stories of his extravagant cruelties on this occasion have been told, which may safely be passed over as unworthy of credit. It is certain, however, that considerable severity was shown. This insurrection led to the complete remodelling of the Russian army, on the same plan which had already been partially adopted.

During the year 1699 the czar was chiefly occupied by civil reforms. According to his own account, as published in his journal, he regulated the press, caused translations to be published of various treatises on military and mechanical science and history; he founded a school for the navy; others for the study of the Latin, German, and other languages; he encouraged his subjects to cultivate foreign trade, which before they had absolutely been forbidden to do under pain of death; he altered the Russian calendar, in which the year began on September 1st, to agree in that point with the practice of other nations; he broke through the Oriental custom of not suffering women to mix in general society; and he paid sedulous attention to the improvement of his navy on the river Don. We have the testimony of Mr. Deane, an English ship-builder, that the czar had turned his manual labors to good account, who states in a letter to England, that "the czar has set up a ship of sixty guns, where he is both foreman and masterbuilder; and, not to flatter him, I'll assure your lordship it will be the best ship among them, and it is all from his own draught: how he framed her together, and how he made the moulds, and in so short a time as he did, is really wonderful."

He introduced an improved breed of sheep from Saxony and Silesia; despatched engineers to survey the different provinces of his extensive empire; sent persons skilled in metallurgy to the various districts in which mines were to be found; established manufactories of arms, tools, stuffs; and encouraged foreigners skilled in the useful arts to settle in Russia, and enrich it by the produce of their industry.

We cannot trace the progress of that protracted contest between Sweden and Russia, in which the short-lived greatness of Sweden was broken: we can only state the causes of the war and the important results to which it led. Peter's principal motive for engaging in it was his leading wish to make Russia a maritime and commercial nation. To this end it was necessary that she should be possessed of ports, of which, however, she had none but Archangel and Azof, both most inconveniently situated, as well in respect of the Russian empire itself, as of the chief commercial nations of Europe. On the waters of the Baltic Russia did not possess a foot of coast. Both sides of the Baltic, both sides of the Gulf of Finland, the country between the head of that gulf and the Lake Ladoga, including both sides of the River Neva, and the western side of Lake Ladoga itself, and the northern end of Lake Peipus, belonged to Sweden. In the year 1700, Charles XII. being but eighteen years of age, Denmark, Poland, and Russia, which had all of them suffered from the ambition of Sweden, formed a league to repair their losses, presuming on the weakness usually inherent in a minority. The object of Russia was the restoration of the provinces of Ingria, Carelia, and Wiborg, the country round the head of the Gulf of Finland, which formerly had belonged to her; that of Poland, was the recovery of Livonia and Esthonia, the greater part of which had been ceded by her to Charles XI. of Sweden. Denmark was to obtain Holstein and Sleswick. But Denmark and Poland very soon withdrew, and left Russia to encounter Sweden single-handed. To this she was entirely unequal; her army, the bulk of it undisciplined, and even the disciplined part unpractised in the field, was no match for the veteran troops of Sweden, the terror of Germany. In the battle of Narva, a town on the river which runs out of the Peipus Lake, fought November 30, 1700, 9,000 Swedes defeated signally near forty thousand Russians, strongly intrenched and with a numerous artillery. Had Charles prosecuted his success with vigor, he might probably have delayed for many years the rise of Russia; but whether from contempt or mistake he devoted his whole attention to the war in Poland, and left the czar at liberty to recruit and discipline his army, and improve the resources of his kingdom. In these labors he was most diligent. His troops, practised in frequent skirmishes with the Swedes quartered in Ingria and Livonia, rapidly improved, and on the celebrated field of Pultowa broke forever the power of Charles XII. This decisive action did not take place until July 8, 1709. The interval was occupied by a series of small, but important additions to the Russian territory. In 1701-2, great part of Livonia and Ingria were subdued, including the banks of the Neva, where on May 27, 1703, the city of St. Petersburg was founded. It was not till 1710 that the conquest of Courland, with the remainder of Livonia, including the important harbors of Riga and Revel, gave to Russia that free navigation of the Baltic Sea which Peter had longed for as the greatest benefit which he could confer upon his country.

After the battle of Pultowa Charles fled to Turkey, where he continued for some years, shut out from his own dominions, and intent chiefly on spiriting the Porte to make war on Russia. In this he succeeded; but hostilities were terminated almost at their beginning by the battle of the Pruth, fought July 20, 1711, in which the Russian army, not mustering more than forty thousand men, and surrounded by five times that number of Turks, owed its preservation to Catherine, first the mistress, at this time the wife, and finally the acknowledged partner and successor of Peter on the throne of Russia. By her coolness and prudence, while the czar, exhausted by fatigue, anxiety, and self-reproach, was laboring under nervous convulsions, to which he was liable throughout life, a treaty was concluded with the vizier in command of the Turkish army, by which the Russians preserved indeed life, liberty, and honor, but were obliged to resign Azof, to give up the forts and burn the vessels built to command the sea bearing that name, and to consent to other stipulations, which must have been very bitter to the hitherto successful conqueror. Returning to the seat of government, his foreign policy for the next few years was directed to breaking down the power of Sweden, and securing his new metropolis by prosecuting his conquests on the northern side of the Gulf of Finland. Here he was entirely successful; and the whole of Finland itself, and of the gulf, fell into his hands. These provinces were secured to Russia by the peace of Nieustadt, in 1721. Upon this occasion the senate or state assembly of Russia requested him to assume the title of Emperor of all the Russias, with the adjunct of Great, and Father of his Country.

If our sketch of the latter years of Peter's life appears meagre and unsatisfactory, it is to be recollected that the history of that life is the history of a great empire, which it would be vain to condense within our limits, were they greater than they are. Results are all that we are competent to deal with. From the peace of Nieustadt, the exertions of Peter, still unremitting, were directed more to consolidate and improve the internal condition of the empire, by watching over the changes which he had already made, than to effect farther conquests, or new revolutions in policy or manners. He died February 8, 1725, leaving no surviving male issue. Some time before he had caused the Empress Catherine to be solemnly crowned and associated with him on the throne, and to her he left the charge of fostering those schemes of civilization which he had originated.




[Footnote 1: Copyright, 1894, by Selmar Hess.]


Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, was born May 13, 1717, daughter of Charles VI. of the house of Hapsburg—ruling Austria for more than four hundred years—and of Elizabeth of Brunswick. From her father she inherited the "deadly Hapsburg tenacity," and from her mother much good sense and capacity for managing affairs, all of which stood her in good stead. She was especially fortunate in three things: that she lived in the time of Frederick the Great of Prussia, for thus she had given to her a chance to know of what stuff she was made; that she did not marry him, as was proposed by the great Eugene; and that she did not live to see the beautiful head of her daughter, Marie Antoinette, fall under the guillotine. Though the court of Charles VI. rivalled in ceremonial observance that of Spain, the little archduchess was reared in almost Spartan simplicity of dress and food. From Jesuit text-books she learned her history and geography, and she spoke several languages, none of which, however, could she ever write or spell quite correctly. But chiefly she was taught the pre-eminent dignity and power of the Hapsburgs, and the necessary indivisibility of the Austrian state. She learned to hunt, to shoot, and to dance, and at suppers of state she and her little sister were sometimes allowed to present to their stately mother her gloves and fan when the emperor rose. She had an aversion to business and great diffidence of her own capacity, and though the emperor took her to the council of state at the time of the Polish election, when she was only sixteen, he yet failed to give her any real knowledge of the commonest forms of business. In this austere court, never seeing a smile on her father's face, she grew up, "the prettiest little maiden in the world," to a radiant woman, heir-expectant to the throne by virtue of the Pragmatic Sanction, an order of state by means of which the Emperor Charles VI. had undertaken to settle the Austrian succession.

At nineteen she was "beautiful to soul and eye," tall and slight, with brilliant complexion, sparkling gray eyes, and a profusion of golden wavy hair. She had an aquiline nose,—strange to say for a Hapsburg, an exceedingly lovely mouth,—and very beautiful hands and arms. Her voice was sharp but musical, and her quick speech and animated gestures betrayed an ardent and impetuous nature, though she never lost her high and dignified bearing. Her anger was easily roused, but never lasted long, especially when a fault had been committed against herself, and when she knew that she had been too angry she tried to atone by overflowing kindness. She needed only to be convinced that a thing was wrong, to give it up. Whatever she did she did with her whole heart, and gratitude was one of her strongest characteristics. Withal she kept a constant and steadfast soul, and her nature was delicate and refined; she was a worthy sister of Isabella of Castile. At nineteen, largely through her own persistence, she escaped being made a sacrifice to the political needs of Austria in being given to the heir of Philip V. of Spain, and married the man of her choice, Francis Stephen, the grandson of that Duke of Lorraine who, in 1683, together with John Sobieski, King of Poland, had saved Vienna from the Turks. Her husband was of comely person and suave manners, kind-hearted, though not strong nor brilliant. To him she bore five sons and eleven daughters. She was looking forward to the birth of her eldest son, when, at the age of twenty-three, October 20, 1740, she was proclaimed by the heralds Sovereign Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, for her father lay dead in Vienna, and all the cares and anxieties of government had fallen upon her shoulders. Austria was not one nation, but composed of many differing and scattered peoples jealous of their ancient rights, among whom there could be no sense of unity, and in his many disastrous wars her father had lost several of its possessions. There was the depression of defeat and mismanagement among the state-counsellors, there were only $65,000 in the treasury, and an army of but 68,000 soldiers. The powers that had given in their adhesion to the Pragmatic Sanction were tardily and but half acknowledging her succession, and from France she could get nothing but dissimulation and uncertainty. On November 1st the young royal wife was joyfully and peacefully creating her husband Grand Master of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and co-regent, and conferring upon him the Bohemian electoral vote. In less than six weeks from that day the Elector of Bavaria had laid formal claim to her throne, Frederick of Prussia had marched his troops into Silesia, one of her finest provinces, calling it his own, and the war of the Austrian Succession was on for seven long years; for the high, heroic heart would not yield one inch, and the sovereign ruler of Austria had met with fine Hapsburg scorn the insulting proposition of the King of Prussia that he would gladly support her right to the throne of her ancestors, provided she would resign to his obliging majesty the whole of Silesia.

The aged counsellors who took it upon themselves to dictate to the young and inexperienced ruler soon found out their mistake. The little girl who had displayed an aversion for business was now a woman with talent for its details, only eager for instruction in order to make up her own mind. The army must be increased and improved, and the people aroused to enthusiasm, if Frederick was to be checked. And it was not Frederick alone that was to be feared, for a great coalition of European powers was formed against her, and she had but England and Saxony to depend on for help, while the enemy was already within her dominions. March 13, 1741, her son Joseph was born, and by September 11th the young mother was in Hungary to urge its people to come to the aid of the threatened country in its extremity. In deep mourning and still pale and delicate, holding the little archduke in her arms, her appeal to the Hungarian nobles roused them to lofty enthusiasm and gained their unswerving devotion. She never forgot this, and when she lay dying, spoke of them with grateful affection. The war went on with varying fortunes, but she kept heart and hope, though by the end of 1741 the powers were plotting the partition of Austria as a probable event. By 1743 the luck had changed; the Austrian army had redeemed itself, and Maria Theresa was fancying that she should be able to conquer Prussia. It was about this time that she began greatly to rely on Kaunitz, who afterward became Prime Minister, and who shaped for all the after-years of her reign the policy of her rule. The old ministers left her by her father were not able to meet the new difficulties, and the sovereign was often in great anxiety amid conflicting and hesitating counsels, for it was nothing less than the very existence of the country that was at stake. She was thirty-one years old when the war came to an end by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, the particulars of which were entrusted to Kaunitz while he was ambassador at London. By that treaty Maria Theresa gained the final guarantee of the Pragmatic Sanction, though she had to cede two of her Italian duchies to the Spanish Bourbons, and Glatz and the much-desired Silesia to the "bad neighbor," as she always called Frederick. She was twenty-eight when she had the pleasure of seeing her husband elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, gaining as his wife the title of empress, and being thus often spoken of as the empress-queen.

The war was over, but she knew full well that it was only for a short time, and she spent the eight years of restless peace that followed, in the most unremitting efforts to enable her country to endure the next attack. She had proved that she could create heroes out of common men; she was now to extort praise even from Frederick of Prussia for "accomplishing designs worthy of a great man." A military academy was created at Vienna; order and economy were brought into the treasury and the army; she established camps of instruction and went herself to visit them, recompensing brave officers, calling forth abilities and emulation. The Department of Justice was disjoined from that of the Police, a superior court was established, and the direction of the finances given to a special council, reporting every week to the empress. She often consulted men who were not in office upon matters of policy, and thus got many valuable suggestions. Meantime Kaunitz was ambassador at Paris, and had been bending all his efforts to secure a French alliance, which seemed to him of so much importance that he even induced his royal mistress to write to the Pompadour with a view to securing the influence of Louis XV. in the impending war. This was not the only time that Maria Theresa sacrificed the woman in her to the ruler, for though above all breath of scandal, and devotedly attached to husband and children, she never forgot that she was Austria, and must maintain her inheritance. Then came on the Seven Years' War, in which she had as allies almost all Europe, though at its close she had to give up the last hope of ever regaining Silesia, which was as dear to her as Calais to Mary of England, Frederick agreeing to vote for Joseph as successor to his father as emperor. It was in this war, after the victory of Kolin, that she founded the military order of Maria Theresa, the beautiful cross of which is still the highest and most coveted Austrian decoration. At the end of the war she was forty-six years old, and it was only two years after, August 18, 1765, that she herself made the shroud for her husband, and put on the mourning which was to last for fifteen years. Ever after that she spent in seclusion the whole month of August and the 18th of every other month, thus breaking the routine of her busy days. I give in brief the account of one of these: Rising at five or six, according to the season, prayer, dressing, hearing mass, breakfast, work till nine on petitions and reports, a second mass, a visit to her children, more work till dinner at one, and again work. This she was apt to do in a sentinel-guarded arbor to which she would go from the palace, carrying despatches and papers in a tray slung by a cord round her neck. Vespers at six, an evening card-party, supper, a walk at eight, and then sleep. After the death of Francis she made her son Joseph joint-ruler, but soon found herself obliged to limit his authority to the care of the army. At fifty the small-pox greatly marred her beauty, though she was now at the age when the constant beauty of soul of her life shone fair on the lofty face. When she was fifty-three she bade good-by to the little fifteen-years-old Marie Antoinette, going, as she hoped, to assure the alliance of France, never to see her again. To her for the rest of Maria Theresa's life, as to the other married daughters, went a courier every three weeks with letters, which have been preserved, and may still be read for knowledge of the mother and empress. At fifty-five Maria Theresa became a party to the partition of Poland, and because this transaction is regarded as a blot upon her character, I give in full the words which she sent to Kaunitz when she returned to him the signed agreement. She was then fifty-five years old, and keen memories of 1741 and of her young life must have stirred the trembling pen as she wrote on it: "Placet, because so many great and learned men wish it; but when I have been long dead, people will see what must come from the violation of everything that until now has been deemed holy and right." And then on a slip of paper sent with the document stood these words: "When all my countries were attacked, and I no longer knew where I might go quietly to lie in, I stood stiff on my good right and the help of God. But in this affair, when not only clear justice cries to Heaven against us, but also all fairness and common-sense condemn us, I must confess that all the days of my life I have never felt so troubled, and I am ashamed to show myself before the people. Let the prince consider what an example we give to the world, when, for a miserable slice of Poland or of Moldavia and Wallachia, we risk the loss of our honor and reputation. I feel that I am alone, and no longer in health and strength; and therefore, although not without my greatest sorrow I allow matters to take their own course."

The heaviest burdens and greatest trials of her life were now over. The fruit of her careful plans was beginning to be reaped in prosperity, and a long period of tranquillity had come. She turned all her attention to reforms: academies were established, among others one for the education of the Magyar noble youth in Vienna, that these might become the more surely incorporated with the Austrian system. The public schools were reconstituted, the monasteries reformed, and no longer allowed to furnish asylums for criminals. Priests were forbidden to be present at the making of wills, and the Inquisition was suppressed. Through most convincing efforts on the part of Kaunitz, the Jesuits had been finally expelled from the country. Agriculture, trade, and commerce were encouraged, though by the advice of England the navy was given up. Inoculation for the small-pox was introduced, and a hospital for its treatment, as well as a home for veteran soldiers, built in Vienna. When she was sixty, the war of the Bavarian Succession was happily ended, in opposition to the will of Joseph, by her most untiring efforts. Servitude and the torture had been abolished; the taxes, on a better basis, were bringing in large returns; a standing army had been created, the monarchy lifted and strengthened, and the court and the people stood together against oppression from the aristocracy. Austria had been carried from the Middle Ages into modern times, and was no longer a conglomeration but a nation.

Maria Theresa had reached the age of sixty-three when the brave religious spirit, over which flattery had had no power, was waiting in pain and anguish but not in fear the hour of its release. The generous and open hand could no longer give; the heart so keenly sensitive to criticism was to dread it no more; the eyes that, as she had written to Marie Antoinette, had shed so many relieving tears were nevermore to need that relief. "You are all so timid," she said, "I am not afraid of death. I only pray to God to give me strength to the end." She did not forget Poland, she gratefully remembered Hungary, and then, with the cry, "To Thee! I am coming!" she sank back dead, in the arms of the son whom, as a little baby, she had held up in her brave arms to plead for the loyalty of the Hungarian nobles. The high imperial heart had ceased to beat, the house of Hapsburg had come to an end, and Joseph II., of the house of Hapsburg-Lorraine, was the sovereign ruler of Austria.

[Signature of the author.]




[Footnote 2: Copyright, 1894, by Selmar Hess.]


Edmund Burke, the great British politician, and one of the greatest political philosophers that ever lived, was born at Dublin, January 1, 1730, as son of a petty attorney. Conformably to the wishes of his father, he began to study law in London, but found it so little attractive that, encouraged by eminent men, particularly by Johnson, he turned to literary pursuits. His first work, "Vindication of Natural Society" (1756), which at once won him fame, is a keen satire on Bolingbroke, showing that the attacks of that writer upon revealed religion might as well be turned against all social and political institutions. His reputation was still enhanced by the "Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas on the Sublime and Beautiful" (1757); and at the same time he showed, by publishing "Dodd's Annual Register," that he was equally gifted for politics. As a preliminary for practical activity in that domain, he became private secretary of Gerard Hamilton, the lieutenant-general's assistant for Ireland, but soon found that his chief's smart mediocrity only wanted to turn to advantage the secretary's scantily rewarded talent. He returned to London (1764), and at once entered upon the political career in which he was to play so eminent a part.

The Grenville ministry was dismissed and replaced by an administration of rather heterogeneous elements, under Lord Rockingham, not a great statesman, but combining unblemished character and solid gifts with rank and wealth. Burke became his private secretary and influential adviser, being at the same time elected a member for Wendover. Matters then were in a very critical state: while discontent was fast rising in America and commerce trembling for its colonial trade, two parties were fiercely opposed in Parliament. Pitt deemed it treason against the Constitution and to the colonies to tax America without its consent. Grenville declared it treason to crown and legislature to abandon that right. Burke, though in principle more inclining to Pitt, advised a middle course by redressing the grievances of the colonies, while maintaining the dignity of the crown. The government proposed (January, 1766) to repeal Grenville's Stamp Act, but to guard the constitutional rights of the mother-country by a "Declaratory Act." In the debate on these bills Burke made his maiden speech, which called forth universal admiration; a friend wrote to him, "You have made us hear a new eloquence." The bills passed, but the ministry, mined by both parties, soon afterward was obliged to resign. Burke summed up its activity in an excellent pamphlet, "A Short Account of a Late Short Administration," and now entered into opposition against Lord Chatham's ministry, which he called "a tessellated pavement without cement." On the other hand, he victoriously refuted the attacks of the Grenvilles against Rockingham, in his "Observations on the Present State of the Nation," exhibiting the emptiness of his opponents' declamations on the declining wealth of the country, and proving that its resources were fast increasing.

Burke rises still higher in the "Thoughts on the Causes of the Present Discontents" (1770), a powerful plea for the British Constitution in its development from 1688, and exhibiting the full maturity of his talent. He denies that the prevailing discontents are due to some factious libellers exciting the people, who have no interest in disorder, but are only roused by the impatience of suffering. The discontents were real, and their cause was a perversion of the true principles on which the Constitution rested. As hitherto, business had gone alternately through the hands of Whigs and Tories, the opposition controlling the government; but now a court faction had sprung up called "the king's friends," a double cabinet, acting as irresponsible wire-pullers behind the scenes. These men deriving, like Janissaries, a kind of freedom from the very condition of their servitude, were sitting in secondary, but efficient, departments of office and in the household of the royal family, so as to occupy the avenues to the throne and to forward or frustrate the execution of any measure according to their own interests; they endeavored to separate the crown from the administration, and to divide the latter within itself. To this cabal it was owing that British policy was brought into derision in those foreign countries which, a while ago, trembled at the power of England's arms. Above all, they tried to pervert the principles of Parliament by raising divisions among the people, by influencing the elections, by separating representatives from their constituents, and by undermining the control of the legislature over the executive. They maintained that all political connections were in their nature factious; but free commonwealths were ever made by parties, i.e., bodies of men united for promoting by their joint endeavors the national interest upon great leading principles in which they were agreed; government by parties was the very soul of representative institutions; it had raised England to her present power and protected the liberty of the people; while the cant, "measures not men," had always been the pretext for getting loose from every honorable engagement.

Burke finds the remedy in restoring the Constitution to its original principles; all patriots must form a firm combination against the cabal; a just connection between representatives and constituents must be re-established; Parliament ought not to meddle with the privileges of the executive, but exercise real control upon the acting powers of the state, and if necessary, not be afraid to resort to impeachment, "that great guardian of the purity of the Constitution;" finally, if all means fail, there must be an interposition of the body of the people itself—"an unpleasant remedy but legal, when it is evident that nothing else can hold the Constitution to its true principles."

He at the same time displayed a prominent activity in Parliament, where soon all internal questions gave way to the great contest with America. In 1771 he had accepted the place of an agent for New York, had become intimately acquainted with Franklin, and won a deep insight into American affairs. Of the six duties imposed by Townshend's Revenue Act (1767) five had been repealed, the tea duty alone remained. December 18, 1773, the cargo of an East Indian tea-ship was thrown into the sea at Boston, and the first armed conflict ensued. Court and government were resolved to put down this rebellion; Burke, on the contrary, supported in his great speech "On American Taxation" Rose-Fuller's motion (April, 1774) for suppressing the last duty. England had no right to tax the colonies, nor had she ever pretended to do so before Grenville's Stamp Act; that, as well as the most important duties of the Revenue Act, had been repealed; the tea-duty was slight and it produced short of nothing, the cost of collection devouring it to the bone; for the Americans refused to buy imported tea, and they were right to do so; having inherited English principles they resisted for the same reason for which Hampden had resisted the payment of the trifling ship-money, because the principle on which it was demanded would have made him a slave. It would be a signal folly to maintain the shadow of a duty and to risk the loss of an empire merely because the preamble of the Revenue Act said it was expedient that a revenue should be raised in his majesty's dominions in America.

The blindness of the majority turned away from those wise counsels. Parliament was dissolved. Burke, elected for Bristol, forthwith introduced thirteen resolutions, which he defended in his celebrated speech for "Conciliation with the Colonies" (March 22, 1775). As he had told his constituents his aim was to reconcile British superiority with American liberty, he proposed to remove the ground of the difference in order to restore the former confidence of the colonies in the mother-country. "Fighting is not the best way of gaining a people of more than two millions, in which the fierce spirit of liberty is probably stronger than in any other country, and that liberty is founded upon English principles." Now, a fundamental point of our Constitution is that the people have power of "granting their own money;" the colonial assemblies have uncontested competence to raise taxes, and have frequently granted them for imperial purposes; sometimes so liberally that, in 1743, the Commons resolved to reimburse the expense; no method for procuring a representation in Parliament of the colonies has hitherto been advised, consequently no revenue by imposition has been raised before the Stamp Act; we therefore ought to acknowledge that only the general assemblies can grant "aids to his Majesty." To enforce the reverse principle is not only unjust, but impossible, "when three thousand miles of ocean lie between us and them. Seas roll and months pass between the order and the execution. We may impoverish the colonies and cripple our own most important trade, but it is preposterous to make them unserviceable, in order to keep them obedient." The motions were rejected; three years afterward, when it was too late, Burke's opponent, Lord North, proposed a similar plan.

In 1780 Burke introduced his bill for "Economical reform in support of several petitions to correct the gross abuses in the management of public expenditure before laying fresh burdens upon the people." His speech derives a particular interest from its defining the difference of timely and gradual reformation from hasty and harsh, making clear work. The former was an amicable and temperate arrangement with a friend in power, leaving room for growth; the latter was imposing terms upon a conquered enemy under a state of inflammation. In 1782 Lord North was obliged to resign, and Rockingham became again premier, Burke paymaster-general of the army. He now carried his economical reform, abolishing sinecures, suppressing useless expenses, and cutting down salaries, among which was his own.

After Rockingham's death and the overthrow of the short Shelburne administration, Burke turned his activity to the misgovernment of India; his speeches in support of Fox's East-India Bill (December 1, 1783), and on the Nabob of Arcot's debts (February 15, 1783), show that he had thoroughly mastered that intricate subject. He violently denounced the oppression exercised by the company, a prelude to his campaign against Warren Hastings, which he continued for eight years. His speech justifying the impeachment of the governor-general, said Erskine, "irresistibly carried away its brilliant audience by a superhuman eloquence."

Burke in this contest was, as always, animated by the purest motives, but his passion went too far in comparing Hastings to Verres, and did not sufficiently allow for the difficult circumstances in which his adversary was placed. Without the latter's unscrupulous energy, India would have been lost. Hastings finally was acquitted, but Burke's attacks nevertheless had the effect of uncovering and redressing the prevailing abuses.

The last period of Burke's life is filled up by his great struggle against the French revolution. Already in 1769 he had prophetically asserted that the derangement of French finances must infallibly lead to a violent convulsion, the influence of which upon France and even Europe could be scarcely divined; now he directed the attention of the House (February 4, 1790) to the dangers of the revolution, by which the French had shown themselves "the ablest architects of ruin," pulling down all their domestic institutions, making "a digest of anarchy" called "the rights of men," and establishing a ferocious, tyrannical, and atheistical democracy. It might be said that they had done service to England, a rival, by reducing their country to impotence and expunging it out of the system of Europe; but, by the vicinity of the two countries, their present distemper might prove more contagious than the gilded tyranny of Louis XIV. had been, and "much as it would afflict him, he would abandon his best friends and join with his worst enemies to oppose all violent exertions of the spirit of innovation, which by tearing to pieces the contexture of the state prevented all real reformation;" the last passage alluding to the apology of Fox, hitherto his closest friend, for French proceedings.

These ideas Burke more fully developed in his famous "Reflections on the Revolution in France" (1790); liberals maintained that by this work he had deserted the cause of liberty; conservatives asserted that he had become the stoutest champion of order combined with rational freedom. It must be acknowledged that Burke erred by judging the state of France before the revolution too favorably; if he justly appreciated the pernicious influence of Rousseau, "that great professor and hero of vanity," he ought to have discerned that a nation, the higher classes of which were undermined by materialism and unbelief, while the masses lived in deep misery, was incapable of a temperate reform; the follies and terrors of the revolution were the children of the sins of the "ancien regime." But how amply has history confirmed his judgment on the revolution itself! While Fox admired the constitution of 1791 as "the most astonishing and glorious edifice of liberty that ever was erected," Burke foresaid that this constitutional king would be torn from his throne by the mob, that the wildest anarchy would put France in confusion, and that after its exhaustion an unlimited military despotism would be established.

This work, which produced a European sensation, receives its true light by Burke's "Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs" (1791). His former friends having sided with Fox, he refuted the reproach of having abandoned his principles by an elaborate comparison of the English revolution of 1688 with that of France. His later writings, among which the "Thoughts on French Affairs" (1791) and "Thoughts on a Regicide Peace" (1796) are the principal, were directed against the foreign influence of the revolutionary system, "France being no more a state but a faction, which must be destroyed or will destroy Europe." Here again Burke was wrong; if France was a revolutionary crater, the safest way was to let it burn out in itself, while the insane aggression of continental powers only confirmed the reign of terror. Burke would go to war for the idea of prescriptive right; Pitt declined to fight for the French monarchy, and would make war only for the defence of English interests.

Although Burke had the satisfaction of gaining the majority for his views, he retired from Parliament in 1794; a pension which he obtained he defended in the "Letter to a Noble Lord," a dignified plea, "pro domo." One of his last works was "Thoughts and Details on Scarcity" (1795). In a time when political economy was still in a state of infancy, he held the most enlightened opinions on all questions relating to it; his doctrines on prices, wages, rent, etc., are still worth reading. Above all, he opposes indiscreet government tampering with the trade of provisions. "Once habituated to get cheap bread, the people will never be satisfied to get it otherwise, and on the first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them."

Burke died July 8, 1797. His was a character of unblemished purity, manly uprightness, and perfect disinterestedness. He was a conservative of the truest and best kind, but in his later years went too far in supporting existing institutions merely because they existed. Lacking practical accommodation to circumstances, he would probably not have been a great minister; neither was he a consummate parliamentary tactician and debater, nevertheless he stands in the first ranks of statesmen and orators. Lord Brougham goes too far in calling his speeches spoken dissertations; they were carefully prepared set speeches. In them, as in his writings, we admire the most varied information, philosophical acuteness, penetrating sagacity, curious felicity of expression, and an eloquence embracing the full range and depth of the subject. Fox avowed that he had learned more from Burke than from all other men and authors, and for the same reason his works will remain a mine of political wisdom. The only drawback is that in his eagerness he sometimes overstated his case, and, embittered by the struggles of his later years, occasionally condescended to expressions bordering upon scurrility.

[Signature of the author.]




Though eminent qualities are generally necessary to the acquisition of permanent fame, the life of Franklin affords signal proof that moderate talents, judiciously directed, when aided by industry and perseverance, will enable a man to render signal services to his country and his kind, and give him a claim to the homage of posterity. He was the fifteenth child of a tallow-chandler in Boston, where he was born January 17, 1706. His father at first intended to educate him for the church, but finding that the expense was likely to exceed his means, he took the boy home after he had acquired little more than the elements of learning, to assist him in his own trade. The boy greatly disliked the nature of the employment, and was very anxious to become a sailor. Fortunately for him his friends controlled his inclinations; instead of going to sea he was apprenticed to his eldest brother, James, who was a printer. Franklin records in his Memoirs that though he had only at this time entered his twelfth year he paid so much attention to his business that he soon became proficient in all its details, and, by the quickness with which he executed his work, obtained a little leisure, which he devoted to study. His studious habits were noticed by a gentleman named Adams, who had a large collection of books, which he placed at the disposal of Franklin; among these were some volumes of poetry, which fired his emulation, and he began to compose little pieces in verse. Two of these were printed by his brother and sold as street-ballads, but they were, as he informs us, wretched doggerel, and the ridicule thrown on them by his father deterred him from similar attempts. But though he laid aside poetry, he did not abandon his ambition to become a good English writer; he studied the art of composition with great labor, being rewarded by the consciousness of improvement.

Franklin's self-denial and power of control over his appetites were not less remarkable than his industry. Having, at the age of sixteen, read a work which recommended vegetable diet, he determined to adopt the system, and undertook to provide for himself upon his brother's allowing him one-half of the ordinary expenses of board. On this pittance he not only supported himself, but contrived, by great abstemiousness, to save a portion of it, which he devoted to the purchase of books. He soon had an opportunity of testing his literary progress; in 1720 his brother commenced the publication of a newspaper, the second which had appeared in America, called the New England Courant. This paper, at a time when periodicals were rare, attracted most of the literary men of Boston to the house of the proprietor; their conversation, and particularly their remarks on the authorship of the various articles contributed to the paper, revived Franklin's literary ambition; he sent some communications to the journal in a feigned hand; they were inserted, and he tells us that "he had the exquisite pleasure to find that they met with approbation, and that, in the various conjectures respecting the author, no one was mentioned who did not enjoy a high reputation in the country for talents and genius." He was thus encouraged to reveal his secret to his brother, but he did not obtain the respect and fraternal indulgence which he had anticipated. James Franklin was a man of violent temper; he treated Benjamin with great harshness, and often proceeded to the extremity of blows.

An article which appeared in the Courant having given offence to the authorities, James was thrown into prison for a month, and the management of the paper devolved on Benjamin. He conducted it with great spirit, but with questionable prudence, for he made it the vehicle of sharp attacks on the principal persons in the colony. This gave such offence that when James was liberated from prison, an arbitrary order was issued that he should no longer print the paper called the New England Courant. To evade this order it was arranged that Benjamin's indentures should be cancelled in order that the paper might be published in his name, but at the same time a secret contract was made between the parties, by which James was entitled to his brother's services during the unexpired period of apprenticeship. A fresh quarrel, however, soon arose, and Benjamin separated from his brother, taking what he has confessed to be an unfair advantage of the circumstance that the contract could not be safely brought forward.

The circumstance produced an unfavorable impression on the minds of the printers in Boston, and Franklin, finding it impossible to obtain employment in his native town, resolved to seek it in New York. Aware that his father would be opposed to this measure, he was compelled to sell his books to raise money for defraying the expenses of his journey. America was at this time very thinly inhabited; there were no public conveyances on the roads, the inns were few, and their accommodations miserable; but Franklin had accustomed himself to hard fare, and he did not allow the inconvenience he endured to interfere with his enjoyment of new scenery. On reaching New York he found that the printers there had no occasion for his services, and he continued his journey to Philadelphia. Having obtained employment in that city from a printer named Keimer, Franklin continued to devote his leisure hours to literature. The respectability of his appearance and the superior tone of his conversation began soon to be remarked; they led to his being introduced to several eminent men, and particularly to Sir William Keith, the Governor of Pennsylvania, who frequently invited him to his table. Keith urged Franklin to commence business on his own account, and when the young man had ineffectually applied for assistance to his father in Boston, he advised him to go to London and form a connection with some of the great publishing houses, promising him letters of credit and recommendation. Franklin sailed for London, but the promised letters were never sent; and he found himself, on his arrival in England, thrown entirely on his own resources.

Having soon obtained employment, he exhibited to his fellow-workmen an edifying example of industry and temperance, by which many of them profited. He also published a little work of a sceptical tendency, which procured him introductions to some eminent men, but which he afterward lamented as one of the greatest errors of his life. After remaining about eighteen months in England, he returned to Philadelphia as a clerk to Mr. Denham, and on the death of that gentleman went back once more to his old employer, Keimer. About this time he established a debating society, or club of persons of his own age, for the discussion of subjects connected with morals, politics, and natural philosophy. These discussions gradually assumed political importance, and had a great effect in stimulating the public mind during the War of Independence.

Having quarrelled with Keimer, Franklin entered into partnership with a young man named Meredith, and commenced publishing a paper in opposition to one which had been started by his former employer. Meredith proving negligent of business, Franklin was enabled by his friends to dissolve the partnership, and to take the entire business into his own hands. His steady adherence to habits of industry and economy had brought him comparative wealth; and he now married Miss Read, whom he had met on his first arrival in Philadelphia.

In 1732 Franklin began the publication of "Poor Richard's Almanac," which soon became celebrated for its important lessons of practical morality. These were subsequently collected in a little volume, and are still highly esteemed both in England and America. His high character for probity and intelligence induced the citizens of Philadelphia to intrust him with the management of public affairs; he was appointed clerk of the general assembly, postmaster, and alderman, and was put by the governor into the commission of the peace. All the hours he could spare from business he now devoted to objects of local utility, and the city of Philadelphia is indebted to him for some of its finest buildings and best institutions. As his wealth increased he obtained leisure to devote himself to the study of philosophy, and to take a leading part in political life.

We shall first look at his philosophical labors, by which his name first became known abroad. His attention was drawn to the subject of electricity in 1746, by some experiments exhibited by Dr. Spence, who had come to Boston from Scotland. These isolated experiments were made with no regard to system, and led to no results. A glass tube, and some other apparatus that had been sent to Franklin by a friend in London, enabled him to repeat and verify these experiments. He soon began to devise new forms of investigation for himself, and at length made the great discovery, which may be said to be the foundation of electrical science, that there is a positive and negative state of electricity. By this fact he explained the phenomenon of the Leyden phial, which at that time excited great attention in Europe, and had foiled the sagacity of its principal philosophers. In the course of his investigations he was led to suspect the identity of lightning and the electric fluid; and he resolved to test this happy conjecture by a direct experiment. His apparatus was simply a paper-kite with a key attached to the tail. Having raised the kite during a thunder-storm, he watched the result with great anxiety; after an interval of painful suspense, he saw the filaments of the string exhibit by their motion signs of electrical action; he drew in the kite, and, presenting his knuckles to the key, received a strong spark, which of course decided the success of the experiment. Repeated sparks were drawn from the key, a phial was charged, a shock given, and the identity of lightning with the electric fluid demonstrated beyond all possibility of doubt.

Franklin had from time to time transmitted accounts of his electrical experiments to his friend, Mr. Collinson, in England, in order that they should be laid before the Council of the Royal Society; but, as they were not published in the "Transactions" of that learned body, Collinson gave copies of the communications to Cave, for insertion in the Gentleman's Magazine. Cave resolved to publish them in a separate form, and the work, soon after its appearance, became generally recognized as the text-book of electrical science. It was translated into French, German, and Latin; the author's experiments were repeated, and verified by the leading philosophers of France, Germany, and even Russia; the Royal Society atoned for its former tardiness by a hearty recognition of their value, and Franklin was elected a member of their body without solicitation or expense. The universities of St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and Oxford subsequently conferred upon him the honorary title of Doctor of Laws.

We must pass more briefly over Franklin's political career. In 1753 he was appointed Deputy Postmaster of the American colonies. The post-office, which had previously supplied no revenue to the Government, became very productive under his management, and yielded three times as much as the post-office in Ireland. Nor was this the only service he rendered to the Government. At the time of Braddock's unfortunate expedition against the French and Indians, he provided conveyances for the troops and stores at his own risk; he took a leading part in obtaining a militia bill, and he proposed a plan for the union of the several colonies in a common system of defence against the Indians. These measures greatly increased his influence and popularity.

Pennsylvania was at this period a proprietary government, and the proprietary body claimed exemption from taxation. In consequence of the disputes to which these claims gave rise, he was sent to England by the General Assembly, as agent for the provinces. He performed his duties with such zeal and ability, that he was appointed agent for the provinces of Massachusetts, Georgia, and Maryland; and, on his return to America in 1762, received not only the thanks of the House of Assembly, but a grant of L5,000. Previous to his return he made a short visit to the continent, and was everywhere received with great honor, especially at the court of Louis XV.

In the year 1764, the American colonies, alarmed at the system of taxation with which they were menaced by the British, resolved that Franklin should be sent to England, no longer as an agent, but as the general representative of the States. In this character he arrived in London about forty years after his first appearance in that city as a distressed mechanic. His own mind was strongly impressed by the contrast; he went to the printing-office where he had worked, introduced himself to the men employed there, and joined in a little festival in honor of printing. He officially presented to Mr. Grenville a petition against the Stamp Act, but finding that the minister was not deterred from his purpose, he zealously exerted himself to organize an opposition to the measure. When it was proposed to repeal the bill in the following year, Franklin was examined before the House of Commons; the effect of his evidence was decisive, and the Stamp Act was repealed.

The quarrel with the colonies, however, grew more and more bitter; and while Franklin's words were always of peace, he championed the American cause with power and dignity. Attempts were made to win him over to the side of the Government, by offers of high honors and liberal emoluments; but threats and promises were alike unavailing to divert him from his course. He lingered in England, hoping that some turn in public affairs would avert the fatal necessity of war; but when the petition of the American Congress was rejected, and Lord Chatham's plan of reconciliation outvoted, he resolved to return home and share the fortunes of his countrymen. His departure was hastened by the intelligence that the ministers intended to arrest him on a charge of fomenting rebellion in the colonies; he narrowly escaped this danger, and on landing in America, he was elected a member of Congress.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse