Nonfiction > Harvard Classics > Lectures on the Harvard Classics
  Lectures on the Harvard Classics.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
I. General Introduction
By Professor Robert Matteson Johnston
HISTORY alone, of all modes of thought, places the reader above his author. While the historian more or less diligently plods along his own narrow path, perhaps the one millionth part of all history, every avenue opens wide to the imagination of those who read him. To them history may mean anything that concerns man and that has a past; not politics only, but art, and science, and music have had their birth and growth; not institutions only, but legends and chronicles and all the masterpieces of literature, reflect the clash of nations and the tragedies of great men. And it is just because the reader is merely a reader that the full joy of history is open to him. He wears no fetters, so that even were he bent on mastering the constitutional documents of the United States he could turn aside with a calm conscience to listen to the echoes of dying Roland’s horn in the gorge of Roncevaux or to stand by Cnut watching the North Sea tide as it lapped the old Dane’s feet.  1
  In all directions, in almost every branch of literature, history may be discovered, a multiform chameleon; and yet history does not really exist. No one has yet composed a record of humanity; and no one ever will, for it is beyond man’s powers. Macaulay’s history covered forty years; that of Thucydides embraced only the Peloponnesian war; Gibbon, a giant among the moderns, succeeded in spanning ten centuries after a fashion, but has found no imitators. The truth is there is no subject, save perhaps astronomy, that is quite so vast and quite so little known. Its outline, save in the sham history of text books, is entirely wanting. Its details, where really known to students, are infinitely difficult to bring into relation. For this reason it may be worth while to attempt, in the space of one short essay, to coordinate the great epochs of history, from the earliest to the most recent times.  2
  The practical limit of history extends over a period of about three thousand years, goes back, in other words, to about 1000 B. C. Beyond that we have merely scraps of archæological evidence; names of pictures engraved on stone, to show that in periods very remote considerable monarchies flourished in Egypt, along the Euphrates, and in other directions. It was not these people who were to set their imprint on later ages, it was rather what were then merely untutored and unknown wandering tribes of Aryans, which, working their way through the great plains of the Volga, the Dnieper, and the Danube, eventually forced their way into the Balkan and the Italian peninsulas. There, with the sea barring their further progress, they took on more settled habits, and formed, at some distant epoch, cities, among which Athens and Rome were to rise to the greatest celebrity. And about the year 1000 B. C., or a little later, Greece emerges from obscurity with Homer.  3
  Just as Greece burst from her chrysalis, a Semitic people, the Jews, were producing their counterpart to Homer. In the Book of Joshua they narrated in the somber mood of their race the conquest of Palestine by their twelve nomad tribes, and in the Pentateuch and later writings they recorded their law and their religion. From this starting point, Homer and Joshua, whose dates come near enough for our purpose, we will follow the history of the Mediterranean and of the West.  4

  First the great rivers, the Nile and the Euphrates, later the great inland sea that stretched westward to the Atlantic, were the avenues of commerce, of luxury, of civilization. Tyre, Phocæa, Carthage, and Marseilles were the early traders, who brought to the more military Aryans not only all the wares of east and west but language itself, the alphabet. Never was a greater gift bestowed on a greater race. With it the Greeks developed a wonderful literature that was to leave a deep impress on all Western civilization. They wove their early legends into the chaste and elegant verse of the Homeric epics, into the gloomy and poignant drama of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. They then turned to history and philosophy. In the former they produced a masterpiece of composition with Thucydides and one of the most delightful of narratives with Herodotus. In the later they achieved their most important results.
  Greek philosophy was to prove the greatest intellectual asset of humanity. No other civilization or language before the Greek had invented the abstract ideas: time, will, space, beauty, truth, and the others. And from these wonderful, though imperfect, word ideas the vigorous and subtle Greek intellect rapidly raised a structure which found its supreme expression in Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno. But from the close of the Fourth Century before Christ, the time of Aristotle and his pupil Alexander the Great, Greek began to lose its vitality and to decay.  6
  This decadence coincided with events of immense political importance. Alexander created a great Greek Empire, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Indus. After his death this empire was split into a number of monarchies, the Greek kingdoms of the East, of which the last to survive was that of the Ptolemies in Egypt. This perished when Augustus defeated Cleopatra and Antony at Actium in B. C. 31, exactly three hundred years after Alexander’s final victory over Darius at Arbela.  7

  During these three hundred years a more western branch of the Aryans, the Romans, had gradually forced their way to supremacy. It was not until about B. C. 200 that Rome broke down the power of Carthage, got control of the western Mediterranean, and then suddenly stretched out her hand over its eastern half. In less than two centuries more she had completed the conquest of the Balkans, Asia Minor, and Egypt, and the Mediterranean had become a Roman lake.
  The city of Rome may go back to B. C. 1000, and the legends and history of the Republic afford an outline of facts since about B. C. 500, but it was only after establishing contact with the civilization and language of Greece that the Romans really found literary expression. Their tongue had not the elasticity and harmony of the Greek, nor had it the wealth of vocabulary, the abstract terms; it was more fitted, by its terseness, clearness, and gravity, to be the medium of the legislator and administrator. Under the influence of foreign conquest and of Greek civilization, Rome, however, quickly evolved a literature of her own, an echo of the superior and riper one produced by the people she had conquered; it tinged with glory the last years of the Republic and the early ones of the Empire, the age of Augustus. Virgil produced a highly polished, if not convincing, imitation of Homer. Lucretius philosophized a crude materialistic universe in moderate hexameters. Cicero, with better success and some native quality, modeled himself on Demosthenes; while the historians alone equaled their Greek masters, and in the statesmanlike instinct and poisoned irony of Tacitus revealed a worthy rival of Thucydides.  9
  Latin and Greek were the two common languages of the Mediterranean just as the unwieldy Republic of Rome was turning to imperialism. The Greek universities, Athens, Pergamon, and Alexandria, dictated the fashions of intellectualism, and gave preeminence to a decadent and subtilized criticism and philosophy perversely derived from the Greek masters of the golden age. But a third influence was on the point of making itself felt in the newly organized Mediterranean political system—that of the Jews.  10

  To understand the part the Jews were now to play, it is necessary first of all to look back upon the general character of the social and political struggles of those ancient centuries. At the time of Homer’s heroes, and, in a way, until that of Alexander the Great, states were small, generally a city or a group of cities. War was constant, and generally accompanied by destruction and slavery. As the centuries slipped by, the scale increased. Athens tried to create a colonial empire as did Carthage, and the great continental states, Macedon and Rome, followed close at their heels. In the last century or so before Christ, war was nearly continuous on a vast scale, and it was attended by at least one circumstance that demands special consideration.
  Social inequality was a fundamental conception of the ancient world. The Greek cities in their origin had been communities ruled by a small caste of high-bred families. The social hierarchy proceeded down from them to the slave, and war was waged on a slave basis, the victor acquiring the vanquished. The great wars of the Roman Republic against the Greek monarchies were huge treasure-seeking and slave-driving enterprises that reduced to servitude the most able and most refined part of the population of the conquered countries. Rome had created a great Mediterranean state, but at a terrible price. The civilization she had set up had no religion save an empty formalism, and no heart at all. It was the Jews who were to remedy this defect.  12
  All through the East and in some parts of the West the Jewish merchants formed conspicuous communities in the cities of the Empire, giving an example of spiritual faith, of seriousness and rectitude, that contrasted strongly with what prevailed in the community. For materialism and epicureanism were the natural outcome of a period of economic prosperity; religion was at its best formalistic, at its worst orgiastic; ethical elements were almost wholly lacking. Yet a revolt against the soullessness and iniquities of the times was proceeding and men were prepared to turn to whatever leaders could give them a system large enough to satisfy the cravings of long-outraged conscience, and large enough to fill the bounds of the Mediterranean Empire. Three Jews—Jesus, Paul, and Philo—came forward to do this work.  13
  Jesus was the example, the man of conscience, the redeemer God. For in this last capacity he could readily be made to fit in with the Asiatic cults of the sun and of redemption which were at that time the most active and hopeful lines of religious thought. Paul was the Jew turned Roman, an imperialist, a statesman, of wide view and missionary fervor. Philo was the Jew turned Greek, the angel of the Alexandrian schools, who had infused Hebraic elements into the moribund philosophizing of the Egyptian Greeks, and thereby given it a renewed lease of life. That lease was to run just long enough to pour the Alexandrian thought into the Christian mold and give the new religion its peculiar dogmatic apparatus.  14
  For three centuries, until A. D. 312, Christianity was nothing in the Mediterranean world save a curious sect differing widely from the hundreds of other sects that claimed the allegiance of the motley population sheltering under the ægis of the Emperors. During those three centuries the Mediterranean was a peaceful avenue of imperial administration, of trade, of civilizing intercourse. Its great ports teemed with a medley of people in whom the blood of all races from the Sahara to the German forests, and from Gibraltar to the valley of the Euphrates, was transfused. The little clans of high-bred men who had laid the foundations of this huge international empire had practically disappeared. The machine carried itself on by its own momentum, while wars remained on distant frontiers, the work of mercenaries, insufficient to stimulate military virtues in the heart of the Empire. It was, in fact, the economic vices that prevailed, materialism, irreligion, and cowardice.  15
  The feeble constitution of the Empire was too slight a framework to support the vast edifice. Emperor succeeded emperor, good, bad, and indifferent, with now and again a monster, and now and again a saint. But the elements of decay were always present, and made steady progress. The army had to be recruited from the barbarians; the emperor’s crown became the chief reward of the universal struggle for spoils; the Empire became so unwieldy that it tended to fall apart, and many competitors sprang up to win it by force of arms.  16

  In 312 such a struggle was proceeding, and Constantine, one of the competitors, casting about for some means to fortify his cause against his opponents, turned to Christianity and placed himself under the protection of the Cross. Whatever his actual religious convictions may have been, there can be no doubt that Constantine’s step was politic. While the pagan cults still retained the mass of the people through habit and the sensuous appeal, Christianity had now drawn to itself, especially in the western parts of the Empire, the serious minded and better class. Administrators, merchants, men of position and influence were Christian. Constantine needed their aid, and fulfilled the one condition on which he could obtain it by adopting their faith.
  Thus suddenly Christianity, after its long struggle and many persecutions, became the official religion of the Empire. But Christianity was exclusive and the Emperor was its head; so conformity was required of all citizens of the Empire, and conformity could only be obtained by paying a price. The masses were wedded to their ancient cults, their ancient gods, their ancient temples, their ancient rites. To sweep them away at one stroke and to substitute something different was not possible. So a compromise was effected. The priests, the temples, the ritual, the statues, remained, but they were relabeled with Christian labels, under cover of which Christian ideas were slipped in. A great metamorphosis took place of which the intelligent traveler and reader of to-day can still find traces:—  18
  “The fair form, the lovely pageant that had entwined the Mediterranean with sculptured marble, and garlands of roses, and human emotion, was fading into stuff for the fantasies of dreamers. The white-robed priest and smoking altar, the riotous procession and mystic ritual would no longer chain the affections of mankind. No longer would the shepherd blow his rude tibia in honor of Cybele, no longer would a thousand delicious fables, fine wrought webs of poetic imagination, haunt the sacred groves and colonnades of the gods. Day after day, night after night, as constantly as Apollo and Diana ran their course in heaven, had all these things run their course on earth; now, under the spell of the man of Galilee, they had shivered into a rainbow vapor, a mist of times past, unreal, unthinkable, save where the historian may reconstruct a few ruins or the poet relive past lives. And yet the externals in great part remained. For it was at the heart that paganism was struck, and it was there it was weakest. It had attempted, but had failed, to acquire a conscience, while the new faith had founded itself on that strong rock. Christianity had triumphed through the revolt of the individual conscience; it was now to attempt the dangerous task of creating a collective one.” 1  19

  The establishment of Christianity at Rome came not a moment too soon to infuse a little life into the fast-decaying Empire. Constantine himself helped to break it in two, a Roman and a Greek half, by creating a new capital, Constantinople. More ominous yet was the constant pressure of the Teutons at the frontier, a pressure that could now no longer be resisted. By gradual stages they burst through the bounds, and at the time Christianity was becoming the official religion of the Mediterranean world, Germanic tribes had already extorted by force of arms a right to occupy lands within the sacred line of the Rhine and of the Danube. From that moment, for a century or more, the processes of Germanic penetration and of Roman disintegration were continuous, culminating in 375 with the great Germanic migrations and in 410 with the sack of Rome by Alaric and the Goths.
  During the terrible half century that followed, the Roman world was parceled out among a number of Germanic princes, and of the old order only two things were left standing, a fragmentary empire of the East centering in Constantinople, and a bishopric of Rome of vastly increased importance that was soon to be known as the Papacy, and that already showed symptoms of attempting to regain by new means the universal dominion which the Emperors had lost.  21
  The Germans were crude and military; the Latins were subtle and peaceful, and when the storm of conquest swept through the West they sought safety in the cloister. “There, under the protection of the Latin cross, a symbol the barbarians dare not violate, what was left of Roman intellectualism could cower while the storm blew over, presently to reissue as the army of Christ to conquer, with new-forged weapons, lands that the legions of their fathers had not even beheld.” 2  22
  The Latin churchmen quickly learned how to play on the credulity and the superstition of the simple German, while setting before him the lofty ideals and ethics of Christianity. They not only held him through religion but they soon became the civil administrators, the legislators, the guiding spirits of the Germanic kingdoms.  23
  Civilization had now taken on a marked change, had become a composite in which Christianity and Teutonism were large factors. Perhaps this was all clear gain; but in the economic and material sense there had been great losses. Enormous wealth had been destroyed or scattered, and imperial communication had broken down. The trader was no longer safe on the Mediterranean; the great roads of Rome were going to ruin; boundaries of military states barred old channels of intercourse. Under these conditions civilization could only be more localized, weaker than before. And in fact the Teutonic kingdoms pursued for some time an extremely checkered course.  24

  Then came, in the seventh century, a new and even more terrible blast of devastation. Mohammed arose, created Islam, and started the great movement of Arab conquest. Within almost a few years of his death the fanaticized hosts of Arabia and the East were knocking at the gates of Constantinople, and swept westward along the southern shores of the Mediterranean until the Atlantic barred their steps. They turned to Spain, destroyed the Visigothic kingdom, crossed the Pyrenees, and reached the center of Gaul before they were at last checked. The Franks under Charles Martel defeated them at Tours in 732, and perhaps by that victory saved Christendom. Had the Arabs succeeded in this last ordeal, who knows what the result might not have been? As Gibbon characteristically wrote: “A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.”
  On the wreck of the Arab hopes the descendants of Charles Martel founded a monarchy which blazed into ephemeral power and glory under Charlemagne. In the year 800 the greatest of Frankish rulers revived the imperial title, and was crowned by the Pope in the basilica of St. Peter’s. But the old Empire could not be resuscitated, nor for the matter of that could the Frankish monarchy long maintain the preeminent position it had reached. A new visitation was at hand, and Charlemagne before he died saw the horizon of his northern seas flecked by the venturesome keels of the first of the northern pirates.  26

  For about two centuries Europe passed through an epoch of the deepest misery. Danes and Scandinavians ravaged her from the northwest, Saracens from the south, so that only the upper Rhine and Danube, harboring a rich Teutonic civilization, escaped destruction. The Carlovingian Empire broke into pieces, Frankish, Lothringian or Burgundian, and Germanic, with the last of which went the imperial title. And this disintegration might have continued indefinitely to chaos had not feudalism appeared to fortify and steady declining civilization.
  Only force could successfully resist force, and at every threatened point the same mode of local resistance sprang up. Men willing and able to fight protected the community, and exacted in return certain services. They soon began to build castles and to transmit their powers, together with their lands, to their heirs. Lands soon came to be viewed as related to other lands on conditions of military and other services. The Church followed the example, until, finally, by the eleventh century, one general formula underlay western European ideas: that every individual belonged to a class, and enjoyed certain rights on the performance of various services to a superior class, and that at the head of this ladder of rank stood either the Emperor, or the Pope, or both. The last step was a highly controversial one; on the first all men were agreed.  28
  By this time feudalism had done its best work in restoring more settled conditions, and bringing to a conclusion the northern and southern piracy. From Sicily to the marches of Scotland, Europe was now one mass of small military principalities, only here and there held together in more or less efficient fashion by monarchies like those of France and England, or by the Empire itself. Every trade route was flanked by fortifications whence baronial exactions could be levied on the traders. And when, under more peaceful conditions, great trading cities came into existence—in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands—a fierce struggle arose for mastery between burghers and feudal potentates.  29
  Meanwhile the Church itself had developed great ambitions and suffered the worst vicissitudes. While under the Frankish protection, Rome had acquired the temporal domain she was to hold until September 20, 1870, when she was dispossessed by the newly formed Kingdom of Italy. With this territorial standing, and impelled forward by the mighty traditions of ancient Rome and of the Church, she deliberately stretched out her hand under Gregory VII (Hildebrand) in an attempt to grasp the feudalized scepter of Europe. The Germanic Empire, the offshoot of the greater domain of Charlemagne, resisted. The great parties of Guelphs and of Ghibellines, imperialists and papalists, came into existence, and for a long period tore Germany and Italy in vain attempts at universal supremacy.  30
  Inextricably bound up with the feudal movement, and with the enthusiasm for the service of the Church that Rome for a while succeeded in creating, came an interlude, religious, chivalrous, economic, the Crusades. Out of superabundant supplies of feudal soldiers great armies were formed to relieve the Holy Places from the profaning presence of the infidels. The East was deeply scarred with religious war and its attendant butcheries, and little remained in permanent results, save on the debit side. For the Crusades had proved a huge transportation and trading enterprise for the thrifty republics of Genoa and Venice, and led to a great expansion of oriental trade; while the West had once more been to school to the East and had come back less religious, more sceptical. And from the close of the period of the Crusades (1270) to the outbreak of the Reformation, two hundred and fifty years later, economic activity and the growth of scepticism are among the most prominent facts, while immediately alongside of them may be noted the birth of the new languages, and, partly resulting from all these forces, the Renaissance.  31

  For a while the Papacy, spent by its great effort of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, went to pieces. The Latin ideas for which it stood began to lose ground rapidly as Dante created the Italian language (1300), and as, in the course of the next two centuries, French, English, and German assumed definite literary shape. There was not only a loss of faith in Latin forms, but a desire to transmute religious doctrine into the new modes of language, and especially to have a vernacular Bible. Assailed in this manner, Rome stimulated theological studies, helped to create the mediæval universities, and tried to revivify the philosophy which Alexandria had given her in the creeds by going back to the texts of the golden age of Greece with Aquinas.
  It was of no avail. Europe felt a new life, a new nationalism moving within her. Voyages of discovery to India, to America, first stirred imaginations, and later poured into the itching palms of ambitious statesmen, soldiers, artists, vast stores of gold. The pulse of the world beat quicker. Constantinople fell, a thousand years after its foundation, into the hands of the Turk, and its stores of manuscripts, of art, of craftsmen, poured into Italy. Men became inventors, innovators, artists, revolutionaries. Cesare Borgia attempted, but failed, to create an Italian empire. Martin Luther attempted to secede from the Church, and succeeded.  33
  He declared that a man could save his soul by the grace of God only, and on that basis started a wrangle of ideals and of wordy disputations that plunged Europe once more into an inferno of warfare. It lasted until 1648, the peace of Westphalia, when it was found that on the whole the northern parts of Europe had become Protestant and the southern had remained Catholic.  34

  At this very moment Louis XIV was beginning the reign that was to mark out for France the great position she held in the Europe of the last two centuries. The age of feudalism was fast passing. The last great feudatories had worn out their strength in the wars of religion. The monarchy had gained what they had lost, and now set to work in the splendor and pageantry of Versailles to reduce the once semi-independent feudal soldier into a mincing courtier. The Bourbons succeeded in large part. They remained the autocrats of France, with the privileged orders of the clergy and aristocracy at a low level beneath them, and in unchecked control of the machinery of government. That machinery they soon began to abuse. Its complete breakdown came with the French Revolution in 1789.
  This dramatic event resulted from a large number of convergent and slow-acting causes. Among them we may note the fearful mismanagement of the Bourbon finances, inadequate food supply, and the unrest of a highly educated middle class deprived of all influence and opportunity in matters of government. That class got control of the States General which became a national assembly, and set to work to destroy Bourbonism in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Between the inexperience of this assembly and the impotence of the Court, rose the wild force of the Parisian mob, which eventually drove France into war with outraged Europe, and brought the Bourbons, with thousands of the noblest and best as well as a few of the worst people of France, to the guillotine.  36
  War which became successful, and the feebleness of the republican government that succeeded the Reign of Terror, inevitably made for a military dictatorship and a restoration of the monarchy. Napoleon Bonaparte, the greatest upstart in history, held France by his magnetic gaze and iron grasp for fifteen years, while he organized her as no European country had ever been organized, and with her might in his control darted from torrid Egypt to arctic Russia in a megalomaniac frenzy of conquest. He fell, leaving France so exhausted that, for a brief spell, the Bourbons returned.  37
  It had taken all Europe to pull down France and Napoleon, and in the end distant Russia had dealt the most fatal wound. Yet it was England that had proved the most constant, the most stubborn, and the most triumphant enemy. And the quarrel between these two countries, France and England, was that which went furthest back in history.  38
  For a while, during the dark epoch that followed Charlemagne, the Normans had held by conquest a sort of middle country between France and England. Under their duke, William, they conquered England itself in 1066, and there set up a strong insular monarchy. Their foothold in France, however, brought the Anglo-Norman kings in conflict with their neighbor, and wars were to rage between the two countries with only rare intermissions until 1815. At first their object was largely territorial possession; later economic factors grew more apparent, until in the eighteenth century and under Napoleon the struggle had become one for over-sea colonial empire.  39

  In the sixteenth century, with the House of Tudor on the English throne, the perennial struggle of the English sovereigns against France became complicated by the appearance of a new continental power that might under given circumstances join hands with the older enemy. This was Spain.
  Since their defeat by the Franks at Tours, in 732, the Arabs had steadily lost ground. For several centuries, however, they had prospered in Spain, and there they had developed learning and the arts with splendid success, at a moment when Christian Europe was still plunged in darkness. But presently the feudal principalities lodged in the Pyrenees and Asturian mountains began to gain ground, and finally toward the end of the fifteenth century these states came together in a united monarchy that conquered the last Arab kingdom and founded modern Spain.  41
  At this very moment, by one of the most remarkable coincidences in European history, marriage alliances and other circumstances almost suddenly threw the Spanish kingdom, the great inheritance of the Dukes of Burgundy, and the kingdom of Hungary, into the hands of the Hapsburg dukes of Austria, who were to seat their ruling princes on the imperial throne of Germany almost uninterruptedly until the old Germanic empire closed its days in 1806.  42
  This huge concentration of power in the hands of the Emperor, Charles V (1519–1556), gave a marked turn to the situation created by the outbreak of the Reformation. For France, which remained Catholic, and England, which became Protestant, had both to face the problem of the overtopping of the European equilibrium by the inflated dominions of the Hapsburgs. This accounted for much in the constantly shifting political adjustments of that age. It was not until the close of the reign of Louis XIV (Treaty of Utrecht, 1713) that the Hapsburg power was about balanced by the placing of a Bourbon prince on the throne of Spain. From that moment France and Spain tended to act together against England.  43
  In England the religious upheaval lasted roughly about a century, from Henry VIII to Cromwell; on the whole, it was less violent than on the Continent. Its chief results were the establishment of the Anglican Church and of those more markedly Protestant sects from among which came the sturdy settlers of New England.  44

  It was during the wars of religion that England came into a struggle with the new Hapsburg-Spanish power. It had its tremendously dramatic episodes in the cruise of the Great Armada, and its fascinatingly romantic ones in the voyages of discovery and semipiratical exploits of the British seamen who burst the paper walls that Spain had attempted to raise around the southern seas. The broad ocean, the gold of the Indies, the plantations of sugar, of tobacco, of coffee, the growing settlements and countries of a new world, these became the subject of strife from that time on. And as Spain declined in her vigor after the Armada, and a century later became the client of France, so the struggle narrowed itself to one between the latter power and England.
  In the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), England established her supremacy in this world-wide struggle, and although in the next war she lost her American colonies, yet when she met France again in 1793, her trade and manufactures, her unrivaled geographical and economic situation, and her politic and businesslike statesmanship, had placed her at the head of the nations of Europe. She joined the European alliance against France in 1793, and with only two short intervals remained in the field against her until at Waterloo, twenty-two years later, Napoleon was finally defeated by Wellington and Blücher.  46
  During this gigantic struggle France faced two problems, that of the sea and England, that of the land and the three great military powers of northeast Europe—Austria, Russia, Prussia. Toward the end, after Napoleon had failed in Spain and got into a death grapple with Russia, it was the Continental issue that obscured the other. But England kept her eye firmly fixed on the sea, on colonies, on water-borne trade; so that when at the Congress of Vienna (1815) the powers parceled out the shattered empire, England was left by common consent the only great sea and colonial power.  47

  A period of reaction followed the fall of Napoleon, but in 1848 it came to a close in a storm of revolution. Population had grown, means of communication were multiplying fast and promoting intellectual as well as economic activity, political privileges were unduly restricted, governments were old-fashioned. In Italy, and in Germany where the old empire had perished in 1806, were the seeds of a new nationalism. From Palermo to Paris, and from Paris to Vienna, a train of revolutionary explosions was fired, and for two years Europe was convulsed. A new Bonaparte empire arose in France, and in Italy and Germany a national idea was founded, though not for the moment brought to its consummation. That was to take twenty years more, and to be vastly helped by the tortuous ambitions of Napoleon III ably turned to use by Cavour and by Bismarck.
  In 1859 France helped the House of Savoy to drive Austria from the valley of the Po, and thereby cleared the way for the liberation and fusion of all Italy by Cavour and Garibaldi. In 1866 Prussia expelled the House of Hapsburg from Germany, and four years later consolidated her work by marching to the walls of Paris at the head of a united German host which there acclaimed William of Hohenzollern chief of a new Germanic empire.  49
  What has happened since then, and chiefly the scramble for colonies or for establishing economic suzerainty, belongs more to the field of present politics than of history. For that reason it may be left out of account. And so indeed has much else been left out of account for which the limit of space fixed for this essay has proved altogether too narrow. If a last word may be added to help the reader to gather in the harvest from that trampled and mutilated field which we call history let it be this, that everything turns on a point of view, on a mental attitude. The reader is the spectator of the pageant; he must be cool to judge and discriminate, with no bias toward praise or blame, content merely to observe as the constant stream unfolds itself in all its changing colors, but with a mind ready to judge human actions and motives, an imagination ready to seize on the ever-living drama of fact, and a heart ready to respond to those countless acts of heroism that have ennobled great men and great races, and with them all humanity.  50
Note 1. Johnston, “Holy Christian Church,” p. 146. [back]
Note 2. Johnston, “Holy Christian Church,” p. 162. [back]


Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.