Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

sition with regard to civil affairs as well as religious; and all inquisitions are at first established upon some plauşible pretence. The banishing of the Moors and Jews out of his kingdoms, was the pretence made use of by Ferdinand, then king of Spain; but the extending of his own power was the latent and the chief reason. The inquisition was not, however, the chief cause of the loss of the Spanish liberties, it was only a consequence: for before the setting up thereof, he had got the absolute, command of a great army, which had been kept up for several

years under pretence of their war with Portugal, whose then king laid pretensions to the crown of Spain ; and by keeping his country in continual wars, he found pretences to keep up a standing army, with which, it is true he conquered and banished the Moors, but he therewith likewise conquered the liberties of his country; and the chains of the people were soon after riveted by a priest, a cardinal prime minister, who completed the cruel work which Ferdinand by his army had so successfully begun.

In France too, my lords, it was by standing armies chiefly that their liberties were undone ; it was not, indeed, by armies modelled as they have them at present, but it was by altering the ancient military force of the kingdom, that their liberties were destroyed; it was by their kings' taking the army à sa solde, as they call it : for anciently the military force of that kingdom depended chiefly upon the nobility or great princes; their armies were composed of the troops sent to the general rendezvous by the several princes of the kingdom, who generally paid their respective troops; or if at any time they had them maintained at the public charge, yet each prince retained in his own hands the naming and preferring the officers employed in his troops, and therefore no one man could ever procure to himself an absolute command over the armies of that kingdom : but at last this laudable custom was laid aside; the king got into his own hands the whole power of raising and paying the armies to be employed for the defence of the kingdom; and though for some time after he had no money for that purpose but what was given him by the states of France, yet we may really look upon this change as the beginning of the French slavery. However, for a long time after this, the kings of France could never prevail with their states to provide them with money for conti. nually keeping up a numerous standing army; their armies were raised only when they had occasion for them, and as soon as the danger was over, their armies were dismissed ; and yet, my lords, they had for some part of that time a pretender to their crown; our Ed. ward the Third then claimed to be king of France, and he, my lords, was a very terrible pretender; yet even by that imminent danger they were then exposed to, they could not be induced to keep up a standing army; they never had any thing but militia, or troops raised as occasion required, and with these they at last banished the English quite out of their kingdom.

But as soon as the kings of France got thus free of an enemy within the bowels of their kingdom, they then took occasion of every foreign war that happened to encroach a little further upon the liberties of

a their subjects, to multiply taxes and tax gatherers upon them, and to get the armies of the kingdom more and more under their command ; in all which they succeeded beyond expectation, by a most stupid indolence that then reigned among the nobility of France; and yet that nation still retained some remains of liberty, tili a priest, cardinal Richlieu by name, gave their liberties the last stab. He indeed was a great minister, and a great politician: though he oppressed the subject at home, yet he not only supported but raised the grandeur of the nation abroad: he committed no blunders in his administration, nor did he submit to any foreign powers in the treaties and negotiations he had with them: and we may remember, that in his political testament, he left it as a maxim, that the king ought never to part with

any tax he has once got established, even though he has no use for the money ; because by giving up the tax he loses the officers that are employed in the collecting thereof.

This great prime minister was succeeded by another priest, a foreign priest, who had all his bad qualities but none of his good; so that by his misconduct France was soon involved in a civil war : and it is said that one of the greatest men of France at that time, and one of the greatest generals of the age he lived in, told the queen regent, that she had a fellow at the head of her affairs, who for his crimes deserved to be tugging at the oar in one of her majesty's gallies. But the arbitrary power of the king of France had by his predecessor been so firmly established, that it could not be shaken even by the many blunders he was guilty of ; the nation, however, was not yet rendered so tame, but that it was a long while before they would quietly submit to that cardinal's administration ; and we must allow that even but lately there has a noble spirit of liberty broke forth in that country, such a spirit of liberty, my lords, as might probably reinstate the people in the full enjoyment of their former liberties and privileges, if it were not for the great standing army now kept up in that country.

In Denmark, my lords, it was their nobles that were the occasion of the loss of their liberties; they had for some time thrown the whole weight and charge of the government off of themselves, and had laid it on the necks of the commons; the whole expence of the public they had for some time raised by taxes which fell chiefly

poor people, and to which they contributed but a trifle ; and the commons being quite tired out with these oppressions and unjust exactions, resolved at last to put the whole power into the hands of their sovereign; so that whilst the nobles were sitting and con. triving ways and means how to load the poor tradesmen and manufacturers with such taxes as did not much af. fect them, they were sent for to the castle, and there

upon the

were obliged to join in that deed by which an absolute power was put into the hands of the king, who could not make a worse use of it than they had done. This was the method by which arbitrary power was established in Denmark; but it has ever since been supported only by a standing army.

In Sweden, my lords, their liberties were not only destroyed, but they were again restored by their army: in this last change, my lords, that country had the good luck to be most singularly happy ; but how was that most strange and extraordinary turn of their affairs brought about? I have some reason to know it because I was in that kingdom* when it happened. The late king of Sweden, my lords, is well known to have been the dar. ling both of his nobles and commons; he was so much the darling of the whole Swedish nation, that almost every man in it was at all times ready to sacrifice both his life and his fortune in his service, and therefore he had no occasion to model his army for any bad purpose;

; he had employed none as officers in his army, but the nobility and quality of the kingdom, or such whose merit and services fully entitled them to whatever pre. ferment they were honoured with by him. His prime ininister, however, got at last too great an ascendant over him, baron Gortz I mean, my lords, who was a man of no high birth, nor any super-eminent qualities; yet by his cunning he got such a power over his master, that nothing was done without him, no post, civil or military, was bestowed but according to his direction; the men of the best quality in the kingdom, the greatest generals in the army, were obliged to submit, and to sue to him even for that which they were justly entitled to; if they shewed him the least neglect, they immediately lost all interest about the king; if any one of them disobliged the first minister, he might perhaps be allowed to keep his post in the army, he was made use of when they had occa

Lord Carteret was minister in Sweden in 1719.

sion for his venturing his life with them ; but from the moment he disobliged the king's prime minister, he could not so much as make a subaltern officer ; on the contrary, his recommendation was a sure bar to any man's prcferment.

The nobility, the generals, all the chief men in the army, were sensible of the slavery they lay under, and were resolved to free themselves from it, if possible; but their government was then absolute; there was no way of coming at relief, but by making their king sensible of the discredit that accrued to him, by allowing himself to be so much under the management of any one man. They knew their king to be a man of judgment and penetration, and therefore a great number of them resolved at last upon venturing to present a memorial to him upon that head. This memorial, my lords, was actually drawn up and signed, and was ready to have been presented, when that brave king was killed by a random shot from Frederickstadt, which he was then besieging

If the king had lived to have received this memorial, we cannot judge what might have been the consequence : notwithstanding its being signed by so many of the nobility and chief commanders, notwithstanding the king's judgment and penetration, his affection for his minister might have got the better of the respect he owed to such a number of his nobility and generals ; and if so, as he was a most absolute prince, the memorial would have been doomed to be a seditious and treasonable libel, and some of them would certainly have paid with their heads for their presumption; but the king's death rid them of this danger, and the prime minister who had done so many ill things, was immediately seized, tried, condemned, and executed under the gallows.

By this peace of public justice, the nobles and the ge nerals of the army, whom he had principally offended, were satisfied; they did not desire to pursue their ven. geance farther than the grave; but, my lords, the clergy Vol. I.

43

« PreviousContinue »