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now, in one general system of policy. New interests beget new
maxims of government, and new methods of conduct. These, in their turns, beget new manners, new habits, new customs. The longer this new constitution of affairs continues, the more will this difference increase ; and altho' fome analogy may remain long between what preceded and what succeeds such a period, yet will this analogy soon become an object of mere curiosity, not of profitable enquiry. Such a period therefore is, in the true sense of the words, an epocha or an æra, a point of time at which you stop, or from which you reckon forward. I say forward ; because we are not to study, in the present case, as chronologers compute, backward. Should we persist to carry our researches much higher, and to push them even to some other period of the same kind, we should misemploy our time: the causes then laid having spent themselves, the series of effects derived from them being over, and our concern in both consequently at an end. But a new system of causes and effects, that subsists in our time, and whereof our conduct is to be a part, arising at the last period, and all that passes in our time being dependant on what has passed since that period, or being immediately relative to it, we are extremely concerned to be well informed about all those passages. To be intirely ignorant about the ages that precede this æra would be shameful. Nay some indulgence may be had to a temperate curiosity in the review of them. But to be learned about them is a ridicuJous affectation in any man who means to be useful to the present age. Down to this æra let us read history: from this æra and down to our own time, let us study it.
· The end of the fifteenth century seems to be just such a period as I have been describing, for those who live in the eighteenth, and who inhabit the western parts of Europe.
A little before, or a little after this point of time, all those events happened, and all those revolutions began, that have produced so vast a change in the manners, cultoms, and interests of particular nations, and in the whole policy ecclefiastical and civil, of those parts of the world.'
After this his lordship, in order to furnish a kind of clue to the studies of that noble lord to whom his letters are addressed, gives a short view of the ecclefiaftical government of Europe from the beginning of the sixteenth century; and Thews that there is little reason for going up higher in the study of history, to acquire all the knowledge necessary at this time in ecclefiaftical policy, or in civil policy as far as
it is relative to it. He then gives a short but distinct view of the civil government of France, England, Spain and Germany in the beginning of the sixteenth century, after which he proceeds as follows.
• To what purpose, says he, should I trouble your lordship with the mention of histories of other nations ? They are either such as have no relation to the knowledge you would acquire, like that of the Poles, the Muscovites, or the Turks ; or they are fuch as, having an occasional or secondary relation to it, fall of course into your scheme; like the history of Italy, for instance; which is sometimes a part of that of France, sometimes of that of Spain, and fometimes of that of Germany. The thread of history, that you are to keep, is that of the nations who are and must always be concerned in the same scenes of action with your own. These are the principal nations of the west. Things that have no immediate relation to your own country, or to them, are either too remote, or too minute, to employ much of your time: and their history and your own is, for all your purposes, the whole history of Europe.
• The two great powers, that of France and Austria being formed, and a rivalship established by consequence between them ; it began to be the interest of their neighbours to oppose the strongest and most enterprising of the two, and to be the ally and friend of the weakest. From hence arose the notion of a balance of power in Europe, on the equal poize of which the safety and tranquillity of all muft depend. To destroy the equality of this balance has been the aim of each of these rivals in his turn: and to hinder it from being destroyed, by preventing too much power from falling
into one scale, has been the principle of all the wise councils of Europe, relatively to France and to the house of Austria, through the whole period that began at the æra we have fixed, and subsists at this hour.
To make a careful and just observation, therefore, of the rise and decline of these powers, in the two last centuries, and in the present, of the projects which their ambition formed, of the means they employed to carry these projects on with success, of the means employed by others to defeat them, of the issue of all these endeavours in war and in negociation, and particularly to bring your observations home to your own country and to your own use; of the conduct that England held, to her honour or dishonour, to her advantage or disadvantage, in every one of the numerous and important conjunctures that happened ought
to be the principal subject of your lordship's attention in reading and reflecting on this part of modern history.
• Now to this purpose you will find it of great use, my lord, when you have a general plan of the history in your mind, to go over the whole again in another method, which I propose to be this. Divide the entire period into such particular periods as the general course of affairs will mark out to you fufficiently, by the rise of new conjunctures, of different schemes of conduct, and of different theatres of action. Examine this period of history as you would do a tragedy or a comedy; that is, take first the idea, or a general notion of the whole, and after that examine every act and every scene apart. Consider them in themselves, and consider them relatively to one another. Read this hiftory as you would that of any antient period; but ftudy it afterwards, as it would not be worth your while to ftudy the other; nay, as you could not have in your power the means of studying the other, if the study was really worth
The former part of this period abounds in great historians; and the latter part is so modern, that even tradition is authentic enough to supply the want of good history: if we are curious to enquire, and if we hearken to the living with the same impartiality and freedom of judgment as we read the dead: and he that does one will do the other. The whole period abounds in memorials, in collections of public acts and monuments, of private letters, and of treaties. All these must come into your plan of study, my lord: many not to be read through, but all to be consulted and compared. They muft not lead you, I think, to your enquiries; but your enquiries must lead you to them. By joining history and that which we call the materia histórica together in this manner, and by drawing your information from both, your lordship will acquire not only that knowledge which many have in some degree, of the great transactions that have passed, and the great events that have happened in Europe during this period, and of their immediate and obvious causes and confequences; but your lordship will acquire a much fuperior knowledge, and such a one as very few men possess almost in any degree, a knowledge of the true political system of Europe during this time. You will see it in its primitive principles, in the constitutions of governments, the fituations of countries, their national and true interests, the characters and the religion of people, and other permanent circumstances, You will trace it through all its Auctua
tions, and observe how the objects vary feldom, but the means perpetually, according to the different characters of princes, and of those who govern; the different abilities of those who serve; the course of accidents, and a multitude of other irregular and contingent circumstances.
The particular periods into which the whole period should be divided, in my opinion, are these. 1. From the fifteenth to the end of the sixteenth century. 2. From thence to the Pyrenean treaty. 3. From thence down to the present time.
Your lordship will find the division as apt and as proper, relatively to the particular histories of England, France; Spain and Germany, the principal nations concerned, as it is relatively to the general history of Europe.'
The seventh letter contains a sketch of the state and hiftory of Europe from the Pyrenean treaty to the year 1688. His lordship introduces it with observing, that, as the ambition of Charles V. and the restless temper, the cruelty and bigotry of Philip II. were principally objects of the attention and sollicitude of the councils of Europe, in the first of the periods mentioned in the sixth letter; and as the ambition of Ferdinand II. & III. who aimed at nothing less than extirpating the protestant interest, and under that pretence fubduing the liberties of Germany, were objects of the same kind in the second: so an opposition to the exor-, bitant ambition of the house of Bourbon has been the principal concern of Europe, during the greatest part of the prer sent period. The design of aspiring to universal monarchy, he tells us, was imputed to Lewis XIV. as soon as he began to feel his own strength, and the weakness of his neighbours. This leads him to consider the great advantages which Lewis had in many respects. You will discover, says he, the first of these advantages, and such as were productive of all the rest, in the conduct of Richelieu, and of Mazarin. Richelieu formed the great design, and laid the foundations : Mazarin pursued the design, and raised the superstructure. If I do not deceive myself extremely, there are few passages in history that deserve your lordship's attention more than the conduct that the first and greatest of these ministers held, in laying the foundations I speak of. You will observe how he helped to embroil affairs on every fide, and to keep the house of Austria at bay, as it were; how he entered into the quarrels of Italy against Spain, into that concerning the Valteline, and that con, cerning the succession of Mantua; without engaging lo
deep as to divert him from another great object of his policy, subduing Rochelle, and disarming the Huguenots. You will observe how he turned himself, after this was done, to stop the progress of Ferdinand in Germany. Whilst Spain fomented discontents at the court, and dirorders in the kingdom of France, by all possible means, even by taking engagements with the duke of Rohan, and for supporting the protestants; Richelieu abetted the same intereft in Germany against Ferdinand; and in the low Countries against Spain. The emperor was become almost the master in Germany. Christian IV. King of Denmark, had been at the head of a league, wherein the united Provinces, Sweden, and lower Saxony entered, to oppose his progress: but Christian had been defeated by Tilly and ValAtein, and obliged to conclude a treaty at Lubec, where Ferdinand gave him the law. It was then that Guftavus Adolphus, with whom Richelieu made an alliance, entered into this war, and soon turned the fortune of it. The French minifter had not yet engaged his master openly in the war : but when the Dutch grew impatient, and threatened to'renew their truce with Spain, unless France declared; when the king of Sweden was killed, and the battle of Nordlingen loft; when Saxony had turned again to the side of the emperor, and Brandenburg, and so many others had followed this example, that Helse'almoft alone perfifted in the Swedish alliance: then Richelieu engaged his master, and profited of every circumstance which the conjuncture afforded, to engage him with advantage. For first be had a double advantage by engaging solate: that of coming fresh into the quarrel against a wearied and almost exhausted enemy; and that of yielding to the impatience of his friends, who, pressed by their necessities, and by the want they had of Franie, gave this minister an opportunity of laying those claims and establishing those pretensions, in all his treaties with Holland, Sweden, and the princes and states of the empire, on which he had projected the future aggrandisement of France. The manner in which he engaged, and the air that he gave to his engagement, were advantages of the second fort, advantages of reputation and credit; yet were these of no small moment in the course of the war, and operated strongly in favour of France, as he designed they should, even atter his death, and at and after the treaties of IVestphalia, He varnished ambition with the most plausible and popular pretences. The elector of Treves had put himself under the protection of France; and, if I remember right, he made this step when the emperor could not protect him a