« AnteriorContinuar »
to the more glaring colorings of fancy: if there be any who can be pleased with a narrative inspired by truth, and perhaps executed with modesty; and if we cannot deserve the approbation of such readers, we shall contentedly acquiesce in their censure.
The present Memoir commences where the historians of those times discontinue their accounts. It carries on the relation of a national persecution, almost too shocking for belief, though too well attested not to be a lasting monument of disgrace to humanity.
Louis XIV. of France, induced by some pretended conversions, and incited by those who took care of the royal conscience, revoked the Edict of Nantes. This charter was settled by Henry IV., and was the great bulwark of Protestant security against ecclesiastical persecution. The revocation of this edict gave Popery a full power to tyrannize; and its un pitying tribunals were erected over all the kingdom. The miseries of that period are pathetically described, even by their own historians. Protestants were dragged from their families; exposed to all the insults of unguided zeal; emaciated in dungeons; denied the consolation of friendship; brought to the rack; turning their eyes to take a last farewell of their children, but only meeting an odious priest; the executioner, bathed in the blood of their expiring friends, chiding their delay; their carcasses blackening in the sun, or exposed to rot on dunghills !
Such was a part of the accumulated miseries of the times; while Louis, surnamed the great, was feasting at Versailles, fed with the incense of flattery, or sunk in the lewd embraces of a prostitute! Can an Englishman hear this, and not burn with indignation against those foes to religion, to liberty, and his country? And should not every attempt to promote this generous indignation meet at least indulgence, though it should not deserve applause. Could the present performance teach one individual to value his religion, by contrasting it with the furious spirit of Popery; could it contribute to make him enamored with liberty, by showing their unhappy situation, whose possessions are held by so precarious a tenure as tyrannical caprice; could it promote his zeal in the cause of humanity, or give him a wish to imitate the virtues of the sufferer, or redress the injuries of oppression; then, indeed, the author will not have wrote in vain. A convert of this kind is worth a thousand admirers; and to attain these ends was probably his design ; and not to gratify idle curiosity, or erect himself into the minute hero of his own Memoir.
PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION
THE HISTORY OF THE SEVEN YEARS WAR.
(The following pieces, now for the first time included in Goldsmith's Works,
form the Preface and Introduction to a detail of the events of the War commencing in 1757, down to the period at which they were written; which, from the internal evidence, would seem to be 1761. Whether they were ever published is uncertain ; the book which they were intended to introduce not having been discovered. The MS., still extant, belonged to Mr. Isaac Reed, who has written on a blank leaf—“ This MS, is one of the productions of, and in the hand-writing of, Dr. Goldsmith. It was given to me by Mr. Steevens, who received it from Hamilton, the printer." On the sale of Mr. Reed's collection, it passed into the hands of the late Mr. Heber ; who, with his usual liberality, gave it unsolicited for the present edition. See Life, ch. viii.)
In whatever light we regard the present war which has disturbed all Europe, we shall find it the most important of any recorded in modern history. Whether we consider the power of the nations at variance, the number of the forces employed, or the skill of the generals conducting, we shall equally find matter for improvement and admiration. We shall see small kingdoms forced by the prudence of one man into an astonishing degree of power, and extensive countries scarcely able to support their own rights or repel the invader.
But whatever these contentions may be thought of by others, they will never be regarded by Britons but as instances of her power, her bravery, and her successes. In this war England will appear in greater splendor than in any period of the most boasted antiquity; it will be seen to poise the fates of Europe, and bring its most potent and most ambitious states into the lowest degree of humiliation. This is a glory which should excite every
lover of his country to celebrate as well as to share in.
The desolation of war, the insolent severity of victors, and the servitude of those who happen to be overcome, have been often the topics of declamatory complaint, and employed the reasoner as well as the rhetorician : but still I should doubt whether even wars have not their benefits; whether they do not serve, as motion to waters, to depurate states of all, or a great number of vices, contracted by long habits of peace. If we attentively examine the records of history, we shall ever find that long indolence in any country was only productive of mischief; and that those very arts which were brought to perfection in peace, often served to introduce new vices with new luxury. The Roman state stood firm until Italy had no longer any enemies to fear: contented with enjoying the fruits of victory, they no more desired to obtain it; their wars were carried on by mercenary soldiers, their armies were levied in distant provinces, and those very provinces at length became their masters.
But to what purpose is it to cite ancient history, when we have so recent and so near an instance in the Dutch? That peo ple, once brave, enthusiasts in the cause of freedom, and able to make their state formidable to their neighbors, are, by a long continuance of peace, divided into factions, set upon private inte. rest, and neither able nor willing to usurp its rights or revenge oppression. This may serve as a memorable instance of what may be the result of a total inattention to war, and an utter extirpation of martial ardor. Insulted by the French, threatened by the English, and almost universally despised by the rest of Europe-how unlike the brave peasants their ancestors, wno spread terror into either India, and always declared themselves the allies of those who drew the sword in defence of freedom !*
The friendship between the English and the Dutch was at first conceived to be inseparable ; they were termed, in the style of politicians, faithful friends, natural allies, Protestant confederates, and by many other names of national endearment. Both had the same interest as opposed to France, and some resemblance of religion as opposed to popery; yet these were but slight ties with a nation whose only views were commerce.
A rivalry im that will serve to destroy with them every connection. No merely mercantile man or mercantile nation has any friendship but for money; and an alliance between them will last no longer than their common safety or comnfon profit is endangered; no longer than they have an enemy ready to deprive them of more than they can be able to steal from each other.
A long continuance of property in the same channel is also very prejudicial to a nation in such a state ; emulation is in some measure destroyed, fortune seems to stand still with those who are already in possession of it, they who are rich have no need of an exertion of their abilities in order to preserve their wealth, and the poor must rest in hopeless indigence; but war gives &
· [Fleavens! how unlike their Belgic sires of old !
Rough, poor, content, ungovernably bold,” &c.- Traveller.)
circulation to the wealth of a nation, the poor have many oppor. tunities of bettering their fortune, and the rich must labor in order to support the necessary expenses required in defraying it. Thus all are in action; and emulative industry is the parent of every national virtue.
A long continuance of peace in England was never productive of advantageous consequences; upon such occasions, we have ever seen her divided into factions, her senates becoming venal, and her ministers even avowing corruption. But when a foreign enemy appears, private animosities cease, factions are forgotten, and party rage is united against the common foe. I am not an advocate for war; but it were happy if mankind did not require such a scourge to keep them within those bounds which they ought to observe, with respect to their country and themselves. It is not likely, however, the English should relax into the abject state of debility of a neighboring nation; they will ever have cause of distrust while France continues to cherish views of ambitionnation that seems the enemy of Britain by nature. Different in religion, government, and disposition, it is almost impossible they can ever be thoroughly reconciled; and perhaps this rivalry will continue to preserve them both in circumstances of vigor and power, longer than any other nations recorded in history; since, from the situation of each country, it does not seem easy to conceive how the one will ever be able entirely to oppress the other.
The system of politics at present pursued by the English may properly be said to have taken rise in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. At this time the Protestant religion was established, which then allied us to those countries who embraced the Reformation, and made all the Popish powers our enemies. A habit of politics once contracted is seldom discontinued ; thus, those connections which were at first made from religious motives, were still observed when religion was out of the question. The English