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Why did not Colbert's Companies succeed? It is a question worth pondering, because the conditions remain much the same and the nation does not change its spots. The French historian of commerce puts the situation thus : "Les grandes Compagnies avaient réussi en Hollande parce que l'esprit du peuple était tout tourné du côté de la mer, et en Angleterre parce que sa situation insulaire y avait créé nécessairement une nation maritime. Il n'en était pas de même pour la France, puissance continentale, dont les armateurs (privateers) ne faisaient dans les ports mêmes de leur pays que la moindre partie des transports.” And he adds “Il y avait eu en France peu d'enthusiasme pour les grandes compagnies de commerce.” We are still looking to the sea, proposing to build up a naval base in the Pacific ; the Frenchman spends his energies in devastating the Ruhr and the Palatinate.
In 1665 Philip IV. of Spain died. He had married twice. His only daughter by the first marriage was Maria Theresa, the wife of Louis XIV. Louis, distorting and exaggerating a local custom of some of the Spanish Netherlands which related to private property into a Lex Devolutionis of international acceptance, claimed the Spanish Netherlands for his wife as against Charles II. of Spain and the Infanta, children of the second marriage. In 1668 Louis XIV. made with the Emperor Leopold a secret treaty of partition of Spain. Leopold was to have Spain, Milan and the Tuscan ports, and the West Indian colonies ; Louis to have Naples and Sicily, the Netherlands and Franche Comté, Navarre and Rosas, the Eastern Philippines and the Spanish possessions in Africa. Then Louis seized Franche Comté.
This brought about a new grouping of the Powers. Holland was the great rival of England in trade, but England, fearing for the possession by France of the Netherlands, turned to the Dutch, who were deeply offended by a very severe commercial tariff set up by Colbert against Holland. England, Holland and Sweden entered into a Triple Alliance; but this new orientation did not last long. By the Treaty of Dover in 1670, followed by war in 1672, France and England united against Holland. Louis, making treaties for assistance or neutrality with all sorts of little German principalities, such as Mainz, Treves, Osnabrück, Cologne, Münster and Lüneburg, invaded Holland, over-running the whole country with ease. Then the Dutch cut the sluices, murdered their great patriotic leader John de Witt, who was willing to make peace with France, and created William of Orange, afterwards William III., Stadtholder, Captain and Admiral General. Louis had asked too much and had missed his opportunity. Events followed quickly; Louis' armies could not operate with success in the flooded country; a coalition-Austria, Holland, Lorraine and Spain was formed against him. England in 1674 made peace; Turenne devastated the Palatinate, the French excuse being that the action was necessary as a prevention of invasion from Germany. Then in 1677 William of Orange came to England and married Mary, the daughter of James II., and in 1678 Louis made peace at Nimeguen with the Dutch, and separately with the allies.
was the first to bring to France a cargo of tea ; the Company of San Domingo in 1698 had a monopoly of commerce which the colonists got rid of in 1720; the Company of Castor or of Canada had after 1706 a monopoly evil for the colonists; the Company of Louisiana in 1712 had as its share the immense basin of the Mississippi. The Compagnie des Indes Orientales ceased direct operations and confined itself to letting its privileges to private Companies.
Up to this time the policy of France had been one of continuous success at home and abroad. Her wars of aggression had been successful, her diplomacy had destroyed combinations of other Powers against her, and her internal condition was one of increasing prosperity and unity. Under Colbert the revenue increased and the debts diminished in spite of wars. French explorers travelled in the East; in North America the voyages of discovery of Père Marquette and Cavalier de la Salle extended the French boundaries. French manufactures were created, justice improved, the finances steadied, the numerous imposts which disturbed internal trade were lessened, while tariffs with frontier douanes united the country against its neighbours; canals were made and water carriage attended to and a navy and a large body of seamen were provided. In the third quarter of the seventeenth century the trade of France was exceedingly prosperous under Colbert. Occasionally the king ennobled a merchant's family per se, besides that with the great increase of wealth both merchants and bourgeois built châteaux, intermarried with the nobles, and bought offices which would admit them to the ranks of the nobility. Even after Colbert's death, and the terrible blow to prosperity given by the Revocation of
the Edict of Nantes, the trade both in Europe and in other continents was of enormous variety and value.
In 1673 a commercial and banking code was built up which remained after the destruction of the monarchy; in 1681 a marine code, founded upon the ancient customs of the sea, was formulated, and in 1685, after Colbert's death, was published the Code Noir which regulated the slavery of those creatures of whom Montesquieu sarcastically wrote: “Ceux dont il s'agit sont noirs depuis les pieds jusqu'à la tête ; et ils ont le nez si écrasé qu'il est presque impossible de les plaindre.”
iv. Persecution for Religion. The League of Augsburg.After the peace of Nimeguen, Louis, avoiding actual war, began a form of aggression which united all Europe against France ; he set up Tribunals of Reunion, Committees of the Parlement of Metz and Chambers at Besançon, Breisach and Tournay to enquire into certain carelessly-drafted provisions of the Treaty of Westphalia. These courts, acting for him, assigned to him many towns and districts, including Casale, Luxemburg and Strassburg. This last was practically essential to his occupation of Alsace. The lesser German princes clamoured for a coalition against France, while Louis on his part proposed a thirty years' truce, during which he should remain in possession of his seizures. Eventually the Truce of Ratisbon gave them to him for twenty years. The rest of his reign was failure and bankruptcy, full of trouble and humiliation. The territorial aggressions of France had caused the neighbouring peoples, especially the various helpless German principalities, to think deeply over the existing system of living long before the thought was translated into action. Politically the fear of the Union of Spain and France under the Bourbons, by the absence of issue to Charles II. of Spain, led in 1681-2 to alliances being formed with Austria against Spain.
Finally the Revocation in 1685 of the Edict of Nantes, which had given toleration for the Reformed religion in France, forced men to consider the whole position of the Roman Church, and with it the Doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings with which it was connected. It would appear that, if this doctrine of rule by Divine Right was to live, it must co-exist with the unity and supremacy of the Church, on whose authority it rested. It was already much discredited. The doctrine had been rudely shaken by the Reformation movement, and further exposed to assault by the Thirty Years' War, and the Revolution in England which resulted in the murder of Charles I. Louis, in ordering the Revocation, must have had in mind the political effects on his absolute authority of tolerating heretics. It was the theological counterpart of the Liberum Veto of Poland. He had tried in 1682 to obtain the independence of the Gallican Church under himself, calling a Council at which Bossuet put forward propositions limiting the powers of the Popes. The Pope, who afterwards joined the League of Augsburg, did not accept them. Ever since 1661 the policy of Louis towards the Huguenots had been a series of actions of restraint and irritation. Churches built since the Edict had been pulled down, schoolmasters were forbidden to teach and schools closed, Protestant officers were dismissed from the navy. A steady stream of emigration was benefiting the neighbouring countries. The Revocation, the last of this long series of pinpricks, made the existence of the Reformed Church in France almost impossible. Horrible atrocities followed, as happens with all such acts of persecution, whether religious or political.
The effect on France itself was desperately evil. Vauban said that France lost six thousand good officers and twelve thousand of her best soldiers. Trades and manufactures and the secrets, carefully guarded, of trades and manufactures were removed by the departure of the Protestants to the countries of exile. For instance, an example which could be freely multiplied, the intendant of Limousin writes in 1687 that the trade in coarse cloth and hides was almost entirely stopped by the departure of the religionnaires. The Protestant countries, Britain and Holland, Switzerland and Germany, and the British colonies in North America, were being stocked by hundreds of thousands of refugees from France, the richest, the most energetic, the most stable of the population, carrying with them hatred of the Roman Catholic religion. The exodus may be said to have been the foundation of British mercantile and manufacturing supremacy. France has never recovered from the drain. The persecution of the Catholics in Ireland under William III., Anne and the first two Georges brought about the same result, and Great Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries built up the industries of the United States by her treatment of the Irish and the Scottish Highlanders. Other attacks on freedom of thought followed. Besides a very severe persecution early in the eighteenth century of the Protestants in the Cevennes, followed very naturally by a furious insurrection bloodily suppressed, a terrible attack was made upon the Jansenists, the reforming party within the Church. In October, 1709, their nunnery of Port Royal des Champs was razed to the ground, and the nuns driven away. In 1713 Clement XI., at the instance of the Jesuits, condemned the doctrines of the Jansenists by the Bull Unigenitus. In the persecution which followed it is said that 80,000 persons suffered. It is these infamies which bring about the horrors of the French Revolution, by the murder or expulsion from France of all those who stood for spiritual life or for political moderation.
The intolerance was not confined to France. Stanhope in 1691, says Mahon, wrote from Majorca of an auto-da-fé. “Tuesday last there were burnt here twenty-seven Jews and heretics, and to-morrow I shall see executed about twenty more ; and Tuesday next, if I stay here so long, is to be another fiesta; for so they entitle a day dedicated to so execrable an act. The greatest part of the criminals that are already and will be put to death were the richest men of the island and owners of the best houses in the city.” Which goes far to explain the murders.
As against such infamies we must put the steady and continued persecution of the Roman Catholics in Ireland, the persecution of a people who have never themselves shown religious intolerance. Lecky quotes from papers in the Irish Record Office that just two hundred years ago, in 1724, a Colonel in Galway, on discovering that one of his men was a Papist, ordered him by Court Martial “to be three times whipped through the regiment, and then to be drummed out of the garrison,” a course of action which naturally filled the armies of our enemies with exceptionally fine soldiers, and cost us many lives and much treasure in spite of all the savagery which accompanied the effort to extirpate the Papist. It is difficult to forgive the intolerable folly of forbidding the Irish Catholics to associate themselves with British victories by allowing them to enlist in the British army.
It is also only just to keep in view the contrast of character