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John Sobieski checked and defeated them for a time ; but in 1672 an enormous horde swept over the country; a humiliating treaty was made with them which the Diet refused to ratify. Next John Sobieski inflicted a great defeat on the Turks and in 1678 became King of Poland. The nobles by their veto dissolved the Diet, refused supplies, and took pay from Louis XIV. against the king. Then came the crowning act of the life of John Sobieski, the last heroic action for which Europe owed gratitude to the Poles. The Turks, unchecked by their defeats, seeking to impose their dominion over Europe, brought a huge army of 800,000 men to besiege Vienna. The city could expect no help from Western Europe or from the North-East; the great fortress protecting western civility seemed to be doomed. The siege had lasted for 58 days before John Sobieski, with a force, composed of Poles, Saxons, Bavarians and Austrians, could come to its relief. In June, 1688, he engaged the Turkish horde under the walls of Vienna and utterly routed it. Europe was saved ; the tide of Turkish expansion was finally checked until in 1922 the Western Europeans refused to stand by the Greeks and deserted the British at Chanak. But the Polish Diet would give Sobieski no support to enable him to reap the fruits of his victory. With him disappeared the last hope of
. Poland. When he died in 1696 she became the plaything of the Powers. She was ringed round by powerful foes, Sweden, the rising Russia under Peter the Great, who, turning the eyes of his people from East to West would absorb Poland as standing in his way of a place in the sun, the Turk in the South-East, the great Austrian Empire, the various German States, and in the North-West the Brandenburg robber, all of whom with France disputed to impose upon her a dummy ruler, joined to make impossible the reforms which would have revived her strength, and involved her in costly quarrels not her own from which she received only loss. Such for the next seventy years is the history of Poland.
John Sobieski had one close connection with Western Europe. He left a son James, whose daughter Clementina married James Stuart the old Chevalier, the son of our King James II. and VII. When his son Prince Charles Edward invaded Britain in 1745 to recover the throne of his fathers from the Hanoverians, he had behind him the traditions not only of the murdered Charles of England but of the great Polish king who had saved Europe at Vienna in 1683 ; and with their traditions he had, perhaps, also their limitations.
iii. Feudalism in
in the West : France.—Leaving Poland I turn to the Continental feudalism of the West and illustrate from France. Henri IV. and his minister Richelieu, attempting colonial empire and extended commerce, had built up a French navy which showed great strength in the Mediterranean, had signed mercantile treaties with various Powers containing privileges of trade, established consulates in the Levant, encouraged commercial travel, and created great Companies with monopoly of trade for the Levant, North America, West Africa, and the East and West Indies. The Thirty Years' War interfering with markets further turned the attention of both France and Great Britain to colonial trade in competition with Spain, Portugal and Holland. Though the Companies which Henry and his great minister approved and assisted had only moderate success, France at the death of Louis XIII. (1648) had a colonial empire.
The new reign began with a troublesome revolution. The struggle between the federal government and the authority of the nobles, who had great independent powers in the provinces, a struggle which had been going on throughout the reign of Louis XIII., had ended in the temporary dominance of the Crown. Richelieu had died in 1642. Louis XIII. left the government in the hands of his widow Anne of Austria as regent for Louis XIV., at that time a child of between four and five years of age. She appointed an Italian Mazarin as her minister to carry on the policy of Richelieu, the establishment of central government at the expense of local authority, the reverse of Polish rule. Mazarin extended this by depriving the official aristocracy of their hereditary privileges. There was no religious question at that time as in Germany, as the political unity of France had brought the Huguenots into line with the rest of the nation. In fact, France in these times acted as protector of the German Protestant princes as against Austria. The only cloud in sight was that the finances, as commonly happened in those days owing to war and waste and difficulty of collection, were in a very serious state.
On Louis' death the Parlement of Paris, a body of hereditary officials who had inherited or bought their offices, attempted to act as States General and to oust Mazarin. They had been forbidden to interfere in political affairs. But the time appeared favourable to an attempt to control the crown in the interests both of the local officials and of the great nobles. They had the sympathy of the nobles, such as Gaston, Duke of Orleans, the brother of Louis XIII., who had worked for the overthrow of Richelieu's policy.
Mazarin succeeded with difficulty in carrying on government until 1648. Then came the end of the Thirty Years' War, the signing of the treaty of Westphalia, and a general revolt in various countries against the kingship, in the course of which the Scots and the Puritans murdered the English king. The Parlement of Paris headed a revolutionary party and set up the Fronde, a movement of reform or of revolution, as affairs might serve, with a definite aim to control the Crown and subordinate it to the power of the great nobles and officials of the provinces. (French Dictionary definition. Fronde : sling, (surgical) bandage for the dress; fronderie : riot of the Fronde, riot, disturbance; frondeur : slinger, censurer, fault-finder, critic.)
Mazarin arrested three provincial members of the Parlement, as Charles had seized the five members of the English Parliament; whereupon the Parisians threw up barricades and carried on civil war from January to April, 1649. The Parlement afterwards joined with the nobles against the Crown, and Anne left Paris with the child. Negotiations followed and a truce for a time, Mazarin leaving France to enable a settlement
a to be made. In 1651 Louis came of age for the kingship, and in 1652 Mazarin returned to govern for Louis and train him for ruling until his death in 1661. By 1653 the revolutionary movement was over, and the nation, fatiguée des stériles agitations de la Fronde,' gave an easy obedience to the unifying autocracy of the young king and his minister. Louis became an absolute popular sovereign, as the kingdom grew and prospered under their hands. In 1655 Mazarin made a commercial treaty with Cromwell, and in 1657 by the Treaty of Paris Cromwell agreed to lend France 6,000 soldiers, Dunkirk and Mardyck to be captured from Spain and handed over to
England. In 1660 the Peace of the Pyrenees was made with Spain, Louis married the Spanish Infanta Maria Theresa, and in 1661 Charles II, married Catherine of Braganza.
Colbert, who became minister in 1661, continued the policy of replacing the provincial authority of the princes and great nobles by crown officials of the middle class, the same change that had come about in England under the Tudors. Contrôleur-Général, who was subject in theory to a Council of Finance, with thirty-two intendants set over the provinces absorbed all internal management. The hard-working king alone was the check on his authority, the local Parlements and Estates falling into disuse.
While the Stuarts, the real founders of our Empire, were building up our dominions in North America, in Hudson Bay, in Africa and the East, Louis and Colbert continued the policy of expansion for France, and built up a great navy. The king announced that the nobles did not derogate from their nobility by taking part in overseas trade. Colbert created the two Companies, Des Indes Occidentales and Des Indes Orientales, in 1664, in 1669 the Compagnie du Nord with monopoly of trade with Zeeland, Holland, Germany and other northern countries, and in 1670 the Company of the Levant.
In any comparison of the commerce of France under the Grand Monarque to the detraction of the Stuarts, one must keep in mind that the French king had full command of money and for the greater part of his reign an enthusiastic nation behind him, while the English kings, faced always with the factious opposition of a party that lived upon a policy of negation and religious and political hatred, starved for the means of colonial and commercial enterprise. Also remember that France was not in the seventeenth century what she became in the eighteenth, our enemy and commercial rival. She did not compete with Holland and England in the Far East, as she claimed to control the trade of the Levant. Up to the middle of the seventeenth century the French flag was almost unknown in the East Indies. France did not look seawards. Louis spent her energies trying to get possession of the Spanish Netherlands, to make the Rhine her boundary, to unite France and Spain.
In the 17th century Holland was our great and successful rival, a rival who had driven us out of the Malay Peninsula, had nearly ruined our East Indian trade, a rival who threatened our colonies in Africa, in North America and in Guiana. Charles II., apart from any personal leanings to his mother's country, showed a much truer instinct than the Parliamentary faction opposed to him when he held by France, who had not shown herself dangerous to us either East or West, in preference to the Dutch who under Van Tromp, defeating in 1651 the Commonwealth fleet under Blake, had sailed up the Channel with the broom tied to the mast in derision of the English claim to supremacy. When in 1685 James came to the throne he had behind him a fine record both at sea and on land in the wars fought by Charles against the Dutch. He won in 1665 a great naval victory over them off Lowestoft, and he appears to have been a good manager both of the army and navy, and a good commander in action. He increased the army, not apparently with any view to tyranny, but because it was necessary for the protection of our growing colonial possessions. Parliament excluded him as a Catholic from all public employment.
France was our rival, but she was not then like Holland, a hated enemy. There were no such memories as Amboyna between us, nor were the results of Colbert's conceptions such as to justify fears either naval or colonial. None of his companies was successful.
The Companies of the Indies failed to get the capital proposed to be subscribed. The colonists in the West protested against the monopoly. All the Companies failed except the one for the trade in the East, and that struggled on feebly, meeting with checks from the Dutch in the East Indies, and suffering from the defeats in the later wars of Louis in the home waters. This Company's monopoly expired in 1714, but was renewed for ten years. It was the only French Company which remained dangerous to Dutch supremacy of trade, and it was not popular at home or abroad, and was too much under the hand of the politicians."
1 At the opening of the reign of Louis XV. there was a number of other petty Companies created which were swallowed up by Law's scheme, treated of below. The Compagnie de Bastion de France and the Senegal Company founded in 1685 and the Barbary Company in 1712 traded in the Mediterranean and on the west coast of Africa ; the Guinea Company founded in 1685 obtained from Spain in 1701 the Assiento," the privilege of supplying negroes to the Spanish colonies, ceded by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 to England; the Company of China founded in 1713 which made several fruitful voyages; it