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that the other must feel the stroke, and suffer by it. The BOOK
XII. suppression of the popular power rendered the aristocratical less formidable. The grandees, prompted by the warlike spirit of the age, or allured by the honours which they enjoyed in a court, exhausted their fortunes in military service, or in attending on the person of their Prince. They did not dread, perhaps did not observe, the dangerous progress of the royal authority, which leaving them the vain distinction of being covered in presence of their sovereign, stripped them, by degrees, of that real power which they possessed while they formed one body, and acted in concert with the people. Charles's success in abolishing the privileges of the commons, and in breaking the power of the nobles of Castile, encouraged Philip to invade the liberties of Aragon, which were still more extensive. The Castilians, accustomed to subjection themselves, assisted in imposing the yoke on their more happy and independent neighbours. The will of the sovereign became the supreme law in all the kingdoms of Spain ; and princes who were not checked in forming their plans by the jealousy of the people, nor controled in executing them by the power of the nobles, could both aim at great objects, and call forth the whole strength of the monarchy in order to attain them.
As Charles, by extending the royal prerogative, rendered Also in
other parts the monarchs of Spain masters at home, he added new dig- of Europe. nity and power to their crown by his foreign acquisitions. He secured to Spain the quiet possession of the kingdom of "Naples, which Ferdinand had usurped by fraud, and held with difficulty. He united the dutchy of Milan, one of the most fertile and populous Italian provinces, to the Spanish crown; and left his successors, even without taking their other territories into the account, the most considerable Princes in Italy, which had been long the theatre of contention to the great powers of Europe, and in which they had struggled with emulation to obtain the superiority. When the French, in conformity to the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis, withdrew their forces out of Italy, and finally relinquished all their schemes of conqueșt on that side of the Alps, the Spanish dominions then rose in importance, and enabled
BO O K their Kings, as long as the monarchy retained any degree XII.
of vigour, to preserve the chief sway in all the transactions of that country. But whatever accession, either of interior authority or of foreign dominion, Charles gained for the monarchs of Spain in Europe, was inconsiderable when compared with his acquisitions in the new world. He added there, not provinces, but empires to his crown. He conquered territories of such immense extent; he discovered such inexhaustible veins of wealth, and opened such boundless prospects of every kind, as must have roused his successor, and have called him forth to action, though his ambition had been much less ardent than that of Philip, and must have rendered him not only enterprising but formidable.
Progress While the elder branch of the Austrian family rose to of the German
such pre-eminence in Spain, the younger, of which Ferdibranch of nand was the head, grew to be considerable in Germany. the house The ancient hereditary dominions of the house of Austria of Austria.
in Germany, united to the kingdoms of Hungary and Bohemia, which Ferdinand had acquired by marriage, formed a respectable power ; and when the Imperial dignity was added to these, Ferdinand possessed territories more extensive than had belonged to any Prince, Charles V. excepted, who had been at the head of the Empire during several ages. Fortunately for Europe, the disgust, which Philip conceived on account of Ferdinand's refusing to relinquish the Imperial crown in his favour, not only prevented for some time the separate members of the house of Austria from acting in concert, but occasioned between them a visible alienation and rivalship. By degrees, however, regard to the interest of their family extinguished this impolitical animosity. The confidence which was natural returned; the aggrandizing of the house of Austria became the common object of all their schemes; they gave and received assistance alternately towards the execution of them; and each derived consideration and importance from the other's
A family so great and so aspiring, became the general object of jealousy and terror.
All the power, as well as policy, of Europe were exerted during a century, in
order to check and humble it. Nothing can give a more BOOK striking idea of the ascendant which it had acquired, and of the terror which it had inspired, than that after its vigour was spent with extraordinary exertions of its strength, after Spain was become only the shadow of a great name, and its monarchs were sunk into debility and dotage, the house of Austria still continued to be formidable. The nations of Europe had so often felt its superior power, and had been so constantly employed in guarding against it, that the dread of it became a kind of political habit, the influence of which remained when the causes, which had formed it, ceased to exist.
WHILE the house of Austria went on with such success Acquisiin enlarging its dominions, France made no considerable ac
tions of the
kings of quisition of new territory. All its schemes of conquest in France, duItaly had proved abortive; it had hitherto obtained no es- ring the tablishment of consequence in the new world ; and after the Charles V. continued and vigorous efforts of four successive reigns, the confines of the kingdom were much the same as Louis XI. had left them. But though France made not such large strides towards dominion as the house of Austria, it continued to advance by steps which were more secure, because they were gradual and less observed. The conquest of Calais put it out of the power of the English to invade France but at their utmost peril, and delivered the French from the dread of their ancient enemies, who, previous to that event, could at any time penetrate into the kingdom by that avenue, and thereby retard or defeat the execution of their best concerted enterprises against any foreign power. The important acquisition of Metz, covered that part of their frontier which formerly was most feeble, and lay most exposed to insult. France, from the time of its obtaining these additional securities against external invasion, must be deemed the most powerful kingdom in Europe, and is more fortunately situated than any on the Continent either for conquest or defence. From the confines of Artois to the bottom of the Pyrenees, and from the British channel to the frontiers of Savoy and the coast of the Mediterranean, its territories lay compact and unmingled with those of any other power.
BOO K Several of the considerable provinces, which had contracted XII.
a spirit of independence by their having been long subject to the great vassals of the crown, who were often at variance or at war with their master, were now accustomed to recognize and to obey one sovereign. As they became members of the same monarchy, they assumed the sentiments of that body into which they were incorporated, and co-operated with zeal towards promoting its interest and honour. The power and influence wrested from the nobles were seized by the crown. The people were not admitted to share in these spoils; they gained no new privilege; they acquired no additional weight in the legislature. It was not for the sake of the people, but in order to extend their own prerogative, that the monarchs of France had laboured to humble their great vassals. Satisfied with having brought them under entire subjection to the crown, they discovered no solicitude to free the people from their ancient dependence on the nobles of whom they held, and by whom they were often oppressed.
tion among the powers
A MONARCH, at the head of a kingdom thus united at them to as
home and secure from abroad, was entitled to form great higher sta- designs, because he felt himself in a condition to execute
them. The foreign wars which had continued with little of Europe. interruption from the accession of Charles VIII. had not
only cherished and augmented the martial genius of the na-
modern exactions, appear immense when compared with the.BOOK
XII. sums levied in France, or in any other country of Europe, previous to the reign of Louis XI. As all the members of which the state was composed were thus impatient for action, and capable of great efforts, the schemes and operations of France must have been no less formidable to Europe than those of Spain. The superior advantages of its situation, the contiguity and compactness of its territories, together with the peculiar state of its political constitution at that juncture, must have rendered its enterprises still more alarming and more decisive. The King possessed such a degree of power as gave him the entire command of his subjects; the people were strangers to those occupations and habits of life which render men averse to war, or unfit for it; and the nobles, though reduced to the subordination necessary in a regular government, still retained the high undaunted spirit which was the effect of their ancient independence. The vigour of the feudal times remained, their anarchy was at an end; and the Kings of France could avail themselves of the martial ardour which that singular institution had kindled or kept alive, without being exposed to the dangers or inconveniences which are inseparable from it when in entire force.
A KINGDOM in such a state, is, perhaps, capable of greater Circummilitary efforts than at any other period in its progress. But which how formidable or how fatal soever to the other nations of vented the Europe the power of such a monarchy might have been, the effects of civil wars which broke out in France saved them at that their pow. juncture from feeling its effects. These wars, of which religion was the pretext and ambition the cause, wherein great abilities were displayed by the leaders of the different factions, and little conduct or firmness were manifested by the crown under a succession of weak Princes, kept France occupied and embroiled for half a century. During these commotions the internal strength of the kingdom was much wasted, and such a spirit of anarchy was spread among the nobles, to whom rebellion was familiar, and the restraint of laws unknown, that a considerable interval became requisite not only for recruiting the internal vigour of the nation, but