of fulfilling it. During most of his reign he was fortunate in having agents who abounded in the qualities in which he was lacking.

· Ferdinand's reign opened with the warin the Palatinate, boldly undertaken and feebly sustained by that most impotent of would-be sovereigns, Frederick, called the Palatine, son-in-law of James I. Seldom has a man with the ambition to conceive and the spirit to attempt such bold designs, evinced such imbecility as disgraced the career of this

Authorities differ as to whether a sermon or a banquet occupied his time while Maximilian of Bavaria was routing his army and shattering forever the fragile fabric of his hopes ; neither occupation was very appropriate for so momentous an hour. But perhaps he would have done better had he enjoyed the valuable tutelage of Mr. Mitchell, who ardently exclaims, that “ the aspirant for diadems must throw away the scabbard, must keep bright honor alone in view, and set his life as nothing on the cast” (p. 73).

After this the victories of Maximilian and his colleague, Count Tilly, soon quelled all armed revolt. Throughout Germany no hostile standard was to be seen. For a brief moment in his stormy reign Ferdinand sat in his purple robes in Vienna and looked abroad upon an empire at peace. But it was only for a moment. In the condition of Europe at that time, peace was generally but a truce and victory seldom meant conquest. Banditti let themselves out for hire; the hastily-gathered hostile armies manœuvred and fought; the one that was worsted became demoralized, and its hirers bought peace by submission. Soon, having gained an ally or collected funds, they would appear with a fresh army and renew the war. Standing armies could not be maintained, for the imperfect financial system kept the sovereigns in the precarious condition of mercantile speculators, to-day rich, to-morrow penniless; thus, like two wellmatched wrestlers rolling upon the grass, now one, now the other uppermost, the prince's power struggled, and the conquered and the conquerer changed places in ceaseless rotation. So now the princes of the Union, after a brief exhaustion, began to rally their resources, called in the aid of Christian IV., of Denmark, an able king, under whose rule his little realm had assumed unwonted importance, and again threatened to embroil Austria.

Thus a storm of war was fast gathering around his borders, while Ferdinand was far from satisfied with the internal state


[ocr errors]

of affairs. The successes lately won had greatly enfeebled him ; his resources were cruelly drained, and he hardly knew whence to gather means to encounter the threatening assault. Moreover, he was as ambitious of independence as of peace, and now he saw with jealousy that he owed all which had been thus far accomplished to Maximilian of Bavaria ; and he was further bitterly troubled to see that this potentate was quite aware of his deserts, and inclined to demand an ample reward; he at once claimed to be paid for the past, and propitiated for the future. But Ferdinand well appreciated the merits of a rotation in office, and the more surely events seemed to render Maximilian indispensable to him, the more keenly did he look out for another to supply his place. Wallenstein met him at this point precisely as he wished to be met; he had inherited from his first wife large estates; her successor had brought him no inconsiderable addition; he had done good military service and had taken good wages therefor; he had bought confiscated estates, and because the titles were considered none too good he had gathered them at an immense discount from their real value ; his financial operations had been upon the same scale of magnificence and vastness, as was everything else that he undertook. He was now a man of immense wealth-more immense, indeed, than even all these fruitful sources can easily be made to account for. He came forward with a characteristic proposition--one of Olympian grandeur, like all his conceptions, and also, like them, all tending to his own unlimited aggrandizement.

Schiller's spirit seems almost oppressed by the stateliness of the man; he comprehends him not; and in his embarrassment he suspects evil, and utters furtive innuendoes that the great man was at this early hour, in the innermost recesses of his soul, already brooding over treason. The suspicion seems simply absurd. His offer to the emperor was that he would raise an army of fifty thousand men at his own expense ; defray all charges of equipment; and keep them in the field at his own expense; that he would hold himself and them implicitly at the command of the emperor, like any other imperial general and army. His only terms were that the force should not be limited to a smaller number; that he should have the nomination of his own officers, and should be allowed to remunerate himself and them from the property which should be confiscated in the principalities which he expected to conquer ; also that he should have for himself the pay of 6,000 forins


[ocr errors]

per month. At the court of Vienna this proposal was regarded as the impossible scheme of a speculator and a visionary; and the courtiers cracked their simple jests and jeered loudly at Wallenstein. But the plan had its merits, and they were not inconsiderable. It cost Ferdinand nothing; if it broke down he met with no positive loss; he simply failed to a prospective gain, and to this he could reconcile himself. He accordingly closed the bargain ; and therein he showed a degree of wisdom which should gain him credit at least for mercantile ability. The scoffers soon stayed their ridicule and looked on astounded. The herculean task went on apace. Impossibilities for other men were bagatelle to Wallenstein ; and now the world began to appreciate the

; wonderful powers of the man. The works which he was to achieve were mighty, and already crowned heads began to stare at his deeds. What the horns are to the bull, what hoofs are to the horse, what speed is to the hare, what jaws are to the lion, all this and more was Wallenstein destined to be to Ferdinand. Ferdinand acknowledged his own inability to raise an army in all his kingdom, backed by all of its imperial resources.

In two months Wallenstein was at the head of twenty thousand men ; he began his march, and before he reached the confines of Saxony his army numbered thirty thousand fighting men. As the avalanche gathers fresh accretions in its course, so this host grew daily. There was an eclat about the name of its leader which acted like a magical spell upon the men of war. Adventurers from every race of middle Europe flocked to his standard; the very species of troops which he most valued were the men who were allured most surely. Freebooters, men who lived by the sword, loved plunder, feared neither God nor kaiser, would fight against any country with like indifference and ferocity ; who scorned a nationality which was but the accidental result of birth or language; who followed their captain for rewards and booty, and who had learned by long experience that the surest way to obtain these objects was to obey well and to fight well. They knew and respected the notorious ability of their chief; they were aware that he was unmatched for liberality, that gold pieces seemed to rain in his camp ; that for the

purposes of the present war he was as much a soldier of fortune as themselves, and with an infinitely heavier stake to lose, and that the same cast of the die which determined their luck likewise governed his own. Such a host, led by such a general, was formidable under any circumstances, Co-operating with the forces of Tilly, the Protestants found them invincible.

In the conduct of this campaign we may observe the same wily system of tactics which marks the whole of Wallenstein's military career.

His notions were controlled with the utmost art to subserve equally the cause of his master and of himself. Success was in every point of view of the first importance, and this accordingly he always ensured with military skill; further, self-aggrandizement was his ruling motive, and therefore success was always sought by such astute courses as surely promoted this design. Divided glory and divided spoil were alike odious to him. So he disregarded Ferdinand's plan for the campaign, and managed to avoid a junction with Tilly, although imperatively commanded to effect it. But he let Tilly have his full share of the fighting, and then ingeniously contrived himself to garner most of the harvest. Tilly routed the foe, and the name of Wallenstein was terrible; Tilly cleared the country, and Wallenstein pounced upon the booty. Schiller states that his forces gradually swelled to the number of one hundred thousand men-a vast force in those days. Like a deadly canker-worm upon the green leaf, they ranged to and fro through whatsoever territory it pleased them, living on the fat of the land, taking whatever struck their fancy, revelling in the very elysium of marauders. It did not cost Wallenstein much to support them. When they fought-as they did fight some hard battles—they fought well, and they took an ample reward after the victory was won. Christian IV., discouraged and discomfited, retired to his kingdom. Wallenstein sat down before Stralsund to besiege it. He had begun to feel himself invincible; but to besiege a seaport without the aid of a fleet was a useless task; and for the first time he had to desist from his enterprise. Yet the fruits of the seed sown at this siege were to ripen after many years, and were rich enough when they came: For the people of the city in their extremity cried to Gustavus Adolphus for help, and, in answer to their cry, a party of Swedes, came to their assistance, and thus gained their first foothold on German soil.

Wallenstein was now peerless in Germany; haughty and unrelenting, he trampled alike on friend and foe, and he fed his insatiate soldiery indiscriminately on the territories of both League and Union. He was hated and feared. But for the

hatred he cared not, and he made the fear a useful servant. When the wronged princes came to him with the remonstrances of anger or of submission on their lips, he scornfully told them it was time now to have done with electors, that Germany must have a single and absolute sovereign like France and Spain. How much happier might have been the lot of Germany had this stern aspiration been fulfilled! Tyranny is a milder mistress than anarchy. So Ferdinand was king from the Adriatic to the Baltic, and Wallenstein was his terrible servant. But the servant was not serving for nothing, and in 1627, having put his army into winter quarters, he hastened to the capital and demanded as his reward the duchy of Mecklenburgh ; the hero was as audacious at the footstool of his prince as in the face of the foe. The tongues of many enemies at court wagged violently against him, but he bade them be still and straightway they were silenced. He got his duchy and returned to the head of his hordes. For some time afterwards communications passed between him and the King of Sweden, whose potent alliance he sought studiously to gain by very liberal overtures. Already the prescience of coming events seemed to haunt that astrological spirit; the name of the great

: King of Sweden rung in his ears like an ominous fateful dirge. He scented trouble in the northern quarter. What there was suspicious in his anxiety to propitiate or disarm by negotiations or alliance this dreaded potentate, we are unable precisely to divine.

But Schiller intimates that the correspondence was traitorous ; that Wallenstein was already hatching treason ; that he longed even in these hours of_triumph and victory to sell himself to the Swedes. The idea is wild and improbable in the extreme. What temptation could Wallenstein hold out to this champion of Protestantism which should induce him to set the imperial general upon a German throne ? What cared Gustavus for the internal feuds of Germany ? And if religious antipathy to Austria were to move him, why should he choose to exalt the one Catholic who has just shown more dangerous talents than were possessed by any other man of that persuasion then living? Moreover, the emperor knew and approved of the diplomacy. We can see no treason. Schiller had an abhorrence of Wallenstein, and the sentiment is apparent wherever he speaks of him; he fails to do justice to his abilities, and in all his acts he sees nothing but vice. For his

« VorigeDoorgaan »