CHAPTER XI. THE BATTLE OF BLENHEIM, 1704.
It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, that France, in the first war of Louis XIV., despised the opposition of both branches of the once predominant house of Austria. Indeed, in Germany the French king acquired allies among the princes of the Empire against the emperor himself. He had a still stronger support in Austria's misgovernment of her own subjects. The words of Bolingbroke on this are remarkable, and some of them sound as if written within the last three years. Bolingbroke says, "It was not merely the want of cordial co-operation among the princes of the Empire that disabled the emperor from acting with vigour in the cause of his family then, nor that has rendered the house of Austria a dead weight upon all her allies ever since. Bigotry, and its inseparable companion, cruelty, as well as the tyranny and avarice of the court of Vienna, created in those days, and has maintained in ours, almost a perpetual diversion of the imperial arms from all effectual opposition to France. I MEAN TO SPEAK OF THE TROUBLES IN HUNGARY. WHATEVER THEY BECAME IN THEIR PROGRESS, THEY WERE CAUSED ORIGINALLY BY THE USERPATIONS AND PERSECUTIONS OF THE EMPEROR; AND WHEN THE HUNGARIANS WERE CALLED REBELS FIRST, THEY WERE CALLED SO FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN THIS, THAT THEY WOULD NOT BE SLAVES. The dominion of the emperor being less supportable than that of the Turks, this unhappy people opened a door to the latter to infest the empire, instead of making their country, what it had been before, a barrier against the Ottoman power. France became a sure though secret ally of the Turks, as well as the Hungarians, and has found her account in it, by keeping the emperor in perpetual alarms on that side, while she has ravaged the Empire and the Low Countries on the other." [Bolingbroke, vol. ii. p. 397.]
If, after having seen the imbecility of Germany and Spain against the France of Louis XIV., we turn to the two only remaining European powers of any importance at that time, to England and to Holland, we find the position of our own country as to European politics, from 1660 to 1688, most painful to contemplate. From 1660 to 1688, "England, by the return of the Stuarts, was reduced to a nullity." The words are Michelet's, [Histoire Moderne, vol. ii. p.106.] and though severe they are just. They are, in fact, not severe enough: for when England, under her restored dynasty of the Stuarts, did take any part in European politics, her conduct, or rather her king's conduct, was almost invariably wicked and dishonourable.
Bolingbroke rightly says that, previous to the Revolution of 1688, during the whole progress that Louis XIV. made in obtaining such exorbitant power, as gave him well-grounded hopes of acquiring at last to his family the Spanish monarchy, England had been either an idle spectator of what passed on the continent, or a faint and uncertain ally against France, or a warm and sure ally on her side, or a partial mediator between her and the powers confederated together in their common defence. But though the court of England submitted to abet the usurpations of France, and the King of England stooped to be her pensioner, the crime was not national. On the contrary, the nation cried out loudly against it even whilst it was being committed." [Bolingbroke, vol. ii p. 418.]
Holland alone, of all the European powers, opposed from the very beginning a steady and uniform resistance to the ambition and power of the French king. It was against Holland that the fiercest attacks of France were made, and though often apparently on the eve of complete success, they were always ultimately baffled by the stubborn bravery of the Dutch, and the heroism of their leader, William of Orange. When he became king of England, the power of this country was thrown decidedly into the scale against France; but though the contest was thus rendered less unequal, though William acted throughout "with invincible firmness, like a patriot and a hero," [Bolingbroke, vol, ii, p.404.] France had the general superiority in every war and in every treaty: and the commencement of the eighteenth century found the last league against her dissolved, all the forces of the confederates against her dispersed, and many disbanded; while France continued armed, with her veteran forces by sea and land increased, and held in readiness to act on all sides, whenever the opportunity should arise for seizing on the great prizes which, from the very beginning of his reign, had never been lost sight of by her king.