Изображения страниц

Spain, during the reign of Philip IV., was as impotent abroad as she was miserable at home. Every species of commerce was repressed by the most exorbitant taxes. The Flemish manufactures supplied the whole kingdom, for the Spaniards had neither arts of their own, nor industry. In short, notwithstanding her immense territories, and those prodigious sources of wealth which she possessed in America, Spain was so exhausted, that the ministry under Philip IV. found themselves reduced to the necessity of coining money of copper, to which they gave the value of silver. This reign was one continued series of losses and defeats. The Dutch, at the expiration of the truce, made themselves masters of Brazil. The province of Artois was invaded by the French, and Catalonia, jealous of her privileges, which the crown had encroached upon, revolted and threw herself into the arms of Franch.

The revolt of Catalonia was the signal for another of much more importance. Portugal, at this very period, shook off the yoke of Spain, and recovered her former independence as a kingdom. No revolution was ever effected with more speed or with more facility. The imprudent and impolitic administration of Olivarez had alienated the minds of the Portuguese from all allegiance to the Spanish crown.

John, duke of Braganza, who was descended from the ancient race of the Portuguese monarchs, had at this time the command of the army. Instigated by the ambition of his duchess, a woman of great spirit, and seeing the disposition of the nation completely favourable to his views, he

caused himself to be proclaimed king in the city of Lisbon; and this example of the capital was immediately followed all over the kingdom, and in all the Portuguese settlements abroad. Portugal, from that era, became an independent sovereignty, after having been for sixty years an appanage or dependency of the kingdom of Spain.

The government of Portugal approaches to an absolute monarchy. Nominally indeed, in most important articles which regard the liberty of the subject, the consent of the states is necessary; these, however, are but rarely convoked. The ordinary business of the government is conducted entirely by the king and his council of state, which is appointed by himself. The revenue of the crown arises from its domains, the duties on exports and imports, the taxes, and, formerly, from a stated proportion of the gold imported from the Brazils. Commerce and manufactures are in a very low state in Portugal; their trade, being conducted with no enlarged views or liberal policy, is of little solid advantage to the country; and with a soil and climate equal to any in Europe, the agriculture of the kingdom is greatly neglected.

This period, between the reign of Philip II. and the end of the reign of Philip IV., though it saw the diminution of the Spanish greatness in point of power, was the era of its highest lustre in point of literary genius. The entertainments of the stage were far superior to those of any other European nation; and the Spaniards likewise carried poetical composition, romance, and even history, to a considerable degree of perfection. The mechanic and the useful arts were however in a very rude state.

The Spaniards, during these reigns, had very few of the refined pleasures of life, but in return they were free from those miseries which fell to the lot of their neighbours. While France and England exhibited a painful scene of faction, civil war and bloodshed, the Spaniards passed their days in indolent and tranquil insignificance.

It is somewhat curious to remark, that at the time when, in all the rest of the European nations, the scale of the people was acquiring weight against the power of the sovereign, the reverse was the case in Spain. The kingdom, from being once elective, had for some ages become hereditary; but it was not till the reign of Charles V. that the king of Spain became an absolute prince.

There is no question that Spain was once an elective kingdom. In treating formerly of the manners of the Gothic nations, we took notice, that during the reign of the Visigoth princes in Spain, these sovereigns were always chosen by the proceres or nobles: although at the same time this assembly of the proceres generally paid the greatest regard to the family of the last prince, or to the person whom he, upon his death-bed, had designed as his successor. This, it must be allowed, is a very near approach to hereditary succession, and though length of time commonly changes into that constitution. Accordingly, for many centuries past, there appears not the least trace of an elective monarchy in Spain; the crown devolving always, of course, without any form or ceremony, on the nearest in blood to the last prince. The kings of Spain have sometimes limited the succession to certain families, ranks, and persons; of which the

first instance was that of Philip III., in the year 1619, and the second, of Philip V., in 1713.

The power of the king was formerly limited by the cortes, or parliament of the kingdom. These, which formerly, especially in Castile, had great prerogatives, and were a powerful restraint upon the authority of the sovereign, were in a manner annihilated by Charles V., who deprived the nobles and the prelates of their seat in those assemblies; allowing only a convention of the deputies or agents of the towns, who have very little power, and are absolutely at the devotion of the sovereign. The king of Spain now governs with the advice of his cabinet council, the Consejo Real, who are the secretary of state, and three or four of the principal nobility, with whom he chooses to consult upon the affairs of government. There is no body or department in the constitution which is entitled to restrain or regulate the will of the sovereign, who is therefore an absolute prince.





GERMANY FROM THE ABDICATION OF CHARLES V. TO THE PEACE OF WESTPHALIA.—Ferdinand I.-Thirty Years' War -Ferdinand II.-Palatinate laid waste-Gustavus Adolphus-Ferdinand III.-Peace of Westphalia.

Ar the time when France was in a very flourishing situation under Henry IV., England, under Elizabeth, and Spain extremely formidable under Philip II., the empire of Germany made by no means so respectable a figure. Since the abdication of Charles V. till the reign of Leopold, it had no influence whatever in Italy. The contrary pretensions of the emperors to nominate the popes, and those of the pontiffs to confer the imperial dignity, were insensibly fallen into oblivion. Germany was a republic of princes over whom the emperor presided, and these princes, having constant interferences of interest, generally maintained a civil war, which was fomented by the three contending sects of religion, the Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists. Yet the political fabric of the empire, amidst all its disturbances, remained unshaken.

Ferdinand I. endeavoured to unite the three religious sects, and to effect a harmony between the princes of the empire; but the attempt was vain. Maximilian II. was less absolute than Ferdinand, and could still less bring about such a

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »