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- The Thirty Years War, Book III. - 10/17 -


since deeply repented of; while his esteem for the duke had remained unaltered, his favour for him undiminished. Of these sentiments he now gave the most decisive proof, by reposing unlimited confidence in his fidelity and capacity to repair the mistakes of his predecessors, and to change the whole aspect of affairs. It would be great and noble to sacrifice his just indignation to the good of his country; dignified and worthy of him to refute the evil calumny of his enemies by the double warmth of his zeal. This victory over himself," concluded the prince, "would crown his other unparalleled services to the empire, and render him the greatest man of his age."

These humiliating confessions, and flattering assurances, seemed at last to disarm the anger of the duke; but not before he had disburdened his heart of his reproaches against the Emperor, pompously dwelt upon his own services, and humbled to the utmost the monarch who solicited his assistance, did he condescend to listen to the attractive proposals of the minister. As if he yielded entirely to the force of their arguments, he condescended with a haughty reluctance to that which was the most ardent wish of his heart; and deigned to favour the ambassadors with a ray of hope. But far from putting an end to the Emperor's embarrassments, by giving at once a full and unconditional consent, he only acceded to a part of his demands, that he might exalt the value of that which still remained, and was of most importance. He accepted the command, but only for three months; merely for the purpose of raising, but not of leading, an army. He wished only to show his power and ability in its organization, and to display before the eyes of the Emperor, the greatness of that assistance, which he still retained in his hands. Convinced that an army raised by his name alone, would, if deprived of its creator, soon sink again into nothing, he intended it to serve only as a decoy to draw more important concessions from his master. And yet Ferdinand congratulated himself, even in having gained so much as he had.

Wallenstein did not long delay to fulfil those promises which all Germany regarded as chimerical, and which Gustavus Adolphus had considered as extravagant. But the foundation for the present enterprise had been long laid, and he now only put in motion the machinery, which many years had been prepared for the purpose. Scarcely had the news spread of Wallenstein's levies, when, from every quarter of the Austrian monarchy, crowds of soldiers repaired to try their fortunes under this experienced general. Many, who had before fought under his standards, had been admiring eye-witnesses of his great actions, and experienced his magnanimity, came forward from their retirement, to share with him a second time both booty and glory. The greatness of the pay he promised attracted thousands, and the plentiful supplies the soldier was likely to enjoy at the cost of the peasant, was to the latter an irresistible inducement to embrace the military life at once, rather than be the victim of its oppression. All the Austrian provinces were compelled to assist in the equipment. No class was exempt from taxation--no dignity or privilege from capitation. The Spanish court, as well as the King of Hungary, agreed to contribute a considerable sum. The ministers made large presents, while Wallenstein himself advanced 200,000 dollars from his own income to hasten the armament. The poorer officers he supported out of his own revenues; and, by his own example, by brilliant promotions, and still more brilliant promises, he induced all, who were able, to raise troops at their own expense. Whoever raised a corps at his own cost was to be its commander. In the appointment of officers, religion made no difference. Riches, bravery and experience were more regarded than creed. By this uniform treatment of different religious sects, and still more by his express declaration, that his present levy had nothing to do with religion, the Protestant subjects of the empire were tranquillized, and reconciled to bear their share of the public burdens. The duke, at the same time, did not omit to treat, in his own name, with foreign states for men and money. He prevailed on the Duke of Lorraine, a second time, to espouse the cause of the Emperor. Poland was urged to supply him with Cossacks, and Italy with warlike necessaries. Before the three months were expired, the army which was assembled in Moravia, amounted to no less than 40,000 men, chiefly drawn from the unconquered parts of Bohemia, from Moravia, Silesia, and the German provinces of the House of Austria. What to every one had appeared impracticable, Wallenstein, to the astonishment of all Europe, had in a short time effected. The charm of his name, his treasures, and his genius, had assembled thousands in arms, where before Austria had only looked for hundreds. Furnished, even to superfluity, with all necessaries, commanded by experienced officers, and inflamed by enthusiasm which assured itself of victory, this newly created army only awaited the signal of their leader to show themselves, by the bravery of their deeds, worthy of his choice.

The duke had fulfilled his promise, and the troops were ready to take the field; he then retired, and left to the Emperor to choose a commander. But it would have been as easy to raise a second army like the first, as to find any other commander for it than Wallenstein. This promising army, the last hope of the Emperor, was nothing but an illusion, as soon as the charm was dissolved which had called it into existence; by Wallenstein it had been raised, and, without him, it sank like a creation of magic into its original nothingness. Its officers were either bound to him as his debtors, or, as his creditors, closely connected with his interests, and the preservation of his power. The regiments he had entrusted to his own relations, creatures, and favourites. He, and he alone, could discharge to the troops the extravagant promises by which they had been lured into his service. His pledged word was the only security on which their bold expectations rested; a blind reliance on his omnipotence, the only tie which linked together in one common life and soul the various impulses of their zeal. There was an end of the good fortune of each individual, if he retired, who alone was the voucher of its fulfilment.

However little Wallenstein was serious in his refusal, he successfully employed this means to terrify the Emperor into consenting to his extravagant conditions. The progress of the enemy every day increased the pressure of the Emperor's difficulties, while the remedy was also close at hand; a word from him might terminate the general embarrassment. Prince Eggenberg at length received orders, for the third and last time, at any cost and sacrifice, to induce his friend, Wallenstein, to accept the command.

He found him at Znaim in Moravia, pompously surrounded by the troops, the possession of which he made the Emperor so earnestly to long for. As a suppliant did the haughty subject receive the deputy of his sovereign. "He never could trust," he said, "to a restoration to command, which he owed to the Emperor's necessities, and not to his sense of justice. He was now courted, because the danger had reached its height, and safety was hoped for from his arm only; but his successful services would soon cause the servant to be forgotten, and the return of security would bring back renewed ingratitude. If he deceived the expectations formed of him, his long earned renown would be forfeited; even if he fulfilled them, his repose and happiness must be sacrificed. Soon would envy be excited anew, and the dependent monarch would not hesitate, a second time, to make an offering of convenience to a servant whom he could now dispense with. Better for him at once, and voluntarily, to resign a post from which sooner or later the intrigues of his enemies would expel him. Security and content were to be found in the bosom of private life; and nothing but the wish to oblige the Emperor had induced him, reluctantly enough, to relinquish for a time his blissful repose."

Tired of this long farce, the minister at last assumed a serious tone, and threatened the obstinate duke with the Emperor's resentment, if he persisted in his refusal. "Low enough had the imperial dignity," he added, "stooped already; and yet, instead of exciting his magnanimity by its condescension, had only flattered his pride and increased his obstinacy. If this sacrifice had been made in vain, he would not answer, but that the suppliant might be converted into the sovereign, and that the monarch might not avenge his injured dignity on his rebellious subject. However greatly Ferdinand may have erred, the Emperor at least had a claim to obedience; the man might be mistaken, but the monarch could not confess his error. If the Duke of Friedland had suffered by an unjust decree, he might yet be recompensed for all his losses; the wound which it had itself inflicted, the hand of Majesty might heal. If he asked security for his person and his dignities, the Emperor's equity would refuse him no reasonable demand. Majesty contemned, admitted not of any atonement; disobedience to its commands cancelled the most brilliant services. The Emperor required his services, and as emperor he demanded them. Whatever price Wallenstein might set upon them, the Emperor would readily agree to; but he demanded obedience, or the weight of his indignation should crush the refractory servant."

Wallenstein, whose extensive possessions within the Austrian monarchy were momentarily exposed to the power of the Emperor, was keenly sensible that this was no idle threat; yet it was not fear that at last overcame his affected reluctance. This imperious tone of itself, was to his mind a plain proof of the weakness and despair which dictated it, while the Emperor's readiness to yield all his demands, convinced him that he had attained the summit of his wishes. He now made a show of yielding to the persuasions of Eggenberg; and left him, in order to write down the conditions on which he accepted the command.

Not without apprehension, did the minister receive the writing, in which the proudest of subjects had prescribed laws to the proudest of sovereigns. But however little confidence he had in the moderation of his friend, the extravagant contents of his writing surpassed even his worst expectations. Wallenstein required the uncontrolled command over all the German armies of Austria and Spain, with unlimited powers to reward and punish. Neither the King of Hungary, nor the Emperor himself, were to appear in the army, still less to exercise any act of authority over it. No commission in the army, no pension or letter of grace, was to be granted by the Emperor without Wallenstein's approval. All the conquests and confiscations that should take place, were to be placed entirely at Wallenstein's disposal, to the exclusion of every other tribunal. For his ordinary pay, an imperial hereditary estate was to be assigned him, with another of the conquered estates within the empire for his extraordinary expenses. Every Austrian province was to be opened to him if he required it in case of retreat. He farther demanded the assurance of the possession of the Duchy of Mecklenburg, in the event of a future peace; and a formal and timely intimation, if it should be deemed necessary a second time to deprive him of the command.

In vain the minister entreated him to moderate his demands, which, if granted, would deprive the Emperor of all authority over his own troops, and make him absolutely dependent on his general. The value placed on his services had been too plainly manifested to prevent him dictating the price at which they were to be purchased. If the pressure of circumstances compelled the Emperor to grant these demands, it was more than a mere feeling of haughtiness and desire of revenge which induced the duke to make them. His plans of rebellion were formed, to their success, every one of the conditions for which Wallenstein stipulated in this treaty with the court, was indispensable. Those plans required that the Emperor should be deprived of all authority in Germany, and be placed at the mercy of his general; and this object would be attained, the moment Ferdinand subscribed the required conditions. The use which Wallenstein intended to make of his army, (widely different indeed from that for which it was entrusted to him,) brooked not of a divided power, and still less of an authority superior to his own. To be the sole master of the will of his troops, he must also be the sole master of their destinies; insensibly to supplant his sovereign, and to transfer permanently to his own person the rights of sovereignty, which were only lent to him for a time by a higher authority, he must cautiously keep the latter out of the view of the army. Hence his obstinate refusal to


The Thirty Years War, Book III. - 10/17

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