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- The Thirty Years War, Book IV. - 6/9 -


Such continued insolence and unexampled contempt of the Imperial orders, as well as obvious neglect of the common cause, joined to his equivocal behaviour towards the enemy, tended at last to convince the Emperor of the truth of those unfavourable reports with regard to the Duke, which were current through Germany. The latter had, for a long time, succeeded in glozing over his criminal correspondence with the enemy, and persuading the Emperor, still prepossessed in his favour, that the sole object of his secret conferences was to obtain peace for Germany. But impenetrable as he himself believed his proceedings to be, in the course of his conduct, enough transpired to justify the insinuations with which his rivals incessantly loaded the ear of the Emperor. In order to satisfy himself of the truth or falsehood of these rumours, Ferdinand had already, at different times, sent spies into Wallenstein's camp; but as the Duke took the precaution never to commit anything to writing, they returned with nothing but conjectures. But when, at last, those ministers who formerly had been his champions at the court, in consequence of their estates not being exempted by Wallenstein from the general exactions, joined his enemies; when the Elector of Bavaria threatened, in case of Wallenstein being any longer retained in the supreme command, to unite with the Swedes; when the Spanish ambassador insisted on his dismissal, and threatened, in case of refusal, to withdraw the subsidies furnished by his Crown, the Emperor found himself a second time compelled to deprive him of the command.

The Emperor's authoritative and direct interference with the army, soon convinced the Duke that the compact with himself was regarded as at an end, and that his dismissal was inevitable. One of his inferior generals in Austria, whom he had forbidden, under pain of death, to obey the orders of the court, received the positive commands of the Emperor to join the Elector of Bavaria; and Wallenstein himself was imperiously ordered to send some regiments to reinforce the army of the Cardinal Infante, who was on his march from Italy. All these measures convinced him that the plan was finally arranged to disarm him by degrees, and at once, when he was weak and defenceless, to complete his ruin.

In self-defence, must he now hasten to carry into execution the plans which he had originally formed only with the view to aggrandizement. He had delayed too long, either because the favourable configuration of the stars had not yet presented itself, or, as he used to say, to check the impatience of his friends, because THE TIME WAS NOT YET COME. The time, even now, was not come: but the pressure of circumstances no longer allowed him to await the favour of the stars. The first step was to assure himself of the sentiments of his principal officers, and then to try the attachment of the army, which he had so long confidently reckoned on. Three of them, Colonels Kinsky, Terzky, and Illo, had long been in his secrets, and the two first were further united to his interests by the ties of relationship. The same wild ambition, the same bitter hatred of the government, and the hope of enormous rewards, bound them in the closest manner to Wallenstein, who, to increase the number of his adherents, could stoop to the lowest means. He had once advised Colonel Illo to solicit, in Vienna, the title of Count, and had promised to back his application with his powerful mediation. But he secretly wrote to the ministry, advising them to refuse his request, as to grant it would give rise to similar demands from others, whose services and claims were equal to his. On Illo's return to the camp, Wallenstein immediately demanded to know the success of his mission; and when informed by Illo of its failure, he broke out into the bitterest complaints against the court. "Thus," said he, "are our faithful services rewarded. My recommendation is disregarded, and your merit denied so trifling a reward! Who would any longer devote his services to so ungrateful a master? No, for my part, I am henceforth the determined foe of Austria." Illo agreed with him, and a close alliance was cemented between them.

But what was known to these three confidants of the duke, was long an impenetrable secret to the rest; and the confidence with which Wallenstein spoke of the devotion of his officers, was founded merely on the favours he had lavished on them, and on their known dissatisfaction with the Court. But this vague presumption must be converted into certainty, before he could venture to lay aside the mask, or take any open step against the Emperor. Count Piccolomini, who had distinguished himself by his unparalleled bravery at Lutzen, was the first whose fidelity he put to the proof. He had, he thought, gained the attachment of this general by large presents, and preferred him to all others, because born under the same constellations with himself. He disclosed to him, that, in consequence of the Emperor's ingratitude, and the near approach of his own danger, he had irrevocably determined entirely to abandon the party of Austria, to join the enemy with the best part of his army, and to make war upon the House of Austria, on all sides of its dominions, till he had wholly extirpated it. In the execution of this plan, he principally reckoned on the services of Piccolomini, and had beforehand promised him the greatest rewards. When the latter, to conceal his amazement at this extraordinary communication, spoke of the dangers and obstacles which would oppose so hazardous an enterprise, Wallenstein ridiculed his fears. "In such enterprises," he maintained, "nothing was difficult but the commencement. The stars were propitious to him, the opportunity the best that could be wished for, and something must always be trusted to fortune. His resolution was taken, and if it could not be otherwise, he would encounter the hazard at the head of a thousand horse." Piccolomini was careful not to excite Wallenstein's suspicions by longer opposition, and yielded apparently to the force of his reasoning. Such was the infatuation of the Duke, that notwithstanding the warnings of Count Terzky, he never doubted the sincerity of this man, who lost not a moment in communicating to the court at Vienna this important conversation.

Preparatory to taking the last decisive step, he, in January 1634, called a meeting of all the commanders of the army at Pilsen, whither he had marched after his retreat from Bavaria. The Emperor's recent orders to spare his hereditary dominions from winter quarterings, to recover Ratisbon in the middle of winter, and to reduce the army by a detachment of six thousand horse to the Cardinal Infante, were matters sufficiently grave to be laid before a council of war; and this plausible pretext served to conceal from the curious the real object of the meeting. Sweden and Saxony received invitations to be present, in order to treat with the Duke of Friedland for a peace; to the leaders of more distant armies, written communications were made. Of the commanders thus summoned, twenty appeared; but three most influential, Gallas, Colloredo, and Altringer, were absent. The Duke reiterated his summons to them, and in the mean time, in expectation of their speedy arrival, proceeded to execute his designs.

It was no light task that he had to perform: a nobleman, proud, brave, and jealous of his honour, was to declare himself capable of the basest treachery, in the very presence of those who had been accustomed to regard him as the representative of majesty, the judge of their actions, and the supporter of their laws, and to show himself suddenly as a traitor, a cheat, and a rebel. It was no easy task, either, to shake to its foundations a legitimate sovereignty, strengthened by time and consecrated by laws and religion; to dissolve all the charms of the senses and the imagination, those formidable guardians of an established throne, and to attempt forcibly to uproot those invincible feelings of duty, which plead so loudly and so powerfully in the breast of the subject, in favour of his sovereign. But, blinded by the splendour of a crown, Wallenstein observed not the precipice that yawned beneath his feet; and in full reliance on his own strength, the common case with energetic and daring minds, he stopped not to consider the magnitude and the number of the difficulties that opposed him. Wallenstein saw nothing but an army, partly indifferent and partly exasperated against the court, accustomed, with a blind submission, to do homage to his great name, to bow to him as their legislator and judge, and with trembling reverence to follow his orders as the decrees of fate. In the extravagant flatteries which were paid to his omnipotence, in the bold abuse of the court government, in which a lawless soldiery indulged, and which the wild licence of the camp excused, he thought he read the sentiments of the army; and the boldness with which they were ready to censure the monarch's measures, passed with him for a readiness to renounce their allegiance to a sovereign so little respected. But that which he had regarded as the lightest matter, proved the most formidable obstacle with which he had to contend; the soldiers' feelings of allegiance were the rock on which his hopes were wrecked. Deceived by the profound respect in which he was held by these lawless bands, he ascribed the whole to his own personal greatness, without distinguishing how much he owed to himself, and how much to the dignity with which he was invested. All trembled before him, while he exercised a legitimate authority, while obedience to him was a duty, and while his consequence was supported by the majesty of the sovereign. Greatness, in and of itself, may excite terror and admiration; but legitimate greatness alone can inspire reverence and submission; and of this decisive advantage he deprived himself, the instant he avowed himself a traitor.

Field-Marshal Illo undertook to learn the sentiments of the officers, and to prepare them for the step which was expected of them. He began by laying before them the new orders of the court to the general and the army; and by the obnoxious turn he skilfully gave to them, he found it easy to excite the indignation of the assembly. After this well chosen introduction, he expatiated with much eloquence upon the merits of the army and the general, and the ingratitude with which the Emperor was accustomed to requite them. "Spanish influence," he maintained, "governed the court; the ministry were in the pay of Spain; the Duke of Friedland alone had hitherto opposed this tyranny, and had thus drawn down upon himself the deadly enmity of the Spaniards. To remove him from the command, or to make away with him entirely," he continued, "had long been the end of their desires; and, until they could succeed in one or other, they endeavoured to abridge his power in the field. The command was to be placed in the hands of the King of Hungary, for no other reason than the better to promote the Spanish power in Germany; because this prince, as the ready instrument of foreign counsels, might be led at pleasure. It was merely with the view of weakening the army, that the six thousand troops were required for the Cardinal Infante; it was solely for the purpose of harassing it by a winter campaign, that they were now called on, in this inhospitable season, to undertake the recovery of Ratisbon. The means of subsistence were everywhere rendered difficult, while the Jesuits and the ministry enriched themselves with the sweat of the provinces, and squandered the money intended for the pay of the troops. The general, abandoned by the court, acknowledges his inability to keep his engagements to the army. For all the services which, for two and twenty years, he had rendered the House of Austria; for all the difficulties with which he had struggled; for all the treasures of his own, which he had expended in the imperial service, a second disgraceful dismissal awaited him. But he was resolved the matter should not come to this; he was determined voluntarily to resign the command, before it should be wrested from his hands; and this," continued the orator, "is what, through me, he now makes known to his officers. It was now for them to say whether it would be advisable to lose such a general. Let each consider who was to refund him the sums he had expended in the Emperor's service, and where he was now to reap the reward of their bravery, when he who was their evidence removed from the scene."

A universal cry, that they would not allow their general to be taken from them, interrupted the speaker. Four of the principal officers were deputed to lay before him the wish of the assembly, and earnestly to request that he would not leave the army. The duke made a show of resistance, and only yielded after the second deputation. This concession on his side, seemed to demand a return on theirs; as he engaged not to quit the service without the knowledge and consent of the generals, he required of them, on the other hand, a written promise to truly and firmly adhere to him, neither to separate nor to allow themselves to be separated from him, and to shed their last drop of


The Thirty Years War, Book IV. - 6/9

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