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


had led to the severest orders against marauders; and all who should be caught thieving, were threatened with the halter. Wallenstein himself having met a straggler in the open country upon the field, commanded him to be seized without trial, as a transgressor of the law, and in his usual voice of thunder, exclaimed, "Hang the fellow," against which no opposition ever availed. The soldier pleaded and proved his innocence, but the irrevocable sentence had gone forth. "Hang then innocent," cried the inexorable Wallenstein, "the guilty will have then more reason to tremble." Preparations were already making to execute the sentence, when the soldier, who gave himself up for lost, formed the desperate resolution of not dying without revenge. He fell furiously upon his judge, but was overpowered by numbers, and disarmed before he could fulfil his design. "Now let him go," said the Duke, "it will excite sufficient terror."

His munificence was supported by an immense income, which was estimated at three millions of florins yearly, without reckoning the enormous sums which he raised under the name of contributions. His liberality and clearness of understanding, raised him above the religious prejudices of his age; and the Jesuits never forgave him for having seen through their system, and for regarding the pope as nothing more than a bishop of Rome.

But as no one ever yet came to a fortunate end who quarrelled with the Church, Wallenstein also must augment the number of its victims. Through the intrigues of monks, he lost at Ratisbon the command of the army, and at Egra his life; by the same arts, perhaps, he lost what was of more consequence, his honourable name and good repute with posterity.

For in justice it must be admitted, that the pens which have traced the history of this extraordinary man are not untinged with partiality, and that the treachery of the duke, and his designs upon the throne of Bohemia, rest not so much upon proven facts, as upon probable conjecture. No documents have yet been brought to light, which disclose with historical certainty the secret motives of his conduct; and among all his public and well attested actions, there is, perhaps, not one which could not have had an innocent end. Many of his most obnoxious measures proved nothing but the earnest wish he entertained for peace; most of the others are explained and justified by the well-founded distrust he entertained of the Emperor, and the excusable wish of maintaining his own importance. It is true, that his conduct towards the Elector of Bavaria looks too like an unworthy revenge, and the dictates of an implacable spirit; but still, none of his actions perhaps warrant us in holding his treason to be proved. If necessity and despair at last forced him to deserve the sentence which had been pronounced against him while innocent, still this, if true, will not justify that sentence. Thus Wallenstein fell, not because he was a rebel, but he became a rebel because he fell. Unfortunate in life that he made a victorious party his enemy, and still more unfortunate in death, that the same party survived him and wrote his history.


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

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