Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

he met with many disappointments, he at length resigned his crown, and retired into private life.

This century is celebrated in English history, chiefly by the reign of_Elizabeth, the attempt of Philip of Spain to subdue England, and the total destruction of his fleet, which he had boastingly called the Invincible Armada.

[merged small][ocr errors]

This century is marked by the struggle for civil liberty in England with the kings of the Stuart family. Charles I. had imbibed higher ideas of royal prerogative than the people were disposed to submit to; and after various attempts on his part to establish an independent undefined right of taxation, which was steadily resisted, the contest broke out into a civil war, and the result was, that Charles was defeated and beheaded, and a kind of republic established, with a protector, who, in fact, possessed all the authority of royalty. On the death of Cromwell, the protector, the people of England were disposed to return to their former monarchical government, and Charles II. the son of the former Charles, was restored to his hereditary dominions. On his death, James, his brother, succeeded him; but manifesting a disposition to exercise the absolute authority which had been claimed by the first Charles, he was forced to abdicate the throne; and William, Prince of Orange, who had married the eldest daughter of James and was also his nephew, was called to it. This revolution led the way to those struggles for liberty which have since taken place in America and Europe, and which have not yet subsided.

On the Continent of Europe, this century is celebrated for the wars waged by Gustavus Adolphus, the Swedish monarch, against the emperor of Germany. Gustavus baffled the ablest generals of the empire, gained several battles, till, at the battle of Lutzen, A. D. 1632, he was slain, although his troops gained the victory. This century is also celebrated for the reign of Louis XIV

of France, which may be regarded as the Augustan age of French literature.

In the east of Europe, the Turks were pressing upon the Christian states. Their armies had advanced to the neighbourhood of Vienna, where they were defeated by John Sobieski, king of Poland.

While the southern parts of Europe were thus occupied, a power was rising in the north, which was destined to produce important changes in its social state. Russia, which had scarcely been felt or even heard of, in European politics, till towards the beginning of the eighteenth century, now began to emerge from its obscurity. This empire may be said to owe its existence, under Divine Providence, to the extraordinary enterprise of Peter, more justly called the Great, than many of those who have obtained that title, and who ascended the throne of Russia A. D. 1682. The measures which he adopted for raising his country to eminence, were not conquest; but the introduction into his dominions of civilization, and of the arts and sciences. By these means he rendered available the resources of his vast territory ; and his successors, following up his plans, with the addition of direct efforts to enlarge their territory, the Russian empire has assumed a more commanding and formidable position, than any single state now in Europe.

In Asia, the Tartars again overran China, and commenced a new 'Tartar dynasty on the throne of that vast empire.

HIGHTEENTH CENTURY.

The commencement of this century finds England and several of the states of Europe combined to resist the ambitious projects of Louis Fourteenth. And the Duke of Marlborough, general of the forces of the allies, gained several great victories over the armies of France, which ultimately led to the peace of Utrecht. The attention of Europe was also directed to the war

of Frederick Third, king of Prussia, with the German emperor, for the possession of Silesia : and the rise of the Prussian kingdom to influence. Also for the wars of Charles Twelfth, king of Sweden against Russia, which ended in his defeat and death. Towards the middle of the century, Britain was disturbed by a rebellion which arose in the highlands of Scotland, the object of which was to replace the family of Stuart on the throne, but which was frustrated by the total defeat of the rebel army at Culloden, A. D. 1746.

While Europe was thus occupied with her own internal causes of jealousy and dissension, a new power was rising on the other side of the Atlantic, destined to produce the most important effects on the political condition of the world. Amidst the agitation and contentions on the subject of religion in England, during the reign of Charles I. and II., many of the English emigrated, carrying with them high ideas of religious and political liberty. To these were added a colony à Jittle to the southward, consisting partly of persons convicted of crimes, and sentenced to transportation. Under favourable circumstances for increasing, the colonists did increase with unexampled rapidity, and soon began to feel that they were able to support themselves without aid from the parent country. The consequence was, that they became impatient of the right claimed by the British legislature to tax them without their consent. This was the very claim on account of which their forefathers had resisted Charles, and for the establishment of which they had been driven from their native country. The British government most unwisely pressed their claims, till they drove the settlers in America into open revolt. A war ensued, in which the Americans were aided by the French, and the result was, that they achieved their independence, the northern and southern states uniting together in one federal republic.

The European nations were not inåttentive spectators of the struggle etween Britain and her colonies. The French soldiers who had been employed in assisting the American revolters, returned to France,

strongly imbued with the principles of civil liberty, and much predisposed to resist the despotic authority of their own monarchs. Accordingly, almost immediately after the termination of the Anglo-American war, a revolution began in France, which did not end, till the reigning family of France, like that of England in the former century, was driven from the throne. France, for a short season, became a republic, and commenced a system of encroachment on the neighbouring states, the results of which belong to the history of the following century.

In Asia, the most important, and to Europeans, the most interesting object during this century, is the gradual rise of the British empire in India. In consequence of the superiority of the British navy, when any war broke out between Britain and any of the other powers of Europe, she was immediately able to take possession of their foreign colonies or settlements. She thus gradually superseded the Danes, the Dutch, the Portuguese, and the French, in India and the adjacent islands; and, partly by a train of events over which she had no control, and partly by able measures, military and diplomatical, she gradually extended her authority and influence over a vast territory in India and the Asiatic islands.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

This era finds Bonaparte, a military adventurer from Corsica, wielding the government of France, as the head of a triumvirate, with the title of First Consul ; and, in consequence of a series of victories, possessing the chief influence in Europe. Britain, his great opponent, is mistress of the sea, and possesses a large empire in India, the West Indies, and Canada, with many important colonies, and military stations in

various parts of the world. Spain and Portugal are in possession of extensive empires in South America. Three new important states have risen since the former era, namely, the United States of America, formed of British settlers; Holland, which had formerly belonged to the crown of Spain ; and Russia, which has arisen, from a state of barbarism, to a place among the civilized nations of Europe. Prussia, also, from being an electorate of the German empire, has become an independent kingdom; and Austria has acquired extensive territories. On the other hand, Poland has been partitioned between Russia, Prussia, and Austria, by a series of acts of the basest treachery and violence. Further to the east, the Turkish empire still exists, but weak and obviously sinking to its dissolution. Still further to the east, Russia is encroaching on the more southern states of Asia, and is now conterminous with China and Persia. In Hindoostan, the Mogul emp exists but in name ; its territory being nearly all in the hands of the British, or under British influence.

NINETEENTH CENTURY.

The French republicans had, at the close of the former century, entered on a career of conquest and aggrandizement, and having taught the people to regard military exploits as the glory of France, laid open their republic to be subverted by any military leader of sufficient talent to command the admiration of the nation. Such a leader soon appeared in Bonaparte, a Corsican, and a subaltern officer in the French army. He entered with all his natural enthusiasm into the revolutionary sentiments of the day; and, by his military skill, soon rose to eminence, and so dazzled the people by what they were taught to regard as the glory of his exploits, that he attained to the chief power in the republic, which he soon overturned, and was crowned emperor.

As he rose by his military talent, he could maintain

« PredošláPokračovať »