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statesmen continued to look with great dread on the maritime power of Philip. The King of Spain,' said the Lord Keeper to the two Houses in 1593,' since he hath usurped upon the kingdom of Portugal, hath thereby grown mighty by gaining the East Indies: so as, how great soever he was before, he is now thereby manifestly more great. . . . He keepeth a navy armed to impeach all trade of merchandise from England to Gascoigne and Guienne, which he attempted to do this last vintage; so as he is now become as a frontier enemy to all the west of England, as well as all the south parts, as Sussex, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight. Yea, by means of his interest in St. Maloes, a port full of shipping for the war, he is a dangerous neighbor to the Queen's isles of Jersey and Guernsey, ancient possessions of this crown, and never conquered in the greatest wars with France.'
The ascendency which Spain then had in Europe was, in one sense, well deserved. It was an ascendency which had been gained by unquestioned superiority in all the arts of policy and of war. In the sixteenth century, Italy was not more decidedly the land of the fine arts, Germany was not more decidedly the land of bold theological speculation, than Spain was the land of statesmen and of soldiers. The character which Virgil has ascribed to his countrymen, might have been claimed by the grave and haughty chiefs who surrounded the throne of Ferdinand the Catholic, and of his immediate successors. That majestic art,' premere
imperio populos,' was not better understood by the Romans in the proudest days of their republic, than by Gonsalvo and Ximenes, Cortes and Alva. The skill of the Spanish diplomatists was renowned throughout Europe. In England the name of Gondomar is still remembered. The sovereign nation was unrivalled both in regular and irregular warfare. The impetuous chivalry of France, the serried 17
phalanx of Switzerland, were alike found wanting when brought face to face with the Spanish infantry. In the wars of the New World where something different from ordinary strategy was required in the general, and something different from ordinary discipline in the soldier, where it was every day necessary to meet by some new expedient the varying tactics of a barbarous enemy, the Spanish adventurers, sprung from the common people, displayed a fertility of resource, and a talent for negotiation and command, to which history scarcely affords a parallel.
The Castilian of those times was to the Italian what the Roman, in the days of the greatness of Rome, was to the Greek. The conqueror had less ingenuity, less taste, less delicacy of perception than the conquered; but far more pride, firmness, and courage; a more solemn demeanor, a stronger sense of honor. The one had more subtilty in speculation, the other more energy in action. The vices of the one were those of a coward; the vices of the other were those of a tyrant. It may be added, that the Spaniard, like the Roman, did not disdain to study the arts and the language of those whom he oppressed. A revolution took place in the literature of Spain, not unlike to that revolution which, as Horace tells us, took place in the poetry of Latium; Capta ferum victorem cepit.' The slave took prisoner the enslaver. The old Castilian ballads gave place to sonnets in the style of Petrarch, and to heroic poems in the stanza of Ariosto; as the national songs of Rome were driven out by imitations of Theocritus, and translations from Menander.
In no modern society, not even in England during the reign of Elizabeth, has there been so great a number of men eminent at once in literature and in the pursuits of active life, as Spain produced during the sixteenth century. Almost every distinguished writer was also distinguished as
a soldier and a politician. Boscan bore arms with high reputation.` Garcilasso de Vega, the author of the sweetest and most graceful pastoral poem of modern times, after a short but splendid military career, fell sword in hand at the head of a storming party. Alonzo de Ercilla bore a conspicuous part in that war of Arauco, which he afterwards celebrated in the best heroic poem that Spain has produced. Hurtado de Mendoza, whose poems have been compared to those of Horace, and whose charming little novel is evidently the model of Gil Blas, has been handed down to us by history as one of the sternest of those iron proconsuls, who where employed by the House of Austria to crush the lingering public spirit of Italy. Lope sailed in the Armada; Cervantes was wounded at Lepanto.
It is curious to consider with how much awe our ancestors in those times regarded a Spaniard. He was, in their apprehension, a kind of demon, horribly malevolent, but withal most sagacious and powerful. They be verye wyse and politicke,' says an honest Englishman, in a memorial addressed to Mary, 'and can, thorowe ther wysdome, reform and brydell theyr owne natures for a tyme, and applye their conditions to the maners of those men with whom they meddell gladlye by friendshippe; whose mischievous maners a man shall never knowe untyll he come under ther subjection but then shall he parfectlye parceyve and fele them
which thynge I praye God England never do for in dissimulations untyll they have ther purposes, and afterwards in oppression and tyrannye, when they can obtayne them, they do exceed all other nations upon the earthe.' This is just such language as Arminius would have used about the Romans, or as an Indian statesman of our times would use about the English. It is the language of a man burning with hatred, but cowed by those whom he hates; and painfully sensible of their superiority, not only in power, but in intelligence.
But how art thou fallen from heaven, oh Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, that didst weaken the nations! If we overleap a hundred years, and look at Spain towards the close of the seventeenth century, what a change do we find! The contrast is as great as that which the Rome of Gallienus and Honorius presents to the Rome of Marius and Cæsar. Foreign conquest had begun to eat into every part of that gigantic monarchy, on which the sun never set. Holland was gone, and Portugal, and Artois, and Roussillon, and Franche Comté. In the East, the empire founded by the Dutch far surpassed in wealth and splendor that which their old tyrants still retained. In the West, England had seized, and still held, settlements in the midst of the Mexican sea. The mere
loss of territory was, however, of little moment. luctant obedience of distant provinces generally costs more than it is worth.
Empires which branch out widely are often more flourishing for a little timely pruning. Adrian acted judiciously when he abandoned the conquests of Trajan. England was never so rich, so great, so formidable to foreign princes, so absolutely mistress of the sea, as after the loss of her American colonies. The Spanish empire was still, in outward appearance, great and magnificent. The European dominions subject to the last feeble Prince of the House of Austria were far more extensive than those of Louis the Fourteenth. The American dependencies of the Castilian crown still extended to the North of Cancer and to the South of Capricorn. But within this immense body there was an incurable decay, an utter want of tone, an utter prostration of strength. An ingenious and diligent population, eminently skilled in arts and manufactures, had been driven into exile by stupid and remorseless bigots. The glory of the Spanish pencil had departed with Velasquez and Murillo. The splendid age of
Spanish literature had closed with Solis and Calderon. During the seventeenth century many states had formed great military establishments. But the Spanish army, so formidable under the command of Alva and Farnese, had dwindled away to a few thousand men, ill paid and ill disciplined. England, Holland, and France had great navies. But the Spanish navy was scarcely equal to the tenth part of that mighty force which, in the time of Philip the Second, had been the terror of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The arsenals were deserted. The magazines were unprovided. The frontier fortresses were ungarrisoned. The police was utterly inefficient for the protection of the people. Murders were committed in the face of day with perfect impunity. Bravoes and discarded serving-men, with swords at their sides, swaggered every day through the most public streets and squares of the capital, disturbing the public peace, and setting at defiance the ministers of justice. The finances were in frightful disorder. The people paid much. The government received little. The American viceroys and the farmers of the revenue became rich, while the merchants broke, while the peasantry starved, while the bodyservants of the sovereign remained unpaid, while the soldiers of the royal guard repaired daily to the doors of convents, and battled there with the crowd of beggars for a porringer of broth and a morsel of bread. Every remedy which was tried aggravated the disease. The currency was altered; and this frantic measure produced its neverfailing effects. It destroyed all credit, and increased the misery which it was intended to relieve. The American gold, to use the words of Ortiz, was to the necessities of the state, but as a drop of water to the lips of a man raging with thirst. Heaps of unopened despatches accumulated in the offices, while the ministers were concerting with bedchamber-women and jesuits the means of tripping up each other.