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T is proposed in the present sheet to offer a brief history of what is more frequently heard of than understood—“the famous thirty yeurs' war”—a war which, in the seventeenth century, devastated central Europe, and has
left, to the present day, melancholy traces of its frightful progress.
In this mortal struggle England was fortunately not concerned, although deeply interested in the contest. At that period the British islands were under the sovereignty of James I. and his son Charles I.; the one too peaceful, and the other having too many troubles of his own to allow of his interference in the great German war.
The struggle was therefore strictly continental, but it involved principles of universal concern. To give the war its proper character
in the fewest words, it should be described as a great, if not the only regular, stand-up fight between the two leading forms of Christianity-Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. That the adherents of these forms of belief should have gone the monstrous length of slaughtering each other during a space of thirty, years, in order to determine which should be uppermost, and which faith should be considered the true one, may well fill every one now with horror and astonishment. At that period, however, all questions were settled by the sword. Whilst the inhabitants of Germany were butchering each other, sacking towns, and laying countries waste, on the broad dispute of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, the English and Scotch were lashing themselves into a frenzy on the similar but more narrow questions of Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism, Independentism, Muggletonianism, and other departments of opinion. The seventeenth was essentially the century of religious fighting. Differences which began to operate in the sixteenth, came now to a head. Mutual concession and toleration were generally denounced by each party as sinful. While, however, from various circumstances, religious discord was protracted for a century and upwards in England and Scotland,“ the thirty years' war” brought matters speedily to a crisis in central Europe, and may be said to have quashed, as if by a single blow, all disposition to quarrel seriously on the score of religion.
Such was the general character of this remarkable war, in which were engaged the most distinguished generals of the age
-men whose names are frequently seen scattered about in literature - Gustavus Adolphus, Tilly, Wallenstein, Pappenheim, Turenne, besides others of lesser note. The greatest of these personages was Gustavus Adolphus, more familiarly known as the “ Lion of the North, and Bulwark of the Protestant Faith.” We shall first introduce this extraordinary man to our eaders.
Gustavus Adolphus was the son of Charles IX., king of Sweden, and grandson of Gustavus Vasa. He was born at Stockholm in 1594. From his earliest years, Gustavus gave promise of his future greatness, and much care was bestowed on his education. Under competent masters he acquired the French, Italian, and German languages, in addition to Latin, which he spoke with fluency; he was an eager student of mathematics, fortification, and other branches of the military art. By being accustomed to take an interest in public affairs, he soorí became acquainted with the state of Europe, and attained a wonderful degree of political experience; and lastly, his hardy manner of living, and his daily practice of all the most laborious duties of a common soldier, gave him that familiarity with military affairs which it was easy to foresee he would require, in order to support with credit his part as the sovereign of a Éuropean state in times of convulsion and warfare. It is to be remarked also, that from early youth Gustavus was distinguished by the strict morality of his conduct, the strength of his devotional feelings, and his resolute attachment to the Protestant faith, of which he was to be the champion.
Charles IX. died in 1611, at the age of sixty-one; and his son, Gustavus Adolphus, then in his eighteenth year, succeeded him. By a law made a short time before, he should have continued a minor till the attainment of his twenty-fourth year; but so fully-formed was his character, so great were his abilities, and so much confidence did the Swedes repose in him, that, two months after his accession, his guardians-among whom was the illustrious Oxenstiern, then a senator of the kingdom-voluntarily resigned their authority, and procured an act of the states recognising Gustavus as of full age. On this occasion Gustavus behaved with much modesty and dignity: Addressing the senate, he adverted in becoming terms to his youth and inexperience as disqualifications for undertaking so high a trust as that of governing a nation during times of such emergency, while at the same time he declared that, “if the states should persist in making him king, he would endeavour to acquit himself with honour, magnanimity, and fidelity.” He was accordingly, young as he was, publicly inaugurated king of Sweden, swearing to preserve the reformed religion as long as he lived, and to govern according to the laws.
The position of the young king of Sweden was indeed one of great difficulty, and demanding much ability and discretion. Although Sweden was but one of the minor kingdoms of Europe, and little heard of as yet in connexion with any of the great events which had been agitating the larger and southern states, its political situation with respect to one or two of the other countries of Europe was such as to involve it in considerable difficulties. During the whole reign of Charles IX., the nation had been engaged in hot disputes with Denmark, Russia, and Poland; and these disputes descended by inheritance to his son Gustavus. To conduct a threefold war to a successful termination, to reduce or conciliate three formidable enemies, and to prevent, in the meantime, the internal affairs of his kingdom from being deranged by these foreign quarrels—such were the tasks which fell to the young Swedish sovereign. His first step was one which augured well for the prudence of his character, and the probable success of his government. This was the appointment of the celebrated Axel Oxenstiern to be his prime minister and chancellor. Although Oxenstiern was yet only in his twenty-eighth or twenty-ninth year, he had already exhibited those wonderful political talents which enabled him ultimately to perform so distinguished a part in the affairs of Europe, and which have elevated him in the opinion of posterity into a rival, if not more than a rival, of his great contemporary Richelieu.
With the assistance of this able counsellor, Gustavus was for