Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/378

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several latitudes, and sometimes severed by hundreds of miles. Austria since the acquisitions of Archduke Leopold III in the fourteenth century had enclaves on the Rhine, in Swabia, in Würtemberg, not to mention those in Switzerland, Tyrol, and Friuli. Bavaria's map in the fourteenth century is as bewildering as Italy's in the thirteenth, or that of the Thuringian Princes in our days. The same remark holds good as to Burgundy, France, and even England, with her enclaves in France, Ireland, and Scotland.

To this singularly disjoined state of the territory in all the sovereignties west of the Oder and March rivers (with the solitary exception of Bohemia), the realms east of that boundary, such as Poland and Hungary, offer a remarkable and suggestive contrast. Whether Hungary extended, as it did under Louis the Great in the fourteenth century, from Pomerania to Bulgaria, or as under Matthias, from Saxony to Servia, the Magyar kingdom always had an unbroken continuity of territory such as is in our own times possessed only by the several great States of Europe. The same remark applies to Poland, with a few insignificant allowances, and also to the kingdom of Bohemia.

This then is the chief difference between the States of Bohemia, Poland and Hungary as they are found at the end of the fifteenth century, and the rest of the western States of Europe. The unbroken continuity of those eastern States might have seemed to imply a greater unity, and thus greater strength. In reality, however, the effect was entirely different. The western sovereigns, from a natural desire to round off their far outlying possessions, and the western peoples from an equally natural desire to render their nationality coextensive with their land, were constantly anxious to improve and strengthen their organisation at home, while at the same time taking a deep, practical, and incessant interest in the affairs of their neighbours and rivals. The very fact of the situation of their States, and of the fundamental desires and needs to which it gave rise, thus made the western monarchs of the fifteenth century at the same time better or at any rate more efficient rulers at home, and trained diplomatists abroad. They soon learned the lesson, so indispensable in all foreign policy, that no dependence can be placed on any alliance unless it is based on substantial and mutual "consideration,"—to use a lawyer's term. To render themselves valuable, that is, eventually dangerous, was their first and most pressing object, and their subjects could not but feel that at a time when a consistent treatment of foreign policy was the supreme need of their country, the monarch and his counsellors justly claimed absolute power.

The intimate connexion, then, which existed in the case of the western monarchies between the discontinuity of their territories, and absolutism on the one hand, and their spirited foreign policy on the other,. goes far to explain the political failure of Hungary and