Page:Lectures on Modern History.djvu/260

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234
LECTURES ON MODERN HISTORY

history of Charles I., the restoration of Charles II., the outbreak of loyal sentiment, which was stronger than religion, which was itself a religion, showed that there was something in royalty higher than the policy of statesmen, and more fitted to inspire the enthusiasm of sacrifice.

At the death of Mazarin there was no man capable of being his successor, Le Tellier, Colbert, Lionne were men of very great ability, but they were departmental ministers. The young monarch gave orders that, as they had reported to the cardinal, they should now report to himself. He added that they were to assist him with their advice whenever he asked for it; and he did not make it appear that he would trouble them often. The initiative of government passed into his hands. He did not say, "L'état, c'est moi." Those words, I believe, were invented by Voltaire, but they are profoundly true. It was the thing which the occasion demanded, and he was the man suited to the occasion.

Lewis XIV. was by far the ablest man who was born in modern times on the steps of a throne. He was laborious, and devoted nine hours a day to public business. He had an excellent memory and immense fertility of resource. Few men knew how to pursue such complex political calculations, or to see so many moves ahead. He was patient and constant and unwearied, and there is a persistent unity in his policy, founded, not on likes and dislikes, but on the unvarying facts in the political stage of Europe. Every European state was included in his system, and had its part in the game. His management of each was so dexterous that diplomacy often made war superfluous, and sometimes made it successful. Lewis was not a born soldier like Swedish Charles and the great Frederic. He never exercised an actual command. He would appear at sieges when the psychological moment came, and ride ceremoniously under fire, with his Jesuit confessor close at hand. His fame was so large a part of the political capital of France, that a pretence was made of believing in his generalship, and the king took it quite seriously. He told his son to go to the wars and