TEN GREAT EVENTS IN HISTORY
COMPILED AND ARRANGED
BY JAMES JOHONNOT
[Illustration: ANCIENT GREECE (Map)]
[Illustration: MAYFLOWER, 1620]
Patriotism, or love of country, is one of the tests of nobility of
character. No great man ever lived that was not a patriot in the
highest and truest sense. From the earliest times, the sentiment of
patriotism has been aroused in the hearts of men by the narrative of
heroic deeds inspired by love of country and love of liberty. This
truth furnishes the key to the arrangement and method of the present
work. The ten epochs treated are those that have been potential in
shaping subsequent events; and when men have struck blows for human
liberty against odds and regardless of personal consequences. The
simple narrative carries its own morals, and the most profitable work
for the teacher will be to merely supplement the narrative so that the
picture presented shall be all the more vivid. Moral reflections are
wearisome and superfluous.
I.—DEFENSE OF FREEDOM BY GREEK VALOR
II.—CRUSADES AND THE CRUSADERS
III.—DEFENSE OF FREEDOM IN ALPINE PASSES
IV.—BRUCE AND BANNOCKBURN.
V.—COLUMBUS AND THE NEW WORLD
VI.—DEFENSE OF FREEDOM ON DUTCH DIKES
VII.—THE INVINCIBLE ARMADA
VIII.—FREEDOM'S VOYAGE TO AMERICA
IX.—PLASSEY; AND HOW AN EMPIRE WAS WON
X.—LEXINGTON AND BUNKER HILL
TEN GREAT EVENTS IN HISTORY.
DEFENSE OF FREEDOM BY GREEK VALOR.
1. The great events in history are those where, upon special
occasions, a man or a people have made a stand against tyranny, and
have preserved or advanced freedom for the people. Sometimes tyranny
has taken the form of the oppression of the many by the few in the
same nation, and sometimes it has been the oppression of a weak nation
by a stronger one. The successful revolt against tyranny, the terrible
conflict resulting in the emancipation of a people, has always been
the favorite theme of the historian, marking as it does a step in the
progress of mankind from a savage to a civilized state.
2. One of the earliest as well as most notable of these conflicts of
which we have an authentic account took place in Greece twenty-four
hundred years ago, or five hundred years before the Christian era. At
that time nearly all of Europe was inhabited by rude barbarous tribes.
In all that broad land the arts and sciences which denote civilization
had made their appearance only in the small and apparently
insignificant peninsula of Greece, lying on the extreme southeast
border adjoining Asia.
3. At a period before authentic history begins, it is probable that
roving tribes of shepherds from the north took possession of the hills
and valleys of Greece. Shut off on the north by mountain ranges, and
on all other sides surrounded by the sea, these tribes were able to
maintain a sturdy independence for many hundred years. The numerous
harbors and bays which subdivide Greece invited to a maritime life,
and at a very early time, the descendants of the original shepherds
became skillful navigators and courageous adventurers.
4. The voyages of Aeneas and Ulysses in the siege of Troy, and those
of Jason in search of the golden fleece, and of Perseus to the court
of King Minos, are the mythological accounts, embellished by
imagination and distorted by time, of what were real voyages. Crossing
the Mediterranean, Grecian adventurers became acquainted with the
Egyptians, then the most civilized people of the world; and from Egypt
they took back to their native country the germs of the arts and
sciences which afterward made Greece so famous.
5. Thence improvements went forward with rapid strides. Hints received
from Egypt were reproduced in higher forms. Massive temples became
light and airy, rude sculpture became beautiful by conforming to
natural forms, and hieroglyphics developed into the letters which
Cadmus invented or improved. Schools were established, athletic sports
were encouraged, aesthetic taste was developed, until in the arts, in
philosophy, in science, and in literature the Greeks took the lead of
6. As population increased, colonies went out, settling upon the
adjacent coasts of Asia and upon the islands farther west. In Asia the
Greek colonists were subject to the Persian Empire, which then
extended its rule over all Western Asia, and claimed dominion over
Africa and Eastern Europe. The Greeks, fresh from the freedom of their
native land, could not patiently endure the extortions of the Persian
government, to which their own people submitted without question;
hence conflicts arose which finally culminated in Persia taking
complete possession of the Asiatic Greek cities.
7. But the ties of kinship were strong, and the people of Greece
keenly resented the tyranny which had been exercised over their
countrymen, and an irrepressible conflict arose between the two
nations. The Persian king, Darius, determined to put an end to all
annoyance by invading and subjugating Greece. Before the final march
of his army, Darius sent heralds throughout Greece demanding soil and
water as an acknowledgment of the supremacy of Persia, but Herodotus
says that at Sparta, when this impudent demand was made, the heralds
were thrown into wells and told to help themselves to all the earth
and water they liked.
8. After a long preparation, in 490 B.C., an army of one hundred
thousand men or more, under the command of Artaphernes, convoyed by a
formidable fleet, invaded Greece. For a long time it met with little
opposition, and city after city submitted to the overwhelming hosts of
the Persian king. The approach to Athens was regarded as the final
turning point of the war.
9. Artaphernes selected the Plains of Marathon, twenty-two miles to
the northeast of Athens, as the place of his final landing. His
forces, by the lowest estimate, consisted of one hundred and fifty
thousand men, of which ten thousand were cavalry. To these were
opposed the army of Athens and its allies, consisting in all of ten
thousand men. The battle-ground forms an irregular crescent, six miles
long and two broad in its widest part. It is bounded on one side by
the sea, and on the other by a rampart of mountains. At the time of
the battle the extremities of the plain were flanked by swamps,
diminishing the extent of the front, and hampering the operations of
the larger army. The command of the Greek army had been intrusted to
ten generals, who ruled successively one day each. Themistocles, one
of these generals, resigned his day in favor of Miltiades, and all the
others followed his example. And so the battle was set, ten thousand
Greeks, under Miltiades, against the overwhelming hosts of the enemy.
10. The Persians, confident in their numbers, erected no
intrenchments. They did not dream of an attack from the little band of
Greeks. There is evidence to believe that they were dissatisfied with
the nature of the battle-field they had chosen, and were upon the
point of embarking to land at some point nearer the city. If this was
the case, they were very rudely awakened from their dream of security
by the movement of the Greeks.
11. On the morning of the tenth day after leaving Athens, Miltiades
drew up his army in order of battle. He was obliged to perilously
weaken his center in order to confront the whole of the Persian army,
so as to avoid the danger of being outflanked and surrounded. The
Greeks began the battle by a furious attack along the whole line,
endeavoring to close in a hand-to-hand conflict as soon as possible,
so as to avoid the deadly arrows of the Persians, and to take the
advantage of their heavier arms. The Persians were greatly astonished
when they saw this little band rushing against them with such a
headlong dash, and thought that the Greeks must have been seized with
madness. The Persian general had concentrated his forces at the
center, and at this part of the battle-field the fiery onset of Greeks
was checked by mere weight of numbers. But at length the mighty
Persian force moved irresistibly forward, forcing the Greeks slowly
backward, fighting, dying, but never yielding. Soon the Greek army
were cut in two, and the Persians marched proudly onward to assured
12. But the battle was not yet over. The genius of Miltiades had
anticipated this result. The wings of the Greek army, strengthened at
the expense of the center, fell upon the weakened wings of the
Persians with irresistable onset. The invaders were forced back step
by step, the retreat soon changing into a wild and promiscuous rout,
and two thirds of the Persian army ceased to exist as a fighting
force. The victorious Greeks now turned their attention to the Persian
center, falling upon its flanks with incredible fury. Surrounded on
all sides, for a time the Persians maintained their old reputation as
valiant soldiers, but nothing could withstand the impetuosity of the
Greeks, and soon the whole of the invading hosts were in tumultuous
13. The victorious Greeks pressed rapidly forward to prevent the foe
from embarking, and, if possible, to capture some of the ships. But
the Persian archers held the victors in check until the flying
soldiery were embarked, and the Greeks obtained possession of only
seven vessels. But they were left in undisputed possession of the
field of battle, the camp of the enemy, and an immense amount of
treasure which had been abandoned in the precipitate flight. Six
thousand four hundred Persian dead remained on the plain, while the
Greek loss was one hundred and ninety-two.
14. All Athens hastened to welcome the brave soldiery. A Spartan
force, on its way to join the Athenians, arrived too late to take part
in the battle, and they quietly returned home. As the news spread,
loud and frantic rejoicings were heard throughout Greece, and the name
of Persia, so long a dread and a menace, lost much of its terrors.
[Illustration: Acropolis at Athens]
15. But the battle of Marathon, and the victory of Miltiades, had a
wider significance than could enter into the imaginations of then
living man. It was a conflict between the barbarism of Asia and the
dawning civilization of Europe, between Oriental despotism and human
liberty. The victory rendered normal human growth possible, and, to
use the expressive phrase of the modern poet—
"Henceforth to the sunset, unchecked on its way,
Shall liberty follow the march of the day."
It was not for the Greeks alone, but for all ages and all peoples; and
in this Western World, when we celebrate the birth of our own country,
we should ever keep in mind the desperate struggle at Marathon, and
the valor of Miltiades and his Greek soldiery.
16. But the war was not yet over. A single defeat did not extinguish
the hopes of the Persian monarch, nor exhaust the resources of his
empire. Herodotus says: "Now Darius was very bitter against the
Athenians, and when he heard the tale of the battle of Marathon he was
much more wroth, and desired much more eagerly to march against
Hellas. Straightway he sent heralds to all the cities, and bade them
make ready an army, and to furnish much more than they had done
before, both ships, and horses, and corn; and while the heralds were
going round, all Asia was shaken for three years; but in the fourth
year the Egyptians, who had been made slaves by Cambyses, rebelled
against the Persians, and then the king sought only the more
vehemently to go both against the Egyptians and against the Greeks. So
he named Xerxes, his son, to be king over the Persians after himself,
and made ready to march. But in the year after the revolt of Egypt,
Darius himself died; nor was he suffered to punish the Athenians or
the Egyptians who had rebelled against him."
17. The death of Darius gave Greece a respite, but the final conflict
was only postponed. Xerxes was weak, obstinate, and vain-glorious, but
he inherited all his father's hatred of the Greeks, and he resolved
upon one supreme effort to reduce them to subjection. For seven years
more the whole vast Persian empire resounded with the notes of
preparation. In 480 B.C., ten years after the battle of Marathon,
everything was in readiness. A formidable fleet had been built and
equipped, corn and military stores had been collected to a vast
amount, and an army had gathered which, including camp followers, was
variously estimated at from three to five millions. A bridge of boats
was built across the Hellespont, and the Oriental horde was prepared
to ravage the Grecian valleys like a swarm of devouring locusts. A
great storm arose and destroyed the bridge, and the Persian despot
ordered the Hellespont scourged with whips in token of his
displeasure. When the bridge was rebuilt, Xerxes, from a throne
erected upon the shore, for seven days and nights, watched his mighty
host pass over from Asia into Europe.
18. In the mean time the Greeks were preparing for the onset. Sparta,
true to her military organization, did little but to bring her army to
the perfection of discipline, and many of the weaker cities resolved
to quietly submit to the invaders. The Athenians alone seemed to have
fully understood the gravity of the situation. To them the rage of the
Persian king was particularly directed, for the crushing defeat at
Marathon, and Athens was more exposed than any other of the Greek
cities. During the ten years Athens raised and equipped as large an
army as her population would warrant. Every able-bodied man was
enrolled in the ranks. Food and military stores were collected, but
the chief means of defense was a novel one, and showed the desperate
nature of the conflict in which they were about to engage. Under the
wise direction of Themistocles they built a formidable fleet, so large
that in case of emergency the whole population of the city could
embark, and either remain afloat or take refuge on the neighboring
19. A congress of the cities had determined to oppose the approach of
Xerxes at some favorable place by a combined army. At the head of the
Maliac gulf there was a narrow pass, through which the Persians had to
go, the road running between a mountain and a swamp which stretched to
the sea; and at one place the swamp came so near the mountain that
there was hardly room for the road to run between. This is the famous
pass of Thermopylæ; and here it was that a small army might block the
way against any number of the enemy. Across this pass a wall was
built, and behind it was posted the Greek army under the command of
Leonidas, the Spartan king. His forces consisted of three hundred
Spartans, seven hundred Thespians, and about four thousand more from
the various Grecian cities. The Persians approached, and for four days
waited, expecting to see the Greek army disperse at the very sight of
their formidable numbers. But as they were apparently not frightened,
on the fifth day the Persians made an attack. For two days the battle
continued, inflicting great losses upon the Persians, while the little
army of Leonidas, behind their fortifications, was scarcely injured.
20. On the third morning a renegade Greek showed Xerxes a path across
the mountains where he could completely turn the Greek position. The
Persians were not slow to avail themselves of this intelligence, and
toward the close of the third day Leonidas saw the enemy descending
the mountain, ready to surround him and cut off his retreat. Acting
promptly, he ordered his allies to leave the field before it was too
late, but he, with his devoted band of three hundred, were to remain,
in accordance of a Spartan law which forbade a Spartan soldier ever to
retreat from the presence of an enemy. The seven hundred Thespians
remained with him, and the whole band was cut down, but not without
inflicting fearful loss upon the enemy.
[Illustration: THERMOPYLAE (Map)]
21. While the passage of Thermopylæ was disputed, he Greek fleet
advanced and took position in the strait of Artemisium, to prevent the
Persian fleet from advancing farther into Greek waters. During the
battle the fleets were also engaged in an indecisive conflict. A
storm, however, arose and destroyed two hundred of the Persian ships.
When Thermopylæ fell there was no longer reason for defending
Artemisium, and the Greek fleet returned to defend the approach to
Athens at the strait of Salamis.
22. Athens was now at the mercy of the conqueror. The Spartan army
moved off to defend their own city. It was now that the wisdom of
Themistocles showed itself. "The Athenians had no hope of being able
to defend Athens, and resolved to abandon the town, and to remove
their wives and children out of Attica to a place of safety. The whole
population, men, women, and children, sorrowfully left their homes,
and streamed down to the sea-shore, carrying what they could with
them." The fleet took them over to Salamis and adjacent islands; and
when Xerxes reached Athens he found it silent and deserted. A few poor
or desperate men alone refused to depart, and had posted themselves
behind a wooden fortification on the top of the Acropolis, the
fortress and sanctuary of Athens. The Persians fired the
fortifications, stormed the Acropolis, slaughtered its defenders, and
burned every holy place to the ground. Athens and its citadel were in
the hands of the barbarians; its inhabitants were scattered, its holy
places destroyed. One hope alone remained to the Athenians—the ships
which Themistocles had persuaded them to build.
23. The fleet was anchored in the strait of Salamis, and beside the
two hundred ships of Athens, it consisted of a large number from other
ports of Greece. Among the Greeks there were divided counsels; some
were for giving immediate battle, and some were for flying from the
thousand Persian ships now advancing upon them. Themistocles saw that
to retreat would be ruin, and he by stratagem kept every ship in its
place. He sent secret word to the Persians that the Greek fleet would
soon be in full retreat, and the Persian admiral sent two hundred
vessels to blockade the farther extremity of the strait, so that
flight was impossible.
[Illustration: BATTLE OF SALAMIS (Map)]
24. When everything was in readiness, Xerxes, from a throne built for
him on the shore so that he might be a spectator of the fight, gave
the signal to advance. At once all the long banks of oars in the
thousand ships flashed in the light and dipped in the water. But here,
as at Marathon, the way was narrow, and there was no chance for the
display of the full power of the Persian fleet. In a hand-to-hand
conflict they stood no chance with the Greeks, and Xerxes, with
despair in his heart, saw two hundred of his best ships sunk or
captured and many more seriously disabled, while the Greeks had
suffered little loss.
25. Themistocles remained all night at his anchorage, ready to renew
the conflict on the morrow, but Xerxes, fearful for the fate of his
bridge across the Hellespont, ordered the eight hundred remaining
ships to sail for its protection, while he and his whole army marched
as rapidly as possible for the same point. The number assembled to
pass back into Asia was greatly diminished from the hosts which a few
months before had so proudly marched to assured victory. Besides those
lost in battle, thousands had perished through disease and famine. But
the hope of final success was not entirely abandoned, and the Persian
general, Mardonius, with three hundred thousand of the best soldiers
of the invading army, were left to complete the conquest.
26. With the retreat of Xerxes, the Athenians returned to their city,
finding their temples destroyed, and their homes desolated, but they
immediately commenced the work of rebuilding, and, amid rejoicings and
renewed hopes, the city arose from its ashes. The clash of arms gave
place to the din of industry, and the fighting soldier was replaced by
the peaceable citizen.
27. In the mean time, Mardonius went into winter quarters in the
northern provinces, and during the winter he endeavored to effect by
negotiation and bribery what he had failed to accomplish by arms. He
succeeded in exciting the jealousy of several of the cities toward
each other, so that it was difficult to bring about concert of action,
and he succeeded in detaching Thebes entirely from the confederacy,
and arraying it against Athens. The Theban force which joined his army
became one of the most formidable foes which the allied Greek had to
28. The negotiations continued through the spring, but as summer
approached the army of Mardonius was on the move. Sparta was not ready
to meet the invader, and the Athenians once more took refuge on their
ships, ten months after their return. Mardonius took possession of the
city, and this time effectually destroyed it; but as nothing was to be
gained by a further stay, he marched his army to Thebes, which became
his headquarters. The Spartans were at length ready to march. They saw
their city menaced, and their own safety demanded that the forces of
Mardonius should be broken.
29. With the aid of their allies they put into the field an army, the
largest that the Greeks ever mustered, variously reported as numbering
one hundred thousand to one hundred and ten thousand men. These were
under the command of the Spartan king, Pausanias. In September they
set out for Thebes, and in a few days came up to the Persian army,
which was stationed at Plataea, a short distance from Thebes. Here
Mardonius had established a fortified camp to which he might retreat
if defeated on the field. For eleven days the two armies confronted
each other, neither anxious to strike the first blow. Then the supply
of water for the Greek camp gave out, and Pausanias fell back to a
30. This movement threw the Greek army into disorder, and the three
main divisions became separated from one another. Perceiving this the
next morning, Mardonius hastened with his Persians toward the higher
ground, where the Spartan troops might be seen winding along under the
hillside, for from the river-banks he could not catch sight of the
Athenians, who were hidden among the low hills which rose from the
31. The last momentous strife had now begun. It was the custom of the
Spartans before beginning a battle to offer sacrifice, and to wait for
an omen or sign from heaven on the offering. Even now, when the
Persians had advanced to within bow-shot and were pouring flights of
arrows upon the Spartans, Pausanias offered sacrifice. But the omens
were bad, and forbade any action except in self-defence. The Spartans
knelt behind their shields, but the arrows pierced them, and the
bravest men died sorrowfully, lamenting not for death, but because
they died without striking a blow for Sparta. In his distress
Pausanias called upon the goddess Hera, and the omens suddenly became
favorable, and the Spartans with their Tegean allies threw themselves
upon the enemy.
32. But the disparity of forces rendered the attack desperate.
Fifty-three thousand Greeks in all were opposed to the overwhelming
numbers of Mardonius. The Athenians were engaged elsewhere and could
afford no assistance. The Persians had made a palisade of their wicker
shields, behind which they could securely and effectually use their
bows and arrows. By the first fierce onset of the Greeks this palisade
went down, but the Asiatics, laying aside their bows, fought
desperately with javelins and daggers. But they had no metal armor to
defend them; and the Spartans, with their lances fixed and their
shields touching each other, bore down everything before them.
33. The Persians fought with almost Hellenic heroism. Coming to close
quarters, they seized the spears of their enemies and broke off their
heads. Rushing forward singly or in small groups, they were borne down
in the crush and killed; still they were not dismayed; and the battle
raged more fiercely on the spot where Mardonius, on his white horse,
fought with the flower of his troops. At length Mardonius was slain,
and when his chosen guards had fallen around him, the remainder of the
Persians made their way to their fortified camp, and took refuge
behind its wooden walls.
34. In the mean time the Athenian army had been confronted by the
Persian-Theban allies. Here it was not a conflict between disciplined
valor and barbaric hordes, but between Greek and Greek. The battle was
long and bloody, but in the end the defenders of Greek liberty were
victorious over those who would destroy it. The Theban force was not
only defeated but annihilated, and then the Athenians hastened to the
support of Pansanias. While the Spartans were the best-drilled
soldiery in Greece for the field, they had little skill in siege
operations, and the wooden walls of the Persian camp opposed to them
an effective barrier.
35. While the Spartan force was engaged in abortive attempts, the
Athenians and their allies came up fresh from their victory over the
Thebans. Headed by the Tegeans, they burst like a deluge into the
encampment, and the Persians, losing all heart, sought wildly to hide
themselves like deer flying from lions. Then followed a carnage so
fearful that out of two hundred and sixty thousand men not three
thousand, it is said, remained alive.
36. Thus ended this formidable invasion, which threatened the very
existence of Greece. The great wave of Oriental despotism had spent
its force without submerging freedom. Thenceforth the wonderful Greek
energy and creative power might be turned away from matters military
and expended upon the arts of peace.
37. The Athenians returned to their city and found everything in
ruins. Fire and hate had destroyed home and temple alike. All the
accumulated wealth of generations was gone. Nothing was left but the
indomitable energy which had been tested on so many trying
emergencies, and the wonderful skill of eye and hand which came of
inherited aptitude and long personal experience. Upon the old site a
new city grew in a single generation, marvelous in its splendor of
temple and palace, so light and airy, yet so strong and enduring, that
after the lapse of twenty-five centuries the marble skeletons, though
in ruins, stand, the admiration of all men and of all ages.
CRUSADES AND THE CRUSADERS.
1. After the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, in the year 70 of the
Christian era, Palestine continued for upward of two centuries in the
condition of a Roman province, inhabited by a mixed population of
pagans, Jews, and Christians. In Jerusalem, temples of Venus and
Jupiter were erected on the most sacred spots of Christian history;
and heathenism triumphed in the possession of the Holy City of two
religions. On the establishment of Christianity in the Roman Empire by
Constantine, in the year 321, this state of things was changed;
Palestine and Jerusalem became objects of interest to all Christians,
and crowds of pilgrims visited the localities celebrated by the
evangelists. Splendid churches were erected on the ruins of pagan
temples, and every spot pointed out as the scene of the memorable
events in the life of Christ and his apostles was marked by a chapel
or house of prayer. Jerusalem and the Holy Land became the resort of
numerous bodies of clergy, who resided in the churches and monasteries
which the piety of the wealthy had founded for them.
2. At the end of the fourth century, the gigantic Roman Empire was
broken up into two, the Eastern, the capital of which was
Constantinople, and the Western, the capital of which was Rome. It was
to the former of these that Syria and Palestine were attached. Before
the end of the fifth century the Western Empire had been destroyed by
the eruption of the German races, and the beginnings of a new European
civilization were rising from its ruins. Meanwhile, the Eastern
remained entire, till about the year 630, when the Arabs, burning with
the spirit of conquest infused into them by the religion of Mohammed,
poured into its provinces. Egypt, Syria, and Palestine were annexed as
dependencies to the great Arabic Empire of the caliphs. The religion
of Mohammed became dominant in the Holy Land, the temples and chapels
were converted into mosques.
3. Numbers of pilgrims still continued each year to visit Palestine.
In return for a certain tribute, the earlier caliphs permitted the
Christians of Jerusalem to have a patriarch, and to carry on their own
form of worship. Of all the caliphs, the celebrated Haroun al-Rashid,
best known to us in the stories of the "Arabian Nights," was the most
tolerant, and under him the Christians enjoyed perfect peace.
4. Great cruelties were practised by the Fatimite caliphs, who
conquered Syria about the year 980. The pilgrims were robbed, beaten,
and sometimes slain on their journey, the Christian residents
oppressed by heavy impositions, and their feelings outraged by insults
against their religion. These sufferings were slight, however,
compared with those which they endured after the invasion and conquest
of Palestine by the Turkish hordes in 1065. But recently converted to
Moslemism, and therefore more rude and fanatical than the other
Mohammedans, these Turks wreaked their vengeance on all
alike—Christians, Jews, and even the native Mohammedans.
5. The news of the atrocities perpetrated by the Turks produced a deep
sensation over the whole of Christendom, as well among the Latin
Christians as among the Greek Christians, the name given to the
population of what remained of the old Byzantine Empire. The latter
had reason to dread that, if the Turks were not checked,
Constantinople, their capital, would soon share the same fate as
Jerusalem. Accordingly, about the year 1073, the Greek Emperor, Manuel
VII, sent to supplicate the assistance of the great Pope Gregory VII
against the Turks. Till now there had prevailed a spirit of antagonism
between the Greek and Latin churches, the former refusing to yield
obedience to the pope of the West as the universal head of the Church.
Gregory, therefore, eagerly received the application of the Greek
Emperor, seeing the promise of the final subjection of the Greek to
the Latin Church. He resolved to give the enterprise his countenance,
and to march himself at the head of an army to rescue the Holy
6. Gregory was prevented from ever carrying out his design, and the
idea of a crusade gradually died away. Meanwhile, the Turks extended
their victories at the expense of the Greek Empire. Before the
accession of the celebrated Alexius Comnenus to the throne in 1081,
the whole of Asia Minor was in the possession of the Turks, and broken
up into a number of kingdoms, the sultans of which soon began to
quarrel among themselves. The disturbed state of Asia Minor greatly
increased the sufferings of the pilgrims; not one out of three
returned to recount the story of his hardships.
7. Among those who undertook the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, when the
dangers attending it were the greatest, was a native of Amiens in
France, named Peter, who had become a monk and an ascetic, being
called from his solitary manner of life, Peter the Hermit. He arrived
safely at Jerusalem, and visited all the scenes sacred to a
Christian's eyes. As he walked along the streets, looking at this and
that holy spot, insolent and contemptuous Turks looked on and mocked
him, and his spirit grew bitter within him, and his hand clutched
itself convulsively as if longing for a sword.
8. Burning with a sense of injuries sustained by the Christians, and
the desecration of the sacred places, he sought the counsel of Simeon,
the Greek patriarch of Jerusalem. In reply to Peter's questions, he
explained that nothing was to be expected from the Greek Empire in
behalf of the Holy Land, the court of Constantinople was so dissolute
and corrupt, and that the only hope was that the Latin princes might
be persuaded to form a league for the grand purpose entertained by
Gregory VII. "Write," Peter said to the patriarch, "to the pope and to
all Latin Christians, and seal your letters with the signet of your
office as patriarch of Jerusalem. As a penance for my sins, I will
travel over Europe, I will describe everywhere the desolate condition
of the Holy City, and exhort princes and people to wrest it from the
profane hands of the infidels."
[Illustration: Mosque of Achmet, Constantinople]
9. The letters were accordingly written, and the hermit set sail with
them from Joppa. Arriving in Italy he presented the documents to the
pope, Urban II, a pupil and protégé of Gregory VII, urging his
holiness to use his authority, as the head of Christendom, to set in
motion a scheme for regaining the birthplace of Christ. Enthusiasm is
contagious, and the pope appears to have caught it instantly from one
whose zeal was so unbounded. Giving the Hermit full powers, he sent
him abroad to preach the holy war. Peter departed, going from town to
town, and from village to village, and, in the language of the
chroniclers, "traversing the whole of Europe in less than a year's
time." His strange and wild aspect, his glittering eye, his shrill
and unearthly eloquence, the grandeur of his theme, his pathetic
descriptions of Jerusalem and the Christians there, produced
everywhere the most extraordinary sensations. "He set out," says a
contemporary historian, "from whence I know not, nor with what
purpose; but we saw him passing through the towns and villages,
everywhere preaching, and the people flocking round him, loading him
with gifts, and praising his sanctity with such eulogiums, that I
never remember having seen so great honors paid to any other man. The
people reverenced him so that they plucked the hairs from the mane of
his mule, and kept them afterward as relics. Out of doors he generally
wore a woolen tunic, with a brown mantle, which descended to his
heels. His arms and feet were bare, he ate little or no bread, but
lived on fish and wine."
10. Such being the success of the Hermit's mission, the pope showed
his approbation of the project by summoning in the year 1095 two
councils. The first of these was held at Placentia in March;
ambassadors from the Greek Emperor appeared to petition for aid
against the Turks, and the members of the council were unanimous in
their support of the crusade. The second, the famous Council of
Clermont, was held at the town of that name in Auvergne in the month
of November. It was in the midst of an extremely cold winter, and the
ground was covered with snow. During seven days the council sat with
closed doors, while immense crowds from all parts of France flocked
into the town, in the expectation that the pope himself would address
11. All the neighborhood presented the appearance of a vast camp.
Issuing from the church in his full canonicals, surrounded by his
cardinals and bishops in all the splendor of ecclesiastical costume,
the pope stood before the populace on a high scaffolding, erected for
the occasion, and covered with scarlet cloth. A brilliant array of
bishops and cardinals surrounded him, and among them, humbler in rank
but more important in the world's eye, the Hermit Peter, dressed in
his simple woolen gown. The pope's eloquent words touched every heart.
He was interrupted by the united voice of the people shouting "God
wills it! God wills it!" Hushing the joyous tumult with a wave of his
hand, the pontiff continued "Be they then your war-cry in the combat,
for those words came from God. Let the army of the Lord, when it
rushes upon its enemies, shout but that one cry, 'God wills it! God
wills it!' Let whoever is inclined to devote himself to this holy
cause wear on his breast or back the sign of the holy cross." From
this time the red cross was the sacred emblem of the crusaders.
THE FIRST CRUSADE.
12. Following the Council of Clermont, preparations for invading the
Holy Land began in almost every country of Europe. The clanging of the
smith's hammer, making or repairing armor, was heard in every village.
All who had property of any description rushed to the mart to change
it for hard cash. The nobles mortgaged their estates, the farmer
endeavored to sell his plow, and the artisan his tools to purchase a
sword for the deliverance of Jerusalem. Women disposed of their
trinkets for the same purpose. During the spring and summer of 1096
the roads teemed with crusaders, all hastening to the towns and
villages appointed as the rendevous of the district. Very few knew
where Jerusalem was. Some thought it fifty thousand miles away, and
others imagined it but a month's journey; while at the sight of every
tower or castle the children exclaimed "Is that Jerusalem?" Little
attempt at any organization was made, though the multitude had three
leaders. It is said that the first band, consisting of twenty thousand
foot, with only eight horsemen, were led by a Burgundian gentleman,
called Walter the Penniless. They were followed by a rabble of forty
thousand men, women, and children, led by Peter the Hermit, a medley
of all nations and languages. Next followed a band of fifteen thousand
men, mostly Germans, under a priest named Gottschalk. These three
multitudes led the way in the crusades, pursuing the same route, that,
namely, which leads through Hungary and Bulgaria toward Asia Minor.
13. Like their nominal leader, each of the followers of Walter the
Penniless was poor to penury, and trusted for subsistence to the
chances of the road. In Hungary they met with loud resistance from the
people, whose houses they attacked and plundered, but in Bulgaria the
natives declared war against the hungry horde; they were dispersed and
almost exterminated. Some of the survivors retraced their steps; the
rest, among whom was Walter, reached Constantinople, where they
awaited the arrival of Peter and his companions. The Hermit, who had
the same difficulties to contend with in marching through Hungary and
Bulgaria, reached Constantinople with his army greatly reduced, and in
a most deplorable condition. Here he and Walter joined forces, the
Hermit assuming the superior command. They were hospitably received by
the emperor, but their riotous conduct soon wearied out his patience,
and he was glad to listen to a proposal of the Hermit to furnish them
with the means of passing at once into Asia. The rabble accordingly
crossed the Bosphorus, and took up their quarters in Bethynia. Here
they became perfectly ungovernable, ravaging the country around, and
committing incredible excesses; at length Peter, utterly disgusted and
despairing, left them to their own guidance and returned to
Constantinople. The bravest of them were annihilated in a battle
fought near Nice, Walter the Penniless falling with seven mortal
wounds. Between two and three thousand alone escaped, brought back to
Constantinople by the troops of Alexius, who rescued them from the
Turks. The emperor dismissed them, with orders to return home, and
thus ended the disastrous expedition of Walter the Penniless and Peter
14. The fifteen thousand Germans led by Gottschalk never reached
Constantinople, being slaughtered or dispersed during their passage
through Hungary. Hungary was also fatal to another army of crusaders,
the fourth in order, but greatly exceeding in numbers the other three
put together. This terrible horde, consisting of about two hundred
thousand, swept through Germany committing horrible outrages,
especially against the Jews, whom they murdered without mercy. They
were preceded by a goose and a goat, to which they attributed divine
powers. As the rabble advanced, the Hungarians gave themselves up for
lost, the king and nobles were preparing to flee, when the mass fell
asunder of its own accord. Many were slain by the enraged Hungarians.
Some escaped to the north, a few ultimately joined the succeeding
bands of crusaders, but the majority perished. Thus, within a few
months, upward of a quarter of a million of human beings were swept
out of existence. And they had spent their lives, without one
important result having been accomplished, without one glorious feat
having been achieved.
15. This was the worst paroxysm of the madness of Europe, and this
passed, her chivalry stepped upon the scene. Men of cool heads, mature
plans, and invincible courage stood forward, to lead and direct not
more fanatical masses, but the gentry, yeomanry, and serfs of feudal
Europe. These were the true crusaders. Altogether they formed six
armies, marching separately, and at considerable intervals of time.
First carne the army of Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lorraine, the
pride of his age for all noble and knightly virtues, immortalized by
the poet Tasso. He had risen from a sick-bed to join the crusade, and
sold his lordship to raise the necessary money; around his standard
assembled many of the best knights of the age. In the month of August,
1096, they commenced their march, through Hungary and Bulgaria.
16. Four other chiefs of the royal blood of Europe also assumed the
cross, and led each his army to the Holy Land; Hugh, Count of
Vermandois, brother of the king of France; Robert, Duke of Normandy,
the elder brother of William Rufus; Robert, Count of Flanders, and
Bohemond, Prince of Tarentum, eldest son of the celebrated Robert
Guiscard. With Bohemond, and second in command in the army, came
Tancred, the favorite hero of all the historians of the crusade, so
young, so valiant, so enthusiastic. There was not among them all, says
Tasso, a greater warrior, nor any one of more courteous behavior, of
fairer countenance, or of loftier and more intrepid heart. The last
army was led by the haughty and resolute Count Raimond of Toulouse.
17. To detail the progress of the various armies is unnecessary.
Upward of six hundred thousand warriors of the West, beside a
multitude of priests, women, and children, were at last actually
encamped on Asiatic soil. It was literally a moving nation, in which
all languages were spoken, all costumes worn. There was the
fair-haired son of the north, with broad, open forehead, mild blue
eyes, sanguine complexion, and large frame; there the dark visaged
southron, with his flashing glance and fiery soul; there was the
knight in his armor, the priest in his robes, the foot-soldier in his
tough jerkin, the unkempt serf with his belt of rope. There were
pawing horses, swearing grooms, carts full of provisions, sacks,
groups of gossiping women, crowds of merry children. Under the bright
sun of Asia, all was gaudy and brilliant. Spearpoints glittered,
breast-plates and helmets gleamed, thousands of targets displayed
their painted glories, pennons of blue, purple, and white streamed
from every tent, while heavier flags flapped their sullen folds; and
everywhere, on shield, flag, helmet, tunic, and coat of mail, was seen
blazoned the holy sign of the red cross. Walking through all these,
heedless of the looks cast upon him, and hearing not the oft-repeated
bugle-blasts from all parts of the camp, might be seen a man of small
stature, thin and poorly clad, with down-cast face, wild, unsettled
eye, and timid, nervous gait. It was the man who had created it
all—Peter the Hermit. He had crossed from Constantinople with Godfrey
of Bouillon. His revenge was near! On, on, then, to the Holy City!
18. Alas, the Holy City was yet far distant! Not much more than half
their journey in point of space had been accomplished, and in point of
difficulty and peril their march had little more than begun, for they
had just entered the countries of the infidels. Months had to roll on,
and many battles to be fought, ere the pinnacles of the Holy City
should greet their longing eyes.
19. The route of the crusading armies lay in a southeasterly
direction, through Asia Minor, and then southward to Jerusalem, along
the shores of the Levant. Their march along this route, counting from
the time of their crossing into Asia Minor, May, 1097, to the time
when they came in sight of Jerusalem and laid siege to it, June, 1099,
occupied upward of two years. Countless were the dangers to which the
crusaders were subject in this trial. Of the many sieges two are
especially memorable, that of Nice and that of Antioch.
20. The siege of Nice was the first exploit in which the crusading
armies were engaged. During these six weeks the slaughter of the
Christians, by the arrows of the Turkish garrison, and by the bolts
and large stones which they discharged from mangonels and catapults,
was immense. The city surrendered at last, not, however, to the Latin
chiefs, but to an envoy of the Greek Emperor Alexius, who contrived to
enter into communication with the besieged and induced them to
capitulate. Angry and dissatisfied, the crusaders left their
encampment and resumed their march, not in one mass, but in several
bodies. At length the scattered armies reunited for the siege of
Antioch toward the end of October, 1097. All the known means of attack
were put in operation; movable towers were constructed from which to
discharge missiles into the city. The walls were battered, and the
sallies of the besieged bravely met, still without any effective
result. At the end of ten days famine stared them in the face, so
extravagant were they in the use of their stores. Pestilence joined
its ravages, and instead of the brave army of chivalry which had sat
down before Antioch, was to be seen a crowd of gaunt and famishing
creatures, with scarcely a thought but that of procuring food.
Multitudes died, desertions became numerous.
21. The chiefs began to weary of the expedition, and, most disgraceful
of all, Peter the Hermit turned his back on the enterprise, and had
actually fled several miles on his way home, when he was brought back
by the soldiers of Tancred and forced to undergo a public reprimand.
At length, after infinite sufferings on the part of the Christians,
Antioch was taken on the 3d of June, 1098, by means of the treachery
of an Armenian captain, whom the Turks had intrusted with the command
of one of the towers, and who admitted a number of the crusaders
during a dark and stormy night.
22. Imagination can not conceive a scene more dreadful than that
presented by the devoted city of Antioch on that night of horror. The
crusaders fought with a blind fury which fanaticism and suffering
alike incited. No quarter was shown. At daylight the massacre ceased,
and the crusaders gave themselves up to plunder. They found gold,
jewels, and rich fabrics in abundance, but of provisions little of any
kind. Suddenly they were roused from their sloth and pleasure by the
appearance before Antioch of an immense army, which the Persian caliph
had dispatched to sweep the Christian locusts from the face of the
earth. Great was the alarm of the Christians when they saw this
splendid host of more than two hundred thousand men encamped around
the hills of Antioch. The corn and wine found in the city were soon
exhausted; all the horrors of a second famine began.
23. Many deserted and escaped over the walls, carrying the news of the
sad condition of the Christians back toward Europe. The worst
consequence of these desertions was, that the Greek Emperor Alexius,
who, hearing of the successes of the Latins, was on his march to
assist the crusaders, was deterred from advancing, and returned to
Constantinople. With increasing famine came a pestilence, so that in a
short time but sixty thousand remained of the three hundred thousand
that had invested Antioch. But this bitter extremity knit the leaders
more firmly together, and Bohemond, Godfrey, and Tancred swore never
to desert the cause while life lasted.
24. It is said that belief in the remarkable fulfillment of a dream
brought hope once more to the disheartened crusaders. Peter Barthelmy,
a priest of Provence, dreamed, he said, that Saint Andrew appeared to
him in the night, and informed him that underneath a certain spot in
the floor of the church of Saint Peter was buried the identical lance
with which the Roman soldiers pierced the side of Christ as he hung on
the cross. This relic, said the apparition, was to be the guarantee of
God's presence and their guide to victory. Twelve persons were chosen
to conduct the search. A whole day was spent in vain, the workmen were
tired out, and still no lance was found. At last Peter descended into
the pit and began to dig the loose earth. Suddenly a cry of joy was
heard, and stretching himself to his full height, Peter handed up into
the eager fingers of those above an actual rusty lance-head. In an
instant it was noised abroad that the holy relic had been found. What
remained now but to issue forth and discomfit the infidel host.
25. The infidel host was discomfited. On the 28th of June, 1098, two
hundred thousand Turks, in the full flush of health and strength, were
routed, outside the walls of Antioch, by a half-famished Christian
army. Antioch was bestowed upon Bohemond, and it was resolved that the
army should remain there to recruit before advancing toward Jerusalem.
The tragical fate of Peter Barthelmy must be mentioned. Many of the
crusaders had begun to question the genuineness of the relic he had
found. He was prevailed upon to submit to the ordeal of fire, and
perished in the flames. From that moment the story of the relic lost
26. It was on a lovely morning in the summer of 1099 that the forty
thousand crusaders, who were all that remained of the vast army which
had two years ago laid seige to Nice, were recompensed for all their
toils by a sight of the Holy City, bathed in the splendor of eastern
sunshine. The name "Jerusalem" escaped from every lip; some leaped and
shouted, some kneeled and prayed, some wept, some threw themselves
prostrate and kissed the earth, some gazed and trembled. "All had much
ado," says the quaint Fuller, "to manage so much gladness."
27. Preparations for a siege were soon under way. The besiegers, who
had gained skill by their former attempts, employed all the methods of
attack that experience could suggest or courage execute, while the
garrison of forty thousand Turks, who maintained the city for their
master, the caliph of Egypt, resisted with determined obstinacy. At
length, after a confession of sins by the whole army, and a
penitential procession around the walls, a simultaneous attack was
made with battering-rains, mangonels, and all manner of besieging
engines. At one quarter a huge wooden tower was wheeled close to the
walls, a movable bridge was let down, and, bounding across it, a
soldier named Lutold was the first man to stand upon the battlements.
Godfrey of Bouillon and a number of knights sprang after him, and the
Christians were within Jerusalem. Meanwhile, at another part of the
wall, Tancred and Robert of Normandy had shattered open a gate, and
rushed in with their men; while at a third part of the city, Raimond
of Toulouse effected an entrance for himself and his followers by the
help of scaling-ladders. In an instant after, the banner of the cross
floated upon the walls of Jerusalem. The crusaders, raising once more
their redoubtable war-cry, rushed on from every side, and the city was
taken. The battle raged for several hours, and the Christians gave no
quarter. Peter the Hermit, who had remained so long under the veil of
neglect, was repaid that day for all his zeal and all his suffering.
He was once more the idol of the army, but history is silent
concerning the remainder of his life.
28. Eight days after the capture of the city, the Latin chiefs
unanimously elected Godfrey of Bouillon king of Jerusalem. A new
Christian state was thus founded in Syria, consisting at first of
little more than the mere city of Jerusalem, but extending by
subsequent battles and conquests until it included the whole of
Palestine. A language resembling Norman-French was established in this
kingdom, and a code of feudal laws drawn up for its government. The
clergy also obtained their share of the conquest, Jerusalem was
created into a patriarchate, and Bethlehem into a bishopric. The
foundation of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in July, 1099, was the
consummation of the first crusade.
29. A period of fifty years succeeded, during which time many battles
were fought with the Saracens of Syria and Egypt, the result of which
was to strengthen the Latin state. No fewer than five hundred thousand
persons set out from Europe for Syria, incited by the news of the
success of the first crusade. The three centers from which the
Christian power sought to spread itself through the Mussulman
possessions were Jerusalem, Antioch, and Edessa.
30. The very spirit of the crusade seemed to have died out. The Latin
Kingdom of Jerusalem had become, like any other kingdom of the period,
a country in which men built houses, plowed land, made bargains, gave
feasts, etc., drank, laughed, talked, quarreled, and went to law. The
fall of Edessa, the first conspicuous success of the Turks, came like
a surprise upon the Latin population of Syria. An attempt was made by
the Christians to recover the city, but it failed, and the frontier of
Syria was open to invasion from the East.
THE SECOND CRUSADE.
31. The fall of Edessa, and the petitions of the people of Palestine
for aid, produced a sensation throughout Europe, and especially in
France. Nor was an apostle wanting worthy to fill the place of Peter,
and to summon the chivalry of Europe to a second crusade. Commissioned
by Pope Eugenius for that purpose, the famous Saint Bernard, Abbot of
Clairvaux in Champagne, traveled through France and Germany, exerting
the power of his marvelous eloquence in recruiting the armies of the
cross. The chiefs of the second crusade were two of the most powerful
princes of Europe, Louis VII, King of France, and Conrad III, Emperor
of Germany. Under their command upward of one million two hundred
thousand men, collected from all parts of Europe, marched toward
Palestine in two great armies, early in 1147.
32. Notwithstanding the vastness of the preparations, the expedition
was a total failure. The events of the last fifty years had rendered
the policy of the Greek princes hostile to the crusades. Manuel
Comnenus, the grandson of Alexius, who now occupied the throne,
suffered both armies to pass into Asia Minor, where, misled by Greek
scouts, the army of Conrad was all but destroyed by the Turks, near
Iconium, while the army of Louis, after undergoing infinite hardships,
was wrecked in the defiles of the Pisidian mountains. The fragments of
the two armies uniting made their way to Syria, where they co-operated
with forces of the princes of Jerusalem and Antioch, in laying seige
to Damascus, but without effect. In 1149 Conrad and Louis returned to
Europe, and the second crusade was at an end, having attained nothing
but the expenditure of more than a million of lives.
THE THIRD CRUSADE.
33. A period of forty years elapsed before Europe fitted out another
crusade. Meanwhile the struggle between the Christian and the Turks in
Syria was carried on without intermission. Noureddin, the son of the
conqueror of Edessa, displayed a genius which astonished both
Christians and Turks. Keeping possession of Edessa, he aimed at
extending his conquest at the expense of the Christians still further.
For some time he was kept in check by the abilities of Baldwin III,
King of Jerusalem. On his death, in 1162, his brother Amalric, far
inferior to Baldwin in ability, succeeded to the throne.
34. At this crisis, while Noureddin, the Sultan of Aleppo, and
Amalric, the Christian King of Jerusalem, were the rival powers in
Syria, occurred a circumstance which exercised considerable influence
on the subsequent course of events, and which makes necessary a
35. At the time of the first crusade Palestine was the scene of a
violent contest between the Turks, who had poured down from the North,
conquering as they went, and the Fatimites of Egypt, who had possessed
Syria for nearly a century. The Turks had at first been irresistible.
The Fatimites, however, had been able to recover Jerusalem from the
hands of their enemies, and held it when besieged by the Christians.
Interrupted in their conflict with each other for the sovereignty of
Palestine, the Fatimites and Turks turned their arms with one accord
against the invader. In the person of Noureddin the Turkish power was
now increasing. The Fatimite dynasty of Egypt, meanwhile, had long
been showing signs of decay, the caliphs having become mere tools in
the hands of their viziers. In 1163 one of these viziers, Shawer,
finding himself expelled from his post by a rival, sought refuge at
the court of Aleppo, and applied to the sultan for assistance.
Noureddin eagerly embraced an opportunity for obtaining a footing in
Egypt, and sent two persons, Chyrkouh and his nephew Saladin, to
displace the usurping vizier and re-establish Shawer. They, however,
usurped the government, and Shawer applied to the King of Jerusalem,
Amalric, for assistance. Amalric in turn attempted usurpation, and
again the officers of Noureddin came to the aid of Shawer. The vizier
paid the penalty of his fickleness by losing his head, and his post
was occupied by Chyrkouh, who, while ruling Egypt as a vizier of the
Fatimite caliph, was in reality the lieutenant of Noureddin.
36. On the death of Chyrkouh, Saladin was appointed to the viziership.
The caliph fancied that he would now regain the control of his own
dominions, but he little knew the character of his new vizier. Saladin
soon effected a revolution in Egypt, declared the Fatimite dynasty to
be at an end, and subjected the country once more to the nominal
authority of the Bagdad caliphs, whom Noureddin professed to reverence
as the supreme heads of the Mohammedan Empire. Nor did he stop here.
He soon showed a disposition to shake off the supremacy of Noureddin,
and the sultan of Aleppo was marching into Egypt to vindicate his
authority, when he suddenly died in the year 1171.
37. Saladin now saw the great obstacle to his ambition removed, and
began to aim at realizing those schemes of sovereignty which Noureddin
had projected. The state of the Christian kingdom during the ten or
twelve years which followed directly favored his plans. Civil
dissensions arose which the keen eye of Saladin discovered, and,
already master of all Syria, he resolved to complete his greatness by
the conquest of Palestine. Accordingly, when in the year 1157 it was
known that he was on his march against Jerusalem, the Christian
crusaders saw the necessity of abandoning their dissensions and
uniting cordially against the invader. Town after town surrendered to
the victorious Saracen, and, in October, 1187, Jerusalem itself, after
fourteen days' defense, was obliged to submit to his mercy. The
conduct of Saladin on this occasion was more generous than might have
been expected. A moderate ransom was fixed for every individual, on
the payment of which he was at liberty to remove with his goods to
whatever place he chose. To the Christian ladies, Saladin's conduct
was courteous in the extreme, so that it became a remark among the
Latins of Palestine that Saladin was a barbarian only in name.
38. Thus, after ninety years, was the Holy City again inhabited by the
infidel, and all the fruits of the first crusade lost, as it seemed to
the world. Saladin now possessed the whole of Palestine, with the
single exception of the city of Tyre, which was gallantly defended by
Conrad, Marquis of Montferrat.
39. The epidemic frenzy which had been gradually cooling was now
extinct, or nearly so, and the nations of Europe looked with cold
indifference upon the armaments of their princes. But chivalry was now
in all its glory, and it continued to supply armies for the Holy Land.
Poetry more than religion inspired the Third Crusade. The knights and
their retainers listened with delight to the martial and amatory
strains of the ministrels, minnesingers, and troubadors. Men fought
not so much for the holy sepulchre as to gain glory for themselves in
the best and only field where glory could be obtained. They fought not
as zealots, but as soldiers, not for religion, but for honor.
40. The first to take the field was the illustrious German emperor,
Frederick Barbarossa. Marching from Ratisbon at the bead of a
magnificent army in 1189, he fought his way through the Greek
dominions, advanced through Asia Minor, conquering as he went, and was
already on the borders of Palestine, when, imprudently bathing, he was
cut off in the seventieth year of his age. His army suffered greatly
from the difficulties of their march and the attacks of the Saracens.
The wrecks of it under Frederick's son, the Duke of Swabia, proved a
most valuable reinforcement to the Christians in Syria, who had by
this time rallied and combined against the domination of Saladin,
laying siege to the city of Acre on the sea-coast, a town of so much
importance that the possession of it was considered almost equivalent
to being master of the whole country.
41. Upon this siege, commenced in August, 1189, was concentrated all
the force at the command of the Christians in Palestine, the remnants
of the two great military orders the Knights Templars and the Knights
Hospitallers, the survivors of Frederick's army, together with such
bodies of crusaders as were continually arriving from Europe by sea.
Guy de Lusignan was the commander of the besieging forces, and so
skillfully was his army fortified that Saladin was unable to dislodge
him. For two-and-twenty months the siege continued, and many
engagements had taken place between the Christian army and that of
Saladin, which occupied the mountains to the south, but without
visible advantage on either side.
42. Such was the position of affairs when, early in the summer of
1191, Philip, of France, and Richard Coeur de Lion, of England,
arrived with their fleets. The struggle was soon over, and on the 12th
of July, 1191, Acre surrendered to the Christians. Had the crusaders
been united among themselves, the fall of this city might have been
but preliminary to the recovery of the whole country. The rivalry of
the kings of France and England, however, prevented their cordial
co-operation, and, not long after the capture of Acre, Philip ruined
the cause of the crusade by returning to Europe.
43. After gaining many important successes against Saladin, and
earning for himself the reputation of the most valiant knight of the
age, Richard, involved in disputes with the other chiefs of the
crusade, and anxious to revisit England, where his presence was
becoming daily more necessary, was glad to conclude an honorable
peace. Saladin, on his part, was equally willing to end a struggle
which had cost him so much. A truce was concluded for three years and
eight months, during which Christian pilgrims were to enjoy the
liberty of visiting Jerusalem without hindrance.
44. Saladin entertained many Christians in his own palace, from which
they returned, their tongues laden with praises of the noble infidel.
Richard and Saladin never met, but each admired the prowess and
nobleness of soul of his rival.
45. The Christians and Moslems no longer looked upon each other as
barbarians, to whom mercy was a crime. Each host entertained the
highest admiration for the bravery and magnanimity of the other, and
in their occasional truces met upon the most friendly terms. When
Richard, the lion-hearted king of England, lay in his tent consumed by
a fever, there came into the camp camels laden with snow, sent by his
enemy, the Sultan Saladin, to assuage his disease, the homage of one
brave soldier to another. But, when Richard was returning to England,
it was by a Christian prince that he was treacherously seized and
46. It was on the 25th of October, 1192, that Richard set sail for
Europe. Forced by stress of weather to land at Zara, he made the
attempt to journey through the continent, and was arrested and held a
prisoner while passing through the dominions of his enemy and former
fellow-crusader, the archduke of Austria, and remained in prison in
Vienna for several months. He returned to England in 1194, and died in
1199. His great antagonist, Saladin, had died in 1193, not long after
the Christian armies left Palestine. At the end of the crusade, the
Crescent waved as defiantly as ever over the land of Israel.
THE FOURTH CRUSADE.
47. The fourth crusade, from 1195 to 1198, led by Henry VI of Germany,
was equally a failure. There were gained some brilliant victories, but
dissensions divided the armies, and at last a truce was made with the
Mohammedans. It is true that these victories made the crusaders
masters of the sea-coast, but, when the armies departed, the Christian
king found himself in possession of cities which he was unable to
garrison, and which he felt would be held only by the sufferance of
THE FIFTH CRUSADE.
48. In the year 1203 a new crusade was set on foot, commanded by
several of the most powerful nobles of Italy and France. Instead of
marching at once against the infidels, the crusaders suffered
themselves to be drawn into a contest with the Greek empire. Just at
this time the emperor of the Greeks had been deposed and deprived of
his eyes by his own brother. His son, Alexius, fled to Europe, and
petitioned the assistance of the Latin princes against the usurper,
promising in return to use his efforts to bring about a union of the
Greek with the Latin church, and to employ all the resources of his
kingdom against the infidels of Syria. The temptation of such a
prospect could not be resisted; the crusaders marched into Greece,
laid siege to Constantinople, and took the city by storm A. D. 1204,
thereby establishing Latin Christianity in the eastern metropolis, but
at what a cost. Neither the works of God nor man were respected by the
invaders; they vented their brutal ferocity upon the one, and
satisfied their avarice upon the other. "In St. Sophia, the silver was
stripped from the pulpit, an exquisite and highly-prized table of
oblation was broken in pieces, the sacred chalices were turned into
drinking-cups, the gold fringe was ripped off the veil of the
sanctuary. Asses and horses were led into the churches to carry off
49. "Many beautiful bronze pieces, above all price as works of art,
were broken into pieces to be sold as old metal. The finely chiseled
marble was also destroyed by the same spirit of vandalism. Two
thousand people were put to the sword; had there been less plunder,
the slaughter would in all probability have been much greater."
50. For fifty years the empire was ruled over by the Franks. Meanwhile
the knights, plunged in the luxury of the city, heeded not the appeals
from Palestine, but allowed the besieged and suffering, for whose
rescue they had enlisted, to linger and die without an effort on their
behalf. Moved to desperation, in this emergency, the Christians sent
to Europe a heart-rending cry for help.
THE SIXTH CRUSADE.
51. The urgent appeal from Palestine caused Pope Innocent III to
earnestly preach a new crusade, and he crowned his labors and appeals
with his famous exclamation, "Sword, sword, start from thy scabbard,
and sharpen thyself to kill." Though the many disastrous and
fruitless expeditions had so dampened the ardor of men that they gave
little heed to his appeals, the zeal of the young was kindled for the
cause to which their elders seemed so indifferent.
52. The children of Germany and France caught the madness of the hour,
and resolved upon a crusade of their own. Inspired by the preaching of
a fanatical priest named Nicholas, twenty thousand boys of the average
age of twelve years assembled at Cologne. They came from all ranks of
life, and the heir of the proud noble marched side by side with the
son of the humblest peasant. Sisters, priests, and servants joined the
throng, swelling the numbers and adding to the confusion.
53. Their journey began in July, 1212, and their destination was
Palestine, and they were to go by way of Rome, so as to obtain the
assistance and the blessing of the Pope. In their ignorance these poor
children thought that Palestine was but a few miles distant, and
before the close of the first day's march excited voices were heard
asking if the holy sepulchre was in sight. Slowly onward the multitude
moved up the Rhine, and over the Mont Cenis pass of the Alps, into
54. But day by day hearts became sick with continued disappointment,
and little feet weary with the never-ending miles which stretched
before. The weak and the sickly were the first to give out, and,
though they struggled to keep their places in the ranks, one by one
they fell by the wayside to die alone, with no loving hands to soothe
their last moments or to moisten their parched lips with a drop of
cold water. The path of the youthful crusaders might be traced by the
marks left by thousands of bleeding feet and by the victims stretched
in death along the course.
55. Death, disease, and desertion soon thinned their ranks to such an
extent that only one half of their original number lived to reach the
summit of the Alps and look down into Italy. The journey across the
mountains was a fearful one. They had left home in summer, when their
raiment was thin; it had become scanty and ragged in the long and
dusty march, so that they were exposed to the full severity of the
cold. The rocks cut their shoeless feet, but nothing remained but to
press onward or to lie down and die.
56. Only seven thousand lived to reach Genoa, where they were received
coldly, but where they were at last permitted to stay a week to rest.
Then again onward through the plains of Italy, until all that survived
made their way to Rome. Pope Innocent partook of the fanaticism which
affected all Europe, but the sight of these little victims of the
universal delusion, reduced to mere spectres by hardships, disease,
and famine, aroused in him an unexpected human sympathy. He blessed
the children, forbade them to go farther, and when rested sent them
back to their German homes.
57. The winter had passed and the spring had come again before the few
survivors reached their beloved fatherland. Day by day there came
straggling into the German cities groups of these victims, their heads
drooping for shame, their eyes red with tears, their clothing in rags.
Many died upon realizing the last hope which had sustained them so
long. Sad-eyed mothers looked in vain among the thin ranks for their
beloved ones, and time only soothed the untold misery of this wild
58. Soon after the departure of the German children on their crusade
under Nicholas, another of about equal numbers set out from Cologne by
a different route. They crossed the Alps by the pass of St. Gothard,
and descended into Eastern Italy. Keeping along the coast of the
Adriatic, they at last came to the southern front of the peninsula,
and could go no farther. They met with a fate similar to that of the
first band, with the additional horror that many of them were seized
by Turkish pirates and carried away into life-long slavery. The few
who survived to reach Southern Italy embarked on a vessel, and never
were heard of more. No messenger even returned to the vine-clad hills
of the Rhine to report the fate of the little ones, and they all
disappeared from the aching gaze of anxious mothers as though the
earth had swallowed them up.
59. The third children's crusade set out from France under the
leadership of a bare-footed friar named Stephen. They numbered thirty
thousand, and their first destination was Marseilles, whence they were
to take shipping for Palestine through means directly provided by the
Lord. Through the broad fields of France, during the hot summer days,
the crusaders marched, every mile marked by victims; and, when the
white walls of the city of their destination became visible, their
numbers were reduced one half.
60. The charity of Marseilles was taxed to its utmost to provide for
the fifteen thousand mouths open to receive it. Through weary weeks
the children waited in vain for the promised aid from the Lord.
Despair was more fatal than famine, and soon two thirds of those who
had reached the city perished. When their numbers were reduced to five
thousand, apparently the promise of Divine aid was fulfilled. Two
wealthy and benevolent merchants volunteered to send the children on
to their destination. Seven ships were prepared, and into these the
five thousand crowded, believing their troubles were at an end.
61. The ships sailed out of port, freighted with mother love and
religious blessings. To anxious eyes that watched their departure,
their white sails, lessening in the distance, wafted back messages of
hope and assurance. At the dawn of another day the last speck had
disappeared, and the blue waves of the Mediterranean rolled
tranquilly, as if jealously guarding the secrets of fate. But time
went on. Homeward-bound vessels, direct from the scene of conflict,
saw the precious fleet. News of stern conflicts with the infidels was
brought by wandering palmers; but from sailor merchant, from peasant
warrior, and from noble, scarred with Saracenic wounds, there was a
death-like silence in regard to the little wanderers. Streaming eyes
fixed upon the East looked in vain until all tears were quenched in
62. Eighteen years passed since the children's fleet sailed out of
European life. Then a vague rumor of treachery began to circulate,
and, little by little, the details came out of one of the most inhuman
crimes that ever shocked the hearts of men. The benevolent merchants
who furnished the ships had sold the children to the barbarous
Moslems, and the course of the fleet was turned from east to south. On
the second day out a great storm arose, and two of the ships
foundered, and all on board perished. A more horrible fate awaited the
survivors. Landing in a city of the Moors in northern Africa, they
were conducted to a secure prison, and from the gloomy portals they
passed out into distant and perpetual slavery. One by one the captives
died, some by disease, some by cruelty, others passed away in old age.
At length all dropped their weary burdens, and their toils and sorrows
ended. Not one of the hundreds that sailed out of Marseilles on that
sunny afternoon ever saw Europe again. Rarely in the history of the
world has a story in real life been freighted with so much woe as fell
to the lot of the victims of the strange madness which swept over
Europe less than seven hundred years ago. Peace to their memories!
63. At last an army was organized, and Innocent announced that he
himself would lead the host to the defense of the holy sepulchre; but
his death intervened before the project was ripe. Andrew, king of
Hungary, was the only monarch who had leisure or inclination to leave
his dominions. He led the army to Palestine and defeated the Saracens,
but failed to follow up his victory, and soon after abandoned the
enterprise. The Duke of Austria, who succeeded him as leader, directed
the whole energy of the crusade against Egypt; and Damietta, which
commanded the river Nile, was chosen as the first point of attack.
Finding themselves unable to successfully defend the city, the Moslems
offered to yield the whole of Palestine to the Christians upon the
condition of the evacuation of Egypt. With a blindness almost
incredible these terms were refused, and a last attack made on the
walls of Damietta. The besieged made but slight resistance, and the
Christians entered the city, to find out of seventy thousand but three
thousand remaining, so fearful had been the scourge of plague and
famine. Several months were spent in Damietta. The climate either
weakened the frames or obscured the understandings of the Christians,
for after their conquest they remained inactive until the Moslems
recuperated their army and were able to recapture Damietta and expel
the Crusaders from Egypt.
64. With a view to the recovery of the Holy Land, Frederick II, of
Germany, had been married to Iolante, the heiress of the kingdom of
Jerusalem. His early life was spent in Sicily, in familiar intercourse
with Jews and Arabs, and Sicily was to the last the favored portion of
his dominion. The emperor's court was given up to unpardonable
frivolities in the eyes of Pope Gregory IX, one of whose first
pontifical acts was to summon Frederick to a new crusade. The emperor
paid little heed to the aged Pope's exhortations and commands,
postponing from time to time the period of his departure. He embarked
at last, but in ten days returned. The Pope was not to be trifled
with, and pronounced his excommunication. Frederick treated it with
contempt, and appealed to Christendom to sustain him. For this be
underwent a more tremendous excommunication, but his partisans in Rome
raised an insurrection and expelled the Pope.
65. And now Frederick set sail of his own accord on his crusading
expedition. On reaching the Holy Land he was received with joy by the
knights and pilgrims, but the clergy held aloof from him as under the
ban of the Church. He negotiated privately with the Sultan of Egypt.
The Christian camp was thronged with Saracens. The emperor wore a
Saracen dress. In his privacy he did not hesitate to say, "I came not
here to deliver the Holy City, but to maintain my estimation among the
Franks." To the Sultan he appealed: "Out of your goodness surrender
to me Jerusalem as it is, that I may be able to lift up my head among
the kings of Christendom." Accordingly, the city was surrendered to
him. The Pope repudiated the transaction.
66. While the emperor proclaimed his successes to Europe, the pope
denounced them. Frederick crowned himself at Jerusalem, being unable
to find any ecclesiastic who dared to perform the ceremony, and
departed from the Holy Land. He prepared to enter on his conflict with
the pontiff, and drew over to his side the general sentiment of
Europe; the Pope was made to give way, and peace proclaimed. The
treaty, which closed the sixth crusade, was for ten years.
THE SEVENTH CRUSADE.
67. On neither side probably was the truce strictly kept, and the
injuries done to pilgrims on their way from Acre to Jerusalem were
alleged as a sufficient reason for sending out the expedition headed
by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother of the English Henry III, and
afterward King of the Romans. This expedition may be regarded as the
seventh in the list of crusades, and deserves notice as having been
brought to an end, like that of Frederick, by a treaty, in 1240. The
terms of the latter covenant were even more favorable to the
Christians, but, two years later, the Latin power, such as it was, was
swept away by the sword of Korasmians, pushed onward by the hordes of
Jenghiz Khan. The awful inroad was alleged by Pope Innocent IV as
reason for summoning Christendom again to the rescue of the Holy Land.
THE EIGHTH CRUSADE.
68. Nearly seven years passed away before the French king, Louis IX,
was able to set sail for Egypt. The royal saint, who lives for us in
the quaint and graphic account of his seneschal Joinville, may with
truth be said to have been animated by a spirit of devotion and
self-sacrifice. Intolerant in theory and bigoted in language, Louis
had that true charity which would make him succor his enemies not less
than his friends. Nor was his bravery less signal than his gentleness.
His dauntless courage saved his army from complete destruction at
Mansourah in 1249, but his offer to exchange Damietta for Jerusalem
was rejected, and in the retreat, during which they were compelled to
fight at desperate disadvantage, Louis was taken prisoner. With serene
patience he underwent suffering, for which the Saracens, so Joinville
tells us, frankly confessed that they would have renounced Mahommed;
and, when the payment of his ransom set him free, he made a pilgrimage
in sackcloth to Nazareth in 1250. As a general he achieved nothing,
but his humiliation involved no dishonor; and the genuineness of his
faith, his devotion, and his love had been fully tested in the furnace
69. The crusading fire was now rapidly burning itself out. In the West
there was nothing to awaken again the enthusiasm which had been
stirred by Peter the Hermit and St. Bernard, while in Palestine itself
the only signs of genuine activity were furnished by the antagonism
between the religious orders there. The quarrels of Templars and
Hospitallers led to a pitched battle in 1259, in which almost all the
Templars were slain.
THE NINTH CRUSADE.
70. Some eight years later the tidings that Antioch had been taken by
the infidels revived in St. Louis the old yearning for the rescue of
the holy places. Cheered by the sympathy of Pope Clement IV, he
embarked with an army of sixty thousand in 1270, but a storm drove his
ships to Sardinia, and thence they sailed for Tunis. They encamped on
the site of Carthage, when a plague broke out. The saintly king was
among the victims, and the truest of all crusaders died. In the
following year Edward, of England, reached Acre, took Nazareth—the
inhabitants of which he massacred—fell sick, and during his sickness
narrowly escaped being murdered by an assassin sent by the Emir of
Joppa. Having made a peace for nine years, he returned to Europe, and
the ninth and last crusade was at an end.
71. The after fate of the Holy Land may be briefly told: The
Christians, unmindful of their past sufferings and of the jealous
neighbors they had to deal with, first broke the truce by plundering
some Egyptian traders, near Margat. The Sultan revenged the outrage by
taking possession of Margat, and war once more raged between the two
nations. Tripoli and the other cities were captured in succession,
until at last Acre was the only city of Palestine remaining to the
72. The Grand Master of the Templars collected his small and devoted
band, and prepared to defend to the death the last possession of the
order. Europe was deaf to his cry, the numbers of the foe were
overwhelming, and devoted bravery was of no avail. In the disastrous
siege the Christians were all but exterminated. The Grand Master fell
at the head of his knights, pierced by many wounds. Seven Templars and
as many Hospitallers alone escaped from the dreadful carnage. The
victorious Moslems then set fire to the city, and the rule of the
Christians in Palestine was brought to a close forever.
73. Kingsley ably summarizes the effects of the crusades as follow:
"Egypt was still the center of communication between the two great
stations of the Moslem power; and, indeed, as Mr. Lane has shown us in
his most valuable translation of the 'Arabian Nights,' possessed a
peculiar life and character of its own.
74. "It was the rash object of the crusaders to extinguish that life.
Palestine was first their point of attack, but the later crusaders
seem to have found, like all the rest of the world, that the destinies
of Palestine could not be separated from those of Egypt, and to
Damietta accordingly was directed that last disastrous attempt of St.
Louis. The crusaders failed utterly of the object at which they aimed.
They succeeded in an object of which they never dreamed; for in those
crusades the Moslem and the Christian had met face to face, and found
that both were men, that they had a common humanity, a common eternal
standard of nobility and virtue. So the Christian knights went home
humbler and wiser men, when they found in the Saracen enemies the same
generosity, truth, mercy, chivalrous self-sacrifice, which they
fancied their own peculiar possession; and, added to that, a
civilization and a learning which they could only admire and imitate.
And, thus, from the era of the crusades, a kindlier feeling sprang up
between the Crescent and the Cross, till it was again broken by the
fearful invasions of the Turks through Eastern Europe.
75. "The learning of the Moslem, as well as their commerce, began to
pour rapidly into Christendom, both from Spain, Egypt, and Syria; and
thus the crusaders were, indeed, rewarded according to their deeds.
They took the sword and perished by the sword. But the truly noble
element in them, the element which our hearts and reasons recognize
and love, in spite of all the folly and fanaticism of the crusades,
whensoever we read 'Ivanhoe' or the 'Talisman,' the element of loyal
faith and self-sacrifice, did not go unrequited.
76. "They learned wider, juster views of man and virtue, which I can
not help believing must have had great effect in weakening in their
minds the old, exclusive, bigoted notions, and in paving the way for
the great outburst of free thought and the great assertion of the
dignity of humanity which the fifteenth century beheld. They opened a
path for that influx of scientific knowledge which has produced in
after centuries the most enormous effects on the welfare of Europe,
and made life possible for millions who would otherwise have been pent
within the narrow bounds of Europe to devour each other in the
struggle for life and bread!"
DEFENSE OF FREEDOM IN ALPINE PASSES.
1. While the great sovereigns of Europe were busy in fighting the
Moslems in Palestine, they did not entirely neglect affairs at home.
Some of them were very good rulers, protecting their subjects and
maintaining good order, and others were tyrannical and imposed all
sorts of taxes and heavy burdens upon the people. Up among the Alps,
where the country is made up of rough, rocky mountains and narrow
valleys, lived a people who were practically free. They lived in
little communities, each one of which elected its own magistrate or
governor, and made its own laws. The region was so poor and rough that
the neighboring kings little cared to get possession of it, and the
Alpine dwellers had a greater amount of freedom than any other people
of Europe. The country was divided into little separate communities,
one of which was called Schwytz, and this afterward gave the name to
the whole country—Switzerland.
2. This country of the Swiss was really a part of the German empire,
but the emperors had extended their rule over the lower parts of the
country, leaving the forest cantons free. And a brave, courageous, and
industrious people grew up there. No pauper-house among the Alps, for
every able-bodied person worked, and no body tried to rob his neighbor
of his honest earnings. They were a strong athletic race, and the
monarchs of the surrounding countries were glad to secure Swiss
soldiers, for it was said that the Swiss never deserted. In 1298,
while Wallace was struggling for freedom in Scotland, Albert of
Austria, the second of the house of Hapsburg, resolved to get
possession of the free forest cantons. He observed great secrecy in
carrying out his designs, and it was not until a tax-gatherer or
bailiff was permanently established in the country, supported by
Austrian soldiers, that the people awakened to their danger. The story
that follows is one that all true Swiss delight to believe, and,
though it may not be true in regard to names and details, yet as a
record of the main incidents of history it is substantially correct.
3. The first Austrian bailiff was Hermann Gessler, who built a strong
fortress at Küssnacht, in Uri. At first he professed great love for
the people, but when he became firmly established he threw off the
mask, and showed himself to be a cruel, cowardly, mean-spirited
tyrant. He was both vain and greedy, and he exacted both homage and
tribute from the surrounding peasantry. Property was seized by the
soldiers, and, should the owner venture to remonstrate, he was
mercilessly beaten or killed on the spot. Complaints to the governor
were followed by fresh outrages, until no one, even in the most
secluded valleys, considered himself safe. Here tyranny as usual
overstepped the bounds of safety. The free spirit, born of toil and
privations in the mountain-fastnesses, would not long endure the
outrages to which the people were subjected. A leader only was needed
to induce a general revolt, and this leader was found in the person of
[Illustration: Lake Lucerne]
4. William Tell, according to the received accounts, was born at
Bürgelen, a secluded hamlet in the canton of Uri, near the lake of
Lucerne, about the year 1275; and, like his forefathers, was the
proprietor of a cottage, a few small fields, a vineyard, and an
orchard. When William had reached the age of twenty, his father is
said to have died, bequeathing to him these humble possessions.
Endowed by nature with a lofty and energetic mind, Tell was
distinguished also by great physical strength and manly beauty. He was
taller by a head than most of his companions; he loved to climb the
rugged rocks of his native mountains in pursuit of the chamois, and to
steer his boat across the lake in time of storm and of danger. The
load of wood which he could bear upon his shoulders was double that
which any ordinary man could support.
5. With other sources of happiness, Tell combined that of possessing
an intimate friend, who dwelt amid the rocky heights separating Uri
from Unterwalden. Arnold Auderhalden, of Melchthal, was this
associate. Although similar in many salient points of character, there
was still an essential difference between the two men. Arnold, of
Melchthal, while he loved his country with an ardor equal to that of
Tell, and was capable of very great actions, was not prepared for much
patient suffering or long endurance of wrong. Tell, whose temperament
was more calm, and whose passions were more influenced by reason than
impulse, only succeeded in restraining his friend's impulsive
character by the stern force of example. Meantime the two friends
passed their days in the enjoyment of one another's society, visiting
at intervals each other's humble residence. Tell foresaw, on the
arrival of Gessler, many of the misfortunes which must inevitably
follow his iron rule, and without explaining his views even to Arnold,
of Melchthal, without needlessly alarming his family, endeavored to
devise some means, not of bearing the yoke patiently, but of
delivering his country from the galling oppression which Albert had
brought upon it. The hero felt satisfied that the evil deeds of the
governor would sooner or later bring just retribution upon him; for
this, and many other reasons, therefore, despite his own secret
wishes, when Arnold poured out his fiery wrath in the ear of his
friend, he listened calmly, and, to avoid inflaming him more, avowed
none of his own views, or even feelings, in return.
6. One evening, however, William Tell and his wife sat in front of
their cottage, watching their son amusing himself amid the flocks,
when the former grew more thoughtful and sad than usual. Presently
Tell spoke, and for the first time imparted to his wife some of his
most secret designs. While the conversation was still proceeding, the
parents saw their son rush toward them crying for help, and shouting
the name of old Melchthal. As he spoke, Arnold's father appeared in
sight, led by his grand-child, and feeling his way with a stick. Tell
and his wife hastened forward, and discovered, to their inconceivable
horror, that their friend was blind, his eyes having been put out with
hot irons. The hero of Bürgelen, burning with just indignation, called
on the old man to explain the fearful sight, and also the cause of
7. It appeared that that very morning the father, son, and
grand-daughter were in the fields loading a couple of oxen with
produce for the market-town, when an Austrian soldier presented
himself, and, having examined the animals, which appeared to suit his
fancy, ordered their owner to unyoke the beasts preparatory to his
driving them off. Adding insolence to tyranny, he further remarked
that such clod-poles might very well draw their own plows and carts.
Arnold, furious at the man's daring impertinence, was only restrained
by his father's earnest entreaties from sacrificing the robber on the
spot; nothing, however, could prevent him from aiming a blow at the
soldier, which broke two of his fingers.
8. The enraged soldier then retreated; but old Melchthal, who well
knew the character of Gessler, immediately forced Arnold, much against
his inclination, to go and conceal himself for some days in the Righi.
Scarcely had Arnold departed in this direction, when a detachment of
guards from Altorf surrounded their humble tenement, and dragged old
Melchthal before Gessler, who ordered him to give up his son. Furious
at the refusal which ensued, the tyrant commanded the old man's eyes
to be put out, and then sent him forth blind to deplore his
9. Tell heard the story of Melchthal in silence, and, when he had
finished, inquired the exact spot of his son's concealment. The father
replied that it was in a particular cavern of Mount Righi, the desert
rocks of which place are unknown to the emissaries of the governor,
and there he had promised to remain until he received his parent's
permission to come forth. This Tell requested might be granted
immediately; and, turning to his son, ordered him to start at once for
the Righi with a message to Arnold. Walter obeyed gladly; and,
providing himself with food, and receiving private instructions from
his father, went on his journey under cover of the night.
10. Tell himself then threw around his own person a cloak of
wolf-skin, seized his quiver full of sharp arrows, and, taking his
terrible bow, which few could bend, in hand, bade adieu to his wife
for a few days, and took his departure in an opposite direction from
that pursued by his son. It was quite dawn when Walter reached the
Righi, and a slight column of blue smoke speedily directed him to the
spot where Arnold lay concealed. The intrusion at first startled the
fugitive; but, recognizing Tell's son, he listened eagerly to his
dismal story, the conclusion of which roused in him so much fury that
he would have rushed forth at once to assassinate Gessler had not
Walter restrained him.
11. Schooled by Tell, he informed him that his father was engaged in
preparing vengeance for the tyrant's crime, being at that moment with
Werner Stauffacher concerting proper measures of resistance. "'Go,'
said my father, 'and tell Arnold of this new villany of the
governor's, and say that it is not rage which can give us just
revenge, but the utmost exertion of courage and prudence. I leave
Schwytz to bid Werner arm his canton: let Melchthal go to Stautz and
prepare the men of Unterwalden for the outbreak; having done this, let
him meet me, with Fürst and Werner, in the field of Grütli!'"
12. Arnold, scarcely taking time to refresh himself with food, sent
Walter on his homeward journey, while he started for Stautz. Walter,
when alone, turned his steps toward Altorf, where unfortunately, and
unknown to himself, he came into the presence of Gessler, to whom he
uttered somewhat hard things about the state of the country, being led
to commit himself by the artful questions of the tyrant, who
immediately ordered the lad into confinement, with strict injunctions
to the guards to seize whomsoever should claim him.
13. Meanwhile, certain doubts and fears, from he knew not what cause,
arose in the mind of Gessler, and struck him with a presentiment that
all was not right. He imagined that the people wore in their looks
less abject submission to his authority, and, the better to satisfy
himself of the correctness or erroneousness of this view, he commanded
Berenger to erect at dawn of day, in the market-place of Altorf, a
pole, on the point of which he was to place the ducal cap of Austria.
An order was further promulgated, to the effect that every one passing
near or within sight of it should make obeisance, in proof of his
honor and fealty to the duke.
14. Numerous soldiers under arms were directed to surround the place,
to keep the avenues, and to compel the passers-by to bend with proper
respect to the emblem of the governing power of the three cantons.
Gessler likewise determined that whoever should disobey the mandate
should be accused of disaffection, and treated accordingly; a measure
which promised both to discover the discontented, and furnish
sufficient grounds for their punishment. Numerous detachments of
troops, among whom money had been previously distributed, were then
placed around to see that his commands were scrupulously obeyed.
History scarcely records another instance of tyranny so galling and
humiliating to the oppressed, and so insolent on the part of its
15. The proceedings of Tell in the interval were of the deepest
concern to the country. Having arrived within the territory of
Schwytz, and at the village of Stainea, he called at the house of
Werner, and, being admitted, threw at his feet a heavy bundle of
lances, arrows, cross-bows, and swords. "Werner Stauffacher," cried
Tell, "the time is come for action!" and without a moment's delay he
informed his friend of all that had passed, dwelling minutely on every
detail. And, when he had at length finished, the cautious Werner could
restrain his wrath no longer, but exclaimed, clasping the hero's hand,
"Friend, let us begin; I am ready!" After further brief conference,
they, by separate ways, carried round arms to their friends in the
town and neighboring villages. Many hours were thus consumed; and,
when their weapons were at last distributed, they both returned to
Stauffacher's house, snatched some slight refreshment, and then sped
on their way to Grütli, accompanied by ten of their most tried
16. The lake of Lucerne was soon reached, and a boat procured. Werner,
perceiving the furious tempest, inquired of Tell if his skill would
enable him to struggle against the storm. "Arnold awaits us!" cried
William; "and the fate of our country depends on this interview!" With
these words he leaped into the boat, Werner jumped after him, and the
rest followed. Tell cast loose the agitated vessel, seized the tiller,
and, hoisting sail, the little craft flew along the waves.
17. Presently, it is said, the wind moderated, and ere they reached
the opposite side had ceased altogether—a phenomenon common in these
mountain lakes. The boat was now made fast, and the conspirators
hastened to the field of Grütli, where, at the mouth of a cavern of
the same name, Arnold and Walter Fürst awaited them, each with ten
other companions. Tell allowed no consideration of natural feeling to
silence the calls of duty, but at once came to the point. He first
gave a brief sketch of the state of the country under the Austrian
bailiffs, and, having shown to the satisfaction of his companions the
necessity for immediate and combined action, is related to have added:
"We may have our plans frustrated by delay, and the time has come for
action. I ask only a few days for preparation. Unterwalden and Schwytz
are armed. Three hundred and fifty warriors are, I am assured, ready.
I will remain in Altorf, and, as soon as I receive tidings from Fürst,
will fire a huge pile of wood near my house. At this signal let all
march to the rendezvous, and, when united, we will pour down upon
Altorf, where I will then strive to rouse the people!"
18. This plan of the campaign was agreed to; and it was further
resolved that, in the enterprise upon which they were now embarked, no
one should be guided by his own private opinion, nor ever forsake his
friends; that they should jointly live or jointly die in defense of
the common cause; that each should in his own vicinity promote the
object in view, trusting that the whole nation would one day have
cause to bless their friendly union; that the Count of Hapsburg should
be deprived of none of his lands, vassals, or prerogatives; that the
freedom which they had inherited from their fathers they were
determined to assert, and to hand down to their children untainted and
undiminished. Then Stauffacher, Fürst, and Melcthal, and the other
conspirators, stepped forward, and, raising their hands, swore that
they would die in defense of that freedom. After this solemn oath, and
after an agreement that New Year's Day should be chosen for the
outbreak, unless, in the meantime, a signal fire should arouse the
inhabitants on some sudden emergency, the heroes separated. Arnold
returned to Stautz, Werner to Schwytz, while Tell and Fürst took their
way to Altorf. The sun already shone brightly as Tell entered the
town, and he at once advanced into the public place, where the first
object which caught his eye was a handsome cap embroidered with gold
stuck upon the end of a long pole. Soldiers walked around it in
respectful silence, and the people of Altorf, as they passed, bowed
their heads profoundly to the symbol of power.
19. Tell was much surprised at this new and strange manifestation of
servility, and, leaning on his cross-bow, gazed contemptuously both on
the people and the soldiers. Berenger, captain of the guard, at length
observed this man, who alone, amid a cringing populace, carried his
head erect. He went to him, and fiercely asked why he neglected to pay
obedience to the orders of Hermann Gessler? Tell replied that he saw
no reason why he should bow to a hat, or even to the one which the hat
represented. This bold language surprised Berenger, who ordered Tell
to be disarmed, and then, surrounded by guards, he was carried before
the governor. "Wherefore," demanded the incensed bailiff, "Hast thou
disobeyed my orders, and failed in thy respect to the emperor? Why
hast thou dared to pass before the sacred badge of thy sovereign
without the evidence of homage required of thee?" "Verily," answered
Tell, with mock humility, "how this happened I know not; 'tis an
accident, and no mark of contempt. Suffer me, therefore, in thy
clemency to depart."
20. Gessler was irritated at this reply, feeling assured that there
was something beneath the tranquil and bitter smile of the prisoner
which he could not fathom. Suddenly he was struck by the resemblance
which existed between him and the boy Walter, whom he had met the
previous day, and immediately ordered him to be brought forward.
21. Gessler now inquired the prisoner's name, which he no sooner
learned than he recognized as that of the archer so celebrated
throughout the canton. As soon as the youth arrived, the governor
turned to Tell and told him that he had heard of his extraordinary
dexterity, and was accordingly determined to put it to proof. "While
beholding justice done, the people of Altorf shall also admire thy
skill. Thy son shall be placed a hundred yards distant, with an apple
on his head; if thou hast the good fortune to carry off the apple in
triumph with one of thy arrows, I pardon both, and restore your
liberty. If thou refusest this trial, thy son shall die before thine
22. Tell implored Gessler to spare him so cruel an experiment, but,
finding the governor inexorable, the hero submitted to the trial. He
was conducted into the public place, where the required distance was
measured by Berenger—a double row of soldiers shutting up three sides
of the square. The people, awe-stricken and trembling, pressed behind.
Walter stood with his back to a linden tree, patiently awaiting the
exciting moment. Hermann Gessler, some distance behind, watched every
motion. His cross-bow and belt were handed to Tell; he tried the
point, broke the weapon, and demanded his quiver. It was brought to
him, and emptied at his feet. William stooped down, and, taking a long
time to choose one, managed to hide a second in his girdle; the other
he held in his hand, and proceeded to string his bow, while Berenger
cleared away the remaining arrows. After hesitating, he drew the bow,
aimed, shot, and the apple, struck through the core, was carried away
by the arrow.
23. The market-place was filled by loud cries of admiration. Walter
flew to embrace his father, who, overcome by the excess of his
emotions, fell insensible to the ground, thus exposing the second
arrow to view. Gessler stood over him awaiting his recovery, which
speedily took place. Tell rose, and turned away from the governor,
who, however, thus addressed him: "Incomparable archer! I will keep my
promise; but," added he, "tell me what needed you with that second
arrow which you have, I see, secreted in your girdle? One was surely
enough." "The second shaft," replied Tell, "was to pierce thy heart,
tyrant, if I had chanced to harm my son!" At these words the terrified
governor retired behind his guards, revoked his promise of pardon,
commanding him further to be placed in irons, and to be reconducted to
the fort. He was obeyed, and, as slight murmurs rose among the people,
double patrols of Austrian soldiers paraded the streets, and forced
the citizens to retire to their houses. Walter, released, fled to join
Arnold, of Melchthal, according to a whispered order from his father.
24. Gessler, reflecting on the aspect of the people, and fearful that
some plot was in progress, which his accidental shortness of
provisions rendered more unfortunate, determined to rid his citadel of
the object which might induce an attack. With this in view, he
summoned Berenger, and said to him: "I am about to leave Altorf, and
you shall command during my absence. I leave my brave soldiers, who
will readily obey your voice; and soon, returning with supplies and
reinforcements, we will crush this vile people, and punish them for
their insolent murmurings. Prepare me a large boat, in which thirty
men, picked from my guard, may depart with me. As soon as night comes
on, load this audacious Tell with chains, and send him on board. I
will myself take him where he can expiate his crimes!"
25. The evening was fine and promising; the boat danced along the
placid waters. The air was pure, the waves tranquil, the stars shone
brightly in the sky. A light southern breeze aided the efforts of the
oarsmen, and tempered the rigor of the cold, which night in that
season rendered almost insupportable so near the glaciers. All
appeared in Gessler's favor. The extent of the first section of the
lake was soon passed, and the boat headed for Brunnen. Tell, meantime,
loaded with irons, gazed with eager eye on the desert rocks of Grütli,
where the day before he had planned with his friends for the
deliverance of his country. While painful thoughts crossed his mind,
his looks were attracted by a dim light which burst forth near his own
house. Presently this light increased, and before long a blaze arose
visible all over Uri. The heart of the prisoner beat with joy, for he
felt that all efforts were making to rescue him. Gessler observed the
flame, which in reality was a signal-fire to arouse the cantons, but
supposed it some Swiss peasant's house accidentally in flames.
26. Suddenly, however, between Fluelen and Sissigen, when in deep
water, intermingled with shoals, the south wind ceased to blow, and
one of those storms which are common on the lake commenced. A north
wind burst upon them, raised the waves to a great height, and dashed
them over the gunwale of the boat, which, giving way to the fury of
the storm, flew toward the shore that, rocky and precipitous, menaced
their lives. The bleak wind brought also frost, snow, and sleet, which
spread darkness over the waters, and covered the hands and faces of
the rowers with ice. The soldiers, inert and panic-stricken, prayed
for life, while Gessler, but ill prepared for death, was profuse in
his offers of money and other rewards if they would rouse themselves
to save him.
27. In this emergency the Austrian bailiff was reminded by one of his
attendants that the prisoner Tell was no less skillful in the
management of a boat than in the exercise of the bow. "And, see, my
lord," said one of the men, representing to Gessler the imminent peril
they were all incurring, "all are paralyzed with terror, and even the
pilot is unable to manage the helm!"
28. Gessler's fear of Tell induced him at first to hesitate, but, the
prayers of the soldiers becoming pressing, he told the prisoner that
if he could take them safely through the storm he should be at once
unbound. Tell having replied that, by the grace of God, he could still
save them, was instantly freed from his shackles and placed at the
helm, when the boat, answering to a master-hand, kept its course
steadily through the bellowing surge, as if conscious of the free
spirit which had now taken the command.
29. Guiding the obedient tiller at his will, Tell pointed the head of
the boat in the direction whence they came, which he knew to be the
only safe course; and, encouraging and cheering the rowers, made rapid
and steady progress through the water. The darkness which now wrapped
them round prevented Gessler from discovering that he had turned his
back on his destination. Tell continued on his way nearly the whole
night, the dying light of the signal-fire on the mountain serving as a
beacon in enabling him to approach the shores of Schwytz, and to avoid
30. Between Sissigen and Fluelen are two mountains, the greater and
the lesser Achsenberg, whose sides, hemmed in and rising
perpendicularly from the bed of the lake, offer not a single platform
where human foot can stand. When near this place dawn broke in the
eastern sky, and Gessler—the danger appearing to decrease—scowled
upon Tell in sullen silence. As the prow of the vessel was driven
inland, Tell perceived a solitary table-rock, and called to the
rowers to redouble their efforts till they should have passed the
precipice ahead, observing with ominous truth that it was the most
dangerous point on the whole lake.
31. The soldiers here recognized their position, and pointed it out to
Gessler, who demanded of Tell what he meant by taking them back to
Altorf. William, without answering him, brought the bow suddenly close
upon the rock, seized his bow, and, with an effort which sent the
unguided craft back into the lake, sprang on shore, scaled the rocks,
and took the direction of Schwytz.
32. Having thus escaped the clutches of the governor, he made for the
main road between Art and Küssnacht, and there hid himself until such
a time as the bailiff should pass that way. Gessler and his attendants
having, with great difficulty, effected a landing at Brunnen,
proceeded toward Küssnacht. In the spot still known as "the hollow
way," and marked by a chapel, Tell overheard the threats pronounced
against himself should he once more be caught, and, in default of his
apprehension, vengeance was vowed against his family. Tell felt that
the safety of himself and his wife and children, to say nothing of the
duty he owed to his country, required the tyrant's death; and, seizing
an arrow, he pierced Gessler to the heart.
33. The bold deed accomplished, the hero effected his escape to
Stemen, where he found Werner Stauffacher preparing to march.
Immediate action was now necessary, but the original decision of the
conspirators remained unchanged. Accordingly, on the morning of New
Year's Day, 1308, the castle of Rostberg, in Obwalden, was taken
possession of, its keeper, Berenger, of Landasberg, made prisoner, and
compelled to promise that he would never again set foot within the
territory of the three cantons, after which he was allowed to retire
34. Stauffacher, the same morning, at the head of the men of Schwytz,
destroyed the fortress of Schwanan, while Tell and the men of Uri took
possession of Altorf. On the following Sunday the deputies of Uri,
Schwytz, and Unterwalden met, and renewed that fraternal league which
has endured to this day.
35. In 1315 Leopold, second son of Albert, determined to punish the
confederate cantons for their revolt, and accordingly marched against
them at the head of a considerable army, accompanied by a numerous
retinue of nobles. Count Otho, of Strasberg, one of his ablest
generals, crossed the Brunig with a body of four thousand men,
intending to attack Upper Unterwalden. The bailiffs of Willisan, of
Wodhausen, and of Lucerne meantime armed a fourth of that number to
make a descent on the lower division of the same canton, while the
emperor in person, at the head of his army of reserve, poured down
from Egerson on Mogarten, in the country of Schwytz, ostentatiously
displaying an extensive supply of rope where with to hang the chiefs
of the rebels.
36. The confederates, in order to oppose this formidable invasion,
occupied a position in the mountains bordering on the convent of Our
Lady of the Hermits. Four hundred men of Uri, and three hundred of
Unterwalden, had effected a junction with the warriors of Schwytz, who
formed the principal force of the little army. Fifty men, banished
from this latter canton, offered themselves to combat beneath their
banner, intending to efface by their valor the remembrance of past
faults. Early on the morning of November 15, 1315, some thousands of
well-armed Austrian knights slowly ascended the hill on which the
Swiss were posted, with the hope of dislodging them; the latter,
however, advanced to meet their enemies, uttering the most terrific
cries. The band of banished men, having precipitated large stones and
fragments of rocks from the hillsides and from overhanging cliffs,
rushed from behind the sheltering influence of a thick fog and threw
the advancing columns into confusion. The Austrians immediately broke
their ranks, and presently a complete rout, with terrible slaughter,
ensued. The flower of the Austrian chivalry perished on the field of
Morgarten, beneath the halberts, arrows, and iron-headed clubs of the
shepherds. Leopold, himself, though he succeeded in gaining the
shattered remnant of his forces, had a narrow escape, while the Swiss,
animated by victory, hastened to Unterwalden, where they defeated
another body of Austrians. In this instance Count Otho had as narrow
an escape as the emperor.
37. After these two well-fought fields, the confederates hastened to
renew their ancient alliance, which was solemnly sworn to in an
assembly held at Brunnen on the eighth day of December.
38. After the battle of Morgarten one canton after another threw off
the Austrian yoke, and joined the forest cantons, until nearly all
Switzerland was joined in a confederacy. A later war waged by Albert
proved disastrous to the Austrian cause, and ended by a further
consolidation of the Swiss cantons. In 1356, seventy years after
Morgarten, the Austrians made another attempt to bring the brave
mountaineers into subjection. An army of nine thousand men, the best
trained soldiers of the empire, under the lead of the Archduke
Leopold, invaded the country. To these the confederates opposed a
force of fourteen hundred. They met in a valley near the lake of
Sempach. The Austrians had learned something of Swiss warfare, and
knew that they stood no chance in a hand-to-hand conflict with the
Swiss, and so they formed their men into squares, with a wall of
bristling spears on every side. Upon this solid mass of men the Swiss
could make no impression. In vain they charged with the fiery courage
which had so often gained them the victory; they could find no
vulnerable point in the serried columns, and it seemed that the brave
mountaineers must all perish, and leave their homes again to the mercy
of the Austrian soldiers. But, when almost in despair, the tide of
battle was turned by the acts of a single Swiss soldier, Arnold
Winkelried, of Unterwalden. He communicated his plan to his immediate
neighbors, and then, rushing forward, he grasped as many of the
Austrian spears as he could reach; and, gathering them together, he
bowed to the ground with the spears buried in his breast. Into the
breach his companions rushed, and with their powerful swords they soon
widened the space, so that the whole Swiss force had room for action.
The Austrians were almost annihilated, Leopold himself being slain.
The poet Montgomery has given the following version of this event:
39. "Make way for liberty!" he cried;
"Make way for liberty!" and died.
40. In arms the Austrian phalanx stood,
A living wall, a human wood!
A wall where every conscious stone
Seemed to its kindred thousands grown;
A rampart all assaults to bear,
Till time to dust their frames should wear!
A wood, like that enchanted grove
In which with fiends Rinaldo strove,
Where every silent tree possessed
A spirit prisoned in its breast,
Which the first stroke of coming strife
Would startle into hideous life;
So dense, so still, the Austrians stood,
A living wall, a human wood!
Impregnable their front appears,
All horrent with projected spears,
Whose polished points before them shine,
From flank to flank, one brilliant line,
Bright as the breakers' splendors run
Along the billows, to the sun.
41. Opposed to these, a hovering band
Contended for their native land;
Peasants, whose new-found strength had broke
From manly necks the ignoble yoke,
And forged their fetters into swords,
On equal terms to fight their lords
And what insurgent rage had gained,
In many a mortal fray maintained!
Marshaled at morn at Freedom's call,
They come to conquer or to fall,
Where he who conquered, he who fell,
Was deemed a dead, or living Tell!
Such virtue had that patriot breathed,
So to the soil his soul bequeathed,
That wheresoe'er his arrows flew,
Heroes in his own likeness grew,
And warriors sprang from every sod
Which his awakening footstep trod.
42. And now the work of life and death
Hung on the passing of a breath;
The fire of conflict burnt within,
The battle trembled to begin;
Yet, while the Austrians held their ground,
Point for attack was nowhere found.
Where'er the impatient Switzers gazed,
The unbroken line of lances blazed;
That line 'twere suicide to meet,
And perish at their tyrant's feet
How could they rest within their graves,
And leave their homes the homes of slaves?
Would they not feel their children tread
With clanging chains above their head?
43. It must not! This day, this hour,
Annihilates the oppressor's power;
All Switzerland is in the field,
She will not fly, she can not yield—
She must not fall; her better fate
Here gives her an immortal date.
Few were the numbers she could boast;
But every freeman was a host,
And felt as though himself were he
On whose sole arm hung victory!
44. It did depend on one, indeed,
Behold him—Arnold Winkelried
There sounds not to the tramp of fame
The echo of a nobler name.
Unmarked he stood amid the throng,
In rumination deep and long,
Till you might see, with sudden grace,
The very thought come o'er his face,
And by the motion of his form
Anticipate the coming storm;
And by the uplifting of his brow
Tell where the bolt would strike, and how.
45. But 'twas no sooner thought and done,
The field was in a moment won.
46. "Make way for Liberty!" he cried;
Then ran with arms extended wide
As if his dearest friend to clasp;
Ten spears he swept within his grasp.
"Make way for Liberty!" he cried:
Their keen points met from side to side;
He bowed among them like a tree,
And thus made way for Liberty!
47. Swift to the breach his comrades fly;
"Make way for Liberty!" they cry.
And through the Austrian phalanx dart,
As rushed the spears through Arnold's heart!
While instantaneous as his fall,
Rout, ruin, panic, scattered all
An earthquake could not overthrow
A city with a surer blow.
48. Thus Switzerland again was free,
Thus death made way for Liberty!
49. In the next fifty years the Swiss were engaged in a war with
Austria and another with France, and in both cases they were
victorious. But, while they were exhausted by the incessant wars that
had been urged upon them, they were threatened with a more formidable
invasion than ever. Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, resolved to
attach Switzerland to his domain. Crossing the Jura, the duke found
himself in possession of Yverdun, it having been betrayed into his
hands; but the citadel still held out. Charles, irritated that his
progress should be stayed by such a handful of men, offered to let
them retire home if they would surrender, but if they still held out
he would hang them all! The Swiss, knowing prolonged defense was
useless, surrendered. As they marched out of the citadel they were
seized, by order of the duke, and all murdered.
50. Aroused by these horrors, an army of twenty thousand advanced to
meet the duke at the head of three times that number. In the battle
that ensued the Burgundians were entirely defeated, and Charles
narrowly escaped with his life. Writhing under his disgrace, and
vowing revenge, the duke raised a much more numerous army, and again
51. He advanced by the way of the lake of Neufchatel, and paused a few
days to capture the fortress on the banks of Lake Morat. While the
siege was going on the Swiss army concentrated, and marched to meet
their foes. Thirty thousand men were to fight the battle of freedom
against one hundred thousand. It was on Saturday, June 22, 1476. The
weather was threatening, the sky overcast, and rain fell in torrents.
A vanguard was formed, commanded by John Hallwyl, who knelt and
besought a blessing from on high. While they yet prayed the sun broke
through the clouds, upon which the Swiss commander rose, sword in
hand, crying: "Up, up, Heaven smiles on our victory!" The artillery
thundered forth as he spoke, and the whole plain, from the lake to the
rocky heights, became one vast battle-field! Toward the main body of
the Burgundians the Swiss army poured down with irresistible force and
courage; and, clearing all difficulties, they reached the line of the
enemy. A fearful slaughter now ensued. The Burgundians were utterly
vanquished. The haughty duke, pale and dispirited, fled with a few
followers, and never stopped till he reached the banks of Lake Leman.
The rout was so complete that many of the Burgundians, in terror and
despair, threw themselves into the Lake of Morat, the banks of which
were strewed with the bodies of the slain.
52. The battle of Morat lives in history with the victories of
Marathon and Bannockburn. In each, freedom for the nation was secured,
and liberty for man was preserved and transmitted. As a deed, the
Swiss victory for ever freed a people from a grasping foreign tyrant;
and it is a matter of rejoicing to all who love liberty till to-day,
and, like other great events, it is the subject of national traditions.
53. According to one of these, a young native of Friburg, who had been
engaged in the battle, keenly desirous of being the first to carry
home tidings of the victory, ran the whole way—a distance of ten or
twelve miles—and with such overhaste that on his arrival at the
market-place he dropped with fatigue, and, barely able to shout that
the Swiss were victorious, immediately expired. A twig of lime-tree,
which he carried in his hand, was planted on the spot in commemoration
of this event; and till the present day are seen, in the market-place
of Friburg, the aged and propped-up remains of the venerable tree
which grew from this twig. In most of the towns of Switzerland a "tree
of Liberty" is preserved, which came from scions of the original tree
BRUCE AND BANNOCKBURN.
1. Six hundred years ago the duty of defending freedom fell to King
Robert Bruce and the Scotch. And this is how it happened. The time was
during the crusades, when all Europe was marching to the East, and
engaging in battle with the Moslems. Scotland had been an independent
country for many years, but some of her princes were too weak for
those troublous times. The witches that deceived Macbeth seem to have
cast a spell upon the prosperity of the country. Clan was at enmity
with clan, and one great chieftain waged relentless war with another.
The fierce nobles paid little heed to the king, and showed no regard
for the rights of the people. It seemed that peace and liberty had
2. Alexander III died, leaving no direct heir. The Scottish nobles
assembled to elect who should be their king. The choice lay between
Robert Bruce and John Balliol. As the nobles could not agree, the
matter was referred to King Edward I, of England, who decided in favor
of Balliol. The new prince was weak, and, when he resented the
interference of King Edward in some of his affairs, he was easily
defeated and driven from the kingdom. Scotland was now regarded as a
conquered country, and the people were terribly oppressed. The nobles
were deprived of their estates, and the poor people were taxed to the
verge of starvation. For fifteen years King Edward held on to his
usurped power, while the weak king Balliol was wandering in foreign
lands, paying no attention to the distracted state of his country.
3. At last the oppression became so great that conflicts took place
almost daily between the Scotch peasants and the English soldiery. On
one occasion, a young man named William Wallace was out a-fishing with
a boy to carry the fish. Two or three English soldiers came along and
insisted on taking the fish. Wallace offered to divide with them, but
they insisted on taking the whole, when he flew in a rage, killed one
with his fishing-pole, and, seizing a sword, put the others to flight.
He then fled, and concealed himself in the mountains until the matter
blew over. On another occasion he killed an Englishman who insulted
him at a fair, and fled to his home, where he was pursued by the
soldiers. He escaped by the back door, but the cruel English leader,
Hazelrigg, put his wife and servants to death. From that time Wallace
devoted himself to fighting the English. He soon collected a band of
outlaws and attacked the English whereever he found a favorable
opportunity. He soon had the satisfaction of killing Hazelrigg, and of
capturing many important places.
4. The Scotch rose everywhere and joined Wallace, who soon found
himself at the head of a formidable army. With this lie captured the
English fortresses, and finally defeated the chief English army under
Earl Warren. Scotland was now free, but the English king hastened back
from Flanders to punish the Scotch. The battle of Falkirk was fought
July 22, 1298, and the Scotch were entirely defeated. Wallace again
became a fugitive, but was betrayed into the hands of Edward, and was
beheaded and quartered, according to the barbarous custom of the
5. The eyes of all Scotland were now turned to Robert Bruce as the
only remaining champion who would be likely to make head against the
English, and he accepted the proffered leadership. His principal rival
was a powerful noble called the Red Comyn, and with this rival Bruce
sought to make friends. The two met in a church, and Comyn flatly
refused to join the Scottish cause, but openly proclaimed his
adherence to the English. A quarrel arose, and, in the excitement,
Bruce stabbed Comyn. Almost paralyzed at his act, he rushed out of the
house and called for his horse. His friends eagerly inquired what was
the matter. "I doubt," said Bruce, "that I have slain the Red Comyn."
"Do not leave the matter in doubt," said Kirkpatrick; "I will make it
certain." He and his companions then rushed into the church and soon
dispatched Comyn with their daggers.
6. This deed is the one great blot upon the name of Bruce, and
bitterly did he repent of his rashness. It called down upon his
devoted head the anathema of the church for sacrilege in committing
violence before the holy altar. It arrayed against him the kinsmen and
friends of the Red Comyn, and it produced distrust in the minds of
many true friends of Scotland, who could never have confidence in such
an impetuous leader. Bruce made a vow that, if he succeeded in
securing the freedom of Scotland, he would do penance for his crime by
entering upon a crusade and fighting for the holy sepulchre.
7. On the 29th of March, 1306, Bruce was crowned king. His enemies
immediately attacked and defeated him, and he was obliged to take
refuge in the mountains of the Highlands. Here he was hunted like a
wild animal, and was obliged to flee from one fastness to another. One
of the most malignant of his enemies was Lord Lorn, a kinsman of the
Red Comyn. At one time Bruce and his few followers were retreating
through a narrow pass, when he was set upon by Lorn and a much
superior force. Sending his followers ahead, he stopped his horse in
the narrow way, and covered their retreat. Upon seeing the king thus
alone, three powerful highlandmen—a father and two sons—set upon
him, determined to kill him or take him prisoner for their master,
Lord Lorn. Bruce struck the first man who came up and seized his
bridle such a blow with his sword as to cut off his hand and free the
bridle. The man bled to death. The other brother seized him by the leg
and attempted to throw him from his horse. The king, setting spurs to
the horse, made the animal spring forward so that the Highlander fell
under the horse's feet, and, as he endeavored to rise, the king cleft
his head in two with his sword. The father, seeing his two sons thus
slain, flew at Bruce and grasped him in his mantle so close to his
body that he could not have room to wield his long sword. But with an
iron hammer which hung at his saddle-bow, Bruce dashed out the brains
of this new assailant. The dying man still clung to the king's mantle,
so that, to get free, Bruce was obliged to undo the brooch by which it
was fastened, and leave it with the mantle behind. This brooch fell
into the hands of Lorn, and was kept in the family for many
generations as a memorial of Bruce.
8. But Bruce was soon reduced to greater straits, and, without
followers, was obliged to conceal himself in stables and caves. In all
his misfortunes he never gave up the cause of his country, and he
sacredly devoted his life to the freedom of Scotland. After one of his
defeats he was lying one night on a wretched bed in a rude hut, while
debating in his own mind whether it were not best to enlist in a
crusade, when his attention was directed to a spider on the rafters
overhead. He saw that the little spinner was trying to swing from one
rafter to another, so as to fix his thread across the space. Time and
again it tried and failed. Admiring the perseverance of the creature,
Bruce began to count the number of times he tried. One, two, three,
four, five, six. It suddenly occurred to Bruce that this was just the
number of times he had failed in his attempts against the enemy. He
then made up his mind that if the spider succeeded in the next trial
he would make one more endeavor to recover his kingdom, but if it
failed he would start at once for Palestine. The spider sprang into
the air, and this time succeeded, so the king resolved upon another
trial, and never after met with a defeat.
[Illustration: Edinburgh Castle]
9. Many a wild story is told of his feats of arms and hairbreadth
escapes while he wandered about without a country. Sir Walter Scott,
in his poem, "The Lord of the Isles," records one of these legends. It
is reported that, on one occasion, with his brother Edward and sister
Isabel in a boat, he was driven by stress of weather to take refuge in
one of the Hebrides upon the western coast, the home of Roland, the
Lord of the Isles. It happened to be a festive occasion, a large
assembly having met to celebrate the marriage of the Lord of the Isles
with the sister of the Lord of Lorn. As Bruce entered the
banquet-hall, Lorn recognized him:
10. "Now, by Columba's shrine I swear,
And every saint that's buried there,
'Tis he himself!" Lorn sternly cries;
"And for my kinsman's death he dies!"
As loudly Roland calls, "Forbear!
Not in my sight while brand I wear,
O'ermatched by odds shall warrior fall,
Or blood of stranger stain my hall!
This ancient fortress of my race
Shall be misfortune's resting-place,
Shelter or shield of the distressed,
No slaughter-house of shipwrecked guest!"
11. "Talk not to me," fierce Lorn replied,
"Of odds or match! When Comyn died,
Three daggers clashed within his side!
Talk not to me of sheltering hall,
The church of God saw Comyn fall!
On God's own altar streamed his blood,
While o'er my prostrate kinsman stood
The ruthless murderer—e'en as now—
With armèd hand and scornful brow!
Up, all who love me! blow on blow,
And lay the outlawed felons low!"
* * * * *
12. Then waked the wild debate again,
With brawling threat and clamor vain,
Vassals and menials thronging in,
Lent their brute rage to swell the din;
When far and wide a bugle clang
From the dark, ocean upward rang.
"The abbot comes!" they cried at once,
"The holy man whose favored glance
Hath sainted visions known;
Angels have met him on the way,
Beside the blessed martyr's bay,
And by Columba's stone.
He comes our feuds to reconcile,
A sainted man from sainted isle;
We will his holy will abide,
The abbot shall our strife decide!"
13. The abbot on the threshold stood,
And in his hands the holy rood;
Back on his shoulders flowed his hood,
The torch's glaring ray
Showed, in its red and flashing light,
His withered cheek and amice white,
His blue eye glistening cold and bright,
His tresses scant and gray.
"Fair lords," he said, "our lady's love,
And peace be with you from above,
But what means this? no peace is here!
Do dirks unsheathed suit bridal cheer?
Or are these naked brands
A seemly show for churchman's sight,
When he comes summoned to unite
Betrothed hearts and hands?"
Then, cloaking hate with fiery zeal,
Proud Lorn answered the appeal:
"Thou comest, O holy man,
True sons of blessed church to greet,
But little deeming here to meet
A wretch, beneath the ban
Of pope and church, for murder done
Even on the sacred altar-stone!
Well may'st thou wonder we should know
Such miscreant here, nor lay him low,
Or dream of greeting, peace, or truce,
With excommunicated Bruce!
Yet will I grant, to end debate,
Thy sainted voice decide his fate."
14. Then Roland pled the stranger's cause
And knighthood's oath and honor's laws;
And Isabel on bended knee
Brought prayers and tears to back her plea;
And Edith lent her generous aid,
And wept, and Lorn for mercy prayed.
15. Then Argentine, in England's name,
So highly urged his sovereign's claim,
He waked a spark, that, long suppressed,
Had smoldered in Lord Roland's breast;
And now, as from the flint the fire,
Flashed forth at once his generous ire.
"Enough of noble blood," he said,
"By English Edward had been shed,
Since matchless Wallace first had been
In mockery crowned with wreaths of green,
And done to death by felon hand,
For guarding well his native land.
Where's Nigel Bruce? and De la Haye,
And valiant Seaton—where are they?
Where Somerville, the kind and free?
And Fraser, flower of chivalry?
Have they not been on gibbet bound,
Their quarters flung to hawk and hound,
And hold we here a cold debate
To yield more victims to their fate?
What! can the English leopard's mood
Never be gorged with Northern blood?
Was not the life of Athole shed
To soothe the tyrant's sickened bed?
Nor must his word, till dying day,
Be nought but quarter, hang, and slay?"
16. "Nor deem," said Dunnegan's knight,
"That thou shalt brave alone the fight!
By saints of isle and mainland both,
By woden wild—my grandsire's oath—
Let Rome and England do their worst;
Rowe'er attainted and accursed,
If Bruce shall e'er find friends again,
Once more to brave a battle-plain,
If Douglas couch again his lance,
Or Randolph dare another chance,
Old Torquil will not be to lack
With twice a thousand at his back;
Nay, chafe not at my bearing bold,
Good abbot! for thou knowest of old,
Torquil's rude thought and stubborn will
Smack of the wild Norwegian still
Nor will I barter freedom's cause
For England's wealth or Rome's applause!"
17. The abbot seemed with eye severe,
The hardy chieftain's speech to hear;
Then on King Robert turned the monk,
But twice his courage came and sunk,
Confronted with the hero's look;
Twice fell his eye, his accents shook;
At length resolved in tone and brow,
Sternly he questioned him, "And thou
Unhappy, what hast thou to plead,
Why I denounce not on thy deed
That awful doom which canons tell
Shuts paradise and opens hell?
Anathema of power so dread,
It blends the living with the dead,
Bids each good angel soar away,
And every ill one claim his prey;
Expels thee from the church's care,
And deafens Heaven against thy prayer;
Arms every hand against thy life,
Bans all who aid thee in the strife;
Nay, each whose succor, cold and scant,
With meanest alms relieves thy want;
Haunts thee when living; and, when dead,
Dwells on thy yet devoted head,
Rends honor's 'scutcheon from thy hearse,
Stills o'er thy bier the holy verse,
And spurns thy corpse from hallowed ground
Flung like vile carrion to the hound;
Such is the dire and desperate doom
For sacrilege, decreed by Rome;
And such the well-deserved meed
Of thine unhallowed, ruthless deed."
18. "Abbot!" the Bruce replied, "thy charge
It boots me not to dispute at large;
This much, howe'er, I bid thee know,
No selfish vengeance dealt the blow,
For Comyn died his country's foe.
Nor blame I friends whose ill-timed speed
Fulfilled my soon-repented deed,
Nor censure those from whose stern tongue
The dire anathema has rung.
I only blame my own wild ire,
By Scotland's wrongs incensed to fire.
Heaven knows my purpose to atone,
Far as I may, the evil done,
And bears a penitent's appeal,
From papal curse and prelate zeal.
My first and dearest task achieved,
Fair Scotland from her thrall relieved,
Shall many a priest in cope and stole
Say requiem for Red Comyn's soul,
While I the blessèd cross advance,
And expiate this unhappy chance
In Palestine, with sword and lance.
But, while content the church should know
My conscience owns the debt I owe,
Unto de Argentine and Lorn
The name of traitor I return,
Bid them defiance, stern and high,
And give them in their throats the lie!
These brief words spoke, I speak no more,
Do as thou wilt; my shrift is o'er."
19. Like man by prodigy amazed,
Upon the king the abbot gazed;
Then o'er his pallid features glance
Convulsions of ecstatic trance.
His breathing came more thick and fast,
And from his pale-blue eyes were cast
Strange rays of wild and wandering light;
Uprise his locks of silver white,
Flushed is his brow, through every vein
In azure tides the currents strain,
And undistinguished accents broke
The awful silence e'er he spoke.
20. "De Bruce, I rose with purpose dread
To speak my curse upon thy head,
And give thee as an outcast o'er
To him who burns to shed thy gore;
But like the Midianite of old
Who stood on Zophin, heaven-controlled,
I feel within my aged breast
A power that can not be repressed.
It prompts my voice, it swells my veins,
It burns, it maddens, it constrains!
De Bruce, thy sacrilegious blow
Hath at God's altar slain thy foe;
O'ermastered, yet by high behest,
I bless thee, and thou shalt be blest!"
He spoke, and o'er the astonished throng
Was silence, awful, deep and long.
Again that light has fired his eye,
Again his form swells bold and high,
The broken voice of age is gone,
'Tis vigorous manhood's lofty tone
"Thrice vanquished on the battle-plain,
Thy followers slaughtered, fled, or ta'en,
A hunted wanderer on the wild,
On foreign shores a man exiled,
Disowned, deserted, and distressed,
I bless thee, and thou shalt be blessed
Blessed in the hall and in the field,
Under the mantle as the shield.
Avenger of thy country's shame,
Restorer of her injured name,
Blessed in thy scepter and thy sword,
De Bruce, fair Scotland's rightful lord,
Blessed in thy deeds and in thy fame,
What lengthened honors wait thy name!
In distant ages, sire to son
Shall tell the tale of freedom won,
And teach his infants, in the use
Of earliest speech, to falter Bruce.
Go then, triumphant! sweep along
Thy course, the theme of many a song!
The power, whose dictates swell my breast,
Hath blessed thee, and thou shalt be blessed!"
21. With the faithful islanders Bruce remained for some months, while
his friends were making preparations for a rising upon the mainland.
At last the time came, and Bruce, at the head of a little force,
landed in the night and surprised and captured a castle held by the
Lord of Lorn. Holding this as a basis of operations, the king and his
principal followers, Douglas and Randolph, went out in different
directions to arouse the people against their English oppressors, and
to raise forces of sufficient strength to risk their cause in battle.
This was a matter of great hazard, as every movement of the Scotch was
closely watched by the enemy, and, when any one was suspected of
opposing the English rule, he was at once imprisoned and probably
executed. The patriots were obliged to move with great caution, and
often to secrete themselves in the fastnesses of the mountains or in
the lonely huts of the peasants. Blood-hounds were employed to track
the fugitives, and it is related that Lorn at one time followed Bruce
with a blood-hound that had once been his own. The king, seeing that
he was followed by a large body of soldiers, divided his men into
three separate parties, hoping to throw the hound off the track. The
blood-hound, when he came to the point of separation, would not even
notice the two other divisions, but followed that of the king. Finding
his last expedient had failed, Bruce ordered his whole party to
disperse, keeping with him only his foster-brother as an attendant.
When Lorn discovered the party had broken up, he sent five of his men
who were speedy on foot to follow the king and put him to death. They
ran so fast that they soon gained sight of Bruce and his companion.
The two turned upon the five men of Lorn, who came up one by one,
exhausted with running, and put them all to death.
22. By this time Bruce was much fatigued, but he dared not stop to
rest, for he could hear every moment the deep bay of the hound. At
length they came to a wood through which ran a small stream of water.
Into the stream they waded and followed it for a long distance; the
blood-hound followed the track to the water, but he could trace the
scent no farther, and Lorn gave up the chase. But Bruce's adventures
were not at an end. After resting themselves in the woods, the two set
out to find some human habitation, or to fall in with some party of
their friends. In the midst of the forest they met three men who
looked like ruffians. "They were well armed, and one of them bore a
sheep on his back, which it seemed he had just stolen. They saluted
the king civilly, and he, replying to their salutation, asked them
where they were going. The men answered that they were seeking for
Robert Bruce, for they intended to join him. The king answered that,
if they would go with him, he would conduct them where they could find
the Scottish king. Then the man who had spoken changed color, and
Bruce, who looked sharply at him, began to suspect that the ruffian
guessed who he was, and that he and his companions had some design
against his person, in order to gain the reward which had been offered
for his life.
23. "So he said to them, 'My good friends, as we are not well
acquainted with each other, you must go before us, and we will follow
near to you.' 'You have no occasion to suspect any harm from us,'
said the man. 'Neither do I suspect any,' said Bruce, I but this is
the way it, which I choose to travel.'
24. "The men did as he commanded, and thus they traveled till they
came to a waste and ruinous cottage, where the men proposed to dress
down part of the sheep which they were carrying. The king was glad to
hear of food, but he insisted that two fires should be kindled, one
for himself and foster-brother at one end of the cottage, the other at
the other end for the three companions. The men did as he desired.
They broiled a quarter of the mutton for themselves, and gave another
to the king and his attendant. They were obliged to eat it without
bread or salt; but, as they were very hungry, they were glad to get
food in any shape, and partook of it heartily.
25. "Then so heavy a drowsiness fell on King Robert that he greatly
desired to sleep. But, first, he desired his foster-brother to watch
as he slept, for he had great suspicion of his new acquaintances. His
foster-brother promised to keep awake, and did his best to so keep his
word. But the king had not been long asleep ere his foster-brother
fell into a deep slumber also, for he had under-gone as much fatigue
as the king.
26. "When the three villains saw the king and his attendant were
asleep, they made signs to each other, and, rising up, at once drew
their swords with the purpose to kill them both. But the king slept
but lightly, and, as little noise as the traitors made in rising, he
was awakened by it, and, starting up, drew his sword and went to meet
them. At the same moment he pushed his foster-brother with his foot to
awaken him, and he started up; but, ere he got his eyes cleared to see
what was about him, one of the ruffians that were advancing to slay
the king killed him with the stroke of a sword. The king was now
alone—one man against three, and in the greatest danger of his life;
but his amazing strength, and the good armor which he wore, freed him
from this great danger, and he killed the men one by one.
21. "King Robert was now alone, and he left the cottage very sorrowful
for the death of his foster-brother, and took himself in the direction
toward where he had directed his men to ensemble after their
dispersion. It was now near night, and, the place of meeting being a
farm-house, he went boldly into it, where he found the mistress, an
old true-hearted Scotchwoman, sitting alone. Upon seeing a stranger
enter, she asked him who and what he was. The king answered that he
was a traveler, who was journeying through the country. 'All
travelers,' answered the good woman, 'are welcome here for the sake of
one.' 'and who is that one,' said the king, 'for whose sake you make
all travelers welcome?' 'It is our lawful King Robert the Bruce,'
answered the mistress, 'who is the rightful lord of this country; and,
although he is now pursued and hunted after with hounds and horns, I
hope to live to see him king over all Scotland.'
28. "'Since you love him so well, dame,' said the king, 'know that you
see him before you. I am Robert the Bruce.' 'You!' said the good
woman in great surprise; 'and wherefore are you thus alone? Where are
all your men?' 'I have none with me at this moment,' answered the
Bruce, 'and therefore I must travel alone.' 'But that shall not be,'
said the brave old dame, 'for I have two stout sons, gallant and
trusty men, who shall be your servants for life and death!' So she
brought her sons, and, though she well knew the danger to which she
exposed them, she made them swear fealty to the king; and they
afterward became high officers in his service." Now the loyal old
woman was getting everything ready for the king's supper, when
suddenly there was a trampling of horse heard around the house. They
thought it must be some of the English or John of Lorn's men, and the
good wife called upon her sons to fight to the last for King Robert.
But, shortly after, the voices of James of Douglas and of Edward
Brute, the king's brother, were heard, who had come with a hundred and
fifty horsemen to this farm-house, according to the instructions of
the king when they parted.
"Robert the Bruce was right joyful to meet his brother and faithful
friend Lord James, and had no sooner found himself at the head of such
a considerable body of followers, than, forgetting hunger and
weariness he began to inquire where the enemy who had pursued him so
long had taken up their quarters; 'for,' said he, 'as they must
suppose we are totally scattered and fled, it is likely they will
think themselves quite secure, and disperse themselves into distant
quarters, and keep careless watch.'
"'That is very true,' answered James of Douglas; 'for I passed a
village where there are two hundred of them quartered who had placed
no sentinels; and, if you have a mind to make haste, we may surprise
them this very night.' Then there was nothing but mount and ride;
and, as the Scots came by surprise on the body of the English whom
Douglas had mentioned, and rushed suddenly into the village where they
were quartered, they easily dispersed and cut them to pieces; thus
doing their pursuers more injury than they themselves had received
during the long and severe pursuit of the preceding day."
On another occasion Bruce, with sixty men, was wandering in the county
of Galloway, awaiting the gathering of forces. Now the people of
Galloway are mostly friendly to the Lord of Lorn, and a large number
of them collected, determined to capture him. They felt sure of the
success of their enterprise, as they had a blood-hound to track the
king, and had such superior numbers.
33. "Now Bruce, who was always watchful and vigilant, had received
some information of this party to come upon him suddenly in the night.
Accordingly, he quartered his party of sixty men on the farther side
of a deep and swift-running river, that had very steep and rocky
banks. There was but one ford by which this river could be crossed in
the neighborhood, and that ford was deep and narrow, so that two men
could scarcely get through abreast; the bank on which they were to
land on the other side was steep, and the path that led upward from
the water's edge extremely narrow and difficult.
34. "Bruce caused his men to lie down and sleep, at a place about half
a mile distant from the river, while he, with two attendants, went
down to watch the ford, and thinking how easy the enemy might be kept
from passing there, providing it was bravely defended—when he heard
the distant baying of a hound, which was always coming nearer and
nearer. This was the blood-hound which was tracing the king's steps to
the ford where he had crossed, and the two hundred Galloway men were
along with the animal and guided by it. Bruce thought of going back to
awaken his men; but then he thought it might be some shepherd's dog.
'My men,' said he, 'are sorely tired; I will not disturb them by the
barking of a cur till I know something more of the matter.'
35. "So he stood and listened; and, by and by, as the cry of the hound
came nearer, he began to hear the trampling of horses, and the voices
of men, and the ringing and clattering of armor; and then he was sure
the enemy were coming to the river-side. Then the king thought, 'If I
go back to give my men the alarm, these Galloway men will get through
the ford without opposition, and that would be a pity, since it is a
place so advantageous to make a defense against them.' So he looked
again at the steep path and the deep river, and he thought it gave him
so much advantage that he could defend the passage with his own hand
until his men came to assist him. His armor was so good and strong
that he had no fears of their arrows, and therefore the combat was not
so very unequal as it must have otherwise seemed. He therefore sent
his followers to waken his men, and remained alone on the bank of the
36. "In the meanwhile the noise and the trampling of the horses
increased, and, the moon being bright, Bruce saw the glancing arms of
about two hundred men, who came down to the opposite bank of the
river. The men of Galloway, on their part, saw but one solitary figure
guarding the ford, and the foremost of them plunged into the river
without minding him. Bruce, who stood high above them on the bank
where they were to land, killed the foremost man with a thrust of his
long spear, and with a second thrust stabbed the horse, which fell
down, kicking and plunging in his agonies, on the narrow path, and so
preventing the others from getting out of the river. In the confusion
five or six of the enemy were slain, or, having been borne down the
current, were drowned in the river. The rest were terrified, and drew
37. "But, when they looked again and saw only one man, they themselves
being so many, they cried out that their honor would be lost forever
if they did not force their way; and encouraged each other with loud
cries to plunge in and assault him. But by this time the king's
soldiers came up to his assistance, and the Galloway men retreated and
gave up their enterprise."
38. These successes of Bruce inspired great confidence, and he soon
found himself at the head of a formidable force. With this he marched
up and down the country, and compelled the English to keep strictly
within their castles and fortified places; and even several of these
were captured. King Edward I, of England, heard of these successes of
Bruce with astonishment and rage. Though old and sorely diseased, he
raised a large army and marched for the north; but he had scarcely
crossed the Scottish border when his physician informed him that he
had but a few hours to live. He immediately called his son to his
bed-side, and made him swear that he would push forward this
expedition against the Bruce; and he died cursing the whole Scotch
people. He even gave direction that his body should be boiled, and
that his bones, wrapped in a bull's hide, should be carried at the
head of the army as often as the Scots attempted to recover their
39. Edward II was a weak prince, neither so wise nor so brave as his
father. He marched a little way on to Scotland, but, having no great
liking for war, he turned and marched back into England. He
disregarded his father's injunction about the disposition of his
bones, but took them back to London, and deposited them in Westminster
40. From this time the cause of Bruce was a succession of victories.
During the winter and spring one English fortress after another
surrendered, until there only remained the strong castle of Stirling
held by the English power. This castle was besieged, and Sir Philip
Mowbray, the commander, agreed to surrender it if it was not
reinforced by the English before midsummer. Then came a cessation of
hostilities, and a period of rest for the Scots. King Edward had made
no arrangement to again interfere in Scottish affairs. But now, when
Sir Philip Mowbray, the governor of Stirling, came to London to tell
the king that Stirling, the last Scottish town of importance which
remained in possession of the English, was to be surrendered if it
were not relieved by force of arms before midsummer, then all the
English nobles called out, it would be a sin and shame to permit the
fair conquest which Edward I had made to be forfeited to the Scots for
want of fighting. It was, therefore, resolved that the king should go
himself to Scotland with as great forces as he could possibly muster.
41. King Edward II, therefore, assembled one of the greatest armies
which a king of England ever commanded. There were troops brought from
all his dominions. Many brave soldiers from the French provinces which
the king of England enjoyed in France; many Irish, many Welsh, and all
the great English nobles and barons, with their followers, were
assembled in one great army. The number was not less than one hundred
42. King Robert the Bruce summoned all his nobles and barons to join
him, when he heard of the great preparation which the king of England
was making. They were not so numerous as the English by many thousand
men. In fact, his whole army did not very much exceed thirty thousand
men, and they were much worse armed than the wealthy Englishmen; but
then Robert, who was at their head, was one of the most expert
generals of the time, and the officers he had under him were his
brother Edward, his nephew Randolph, his faithful follower the
Douglas, and other brave and experienced leaders, who commanded the
same men that had been accustomed to fight and gain victories under
every disadvantage of situation and numbers.
43. The king, on his part, studied how he might supply, by address and
stratagem, what he wanted in numbers and strength. He knew the
superiority of the English both in their heavy-armed cavalry, which
were much better mounted and armed than those of the Scots, and in the
archery, in which art the English were better than any people in the
world. Both these advantages he resolved to provide against. With this
purpose, Bruce led his army down into a plain, near Stirling, called
the Park, near which, and beneath it, the English army must needs pass
through a boggy country, broken with water-courses, while the Scots
occupied hard, dry ground. He then caused all the hard ground upon the
front of his line of battle, where cavalry were likely to act, to be
dug full of holes, about as deep as a man's knee. They were filled
with light brushwood, and the turf was laid on the top, so that it
appeared a plain field, while in reality it was all as full of these
pits as a honeycomb is of holes. He also, it is said, caused steel
spikes, called calthrops, to be scattered up and down in the plain,
where the English cavalry were most likely to advance, trusting to
lame and destroy their horses.
44. When his army was drawn, the line stretched north and south. On
the south it was terminated by the banks of the brook called
Bannockburn, which are so rocky that no troops could come on them
there. On the left the Scottish line extended near to the town of
Stirling. Bruce reviewed his troops very carefully; all the useless
servants and drivers of carts, and such like, of whom there were very
many, he ordered to go behind a height called the Gillies' Hill—that
is, the Servants' Hill. He then spoke to the soldiers, and expressed
his determination to gain the victory or to lose his life on the field
of battle. He desired that all those who did not propose to fight to
the last would leave the field before the battle began, and that none
would remain except those who were determined to take the issue of
victory or death, as God should send it.
45. Burns has expressed Bruce's sentiments in his fiery poem.
46. Scots who have with Wallace bled,
Scots whom Bruce has often led,
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to victory!
Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front of battle lower;
See approach proud Edward's power,
Chains, and slavery!
47. Who would be a traitor knave,
Who would fill a coward's grave,
Who so base as be a slave,
Let him turn and flee!
Who for Scotland's king and law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or freeman fa',
Let him follow me!
48. By oppressions, woes, and pains,
By our sons in servile chains,
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!
Lay the proud usurper low
Tyrants fall in every foe—
Liberty at every blow;
Let us do or die!
49. When the main body of his army was thus placed in order, the king
posted Randolph, with a body of horse, near to the church of St.
Mirau's, commanding him to use the utmost diligence to prevent any
succorers from being thrown into Stirling Castle. He then dismissed
James of Douglas and Sir Robert Keith, the marshal of the Scottish
army, in order that they might survey, as nearly as they could, the
English force, which was now approaching from Falkirk. They returned
with information that the approach of that vast host was one of the
most beautiful and terrible sights which could be seen; that the whole
country seemed covered with men-at-arms on horse and foot; that the
number of standard banners and pennants made so gallant a show, that
the bravest and most numerous host in Christendom might be alarmed to
see King Edward moving against them.
50. It was upon the 23d of June, 1314, that the King of Scotland heard
the news that the English army were approaching Stirling. He drew out
his army, therefore, in the order which he had before resolved upon.
After a short time, Bruce, who was looking out anxiously for the
enemy, saw a body of English cavalry trying to get into Stirling from
the eastward. This was the Lord Clifford, who, with a chosen body of
eight hundred horse, had been detached to relieve the castle.
51. "See, Randolph," said the king to his nephew, "there is a rose
fallen from your chaplet." By this be meant that Randolph has lost
some honor by suffering the enemy to pass where he had been commanded
to follow them. Randolph made no reply, but rushed against Clifford
with little more than half his number. The Scots were on foot. The
English turned to charge them with their lances, and Randolph drew up
his men in close order to receive them. He seemed to be in so much
danger that Douglas asked leave of the king to go and assist him. The
king refused permission.
52. "Let Randolph," he said, "redeem his own fault. I can not break
the order of battle for his sake." Still the danger appeared greater,
and the English horse seemed entirely to encompass the small handful
of Scottish infantry. "To please you," said Douglas to the king, "my
heart will not suffer me to stand idle and see Randolph perish. I must
go to his assistance." He rode off accordingly, but long before they
had reached the place of combat they saw the English horses galloping
off, many with their empty saddles.
53. "Halt!" said Douglas to his men. "Randolph has gained the day.
Since we were not soon enough to help him in the battle, do not let us
lessen his glory by approaching the field." Now, that was nobly done,
especially as Douglas and Randolph were always contending which should
rise highest in the good opinion of the king and the nation.
54. The van of the English army now came in sight, and a number of
their bravest knights drew near to see what the Scottish were doing.
They saw King Robert dressed in his armor, and distinguished by a gold
crown which he wore over his helmet. He was not mounted on his great
war horse, because he did not expect to fight that evening. But he
rode on a little pony up and down the ranks of his army, putting his
men in order, and carried in his hand a short battle-axe made of
steel. When the king saw the English horsemen draw near, he advanced a
little before his own men, that he might look at them more nearly.
55. There was a knight among the English called Sir Henry de Bohun,
who thought this would be a good opportunity to gain great fame to
himself and put an end to the war by killing King Robert. The king
being poorly mounted, and having no lance, Bohun galloped on him
suddenly and furiously, thinking, with his long spear and his big
strong horse, easily to bear him down to the ground. King Robert saw
him and permitted him to come very near, then suddenly turned his pony
a little to one side, so that Sir Henry missed him with the lance
point, and was in the act of being carried past him by the career of
his horse. But as he passed, King Robert rose up in his stirrups and
struck Sir Henry on the head with his battle-axe so terrible a blow
that it broke to pieces his iron helmet, as if it had been a
nut-shell, and hurled him from his saddle. He was dead before he
reached the ground. This gallant action was blamed by the Scottish
leaders, who thought Bruce ought not to have exposed himself to so
much danger when the safety of the whole army depended on him. The
king only kept looking at his weapon, which was injured by the force
of the blow, and said, "I have broken my good battle-axe." This is
the way Scott describes this incident in the "Lord of the Isles":
56. O gay yet fearful to behold,
Flashing with steel and rough with gold,
And bristled o'er with balls and spears,
With plumes and pennons waving fair,
Was that bright battle front! for there
Rode England's king and peers.
57. And who that saw that monarch ride,
His kingdom battling by his side,
Could then his direful doom foretell;
Fair was his seat in knightly selle,
And in his sprightly eye was set
Some sparks of the Plantagenet.
Though bright and wandering was his glance,
It flashed at sight of shield and lance.
"Knowest thou," he said, "De Argentine,
Yon knight who marshals thus their line?"
58. "The tokens on his helmet tell
The Bruce, my liege; I know him well."
"And shall the audacious traitor brave
The presence where our banners wave?"
"So please my liege," said Argentine,
"Were he but horsed on steed like mine,
To give him fair and knightly chance,
I would adventure forth my lance."
59. "In battle-day," the king replied,
"Nice tourne rules are set aside;
Still must the rebel dare our wrath!
Set on him—sweep him from our path!"
And, at King Edward's signal, soon
Dashed from the ranks Sir Edward Bohun!
60. Of Hereford's high blood he came,
A race renowned for knightly fame;
He burned before his monarch's eye
To do some deed of chivalry.
He spurred his steed, he couched his lance,
And darted on the Bruce at once.
As motionless as rocks, that bide
The wrath of the advancing tide,
The Bruce stood fast; each breast beat high,
And dazzled was each gazing eye;
The heart had hardly time to think,
The eyelid scarce had time to wink,
While on the king, like flash of flame,
Spurred to full speed, the war-horse came!
The partridge may the falcon mock,
If that slight palfrey stand the shock;
But, swerving from the knight's career,
Just as they met, Bruce shunned the spear;
Onward the baffled warrior bore
His course—but soon his course was o'er!
High in his stirrups stood the king,
And gave his battle-axe the swing.
Right on De Bohun, the whiles he passed,
Fell that stern dint—the first—the last!
Such strength upon the blow was put,
The helmet crushed like hazel-nut,
The axe-shaft, with its brazen clasp,
Was shivered to the gauntlet grasp.
Springs from the blow the startled horse,
Drops on the plain the lifeless corse;
First of that fatal field, how soon,
How sudden fell the fierce De Bohun!
61. One pitying glance the monarch shed
Where on the field his foe lay dead;
Then gently turned his palfrey's head,
And, pacing back his sober way,
Slowly he gained his own array.
There round their king the leaders crowd
And blame his recklessness aloud,
That risked 'gainst each adventurous spear
A life so valued and so dear.
His broken weapon's shaft surveyed
The king, and careless answer made
"My loss must pay my folly's tax—
I've broke my trusty battle-axe"
62. The next morning, being the 24th of June, at break of day the
battle began in terrible earnest. The English as they advanced saw the
Scots getting into lines. The Abbot of Inchaffray walked through their
ranks barefooted, and exhorted them to fight for their freedom. They
kneeled down as he passed, and prayed to heaven for victory. King
Edward, who saw this, called out: "They kneel down; they are asking
forgiveness." "Yes," said a celebrated English baron, called Ingelram
de Umphraville, "but they ask it from God, not from us; these men will
conquer, or die upon the field." The English king ordered his men to
begin the battle. The archers then bent their bows, and began to shoot
so closely together that the arrows fell like flakes of snow on a
63. Upon the right, behind the wood,
Each by his steed, dismounted, stood
The Scottish chivalry;
With foot in stirrup, hand on mane,
Fierce Edward Bruce can scarce restrain
His own keen heart, his eager train,
Until the archers gain the plain;
Then "Mount ye gallants free!"
He cried; and, vaulting from the ground,
His saddle every horseman found.
On high their glittering crests they toss,
As springs the wild-fire from the moss;
The shield hangs down on every breast,
Each ready lance is in the rest,
And loud shouts Edward Bruce:
"Forth, marshal! on the peasant foe
We'll tame the terrors of their bow,
And cut the bow-string loose!"
64. Then spurs were dashed in chargers' flanks,
They rushed among the archer ranks.
No spears were there the shock to let,
No stakes to turn the charge were set,
And bow shall yeoman's armor slight,
Stand the long lance and mace of might?
Or what may their short swords avail,
'Gainst barbed horse and shirt of mail?
Amid their ranks the chargers spring,
High o'er their heads the weapons swing,
And shriek and groan and vengeful shout
Give note of triumph and of rout!
Awhile, with stubborn hardihood,
Their English hearts the strife made good;
Borne down at length on every side,
Compelled to flight, they scatter wide.
Let stags of Sherwood leap for glee,
And bound the deer of Dallorn-Lee!
The broken bows of Bannock's shore
Shall in the greenwood ring no more!
Round Wakefield's merry May-pole now,
The maids may twine the summer bough,
May northward look with longing glance
For those that went to lead the dance,
For the blithe archers look in vain!
Broken, dispersed, in flight o'erta'en,
Pierced through, trod down, by thousands slain,
They cumber Bannock's bloody plain!
65. The fine English cavalry then advanced to support their archers,
and to attack the Scottish line. But coming over the ground which was
dug full of pits the horses fell into these holes, and the riders lay
tumbling about, without any means of defense, and unable to rise, from
the weight of their armor. The Englishmen began to fall into general
disorder; and the Scottish king, bringing up more of his forces,
attacked and pressed them still more closely.
66. On a sudden an event happened which decided the victory. The
servants and attendants on the Scottish camp bad been sent behind the
army to a place called Gillies' Hill; but now, when they saw that
their masters were like to gain the day, they rushed from their place
of concealment with such weapons as they could get, that they might
have their share in the victory and in the spoil. The English, seeing
them come suddenly over the hill, mistook the disorderly rabble for a
new army coming up to sustain the Scots; and, losing all heart, began
to shift every man for himself. Edward himself left the field as fast
as he could ride, and was closely pursued by Douglas, with a party of
horse, who followed him as far as Dunbar, where the English had still
a friend in the governor, Patrick, Earl of Mans. The earl received
Edward in his forlorn condition, and furnished him with a fishing
skiff, or small ship, in which he escaped to England, having entirely
lost his fine army, and a great number of his bravest nobles.
67. The English never before or afterward lost so dreadful a battle as
that of Bannockburn, nor did the Scots ever gain one of the same
importance. Many of the best and bravest of the English nobility and
gentry lay dead on the field; a great many more were made prisoners,
and the whole of King Edward's immense army was dispersed or
68. Thus did Robert Bruce arise from the condition of an exile, hunted
with blood-bounds like a stag or beast of prey, to the rank of an
independent sovereign, universally acknowledged to be one of the
wisest and bravest kings who then lived. The nation of Scotland was
also raised once more from the state of a distressed and conquered
province to that of a free and independent state, governed by its own
laws, and subject to its own princes; and although the country was,
after the Bruce's death, often subjected to great loss and distress,
both by the hostility of the English and by the unhappy civil wars
among the Scots themselves, yet they never afterward lost the freedom
for which Wallace had laid down his life, and which King Robert had
recovered no less by his wisdom than by his weapons. And therefore
most just it is that, while the country of Scotland retains any
recollection of its history, the memory of these brave warriors and
faithful patriots ought to be remembered with honor and gratitude.
69. In 1328, fourteen years after the battle of Bannockburn, peace was
concluded between England and Scotland, in which the English
surrendered all pretension to the Scottish crown. King Robert was now
fifty-four years old, and he prepared to enter upon a crusade in
accordance with his vow, and in expiation of his offense of slaying
the Red Comyn. But, being smitten with a fatal disease, he directed
Lord James, of Douglas, upon his death, to take his heart and carry it
to Palestine, in fulfillment of his vow. Douglas accepted the sacred
trust, and encased the heart in silver, and hung it about his neck. On
his way to the Holy Land he turned aside to help the Spaniard in a
campaign against the Moors. In one battle, being sorely beset, he
flung the heart of Bruce into the midst of the enemy, and followed it
up with the war-cry of the Douglas, which had so often cheered to
victory among his native hills. At every step a Moslem bit the dust
until he reached the spot where his master's heart had fallen. Here he
was slain by the numbers which pressed in on every side, and he was
found with his body still in the attitude of guarding the heart. The
body of Lord James, together with the heart, were returned to Scotland
The precious relic—the last that remained of the Bruce, the greatest
of Scottish kings—was deposited in Melrose Abbey, where it remains
to-day a sacred shrine for every Scotchman, and for every lover of
liberty. Rarely in the history of man has the prediction of the old
abbot been so literally fulfilled:
"I bless thee, and thou shalt be blest!"
COLUMBUS AND THE NEW WORLD.
1. Columbus lived in a stirring age. Everywhere light was breaking in
after centuries of darkness, and all Europe was restless with
suggestions and beginnings of new life. Great men were plenty; rulers,
like the Medici of Florence; artists, like Raphael and Angelo;
preachers, like Savonarola, whose fiery prophecies brought him to
fiery death; reformers, chief among diem Luther, just beginning to
think the thoughts that later set the world agog. Great inventions
were spreading; gun-powder, invented before, now becoming terribly
effective through the improvement in guns; printing, suddenly opening
knowledge to every class; the little compass, with which mariners were
just beginning to trust themselves boldly on the seas, in spite of the
popular impression that it was a sort of infernal machine presided
over by the devil himself.
[Illustration: SHIPS OF COLUMBUS]
2. And to this age had been bequeathed the fascinating stories of Sir
John Mandeville and Marco Polo, stories to make every boy crazy to be
off to seek his fortune. From their travels in Asia these men had
brought back the most remarkable accounts of the eastern lands. A
country was there, they said, called Cathay, bordering on the sea. It
was ruled by an emperor, the Kubla Khan, or Great Khan, who lighted
his bedroom with a bright jewel half a foot long, set upon golden
pillars, and decorated his walls with wrought gold and hundreds of
precious stones. The rivers of the land were crossed by marble
bridges, and the houses were roofed and paved with gold. The seas were
full of islands where spices grew and countless strange creatures
lived: one-eyed men; men with a lip long enough to cover their whole
face; men with only one foot, but that so large that they held it over
them like an umbrella when they lay down in the sun to rest;
two-headed men and men with no heads at all; men whose only food was
snakes, and others whose favorite beverage was human blood; dragons
and unicorns; woolly hens and sheep that grew on trees; and in one
island a valley where only devils dwelt. But there were besides great
hills of gold, cities with towers of silver and gold, precious stones
of all kinds, and rose-tinted pearls, big and round.
3. There was trade between Europe and certain parts of Asia which they
called the Indies, and reached by going east and south by land; but
this marvelous country of the Grand Khan lay beyond, and its riches
remained a golden dream, known only by the travelers' reports. That
was what was known of Asia. Of Africa, even less; for, fifty years
before Columbus was born, only a strip across the northern part of it
was known, and south of that lay "nothing," said the people. And of
America, our wide-stretching America, they never dreamed.
4. Some fifty years before the birth of Columbus, Prince Henry of
Portugal, studying the matter, came to the conclusion that the world
did not necessarily end at "Cape Nothing," on the African coast, as
people said, but perhaps extended a long way farther; and, having an
abundance of time and money, he began to send out ships to sail along
beyond the cape and see what they could find. And they found a long,
long coast. Year after year, until the prince was a gray-haired old
man, he sent out vessel after vessel; and, though often storm-driven
and wrecked, and unsuccessful, they many times came back with accounts
of new discoveries. One by one they brought the numerous islands lying
off the northwest coast of Africa to the notice of the people of
Europe. And after they once got past that mysterious "Cape Nothing,"
they sailed along the coast, going farther and farther on successive
voyages, until, in 1487, long after Prince Henry's death, and just
before Columbus's great voyage, the most southern point was rounded,
the African continent was known, and the long-sought water-way to the
Indies was established.
5. As to the date of Columbus's birth, historians can not agree within
some ten years. It was doubtless some where between 1435 and 1446.
They also give different accounts as to his birthplace; but it seems
most probable that he was born in Genoa, on the Mediterranean, the son
of a wool-carder, and that he went to school in Pavia. At fourteen he
became a sailor.
6. Up and down the seas, first in the sunny Mediterranean, later along
the stormy Atlantic coast, sailed the lad, the young man, in the small
sailing vessels of the time, and learned well the ocean which he
afterward so boldly trusted.
[Illustration: View of Genoa]
7. He was a daring, quick-witted, handsome, bronzed young man when he
went to Lisbon, where his brother Bartholomew was established as a
cosmographer, making charts for seamen; and with all his enthusiasm
for his sea-faring life, he had enough interest in ordinary pursuits
to fall in love most romantically. It happened on account of his being
so regular at church. Every day he must attend service, and every day
to church came Donna Philippa Palestrello, who lived in a convent near
by. Across the seats flitted involuntary glances between the
cloistered maiden and the handsome brown sailor—with a dimple in his
chin, some pictures have him; something besides prayers were read
between the lines of the prayer-book, and the marriage which closed
this churchly wooing proved the wisdom of both parties.
8. Philippa's father had been one of Prince Henry's famous seamen and
the governor of Porto Santo, one of the new-found islands; and after
his marriage, Columbus lived sometimes at Porto Santo, sometimes at
Lisbon, and much of the time on the sea. He sailed south along the
African coast to Guinea; north he sailed to England, and farther on to
Iceland. Wherever ships could go, there went he, intent on learning
all there was to know of the world he lived in. He read eagerly all
that was written about the earth's shape and size. The modern science
of his time he well understood. He pored over the maps of the ancient
geographer Ptolemy, over the maps of Cosmas, a later geographer, over
Palestrello's charts, given him by Philippa's mother.
9. Ptolemy said the world is round, but Cosmas, whom good Christians
were bound to believe, since he founded his science on the Bible, said
it is flat, with a wall around it to hold up the sky—very probable,
certainly. But that notion of the ancients that the world is "round
like a ball" had been caught up and believed by a handful of men
scattered sparsely down through the centuries, and of late lead
gained, among advanced scientists, more of a following than ever. And
Columbus, who, with all his enthusiasm for adventure and his reverence
for religion and he church, had a clear, unbiased, scientific head,
mentally turned his back upon Cosmas, and clasped hands with the
ancients and the wisest scientists of his own day.
10. The north was known, the south was fast becoming so, the east had
been penetrated, but the west was unexplored. Stretching along from
Thule, the distant Iceland, to the southern part of the great African
continent, thousands of miles, lay the "Sea of Darkness," as the
people called it. What lay beyond? The question had been asked before,
times enough; times enough answered for any reasonable man. "Hell was
there," said one superstition, "Haven't you seen the flames at
sunset-time?" "A sea thick like paste, in which no ships can sail,"
said another. "Darkness," said another, "thick darkness, the blackness
of nothing, and the end of all created things!"
11. There was a legend that over there beyond was Paradise, and St.
Brandan, wandering about the seas, had reached it. The ancients told
of an island Atlantis over there somewhere in the West, and one of
them had said: "In the last days an age will come when ocean shall
loose the chains of things; a wonderful country will be discovered,
and Tiphis shall make known new worlds, nor shall Thule be the end of
12. Ah, to be the discoverer of Atlantis or Paradise! "But, if the
world is round," said Columbus, "it is not hell that lies beyond that
stormy sea. Over there must lie the eastern strand of Asia, the Cathay
of Marco Polo, the land of the Kubla Khan, and Cipango, the great
island beyond it." "Nonsense!" said the neighbors; "the world isn't
round—can't you see it is flat? And Cosmas Indicopleustes, who lived
hundreds of years before you were born, says it is flat; and he got it
from the Bible. You're no good Christian to be taking up with such
heathenish notions!" Thought Columbus, "I will write to Paolo
Toscanelli, at Florence, and see what be will say."
13. So Columbus wrote, and Toscanelli, the wise scientist, answered
that the idea of sailing west was good and feasible; and with the
letter came a map, on which Asia and the great island Cipango were
laid down opposite Europe, with the Atlantic between, exactly as
Columbus imagined it. Toscanelli said it was easy enough: "You may be
certain of meeting with extensive kingdoms, populous cities, and rich
provinces, abounding in all sorts of precious stones; and your visit
will cause great rejoicing to the king and princes of those distant
lands, besides opening a way for communication between them and the
Christians, and the instruction of them in the Catholic religion and
the arts we possess." It was 1474 when this encouragement came, and
from this time all the sailor's thoughts and plans turned toward the
14. The life at home between his voyages, whether spent with his
brother, the cosmographer, at Lisbon, or with his wife and sailor
brother-in-law, on the Porto Santo island, was hardly less nautical
than the voyages themselves. Porto Santo was in line with the
ship-routes to and from Spain and all the new-found African coast and
islands; and the family there, with the men sailors and geographers,
and the women, wives and daughters of sailors and geographers, lived
in the bracing salt sea-air, full of the tingle of adventure.
15. Wild stories tell the sailors, coming and going, whom one can
scarce contradict for lack of certain knowledge; and is it not an age
of wonders in real life? And the round earth, the round earth—is it
round? And the empire of the Grand Khan just over the western water
there—not far! The sailors said that on the shores of one of the
islands two dead men of strange appearance had been washed in from the
west. The sailors said they had picked up curiously-carved sticks
drifting from the west. Pedro Correa himself, Columbus's
brother-in-law, and a man to be trusted, had found one floating from
the west. And there was a legend of the sight of land lying like a
faint cloud along that western horizon.
16. "The world is round," said Columbus. "It is not very large" (he
thought it much smaller than it is), "and opposite us across that sea
lies Asia; and to Asia by way of that sea I will go. There, in the
west, lies my duty to God and man; I will carry salvation to the
heathen, and bring back gold for the Christians. From the 'Occident to
the Orient' a path I will find through the waters."
17. Such a venture as Columbus proposed could scarcely be carried out
at that time except by the help of kings, so to the kings went
18. Naturally, Portugal, with her proved interest in discovery, came
first in his thought; and before Portugal's king he laid his project.
The king should fit him out with vessels and men, and with them
Columbus would sail to the Indies, not by the route around Africa,
which the Portuguese had so long been seeking, but by a nearer
way—straight across the Atlantic. Think of the untold wealth from the
empire of the khan rolling in to Portugal if this connection could be
established! And think of converting those heathen to our blessed
mother church! It was worth thinking about, and the king called a
council of his wise men to consider the startling idea. Not long were
the wise men in wisely deciding that the plan was the wild scheme of
an adventurer, likely to come to no good whatever; and when the king,
hardly satisfied, laid it before another council, they, too, wisely
declared it ridiculous.
19. O ye owlish dignitaries! Still, the king was not convinced. "We
have discovered much by daring adventure, why not more?" "Stick to the
coast, and don't go sailing straight away from all known land into
waters unknown and mysterious," said the wise men. "But if the unknown
waters bring us to the riches of Cathay?" said the king. "That's the
extravagant dream of a visionary; it contains no truth and much
danger," said the wise men. "Try it yourself, and see. Unbeknown to
this Columbus, just send out a ship of your own to the west, and let
them come back and tell us what they find."
20. It was a most underhand piece of business all around; but the king
yielded and sent out a ship, which presently came back again with the
report that there was no Cathay there, and they hadn't found any
Cipango; it was all nonsense! And what they had met with was a big
storm that scared them terribly. So Columbus retired, and left the
king of Portugal to his brave sailors and wise councilors.
21. Next will come Spain, and meantime he will send his brother
Bartholomew to present the plan at the English court.
22. The Spanish sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella, were down in
Andalusia, that beautiful southern province of Spain, in the midst of
a war with the Moors, who occupied certain portions of the land, and
whom the Spaniards were trying to drive out. So, his wife being now
dead, Columbus took his little boy Diego, and to Andalusia they went.
They stopped at Palos by the sea, and from there set out on foot. The
way was long, and Diego could not go far without getting very thirsty;
and his father stopping at a great, dark, stone convent, called Maria
de la Rabida, to get him a drink, the prior asked them in to rest a
bit. As they talked, Columbus soon told of his great project, to sail
to the Indies by way of the western sea.
23. The prior, in his long dark robe and shaved head, opened his eyes
at this and wanted to hear more. "Novel project this," thought he;
"very novel-most astonishing I must have my friend, Dr. Fernandez,
hear it." So a messenger was sent to Palos to fetch the doctor, and
Columbus went over again the wonderful plan—just to sail west, not so
very far, over the round earth, and reach the stately cities of
Cathay, and convert the Grand Khan to the faith, and gather of the
plentiful gold and jewels of that land. Little Diego stood by and
listened with wide-open eyes, and the doctor pondered, while the prior
gazed out from the western window upon the Atlantic, and Columbus bent
eager eyes and flushed face over his chart.
21. "Why, it may be possible! Send for Martin Alonzo Pinzon. He is a
seaman; let us see what he thinks!"
25. To Palos again goes the messenger, to the rich and influential
citizen, Alonzo Pinzon, and tells him he is wanted at La Pabida. "Ah,
Alonzo Pinzon!" greets him—the prior, "come and hear what a man
proposes to do; and a wise and courageous sailor he seems, though poor
enough!" And a third time they bend over the charts there in the dark
stone convent, and Alonzo Pinzon hears of the western route to India;
and Diego gazes from one to the other, and hopes in his heart that his
father will take him along—he wants to see the unicorns. Pinzon
catches the idea with enthusiasm, promising to help Columbus with
money and influence, and to go with him if he goes. The doctor,
cogitating upon the statements and arguments, concludes that they make
quite a reasonable showing, and advises Columbus to go on.
26. The prior says: "Go at once to the court. Talavera, the queen's
confessor, is a good friend of mine, and a letter of introduction to
him will gain you access to the king and queen. They will surely help
you." Diego clasps his hands. "Will you stay with me, Diego?" says
the long-robed prior. "I'd rather go to court," says Diego. "Nay, my
son," says Columbus, "if the good prior will keep you, I will leave
you here while I go on my uncertain errand." So the little boy stands
in the great stone doorway and watches his father out of sight toward
27. At Cordova is nothing but excitement and confusion. The army is
just starting upon a campaign against the Moors. Talavera is
preoccupied, has his hands full of business, and can scarcely give
Columbus time enough to state his errand. "Dear me, a new route to the
Indies! But don't you see how busy we are with this war? It is
probably all nonsense—sounds like it. The court in war-time can not
waste precious hours over the consideration of such wild visions as
this." So Columbus takes lodgings in Cordova, supports himself by
chart-making, talks to everybody about the new route to Asia, and
waits. Such a man with such a story is likely to gain some attention,
and by and by he begins to have friends. Several of the important
politicians come to know him, some are converts to his theory, and
finally the grand cardinal himself procures him an audience with the
king and queen.
28. Enthusiastically the "one-idea'd man" unfolds his theories to
royalty. The land of the Grand Khan, with its untold treasure, the
salvation of millions of souls in the Indies, are the vivid points.
The earth is a sphere, and a ship may sail straight from Spain to
Cipango, urges this man of imagination and faith. The king was not
slow to perceive the great advantages which success in such an
enterprise would bring to the government that undertook it; but he
must consult the wise men. Talavera should head a commission composed
of the great men in the church, great men of science, and professors
in the universities. Surely no man could ask for more. So to
Salamanca, seat of the greatest Spanish university, Columbus went to
convince the commission.
29. In the hall of the convent there was assembled the imposing
company—shaved monks in gowns of black and gray, fashionably dressed
men from the court in jaunty bats, cardinals in scarlet robes—all the
dignity and learning of Spain, gathered and waiting for the man and
30. He stands before them with his charts, and explains his belief
that the world is round, and that Asia stretches from the eastern
boundary of Europe to a point something like four thousand miles from
Spain. Hence Asia could be reached by sailing due west across the
Atlantic. They had heard something of this before at Cordova, and here
at Salamanca, before the commission was formally assembled, and they
had their arguments ready.
31. You think the earth is round, and inhabited on the other side? Are
you not aware that the holy fathers of the church have condemned this
belief? Say the fathers, the Scriptures tell us all men are descended
from Adam; but certainly no men descended from Adam live in such a
region as this you speak of—the antipodes. Will you contradict the
fathers? The Holy Scriptures, too, tell us expressly that the heavens
are spread out like a tent, and how can that be true if the earth is
not flat like the ground the tent stands on? This theory of yours
32. Columbus might well quake in his boots at the mention of heresy;
for there was that new Inquisition just in fine running order, with
its elaborate bone-breaking, flesh-pinching, thumb-screwing, banging,
burning, mangling system for heretics. What would become of the Idea
if he should get passed over to that energetic institution?
33. "I am a true and loyal Catholic," he cries; "I wish to convert the
Grand Khan's people to our blessed faith. I believe the Bible, and God
himself sends me on this mission. But these words of the Scriptures
are to be taken as a figure, not as literal facts of science." "Will
this sailor teach us how to read the Scriptures!" growl the monks.
34 "Well, for argument, suppose this world is round, and you could
sail west to the Indies. The voyage would take years, and you could
not carry food enough to keep you from starving."
35. "But I believe it is only a voyage of four thousand miles, and
can, with favoring winds, be accomplished in a short time," says
Columbus, stating his scientific reasons for this belief. "Will this
sailor teach us science!" growl the professors. "Well, all this may be
true; but really, can you expect us to believe that there is a land
beneath us where people walk with their feet up, and trees grow down?"
Oh, foolish Columbus! What an absurd idea! "And, besides, if the
signor should succeed in sailing down around the earth to this
peculiar region, how does he propose to get back again? Will his ship
36. Oh, the nudgings and winks among the monks at this poser! And the
professors smile triumphantly. "And, anyway, who are you, Signor
Colombo, to set yourself up to know more than all the world beside?
Haven't men been sailing in all the seas ever since the time of Noah,
and, if such a thing as this were possible, would not somebody have
found it out long ago?" With sound science, reverent religion,
enthusiastic imagination and faith, he answered them, this unknown
sailor, and left them bewildered by his views and impressed by his
personality. "Perhaps there is truth in the matter," said the monks of
St. Stephen. They said they would think about it, and they did think
about it, and it took them four years to think about it. Meantime they
adjourned and went about their own affairs, and Columbus went back to
37. The campaign against the Moors began, and from that time to the
end of those weary years Columbus followed the court from place to
place, over the hills and valleys of beautiful Andalusia. Sometimes he
made charts for his support, sometimes be fought in the battles,
sometimes he talked with the courtiers, or begged audience with the
king to urge him to a decision; but always was with him that one dream
on which he was staking all his time and strength—the best years and
the fullest power of his manhood—hope of his heart, purpose of his
will, that one Idea possessing him in vivid, unwavering faith.
38. The queen was kind. His enthusiasm and sound judgment, his
persistent faith in his idea, his dignity and strong determination,
tempered by the most manly religion, made him friends even among his
examiners at Salamanca; and so he hoped and waited. Think of it—four
years of suspense on top of thirteen years of thought and study and
investigation toward one end! And when at last Talavera assembled the
wise men of the commission: to announce the result of their long
deliberation, they had come to this wise conclusion: that the whole
thing was foolish and impossible, unworthy of a great king's
39. Better give it up, Cristoforo Colombo, and make charts for a
living the rest of your days. No, says Colombo, that western ocean
must be crossed. He turns to the powerful Spanish nobles. They are
friendly, but hardly dare take up the project. He will go to France
and present his case. But first to La Rabida to see Diego, a tall lad
now. "What!" says the prior, "no success? Too bad, too bad! But Spain
must not give the glory of this great undertaking to France. I know
the queen, and I will write to her; I was her confessor once."
40. He wrote with such force that he was summoned to the queen at
once, and his earnest pleading determined Isabella to send again for
Columbus. But again disappointment came, for they took offense at
Columbus's high demands and would not grant them. The Spanish
sovereigns were to furnish the largest share of the equipment; he
should be admiral of the seas, and he and his sons after him were to
rule, under the king, the countries discovered, and share in all the
profits of the enterprise. Bold demands from an adventurer! Seventeen
years of waiting might have taught him common sense; but with his
absurd faith and uncommon sense he would accept no other terms, and
turned away again with his Idea and his determination.
41. "Too bad, too bad!" said St. Angel, the tax-collector; "I will
plead with the queen. She must not let slip this chance of enriching
the king—and converting the khan. I will myself lend the money
necessary, if the king can't afford it." Said Isabella to St. Angel:
"I think as you do. This is a wonderful plan. Let them say what they
will, by my own right I am queen of Castile, as well as queen of
Spain, and I pledge the crown of Castile to raise for Cristoforo
Colombo a suitable equipment to sail to the Indies by the west. Let
him make his own terms."
42. At last the fretting applications, the repeated explanations, the
harrowing suspense, the long restriction are over, and the strong
wings of the sea-bird are free to bear away over the Atlantic.
43. At Palos, in Southern Spain, three small ships were provided. One,
the Santa Maria, in which Columbus was to sail, was fully decked; the
other two—the Pinta and the Niña—had decks and cabins only at the
ends. As for crews, to secure them was no easy matter. Not many
sailors cared to trust themselves upon that unknown "Sea of Darkness.
" Not many believed in this story of a western route to Asia.
44. A few, with visions of the Grand Khan's palaces and the marvelous
sights of the East, would go for adventure's sake, and risk the
mystery between. A few, thinking of the "great hills of gold," would
risk the danger of tumbling into hell midway for the chance of getting
safely across to the land of treasure. Alonzo Pinzon was on hand, as
he had promised, and was given command of the Pinta, while the Niña
was put in charge of his brother Vincent. Royal pardon for crimes and
offenses was offered for any who would undertake this voyage, and so
some jail-birds were added to the company. Queer stuff for such an
undertaking! But beggars can not be choosers, and Cristoforo Colombo
might be thankful that he could get anybody for his fool's errand!
45. On August 3, 1492, in the early morning, the three ships lay in
Palos harbor, and down to Palos harbor flock all the town to see them
off for Cathay. Groups of trades-people shudder companionably over the
vague terrors of the Atlantic, and chatter over the probabilities of
the adventurers' return with untold wealth. Excited women-bareheaded
likely-gaze again upon the strong, controlled face of Columbus, and
thank God for this missionary to the Grand Khan-only the dark sea will
surely be his destruction before he gets there! Children wriggle
through the throng and stare at the men who are soon to find out what
becomes of the sun when it sets, and to know for themselves whether or
no it hisses and makes the water boil. The sailors make their way
toward the ships through a running fire of conversation and
hand-clasps, culminating at the dock in general good-byes and the
clinging embraces and sobs of daughters and sweethearts and wives. The
Pinzons are there with their friends. Dr. Fernandez is going, too, and
the prior of La Rabida, in his long robe, is exulting with him over
this success. Diego, soon to go to court as page to the prince, is
there to bid his father good-by.
46. Now all are on the docks ready to embark. A hundred and twenty men
to brave the unknown terrors of that sea stretching before them! The
prior steps gravely down among them, carrying the sacred host;
kneeling before him, Columbus murmurs his last confession and receives
the communion; and after him the Pinzons and the sailors reverently
commune. The people are silent as the prior blesses the departing
ones, and then the ships are manned, the sails spread, and Palos
watches until they flutter, like white birds, out of sight-never to
return! moan the daughters and the sweethearts and the wives; and the
children, with wide dark eyes, whisper of the unicorns and dragons of
47. Off at last! Oh, the exhilaration of it! Admiral of three rickety
ships and all the unknown seas; governor of a hundred disreputable
sailors and the realms of Cathay!
48. They had not been out three days when the Pinta's rudder got out
of order. That crew of the Pinta had been none too willing to start on
this rash expedition, and Columbus had his suspicions that they put it
out of order on purpose. Perhaps they did; anyway, the next day it was
reported broken again, and Columbus pointed for one of the Canary
Islands to get it mended. "We are going to Cathay by way of the
western ocean," they said in reply to the islanders' questions. "Oh,"
said the islanders, "every year we can see land lying west of us, away
off there. You will find it, though none of us have been there." Some
weeks of delay that unseaworthy Pinta caused; but at last, on
September 6th, they were once more started. Now, to the west! And,
with their homes and the known world behind them, into the west they
49. Hardly had the land disappeared when the sailors, dismayed at
their own boldness, began to be frightened enough. The steersmen let
the vessels drift around a bit. "Steer to the west!" sternly cried
Columbus. There was grumbling in the crew, and the admiral showed his
wit by commencing then and there two records of the distance traveled
each day. The record for the faithless sailors' edification showed
fewer miles than the reality, and the truth of the matter no one knew
but himself, from that day until he brought them safe to the other
side. The fifth day a fragment of a ship drifted by them—"a wreck!"
cried the sailors, and grew gloomy over the bad omen. One night a
"remarkable bolt of fire" fell into the sea, and the superstitious men
were panic-stricken. How could they go on in the face of this message
from heaven? But go on they must. This remarkable admiral said calmly:
"Steer to the west."
50. As the days went on "they began to meet large patches of weeds,
very green." "We must be near to land," said the sailors. "Perhaps
some island," said the admiral; "but the continent we shall find
further ahead." Another strange thing happened. That little compass,
their only sure guide to Cathay, began to behave as if it too had lost
its head over this foolhardy undertaking. The neighbors at home had
warned them that the devil managed the compass; and this needle, never
known to point anywhere but north, now pointed west of north! Was the
devil steering them for hell? Heaven's fiery bolt had warned them;
they had not heeded, and now the devil was tampering with the compass.
Poor sailors! They looked fiercely on Columbus, and wished themselves
well out of this business. But the admiral faced the strange
occurrence quietly, though his heart may well have beat fearfully, and
proceeded to investigate its cause. He soon announced it. "It is the
north star that moves," he coolly informed the terrified men, "the
needle is always true." The admiral was certainly a marvelously wise
man, and the sailors said no more.
51. Eleven days out. No thickening of the sea yet, except with this
mass of floating weed. No darkness, except the darkness of night. No
nearer the sunset, and always at sunset-time that golden western path
across the water. Weeds, weeds—vast stretches of weeds; they must
betoken land; and a live crab discovered among them would surely seem
to indicate it. The sea is smooth, the air clear. It is like
"Andalusia in April, all but the nightingales," exclaims the admiral.
What would you give to hear a nightingale just now, brave-hearted
admiral, gazing into the moonlit infinity of silence that enspheres
you! You can not bear the crystal tension; go below to the relief of
the narrow room and the journal faithfully kept!
52. More signs of land. They kill tunnies—sure sign, say the sailors.
And all the signs are from the west, "where I hope the high God in
whose hand is all victory will speedily direct us to land," writes the
admiral. Even the faithless sailors begin to forget their sullen
disapproval, and the three ships race merrily to see which shall first
discover land. Great flocks of birds Alonzo Pinzon saw from the Pinta.
"This very night we shall reach land, I believe!" he exulted; and the
Pinta swiftly shot ahead, expecting to sight the shore at any moment.
"There must be islands all about us," thought the admiral; "but we
will not stay for them now. Straight to the west!"
53. Still no land, for all the signs and eager watching. Leagues of
undulating weeds, but no land! And the faint-hearted sailors grumble
again. They fear that they never shall "meet in these seas with a fair
wind to return to Spain." A head-wind heartens them, but it quickly
flits off laden with kisses for Andalusian sweethearts; and again the
east wind fills the sails and carries them away, and away, and away!
54. Alonzo Pinzon and Columbus hold a conference, and Columbus,
spreading out that dear map of the Atlantic lying between Europe and
Asia, traces for the pilots the course they have pursued—a bold,
straight westerly line—and shows them that they are now near the
islands of the Asiatic coast. Inspired delusion! How did it happen
that the distance you reckoned to Asia was just the distance that
landed you on American shores!
55. Then, again, all eyes strain to the west, and the three little
ships in that great circle of water steer swiftly on their unknown
course to unknown lands. The excited sailors can scarce do their work.
"We are nearing land, the admiral says." "He says it will be perhaps
Cipango itself!" "Think of the gold!" "And the dragons!" "Thou'rt a
coward. In Cipango the king has his palace roofed and floored with
gold." "And the pearls there are of a beautiful rose-color." "If it
is not Cipango, it will be still some other famous island, if not
56. "But, bethink you of the monsters of those islands: we are like to
meet two-headed men, they say, and lions, and beasts with men's
heads!" "Ay, but the gold, the gold!" "What will gold be to thee, man,
with a cannibal drinking thy blood?" "And there is somewhere there a
valley of devils!" "Hist about that, there's no need to speak." "Any
land were better than this dreary, endless ocean!" "Ay, ay, any land
were better than this endless ocean!—I go to look for land. The
admiral offers a reward to the man first discovering it." "Ho! for the
west, and the golden cities of Cathay!"
57. Monsters? devils? The admiral was a man of science and not of
superstition, but those wild stories may well have made the night
uncanny for him. Suddenly Alonzo Pinzon cried "Land!" and with
praiseworthy prudence hastened to claim the reward. The admiral fell
on his knees and thanked God. Alonzo Pinzon's crew sang the "Gloria";
the men of the Niña ran up the rigging, and shouted that the land was
truly there. All night the excited men talked of nothing but that
land, and the admiral changed their course to southwest, where it
appeared to lie. Fast they sailed till morning, till noon, till
afternoon, and then "discovered that what they had taken for land was
nothing but clouds!" Oh, the fearful reaction after that tense
twenty-four hours! "There is no further shore!" cried the sailors. "It
is as they said: the sea goes on forever, and we are going to death!"
The admiral quietly ordered, "Sail on into the west." They could not
gainsay him. He willed it, and they sailed on.
58. Weeds and birds still float and fly about the ships. "Fine weather
and the sea smooth, many thanks to God," says the admiral. Alonzo
Pinzon wished to seek the islands that might be near them. "No," said
the admiral, "we shall not change our course." Put the signs of land
again brought reviving spirits and new hope to the men, and again the
three ships try to outsail one another in the race for the first
discovery. The Nina suddenly fired a salute—signal of land—but the
land did not appear. Seeing flocks of birds flying southwest, Columbus
altered his course to that direction, thinking that the birds knew
better than he where land lay.
59. And three days more they sailed, watching eagerly the various
signs—weeds, pelicans, passing birds—gazing, gazing, gazing upon
that unbroken boundary line sweeping around the lonesome watery world!
Only sky and sea, sea and sky, with lines of passing birds black
across the one and the undulating weeds streaking the other—three
little ships with spreading sails under the blue dome, that distant,
limiting circle, delicately distinct, always curving in unbroken
perfection. Ah! the calm cruelty of the smiling sea and sky!
60. "The admiral encouraged them in the best manner he could,
representing the profits they were about to acquire, and adding that
it was to no purpose to complain; having come so far, they had nothing
to do but continue on to the Indies till, with the help of our Lord,
they should arrive there." It is said, though Columbus does not
record it, that now the sailors whispered about among themselves "that
it would be their best plan to throw him quietly into the sea, and say
he unfortunately fell in while he stood absorbed in looking at the
stars!" If they did plot such folly, they had sense enough not to
carry it out.
61. So there was, indeed, nothing for it but to sail on. The next day
brought more floating articles and newly excited expectancy. A cane, a
log, a carved stick the Pinta found. Think of the way that carved
stick passed from, hand to hand! "Carved with an iron tool," said one.
"Nay, I doubt it." See, they are waving a branch from the Niña's
deck! Ho, the Pinta! "A stalk loaded with roseberries!" There must be
land—or else the devil himself puts these signs in our way. Alonzo
Pirzon, in the swift Pinta, kept ahead. Night came down. At ten the
admiral, peer into the darkness, saw a light—was it one of those
phantom lights reported to dance over these waters? A faint,
glimmering light! "Pero Gutierrez, come here. I see a light! Look that
way!"—"I see it too," said Pero. "Rodrigo Sanchez, come here—a
light!" But Rodrigo Sanchez does not stand in the right place, and
sees nothing at all. It was gone a moment. Then the admiral saw it
moving up and down. "It may be an indication of land," admitted
Rodrigo Sanchez; but Columbus was certain, and his orders were prompt
and imperative: a strict watch to be kept upon the forecastle, and for
him who should first see land a silken jacket and the reward promised
by the king and queen.
62. At midnight the Pinta was still ahead. Ninety miles they had made
since sunset. Look out for land, Alonzo Pinzon. Midnight—look sharp.
No land. One o'clock—look sharp. No land. Two o'clock—what is it?
Rodrigo de Triana has seen land, land!_ Make the signals, Alonzo
Pinzon. Ho, the Santa Maria—Land! Ho, the Niña—Land! Take in the
sails, wait now for the dawn—first dawn for Europe in the new world.
63. In the morning—it was Friday, October 12th, five weeks since they
saw the last of the Canaries—they found that the land was a small
island with naked people on its shore. Here we are at last! We have
accomplished it! Think of the exultation! Land with fitting ceremony,
and take possession for the king and queen of Spain. Drop the small
boat from the Santa Maria (put in your guns, lest the natives prove
cannibals). Get in you, and you, and you, of the sailors; get in,
Rodrigo de Escovedo, our secretary; you, of course, Rodrigo Sanchez,
since the king sent you on purpose to bear witness to this occasion.
Alonzo Pinzon and Vincent, carry your standards of the green cross;
and the admiral bears the royal standard of our sovereigns. All
aboard—put off the boat—row for the shore.
64. The curious natives flock about these strange beings, who come in
winged ships, and have bodies covered with something besides skin
handsome natives, evidently no cannibals, and very obliging. No lions,
or hippogriffs, or unicorns. But gold—yes, little pieces of it
hanging about the savages' necks. They make signs that it comes from a
land to the south. Cipango, thought Columbus, and set sail to find it.
They were in the group of islands between North and South America,
which we call the Bahamas and the West Indies. The first island
discovered the natives called Guanahani, but Columbus named it San
65. They sailed about among them, hunting for gold and Cipango;
bartering with the astonished natives; observing the land. Not quite
equal to Mandeville's tales were the sights they saw, yet the
luxuriant, tropical vegetation of the islands, the trees with luscious
fruit and sweet perfume, the brilliant birds flitting through the
green foliage, the marvelous fish flashing in the waters, the lizards
darting across the paths, were wonderful enough in their new beauty to
the sea-weary eyes of the Europeans. "I saw no cannibals," says
Columbus; but he heard of an island full of them. He heard, too, of
the island of the Amazons, fierce, wild women, who use bows and
spears, and are less like women than men. And there was an island
where the inhabitants had no hair, and one where the people had tails.
Mermaids he saw, but, adds the honest admiral, they were "not so like
ladies as they are painted."
66. "Where do you get your gold?" says the admiral by signs to the
islanders. "Cubanacan," say the natives. Kubla Khan, flashes across
the admiral's mind, and he sails off in renewed certainty. The island
which the natives called Colba, or Cuba, he took for Cipango, and
after much searching he came to it at last. When he did reach it, its
size deceived him into thinking he had reached the continent, and
messengers were straightway dispatched to seek the Grand Khan, with
his marble bridges and golden towers. Columbus bad brought along a
letter to him from Ferdinand and Isabella, in which they tell him
that, having heard of his love for them, and his wish to hear news
from Spain, they now send their admiral to tell him of their health
and prosperity! But the messengers could not find the khan. How could
you know, Cristoforo Colombo, that you were only half way around the
great world, and thousands of miles yet from Cathay!
67. America was discovered. The daring admiral never knew it. To the
day of his death he thought the world was only half as large as it is,
and that he had sailed west to Cathay.
68. America was discovered. Shout, Palos! Seven months only have
passed, and here come the heroes back again—back from Cipango and
Cathay. Weep for joy, daughters and sweethearts and wives! Little
children, gaze with fear upon those dark-skinned painted savages, and
be consoled that they brought no dragons. Barcelona, ring your bells!
The hero, Columbus, is coming in state! Crowd the streets, the doors,
the windows, the roofs; king and queen receive him in magnificence.
Hail to the man who has succeeded!
69. Three times afterward Columbus crossed the ocean to the new-found
Indies, touching once the mainland of South America. No need to go
into the details of his after life. How can one have the heart to tell
of the quick subsiding of his triumph, the malicious envy of
courtiers, the unreasonable discontent of subordinates, the selfish
ambition of rivals, the wanton wickedness of the West Indian settlers;
of his removal from the governorship, and his voyage home in chains,
over his Atlantic, of his weakening health, his accumulating
anxieties, his troubled old age? The peaceful death that closed it all
in 1506 was relief to the bold spirit which injustice and pain could
not subdue, but only hamper and fret. From the island of Jamaica,
three years before his death, America's discoverer writes to his king
70. "For seven years was I at your royal court, where every one to
whom the enterprise was mentioned treated it as ridiculous; but now
there is not a man, down to the very tailors, who does not beg to be
allowed to become a discoverer. . . . The lands in this part of the
world which are now under your highnesses' sway are richer and more
extensive than those of any other Christian power; and yet, after that
I had, by the Divine will, placed them under your high and royal
sovereignty, and was on the point of bringing your majesties into the
receipt of a very great and unexpected revenue,… I was arrested
and thrown, with my two brothers, loaded with irons, into a ship,
stripped and very ill treated, without being allowed any appeal to
justice. . . . I was twenty-eight years old when I came into your
highnesses' service, and now I have not a hair upon me that is not
gray; my body is infirm, and all that was left to me, as well as to my
brothers, has been taken away and sold, even to the frock that I wore,
to my great dishonor. . . . I implore your highnesses to forgive my
complaints. I am, indeed, in as ruined a condition as I have related;
hitherto I have wept over others-may Heaven now have mercy upon me,
and may the earth weep for me. With regard to temporal things, I have
not even a blanca for an offering, and in spiritual things, I have
ceased here in the Indies from observing the prescribed forms of
religion. Solitary in my trouble, sick, and in daily expectation of
death, surrounded by millions of hostile savages full of cruelty, and
thus separated from the blessed sacraments of our holy church, how
will my soul be forgotten if it be separated from the body in this
foreign land! Weep for me, whoever has charity, truth, and justice!"
Ellen Coit Brown.
DEFENCE OF FREEDOM ON DUTCH DIKES.
1. After the destruction of the Roman Empire all Europe was in a state
of anarchy. The long domination of Rome, and the general acceptance of
the Roman idea that "the state is everything and the individual man
nothing," had unfitted the people for self-government. While Rome
fell, the system of Rome, leading to absolute monarchy, persisted, and
out of it grew the present governments of Europe. The conquering Goths
brought in a modifying condition which changed the whole relations of
monarch to people. In their social and political relations chieftains
of tribes or clans divided power with the monarch, and for many
centuries there was continuous warfare between these antagonistic
ideas. This period is known as the "dark ages," for while it lasted
there was little visible progress, and an apparent almost entire
forgetfulness of the ancient civilizations.
2. During the dark ages roving bands of freebooters wandered about
from place to place, engaged in robbery, rapine, and murder. To resist
this systematic plunder the people placed themselves under the
guardianship of some powerful chieftain in the vicinity, and paid a
certain amount of their earnings for the privilege of enjoying the
remainder. Hence there grew up, in the Gothic communities of Europe,
that peculiar state of society known as "the feudal system." A great
chieftain or lord lived in a strong castle built for defense against
neighboring lords. A retinue of soldiers was in immediate attendance,
who, when not engaged in war, passed their time in hunting and
debauchery. All the expenses and waste of the castle and its occupants
were defrayed by the peasants who cultivated the lands, and who were
all obliged to take up arms whenever their lord's dominions were
3. In process of time the taxes upon the people became so burdensome
that they were reduced to the condition of serfs, when all their
earnings, except enough to supply the barest necessaries of life, were
taken from them in the shape of taxes and rents. A constantly
increasing number were yearly taken from the ranks of the industrious
to swell the numbers of the soldiery, until Europe seemed one vast
4. The feudal system demanded little in the way of industry except
agriculture and rude home manufactures to furnish food and clothing.
Arms were purchased from other lands, the best being obtained from the
higher civilization of the Moslems; but, as population increased,
people began to congregate in centers and towns, and cities sprung up.
These called for more varied industries, and a class of people soon
became numerous who had little or no dependence upon the feudal lord.
To protect themselves, craftsmen engaged in the same kind of work
united and formed guilds, and the various guilds, though often warring
with each other, united for the common defense. The leaders of the
guilds gradually became the heads of notable burgher families who
became influential and wealthy. As the cities became powerful the
feudal system declined, and in many regions the powerful burghers were
able to maintain their independence, not only against their old lords,
but also against the monarch who ruled many lordships.
5. Between the monarch and the lords there was a natural
antagonism—the monarch endeavoring to gain power, and the lords
endeavoring to retain their privileges. The burghers made use of these
contending forces; and by sometimes siding with the one and sometimes
with the other, they not only secured their own freedom, but laid the
foundation for the freedom of the people which is now generally
recognized, and which forms the very corner-stone of our republican
6. But the rise of the burgher class, and the evolution of human
liberty through their work, was by no means an easy task. As the
military spirit was dominant, the calling of an artisan was considered
derogatory, and lords and soldiers looked down upon the industrious
classes as inferior beings. Scott well represents this spirit in the
speech of Rob Roy, the Highland chief, in his reply to the offer of
Bailie Jarvie to get his sons employment in a factory: "Make my sons
weavers! I would see every loom in Glasgow, beam, treadle, and
shuttles, burnt in hell-fire sooner!" To break the force of the strong
military power, and to secure to the industrious classes the rights of
human beings, required a continuous warfare which lasted through many
centuries, and which is far from being finished at the present time.
But, thanks to the sturdy valor of the burghers of the middle ages,
human liberty was maintained and transmitted to succeeding
[Illustration: Dutch Dikes]
7. Hitherto in the history of the world mountains had been found
necessary for the preservation of human liberty. Thermopylæ,
Morgarten, Bannockburn, were all fought where precipitous hill-sides
and narrow valleys prevented the champions of freedom from being
overwhelmed by numbers, and where a single man in defense of his home
could wield more power than ten men in attack. The tyrants who lorded
it over plains had learned by dear experience to shun mountains and
avoid collisions with mountaineers; and, in case of controversies,
they always endeavored to gain by stratagem what they could not obtain
by force. Austrian tyranny had dashed itself in vain against the Alps,
and English tyranny had turned back southward, thwarted and impotent,
from the Scotch Highlands.
8. But it was to be demonstrated that liberty might have a home in
other than mountain fastnesses. Along the North Sea is a stretch of
country redeemed from the ocean. Great dikes, faced with granite from
Norway, withstand the tempest from the turbulent ocean, and smaller
dikes prevent inundations from rivers. In thousands of square miles
the only land above sea-level is the summit of the dikes. In the
polders or hollow places below the sea, and saved from destruction
only by the dikes, is some of the richest and most productive land in
Europe. Here prospered a teeming and industrious population.
Agriculture, the parent of national prosperity, flourished as nowhere
else. Manufactures and trade had followed in its train, until the
hollow lands had become the beehive of Europe. The direction of the
most vast commercial enterprises had been transferred from the lagoons
of Venice to the cities of the dikes.
9. This country for centuries had constituted a part of the German
Empire. At one side of the great lines of communication, and moored so
far out to sea, it had been overlooked and neglected to a certain
degree by the reigning dynasties; and out of this neglect grew its
prosperity. While the rule of the central government was nearly
nominal, the feudal lords never obtained a strong foothold in the
country, and the order and peace of the communities were preserved by
municipal officers chosen by suffrage. In process of time wealthy
burgher families fairly divided political influence with princes, acid
dictated a policy at once wise and humane. Extortioners were
suppressed, industries fostered, and peace maintained.
10. In the religious controversies which followed the preaching of
Luther, the eastern provinces of the hollow land almost exclusively
espoused the new religion, while the western provinces clung as
tenaciously to the old. While this difference in religious opinions
gave rise to disputes, and tended toward the disruption of social
relations, for many years toleration was practiced and peace
11. During the reign of Charles V as emperor of Germany, the lowland
countries were permitted to go on in their career of prosperity, with
the exception of a religious persecution. Charles was a bigot, and,
for a time, he tried to put down heresy with a strong hand; but,
finding the new doctrines firmly established in the hearts of the
people, he relaxed his persecutions, and permitted things to take
pretty much their own course.
12. On the abdication of Charles V, in 1555, Spain and the low
countries fell to the lot of Philip II. Notwithstanding the riches
which had poured into Spain from the plunder of Mexico and Peru, the
Netherlands were the richest part of Philip's dominions, yielding him
a princely revenue. But the free spirit manifested by these artisans,
in their homes by the sea, was contrary to all Philip's ideas of
government, and was constantly galling to his personal pride. So he
determined to reduce his Teutonic subjects to the same degree of
abject submission that he had the residents of the sunny lands of
Spain. To give intensity to his resolve, Philip was a cold-blooded
bigot, and in carrying out his state designs he was also gratifying
his religious animosities, and giving expression to his almost insane
religious hatreds. His policy was directly calculated to ruin the most
prosperous part of his own dominions—to "kill the goose which laid
the golden egg."
13. Philip spent the first five years of his reign in the Netherlands,
waiting the issue of a war in which he was engaged with France. During
this period his Flemish and Dutch subjects began to have some
experience of his government. They observed with alarm that the king
hated the country and distrusted the people. He would speak no other
language than Spanish; his counselors were Spaniards; he kept
Spaniards alone about his person, and it was to Spaniards that all
vacant posts were assigned. Besides, certain of his measures gave
great dissatisfaction. He re-enacted the persecuting edicts against
the Protestants which his father, in the end of his reign, had
suffered to fall into disuse; and the severities which ensued began to
drive hundreds of the most useful citizens out of the country, as well
as to injure trade by deterring Protestant merchants from the Dutch
and Flemish ports. Dark hints, too, were thrown out that he intended
to establish an ecclesiastical court in the Netherlands similar to the
Spanish Inquisition, and the spirit of Catholics as well as
Protestants revolted from the thought that this chamber of horrors
should ever become one of the institutions of their free land.
14. He had also increased the number of bishops in the Netherlands
from five to seventeen; and this was regarded as the mere appointment
of twelve persons devoted to the Spanish interest, who would help, if
necessary, to overawe the people. Lastly, he kept the provinces full
of Spanish troops, and this was in direct violation of a fundamental
law of the country.
15. Against these measures the nobles and citizens complained
bitterly, and from them drew sad anticipations of the future. Nor were
they more satisfied with the address in which, through the bishop of
Arras as his spokesman, he took farewell of them at a convention of
the states held at Ghent previous to his departure to Spain. The
oration recommended severity against heresy, and only promised the
withdrawal of the foreign troops. The reply of the states was firm and
bold, and the recollection of it must have rankled afterward in the
revengeful mind of Philip. "I would rather be no king at all," he said
to one of his ministers at the time, "than have heretics for my
subjects." But suppressing his resentment in the mean time, be set
sail for Spain in August, 1559, leaving his half-sister to act as his
viceroy in the Netherlands.
16. At this juncture, while the Dutch were threatened by a complete
subjugation of their liberties, a champion arose who in the end proved
more than a match for Philip both in diplomatic fields and in military
operations. This was William, Prince of Orange, one of the highest
nobility, but with his whole heart in sympathy with the people.
Inheriting a personality almost perfect in physical, mental, and moral
vigor and harmony, he early manifested a prudence and wisdom which
gained for him the entire confidence of the suspicious and experienced
17. It was on the arm of William of Orange that Charles had leaned for
support on that memorable day when, in the assembly of the states at
Brussels, he rose feebly from his seat, and declared his abdication of
the sovereign power; and it was said that one of Charles's last
advices to his son Philip was to cultivate the goodwill of the people
of the Netherlands, and especially to defer to the counsels of the
Prince of Orange. When, therefore, in the year 1555, Philip began his
rule in the Netherlands, there were few persons who were either better
entitled or more truly disposed to act the part of faithful and loyal
advisers than William of Nassau, then twenty-two years of age.
18. But, close as had been William's relations to the late emperor,
there were stronger principles and feelings in his mind than gratitude
to the son of the monarch whom he had loved. He had thought deeply on
the question, how a nation should be governed, and had come to
entertain opinions very hostile to arbitrary power; he had observed
what appeared to him, as a Catholic, gross blunders in the mode of
treating religious differences; he had imbibed deeply the Dutch spirit
of independence; and it was the most earnest wish of his heart to see
the Netherlands prosperous and happy. Nor was he at all a visionary,
or a man whose activity would be officious and troublesome; he was
eminently a practical man, one who had a strong sense of what is
expedient in existing circumstances; and his manner was so grave and
quiet that he obtained the name of "William the Silent." Still, many
things occurred during Philip's four years' residence in the
Netherlands to make him speak out and remonstrate. He was one of those
who tried to get the king to use gentler and more popular measures,
and the consequence was that a decided aversion grew up in the dark
and haughty mind of Philip to the Prince of Orange.
19. After the departure of Philip the administration of the Duchess of
Parma produced violent discontent. The persecutions of the Protestants
were becoming so fierce that, over and above the suffering inflicted
on individuals, the commerce of the country was sensibly falling off.
The establishment of a court like the Inquisition was still in
contemplation; Spaniards were still appointed to places of trust in
preference to Flemings; and finally, the Spanish soldiers, who ought
to have been removed long ago, were still burdening the country with
their presence. The woes of the people were becoming intolerable;
occasionally there were slight outbreaks of violence; and a low murmur
of vehement feeling ran through the whole population, foreboding a
general eruption. "Our poor fatherland!" they said to each other; "God
has afflicted as with two enemies, water and Spaniards; we have built
dikes and overcome the one, but how shall we get rid of the other?
Why, if nothing better occurs, we know one way at least, and we shall
keep it in reserve—we can set the two enemies against each other. We
can break down the dikes, inundate the country, and let the water and
the Spaniards fight it out between them."
20. About this time, too, the decrees of the famous Council of Trent,
which had been convened in 1545 to take into consideration the state
of the Church and the means of checking the new religion, and which
had closed its sittings in the end of 1563, were made public; and
Philip, the most zealous Catholic of his time, issued immediate orders
for their being enforced both in Spain and in the Netherlands. In
Spain the decrees were received as a matter of course, the council
having authority over the Catholic people; but the attempt to force
the mandates of an ecclesiastical body upon a people who neither
acknowledged its authority nor believed in its truth, was justly
regarded as an outrage, and the whole country burst out in a storm of
indignation. In many places the decrees were not executed at all; and
wherever the authorities did attempt to execute them, the people rose
and compelled them to desist.
21. A political club or confederacy was organized among the nobility
for the express purpose of resisting the establishment of the
Inquisition. They bound themselves by a solemn oath "to oppose the
introduction of the Inquisition, whether it were attempted openly or
secretly, or by whatever name it should be called," and also to
protect and defend each other from all the consequences which might
result from their having formed this league.
22. Perplexed and alarmed, the regent implored the Prince of Orange
and his two associates, Counts Egmont and Horn, to return to the
council and give her their advice. They did so; and a speech of the
Prince of Orange, in which he asserted strongly the utter folly of
attempting to suppress opinion by force, and argued that "such is the
nature of heresy that if it rests it rusts, but whoever rubs it whets
it," had the effect of inclining the regent to mitigate the ferocity
of her former edicts. Meanwhile the confederates were becoming bolder
and more numerous. Assembling in great numbers at Brussels, they
walked in procession through the streets to the palace of the regent,
where they were admitted to an interview. In reply to their petition,
she said she was willing to send one or more persons to Spain to lay
the complaint before the king.
23. While the nobles and influential persons were thus preparing to
co-operate, in case of a collision with the Spanish government, a
sudden and disastrous movement occurred among the lower classes. It
was stated and believed that the regent had given permission for the
exercise of the Protestant form of worship, and throughout Flanders
multitudes poured into the fields after the preachers. The reaction
after the suppression of the previous years was very great, and the
pent-up emotions were easily kindled into rage against the Catholics.
Led on by fanatics, the ignorant masses made a concerted attack upon
the Catholic churches, shattering their windows, tearing up their
pavements, and destroying all the objects of art which they contained.
The cathedral at Antwerp was the special object of attack, and it was
reduced to an almost hopeless ruin. The patriot nobles exerted their
influence, and at last succeeded in suppressing the violence and in
24. Before the news of this outburst had reached Spain, Philip had
resolved to crush the confederacy and break the proud spirit of the
Netherlands. Secret orders; were given for the collection of troops;
the regent was instructed to amuse the patriots until the means of
punishing them were ready; and in a short time it was hoped that there
would no longer be a patriot or a heretic in the Low Countries. It is
easy to conceive with what rage and bitterness of heart Philip, while
indulging these dreams, must have received intelligence of the
terrible doings of the iconoclasts. But, as cautious and dissimulating
as he was obstinate and revengeful, he concealed his intentions in the
mean time, announced them to the regent only in secret letters and
dispatches, and held out hopes in public to the patriots and people of
the Netherlands that he was soon to pay them a visit in person to
inquire into the condition of affairs.
25. William had secret intelligence of the purpose of Philip in time
to avert its worst consequences. The man whom Philip sent into the
Netherlands at the head of the army, as a fit instrument of his
purpose of vengeance, was the Duke of Alva, a personage who united the
most consummate military skill with the disposition of a ruffian,
ready to undertake any enterprise however base. Such was the man who,
at the age of sixty, in the month of August, 1567, made his entry into
the Netherlands at the head of an army of fifteen thousand men. One of
his first acts was the arrest of the Counts Egmont and Horn. The
regent resigned, and Alva was left in supreme control. Now ensued the
grand struggle in the Netherlands. On the one hand was a nation of
quiet, orderly people, industrious in a high degree, prosperous in
their commerce, and disposed to remain peaceful subjects to a foreign
monarch; on the other hand was a sovereign who, unthankful for the
blessing of reigning over such a happy and well-disposed nation, and
stimulated by passion and bigotry, resolved on compelling all to
submit to his will on penalty of death.
26. Alva at once commenced his persecutions. Supported by his army,
blood was shed like water. The Inquisition was established, and began
its work of unspeakable horrors in the Netherlands. Patriots and
Protestants in crowds left the country. The leading men of the
Netherlands were arrested and executed. Under circumstances of extreme
ferocity Counts Egmont and Horn were beheaded at Brussels.
Overwhelming taxes were imposed upon the people, and during the short
period of his administration Alva executed eighteen thousand patriots,
including many Catholics; for, in his rage against the free spirit of
the Netherlanders, he recognized no distinction in condition or in
27. In the mean time the Prince of Orange was active in devising means
to liberate his unfortunate country from the terrible scourge to which
it was subjected. For five years he battled incessantly against the
Spanish power. Now he entered into combination with the English and
now with the French, with the vain hope of obtaining a sufficient
force to drive the Spaniards out of the country. Twice he raised an
army and marched to the aid of the brave burghers, who still
maintained their independence, and both times was defeated by the
superior force and generalship of Alva. He organized a fleet which
ravaged the coast, captured vessels laden with provisions for Alva's
army, and defended the ports within reach of their guns, When the
shattered remains of William's last army retreated across the German
frontier, it seemed that the people of the Netherlands were about to
be left to their fate.
28. But sixty cities and towns were now in revolt, and, unless they
were recovered, Philip could no longer be considered the king of the
Netherlands. Nothing was left but the slow process of siege
operations. Haarlem held out seven months, and cost the Spaniards ten
thousand men. It surrendered at last under the promise of an amnesty
to its defenders, when they were murdered by thousands in cold blood.
But Philip was dissatisfied with Alva for his slow progress, and for
his execution of Catholics as well as Protestants; and in 1753, after
five years' rule, he recalled him, and, with characteristic
ingratitude, neglected and ill-treated him for his faithful but bloody
29. Don Luis Requesens succeeded the Duke of Alva as governor of the
Netherlands and as commander of the Spanish army. While a zealous
Catholic, he seems to have been a much more humane and just man than
Alva. He began his administration by abolishing the most obnoxious
measures of his predecessor, thus changing the whole tone of the
government. Had he been left to follow his own counsels in everything,
he doubtless would have come to an understanding with the Prince of
Orange, and established peace upon a permanent basis. But the king was
obstinately determined to capture the revolted cities and punish his
rebel subjects, and the general was obliged to continue the war. At
this time William was besieging Middleburg, on the island of Zealand,
and one of the first acts of the newly-appointed, governor was to
raise the siege. To this end he caused a large fleet to be assembled,
and under the command of two experienced admirals he sent it down the
Scheldt to the relief of Middleburg. The Prince of Orange immediately
hastened to the critical spot, and gave direction to patriot
operations. The Holland ships were collected, and a great naval battle
took place on January 29, 1574. Although their force was much the
greater, the Spaniards had little chance upon the water in a contest
with the half-amphibious inhabitants of the Low Countries. The smaller
vessels of the Prince of Orange fell upon the Spanish fleet with a
ferocity which they could not withstand, and the result was a complete
victory, with the destruction of their principal vessels. Middleburg
soon after surrendered to the patriots, and the sway of William over
the maritime provinces was rendered complete.
30. In April an army from Germany, raised through the influence of the
Prince of Orange, and commanded by his brother, Count Henry of Nassau,
marched into the Low Countries; but the Spaniards dominated the land
as the Dutch the sea, and the relief array was defeated and Count
Henry was killed. This defeat, however, to the patriot cause, was
almost equal to a victory. The Spanish troops, who had long been
without pay, became mutinous and unmanageable, and before they could
be appeased much precious time was lost. The Prince of Orange made the
best use of this time. The revolted cities were strengthened and
supplied with provisions, and every preparation made for both
defensive and offensive war. But, best of all, the Dutch admiral
boldly sailed up the Scheldt, captured forty of the Spanish vessels,
and sunk many more.
31. At length the Spanish general was once more ready to continue his
aggressive movements, and he proceeded to lay siege to the populous
city of Leyden. The story of this siege is one of the most
spirit-stirring in the annals of heroism. Leyden stands in a low
situation, in the midst of a labyrinth of rivulets and canals. That
branch of the Rhine which still retains the name of its upper course
passes through the middle of it, and front this stream such an
infinity of canals are derived that it is difficult to say whether the
water or the land possesses, the greater space. By these canals the
ground on which the city stands is divided into a great number of
small islands, united together by bridges.
32. For five months all other operations were suspended; all the
energy of Requesens, on the one hand, was directed toward getting
possession of the city, and all the energy of the Prince of Orange, on
the other hand, toward assisting the citizens, and preventing it from
being taken. The issue depended entirely, however, on the bravery and
resolution of the citizens of Leyden themselves. Pent up within their
walls, they had to resist the attacks and stratagems of the besiegers;
and all that the Prince of Orange could do was to occupy the
surrounding country, harass the besiegers as much as possible, and
enable the citizens to hold out, by conveying to them supplies of
provisions and men.
33. There was not in the city a single scion of a noble family. There
were no men trained to military operations. It was a city of artisans
and tradesmen, and the Spaniards expected scarcely more than a show of
resistance from a foe so ignoble. As well might the sheep resist a
pack of ravening wolves as the men of the counting-house and workshop
resist the best trained soldiers of Europe. But nobly, nay, up to the
highest heroic pitch of human nature, did the citizens behave! They
had to endure a siege in its most dreary form—that of a blockade.
Instead of attempting to storm the town, Valdez, the Spanish general,
resolved to reduce it by the slow process of starvation. For this
purpose he completely surrounded the town by a circle of forts more
than sixty in number; and the inhabitants thus saw themselves walled
completely in from the rest of the earth, with its growing crops and
its well-filled granaries, and restricted entirely to whatever
quantity of provisions there happened to be on the small spot of
ground on which they walked up and down. Their only means of
communication with the Prince of Orange was by carrier-pigeons trained
for the purpose.
34. One attempt was made by them to break through the line of
blockade, for the sake of keeping possession of a piece of
pasture-ground for their cattle; but it was unsuccessful; and they
began now to work day and night in repairing their fortifications, so
as to resist the Spanish batteries when they should begin to play.
Like fire pent up, the patriotism of the inhabitants burned more
fiercely and brightly; every man became a hero, every woman an orator,
and words of flashing genius were spoken and deeds of wild bravery
done, such as would have been impossible except among twenty thousand
human beings living in the same city, and all roused at once to the
same unnatural pitch of emotion.
35. The two leading spirits were John van der Dors, the commander,
better known by his Latinized name of Dousa; and Peter van der Werf,
the burgomaster. Plebeian names these, but loftier natures never
possessed the hearts of kings or nobles! Beside their deeds, the
chivalry of knighthood looks trivial and mean. Under the management of
these two men every precaution was adopted for the defense of the
city. The resolution come to was, that the last man among them should
die of want rather than admit the Spaniards into the town. Coolly, and
with a foresight thoroughly Dutch, Dousa and Van der Werf set about
making an inventory of all that was eatable in the town: corn,
cattle—nay, even horses and dogs; calculating how long the stock
could last at the rate of so much a day to every man and woman in the
city; adopting means to get the whole placed under the management of a
dispensing committee; and deciding what should be the allowance per
head at first, so as to prevent their stock from being eaten up too
36. It was impossible, however, to collect all the food into one fund,
or to regulate its consumption by municipal arrangements; and, after
two months had elapsed, famine bad commenced in earnest, and those
devices for mitigating the gnawings of hunger began to be employed
which none but starving men would think of. Not only the flesh of dogs
and horses, but roots, weeds, nettles—everything green that the eye
could detect shooting up from the earth—was ravenously eaten. Many
died of want, and thousands fell ill. Still they held out, and
indignantly rejected the offers made to them by the besiegers.
37. "When we have nothing else," said Dousa, in reply to a message
from Valdez, "we will eat our left hands, keeping the right to fight
with." Once, indeed, hunger seemed to overcome patriotism, and for
some days crowds of gaunt and famished wretches moved along the
streets, crying: "Let the Spaniards in; for God's sake let them in!"
Assembling with hoarse clamor at the house of Van der Werf, they
demanded that he should give them food or surrender. "I have no food
to give you," was the burgomaster's reply, "and I have sworn that I
will not surrender to the Spaniards; but, if my body will be of any
service to you, tear me in pieces, and let the hungriest of you eat
me." The poor wretches went away, and thought no more of
38. The thought of the Prince of Orange night and day was how to
render assistance to the citizens of Leyden—how to convey provisions
into the town. He had collected a large supply, but, with all his
exertions, could not raise a sufficient force to break through the
blockade. In this desperate extremity the Dutch resolved to have
recourse to that expedient which they had kept in reserve until it
should be clear that no other was left—they would break their dikes,
open their sluices, inundate the whole level country around Leyden,
and wash the Spaniards and their forts utterly away!
39. It was truly a desperate measure, and it was only in the last
extremity that they could bring themselves to think of it. All that
fertile land, which the labor of ages had drained and cultivated—to
see it converted into a sheet of water! There could not possibly be a
sight more unseemly and melancholy to a Dutchman's eyes. But, when the
measure was once resolved upon, they set to work with a heartiness and
zeal greater than that which had attended their building. Hatchets,
hammers, spades, and pickaxes were in requisition; and by the labor of
a single night the work of ages was demolished and undone. The water,
availing itself of the new inlets, poured over the flat country, and
in a short time the whole of the region between Leyden and Rotterdam
40. The Spaniards, terror-stricken, at first resolved upon immediate
flight; but, seeing that the water did not rise above a certain level,
they recovered their courage, and, though obliged to abandon their
forts, which were stationed upon the low grounds, they persevered in
the blockade. But there was another purpose to be served by the
inundation of the country beside that of washing away the Spaniards,
and the Prince of Orange made preparations for effecting it. He had
caused two hundred flat-bottomed boats to be built, and loaded with
provisions; these now began to row toward the famished city. The
inhabitants saw them coming; they watched them eagerly advancing
across the waters, fighting their way past the Spanish forts, and
bringing bread to them. But it seemed as if Heaven itself had become
cruel; for a north wind was blowing, and, so long as it continued to
blow, the waters would not be deep enough for the boats to reach the
city. They waited for days, every eye fixed on the vanes; but still
the wind continued in the north, though never within the memory of the
oldest citizen had it blown in that direction so long at that time of
year. Many died in sight of the vessels that contained the food which
would have kept them alive; and those who survived shuffled along the
streets, living skeletons instead of men!
41. But the sea did not at last desert the brave men who had so long
dominated it. At the last extremity it roused itself and swept down in
its might upon the doomed Spaniards. When but two days stood between
the starving citizens and death, lo! the vanes trembled and veered
round; the wind shifted first to the northwest, blowing the sea-tides
with hurricane force into the mouth of the rivers, and then to the
south, driving the waters directly toward the city. The remaining
forts of the Spaniards were quickly begirt with water. The Spaniards
themselves, pursued by the Zealanders in their boats, were either
drowned or shot swimming, or fished out with hooks fastened to the end
of poles, and killed with the sword. Several bodies of them, however,
effected their escape. The citizens had all crowded at the gates to
meet their deliverers. With bread in their hands they ran through the
streets; and many who had outlived the famine died of surfeit. The
same day they met in one of the churches—a lean and sickly
congregation—with the magistrates at their head, to return thanks to
Almighty God for his mercy.
42. The citizens of Leyden had performed their duty nobly and well. It
was a triple service—they had driven away from their city the hated
Spaniard; they had secured the freedom of their country; and they had
preserved liberty for mankind. No nobler deeds are chronicled in all
history than this long battle with death, than this silent,
uncomplaining endurance during the long weeks, while the life-giving
succors were delayed by adverse winds. As a recompense to the people
of Leyden for their heroic conduct, the Prince of Orange gave them the
choice of exemption from taxes for a certain number of years, or of
having a university established in the city; and, much to their honor,
they preferred the latter. The University of Leyden was accordingly
established in 1575. At one time it attained so high a reputation for
learning that Leyden was styled the Athens of the West.
THE INVINCIBLE ARMADA
1. In 1588 the "Invincible Armada" sailed from Spain into the high
seas. To understand the nature of this formidable naval armament and
the reasons for its sailing, we must take a brief survey of the
condition of Europe at this period of the world's history.
SPAIN BEFORE THE ARMADA
2. At this time Spain was the most powerful of the monarchies of
Europe. Many causes had conspired to give her this pre-eminence. About
one hundred years before, the two principal provinces, Castile and
Aragon, were united by the marriage of their sovereigns, Isabella and
Ferdinand. In 1492 the Aloors were subjugated, uniting the whole
peninsula under one government. In the same year, under the auspices
of the Spanish sovereigns, Columbus discovered the New World, giving
additional luster to the Spanish name and a new impulse to Spanish
3. Thirty years later, Mexico and Peru had been overrun and plundered
by Cortes and Pizarro, and the treasures of millions of people,
accumulated through many centuries, became a possession of the Spanish
people; raising them to a degree of opulence unknown since the time of
the most illustrious of the Roman emperors. In consequence of this
wealth, commerce expanded, large cities grew up along the courses of
the navigable rivers, and all branches of industry were aroused to a
state of great activity.
4. In 1516 Spain and Austria were united under the Emperor Charles V,
grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella; and, during his reign, the united
kingdoms arose to a height of power almost equal to that of the empire
of Charlemagne. The dominion of Charles extended from the Atlantic to
the steppes of Poland, and from the Mediterranean to the Baltic. It
included all of Western Continental Europe, except France and Southern
Italy. In 1556 Charles abdicated his throne, and divided his empire,
giving Austria and Germany to his brother Ferdinand, and Spain and the
Low Countries of Holland and Belgium to his son Philip II.
5. Spain was now rich and powerful. Her armies were large, and were
commanded by the most experienced military officers of Europe.
Material progress showed itself on every side. The richest commerce of
the world poured its wealth into her ports. A new intellectual life
was aroused, which found expression in literature and schools. All the
conditions seemed to indicate that the Spanish people were about to
lead Europe in the direction of a higher civilization.
CHARACTER AND POLICY OF PHILIP II
6. But soon all this changed. Philip was vain, bigoted, and ambitious.
In his administration of public affairs he seemed to have but two
objects in view, to augment Spanish power, and to cause his own
religious creed to be universally accepted. To promote these objects
he had no scruples in regard to means. His own people were tortured
and executed by the thousand. By this savage policy he stamped out
heresy, placed freedom of thought under a ban, and put an end to the
intellectual progress of the country. In his dealings with other
nations his diplomacy included all the arts of chicanery and deceit.
7. Two formidable obstacles stood in the way of the realization of his
plans. Heretical England had become a strong naval power, and English
ships captured his treasure-vessels laden with the spoils of the
countries lie had plundered. The eagles of the sea despoiled the
wolves of the main of their ill-got gains. The second trouble was
nearer home. The people of the Low Countries revolted alike from his
government and his creed. To remove these obstacles was the first step
toward the attainment of his larger ambitions.
8. In regard to England, Philip ventured upon a master-stroke of
policy. He sought the hand of Mary, the newly crowned Queen of
England, and married her. By this step lie hoped and expected to
extinguish dissent in England as he had done in his own dominions, to
gradually usurp the government, and to make English naval supremacy
subserve the interests of Spain.
9. But Philip was sorely disappointed. Mary, though narrow and
bigoted, and at one with hire in creed, had still English blood in
her; and English independence had been sturdily maintained through too
many centuries to be surrendered to any power or on any pretext. The
English Parliament also interfered and refused to crown him jointly
with Mary. So Philip found himself united to a sickly, peevish wife of
twice his age, and entirely powerless to effect the purposes he had in
10. Three or four years passed in fruitless intrigue. Punishments for
heresy were frequent, but the fires of persecution never blazed so
fiercely in the cooler atmosphere of England as in Spain, and the
victims of the stake could be counted singly instead of by the
thousand. Then Mary died, and Elizabeth ascended the throne of
England. The new queen declined the honor of Philip's hand which was
tendered her, and she zealously espoused the cause of the English
church. The hunted turned hunters, and the last fires of English
persecution were lit by those whom the stake had threatened all
through the dreary years of Mary's reign. This change of front and the
gradual amelioration of penalties which followed show that
persecutions are not the monopoly of any sect, but are rather the
manifestations of an irresponsible power in a semi-barbarous age.
11. Philip retired angry and disgusted. The contemptuous refusal of
his hand by Elizabeth was a terrible shock to his personal pride; the
triumph of the new church inflamed his bigotry; and the sturdy
independence of the English people was a severe blow to his pride of
country. He brooded over the situation and determined to resent the
slights—personal and public—which had been put upon him.
12. From his purpose he was for a time diverted by the attitude of his
rebellious subjects in Belgium. Maddened to ferocity by the failure of
his plans, he devoted the whole people to destruction, and he sent his
best-equipped armies, under the terrible Duke of Alva, to devastate
the cities of the dikes as Pizarro had destroyed the homes of the
Incas. After innumerable atrocities, and the wholesale slaughter of
men, women, and children, the remnant of freedom was preserved by the
obstinacy of the Dutch burghers, the wise policy of William the
Silent, the aid of the sea, and the succor furnished by Elizabeth.
[Illustration: The Spanish Armada]
13. Here, again, was practical defeat. His cherished purposes were
thwarted, and the high hope of his life was gone. Nothing was left but
despair and revenge. At this time Philip began to exhibit in a marked
degree the madness which overshadowed the last years of his life. His
hatred of England grew from day to day, and at last took shape in a
determination to make one supreme effort to conquer his rival, and to
check the rising free thought of the English people. For years the
preparations went, on for the great conflict, and in 1588, twenty
years after the accession of Elizabeth to the throne, everything was
ENGLAND'S POWER TO RESIST THE ARMADA.
14. And what of England and of her ability to resist this formidable
attack? For a hundred years before the beginning of the sixteenth
century, the civil wars of the Roses had desolated the country and put
an end to national growth. For the next fifty years, and until the
commencement of the reign of Elizabeth, violence and bloodshed were so
common that the population barely maintained its own. In 1588 the
whole number of people in England and Wales was estimated at four
millions, about one third of the population of Spain.
15. But England possessed two elements of strength—her people,
although differing in creed and often warring with one another,
were intensely patriotic, and were united as one man against a
foreign foe; and the ships of England, manned by English crews
and commanded by her great captains—the legitimate successors
of the old Vikings—dominated the seas. No enterprise was too
hazardous for these hardy mariners to undertake, and no disparity
of force ever induced them to pause. Philip was often wrought to
frenzy as he saw these bold corsairs capture his treasure-ships
and ravage his coasts in sight of his invincible but impotent
16. The mode of attack which Philip determined upon consisted of two
distinct but co-operative movements. A formidable army of invasion,
under the Duke of Parma, the most experienced and skillful commander
in Europe, was stationed at the several ports of the Low Countries,
opposite the British coast, from Dunkirk east. Innumerable transports
were provided to convey this host across the Channel, and, once on
English ground, an easy and triumphant march to London was expected.
The second part of the grand expedition consisted of an immense fleet
of the largest vessels ever built, under the command of the Duke of
Medina Sidonia, which was to drive away the English ships and convoy
the army of Parma to the English shore. This fleet was christened by
the Spaniards "The Invincible Armada."
17. "Philip hastened his preparations with all the energy he could
command. In every port resounded the axe and hammer of the
ship-builder; in every arsenal blazed the flames of busy forges. All
Spanish Europe echoed with the din of arms. Provisions were amassed in
a thousand granaries; soldiers were daily mustered on the
parade-grounds, drilled, and accustomed to the use of arquebus and
cannon. Carts and wagons were built in hundreds for the conveyance of
stores; spades, mattocks; and baskets were got ready for the pioneers;
iron and brass ordnance were cast, and leaden shot melted in enormous
quantities; nor were the instruments of torture—the thumb-screw and
the 'jailer's daughter'—forgotten."
18. In 1587 the preparations were nearly completed, and the Armada was
about ready to sail, when a knowledge of its destination became known
to Sir Francis Drake, the great English commander. Without considering
the disparity of force, the old sea-king, with a fleet of
swift-sailing vessels, made a sudden descent upon the port of Cadiz,
where the ships of the Armada were at anchor. Many of the larger
vessels escaped by taking refuge under the guns of the forts, but the
city was lit up by the blaze of one hundred and fifty burning ships,
and the great enterprise was delayed for another year.
SAILING OF THE ARMADA.
19. But this disaster only called forth greater exertions. The maimed
vessels were repaired, new ones were built, and at length one hundred
and thirty-two ships, many of them the largest ever known at the time,
were ready to sail. They carried three thousand guns and thirty
thousand men. On May 3d the Armada sailed from the mouth of the Tagus,
but a great gale dispersed the ships, and obliged them to put back
into port to repair. Surely God did not smile upon the beginning of a
warfare carried on in his name! It was not until July 12th that the
fleet finally sailed from Corunna on its mission of destruction, and
to meet its fate.
20. To cope with this formidable force, the whole British navy could
muster only thirty-six vessels, all much smaller than the largest of
the Spanish ships. But, in consideration of the great danger,
merchants and private gentlemen fitted out vessels at their own
expense, and by midsummer a fleet of one hundred and ninety-seven
ships was placed at the disposal of the British admiral. In tonnage,
number of guns, and number of men, the strength of the whole fleet was
about one half that of the Armada.
21. But all England was aroused. For more than five centuries this was
the first foreign invasion that had threatened her shores. The years
of preparation had given time for the avowed purposes of Philip to
become known throughout the kingdom. There was anxiety everywhere, for
no one knew where and when the blow was to be struck; but there was no
thought of submission, and all England stood alert, eagerly watching
and waiting. Much to Philip's disappointment and chagrin, the great
Catholic families of England rallied to their country's defense as
readily as their Protestant neighbors, and all Englishmen stood
shoulder to shoulder in this supreme moment of the nation's peril.
Vessels patrolled the shores, to give notice of the coming ships;
soldiers drilled in every hamlet; and on the hill-tops piles of fagots
were placed so that signal-fires might speedily send the news to the
remotest parts of the kingdom.
WAITING FOR THE ARMADA.
22. Canon Kingsley has given a graphic picture of England's great
naval commanders, when the news was received that the Armada was off
the coast. He supposes them assembled at Plymouth on the 19th of July,
engaged in the then favorite game of bowls.
23. "Those soft, long eyes and pointed chin you recognize already.
They are Sir Walter Raleigh's. The fair young man in the flame-colored
suit at his side is Lord Sheffield; opposite them stand Lord
Sheffield's uncle, Sir Richard Grenville, and the stately Lord Charles
Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral of England next to him is his
son-in-law, Sir Robert Southwell, captain in her Majesty's service.
24. "But who is that short, sturdy, plainly dressed man, who stands
with legs a little apart, and hands behind his back, looking up with
keen gray eyes into the face of each speaker? His cap is in his hand,
so you can see the bullet-head of crisp brown hair and the wrinkled
forehead as well as the high cheek-bones, the short square face, the
broad temples, the thick lips, which are yet as firm as granite. A
coarse, plebeian stump of a man; yet the whole figure and attitude are
those of boundless determination, self-possession, energy; and, when
at last he speaks a few blunt words, all eyes are turned respectfully
on him, for his name is Francis Drake.
25. "A burly, grizzled elder, in greasy, sea-stained garments,
contrasting oddly with the huge gold chain about his neck, waddles up,
as if he had been born, and had lived ever since, in a gale of wind at
sea. The upper half of his sharp, dogged visage seems of a brick-red
leather, the brow of badger's fur, and, as he claps Drake on the back,
with a broad Devon accent he shouts, 'Be you a-coming to drink your
wine, Francis Drake, or be you not? saving your presence my lord.'
The lord high admiral only laughs, and bids Drake go and drink his
wine, for John Hawkins, admiral of the fleet, is the patriarch of
Plymouth seamen, if Drake is the hero.
26. "So they push through the crowd, wherein is many another man whom
we would gladly have spoken with face to face on earth. Martin
Frobisher and John Davis are sitting on that bench, smoking tobacco
from long silver pipes; and by them are Fenton and Wishington, who
have both tried to follow Drake's path around the world, and failed,
though by no fault of their own. The short, prim man, in the huge
yellow ruff, is Richard Hawkins, the admiral's hereafter famous son.
27. "But hark! the boom of a single gun seaward directs the attention
of every one to a small armed vessel staggering up the sound under a
press of canvas. A boat puts off; its oars flash quickly in the sun;
the captain lands, and, inquiring for the lord high admiral, is
quickly brought into his presence. He has discovered the formidable
array of the Spaniards bearing down with the wind like so many
floating castles, the ocean seeming to groan under the weight of their
heavy burdens. The lord high admiral proposes to hold counsel with his
principal officers; but, says Drake, with a hearty laugh: 'Let us play
out our play; there will be plenty of time to win the game and beat
the Spaniards, too.'
28. "The game was played out steadily, and, the last cast having been
thrown, Drake and his comrades leaped into their boats and rowed
swiftly to their respective ships. With so much skill did Howard and
his lieutenants direct the movements of their squadrons that, before
morning, sixty of the best English ships had warped out of Plymouth
HOW THE NEWS SPREAD THROUGH ENGLAND
29. While preparations had been made to meet the Armada, there seems
to have been a half expectation on the part of the government that
something would occur to prevent its sailing. Until the very last,
Elizabeth and her counselors appeared to place more confidence in
diplomacy and political combinations than in the powers of Sir Francis
Drake and his coadjutors. So, when the Armada was seen off the coast,
the signal-fires were kindled, and the whole kingdom was soon ablaze.
The stirring verse of Macaulay best describes the spread of the news,
the alarm, the anxiety, and the grand uprising of the whole people.
30. Attend, all ye who list to bear
Our noble England's praise;
I tell of the thrice-famous deeds
She wrought in ancient days,
When that great fleet invincible
Against her bore in vain
The richest spoils of Mexico,
The stoutest hearts of Spain.
31. It was about the lovely close
Of a warm summer day,
There carne a gallant merchant-ship
Full sail to Plymouth Bay;
Her crew hath seen Castile's black fleet,
Beyond Aurigny's isle,
At earliest twilight, on the waves,
Lie heaving many a mile.
32. At sunrise she escaped their van,
By God's especial grace;
And the tall Pinta, till the noon,
Had held her close in chase.
33. Forthwith a guard at every gun
Was placed along the wall;
The beacon blazed upon the roof
Of Edgecumbe's lofty hall;
Many a light fishing-bark put out
To ply along the coast,
And with loose rein and bloody spur
Rode inland many a post.
34. With his white hair unbonneted,
The stout old sheriff comes;
Before him march the halberdiers;
Behind him sound the drums;
His yeomen round the market cross
Make clear an ample space;
For there behooves him to set up
The standard of her Grace.
43. At once on all her stately gates
Arose the answering fires;
At once the wild alarum clashed
From all her reeling spires;
From all the batteries of the Tower
Pealed loud the voice of fear;
And all the thousand masts of Thames
Sent back a louder cheer
44. And from the farthest wards was heard
The rush of hurrying feet,
And the broad streams of pikes and flags
Rushed down each roaring street;
And broader still became the blaze,
And louder still the din,
As fast from every village round
The horse came spurring in:
45. And eastward straight from wild Blackheath
The warlike errand went,
And roused in many an ancient hall
The gallant squires of Kent.
Southward from Surrey's pleasant hills
Flew those bright couriers forth;
High on bleak Hampstead's swarthy moor
They started for the north;
46. And on, and on, without a pause
Untired they bounded still;
All night from tower to tower they sprang:
They sprang from hill to hill:
Till the proud peak unfurled the flag
O'er Darwin's rocky dales,
Till like volcanoes flared to heaven
The stormy hills of Wales;
47. Till twelve fair counties saw the blaze
On Malvern's lonely height,
Till streamed in crimson on the wind
The Wrekin's crest of light,
Till broad and fierce the star came forth
On Ely's stately fame,
And tower and hamlet rose in arms
O'er all the boundless plain;
48. Till Belvoir's lordly terraces
The sign to Lincoln sent,
And Lincoln sped the message on
O'er the wide vale of Trent;
Till Skiddaw saw the fire that burned
On Gaunt's embattled pile,
And the red glare on Skiddaw roused
The burghers of Carlisle.
THE PRELIMINARY SKIRMISH.
49. It was on Saturday, July 20th, a dull, misty day, that the two
great fleets, which represented the cause of freedom on the one side
and the longing after universal empire on the other, came in sight of
each other. The great Armada, with its huge galleons in battle array
extending over a space of many miles, was suffered to sail up the
Channel, past Plymouth Harbor, without molestation. This was in
accordance with the general plan of attack which bad been agreed upon.
50. The superior force of the Spaniards caused no fear, but rather a
grim determination to overwhelm and destroy. The universal sentiment
that seemed to prevail among all classes of Englishmen concerning
their country finds fitting expression in the words which Shakespeare
puts into the mouth of John of Gaunt:
"This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise;
This fortress, built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world;
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed spot, this earth, this realm, this England,
Dear for her reputation through the world."
51. To guard this favored spot, and to protect its soil from the
polluting footstep of the hated Spaniard, mariners went forth to do or
die. It was now, in the moment of supreme peril, that the courage,
hardihood, and skill of England's great navigators gained in battle
with the elements in the unknown seas of the North and West, and in
many a strife against fearful odds with their Spanish foes, were found
to be equal to the occasion and sufficient to insure the safety of
52. On Sunday morning, July 21st, the English ships commenced their
attacks upon their unwieldy antagonists. "The Spanish ships," says
Motley, "seemed arrayed for a pageant in honor of a victory won.
Arranged in the form of a crescent whose horns were seven miles
asunder, those gilded towers and floating castles, with their
brilliant standards and martial music, bore slowly up the Channel. The
admiral, the 'Golden Duke,' stood in his private shot-proof tower, on
the deck of his great galleon, the Saint Martin, surrounded by guards
of infantry and captains of cavalry, no better acquainted than himself
with naval tactics.
53. "And just as the gaddy hovers about and stings the horse, which is
all unable to escape from its tiny enemy; so round the heavy galleons
and unwieldy ships of Spain the light English vessels, commanded by
able and experienced seamen, hovered with the utmost freedom. Their
superior tactics soon obtained the advantage of the wind, enabling
them at intervals to cannonade their enemies with great effect, while
they themselves escaped out of range at pleasure, and easily avoided
the tremendous discharge of the Spanish ordnance.
54. "In vain the Golden Duke attempted to bring on a general
engagement. Howard and Drake were well aware that in a ship-to-ship
fight the strongest would necessarily conquer, and that their only
hope of success lay in keeping close upon the enemy's flanks, or
following at his heels, cutting off a stray galleon, making a dash
into his ill-managed squadrons, and so gradually but surely reducing
his strength, until they could venture to give him battle on more
55. "The Armada," Mr. Fronde says, "made sail and attempted to close.
To Medina Sidonia's extreme astonishment, it seemed at the pleasure of
the English to leave him or allow him to approach them as they chose.
The high-towered, broad-bowed galleons moved like Thames barges piled
with hay, while the sharp, low English ships sailed at near two feet
to the Spaniards' one and shot away, as if by magic, in the eye of the
wind. It was as if a modern steam fleet was engaged with a squadron of
the old-fashioned sailing vessels, choosing their own distance, and
fighting or not fighting, as suited their convenience.
56. "Astonished and confounded, as well by the manoeuvring as by the
rapidity of the English fire, the Spanish officers could not refuse
their admiration. They knew they were inferior at sea, but had not
fully realized their inferiority, notwithstanding the lessons Drake,
Hawkins, Cavendish, and others had already taught them. But here were
the English firing four shots to their one, while their ships were so
nimble that, with a fresh breeze, even the swiftest of the Spanish
ships could not touch there. Such splendid gunners and skillful seamen
the Spaniards had never seen before, and were hardly able to believe
in their existence."
57. The wind was from the west, so that the English fleet were able to
keep to the windward, giving them an increased advantage over their
antagonists. The Spanish gunners, drafted from the army, could not
manage the naval ordnance, and their shots flew high and scarcely
touched the English ships. On the other hand, the Spanish vessels were
riddled with shot, and men fell killed and wounded on every side. But
the ships were too strongly built to be easily destroyed, and so the
monsters continued to receive fearful blows, and sailed wearily and
helplessly on. Toward night, Medina Sidonia, finding it impossible to
bring on a general engagement, signaled to make sail up the Channel,
the rear to be covered by the squadron under his second in command,
Don Martinez de Recaldi.
58. "The wind was now rising and promised a squally evening. The
English ships withdrew for want of powder. An express was sent up to
London for a fresh supply. A fast boat was dispatched to Lord Harry
Seymour, who commanded a fleet of coasters farther up the Channel,
with a letter reporting progress so far, and bidding him be on the
alert. But the misfortunes of the Spaniards were not yet over. The
Capitana, one of their largest galleons, fouled with another vessel
and broke her bow-sprit. She fell behind, and was left to her fate.
In the morning Drake took possession of her, and found many casks of
reals, and, what was of more importance, some tons of gunpowder, with
which the Roebuck, the swiftest traveler of the fleet, flew to the
59. "Shortly after dark another serious accident occurred. The
officers of one of the great galleons, impatient and irritated at the
results of the action, were quarreling with one another. The captain
struck the master-gunner with a stick. The gunner, who was from
Holland, went below in a rage, thrust a burning linstock, or long
match, into a powder-barrel, and sprang through a port-hole into the
sea. The deck was blown off from stem to stern. Two hundred seamen and
soldiers were sent into the air: some fell into the water and were
drowned; some, scorched or mutilated, dropped back into the wreck. The
ship, which was one of the largest in the fleet, was built so strongly
that she survived the shock, and at day-light the English took
possession of her. At the bottom of the hold were many barrels of
powder, which Lord Howard so sorely needed."
THE PROGRESS OF THE FIGHT.
60. On the morning of July 22d the Spanish admiral saw the remainder
of the English fleet coming up from Plymouth Harbor, and he made all
sail up the Channel. Owing to the want of powder, the attack of the
English was less vigorous than on the day before, but still they
dogged the Spaniards in the most persevering manner, and succeeded in
inflicting serious damage upon many of the Spanish vessels. The breeze
from the west still continued, but it was light, and the fleets made
but little headway during the day.
61. On Tuesday, July 23d, a strong morning breeze sprang up from the
east, and the Spaniards found themselves for the first time to the
windward. Taking advantage of the situation, they bore down upon the
English fleet, and tried to bring on a general engagement. This
challenge the English would not accept, and stood out to sea toward
the west. The Spaniards thought they were retreating, and gave chase.
All the galleons were bad sailers, but some were better than others,
and soon the San Marcus outstripped her consorts. When several miles
ahead of all her companions the wind shifted to the west, leaving the
English to the windward. Lord Howard immediately bore down in his
flag-ship, the Ark, and attacked the San Marcus, but she defended
herself with great bravery, and for an hour and a half fought
single-handed, delivering eighty shots and receiving five hundred. His
powder again giving out, Lord Howard was obliged to withdraw. This
action was fought off Plymouth Harbor, so that in the three days'
fight the Armada had made no substantial progress toward its
62. "By this time the news that the Armada was in the Channel had
circulated throughout the length and breadth of England, and from
every creek and port and harbor came accession of goodly ships,
equipped at the cost of leading squires and nobles, and manned by her
'best blood.' From Lyme and Weymouth and Poole and the Isle of Wight,
young lords and gentlemen came streaming out in every smack or sloop
they could lay hold of, to snatch their share of danger and glory at
Howard's side. The strength which they were able to add was little or
nothing, but they brought enthusiasm; they brought to the half-starved
crews the sense that the heart of all England was with them, and this
assurance transformed every seaman into a hero.
63. "On Tuesday evening, after the fight, Medina Sidonia counted a
hundred sail behind him, and he observed, with some uneasiness, that
the numbers were continually increasing. On Wednesday, July 24th, the
weather was calm, and the English lay idle at a short distance from
the Armada waiting for powder.
64. "Thursday, July 25th, was the feast-day of Spain's patron saint,
St. Jago; of him who, mounted on a milk-white steed, had ridden in
fore-front of battle in one of the Spanish encounters with the Moors,
and had led them to victory. Should nothing on this holy day be done
in his honor by those whom he had so greatly favored? It was decided
to make an attack. The galleys led the way, and in their van rode
three of the four great galliasses, thrashing the sea to foam with
three hundred oars apiece. The English met them with such tremendous
discharges of chain-shot that, had not the wind risen about noon,
enabling the Spanish ships to come up to their assistance, the galleys
would surely have been taken. When the lord admiral withdrew his
ships, the Spaniards were so cowed that they made no attempt to pursue
65. "Thus," says Canon Kingsley, "the fight had thundered on the
live-long afternoon, beneath the virgin cliffs of Freshwater, on the
Isle of Wight, while myriad sea fowl rose screaming from every ledge,
and with their black wings spotted the snow-white walls of chalk; and
the lone shepherd hurried down the slopes above to peer over the dizzy
ledge, and forgot the wheat-ear fluttering in his snare, while,
trembling, he gazes upon glimpses of tall masts and gorgeous flags,
piercing at times the league-broad veil of sulphur-smoke which
weltered far below."
BRIEF RESPITE FROM BATTLE.
66. Friday, July 26th, was a tranquil summer day. The wind died away,
and the two fleets, but a few miles apart, lay rocking on the waves.
The Duke of Medina Sidonia took advantage of the pause and sent a
swift messenger to the Prince of Parma, praying him to dispatch to his
assistance forty small sailing-vessels, capable of contending with the
light swift craft of the English. All the next day, July 27th, the two
fleets sailed slowly up the Channel in hostile but silent
companionship—the Spaniard convinced he could not meet the Englishman
in open fight; the Englishman heedful that he should not be surrounded
by a superior force. At night the battered and maltreated Armada took
refuge in the harbor of Calais.
67. The same afternoon Lord Howard was joined by Sir Harry Seymour
with his squadron of sixteen vessels, which bad been keeping watch
along the eastern ports, and the combined fleet dropped anchor to the
eastward of Calais, and within a mile and a half of the French shore.
"Never, since England was England," says Mr. Motley, "had such a sight
been seen as now revealed itself in those narrow straits between Dover
and Calais. Along that low, sandy shore, and quite within the range of
the Calais fortifications, one hundred and thirty Spanish ships—the
greater number of them the largest and most heavily armed in the
world—lay face to face, and scarcely out of cannon-shot, with one
hundred and fifty English sloops and frigates, the strongest and
swiftest that the island could furnish, and commanded by men whose
exploits had rung through the world.
68. "Farther along the coast, invisible but known to be performing a
most perilous and vital service, was a squadron of Dutch vessels of
all sizes lining both the outer and inner of the sand-banks of the
Flemish coasts and swarming in all the estuaries and inlets of that
intricate and dangerous cruising-ground between Dunkirk and
Texel. Those fleets of Holland and Zealand, numbering some one hundred
and fifty galleons, sloops, and fly-boats, lay patiently blockading
every possible egress from the ports in possession of the Duke of
Parma, and longing to grapple with him as soon as his fleet of
gunboats and hoys, packed with his Spanish and Italian veterans,
should venture to set forth upon the sea for their long-meditated
69. This friendly attitude of the Dutch to the English was due to a
variety of causes. Both nations represented the new religion in its
struggle against the established church. In consequence of the
terrible atrocities of the Duke of Alva, the Dutch had an
inextinguishable hatred for the Spaniards, and were ready to do
anything to thwart their plans and diminish their power. Then, too,
the Dutch remembered how the ships of Elizabeth, laden with
provisions, had brought succor to their beleaguered cities and saved
the lives of their famished people. So, animated by enmity on the one
side and by gratitude on the other, the Dutch for a time forgot their
struggle for maritime supremacy with the English, and brought all
their force to bear to support the English cause in its hour of
70. The Spaniards seem never to have anticipated this energetic action
on the part of the Dutch. The Duke of Medina Sidonia now found that he
could get no direct sea communication with the Spanish land-forces;
and the Duke of Parma found himself in a situation where his
invincible army was powerless, and his soldierly experience and
talents were of no avail. The plans of the Spanish admiral to make use
of the small vessels of Parma had been thwarted by the Dutch, and the
dispersion of the Dutch vessels had been prevented by the fierce
attack of Howard and Drake upon the Armada.
71. In coming to anchor on that Saturday night in Calais Harbor,
however, the Spaniards had gained two important points. Their ships
were under the protection of friendly land-batteries; and nothing
remained to prevent the co-operation of the land-forces and the fleet.
The Duke of Parma could march his forces westward and embark from
Calais instead of Dunkirk, and thus turn the flank of the Dutch fleet.
72. Sunday, July 29th, was a day of suspense and anxiety on the part
of both the contending forces. The English knew that a junction with
Parma was now possible, and Howard and Drake were too good seamen not
to know that, in a close and general engagement, the superior size,
weight, and numbers of the Spanish ships would prevail. On the other
hand, the Spaniards knew that they were in an unsafe harbor should a
strong wind spring up from the west, and Medina Sidonia began to have
a wholesome dread of the valor and strength which guarded the homes of
Britain. The day passed in Sabbath quiet and repose, and when the sun
set there was no indication that a night's strife was to follow,
potential as shaping the future destinies of both Spain and England.
FRIGHT AND FLIGHT.
73. During the day, Captain Winter, of the English fleet, suggested
that the Spaniards might be driven from their anchorage by fire-ships,
and his plan was adopted. Six vessels were loaded with wild-fire,
rosin, pitch, brimstone, and other combustibles, and made ready to
sail. The night was dark, with indications in sky and sea of a coming
gale. "When the Spanish bells," says Froude, "were about striking
twelve, and, save the watch on deck, soldiers and seamen lay stretched
in sleep, certain dark objects, which had been seen dimly drifting in
the tide near where the galleons lay thickest, shot suddenly into
pyramids of light, flames leaping from ruddy sail to sail, flickering
on the ropes and forecastles, masts and bow-sprits, a lurid blaze of
74. "A cool commander might have ordered out his boats and towed the
fire-ships clear; but Medina Sidonia, with a strain already upon him
beyond the strength of his capacity, saw coming some terrible engine
of destruction, like the floating mine which had shattered Parma's
bridge at Antwerp. Panic spread through the entire Armada. Hasty and
impetuous cries arose on board each menaced vessel. 'Up anchors,
comrades! Out every stitch of canvas! Away, away! for in the track of
those blazing ships follow death and ruin!'
75. "There are times when immense bodies of men suddenly give way to
the influence of a needless but over-mastering panic, and this was one
of them. Every cable was cut; galleon, galliasse, and patache drove
hurriedly through the press of shipping, each heedless of its
comrade's danger, and seeking frantically some channel of escape. In
vain the Duke of Medina Sidonia attempted to reform his disordered
array. So long as the darkness lasted, the confusion prevailed; and
ship after ship reeled, staggered, and drifted out to sea. Several of
the Spanish ships were disabled, two were burned, and it was not until
they found themselves six miles from shore, and at a secure distance
from the smoldering hulks, that they recovered from their terror."
RENEWAL OF THE FIGHT.
76. On Monday, July 29th, when the day dawned, Lord Howard discovered
the Spanish fleet in great disorder, scattered over a wide space in
the Channel. He immediately ordered an advance, and, while Drake made
a bold attack upon the main body of the enemy, the lord high admiral
drove upon the sands several of the sluggard vessels of the Armada
which the fire-ships had failed to drive out to sea. For several hours
he engaged the great galliasse under the direct command of Admiral
Moncada, which was aground upon the sands. The vessel was captured and
Moncada slain, and the English admiral hastened to the assistance of
77. "It was well," says Froude, "that no more time was wasted over so
small a matter. Lord Howard had already delayed too long for his fame.
It was no time for the admiral of the fleet to be loitering over a
stray feather which had dropped from the enemy's plume when every ship
was imperiously needed for a far more important service. Medina
Sidonia intended to return to Calais, but his ships had drifted in the
night far to the east, and before his signal of return could be obeyed
the English fleet was upon them.
78. "Sir Henry Seymour, with his sixteen ships, having the advantage
of wind, speed, and skill, came upon a cluster of Spanish galleons at
eight in the morning. Reserving their fire till within a hundred and
twenty yards, and wasting no cartridges, the English ships continued
through the entire forenoon to pour upon them one continuous rain of
shot. They were driven together, and became entangled in a confused
and helpless mass.
79. "Drake, in the mean time, had fallen upon a score of galleons
under the direct command of Medina Sidonia himself. They were better
handled than the rest, and were endeavoring to keep sea-room and
retain some command of themselves. But their wretched sailing powers
put them to a disadvantage, for which no skill or courage could
compensate. The English were always at windward of them; and, hemmed
in at every turn, they, too, were forced back upon their consorts,
hunted together as a shepherd hunts sheep upon a common, and the whole
mass of them were forced slowly eastward, away from the only harbor
open to them, and into the unknown waters of the North Sea.
80. "Howard came up at noon to join in the work of destruction. The
Spaniards' gun-practice, always bad, was helpless beyond all past
experience. From eight o'clock in the morning until sunset the
English, almost untouched themselves, fired into them without
intermission at short range. They ceased only when the last cartridge
was spent, and every man was weary with labor. They took no prizes,
and they attempted to take none. Their orders were to sink and
destroy. They saw three great galleons go down, and three more drift
toward the sands, where their destruction was certain.
81. "On board the Spanish ships all was consternation and despair.
Toward sunset the great Santa Maria went down with all on board. When
the ships' companies were called over, it was discovered that no less
than four thousand men had been killed or drowned, and twice as many
wounded. The survivors were so utterly dispirited that nothing could
induce them to face England's sea-kings again."
CHASE AND DESTRUCTION.
82. On Tuesday afternoon, July 30th, Lord Howard summoned a council of
war, which decided upon a course of action. Lord Henry Seymour with
his squadron was to return to guard the mouth of the Thames against
any attempt on the part of Parma, while the remainder of the fleet was
to continue the chase of the Armada. Ninety vessels, under Howard,
Drake, and Frobisher, followed the flying Spaniards into the North
Sea. "We have the army of Spain before us," Drake wrote, "and hope,
with the grace of God, to wrestle a fall with him. There was never
anything pleased me better than seeing the enemy flying with a
southerly wind to the northward. God grant you have a good eye to the
Duke of Parma, for, if we live, I doubt not to handle the matter with
the Duke of Sidonia, as he shall wish himself at St. Mary's Port,
among his orange-trees!"
83. The wind, now strong from the south, had risen to a gale. The
Spanish ships, so fashioned as to sail only before the wind, were
driven northward. Between them and the shore, where lay possible
safety, was the dreadful English fleet, which had battered them so
sorely during the past ten days. Before them was the sea, full of
unknown perils. "Not only man but God was against them. His wind blew
discomfiture to their meditated enterprise. More than one poor;
crippled ship dropped behind as her spars snapped, or the water made
its way through her wounded seams in the straining seas. The
Spaniards, stricken with a wonderful fear, made no attempt to succor
their consorts, but pressed heavily on, leaving them to founder."
84. The pursuit continued until Friday, August 2d. There was now no
more danger to be apprehended from the scattered enemy. The wind was
threatening, and, the supply of provisions beginning to fail, Howard
and Drake determined on returning homeward, leaving a couple of
pinnaces to dog the Spaniards past the Scottish isles. Though the wind
was contrary, they beat back against it without loss, and in four or
five days the vessels, with their half-starved crews, all safely
arrived in Margate Roads, having done the noblest service that fleet
ever rendered to a country in the hour of supreme peril.
85. Meanwhile, so much as remained of the Invincible Armada was
buffeted to and fro by the resistless gale, like a shuttlecock between
two invisible players. The monster left its bones on the iron-bound
shore of Norway and on the granite cliffs of the Hebrides. Its course
could be traced by its wrecks. Day followed day, and still God's wrath
endured. On the 5th of August Admiral Oguendo, in his flag-ship,
together with one of the great galliasses and thirty-eight other
vessels, were driven by the fury of the tempest upon the rocks and
reefs of Ireland, and nearly every soul on board perished. Of one
hundred and thirty-four vessels which, gay with gold and amid
triumphal shouts and loud music, had sailed from Corunna July 12th,
only fifty-three battered and useless hulks returned to the ports of
86. The fate and exploits of the Armada are graphically summed up in
the emphatic language of Sir Francis Drake. "It is happily
manifested," he says, "indeed, to all nations how their navy which
they termed invincible, consisting of nearly one hundred and forty
sail of ships, were by thirty of her Majesty's ships of war, and a few
of our own merchants, by the wise and advantageous conduct of Lord
Charles Howard, High Admiral of England, beaten and shuffled together
from Lizard in Cornwall to Portland, from Portland to Calais; and from
Calais, driven by squibs from their anchors, were chased out of sight
of England, round about Scotland and Ireland. With all their great and
terrible ostentation, they did not, in all their sailing round about
England, so much as sink or take one ship, bark, pinnace, or cock-boat
of ours, or even burn so much as one sheep-cote on the land."
FREEDOM'S VOYAGE TO AMERICA.
DISSENT AND PERSECUTION.
1. Through the middle ages England, like the rest of the world, had
been in full communion with the Church of Rome. When the Reformation
had swept over Europe and left dissent to crystallize into various
Protestant sects, England too had dissented, and her king had
established the Anglican Church. This church, when it assumed final
form, had for its supreme head, not the pope, but the king, and under
him the clergy held their offices. The Roman Catholic ritual was not,
as in some of the European sects, entirely given up, but was modified
to suit the new order. And when the change was effected, the new
ministers firm in their positions, the new service-books ready for
use, then the Catholics were summarily ordered to embrace the reformed
2. At that time it had not dawned upon the world that there might be
more than one way to worship God in truth. Catholics honestly believed
that Protestants were going straight to perdition, and Protestants as
honestly believed that a like fate was in store for the pope and his
followers. When this was the temper of conviction, the natural thing
for each church to do was to persecute every other; not from hate, but
from the benevolent determination to oblige men to accept the true
religion and save their souls, even though it might be necessary in
the course of proceedings to burn their bodies. Mixed with this
legitimate missionary spirit were all sorts of political motives. The
church, whether Catholic or Protestant, was closely connected with the
state, and through all the corruptions of party politics religion had
to be dragged.
3. So, when the English state established Protestantism, its first
duty and interest was to suppress Catholicism. After two Protestant
kings, a Catholic queen came to the throne, and with her the
Protestants fell and the Catholics rose. The former were forbidden
their service, their ministers were turned out of their positions;
fines, imprisonment, burning punished those who held out against the
"true faith." Again the scene changed. The queen died, and by her
Protestant successor freedom of worship was denied to Catholics, and
the Anglican Church was re-established as the Church of England.
4. Meantime, in the Church of England a spirit of criticism had grown
up. Stricter thinkers disliked the imposing ceremonies which the
English church still retained: some of the ministers ceased to wear
gowns in preaching, performed the marriage ceremony without using a
ring, and were in favor of simplifying all the church service.
Unpretentious workers began to tire of the everlasting quarreling, and
to long for a religion simple and quiet. These soon met trouble, for
the rulers had decided that salvation was by the Church of England, as
the sovereign, its head, should order. Dissent was the two-fold guilt
of heresy and revolution—sin against God and crime against the king
and English law. They were forbidden to preach at all if they would
not wear a gown during service, and the people who went to hear them
were punished. This treatment caused serious thought among the
"non-conformists," as they were called, and, once thinking, they soon
concluded that the king had no such supreme right to order the church,
and the church had over its ministers no such right of absolute
5. Various sects sprang up, called by various names, differing among
themselves upon minor points, but agreeing more or less in dissent
from the full, unquestioned rule and service of the Episcopal Church.
Against all these dissenters the laws acted as against the Catholics.
Not only must Englishmen be Protestants, they must be Protestants of
the Church of England. Bodies were organized to keep strict watch of
the non-conformists. They were forbidden their simpler church worship
and fined if they did not attend that of the English Church. They were
"scoffed and scorned by the profane multitude, and so vexed, as truly
their affliction was not small."
JOHN ROBINSON'S CONGREGATION.
6. Among that division of the non-conformists called Puritans was a
little congregation at Scrooby, a town in north England. The pastor
was John Robinson, wise, kind, dignified, scholarly; and his helper in
church work and government was Elder William Brewster, a college man
who had served at the royal court. For the rest, the congregation were
mainly Bible-reading farmers, who wished only to live in peace
according to Bible teaching. Royal servants were watchful, and an open
church was out of the question; but every Sunday they met for service
wherever they could, sometimes in Elder Brewster's big house,
sometimes out-doors, anywhere so that they might listen to their
beloved pastor. During the week they worked their farms, thinking and
talking of the iniquities of the Catholics, the impurities of the
Episcopalians, the hard ways that beset the Puritans, and the
righteous God who looked down upon it all to record and avenge.
7. Quiet as such a simple church in a corner of England must have
been, it was not left undisturbed. Priests of the dominant church and
officers of the civil service soon pounced down with the demand that
the Puritan farmers stop all this "new-fangledness," and return to the
ways of the loyal church. John Robinson's people, however, had no
notion of giving up their new-fangledness. They possessed a full share
of English obstinacy, and, backed in it by their consciences, were not
likely to surrender at once. So their troubles began. They were hunted
and persecuted on every side. Some were clapped into prisons, others
had their houses beset and watched night and day, and hardly escaped
their hands, and the most were fain to fly and leave their houses and
habitations and the means of their livelihood.
8. What shall we do? thought the distressed farmers. We can not live
in such persecution. We will have to go away. Give up? Indeed, no! We
shall not belie our consciences for any man. Since God is behind us,
we will not conform. And, under opposition and injustice, Puritan lips
set themselves rigid, Puritan hearts closed against the persecutors,
strong reaction from the beautiful ceremonies and graceful living that
could hide such unbrotherliness became almost worship of unloveliness
and hardship. In after years the lives of their descendants were
shaped into a narrow severity, not drawn from the sweetness and light
of the gospel which they read, but from the bitter fountains of their
early sufferings and wrongs.
9. What shall we do? cried the harassed farmers. We will have to leave
our home and go to Holland, where others like us have already gone,
and where, we hear, is freedom of religion for all men. Yet how should
they get there? "for, though they could not stay, yet were they not
suffered to go." And, if they should get there, how could they, who
"had only been used to a plain country life and the innocent trade of
husbandry," manage to live in a country where people spoke an
outlandish language instead of good English, and earned their money by
10. Somehow God would help. Give up their religion they would not.
They set about going. They bribed ship captains, feed the sailors,
paid unreasonable rates for passage, and then, deserted by these same
captains and sailors, tried it again with others, were betrayed into
the hands of officers who rifled them of what money they had left and
turned them over to prison. Hard luck! Set free from prison, they
bargained with a Dutchman to take them in his ship to Holland, but as
they were going aboard a company of armed men surprised them, and the
Dutchman, afraid to be seen in such company, hastily sailed away with
half the "Pilgrims," leaving the rest terrified on the shore.
11. "Take us back!" cried the men. "Don't you see our wives and
children crying after us!" But the Dutchman was afraid of the
soldiers. "What will they do without us!" cried the men, straining
their eyes to see all that was happening on shore. "Our goods are not
yet aboard—take us back!" No use. The Dutchman sailed away, and the
soldiers carried off the frightened women and children to prison. When
the authorities had them safely locked up, they did not know what to
do with silly women and helpless children, who cried for their
husbands and fathers, and when asked concerning their homes cried the
more and declared they hadn't any; and, after making themselves
sufficient trouble, they solved the important problem by letting the
ridiculous creatures go again. The Dutchman's ship, through a terrible
storm, came to land. The distressed husbands sought the distressed
wives, and troublous wanderings ended in reunion. So were they
continually thwarted; but, by one means or another, determined wills
bent circumstances to their end, and at last they reached Holland.
12. Strangers as they were, destitute, all unused to the new life and
people, they had trouble enough at first, but they wasted little time
staring at the new world. It was a world they were to become a part of
as soon as possible, and, with characteristic earnestness, they fell
to work at any thing they found to do. After a year in Amsterdam they
settled in Leyden. They made them homes. They learned as best they
could the uncouth language. They taught their farmer hands
unaccustomed crafts, and applied their farmer heads to the mysteries
13. Elder Brewster, with the tastes and habits of a gentleman, a
rapidly diminishing property, and a large family of children, looked
about for work, and presently obtained pupils whom he taught English
after an original method. Later he set up a printing-press, and in
printing Puritan books, forbidden to be published in England, found
plenty to do. Mr. Robinson visited his people and was busy for their
welfare, preached, studied, wrote books; he was a kind friend and
helper, and a scholar besides, and proud of him were his devoted
14. Leyden Dutchmen looked with curiosity upon the knot of plain
foreigners, sober men, quiet women, children named after all the Bible
saints and heavenly virtues. Bibles they brought and evidently read.
It was rumored that together every morning and before each meal each
household held service of prayer, and long sermons and various
devotions wholly filled the Sabbath. Queer people, meditated the
Hollanders. But they soon found that it was safe to trust the Bible
readers. Though they were peculiar about Sunday, they were
surprisingly certain to keep their promises, and for all their
propensity to pray without ceasing they made most faithful workmen.
Superintendents sought them for laborers, merchants willingly gave
them credit; and with the passing years they became settled and
quietly prosperous. The Bibles were not neglected, the daily prayers
and weekly sermons were methodically attended.
15. The unpretentious people were not unobserved. Many from England
came to enjoy like freedom of worship, and far outside of Leyden John
Robinson's learning was known. When Arminians and Calvinists fell into
hot disputes, and Leyden ministers and university professors held
public meetings twice a week to settle knotty points of doctrine, John
Robinson was always there, listening eagerly to both sides. Many a
famous talk he bad with the ministers and professors. We must have Mr.
Robinson confute the Arminians, cried his friends among themselves.
16. So on a day the Puritan pastor, somewhat demurring because he was
a foreigner, yet withal not loath to ride a tilt with the enemy,
confronted Episcopus, the Arminian professor; and it is reported by
the Calvinists that his overwhelming arguments utterly nonplussed and
put the great Episcopus to rout. Oh, those theological debates! About
the paltry affairs of this world it was not right to quarrel. When
personal considerations were at stake, Puritan worthies could bridle
the tongue; but when was called in question some keenly felt phase of
the truth, some doctrine their precious Bible seemed to teach, then
the repressed fire burst into legitimate flame, and righteous
indignation with magnificent effect hurled back and forth the
thunderbolts of prophecy and psalm.
THE DEPARTURE FROM LEYDEN.
17. After some eleven or twelve years of this life in Leyden the
Puritans began to grow restless. Holland was not home to them, and
they were lonely. Some of them were growing old, and the somber burden
of poverty and exile began to weary the brave shoulders. The children
were growing up, and hard work and cramped life pressed all too
severely upon the young natures, so that they either threw off the
yoke and turned to bad ways or, bearing it patiently, missed the
chance of education and grew old before their time. They feared to
stay longer in this foreign country lest the children should learn
from the Dutch to break the Sabbath, should lose their native
language, should cease to be Englishmen.
18. Perhaps it would be best to move again and settle in some land
under the flag of dear England—harsh England, that would not grant
them peace at home. Though they should have to go to most distant
regions, they would cheerfully go, and consider themselves God's
missionaries there, if only they might have the protection of
England's king. They would go and break the way for others of their
countrymen less strong, and in America, if need be, prepare an English
home for Englishmen.
19. Gravely the elders talked together. The uncongenial life had been
cheerfully borne; a new uprooting and uncertain change would be as
steadfastly carried through, once they were sure God willed it. And at
last it seemed best to decide upon removal. "The dangers were great
but not desperate, the difficulties were many but not invincible—and
all of them, through the help of God, by fortitude and patience, might
either be borne or overcome." Sturdy courage! O England, to exile
20. Where, then, should they go? "I will guide thee," reads the
promise of the Puritan's Bible, and to God they turn in prayer for
direction. A general meeting is held, and much discussion results in
the decision to cross the Atlantic to Virginia, Great Britain's vast
new realm. They would not settle near the colony already planted
there, for that was of the Episcopal Church and might molest them; but
away by themselves somewhere—anywhere, if only they might nestle in a
remote corner of their king's dominions, and on English soil be free
to follow their own conscience. God and the king was the loyal
thought—yet, if there must be choice, the king shall not be first.
21. But, sending petition to the king, they found that he would give
them no assurance of freedom of worship; it was intimated that, if
they did go, the royal eye might be expected to wink at the
proceeding; but, as for promises, royalty would not commit itself.
Here was a discouragement. How should they dare break up their homes
and cross the ocean to an unknown, uncolonized land, with no assurance
of protection and liberty when they arrived there? But the leaders
rallied again: "If on the king's part there is a purpose or desire to
wrong us," they cried, "though we had a seal as broad as the
house-floor it would not serve the turn, for there would be means
enough found to recall or reverse it. . . . We must rest herein on
God's providence, as we have done before." Not lacking in
comprehension of the world's ways and in canny shrewdness were those
22. Wearisome negotiations then began with men who should furnish
means for the removal. Back and forth, from Leyden to London, from
London to Leyden, the agents went; letters passed from Robinson and
Brewster to the London merchants, and from the London merchants back.
Poor Robert Cushman, agent for the Puritans, experienced numerous
tribulations; pushed by the merchants to make an agreement, blamed by
his friends for going beyond his instructions, his letters defending
himself give a spirited glimpse into the harrowed soul of a
23. After months of all this, the arrangements were concluded. A body
of London merchants agreed to furnish ships and provisions for the
passage, on certain conditions: for seven years after landing the
Puritans were to hold all property in common; they were to fish,
plant, build, and at the end of seven years were to share with the
merchants, according to certain specified conditions, the accumulated
property, capital, and profits. Hard terms! But they could not choose,
and go they must.
24. Who should go? This question agitated the Leyden congregation. Not
all could take the voyage. Perhaps not all cared to: it was so far, so
far! Yet the most were willing, and it remained to select from the
large congregation those most fit for the hard task. There was
dividing of friend from friend, of husband from wife, of father from
child. Elder Brewster would go as their spiritual leader, since the
beloved pastor must for the present stay with those who remained,
hoping later to cross the sea and come to them.
25. A ship, the Speedwell, was fitted up in Holland; another, the
Mayflower, awaited them in England. When all was ready they appointed
a day of solemn fasting and prayer. Pastor Robinson preached to them
"a good part of the day" on the text, "And there at the river, by
Ahava, I proclaimed a fast, that we might humble ourselves before our
God and seek of him a right way for us and for our children and for
all our substance," and "the rest of the time was spent in pouring out
prayers to the Lord with great fervency mixed with abundance of tears.
" Again they met together in a "feast" at the pastor's house. Sorry
26. The hospitality was large, but hearts were too full for much but
tears: a tender, painful farewell gathering, their white-haired pastor
going about among them with words of comfort and counsel, gentle last
suggestions, scripture texts believed, though the voice that repeats
them trembles and breaks—believed and clung to through the tug of
parting. "Fear thou not, for I am with thee. Be not dismayed, for I am
thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will
uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness!" "God is our
refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will
not we fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be
carried into the midst of the sea. The Lord of hosts is with us; the
God of Jacob is our refuge." Yes, they believed. And believing, they
sang through tears—quivering pain notes at first, then, faith
dominating, the tones grew firmer and sustained, until the final words
rang out clear and strong; and with the end of the hymn they were
ready for last earnest hand-clasps and quiet good-night.
27. To take ship, they went to Delft Haven, fourteen miles from
Leyden, and to the port Pastor Robinson, with most of their friends,
accompanied them. One more night on land, then the long voyage and the
uncertain future. There was little sleep that night; and again, with
Bible words and Christian counsel, hearts were strengthened.
28. In the morning, the wind being fair, "they went aboard and their
friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and
mournful parting, to see what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound
among them." We know, we know—God is our refuge—but sore is the
parting. We are willing—but our hearts are wrung. There is no thought
of regret or turning—but oh, the pain of it! The Dutchmen, loitering
in the sunshine on the shore, watching with heavy curiosity this
strange departure, suddenly find their own eyes filled with
sympathetic tears. We must be off! cries the captain, half impatient
over so much fervency and tears. They kneel around the pastor, and,
with unsteady voice, though his trust is firm, he calls upon the God
in whom they believe to guide and bless these his children. Once more
the arms cling close. "Mother, mother, how can I let you go!" "My
child, my child!" "Beloved, you will come over to me soon." "Oh, my
husband!" "God wills it; I must go." "My son, I shall not live to see
your face again." Loosen the clasping arms; unfold the clinging
fingers. You stay and we go, and the ocean lies between. The wind
comes breathing, the sails fill; good-by! good-by! across the widening
space—and they are gone.
29. They sailed first to meet the Mayflower and others of the Puritan
company at Southampton, England. There they called Robert Cushman to
account, fell out with one of their London patrons, read together an
affectionate farewell letter from Mr. Robinson, made all final
arrangements for the voyage, and on August 5th, 1620, set sail in the
two ships for America. But the captain of the Speedwell, half-hearted
in the business, twice had them back to land to repair pretended
leaks; and the second time, putting in at Plymouth, it was determined
to leave the Speedwell and a part of the Puritan band. The little
company, small enough before, was again reduced, "like Gideon's army.
" Some were discouraged with the many hindrances and willingly stayed;
some were beginning to fear for the success of the voyage, undertaken
so late in the season; some were weak, and, could be spared where
there was need of the strongest; some little children were sent back
to await a later passage; Robert Cushman, vexed to the soul by the
unsatisfactoriness of his negotiations, sick and disheartened, stayed
behind. Again there were sad parting, tears, and prayers; but God
would sustain, and, leaving the companion ship and the last friends,
the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth, September 6th.
30. One hundred and two "Pilgrims," seeking a better country: men,
women, children, servants and hand-maidens. Elder William Brewster
with his wife Mary, his two sons Love and Wrestling, and a boy,
Richard More; the Winslows, with two men-servants and Richard More's
little sister Ellen; William Bradford and his wife Dorothy, their only
child being left behind; the Allertons, the Martins, the Whites, with
their son Resolved; Mr. and Mrs. Mullins with their children Joseph
and Priscilla, and a servant; Mr. Hopkins and his family; Mr. Warren,
lonely enough without the wife and children left behind; John
Billington, his wife Ellen, and his two sons; the two Tilley families,
with their cousins Henry Samson and Humility Cooper, children whose
parents were not with them; Mr. Cook and John his son, his wife and
other children being in England yet, John Rigdale and Alice his wife;
Miles Standish, bold English soldier, with Rose his wife; John Alden,
the cooper, "a hopeful young man and much desired"; Thomas Tinker,
with his wife and child; these and many others in the little ship
sailed over the wide ocean in search of an English home where
Englishmen might freely worship God.
31. The voyage at first was fair enough. They were seasick, some of
them; the children had to be watched lest they fall overboard; a
profane bully of a sailor, after using all manner of abuse toward the
sick ones, himself fell ill and died, "And," says William Bradford,
recording it, "thus his curses light on his own head, and it was an
astonishment to all his fellows, for they noted it to be the just hand
of God upon him." Later came storms and danger, with breaking of
masts, eager consultation among the ship's officers, water, wind,
confusion; but the masts were mended and they "committed themselves to
the will of God and resolved to proceed." Big John Howland, coming on
deck, was thrown into the sea by a lurch of the ship, but with a rope
was hauled in again and saved. Before they came to land a little boy
was born in the Hopkins family, and they named him Oceanus; and Samuel
Fuller's servant, a young man named William Butten, died as they
neared the coast.
32. The hard voyage was over at last, and on the 9th of November Cape
Cod appeared. They knew about Cape Cod from the map and book of
Captain John Smith, who had tried to plant a colony there some years
before, but they intended to land somewhere near the Hudson River, and
turned south along the coast. Shoals and breakers barring their
passage that way, they returned, and, on November 11th, anchored in
Cape Cod harbor. "Being now passed the vast ocean and a sea of
troubles, before their preparation unto further proceedings . . . they
fell down upon their knees and blessed the Lord, the God of Heaven,
who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered
them from all perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on
the firm and stable earth, their proper element."
33. So there they were, and as yet no one had left the ship. It was
winter. The cold blue ocean beat the cold white shore, and the dark
forest further back rustled and moaned in the north wind, whistling
bleak welcome. What could those women and children do there? West from
the sea lay an unexplored country, no one knew how large; dark forest
uninhabited, save for the dusky Indian, clothed the land in an
unbroken mystery of wilderness; north and south stretched the desolate
coast, stretched five hundred miles ere it reached the nearest
European settlement; east lay the ocean, not to be recrossed. How
could the men build shelter in the midst of a northern winter? And
they must build, for the ship's store of provisions was none too
large, and the captain impatient to be off again before famine set in.
After ages of comfort—shiver to think of it!—that lone, cold
landing; the stretching, desolate coast; the cutting, wind-blown snow;
the little anchored ship, bearing treasure of warm human hearts,
strong human wills, clear purpose, courage untamed. Slight protection,
the rocking ship, for such precious store of life, with that white,
relentless winter coming down upon the bay.
34. The day of casting anchor, those steadfast, earnest men, whose God
was the Lord, and whose king was James of England, gathered in the
Mayflower cabin and, by a formal statement written and signed, formed
themselves into a civil state. Note the words of the compact: "In the
name of God, amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal
subjects of our dread sovereign lord, King James—" have fled over
seas from English persecution? No—"have undertaken, for the glory of
God and the advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king
and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts
of Virginia." God and the king; true Christians and true Englishmen.
The document reads with a calm dignity, a clear political instinct, a
solemn religious faith, worthy of Englishmen. They may have braved
English laws for conscience' sake, but there is no bravado; they may
keenly feel the injustice they have experienced, but there was no
35. Then began expeditions to the land. The men, under Captain
Standish, went in parties in a small boat, returning to the ship at
night, or, in some cases, they camped on the shore and were away from
the ship several days. Wading to the shore through water too shallow
even for the small boat, with sea-spray freezing as it covered them,
tramping through the snow, breaking through the forest, with prayer
each morning, and always a day of rest on Sunday, they explored the
coast and wilderness for the best place to settle. They found yellow
Indian corn buried by the Indians in sand-heaps, and carried it to the
ship, counting it God's special providence that they were thus
provided with seed to plant the next year. "The Lord is never wanting
unto his in their greatest needs; let his holy Name have all the
praise!" cried William Bradford. November wore away, dark and wild,
and with set teeth December came. Back and forth went the exploring
parties. A skirmish with the Indians took place; but "it pleased God
to vanquish their enemies and give them deliverance, and by his
special providence so to dispose, that not any one of them was hurt or
hit, though their arrows came close." Thereupon they gave the Lord
solemn thanks, and named the place "The First Encounter."
36. After a stormy, dangerous week, Saturday, December 9th, dawned
clear, and the sun shone down on the snowy world. The Sabbath day the
explorers observed on shore, and Monday they "sounded the harbor and
found it fit for shipping, and marched into the land and found a . . .
place fit for situation; at least, it was the best they could find,
and the season and their present necessity made them glad to accept of
it. So they returned to their ship again with this news to the rest of
their people, which did much comfort their hearts." This day,
December 11th, old style, corresponding to December 21st, new style,
is celebrated as the date of the "landing of the Pilgrims."
37. Meantime, what of those left in the ship these four dreary weeks?
The ways of life went on in births and deaths; six of the wanderers
found the door of the other world; and Peregrine White came into
this—first-born of New England. The little boy Jasper More, who came
in care of the Carvers, died; and Dorothy Bradford fell overboard and
was drowned while her husband was exploring the coast. The men had
terrible coughs and colds from wading through the freezing sea, and
the women were beginning to suffer from the hardship of it all. The
children, child-like, adapted themselves to the situation. Mr.
Billington being gone to the shore, his son John, with the family gun
well loaded, took occasion to try his skill by shooting it off in the
cabin; "yet, by God's mercy, no harm was done!"
38. Midwinter, and provisions low. Seven already buried in the ocean.
Sickness setting in with more severity, women and children to be
somehow cared for, two tiny babies to be shielded from all harm, their
only home the inhospitable shore. No time to lose! The 16th they began
to build the first house, and so was planted Plymouth.
39. In that dead winter time sprang Plymouth. Cold for the seed of the
Mayflower, but Mayflower's seed did not easily die. The houses went
up, one after another, and as it became possible the company on the
ship were transferred to the land. The ship, indeed, became more and
more undesirable: sickness prevailed; the sailors did not escape, but
dragged about or tossed in their beds in fierce impatience, and, of
the Puritans, half their number died before the end of March. Elder
Brewster and strong Miles Standish, with half-a-dozen others who were
left in health, toiled night and day, cooking, building fires, making
beds, washing clothes, adapting their masculine hands to women's
offices as they dressed and undressed the feverish patients, cared for
the babies whose mothers lay ill, heard the children say their
prayers. Ah, Miles Standish, rough captain, nowhere do you stand out
braver than against that background! And Rose, thy wife, Rose Standish
too must die, ere ever she comes to the home on the shore.
40. The winter wears on. The Indians come to investigate, later to
treat with the English. Since there are few well enough to build, the
little settlement, snowbound between the ocean and the forest, grows
but slowly. Sometimes death comes twice and thrice in a day, and the
whole scene is a funeral and the ocean one black grave. Yet they bear
it all patiently, silently: it is the hand of the Lord. Priscilla
Mullins sees her father, her mother, her brother, buried in the
heartless sea, and stands in the New World alone. "God is our refuge
and strength, a very present help in trouble." Priscilla can bear it
as a brave woman will, and, later, finds protection in the strong arm
of John Alden. Mr. Winslow watches the waves close over the form of
his wife. "My life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing,…
but I trusted in thee, O Lord; my times are in thy hand." He can
bear it as a brave man can, and not many months after finds comfort in
taking to himself the widow of Mr. White; the two knit together by
common sorrow and danger. Elizabeth Tilley loses father and mother.
John Rigdale and Alice, his wife, die together. Thomas Tinker, wife,
and child, all die there in the ship. And the north wind beat the sea
and blew through the bare trees. Desolate, desolate welcome! "From the
end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed:
lead me to the rock that is higher than I. The rock of my strength and
my refuge is in God." They could bear it and be brave; and they did,
until God sent the spring with new health for his people.
41. Warmer shines the sun, and April comes. All the people—all whom
death has left—are in the houses now, and the Mayflower is ready for
the home voyage. They gather at the shore to see the last of her, and
send last messages back to the dear home land. Back goes the ship,
straight to Old England; yet, with that fearful winter freezing in
their memories, scarce fifty of them left to found the lonely
settlement, weak yet and worn, not one returns to the easier life at
home. The Mayflower disappears on the eastern horizon; the last
watcher by the shore is satisfied that she is gone; and then alone,
self-governed, self-dependent, free, the sea and wilderness circling
close about them, God their Father watching overhead, the Puritans
take up their stern life, and in America create New England,
Ellen Coit Brown.
LANDING OF THE PILGRIMS.
42. The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods, against a stormy sky,
Their giant branches tossed.
43. And the heavy night hung dark
The woods and waters o'er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.
44. Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted, came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that speaks of fame;
45. Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear—
They shook the depths of the desert's gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.
46. Amidst the storm they sang;
And the stars heard, and the sea;
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free!
47. The ocean eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam,
And the rocking pines of the forest roared—
This was their welcome home.
[Illustration: Landing of the Pilgrims]
THE PILGRIM FATHERS.
48. Behold! they come—those sainted forms,
Unshaken through the strife of storms;
Heaven's winter cloud hangs coldly down,
And earth puts on its rudest frown;
But colder, ruder, was the hand
That drove them from their own fair land;
Their own fair land—Refinement's chosen seat,
Art's trophied dwelling, Learning's green retreat;
By Valor guarded and by Victory crowned,
For all but gentle Charity renowned.
49. With streaming eye, yet steadfast heart,
Even from that land they dared to part,
And burst each tender tie;
Haunts, where their sunny youth was passed,
Homes, where they fondly hoped at last
In peaceful age to die.
Friends, kindred, comfort, all they spurned,
Their fathers' hallowed graves,
And to a world of darkness turned,
Beyond a world of waves.
50. When Israel's race from bondage fled,
Signs from on high the wanderers led;
But here—Heaven hung no symbol here,
Their steps to guide, their souls to cheer;
They saw, through sorrow's lengthening night,
Naught but the fagot's guilty light;
The cloud they gazed at was the smoke.
Nor power above, nor power below,
Sustained them in their hour of woe;
A fearful path they trod,
And dared a fearful doom;
To build an altar to their God,
And find a quiet tomb.
51. Yet, strong in weakness, there they stand
On yonder ice—bound rock,
Stern and resolved, that faithful band,
To meet Fate's rudest shock.
Though anguish rends the father's breast,
For them, his dearest and his best,
With him the waste who trod—
Though tears that freeze the mother sheds
Upon her children's houseless heads—
The Christian turns to God.
52. In grateful adoration now
Upon the barren sands they bow.
What tongue of joy e'er woke such prayer
As bursts in desolation there?
What arm of strength e'er wrought such power
As waits to crown that feeble hour?
When into life an infant empire springs,
There falls the iron from the soul,
There Liberty's young accents roll
Up to the King of kings!
53. Spread out earth's holiest record here,
Of days and deeds to reverence dear;
A zeal like this, what pious legends tell?
On kingdoms built
In blood and guilt,
The worshipers of vulgar triumph dwell:
But what exploit with them shall page
Who rose to bless their kind—
Who left their nation and their age
Man's spirit to unbind
Who boundless seas passed o'er,
And boldly met in every path,
Famine, and frost, and heathen wrath,
To dedicate a shore
Where Piety's meek train might breathe their vow,
And seek their Maker with an unshamed brow;
Where Liberty's glad race might come,
And set up there an everlasting home!
PLASSEY; AND HOW AN EMPIRE WAS WON.
1. India, the great peninsula stretching from the Himalayas to Cape
Comorin, is nearly half as large as Europe, and contains a population
of 150,000,000. Myth and tradition claim for this people a very great
antiquity, and there are many evidences that in arts, government, and
literature, India is at least coeval with China and Egypt, the three
constituting the most ancient civilizations of the world. While
Western Europe was still the abode of barbarians, and while even
Greece had scarcely felt the impulse which aroused her to intellectual
life, the fabrics of India had reached a marvelous degree of fineness
and beauty; and the monarchs of the West counted it a great privilege
to be clothed in the "purple and fine linen" of the Orient.
2. The early history of India seems a confused tangle of strifes and
contentions between different nations and races for the possession of
this region, inexpressibly rich in all that makes a land desirable for
the occupation of man, and of wars between local rulers striving for
dominion. In the midst of this confusion, however, there seems to be
good evidence that the early civilization made its first appearance in
the valleys of the Upper Indus; that all invasions, until recent
times, were from the fierce tribes of the table-lands to the
northwest; that the industrious people of the valleys were driven from
their homes by successive incursions of barbarians, extending through
many centuries; that each horde, becoming partially civilized, was in
turn driven forward; and that the migrations were continuous from the
north to the south. Thus it happens that at present the population of
India consists of at least thirty distinct nationalities, and that the
aboriginal possessors of the Vale of Cashmere have been driven
forward, until now they are found only upon the summits of the
Neilgherry Mountains, in the extreme southern part of the peninsula.
THE MOGUL EMPIRE.
3. The Brahminical religion has prevailed in India from the earliest
period. The first literary productions of the people are the Vedas,
the sacred books of the Brahmins. This religion is tolerant and
inclusive. Its pantheon recognizes so many gods that each barbarous
tribe from the North found their own deity represented, so that their
crude religious notions readily merged in the more complicated system
of the people they had conquered. The great Buddhistic reform spent
its force, and, although triumphant in other lands, it left but little
impress in India where it originated. The whole people believed the
Brahminical creed and practiced the Brahminical precepts. It was a
religion that included the purest abstractions and the grossest form
of idolatry. While absorbing all other creeds, it never sought to make
converts to its own.
4. The later incursions from the northwest were essentially different
from their predecessors. The tribes of the table-lands had been
converted to the fanatical and proselyting faith of Mohammed. About
the middle of the sixteenth century, a Mongol tribe, strong and
stalwart from late successful wars, and full of the fierce zeal of
recent converts to Moslemism, appeared at the northern gate of India,
and in a short time overspread the country and established the Mogul
Empire, with its capital at Delhi. The stern conquerors never rested
until they had firmly established their authority over the whole
5. The first great Sultan, Baber, had a genius for government. He was
firm and temperate in his administration, and he protected the common
people from the worst rapacity of their former rulers. Out of the
chaos of native rule he evoked something like civilized order, and he
established the Mogul Empire upon the foundation of a higher form of
justice than had ever before been practiced in the East. After a reign
of fifty years, this great monarch died in 1605, two years before the
adventurous John Smith set foot upon the territory of Virginia.
6. For another hundred years, the Mogul Emperors, descendants of
Baber, held firm possession of India, and in that time the country
reached the height of its power in wealth and influence. Temples and
palaces, in richness and beauty surpassing the most gorgeous dreams of
western-bred people, arose on every side. Arts flourished as never
before, and the commerce of India overland to the West was so great
that large cities sprung up along its track, solely supported by the
trading caravans. The gold from all the nations toward the setting sun
was drained to pay for Indian fabrics, and India became the richest
country of the world.
7. In the beginning of the eighteenth century the Mogul Empire began
to decline. Weak and effeminate monarchs occupied the throne of Baber
and Shah Jehan. The governors of great provinces, while ruling under
the name of the Mogul, became really independent, and in turn
sub-provinces revolted and set up an independent rule. From 1700 to
1750, the whole country was ablaze with civil war. Rapacious
chieftains plundered the people, the arts declined, industry of all
kinds languished, and the country upon which Nature had lavished her
richest blessings seemed to be surrendered hopelessly to oppression
EUROPEAN SETTLEMENTS IN INDIA.
8. During the last century of the Mogul rule, and the following half
century of anarchy, a new element entered into the affairs of India,
which was destined to effect great and revolutionary changes.
Following the wake of Vasco da Gama, the maritime powers of Western
Europe all entered into a trade with India by the way of the Cape of
Good Hope. The long caravan route through Central Asia was abandoned,
and ships of the sea took the place of ships of the desert. Lisbon,
Amsterdam, and London absorbed the trade which had made Bagdad,
Aleppo, and Bassorah opulent, and these renowned cities of Haroun
al-Rashid speedily declined in wealth, power, and influence. The
Portuguese, Dutch, French, and English entered into eager competition
to secure the trade of India by the new route, and, to facilitate
commercial operations, stations called factories were established
along the coast. By the consent of the native princes, these factories
and a small territory adjacent were under the exclusive civil control
of the people occupying them.
[Illustration: Street Scene in Calcutta]
9. For a hundred and fifty years these factories remained mere trading
stations, taking no part in the general political affairs of the
country. While trade was active, and the profits great, the East India
Companies who controlled the factories were content; and, while the
annual tribute or rent was paid with regularity, the native princes
had a strong motive for protecting the trading companies in their
operations. But the display of barbaric splendor excited the cupidity
of many of the agents of the companies, and the atrocities of barbaric
tyranny aroused the indignation of others, and there came a time when
interference in native affairs seemed both natural and proper.
10. The time of the new departure in policy was about the middle of
the eighteenth century; the place, the southeast coast; and the
occasion, the civil wars which grew out of disputed succession. The
student of history finds it difficult to understand fully the
political situation at the time. One of the most powerful of all the
provinces of the Mogul Empire was "The Deccan," which extended its
sway over all of Southern India. The ruler, known as the "Nizam,"
administered the government in the name of the Mogul, but in reality
he was independent, and a true Eastern despot. The chief province of
the Deccan was "The Carnatic," which embraced all the territory along
the eastern coast. The sovereign of this region, called the "Nabob,"
while paying a nominal tribute to the Nizam, was really independent,
raising revenue, waging wars, and forming alliances without reference
to either the government of the Deccan or that of the Mogul Empire.
11. To add to the general confusion, bands of Mahrattas, in numbers
forming large armies, were constantly roaming through the country, and
levying contributions on both the governments and the people. This
peculiar race was at first a mere band of robbers, which descended
from the western mountains of India, but by repeated conquests, and by
accessions from the wild and turbulent classes of all parts of the
country, they bad become a great power, and ruled in many fertile
provinces. "In becoming sovereigns, they did not cease to be
freebooters. Every region which was not subject to their rule was
wasted by their incursions. Whenever their kettle-drums were heard,
the peasant threw his bag of rice on his shoulder, hid his small
savings in his girdle, and fled with his wife and children to the
mountains or the jungles, to the milder neighborhood of the hyena and
DUPLEIX AND FRENCH POLICY.
12. At this time the two principal factories on the east coast of
India were the British station at Fort St. George, now Madras, and the
French station at Pondicherry, eighty miles farther south. The first
man who seems to have entertained definite notions about building up a
European sovereignty upon the ruins of the Mogul Empire was Dupleix,
the French Governor at Pondicherry. His long residence in the East had
given him a knowledge of Indian affairs that few Europeans possessed.
"His restless, capacious, and inventive mind," says Macaulay, "had
formed this scheme at a time when the oldest servants of the English
Company were busied only about invoices and bills of lading. Nor had
he only proposed for himself the end. He had also a just and distinct
view of the means by which it was to be attained.
13. "He clearly saw that the greatest force which the princes of India
could bring into the field would be no match for the small body of men
trained in the discipline and guided by the tactics of the West. He
saw, also, that the natives of India might, under European commanders,
be formed into armies such as Saxe or Frederick would be proud to
command. He was perfectly aware that the most easy and convenient way
in which a European adventurer could exercise sovereignty in India was
to govern the motions, and speak through the mouth, of some glittering
puppet dignified by the title of Nabob or Nizam. The arts, both of war
and policy, which a few years later were employed with such signal
success by the English, were first understood and practiced by this
ingenious and aspiring Frenchman."
14. In 1748 the Nizam of the Deccan died. Two claimants for the throne
appeared in the persons of Nazir Jung, son of the old Nizam, and
Mirzapha Jung, a grandson. About the same time an adventurer, Chunda
Sahib, set up a claim for the throne of the Carnatic against Anaverdy
Khan, the reigning prince. Here was the opportunity for Dupleix to
carry his long-cherished plans into execution. He espoused the cause
of Chunda Sahib in the Carnatic, and sent four hundred French soldiers
to his assistance. A battle was fought and Anaverdy Khan was killed.
His son Mohammed Ali fled with a scanty remnant of his army to
Trichinopoly, and nearly all the Carnatic submitted to the conqueror.
15. Next Dupleix lent his French soldiers to Mirzapha Jung, who in a
short time became master of the Deccan. The new sovereigns showered
wealth and favors upon the successful Frenchman. He was declared
governor of a territory in India as large as all France, with a
population of 50,000,000 people. He was placed in command of the
largest military force of the country. He was presented with a million
dollars in money and many valuable jewels. Neither the Nizam nor the
Nabob concluded any affairs of moment without his advice and consent.
He was, in fact, invested with sovereign powers, and French influence
in Southern India was paramount and seemingly firmly established.
16. The triumph of the French arms carried consternation to the
British factory at St. George. Unless the victorious career of Dupleix
could be stayed, not only would British influence be destroyed, but
the very existence of their trading posts would soon be at an end. At
this time the government of St. George was feeble. The military
officers in command were without experience. Everything betokened
speedy and irretrievable ruin. In this emergency the valor and genius
of an obscure English youth suddenly turned the tide of fortune.
ROBERT CLIVE AND THE SIEGE OF ARCOT.
17. Robert Clive had gone to India in the service of the company as
commissary to the soldiers stationed at Fort St. George. His duties
were those of a clerk. He was now twenty-five years old, but had had
no experience in military affairs. Like Dupleix, however, he seemed to
comprehend the political situation of the country, and when the
emergency came that called forth his powers, he was found to possess
both military genius and profound statesmanship. He represented to the
officers of the post that if Trichinopoly, now besieged by Chunda
Sahib and his French allies, should surrender, Mohammed Ali would
perish, and French influence would become supreme. As the distance of
Trichinopoly from Fort St. George was so great as to preclude the
possibility of marching directly to the assistance of their ally, he
advocated the bold project of making a diversion by a sudden attack
upon Arcot, the capital of the Carnatic, and the favorite residence of
the Nabob. His plans were approved, and he was appointed commander to
carry them into execution.
18. "The young captain," says Macaulay, "was put at the head of two
hundred English soldiers and three hundred sepoys, armed and
disciplined after the English fashion. The weather was stormy, but
Clive pushed on through thunder, lightning, and rain, to the gates of
Arcot. The garrison in a panic evacuated the fort and the English
entered it without a blow. Clive immediately began to collect
provisions, to throw up works, and make preparations for sustaining a
siege. The garrison, which had fled at his approach, had now recovered
from its dismay, and, re-enforced to the number of three thousand men,
it encamped close to the town. At dead of night Clive marched out of
the fort, attacked the camp by surprise, slew great numbers, dispersed
the rest, and returned to his quarters without having lost a single
19. "The news of the fall of Arcot soon reached Chunda Sahib, as he
was besieging Trichinopoly. An army under the command of his son Rajah
Sahib, numbering ten thousand native troops and one hundred and fifty
Frenchmen, was immediately dispatched to Arcot, and proceeded to
invest the fort, which seemed quite incapable of sustaining a siege.
The walls were ruinous and the ditches dry. The garrison, reduced by
casualties, now consisted of one hundred and fifty English soldiers
and two hundred sepoys. The stock of provisions was scanty, and the
commander was a youth of five and twenty, who had been bred a
20. "During fifty days the siege went on. During fifty days the young
captain maintained the defense with a firmness, vigilance, and ability
which would have done honor to the oldest marshal in Europe. The
garrison began to feel the pressure of hunger. At this juncture the
sepoys came to Clive, not to complain of their scanty fare, but to
propose that all the grain should be given to the Europeans, who
required more nourishment than the natives of Asia. The thin gruel,
they said, which was strained away from the rice, would suffice for
themselves. The devotion of Clive's little band equaled that of the
Tenth Legion of Caesar, or of the Old Guard of Napoleon.
21. "Clive looked for succor from two sources. An attempt made by the
government at Madras to relieve the place failed, but there was still
hope from another quarter. A body of six thousand Mahrattas, under a
chief named Morari Row, had been hired to assist Mohammed Ali; but as
the French power seemed irresistible, this force bad hitherto remained
inactive on the frontiers of the Carnatic. The fame of the defense of
Arcot roused them from their torpor. Rajah Sahib learned that the
Mahrattas were in motion. It was necessary for him to be expeditious.
He first offered large bribes to Clive, and vowed that if his
proposals were not accepted he would instantly storm the fort and put
every man to the sword. Clive told him in reply that his father was a
usurper and that his army was a rabble, and that he would do well to
think twice before he sent such poltroons into a breach defended by
22. "Rajah Sahib determined to storm the fort. The day was well suited
to a bold military enterprise. It was the great Mohammedan festival
which is sacred to the memory of Hosein the son of Ali. The history of
Islam contains nothing more touching than the event which gave rise to
that solemnity. The mournful legend relates how the chief of the
Fatimites, when all his brave followers had perished round him, drank
his last draught of water and uttered his latest prayer; how the
assassins carried his head in triumph, smote the lifeless lips with
his staff, and how a few old men recollected with tears that they had
seen those lips pressed to the lips of the prophet of God.
23. "After the lapse of near twelve centuries, the recurrence of this
solemn season excites the fiercest and saddest emotions in the bosoms
of the devout Moslems of India. They work themselves up to such
agonies of rage and lamentation that some, it is said, have given up
the ghost from the mere effect of mental excitement. They believe that
whoever, during this festival, falls in arms against the infidels,
atones by his death for all the sins of life, and passes at once to
the Garden of the Houris. It was at this time that Rajah Sahib
determined to assault Arcot. Stimulating drugs were employed to aid
the effect of religious zeal, and the besiegers, drunk with
enthusiasm, drunk with bang, rushed furiously to the attack.
24. "Clive had received secret intelligence of the design, had made
his arrangements, and, exhausted by fatigue, had thrown himself on his
bed. He was awakened by the alarm, and was instantly at his post. The
enemy advanced, driving before them elephants whose foreheads were
armed with iron plates. It was expected that the gates would yield to
the shock of these living battering-rams. But the huge beasts no
sooner felt the English musket-balls than they turned round and rushed
furiously away, trampling on the multitude which had urged them
forward. A raft was launched on the water which filled one part of the
ditch. Clive, perceiving that his gunners at that post did not
understand their business, took the management of a piece of artillery
himself, and cleared the raft in a few minutes.
25. "Where the moat was dry the assailants mounted with great
boldness; but they were received with a fire so heavy and so well
directed that it soon quelled the courage even of fanaticism and
intoxication. The rear ranks of the English kept the front ranks
supplied with a constant succession of loaded muskets, and every shot
told on the living mass below. After three desperate onsets, the
besiegers retired behind the ditch.
26. "The struggle lasted about an hour. Four hundred of the assailants
fell. The garrison lost only five or six men. The besieged passed an
anxious night, looking for a renewal of the attack. But when day broke
the enemy were no more to be seen. They had retired, leaving the
English several guns and a large quantity of ammunition.
27. "Clive immediately began offensive operations. Re-enforced by
seven hundred English troops and sepoys from Madras, and effecting a
junction with the auxiliary Mahratta force, he soon overran all the
Northern Carnatic. He gained a complete victory over Rajah Sahib's
army of five thousand natives and three hundred Frenchmen. At this
time Major Lawrence arrived from England and assumed the command. An
expedition marched to the assistance of Mohammed Ali at Trichinopoly.
The besiegers were defeated, and Chunda Sahib was put to death by the
Mahrattas, into whose hands he fell.
28. "The English were now masters of the Carnatic, and the French
influence was broken. Steadily the English power was extended over the
Deccan and all Southern India. Dupleix struggled against his fate in
vain, no French armament came to his assistance. His company condemned
his policy and furnished him with no aid. But still he persisted,
bribed, intrigued, promised, lavished his private fortune, and
everywhere tried to raise new enemies to the government at Madras, but
all to no purpose. At length, when his last hope for empire died out,
broken in fortune and spirits, he returned to his native country to
die obscure and neglected.
29. "Clive went back to England for a brief space, but after a year or
two he returned to India as governor of Madras. His first service
after his return was to rout out a nest of pirates which had for a
long time maintained a stronghold upon the coast. He then turned his
attention to reform in the company's business, and to strengthening
British influence with the natives in all directions. Before two
months had expired he received intelligence which called forth all the
energies of his bold and active mind.
THE STORY OF THE BLACK HOLE.
30. "Of the large provinces into which the Mogul Empire was divided
the wealthiest was Bengal. No part of India possessed such natural
advantages, both for agriculture and commerce. The Ganges, rushing
through a hundred channels to the sea, has formed a vast plain of rich
mold which, even under the tropical sky, rivals the verdure of an
English April. The rice-fields yield an increase such as is elsewhere
unknown. Spices, sugar, vegetable oils are produced with marvelous
exuberance. The rivers afford an inexhaustible supply of fish. The
desolate islands along the sea-coast, overgrown with noxious
vegetation and swarming with deer and tigers, supply the cultivated
districts with salt. The great stream which fertilizes the soil is at
the same time the chief highway of Eastern commerce. On its banks, and
on those of its tributary waters, are the wealthiest marts, the most
splendid capitals, and the most sacred shrines of India. In numbers
its inhabitants exceed 60,000,000; a population greater than that of
England and France combined.
31. "The race by which this rich tract was peopled, enervated by a
soft climate and accustomed to peaceful employments, bore the same
relation to other Asiatics which the Asiatics generally bear to the
bold and energetic children of Europe. Whatever the Bengalee does, he
does languidly. His favorite pursuits are sedentary. He shrinks from
bodily exertion, and, though voluble in dispute and able in the war of
chicane, he seldom engages in a personal conflict, and scarcely ever
enlists as a soldier. There never, perhaps, existed a people so
thoroughly fitted by nature and by habit for a foreign yoke.
32. "The great commercial companies of Europe had long possessed
factories in Bengal. The French, the Dutch, and the English had
stations on the Hoogly, the chief branch of the Ganges. Of these the
English Fort William, on the site of the present city of Calcutta, was
nearest the sea. A church and ample warehouses rose in the vicinity, a
row of spacious houses, belonging to the chief officers of the East
India Company, lined the banks of the river, and in the neighborhood
had sprung up a large and busy native town. For the ground on which
the settlement stood, the English paid rent to the government, and
were permitted to have practical control of their own domain.
33. "The province of Bengal had long been governed by a viceroy of the
Mogul, who had become practically independent. In 1756 the sovereignty
descended to a youth under twenty years of age, who bore the name of
Surajah Dowlah. Oriental despots are perhaps the worst class of human
beings, and this unhappy boy was one of the worst specimens of his
class. His understanding was naturally feeble, and his temper
unamiable. His education had been such as would have enervated even a
vigorous intellect, and perverted even a generous disposition. He was
unreasonable, because nobody ever dared to reason with him, and
selfish, because he had never been made to feel himself dependent on
the good will of others.
34. "Early debauchery had unnerved his body and his mind. He indulged
immoderately in the use of ardent spirits, which inflamed his weak
brain almost to madness. His chosen companions were flatterers sprung
from the dregs of the people. It is said that he had arrived at the
last stage of human depravity, when cruelty becomes pleasing for its
own sake, when the sight of pain as pain is an agreeable excitement.
It had early been his amusement to torture beasts and birds, and when
he grew up he enjoyed with still greater relish the misery of his
35. "From a child Surajah Dowlah had hated the English. It was his
whim to do so; and his whims were never opposed. He had formed a very
exaggerated notion of the wealth which might be obtained by plundering
them, and his feeble mind could not perceive that the riches of
Calcutta, however great, could not compensate him for what he must
lose if the European trade should be driven by his violence to some
other quarter. Pretexts for a quarrel were readily found, and Surajah
Dowlah marched with a great army against Fort William.
36. "The servants of the company at Madras had been forced to become
statesmen and soldiers. Those in Bengal were still mere traders, and
were in no condition to defend themselves against the formidable
attack. The fort was taken, after a feeble resistance, and nearly the
whole English population fell into the hands of the conqueror. A few,
including the governor, had saved themselves by taking refuge in the
ships. The Nabob seated himself with regal pomp in the principal ball
of the factory and ordered Mr. Holwell, the first in rank among the
prisoners, to be brought before him. His Highness talked about the
insolence of the English, and grumbled at the smallness of the
treasure he had found; but he promised to spare their lives, and
retired to rest.
37. "Then was committed that great crime, memorable for its singular
atrocity, memorable for the terrible retribution by which it was
followed. The English captives were left to the mercy of the guards,
and the guards determined to secure them for the night in the prison
of the garrison, a chamber known by the fearful name of the Black
Hole. The space was only twenty feet square. The air-boles were small
and obstructed. It was the summer solstice, the season when the fierce
heat of Bengal can scarcely be rendered tolerable to natives of
England by lofty hills and by the constant waving of fans.
38. "The number of prisoners was one hundred and forty-six, and they
were driven into the cell at the point of the sword. They cried for
mercy. They strove to burst the door. Holwell offered large bribes to
the jailers; but the answer was that nothing could be done without the
Nabob's orders, and that the Nabob was asleep and would be angry if
anybody waked him. Then the prisoners went mad with despair, and
fought for places near the windows where they might obtain air. The
jailers in the mean time held lights at the bars and shouted with
laughter at the frantic struggles of their victims.
39. "At length the tumult died away in low gaspings and moanings. The
day broke. The Nabob had slept off his debauch, and permitted the door
to be opened. Twenty-three ghastly figures staggered out of the
charnel-house, one hundred and twenty-three bodies were hastily thrown
into a pit and covered up, and the Black Hole of Calcutta has gone
into history as a synonym for all that is dreadful and all that is
possible in human suffering.
40. "The horror which daylight revealed awakened neither pity nor
remorse in the bosom of the savage Nabob. He inflicted no punishment
on the murderers. He shoved no tenderness to the survivors. He sent
letters to the Court of Delhi, describing his conquest in most pompous
language. He placed a garrison at Fort William, and forbade Englishmen
to dwell in the neighborhood.
CLIVE IN BENGAL.
41. "In August the news of the fall of Calcutta reached Madras, and
excited the fiercest and bitterest resentment. The cry of the whole
settlement was for vengeance. Within forty-eight hours after the
arrival of the intelligence it was determined that an expedition
should be sent to the Hoogly, and that Clive should be at the head of
the land forces. The naval armament was under the command of Admiral
Watson. Nine hundred English infantry and fifteen hundred Sepoys
sailed to punish a prince who ruled over 60,000,000 of people. In
October the expedition sailed; but it had to make its way against
adverse winds, and did not reach Bengal until December.
42. "In the mean time the Surajah Dowlah was reveling in fancied
security. He was so ignorant of the state of foreign countries that he
often used to say that there were not ten thousand men in all Europe,
and it never occurred to him that it was possible that the English
would dare to invade his dominions. But while in no fear of the
English, he began to miss them greatly. His revenues fell off, and his
ministers at length made him understand that it was more profitable to
protect traders than to plunder them. He was disposed to permit the
company to resume their operations when he heard of the arrival of
Clive in the Hoogly. He instantly marched with his troops toward
43. "Clive commenced operations with his usual vigor. He routed the
garrison at Fort William, recovered Calcutta, and stormed and sacked
the Nabob's stations along the river. The Nabob, alarmed at this proof
of power and spirit, made overtures of peace. He offered to restore
the factory, and to give compensation to those whom he had despoiled.
44. "Clive, considering the disparity of his force and the uncertainty
of war, consented to negotiate. The terms which he demanded were those
which guaranteed much greater power to the English than they ever had
before. His manner was cool and determined, as though conscious of
possessing power sufficient to enforce his demands. The Nabob behaved
with all the faithlessness of an Indian statesman and with all the
levity of a boy. He promised, retracted, hesitated, evaded. At one
time he advanced with his army in a threatening manner toward
Calcutta, but when he saw the resolute front which the English
presented, be fell back in alarm, and consented to make peace on their
45. "The treaty was no sooner concluded than he formed new designs
against them. He intrigued with the French upon the Hoogly. He invited
the French force in the Deccan to come and drive the English out of
Bengal. All this was well known to Clive and Watson. They resolved to
rid themselves of one source of danger before the Nabob's plans were
consummated. They attacked the French factory upon the Hoogly. Watson
directed the expedition by water, and Clive by land. Their success was
rapid and complete. The fort, the garrison, the artillery, the
military stores, all fell into the hands of the English. Fresh from
this victory Clive returned to his negotiations with the Surajah
46. "The Nabob was confounded by this sudden movement and the
destruction of the French power. He regarded the English with still
greater fear and still greater hatred. He oscillated between servility
and insolence. One day he sent a large sum to Calcutta, as part of the
compensation due for the wrongs he had committed. The nest day he sent
valuable jewels to Bussy, the French commander in the Deccan,
imploring that officer to hasten and protect Bengal against Clive,
whom 'may all bad fortune attend.' He ordered his army to march
against the English. He countermanded his orders. He tore Clive's
letters. He sent answers in the most florid language of compliment. He
threatened to impale Mr. Watts, the English agent. He sent for Mr.
Watts and begged pardon for the insult.
47. "In the mean time his folly, his vices, his dissolute manners, and
his love of low company disgusted all classes of his own subjects, and
a formidable conspiracy was formed against him in his own capital. The
conspirators entered into negotiation with Clive, and he agreed to
place Meer Jaffler, the head of the movement, upon the throne of
Bengal. In his diplomacy Clive seems to have laid aside his character
as a bluff soldier, and to have taken lessons from his wily and
treacherous Indian foes. He intrigued and deceived until the last
moment, when the conspiracy was ripe and his army ready.
48. "The moment for action came. Mr. Watts, the English agent,
secretly fled and took refuge in Calcutta. Clive put his troops in
motion, and wrote to the Nabob a letter in which he set forth the
English wrongs, and concluded by saying that, as the rains were about
to set in, he and his men would do themselves the honor of waiting
upon his Highness for an answer.
49. "Surajah Dowlah instantly assembled his whole force and marched to
encounter the English. It had been arranged that Meer Jaffier should
separate himself from the Nabob, and carry over his division to Clive.
But as the decisive moment approached, the fears of the conspirator
overcame his ambition. Clive advanced to the river which separated him
from his foe. The Nabob lay with a mighty power a few miles off at
Plassey. Meer Jaffier delayed, and returned evasive answers to the
remonstrances of the English general.
THE BATTLE AND ITS RESULTS.
50. "Clive was in an anxious and painful situation. He could place no
confidence in the sincerity or the courage of his confederate; and
whatever confidence he might have in his own military talents, and in
the valor and discipline of his troops, it was no light thing to
engage an army twenty times as numerous as his own. Before him lay a
river over which it was easy to advance, but over which, if things
went ill, not one of his little band would return.
51. "On this occasion, for the first and for the last time, his
dauntless spirit, during a few hours, shrank from the fearful
responsibility of making a decision. He called a council of war. The
majority pronounced against fighting, and Clive declared his
concurrence with the majority. Long afterward he said that he had
never called but one council of war, and that if he had taken their
advice the British would never have been masters of Bengal. But
scarcely had the meeting broke up than he was himself again. He
retired alone under the shade of some trees, and passed an hour there
in thought. He came back determined to take the risk, and gave orders
that all should be in readiness for passing the river on the morrow.
52. "The river was passed; and, at the close of a toilsome day's
march, the army, long after sunset, took up its quarters in a grove of
mango-trees near Plassey, within a mile of the enemy. Clive was unable
to steep; he heard through the night the sound of drums and cymbals
from the vast camp of the Nabob. It is not strange that even his stout
heart should now and then have sunk, when he reflected against what
odds, and for what a prize, he was in a few hours to contend.
53. "Nor was the rest of Surajah Dowlah more peaceful. His mind, at
once weak and stormy, was distracted by wild and horrible
apprehensions. Appalled by the greatness and nearness of the crisis,
distrusting his captains, dreading every one who approached him,
dreading to be left alone, lie sat gloomily in his tent, haunted, a
Greek poet would have said, by the Furies of those who had cursed him
with their last breath in the Black Hole.
54. "The day broke—the day which was to decide the fate of India. At
sunrise the army of the Nabob, pouring through many openings of the
camp, began to move toward the grove where the English lay. Forty
thousand infantry, armed with firelocks, pikes, swords, bows and
arrows, covered the plain. They were accompanied by fifty pieces of
ordnance of the largest size, each tugged by a long team of white
oxen, and each pushed on from behind by an elephant. Some smaller
guns, under the direction of French soldiers, were perhaps more
55. "The cavalry were fifteen thousand, drawn from the bolder races
which inhabit the northern provinces; and the practiced eye of Clive
could perceive that the men and horses were more powerful than those
of the Carnatic. The force opposed to this great multitude consisted
of only three thousand men; but of these, nearly one thousand were
English, and all were led by English officers and trained in the
56. "The battle commenced with a cannonade, in which the artillery of
the Nabob did scarcely any execution, while the field-pieces of the
English produced great effect. Several officers in Surajah Dowlah's
service fell. Disorder began to spread through his ranks. His own
terror increased every moment. One of the conspirators advised him to
retreat. This advice, agreeing as it did with what his own terrors
suggested, was readily received. He ordered his army to fall back, and
this order decided his fate. Clive snatched the moment, and ordered
his troops to advance.
57. "The confused and dispirited multitude gave way before the onset
of disciplined valor. No mob attacked by regular soldiers was ever
more completely routed. The little band of Frenchmen, who alone
ventured to confront the English, were swept down the stream of the
fugitives. In an hour the forces of Surajah Dowlah were dispersed,
never to re-assemble. Only five hundred of the vanquished were slain;
but their camp, their guns, their baggage, innumerable wagons,
innumerable cattle, remained in the power of the conqueror. With a
loss of twenty-two soldiers killed and fifty wounded, Clive had
scattered an army of sixty thousand men, and had subdued an empire
larger and more populous than Great Britain."
58. This brilliant success of Clive added Plassey as one of the
battle-fields of the world which has shaped national destinies and
decided the fate of trillions of people. Though much was yet to be
done before the fruits of victory could be fully realized, Clive at
once became almost supreme in authority. Surajah Dowlah fled in
disguise, and disappeared from history in complete obscurity. Meer
Jaffler held Clive in slavish awe. He once reproved a native of high
rank for some trouble with the company's Sepoys. "Are you yet to
learn," he said, "who Colonel Clive is, and in what station God has
placed him?" The answer was: "I affront the colonel! I who never get
up in the morning without making three low bows to his jackass!"
59. The policy inaugurated by Clive was continued by his successors.
The British rule was extended by setting up native princes, or setting
them aside, as expediency dictated, until the whole vast region south
of the Himalayas passed under their control. The weak trading
companies of 1755 have blossomed out into an empire.
60. British India to-day, in extent of territory and in absolute
safety, is immeasurably greater than that of the Moguls in the height
of their glory. The first wild exercise of irresponsible power has
been corrected, and governmental affairs under British rule are now
administered on the foundation of substantial justice. The peasant no
longer flies from governmental officers to the more merciful
companionship of the cobra and tiger, and all who toil find protection
as never before. The races of the Orient have been brought face to
face with the arts and sciences of the West, and untold millions have
cause to bless the day when Robert Clive was forced to close the
ledger and take up the sword.
LEXINGTON AND BUNKER HILL.
1. The Pilgrims had passed away. Long years had elapsed since the last
of the New England fathers had exchanged the earthly for the heavenly
kingdom. The grandchildren and the great-grandchildren of the first
immigrants possessed the soil. No aliens they, seeking a refuge in an
unknown land, but the sturdy possessors of homes where they were born,
and around which clustered all tender family ties. The passionate love
for England, filtered through three generations, had moderated to a
filial respect without impairing filial obedience.
2. Marvelous the change in outward conditions of that century and a
half! Wave after wave of intelligent activity had passed over the
land. Settlers' fires hunted the track of Indians westward bound. On
the site of primeval forests, fields of grain shimmered in the sun.
The rude hut, hastily built for shelter, had given place to the
comfortable farm-house and the elegant mansion. Village and city had
grown up in the centers of trade. The mechanic arts had slowly made
their way. Change vast, weighty, permanent—not sudden, but orderly
growth—fruit of seed sown, but none the less marvelous for that.
3. Internal change had accompanied the external. Spiritual growth had
gone hand in hand with increase of life's comforts. Persecution as a
means of conversion had disappeared before common dangers and
sufferings. Intolerance had toned down into a mild form of bigotry.
The shovel-hat of the parson and the flowing robes of the magistrate
had lost much of their superstitious significance. The hard,
self-imposed restraints of the Puritans had become less rigid at home
and in public. Individual life was freer, fuller, and more complete.
4. So sped the years until after the French war—until the last of
England's rivals had been effectually subdued. Now England, for the
first time, seems to have been brought face to face with her sturdy
offspring. Now she deliberately made up her mind to make him
useful—pay her debts, fight her enemies, subserve her interests first
and always. So, with blustering words about rights, she imposed
burdens, with significant hints in regard to chastisements; she
withheld privileges; the cherishing mother in word and deed proving to
be a veritable step-mother with the hardest of hearts.
5. Here trouble began. The son had an equal share with the parent in
Agincourt and Magna Charta. He was confiding and unsuspicious, but
the experience of three generations in the wilds had accustomed him to
freedom, and had given him hardihood. His shoulders were broad, but it
was difficult to bind burdens upon them against his will. As the
policy of the parent dawned upon him, first came incredulous
questioning, "What does this mean?"—then protest, showing the injury
and suggesting "There must be some mistake!"—last, conviction of
intended injustice, the hot wrath, and the emphatic statement, "I will
not obey!" The angry note of defiance was heard rolling along the
Atlantic coast from New England to Georgia. Descendants of Roundheads,
Cavaliers, and Huguenots forgot their ancient prejudices and united
against this common danger. Patrick Henry responded to the sentiments
of Otis and Adams, and Virginia sent friendly greetings to the
commonwealth of Massachusetts.
6. The madness that afflicted the last years of the life of George III
seems to have taken possession of the British ministry. Exaction
followed exaction in increasing intensity and number. The history of
coercive legislation can scarcely find a parallel to that of the
British Parliament for the fifteen years following the fall of Quebec.
Withal, no excuse was ever made for injustice done, no sympathy was
ever expressed for suffering inflicted, but all communication conveyed
the stern purpose to subdue. Hungry for affection, the half-grown
offspring turned his face toward England for the smallest caress, and
the east wind brought back across the Atlantic full in his face the
sharp crack of a whip.
7. Then came a period of aggression and resistance. The Stamp Act was
passed, but stamp could not be sold, and the lives of stamp-venders
became miserable. Soldiers crowded citizens upon Boston Common;
citizens mobbed the soldiers; soldiers fired, killing five citizens,
and were saved from destruction only by the active interference of the
patriot leaders. This affray marked the first shedding of blood, and
has gone into history as "The Boston Massacre." Tea was taxed, but
the matrons took to catnip and sage, and no tea was sold. Three
cargoes of taxed tea were sent into Boston harbor, but a war-whoop was
heard; the vessels were boarded by a band of painted savages, tomahawk
in band; the tea-chests were broken up and the tea was thrown into the
water. This last act demanded special punishment, and the Boston Port
Bill shut up the port of Boston, allowing no ship to go in or out. The
sympathetic people of Salem and Marblehead placed wharf and warehouse
at the disposal of Boston merchants, softening the blow as much as
possible. Relief to the suffering poor of Boston poured in from all
sides, and the British ministry saw that the whole people were making
common cause in resistance to oppression.
8. The next step is the vigorous use of the strong arm. Filial love
must be forced in by means of bayonets, and affection secured by
gunpowder and bullets. A strong force of soldiers under General Gage
took possession of Boston. The troops were quartered in the City Hall
and other buildings sacred in the eyes of the people to justice and
peace. The city government was superseded by the military. Sentinels
patrolled the streets. Arbitrary edicts took the place of law.
Citizens were interfered with while in the pursuit of private
business. For soldiers' insults there was no redress. The leading
patriots, John Adams, Joseph Warren, James Otis, John Hancock, and
Samuel Adams, were hunted, and a price was set on their heads. Boston
was in the strong hands of military power. Outwardly it was subdued,
but beneath was a seething fire, ready to burst into flame when the
moment for conflagration should arrive.
9. But Massachusetts was aroused. Town and country were one. The war
spirit invoked engendered its kind. Committees of Safety were formed
in every town. The drum and fife echoed from mountain to valley. The
musket of the old war, the shot-gun of the sportsman, and the rifle of
the hunter were brought from their resting-places and prepared for
use. Forge and hammer were busy in making guns and swords. Minute-men
in every hamlet prepared to march on the moment. Nor were the women
idle; wheel and loom were busy as never before. The patriot soldier,
starting for the front, was clad in serviceable home-spun, prepared by
loving hands, and he departed amid the tears, prayers, and blessings
of loving yet steadfast hearts.
10. The General Court of Massachusetts was convened. It was denounced
and proscribed by General Gage, but in the eyes of the people its
mandates had all the force of law. Taxes were levied and cheerfully
paid. The colony was divided into military districts, and each one
placed under the command of a competent officer. Powder, arms, and
other military stores were collected, and all needful preparations
were made for war. The other New England colonies fully shared in the
excitement of Massachusetts. The note of alarm spread through the
land, and a Continental Congress was called to meet at Philadelphia to
consider the policy best to be pursued for the common weal.
11. But General Gage became impatient. He would strike a blow that
would at once assert British power and terrify the whole rebel race.
The mailed hand must be seen beneath the soft glove. The opportunity
was not long wanting. A military depot at Concord, eighteen miles
northwest of Boston, he determined to seize. A force of eight hundred
men, under Lieutenant-Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn, was to set out
on the evening of April 18th. The patriot leaders were early aware
that some movement was on foot, and eager eyes watched for indications
of its force and direction. But it was kept a profound secret, and it
was not until the troops were upon the march that their destination
could be guessed. Let the poet tell how the purpose was discovered and
the news carried to the country:
[Illustration: Paul Revere's Ride]
PAUL REVERE'S RIDE.
12. Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, seventy-five.
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
13. He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
In the North Church tower as a signal light—
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."
14. Then he said "Good night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where, swinging wide at her moorings, lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war:
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.
15. Meanwhile his friend, through alley and street,
Watches and wanders, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.
16. Then he climbed the tower of the old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade;
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.
17. Beneath in the churchyard lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in a silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper "All is well!"
18. A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts were bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay—
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.
19. Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride,
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now gazed on the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth;
But mostly lie watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light.
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.
20. A hurry of hoofs in the village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet.
That was all! and yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed in its flight
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
21. The British column moved on through the darkness with no sound
save the steady tread of marching feet. At first, farm-house and
hamlet were wrapped in a deep repose, but as the night wore on signs
of life began to appear. At every cross-road, horsemen galloped off at
their approach, and hurried lights at chamber windows showed that
slumber had been suddenly interrupted. At day-break the invading force
reached Lexington, a little village twelve miles from Boston. Here
minute-men to the number of about one hundred and twenty, aroused by
the cry of Paul Revere, had hastily assembled. They offered no
opposition to the British troops, but stood silent spectators to the
[Illustration: THE FIGHT AT LEXINGTON]
22. The British column halted, and Major Pitcairn rode forward, and,
in the most peremptory tone of command, cried out: "Disperse, you
rebels! Throw down your arms and disperse!" No one obeyed, and he
gave the order to fire. Out blazed the muskets, and what remained of
the little group sought safety in flight. The British marched on,
leaving on that peaceful common, under the very shadow of the church,
eight figures stark and motionless in death. From this baptism of
blood they moved on, regretful, perhaps, at the stern necessity of
their action, but rejoicing that all opposition had been so easily and
23. On they sped. The sun arose in its glory to cheer them on their
march. Their thoughts were jubilant as in fancy they posed as heroes
before their fellows left behind. No vision of the dead men staring
upward from the blood-drenched grass of Lexington haunted them. The
silent march of the night had ended, and now they could press onward
with clatter and song. The six miles to Concord were soon passed over.
A strong guard was left at the bridge, for, with all his confidence,
Colonel Smith was a skillful commander, and would neglect no
precaution to secure the safety of his troops. So careful was he that
he sent back a secret messenger from Lexington for more men. On press
the exulting soldiers, on through the streets of Concord in search of
the military stores. But lo! they had taken wings and flown to a place
of safety. A few barrels of flour, half destroyed, a, few hundred
cannon-balls thrown into wells, was the sole outcome of the intended
destruction. The Committee of Safety had performed their duty
discreetly and in time.
24. But hark! What means that musketry? Not the scattering fire of a
skirmish, but volley answering volley! Has the impossible come to
pass? Have the rebels dared to fire upon the king's troops? But the
firing grows warmer, louder. Hasten to the bridge lest retreat be cut
off! The guards, sore beset, welcome the aid. Armed foes spring up on
every side! They are behind, before—everywhere! No safety now but in
instant, rapid retreat.
25. "You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British regulars fired and fled—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall;
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields, to emerge again
Under the trees, at the bend of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load."
26. Discipline and valor are of no avail here. Vollied musketry has
little chance against backwoods sharpshooters occupying every
vantage ground that their knowledge of the country enabled them to do.
The day was wearing on. Noon found them a disorganized mass, flying
through Lexington streets, the scene of their morning victory.
27. In the mean time Lord Percy, with eight hundred fresh troops and
two field-pieces, is marching out on the Lexington road; not that any
danger was apprehended, but simply as a precautionary measure. Between
two and three o'clock, while yet two miles short of Lexington, ominous
sounds of conflict smote his ears: not the rolling volleys and stately
tread of victory, but the confused noise of fight and flight,
betokening irretrievable disaster. The fresh troops were formed into a
hollow square, and pell-mell the hunted fugitives came rushing into
their place of refuge. Exhausted by their long march and hot fight,
many of them fell prone upon the ground, "their tongues," says a high
authority, "hanging out of their mouths."
28. But Lord Percy must not delay. Ten miles lie between him and
safety, and many hours of day remain before darkness will lend its
friendly aid. Short time for rest. Beat off the fierce and persistent
attacks! Speed away while yet unsurrounded! A British army must never
suffer the humiliation of defeat and capture by a horde of rebel
Yankees. So through the afternoon the red-coats marched quickly,
sullenly, dejectedly, fighting desperately for very life. The day
closed as they neared the river, and under the starlight they
embarked, finding safety and rest at last—not quite yet, for as the
last boat left the shore a rifle blazed out, and one more victim was
sent to atone for the wanton murder on Lexington Common.
29. The eventful day ended with a loss on the part of the British of
two hundred and seventy-three, while the aggregate loss of the
patriots was one hundred and five. Without discipline, and with the
most reckless exposure to danger, they had inflicted a loss nearly
three times as great as they had sustained.
30. The news of Lexington spread, everywhere producing wild
excitement. The notes of warlike preparation were heard throughout the
land. With deliberate purpose General Gage had sown the dragon's
teeth, and there literally sprung up a bountiful crop of armed men.
Every village and every farm-house helped to swell the number. The
remotest hamlet furnished its contingent. In distant Connecticut,
gallant old General Putnam heard the news while plowing. Prompt as
when he dragged the wolf from its den, he unyoked his oxen, left his
plow in the furrow, and, leaping to his saddle, galloped to the fray.
Fiery Ethan Allen, at the head of his Green Mountain Boys, was eager
to march, but paused to execute that marvelous enterprise which
secured for the patriot cause the formidable fortresses of Ticonderoga
and Crown Point, with all their military stores. Day by day the
multitude increased, until thirty thousand men were encamped around
Boston, from Charlestown Neck to Dorchester.
31. From the evening of the Lexington fight General Gage was shut up
in Boston. The patriots kept a strict guard on every road, and no
parties were permitted to pass out or provisions to pass in. All
supplies for the town came by sea. The officers chafed under the
enforced inactivity. They would be done with the ignoble work of
defense behind fortifications. They longed for an opportunity to
regain the prestige lost on that fatal nineteenth of April. But
General Gage was too wise a commander to risk the safety of his army,
so he held the impatience of his officers in check and awaited events.
32. The patriot leaders were equally impatient. The enthusiasm of the
moment must be turned to good account. The men were all unused to
living in camps, and were peculiarly exposed to camp diseases and camp
vices. Discipline had not yet counteracted the demoralizing tendencies
of army life. The different divisions of the army were ranged under
favorite local leaders, and while there was some show of order there
was little or no concert of action. It was now the middle of June. Two
months had elapsed since Lord Percy was driven back into Boston. All
means to lure General Gage from the town had failed, and an aggressive
movement was devised. It was resolved to take a new position
threatening the town and the shipping in the port. The place selected
was the highland on the Charlestown peninsula known as Bunker Hill,
and the time fixed upon for the enterprise the night of June 16th.
33. Eight hundred men armed with shovels and picks assembled at six
o'clock. The movement was known to be a perilous one, and every man
felt that he took his life in his hand. President Langdon, of Harvard
College, offered prayer with the ancient Puritan fervor. Colonel
Prescott took command of the military operations and Colonel Gridley
conducted the engineering. In early evening they set out. The march
was in profound silence. With suppressed breathing and stealthy tread
they made their way—an army of ghosts entering the land of shadows.
But the grim faces of the officers and the clinched hands of the men
showed more than ghostly purpose. About midnight the march ceased.
Clear in the starlight they could see British ship and camp, and could
hear the sentinel proclaim, "All is well." A redoubt eight rods
square was laid out, and these eight hundred husbandmen bent their
seasoned muscles to the work. The embankment grew up in the darkness,
and at day-break its six feet of height amply protected the workers
34. In the American camp all was excitement and expectation.
Supporting parties were organized, supplies hurried up, and means for
re-enforcement and retreat provided. It was now that the fatal
weakness of the patriot organization was made manifest. Different
leaders had notions inconsistent with each other, and divided councils
led to indecisive action. The brunt of the coming engagement was left
to one tenth of the patriot forces. Scarred veterans scented the
battle from afar, and hastened to the front to share the danger and
the glory. With no command, officers were content to act as volunteers
and handle muskets. Putnam, with military foresight, took charge of
the line of communication, and with true farmer instinct he converted
two rail-fences and a field of new-mown hay into a line of serviceable
breastworks reaching across Charlestown Neck into the country.
35. At day-break the astonished Britons gazed upon this vision of the
night. A moment's pause, then instantaneous, rapid action. That
nocturnal growth threatened their very lives. Those audacious and
insolent rebels must be swept from existence. Without orders the
Boston battery at Copp's Hill opened upon the redoubt as soon as it
was discovered. Ships in the bay poured in furious broadsides. The
cannonade awoke Boston from her slumbers. Citizens half dressed rushed
into the streets. Every roof and steeple that commanded a view of the
scene was soon crowded with anxious spectators, who remained there
during the livelong day. Patriot and royalist mingled, and fierce
passions and wordy wars accompanied the progress of the conflict
outside. Exultation at patriot success was often too great to be
suppressed, and wild cheers sounded from the house-tops and echoed
through the streets.
36. So passed the forenoon. The little band on the hill, protected by
the earth-works, worked on with speed and safety. The hurtling masses
of iron aimed at their destruction either buried themselves in the
yielding earth or passed overhead without injury. One man only paid
with his life the penalty of his curiosity in looking over the
breastworks. An early luncheon was served and then work again. But
even iron muscles have their limit of endurance, and the earth-walls
grew less rapidly as the day wore on, until at high noon work
37. But what of the enemy! By this time they are aware of the
uselessness of their cannonade. Other and stronger measures must be
taken, and that on the instant. The military renown gained on so many
battle-fields must not be lost in a conflict with rude peasants—the
best point of vantage in a general war must not be lost to the king.
Every sentiment of ambition and loyalty urged to action. A ship
dropped down the river and took position to command Charlestown Neck.
But the rail-fence and the new-mown hay resisted the shock, and the
American line remained unturned. Rough old Putnam's foresight became
an important factor in the day's conflict.
38. Suddenly the drum's loud beat and the shrill scream of the fife
startled all hearts into a fiercer life. The notes, with no tremor of
fear, rang out sonorous, triumphant. For centuries such notes had led
Britons to victory, and to-day British soldiers will do or die. Four
thousand grenadiers, under Lord Howe, march down to the shore with the
quick, elastic tread of soldiers upon a holiday excursion. In that
resolute front and precision of movement there was little to raise the
spirits or inspire hope in the hearts of the thousands of patriotic
observers who were watching the movements with feverish anxiety. In
perfect order they embark, and in perfect order they land upon the
Charlestown shore. In their advance toward the silent redoubt no line
wavered and no step faltered, though every man was aware of the
fearful peril before him.
39. Within the little earth-work all was activity and expectation.
Pomeroy, Stark, Putnam came to help—not to dictate. At the last
moment General Warren, from the State Committee of Safety, unable to
conceal his anxiety, came and took his place in the ranks. These
officers all outranked Colonel Prescott, but neither of them would
take the command from the officer who had proved himself capable and
worthy of it. Shovels and picks gave place to rifles and muskets, and,
as experienced eyes glanced along the death-dealing tubes, grave
smiles lit up rugged faces at the thought of the welcome the enemy
would soon receive. "Be steady! Be firm!" is the parting injunction of
Putnam, as he takes his way to his command at the rail-fence. "We must
conquer or die," is the sentiment of Warren, as he grasps the musket
of a common soldier, showing to the last that noble patriotism which
makes his name so dear to all who love their country. "Keep cool. Wait
until you see the color of their eyes! Aim at their red coats. Pick
off their commanders!" are the fiery last commands of Prescott, as the
scarlet column moved up the hill. Each soldier is in place, each eye
unflinchingly is fixed on the enemy, and each right hand is pressed
upon the musket, ready for the supreme moment.
40. The batteries, which had been covering the advancing columns,
ceased as they neared the summit. An ominous silence succeeded the
tumult of the preceding hours. No sound is heard but the short, quick
words of command in the British ranks, and the steady tread of the
marching files. The space had diminished to a few rods, and still a
grave-like silence wrapped the redoubt. At the last moment had the
hearts of the patriots failed? Did the near approach of the red-coats
deprive them of their courage? By the double-quick, forward march!"
rang out from the British lines. A sudden rush, and one deafening
volley! Was it lightning from heaven that struck down every man in
their first rank? Was it the earthquake's shock that left those long
lines of dead heaped like grass before the mower's scythe? The rear
ranks, paralyzed by the terrible disaster, held their ground, but no
human courage could withstand the fire that blazed fierce and
merciless from the redoubt. A moment's pause, and then a wild,
headlong flight to the sheltering boats on the shore.
41. As shouts of triumph went up from thousands of sympathizing
hearts, the contending forces were in a state of intense activity.
Within the breastworks Prescott, cool, deliberate, masterful, watched
every detail and directed every action. Warren, Stark, and Pomeroy put
soul into every movement. Putnam defended his own line, and sent the
good news outward to cheer the thousands who had taken no part in the
contest, and to urge immediate re-enforcements. In the British
quarters new officers took the place of those who lay stretched on the
hill-side; the men were rallied and reformed; new regiments came over
from Boston, and again four thousand men breasted the hill and marched
up to the breastworks with colors flying and drums beating. This time
they were permitted to come within the reach of friendly greeting,
when again a solid sheet of flame leaped forth from the breastworks,
again covering the earth with the dead. The rear columns for a few
moments stood fast, but nothing could withstand that hail of shot
aimed to take life, and again they fled to the shore.
42. The day was wearing on. It was now five o'clock. If the Americans
can hold on until the friendly darkness sets in, they may retain
possession of Charlestown and force the British to evacuate Boston.
General Ward was at Cambridge, trying in vain to secure order in time
for action. General Knox ranged up and down the lines, frantically
urging the men to follow him to the fray. Putnam, blazing with
excitement and fully comprehending the danger, was everywhere
animating and urging on the fresh troops. Now he sent almost frantic
appeals for powder; now he implored the men in reserve to move at
once, and now he rallied his own men to repel the attack upon his own
lines. A considerable force was at last rallied to march, but upon
reaching Charlestown Neck the firing from the British ships was so
deadly that they dared not venture to cross. In the redoubt was the
courage of despair. The powder had given out, and for many of the
muskets only a single cartridge remained to meet the coming charge.
But all remained firm while the sun slowly sunk in the west.
43. After their second repulse, the force under Lord Howe, cowed and
demoralized, refuse to again advance into the jaws of death. The idea
is gaining ground that the rebel position is impregnable, and that a
wise policy demands that no more blood shall be shed in a vain
endeavor to reduce it. The impetuous Sir Henry Clinton refuses to take
this view of the situation, and his counsels are heeded. Every
military resource at the command of General Gage is now brought into
requisition. All the ships in the harbor are ordered to direct their
fire upon the fort and the line of communication. New batteries are
erected by competent engineers to sweep through the outer breastworks
and render them untenable. The reserve forces are ordered up, and
every available man is in the ranks. The charge must now be made on
every side and the little band of eight hundred literally crushed by
numbers. All this and the final charge must be made within the few
hours of remaining daylight, or British power is forever at an end in
41. At last all preparation ends and the time for action arrives. Shot
from the new batteries drive the defenders with severe loss within
their interior defenses. The advance of the swarming enemies is met
with a feeble, scattering fire in place of the volleyed death of the
previous charges. Showers of stones and blows from clubbed muskets
greet those who first mount the ramparts; but nothing could resist the
last desperate bayonet charge of the British. The defenders of the
fort slowly and sullenly retired before the overwhelming numbers of
their adversaries. At the last moment Major Pitcairn meets his death,
and thus expiates as far as possible his bloody orders at Lexington.
At nearly the same moment General Warren, in the very rear of the
retreating troops, is shot, sealing with his life his devotion to his
country. That the retreating Americans were not annihilated was due to
the rail-fence of General Putnam, and to his skill in holding the
enemy in check while the flying fugitives found safety in the country.
45. The battle of Bunker Hill is ended. The cross of St. George flies
over Prescott's redoubt. Four hundred and fifty patriots and fifteen
hundred Britons are killed, wounded, and missing. Eighty-nine British
officers—numbers unprecedented—sleep in the dust. Patriot courage
and endurance are found to equal patriot enthusiasm. Technically the
battle is lost; morally it is won. Where Warren fell a nation is born.
The Fourth of July records the fact—Yorktown attests the record. A
nation is born—from the Pilgrims inheriting love of freedom, from
stout Roger Williams toleration—a nation charged with the sacred
mission of organizing human rights upon the basis of human liberty.