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RESULTS OF ONE WAR
AMONG NOMINAL CHRISTIANS IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
WAR has ever been a mass of evils; and a review of its history would exhibit, in every age and clime, essentially the same results, physical, political and moral. Every reader of history is familiar with the so called Thirty Years' War, which raged in the heart of Europe from 1618 to 1648. It was a religious war, and involved the great mass of Papists and Protestants, the former under their Catholic League, the latter in their Evangelical Union. Schiller, in his history of this war, says, “ from the interior of Bohemia to the mouth of the Scheldt, from the banks of the Po to the coasts of the Baltic, it desolated countries, destroyed harvests, and laid towns and villages in ashes ; extinguished, during half á century, the rising progress of civilization in Germany; and reduced the improving manners of the people to their ancient barbarism."
We have been wont to regard the wars consequent on the French Revolution, as teaching lessons of atrocity and horror unknown before ; but the following items, taken from the biographer of Wallenstein, furnish some parallels even to the Russian Campaign.
“ Thirty years of war, carried on not with the surplus population and resources of the country, but with its very capital and substance, had brought the empire to the verge of ruin and barbarism; and the pictures of desolation handed down to' us by writers and chroniclers of the period, are absolutely frightful to contemplate.
Of all the commanders who appeared during the war, Gustavus Adolphus was alone able to preserve in his army a strict and humane system of discipline. In most of the armies, the mercenary soldiers, irregularly paid, and worse supplied, were obliged to tear by force from the citizens and peasants, the means of subsistence. The country people resisted wherever they were -strongest ; acts of violence followed; the peasantry slew and, in Catholic countries, tortured straggling soldiers, and attacked even small detached parties. The military avenged their comrades, neglecting too often to distinguish between the innocent and the guilty, till ruin and devastation tracked at last the progress of every march.
The war was carried on without plan or system. Expeditions were undertaken, apparently with no other view than to desolate hostile provinces; and, in the end, provisions and winter quarters formed the principal objects of the summer campaigns. Want,
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sickness, distress, and the total absence of discipline, by which these evils were fearfully augmented, destroyed far more troops than the sword, and entire armies were swept away before they had even seen an enemy. Soldiers left the ranks singly, or in bands, as it suited them, and generally took to plundering; in 1642 the whole of Marshall Gubriant's army dispersed itself, and broke into robber hordes that committed the most fearful depredations.
The enormities charged against the French troops of the period, are equal to those charged even against the Croats; but Gubriant's army was in fact the remains of the army which had been raised by the Duke of Weimar, and was composed of adventurers from all countries. It must also be observed, that the French soldiers of the early part of the seventeenth century, were in a great proportion vagrants and vagabonds, taken up as bad subjects by the police, and sent to the army, either because troops were wanted, or because the individuals pressed could give no satisfactory account of themselves.
Historians mostly assert, that Europe was thrown back a whole century by the ruinous consequences of this war. In many parts of Germany learning was no doubt retarded, in others altogether swept away along with the population. An entire generation grew up amid scenes of strife, licentiousness, and the uncertainty of the morrow. But the amount of knowledge existing could not be destroyed; and thousands of learned, able and industrious Germans emigrated, and carried along with them into other and less enlightened countries, the arts and knowledge for which their own was already distinguished. The Danes, Swedes, Poles and Scots, who fought in Germany, there came in contact with a state of civilization superior to what existed in their own countries; and, along with much unworthy spoil, some fair and honorable booty would at least be carried home by the military adventurers.
But, whatever advantage Europe may have gained by the contest, Germany purchased its share of the benefit at a fearful price. Law, justice, equity, in many places, all the decencies of life, had entirely vanished from a land in which force alone wielded the arbitrary sceptre of command. The country is said to have lost twelve millions of inhabitants by the contest; and the population, which amounted to sixteen millions when the troubles first broke out, counted hardly more than four millions when the war closed ! Though this statement may perhaps be exaggerated, it seems pretty well ascertained that the population of the Dutchy of Wirtemberg was reduced from half a million to forty-eight thousand; that of Bohemia had already been reduced from three millions to eight hundred and ninety thousand before the death of Ferdinand II.; and Saxony and Brunswick suffered in the same proportion; a reduction in one case of nearly three-fourths, in another of more than nine-tenths!
In the Electorate of Hesse, seventeen towns, forty-seven castles, and three hundred villages had been burnt to the ground. In the Dutchy of Wirtemberg, eight towns, forty-five villages, and thirtysix thousand houses, had been laid in ashes, and seventy thousand hearth fires completely extinguished. Seven churches, and four hundred and forty-four houses, had been burned at Eichsted. Many towns that had escaped destruction, were almost depopulated. Three hundred houses stood empty at Nordheim; and more than two hundred had been pulled down at Gottingen, merely to serve for fuel. The wealthy city of Augsburg, which contained eighty thousand inhabitants before the war, had only eighteen thousand left when it closed; and this town, like many others, has never recovered its former prosperity. No less than thirty thousand villages and hamlets are said to have been destroyed; in many others the population had entirely died out; and the unburied corpses of the last victims of violence or disease, were left exposed about the streets or fields, to be mangled, and torn to pieces by birds and beasts of prey.
In the last campaign of the war, the French and Swedes burned no less than a hundred villages in Bavaria alone; and the skulls of St. Cosmas and St. Damianus had to be sent from Bremen to Munich, in order to console Maximilian for the ruin he had brought over his beautiful country. But even these pitiable relics failed to allay the fears of the unhappy Elector; the share which he had taken in bringing about this desolating contest, pressed heavily on the latter years of his life. In vain he prayed and fasted; the dreadful future was constantly before his sight, and the once valiant.soldier and ambitious prince died at last a trembling and despairing bigot.
The crimes and cruelties of which the troops were frequently guilty, would appear almost incredible, were they not attested in a manner to render doubt altogether impossible. But independent of private accounts, we have various reports from the authorities of towns, villages and provinces, complaining of the atrocities committed by the lawless soldiery. Peaceful peasants were hunted for mere sport, like the beasts of the forest ; citizens were nailed up against doors and walls, and fired at like targets; while horsemen and Croats tried their skill at striking off the heads of young children at a blow! Ears and noses were cut off, eyes were scooped out, and the most horrible tortures contrived to extract money from the sufferers, or to make them disclose where property was concealed! Women were exposed to every species of indignity; they were collected in bands, and driven, like slaves, into the camps of the ruffian soldiery, and men had to fly from their homes to escape witnessing the dishonor to which their wives and daughters were subjected!
Houses and villages were burnt out of mere wantonness, and the wretched inhabitants too often forced into the flames, to be consumed along with their dwellings. Amid these scenes of horror, intemperance, dissipation and profligacy were carried to the highest pitch. Intoxication frequently prevented the Austrian General, Goltz, from giving out the countersign; and General Banner was, on one occasion, so drunk for four days together, that he could not receive the French ambassador, Beauregard, who had an important message to deliver. Such was the state of triumphant crime,' says a writer of the period, that many, driven to despair, denied even the existence of a Deity, declaring that, if there were a God in heaven, he would not fail to destroy with thunder and lightning, such a world of sin and wickedness.
The peasants, expelled from their homes, enlisted with the oppressors, in order to inflict upon others the sufferings which they had themselves been made to endure. The fields were allowed to run waste, and the absence of industry on one side, added to destruction on the other, soon produced famine which, as usual, brought infections and pestilential diseases in its train. In 1635, there were not hands enough left at Schweidnitz to bury the dead, and the town of Ohlau had lost its last citizen. Want augmented crime, even where an increase was thought impossible. În many places hunger had overcome all repugnance to human flesh, and the tales of cannibalism handed down to us are of far too horrible a nature to be here repeated.
The cup of human suffering was full even to overflowing, and the very aspect of the land was undergoing a rapid change. Forests sprung up during the contest, and covered entire districts, which had been in full cultivation before the war; and wolves, and other beasts of prey took possession of the deserted haunts of men. This was particularly the case in Brunswick, Brandenburg and Pomerania, where heaps of ashes in the midst of wildernesses, served long afterwards to mark the spots where peace and civilization had once flourished. In many parts of the country, the ruins of castles and stately edifices still attest the fury with which the war was carried on; and on such spots tradition generally points out the surrounding forests, as occupying the sites of fertile fields, whence the lordly owners of the mansions derived food and subsistence for themselves and their numerous retainers.”
If the evils of war can of themselves dissuade men from the practice, why did not such evils as these prevent the terrible wars of the next century? How came all Europe to plunge into the wars of the French Revolution? Why have the latter done so much more to bring the custom of war into discredit, disuse and abhorrence? Mainly, if not solely, because the friends of peace have kept its leading facts before the world, culled from them lessons of peace, and pressed these lessons incessantly upon the public mind.
This it is that has under God held Europe for thirty years (1845) back from her former wars, and led her cabinets to begin the policy of adjusting their difficulties by pacific means. Let this policy continue a century, and it would probably put an end forever to the war-method of settling their disputes. This can be done; make public sentiment what it should be, and it will be done.
AMERICAN PEACE SOCIETY, BOSTON, MASS.
NECKAR ON PEACE,
OR THE CALAMITIES OF WAR, AND THE BLESSINGS OF PEACE.
BY M. NECKAR.*
With what impatience have I wished to discuss this subject! How irresistibly has my heart been led to expatiate on the evils which are ever attendant on this terrible calamity! War, alas ! impedes the course of every salutary plan, exhausts the sources of prosperity, and diverts the attention of governors from the happiness of nations. It even suspends, sometimes, every idea of justice and humanity. In a word, instead of gentle and benevolent feelings, it substitutes hostility and hatred, the necessity of oppression, and the rage of desolation.
The first idea that occurs to me when reflecting on the origin of most wars, is, that those great combinations of politics which have so often kindled the torch of discord, and occasioned so many rayages, have very seldom merited all the admiration that has been so lavishly bestowed upon them. I have also been forcibly struck with this consideration, that most governments appear satisfied, if at the conclusion of a bloody and expensive war, they have made an honorable peace; but each should consider what would have been its situation at the period when the treaty was concluded, if war had not interrupted the course of its prosperity.
Let us suppose France obliged to alienate from fifty to sixty million francs of its annual revenue for the prosecution of a given war; and let us next take a cursory view of the different uses to which such a revenue might have been applied, not only for the advancement of the national happiness, but for the augmentation of the military force. With eighteen millions of that annual revenue, the regimental companies might have been completed to their full complement, and the army augmented by fifty thousand infantry, and ten or twelve thousand horse. Two millions of that revenue would pay the interest of a loan of forty millions, which would have added to our navy thirty men-of-war, and a proportionate number of frigates; and this augmentation might have been maintained by four millions yearly. Thus we see twentyfour millions of that revenue devoted solely to the military service.
Let us now apply the surplus to the various parts of administration, and consider the result. With eighteen millions yearly, the price of salt might have been rendered uniform throughout the kingdom, by reducing it one-third in the provinces of little gabels, (the excise on salt,) and two-thirds in those of the great, and not
* Formerly Minister of Finance. From his celebrated work on the Fi. nances of France.
P.T. NO, XXVI.