Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
EUROPE.Though the smallest of the continents. Europe now aways the sceptre of the world. Asia precedes it in the annals of mankind, but the daughter has eclipsed the mother, not because she is younger, but because she has surpassed her in civilization Europe has raised man to his true dignity by developing in him a horror of despotism, her people have spiritualized religion, purified morals, and broken the bonds of mankind. Her sons have freed the sciences from the superstitions which loaded them down and they have widened and deepened them. It is they who have carried art to its sublimest heights. In fine, Europeans conceived the idea of unlimited, indefinite progress, which even if it be not an illusion in part, is the most solid basis of the civilization upon which we so justly pride ourselves. Why is it that Europe has enjoyed and still enjoys such distinction? Let us put aside the explanation of this question which traces everything to a Providence whose motives our intelligence can not comprehend. Let us put aside also that which attributes the government of all things here below to chance as blind as it is capricious, and adhering to that plain method of reasoning which finds everywhere the relation of cause and effect, let us seek out the causes which have produced the superiority of Europe over other parts of the world.
—We do not by any means pretend to discover all of these causes, but there are some which we can not fail to recognize. The first of these is climate. We are not of the number of those who attribute to this agent a power so great that everything must yield to its action: but man is subjected to the influence of the climate in which he lives, excessive heat enervates him: piercing cold weather weakens him. The moderate temperature of the greater part of Europe and especially of that part which first received the benefits of civilization, Greece, Italy, Spain and the central portion of France, has helped the development of the intellectual and moral germs of its inhabitants. At a later period the climatic differences between the north and the south of Europe led to commercial intercourse and to the exchange of the products of one country for the products of another.
—The configuration of the continent of Europe has exerted an equally beneficent influence. No part of it is very far removed from the sea. The Baltic, by means of the gulf of Bothnia and the gulf of Finland, penetrates far into the interior of the northern countries and communicates through three straits and large canals with the North sea, which washes the British and many smaller islands. On the west the Atlantic and the gulf of Gascony bathes a long line on coast from the strait of Gibraltar to the extremity of Norway. On the south the Mediterranean cuts up the land into numerous fertile and picturesque islands, peninsulas and bays, and through the canal of the Dardanelles puts forth the sea of Marmora and the Bosphorus as an arm that afterward enlarges into the Black sea with the sea of Azov as an annex. Numerous routes lead to these seas, rivers accompanied by a cortege of streams which flow much more regularly than most watercourses of other continents. The two kinds of labor which have most contributed to civilization are the cultivation of the soil and navigation.
—Upon this land so highly favored the best endowed races of mankind intermingled. This intermingling has been one of the most potent causes of European progress. We shall not here relate the history of the populating of Europe, nor of the migrations of its inhabitants; but the consideration of the political aspect of the continent of Europe during the different epochs of its history is not without interest.
—The earliest is that of the yellow race of men who were probably of the same origin as the Laplanders. All that we know of this people has been learned from the ruins of their habitations discovered in the lakes of Switzerland and elsewhere. They did not know how to work in the metals, and their age is called the stone age.
—The years 440 to 450 before the Christian era are memorable in the history of Europe. Pericles ruled in Athens, which had just been subdued by Rome under the dictatorship of Cincinnatus. The Etruscans still existed, although more or less enslaved. The Gauls followed the religion of the druids and their sacrifices were defiled with human blood. Spain worked her minds, and began to feel the yoke of Carthage. The rest of Europe was overrun by nomads where it was not covered with forests and swamps.
—Eight or nine centuries later, about the year 476, at the time of the downfall of the last successor of Romulus (Augustulus), German races had taken possession of almost all the entire south and west of Europe. Odoacer had just founded a new empire in Italy. The Visigoths held Spain and France as far as the Loire. The Ostrogoths were in possession of Dalmatia, Servia and a part of what is now Turkey. The north of France was in the possession of Franks. Germany was divided among several Teutonic tribes. The Slaves dwelt to the east of river Oder, and the Celts retained only the peninsula of Brittany and British isles. All was chaos, from which order was not to be drawn for several centuries. And what was the order it produced even then? Feudalism.
—We pass over the centuries that witnessed the formation and development of the middle ages, to consider the picture presented to our view in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when medieval made place for modern times, when Christopher Columbus, Guttenberg, Luther, Calvin, Descartes and Bacon renewed the face of Europe and created our civilization . The Iberian peninsula was divided into Portugal, Castile, Arragon and Navarre. France had not yet absorbed Burgundy and some other territories. England had conquered Ireland, but Scotland still retained its political independence. Germany constituted the "holy Roman empire," whose powerful ruler then possessed but a limited number of those "states of the crown" which in our day form such an imposing whole, and one possessed of greater unity than the adversaries of Austria are willing to concede. Italy was divided into small states. Genoa, Florence, Milan, Venice, Rome, Naples, Parma and some other places, were capital cities, and were as proud of their independence as the Swiss, the Eidgenosses, their neighbors. Neither Scandinavia nor Russia had played any important part in the affiars of Europe, but Poland was flourishing, and the united provinces of the Low Countries, Which had won their liberty at the cost of rivers of blood, were on the point of astonishing the world by their prosperity.
—Since the end of the middle ages the physiognomy of modern Europe has been clearly enough defined for us to recognize its principle features. When the French revolution broke out in 1789, Spain had acquired Castile, Arragon and Navarre; France had enlarges its boundaries; England and Scotland had become Great Britain; Prussia Austria and Russia had acquired very extensive territory. Poland had already been divided and was soon to disappear, like to holy empire Let us pass over the ephemeral changes which the wars of Europe wrought upon its geographical boundaries; let us pass over the famous treaties of 1815. so often assailed and now perhaps regretted, and endeavor to present a view of the continent (of Europe) as it is.
—The European republic is composed of a considerable number of large and small states. During about half a century, five of the number formed a sort of areopagus which ruled the destinies of the continent by the law of might. This power seems so natural that authors were found to justify this oligarchical domination, to establish the right of the "give great powers." One of their arguments, and, unfortunately, the best they had to offer, was that there would be no more wars, the pentarchy would be able to prevent them.
—It could not even prevent the creation of a sixth great power. Nor do we at all regret this; we only ask that by degrees every state may have a seat in the areopagus of Europe. Meantime we should not attempt to deny this self-evident fact, that France, England, Russia, Austria, Hungary, Germany and Italy are preponderating powers in Europe.
—France is undoubtedly one of the most powerful among them. Her 128,000,000 acres afford ample accommodation for her 36,000,000 inhabitant. Her nationality is firmly established, or, at least, it is strong enough in assimilate the small number of foreigners to be found within her territory. Thus her unity is assured. Her geographical position is excellent, she has a long line of coast, and her frontiers washed by the sea, have scarcely and need of an army to defend them. Finally, her people are warlike, although she nevertheless loves peace and cultivates the arts of peace with sufficient success to secure her a prosperity which a disastrous war aided by revolution and formidable insurrection (1870-71) had not power enough to impair.
—England is the richest country in Europe, and as money is the sinew of war (whatever Machiavelli may say to the contrary), she is much more powerful than the number of her inhabitants would seem to indicate. But little centralized and having no law of compulsory military service, she is not adapted for aggressive warfare, while her insular position, on the other hand, renders it quite easy for her to defend her own. Moreover the ambition of Great Britain is being more and more closely restricted to the domination of the sea—even which she may some day be deprived of. Since all power has completely been absorbed by Parliament, England has abstained as much as possible from taking part in European wars. Her influence also had become merely one of opinion, for just as in private life a man is more frequently esteemed according to the capital he possesses, or the generosity which he displays, so also in politics, a state is reckoned according to the military force it can command.
—Russia's power lies in her immense population, which is said to exceed eighty millions, but her strength has been greatly exaggerated by those who forget that the lever, money, is needed to move this mass. And Russia has not money enough to mobilize all the soldiers she could muster, and so a portion of this mass of population remains inert. It is fortunate that such is the case, for if her power were greater, she would the less easily resist the temptation to abuse it. Will this colossus of the north ever become strong enough to balance the strength of the rest of Europe?
—Austria-Hungary has more than once seemed "on the very verge of dissolution," but fortunately this state is had to kill. It is to be hoped that the dualism introduced in 1867 will consolidate this empire, for it is a necessary member of the European republic. The Hungarians would have very little political wisdom if they were not willing to make every effort and every sacrifice necessary to preserve it, for it is they who profit most by the existence of Austria. As to the Tchechs, who are a little too jealous of Hungary, they can only injure themselves unless they consider themselves, above all things else, As Austrians.
—Germany, into which Prussia shows a tendency to be dissolved, has again tightened the bounds of it stats, and while it has, in certain respects, undergone unification, it still remains a confederation from a political point of view; that is, the right to declare war belongs to a committee in which all the German governments are represented. The new empire is not, therefore, organized for aggression, but inasmuch as it exhibits a much closer union of its various parts than before, it will be stronger for defense. Germany has need of strength, for she has enemies both external and internal; she required great wisdom indeed to avoid the onslaughts of the one and the troubles caused by the other.
—Italy is considered the sixth great power. She numbers between twenty-six and twenty-seven million inhabitants. She has Rome. Her organization has been consolidated. Her opinion is constantly gaining weight in the councils of Europe. Her geographical positions between Austria and France might under certain circumstances, give her a decisive influence, but there is reason to believe that she will not intermeddle in what does not concern her. Let Italy be content to remain mistress of Italy, and encourage her agriculture, industry and commerce, in order that she may safely carry the burden of her debt.
—Let us now pass to those nations that have less pretensions to preponderance in Europe.
—Spain and Portugal are situated at the very extremely of Europe, and although Spain numbers sixteen million inhabitants and is comparatively prosperous despite her so frequent revolutions, it is rather beyond the seas than beyond the Pyrences that she seeks, and with reason too, to exercise her influence over Prussia for instance, where distance renders it impossible for her to enforce her demands.
—Switzerland and Belgium are nearer to the scene of whatever important events may happen in Euroupe; but if their relative weakness did not compel them to abstain, the neutrality, which the public law of Europe imposes upon them, would forbid them to intermingle in the quarrels of other nations. And they have no desire to do so. We have couples them together here, because they are, to all appearances, the two freest states in Europe, despite the difference of their forms of government. By comparing the constitutional Kingdom of Belgium with the federal republic of Switzerland, we become convinced that liberty may reign in countries which are governed by constitutions that have very few points of resemblance.
—The Low Countries also have a liberal, government. This state perhaps even preceded all others in this respect, for it had already given civil equality to all its citizens without distinction, when England was still proscribing Catholics, France Protestants, and Germany the Jews. No matter what certain publicists may say, Holland has nothing to fear for her liberty, no one threatens it, and in case of need she would have powerful supporters. However, we know that she has too pacific a spirit to enter without reason into any aggressive combinations whatever.
—The Scandinavian states, Sweden, Norway and Denmark occupy the north of Europe. Scandinavianism makes a great noise, but is it not after all "much ado about nothing"? So long as Sweden and Norway, united under the same king, remain separated by laws, by customs barriers imposed, and above all by prejudices, we can not consider as serious the advances they seek to make to Denmark. This little country would do well to devote all its energies to the cultivation of the arts of peace, education and industry. Denmark would thus acquire a moral influence far superior to her material power.
—We have now considered in their order the various states which compose Europe. We should like to submit to our readers some conjectures, regarding the future, but we dare not attempt it; time alone can solve the many questions suggested by the present position of European nations.
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