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only the leading individuals, this it is which forms the object in which we are chiefly interested, this it is alone of which the history could afford great instruction to mankind.
This blunder, in the original conception of his subject, has embarrassed Mr. Coxe throughout the execution of his whole work. As it would have been perfectly impossible to have interested his readers through so many huge volumes with the mere fortunes and the virtues or vices of the descendants of Rhodolph of Hapsburgh, by far the greater part of the volumes is occupied with the history of the communities over which they ruled. This is really, though not ostensibly, the great purpose of the book. The professed object is perpetually made to give way to what, by the plan of it, ought to be only the secondary object. There is, by this means, a perpetual justling and interference, between the history of the house of Austria, and the history of the Austrian states; and, from this circumstance, it proves a good history neither of the one nor of the other; it is a medley or jumble of both; a sort of hermaphrodite in history, a compound of two different natures, exhibiting but few of the uses and advantages of either.
If we abstract our attention from the uninteresting and uninstructive part of Mr. Coxe's plan, and fix our consideration solely upon the great and important circumstances involved in the history of these communities over which the dominion of the house of Austria has at any time extended, we shall find that he sins deeply against another of the essential rules which judgement and good taste have pointed out for the composition of history ; he completely discards and banishes unity; and renders his book a mere aggregate of the shreds and patches of the history of different countries. The narrative passes from subject to subject, and from country to country, without any other thread of connection than as the house of Austria now lost, or now gained a province. Thus the work includes a part, but not the whole, of the history of Hungary; a part, but not the whole, of the history of Bohemia; a part, but not the whole, of the history of Switzerland ; a part, but not the whole, of the history of Poland ; a part, but not the whole, of the history of Italy; and those not as secondary or connective, but as primary and essential objects.
The circumstance which fills the mind of the reader, and creatės expectation, when he thinks of the history of the house of Austria, is in reality the history of that vast federative empire, which so long towered in the centre of Europe, and the progress and decline of which have had so mighty an influence upon this quarter of the globe. But the House of Austria, great as has been their influence in that important confederation, can in no sense be regarded as involving its fate, or its
influence; and the history of that house is not calculated to afford such a view as is desired, of the events to which the German empire has given birth. Those German transactions in which the whole of Europe has been interested, form the only part of Mr. Coxe's subject which can be either useful or entertaining to his countrymen; but he has thought proper to set about the history of those transactions in a way which inust diminish both its interest and its utility. He had a grand subject before him. There is no part of history which to the English reader has been so imperfectly elucidated, as the German ; yet there is no part so essential to a just view of the progress of European policy, and the relative situation of the European states. Whoever shall present, without loads of detail, a clear, historical, and philosophical view of the German empire, in its beginning, middle, and end, will perform a most essential service to the literature of this country. Mr. Coxe has undergone, for his present subaltern subject, nearly all the labour of research, which that noble undertaking would have required. Yet be has chosen to give us, in its stead, a history, or biography of the house of Austria.
There appears to be something in the mind of Mr. Coxe, which naturally or necessarily led him to this inverted choice; and which is matter of regret, considering the amiable qualities of which in other respects he exhibits proof, and the talents, if not brilliant or profound, at least respectable, which he possesses. There are too many persons, who, through weakness of mind, or the effects of a narrow and illiberal system of education, or the influence of situation and prospect in life, are so dazzled with the splendour of those who are raised to the head of a community, that they regard such elevated persons as of more consequence than the communities which they govern; and consider the communities as chiefly deserving notice on account of their connection with the kings, not the kings as deserving notice solely or principally on account of their connection with the communities. The strain of Mr. Coxe's history affords so many proofs of the domineering influence of bigh station over his imagination and understanding, that we have no doubt the history of the house of Austria, as of the highest royal house of Europe, appears to him a subject of paramount dignity, and well qualified to stand in the foreground of a piece intended to represent the important transactions of which the Austrian state had been the theatre, and the great effects of which the mighty.empire; so much guided by that house, has been the active agent. The consequence however is that the information respecting the central transactions of Europe, of which Germany was the source, information of so much importance in order to under
stand the history of Europe, and which would be of so much use to the English reader, is here most imperfectly supplied ; and Mr. Coxe's knowledge of the German historians, which, had he possessed a little more philosophy and force of niind, would have sufficed for one of the most instructive of historical works, is here expended on a book of second rate interest, and of sea cond rate utility.
The history commences with the life and adventures of Rhodolph of 'Hapsburgh, who was merely 'a feudal chief, or great lord of Switzerland, near the beginning of the thirteenth century, who rendered himself famous in the little wars then universal, which he carried on with the chieftains in his neighbourhood, and whom a curious and accidental concur. rence of affairs recommended to the elective crow'n of Germany, at a time when he was not of sufficient importance even to offer himself as a competitor. Here Mr. Coxe takes especial care to let us know what the genealogists of the House of Austria have discovered or have taught respecting the ancestors of this Rhodolph; that they trace up his iblood, even to a Roman source ; " that they carry it with great proba, bility to Etico, duke of Alsace in the seventh century; and unquestionably to Guntram the Rich, count of Alsace and Brisgau, who flourished in the tenth. But there is another kind of knowledge, not less vecessary for understanding the events which enter into Mr. Coxe's narrative, nor less useful for all the important purposes of speculation and of action, which he has either almost, or altogether omitted. Considering that Rhodolph was elected Emperor of Germany, and that his transactions in that high capacity were to become the principal object of attention in the account of his life; considering the functions of emperor of Germany were to be discharged by so many of that line of princes whose history Mr. Coxe had undertaken to write, and that the state of Germany was so much the source and spring of all the events which it fell within his province to record, it might have been expected that he would have roused all his faculties to give his reader a clear and instructive display of the condition of that country at the remarkable era, when the House of Austria were first elevated to the imperial throne. No developement could be of more importance. The human mind was then in a remarkable state. The frame of society was at that time very extraordinary. Communities were of a singular structure within ; and stood related to one another in a singular manner without. The situation of Germany was more striking than that of any other country in Europe. Its local circumstances, and a train of events, had given a peculiar turn to the feudal principles, and to the ignorance, which prevailed ihere, as in the rest of Europe. A complete analysis of the state of human nature, and of the structure of society in Germany, at that time, would have shed light upon the whole history of the European nations. No doubt such a developement would have been difficult. Deep reading, and deep thought, were both indispensable. But no one should undertake the history of Germany without these requisites. After the models of philosophical history which we have received, after its utility has been so fully recognized, it will hardly be believed that an author should undertake to give to this country a history intended to comprise the great transactions of Germany from the middle of the dark ages to the end of the eighteenth century, without an attempt to furnish us with satisfactory information respecting the great details of the human mind, respecting the order of society, respecting the religion, the knowledge, the arts or manners of the people, from the beginning to the end of the period which his history embraced. The details of wars, or of diplomatic intrigues, apart from this higher information, are the business merely of the vulgar chronicler; yet some advantages, which Mr. Coxe fancies he has enjoyed in regard to information respecting those details and intrigues, occasion him to value himself very highly on his qualifications for writing the present history. We may také upon ourselves, however, to assure bim, without undervaluing diplomatic accuracy, that a philosophical mind would have experienced no great difficulty in writing, on the game train of events, a far more instructive and far more interesting history, without the benefit of these papers, to which Mr. Coxe thinks his performance so much indebted.
It is curious to observe what an interest he also ascribes to the military details. “ Unfortunately for man,” says he, « it is the sword which decides the fate of nations, secures their tranquillity, and promotes their aggrandisement;-it is the sword alone which is the guardian of national honour, and the protector of public and private happiness. Commerce may enrich, the arts may civilize, science may illuminate a people; but these blessings can only owe their safety and stability to military force. War, therefore, to the regret of every milder virtue, must form the principal subject of history. For this reason, I have paid peculiar attention to military transattions ; and trust I have treated this subject in a different manner from preceding writers. From the examinations of military details I have been enabled to place many points of history and many characters, in a new and perspicuouis light, and I have shewn to the English reader the importance of an efficient military force, pointed out the manner in wbich it has been employed with effect, and displayed the intent,
the value, and necessity, of continental alliances." When the philosopher who was asked what supported the earth, and answered a large elephant, replied to the second question, What supported the elephant, that it stood upon the back of a huge tortoise, he went a step deeper than Mr. Coxe; for when he tells us that it is the sword which decides the fate of nations," he seems never to have imagined that there was a question still remaining, “ What decides the fate of the sword?” Yet that this is a pretty important question, did not surely require much profundity of knowledge or of reflection to discover. It is not the bare wish to have a good sword, or the knowledge that it is a very useful thing, which inmediately commands the possession of it. A sword is a thing which must be bought; and when it is bought, it is not useful, unless there is skill and strength to use it. Now the price of a good national sword, and the skill and strength to make use of it, are matters which depend so entirely upon the vital principles of the society, upon the condition, the arts, and knowledge of the people, upon the nature and qualities of the government; that to talk to us about the sword, without the due information relating to those important things on which the sword depends, is merely to use the unmeaning language of the vulgar. The house of Austria has had as good a sword during the last twenty years as it ever had. But a better sword has been procured in a neighbouring country, and the question remains, why cannot Austria procure one as good? The reason certainly is not, that she is not anxious to procure it ; nor that she is less sensible, than Mr. Coxe, of its advantages. The trụe reason undoubtedly is, that the state of her people, and the manner in which she has long governed them, do not enable or permit her to procure it. Nobody can be more alive to the advantages of a naval force than Bonaparte is; or more ready to make efforts to obtain it. But the situation of his country and the nature of his government prevent him. Nothing therefore can be more idle than the vulgar details of war, where the circumstances on which they depend are not carefully developed; and as those circumstances have hardly occupied any part of Mr. Coxe's attention, the military information which he affords, be it as minute and as accurate as he pleases, is of very
When the eulogy which he pronounces upon the sword is reduced to its real value, it is only this; that a nation is not sure of any of its advantages unless it can defend itself: a truth, in which, notwithstanding the envy and the contradice tion which discoveries usually experience, we will boldly ven. ture to promise Mr. Coxe a very general, we had almost said, an universal concurrence.