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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 275



χ.] DIPLOMACY. 269 treat the Reformation under the aspect of force rather than idea. We must not, however, imagine that in any but the extremest cases of change, political, territorial, or religious, the old landmarks were so entirely swept away that none of the earlier ideas of rights remained. No : it was the conflict between the old influence of right and the new influence of force, between old legality and new strong government that forced into existence the diplomacy of the sixteenth and following centuries,—diplomacy, in its beginning a sort of kriegspiel, in which threats place of mobilisations and marches, sieges and invasions} Most curious are the beginnings of the diplomatic policy of Wolsey and his master; the restless attempts to make the political force felt without the cost of exerting it ; how as soon as they have concluded an alliance, do they begin to work for a counter alliance; how they seem to conclude treaties with one high conflicting party that overlap the treaties they have just made with the other ; what secrecy, what mystery, what bribery, what intimidation; and amid all, a little sour grain of conscience, that the old law-abiding, treaty-keeping faith and loyalty would have been better. A plea must be sought for every aggression ; no compact must be broken without hesitation unless a flaw can be found. Whether it be true that Charles V justified the imprisonment of Philip the Magnanimous by the misreading of a single letter in the word which had induced him to surrender, I do not know; the story may be false, but the moral is true: men were loth to own themselves actuated by simple greed, And as diplomacy was in its beginnings, so it lasted for a long time ; the ambassador was the man who was sent to lie abroad for the good of his country. Rights, pleas, grudges, were registered against the time when strength would accrue to make them real weapons of argument and instruments of aggression.


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