Towards humbling or extinguishing Austria, Belleisle has two preliminary things to do: FIRST, Break the Pragmatic Sanction, and get everybody to break it; SECOND, Guide the KAISERWAHL (Election of a Kaiser), so that it issue, not in Grand-Duke Franz, Maria Theresa's Husband, as all expect it will, but in another party friendly to France:--say in Karl Albert of Bavaria, whose Family have long been good clients of ours, dependent on us for a living in the Political World. Belleisle, there is little doubt, had from the first cast his eye on this unlucky Karl Albert for Kaiser; but is uncertain as to carrying him. Belleisle will take another if he must; Kur-Sachsen, for example;--any other, and all others, only not the Grand-Duke: that is a point already fixed with Belleisle, though he keeps it well in the background, and is careful not to hint it till the time come.
In regard to Pragmatic Sanction, Belleisle and France found no difficulty,--or the difficulty only (which we hope must have been considerable) of eating their own Covenant in behalf of Pragmatic Sanction; and declaring, which they did without visible blush, That it was a Covenant including, if not expressly, then tacitly, as all human covenants do, this clause, "SALVO JURE TERTII (Saving the rights of Third Parties),"--that is, of Electors of Bavaria, and others who may object, against it! O soul of honor, O first Nation of the Universe, was there ever such a subterfuge? Here is a field of flowering corn, the biggest in the world, begirt with elaborate ring-fence, many miles of firm oak-paling pitched and buttressed; --the poor gentleman now dead gave you his Lorraine, and almost his life, for swearing to keep up said paling. And you do keep it up,-- all except six yards; through which the biggest team on the highway can drive freely, and the paltriest cadger's ass can step in for a bellyful!
It appears, the first Nation of the Universe had, at an early period of their consultations, hit upon this of SALVO JURE TERTII, as the method of eating their Covenant, before an enlightened public. [20th January, 1741, in their Note of Ceremony, recognizing Maria Theresa as Queen of Hungary, Note which had been due so very long (ADELUNG, ii. 206), there is ominous silence on Pragmatic Sanction; "beginning of March," there is virtual avowal of SALVO JURE (ib. 279);--open avowal on Belleisle's advent (ib. 305).] And they persisted in it, there being no other for them. An enlightened public grinned sardonically, and was not taken in; but, as so many others were eating their Covenants, under equally poor subterfuges, the enlightened public could not grin long on any individual,--could only gape mutely, with astonishment, on all. A glorious example of veracity and human nobleness, set by the gods of this lower world to their gazing populations, who could read in the Gazettes! What is truth, falsity, human Kingship, human Swindlership? Are the Ten Commandments only a figure of speech, then? And it was some beggarly Attorney-Devil that built this sublunary world and us? Questions might rise; had long been rising;--but now there was about enough, and the response to them was falling due; and Belleisle himself, what is very notable, had been appointed to get ready the response. Belleisle (little as Belleisle dreamt of it, in these high Enterprises) was ushering in, by way of response, a RAGNAROK, or Twilight of the Gods, which, as "French Revolution, or Apotheosis of SANSCULOTTISM," is now well known;--and that is something to consider of!
DOWNBREAK OF PRAGMATIC SANCTION; MANNER OF THE CHIEF ARTISTS IN HANDLING THEIR COVENANTS.
The operation once accomplished on its own Pragmatic Covenant, France found no difficulty with the others. Everybody was disposed to eat his Covenant, who could see advantage in so doing, after that admirable example. The difficulty of France and Belleisle rather was, to keep the hungry parties back: "Don't eat your Covenant TILL the proper time; patience, we say!" A most sad Miscellany of Royalties, coming all to the point, "Will you eat your Covenant, Will you keep it?"--and eating, nearly all; in fact, wholly all that needed to eat.
On the first Invasion of Silesia, Maria Theresa had indignantly complained in every Court; and pointing to Pragmatic Sanction, had demanded that such Law of Nature be complied with, according to covenant. What Maria Theresa got by this circuit of the Courts, everybody still knows. Except England, which was willing, and Holland, which was unwilling, all Courts had answered, more or less uneasily: "Law of Nature,--humph: yes!"--and, far from doing anything, not one of them would with certainty promise to do anything. From England alone and her little King (to whom Pragmatic Sanction is the Palladium of Human Freedoms and the Keystone of Nature) could she get the least help. The rest hung back; would not open heart or pocket; waited till they saw. They do now see; now that Belleisle has done his feat of Covenant-eating!--
Eleven great Powers, some count Thirteen, some Twelve, [Scholl, ii. 286; Adelung, LIST, ii. 127.]--but no two agree, and hardly one agrees with himself;--enough, the Powers of Europe, from Naples and Madrid to Russia and Sweden, have all signed it, let us say a Dozen or a Baker's-Dozen of them. And except our little English Paladin alone, whose interest and indeed salvation seemed to him to lie that way, and who needed no Pragmatic Covenant to guide him, nobody whatever distinguished himself by keeping it. Between December, 1740, when Maria Theresa set up her cries in all Courts, on to April, 1741, England, painfully dragging Holland with her, had alone of the Baker's-Dozen spoken word of disapproval; much less done act of hindrance. Two especially (France and Bavaria, not to mention Spain) had done the reverse, and disowned, and declared against, Pragmatic Sanction. And after the Battle of Mollwitz, when the "little stone" took its first leap, and set all thundering, then came, like the inrush of a fashion, throughout that high Miscellany or Baker's-Dozen, the general eating of Covenants (which was again quickened in August, for a reason we shall see): and before November of that Year, there was no Covenant left to eat. Of the Baker's-Dozen nobody remained but little George the Paladin, dragging Holland painfully along with him;--and Pragmatic Sanction had gone to water, like ice in a June day, and its beautiful crystalline qualities and prismatic colors were forever vanished from the world. Will the reader note a point or two, a personage or two, in this sordid process,--not for the process's sake, which is very sordid and smells badly, but for his own sake, to elucidate his own course a little in the intricacies now coming or come upon him and me?
1. ELECTOR OF BAVARIA.--Karl Albert of Baiern is by some counted as a Signer of the Pragmatic Sanction, and by others not; which occasions that discrepancy of sum-total in the Books. And he did once, in a sense, sign it, he and his Brother of Koln; but, before the late Kaiser's death, he had openly drawn back from it again; and counted himself a Non-signer. Signer or not, he, for his part, lost no moment (but rather the contrary) in openly protesting against it, and signifying that he never would acknowledge it. Of this the reader saw something, at the time of her Hungarian Majesty's Accession. Date and circumstances of it, which deserve remembering, are more precisely these: October 20th, 1740, Karl Albert's Ambassador, Perusa by name, wrote to Karl from Vienna, announcing that the Kaiser was just dead. From Munchen, on the 21st, Karl Albert, anticipating such an event, but not yet knowing it, orders Perusa, in CASE of the Kaiser's decease, which was considered probable at Munchen, to demand instant audience of the proper party (Kanzler Sinzendorf), and there openly lodge his Protest. Which Perusa did, punctually in all points,--no moment LOST, but rather the contrary, as we said! Let poor Karl Albert have what benefit there is in that fact. He was, of all the Anti- Pragmatic Covenant-Breakers (if he ever fairly were such), the only one that proceeded honorably, openly and at once, in the matter; and he was, of them all, by far the most unfortunate.