THE LATER YEARS OF THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR.
THE abstention of all but a few historians from essaying a comprehensive account of the final period of the Thirty Years' War reflects only too faithfully the weariness of the generation which, heartsick and hopeless, witnessed the last thirteen years of the struggle carried on in the central regions of Europe. From 1635 to 1648, the War continued its course through what may be called its Franco-Swedish stage, shifting to and from almost every part of Germany between the Alps and the Baltic, and everywhere leaving behind it desolation unutterable. But what made this last period of the War so singularly bewildering, and to those Germans in whom a spark of national feeling survived so humiliating, was the fact that, after France had come to take a direct part in the conflict, it centred in a contention on German soil between alien ambitions and interests. Sweden was now wholly intent upon a settlement guaranteeing to her the safeguards which her position as a Baltic Power demanded, together with some acknowledgment of her sacrifices and successes in the earlier part of the War. As, however, between France and Spain, whose Government since the fall of Wallenstein had identified its interests with those of the House of Austria, there seemed no prospect of a solution being found for the resuscitated problems of their historic rivalry--which had to be fought out on German soil, with the aid of German arms, and at the cost of the very life-blood of the German nation. No Estate of the Empire could find shelter within the four corners of the Peace of Prague, or protect itself by means of any newly devised league of armed neutrality, against the fury of this War, which was essentially foreign and hardly even pretended any longer to be waged for religious ends. The soldiery of the House of Habsburg and its allies still alternated the old Catholic war-cries with the Imperialist "Ferdinandus"; and the remnant of their German adversaries still saw in the "cause commune," for which they fought side by side with the troops of France, the Gospel cause commended to Heaven by the soldiers of Gustavus Adolphus on the morning of so