CHARLES XII AND THE GREAT NORTHERN WAR.
By R. NISBET BAIN.
The minority of Charles XII. His natural gifts. 584
Charles XII assumes the sovereignty. Signs of an autocratic rule. 585
Johau Reinhold Patkul. Motives of his action.586
First league of partition against Sweden.. 587
The campaign of 1699-1700.588
Battle of Narva.. 589
Renewed Russo-Saxon alliance. The Baltic campaigns.590
Campaign of 1704. Sweden's supposed opportunity. 591
The Swedes overrun Poland.592
Stanislaus Leszczynski elected King. 593
The campaign of 1706.. 594
Execution of Patkul.. 595
Peter and the Powers. Mazepa.596
Charles XII at Altranstädt. His great design.597
Victory of Holowczyn. Swedish march southwards. 598
Causes of Mazepa's treason..599
The great frost of 1708-9..600
Charles besieges Poltawa..601
Battle of Poltawa. Second league against Sweden. 602
Danish and Russian invasions. The Porte and the War.603
The campaign of the Pruth.604
The Peace of the Pruth..605
Peter and the Porte. Charles at Bender.. 606
The Peace of Adrianople. The War in Germany. 607
The Maritime Powers offer mediation. Stenbock in Pomerania. 608
Conquest of Finland. The " Stettin Sequestration ". 609
The Hanoverian project. Charles at Stralsund.610
Third coalition against Sweden.611
Collapse of the projected Scanian expedition.612
The peace negotiations of Baron Görtz.. 613
Death of Charles XII.. 614
Peace of Nystad.. 615
CHARLES XII AND THE GREAT NORTHERN WAR.
CHARLES XI had carefully provided against the contingency of his successor's minority ; and the five Regents appointed by him 'entered upon their functions immediately after his death (April 15, 1697). The Regents, if not great statesmen, were, at least, practical politicians, who had not in vain been trained in the austere school of Charles XI ; during the seven months in which they held sway no blunder was made, and no national interest was neglected. At home the Reduction was cautiously pursued, while abroad the successful conclusion of the great peace congress at Ryswyk was justly regarded as a signal triumph of Sweden's pacific diplomacy. The young King, a lad of fifteen, was daily present in the Council ; and his frequent utterances on every subject, except foreign affairs, showed, we are told, a maturity of judgment far beyond his years. He had been carefully educated by excellent tutors under the watchful eyes of both his parents. His extraordinary courage and strength of character had, from the first, profoundly impressed those around him, though his dogged obstinacy occasionally tried them to the uttermost. His wise and loving mother had been at great pains to develop his better nature by encouraging those noble qualities-veracity, courtesy, piety, and a strong sense of honour and fair play-which were to distinguish him throughout life, while his precocious manliness was not a little stimulated by the rude but bracing moral atmosphere to which he was accustomed from infancy. Intellectually he was very highly endowed. His natural parts were excellent, and a strong bias in the direction of abstract thought, and of mathematics in particular, was noticeable at an early date. His memory was astonishing. He could translate Latin into Swedish or German, or Swedish or German into Latin at sight, and on his campaigns not infrequently dispensed with a key while inditing or interpreting despatches in cipher.
Almost from infancy the lad had been initiated into all the minutiae of the administration. When, in his later years, Charles XI went his rounds, reviewing troops, inspecting studs, foundries, dockyards and granaries, it was always " with my son Carl." For the science of war
On Saturday, November 6, 1697, the Swedish Riksdag assembled at Stockholm ; and, on the following Monday, the Estate of Nobles, jealous of the authority of the Regents, and calculating upon the grateful liberality of a young prince unexpectedly released from the bonds of tutelage, sent a deputation to the King inviting him to take over the government of the realm. Charles received the delegates graciously, but suggested that on so important a matter the Senate should first be consulted. The Senate and the Regents, weakly determining riot to lag behind the nobility in their devotion to the Crown, waited upon the King forthwith; and Chancellor Bengt Oxenstierna, acting as spokesman,begged his Majesty to gladden the hearts of his subjects by graciously assuming supreme power. Only when Charles had expressed his willingness to concur with the desires of his faithful subjects were the three lower Estates of the realm formally acquainted with the action of the nobility and invited to cooperate. The lower Estates proved to be as obsequious as the gentry, for a joint deputation from all four Estates thereupon proceeded to the palace; and, in answer to their earnest solicitations, Charles declared that he could not resist their urgent appeal, but would take over the government of the realm "in God's name."
A short period of suspense ensued, followed by bitter disappointment. The Riksdag was dissolved after a three weeks1 session, and a humble petition of the nobility for a remission of their burdens was curtly rejected. The subsequent coronation was marked by portentous innovations, the most significant of which were the King's omitting to take the usual coronation oath and placing the crown upon his head with his own hands. The Government assumed more and more of an autocratic complexion. The French Minister, d'Avaux, describes Charles at this period as even more imperious in public than his father had been. Anti-monarchical strictures, however respectful or indirect, were promptly and cruelly punished. Many people began to fear " a hard reign." Yet the general opinion of the young King was favourable. His conduct was evidently regulated by strict principle and not by mere caprice. His
But, while Charles XII was thus serving his political apprenticeship at home with exemplary diligence, the political horizon abroad was darkening in every direction ; and a league, of apparently overwhelming strength, had already been formed for the partition of Sweden. The person primarily responsible for the terrible conflagration known as the great Northern War was Johan Reinhold Patkul, a Livonian squire. A Swedish subject, he had entered the Swedish army at an early age, and was already a captain when, in 1689, at the head of a deputation of Livonian gentry, he came to Stockholm to protest against the rigour with which the land-recovery project of Charles XI was being carried out in his native province. But his representations were disregarded, and the violent and offensive language with which, in another petition, addressed to the King three years later, he renewed his complaints, involved him in what is known as "the great Livonian process." To save himself from the penalties of high treason, Patkul left the country, and was condemned m contumaciam to lose his right hand and his head. His estates were at the same time confiscated. For the next four years he led a vagabond life, but in 1698, after vainly petitioning the new King, Charles XII, for pardon, he entered the service of Augustus II of Poland.
There can be no doubt that Patkul was harshly treated by Charles XI. Moreover, he was an exile from Livonia so long as it belonged to Sweden. But we must be very cautious in speaking about the patriotism of Patkul. He acted exclusively from personal motives ; his point of view was that of the German junker ; and he had no thought for the liberties of the Livonian people, who to him were mere serfs. He did not care to whom Livonia might belong, so long as it did not belong to Sweden. The aristocratic Republic of Poland was, however, the most convenient suzerain for Livonian noblemen ; and the present King of Poland, as a German, was peculiarly acceptable to them. Accordingly, in 1698, Patkul proceeded to Dresden, and overwhelmed Augustus with proposals for the partition of Sweden. The first plan was a combination against her of Saxony, Denmark, and Brandenburg ; but, Brandenburg failing him, he was obliged to admit Russia into the scheme instead. This he did very unwillingly, shrewdly anticipating that the Tsar might prove to be the predominant partner. Peter was to be content with Ingria and Esthonia, while Augustus was to obtain Livonia, nominally as a fief of Poland, really as an hereditary possession of the Saxon House. Military operations against Sweden's Baltic provinces were to be begun
Patkul, accompanied by the Saxon general Carlovitz, arrived at Moscow in September, 1699. They found that they had been preceded by a Swedish embassy sent by Charles XII to confirm the Peace of Kardis. Peter, on this occabion, went far towards justifying the accusation of inveterate duplicity so frequently brought against him afterwards. He was sufficiently superstitious, indeed, to avoid kissing the cross on the renewal of the treaty. But the temptation to secure the Baltic sea-board, with all its commercial and civilising possibilities, was too strong for his easy morality. He solemnly assured the Swedish envoys that he would faithfully observe all his treaty obligations ; yet, at a secret conference, held at Preobrazhenskoe with the Saxon and Danish envoys, he had already signed (November 22, 1699) the partition treaty. Everything was done by Peter to allay the growing suspicions of the Swedish Minister, Kniperkrona. When questioned point-blank as to the designs of Augustus, Peter professed incredulity and indignation. " If the King of Poland dares to seize Riga," he said, " I shall take it away from him myself."
During the remainder of 1699 both Sweden and Denmark vigorously prepared for war. A Danish army, 17,800 strong, assembled in Holstein ; while Charles XII equipped his father's fleet, and mobilised a Swedish army-corps which was to penetrate into Holstein from Pomerania and Wibuiar. At this juncture, western Europe was startled by the tidings that the Saxons had invaded Livonia. But, in May, 1700, the troops of Augustus II, repulsed from Riga by the veteran Dahlberg, were defeated at Jungfernhof, and driven over the Dwina; the Livonian gentry fahowed no disposition to rise in arms at the appeal of Patkul; and the discomfited Augustus, already in difficulties, urged the Tsar to
The very ease of his victory was injurious to Charles XII. His best counsellors now urged him to turn all his forces against the terrified fugitives ; establish his winter-quarters in Muscovy ; live upon the country till the spring, and then take advantage of the popular discontent against Peter to make him harmless for the future. But Charles declared that he would postpone the settlement of the Russian quarrel till he had summarily chastised Augustus. "There was no glory in winning victories over the Muscovites," he said ; " they could be beaten at any time." It is easy from the vantage-point of two centuries to criticise Charles XII for neglecting the Muscovites to pursue the Saxons, but, in the circumstances, his decision was, apparently, correct. Charles had every reason to think the civilised and martial Saxons far more formidable than the Muscovites ; and he had good cause for hating Augustus more than his other enemies. The hostility of Denmark, on account of Gottorp, was perfectly intelligible ; and so was that of Muscovy so long as Sweden held old territory formerly Muscovite and barred Muscovy from the sea. There was no excuse at all for the Elector of Saxony. Yet he had been the prime mover in the league of partition. He had deceived Sweden to the very last moment with false assurances of amity, and Charles could never trust him to remain quiet even if they made peace with each other. From this point of view Charles1 policy of placing a nominee of his own on the Polish throne in lieu of the incalculable Augustus, was a policy, not of overreaching ambition, but of prudent self-defence.
Nevertheless, it saved Peter, who was immensely relieved by the withdrawal of his great rival. He had cut a sorry figure enough at Narva ; after the defeat his tenacity and resourcefulness once more extort our admiration. Adversity always seemed to stimulate rather than depress him. He at once formed the nucleus of a new army out of the 23,000 fugitives who had escaped from Narva, and they were speedily reinforced by ten freshly recruited dragoon regiments of 1000 men each. An ukase directed all the churches and monasteries in the Tsardom to send him their bells to be cast into cannon to supply the place of the artillery lost at Narva ; and, in less than twelve months afterwards, they
The troops left by Charles XII to defend the Baltic provinces amounted only to 15,000 men. In the most favourable circumstances these could not seriously hope to defend, against a tenfold odds, a frontier extending from Lake Ladoga to Lake Peipus, from Lake Peipus to the Dwina, and from the Dwina to the Gulf of Riga. And the circumstances were unusually unfavourable. Charles not only took his best men and his best officers away with him to Poland, but forbade the Senate, which ruled Sweden during his absence, to send any reinforcements to the Baltic provinces, so long as the more important Polish war lasted. Peter, he argued, could easily be kept in check by a few raw corps till Augustus had been dealt with. It was a fatal miscalculation.
With Phkoff as their starting-point, the Muscovites, during 1701 and 1702, made frequent incursions into Ingria and Livonia. On January 7, 1702, the Swedish general Schlippenbach was overwhelmed by Sheremetieff at Errestfer, losing 3000 killed and wounded, and 350 prisoners. Peter was in ecstasies. " Narva is avenged," he cried. Sheremetieff received his marshal's baton. Urged on incessantly by Peter, the new Field-marshal attacked Schlippenbach a second time, in July, 1702, at Hummelshof, and with a force of 30,000 men inflicted a still more terrible defeat upon him, the Swedes losing 5500 out of 8000 men. To intimidate the enemy still further, and prevent him from drawing upon the country for supplies, Sheremetieff', by the express command of Peter, proceeded, methodically, to devastate as much of Livonia as he could reach with his Cossacks and Calmucks. Between Pernau and Reval, and thence round by the sea to Riga, everything was obliterated. In September, 1702, Peter himself appeared at Ladoga, in order to superintend the conquest of Ingria. The little fortress of Nöteborg was taken by assault after a heroic defence by its garrison of 410 men against 10,000. Peter renamed it Schlüsselburg. On May 12, 1703, another small fortress, Nyen, or Nyenskans (renamed Slottburg), at the mouth of the Neva, was captured by Sheremetieff. Presently the woodman's axe was busy among the virgin forests in the marshes of the Neva, and a little wooden village began to rise up on the northern shore of the river. This little village was called St Petersburg. For the defence of the town on the sea-side, the fort of Kronslot, subsequently called Kronstadt, was
In the spring of 1704 the Muscovites, after reducing all the open towns of Ingria to ashes, sat down before the two great fortresses of Dorpat and Narva. Shereirietieff, with 20,000 men, began the siege of the former place in the beginning of June, and it surrendered on July 24. Narva was besieged by the Scotch general Ogilvie, whom Patkul had picked up at Vienna and enlisted in Peter's service for three years. On August 20 the fortress was taken by assault, and a frightful massacre ensued, in which not even the women and children were spared. Peter arrived two hours after the place had fallen, and stopped the carnage by cutting down a dozen of the plunderers with his own hand.
Peter would now have made peace with Sweden, had he been allowed to retain St Petersburg. He was in possession of all he wanted, for, as yet, he had no intention of conquering Livonia for himself (hence his barbarous treatment of it), inasmuch as he still regarded it as Augustus1 share of the spoil. But he required time to consolidate his position in the Baltic provinces ; and for this purpose it was necessary to keep Charles "sticking in the Polish bog" a little longer, by actively assisting Augustus, who was again in serious difficulties. Meanwhile, Charles XII, after the campaign at Narva, had gone into winter-quarters round Dorpat, iîxing his head-quarters at Lois Castle, midway between Dorpat and Lake Peipus, so as to be able to commence hostilities in the early spring.
Meanwhile, an event occurred which completely changed the face of European politics. In November, 1700, died Charles II of Spain, bequeathing the Spanish monarchy to Philip of Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV, who thereupon openly repudiated the partition compact which he had made with the Maritime Powers. A war between France and the Maritime Powers was now inevitable, and both sides looked to Sweden for assistance. The competing French and Imperial ambassadors appeared in the Swedish camp, while the English and Dutch were equally busy at Stockholm. Oxenstierna saw in this universal bidding for the favour of Sweden a golden opportunity of ending " this present lean war, and making his Majesty the arbiter of Europe.1' But Charles met all the representations of his Ministers with a disconcerting silence. At last the urgent appeal of Baron Lillieroth, the able Swedish representative at the Hague, who stated that both William III and Hcinsius were uneasy at the unnecessary prolongation of the Northern War and desirous of knowing the real sentiments of Charles, drew from him the reluctant reply : " It would put our glory to shame, if we lent ourselves to the slightest treaty accommodation wilh one who has so vilely
On July 8, 1701, Charles transported his army across the Dwina, in the face of 30,000 Russians and Saxons strongly entrenched on the opposite shore at Dunamiinde, routed them in a two hours1 engagement, and followed up his victory by occupying Courland, then a Polish fief, which he at once converted into a Swedish governor-generalate. Then, after recapturing all the Swedish forts on the Dwina, and purging the land of Saxons and Russians, he established his winter-quarters round Würgen in western Courland (September to December, 1701).
Charles' proximity to the Polish border had greatly disturbed Augustus ; and the Polish primate, Cardinal Radziejowski, had written to Charles reminding him that Poland was at peace with Sweden, forbidding him, in the name of the Republic, to cross the border ; and offering to mediate between the two monarchs. Charles' reply excluded every hope of negotiation. He bluntly demanded the deposition of Augustus, threatening, in case of non-compliance, himself to punish the common foe. After this it is not surprising that a reaction in favour of Augustus began in Poland itself; and Patkul, who, in 1702, exchanged the Saxon for the Russian service, did all in his power to induce the Republic to join the anti-Swedish league. The Tsar also now concluded an offensive and defensive alliance with Poland, and it became clear that, with the exception of the powerful Lithuanian family of Sapieha, most of the Polish nobles were still on the side of the King in possession.
In January, 1702, Charles established himself at Bielowice in Lithuania, and, after issuing a proclamation declaring that " the Elector of Saxony " had forfeited the Polish throne, set out for Warsaw, which he reached on May 14. The Cardinal-Primate was then sent for and ordered to summon an extraordinary Diet for the purpose of deposing Augustus. A fortnight later Charles quitted Warsaw to seek his enemy, and on July 2, with only 10,000 men, routed the combined Poles and Saxons at Klissow, on which occasion his brother-in-law, the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, was shot dead by his side. Three weeks later, Charles, with only a cane in his hand, stood before the citadel of Cracow, and captured it by an act of almost fabulous audacity. Thus, within four months of the opening of the campaign, the Polish capital and the coronation city were both in the possession of the Swedes.
During the next two months Charles remained inactive at Cracow, awaiting reinforcements, and regarding impassively the chaotic condition of the unhappy Polish Republic. After Klissow, Augustus made every effort to put an end to the war, but his offers were not even considered. The campaign of 1703 was remarkable for Charles' victory over the Saxons at Pultusk (April 21), and for the long siege of Thorn, which
The insecurity of the new King was demonstrated when Augustus, taking advantage of a sudden southward raid of Charles'1, recaptured Warsaw (August 26). But his triumph was of short duration. In October, Charles routed the Saxons at Punitz, and, after chasing them as far as Glogau, returned to Poland, and pitched his camp at Rawitz, completely cutting Augustus off from Poland. There he remained for eight months, using every effort firmly to establish Stanislaus. A coronation Diet was summoned to Warsaw in July, 1705 ; an attempt to disperse it by an army of 10,000 Saxons was frustrated by the gallantry of the Swedish general, Nieroth, with 2000 men; the difficulty about the regalia, which had been carried off to Saxony, was surmounted by Charles himself providing his nominee with a new crown and sceptre; and, finally, Stanislaus was crowned King, with great splendour, on October 4, 1705. The first act of the new King was to conclude an alliance between Sweden and the Polish Republic, on the basis of the Peace of Oliva, whereby Poland agreed to assist Sweden against the Tsar.
Early in 1705, Peter, encouraged by favourable reports from his Minister, Peter Tolstoi, at Stambul, resolved to help Augustus by transferring the war to Poland. He had previously (August 30, 1704) put some heart into his ally, by making a fresh treaty of alliance with him in which the Republic was also included. By this treaty Peter undertook to provide Augustus with 12,000 Muscovite auxiliaries ; to pay for the maintenance of an additional Polish army-corps of 26,000 infantry and 21,000 cavalry, and to furnish subsidies amounting to 200,000 roubles a year till the war was over. An attempt of the indefatigable Patkul to bring the King of Prussia into the anti-Swedish league failed because of Frederick I's fear of Charles and his jealousy of Peter's
During the winter, Patkul made fresh efforts to gain the King of Prussia by holding out the bait of " Royal " or Polish Prussia ; but the negotiations failed, because Russia had yet to show, by conquering the unconquerable King of Sweden, that she was able to fulfil her promises. From Berlin Patkul proceeded to Dresden to conclude an agreement with the Imperial commissioners for the transfer of the Russian contingent of troops from the Saxon to the Austrian service. The Saxon Ministers, after protesting in vain against the new arrangement, arrested Patkul, and shut him up in the fortress of Sonnenstein (December 19), altogether disregarding the remonstrances of Peter against such a gross violation of international law.
But the fate of Patkul was speedily forgotten in the rush of events which made the year 1706 so memorable. In January, Charles XII suddenly appeared in eastern Poland to clear the country of the partisans of Augustus, and attack the Russian army, under Ogilvie, entrenched at Grodno. But Ogilvie could not be tempted out of his entrenchments, and all that Charles could do was to cut off his communications with Russia and ruin his sources of supply. Augustus, meanwhile, had hastened from Grodno to Warsaw, and united his Russian and Polish troops with the Saxon forces under Schulenburg, for the purpose of crushing the little Swedish army stationed under General Rehnskjöld, in the province of Posen, intending afterwards to return and fall upon Charles at Grodno, while Ogilvie attacked him in front. This plan was frustrated by Rehnskj old's brilliant victory at Fraustadt (February 3) over the combined forces of the allies whom he almost annihilated, only 5000 out of 20,000 succeeding in escaping. Fearing for his own army at Grodno, Peter thereupon ordered Ogilvie to retreat into the heart of Russia, burying his heavy guns in ice-holes, and breaking up his army into numerous detachments, so that at least some of it might escape. Ogilvie protesting, he was superseded by Menshikoff ; and the Russian army, favoured by the spring-floods of the Niémen, which obstructed the pursuing Swedes, retreated so rapidly upon Kieff, that Charles was unable to overtake it, and abandoned the pursuit among the trackless morasses of Pinsk. Leaving his exhausted troops to rest for a few weeks in Volhynia, he hastened off to Saxony to finish with Augustus, to the intense relief of Peter in his " paradise,"
It was now that Peter seriously attempted to come to terms with his terrible opponent. This he could only do by soliciting the mediation of the Powers, as Charles steadily refused to have any direct com munication with him. He began in London. At the end of 1706, Andrei Matvieeff was sent there from Holland to promise Peter's adhesion to the Grand Alliance, if Great Britain would bring about a peace between him and Sweden. If necessary, Matvieeff was to bribe Harley, Godolphin, Marlborough, and the other Minis iers. " I know not whether Marlborough would be inclined thereto, as he is already im mensely rich," wrote Peter privately, "but you may promise him ,£1000." After a long procrastination, Harley informed Matvieeff that the Queen could not at present afford to quarrel with the King of Sweden, especially as he had engaged not to attack the Emperor. On the Con tinent, Peter's Dutch agent, Huyssens, negotiated with Marlborough direct. The Duke promised to meet the Tsar's wishes if a principality in Russia were granted to him. Peter at once gave him the choice between Kieff, Vladimir, and Siberia, besides promising him, in case a peace with Sweden was concluded by his efforts, 50,000 thalers a year, " a rock ruby such as no European potentate possesses," and the order
All diplomatic expedients for pacifying Charles having failed, Peter prepared to bear the brunt of a war à outrance with the invincible Swede. At a Council of War, held at the village of Mereczko, in Lithuania, in 1707, he decided not to oppose the Swedes in the open field, but to retire before them, drawing them further and further from their base, devastating the country before them and harassing them as much as possible, especially at the passage of the principal rivers. He had previously commanded that all the country-folks should be warned beforehand of the approach of the enemy that they might have time to hide their stores of corn in pits, or in the forests, and drive their cattle into the trackless swamps. The Cossack Hetman, Ivan Mazepa, was entrusted with the defence of Little Russia and the Ukraine. Kieff, with its congeries of fortress-monasteries, was additionally fortified and well supplied with artillery. All the light troops, including the Cossacks, were to fall back behind the Dnieper.
Charles' departure from Saxony had been delayed for twelve months by a quarrel with the Emperor, against whom he had many just causes of complaint. The religious question presented the most difficulty. The Court of Vienna had treated the Silesian Protestants with tyrannical severity, in direct contravention of the Treaty of Osnabrück, of which Sweden was one of the guarantors ; and Charles demanded summary and complete restitution in so dictatorial a fashion that the Emperor prepared for war. But political considerations prevailed. The sudden apparition of the King of Sweden and his " blue boys " in the heart of the Empire fluttered all the western diplomatists ; and the allies at once buspected that Louis XIV had bought the Swedes. Marlborough was
Delayed during the autumn months in Poland by the tardy arrival of reinforcements from Pomerania, Charles XII was not able to take the field till November, 1707, when he had under him an army of 24,000 horse and 20,000 foot, two-thirds of whom were veterans. The respite was of incalculable importance to the Tsar, who, at this very time had suddenly to cope with a dangerous Bashkir rising on the Volga, followed by a rebellion of the Don Cossacks under Kondraty Bulavin, against " the innovations." So hardly pressed was he as to be forced to employ barbarians against barbarians, Calmucks against Bashkirs, for want of regulars. On Christmas Day, 1707, Charles reached the Vistula, which he crossed on New Year's Day, 1708, although the ice was in a dangerous condition. On January 26 he entered Grodno, only two hours after Peter's departure. " For God's sake," wrote Peter to MenshikofF on this occasion, "entrust the command of the rearguard to faithful men of our own people and not to foreign fools." The sneer is illuminating. It shows that even in the service of war the Muscovites were beginning to dispense with leading-strings.
On February 12, Charles encamped at Smorgonie on the Velya, one of the tributaries of the Niémen. Two courses lay open to him. Either he might recover the lost Baltic provinces before attacking the Tsar, or he might pursue Peter into the heart of his Tsardom, and dictate peace to him after destroying his army. His ablest officers strongly advised him to adopt the first course as being both "cheap and reasonable"; but the alternative appealed irresistibly to the young hero's love of adventure, and tempted him by presenting difficulties which would have been unconquerable by anyone but himself. And, unfortunately for Sweden, he adopted it. This plan was, apparently (for even now it is largely guess-work) first, after crossing the Dnieper, to unite with the army-corps of Lewenhaupt, which was advancing from Riga to join him, and then to winter in the fruitful and untouched Ukraine, whose fortresses were to be held at his disposal by the Cossack Hetman Mazepa. Simultaneously, the Finnish army under Lybecker, with the help of the fleet, was to take St Petersburg and recapture Ingria, while Stanislaus, aided by a third Swedish army under Krassow, was to quell all disaffection in Poland. In the summer of 1709, the three Swedish armies, reinforced
After a brief rest at Smorgonie, Charles XII resumed his march eastwards. The superior strategy of the Swedes enabled them to cross the first two considerable rivers, the Berezina and the Drucz, without difficulty, but on reaching the Wabis, Charles found the enemy posted on the other side, near the little town of Holowczyn, in an apparently impregnable position and evidently bent upon barring his passage. But his experienced eye instantly detected the one vulnerable point in the six mile long Russian line ; on July 4, 1708, he hurled all his forces against it; and, after a fierce engagement, from daybreak to sundown, the Russians fell back with a loss of 3000 men.
The victory of Holowczyn, memorable besides as the last pitched battle won by Charles XII, opened up the way to the Dnieper ; and four days later Charles reached Mohileff, where he stayed till August 6 waiting for Lewenhaupt. The Swedes now began to suffer severely, bread and fodder running short, and the soldiers subsisting almost entirely on captured bullocks. The Russians, under Sheremetieff and Menshikoff, would not risk another general engagement, but slowly retired before the invaders, destroying everything in their path, till at last the Swedes had nothing but a charred wilderness beneath their feet and a horizon of burning villages before their eyes. Moreover, the Muscovites now began to display an unusual boldness, attacking more and more frequently, with ever-increasing numbers, as, for instance, at Chernaya Napa (September 9), where they fell upon an isolated Swedish division which lost 3000 men and was only saved from annihilation by the arrival of Charles himself. By the time the frontier of eighteenth century Russia was reached at Michanowich (October 1) it was plain to Charles that he could go no further eastwards through the devastated land, and at Tatarsk he held his first council of war. Rehnskjöld prudently advised the King to wait for Lewenhaupt, whose reinforcements and caravan of provisions were becoming indispensable, and then to retire to Livonia, so that he might winter in his own lands. But Charles, partly from a horror of retreating, partly because of an urgent summons from Mazepa, resolved to proceed southwards instead of northwards, and to this resolution everything else was sacrificed.
And now began that last march of the devoted Swedish army through the forests and morasses of Severia and the endless steppes of Ukraine which was to be a long-drawn-out agony, punctuated by a constant succession of disasters. The first blow fell in the beginning of October, when the unhappy Lewenhaupt joined Charles with the debris of the army he had saved from the not inglorious rout of Lyesna, where the Russians, with
The unlooked-for collapse of Mazepa was a terrible blow to Charles XII. He had built his hopes of ultimate victory on his alliance with the Cossack Hetman; and, in justice to Charles, it must be admitted that this alliance, so far from being a mere mirage luring him on to destruction, as which Swedish historians generally have regarded it, was really the one solid and substantial element in his fantastic combinations. The fact has been quite overlooked that, in those days, the Hetman of the Zaporogian Cossacks was often the determining factor of Oriental politics. Chmielnicki had held the balance even between Poland and Muscovy for years. Doroszenko, as the ally of the Sultan, had, for a time, been more powerful than Tsar and King combined. Mazepa himself was not so much the subject as the semi-independent tributary of the Muscovite Crown. He ruled on the Dnieper with more than princely power. 100,000 Cossack horsemen were at his disposal. The whole Ukraine obeyed his lightest nod. The Khan of the Crimea addressed him as " my brother." If Charles X of Sweden, one of the astutest statesmen as well as the greatest warrior of his age, in the plenitude of his power considered it not beneath his dignity to seek the alliance of the Hetman Chmielnicki against Poland, why should not his grandson, Charles XII, have sought the alliance of the Hetman Mazepa against Muscovy, now that Poland also was on his side ? The power and influence of Mazepa were fully recognised by Peter the Great himself. No other Cossack Hetman had ever been treated with such deference at Moscow. He ranked with the highest dignitaries in the State, sat at the Tsar's own table, and flouted the Tsar's kinsfolk with impunity.
Mazepa would doubtless have remained loyal, had not Charles XII crossed his path. At the very beginning of the great Northern War, the crafty old Hetman began to have his doubts how this life-and-death struggle, going on before his very eyes, would end. As Charles continued to advance, and Peter to retreat, Mazepa made up his mind that Charles was going to win and that it was high time he looked after his own interests. Moreover, he had his personal grievances against Peter. The Tsar was going so fast, that the arch-conservative old Cossack could not follow him ; and he was jealous of the omnipotent favourite Menbhikoff. More than once, some of his Cossack squadrons had been taken away from him to be converted into dragoons, and he deeply resented it. But he proceeded very cautiously. Not till September 27,
At the end of 1708, the Swedes had to encounter a new and terrible enemy in the great frost, the severest that Europe had known for a century. So early as the beginning of October the cold was intense ; by November 1, firewood would not burn in the open air and the soldiers warmed themselves over big bonfires of straw. But it was not till the vast open steppes of the Ukraine were reached that the unhappy Swedes experienced the full rigour of the icy Scythian blast. By the time the army arrived at the little Ukrainian fortress of Hadjach, which they took by assault (January, 1709), wine and spirits froze into solid blocks of ice ; birds on the wing fell dead ; saliva congealed in its passage from the mouth to the ground. The sufferings of the soldiers were hideous. " You could see," says an eye-witness, " some without hands, some without feet, some without ears and noses, many creeping along after the manner of quadrupeds." "Nevertheless," says another eye-witness, " though earth, sky, and air were against us, the King's orders had to be obeyed, and the daily march made." Never had Charles XII seemed so superhuman as during those awful days. It is not too much to say that his imperturbable equanimity, his serene bonhomie, kept together the perishing, but still unconquered, host. His military exploits were prodigious. At Cerkova he drove back 7000 Russians with 400, and at Opressa, 5000 Russians with 800 men.
The frost broke at the end of February, 1709, and then the spring floods put an end to all active operations for some months. The Tsar set off for Voronezh to inspect his Black Sea fleet ; while Charles encamped at Rudiszcze, between the Orel and the Worskla, two tributaries of the Don. By this time the Swedish army had dwindled from 4-1,000 to 20,000 able-bodied men, mostly cavalry. Supplies, furnished
At last Peter had resolved to make a firm stand. " With God's help I hope this month to have a final bout with the enemy," he wrote to Admiral Apraksin. Yet even now, though the Swedes were a famished, exhausted, dispirited host, surrounded by fourfold numbers, Peter decided at a council of war, held soon after his arrival, that a general attack was too hazardous. Charles XII had never yet been defeated in a pitched battle, and Peter was determined to take no risks. Only when the garrison of Poltawa contrived to let him know that their powder had run out, and the enemy's sappers were burrowing beneath their palisades, did he order his army to advance. On that very day a crowning calamity overtook the Swedes. While reconnoitring the Russian camp, Charles received a wound in the foot from the bullet of a Cossack patrol, which placed him hors de combat. On hearing of this mishap, Peter resolved not to refuse battle, if it were offered him. Charles was equally ready to fight, and at a council of war held on June 26, Marshal Rehnskjöld, whom he had appointed commander-in-chief in his stead, was ordered to attack the Russians in their entrenchments on the following day. The Swedes joyfully accepting the chances of battle in lieu of miseries of all sorts and slow starvation, advanced with irresistible élan, and were at first successful on both wings. After this, one or two tactical blunders having been committed, the Tsar, taking courage, drew all his troops from their trenches, and enveloped the little band of Swedish infantry in a vast semi-circle, bristling with guns of the most modern make, the invention of a French engineer, Le Mètre, which fired 1 Nearly all the powder had been spoilt by the weather during 1708-9, arid it is said that the report of the Swedish guiis was no louder than the clapping of gloved hands.
The immediate result of the battle of Poltawa was the revival of the hostile league against Sweden. On hearing of Peter's victory, Augustus sent his chamberlain, Count Vizthum, to arrange for a conference ; and the two monarchs met on a bridge of boats in the Vistula, a mile from Thorn, where, on October 17, 1709, a treaty cancelling all former compacts was signed. Peter undertook to assist Augustus to regain the throne of Poland ; and, by a secret article, it was agreed that Livonia should form part of the victor's hereditary domains. Previously to this (June 28), an alliance had been concluded at Dresden between Augustus and Frederick IV of Denmark, "to restore the equilibrium of the north, and keep Sweden within her proper limits." Nevertheless, for fear of the Western Powers, which were amicably disposed towards Sweden, and by no means inclined to part with the Danish and Saxon mercenaries in their service, so long as the War of the Spanish Succession continued, the two Princes agreed to exempt Sweden's German possessions from attack unless their own possessions in the Empire were attacked by Sweden. The confederates then proceeded to Berlin, to persuade Frederick I of Prussia to accede to the new alliance ; but the Prussian Minister, Ilgen, restrained his royal master from taking any decisive step. Consequently, " the league of the three Fredericks " was of so general a character that it did little more than engage the King of Prussia to prevent the passage through his territories of any Swedish troops bent on invading the territories of Denmark or Saxony.
And now Frederick IV, despite the angry remonstrances of the Maritime Powers, resolved to attack Sweden at the very time that the Tsar was harrying the remnant of her Baltic provinces. But Sweden was now to show the world that a military State, whose strong central organisation enabled her to mobilise troops more quickly than her neighbours, is not to be overthrown by a single disaster, however serious,. She could still oppose 16,000 well-disciplined troops lo the
Danish invader, and these troops were commanded by Count Magnus Stenbock, the last, but not the least, of the three great Caroline captains-the other two of whom, Rehnskjöld and Lewenhaupt, were now captives in Russia. Her fleet, too, was still a little stronger than the Danish fleet, and, besides her garrisons in Stralsund, Wismar, Bremen, Verden, and other places, she had Krassow's army-corps of 9000 strong in Poland. Then came the tidings of Poltawa, and, in an instant, the authority of King Stanislaus vanished. The vast majority of the Poles hastened to repudiate him and make their peace with Augustus, and Leszczynski, henceforth a mere pensioner of Charles XII, accompanied Krassow's army-corps in its retreat to Swedish Pomerania. On November 12, 1709, 15,000 Danes landed in Scania, but, after gaining some slight advantage, were routed by Stenbock at Helsingborg (March 10, 1710), and compelled to evacuate Sweden. Yet, failure though it was, the short Scanian campaign had been of material assistance to the Tsar. It had prevented the Swedish Government from sending help to the hardly pressed eastern provinces, and had thus given Peter a free hand there. On July 15, 1710, Riga, into which Peter personally had the satisfaction of hurling the first bomb, was starved into surrender. During the next two months Pernau and Reval fell. Finland had already been invaded ; and in June the fortress of Viborg was captured.
But, suddenly, alarming news from the south interrupted the Tsar's career of conquest in the north. Immediately after Poltawa, Peter Tolstoi, the Russian ambassador at the Porte, demanded the extradition of Charles and Mazepa. This was a diplomatic blunder, as it irritated the already alarmed Turks. Tolstoi next reported " great military preparations made in great haste." In August he offered the Grand Mufti 10,000 ducats and 1000 sables, if he would hand over the fugitives; but the Mufti gravely replied that such a breach of hospitality would be contrary to the religion of Islam. Evidently the Turks wished to prolong the Russo-Swedish War till they were ready to take the field themselves. Nor was Charles himself idle. For the first time in his life, he was obliged to have recourse to diplomacy ; and his pen now proved almost as formidable as his sword. First he sent his agent, Neugebauer, to Stambul with a memorial in which the Porte was warned that, if Peter were given time, he would attack Turkey as suddenly and unexpectedly as he had attacked Sweden in 1700. The fortification of Azoff' and the building of a fleet in the Black Sea clearly indicated his designs, and a Suedo-Turkish alliance was the only remedy against so pressing a danger. " Reinforce me with your valiant cavalry," concluded Charles, " and I will return to Poland, reestablish my affairs, and again attack the heart of Muscovy." These arguments, very skilfully presented, had a great effect upon the Porte; and, when Neugebauer was reinforced by Stanislaus Poniatowski, Charles1 ablest diplomatist, the crisis became acute. At first, indeed, the Muscovite prevailed. In November, 1709,
On March 19, 1711, war was solemnly proclaimed, in the Tsar's presence, against " the enemies of the Cross of Christ," in the Uspensky Cathedral ; and Peter immediately set out for the front. At laroslavl, on June 12, he concluded a fresh alliance with Augustus, confirmatory of the Treaty of Thorn. The petitions and promises of the Orthodox Christians in Turkey now induced the Tsar to accelerate his pace, and he concluded on his way a secret treaty of alliance with Demetrius Cantemir, Hospodar of Moldavia. Peter had expected that a general insurrection of the Serbs and Bulgars would have compelled the Grand Vezir to recross the Danube; but unexpected difficulties suddenly accumulated. On June 27, SheremetiefF, the Russian commander-in-chief, reported that the whole land had already been sucked dry by the Turks and he knew not where to look for provisions and provender. At a council of war, held at the end of June, Peter decided to advance still further, in order to support Sheremetieff and unite with the Orthodox Christians. On July 16 he reached Jassy, by which time the question of supplies had become so pressing, that all other considerations had to be subordinated to it. On the rumour reaching him that an immense quantity of provisions had been hidden by the Turks in the marshes of Fulchi, near Braila, Peter crossed the Pruth, and searched for these phantom supplies in the forests on the banks of the Sereth. On August 8 the advance-guard reported the approach of the Grand Vezir ; and the whole army hurried back to the Pruth, fighting rear-guard actions all the way. On August 11 the Muscovites, now reduced to 38,000 men, entrenched themselves ; and the same evening 190,000 Turks and Tartars, with 300 guns, beleaguered them on both sides of the Pruth. An attack upon the Russian camp on the same day was repulsed; but the position of the Russians, with provisions for only a couple of days, and no hope of
The only person who took no part in the general rejoicing was the Tsar. After loudly declaring his intention of delivering the Christian population of Turkey from the Mohammadan yoke and driving the Turks out of Europe, he had signed a peace by which he abandoned the Sea of Azoff, and undertook to destroy the choicest works of his own hands, his fortresses, and his costly new-built fleet ! Peter's despondency is clearly reflected in the letter which he addressed to the newly instituted Senate, while the negotiations with the Porte were still proceeding. In this letter he informs his Ministers that he is surrounded by a countless Turkish army, and, without a special manifestation of God's grace, sees nothing before him but a hopeless pitched battle or Turkish captivity " In the latter case," he continues, " regard me no longer as your Gosudar, and obey no orders from me, though they may be under my hand and seal, till I appear among you. And in case of my death, elect the worthiest as my successor."
Two days before the Russian army departed from the Pruth, Charles XII, who had provided the Grand Vezir with a plan of campaign beforehand, arrived on the scene of action. Only then did he receive the unwelcome news that peace had been concluded. Well might he denounce the conduct of Baltaji as a treason to the Sultan as well as to himself. " He seems to have more regard," wrote Charles, " for the
On retiring from the Pruth, Peter, after a brief visit to Carlsbad, proceeded to Krossen (November 13, 1711) to concert measures with his allies for the vigorous prosecution of the Swedish war, which was now transferred to Germany, where the long struggle for the dominion of the North was to be fought out.
By this time Sweden's position had distinctly deteriorated. In March, 1710, the Swedish Senate had concluded a neutrality compact with the Emperor, Prussia, Hanover, Great Britain and Holland, whereby Charles1 possessions in northern Germany were guaranteed against attack, on condition that Krassow's army in Pomerania abstained from hostilities within the German Empire and was not employed either in Poland or Jutland. This guarantee treaty was, in the circumstances, a prudent act of statesmanship; but Charles incontinently rejected it, as interfering with his plans, thereby greatly irritating the Maritime Powers, already by no means so well disposed towards Sweden as heretofore in consequence of the depredations of the Swedish privateers in the Baltic. In 1712, the unwisdom of Charles' summary renunciation of a compact intended for his special protection became apparent. Not only did the Tsar and Augustus II determine to proceed against the Swedish possessions in Germany, but they persuaded Frederick IV of Denmark to join them. The plan of the allies was for the Danes to invade the Bremen and Verden territory, where Stade was the chief fortress, while the Russians and Saxons simultaneously attacked Stralsund. Stade capitulated (September 7) to the Danes, who thereupon occupied Bremen and Verden ; but the allies failed to make any impression on Stralsund, and the abortive siege led to a violent quarrel between the Kings of Poland and Denmark which the Russian Ministers barely succeeded in composing.
But now a fresh danger suddenly threatened Peter and his allies. From the first the Maritime Powers had been far more amicably disposed towards Sweden than towards Muscovy. This anti-Russian bias was strongest in England, where the interference of semi-barbarous Muscovy in European affairs was felt to be far more offensive than the haughty aloofness of the Swede. Before Poltawa, Sweden was generally regarded as the natural counterpoise to Russia and entitled, so far as she
This obstinacy was to cost Charles dear. At Bender he had elaborated a fresh plan of campaign too heroic to be practicable. Magnus Stenbock was to form a new army-corps in Sweden, convey it to Pomerania, and, invading Poland from the north, reinstate Stanislaus on the throne, and drive out Peter and Augustus, while Charles and the Turks cooperated from the south. On September 2e, 1712, Stenbock succeeded in transporting an army of 9400 men, a park of artillery, and a quantity of transports laden with stores, to Rügen, despite the disturbing presence of a large Danish fleet which subsequently destroyed the greater part of the transports. After reinforcing himself from the garrison of Stralsund, he had at his disposal an effective army of 17,000 men. He rightly refused to accept the responsibility of plunging blindly into Poland, leaving Sweden's German possessions to their fate, especially as Prussia also now began to adopt a threatening tone; but, since it was equally impossible for him to remain at Stralsund, from lack of provisions, he marched westwards into Mecklenburg, reached Wismar in safety, and proceeded to live on the land. But, even here, he could not long remain in safety. The Danes were advancing against him from the south-west, the Russians and Saxons from the south-east; and, to prevent their junction, he resolved to attack the weaker foe, the Danes, whose army was little superior to his own. By forced marches he overtook the Danes near Gadebusch, before the Saxons could join them or overtake him, and won a victory
(December 20, 1712), which well deserved the congratulations bestowed upon the victor by Marlborough, but was of very little service to Sweden. Hoping to crush Denmark, as Torstensson had done in 1643, by occupying Jutland, Stenbock crossed the Holstein frontier on New Year's Day, 1713; and after, with wanton barbarity, destroying the defenceless city of Altona he marched northwards through Holstein, hotly pursued by the combined armies of the three Powers under the Tsar's command. Cut off from Jutland and surrounded on every side by enemies, Stenbock finally (February 14, 1713) took refuge in Tönning, the chief fortress of Holstein-Gottorp, Sweden's one ally. Three months later, after an unsuccessful attempt to break through the beleaguering force, Stenbock, with the assistance of the Holstein Minister von Görtz, capitulated at Oldensworth (May 6, 1713), obtaining honourable terms of surrender for his army, now reduced to 11,000 men, though he himself remained in Danish captivity till his death (1717).
No sooner was Stenbock safely shut up in Tönning, than Peter went in search of fresh allies. Bub neither the Elector of Hanover nor the King of Prussia, to whom he successively applied, would listen to him. Peter hereupon determined to conquer Finland in order "to break the stiff necks of the Swedes," and have something definite to surrender, when the time for negotiation should have arrived. The necessary preparations were made immediately after his return to St Petersburg in March, 1713; and on May 21 the Russian fleet sailed. The defence of Finland had been entrusted to the incapable Lybecker, who heaped blunder upon blunder; and his gallant successor, Karl Gustaf Armfeit, with hopelessly inadequate forces, could do little but retreat skilfully northwards. His own and Finland's fate were finally decided on March 13, 1714, at the bloody battle of the Storkyro, when the Swedish general stood at bay with his raw levies against threefold odds and was annihilated. By the end of 1714 the whole grand-duchy was in the enemy's possession.
In Germany, during the summer of 1713, the Swedish fortress of Stettin had been besieged by the Russians and Saxons. It capitulated in September and was occupied by neutral Prussian and Holstein troops on the understanding that it was to be restored to Sweden at the conclusion of a general peace. " The Stettin Sequestration," as it was called, was primarily the work of the Holstein Ministers von Görtz and Bassewitz. Their object was to tempt Prussia over to Charles ; and the Court of Berlin actually agreed to drive the Danes out of Holstein and guarantee the neutrality of Charles' German possessions in the hope of subsequent compensation. But the diplomatists had reckoned without Charles XII, who at once denounced "the Stettin Sequestration," naturally refusing to recognise the right of Prussia, a neutral Power, to occupy one of his fortresses under any conditions.
During the summer of 1714, owing to the incurable jealousy between Denmark and Saxony, the war languished ; and fresh efforts were made
In April, 1714, the Elector of Hanover came forward with a fresh scheme of partition. According to this project, Prussia was to have Stettin, while Bremen and Verden were to be assigned to Hanover, and Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark, who with Prussia should undertake to capture Stralsund, Hanover occupying Wismar, which was to be transferred to Mecklenburg. Peter warmly approved of the Hanoverian scheme; but it foundered on the hostility of Denmark, who naturally refused to part with her own conquests, Bremen and Verden. A simultaneous attempt by the Marquis de Châteauneuf, the French Minister at the Hague, to bring about an understanding between Peter and Charles failed because of the Tsar's profound distrust of France. At this juncture, an event occurred which profoundly affected northern politics-the death of Queen Anne (August 1, 171 é). The Suedophil Tory Ministry disappeared ; and the most unscrupulous of Charles XII's despoilers ascended the English throne as George I. Three months later, Charles XII reappeared upon the scene. On September 20 he had quitted Turkey, and, after traversing Austria, and making a long détour by Nürnberg and Cassel, to avoid the domains of the Saxon Elector, arrived unexpectedly, at midnight, November 11 (O. S.), at Stralsund, which, besides Wismar, was all that now remained to him on German soil.
The year 1715 was memorable for the conclusion of the so-called " English affair," which resulted in the formation of a third coalition against Charles XII. The author of this league of spoliation was the new King of England; and the preliminaries were arranged in February at Copenhagen. Prussia had all along been playing a waiting
It had become evident to all the members of the anti-Swedish league that, till Charles had been attacked in the heart of his own realm, the war might drag on indefinitely. But when it came to the execution of the plan of invasion, insuperable obstacles presented themselves. Saxony and Hanover were jealous of Denmark ; and all three were incurably suspicious of the Tsar; yet, without Peter's active cooperation, Charles was practically unassailable. At the beginning of 1716, Peter justified their suspicions by his high-handed interference in German affairs. At the end of January, he punished the independent city of Danzig for trading with Sweden, even going the length of seizing all the Swedish vessels in the harbour, and compelling the Danzigers to build him privateers for nothing; but when, on May 11, by the Treaty of Danzig, he guaranteed Wismar and Warnemünde to Duke Charles Leopold of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, on his marriage with Peter's niece, the Tsarevna Catharine Ivanovna, the prospect of seeing Mecklenburg a Russian outpost infuriated George I and Frederick IV.
There can be no doubt that the Mecklenburg compact was a blunder. The most capable and experienced of Peter's own diplomatists, Prince Boris Kurakin, now at the Hague, had strongly dissuaded him from it.
The Duke was of notoriously bad character; and he was not even divorced from his first wife. Kurakin counselled his master at least not to imperil the profitable British alliance by aggrandising Charles Leopold at the expense of Peter's own allies. The Tsar disregarded this advice ; and complications immediately ensued. Prince Repnin, sent by Peter with an army-corps to help Hanover and Denmark to reduce Wismar, was informed that his services were not required ; and when the fortress capitulated (April 15) the Russian contingent was refused admittance. Peter was deeply offended. But his necessities compelled him to dissemble his wrath ; and, at a meeting between the Tsar and Frederick of Denmark, at Altona, on June 14, the invasion of Scania, where Charles XII had established himself in an entrenched camp defended by 20,000 men, was definitely arranged. On July 28, Peter arrived at Copenhagen with his squadron ; and 30,000 Russians and 23,000 Danes began to assemble in Zealand, in order to make the descent under cover of the English, Danish, and Russian fleets. But July passed by, and still the Danes held back. In mid-August, Peter cruised off the Scanian coast to examine the lie of the land, and discovered that the Swedes were very strongly entrenched. Peter was naturally cautious ; and his caution had been intensified by the terrible punishment with which his one act of temerity had so severely been visited, five years before, on the banks of the Pruth. Charles XII, he argued, always formidable, would be doubly so at bay in the midst of his own people. Moreover Peter was growing more and more suspicious of his allies; and their prolonged delay in striking at the common foe, seemed to point to negotiations, or, at least, some understanding with Sweden. He submitted his doubts to two councils of Russian Ministers and generals on September 23 and 27 (O.S.); and they unanimously advised him to postpone the descent to the following year. Such was the real cause of the sudden and mysterious abandonment of the Scanian expedition.
Peter's resolution was duly communicated to the Danish and Hanoverian Governments, and produced a storm of indignation which nearly blew the league of spoliation to pieces. In October the Russian troops quitted Denmark, and went into winter-quarters at Mecklenburg. The same month Peter concluded a fresh defensive alliance with Frederick William of Prussia at Havelberg, whence he proceeded to Amsterdam, where he was joined by his six most eminent diplomatists, including Shafiroff, Tolstoi, and Kurakin, and where he received tidings from London of the arrest of the Swedish Minister, Count Carl Gyllenborg, for alleged participation in a Jacobite conspiracy engineered by Charles XII, who was said to have sent, or to be sending, a fleet with an army of 17,000 men to Scotland. Such an escapade seemed to Peter just the sort of thing to which Charles XII was likely to put his hand. He anticipated a war between Sweden and England at the very least.
" Am I not right in always drinking to the health of this enterprising hero ? " he wrote to Apraksin ; " Why, he gives us for nothing what we never could buy at any price!" But the Tsar was wrong. The whole scheme originated in the fertile brain of Baron von Görtz, who in 1715 had passed out of the Holstein-Gottorp into the Swedish service ; but it was sternly discountenanced by Charles. Indeed Peter's relations with George I now became worse instead of better, for George refused to have any dealings with Peter personally till Mecklenburg had been evacuated by the Muscovites.
Unable to obtain anything from England, Peter now turned to France, since the death of Louis XIV less hostile to Russia. The political outcome of Peter's visit there (May 7-June 20, 1717) was the Treaty of Amsterdam (August 15), between France, Russia, and the United Provinces, guaranteeing each other's possessions. But this treaty meant very little so long as Sweden continued to show a bold front against the divided league of partition ; and after a fresh coldness had arisen between Peter and George, owing to the curt refusal of the latter to place fifteen British line-of-battle ships at the former's disposal " to bring the King of Sweden to reason," Peter resolved, at last, to treat directly with Sweden. The chief intermediary was Görtz, who, gifted with uncommon astuteness and audacity, seems to have been fascinated by the heroic element in Charles' nature. He owed his extraordinary influence over the King to the fact that he was the only one of Charles' advisers who believed, or pretended to believe, that the strength of Sweden was still far from being exhausted, or, at any rate, that she had a sufficient reserve of force to give impetus to a high-spirited diplomacy. This was Charles' own opinion. Charles was now willing to relinquish a portion of the duchies of Bremen and Verden, in exchange for a commensurate part of Norway, due regard being had to differences of soil and climate. Thus, his invasions of Norway in 1716 and 1718, so far from being mere adventurous escapades, were mainly due to political speculation. It was obvious that, with large districts of Norway actually in his hands, he could make better terms with the provisional holders of his ultramarine domains. But the exchange of a small portion of Bremen and Verden for something much larger elsewhere was the utmost concession he would make ; and this was an altogether inadequate basis for negotiation. Anyone but Görtz would have retired from the affair altogether. But he trusted in his ability to persuade Charles into treating, and thus bring him over gradually to his own plans.
Görtz first felt the pulse of the English Ministry, who rejected the Swedish terms as excessive ; whereupon he turned to Russia. Formal negotiations were opened at Lofö, one of the Aland Islands (May 23, 1718), Görtz being the principal Swedish, and Osterman, Peter's most astute diplomatist, since the disgrace of Shafiroff, the principal Russian, commissioner.
In view of the increasing instability of the league of partition, Peter sincerely desired peace with Sweden ; but he was resolved to retain the bulk of his conquests. Finland he would rétrocède, but Ingria, Livonia, Esthonia, and Carelia, with Viborg, must be surrendered by Sweden. If Charles consented, Peter undertook to compensate him in whatever direction he might choose. It was not only peace, but an alliance with the King of Sweden, that the Tsar wanted. " When all ancient grudges and sorenesses are over between us," wrote Peter privately, "we two between us will preserve the balance of Europe." Görtz was promised a gratuity of 100,000 roubles if peace were concluded.
Two things were soon plain to the keen-witted Osterman-that Görtz was hiding the Russian conditions from Charles, and that the Swedish feeling was altogether opposed to the Russian negotiations, rightly judging that nothing obtained elsewhere could compensate for the loss of the Baltic provinces. Twice the negotiations were interrupted in order that Görtz and Osterman might consult their principals. In October, Osterman, in a private report to the Tsar, accurately summed up the whole situation. The negotiations, he said, were entirely Görtz'' work. Charles seemed to care little for his own interests, so long as he could fight. In the circumstances, it might fairly be argued that he was not quite sane. Sweden's power of resistance was nearly at breaking-point. Every artisan and one out of every two peasants had already been taken for soldiers. He strongly advised that additional pressure should be brought to bear by a devastating raid on Swedish territory. There was, however, a chance that Charles might break his neck, or be shot in one of his adventures ; " and such an ending, if it happened after peace had been signed, would relieve us from all our obligations."
Osterman's anticipations were realised in an extraordinary way. On December 12, 1718, Charles XII was shot dead in his trenches while on the point of capturing the Norwegian fortress of Fredrikssten. The irresolution of the young Duke Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp, the legitimate heir to the throne, sealed the fate of a party already detested in Sweden because of its identification with Görtz, who was arrested the day after Charles' death and executed for alleged high-treason in February, 1719. In March, Charles' one surviving sister, Ulrica Leonora, was elected Queen of Sweden, and the negotiations at Lofö were resumed. But the Swedish plenipotentiaries now declared that they would rather resume the war than surrender the Baltic provinces ; and, in July, a Russian fleet proceeded to the Swedish coast and landed a raiding force which destroyed property to the value of 13 millions of roubles. The Swedish Government, far from being intimidated, hereupon broke off all negotiations with Russia (September 17); and pacific overtures were made instead to Hanover, Prussia, and Denmark. By the Treaties of Stockholm, November 20,
On September 14, a courier, with a sealed packet, containing the Treaty of Nystad, overtook Peter on his way to Viborg. On opening the packet the Tsar declared, with perfect justice, that this was the most profitable peace Russia had ever concluded. " Most apprentices," he jocularly observed, "generally serve for seven years; but in our school the term of apprenticeship has been thrice as long. Yet, God be praised, things could not have turned out better for us than they have done." And, indeed, the gain to Russia by the Peace of Nystad, which terminated a war of twenty-one years, was much more than territorial. In surrendering her choicest Baltic provinces, Sweden had also lost the hegemony of the North, and all her pretensions to be considered a Great Power.