It was during the wars of religion that England came into a struggle with the new Hapsburg-Spanish power. It had its tremendously dramatic episodes in the cruise of the Great Armada, and its fascinatingly romantic ones in the voyages of discovery and semipiratical exploits of the British seamen who burst the paper walls that Spain had attempted to raise around the southern seas. The broad ocean, the gold of the Indies, the plantations of sugar, of tobacco, of coffee, the growing settlements and countries of a new world, these became the subject of strife from that time on. And as Spain declined in her vigor after the Armada, and a century later became the client of France, so the struggle narrowed itself to one between the latter power and England.

In the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), England established her supremacy in this world-wide struggle, and although in the next war she lost her American colonies, yet when she met France again in 1793, her trade and manufactures, her unrivaled geographical and economic situation, and her politic and businesslike statesmanship, had placed her at the head of the nations of Europe. She joined the European alliance against France in 1793, and with only two short intervals remained in the field against her until at Waterloo, twenty-two years later, Napoleon was finally defeated by Wellington and Blücher.

During this gigantic struggle France faced two problems, that of the sea and England, that of the land and the three great military powers of northeast Europe—Austria, Russia, Prussia. Toward the end, after Napoleon had failed in Spain and got into a death grapple with Russia, it was the Continental issue that obscured the other. But England kept her eye firmly fixed on the sea, on colonies, on water-borne trade; so that when at the Congress of Vienna (1815) the powers parceled out the shattered empire, England was left by common consent the only great sea and colonial power.

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