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possession of Naples and the Tuscan ports would have made her supreme in the Mediterranean, that the possession of Guipuscoa would have given her the trade of the West Indies and of South America, and have placed Spain at her mercy in time of war, that the acquisition of so long a line of valuable seaboard, in addition to what she already possessed, would have imparted an immense impulse to her naval power. The dangers resulting from the will were, it was said, much less. The strong national sentiment of the Spanish people, who have been pre-eminently jealous of foreign interference, might fairly be relied on to counteract the French sympathies of their sovereign; and Spanish jealousy had been rendered peculiarly sensitive by the participation of Lewis in the partition treaties. Nor was it likely that a prince, placed at a very early age on a great throne, surrounded by Spanish influences, and courted by every Power in Europe, would be characterised by an excessive deference to his grandfather. Above all, it was a matter of vital importance to England that she should enjoy a period of repose after her long and exhausting war, and that the system of standing armies' of national debts, and of foreign subsidies, should come to an end.

These were the views of the Tory party, and there can be little question that they would have prevailed, in spite of the opposition of the King, had Lewis, at this critical moment, acted with common prudence and common moderation. There was one point on the Continent, however, which no patriotic Englishman, whether Whig or Tory, could look upon with indifference. The line of Spanish fortresses which protected the Netherlands from the ambition of France was of vital importance to the security of Holland, and if Holland passed into French hands it was more than doubtful whether English independence would long survive. To preserve

these fortresses from French aggrandisement had been for generations a main end of English policy; during the last fifty years torrents of English blood had been shed to secure them; and with this object, William had agreed with the Elector of Bavaria, who governed them as the representative of the Spanish king, that they should be garrisoned in part with Dutch troops. Propositions for the absolute cession of the Spanish Netherlands to the Elector of Bavaria had been made, but for various reasons abandoned; but the maintenance of the Dutch garrisons was of extreme importance, and if, as was alleged, the transfer of the Spanish monarchy to the grandson of Lewis XIV. did not mean the subserviency of Spain to French policy, it was on this, beyond all other questions, that the most careful neutrality should have been shown. Lewis, however, was quite determined that these garrisons should cease, and he at the same time saw the possibility of forcing the Dutch to recognise the validity of the will of Charles II. With the assent of the Spanish authorities he sent a French army into the Spanish Netherlands, occupied the whole line of Spanish fortresses in the name of his grandson, and in a time of perfect peace detained the Dutch garrison prisoners until Holland had recognised the title of the new sovereign to the Spanish throne.

It would be difficult to exaggerate either the arrogance or the folly of this act. The Tory party, which in the beginning of 1701 was ascendant in England, was bitterly hostile to William; the partition treaties excited throughout the country deep and general discontent, and the ardent wish of the English people was to detach their country as far as possible from continental complications, and to secure a long and permanent peace on the basis of a frank acceptance of the will of Charles II. But it was impossible that any English party, however hostile to William, could see with in

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difference the whole line of Spanish fortresses, including Luxemburg, Mons, Namur, Charleroi, and the seaports of Nieuport and Ostend occupied by the French, the whole English policy of the last war overthrown without a blow, and the transfer of the Spanish monarchy to Philip immediately employed in the interests of French ambition. When the Dutch formally applied for the succour which, under such circumstances, England was bound by treaty to furnish, both Houses of Parliament declared their determination to fulfil their obligations, and English troops were actually sent to Holland; but still several months of anxious negotiation ensued, and on the side of England there was a most sincere and earnest desire to avert the war. Party spirit ran furiously at home. The two Houses were engaged in bitter quarrels, and the Tories lost no opportunity of irritating the King. The Commons ordered Portland, Somers, Halifax, and Orford to be impeached; they censured in the severest terms the treaties of partition, and the Tory ministers compelled William, even after the French aggression on the Dutch, to recognise Philip as king of Spain. The Act of Settlement, which was made necessary by the death of the young Duke of Gloucester, the last surviving child of Anne, secured, indeed, the crown to the Protestant House of Brunswick, but surrounded it with limitations extremely offensive to the King. The House of Commons, which was so violently Tory, had been but just elected, and though a warlike spirit was slowly growing in the country, it was not only possible, but easy to have allayed it. Had the French sovereign consented to re-establish the Dutch garrisons in some at least of the frontier towns, or had he consented to the transfer of the Spanish Netherlands either to the Emperor or to Holland, the peace of Europe might have been preserved. But he was seized at this moment with what appeared a judicial blindness. He did not

desire war, but he imagined that his power would intimidate all opponents. If a war broke out, the great resources of France and Spain would be united. France had secured the alliance of the Dukes of Savoy and of Mantua in Italy, of the Electors of Bavaria and Cologne in Germany, and had opened what appeared to be promising negotiations with Portugal. The Emperor was embarrassed by troubles produced in Hungary by Rákóczy, the bravest and most popular of Hungarian chiefs, and in Germany itself he had aroused much jealousy among the princes of the Empire, by creating a new electorate for Hanover, and by raising the electorate of Brandenburg into the kingdom of Prussia. The King of England seemed paralysed by the opposition of his Parliament, while the fortresses that were the key to Holland were in French hands. Under these circumstances, Lewis persuaded himself that there was nothing to fear. He released the Dutch troops, indeed, on obtaining a recognition of the title of his grandson, and he offered to withdraw his troops from the fortresses they had seized as soon as the Spaniards were able fully to garrison them, but he would give no further security to Holland. The light in which he looked upon events was very clearly shown in his speech to the Constable of Castile in the beginning of 1701. The French and Spanish nations,' he said, 'are so united that they will henceforth be only one.. My grandson, at the head of the Spaniards, will defend the French. I, at the head of the French, will defend the Spaniards." The Emperor was already in arms. A great change passed over public opinion in England. It was chiefly shown in the House of Lords, but it appeared also, though much less strongly, in the House of Commons, and on the 7th of September, 1701, William concluded the triple

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' De Flassan, Hist. de la Diplomatie Française, iv. 203.

alliance of England, Holland, and the Emperor, for the purpose of recovering the Low Countries from the hands of the French, securing them as a barrier to protect the United Provinces from the French, and redressing the balance of power by obtaining for the Emperor the Spanish dominions in Italy.

Such was the foundation of that great alliance which for a time brought the French power to the lowest depth. It was strengthened in 1702 by the accession of the new kingdom of Prussia, and afterwards of nearly the whole Empire, and in the following year by the accession of Portugal, and by the change of sides of the Duke of Savoy. Its prospects of success were at first, however, very gloomy. William was now dying. The Tory party, which was bitterly hostile to him and exceedingly reluctant to engage in the war, had a large majority in the Commons. War was not yet declared, and the treaty of alliance provided that two months should pass before any active steps of hostility were taken. It was not improbable that before that time the King, who was the soul of the policy of war, would be in his grave, and it was certain that the alliance itself could easily have been broken up by very moderate concessions. The jealousy between England and Holland, the profound dislike of the ruling party in the former to continental wars, the difference of aim between the Emperor, who claimed the whole Spanish dominions, and the Dutch and English, who desired only to secure Holland and to restore the balance of power by a partition, threatened to prevent all energetic and united action, and it was more than doubtful whether the Commons would vote adequate subsidies, when Lewis himself, by an act of gratuitous folly, changed the whole aspect of affairs. Only ten days after the triple alliance was signed, James II. died, and Lewis, who had bound himself by the Peace of Ryswick to take no step calcu

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