Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

probably be revived. But even in case Philip became the heir to the French throne, it by no means followed that peace would be broken; for, as a mere matter of policy, it was probable that Philip would remain faithful to his engagement, and would content himself with one crown. An attempt to unite the French and Spanish thrones would undoubtedly be met by another European coalition, and the offending sovereign would be weakened, not only by the great reluctance of the Spanish people to become subsidiary to a more powerful nation, but most probably also by the divisions of a disputed succession in France. In the face of these considerations, there was a fair prospect of the maintenance of peace; and even if events assumed their darkest aspect, the English, by the Peace of Utrecht, retained Gibraltar, Port Mahon, and Minorca, which gave them the command of the Mediterranean, while the Spanish possessions in Italy and the Netherlands were added to the dominions of the Empire.

For these reasons the abandonment by the Tory ministry of the articles before insisted on, requiring Philip to give up the Spanish throne, and Lewis to employ his arms against him, appears perfectly justifiable, nor can we, I think, remembering the fate of the former negotiations, blame English statesmen very severely if, before attempting to negotiate a formal treaty, they entered into some separate explanation with the French. Here, however, the language of eulogy or apology must end, for the tortuous proceedings that terminated in the Peace of Utrecht form, beyond all question, one of the most shameful pages in English history. A desire for peace was hardly a stronger feeling with the Ministers than hatred and jealousy of the Dutch, and their first object was to outwit them by separate and clandestine negotiation; to obtain for England a monopoly of commercial privileges, and to obtain them, in a great degree, at the cost of the towns which would otherwise have been ceded for the Dutch barrier. As early as the autumn of 1710 a secret negotiation was carried on with the French, but for some time the aspect of the war was not very materially changed.

For the first year after the new ministry came to power, Marlborough was still at the head of the army, though his position was a most painful one. The parliamentary vote of thanks to him was withheld; his opinion, even on military matters, was ostentatiously disregarded; his wife who had, indeed, made herself intolerable to the Queen-was dismissed from her posts. Godolphin, who, of all his political friends, was most closely attached to him, was falsely and vindictively accused of having left no less than 35,000,000l. of public money unaccounted for,1 and in spite of the urgent protest of Marlborough, more than 5,000 men were withdrawn from the army to be employed in an enterprise from which St. John expected the most brilliant results. The Tories had long complained, with some reason, that the Whig Government carried on the war by land rather than by sea, and in the centre of Europe, where England had nothing to gain, rather than in distant quarters, where her colonial empire might be largely increased. St. John accordingly, anticipating one of the great enterprises of the elder Pitt, sent out 2 an expedition, consisting of twelve ships of war and fifty transports, for the conquest of Canada. The naval part was under the command of Sir Hoveden Walker, and the soldiers were under that of Brigadier Hill, the brother of Mrs. Masham. It was, however, feebly conducted, and, having encountered some storms and losses at sea, it returned without result.

It may appear strange that Marlborough should have continued in command in spite of so many causes of irritation, but he was implored by his Whig friends to do so. Besides this, there is some reason to believe that his resolution of character was not altogether what it was; and his conduct in civil affairs never displayed the same decision as his conduct in the field. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he might, by

Walpole very ably refuted this calumny. When Godolphin died in the following year his whole personal property, after his debts were paid,. is said to have been scarcely sufficient

to pay his funeral expenses. See a letter of the Duchess of Marlborough, Coxe's Marlborough, ch. cix.

2 May 1711.

a prompt intervention, supported by a threat of resignation, have retarded, if not prevented, the fall of Godolphin; and in the period immediately preceding the Peace of Utrecht, he displayed considerable weakness and hesitation. It is curious to observe that, of all public men, he showed the greatest sensitiveness to the libels of the press; and he complained to Harley and St. John, in terms of positive anguish, of the attacks to which he was subject. His frequent negotiations with both Hanoverians and Jacobites rendered his position peculiarly perplexing. His love of money amounted to a disease, and made it difficult for him to sacrifice his official emoluments. He had tried without success at the time when the Whig ministry was falling to obtain from the Emperor the government of the Spanish Netherlands which on two previous occasions he had refused. He had the natural desire of a great general to remain at the head of the army during the war, and of an adroit politician to preserve a position of much power at a time when the question of a disputed succession was impending. He was so incomparably the greatest English general that it seemed scarcely possible to displace him, and at one moment there were symptoms of reconciliation between himself and St. John. In September 1711 he succeeded, by a masterly movement, in breaking through the lines of Villars, and having captured Bouchain, the struggle seemed about to take a more decisive form. Quesnoy and Landrecies were the only strong places of the French barrier that were now interposed between the allies and a rich and open country extending to the very walls of Paris. The Emperor and the Dutch were straining all their powers for a new effort, and there can be little doubt that, under the guidance of Marlborough and Eugene, it would have been successful. The ministers, however, had by this time arrived at such a point in their secret negotiations that they looked forward to an immediate peace, and were anxious, if possible, to paralyse the operations of war.

Coxe's Marlborough, ch, c., cv.

2 Ibid. ch. xcvi.

On September 27, 1711, two sets of preliminaries of peace were secretly signed. The first, the most important, and by far the most explicit, concerned England mainly or exclusively, were signed on the part of both England and France, and were kept carefully secret from the allies. By these preliminaries the title of Anne and her successors, as by law established, was recognised; the cession of Gibraltar, Port Mahon, and Newfoundland, with a reservation of the right of fishing to the French, was granted or confirmed; the port and fortifications of Dunkirk were to be destroyed at the peace, France receiving an equivalent to be determined in the final treaty; a treaty of commerce with France was promised; the lucrative right of supplying the Spanish colonies in America with negroes was transferred from a French company to the English, and some places in America were assigned to the English for the refreshment and sale of the negroes. The other set of preliminaries which were communicated to the Dutch and were signed only on the part of France, comprised the recognition of the title of the Queen and of the succession established by law, the article relating to Dunkirk and a promise of commercial advantages for England and Holland; they made no mention of the special advantages England secured for herself, but provided that measures should be taken to prevent the union of the crowns of France and Spain; that barriers, the nature and extent of which were as yet undefined, should be formed for the Dutch and for the Empire; and, by a separate article, that the places taken from the Duke of Savoy should be restored, and his power in Italy aggrandised. These articles were communicated by the English to the allies, who were summoned to a conference for the negotiation of a definite peace.

The difficulties of the ministers were very great. The Dutch, though they at length consented to join the proposed conference at Utrecht, expressed strong dissatisfaction with the preliminaries of which they had been apprised. The Emperor was still more emphatic, and he only consented to take part in the proceedings on condition that the preliminaries should

be regarded as mere propositions, without any binding force. The Elector of Hanover, whose judgment had naturally a special weight with English politicians, was prominent on the same side; and although the ministers could count on a large majority in the Commons, a majority in the House of Lords, supported by Marlborough himself, voted that no peace could be safe or honourable which left Spain and the Indies to a Bourbon prince. Public opinion received a severe shock when, at the close of the year, the greatest of England's generals } was removed ignominiously from the command of the army, and was replaced by the Duke of Ormond, a strong Tory, but a man of no military ability. The conference, however, met at Utrecht at the close of January 1711-12, and early in the next month the French made their propositions for a peace. Lewis offered to recognise the Queen of England and the succession established by law, but only on the signature of peace; to destroy the fortifications of Dunkirk after the peace, on condition of receiving a satisfactory equivalent; to cede to England St. Christopher, Hudson's Bay, and Newfoundland, reserving, however, the fort of Placentia and the right of fishing around Newfoundland, and receiving again the whole of Acadia; and he also undertook to make a treaty of commerce with England, based on the principle of reciprocity. When, however, the question of the Dutch barrier arose, the French propositions showed the enormous change which had passed over the pretensions of Lewis since the conferences of Gertruydenberg. He now demanded that the sovereignty of the Spanish Netherlands should be granted to his ally the Elector of Bavaria; and, although he recognised the right of the Dutch to garrison the frontier towns, he prescribed limits for their barrier wholly different from those which had been guaranteed by England in the treaty of 1709, and recognised by France in the conferences of 1710. He demanded the surrender of both Lille and Tournay as an equivalent for the destruction of the harbour of Dunkirk. Of the cession of Valenciennes there was no longer any question. He offered, it is true, to cede

« PreviousContinue »