Page images

of the Jacobites, and it was especially important as the aspect of Europe was still in many respects disquieting. The Emperor, as we have seen, had prolonged the war unsuccessfully for some months after the Peace of Utrecht, and though hostilities were terminated by the peace which was negotiated at Rastadt, and finally ratified at Baden in September 1714, there were still serious questions to be settled. One of the most important results of the war was the transfer of the Spanish Netherlands to the Emperor. It was a measure which William had regarded as of transcendant importance in securing Holland from the aggression of France, and it was accordingly given a prominent place among the objects of the great treaty of alliance of 1701.1 It was, however, the determination both of the Dutch and of the English that this cession should be conditional upon the Dutch retaining the right of garrisoning a line of border fortresses in Spanish Flanders, and this privilege was very displeasing to the Emperor. The barrier treaty of 1709 had been negotiated between England and Holland without his assent. The Peace of Utrecht had, indeed, restored to France some towns which the earlier treaty had reserved for the Dutch barrier, but, to the great indignation of the Emperor, it provided that such a barrier should be secured. As the war was still going on, France, in accordance with the treaty, surrendered the Spanish Netherlands provisionally to Holland, to be transferred by her to Austria, as soon as peace should have been restored and the conditions and limits of the barrier arranged. A long, tedious, and irritating negotiation ensued between the Dutch and the Emperor, but it was at last, chiefly through English mediation, concluded in November 1715. The treaty which was then signed, and confirmed by Engiand, gave Holland the exclusive right of garrisoning Namur, Tournay, Menin, Furnes, Warneton, Ypres, and the fort of Knocke. The garrison of Dendermonde was to be a joint one. A sum of 500,000 crowns, levied on what were now the Austrian Netherlands, was to be annually paid by the Emperor to the Dutch for the support of the Dutch garrisons in

1 Art v.

the barrier towns, and several provisions were made regulating the number of the troops to be maintained, the municipal arrangements, and the religious liberty to be conceded. To the Emperor, who claimed an absolute right over the whole Spanish dominions, this arrangement was very irksome, and there was a strong ill-feeling between the Austrians and the Dutch, which by no means subsided on the conclusion of the treaty. A divided sovereignty almost necessarily led to constant difficulties. One of the Powers was despotic, the other was rather notoriously minute and punctilious in its exactions. There were violent disputes between the inhabitants of the newly annexed territory and the Dutch on the question of commercial privileges. There were disputes about the frontiers. There were bitter complaints of the subsidy to the Dutch, and it was found necessary for the three Powers to make another convention, which was executed in December 1718, and which in several smalì details modified the treaty of 1715.

Another and a much more serious danger arose from the relations between Austria and Spain. We have seen that when the Emperor at the time of the Peace of Utrecht resolved to continue the war, he determined, if possible, to contract its limits to the Rhine; and he accordingly concluded with England and France a treaty of neutrality for Spain, Italy, and the Low Countries, and withdrew the Austrian troops from Catalonia and the islands of Majorca and Ivica. The short war that ensued was a war with France, and the Peace of Baden was negotiated between the Emperor and the French King, but no formal peace had ever been established between the Emperor and the King of Spain. The Emperor still refused to recognise the title of Philip to the Spanish throne. Philip still maintained his claims to the kingdom of Naples, the Milanese, and the Spanish Netherlands, which the Peace of Utrecht had transferred to Austria. War might at any time break out, and the chief pledge of peace lay in the exhaustion of both belligerent parties, in the difficulties in which the Emperor was involved with the Turks, and in the guarantees which England, France,

and Holland had given for the maintenance of the chief arrangements of the peace. In May 1716 when the relations between England and France were still uncertain, a defensive alliance had been contracted between England and the Emperor, by which each Power guaranteed the dominions of the other in case of an attack by any Power except the Turks, and, by an additional and secret article subsequently signed, each Power agreed to expel from its territory the rebel subjects of the other. Of the arrangements of the Peace of Utrecht, one of the most obnoxious to the Emperor was that which made the Duke of Savoy King of Sicily, with reversion of the kingdom of Spain in the event of a failure of male issue of Philip. The Austrian statesmen maintained that the kingdom of Naples never would be secure so long as Sicily was in the hands of a foreign and perhaps a hostile Power; and they soon engaged in secret negotiations with England and France to induce or compel the Duke of Savoy to exchange Sicily for Sardinia. The project became known, and both the Duke of Savoy and the King of Spain were determined to resist it. On the other hand, a strange transformation had passed over the spirit and tendency of the Spanish Government. The first wife of Philip, who was a daughter of the Duke of Savoy, died in February 1714-15, and, a few months after, the King married Elizabeth Farnese, the young Princess of Parma-a bold and aspiring woman, who was bitterly hostile to the Austrian dominion in Italy, and who had some claims to the succession of Parma, Placentia, and Tuscany. The sovereign of the first two Duchies had no son. The Queen of Spain was his niece, and she claimed the succession as a family inheritance, but her title was disputed by both the Emperor and the Pope. The Grand Duke of Tuscany had a son, but this son was without issue, and was separated from his wife, and the succession was claimed by Elizabeth Farnese, by the Emperor, and by the wife of the Elector Palatine. The anxiety of the Spanish Queen to claim this inheritance was greatly intensified by the birth of a son. She soon obtained an absolute dominion over the mind of the King, and her own policy was completely go

verned by an Italian priest, who, probably, only needed somewhat more favourable circumstances to have played a part in the world in no degree inferior to that of Richelieu or Chatham.

Cardinal Alberoni is one of the most striking of the many examples of the great value of the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical organisation in forming a ladder by which men of genius can climb from the lowest positions to great dignity and influence. The son of a very poor and very illiterate gardener at Placentia, he was born in 1664, was taught to read and write by the charity of a parish priest, and having entered the order of the Barnabites and passed through the lowest forms of ecclesiastical drudgery, he was at length, with considerable difficulty, raised to the priesthood, and became in time chaplain to the bishop of his diocese, and canon in its cathedral. By the friendship of another bishop he was brought to the Court of the reigning Duke of Parma, where he was introduced in 1702 to the Duke of Vendome, who was then commanding the French army in Italy, and whose warm attachment laid the foundation of his future success. Few men without any advantage either of birth or fortune have ever risen to great political eminence without drinking deeply of the cup of moral humiliation; and St. Simon, whose aristocratic leanings made him regard the low-born adventurer with peculiar malevolence, assures us, probably with some truth, that Alberoni first won the favour of Vendome by gross sycophancy and buffoonery. His small round figure, surmounted by a head of wholly disproportioned size, gave him at first sight a burlesque appearance. His language and habits were very coarse, and he possessed to the highest degree the supple and insinuating manners, the astute judgment, the patient, flexible, and intriguing temperament of his country and of his profession. But with these qualities he combined others of a very different order. He was the most skilful, laborious, and devoted of servants. His imagination teemed with grand and daring projects, and in energy of action and genius of organisation very few statesmen have equalled him. For a time everything seemed to

smile upon him. He was employed by the Duke of Parma in negotiations with the Emperor. He was presented by Vendome to Lewis XIV. He obtained a French pension; he accompanied Vendome in his brilliant Spanish campaign; he became the envoy of the Duke of Parma at the Spanish Court, and having taken a leading part in negotiating the second marriage of the King, he acquired a complete ascendancy over the Queen and directed Spanish policy for some time before he became ostensibly Prime Minister of Spain. His whole soul was filled with a passionate desire to free his native country from Austrian thraldom, to raise Spain from the chronic decrepitude and debility into which she had sunk, and to make her, once more, the Spain of Isabella and of Charles V. The task was a Herculean one, for the national spirit had been for generations steadily declining. The finances were all but ruined, and corruption, maladministration, and superstition had corroded all the energies of the State. The firm hand of a great statesman was, however, soon felt in every department. Amid a storm of unpopularity, corrupt and ostentatious expenditure was rigidly cut down. The nobles and clergy were compelled to contribute their share to taxation; the army was completely reorganised; a new and powerful navy was created. Pampeluna, Barcelona, Cadiz, Ferrol, and several minor strongholds were strengthened. The numerous internal custom-houses, which restricted inland trade, were, with some violence to local customs and to provincial privileges, summarily abolished. The lucrative monopoly of tobacco, which had been alienated from the State, and grossly abused, was resumed. Great pains were taken to revive agriculture and extend manufactures; in spite of the national hostility to heretics, Dutch manufacturers, and even English dyers, were brought over to Spain; and the improvement effected was so rapid that Alberoni boasted, with much reason, that five years of peace would be sufficient to raise Spain to an equality with the greatest nations of the earth.

At first he was very favourable to the English alliance, and through his influence an advantageous commercial treaty

« PreviousContinue »