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Godolphin. In the next war his firm will alone prevented England from being involved. In February 1732-33 Augustus II., King of Poland, died, and the succession was at once contested between Stanislaus and Augustus, the Elector of Saxony. The first, who had previously been placed on the Polish throne by Charles XII., but dethroned by the Russians, was now elected by the Poles; and, as he was the father of the young Queen of France, Fleury was compelled very reluctantly, by the military party at Court, to support his claims by the sword. His competitor, who was the son of the former king, was supported by Russia, which regarded Stanislaus as a natural enemy, and he succeeded in inducing the Emperor Charles VI. to enter very gratuitously into the conflict, partly through a desire to prevent what was supposed to be an extension of French influence, and partly because Augustus offered to guarantee the Pragmatic Sanction. The war lasted till 1735,' but it speedily changed its character and its objects. The Polish episode sank into comparative insignificance, and the French carried their arms with brilliant success into Germany and into the Austrian territories of Italy. Spain and Sardinia joined against the Emperor. The 6,000 Spanish soldiers whom England had so recently escorted into Italy, marched in conjunction with Sardinian troops and with a body of French auxiliaries, upon the Milanese, and the result of the war was a very considerable modification of the balance of power. With the exception of the Duchies of Parma and Placentia, which were now ceded, and of a portion of the Milanese which was restored, to Austria, the Emperor lost all territory in Italy. Naples and Sicily passed to Don Carlos, and the greater part of the Milanese to the King of Sardinia. The Poles, finding themselves almost deserted by France and incapable of resisting Russia, elected Augustus, while Stanislaus was compensated in a way which greatly surprised Europe, and had a very important influence upon future policy. For several generations one of the great ends of French ambition had been

The preliminaries of peace were signed in 1735, but the definitive

peace in 1738.

the acquisition of Lorraine, which commanded one of the chief roads from Germany to France. Twice already-in the Thirty Years' War and in the War of the League of Augsburg—it had passed under French dominion, but in each case France had been compelled to restore it at the peace, though she retained a moral control over its Duke which almost amounted to sovereignty. In Italy the last of the Medici was now hastening to the tomb, and Fleury proposed that the Duke of Lorraine, who was affianced to Maria Theresa, and thus closely connected with the Austrian interest, should succeed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany; that Stanislaus, retaining the title of king, should obtain possession of the Duchies of Lorraine and Bar; and that on his death those Duchies should be for ever united to France. In consideration of this arrangement, France agreed to restore her conquests in Germany, and to guarantee the Pragmatic Sanction. The terms were accepted, and thus France, under the guidance of one of the most pacific of her ministers, obtained a more real and considerable accession of power than any which had been gained by the ambition of Lewis XIV.

It was only with extreme difficulty that Walpole could induce England to remain passive during the struggle. The King was vehemently hostile to the French. As a German prince and a member of the Empire, he saw with the utmost indignation the diminution of the Imperial power, and he was full of a boyish eagerness to distinguish himself in the field. It was no slight trial for the Power which was indisputably the mistress of the sea to see a French fleet sailing unmolested to the Baltic to support the cause of Stanislaus in the north, and a Spanish fleet in the following year transporting 20,000 men to Italy to add Sicily and Spain to the dominions of the House of Bourbon. The Cabinet was divided in opinion. Statesmen had learnt that the advocacy of war was the easiest way to the royal favour, and the Opposition Members were busy inflaming the passions of the people. In spite of the French alliance, which had been begun by Dubois and continued by Fleury, the sentiment of England was strongly anti-Gallican, and there were

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plausible arguments for intervention. The greatest danger to England lay in the power of France, and that power for several generations had been rapidly increasing. The sagacious administration of Richelieu and Mazarin, the decadence of Spain, the policy of Cromwell, who supported the growing power of France against the declining power of Spain, and the subservience of Charles II. and his successor to Lewis XIV., had together produced a French ascendency which seemed likely to overshadow all the liberties of Europe. The Revolution had done much to restore the balance of power, but still French influence in many quarters continued steadily to advance, though two great wars had been undertaken for the purpose of abridging it. France had obtained Alsace by the Peace of Westphalia, with the exception of ten Imperial towns, the liberty of which was solemnly guaranteed, but she soon began to treat those towns exactly like the rest of the province. Strasburg, which was by far the most important of them, she had surprised and seized in 1681, by an act of high-handed violence in a time of perfect peace, and without a shadow of justification or excuse. The Emperor, embarrassed by a Turkish war and by Hungarian insurrection, was unable to resent the aggression, and the Peace of Ryswick, which terminated the great war of the Revolution, confirmed and sanctioned it. The wars of Marlborough for a time brought France apparently to the lowest depths of exhaustion, but the Peace of Utrecht restored to her much of what she had lost. A French prince remained upon the Spanish throne, and her military power was still so formidable that as soon as the peace had dissolved the coalition against her, she completely routed the forces of the Empire, though Eugene was at their head. On sea, it is true, she never recovered the ascendency she lost at La Hogue, but on land no one Power could compete with her. She had brought the art of war to such perfection that in the course of a single reign no less than five generals-Condé, Turenne, Luxemburg, Vendome, and Villars-of brilliant and extraordinary ability, appeared in her armies ; and it is remarkable that Marlborough, who alone eclipsed them,

had passed through the same school. He had served as a young man under Turenne, and he ascribed to the lessons he then learnt, much of his later success.1 The alienation between France and Spain which followed the death of Lewis XIV. had for a time interrupted the course of French ambition, but it had been appeased by the conciliatory policy of Fleury, and the firstfruits of the reconciliation had been the decline of Austrian influence in Italy, the elevation of a Bourbon prince to the Neapolitan throne, and the consolidation of the French territory by the reversion of Lorraine.

It is not surprising that this increase of French power should have excited deep alarm. In the interval between the first decadence of Spain and the rise of Prussia and Russia, Austria was the only serious competitor of France upon the Continent, and Austria was certainly inferior in strength to her old rival, and, except on the side of Turkey, she seemed steadily declining. The House of Austria, which had once, in the person of Charles V., almost given law to Europe, and had led a French king captive to Madrid, was now so weakened that it was defeated in almost every war, and nearly every generation seemed to mark a stage in its decline. France had succeeded in her old object of dissevering from the Empire the vast dominions of Spain. She had pushed her frontiers into Germany. She had acquired such an ascendency over some of the Electors. of the Empire that it was even likely that the House of Austria would soon be deprived of the Imperial crown. She had shaken and almost destroyed that Austrian supremacy in Italy which the Peace of Utrecht and the Quadruple Alliance had established. In modern times her power in Europe has been to a, great degree paralysed by the intensity of her internal divisions, while her progress in more distant quarters has been restricted by an incurable incapacity for successful colonisation, due principally to the French passion for centralisation and over-administration. But these sources of weakness were as yet unperceived. No nation in its dealings with surrounding countries exhibited a

1 Mémoires de Torcy, ii. 89.

greater unity or concentration of resources, and there appeared as yet no clear reason why, in the race of colonial enterprise, she should not become the successful rival of England. On the other hand, France already exhibited to the highest perfection that rare capacity of assimilating to herself the provinces she annexed, which has been one of the chief sources of her greatness, one of the most remarkable proofs of the high qualities of her national character. No modern nation which has annexed so much has been so little distracted by the struggles of suppressed nationalities, or has succeeded so perfectly in times. of danger, difficulty, and disaster in commanding the enthusiastic devotion of the most distant and the most recently acquired of her provinces. Her military system has, no doubt, done much to give a unity of sympathy and enthusiasm to the nation. Paris, owing to causes some of which have been very mischievous, early exercised a fascination over the imaginations of great masses of men such as no other modern capital has possessed, but all this would have been insufficient had there not been an unrivalled power of attraction, sympathy, and assimilation in the French character, a power in which Englishmen are signally deficient, and which, has made French ambition peculiarly formidable.

On such grounds as these the Opposition were never tired of urging that France was rapidly advancing towards universal empire, and that unless she were speedily checked, the liberties of England must ultimately succumb. On sea England was, they admitted, still supreme, but of all forms of power this, they said, was the most precarious. An accident, a blunder, an unfavourable wind, might expose her coast to invasion, even in the zenith of her maritime greatness. The naval supremacy of Carthage had not saved her from destruction when Rome became dominant in the neighbouring continent. The naval supremacy of Spain had been irretrievably ruined by the failure of a single expedition, and the destruction of the Armada was much more due to the fury of the elements than to the fleet that was opposed to it. The naval supremacy of England had trembled

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