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nouncement, they will be wringing their hands soon.'

It was

in vain, however, that he had yielded to the clamour, for the long agony of his ministry had already begun. Supporter after supporter dropped away. The Duke of Argyle, the most powerful and eloquent of the Scottish chiefs, had gone into open opposition'; and his influence, combined with the irritation due to the repressive measures that followed the Porteous riots, produced at the next election, for the first time, a Scotch majority hostile to the minister. The Duke of Newcastle was moody, discontented, and uncertain. The authority of the minister in his Cabinet, and his majority in Parliament, steadily declined. The military organisation having fallen into decay during the long peace, the war was feebly and unsuccessfully conducted, and the commanders by land and sea were jealous and disunited. Anson plundered and burnt Paita, and captured a few Spanish prizes. Admiral Vernon took Porto Bello, but the capture was speedily relinquished; and Vernon, being a personal enemy of Walpole, his triumph rather weakened than strengthened the Government. With these exceptions, the first period of the war presented little more than a monotony of disaster. The repulse of an expedition against Carthagena, the abandonment of an expedition against Cuba, the destruction of many thousands of English soldiers and sailors by tropical fever, the inactivity of the British fleet in the Mediterranean, the rapid decline of British commerce, accompanied by severe distress at home-all contributed to the discontent. In the midst of these calamities, a new series of events began, which soon plunged the greater part of Europe into war. In October 1740 the Emperor Charles VI. died, after a very short illness, at the early age of fifty-five, leaving no son. For many years the great objects of his policy had been to bequeath his whole Austrian dominions to his daughter Maria Theresa, and to obtain for her husband the Duke of

1 In a letter to Swift, 1734-5, Pulteney had noticed the steadiness with which the bishops and Scotch peers supported the ministry, and

how formidable a body they were in the House of Lords.-Swift's Correspondence, iii. 120.

Tuscany, and former ruler of Lorraine, the Imperial crown. The latter object could, of course, only be attained when the vacancy occurred, and by the ordinary process of election; but in order to secure the former, Charles VI. had promulgated the law called the Pragmatic Sanction, regulating the succession, and had obtained a solemn assent to that law from the Germanic body, and from the great hereditary States of Europe. With so distinct and so recent a recognition of her title by all the great Powers of Europe, the young Archduchess, it was hoped, would have no difficulty in assuming the throne as Queen of Hungary and of the other hereditary dominions of her father, and she did so with the warm assent of her subjects. She was, however, a young and inexperienced woman, wholly unversed in public. business, and at this time far advanced in pregnancy. Her dominions were threatened by the Turks from without, and corroded by serious dissensions within. Her army, exclusive of the troops in Italy and the Netherlands, amounted to only 30,000 men, and her whole treasure consisted of 100,000 florins, which were claimed by the Empress dowager. All these circumstances might have moved generous natures in her favour, but they served only to stimulate the rapacity of her neighbours. The Elector of Bavaria had never signed the Pragmatic Sanction, and he laid claim to the Austrian throne on grounds which were demonstrably worthless. France had not only assented to, but even guaranteed, the Pragmatic Sanction; and Cardinal Fleury, who was at the head of affairs, would probably have kept his faith, but he was now a very old and vacillating man, and his hand was forced by Marshal Belleisle, who, at the head of a powerful body of French nobles, saw in the weakness of the young queen an opportunity of aggrandising France, and dismembering an ancient rival. Prussia also was a party to the Pragmatic Sanction; but Frederick II., who had just ascended the throne, was burdened with no scruples; he found himself at the head of an admirable army of 76,000 men,

⚫ See Coxe's House of Austria.

and was impatient to employ it in the plunder of his enfeebled neighbour.

The Elector of Bavaria refused to acknowledge the title of the Empress, but the first blow was struck by Frederick. That he was moved to this course simply by the consciousness of his own great military strength, and of the weakness and disorganisation of the Empire; that he sought his own aggrandisement with circumstances of peculiar treachery, and with a clear knowledge that he was about to apply the spark to a powder magazine, and to involve the greater part of Europe in the horrors of war, are facts which remain intact after all the elaborate apologies that have been written in his favour. He was a man of singularly clear, vivid, and rapid judgment, admirably courageous in seizing perilous opportunities, and in encountering adversity; admirably energetic and indefatigable in raising to the highest point of efficiency all the details both of civil and military administration. Perfectly free from every tinge of religious bigotry, he was one of the most tolerant rulers of his age, and he was one of the first who, by abolishing torture in his dominions, introduced the principles of Beccaria into practical legislation. Though intensely avaricious of real power, and disposed to exercise a petty, meddling, and spiteful despotism in the smallest spheres,' he had nothing of the royal love for the pomp and trappings of majesty, nothing of the blind reverence for old forms and for old traditions, nothing of the childish cowardice which so often makes those who are born to the purple unable to hear unwelcome truths or to face unwelcome facts. Like Richelieu, the element of weakness in his character took the form of literary vanity, and of a feeble vein of literary sentimentality, but it never affected his active career. Unlike Napoleon, to whom in many respects he bore a striking resemblance, his faculties were always completely under his control; he was never intoxicated, either by the magnitude of

1 See some very curious illustrations of this in the letters of Sir Hanbury Williams

from Berlin.

Walpole's Memoirs of George II. i. pp. 452-461.

his schemes or by the violence of his passions, and his shrewd, calculating intellect remained unclouded through all the vicissitudes of fortune. He was at the same time hard and selfish to the core, and without a spark of generosity or of honour. His one object was the aggrandisement of the territory over which he ruled. Of patriotism, in the higher and more disinterested sense of the word, he had little or nothing. All his . natural leanings of mind and disposition were French, and few men appear to have had less appreciation of the nobler aspects of the German character, or of the dawning splendour of the German intellect. His own words, describing the motives of his first war, have been often cited: Ambition, interest, the desire of making men talk about me, carried the day, and I decided for war.'

It was not difficult, in the confused and intricate field of German politics, to find pretexts for aggression, and Prussia had one real reason to complain of the conduct of the Empire. One of her most ardent desires was to obtain for herself the succession to the little Duchies of Juliers and Berg. They had passed in 1675 under the sceptre of the Neuberg branch of the Palatine Electoral family, but the reigning Elector Palatine was the last sovereign of that branch, and the succession was claimed by the Prussian sovereigns, and also by the Sulzbach branch of the Palatine family. After much secret negotiation, a compromise was arrived at. Frederick William, who was then King of Prussia, restricted his demand to the possession of Berg; and he made it a condition of the recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction that the Emperor should assist him in obtaining the succession. The treaty was made, but it was speedily broken. The Elector Palatine ardently desired the succession for the Sulzbach branch of his family; and all Catholic Germany looked upon Dusseldorf as an essential frontier fortress against Protestant aggression. It was probable that the Prussian claims could only be enforced by arms, and that France would resent any considerable aggrandisement of Prussia on the Rhine. These and other considerations of German politics threw the Emperor

Charles VI. decidedly on the side of the Palatine Succession, and in conjunction with the other great European Powers, he even urged that the Duchy should be provisionally garrisoned by troops belonging to the Sulzbach branch until a European arbitration had decided the disputed succession. Whatever might be the rights of the question of succession, Frederick William considered with reason that the Emperor had broken faith with him, and he speedily opened secret negotiations with France. French statesmen seldom lost an opportunity of obtaining an ally or an influence in Germany, and a secret alliance was ultimately concluded by which they undertook to support the claims of Prussia to a portion of the Duchy, excluding, however, Dusseldorf, the capital.'

This was a real ground of difference. The claims of Prussia to the greater part of the Austrian province of Silesia were of a much more flimsy description. The Duchy of Jägerndorf had once been in the possession of a collateral branch of the House of Brandenburg, which had been deprived of it, it was alleged unjustly, in 1623, and Frederick claimed the territory as lineal descendant, though it had remained undisturbed in Austrian hands for more than a century. It is plain that by the application of such a principle the security of Europe might be at any moment destroyed, for there is no State which has not at some distant period gained or lost territory by acts of at least disputable justice. The Duchies of Liegnitz, Brieg, and Wohlan were claimed on somewhat more complicated grounds. About 1635 a family compact had been made between Frederick, who then governed them as Duke, and the Elector Joachim II., Duke of Brandenburg, providing that in the event of the failure of the male issue of either sovereign, his territory was to pass to the descendants of the other. Ferdinand I., King of Bohemia, who was the feudal lord, refused to recognise this compact, and its validity was in consequence very doubtful; and when in 1675 the ducal house of Liegnitz became extinct, Austria took possession of the territory, and the Elector of

See the details of this negotiation in Ranke's Hist. of Prussia.

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