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Reign of William III page 11

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The plenipotentiaries of the different powers now at last were ordered to meet; the only question was, Where? The emperor proposed Aix-la-Chapelle or Frankfort, but Louis objected to any German town, but was willing that the place should be the Hague. It was at length settled to be the Hague. The ambassadors of the allies were to occupy the Hague itself; and the French, Delft, about five miles distant.

Midway betwixt these towns lies the village of Ryswick, and close to it a palace belonging then to William, called Neubourg House. There it was determined that the plenipotentiaries should meet for business. The palace was admirably adapted, by its different entrances and alleys, for the approach of the different bodies of diplomatists without any confusion, and there was a fine, large, central hall for their deliberations. There appeared for England the earl of Pembroke, the viscount Villiers, Sir Joseph Williamson, and Matthew Prior, the poet, as their secretary. For the emperor, the gruff Kaunitz, the celebrated imperial minister, was at the head of the German referees. For France came Harlay, Crecy, and Caillieres. Don Quiros was the minister of Spain, and there were whole throngs of the representatives of the lesser powers. The minister of Sweden, count Lilienroth, was appointed mediator, and after various arrangements regarding precedence, on the 9th of May the plenipotentiaries met; but it seemed only to entangle themselves in a multitude of absurd difficulties regarding their respective ranks and titles. The ambassadors of Spain and of the emperor were the most ridiculous in their assumptions and their punctilios. Then came the news of the death of the king of Sweden, and the waiting of the mediator for a renewal of his powers, and for putting himself into mourning, and it was the middle of June before any real business had been transacted. William grew out of patience, and determined to take a shorter cut to the object in view. He empowered Portland to arrange with Boufflers, with whom he had become acquainted at the time of Boufflers' arrest at Namur, the preliminaries of a peace betwixt France, England, and Holland. Portland and Boufflers met at a country house near Hal, about ten miles from Brussels on the road to Mons, and within sight of the hostile armies. The questions to be settled betwixt these two plain and straightforward negotiators were these: - William demanded that Louis should bind himself not to assist James, directly or indirectly, in any attempt on the throne of England, and that James should no longer be permitted to reside in France. These demands being sent by express to Paris, Louis at once agreed to the first requisition, that he should engage never to assist James in any attempt on England; but, as to the second, he replied that he could not, from honour and hospitality, banish James from France, but he would undertake to induce him to remove to Avignon, if he did not voluntarily prefer going to Italy. William accepted this modified acquiescence. On the other hand Louis demanded from William that he should give an amnesty to all the Jacobites, and should allow Mary of Modena her jointure of fifty thousand pounds a year.

William peremptorily refused to grant the amnesty - that was an interference with the prerogative of his crown which he could permit to no foreign power. The jointure he was willing to pay, on condition that the money should not be employed in designs against his crown or life, and that James, his queen, and court, should remove to Avignon and continue to reside there. Neither the residence of the exiled family nor the matter of the jointure were to be mentioned in the treaty, but William authorised his plenipotentiaries at the congress to say that Mary of Modena should have everything which on examination should be found to be lawfully her due. This, indeed, may be considered an ambiguous phrase, for Mary, as well as James, being deposed, all her legal rights connected with the crown had lapsed. William was afterwards much blamed for the non-payment of this jointure; but those who charged him with breach of faith knew very well that the jointure was only conditionally offered, and that those conditions were altogether disregarded.

The ceremonious and do-nothing plenipotentiaries were greatly startled by the news that Portland and Boufflers were continually meeting, and were supposed to be actually making a treaty without them. A thing so irregular, so undiplomatic, so contrary to all forms and usages, put them into an agony; but William was a man of business, and, spite of forms and ceremonies, pushed on the treaty and concluded it. Spain, which had concluded a separate treaty in Savoy, was especially scandalised. But still more was king James alarmed and incensed. He addressed two memorials to the princes of the confederacy, one to the catholic princes, entreating them to unite with him against England for his rights, reminding them that his case was theirs, and that the English revolution was setting a fatal precedent for them; another was to the princes at large, warning them against infringing his inalienable rights by entering into any agreement with the usurper to transfer his crown and dignity to him. These producing no effect, he issued a third, protesting against any engagements they might enter into to his prejudice, or the prejudice of his son; and declaring that he should himself never feel bound by any of them.

If Louis was not moved by his entreaties and remonstrances, it was not likely that the princes who had for eight years been fighting in alliance with his rival would. Perhaps, however, James felt it only his duty to put in his disclaimer. The negotiations went on. Besides the terms offered by France to William and his allies being accepted by all except the emperor, it was agreed that commissioners should meet in London from France to settle the respective pretensions of France and England to the territories of Hudson's Bay. The Dutch made a separate treaty of commerce with France. Spain got back Gironne, Roser, Barcelona, Luxembourg, Charleroi, Mons, Courtrai, and all the towns, territories, and fortresses taken by the French in Luxembourg, Namur, Brabant, Hainault, and Flanders, except eighty towns and villages, which the French claimed from longer possession, and the right to which was to be determined by commissioners, with a power of appeal to the States-General. A demand of toleration was made on behalf of the French protestants, but was refused on the same ground as William refused the amnesty to the Jacobites interference with the prerogative of Louis. On the 10th of July the representatives of the emperor were asked by the French to sign, but, on declining, the 21st of August was fixed as the last day on which France would be bound by its offer. William and the rest of the allies were greatly exasperated at this refusal of the emperor. The 21st arrived, and the commissioners not signing, the representatives of France declared his most Christian Majesty had now withdrawn Strasbourg from his offer, and would annex it forever to his realm; and moreover, if the treaty was not signed on or before the 10th of September, he should not hold himself bound by the rest of his engagements,

On the 10th the rest of the allies signed the treaty, but the emperor still held out, and a further time was allowed him, namely, till the 1st of November. On the 11th of September an event occurred which made the resistance of the emperor the more obstinate for a time. Prince Eugene fought a great battle at Zeuta against the Sultan in person, completely routed the Turks, and killed or caused to be drowned in the Theysse the grand vizier, the aga of the janissaries, and thirty thousand of the enemy. There were six thousand more wounded or taken prisoners, with all their artillery, baggage, tents, ammunition, and provisions. The grand seignior himself escaped with difficulty, whilst the imperialists lost only about one thousand men in the action. The emperor hoped that such a brilliant victory would induce the allies to prolong the war; but, as it produced no such effect, he was obliged to comply. The petty princes, who had done nothing during the war but to create delays and embarrassments, stood out to the very last on the demand that the Lutheran religion should be restored in Louis's territories, where it had been put down; but they stood out in vain. The treaty was duly signed and ratified at the time fixed.

The new treaty produced very different sensations in France and England. In France there was much murmuring. For what, it was asked, had the king been fighting all these years? He had given up everything, and could only have done that under defeat. The court of St. Ger- mains and James's adherents were in despair. In England the most riotous joy broke forth. There were all the usual demonstrations of such occasions - bonfires, drinking, and firing of guns. The bells rung out from every steeple, and the bank of England stocks, which were at twenty per cent below par, rose to par. The Jacobites cursed Louis for a traitor to the cause of James, and fled to hide themselves. The rejoicings were equally enthusiastic all over the kingdom.

When William entered his capital it was a regular triumph. From Greenwich to Whitehall it was one dense crowd of hurrahing people; troops of militia and trainbands, the city authorities attending him in all their paraphernalia, the foot-guards standing under arms at, Whitehall, and the windows all the way crowded with handsome or excited faces. The 2nd of December was appointed as a day of public thanksgiving, and the new cathedral of St. Paul's was crowded by its first great assemblage on the occasion. There were deputations bringing zealous addresses to the foot of the throne, and foremost and most loyal in language amongst them was that of the university of Oxford, which had so long distinguished itself by its toryism and devotion to the Stuarts.

There was cause, indeed, for joy; for the country was for a time freed from the most exhausting war in which it had ever been engaged. It had passed through it with credit, though its armies and navies were in a great measure commanded by traitors. Its wealth and credit were higher than ever; and, above all, the tone and temper of the nation were sure guarantees that the return of James or his son were the most impossible of things. Still, had the allies on the continent been true to each other, and to the principles for Which they professed to contend, they might have inflicted a far more complete punishment on the heartless ambition of Louis, and thus prevented the speedy recurrence of the horrors they now hoped were for a long time at an end.

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