Reign of William III page 2
To put the Scotch parliament into good humour, William promised them, through the marquis of Tweeddale, that, if they would pass an act establishing a colony in Africa, America, or any other part of the world where it was open to the English rightfully to plant a colony, he would grant them a charter with as full powers as he had done to the subjects of his other dominions. This was no doubt in consequence of a scheme agitated by Paterson, the originator of the bank of England, for founding a colony on the Isthmus of Darien, for trading betwixt the Atlantic and Pacific - forming, in fact, a link of commerce betwixt China and India, as well as the Spanish states on the Pacific coasts and Europe. The act, supposed to be drawn by Paterson himself, was passed, and preparations began for carrying the scheme into effect; but as the expedition did not sail till 1698, we have here only to note a transaction which led eventually to much misery. Parliament granted some indulgence to the episcopalians, by which seventy of their clergy retained their livings, and voted a hundred and twenty thousand pounds for the services of the state.
In Ireland there was also a parliamentary session held under the lord-deputy, Capel, in which the protestant ascendancy was most fully and tyrannically established. They voted one hundred and sixty-three thousand three hundred and twenty-five pounds for the English service, and passed an act annulling all attainders and other acts passed in the late parliament of James. They passed another act disowning all papists; one to forbid the catholics sending their children abroad to be educated; and another for settling the estates of intestates. These were but the beginning of a long series of acts which were passed betwixt this time and the third y ear of queen Anne, by which the unfortunate Irish were as completely ground to the dust and converted into slaves, as if they had been Russian subjects. And all this time the Toleration Act was in pretended force.
At the moment that William was about to set out for the continent, a most determined plot for his assassination was discovered; but as the conspirators were not brought to trial till the following year, we defer notice of it till then.
William embarked on the 12th of May for Holland. Before going he had appointed as lords-justices to carry on the government in his absence - archbishop Tennison; Somers, keeper of the great seal; Pembroke, keeper of the privy seal; Devonshire, the lord steward; Dorset, the lord chamberlain; Shrewsbury, the secretary of state; and Godolphin, first lord of the treasury. There had also been a formal reconciliation betwixt him and the princess Anne. Marlborough and his wife were now all anxiety for this reconciliation. The queen being gone, and William, from his infirmities, not being calculated on for a long life, Marlborough saw Anne at once brought many degrees nearer the throne. Instead of James ever returning, the crafty Marlborough felt sure that, even if William did not succeed in retaining his popularity, any change would seat, not James, but Anne on the throne. It was his interest, therefore, to promote by all means Anne's chance of succession, because, once on the throne, he felt that he should be the ruling power. Anne was, therefore, induced by him and his countess to write a conciliatory letter to William, proposing to wait on him and endeavour to console him in his distress. This had not been effected without some difficulty and delay, but, when once effected, William received the princess very cordially; gave her the greater part of the late queen's jewels, restored all her honours, her name was once more united in the prayers for the royal family, and the foreign ambassadors presented themselves at her house. In one thing, however, Marlborough was disappointed. William did not appoint Anne regent during his absence, as he had hoped, because he knew that that would be the same thing as to make Marlborough viceroy. The king still retained his dislike to the Marlboroughs, and though he permitted them to reside again under the same roof with the princess, he refused for some time to admit Marlborough to kiss his hand in the circle at Kensington, and offered him no renewal of his offices and command.
William entered on the campaign of 1695 under unusual advantages. Louis of France had reduced his country to such distress that he was now obliged to stand on the defensive. The people were loud in their complaints all over France of the merciless exactions for the continuance of the war. They were actually perishing of famine. Barbessieux, the minister, was not able to devise resources like the able Louvois, who was gone; and now Louis had lost by death the great marshal, Luxembourg, who had won for him almost all his martial renown. The forces in Flanders, deprived of their heroic and experienced head, were badly supplied with provisions, badly recruited, and to make all worse, Louis, as he had chosen his prime minister, now selected his general - not from the men of real military talent, but from a courtier and man of pleasure - Villeroi. He was a tall, handsome man, much admired by the ladies, and a reckless gambler, but totally unfit to cope with William in the field. Boufflers was still at the head of a division of the army, but under Villeroi.
Louis was apprehensive that the allies would make a push at Dunkirk. He therefore ordered a new line to be drawn betwixt the Lys and the Scheldt, and every means to be taken to cover Dunkirk, Ypres, Tournai, and Namur. William arrived in the camp of the allies on the 5th of July, and immediately marched against Villeroi, who retired behind his lines betwixt Ypres and Menin. He, however, detached ten thousand men to support Boufflers, who had advanced as far as Pont d'Espieres. William then sent forward the elector of Bavaria to confront Boufflers, who also retired behind his lines, and the elector passed the Scheldt, and posted himself at Kirk. William, having thus driven the French to the frontiers of Flanders, then dispatched the baron Von Heyden from the camp of the elector of Bavaria, along with Ginckel, to invest Namur. At the same time, leaving Vaudemont to confront the army of Villeroi on the border of Flanders, William suddenly marched also for Namur, the Brandenburgers having orders to advance from another quarter. William's hope was, by this ably-concerted plan, completely to invest Namur before any fresh troops could be poured into it; but Boufflers, perceiving his design, managed to throw himself into the city with seven regiments of dragoons, by which the garrison was raised to fifteen thousand men. Immediately on the heels of Boufflers arrived William and the elector, and encamped on both sides of the Sambre and Meuse, thus investing the whole place.
They began to throw up their entrenchments on the 6th of July, under the direction of the celebrated engineer, Cohorn. The city had always been strong; it had been of late years made much stronger by Cohorn, and since then the French had added to its defences. Its castle was deemed impregnable; the town was full of provisions and of brave soldiers, and it was regarded as a somewhat rash act in William to attempt so formidable a fortress, with the chance of being taken in the rear by Villeroi at the head of eighty thousand men. The moment that Villeroi saw the object of William he began to put himself in motion to attack Vaudemont, and, having beaten him, to advance on Namur. Vaudemont, however, began to fortify his camp, and Villeroi's vanguard appearing at Dentreghem, he intrenched himself on both sides. Villeroi made sure, nevertheless, of a complete victory over him, having such a superiority of force, and he sent word to Louis that he would speedily hear of a victory. But Vaudemont, perceiving another body of French advancing from the Scheldt so as to inclose him, very adroitly drew back, and made a retreat, much admired by military judges, to Ghent. Villeroi, thus disappointed, appeared as if intending to invest Newport; but Vaudemont detached a strong force for its defence, and Villeroi turned aside and besieged Dyxmude, where general Ellenberg commanded with eight battalions of foot and a regiment of dragoons; and Deynse, held by general O'Farrell. Both these officers shamefully capitulated in less than a couple of days, and O'Farrell almost before a shot was fired. Vaudemont sent to Villeroi, demanding the surrender of the garrison to him according to a cartel existing betwixt the belligerent powers; but he took no notice of it. No sooner, however, were Ellenberg and O'Farrell again released, than they were tried by court-martial for their dastardly conduct; Ellenberg being shot, and O'Farrell dismissed with infamy.
Villeroi, privately mortified at the cowardice of the duke of Maine, the natural son of Louis by the countess Montes- pan, who was learning the art of war under him, and who failed, through terror and confusion, to interrupt the retreat of Vaudemont, now marched on Brussels, to avenge on the innocent inhabitants the ravages of the English on the coast towns of France. Vaudemont, who, on the movement of Villeroi towards Brussels had sent to William for reinforcements to prevent mischief to that city, advanced from Ghent and took post at Dighen. He proposed to occupy the plain betwixt Gigot and St. Pee; and William sent the earl of Athlone (Ginckel) and the count of Nassau, with thirty battalions of infantry and forty squadrons of horse, to a position betwixt Gemappe and Waterloo, and Vaudemont then posted himself betwixt Mountzey and the counterscarp of Ixel, having thus communication with Athlone and Nassau. These movements enabled the allies, who now occupied ground destined to a more famous conflict in our own time, to throw some forces into the city, but not to prevent the design of Villeroi, who sat down at Auderlek, and announced to the governor of Brussels that he had orders to bombard the town; that his royal master most reluctantly resorted to this ruinous expedient, but that the prince of Orange had committed cruel ravages on the French sea-ports, and, in order to prevent his continuance of such practices, he was compelled to retaliate; that he was the more reluctant to fire on the town, because he knew that the electress of Bavaria was in it; but that if the governor would let him know in what part of the town she resided, he would spare that.
This message, so exquisitely French, such an assumed excess of politeness, and such a wanton and unprovoked piece of real brutality, was answered by the elector of Bavaria, who informed Villeroi in what part of the town the electress was quartered, but very properly added that this was no town of the king of England on which to retaliate; that the only justifiable retaliation would be on English towns, but that he would inform the king of the message, and send an answer within twenty-four hours. But Villeroi's orders were to bombard the town, to create an ill-feeling betwixt William and the allies, on whom he had thus brought such a calamity, and he therefore directly opened fire on the place with red-hot balls and shells. The bombardment commenced on the evening of the 13th of August, and continued till the afternoon of the 15th. The city was in a blaze; no less than fifteen hundred houses were burnt down, together with six convents or churches, and many other public buildings. The lower town would have been totally destroyed, had not the inhabitants blown up many houses to cut off the communication of the flames. The noble Hotel de Ville, one of the finest buildings in Europe, and the scene of some striking historical events, was in great danger, and an immense property in Brussels lace and other valuable goods was destroyed. The electress, for whom the king expressed so much concern, miscarried through terror. What does not seem easily explicable, the allies seem to have looked on without making any attempt to interrupt this devastation.
In one respect, however, Villeroi's bombardment failed. It could not, as it was hoped, draw William from the siege of Namur. Villeroi, having done his will on the city, removed to Enghein, and then, evacuating several towns which the French had held for some time, he again advanced to Soignies, close upon William's army; but Vaudemont, having now joined Athlone at Gemappe, the two general, pitched their camp at Mazey, and kept watch on Villeroi.
William was all this time - except for a few days, when he was anxiously observing the French proceedings before Brussels - prosecuting the siege of Namur with a determined ardour which cost a terrible amount of human lives. The trenches had been first opened on the 11th of July, and the batteries on both sides commenced a furious fire. This continued for a week, and on the 18th a storming party, headed by lord Cutts, consisting of five battalions of English, Scotch, and Dutch, attacked the works on the right of the counterscarp, supported by six English battalions under general Fitzpatrick, whilst nine thousand pioneers advanced on the left under general Salisch. Twelve hundred of the allies fell in this bloody action, whilst William, looking on in exultation, thought not of their destruction, but of the bulldog valour of the British soldiers, exclaiming to the elector of Bavaria, "See my brave English! See my brave English! "They drove in the enemy, though at a terrible sacrifice.
On the 27th the English and Scotch again assaulted the counterscarp under Ramsay and Hamilton, supported by the Dutch. They were received by a murderous fire, but rushed on with a courage incredible, and effected a lodgment on the covered way before the gate of St. Nicholas, and also on part of the counterscarp. Whilst this desperate struggle was going on, some persons were killed at William's very side in the trenches. William was always greatly displeased at people who were not soldiers exposing themselves, and had several times discovered his servants near the scene of action, and ordered them away; but to-day Mr. Godfrey, the deputy-governor of the Bank of England, who had come out to arrange the remittances for the army, appeared near him. William warned him away, saying, "As you are no adventurer in the trade of war, Mr. Godfrey, I think you should not expose yourself to the hazards of it." To which Godfrey replied, "Not being more exposed than your majesty, should I be excusable if I showed more concern?" The king said, "Yes; I am in my duty, and, therefore, have a more reasonable claim to preservation." "Whilst he was uttering these words, a cannon-ball laid Godfrey dead at his feet.
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