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Reign of Queen Anne (Continued) page 10

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As De Torcy could not bring the Dutch ministers to concede anything, he consented to meet prince Eugene and Marlborough, who had now returned from England with lord Townshend. To these was added count Zinzendorf, as minister for the emperor. The French minister, assisted by Bouille, though he was treating in a condition of the deepest anxiety, yet maintained all the high pretensions which his court had so long assumed. He offered the surrender of Spain, but he would give no guarantee for its evacuation. He contended that the word of his king was enough - as if the word of any king could be accepted in such a case, and especially of Louis, who had broken his a thousand times. He pleaded that the king's great age, his earnest desire for peace and repose in his declining years, and the situation of his affairs were of themselves ample guarantees for the fulfilment of that article of the treaty; and he even melted into tears in his earnestness to bring the ambassadors to accept the word of the grand monarque. This was all mere child's play in a treaty wKich was to be the result of such a war, and to establish the future peace of Europe. As time was going' on, the representatives of the allies, at the end of May, presented their ultimatum in forty articles, the chief of which were these: - That king Philip should within two months totally evacuate Spain and Sicily, which, with the Indies, were to be made over to king Charles; that if Philip refused to evacuate Spain and Sicily? the king of France, so far from helping him, should assist the allies to expel him; that Spain should never, nor any part of it, be united to the crown of France; that the Dutch should receive as a barrier to their states Furness, Fort Kenoq, Menin, Saverge, Ypres, Warneton, Comines, Wervick, Lille, Conde, Tournay, and Mauberge, and that the French should deliver up all the towns, cities, and fortresses which they had taken in the Netherlands; that the fortifications of Dunkirk should be destroyed and never again be restored; that the pretender should quit France; the queen of England's title and that of the protestant succession should be acknowledged; and the interests of the electors of Bavaria and Cologne be settled by the congress which should settle this peace; the duke of Savoy should receive back everything taken from him, and should also retain Exilles, Feneshelles, Chaumont, and the valley of Pragelas. Strasburg and Kehl were to be given up by Louis, but Alsace itself retained. The new king of Prussia and the new elector of Hanover should be acknowledged, and all these preliminaries should be adopted and the treaty completed within two months.

De Torcy, who could not expect for a moment that Louis would consent to any such terms, to gain time, however, engaged to send them to Versailles. He speedily received a secret letter from Louis, with orders to tempt the cupidity of Marlborough for the lowering of these demands. According to the Memoirs of De Torcy, his majesty's offers were these: - He would give him two millions of livres to procure for his grandson Philip the retention of Naples and Sicily, or even of Naples alone. He would give the same for the retention of Strasburg, or for the non-destruction of the fortifications of Dunkirk, without any reference to Naples and Sicily. If he could obtain for him Naples and Dunkirk, three millions; and for all those places, with Strasburg and Landau, for himself, four millions of livres. Marlborough is said to have blushed on the mention of these terms, but to have refused them. On that De Torcy informed Marlborough that he was well aware of his correspondence with the court of St. Germains, and thereby intimated that it was in his power both to do him good and harm. Marlborough stood firm, and it was well for him that he did, for there were vigilant eyes upon him, and the offer of the bribe was speedily conveyed to Harley, and by him to the queen.

De Torcy, finding that he could not move the allies, professed to accept the preliminaries, so great, he said, was the anxiety of his master to spare fresh miseries to his people and to Europe. He set off for Paris, but at Douay he saw marshal Villars, showed him the conditions of peace, and told him to put his army in order, for they would never be accepted. Villars replied that he should be prepared, but that the army was on the point of utter starvation, and such was the destitution of the country that he had no conception how the troops were to exist. No sooner did De Torcy reach Paris than it was announced to the allies that Louis would never accept such terms. Bouille was recalled, and was commissioned by the allies to assure the king that no others would be offered, and that, if they were not accepted by the 15th of June, they should take the field. But the French king had gained one great object by the negotiation - it enabled him to represent to his subjects his earnest endeavours for peace, and the arrogant obstinacy of the allies. He had circulated letters all over France, representing the anxious endeavours he had made to put an end to bloodshed and to the miseries of Europe; that he had offered to make unheard-of sacrifices, but to no purpose; everything had been rejected by the allies but a fresh carnage and spoliation. He represented that the more he had conceded the more they had risen in their demands; that he found it impossible to satisfy their inordinate demands, except at the cost of the ruin and the eternal infamy of France.

The effect of this representation was wonderful. The whole of France was so roused by indignation at the supposed treatment of their king, the insolent rejection of his peaceful desires, that they execrated the selfish arrogance of the allies, for Louis had insinuated that they were carrying on the war only for their own personal interests. The kingdom, impoverished and reduced as it was, determined to support the ill-used monarch with the last remnant of its substance; and such exertions were made for the continued struggle as astonished the world. Nor was the effect of Louis's representations lost on Marlborough's enemies in England. They declaimed on the unreasonableness of the allies almost as loudly as the French, and they particularly denounced the demand that Louis should help to dethrone and expatriate his own grandson, as the most astounding piece of assumption that had ever been heard of.

Prince Eugene and Marlborough immediately proceeded to Flanders to commence the campaign, but before following them we must notice a circumstance or two in England. The session of parliament closed on the 21st of April. Before doing so it had contracted a loan of four hundred thousand pounds from the bank of England. The bank also undertook to circulate exchequer bills to the amount of two millions five hundred thousand pounds, on condition that their charter should be renewed for twenty* one years, and that their stock of two millions two hundred and one thousand pounds should be doubled by a new subscription.

Parliament had also been obliged to pass a bill for securing the privileges of ambassadors and other public ministers of foreign princes. The occasion of this was, that a Mr. Morton, a laceman of Covent Garden, arrested the Russian ambassador for a debt of one hundred pounds. The ambassador insisted on his exemption from arrest in virtue of his office; but the bailiffs used him very roughly and dragged him to prison till the earl of Feversham gave bail for him. Matueof, the ambassador, exasperated at this treatment, demanded summary redress of government, and his demands were supported by the ambassadors of the emperor, the king of Prussia, and other princes. The queen expressed the highest indignation at the occurrence, and the sheriff and his officers, with Morton, the laceman, and altogether thirteen persons concerned in the affray, were indicted for the offence in the Queen's Bench Court, and found guilty. Mr. Secretary Boyle assured the ambassador that the whole of the offenders should be punished severely for their conduct. But the ambassador of the demi-savage Czar thought nothing of such punishment as a little imprisonment. He demanded passports for himself and family, went over to Holland, and thence forwarded a memorial of his injuries to' the queen, accompanied by a letter from the Czar, demanding the immediate execution of every person concerned in the outrage. This was the punishment which Peter would himself have inflicted on them without any trial, probably cutting off half a dozen of the heads with his own hand; and the explanations of the queen's ministers, that no such punishment could be awarded to such an offence, only the more excited the anger of both Czar and ambassador. The government were greatly embarrassed by the case. They, however, deemed it necessary for the pacification of the Czar, and for the protection of all ambassadors, to bring in a bill by which not only the suit against the ambassador and all claims against his bail were made void, and the ambassador fully indemnified from all costs and damages in the case, but all the ambassadors and their servants were exempt from all suits against their person or distraint of their goods. No bankrupt, however, who put himself into the service of an ambassador to defraud his creditors, was to enjoy any benefit of the act; and it was necessary for all servants of ambassadors, in order to enjoy its protection, to register their names in the office of one of the principal secretaries of state, a list of which should be transmitted to the sheriffs of London and Middlesex, and be suspended publicly in their offices. A copy of this act, engrossed on vellum, and showily ornamented, was sent to the Czar, with an apologetic letter from the queen, and this at length succeeded in appeasing the northern despot's wrath.

On the 21st of June, Marlborough and prince Eugene crossed the frontiers of France, and with a force of one hundred and ten thousand men drew up in a plain near Lille. Marshal Villars, considered now the ablest general of France, encamped his army on the plain of Sens betwixt two impassable morasses, and began to entrench himself. The allies reconnoitred his position, but found it too strong to attack him in it; and as they could not advance towards Paris leaving such an enemy behind them, they made a feint of attacking Ypres, and then suddenly marching on Tournay in the night of the 27th of June, they presented themselves before it on the 7th of July. The place was strong, but the garrison was weak. It consisted of only twelve battalions of infantry and four squadrons of horse, in very inefficient condition. Villars endeavoured to throw into the place seven thousand fresh troops, but he could not effect it. The governor, lieutenant de Surville, was a man of great military skill and determination, and he maintained the siege with such vigour that the allies were not only detained before the place for a long and invaluable time, but lost many men. The town capitulated on the 28th of July, when the allies were about to carry it by storm, but the citadel held out till the 3rd of September. The same day, leaving a detachment under the earl of Albemarle to level the defences, the allies crossed the Scheldt and determined to besiege Möns. They sent forward a detachment under the prince of Hesse to attack the French lines from the Haisne to the Sambre, which were abandoned at his approach. At this juncture marshal Bouffiers arrived to support Villars, and, though his superior in command, agreed to serve under him. Marlborough, hearing that Villars had quitted his camp, and that the French were on the march to attack the prince of Hesse and cut off the approaches to Möns, made a rapid movement, which brought him face to face with the French army, which consisted of one hundred and twenty thousand men - ten thousand more than the army of -the allies. Villars and Bouffiers were encamped behind the woods of La Merte and Tanieres, in the neighbourhood of Malplaquet. The allies encamped with their right near Sart and Bleron, and the left on the edge of the wood of Lagniere, the head-quarters being at Blaregines. On the 9th of September the outposts of the two armies began to skirmish, but the French fell back on an encampment near Malplaquet, and spent the night in fortifying their position. Had the allies immediately attacked them the battle would have been less obstinate; but Marlborough was waiting for the coming up of eighteen battalions left to raise the fortifications of Tournay. For two days that he thus continued to wait, the French, with unremitting activity, proceeded in casting up triple intrenchments, and were, in fact, so completely covered with lines, hedges, intrenchments, cannon, and trees laid across, that the Dutch field-deputies declared that it would be madness to attack them in such a situation. But on the 11th, when the expected battalions had arrived, Marlborough and Eugene determined to give battle.

Early on the morning of the 12th of September they availed themselves of a thick fog to erect batteries on each wing, and the day clearing about eight o'clock, the engagement began. The battle began on the right by eighty-six battalions, commanded by general Schuylemberg and the duke of Argyll, supported by two-and-twenty battalions under count Lottum, who broke through the French lines, and fought with such fury that, notwithstanding their strong barricades, the French in less than an hour were forced from their intrenchments, and compelled to seek refuge in the woods of Sart and Tanieres. The contest was far more desperate on the left, where the prince of Orange and baron Fagel, with six-and-thirty battalions, attacked the right of the enemy posted in the woods of La Merte, and covered with three intrenchments. The prince of Orange led on the charge with wonderful bravery, having two horses killed under him, and the greater part of his officers killed around him. The engagement was now general, and the French continued to fight with the fury of despair from eight in the morning till three in the afternoon, when, seeing all their lines forced, their left being utterly routed, and the centre under Villars giving way, Villars himself being dangerously wounded, they began to retreat towards Bavay, under the direction of Bouffiers, and retired to a position betwixt Quesnoi and Valenciennes. The forest of Ardennes served to protect the French from the pursuit of their enemies, and enabled them to carry off most of their cannon and standards. About forty colours and standards and sixteen pieces of cannon were taken by the allies, with a considerable number of prisoners. But on surveying the field of battle they found that this was the dearest victory which they had ever purchased. About twenty thousand of their soldiers lay slain, and about ten thousand of the enemy. Thirty thousand lives sacrificed in one battle! Neither Blenheim nor Ramillies could compare with Malplaquet in monstrosity of carnage. Nor was the impression produced equal to the destruction. The French, under the able command of Villars, notwithstanding their defeat, felt rather reassured than depressed. They had inflicted far more damage than they had received, and Villars declared that, had he not been so severely wounded, he would not have left the field without the victory.

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