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Reign of Queen Anne (Continued) page 9


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All argument, however, availed little in the lords, but the commons sent up two alterations as amendments, namely, that the names of the witnesses should be furnished to the prisoners ten days before the trial, and confiscation of estate should not follow a conviction of treason. These amendments were stoutly resisted in the lords, but were at length admitted on the condition proposed by lord Halifax, that they should not take place during the life of the pretender. With these important exceptions the laws of treason in the two kingdoms were assimilated, and it was enacted that the use of torture which had continued in Scotland, though contrary to the letter of the law, down to the revolution, should be utterly abolished. In order to conciliate the feelings of the Scotch after this harsh piece of legislation, which was formally protested against by the whole of the Scottish peers who had seats in parliament, the queen granted an act of grace pardoning all acts of treason committed before the 19th of April, the date of the passing of this bill, except such as were done at sea, thus excepting those who had embarked with the pretender.

A bill was brought into parliament this session for the naturalisation of all foreign protestants who should come to England, upon their taking the oaths to government, and receiving the sacrament in any protestant church. It was proposed by some that this privilege should not be attained except they took the sacrament according to the rites of the ' church of England; but this was opposed, and Burnet, to the scandal of more rigid bishops, took a decided part in the lords in advocating the more liberal measure of granting naturalisation to all who took the sacrament in any protestant form. The bill was carried, but it was followed by great clamour; for some thousands of poor Germans, both catholics and protestants, had flocked over to this country, in the hope of getting to our colonies in America. The Rhine country, and particularly the palatinate, had been so repeatedly ravaged by the French during these wars, that the country had become a desert. Every summer they were liable to the march of fresh armies across their lands, to the destruction of their harvests, the plunder of their farmyards, and the burning of their houses. Driven by destitution and despair, and seeing no prospect of any cessation of their calamities, they began to flock over in shoals in 1706 and 1707, and the stream of emigration still continued. The queen, pitying their sufferings, had permitted their coming hither, and the ministers had consented to the admission of five thousand of them. The miserable people hastened to reach this country as a favoured spot which knew nothing of the horrors of war, and had boundless territories in America which could absorb them all. But it was soon found that it was not enough to allow them to come, means must be taken to support them here, and means to transport them across the Atlantic. No such arrangements had been made, and there was presently a large army of these destitute foreigners encamped in huts and tents on Blackheath, who were in a condition of the most frightful starvation. Though our colonists would have welcomed the poor palatines with open arms, having urgent need of all their labour, there was no employment for them here; and as bread was high in price, there was speedily a clamour raised, that the government were bringing over foreigners to supply the place of the English that they killed in the war, and that the poor here were to be swamped by an inundation of foreigners, who would work for much less than English labourers could maintain their families upon. The whigs had contended that it would have precisely this effect of repairing the waste of our own population; and that as these poor Germans were extremely industrious and masters of various trades as well as of agriculture, they would do much good amongst us. But the tories now seized on these arguments, and contended that they would add to the number of the poor, already too numerous, eat the bread of the native labourers, and reduce the scale of their wages. There was already a cry that all round the neighbourhood where they were encamped the day's wage of a labourer had fallen from a shilling to eight- pence. They asserted, too, that these foreigners, retaining a love for their native country, would correspond with their friends there, and thus act as spies; whilst, continuing to deluge the country with fresh arrivals, they would intermarry and destroy the true British character of the race.

These representations excited a rancorous prejudice against these unfortunate people. The tories refused to employ or relieve any except such as were protestants and willing to become members of the church; and the French refugees, who had settled here, having themselves fled from persecution, are said to have been amongst the most pitiless and jealous of their opponents. The clamour against them compelled active measures for their relief. The bishops and many other philanthropic persons of all ranks exerted themselves for their support, to procure employment for them, and above all, to get them conveyed over to America or to Ireland. This, however, could not be accomplished all at once, and as winter approached, empty houses were hired in the suburbs to shelter them, and benevolent people took others into their houses, till they could be shipped off, or otherwise disposed of. The sight of this misery might have suggested to the public the horrors which these desolating wars were spreading over the continent. The queen, who, if she were not endowed with a great intellect, possessed a thoroughly tender heart, at the news of fresh victories, instead of rejoicing, used to exclaim, when she saw the lists of the killed and wounded, u O Lord! when will all this dreadful bloodshed cease! "

But dreadful as was the condition to which the fiendish ambition of Louis XIV. had reduced Flanders, Spain, the north of Italy, and many parts of Germany, that of his own country and subjects was still more deplorable. Never was a kingdom reduced to such misery by the mad ambition of its monarch. Trade, agriculture, everything had been shrivelled up by the perpetual demands of these incessant wars. The wealthy classes were become as poor as the rest; the middle classes were ruined; the common people were drained off to the army if men, and sunk into beggary if women, children, or old people. All credit was at an end: the treasury of the king was empty, and his chief banker, Bernard, was bankrupt, as were hundreds of the same class of men. The most violent and spasmodic exertions had been made to raise the supplies for the armies in the different fields, and still of late nothing had come but tidings after tidings of disastrous and murderous defeats. The Fermiers Generaux, or farmers of the taxes, were out in all parts of France endeavouring to extort those levies which the ordinary tax-gatherers had demanded and distrained for in vain. The people of France were under a perpetual visitation of these officers, and though they were ill prepared to pay once, had frequently to pay more than once, the same taxes being demanded by different officers, the regular tax collector, or the agents of those to whom they were farmed out. The ministers themselves, Chamillart, Pontchartrain, and others of the proud servants of the proud grand monarque, were compelled to make journeys through the provinces to raise money for the necessities of the state in any way that could be devised. Such was the terrible condition of France: the people starving, ruined, and hopeless, and yet the daily victims of an incessant visitation of tax-gatherers, who, whilst they failed to procure the necessary sums for the war, were actively plundering and embezzling on their own account. Nothing but the immeasurable pride of the haughty but now defeated king could cause him to hold out; and even this chance seemed scarcely left him, for the enemy was already on the frontiers of France, already they had crossed that frontier, and laid the country under contribution in Picardy, and another campaign might see them in full march on Paris.

The duke of Marlborough had not, as usual, visited England at the end of the campaign in 1708, which did not terminate till actual winter. He continued at the Hague, his enemies said, merely to look after his own interests, for, by various modes which we have already mentioned, he was making immense sums by his command. But although we may be quite satisfied that Marlborough would never neglect his own interests, these interests equally, or perhaps more pressingly, demanded his presence in England. Harley and the tories, he knew, were actively though secretly engaged in ruining his credit with the queen, and the conduct of his wife was not of a kind to counteract these efforts. But Marlborough's interests were inseparably linked to his reputation, and that reputation now demanded his most vigilant attention at the Hague. He saw the triumphant position of the allies, and the miserable condition of France. It is asserted, therefore, that he and prince Eugene had planned boldly to march, on the opening of the next campaign, into France, and carry the war to the gates of Paris. There is no more doubt that they could have done that than that the allies did it in 1814, and again in 1815. The whole of the wars against France had been too timidly carried on. With the forces which were at William's command, the war might have been made offensive instead of defensive, and Louis have found his own territories subjected to the ravages which he had committed on those of the States and the German empire. Now there was nothing to prevent the victorious arms of Marlborough penetrating to the French capital, humbling completely the troubler of Europe, and the allies there dictating their own terms of peace. Nothing, indeed, but the subtle acts of Louis, and the timid policy of the Dutch.

And already Marlborough was aware that Louis, compelled to open his eyes to his critical situation, was beginning to tamper with the Dutch for a separate peace. Some of his own nearest kinsmen, and especially his grandson, the duke of Burgundy, had spoken very plainly to Louis. They had asked him whether he meant irretrievably to ruin France in order to establish his grandson on the throne of Spain. They had laid fully before him the wasted condition of France, and the rapidly growing ascendency of the allies. The pride of the old king was' forced to stoop, and he consented to sue for peace. He could not, however, bring himself to seek this of the allies all together, but from Holland, whom he hoped by his arts to detach from the confederation. He dispatched Bouille, the president of the council, to Holland, who met Buys and Vanderdussen, the pensionaries of Amsterdam and Gonda, at Woerden, betwixt Ley den and Utrecht, and Bouille offered to make terms with the Dutch very advantageous to them. Vanderdussen and Buys replied that he must first of all put into their hands certain fortified towns necessary for the security of their frontier. To this Bouille would not listen. The Dutch communicated the French proposals to their allies, and told the French minister that they could enter into no negotiations without them. Prince Eugene hastened from Vienna to the Hague, and he and Marlborough consulted on the propositions with Heinsius, Buys, and Vanderdussen; and it was unanimously decided that they could not be accepted.

It was now near the end of April, and the allies saw that it would not do to allow Louis to amuse them with offers which came to nothing, when they should be marching towards his capital. Whilst, therefore, Bouille dispatched the news of the rejection of his offers to Versailles, Marlborough made a hasty journey to England, to take the opinion of his government as to the terms of the treaty. The receipt of Bouille's despatch at the French court produced the utmost consternation. The king was fixed in his proud determination to offer no ampler terms; his minister represented that it was impossible to carry on the war. The scene of terror and distress in that formerly haughty and domineering court, which trusted to put all Europe under its feet, was indescribable. The truculent Louis^ who had never evinced the slightest compunction for the miseries his ambition had sown all over Europe, now wept like a weak woman, and refused to listen to any proposals likely to be more acceptable. But there was no alternative, and at length Bouille was instructed to amuse the allies with the proposal to repurchase Lille and to yield up Tournay, till the marquis De Torcy could arrive to his assistance. De Torcy, the minister for foreign affairs, set off for the Hague, not openly as the French plenipotentiary, but merely furnished with a courier's passport, and ran many risks of being discovered and seized on the way. At Brussels he had a very narrow escape; but, by the aid of a Dutch banker there, he was enabled to pursue his journey, and reached the Hague late at night on the 6th of May. He waited immediately on the pensionary Heinsius, and that minister, a plain, unostentatious man, who had been the great friend of William III., and had been consulted on all the great measures and treaties of his time, and since had been equally in the confidence of Marlborough and Eugene, suffered the French minister to wait a good while in his ante-chamber. He did not forget that, when Louis was in the pride of his success, he himself had been sent as envoy to Paris, and that the then insolent minister, Louvois, had treated him with the greatest indignity, and even threatened to throw him into the Bastille. The times were now changed, and he suffered the Frenchman to feel it a littlef and then admitted him and treated him with all courtesy.

De Torcy now offered much more enlarged terms. Louis was willing to destroy the fortifications of Dunkirk at the instance of the allies; to engage to send the pretender out of France, and also not to aid him in any attempt on the throne of Great Britain, provided that provision was made for his security and maintenance. He would give up Sicily, but would retain Naples, a country entirely gone out of his power for more than two years, and in possession of Austria. He even proposed that Philip should resign Spain and the Indies; but his allies the electors of Bavaria and Cologne must be provided for, as they had sacrificed their own territories in his alliance. The main difficulties appeared to be the frontier towns of Lille, New Brisac, and Henningen, in Flanders, De Torcy contending that the surrender of Ypres, Menin, Conde, and a few inferior fortresses, would be sufficient for frontier defences. As they would give up Spain, the only obstacle in the south appeared the demand on Naples. These terms would have been received with exultation by the allies some time ago, but they were now in a different position, and their demands were proportionate.

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