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The Reign of Queen Anne - (Concluded) page 10


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Besides the hostility of the ministry, Marlborough owed to his fiery duchess, there is every reason to believe, the stoppage of the queen's payment of the workmen at Blenheim House. Marlborough House being completed just as the final rupture between the queen and the Marlboroughs took place, they quitted their apartments in St. James's; and when these apartments were examined, according to Cox, they appeared to have been sacked by an enemy. The locks were torn off the doors, the looking-glasses and pictures rent from their panels, and the marble slabs forced out; and the queen declared, in her anger, " that as the duchess of Marlborough had dilapidated her house at St. James's, she would not build her one;" she, therefore, stopped the payments to Blenheim.

But the causes which drove Marlborough from England were undoubtedly complicated. The tory party subjected him to repeated insults, and Oxford, aware of his correspondence with St. Germains, it is asserted by Dalrymple, had procured the original letter which he wrote to that court, betraying the expedition to Brest in 1694, by which it was defeated, and the life of general Talmadge sacrificed. If this was the case, the life of Marlborough was in Oxford's hands, though Marlborough must have been aware of Bolingbroke's correspondence with the same court, if not of the more cautious Oxford's. According to the same authority, however, a private meeting took place betwixt Oxford and Marlborough, at the house of Mr. Thomas Harley, to which Marlborough went in a sedan, and to the back-door; that this letter was shown to him, and that he quitted England immediately.

What if there should have been still further reasons for this expatriation? Marlborough, great general as he was, had all his life been a selfish and double-dealing man. He had made a princely fortune, and he wished to keep it under any change. He, therefore, continued to keep up a correspondence with the elector of Hanover and the pretender to the last, so that whichever came in he might stand well with him. He wrote to St. Germains, showing that though he had appeared to fight against the king of England, as he styled the pretender, it was not so. He had fought to reduce the power of France, which would be as much to the advantage of the king when he came to the throne, as it was to the present queen. He gave his advice to the pretender for his security and success. "The French king and his ministers," he says, "will sacrifice everything to their own views of peace. The earl of Oxford and his associates in office will probably insist upon the king's retiring to Italy; but he must never consent. He must neither yield to the French king, nor to the fallacious insinuations of the British ministry, on a point which must inevitably ruin his cause. To retire to Italy, by the living God, is the same thing as to stab himself to the heart. Let him take refuge in Germany, or in some country on this side of the Alps. He wants no security for his person; no one will touch a hair of his head. I perceive such a change in his favour, that I think it is impossible but that he must succeed. But when he shall succeed, let there be no retrospect towards the past. All that has been done since the Revolution must be confirmed." He added that queen Anne had no real aversion to her brother's interests, but that she must not be alarmed, as she was very timid.

Now, uneasy, humiliated, and unsafe at home, it is very obvious that, with these views, no place could be so likely to serve Marlborough's objects as an abode in the Netherlands. He was then in a country covered with his battle fields and his fame; he was most conveniently situated at Brussels or at Antwerp, where he finally located himself, for corresponding with and watching the movements of the rival claimants to the British throne, and would be ready to avail himself instantly of the ascendency of either. He did not return to England till Anne lay on her death-bed, nor to London till she was in her coffin.

At length it was announced in England that peace was signed with France at Utrecht, and it was laid before the council. Bolingbroke had made another journey to the continent to hasten the event, but it did not receive the adhesion of the emperor at last. Holland, Prussia, Portugal, and Savoy had signed, but the emperor, both as king of Austria and head of the empire, stood out, and he was to be allowed till the 1st of June to accept or finally reject participation in it. This conclusion had not been come to except after two years' negotiation, and the most obstinate resistance on the part of all the others except England. Even in the English cabinet it did not receive its ratification without some dissent. The lord Cholmondley refused to sign it, and was dismissed from his office of treasurer of the household.

Oil the 9th of April the queen opened parliament, though she was obliged to be carried thither and back in a chair in consequence of her corpulence and gout. She congratulated the country on this great event, declared her firm adherence to the protestant succession, advised them to take measures for reducing the scandalous licentiousness of the press, and to prevent duelling, in allusion to the tragic issue of that betwixt Hamilton and Mohun. She finally exhorted them to cultivate peace amongst themselves, to endeavour to allay party rage, and as to what forces should be necessary by land and the sea, she added," Make yourselves safe, I shall be satisfied. Next to the protection of Divine Providence, I depend on the loyalty and affection of my people; I want no other guarantee."

On the 4th of May the proclamation of peace took place. It was exactly eleven years since the commencement of the war. The conditions finally arrived at were those which we have stated, except that it was concluded to confer Sicily on the duke of Savoy for his great services in the war; on the elector of Bavaria, as some equivalent for the loss of Bavaria itself, Sardinia, with the title of king; and that, should Philip of Spain leave no issue, the crown of Spain should also pass to him. We have fully expressed our opinion of the disgraceful motives which guided the ministry in making this peace, the equally disgraceful manner in which it was effected, and the advantages which were recklessly sacrificed in it. It was not that peace was made, but that it was made without regard to the national honour or the interests of Europe at large. In confirmation of our own opinions, we will here quote those of two of our most distinguished historians, lord Mahon, now earl Stanhope, and Mr. Hallam.

Lord Mahon says: - "To our enemies I would willingly leave the task of recounting the disgraceful transactions of that period. Let them relate the bedchamber influence of Mrs. Masham with her sovereign, and the treacherous cabals of Harley with his colleagues; by what unworthy means the great administration of Godolphin was sapped and overthrown; how his successors surrendered the public interests to serve their own; how subserviency to France became our leading principle of policy; how the Dutch were forsaken, and the Catalonians betrayed, until at length this career of wickedness and weakness received its, consummation in the shameful peace of Utrecht. It used to be observed, several centuries ago, that, as the English always had the better of the French in battle, so the French always had the better in treaties; but here it was a sin against light - not the ignorance which is deluded, but the falsehood which deludes. We may admit that it might be expedient to depart from the strict letter of the grand alliance - to consent to some slight dismemberment of the Spanish monarchy - to purchase the resignation of Philip, or allow an equivalent for the elector of Bavaria by the cession of Sicily and Sardinia, or, perhaps, of Naples. So many hands had grasped at the royal mantle of Spain, that it could scarcely be otherwise than rent in the struggle. But how can the friends of Bolingbroke and Oxford possibly explain or excuse that they should offer far better terms at Utrecht in 1712 than the French had been willing to accept at Gertruydenberg in 1709? Or, if the dismissal of the duke of Marlborough had so far raised the spirits of our enemies and impaired the chances of the war, how is that dismissal itself to be defended?"

Hallam's remarks are equally cogent: - "That an English minister should have thrown himself into the arms of his enemy at the first overture of negotiation; that he should have renounced advantages on which he might have insisted; that he should have restored Lille, and almost attempted to procure the sacrifice of Tournay; that, throughout the whole correspondence, and in all personal interviews with De Torcy, he should have shown the triumphant queen of Great Britain more eager for peace than his vanquished adversary; that the two courts should have been virtually conspiring against those allies without whom we had bound ourselves to enter on no treaty; that we should have withdrawn our troops in the midst of a campaign, and even seized upon the towns of our confederates, while we left them exposed to be overwhelmed by a superior force; that we should have thus deceived those confederates by the most direct falsehood in denying our clandestine treaty, and then dictated to them its acceptance - are facts so disgraceful to Bolingbroke, and in somewhat a less degree to Oxford, that they can hardly be palliated by establishing the expediency of the treaty itself."

The treaty of peace, discreditable as it was, received the sanction of the parliament; not so the treaty of commerce. By this treaty it was provided that a free trade should be established according to the tariff of 1664, except as it related to certain commodities which were subjected to new regulations in 1669. This went to abolish all the restrictions on the importation of goods from France since that period, and that within two months a law should be passed that no higher duties should be levied on goods brought from France than on the like goods from any other country in Europe. Commissioners were appointed to meet in London to carry these propositions into effect; but there immediately appeared a violent opposition to these regulations, which were contained in the eighth and ninth articles of the treaty of commerce. It was declared that these articles violated the treaty of Methuen, according to which the duties on Portuguese wines were always to be lower by one-third than the duties on the French wines. Out of doors the merchants attacked the treaty in a paper started by Sir Charles Cooke, Sir Theodore Janson, and others, in which they contended that a free trade with France would be more serious to England than the fire of London had been; that if the wines of France were introduced on equal terms with those of Portugal, we should immediately lose the trade with Portugal for our woollen manufactures, by which we netted a sum of six hundred thousand pounds yearly. The French wines were far more to the taste of the English than the Portuguese; and such had been the longing for them during the war, that the English voluptuaries would, if they could have had their will, have made peace at any time with France in order to get them cheap and plentifully. The same opinions were loudly proclaimed in the house by the whig members, and by tories, too, connected with trade. On the side opposed to the treaty were Sir Nathaniel Gould, formerly governor of the bank of England, Mr. Lechmere, an eminent lawyer, Sir Peter King, Sir Thomas Hanmer, and general Stanhope. They contended that since the revolution France had encouraged woollen manufactures, and prepared at home several commodities which they formerly depended on England for; that the English, on the other hand, had learned to make silk stuffs, paper, and all manner of toys, formerly imported from France, by which means an infinite number of hands were employed, and a vast sum annually saved to the nation; that all these artificers would be at once reduced to beggary by the influx of French articles of the same kind, which could be sold cheaper because labour was cheaper in France; that the silk manufacture would be attended with another injury; that our merchants vended in Turkey and Italy great quantities of woollen cloths in exchange for raw silk, which trade would be immediately lost if we could not take their silk. They declared that, had the English army been allowed to act honestly and vigorously with the allies till peace was made, the French dared not even to have asked for such a privilege, and we should have been far enough from granting it them.

On the other hand the tories, converted into advocates of free trade by their peculiar position, contended that the whigs ought to have made peace at Gertruydenberg when they could have had their own terms. Amongst the leaders on the side of free trade and the treaty were Sir William Wyndham, Mr. Arthur Moore, Sir George Newland, and Mr. Heysham - the two last, whigs. Arthur Moore was a wealthy and enlightened merchant, who by his industry and ability had raised himself from the rank of a footman. He it was who had suggested to Bolingbroke the principles of the treaty, far in advance of the time, though Bolingbroke, with his selfish ambition, for a time managed to get all the credit of it. Wyndham argued that it was a mere fallacy that England would lose the exportation of woollen cloths to Portugal by equalising the duties of French and Portuguese wines; that the Portuguese wanted the cloths, must have them, and could get them nowhere else; that it was optional for Portugal to sell her wines at a price to compete successfully with France in return for our corn and woollens. Spite of the vigorous opposition, leave was granted to bring in the bill by a majority of two hundred and fifty-two against one hundred and thirty.

This appeared very promising for the ministry; but on the 9th of June, when the house of commons went into committee on the bill, a great number of merchants desired to be heard against it. For several days their statements were heard, and the Portuguese ambassador also presented a memorial declaring that should the duties on French wines "be lowered to those of Portugal, his master would renew the woollen and other duties on the products of Great Britain. This seemed to enforce the mercantile opinions; the sense of the whole country was against the treaty, and the speech of Sir Thomas Hanmer, a tory, made a deep impression. There was, however, a growing rumour, during the latter days of the debate, that Oxford had given the treaty up - a rumour probably not without foundation, for Oxford and Bolingbroke were no longer at unity. The latter, ambitious and unprincipled, was intriguing to oust his more slow and dilatory colleague; and, as the bill was ostensibly the work of Bolingbroke, probably Oxford was by no means unwilling that it should be thrown out and damage him. When the question, therefore, was put on the 18th of June, that the bill be engrossed, it was negatived by a majority of one hundred and ninety-four to one hundred and eighty-five. Thus the commercial treaty was lost, much to the joy of the nation, and certainly to its immediate benefit, for, although free trade principles are undoubtedly the most advantageous in the long run, there is no denying that these changes, suddenly introduced, would have produced ruinous effects for a time. Bishop Burnet's opinion that "if we had been as often beaten by the French as they had been by us, this would have been thought a very hard treaty," was no doubt the feeling of the majority of the nation. It was calculated by merchants that the balance against, or loss to, Great Britain annually from the treaty, would not have been less than a million and a half. This could not have adjusted itself but in a course of many years, and through much popular suffering, which, with the principles of reciprocity yet untried, was not likely to be tamely endured, especially as such advantages offered to France only increased the public disgust at the precipitate surrender of so many others in the general treaty.

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