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The Reign of Queen Anne - (Concluded) page 11


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The defeated party, however, did not give up the idea of the treaty of commerce. Another bill was introduced to modify, or, as it was called, to render the commercial treaty more effectual; but such a host of petitions was presented against it, that it was abandoned. Sir Thomas Hanmer, however, proposed and carried an address to the queen, which was intended to cover in some degree the defeat of the ministers; and as he had got rid of the bill itself, he did not hesitate to move for what appeared inconsistent with his proceedings, namely, thanking her majesty for the care she had taken of the security and honour of the kingdom by the treaty of peace, and also by her anxiety for a treaty of commerce; and, further, recommending her to appoint commissioners to meet those of France, and endeavour to arrange such terms of commerce as should be for the good and welfare of her people. This was laid hold of, as was no doubt intended, in the queen's reply, which assumed this to be a declaration of a full approbation of the treaty of commerce as well as that of peace; and she thanked them in the warmest terms for their address.

Encouraged by their success against the commercial treaty, the whigs demanded that the pretender, according to the treaty of peace, should be requested to quit France. It had been proposed by the French court, and privately acceded to by Anne, that he should take up his residence at Bar-le-duc or Lorraine. The duke of Lorraine had taken care to inquire whether this would be agreeable to the queen, and was assured by her minister that it would be quite so. As his territory - though really a portion of France - was nominally an independent territory, it seemed to comply with the terms of the treaty; but the whigs knew that this was a weak point, and on the 29th of June, lord Wharton, without any previous notice, moved in the peers that the pretender should remove from the duke of Lorraine's dominions. The court party was completely taken by surprise, and there was an awkward pause. At length lord North ventured to suggest that such a request would show a distrust of her majesty, and he asked where was the pretender to retire to, seeing that most, if not all, the powers of Europe were on as friendly terms with the king as the duke of Lorraine. Lord Peterborough sarcastically remarked that as the pretender had begun his studies at Paris, he might very fitly go and finish them at Rome. No one, however, dared to oppose the motion, which was accordingly carried unanimously. On the 1st of July, only two days afterwards, general Stanhope made a similar motion in the house of commons, which was equally afraid to oppose it, seeing that the house was still under the triennial act, and this was its last session. The slightest expression in favour of the pretender would have to be answered on the hustings, and there was a long silence. Sir William Whitelock, however, was bold enough to throw out a significant remark, that he remembered the like address being formerly made to the protector to have king Charles Stuart removed out of France, "leaving to every member's mind to suggest how soon after he returned to the throne of England notwithstanding.'' The addresses carried up from both houses were received by the queen with an air of acquiescence, and promises to do her best to have the pretender removed. Prior, in Paris, was directed to make the wishes of the public known to the French government, but this was merely pro forma; it was well understood that there was no real earnestness on the part of the English queen or ministry. Prior, writing to Bolingbroke, said that De Torcy asked him questions, which for the best reason in the world he did not answer; as, for instance, "how can we oblige a man to go from one place when we forbid all others to receive him?" In fact, the abbe Gualtier, in his private correspondence, assures us that Bolingbroke himself suggested to the duke of Lorraine the pretexts for eluding the very commands that he publicly sent him.

Another subject agitated parliament before its close nearly as much as the debate on the commercial treaty. The commons granted an aid of two shillings in the pound, and proposed to renew the malt duty for another year, and to extend it to Scotland. The Scotch members objected to this, that it was contrary to an article of the union; and, during the adjournment for the Whitsuntide holidays, the Scots of both houses, and of all parties, met to determine on their mode of action on the subject. They deputed the earl of Argyll, the earl of Mar, Mr. Lockhart, and Mr. Coekburn, to lay their grievances before the queen. They represented to her majesty that their countrymen, already incensed by the violations of various articles of the union, would probably, should this bill be passed, determine on dissolving the union. The queen was alarmed at this menace, replied that they might have cause to repent so precipitate a resolve, but promised that she would endeavour to make all easy. On the 1st of June, however, the earl of Findlater, in the house of lords, declared that the Scotch found the union broken at the pleasure of the English; that even in the observance of it they were deprived of a privy council, were rendered incapable of being created British peers, and that as they were now to be oppressed with the malt tax - a war tax, when they were calculating on the blessings of peace - he therefore moved to bring in a bill to abolish the union. A violent debate ensued. Lord North declared the complaints of the Scots utterly groundless, the repeal of the union impossible, and made some contemptuous allusions to the poverty of that nation. Lord Eglinton retorted that it was because they were poor; they could not bear the imposition of the malt tax. The, earl of Peterborough contended that the union was like a; marriage. That England was like the husband, Scotland, the wife, but that because the husband was in some measure unkind, the lady ought not to seek a divorce, inasmuch as! by the marriage she had greatly improved her fortune. He said the Scots wanted to have all the advantages of the union, and to pay nothing, though they had received more money than would have purchased all their estates. This called up the duke of Argyll in great anger; but amidst his wrath, he made the very pertinent observation that taxing malt in Scotland, where it fetched only one fourth of the price it did in England, was like taxing land in Scotland which would not fetch many shillings an acre at the same rate as land near London would fetch as many pounds. Faction, however, and not reason, was exerted on the occasion; and the monstrous sight was seen of the whigs now voting with Scots eagerly for the destruction of their own handiwork, the union, perhaps the noblest work they accomplished; and the tories were beheld as zealous, but not as disgracefully defending the very measure they had formerly done their utmost to prevent. The result was that the motion for the dissolution of the union was negatived, but not till the proxies were called in, when, there being thirteen in the affirmative and seventeen in the negative, the union was only preserved by a majority of four. The discussion, however, was not lost on the government. Bolingbroke, in a letter to the duke of Shrewsbury, confessed that it had caused the government to reflect that at once more firmness and more indulgence to Scotland were necessary. " We shall, I believe, grant on this motion a bill to make it high treason to attempt, by any overt act, the dissolution of the union. If after this we go on to show them all reasonable indulgence, and at the same time to show to them and to all mankind a firmness of resolution and a steadiness of conduct, good will have come out of evil, and we shall reap some benefit from this contretemps."

Anne prorogued parliament on the 16th of July in a speech, in which she congratulated herself on having conducted a long and bloody war, which she had inherited, and not occasioned. She trusted also that before the meeting of the next parliament the commercial interests of France and England would be better understood, so that there would be no longer any obstacle to a good commercial treaty. She said not a word regarding the pretender, so that it was felt by the whigs that she had followed the dictates of nature rather than of party in regard to him. On the 8th of August she dissolved parliament by proclamation, its triennial term having expired. Burnet says it had acquired the name of the pacific parliament; and here winds up his own history with the remark that "no assembly but one composed as this was, could have sate quiet under such a peace." There was every effort made, however, to impress on the constituencies the high merit of the parliament in making an advantageous and glorious peace, medals being cast for that purpose bearing the effigy of the queen and a Latin motto laudatory of peace. The chief negotiator of the peace, Robinson, bishop of Bristol, and lord privy seal, was advanced to the see of London, vacant by the death of the stout old militant bishop Compton, and Atterbury, the defender of Sacheverel, another strong tory divine, not to say strong Jacobite, was made bishop of Rochester in place of a poor poet and diligent time-server. Nor did Sacheverel himself go without his honour and reward. His term of three years' suspension had expired in March, and on the very first Sunday of his again taking possession of his pulpit at St. Saviour's, he preached a sermon from the text, " Father, forgive them, they know not what they do;" in which he almost blasphemously drew a comparison betwixt his own sufferings and those of the Redeemer. There were great rejoicings on account of his restoration to his clerical functions; the house of commons appointed him to preach before them on the anniversary of the restoration, and the crown conferred on him the rich living of St. Andrew's, Holborn. Yet all the tory interest could not procure even a decent reception to the French ambassador, the duke D'Aumont, who now came over. He was insulted by the populace, scurrilous ballads in both French and English were published about him, and he received many threatening letters, informing him that if he did not withdraw himself, his house should be burnt over his head; and this base threat was actually carried into effect.

The magistrates of Dunkirk sent over a deputation praying the queen to spare the harbour and defences of Dunkirk, and representing that they would be just as useful to her as they had been to France; but their arguments were answered by Addison, Steele, and Mainwaring, commissioners were sent over to see the fortifications razed, and the port filled up, which was done. D'Aumont, the ambassador, quitted his uneasy post in England in November. Whilst, however, the queen had been firm in seeing the terms of the treaty observed, she had not hesitated to remonstrate with Louis on the barbarous severity shown by him to the protestants of his own kingdom, thousands of whom were languishing in prison, and other thousands enduring the worst of slavery in the galleys. At her urgent request a hundred and thirty-six of these wretched protestants of the Cevennes were liberated from the galleys, and afterwards, on her representation that she understood yet more were in a similar condition, there was another liberation; but after all thousands remained under the pitiless endurance of the bigoted cruelty of the much-lauded but monstrous sovereign.

The elections were now carried on with all the fire and zeal of the two parties. The tories boasted of their successful efforts to stem the tide of expenditure for the war, to stanch the flow of blood, and restore all the blessings of peace. The whigs, on the contrary, made the most of their opposition to the treaty of commerce, which they represented as designed to sacrifice our trade to the insane regard now shown to the French. To show their interest in trade, they wore locks of wool in their hats, and the tories, to show their attachment to the restoration and the crown, wore green twigs of oak. Never was shown more completely the want of logical reason in the populace, for whilst they were declaring their zeal for the protestant succession, and whilst burning in effigy on the 18th of November, queen Bess's day, the pope, the devil, and the pretender, they sent up a powerful majority of the men who were by no means secretly growing more and more favourable to the pretender's return. Never, indeed, had the chances of his restoration appeared so great. General Stanhope, on the close of the elections, told the Hanoverian minister that the majority was against them, and that if things continued ever so short a time on the present footing, the elector would not come to the crown unless he came with an army.

In the Maepherson and Lockhart papers we have now the fullest evidence of what was going on to this end. The agents of both Hanover and St. Germains were active, but those of Hanover were depressed, those of St Germains never in such hope. The Jesuit Plunkett wrote, "The changes go on by degrees to the king's advantage, none but his friends advanced or employed in order to serve the great project. Bolingbroke and Oxford do not set their horses together, because Oxford is so dilatory, and dozes over things, which is the occasion there are so many whigs chosen this parliament. Though there are four tories to one, they think it little. The ministry must now swim or sink with France."

In fact, Oxford's over caution, and his laziness, at the same time that he was impatient to allow any power out of his own hands, and yet did not exert it when he had it, had disgusted the tories, and favoured the ambitious views which Bolingbroke was cherishing. He had now managed to win over the confidence of lady Masham from the lord treasurer to himself; and, aware that he had made a mortal enemy of the elector of Hanover by his conduct in compelling a peace and deserting the allies, he determined to make a bold effort to bring in the pretender on the queen's decease, which every one, from the nature of her complaint, felt could not be far off. To such a pitch of openness was the dislike of the queen carried, that she seemed to take a pleasure in speaking in the most derogatory terms of both the old electress Sophia and her son. Oxford's close and mysterious conduct disgusted the agents of Hanover, without assuring those of the pretender, and threw the advantage with the latter party more and more into the hands of Bolingbroke. Baron Schutz, the Hanoverian agent, wrote home that he could make nothing of Oxford, but that there was a design against his master; and when lord Newcastle observed to the agent of the pretender that, the queen's life being so precarious, it would be good policy in Harley to strike up with the king, and make a good bargain, the agent replied, "If the king were master of his three kingdoms to-morrow, he would not be able to do for Mr. Harley what the elector of Hanover had done for him already." Thus Oxford's closeness made him suspected of being secured by the elector at the very moment that the elector deemed that he was leaning towards the pretender.

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