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The Reign of Queen Anne - (Concluded) page 9

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It was now the turn of the French to triumph, and of the allies to suffer consternation. Louis, once more elate, ordered Te Deum to be sung in Notre Dame, and all Paris was full of rejoicing. He declared that God had given a direct and striking proof of the justice of his cause and of the guilty obstinacy of the allies. His plenipotentiaries assumed at Utrecht such arrogance that their very lacqueys imitated them; and those of Mesnager insulted one of the plenipotentiaries, count von Richteren, and Louis justified them against all complaints. Under such circumstances, all rational hope of obtaining peace except on the disgraceful terms accepted by England vanished.

In fact, though the allies still held out, it was useless. Bolingbroke, accompanied by Matthew Prior, had been in Paris since the beginning of August, where they were assisted also by the abbe Gualtier, determined to close the negotiations for England, whether the allies objected or not. To make this result obvious to all the world, the troops which Ormonde had brought home were disbanded with all practicable speed. The ostensible cause of Bolingbroke and Prior's visit to Paris was to settle the interests of the duke of Savoy and the elector of Bavaria; but the real one was to remove any remaining impediment to the conclusion of the treaty of peace. France and England were quite agreed; Bolingbroke returned to London, and Prior remained as resident at the court of France, as if the articles of peace were, in fact, already signed. A truce, indeed, for four months longer by land and sea was proclaimed in Paris. It was agreed that the pretender should return to Lorraine; that all hostilities should cease in Italy in consequence of the arrangement of the affairs of the duke of Savoy; and that the Austrian troops should be allowed to quit Spain and return to Naples.

The secession of the duke of Savoy only the more roused the indignation of the allies. The Dutch breathed a hotter spirit of war just as their power of carrying it on failed; and even the experienced Heinsius made an energetic oration in the States-General, declaring that all the fruits of the war would be lost if they consented to the peace proposed. But to avoid it was no longer possible. The English plenipotentiaries pressed the allies more and more zealously to come in, so much so that they were scarcely safe from the fury of the Dutch populace, who insulted the earl of Strafford and the marquis del Borgo, the minister of the duke of

Savoy, when the news came that the duke had consented to the peace. Every endeavour was made to detach the different allies one by one. Mr. Thomas Harley was sent to the elector of Hanover to persuade him to co-operate with her majesty; but, notwithstanding all risk of injuring his succession to the English crown, he boldly replied - " Whenever it shall please God to call me to the throne of Britain. I hope to act as becomes me for the advantage of my people; in the meantime, speak to me as a German prince, and a prince of the empire." Similar attempts were made on the king of Prussia and other princes, and with similar results. The English ministers now began to see the obstacles they had created to the conclusion of a general peace by their base desertion of the allies. The French, rendered more than ever haughty in their demands by the successes of Villars, raised their terms as fast as any of the allies appeared disposed to close with those already offered. The Dutch, convinced at length that England would make peace without them, and were bending every energy to draw away their confederates, in October expressed themselves ready to treat, and to yield all pretensions to Douay, Valenciennes, and Mauberg, on condition that Conde and Tournay were included in their barrier; that the commercial tariffs with France should be restored to what they were in 1664; that Sicily should be yielded to Austria, and Strasburg to the empire. But the French treated these concessions with contempt, and Bolingbroke was forced to admit to Prior that they treated like pedlars, or, what was worse, like attorneys. He conjured Prior "to hide the nakedness of his country" in his intercourse with the French ministers, and to make the best of the blunders of his countrymen, admitting that they were not much better politicians than the French were poets. But the fault of Bolingbroke and his colleagues was not want of talent, it was want of honesty; and, by their selfish desire to damage their political rivals, they had brought their country into this deplorable dilemma of sacrificing all faith with their allies, of encouraging the unprincipled disposition of the French, who were certain to profit by the division of the allies, and of abandoning the glory and position of England, or confessing that the whigs, however much they had erred in entering on such enormous wars, had in truth brought them to the near prospect of a far more satisfactory conclusion than they were taking up with.

Whilst matters were in this discouraging condition, lord Lexington was sent to Spain to receive the solemn renunciation of the crown of France for Philip and his successors, in the presence of the Cortes, which accordingly took place on the 5th of November. Portugal, also, on the 7th of November, signed, at Utrecht, the suspension of arms, at the same time admitting to the allies that she did it only as a matter of absolute necessity. The Portuguese had held out firmly till the English refused to give them any assistance, when the marquis de Bay invaded the kingdom at the head of twenty thousand men, and laid siege to Campo-Major. The English troops in Spain were ordered to separate from those of the allies under count Staremberg, and were marched into Catalonia to embark at Barcelona. The people of that province beheld the English depart with sentiments of indignant contempt. England bad first incited them to take up arms and declare for king Charles under the most solemn engagements never to make peace without them. But now they had broken their faith in the most shameless manner, and left them to the vengeance of the French triumphant in Spain. Such on all sides were the facts which forced on the world the conviction of the perfidy of England, which had hitherto borne so fair a reputation.

Another dishonourable characteristic of the ministers of queen Anne at this period was that they were in secret zealous partisans of the pretender, and whilst openly professing a sacred maintenance of the protestant succession, were doing all in their power to undermine it. They had given mortal offence to the elector George of Hanover, the heir to the throne, by their treachery to the allies; and, as the health of the queen was most precarious from her excessive corpulence and gout, which was continually menacing a retreat to her stomach, this was equally a cause for their hastening the peace, however disgracefully, and for paving the way, if possible, for the return of the pretender at the queen's death. Bolingbroke was the great correspondent with St. Germains, as his letters in the Stuart Papers - which were obtained by George IV. from Rome, and which are now preserved at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor - abundantly show. But Oxford, although always more cunning and mysterious, was equally concerned in it; nor was the queen, if we may believe these remarkable papers, by any means averse to the succession of the pretender, notwithstanding his stubborn adhesion to popery. The Jacobite party was numerous, powerful, and indefatigable. They were in the ministry and in both houses of parliament. At this moment a public appointment was made which filled the whigs with consternation and rage. This was no other than that of the duke of Hamilton - a most notorious partisan of the pretender, who had zealously advocated his return to Scotland whilst he appeared publicly to discourage it - to be ambassador to the court of Versailles. Prior was still there, and had all the requisites of a clever and painstaking envoy; but, being only a commoner and a poet, it did not suit the aristocratic notions of England that he should be accredited ambassador. Hamilton was appointed, and would thus have had the amplest opportunity of concerting the return of the Stuarts with the base ministers at home. But he was not destined to see Versailles. "The duke of Hamilton," says Burnet, "being now appointed to go to the court of France, gave melancholy speculations to those who thought him much in the pretender's interest. He was considered, not only in Scotland, but here, in England, as the head of his party; but a dismal accident put an end to his life a few days before he intended to have set out on his embassy."

The duke of Hamilton in early life had seduced the youngest daughter of Charles II., by the duchess of Cleveland, lady Barbara Fitzroy, a mere girl of seventeen, by whom he had a son, for which offence he had been thrown into the Tower by order of Mary IL, and the poor victim was forced into a convent in France, where she soon died. In spite of this, Hamilton was always a favourite of queen Anne's, and, on his appointment to the court of France, she conferred on him the unprecedented honour of the order of the garter in addition to that of the thistle. When this was remarked to Anne, she replied that u Such a subject as the duke of Hamilton had a pre-eminent claim to every mark of distinction which a crowned head can confer; and henceforth I will wear both orders myself." It was also whispered that the heir of the duke, the earl of Arran, was to marry the sister of the pretender, the princess Louisa Stuart, the youngest daughter of James H., who is represented by all parties to have been a young lady of singularly fascinating and amiable character. Thus Hamilton would have had the strongest motives to promote the return of the pretender. But just before this the princess Louisa died of smallpox, and the duke's fate was at hand.

He and Lord Mohun, one of the most violent and dissipated men of the time, who is said by Swift to have been concerned in three murders - and two of which affairs we have had to record; the first being the disgraceful murder of Montfort, the player - had married sisters of the house of Gerrard, who were co-heiresses. Bitter quarrels and litigation regarding their property had long existed betwixt Hamilton and Mohun, and at a meeting concerning these matters, the fierce temper of Mohun led to mutual insults, followed by a challenge from Mohun. The parties met in a thickety place near the Serpentine brook, behind Kensington-palace, attended by colonel Hamilton as second to his kinsman the duke, and general Macartney as second to Mohun. The seconds as well as the principals fought, according to a fashion introduced from the court of France, where ten or a dozen combatants on a side were known to engage, and leave sometimes half that number dead on the spot. In this affray, both Hamilton and Mohun were killed; and as they were whig and tory, and the party feeling respecting Hamilton's appointment ran high, it was soon reported that the duke had been murdered by Macartney, whilst his second, colonel Hamilton, was supporting him after being stabbed by Mohun. Macartney fled, Colonel Hamilton remained on the spot, and was taken. He deposed that Macartney had stabbed the duke over his, colonel Hamilton's shoulder; and added, in proof, that the wound given by lord Mohun was by a Saxon blade, whilst the second wound was by a triangular blade - in fact, by his, colonel Hamilton's rapier, which he had laid on the ground to assist his wounded kinsman, and which Macartney snatched up. Dr. Garth, a tory, however, it should be recollected, gave evidence that the wounds were as colonel Hamilton described, and that one of them could not have been given by lord Mohun, but by somebody standing above the duke, as it slanted downwards.

The party warfare in the newspapers and journals was fierce and virulent. Swift declaimed against Mohun with his usual savageness, as a profligate dyed with three foul murders, and the tories generally maintained that Mohun and Macartney, as whigs, "had been incited to undertake the quarrel by a certain party of men who were no great friends to the government." The whigs, on the other hand, denied the charge, and contended that though Macartney might have given the finishing blow to Hamilton, as all four were fighting together, yet Macartney, finding himself left one against two, might have defended himself so desperately as to kill Hamilton in fair fight. Macartney escaped to the continent, where he remained till George I. ascended the throne, when, believing that he could have an impartial trial, he returned and surrendered himself. On this trial Colonel Hamilton prevaricated, and several persons who had witnessed the combat at a distance, materially contradicted his testimony. Macartney was accordingly acquitted, to the joy of the whigs, and the intense rage of the opposite party.

Instead of Hamilton, the duke of Shrewsbury was sent to Versailles, where Matthew Prior remained to lend his superior knowledge of French affairs and superior address to the negotiations. The weight of tory vengeance now fell on the duke of Marlborough, whom the ministers justly regarded as the most dangerous man amongst the whigs by his abilities and the splendour of his renown. The earl of Godolphin died in September of this year. He had always been a stanch friend of the Marlboroughs. His son, lord Rialton, was married to Marlborough's eldest daughter, and during Godolphin's later years he was nearly a constant resident with the Marlboroughs, and died at their lodge in Windsor Park. Godolphin was one of the best of the whigs; of a clear, strong judgment, and calm temper. He had rendered the most essential services during the great conflict against France, by ably and faithfully conducting affairs at home, whilst Marlborough I was winning his victories abroad; and that great general knew that he should be supported against all his enemies and detractors so long as Godolphin remained in power.

The highest eulogium on Godolphin's honesty lies in the fact that he died poor. But at Godolphin's death Marlborough stood a more exposed object to the malice of his foes. They did not hesitate to assert that he had had a deep concern in the plot for Hamilton's death. He therefore resolved to retire to the continent.

Burnet gives the following reasons for this retirement of Marlborough: - "Upon the earl of Godolphin's death, the duke of Marlborough resolved to go and live beyond sea. He executed it in the end of November, and his duchess followed him in the beginning of February. This was variously censured. Some pretended that it was the giving up and abandoning the concern of his country, and they represented it as the effect of fear, with too anxious a care to secure himself; others were glad that he was safe out of ill hands, whereby, if we should fall into the convulsions of a civil war, he would be able to assist the elector of Hanover, as being so entirely beloved and confided in by all our military men; whereas, if he had stayed in England, it was not to be doubted but, upon the least shadow of suspicion, he would have been immediately secured, whereas now he would be at liberty, being beyond sea, to act as there might be occasion for it. There were two suits begun against him - the one was for the two and a half per cent, that the foreign princes were content should be deducted for contingencies, of which an account was formerly given; the other was for arrears due to the builders of Blenheim House. The queen had given orders for building it with great magnificence: all the bargains with the workmen were made in her name, and by authority from her; and in the preambles of the acts of parliament that confirmed the grant of Woodstock to him and his heirs, it was said the queen built the house for him. Yet, now that the tradesmen were let run into arrears of thirty thousand pounds, the queen refused to pay any more, and set them upon suing the duke of Marlborough for it, though he had never contracted with any of them. Upon his going beyond sea, both these suits were stayed, which gave occasion to people to imagine that the ministry, being disturbed to see so much public respect put upon a man whom they had used so ill, had set these prosecutions on foot only to render his stay in England uneasy to him."

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