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Reign of George I page 15

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Notwithstanding, therefore, that secretary Stanhope and Alberoni corresponded on the most amicable terms, and passed from one to another the warmest assurances of a "sincere and lasting friendship" between the two courts, it is obvious that the Spanish minister could not long calculate on the peace winch he deemed so desirable. England was under engagement both to France and the empire, which must, on the first rupture with either of those powers and Spain, precipitate her into war. The treaty with the emperor, as it guaranteed the retention of the Italian provinces, which Spain beheld with unappeasable jealousy in Austrian hands, was the first thing to change the policy of Alberoni towards this country. This change was still further accelerated by the news of the triple alliance, which equally guaranteed the status quo of France. The Spanish minister displayed his anger by suspending the treaty of commerce, and by conniving at the petty vexations practised by the Spaniards on the English merchants in Spain, and by decidedly rejecting a proposal of the king of England to bring about an accommodation between the emperor and the court of Spain.

In this uneasy state of things Austria very unnecessarily put the match to the political train, and threw the whole of the south of Europe again into war. Don Joseph Molines, the Spanish ambassador at Rome, being appointed inquisitor- general at Spain, commenced his journey homewards, furnished with a passport from the pope, and an assurance of safety from the imperial minister. Yet, notwithstanding this, he was perfidiously arrested by the Austrian authorities, and secured in the citadel of Milan. The gross insult to Spain, and equally gross breach of faith, so exasperated the king and queen of Spain, that they would listen to nothing but war. The earnest expostulations of Alberoni, delivered in the form of a powerful memorial, were rejected, and he was compelled to abandon the cherished hopes of peaceful improvement, and make the most active preparations for war. The war, unwelcome as it was to Alberoni, probably became the cause of his salvation from his enemies. The marquis of Villadarias, Don Joseph Rodrigo, president of Castile, and upwards of thirty of his most devoted officers, had entered into a design, with the cognisance of the French minister, for his overthrow; but the patriotism of Villadarias now compelled him to let this scheme fall, and to engage in the service of his country.

Alberoni dispatched Don Joseph Patiņo to Barcelona to hasten the military preparations. Twelve ships of war and eight thousand six hundred men were speedily assembled there, and an instant alarm was excited throughout Europe as to the destination of this not very formidable force. The emperor, whose treacherous conduct justly rendered him suspicious, imagined the blow destined for his Italian territories; the English anticipated a fresh movement in favour of the pretender; but Alberoni, an astute Italian, who was on the point of receiving the cardinal's hat from the pope, led him to believe that the armament was directed against the infidels in the Levant. The pope, therefore, hastened the favour of the Roman purple, and then Alberoni no longer concealed the real destination of his troops. The marquis de Lede was ordered to set out with the squadron for the Italian shores; but when Naples was trembling in apprehension of a visit, the fleet drew up, on the 20th of August, in the bay of Cagliari, the capital of the island of Sardinia. That a force which might have taken Naples should content itself with an attack on the barren, rocky, and swampy Sardinia, surprised many; but Alberoni knew very well that, though he could take, he had not yet au army sufficient to hold Naples, and lie was satisfied to strike a blow which should alarm Europe, whilst it gratified the impatience of the Spanish monarch for revenge. There was, moreover, an ulterior object. It had lately been proposed by England and Holland to the emperor, in order to induce him to come into the triple alliance, and convert it into a quadruple one, to obtain an exchange of this island for Sicily, with the duke of Savoy. It was, therefore, an object to prevent this arrangement by first seizing Sardinia. The Spanish general summoned the governor of Cagliari to surrender, but he stood out, and the Spaniards had to wait for the complete arrival of their ships before they could land and invest the place. The governor was ere long compelled to capitulate, but the Aragonese and the Catalans, who had followed the Austrians from the embittered contest in their own country, defended the island with furious tenacity; and it was not till November, and after severe losses through fighting and malaria, that the Spaniards made themselves masters of the island. The marquis of Lede then left three thousand men as a garrison, and returned to Barcelona with the rest of the troops, which were greatly reduced, and in a sickly condition.

England was thus again dragged into war by its continental engagements. George was bound by the triple alliance to preserve the peace of Europe; he was bound by treaty with the emperor to maintain the neutrality of Italy, and the security of his dominions there. Dubois was speedily in London from the regent of France to concert measures for this emergency, and it was concluded that these proposals should be submitted to the contending parties: - That Spain should relinquish all claims on the Italian provinces, and the emperor all claims on Spain; that, notwithstanding, the emperor's desire for Sicily instead of Sardinia should be gratified, and that Parma and all or nearly all Tuscany should be secured in succession to the infant Don Carlos. But, however fair these propositions, they were haughtily rejected by the two parties. Stanhope, however, sent his cousin, colonel Stanhope, as ambassador to Spain to endeavour to persuade that government, and M. de Nancre was sent by the French. The French and Dutch, however, though bound by the triple alliance, were very lukewarm in the matter. Lord Stair, writing from Paris, said that he had seen the instructions to M. de Nancre, and that they were the most cautious terms that he had ever seen; that no one could touch fire with more caution than France did these affairs, lest it might give the slightest chagrin to Spain; that he had no orders to insist that Spain should not, pending the negotiation, attempt any invasion of Italy; and that, though the Dutch would readily concur if the emperor concurred, their government was now so pitiable that they would do nothing except they found themselves in good company.

But the emperor was not likely to concur. He was so determined on the subject of retaining his claims on Spain, that his ministers trembled to mention the subject to him; and though he now professed himself ready to conclude a peace with Spain, and would agree to surrender Parma, he would not listen to the transfer of Tuscany. He had been immovable on this head when he had been most harassed by war with the Turks; and now that he had a prospect of peace with them he was not likely to give way.

As for Alberoni, though threatened with a powerful combination against Spain, he showed all the confidence and activity of a man at the head of the most powerful of kingdoms. The pope, incensed at being outwitted by him in the matter of the cardinal's hat, launched his thunders against him, but Alberoni took no notice of them. To Stau hope and Nancre his tone was bold, and even menacing. He said the king his master was perfectly disposed to make peace, but then it must be on conditions which would make peace permanent, and not leave the emperor in a condition capable of making himself master of all Italy at pleasure. He twitted the English with the disgraceful peace of Utrecht. "You went to war," he said, "to establish the balance of power, and you made peace without any balance at all." He expressed his contempt for partition treaties and their framers. "There are certain unprincipled men," he said, "who would cut and pare states and kingdoms as though they were so many Dutch cheeses " - a severe but just censure on king William's part in such treaties. At the same time, whilst holding this language, Alberoni exerted himself to call forth all the resources of the kingdom, and prepare for war. He built ships, he purchased others, he had cannon cast at Pampeluna, and various arms in Biscay; he mustered six regiments of the brave Miquelets of Catalonia, and to avoid exciting discontent amongst the people, he laid no fresh taxes on them, but mortgaged some of the revenues, and put the government on the footing of the strictest economy, even curtailing the expenditure of the queen, and selling a number of offices about the court.

At the same time he put in practice the most extensive diplomatic schemes to paralyse his enemies abroad. He won the good will of Victor Amadeus by holding out the promise of the Milanese in exchange for Sicily; he encouraged the Turks to continue the war against the emperor, and entered into negotiations with Rogatsky to renew the insurrection in Hungary; he adopted the views of Gortz for uniting the czar and Charles XII. of Sweden in peace, so that he might be able to turn their united power against the emperor, and still more against the electorate of Hanover, thus diverting the attention and the energies of George of England. Still further to occupy England, which he dreaded more than all the rest, he opened a direct correspondence with the pretender, who was now driven across the Alps by the triple alliance, and promised him aid in a new expedition against Britain under the direction of the duke of Ormonde, or of James himself. His agents were suddenly found in the utmost activity spreading a violent opposition to a fresh war in speeches and pamphlets, declaiming against a standing army and the heavy losses to trade which must inevitably follow a war with Spain. Both tories and the discontented section of the whigs were readily engaged in this movement. In France the same skilful pressure was directed against all the tender places of the body politic. He endeavoured to rouse anew the insurrection of the Cevennes and the discontents of Brittany. The Jesuits, the protestants, the duke and duchess of Maine, were all called into action, and the demands for the assembling of the States-General, for the instant reformation of abuses, the reduction of the national debts, and for many other ameliorations, were the cries by which the government was attempted to be embarrassed.

The proceedings of Alberoni were worthy of the best days of Spain; but he did not carry out these measures without danger from a strong opposition party. The king was now a decided invalid, as his predecessor, Charles, had been. Alberoni and the queen allowed none but their own creatures to approach his bedside. This roused the pride of the Spanish nobles, and Las Torres, Aguilar, and others proposed that the king should be set aside as incompetent, and the prince of Asturias be placed on the throne. They contended that the king was no longer capable of business, and that the country was under the real control of Alberoni and the queen. The duke of Escalona, as lord chamberlain, insisted on penetrating to the presence of the monarch in the discharge of his duty; and though he was compelled by gout to go upon crutches, he resolutely forced his way thither, though opposed by the officials, and actually coming to blows with Alberoni himself. The consequence, however, was the banishment of Escalana, and the triumph of Alberoni.

The interest with which these menacing foreign affairs was contemplated was interrupted by the scandalous quarrels betwixt the king and his son and successor at home. George 1. had never tolerated the prince electoral, even whilst in Hanover, and, if we are to believe St. Simon, because he never believed him to be his own son. However that might be, the feuds of the nominal father and son had been long and bitter in Germany, and the accession to the throne of England had only tended to aggravate them. They now broke forth with open and unrestrained violence, the ostensible cause being a most frivolous one. The prince, being about to christen one of his children, proposed as godfather the child's uncle, the duke of York; but the king ordered the duke of Newcastle to take that place, not as proxy for the duke of York, but in his own character. The prince, resenting this, used very offensive language to Newcastle, which, of course, applied still more offensively to the king. In consequence, the prince was ordered to confine himself in his own apartment, and soon after to quit the palace. On this, he took up his residence with the princess and family at Leicester House. This, which, on expulsion, became on the prince's part a necessity, was immediately regarded by the king as the erection of a sort of standard of public opposition and insubordination. A notice was issued that any person paying his or her respects to the prince or princess would not be received at court. The prince and princess were deprived of their guard of honour and other distinctions. To such a length was this unseemly and unnatural quarrel carried, that the king ordered the secretary of state to send an account of the whole matter to all foreign ministers, and he proposed to bring in an act of parliament to decree that on coming to the throne the prince should relinquish his German states. This would have been the best thing that could have happened to England, so far as those states were concerned; but the ministers dissuaded George from indulging his paternal hatred to that extent. Not the less, however, was the public mind kept on the tension by this royal animosity, and parliament was in daily expectation that the subject would be broached in one house or the other. On one occasion lord North, in a very full house, and the prince present, rose and produced a startling sensation by saying that he wished " to take notice of the great ferment which was in the nation." He paused for a moment, and the most painful suspense kept the house hushed; but he then relieved it by disclosing the fact that the ferment to which he alluded regarded the great scarcity of silver. Besides the discussion on this scarcity, which was attributed to its having been extensively melted down for exportation to foreign countries, and for the use of silversmiths, as well as the great exports of plate and bullion to the East Indies, the only other topics of interest during the session were the demand of additional troops in consequence of the aspect of affairs abroad, and for the renewal of the military bill. On both these occasions the Walpole and Townshend party made a determined opposition. The demand was for eighteen thousand troops, and Walpole contended that twelve thousand were ample, and became extremely eloquent against standing armies. He likewise contended that martial law was contrary to our constitution, and that soldiers, any more than other subjects, ought not to be left to the mercy of courts-martial, but should have the benefit of the civil courts and of juries. It was well known, however, that this was but the language of opposition, and that Walpole and his friends, in office, would be equally eloquent on the other side. Both bills were, therefore, carried by considerable majorities, Walpole himself, after all, voting with the majority on the mutiny bill. During the debate on the grant of troops, Shippen indulged in very keen remarks against the German tendencies of the king. He observed that the proposed augmentation of the army seemed "rather calculated for the meridian of Germany than of Great Britain; but it is the infelicity of his majesty's reign that he is unacquainted with our language and constitution; and it is, therefore, the more incumbent upon his British ministers to inform him that our government does not stand upon the same foundation as that which is established in his German dominions." For these words, such was the loyalty of the house, Shippen was committed to the Tower.

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