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Reign of George I page 28

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Here then commenced the celebrated and peaceful administration of Fleury, so well described in the words of Voltaire: - "If ever there was any one happy on earth, it was Fleury. He was considered one of the most amiable and social men till seventy-three, and at that usual age of retirement came to be respected as one of the wisest. From 1726 to 1742 everything throve in his hands; and, till almost a nonogenarian, his mind continued clear, discerning, and fit for business."

During the whole of Fleury's administration he continued the same simple, unostentatious life. There were those who deemed him even penurious from his inexpensive mode of existence; but the same avoidance of extravagance was exerted by him for the state as well as in his own affairs. He disliked war as much as French ministers in general have been fond of it; and it has been well observed that the monuments of national glory which he left were not of brass or marble, but of general prosperity and popular happiness. If he did not possess the highest class of genius, he made a wise and beneficent use of his talents; and lady Mary Wortley Montagu, travelling in France thirteen years after, bore this testimony to the changes which he had produced: - " France is so much improved that it would not be known to be the same country that we passed through twenty years ago. Everything I see speaks in praise of cardinal Fleury. The roads are all mended, and such good care taken against robbers, that you may cross the country with your purse in your hand. The French are more changed than their roads. Instead of pale, yellow faces wrapped up in blankets, as we saw them, the villages are all filled with fresh-coloured, lusty peasants, in good clothes and clean linen. It is incredible what an air of plenty and content is over the whole country."

The English ambassador, Horace Walpole, brother of the minister, a man, according to his nephew, the celebrated lord Orford, who "knew something of everything but how to hold his tongue, or how to apply his knowledge," and who was "a dead weight" to his brother's ministry rather than a help, at first despised Fleury as a mighty bigot, and not very able in foreign affairs; but he soon came to see that he was a man that would direct by his influence the affairs of France, and he made assiduous court to him. He made a most effectual hit in securing the good will of Fleury, for a man who had the reputation of being a dead weight, by hastening to visit Fleury, at the time he was under a passing cloud, at Issy. The future cardinal felt the act as a proof of disinterested respect rather than a deep stroke of policy, as it probably was, and ever after was a firm adherent of the Walpole administration. Thus Fleury's accession to power only strengthened the English alliance with France. As for Spain, notwithstanding the fall of Ripperda, Philip continued the same course of policy - clinging firmly to the emperor, and employing Palm, the envoy of the emperor in

London, through bribery to the duchess of Kendal and the king's Hanoverian ministers, Bothmar, and the rest, who were averse to the treaty of Hanover, as in their estimation too exclusively calculated for English interests. They even produced a strong feeling of this kind in the mind of George, and they managed to detach the king of Prussia from the English alliance. On the other hand, Sweden was won over, by English gold and diplomacy, from Russian interests. The Dutch, also, with their usual slowness, came into the Hanover treaty. Several English fleets were at sea during the summer, watching the different points of possible attack. One under admiral Wager sailed to the Baltic to overawe the Russians, which it did effectually. Admiral Jennings, with another squadron, having on board some land troops, scoured the coasts of Spain, kept the Spaniards in constant alarm, and returned home safe before winter. A third fleet, under admiral Hosier, was not so fortunate. He was ordered to sail to the West Indies, and the shores of the Spanish main, to obstruct or capture the galleons; but he was attacked off Porto Bello by the yellow fever, and lost a great number of his men.

Parliament met on the 17th of January, 1727. The royal speech breathed a decidedly warlike tone. The king informed parliament that he had received information, on which he could rely, that a secret article of the treaty betwixt Spain and the emperor bound those parties to place the pretender on the throne of Great Britain, and that the surrender of Gibraltar and Port Mahon were the price to be paid for this service. He asked whether the public would not regard with indignation the imposition of a popish pretender on the nation at such a cost. He added that the king of Spain had ordered his ambassador to quit the kingdom, leaving behind him a formal demand for the surrender of the above-named places. There was a great ferment in the house. The "patriots," Wyndham, Pulteney, Shippen, and the rest, ridiculed the imagined dangers. Mr. Hungerford asked whether the pretender was going to embark on the floating island of "Gulliver," as he knew no other means that he had of crossing the sea. Sir Thomas Hanmer boldly attributed the only dangers to complications in which we were involved by our connection with Hanover. Yet it was resolved to raise the army to twenty-six thousand men, being an increase of eight thousand, and to vote twenty thousand seamen.

Palm, the emperor's envoy, wrote to his imperial master, advising him to disavow any such secret agreement in the treaty at Vienna, and thus allay the excitement in England. But Charles, who owed his throne to the victories of Marlborough, and whose claims on Spain had been prosecuted by this country at serious cost of men and money, performed this disavowal with as much arrogance as stupidity. He was not contented to say that the king of England was mistaken, but he declared that his speech was false. This gross insult to the head of the nation roused the indignation of all parties, even of the opposition, and Wyndham, Pulteney, and Shippen denounced it as loudly as any, and supported a motion of Walpole, declaring it an insolent affront. Palm was ordered to quit the kingdom immediately.

With Spain the prospect of war became every day more imminent. Stanhope quitted that country, and the Spanish government ordered the seizure of the "Prince Frederick," a ship belonging to the South Sea Company. Twenty thousand men were assembled and sent against Gibraltar under the command of Spain's best general, the marquis de Villadarius. Villadarius defended Ceuta in 1698, Cadiz in 1702, and besieged Gibraltar, in conjunction with marshal Tesse, in 1704. Convinced by the failure of that attempt that no success could attend any attack on that fortress unless accompanied by a fleet at sea, he demanded such an adjunct. Philip, unfortunately, had no fleet which could hope to repel an English one coming to the relief of the place, and he persisted in ordering Villadarius to proceed without it. That prudent general, declaring that such proceeding could only be attended by defeat and the sacrifice of the lives of many brave men in vain, chose, therefore, rather to resign all his employments and retire to an honest poverty with a good conscience and with an untarnished reputation.

His place was filled up, but not supplied, by the Conde de las Torres, who had formerly fled nimbly before the earl of Peterborough, but who now boasted that in six weeks he would plant the standard of Spain on the rock of Gibraltar, and drive the heretics into the sea. The "heretics," however, had taken care to strengthen the garrison, raising it to six thousand men, throwing in abundance of provisions from Tangier and Tetuan; and the governor, the earl of Portmore, though nearly eighty years of age, defended the place with the spirit of a man in his prime. All attempts on the great fortress were as useless as former ones had been. The English regarded the attack with even an air of indifference, whilst their guns, sickness, and desertion were fast reducing the besiegers. In four months the investing army, being reduced to half its number, drew off with the empty but destructive result which Villadarius had predicted.

This and other events at length convinced the stupid and ungrateful emperor that the war was hopeless. Russia had as good as deserted him; Prussia, so lately won over, was again wavering; Sweden and Holland had joined the allies; and Spain, so far from helping her, could not drive the enemy from a corner of its own territory. He therefore listened to terms of peace which were offered by the allies through the pacific medium of Fleury, and the preliminaries were signed at Paris by the Austrian ambassador on the 31st of May with England, France, and Holland. The emperor agreed to suspend for seven years the charter of the Ostend Company; to confirm all treaties previous to 1725; and to refer any other objects of dispute to a general congress. Several articles were introduced regarding Spain. The English consented to withdraw the fleet of admiral Hosier from blockading Porto Bello, so that the galleons could return home; that the siege of Gibraltar should be discontinued, and the "Prince Frederick" be restored. These articles were signed by the Spanish ambassador at Paris, but Philip himself never ratified them, and England and Spain continued in a dubious state of neither peace nor war.

Whilst Walpole was thus labouring to secure the peace of Europe, Bolingbroke was as industriously at work to undermine him. He had cultivated his intimacy with the duchess of Kendal still more diligently, and by liberal bribes, and more liberal promises if he succeeded in once more regaining power, he had brought her to exert her influence with the king in his favour. This most sordid and rapacious of mistresses, who looked on England only as a country to be managed for her benefit, ventured at length to put into the king's hand a memorial drawn up for her by Bolingbroke, demonstrating that the country must be absolutely ruined if Walpole continued in office. The stratagem was too palpable. Whilst she talked only, her suggestions might pass for her own, but the style of the document must have at once caused the king's suspicion of its true source. He put the paper into Walpole's hand. Walpole, after interrogating the two Turks, who were always in attendance on the king, and on their denying all knowledge of the means by which the missive reached the royal person, went directly to the duchess and charged her with the fact. She did not deny it. Walpole advised the king to admit Bolingbroke to the audience which he solicited in the memorial, trusting that the king's dislike of him would prevail in the interview. The result appeared to be of that kind; nevertheless, Walpole was far from being secure in his own mind. He knew that the mistress would be continually returning to the charge in favour of her friend and paymaster, though she enjoyed a pension from government of seven thousand five hundred pounds; and he even contemplated retiring with a peerage, but was dissuaded from this by the princess of Wales and the duke of Devonshire. On the ether hand, Bolingbroke was in the highest expectation of his speedy restoration not only to rank but to office.

The deaths of monarchs, however, were peculiarly fatal to this ambitious man; that of queen Anne had precipitated him from power, and rescued his country from the ruin he prepared for it; that of George now came as opportunely to prevent the national calamity of his ministry. George set out for Hanover on the 3rd of June, o.s., accompanied, as usual, by Townshend and the duchess of Kendal. Just before his departure the youthful Horace Walpole saw him for the first and last time. When the king was come down to supper, lady Walsingham took Walpole into the duchess's ante-room, where George and his favourite were alone. Walpole knelt and kissed the king's hand. The king appeared in his usual health. In his usual impatience of reaching his beloved Hanover, he had out-travelled his minister and the mistress, and reached Delden on the 9th late at night. The next morning he proceeded again so early as four o'clock, and was pressing onward, when in the forenoon he was seized with a fit of apoplexy in his coach, and on arriving at Ippenburen he was observed to be quite comatose - his eyes fixed, his hands motionless, and his tongue hanging from his mouth, His attendants wished to remain at Ippenburen to procure medical assistance; but this seemed to rouse him, and he managed to articulate, "Osnabrück! Osnabrück!" The only chance for his life, if there was any, depended on instant surgical aid; they went in obedience to his command, and on arriving at Osnabrück he was found quite dead. He was there conducted to the palace of his brother, the prince bishop, and let blood, but to no purpose. Messengers were dispatched to bring up the minister and the mistress from the rear. Finding the king dead on his arrival, Townshend immediately returned to England with the news, and the duchess, after tearing her hair, beating her breast, and otherwise bewailing the loss of so valuable a friend, directed her course to Brunswick, She afterwards, however, returned to England, giving the country of her fortune the preference to that of her birth, and continued to reside there, chiefly at Kendal House, near Isleworth. She died in 1743, leaving her enormous wealth to her German relatives. This wealth would have still more augmented but for the interference of George II. The king had made a will, in which he is said to have left much property to the duchess and to her reputed niece, but supposed daughter, lady Walsingham. This lady, originally Fraulen Schulemberg, but created by George I. countess of Walsingham, bore a strong resemblance to the king, and was generally considered his daughter. One copy of the king's will he had confided to Wake, archbishop of Canterbury, the other to the duke of Brunswick. At the first council at which George II. presided, the archbishop presented to him this will, expecting that he would open and read it; but to the consternation of the primate, he immediately put it in his pocket, and left the room without a word. The will was never heard of again, for neither the primate nor the other councillors dared to ask about it, or even to request that it should be registered. Horace Walpole says it was reported to contain a legacy of forty thousand pounds to the duchess, a handsome bequest to her daughter, and to the queen of Prussia. The duke of Brunswick, who had the other will (some accounts mention two other wills in the hands of German princes), was quieted by a subsidy. Lord Chesterfield, who married lady Walsingham, determined to bring her demand to open trial, but was satisfied by twenty thousand pounds. The king of Prussia repeatedly demanded with much roughness, but less success, the legacy to his queen. The duchess of Suffolk, one of the mistresses of George II., from whom Walpole drew his information, said that George II. excused himself by saying his father had burnt two wills made in his favour. They were probably the two wills of the duke and duchess of Zell, his maternal grandparents, or one of them might be that of his mother, the princess Sophia of Zell.

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