OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of William III. (Continued.) page 10

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 <10> 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

He sent permission for the Scottish estates to meet on the 28th of October, and addressed a letter to them from Loo, in which he promised to confirm any acts for the better establishment of the presbyterian religion, for discouraging popery and the growth of vice. He expressed himself anxious to promote their trade, and the prosperity of their African and Indian company, at the same time assuring them that he could not sanction their settling in Darien, as it would inevitably produce a ruinous war with Spain and France. But this letter produced no effect. It was now known to the company that their settlement in Panama was entirely broken up, and their capital all lost. The nation was in a perfect ferment. On the very day of the parliament meeting a memorial was presented to it, declaring that besides the ruin of their colony, their privileges at home had been violated by the want of that protection which the king had promised. They addressed a fresh epistle to the king, as unflinching as ever in the statement of their grievances, and William found that it was hopeless using words, he must use more effectual persuasives, and his ministers sent down agents to pacify the leading members of parliament in a way too well known to governments in general. The members became zealous for the king; the murmurs of the people were unheeded, and an act was passed for keeping on foot three thousand soldiers, one thousand one hundred of which were to be put at the disposal of the king, and were sent over to Holland. Parliament was then prorogued to the 6th of May, and the earl of Argyll was created a duke for his services in managing the estates during this difficult session.

William had returned to England towards the end of October, a few days before the death of the king of Spain. He was deeply chagrined at this unexpected event, but, under the present temper of England - disgusted with his proceedings with Louis for the partition of Spain - he could not openly complain. Not the less, however, did he unburthen his feelings to his friend, the pensionary Heinsius. Writing to him, he said, "I never relied much on the engagements with France, but I must confess that I did not think they would on this occasion have broken, in the face of the whole world, a solemn treaty before it was well accomplished." He confessed that he had been duped, and that he felt it the more because his English subjects did not disguise their opinion that the will was better than the partition. He expressed his deep anxiety regarding the Spanish Netherlands, which, it seemed, must fall into the hands of France, and as to what barrier was to be set up betwixt them and Holland; and he concluded by saying that he should bear all the blame for having trusted to France after his experience that no trust was to be put in it. That, indeed, was the folly of William, attempting to secure faith where he knew there was none.

At Paris William's ambassador, the earl of Manchester, expressed his master's astonishment at Louis departing from the treaty just made; but De Torcy, the minister, coolly replied that they found that the treaty was not likely to answer; that the emperor refused to accede to it; that none of the nations, not even England or Holland, approved of it; that the Spaniards were so opposed to the division of their monarchy, that the whole of the territories intended to be severed from it would have been to be reconquered by force, and thus have occasioned another bloody and ruinous war. All these facts were, of course, well known, or could be well anticipated by France from the beginning, but they had taken care not to whisper them till now. De Torcy concluded by saying that really Louis acted a very disinterested part in accepting the will, for the treaty would have been better for France; that the king only consulted the peace of Europe, and he trusted that neither William nor the States would attempt to disturb it. He sent a similar statement to Holland, but the States sent him a very firm reply, declaring that they had not expected that his most Christian majesty would thus have broken the treaty just made so solemnly, and which they had expected would be observed with faith and honour by all parties; that there was a secret article in the treaty, by which the emperor was allowed a certain time to come in; that this time had not yet expired, and that they, the States-General, had earnestly importuned his imperial majesty to avail himself of it, and desired that Louis would therefore re-consider the matter, that it might be settled to the satisfaction of all Europe.

Louis, though it was well known that he had accepted and meant to act on the will, still, with his usual hypocrisy, affected to listen to the suggestions of the States, employed a Swedish diplomatist to engage the States as a mediator in a pretended compromise, assuring them that the English people much preferred the will to the treaty, and that the king would find himself opposed by his parliament if he attempted to assume hostile measures. At the same time he dispatched Tallard to London to endeavour to persuade William to his views; but, finding no encouragement, Louis threw off the remains of his mask, and marched French troops into the Netherlands and into the duchy of Milan, the towns of which admitted French garrisons. His fleet sailed along the coast of Spain, and came to anchor in the port of Cadiz, and another squadron was dispatched to secure the South American and West Indian settlements of Spain. The elector of Bavaria, who had declared that his son had been poisoned by the French court, now hastened to make terms with France, and proclaimed the duke of Anjou as king of Spain at Brussels on the 20th of November. That part of the Dutch army quartered in Luxembourg, Mons, and Namur were declared prisoners of war, because they would not acknowledge the new king without orders from the States. Confounded by this proceeding, and dreading an attack on their own defenceless frontier, the States in their turn lost no time in acknowledging the duke of Anjou, and, therefore, their troops were dismissed. On the 4th of December the duke set off for Spain, and his two brothers attended the new Spanish king to the frontiers.

Thus Louis, by his daring and unprincipled manoeuvres, had accomplished his grand object of securing the Spanish succession, to prevent which so many lives had been lost and so much wealth exhausted. He had outwitted the king of England, though he could not drive him from the battlefield, and stood in proud preeminence in Europe - France, Spain, the Netherlands, a great part of Italy, and the vast regions of South America all lying under his dominion, though part nominally under that of his grandson. He had at the same time the satisfaction of seeing his most powerful and determined enemy, the king of England and stadtholder of Holland, deluded, disgraced, put down through his Machiavellian artifice, from his high moral status, and his mind and body a prey to the combined attacks of shame, disappointment, helpless chagrin, and a dropsical state of body, induced by his declining physical powers. Bishop Burnet, reviewing the state of things at this melancholy crisis, says: - "And now I am come to the end of this century, in which there was a black appearance of a new and dismal scene. France was now in possession of a great empire, for a small part of which there had been wars - broke off, indeed, in some intervals - for above two hundred years, while we in England, who were to protect and defend the rest, were, by wretched factions and violent animosities, running into a feeble and disjointed state. The king's cold and reserved manner on so high a provocation, made some conclude that he was in secret engagements with France; that he was resolved to own the new king of Spain, and to engage in no new war. This seemed so different from his own inclinations, and from all the former parts of his life, that it made many conclude that he found himself in an ill state of health, the swelling of his legs being much increased, and this might have such effects on his mind, as to make him less warm and active, - less disposed to involve himself in new troubles, and that he might think it too inconsiderate a thing to enter on a new war that was not like to end so soon, when he found himself in a declining state of health."

But besides his health and the mortification of Louis's triumphant deceit, William had plenty of troubles from the temper of his parliament, and the state of the factions which harassed his government. With such gloomy auspices came in the year 1701. The king had now replaced the retiring whigs of his ministry by Tories. Lord Godolphin was made first commissioner of the treasury; lord Tankerville succeeded Lord Lonsdale, deceased, as privy seal; lord Rochester was sent as lord-lieutenant to Ireland, and Sir Charles Hedges was appointed secretary of state. By their advice parliament was dissolved, and writs issued for the meeting of the new one on the 6th of February.

At this juncture count Wratislaw arrived as ambassador from the emperor, to explain the title of Leopold to the Spanish crown; but the envoy of William's old ally was received with great coldness. The truth was, William was secretly engaged in a negotiation with the Spanish regency to procure a concession of certain frontier towns of the Netherlands being garrisoned by Dutch and English troops for the protection of Holland. Wratislaw's arrival could not, therefore, have occurred at a more awkward crisis, as tending to excite the suspicion of France. But the proposal of the garrisons was rejected by the regency, or, in reality, by France, for it now meant the same thing, and William then gave a more cordial welcome to the imperial minister. But the new cabinet was averse to running into fresh engagements which might lead to another continental war. They contended that it was not the business of England to concern itself with the balance of power on the continent, but for the nations there to assert and maintain their own liberties; for which reason they could enter into suitable combinations. That it was the more fitting and dignified position of England to maintain friendly relations as far as possible with them all, and to act as umpire betwixt them, promoting peace and good neighbourhood, as became a Christian nation. And these, indeed, were the true principles of British action, had they enunciated them from sound motives; but it is to be feared that a desire to cast the blame of the past ruinous war on their opponents, the whigs, had more weight with them than honest and enlightened principle.

When parliament met on the 6th of February, it was found that the late speaker, Sir Thomas Littleton, had absented himself from the house, and the tories proposed in his stead Robert Harley, who was now fast rising into favour with that party. The king had requested Lyttleton, in fact, to withdraw, that the tories might get in their man; but there was such a ferment in the house, that it was obliged to be adjourned till the 20th. Then the whigs brought forward Sir Richard Onslow, but he was defeated by a majority of two hundred and forty-nine to one hundred and twenty-five. This showed that a strong tory commons had been returned, and yet it was not true that all the tories were unanimous. There was, indeed, a considerable breach in the party. Those of them who had been passed over in the selection of the ministry, or had other causes of pique against the government, remained in opposition, and occasioned the king and their own party no little embarrassment. Amongst these were the duke of Leeds, the marquis of Normanby, the earl of Nottingham, Seymour, Musgrove, Howe, Finch, and Showers. It was strongly suspected, too, that Louis had made use of Tallard to bribe members of parliament and of the government to an awful extent to oppose any measures for war and continental combinations. "It was observed," says Burnet, "as soon as parliament opened, that the French had a great party in it; that great sums of money came over this winter from France; the packet-boat seldom came without ten thousand louis d'ors; it brought often more; the nation was filled with them, and in six months time a million of guineas were coined out of them. The merchants, indeed, said the balance of trade was then so much turned to our side, that whereas we were wont to carry over a million of money in specie, we then sent no money to France, and had at least half that sum sent over to balance the trade. Yet this did not account for that vast flood of French gold that was visible amongst us; and upon the French ambassador's going away, a sensible alteration was found in bills of exchange, so that it was concluded that great remittances were made to him, and that these were distributed amongst those who were resolved to merit a share of that wealth which came over now so copiously, beyond example of former times."

Different modes have been suggested to account for this remarkable influx of French gold, and its disappearance with the ambassador, without supposing any bribery. One was, the increased demand for our manufactures since the peace of Ryswick, the change being, therefore, now in our favour, and the king issuing a proclamation forbidding the circulation of this gold, which speedily turned it into guineas. But all this does not explain the unexampled influx of it precisely at this moment, when it was of consequence to Louis to discourage a renewed war against him; and as he was known to have been greatly in the habit of bribing even kings, ministers, and parliament, the suspicion on this occasion was probably well founded.

In his opening speech William informed the parliament that the death of the duke of Gloucester had rendered it necessary that they should take into consideration the succession to the crown after him and the princess Anne, who had now no heir. That the happiness of the nation and the security of the protestant religion made it the subject of the highest importance. The subject of next importance, and scarcely inferior, he said, was the death of the late king of Spain, and the succession arranged by his will, which had made so great an alteration in affairs abroad, as demanded their most serious consideration for the interests and safety of England, and the preservation of the peace of Europe and of the protestant religion. That these great topics might have due consideration, he had desired that they should receive it in a new parliament. He next referred to the necessity for making a proper provision for the current expenditure, and for the reduction of the debt, and recommended them to put the fleet into effective condition.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 <10> 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Pictures for Reign of William III. (Continued.) page 10

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About