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 4

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

By the eighth article of the treaty, the parties bound themselves, immediately after the ratification of it, to communicate its contents to the emperor and the elector of Bavaria. If they objected to acquiesce in it, their share of the territories were to remain in sequestration till they did; and if they attempted by force to possess themselves of any other than the portions of territory conceded to them the contracting parties bound themselves to oppose this force by all their power: that the elector of Bavaria was to be administrator of Milan till his son was of age; but, in case this was refused, and the state sequestrated, the prince de Vaudemont should be made governor of the state, and in case of his death, the prince Charles de Vaudemont, his son. All princes, kings, and states might become parties to the treaty if they chose.

Here, under the plea of preventing war, was certainly concocted a scheme as pregnant with war as history gives example of. The emperor was certain not to give up his son's right to Spain and all its dependencies in exchange for the insignificant fragment of Milan, and that under the power of France. The moment such a partition was attempted, the emperor and all his adherents would have been in arms. But no such partition was now contemplated by Louis; he was aiming at the whole. All this time that he was amusing William with this treaty, and prostrating his moral character and, therefore, his moral strength, he was busily at work in Spain to induce the dying and imbecile king to bequeath the Spanish monarchy and all its dependencies to him by will. The marquis D'Harcourt, his ambassador at Madrid, was instructed to compass the attainment of the will by all his skill and powers of bribery. He was to obtain the crown for one of the dauphin's sons, or, in any case, to prevent its going to the emperor. To support him in these endeavours, an army of sixty thousand men were advanced to the frontiers of Catalonia and Navarre, and the coasts and ports of Spain were occupied by French men-of-war. Harcourt immediately set about to make a party for this purpose. He represented to this party that Philip IV. had no power to dispose of the crown in the manner in which he had done; that it was contrary to the constitution of the realm; that by the regular order of succession it would go to the children of his daughter, and not to more distant relations; that in case the Spaniards would support the claims of the dauphin in his second son, the duke of Anjou, they might have him to educate and make a thorough Spaniard of him.

The proposal did not find much response from the Spaniards, who knew that the mother of the dauphin had absolutely renounced all claim for herself and issue on the Spani*h crown, and who had no desire to become a dependence of France. Harcourt dropped his demand to that of their taking the electoral prince of Bavaria rather than the emperor, or, in fact, if they would choose a king after their own will, he would support him in opposition to the house of Austria.

The queen of Spain, the sister of the emperor s late wife, was a zealous advocate for the succession of the king of the Romans, the emperor's son. She soon perceived the intrigues carried on by the French minister, and took active measures against them. She re-modelled the council, making it more in accordance with her views, appointed the prince de Yaudemont viceroy of Milan, and the prince of Hesse-Darmstadt viceroy of Catalonia. To remove the king from the influence of the creatures of Harcourt, she got him away to Toledo on plea of a better air for him. But Harcourt lost no time in removing to Toledo too, especially as he learnt that the count de Harrach was gone thither, and he suspected that the object was to induce the king to confirm the will of his father in favour of the emperor. Harcourt, on arriving at Toledo, solicited an audience of the king on the pretext that he had an offer of assistance against the Moors from the king his master to make to his majesty; but he was informed that the king's health did not permit him to attend to business, and that all affairs of state were left in the hands of cardinal Corduba at Madrid.

Harcourt was not disconcerted by this rebuff. He returned to Madrid, and exerted all his power to corrupt the ministry there, and at last succeeded in purchasing the important interest of cardinal Portocarrero. At the same time Louis was at work with equal diligence in exciting the jealousy of the northern powers against this very secret treaty; and though the king of Sardinia had been induced to sign it, he now got him to sign a separate treaty with himself, which was completely in antagonism to it.

William, on his part, having ratified this delusion of a. treaty, was employed in putting an end to the war which had been raging in Hungary for the last fifteen years. He sent lord Paget and Mr. Colliers as ambassadors from England and Holland to the Turkish camp near Belgrade, and by their mediation the peace of Carlowitz was concluded, though not ratified till the following January. By this peace the emperor retained all his conquests; Camenieck was restored to the Poles; the cardinal primate of Poland, who had supported the pretensions of the prince of Conti, acknowledged Augustus of Saxony as king of Poland; the Morea and several fortresses in Dalmatia were ceded to the Venetians, and Peter of Russia retained Azoph; so that Turkey suffered the loss of a great part of its European territories. Peace for a moment prevailed throughout Christendom.

William returned to England in the beginning of December. He arrived on the 4th, and opened his new parliament on the 6th. It had been obliged to be prorogued owing to his prolonged stay, having been called for August. The ministers in William's absence had not taken much pains to influence the elections, and it soon appeared that a very independent body of gentlemen had been sent up. Not only had the electors put forward men of free principles, but the press had warmly urged the selection of a liberal speaker as essential to the full exercise of parliamentary freedom. There were three candidates for the speakership more particularly in view, Sir Edward Seymour, Sir Thomas Littleton, and Harley, the one supported by the tories.

A paper on the choice of a speaker had been actively circulated, which said that the great lord Burleigh declared "that England could never be undone except by a parliament," and that, whenever we were enslaved like our continental neighbours, it would be by the joint influence of a corrupt parliament and a standing army. It cried down Seymour as a man who had constantly been bargaining with the court since the days of the pension parliament of Charles II., and, on the other hand, that men holding office under the crown were most unfit for the office of speaker. This was aimed at Sir Thomas Littleton, which appeared a good omen for the court, but, as it soon appeared, was no sound indication.

In his opening speech William told the commons that, notwithstanding the state of peace, it would be necessary for them to consider well the strength which they ought to maintain both at sea and on land; that the honour and even safety of the nation depended on not denuding it too much of its forces in the eyes of foreign nations. It was necessary, he contended, that Europe should be impressed with the idea that they would not be wanting to themselves. They had acquired a great position amongst the nations, and it was their duty to preserve it. He recommended to them to make some progress in the discharge of the debts incurred in this long and expensive war, for, he added unadvisedly, an English parliament could never, he imagined, neglect the sacred obligations which it had assumed. He also suggested to them some measures for the improvement of trade, for the discouragement of profaneness, and to act with unanimity.

The remarks on the necessity of maintaining more troops than the last parliament had determined on, and on defraying the debts incurred by the war, seemed to rouse an extraordinary spirit of anger and disrespect in the new house. It neglected the ordinary courtesy of an address. Before leaving for Holland in the summer, William left a sealed paper, ordering ministers not to reduce the army in compliance to less than sixteen thousand men. Probably this was become known, and there had got abroad a persuasion that the king meant to resist the will of the parliament in this respect; no other cause appeared sufficient to explain the animus which now manifested itself. The house resounded with speeches against standing armies, and on the waste of the people's substance on foreign wars, and it resolved that all the land forces of England in English pay should not exceed seven thousand, and that these should all be natural-born subjects; that not more than twelve thousand should be maintained in Ireland - these, too, all natural-born subjects, and to be supported by the revenue of Ireland. The ministers had told the king before the meeting of parliament that they thought they could obtain a grant of ten or twelve thousand in England, and William had replied that they might as well leave none as so few. But now that this storm broke out, the ministers, seeing no possibility of carrying the number they had hoped for, sate silent, to the great disgust of the king.

This resolution went to strip William of his Dutch guards that he had brought with him, and who had attended him in so many actions, and of the brave Huguenots, who had done such signal service in Ireland. The spirit of the commons, instead of being merely economical, was in this instance petty and miserable. It was neither grateful nor becoming its dignity, in making so sweeping a reduction of the army, to begrudge the king who had rescued them from the miserable race of the Stuarts, and had so nobly acquiesced in everything which regarded their liberties, the small satisfaction of a few Dutch and Huguenot troops. The Huguenots especially, it might have been expected, would have experienced some sympathy from the parliament, not only in return for their own gallant services, but because their friends and fellow-religionists were at this moment suffering the severest persecution. But a deep dislike of foreigners had seized the nation, and this had been rendered the more intense from the lavish wealth which William heaped on Portland and others, and from his retiring every year to spend the summer months in Holland. They had never been accustomed to have their monarch passing a large portion of his time abroad, and they regarded it as an evidence that he only had any regard for the Dutch. The commons, without any regard to his feelings, introduced a bill founded on their resolution, carried it briskly through the house, and sent it up to the lords, where it also passed.

Deeply chagrined, William is said to have walked to and fro on learning that the commons insisted on his dismissing the Dutch guards, and to have muttered, "By God, if I had a son, these guards should not quit me." He wrote to lord Galway, one of his foreign friends, "There is a spirit of ignorance and malice prevails here beyond conception." To Heinsius he wrote in a similar strain, that he was so chagrined at the conduct of the commons, that he was scarcely master of his thoughts, and hinted at coming to extremities, and being in Holland sooner than he had thought. In fact, he was so much excited as to menace again throwing up the government. He sate down and penned a speech which he proposed to address to the two houses; it is still preserved in the British Museum. It ran: - "My Lords and Gentlemen, - I came into this kingdom, at the desire of the nation, to save it from ruin, and to preserve your religion, laws, and liberties; and for this object I have been obliged to sustain a long and burthensome war for this kingdom, which, by the grace of God and the bravery of this nation, is at present terminated by a good peace; in which you may live happily and in repose if you would contribute to your own security, as I recommended at the opening of the session. But seeing, on the contrary, that you have so little regard for my advice, and take so very little care of your own safety, and that you expose yourselves to evident ruin in depriving yourselves of the only means for your defence, it would neither be just nor reasonable for me to be witness of your ruin, not being able on my part to avoid it, being in no condition to defend and protect you, which ^as the only view I had in coming to this country,"

And it then went on to desire them to name proper persons to take charge of the government, promising, however, to come again whenever they would put him in his proper place, with proper power to defend them.

This looks more like the petulance of a schoolboy than the resolve of a serious and reflective monarch. It was the second time that William was on the point of menacing such an abandonment of the charge of government. If he had carried it into effect, the probable consequence would have been that the nation would have regarded it as an abdication, and have placed the princess Anne on the throne. If he really contemplated such an act, however, Somers extinguished the idea by solemnly saying that, if such were his majesty's resolve, he humbly desired to resign the great seal. He received it from him as sovereign, and he begged to return it whilst he continued so. This was an intimation that the chancellor believed his proposed speech would be received as an act of abdication, and he said no more of retiring. The rumour, however, got out; and, so far from the courtiers and commons expressing any regret, they made sport of it, Sunderland being said, when told William threatened to throw up the government, to have replied "Does he so? Well, there is Tom Pembroke (the earl), who is as good a block of wood as a king can be cut out of. We will send for him, and make him our king."

In such a spirit of disunion betwixt king and parliament closed the year 1698. William, however, endeavoured to preserve an air of concession towards the uncompromising commons. When the bill for the disbanding of the troops had passed the lords, he went thither on the 1st of February, 1699, and passed it. He did not hesitate to avow that he took the sweeping reduction, contrary to his earnest advice, as unkind; but he observed that it was his fixed opinion that nothing could be so fatal to the nation as any distrust or jealousy betwixt the king and his people. At the same time he reiterated his conviction that it was an erroneous policy. "I think myself obliged," he said, "in discharge of the trust reposed in me, and for my own justification, that no ill consequences may lie at my door, to tell you plainly my judgment, that the nation is left too much exposed. It is, therefore, incumbent upon you to take this matter into your serious consideration, and effectually to provide such a strength as is necessary for the safety of the kingdom and the preservation of the peace which God has given us." And, as the nation was quite right in opposing a standing army, William was quite right in opposing the too sudden disbandment. It was of consequence, with such a man as Louis XIV., to appear ready for action. He was watching for the disbandment of the armies of the allies, and the rapid dispersion of them no doubt greatly encouraged him in the grand attempt he was contemplating.

<<< 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 4

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About