Having decided to risk a quarrel with loyal Anglicans, he assumed the dispensing power. The judges approved. There was a precedent in his favour. He had support not only in the past but in the future, for William III followed his example. He could claim that he was acting for the reason of State against shameful prejudice and sordid passion. The greatest historic figure of the age, William Penn, was on his side, and went over to explain the principle of his policy to the Prince of Orange. Lewis XIV urged him on. And although the body of English Catholics were much opposed, his immediate advisers, who were men in the French interest, or survivors of the Dover Treaty, Arundel, Bellasis, Dover, Tyrconnel, encouraged his fixed design. A few men in high office, he said, would do more for Catholicism than many hearing mass without impediment.
We must imagine not a sinister tyrant brooding schemes of oppression, but an unintelligent absolutist, in the hands of men, some of whom were able and some sincere, plying him with plausible arguments. Therefore, when the primate and six bishops protested against the Declaration of Indulgence, James sent them to the Tower. Sunderland advised caution. The time for extreme measures, he said, had not come. The violent members of the council thought that they had their enemies at their mercy and they prevailed.
James thought that he was triumphing, for just then the Prince of Wales was born. The future of his policy was assured. The crown was not to pass to the head of the Protestant interest in Europe. James's enemies, says the imperial envoy, gave up their cause for lost. In their despair they at once invented the lie about the warming pan. James's opportunity had come. He could declare an amnesty for the event which had so profoundly changed his fortunes. The seven bishops could be released without a trial, and the impending catastrophe could be averted. The king, disagreeing with his advisers, with Sunderland, with the nuncio, even with Jeffreys, determined to go on. He intended that the bishops should be tried, condemned, and pardoned. With that, his victory would be complete. Instead of which, the bishops were acquitted, and the king's attack on the Church ended in defeat.
On that day Admiral Herbert, disguised as a blue-jacket, left with the invitation to the Prince of Orange to come over. It was written by Algernon Sidney's brother, and bore the signatures of seven considerable men, who were prepared to risk their lives. Several others acquiesced, and it was not the act of one party. The thing had become inevitable when the prince was born. It was delayed until the issue was decided between the crown and the Church. The associates assured William that the Prince of Wales was an imposture, and that he must come, in order to secure his own birthright, as well as the liberties of England. William of Orange had not intrigued that the crown should pass to his wife before the time, and had given his uncle much good advice. For him it was everything that England should not be against him in the struggle with Lewis XIV. For that, he had the Habsburgs on his side, and it was essential that they should still be with him if he obeyed the call of his friends. He had been preparing for it ever since he sent Dykvelt over in 1687, and had asked the States of Holland to hold twenty-five men-of-war and 9000 sailors in readiness, to meet the danger which threatened from France.
James took alarm, and warned William that the succession was not absolutely safe. Lewis, who much dreaded the prospect of having his ablest and most formidable enemy at Whitehall, wished the Princess Anne to precede her elder sister. To strengthen her claim with her father he proposed that she should become a Catholic, and sent over books of controversy for that purpose. James, on the other hand, told William that there would be no crown to inherit, but a commonwealth in England, if he did not succeed in his endeavour to make himself master. Dykvelt had conducted the secret negotiation which ended in the invitation of 30th June.
A still more delicate negotiation was pursued on the Continent. William could not allow it to appear that his expedition implied a war of religion. He would forfeit the alliance of the Emperor, which was the very pivot of his policy. Leopold was a devout and scrupulous man, and it was uncertain how he would regard an enterprise which was to substitute a Protestant dynasty for a Catholic dynasty in England. There was only one way of ensuring his assistance. In order to have the support of the Empire it was requisite to obtain the support of the Papacy. In a religious question Leopold would follow the pope. William sent one of his generals, the Prince de Vaudemont, to Rome; and, through Count Dohna, he opened a correspondence with the Vatican. He represented that the Catholics would obtain from him the toleration which they could never be sure of under James. There would be not only a serious political advantage gained by the detachment of England from the French interest, but also a positive and measurable benefit for the Church of Rome. The pope understood and assented, and took the Habsburgs with him into the camp of the Great Deliverer. This is the touch of mystery in the Revolution of 1688. James, the champion of the Church, had alienated Rome.
The pope, Innocent XI, Odescalchi, is a rare and original figure, and James said truly that no man like him had sat on the see of Rome for centuries. He began the reform of the court, which consisted in the abolition of nepotism. All through the century his predecessors had founded great princely families—Borghese, Ludovisi, Barberini, Pamphili, Chigi, Rospigliosi, Altieri. These great houses grew wealthy out of the spoils of the Church, and, as their founders died without making restitution, opponents of nepotism affirmed that they died unrepentant, and might be found in those regions of the other world where Dante delighted to exhibit the pontiffs of his time. In his zeal for a strict morality Innocent tried to rectify the teaching of the Casuists, and was involved in trouble with the Jesuits. In France he was spoken of as a Jansenist, and in England Oldmixon called him a Protestant pope. He endeavoured, as nobody had done since the Reformation, to find a remedy for the divisions of Western Christendom. The movement had not ceased since Richelieu was minister and Grotius ambassador at Paris, and it became active on both sides. Innocent sanctioned a scheme of concessions which was deemed satisfactory in the universities of Protestant Germany.
When Lewis revoked the Edict of Toleration the pope did not conceal his displeasure. He was compelled at last to allow Te Deums and illuminations; but he made no secret of his disbelief in the armed apostolate of missionaries in jackboots. He was bitterly opposed to the Gallican system, out of which the persecution proceeded. James II was odious to him for many reasons. First as a promoter of French tendencies, both in politics and in religion. For James, like Lewis, was a Gallican in Church questions. When an Englishman defended ultramontane propositions in a disputation at Louvain, he expressed his indignation that such an attack should have been permitted in his presence on the plenary authority of kings. He offended the pope by sending as his ambassador Lord Castlemaine, who was ridiculous not only as the Duchess of Cleveland's husband, but as the author of a book in which he pleaded for toleration on the ground that Catholics should be as well treated in England as Protestants in France. With great reluctance the pope consented that his agent, D'Adda, should be appointed a nuncio; but when James made the Jesuit Petre a privy councillor, giving him his own apartment at Whitehall, and represented that he would be fitter for such a position if he was made a bishop or a cardinal, Innocent refused.
Petre laid the blame on the nuncio, and the Jesuits asked that he should be sent out of the country. He would be forced, said the king, to do without the Court of Rome. D'Adda gave the same advice as the Prince of Orange, that the Penal Laws should not be executed, but the Test Acts retained; and he was one of those who, when the crisis came, maintained that there was nothing to fear from William. After Innocent's death in 1689 there was a change, but Rome declared in favour of taking the oath to William III. Perth wrote from Rome in 1695: "The Prince of Orange has more friends here than either in England or Holland, and the king is universally hated. It's scandalous to hear what is said every day, publicly, when they make comparisons betwixt an heretical, unnatural, usurping tyrant and His Majesty."
On this state of feeling, far stronger in 1688 than in 1695, William built his plan. It was in the power of Lewis at any moment to prevent the expedition. He had an army ready for war, and could have held William fast by sending it against the Netherlands. He preferred to attack the empire on the Upper Rhine. For twenty years it had been his desire to neutralise England by internal broils, and he was glad to have the Dutch out of the way while he dealt a blow at Leopold. It was impossible that the conflict between James and William should not yield him an opportunity. For the beginning he stood carefully aside, letting things take their course. There was no resistance, by land or sea, and it proved almost as easy to dethrone the Stuarts as it had been to restore them. The balance of parties, the lack of energetic conviction in England, had allowed things to settle down, when the real struggle began, in Ireland, in Scotland, and in the Channel. The Scots rising did not postpone the issue, but it is valuable to us for the sake of one transaction.
The deed that was done in Glencoe is familiar to us all, by a patch of Tyrian purple in the most splendid of our histories. It affords a basis for judging the character of William and of his government. They desired that some of the Highlanders should stand out, that an example might be made; and they hoped that it might be the one Catholic clan, as they were likely to be the most dangerous Jacobites. "Who knows," wrote Stair, "but, by God's providence, they are permitted to fall into this delusion that they may only be extirpat." Four days later another writes: "The king does not care that some do it, that he may make examples of them." Accordingly, by his orders, one branch of the Macdonalds was destroyed by Campbell of Glenlyon. There is no doubt about the order. But it is not certain that William knew that the chieftain had taken the oath. The people concerned were rewarded in due proportion. One became a colonel, another a knight, a third a peer, and a fourth an earl. It was a way King William had. When the murder of De Witt made him supreme, he kept away from The Hague, but then saw that the murderers were recompensed. Eighty years later a deserter from one of our regiments was under sentence to be shot. The officer commanding the firing party, another Captain Campbell of Glenlyon, had received a reprieve, with secret orders not to produce it until the culprit stood facing the levelled muskets. At that moment, as he drew the reprieve from his pocket, his handkerchief, coming with it, fell to the ground. The soldiers took it for their signal and fired. Glenlyon exclaimed, "It is the curse of Glencoe!" and at once left the service.
When James escaped to France, he at once went over to Ireland, with a French army, while a French fleet covered the expedition and swept the Channel. James had long intended to make Ireland independent of England, that, under his Protestant successors, it might be an impregnable refuge for persecuted Catholics. He estimated that it would take five years of preparation. Tyrconnel also contemplated separation, and arranged for a French invasion, if James died. When James came over Tyrconnel thought him hopelessly incompetent, and offered his country to Lewis XIV. Sarsfield detested his treachery, and invited Berwick to undertake the government. Of James's French counsellors, one was Lauzun, who commanded the auxiliary army, and proposed to burn Dublin to the ground and ravage the open country. The other was the ambassador D'Avaux, who wished him to make short work of all the Protestants in the island.
James rejected the advice with indignation. Lewis also rejected it, but without the indignation you would expect in a most Christian king, and without thinking the adviser unworthy of his service. D'Avaux relates it all, without reserve, in his despatches, which are among the curiosities of History. They were printed at the Foreign Office, and never published. The only copy I ever saw was uncut when it came into my hands.
In spite of these discordant counsels, the Jacobite prospects in Ireland brightened when a fleet of seventy-eight ships sailed from Brest. "If they were only commanded by De Ruyter," said Louvois, whose control stopped with the shore, "there would be something to hope for." Instead of De Ruyter, Tourville defeated the combined Dutch and English at Beachy Head. The allies lost sixteen ships out of fifty-eight; the French not one. Tourville was master of the Channel. Torrington left the Dutch to do the fighting, and kept as far as he could from the scene of danger. He had to lament the death of his favourite dog. They said that the dog died the death of an admiral, and the admiral lived the life of a dog. That 30th of June is the most disgraceful date in our naval annals.
On the following day the battle of the Boyne was won not in the legendary manner, by William, with his sword in his left hand, or Schomberg, plunging into the river to meet a soldiers death, but by the younger Schomberg, who crossed higher up and outflanked the French. Tourville's victory, after that, was entirely useless. William offered an amnesty, which was frustrated by the English hunger for Irish estates; and the capitulation of Limerick, rejected by the Irish parliament, gave it the name of the City of the Broken Treaty.
The reign of James came to an end when he fled from the Boyne to St. Germains. He became the king of the Nonjurors. In 1693, when the French had been victorious at Steenkerk and Landen, he issued a Declaration, with the doubting approval of French divines, which the nonjuring bishops repudiated. Such concessions, they affirmed, would ruin the monarchy. Kerr was of the same opinion; but he went on to say that when the Declaration had served its purpose and restored the king, he would not be bound to observe it. The war was unprofitable to the allies on land; but after the victory of La Hogue the three kingdoms were safe from invasion. This is the war to which we owe the National Debt, the Bank of England, the growth of the moneyed interest.
But the agrarian interest still largely predominated, and the landlords, as the ruling class, required a reward for their share in the elevation of William. Nineteen years earlier the Corn Laws had been invented for their benefit. Protection against foreign importation did much; but in 1689 a premium on the exportation of English-grown corn was added, and it is this which caused the immense prosperity of English agriculture in the eighteenth century, enriching the landlord with capital at the expense of the yeoman without it.
Two of our greatest writers, to speak truly, our two greatest writers, Burke and Macaulay, have taken pains to show that the Revolution of 1688 was not revolutionary but conservative, that it was little more than a rectification of recent error, and a return to ancient principles. It was essentially monarchical. The king was acknowledged to be a necessity in the then state of England. The idea of a Commonwealth did not appear. The Revolution was mainly the work of Conservatives, that is, of Churchmen who, where Church interests were not threatened, strictly upheld authority, and reverted to their original doctrine when the crisis was over. No change took place in the governing class. The gentry who managed the affairs of the county managed the affairs of the country after 1688 as they had done before. There was no transfer of force from the aristocratic element of society to the democratic. The essentials of free government, religious liberty, national education, emancipation of slaves, freedom of trade, relief of poverty, freedom of the press, solidarity of ministers, publicity of debates, were not mentioned in the resolutions of the Convention or in the Bill of Rights. Nothing was done to determine whether the future belonged to the Tory or the Whig.
And yet it is the greatest thing done by the English nation. It established the State upon a contract, and set up the doctrine that a breach of contract forfeited the crown—the former, in the English convention; the latter, in the Scottish. Parliament gave the crown, and gave it under conditions. Parliament became supreme in administration as well as in legislation. The king became its servant on good behaviour, liable to dismissal for himself or his ministers. All this was not restitution, but inversion. Passive obedience had been the law of England. Conditional obedience and the right of resistance became the law. Authority was limited and regulated and controlled. The Whig theory of government was substituted for the Tory theory on the fundamental points of political science. The great achievement is that this was done without bloodshed, without vengeance, without exclusion of entire parties, with so little definiteness in point of doctrine that it could be accepted, and the consequences could be left to work themselves out. The Act itself was narrow, spiritless, confused, tame, and unsatisfactory. It was perfectly compatible with the oppression of class by class, and of the country by the State, as the agent of a class. It was strangely imperfect.
The consequences ripened slowly, and a time came, under George III, when it seemed that they were exhausted. It was then that another and a more glorious Revolution, infinitely more definite and clear-cut, with a stronger grasp of principle, and depending less on conciliation and compromise, began to influence England and Europe.
LEWIS THE FOURTEENTH
WHILST ENGLAND was traversing the revolutionary period on its arduous course towards free government, France completed, with universal applause, the structure of absolute monarchy. Neither Henry IV nor Richelieu had done enough to secure the country against conspiracy, disorder, and invasion. There was a relapse into civil war during each minority, under Lewis XIII and Lewis XIV; the nobles and the magistrates turned against the crown, and a prince of the blood, Conde, commanded the Spaniards in a campaign on French soil against the royal army. With the aid of Turenne, Mazarin triumphed over every danger, and the young king was anointed in the Cathedral of Rheims.
In 1659, by the Peace of the Pyrenees, the cardinal terminated victoriously the long war with Spain, which began in the middle of the Thirty Years' War, and outlasted it, and established the supremacy of France over the Continent. The one desire of France was the concentration of power, that there might be safety abroad and order at home. To ensure this, more was required than the genius of even the most vigorous and astute ministers in the world. Neither Richelieu, who was a bishop, nor Mazarin, who was a foreigner, could be identified with the State. What was wanted had been wanting in France for half a century—the personality of the king, monarchy personified, with as much splendour, as much authority, as much ascendency, as would fill the national imagination and satisfy national pride. The history of Charles I, the restoration of Charles II, the outbreak of loyal sentiment, which was stronger than religion, which was itself a religion, showed that there was something in royalty higher than the policy of statesmen, and more fitted to inspire the enthusiasm of sacrifice.
At the death of Mazarin there was no man capable of being his successor. Le Tellier, Colbert, Lionne were men of very great ability, but they were departmental ministers. The young Monarch gave orders that, as they had reported to the cardinal, they should now report to himself. He added that they were to assist him with their advice whenever he asked for it; and he did not make it appear that he would trouble them often. The initiative of government passed into his hands. He did not say, "L'etat, c'est moi." Those words, I believe, were invented by Voltaire, but they are profoundly true. It was the thing which occasion demanded, and he was the man suited to the occasion.
Lewis XIV was by far the ablest man who was born in modern times on the steps of a throne. He was laborious, and devoted nine hours a day to public business. He had an excellent memory and immense fertility of resource. Few men knew how to pursue such complex political calculations, or to see so many moves ahead. He was patient and constant and unwearied, and there is a persistent unity in his policy, founded, not on likes and dislikes, but on the unvarying facts in the political stage of Europe: Every European state was included in his system, and had its part in the game. His management of each was so dexterous that diplomacy often made war superfluous, and made it successful. Lewis was not a born soldier like Swedish Charles and the great Frederic. He never exercised an actual command. He would appear at sieges when the psychological moment came, and ride ceremoniously under fire, with his Jesuit confessor close at hand. His fame was so large a part of the political capital of France, that a pretence was made of believing in his generalship, and the king took it quite seriously. He told his son to go to the wars and prove his warlike quality, that the change, when his father died, might not be too deeply felt. In many places he was accepted as a benefactor and a That was generally the case in Switzerland, in Portugal, in Denmark and Sweden, in Poland and Hungary, in parts of Germany, and in parts of Italy. For in small countries public men poor and easily consented to accept his gifts. In this way he strove to prevent coalitions and to isolate his enemies. The enemies were Austria and the Netherlands.
Two facts governed the European situation. One was the break-up of the imperial power in Germany, after the Thirty Years' War. The effect of it was that France was fringed by a series of small territories which were too feeble to defend themselves, and which Germany was too feeble and too divided to protect. There were Belgium, Liege, Luxemburg, Lorraine, Alsace, and Franche Comte. The other overshadowing fact was the evident decay of Spain, of the royal family as well as of the nation. Belgium, Luxemburg, and Franche Comte were Spanish, and were therefore helpless. The acquisition of these provinces was an inevitable element of his policy. That was part of a far larger scheme. Philip IV had no son. His daughter, Maria Theresa, was heir to his boundless dominions. As early as 1646 Mazarin resolved that his master should marry the Infanta, and that Spain and the Indies, Naples and the Milanese, and the remnant of the possessions of Charles the Bold, should be attached to the crown of France. When the time came, and reluctant Spain consented, at the treaty of the Pyrenees, Lewis was discovered to be in love with another lady. Her name was Marie Mancini, the youngest of three sisters, and she was the cardinal's own niece.
Mazarin, the ablest and most successful of ministers, had one damning vice. He was shamefully avaricious. He amassed, in the service of the State, therefore dishonestly, an income larger than that of the King of England or the King of Spain. The necklace of pearls which he gave to one of his nieces, and which is at Rome, is said to be still the finest in existence. But Mazarin, though he was sordid and mean, was a statesman of the highest rank. He sent his niece away, in spite of the tears of Lewis, and the Spanish princess became Queen of France. The independence of Spain, the unity of the Spanish empire, were too grand a thing to be an item in the dowry of a bride. She was compelled to renounce her rights, which were transferred to her sister. The renunciation was conditional. It was to depend on the payment, in due time, of the Infanta's fortune. As the payment was not made, the French regarded the surrender as null and void, and the interest at stake, the most splendid inheritance on earth, was one that could not be given up without a conflict. From the moment of the marriage the main object of French policy was to make the succession secure, by negotiation or force, and to take every advantage otherwise of Spanish weakness.
All these plans were doomed to a terrible disappointment. In 1665 Philip of Spain died; but he had married again, and left a son, who became king, in his cradle, under the name of Charles II. The new king was sickly and backward, and it was expected that he would die young, unmarried, and childless. Meantime, the fulfilment of French hopes was postponed for a generation, and the Spanish succession was opened, not at the beginning of Lewis's reign, but at the end. He recovered from the blow by a device to acquire part of the Spanish empire, no longer having a hope of the whole. The device was suggested by Turenne. His experience in the Fronde taught him the danger of having the Spaniards so near, in the valley of the Somme. "Whenever there is trouble in France," he said, "the enemy can be at Paris in four days." In self-defence, for security rather than aggrandisement, the frontier must be pushed back. He caused his secretary to compose a treatise, showing that, by the custom of Brabant, that province devolved on the queen, Maria Theresa. It was the custom there that the children of a first marriage should suffer no loss if their father married again. What would have been their estate, remained their estate. The fee simple passed to them. The father enjoyed a life-interest only, without the power of disposal. The French government argued that, by the analogy of the Salic Law, the principle which applied to property applied to sovereignty, and that what was good for a manor was good for a crown. And they assumed that the custom of Brabant was the law of Belgium.
This is the right of Devolution, with which the king's aggressive career began, and his first war was the war of Devolution, or, as they say in France, the war for the rights of the queen. Those rights consisted of consolation claims set up after the wreck of the dream of universal empire. They presented abundant matter for dispute, but they were worth disputing, even by the last argument of kings.
The Power most concerned was not Spain, but the Netherlands. For Spain, the Belgic provinces were in outlying dependency, involving international complications. For Holland, they were a rampart. The government of the States was in the hands of John de Witt and the Republicans. They were held in check by the partisans of the House of Orange, which, in the last generation, had put the republican leader, the real predecessor of De Witt, to death. The feud was there, faction was not appeased, and De Witt dreaded the day when the Orange party should recover power. The Prince of Orange was only 17. When war came in sight, the Perpetual Edict excluded him from the position which his family had occupied, by forbidding the Stadtholder from being at the same time Commander of the Forces. De Witt was not afraid of a naval war. His brother was the admiral, and it was he who sailed up the Thames. But war on land would bring the young William forward. De Witt made every possible concession, hoping to prevent it. Rather than fight the French, he was willing to agree to a partition of the Belgic provinces. Already, he was at war with England, and the sea-fights had been indecisive. Resistance to France on land was out of the question, except by means of a Coalition, and as no Coalition could be hoped for, Holland stood aside, while Turenne overran Flanders. The Austrian Habsburgs did not interfere to protect the Spanish branch, although they were its heirs. In case his son should die, Philip IV had left his entire monarchy to his second daughter, who was married to the Emperor Leopold. It would remain in the family; whereas, if the French queen had not renounced, it would be swallowed up in the dominions of a stranger—that was the point of view of a Spaniard. The Austrian viewed things differently. He knew perfectly well that France would not be bound by an act which belonged not to the world of real politics, but to the waste-paper basket. Therefore, when France proposed an eventual partition, it seemed important to obtain a more serious and more binding contract than the queen's renunciation. The conditions were not unfavourable to the imperial interest. As there were several other partition treaties, none of which were carried out, the terms of this, the first, need not occupy us. The treaty was not meant to govern the future, but the present. It helped to keep the Emperor tranquil during the spoliation of his Spanish kinsman.
Within a week of the first treaty of partition, Sir William Temple concluded the Triple Alliance. Deserted by Austria, De Witt turned to England. He sent his fleet to destroy the British men-of-war in the Medway, and this catastrophe, coming so soon after the plague and the fire of London, was too much for the feeble spirit of Charles and his ministers. They made peace, allied themselves with Holland and with Sweden, and the progress of the French was arrested. The Triple Alliance was the earliest of that series of coalitions which ended by getting the better of the power of Lewis XIV, and is therefore a landmark in History. But there was nothing lasting in it; the rivalry of the two commercial countries was not to be reconciled by politicians. England was on the side of the Prince of Orange, and desired that he should become sovereign. William had resolved, during the very negotiations that prepared the alliance, that the way to ruin De Witt was to exhibit him to Lewis in the light of a friend of the English. After having been conciliatory to the edge of weakness, he had turned suddenly into an enemy. Lewis could not continue the war because of the maritime superiority of his united opponents. He made peace, restoring Franche Comte, which Conde had occupied, and contenting himself with an extended frontier in Flanders. Lille, which had been taken by Vauban, in an otherwise inglorious campaign, was converted into a great French stronghold. That was the result.
These events exhibit Lewis in his prime, while Colbert and Lionne were living, and were able to balance the sinister influence of Louvois. It was a war of ambition, undertaken after the shock of the loss of Spain and of all that belonged to it. It was not begun from a sense of right and duty. But the advantage was not pushed to the bitter end; the terms agreed upon were reasonable; part of the conquests were restored. Lewis proved himself capable of moderation, of self-command, even of generosity. The outrageous violence and tyranny of later years were not immediately apparent. He withdrew from the fray, preparing for another spring. Then he would avenge himself on John de Witt, and conquer Belgium in Holland. De Witt was the most enlightened statesman in Europe, but he was not a war minister. England was easily detached from him in the hope that the Prince of Orange might be supreme; and Lewis agreed to whatever was necessary, that the English fleet might be on his side. Thus the Triple Alliance was dissolved, and the Dover Treaty took its place. The help afforded by the English fleet in the Dutch war fell short of expectation, but the effect of the agreement was to blot out England for many years.
De Witt, unable to face the storm, offered advantageous terms, which were rejected, and then resigned office. The Prince of Orange took the command of the army; but, at the approach of the French, eighty- three Dutch fortresses opened their gates. At The Hague De Witt and his brother were torn to pieces by an Orange mob, and Holland saved itself by letting in the ocean.
William of Orange, never a very successful general, was a good negotiator, and, excepting his own uncle Charles II, he soon had Europe on his side. The French were driven over the Vosges by the Imperialists. Turenne, in his last campaign, reconquered Alsace, crossed the Rhine, and gave battle to Montecucculi. He fell, and his army retired. Lewis XIV, to mark the greatness of the loss, at once named six new marshals of France. Montecucculi resigned his command. Having had the honour, he said, of fighting Turenne, and having even defeated him, he would not risk his reputation against men who were the small change for the great man who was dead. Lewis XIV had 220,000 men under arms. Conde defeated William at Senef. As often as Vauban defended a fortress, he held it; as often as he besieged a fortress, it fell. The balance of victory inclined to France. England gave no assistance, and the Prince of Orange came over, married the eldest of the princesses, immensely strengthening his own position, and hastening the conclusion of peace.
The peace of Nimeguen gave to Lewis XIV that predominant authority over Europe which he retained undiminished, and even increased, during at least ten years. He acquired a further portion of Belgium, strengthening his frontier on the threatened line; he annexed Franche Comte and he recovered Alsace. He had shown himself to be aggressive and unscrupulous, but his military power was equal to his pretensions; he was true to his humbler allies; his diplomatic foresight, and the art of his combinations, were a revelation to his contemporaries. They also knew that they would never be safe from renewed attack, as the larger half of the coveted region, in the Low Countries, Luxemburg, and Lorraine, was still unabsorbed. His interest was clearly recognised. His policy had been openly declared. With so much ambition, capacity, and power, the future was easy to foretell. In the position he had acquired, and with the qualities he had shown, he would be as dangerous in peace as in war. Coalitions alone could resist him, and a coalition could only be a work of time and patience. When the alliance which had opposed him with unequal fortune was dissolved, a season of peril would ensue, for which no defensive provision could be made.
The keystone of the situation was the assured inaction of England. Whilst that lasted, at least while Charles II lived, Lewis would defy the rest of Europe. He had nothing to fear except the Stadtholder. Whilst De Witt governed, the French attack was irresistible. But the Perpetual Edict was repealed, and William of Orange was captain-general for life. He had saved his country, driven out the French, raised Europe against them. The merchants of Amsterdam, who, in 1672, were preparing to sail for Batavia, as the Puritans sailed for New England, were now the second Power in Europe politically, and commercially by far the first. William of Orange, to whose international genius the change was due, stood very near the succession to the English throne. In the course of nature it would be his some day, by right of his wife, or by his own. And there was hope for European independence and the existence of free communities, if the resources of England passed to William earlier than the resources of Spain fell into the hands of Lewis. After the peace, that was the problem of general politics.
The treaties of Nimeguen were far from satisfying the aspirations of Lewis. He dismissed his foreign minister. Pomponne was the most honourable man in his service, and had conducted with eminent dexterity and success the negotiations for the numerous treaties with every country. Lewis says that he was deficient in the energy and the greatness requisite in executing the orders of a king of France who had not been without good fortune. Pomponne came into office in 1671 and left it in 1679, so that he was not compromised by the derisive claim of devolution, or by the yet more hollow sophistry of reunion, by which Lewis now proceeded to push his advantage. His dismissal announced to the nations what they had to look for. It meant that the profit of Nimeguen was not enough, that the greatness of the French monarch exacted further sacrifices.
After the peace Lewis kept up his army. There were 112,000 men under arms, and there were cadres for twice as many more. With that force in hand, he proceeded to raise new claims, consequential, he said, on the late favourable treaties. He said that the territories ceded to France ought to be ceded with their dependencies, with such portions as had formerly belonged to them, and had been detached in the course of ages. And the parliaments of Lorraine, Alsace, and Franche Comte were directed to ascertain what places there were, what fragments under feudal tenure, to which that retrospective principle applied. They were called chambers, or courts, of reunion, and they enumerated certain small districts, which the French troops accordingly occupied. All this was futile skirmishing. The real object was Strasburg. Alsace was French, but Strasburg, the capital, that is, the capital of Lower Alsace, was imperial. It was the most important place on the road between Paris and Vienna, for it commanded the passage of the only river which crossed and barred the way. Situated on the left bank, it was the gate of France; and twice in the late war it had admitted the Imperialists, and opened the way to Paris. The bishop, Furstenberg, belonged to a great German family that was devoted to the French interest; but the town was Protestant.
Up to that moment, 1681, religious antagonism had not added much to the acerbity of the conflict. Spain and Austria were the enemies of Lewis; Sweden and Denmark were his allies. Brandenburg accepted his gifts, in money, in jewels, in arras. England was his humble friend. But a change was approaching; and it began when Furstenberg first said mass in Strasburg minster, and preached from the text "Nunc Dimittis." Vauban at once arrived, and erected an impregnable barrier, and a medal was struck bearing the inscription: "Clausa Germanis Gallia." On the same day as Strasburg, the French occupied Casale. This was a fortress closing the road between the duchy of Savoy and the duchy of Milan, and commanding the line of the Po. It belonged to Montferrat, which was a dependency of Mantua; but the duke had his price, and he sold the right of occupation to the French. The agreement had been concluded three years before, but it had been betrayed by the duke's minister, and it had become necessary to await a more convenient occasion. The French government did not scruple to have an obstructive adversary put out of the way. Louvois gave orders that Lisola, the Austrian statesman who exposed the scheme of devolution, should be seized, and added that it would be no harm if he was killed. His son commissioned Grandval to murder William III.
The traitor of Casale met with a more terrible fate than a pistol shot or the stroke of a dagger. He suddenly disappeared, and no man ever looked upon his face again. His existence was forgotten, and when he died, long after, nobody knew who he was. In the dismal register of the dead who died in the Bastille he is entered under the name of Marchiali. Fifty years later he began to fix the attention of the world, and became a fascinating enigma. For Marchiali means Mattioli, who was the man in the Iron Mask. That is, of course, there was no man in the Iron Mask; the material was more merciful than that; and the name which has become so famous is as false as the one in which the victim of tyranny was buried.
Whilst Lewis pursued his career of annexation, the empire was disabled by war with the Turks and by troubles in Hungary. In 1683 the grand vizier besieged Vienna, and would have taken it but for the imperial allies, the Elector of Saxony, the Duke of Lorraine, and the King of Poland. After the relief of the capital they carried the war down the Danube, and Leopold was once more the head of a powerful military empire. It was too late to interfere with French conquests. Luxemburg was added to the series in 1684, and an armistice of twenty years practically, though not finally, sanctioned what had been done since Nimeguen. When the four great fortresses had become French—Lille, Besancon, Strasburg, and Luxemburg—and when the empire succumbed, recognising all these acts of entirely unprovoked aggression, Lewis attained the highest level of his reign. He owed it to his army, but also to his diplomacy, which was pre-eminent. He owed it, too, to the intellectual superiority of France at the time, and to the perfection which the language reached just then. The thinking of Europe was done for it by Frenchmen, and French literature, penetrating and predominant everywhere, was a serious element of influence.
In all the work of these brilliant years there was increase of power and territorial agglomeration; there was no internal growth or political development. The one thing wanted was that the king should be great and the country powerful. The object of interest was the State, not the nation, and prosperity did not keep pace with power. The people were oppressed and impoverished for the greater glory of France. Colbert trebled the public revenue, but he did not make it depend on the growth of private incomes or the execution of useful public works. In 1683 Colbert died, and Louvois, the son of Le Tellier, became supreme minister.
The queen's death, about the same time, caused a greater change. The king married Madame de Maintenon. He had been unfaithful to his first wife, but now he was a model husband. The second wife, who never became a queen, and was never acknowledged, ruled over his later years. She was the most cultivated, thoughtful, and observant of women. She had been a Protestant, and retained, for a long time, the zeal of a convert. She was strongly opposed to the Jansenists, and was much in the confidence of the best men among the clergy. It was universally believed that she promoted persecution, and urged the king to revoke the Edict of Nantes. Her letters are produced in evidence. But her letters have been tampered with by an editor, who was a forger and a falsifier.
The Revocation required no such specific agency, but proceeded by consistent logic, from the tenor of the reign. The theory of government, which is that which Bossuet borrowed from Hobbes, and clothed in the language of Scripture, does not admit that a subject should have a will, a conviction, a conscience of his own, but expects that the spiritual side of him shall be sacrificed to the sovereign, like his blood and treasure. Protestant liberties, respected by Richelieu and still more entirely by Mazarin, who acknowledged the loyalty of Huguenots in the Fronde, became an exotic, an anachronism, a contradiction, and a reproach, as absolute monarchy rose to the zenith. The self-government of the Gallican Church, the administration of the clergy by the clergy, was reduced to the narrowest limits, and the division of power between Church and State was repressed in favour of the State. It could not be borne, in the long-run, that Protestants should govern themselves, while Catholics could not.
The clergy, zealous for the extinction of Jansenism, naturally extended their zeal against those who were more hostile to their Church than Jansenists. Everything else was required to give way to the governing will, and to do honour to the sovereign. The Protestants, under their protecting immunity, were a belated and contumelious remnant of quite another epoch. Exceptions which were tolerable under the undeveloped monarchy were revolting when it had grown to its radiant perfection. The one thing wanting was the Revocation, to abolish the memory of an age in which a king whose throne was insecure conceded to turbulent and disloyal subjects that which the sovereign of a loyal and submissive people would do well to revoke. To fulfil the ideal of royalty, the monument of the weakness of royalty and the strength of revolution must be ingeniously hidden away. The ardour of rising absolutism is the true cause of the Revocation.
William III explained it in another way. He said that the purpose was to sow suspicion and dissension between Protestant and Catholic Powers, by showing that the Catholics at heart, desired to extinguish the Protestant religion. Such a suspicion, properly fanned, would make alliances and coalitions impossible between them. The Waldenses then survived in one or two valleys of Piedmont, much assimilated to the Swiss Calvinists. Lewis required that they should be put down by force, and, when the Duke of Savoy hesitated, offered to supply the necessary troops. This extraordinary zeal, indicating that the spirit of persecution was common to all, and was not stimulated by causes peculiar to France, supplies the only evidence we have to sustain William's interpretation.
It is well to be rational when we can, and never, without compulsion, to attribute motives of passion, or prejudice, or ignorance as a factor in politics. But it is necessary to remember that the Plot was only six years old. The French government knew all about it, and was in the secret of the papers destroyed by Coleman. To them it must have appeared that the English were turned into ferocious assassins by the mere force of their religious belief. There was no visible reason why such things should be in England and not in France, why a majority should be more easily carried away than a minority, or why High Church Anglicans should be more prone to murder a priest or a friar than extreme Calvinists, with whom it was a dogmatic certainty that Catholics were governed by Antichrist.
The Gallican clergy were divided. Several bishops condemned the action of the government, then or afterwards. The great majority promoted or encouraged it, not all by a revival of the persecuting spirit, but partly in the belief that the barriers were falling, and that the Churches were no longer irreconcilable. They were impressed by the fact that Protestantism had outgrown and discarded Luther, that Arminians in Holland, the Lutherans of the University of Helmstedt, the French schools of Sedan and Saumur, the Caroline divines in England, and even Puritans like Leighton and Baxter, were as much opposed as themselves to the doctrine of justification, which was the origin of the Protestant movement. At the same time, the abuses which roused Luther's opposition had disappeared, if not everywhere, at least in France. Between Protestants in that later variation and Gallicans, the difference was not that which subsisted with Ultramontanes. Bossuet and two Englishmen, Holden and Cocker, drew up statements of what they acknowledged to be essentials in religion, which were very unlike the red-hot teaching of Salamanca and Coimbra. As the Protestants were no longer the Protestants who had seceded, the Catholics were no longer the Catholics who had cast them out. The best men of the Sorbonne were as unlike Tetzel and Prierias as Leibniz was unlike John Knox. It was unscientific, it was insincere, to regard the present controversy as a continuation of the old.
These sentiments were very heartily reciprocated among the Lutherans, and people spoke much of a misunderstanding, and represented the Reformation as the result of the unfinished theology, the defective knowledge of Church history, in the sixteenth century. Thus it was that nobody went further than Bossuet at one time in the direction of union, and nobody was more strongly in favour of the harsh measures of Louvois. If the policy of the Revocation had been to divide the European Powers, it proved a failure; for it helped to make them coalesce.
In the following year, 1686, a league was concluded at Augsburg between the emperor, part of the empire, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. This was the old story. Against nearly the same combination of discordant forces Lewis had held his own in the Dutch war and the negotiations of Nimeguen. England was wanting. William attempted to bring over his father-in-law, and, having failed by friendly arts, undertook to compel him. The Revolution threw the weight of England into the scales, and the war that ensued became the war of the Grand Alliance.
This was the turn in the fortunes of Lewis. He ravaged twenty miles of the Palatinate for the sake of a claim on the part of the Duchess of Orleans, who was a Princess Palatine. His armies were victorious, as usual, at Steenkerk and at Landen. The English were driven to the north-eastern extremity of Ireland; and Trouville had better reason than Van Tromp to fix a broom at his masthead. And then Ireland was lost. The French fleet was destroyed, by very superior numbers, at La Hogue, and the Grand Alliance, aided at last by the ships, and the men, and the money of England, bore down the resistance of exhausted France. William was acknowledged King of England at the close of a struggle which had begun twenty-five years before. Lewis, having formally offered to support James's election to the throne of Poland, when Sobieski died, gave him up. Vauban complained that the war had been too prosperous on the Continent to justify so disastrous a termination.
From the peace of Ryswick the lengthening shadow of the Spanish succession falls upon the scene, and occupies the last years alike of William, of Leopold, and of Lewis. It was known that the King of Spain could not live long; and as the prize came near, Europe, for four years, was hushed in expectation.
THE WAR OF THE SPANISH SUCCESSION
WE COME now to the last and greatest transaction in Lewis XIV's reign—the acquisition of the Spanish crown.
The idea of a predominant Power in Europe was part of absolutism. It proceeded from the same love of authority, the same pride of greatness, the same disregard for the equal rights of men, the same pretensions to superiority and prerogative, international as well as national. The position of the king in Europe was security for his position in France itself. Subjects were more willing to submit to one to whom foreigners submitted. In three successive wars Lewis had striven for this advantage, and had made himself felt as the public enemy and the vigilant disturber of the peace of Europe. If he added Spain to his dominions by legal and pacific means, by negotiated treaty or testamentary bequest, it would be more legitimate than his former attempts at mastery. His mother was a Spanish princess. His wife was a Spanish princess. The emperor was in the same position, but in each case the Queen of France was the elder sister. Both of the French queens had resigned their claims; but Lewis had not confirmed his wife's renunciation, as her dowry was left unpaid; and it was not confirmed by the national authorities in Spain.
In 1668, in spite of the will of Philip IV giving the succession to Austria, Leopold, who at that time had no children, had been ready for an equitable partition. But in 1689, when the Maritime Powers, that is, when William III had urgent need of Austria in the coalition against France, they promised the undivided monarchy of Spain to Leopold's second son. That agreement was superseded by the peace of Ryswick. And in the interval a new claimant was born, with evidently better right than the young archduke. For the archduke was the son of a second marriage. The emperor had only a daughter by his Spanish wife, who married the elector Max Emmanuel of Bavaria, and gave birth to a son in 1692. Under the will of Philip IV, the late King of Spain, that prince was the lawful heir. He was not the imperial candidate; for Leopold had required his own daughter to surrender her claim, that his crowns might not pass from Habsburg to Wittelsbachs.
For the very reason that he was neither a Habsburg nor a Bourbon, the electoral Prince of Bavaria became the candidate of William, and he agreed with Lewis that he should inherit Spain and the Indies, Italy and the Low Countries to be divided. By this, which is known as the First Partition Treaty, though in reality it was the second, England obtained nothing, except the prospect of peace through a friendly understanding with France, and it alienated the emperor and outraged Spain. That foreigners should dispose at their own convenience of the empire which had been built up by Spanish hands was an intolerable offence to Spaniards. They refused to be dismembered without even having been consulted. With all her dominions, with the united crowns of twenty-two kingdoms, Spain was unprosperous and insecure. Her vitality was kept up by her foreign possessions. Brabant, the Milanese, Campania, Apulia, were the richest portions of Europe, and neither France, nor the empire, nor England possessed the like. Deprived of these, the monarchy would decline quickly; for with all her pride, and her fame, and her unsetting sun, Spain was visibly going down. It was their policy and their resolution that the crown, though it must pass away to strangers, should pass undiminished. That it was about to pass away, all men knew.
On 19th September, three weeks before Lewis and William concluded their treaty, the primate assured the French ambassador that they must proceed as if the king was a dead man. The king himself knew his danger. His wife was a sister of the empress, and they were in the Austrian interest. So much so, that having made a will in favour of the Bavarian prince, Charles revoked it; the ambassador Harrach, the Prince of Hesse, who commanded in Catalonia, the queen, when her confidant was not bribed on the other side, were active for the archduke. But when the Partition Treaty became known, in November 1698, the king made another will, and publicly announced that his heir was the young prince of Bavaria. He thus took the candidate of France and England, assigning to him the whole, not a part. It was an attempt to preserve unity and avert partition by adopting the chosen claimant of the partitioning Powers. The English parliament, intent on peace, and suspicious of William's foreign policy, which was directed by him personally, with Dutch advisers, to the exclusion of ministers, reduced the army to 7000 men. William carried his distrust of Englishmen so far that he requested the imperial ambassador Wratislaw, an important man in his own country, to consult nobody but the Dutchman Albemarle. The public men of this country, he said, revealed every secret to their friends.
Six months later, both the will and the treaty were void and annulled by the death of the Bavarian prince, by small-pox, at Brussels, where his father was governor. The work had to be begun over again. The feeling of all Spanish statesmen in favour of maintaining the integrity of the monarchy was unchanged. That could be done only by choosing a Bourbon or a Habsburg. No other person could compete. The court was divided simply into an Austrian and a French party. The king's choice reverted to his nephew, the archduke. But those who had preferred the electoral prince were opposed to the Austrian, and became the partisans of France. They were a majority, and preponderant. If it could be made her interest to keep up the Spanish empire France was better able to do it than Austria. Especially now that England was detached from her ally the emperor. For William concluded with Lewis a second Treaty of Partition, giving Spain, the Indies, and the Netherlands to the archduke, the Italian possessions to France. Austria was no party to this agreement, and openly preferred Italy to all the rest. In England it was received with extreme coldness, and in Spain with indignation. In the summer of the year 1700 the king's illness became alarming. The skill of his physicians being exhausted, spiritual remedies were sought, and he was exorcised. The devil declared that the king was possessed. Subsequently he admitted that this was a falsehood, which surprised nobody.
The great question, whether the Spanish monarchy should remain united or should go to pieces, reached a preliminary conclusion on 3rd October, 1700. Charles appeared to be sinking, when he signed the last will which Portocarrero and the friends of the French had drawn up, with some marks of haste. He lived on four weeks longer, but never had the strength to revoke the act which disinherited his family. He left Spain, with all dependencies, to the Duke of Anjou, second son of the Dauphin, and if Anjou ever came to the throne in France, then he should be succeeded in Spain by his younger brother, so that the two crowns could never be united. Failing the French line, the succession was to pass to the archduke; and if the archduke came to the throne of Austria, then to the Duke of Savoy. There also the union of the crowns was provided against. The policy of all this was obvious. The artifice consisted in the omission of the House of Orleans. For the Duke of Orleans, descending from Anne of Austria, was nearer than the archduke Charles. At the same time he was farther removed from the throne of France than the Duke of Anjou, less likely, therefore, to alarm the Powers. It might be hoped that he would be near enough to Lewis to secure the preservation of the Spanish empire, and not near enough to threaten European independence. A time came when the allies thought of him as a possible substitute, and offered him a principality between France and Spain. That is, he suggested himself as a better alternative to Anjou, and they thought of giving him Navarre and Languedoc. Put forward at a time when the Maritime Powers were not committed to the archduke, he might have been accepted. But he was not the candidate of Lewis. The object of the Spaniards was to make sure that Lewis would break his engagement with William III, that he would give up the partition and accept the succession, preferring the risk of war for so great a prize to the chance of a pacific division of the spoil. This they ensured by the provision that Spain, if it did not belong to the French line, should pass to the Austrian; that, failing Anjou and his brother, the Austrian should take his place.
The will of Charles II shows a distinct animosity against the Maritime and Protestant Powers; and a rumour spread that it had been written under the influence of the pope, who dreaded the presence of Dutch and English sailors and factors in South America. A letter was produced purporting to contain the advice of Innocent XII in the matter; and the following pontiff, Clement XI, was obliged to disavow it.
Before the death of Charles II the nature of the will he had made was known at Versailles. Tallard, who had negotiated the Partition Treaty, was beside himself with anger. He convinced Torcy, he convinced Lewis himself, that they must not accept the succession. On 4th November the king sent word to William that he remained true to the scheme of Partition to which he had pledged himself. "I shall fulfil my engagements," he said, "in spite of any offers that may be made to me." He assured Leopold that he would never accept the whole succession. It was safer to be content with a share, under the auspicious sanction of the Maritime Powers. But Torcy having shaken off the too eager Marshal Tallard, changed his mind. He urged that neither the whole succession nor a part of it could be had without fighting, as Austria was as much opposed to the partition, as to the acceptance of the will by France. Torcy was not yet the great man he became during his long administration. But his argument carried conviction, and Lewis argued that his grandson should accept the proffered throne, and that Bourbons should reign where the Habsburgs had reigned for a century and a half. He was not bound by any engagement to the emperor, who was no party to the Partition Treaty. He was bound by that treaty to King William; but it was uncertain whether William had the support of his two nations. The funds rose at Amsterdam; and in England the king observed that everybody preferred the will to the treaty. For the Partition Treaty had stipulated nothing for English interests, nothing, therefore, worth fighting for. And England had no territorial advantage to claim.
The commercial, economical, and pacific spirit was evident, both in England and Holland. On the other side, there was the strong will and infinite dexterity of William. In the last Partition Treaty he had betrayed this weakness of his position, and had given way to the skilled diplomacy of France. Lewis did not believe that he would prevail over the public opinion of his country. And if he did prevail, his position would be less formidable than before. Lewis now had Spain on his side, and all the dependencies of Spain. He also had Bavaria and Savoy. In the last war he had been unsuccessful at sea, and in the Irish expedition, which was carried on beyond the sea by his naval, not his military administration. In the coming war he would trust less to his fleet than to his troops, which had never been unsuccessful in a general action. He resolved to defy the Dutch and the English, and to seize every attainable advantage. The Spanish ambassador had exclaimed, "The Pyrenees have melted away." Lewis now announced that his grandson was not to renounce his right to the throne of France. In the Barrier Fortresses the Dutch held garrisons. Lewis sent them home and occupied the places himself. "Dutchmen were not wanted," he said, "to protect one Bourbon against the other." In August 1701 he obtained for French traders the asiento, the profitable and coveted monopoly in negro slaves. In September he prohibited English imports. Then, on the 16th, he did one thing more, one thing too much even for a nation of economists and calculators.
The acceptance of the Spanish succession by France was the frustration of William's efforts during thirty years. He had striven and made war for peace and civilisation against wilful attack and the reign of force. That good cause was defeated now, and the security of national rights and international conventions was at an end. The craving for empire and the hegemony of Europe had prevailed. The temper of England compelled him, in April 1701, to acknowledge Philip of Anjou. The country, he said, could not understand the refusal to acknowledge a king welcomed by the whole of Spain. He advised the Emperor to have the German princes with him, and to begin the attack. He himself would arm meanwhile, and his own people, before long, would drive him into war. He relied on the arrogance of the French, and this calculation, the measures by which he brought public opinion on to his side, are the greatest achievement of his career.
As it became apparent that England was to lose, not, like Austria, a visionary prospect, but its commercial existence, during the summer of 1701 the spirit of parliament began to be roused. William, watching the flow of the patriotic tide, concluded with Austria and Holland the treaty of The Hague, which divided Europe, for the first time, into a Latin and a German half. Austria was to obtain that which it desired above all things, dominion over Italy. The Maritime Powers were to retain their commercial privileges in Spain, and everything they could make their own in America. France was to be excluded from transatlantic markets; but nothing was said as to Spain. Implicitly, Philip V was acknowledged. The Maritime Powers aimed much more at prosperity than at power. Their objects were not territorial, but commercial. The date of this treaty, which was to cost so much blood, was 7th September.
William was moving more rapidly than public opinion, but public opinion was not far behind. The country was committed to war with France at the very beginning of that fatal September. The treaty had been signed nine days, when James II died at St. Germains. Lewis acknowledged the son as he had acknowledged the father—the one as the other, a king in partibus. It was a platonic engagement, involving no necessary political consequences. Since the treaty of Ryswick, Lewis treated William as king, though there was a James II. He did not cease so to treat him because there was a James III. To a prince who, the week before, had contrived a warlike coalition against him, a coalition which soon proved more formidable than all those which had preceded it, he owed no more than the letter of their agreements. The decisive step towards open hostilities was taken by the King of England, not by the King of France. Parliament had just passed the Act of Succession. Lewis's declaration in favour of the Stuarts appeared to be in defiance of the law in favour of the Guelphs. England had not dared to question the right of the Spaniards to regulate the succession. England could not permit interference with her own.
This declaration of Lewis XIV, imprudent but not unprovoked, gave to William what he wanted. It supplied a strong current of national feeling. The nation was ardent on his side. He had succeeded at last. The war with France, for the partition of the Spanish monarchy, would be carried on with determination under the coming reign. For William knew that Anne would soon be queen. It was also known at Paris, for William had consulted the French king's physician, and there were no illusions. The strange impolicy of Lewis's action may be explained by the belief that another than William of Orange would appear at the head of the allied armies in the next campaign. That the change of commander would be the greatest calamity that had befallen France since Agincourt was not foreseen.
In November 1701 Parliament was dissolved, and a majority was returned prepared for war, prepared to support the policy of the Grand Alliance. What made it formidable was that the Tories themselves were warlike. The Whigs were warlike because it was their nature, since France had declared itself for the Stuarts; also because they and their friends were interested in pushing trade with the oceanic world, which was mainly Spanish. But it was not, at first, a Whig war. On 9th March, 1702 they obtained the majority. They were 235 to 221.
William III was dying. He had borne the accident well by which he broke his collar-bone. He sat at dinner that evening, and was expected to recover in a few weeks. But he fell asleep one day near an open window. Nobody had the courage to shut it, and he caught a chill, of which, in five days, he died. His prestige was lost to the cause of the allies. At the same time, William was a Dutch king, working with Dutchmen only, Heinsius, Bentinck, Keppel, for Dutch as much as for English objects. While he lived there was no danger that the interests of his own countrymen would be made subordinate to those of England. There was no sign of Holland taking the second place, of Holland being sacrificed to England. That security was now over. The leadership passed to England. In the field, the Dutch were far ahead. The understanding was that the English were to be 40,000, the Austrians 90,000, and the Dutch 102,000. But whereas the Dutch ultimately put 160,000 men into line, the English, in the greatest battle of the war, at Malplaquet, were under 8000, or less than one-twelfth of the whole force engaged.
What gave to this country the advantage in the war of the Spanish Succession was the genius and the overwhelming personal ascendency of Marlborough. One of the Dutch deputies, who did not love him, who was not even quite convinced as to his qualities as a soldier, describes him as perfectly irresistible, not so much by energy and visible power, as by his dexterity and charm. And this in spite of defects that were notorious and grotesque. Everybody knows, and perhaps nobody believes, the story of his blowing out the candle when he found that his visitor had no papers to read. Many years later the story was told, when an officer present stated that he was the visitor whom the duke had treated so parsimoniously. It is due to him that England became one of the great Powers of the world, and, next to France, the first of the Powers. And it was not his doing, but the doing of his rivals, that the allies were sacrificed. The Dutch had no such splendid personality, and though they had their full share in the war, they lost by the result. The character of the struggle changed by the death of William and the substitution of Marlborough, who depended, more and more, on the support of the Whigs. In one of his last conversations William had said: "We seek nothing but the security which comes from the balance of power." Our policy was not maintained throughout on that exalted level.
The War of Succession began in Italy, by the attempt of Eugene to recover Milan, which reverted to the empire on the death of Charles II. It was, as it were, a private affair, involving no declaration of war, no formal breach with France. But the French were in Lombardy, and, with the support of the Duke of Savoy, they were able to check the Austrian advance. Eugene went home to Vienna to organise and direct and urge the exertions of his government. On his return, after a very memorable absence, Victor Amadeus had deserted his French alliance, and had attached himself to the Austrians. A French army laid siege to Turin, and Eugene, coming up the right bank of the Po to his rescue, defeated the French, raised the siege, and established for the first time the domination of Austria over Italy. He was repulsed in his attempt on Toulon; but the Italian war was at an end, and the emperor triumphant. In Germany the valley of the Danube, which is the road to Vienna, was open to the French, because the elector of Bavaria was their ally against his father-in-law, the emperor. The Imperialists were in danger, and the Dutch, more solicitous of the Belgian frontier before them than of what went on hundreds of miles away, on the long line from Strasburg to the distant centre of Austria, refused to let Marlborough take their troops away to another seat of war in Southern Germany.
Marlborough, sheltered by the complicity of Heinsius, politely disregarded their orders and started on his famous march, by Ehrenbreitstein and Heilbronn, meeting Eugene on his way. Eugene, at that moment, was the most renowned commander in Europe. Marlborough was better known as a corrupt intriguer, who owed his elevation to the influence of his wife at court, who would disgrace himself for money, who had sought favour at St. Germains by betraying the expedition to Brest. Blenheim altered the relative position of the two men in the eyes of the world. It was known that the day had been won, not by the persistent slaughter of brave soldiers, but by an inspiration of genius executed under heavy fire with all the perfection of art. In the midst of the struggle Marlborough had suddenly changed his order of battle, gathered his squadrons on a new line, and sent them against the French centre, with infantry supports. He did what Napoleon was vainly entreated to do in his last engagement. That is what suggested the simile of the angel, and what Addison meant by the words:—
Rides on the whirlwind and directs the storm.
The great Eugene had done well, as he always did. The Englishman had risen in a single day to the foremost rank of generals. And England rose with him. There had not been such a defeat for sixty years, since Conde, at Rocroy, established the military reputation of France. The French retreated to the Rhine, and on that side Austria was safe.
In Spain the issue was very different. Philip was thoroughly safe during three years of reign, and the archduke would have been glad to content himself with what could be secured in Italy. But the English felt that their trade interests would be safer in Spain and the Indies under a Habsburg than under a Bourbon. They brought the archduke to Lisbon in 1703, having concluded with the Portuguese that treaty which made them commercial dependants on England, and which has been the cause of much port wine and so much gout. It was a disastrous change of policy. The English destroyed the French fleet at Vigo, with many tons of American silver. They took Gibraltar and Minorca, without understanding their importance. They failed to defend the one; and they six times offered the other for an exchange. But on land they were utterly defeated, at Almanza and Brihuega, and the archduke never actually reigned over much more than Catalonia. There, having restored the Aragonese Constitution, he succeeded in inspiring a sentiment of loyalty, and repulsed his rival. He was never able to maintain himself at Madrid. On that seat of war the French had much the best of it. They lost Germany at Blenheim in 1704, and Italy at Turin in 1706.
The deciding campaigns were in Belgium, where there were many fortresses, and progress was necessarily slow. After Marlborough's victory at Ramillies in 1706 the French lost ground, and when the princes, as they were called, took the field together, no French marshal had a chance. For Marlborough was now a prince of the empire; and Eugene, having driven the enemy out of Germany and Italy, was again by his side, thirsting for something to do. At Oudenarde, where he was present, with no troops of his own, at a critical moment he led a successful charge. Together they conquered Lille; and together they defeated Villars at Malplaquet. There, in the summer of 1709, the five years of constant victory which began at Blenheim came to an end.
After Turin and Ramillies Lewis had been willing to treat. He was profoundly discouraged; and when Torcy came to The Hague in 1709 to meet the Triumvirate, Heinsius, Eugene, and Marlborough, he gave up almost every point. He even agreed that France should furnish men and money to drive Philip V out of Spain, where he felt quite safe and refused every summons. Lewis, in return, asked for Naples, and Naples only, without Sicily. The allies could have everything else, and could have compelled him to restore all the ill-gotten acquisitions of his reign. They were unwilling to be at the trouble of one more campaign in the Peninsula, where they had met with so much misfortune. They required that Lewis should undo his own offending deed, and himself compel his grandson to resign the Spanish throne. Marlborough, holding a position such as no Englishman had ever enjoyed, was preponderant in their councils. He aspired to be captain-general for life, and rejected an enormous sum with which France offered to repay his advocacy of peace. The attempt to prolong war for his own private advantage is the deadliest of his crimes. Lewis, in despair, made an appeal to his people, and a thrill of genuine indignation ran through the unhappy country. The tide began to turn. At Malplaquet, the greatest battle fought in modern Europe before Napoleon, the allies lost 23,000 out of less than 100,000; and the French not half so many.
A much graver change was coming over the spirit of the English nation. As the Whigs offered nothing better than the continuation of war, Toryism gained ground; and with Toryism, the Church. The Duchess of Marlborough was supplanted in the queen's favour; the Whigs went out of office; and the new ministers dismissed Marlborough and appointed Ormonde to command in his stead. With the aid of an obscure French priest, who acted as chaplain to the Imperial ambassador, they began a secret negotiation with Torcy. They stipulated that the Dutch should be kept out of it, and should not be listened to, if they made proposals of their own; also that their conditions should be understood to come from the initiative of France. Torcy responded heartily. His first letter is dated five days after the death of the Emperor Joseph. By that event, the Archduke Charles succeeded to his throne. Joseph died 17th April. Four months earlier, 23rd December, Harley, by his intermediary, Gautier, informed Torcy that England would give up Spain and the Indies to the Bourbon king, and would desert the allies as soon as trade interests were provided for. The surrender of that which the English had claimed from 1703 to 1710, the return, in spite of success and glory, to the moderate policy laid down by William in 1701, was not caused by the prospect of the union of the crowns on the head of Charles. Harley was afraid that the archduke would make those terms himself. For it was known that the Austrians regarded Spain and its colonies as more burdensome than profitable. When Harley was stabbed by Guiscard, and was laid up with his wound, the secret of the negotiations passed into St. John's hands. His treatment of the allies was perfidious; but they obtained almost as much as they really wanted.
Eugene, deserted by the English forces under Ormonde, was beaten by Villars at Denain, and afterwards, by no fault of the English, at Friedlingen. Then the emperor made his own peace at Rastadt. At Utrecht, the Dutch secured a favourable tariff, the right of garrison in a line of fortified towns, from Ghent to Namur, and the daring Torcy had so thoroughly penetrated the weakness of England, in consequence of party divisions, that he concluded a disastrous war by negotiation. France retained her own territory, practically undiminished, recovering Lille, and acquiring, for the younger branch of the royal house, Spain and the Spanish colonies. It gained infinitely more than either Holland or England. Marshal La Feuillade asked Bolingbroke why he had let them off so easily. The answer was: Because we were no longer afraid of you. Philip V retained all that was legitimately Spanish, in Europe and America, excepting the two fortresses conquered by England, Gibraltar and Port Mahon. He refused to give up Corunna. But he renounced his claim in the succession to his grandfathers crown. Bolingbroke betrayed the allies, and he disgraced his country by the monopoly of the slave trade; but the distribution was not unfair to the contracting parties, and the share of England was not excessive. We acquired Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the Hudson Bay territory, and, in addition to the asiento, the right of trading in the possessions of the House of Bourbon—in fact, the commerce of the world. And our revolutionary system, the permanent exclusion of the Stuarts, received the sanction of Europe. It was the condemnation of the principle of non-resistance, which had carried the Tories to power, and the perpetuation of Whiggism.
Bolingbroke did not intend that the great achievement of his life should serve the purpose of his enemies, and he gravitated towards the Stuarts, the true representatives of the cause to which Sacheverell had given renewed vitality. Harley had opened, through Berwick, negotiations with St. Germains, and had thereby secured the help of the Jacobite organisation. Bolingbroke went further. He believed that the Elector of Hanover could not be prevented from coming in, but that he would soon be driven out again. He said that he was too unintelligent to understand and manage parties, too much accustomed to have his own way to submit to govern under constitutional control. He promised that King James would be restored. And the French concluded peace at Utrecht in the belief that they were dealing with a Jacobite, that their concession in regard to the crown of England amounted to nothing, that, by yielding now, they would secure hereafter the elevation of a dependent dynasty. Under that illusion they combined with Bolingbroke to overreach themselves and to institute party government, under the supremacy of the Whigs.
THE HANOVERIAN SETTLEMENT
THE FIRST thing is to consider by what steps a government came into existence entirely different from that of England in the seventeenth century, and unlike anything that had previously been known in Europe.
The old order terminates with the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement. What followed is not a development of that Act, but in contradiction to it. With the new dynasty there is a new departure. And the change was not effected by statute, but by that force which makes the law, and is above the law, the logic of facts and the opinion of the nation. The essential innovations, the cabinet, the premier, and government by party, are still without legislative sanction. The Act of Settlement was speedily unsettled. It separated the administration from the legislature by excluding placemen from the House of Commons; and it prohibited the king from visiting his foreign dominions without leave. And it required the king to be advised by the Privy Council, thereby rejecting a united cabinet, the exclusive organ of a party. Both William and, at that time, Marlborough preferred that all the leading men should be united in the administration. Before the Act of Settlement, came into operation, during the reign of Anne, the idea of a united cabinet taken from the same party had prevailed, and at last even Harley could not be tolerated by the Jacobites. If Bolingbroke had not made it impossible for George I to trust the loyalty of the Tories, the rising of 1715 would have been fatal to them. The new dynasty governed by the Whigs, that is, by one party, and by a cabinet, not by the council. As the king understood neither English nor English affairs, he very rarely presided. The cabinet decided in his absence, and then reported.
It is necessary to see what manner of man he was. A branch of the ancient Guelphic House reigned at Hanover, and had succeeded by politic and constant effort in consolidating half a dozen territories into one important principality. It was the most rising and prosperous of the German Houses. It acquired the ninth electorate in 1692; and it was manifestly appropriate when it was designated for the English succession, because the first elector, who had accomplished the greatness of his family, had married the youngest daughter of Elizabeth Stuart, the Princess Palatine, who in an evil hour was Queen of Bohemia. The Electress Sophia was a Calvinist. Her husband was a Lutheran. His predecessor, who died in 1678, had been a convert to Catholicism. Hanover had been the centre of reunion, and there were Lutheran divines there who, under the commanding influence of Leibnitz, went further than Tract No. 90 in the direction of Rome. With their easy comprehension and impartial appreciation of religious systems, the Guelphs of Hanover were not representative Protestants. Some misgivings arose in the mind of William III, and it was thought that he looked with suspicious favour on the young Frederic William, the man who afterwards drilled the battalions which Frederic the Great led to victory. A Hanoverian statesman wrote, in alarm, that William seemed to prefer the Prussian prince, because he was a Protestant, to the Hanoverian, who was a Lutheran. The implication is that the Lutherans offered less resistance to Catholicism. But the fact also was that Sophia was a Stuart by the mother's side, and did not wish too loudly to proclaim that she was not a legitimist. There was a little ostensible hesitation; and the electress so managed that the crown should seem to be forced upon her. It was part of this decorous comedy that her son never learnt English—a circumstance of the utmost value, afterwards, to England. The Electress Sophia was not perhaps a very estimable, though a very intelligent princess. But she was eighty-four when the crown came within reach, and she died of rage at an unfriendly letter from Queen Anne, betraying her Jacobite propensity.
The elector, who ascended the throne of England two months after his mother's death, was neither a tyrant, nor a coward, nor a fool; he was only unintellectual and brutally selfish. There were ladies in his company who received English titles, and offended one part of the public by their morals and the remainder by their ugliness. One was created Duchess of Kendal, and Walpole said of her that she was Queen of England if ever there was one. But she sold her influence for money, amounting sometimes to L10,000, and Walpole at last complained to his master. The king laughed in his face, and replied, in his dog-Latin, that no doubt his minister also was paid by the people whom he recommended. There was a deeper taint on his reputation. He had married the only daughter of his neighbour and kinsman, the duke of Celle, thereby securing the succession to his dominions. Her mother was not of royal birth, and she was treated so cruelly by her husband and by the Electress Sophia that she resolved to escape from her misery by flight. In her despair she accepted the assistance of Count Konigsmarck, whom the envoy Stepney described as a profligate adventurer. The secret was betrayed; the princess was divorced, and spent the long remainder of her life at Ahlden, a remote country house which had belonged to her father. This was no more than had happened in many great families tried by the temptation of irresponsible monarchy, but there was a superadded tragedy; for Count Konigsmarck disappeared and was never seen again. As part of the scheme to run away with the princess, he had transferred his services to Saxony, where he was made a general. For that reason, and still more for the persuasive supplications of his sister, the beautiful Aurora von Konigsmarck, the Elector Augustus the Strong caused some inquiry to be made. It led to no result. But Aurora became the mother of the Marshal of Saxony, who defeated the English at Fontenoy, and conquered the Austrian Netherlands for the French. From the marshal was descended George Sand, the most famous Frenchwoman of the last generation. The Hanoverian government issued a lying report, but attempted no defence. Nobody doubted that Konigsmarck had been made away with, and that the author of the crime was the King of England, whose proper destination therefore should have been not St. James's but Newgate, and indeed not Newgate but Tyburn. Such was the character that preceded the founder of our reigning line of kings, and such were the weapons in the hands of his dynastic foes.
His most dangerous enemy was the Prince of Wales; not the Stuart who held his court in Lorraine, but his own eldest son. For George II believed in the prisoner of Ahlden; believed that his mother had been cruelly treated, wrongfully accused, and unjustly divorced, and was therefore able to see his father by an exceedingly clear light. Thence arose a bitter enmity between them, and that tendency to opposition in the princes of Wales which became a family tradition and a salutary factor in the Constitution.
George I found that, as long as he respected English institutions, things went very well with him, and he made no attempt to overturn them. The fear that a sovereign who was nominally absolute in one place could never govern under a constitution in another proved to be unnecessary. His interests, and those of his continental advisers, were mainly continental. In political science he had long had the ablest counsellor in Europe at his elbow, Leibnitz, the friend of the electress. And although that great man did not enjoy unbroken favour, it was not easy to be blind to the flood of light which he poured on every subject. Leibnitz had been instrumental in securing the succession, and he abounded in expositions of constitutional policy. He professed himself so good a Whig that he attributed to that cause his unpopularity with many people in England, especially at Cambridge, and most of all at Trinity. He seems not to have known that his rival, Newton, was as good a Whig as himself, and indeed a much better one. It was characteristic of his mind ever to impute the broad divisions of opinion among men to ignorance or incapacity to understand each other. With a more scientific method, he thought that many disputes could be settled, and many adversaries reconciled. For many years it was his favourite occupation to show that there was no real cause for a breach at the Reformation, and that people called themselves Protestants not knowing what was really meant by Catholic. He assured the Catholics that the Confession of Augsburg, rightly understood, was sound Catholicism; and he assured the Lutherans that there was nothing in the Council of Trent with which they were forced, in consistency, to quarrel. With the same maxim, that men are generally right in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny, he taught that Whig and Tory are alike necessary portions of truth, that they complete each other, that they need each other, that a true philosophy of politics includes the two. He also said that the past is a law for the future, and that the will of Providence consecrates those things which are permitted to succeed and to endure. This is pure conservatism. The Whig seeks that which ought to be elsewhere than in that which is. His standing purpose is to effect change, for the past is essentially Tory.
The influence of the most enlightened German on the new German dynasty was not favourable to party government, and would have combined better with the system of William III. They consulted an enlightened Englishman, and Lord Cowper drew up an important political paper, showing that the king ought to depend on the Whigs. Moreover, Bolingbroke, at the last moment, by his Stuart intrigue, compelled George I to come in as the nominee of a party. To Bolingbroke's intrigues the House of Hanover owed that which it most needed, the prestige of victory. He had found comfort in the reflection that, although it might be impossible to prevent the heralds from proclaiming the new monarchy, the new monarch would soon make himself odious, and would be more easy to expel than to exclude. The mass of the people was Tory, and the majority of Tories were Jacobites. There was the assured co-operation of the sects discontented with the Union, and a part of the very small army would be held fast by the sullen anger of the Irish.
Lewis XIV, weary and inert, would not risk another war; but if he saw his opportunity to interfere, he was not likely to neglect it. The Pretender would be advised by his brother, Berwick, the victor of Almanza. The insurgent forces would be led by the Duke of Ormonde, who had succeeded Marlborough as commander-in-chief. Marlborough himself had advanced money for the Jacobite rising, and was so much suspected by the ministers that they would not let him take the command.
The hopefulness of the situation darkened somewhat before the time for action arrived. Lewis XIV died, and the Regent, having Philip of Spain for a rival, required the good-will of England. Two miscreants, to whom James had offered L20,000 if they would shoot the king and the Prince of Wales, failed to earn their reward. The arrest of a leading Jacobite, Sir William Wyndham, so scared his partisans, that Ormonde, having sailed into Torbay, returned to St. Malo without landing. The Highlanders rose, but there was no Dundee and no Montrose to make them superior to regular troops. They fought with doubtful fortune at Sheriffmuir, while the Borderers, finding no support in Lancashire, surrendered at Preston. When James Stuart landed in Aberdeenshire, the struggle was over. Cadogan was approaching at the head of the Dutch auxiliaries, and the Pretender escaped by a back door from his own men, and made his way to Gravelines. He had proved unequal to the occasion, and was not gifted with political understanding. But he had been instructed by Fenelon, and had learnt from him the doctrine of toleration.
The strongest part of the case against the new order in England was the treatment of the Irish Catholics; and James saw the whole thing in the light of a religious conflict. Bolingbroke, who had been an oppressor of Nonconformists, and had no sympathy with the prince's motives, fell into disgrace. He was made responsible for the failure, and was suspected of having told secrets to the ambassador, Stair, in order to make his peace at home. He was allowed to return, and did far more harm to the House of Hanover as a loyal subject than he had done as a manager of insurrection.
Seven peers had been taken with arms in their hands; and, in order to avoid questions which might have injured their friends, they pleaded guilty, and threw themselves on the mercy of the king. As they were more guilty than the followers whom they had led to their destruction, they could not be pardoned. Some, amid universal applause, made their escape from the Tower, and only two were sent to the scaffold. At the last moment, when repentance did not avail, Derwentwater retracted the declarations of loyalty he had made at his trial, and died protesting his unswerving fidelity to the House of Stuart. The Tories were effectually ruined. The militant part of them had been crushed. The remainder had proved helplessly weak, and the last dying speech of their honoured champion was taken as a proof that they were traitors at heart, and that their professions of loyalty were interested and insincere. Parliament displayed an enthusiastic attachment to the dynasty and its ministers; they were ready for any expenditure, for any armaments, and a force of 16,000 men was raised, for the better security of the Whigs.