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Grand Alliance. But the 9th Article declared that, " at a
treaty of peace," the allies should agree upon " what are
the proper ways to secure the States-General, by the afore-
said barrier."^

Language, so ambiguous and vague, resulted not from
choice, but from necessity. To Holland the acquisition of
a sufficient barrier was a matter of life and death. But the
House of Hapsburg was naturally suspicious of a claim
which might conceivably enable the Dutch Republic to
alienate the revenues, or even the territories, of the Spanish
Monarchy. England, while she treated the independence
of the United Provinces as a British interest, and regarded
the Spanish fortresses, in Macaulay's phrase, as " the out-
works of London," would have looked with a jealous eye
on the territorial expansion of her chief competitor for the
commerce of the world. In particular, she would have
resented any attempt to place the harbours of Nieuport

1 Legrelle, La diplomatie Frartfaise et la Succession d'Espagne, t. iv.,
p. 522, Appendice No. 34.



The dutch barrier 401

and Ostend under Dutch control. When the Grand
AHiance was negotiated, there was no time to reconcile these
conflicting views. But the conquest of Flanders and
Brabant raised the question of the barrier in an acute and
urgent form.

While the Dutch did not deny that the lawful sovereignty
of the Spanish Netherlands was vested in Charles HI, they
were not prepared to yield him actual possession until their
claim to a sufficient barrier had been fully met. In the
meantime, therefore, some kind of temporary administra-
tion must be established in the recovered provinces. In
the days that followed Ramillies, Marlborough and the field-
deputies had promised, on the faith of the maritime powers,
that the ancient privileges of the country, which had. not
been respected by the French, should now be restored.
This timely stroke had resulted in wholesale defection, both
civil and military. Meanwhile, Goes, the Austrian ambas-
sador, who was also the Spanish commissioner for Guelder-
land, which had been conquered in 1702, proposed to receive
the homage of all captured towns on behalf of Charles III.
He appealed for support to the English government and
to Marlborough. Marlborough, who dreaded the effect of
Austrian interference on the good work that had been so
well begun, wrote to the Pensionary that the Court of
Vienna must be prevented from " troubling this country."^
During his brief visit to the Hague, he discussed the situa-
tion at separate interviews with Heinsius and Goes. To
the Dutchman he declared that England coveted neither
Ostend nor Dunkirk nor any place upon the mainland, that
she recognised the right of Holland to a sufficient barrier,
and that, pending the settlement of that difficult question,
she favoured the formation of a provisional government
by the combined maritime powers. To the Austrian he
explained that it was neither politic nor possible to press
the claims of Charles in the teeth of Dutch opposition, that
England would never permit the Repubhc to despoil the
inheritance of the House of Hapsburg, and that, for the
present at any rate, the measures taken were the best that

^ Vreede, Correspondance diplomatique et militaire, p. 33 : Marlborough
to Heinsius, June 5, 1706.

I. 26



402 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

could be devised in the interest of the coalition as a whole.
When Goes sent in his report to Vienna, the Austrian
ministers perceived at once that England alone could
protect King Charles against Dutch cupidity. Wratislaw
suggested to the Emperor that the appointment of governor
should be conferred on Marlborough. It that proposal
were accepted by all parties, the Hapsburg cause would
be in trusty hands. But if it were rejected through the
hostility of the Dutch, English suspicion of Holland would
be aroused, and Marlborough himself would be deeply
offended. It was a skilful move; but Joseph was at first
unwilling to take it. He considered that his relative, the
Elector Palatine, had a prior claim to the appointment.
His " transport of joy and gratitude " was wholly imagined
by Archdeacon Coxe. But overwhelming necessity com-
pelled him to adopt the only plan which promised to safe-
guard the Spanish Netherlands against the ambition of the
Dutch. Marlborough's name was inserted in the patent.
To molUfy the Elector Palatine, the title of " Representant "
was substituted for that of governor. Goes was to act as
deputy in the Duke's absence, and always in matters of
religion. The Elector was informed that the arrangement
was unlikely to be of long duration, and that it was im-
peratively demanded by the circumstances of the time.

On June 27, Marlborough received the patent. That he
was surprised, can hardly be affirmed with certainty. For
it is at least probable that, on his recent visit to Vienna,
Wratislaw had promised him the post, if opportunity
should offer. That he was gratified, is clear. But his
gratification was not merely selfish. From the public
standpoint no more admirable solution of the problem
could have been devised. As the subject of a power, which
was claiming nothing in the Spanish Netherlands, Marl-
borough was entitled to the confidence of both the con-
tending parties. As commander-in-chief of the armies of
the Republic, and as a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire,
he was attached to both but monopolised by neither. As
the saviour of Vienna, he had earned the gratitude of the
one; as the conqueror of a potential barrier, he merited the
gratitude of the other. But his principal qualification for



THE DUTCH BARRIER 403

the post was his own attitude towards the question of the
administration of the Spanish Netherlands. Marlborough
was, before all else, the strategist of the coalition. In that
capacity, he did not regard the recovered provinces as so
much loot; he regarded them as man-power and money-
power to be added to the effective force of the Grand Alliance.
If they were to be utilised to the best advantage, they must
be brought to see that their own interests were identified
with the success of the common cause. Marlborough
believed that he could accomplish this result. For excellent
reasons, and without vanity, he believed that nobody else
could.

Immediately upon receipt of the Emperor's offer, he wrote
to England for permission to accept it. At the same time,
he communicated the news to Heinsius in strictest con-
fidence. His letter to the Pensionary contained these
words: "I will do nothing in this matter, but what you
shall think is best for the public good. . . . Your thoughts are
what shall govern me; for I do assure you, if they would
give me this country for my life, I would not take it, if it
were not liked by the States."^ This language was more
prudent than the Duke intended it to be. It was meant
to disarm suspicion; in the event, it averted a catastrophe.

]\Iarlborough did not anticipate that any serious diffi-
culties would be raised at the Hague. But for his own
satisfaction, he invited the Dutch statesman. Hop, who was
now at Brussels, to visit him in the camp at Rousselaere.
Hop arrived on July i. The Duke told him the news, and
asked for his advice. Hop, after making him " great
compliments,"^ replied that it was " a very delicate busi-
ness,"^ and one that might easily produce misunderstanding.
He recalled how, when the Grand Alliance was formed,
Anne had expressly disclaimed any design upon the terri-
tory of the Spanish Netherlands. And he observed that
Marlborough himself had made that treaty, and that not
many days had elapsed since Marlborough himself had
reiterated the Queen's disclaimer. The danger was lest the

1 Vreede, Covrespondance diplomatique et militaire, p. 45 : Marlborough
to the Pensionary, June 28, 1706.

2 Coxe, vol. i., p. 439: Marlborough to Godolphin, July i, 1706.

^ Revue Historique, 1876, ii., p. 508: Gisbert Cuypert, Jcnirnal inid'4 d'un
savant Hollandais.



404 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

Dutch should infer that they were to be excluded from the
recovered provinces, while England acted as caretaker for
the House of Hapsburg/ This interview opened the Duke's
eyes. He wrote to Godolphin that, if Heinsius agreed with
Hop, the patent must be refused, since nothing could com-
pensate for " a jealousy between the two nations."^
Heinsius, who, in the meantime, had been apprised by Goes
of the Emperor's offer, informed Marlborough, in friendly,
but unmistakable style, that it was settled doctrine in
Holland that Charles could have no possession until the
question of the barrier had been determined. On July 2
the States met. They had been summoned at the instiga-
tion of Goes, who had neglected to warn the Pensionary
beforehand. They received the Emperor's message in
" astonishment and silence." Then the storm broke. The
Pensionary, wholly unprepared, could not reply to the
interrogations which rained upon him. The assembly was
convulsed with rage. Speaker after speaker denounced in
passionate accents this conspiracy to filch from the Republic
the fruits of her valour and self-sacrifice. The Grand
Alliance had been violated. Holland had recovered the
Spanish provinces; and Holland would permit neither
Charles nor Joseph to dispose of them behind her back.
Even the Pensionary did not escape the invectives of the
exasperated orators. They would have fallen at last upon
Marlborough himself; but in the very crisis of the debate
Heinsius produced the Duke's letter. At once the tempest
was allayed. It was resolved that Hop should be sent to
Marlborough to thank him for his words, to show him the
objections to the Emperor's offer, and to tell him that
refusal would be more glorious than acceptance.

On July 3, the Duke, knowing nothing of this explosion,
again wrote to Heinsius. He promised that he would
" take no step in this matter, but what shall be by the
advice of the States." " I prefer infinitely their friend-
ship," he declared, " before any particular interest to
myself; for I thank God and the Queen I have no need nor
desire of being richer, but I have a very great ambition of

* Revue Historique, 1876, ii., p. 507.

'^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 439: Marlborough to Godolphin, July i, 1706.



THE DUTCH I3ARRIER 405

doing everything that can be for the public good; and as
for the frontier, which is absohitely necessary for your
security, you know my opinion of it."^ On the 6th, he
informed the governments of London and Vienna that he
must decUne the patent. On the 8th Hop arrived. Marl-
borough told him that the affair was at an end. It was
true, he said, that the Queen had not yet written. But
that fact made no difference. H it should prove to be her
wish that he should accept the Emperor's offer, he would
ask her permission to disobey her. He had no son. His
present riches and reputation sufficed for all his needs. It
should be his one ambition to maintain confidence between
the maritime powers. Taken in conjunction with his
written declarations, this language was deemed by the States
entirely satisfactory.

Marlborough's behaviour had been irreproachable. It
merits the attention of those who assert that his whole life
was dominated by the love of gold. Not many men would
have relinquished so tempting a reward with so graceful
an air. The sacrifice was a bitter one. It seemed more
bitter still when he received Godolphin's reply to his first
letter on the subject. "The Queen," wrote Godolphin,
" likes the thing very well, and leaves it to you to do as
you shall judge best for her service, and the good of the
common cause. "^ He added that Somers and Sunderland
were " both much pleased with it, as what they think is
like to keep everything in those countries upon a right
foot," and that " they seemed to think there was no reason
for the Dutch not to like it as well as we do." Both the
Lord Treasurer and the Whig peers were agreed that " it
was one of the rightest thoughts that ever came from the
Emperor's counsel." The event astonished the English
Cabinet. " It both surprised and troubled me very much,"
wrote Godolphin. " It is amazing," he exclaimed, " that after
so much done for their advantage, and even for their safety,
the States can have been capable of such a behaviour."
Such " folly and perverseness "^ he could only ascribe to
the machinations of the French faction at the Hague.

^ Ibid., p. 440: Marlborough to the Pensionary, July 3, 1706.
- Ibid., p. 438: Godolphin to Marlborough, June 24/ July 5, 1706.
^ Ibid., p. 441: Godolphin to Ivlarlborough, July 4/15, 1706.



4o6 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

Wratislaw's object was certainly attained. In England,
even the warmest friends of the Dutch looked with suspicion
on a policy which appeared to subordinate the common
cause to selfish ambition. Marlborough had been found to
represent the question of the patent as a merely personal
one; but none knew better than he the international
importance of humouring the recovered provinces. The
Republic was detested in the Spanish Netherlands. " These
great towns," said Marlborough, " had rather be under any
nation than the Dutch. "-^ Yet the States had already
prepared an instrument of government, which they termed
a " decret organique," and which was certain to prove
highly obnoxious to the people of Flanders and Brabant.
While it formally recognised the sovereignty of Charles HI,
it purported to establish a provincial administration by the
act of the Republic. England was indeed mentioned, but
only as an inferior power. When Hop presented this
document to Marlborough, the Duke did not conceal his
indignation. He resented the underlying assumption that
Ramillies was a purely Dutch victory. He resented the
arrogance of the States in proceeding thus far without the
concurrence of the Queen. He told Hop that, if he were
to affix his signature to such a paper, he would not dare
to set foot in England again. He dispatched a strong
remonstrance to Heinsius; and he reported to Godolphin
that the proposals of the Dutch " would certainly set this
whole country against them."^ " I hope," he said, " you
will find some way of not letting them play the fool." He
was obliged to have recourse to Godolphin, because the
affair of the patent had rendered his own position invidious .
He dared not write with his accustomed freedom to the
Hague, lest his opinions should be attributed there to self-
interest or pique. But he warned Godolphin that, if the
" decret organique " were not modified, it would be inter-
preted throughout the Spanish Netherlands as " the abso-
lute government of the Dutch." He prophesied, moreover,
that the French would be speedily apprised of the whole affair,
and would endeavour to turn it to their own advantage.

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 442: Marlborough to Godolphin, July 12, 1706.

2 Ibid.



THE DUTCH BARRIER 407

After an unsuccessful effort to shake the Duke's resolu-
tion, Hop gave way. Marlborough agreed to draw up an
" acte," regulating the administration of the recovered
provinces. This " acte " corrected the vices of the " decret
organique," and estabUshed a " condominium " of the
maritime powers. But in practice, at any rate in Marl-
borough's absence, it left the Dutch supreme. It was,
however, the only possible solution of an embarrassing
problem. Marlborough explained the situation as best he
could to the Austrian government. Wratislaw answered
drily that " knowing on what principles of avarice and
parsimony "^ the Dutch proceeded, he was not surprised.
The Emperor was furious. Relations between Vienna and
the Hague grew dangerously strained. " Both nations,"
said Stepney, " are equally incapable of bearing prosperity
with moderation."^ But Marlborough advised the Austrian
ministers that a rupture in the middle of the campaign
would be fatal. Patience, he declared, was the only remedy.
Meantime, he promised to spare no efforts to protect the
interests of the House of Hapsburg. Realising that ex-
postulation was worse than useless, the Emperor submitted
to the inevitable.

Notwithstanding the distraction of this unpleasant con-
troversy, Marlborough continued to press the enemy with
unabated vigour. On July 6, the day of the capitulation of
Ostend, he advanced to the vicinity of Courtrai, which he
had occupied the day before with a detachment. Three of
his battalions he now dispatched to England to take part
in the descent; but the arrival of the Prussians and
Hanoverians more than made good the deficiency. On the
nth, he moved south to Helchin, and threw four bridges
across the Schelde. In this position he threatened Tournai,
Ypres, Menin, and Lille. The Elector of Bavaria, feeling
himself unsafe at Mons, withdrew towards Valenciennes.
On the i6th, the Prince Royal of Prussia arrived. Marl-
borough entertained him with a review, and a reconnaissance
in the direction of Tournai. On the 17th, Overkirk came
down from Ostend, and encamped in the neighbourhood

1 Blenheim Archives, Wratislaw to Marlborough, July 14, 1706.
- Stepney Papers, vol. ii.: Stepney to Harley, October 24, 1706 (Brit.
Mus. Add. MSS., 7059).



4o8 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUCxH

of Courtrai. Marlborough's real object was to capture
Menin. Godolphin would have preferred, that chronic
nuisance to the shipping of the maritime powers, Dunkirk.
But Dunkirk had once been an EngUsh possession; and
Marlborough at this moment was particularly fearful of
arousing the suspicious temper of the Dutch. Menin,
moreover, was on French soil; it served as an outwork to
Lille; and it marked a stage upon the direct road from
Ostend to Paris. The same sound strategy, which in 1702
had induced Marlborough to reject the insular and ineffec-
tive system of warfare advocated by Rochester, induced
him in 1706 to prefer Menin to Dunkirk.

Constructed by Vauban, and " esteemed the best finished
fortification in all those parts, "^ Menin was defended by a
garrison of nearly 6,000 men under that skilful and valiant
commander, Caraman. It was partially protected by an
inundation, which had so reduced the waters of the Lys
and Schelde that the siege-train had to be conveyed over-
land from Ghent. General Salisch invested the place on
July 23; but owing to the late arrival of the artillery, the
trenches were not opened until August 4.

On the same day Vendome arrived at Valenciennes. He
was succeeded in Italy by Marsin and the Duke of Orleans,
ViUars having respectfully declined the post. At Versailles
Vendome had been welcomed as a deliverer; but when he
reached the frontier, he realised at once that the task of
restoring confidence would tax his powers to the utmost. He
reported that the Spaniards were totally unreliable, and that
the French officers were demoralised. " Everybody here," he
wrote, " is ready to take off his hat when one names the
name of Marlborough."^ Menin could never be saved by
such an army. But something might be attempted to
encourage the men and to annoy the enemy. On August 16,
Marlborough's foragers were successfully attacked. " Poor
Cadogan is taken prisoner or killed,"^ wrote the Duke to
Sarah, "which gives me a great deal of- uneasiness, for he
loved me, and I could rely on him." But on the i8th
Vendome sent back the invaluable quartermaster safe and

1 Burnet, vol. iv., p. 129.

2 Pelet, t. vi., p. 94: Vendome a Chamillart, 5 aout, 1706.

3 Coxe, vol. i., p. 452: Marlborough to the Duchess, August 16, 1706.



THE DUTCH BARRIER 409

sound. He did it as a mark of gratitude for the excep-
tional kindness which Marlborough invariably showed to
all his captives. The Duke released the Baron de Pallavicini
in exchange.

On the evening of the i8th, the counterscarp of Menin
was assaulted at two points, in Marlborough's presence.
After a bloody and obstinate encounter, in which the regi-
ment of Ingoldsby alone had fifteen officers killed and
wounded, a lodgment was effected. On the 22nd the place
surrendered upon honourable terms. Among the trophies
were four cannon, stamped with the arms of England.
They had been lost at Landen. By Marlborough's orders
they were now sent home. The army remained at Helchin,
while the fortifications were repaired. At this time, the
Scots Greys lost their gallant colonel. Lord John Hay,
who died at Courtrai of a lingering fever.

Meanwhile, Churchill was detached with nine battalions
and six squadrons, to convert the blockade of Dendermonde
into a regular siege. Dendermonde was so protected by
inundations that it had " always been thought unattack-
able."^ " The garrison," wrote Hare, " is inconsiderable,
sickly, and half-starved, and the fortifications in very ill
condition — but its strength is water, which, though lessened
by the extremely dry season we have had, we are afraid
is still too much to be mastered."^ Louis himself had
besieged the place for six weeks and failed. " They
must have an army of ducks to take it,"^ he exclaimed,
when he was informed of the enterprise. " In truth,"
wrote Marlborough, " we should not have thought of it,
but the extraordinary drought makes us venture."'* That
there might be no delay, he " had secretly taken care to
have ammunition ready at Ghent — under the notion of
supplies for the siege of Menin, by which means the siege
of this place was begun in three days after the other was
over."^ Vendome endeavoured to break the sluices of
Alost, Ghent, and Ninove; but he found them securely

^ Ibid., p. 453: Marlborough to Godolphin, August 26, 1706.
2 Hare MSS.: Francis Hare to his cousin (George Naylor), July i, 1706
(Hist. MSS. Comm., 14th Report, Appendix, part ix., p. 212).
^ Ibid., p. 215, September 9, 1706.

* Coxe, vol. i., p. 453: Marlborough to Godolphin, August 26, 1706.
5 Hare MSS., p. 214, September 9, 1706.



410 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

guarded. On September i, Marlborough, who was growing
uneasy at the duration of the defence, went in person to
the siege, " to try if his presence could put an end to it."-"^
On the morning of Sunday, the 5th, he surprised a redoubt,
and easily captured it. Some of his men getting into the
town with the flying enemy, the governor was so alarmed
that he requested permission to treat. Marlborough
demanded that the garrison should yield themselves up as
prisoners of war, and gave them two hours to decide. At
the end of that time the governor answered that he was
in need of nothing, and that he " would sooner be cut into
a thousand pieces than surrender on such terms. "^ But
Marlborough was too old and too resolute a soldier to be
deceived. He immediately returned the hostages, and
ordered the attack to be resumed. Thereupon the governor
asked for one hour more, in which to call a council. Marl-
borough consented, but warned him that if he delayed until
another gun was fired, the conditions offered would be
worse. Thirty minutes later Dendermonde and its garrison
were in the hands of the allies. The officers were permitted
to retain their baggage and their swords. In less than
twenty-four hours the weather broke. " It has rained every
day since Dendermonde capitulated," wrote Hare on the
9th, " and the wet season seems to be set in, a week of
which would have made that enterprise impracticable."^
And the Duke wrote to Godolphin on the same date that
the place " could never have been taken but by the hand
of God, which gave us seven weeks without rain. The
rain began the next day after we had possession, and con-
tinued till this evening."^ Marlborough had always a
simple faith in the divine favour; but his chaplain spoke no
more than truth when he said: " Next to Providence, who
has given us so dry a season that the like has not been
known here in the memory of man, the success is entirely
owing to His Grace. "^

The fortress of Ath was now selected for attack. Its
fall would secure Brussels and open the road to Mons.

1 Hare MSS., p. 214, September 9, 1706. 2 ibid,

3 Ibid., p. 215, September 9, 1706.

* Coxe, vol. i., p. 454: Marlborough to Godolphin, September 9, 1706.
^ Hare MSS., p. 214, September 9, 1706,



THE DUTCH BARRIER 411

Overkirk invested it on the i6th, while Marlborough, en-
camping in the vicinity of Leuze, covered the siege. His
health, which had been bad when he went to Dendermonde,
was now completely restored by success. Vendome,
alarmed for both Mons and Charleroi, strengthened the
garrisons of these places, and wrote to Versailles for per-
mission to fight a battle in defence of the Une of the Sambre.
The answer was an emphatic refusal. " You know," wrote
Louis, " that the Duke of Marlborough is only seeking an
opportunity for a battle; he attacks places in the hope of



Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 38 of 44)