Frank Taylor.

The wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) online

. (page 40 of 44)
Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 40 of 44)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


1 Coxe Papers, Correspondence of the Duke of Marlborough : Marlborough
to the Duchess, September 26, 1706 (Brit. Mus. Add. MSS., 9097.)

2 Coxe, vol. i., p. 482: Marlborough to Godolphin, August 23, 1706.



422 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

memorial which Marlborough presented them on this
subject. But when Halifax drafted a treaty, giving effect
to a principle which was the common interest of the maritime
powers, he found himself confronted by unexpected obstacles.
The Dutch objected to a provision requiring Louis to
recognise the Queen's title; they complained that Hanover
was not a party to the agreement; they protested that
the Elector did not do enough for the common cause;
and finally, they proposed to make the Guarantee Treaty
the basis of a Treaty of Peace with France on terms which,
would be onerous for all the allies except themselves.
Halifax was not deceived by this attempt to clog the
negotiations with frivolous and extraneous matter. Marl-
borough was highly indignant at it. In the midst of the
discussions occurred the affair of the patent. Angry and
alarmed, the Dutch determined that the treaty should
extend to their cherished barrier. If Holland guaranteed
the Protestant succession, England must guarantee the
Dutch barrier. England was not unwilling, for she regarded
it as her own interest, and as the common interest of Europe,
that Holland should be adequately safeguarded against
French aggression. But what did the Dutch understand
by their barrier ? Nobody knew ; and the government of
the Hague seemed reluctant to evolve a definition. " They
cannot agree among themselves concerning their barrier," said
Marlborough, " but the most reasonable are extravagant."-^
This reluctance was not so mysterious as it at first ap-
peared. On July 23, Louis, who was well aware of the
friction that had arisen over the question of the patent,
clandestinely proposed to the Dutch a treaty of peace upon
terms most tempting to the Republic. Philip was to abandon
his claim to Spain and the Indies, and to receive as com-
pensation the Milanese, Naples, and Sicily, while the entire
Spanish Netherlands were to become the absolute property
of Holland. It was no wonder, therefore, that the Dutch
should be loath to commit themselves to a purely military
occupiation of specified fortresses, when they were secretly
flattered by Louis with the offer of the whole country.

1 Coxc, vol. i., p. 485: Marlborough to Godolphin, September 26 (N.S.),
1706.



THE DUTCH BARRIER 423

On August 18, they presented Halifax with their views on
the guarantee, in the form of a resohition. Holland would
" make all efforts imaginable to induce the King of France ā€”
to recognise the Hanoverian succession."^ In return,
England was to assist her to recover the Spanish fortresses
and to capture as many French ones as possible. As fast as
the places were taken, the Dutch were to garrison as many
as they chose, at the expense of the Spanish Netherlands.
Anne was to procure the acquiescence of the Emperor; and
no treaty of peace was to be concluded, if the substance
of this resolution were not embodied in it.

To Halifax it seemed that these proposals were " extra-
vagant," and that those who made them had acted " alto-
gether like merchants."^ " They know very well," he said,
" that their demands are exorbitant." The English govern-
ment regarded the resolution as far too vague and compre-
hensive. But before replying to it, they waited a month for
tidings of Eugene. This judicious delay was ended by the
wonderful news from Turin, which spoiled the Dutch
intrigue for a selfish and dishonourable peace. At Turin
the French cause in Italy was irretrievably ruined. The
project of compensating Philip with Italian territory became
impracticable. And Halifax was authorised to inform the
Dutch that, while the necessity of an effective barrier was
fuUy recognised in England, the specific towns must be
designated, the numbers of the garrisons must be settled,
and the contributions to upkeep must be fixed.

Meantime, Heinsius had endeavoured to persuade Marl-
borough to accept the proposal of Louis as a basis for
negotiation. Marlborough referred him to Godolphin. A
lengthy correspondence ensued between the Lord Treasurer
and Buys, wherein the Dutchman urged that it was the
mutual interest of the maritime powers to make their
peace with France, and leave the other allies to look
after themselves. But Godolphin, with the full concurrence
of Marlborough, declined to be convinced. Louis' pro-
posal, he contended, was bad in itself, both because it would

1 Hanover State Papers, vol. i.: Extrait des resolutions des Seigneurs
Etats, August 17, 1706 (Brit. Mus. Stowe MSS., 222).

2 J. Macpherson, Original Papers (1776), vol. ii., p. 61: Lord Halifax
to the Elector, August 23, 1706.



424 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

make the French "entire masters of the Mediterranean,"
and because it was nothing more than a revival of the
Treaty of Partition, which was formerly so unpopular in
England. The maritime powers at any rate were under
no necessity to entertain it, as long as they could borrow
money at 4 and 5 per cent., while France could not borrow
it at less than 20 or 25. The maritime powers, he argued,
should embody their own ideas of a satisfactory settle-
ment in a preliminary treaty between themselves before
entering upon any negotiations with the enemy. " I am
very much of your opinion," wrote Marlborough on Sep-
tember 20, " that before any step be made towards peace,
we ought to have a treaty with Holland for the guarantee
of any treaty of peace we may hereafter make with France ;
and that there be room left for the allies to come into it."-^
Such views were wholly incompatible with those prevailing
at the Hague; and the Dutch were compelled to recognise
that England would not connive at a betrayal of the common
cause. England, in fact, was demanding security for the
good behaviour of Holland. If the Dutch refused to
guarantee the Hanoverian succession without a promise
of their barrier, the English refused to guarantee the barrier
without an undertaking that the essential preliminaries
of any peace should first be agreed between the maritime
powers. No other attitude was possible. "The inclina-
tions of the Dutch," said Godolphin on October 24, " are
so violent and plain, that I am of opinion nothing will
be able to prevent their taking effect but our being as plain
with them upon the same subject, and threatening them to
publish and expose to the whole world the terms for which
they solicit."^ And Marlborough described them as " so
flattered from France, that whatever is easy to themselves,
they think both just and reasonable."^

Fortified by the victory of Turin, Godolphin and Marl-
borough had trumped the French King's card. The defection
of the Dutch from the Grand Alliance could not now be
purchased by clandestine barter or bribery. But Louis
was not at the end of his resources. On October 21, the

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 483: Marlborough to Godolphin, September 20, 1706.

2 Ibid., p. 490: Godolphin to Marlborough, October 13/24, 1706.

3 Ibid., p. 491: Marlborough to Godolphin, October 21, 1706.



THE DUTCH BARRIER 425

Elector of Bavaria informed Marlborough that, the recent
overtures having been misrepresented " by ill-designing
persons," Louis had "resolved to show the sincerity of his
intentions by renouncing all secret negotiations and openly
proposing conferences, in which means may be found for
re-estabhshing the tranquillity of Europe."^ A similar
notification was sent to the field-deputies. Marlborough
had Httle faith in Max Emanuel. In 1704, he had dis-
covered the Elector's talent for time-wasting correspondence.
He had encountered it again in the winter of 1705, when
d'Alcgre had presented a memorial to the States in favour
of a peace, and yet again after the battle of RamilHes,
when the Elector had pretended to be disgusted with his
treatment by the French Court. The present suggestion
came therefore from a tainted source. The Duke regarded
it as a peculiarly insidious move. He believed that it was
designed "to make the Dutch less zealous in their pre-
parations for the next campaign,"^ and to entrap the
Enghsh Cabinet into some pronouncement which could be
construed at the Hague as evidence of "a backwardness
to a good peace." It was on this occasion that he wrote
that he had "never been so uneasy ā€” since Her Majesty's
coming to the Crown."

Marlborough had arranged that, before returning to
England, he would visit the Hague to settle, if possible,
the treaty as to the preliminaries of peace, and to urge the
Dutch to define their barrier. He contemplated the prospect
with grave misgiving. " I see," he said, " they are preparing
a great deal of business for me ā€” ^but I hope the Queen will
allow me to speak my mind freely." " My inclinations,"
he confessed, " will lead me to make as little stay as possible,
though the Pensionary tells me I must stay to finish the
Treaty of Succession and their barrier, which, should I stay
the whole winter, I am very confident would not be brought
to perfection. For they are of so many minds and all
so very extravagant concerning their barrier, that I despair
of doing any good till they are more reasonable, which they
will not be, till they see that they have it not in their power

1 Lediard, vol. ii., ch. iii., p. 122: The Elector of Bavaria to the Duke of
Marlborough, October 21, 1706.

2 Coxe, vol. i., p. 492: Marlborough to Godolphin, October 24, 1706.



426 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

to dispose of the Low Countries at their will and pleasure,
in which the French flatter them."-"^ The extreme un-
popularity of Holland in the Spanish Netherlands was also
a matter of serious concern. " Nothing but the Queen's
authority," said Marlborough, kept the recovered provinces
" in any tolerable measures with the Dutch. "^ But he
promised to do his utmost at the Hague " to let the honest
men see that the project of France is to make them fall
out with their best friends, which is the only method they
have left for disturbing of the confederacy."^

On October 31, Marlborough returned to the army, and
gave the necessary directions for the winter-quarters. On
November 5, he started for the Hague. He was accom-
panied by Stepney, whose appointment had been regarded
by the Dutch with unnecessary suspicion. " To try, if
possible, to cure these jealousies," the Duke intended to
introduce him to the Dutch statesmen. Sinzendorf, whom
the Emperor had selected to assist at the forthcoming
discussions, was also of the party. They arrived at the
Hague on the 9th.

Important interviews ensued. It was essential that the
maritime powers should settle their reply to the Elector
of Bavaria's letter. On the general question of a peace,
the Dutch were already aware of Marlborough's own atti-
tude. On October 10 he had written to Slingelandt that
France, in his judgment, was " not yet reduced to her just
bounds." " Nothing," he had said, " can be more hurtful
to us on this occasion than seeming over-forward to clap
up a hasty peace." He had urged the importance of
unanimity, and the danger of listening to " proposals which
France may make in the dark on purpose to amuse and
disunite us in our opinions."'* In regard to the public
conferences, suggested by the Elector's letter, the Duke
was now advised by Godolphin that they " could not
fail of giving an immediate ease and support to all France,
which lies almost gasping at this time, under an excessive

1 Coxe, vol. i., p. 492: Marlborough to Godolphin, October 29, 1706.
- Murray, vol. iii., p. 183: Marlborough to Harley, October 21, 1706.
3 Coxe, vol. i., p. 491: Marlborough to Godolphin, October 21, 1706.
* Murray, vol. iii., p. 166: Marlborough to SHngelandt, October 10,
1706.



THE DUTCH BARRIER 427

want both of money and credit."^ And he was armed with
instructions from Hedges to the effect that, in the Queen's
opinion, " the first proper step would be for herself and
the States-General to concert and agree, between themselves,
upon such a scheme of a peace as may be honourable and safe
both for themselves and for the rest of the allies." "Her
Majesty," said this document, " cannot but look upon this
method as more honourable for the allies and more effectual
for the end desired, than the conferences proposed by the
Elector of Bavaria in the name of France, for the foundation
of a treaty, without so much as knowing vĀ»^hat particulars
are to be considered in that treaty. Of which conferences,
therefore. Her Majesty cannot see any other use than to
distract the allies with jealousy, and to divert them from
making in time the necessary preparations for continuing the
war."^ The Duke was directed to reply to the Elector in
terms identical with those employed by the States, " that
so England and Holland may appear to France to be uniform
and of one mind." The Dutch, who had already accepted
the diplomatic defeat from the English government, made
no difficulties now. On the loth, a letter from the deputies
to the Elector, couched in a style agreeable to the views
of the Cabinet of Queen Anne, was sanctioned by the States.
Marlborough's own letter was in similar language. It
expressed the pleasure of the Queen, his mistress, at " this
notice of the King's inclination to agree to making a
solid and lasting peace with all the allies," and her desire
" to conclude it, in concert with all her allies, on such
conditions as may secure them from all apprehensions of
being forced to take up arms again after a short interval,
as has so lately happened. Her Majesty is also willing
I should declare, that she is ready to enter, jointly with all
the high allies, into just necessary measures for attaining
such a peace, her Majesty being resolved not to enter upon
any negotiation without the participation of her said
allies."^

On November 21, all the envoys of the allied powers were
invited to a public congress, at which the history of the

^ Coxe, vol. i., p. 493: Hedges to Marlborough, October 21, 1706.

2 Ibid., p. 494: Hedges to Marlborough, October 21/November i, 1706.

^ Ibid., p. 496: Marlborough to the Elector, November 10, 1706.



428 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

negotiations was laid before them, and emphatic assurances
of Holland's loyalty to the coalition were given by the
deputies.

This " deplorable result," as the Elector called it,^
enraged the French. They endeavoured to console them-
selves with the reflection that the private interest of Marl-
borough, Eugene, and Heinsius, was the sole obstacle to
the peace of Europe. Seeing that Heinsius had been
anxious to treat upon the basis of the French proposal, and
that the Emperor did not require the assistance of Eugene
or anybody else to show him that that proposal was very
injurious to the House of Hapsburg, the theory of a wicked
triumvirate, fomenting strife for its own selfish gratification,
was transparently absurd. Yet some such theory was
widely held among the pacific party in Holland, and in
Tory quarters at home. " There is but too good reason to
think," said Dr. George Clarke, who visited the Hague
and Brussels in the summer of 1706, " that great art
and industry were used by those who got immensely by
the war to keep off a peace, to which both Dutch and
French were inclined, and might have been had upon very
advantageous terms to the confederacy. But England
was to be sacrificed to private gain."^ And six years later,
Swift complained of the refusal of " very advantageous
offers of a peace after the battle of Ramillies."^

These were the utterances of partisans. But Lecky's
assertion, that the terms offered " would have abundantly
fulfilled every legitimate end of the war,"'* is on a different
footing. In the mouth of that sober and judicial historian
it is tantamount to a grave indictment of the statesmanship
of Marlborough and Godolphin. It rests, however, on the
assumption that Louis was sincere, an assumption, which
Marlborough and Godolphin, who knew much more than
Lecky about the methods of French diplomacy, declined to
make. But even granting, for the sake of argument, that

^ Legrelle, La Diploniatie Franfaise, t. v., p. 293: Max Emmanuel au
Roi, November 24, 1706.

2 Leyborne-Popham MSS.: Autobiography of Dr. George Clarke, May,
1706 (Hist. MSS. Comm., Report on the MSS. of F. W. Leyborne-Popham,
1899, p. 284).

^ Swift, Conduct of the Allies (171 2).

* Lecky. History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. i., p. 51.



THE DUTCH BARRIER 429

they were wrong, even granting that Louis' object was not
merely " to amuse and disunite " his enemies, it is still
very difficult to understand how Lecky arrived at his positive
and confident conclusion. The war had only one end,
legitimate or otherwise, the reduction of " the exorbitant
power of France " to a proper level. But " the exorbitant
power of France " did not begin with the seizure of the
Spanish monarchy. It would not have been terminated
by erecting a new French dominion on Italian soil and
tightening the grip of France on the Mediterranean Sea.
It would not have been terminated by depriving Spain,
already far too weak, of her possessions in Italy and the
Netherlands. Moreover, the plan proposed by Louis was
impracticable; or if it was not impracticable, it was hardly
calculated to secure the peace of Europe. The inhabitants
of the Spanish Netherlands would have resisted to the utter-
most any attempt to place them under the yoke of Holland.
The}^ would have appealed, and perhaps not vainly, to the
people of England, who would have been little disposed
to tolerate the occupation of Antwerp and Ostend by the
strongest naval power upon the continent. And the
Emperor, who after the battle of Turin was virtually
master of Italy, would certainly have refused to abandon
his ground to Philip without a long and sanguinary
struggle.

It was obvious to the English government that Louis'
diplomacy would be far less formidable to the Grand
Alliance, if the maritime powers could agree between
themselves upon the essential conditions of any treaty of
peace with France. Marlborough was instructed to pursue
this question. Buys prepared a set of preliminaries;
Heinsius approved them; and Marlborough, after making
certain modifications, transmitted them to London. This
document laid down that the whole Spanish monarchy
must be surrendered to Charles, that to the Spanish Nether-
lands, as defined at Ryswick, the fortresses of Fumes,
Ypres, Lille, Tournai, Valenciennes, Conde, Maubeuge, and
Menin, must now be added, that an adequate barrier (which
was still left undetermined) must be provided for Holland,
that Louis should recognise Anne and the Hanoverian



430 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

Succession, and should expel the Pretender from French
soil, that favourable treaties of commerce should be made
between France and the maritime powers, that the position
of the Empire should be settled on the basis of the peace of
Westphalia, that the King of Prussia should be acknowledged
at Versailles, and that the full effect of their compacts
with the Grand Alliance should be secured to Portugal
and Savoy. These preliminaries were accepted by the
English Cabinet, on the understanding that every article
was strictly kept. But they were never presented to the
States for ratification.

It was solely for the sake of their barrier that the Dutch,
at England's bidding, had simulated a zeal for war and
had rejected the tempting overtures of France. But the
barrier itself had still to be defined. The Pensionary
recognised that this question could not be shirked inde-
finitely. Having first consulted the field-deputies, he
now presented Marlborough and Sinzendorf with a state-
ment of the Repubhc's claim. Starting from the principle
that a barrier was necessary for the safety of Holland,
and incidentally also of the Spanish Netherlands, which
the Spanish government had proved itself unable to
defend, the Dutch arrived at three conclusions. A strong
and connected line of fortresses on the French frontier
must be garrisoned by Dutch troops ; the absolute command
of these troops must belong to Dutch generals; and the
King of Spain, being benefited by the arrangement, must
contribute to its cost. The fortresses specified fell into
three groups: (i) Thionville, Luxembourg, Namur, Charleroi,
and Mons; (2) Maubeuge, Valenciennes, Conde, Tournai,
Lille, Menin, Ypres, and Furnes; (3) Nieuport, Ostend, and
Dendermonde. Taken together, these three groups com-
posed a scientific curve, joined by Dendermonde to the
United Provinces. The maintenance of forty, or at least
thirty, battalions was to be defrayed by the Spanish
Netherlands.

To this scheme the views of the House of Hapsburg, as
enunciated by Sinzendorf, were diametrically opposed.
Starting from the principle that the King of Spain must
himself defend the Spanish Netherlands with his own



THE DUTCH BARRIER 431

forces, and that no other barrier was necessary, Sinzendorf,
like the Dutch, arrived at three conclusions. If Holland
insisted on an additional barrier, it must be carved out
of French territory, and, to prevent usurpations, the towns
selected must be isolated, and not contiguous ; the garrisons,
whether Dutch or Spanish, must be commanded by
Spaniards ; and Spain would furnish the upkeep of no troops
other than her own. The fortresses named were Gravelines,
St. Omer, Aire, Arras, Cambrai, Bouchain, Valenciennes,
Conde, Maubeuge, Charlemont, and Givet, an odd collection,
devoid of mihtary significance. If Spain provided twenty
battahons for these places, the Dutch must pay them.

These proposals were absurd. The Republic could not
be expected, after years of sacrifice, to restore, at her own
expense, that Spanish system of control, the rottenness of
which had been demonstrated in February, 1701. Yet
Sinzendorf endeavoured to enUst the sympathy of Marl-
borough by arguing that what had happened in February,
1701, could never happen again, and that the military and
financial powers which the Dutch demanded would be
equivalent to sovereignty. These were arguable conten-
tions; but that the Austrian plan was an impossible one,
admitted of no argument whatsoever. In these circum-
stances, Marlborough, though pressed by Sinzendorf to use
his gifts of persuasion on the Dutch, appears to have
taken refuge in generalities. He promised that Anne
would do nothing contrary to the interests of Charles, he
thanked the Emperor for the assistance of Sinzendorf,
who, as he said, had been " a great solace "^ to him, and on
November 24, he departed for England.

On the question of the barrier the Dutch and Austrian
standpoints were hopelessly irreconcilable. Mr. Geikie
complains that Marlborough made no attempt to reconcile
them. But when compromise is clearly seen to be im-
possible, discussion serves only to accentuate differences,
to aggravate tempers, and to waste time. Marlborough
was the friend of both parties. His personality was the
one reliable check upon the forces tending to disintegrate

^ Murray, vol. iii., p. 237: Marlborough to the Emperor, November 24,
1706.



432 THE WARS OF MARLBOROUGH

the Grand Alliance. In the existing temper of the dis-
putants, the less he intervened in so delicate a business
as the definition of the Dutch barrier, the more he was
like to preserve the unique influence which he exercised
at Vienna and the Hague.

At the Hague, indeed, his position was already somewhat
impaired. The offer of the patent was never forgotten
or forgiven in Holland. Never again were the Duke's
relations with the Dutch statesmen, and even with Heinsius
himself, so entirely frank and cordial as they had been
down to July, 1706. The field-deputy, Goslinga, considered
that a grievous blunder had been committed. He had
advised his government that Marlborough was fully entitled
to the patent, and that the interests of Holland were in no
way concerned. But the great majority of Goslinga' s
countrymen took a different view. In the field-deputy's
opinion, their conduct kindled in the breast of Marlborough
a secret but enduring resentment, which led him to prolong
the war at their expense. The Duke was innocent of any
such villainy. But he was quick to detect the shadow of
suspicion, which from this time onward darkened his every
transaction with the Dutch. He felt the change most
keenly. " If a governor were necessary for the Low
Countries," he observed two years later, " I do not know
why I should be less agreeable to the Republic than another."^



Online LibraryFrank TaylorThe wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (Volume 1) → online text (page 40 of 44)