Copyright
Arthur Hassall.

Life of Viscount Bolingbroke online

. (page 6 of 20)
Online LibraryArthur HassallLife of Viscount Bolingbroke → online text (page 6 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the French from Canada and the capture of Newfoundland.
In this deliberate attack upon the French power in the New
World, St. John anticipated the policy of Chatham. Had
the expedition been successful, the effect would have been
very great upon the negotiations. In July the negotiations
were resumed, and it was then thought advisable to associate
with Gaultier some trustworthy agent who should act as the
English plenipotentiary. For this post. Prior, who had been
Secretary to the British Legation in Paris at the close of
William III.'s reign and since the beginning of the war a
Commissioner of Trade, was chosen. With the exception
of the short periods when Bolingbroke and Shrewsbury
were in Paris, Prior was in full charge of the negotiations,
though, as a matter of fact, his powers were extremely
limited. His principal duty was to receive the answers of
Louis XIV. to the demands of the English Ministers. In
the middle of July, Prior and Gaultier, under fictitious
names, made their way to Paris, the former bearing a long
list of England's preliminary demands, and in the early days
of August shortly after St. John had written a letter con-
gratulating Marlborough upon his strategic success near
Bouchain, they returned with Mesnager, a Rouen merchant,
to whom the French King had intrusted the duty of discuss-
ing the proposed terms of peace and of drawing up pre-
liminary articles.

On the 7th of September, eight preliminary articles were
signed by St. John and Dartmouth on behalf of England,
by Mesnager on behalf of France and Spain. During the
progress of the negotiations it was obvious to Mesnager that
the life of the Ministry depended upon securing advantageous
terms. When all the other Ministers showed signs of tre-



THE PEACE OF UTRECHT 55

pidation, Shrewsbury being especially agitated and anxious,
St. John alone was firm and resolute.

His determination to carry through the peace is further
evidenced by a letter to Drummond on September the 4th,
in which he says that the Queen's Ministers

" will depend on the course and tenor of their proceedings, to set their
merit in a just and proper light, without being frightened, vexed, or
diverted from their measures by any suspicions which may be entertained
of them, or by any clamour which may be raised against them."

As soon as Mesnager, whose residence in England had
been a profound secret, was safe in France, a set of pre-
liminary articles different from those drawn up between
England and France, and which included a Barrier for the
Dutch, were formally communicated to the Allied Powers.

In the middle of October, Gallas, the Imperial Ambas-
sador, whose fury at the evident determination of the
English Ministers to end the war knew no bounds, and
who, " with the natural impertinence of a German, im-
proved by conversation with a saucy English faction,"
styled England's policy as an "enigma," and sent a copy
of these articles to the Daily Cotivant. The country, which
was unaware that England's interesis had been carefully
considered in a separate and secret agreement, was in a fer-
ment ; the friendship between St. John and Marlborough
came to an end, and the latter returned to England in
November, the declared enemy of the Tories. Buys, the
self-opinionated Pensionary of Amsterdam, had been already
sent from Holland to remonstrate, and his house became
the headquarters of the Opposition. There the Whigs met
the foreign Envoys. There was composed a memorial pre-
sented by Bothmar, the Hanoverian envoy, in which a
gloomy picture was drawn of the danger to England's
independence from the policy of the Government. On
November the 17th serious disturbances were expected,
and the trained bands of London and Westminster were



56 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

called out. Somerset soon after avowed himself hostile to
the Ministerial policy, and this was the more serious, since
his wife at that time stood high in Anne's affections.

The general opinion still was that, though peace would
be desirable, the French King should be forced to give up
Spain. The real meaning of the death of Joseph in April
and its effect on the course of the war seems to have been
unperceived by all save the Tory statesmen. Numerous
pamphlets appeared, attacking the Ministers. Even Not-
tingham, the high Tory Churchman, made through the
medium of Somerset a compact with the Whigs, disgraceful
to all parties, according to which the Whigs were to allow
the Occasional Conformity Bill to pass, on consideration of
his aid in censuring the preliminary articles. Immediate
action was necessary. The enemies of the Government
must be attacked and defeated ; the negotiations must be
proceeded with without delay ; a public opinion in favour of
peace must be formed.

"When I undertook," wrote Bolingbroke later, with reference to this
crisis, "in opposition to all the confederates, in opposition to a powerful
turbulent faction at home, in opposition even to those habits of thinking
which mankind had contracted by the same wrong principle of Government
pursued for twenty years, to make a peace, the utmost vigour and resolu-
tion became necessary."

And he led the attack on the Whigs by severe measures
against the pamphleteers.

Writing to the Queen on October the 17th, he says: " I
have discovered the author of another scandalous libel, who
will be in custody this afternoon ; he will make the thirteenth
I have seized, and the fifteenth I have found out."

In all, fourteen booksellers and printers were arrested and
warned ; Gallas was ordered to leave the country. The
Earl of Strafford (formerly Lord Raby) was at once sent to
Holland with St. John's instructions to combine persuasion
and firmness in the difficult task of reconciling the Dutch to



THE PEACE OF UTRECHT 57

the published articles. The meeting of Parliament was
deferred till Swift's Conduct of the Allies had appeared.
During the summer Oxford and St. John w^ere accustomed
to spend alternate Sundays at Windsor. There, in a small ^
house lent to St. John, Swift and the Secretary of State
often met, and there The Conduct of the Allies was in great
measure written under St. John's direction. It is conse-
quently to be regarded rather as a State paper than as a
mere party pamphlet, especially as Oxford revised it, and
made many suggestions. The object of this celebrated
work was to educate the people, and to convert them from
the Whig view that no peace would be safe or honourable
without the restitution by the Bourbons of the whole of the
Spanish dominions. It exposed Marlborough's rapacity,
and dealt what amounted to a death-blow to his already
declining popularity. It showed that England should have
acted in the war as an auxiliary, not as a principal ; that the
Allies had failed to carry out their engagements ; and that
nearly the whole burden of maintaining the struggle had
devolved upon England, who, moreover, was prevented by
the i.\llies from recompensing herself by conquests in the
West Indies. This pamphlet appeared on November the
27th, just before Parliament met, and its effect was extraor-
dinary. Eleven thousand copies were sold before the end of
January, and there is no doubt that it influenced the opinions
of the great body of Englishmen strongly in favour of peace. V

At last, on December the 7th, Parliament met, and
Nottingham moved, as an amendment to the Address that
"No peace could be safe or honourable if Spain and the
West Indies were allotted to any branch of the House of
Bourbon."

He was supported by Marlborough, who in a dignified
speech expressed the Whig hatred of the House of Bourbon.
By the Whigs — nay, by most Englishmen — Louis XIV.
was regarded as a tyrant, whose ambition threatened all



58 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

Europe, especially all Protestant Europe. To their excited
imaginations, the danger of allowing Spain and Erance to
be governed by Bourbon Princes hardly required demon-
stration. Nottingham's amendment was carried by sixty-
one against fifty-five.

The month of December was an anxious time for the
Ministers. The Queen had allowed Somerset to escort her
to her carriage after the debate, and Somerset had voted
against the Government. The Duchess of Somerset was
supposed to have supplanted Mrs. Masham in the favour of
the Queen. In the House of Lords, the Whigs, after allow-
ing — in accordance with their compact with Nottingham —
the Occasional Conformity Bill to pass, had secured another
victory over the Tories by refusing to allow the Duke of
Hamilton to sit as an English Peer (as Duke of Brandon).
Things looked black for the Government. Swift was in
despair, and asked St. John for some foreign mission, so that
he might be out of danger in the hour of the Whig triumph.
St. John, who was especially attacked by Nottingham's
motion, laughed at Swift's fears, and assured him that there
was no danger. But it was time for the Ministers to act,
and when so much depended on peace being made without
delay, and when failure meant ruin, a man of St. John's firm
yet impetuous temperament could not hesitate. Oxford
himself was roused, and a series of blows were aimed at the
Whigs which bore down all opposition. In the London
Gazette of January the ist, 171 2, it was announced that
twelve new Peers had been created, and that Marlborough
had been dismissed from all his employments. St. John is
reputed to have said : " If these twelve had not been enough,
we would have given them another dozen " ; but afterwards,
when exile had given time for reflection, he spoke of the
creation of the twelve peers " as an unprecedented invidious
measure, to be excused by nothing but the necessity, and
hardly by that,"



THE PEACE OF UTRECHT 5g

During this important session St. John was the acknow-
ledged leader of the Tories in the House of Commons,
where he had an immense majority. In February, 171 2,
Swift wrote to Stella that "The Secretary is much the
greatest Commoner in England, and turns the whole Par-
liament, who can do nothing without him, and, if he lives
and has health, will, I believe, be one day at the head of
affairs." During the ensuing session St. John continued
the " strong remedies." Resolutions were passed, declaring
Marlborough guilty of illegal practices in the Netherlands
and liable for half a million of money. " The Duke of
Marlborough's friends," wrote St. John to Strafford, " may
be as industrious as they please on your side of the water,
and on ours too, but he has sunk himself beyond redemp-
tion." Walpole had already been imprisoned in the Tower
"on a vexatious charge of venality in the Navy Office."
All criticisms of the Government policy were checked with v
a heavy hand. A Whig member who ventured to call in
question the action of the Ministers was threatened by
St. John with imprisonment, and in April a Stamp Duty
was imposed for the purpose of repressing libels. To im-
press still more on the public mind the wisdom of the Tory
peace policy, a Parliamentary Representation was drawn
up, which embodied several resolutions, blaming the Em-
peror and the Dutch for not having fulfilled their obliga-
tions, and censuring the Barrier Treaty, which, signed by
Townshend in 1709, would, if executed, have placed the
entire Netherlands with all its wealth in the hands of the
Dutch. The Conduct of the Allies, published in the previous
November, and followed up in December by Swift's Re-
mark on the Barrier Treaty, had had a profound effect. The
subordination of English interests to those of the Allies
under the Whig administration, and the rapacity and selfish-
ness of the Allies themselves were now well known. Marl-
borough had been an obstacle in the way of peace. His



6o HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

dismissal had not only removed the chief danger to the
Ministry but had caused a rise in the Stocks, and the
"moneyed" interest now looked keenly for a Treaty con-
taining terms favourable to England.

This bold and audacious line of policy, so thoroughly
characteristic of St. John, was successful. Ministers were
enabled to devote all their attention to the negotiations for
peace, which, in spite of Eugene's visit to England early in
the year, had been opened at Utrecht on January the 29th,
1 71 2. During the next fifteen months St. John had the
difficult task of negotiating a Treaty which should satisfy
the nation. To the protracted character of these negotia-
tions was in great measure due the ultimate failure of
St. John's attempt to place the Tory party on a stable basis.
From the year 171 1 down to the conclusion of peace, there
were always two sets of negotiations proceeding ; an open
negotiation carried on in conjunction with the European
powers, and a secret correspondence between the English
and French Ministers, the object of which was to arrange
terms of peace satisfactory to England and France, and
then to force them upon the rest of the Allies. The French
Minister was kept regularly informed of the policy of the
English Government, of their instructions to Strafford, of
the communications of the Allied ambassadors, and of the
plans of the Whigs.

The Conference at Utrecht opened with considerable
bitterness. The Austrians and Dutch were furious on
realizing that England no longer intended to continue a
war for their benefit. Encouraged by the divisions among
the Allies and by the policy of England, the French at once
took a high tone, for which the English public was entirely
unprepared. The attitude of Louis and the proposals he
made roused a deep feeling of indignation in England. It
was evident that peace on the French terms would never
be accepted. The English Ministers accordingly sent



THE PEACE OF UTRECHT 6l

Oxford's cousin to Utrecht with fresh instructions. It is
impossible not to admire the determined attitude taken up
by St. John. He was more than ever resolved to force on
without delay a peace which should satisfy the English ex-
pectations. " The French will see," he wrote to Strafford,
" that there is a possibility of reviving the love of war in
our people, by the indignation which has been expressed at
the plan given in at Utrecht."

The death of the Duke of Burgundy in February, in his
thirtieth year, presented a fresh difficulty. A sickly infant
— afterwards Louis XV. — alone stood between the succes-
sion of Philip of Spain to France. The alarm of Europe at
the probable early union of the French and Spanish crowns
was general. St. John, however, was ready with a plan.
Philip was offered the alternative of abdicating in favour of
the Duke of Savoy, and continuing to enjoy his rights as
heir-presumptive of France, or of being recognized as King
of Spain, after renouncing for himself and his heirs the
crown of France.

Till Philip's answer was received, the negotiations at
Utrecht were naturally at a standstill. The Allies had
never ceased warlike preparations, hoping to secure by some
military success their ascendancy at the Conference, and so
to force better terms from Louis. It was obvious that
EngUsh Ministers, bound as they were by secret engage-
ments to France, could not allow the English troops to take
any part in actual hostilities. In May St. John sent a
despatch to Ormonde, who commanded the forces, ordering
him *'to avoid engaging in any siege or hazarding a battle."
The rage of the Allies and of the Whigs in England was
intense. In St. John's opinion, expressed in after-years,
this step was justifiable in every respect. It might indeed
be argued that the Allies had no right to complain. Had
not the Emperor, without consulting the Allies, made the
Pacification of Milan, thus setting free French veterans



62 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

who turned the scale against us in Spain at Almanza ?
Had he not, without consulting the rest of the Allies, sent
12,000 troops to conquer Naples for himself, when he ought
to have aided the attack on Toulon ? Then the Dutch had
no right to complain. Again and again they had hampered
Marlborough and defeated his designs. In 1703, and again
in 1705, the action of the Dutch had tied his hands. Had
not, too, both the Emperor and the Dutch failed most
singularly to contribute their share of the stipulated ex-
penses ? Nothing could check the powerful will of St. John,
supported by the general feeling of weariness of the war.
In June the Whigs made their last attempt to put obstacles
in the way of peace. In the same month a suspension of
arms for two months was openly declared between England
and France, and the British forces were withdrawn from
acting in concert with the Allies. The Rubicon had been
passed. On the 4th of July St. John was raised to the
Peerage with the title of Baron St. John of Lydiard Tre-
goze, and Viscount Bolingbroke. He had expected an
earldom, and he attributed his disappointment to the jealousy
of Oxford. Certain it is that from henceforth the hatred
felt by Bolingbroke for his leader was unmistakable, and
the feud between them became impossible to be healed.

A temporary rupture of the negotiations caused by the
rage of the Allies at the action of England and by a quarrel
between the Dutch and French envoys did not disconcert
Bolingbroke. His impatience at each fresh check to the
conclusion of peace determined him if necessary to make a
separate treaty with France. As negotiations by writing
consumed too much valuable time, he decided to visit the
Minister Torcy in Paris, and early in August, accompanied
by Prior, he carried out his resolution.

On the Saturday after his arrival, Bolingbroke had an
interview with Louis XIV. at Fontainebleau. That aged
monarch, who spoke rapidly and indistinctly, expressed his



THE PEACE OF UTRECHT 63



desire for peace, and his respect for the Queen of England. ^
The general wish for peace and the reception given him by
the King secured to Bolingbroke the most enthusiastic
reception in Paris. On entering the theatre as the Cid was
being performed, the whole house rose to receive him, and
several times during the evening manifested their respect
for the illustrious statesman.

Ten days' personal interview with Torcy smoothed many
difficulties, and on his return to London a tuspension of
arms for four months was proclaimed, and was received
with signs of universal joy.

It was during his stay in Paris that Azzurini Conti, the
Jacobite spy, asserted that Bolingbroke had two private
interviews with the Pretender. The truth of this assertion
has been questioned, and, in the absence of more reliable
evidence, it seems unlikely that such interviews took place.
Azzurini's character is not such as to inspire confidence in
his statements. On his arrival in England in April, 171 1,
he wormed himself into the confidence of the Jacobites, and
betrayed their secrets to Heinsius, Bothmar, and Zinzendorf,
the Imperial Ambassador at the Hague. Strafford dis-
covered his practices, and informed Bolingbroke, with the
satisfactory result that Azzurini's son, who was also impli-
cated, was enticed to Paris, and imprisoned in the Bastille,
where he remained till 1726. The elder Azzurini, who had
returned to Italy, was arrested later and imprisoned. The
tendency of the Azzurini family to mendacity makes it
impossible to accept as true such isolated statements as the
above. There seems, however, no doubt that Bolingbroke
and the Chevalier were at the Opera on the same night.
Bolingbroke himself owned to Swift that he saw the
Pretender once at Paris. " He protested to me," wrote
Swift to Archbishop King in 171 6, "that he never saw him
but once, and that was at a great distance in public, at the
Opera." This incident naturally was seized upon by "les



64 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE



bien intentionnes " (as the Jacobites called themselves) as a
hopeful sign, and many were the speculations to which it
gave rise.

He was also accused of having been betrayed into some
official indiscretions, which, if true, were more serious. In
order to discover the extent of Bolingbroke's powers, Torcy
had determined to employ a certain well-known Madame
de Tencin, and her married sister, Madame de Ferriole.
Madame de Tencin, after renouncing her vows as a nun,
had settled in Paris with her brother, the Abbe de Tencin,
a most worthless character, afterwards secretary to the
Duke of Orleans. Bolingbroke contracted a close intimacy
with these people, and in 1808 three volumes of letters were
published in France, mainly consisting of letters between
^ Bolingbroke and Madame de Ferriole, between 1712 and
1736, and between Bolingbroke and the Abbe Alari between
1 71 8 and 1736. By means of these sisters, Torcy, it was
said, gained the desired information, and, as if to heap coals
of fire on the heads of the Tencins, Bolingbroke, so far
unconscious of the treachery to which he had been subject,
shortly afterwards used his influence with Victor Amadeus
to secure to the Abbe de Tencin an abbey in Savoy, which
had been presented to him by Louis XIV. during the
period in which that province was in French hands. It
was in consequence of these widely exaggerated, if not
absolutely unfounded rumours about this conduct in Paris
that Oxford rashly allowed his personal feelings to get the
better of his discretion, and tried for a short time to carry
on the foreign negotiations without Bolingbroke's assistance.
It was soon seen that he was indispensable, and, after a
short interval, he resumed his former duties.

His difficulties at this trying time were tremendous. So
serious became the dissensions between himself and Oxford,
especially after the latter had passed him over in the dis-
posal of Godolphin's Order of the Garter, that he retired to



THE PEACE OF UTRECHT 65

Bucklersbury for a fortnight, and all the efforts of Swift
only succeeded in patching up the quarrel. Further delays
also occurred in the course of the negotiations. Oxford
and the other members of the Cabinet were by no means in
entire agreement with regard to the terms of Bolingbroke's
understanding with Torcy. In November, too, the Duke
of Hamilton, who was on the point of starting to Paris as
the English Envoy, was killed in a duel, and great difficulty
was experienced in finding a suitable successor. At length
the Duke of Shrewsbury was appointed. It was, however,
not till January, 17 13, that he started, the special object of
his mission being to try and make satisfactory arrangements
with regard to the cession of Newfoundland and Nova
Scotia, and to conclude a commercial treaty on which
Bolingbroke had set his heart. The private negotiations
between England and France, and the public negotiations
at Utrecht, which had been resumed in October, dragged
on slowly through the winter of 1712-13. It was impossible
for the Ministers to meet Parliament till they could lay
before both Houses the Treaties of Peace. Bolingbroke's
letters to Prior mark the sense of danger felt by the
Ministers should the negotiations end in failure.

" To you," he wrote, " I can only add that we stand on the brink of a
precipice, but the French stand there too. Pray tell M. de Torcy from
me, that he may get Robin and Harry (Oxford and Bolingbroke) hanged,
but affairs will soon run backward into so much confusion that he will
wish us alive again."

In February, 1713, Bolingbroke sent an ultimatum to
Shrewsbury for the French Court, and on March the 19th
he wrote to Strafford that : —

" the long suspense of the Treaty gives hopes to their faction, and conse-
quently increases their clamour and whets their rage ; whilst those who wish
well to their country, and who are a vast majority in every part of the
kingdom, grow tired with expectation, and uneasy under the delay."

The result of the firm attitude and determined persever-
ance of Bolingbroke, aided by the efforts of Prior and

5



66 HENRY ST. JOHN, VISCOUNT BOLINGBROKE

— • — —

Shrewsbury in France, and of Drummond and Strafford in
Holland, was that on the 31st of March the Treaties of
Utrecht were signed.

On the 9th of April Parliament met, and the Queen in
her Speech informed the Houses that the Treaties were now
signed, and that measures had been taken for securing the
Protestant Succession. The successful conclusion of the
war only roused the Whigs to fresh exertions, and no better
illustration can be found of the height to which party feel-
ing ran, than the scene at Covent Garden, where Addison's
Cato was brought out.

The Whigs attempted to see in Cato a representation of
Marlborough lamenting the expiring liberties of his country,


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryArthur HassallLife of Viscount Bolingbroke → online text (page 6 of 20)