Henry St. John Bolingbroke.

The works of the late Right Honourable Henry St. John, lord viscount Bolingbroke (Volume 4) online

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Spain. She continued armed after the peace, by
sea and land. She increased her forces, while
other nations reduced theirs ; and was ready to
defend, or to invade her neighbours, while, their
confederacy being dissolved, they were in no con-
dition to invade her, and in a bad one to defend
themselves. Spain and France had now one
common cause. The electors of Bavaria and
Cologne supported it in Germany : the duke of
Savoy was an ally, the duke of Mantua a vassal
of the two crowns in Italy. In a word, appear-
ances were formidable on that side: and if a dis-
trust ci strength, on the side of the confederacy,
had induced England and Holland to compound
Tvith France for a partition of the Spanish succes-
sion, there seemed to be still greater reason for

this



.So ON THE STUDY AND USE OF HISTORY :

this distrust after the acceptation of the will, the
peaceable and ready submission of the entire mo-
narchy of Spain to Philip, and all the measures

.taken to secure him in this possession.. Such ap-
pearanees might well impose. They did so on
many, and on none more than on the French
themselves, who engaged with great confidence
and spirit in the .war; when they found it, as
they might well expect it would be, unavoidable.
The strength of France however, though great,
was not so great as the French thought it, nor
equal to the efforts they undertook to make.
Their engagement, to maintain the Spanish mo-
narchy entire under the dominion of Philip, ex-
ceeded their strength. Our engagement, to pro-
cure some outskirts of it for the house of Austria,
was not in the same disproportion to our strength.
If I speak positively on this occasion, yet I cannot
be accused of presumption; because, how dispu-
table soever these points might be when they were
points of political speculation, they are such no
longer, and the judgment I make is dictated to me
by 'experience. France threw herself into the
sinking scale, when she accepted the will. Her
scale continued to sink during the whole course
of the war, and might have been kept by the peace

. as low as the true interest of Europe required.
What I remember- to have heard the duke of
Marlborough say, before he went to take on him
the command of the army in the Low Countries in
one thousand seven hundred and two, proved

. true. The French misreckoncd very nmch, % if

they



LET. VIII. STATE OF EUROPE. 8t

rhov made the same comparison between their
troops and those of their enemies, as they had
made in precedent wars. Those that had been
opposed to them, in the last, were raw for the
most part when it began, the British particular-
ly : but they had been disciplined, if I may say
so, by their defeats. They were grown to be
veteran at the peace of Ryswic, and though many
Iwd been disbanded, yet they had been disbanded
lately : so that even these were easily formed
anew, and the spirit that had been raised con-
tinued in all. Supplies of men to recruit the
armies were more abundant on the side of the
confederacy, than on that of the two crowns: a
necessary consequence of which it seemed to be,
that those of the former would grow better, and
those of the latter worse, in a long, extensive, and
bloody war. I believe it proved so; and if my
memory does not deceive me, the French were
forced very early to send recruits to their afmies,
as they send slaves to their galleys. A compari-
son between those who were to direct the coun-
cil?, and to conduct the armies on both sides, is a
task it would become me little to undertake. The
event showed, that if France had had her Conde,
her Turonne, or her Luxemburg, to oppose to the
confederates; the confederates might have op-
posed to her, with equal confidence, their Eugene
of Savoy, their Marlborough, or their Staren-
berg. But there is one observation I cannot for-
bear to make. The alliances were concluded,
the quota* were settled, aod the season for taking
VOL. IV. .G the



82, ON THE STUDY AND USE OF HISTORY :

the field approached, when king William died,
the event could not fail to occasion some con^
sternation on one side, and to give some hopes
on the other : for, notwithstanding the ill success
with which he made war generally, he was look-
ed upon as the sole centre of union that could
keep together the great confederacy then form-
ing : and how much the French feared from his
life had appeared a few years before, in the ex-
travagant and indecent joy they expressed on a
false report of his death. A short time showed
how vain the fears of some, and the hopes of
others were. By his death, the duke of Marl-
borough was raised to the head of the army, and
indeed of the confederacy : where he, a new, a
private man, a subject, acquired by merit and by
management a more deciding influence than high
birth, confirmed authority, and even the crown of
Great Britain had given to king William. Not
only all the parts of that vast machine, the grand
alliance, were kept more compact and entire ; but
a more rapid and vigorous motion was given to
the whole : and, instead of languishing or disas-
trous campaigns, we saw every scene of the war
full of action. All those wherein he appeared, and
many of those wherein he was not then an actor,
but abettor however of their action, were crowned
with the most triumphant success. I take with
pleasure this opportunity of doing justice to that
great man, whose faults I knew, whose virtues I
admired : and whose memory, as the greatest
general and as the greatest minister that our

country



LET. VIII. STATE OF EUROPE. 83

country or perhaps any other has produced, I
honour. But beside this, the observation I have
made comes into my subject, since it serves to
point out to your lordship the proof of what I
said above, that France undertook too much,
when she undertook to maintain the Spanish mo-
narchy entire in the possession of Philip: and
that we undertook no more than what was pro-
portionable to our strength, when we undertook
to weaken that monarchy by dismembering it, in
the hands of a prince of the house of Bourbons,
which we had been disabled by ill fortune and
worse conduct to keep out of them. It may be
said, that the great success of the confederate*
against France proves, that their generals were
superiour to hers, but not that their forces and
their national strength were so; that with the
same force with which she was beaten, she might
have been victorious ; that if she had been so, or
if the success of the war had varied, or been less
decisive against her in Germany, in the Low
Conntries, and in Italy, as it was in Spain, her
strength would have appeared sufficient, and that
of the confederacy insufficient. Many things
may be urged to destroy this reasoning: I content
myself with one. France could not long have
made even the unsuccessful efforts she did make,
if England and Holland had done what it isunde-
iriable they had strength to do ; if beside pillag-
ing, I do not say conquering the Spanish West
Indies, they had hindered the French from going
to the South Sea ; as they did annually during

.o 2 the



84 ON THE STUDT AND USE OF HISTORY :

the whole course of the war without the least mo-
lestation, and from whence they imported into
France in that time as much silver and gold as the
whole species of that kingdom amounted to.
With this immense and constant supply of wealth
France was reduced in effect to bankruptcy be-
fore the end of the war. How much sooner must
she have been so, if this supply had been kept
from her ? The confession of France herself is on,
my side. She confessed her inability to support
\vhat she had undertaken, when she sued for peace
as early as the year one thousand seven hundred
and six.' She made her utmost efforts to answer
the expectation of the Spaniards, and to keep their
monarchy entire. When experience had made it
evident, that this was beyond her power, she
thought herself justified to the Spanish nation, in
consenting to a partition, and was ready to con-
clude a peace with the allies on the principles of
their grand alliance. But as France seemed to
flatter herself, till experience made her desirous to
abandon an enterprise that exceeded her strength ;
you will find, my lord, that her enemies began to
flatter themselves in their turn, and to form de-
signs and take engagements that exceeded theirs.
Great Britain was drawn into these engagements
little by little j for I do not remember any
parliamentary declaration for continuing the war
till Philip should be dethroned, before the year
on thousand seven hundred and six : and then
such a declaration was judged necessary .to second
the resolution of our ministers and our allies, in

departing



LET. VIII. STATE OP TUROPE. 85

It -parting from the principle of the grand alliance,
,ind in proposing nut only the reduction of the
French, but the conquest of the Spanish monarchy,
as the objects of the war. This new plan had
taken place, and we had begun to act upon it, two
years before, when the treaty with Portugal was
concluded, and the archduke Charles, now em-
peror, was sent into Portugal first, and into Cata-
lonia afterward, and was acknowledged and sup-
ported as king of Spain.

When your lordship peruses the anecdotes of
the times here spoken of, and considers the course
and event of the great war which broke out on
the death of the king ofSpain, Charles thesecond,
and was ended by the treaties of Utrecht and
liadstat ; you will find, that, in order to forma
true judgment on the whole, you must consider
very attentively the great change made by the
iK'\v plan that I have mentioned; and compare
it with the plan of the grand alliance, relatively to
the general interest of Europe, and the particular
interest of your own country. It will not, be-
rause it cannot, be denied, that all the ends of the
grand alliance might have been obtained by a
peace in one thousand seven hundred and six.
1 i^eed not recal the events of that, and of the pre-
cedent years of the war. Not only the arms of
Prance had been defeated on every side ; but the
inward state of that kingdom was already more
exhausted than it had ever been. She went ou
indeed, but she staggered and reeled under the
burden of the war. Our condition, I speak of

G 3 Great



86 ON THE STUDY AND VSE OF HISTORY :

Great Britain, was not quite so bad : bufr the
charge of the war increased annually upon us.
It was evident, that this charge must continue to
increase; and it was no less evident, that our nation
was unable to bear it without falling soon into
such distress, and contracting such debts, as we
have seen and felt, and still feel. The Dutch
neither restrained their trade, nor overloaded it
with taxes. They soon altered the proportion of
their quotas, and were deficient even after this
alteration in them. But, however, it must be
.allowed, that they exerted their whole strength ;
and they and we paid the whole charge of the
war. Since therefore by such efforts as could not
be continued any longer, without oppressing and
impoverishing these nations to a degree, that na
Interest except that of their very being, nor any
engagement of assisting an alliance totis viribus
can require, France was reduced, and all the ends
of the war were become attainable ; it will be
worth your lordship's while to consider, why the
true use was not made of the success of the con-
federates ngainst France and Spain, and why a
peace was not concluded in the fifth year of the
war. When your lordship considers this, you
will compare in your thoughts what the statu of
Europe would have been, and that of your own
country might have been, if the plan of the grand
alliance had been pursued ; with the possible as
well as certain, the contingent as well as necessary,
Consequences of changing this plan in the man-
ner k was changed. You will be of opinion, I

think,



LET. VIII. STATE OF EUROPE. 87

think, and it seems to me, after more than twenty
years of recollection, reexamination, and re-
flection, that impartial posterity must be of the
same opinion; you will be of opinion, I think,
that the war was wise and just before the change,
because necessary to maintain that equality
among the powers of Europe on which the publick
peace and common prosperity depends ; and that
it was unwise and unjust after this change, be-
cause unnecessary to this end, and directed to
other and to contrary ends. You will be guided
by undeniable facts to discover, through all the
false colours which have been laid, and which de-
ceived many at the time, that the war, after this
change, became a war of passion, of ambition, of
avarice, and of private interest : the private in-
terest of particular persons and particular states;
to which the general interest of Europe was sacri-
ficed so entirely, that if the terms insisted on by
the confederates had been granted, nay if even
those which France was reduced to grant, in one
thousand seven hundred and ten, had been
accepted, such a new system of power would have
been created, as might have exposed the balance
of this power to deviations, and the peace of Eu-
rope to troubles, not inferiour to those that thewar
was designed, when it began, to prevent. While
you observe this in general, you will find particu-
lar occasion to lament the fate of Great Britain,
in the midst of triumphs that have been sounded
so high. She had triumphed indeed to the year
one thousand seven hundred and six inclusively :
but what were her triumphs afterward ? What

4 was



88 ON THE STUDY AND USE OF HISTORY;

was her success after she proceeded on the new
plan ? I shall say something on that head immer
diately. Here let me only say, that the glory of
taking towns and winning battles is to be mea-
sured by the utility that results from those vic-
tories. Victories, that bring honour to the arms,
may bring shame to the councils, of a nation. To
win a battle, to take a town, is the glory of a ge-
neral, and of an army. Of this glory \ye had a
yery large share in the course of the war. But
the glory of a nation is to proportion the end she
proposes to her interest and her strength : the
means she employs, to the end she proposes,
and the vigour she exerts, to both. Of thi$
glory, I apprehend, we have, had very little to
boast at any time, and particularly in the great
conjuncture of which I am speaking. The rea-
sons of ambition, avarice, and private interest,
which engaged the princes and states of the con 7
fecleracy to depart from the principles of the
grand alliance, were no reasons for Great Britain.
She neither expected nor desired any thing more,
than what she might have obtained by adhering
to those principles. What hurried oijr nation
then, with so much spirit and ardour, into those
of the new plan ? Your lordship will answer this
question to yourself, I believe, by the prejudices
and rashness of party; by the influence that the
first successes of the confederate arms gave tp our
ministers; and the popularity that they gave,
if I may say so, to the war ; by ancient
and fresh resentments, which the unjust and
violent usurpations, in short the whole conduct ot*

Lewis



LET. VIII. STATE OF EUROPE. 89

J.cvvis the fourteenth fur forty years together, his
haughty treatment of otiier princes and states,
and even the style of his court had created ; and,
to mention no more, by a notion, groundless but
prevalent, that he was and would be master as
Jong as his grandson was king of Spain, and that
there could be no effectual measure taken., though
the grand alliance supposed that there might, to
prevent a future union of the two monarchies, as
Jong as a prince of the house of Bourbon sat on
the Spanish throne. That such a notion should
have prevailed, in the first confusion of thoughts
which the death and will of Charles the second
produced, among the generality of men who saw
the fleets and armies of France take possession of
all the parts of the Spanish monarchy, is not to be
wondered at by those that consider how ill the
generality of mankind are informed, how incapa-
ble they arc of judging, and yet hov/ ready to
pronounce judgment : in fine, how inconsiderate-
ly they follow one another in any popular opini-
on, which the heads of party brooch, or tt* which
the first appearances of things have given occa-
sion. But, even at tin's time the councils of Eng-
land and Holland did not entertain this notion.
They acted on quite another, as might be shown
in many instances, if any other beside that of the
grand alliance was necessary. When these coun-
cils therefore seemed to entertain this not Jon after-
ward, and acted and took .engagements to act
upon it, we must conclude that they had other
juotives. They coirid not have these; for they

knew,



gO ON THE STUDY AND USE OF tflSTORY T

knew, that as the Spaniards had been driven by
the two treaties of partition to give their mo-^
narchy to a prince of the house of Bourbon, so
they were driven into the arms of France by the
war, that we made to force a third upon them.
If we acted rightly on the principles of the grand
alliance, they acted rightly on those of the will :
and if we could not avoid making an offensive war,
at the expense of forming and maintaining a vast
confederacy, they could not avoid purchasing the
protection and assistance of France in a defensive
war, and especially in the beginning of it, accord-
ing to what I have somewhere observed already,
by yielding to the authority and admitting the
influence of that court in all the affairs of their
government. Our ministers knew therefore, that
if any inference was to be drawn from the first
part of this notion, it was for shortening, not pro-
longing, the war; for delivering the Spaniards as,
soon as possible from habits of union and inti-
macy with France ; not for continuingthem under
the same necessity, till by length of time these
habits should be confirmed. As to the lattet
part of this notion, they knew that it was false
and silly. Garth, the best natured ingenious
wild man I ever knew, might be in the right,
when he said, in some of his poems at that time,

" An Austrian prince alone

" Is fit to nod upon a Spanish throne."

The setting an Austrian prince upon it was, no

doubt, the surest expedient to prevent a union

* df



LET. VIII, STATE OF EUROPE. 9!

of the two monarchies of France and Spain ; just
as setting a prince of the house ot Bourbon on
that throne was the surest expedient to prevent
a union of the Imperial and Spanish crowns.
But it was equally false to say, in either case, that
this was the sole expedient. It would be no pa-
radox, but a proposition easily proved, to ad-
vance, that if these unions had been effectually
provided against, the general interest of Europe
would have been little concerned whether Philip
or Charles had nodded at Madrid. It would be
likewise no paradox to say, that the contingency
of uniting France and Spain under the same
prince appeared more remote, about the middle
of the last great war, when the dethronement of
Philip in favour of Charles was made a condition,
of peace sine qua non, than the contingency
of a union of the Imperial and Spanish
crowns. Nay, I know not whether it would be a,
paradox to affirm, that the expedient that was
taken, and that was always obvious to be taken,
of excluding Philip and his race from the
succession of France, by creating an interest in
all the other princes of the blood, and by conse-
quence a party in France itself, for their exclu-
sion, whenever the case should happen, Was not
in it's nature more effectual than any that could
have been taken : and some must have been fftken,
not only to exclude Charles from the empire
whenever the case should happen that happened
soon, the d ath of his brother Joseph without
issue male, but his posterity likewise in all fu-
ture vacancies of the imperial throne. The ex-
pedient



f)l ON THE STUDY AND USE OF HISTORY.'

pedient that was taken against Philip at the treaty
of Utrecht, they who opposed the peace attempt-
ed to ridicule; but some of them have had occa-
sion since that time to see, though the case has
not happened, how effectual it would have been if
it had : ami he, who should go about to ridicule
it after our experience, would only make himself
ridiculous. Notwithstanding all this, he who
transports himself back to that time must ac-
knowledge, that the confederated powers in gene-
ral could not but be of Garth's mind, and think it
more agreeable to the common interest of Europe,
that a branch of Austria, than a branch of Bour-
bon, should gather the Spanish succession ; and
that the maritime powers, as they are called im-
pertinently enough with respect to the superiority
of Great Britain, might think it was for their par-
ticular interest to have a prince, dependant for
some time at least on them, king of Spain, rather
than a prince whose dependance, as long as he
stood in any, must be naturally on France. I do
not say, as some have done, a prince whose family
was an old ally, rather than a prince whose family
was an old enemy ; because I lay no weight on
the gratitude of princes, and am as much per-
suaded, that an Austrian king of Spain would have
made us returns of that sort in no other propor-
tion than of his want ofus, as I am that Philip and
his r-ace will make no other returns of the same
sort to France. If this affair had been entire,
therefore, on the death of the king of Spain ; if we
had tnade no partition,- nor he any will, the whole

monarchy



LET. VIII. STATE OF EUROPE. ':' 93

monarchy of Spain would have been tlie prize to
be fought for: and our wishes, and sucl^ellbrts
as we were abJe to make, in the most unprovided
condition imaginable, must have been on the side
of Austria. But it was far from being entire. A
prince of the house of Austria might have been
on the spot, before the king of Spain died, to ga-
ther his succession ; but instead of this, a prince
of the house of Bourbon was there soon after-
ward, and took possession of the whole monarchy*
to which he had been called by the late king's
will, and by the voice of the Spanish nation. Th
councils of England and Holland therefore pre-
ferred very wisely, by their engagements in the
grand alliance, what was more practicable though
less eligible, to what they deemed more eligible,
but saw become by the course of events, if not
absolutely impracticable, yet an enterprise of
more length, more difficulty, and greater expense
of blood and treasure, than these nations were
able to bear ; or than they ought to bear, when
their security and that of the rest of Europe
might be sufficiently provided for at a cheaper
rate. If the confederates could not obtain, by
the force of their arms, the ends of the war laid
down in the grand alliance, to what purpose
would it be to stipulate for more ? And if they
were able to obtain these, it was evident that,
while they dismembered the Spanish monarchy,
they must reduce the power of France. This
happened ; the Low Countries were conquered ;
the French were driven out of Germany and

Italy:



Sf VAT? AND USE OF fclSTORT :

Italy : and Lewis the fourteenth, who had so long
and sq lately set mankind at defiance, was
reduced to sue foi* peace.

If it had been granted him in one thousand
seven hundred and six, on what foot must it have
been granted ? The allies had already in their
power all the states, that were to compose the rea-
sonable satisfaction for the emperor. I say, in
their power; because though Naples and Sicily
\yere not actually reduced at that time, yet the
expulsion of the French out of Italy, and the dis-
position of the people of these kingdoms, con-
sidered, it was plain the allies might reduce them
when they pleased. The confederate arms were
superiour till then in Spain, and several provinces
acknowledged Charles the third. If the rest had
been yielded to him by treaty, all that the new
plan required had been obtained. If the French
would not yet have abandoned Philip, as we had
found that the Castiliaus would not even when our
army was at Madrid, all that the old plan, the plan
of the grand alliance required, had been obtain-
ed; but still France and Spain had given nothing
to purchase a peace, and they were in circum-
stances not to expect it without purchasing it.
They would have purchased it my lord: and
France, as well as Spain, would have contri-
buted a larger share of the price, rather than con-
tinue the war, in her exhausted state. Such a
treaty of peace would have been a third treaty of



Online LibraryHenry St. John BolingbrokeThe works of the late Right Honourable Henry St. John, lord viscount Bolingbroke (Volume 4) → online text (page 6 of 30)